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Subjectively Speaking

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It really is amazing that we all live on the same planet, and in some cases have almost everything in common, like parentage and upbringing, and yet our individual, personal, emotional (or subjective) experiences are unique!

And looking at things from that vantage point makes it clear that validation is the lifeblood of our closest relationships.

If I think I know how someone feels or sees things without expecting to need to take the time to listen to them, chances are, I won’t get it right.

If my child falls and cries in an attempt to communicate with me, and I say,

“You’re alright, stop crying!”

I may have missed a chance to listen, assess the damage and let the child problem solve, even if it’s just to manage their emotions after being frightened or shocked.  It seems that the common reason for parents to shush a child out of crying is linked to their fear that the child will become a “cry-baby” or maybe they are just passing on what they were taught, that sad notion, that it isn’t good to show your emotions.  Or maybe they are concerned that if they show empathy in that moment that the child will dramatize their pain and become an annoyance.

What actually happens, most of the time, is that as soon as a child senses that someone cares, and they have been heard, they stop.  Little people don’t generally have the attention getting gimmicks of their parents and they don’t think like adults at all.  You notice that when a child has an illness, they will function as much as they can with no pretense or dramatics for attention getting.

I heard a young father comment that when he understood that all he needed to do was to ask his little sons if they were ok when they were hurt and crying, he changed his behavior from trying to toughen them up and tell them not to cry, to simply listening to them and helping if necessary.  And amazingly he said, their moments of crying shortened and their relationship grew.  He could see that they felt loved and had a greater sense of their father’s love.

Think of the times someone asked how you were doing. If you trusted that person and honestly told them some of the things that were challenging to you, did they say,

“Oh that’s nothing, why would you worry about that?”  Or,

“Well in the long run, that sounds like a good thing, so quit worrying!”  Or, maybe they said,

“Well, don’t forget there are always people worse off than you!”

And maybe you took a mental note not to trust them with your feelings when or if they ask again.

Then there are the times when someone just responds with,

“Wow, that sounds tough.”

And those magic words make you feel as if your experience is valid and that you matter to them.  That’s the key! They don’t have to try to fix anything or come up with a great solution, or offer the twisted, pseudo-validation of letting you know that you’re making a big deal out of nothing in an attempt to make you feel better!

It is simple, but makes all the difference.  To be heard and given the gift of validation is priceless.  It takes so little time and energy and yet can change the world for an individual when they hear that-

they are of worth, their feelings matter and someone really cares about them.

Heaven help us all to master the art of listening to our loved ones!  Everyone needs a place to belong!

Happy day to you.

With love,

Jacque

Here Goes…

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I promised a rant.  Can you bear with me a minute?

Our country is sick.  And most of it is preventable.  You know what I’m talking about; the obesity, diabetes and heart disease for starters?

What is up with us?  Is it our entitlement attitude about so many other things that oozes into our unhealthy habits too?

A friend was telling me of an experience she had while visiting in Europe years ago.  It’s a story I’ve heard several times from several people actually.  The common theme is, seeing a food that looks really good, like a dessert they’ve had before, only to find when they take a bite that it isn’t sweet!  The shock!  To taste a luscious looking cheesecake, only to find that it tastes more like cream cheese than sugar.  Or the pastry-looking things displayed in a store in Japan that don’t taste anything like the sweet-treats we have here.

No, our country is so sugar-soda-high fructose-white flour-caffeine-aspartame-jelly filled-sugar coated-rancid-refined-artificial flavor-artificial color-stimulant- pill fixing crazy that we think the rest of the world is missing out!

In other places, they don’t market junk food to kids.  It’s not allowed because parents are in charge of what children eat, not children.

In other places, the basic every day foods that are consumed are staple foods, high in protein and basic nutrients, not whatever one can throw together in ten minutes because cooking isn’t worth our time and energy.

Of necessity, families eat a simple meal together in many poverty-stricken areas of the world, but we can’t find time to eat together because we are too busy earning just a little more, often so that out children can be involved in one more activity. And this problem of giving up family meal time for other pursuits has extreme negative ramifications on the well-being, the bondedness, the belonging that our children need most! In my opinion, (and statistics bear this out), family meal time is the great anti-drug. In fact, it’s the anti-gang, anti-drinking, anti-antisocial campaign most parents would value if they knew it was as close as their dinner table. (And for all those social and emotional benefits, serve frozen burritos if that’s what you can do, but serve them with love and with a positive dinner conversation!)

At some point, we’re going to have to accept responsibility for the preventable problems that are not just killing us, but that are keeping us miserable for years before we die! And that just might mean getting used to eating things we’re not used to eating, and skipping the sugary, refined, artificial so-called foods, so that “normal” food can taste good again!

I’m most likely preaching to the choir.  But this part I will say to you.  Next time someone wants to make you feel like the strange one for caring what your children eat, for making planning, cooking and eating meals together a priority, for saying no to more activities and “opportunities,” and for that matter, saying no to your children when they want to adopt unhealthy habits or stretch themselves too thin…

just you know, it’s not you that’s being extreme!

We’ve got some teaching to do, and it won’t get done if we feel shamed or intimidated by a well-meaning, but often misled mainstream, of standard American diet pushers, and priority permissiveness. Life is challenging enough without knowingly upping the ante.

Hope your kids enjoy their kale chips after school!

Love ya, and thanks for listening!

Jacque

Bee Happy

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I checked on our beehives last week.  One hive is energetically moving and several others look like they didn’t survive the winter.  It is sad to see.

They are amazing little creatures, so directed and so intent on doing what they are designed to do.  Each one works hard and contributes to the success of the hive.  I won’t look up the statistics of how much pollen each bee gathers or how many thousands of bees it takes to produce a gallon of honey.

What I want to say, is that I love the harmony and synchronicity of the colony. I love seeing the globs of pollen covering the bees legs as they go from flower to flower, especially when they are swarming around my lavender plants. They are fun to watch as they come and go, to and from the hive boxes, laden with their days work.

To me, there’s a happy sound to bees.  It’s a sound of sunshine and life and hope and security.  It makes me think of clover and petunias and alyssum and the warm days ahead.

Seems that there is always so much to observe and to think about in nature.  After I saw the bees, I got to thinking about their single-mindedness.  Wow, what would that be like? Probably not ever happening for us to that degree, but thought provoking nonetheless.

Think of the things that stop your momentum.  A negative thought?  A fear?  The temptation to be discouraged or overwhelmed?  How about feeling unappreciated?  That’s a show-stopper isn’t it?  How about just not knowing what to do next or feeling conflicted about knowing what is most important to do with the time you have?

We of course have all of these choices to make, while the little bees are instinctively doing what they are designed to do!  No distraction for them!  No turning their attention to what the other insects are up to.  No comparing their pollen collection with the next bee and no landing somewhere and deciding not to go on because they think they just can’t compete.

No lobbying to be a worker or a drone or feeling put out because they didn’t have a say in the job they were assigned…

So while there is not much comparison between people and insects, I wonder what it would be like to live a day with complete bee-like focus?  With a pre-determined course of action that benefits my “hive;” simply going about my work with no other thought than to be myself, do my work, and enjoy the sun?

What do you think?  Is it possible?  I mean to have a plan.  To know what is next.  To keep a vision in view and enjoy the clarity of knowing your calling.  Of being even more “yourself” than you were yesterday.  Of turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the sales pitch of society when it says you need to be X size and Y accomplished and Z toned, tan and starting another business.  What if just enjoying a sandwich on the back steps with a little person, while watching bees buzz and birds fly by, and being present, was all that is required of you in that hour?  And what if you knew what needed to be done in the afternoon and it included resting and cooking and reading and teaching and you could do that with joy?

I wish you many days ahead that are ringing with clarity!  Because that clarity weeds out the distractions and sweeps away the time-killing doubts.  And most of all, it will guard against the pain of regret later on.

Get clear and stay clear!

All my love!

Jacque

P.S. The Lioness planner is close to ready!  If you’re interested in making plans and getting clear on your priorities, Lioness-style, let me know!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Three years ago, I posted this recipe for black bean brownies.  I re-post it today with a new topping idea in time for Valentine’s Day!  I took these (the strawberry version) to a luncheon today, and was reminded how nice it is to have a delicious treat, with no headache afterward.  These are a little pudding-ish in the texture, not too rich, and pretty mellow with the deep chocolate flavor and the lightly sweet, whipped cream cheese on top.  Use a little milk (any kind) to thin the frosting enough so that it will flow out of the bag easily.  I left mine a little too thick today, so it wasn’t as controllable.  Using the berries for color adds to the “realness” of this whole-food dessert.

I’ve been on a mental rant today, I’ll fill you in on the whole conversation soon.  Just suffice it to say that, as a rule, I encourage clients to focus on adding good things to their diet instead of focusing on removing things, and over time they find that the less desirable foods will fall away.  That said, at some point you need to give your taste buds a chance to re-acclimate to real.  If you haven’t already experienced it, you’ll be amazed at how much your taste buds will “normal out” when you stop eating junk food.  But in order to do that, you have to add in the good yes, but also make a commitment at some point to leave the empty calorie, refined, artificial color and flavor, food science mish-mash alone. (Can you hear the rant coming on?)  I decided that just before Valentine’s Day wouldn’t be a fair moment to give you the whole thing!  But it’s coming!

Today, I’ll just say that I hope you’ll have a great day tomorrow treating yourself to a real food dessert…with no ornery, sugar fatigue later!

Black Bean Brownies

3 1/4 cups black beans, soaked overnight and cooked*brownies2

6 fresh, free-range eggs

2/3 cups cocoa

2 tsp. vanilla

2/3 cup melted butter

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp Real salt

3/4 cup raw honey

1/4 cup Sucanat (dehydrated cane juice)

Super easy to put together; just cream the beans and eggs together in your favorite blender/food processor.  Melt butter on low heat in a small saucepan while adding the rest of the ingredients to the bean/egg mixture.  When butter is melted, add it to the batter slowly while mixing.  Pour brownie batter into a butter 9 x 13 baking dish and bake for 35-40 minutes @ 350°.

*To prepare beans, follow instructions on package for soaking and cooking beans.  (You will cover beans in water and let sit overnight, then cook on low heat for a few hours until they are soft.) This helps you avoid chemicals in canned beans and is very cost effective.  But, if canned beans are your only option, they will work as well.

Cream Cheese Frosting

1 8 oz. package cream cheese

3 Tbs. raw honeybrownies

1 tsp. vanilla

dash of salt

1 tsp. beet juice (for mauve color, optional)

Beat all ingredients together with a hand mixer until smooth.  Spoon into a zip lock bag or a frosting bag.  Chill in the refrigerator for an hour, to allow it to set. Then cut a small hole in one corner of the bottom of the plastic bag (or use frosting bag with decorator’s tip) and squeeze in swirls on top of small squares of brownies once the brownies are cooled.  We used black berries (cut in half length-wise) for garnish, but raspberries, blueberries, strawberries or shaved chocolate would be lovely too!

*Remember, sweet treats, even those made with real food ingredients, should be reserved for special occasions and served in small portions.  Think of it as training your taste buds to prefer foods that are less sweet, less processed and eaten after nutritious meals, and not used as snacks.  You and your family will be better off in the long run employing this healthy habit!


The Greatest Gift

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Marriage can be amazing.  It is a blessing.  It makes so many things possible!  It is safe place where we can get to know ourselves and each other.  Where we can take risks, grow with each forgiving and stretch when asking to be forgiven.

It requires the greatest amount of work and effort of any endeavor I’ve known….and it is so worth it!  But the gift I want to highlight is beyond what we get from the fruits of a happy marriage.  It’s the gift we give our children as they observe our relationship.  The comfort and security of knowing that we love each other.

But what about all of the challenges and misunderstandings and miscommunication? Doesn’t every couple have those?  And how do you show solidarity to your children when you’re really just upset and want to go on a long vacation…alone?

This reminds me of an article I read by Richard Eyre a few years ago.  He said that on a flight, he sat next to a man who had been a marriage counselor for 40 years.  The man said that he had only seen three kinds of marriage relationships that were conflict-free.

“The first kind of conflict-free marriage is one in which one of the two parties is totally dominant and domineering and the other is such a doormat that there is never any disagreement…The one just calls all the shots and makes all the decisions and the other one just goes along.”

“The second kind of conflict-free marriage is getting much more common today,…it is where two people have a kind of marriage of convenience, but they live such separate lives, have such separate careers and schedules, that they really don’t have anything in common to disagree on or have conflict over.”

“The third kind of conflict-free marriage is where either the husband or the wife is dead.”

“In all my years of marriage counseling, those are the only three kinds of marriage where there is never a conflict or an argument.  So unless you want one of those, you better have some other way of measuring your marriage than some kind of idealistic notion of always agreeing with each other.”

So if always agreeing with each other isn’t the goal, what is?

The goal for us is to get better and better at resolving our problems, and making the time it takes us to do that shorter and shorter!  And, making the process kind, gentle and respectful too.  Our children need to see this process!  They need to know that relationships take work.  They need to know that we are so dedicated to our spouse that we will put in the time and the effort and the humility it takes to find a solution that suits us both.

The most effective skill I know is learning to use the “I feel……about…..because….” phrasing mentioned in yesterday’s post.  Try it and see what you think!

To shorten the time it takes to work through an issue, try using a talking stick!  A simple object that the speaker holds, and while the speaker has the stick, the listener’s job is just to listen; not to interrupt or give their two cents until the speaker is finished.  (And may I add women, make your speech succinct and to the point!)  Then, when the speaker is finished, the listener repeats back what they heard the speaker say.  Then it is the listener’s turn to talk, and the process repeats.  It’s amazing how we sometimes get to talking over each other and fail to really listen long enough to understand.  This simple exercise is good training for taking turns and to practice listening with the intention of understanding another point of view.

Sometimes taking a short break from the conversation, with an agreement to return and try again, is helpful.  Or taking a walk in nature.  Or having some time alone to pray. You might try doing something together that is fun, away from familiar surroundings. Just breaking up the tension can bring a new perspective and break a cycle of stress.

We pray daily for our own children, that they will be able to learn from our mistakes and our successes.  And that they will be blessed to see the value of staying with their relationships, through the highs and the lows and that they will do the work required to grow old in love together.

That is my prayer for you too.

Love,

Jacque