All posts by Jane

Teaching Children Compassion

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Welcome to Marianne, a new contributor to our blog!!!
Hello, I am a mom to an incredibly compassionate nine year old. I had my daughter at 44 years old. She is the love of my life!  I love to write, paint, and bake vegan treats. But my true love lies in animal rescue and teaching compassion for animals to children.

Compassion is not the same as sympathy, empathy or altruism, although each plays a part. The compassionate person feels the suffering of another and takes positive steps to alleviate that suffering.  During his talks, the Dalai Lama emphasizes how important it is for children to experience compassion from their parents or caregivers, from birth. 
True compassion is being highly attuned to your children’s needs and accepting them for the unique people they are.  From birth, compassion is something that can be taught and developed. And the earlier, the better!

Model Compassion:
 Show compassion towards your child and towards others. 
 From the start, every child needs to feel loved and secure in order to thrive. Their needs have to be respected, if we expect them to respect others.  Security comes from knowing that they can count on their parents or caregivers. It comes from knowing that they will be listened to, taken seriously and protected. We must love our children unconditionally and recognize them as the unique beings they are.

Children must also learn to be responsible for their own actions. However, parents and caregivers are very influential in determining how a child acts. Children watch carefully how their parents and other adults treat each other. By modeling compassion towards others, you are teaching them what you value.


This is also true with how we treat our pets and other animals. Your children have watched you closely from birth and are so attuned to your feelings, that they can look at your face and know instantly what you are feeling!  Never yell at your pets, call them names or hit them. Most people who have pets know this and love them and treat them as part of the family.   Your children will learn how to treat your family’s pets with compassion and love, if you model that behavior for them. Show them the correct way to speak to a pet, gently pet them and care for their needs. Show them by doing.

All animal lovers know how to treat a pet, most likely because they grew up in a loving home, with parents who modeled compassionate behavior towards animals. Teaching kindness and respect for animals is the first step in teaching children compassion.

My nine year old daughter with our dog, ChiChi and volunteering at the Bucks County S.P.C.A

A Wild Time at the Movies

Oops50 is happy to welcome a new contributor, Donna Molofsky.  Donna lives near Winston-Salem, NC with her husband Barry and dog Sally.  She is a former minister in the United Methodist church, but her life has taken many twists and turns since then.  One of her latest gigs was caring for her elderly mother who had dementia. Welcome, Donna, and thank you for this review of Wild!

Donna Molofsky
Donna Molofsky

Life makes you want to scream sometimes.

For therapy, is it better to scream or take a long hike?  Reese Witherspoon does both in the movie Wild, which is in theaters now.

She plays the role of Cheryl Strayed, a woman hiking the Pacific Coast Trail in an effort to exorcise some demons that are holding her back in life.  I immediately identified with this woman although our journeys are completely different.

For one thing, Cheryl is a woman in her twenties, and I am a few decades older.  She deals with the tragedies in her life by doing drugs, sleeping with strange men, and ruining her marriage – things I probably would not do.  But it is the nature of her life tragedies that makes this woman and her story so easy to understand.

Reese Witherspoon in "Wild"
Reese Witherspoon in “Wild”

After growing up with an abusive father, Cheryl faces her mother’s death from cancer when her mother is only in her forties. Laura Dern plays the strong but fragile mom beautifully. Cheryl needed her mother more than ever, but suffered from crippling grief.  I have been working through some serious losses over the course of the last two or three years.  My mother died after a long struggle with dementia. Six months later a  close cousin committed suicide. Most recently, I lost a job that I cared about.  After these difficult times, I have had such a range of emotions – from sadness to disbelief to anger.

Witherspoon plays this role with such honesty.  At the start of her journey, she has no idea what she is doing.  Later, she exudes loneliness and suffocating fatigue.  Her burden is symbolized by the heaviness of her pack.  Some kind souls help lighten her load.  Some look and walk away.  All the while, she has to balance self-reliance with trust and asking for help when she does not want to .

As a viewer, I was so anxious for this character.  I so wanted her to make it, to reach her goal! But I was worried that she might be killed on the trail, assaulted, or bitten by a snake.  By the end of the movie, I was drained.

Witherspoon and Dern are both nominated for Academy Awards for this film.  I hope other women will get to experience this movie and scream at some of their own demons.

 

On Becoming a Grandmother

lizzie and baby
Lizzie and Aven in the hospital 
Jane
Jane

A week ago, on December 9th, my world changed.  My own first baby, Lizzie, now 27 years old, delivered her first baby into the world, and I became a grandmother, just like that. I guess it’s not really fair to describe it that way. After all, Lizzie had to go through nearly 27 hours of increasing misery to get to that point!  But in retrospect, the change certainly feels that sudden and that startling.  Aven Marie Bowman, weighing in at seven pounds, one ounce, was born at 10:02 p.m. last Tuesday, and nothing has been the same since.

I’m learning that it’s really true that when you are a grandmother, you don’t have to take on all the day-to-day worry about that baby the way you do when you become a parent.  You get to hold a baby and love the baby and even change a diaper when you feel like it, but, to quote an old joke, then you can “give the baby back” is true!  It’s harder than you think to make your mind relax into that truth.  I have to keep reminding myself that I don’t have  to figure out what that baby is wearing each day, how many times she’s eating, if she’s having as many wet diapers as she should, or if her umbilical cord is falling off correctly. Old habits die hard!   But Lizzie is happy as a clam to do those jobs,  so I can relax. All I have to do is hold Aven when Lizzie hands her off to me and rub her little soft head and kiss her little neck and breath in her incredible milky smell and make little silly clucking noises.  It’s sort of like having the best baby doll I could ever imagine, one that not only opens its eyes but also sneezes and yawns in the cutest way anyone could ever imagine.

I”m also learning that I don’t need any other entertainment when Aven is around. Our daughter and her husband, Janson, are temporarily living with us while they look for their next residence, so we get to see this little creature every day and watch her changes, such as her going from being mostly a sleeping/nursing wonder to someone starting to open her eyes more and look around at the world.  And I’m grateful and privileged to be able to witness our daughter becoming a new mother.  I am awed at how patient and calm she is.  I was never that patient with my first newborn.  I was scared to death, and my anxiety came out in frustration and tears and all kinds of great behaviors. Sure, Lizzie has an advantage over most new mothers from her years of experience and knowledge gained  working in child care,  but there is something else, something bigger, going on here.  Lizzie has taken on the mantle of motherhood as if it’s the most natural thing in the world.  When she has to make a decision about something to do with the baby, she just naturally chooses what’s right for the baby, instead of what might seem better for anyone else, including herself.  And she’s putting up with the discomfort (a nice word for it) and fatigue involved in learning to breastfeed without any serious complaints.  She’s getting very little sleep because she’s waking with the baby at night, but she doesn’t whine (as her mama did).  She’s just moving along, taking care of that baby, walking the walk.

She is my hero.

And it’s also great to see Janson becoming a father.  He was great in the delivery room, exhibiting all the right support and compassion and protectiveness to his wife, just as any mother-in-law could hope.  And he’s been working right along Lizzie since then. He has a very natural-looking football hold for Aven!

I don’t mean that I’m surprised by any of this.  I just feel honored to be able to see it up close and personal!

I hope I can make just as smooth a transition into grandmotherhood! One hard part is turning off my advice-giver!  It’s hard not to feel like I have a duty to step in and guide my daughter and son-in-law  each step of the way.  It’s hard to stop being a mother and become a grandmother.  Grandfather Tom, who is by nature extremely protective of newborns, is also having difficulty with that one!  We both want to give Lizzie and Janson several “helpful” hints on an hourly basis!  It’s good to remind ourselves that Aven is not our baby.  She’s our grandbaby!  Hallelujah! We can relax!

And here’s the other, unexpected hard part about becoming a grandmother:  now I have another generation to worry about getting grown safely, without bad things happening to them.  Aven has made it even more painful to think about things like global warming or the  terrorism or wars or plagues.  And when the global stuff is not in my head, I’m obsessing about things like her breathing or her future happiness or, worst of all, how old I will be when Aven is 20, 30, etc.  It’s that etcetera part that does me in.  It’s weird:  in some ways, the thought of my own, inevitable death has become a lot easier to bear with Aven in the world, but in other ways, it is now ten times harder.

Enough gloom and down!  Right now I’m celebrating Aven and her wonderful little head and precious feet and long, beautiful fingers and lovely eyelashes.  And she has already taught me something:  boy, am I ready to make the shift from mother into grandmother! I’m so glad someone else is having to nurse that baby, change that diaper, put that car seat in the car for the millionth time.  There’s a reason people have babies when they’re young.  I’m glad to pass the torch.  And, at least in this first iteration, some things have already made this life-changing transition seem natural and easy: 1) It’s clear that  Lizzie and Janson will be–are!–great parents and  2)  I already love Aven.  In fact, I fell madly in love with her at first sight, the moment she came into the world.  So now, Tom and I need to sit back, be incredibly thankful and grateful,  and enjoy the ride.

Here, for your viewing pleasure, is another picture of the world’s cutest baby, this one napping with her over-the-moon grandmama!  Merry, merry Christmas to all of you!!!

grandma and baby

Mindfulness

Nancy

I’m looking out at horses standing in the pasture.  No, they are not at the farm in Rocky Mount.  They are at my farm in Hillsborough.  I am going through a divorce, and they are the first group that has come to live with me.  Life is pretty crappy and hard right now, not just mentally but especially physically, but as I stand here, I am in awe of the beauty of it all.   The pasture slopes downhill and is surrounded by woods through which I can see more of my hay fields.  Despite the trials of daily life, I feel happy, blessed.

The next day, I catch the end of a Diane Rehm show about mindfulness and the power of thought.  The day after that I listen to the show in its entirety: an interview with Ellen Langer, a Harvard professor who writes about mindfulness in a new book.   She did a study years ago where she took a group of old men and isolated them for five days and turned back time.  They only watched movies from a certain era and basically lived as they had in the past.  When they emerged from the study, they were reinvigorated and stronger, with eyesight and hearing improved, and they looked younger.  It was the power of their minds that gave them that strength.  (I was also delighted to hear her describe this group as such old men that she actually wondered if they would make it through the five days, and here was the kicker: she said they were not like now, when 60 is the new 40.  Does that make me 45?)

horses in field

She also talked about how anger and despair can be so physically debilitating and how most of the things we struggle against aren’t true tragedies but merely inconveniences.  If we can bring ourselves to a neutral place, we will feel so much better and be able to see more clearly ways to handle our demons.   I have always been one to be thankful for dodging those bullets I didn’t even realize were there.   Maybe I dodged a bullet by leaving my husband.  No, make that a full speeding train, but that conversation is for another time.

I encourage everyone to hear Ellen Langer tell it herself.  Here is the link:

http://thedianerehmshow.org/shows/2014-12-01/ellen_langer_mindfulness_and_the_power_of_thought

 

Saturday Mornings

Oops50 has a new guest writer:  Noriko Bell!  I hope everyone will welcome her warmly!  Jane

nori detail studio

Noriko is a 57-year old living in Washington, DC with her partner, Dan, and two cats, Louie and Lulu. A creative product development manager for art museum retail, she enjoys dabbling in writing, gardening, cooking, violin, piano. To quote Noriko, she has “many inspirations and ambitions, but not much follow through!”  I would disagree, since she followed through on sending us her first post for the blog!! Here’s her post: 

I used to spend Saturday mornings running errands, doing chores. Then I realized that most stores are crowded with long lines on Saturdays, traffic is miserable, and why am I doing all this anyway?

I decided to switch gears and use Sunday for my errands. Saturday morning is a cherished time, recovering from the work week, having an extra cup of coffee and reading the paper from cover to cover, while my cats lounge about, happy to have a human at home. nori detail

Most of the time, I snuggle back in bed with coffee, laptop, phone and thoroughly enjoy catching up in a leisurely way. Our cats, Lulu and Louie gravitate to the bedroom on those mornings. Both sleep away the morning and I relish the calm coziness.  This time of year, the upstairs bedroom is the warmest room in the house, with sunlight pouring in through the south facing windows.

Louie Fat Cat
Louie Fat Cat

This is my refuge. I once made it into a self sufficient space with a small fridge, microwave, when I was a full time caregiver at home, and it was essential that I could maintain some separation and me time.

Sometimes I wonder if I have become a complete slack, my leisure time at home built around the command station of the bed. But then, I “think” like a cat, and with a big stretch, ease into a little nap.

Lulu Fat Cat
Lulu Fat Cat