Apr 25
Tuesday
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Dr. Ellen Langer’s book, "Mindfulness," has had a powerful effect on me since I read it twenty-two years ago. I suppose I didn’t give much thought to mindfulness before I read it. (Pun not intended.) So I wonder how much prior thought any of us give to the effect of our words or actions. Do we ever weigh our words before we use them? Do we consider the impact they will have on the listener and on ourselves? Do we think through a course of action before we take the leap? Or are our minds in "cruise control?"

In my January column, I put forth the idea that parenthood can be a path to a higher spirituality, which is not to say that parenthood is the only path. Anyone who seeks it, can attain it – grandparents, siblings, teachers, neighbors, friends, strangers – anyone and everyone who has contact with any child. Even a brief, casual interaction can be mutually uplifting – a brief moment of caring and compassion can last a lifetime – a brief connecting moment can save a life.

Books

What if all parenting books were to suddenly vanish? What would you do? How would you feel? Not to worry, it won't happen. With our desire to be the best parents we can be, there are and there will continue to be enough parenting books to circle the globe. Twice! It's nothing short of amazing that so much can be written about the little ones and how we should cope with them, raise them, discipline them and so on into the night.

 

Parenting: A path to a higher spirituality                            

 January 2013

 

 "Social scientists have defined spirituality as the search for "the sacred," where the sacred" is broadly defined as that which is set apart from the ordinary and worthy of veneration."       (Wikipedia)

Venerate: to regard with respect, reverence or heartfelt "deference."

Deference: courteous regard for people’s feelings, to place another’s interests before your own

Is it possible for parents to reach a higher level of spirituality through our relationship to our children? Does parenthood give us a chance and a way to be part of something larger than ourselves, something grander than we think we are, and more expansive than we ever imagined we were capable of being? Do we need to go any farther than the presence of a child to find "the sacred?" And do we ever realize that in every transaction with our children something sacred is at stake?

December 2012 column

A gift that matters most

    “Everything for the children,” they said. The immigrants who arrived in America in the early 20th century opened little shops to eke out a living. Without any experience or know-how, they became grocers, tailors, butchers, even door-to-door salesmen who sold pins and needles, buttons and thread.

November 2012 Column 
 I was born  I was born in November, 1927. 1927? That was the flapper era! That was before the crash on Wall Street, before the Great Depression,  before the Second World War, the Cold War, the war in Korea, the war in Viet Nam. My parents arrived in America before the First  World War I. I grew up with an ice box in the kitchen before there were refrigerators, we listened to the radio before there was television,  and we wrote letters by hand before there were computers. Hot dogs were five cents and hamburgers, ten. Houses were heated with coal and trolley cars rode on tracks right down the middle of the street. Good grief, I am an old woman!

It is now three years since my daughter, Jessie, was killed by a hit and run driver as she was walking along the side of Sudbrook Road in Pikesville. Since then, I've learned a thing or two about loss-things I want to share with parents and how they can deal effectively with loss in their children's lives.

In our desire to make things better for our children, we rush to rescue them from pain and suffering. The family dog dies or a favorite toy gets lost or a beloved member of the family dies and we replace the dog with a new puppy, the lost toy with a new toy, and make inauthentic statements like, "Granny is happy in Heaven." (So should the child rejoice?)

I once had a "magic" wand (until the star on top fell off) which I used in my parent groups when we met for the first time. As I held it up, I said, "I have a magic wand and I want to wave it over your heads to make you great parents. The problem is, it doesn't work and the reason it doesn't work is because the magic is not in the wand, the magic is in you!"

Oh, how I wish there was some magical way to let parents know   they have what it takes to be great parents. Each of us is endowed with a heart that can love and be compassionate and we have intuition to guide us in the choices we make in caring for our children. What many of us lack, however, is belief in ourselves.

In science, "pushing the envelope" means spiraling upward to new frontiers of healing and progress. Pushing the envelope in the entertainment world is taking us on a downward spiral into tastelessness and brutality. Audiences now find amusement in what was formerly considered tasteless at best and evil in the extreme. Movies and television go too far by in their gruesome depictions and in the end, it has the potential to desensitize people to the suffering of others. The current fad of zombie movies, for example, have creatures wandering about smeared with enough blood to turn any sea red. And instead of recoiling in horror, as it is meant to do, young audiences laugh. While these movies are intended to evoke terror, children react with laughter to protect themselves from feeling normal fear. What was once deemed evil is now "just fun." What is being done to our children and teens?

Last month, Bill and I celebrated our 65th wedding anniversary, and if you find that amazing, so do we. We wonder how we lasted this long, given that we are polar opposites. Bill leans toward conservatism, I am liberal; he's result-oriented, I am process-focused; he's left-handed, I'm right. While it may be true that opposites attract, staying together, (at least for us,) has been a challenge worthy of a Nobel Peace Prize. So what kept us together all these years? Simply put, I believe it was our ability and willingness to forgive. Sometimes we made each other crazy, or angry, or lonely, or heartbroken. We don't even speak the same language - (Bill takes words literally, I seek nuance) not that we were born in different countries, but because our perceptions were planets apart (Bill broods over all that is wrong in the world, and I focus on all that is good in the world.) Yet, despite our differences and difficulties, good times and laughter and music kept us from pulling apart.

I met Jack when he came to my door on a mission of mercy - to rid my house of unwanted winter guests - you know, the little furry four-legged creatures who want to get in out of the cold. An affable and chatty chap, we managed to hold an interesting conversation while he hunted for any evidence of the little critters. My first impression of Jack was that he is a regular fellow who shows up and stands up to the demands of his life. Then spotting a Baltimore's Child Magazine on my kitchen table spurred him to tell me about the event that changed his life.

An Open Letter to Mothers

Dear Mothers:

Isn't it a feast for the eyes (and heart) when we read the words of appreciation we find in the cards our children give us on Mother's Day? Ah, but do we ever take a moment to appreciate ourselves? Do we ever say, "I am the most important person in my child's life?" Well, let's take a look at why we should.

as seen in Baltimore's Child Magazine