Tuesday, 30 December 2008

contemplating the life of a resolution . . .

Yep, I'm a sucker for them.

I do like to review the past year and contemplate what kind of positive changes I need to institute in my day to day life as I baby-step my own path toward optimal living.

Even if the resolution doesn't stay with me throughout the entire year, I find it a good practice of introspection-- much like writing here invites me to explore issues that I might not quite articulate in my head or find time to ponder.

In my head it can look more like: thought, thought, damn I'm a wimp for not handling ______ better, thought, blah, thought, oh yeah I need to remember to breathe, thought, thought, blah, thought . . . ad nauseam.

In other words when my feet are spinning and I'm rushing to work or helping others with their goal setting or most recent dilemma, or herding children, my inner cognitions aren't necessarily the most centered or goal oriented. In fact, during much of the busy time my goal for those thoughts is stopping them rather than exploring them so they do not take energy from their other matters at hand.

Therein lies the gift of scheduled contemplation. Whether it be reviewing the past year and thinking of goals for the next, or journalling, or blogging, or having a heartfelt conversation with a soul mate-- that committed time to evaluate and plan about "life" as we know it and as we want it is a productive gift. And also an opportunity to contemplate discarding what hasn't been working the past year. So, yep, I like that once a year I actually take a few days to ponder possibilities for change.

This year I'm scheming a plan to totally psych my inner psyche out. What if I commit to getting at least 15 minutes of exercise a day and challenge myself to keep the streak the entire year? I've exercised every day for 6 weeks one time; it was doable. The psych out, I would hope, would be that once I have done 15 minutes-- nine times out of ten I will continue further. I can't remember ever planning to exercise only 15 minutes.

So there you have it, with 2 days left to ponder . . . I may have a simple one but I think it would prove a challenge and I really think it would feel close to finishing- a-marathon-exhilaration if I could do it.

And for the record, I'm usually very vague-- I'll have a healthier diet, I'll exercise more, I'll spend more time meditating. I'm willing to experiment and see if the concrete may be more effective for me.

I think. . . two days to decide.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

and there we have it . . .

It is post Christmas and while everyone's holiday beliefs, practices and cultural foundation is different, there does seem to be a common theme of being ever hopeful of magical times during this season.

WARNING: Don't read any further if you are expecting an uplifting holiday message.

It is a well known fact that this time of the year can be extremely difficult for some people-- people that feel isolated, that have had more than their share of loss, people going through difficult times or depression . . .

This Christmas I felt like a I was living the movie "It's a Wonderful Life." Not that part about it being a wonderful life, but the part where you are shown how easily life around you can be totally different--in a very negative way-- or that your life can change for the worse in a matter of a minute.

Part of the responsibility for my glimpse into this netherworld has to do with the fact that I do work in a helping capacity in the medical field, so I hear stories. Lots of stories. But they are not fiction. They are real life.

I saw one of the sweetest people I've met recently the week before Christmas. "Did you see it in the paper? He died last week." The tears streamed down her face as she smiled and said, "I'll be all right." I knew her husband had been ill, but I didn't realize he was that ill. We talked about her grief AND relief for the end of his suffering. I knew she would be all right. But the empathy, which is what drives people like me into a field of work I do sometimes hits very hard. As I imagined the loss of her life partner and the holiday gathering where they would further experience his absence, I felt her pain.

The same day, I ran into another of the sweetest people ever. "It's been a bit of a stressful time. We just found out yesterday that my husband has prostate cancer; we find out how bad it is tomorrow." She stated that when the nurse called to tell them the bad news she said, "I keep telling the doctor to stop ordering these tests around the holidays. I can't bear giving families bad news at this time of the year." Her response: "We are hoping that we can view it as a gift-- that it was found early." This woman is in her 50's and her husband is the youngest 70 year old you would ever see. I enjoyed listening to their biking stories; they are avid bikers and exercisers. Her eyes glistened as she talked about how they were being so conscious of living a healthy lifestyle so they could increase the years they would be together-- discussions my husband and I have about our life . . . Once again the empathy tugged.

One of my husband's dear nurse's husband had a sudden onset of some rare neurological symptoms that put him in ICU-- unresponsive and on a ventilator exactly 2 weeks before Christmas day. She has been living in the ICU because he seems more calm when she is there. He had just recently retired and they had just moved into their home that they built for this phase of their lives-- a place where they could be in the country enjoying the land and their well deserved less hectic lives together. These plans have been altered. The doctors are not sure about his recovery at all. It was proving difficult to wean him off the vent and his responses were limited. Her future, as she envisioned it, is forever changed.

This Monday morning I ran into my husband in the parking garage at the hospital as we were both coming in to work; he had an earlier meeting at another location and had been paged. A patient that was very special to him-- he regularly brought us pheasant that he hunted-- had just been found dead in his driveway. "This is tragic," he said. That's horrible I told him. And then I shared my horrible news of the day. As I was walking out the door my brother had called. A classmate from grade and high school had just committed suicide. He was having some legal difficulty, was separated from his second wife-- the mother of their twins and had four children from a previous marriage. My 86 year old mother is very close to his mother and was devastated trying to comfort her friend through what she has always said would be the most awful thing: to lose a child before you die. The small town's Christmas surely felt different to everyone this year. What will Christmas mean to his children for the rest of their lives???

That same Monday I picked our four year old up from school and his cheeks were beet red. It was a long work day so it was almost 6:00 when I got him. He was burning up so I took him directly to Prompt Care where we spent the next 90 minutes. Thankfully we took him then and got him started on some antibiotics because his condition deteriorated rather quickly. I slept with him for the next two nights. Or shall I say he slept with me. In his delirious sleep he nightmared, kicked and thrashed. He half slept. I watched him.

The next day, this past Tuesday, I found out that a sweet, sweet man that was in the play The Laramie Project with us was found dead in his apartment after not showing to work. He was 54. He didn't have much family and from the looks of his obituary in the paper there may not be a service. Man, I wish I would have seen him at some point just to say hi. Now he's gone.

We finally got to Christmas eve with a house full of nine kids. The two sleep deprived parents became crabby and fussy and didn't communicate very respectfully with each other over some misunderstandings. We were creating our own version of the nightmare before Christmas. Getting up at 2:30 a.m. to distribute gifts added one more sleep deprived night to the bank and we were up to the beckoning of children, painted on the delirious smile and got through Christmas day.

Finally, I thought-- the youngest slept in his bed and did okay last night and seems to be out of the woods. Finally I will get that much needed night's rest.

At 2:30 a.m. there was a knock on the door. My fourteen year old informs me that he couldn't make it from his loft bed to the bathroom and has puked all over his bedroom floor. Being the gagging at the sight of puke-incompetent parent that I am and wishing hope upon hope that he wasn't REALLY sick and it was a one time event I gave him the paper towels, garbage bags and spray disinfectant and explained to him what to do. I don't think he saw my fingers crossed behind my back.

He was back soon informing me that cleaning up the puke had made him puke more. A concept I totally related to as I gagged my way through cleaning up the mess. That cleaning process was so massive I had to do it in stages: initial cleaning, baking soda sitting on it for hours, vacuum up, another soap and water clean, disinfecting . . . (hey, I know this is way too much information-- you should have been living it!) He has JUST risen from his almost 36 hour sleep with minimal doses of ice chips and ginger ale. The kid was SICK.

And here I am on December 27th. I think our kids actually had a pretty good time for Christmas. And besides the couple of glimpses of tears running down my face, I think I was pretty good at hiding just how much all of this misery and sadness around us-- as well as our own sleep deprivation-- had affected me.

The bad news: there were even more sad stories but continuing this post in that vein was just getting morose. The good news: last night was the first night in I-don't-know-how-long I got a normal night's sleep.

So my message? While many of you reading this may have experienced all kinds of magic going on around you-- millions of others were experiencing the most tragic pain of their lives, accented by the fact that it was the holiday season-- a time for cheer and memories and wonder.

Let's light a candle for the troubled and the dying and the dead.

Let's live a life that realizes it could all change drastically in one moment.

Let's get a good nights' sleep every night we can . . . (I know, the profundity astounds . . .)

Tuesday, 16 December 2008

Oh Balance. . . where are you . . . (singing)

Tis the season.

Yesterday while driving around town I noticed just how un-holiday it looked. There are still leaves gathering around.

And I also noticed that the holiday schedule of commitment after commitment is upon us and it STILL doesn't feel very holiday like.

Thanks, in part, to Oprah-- after perusing January's edition of her magazine yesterday-- I do believe I know the cause of my skewed vision of this season: lack of balance.

Oprah comments on, ahem, where did those 40 lbs come from that she had lost a few years ago?

While I'm not obsessed with Oprah (my dear husband bought me a subscription just to have a night time read around when I am not into a book), I totally related to her dilemma. She realized that, once again, she let herself slip low on the priority totem pole.

How many of us do that? We have the best intentions of keeping up with our personal practice that we know helps us feel more balanced, more centered, more "zen-like" and just when you are breathing a sigh of relief, "whew, so glad I'll not have to go back to that chaotic way of life again," there you are perched atop the ferris wheel of stress-full living.

Consider giving yourself the gift of a regular check-in to make sure you are keeping yourself in the balance where you function best.

I know I have one, uno, 1, act that if I can just do it consistently-- the rest of my practice (exercising, writing, meditative practice) falls in place: sufficient sleep.

As a gift to myself, I hereby will give myself the gift of resting my body sufficiently. I will strive to be in bed by 9:30 and to sleep by 10:30. My body needs the rest.

In my wildest dreams as a teenager, would I have ever thought that the BEST holiday gift ever could be a curfew?

What is that one gift you can give yourself that you know would make everything else fall into place a little better for you? Maybe the first gift to yourself is pausing long enough to answer that question.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, 1 December 2008

One holiday down . . .

I hope this finds you all in a post holiday state of bliss.

I, on the other hand, ahem, am exhausted.

We had a relatively small and intimate and lovely Thanksgiving day and meal. Then Friday we took a whirlwind trip to Chicago to see my friend Anna's solo show (check out her new song if you want some inspiration!). Stephen, Atticus and I spent the night with her and her husband and their four year old and we were up at 6:00 the next morning to hit the road home.

Tomorrow I hit the road and travel 2 hours south to pick up my mom to come spend the week with us. She turns 86 on Friday and my son Luke turns 18 on the ninth.

Mom is still going to strong. She exercises and works in her yard, but she is getting a bit less reluctant to make solo road trips venturing too far from home. It's been a long time since she's come for a long sleep over and I look forward to having her here.

I'm having my family here on the 7th for holiday/birthday celebrations; it will be 15-20ish people.

Then my hubby and I are heading off to St. Louis for a few nights of R+R. Books. No laundry. No taxiing. No schedules. No have to's

That following weekend Luke and I will travel to Chicago for his audition and interview for Berklee College of Music in Boston.

Then the immediate Monday, the 15th, I host our holiday book club gathering.

And thereby goes the circle of life and living and doing and the reminder to, yes, sneak in the R + R freely and guiltlessly when able . . .

Or forever hold my peace.

Yes, I've run twice this past week and it felt great. Especially when I was finished.

The above picture is motivation for dreams and doing. It is a smidge of the amazingly beautiful, yet challenging ride we did in Cape Town, South Africa that spawned the most consistent exercising I have ever done and hope to continue throughout my long life.

Monday, 24 November 2008

Action Precedes Motivation (repeat ad nauseam until body moves toward door)

It has been over 18 months now that I have been running more consistently than I ever have in my life. I have always been what I call an inconsistently consistent exerciser. After working out to prepare for a cycle event that was going to be the longest I had ever ridden-- 65 miles, in mountainous terrain-- Cape Town, South Africa, I didn't want to throw out the work I put into conditioning.

Thus my love-hate relationship with running was spawned. I love how it feels. As a kid I had undiagnosed exercise induced asthma so I grew up being one of those kids that just couldn't run. To be able to watch my body progress and add on miles, albeit slow miles, was miraculous to me. Prior to this last attack at running my longest run had been around 4 miles and I had never even imagined the possibility of running something like at 10k (6.2 miles).

At about the 3 month mark of my consistent running I spontaneously signed up for a local 10k, the day before the event. I did better than I ever would have imagined. If I could have continued my regular training at that rate, I would have reached amazing goals (for me) by now. But I soon thereafter was injured; surely from over-training on the heels of my new found confidence and imagined ability. Injury also comes with running.

Good news: in a previous life I would have totally chucked the running and said-- see, my body isn't made for running. But I persisted, saw a PT and got back into running by rehabbing and almost starting from scratch.

After that my husband and I began training for a half marathon to be held in April, 2008. The bad news: we were both re-injured. While I didn't have to go the full rehab routine, it totally messed with my retraining schedule; I had to take time off and then just had to hope I would be able to even finish the 13.1 miles. The injury occurred on my first 10 mile training run, which I ran with afore mentioned dear husband.

Big mistake.

I am best at being a solo runner. I pushed it too hard, half wanting to keep up and half trying to show off on some hills around mile 8.

Big mistake.

Some crazy thing happened at the back of my heel that was so intense I was sure it was a stress fracture-- xrays, MD visit later we decided it was something muscular and needed rest. It still eeks it's little nervy head at times.

We ran the half marathon with a cloud of paranoia over our head the entire way. Stephen had thrown his back out, I was coming back from the heel injury. We just wanted to finish so we stopped at ALL the rest stops: count 'em: LOTS. And we visited a bit and joked with the volunteers and then got moving again. We came in at 3:01 and considering that we at least killed 15 minutes on all the stops, it wasn't that bad.

My current dilemma: I run here and there, but have not found the consistency that I had previously. And I want to be a runner. I'd love to be enough of a runner to finally have my hard work of running + great nutrition give me just a smidgen of the physique of the runner in the above photo.

But the dark, frigid mornings came back quickly and with a vengeance, and all the other excuses of my life that I could write an entire expose on are my constant challenge. So I guess this just boils down to me sharing that this is an area I am really struggling to wrap some major motivation around. It may be that the most effective way for me to stay consistent is to train for another half marathon. I think I may have learned some lessons to help me stay injury free this time and I know having a goal like that increases motivation.

I do know one sure way that will increase my odds: get my glutes off the bed and my fingers off the keys and put my running clothes on and get out there.

And remind myself the mantra to live by when motivation is the issue: Action precedes Motivation.

Saturday, 22 November 2008

mindfully contemplating gratitude . . .

It's that time of year.

On the radio, articles in this month's publications, newspapers and television-- myriad takes on being thankful.

I'm reminded of a chapter in Jon Kabat-Zinn's excellent book, "Wherever You Go, There You Are." In the chapter of the same title he ponders the concept of the need to have a spiritual retreat or vacation at that special place to feel rejuvenated. The core of mindfulness and his point in this chapter is to challenge us to live our lives in a way that we make that "retreat" part of every day, or even a grander aspiration, every moment.

The first time I read that chapter I was actually sitting on the edge of Lake Geneva at my favorite place of retreat. It is one of those moments that I have often remembered since. His commentary resonated with me because for years I had found myself so looking forward to that inner respite every year (and then dreading leaving to return to my "other" life) that I was forgetting that I could make exactly THAT inner retreat experience part of my everyday living.

Granted there are days, weeks, months or years that the task of mindfulness comes easier than others. But when we look at thankfulness or gratitude it would certainly help our well-being and those around us if we make feeling and expressing our gratitude a daily practice.

Frequently, the time it most difficult to practice gratitude is when we could benefit from it the most. By conjuring those people, places or things that we are thankful for in our lives, it can make that funk we may be in dissipate-- at least a bit.

Turkey- $30.00

Travel- $100

Calories-- 5000

Daily gratitude-- priceless.

If the world seems cold to you, kindle fires to warm it.
-Lucy Larcom

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Lemonade from Lemons: i get it . . .

In my profession I have to accumulate 30 hours of continuing education units every couple of years to keep my license. And as most of you also feel during our busy lives: time flies.

So I signed up for an ongoing certification program held at Western Illinois University in Macomb, Illinois. Over a twelve week period I attended a full day seminar every 2 weeks-- a total of 6 sessions. Unfortunately, from a professional perspective, this seminar ended up not being particularly helpful for my line of work. Theoretically, when all was said and done I would have a total of 40 hours or CEUs so I could skip out a day and still get my hours.

Having a house full of kids, I knew that if I tempted fate before the final session, I would likely have a sick child on the last date and then my strategy would have failed; I would have to pay for and attend more continuing education before March. When the last course date arrived, I had the option to skip.

I didn't do it.

Even though much of the information presented did not relate to my work, I decided to come for my final day for a few reasons. First, there was the possibility that the information presented on this day could be a bit more relevant and my inner "achiever" found it hard to blow off class. But mainly it was because of a connection I made with one of my "classmates." We hit it off on the first day of class. The Presidential election campaign was in full swing at the end of summer when our courses began. It was apparent on our first meeting that we were on different teams, but that didn't inhibit the connection we made.

Have you had that happen? Have you ever met someone, serendipitously, that made a surprising impact on your life? I'm reminded of the quote by Deepak Chopra:

“Whatever relationships you have attracted in your life at this moment, are precisely the ones you need in your life at this moment. There is a hidden meaning behind all events, and this hidden meaning is serving your own evolution.”

This also falls into a category of assessing occasions in our life as "everything happens for a reason."

So as I wind up the last day in this lengthy course and prepare for a lengthy drive home I prepare to say good bye to my class mate and partner in crime (clearly I'm typing this during the course so I wasn't always fully attentive) and embark on what will very likely be a lengthy friendship.

That, is what this adventure was all about.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

My Illinois Times articles

Click here to find the archive of the articles I did for Illinois Times. Type Becky Aud-Jennison in the search engine on that page and my articles will appear.

My goal was to highlight alternative/integrative practitioners so our community could become more aware of their services. I met some amazing people; it was a rich experience.



Click on this link at SpringfieldMoms website and scroll down to find me under "Ask the Counselor."

I am on their advisory board and enjoy answering questions from time to time . . .

This website is an excellent resource for Springfield parents. They keep the calendar of activities updated and have resources listed you will not find anywhere else.

Check it out!

Happy Parenting!

Siddhartha the Bunny

It is official.

We are an animal rescue center.

We didn’t have enough action with nine children ages 21-4 and their comings and goings and all the wonderful (and, rarely, not so wonderful) adventures that come in between.

The reality: the universe smiled down on us and our situation. Our children have blended into the most cohesive blended family smoothie imaginable. They look out for each other. They play like I haven’t seen children play since I was a child. The teen boys are kindred spirits and have a wonderful friendship. The college girls have grown into a place of love and respect for the well choreographed dance we do in this busy household to keep from stumbling over each other.

Life is busy. Life is good. We have no market on inoculating external chaos; it knocks on our door like every other family.

Enter the menagerie.

Banjo is our Cairn Terrier we have had now for almost 3 years. He’s smart, amazing and a great companion to our entire family. In April we rescued Roscoe, the 47 pound Welsh Corgi. If you aren’t familiar with Corgi’s, forty seven pounds is in the “HUGE” range for the stout, squat breed. These are the dogs that follow the Queen of England around. My husband, Stephen, is British so we smirk at the idea that we proudly walk these two prancing canine-step-brothers (they bonded even faster than our children did) on their combined lead; it is befitting we have two breeds that originated in the U.K.– and they prance.

Roscoe smiles and he smiles a lot. Roscoe now runs. Fast. And then he smiles more. Roscoe has lost, at last count 7 lbs, is consistently doted on and is absolutely an adored member of our family and Banjo’s best friend. Again, we’re lucky, or blessed or the universe smiled. And Roscoe’s smiles tell us that he knows he is lucky too.

Our daughter, Rachel, is an animal lover. Not long after she moved into her own apartment she found the perfect bunny. I’m not sure what his name is today, but at last check it was “Alvis.” Rachel had bunny-on-the-brain for a few years. We’d always had cats and dogs and she had a couple of rats in middle school, but what she came to realize is she wanted a bunny. Rachel litter trained Alvis and he had the run of much of her apartment.

Then someone needed a home for a cat.

Hmmmmm, bunnies and cats. They do not seem likely companions, but surprisingly, they loved each other. This animal thing was going so well that when she had the chance to rescue another bunny she didn’t hesitate.

But the mini-lop eared cutie that was promptly named Siddhartha, (yes, apparently after none other than Buddah), didn’t exactly play nicely with Alvis. Rachel had funded one bunny-neuter and being a struggling waitress/college student another bunny-neuter wasn’t in the cards (they are expensive!). Alvis became traumatized and his romping space finally shrunk to him staying in his cage most of the time. Siddhartha had to stay in his cage when he wasn’t getting his dose of human attention because he didn’t play nicely. His bunny existence wasn’t very zen-like– specially for a bunny named Siddhartha.

Enter discussion about naming a bunny Siddhartha– It symbolizes so much to me. The fact that Rachel has evolved into a young adult that is actually embracing the study of world religions and living a compassionate life is a thrill to behold. To watch your adolescent who’s mantra was “great my mom’s a therapist; this breathing thing is crazy” even while her friends gathered around the table to participate and were loving it– to watch her blossom into this person that is absorbing wisdom in such a way and developing a practice I admire is such a gift.

Rachel’s life it not easy. She is trying to be as independent as possible and we all know what that feels like at 20. But I don’t get emotional meltdown phone calls that are synonymous with that demographic. She recently told me that her friends were reading the HeartMath material at her apartment and thought it was “really cool.” “Yeah, everyone I hang out with is into mediation and all that stuff.”

When we go out to lunch our conversations do not consist of complaints about coursework or co-workers. Rachel, instead, talks about how she’s learning to center her self and how it is especially helpful when any anxiety rears. She describes how her personal hierarchy of importance has shifted. She ponders what her path in life will be and how exactly she wants to put her intention out to the universe. She reads voraciously. She has a practice. She sits with her discomfort. And she named her bunny Siddhartha.

We have a huge dog kennel and when Stephen learned that we had a family member Bunny in need of rescue he immediately imagined said kennel morphing into: bunny condo. He and our youngest daughter made it their project and she was thrilled, because guess what? She’s always wanted a Bunny. The Bunny would primarily be her responsibility and she let her four year old brother have some ownership as well.

This Bunny has the most amazing bunny spread ever. The space is at least 8 ft x 16 ft. He has a dome dog house and he is actually, for the most part, using his litter box. He comes out to you when you visit. He fell asleep in Ben “The Bunny Whisperer”’s arms. He also sprawls out legs stretched front to back; it must be nirvana to have space and be able to stretch after his tenure in such a small cage. I swear I see him smile occasionally.

A four and eight year old, however, do have a bit of an issue with pronouncing Siddhartha– forget understanding why anyone would want to name their pet Siddhartha. Rachel promptly agreed, of course they could change his name.

Meet Scooby Do. Scooby for short. Out of respect they felt the name should at least start with an “s.” But the grateful Bunny will always be Siddhartha to me.

The spawning of columns-- just too funny not to share here . . .

The following is an example of the breeding of columns in real life. I was asked to do a column for the Springfield Business Journal just after John McCain nominated Sarah Palin. The guidance I got from the editor went something like this: I know you have a big family (blended family of nine). I was wondering, with all the commentary about Sarah Palin and her large family, if you could give your perception of "doing it all" as a professional.

Here is my column, attempting to be very politically middle of the road:

As a woman and mother with a career and blended family of nine children I have watched Sarah Palin’s family closely as the spotlight has shone brighter on McCain’s choice for a V.P running mate. Is it possible for her to effectively parent her five children and have such a demanding career while campaigning in this presidential election?

I have an unequivocal answer to that question: she sure cannot do it alone.

We are all individuals with distinct capabilities and my years working as a nurse, parent educator and psychotherapist have given me perspective as I, for the past twenty years, have juggled work and family and have watched my clients do the same.

There is no set prescription of how much is too much when it comes to the burden of a workload on a family. Each parent has to measure how effectively they can maintain their health, their wellbeing and functioning and that of their family’s with the amount of time and energy their career requires.

Busy parents are frequently asked how they do it and I’m sure the Palin’s will be fielding similar questions. My primary strategy in juggling our busy household and the comings and goings of nine children has become: expect the unexpected. As I have explored my core values and their relationship with my stressors, I have actually surprised myself. Of course I highly value honesty and integrity and loyalty and similar values, but one value that came to light that wasn’t as obvious to me was Predictability.

As I investigated what most frequently causes stress in my life I realized that unpredictability was the overriding theme. I began working on a new concept: expect or predict unpredictability. We cannot schedule when our children are going to be sick or when that relaxing evening I fantasized about will turn into running to purchase items for the homework assignment due tomorrow and when I started expecting chaos it was amazing how well things actually seemed to run.

We do have our little techniques that build a foundation that makes our home function well. Everyone is responsible for cleaning up his or her messes. Yes, tweaks will be needed, but the children learn as they assume responsibility. We designed a clothing organization system in our laundry room that doesn’t require clothing to leave that room unless it is on their body; good-bye clothing clutter. We still use the timer to signal when it’s time to get out the door and bedtimes.

More importantly, I think, is the balance of fun time. We work on having some good old-fashioned adventures when we are able. Theirs is the childhood full of the type of play I remember—hours outdoors concocting schemes, going deer watching, fishing, catching bugs . . .

But the absolutely integral ingredient to a smooth balance between home and work life is the need for teamwork between family members and adults. The need for single working parents to enlist the support of helpful adults cannot be emphasized enough. Sometimes we have to create our village that will help us raise our children.

As I watched Palin’s older daughters take care of their newest sibling, it looked familiar. When our four year old was born our midwives, who had large families of their own warned us, “This will be so different. You won’t believe what a help the older ones will be and what a joy it is to watch them.” They were right. Their involvement wasn’t out of obligation or per their parent’s request but out of love and care and the desire to be a contributing member of our family.

While it might not seem a true feminist perspective, with my husband’s career as a busy physician and the accompanying unpredictable hours, I look at the balance needed on the home front as supporting the good work he does outside the home; with a house full of children, this is even a more pertinent issue. I transitioned my private therapy practice into an online coaching practice so that I could work from home for some of the time. This transition allowed me to give the clients I was leaving a professional option for contact if they needed it. At the same time I have been able to find part time opportunities within my area of interest and expertise that allow me the flexibility to be the first line contact for our children when they are ill or in need.

My children are blessed. They have fathers that are not mired down by traditional gender-related child rearing roles. Any time my husband is with our children he provides them with all the love, care, support and absolute fun I could wish my children in a lifetime with a father. He role models that fathers can do laundry, grocery shop, cook, read stories, tuck their children in, help with homework and then be up and taking care of a patient at 7:00 a.m. the next day. The children see a father that loves to work at home with his family and loves to go to work to provide for his family.

I’m afraid the question in my mind isn’t so much, is Sarah Palin able to handle everything on her impossibly full plate, but will Todd Palin provide his family the firm parenting foundation required in their mother’s absence? For Sarah and her children’s sake, I hope Todd Palin is a fraction of the father to their children that my husband is to ours.

Becky Aud-Jennison , MA, LCPC, is the Heart Support Counselor at Prairie Heart Institute and has an online business at www.lifejourneycoaches.com

Along with the above column in the October issus of Springfield Business Journal, Bridget, the editor had printed a resounding endorsement in her monthly column of, not only how mothers are capable of doing it all, but how I (gasp) am an example of that. This is Bridget's column:

As a mother myself, I couldn’t
help but feel a little offended when people questioned whether a “hockey
mom” could handle the responsibilities of being our nation’s vice president.
Matt Damon, who apparently thinks his opinion matters because he wrote a
good movie script once, said the thought of Sarah Palin acting as vice
president was like a bad Disney movie. And then there was Pamela Anderson,
known for her fine work on Baywatch, who said Sarah Palin needs to “suck
it.” (I won’t even go there.)
Well, I’ve decided to buck what my idols say and tell you that I think Palin
is more than equipped to handle the responsibilities of the vice presidency,
not despite the fact that she’s a mother but because she’s a mother.
Let me give you some evidence to back my statement. Palin was chosen about
the time we were planning the October issue of the Business Journal. For our
monthly Working Woman column (page 37), I decided to ask Becky Aud-Jennison,
a working mother who has a blended family of nine children, to write this
month’s column. I sent her an email on a Thursday to see if she would be
interested in writing something for us on whether a hockey mom could handle
the job of vice president.
Becky replied promptly and said she’d do it. I gave her a two-week deadline.
The next day, Becky’s article was in my inbox. There was nary an error in it
and she fit right into the guidelines I gave her. I asked her for her photo.
She sent it right away. Then, one week later as she was heading off to a
family vacation, she touched base with me one more time just to make sure I
had everything I needed.
Can you imagine what our country would be like if we had a bunch of people
like Becky Aud-Jennison in charge? Do you think she would have sat back and
let the economy collapse right in front of her eyes? I don’t think so.
Now, will I vote for the McCain-Palin ticket? You can look up my voting
records later if you are interested in finding that out.
I’m not asking people to vote for Palin, but I’m hoping people will consider
Palin for her credentials and remember that her “hockey mom” status is an
asset and not a liability.

Then . . . I immediately had to whip out my response to her response which was printed in this month's SBJ. This is Becky being real:

Unpopular Vote

Last month I wrote a column for this publication. Given all the hype about the recently nominated Palin and opinions regarding whether she would be able to handle parenting and potential V.P. duties, Bridget, the editor, asked me to give my perspective about the challenges of career and having a large family given that I am a professional with a blended family of 9, ages 4-21. Then, my column apparently spawned Bridget’s column and herein the breeding of columns continues.

Bridget, in her column, had wonderful things to say about her perception of my abilities based on the timing and quality of my response to her request. And don’t we all love it when our efficiency and good work is recognized? So thank you to Bridget for the resounding compliments.

But, I had to laugh (out loud) when I read Bridget’s personal endorsement, which included among other accolades, “Can you imagine what our country would be like if we had a bunch of people like Becky Aud-Jennison in charge? Do you think she (she means me!) would have sat back and let the economy collapse right in front of her eyes? I don’t think so.”

My husband read it. And he laughed. Out loud.

One of my son’s read it. And he laughed. Out loud.

Still aglow from her kudos, I was forced to initiate my deep breathing exercises. Imagining the contrast between “working mother” and sitting in the White House, in any capacity, almost gave me a panic attack. So I feel compelled to come clean. Stealing from David Letterman’s Top Ten List format, I’ve narrowed it down to 3 (but could easily have expanded it to twenty).

The top 3 reasons you would not want me, or anyone wired like me, in the White House at this phase in my life:

3. I have kids in my head and that does not leave room for bombs, nor budgets, nor foreign affairs . . . ad nauseam. Forgive me my feminist sisters, but after being this gender for 47 years and counseling women for over 20 years I have come to a conclusion. We are inherently, genetically, wired to help our species continue to procreate and although many women (many of my dear friends) have bypassed that option because they had, uhm, what’s it called? oh, yeah: choice, I firmly believe that once we become mothers and unless we are neglecting our nurturing drive (neglect spawned of myriad causes including overachieving) we have a primal instinct to care-take our children. That means that if I have children under the age of 18 they get primary occupancy in my brain: I cancel appointments for them, I switch jobs for them, I prioritize around them—THEY come first. That would not be an option in the White House. That is an internal drive I cannot ignore; and if forced to, I would be rendered incapacitated-- which I am told is not on the list of ideal qualities for the White House.

2. And speaking of incapacitation, as I have to remind my husband every month, sometimes my hormones speak for me. I remind him that these issues that have to be addressed immediately are really relevant in my life and always concern me—I just can’t shut my mouth or not act on them when I am hormonal. I do not censor and I do not have great impulse control for at least 4 days a month—and honestly, those are not traits I am extremely gifted at the other days of the month. Trust me, you do not want me, or anyone with my wiring, having any red buttons or red phones at their fingertips. (and the family said, Amen)

1. Sleep. I need it. Eight to nine solid hours of it. Every night. If not, I need a nap. Why you ask? Read number 2 again and add even more irritability and whining. I have gotten the impression that sleep is not a guarantee in the White House.

Oh yeah, my son had another reason to add to the list: we wouldn’t have had the ultimate bonding experience of doing that groovy leaf collection that he put off until 5 days before it’s due date; if he hadn’t had the aid and persistence of his ever-present mom it wouldn’t have gotten turned in today.

Case closed: we do not want a bunch of “me’s” running our country. Please. If given the opportunity in the next 14 years: do NOT vote for me!

Single mom asked for some advice about how to explain father's identity to young child-- dad is not in picture

I'm sure this is an issue you have pondered for the last 3 years and I certainly can understand your concern about wanting to have the "appropriate" response to the question.

First, I would encourage you to flash forward and imagine your son being 13 years - 18 years old and what the ultimate message will be that you give your son assuming you have no further contact with the father. Only you can decide what that would be, but I would encourage you to frame it as pleasantly as possible; his father is a part of who he is so self esteem will be connected to his perception of his father. "Your father was a very kind man. He wasn't able to make a commitment to have a family at that time, but I am so happy he gave me you." You will likely be heavily questioned in the future and rather than focusing on the negatives, I would encourage you to let your son know that you actually don't know how his father "turned out" and he may be a wonderful person and you only want to speak of him in a positive manner. There's a likelihood, in time, with technology as it is it will be possible for him to find his father if he wishes. If so, he can let his father explain more about himself. Therefore, my suggestion would be coming up with a description you are happy with and sticking with that. It's impossible to know if his father will attempt to reconnect in the future and again, if this happens he will be able to fill in any gaps.

Back to a three year old. Based on the general message you decide will be your description of his father (i.e. you will want to function within the perimeters you set yourself in that response) he needs to hear messages that:

1. Do not provoke any anxiety

2. Encourage him to feel whole, and loved and like any other family

3. Normalize his situation

For now, I would consider saying something to the effect of, "Not every family has a mommy and a daddy. Some have just a mommy or just a daddy or just a grandpa or just a grandma, etc. I am so lucky to have you and we are lucky to have each other." "Lots of families only have a mommy or a daddy. Our family is me and you." "The important thing is that we have each other."

The words Dad, Daddy, Father, etc. are loaded. Be careful how you use them. I tend to believe those terms are held out for the person that actually is involved in their children's lives and when children use it that do not know their mother or father it is somewhat fantasy based and gives you a glimpse into their wishes to have a "daddy." In this situation here is an example, "Mommy cared about a man that wasn't ready to have a family, but I was very very lucky and he helped me be able to have you even though he has never met you." as you ponder exactly what to say, I would be careful not to create a fantasy, by your explanation, that has him thinking that "Daddy" might walk through the door.

I would encourage you to get involved with other single parent families to normalize the way he perceives your family. That way he can see that lots of families are made up of different people. There isn't always a mommy AND daddy.

Also, the more positive male role models he has in his life the better. It can give him some healthy balance as he matures, and as I always say, single parents must sometimes make the village that will help them raise their children. Positive, supportive people in your lives that can help out when needed and give him other positive relationships with adults can be a gift for you and him.

As he gets older you can begin to explain that there is a difference between fathering and being a father while still communicating respect about his biological father.

Age appropriate literature is always effective in helping to normalize situations. Here are a few titles you may find helpful: Do I Have a Daddy?: A Story About a Single-Parent Child by Jeanne Warren Lindsay and Jami Moffett (Paperback - Nov 1, 1999); Love Is a Family (Hardcover) by Roma Downey (Author); The Family Book (Hardcover) by Todd Parr (Author).

While I know I did not give you a concrete answer, I hope this guidelines give you some direction as you decide the message you want to give your little guy.

All the best to you and your future with your son,

Becky Aud-Jennison, MA, LCPC


I love the world of blog.  It meets so many needs, albeit, mainly personal for the writer.  I have a family blog I maintain.  I had a blog to track my progress training for my first half marathon. I have yet to incorporate blogging into my professional life.  

So let the record stand that the mission of this blog will be to bridge the gap between personal and professional.  I do some writing for other causes and from time to time, I may post those writings here for your perusal if I think they may be helpful, interesting, or if I just would like to be archived.  

If you read this and would like to have feedback on a particular area you are contemplating, feel free to inquire and I will do my best to address the topic.

My field of work is so unique when it comes to the area of one's self-care.  While I have years of professional experience and have acquired a certain amount of expertise in areas of life, that doesn't always mean I'm an expert in handling my own life challenges.  Like everyone, I struggle with maintaining balance in my life, parenting effectively, living a healthy lifestyle, having happy and healthy relationships and achieving inner peace.  

I sometimes envy the accountant that can show how he practices what he preaches by his well balanced financial books.  My goal is to work on keeping my self as balanced as possible and therein lies my real life empathy to you all.  It IS a challenge and we can all use all the support we can get.

I am not a clinical robot and I am sure you will see glimpses of my own challenges as we take this life-journey together.  Don't forget, for more indepth 1:1 consultation, online coaching is available with me at www.lifejourneycoaches.com.

Wishing you inner peace,