Swan Mothers

Discovering Ourselves through Parenting

On Allowing 

Whether we allow it, or not
Life moves through us. 

Events happen. 

We are changed. 

When we cease resisting, we Allow,
and the flow of Life and Change THROUGH us,
is not impeded. 
It does not get stuck
in our muscles and bones. 
It moves. 

We shake and tremble. But we do not stop the flow, 
so it doesn’t stop us. 
This is why we cannot resist sleep.
Our KNOWINGNESS gets us out of the way for a while. 
And sleep is fine. 
So is conscious relaxation into life. 
So is conscious allowing. 
So is conscious accepting.
This is Loving What Is. 
This is Loving Our Selves. 
This is Love. 

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Forgiving Myself My Own Ignorance

IMG_5803.jpgIt takes considerable knowledge just to realize the extent of your own ignorance.
Thomas Sowell

When my daughter was born one week before my twenty-ninth birthday, I thought I was prepared for motherhood. I’d been a youth group leader and camp counselor since I was fourteen. For years, I taught kindergarten in Saturday school. Since becoming pregnant, I’d doggedly perused the 649 shelf in the library, hauling home and reading dozens of parenting books. I knew what to expect during my baby’s first year.

Scratch that. I was familiar with timelines for normal development. I had read about infant behaviors. I had developed a how-to-parent-a-newborn plan. And I was wholly unprepared to be a mother. I had expectations, for my child and myself. I thought having an agenda was a good thing.

Let’s raise children who won’t have to recover from their childhood.
Pam Leo

Within a few days of being home with my much-wanted, instantly-loved child, I yelled at her. She had been screaming for hours. I had changed her, nursed her, rocked her, left her in the crib for a bit, sung to her. In my ignorance, I never considered that she might be in physical or emotional pain, that there could be a reason for her distress. I was failing — so soon! — at being the kind of mother I had prepared to be, the kind I was supposed to be.

Immediately after I yelled, I lay on the bed beside her, and joined her in despondent weeping.

Education: the path from cocky ignorance to miserable uncertainty.
Mark Twain

Almost two decades have passed. I think I have forgiven myself for that horrible lapse of self-control, the abhorrent dearth of understanding, but I continue to regret it. My children are my greatest teachers, and I continue to remember the profound lesson: I have much to learn. Always.


This post was inspired by Forgiveness Prompts For #1000Speak January Link-up. #1000Speak is a group of bloggers from all over the world are coming together to talk about compassion on the 20th of each month. The above is my first contribution.

I write about my parenting journey, and the journeys of other mothers, in Swan Mothers: Discovering Our True Selves by Parenting Uniquely Magnificent Children.


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Early Intervention

“When autism can be recognized and identified early, the parents have a golden opportunity to begin working to understand the child they actually have.”

Exactly! We can learn how to parent the children we have and love.

Unstrange Mind

We were discussing early diagnosis/identification and early intervention/therapy over on the Facebook forum for this blog and a reader, Megen Porter, made a deeply insightful comment: “It’s almost like early identification is important so you can intervene on yourself as a parent.”

What a brilliant way to put it, Megen! Thank you!

The standard meaning of the phrase early intervention is to jump in with hours and hours of therapy to try to get an Autistic child to be “indistinguishable from peers” as quickly and as thoroughly as possible. This means extinguishing Autistic behaviors, even absolutely harmless ones that are beneficial to the Autistic person but embarrassing or off-putting to onlookers, the classic example of which is hand flapping.

But Megen put a lovely spin on things by pointing out that it is the parents who need the early intervention. When autism can be recognized and identified early, the parents…

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Another Look in the Mirror

Mirrors were once considered magical. They can be used to deceive, or reveal. Some believe mirrors are portals, divination tools, or repellers of evil.

Mirror Gazer by RachelHWhite via DeviantArt

A few years ago, I was receiving a shamanic healing with Julie Tallard Johnson. I lay on an ordinary massage table with my eyes closed. Julie, wearing jeans, a casual shirt, and no pretenses, moved her hands over my body. Few words were spoken, though Julie occasionally struck a large, resonant drum.

After some time, I sat up on the table and Julie held a mirror in front of me. I was unable to look into it. I covered my face with my hands, and cried racking sobs.

I wish I could bring this story to a tidy conclusion, explain what happened, how and why, but I cannot transmit the intensity with words. It was, simply, complexly, beautifully an experience.

But, since Liz of The Writing Reader suggested a Mirror Writing Prompt today, perhaps it is time to look again. I don’t have Julie’s mirror of course, but there is a mirror in my kitchen, not far from the table where I’m writing. [I go and look — and take a picture, so you can see me too.]

IMG_7802I don’t say anything to myself. I’m not into those “say nice things to yourself in the mirror exercises,” even though I’ve heard good things about them. No thoughts come to mind. Yet, I am calmly, deeply, profoundly pleased with my reflection. It’s good to see me.

What do you see when you look in the mirror? What do you think? How do you feel? Please, tell me in the comment box below.

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Focus Finding Mission

I open Twitter and see the people doing it right: they focus on their niche, consistently tweeting on the same topic; their tweets have a distinctive voice and are routinely clever, or inspirational, or snarky, as befits their persona; their posts are nicely spaced, appearing every hour, around the clock.

I know this is the right way to build an audience, establish credibility, and attract a following. Every now and then, I attempt to follow these rules. Then, I get distracted. I retweet something, just because I like it. I type a random thought that came to me in the shower. I tweet 50 times one day, and then don’t tweet for days, or weeks.

I have a jumping-around kind of mind. My interests and thoughts scatter a hundred times in a ten-minute conversation. Ideas spin off, sometimes on rapid straightaways, sometimes into deep rabbit holes, sometimes in a thousand directions, like sparks of fireworks.

Source of Scatter

For 30 years, I was the consummate good girl. I created lists and schedules. I color-coded my school notes and files. I adhered to guidelines, suggestions, and shoulds. For 30 years, I thought the true me was the ultimate rule-follower.

From 30 to 40, courtesy of my children, I discovered all the ways that rules do not work. I stumbled upon books about alternative health care, natural living, positive parenting, and expanded world views. I realized that my rule-following youth was not a projection of Me, but a coping mechanism for surviving in a crazy world.

For the past few years, I’ve been learning to recognize my multidimensional self, to honor my non-linear thought process, and to unearth the real True Me. My tweets and blog posts reflect my winding, confusing journey. I may not be doing Twitter and blogging, right, but I’m doing it my way. I celebrate that.

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Through the Keyhole

I live with four other people, so our home decor reflects our collective energy. But the surface of my desk, is all mine.

On the far left corner of my desk, stands a vase of swan and hawk feathers. Each was lifted from the ground, by me. The feathers are from a magical land, on which my great grandmother spent weeks with my mother when my mother was a child; where my sister and I spent the majority of our childhood summers with our mother and grandmother; the place which has delighted me and my children for the past seventeen summers.

I do not recall picking up such glorious feathers as a child. I only remember seeing small feathers, the deep blue of jays and small brown feathers of unknown species.

About ten years ago, a pair of swans graced us with their presence. Each spring, they built a giant nest at the unaccessible, southern edge of the lake. The mother would sit on her eggs while the father swam around protectively. The cygnets would hatch in early summer, and we’d watch them disappear, by ones and twos, prey of snapping turtles. One summer, a cygnet reached maturity and its parent taught it to run along the water, rapidly flapping its wings, until it took flight.

The swans like to feed and groom near our beach. A few years ago, as they molted, they left a deposit of long, white feathers in the grass near the shore. I collected the prettiest. Many were frayed at one side, from use.

I kept the feathers in a plastic cup on my bookshelf at the summer place for a few summers. After, I titled by first book, Swan Mothers,I brought the feathers home and upgraded their container to a pretty vase.

In 2013, my son and I were walking in the woods in early spring. Wandering through a grove a maples, I found a large, brown and white striped feather. Then another and another. I photographed them and shared on Facebook. My cousin wrote, “Beautiful red-tailed hawk feathers. Just don’t take them home. It’s illegal to have them, to prevent poaching.” I deleted the photo, but kept the feathers.

After the first find, in a park, I began finding hawk feathers at the summer place. I watched the hawks circling and swooping, and listened to their distinctive cries.

The burst of white mute swan feathers and striped red-tailed hawk feathers remains on my desk. The feathers bless me with the Medicine of the winged ones. They agitate the air. They remind me to ride currents. They show me that I can rise above it all, and glide.

Swan Medicine: Swan can show you how to access the inner beauty within yourself and in others. Swan represents communication between the worlds, and is and excellent guide to the therapeutic powers of land, water, and air.

Hawk Medicine: Hawk awakens vision and inspires a creative life purpose. A Hawk totem is filled with responsibility because Hawk people seek the overall view. A Red-Tailed Hawk Totem has direct ties to the Kundalini, the seat of primal life force.

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What do you believe about yourself and the world?

We all have core beliefs through which we define ourselves. These are largely established by living life and are in place by time we are seven years old. Once they are set, we seem to attract — sometimes as if by magic, sometimes as if cursed — life experiences that validate them.

Past Dictating Present and Future

Long ago, we integrated both empowering and limiting messages into our very being.

  • You’re the smart one.
  • You’re so lazy!
  • Nothing you do is ever good enough!
  • We always get by.
  • There is not enough.

Recognizing how these beliefs influence us, we can decide to be mindful when speaking to and interacting with our children, as they establish their own core beliefs. There is no need to approve of or permit every action. We can notice and love what is good in our children. We can be curious about behaviors that we do not understand.

Before we react to our children’s actions and words, we can decide to consider the possibility that there is a reason for the behavior we are seeing. We can strive to understand. Observing without judgement and with curiosity can be life changing.

I Recognize a Limiting Belief

Earlier this year, I noticed that I have not been meeting my goals for a long time. “I used to be so Type-A,” I lamented to a friend. “I finished everything! Even things I didn’t like.” As I trailed off, a light bulb went off over my head.

A-ha! That was it! Throughout my childhood, adolescence, and early adult life, I had accomplished almost everything I set out to do. The strongest and longest-lasting example is that I persevered (persiverated?) through a college curriculum that perplexed and terrified me. This resulted in a degree in a field that did not interest me. Which led to jobs I did not enjoy.

I finally learned my lesson: Working hard gives me what I don’t want anyway. So, I will not work hard.

Now what?

Once we recognize the repeating patterns in our in lives, we can change them. Processes such as Matrix Reimprinting with EFT offer simple and effective ways to change.  (I teach the Core Belief Reimprinting process during my seven week Swan Mothers Circle.)

When I recognized that I believed that hard work gave me what I don’t want, I worked with my Matrix Reimprinting practitioner to find old stories that supported this belief. I began working with the Core Belief Process. And I am learning to work joyfully and consistently at that which matters to me.

Curious what I’m working on? I’m writing a fiction trilogy called The Weaving Gold Chronicles. I’d love to know what you’re up to.

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Stimming as Spiritual Practice

In Autism and the God ConnectionWilliam Stillman correlates “autistic repetitious activities — which can increase serotonin production leading to states of altered consciousness — with identical activities deliberately engaged for spiritual gratification by those of religious standing: Gregorian chants, reciting the Rosary, the ecstasies of the whirling Sufi dervishes, shamanic drumming ceremonies, and the rhythmic rituals of certain tribes. It is incongruent that such spiritual repetition equals mantra, but autistic repetition equals stimming.”

Following up on my post from last week, Autism as Meditation, I invite you to view the two videos linked below. Consider how our ideas about what we are seeing and hearing define it as spiritual practice or disorder.

Whirling to Touch the Divine

“Whirling is a way to reconnect with a deeper nature inside ourselves,” announces the speaker in the video linked below.

Sufi Whirling

Autistic Girl Spinning

When autistic children spin, it is “obsessive-compulsive behavior.”  An undesirable stim.  Just plain weird.

Autistic Girl Spinning Beauty

It’s all how you look at it.

If you are noticing that you have beliefs about your autistic or neurodiverget child that you want to change, here’s how.

1.  Make a list of what you believe about your child (or yourself.) You may include items such as:

  • My life will always be difficult (with this child).
  • My child does a lot of really weird stuff.
  • My child will never _______________.
  • My child always _______________.
  • I’m a bad parent (because ________________).

2.  Give each statement a validity rating on a scale of 0 to 10, where 0 is not true at all and 10 is very true or very intense.

This is a subjective, internal rating of the intensity of feeling you have about the truth of the statement.  When you ask yourself, “How true is this for me?” write down the number that pops into your head.
3.  Use the basic EFT recipe to begin shifting the hold these beliefs have on you.

Do a round (or more) of tapping using as many of the following phrases. Modify the statements or add your own to accommodate your own individual feelings.

  • Even though my life will always be difficult, I’m still a good person.
  • Even though my child will never ________, I can love him AND myself anyway.
  • Even though I’m a bad parent because I _________, I’m doing my best and that’s enough for now.
  • Even though my child always _________ and it’s so (frustrating, embarrassing, painful), I choose to love her and myself anyway.

4.  After a few rounds of tapping, give each statement a validity rating again.

Are your feelings less intense or more? As you tapped, did memories or feelings come up? If yes, you can continue tapping on these new feelings. If the memories or feelings are very intense, breathe deeply, imagining the breath flowing into your heart. Stop tapping if this feels right. 

5.  If the feelings are less intense, look at the statements again.

Consider how you can begin shifting your beliefs. Start small! Choose something positive and new that you can believe and that you can see relatively quickly. Perhaps you can envision your child putting on one article of clothing without protest or allowing you to place a new food on his plate. If you don’t believe that your child will get dressed easily, can you believe that there is a possibility that she will be more cooperative.

6.  Continue to believe a new impossible thing every day.

Need help changing how you see your child?

I offer a support group and coaching that shows you how. 

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Autism as Meditation

They gaze into the distance or lose themselves in focusing on some object. Their concentration is intense without being strained. Sometimes, they make strange movements with their hands as they chant the same mantra over and over. We may not understand what we see when  we watch monks in deep meditation, yet we are awed. Why then, when our autistic children engage in similar behaviors, do we despair?

  • Why won’t she look at me?
  • Why is he doing that thing with his hands?
  • Can’t she be still for a minute?
  • Why does he have to repeat the same phrase over and over?
  • It’s like she’s not even here!

In The Autism PropheciesWilliam Stillman writes “…if we always presume the competence of the person within, the non-verbal individual with autism exists in a perpetual state of meditation – always pondering, reflecting, considering, processing, and very carefully observing.”

Shifting Our Perspective

We have a strong sense of how things should be in the world. We know how people are supposed to behave. We know how children should develop.

When our children deviate from the shoulds and supposed tos, we hasten to set them back on the worn path that people have walked for millennia. It is human nature to want to fit in. Belonging to a group and demonstrating our usefulness to it was once essential to survival. Rejection from the group meant almost certain death.

Interestingly, as humanity evolved, it was not those who fit in but those who stood out that are remembered.

A Facebook friend recently posted: “Ludwig van Beethoven, Albert Einstein, Emily Dickinson, Thomas Edison, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Isaac Newton, Nikola Tesla, and Vincent Van Gogh were all autistic.”

We can’t posthumously diagnose these people with autism, but one thing is certain: All those who devoted their lives to doing what everyone else did are long forgotten. We remember and venerate individuals who deviated from the norm.  In their own times, they were considered odd and eccentric. Their ideas and talents were often scorned. Today, they are recognized for their genius.

As we consider the possibility that our children’s differentness is an asset, our view of them and ourselves begins to change.

If we teach every child to focus on compassion for one hour, once a week, we could end all violence in one generation.

The Dalai Lama

It appears that our autistic and uniquely magnificent children already have this focus. We can learn from them.

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Shame and Guilt in Autism Parenting

I didn’t know so many things. I did not know that life could be difficult for a newborn. I did not know that a baby cried to tell me something. I did not know how to nourish a child who gagged from looking at food.

Parenting leaves long trail of pebbles of guilt and shame in its wake. Parenting autistic or challenging children leaves a trail of boulders when we lack knowledge and support for being the parents our children need.

Ignorance is Not Bliss

At one point, one of the most difficult aspects of parenting was feeding Daniel. It started from my first attempts to transition him to solid food. He was happy breastfeeding. Happy sitting in a high-chair at the table. When Ellana was his age, I began feeding her pureed vegetables, carefully introducing one at a time just as the baby books instructed. All went well with her eating.

Daniel, was not intersted in the pureed peas. Or the sweet potato mash. Or the apple sauce.

I decided he just was not ready to eat solids and waited a few weeks and offered some food again. Eventually, he ate small amounts of solids.

As he got older, his food repertoire became smaller instead of increasing. He was not growing along the growth curve the doctor’s office provided, but steadily dropping lower and lower in the percentages. I was scared and worried. What was I doing wrong? Why wouldn’t he eat?

Diagnosis, Not Solutions

Somewhere along the way, we realized he was autistic and obtained a diagnosis. This provided a piece of information, but not peace of mind. I continued to worry about his food intake.

At three and four years old, he would look at the plate of food I set before him and immediately begin gagging. When he refused to eat the foods before him, I would wrap my left arm around both of his arms and torso and use my right hand to shove food into his mouth. I hated doing this and was terrified that if I did not, he would starve. Sometimes, once he accepted that first bite of food that I forcibly held in his mouth, he happily ate all that was on his plate. This made me think I had to continue feeding him this way.

Finding a Better Way

Eventually, I learned how to feed him in a way that felt good for him and me. Read how in When Your Child Won’t Eat:  Help for Resistant Eaters.

Even though I now recognize that this was part of our journey, part of learning and growing together, I wish I had known then, what I know now. I wish I knew now, what I will know in a decade.

I share this story to encourage you to seek out options in difficult situations. There is a way to manage that is kinder to your child and less heart-wrenching for you.

Be gentle with your child. And be gentle with yourself.

Need help for escaping the yucky feelings?  We work on that in the Loving Life with Uniquely Magnificent Children teleseminar.

Clearing Guilt Over a Situation or Behavior

Two days after I published the above, I came across this wonderful method by Lilia Birem.  I am adding it here with Lilia’s permission.  Please check out her blog.

Did you do or say something that you regret and feel guilty about? Something you wish you could go back in time to undo, cancel, change?

1) Locate in your body the vibration of guilt, along with the picture of the situation stuck in your head that you wish to cancel, forgive, and transmute.

2) Pull that vibration and picture out of you and p…ut it all into a bubble.

3) Place your hands close to the bubble and start infusing it with the energy of Compassion. What color is compassion for you?

4) Continue to infuse your bubble with Compassion while repeating the name of God over and over again (pick the word(s) that resonates best with you).

5) Continue until the bubble pops! All is now vanished.

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