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every statistic has a name and a dear, dear face

back of a woman's headThose of you who read my blog know that I counsel victims of domestic violence.   Every day, these precious women come into my office and tell me their tragic stories.   They have been beaten, throttled, raped, burned, had boiling water poured on them, had their family heirlooms broken in front of them, watched their animals tortured, and have been helpless as they knew their children were witnesses to most of these.

Unless you have walked this road, you have no right – repeat, no right – to criticize or comment negatively in any way.   You have no idea the journey these dear ones have taken, or how hard it is to get off this road.

Well, one of my dear friends has made it!   No longer is she hiding under a pseudonym.   “Ida Mae,” whom many of you have met before in much earlier posts, has come out into the sunshine.   Her divorce from the brute she married will be finalized in two weeks.   My friend’s name is CONNIE.   She is beautiful.   And one day she will show the world her face, when she feels it is time.

Well done, dearest.  So proud of you for crawling on broken glass to freedom.   I am honored to know you.

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this is why it matters

remorseful manI had the most amazing telephone call this week while at work.  Normally I would never have answered the phone at that time of day as it was during a session hour, but my client had just called in sick and I was available to respond.

The caller ID said it was from a southern state, one where I knew no one.  When I answered, a man’s voice spoke to me, something that is not part of the ‘daily’  in my practice as my counseling center is only for women.  Occasionally a male doctor or a spouse will call, but this was not a voice I recognized.

He gave his name, and his wife’s name, and shared that I had counseled them briefly, almost two decades before when I worked in another practice and saw marital couples as well.  I had a slight memory of them. He shared that, for a reason unknown to me, he had been looking at my website and had been both struck and convicted by the statistics shown there on domestic violence, because he realized that he had contributed to the statistics.  He was a batterer.

We knew that then.

Somehow they survived.   Somehow they managed to raise a family.   Somehow this man’s wife has had the strength to demonstrate healthy boundaries and yet still has patiently loved him as he has been dealing with the demons of his past, working hard not to pass them on to his children.   This man loves his family.   For all these years he has been working on changing the monster he was.

He called to thank me and, in tears, wanted to bless me for the ministry and the work that I do.

I will never forget that phone call.   This is why it matters.   One person at a time, one family at a time.  There is hope.

$1.49 day … a walk down memory lane

Out of the blue, in the middle of getting ready for church this morning, a little ditty from my childhood burst into my head.  I opened my mouth and (will spare you the music) sang, “$1.49 day, Woodwards!  $1.49 day, Tuesday!”

500px-Woodwards_Logo.svgWoodward’s department store, one of the places in childhood where adventure could always be found.  My Mum loved the place.   Dad and Mum both worked for them shortly after their arrival as new emigrants to Canada from Scotland, and my parents were loyal until the doors closed forever.

My dad was paid every other Friday night, so on those evenings, after supper, the gang piled in the car and headed down to Woodward’s to buy groceries.  We hung onto the cart as Mum or Dad pushed it, generally making a nuisance of ourselves but loving having dad home after his week of traveling for work.  We were together, and it felt safe & warm, especially in Woodward’s.

Many a treat got thrown into that grocery cart, unknown to Mum until we got to the check out counter.  “Now how did that get in there?” she’d grin, and dad would just shrug his shoulders, ally to the end.  There were cream biscuits with jam at the center, and special “sweeties” imported from Scotland.   I’d look longingly with jealousy at the older teenage female clerk, a neighbor from up our street, who checked us out and filled the brown paper bags marked with the famous logo,  wishing I was old enough to do her job.  To me, a pre-teen, there was nothing more wonderful than being a check out clerk at Woodward’s on a Friday night!

After the groceries were placed in brown bags and these were placed in plastic bins that were sent out to the pick up area near the parking lot for collection later – a marvel now reproduced by one of our local grocery stores – the clan headed up to the top floor to check out the “bargain basement” …. yup, on the top floor … where we rummaged for treasures.  I still have a terrific bread knife I bought there when a young teen for only 19 cents.   I loved that department, trying to supervise my younger siblings as they hid between the racks of clothes, driving my mother to distraction.

It was $1.49 day that got our Scots blood pumping, tho.  Hearing that little ditty on the radio made my mother & I grin.  I remember being so jealous that she could go without us, as she only once (and it was a very special morning!) allowed me to stay home from school so I could go with her.  I still remember her purchasing a large bag of oranges, a fine china tea cup, or so many loaves of bread, each for $1.49.

Woodward’s gave me one of my first jobs … in the fabric & notions department.  I measured out miles of yardage for women.  Despite my best attempts, I never could get to be a bagger in the grocery department.   Instead I learned about selvages and different weights of yarns, found great buys on knitting patterns and made my Nana’s day when I could talk “shop” with her at her little house in the evening, over a cup of tea.

Contentment and gratitude for good memories of a dear gathering place, for that’s what Woodward’s was for us.  We rarely went through the doors without seeing someone we knew.   As a child, I remember going to the luncheon area and getting sandwiches cut into four little triangles.   What a marvelous treat.   Sometimes my Nana would take me for lunch there on a Saturday, and I in turn took my siblings, one at a time, for the thrill of being made to feel special, just like Nana made me feel special.

Economic “progress” brought with it the outlying malls and the demise of our family’s favorite store.   Woodward’s closed its doors forever in the 1990’s and with it came the end of an era.  In one of my memory albums I have a little paper bag from the store, alongside one of my mum’s treasures, her Woodward’s credit card.

We all need to walk down memory lane occasionally, and journal what was dear to us.  Maybe a ditty is inside your head, waiting to be sung!

have a piece of pie, compliments of Anne Lamott

I have a new Facebook friend named Anne.  Anne Lamott, in all actuality, one of the funniest writers this side of Heaven.  I think there is a little piece of Erma Bombeck inside of her.  I always appreciate her humor, but it’s the deep wisdom in her words that rises to the top, like cream, and speaks to my soul.   This piece written for women, encouraging us to accept who we are, is lovely.   So, to all my female friends out there who happen to be reading the blog on this almost December morning, remember the words of the Psalmist that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made.”   Thanks, Anne!

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Quickly, and probably with lots of typos: I am beginning to think that this body of mine is the one I will have the entire time I am on this side of eternity.I didn’t agree to this. I have tried for approximately fifty years to get it to be an ever so slightly different body: maybe the tiniest bit more like Cindy Crawford‘s, and–if this is not too much to ask–Michelle Obama‘s arms. I mean, is this so much to ask? But I had to ask myself, while eating my second piece of key lime pie in Miami last Sunday, and then again, while sampling my second piece of Cretebrûlée in Akron, if this is going to happen.For the record, I do not usually eat like I do in hotels while I am on book tour. But I have a terrible sweet tooth and I am just not going to be spending much more of this and precious life at the gym, than I already do, which is at best, three times a week, in a terrible shirking bad attitude bitter frame of mind. I go for three one-hour hikes a week. I’m not a Lunges kind of girl.
And even if I were, I’m shrinking. I’m not quite Dr. Ruthyet, but I used to be 5’7, and now am–well, not.But the psalmist says I am wonderfully and fearfully made. Now, upon hearing that, two days after Thanksgiving, don’t you automatically think that “fearfully” refers to your thighs, your upper arms, the little tummy roll that has helpfully crept over the bottom of the iPad, so that it might help you type?(The other night, when I passed the one available spot in a parking lot, after looking around for ten minutes, I thought, “I would kick myself, if my feet didn’t hurt so much.”)No. “Fearfully” means that we are so exquisitely fragile and delicate and vulnerable that if you really thought about it, you’d quake with existential anxiety. It can all be taken from us–our babies, our dogs, our books and imagination imaginations, our ability to see whatever shards of Light we might notice today amidst the noise and the haste…

And WONDERFULLY made, perfect, all evidence and bad self esteem to the contrary, gorgous as children and poems in the eyes or god. Not made to starve ourselves. made for radical self-care, so that we can fill up and give from a place of crazy generosity because we have been so freely given delicious food and outrageous friendships.

So yeah, I just started out to share this one possible insight–that this will be my body the whole time I am here! This one! Yikes, how awful. No, wait wait, this exact one, that is STILL HERE, against all odds. Thank you thank you thank you God. We have lost so many precious friends who would have done anything do have some more time in this joint, with our Mother outdoors, with those they love most. Anything!

So that is how I am going to spend today, pretty much-sort of more-or-less believing that this is it. This body, this biography, this exact family, this everything. And it is wonderfully made, of love and energy, for love and energy, for giving, forgiving, for–as Wiiliam Blake said–learning to endure the beams of love And joy will always be the best make up.

the gift of innocence

For several wonderful days this past week, I was blessed to hear “Nana” when a wee one woke in the middle of the night, knowing my name was safe in her mouth.  Her grandpa and I just grinned at each other in the dark when she & her big sister found their way to our bed at the beach cottage, and snuggled in for giggles and whispers before the sun got up.  Both of us were recipients of spontaneous hugs from fat little arms being wrapped around our necks, and we just drank in all the sweet little kisses & “I love you’s”  …. our little ones felt safe and we treasured their innocence.

It would be so pleasant to live in a bubble, believing that all little ones felt safe with their family members, that their innocence would be fiercely protected by those that they trusted.  As one of our little ones got her first taste of a wave coming in towards her, she ran to us for rescue.   At that second I was made aware of too many little ones who have no one to run to for rescue, because the one that should be their hero is the one who is causing their fear.  Life is not safe, and a little one’s heart can be broken in seconds, and for thousands of precious poppets every day is a living hell.

Be kind today to the snarly teenager bagging your groceries, or his sullen colleague with piercings in multiple places on her beautiful face, to the raging driver in the other lane who cuts you off, to the neighbor who swears at your dog as you walk by … yes, they might all  just be having a bad day, but they might also have been precious little ones who were locked in dark closets, beaten in alcoholic rages or sexually violated by grown ups whose job it was to protect them.  Their emotional development may have frozen at that moment in time, and their wee hearts were shattered.   We can’t go back & change their stories, but perhaps our smile, a genuine “thank you” or “good morning, Sam” might melt one of the bricks in their walls this morning.

how a mother’s love alters a child’s brain

I was incredibly blessed to be born to a loving mother.  Not all of us were.

Far too many of you sought solace under blankets in closets, or were locked in basements, and were abused in unspeakable ways.  You suffered at the hands of sadist/alcoholic/mentally ill/this list goes on … mothers.  Well, they were women who gave birth to you, perhaps, but they were not “mum” …

Each one of us deserved to have been given a mother’s love, and the following article explains the impact of that love – or lack of – on our emotional development.

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How a Mother’s Love Alters a Child’s Brain

By Joseph Castro – livescience.com

Nurturing a child early in life may help him or her develop a larger hippocampus, the brain region important for learning, memory and stress responses, a new study shows.

Previous animal research showed that early maternal support has a positive effect on a young rat’s hippocampal growth, production of brain cells and ability to deal with stress. Studies in human children, on the other hand, found a connection between early social experiences and the volume of the amygdala, which helps regulate the processing and memory of emotional reactions. Numerous studies also have found that children raised in a nurturing environment typically do better in school and are more emotionally developed than their non-nurtured peers.

Brain images have now revealed that a mother’s love physically affects the volume of her child’s hippocampus. In the study, children of nurturing mothers had hippocampal volumes 10 percent larger than children whose mothers were not as nurturing. Research has suggested a link between a larger hippocampus and better memory.

“We can now say with confidence that the psychosocial environment has a material impact on the way the human brain develops,” said Dr. Joan Luby, the study’s lead researcher and a psychiatrist at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Mo. “It puts a very strong wind behind the sail of the idea that early nurturing of children positively affects their development.”

The research is part of an ongoing project to track the development of children with early onset depression. As part of the project, Luby and her colleagues previously measured the maternal support that children — who were ages 3 to 6 and had either symptoms of depression, other psychiatric disorders or no mental health problems — received during a so-called “waiting task.”

The researchers placed mother and child in a room along with an attractively wrapped gift and a survey that the mother had to fill out. The children were told they could not open the present until five minutes had passed — basically until their mothers had finished the survey. A group of psychiatrists, who knew nothing about the children’s health or the parents’ temperaments, rated the amount of support the mothers gave to their children.

A mother who was very supportive, for example, would console her child, explaining that the child had only a few more minutes to wait and that she understands the situation was frustrating. “The task recapitulates what everyday life is like,” Luby told LiveScience, meaning that it gives researchers an idea of how much support the child receives at home.

Now, four years later, the researchers gave MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans to 92 children who underwent the waiting task. Compared with non-depressed children with high maternal support, non-depressed children with low support had 9.2 percent smaller hippocampal volumes, while depressed children with high and low support had 6.0 and 10.6 percent smaller volumes, respectively.

Though 95 percent of the parents in the study were the children’s biological mothers, the researchers say that the effects of nurturing on the brain are likely to be the same for any primary caregiver.

Luby and her team will continue following the children as they grow older, and plan to see how other brain regions are affected by parental nurturing during preschool years.

“It’s now clear that a caregiver’s nurturing is not only good for the development of the child, but it actually physically changes the brain,” Luby said.

The study was published online (Jan. 30 2011) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Re-blogged from Wake-upworld.com