Family First: Change In Posting Schedule

Hi Brains!

Thank you Followers and for those who have taken time to check out my blog!

I have been chewing on this for awhile and I am still not exactly sure what to say…  I enjoy writing very much (working on my first book, if you can believe that), but the past couple of weeks or past month even, has been difficult.  My mom is sick.

I’ve dreaded the day my parents were going to be “old.”  Okay, they aren’t that old, but they are certainly not as young as they used to be either.  In fact, the older my dad gets, the more and more he looks just like my grandpa (his dad).  Super creepy!  He even wears pocket button-down shirts, just like Grandpa…before, buttons were just for special occasions!

While my dad morphs into an exact replica of my crazy grandfather, my mom hasn’t aged a bit.  Not even kidding; she is often carded on Senior Citizen Day!  Unfortunately, appearances can be deceiving, for that she is suffering with an autoimmune disease (Rheumatoid Arthritis) that is causing all sorts of mayhem to her body.

The past couple of months have been rough for my mom, whose health has started to really decline.  Her previous doctor(s) just want to treat symptoms rather than get down to the root problem(s).  However, she finally took my advice and got a new doctor, a doctor who is more interested in investigating the root problem than just putting band-aids on the symptomatic ones.  Which is good, but we hope not too late.

My mom is worried about the ugly “C’ word.  It is unclear as to what exact tests are being done, for that my mom has a terrible habit of zoning out during her check-ups.  Basically, covering her ears and saying to herself, “lalalalalalalalalala, I am not listening.”  This is her mature way of dealing with bad news.

Right now, we are waiting….for test results.

In the meantime, I have been driving back and forth to help her out.  Trying to be the solid rock that she says I am.  I am actually a mushy rock, hidden behind a canvas painted like a solid rock, because internally, I am just an emotional mess about all this.  But, I remain positive.

Anyway, sorry for the TMI post, but I guess what I am saying, is that I am still committed to my blog.  I was seriously thinking about quitting, but I know my mom wouldn’t like that; especially, since I have a habit of quitting when times get tough.

So…Speak To The Brain Not The Heart mental health blog is not going anywhere!  However, I cannot promise to post every Monday.  My goal is still to post every week and of course as often as I can, because you never know when a random thought might come up.  🙂

Wishing everyone good mental health (overall health too) and a happy week!

 

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Our Wrinkled Brains

My step-son loves science!   During each visitation, he loves to share with me a new scientific fact that he learned in school or YouTube…most likely from YouTube.  Anyway, this past weekend, I learned that “our brain gets a wrinkle every time we learn something new.”

Wow, if that is true, can you imagine just how wrinkly Stephen Hawking and Albert Einstein’s brains must have been??

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Wrinkles For Everyone

Well, it used to be thought that wrinkles formed in our brain every time we learned something new, but new research says that is not the case.  In fact, we are born with a wrinkled brain.  Ewwww!  Some people are born with more wrinkles than others, most likely due to genetics.  Crazy!

Interestingly, the wrinkles (or folds) in our brain are super important, because they provide a larger surface area to fit in more neuron pathways making more room to provide greater brain power.  That is pretty cool! 

Anyway, that is just a little brain fact I learned this week that I thought I would share.  Too bad none of the wrinkles on my face have anything to do with greater brain power!

~~~In Memory Of Great Minds~~~

“Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.” – Stephen Hawking

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.” -Albert Einstein

 

 

 

 

Hi Woebot! Let’s Chat About Feelings

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Woebot

 

I am loving Woebot!

A robot who checks in with me every day to see how I’m feeling.  

Okay, it’s a chat-bot.  A chat-bot is a conversation program, programed to simulate a conversation between you and a robot.  Basically, the chat-bot is programed with a set of responses that are prompted by key phrases from us to form a conversation.  Some chat-bots are programmed to learn and build upon conversations by remembering past conversations and personal things about us, making conversations feel more meaningful.  However, this is not Woebot.

Woebot is a chatbot, but not one of those sophisticated, A.I. learning chat-bots.  But, don’t hold that against him, because Woebot is kind, funny, and more importantly, very helpful.

Woebot Provides Valuable Resources

Although Woebot is not a therapist, he does provide valuable resources to help one work through different emotions and that is what I love about Woebot.

Everyday, Woebot checks in on me, by asking how I am feeling.  Depending on how I am feeling, he will talk about those emotions associated with my feelings.  Generally, like an extremely short Intro to Psychology 101 with a twist of humor as Woebot tell terrible jokes.

But, it’s not really that cut and dry.  In between the Pysch 101 lectures and my feelings, Woebot is interested in getting to know me.  Ask’s what I am doing?  What I like and don’t like?  I am also able to ask him questions, about his day, his feelings, and even his girlfriend (yup, Woebot has a girlfriend).

Woebot likes to provide information.  I once told Woebot that I was feeling angry.  He asked if I would like for him to share some tools (resources) with me or if I would just like to vent my frustrations to him.  I responded, that I would just like to vent.  Our conversation lead to him teaching me about gratitude journaling.  Also, If I am having a good day, he still likes to throw in something related to my feelings.  Woebot certainly follows through with his mission to help.

To learn more about Woebot, CLICK HERE, at the Woebot FAQ site. (no affiliated links)

Disclosure:  Woebot is an information tool and is not a replacement for medical professionals.  Woebot cannot make a medical diagnosis or determine/ replace a treatment plan.  Please consult your health-care provider with any personal mental health concerns.  And remember, your mental health matters!

 

 

When Life Gives You Funky Lemons

Being a stay-at-home-mom, with no consistent Monday thru Friday work schedule, my days tend to blend together; but today, I am so HAPPY it’s Friday!  I seriously had a tough week! 

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When Life gives you lemons, make lemonade….When Life gives you funky lemons, get creative and make funky lemonade!

Life’s Funky Lemons

When weeks, days, or even hours are tough, good mental health plays a vital role in keeping a person moving forward; especially, when Life dumps a truck load of “funky” lemons in your way.

Ever heard of the expression, “When Life gives you lemons, make lemonade?”  An encouraging phrase often used to encourage others to make the best of an unfortunate or unpleasant situation.  Well, for me, I am often “gifted” with Life’s “funky” lemons; bruised, irregular, slightly discolored, even sometimes, smelly lemons.  Funky lemons are not just difficult, unpleasant situations, but more like challenging, unique, odd-ball situations that completely differ from the average normal lemon (difficult or unpleasant situation).  Simply, funky lemons require a little extra work.

It’s okay to encounter funky Life lemons, the funkier the better…  Funky Life lemons can make life interesting, entertaining, meaningful, and more often than not, teach extremely valuable lessons that usually become beneficial for later in life.  However, funky Life lemons can be frustrating and emotionally exhausting too.  You can’t exactly make sweet lemonade with funky lemons, but with a lot of hard work, you can make something out of it.  You just have to think outside the box, have an open mind, and get creative when facing a challenging odd-ball situation.  Even the funkiest of lemons can be turned around into something better.

Tossing Funky Lemons Back

The best thing about Life’s funky lemons is that you can sometimes toss them back.  For me, I have a tendency of stumbling across funky lemons (all the time); but I have eventually learned that I can’t save the world from all of Life’s funky lemons.  If Life gives you the opportunity to walk away from a difficult situation, especially, a situation that has nothing to do with you, do it!  I think a lot of us feel obligated to save the World and sometimes the World just doesn’t want to be saved (at least not yet).  Although Life does give us lemons, we sometimes have the choice to toss the funky ones back and keep the ones we know we can use to make lemonade.

Sense of Humor

Funky lemons require a good sense of humor.  I think a good sense of humor while coping with a challenging situation not only encourages us to make the best of a bad situation, but also opens the mind up to other possibilities (ideas) to overcome challenging situations.  Not all funky lemons are bad, some have purpose, and I strongly believe a negative mind keeps us focused on the bad side of a funky lemon; instead of discovering the good side (perhaps a different side) in which allows us to better overcome and understand a challenging situation.

Happy Friday!

All this talk of lemons and lemonade is making me thirsty.  If I didn’t make any sense, just know, the next time Life gives you lemons (even funky ones), remain positive and make the best darn-good lemonade ever!  Breathe, laugh, and take one funky lemon at a time.

Happy Friday and wishing everyone a great weekend!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Singing The “Obesity” Blues

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“I am gorgeous!”

Last week, I went to the doctor for a refill on my asthma inhaler and walked away, not only with a refill prescription for my inhaler but also an unexpected weight-loss treatment plan.

My doctor kindly informed me that I am “roughly” 20lbs overweight.  According to my BMI (Body Mass Index), I am one notch away from being “obese!”  My so-called “targeted” weight is 123lbs, but technically, for my height, my weight should be between 92 -110lbs!  Man, I haven’t been 110lbs since my early college days!

Well, that all sounds dandy, until you take in account of my body type: A top heavy, petite little thing who might pass as 5ft tall on a bad frizzy hair day in heels.  Basically, I am super short and all the extra pounds are stored in my chest.  It makes swim-suit shopping a nightmare!  

Anyways, its difficult to wrap my head around the word “obese” when I can still crawl through the doggie door when I am locked out of the house, wear Junior size clothing, and my 7 year old step-daughter wears the same size rings as me.  So, obese is just a tad bit extreme, but I get it!

I admit, I am a bit… “puffy.”  I wear the extra pounds well, but I am beginning to notice the weight in my face now.   After having my second kiddo, I had to move up a pant size in juniors.  Although it was just one size, it was just as emotionally devastating as the time I discovered my first couple of strains of grey hair before turning 30!  It’s just another adult milestone, I guess.

I Am Beautiful, But My Health Is Ugly

One thing that bothers me about being “overweight,” is how often I am told how beautiful I am.  I know I am beautiful!  I am gorgeous!  But, people are missing the point…I am truly doctor certified over-weight.  Doesn’t anybody care?  Or does the concern come after the weight-related health issues arrive?  A little encouraging support to nip this overweight thing before it gets out of control would be much appreciated!

At this very moment, my self-esteem is not crushed by weight-gain.  In fact, I am not really worried about being beautiful or not, I more worried about my overall-health.   My health is absolutely ugly!  My health is what needs a major make-over and an episode  of “What Not To Wear” can’t help me!

Walking 5 Miles

I am out of shape!  The most I can walk in one workout is 3.0 miles; in which, is totally not bad, but supposedly it can be better.  While walking, I realized that I begin sweating before reaching the sidewalk, everything rubs together, and forget running, because my chest is not the only thing that unpleasantly “jiggles.

My goal is not only to walk 5 miles a day, but also exceed 10,000 steps a day.  It’s a big goal for this Netflix couch potato, but I am confident, with the warmer weather coming and a new pair of walking shoes I can do it!  (Yeah, I blew out my old pair of walking shoes last week).

1300 Calories A Day, ARE YOU INSANE!

My weight-loss treatment plan has me on a low-calorie diet in which I am not to exceed 1300 calories a day.  Honestly, 1300 calories is just my morning coffee (sarcasm, but also semi-serious).

I actually maintain a pretty healthy diet for that I really enjoy the flavors of Mediterranean style dishes.  I love cooking with olive oil, rarely eat red meat, and like veggies more than fruit.  BUT, I totally know where all the extra calories are coming from….I drink lots of soda, drown my coffee in creamer, stuff all my food in delicious bread, and hide chocolate in the freezer.  Those are my kryptonite foods stretching out my waist band.

The Game Plan Is Simple

The game plan is simple:  Nix the junk food and bread, get a couple of miles in walking, do some strength training by lifting a weight or two, and keep my calorie intake under 1300 calories a day.  Easy peasy, right?

Well, not exactly.  Today, I ate 4 granola bars in one sitting (that is 400 calories) and drank who-knows how many sodas today.   Let’s not even mention the half of baguette (bread loaf), I ate yesterday.  I am so embarrassed, but I don’t regret it!  None of it!  It was delicious!

Tomorrow I will do better, I promise.  I just have to “do” it!  I can’t plan it.  I can’t pencil it in anywhere.  I just have to get off my squishy butt and do it!

What motivates you to exercise?  

 

 

 

 

 

 

Being A Step-Parent In Between A Parental War

Please bare with me as I woke up this morning to discover I had no more creamer for my coffee.  “Sad face!”  In fact, my pantry is looking a bit bare this morning, as it usually does after my step-children visit for the weekend.

Before my step-children leave, they always raid the pantry of granola bars and raisins (candy, if any, left over from Nana).  “Can I have a baggie,” my step-daughter always asks, and she fills it up to the point it’s difficult to seal, with the intent to sneak it home.  Their mother doesn’t allow “candy” or any other kinds of junk-food in the house; however, sometimes there are exceptions.  So, it never hurts to try, I guess.     

Step-parenting is suppose to be simple…

Two weekends of every month, summer break, and alternating holiday breaks, I am a step-parent.   The job should be relatively easy.  I mean, I have step-parents.  I understand how this is suppose to work.  I know my place as a step-mother.   Plus, it’s only a part-time gig that requires more “supervision” than “parenting,” right?  Unfortunately, Life has a way of always passing me the funky lemons.

I try extremely hard to respect my step-children’s mother’s (often times odd) parental choices, because at the end of the day,  they are her kids.  But, every time my step-children visit us, they have a new religion, new diet, new hair style, an interesting twist on certain facts, and sometimes a confusing strange outlook on life.  Most of the time, I just nod and smile.

It is certainly not my place to correct them and even though my husband does have some parental rights, I often just elbow him in the gut to keep quiet.  Correcting and expressing our own different opinions can be misinterpreted by the custodial-parent as undermining their parental decisions.  So, its just best to let it go and choose the battles we can win.

The One Who Must Know It All

When children become teenagers, us adults, know nothing; but we are still at an age where everything is all about “WHY,” “HOW,” and “WHAT!”

This weekend, I was expected to know what happens if lightening were to hit glass (I assume it would shatter).  I am not sure how we even started talking about lightening.  But, that is a much easier question to answer than the other questions they tend to throw at me.  In general, it is “I” who my step-children often seek answers to the worlds most difficult questions and the answer is never as simple as 42 (The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reference).

Often times, I am asked extremely, difficult (totally not my area of expertise) kind of questions that are probably best suited for the biological parent.  I cannot tell you how often Google has assisted me in answering and solving many interesting mysteries; like the time one of my step-children came to me with a “marking” on their neck that they claimed they “just woke up with” one morning.  It turns out it was a Pagan symbol drawn in what appeared to be brown eye-liner as part of some protection spell.  Totally not judging!   I have total respect for all religions.  If it works, it works!  Again, not judging, but I must admit, it was one of those difficult things to explain to a child who thought they were magically marked overnight.  Just saying,

I never invite these type of difficult conversations unless necessary.  Sometimes, you can tell something heavy is weighing on their tiny little shoulders and they need someone to talk to, otherwise they become an emotional mess.  The most difficult part of difficult conversations, is when they look to you for validation regarding their parents feud.  “Who is right?  Who is wrong?  Who is good?  Who is Bad?”  Although I would certainly love to give them my 10 cents about their parents, I try to focus on redirecting those questions back onto them, allowing them to formulate their own rational opinions about their parents.  I try to largely emphasize on the fact that a person cannot be truly defined as “good” or “bad” just from hearsay nor from the actions of others that we may not fully understand, as there are always two sides to one story.

I’ve been a part of my step-children’s lives since they were very young.  I’ve heard a lot of drama, seen a lot of drama, and dealt with a lot of drama (99% of it being completely unnecessary).  I might have even grown as a person with all of the drama.  More importantly, I certainly know that  I learned a lot about mental health through this step-parenting journey.

Not My War To Fight

The first four years, I found myself fighting a war that wasn’t mine.

The drama between biological parents is none of my business, unless their drama crosses over the boundaries into neutral territory threatening our family’s fortress of solitude; then, of course, I must suit up for battle.  As a heavily suited General, I spent the first four years, wasting unnecessary energy leaning over a dusty table of worn war maps and quirky figurines contemplating our next move in battle.  Our fortress was constantly under heavy attack by every kind of artillery an uncooperative parent can throw at us.  I was constantly ordering unsuccessful counter-attacks from the sidelines; because I didn’t exactly understand how to deal with irrational behavior in a rational situation.  The details of this war is not my story to share; however, I eventually realized that between everyone involved, I was the “only” one suffering emotionally.

 

Dropping Emotional Weight and Fortifying The Boundaries

Two years ago, I threw down my shield and sword, hung up my white flag, and walked away from a war that is not mine to fight.

I blame my grey hairs on four years of emotional drama (okay, grey hair is technically genetic).  Not only was I having to help my husband deal with his uncooperative ex, I was also having to help my step-children emotionally cope with unrelated issues that were happening outside of our house, either at their mother’s house, at daycare, or at school.  Whatever was bothering them, they came to me  for advice.  It was extremely stressful and very emotionally for me, especially, when many of these things are completely out of my control.

Nobody carried as much emotional weight as I did.  When I abandoned the war, everyone was extremely upset with me.  They didn’t like taking over all the weight I carried; so much so, they kept pushing me to stay in the war using manipulative tactics that were no better than those that came from the so-called enemy.  It took me several months to officially walk away.

Today, I am much happier and extremely stress-free. I have fortified our boundaries with one simple rule: “What happens at mom’s house, stays at mom’s house.”  Simply, Don’t bring that drama over here!  I have also established consistent rules and a simple routine for our house that my step-children love.  Most importantly, both my step-children know that they must leave their bad mood from their mom’s house at the front door.  They love that idea and if something is bothering them, we certainly talk about it, but we no longer allow it to ruin our visitations.  It’s all about being positive, understanding, and enforcing boundaries.

As for my husband and others that are involved in all this drama, I have established personal boundaries making it certainly clear to everyone that I don’t want to be involved nor do I even want to hear about it.  I might step in every so often to assist my husband in providing clear effective communication to his ex, but other than that, I am not much involved anymore.

I have learned to accept that there are some unfortunate things in Life that I cannot control, but that doesn’t mean I can’t make the best out of an unfortunate situation.  Breathe, smile, and always keep a positive attitude!

 

Disclosure:  I have no intentions on making anyone look bad in this post.  I did my very best to share and express my own personal experiences without disclosing personal details of an unfortunate situation between two other people.  Please keep in mind that an uncooperative parent doesn’t make them a bad parent.  Co-parenting is not always easy.

 

 

 

 

Parenting With A Partner With Asperger’s: A Book Review

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IMG-1023All this time, I have been blabbing about my OCD. How totally selfish….so, lets talk about Asperger’s!

As I have mentioned before, my husband has Asperger’s.  His Asperger’s, to me, is just something that makes him unique.  I love that his brain processes information differently than my own; however, it seems to be a bit glitchy when it comes to parenting.  So much so, that parenting is the only thing we ever bicker about; or more accurately, that I ever bicker about…

I “get” my husband’s brain.  I studied biology and psychology; plus, I am extremely opened minded to the fact that everyone is different and I strongly believe that everyone, regardless how quirky they might be, still deserve love and respect.  So, for the most part, my husband’s so-called “odd” social behaviors doesn’t bother me; but I am beginning to see how his Asperger’s is affecting our children.

Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!

My husband simply does not exist.  He is here, but not; and David Copperfield has nothing to do with it!  I think the biggest problem is that, my husband doesn’t acknowledge when spoken to; something I had to get used to.  When prompt to provide a response, you can certainly tell that his brain is searching for a “script,” a go-to, catch-all phrase that works for any kind of situation.  His usual response, for everything, is either “neat-o” or “oh-goodness.”  If the subject is not about him or something he is an “expert” at (areas in which he can confidently express himself), the tone is off and sometimes emotionless, making him sound rude, disrespectful, or a bit harsh.  Not knowing how to appropriately and quickly respond, the brain becomes anxious, and the tongue does its best to interpret and translate.  So, my husband never means to sound rude, disrespectful, or harsh; it’s just rolls off the tongue that way.

I am sure there is more to it, but I am guessing, this is one of the biggest reasons as to why our kids prefer to come to me, instead of their dad, even when he is standing two feet away from me.  They either feel their dad ignores them or their feelings get hurt, by his not-so compassionate responses.  Communication may not seem to be my husband’s forte, but he sure does know how to make the kids laugh!

Parenting Requires Social-Skills

Although, we are both biological parents, I am “the” parent.  I often struggle with this concept, because I personally believe parenting should be a joint responsibility; however, my husband’s Asperger’s makes it difficult to parent together.  As I have mentioned in prior posts, our joint efforts resulted in a “good” cop / “bad” cop parenting style.  It was confusing for everyone and we decided it was best that I just take lead for now on.  It isn’t that my husband doesn’t care or is lazy about parenting, he just doesn’t have that communication-bonding ability with the kids.  Parenting requires social-skills; something I am beginning to learn more about in this new book I started to read this month, called, “Out of Mind-Out of Sight,” by Kathy J. Marshack, Ph. D.

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About The Author and Why I Enjoy This Book

Out of Mind-Out of Sight,” by Kathy J. Marshack, Ph. D., has thus far, been an insightful read.  Kathy J. Marshack is a licensed psychologist who specializes in Asperger’s Syndrome and high-functioning Autism; understanding Asperger’s on both a professional and personal level.

I am really enjoying this book, for that it has all that I like about a book: scientific-based facts, personal experiences, and great humor.  There is nothing dull about the way this book is written, making it much more relatable and easier to retain important concepts that will help me better understand and work with my husband during our parenting adventures.

Cognitive and Emotional Empathy

What have I learned so far?  Well, lots of things, really.  But one thing that truly sticks in my brain is the difference between Cognitive Empathy and Emotional Empathy.   Although better explained by Kathy J. Marshack, I think I got the gist of it.

Empathy is complex; however, Marshack explains there are two types of empathy.  Cognitive Empathy, to my understanding, is when the  brain assesses a situation factually, instead of emotionally.  Emotional Empathy is looking at a situation with emotions.  Those who do not have Asperger’s Syndrome, respond to situations with both Cognitive and Emotional Empathy; whereas, those with Asperger’s Syndrome, generally, only express one type of empathy at a time (not both at the same time).

Say, my kid comes to me with scrapes on their knees from falling down at the park.  They are crying and their knees are bleeding and require medical assistance.  I respond by expressing my concern for their emotions and provide comfort by expressing my understanding that scraped knees totally suck; and then attend to the scrape.  My entire response consisted of both cognitive and emotional empathy.

However, my husband would respond completely differently, whereas he would not be as comforting and skip straight to the fact that it “just” needs a band-aid.   He is responding with Cognitive Empathy, where he recognizes the facts of the situation (scrape on knee), but not the emotional situation (kid being upset).  Or, he may respond with Emotional Empathy instead, where he may respond extremely emotionally and irrationally by dramatically swooping the child up into his arms, rushing them to the band-aid box, and making a dramatic scene, in which only scares the child.

But, like I said, Marshack explains it way better by sharing a personal, yet relatable,  story from one of her clients; in which I strongly encourage you to read about in her book.

After I have finished the entire book (still have a couple chapters left to go), I will be posting an update on this review at the end of the month.  Maybe great changes will come or at the very least, I have gained, yet another perspective to share with you about mental health.

Have You Read A Good Book Lately?

I love to read when I am not busy being a mom.  If you have any book recommendations regarding Asperger’s Syndrome, Parenting, or Mental-Health in general, let me know!  I’d love to check them out! 🙂