Emotional Pain in Crises and Self-Care

One would have to live under a rock in order not to acknowledge the global pain and suffering at the moment.  Since early March we hear the daily COVID-19 reports from countless sources.  Some we believe and send us into the realms of disbelief.

My featured image, this week, shows the baby bunny, a kit, living in my backyard.  His favorite nourishment appears to be crisp, dandelion greens and dandelion stalks.  Since both our dogs died last year, I am delighted that this little creature stays in our yard.  Watching him (I really cannot identify his gender) gorge himself on clover and dandelions while viewing the world around him, reminds me to engage in a quiet pace, enjoy my surroundings, eat my food contemplatively (Okay, I’m anthropomorphizing said bunny!), and be aware of my surroundings with its joys and its, possible, dangers.  Good advice from the bunny, considering world events of late.

My goal, here, does not center on my judgement of the current world and U.S. events.  I assure you, I have the full range of emotions around the effect of COVID-19 and senseless killings.  You don’t need to read those.  Rather, I hope to offer comments regarding self care and how we may focus on ourselves in a healthful way.  I’m sure you’ve read lots of information on mindfulness.  Here, I offer another resource.  A couple of friends wrote an Extension publication called, Everyday Mindfulness.   It comes complete with the “Fact Sheet,” which the actual publication, and with a leader’s guide, in case you want to teach it.  If you want more information on how to gain free access to the publication, just let me know in a comment.

First, let us look at what mindfulness can be:

» Living in the present moment/awareness of the present moment — paying close attention to thoughts, physical sensations, and our surroundings (Like the bunny in my backyard!).
» Observing personal experiences of mindfulness, being completely focused on a project
reading a book, doing a hobby, or playing a sport. This heightened awareness is mindfulness.
» Taking a few deep breaths — becoming fully aware of the present moment.
» Having nonjudgmental awareness in which each thought, feeling, and sensation is acknowledged and accepted in their present state. This steady and non-reactive attention usually differs from the way we routinely operate in the world.
» Paying attention, precisely, to the present moment without judgment

Sometimes, delighting in the little things can help us to be more focused, though we can benefit from setting aside specific time for expressing anger and other emotions.  When we “schedule” such time for judgement, anger, sadness, and guilt, we can focus our energies for the difficult times.  The next step would be to schedule time for joy, celebration, and the plan-of-action for addressing the events that bring on anger, sadness, guilt, and judgement.  When we call ourselves to action, we address the helplessness that often accompanies injustices and inequities.

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This photo is meant to help us imagine a peaceful scene to promote mindfulness.  It’s three of my four grandchildren enjoying Canada geese swimming while an elder feeds them.

Back to mindfulness. We follow seven principles.  They take practice, but it’s worth the effort in your journey toward self-care:

  • Non-judging: Be a neutral observer to each experience.
  • Patience: Allow each experience to emerge at its own pace.
  • Beginner’s mind: Avoid bringing in what you know to the current moment and try
    experiencing it as if it is the first time.
  • Trust: Believe in your intuition and your ability to see things in a new way.
  • Non-striving: Avoid the need for winning or losing or striving for a purpose — it is about “being” and “non-doing.”
  • Acceptance: See things as they are in the present moment.
  • Letting go: Take the time to detach from your usual feelings and thoughts.

You may ask, “How can we do this when the world is hurting and in crisis?  My answer: We can better serve others and be the best for the world once we have addressed our own physical and emotional needs.”  It is not selfish.  It is good practice.

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I snapped this shot on one of my walks not far from my house.  In a world of pain, suffering, and ugliness, somedays, I have to focus on beauty.  Thank you for reading.

 

 

 

Missing Riki on the Day of Her Birth

Today would have been our lovely Riki’s 38th birthday.  As I had written of a year ago, we lost her to an untimely death because of a faulty medical diagnosis.  We continue to hear her voice, and we see her ways reflected in her children, which is of great comfort.

Riki lived, loved, and worked intensely.  Whatever she did, she did it well.  Thinking back to her middle school days, she decided to be on the swim teach.  She received medals for winning competitions.  Once the season came to an end, she didn’t need to do it again.  Then she played basketball.  She was the lead point-maker for her team.  Once the season ended, she did not feel the need to go back.

Riki did maintain her love of cooking and being with her “village” of friends.  When I spoke at her funeral, I wanted to tell the story of her vivid dreams of driving a car.  She was only 11 years old when she told me of the dream in which she was driving a car from the town of Ingalls to Montezuma (about 17 miles of road or 27.6 km).  Along the side of the road was a raccoon.  She stopped, and opened the door, through which the furry critter jumped in.  As she drove along a little further, there stood a young fawn along the side of the road.  She stopped, opened the door, and the little guy jumped in.  Well, she had not driven but a few paces, and there was a big dog! Yes.  He jumped in the car through the door that Riki had opened. By the time she had reached Montezuma, she carried eight animals in the car! Once she stopped, she let them out of the car, and they ran to safety.  She loved that dream, and I loved hearing her story.

If we thought about what dreams meant, it would not be until well into her adult life that I began to understand.  She gathered friends in much the same way she was gathering those four-legged creatures.  Riki quickly made friends where ever she planted. Whether I visit her home town or the town where she and Jonathan raise their children, she made close friends, and they continue to love her to this day.  Alas, I didn’t tell the story at her funeral.  Perhaps I thought, in a split second, that it would have been a weird comparison.  Perhaps not, though.  My point would have been to describe a loving heart that beat inside her.  I leave you with some images of her.

Riki could be called mischievous!

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Here’s a goofy one of Riki and “the Village”.

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More than anything, we know that she loved her family, and she loved her friends, deeply.  She loved to have fun, and she continues to be an inspiration to each of us who knew her.  Meanwhile, we continue to remember what she believed in.  I leave you with a picture of her and our son, her brother, Stevie.  He carries on the tradition of fabulous cooking and sharing his food with loved ones.

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Thank you for reading my blog.  I hope to talk to you soon.

 

Children Separated from their Parents

My title as an extension specialist in family and consumer sciences (the old “home-ec”) at Kansas State University, means that I support, academically and programmatically, county extension agents on ways to reach under-served audiences in a region of Kansas marked by four counties that are Minority-majorities.

As a background note, for those of you who don’t know about Cooperative Extension, it was an act of Congress in 1914, called the Smith-Lever act.  The idea was that the Land Grant university would put educators in counties to address anything to do with families.   The concept of “extending” the university’s research and academic resources into communities was and continues to be a way to improve the lives of individuals and families.  Extension is alive and well, and we address many topics in Family and Consumer Sciences.  We offer educational topics addressing aging, family systems, financial management, food safety, natural resource management, health/well-being,  and other essential living skills.

So, we, extension specialists, were asked, “How can extension address the issue of children and parents being separated at the borders?”  The conversation ended with, “Unfortunately, we don’t have that capacity.”   At the risk of touching on a “hot” political subject, I beg to differ.

As sentient human beings, we have the capacity to empathize!  We have the capacity to care.  As human development experts, as in my professional life, we have the capacity to understand what a violent separation of a child from his or her parents might mean for that child’s development.  We now know that these children who are separated from their parents are not living in ideal conditions. These are conditions that we, as parents, would never want for our children!

It is here that I might suggest that you, gentle readers, familiarize yourself with ACES, Adverse Childhood Experiences Study.  The research was organized by Kaiser Permanente and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  To determine an ACE score, a questionnaire asks questions about abuse, abandonment, unloving environments, substance abuse, etc.,  during the first 18 years of life, the developmental years.  A score of “10” may indicate disrupted neuro-development and/or social emotional cognitive impairment.  What does that mean? A life of fighting inner “demons”.  Do you know anyone fighting those inner demons?

Back to the separated children, may we ask ourselves, in terms of adverse childhood experiences, “What does this mean for the children separated from their parents?”  Some may say, “This is what happens when the parents break the laws!”  I’ve actually heard this.  Might we see these dangerous migrations as acts of love?  Might we see these parents, risking their lives looking for improved living conditions, using what they have (guts) to make better lives for their children?  That is how I see it.  I live and work among many families who have gone through the same process to seek improved living conditions.  They happily live and work in my community contributing positive human capital resources to the workforce and sharing their food, cultures, and capacity for joy.

It is here that I will, shamelessly, promote a recent publication of mine.  It’s called Build Intercultural Relationships for Better Understanding of Your Neighbor.  It can be found here: https://www.bookstore.ksre.k-state.edu/pubs/MF3340.pdf

Thank you for reading.  I look forward to your comments, and I don’t expect that all comments will be positive.  That is the risk I take for putting forth my opinions.  However, there is no need to be nasty.  Please remember that.