The Problem of Q

The Problem of Q

In my world, Q stands for Quirky.

…and I’ve been using that in the branding of my professional services for several years. So you might understand why I am somewhere beyond peeved that a cult of conspiracy theorists has co-opted and branded this letter of the alphabet as its own, making it so notorious that it’s moved into the forefront of the mainstream’s awareness.

The beliefs of the cult (self-identified members like to call it a movement – yikes!) include a wide-ranging combination of bizarre and misguided notions, ranging from allegations that appear to have their roots in a very old strain of anti-Semitism, to paranoia about preventative medicine, to an inability to comprehend the possibility of altruism, with a lot of racism and xenophobia mixed in. This pattern of fear, mistrust, hatred, and leanings toward destruction is definitely not Quirky; it’s strange and alarming—the scary, “bad” kind of weird.

My now-grown-up kids used to make a distinction between what they called “the good kind of weird” vs. “the bad kind of weird.” Like many gifted kids, they were keen to make this distinction because they recognized that they, themselves, were often thought of as “weirdos” by others who didn’t experience the world in quite the same way they did. Actually, they still make that distinction, and for the same reasons.

The “good weird” is, essentially, what the term quirky describes—how those who fit the description are seemingly “offbeat” because they’re marching to the beat of their own drum; seemingly idiosyncratic or eccentric because they know their own minds and preferences; seemingly flighty and/or daydreamy because their thoughts are so rapidly making novel connections and creating new patterns.

As a family, we’ve really enjoyed the music of “Weird Al” Yankovic for many years. I think we all appreciated, first of all, that he embraced his “good weirdness” by using the moniker as part of his professional identity. Second, his work is novel. Sure, song parodies have been around forever, especially in summer camp skits and on school playgrounds, but Al’s parodies are brilliant in a way that others are not. The topical themes he imposes on existing songs, the way he fits his words to the exact rhythms of the songs, the range of vocal styles he’s able to perform, and the expert musicianship of his band… well, it’s quite amazing and a whole lot of fun!

Al Yankovic is fortunate that he was able to take in his quirkiness and make it work with and for him. Unfortunately, many gifted kids and adults have heard (or inferred) the term weird used as an aspersion toward them. Since they already know instinctively that there’s something different about them (but don’t know what or how), they assume those differences make them wrong, bad; bad-weird.

A few years ago, I created a presentation that I like to give to groups. It’s titled We’re Not Weird… We’re Gifted!”  I gave it this title after an adult client in one of my support groups told me she’d made this very statement to her own mother after about the fourth meeting of our group. Through the weekly group discussions with other very bright, intense, highly-sensitive, quirky adults, she had found out that her own qualities were not wrong or bad; it’s just that she experienced her inner world in a way that is qualitatively different from the way that most others do. She discovered that her quirky way of being in the world wasn’t something to be “fixed” any more than the more normative way of being in the world needs to be “fixed.”

It’s important for gifted kids—and definitely not too late for gifted adults!—to learn about, accept, and embrace their own quirks. I can’t tell you how many clients I’ve had over the past twenty years who’ve told me they “just want to be normal” or wished that their kids could “just be normal,” and how many times I’ve had to tell them (as gently as possible) that their intensity, their sensitivity, their quirkiness wasn’t going away. Fighting its existence is futile, and an exercise in misery.

My suggestion: be like Al – make your quirkiness work with and for you! I promise, you can be your shiny, quirky self, and find a place of joy in our ever-challenging world.

Noon Wave: A Meditation

Noon Wave: A Meditation

The recording attached to this post is a meditation. It consists of preparation for meditation, the reading of a poem/prayer. and a period of reflection.

I wrote the poem “Noon Wave” in November of 2015 — before the turmoil of the 2016 Presidential campaign and election, and certainly well before we gave any thought at all to a virus family called “corona”!

It seems like a good time to bring this poem back out; most of us could use all the help calming and grounding ourselves that we can find.

 When I named the poem, I guess I was drawing on an old Catholic practice of saying a prayer called “The Angelus” every day at noon. Originally, the prayer was recited three times a day: at 6:00 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m., but in the memories of my childhood, it was said at noon — and even when I was a child, the custom was fading.

There are probably some people who still hold with this practice today, but to my mind, the idea of local church bells tolling Noon, calling the faithful to stop whatever activity they were engaged in and take a few minutes to pray, was from an older time. As an undergraduate Art major (and therefore a student of Art History), I was familiar with Millet’s famous painting that depicted a farming couple standing in their field at sunset, heads bowed as they prayed “The Angelus” together, so that’s the image I carry in my head.

Back in 2015 when I first shared this poem, it was my hope that it could be used as a way to stop each day at noon and take time to re-establish our connections to each other, to our Earth, and to our Source.

Today, I invite you to adopt that practice, if you like — but my real hope is that, whenever you use this meditation, it will bring you some measure of calm, groundedness, peace, and hope.

This is just a test (based on a true story)

This is just a test (based on a true story)

When you’re learning something new, you tend to hit a lot of walls; you try, it fails. You try again, it fails. You try it a different way, it still doesn’t work. You go back and read the instructions again, you make a few adjustments, you try again. Something different happens, but it’s still not working.

So you take a break, let your head clear… You think you have an Aha! that you resolve to try when you get back to it. You dither a while, stall a little, then screw up your resolve to the point that you feel solid enough to give it another try.

Back at it, you try to recall exactly what that Aha! moment was about. Give yourself a minute, it will come back to you …. Oh right, that was it …. Try the new thing again, and it seems to be working better; it’s time to make another attempt–after all, this is the most progress you’ve made so far, right?–and give it the status of a Test. It’s a Test, it’s just a Test!!

Cross your fingers, send it out, and see what happens…

The Rite(s) of Spring

The Rite(s) of Spring

What comes to mind when you think about the season of Spring? New leaves and budding flowers? Spring cleaning? Warmer weather (and—oh, right—baring your arms, legs, and feet)? Planting a garden? Easter eggs?

For me, all of these things come with Spring, though I don’t have a real garden, these days, and I’ve never even tried on a bikini, much less worried about looking good in one. But I do observe keenly the changes in the plants and animals around me, and I aspire to do a thorough Spring cleaning of my home.

I was looking at the most recent issue of Real Simple™ magazine the other day, enjoying the colorful photographs and reading the feature article about Spring cleaning. The feature describes how quickly and completely a list of certain tasks can be completed, according to how much time you have to spend. Easy-peasy! You can bet I was aspiring pretty strongly as I read it.

In all likelihood, however, the only big cleaning job I’ll be starting in my home this Spring is reducing as much clutter as I can: getting rid of what’s no longer usable, letting go of what’s no longer useful to me, and paying attention to the keeping of what is still useful and/or cherished. This is a task that takes time and perseverance. It requires a healthy mix of ruthlessness and self-compassion, that’s for sure.

I think this is a pretty good metaphor for my own real, inner life– and yours, too.

It’s so refreshing to clear away the clutter of busyness, of holding grudges, of hanging on to relationships that cause more unhappiness than joy. It’s wonderfully renewing to get in touch with what matters most to you. And it’s absolutely life-changing to get clarity about who you are, why you’re here, and what you’ve come here to do! …and then act accordingly.

So here’s to Spring cleaning—inside and out!

I’d love to hear about your own rites of Spring; please leave a comment below!

Get Psyched Up for Back-to-School

Get Psyched Up for Back-to-School

Okay, parents, be honest. Which response sounds more like you?
Hooray! The kids are going back to school! 
*groan* The kids are going back to school.  *sigh* Here we go again…

When you have a highly-gifted or profoundly-gifted child and/or a twice-exceptional [aka 2e] child, the start of a new school year is often accompanied by feelings of apprehension and questions: Will my child get along with her teachers? * Do the teachers have any experience with kids like mine? * How can I tell the teachers what they need to know about my child without annoying or insulting them? * What are the best ways to help my child have a good balance of school, family, and personal time? * How am I going to manage all of my own stuff AND stay on top of what the kids need?

These are 5 of my favorite tips to make the beginning (and the remainder!) of the school year go more smoothly for both parents & kids:

  1. Practice good sleep hygiene.

Sleep is the foundation of health–mental, physical, and emotional. Good sleep hygiene includes such practices as keeping regular bedtimes and waking times every day; stopping use of screens (phone, tablet, computer, television) at least one hour before bedtime – and keeping screens out of sleeping rooms altogether; having a soothing routine to wind down in the 30 minutes just before bedtime; avoiding heavy meals, caffeine, and/or alcohol in the few hours leading up to bedtime; and modifying the sleeping environment for comfort (e.g., degrees of darkness, temperature, quietness), if necessary.

  1. Cultivate a positive relationship with your child(ren)’s teachers.

Make it a point to meet the teachers and express your appreciation for their efforts. You want to make it clear to the teachers that you consider their relationship with your child important, and that their work and yours is a collaboration on behalf of your child.

  1. Give teachers a “heads up” about what your child needs to be successful at school.

Some teachers will say that they “don’t like to be influenced,” that they want to be able to see for themselves what’s what, and they may be resistant to hearing from you at the beginning of school.
However, they may not know what they don’t know, and this is your child’s education and well-being we’re talking about. It’s not about humoring a teacher’s wish to be able to “guess correctly.”

Provide your child(ren)’s teachers with some resources that they may find useful in working with your kids. In the spirit of collaboration, offer short, easy-to-consume resources such as an article or video related to your particular concerns. You can recommend books, but know that teachers have precious little time to read, and the book is probably not going to get read (if at all) until school’s out for the summer!

  1. Plan some simple strategies for dealing with the possibility of school-related problems.

If you have accomplished Tip #2, your task will be much easier! If not, put yourself into as positive a mindset as you possibly can–remember the old adage “You’ll catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”
If academic and/or strategic modifications are needed for your child at school, formal meetings with school personnel may be called for. Many parents find this intimidating unless they are educators, themselves–schools have endless acronyms for everything, there may be specific protocols that need to be followed, and you (and the school staff) may feel you should defer to the professional educators’ expertise in all things. Remember that you are an expert on your particular child.
When attending such a meeting at school, take someone with you. This can be a spouse/partner/other parent of the child, a friend or relative, or a professional such as an educational consultant, gifted advocate, counselor, etc.
Dress for success: dress at least as well as the school personnel with whom you’ll be meeting. This is not the time for yoga pants and a sweatshirt.
Bring what you need to take notes, share any necessary documentation, etc. In the “old days,” I used to advise parents to carry everything to the meeting in a briefcase because it’s efficient and looks professional. The briefcase may be a bit outmoded nowadays, so go for whatever will have the same effect.

  1. Make a real effort to balance your time and your kids’ time.

There are only 24 hours in a given day, and you each need to sleep for several of those (see Tip #1). Your work and your child(ren)’s class time use up another several hours of each day. The time leftover needs to be managed to accommodate meals, chores, errands, study, and leisure. This is where you need to be creative and perhaps modify your own expectations, in order to achieve a good balance of all of these things! And remember, it’s about overall balance, and not necessarily a perfectly-balanced day each and every day. General routines can be extremely helpful, but rigid routines cause too much stress for everyone. Flexibility is the key, both in planning for and in responding to the vagaries of daily life.

Common obstacles to overall balance may include: the “problem” of multipotentiality, habits of procrastination and/or perfectionism, “time-blindness,” a bad case of “The Shoulds,” and a lack of clarity about personal values and priorities.

Confessions of a Tired Mom on Mother’s Day

Confessions of a Tired Mom on Mother’s Day

It’s Mother’s Day! A scrumptious breakfast in bed, handmade cards from the kids, smiles and hugs, flowers and (macaroni) jewelry, tra-la-la…

Or, as many of you moms may actually experience it: cold toast with grape jelly, another Sunday of settling sibling squabbles, catching up on the laundry before the next week of work and school begins, wondering what you’re going to do with yet another pasta necklace, and wishing that, more than anything, you could have a couple hours all to yourself.

There, I’ve said it: sometimes the greatest gift a mom of young children can receive is some Alone Time. That doesn’t sound very mommy-ish, does it?  …at least, it’s not in keeping with the romanticized images shown in television commercials, greeting cards, and sales flyers.

So now I’ll say this: if you are a mom (especially one who’s taking care of young kids), not only do you deserve time to yourself—you need it (and not just one day per year!) It’s an important part of regular self-care because it gives you a chance to recharge, refresh, and renew yourself. When you take good care of yourself, you are better able to take care of your children with increased feelings of calm, clarity, and confidence.

Time to myself? How can that possibly happen? you may be asking. Single moms, employed or entrepreneur moms, moms of kids with special needs, highly-sensitive moms, etc. … how can moms with such busy, busy lives ever find time for themselves? Get creative with possibilities. Think outside the lines and color outside the box!

Next time: ingenious ways to take care of yourself while taking care of others – stay tuned!

Bright Ideas for Thriving Through (not merely surviving through!) the Holidays

Bright Ideas for Thriving Through (not merely surviving through!) the Holidays

We must acknowledge that, despite the charms of the traditional Holiday Season, there’s no amount of magic that will make a day longer than 24 hours in length. There are certain obligations that need to be met each day, including getting adequate sleep, nutrition, physical activity, and “down time.”

The Season offers a huge variety of activities on which we are invited to spend our time, our energy, and our money. We can’t possibly do it all! Like it or not, we must choose among these offerings, which may mean letting go of some things we’d really like to do or have. Making choices becomes easier when we make a plan to identify priorities, taking into consideration our personal values and our resources.

For instance, prioritizing according to personal values may take into consideration such factors as the needs of various family members to whom we have responsibility; our spiritual beliefs and practices; our philosophies about topics ranging from child-rearing practices to money management; the meaning attached to holidays and their celebrations, and more.

Prioritizing according to resources must take into account both our assets and limitations. How much TIME is available to us? How much MONEY is available to us? How much PHYSICAL ENERGY and stamina is available to us? How much EMOTIONAL ENERGY is available to us?

Record all of the activities that you must do during this holiday period. Use a planner or calendar so you can see more clearly what activities will take place when, and how much time will be required for them. Include time that will be required for work hours, driving, doctor appointments, ongoing commitments, etc. The time remaining after accounting for your daily, weekly, or monthly obligations is time you have to use at your discretion.

Now make a list of all of the discretionary holiday activities that you have to choose from. Note those that you believe you “have to” do (though you do not really “have to” do anything; you always have a choice! But that’s a discussion for another day, perhaps…) and/or absolutely don’t want to miss. Rate and prioritize these activities according to preference–for example: Level 1: “Can’t Miss It!”; Level 2: “Really Want to Include This, If At All Possible,Level 3: “It’d Be Nice to Do This, If Resources Permit,” and Level 4: “We Won’t Miss This If It Doesn’t Happen.”

For example, maybe your “can’t miss” list includes traveling out of town to spend time with family members, attending your child’s holiday band concert, serving dinner at a homeless shelter, giving gifts to your family members and close friends, sending out cards or a newsletter to distant friends and relatives, and decorating your home. Your Level 2 list might include attending your office holiday party, baking goodies for your child’s classroom party, attending the city’s Christmas parade, helping sort food for your worship community’s food drive, hosting a gathering of friends. Maybe your Level 3 list would include making hand-knitted scarves to give as gifts to each of your child’s teachers, driving across the city to see a great display of lights, attending a Holiday party given by an acquaintance, and going to the hospital to sing Christmas carols for the patients.

After identifying your priorities, determine how you will budget your resources of time, energy, and money. Be realistic about these resources, and live within your means in all areas.

By taking a little time now, before the Holiday Season is fully upon us, you can relax a bit, knowing you have a general plan that will allow you to discard unnecessary stress and enjoy the seasonal activities that you have chosen.