Q&A: Therapy For My Friend?

Friday, September 26, 2014

I have a friend that could probably benefit from going to therapy.  She's going through a difficult time in her life and I feel like my help and advice as a friend has reached it's limit.  How do I encourage her to go see a therapist?
Frustrated Friend

Dear Frustrated,

For anyone who is wanting someone they know to go to therapy, I have three important words for you:  Go to therapy.  Yes, you.  

If you've never been to therapy before, then this will be a new adventure for you - one which you can take back and share with your friend each week and offer her your experience on the topic of "What's therapy like?"  If you have been to therapy before, then you know it can benefit more than just your own life - it inevitably affects those around you as well.  (If it doesn't, you might consider changing therapists). 

By going to therapy, you can flat-out ask your therapist to offer you some deeper insight into your friendship and how you can encourage your friend throughout this difficult season of her life.  Your steps towards a healthier life might just rub off on your friend and inspire her to take some action as well.  

By sharing your positive experience with therapy with your friend you automatically do two things:  1) diminish the shame and stigma that therapy is solely reserved for those who "have problems" and 2) endorse that getting help is a strength and not a weakness.  You might even offer to go with your friend to therapy if or when she decides to begin that process.

In the meantime, take a deep breath and a step back.  You are not responsible for your friend's process or actions.  You can't fast-forward time, make decisions for her, or burden yourself with things that are beyond your control (or hers).  But, you can pray for her, pray with her, and just SIT with her.  Don't underestimate the power of being present.  Often, the deepest friendships are built more in the silences we share than the words we speak.  You sound like a great friend - sometimes just being present with her is best therapy she could ever get.

Ice Cream for Dinner

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

I don't particularly believe in "finding balance" in this life.  I think balance is a myth that's mostly idealized in our minds as an un-obtainable reality we long for.  BUT, I do believe in the ebb and flow of chaos!

If parenthood has taught me anything (and of course it has taught me many, many things) it's that my expectations in this life are forever blindsided by these little humans.  Mostly it comes in incredibly rewarding ways - but, flu bugs and bad dreams muddle up the best laid plans in this business.

When the chaos ebbs, life is normal.  There are the occasional storms of tantrums and troublemaking, but for the most part the routines sustain us.  That is, we coast through the normal in preparation for the possible hurricane lurking in the distance.

My oldest daughter will start kindergarten next year.  (That hurricane will come with it's own challenges, but it's still a ways off.)  But, due to schedules and insurance and a whole mess of unimportant details, I decided to go ahead and get her "Kindergarten Shots" taken care of just a couple weeks ago.

I'm a two-birds-one-stone kinda gal, so I brought both my girls into the Pediatrician for their annual "well" check-ups.  What I thought would be a weigh 'em, measure 'em, sort of experience turned into a full-fledged work up.  I'm thankful, don't get me wrong.  I'm SO grateful we live in a time and place where my kids can get their eyes and ears examined, blood pressure taken, etc. and it's part of a normal check-up and not some extraordinary gift that comes once in a lifetime like it is for too many children in other parts of this world.  We take it for granted so often, and I recognize this is an amazing privilege to just "go to the doctor" when they are not even sick!

However, I did NOT prep my eldest for her shots...and the time had finally come.  I wouldn't advise someone to necessarily not tell their kid about getting shots or not - my advice would first and foremost be "You know your kid best."  Period.

So, knowing my kid, knowing that she would have worked her anxious, sensitive-little-self into a tizzy (and by tizzy I mean blood-curdling-scream-fest-panic-attack that would sound like I was skinning a jaguar alive...so, yeah...kind of dramatic) I chose to hold off the news until the very last minute where I could plead innocence and blame the doctors instead.  (This may be a parenting cop-out, but at the end of the day I'm the one who she needs to trust most.) Whew.

So, I had laid awake all night before, worried that my precious child would find out I was a total TRAITOR as I gradually nudged her into the arms of the nurses and doctors who held her fate in a silver tray of FOUR shots they needed to inject into her little body.  (Please do not send me letters about vaccinations, sorry and thank you.)

It could have gone worse...but I'm not sure how.  It was over in probably a few seconds, but it felt like an entire decade went by as I held her and the extremely kind nurses held her down as she screamed in terror.  Yes, I'm making this sound awful - cause it was awful - but, then it was over.  It was over and I held her and assured her she was safe and okay and very, very brave.

And, as I explained to her in the car later, it was "a little bit of very bad for a whole lot of good".  How many times do I need to learn this lesson in my own life?  Again and again, apparently.  There are hard decisions in this life that seem impossible in the moment, but you know it will add up to long-term joy.  There's endless examples of foregoing temporary, instant gratification in exchange for greater goodness later.

The chaos flowed that day.  It was one of those weird days where nothing seemed quite right, schedules were off, and nothing else mattered beyond my reach.  We rented 3 redbox dvds, picked up Happy Meals and headed home emotionally exhausted.

But, as the eye of the storm came into sight and we restored our normality slowly, I took with me the reminder of how God provides us the bravery we need when the hurricanes come, when our days are blindsided with chaos, or when hard decisions don't always seem to make sense.

And then we ate ice cream for dinner.  

Not all instant gratification is bad, you know.  A little bit of good can go a long way at the end of a day covered in band-aids.  The waves of chaos subsided that night as we recovered from our weird little day.

We went to bed with bellies full of dessert and hearts full of relief, and I thanked God for the crazy days that help me appreciate the normal days.  The hard days He uses to shape and grow me.  The difficult days that seem full of terror and confusion.  The burdensome days that seem futile and never-ending.  Those are the days that bring the greatest rewards long-term.  The days that end in ice cream.


Monday, September 22, 2014

Some nights, I just can't sleep.  It's no wonder my girls are zombies since I'm a terrible sleeper myself (thanks, insomniac gene pool!)  It is not rare for me to get up in the middle of the night after tossing and turning and attempt to relax or even be productive.  No doubt, many blogs have been written in the wee hours of the morning.

Last night, though, after catching up on some reading homework for school, I needed to reset my mind.  Nighttime tends to be highly emotional or worrisome for many of us, and I'm no exception.  If I let my mind wander, it usually ends up in worst-case-scenarios or jumping-to-conclusions or guilt-ridden-doubts...not exactly conducive to sweet dreams!  (Ya hear me?)

There's only one reliable source I know to turn to where I can always calm my anxious heart and find peace, and that's the Word of God.  Too often I turn to it as a last resort rather than my first resource...but, last night was a perfectly timed reminder that it is absolutely the best place to seek my refuge.

Sometimes I feel like I avoid the Bible because it seems too daunting - I don't know where to start reading.  It seems confusing.  I don't want to think that hard, I just need hope right now.  Do you ever feel this way?  I know I'm not alone in this!  Even after years of studying it and reading it, I have to combat doubts that keep me from it's active, living truths.  Then, as soon as I start reading it, all those doubts drift away.  The Holy Spirit breaths new life into the words my eyes see and my heart starts to interpret the truths before me.

It's not always tranquility and hope that stir my soul.  Sometimes, it's conviction.  The active, living Word of God is meant to MOVE us, to get us looking inward, outward, and putting into practice the faith it restores.  For some reason, I was led to read Galatians last night.  I chose The Message translation because it was 3am...and my brain needed to just rest in the easy absorption of a new lesson.

Anyway - it moved me.  It reminded me IN BOLD PRINT that I'm not in control.  It spoke to me so clearly that it might as well have begun "And, EMILY, this is for you..."  So, I'm sharing it with you today, hoping some of these words are meant to hit home for you as well.  I encourage you to read the whole chapter, the whole book of Galations...well, the whole book of the Bible for that matter!  But, for right now, just let God rock your heart with these verses below.

Letting go of control is a heck of a way to kick off the week!  So, here we go:

Paraphrased from The Message, Galatians 3:

2 Let me put this question to you: How did your new life begin? Was it by working your heads off to please God? Or was it by responding to God’s Message to you? Are you going to continue this craziness? For only crazy people would think they could complete by their own efforts what was begun by God. If you weren’t smart enough or strong enough to begin it, how do you suppose you could perfect it?…
5 Answer this question: Does the God who lavishly provides you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do them in you?…
11The obvious impossibility of carrying out such a moral program should make it plain that no one can sustain a relationship with God that way. The person who lives in right relationship with God does it by embracing what God arranges for him.

Q&A: Time-Outs

Friday, September 19, 2014

Dear PardyMama,
My son is almost 3 and I can't seem to get him to sit still or listen to me.  His pre-school teacher complains about the same thing, and nothing seems to work.  Do you have any discipline suggestions? I don't want to spank him and I keep trying time-out but it seems to have no effect on him.  
Fed-Up Mama

Toddlers!?! They drive you crazy, right?  They can be the sweetest thing under the sun one minute with the hugs and puppy-dog eyes, then the next second they are screaming and running around like maniacs.  I feel ya! This reminds me so much of my daughter, Daphne, who just turned 3 last summer.  

Granted, some of this inability to sit still is simply their phase of life.  Toddlers (the busy ones anyway, and I really don't know any other kind) seem to have fire ants in their pants at all times.  If they don't MOVE they won't wear themselves out, and if you're like me, then of course you want your child tired at the end of the day!

But, sometimes over-stimulation can have the opposite effect.  Children who are too busy can get amped up or suddenly crash into an emotional oblivion - neither of which amount to sitting still or being good listeners. 

If time-outs seem to have lost their effect, gauge your sons surroundings for how stimulating they are.  Surprisingly, if he's fine with being sent to time-out, it might actually be because he enjoys it.  If this is the case, each time he is sent to time out, you are reinforcing the behavior that precipitated the punishment and telling him it is actually "How to get what you want"...which is exactly the opposite of what you're trying to do!

I know this sounds crazy, but try using time-out as a reward rather than a punishment.  

First step:  Change the name.  
Instead of "time-out" start calling it "alone time" or "calm time" or something more positive that he won't associate with discipline.

Second step: Change the location.
Don't have his new quiet moments in the same spot where he used to contemplate his faults.  

Third step: Change the purpose.
Give him something he enjoys to occupy himself - a storybook, a game, or a puzzle will work fine, just make sure he doesn't need your help in order to have fun using it.

Once these things are established, start implementing the new "alone time" as a reward.  When he starts to act up, simply and sternly tell him that he will get some special calm time in a few minutes if he can pay attention.  Then, follow through when you see him responding appropriately. (Do your best not to expect too much the first several times!  After all, most three-year-olds have the attention span of gnats.)  If nothing else, you've started to incorporate more time and space in your environment that breeds calming, self-soothing.

My Daphne was acting up so badly at her Mother's Day Out that one day she received 15 time-outs!  (No joke, see below!)  

I prayed about it, put my "therapist goggles" on, and spoke with her teacher about the situation.  The teacher tried the time-out-as-reward strategy as an experiment, and Daphne had a great day (no time-outs)!  I can't promise your boy won't have wiggly legs or wandering ears from time to time...but, pursuing opportunities for quiet might be just what his busy little self has been wanting all along.  Good luck!

Older Than Jesus

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Well, yes, today is my birthday.  It always sneaks up on me somehow, just like Christmas or Easter or any other "holiday" that are like spokes in the calendar wheel of my life spinning way too fast.  Here again already? Wait, what?  I trust you know exactly what I mean.

A few years back, I remember that Coca-Cola had a ad campaign about celebrating the 25th anniversary of Diet Coke.  It was then that I realized I was older than Diet Coke.  This seemed unfathomable.  Like a staple in my life that I figured had always been around suddenly told me I was a fossil.

Today I turn older than Jesus.  The big 3-4.

me and my people.  we tough. 

Okay, let's not get into theological semantics about how Jesus has actually existed forever, etc.  I get it, yes yes yes.  But, we know He lived on Earth in human form and was crucified at the age of 33...so, in my head, in my image of who Jesus is as a man on this planet - He is sort of eternally 33.  Does that make sense?

My whole life, Jesus has been older.  When I was a child, He was just flat-out old.  Then, as time will have it, we aligned to be peers more and more.  While my understanding and wisdom is severely (severely) lacking in comparison, I could imagine life more and more as a human adult the closer and closer I got to it.

Now, there's just no denying I'm a grown-up.  Now, when I look at paintings or drawings of the imagining of what Jesus looked like - I'll always be older than Him.  I will have a new perspective of imagining what it would have been like to know and live with Jesus as an older-than-Him friend.

This is bizarre for me!  I don't know about you, but for me, I haven't followed the example of a lot of people who were younger than me.  Most of my life, I look to those who've lived longer; I turn to those who have greater experience than me to teach me the most.

Yet, now I can sort of imagine a new perspective of a person in the Bible - the person who met Jesus and may have thought "THIS guy?  But he's so young!  He's only been doing ministry like a few YEARS or so!?  Why should I follow him?  How could He understand my life?"

It's tempting in this life to think that only the oldest, wisest, most experienced people could teach me the most.  It's been nice to have the excuse of youth to fall back on when poor choices are made.  But, there is so much greater freedom in embracing the idea that I will never ever be perfect in this life; and there is such insurmountable hope found in the fact that God exposes me to grace and love and wisdom from the most unlikely of places and people.

Granted, I might not yet be old enough to yell at the neighbor kids to get off my lawn or eat dinner at 4:30 in the afternoon.  But, I'm old enough to know that I don't know everything and I never will.  It's refreshing and relieving, and not at all disappointing like I would have thought many years ago.  At this point in my life, as a grad student and mother, I'm humbled daily at how much there is to learn (over and over and over again) in this life.  And I look forward to spending the coming years (hopefully many!) learning from the unexpected.

After all, the most important lessons of my life came from some young carpenter chap who had the reputation for stirring up trouble in the temple.

Signs of Life

Monday, September 15, 2014

Do you ever look around and wonder whose life you're leading?

Sometimes I'll glance at these strange little faces in front of me and remind myself "these are my children".  What?!  I have kids?  But I'm too young for that...too crazy...too spontaneous.  Who would ever entrust me with the care of two humans who depend on me to teach them the ways of the world?  This is INSANE!

Raising little humans reminds me that there is a lot of wonder left to be discovered in the nooks and crannies of life.  Days full of whining and laundry and cleaning up after their "creations" again and again can begin to feel like a dead end.  I want to throw my hands up and shout "That's it!  I've hit the ceiling here!  There's nowhere to go and nothing new under the sun.  My sanity is somewhere at the bottom of a laundry basket which will never be found since those shirts won't fold or put themselves away.  I'm spent."

And then I look around.  I take a deep breath and just observe for a moment.

The cuteness is real, but it's often hard to tell
whether the illness/injury of the day is or not.
I can't decide if I'm raising actresses or hypochondriacs half the time.
Isn't this beautiful?
 It's a drawing my daughter did of her and her sister...
on the OTTOMAN in their play room.
Signs of LIFE are everywhere.  Life that is happening NOW.  Life that is active exploring, questioning, growing...all the while deepening my appreciation of the very present that I'm drowning in.

Scribbles on the wall.
Mountains and mountains.
These crazy days of exhaustive motherhood (you know, the I'm-needed-every-second-of-the-day-for-something) are greater than the sum of their parts.  You add up whining + chores and somehow it equates to magical memories you will be more nostalgic about than most other moments of your life.

Parenthood is a great mystery.  It's silly, boring, unpredictable, inspiring, ugly and completely glorious.  It's life.

Q&A: Remote Relationship

Friday, September 12, 2014

Q: PardyMama, 
When my hubby gets home from work, all he wants to do is chill.  Why does my husband zone out when we're watching TV??? Why can't he talk to me?  I wish we could communicate more, but I don't know what to do.
Remotely Uncontrolled

A: Dear RU,
It's frustrating to vie for anyone's attention, especially a person you love.  The TV is tough competition too, with its ability to be all-accepting, non-judging, visually stimulating, and totally entertaining.  There's nothing wrong with wanting to veg-out and relax for a little while, but it's no fun when it's at the cost of someone feeling left out.

Let's give your husband the benefit of the doubt and assume his TV watching has more to do with avoiding everyday pressures than it does with avoiding you.  The TV most likely offers him a chance to decompress and distract himself from the burdens of his day.  Consider his context:  whatever his job may be, chances are good he's being pulled in a lot of directions mentally, or challenged in his cubicle with tasks, or having to prove himself to a boss and provide, provide, provide all day.  The last thing he wants to do when he gets home is provide.  Just like the last thing you want to do at the end of the day is hear the theme song from Veggie Tales (again).  

I would also venture that your needs have to do more with him listening to you talk than actually having him tell you about his day.  (Engagement from both of you is ideal, of course.)  If you are at home with young children most days, chances are good you are eager for human, adult connection by the time he gets home from work.  You've had your fill of cartoons and whiny voices and sippy cups, and finally when you hear him walk through the front door you are offered a mind that has more than Cheerios and Caillou on the brain.  Hallelujah!  Daddy's home!

Two Tips:  
1. Welcome Home
When he first walks in the door coming home from work, HUG.  Hug until you feel the tension of your bodies release.  (Maybe warn him about this new addition to your routine so he isn't blindsided by your assault of affection!)  Now, I know this might sound crazy, but as you hug each other, your bodies will literally "sync up" into a calm state and help regulate one another.   It will help set the tone for the rest of the evening and be an easy first step with zero pressure on either of you to say anything!  You will feel closer to each other regardless of whether the TV gets turned on later or not.

2. Shared Meaning
In order to engage in conversation, you need one thing:  something to talk about!  The more meaning a couple shares, the more they have in common to care about.  In other words, you're going to need to find things you both love together.  This doesn't have to be as hard as it might sound.  You don't have to love football and he doesn't have to love HGTV.  
But, if you want to get to know what's inside that head of his, you have to take part in what's going into it!  Get into a rhythm of enjoying things together again.  Maybe there is a TV show you can both watch together, or silly clips on YouTube, read film reviews on the Internet, read the same books or magazine articles, listen to a podcast you both like, or take part in any activity - be it video games, lawn care, or kayaking.  The more you both mutually care about, the more you find meaning in things together, and the more you will naturally have to talk about.  

Behind the Design

Thursday, September 11, 2014

So, now you know the BIG NEWS and you've seen the NEW LOOK!  Hurrah!  Whatcha think?

This blog relaunch would NOT have been possible without the help of three insanely talented people.  At the heart of this process was one creative genius who has blown me away time and again.  Lehua Noëlle Faulkner has such finesse with design.  Her touch is so unique and heartfelt that she makes people like me (who sit on the sidelines drooling and trying not to say the word "Amazing" too many times in one sentence) actually feel like I contribute to the process.

To say I had something to do with this fresh new look would be quite misleading.  I dealt her out a few adjectives and she developed an entire vision behind it.  Her design of the main logo was crafted by Joyce Chai, who specializes in hand lettering.  Yes - that logo above was originally drawn by hand (I know, I'm spoiled).  The crossroads of Joyce and Lehua's work has brought just the right amount of charm and modern feminity that I wanted the new site to convey.  Bravo, ladies!  Thank you!

The third creative force behind this new site is my very own husband, Josh Pardy.  Josh took my photos for the site, and they turned out amazing!  That's awkward and difficult for me to say - since, you know, they are of MY FACE. (Hello!) But, portrait photography is a new angle for his creative strengths, and I'm thrilled with our collaboration.

I make that sound so breezy, right?  Like we just smiled and snapped shots and voila! New headshots.  Welllll, of course I happened to choose the hottest, most HUMID weekend to shoot on and let's just say it was a toss up as to whether my heart or my hair was more cranky.  Two days, three outfits, and four hair styles later...I had a handful of pics I wasn't grimacing at when I looked at them.  THAT, my friends, is reality.

It's a real trooper and a heck of a man who will sit patiently behind the lens of a camera and focus more on the way the light is hitting my face than my overbearing complaints of how my hair won't obey.  I sure love that boy.  Honestly, we had fun with it, and we both gained experience creatively and in our marriage that serves us well in our relationship.  Team Pardy, rock on.

I hope you get a chance to check out the new ABOUT and CONTACT webpages above.  You'll see in the Contact page that I mention a new Q&A series coming up.  From time to time, people tend to randomly ask me about relationships, parenting, or marriage, so I figured it was high time I began channeling those into a new Q&A open to all readers.  The first Q&A will be up tomorrow, so stay tuned!

Author! Author!

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Welcome to the new site!!!

I promised you BIG NEWS, and I'll cut right to the chase:

So, I wrote a book...and it's getting PUBLISHED!  

(Ahh!  Squeal!)

Yes, it's true.  I wrote a book and someone read it and they are actually for real totally absolutely one hundred percent completely going to publish it.  Can we take a moment to FREAK OUT a bit?  WHOA. Seriously? Yes.  It's happening, folks.


What's it called?
The title is still a work in progress, but I promise you'll be the first-ish to know when it's nailed down.

What's it about?
It's a non-fiction memoir of my journey into MOTHERHOOD and the chaos that ensued.  As usual, I'm brutally honest about how motherhood changed my life and affected ALL my relationships - my friendships, my marriage, and my relationship with God.

Who is the Publisher?
Mountainview Books, LLC in Hopeland, PA.  They've published Christian fiction up until now and are branching out with my book into the world of non-fiction.  They publish "Fresh books to inspire your faith" and I'm grateful to have my book fall into that category. 

When can I buy it?
I'm so glad you asked!  It will be released around MAY 2015...in time for MOTHER'S DAY!

I can't WAIT to share more and more details about this exciting development as it happens.  This has been a lifelong goal and a prayerful journey that I'm so honored to be part of.

THANK YOU for all the support and stay tuned to the all-new-improved PARDYMAMA to keep updated with what's happening!

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