Tracking my Triggers

260 days without yelling, 105 days of loving more to go!

Dear Hurricane Sandy,

Please blow over, no pun intended. I’ve been tracking you for days so that I can know what kind of problems you’ll bring, when to expect your wrath and what I need in order to handle the situation properly, or at least the best that I am able. All this tracking got me thinking back to the first days of this challenge when all I did was track. So while I know you are going to be a pain in my a*s the next few days I do thank you for inspiring tonight’s post and getting me to finally write it as it has been an idea lurking in my mind for months.

Cheers,
The Orange Rhino

*

The similarities to tracking a hurricane and tracking my triggers for yelling are pretty remarkable. I would track, track, track my triggers so that I could be prepared for my own storm path; so that I could know what problems would cause me to yell, when precisely I would yell, and what I needed to have in the future to be ready, mentally, in order to prevent major “storm” damage. Guess what? All the tracking? It really helped me prepare.

Yes, storms brewed in the early days. OH DID THEY EVER. I think I texted my friends five to seven times a day saying “I’m gonna lose it” and they would write back “No!! Don’t do it! You can hold it together!” But after a few days writing down all the times I yelled or wanted to yell, I saw patterns. I saw that I yelled at the same times of day. I saw that I yelled whenever I felt rushed. I saw that I yelled whenever I had my blackberry in hand, if I had just had a disagreement with my husband.

Were the findings discouraging? YES. Because there were a lot of areas of improvement and because there were a lot of findings that I never would have guessed, like how much a simple conversation about “weekend plans” with my hubby could put me in such a mood that I would yell at any child for no reason.

But just knowing the triggers, knowing that there were easy things I could now fix and yell less, like putting out snacks the night before, and knowing that there were things that I could personally CHANGE about me, well, you know what they say. Knowledge is power. This knowledge brought me clarity. It brought me a path. I don’t the technical, PhD. Study, formal rationale for why knowing a problem and labeling it makes it easier, but in this case, it did.

As I tracked more I found myself yelling less and texting my friends for support less.

Maybe it was as simple as seeing all the times I yelled on paper? Maybe that just was so ugly it really scared me and motivated me? (I know that works for me with weight loss – if I track what I eat for a week. WHOA NELLY. Suddenly I realize how bad I was and I get back on track.)

I don’t entirely know the answer for why tracking is such a powerful tool. Again, I am not a professional. I am just a mom trying to figure it all out. I don’t why tracking worked, but it did. It worked wonders – just like tracking and preparing for a Hurricane. I now know the storm is hitting tonight and I am prepared, as well as I can be. I have alcohol for after the long days (haha), I have caffeine for the long days (haha), I have canned goods, flashlights, water and more. I tracked, I got informed, and I am prepared. This storm will not take me by surprise and I am ready.

So tonight, in honor of Hurricane Sandy, I share with you my best attempt at a “professional” Trigger Tracking sheet. It is pretty close to what I wrote down and how I handle the information. I am a dork. These attachments will make that clear. But they helped me. They were integral to my figuring out how to stop yelling. Because once I looked at the “data” and could figure out a plan, I attacked each trigger one by one. And as I yelled less, I felt better. So I attacked 2 new triggers. And mastered those. And it just grew and grew and grew.

DOWNLOAD these two sheets below to see how I tracked my triggers and got on the path of not yelling!

Trigger Tracking Sheet Example (this is my best replica of what I wrote down in the beginning)

Trigger Tracking Sheet (a blank version if you want to print and try tracking yourself!)

To my Son: I won’t give up on us

258 days without yelling, 107 days of loving more!
Friday’s Favorite Song #2 

Dear Jason,

Thanks for writing this song. Whenever I hear it, even if intended for a girlfriend or something, I think of my son, of our relationship and am reminded not only to not give up, but more powerfully of just how deep my love for my son is. Even when the skies are rough. And let me tell you, my love for my son is deep. Sure he has thrown a thing or two at me, but it isn’t every day. He has phases – some days the skies are rough but most days they are beautiful. And when those days are beautiful they are as picture perfect as a sunrise. Look what my son drew on a peaceful, spur of the moment?

“A picture of a man walking on the beach at sunset.”

 

 

 

 

 

Or how about this flower, made orange just because of my blog?

 

 

 

 

 

Or how about that his favorite color is now orange, not red?

Yes, the skies can be rough, but they can also be breathtakingly beautiful. Beyond words. Because what comes with intense (negative) emotions are also intense positive emotions, like love and lots of it. My son loves me fiercely. His heart is bigger than what I imagined a kid’s to be. He has a grasp of empathy second to none.  And that is why I won’t give up on him, on us. Our love is too strong.

So thanks for the beautiful song; it’s touched my heart in a way you cannot imagine and that is why it is my Favorite Song this Friday.

Best,
The Orange Rhino

*
“I won’t give up” 
by Jason Mraz

When I look into your eyes
It’s like watching the night sky
Or a beautiful sunrise
Well there’s so much they hold
And just like them old stars
I see that you’ve come so far (you have my son, you have)
To be right where you are
How old is your soul?

I won’t give up on us (you and me kid, we can do this)
Even if the skies get rough
I’m giving you all my love
I’m still looking up

And when you’re needing your space
To do some navigating (to learn how to handle yourself, to grow)
I’ll be here patiently waiting (when you need help, I’ll be here)
To see what you find

‘Cause even the stars they burn
Some even fall to the earth
We’ve got a lot to learn (together, we’ll figure this out)
God knows we’re worth it
No, I won’t give up

I don’t wanna be someone who walks away so easily (and I won’t)
I’m here to stay and make the difference that I can make
(however long it takes)
Our differences they do a lot to teach us how to use the tools and gifts
We got yeah we got a lot at stake
And in the end,
You’re still my friend at least we didn’t tend
For us to work we didn’t break, we didn’t burn
We had to learn, how to bend without the world caving in
I had to learn what I got, and what I’m not
And who I am

I won’t give up on us
Even if the skies get rough
I’m giving you all my love
I’m still looking up
I’m still looking up

I won’t give up on us
God knows I’m tough, he knows
We got a lot to learn
God knows we’re worth it

I won’t give up on us
Even if the skies get rough
I’m giving you all my love
I’m still looking up…

Not sure what Favorite Song Friday is all about? Read here: You’re not Alone 

Looking for compassion when all I feel is anger

257 days without yelling, 108 days of loving more to go!

Dear Judgment,

Do not find my son or me after this post. Writing this was hard. I barely scratched the surface; I basically tip toed around the issues because I don’t want to write about them (too hard? too embarrassed?) and because I know you exist. I know that no matter what, you will sadly be put on my son and me. And I don’t want that, because our struggles right now are hard enough. I don’t need people thinking I am a bad parent or that he is a bad kid. Because he isn’t. He is a gift to me, to this world. He, just like all of us, has some struggles. So please go bestow yourself upon someone else, like a celebrity wearing a horrific dress.

Sincerely,
The Orange Rhino

*

I just can’t take it anymore.

I am trying so hard to be patient, to be understanding, to be loving, to be calm but I just can’t take it anymore. The defiance, the anger, the anxiety, the belligerence, the disrespect, the hitting, kicking, spitting, throwing, all the sh*t that comes with having sensory issues, all the sh*t that comes with being wonderfully emotional.

Any of it and all of it.

I can’t take another day of it.

Because it is hard, exhausting, demoralizing and heartbreaking.

I love my son, I really do. But right now, this moment, this day, this week, this MONTH I am so not in love with his behavior. Even though I understand the source of it, even though I have witnessed it all before and know that we have learned how to work through it, even though I know it isn’t intentional per say, but that it’s his way of saying “Mommy, I’m struggling and I need help” I still can’t take another day of it.

I know that my son doesn’t handle change well and that three major changes at once were an absolute attack on his system. I know that he is a perfectionist and that having to perform at school is an absolute attack on his system. I know that having three loud brothers running around him, testing his sensory issues, is a constant attack on his system. I know that mommy getting more and more frustrated with him is an attack on his system.

I know that in order to help him I need to not yell, to not raise my voice, to not hit him.

I know I need to show no response, positive or negative, that I just need to remain completely calm as he punches me in the face (accidentally or not). That I need to remain calm as he throws a scooter at me. That I need to remain calm as he says to me “I hate you so much I want to shoot you” or “I’m so angry I want to scratch my face until it bleeds.”

Yes, I know I need to remain calm, but right now, honestly, all I want to do is punch him back, throw the scooter back, scream at him “I HATE IT WHEN YOU ARE LIKE THIS!”

I hate when I can’t help you without worry of being hurt.
I hate when you scare me with your words, with your pain.
I hate that you are struggling so much and clearly want to stop the madness, but can’t.
I hate that no other parent seems to have a child like this, that I feel completely alone.
I hate that I am embarrassed by your behavior because people don’t understand you, us.
I hate that I understand your behavior because I have the same struggles.
I hate that I taught you to throw when angry, to yell nastily when angry.

I hate it all so much.

And yet I love you so much.

And that is what I hate the most.

Because right now, all I want do is find compassion and love and instead all I am finding is anger. Lots and lots of anger. And it is spilling into every aspect of my life. I am shorter and shorter with not just you, but your brothers. I am eating and eating and eating, trying to suffocate the anger which just makes me feel worse. And oh am I closer and closer to doing something a lot worse than yelling, something I would regret for the rest of my life (hitting him, that is).

I want to just grab my son in my arms and rock him like a baby. I want to just cry with him, to tell him that it will get easier, that the need to do something right the first time will ease up, that all the noise will soften, that the inability to stop a sensory attack once it starts will get easier.

But I can’t.

Because I am thirty something and I am still figuring it all out.

I can’t cry with my son and comfort him because I don’t know what to tell him except that I can’t take another day of it.

“It” being seeing him in pain and feeling such anger towards him.

I love him too much to have such anger towards him.

So today I will find compassion, no matter how hard I have to look for it because that is what he needs right now. I will stop judging him, his behavior, and start focusing on the wonderfully emotional and loving kid that he is. I will tell him that I will endure as many hard moments and hard days and hard months with him as I need to because I love him. And I will cry with him too and tell him it will get better, that as hard as it is I won’t give up on him, on us.

Tomorrow is Favorite Song Friday and the song I will share is a beautiful complement to this post and appropriately so will be dedicated to my son. Check back tomorrow for it! And thank you for not judging. 

How the Mommy Witch Stole Halloween

256 days without yelling, 109 days of loving more to go

Dear Dr. Seuss…thanks for the inspiration!
~ The Orange Rhino

*

Every boy in OrangeRhino-ville liked Halloween a lot…
but their Mommy, a witch in October, did NOT!
Oh, their mommy hated Halloween! The whole Halloween season!
From the first costume catalog received to the last candy eaten!

She kept her boys from having any Halloween fun,
no she didn’t let them put up any decorations, not even one!
Please, mommy, a spider, a tombstone or maybe a ghost?
No she replied, how about pretty mums, at the most?

The kids tried to cheer her, encourage her, get her in the mood,
but sadly nothing seemed to change her oh-so-grinchy attitude.
Not even a “mommy, be an Orange Rhino, that’d be the coolest costume ever seen!”
could stop her from being hell bent on stealing the spirit of Halloween.

The mommy Witch usually had a big heart and loved all holidays,
but Halloween, no, that one simply filled her with dismay.
Was it the constant fighting over the catalogs to decide who to be,
or the constant “please can I be this super violent, totally tacky, ugly person, mommy?”

She liked to blame the time of the year for all her disdain,
claiming 4 birthday parties back to back drove her insane.
No more planning, extra excitement, or meltdowns galore,
No! I just need a break from extras, I can’t handle any more!

Adding to her misery was the one thing she didn’t know,
how to create a costume from scratch and then sew!
Her mother had made the best costumes on earth,
and now having to buy them only made this Witch question her worth!

What kind of mom am I that shops for costumes online?
And who always has to pay extra shipping to get them in time?
And what kind of mom tries to control what her kids wear?
Don’t I know before the photo opp the costumes will just tear?

Yes, this mommy Witch in OrangeRhino-ville was laden with all sorts of stress,
because even though her boys cared, she could care LESS.
As hard as she tried she couldn’t make Halloween hide,
so she was stuck, b*tching and moaning, as she went along for the ride.

Wizard of Oz theme 2010. I was Dorothy. It was beyond adorable.

 

 

To ease her suffering she tried to make them all dress in a theme,
but no, they were getting too old, they certainly didn’t want to look like a team!
Her visions of cuteness she simply had to let go,
it was time to accept that her boys were truly starting to grow.

 

 

 

Ah, the guilt, the fights, the silliness, the stress that came with Halloween,
they made this witch from OrangeRhino-ville mean, mean, mean!
Then one day she flew on her broomstick into Party City
where she saw a young boy and immediately took pity.

He was in a pile of tears on the floor, Star Wars costume clutched in his hand.
“NO you can’t be that!” the Witch heard the mom demand.
“But mommy I love it, I don’t care if there is no laser!”
“I don’t like it, it’s tacky” I said no way-ser!

Oh that is me, such an ugly, horrible site!
Thought the mommy Witch to herself as she shut her eyes tight.
A tear or two, or maybe even three, dripped down her face
as her heart filled with nothing but disgrace.

She tried to run but heard another discouraging chat,
“No you can’t be a Ninja, I simply don’t like that!”
“But mommy, it’s my costume, my turn to choose who I want to be,
You can’t always control me, let me be ME!”

The words stung for they were so incredibly true,
and at that moment the Witch knew just what to do.
She flew to the clerk and asked for three costumes to take:
a Dragon, a Transformer, and a Pirate named Jake.

Tacky costumes in hand she flew to the next aisle,
and grabbed decorations she knew would make her boys smile.
Some spider’s web, a skeleton and a flying, howling ghost,
she finally remembered the one thing about Halloween that she loved most.

It certainly wasn’t the carving of pumpkins or the Reese Peanut Butter cups in the bag,
and no it definitely wasn’t the costumes hanging pathetically still showing their tags.
It was greater, it was better. It was watching the costumes fill out,
as her sons jumped in them with joy and danced all about.

Yes, every time the costumes came to life
the Mommy Witch forgot about all her silly, silly Halloween strife.
She saw the joy in her sons’ eyes as they practiced saying boo,
and her love for her boys, just grew and grew and grew.

 

Our oldest at 3 weeks old. My husband’s brilliant idea. See? I am not the only one who looks for a photo opp!

www.facebook.com/TheOrangeRhino 

Changing our Family Tree

255 days without yelling, 110 days of loving more to go!

Dear Leaves,

I love you because I love watching you change to brilliant colors, I love racing to catch you falling from the sky, I love kicking you up in the air and giggling as you fall on me. Yes leaves, I love you and I love the fall. You make me feel like a kid all over. But more so, you make me STOP and enjoy the moment. Well this guest post by Jessica, also about a tree (albeit a different one) had a similar impact. It made me STOP and think about what I am teaching my kids. It made me stop and enjoy the moment – because it really was a quite thoughtful post. So thanks to both of you!

The Orange Rhino

To all readers, enjoy. And remember, share some love with our guest blogger. It takes courage to share!

*

Changing our Family Tree by Jessica Smith
www.longestdays.com

Oftentimes as parents we overhear our kids in their conversations and play and think to ourselves, “Ah, how cute.  They sound just like me.”  The other day that happened, but my response was not, “How cute”, but “Crap!  Rebecca sounds just like me.”

It started because she was irritated with her brother and sister.  She is 8 to their 4 and 2.  Most of the time they all get along, but as she gets older and they get into her things more and more her tolerance level for them has decreased.

Her books are HER books.  Her toys are HER toys.  Her hair accessories are HER hair accessories.  There is no room for sharing because she doesn’t want the younger two to break her older girl things.  Which I get, she is older and owns things that the smaller two just aren’t ready for.  What I don’t like is how she talks to them about it.

So the other day, I heard her with her teeth grinding together mutter, “Don’t touch my stuff.”  She said it as calm as possible but with as much malice as her 8 year old self could muster.  She was angry but trying not to sound angry.  Just. Like. Me.

I don’t mind when the kids emulate my good habits.  But when I hear them doing something that I don’t like about myself I cringe.  I feel terrible and guilty that I have been teaching them the wrong way to act.  That is when I realize how important it is for me to continue changing how I interact with the kids.

I have been in the process of becoming a less angry and therefore a less yelling parent over the past 3 ½ years.  I went into therapy because I didn’t like how I was handling my young kids.  I found myself really angry and short with them constantly and scaring them sometimes with my anger.  So I have worked through the things that trigger that anger and I have learned how to handle myself when I do find anger bubbling to the surface.

I know it is unrealistic for me to never yell ( agreed!), and I applaud the Orange Rhino for her efforts in NEVER yelling.  But I don’t need to make myself feel any guiltier than I already do for my parenting failures (agreed!), so when I find myself yelling I apologize.  Always.   Everytime.  Without fail.  Even if the kids deserved to be yelled at, I still apologize.  I am trying to separate my anger from their behavior.  I want them to see that while it is not OK to yell, if you do, there is always the grace to do better.

That is how I get through these challenging parenting years.  I know I am going to yell.  I know I am going to feel guilty for yelling, and I know how my yelling affects the kids.  Through my changes to my personal life, the kids are in turn learning how to handle that anger instead of bottling it up inside and then having it explode when they can’t keep it in any longer.  This is something I couldn’t do when I became a parent.

So, after the incident with Rebecca, my first response was to yell at her.  I stopped myself, called her over and asked what she was feeling and how she thought she could have handled it differently.  I got the typical responses like, “They shouldn’t touch my stuff.”  But it was a good opportunity to discuss what we CAN do when we are frustrated and what to do when we yell instead of working through the problem.

Things are changing in our house.  For every bad trait I hear replayed by my kids I will hear awesome ones like, “I am sorry for yelling (or hitting, scratching, etc.)  These will often come unprovoked by me and that makes me feel like the work I have been doing for myself is trickling down and changing our family tree.

I encourage all of you parents out there who feel guilty about the yelling to just start showing your kids how grace works.  That we mess up as parents, but we can always ask for forgiveness and understanding.  Then just take a step back and see how that seed grows in your kids’ lives.

What P.M.S really stands for

254 days without yelling, 111 days of loving more to go!

Dear T.M.I.,

Did I just cross the line with this post? What can I say. It’s that time of month. I have P.M.S. big time and it takes over my ability to think rationally.

Not sincerely (because I don’t feel sincere or nice when I am suffering from P.M.S. I just feel grouchy and mean),

The Orange Rhino

P.S. My apologies in advance to male readers. I am not trying to offend you. Really.  

*

I remember being thirteen and seeing a button in Claire’s, the be all and end all of stores for teenage girls. The button read:

P.M.S. Putting up with Men’s Shit

I remember giggling and calling my girlfriends over from the tacky jewelry section to see the pearl of wisdom that I had found. Because you know at 13, after a mere few months of being in the womanhood club, not only was I cool enough to make jokes about PMS but I was cool enough to make jokes about boys being annoying. Because I understood them both perfectly. PMS and boys that is.

Fast forward 22 years. I am much wiser. Now I really understand both.

1)      P.M.S. only happens once a month, not weekly or daily, so it definitely does not stand for Putting up with Men’s Shit.

2)       P.M.S. actually means Pushing Me to Scream. Scientists and doctors and other professionals like to call it Pre-menstrual Syndrome. But that is too weak of a name. Pre-menstrual syndrome is too delicate, too polite, too nice. It doesn’t get at the heart of the matter, the intensity of what really happens to a woman during that blessed week each month.

Because, yes, 1 time a month, P.M.S makes me want to scream. The other three weeks a month I just want to yell. But that one lucky week a month when I am blessed with P.M.S I don’t want to just yell, I want to scream, scream, scream. Three weeks a month I have to work hard to not yell. But when I have PMS?

Oh. My. God.

I don’t think “working hard” begins to even describe my plight.

I have to practically hide from my kids to keep from yelling because every word sounds like a whine which this time of month sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard.

I “have to eat” to keep my mouth full of Oreo cookies, Tostitos, Cheez-its and other crap just so that I can’t yell.

I have to constantly put my head in the freezer to put the hot flashes at bay, to keep my temper cool.

I have to wear extra loose clothes so that the feeling of tight pants, tight shirts, and a tight bra don’t drive me batty and put me on edge.

I have to do jumping jacks what feels like every friggin’ second to keep my aggression in check.

I have to go to bed way earlier than I like because my normal exhaustion coupled with my P.M.S exhaustion leaves me a wretched, crotchety person.

UGH. Like I said, P.M.S. makes me want to scream, literally and figuratively.

I love that 22 years ago I thought I totally got P.M.S. HA! If only I knew what a horrific pain in the arse it was I wouldn’t have been making jokes about it; I’d be figuring out how to get rid of it.

I still don’t have the answers that work for me (in regards to P.M.S. or to Men) but I do know this. When I finally started circling on my calendar on the days I was at my worst, the days where I practically screamed, that days where my tolerance was negative, the days where I snapped way more than I liked, I realized that my worst days were always P.M.S days.

I kind of never thought of P.M.S as a trigger. I never really took P.M.S. seriously until recently. I don’t know why. Maybe because it has been a part of my life for so long that I have kind of accepted it? Maybe I thought I handled it better than I actually do? Maybe because my 4th pregnancy played with my system enough that it made P.M.S. come alive more ferociously? Maybe because I didn’t want to admit that this trigger would be with me for years and years on end?

But oh, oh is it ever a trigger (professionals even say so, which “kind of” makes me feel better). And these last few days? I totally blame PMS. The good news? Figuring out and acknowledging that my PMS week is going to be a hard week has helped. Because I start the week mentally prepared for extra challenge, prepared that I am going to have to work harder and somehow that makes it easier. Not manageable, but easier.

Now if only I could figure out how to not stuff my face when P.M.S.ing (she writes as she reaches for more M&M’s).

How do you handle P.M.S.? Please share all secrets!! Does laughter do it? This worked momentarily for me. Check out this video. It’s brilliant.

Just Because.

253 days without yelling, 112 days of loving more to go!

Dear old self,

Oh how I’ve missed you. I liked you! You used to smile more. Have a pep in your step more. You used to believe in yourself more. You used to give more. I know life gets harder as you get older, that it gets more stressful, but please don’t let that squash you AGAIN. You were much more fun to be around and I am so grateful that you are slowly returning.

Your new (old) self,
The Orange Rhino

*
When I was in elementary school I begged my mom to take me to the Food Pantry JUST BECAUSE I loved filling the shelves with can goods for others.

When I was in junior high school a friend and I dressed up as Santa Claus and handed out little “stocking stuffer” goody bags when kids came through the doors JUST BECAUSE it would be nice.

When I was in high school I spent extra time with a mom who had lost her son in a car accident JUST BECAUSE I knew she needed someone to talk to. In fact, I did a lot of JUST BECAUSE actions in high school. I did a lot of caring and loving and giving of myself to others.

And this just because attitude carried into college to the point where I actually dreamed of starting a business called JUST BECAUSE. I dreamed that I would sell all of sorts of things people could run in and buy on a whim to give to someone just because. Just because they had a bad day. Just because they passed a test. Just because they needed to smile. Just because it would be fun. Just because it feels good to do randomly nice things for people, friends and strangers alike. I went even so far as to bake cookies once a week and package them up nicely in a box labeled JUST BECAUSE and give it to a friend I thought needed a smile.

When I started my first job I bought bagels every Friday to share with my team JUST BECAUSE it was Friday and everyone needed a pick me up (or a hangover cure). I even gave of my time acting as a live auctioneer to raise funds for American Cancer Society.

Yes, I used to give a lot of myself JUST BECAUSE I wanted to. Just because it made me happy to make others happy.

And then somehow, it happened.

I became jaded.

I stopped giving.

I stopped doing random acts of Just Because.

I would like to say I don’t know when it happened. But that’s a lie. The awful truth is it happened when I went from 2 to 3 kids, when my eldest son turned 3. When my life became infinitely harder, more stressful, more chaotic and more busy than I ever imagined.

When my life became surprisingly more lonely than I ever imagined.

When my life became that much more about my children, and less about me. When my life became about giving to my children JUST BECAUSE they were my chosen priority at that time in my life, rightfully so.

But the more ugly truth?

I think I lost my desire to give when I started to yell more frequently. Sad, but I think somewhat true. Because when I yelled I carried an angry, frustrated, chip on my shoulder all the time. It was so big that it consumed me and all my thoughts leaving little room for positive thinking and doing.

And then somehow, it happened.

I became un-jaded.

I started giving.

I started doing random acts of JUST BECAUSE again. Like this one (I Just Need a Friend) and this one (Pay it Forward.)

I would like to say I don’t know what happened but you all know the answer. I STOPPED YELLING. I let go of being angry every day. I let go of taking all my kids bad behavior as a personal attack on me. I let go of some (not all!) mama guilt and negative thinking that I am a bad mom. Do I still have days and moments when I feel angry, ahem, yes, hello 6:45 this morning!! But in general, I truly feel lighter, happier.

Sounds cheesy, but guess what? I have learned that this is true.

I feel like me. The old me. The one who feels more love in her heart and as such naturally wants to share more love with others. JUST BECAUSE it feels right.

Now I can say that I am not the mom I used to be, instead I am the person I used to be.

And I welcome my new (old) self back with welcome arms.

And I want to do something nice to celebrate.

JUST BECAUSE you all have helped me find my old self, JUST BECAUSE I want to share the love, JUST BECAUSE I believe every parent deserves to be patted on the back, to toot his/her rhino horn just for showing up and taking on the challenge of parenting, to be told they are doing a good job, to be given an unexpected smile in the middle of the day, I am going to give a special something to a parent when they least expect it.

Please help me find that person. By the end of day MONDAY, October 22, 2012, please email me at theorangerhinochallenge@gmail.com or comment below or on my Facebook page if you know someone deserving of a JUST BECAUSE moment and help me spread some love. I will carry out my JUST BECAUSE moment on Tuesday after randomly selecting someone by the draw of a hat.

This is not a sweepstakes or a give away. It is simply me, The Orange Rhino, doing something because I want to give back.

“Just know you’re not alone”

251 days without yelling, 114 days of loving more to go!
Favorite Song Friday #1


Dear Orange Rhinos,

I love music. The right song literally goes into my soul and brings me up when I am down, pushes me when I want to quit, makes me dance when I need to let loose, makes me sing when I want to yell. Yes, music has been a HUGE part of my learning not to yell. There are so many songs I hear that make me stop and think “wow, it’s like this song was written with The Orange Rhino Challenge in mind” or “wow, that song said exactly how I feel but couldn’t put into words.”

I realized that in all my blogging, I have done a lot of “phew I didn’t yell” and not as much “and this is what I did to not yell” or “this keeps me inspired to not quit” as I had hoped. I have been trying to think of ways to do so and voila! I got this new idea. I hope you like it because I am pretty jazzed about. Pun intended, remember, I am a total dork!

Starting today, I am going to TRY (time and parenting constraints permitting and unforeseeable circumstances!) and make Fridays my Favorite Song day. I will share a song that has inspired me, helped me, or just made me get dancing with my kids. If you have any songs that have done the same for you, please email me and I’ll look to include them.

Today’s song I LOVE. LOVE LOVE LOVE. Why? Because it is EXACTLY the message I want to send to all of you.

Have a listen to this video and then have a read below. The original lyrics are in black, my thoughts in orange, obviously!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=HoRkntoHkIE

Home, by Philip Phillips

Hold on, to me as we go (yes we, this challenge isn’t just mine, it’s ours)
As we roll down this unfamiliar road
And although this wave is stringing us along
Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home (My thoughts exactly. This Facebook page, my blog, I am going to make it your home. A place where you can come to when sad, lost, frustrated, happy. A place where you feel safe, happy, inspired, welcomed. Home is where the heart is.)

Settle down, it’ll all be clear
Don’t pay no mind to the demons (ah, the demons that try and tell you that you can’t do this, that you can’t succeed ignore them, you can!)
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found

Just know you’re not alone (Orange Rhinos, you are not alone. You are not the only one who feels he/she yells too much. You are part of us, a community of parents willing to admit we are struggling, that we are working hard to change, that we love our kids. You are one of the few courageous enough to try and change.)
Cause I’m going to make this place your home

Settle down, it’ll all be clear
Don’t pay no mind to the demons
They fill you with fear
The trouble it might drag you down
If you get lost, you can always be found (If you yell, or lose interest in the Challenge, in yourself, you are always welcome back here, no questions, just support).

Just know you’re not alone
Cause I’m going to make this place your home

“I feel so deflated…I yelled at my kids”

250 days without yelling, 115 days of loving more to go!

Dear Cathy,

You wrote the following on the Facebook wall tonight. I started to respond but I started writing a novel so alas, my response is tonight’s post!

I feel like I need to purge/confess/atone … I screamed, I yelled … BIG TIME. Now I feel so deflated … and sad :0( I’m promising myself and the monkeys to be better. I feel like I need some guidance or encouragement, just something. I feel like I start over everyday … but so be it, I’ll take it one day at a time and re-commit to this pledge everyday if that’s what it takes.

I am so sorry I am just getting this and couldn’t reply IMMEDIATELY and bring you a bottle of wine and yummy chocolate cake with extra icing. But alas, I couldn’t. So grab a fork, pull up a chair, pour a glass of wine for yourself and pretend to dig into this cake with me. No cutting slices, lets just eat it as is!

Oh, I have so much to say!

First off, thank you for sharing your struggles with us. For trusting us with your feelings. That is gutsy and amazing.

Second, know that I, and I am sure your husband, and kids and the fellow Orange Rhinos all agree that trying to change the habit of yelling is pretty impressive. So many people yell at their kids big time and don’t care. But you do. You care enough to make a change. And that is absolutely AWESOME.

According to Al Batt (I have no idea who he is, but I love what he said):
It is easy to sit up and take notice.
What is difficult is getting up and taking action.

It takes courage to take on such a big challenge. It takes commitment. It takes love. And you have all three. So please don’t feel deflated. Feel proud that you are trying so hard. Feel proud that every day you get up and show up to be a mom, one of the hardest challenges. Feel proud that every day, despite perhaps yelling the day prior, you keep trying.

According to Winston Churchill (I totally know who he is!)
“Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.”

So according to him, and I am in total agreement, you are succeeding even if it doesn’t feel like it. I know, easy for me to say right? But I believe it. You wrote on the Orange Rhino facebook page tonight because you want to succeed. That tells me you will. Because you have the enthusiasm and the dedication to figure it out. And by the way, I have a hunch you are already yelling less than you did before and that IS A SUCCESS big time.

Please be assured that it took me numerous tries to figure out the whole not yelling thing. Collectively 30 days I believe with starts and stops. Oh how I wish I was writing during those days so that you could read how you are NOT alone. But I didn’t because I was nervous about what I would write; what people would think. Again, you totally exposed yourself tonight and that is more than I could do 280 days ago. Pretty amazing.

Anyway, I share the following with you in hopes that it helps.

1) FORGET 365 DAYS. I wrote a whole post about that here: Forget 365. In a nut shell, I am an all or nothing addictive personality. If I didn’t set such a crazy goal for myself I would have cheated lots and the cheating would have led me right back to not caring. But I learned quickly that it ISN’T about going 365 days straight. It is about having MORE LOVING MOMENTS period. Yell less, love more. So read this post and find a goal that motivates you but doesn’t stress you. Pick a goal you know you can succeed at and nail it, ie. not yelling at bath time. Then build on up from that.

2) If I didn’t post on FB every time I wanted to yell, if I didn’t text a friend when I wanted to yell, if I didn’t have my kids say Orange Rhino to me when I got cranky, if I did none of these things, I wouldn’t be here today. Tell a friend, tell all of us about your commitment and every night Toot your Rhino Horn. I know people hate that but accountability works. These little things help. So please, use me. This is why I created the page – not just to get support for me, but to give support.

3) Keep a diary. I know, sounds 7th grade. But seriously. For a few days write down all the times you yell, what the kids are doing, what you were doing, how you were feeling, how they were feeling. You’ll start to notice a trend of triggers. Triggers that are easy to work on (quick wins) and triggers that take more time. Take it one trigger at a time. Keep asking yourself why? why am I yelling? Acknowledging my triggers helped kicked me into shape. I’m yelling because I mad at my husband, not my kids. I’m yelling because I just got on the scale and I gained weight, not because I am annoyed my kids can’t get dressed on time. Saying it out loud puts it all in perspective.

Face your deficiencies and acknowledge them; but do not let them master you.  Let them teach you patience, sweetness, insight.
~ Helen Keller 

4) Tell yourself it’s okay. Tell yourself that you are making progress. And that every moment you try is a step forward.

5) Know that you are NOT ALONE. That we are all here because we are all struggling. And that I can always be a phone call away to tell you it’s okay. To remind you that you are amazing and that you have courage and commitment a lot of people lack. Seriously. If you need me, email me and I’ll call you as soon as I can.

Xoxo,
The Orange Rhino

Alzheimer’s sucks.

249 days without yelling, 116 days of loving more to go!

Dear Alzheimer’s,

You suck. No that’s putting it mildly. You S-U-C-K suck suck suck! I hate you, I hate what you are doing to my family, I hate what you are doing to someone so special to me. I hate you for invading W’s soul and taking it away. I hate you for so much. And I hate that I can’t really talk about it with the people close to me because it is impacting them worse than me. So I will write here and hope that writing will lessen some of my pain and sadness but knowing that most of it will still remain because every moment I look at “W” my pain and sadness stabs me in the heart.

So please, get lost or at least, slow down,
The Orange Rhino

*

I had suspected something for several years now. I just knew something wasn’t right. When I first met “W” he didn’t stop talking. He could go on and on and on and on about his favorite snow blower. He often bored me with his ridiculously detailed stories about his days in the war, his days as a youth, his days raising my husband. And even though he bored me, his memory was so amazing and his stories so sweet in an elderly type of way, that I smiled and listened intently.

It’s hard not to listen to W as he looks and acts like I imagine Santa Claus to be. He draws you in with his incredibly soft spoken and gentle demeanor. He has a sweet, reassuring, come hither and trust me with your thoughts, problems and wishes smile. He always has a twinkle in his eyes as he takes joy in so  much: his grandsons playing, his son’s success, his wife’s tender heart. And when he chuckles, oh when he chuckles, it just warms your heart and sets you at ease. W simply exudes warmth and all sorts of wonderful the way Santa Claus does. He indeed has a magic about him. A magic that makes you feel like everything will always be okay.

But that twinkle and that sweet, sweet smile, and that magical spirit, along with his memory, have become less and less apparent with every visit.

“W can you please give me the phone?”
“Here.” He said as he handed me the TV remote.

“W can I help you find something in the kitchen?”
“I’m looking for the spoon” he said, holding it in his hand.

“W you look lost, what’s up?”
“Where is my wife?” He said as he walked circles around the first floor.
“W she went to the bathroom, she’ll be right back.” Of course she had just told him this 30 seconds prior.

“W, you look bored. How are you?” I asked him a thousand times over as he just sat on our family room couch, staring off into space not saying a word.

Not saying a damn word.

How I would pay to hear him utter a full sentence about his damn snow blower right now. How I would pay to hear him tell a story about my husband’s childhood. How I would pay to have him be able to play Legos with my sons, to be able to tell them stories from a time my boys will never know.

Instead he just sits. And watches. The twinkle in his eye mostly gone. The smile mostly gone. The chuckle mostly gone.

The magic spirit of W mostly gone. And I totally took it for granted. Totally. And even though I knew “it” was coming, the big “Alzheimer’s diagnosis”, it still all happened so fast. A few years maybe. A few years from my sensing that he was losing his memory and so much of his soul to getting to the point where his spirit was quickly, much too quickly, becoming a memory.

I’ve been doing my best to stay strong for my husband. To not mention all the little signs I notice. To not share with him just how big the pit in my stomach is.

And then this happened, and I couldn’t keep it together any longer. Because it all became too real. And just too sad to not say anything.

It was his wife’s birthday this past weekend. As my wonderful husband has started to do for every holiday, he bought a card from his dad for his mom.

“Orange Rhino, will you have my dad sign this birthday card?” Sure I said. How hard could that be? How heartbreaking could it be?

“Here W, this is a card for your wife for her birthday. Can you sign it?”

He paused.

He took the pen and kept playing with it in his hands, as if he was trying to figure out how to hold it. After a minute he wrote:

“Hap” and then stopped. I gave him a moment to see if he could figure it out. He couldn’t.

“W do you need help?” I asked sweetly, fighting back tears.

“I don’t know what I am writing.”

“You are writing Happy Birthday I think.”

“Oh, okay.”

“Try again.”

“Happ”

“What am I writing?”

“Happy Birthday.”

He tried again but clearly couldn’t. He didn’t remember how to write, how to spell. He didn’t remember but oh I know his hand and his heart both wanted to so badly. Oh how I know how he and I both wanted this damn disease to go away, to stop taking basic things away from W like the ability to write a simple card for the love of his life.

“I’ll write a note for you and you sign your name, okay?”

“Okay.”

“Dear wife, Happy 70th Birthday. I’ll love you forever. I will always treasure our memories.”

W then signed his name and we went into the restaurant.

As if nothing had happened.

But it had. My heart had just broken.