The “Secret” Trigger I am Focusing on to Help Me Yell Less at my Kids

As you all know, this past summer I found myself yelling at my kids way more than I liked and as a result, I found myself re-reading my book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can Too!” (I also found myself feeling embarrassed, but more on that later!)

And you all also know that as a result of following the 30-day plan in my book, it became abundantly clear to me that the reason I was yelling so much was because I wasn’t taking care of me. At all. I shared with you all that once I did start taking care of myself again, that I became an Orange Rhino, again. This was a totally true statement. But there was a big piece I didn’t share; the whole “how I really started taking care of me” bit. I just didn’t feel brave enough to share that truth; it was too raw, too brutally honest, too potentially damaging, too well, lots of things. But I have decided that it is too powerful of a truth to not share, so here goes.

* * * * *

One day this past summer as I tracked my triggers and tried to figure out why the heck I was yelling so much, I found myself aimlessly surfing the Internet (no doubt trying to self-soothe my frustrations by getting lost in the world of celebrity gossip and hysterical e-cards.) While surfing, I stumbled upon a quote that struck a nerve and made me really think. Like, really, REALLY think. The quote more or less read,

“We give to others what we feel within.”
Repeat.
“We give to others what we feel within.”

Maybe, just maybe, the reason I was yelling so much was because I didn’t feel love within so therefore I couldn’t give it to my boys?YES! YES! YES! Finally all my struggling to Yell Less and Love More made sense! Maybe, just maybe, the reason I was yelling so much was because I didn’t feel love within so therefore I couldn’t give it to my boys?

“Could that really be true?” I thought to myself. “Did I really have no love within?”

Based on the pit in my stomach, I knew that I had found the truth I sought; I knew that there wasn’t enough love within me. Or more appropriately, I knew that I had love for my kiddos and my life, but that the love I had for myself was so lacking that it was overpowering all the positive feelings within me.

And more painfully, I knew that because I didn’t have much love within to share, I was instead giving out what I did have within: an abundance of anger, frustration, shame, disappointment, concern, and strong dislike.

Fortunately I didn’t have to look hard to figure out where all these intense not-so-loving feelings were coming from. I couldn’t stand the fact that I was (am!) the author of a book about not yelling, a book with alternatives to yelling, simple steps to follow to yell less, and stories to inspire and yet here I was spending my summer not doing any of what I knew to do to keep yelling at bay and being anything but inspirational. Yep, here I was a mere seven months after my book published and I had to turn to it for advice. This reality was crushing me. Crushing me. I couldn’t stop saying things to myself like,

“What is wrong with you, why can’t you just get it together?”
“I feel like such an imposter, writing one thing and doing another.”
“I am so disappointed in myself and I bet people will be disappointed in me.”
“I am so ashamed of myself; I am so angry that I have slipped.”

Nor could I stop saying not-so-nice things to myself about other aspects of my life for just as loving thoughts and actions are contagious, so are negative thoughts and actions. As my negativity about my “yelling too much, and I should know better” grew, so did my negativity towards myself about my relationships, my work in general, and my body.

My goodness, I was yelling at myself, berating myself, seemingly all the time. I wasn’t just giving out what I felt within, I was giving out what I was doing within! Of course I was yelling at my kids when I was with them; it was just a natural, instinctual extension of what I had done moments prior!

Thank goodness this wasn’t entirely a new trigger that I didn’t know how to manage. Thank goodness I knew exactly what I needed to do to yell less!

I needed to love myself more so that I could yell at my kids less.

I needed to love myself more by allowing myself to be proud of my successes (520 days straight without yelling and a book) instead of letting myself magnify my misses.

I needed to love myself more by forgiving myself for past yells while reminding myself that while I might be an Orange Rhino, I am still an imperfect human and that is more than okay.

I needed to love myself more by giving myself compassion. Of course I was struggling to yell less, I had just had knee surgery, followed by a blood clot, all with four kids home for summer vacation!

I needed to love myself more by letting go of what I hadn’t done to focus on what I could do.

I needed to love myself more by accepting my body as more than a number on the scale; it was the home to four children for thirty-six months in five years.

I needed to love myself more by telling myself that I am doing the best I can in this moment and that counts for a heck of a lot.

I needed to love myself more by nurturing myself with quiet time and “doing what I love” time.

I needed to love myself more by stopping all negative thoughts before they have a chance to grow and fester.

And I needed to do one other thing. I needed to learn how to do and say all of the above on a daily basis, not just every once in a while! I needed to learn how to make loving myself an unwavering and natural part of my life so that I wouldn’t once again find myself sliding into old yelling habits.

Loving myself more and yelling at myself less is arguably one of the biggest and most important triggers to manage.[pullquote] Loving myself more and yelling at myself less is arguably one of the biggest and most important triggers to manage.[/pullquote]I knew the power of this trigger when I started my Orange Rhino journey and now I know it even more. Of all my old triggers to push me to yell, it is the only one that was strong enough to re-surface.

I am yet to get even close to mastering this trigger, but just knowing that I need to really work at it has made a difference. Thought-by-thought, hour-by-hour, day-by-day, I am working to be kinder to myself. I am reminding myself of all of the promises above. I am reminding myself that if I want to give out love, and I so very much do, then I need to foster love within. And ironically, I am reminding myself that I must be patient and kind to myself, that I must love myself as I learn to fully love myself, for steady change will not happen instantly.

I know I have a lot more learning to do to make this new habit of loving myself a prevailing part of my life, but I can tell you this much so far: loving myself more since this discovery this summer, has already resulted in yelling less, a lot less. It hasn’t been easy, that’s for sure, but it has been entirely worth it. I am no longer giving out a variety of negative feelings but am once again giving out pride, enthusiasm, kindness, support, encouragement, laughter and love. I am giving out the best of me instead of the worst and am getting back the best of my kids instead of their worst. Yelling at myself less, loving myself more, well it’s a win-win for everyone.

* * * * *

Yesterday was my birthday. As I found myself grateful for all the presents I received, I decided I would gift myself the commitment of really, really learning to love myself more. Yes I have been working on it the last five months, but I know that I need to, ehem WANT TO, make a deeper commitment. I look forward to my continued learning over the next twelve months and I hope I share it with you all as frequently as I wish. I will, however, love myself and be kind to myself when I “fall short” of my goals 😉

 

YLLM1To learn how you too can track your own triggers and yell less and love more – both at your kids and yourself – click on the book to the left.

 

Just Start Somewhere.

Dear Diary,

I have been avoiding you for quite some time now.
Yes, avoiding you.
Please don’t take it personal.
This is most definitely (and legitimately!) one of those “it’s not you, it’s me” situations!

I could list 1,001 reasons why I haven’t been writing but at this point, are they really relevant? Are they really what I want to focus on? Do I really want to focus on the past or do I want to move forward and focus on the present, the future? Yes, that is what I want – to move forward. I am certain there will be a time and place when sharing my 1,001 reasons for not writing with you will make sense. And I am certain there will be a time when I feel more comfortable sharing them (I know, odd coming from me, the one who feels comfortable sharing everything), but right now is not the time.

And that is really hard for me to do because folks, if you haven’t guessed it yet I am an anal-retentive, logical, sometimes-organized person! The whole idea of writing posts that don’t reflect my life chronologically drives me bonkers! The whole idea of not thoroughly explaining to you all how I have arrived at this type of post drives me bonkers! I want to explain to all you newish folks why I started with “dear diary” and how this post actually fits in within the grand scheme of The Orange Rhino Challenge.

So why don’t I write those posts you ask? Why don’t I take you back in time with me? I don’t know! I go to write those posts and I hit a block. Actually, I hit a lot of them. Think of it this way. You know how when you don’t call a friend one day and think, “oh, I will call her tomorrow?” and then tomorrow doesn’t happen or the day after or the day after that? And then before you know it more than a month has passed and you still want to call but feel so bad for not calling that you don’t actually make the call?

Yeah, well that is how I am feeling about my relationship with writing right now. Oh how many times I have yearned to write to you dearest diary. Oh how many times I write to you in my head but then avoid writing to you in reality. Oh how many times I sat down to write to you and instead surfed Facebook because the distance between us had grown so much and with it my hesitance., and my fear but we will save that for another day. And oh, oh how many times I said to myself, “just write already, you know you want to, you know you will feel relieved once you start, you know it is a great stress relief, just do it!”

But I couldn’t just do it. I guess you could say that I fell out of my habit of writing. I lost my groove (am I allowed to even admit that here?) and I think we all now how hard it is to get back into a groove. It is brutal! The whole “no more eating chex mix for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert” practically killed me yesterday but alas, I had to get back into the groove of eating better as my body was begging me too. And don’t even get me started on the having to get back into the going-to-school-groove after vacation. Yesterday was Such. A. Tough. Morning. And Day. And Night. Everyone is tired, cranky, disappointed, just wanting to be in pajamas and therefore struggling. Fun times!

I did manage to get into those two grooves yesterday and have continued them today. Partly because the out-of-groove period was so short and well mostly because I had no choice! But getting back into the writing groove? Well clearly it hasn’t been so easy-peasy! But I desperately want to get back into the groove so yesterday I did something about it.

I just started somewhere. Anywhere. 

Just Somwhere 1.4.16I told myself to, “just sit and write, stream of conscious style like you used to do. Write to your ‘diary’; it might not be your ideal format for this post but it will get you started so just to do it.”

“Just do anything,” I said to myself. “It doesn’t matter if it is good or meaningful or post-worthy, it just needs to be a start. You just need to start writing. You just need to start practicing again, to get the flow going.”

So that is what I did, that is what I am doing. And wouldn’t you know it, it feels fantastic! I can feel my desire to write to you again, as in sooner than a year from now, growing. Feeling fantastic is a pretty contagious feeling and all I needed to get to that feeling was just starting somewhere.

Just starting somewhere…
Without fear if I would succeed.
Without fear if I would continue to succeed.
Without fear of what people would think.
Without fear of whether or not I would do it right.
Without fear if I was doing enough to get going.

Without fear of well, anything that could keep me back from just doing.

It wasn’t easy letting go of aforementioned fears but I can tell you, it was worth it. AND, if you are like me and are struggling to go after something you want, perhaps, oh say, learning to Yell Less and Love More in 2016, it will be worth it for you if you let go of any fears, hesitations, excuses, concerns you have that are holding you back from starting your own journey to be an Orange Rhino. You don’t have to let go of those feelings forever, just long enough so that you can Just Start in the moment. Because once you get started, once you start to gain momentum and feel fantastic, you won’t want to stop. Trust me.

Will you, will WE, have setbacks along the way? Will you, will WE, have setbacks oh say hours after we started? Probably. And then we will just start somewhere again. We will take any step forward that we can and that step will matter because it will move us forward.[pullquote]Will you, will WE, have setbacks along the way? Will you, will WE, have setbacks oh say hours after we started? Probably. And then we will just start somewhere again. We will take any step forward that we can and that step will matter because it will move us forward.[/pullquote]

Great you say, but what blooming step can I take? Here are a few in no particular order because again the point is to just do something, anything to help close the distance between your goal/desire/dream of yelling less and your current state. They may seem like small steps, but small steps are bigger than no steps and more importantly, the small steps will lead you to where you want to go!

  1. Tell a friend you want to yell less. Tell more if you have the energy, and if not, no worries! You can grow your support circle as time continues.
  2. Surround yourself with orange reminders. Print out one orange rhino (download here) and put it up. Add more as your commitment grows.
  3. Write a diary entry to yourself about what is holding you back and let it go. Email it to me if you want to officially send it off and free yourself of it.
  4. Track your triggers for just 1 hour (here’s a free download or you can find it in my book with more details) Forget days. Just do an hour. Just get started.
  5. Set you phone timer for 20 minutes. Tell yourself that you just need to stay calm and choose a more loving tone for 20 minutes. You can so do that! If it needs to be 5 because it is a tough day, then do 5. Just start somewhere!
  6. Pick one, just one tip you want to try today and use it over and over and over.
  7. Adjust your expectations to help you get over your hesitance by telling yourself, “Today I am just getting started. I don’t need to worry about success right this moment. I just need to get started. I just need to get my mind more engaged in The Orange Rhino Challenge.”

Just starting somewhere certainly isn’t easy, but I think that not starting at all, that wanting to do something and not doing it all is a heck of a lot harder and a much greater burden to carry.

* * * * *

Phew! I did it! I achieved my goal for this week. Did I struggle all last night and this morning about sharing this without any connection to all of my last posts? Yes! Am I sitting here thinking I should save this post for later, for when I have written the posts that lead up to it so that everything is “in order” and “done the way I would ideally do?” Heck yeah. But again, I can’t do that. If I wait, if I don’t just take another step forward by posting, I will get stuck again and I don’t want to be stuck – I want to be moving forward, closing the distance between my dreams/hopes/goals and where I am today.

Who is with me? Who is moving forward today? What 1 step are you taking?

* * * * *

YLLMcrop2 If you would like more details to get started, you might enjoy this blog post: 12 Steps to Yelling Less or my book which gets a lot more detailed! You can the entire scoop on it here: “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can Too! A thirty-day guide with tips, stories, and insights. 

 

My Physical Therapist Saved my Life

It was the Friday exactly three weeks after my ACL and meniscus knee surgery. My recovery seemed to be going as expected. My knee was moving well. The knee pain was gone. I could walk around with crutches. The swelling in my leg was a bit more than usual though but I was assured that some people just swell more and since it wasn’t creating pain that all was well.

That morning, though, I woke up with a sore calf. I knew massage would relieve the mild pain so I found myself actually excited to go to physical therapy (a.k.a. pain and torture.) But first, onto Andrew’s his pre-school graduation to watch him go onto a stage for the first time in three years (yahoo, anxiety be gone!) and then to celebrate with mini-mozzarella sticks and ice cream at Friendly’s.

It was going to be a great day – and it was, until mid-bite of my umpteenth mozzarella stick, when I noticed that Mac had a huge, and I mean huge, red, hot swollen lymph node in his neck. The last time this happened it lead to a high fever and a seizure so I naturally began to worry.

Celebration be done. Such bad, bad timing. I was so disappointed to have to take my focus off of Andrew and back to Mac’s health issues which has been the focus of our lives since oh, September. I begrudgingly (and nervously) called the Pediatrician. We decided that I needed to bring Mac in immediately to make sure that a major infection wasn’t brewing. So, the boys quickly took the last bites of their volcano sundaes and we headed out so I could hit the doctor.

Unfortunately, this new event in the schedule meant that I had to skip physical therapy, which by now, I was desperate to go to. Fortunately though, Mac just had a virus and that entire weekend he never spiked one of his infamous high fevers and never had a seizure. Phew. Crisis averted.

One crisis averted that is.

The cramp in my leg refused to go away that weekend. I did all the calf stretches that I knew. I massaged my calf until the cows came home. I rested with my foot up. I made sure to walk heal to toe and not vice versa which I knew caused leg cramps. But nothing helped and in fact, the pain worsened and worsened. I woke up Monday morning and could barely walk because I couldn’t put any pressure on my left leg. It was dreadful. “Darn leg cramp,” I thought.

As I hobbled into physical therapy a few hours later, my PT, Tyler, greeted me and nonchalantly asked, “So, how was your weekend, how are you feeling?”

“Mostly good. I am sorry I had to cancel last minute Friday. I actually really wanted to come as I have this calf cramp that just won’t go away. And this morning it was difficult to walk. It feels like a tight muscle but I stretched and stretched and it won’t release.”

“Oh,” he said. “Let’s get you up on the table and check it out.”

I oh so ungracefully threw myself up onto the table, ready for him to you know, just fix the pain.

“Let me know if anything hurts when I press on it, okay?”

It was like a game of duck, duck, goose but this time it was, “Nope, Nope, Nope, OH MY GOSH OUCH!” I had one very, very tender spot the size of a thumbnail. Everything else around it was sore, but not like this. Anytime he gently touched it, my leg jumped in pain.

“I am going to have another PT examine you just for a confirmation that it isn’t wise to do physical therapy today.” Well, needless to say she agreed that physical therapy was off and they both agreed to what I was then told:

“We think you might have a blood clot. You probably don’t but we should check it out just to be on the safe side because you don’t mess with blood clots. If you miss one, it can be really bad.”

I walked (who am I kidding, hobbled) out of the PT office and headed to get an ultrasound on my leg (yeah for having access to an entire medical team in one building!) Truth be told, I wasn’t worried at this point. In fact, I was actually laughing at the irony of the situation. You see, I always bring concerns to doctors (I guess I have a weak tolerance for pain) and never once have I been right to be concerned. So why would I have any reason to be concerned this day when I didn’t even start out concerned? I mean really, the one time I should be concerned and on alert, and I am so not.

Well, that feeling of laughing at the situation lasted a whopping hour and came to an abrupt halt when I overheard the ultrasound tech say to my knee surgeon, “yada yada yada…blood clot in her calf…yada yada yada.”

“Wait, did I hear that correctly?” I thought. The tech turned to me and said, “Okay, it is safe to go home.” Now mind you, he hadn’t even directly told me I had a clot so I didn’t truly have a clue what was transpiring.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “Didn’t you just say that I have a blood clot? And if so, why are you using the word ‘safe’ to go home? Am I at risk for something bad happening?”

“Yes, you do have a clot. The doctor said it was safe to drive home but that if you start to have a hard time breathing, to go to the ER immediately and tell them you have a blood clot. But you should be fine. The doctor will be calling you very shortly to discuss next steps.” Yeah, so NOT reassuring that everything was going to be fine. Don’t worry, but be on alert, and the doctor is going to call you stat.

“Okay,” I said, completely shocked, overwhelmed, slightly numb and the obvious one, scared. I knew the concerns that came with blood clots. A few years prior, ER doctors ruled out a blood clot in my lungs, but only after they told me that a CT was crucial since uncaught blood blots can be lethal!

I took maybe six steps out of the ultrasound office before my phone rang. The doctor will call you very shortly turned out to be, two minutes. Again, so not reassured all was well!

“Hi, Sheila this is Dr. blankety blank. You have a blood clot in your calf and we need you to go to Urgent Care immediately to be examined. We need to make sure that you have no other blood clots, especially not in your lungs as that can be very dangerous.”

The fact that I was now being sent directly to Urgent Care upped my fears a notch. As did sitting in the Urgent Care waiting room and bumping into the ultrasound tech who said,

“Oh, you can’t be waiting out here. You need to be brought in immediately.” He then informed the desk staff that I was an urgent, urgent matter. So much for the “don’t worry” and “it’s safe” speech, eh? That said, I get it. I know he isn’t allowed to give me a medical diagnosis so I don’t fault him for holding back the potential severity of the situation.

Did I mention that I was going through all of this alone? Yeah, that sucked. I had visions of being admitted to the hospital for days under observation. Shoot, I had visions of this darn blood clot moving to my lungs and wreaking havoc if you know what I mean. And then shoot, the doctor I saw said the following to me,

“You are very, very lucky we caught this in time. Blood clots can be incredibly dangerous.”

She didn’t say the d word (death) or the l word (lethal) but I knew she was implying it. I could see it in her eyes. I could hear it in her voice. I could feel it in my heart.

Which finally brings me full circle to the title of this post.
My physical therapist saved my life that day.

(And end of story. Too worked up to write any more. The whole effectively having my life saved is just a wee bit overwhelming. To say the least. Back in a few….and I’m back, tears wiped away.)

* * *

My first move after I left the doctor’s office, blood thinner prescription in hand, was to go find my physical therapist and thank him. I walked into his office and tried to crack a joke to lighten my mood (and to keep me from having an emotional meltdown in his office.)

“Winner, winner chicken dinner!” I said. “You were right. I have a blood clot.”

We exchanged the knowing look I had just shared with the doctor, but at a deeper level for we both knew that it was his attention to detail and desire to be on the safe side hours before had indeed, saved my life. I tried to thank him but the words I wanted to say couldn’t come out. I mumbled something like,

“Thank you. You know you saved, well you know,” and then stopped. It was just too much to say out loud. I wiped the tears away and reverted to third person to make it easier on me. “Tell your wife you saved a life today and that she should be proud. See you soon.”

* * *

I hesitated titling this post “My physical therapist saved my life” for fear that it sounded too dramatic. But it’s not. It’s the absolute, gosh darn truth. And over the next two weeks, I was reminded of this incredibly frightening yet amazingly wonderful truth every time I met with yet another professional regarding my diagnosis. They all said the exact same thing to me in the exact same manner. Delivered in equal parts intensely concerned and intensely relieved, I heard over and over again,

“You are really lucky. Your physical therapist saved your life.”

Yep, I am really lucky. You know what else I am? Overwhelmingly grateful to be alive.

Why The Orange Rhino Has Been Silent

Dear All,

I have received so many wonderful emails wondering if all is all right as I have been ridiculously silent both on Facebook and on my Blog. Some of you have asked if I am pregnant. Nope, I am not! Some of you have asked if I am busy writing another book. Nope, I am not (but if I were…do tell what you would want it to be about!) And some of you have asked if I am simply done with being The Orange Rhino. Nope, I am not.

What I am doing, however, is surviving, just getting through each day.

The last five, well seven really, months have been an incredible emotional roller coaster ride for me – all leading up to today. If you recall, my baby, Mac (who is actually a big kid as he tells me and not a baby, but whatever, he is my baby in my mind!) had an absolutely horrific seizure in September. This wasn’t his first, but it was his first in one and a half years (we thought they were gone), and it was his first where he didn’t talk for two hours after (I truly thought I had lost him) and it was his first that impacted him longer than the seizure period (he started stuttering two weeks after and hasn’t really stopped, although speech therapy is helping.)

Little did I know that that seizure would mark the beginning of a long period of mommy feeling worried, sad, scared, and out right exhausted. You see, once that seizure ended, Mac had high fevers every two to three weeks and since high fevers seemed to be the cause of his seizures, every two to three weeks I was on high, high alert praying that he didn’t have another seizure, praying that he didn’t temporarily stop speaking again; praying that he speech wouldn’t worsen even more; praying that we wouldn’t be taking another ride in the ambulance to the Emergency Room. Luckily, he didn’t have another seizure…until November 6th.

But two days before that seizure, I was given yet another reason to worry.

My mommy gut said, “Enough is enough with these very frequent high fevers. Mac just can’t seem to get better and that isn’t right.” My doctor agreed and we did blood work. I have not once received a call from a doctor post blood work – until that day. I knew when my doctor called I needed to be concerned, and I was right. She walked me through the few items that concerned her and then taking my limited knowledge of the medical world I said,

“Do we need to be worried about Cancer?”

She replied, “Well, yes, it is on my mind. But it is the third item on my mind. The first is an autoimmune disease, the second is just bad luck, and then comes Cancer. But I really think it is an autoimmune disease.”

Needless to say, that didn’t comfort my husband or me so in addition to seeing a Rheumatologist for the autoimmune concerns, we also decided with our Pediatrician to get an ultrasound done to work to rule out Cancer. Fun times.

Are you still with me?! So many dates and facts. It all leads somewhere, I promise! Can you see why I am so exhausted?! So that was all on November 4th. November 5th we saw the Rheumatologist who ordered more blood work and who shared that she felt Mac might have Lupus, but most likely had Periodic Fever Syndrome. Mac’s brother Andrew had this so this wouldn’t be a surprise. That said, I point blank said to her,

“I have been through Periodic Fever. This truly doesn’t seem like it. I am telling you, something else is up and given that fevers cause his seizures, I really want to stop them.”

She agreed and said that in addition to her testing, that it was time to go back to the Neurologist. Well seeing as the pediatrician had said the same, and that Mac had a seizure the next day, I made the appointment stat (don’t ask why the delay, that’s another story!) Fast forward a few days. The neurologist ordered a brain MRI (to rule out a brain tumor given his seizures, the stuttering, and the blood work), a three-day seizure test, and a genetic test to see if he was in the early stages of pediatric epilepsy.

Now I will uber fast forward to all the results, the last of which we got a week before Christmas. It was a LONG six weeks mind you and all while I was supposed to be focused on my first book. I obviously wanted to do nothing else but get my son healthy but I will admit, I was and still am devastated at the timing as it was a lifelong dream to publish a book and it was so difficult to enjoy the time. (Don’t hate me for saying that; you know me, I am brutally honest.)

I did, however, temporarily enjoy the test results.

The genetic test came back negative. No epilepsy. Sweet.
The ultrasound came back negative. No cancer. Sweet.
The brain MRI came back negative. No tumor. Sweet.
The blood work came back negative. No lupus. Sweet.

So what was I left with? Lots of negatives, which was a positive, but still no answer.

Mac continued to have high fevers frequently but also developed hives and a concerning rash, both of which still come and go, mostly when he is sick. An allergist (also an immune system specialist and infectious disease specialist) ruled out allergies (yes, we got to see another doctor as the rash concerned both our pediatrician and rheumatologist who are working together phenomenally) and confirmed that his immune system had no apparent problems. He also confirmed that his last few months health wise were concerning but that all of Mac’s doctors had been very thorough in their work. I guess that was re-assuring, but again, I was left with no answers as to why Mac was so frequently getting sick!

That was February, about six weeks ago. While I still had no answers, Mac hadn’t had another seizure and his fevers were getting shorter and lower so I felt rest assured that he had just had bad luck getting sick this season. HA! Why should this mama start really okay with things?! A few weeks later I discovered that Mac’s back was covered in small, pin point bruises and that his legs were equally covered in bruises.

The pediatrician took one look and sent us for blood work stat. He normally isn’t worried but seeing as he called me the next morning at 7am to see if I had gone for blood work yet, I knew he was as worried as I was that internally bleeding or something was going on (I knew that type of bruising can be a sign of a blood disease as I was told to watch for it.) The good news: nothing major causing the bruising. Phew. The bad news? Mac’s white blood count was low. AGAIN. You see, a few weeks prior during his now standard blood work, his count appeared low, but barely. So we all ignored it. But this time it was much lower. Enter new potential diagnosis: Cyclic Neutropenia.

This is when white blood cells (which fight infection) drop every three weeks leaving one quite susceptible to getting sick. Now this, this would make a boatload of sense! We were told to check blood work again in three weeks. If the numbers went up, voila! most likely an accurate diagnosis. If they went down, well, add cancer to the mix again.

Three weeks passed last Thursday. I was a mess all day. Scared, scared, scared. I tried to write to you all then but couldn’t. I tried to write the night the results came back, but couldn’t. You see, the numbers dropped, again. Mac’s white blood cells have been dropping dramatically for almost two months now. My pediatrician confirmed what I knew weeks ago and had asked, but had been told, “not yet, not yet. We all still think periodic fever syndrome is probably the result and time will tell. If things change, then it will be hematologist time.” Well, things changed and it was hematologist time!

I cried when I called the office to make an appointment because you see, the hematologist is also an oncologist and calling a place where the phone answers, “The… Pediatric Oncology Department” is heart wrenching. Not a call I liked making one bit especially since I was told to get in ASAP. I spoke with the doctor who still feels that Cyclic Neutropenia is likely the cause but still, until I know that, I am surviving, getting through each day as best as I can until I know my worried mind and heart can rest.

We go to the doctor today.

It has been a long four days waiting for the appointment. I just want to know the next steps. I just want Mac to be healthy. I just want to stop worrying. I just want to hear it has all been bad luck. I just want to hear that all my fears, while well founded, have been proved wrong.

So this my dear friends is where I have been: worrying about one of the loves of my life. I have also been worrying greatly about another son who is struggling greatly. Getting through each day with him without losing my cool and with finding as much patience, empathy, love and forgiveness, truly leaves me with no energy left come the time all the boys are asleep. That said, at least I have enough energy to get through the days and giving my boys all that they need while they are awake. Being productive at night, doing the things I so long to do (eh hem, writing!) can wait. My boys are my priority. I know you all understand this and would equally tell me to not worry about not being present, but it’s important for me that you all know I haven’t left you, but that I am here, doing my best to be an Orange Rhino despite all the stress that life has thrown me.

Doing my best to do all of which an Orange Rhino must do to move forward: go one step, one moment at a time; find perspective; take care of myself so I can take care of others (hello sleep!); talk myself through tough moments; and laugh and connect with my boys as I can.

Stomp forward Orange Rhinos…stomp forward!

 

The Thanksgiving I Yelled at my Kids.

Unfortunately, before I started my Orange Rhino Challenge to go 365 days straight without yelling at my four boys, then ages five and under, the “Not-so-Great” Thanksgiving of 2010 happened. Oh how I wish that I decided to teach myself to “Yell Less, Love More” before that turkey day for then this story wouldn’t still be stuck in my memory because it wouldn’t have happened in the first place! Nope, all the lessons I learned on my 520 days straight of not yelling would have come in to place and prevented me from ruining that Thanksgiving with my relentless yelling. Sigh. Oh well. Here’s how it went down, literally.

* * * * *

I don’t like turkey.
Or cranberry sauce.
Or any of the foods that one typically serves on Thanksgiving for that matter.

Except well, for the white stuff: bread, butter, mashed potatoes, and more butter! But I love Thanksgiving Day. I love making a big, roaring fire and then cuddling up with my boys to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I love “oohing and ahhing” over all the floats together and sharing stories with my boys about when I was a kid and couldn’t wait to watch the Parade. I love sitting down to eat and first having cranberry juice with rainbow sherbet and telling my boys that this is a tradition passed down from my great-grandmother.

Oh, there is just so much to love on Thanksgiving Day.
And yet, I hated Thanksgiving 2010 because I ruined it.

I ruined it by yelling, big-time. Over a picture. A freakin’ picture. Seriously?! Yes, seriously. As soon as the parade wrapped up, I deemed that it was therefore the perfect time for the annual “Let’s watch Mom jump up and down and act like a clown to make us smile” holiday card photo shoot. Yes, of course, trying to get James, Edward, and Andrew, then ages, four, three, and one, to sit still and cooperate—after they had just been sitting peacefully and quietly for an hour and just wanted to run outside and play—was the perfect time to ask them to sit still, again. And smile. And keep their hands to themselves. And try to be patient with my constant requests for, “Just one more picture, please?” I knew at the time that I was pushing my luck, given the circumstances and their ages, but yet I still pushed.

As expected, given my picture-taking history, my boys whined when I told them it was picture time. As I geared up to corral them into the living room (and to start offering bribes galore), Andrew took off as usual and ran into—of all rooms—the living room. He jumped onto the couch, laughing hysterically as he crashed into the pillows. James and Edward of course followed suit and all three boys started laughing and tickling each other and having a grand old time. So much so that, when I shouted, “Hey, look at me!” they didn’t realize I had just taken a picture. It was, and still is, one of my favorite pictures in the entire world. The happiness. The love. The joy. The smiles. It melted my heart.

So you think I would have stopped right then, right?
No more pictures needed, right?!
Wrong.

Who needs the "perfect" picture when priceless pictures like this exist?!

Who needs the “perfect” picture when priceless pictures like this exist?!

I wanted to make sure that I had the best picture. The perfect picture. I wanted to see if I could do better, even though I felt I had just been delivered a miracle. I got greedy, really, really greedy, and I asked, “One more picture, please?” They acquiesced for a few minutes, but understandably soon grew tired of my never-ending demands to sit still and smile. They had behaved wonderfully and cooperatively for so long; now they were done. They had reached their limit and started squirming, whining, pinching each other, and refusing to cooperate. So I started yelling. And I didn’t stop. I didn’t stop because I so badly wanted the perfect picture and I thought that yelling would force them to behave.

“Sit still!” I barked.
“Just one more! Be good!” I whined.
“WHY CAN’T YOU JUST DO THIS FOR ME?!” I yelled.
And my famous, or rather infamous, Thanksgiving 2010 line:

“It’s Thanksgiving, for cripe’s sake! I would be so grateful for just one good picture. PLEASE! Just smile!” I screamed.

The more I yelled, the more they cried. The more they cried, the worse the pictures were, so the more I yelled. Finally, I gave up and said ever so shamefully and nastily, “That’s it! I have had it. All I wanted was a picture. Thanks for nothing.”

James, Edward, and Andrew then promptly ran out of the room, crying to Daddy and the grandmas. James screamed, “Mommy’s a meany.” Edward sobbed, “I don’t like her.” Andrew just cried and cried, clearly scared by how loud and nasty my voice had gotten. And I went to the bathroom and also cried and cried, feeling all the same thoughts as my kids. I pouted the rest of the day as I felt so mortified and ashamed that I had screamed at my young children for behaving well; ashamed that I had unnecessarily taken my own problem with perfection out on them.

I couldn’t look any of the other adults in the eye for the rest of the day. I felt so sad that my need for the perfect picture pushed me to lose it so horrifically. My guilt and shame then kept me from enjoying the holiday. Thanksgiving is one of the days where I often feel nothing but love, and yet, that year, that year I couldn’t feel it because I had yelled to the point where all I felt was hatred for myself.

The sad thing is, that Thanksgiving wasn’t the only time I felt such anger at myself for yelling at my kids over trying to get a picture. Nope, it had happened many times before. And while I sit here wanting to write that it’s all just because I am a perfectionist and seek perfection in everything I do, that’s a partial cop-out. It goes deeper than that.

Yes, yes, I seek the perfect picture of all my boys looking at the camera, smiling flawlessly and not picking their noses. But it’s not just because I am a perfectionist; it’s also because I am insecure. Oftentimes in life, I seek comfort, confidence, and reassurance that I am living a happy, good life, that I am doing good at this parenting thing, that I have happy children. And well, whenever I feel that way, I find that looking at pictures soothes my insecurities and proves to me that I am doing okay.

If I feel frustrated and down and overwhelmed by the challenges of parenting, I can look at that “perfect” picture and look straight into those gorgeous twinkling eyes and remember that it is all worth it, that my kids are happy and it’s worth the work. If I find myself feeling sad that life is passing by too fast, my kids are growing up too fast, and I feel I have missed out, I can look at that “perfect” picture and remember: no, I didn’t miss it, I was right there and it was wonderful. And if I feel stressed about life in general, then looking at pictures of my family having fun, enjoying a special vacation, enjoying a special holiday, enjoying each other helps soothe my negative mood and move me to a more positive, grateful, happy, and definitely less stressed place.

Pictures bring me comfort by helping me feel secure in this world, and rightfully or wrongfully, I rely on them for this. That is the real reason I push for perfect pictures. I don’t refrain from yelling at my kids during picture time because I want the most beautiful picture ever; it’s because I am afraid that if I don’t get that picture, then I won’t have something to look at when I need it most. I yell at them because of me, because of my insecurities, not because of them and their inability to sit still longer than children their age should.

The Orange Rhino Challenge and all the trigger digging I did helped me to see the real reason I yelled. And by default, it helped me let go and chill out during picture time. Now when I find myself struggling to not yell at my kids when I desperately want a picture, I say to myself,

Thanksgiving Quote“Hey, just relax. You’ll get what you get. Don’t push it or you won’t get a thing expect crying kids, an upset you, and therefore a bad picture and a more upset you. It’s not worth it! (Yelling doesn’t work, it just makes things worse!) Remember, it’s not them you are frustrated with; it’s you. They are doing fine, you are causing the stress. Chill out. Just chill out. Remember, the goal isn’t the perfect picture. It’s enjoying the moment. Don’t ruin it by yelling.”

I can happily say that I now enjoy those special moments in my life even more than before because my plight for perfection and my instinct to yell aren’t dampening them. Do I still struggle and have to push myself to let go of perfection at times? Yes. Do I still struggle and have to push myself to “Yell Less, Love More” during trying times? Yes. I am the Orange Rhino, but I am not perfect! But I struggle a lot less and for that I will jump up and down, act like a clown, and do all sorts of crazy things to make me smile and feel good about my progress. Because of all the things I have learned on my Orange Rhino Challenge to Yell Less + L.O.V.E. More, one most definitely is this: the goal is not about perfection; it’s about progress.

And I am making progress, I am yelling less and loving more, and that is what matters to me more than perfection.

YLLMcrop2This story is from my newly released book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids­–and How You Can Too!” Part parenting guide, part memoir, part journal, her book takes you on a 30-day journey full of honest stories, alternatives to yelling and steps to follow so that you too can Yell Less. Find more about my book here: www.TheOrangeRhino.com/the-book and join The Orange Rhino Revolution at www.Facebook.com/TheOrangeRhino

{Sometimes} My S.P.D. Makes Me YELL at My Kids

Below is an excerpt from my book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can Too!” I post it here because it is an important story to share and not just because sharing it gives me more strength to cope, but also and more so because sharing it will hopefully help you gain insight into some of your kid’s (and maybe your) behaviors. My hope is that said insight will help you gain empathy for your child’s sensory-related behavior and therefore help you “Yell Less, Love More.” My other hope is that if you comment, you comment with kindness and not judgement.


I am going to let you in on a very personal struggle, one that I have only shared with a handful of people in my life because it is so embarrassing and frustrating that I have just hid it and ignored it for years. Oh, how I hoped that it would just magically disappear and that I would finally be free of the pain and shame I feel whenever the struggle rears its wicked ugly head, which is at least three or four times a day. But it never disappeared and once I started the Orange Rhino Challenge, I could no longer hide from it, or run from it. When I started tracking my triggers and gaining deeper awareness as to what made me explode, I discovered—or rather, was finally forced to admit—that this little struggle of mine wasn’t just real, but it was also a really big (like gargantuan) trigger. Yes, there was no ignoring the fact that if I wanted to stop yelling, I needed to start managing this struggle of mine STAT no matter how hard it was.

Ya’ ready for my struggle?

I have Sensory Processing Disorder, also know as S.P.D.

Um, what the heck does that mean, you ask?

Block out NoiseIt means that I have “sensory attacks,” brought on by any, or all, of my five senses being overloaded to the point where I can’t keep myself together and I go from calm(ish) to anything-but in a split second. It might come on from too much noise or too much chaos, or maybe I feel too hot or my clothes feel too tight or itchy, or maybe I taste a mushy food or smell a disgusting odor, or maybe it is a combination of all of the above that sends my body “under attack.” Sometimes the attacks come completely out of the blue; sometimes I sense they are coming. Either way, I respond in what feels to be a very irrational, very over-the-top way. It can take thirty minutes to an entire day to feel calm again and in control of my body (and it takes a lot longer to forget the embarrassment and disgrace I feel for losing it).

During a “sensory attack,” I literally feel the physical desire to lose it in a rather aggressive manner. I feel like the inside of my body is on fire, that my body is trying to burn my skin so that it can get out and escape. I feel like I want to run away at full speed and keep running until I cool down, until my heart stops beating so hard my chest hurts, until my skin stops itching so much that I want to tear it off, until the intensity that overwhelmed me stops. My body, my mind, and my soul want to flee the intense physical response and displeasure they feel from the sensory attack, but they can’t.

I feel trapped and that’s because I am trapped, trapped at the mercy of the “sensory attack,” and all I can do once an attack has hit is to wait it out. And since I can’t flee the pain or the frustration, I fight. I fight my body by throwing things. I fight my body by crying. I have even fought my body by pulling my hair, by hitting my head. And I fight by yelling.

a text block-19I would love to write that my children have never witnessed one of my attacks, that they never saw me shove my dinner plate across the table and then refuse to eat because my Italian sausage was just the wrong texture at the wrong time. I would love to write that my boys never saw me tear a brand-new (and very fashionable and cool!) scarf off from around my neck and throw it in the garbage while yelling, “I hate clothes. Hate them, hate them, hate them! Nothing every feels right!” I would love to write that they never watched me go berserk when my husband turned on a sports radio show to catch “the big game” and all the scratchy noise of the poor reception made me start screaming at him uncontrollably to turn it off before I exploded. Yeah, I would love to say they have never witnessed any of the above, but that would be a lie.

And I would love, even more so, to write that my children were never the targets of one of my sensory attacks, but that would also be a lie. The bad news is that they have indeed been on the receiving end of one of my sensory moments, but the good news (okay, better than bad news) is that at least it was yelling and not worse. Oh, oh, how I have screamed bloody murder at them when my body just couldn’t handle another noise, no matter how discreet or unintentional.

I have yelled, “Back up now, or else!” when my kids innocently chewed popcorn near me, not next to me, but just near me, and with their mouths open so that I could hear every crunch.

I have yelled, “Be quiet NOW, it is just too much! I can’t stand it. I am going to leave!” when all my boys are talking at once and getting louder and louder so that they can each be heard over each other.

I have yelled, “Okay, enough of the hugging! I don’t want to be touched anymore! Get off of me!” Yeah, that was an awful thing to say, and worse, I have said it a lot.

And I have yelled at myself after the fact, “Get a grip! All you want is for your kids to be quiet and not overly playful because you can’t handle noise and chaos. Then why did you have kids?! And four of them?! All you do is constantly squash their joy and enthusiasm just because mommy can’t handle it. Seriously?” I have tried so hard my entire life to keep my S.P.D. under control and hidden. And when I became a mom, I did learn to control it better because there is nothing I wanted more than to love my kids and not unleash my wrath on them. And I did keep it under control many moments. But yes, there were moments that I didn’t, and those left me beyond humiliated, beyond discouraged, beyond heartbroken. What kind of example was I setting?!

But the good news, yes, the really good news, is that the Orange Rhino Challenge forced me to finally manage my S.P.D. My S.P.D. no longer causes me to Y.E.L.L.—yell exceptionally long and loud—because tracking my triggers increased my awareness and forced me to figure out how to manage this really big trigger.And luckily for me, at the same time that I became aware of and accepted my S.P.D. as a trigger, one of my sons started some occupational therapy for his own struggles with S.P.D. Everything he learned, everything he told me, and every exercise we did together to “help him” actually helped me learn how to manage my own S.P.D.

Tip #2I learned to do push-ups when I felt an attack coming on.

I learned to put earmuffs on when the noise overwhelmed me.

I learned to pull my fingers gently to calm down.

I learned to eat crunchy foods like apples to organize my mind when it felt fried.

I learned to take deep breaths, even though I hated to, big-time.

I learned to prioritize sleep because it is key to regulating my mood.

In fact, all these little tricks worked so well to help me cool down and prevent and put out sensory attacks that I decided to try them to help me cool down and prevent and put out yelling attacks as well. Well, wouldn’t you know … my S.P.D. tricks work great on Y.E.L.L. attacks too!

Looking back, learning to manage my S.P.D. has been a heck of a lot easier than I expected. Have I been able to make it completely disappear, as I have dreamed of for years? No, I am just the Orange Rhino, not a fairy godmother! But, but, in finally having a more complete awareness of the depth of the problem, I was able to start actually managing it to the point where it is no longer as major an issue, which let me tell you, is nothing short of awesome.Not only am I not yelling at my kids unnecessarily, but also I am much more able to model how to control emotions and calm down. This helps me sleep way better at night.


 YLLMcrop2“Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can Too!” is a 30-Day Guide complete with 100 Alternatives to Yelling, Simple Steps to Follow, and Honest Stories to Inspire you on your own journey. It is available for sale now at all favorite on-line retailers and in select stores. Click here to order from your favorite site.

Yelling Does NOT Define Me as a Parent

Hi, my name is The Orange Rhino and I used to yell at my kids.

In fact, I yelled so much that I started The Orange Rhino Challenge, a promise to not yell at my four boys, then ages 5 and under, for 365 days straight! As I started publicly writing on my blog about my journey to yell less, I received a boat load of wonderfully loving and supportive comments such as, “Thank you so much for sharing your story and letting me know that I am so not alone!” I also received a couple of well, how should I put it, um how ‘bout, outright nasty and hurtful comments. The following is a sample of one of the nasty comments. Mind you, it isn’t verbatim because the email was so incredibly hurtful that I erased it immediately so that I wouldn’t dwell on it. (I knew at that point that dwelling leads to yelling and that it needed to be avoided at all costs when possible.) Anywho, after reading about my challenge, one woman wrote to me,

“You know, maybe yelling isn’t your problem. Maybe your challenge shouldn’t be about not yelling. Maybe it should be about not being a parent. I think your problem is that you shouldn’t have had kids in the first place, that you are an awful mom if you yell so much that you needed to create a Challenge to stop.”

Um, can I get an, “Ouch!?”

I felt incredibly attacked at the moment and her comment immediately started pushing me into self-criticism mode. Was she right? Was I an awful parent? Did I have no redeeming qualities? Was I not meant to be a mom? Fortunately for me, my oldest son had ever so quietly snuck up behind me and read the entire email and then started a heartwarming conversation that quickly pulled me right out of self-criticism mode.

“Mommy, why is she saying you shouldn’t be a mom? Are you not going to be my mom anymore?” he asked tears forming in the corner of his eyes.

“Oh sweetie. You weren’t supposed to see that. Of course I am always going to be your mom. I am not going anywhere.” I said as I pulled him into my lap.

“But mom, why did she say those mean things about you?” he implored.

“Well, because she thinks that because I used to yell at you ‘so much’ that I had to become an Orange Rhino that I am an awful parent.” I stated, fighting back tears.

“But mommy, you aren’t an awful parent. You are a great mom.” He said ever so sweetly as he wiped a tear off his cheek.

Um, can I get an “Awwww?!”

blog_v4To be honest, I haven’t thought of this story until just today. I had simply pushed the memory as far back into my mind as possible because not only did her accusations hurt, but more so, they really, really struck a nerve. But then I received numerous emails today in response to an old blog post titled, “A Mom’s Regret About Yelling,” and this painful memory came flooding back. Fortunately, a powerful insight came right after!

In the post, my son was headed off into Kindergarten and that to me symbolized the start of him officially being with teachers and friends more than with me. I wrote about how disappointed I was in myself that I spent so much of the last six years, my unshared years, with my son “complaining and yelling instead of loving.” I felt so incredibly sad and let down and wrote that I regretted that I hadn’t enjoyed all the time I did have with him because I was so often yelling and being, well, grumpy.

Sitting here tonight, processing the comments and my post and my painful memory, I just want to go back two years and give myself a hug. I just want to go back and say to myself,

“Girl, it’s okay. Yes, you used to yell. Yes you regret all the times you did yell. That’s normal and expected. No one likes to do not nice things. But you know what, you’re missing something. You were looking at the situation from your eyes and not your son’s. You saw yourself as having yelled sooooo very much that you missed soooo very much. You saw yourself as just a yeller and nothing else. I am not sure that is the truth. Is that what your son experienced? Did he sometimes see you as a yelling parent? Yes. Do you wish that weren’t the case, does he wish that weren’t the case? Yes.

But do you know what else?
He didn’t just see you as a yelling parent.

Because even though you did yell more than you felt comfortable with and probably more than acceptable, you didn’t yell 24/7. You did a lot of other things too, a lot of great things that you shouldn’t regret for a moment. It is because of those great things that your son saw you as a parent who sure, used to yell, but who also used to and still does…

DSC_0810Give him kisses on his boo-boo’s.
Tuck him in at night.
Comfort him when he has a nightmare.
Play Candyland with him all night long.
Encourage him when he’s lacking confidence.
Take him apple picking.
Plan special birthday parties for him.
Teach him to do new things like riding a bike.
Help him with homework.
Laugh with him during water fights.
Advocate for him.
Teach him how to build a master Lego.
Throw footballs to him.
Love him fiercely in a way no other person could.

So dear self, please, please don’t beat yourself up about the past, about the moments you yelled. Yes, by all means remember the past just enough so that it continues to inspire you to daily work at being an Orange Rhino, but don’t hold onto the past so much that it is the only thing you see when you look at yourself as a mom. Those yelling moments aren’t the only moments that make up your journey as a mother. Those yelling moments don’t define you as a mom. The whole package defines you and the journey has just begun.”

community_v4Obviously I can’t go back two years and tell myself this to help me feel better and perhaps stop a few tears. But I can write it now so I can and share it here with all of you, so that is what I will do!

Dearest Orange Rhinos,
You aren’t an awful parent because you are struggling with yelling. You aren’t just a yelling parent, you are a heck of a lot more too! Don’t let yelling define you as a parent. Instead let how you find the strength, courage and determination to change, along with your fierce love and commitment to your kids define you.

Xoxo,
The Orange Rhino

challenge_theP.S. I write this now and in a few days, maybe weeks if I am lucky, I know I will begin to once again doubt myself as a parent and will focus on all I am doing “wrong” instead of seeing all that I am doing “right.” I know I will forget that all my inadequacies and mistakes as a parent don’t define me. I know I will forget that there is more to me as a parent than the negative stuff I love to highlight. And I know that I will forget that every day I tip the scale away from “yelling/cranky/not-doing-this-or-that-right” towards “Loving More” and that THAT is what really matters.

 

 

book_v4To learn more about how to tip your personal scale towards the “Love More,” side and to realize that yelling doesn’t define you, check out my new book due out this Saturday, November 1st! “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids–and How You Can Too!” is a 30-Day guide with 100 alternatives to yelling, simple steps to follow and honest stories to inspire you on your own journey to “Yell Less, Love More.” You can pre-order it here! 

Learning to “Yell Less, Love More”

TORC_logo_blogTour3-2

This post is the last in the “Yell Less, Love More” Blog Book Tour. I have been touched (and humbled) by every single story shared by the 23+ Orange Rhinos who participated. Thank you to all of them and thank you to you all for reading and supporting the writers. They each bravely share a very personal story and you all made them feel safe and not judgement. This last post needs it especially. Please give your love to “Island Mama,” a single mom to two beautiful children.

Who am I?  How did I become this angry, yelling idiot?  I grew up in a home where we were called “honey bunch” and “sweetie pie”.  I don’t ever remember being yelled at as a young girl.  I was spanked on the very rare occasion, but not yelled at.  My childhood home memories are of nothing but love and happiness.

I have always wanted to be a mother.  So much so, that I said that I would have children by myself if I wasn’t married by 30.  I always imagined myself in a loving marriage.  I would have a husband who was a loving and fully engaged father, just as my own father has always been.  I didn’t know any different…  So much for that plan!  I ended up in a crappy marriage with a man who was disengaged as a husband and a father.  A man who expected our son to listen to me at all times and who would get angry with ME when our beautiful, innocent son didn’t obey me (when he was 1-2 years old, may I add).  I’m pretty sure I started yelling at my son as an anxiety reaction.  I would get so worked up thinking about his dad’s angry reaction towards me for his disobedience.  When he wouldn’t listen, it was like I went into full-out fight or flight mode.  And I would yell….  

Things only got worse when we moved very far away from any type of family support network.  I was alone with my son 10 out of every 14 days with no friends and no family.  Let’s just say the yelling became engrained in our household fabric.  I was such a silly woman… I felt so much emptiness inside, so what did I do?  I got pregnant with baby #2.  He walked out 11 weeks into the pregnancy.  My son and I then moved home to be near family and my support network.

Here I am 5 years later.  My kids’ dad and I are now divorced and live on opposite sides of Canada, which leaves me as a completely single mother with little time to myself.  I haven’t been in a real relationship since the separation.  I have dated a bit, but have never involved the kids.  I’m not looking for sympathy by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s really bloody hard doing this job on your own!  I’m sure many of you reading this know exactly what I mean when I say that….  Unfortunately, I’m still yelling at my son.  The weird part?  I rarely yell at my now 4 year old daughter…  He’s 8 and this fact does not slip past him.  He sees that I’m different with her.  Part of me feels as though I can’t help it… which I know not to be true.  I’ve known for a long time that I need to change.  Then I found The Orange Rhino.  This amazingly brave woman who bares her soul to us is my inspiration every day.  In her story, I know that I, too, can stop yelling!

I started following The Orange Rhino’s story in early 2013.  I stumbled upon her Facebook page and felt an instant connection to her.  I signed up for a 30 day challenge via email in June of that year, but failed to complete the 30 days.  My children went to their father’s for the summer, and I gave up on the challenge.  I have continued to follow her blog via Facebook for the last 15 months.  When the call for emails to have a chance to review the book Yell Less, Love More: How the Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids – and How You Can Too! came up, I jumped on it.  The email challenge didn’t work so great for me.  I do much better when I have a physical object like a book to refer back to.  I was one of the lucky Yellers randomly chosen to partake in this extraordinary opportunity.  Here is my experience…

One of the first things that struck me about this book was the feeling I got when I started reading it.  It feels like you are sitting having a conversation in your home with Sheila, aka The Orange Rhino.  She has written her book in the same way she has written her blog…baring her soul…holding nothing back from us…just telling us the unbridled, raw truth.  Her complete honesty inspires the reader to be completely honest with yourself.  And boy, does that truth sting at times.  I lost count how many times this truth has brought me to tears over the last 30 days…And I’ve laughed almost as much as I’ve cried.  

There are only positives to this book.  It is set up as daily chapters of 3-4 pages each.  This is great for the busy, tired parent who doesn’t have a lot of time to devote to reading each day.  The daily tasks don’t take a lot of time, but are so very insightful.  One of the most important things asked of the reader is to track our yelling triggers…this is where we really see who is to blame for our yelling…us!  There is even a worksheet to keep all our trigger tracking in one place!  Each day, we are given revelations, actions and tips… these are fantastic, not to mention very useful!  There are also quotes each day that are extremely pertinent to this journey of “yelling less, loving more”.  Each and every one of them could be a personal mantra.

I have been forced to look deep into myself during this journey.  I know now that I am the reason I yell…not my kids.  I’m choosing to react to them how I do.  Whether it is consciously or subconsciously, I’m making the decision to yell. [pullquote]I have been forced to look deep into myself during this journey.  I know now that I am the reason I yell…not my kids.  I’m choosing to react to them how I do.  Whether it is consciously or subconsciously, I’m making the decision to yell.[/pullquote]  Most of the time, my “tank” is on empty.  I’m a pharmacist in one of the busiest pharmacies on the East Coast of Canada.  I have to give 100%+ every day at work and when I come home, my kids want even more of me.  I’m spent… I know I need to take care of me more, and I’m working on that…my gym membership has been bought and I’m working on adding more “me-time” into my evenings.  I know I have to give up on my self-pity for still being single after all these years…I have to love myself more, and remember that “I am enough”.  I have to embrace the little family I have and live in the moment.  I’m sure I won’t be alone forever, but until the time is right, “I am enough”!

I would love to say that I have been yell-free for more than a couple of days.  The truth is that I can’t seem to get past the third day.  But I keep trying!  My kids deserve it and I want to feel good about my relationships with each of them.  They are truly wonderful, loving children who are just that… children.  I can’t expect them to act like adults when they are 8 and 4.  Besides, I have to teach them how to become good adults, which means I have to practice better self-regulation.  Thanks to Yell Less, Love More: How the Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling at Her Kids – and How You Can Too!, I have the tools and insight to be the mother I have always wanted to be.  I have enjoyed every moment of this journey, even the tears.  This book is so worth reading…I highly doubt there will ever be a “yelling parent” who doesn’t feel the same way after reading this wonderful book!

book-squareIf my story has touched you at all, please share this post.  One of my readers who shares this post will receive a free copy of Yell Less, Love More.  Do it!  You won’t be disappointed. And if you don’t win it, you can order it here!

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Thank you “Island Mama” for sharing your very, very touching story. Your vulnerability touched me and will stay with me.

 

4 Lessons From Not Yelling That Helped Me With Life in General

Today is my second son’s sixth birthday.  And like every one of my past sons’ birthdays, I woke up so excited to run into his room and give him a big hug and sing happy birthday. I also woke up hoping, with every single finger and toe crossed, that the day would run more smoothly than usual so that my son and I could share an extra special, peaceful day together free of fighting amongst brothers. And I woke up knowing that I needed to adjust my expectations for a great day down a notch or two because I was just setting myself up for disappointment and frustration and therefore yelling!

You see birthdays in our house are tough, tough, tough! The three non-birthday boys get all sorts of jealous and “it’s just not fair” tantrums happen hourly, if not more often. On top of that, when there aren’t tantrums, all four boys are super hyper because that is just what happens to my boys on any special occasions. It is our experience, after years of research that “Holiday Hyper” + Tantrums = One heck of a disastrous day.

By 8:11 am this morning, we were already on our way to disastrous land. The birthday boy even seemed more sullen than usual; I am certain all the fighting to get the first piece of breakfast cake (yep!) and the begging to share his new LEGO got to him. How couldn’t it? So when daddy called this morning to say, “Happy Birthday” to the birthday boy, I broke down in tears before handing the phone over.

“How’s the morning go?” my husband innocently asked.

Darth Vader“ARGH! #1 can’t keep his hands to himself and keeps punching Darth Vader. #3 has been screaming that he hates birthdays since he got out of bed. The best line being, ‘See I hate birthday parties because my cake falls over.’ Quality. And #4 didn’t nap yesterday and his brothers woke him up way too early so his crankiness is out of control. And to be honest, I have just had enough of parenting! It is so hard and I feel like I am sucking at it and that’s why the mornings have been so rough. I love our boys but they are a handful. A handful. And I just, well, wanted #2’s birthday to start off on a great note, you know?!” I sobbed to him all in one fellow swoop, not even stopping to take one breath.

Then #3 hit #4, #1 told me we had 2 minutes to get to school or he’d miss his field trip, and I had to get #2 on the phone real quick, and well, I just felt like I was going to explode! Miraculously (actually, I think the good cry helped me chill), I got everyone where they needed to be and I headed to work out to get some much-needed “me-time.”

A minute before I entered my class, I received this email from husband,

Tip 8“Babe, don’t let life get you down. Our kids are a handful, but usually a handful of joy and fun. You have a lot of reasons to be proud of how you parent the boys so focus on that. Take a moment, smell the roses and enjoy what you accomplished six years ago: not sneezing, laughing, or talking before the doctor told you that you could so #2 didn’t come flying out onto the floor! You created our son and he is awesome. Be proud of that.”

He was right. Our kids are a handful – full of whining, not listening, arguing, and being royal pains in the butts at precisely the wrong moment. But they are also, and more so, a handful of joy – full of love, tenderness, empathy, joy, hope, laughter, and total awesomeness.

I loved my husband’s take on my statement, “our boys are a handful.” It brought me some much-needed perspective and helped me re-frame how I approached the rest of the day, which as a result was much, much more enjoyable.

This “insight” and realizing the “Power of Perspective” was the first of four insights that both surprised and inspired me today. I shouldn’t have been surprised by any of them though; they are old ones that I learned on The Orange Rhino Challenge. One of the best unexpected benefits I discovered in taking The Orange Rhino Challenge is that many of the tricks and revelations I learned to keep me from yelling, also help to enhancing my life in other non-yelling situations. Sweet!

Here are three other key insights I learned on my journey to yell less that popped up in my life today in non-yelling situations.

1. Keep practicing and staying on course; results will come.
I have been working my butt off (ha, literally, oh wait, I am not working my butt off, that’s the problem) to try and lose some extra weight gained during my foot injury. Well, I have been working at it since January. January folks. Nothing has changed and doctors confirmed there is no medical issue. The conclusion? I just have to get my metabolism alive again. So, I am trying my hardest and greatly discouraged and just wanting to quit my efforts. Why bother, right? I asked my always motivational exercise instructor today, “What should I do? Do you have any advice? I just want to quit. I am doing all this extra work and nothing!” Her response: “Just stay the course. Keep going no matter what. All the work is working you just don’t see the results yet. But you will. It will all just click. Whatever you do, don’t quit.”

Such solid advice and exactly what I learned on The Orange Rhino Challenge. In the beginning I felt like I was getting nowhere…fast. But all the good and bad moments were teaching me and preparing me to succeed. So to you: keep practicing not yelling, it will click. Repeat, it WILL click. And to me: keep working out, it will click. Got that? No quitting young lady!!!

2. Go one moment at a time; keep expectations in check.
I totally cried my eyes out to my therapist today (yes, I have one and no, I am not ashamed) that I just wanted a full good day with my kids because lately all the days have been ROUGH. Her response, “May I suggest you adjust your expectations a bit? Perhaps instead of wanting a full good day, you just aim for a good moment, then a few more, then maybe a day will come.” Well, I practically spit out my coffee at that point. I paid her to hear what I write EVERYDAY to all of you and what I tell myself daily in regards to yelling?! LOL. She was so right.

So I say to you: aim for one good moment of not yelling. When you have that, then aim for more, and then more. Good moments attract more good moments and eventually they all add up to a full day. And to me: aim for one good moment with your sons. Enjoy that like mad. More will grow from that joy.

3. Be nice to yourself; positive thoughts attract more positive.
After my oldest son’s bedtime “it’s not my birthday and life is so unfair and my brother has better LEGO’s than me” tantrum to end all tantrums (which by the way he did totally naked making it hard to take him seriously), I decided to sit in his room with him for thirty minutes past bedtime and help him with his LEGOs. It was the best moment (see, moment not day) with him all day. Until he said, “I am such a loser. I can’t keep my LEGO creations together like my brother.” My heart sank. So young to be talking to himself like that. My reply? “Honey, you are not a loser. Don’t be mean to yourself. Love yourself. You deserve it.”

And then the irony kicked me in the butt, you know, the one that won’t shrink come hell or high water. “Don’t be mean to yourself?” Hello, I am mean to myself HOURLY and it does me no good, in fact, it makes me feel crappier which makes me get closer and closer to yelling for no reason. I guess I should take my own advice. Especially since on The Orange Rhino Challenge I learned that positive thoughts attract positive thoughts and positive results. So I say to you: Tell yourself you can change. Forgive yourself if you yelled. Be proud of your non-yelling moment. Catch your children being good so they show more good behavior and you want to yell less. And I say to me, “Just be nice to yourself already! Love yourself more!”

All these thoughts in one day. Well, and that I have yet to figure out how to make a Yoda birthday cake! And on that note, I’ll leave you with some Master Yoda wisdom that applies to The Orange Rhino Challenge.

Luke: “I can’t believe it.”
Yoda: “That is why you fail.”

Believe that you can learn to yell less, and yell less and love more you will!
(Sorry, totally couldn’t resist!)

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Final Cover copyCurious to know what other Orange Rhino Revelations I learned when I stopped yelling that have enhanced my life in general?! Check out my new book, “Yell Less, Love More: How The Orange Rhino Mom Stopped Yelling and How You Can Too!” It is a 30-day guide, each day containing a personal story, top revelations, suggested actions to try on your own journey and then three tips to try instead of yelling. I personally love the revelations piece as they are kind of like the cliff notes version! This way, on days when you want to read but only have a spare minute, you can just read the revelations. Pre-order my book by clicking here (turns out pre-ordering saves you money!) 

Finally, Without Fear

I am scared.
I am nervous.
I am hopeful.

And, I am depressed.

I have been depressed since July. Many people have asked me why I stopped writing so much, why I became some quiet on Facebook, why I didn’t reply to emails. Am I pregnant? Nope, but yes, I am dealing with my first bout of depression ever. I have casually written that I will tell everyone what is going on soon, when the time is right. And then whenever I thought that the time was right to share this deep, uncomfortable truth, I became really nervous. Nervous that sharing about my personal life was perhaps too much, too much for you all to know, too much for me to bare sharing.

And then, if I actually overcame the nerves and focused on the fact that I am desperate to write about my struggle, I became scared. Scared that people will judge me, scared that people will judge my family; scared that people will treat me and look at me differently; scared that people will think less of me, that I am weak and should “just get happy,” and scared that people will think I am too much of a downer and therefore not worth hanging around because I am uninspiring and a real party pooper.

And then on a good day, like today, for a brief moment I stop feeling nervous or scared and I just feel like the “me” that isn’t struggling with depression. I feel passionate about sharing my story and my struggles because I want other people who feel like I do, to not feel so alone. I want to share my story so that the stigma around depression can lessen and people like myself don’t feel scared or nervous to talk about his/her struggles, but instead feel welcomed and encouraged so they can get the help they need, or just feel loved and not so scared and alone.

And then, like today, I become hopeful. Hopeful that maybe, just maybe, that sharing my story will help just one person get help. I don’t know if that is true, but I do know this, writing thus far has already helped me. I feel lighter and a little happier. I have kept this struggle secret since July and it has been eating me up because I feel like I am keeping a really, awful deep dark secret from people I care about and I can’t stand it. Yes, I feel like The Orange Rhino Community is my extended family, seriously. And not telling you about my struggle daily feels like I am not being fully honest and I don’t like that. So here is my story (the short version.)

This has been one of the hardest years of my life, there is no doubt. I have experienced struggles like I couldn’t imagine. From numerous trips to the Emergency Room for one son’s seizures with concerns that he might have epilepsy to my marriage boulder to my foot injury that just won’t go away, and to everything in between (there is a lot in between!), it has been a long, long trying year and the hits just keep on coming, and coming, and coming. Some of the factors grew this July and my stress hit a whole new level. I felt sadness and pain like I have never felt before.

I didn’t want to get out of bed and I couldn’t wait to go to bed at night and yet, as soon as the kids were asleep I just sat on the couch cuddled up flipping through the same websites for hours because I couldn’t find the motivation to actually go to bed. I didn’t want to do things I love like playing with my kids, blogging, participating in The Orange Rhino Community, getting ice cream or sitting outside to enjoy a beer in the summer night. If I ever had a quiet moment alone during the day and a slow song came on I cried my eyes out. I ate everything in sight just to feel better (it didn’t work). I started drinking every night to feel better (that didn’t work either.)

Nothing really worked to make me feel better. Nothing has really worked to make me feel better. Right now I still feel the same sadness and pain, although perhaps deeper. In fact, it was deep enough and worrisome enough to me, because it has lasted so long and is growing, that I decided it was time to do something I have thought about, but vehemently fought since July. It was time to let go of my fear of being judged and do what my family needed me to do.

It was time to get help.
It was time to go to a therapist.
It was time to go on anti-depressants.

This was an incredibly hard decision to make. I wanted to believe I was strong enough to get through this tough patch on my own. I mean, I have hit tough patches before in my life, whoa nelly have I ever! I have felt sad from some of my traumas, but never so badly that just getting out of bed felt like an unbearable chore. I have never been so unmotivated in my life and not cared about not achieving anything as I do now. I have never wanted to run away as much as I do now. I have never felt truly depressed. Until now.

Six weeks ago someone asked me if I was depressed and I said, “no, of course not. Things are just tough.” And then my stomach curled and my feet twitched because I knew I was lying. I knew I was depressed; it was obvious to me because the intensity of my emotions was on a whole new level, but I was scared to admit it. I was scared to share just how bad I felt because I didn’t want to believe the depth of my pain; I didn’t want anyone to worry about me. I didn’t want to be taken away from my kids.

But now, now I can say without fear, that I am depressed. And I don’t just feel this new sense of not being scared to share this hard truth that will undoubtedly bring judgment just because the anti-depressants are helping, but rather I feel the need to share it after several emails I have received. Turns out, I am not the only one in pain. Numerous people have emailed me lately and shared that they are struggling and think they might be depressed and might need an anti-depressant but that they don’t want to go that route because they fear what people will say and … because they fear what they will say about themselves.

Because they fear what they will say about themselves.

Oh, oh do I get this. From the onset of my struggles, I haven’t wanted to go on anti-depressants because I feared it meant that I was weak for not being able to mange on my own. I feared it meant that I was screwed up and a bad role model for my kids. I feared it meant that I was different than everyone else. I feared that it meant I had just given up and stopped trying and sought the easy way out.

And, I feared it meant that I was pathetic…because that is what I have heard people say about those who go on anti-depressants; that those who need anti-depressants and can’t get just “get-happy” and “choose to be happy” are pathetic. I feared it meant that I was choosing to be depressed…because that is what I have heard people say about people on anti-depressants. Let me tell you, I am most certainly trying my hardest to not be depressed; it is just really, really hard under my current circumstances. There isn’t a day that doesn’t go by where I think, “UGH. Come on. I just want to feel better now and forget the pain! Please, help me to feel better!”

So, I write this post now to stand up for all of us who are struggling with depression, whether it be chronically or situational.

I write this post now to say you are NOT alone. We are not alone.

I write this post now to say you, me, we are not weak, pathetic, or screwed up because we need and seek help and choose anti-depressants. No, you, me, we are none of those things.

We might be scared, sad, embarrassed, confused and hurting, but we are also more. We are courageous to admit we need help. We are strong to actually get it.

I write this now with fire in my heart and with conviction to end all convictions, and I hope that I remember this in five minutes when I press “post” and in five hours when I take my new little pill and inevitably think, “shit, I needed a pill because I am in so much pain, why couldn’t I just do it on my own.” And I hope that I remember my conviction that I am courageous and strong when I feel overwhelmed by pain and sadness because I don’t want to go any deeper into this hole.

And, I hope above all else that I keep on fighting to get past this period of depression in my life. I hope that despite what people say about taking an anti-depressant and despite what I feel about taking one, that I do keep on taking my new little pill because the truth is, I need it right now. Right now I need a little extra help. And that is okay. There is no shame in needing help. None. Especially if the little help makes me a little happier which means my kids are a little happier too, for at the end of the day, this is why I am doing all this hard work, so that I can be the best person for me and my family.

Last week was Mental Health Awareness Week. I intended to share this post then but got scared. Please share this post so that others out there like me can start to live without fear and can get the support they need.