Hey folks, if you’re still with me and reading this, I need to update you. I’ve started 3 podcasts, am working for hospice, and am starting a patreon account. You can find all of that here at: kriskadams.com. I’ll be shutting down shufflesteps in a couple weeks. But keep in touch! See my latest post here: Vast and Miniscule
I took a job a few months ago working for hospice doing massage therapy. I’m in the business of human touch because I know that hands heal. I have seen people melt and come to tears when they experience the effect of compassionate touch. For me, it’s spiritual work. Tensions dissolve and hope is restored under the hands of someone offering non-judgmental loving kindness. All kinds of communication happen with touch:
You’re not alone.
You’ve worked hard.
It’s alright to feel good.
You deserve good things.
It’s ok to relax.
Massage doesn’t just communicate these things to the recipient, it proves them: the evidence happens in real time in the body mind and spirit.
In the last few weeks, things have changed rapidly as assisted living centers, memory care units, senior homes and skilled nursing units have all gone on various levels of lock-down in the interest of protecting residents from catching a virus.
The question I’ve been asking myself is: What happens when people who are already challenged are kept in isolation? Dining rooms closed, activities canceled, family and friends unable to visit. Massage and music eliminated, spiritual care and mental health support limited to phone calls for those who can hear and are still able to talk on the phone, which for hospice, is not many. Nurse and aide visits restricted to essential care only- once or twice a week for aides, less than that for nurses.
I don’t argue with isolation as a strategy to slow the spread of an easily transmittable virus. I don’t know that I’m arguing against anything at this point. I just know that these patients under the care of hospice will decline and approach death more rapidly without human contact, whether they catch a virus or not. I know that their quality of life will plummet and the allover comfort of loving hands, kind eyes, and aides who used to visit 4 or 5 times a week whispering “You look beautiful today” into their ears….That comfort will be gone.
Human presence heals. Touch soothes. And the benefit these patients receive through the incredible work of nurses and aides, and music and massage and mental health workers and spiritual guides who come to sing hymns with them…. cannot be underestimated.
The truth is that they’re on hospice because they’re declining and approaching death. The role of the hospice worker is to support and nourish, enhance and enrich the quality of life for these people. Truthfully, we can’t do this if we’re not in the room with them.
Philosophically, the larger question is: if saving lives is the primary goal and quality of life becomes secondary, we might seem to be taking the correct ethical approach, but what’s the cost?
I don’t have the answers, but the last few weeks have certainly raised alot of questions.
A few posts ago, I mentioned that I created a new website kriskadams.com. While I love, love, love sharing stories here about lawn mower racing, getting older, fake food, postpartum boundaries, motherhood, jeans that don’t fit, grocery shopping with toddlers, coffee, and Isadora Duncan among other things, I wanted to create a site that was more specifically about self-care, self-awareness, wisdom traditions, personal evolution, and the interconnectedness of everything. With a lens on pregnancy, birthing and parenting of course. This website will also have a blog that I am hoping will be better than a huge bowlful of buttered noodles with all the gluten.
I may be borrowing a couple older posts from shufflesteps here and there as I get rolling, and I will be creating tons of new content about how we live our authentic lives, cultivate a potent inner awareness, and gracefully bring attention and love to our journey and how all of that amazing work translates into our outer experiences.
I’m interested in reaching more readers! So please share my sites with anyone or anything that you think would benefit or enjoy reading.
I am also working on a podcast that I am super excited about. I will share details as things form more fully.
Thank you for sharing space in your beautiful minds for the words on these pages. Much love!
Life is cuckoo these days, amIright? I recommend everyone stop watching and listening to the news for at least a week to give yourself a freaking break. Too much information is seriously messing up our nervous systems. Instead of reading the news, read these instead:
I am going to admit that I was not a chick-lit fan, ok? I usually don’t pick up books about relationships and instead gravitate toward Michael Connelly and sub-sections of Michael Connelly.
However, Kelly Harms has changed my mind.
It’s just too fun reading these books to hold onto my cynicism. What she does exceptionally well is write about how women relate to themselves and are there for each other through unanticipated circumstances.
Her new book, The Overdue Life of Amy Byler is out!
Is she a friend? Yes. Does she write hilarious, touching stories with characters I love spending time with? Yes! A thousand times yes! Does Kirkus Reviews think her writing is awesome? Yes!
“A PERFECT RECIPE OF CLEVER, QUIRKY, POIGNANT AND FUN.” -KIRKUS REVIEWS
You can see a short clip of her talking here about her first book here:
The Overdue Life of Amy Byler is due out April 1st, but you can pre-order on amazon. Happy reading!
Several years ago I wrote about a Mother’s Rights, the first of which is:
You have the right to 8 hours of sleep every 24 hours.
And here it is in a handy image:
Ladies. Please don’t do what I did and think that you will catch up on sleep when your child is done night nursing or done co-sleeping or done teething or through this growth spurt or entering middle school.
Good sleep is necessary for good health. It just is. Everything from skin to metabolism to immune system to mood to heart health, blood pressure, learning and memory, and pretty much every aspect of how we operate in the world.
Ideally, when expecting a child and creating your birth plan, you are also creating your sleep plan and how you plan to get sleep after your baby arrives. Err on the side of caution and assume your babies will be like mine where they wouldn’t sleep without nursing, being held, or being rocked for the first several MONTHS. Followed by night nursing that continued for several years and then a second child who had major sleep problems due to sensory issues.
It is likely you will need support. You will need to nap. You will need to laugh. You will need to line up some local resources and look into what night services are available in your area and which relatives and friends are willing to help out.
I loved the advice of my lactation consultant who said this: After you give birth, for the first few weeks, do not change out of your pajamas until after you have gotten 8 hours of sleep. The day looks like this: baby nurses, mama eats, everybody sleeps. Repeat.
Please know that in the coming months if you are planning to sleep train your baby, it sometimes does not work out and it is not your fault. And it is not your baby’s fault. I know of some babies who, while attempting to sleep train, would cry until they threw up. Or who would cry for two hours or more night after night after night. Babies are people and need different things. Likewise, you may end up needing something different than what you can predict. But one things you will need, without any doubt, is a reasonable amount of sleep.
For a short time, things like baby swings and co-sleepers were helpful too. Though baby sleep books were not helpful for us, a lot of my friends found them extremely helpful, as well as consulting with local sleep consultants.
In my opinion, getting a decent amount of sleep is a basic human need that does not disappear simply because you have a new life to care for. Work with your partner, take time off work or shorten your days so you can nap if you need to. I’ll explore other options for getting sleep in a future post, but for now, know that sleep is your right to claim…so claim it.
Tonight I went down the wormhole of online toddler clothes shopping. My toddler is abnormally large which, if one follows the sizing of standard American clothing, all of my children have been.
My first born- the one I decided not to have an epidural with- a decision I reconsidered during transition when my teeth were burrowing into my husband’s shoulder- was 9 lbs 10oz. Which is 1 lb 10oz bigger than the bowling ball I select when I go to the bowling alley. We had brought to the hospital some itty bitty wittle newborn onesies that would fit a newborn kitten…which when my son was born may have fit his left thigh…and he went home from the hospital in a newly purchased size 6 month onesie.
Today as my 2 year old (size 4T) was red-faced, throwing her lunch plate across the room and screaming at me that I had given her the wrong plate (NOT MY PWATE! BOO MOMMY!) That’s right. She boos me. I noticed that her pants were a bit too snug, her sleeves a bit too tight. Though anger is generally my first reaction when plates are being thrown at me, I managed to steer myself in another direction…the ancient primal instinct to hunt and gather. I knew at that moment I’d be online shopping later.
Hunting and gathering clothes is not something I’m proud of in a global sense, but it is one of the most relaxing parts of being a parent. I do it after the kids are asleep, and it usually involves wine or whiskey. While hunting and gathering toddler clothes, I can finally relax after a long day as I venture off into feelings other than helplessness, mostly in response to graphic tees where I am either annoyed or delighted- with both being equally enjoyable.
Ideally, my kids would all be dressed in sustainable organic clothing, gender-neutral and without bold statements of political affiliations, quirky hipness, career aspirations, or who they’re most loving and loyal to. But…America.
I’m over unicorns. They’ve worn out their welcome. Same for llamas. And animals wearing glasses, which I never got to begin with. But there’s some great material to be found if you go beyond the doorbusters. Tonight I laughed out loud at a glitter cat in a beret with the caption “meowci.” Hilarious.
Though grimacing a little at the 3 year old girls modeling for a camera, I am delighted by their leggings with rainbow lightening patterns. Shame on everything for selling skin-tight leggings to girls starting from age 0 while boys get joggers and sweats, but look: those suggested leggings have ombre hearts all over them, so it’s ok to go ahead and risk the body image stuff because….so cute!!!!!!!!!
The dark side, where I sip my drink and shake my head and wonder why I never got into the graphic tee biz, involves captions that somehow praise ME. “My mom’s super amazing.” “Mom’s BFF” “Smart like my mom.” I am very uncomfortable with shirts that state my toddler’s love for me. It feels like stealing something from her. Also, why would I dress her in something proclaiming a thought she isn’t aware she’s having or might not be having at all? Seeing “Mom is my Hero” on her shirt would not take the sting out of that plate hitting my shin. Plus, she does not know she’s wearing a shirt that celebrates the very person that, in her world, is a dictator trying to steal joy from her very existence. If my toddler were to design her own graphic tee it would say, “Mom is a dictator! I have no freedom! Please help get me my own place! Give me all your lollipops!”
Many graphic toddler tees have become self-help mantras for the adults that look at them. “Be your best self.” “You got this”. “Invent the future.” Nothing wrong with these words. These are things people need to hear. But why stamp them on a shirt that is only read and understood by the people not wearing the shirts? You may as well add, “Finally make a budget!” and “You’ll regret that midnight bagel!”
What kind of a world would it be if the rules for toddler graphic tees applied to adults? The rules seems to be: Say the thing the person in charge of you wishes you were thinking. Or say something celebratory about magical creatures, fattening food, or displays of affection. Or cats. Anything about cats. Our shirts would say things like: “100% Centaur!” “Cool like my boss.” “The government is my BFF.” “Frosting on a spoon forever!”
Lately, the themes of exploring the wild and laid back surfer mentality have stumbled into the mix. You’ll see a moose driving a van with a surfboard on top over a mountain (pink shirt for girls, orange for boys) with “Get out There” underneath in really cool font. Two whiskeys in, I’m not really sure what we’re saying here. Are toddlers up for adventure in a way that involves forest creatures? Why are we wearing surfing shirts in Wisconsin?
It’s a night’s worth of entertainment, for sure. If your kids are grown or if you don’t have kids, I still would recommend browsing the graphic tees of sites that specialize in middle-class price range kids’ clothing. Are we hopeful? Are we believing in the future? Is every big sister really the best in the universe? Do we still think mermaids might exist? If you believe everything you read on a size 4T graphic tee, the possibilities are endless.
Yoohoo! It’s the holiday season! Anyone eating too much delicious food because you deserve happiness? Or having old feelings you’d rather not feel again come to the surface? Anyone visiting family and discovering their angsty inner-11 year old self is still alive and well? Or going through Costco size bottles of bourbon?
This season is ripe with potential for emotional healing.
The flavor of my own emotional healing lately is 80% dark chocolate- the kind you almost want to spit out because it’s so intense, but once you get used to it, realize that Hershey’s tastes like wax. With the fair trade stuff I’ve been eating daily, I can taste the earth the cacao beans are grown in. It’s deep and delicious and potent.
In therapy terms, my dark chocolate looks like EMDR therapy. I’ve been doing EMDR therapy weekly for around 3 months now. From the EMDR Institute website:
“(EMDR) enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences. Repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal. EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma. When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound. If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain. Once the block is removed, healing resumes.”
It is bonkers how deeply ingrained some of those rusty old beliefs can be…you know the ones that tend to send you far off-course from the things you’d like to accomplish in your life or the things you’d like to think about yourself? Your true north may have you thrilled with your life and relationships, feeling fantastic about aging and who cares about what’s happening to your thighs, but those dang past traumas and beliefs pull you just far enough off the trail that you’re stuck on “Can’t Look in the Mirror Loop” or “Furious at the World Trail.” EMDR seems very much like a shortcut to getting back to your true north.
It’s not for the faint of heart. To heal some of the old stuff, you need to revisit the disturbing and painful feelings so they can lead you out of the brambles. But it’s not a long, extended visit. It’s a sit-down, a hello. It’s tolerable. But suddenly you see yourself in a different light and the world around you looks different too.
In all this emotional healing over the past few months, I’m realizing that on the flip side of feeling deprived or stuck in the idea of lacking this or lacking that….are old wounds, blocks or stubborn patterns of not knowing how to let love in.
Have you ever had the feeling like you’re being loved, but you just can’t feel it? Or you don’t trust it? Maybe you don’t believe a compliment or don’t accept a gift. Or feel you have to repay a favor?
If we really did come here to this planet to remember who we truly are- that we all have within us the unlimited love of the source of creation, that we are all individualized versions of that same source….then this whole process of noticing ways we don’t feel loved is just like noticing specks of dirt on your windshield. It’s getting the windex out so we can see more clearly just how much love we’re swimming in. Because love is fucking everywhere. And if we can’t feel it, there’s some unawake part of us hiding under the porch, asking for attention.
My wish for all of us this year is that love flows freely to all the deepest parts of us. To the parts that need it the most, the ones that have been asking for years in ways we couldn’t understand. I wish for us the nourishment of knowing that oneness and loving connection are birthrights, and not things to be earned by somehow being better.
I wish for all the tiny stones in our shoes that have made our walk feel painful…to be turned out onto the earth and spread onto our common path, just a little more gravel on the trail. The sound of our footsteps walking together is so sweet. I wish for us all to open to the sweetness and know that we matter, we are loved, and it’s ok to feel it.
With the 7 year anniversary of my dad’s death being tomorrow, I thought I’d share a song I wrote years ago about souls passing over, and how our bodies are really homes for the big divine. The electric guitar contribution in this tune was by Dale Kidd, a dear friend who loved this song and also passed away all too soon. We recorded it in Dale’s house and, at the time, my dad was still alive.
Both my dad’s parents are also passed over, and I’m not sure he’s spending too much time with them in the great beyond, as his relationship with them was contentious, especially with his mom. The stress of their relationship often drove him to triple brownie sundaes, though to most, she likely seemed harmless. She was around 5’3″ and had permed short hair, large round glasses, a sniffle that was like a repetitive tic, wore nylon stockings and slips- even with house slippers, and skirts held together with a safety pin.
When I was growing up, she and my grandpa would fly from Massachusetts to visit us near Chicago. When my dad drove them and my sister and I around in the family sedan, my grandmother would sit next to my dad in the front seat, worrying a kleenex in her hands to shreds, watching the road like a hawk, gravely warning, “Watch it, Tommy” anytime he inched toward another car to pass, or crept just pass the speed limit, or another car passed us, or if our exit was coming up, or if he was getting ready to merge. After 20 minutes in the car, inevitably my dad would say, “we’re just going to make a stop here” at one of any number of hot dog places in the area, and he would emerge with a milkshake to get him through the rest of the car ride.
I imagine he must have felt a bit like that kleenex in her hand, just worried to bits by her, yet he was always gracious and generous with her and his dad- buying them gifts, vacations, and hosting them for long visits. Whenever we visited them in Massachusetts, we would daytrip to both the mountains and the ocean. He may have gotten his love for the mountains from her, and I may have gotten my love for the ocean from him. Who knows how these things work and what we pass down to each other.
It feels a little weird to honor my dad by posting this song, since my dad didn’t listen much to the songs I wrote, but I imagine that when I do post this, for him it’ll be like attending some sort of otherworldly recital where he’ll pretty much have to listen. If he resists and tries to sneak away so he can go watch whatever football game is on, his mother may suddenly appear sitting next to him, and she’ll say, “Watch it, Tommy,” and hand him a milkshake to get him through.
Hello friends! After almost a decade of focusing my energies at home, this mama is headed back to work! I’ve always worked part-time since having kids, and then took a long break for over 2 years when our 3rd baby was born. And now I’m looking to dust off my credentials and get cracking!
Here is the new website:
The lowdown: prenatal yoga and healing services including neurovascular therapy (an even gentler cousin to craniosacral), Reiki, and EMF Balancing.
When my son was two, my husband and I were exhausted, and beyond frustrated in seeking answers for his insanely rambunctious behavior and his sleepless nights. We were wrecked with stress.
Though preschool and peer interaction was never a problem, home was a different story. He woke every 2-3 hours at night, needing “snuggles” throughout, and was up for the day at 4:30am. During the day, we saw endless, rigorous, willful, loud (so loud) opposition over large and small issues- as though his feelings were too big for him to manage. He had non-existent impulse control and we struggled with getting kicked, pushed, and yelled at daily. To simplify things and keep him safe in our home, we removed every breakable object from display and removed all furniture and decoration except a mattress from his room, as anything that wasn’t nailed to the wall or could potentially be knocked over or climbed was a hazard. His time with his older brother was limited as he couldn’t control his physical impulses to push, kick, and hit.
We were sad, frustrated, sleep-deprived, and stressed to the max. Time-outs weren’t working. Natural consequences weren’t working. Positive attention wasn’t working. Essential oils, herbs, supplements, dietary changes, and endless outdoor time weren’t working. (Nothing was freakin’ working!)
We wanted 3 things: family harmony, an empowered calm state for him, and stress-relief. We knew there had to be a way to create a more harmonious home and get some dang sleep, but we didn’t know how to get there. The answers weren’t coming from our family doctor, the sleep specialists, or the parenting books and blogs.
I have a background as a massage therapist and had been seeking out bodywork for him. Around once a month I had been taking him to a pediatric CranioSacral therapist who also was a pediatric Physical Therapist. Craniosacral therapy is a light-touch therapy that works directly to soothe and unwind restrictions in the body’s central nervous system. Watching him receive these treatments was like watching him melt into a state of calm we rarely saw at other times. She noticed that he liked toys he could pound on, that his legs sought the edge of the table, and that he liked to lean into her as she was working. These were breadcrumbs for her that his body was seeking a certain kind of input. After decades of working with kids, her intuition was pretty keen and she suggested we take him to an Occupational Therapist for an assessment, to see if they could provide some insight.
From the moment he had his assessment, I felt we were stepping into a world that could finally provide some answers we so desperately were seeking. The therapy room itself was a relief because everything in it was something that could be punched, flopped into, jumped on or knocked down. And to have an adult look at him and say to him, “Wow! You are so strong! You are so clever, look at how you use your body!” To hear him being celebrated with genuine sincerity…..it actually made me cry. Since then we have met with several different OTs, each with a different style and protocol, some covered by insurance. We began to observe our son in terms of what kinds of experience his body is seeking, rather than whether his behavior is ok or not ok.
The eyes of our OTs viewed him as excited, intelligent and enthusiastic, needing specific impact on his joints and muscles (proprioceptive and vestibular systems to be exact), and fully capable of learning to self-soothe. I can’t tell you what a relief it was to see him through those eyes. In OT, everything is a clue as to how his unique system works and how he is seeking to regulate that system. We all have ways that we regulate our bodies. Chewing gum, pacing, fiddling with our rings, crossing our legs…..each of us has different ways of grounding and relaxing. We were finally learning to observe how he was seeking to regulate his.
It is a true gift to be able to see his progress in managing his body, feelings, and impulses. Not just that, but it has allowed us to take the judgment out of the equation. It has made our family a team, working together, instead of opponents playing tug-of-war.
I won’t go into more detail here but am happy to speak with anyone curious about our experience. If you have an intuitive sense that your kid might be seeking something you haven’t yet put your finger on or you notice you are expending a ton of energy on just day to day life…OT might provide some answers. Feel free to contact me with questions about Occupational Therapy or the resources we have connected to around Madison.