Archives for May, 2010


Our Pets Can Be Our Emotional Anchors

A dear childhood friend of mine, who struggled through some very dark periods in his life, used to say that it was his beloved dog, Moe, who kept him moving from one day into the next and not succumbing completely to his addictions.
I couldn't ever get too drunk because I had to remember to feed Moe. I couldn't get completely stoned because I had to walk her.
On Mondays (Luna's Day) we share thoughts and stories about the meaning and value of animals in our lives.

So many of you have written in about how your pets have been anchors in your lives, sources of comfort and motivation and purpose. They are such poignant and beautiful stories, important to share here.

Greer wrote:
In the not so distant past, I was on the verge of homelessness and was going to have to foster my pets to get into transitional housing…the girls to a friend in Reno, the boys to somewhere as a friend was trying to find someone for me. When it came time to meet halfway to drop off the girls, I couldn’t do it. I broke. I was resigned to live in my car with ALL of my pets versus foster them to friends even. They are also what has kept me from killing myself as I have had a very difficult 2 years.
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This Mother's Feelings After Graduation

Hannah graduated from college a week ago, and I'm just now catching up with life-as-usual. (Among other things, I'm trying to get back into the swing of writing a blog post every day).

What a whirlwind of activities and emotions!

I'm the sort of person who processes thoughts and experiences slowly, so that I actually appreciate events more fully after they are over. During a Big Happening, I try and take lots of photos and absorb as much of what's going on as I can. Then, I sort through it emotionally later on.

A few mornings ago, over my first cup of coffee, I felt good, calm feelings beginning to surface, and so I quickly jotted them down before I could squelch or analyze them. What do I feel now that both of my kids are finished with college?:

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Listening to People With Whom We Disagree

This past Sunday, Former President Bill Clinton spoke at Yale University's Class Day. (I was one of the beaming-with-pride parents in the audience).

One of President Clinton's  observations was that it's important to listen to people with different points of view than our own.

"One problem we have in the modern world is, we've got access to more information than ever before, but we don't all listen to the same information," he said.

He explained that we have so much informational choice available to us, we can select the sources and messages we agree with and ignore the rest. This leads to a polarization of viewpoints, often with oddly distorted results.

"In our media habits, we go to the television sites, we go to the radio talk shows, we go to the blog sites that agree with us, and it can have very bizarre consequences" he said.
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The Wonderful Names We Give Our Pets

On Mondays (Luna's Day) we share thoughts about the value and meaning of animals in our lives.

As I read the wonderful tales you've shared about your pets, I have especially enjoyed all the marvelous names!

I can feel the warmth and love radiating out from these sweet, clever, tender monikers you've bestowed on your beloved animals.

Reading them always makes me smile, so I collected up a list of your pet-names to make you smile, too!

And please do write in with the names of your own pets and I'll make the list longer.

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A Good Poem at Graduation Time

Of course this is a hugely important time of year for me, as all my students finish up the school year and many graduate.

This year is extra special, since my own daughter, Hannah, is about to graduate from college.

Yesterday, I called Geico to take Hannah off my automobile insurance, and it was this odd moment (The years of carrying kids on my policy are OVER!) that made the transition real for me. I sure will enjoy those lower monthly payments, but still...

Here's a lovely, poignant poem which has the same bittersweet feel, of those transition points that make you aware of Life's flow:
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A Good Poem About Whether A Parent Deserves Blame

We've been talking about parents and how they affect the mental health of their children.
I really like this thoughtful this poem by Tony Hoagland, in which:

a man enters therapy, and
he comes to view his father as the source of his psychological problems.
He calls his father and rails at him for all the supposed damage
the older man's inadequate parenting did.
The son then realizes that he was too harsh.
After all, his father is just a well-meaning, elderly man.
His father even paid for his son's therapy!

I especially love Hoagland's realization that...

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Kids Really Don't Listen; The Limits of Parental Power

Here's the biggest piece of non-news you're likely to hear today: Kids don't listen to their parents.

Part of my living depends on this fact. As a tutor, one of the features that makes me effective (besides my knowledge, training and experience) is, simply, I am not the parent.

Kids listen to me, behave for me, accept my advice, work hard for me, whereas they often won't do any of these things when their parents sit down and try to help them.

I also know this from our home schooling days. The toughest kids to educate were my own. Other parents complained of the same problem; their children wouldn't cooperate, wouldn't take instruction. For this reason we started a home school co-op, where we traded lessons and taught small groups of kids, including our own. When our children were among their peers, they would listen to us because their pals were listening.
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Therapy Animals Provide Comfort and Connection (Part Two)

[On Mondays (Luna's Day) we've been sharing insights about animals and their value and meaning in our lives.

Several people have written in to share appreciation for the very special role their companion animals have played in their lives.

Ray described how much his service dog, Sarah, means to him:
...I am trying to do all that I can to prepare for the loss of my service dog and companion of, now, 14 years.

Sarah came to me at 3 months and has traveled with me to many places. This includes physical as well as emotional places. I cannot imagine life without her, nor do I want to.
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Therapy Animals Provide Comfort and Connection

[On Mondays (Luna's Day) we've been sharing insights about animals and their value and meaning in our lives.

I recall the last weeks of my father's life, especially the day that my brother brought Moose, his enormous, gentle Rhodesian Ridgeback, to the hospice.

Every resident wanted to touch and pat Moose, who patiently made his rounds and gave everyone a generous turn.

The synergy between each dying human being and this warm, friendly dog was magical; the whole building seemed to glow with a quiet contentment and appreciation for these moments of aliveness.

So, I am especially delighted and moved that my friend Joan agreed to write this two-part post about her work with therapy animals. - LPC]

In my experience, animals provide invaluable benefits to humans both as pets and service animals. The National Pet Owners Survey of 2007-2008 found that about 71.1 million people in the United States are pet owners, owning at least one dog or one cat.  Most pets provide unconditional acceptance to family members.

There are many health benefits to interacting with animals.
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Do Timed Tests Really Measure Math Ability?

Why do they have these timed tests, like 25 problems in 3 minutes?

This is an excellent question.

I currently work and have worked with quite a few students who receive extra time on standardized tests, and I know for a fact that colleges do not factor this into their decision.

Meaning, if we have two absolutely identical students A and B, and A scores a 2100 out of 2400 with regular constraints while B scores a 2200 with double the time, B gets in and A doesn't.

So, first, does time really matter? And second, if it does, why does time matter?

My sister has argued that students should not freely be given extra time. I think my hypothetical identical students identified this problem. Her basic point is that in the real world (or a college environment), speed and time are factors. Take two engineers applying for a job: it's obvious that the guy who's faster at math has a practical advantage.

Yet, I've worked with students who just need more time, and for each of them, I'm so glad that they get the opportunity to let their true intellectual power show.
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