The S.T.U.C.K. Method

Five Simple Steps to Emotional Well-Being


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STUCK on You Ain’t Gotta Heart!

I love nature.

Who doesn’t?

And when I woke up this morning witnessing two birds building a nest outside my kitchen window, I got excited.

To be able to watch nature take its course.

And show my children.

And simply be in awe of God’s daily miracles.

My first thought was that I should document this nest building process.

Knowing that I’d be home most of the day and knowing that building a nest takes time, I figured I’d check in every 1/2 hour or so and video just a few seconds.

Check out my first 20 second clip, which shows one bird bringing a branch to the second bird who was watching over the branches that had been already collected:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvQJfnhylpA&feature=youtu.be

birdNow, tell me that isn’t cool!

My 3 year old thought so, too.

In fact, when he made it to his school this morning, it was the first thing he told his teacher.

And she responded, “Well, you know what? We’re going on a walk this morning.  How about we take a walk to your house and you can show all the kids?”

And, that’s just what they did.

They quietly entered the house and as they entered the kitchen, I picked each child up, one by one, so that they could watch the birds in progress.

And, as they left I thought to myself, “Nature as your classroom – Awesome educational opportunity, if you ask me.”

So, as you can imagine, I was excited for this day to unfold.

Until I heard a noise in the kitchen.

And, asked my husband what it was.

Who responded, “I just got rid of a nest that birds were starting to build outside our window.”

YOU WHAT?!?!?!?!?!? (I yelled in my mind.)

“YOU WHAT!?!?!?!?!?!?” (I yelled out loud for all the neighbors to hear.)

“This is the nature at its best!!!!!!!!!!”

“This is an educational tool for us and our kids!!!!!!!!!”

“How could you destroy someone’s habitat???????”

“Our child’s school was JUST here, minutes before you walked in, and they all got a peek of what was going on.  They wanted to be a part of this process, too!!!!!!!!”

“Tell me, have you got no heart at all????????????”

And, he responded defensively:

“What, you want a nest outside our window?”

“What about all the diseases birds carry?”

“You want that coming into our house?”

“And, what are you so excited about anyway?”

“There are a zillion trees in the area.  Why can’t they just build a nest in the tree next to our house?”

I stopped.

Because I saw it.

I was stuck.

On something relatively quite non-gargantuan in size.

Yes, I was frustrated that he didn’t consult with me before he made that decision.

But, the truth is, he didn’t even consider it a decision which required consulting.

And, what was underneath it all was probably the oppressive heat and a poor night’s sleep I had the night before.

And that I didn’t meditate this morning.

I knew I was already starting my day off on the wrong foot.

So, I changed perspectives quite quickly, accepted that he didn’t do anything intentional to hurt or spite me, recognized the irony that my husband has got one of the biggest hearts I know, and ultimately apologized.

Within seconds.

Which is wonderful.

Because as much as I wanted to protect that little nest, I also want to protect the nest I already have and worked quite hard to build.


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Stuck on Writing a Children’s Book (again!) OY!

My first blog post (written in August 2013 under the blog entitled “Stuck on a Branch”) was dedicated to acknowledging the irony of how, for quite some time, I was so stuck on (and not succeeding in) writing a children’s mindfulness book that I was missing the point of the mindfulness practice that I was trying to teach in the first place  (i.e. learning how to stop/breathe, and just notice/acknowledge my emotions, and consider if my perspectives of life’s situations could be seen in other ways.)

Once I recognized this, I vowed to take a step back from it.

And I did.

And started this blog.

Which has not only been incredibly personally fulfilling and therapeutic, but it has given me the venue to express my “STUCK” model to others.

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Until about 3 days ago, when (for whatever reason) I started thinking about that children’s book concept again.

And, I sat down at the computer to hash out new ideas and I became not only excited about the idea, but convinced that it could be really good.

No, not good, great.

Compelling!

Sellable!

010At the same time,  I received an email that a local Canadian-born author, Carol Novis, would be visiting Hannaton and speaking about her experiences writing and publishing her children’s book: The Adventures of Mary Fairy.

I actually thought it was destiny.

So, I went.

And, I learned a lot of things.

The author challenged us with many questions, such as:

1) What age is your book geared towards?

And while I always considered my book geared to 5-7 year old children, I realized that actually, the concept that I am trying to teach is way too sophisticated and mature for that age group and it would be more appreciated and valued for children 10 years and older.

2) Do you have a compelling plot?

No, I thought to myself.  I have a character (though, that keeps changing) and I have a message.  But, no real plot.

3) Why do you want to write a children’s book?

I responded to myself, “Because I have a message that I want to share.  And, more than that, I have a message I want to share to my children!”

4) Can you find a book that is similar in content/style to the one you want to write (in order to help guide you)?

Yes! I just found such a book (translated into Hebrew from English, though I’d love to get a copy of the original for my kids!) called: Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes.  It’s a fantastic short picture book about happiness, teaching a great life lesson in a fun way.  It is written so well and cleverly that my younger children ask to hear it each night.  They know most of the words to the book and they sing Pete the Cat’s “song”.

Thinking about it, this book is probably the closest thing to the book I’ve been wanting and trying to write over the past year.

*********

As I walked home that night and discussed some of these revelations with a friend/writer/blogger/coach friend of mine, and told her how I was thinking of changing the character from a monkey to a train (who would literally get stuck, as in: stuck in a junction, stuck in traffic, stuck in the muck, etc.), she stopped me for a moment, just to suggest that trains as images for children usually lose their attractiveness by the age of 5.

Right, I thought to myself.  Of course.

Anyone would know that!

And, as I said goodbye to my friend, I was convinced I had to go back to the drawing board AGAIN.

It was then, in the middle of the road on my walk home, that I realized I was stuck.

On writing this children’s book.

Feeling totally compelled to write a book.

That has no plot, no set character, and only a life lesson (which kids don’t really want to learn unless it’s well hidden in the story).

And so,

I Stopped (S).

Literally, on the way back to my house, on the road.

I just stood there for a moment.

And took a breath.

And acknowledged (T) how I was feeling: the desire to share my ideas with others; the belief that I have a compelling idea to share.

And checked what may have been underneath this all: (U) – That maybe (just maybe?) I’m feeling like I’ve amounted to nothing in my life.  At the age of 40, with 2 degrees and 1 professional certificate, I’m not advancing myself professionally the way others around me seem to be doing so. And maybe (just maybe?) I’m thinking (unconsciously) that this book could be the thing that is going to pave the way to my professional success and fame.

So, I considered other perspectives:

  • If I have an idea to share, perhaps I can do it in another way besides via a children’s book,
  • The regular “Stuck in the Muck” blogging that I’ve been doing over the past 6 months has been a venue for sharing my “stuck” ideas, not only with friends/family and people I’ve never met, but for my oldest child (who subscribes to this blog) and discusses each post with me.
  • And, that maybe this blog post will be the book that I eventually publish – whether it’s just spiral bound at the local print shop or whether I take the time and energy to actually self-publish it, and it can be a legacy that I leave to my children for them to learn and grow from.

S0, there, you monkey mind of mine!

You can forget about this children’s book idea for now, because I’ll be continuing to focus on my blog for now.

And enjoy Pete the Cat: I love My White Shoes each night with my kids and be happy.


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STUCK on Wanting to Parent YOUR Child

The pool season has begun on Kibbutz Hannaton.

Many parents (including myself) bring food up to the pool and share it with others.

Yesterday, I brought some goodies from home including some delicious, ripe cherries.

Everyone went wild.

Teenagers approached me with, “Can I have some?”

Young children approached me with, “I want some, please.”

Toddlers approached me by holding out their hands and saying, “Please.”

And of course, I shared (happily) with one and all.

I even gave seconds to those who returned for more.

But, I found myself having an issue with one child.

Who (for whatever reason, apparently even his own parents don’t understand) is afraid to ask me for anything.

And apparently, I’m not supposed to take it personally.

It’s not me.

It’s him (the parents tell me).

That is, he’s afraid to ask for things from any other adult (when his parents are present).

Yes.

When his parents are around, he’s afraid to ask for things on his own.

When his parents are not around, he’s another child completely… happy, care-free, and confident.

It’s a recurring behavior that I’ve noticed and to be honest, I’ve started to get annoyed by it.

Why does his parent have to approach me with a somewhat slow and baby-ish voice, “Shira, our son is really scared to ask for cherries (or crackers, or popcorn, or carrots, or anything else) that you’re offering.  So, I’m asking for him.  Can he have some, please?”

And, I always acquiesce.

I always put my judgmental thoughts to the side.

Because, well, I’m not his parent.

And, I’m certainly not going to parent him in front of his own parents.

Until yesterday.

teach

When after round 2, the father approached me (once again in that baby-ish, pleading tone), “Shira, my son would really like more.  Can he have some, please?”

“REALLY???” I responded, which probably came across quite obnoxious.

“Really?” I looked at the kid.

“I think you can ask me for some more cherries,” I encouraged him.  “I’m your friend.  I sometimes babysit for you.  You play with my children.  I’m your mom’s friend.  We live next door to each other!  You’re in my house all the time!  For sure you don’t have to ask your mom or dad to ask for you for some cherries.”

“Why don’t we give it a try?” I suggested.

“I’ll count to 3, and you just say, ‘please’ and then I’ll give you some cherries.”

“Want to?”

All I got in return was a quizzical look.

But, I counted anyway.

And at 3, when he didn’t respond, I encouraged him to try again.

But, he just turned his head away from me (trying to win this battle, are ya? I thought to myself).

So, I walked away.  (This’ll make him learn, I thought to myself.)

I gave out more cherries to those who wanted (and asked!).

And then, only a few cherries remained.

I felt badly for what I did.

So, I returned to the child.

And told him I came back specifically to give him the remaining cherries, if he wanted them.

But, that I didn’t know.

Until he asked.

I gave him a few seconds to ask, but then he just started bawling and crying to his father to ask for him.

And while the father was trying to get to the bottom of this, my child (who hadn’t had any cherries yet, asked for some and I allowed him to take the few that were left).

So, in other words, the boy was left with nothing.

(Though, don’t forget, he already had 2 handfuls.)

I left the scene leaving two confused parents and one hysterical little boy behind.

And as I walked home, I questioned what the heck I just did.

Did I do the right thing?

Or, was my “parenting-ego” in the way and I just totally screwed up?

So, I Stopped and took a deep breath.

I Told myself how I was feeling and checked what may be Underneath it all (frustrated with this child’s recurring behavior.)

And considered if I could have Chosen another perspective:

  • That perhaps the parents are working through this issue with their son;
  • That perhaps the parents don’t mind asking for things for their child;
  • That perhaps the parents have no clue to the source of this behavior, but believe it’s going to pass soon enough and so they’re consciously not making a big issue about it;
  • That perhaps it’s not my role to parent other children, when their parents are right by their side.

Had I gone through this stuck process then, I know I wouldn’t have made a big deal out of this scene in the first place (just like I haven’t done over the past few months with this same child) and I would’ve just given the cherries to the boy when the father approached me for the third time.

****************

So, last night I sent a letter to the parent apologizing for my behavior and acknowledging that it would have been best had I not said a thing and just handed the cherries to their son when he requested.

I acknowledged that I was just trying to help out, but realized that I was really just imposing my parenting style on him, which wasn’t right.

I was nervous about the response, but actually was relieved and delighted to learn that my friend not only accepted my apology, he encouraged me not to worry about it.  He thanked me for caring enough to write such an email and reinforced that they (as parents) are purposefully not making a big deal out it, believing that when he’s ready, he’ll ask on his own.

***************

One of the things that I’m learning most about this STUCK process is that no matter how many times I catch myself, no matter how many times I reflect on what happens in my life with a sense of honesty and awareness, the opportunities for getting stuck don’t diminish. They’re always out there.  Everyday.  Several times a day at a minimum. I just need to keep practicing to wake up to them in order to learn how not to react to them in an automatic fashion.

And so, again, I take some dedicated time to just sit.

On purpose.

And do nothing else.

So that when these moments arise, I can feel comfortable with that familiar place of non-reacting/non-doing.

And acknowledge the many benefits that this practice brings to this world.


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STUCK on being the WORST mother in the world

So, once the Bat Mitzvah saga died down, my daughter decided on an evening party that would incorporate both activities (run by her mother) and a standard dance party” (what my husband and I were trying to avoid in efforts to create something more unique and meaningful).

In any event, the plan was to facilitate 12 activities (each 10 minutes long) in which each activity would represent that year of childhood.

For instance, the activity for year 1 was for the kids to sit on the floor and roll balls back and forth to each other.

Year 2 – a spinning contest

Year 3 – blowing bubbles

Year 4 – playing with balloons

Year 5 – coloring and writing personal cards to Ayalah,

And so on and so forth until age 12.

Yet, as the old Yiddish proverb goes, “Man plans and G-d laughs.”

And, oh boy, was G-d laughing on Sunday night.

The night actually started out lovely as the 50 12-13 year olds sat nicely on the floor watching the 8-minute video montage that my daughter and I created.

Great, I thought to myself. These kids are calm, disciplined, and respectful.

This is going to be a great evening.

And, my daughter is going to love me forever.

Yet, it didn’t take me too long to realize that my ingenious idea wasn’t going to be as successful as planned.

All I had to do was open my eyes and watch the boys pegging each other during “year 1”.

Oh, boy.

Chaos is what ensued.

I got nervous.

I cut that activity short and went right to the next activity, “spinning”.

Which the kids liked, but for some reason, I couldn’t get the music to play loudly enough, and without the music the atmosphere for that activity was more or less lost.

OK, the bubbles they loved… They really acted like 3 year olds – each grabbing for his/her own bottle as if it was the first time they’d ever seen bubbles in their lives.

But, the boys just couldn’t handle the balloon activity. While the girls were appropriately tapping the balloons back and forth, the boys (unbeknownst to me) were running to the bathroom to fill theirs up with water.

And, consequently creating water bombs which made a complete mess (which later I stayed up until midnight cleaning up.)

I lost it on a few of the boys, reprimanding them on respect – both for Ayalah and the place and for me.

The coloring was actually the most successful activity so far – each kid taking a small notecard and writing a blessing on it for Ayalah.

But, at age 6 – when I taught the kids “Duck, Duck, Goose”, one of the girls who was being chased by the goose, slipped on the spilled water from the balloons and fell on her knee. She burst out in tears and was complaining of pain.

In my eyes, the night was going from bad to worse.

There was so much noise in the social hall that I didn’t even try to get their attention for activity for age 7.

The girls were acting almost as wildly as the boys at this point.

I started to panic.

I still had 1.5 more hours to fill before the bus would come to take them home.

As I was getting more and more frantic, I kept peeking over at my daughter, wondering what she was thinking.

Which either had to be:

1)      My mom is embarrassing me. I wish she never had this idea. I wish we never even had this party. This is a disaster. Where is the closest rock I can hide under? I want to cry.

2)      Or, ….

Actually, I didn’t think there was an “or”.

I was stuck on the fact that my daughter wanted to crawl into a hole.

I was stuck on being the worst mother in the world – for wanting to do something different; for wanting to create something meaningful for my daughter, and for just ruining her whole celebration in the worst way.

I was stuck on, “Why didn’t we just order a freakin’ DJ and keep it simple, like all the other girls in the class did?”

I stopped and took a breath.

I walked over to my daughter and asked how she was doing.

She convinced me that she was fine.

She showed no sense of being upset or embarrassed.

She seemed genuinely happy.

She suggested to me that we should just put on some music on and let the kids dance.

I agreed.

So, we played some music (although again, it wasn’t playing loudly enough from my laptop to really enjoy it).

And without a DJ, after about 5 songs, we ran out of music.

And we still had 45 minutes to go.

Lucky for us (or THANK YOU G-d!!!!), one of Ayalah’s friends asked if she could plug her Ipod into the sound system.

“Do you know how?” I asked naively. “Are you sure it would work?”

Confidently, she reassured me that it would be fine.

And, it was.

Her music played.

And, loudly!!!

And, within a matter of minutes, a group of kids crowded by the sound system turning themselves into the party’s very own DJs.

I dimmed the lights and the kids were in all their glory: dancing, jumping, hugging, giggling.

IMG_20140608_225038

At the end of the evening as the kids left, each of them thanked me, said “Mazal Tov!” (Congratulations!) with a great big smile, or said “This was the BEST party ever! We had so much fun!”

And better yet, my daughter thanked me with complete sincerity.

So, while I had earlier been stuck on being a terrible mother, I came to Choose another perspective which was – that I tried my best.

I really did.

I planned, I ordered, I reserved, I created, I bought, I set up, I coordinated, I facilitated, I swept, I mopped, and I cleaned up.

I did the best I could.

And, lucky for me,  I have a daughter who recognizes that.

And, if I could think of one only one blessing that I would want to offer her, it would be to bless her with the gift of compassion: that is, acknowledging that whatever effort her family or friends do for her, it’s probably done out of their best ability and their best intentions.

And, no matter how any event or experience turns out, she should remember that.

And, the truth is if she already knows and lives by this, then I just may have to be stuck on being a great mom for having taught that invaluable life lesson to her in the first place.


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STUCK on HAVING to ANSWER the PHONE

I’m not sure why I have this belief:

That if my house phone or my cell phone rings, I need to answer it.

I’m required to answer it.

answering the phone

It doesn’t matter if I’m in the middle of an activity:

Like working

or talking with my children

or eating

or driving

or doing yoga

or writing a blog post for that matter.

It the phone rings, I answer it.

I don’t stop to consider if it’s a convenient time for me to speak.

I don’t stop to consider how, by answering the phone in this very moment, I may react to the person on the other end.

I just answer it.

And, why do I do that?

Maybe because I feel like I owe it to the callers.

To be available to them.

At their beck and call.

Like I’m stuck on having to answer that damn phone.

(Even though I definitely don’t always feel this reciprocity in reverse situations.)

But, a friend of mine who was recently over at my house and noticed how I was stuck on answering the phone while we were in the middle of a conversation, helped me to realize that I could stop and choose another perspective.

That telephones can be viewed as impositions.

And that we don’t owe it to anyone to answer the phone at any given time during the day.

And that we can actually choose to say “no” to answering the phone,

and that we don’t have to feel badly that we would be, G-d forbid, insulting the caller by not answering at that exact moment (whether we can identify who the caller is or not).

Looking underneath this all, I’m guessing the root of this is just plain old desire (to please the caller)… desire, which appears a zillion others times in our lives everyday.

Like while eating:

The desire to finish what’s on your plate,

The desire for the next bite,

The desire to eat when others are eating,

The desire to eat dessert, even when you are full.

And so, in the framework of STUCK, I pause and breathe,

in order to be able to consider changing perspectives,

in order to be able to choose another way.

And, so I will practice.

To be more aware and pause when I hear the phone ring,

and not act like a Pavlovian dog responding out of conditioning.

And, for fun, I’m changing the signature on my outgoing emails that I write from my cell phone to read:

Blessed are You, G-d, who has given humans the wisdom to have created the cell phone and has also give them the knowledge and ability to know when not to answer them.

And then, I guess I’ll probably have to do the same practice for emails.

And, Facebook.

But for now, one practice at a time.