Family and Pets

Five Words We Don’t Say/Hear Enough

Words are my love language. It took me a while to determine and accept this. Many have read or heard about the Five Love Languages. They include: Receiving of Gifts, Words of Affirmation, Physical Touch, Acts of Service and Quality Time. I believe there could be a sixth or at least a subset of one of these, Giving of Gifts. There are those who are filled up when they give presents to others. The entire act of shopping, wrapping and then the giving fills them with joy and sense of being loved. This is not me, not that I do not like giving people gifts, just that it causes me stress rather than fills me up.

Initially I thought Words of Affirmation were my love language and set out to fulfill this need in my life. I told my husband repeatedly (also known as nagging) until it hit home. At some point in our relationship he began writing me a simple note every morning before he left for work. He left the note by my sink where I would be sure to find it. Each note brought me a smile, a laugh and a feeling of being seen, missed, loved. Over time I realized his words meant a lot to me, not just the ones that affirmed me, but all of them. The ones telling me about his day, what was on his schedule, his worries, his dreams, his issues.

I felt equally loved if his note was about how beautiful he thought I was or if it was simply telling me his alarm failed to wake him, he was running late, Bye! The message was in the act, not in the words exactly. I began to notice I felt the same way when taking time to read an uplifting story, blog, or listen to a podcast meant to edify and encourage listeners. Ultimately I found I was also fulfilled when I was the giver of the words rather than the recipient.

I told my daughter-by-choice today, I was proud of her. It seemed to take her by surprise. Immediately I took stock of the times I tell my daughter and son-by-birth how proud I am of them. I enjoy letting them know I am proud of them when they try, when they fail and get back up, and when they succeed. I also enjoy telling them I am happy for them when they accomplish something that brings them joy or satisfaction.

While taking stock of how often I do this and how often I have heard this, I realized I could not think of a single time my mother told me she was proud of me. I believe my mother was and would be very proud of me. If she were here today to see where I am in life, I believe she would tell me she is proud of me. She told me she loved me, time and time again. I am very thankful for that and the memories of it. And yet, I realize I long for the memory of hearing her say she is proud of me. Knowing we are loved is a wonderful feeling. Feeling we are seen in a crowded world is comforting. Hearing someone is Proud of us, who we are, what we have done, all or anything we have tried to do, inspires us to continue.

I worry we are waiting, withholding those words until we deem they are worthy. Not wanting to give them too soon, too quickly, concerned in doing so the recipient may think, “Well, they are proud of me, I have arrived!” What if they stop there? What if they know I am proud and decide that’s good enough? What if they don’t? What if in hearing how proud you are of them, they are inspired to go further? To try harder? To take an even bigger risk? What if one success leads to another and another? All because of these five simple words:

“I Am Proud of You!”

Writing For The Moment

Living the Life You Dream About

I would never label myself a dreamer. In fact, most likely the exact opposite.

dream er (n)

a person who is unpractical or idealistic

To me, a dreamer is someone who has grandiose idea(s) with no plan or means to act upon, complete or sustain their idea. . For me, a dreamer has their head in the clouds and the silver lining keeps them there, floating high above reality and those of us more accurately labeled pragmatics. There was a time when people such as these were as irritating as a thorn in my sock, poking through just enough to irritate my skin. *

I have spent my fair share of time dreaming about what it is I would love to be doing. Activities, vacations, even the so-called perfect job. Envisioning the environment, the office, the co-workers, and the tasks, large and small that I would be responsible for. The scope varied from running an orphanage for children that would never be adopted but instead live under my care, showered with love until they were old enough to begin a family of their own. To a private Family Therapy practice that helped families of all shapes sizes become the best family they could be while learning what has brought them to the point that they are at in their life of dysfunction. (Disclaimer: Obviously I am simplifying here in one blanket statement that in no way covers the wide array of families I would serve.) Or a quintessential Bed and Breakfast that erred on the side of comfort with just the right hint of luxury. Many a nights I lay in bed dreaming of how these would look and feel, the pleasure and joy they would bring to others and thus to myself. Drifting off to sleep with a renewed sense of hope that I could live the life that I was dreaming about.

Awakened by the blaring sun pouring in my window, the light forced my thoughts, along with the hope from the night before, to be neutralized and set back on the straight and narrow. Here’s the deal with living the dream, most often it is just that, a dream. It is the answer to the question, “If you could do anything, no holds bar, nothing could stop you (not lack of money, lack of education, where you live, who you are now), what would you do?” The problem is reality. In real life there are so many things to stop you from simply doing what you would love, or think you would love, to do.

Lack of education, a degree, money for start up capital, one or all of which would be needed, are often the cause of delay or complete derailing of the pursuit of happiness. And for some, where you live might be the biggy putting a damper on your dream. For instance, if you would like to be a deep sea diver and you grew up on a farm in Montana. Not a lot of access to water outside your front, or your back, door. Stories abound, a large percentage about women, single moms in particular, who have gone back to school in order to pursue a career either of passion or due to a passionate desire for financial freedom. Also known as, getting the creditors off your back. I truly admire these women/individuals. It not only takes guts, it takes grit.

Lack of education has held me back from pursuing most of my dreams. Having looked into what it takes to start a private mental health practice, I have seen first hand the daunting mountain it is necessary to climb. High school diploma, followed by a Bachelors Degree, then a Master’s Degree and finally a minimum amount of supervised experience are all required. All things told, even if I were able to go to school full time, I was looking at a minimum of 6 years of schooling. Knowing I wouldn’t be able to go full time due to family obligations, 8 was more realistic. Eight years!? That seems a life time, not mention the juggle of college classes and family life seemed overwhelming on a good day, and impossible every other day. It wasn’t the first time I had looked into this dream. The first had been when I was a newly divorced, single mom. Going to school full-time, working full-time, and raising a child in elementary school did not even seem remotely possible, not even for a dreamer.

After seriously looking into it when I had a partner to help support myself and my daughter, filling out some college applications and checking the cost, I began to question if it was really the dream I wanted to live. As much as I love listening to others, trouble shooting their problems, concerns, issues, asking questions that lead to a-ha moments, the idea of once again being obligated to a set schedule with office hours that are less flexible than flying by the seat of your pants, is not exactly what I wanted in life. The question remained, what is it that I truly want? What is my dream life? The answer, unfortunately, does not equate to a steady income. Quite frankly it may equate to no income at all.

My dream week day would consist of:

Reading (a few chapters of a book of choice)

Working out (work out video or go for a run)

Coffee with a bit more reading

A bit of house work (load of laundry, make the bed, etc.)

Lunch while watching a movie or a show (or out with a friend once a week)

Writing (a blog post, an article, work towards a novel)

Afternoon tea with a book

Time with my son (play games, go for a bike ride, soccer practice)

Cook dinner for my family

Once a week:

Volunteer with a women’s group or

Mentor a teen girl or

 

Writing groups or

Bake or

Walk someone’s dog….

Weekends:

Church

Family/Friends time….soccer matches, game nights, dinners

Volunteer events

About a year ago I began seriously writing my memoir. I joined a nine month program called Memory Into Memoir, now known as The Narrative Project. With specific weekly and monthly goals I made headway towards what had seemed a lofty goal. At the end of the nine month I was given the opportunity to sign up for an additional six month group that would push me forward in the process to finish my book. I held back knowing some life changes were on the horizon for my family that would take a good deal of my time and attention. Either that, or I was self sabotoging my book writing. The jury is still out on that one.

The progress I made was very encouraging, it was also very scary. What if I really did finish my book and send it out into the world? What if a publisher picked it up and printed my story? I found this realization equally exciting and terrifying. While considering my story and the book I was writing I thought about the platform that I hoped it would create. Writing the book would not be enough, sharing my life, my experiences, my mistakes, and my triumphs were ultimately meant to help other women who found themselves where I had been. Or better yet, teen girls who were on the same path looking for a fork in the road and the ability to choose differently. It was in that search where the idea of obtaining my license to be a mental health provider/family therapist became more serious to me. Having that degree would give me credibility, make me an expert on the subject. It would be a fantastic addition to the by-line on my book jacket cover, website and anywhere else anyone looked up to see who I was.

I would not be: Kristi Lyn Reddy the formerly abused wife telling her story. I would be Kristi Lyn Reddy, CMFT, sharing my story, my knowledge, my expertise in an effort to help other women. Those letters, CMFT (Certified Marital and Family Therapist), bearing the weight I needed to be taken seriously. I believed it would also help me obtain speaking engagements to share my story with groups of women around the city,  state,  country, maybe even the world. Not for fame and notoriety, in an effort help as many women as I could. To use my story for good. To live out my purpose. Getting those letters to have behind my name overwhelmed me. Once again, I had to stop and think, Is this my dream life?

Maybe, but maybe not. I am certain I want to use my life to help others. I am willing to use my story in any way I can in order to do that. I am not certain I want be a therapist. Putting the idea of school on hold I decided instead to focus on writing. The struggle has been juggling my time, but more honestly allowing myself to use my time to write when it isn’t a ‘job’. To me, a job is something I get paid to do. Obviously when starting out writing (and for some writers forever) you don’t get paid much, if at all. Unless you are Stephen King, you aren’t getting $400,000 for your first novel contract.

Fortunately, I have an incredible partner who believes in me and encourages me to follow my dream, my passion. He agrees my story needs to be told and also holds the same desire to live out our purpose in life. So much so, that he will be retiring from his full-time job, one that he has worked at for over 30 years very soon. Upon retirement he will join me working full-time in real estate. There will be a time of transition with me training him on areas that he has not assisted me with over the past 13 years while he worked with me part-time on weekends. Over time he will take on more as I continue to assist him as his designated broker. I will then have more time to invest in writing: blogs, articles, my memoir, and other books. It appears the only thing, or person, standing in my way, would be me.

I hereby, grant myself permission to pursue my dream. To write, now and more going forward. Typing that, invigorates me!

What is your dream life? Rather than think what you would do, no holds bar, no strings attached, think, what am I willing to fight for? To strive for? To go the extra mile for?

 

*Note: My idea of a dreamer is tainted by past life experiences. Many ‘dreamers’ lead successful lives and create, cause, lead amazing lives that touch others. 

Family and Pets

I Don’t Want to Be Like Him

A hard reality I have had to face, I am more like my father than I would like to be. Many times I have told myself in one of the many conversations I have had with myself over the years, I will not be like my father. I will parent differently. I will show compassion, unconditional love, patience, forgiveness, empathy, tenderness in the most difficult of moments, and so on. And while I have parented in a very different way than my father, I have at times been just like him. So much so, that as I stood there looking into my child’s eyes consumed with rage I have seen myself, the little girl I once was, looking back at me.

It happened today. My son stood there looking back at me, his nostrils flaring open and then closed as he sucked in the oxygen around him. I was fuming, standing there towering over him, daring him to not listen to me. His eyes locked with mine. Click. I saw myself looking back at me, and yet I knew it was my son. In that moment I knew exactly how he was feeling. Part of me, the part enveloped in anger, the part that felt all-powerful, wanted to keep going. It wanted to turn up the faucet of over flowing verbal sewage that was blasting down on his head. The other part of me, the little girl who knew what this felt like, the part that knew he had done nothing wrong, nothing more than any child might do, and knew that this struggle was over control and power. That part of me inhaled the oxygen that would flood my brain with common sense, compassion, patience, and clear the stupidity that was clouding my judgment.

Our eyes still locked, I exhaled. My body moved towards my son as my arms wrapped around him and drew him in for a hug. Tenderness from my body spread to his and he melted against me. His arms encircled my body as his head rest on my chest. We two became one. I held him there for many moments allowing what had transpired to be healed and washed away.

“I love you buddy. I’m sorry I was angry. It’s really no big deal, you just need to go back outside and ask your friend nicely not to do to you what you did to him. How would you feel if he had thrown show at your head? Go out there and talk to him. I’ll watch and if it doesn’t go well, I’ll come out and help you. I think you can take care of it.”

“Love you too, mom. I’ll go try.”

His hands released me as I gave him one more squeeze. I watched as he headed back outside. The door closed behind him. Cautiously he walked towards his friend, “Hey, I’m sorry I hit you on the head with that snow. I didn’t mean to. Are you okay?”

“It’s okay and yeah, I’m fine.”

“You want to play lazer tag instead?”

“Yeah, let’s go!”

Off they went, problem solved, friendship reunited.

I turned back to what I was working on breathing a sigh of relief. For a few moments I had been him, just like him. Zero to 100 on the anger scale, with no room for compassion. This time, like others in the past, something came in and took over bringing me back to reality. As much as I don’t want to be like him, I need to remember him and how I was when he was like that to me, to help me be the person I wished he had been. One day, one moment at a time.

 

Life After Cancer

Basking in Perfection

It’s barely past noon on hump day. The sky is grey and thick with clouds that block out even the slightest glimpse of the blue sky that I gazed upon this morning. And yet, I find myself, hands wrist deep in warm sudsy water washing the dishes with stuck on food that sat upon the counter from yesterday no less, with a smile on my face. There is a warmth in my heart that only comes from the feeling of being content. No, more than content, satisfied. No, more than satisfied happy. No, more complete than happy, accomplished. Or maybe it is all of the above together. A perfect combination of satisfaction, happiness and accomplishment with the overall understanding of being content.

This morning I woke to my ‘alarmy’. It is a phone app that you schedule alarms and choose the method in which you will turn that alarm off. You can either shake your phone a specified number of times, solve a math problem or take a photo with your phone camera. The point being by the time you have done one of these things you are awake and most likely out of bed. Thus you are more likely not to go back to sleep. I am anti alarm clock myself. I don’t recall the last time I owned one. When I got our puppy though I quickly realized I preferred to be the one who determined when we woke up than he. And so I set this alarm clock for the both of us. Each morning as it goes off I pick up my phone and turn it towards puppy who is sitting in his kennel waiting, albeit not always patiently or completely quiet. He begins to dance around in anticipation that I am going to let him out of his kennel. I shake my phone the appropriate number of times to turn the alarm off as I walk slowly across the bedroom to the puppy. I set my phone down on the fire-place mantle and proceed to put on my jacket and socks knowing the first thing I will be doing is taking a puppy outside to go potty. I’ll save you the details from there.

After walking Michael to school with Mr. Bailey (the puppy) I headed in a different direction than our typical daily route. Last night in one of those imaginary conversations with myself I had determined that puppy and I would take a longer walk this morning. We walked across Greenwood and north to 145th St to the entrance to LLandover by the Woods. A trail that goes down through the forest. It was actually one of our better walks with Bailey only stubbornly sitting down refusing to walk one more step a handful of times. You have no idea the accomplishment this is. He tends to stop and sit as any dog aproaches. Not out of fear but in hope of meeting the dog. He does the same any time a human being, young or old, is passing by. No matter if they are on the same side of the street or the complete opposite. Once in the woods Mr. Bailey was all in a-tither. He loved it! For once he was a few steps ahead of me the whole way. As we neared the end of the trail we turned around and headed back. Mr. B so far has never failed to recognize that we are ‘going back’. His pace quickened a bit more and I found that we were jogging up the hilly trail. Good for both of us. My heart began to race and my breathing labored. I was the first to slow the place. Bailey could have run the whole way back. One day I will too. At the top of the trail we slowed again as he realized we were leaving the woods and heading out into the noisyness of the streets. If only we hadn’t been heading home he would have fought me for sure. He seemed to be able to sense that the direction we were heading would lead to home and thus be worth walking on the busy street sidewalks.

Back at home Bailey spent some time out on the back deck giving Maya (one of our kitties) a hard time. She hissed and swiped ineffectively. Bailey did seem to sense she didn’t want to play, much to his dismay. Persistant as he is, he tried again and again to approach her but her mood never changed. Full on anger with growling, hissing and swiping continued no matter the direction he tried all the while his tail stub that it is wagging 100 times a minute. Finally I pulled B back and let Maya run down the deck to the yard. Not exactly where she wanted to go but better than the alternative of being with the puppy. Bailey and I headed inside where he curled up on the rug looking satisfied and tuckered out. I sat down to my computer and began writing. I began the first of what I hope will be a children’s early reader series about Mr. Bailey. This one is entitled Mr. Bailey Comes Home. Another will be Mr. Bailey Walks in the Forest. And another will be Mr. Bailey meets Griffey. I’m sure others will come to me as time goes on. I tried not to worry too much about the details just yet in regards to the vocabulary, number of words on the pages or in the book. I focused on putting the words in my mind on the screen. Editing will come later.

My home phone rang as I typed. It was mom. The one and only person other than telemarketers that calls my home phone. Each time it rings I think to myself its either a sales call or it’s mom. I hope for the latter. Mom and I had a lovely chat. Her greeting was filled with the smile that I know was on her face and her strong and warm embrace reached all the way through the phone line and encircled my body. We shared the blue sky that we were both reveling in here in Seattle for me and up north in Everett for her.

As per usual she asked how I am doing. Letting me know that she and dad pray for us every day but wondered if there is anything specific or new that they could lift up in prayer. I shared how I was doing and then let her know that Tom and I were just talking last night about Michael, our strong-willed child. So much alike and yet in this so different from his sister. On the one hand there are character traits in a strong willed child that when honed correctly are the design for a strong independent leader. On the other hand strong willed children can be tyrants, bullies, stubborn and disrespectful. Deciphering the difference, cultivating the positive traits and knowing when and how to discipline the negative is not easy. Mom offered godly wisdom with examples and scripture. Go to the source she said, the Bible and tell him that just as you are called to obey God he is called to obey his parents. Part of my job as a parent is to obey God and raise my child the right way. Which includes teaching him to honor his father and mother, to respect authority and to ask forgiveness when he doesn’t. The part I found intriguing was the idea of sharing with him that I have to obey God in training him to obey his father and I. So often kids feel like the parents are the ones telling them what to do and never being told what to do. That doesn’t seem fair. Hearing that I too am called to obey just as my son is was eye-opening for me and I hope it will be for our son as well. It was really nice to listen to advice from mom, a grandma who loves and cares for our son and only wants the best for him.

I went back to writing, taking a break here and there to hold my sweet, loving and still tuckered out puppy. After eating lunch I looked once again upon the pile of dirty dishes not getting any cleaner sitting there on the kitchen counter. It was then that I also noticed the little red light on the dishwasher indicating it was full of clean dishes. After emptying the dishwasher I ran hot water to get the task at hand done. As I washed each dish scrubbing away the dried on food I couldn’t help but noticing how I was feeling.  Content, happy, satisfied, accomplished, as though I had been doing exactly what I wanted to be doing from the moment I stepped out of bed until right then. And to think it was just barely past noon. More hours left in this day, more time to be with puppy, to write, to clean my house, to walk to pick up our son from school, to prepare dinner for our family and to clean up messes. Oh yes, there will be messes….. in fact puppy peed on the floor during part of this perfect day. In his defense he was so excited to be once again trying to convince Maya that she should play with him. She on the other hand was a hissing, growling swatting claws out mess of anger. He got so excited he peed! Oh puppy.