Blood Doesn’t Equal Family

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

familyThink of the first five people that you would call in an emergency. Are they blood relatives? If they’re not, do you consider them to be part of your family? Family is not just about who you are tied to biologically.

Blood may be thicker, but your body is still made up of 70% water. You can’t live without either substance, and the makeup of your family probably isn’t much different. Unfortunately, there is still a misconception that biological ties are stronger than others. Family may be blood, but those who are not biologically related can still be family.

There is no clear definition anymore of what a family is, particularly with the way things are changing. Same-sex marriages are becoming legalized all over the country; high divorce and remarriage rates produce blended families. Adoption is common for all types of couples. And this isn’t even counting the “aunts” and “uncles” who aren’t really related but still an integral piece of the family unit.

I have learned firsthand that a family consists of those who care about and support you.Unfortunately, this doesn’t always mean blood relatives. Many of the people who are my family share no blood connection to me whatsoever, including two of my sons and one of my daughters, my brother-in-law, and some dear friends who are as close to me as my own siblings.

Families come in all shapes and sizes, and blood ties are optional.

Being the “Cool” Mom – How To Get Kids Talking

Getting real With Candi Wingate

You want your kids to feel free to speak with you about anything that crosses their minds.  You want them to perceive you as “cool” enough to handle well whatever they are thinking and feeling.  What can you do to encourage your kids to speak freely with you, even about difficult topics, and to rest comfortably in the knowledge that you are “cool” enough to handle each such situation well?

Invite your kids to talk to you.  It sounds all too simple, but many parents simply overlook this.  All you need to say is, “Please know that you can talk to me about anything.  If you just need me to listen, I can listen.  If you need information, I will provide that for you to the best of my ability.  Whatever is on your mind or in your heart, you can tell me about it.”

Ask your kids questions about their lives; act interested in their answers, in their lives.  Questions may include:  “How was your day at school?” or “How is your friend doing now that he’s had surgery?”

Make time for the discussions that are important to your kids and give your kids your undivided attention.  We all have busy lives, but don’t miss those precious opportunities to hear about and respond to what your kids are thinking and feeling.  When your kids tell you that they need to talk about something that is troubling or confusing them, stop whatever you are doing, and just listen.

Ensure that your verbiage and body language are accepting, non-judgmental.  If your kids tell you something about which you feel judgmental, do not project that.  Judging others puts an emotional and behavioral distance between you and them.  It also makes others less likely to share thoughts and feelings with you in the future.  Instead, if your kids present you with a discussion that may trigger judgment, offer support instead.

If, during your discussion with your kids, you promised to do something, do it.  Then, follow up with your kids to let them know that you did the promised task.

By following these tips, you can encourage your kids to speak freely with you, even about difficult topics, and to rest comfortably in the knowledge that you are “cool” enough to handle each such situation well.

As the former nanny for a couple with five children, Candi Wingate quickly learned about the needs of a modern day family.   Based on that experience, Wingate, now a wife and mother, purchased her very own nanny placement agency.  Based in Nebraska and serving the U.S. and Canada , Nannies4Hire’s booming online database registry serves more than 500,000 families, nannies, and babysitters. The rapidly growing agency has developed ongoing relationships with The Dr. Phil Show, Supernanny, Good Morning America and TLC’s hit show Jon and Kate Plus 8.   Ready for the next level, Candi has also launched Care4Hire.com, a database registry for personal assistants, tutors, eldercare, and other services. For more information, please visit www.nannies4hire.com.

How to Give a Relaxing Foot Massage

Getting Real With Lisa Van De Graaff, LMT
(A special thank you to Mandie Gleason of Wellspring Naturals for the use of her feet!)

There are few things we can do for that special someone that are more relaxing than a foot massage. The gift of loving touch can certainly be given at any time, but there is something special about a Valentine’s Day foot massage. It is a truly generous devotion of our time and attention, focused on nurturing our lover. (Between you and me, it is also a free and readily available gift if you have forgotten to buy a card.)

In my work as a licensed massage therapist, I often find the foot massage portion of a bodywork session is the most soothing for my clients. It is when I hold their feet that they let go of their thoughts and worries and just be in their bodies.

To make the most of a gift of foot massage, here are a few basic techniques to try that will make him or her feel comfortable, loved, and relaxed.

In preparation…

Atmosphere
Creating a space for a foot massage will help to honor the time you will spend together. Lowering the lights will help put your loved one in that relaxing parasympathetic state of mind and remove some of the distractions of the home. Some music will provide a focal point for the mind, and a comfortable chair will cradle them.  The right atmosphere pulls them away from everyday worries and lets them focus on your touch.

Positioning
We often think of foot massage with the recipient’s feet in our lap, perpendicular to us. However, the work will be far more satisfying, more equitable for each foot, and easier on our hands, wrists, and thumbs if we face our lover and place the soles of their feet directly toward us. This can be done on the sofa, or better yet in a recliner. There is an added benefit of facing each other in that the moment becomes more intimate and attentive to one another.

Aroma
Whether your partner is a runner or an accountant, when dealing with feet, there is always the possibility of an unpleasant odor. I think the best approach to remedy the situation is to bathe their feet in soapy water or simply with a warm, moist washcloth. If you find you need something more cleansing, try some spritzes of witch hazel. A couple of drops of essential oil can also be nice. The go-to oil for relaxation in a spa is lavender, but I find it is often too astringent. If your lover is a man, I suggest sandalwood. For a woman, try rose or jasmine.

Oil and Cream
I don’t use much oil and cream on the feet, since I don’t want people to slip and fall when they get up from the massage table. However, for a gift massage at home, it can be a nurturing addition to the treatment. Cream is good for calloused feet and will absorb quickly, enabling deeper massage without slipping. Oil allows for more glide, it is generally warmer, and it has a more sensual feel. For absorption, natural oils and creams will always work better than petroleum products– I find grape seed, apricot kernel, and jojoba are particularly effective, and you can certainly add a couple of drops of essential oil to any of these.

The Massage
The most important thing in any massage is confidence. You must touch your partner with tender assertion so his or her body knows it is in good hands.

To start, rub a tiny bit of oil or cream (about the size of a nickel, no larger than a quarter) into your own hands and then hold their feet for a minute – just be with them. Take a deep breath for yourself and watch your lover take a breath.

Pick a foot and apply the oil or cream to their feet, ankles, and lower legs with that confident, loving touch. Feel all the curves and crevices and think about how much those feet do for the one you love. Be in the moment.

Starting just below the knee, use the thumb side of your palm to gently press the muscle (tibialis anterior for those interested in the anatomy) along the outer edge shin bone (aka the tibia). This is the area that needs work if your lover drives a lot, or is athletic. It feels good to everyone, so long as the pressure is gentle.

Staying on the same foot, begin working on the ankle. Use your fingertips to make tiny circles around the inner and outer ankle bones (malleoli) simultaneously. Continue down to the heel with circular and/or downward strokes. Linger.

Move back up to the top of the foot and use gentle (but confident) fingertip pressure between the bones of the foot. You can press and move and press again or glide four times from ankle to between each of the toes. This is a good place to ask your partner about pressure – Are you pressing hard enough or too hard? This massage is about relaxation, not fixing problems.

Now begin work on the bottom of the foot. There is a lot to do here, and thumbs wear out quickly, so make a loose fist and brace your thumb against your forefinger to press into the bottom of the foot. Massage with direct pressure, small circles, and downward or upward strokes. Be creative, curious, and playful (but no tickling). Remember to massage the toes and the heel.

After massaging the entire bottom surface of the foot, give the foot and calf a little stretch by lacing your fingers between the toes. Use the other hand to hold and stabilize the heel, and use the palm of your hand to press the ball of the foot back gently.

If your lover wears heels or runs, loosen their toes by mobilizing the joints. Place a hand on either side of the base of their toes and rub in a figure eight. You will undoubtedly hear a sigh from your partner.

Finish this foot with some squeezes and strokes all over the foot, ankle and lower leg. Kiss a toe if you are so inclined, and cover the foot with a warm blanket. Then continue on the other foot.

Foot massage for relaxation is about nurturing your sweetheart and being present with them. Take your time. Enjoy them. Love them.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

I Love You, Mommy!

Getting Real With Jennifer Poole

Every morning, when I drop my daughter off at the school daycare, I say I love you. She always responds “I love you too, Mommy.”

The other day another mother overheard our exchange. She asked me how I got my daughter to do that? I was caught by surprise. She said it must be because she is a girl because her boys will never say it.

As I drove to work I pondered her statement and realized that she was wrong. My boys tell me they love me everyday. Yes, it is a habit that has been ingrained in them since they were small and I am usually the one who starts the exchange but they still say it.

Every morning when my 17 year old and my 18 year old boys head out the door to school, I tell them “Have a good day! I love you!” They always respond that they love me too. Granted some days it is a grumble of a response, but it is still there. Every night when all of my kids come to say good night, they say they love me and their dad and give us hugs. Again some times it is half hearted but it is still there.

I know better then to try to make my kids hug me or say they love me in front of their friends, but because it is just something we do in our family it is something they rarely shy away from. I don’t know if it is because it is something we have done since the day they were born, or if it is that we have learned to make the most of every day because who knows what tomorrow brings.

Either way, I love that I get to hug my kids every day and tell them I love them several times a day and have them tell me they love me. What a great way to start and end each day!

The (Dreaded) Christmas Newsletter

Getting Real With Shadra Bruce

I admit it. When the trend of sending out the annual family newsletter accompanied the invention of the deskjet printer, I was pretty disheartened. The holidays, which had already become a bit impersonal, took a giant step toward becoming … gasp … corporate.

As a corporate refugee, anything that comes to me looking like it was created for mass delivery to many different people was suspect.

I wrote personal, handwritten, greetings to each of the 45 families on my Christmas card mailing list. I asked personal questions and tried to connect with each one in a meaningful way.

I did not have kids.

In other words, I had a LOT of time around the holidays to sit and write sweet handwritten greetings to the whole world. And, the letters were probably filled with self-serving diatribe about my latest accomplishments.

Gag.

(It’s ok if you puke now at my holier-than-thou attitude about the world. I was in my 20s. It was a common ailment among us gen-xers at the time).

Fast forward (ouch) almost 20 years, with five kids, advances in technology, and the distance between me and the people I would love to spend the holidays with, and I’m now a huge fan of the annual newsletter – both sending and receiving.

I love the “year in review” moments to catch up with my loved ones, and appreciate that my computer allows me to say more than my carpal-tunnel suffering hands would allow were I to still write by hand.

To keep it interesting, we include a corny holiday poem each year. My friend Crystal does a top-notch holiday newsletter, though, with wine and book recommendations that make it a delightful read.

So, here’s to the annual newsletter and the true purpose behind it: to stay connected in a world in which doing so has both become easier to do on the surface and harder to keep personal.

What Would I Do Without Facebook?

What is it about Facebook that makes us all a little bit voyeuristic? Have you noticed how much of the minutiae we all share about our lives these days? I’ve been doing it for a living longer than Facebook has been in existence, so I’m used to the tell-all, share-all, and so are my kids, but it has become something of phenomenon.

Commonly, my status on Facebook is “Ack.” It’s a generic term that goes up whenever it gets to be late enough that Dave is cooking dinner and I’m still tied to my laptop trying to finish  an article or develop a publishing schedule for a new blog client.

Here are the most recent updates from some of my friends –

“Honesty may be the best policy, but it’s important to remember that apparently, by elimination, dishonesty is the second-best policy.”

“Our golden tickets have arrived! I CAN’T WAIT!”

“Getting started on a transcription/article project on cosmetic dentistry. Yup, this is the ‘”amazingly fascinating’ stuff that pays the bills! LOL”

“Who’s all going to graduation tonight? I’d rather not sit JUST with my family.”

“I am tired of all this rain, I just want to be able to enjoy the sun and warm weather.”

And oh, the pictures! Everyone shares pictures of everything they do. I have 22 albums on Facebook spanning the last few years.

For me, these aren’t meaningless statements or pointless attempts at vanity. These are the little moments that keep us connected and let us be a little bit a part of each other’s lives across the miles. We post on Facebook and Twitter when we’re sick; we share special moments. We have the opportunity to wish someone a happy birthday whose name isn’t carefully carried from one year’s calendar to the next.

Some people say we share too much information. Some say it’s all a waste of time. I say thanks to Zuckerman and others who have made the world a small enough place that I can feel close to the people I care about even when we’re far apart.

Shadra makes her home in Bath, New York – 2,318 miles from her closest family member.