Do what you love to do…

This weekend, Neil was away at his Mother’s birthday party in Washington DC. The trip was a short one, leave early Friday return mid-day Sunday, for this reason we thought it would be less crazy if I stayed home with the kids while he went. Plus I am travelling starting Wednesday morning for six days and the turnaround would have been a little too much for me to retain balance!

Right now I travel more than Neil. When I come home I hear all these great stories about how the family watched movies, went out to dinner, played golf, hung out at the house, etc. All the things that Neil loves to do, and the kids love it too. I thought while he was away I would do some of the things they love to do with their Dad. My hope was that it would be a fun treat for them and something different for me.

Funny thing though, as we were out at the movies, going out for food, going to the scalectrix race car track,  they seemed not very psyched. I mean they had a good time but they were a little non-pulsed. On Sunday, after a full morning/afternoon of playing with their friends, we had some down time togehter. We sat on the couch, snuggled and I read them some books: this is something I love to do. We had fun, we were more connected. I could tell because once the activity was over they wanted more. Then we decided to go for a before dinner bike ride. As we were riding around, we were chatting away about spring, the leaves on the trees, the flowers, their school days, etc. The kids both commented on how fun it was. As we were zipping down a big hill, I heard behind me whoops and hollers of laughter. The both cried out, “Mom, this is awesome! You’re the best!” Music to my ears.

What I learned this weekend is that no matter how much my kids love an activity, if I am doing it for them, to please them rather than just thoroughly enjoying it myself, the kids (people) around me will sense it. Their enthusiasm will be luke warm. But when I do something I love, like reading and bike riding, people around me will sense that as well and the enthusiasm will be commensurate to the amount they sense coming from me.

Moral of the story: do what you love and people will be drawn to you. The more I grow into myself, the more I recognize what I do for others (hard not to do a lot for others as a parent), and what I do for myself. The more I feed the self-part, without neglecting my current responsibilities, the more capacity I build for myself, and the more fun I and others have when they are with me. Invite perspective, discover, feed, be what you love.

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Triggers and partnership

The other day I cut my finger. Well, not just one finger but two. I was in a rush, well actually I was triggered. When I get triggered I start to move fast, I lose the ability to ask for help and you better get out of my way because if you are not helping (how could you, I have not asked) you will encounter a tense, brooding person who will not look you in the eye (and actually see you) and cannot sustain conversation outside of who does what and what goes where.

I had not connected being triggered with moving fast until, in debriefing with my loving partner my pre and post cut finger behaviors, he pointed out the connection. I stood there, tried to defend myself, failed, let go of my desire to be right, reviewed in my mind past circumstances and eventually said, “Damn, you are right. How come I never saw that before?” Since being revealed to myself (others have been aware of this pattern since they’ve known me), my world opened up and I will tell you how.

First, what is a trigger? Second, why is it important to understand them?

A trigger is:

Trigger  n : Something that acts like a mechanical trigger in initiating a process or reaction;  vb:  to initiate, actuate, or set off by a trigger  <a remark that triggered a fight>  < a stimulus that triggered a reflex>

Behaviorally, it is a habitual way of reacting to stimulus both in the body, reflected in external behaviors (something a video camera would catch, but banish that thought!) and in the internal conversation of our mind (which normally includes blaming someone else and/or always and never statements). This internal conversation helps shape our external behaviors. If I think Neil has done something wrong and I get triggered, I tend to get haughty, righteous and disgusted with him, which gets reflected in the shape of my body and in my ability to connect. Not much connection with someone who thinks this of you, eh? Is this how I want to be in relationship with the man I love? Uh, no.

If we understand how we get triggered in our body and mind we can begin to notice its frequency and the types of situations that ‘trigger’ us. We get perspective on ourselves which then gives us a choice. Instead of being blindsided by our own behavior, we begin to see it when it is happening, and with practice, before it happens.

Physiologically, it takes about 90 minutes for the body to rebound from the processes set in action post trigger: adrenal response, hormone release, engagement of the sympathetic nervous system (fight/flight response) resulting in tension in the body, loss of deep breath and other body process which help us remain calm. How would you like to regain those 90 minutes and all those words you said and how you acted…?

In my body, ninety percent of my days, I move around untriggered: my body moves easily, feels relaxed, I can take big breaths, I breathe in my belly, and I physically take up space. Once triggered I shift: I get busy and I move and talk fast. My whole body gets tense. The tension begins in my diaphragm area and then my shoulders come up by my ears and roll forward, my jaw tightens, my eyes narrow, and my movements stay really close to my body. I lose my ability to breathe deeply and my breath stays high in my chest. These are my behaviors. With a video camera you can see the shifts, it is visible. Scary, eh? If I initiate these behaviors I start to feel triggered. It’s a physical habit. Cause and effect.

In my mind, I blame others. I loose connection with the present moment and create my reality by telling stories. I start saying always and never statements. “This person has always done me wrong.”, “They never turn in their work on time.”, “I never hear thank you.”, ‘I always do everything.” Recognize these statements? In our mind, we review all the instances that reinforce these thoughts, which keep our body stuck in the trigger.

Most of the time I cannot stop a trigger already set in motion, I am not that good, yet! In the past, when I got triggered, I would keep it to myself for if I revealed myself I would, die? Right? At least it felt like that. It is hard for me to reveal my weaknesses and unbelievably helpful, and this alone has opened up my world.

Since placing my awareness on knowing how and what triggers me, I can let myself and other people know that we are moving into trigger territory. Then once I get triggered I am not alone. Funny how everyone else knows when I am triggered, I am the odd one out, the person not in on the joke. Now, I know if I admit being triggered what follows is conversation, I am included, the help I need comes to me, and I can find humor (at least this is what I am working toward) in my behaviors. This is a remarkable gift for me and for those around me.

If we engage help, practice noticing, practice the behaviors we know help us calm down, then we can shift out of our triggers with grace and levity. Invite perspective.

Tarragon Shallot Dressing

I love French tarragon! If you have not heard of it I will tell you tarragon is the best: spicy, peppery, full bodied yet subtle and powerful at the same time. I fell in love with a long time ago when Jerry Traunfeld (an amazing NW chef who wrote The Herbfarm Cookbook) had me put it in a shrimp risotto, YUMM!!

Since them, my garden is full of tarragon! I buy more every year. Tarragon and mint are two of the most used herbs spring through fall in the garden. My tarragon from last year had just sprouted and I had gone to Swanson’s to buy more which was waiting to be planted when we headed off to visit my parents in Florida for spring break.

When I got to my parents, I did as I have done since I could reach the handle, I checked the fridge. Now that I am older I am no longer looking for ice cream, beer or kool-aid (didn’t your parents make that colored sugar water for you too!), now I look to see what they have that I can use up or not buy. This time I saw some shallots that looked sort-of new, but they are shallots right? Storage onions! I was determined to use them in the course of our stay.

Well I had my chance. We invited Neil’s brother, his wife and their four kids to dinner at my parents’ house. His brother’s family was also on vacation at the same time in the same town, what a treat! The kids had some cousin time, Neil had some brother time and I got to hang with my friend on the beach! My parents we gracious (they love to entertain) so we all got to have dinner together on the awesome lenai at their house; and I got to use the shallots!

My Dad was making the ultimate Florida fish feast. I was charged with supporting the meal with grain, vegetables and salad. When I was at the store I picked up some tarragon, because I was obsessed. I knew what I was going to do with the quinoa, green beans, and broccoli raab (thanks Kirk and Deb!) but I was tired of my winter dressing and wanted something new. I grabbed the i-pad and typed in tarragon shallot dressing.  This link came up http://www.alexandracooks.com/2009/01/04/prosciutto-endive-shaved-manchego-salad-with-tarragon-shallot-vinaigrette/ . Of course I augmented the dressing and the content of the salad and it turned out amazing!! Thanks Alexandra for the inspiration! Everyone loved the meal and dressing, and we all had a wonderful time!

This dressing is my new favorite. Having tried it out on some Seattle friends, it is a confirmed keeper as they loved it too! Enjoy this spring is here flavor. Here is the recipe:

Tarragon Shallot Vingarette

4 tsp champagne vinegar

1 tbs finely chopped shallots

½ tsp Dijon mustard (I prefer Grey Poupon)

¼ tsp honey (warmed slightly so it is liquidy)

¼ tsp sea salt

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 – 3 tbs finely chopped tarragon

In a ball jar or other jar with a lid, combine the vinegar, shallots, mustard, honey and salt. Let mixture macerate for 20 minutes (this is important!). Pour in olive oil, put cover on jar and shake a lot (or you can whisk in the olive oil, I am never patient enough to do this). Add tarragon and shake again. Taste and add more salt or pepper if necessary.  Dress overwintered garden greens or store bought lettuce and spinach combination. Enjoy!