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Paris Pitt a la Assumptions

While walking with my husband on a street in Paris last spring, I noticed a couple guys sitting on some ancient church stairs with a Pitt Bull by their side. I approached the guys and the Pitt immediately started wagging her tail. I asked, in very broken French, if we could love on her a bit as we hadn’t seen our sweet doggers in a few weeks. One of the guys indicated that she was VERY friendly and loved attention. I kneeled down, let her sniff me and then went in for an ear scratch. Her mouth pulled back into that goofy Pitt smile that always melts my heart. She then rolled onto her back so I could rub her belly.

My joy turned to horror when I saw a red, raw scar running from the Pitt’s chest to her belly. As I looked closer I saw that she also had a series of small scars running across her muzzle and a ragged torn ear. My thoughts jumped to the conclusion that she had been used as a fighting dog. My eyes locked onto the owner as I asked if he fought her. He motioned to his own face which displayed a nasty set of scars running ear to ear. He explained that she had saved his life. My mind created a terrifying narrative involving the French mafia, high level crime, drug trafficking and my face ripped to shreds by this now scary animal at the snap of his fingers.

What my brain found confusing was that this dog was seemingly so friendly and gentle. The guys appeared kind, approachable and genuine. He noticed my reaction and went on to explain, “that’s what happens sometimes when [...]

It’s Only Life After All

“The best thing you’ve ever done for me is to take my life less seriously,
it’s only life after all.” – Indigo Girls

 

The last time I saw my mom, dementia had progressed to the point of her not remembering minute to minute. I told her I smuggled some contraband candy into the nursing home for her. Her eyes lit up and she inquired “what kind of candy?’ I told her both Peppermint Bark and Candy Corn (two of her favorites). She pointed to the Peppermint Bark and asked to try it. “Wow, that was good.” Then she asked, “What’s in the other bag?” I gave her a few Candy Corns and she smiled and then asked, “Well, what’s in the other bag?” (Indicating the Peppermint Bark.) We continued this pattern until both bags were significantly lighter. As I prepared to leave, she grinned and said, “Next time you come to visit, why don’t you smuggle in some contraband whiskey?” She died unexpectedly 2 weeks later.

About a month after her death, I was sorting through the mail. I had received two envelopes. One envelope was her burial notification and the other from a pest control company. I opened what I thought was the burial notification and the letterhead read “HIRED KILLERS” and an invoiced amount of $1.175.00. My mind raced to the thought “WTF, someone was hired to KILL MY MOM and they are charging me for it?” Until I asked myself, “what’s in the other envelope?” I’d forgotten that the name of the pest control company was “Hired Killers.” No doubt, this was my mom’s uncanny “gotcha” for not smuggling in the contraband whiskey.

My mind loves to find meaning and purpose in sucky life experiences. [...]

Sophie on Stress

Hi, Sophie here,

It’s been a while since my last blog. Sorry, I was on drugs for the first week after my operation. I spent my days looking at all the pretty colors and sleeping like a puppy. Now, I am 5 weeks post-surgery. In dogs years it seems like FOREVER. I have had my fill of rest and recovery. I’m ready to run, play and wrestle with my sister, Lucy.

It is stressful waiting for my leg to heal. I have to stay in my crate while my humans are at work, because I’m not so good at impulse control. This is so boring that I chewed up my bed and man-oh-man was my human mad when she saw that. I want to please every-one, especially my humans, so this stressed me out even more.

My lady human was listening to an audible book on stress, The Upside of Stress, by Kelly McGonigal. I figured I might as well listen along while I was healing. Here is what I learned:

Stress isn’t bad for you but believing stress is bad you is bad for you
Stress is a signal that you care about what you are stressing about
Stress can give you energy to rise to the challenge
Stress can help you make new friends and keep the friends you have made

This makes good sense both to and for me. I want my humans to love me, so after the bed-chewing incident, I was an extra good, loving dog. I have had to rise to the challenge of taking the time to heal. This is hard, but so are the two walks I take daily. I know I’ve got to walk even when [...]

By |July 26th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments|

The Wisdom of Sophia: Part 3

We go to the building with all the animal smells this Friday. The doctor tells us if my leg has started to mend itself.   I’m afraid to go. Even though I’ve been a really good girl at my human’s office, I can’t resist running and playing with Lucy when I get home. It’s so much fun, even when my leg hurts. Impulse control has never been my strength.

I think I will need surgery to fix my leg. This scares me a lot. My human’s voice changes and gets quiet and slow when she says the word surgery. She looks like she feels sorry for me. I remember this look from my puppy days in the animal shelter. People would look at me with sad eyes and would pet me but never wanted me to be their forever friend.

I don’t like the afraid feeling, but I want to feel whole and happy again. I don’t like to take the icky pills my humans try to camouflage with peanut butter. I don’t like to let Lucy always win at rough housing. I want to play tug with my humans. I want people to look at me with happy eyes and talk to me in the excited voice.

My human said, “Courage isn’t the absence of fear. It’s feeling the fear and saddling up anyway. “ When I think about it, I do courage pretty well. When the annoying neighborhood dog pack comes to MY backyard and scares Lucy, I puff up my chest and growl to encourage them to back off.   When the mean man came to my human’s office, I growled and gave him my best Buddha stare until he left. Sometimes I even growl and [...]

By |May 26th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments|

The Wisdom of Sophia: Part 2

I go to the office 3 days a week now. My human says I am there so my leg will heal, but I have an ulterior motive. I am pursuing my CMSW (canine master’s of social work.) My human loves her work, loves the people she sees, she loves me (a LOT) AND I love her, so why not give it a try? Hey, a gal needs a purpose while she heals right?

The most important thing I’ve discovered while at the office is how to love and appreciate humans by LISTENING. I’m a natural listener. I pay close attention to almost everything people say, until I fall asleep. I’ve learned that I should listen to understand, not to judge or defend my turf. I do this with other dogs too. I can tell a lot about a dog by listening to their bark, yip or growl. My motto is “why bite when a growl will do.”

Part of listening is also about hearing the way humans talk. My human calls it “listening beyond the words”. When people are upset their voices sound different. If they are stressed they talk really fast. If they are sad they make the runny nose sounds. If they are mad, their voice gets loud. My ears go really high when they laugh. Laughter is my favorite human sound! It tells me people are embracing their true “doggie nature” (which means more love, fun and less stress.)

A listening advantage that I have over my human is my great sense of smell. My human NEVER sniffs anyone. Smell is my doggie super power. Not to brag, but I can sniff a single blade of grass for a long time and figure out [...]

By |May 18th, 2016|Blog|0 Comments|

The Wisdom of Sophia: Part 1

I’m learning about the balance of rest and play.  I played too hard, for too long with my sister, Lucy AND my friends at doggie daycare.  I hurt my leg.  It’s been sore for a while, but I’m pretty tough and can act brave even when I am afraid and hurt.

My mom took me to the doggie doctor and after he poked and prodded me everywhere, he said I had a torn ligament and I need to take it easy.   When I think really hard about this, it makes sense.  If all I do is play, my body misses out on rest.  It’s fun to hang with all the dogs but I need to remember, I’m not a puppy anymore.  Heck in dog years I’m almost 30!

It’s not so bad at the office.  My mom calls me her co-therapist and has sworn me to confidentiality (what ever that means.)  I greet and sniff all the great people who come to see her.  I try to listen to everything they say, but eventually I get tired and fall asleep. I ’m pretty sure I snore and fart in my sleep but no one complains.     Even though it’s not the same as playing with my dog buddies, chasing cats or playing tug with my mom, it’s probably what I need right now.

I’ll post more next week, I promise.

Peace Out and Pitts Rule,

Sophie

Constructive and Destructive Stress

“What would you think if I sang out of tune? Would you stand up and walk out on me? Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song, and I’ll try not to sing out of key. I get by with a little help from my friends, I get high with a little help from my friends, gonna try with a little help from my friends.” The Beatles

Healthy, constructive stress is like a friend who gives you perspective and focus while shining a light on the your strengths, perseverance and vision. This friend reminds you “Keep going, you will get through this, you can do it.” You walk away from the interaction feeling a renewed sense of clarity and possibility.

Damaging destructive stress is the frenemy who smiles (or maybe it’s actually a sneer) and reminds you “Don’t to sparkle too much, dream too big or live life out loud because it isn’t safe, people may judge or laugh. You could fail.” You walk away from the interaction feeling defeated, powerless and small.

Your mind is a messy interplay of thoughts, feelings and actions. You can’t control the thoughts that pop into your head or the subsequent emotions that lift you up or tear you down. You can, however, improve your awareness of both constructive and destructive thoughts and the emotions that follow.

Your Friend (Constructive Healthy Stress) helps you:

Focuses on solutions to problems you control
Sees problems and life as it is
Be mind full and effective in the present moment
Prioritize solvable problems
Motivates you to take action and get stuff done
Recognize that you care about the outcome of the stressor
View stress is an uncomfortable feeling
Pursue hopes and dreams
See the [...]

I still fall on my face sometimes and I can’t color inside the lines

“I still fall on my face sometimes and I can’t color inside the lines. I’m perfectly incomplete. I’m still workin’ on my masterpiece.” Jesse J.

As the story goes, Thomas Edison failed over 10,000 times before he invented the light bulb. During this process, a well-intended colleague said, “Tom, give it up. This will never work.” Gritty Tom replied, “Dude, I’ve discovered 9.999 ways NOT to make a light bulb. Why stop now?”

Grit is a fundamental component of success in all areas of life. Grit involves staying the course despite failure, adversity and progress plateaus. Too often when a goal or task feels challenging or uncomfortable, we back away and/or give up. Life limiting, what-if thinking reinforces our fear of failure.

“What-if I look stupid? What-if people laugh at me? What-if it never works? What-if I fall on my face?”

Thomas Edison’s light bulb illuminated the world. His grit helped him kindle a flicker of hope despite numerous failures. I imagine his what-if thinking embraced a light at the end of the tunnel.

“What-if I learn from my failures? What- if I take myself less seriously? What if I am more than the sum of my failures? What-if I feel afraid and do it anyway?”

In the spirit of honoring Tom and improving my grit, I proudly present my Beautiful Failure Resume. It is complete with typos, incorrect dates and subjective experiences of reality. Ironically, reflecting on and writing my failure resume gives me the feeling I have finally turned on the lights.

 
Beautiful Failures Resume
Laurie Boussom, LISW-CP, FVHB
Early Formative Failures: 1968-1980

Believed Guerrilla warfare was being fought with actual gorillas (It was around the time Planet of the Apes was released.)
Asked my parents why [...]

Self Talk for an 8 Year Old

This blog is based on a letter I wrote to my sweet grand niece after visiting her in Michigan. It was a challenge to try to explain self-talk to an 8 year old!

 

Dear Stella Bella,

It was so good to see you. It was fun looking at the pictures of you and your family when you were little. I also liked hearing about Ethan and Dallas!!! I have the yellow duck you gave me on my bedside table, so I can see her and think of you. <3
Congratulations on finishing your GOTR challenge.. I know you had to practice a lot.   Remember you showed me your “Girls on the Run” log? You had written self-talk as one way to reach your goal. I’ve learned a lot about self-talk from school and life. I love you and want you to live a joyful life, so I’d like to share some of my secrets about this with you.Do you remember a time when someone said something that made you feel really, really great? It may have been how hard you worked in school, how skilled you are at basketball or that you are a beautiful person. Don’t these compliments make your heart shine from the inside out?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had people say mean stuff about me, like “you talk too much and you’re not nice.” Even when you KNOW these things are not true they really hurt. It feels like you got punched in the stomach, right?Self-talk is the stuff YOU tell yourself, ABOUT yourself. It’s totally normal to do this in your head, everyone does. When you say positive things like “Wow, I sounded out that big word, I’m getting to [...]

Everyday Grateful

“I want to thank you for giving me the best day of my life.” Dido
On the morning commute to my office I am greeted by the ever-changing panorama of the mountains. I silently breathe “Thank You” to the universe for creating such majesty. I often use the remainder of my drive to count my blessings. I am grateful for the breath that keeps my body and mind alive and engaged, grateful for the music that has validated my pain and joy, grateful to own a car, engineered by experts to enhance my driving experience, grateful to have attracted a diverse, genuine, fascinating mix of people into my life.

Gratitude is defined as a thankful appreciation for what we receive, whether tangible or intangible. When we are grateful, we acknowledge what’s right and good in our lives and the world. Often we recognize that the source of goodness lies, in part, outside of us. This element of gratitude helps us to connect to something larger than ourselves. These connections can be a connection with other people, nature, or a higher power.

The research from positive psychology shows there is a consistently strong link between gratitude and well being/happiness. Gratitude helps us experience more positive emotions, savor good experiences, improve our health, cope better with adversity, and develop stronger relationships. Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman (the father of Positive Psychology) had students write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who hadn’t been fully thanked for their kindness. After writing, delivering and reading the letter, these students showed a huge increase in happiness scores with benefits lasting a month.

Below are my top five ways to lean into everyday gratefulness:

Write a thank you letter to someone [...]