Monday, December 21, 2015

Where have all the perfect people gone?

Like most children, when I was a young girl, I thought that many people were perfect.  I went to church and assumed all the adults there were perfect because, well, they were adults.  My parents were perfect, and they were adults; so it stood to reason that all adults were perfect right?  As I got older, I understood more and more how imperfect people really are.... yet I didn't entirely let go of my assumptions that there were a lot of seemingly perfect people (particularly at church).  Yet, my perspective shifted and, instead of assuming adults were perfect and knew everything, I felt like they were perfect and knew nothing.  They were naive and closed-minded... and in my judgments, they were judgmental.  It took nearly a decade for me to realize how hypocritical it was for me to judge them for being judgmental. Ha! Imagine the insanity of it all!

And yet.....

I still, like many adults, make this error today.  I gasp when I find out the ward-Molly-Mormon-Saints have been divorced.  I am appalled when I learn that the overbearing uptight father of teenage girls used to have a pornography problem.  I'm disheartened to learn that the mother I look up to most YELLS AT HER KIDS.. just like me! How could they? How could he? How could she?

Isn't it funny? That I allow myself to be any level of broken and in need of repair, but that I don't allow others THE SAME LUXURY? I love this quote by Elder Uchtdorf I have heard oft repeated.

It's so true!!! We ALL need repair! We ALL need help!

I have been overwhelmed with responses to our book. It has been truly humbling in ways that words simply cannot convey. But one theme I have heard repeatedly is "Thank-you for being willing to expose your brokenness! Thank-you for teaching me about the atonement and unconditional love!" I've heard it countless times in these past few months.

I've also heard things like, "I wish others could be more real, more authentic, more honest!" These types of statements make me worry that, like me, others have the misconception that people are either perfect and not allowed to make mistakes or, (worse!) pretend to be perfect while slinging mud at others.  It's taken me a long time (of course I have not arrived... I'm certain I will be guilty of this again) to discover that both perceptions are erroneous. Neither is true and both are harmful.  People are ALLOWED to be broken even if they look like they aren't.  There is no such thing as a perfect person in this life, (unless you're hanging with JESUS... HE'S PERFECT!), and it isn't fair to hold others (or OURSELVES) to unrealistic standards! People are ALLOWED to hide their brokenness if they feel afraid or aren't ready to show their failings.  That doesn't mean they're judging me or others who are more public with their weaknesses. On the contrary, I find people are so consumed with their own trials that they rarely even notice others.  More often than not, when I have felt judged or been confided in by others about their feelings of being judged, I have had intimate knowledge that indicates the person or people being accused of judging, are fighting demons unknown to the accusers.  Most often, they could use support, assistance, and love. Instead, they are receiving the cold shoulder, or unkind words spoken about them because of perceived slights and false accusations.

I recently heard a young woman say that she didn't want to go to church because "everybody there judges" her! Ironically, I'm fairly certain 90% of my ward does not know who she is!

I heard another older women say that she was so sick of people like [so and so] who sit on their high horse looking down their noses at everybody else.  Ironically, I know [so and so] and her very real, very hard trial with depression and self-doubt.

So why is this so difficult for us to understand? Why is it such a challenge to feel accepted in our brokenness? To allow others to be broken and in need of repair? To allow others to put their best face forward and shield themselves and their families from public scrutiny? And how can we collectively put a stop to it?

Uchdtorf has another oft quoted, very important sermon:  Stop it!

Love more! Have more compassion! Stop judging!!! (And that includes all you people like me who are judging people for judging!!!) Give EVERYONE the benefit of the doubt.  Give YOURSELF the benefit of the doubt.  Others' accomplishments do not diminish us.... please, let's stop letting their weaknesses diminish us!

Stop looking for perfect people and, instead, seek to BE the PERFECT person all the while knowing that YOU WILL FALL SHORT, and THAT IS OKAY!!!! Because Christ descended below all of us so that we could return to him DESPITE our imperfections. That is the real gift. The real perfection.  The real reason that we pick ourselves up with our big-girl/boy pants and go to church WITHOUT judgment, and form friendships WITHOUT accusations, and love WITHOUT conditions!

It has been years since I've felt judged by others. I just wrote a book giving all who read it about a million reasons to SEVERELY JUDGE ME! But guess what? They AREN'T! And the AREN'T judging you either! The sooner we can all decide that no one is judging us and instead offer our support and love and friendship to those we would condemn, the sooner we can all get a little closer to that perfection we seek.

xoxo Lenaya

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Parent Child Interaction Therapy

One of my favorite expressions is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  There are several things that we as parents can do to safeguard our children from addiction.  This is my third in a few posts intended to share some of the ideas that I use in my work with children and adolescents as well as their parents.

A couple of days ago, I engaged in a power struggle with my grumpy 5-year old.  The intensity increased until I had steam coming out of my ears.  Luckily, for both of us, I dropped her off at her babysitter's house a few hours later and went to work.  One of my clients is rethinknig pursuing a teaching degree, because he can't even handle his own children half the time.  I shared with him about my power struggle that morning and reminded him that our own children can be much more difficult.  He may not need to switch majors just yet.

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Parent Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT) is an evidence-based therapy for children ages 2-7.  Four of the principles help to build a strong foundation that set the stage for parents to give direction.  Simply put, we make many deposits in their emotional bank accounts, so when we make demands, their account isn't overdrawn.  When I remember to use the principles with my daughter and all my kids, I notice that life goes much more smoothly:

1.  Praise:  Often when we interact with our kids we could find ten things to correct or criticize and one thing to praise.  Positive reinforcement is much more powerful at changing behavior then criticism.  Ironically, when we criticize children for a negative behavior rather then decreasing the behavior, it tends to increase.  If we consistently praise the one good thing and ignore the other 10, we encourage positive behavior.  On a good day I try to praise each child in 10 different ways.  (On a bad day, I try not to kill them).  Today I was talking to my friend with my 5 year-old nearby and intentionally praised how well my daughter helps clean the house.  That same daughter started to beam and wanted to go wash the dishes when we got home as a direct result of the praise.

2.  Reflect:  Reflect is similar to praise and describe, but it refers to their speech.  We reflect their appropriate speech and validate the things they are saying.

3.  Imitate:  For young children, this is actually copying their movements and sounds or words they make in a playful way.  It can be more subtle like mimicking their posture or stance and voice inflection.  Young children notice when others imitate and are validated by it.

4.  Describe: With young children describing can simply be stating what they are doing.  We all like to be noticedWhen we merely state what they are doing without assigning a positive or negative value to what they are doing, children feel better without pressure to perform a certain way.  For example, "You put the red block on top of the table."  "Now you are crashing it down to the floor."  With older children, it may sound like this:  "You are stressed that you have a lot of homework today."  Describing what they are doing shows that you notice them and care.

Image result for PCIT

Sunday, November 22, 2015


I wish Larissa could have been with me for the magnificent party/book launch throw by my dearest Janet Hofmann! It was one of the single most humbling experiences of my life.  I was overwhelmed with gratitude about the multitude of loved ones there and not there, seen and unseen, to launch our book and endeavor.  I sold every book I ordered and then went home and ordered more. My single regret is not being braver and ordering more copies to begin with. I should have known. I should have expected that all of my dear wonderful supportive friends and family would show up... because you always do!  Even my sweet husband visited with the swarm of women for over an hour before going home to care for our children.  I was showered with gifts, food, sweet speeches and sentiments while signing books for three full hours. It was surreal. It was marvelous. It was humbling.  I don't know what the future of this book is...heck, I don't know what my own future is.  But I know for certain that it takes a village not only to raise a child, but to be an adult and follow our dreams as well.  It took my village...every step of the way.  Friends here, and in the next life. Friends I see daily, and friends I haven't seen in years. It took all of you.  And I'm certain my dad was there, beaming with pride in his usual fashion.  My life has been rich. I am truly blessed.  I can only hope this book will bless the lives of all who encounter it.  Truly, it was a night to remember; a night for the books; a night of true humility.


Sunday, November 8, 2015

The Pathways Home

Today a very real dream came true.  When I saw our book go live on Amazon, I got a little emotional. Brian is out of town, so I called him and left a long message on his phone. Then I called the kids around the computer asking, "Do you see what that is?" "It's your book!" Xiana answered.  Do you see what the website is? "It's Amazon!" She exclaimed. "I can't wait to tell my teacher about it tomorrow!" Then she and Kolton and Argenta (caught up in the excitement) circled me in a hug yelling with joy.  I told them, "You guys, I want you to know how much I appreciate your support and you letting me work on this for all these years. I know that I've spent a lot of time on it, and tonight we will celebrate together with ice cream sundays." More cheering ensued, and then Xiana, ever my sensitive and sweet little girl, wiped a few tears out of her eyes.  I was already very proud of this accomplishment, but that... well that just made it feel like I'd roped the moon.


One of my favorite expressions is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  There are several things that we as parents can do to safeguard our children from addiction.  This is my second in a few posts intended to share some of the ideas that I use in my work with children and adolescents as well as their parents.

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I often come across parents that inadvertently invalidate their children.  This is easy to do, especially when we are stressed or in a hurry.  I catch myself doing this often in the chaos of daily life.  The problem is that when we invalidate our children's feelings, they may come to believe that their negative feelings and emotions are bad.  Emotions are great barometers of changes that we need to make in our life for greater happiness and are necessary!  A cute new movie that depicts the importance of our emotions is "Inside Out."

Let me give an example of a common invalidation that I observe and have often done myself:

Child in tears: "Everyone was being mean at school today.  I'm really mad!"

Parent:  "It wasn't that bad.  You are overreacting.  Calm down."  

This conversation invalidates the child and subtly send the message that the emotions aren't reliable in assessing the world around us.

Here is an example of the same conversation applied to us as adults:

Adult:  "I had a rotten day at work today.  My boss was on a rampage, and I'm really mad about it!"

Friend:  "It wasn't that bad.  You're overreacting.  Calm down."

When we apply this same situation to ourselves it's easier to see how insensitive this conversation can be. 

The important concept to remember is that VALIDATION doesn't equal AGREEMENT!!!!  We are just being empathetic and good listeners to what our children are communicating 
with us.  A validating response by a parent in the same scenario might look like this:

 Image result for empathic listening clipart

Child in tears: "Everyone was being mean at school today.  I'm really mad!"

Parent:  "You sound really upset about your day.  I'm sorry school was so hard today!" 

Once our children feel heard and validated they will be in a better place to start problem solving, if that's what they want.  There is power in simply listening empathically.  It is what keeps me employed.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


I expect that we are days, weeks at the most, away from releasing our book into the world.  I'm incredibly excited as this has been a five year process!!!! But... I'm also incredibly afraid. Not long ago, I was relaying this fear to Larissa... about the potential for people near and far to know so very much about me.  To be so vulnerable.  She led me right then and there to Brene Brown. If you haven't already watcher her Tedtalk on the power of vulnerability, do yourself a favor and watch it here:

One of my favorite parts is when she says:

"It’s not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly . . . who at best knows the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.The first time I read this quote, I thought, This is vulnerability. Everything I’ve learned from over a decade of research on vulnerability has taught me this exact lesson. Vulnerability is not knowing victory or defeat, it’s understanding the necessity of both; it’s engaging. It’s being all in."

So after I watched her Ted talk and really thought about all she had to say... so much goodness... so much beauty, I realized that vulnerability might be the most powerful teaching tool in my possession.  Ever since I got sober, I've hoped that all those trials, all the struggle, all that badness could be turned into something good, something powerful, something helpful.  But I have to also acknowledge that only if I open myself up, go all in, accept vulnerability, can I potentially help others avoid my pitfalls.  Brene Brown says we are "hungry for people to admit, 'I made a mistake,'" rather than attempting to show the world how perfect they are.  Well, I assure you that I am not perfect.  And I made plenty of mistakes.  I'm willing to put myself out there, all in, to help others. And honestly, if only one person benefits from this book, the last five years will still be worth it.   

I used to chase any number of escape methods in order to avoid vulnerability. The irony is that I stood to gain the most and be the best me by, instead, embracing the very thing I was running from.  How often in this life is that the case? How often do we run away from the very thing that could most help us? 

I hope you will join me in embracing vulnerability; using it for instruction, for growth, and to be humbled enough to rely on God.  It's a lifelong process....but so far it has made all the difference. 


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

One of my favorite expressions is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  There are several things that we as parents can do to safeguard our children from addiction.  In my next few posts I intend to share some of the ideas that I use in my work with children and adolescents as well as their parents.

I.  One simple tool is to help foster positive self-esteem.  The way that children gain positive self-esteem is by gaining self-mastery.  They can do this by seeing improvement in what they are doing.  Children know their own interests, and they are more likely to master something that they start out liking.  

As parents we can set them up for success by fostering opportunities to grow.  If they love music, we can sign them up for voice or instrument lessons.  (We can barter for lessons with a skill that we have, if the money is too much).  If they like trucks, we can go to the library and find all the books available, go to truck shows, or find a mechanic who would do a personalized field trip.  If they like to draw, we can provide art materials and help them find youtube tutorials.  For animal lovers, we can take them to Petco, to college experimental farms or make friends with people who have animals.  I don't mean to suggest that we have them do everything and burn ourselves out in the process.  What I do mean is that we can observe what they love and help them grow personally by following their interests.  

We all feel better when we are doing what we enjoy and feel that we are making progress.  We can model this same behavior by pursuing our own interests.  In my own life I have gained a lot of joy and satisfactory when I have mastered some new skill.  I learned to play the piano and then organ when I was 31.  I learned how to jog when I was 40.  I taught myself to knit a few years ago, and I love trying out new patterns and different types of yarn.  The options are limitless.  The point is that mastering something that is difficult at first brings us a great deal of happiness.

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Stay tuned for the next few "ounces of prevention"!