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A comedian once said that children are like the paparazzi – they’re always watching. It’s so true.

Children learn much more from our actions than our words. And yet, somehow we continue to convince ourselves, despite all evidence to the contrary, that what we say to our kids matters more than what we do.

Don’t get me wrong.

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When we notice that some aspect of our life is truly out of control, we are likely to have one of three responses: we can take back the reins, we can stay the course (with some degree of denial), or we can surrender to the inevitable.


Most of us want to believe we’d take control. I suspect many of us fear – like me – that we’d surrender all too quickly. (One of my greatest fears, actually, is that I’m basically a chicken at heart.) In truth, the most common response is to stay the course, often with a healthy dose of denial.


I have seen true bravery in my life. I’ve watched my child withstand outrageous medical procedures with hardly a word or a tear (from her – I’ve cri

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It was one of those phone calls you never want to get.  You know, the one that sounds so absurd you think the caller must be joking – only to find out that they are serious as a heart attack.


My eight-year-old was home with a friend and a baby-sitter. I was chaperoning a Junior High skating party with 47 teenagers. I moved to a quieter spot, held my finger to my open ear to block out the pounding beat of the music, and asked her to repeat herself – certainly I’d heard her wrong.  But the anxiety in her voice was evident, and the message was clear.  The sitter repeated, “he was hit by a tree—on his head.”


Stop.  Breathe. Think. THIS was going to take serious self-management.


First I was calm, asking questions, taking action: calling a friend to get over to the house quickly, finding my husband, talking to my son

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My grandfather was a youthful old man well into his 90’s. He enjoyed his hamburgers and milkshakes as much as his season tickets to the opera and the theater. He lived a playful life, rich with gratitude and love. He was, truly, a blessed old man who never really felt old.


Until the age of 94, when everything changed: my grandfather had a stroke.


On that fateful late night drive to the hospital, I tried to calm myself:  “Oh God, please, don’t let him be trapped inside his body.” That’s the thing when you hear the word “stroke.” You just never know how severe it is, and the spectrum of possibilities is enormous. I couldn’t get there soon enough to assess the extent of the damage. I was trying everything I could not to “awfulize” my sense of his worst case scenario – that his brain would be intact, incarcerated in a body he could no longer control.


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Twenty years ago, a rabbi’s eulogy for my grandmother taught me something so profound that it lives with me still: “Most people,” he said, “die in one of two ways: from the feet up, or from the head down.”

Each scenario carries with it distinct challenges for coping, both for the dying, and for the loved ones charged with watching, witnessing and supporting the degenerative process. Personally, given the choice, I’d prefer to die from the feet up.

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Like snowflakes, no two children are the same, nor do they have the same needs. As parents, we spend a lifetime – our children’s lifetime – identifying and anticipating a child’s needs and meeting them as best we can.

When a child is identified with “special” needs, that effort becomes more complicated. Not only must we attain a certain medical expertise in order to identify what is required to meet the needs of our child, but then, we have to figure out how to do it, regardless of how extraordinary those needs may be. 

Because this is our child, there’s nothing we wouldn’t do to make life work for him/her.

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I have participated in one intervention in my life. It was sad and uplifting, and I recall the simultaneous feelings of power and powerlessness. Happily, my very dear friend has defied the odds to date.  He has been ‘clean’ for quite some time now.  
 
But let me tell you, there were a lot of years in there that were touch and go, to say the least. It felt very much like I had lost my old friend. He was immersed in a world that had nothing good to offer him, and was daily robbing him of anything worth living for.
 
Addictions like that don’t happen in a vacuum.  For him, there were clear life circumstances that led to loneliness and depression, loss and disillusion.  From my perspective, he started to use drugs and sex to feel something – anything – that would replace an inner hopelessness.  It started as a misguided way of seeking stimulation and spiraled out of control.
 
When a small group of us recognized that our friend was in serious trouble, we joined forces to intervene—but in truth, we had no idea what we were doing.  We

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I am a perfectionist in recovery.


There are no 12 steps in my program. Founded on the premise that failure is as excellent a teacher as success, my program was developed while surviving the challenges of parenting a particularly complex child.


I was raised as part of the achievement elite, with Ivy-League-style expectations whispered into my crib and limited tolerance for all that was

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Hyper-vigilance is exhausting.  It’s got that double-whammy combination of physical and emotional stress that is durable over the short-term, but unsustainable for the long haul.  The body can only stay on high-alert for so long, without a rest, before the stress begins to take its toll.  It is the lot of the modern-day caregiver.


At the mention of the term “caregiver,” our thoughts generally go to the management of those with chronic or terminal medical conditions. Our mind’s eye tends to leave the community of everyday life, and travel to a remote world of isolation that is relentless in its ongo

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I have a black dog named Kat. She is one of the sweetest animals I’ve ever known. Her formal name (every dog should have a formal name) is Meer-Kat-Rina -- because she looks like a meerkat and was rescued from Hurricane Katrina. She answers to the names of Kat, Kit-Kat, and sometimes Kitty Kat, and leaps at the sound of a leash, tennis shoes or the opening of the refrigerator.

When I met

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