Archives for April 2014

Twelfth Night at Bridge School

Curtain CallBy Laurie Atwater

Visit Bridge School in the early morning before class, or after school, and you may find that you’ve been transported back to Shakespearean England by enterprising thespians and their intrepid director Leslie Colby.  Long after Lexington lost its elementary theater specialist, Ms. Colby has kept theater alive at Bridge.  For fourteen years, her Shakespeare Troupe has been staging an abbreviated version of Twelfth Night or What You Will.

“It started out as a class project,” Ms. Colby explains.  But when the curriculum began to move to quickly to accommodate in class projects of any scope, Colby was undeterred.  Giving generously of her own time, she actually expanded her little Shakespeare experiment to include all Bridge 4th and the 5th graders who wanted to audition.

The Bridge Shakespeare Troupe was formed with the goal of presenting one yearly production that was true to the text and the spirit of the original.

And Ms. Colby knows her Shakespeare.  She earned her BA and Masters in theater education and has directed and acted in many adult productions over the years. Her husband Robert (Bob) Colby is the director of the elite graduate program in theater education at Emerson College.  Together they have theater in their blood.  Most recently Ms. Colby was the recipient of an LEF Summer Fellowship Grant which she used to study drama in London at the Globe Theatre.  “I did some workshops there and I did a lot of work with Shakespeare.”  Work that she’s putting to great use at home in Lexington. Colby tells me that the sets for the play are modeled on the original Globe Theatre sets for Twelfth Night.

What’s great about this story is that I would never have known about Ms. Colby or this Twelfth Night production if it were not for one parent who wanted to highlight this great educational experience in town.  She reached out to me because she realized that special alchemy was happening at Bridge school—that moment when teaching and learning were combining to create the magical potion called education.  This isn’t test prep, drills or CORE requirements, this is the education that inspires and reaches deep within students to foster real joy in learning.

Colby is a big fan of this special joy.  She would have to be.  With the demands of modern curriculum requirements, Ms. Colby no longer has the classroom time to devote to Shakespeare.  All of the work for the production is done on her own time, but she is quick to say that her enthusiasm for the project has never waned.  And she credits the Lexington parents for helping to keep it going.  “We would never be able to do all of this ourselves for so many years,” she says. Even with her husband’s help, it’s a challenge to manage everything that goes into the production.  “We have one family that has let us use their basement for storage,” Colby says laughing. Indeed the Edelman family on Middleby Road has saved the Bridge School Shakespeare Company.

Because the school does not let them store any of their materials on site, they have relied on the kindness of these neighbors whose children have been Colby thespians over the years.  Andy, the youngest Edelman just performed in Willy Wonka at the middle school and is planning to attend Walnut Hill to pursue his passion for the arts.  Over the years hundreds of parents have sewn costumes, applied makeup, painted sets, gathered props, and gotten their children to rehearsal.  The children never forget their experience. “Once they are part of the Shakespeare Players,”Ms. Colby says proudly, “they come back year after year to support the new kids and see the play.” And of course to see her.

The reward is worth the effort for Ms. Colby.  “I have children who have all different skills and abilities, but they all learn and grow,” she says.  “You can see their improved confidence—they learn to work cooperatively and master a task over time,” she says.  Theater is a lot of work. Children not only memorize their lines but they have to understand the context of what they are saying and refine their delivery. The have to be accountable to the other actors—learn their blocking and their cues, hit their marks and become part of the company.  It takes cooperation, self discipline and teamwork.

Parents are thrilled to see their children performing in public and developing those skills that will be important as they grow. “It’s really such joy and excitement,” Ms. Colby says, “A feeling of accomplishment that they don’t get from a short little paper or a worksheet.  That joy—it’s why I wanted to teach in the first place and it seems to be diminishing every day.  When the curtain goes down and the company takes a bow, Leslie Colby always sheds a tear or two, but only for a moment because next year she will begin anew! [Read more…]

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Sunday April 27 – Reception celebrating this year’s winners!

Tricorne Hat Reception Notice

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Here Comes the Old Guard

Old Guard at the White House. Courtesy of the Old Guard.

Old Guard at the White House. Courtesy of the Old Guard.

 

By Digney Fignus

Since I was a kid growing up in Lexington I have always loved Patriot’s Day. It seemed like it was Lexington’s own special holiday, our first official spring celebration heralding the warmer weather to come. Long before it became a state-mandated “Monday” holiday, all the kids in the neighborhood looked forward to April 19th as a day off from school dedicated to parades and old-fashioned fun. It was something that made you proud to be from our little town that usually made the evening news for at least that one day every year. No matter what the weather, Patriot’s Day in Lexington has always been a great time for families to relax and reconnect with their neighbors after the long winter.

This year we’re getting an extra special treat to help Lexington celebrate Patriot’s Day. The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps is coming to town! They will be easy to spot in Monday’s parade with their bright red regimental coats, white wigs, black tricorn hats, and period uniforms dating back to George Washington’s Continental Army. And in a double-dose of good fortune, lucky fans will also get an outdoor concert Saturday, April 19th at 12 noon. This is a must-see event for any fife and drum fanatic. Come early, because there is sure to be a crowd on the Battle Green for this special performance. The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps along with the US Army Drill Team, and the Commander in Chief’s Infantry Guard is a show not to be missed.

Stationed in Fort Meyer, Virginia, the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps is unique as the only unit of its kind in the armed forces. Part of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment, an official representative of the U.S. Army, the Corps averages 500 appearances a year and has performed for millions. They not only appear at all the official White House Arrival Ceremonies for visiting Heads of State, the Corps have been featured performers at every Presidential Inauguration since President Kennedy in 1961. Besides their official functions, the Old Guard has performed at NFL events, NASCAR, the Kentucky Derby, the Indianapolis 500, and the Tournament of Roses Parade — to mention only a few. In addition, they serve as good-will ambassadors and representatives of the United States Army overseas performing at international competitions, known as “tattoos,” everywhere from Australia to Panama.

The Old Guard is at the top rung in the Fife and Drum Corps world. Even though it is an ultra-exclusive group, I was surprised to find that anyone can audition for an open position. There are only 69 members in the Corps. Openings are few, so if you are lucky enough to be asked to Washington to audition for a spot, you’d better be good. The Corps uses 10-hole fifes, handmade rope-tensioned drums, and single-valve bugles which according to their website “bring to life the exciting sounds of the continental army.” Only the best musicians get a chance to audition. Although they are currently full-up, last year there were openings for a bass drum player, a fifer, and a bugler. So keep rehearsing, it’s a great gig if you can get it.

I had a chance to talk with Corps member, Staff Sergeant Heather Tribble, a fife player and eight-year veteran of the Old Guard. She is one of many men and women who join the army specifically to serve in the Old Guard. She reflected, “I was performing in a Fife and Drum Corps at the EPCOT Center in Florida. There were a lot of ex-military in the group, and I found out about the auditions from them.” If you pass the audition, only then do you need to commit to the army. After you go through normal basic training you have a guaranteed spot in the Old Guard. Unlike some jobs in the military that require a lot of moving around, people tend to stay put in the Old Guard. It affords the soldier-musicians and their families a little extra stability, a chance to develop long-term relationships, and an opportunity to put down some roots.

 

 

Old Guard at FDR Memorial. Courtesy of the Old Guard.

Old Guard at FDR Memorial. Courtesy of the Old Guard.

Being a musician myself, the more I talked with Sergeant Tribble the better the Corps sounded. I was tempted to start practicing my own big bass drum to see if maybe I could get an audition for one of those coveted open spots in the band. Unfortunately, I think the geezer-factor might kick in if I started competing with the rest of the mostly 18-year-olds in basic training. I wish I’d found out about this dream job sooner. Imagine, 500 guaranteed shows a year! All that, plus military benefits, and a steady paycheck? Obviously, I made a mistake when I decided to learn to play guitar instead of the fife.

The Fife and Drum Corps is a real family. A bass drummer with the unit, Sergeant Scott Danley sums it up, “The kids don’t just have a mom and dad, they get 60 aunts and uncles too.” Sergeant Danley, an eight-year veteran with the Corps, is a native of Alabama. He joined the Fife and Drum Corps in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Scott had just finished his tour of duty with the Marines. He served from 2001 – 2005 playing the tenor drum in the Marine Drum and Bugle Corps. He reminisces, “I had always thought the Fife and Drum Corps was a re-enactment group. But just before my enlistment was up with the Marines I attended a twilight tattoo on the ellipse by the White House in Washington. I saw those rope drums going to town. I’d never seen that style of drumming before.” Danley was so impressed with the musicianship of the performers that when he learned there was an opening for a bass drummer in the unit, he knew he had found his calling. He consulted with his wife and with her blessing sent a video audition tape to the selection committee, hoping to re-enlist with the Army Old Guard. To his disappointment he didn’t make it the first time.

After his enlistment was up in the Marines, the ex-soldier and his family returned to civilian life back home in Alabama. Things couldn’t have been worse. It was only a few months after Katrina, homeless refugees had flooded the area, and housing was nearly impossible to come by. The family was in a real quandary when Scott’s wife noticed that almost a year after Scott had been turned down, the army was still auditioning for the bass drum position. In Scott’s words, “My wife suggested I try to audition again and I told her ‘they don’t want me’ but she said I should give it another try. This time I got called to Washington to do a live audition.” On his second try he passed with flying colors. He laughs, “It’s funny because the first tape I recorded was in a big hall and the second tape I recorded in my living room!”

Last year, along with many other programs, the Old Guard was a victim of the government sequester. They were originally scheduled to perform during Lexington’s 300th Anniversary celebration. Unfortunately, because of the untimely budget limbo, they were not able to attend. Thankfully, this year they’re back and better than ever, and they’ll bring along some very special reinforcements. The Fife and Drum Corps is a real spectacle, colorful, precise, and extremely well-tuned. The 69 members of the Corps are usually deployed in marching groups of 21 soldier-musicians, a Drum Major, and support staff. This allows the Old Guard to perform at multiple locations and more than one show at a time. Look for the drum major as a quick way to tell the Old Guard from the other ceremonial Fife and Drum Corps marching in the Patriot’s Day Parade. He will be distinguished by his tall black leather hat covered in bear fur (a light-infantry cap), a white leather sash (called a baldric), and a long 18th century infantry officer’s weapon called an espontoon that he carries to issue silent commands to his marching Corps.

Old Guard at Pocono 500. Courtesy of the Old Guard.

Old Guard at Pocono 500. Courtesy of the Old Guard.

The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps perform a diverse repertoire of traditional field music. Drawn mostly from the 18th and 19th century, it includes familiar favorites like “Yankee Doodle,” and Fife and Drum Corps standards like, “Washington’s Artillery March,” the “Downfall of Paris,” and the “Duke of York’s March.” In addition, according to the official website, “performances include a breathtaking drum solo that is a real show of professional dexterity.” With just two opportunities to see them Patriot’s Day weekend, new converts and hard-core fans are sure to be left wanting more.

Along with the Fife and Drum Corps, the Commander in Chief’s Infantry Guard is also coming to Lexington’s Patriot’s Day weekend celebration. They are the infantry version of the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps. They dress in traditional Continental Army blue and generally accompany the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps as a support group for parade and pageantry performances. They will be marching in Monday’s parade as well as appearing at the Battle Green on Saturday. Created in 1784, the Infantry Guard is another part of the 3rd Army Infantry Regiment. They hold the distinction of being the oldest active infantry in the United States Army. It only seems fitting that they assemble on our Battle Green on April 19th to honor the hallowed ground where the first shots were fired in the American Revolution.

Besides the Fife and Drum Corps and the Infantry Guard, Saturday’s event on the Battle Green includes a special appearance of the US Army Drill Team. As official good-will ambassadors, the Army Drill Team puts on a spectacular show. They expertly perform choreographed routines with bayonet-tipped 1903 Springfield rifles. Tossing around the heavy rifles with death-defying precision, these highly trained specialists are guaranteed to wow the crowd with their daring and complex maneuvers. Balancing vintage weapons with razor-sharp steel blades is no easy task. Courage, dedication, coordination, and a dead-calm demeanor are all necessary requirements before being admitted to this talented group. It’s a tough competition for a spot in the squad. According to the Drill Team’s Mission Statement, “Soldiers are selected for this elite unit after six months of rigorous and competitive drill practice. Trim military bearing, strength, and dexterity are mandatory prerequisites for qualification to the Drill Team. For those selected for the team, the rigors of training never stop. To execute their complicated routines as close to perfection as possible, the team practices constantly.” The routines are far too dangerous to be done while marching so the Drill Team will only be performing Saturday at the Battle Green and will not march in Monday’s parade. Take my advice and mark your calendars for noon, April 19. You don’t want to miss this show.

The Corps fact sheet proclaims, “The Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps is America in retrospect – rekindling the ‘Spirit of ‘76’ in today’s Army.” So don your tricorn hat and take advantage of the opportunity to see this uniquely talented and entertaining group of the Army’s finest on Saturday and Monday during Patriot’s Day weekend.

 

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Faces of Our Revolutionary Heroes

Header Photo

As we rouse ourselves from the warm comfort of our beds in the pre-dawn darkness of Patriots Day and make our groggy way to the Battle Green we may wonder why we decided to do this, again. But as we approach the Green, the sun rising, the anticipation building, and we merge with so many others who have decided to do this, again, or for the first time we remember why we came. Twenty first century Lexington fades away as we are taken back to a singular moment in time, April 19, 1775, that changed history.

For the members of the Lexington Minutemen Company bringing that moment in time to life is a year round commitment. As the Company marches onto the Green we are not looking at our neighbors and friends, but at the faces of 1775 Lexington. And that transformation comes with a strong commitment.

The re-enactment unfolds as a carefully choreographed scene, but behind it is a dedication to authenticity and to the men who risked everything that we, as observers, may not recognize in the early morning light. Members of the group take the Minute Man Oath to heart, “We trust in God, that should the state of our affairs require it, we shall be ready to sacrifice our estates and everything dear in life, yea, and life itself, in support of the common cause.” The re-enactors who appear on the Green to meet the British regulars each portray an actual member of the Lexington Militia that took that oath. Each member researches his adopted ancestor and it is his responsibility and his honor to make their story part of his own. Through uniform, rank, and manner the Minutemen bring these everyday farmers and citizens of Lexington to life.

The modern company of Minute Men goes back quite a way. According to Captain Commanding Bill Poole the group coalesced in a new way as the bicentennial approached, “Starting in the mid-1970s the commitment of the company to the re-enactment strengthened, resulting in increased research into clothing, equipment, and the events of the day.” And that commitment is obvious as we meet three members of the Lexington Minute Men who each bring a different perspective to the group.

Watch for these members when you rouse yourself this year. You will appreciate their commitment and those of their brothers in the Lexington Minute Men just a little bit more.

 

Jedediah Monroe

Portrayed by Bill Rose

Bill Rose

Bill Rose

A costume is skin deep. A uniform goes all the way through. You could say that is the motto of re-enactor Bill Rose of Bolton who portrays Jedediah Monroe, a farmer from East Lexington.

Rose’s interest goes beyond what happened on one day in April. He has researched how these men and women lived, what they wore and how it might have felt to be a farmer in 1775. He brings all of this to his portrayal and shares what he’s learned with the other members of the Lexington Minute Men. “I really liked the material culture, understanding why a person did what he did; in his life, in his clothing, in his horse or his house. All that sort of thing,” says Rose. He began researching the fashion of the time, yes, fashion. Rose points out that even though these men were mostly farmers they followed the fashions of the times just as we do today. “You look at the newspapers, look at the wills, see what kind of clothing they had and you go, ‘Whoa, this guy was a farmer but somehow he made sure he had leather britches.” And part of their fashion sense came down to practical matters. “The clothing had to be extremely robust. You’re a farmer so you’d be using extremely good cloth. The tightly woven broadcloth would be almost waterproof. Remember, they got rained on just like we do and they didn’t like to get wet either.”

According to Rose the fashion of the time called for tightly fitted jackets. This was a nod to the practical side. High quality broadcloth was extremely expensive. Labor was cheap. Fitted wear called for less fabric and was more affordable.

Rose wanted to take his research on the material world of these men a step further and began creating his own clothes that were more true to the times that those that could be purchased. “If we are going to honor the people that died on that green and then died elsewhere for the last 230 years then we need to look as much like those guys as possible. So, I’m one of the guys that makes everything,” says Rose. He picked up a lot of tailoring skills from other Minute Men and has developed many of his own. Now he shares those skills with his fellow re-enactors and encourages them to make the investment. Rose is convincing, “It isn’t hard to do and the results are worth it. You were a hard charging, robust individual. And you put these clothes on and you invested the time to make them. You really understand what these guys went through.”

Jedediah Monroe, who Rose portrays, proved himself to be a hard charging individual on April 19, 1775. According to Rose, he was a farmer in East Lexington, probably in the mid to lower class of Lexington society. His family had come to the new world from Scotland after defeat at the Battle of Worcester in the 1650s.

Fifty-four year old Jedediah answered the alarm that morning and joined his fellow Minute Men on the Green. He was shot in the arm during the early morning skirmish. Rose tells the rest of the story, “He mustered the courage to soldier on and was killed later in the day at Parker’s Revenge. He’s a pretty cool character to do because he gave everything. He actually had an excuse to walk away but he didn’t. That’s why I take it pretty seriously.”

 

John Smith

Portrayed by Randy Wilson

Randy Wilson

Randy Wilson

“I like to learn about history. It’s a good first hand experience and you get right down to it. I think it’s pretty cool.” Eighteen year old John Smith of Lexington may not have recognized the phrasing in 1775, but eighteen year old re-enactor Randy Wilson has the sentiment right. Randy has been involved in reenacting with his entire family since he was just six years old. It’s a way of life for him.

He’s already made his own history by becoming the youngest member of the Lexington Minute Men. Randy was active in his hometown with the Acton Minute Men, and the Lexington group as well. But at sixteen he wasn’t old enough to become a full member, until the Lexington Minute Men dropped the age limit. “I didn’t know the change was happening. I was just waiting for the chance to join. So, when it dropped down that was my opportunity,” says Wilson.

This Patriots Day Wilson will be the same age as his character, John Smith, was on April 19, 1775, something that adds to Wilson’s appreciation of portraying a real character from history. “The personal connection to a person in history has given me the feeling that I am actually re-enacting for something and someone, and it gives me the determination to really put some effort in the acting.”

According to the Lexington Minute Men’s history, John Smith was born to second generation colonists in Cambridge Farms on August 21, 1756. Following the skirmish on the Lexington Green Smith continued with Captain Parker to the afternoon ambush known as Parker’s Revenge. He continued his militia service through five additional postings from aiding the Colonial Army during the siege of Boston to Ticonderoga and back to Cambridge with members of the Lexington Militia. He left the military on April 18, 1780, almost five years to the day after that first skirmish on Lexington Green.

John Smith returned to Lexington and married. In the late 1780s he and his family left Lexington and the Battle Green behind and moved to Randolph, VT where they settled for good.

After this year’s Patriots Day re-enactment Randy will also leave the Green behind as he heads west to the University of Montana where he plans to study Wildlife Biology and Forestry. “When I go off to college in the fall I think that the primary thing that I will take away from re-enacting is the appreciation of where I grew up and the unique place that it holds in relation to the rest of the country,” says Randy. That’s a powerful lesson to take away, one that John Smith probably couldn’t appreciate in the early days of the new Republic.

 

Prince Abattoirs

Portrayed by Charles Price

Charlie Price

Charlie Price

Re-enactor Charles Price and Prince Estabrook both became accidental Minute Men. Neither asked to march onto the Lexington green, centuries apart. “He was a slave, for whatever reason he was out there on the green April 19, 1775 facing the British. It really wasn’t his fight,” explains Charles Price. Price has recreated Estabrook’s role in the morning’s face off for the last thirty-nine years.

Price himself was looking for a lawnmower, not a role in the Battle of Lexington back in 1975. “My lawnmower broke. I went next door to borrow one from my neighbor,” recalls Price. The neighbor may have seen an opportunity; he told Price it was too hot to mow anyway and drew him in with a cool drink and the Red Sox on TV while they waited for the sun to drop low in the sky. “He kept talking Minute Men, Minute Men, Minute Men. ‘Why don’t you just come down for a meeting?’ So I did. And here I am thirty nine years later.”

Prince Estabrook played a unique role among those men on the Green. As a slave he did not have to serve in the militia. I ask Price if Prince Estabrook found himself there because the family sent him in as a surrogate, to protect their own sons. “That’s one of the reasons we think he may have been there. It was the classic example of a no-win situation. If the Minute Men win, he’s still a slave. If they lose, he’s a slave that fired on the King’s troops,” explains Price.

But slavery in Massachusetts in the 1700s was not the same as we know it in the south during the 1800s. There was a way out for Prince Estabrook and as time went on he established himself as a soldier and a free man.

Wounded on April 19 Prince Estabrook recovered and rejoined the fight two months later at Bunker Hill. While still a slave he enlisted as a full time member of the Continental Army in 1780. Over the next three years he served from Dorchester Heights to Fort Ticonderoga. He was discharged from the Massachusetts 3rd Regiment in November 1783 as a free man. In July of the same year Massachusetts had abolished slavery.

Estabrook returned to Lexington and the Estabrook family. Working for the family now as a free man until 1803 when Benjamin Estabrook died and the family members went their separate ways. Prince Estabrook moved to Ashby with one of the sons, Nathan Estabrook, and remained there until his death. He is buried in Ashby.

Here in Lexington you can find a monument to Prince Estabrook just outside the Buckman Tavern. The likeness on the monument is of Charles Price. The two men joined by history and accident.

You can find more information on Prince Estabrook in the award-winning book by Lexington author Alice M. Hinckle, Prince Estabrook, Slave and Soldier.

 

The Lexington Minutemen in the UK. and They’re Brits!

The Lexington Minutemen in the UK courtesy of Pat Patrick

The Lexington Minutemen in the UK courtesy of Pat Patrick

 

Could there be a new revolution a foot? Minutemen taking up arms against Red Coats right on British soil? You might think so when you learn about The Lexington Minutemen in the UK.

The group was formed three years ago to appear at the English Heritage Kelmarsh Festival of History. Kelmarsh is a weekend long multi-period event that features encampments from Roman times all the way up through World War II. The Minutemen looked to educate visitors and themselves about the historical period surrounding the American War of Independence.

From there they have grown and matured. Clive Emerson, the group’s secretary, says they strive to portray not just the civilian militia of 1775, but civilian life as well, “We have a seditious priest who delivers genuine sermons of the period, a freed slave (who is also the company cook), a number of wives, girlfriends and children, a tailor, a doctor, a gunsmith and tavern keepers (of Buckman Tavern).”

Our own Lexington Minute Man Alex Cain has been corresponding with Mr. Emerson offering guidance on clothing and equipment that is helping the UK Minutemen raise their own standards of authenticity. The group’s company tailor has taken much of Alex’s advice to heart and has taught himself the skills necessary to create authentic clothing. As Clive Emerson points out, “He has learned his trade through handling original clothes of the time, then coming home and experimenting. His work is improving all the time.” Emerson laments that the Redcoat captains took notice and that improvement and the tailor has “spent the whole winter making redcoats for the Seventeenth.”

The Seventeenth, along with the Twenty Second and Forty Seventh of Foot are a few of the Redcoat groups against which the Minutemen skirmish at the five or six historical events they now attend throughout the UK each year.

Might we see an invasion of Minutemen from the UK here on Lexington Green in the future? Clive Emerson isn’t counting it out, “We have certainly thought about it, but financial and time constraints rapidly bring us back to earth. We know that it won’t be for a few years yet. It would be great to join forces with our brothers (and sisters) across the pond.”

For more information on The Lexington Minutemen in the UK visit www.lexingtonminutemen.co.uk/index.html.

 

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Stuck?


Stuck

Local therapist Pandora MacLean-Hoover of the THINK-diff Institute has some thoughts…

By Laurie Atwater

Feeling stuck in life is no fun. It can feel like perpetual failure and there’s nothing like the month of January to bring it all up again! In January we want to start fresh and fix what we perceive is out of whack in our lives. Lose weight. Clean closets. Quit smoking. Get a better job. Mend fences. Improve relationships. Go back to school. All good. But how can you transform good intentions into real change?Thought Equation

How about taking a fresh look at your thinking?

Pandora MacLean-Hoover of the THINK-diff Institute in Lexington says, “Personal Change begins with thought.”

“The science is just exploding around proving that the more you change your thinking and use your thoughts to think differently, you are actually rewiring the synapses and changing your brain chemistry,” MacLean-Hoover says.

The following four exercises may get you on your way to becoming unstuck!

 

Become Curious“Fear keeps us stuck in old thought patterns, holding on to old stuff and doing things the old way,” says MacLean-Hoover.

One of the keys to the THINK-diff approach is to reframe fear. “I invite people to become curious,” MacLean-Hoover says. “It’s much easier to get excited about change when you engage in curiosity rather than fear. Change is often blocked by fear. We owe it to ourselves to understand why we have fear. Where does it originate? How does it get reinforced?”

Excited about change

Along with curiosity MacLean-Hoover asks clients to “take a giant step away from the judgment they have about themselves and others.”  This allows patients to create what she calls a White Board—a blank slate of options.

Instead of approaching change from a “something is wrong with me” model, MacLean-Hoover uses visual exercises to assist in a process of self discovery. She often begins by drawing a simple timeline. On one end is a stick figure representing “me” as a child, on the other the word NOW representing “me” as a adult. She asks clients to look at the timeline and recall experiences that might be significant. The simple visual usually jogs the memory according to MacLean-Hoover. “I call it opening the information highway.”

 

 

Uncover your I StatementsMacLean-Hoover uses four circles to map these important experiences. “The first circle represents the story itself,” she explains. “To the right of it is a circle that represents the emotions around that story: does it make you angry, sad or anxious? Then I ask clients to carefully observe the physical sensations that arise around the emotions. That’s the third circle. Do they tremble, feel cold, hot, sweaty or is their heart beating wildly? The final circle represents the “I statement”—the core belief that is triggered by the memory of that event.”Square

The next time you have a heightened physical response to something or someone, pay attention and see if it brings up any of your own “I statements.” For instance ladies, the next time your husband makes a suggestion about your driving and you feel a familiar constriction in your throat, ask yourself – Does this relate to the statement: “I am not a competent person?”

Then b-r-e-a-t-h-e. Awareness is the first step. Bringing these thoughts forward is lots of work. These beliefs come from the feeling part of your brain so it is important to observe your physical state and your feelings. Being mindful is key.

 

 

Go Shopping for a new Computer“It resonates with people to use the computer analogy and it engages them with some optimism because they have really done this,” MacLean-Hoover says.

We’ve all spent hours researching the perfect computer for our work and personal lives. Is it a MAC or a PC? How much RAM? How big a hard drive and a million other small hardware related choices we have to make before we buy. “But what happens then?” MacLean-Hoover asks. “You have to choose the software that tells the computer what you want it to do.” The software represents “I” statements.Computer

On this computer shopping trip she invites clients to picture a rack of software with names like: I’m a failure, I am stupid, I can’t trust my judgment.

“If we were looking at that software with the knowledge that this is a choice and we have to choose what we want the computer to do on our behalf, would we choose that software?” She suggests that as adults with a choice we would move on to the rack with these titles:  I am successful, I am smart, I trust my judgment.

 

I Statements

 

 

Install New Software“When we are children we don’t have a filter so everything gets in.  Parents, extended family, teachers—all of the ‘big people’ in our lives raise us in their own image into a world as they see it,” McLean-Hoover explains. How have you been brought up to see yourself, the world and the people in it? MacLean-Hoover works with clients to dispel the distorted beliefs about themselves that leave them unable to change.

“People are easily reminiscent about the sense of powerlessness in childhood,” MacLean-Hoover says. “But unlike childhood when you had no voice, adulthood gives you choice.”  Change becomes much more exciting when the idea of choice replaces fear. Getting unstuck can be a thrilling and fulfilling process according to MacLean-Hoover. “You can only control for you. Once you know why you think what you think and do what you do, you may choose whether you still want to think and do things the same way.”

Hero

 

 

PandoraPandora MacLean-Hoover of the THINK-diff Institute at 1666 Mass Ave., Suite F1 in Lexington.

Tel: 888.417.3159

 

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Getting Your Partner to (Really) Listen

Robyn Vogel, MA, LMHC

Do you wish you could tell your partner what you are feeling more easily? Are you looking for a way to have a productive conversation without playing the blame and shame game? Do your “discussions” sometimes last into the wee hours of the night leaving you exhausted the next day?

When you have something important to share with your sweetie, you will need these 4 simple steps:

1. Choose the right time for ‘you’ to have the conversation (consider your time & your energy level)

2. Ask your partner if s/he is willing to talk at that time

3. Be willing to hear ‘no’ and ask for a better time

4. Schedule the conversation and agree to an ending time

Getting your partner to listen when s/he is not truly available can feel very frustrating — which only adds to an already charged situation.

If your experience is anything like mine used to be, your life is busy and it’s hard to fit time in for anything extra! It’s “easier” to avoid difficult conversations than approach them. You are frustrated because you often have to sift your way through the fog of blame and shame to get to clarity. You don’t feel deeply heard.

Several years ago, I learned there was a different way. Thank goodness! And I teach it to all of my clients!

You and your partner are going to love how easy this is for you both.

PRACTICE TIP: Sit together facing each other. Close your eyes and take some deep breaths together. Synchronize your breath for a few minutes (feel silly? keep going…trust the process, it works!) When you feel connected via your breath, open your eyes and look deeply at each other.

Make an agreement: one person will share at a time and the listener will reflect back what s/he heard…bit by bi

Slowly….switching speakers as needed. Use “I” statements. If you find yourself saying “YOU”, take a breath and start over! A do-over is a powerful tool to use! I recommend you limit your conversation to 1 hour max.

Now, what if you have something important to share with your partner, but feel like all you want to do is blame him (or her)? Here is exactly what you need to move forward and avoid a screaming match.

Take 5-10 minutes to journal what you are upset about (don’t skip this very important step!)

Re-read what you wrote and highlight every “you” or “s/he” and change them to “I” (this is called “the turn-a-round” according to Byron Katie’s The Work)

Look over the “I” statements and find nuggets of truth (leave the rest)

Now choose the right time for ‘you’ to have a conversation. Ask your partner if s/he is willing to talk at that time. Be willing to hear ‘no’ and ask for a better time. Schedule the conversation and agree to an ending time no more than 1 hour later.

You’ll want to take the steps above to heart and please share them with your partner. The idea here is that you don’t blame or shame your partner and s/he doesn’t do that to you!

It feels terrible to be on the receiving end of someone else’s blaming! “Well everything’s ruined and I’m upset because of YOU!” “I’m disappointed because you did this and you did that…and you made me feel this way or that way…and on and on and on.” We’ve all heard those words before. Sadly. And have those conversations been productive? Are they loving?

There’s more but I don’t want to give you too much at once. So begin with the invitation above (the steps) – and practice as often as you can.

You and your partner are on your way to deeper love already! Congratulations!

Robyn Vogel, MA, LMHC

Robyn Vogel, MA, LMHC

 

Robyn Vogel, MA, LMHC, is a psychotherapist and intimacy coach who serves the community by offering counseling to couples. For 20+ years, she has been supporting others in creating more love in their lives. Robyn has been trained in several body-oriented modalities which support her spiritual approach to healing and her deep connection to this work.  Some of those include: Conscious Communication, Family Mediation, Internal Family Systems, Sex Coaching and Yoga Therapy. To contact Robyn Vogel, please call 508-380-9254 to schedule a free consultation.

 

Parenting Matters is a collaboration between the Colonial Times Magazine and the Town of Lexington Human Services Department. This column is not intended as a substitute for therapy and the contents are do not necessarily reflect the views of CTM’s editorial staff. The information contained in Parenting Matters is for general information purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for the advice of a mental health professional, diagnosis or treatment.

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Complex Sibling Relationships

If sibling rivalry is an issue that affects your household, you may understand how stressful it can be for everyone in the house to bear. You may be at a loss to know how to stop the fighting, or question whether they shouldn’t just, “work things out.” Let’s first take a look at the basis for sibling rivalry.

Tension between siblings can run in a few different forms. One form that is most common is that siblings tend to look at each other as equal even if their age is not. This may come out as, “Why does she get to have a phone?” or, “Why can’t I stay out that late?” School-age kids especially may be very black and white in their thinking about fairness, such as when they see parents giving preferential treatment to a younger sibling (such as greater physical affection).

A second form of tension stems from individual temperaments. These temperaments, including mood, disposition and flexibility, as well as their unique personalities play a large role in how well siblings get along. For example, if one child’s disposition is to be okay with close proximity, but another child delineates their personal space, it c

Patti Grant, LICSW

Patti Grant, LICSW

an lead to conflict. “But that’s my side of the couch!” Does this sound familiar?

Another form of tension can stem from kids that have special needs, either emotionally or medically. The child who isn’t sick may resent the amount of the parent’s attention that this sibling needs. This child may also not be able to verbalize this feeling well, and it may come out in a way that makes it hard to address, such as, “Why does he always get everything he wants?” Maybe this is a phrase you tend to hear that leads to tension for everyone.

The final form of tension that can impact siblings is their role models. The way that parents-and other close family members-resolve problems and conflict sets a strong example for their kids. If family members tend to yell, call names and isolate themselves, siblings are likely to do the same. However, if family members can work through conflict in a way that’s healthy and respectful, it increases the chance that the children will adopt the same tactics.

So what do you do when the fighting starts? Whenever possible, don’t get involved. If the siblings can work things through in a productive way without your help, that will be the best for their self-esteem and problem solving development. You also risk been seen as taking sides whenever you step in, based on past experiences of the children or simply even the timing of when you step in. However, always intervene in a situation where you feel they might become violent with each other.

If and when you do decide to step in, try to resolve problems with your kids, not for them. Following are some suggestions to follow when stepping in.

Separate kids until they’re calm (as well as yourself). Unless everyone is calm, fighting can resume and the problem solving cannot.

Take the focus off blame, as focusing on who’s to blame only exacerbates fighting. This can be done by encouraging each child verbalize their concerns, one at a time.

Voice your own concerns for their fighting, such as how you feel like family life could improve, or how you’re concerned they’re going to hurt each other.

Ask them to come up with a mutually agreeable and feasible solution that addresses all the concerns. Be careful to throw out solutions that won’t be likely to have follow through, or ones that don’t consider all of the concerns.

Support solutions that children come up with, check their follow through and come back to the table to talk if the solution is attempted and it doesn’t help resolve the original concerns.

There are also some simple techniques that can be used every day to help kids get along. An important one to use is to explain to the child that, “equal is not always fair, and fair does not always mean equal,” in that each child gets what he or she needs, and sometimes one child may need more than another. Another important technique is to set ground rules for behavior. Tell the kids that if an argument starts, they must keep their hands to themselves, and yelling, cursing or name-calling, as well as abuse to objects (slamming doors or throwing things) are not allowed. Explain to kids that they are not responsible for getting angry, but they are responsible for their behavior.

You can also be proactive in getting involved in each of your children’s interests, and make sure you give each child some one-to-one time on a consistent basis. Make sure each child has their own space to do their own thing, either to take space quietly, go outside, or enjoy activities with peers without their sibling tagging along. Tell your kids that you love them both, without limits.

It’s also important to have fun as a family as well. It can be as simple as throwing a ball together or playing a board game, something that establishes a peaceful time that you can all relate as a time that everyone got along well. Also keep in mind that the fighting may be for attention, and if you leave the situation, it may remove the incentive for fighting.

If fighting is occurring daily, you can hold family meetings weekly or daily to review the ground rules and work on solutions to resolve conflicts, as outlined in the bullets above. If children frequently fight about the same issue, it’s a sign that a collaborative approach is needed, with parents modeling problem-solving behavior.

In a small percentage of families, the conflict between siblings is so severe that it disrupts daily functioning, such as the children’s ability to go to school on time or attend extra-curricular activities. Fighting can be so severe that it can affect kids emotionally or psychologically. In these cases, please do seek help from a mental health professional. If you have any questions about your children, you can also speak to their pediatrician, who can help you assess whether you and your family might benefit from seeking out professional help or refer you to local behavioral health specialists.

 

Patti Grant, LICSW (617) 606-7450

grant@copernican.us

Private Practice:

Newton: 44 Thornton Street, Newton,

Lexington: The Liberties, Suite #11, 33 Bedford Street, Lexington, MA 02420

Copernican Clinical Services: www.Copernican.us  “We Help People Change”

Phone: (617) 606-7450

 

 

Parenting Matters is a collaboration between the Colonial Times Magazine and the Town of Lexington Human Services Department. This column is not intended as a substitute for therapy and the contents are do not necessarily reflect the views of CTM’s editorial staff. The information contained in Parenting Matters is for general information purposes only and should not be considered a substitute for the advice of a mental health professional, diagnosis or treatment.

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Anger Outbursts: Common Myths About Anger Management and Thought Based Interventions that Actually Work

Dr. David Perna

If you are a parent who is struggling with your child’s anger outbursts stop blaming yourself. Instead, join the crowd. I work with a multitude of educators and mental health professionals who are equally stymied by kids who display anger outbursts. And they are professionals. They typically use outdated solutions that do not work like, “I just have them hit a pillow,” or “I tell them to count to ten.” These interventions typically don’t work. How do I know that these interventions do not work? I simply ask my patients. They have said, “That is the dumbest thing I ever heard-count to ten.” Or, “I am getting really good at hitting my pillow, and my brother.”

Research shows that if you want kids to punch someone when he/she is angry then simply have him/her practice punching something on a regular basis, such as a pillow. Remember, practice make perfect. I help teach kids that angry oubursts are a choice. These behavioral choices are influenced by the thoughts that precede them. By working to understand their unhealthy thoughts they can avoid poor choices. It might sound complicated but it is pretty simple. Here are three examples.

1. Poor Reality Testing: We commonly think that everyone shares a common sense of reality when an event occurs. However, kids who struggle with their anger have a difficult time with shared reality whether they are participating in a sporting event, a birthday party, or a board game. Younger children are more prone to these kinds of challenges given their age and limited ability to understand many cultural/societal/group rules. Kids with anger challenges commonly maintain a more regressed view of the world. In essence they are not tracking the same information that most kids are paying attention to. In the end they make behavioral decisions that cause tension and then lash-out when other people challenge their perspectives.

Example #1: An example of Poor Reality Testing would include a child who “throws a nutty” while hitting during a baseball game. In this situation he is likely to think that the umpire’s call was wrong, quickly feel embarrassed and humiliated, and then start to throw his bat and helmet to the ground. Reviewing with him over and over again, “Take a deep breath,” will not work. He believes he was wronged. A better foundational intervention would be to talk with him about how people see things differently. How umpires sometimes make mistakes. And how although he has a right to an opinion in the end the umpire has the final say. Reminding him before he steps up to hit that he should try his best, but abide by the umpire’s feedback is most critical. After he bats you can encourage him to tell you his opinion of the umpire’s calls whether or not he gets on base. This will allow him to anticipate a difference of opinion and provide him with an outlet for discussion. Increased language usage leads to increased reality testing.

2. Pseudo-Paranoia: Pseudo-paranoia is evidenced by the extent to which certain kids seem to always start off with a negative view of others. No one is trusted until they “prove” themselves, and the proof required is tremendous. These kids are not fully paranoid in the sense that they do not think that the government is planting transmitters in their teeth, however, they tend to focus on what is wrong with others rather than what is right about them. Pseudo-Paranoid thoughts commonly piggyback on top of poor reality testing and enhance it.

Example #2: Sometimes kids will think that their schoolteacher does not like them. Despite any practical proof they think that other children in their class are favored. Many times they will erupt in class and lash out yelling that the teacher is not fair, cares more about the boys than the girls, or specifically chose a writing activity since the teacher knew that she “hates writing.” In such circumstances it is important for the teacher to articulate to the student why certain activities are important.

I will frequently tell teachers that they need to catch my patients “doing things right.” By balancing out one situation where a limit is set with five situations where they offer praise I have found that my patients will typically settle down and feel at ease. Parents will commonly comment to me, “I don’t want my kid to feel indulged or to become spoiled.” I will typically respond by saying that without such balancing their child will be so overwhelmed each day in school that he/she will not make progress. The first step is always balance and calming. During this phase the emphasis is on providing firm examples that substantiate that the teacher is fair. The second step is to offer better reality testing.

3. Rumination: Cognitive rumination is based upon the rather distasteful notion of actual “rumination” which is exemplified by a cow chewing and re-chewing its cud. Unlike most people who are impacted by an event, digest it, and let it go, kids with anger disorders are marked by an inability to let things go and cognitively move on. These issues keep coming back up again and again in their thoughts. When angry kids recirculate these “stuck thoughts” they display a limited ability to show restraint. Like a snowball that gathers energy and weight as it rolls down hill, ruminating thoughts generally gather steam and lead to an explosive release.

Example #3: Adolescents tend to struggle with ruminating thoughts. It is common for them to arrive home, go to their room and start to brew about an earlier conflict. When an unsuspecting parent knocks on their door to tell them it is time for dinner, he/she is typically bombarded with an emotional barrage that throws them for a whirl. Parents commonly start to scream in response, which in turn provokes a verbal trench war. And let’s be clear, trench warfare never really ends pleasantly. In contrast it would be better for parents to remain calm, note their surprise in not knowing that their child was upset, assume that their child has some legitimate reason to be upset and ask him/her to simply put his/her frustration into words. Be patient. Remember, verbal mediation is the “Holy Grail” of anger management. Good luck! Better yet, Good Skills!

 

Dr. David Perna

Dr. David Perna

Dr. Perna is a licensed psychologist who has an expertise in the treatment of child/adolescent anger management and its relationship to learning challenges. He is the owner of Copernican Clinical Services, a group practice with offices in Lexington and Newton, MA. He works with families, schools, and various professionals in addition to running specialized anger management groups. He maintains an academic appointment at Harvard Medical School and is a Clinical Associate at McLean Hospital, the medical school’s largest psychiatric teaching facility. He is the former Director of the Child/Adolescent Anger Management Program at McLean Hospital. Feel free to follow his newsletter/postings/ramblings about anger management, learning, adolescent psychology, and family therapy on the web: www.copernican.us, or visit his personal website: www.davidperna.com.

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Pop Quiz: Which Mouse has ADHD?

By Henry David Abraham MD

If you harbored any doubt that ADHD is real, take a look at the time-lapsed photo below. It comes from Duke University where they are trying to define ADHD on a molecular level. The mouse in the left test-tube is normal. The one in the middle is missing a certain gene. The one in the right tube is missing a pair of those genes. The blurred image tells the story. Hyperactivity is for real, at least in mice.

But if you or your child has suffered from attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder you don’t need evidence from a lab. The classroom tells the story well enough. The ADHD child is the one who can’t keep his seat, who runs and climbs at the wrong times, who can’t wait his turn or keep from talking. A more subtle form is found in the kid who can’t pay attention, can’t organize, is forgetful, distractible, and forever losing things. This is the inattentive type of ADHD. Kids with poor attention have trouble reading. Kids with hyperactivity have trouble listening. Some kids have both types.

We even know where it comes from, sort of. Genes have been identified. Smoking in pregnancy increases the chances a baby will have ADHD. Even Tylenol in pregnancy increases the odds somewhat. The problem is that there is no simple test that clinches the diagnosis. It’s more a matter of a consensus between parents, teachers and doctors that seals the deal. Knock one of those out of the discussion, and you open the door to years of error.

Consider a short list of some of the other problems that can cause hyperactivity without ever being ADHD: learning disabilities, autism, mood disorders, drug abuse, caffeine, thyroid disease, asthma medication, to say nothing of a new sibling, new school, divorce, or death of a parent or grandparent. If there is one take home lesson, it’s that diagnosis should drive treatment, not the other way around.

When people agree on the diagnosis, treatment should follow two principles. The first is to create a state in the child of what AJ Martin calls “academic buoyancy.” That’s when a student develops the capacity to overcome setbacks that are typical of ordinary life at school. In severe cases medication is nearly always essential, since a strictly behavioral program is not likely to succeed alone. But behavioral steps in class and at home are essential. These children are not simply going to be cured by a pill. Needed as well are getting classroom accommodations, building classroom citizenship, making and keeping friends, and seeking schoolhouse victories in class and after school.

This brings up a second principle. Treatment must protect the children from us- the swarm of well-meaning parents, teachers, counselors and doctors who all want to do something about this whirling dervish of a child. Too often an overly aggressive treatment plan labels the child as trouble, a poor learner, not normal. The result is stigma, social isolation, and the continual drumbeat of inadequacy that the child hears and comes to believe. It’s not that you should do nothing. But whatever is done has to be done carefully. Note that on the average, symptoms diminish by about 50% every 5 years between the ages of 10 and 25. It’s fair to ask if a child’s problems are likely to disappear by adulthood, why treat in the first place? Because they may not, and without treatment she is in for a childhood surrounded by handwringing adults. This is not good for anyone.

What about the child with mild or moderate ADHD? They look OK for the most part, like the mouse in test-tube 2, but they still stand out by being inattentive rather than hyperactive, girls rather than boys. They are also annoying, irritable, friendless, indifferent to school work, anxious, or depressed. They may be helped by classroom accommodations, tutoring in tough subjects, and a little more parental involvement. Medications may be an option if behavioral approaches don’t do the job.

Medication is a big stick, and there are risks as well as benefits. Medications for the most part are stimulants. They are abusable, addictive, and with unpleasant side effects like insomnia, anxiety, and weight loss. In large doses they cause paranoia and psychosis. On tests and papers they can result in blithering. Worse, in a Dutch study of heroin addicts, fully one quarter of them had ADHD. And among ADHD patients, the risk for drug abuse was increased seven times.

So why has the sales of stimulants for ADHD quintupled in the last ten years? The answer is vividly described by Alan Schwarz’s recent piece in the New York Times, “The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder.” The sale of stimulant drugs is big business. Shire, the world’s biggest producer of ADHD drugs, just recorded some of its highest profits, largely based on sales of its stimulant Vyvanse. Shire even supports an on-line six question self-quiz to tell you if you suffer from their favorite disease. Nearly half the people who took the quiz for the Times were classified as possible ADHD cases. (Trouble wrapping up a project? Sounds serious. Call your doctor!) Stimulants have a ready market among desperate parents, hurried doctors, and students willing to divert their drug supply to friends who want to pull an all-nighter. The medications also have a thriving after-market among addicts. Heroin may have killed Philip Seymour Hoffman, but stimulants helped. A reporter for Al Jazeera asked me recently if normal college kids should use stimulants to enhance their school performance. Brave new world, that has such questions in it.

 

Henry David Abraham, M.D.

Henry David Abraham, M.D.

Dr. Henry David Abraham is a psychiatrist in Lexington, MA. He is the author of several books on drug education, including What’s a Parent to Do: Straight Talk on Drugs and Alcohol, and the e-book for teens, The No Nonsense Book on Drugs and Alcohol, available on Amazon.com and BN.com.

 

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