Tuesday, November 26, 2013

classical conditioning

I am like Pavlov's dog first thing in the morning. I hear the familiar bubbling hums and hisses from our coffee machine and I immediately am at ease. The first sip is better than all the rest combined. Funny how that happens. Today most certainly was a Monday, but less offensive knowing that this is a shortened week.

Ivan Pavlov accidentally discovered Classical Conditioning, which has had a major influence on Behaviorism. The analytical study of behavior has been a key concept for teaching children with autism. Pavlov's initial intent was to study the digestion of dogs, however, when Pavlov discovered that any object or event which the dogs learnt to associate with food (such as the lab assistant) would trigger the same response (salivating), he realized that he had made an important scientific discovery, and he devoted the rest of his career to studying this type of learning.

Pavlov knew that somehow, the dogs in his lab had learned to associate food with his lab assistant. This must have been learned, because at one point the dogs did not do it, and there came a point where they started, so their behavior had changed.  A change in behavior of this type must be the result of learning.

I think this piece of history is important for two reasons. One- sometimes we aren't able to do what we initially set out to do and we think we screwed up- but in actuality- our result is groundbreaking and important. And two- it's important to remember we all have control of changing our very own behaviors, and sometimes with a change in behavior- comes a flood of new thoughts, washing out old, outdated and possibly even painful and broken ones. 

Most holidays feel like I am on the sidelines, watching other families celebrate. It leaves me thinking deeply and quite honestly- feeling too much. I think holidays mean different things to different people. I can see how it truly brings out the very best in some--it brings them to life-like they were born to do holidays. Some become stressed about the shopping and to do lists. It becomes more about chores and doing than about feeling and giving.They throw in an I'm so blessed and grateful to counteract some of those feelings and hide how stressed and ungrateful they actually feel. And some- some just hate the holidays. For some this marks the first big even without their spouse or father. There's no sugar coating it- it's just hard sometimes- Life. And for some, the holidays can make you feel like you are just doing life wrong. In the moment it's sometimes hard to remember that Feelings are only stops along the way of this entire journey of life.

Like most things, I find myself swimming somewhere in the middle of all those things. Some people have never been to Happy. They have no idea where to even find it on the map. Some people vacation in Happy, enjoying it while they are there, but unable to stay for long. Some people live in Happy, year round.

I want to live there- in Happy...Not take a vacation away from Happy when the holidays arrive-so I stretch and reach and grow towards change. 

I close my eyes and motor through so much. I must to be strong.  Look forward and keep moving, Chrissy. With family far away, Michael traveling, and managing two little boys each with a full time job, sometimes it forces me to go on autopilot. I argue with myself- Yes, I do need to motor and trudge and march and verb...but I also desperately need to frolic and skip and linger and adjective more.

Sometimes when we are in the thick, it's hard to find our grateful and find our shovel to dig ourselves out. Our miserable thoughts love company- so then they create more miserable thoughts to hang out with. When something is hard and hurts you and you close your eyes to it- it grows bigger and scarier and gains more power.

I want to open my eyes. I'm trying something new this season. I'm trying real grateful. Real joy.  I'm working to embrace the holidays. I'm working to acknowledge the hurt without giving it permission to grow and multiply. Yes, the holidays don't look like I expected them to look, they don't look like everyone elses, and that okay. I'm embracing my hard, because I know from past experience that doing hard things creates growth.

We are here to grow- don't you think?

If I'm looking for things to make me sad- I will find it. This year Thanksgiving and Christmas is just going to be us. Dear friends who have adopted us in the past have moved away. It's hard to live in a new town sometimes. But I will acknowledge those feelings and frolic on. I will remember I truly have lots for which to be thankful. I will use this time to reflect on who I want to be when I grow up. I want to do big and important things in 2014, I just don't know what they are yet. I want to get better at grateful. Like not just doing it lip service. I want to feel its vibration in my core. I want to use it to help others.

And in order to change my thoughts, I first change my behaviors. Sometimes for me- behavior is the easier part. I made myself listen to just a little bit of the Christmas music already playing on the radio. I refuse to roll my eyes at the early Christmas displays in all the stores. Heck, we are even going to have a little Holiday Cocktail party at our house. How's that for embracing?

I want to try and get in on the hype. 

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I even decorated my house. Just kidding- I wish. It's actually a store in Old Town Clovis. It's so dreamy- just like I want Christmas to look in my mind.

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THIS FACE. Seriously- sometimes it is unbearable saying no. He wanted to touch EVERYTHING and was saddened by my move to isolate and thwart him.

Tonight we went to embrace the season and look at the bright and shining tree at Riverpark. 
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OOOOOooooooooo. He thinks it's beautiful. 

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And in this moment - I really feel it. Who cares if my boys don't understand Christmas or Santa or care about presents? Maybe that's not all bad. We are able to celebrate together- with each other.That's what it's all about. Maybe, just maybe it is ME that has had Christmas all wrong in the past. It's about love and baby Jesus and grateful and blessings. Christmas and Thanksgiving aren't supposed to be perfect, but it's most certainly supposed to be happy.

However, there is something I saw in a display window tonight that I MUST have.
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The three little eleves on the left. The middle one is my FAVORITE.

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It's supposed to be with people you love. Whether you have one person to spend it with or 100. And if you don't have anyone to spend it with- you can spend it with us. No one should be alone on the holidays.

I will embrace the next month, with an open heart.

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I will celebrate it in the ways that make me feel good.

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Even if it's at Jack the dog's expense.

Whether you're excited or scared or stressed or all of the above. Take a moment to think about what you want the holidays to mean to you this year.

So much Love,



  1. Not that you didn't already know this but the holidays aren't perfect for anyone I remember being so crushed last year because the adorable pjs I wanted my son to wear on Christmas morning for all of our pictures, were peed straight through and he had to wear some old ugly ones. Oh well. Trying to embrace it all this year.

  2. The holidays are always stressful, fun, crazy, and emotional all at the same time, but so is everyday life, so why should the holiday season be any different. Great to be reminded how to just enjoy it all. I really liked the line about spending the holidays with you when you have no one, So Sweet! I have tons of family and am pulled in many wonderful directions, but must remember that not all are blessed the way I am and not all enjoy the season, especially Christmas the way I do. I must remember to be patient when faced with long lines and crazy drivers and just enjoy. :)

  3. Thanks for the thoughts - I'm having a hard time getting into it and trying to understand it so I can change it. I don't like people telling me what to do and the holidays often feel like that to me so I find myself balking at them. I want to change how I look at them. I think Grey's face looking at the tree is a big part of the missing piece. That's why we do it - I think I can start to see/feel that. Thank you Chrissy - you help far more people than you know with your words and photos. Love to you all and all your blog readers too. In the end, it's the people who matter the most.