Thursday, August 28, 2014

Terrorist at Six Flags


I stood, feet in the cool water, attempting to keep track of my five children and two of their friends as they climbed cargo nets to water slides galore. My husband, after retrieving a couple items from our tiny theme park locker, was off scouting rides and attractions to experience next.

Not far away from me stood a man, also keeping an eye on children. He looked in my direction and I smiled. I could have sworn I received a scowl in response, but couldn't figure out why so assumed it wasn't directed at me. His wife arrived at his side, and he started spitting hateful words not so quietly to her. "They are everywhere! You can't go out for a day of fun with your family without running into f***ing terrorists!"

Looking around to figure out about whom he was talking, I quickly came to realize it was me. Incredibly sensitive to the sun due to medications I'm on, I had draped a large light scarf over my head and around my shoulders and upper body, very much in the manner of my Muslim friends. I was taken aback. One scarf somehow transformed me into a terrorist, despite the fact that I didn't have a single gun. bomb, or even a mean thought aimed at anyone. All it took was a scarf to induce hate and fear.

I couldn't let the comment go. I couldn't let the man walk away without saying something. Words tumbled from my mouth as I tried to maintain my composure. "Excuse me, sir. I'm a person with a sensitivity to the sun. And I'm a Christian, not that that matters. I'm not a terrorist. Holding certain religious beliefs doesn't make one a terrorist, and neither does a head covering. If you think that a woman covering her head makes her a terrorist, you might want to be wary of nuns."

He stammered some sort of apology in response and said something about Muslim extremists and fear and you don't see people like Buddhists going around killing people which is why he is studying Buddhism and you never know nowadays. I asked him to please not judge anyone by their outer appearance nor their beliefs, but by their actions. And to google Buddhist extremism cause there are extremes in all belief systems. Then I walked away, gathered the children, and we moved on to more amusement park fun. 

The entire interaction took maybe a minute, but I have carried it with me for weeks. One scarf worn a certain way and false assumptions were made. I somehow became, in at least one person's mind a symbol of fear; someone to hate. It's the instant hate that gets me. I can't wrap my mind around that type of hate. I don't want to be able to.

I feel blessed that I was able to respond with calm, kind words. And sort of sad he didn't seem to get my joke about being wary of nuns. 

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Prerequisites


Our family is weird. I know this is common knowledge by now, but I honestly think our weirdness may have reached a new level.

My husband and I have a slight ... ok, more accurately a huge obsession with the tv show How I Met Your Mother (HIMYM). When he introduced me to the show, my husband wasn't sure how I'd feel about it, as one of the characters in particular is quite the womanizer. Somehow I managed to absolutely love the show and still laugh at it as we watch seasons 1-8 over and over while waiting for the final season to be released on dvd next month.

HIMYM could very well be a guidebook for how we don't want our children to pursue romantic and/or sexual relationships when they feel they're ready for such a thing. Perhaps Lily and Marshall's relationship might be appropriate - falling in love, being respectful and encouraging of each other's goals, and maintaining a monogamous relationship - but Barney Stinson's 200+ sexual conquests and Ted's sleeping with most of his girlfriends within the first couple dates are not our idea of healthy relationship models. Therefore, our children haven't seen HIMYM. They have, however, been subjected to HIMYM inspired humor, the ducky tie (a Christmas gift from me to my husband), endless HIMYM references, and general daily conversation about HIMYM (Genereal Daily Conversation!). 



This has caused our fourteen year old to question when he'll be allowed to watch this epic program. He points out its TV-14 rating and his own age, so why not now?

Why not? Because there are way too many references that will go too far over his head for him to watch it now. He has work to do! He needs to get studying! We, in our glorious weirdness, have made up a list of prerequisites he must complete before being allowed to watch How I Met Your Mother. It includes, but is not limited to, such things as Doogie Howser, MD, Lethal Weapon, Terminator, Field of Dreams, Stand and Deliver, Happy Days, Die Hard, Stand By Me, Dirty Dancing, Top Gun, The Price Is Right, Dead Poet's Society, and much to my chagrin, the Weekend at Bernie's movies. He has already seen Star Wars, The Karate Kid, Crocodile Dundee III (it really does hold up!), Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Jurassic Park, and The Breakfast Club. 

Now, in addition to his normal homeschool studies, Zachary has undertaken Pre-HIMYM, hoping to complete it as soon as Netflix allows so he can move on to HIMYM 101. If all goes well, my husband and I will finish HIMYM 109 beforehand, just in case the prerequisite list needs to be expanded due to season nine content. 

So there you have it. True story.



Monday, August 25, 2014

Faith, Trust, and Pixie Dust

All the world is made of faith, trust, and pixie dust. J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

Sometimes I forget. A lot of the time lately, in fact.

It seems the more pain I experience, the more ill I feel, the less money we have, the more things are breaking down, the more I tend to forget to pay attention to faith, trust, and pixie dust.

I forget to take a moment or twenty to thank God for all the blessings in my life and ask for guidance and patience along life's path. I get too wrapped up in thinking about how much I have lost physically; in the feeling of once again falling behind in life; and in the realization that things can get very much worse for me, for us, quickly. 

I forget to trust that things will work out one way or another. Worry about the future clouds my ability to enjoy the moment. The what-ifs corrode my happiness, eating away at hope until I feel I'm more struggling to survive than living. 

I forget to let my children be children. Noisy children. Rambunctious children. Creative, awesome, adventurous children. Children who believe that life is all about faith, trust, and pixie dust.

All because I want peace and quiet. And to not think or feel or deal with anyone else or anything else for a while. Perhaps also because I want to solve life's problems now, instead of waiting for things to fall into place, and that just might happen if I could just get a moment of peace.



It's easy to lose track of the whimsy of life when you live with chronic pain or chronic illness. Too easy. Slipping into anger and despair seems so much easier. It certainly must take much less energy.

We forget it's just as easy and better for our health to laugh. Laughter, fun, hope, confidence that things will work out for the best, even though they may look bleak now - these are essential not just for survival, but for prospering despite life's obstacles. 

And so I step out in faith that good things will come from all this; in trust that I am strong enough and weak enough and together enough and broken enough to get through this - all with the help of a little a lot of pixie dust to bring laughter and love to my days and to help my spirits soar. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Adventure Camp


Our two teenagers signed up for Adventure Camp at Camp Calumet Lutheran in Freedom, New Hampshire once again this year. They spent the week canoeing, rock climbing and rappelling, hiking the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and doing all sorts of crazy things. They signed up for wilderness and lots of rowing and tons of walking, climbing, et cetera. 

I did not.

I signed up for dropping three kids off at Resident Camp on Sunday through Saturday and two children off at Day Camp from 8:30AM - 4:30PM Monday through Friday. I signed up for relaxing on the beach, reading a few good books, going on a hike or two, taking a kayak out for a leisurely row, and a two hour pontoon boat excursion to see loons and explore Lake Ossipee. 



Nine days at Camp Calumet provided more laughter, more love, more joy, more beauty, and certainly more adventure than I could have ever anticipated. 

For the first time in forever, my husband and I had hours to ourselves every day. It took a little while for us to figure out what to do with ourselves, but we managed to use our time well. Monday we hiked Jackman Ridge. The hike reminded me how far downhill I've come since last Summer, at the same time encouraging me to enjoy every step all the more greatly. 



Tuesday we kayaked to the mouth of the Bear Camp River and a little way beyond - far beyond what I was expecting, a surprising distance once we turned around to head back to Camp. Fighting winds and currents to get back to shore, I arrived worn out, yet elated. I'd forgotten how good I feel when kayaking.


Wednesday we contemplated the story of Noah while riding out a severe thunderstorm on an airbed in our tent, lightning striking the ground just feet away. This, after our pontoon boat ride was cut short in order to beat the storm to shore, collect our Day Campers' belongings, and get our clothing off the line before the downpour began.


Thursday found us hiking up Rattlesnake Mountain to what felt at the time to be the top of the world - both physically and emotionally. On the way down I was already plotting to hike that again in the Fall, when the views of Squam Lake and surrounding areas will be ablaze with autumn leaves. 


Rainy Friday provided an amazing, if wet, second hike up Jackman Ridge, down another path through the pines, as well as an opportunity to experience the Princess and the Pea in a whole new way courtesy of the Drama Camp production in which three of our children performed marvelously. 
Haley is the Lady in Waiting in the middle

Coren is the sleeping wizard on the right
Alia is in the center of the photo
After picking up our Resident Campers on Saturday, we nearly lost one of them while on a family canoe / kayak excursion. High winds and strong currents conspired to drag our eldest in the opposite direction of Camp, but Alia and I went to the rescue in our double kayak and verbally guided him toward shore, albeit the shore of another camp, and then along shore back to Calumet. We arrived to cheers and congratulations and exclamations on how close they'd come to sending a boat to the rescue. 

Epic storms, fighting currents, hiking to new heights, and rushing to my son's aid were quite a lot more adventure than I'd set out to have during our Camp Calumet vacation, but I wouldn't trade any of it for a week of relaxing on a beach.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Too Much Like Me


I love him dearly, this child who is too much like me. 

I love the full-bodied laugh that tumbles form his being, often accompanying a sly look in my direction. We have the same sense of humor, and crack up at things that make others look at us oddly. My heart melts at the sight of his smiles, the kind that light up his eyes and radiate to those around him. 

That he is so much like me pains me intensely at times. He feels too deeply, hurts so easily. The storms sometimes raging behind his eyes tighten my chest with grief. Consumed with helplessness, I long to lift this dark legacy from him.

He has turned fourteen, and later this year I turn forty. Neither seem possible; both feel unexpectedly old. It's nearly too much for me to wrap my brain around. It seems like just yesterday he was four years old, golden curls and impish face lighting up my life, and I, not yet thirty, two of my children just a prayer waiting to be answered. 


He is too much like me, but so incredibly different from me. He makes friends easily. His adventurous spirit leads him to do things I wouldn't have considered at his age. Much more athletic, he is well versed in hiking, kayaking, canoeing, rock climbing, rappelling, and more. He has performed Shakespeare on stage - King Lear, from memory. I was thirty-something before I could get up in front of a church congregation as lector, the readings laid out before me, albeit very nervously at first. 

Alike or different, Zachary is growing into a wonderful young man with a quick wit and caring heart. For better or for worse, the words, "He's so much like you, " or "He's definitely your child," will forever be a compliment to me - although I'm not sure he'll return the sentiment. 

Happy Fourteen, Zachary! 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Downhill From Here


Some people say, "It's all downhill from here," meaning that the going should be easy from now on. 

Others see downhill in a different light.

My health is going downhill, rather too quickly for my liking, and it's not a good thing. I'm in constant pain. Horrible pain. Sleep at night is difficult to come by, but I can pass out cold just about anytime between 4 and 7pm most days, sometimes earlier. At times, just walking from the house to the car is overwhelming. Other days, I seem to have energy to spare, if only my body would cooperate. 

As my health is declining, I find myself bracing for a plummet in my mood. After all, looking back just one year, to my wonderful Camp Calumet and local hiking experiences, remembering how good I felt, how in tune with my body and out of touch with extreme pain I was, could be quite depressing. Remembering how it felt living in my body last year puts into sharp relief the increase of pain, the decrease in mobility, and the pounds added thanks to pain and prednisone. 

But there's one big difference.


I'm not in that newly-diagnosed with a horrible disease panic. I'm not in an off-meds-for-medical-testing funk, nor am I in the phase of hoping to find medical treatment will work. I'm in new territory altogether - perhaps an even more frightening place that I've been since before diagnosis. I should be terrified that my meds are no longer enough to keep my diseases at bay. I should be angry that I'm in so much pain during what should be the best time of my year.

Somehow I'm not. I know enough now to expect the rollercoaster ride that is autoimmune disease. Medications lose efficacy. Flares happen for no apparent reason. This is what my life is. If I've learned nothing else over the course of the past few years, it's that it's up to me whether this disease drags me down with it, or whether I not only live life to the fullest, but celebrate and cherish every moment I possibly can. 


As I type, I'm battling extreme back pain and a migraine that just won't go away - while my youngest is searching for a lost sandal to pack for our week at Camp Calumet. In a few hours we'll be packing the van, and in twenty-four hours we'll be relaxing on the beach of Lake Ossipee. I may still be in pain then, and most likely every day of our vacation, but no matter if I'm able to hike, or merely able to lounge on the beach devouring book after book, I'll be thankful for what I can do. You see, after going through previous struggles and coming to terms with what the future most likely holds for me, I'm fairly sure nothing can come close to making me go down the why-me rabbit hole of chronic illness. No matter what happens, I will always count my blessings - even the ones that look more like struggles.  

It really is all downhill from here. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Minimal Miracles


It's the small things that bring me joy.

Every Summer we go to Camp Calumet in New Hampshire, where this year our eldest three are in Resident Camp and our younger two are in Day Camp. That means I have to pack for three kids for a week of camp, plus a few days; for two kids who stay at Family Camp with us; and for two adults, including clothing, bathing suits, beach towels, bath towels, toiletries, multiple pairs of shoes, sleeping bags, pillows, and the list goes on. Then there are the bins and coolers of food and supplies needed to prepare, cook, serve, and eat said food. And a very large tent, an air bed, an air mattress, a screen tent, camp chairs... that's a lot of stuff! 

In the past, it's been a mad scramble to catch up with laundry in order to be able to pack everything the kids need, to dig through everything in our garage and basement to gather the supplies we need, and wading through the storage closet to dig out the sleeping bags from amongst snowsuits and boxes of who-knows-what since we haven't opened them since we moved here nearly fifteen years ago. 

But not this year. 

Over the past year, I've worked to minimize the amount of stuff in our house. We've sorted through all of our clothing several times to weed out what doesn't fit and what we don't wear. Systematically going through every room, drawer, and closet in the house, including the basement and garage, we've cast off what isn't needed, what doesn't bring joy or beauty, and what doesn't serve a purpose.Whenever I've thought, "but I might need this some day," it's gone in the donation bin. If someday comes, I'll find that whatever-it-is in a thrift shop or borrow one from a friend. We've donated sheets and towels to a local animal shelter, clothing to St. Pauly's, and household items to our local thrift store. 

So this year, there's no wading through anything to get to what we need to pack - it's all easily accessible. We no longer have a giant pile of laundry waiting to be washed, even though there are seven of us living in this house, so packing clothing is just a matter of deciding what we want to wear and shoving it in a backpack or suitcase. Once Camp is over, the camping items will go back into their respective bins and be stored in a place designated for camping items, and putting the other items away will be easy because everything has a place, and more importantly, there's room for everything. Compared to other years, packing this year has been a cinch. Well, as much of a cinch as packing for seven people can be. 

This year I didn't create more mess in my house by rifling through everything to pull out camping items, so our house will be much cleaner upon departure than it has been in the past. We won't be adding smelly camp laundry to our already overwhelming laundry pile when we arrive home, as there is no pile. That, in and of itself, makes me not dread the task of unpacking and getting back to "real life." Leaving a neat house and coming back with things that can easily be put back into their designated places will hopefully make for a smooth transition, which would be a miracle. 



I, a packrat by nature, never pictured myself as a Minimalist, but it seems that day by day I'm headed in that blissful direction. It's a simple as that.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Twelve


Twelve is somehow so much older than Eleven. Eleven is still more a child ... Twelve is too close to Teenager. But today we have arrived at Twelve. Well, Haley, my Girl of Fiery Spirit, has. 


I love that she is still that Girl, yet has blossomed even more into herself and into a beautiful young woman. I don't think she'll ever loose her child-like spirit - I love that about her. She loves both the "grown up" role of taking care of small children, but also embraces the joy of playing with them at their level.  


As I glimpse the emotional teen years to come in Haley, I also see that she is well-grounded in faith and family, which should serve all of us all well as she navigates the treacherous waters of Teenager. She impresses me with her motivation to reach goals she sets for herself while dreaming big dreams. 


Twelve. And as Haley reminded me this morning with a sly smile on her face, a year until Thirteen - a year until we will have three teenagers in our household. Until then, I'll enjoy seeing Haley continue to grow and blossom into an even more wonderful young woman than she already is. 





Monday, June 16, 2014

Dearest God

Dearest God,
I need a vacation. Not just any vacation, mind you - a vacation from things falling apart, breaking, or not functioning properly; a vacation from accidents and incidents; a vacation from emotional rollercoasters and ever-increasing physical pain; a vacation from financial stresses and to-do lists - a vacation of epic proportions. Now, I'm not asking for an all-expenses paid trip to a tropical island, although that would be nice. I'm asking for a simple, paid-for-by-us week at Camp Calumet during which I can enjoy time alone with my husband kayaking and hiking and relaxing and having fun; quality time with my two youngest, during which we can focus on them without older siblings vying for attention; and blessed time with You, so that I may center myself  and my life in You and regain some of the balance that I am currently finding it difficult to find, nevermind maintain. If you could work on making that happen, I'd be incredibly thankful. My family would, too, as they need a Mama who is not so far off the deep end there's no swimming back. Until then, I'll just keep swimming, just keep swimming...

Faithfully Yours,
Me

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Why Couldn't It Be Follow The Butterflies


Ron Weasley: Why spiders? Why couldn't it be "follow the butterflies"?
After passing through a door labeled Platform 9 3/4, there is a sign ...
 

Following the butterfly streamer attached to the sign, you pass a plethora of sweets and an array of potions. 


You might stop for a Butterbeer before continuing on, eventually entering a room where a Sorting Hat is placed on your head and you are sorted into your House. You then receive your unique, handcrafted wand. 


More potions, including Amortentia and Felix Felicis, 


and sweets such as Bertie Botts Every Flavour Beans 


and Chocolate Frogs await, along with goblets of sourly sweet lemonade and myriad snacks. 

You are in for a night of little sleep and lots of Harry Potter. 

There are surprises here

and there

throughout the house. 

At least that's what you would have experienced had you attended my daughter's Harry Potter Birthday Not-So-Much-Sleepover Party last night.  The epic midnight Spell Duel, involving spitfire sparklers, had to be cancelled due to weather, but other than that, the girls had lots of fun. Not a bad way to celebrate TWELVE!