Monday, April 30, 2012

Wow!

Waking up, I'm afraid to move. Thinking back to the past four days, uncertainty as to whether or not my body will cooperate fills my mind. It's been quite a long weekend. 


Thursday found me loading my van with silent auction donations and swag bag goodies, unloading it at the hotel with a little help (it took over an hour!), doing a lot of driving, and finally relaxing at the hotel for an hour before organizing everything and meeting with amazing women to stuff swag bags and chat. Friday found me up at 5am and out the door by 6 to set up a silent auction and attend the Healthcare Provider Seminar. Thankful that my room was right off the main hallway where the event took place, I prepared my own food for lunch and made several trips to the room for meds and supplements to get me through the day. A dinner was followed by listening to an amazing speaker, then prepping registration folders and hanging out with more brilliant women. 


To bed late and up early once more, the next morning was more hectic than the first. Silent auction, theme baskets, my non-profit's table set up, and donning my storyteller hat, I entertained children with rainforest stories and lots of silliness. Perhaps the favorite story was read laying in the middle of the huge space that would next be used for hula hooping. Stories exhausted, likewise myself, it was only 10:15AM and a full day lay ahead. 


More silent auction and theme basketry, then lunch and a ceremony to celebrate women who blessed their communities with providing support to breastfeeding families. Theme baskets. Silent auction. A quick trip to explore the vendors and acquire treats for my children. The day flew by. 


A frenzy of activity in the final minutes of the auction gave way to eager bidders requesting their winnings before we could even begin to get organized. Theme basket tickets drawn and silent auction winnings totaled, my job was almost done. Baskets claimed and auction goods collected and paid, clean-up began. 


One last gathering with a group of lllovely llladies, and it was time to go home. Three days, lots of energy, and an accumulation of spoon debt (is that even possible), and I could finally curl up in bed for a while. Well, after the van was unloaded of HPS and Conference plunder and re-loaded with Earthstock necessities. 


Sleeping in until 6AM and out the door by 7:15, caffeine was acquired before set-up began. A windy day and too-large replacement roof made for an interesting time setting up the carport-sized tent- and keeping it from becoming a giant hang-glider. Ziggy and I explored the festival, my kids hooped, drummed, ate, and visited vendors. Haley even sold some of her drawings and bought a beeswax candle with her earnings. 


By clean-up time, I was beyond tired and very much in pain. By the time we arrived home, it was all I could do to get myself up the steep driveway, the stairs, and to my bed, where I collapsed for an hour and a half before regaining consciousness enough to eat dinner. Ten hours of sleep provided little recuperative benefit. 

As for today ... you'll find me curled up in bed under a pile of eight children reading books and doing my best not to move in such away that will anger Sporadic Artie

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

For Sale

One slightly used overtired four-year-old. While adorable most of the time, she did not sleep well last night and has been expressing herself in a very loud manner as of late. If you need to stay awake - or aggravate older children who are trying to watch a movie - she's for you! She comes with free bossiness and obsessive-compulsive tendencies. You'll be entertained for hours by spontaneous meltdowns due to someone walking the wrong way or putting their cup down a half inch too far to the left. Don't let the moments of cuteness as she sings to her fluffy bunny stuffed animal fool you, she's just as apt to pummel you with said stuffed animal should you at all disturb her concentration. Do not expect this tuckered out tyke to surrender to sleep. She will instead insist that should she fall asleep, a monster from her dreams will reach out through her mind and pull her still-beating heart from her chest while she sleeps and totally mess up her room with all that blood. If interested, please contact me at 1-800-GTFTS. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How Do You Feel?

When typing the title, I totally heard it in my head as the computer in Star Trek IV:

I do not understand the question


Perhaps it's coincidence, but sometimes my first thought when I hear the question, "How do you feel?" or "How are you?" is that I do not understand the question. Are you asking how I'm feeling in reference to how I normally feel living with psoriatic arthritis, amongst other maladies? Or are you asking in comparison to "normal" people? Do you really want to know how I feel, or do you just want me to say something like, "fine, thank you" and move on?

If you are really interested in how I feel, but are talking about how I feel in relation to healthy people, we need to go with the Wong-Baker pain scale:


My pain on my worst days would be a ... ummm.... wait - where's the want-to-rip-off-my-own-leg-and-beat-myself-into-unconsciousness face?  This pain scale must be defective. Is 10 really what the worst pain you've experienced looks like? I make a worse face than that when I get head-butted in the nose by a baby, which just happened to have happened today.

Let's move on to the most awesomest pain scale designed by Hyperbole and a Half genius Allie Brosh (I highly recommend you check out her blog, especially: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/2010/02/boyfriend-doesnt-have-ebola-probably.html ). She knows that of which she draws. It is my opinion that all rheumatologist's offices should have this pain scale in every exam room:


This part of the pain scale pretty much goes along with the Wong-Baker scale, but definitely leaves room for improvement. I think the hands help a lot in communicating the level of pain. But wait - there's more!


Now isn't that better? As you can see - this accurately depicts greater levels of pain. Levels of which Wong and Baker never dreamed. Levels of pain to which people with autoimmune diseases and other chronic illnesses can relate. 

Still, I never know how to answer that question. What do you say? What do people really want to hear? My usual response is, "relatively good." Relative to how I usually feel, I'm feeling good. Relative to how you usually feel, you'd think I'd be rushing to the ER so they could show me the Wong-Baker scale and I could give them an inaccurate perception of my pain level. That is, unless you live with a friend such as Sporadic Artie and understand what pain is. 

How do I feel? I do not understand the question.




Monday, April 23, 2012

Cock-a-doodle-do!


A Glimpse from my past: March, 2009 ... I'm giving up even trying to sleep. What's the point? Every time I try to sleep, someone needs something and wakes me up. Last night it was... 

- Mamamilk!!! (nurses one year old)
- I'm thirsty! (then get yourself a drink)
- I have to go to the bathroom and it's too cold in the bathroom. (gets up, turns on heat in bathroom)
- MEMEMEMEMEME (desparate for mamamilk)
- I have to go potty and it's too hot in the bathroom (gets up, turns down heat in bathroom)
- I need water! (then get some)
- Is it morning time yet (no, it's 3:30am)
- Mamamilk! (nurses one year old)
- I need my special mamamilk (nurses 3 year old)
- I had a bad dream. (are you ok? do you need to sleep with Daddy?) No. Do I need to go back to sleep or can I put a movie on (it's 4am - go back to sleep)
- I can't get back to sleep. (you just started trying 4 minutes ago - try again)
- Coren's keeping me awake.(tell him to try to sleep for 15 minutes)
- MEMEMEMEME! (tries to ignore one year old)
- Whazzat? Mama! Whazzat? (continues to ignore one year old, praying she'll go back to sleep)
- Somebody in the other room is breathing too loudly. (then go sleep with Daddy) But he's even worse! (put your pillow over your head)
- Is it morning time yet? (no, it's 4:18, go back to bed)
- Can I wake up the kids yet? (No it's 4:36, go back to bed)
- Is it Mystic Aquarium day yet? (Bed.)
- The sun's up! (No, that's our neighbor's outside light. BED!)
- Mama. MAma. MAMA!!!! *one year old climbs out of bed*

I give up. I get out of bed to see where the one year old is going. I hear at least 2 kids playing upstairs. It's 5AM. If they're not going to let me sleep, I may as well be awake. I get a drink of water. I get the one year old a drink of water. I go to the bathroom. I set up my laptop. The one year old then decides it's time to sleep. I nurse her for 3 minutes and she's out like a light. And I'm awake.

At 6:06AM, at the first hint of light on the horizon, a rooster crows. A 3.5 year old rooster who apparently has been sitting at the top of the stairs, looking out the window for first light. He won't stop. He'll wake the rest of them. I'm doomed. 

Friday, April 20, 2012

MamaNym's Guide to Parenting with Love and Laughter

I've received a number of emails commenting on my parenting style and asking how on earth I handle some situations with humor when anger might be the first emotion to surface. Anger tends not to be a productive form of communication, so I try to avoid it when possible. Love and laughter are more fun, anyway! And that's what parenting should be - FUN! Even on the days the kids are driving me insane the most, if I can find laughter and remember love, things can turn around quickly.


I learned early on in life the importance of using humor as a tool to turn negative situations into positive feelings. My mother can attest to this fact. As a child, I often made my mother laugh when she was trying to reprimand me for something - and she learned that if she wasn’t so angry that she couldn’t laugh in that moment, then the situation probably wasn’t as horrible as her initial reaction told her it was ... and I was off the hook, or at least on a smaller hook.


That leads me to perhaps a slightly frightening point: Kids are the experts in this area, so using humor in parenting may take some craftiness on our part. Children are born with humor, with laughter – they are beings of love and forgiveness. As we grow up and learn “the ways of the world” as dictated by our culture, we lose a lot of that…or maybe just close it off in order to act more “grown up.”

Think back to your own childhood – did YOU use humor in your relationship with your parents? Do your children use humor in negative situations - even if it's unintentional humor?



Let’s talk about humor: Why is humor important, anyway? Humor:


- is a positive way of dealing with what could be a negative situation.
- invites a solution that works for parent and child, not just the parent.
- creates more intimacy and a closer bond between parent and child.
- shifts perspective, putting things in a less serious, and perhaps more realistic light
- helps you let go of defensiveness
- keeps you in the moment with the present situation, instead of in the past ("How many times have I told you?" "Why do you always...?" )

Laughter is the best medicine - and can remedy many tough parenting situations. Remember the 
47 ThingsLaughter can be an indispensable parenting tool. 


What does laughter do?
  • Boosts your mood by releasing endorphins
  • Decreases stress hormones
  • Relaxes your body
  • Improves oxygen flow to the brain
  • Lowers your blood pressure
  • Strengthens your immune system
  • Reduces physical pain
I bet everyone can immediately bring to mind one memory of laughing with someone. Most of our best memories have to do with situations in which we laughed. Alternately, some of our worst memories are from situations in which we were scolded or belittled. When I think about the memories I want my kids to have of their childhoods, I want them to think back and remember the laughter.


How do we get from having negative feelings at the situation to being in a mindspace where we can use humor instead?
-    
- Recognize what your immediate reaction is (frustration, yelling, etc) and plant the seed in your mind that should you experience that immediate reaction, you’ll wait before acting on it. Breathe before you speak.


- If possible, prevent situations from arising. For example: Asking vs. Telling ... If I ask, "Could you please clean off the dining room table?" I'm leaving myself open to the possibility that you'll say no. If I tell you, "I need you to clean off the table," it's clear that it's not negotiable.


- BREATHE! This is key. Before responding to the situation, take a deep breath and let it out slowly. This will help to slow your mind and body down so you can think and not just react.




- Smile. It’s difficult to be negative when you’re smiling. Or better yet, laugh. If it accomplishes nothing else, your kids will think you’ve lost your mind and will momentarily stop in their tracks to survey the situation.


- Pay attention to your physical response – don’t let stress settle in! Are you clenching your fists? Tightening your jaw? Putting your “mean face” on? Relax your body before you continue


- Assess the situation:
o Is it really worth getting upset over?
o Is it really as bad or serious or important as your initial thought or reaction tells you it might be?
o Is there a way to handle the situation from humor and love rather than frustration or anger?


- Argue with yourself first … in your mind. You may just find out that the argument isn't worth it - or worse yet, that you are wrong!


- Start your verbal response either first saying or thinking, “I love you…” It’s difficult to be *that* angry or frustrated with someone you’ve just verbally or mentally affirmed that you love.


- Let your creative juices flow! Complement the child's “angry face” and try it out yourself; remind the child that there is no giggling because they’re miserable and miserable people don’t giggle so don’t even consider giggling or even smiling for that matter; or rewind the conversation and act out both parts.


- Get physical – but not in a bad sense. Sometimes words just fail us, but as the saying goes, actions can speak louder than words. Demonstrate the behavior you’d like from your child instead of trying to verbalize it!


- Turn it into play. Play is the language that children understand.

Getting physical can be fun, and can be a great release for all involved. This can be especially useful with toddlers and preschoolers, but can be equally effective with older kids and even teens. Whether it's your toddler climbing somewhere he doesn't belong or your teenager dancing inappropriately at a party, physicality can be effective. Take the toddler, put him ON the thing he's supposed to stay off of, then take him OFF, saying the words ON and OFF ... and repeat and repeat and repeat, exaggerating movements and words and getting sillier as you go. Put on some tunes, take your teenager's hand, and dance with him, showing appropriate undulations and hand placements versus inappropriate - and perhaps at the same time, how ridiculous it all looks in the first place. Or maybe it's just you that looks ridiculous doing it. It's sure to be something the teen won't soon forget. 

In some situations, all you need to do is follow your child’s lead. Remember Too Much Moose? Yes, that took some energy, but now whenever he makes the noise, I just join in and within seconds he’s “disarmed” and calm enough to tell me with words what’s upsetting him.

How do we practice parenting with love and laughter?
-     - Count your blessings. When you’re feeling down, anxious, angry, frustrated, etc, list the positive things about the situation, the day, the person.


- Try laughing at situations rather than bemoaning them. Even if you don’t immediately see the humor, laugh and ask yourself, “what just happened?” Your answer might surprise you.


- Take yourself less seriously. Laugh at yourself. Share embarrassing situations you’ve been in with others. By taking ourselves less seriously and seeing ourselves as only human, it will help us to see others that way as well. A little empathy can go a long way.


- Put it in perspective. Is it really that serious? Is it really your problem? A week from now, will it really matter? Might you be able to look back at the situation someday and laugh – if you even remember it at all?


- Look at situations that arise, both positive and negative, with acceptance – look not at the behavior, but the situation your child is presenting you with and accept it as a path toward understanding your child better.


- Let your stress go. The more stress you build up, the more difficult it is to accomplish anything, nevermind playful parenting.


- Emulate your children. Children are the experts at play, levity, and not taking themselves seriously. We have a lot to learn from them!


Encouraging a sense of humor in our children is also important. A sense of humor helps children cope with life's stresses better, and someday will help them be better parents. How do we inspire a sense of humor in our children?


- Create a good environment for humor
   o Children who are in an atmosphere where fear or worry is the primary emotion have a more difficult time developing a sense of humor.
   o Children who are worried about being criticized have a more difficult time expressing their sense of humor.
   o Do not make fun of or put down a child as a joke – this can be hurtful, not helpful.


- Figure out what makes your child laugh and realize their sense of humor might differ from yours.


- Laugh with your children.


- Parent with humor and laughter.


But wait - what if you find your child looking like this: 
Well, you could scream at the child for getting into the paint and making a huge mess. Or you could stand, stare at her for a minute, tell her NOT TO MOVE, and grab your camera. You can ask the child whether or not that was a good idea - and when your child answers with a huge grin and a satisfied, "Yeaaaaaah," you can laugh. You can realize how absolutely fun it would be to slather yourself and your surroundings in green paint. You can agree with your child that it sounds like a lot of fun - but suggest next time that this can be done in the bathtub with washable kid's paint for easier cleanup. You can have a blast hosing down the child in the tub and cleaning up the mess with your child, a big bucket of soapy water, and two giant sponges. You can leave behind a little green paint as a reminder of time well spent with your child. 

Parenting with humor and encouraging our children’s sense of humor not only benefits the child, but it benefits us and our entire families. It also tends to  entertain the people who happen to bear witness to what might just seem like our more insane moments as we have conversations with inanimate objects or ourselves, and the myriad other things we’ll find ourselves doing in order to put more laughter and less anger into our lives. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Too Much Moose and Other Parenting Sillies

Too Much Moose


"Moose about to puke" 
My son Coren tends to yell “aaaaauuugh” when he’s upset about something. It used to frustrate me - but nothing I did changed the way he expressed himself. One day he was getting overly frustrated with something, but wouldn't stop. I found myself getting overly annoyed with the sounds emanating from his mouth, so I figured, if you can’t beat ‘em, join 'em. I made the noise with him. My first attempt at mimicking the noise failed miserably, and I admitted so out loud. “That was no good. How DO you make that noise so wonderfully? Let me try again ….. No, that wasn’t right… I need more oomph in the middle part there … OK…can you help me out here? Can you make that noise twice and then be quiet for a sec so I can hear myself make the noise and figure out where I’m going wrong? Maybe you could give me some pointers. ….. Is that better? No? Too much moose, you think?" by which time he found himself giggling uncontrollably and I had to remind him that he was frustrated and was supposed to be making that fabulous noise, not giggling….which made the giggling worse.


Ah, the importance of a sense of humor and just plain silliness when parenting. 


Alia and the Irresponsible Brother

One day I discovered Alia, age 2, with her toes, tops of her feet, and various other body parts covered in nail polish. Her response to the situation was, "I'm super mad at Coren. He didn't stop me when I got into Haley's nail polish. Now I need a bath." I could have yelled, but she still would have been a mess and it wouldn't have solved anything. And you have to admit - she had a point. Her four year old brother could have had his wits about him and stopped her from turning her feet into works of nail polish art. 
Oh, wait, he's four, and has a difficult enough time controlling his own behavior. I let natural consequences run their course - nail polish doesn't wash off well in the bath, which frustrates a 2-year-old with OCD tendencies.



When Your Kids Look Like This



Don't get mad. Take a deep breath, and loudly proclaim that MUDFEST has gotten off to a great start and that the festivities shall continue until each child is thoroughly muddy and much fun has been had. Don't worry. Kids are washable. And it's really fun to hear them squeal as you attack them with a water-spewing hose under the guise of leaving as much mud outside as possible. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

47 Things

I assigned each of my children a list of 5 things to do. Alexander wanted none of it. He protested. He grumbled. He complained loudly about how I always make him do 47 things, every day, all he does is work. My response? "47 things? FOURTY-SEVEN THINGS? Wow! 47 Things!!! You want to do 47 things - how WONDERFUL." I started writing. I got to the end of the paper and turned it over. I started on a second paper. "This is going to be great! Fourty-seven things!" His eyes bugged out of his head. He started pacing nervously. He started to try to talk me out of it, but thought better of it. I handed him the list. He refused to take it. Finally relenting, he then wouldn't read it. I insisted he read the list before any further complaining. He grumbled through the first 6 things…then suppressed a giggle at #7. As he read, his face contorted with effort as he tried to keep his angry face on. It was no use. He got to #19 'Hop on one foot while gargling and singing The Hairbrush Song' and he lost it. The other kids came to see what was so funny. I sent everyone back to their tasks and we all had fun as Alexander made his way through his list of 47 things to do. All of his original 5 tasks got done, plus another 5 “jobs”, plus a lot of silliness, an unexpected pre-lunch snack, reading a book to his little sister, making random animal noises, and more.


In that situation, I could have grumbled back at him, told him over and over to do his list, listened to him complain his way through his list, cajoled, reminded, yelled, nagged, punished, etc, but it would have made both of us miserable. Instead, not only did he and I benefit from his “47 Things” - the LEGENDARY 47 Things! - but to this day my kids ASK for lists of things to do and I have to wrack by brain to come up with new and amusing silliness for them to accomplish. Not only did he do his tasks, but the entire family enjoyed a laughter-filled morning.


Stay tuned for more adventures in parenting rannygahoots...

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Heroes Among Us


"Even if he knew the outcome, he would have done the same thing." The family of Alan Hall (http://tbo.com/ar/390103/ )


"Carissa is and always will be my greatest inspiration and number one hero ... the only word that could ever define her is love. " Dan Pearce (http://www.danoah.com/2012/04/in-honor-of-carissa-2.html)

Hero. A simple four-letter word that means so much. This word has popped up time and again in my life this week ... 

People gathered today to mourn the death and celebrate the life of a hero - a man who lost his own life saving the life of a child. His story has been on the news in Florida where the event occurred and family and friends have been sharing thoughts about him via the internet. The one phrase I've heard and read over and over is that even if he knew the outcome, he would have done the same thing. Alan Hall truly is a hero.

On his blog, Single Dad Laughing, Dan Pearce honors the memory of his sister - his number one hero - by asking everyone to share something about their favorite people. His sister loved everyone she met. They were all her favorite people. Only heroes like Carissa have love that big!

Those examples and others filled my thoughts with all the heroes in our lives that go seemingly unnoticed or unrecognized. The people who save others’ lives, perhaps without even realizing it. The people who touch our lives, even for a moment, yet have a huge impact. There have been many such people in my life.

Years ago I was alone in my dorm room studying. My asthma had been bothering me and I was having an especially hard time. As I got up to get a drink of water, my chest constricted and the world started spinning. I grabbed the phone and hit redial – then passed out. When I awoke, my hero’s face was the first I saw. It had been his number that had been the number I’d dialed – but I’d passed out before saying a word. He came to my rescue anyway – intuition, not caller id, told him it was me who called and that I needed him. A few years after that incident, I married him. His care, concern, and our deep connection makes Jim my hero. 


There was a time in my life when I was wracked with anxiety and depression. Feeling as if I could no longer handle my life and thinking I was losing my mind, I didn't know where to go or what to do. I was in a very bad place. A friend took me by the hand, found someone who could help me, and had me admitted to a psychiatric facility where I got the counseling and medications I needed. Her commitment to our friendship and the fact that she saved my life makes Renee my hero.

Almost two years ago I was pregnant, but felt that there was something wrong with the pregnancy. It would be my last pregnancy, that I knew for sure. On the way to my ultrasound, we stopped to get gas. I went inside to pay, and the man ahead of me turned to me and said, “God is with you. Especially now. It will be ok..” He smiled, and walked out the door. At my ultrasound I learned I would miscarry. I miscarried twins. The words of a complete stranger echoed in my heart through that difficult time and gave me peace. This stranger's love and faith make him my hero.



Last year I was having a difficult time coming to terms with my diagnoses and  new limitations. A friend recognized my struggle and did something about it. Each day for about a week, I received cards in the mail with pictures of spoons in them. Those cards meant the world to me - I still have some of the spoons taped to the shelves near my bed. The love and care in her cards buoyed my spirits and touched my heart. Dawn's kindness and encouraging spirit make her my hero.
 
There are innumerable heroes in all of our lives. I urge you to take some time to recognize and honor the heroes in your lives. Perhaps Alan Hall's daughter knows the best way to do so: "Please do something, however small, for someone today. A kind word or action would honor my dad." Because her heart is as giving as her dad's, even in this time of mourning, Julie Hall is my hero.













Thursday, April 12, 2012

I Dream of Sleeping

Opening my eyes, I'm astonished to find that I feel awake, alert, and well-rested. Sun streams through the window, assuring me it's morning. Getting out of bed, my joints don't protest as much as they usually do. The realization that my kids are still sleeping and it must be fairly early in the morning amazes me. This never happens. I'm never the first one awake, and I'm pretty consistently the last one up. I go about my usual morning routine, enjoying the quiet house. Opening the front door to welcome the day, the sun's rays warm my face and my spirit. Recognizing that this newfound energy might not last, I check the time before attempting to get some work done  - and I wake up.

Opening my eyes, the feeling of exhaustion overwhelms me and I close them again. Sounds filter through the haziness and I realize it must be morning, for some of the kids are up. I try to roll over, but the pain is too intense. My husband arrives with a heating pad for my lower back. I drift back to sleep, praying my body will cooperate when I once again regain consciousness. 

Sleep hasn't been coming easily to me lately. My brain won't shut off. The brain that won't function properly all day conjures all sorts of thoughts and ideas as soon as I lay down and close my eyes. The body that's too lethargic all day suddenly wants to spring into action and get things done. All I want is sleep. 

When I do sleep, I have the strangest dreams, such as the one last night about sneaking into a pretzel factory and mixing pretzel batter in a shopping cart - the most difficult part of which was squeezing dozens of tiny bottles full of blue or red fluid into the batter, which was transparent, and then fleeing into the night before getting caught. I have no idea what this means, or how the heck the batter stayed in the shopping cart. 

Most nights pain wakes me up more than a handful of times. Some nights, getting back to sleep is all but impossible. 

Ah, glorious sleep deprivation, how I love thee. Addling my brain, exhausting my body and my emotions, my life becomes a blur. Morning prayers implore that the day goes smoothly and internal resources aren't completely depleted. Afternoon prayers plead for the hasty arrival of bedtime. Bedtime prayers beseech sound, restful sleep. 

Quality sleep will return eventually. I hope. Until then, should you inquire how I'm doing, expect the response to be some sort of grunt or guttural noise - or on good days something resembling, "I'm upright." 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

She

For so much of her life she was who other people wanted or expected her to be. She was a great student, a caring, supportive friend, a good daughter, a slightly annoying but normal little sister. She liked what you liked. She laughed at what you thought was funny. She dressed how she was expected to dress. She tried to be as perfect as she could possibly be. Appearing to be happy with life, she died a little inside every day.


Growing up she was told in many ways by her peers that she was fat, ugly, useless, disgusting. She was told by doctors that her pain was all in her head, that she must be faking it. She was told by her abusers that she was stupid, worthless, and things too horrible to mention. Others' negativity toward her or outright hatred of her seeped into her being, filling her with self-loathing.


She yearned to be herself. She wanted who she really was to be acceptable to others. She wanted to feel loved. She wanted people to look at her and realize she was a good, kind, giving person - a person who was worth something. She wanted people to see that she was broken, hurting, and sad -  and to love her anyway. She wanted someone to save her from those who were hurting her and from herself. She wanted to have her own thoughts, opinions, preferences and loves. She longed to be able to look people in the eyes and beg them to stop being petty, shallow, spiteful, judgmental, and hateful - to just accept people for who they were: fellow human beings.


She felt broken. She was broken. Shattered into a million pieces, unsure if she'd ever be whole again.


Time ambled on. She struggled every day to find those rare moments of real joy that made life worth living. Finally, she moved away from the abuse and toward new possibilities. 


One day she finally felt safe enough to let her guard down a little. She found herself not caring what others thought so much anymore. She realized that their opinions of her had nothing to do with the reality of who she was, because to have those opinions, they couldn't really know the real her. When she finally decided that the only way she could continue living was to be herself and speak her truth - and acted on it - she lost friends. She lost a lot of friends. She lost most of her friends. So-called friends talked about her behind her back and called her a liar and a fake. If only they'd seen her for a liar and a fake during all those years of pretending to be who she thought everyone wanted her to be. If only they'd paid enough attention to realize that no one could possibly be everything for everyone. If only they'd recognized the pain in her eyes all those years. Perhaps they were in shock that the person they thought they'd known didn't exist. She had been a fake for such a long time - a people-pleasing, broken, abused fake who was struggling to get through life with some of her sanity intact - that she found it difficult to be her self. 


She found the boundaries between her real self and the now-dead self so blurry at times it was difficult to continue living. Little by little, she grew into her self. She was able to be kinder to her self. She nurtured her self and empowered her self. She began to like herself. 


Her world became a different place. She had friends who knew the real her - and remained her friends. She no longer saw death as a better place than life. The feeling of dread of the day to come and loathing of herself upon opening her eyes in the morning was replaced, most days, with a feeling of possibility. Darkness continued to cloud her thoughts from time to time, but light was ever-present, encouraging and motivating her. 


It has been a long journey. She now lives life and loves life. She is thankful for the darkness of her past, for it allows her to fully appreciate the light. Rarely finding darkness overwhelming her, she takes comfort in knowing that if it does, she need only reach into the light toward the love and support of those who care about her. In that broken place, she never could have imagined this life or ever being in this place. She journeys on, walking and in hand with life.


What she wants for us all is to know that we are all beautiful. We are all priceless. We are all worthy of love, friendship, joy and peace. It is our unique qualities that make us our selves. We should celebrate each other's differences while recognizing we share our Earth and our Humanity. We all hold inside of us something precious, something all our own, a gift that exists only because of who we are. She wants us to share that gift with others - to use that gift to make the world a better place and to support each other in doing so. 


Most of all, she wants us to be a beacon of light for those who exist in the darkness. 







Sunday, April 8, 2012

A Note from the Easter Bunny...

Blessed Easter! 


We woke up this morning to this note from the Easter Bunny:

I had a thought
As I was on my way
About why Easter is really
Resurrection Day
About whats really important,
About what Jesus said,
About his death on the cross,
And how he rose from the dead.
Chocolate and jelly beans
Are really yummy,
But what about putting food
In an empty tummy?
Or helping others
Learn about our Savior?
So now Im wondering
Can you do me a favor?
Can you use what I left
To help do some good
For those in need
in your neighborhood
and at your church?
That would be great!
Ive got to go
Im running late
But one last note
Before Im through:
Theres one treat each
For each of you!


We went out to the back yard to hunt for Easter eggs, and were greeted by three deer in the woods overlooking our house. After gathering eggs and putting together the clues, the children discovered a bounty of Easter gifts.


Food for the food bank and quarters for Calumet!

The kids each got a chocolate cross - except for Coren, who got Hanukkah gelt. Apparently "The EB," as he signed his note, couldn't find gluten-free/dairy-free chocolate crosses and found gelt an acceptable replacement. The EB is certainly a strange individual. Coren, pictured below, made his First Communion at Easter Vigil worship last night, so we have a little something extra to celebrate today! Blessed Easter! 








Thursday, April 5, 2012

Sick Day

I wrote this yesterday and then fell asleep before being able to post it. I'm still stick today - perhaps this sick day will be a bit more restful...


I lay here in my bed, sipping tea, reflecting on the peace and quiet of sick days. The rest, the relaxation, and the freedom to sleep the day away so my body can heal itself. Ahhh...how I didn't appreciate how good I had it before children. Imagine - being able to do nothing but be sick all day.




I'm sick. I have a sore throat, congestion, cough, and almost no voice. I decided today was going to be a sick day - a day spent, for the most part, in bed. First I took my meds, took a shower, and left the house. I went to the bank, treated myself to a latte, went to the thrift store and went to the grocery store (Easter's coming and I had shopping to do!). Upon arriving home I unloaded the van, put groceries away, helped kids with lunch, and put a little one down for a nap. I'd planned on doing the same, but can't seem to sleep anywhere and through everything like I did as a child. I answered questions, helped with articles for journalism class, reminded kids to clean rooms, and managed to eat something. I directed, entertained, mediated, and didn't get a second of sleep. There was dinner to be made - thankfully my husband prepped and crockpotted a chicken this morning. The stove fire while steaming broccoli was a huge help to my ailing respiratory system. 


I was thankful for many things today. I was thankful for the box of biodegradable packing peanuts that entertained the littles as they climbed into the box to play and filled containers with them and spread them all over the house. I have great gratitude for my wonderful kids who took care of each other and their poor sick Mama. I'm thankful that my bed is located in the living room, so I could be in the middle of the activity while still feeling like I was getting some rest. 


Hopefully tomorrow I'll feel better - or at least get to do this sick day thing properly.




Sunday, April 1, 2012

Cucumbers, But That's Not What They're Called


Once upon a time there was a girl who was making a salad at her parents’ house. Having used up the last of one of the salad vegetables, she wished to inform her mother of the need to purchase more upon her next trip to the market. The girl approached her mother and said, “We need more … … … cucumbers, but that’s not what they’re called.” Receiving a quizzical look in response, the girl continued, “You know, they’re orange and they grow in the ground and rabbits eat them.” “Carrots?” inquired her mother. “Yes- those,” replied the girl.


All those years ago, I had no idea this would become normal behavior for me. Brain fog adds great fun and excitement to life. It’s like being on your own game show where you’re both the host and the contestant – “We now welcome you to “What’s That Word?!? – a game show of slow thinking and tip-of-the-tongue responses!” You know what you want to say. You can picture it. You can describe it in great detail - but the actual word for the object eludes you completely. You've driven somewhere hundreds of times, but all of a sudden you're on the highway and have no idea how to get there - or sometimes even where you are, all of a sudden. You find yourself asking, "What was I doing?" or "What was I saying?" on a regular basis.

For example, as I was writing that last sentence, my husband interrupted me with a question. The words "You find yourself asking," were on the screen and for the life of me I couldn't figure out what it was that you find yourself asking. Then I asked myself, "What was I typing?" and it came to me. Fantastic, isn't it?

I made the comment earlier today after my train of thought derailed for the tenth time in two minutes that I was losing my mind. My husband told me it was too late. Oh, well. Perhaps I'll find where I left it someday - if I can remember to look for it.

And they lived happily ever after.


(You might be experiencing brain fog if you're trying to figure out why I ended the post with "And they lived happily ever after." It perhaps might be because I started it with "Once upon a time." )