Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Life Skills

The more I read, the more confused I get.

I read things on social media that are just mind-boggling to me, at least at first glance. Posts by parents asking where there are classes for cooking, for household management ... for life skills. I'm not sure why, but I find it strange that these things need to be farmed out to outside teachers, adding yet another thing to a family's already busy schedule and overburdened budget.

Why not cook dinner together? Why not take your child grocery shopping and teach them to figure out how much things cost per pound, budget the food money, get pantry basics and recipe specifics? Why not make up a "bank book" for them if they don't have a bank account and record withdrawals and deposits from their piggy bank or wallet? Why not have them work with you on car maintenance, upkeep of the house and yard, and everything that goes into daily, monthly, and yearly living?

Then I realize that it must be difficult for some, because they don't have confidence in their skills in these areas. They never learned this type of thing in school, and often their parents were too busy to teach them themselves. This is why they want someone to teach their children these skills.

That got me thinking even more - we grow up going to school, greatly limited in what we learn by our time in the classroom and at after school and weekend activities. Our parents are running us from one activity to another, barely being able to find time to grocery shop, doing much of life's essential tasks when we're otherwise occupied. We end up going out into the world barely prepared for the ins and outs of daily living.  

What if we were to slow down? Maybe not do so many activities? Take time to learn with our children these necessary adult tasks? Learning these things more greatly impacted my life as an adult than anything I learned in school. Well, besides learning how to learn things on my own.

If my children want to build something, fix something, take something apart, put something back together, save up to purchase something, cook something, clean something, or do something, I encourage them to do it ... or to learn how to do it with me, with someone who has the know-how, or on their own. 

One of the most greatly neglected, yet essential, subjects in schooling these days is self-sufficiency... which should be taught well before expecting someone to go out into the world and be a responsible adult. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Fine Line

I'm lost.

Everything has caught up with me all at once.

Life is more than I can handle.

Desperately exhausted and in so much pain, depression sinks its claws into my sanity and shreds it to pieces. I just want everything to stop. I just want rest. Peace. Freedom from everything that's suffocating me,

Here there is no ray of hope, only ever-consuming darkness. My worth is gone. I am only a burden.

To everyone.

To my children, who are forced to live with a mother who can't do nearly enough for them, who can't work and provide financially for them, and who screws up the finances time and time again because her brain doesn't function properly.

To my husband, who can barely lay a hand on me without me flinching because of the disease-caused pain; who cannot understand how my heart breaks every day because I feel so unloveable; who works so hard, yet gets so little in return.

To my friends and family, who help me in so many ways, and to whom I'll always owe more than I can ever possibly repay.

I don't want to do this anymore. I can't. I don't have it in me to face another day like this.

Here, love is a rumor and God's voice a mere whisper. All good things seem too far away. Here, only pain and desolation. Only the need for the pain... for everything ... to stop.

But it doesn't stop. It never stops. Each day comes, as insistent as the last. The agony of existence informing my thoughts. Thoughts that I have to keep to myself, lest they infect someone else. 

Everything's fine here. I'm fine. 

--------------------------LIFE IS TOO MUCH.---------------------------

Everything's fine here. I'm fine.

It doesn't stop. It never stops. Each day comes, as insistent as the last. The exhilaration of existence informing my thoughts. Thoughts that I share with others in hopes that my joy will infect someone else.

Here, love is a rule and God's voice sounds like laughter and kindness and love. All good things seem to seek me out. Pain doesn't overwhelm happiness, it highlights it. Only the need to learn to work with the pain, and within its limitations... to get along with it instead of fighting it or wishing it away.

I can't wait to do more. I can't. I don't know if I have it in me to wait for another day like this.

Here there is only hope, only all-consuming ideas and dreams. It feels so good to give. I am finally useful. 

To everyone.

To my friends and family, whom I will never be able to repay for their generosity in supporting the creative pursuits my children and I get ourselves into and who get to experience the fruits of our labors first hand - if they're brave enough. 

To my husband, who takes joy in seeing me passionate about what I'm doing.

To my children, who see a mother who doesn't suffer from disease, but lives and thrives despite it.

Desperately exhausted and in so much pain, my joy-soaked spirit soars. I don't want to stop, but my body craves rest. Peace.  A break from the blissful creative whirlwind that envelops me. 

I walk the fine line of LIFE IS TOO MUCH every single day. 

Depression sways me to the extreme some days, elation to the other extreme other days. The dark days and the days of sheer brilliance both overwhelm me, but in diametrically opposing ways...both with a plethora of tears.

To all who walk the fine line: treasure the times of too much goodness. Feel it. Embrace it. Hold onto the feeling of it - the feeling of who you are when you are experiencing it. That is your light. 

In times of darkness, know that that light is within you. It may flicker, but it will never truly go out. It will grow stronger as it burns off the fog of illness or depression or difficult times. You will shine again. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


For years, I struggled with joint pain. I was prescribed pain killers and anti-inflammatory medications. They treated the symptoms, while the disease damaged my body beyond repair. Often, we try to put bandaids on bigger issues by treating the symptom instead of the source.

Many parents "treat" the behavior, not the source of the behavior, and wonder why the behavior continues. Some of us are sometimes dumbfounded when we see what a great change can come when we get to the root of the issue. 

People often ask me how I would handle different situations with children's misbehavior or refusal to do something. I assume they ask because we've had our fair share of struggles with five unique children, two on the autism spectrum, one with OCD, and all just as stubborn as their parents...and we have survived thus far.

My answer is usually a series of questions, "Why do you think your child is acting out? Does s/he need more connection and time with you? Is s/he stressed about something? Is there a good reason for your child's behavior? Have you asked your child what they need in the situation?"

I've found that, in most cases, the issues parents have with a child are just a symptom of something bigger.

Many children refuse to do something for perfectly good reasons...and/or often we adults require children to do things for completely inane reasons.

We had a problem with people leaving dishes all over our house. I say people, and not "our children" because apparently the children always took their dishes to the kitchen, or so they said. It would seem that Not Me and Someone Else were to blame.  

In an OCD huff, I commanded that as soon as someone was done with a dish, they immediately bring it to the kitchen, wash it, dry it, and put it away. This made perfect sense to me. A few stressful days of me constantly reminding children to take care of their dishes ensued, with many paused movies, interrupted conversations, and frustrated children who just wanted to get to the end of the chapter they were reading before taking care of their tea mug. Children whined and complained. I was miserable. Then I realized that I was causing everyone more stress with unrealistic expectations. Cleaning up dishes upon leaving the room to move on to another activity would do nicely. Besides, I didn't interrupt my reading, working, or creating to clear my dishes, so why should I expect my children to do so? 

Which brings to mind that often we have a different set of rules for our children than we do for ourselves. But why? Shouldn't we be setting the example for our children? Yes, there are some things that need different rules - perhaps bedtimes or movie ratings or how old you need to be to bike to the end of the street - but how many of our rules for our children are just plain absurd when we think about them?

Taking time to ask our children what issues they are having can often yield simple fixes. And taking time to ask what our motives are for making a child do something can often give us a better picture of our own motivations.

One of my children had an issue with brushing his teeth. It was a battle every time. Why couldn't he just brush his teeth and get it over with? I didn't understand what the big deal was. Surely it couldn't be that horrific of a thing. I was upset with the child until I took a step back and asked him what would make his teeth brushing experience more manageable. A change in toothpaste and some privacy did the trick. No more epic battles at bedtime. At least not about teeth. 

Another of my children was angry much of the time. His treatment of his siblings was horrible and it was sad seeing him struggle to cope with life. What we thought was bad behavior was simply sleep deprivation taking its toll. A change in location of  his bedroom made a huge difference in his ability to sleep better and sleep in (he's a night owl like his mother) and his attitude greatly improved. 

We were able to come to solutions for these issues because we stopped telling our children to behave properly because we said so and got to the root of the problem. We did this mostly through listening to what our children had to say about the issue at hand and asking them for solutions. Children are great problem-solvers. 

One of the things I love about my family is that we work as a group to figure out what will work best for us as family. My children will call us, their parents, out on things that they see as not right just as we will bring to our kids' attention their not so great behavior. I will also ask my children if I'm being completely unreasonable with a request when I'm unsure. 

We all make mistakes. We all make assumptions. And we all apologize and try to do better. We change things that need to be changed. We try different things out until we figure out what works best. We realize what works best now might not work best in a year. We realize that we all misbehave at times - even parents. And that's ok, because we're all human. We learn together how to navigate life's trials and come out better on the other side. 

I try to embrace the struggles because they are the best learning experiences and the greatest chances for growth.