Friday, June 23, 2017

Killing Me


I usually don't post about political things, but reading about the proposed healthcare bill that would replace "Obamacare" terrifies me. Should our current healthcare system be replaced by this atrocity, it could kill me. And others. Literally.

The majority of people on Medicaid are disabled, elderly, mentally ill, and children. I've read a lot in the past couple days about any cut in funding putting these people at risk. At risk of what, they don't usually spell out, so I'll do it for you. It puts elderly people, children, mentally ill people, the otherwise uninsured, and disabled people at risk of getting more ill. At risk of dying. 

Should I lose my Medicaid, I would not be able to afford health insurance. It would mean going off of the medications that I take that keep me functional, because I wouldn't be able to afford them. If I go off of these medications, I will no longer be able to walk. My joints would deteriorate to a greater extent, and quickly. It would be difficult for me to get out of bed. My autoimmune liver disease, which is at bay thanks to these medications, would rear its ugly head and could eventually necessitate a liver transplant, which I would also not be able to afford.

Losing Medicaid could kill me, slowly and painfully. 

For those of us who could possibly lose health coverage, the results could be devastating.  We could be refused treatment due to the regulation of which medications we're "allowed" to take or a cap on the cost of medications covered. Or the state could decide that insurance companies are no longer required to provide health insurance to those with pre-existing conditions, as that decision would be left to each state to decide, if I'm understanding correctly. 

I didn't choose to have a particularly aggressive case of psoriatic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, autoimmune liver disease, Hashimotos thyroidosis, celiac, OCD ... am I missing any? I planned on going back to work. Instead, I struggle every day to get out of bed and to keep moving, even with treatment. I give back through volunteer work, which would also become impossible should I go off of treatment for my illnesses. 

Disabled people do not choose to be disabled, nor do people with Alzheimer's or dementia or clinical depression or bipolar disorder choose how their brains work, nor do those children born into poverty choose to not be able to afford health care. Many people are one health crisis away from needing assistance themselves. 

The solution to this health care situation will not come about through the current administration's plans. It will, in fact, be made worse for the most vulnerable among us. 


Sunday, June 18, 2017

How Old?

Sometimes birthdays catch me off guard.

Yes, I knew Haley's birthday was coming up - that it's today. We got her a gift and planned a (albeit joint birthday / graduation / Father's Day) celebration. What I failed to do was wrap my brain around the fact that Haley is fifteen today. 15. One year away from sixteen. How the heck did that happen? How is my third child that old???

Looking back over the past year, I came to the realization that most of the highlights of Haley's year have involved performing in some way shape or form...

In Androcles and the Lion at Camp Calumet Drama Camp:


In Epoch Arts' Mini Production, Collide, in which she got to create her own character and write her own part:


In Haunted House (at Epoch Arts, of course!):


And made leaps and bounds in creating SFX make-up gore:


 In Epoch Arts' Arts Response: Responding to Hate with Love in which she sang "Losing" by Tenth Avenue North and in Dinner Show, in which she sang "Light in the Hallway" by Pentatonix and did a Jabberwocky skit.


She did have fun with friends at Lake Compounce, Mystic Aquarium (what an adventure the first time we attempted to go!), and other places: 


And most recently she played Finn, Seeker of the Snagglelump, Tooter of the Trumpet, Tamer of Deegan, Clanger of the Cymbals...in Epoch Arts' Mainstage Production, Unfinished People:


Haley amazes me every day with her ability to overcome joint pain and exhaustion in order to accomplish all that she does. Her bold creative spirit inspire me every day to overcome my own insecurities, step out of my comfort zone, and do crazy things like use the sewing machine. One of the things that I admire about her most is that she is fearless in her endeavors and jumps in with both feet - whether it's performing, crafting, special effects make-up, or cooking amazing things from scratch, without a recipe, and with whatever happens to be in the fridge at the time.

Happy 15th Birthday, Haley!!! May you always remember that the Snagglelump is always with you and to stay connected to something bigger. I love you! 







Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Beautiful Things


In celebration of Pastor Wayne Gollenberg, on his retirement....

Endings are emotional and difficult ... and exciting, as they are also beginnings.

As you begin this next exciting time of your life, I find myself having difficulty expressing the appropriate amount of gratitude for your presence in and impact on my life over these past fifteen or so years. What is stunningly clear to me is that you have been the vehicle through which God has done many beautiful things, not only in my life, but in others' lives and in our Church (a people, not a steeple).

Many people may see your retirement- your leaving our congregation - as painful, a loss. We will all miss you and all you do for the Body of Christ. It seems to me, though, that some are missing the fact that in many ways you will remain a part of all of us, and a part of our Church, always.

Over the years, you have time and again preached just the sermon I needed to hear at particularly low or stressful times. Consumed with worry over overwhelming financial, health, and personal struggles, I found myself getting my young children up and ready for worship one Sunday morning when I'd have rather just stayed in bed, in misery. I cried the entire drive and barely pulled myself together and into the fellowship hall for worship. As the words of your sermon washed over me, so did peace and an understanding of just how much God's love was continuing to work in my life, even through times of trial. That was the first time I fathomed the depth of God's grace and the words, "don't worry, God is with you." It was truly life changing for me.

Thank you for Tuesday Night Sunday School, which is the reason my family started regularly attending worship. And for inviting parents to Confirmation class, as I needed it as much as my children did. The vast amount I've learned through both ministries has come into sharp relief as I navigate my way through the School of Lay Ministry. Thank you for being such an involved, in tune, and inspirational teacher.

Somewhere along the way I found your suggestion of "wouldn't it be great if we had an interpretive movement performance of It's About the Cross after the pageant" had somehow turned into me heading up the Interpretive Movement Ministry at OSLC (which still needs a shorter name!). Not that I mind, as it's a wonderful "I get to" in my life.

Thank you, Pastor G, for you...and for doing so many beautiful things during your ministry at Our Savior Lutheran Church. We will miss you immensely, but the beauty of your works and your words will remain with us and in us.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Cost of Living


I could minimize the pain I experience, the exhaustion, the migraines, and the overall ill feeling that clings to my being. I could choose to avoid doing things that wrack my body with pain and necessitate days of recovery time afterwards. I could merely exist.

I choose to live. I choose to pay the quite high cost of living in this body. I choose to pay the price of pain, nausea, fatigue, even pain-induced panic attacks in order to live life to the fullest.

Every day I weigh the cost of doing anything from mundane tasks to fully investing myself in a day full of theatrical rehearsals, the care and keeping of a horde of teenagers, and doing daily mom things. At times, a trip to the grocery store necessitates rest for the remainder of the day. Other times, I can keep going all day ... or for a few days ... and then spend two or three days, sometimes a week, paying back the debt of energy and body use.

The wrench in the works is that I never know how much I have in my being-a-functional-person bank each day. Some days I start out feeling like I can do everything on my to do list and then some, only to find that halfway through my second errand that I'm about to pass out from fatigue or pain. Other days I feel like my stores are beyond depleted, yet rally toward the end of a day of relative rest.

The constant uncertainty makes every day an adventure, although most days, not the adventure I'd otherwise choose.

Not long ago, tech week for Unfinished People - an original play in which two of my children acted and for which I did costuming, made props, and various other things - engulfed my life. We had rehearsals daily for a week, followed by three performances. The same week, I spent at last fifteen hours working on a book of remembrance for my pastor, who retired on the day of the last Unfinished People performance, as well as leading an Interpretive Movement Ministry performance, needle felting twenty caterpillars for cast gifts, and trying to balance daily living, five children, running a household, and getting enough rest so my body wouldn't shut down.

Things were going ok until Thursday, when I had a migraine that nearly caused me to cancel all plans for the day. Thankfully some ibuprofen, caffeine, packing my head in ice, and taking a nap helped me on my way. An increase in medications that keep me moving made the rest of the week and the weekend possible. 

And then there was this past week. I was barely able to get out of bed for three days. The first day, I didn't get out of my pajamas. I managed a trip to the grocery store the next day, a trip to the thrift store another, and another couple errands day four. I still haven't made it back to relative normal, but should in a day or two. 

This is the price I pay for doing what I love. And that's ok. Along with scheduling doing things I love, I schedule time to recuperate from said things. This is my life, and I choose to live it, not just go through the motions, even if the cost of living is high. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Wake Up


We were to learn of sermons and scripture, preaching and purpose, and use our imaginations in the process. As we entered the first session of our School of Lay Ministry retreat, I was excited about the theme of the weekend, "Opening the Word, playing with Midrash." 

As we, led by Pastor Elaine Hewes, explored the sculpting of a sermon, I realized just the impact a current sermon has been having on my life. Current, not recent. I'll get to that later.

Pastor Elaine spoke of asking questions about what God is being and doing in the text, and answering those questions in a way that leads people to a place where they feel they should respond. She encouraged the sharing of personal stories of struggle that might speak to the text, or perhaps juxtaposing two unlike things to carry the message across. She spoke of journeying through the week with the text, waking up to the things, people, songs, interactions, and such in your life that speak to the text and to your heart and bringing some of these into the sermon. And much more than I can sum up in a simple paragraph. 

As Pastor Elaine spoke, I had a revelation. This is what a friend of mine does when she writes a play. Or speaks to teens about tough stuff. Or encourages friends. She wakes people up. She draws on her life struggles, images that inspire her or shake her up, things around her that catch her imagination, and instills them into the essence of the plays that she writes or passionate words she speaks. Her plays are one big sermon. They talk about the tough stuff in a way that inspires the audience to at least think, if not act in response to the issues presented in the play. To act, not out of guilt or obligation, but out of a pull from your inner moral compass after experiencing the performance. 


The sermon that is Beautiful Things, last year's original play by Elizabeth Namen at Epoch Arts, continues to speak to me and change me to this day. Unfinished People, the play currently being rehearsed for its June 2, 3, and 4 performances, is doing the same. Community, distraction, addiction ... meat ants and caterpillars ... the Snagglelump ... the poetry, severity, hilarity, and motivation of her words call me to wake up and take notice. 

Distractions and separateness rule our lives, blinding us to mystery, to community, to love, to the beauty in the juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated things. We need to wake up, look up, stay connected to something bigger. 




Thursday, May 18, 2017

Muchness


My life has been filled with Muchness lately.

Much pain.
Much stress. 
Much joy.
Much celebration.

Communication issues with my rheumatology office led to a week and a half delay for an injection of one of the two medications I need to manage my psoriatic arthritis. This caused a decrease in energy and increase in pain and inflammation...just when I needed energy and (relatively) easy use of my body for theater rehearsals, Spring Cleaning Weekend at Camp Calumet, and getting my house in order in preparation for the arrival of house guests.

Issues with my van leading to necessary repairs of nearly a thousand dollars combined with several other unexpected expenses have us in a financial bind, eased greatly by generous family members. Even so, we have gone from saving up money for a nice two weeks at Camp Calumet this Summer to wondering if we'll have the gas money to get there.

The muchness of pain and stress is balanced by muchness in our joy and celebration. 

Exciting things are happening in our lives. The original mainstage production of Unfinished People in which two of my teens and I are involved is going amazingly well. It is incredibly inspirational working with this group of twenty teens, along with the Epoch Arts staff and volunteers on this production. The Dinner Show they put on exceeded expectations in both talent and hilarity.  And we got to spend time at Camp Calumet along with over one hundred other volunteers to help clean up Camp and get it ready for Summer Camp. A family visit for Mother's Day weekend provided much needed rest, fun, and connection with two amazing mothers who we get to call Gram and Grammy. 



And I get to go back to Calumet this weekend for a School of Lay Ministry retreat. And we got to see our friend Bailey perform magnificently in a production of Bye Bye Birdie.  And we're planning for 16 full days at Camp Calumet this Summer, which will be absolutely wonderful even if we don't have the money for daily breakfast in the Conference Center or a few day trips as we had planned...simply because you can't have a bad time at Calumet! 

There is so much to celebrate in our lives and the lives of loved ones as well. Khalid and Reem, the Muslim refugee family we work with through New Start Ministry, got married in a civil ceremony performed by a Christian pastor in a synagogue. How glorious is that? And my sister's younger child got their name officially changed. And we will be celebrating the homeschool graduation of our oldest child next month.


In thinking about all the struggles I have in my life due to my illnesses and limitations, I can't help to concentrate not on the pain and stress, but on the abundant blessings God provides in our lives. The muchness of joy in our lives far surpasses the muchness of pain. 

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Giving Up and Giving In



I've had a two week long allergy attack and a week before that started a two week migraine. I do my best each day to act ok for as long as I can until suddenly I can't and am completely, utterly miserable. 

In order to get through my days, I've found that I need to conserve energy. In the process, I've found myself giving up a lot of things.

I've given up leaving the house on time (for my OCD self, that's twenty minutes early). I've given up caring about traffic, weather conditions, or whether or not we'll arrive at our destination at the time I perceive I need to arrive there. In addition, I've let go of my need to get the puppets I'm building for St. Paul Puppet Academy completed before rehearsal, as it's completely unrealistic with how busy I've been and how lousy I've been feeling.

I've given in to the comfort of my favorite chair at Epoch and my own bed, as well as to enjoying time with my community and my family without worrying about how much time things are taking or my to-do list. I've given in to my body's need for rest and medication. 

In giving up and giving in, I've discovered that the time it takes to get places seems shorter when you're not stressing and rediscovered over and over again the importance of being in the moment, especially with those you care about. I've experienced more joy amidst my misery than I do when I'm constantly stressed about going and being and doing. 

And I got to hold a chinchilla.


Because of the need to give up and give in, I completely enjoyed watching the looks on children's faces as they got to touch and sometimes hold cuddly and not-so-cuddly creatures during a visit to our homeschool co-op by Critter Caravan. If I was feeling better, I may have worried more about making sure classrooms were properly cleaned, heat turned down, and the like rather than taking a seat and experiencing a wonderful program through the eyes of a curious group of students. I would have missed out on squeals of both delight and uncertainty as we all got to learn about chinchillas, bearded dragons, hissing cockroaches, chicks, bunnies, snakes, hedgehogs, and guinea pigs.

It seems that feeling under the weather can come with its blessings. 

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Celebration Vacation



It wasn't so much of a vacation as forty-eight hour stay and fifteen hours of travel between 3pm Friday and 6am Monday. 




We got to take part in a wonderful 90th birthday celebration in Pennsylvania for Grandma Jean, my husband's paternal grandmother. We got to visit with grandparents, cousins, aunts, and uncles who we rarely get to see and spend a glorious 74 degree day playing outside in the morning and celebrating in the evening.


We learned some family history, played games, explored a cemetery, took a drive to the top of a mountain, and listened with interest as Grandma Jean told us about growing up in Pavia, PA, without running water or electricity - a small village that now has those things, but is devoid of cell phone reception. 



My husband took two days off for this trip, which normally would have me stressing over how much time off he has left between sick days he's taken already this year and our upcoming time at Camp Calumet for both Spring Cleaning weekend and over two weeks at Family Camp. But I'm letting go of anxiety over how much time off he'll have and we'll make things work later in the year, even if it boils down to him taking a day or two off from work without pay for our Thanksgiving trip to PA to visit family. I'm making room for invaluable time spent with family by living in the moment and having faith that all will work out in the future. 


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Apparently



One of the things I've let go of this Lent in order to make room for faith and family is time online. Apparently so, since this blog has been quite sparse this Lent. 

I've learned something quite interesting - it's increasingly difficult to keep up with friends and family members when I'm not on social media so much! I miss day after day of Facebook updates because I'm choosing to devote my time to real-life interactions with friends and family. People these days seem to send out life updates to the masses instead of communicating individually with others. I do as well, and it wasn't so apparent until recently.

I thought I might catch up on social media today if I found the time, but have decided that, if there's something of utmost importance, someone will let me know. Right? There is no way I can catch up with everyone's past week without devoting an entire day to the process. 

Another thing I've noticed is that apparently I have help in keeping relatively up to date on the world through social media. One friend keeps me current with oil pipeline and Native American happenings; another with healthcare and yet another with education; one sends me links to local happenings and a few post regular updates on presidential actions from differing points of view. In that way, keeping up with social media serves me well. 

I suppose what I need to do is find a balance - some time on social media to stay current on the lives of loved ones and world happenings, and some time devoted to other pursuits. Instead of checking for updates many times a day or not at all, perhaps I can take time to put my feet up a couple times a day to relax and take it all in...both what's going on online, and what's going on in my own household. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Storm Prep


We live in New England, where a blizzard dumped a foot and a half of snow and provided a nice opportunity for our family to spend time together ... cleaning. 

Ok, so we didn't spend the entire time cleaning, but I did take the opportunity over the past few days to get a bunch of cleaning done around the house, just in case we lost power...and because it needed to be done. Somehow our youngest children were more willing to do some major cleaning and decluttering in the name of storm prep.

We cleaned up the dining room/kitchen (one big room) just in case we needed to close the upstairs bedrooms and set up air mattresses on the first floor, where we would do our best to provide light and some heat in the case of a power outage. In the process, stray children's items made it back to their rooms, craft supplies were put in their proper place, and the surface of the table appeared. Donations were organized and homeschool bins from last session's co-op classes were updated for Spring session's class.

Two children somehow produced two garbage bags of clothing that they had outgrown or didn't need in the process of cleaning up their room.  

We took a break to watch Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them while feasting on chili and homemade guacamole. Well, six of the seven of us watched. I may have fallen asleep partway through. 

We also did fun things like play on the computer, begin construction of a blacklight puppet prototype, and Alia had a blast playing in the snow while others shoveled.  

The cleaning that we accomplished cleared the way for family time and fun projects that have been put off for weeks. 


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Aquarium Adventure or Crazy Homeschoolers on a Snowy Day


At School of Lay Ministry the other night we got on the topic of finding blessings and living in gratitude even, and especially, in the most difficult of situations. Dealing with cancer? Pray for the most treatable kind. Having a difficult time walking? Decorate your crutches with duct tape! 

Letting go of anger, disappointment, worry, and frustration breeds acceptance, gratitude, and even joy. 

We were supposed to be going to Mystic Aquarium yesterday, taking some teenage friends along. I had snacks packed, membership and extra tickets ready.  However, there was a bunch of white stuff falling from the sky and things weren't looking promising. 

It used to be that things not going according to plan, especially when friends are coming along, would have me stressed and anxious. But what does stress and anxiety do other than ruin everyone's day? Instead, we waited to see what would happen with the weather and the road conditions ... and checked the Aquarium website, which let us know that they would be opening at noon due to the weather. 

Finally, the decision was made to go, and we were off...a forty-five minute drive to pick up Laila, then ten more minutes to pick up Lexi and Mikayla. Then another hour to the Aquarium, road conditions good, even through the snow, the entire way. We arrived, ate lunch or snacks, and then emerged from our van, only to be met with someone from the Aquarium informing us that they made the decision not to open. I think I asked her to repeat herself twice. I just couldn't believe it! 

Back in the van, we determined there was nothing local worth doing that was open, so got moving toward home, knowing we had plenty of time to decide what to do. A lively discussion ensued, and it was decided we'd to go the movies with the recliners and the "scary bathroom" (at least according to one teen who just can't handle dyson airblades). Tickets were ordered online via cell phone and we made the hour and twenty minute drive back from whence we came.

Seven of us went to one movie, and two to another. Somehow my husband ended up with the only adult teen and I accompanied six children, ages 9-16.


Back in the van after the movies, there was an uproarious "ME!" response to the question, "Who wants to go to Five Guys?" After eating, it was time to take children home ... another hour and a half of driving ... before we picked up Five Guys for Alex, who didn't accompany us on this adventure, and finally went home. 

Not the day any of us had imagined, but one we quite enjoyed and will definitely never forget! 

By letting go of expectations for the day, we were able to embrace the absurdity of our experience and make room for what we could do to make the most of things instead of dwelling on what didn't happen as hoped.


Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Day That Wouldn't Have Happened


Letting go is beginning to make room.

Yesterday's usual obligations cleared out by letting go made room for a day out with my three youngest children. 

We were blessed with the opportunity to entertain two year old Elin while her parents filled out job applications. We spent some time inside reading books, playing with a truck, and about ninety seconds watching tv. Then we were outside showing Coren, who hadn't been for a visit yet, the sights. We sat at picnic tables and blew bubbles, went up and down the steps, and discovered that the front of the building was much more windy than the parking lot around back! 

Inside again, our little hostess brought us a plate of Turkish crackers and delighted in singing and dancing to the ABC song in various forms thanks to YouTube. And, of course, a rousing game of  "I See You" thanks to Alia. 

Before we knew it, it was time for an amazing lunch at Plan B and then we were off to the Children's Museum to use Alia and Coren's Christmas gift admissions for two. There were opportunities to pet a bearded dragon and a rabbit, conversations with museum staff, and lots to explore and learn. 

In addition to our schedule being clear, my expectations of the day were nearly nonexistent - babysitting, lunch, museum ... fun, exploration, whimsy. The only limitation was that imposed by my body, when my pain levels, including a migraine, got too intense and my energy levels too low to continue. By that time, we'd all had a wonderful time and didn't mind heading home.

Without letting go, this day wouldn't have happened. 


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Commitments


I do a lot. A lot. 

Doing, helping, being involved in faith, theater, homeschool, and other communities is what keeps me going despite chronic illness and pain.

But recently I have felt that some of my commitments have not been serving me well. It was time to let go of a few things and make room in my life for more self care and family time. Once I let go of these obligations, I knew it was the right choice, as I felt lighter and more free. 

In addition, I have found myself saying no to things I normally would have said yes to. Some were opportunities that I would have said yes to in a heartbeat in the past, but took time for careful consideration before declining. 

Sometimes we forget that we can't do it all; that saying no is ok; and that a no from us will be an opportunity for someone else. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Expectations


Sometimes we need to let go of expectations and see what happens. 

Teaching Puppetry in various forms at Epoch Arts Homeschool Co-op has taught me a lot about expectations. Sometimes expectations are a good thing. Sometimes they can hinder creativity and growth.

I have high expectations for my students. I expect them to treat each other with respect, to support each other, and to work together. I also expect them to think for themselves and to be able to work on their own when needed. I expect them to listen, to hear, to respond, and to remember. I also expect that they will make mistakes, have bad days, and have just as much grace for themselves during these times as I do for them.

Many parents find it interesting that I "get" their children to do things they wouldn't normally do. I've found that letting the children know that I expect them to participate in class as fully as possible, but that they have the option of doing something different leads to beautiful things. I expect them to bow out of the crazy theater games we play or ask for a smaller part in or do tech for a performance if that's what the feel they need to do. When they find that stepping out of the exercise is met with me enjoying their company while watching their seven other classmates try not to fall off of a little paper "island" into imaginary water, they are more apt to give the game a try the next time. Why? Because they know I expect them to enjoy themselves, without pressure to do everything I suggest. One of these children participated the second time around despite not liking to be touched ... and hung onto a classmate as if his life depended on it ...and laughed through it... and exclaimed to me at the end that he actually did it, even though he didn't think he could. Without any expectation from me other than to have fun looming over him, he was able to try without feeling trapped by needing to complete the activity. 

I also have let go of some expectations. I do not expect that a child, no matter their abilities, cannot do any particular thing. I expect that they will do things to the best of their ability and in their own way. I do not expect all students to learn at the same pace or in the same way. I do not expect them to act, or make their puppets act, exactly as I imagine, as their imaginations are usually vastly better than mine. I don't expect that any rehearsal or performance is going to go perfectly - ever. And I let them know that. Sometimes mistakes are merely, as Bob Ross would put it, "happy accidents" that lend more flavor to the performance. I don't expect these amazing children to fit into any specific mold or to be anything more or less than their own unique selves. 

So why, then, do I have so many expectations for myself? Why do I often feel that I'm not enough, don't accomplish enough, don't do things well enough or right enough or good enough?

I'm going to take time this week to pay attention to the perhaps too strict expectations I have for myself and give myself the same grace that I give to my students. And I'm going to do the same for others in my life for whom I may have too many or too specific expectations. 

Today, I intend to let go of expectations and embrace the happy accidents and whimsy that comes along with freeing oneself from a singular idea of what is supposed to be. 

Friday, March 3, 2017

Mail Time


Letting go and making room...

Mail takes up a lot of mental and emotional space, as well as physical space. I knew it was time to clean things out when I found a grocery store ad from last year, along with some Christmas cards in my pile of mail awaiting my attention. The important stuff (bills) get dealt with in a more timely manner, but other things get opened and put back in the pile or mentally noted and, well, sit there unopened. So today is the day I start going through mail and other paperwork that's taking over a shelf on my bookcase and deal with it all. 

It amazes me, as I go through mail, how I feel about different types of mail. I experience a bit of panic every time there's a bill. That's what being financially challenged does to a person. Some bits of mail I have difficulty letting go of - like Christmas cards with kind notes. However, the minimalist in me knows that the sentiment will live in my heart, and the best place for the card is in the recycle bin. Junk mail aggravates me more than it probably should. I put in time and effort to get our family off of mailing lists and when unbidden mail shows up in our box, I get a bit peeved. I need to work on that, as being mad at mail isn't going to change anything! 

Clearing out the mail clutter also comes with taking care of mailing out things that need to be mailed. A Netflix dvd, camp payment, and medical paperwork are now ready to go. 

In taking care of this seemingly small task, I am clearing out space and freeing up time to dedicate to other things. 

(Great. I now have that Blue's Clues song in my head. And it's my own fault.)



Thursday, March 2, 2017

Virtual Clutter


Practicing awareness of how I feel about every aspect of my life is part of my letting go and making room journey this Lent. Upon getting online this morning, I realized that I felt overwhelmed by the number of emails awaiting me in my email accounts. Thousands of unread messages left me with a feeling of being mired down.

So I took action. I deleted thousands of emails I read and don't need or would never read from two different email accounts. I unsubscribed from newsletters. I went through my facebook likes and unliked many pages that were cluttering my feed and wasting my time. I unfriended some people as well. 

I lightened my virtual load, and it's amazing how much quicker my scans of email and social media are, and how much more relaxed I feel in the process. It seems like a small change, but its impact is greater than I expected. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Let Go, Make Room



The Shrove Tuesday Pancake Dinner at Tuesday Night Sunday School is over. The pancake race is done. The word-that-cannot-be-said-again-until-Easter has been boxed up. We are entering Lent. 

Every year for Lent, I choose a Lenten discipline of some sort or another. I have written Lenten Love Letters, practiced daily Gratitude, and have traveled through Lent in Thought, Word, and Deed. This year I'm going to Make Room.

During Lent, I'm going to strive to let go of something to make room for faith, joy, breath, peace of mind, or just plain physical room in my house each day. I might let go of belongings, habits, thought patterns, obligations, or anything else that does not serve me or the way I wish to live my life well. 

I will write about my journey along the way, but will not promise to write every day as I have in the past. The first thing I'm letting go of is the pressure to write daily during a time in my life that I'm going through immense struggles amidst immeasurable joy. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Sheltered


They say my homeschooled children are sheltered. That public school with its bullying, drugs, and cliques is the real world. And that my children will never learn how to handle the tough stuff life has to offer.

While other children are learning about other cultures through textbooks,
my children are helping a family of refugees - "our family" as they call them - from Syria; listening to and reading news reports and articles about Syrians, Kurds, and ISIS all fighting over "our family's" home. They are learning what life was like for "our family" after they fled to Istanbul, Turkey - how refugees are treated as scum of the earth and living conditions are barely liveable. The realities of not-even-close-to-living wages; lack of food, healthcare, safety, and security that refugees face is made all to clear as we learn more about their experiences.

With their own eyes, they are seeing the Muslim religion in action through this peaceful, thankful, kind family.

While other children are being offered drugs and alcohol in and after school by their peers, my children are learning about the effects of addiction in a more personal way. Participating in an "Arts Response to Addiction," teens researched addiction and its effect on all it touches and responded with art, song, dance, and spoken word. Addiction was given a face at a memorial service for an acquaintance who died of a heroin overdose; and witnessing no less than five police officers and security guards attempting to hold down someone under the influence of drugs in the emergency department while we were there with our own emergency brought one of my children into stark realization of the dire consequences of addiction.

This, they learn, this is what addiction looks like.

While other children are bullying, being bullied, or witnessing bullying at school, my children are becoming friends with the bullied - with students pulled out of school and into the homeschool world by parents concerned for their child's physical, mental, and emotional safety and wellbeing. As they share experiences with these children, they learn what they can do to help both the bullied and the bully. 

In another Arts Response, this one about responding to hate with love, two of my children fearlessly shared their faith and how to respond in love and forgiveness through song and spoken word. 

They take to heart that  violence and hatred aren't the answer to violence and hatred - that compassion and love can work wonders on any broken soul.

While other children are experiencing hate due to skin color, religious belief, mental ability, gender identity, or socioeconomic status, my children are learning how to respond to hate with love. They are getting to know a rainbow of people of different ages, abilities, gender identities, walks of faith ... and to celebrate their differences. 

They are comfortable being themselves and encouraging others to embrace their own uniqueness as well. 

Sheltered? Perhaps they are sheltered from witnessing and experiencing the gossip, social pressures, and judgements of their peers that they would experience at school. But they are most definitely not sheltered from the realities of our world, as they spend much of their time out and about in the real world, witnessing its realities, helping those in need when they can, and striving to make changes for the good.









Thursday, February 16, 2017

Nevermind Nine

Nevermind nine, Alia would like to skip straight to ten thankyouverymuch.

Her Mama won't let her, though. Nine is quite old enough for my youngest child!

Alia has been very busy throughout the past year. She was a puppeteer with St. Paul Puppet Academy; in the Interpretive Movement Ministry at Our Savior Lutheran Church; completely rocked her first week at Camp Calumet Resident Camp and a week of Equestrian Camp - also a first; took many interesting classes at Epoch Arts Homeschool Co-op, and co-taught a couple; planted and tended plants as part of the Earthkeeping Team at church; and so much more!

She was...

an archer...

...a chaperone...


...a chef...


...a daredevil...


...an adventurer...

...a hairdresser...

 ...a fundraiser...

 ...a scientist...
...a zombie...

...and so much more. 

Alia amazes me every day with her wit, intelligence,  thoughtfulness, and energy, ingenuity, and perspectives on life, faith, and just about everything. 

Happy NINTH Birthday, Alia!!!


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Strange Place



I'm in a strange place.

I'm better, but I'm worse. So much worse.

The new  combination of medications I'm on has greatly improved my energy levels and my all-around feeling of health. My inflammation is down. I'm moving better. I have more functional hours in a day. It's great!

And therein lies the problem.

I'm doing more, moving more, and in the process causing myself to be in incredible amounts of pain. The damage already done to my body by this disease does not react well to increased activity. My sacroiliac joints in particular are vigorously protesting. I have a really good, active day, and then I'm nearly bedridden from pain for days.

The struggle to get healthier through exercise is, at the moment, futile.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel. This light takes the form of CT scan guided injections of pain medications and anti inflammatory drugs into my sacroiliac joints.The outcome of this procedure is reduced pain for months.

It is my hope that I'll be in another strange place as a result - a place I haven't been to in quite a while. I'm hopeful that as Spring draws near, I'll be able to gradually increase my activity levels, add some strengthening exercises to my daily routine, and eventually be able to hike on a regular basis, and without excruciating pain.

Until then, I'll spend some of these hibernation-worthy days doing just that ... curling up with a heating pad on my back, a few children in my bed, and watch some classics such as Mary Poppins and Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Strange places don't need to be bad places, after all. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Inclusion


"Your children have always been so well behaved during worship - how do you do it?"

I was speaking with a friend about inclusion of children in worship. Before experiencing worship in our congregation, she had assumed children went to the nursery or a separate children's church for all or most of worship, as that had been her experience of church as a child and in recent years. I explained to her that, in our congregation, children are included in all of worship because we believe that that's where they belong. Even "disruptive" children (I prefer to think of them as enthusiastic). Even children who might not understand what's going on. Even children that fidget in their seats.

It is in experiencing all of worship that our children come to understand what worship is all about. Children can't learn to sit relatively quietly and still through worship if they don't have the practice of doing so. They can't learn to navigate worship without a family member or friend answering their questions and guiding them through worship. And we can't learn how to help them get the most out of worship if we don't engage with them during worship.

"But what about special needs children?"

Three of my children qualify as special needs children. She was shocked. No way were my children special needs, in her opinion. 

My OCD child has always been fairly well-behaved during worship, or I'd assume so, since she spent much of ages 3-5 sitting with grandparents and great-grandparents in our congregation that she'd adopted as her own  for a good portion of worship. She did sing loudly. Incredibly loudly, come to think of it. And she seemed to be very into spontaneous liturgical dance. She did walk out on a sermon once, it being a repeat of what Pastor G had taught us during Tuesday Night Sunday School the previous Tuesday. Come to think of it, more than several times she could be heard singing hymns in the bathroom - during the quietest parts of worship. 

My autistic children weren't always the best behaved on a "normal" person's scale, but did incredibly well for what I would expect of them. There was the need to exit the sanctuary to spin or flap or sit for a few moments somewhere quieter so they could resume sitting relatively still through worship. They would forget to use their church voices when asking a question about worship. One child dove under the pew chairs to avoid sharing the peace, indicating the need to formulate an escape plan pre-sharing of the peace so said child didn't have to suffer other people trying to touch him.

I worked with my children to figure out what worked for them so that they could achieve maximum enjoyment of worship, and I could as well.

My children are rather well-behaved during worship now. Some of this is due to the work we put in figuring out what works best for them during worship, but much is due to the fact that they grew up being included in the entire worship experience. They always knew that they were just as welcome to share in worship as everyone else - that they, despite their age or their differences, were an essential part of the body that was missed if it wasn't there. 

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

And So I Pray



It's not OK. 

It's not OK to ban human beings from entering our country solely based on their religion or country of origin. 

It's not OK to prevent human beings from re-entering our their country after leaving for a funeral, other life event, or schooling, indefinitely separating them from their families who live here.

It's not OK to pick and choose which human beings are welcome to come to our country while excluding others on the false premise that they are more likely to be terrorists.

It's not OK to prevent fully vetted refugees - those who have gone through the process for three to four years - from completing their resettlement process. 

It's no OK to keep parents from their children, to rip families apart, to deny people access to their dying relative, or to force fellow human beings with every legal right to be here to go back to the terror from which they fled.

It's not OK to call yourself a Christian and then choose not to follow Jesus' command to love one another; choose not "go and do the same," as in the story of the Good Samaritan; or choose not follow the command in Leviticus 19:34, "Treat the foreigner the same as a native. Love him like one of your own..."

It's not OK and I'm not OK. I'm sad. I'm confused. I'm heartbroken for humanity. I'm dumbfounded that intelligent people can't see past their own fears and insecurities to the heart of the matter - that this ban will do nothing to make our country safer or better; that it will only serve to hurt innocent people, keep families apart, and put many lives at risk. 

And so I pray. I pray for this country's leaders, that God might touch their minds and their hearts to the realities of the consequences of their actions or inaction. I pray for the millions of refugees awaiting resettlement, that God guide them to new homes where they will be safe, supported, and encouraged. I pray for all of us, that we may see those around us as fellow human beings, worthy of love and acceptance, not suspicion and fear; that we may assume good and see hope in those who take refuge among us, as we welcome the huddled masses, the tempest-tossed, with the open arms of liberty.