Sunday, March 29, 2015

First Thoughts....

I haven't used an alarm clock in 19 years.  Instead real life calls me out and into the new day fast and often moving before I have had a chance to even find my glasses.

-'Bam! Hiss!!' Two Siberian cats hit my pillow in a fur flying spring male fight.

-'You NASTY  twit!!' one neighbor yells at another right before the sound of breaking glass.
-'Mom - I'm cold - will you cover me up?' A child calls from the next room.

Too often the first thoughts into my head each morning have nothing to do with intention or purpose - they are  simply responding to whatever is happening in the world around me.  I hit the floor running - in full decision making mode for good or bad.

But sometimes I have the luxury of watching the sunrise from my nest of pillows or chair on the porch.  Choosing what those first thoughts will be - relishing both the early morning quiet and the rattles of an old house waking up offers me a choice to make.

Do I whisper words of encouragement into my heart or do I carry the weight and worry of the day before with me?

Do I ponder the goodness of new mercies every morning and lean into whatever the day will bring with joy - or do I give into the wolf pack of worry, anxiety, fear and their leader bitterness?

These first thoughts are relevant each day- they matter to me and they matter even more to God.  Because when they are not starting me off in the right direction it is my responsibility to take hold of them, set my eyes  on things above and redirect them to where they should be.  If I don't,  there is no telling where my day may end up.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Wonder Undies Might Be Cute But A Cape Is Taking This Hero Thing Too Far...

Some of us are born with dreams of becoming police officers or firefighters.  We are comfortable with a crisis and when tragedy strikes we are the first ones on the scene - bringing order to chaos and making sure that all of the necessary things happen.  It's a natural  bent and can be very useful in loving and serving others well over our lifetimes.

But it can also become a problem.

When we forget that a rescue is different than everyday helping - there is a problem.

When we forget that we can't make other peoples decisions they have to do it and accept the consequences -  there is a problem.

When we forget that God is God and we are not - there is a problem.

When we forget that our fear (or someone else's) is not bigger than Gods plans - there is a problem.

When we forget that we are not super heroes - just plain old people - doing hard things in Gods strength  - there is a problem.

When others forget - that we are not super heroes - there is a problem.

Seriously - anyone can buy Wonder Woman underwear at Target.  My friend Sandy gave me some for my 46th birthday.  But that doesn't make me a Super Hero.  It just makes me laugh in the morning when I get dressed.

But the cape thing.....how many of us are wearing invisible capes?  Convinced that somehow we are supposed to be something we are not - that we can never be?  Intervening to save those we love not from evil alien space monsters  - but from bad decisions, sinful patterns and most of all - the wrath of God.

Yeah.  I confess to that one.

Trying to get between those I love and the right and just consequences of their actions because I don't want them to have to suffer.

Except -that I am not protecting them from bad things.  I'm protecting (distracting?) them from good things that will teach them.  Which is my own messed up problem I'm learning how to deal with.

I have taken off that invisible cape and given it to the kids for dress-up
because I am not called to rescue anyone
except in a true 911 crisis situation

But I will keep the undies.
Because I need more laughter.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Anxiety: We can Only Manage Our Own.......

Everyone deals with anxiety at some point in their lives.  The bus is late, the bills are due, and the cute guy in the next class might look your direction.  It's that out of control, scared of what might happen feeling that causes our guts to clench up and our imaginations to work overtime in the negative realm.

Anxiety isn't bad - it's an indicator of our internal belief balance and we can use it to help ourselves make course corrections when we get out of whack.  When I catch myself being anxious its a good time to sit down, separate my real fears from my imaginary ones and see what can be done about both.  Instead of running blindly from them I would rather face them if I can, rebuke them (if they are false), take them to God in prayer either way and remove the 'scary' factor that they generate in my heart.

When anxiety develops in other people it's harder to deal with - especially for those who tend to want to rescue.  I'm one of those people (a reformed rescuer)and learning how to help rather than save them from their anxiety has been a battle for me.  But one well worth fighting.  I can offer support, truth, encouragement, stability and love to those fighting anxiety - but I can not save them from it as is it were a burning building.  Since anxiety is generated internally - it is each individual persons job.

Sounds simple - but in reality it's one of the hardest things in the world.  To watch someone you love fall into the trap and downward spirals of anxiety.  Being able to watch them take each step outward toward healing or inward toward deeper fear - becomes a daily exercise in grace and trust.  It is easy to want to rush in and fix things and hard to stand by and let them choose which path to take.  But they must choose their own path. One of the best tools I have recently found for helping kids understand the control we give worry and anxiety in our lives is the "When You Worry Too Much" work book.  It's not a cure- but a way to talk about and give words to the emotions that worry can create in all of us.

Today my hands off - no rescuing policy had  a sweet moment of reward as Laughter faced one of his big anxiety monsters and won.  This quiet boy eating a bowl of cereal is not what I would usually find in the early morning.  His fear of not being fed has led him into death spirals of panic and catastrophic thinking for years.  Today I intentionally lingered in the bathroom next to the kitchen and let him choose how he was going to deal with his rising 'I'm hungry!!!' emotions.  I let him crack the door so he knew he was not alone and simply told him he could wait or get himself a bowl of cereal.  This time - for one of the first times - he chose to tackle the problem instead of giving into fear/anxiety.   When I came out he was happily eating his cheerios and he had made huge progress down the pathway away from his fears.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

March Is Dream Season.....

True to form - March has blown in like a lion. On Monday it was 30' and sunny.  The kids were jumping on the trampoline and the grass was bare. Tuesday brought a winter storm and blizzard warning and this morning it is hovering near zero degrees.

I'm 'ok' with these erratic Spring weather patterns because  I know that soon things will shift and we will have survived another winter. A concept I never really understood growing up on the temperate coast - but one I fully embrace now that I have spent 20 years on the prairies.  March is a time of expectation, a chance to dream and an opportunity to stretch.

Monday I asked the kids to each share some things they would like to try/do/experience in the next year or so.  It was fun to talk about and now I have a better idea of where each ones interests lie.  The best part is that already I have found ways to make 2 of them happen - simply because I heard them spoken.  That's the personal part I'm working on this March - hearing the unique voices of each of my children and encouraging them to be wholly themselves.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

How Little I Know About Trauma......

Today NPR reported on one of the findings related to the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) scale.  It's designed to be sort of a rough guideline for evaluating how traumatic experiences in early life can affect your adult health and it's some fascinating stuff. (More on the ACE and the actual 10 point quiz here)  Like how what happened in your family growing up might affect your chances of things such as cancer, obesity, autoimmune issues and heart disease.

It came on the heels of several conversations centered around both  childhood and adult trauma at church, the coffee shop, my kitchen table and our homeschool co-op.  Again taking me to that place where I have no words - no explanation - no way to express the sobering reality that I have very little true understanding of the impact that trauma has on human lives.  I know we can see and taste and experience the consequences of it.  I believe that the weight of trauma can become overwhelming to many people - defining who they are, how they think and establish the framework of their lives.  I see infants who have experienced trauma failing to thrive, teens who choose cutting and adults abandoning their families and relationships through addictions, withdrawal, denial and broken attachment patterns of their own. 

Sometimes its origin seems so obvious.  An explosion, an attack, a sudden loss.  But other times it seems inconsequential - a single day in a string of three thousand growing up -  a break in routine - a fear that never materialized - a hiccup in the lives of the people around you.  It look like nothing -but for some it becomes everything and it changes the lens through which they view the world and their place in it. 

Trying to understand trauma -from living my own and walking with others through theirs - the more I realize it is like a grape vine.   A living thing that once planted, creeps through our lives  - needing to be pruned and tended to in healthy ways so that it will bear fruit and be beautiful instead of simply wild and taking over the garden of our hearts. It's generally not a sunrise - or a burned finger - quickly forgotten in the details of life.  It's more.
 
Like a grape vine it can lay dormant for years until it is ready to grow - and then suddenly what looked dead and dry will spring into life - needing us to quickly move to provide new support and structure - training and guidance.  Bringing strong words into our lives like resilience, recovery and hope - replacing anxiety,  despair and darkness until we are no longer defined by trauma...even if we lived unaware of its affects in the first place.

Now that we are starting to see the long lasting effect trauma may have on our bodies as well as our minds - it is wise to take it seriously - to watch for the signs (even if they seem minor.)  To help ourselves and those we love to prune and shape the hard things, the trauma things, in our lives, so that they can become a beautiful and fruitful part of our story instead of allowing the trauma to shape us. 

God bless you today friends.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

FASD: What a Lack of Cause Effect Learning Might Look Like in The Middle Of The Night......

It's 2am - a child wanders into my room and stands next to my bed until I say the magic words which I have uttered a hundred or more times to them in this exact situation......"please say something so that I will know that you need me.'

"My head is hot."
"OK. Come close enough for me to feel your body.  Are you sick?"
"No"
"Did you have your head under the covers?"
"Yes."
"Are there lots and lots (like 4 down comforters )of them?"
"Yes."
"OK. Go back to bed, don't put your head under the blankets and only use one of the comforters over your body,  I think you have too many for tonight,"
"OK."

Repeat again the next night.
And the next night.
And the next night.
Talking about it in the morning or at bedtime may or may not effect the outcome and sometimes things are learned.  But I have often been baffled by how to live with and teach individuals who are strongly affected by the inability to learn or change behavior based on cause-effect patterns.

It's just hard to live in our world and not understand why the water overflows if you leave the sink on or your brother hits you if you poke him in the eye.  And it's even harder to not blame/shame/and accuse those who don't understand in our own stupid ignorance of what is going on (or not going on) inside their heads.

I think that living without cause/effect must make everything look utterly random, chaotic, unconnected and especially with things like discipline - scary.  After all - if cause-effect isn't connecting....then why should school performance affect my ability to play high school sports?  Or my grades affect my ability to go to college? Or my attitude toward my boss affect my ability to keep my job? It's all totally unrelated and feels as if they are being unfairly persecuted.

There is no magic answer to 'fix' this particular problem - but you can help by finding ways of explaining life that don't use if/then as the basis of logic.....but it takes practice and lots of patience as you learn to look at why things happen in a totally new way.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Living with Challenging Behavior: Reality and Knives.....

The last time I saw my kitchen knives laid out in a drawer like this was February 2011.  That cold February night  I realized that something had shifted in our household and I no longer felt it was either wise or safe to leave out an array of sharp items for uncontrolled hands to latch onto in moments of panic or anger.  So I bought my first locking safe on clearance at Target and began a journey into safety plans, psychiatry, medication and a new life where even kitchen scissors became suspect and closely monitored.

This weekend I realized that we have shifted again.  The spiraling instability and chaos that was our trademark for the past 4 years has leveled out and I am ready to try lowering the level of behavioral  management. It's not a random decision.  I started slowly with evaluating  medication adjustments for stabilization - even to the extent of being able to remove many that were necessary in the past to help us deal with anxiety and fear but are not needed now.  I have evaluated risks and watched patterns emerge that show maturity and better coping skills in some of my more challenging kiddos and most of all I have watched with hope for opportunities to make improvements.  Circling and limiting freedom when needed and opening up the boundaries and loosening my hold as growth and ability matched new skills.

Taking the knives out of the lock box and putting them in our kitchen drawer may seem a small thing to many of you (and I am not putting out the big butchers or chefs knives yet- I'm not THAT crazy) - but rounding this corner and realizing that living with FASD/RAD/ADHD/DD/ASD and a plethora of other descriptive letter combinations means finding joy and a cause for celebration in these small signs of hope.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Turbo Tax State Drama 2015 ....

Wednesday the State of MN accepted my on-line Turbo Tax prepared 2014 filing....Thursday AM this story was released which made public the states decision to  longer accept turbotax elctronicaly prepard returns because there was some sort of privacy breech that led to fraud concerns.  This article published the 6th helps clarify what is happening and why - and for those of us who had returns accepted before the shut down it's a simple game of 'wait and see' to discover if we have been hacked, will be audited or if we skate through unharmed.

As a survivor of the 2010 Adoption Tax Refund Audit nightmare  I am anticipating that this is likely to be a much more complex problem then it appears in these first few days.  Call me a pessimist - and I hope I am wrong.

Really I do. 
Because the mess could be monumental.

And as one of the flag waving - horn sounding wackos - who first identified the problems with how Turbo Tax was computing the Carry Forward Adoption Tax Credits back in 2009/2010 (prior to them being refundable) and the ensuing wave of 1040x's and 8839's that were filed to clear up all that Turbo Tax mess before the 2010 filing- I'm just a little wary of how TurboTax and our taxing agencies work out their problems.

For now - I'm watching my return status and keeping my tax documents close at hand in case I have the opportunity to be one of those lucky ones who meets with the audit teams.

Update:  As of 3:00pm today.....mn is again accepting Turbo Tax filings. :)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

No More Fear......

Fear is an amazing emotional response. I have lived with a tangled thread of fear running through my own life long enough to know many of the various shades, forms, flavors and disguises it likes to take.  Fear is not healthy.  Fear is not Biblical.  Fear is not safe.  Fear can slowly creep up on a person and rot away the roots of faith and stability even as it robs us of joy. Fear is a taker that leaves emptiness.

But I am done listening to the siren-song of fear.   I don't need to focus on the waves of trouble lapping at my chest - even if the furnace shuts down/the 15 pass van needs tires/ the dryer is full of blue ink/the light in the bathroom shorts out/ there are some serious relational issues to be faced and a chicken runs past screaming that the sky is falling.

Nope.

Because those are pretty silly daily problems at my house this week.  Almost to the point of being called insignificant....except for the chicken.  That would be a little unusual since the neighbors who raise them live a block away and it's the middle of a deep freeze around here that could kill them. But whatever......I have to remember that my life will always....ALWAYS be filled  with irritations and trouble and things which will tempt me to fear.  Shoot - that's pretty much what the Bible promises when I really read it isn't it?  But it also promises is that I don't need to be afraid because I will never be alone - no matter how deep the water or how high the waves -  Christ is with me and he is stronger than any of my fears or fantasies about squawking, doom-projecting chickens.

Monday, January 5, 2015

2014: The Year of Remembering What Blessed Means............

When we are truly blessed our happiness is independent of our circumstances. It is self-contained, meaning that regardless of what is happening to us externally, we can be truly happy internally. We can be genuinely blessed as followers of Jesus Christ living out the way He has called us to...even if the walls fall down, the earth shakes and everything we think is true about our world flips on its head.
(summarized, ripped apart, rewritten and probably remembered wrongly from a devotional  I read on Harvest Ministries - but they are where I first read it so I credit them.)
 
Last year I learned what it meant first hand to be Blessed.
 
To be truly happy-
in the hardest places.
 
Regardless
of if I got what I wanted
or what was 'right'
or even what 'should' be.
 
Aside
from if I was healthy or sick
tired or rested
cherished or forgotten.
 
Because it wasn't about what was happening in my world - my circumstances. It was all about my relationship and happiness in Christ.
 
Not that it was a sudden transition - like lightening - but a slow process more like the March melting of the thickest winter ice - where my hope transferred from a false place of trust ( in man) back to a rock solid foundation in the unshakable, unchanging Christ.
 
And I moved from the place of constantly focusing on the good and bad of the situation - to the awesome awareness of how truly Blessed I am at all times
Because of the One who is I Am.
 
And because I am very likely to forget and need the constant reminder....I have added Blessed to my left arm.  Beloved on my right - Blessed on my left - I am hemmed in by truth and hold that amazing peace that surpasses all understanding.