Saturday, November 26, 2011

I'm Back (at least I think I am)

Far too long.  That's how long it has been.  Simply far too long since I have taken the time out to sit and write.  It hasn't been that long since I've thought about writing...I think about it nearly every day.  But, to sit and write...that just hasn't happened in far too long.

So here I am, deciding that I must write.  Something.  Anything.  Words on a page to start the flow again.  I hope.

Why, pray tell, has it been so long?  Life, I suppose.  It managed to get busy...busier than I anticipated or hoped for.  It hasn't been an all bad kind of busy, but neither has it always been of the all good variety of busy either.  Some of it has been "fabulous and fun" busy-ness.  Some of it has been "I'd rather just bury my head in the sand" busy-ness.  And, in the midst of living this full life, I ran out of time and energy to stop and write.  Hopefully, it is just a hiccup.  Hopefully, I'll be back to writing on a somewhat regular basis again soon.

In the meantime, for the moment, I'll write about my kids.

I have three of the coolest kids ever.  They stretch me - sometimes to the point of pain - and challenge me in ways that I never imagined any kid could.  I see in each of them glimpses of the Divine... something He has put in each of them, to make me understand Him more.  And, I see in each of them glimpses of Ken and I as we rub off on them in our day to day.  That scares me, actually.  Unfortunately, I know that not all of me that is rubbing off is the very best of me.  Oh, would that I could be perfect in all circumstances for the sake of others!  It is those not so lovely rubbings that I pray God will overshadow with His grace and goodness.  He can do that, you know. And, every day, I see glimpses of the uniqueness of each of my children...that which sets them apart from the others and from me.  It is, all at once, wonderful and scary to watch them grow into their own.  Wonderful... as I see their unique gifts, talents, interests, and personalities more fully emerging.  Scary... as I see the that time only advances and there is no turning back the clock.  I cannot keep them young and under my wings forever.  Nor can I iron out all their imperfections (and, in truth, I shouldn't really want to). And, before I know it, my oldest will be leaving the nest. So, wonderful and scary as it is... I have three amazingly cool kids who are growing into amazingly cool people right before my eyes.

Tonight, during dinner, we discussed Thanksgiving...all that we have to be thankful for.  Our lists were long and full of good things, events, and people.  After talking about all that we are thankful for, however, we also discussed the reality that we are among the richest and healthiest people in the world.   Something to be thankful for?  Yes, absolutely!  But, it is also something that should make us uncomfortably thankful...and honestly unsettled.  It is something that should not be easy to swallow.

This is not a new discussion in our home.  It has, in fact, been a topic of previous posts.  And yet, each time we discuss it, it brings about the humbling and pressing reality that we must somehow respond .  As people who call ourselves followers of Jesus, we are responsible to care for the hurting in the world.  So, tonight we decided we would act by picking out and ordering items from the World Vision Gift Catalog.  The gifts were small, but meaningful and someone in the world and to us.  In the end, the children chose 5 ducks, 2 rabbits, 2 soccer balls, and a set of mosquito nets.  A tiny drop in a huge bucket.

The coolness of my kids came out during this time once again.  They discussed what they would like to give (it was way more than what we did give) and why.  They talked along with us about how sad it was that where you live might well determine how much you have or how likely you are to even survive.  Ben and Elly counted out loud to understand the horrifying statistic that every 6 seconds someone dies of malnutrition.  I did the math with Ben to figure out how many people that equals in one day.  Sobering.  And, near the end of the discussion,  Ben, honestly and sadly asked, "why does it seem like all these people "in danger" have brown or dark tan skin?" simply pointing out the obvious dominance of color on the pages of the World Vision Catalog.  Even my not-yet-6-year-old daughter knew there was something wrong with that.  A brief and certainly inadequate attempt was offered to begin unraveling that loaded question.  Ugh.  And then, the shopping continued.  In all of it, the excitement my kids experienced when trying to do something to help right the wrong was very cool.  When the gifts were ordered, there was a palpable energy in the room.  A moment of rightness in the reality of wrongness.

I hesitate at times to write about something like this, by the way.  I do not want anyone to think more highly of us than they ought...nor do I want to sound as if I am bragging.  Believe me, the amount that we spent in relationship to all that we have does not merit bragging rights.  It is, in fact, one of those things that, Biblically, we should do "in secret" (Matthew 6:4).  Yet, I guess I write it because maybe it will encourage someone else to do the same and because it is a way to share about how my kids are growing into themselves in really good ways.  And, selfishly, so that one of these days, when I feel grumpy about them being selfish over something, I can look back and read about tonight...when their thoughts were held captive by others, not themselves.

I hope to find my way back to the keyboard again this weekend.  It felt good to take the time to write after such a long time away.  Though, it is now far too late and I should be asleep.  Oh well.  Hopefully something good comes out of the words on the page that makes it worthwhile.  Good night and thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Castor Kids For a Cause

A few weeks ago, I received something in the mail from the Gospel for Asia organization asking for money to provide wells in India.  I was moved as I read about the plight of people who don't even have clean water to bathe in or drink.  It was not that this was new news to me.  In fact, we are fortunate to be are friends with an amazing couple (the Chees) who are doing well and filter work in Cambodia with Samaritan's Purse.  Another friend, Russ, used to do the same work in an African country.  But, as I sat there with my three children, eating to their full at lunch and planning to take a cool dip in the lake, the weight of this situation struck me more deeply.  The contrast to our lives was so great.

I shared the story with my children, reading excerpts from the letter.  We talked about how hard that must life is so different for so many around the world.  We talked about how good we have it here in North America and, more specifically, within our own home.  I shared with them how we are some of the richest people in the whole world; a fact that seems shocking in light of where we are on the local "income scale" (i.e., we are certainly not "rich" locally).  I also shared with them how, even in the state and town that we live in, there are people who have very little and may struggle to make ends meet. 

This was not the first time that we have discussed the inequitable distribution of life's goods and riches.  I have been known to remind my children who claim, "I'm starving!", about what starvation really looks like by showing them pictures or videos of people who are truly starving.  It was not that long ago when my kids were complaining about not having enough toys or things to do when I showed them video of children rummaging through garbage heaps to find something to keep or sell.  Even driving through poorer areas of Minneapolis or the subburbs has sparked conversation about economic differences.  Yet, most, if not all, of these discussions also touch on the similarities between us all and the basic needs and rights we all have.  And, almost all of these discussions lead to the question, "how should we respond?"

It is remarkable that even young children know that there is something wrong with people living a world away in utter poverty.   They understand that it is not right that there are homeless people and children without families within a short drive of our sheltered life. A 5 year old knows that it is horribly sad for someone to go to bed having only eatten one meal during the day.  A 9 year old understands, at some level, the problems that might come from having no clean water.  A 12 year old realizes that we have significant benefits simply because of where we were born and where we live.  Bono stated it well when he sings, "where we live should not decide whether we live or whether we die."  And yet, that is the realitiy for many, isn't it?

As we talked about the lack of fresh water in India, babies without families, and families without food, we again came to the question, "how should we respond?"  Over and over in God's Word it says we are to take care of widows, orphans, and strangers.  As Jesus followers, we have a responsibility to help those in need and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  With that in mind, the kids and I brainstormed some ideas that might help us love our neighbors as ourselves and deal with some of the needs of the world.  It was fun to watch and listen as this discussion took place.

A few days later, with nothing else pressing in the schedule, my three kids and I hatched one of our plans.  We began to bake.  Each child took responsibility for one recipe while I took on a fourth and oversaw all operations.

Don't worry, she washed her hands after loving on her doggy!

 A few hours later, when the baking was complete and cookies were cooled, I assembled plates of approximately10 - 12 goodies.  In addition, Zac helped me type out a note of explaination to hand out with our cookies.

Castor Kids for a Cause!
Finding creative ways to raise money for The Love of Christ Ministries (TLC), an orphanage in South Africa. 
TLC believes that every child has the right to a loving and responsible family.  Since April 1993, they have helped over 600 babies who have been abandoned or orphaned.  Find out more about TLC on their website:
Thanks for helping us make a difference!

With a cooler loaded up with 11 plates of cookes, the kids, Smudge, and I headed out to ask neighbors if they would like to help support our effort to raise some money for a South African orphanage near and dear to our hearts.  Zac and I decided rather than "pricing" the cookie plates, we would sell them by donation.  I honestly did not know how much one might possibly want to spend on these small plates of cookies.  I anticipated that we might raise $30 - $40 during this first venture and would combine it with something else in a month or so.  I admit, part way through the mess of baking I wondered whether I should have just sent that amount of money myself, rather than buying and donating ingredients and making a mess of the kitchen.  But, I knew that this project was about more than just sending money to Afica.  It was also about helping to mold my kids' hearts to view the world more and more with Jesus vision and to consider the needs of others as more significant than their own "comfort".

An hour and a half or so after leaving the house, my kids and I returned home, having sold 10 plates of cookies. All but one of the neighbors that we went to eagerly bought a plate of cookies from the kids.  At one home, two preteen children ran to their rooms to find money to buy their own plates and contribute willingly to the cause.  Each Castor child played a role in the sales.  Zac usually "pitched" the cause, while Elly handed out the cookies, and Ben kept the dog in control or pulled the cooler along.  We were pleasantly surprised and so encouraged by the generosity of neighbors.  In the end, the kids raised $110 for their cause.  The kids, especially Zac who knows the value of a dollar more than the other two, were thoroughly pleased.  Zac commented that we have some really great neighbors.  I agree whole heartedly!
Within an hour of being home, I forwarded the money via PayPal, to TLC with a note to Thea.  The next day, the kids got an e-mail and a lovely e-card from Thea.  Thea wrote that TLC would use the money to buy warm pajamas for the toddlers.  It is now winter and, due to some circumstances, they did not have proper heat.  I was thrilled to see that the kids (with a little help from Mom) were able to meet a real need in an amazing home meeting the needs of kids every single day.  It wasn't much in terms of the overall need, but it was something.  And, perhaps, more importantly, the children were integral in the planning and carry through of this project to serve.
My hope is that the kids, Ken, and I can do more of this together in the months and years to come.  Not necessarily baking, but doing something fun and creative with an intent to serve.  I hope even more so that my children will develop a heart for serving others in our own community and around the world...even serving one another along the way!  The world is smaller than we realize, especially when we expand our hearts and open our hands to reach around it.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Out of the heap (or something like that)

Right now I am sitting down by the lake, watching my three sweet children swim.  My poor dog is going crazy, tied to a tree, leaving him just out of reach of the water.  The cool breeze and the shade from the large trees mask the heat and humidity of another hot summer day.  The laughs and cheers from my children as they play and imagine together bring a smile to a quiet place inside of me.  Life, at this moment, is good.  It is a moment for which all the hard work seems infinitely worth it.

Yet, only an hour ago, I was a heap of tears and salty stained cheeks, sitting on the couch unmotivated to move.   It was a weighty moment of realization that my life is not quite the way I want or expected it to be.
Before I continue, I must write a “disclaimer” of sorts.  First off, this is one of those writings that I am not sure will ever make it to my blog.  It may be just a moment of pouring out / writing therapy for me…as a way to walk through the things I feel.   Secondly, no matter where this ends up – left on my computer, posted on my blog, or simply deleted – I need to say LOUDLY that I love so much of my life and those within it!  I truly have much to be thankful for.  So much so, that even as I write, I think “really…in the scheme of the world, do you really think you have it rough?”  And then I start to feel silly for even putting these words to the page.  (See it’s therapeutic already.)  Thirdly, the feelings that I have – that left me in a heap – are not a result of someone but of something.  These are two very different things and I must continually keep this in perspective.  Finally, I cannot imagine – though sometimes I’m sure I talk myself into thinking I can – a family that is more amazing, fun, unique, special, and just right for me than mine.  This too, I must remember.
Okay, so what’s all the blubbering about?  Simply put…it’s about the dark side of ADHD.
Okay – wait – one more disclaimer…I say the “dark side of ADHD” because there are many lovely-light sided-good-Jedi-like moments that are a part of ADHD.  For example – because of super strength and some super spontaneity (inherent in ADHD), my child skied doubles with his cousin the second time that he ever water skied.  He thought it looked cool and, without hesitation or much forethought, decided he would “go for it.”  Not too many other just turned 9 year olds would ever even think that was possible.  I also use this term because, as stated before, it is about the thing (ADHD)...not the person.
So back to the “dark side”.  I was struck once again – rightly or wrongly – by the fact that my life will never be quite like what I dreamed of long long ago.  Why did this hit me today when so many moments are “just life” or “c'est-la-vie”?
It started with the office visit…the appointment we have every few months to monitor medications and make adjustments if necessary.    I value these appointments as they provide us with a tool that optimizes learning and successful living.  But at the same time, they are an annoying reminder of life as it is.  At one point in the past few years, we were attending appointments related to our needs approximately three times a month.   Unfortunately, we were also slightly late for today's meeting – a combination of bad traffic and impulsive distractibility – which meant a bit of rushing.   However, this was, I believe, the first of these appointments for which we arrived late.  Quite a feat and no small victory.  Perhaps the lateness, therefore, added more to the sting of the appointment  today.
In spite of the need for the appointment,  it went relatively well.  Things are generally going nicely with the introduction of a "new" drug in June.  Given observations of a typical day, however, it was determined that a slight "tweak" in dosing would likely be helpful, especially with school just around the corner.  All in all, it was a pretty quick and painless meeting which was followed by a quick lunch at McDonald’s and good bye hugs to Ken.   (Ken is off for a great getaway weekend with his brother, Dave.  It should be a fabulous time of brotherly bonding and cheering for the Cubbies!) 
The real impetus for the teary mess that ensued, however, was yet another hunt for medication.  Yes…hunt.   Over the past year, I would estimate that 50% of my drug runs (which occur at least monthly), ended up with me running between (or at least calling between) two, sometimes three, different stores.   Not enough meds.  One drug, but not the other(s).  Wrong date on the script.  Pharmacy closing soon and can’t possibly fill them.   The dog ate my homework (no wait, that is a different kind of excuse).
This is how the hunt went today:
·    Stop at Target pharmacy and ask if they have what is needed before leaving the counter. (* note: this is something I learned I must do anytime I go fill a script –  I can not assume they will have what I need filled)
·     When tech says they do not have either prescription, ask them to call the other Target pharmacy to see if they have it (prior to driving over – another lesson learned).
·    When tech says the other Target does not have the drugs, continue shopping for the remaining items on our list.  Kids behaved well.  Elly got her birthday party present.  Grocery items bought.
·    While waiting for the kids to check out some video games at Target, I call ahead to Walgreens to make sure they have the drugs prior to going over to the store.  YES!  They have the drugs…well, all but 4 capsules of one.  I can deal with that.  “Please put them aside for me…I’ll be right over.”
·    Go through drive thru at Walgreens.  Pass prescriptions through indicating that I just called and the one set of meds have been put aside.
·    Different tech comes to the window and says she doesn’t have the meds.  I explain again that they have been put aside.  Phew.  She finds them and says both will be filled within 20 minutes.
·    Kids and I drive around and look at a couple of garage sales to kill time...much to Elly’s joy and Ben’s dread.  Zac is indifferent, as long as he doesn’t have to get out of the car, he doesn’t care.
·    20 minutes later, I return to the drive thru window.  A faceless voice comes over the speaker and asks if the medications are an increase in dosage over the last time they were filled.  “Yes they are, “ I answer.  The mystery woman then explains to me that the insurance has denied the prescription because they say that the increase in medication is not medically necessary.  This is actually an overstatement, I determine, as they are not saying it is not necessary, but that they want the MD to prove it is necessary before they will pay for it.  “They should come live at my house,” I say only half joking, “and then they will know whether or not it is necessary.”
The woman continues to explain that a prior authorization is required, but I could buy the medication on my own.  The two prescriptions would cost somewhere around $260 for the month, as opposed to roughly $20 with my coverage.   I could just buy a few days’ worth, but it could take up to two weeks to have the prescription authorization taken care of.  And, due to the nature of the drug, once any of the meds from the script have been filled, the rest of the pills are void and cannot be filled.  A new script would have to be written and an original must be provided (did I mention this office is about 35 minutes from home?).   And, I only have 2 days’ worth of his current meds left.   
·    I tell the tech I need to call my MD and think about my options.  As I pull away, the heat and salt of the tears drench my face, which is already wet with sweat born out of frustration and disappointment.  I pull over and put my face in my hands, trying not to cry too loudly, but unable to hide my sorrow filled frustration.  My children tend to me with gentleness and concern, wondering what has made me so sad.  Zachary tries to explain it to the other two, though he doesn’t understand that the sobs are not just about unfilled prescriptions, but the weight of it all coming up again.

For the next hour or so, I played phone tag with the nurse and try to hatch a plan…a plan I have not yet decided on…there are few options, really, but I do not know just how many days’ worth of meds to purchase given the heafty price.  And, for the hour or so after that, I tried to distract myself by catching up with others on facebook and e-mail.  But somehow, when interrupted by little voices asking for something to eat or to go swimming, the weight just feels heavier and I sink further underneath it.  One particular voice gets louder and more persistent, even as I ask for time to pull myself together and figure out the evening agenda.  And, the tears just flow.

Doctor appointments.  Medication hunts.  $$$ for appointments and medications.   IEP meetings.    Fewer freedoms.  More demands.  Words that sting (from various sources, sometimes well intended).  Altered dreams.   The "what ifs", "why nots" and "how comes". 

And, usual, it was a relatively short lived moment - this ugly heap I was in.  My pity party didn't last long.  It couldn't last long...nor should it last long.  I have far too much to be thankful for...and far too much life to live.   I have, after all, an awesome family, an incredible husband, and three fabulous kids.  I have a beautiful place to live and big trees in my back yard.  I have food to fill my plate and a roof over my head.  I have clothes on my back and shoes on my feet.  My husband and I are both employed.  My children are healthy.  We have extended family and friends who love us and care for us.  And, most importantly, I have El Roi.

So, here I sit, by the lake...soaking in the moment that was meant to be,  my children enjoying the stuff that summer is made of, and my thoughts moving in the right direction.  I anticipate an evening of pizza, Whale Wars, and walking the dog.  I feel lighter and brighter and less tear stained.  Yep, this is a good moment.  And, oh so much better than being in the heap.

(* I have decided I would post this.  My primary purpose in sharing, I think, is to be real and "transparent" because I know there are other mom's and dad's who share in the challenges of parenting - whether it is because of a specific area of need or just because this parenting stuff is not always easy.  My hope is that if there are others in a heap right now, that it too would be short lived, and that they would know they are not alone by any stretch.  Sleepless nights, emotional drains, and moments of "what was I thinking?" are not yours alone...and things get better...and you are not alone....ever.  Thanks for reading!)


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Playing Dead?

A funny thing happened on my way to take a bath the other day.  I was about to fill my tub when I noticed a little bug laying on the bottom.  When I reached down to pick it up, the bug plopped over on it's back and played dead.  I've seen "roley poley" bugs curl up and play dead, but this I had never seen.  His tactic did not save him, however, as he got flushed away in spite of his survival strategy. that night, I was walking my dog, Smudge.  I noticed him sniffing and starting to paw at something in the dimly lit mulch.  At first, it just looked like a blob of brown.  Upon a closer look, I was surprised to see a frog, lying on his back, legs spread wide open, playing dead.  Again, this was something I had never seen before.  As I gently tugged Smudge away from the cunning amphibian, he flopped back over onto his belly and hopped away to safety. 

What were the chances that twice in one day I would see two critters play dead when they sensed they were somehow being challenged or threatened?  I know that some animals do this, but I'd never seen it nor expected to see it twice in just a few hours.

After I saw the frog fake his own demise in an attempt to avoid confrontation, I started thinking about my own methods of dealing with the "threat" of attack or discomfort.  It made me realize that, while I frequently deal with the things life throws at me, there are certain times when I would just as soon roll over, play dead, and hope the threat would just pass me by.

Unfortunately, that tactic generally does not solve the problem.  Like the bug now in the depths of the sewer system, curling up and playing dead in an attempt to hide away from the world, usually ends up with me feeling worse off than I started and trying to keep afloat.  I guarantee you, had that bug tried to talk it's way through the predicament, he would be alive today (and probably traveling the world with me making me rich).  Had he shown me some life and a little oomph maybe he would have ended up outside rather than down the drain...he was, after all, a harmless bug. 

Rarely do life's problems just go away on their own.  Rarely do the situations that somehow "threaten" my ideal life just vanish by my hanging low and under the radar.  Most often, they require some attention, problem solving, thoughtful consideration, and action.  Sometimes Usually, they require more energy than I think I have, but that I must somehow muster.  And, yet, in the end, when the problem has been successfully addressed, the energy put in is usually well worth it.  Thoughtfully working through the situation - whatever it may be - is nearly always more freeing and fulfilling than rolling over and playing dead.

On the other side of the coin, there are the infrequent times that I respond to a threat with arms swingin', ready for a take down!  (I know that may have evoked just a few giggles or shocked inhalations as most have never ever seen that side of me.)  While there may be, or at least seem to be, times when a fight is "necessary" (usually if it involves a threat to my children, my family, or underdogs in general), most times this fight back response is as unsuccessful as the lay-over-and-play-dead response.  Fighting in response to threat is often a visceral reaction, not a planned out or thoughtful reaction.  While I may be able to throw a mean hook (figurative or literal) in a moment of threatened frenzy, there are only certain moments when this is a useful and productive response.  Unfortunately, sometimes when the fighter in me shows up, it can bring out the ugly in me.  True.  And, ugly is not a good look on me. 

I learned a bit about this struggle between fight or flight in response to threat when we lived in British Columbia (in Vancouver and Parksville).  British Columbia is inhabited (in different areas) by a variety of bears and by cougars.  In fact, Vancouver Island (where Parksville is located) "boasts" the highest concentration of cougars in the world.  Shortly after we first moved to B.C., we learned that there are different ways to respond to each of these animals should you encounter them.  If I recall correctly (feel free to correct me if I am wrong), if you encounter a cougar or a black bear, you first make yourself look as large as you can - standing tall, putting small children up on your shoulder, waving your arms - and back away calmly.  If however, you are still attacked, you fight like crazy because your life depends on it and you may be able to scare or battle the animal off.  Yet, if you encounter a brown bear or grizzly bear and are under attack, you drop to the ground, curl up in a ball and play dead - protecting your head with your hands as much as possible.  Hopefully, the bear gives up and walks away.  

The funny thing about the BC "rules" for engaging wildlife attacks is that I often wondered whether I would remember which response goes with which threat.  What if I play dead when I should fight?  What if I forget to "look large" and instead run away looking more like a mouse teasing a cat?  What would the outcome be if I respond in a way that is not prescribed?

In life, our responses to different threats are rarely prescribed.  The "rules of engagement" are not clear based on the attack we feel.  We can't filter through scenarios and choose the best reaction, wondering if we remembered the right plan.  However, my personal history has proven that - whether I feel like I want to curl up and play dead or come out swinging - when I thoughtfully consider my options, take time to problem solve, strive for integrity, remember the Word, and pray, I am far more likely to have a positive outcome and survive the threat.  Fortunately, there are few times in life when I am faced with a grizzly sized problem.  Rarely, do I have a life or death cougar-like confrontation before me.  And, hopefully, the next time I sense a threat to life as I know it, I will neither curl up and play dead nor fight with tooth and nail.  Neither one sounds very fun or profitable.  And, surely, neither one brings out the best (or beauty) within me.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ever Want a "Redo"?

Do you ever have one of those days...or moments...when you wish you could turn back time?  I would love to say that I never felt that way.  But, the truth is, there are definitely moments when, if I could, I would turn the clock back and call a redo. 

The funny thing about these redo moments, however, is that I would almost never choose to turn back time very far.  Most often...dare I say nearly time travel would consist of setting the clock back by mere minutes.  I suppose there are the occasional times when I would like to jump through a time spanning wormhole that would deliver me back a few hours or days in the past, but not often.  Nope.  Mostly, I would chose to set my time traveling Delorian dials back 5 or 10 minutes.

Stepping without looking.  Sitting up too quickly when tucking my son in his lower bunk.  An unkind word.  A raised voice.  An unwise impulsive decision.  A selfish action.  Speaking before thinking.  An impatient response.  Ignoring a dog's signal that he needs to pee (ummmm...yeah....that just happened a couple nights ago).  Ignoring that little voice inside my head urging me to do or not do something in the moment.  Responding out of frustration.  Not saying "hello".  Saying "goodbye" too soon.  You get the idea.

The way I feel when I think I need a redo.
While I occasionally long for a redo when something inconvenient or undesirable happens - cutting my foot, bumping my head, missing a great photo opportunity, etc. - I most often desire a chance to turn back time when the result is hurt feelings, interrupted relationships, a veering from integrity, or simply, but significantly, a yuck in the gut feeling.  Sometimes, a simple pause...a catch of the breath...a cooling of temper...a count to 5...a focus on the Spirit...a consideration of feelings...a self reminder of who I am...or a quick prayer for clarity can make the difference between feeling "okay" (or even great) about the moment or wishing I could press life's rewind button.  Usually, the difference is made by simply shifting the focus from myself to the other person involved and by remembering who it is I'd like to be more like.

I read a line somewhere on-line recently that caught my attention.  As someone was signing off of a letter, they wrote the following: "Striving to be proud of everything I do today."  What a great tag-line for life when used in humility.  What a great line to keep the "I wish I would-uvs" at bay.  If I consistently strive to be proud of everything I do, while keeping God and others at the forefront of my thinking, I bet I would have very few want-to-redo moments. 

Before it gets any later and I end up wishing I could turn back time to get more sleep, I am going to head to bed.  As always, thanks for reading.  I hope it's been relevant, easy to relate to, and somehow encouraging to read.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Positively Phototactic! other night, I put the backyard flood light on so I could take my new pooch out for a final 'go' before bed.  When I came back in, I was amazed by the number of bugs hovering around the light and on the window screens.  My first thought was "gross!" and my second thought was, "so why do insects go to the light the way they do?" I figured that I must have learned that at one time along the way, but I couldn't remember.  So, being the geek that I am, I had to look it up.

Phototaxis.  Phototaxis is the movement of a cell or an organism toward or away from a source of light.  If an organism is positively phototactic, it is drawn toward a light source, like a moth.  If an organism is negatively phototactic, it is repelled by the light, like a cockroach or a worm.  Okay.  I like that - phototaxis.  But, why are so many bugs positively phototactic?  Again, the geek in me had to find out.

A number of sights suggested that bugs use the moon as a navigational tool.  One theory is that bugs keep the moon light on one side or the other to keep flying in a straight line, similar to navigating a boat by a stationary point along the shoreline.  When the bug sees a flashlight, floodlight, or front porch light, it gets confused and thinks that bright light is the moon.  They head toward it thinking they are reaching their destination (although, I am not sure how much actual thinking is involved here) or are still on the correct flight path.  When bugs endlessly circle the light, it may be an attempt to keep the "moon" to one side of their body in order to fly a straight path.  Poor little guys get mislead and confused, resulting in a failed journey or (sniff sniff) death.

I, like a moth, am positively phototactic.  I am drawn to light.  On most days, if there is a sunny spot on the floor, from light streaming in through the window, I eventually spend a moment in that place and soak it up - the warmth and the light.  And, while I tend to be a night owl as opposed to an early bird, there is something reassuring about the break of dawn...the light of a new day. 

I am spiritually positively phototactic, as well.  Wow - that was a mouthful!  From an early age, I was introduced to and drawn to the Light.  Jesus is called (and calls himself) the light of the world.  In John 1:5, it says that the light shines in darkness and darkness cannot overcome it (or extinguish it).  I am drawn to that light and everything it stands for, desperately wanting to be in the Light.

And yet, there are times when I get distracted by shiny objects.  Like a raccoon who gets his little mitts stuck in a jar while trying to pull out a shiny pop tab, I can sometimes get caught by the shimmery lights of something attractive - popularity, money, Facebook time,  a TV show that may or may not be good for my mind and heart, the lure of doing nothing at all, a prestigious job, a decadent dessert, being "right", looking good, sounding smart, whatever it may be.  It's not that any of those things are necessarily bad on their own: I'd much rather be an enjoyable chic who has a bit of knowledge than an annoying and ignorant hag-lady.  I certainly savour a good sweet treat, especially in the company of friends.  And, money is a necessary need and something I should deal with wisely.  But when those things set me off course of the true Light and keep me from fulfilling the stuff I should be doing in the Light (namely being a benefit to others for the glory of God - in whatever shape or form that may take), I am like a confused bug in the night.  When pride, focus on self, or focus on the "stuff" of the world become my guiding system, I am at serious risk for being mislead and failing in my life journey.  Even good intentions can lead to destruction when they are not guided with integrity, honesty, and accountability (you know the saying about roads paved with good intentions).   And, for me, my human attempts at integrity, honesty, and accountability fall short without the Light to illuminate.

I love the way creation points again and again to the Creator.  Phototaxis points to the Creator.  I am thankful for my positive phototaxis.  I'd rather be like a moth than a cockroach any day.  Hopefully, I will keep the right light in focus, however, and not get distracted by a shiny piece of jewelry, or worse yet, a bug zapper!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

What's Your Passion?

The other day I read a blog posting from an old friend of mine.  We were "co-stars" in Tom Sawyer back in the day when Farrah Fawcett locks were en vogue.  Apparently, patterned turtle necks under 3/4 sleeve t-shirts were also quite the fashion statement!
At any rate, Steve wrote about how he admired those who had "nerdy" obsessions or passions.  He indicated that he was more of a Renaissance man with a wide scope of interests rather than a man with a passion about any one thing.  As a result, he wondered whether or not this lack of a passion was healthy.  This got me thinking.

Lately, my kids have hooked into a T.V. show that is filled with passion and obsession.  Thanks (or not) to my dear sister Sue and her daughter, Jessica, my kids love to watch the show Whale Wars.  I admit it,  I too have found myself sucked in from time to time as we watch the Sea Shepherds try anything they can think of to rid the seas of the evils of whaling in protected waters.  If you haven't seen the show, it is worth a gander if you want to see people driven to extremes for something they believe in.  I admire their passion.  I dig their gumption.

The "funny" thing about this show, however, is the number of times that passion and zeal turn into costly mistakes.  Granted, the show would not be what it is without torn up inflatables, broken props, leaks in fresh water tanks, failing helicopter rotors, stranded team members, and so on.  But it leaves me to wonder whether their passionate obsession is at times blind to reasonable forethought, planning, preparation, and carry through.  Is the impulse to live out their passion in the moment of "engagement" with the whaling vessels short circuiting their common sense?  As a viewer I hear myself shouting, "let go of the rope - you're gonna get hurt!" and wondering why in the attempt to "prop fowl" there isn't a smidge more mother wit amongst the Shepherds.  And, isn't it true that we have all heard of people so passionately obsessed with something that they are so to the detriment of their relationships, their livelihoods, and to their own well beings?

Passion is absolutely necessary to get the hard work of the world done.  I think most of the advancements of man - whether technological, scientific, human rights related, medical, spiritual, whatever - would not have occurred without a good dose of passionate obsession. Yet the passion, I believe, in order to be most effective must be tempered, to some degree, with practical perspective and sound problem solving.  Reckless abandon can become quite wreck-full without some solid forethought and planning.  An amazing spark of an idea ignited by passion can burn out quickly if there is not willful determination for patience, perseverance, and, perhaps, even long term "suffering".   While I do believe that a person with fiery passion can also possess gifts and talents required for the long haul and perspective keeping, I also believe that some of the Renaissance men and women of the world (along with those even-keeled- but-really-good-at-what-they-do people) are necessary to keep a balance along the way - within a particular cause or generally within the world.  A world full of passionately obsessive people lacking some Renaissance-like skills would surely cause some sort of chaos.

That being said, I believe that most people, somewhere within them, have a degree of passion for something; perhaps not a passionate obsession - which in itself may not be healthy - but some underlying sense of urgency or spark toward an idea, activity, person, or event.  Maybe it is the area in which ones buttons are most easily pushed; the thing that you are most easily ruffled over.  Maybe it's the thing you can't seem to shake from the back of your mind.  Perhaps your passions are seasonal, changing over time or redefined based on experience or availability related to that passion.  If circumstances were different, just maybe the ember of passion resting among the ashes could be fanned into a full on fire producing flame.  Sometimes, we don't always know how to shape our passions into practical endeavors, however, which may make us doubt that there is any zeal or zest to begin with.  I imagine if I sat down with Steve and chatted with him for a while I would find that he has passion hidden under practicality or circumstance.  One guess, for example, is that his interest in many things is sparked by a passion (subdued perhaps) for an expanse of knowledge.  No one said a Renaissance man has to imply a lack of eager dedication or drive toward something.
The bottom line, in my mind, is that we were all created uniquely with purpose and value.  We all have our own gifts, talents, and interests.  It would be horribly boring and thoroughly ineffective if we were all created the same way.  Finding that thing or those things which make our hearts beat a little faster or our minds race a little longer is part of discovering how we were created and for what purpose.  Neither the obsessively passionate nor the 'jack of all trades' is unhealthy when working in step with divine plan for which one was created.  Either one can be a world changer...a mover and a shaker.  What is that spark within you?  Wherein does your passion lie?  Or, if you are more of a well rounded life liver, what drives those things that give you your "roundness"?   Whatever it is, it is not by chance, but by the thoughtful design of the One who made you.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Training the trainer

Yikes - it's been a long time!  One may notice...and I hope at least one does...that I haven't written for a while.  I started a few times to get my thoughts down, but have been unsuccessful at penning a complete post.  I've got a few "valid" excuses, primarily lack of time and computer troubles, but the truth is I have mostly chosen not to write.  Or, when I felt I might have a moment to write, the words just didn't seem to flow.
 It’s been a little over a month since school let out and my summer started.  While this would seem to imply that I have more time on my hands, the reality is I have been more intentional with the time I've had.  I feel, in many ways, like I have wasted fewer minutes in the last month or so than I did when my schedule was full with "work".  My goal has been to soak up the time with my kids and pour out into them, giving them structured fun and learning opportunities.


They have definitely had time for free fun without me hovering, but in those times, I seem to find myself working on projects or maintaining the home.  And, as of last week, we added a dog to the mix and have an out of town hubby.   Mind you, I have watched a few Netflix episodes of Monk along the way… while working on projects or sorting laundry (okay...stop laughing at my choice)...but rarely has a minute been "wasted".  And, while I do not view writing as wasted time at all, there just has not been enough time to spend at the keyboard or to spin thoughts as well as I would like.  Hence, my days away and my current attempt to write again...
In light of my new life at home full time with three kids and a dog, I have been thinking a lot about training.  Isn’t it true that, in many ways, training up a child or training a pet is less about training the child or the pet and more about training ourselves?  And, isn’t it true that picking your battles well can be half the battle? 
Since we have such a great yard and three kids that run around in it, I have a strong desire to train my dog, Smudge, to poop and pee in one particular area.  According to a number of well-intended pet owners and experts on line, this should be a relatively simple task.  Take pooch out to the same place each time he has to go.  Praise him like crazy when he does.  Be consistent and he will soon get the hang of it and eagerly go where he is supposed to go.  Huh.  I wish these experts would have a dog whispering session with my Smudge and let him know what his half of this plan is.  I cannot even begin to calculate the number of minutes – hours actually – that I have spent this past week in a particular spot behind our garage.  The mosquitos are surely laughing at the crazy lady with wonderful veins who stands there just waiting to be eaten repeating “go potty” over and over again to an oblivious dog.  For some reason, my dog – a sweet beagle spaniel mix – has a bladder of steel.  Honestly, he usually only goes twice a day.  (Yes, he has all day access to water)  One would think he would want to go first thing in the morning.  Nope – nothing, not even a trickle.  And pooping – ugh – last night I was out with him for a long time, brought him in, took my eyes off of him for one minute thinking he was with another family member, and found him starting to go in the boys’ bathroom.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?  I ran him straight out to finish his business in my designated area and then praised him for “going potty OUTSIDE!”  Tonight I figured with three successes and a save within the last day and a half, I would have no problem getting him to go again in the “right” place.  Wrong.  It was not gonna happen.  So, after standing around in the same place for far too long, I broke my training plan and took Smudge for a walk/run around the block and visited with the neighbors for a few minutes.  Then, after watching Smudge pounce on a baby frog, I took him back to the spot for several minutes more.  Nothing.
It was at that moment I decided that I needed to surrender, or at least compromise, this battle for the moment.  I was driving myself crazy, feeding multiple mosquitos, feeling like I was wasting a load of time, and clearly not making headway with my puppy.  At that moment, I abandoned my post and decided to walk him around my yard for just a little more time.  Sure enough, back near the woods, he decided to do his thing.  “Good boy!!  Good potty outside!”  I was happy he got the job done within my yard, but silently mourning the lost battle.  I wonder if Smudge was silently celebrating his victory or if he was just relieved to have relieved himself in a place that fit his olfactory preferences best.  Tomorrow morning, I will need to decide how badly I want to get him to go where and when I want him to go...and whether it’s a battle I want to continue and work to train at this point. 
Consistency is so often the key to training.  When training up my kids, I am most successful when I am consistent with them.  Consistent boundaries, consistent rules, consistent expectations, and follow through.  Sometimes, in my fatigue or my busy-ness, I give up an opportunity for beneficial follow through.  On occasion, it’s not a big deal.  But sometimes, especially with particular personalities, my lack of a reliable response results in a step back in behavior or a manipulation on the part of my child.  My lack of carry-through can create the behavior I want to extinguish.  As well, when I want to be successful with fitness, I need to be consistent in my training.  My recent lack of consistency in fitness is annoyingly evident, but not enough so that I have forced myself over to the Y or onto the treadmill in my warm garage.  I will likely be bugged by the fact that I’m softer than I want to be, but have only myself to blame.  Consistency in exercise and a healthy diet, as “hard” as it may seem sometimes, is the only way to ensure that I am doing my part to shape my shape.  It is hard to be consistent sometimes, but the payoff is directly related to the time put in.
Time in prayer or in God’s word is the same way.  If I don’t…more aptly, when I don’t… consistently seek some time to spend with the One who wants to spend time with me the most, I lose headway in my “spiritual training.”  Just like it is easy to put off the gym or a guiding instruction to a child, it is far too easy for me to put off my time with God.  This avoidance or simple neglect leads to a greater gap in the relationship that I know I need to feed the most.  While I may long to be tight with God, if I don’t do my share of the work, by consistently thinking about and spending time with Him, it just won’t happen.  And, in reality, this battle is the most important one for me to choose to fight and fight well.

I wish I was more of a steady ship sometimes...that I could set my course and never waiver...that I never lacked the consistency and discipline required to be the perfect parent, the most fit 40 year old around, and the closest friend that Jesus could ever have.  And yet, I know that I likely will never be any of those things.  However,  I know that I am still growing and - if I allow myself to be - still being shaped by the One who knows me best and sees me even in my weakness.  As I've said before, He's not finished with me yet.  For that, I am consistently thankful!

Can you believe I am posting this picture?  This was last winter at my sister's cabin before some late night skiing, I think.
 I feel as if I could write more or at least edit what I’ve written to make it flow more.  But I am going to end here or this will be one more started and unfinished posts waiting to be completed.  I have been consistently going to bed too late this past week.  This is one consistent habit I need to change so that I am not too tired to soak in, pour out, and be consistent with my kids and my Smudge.  I hope to get back into the swing of things and write more often again.  We will see.  I have certainly missed it, but have been thankful for the things that have taken up the time gained by not writing.
As always, thanks for reading and feel free to share your thoughts or ideas.  It is always an encouragement.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Oh Mickey You're So Fine....

I'm not entirely sure how it happened.  I blinked.  And that was it.  She was once a little smidge of a thing and she has graduated.  Oh, I know that a lot that happened in that "blink of an eye", but it feels, in some ways, like that was all it was...a blink.  A flash.  A hiccup.  However, in reality, a grand total of 6659 days somehow flew by in what felt like a mere snap of the fingers.  MacKenzie, my niece, has grown up.

Before the big event!
I was there when she was born.  It wasn't supposed to happen that way, actually.  I was visiting my family over Spring Break, a week or so before she was expected.  In my heart I really wished I was staying longer and figured I wouldn't get to meet my sister's first baby until well after she arrived.  But, leave it to God's timing.  My sister went into labour while I was still on my break.  I had the privilege of being at my sister's side through much of her labour and then, unfortunately, outside the O.R. during the emergency C-section that finally brought Mickey out into the world.  After my brother-in-law, I was the first to get to hold MacKenzie and had the joy of helping with her first bath.  Although my time with this newborn was brief, it was a sweet blessing and honour to me.

Mickey on my lap at my wedding, just before turning 1 year old.
Despite a few months of colicky crabbiness as an infant, MacKenzie has always been a model kid.  One of my best memories of Mickey was driving across the country, from Minnesota to Vancouver, British Columbia.  She was about four years old at the time.  Her parents, Sue and Pat, agreed to help Ken and I drive our moving van, with car in tow, as we moved to go to Regent College.  Ken and I drove from Indiana to Minnesota on our own and then continued on with the Chacich gang as our back-up support and encouragement.  It was quite an adventure.

The moving van, a large U-Haul, was a four seater.  It had two front seats and two rear cab seats, which faced inward toward each other behind some tied back cargo netting.  Now, if you are any good at math, you will have already figured out that we were one seat short for our cross country journey.  In order to remedy this situation, we decided to set a short beach chair on the floor between the two inward facing chairs, thus creating a five seater.  No, we did not make Mickey sit on the floor.  She was safely secured in her car seat on one of the inward facing seats, behind the black cargo netting.  However, given her positioning, her small size (even in the car seat) and the loosely tied cargo netting, presumably available if there was cargo and not people in the rear cab section, the poor little bug could hardly see a thing outside the back cab space, let alone outside the van.  For three or four days she rode like this.  She didn't complain.  She didn't cry (at least not enough for me to remember).  She didn't make a fuss.  She just went along for the adventure, taking it all in stride.  At gas station stops, which were unreasonably long due to a gas tank issue, she "helped" wash windows and chased grasshoppers with her auntie.  She even endured crazy hotel stops that had their own little hiccups and a long wait at the Canadian border.  She was a mini rock star!

MacKenzie is a kid of character.  She cares for others, serving and sharing when she can.  She works hard with honesty and integrity, earning her honour cords for academic achievement.  She has a foundation in faith, not just blindly following, but wanting to understand for herself the spiritual legacy she has been given.  She loves life, laughing at herself and stepping outside of her comfort zone from time to time, rarely taking herself too seriously it seems.  She is a lover of justice who aches over hurts in the world, desiring a job as a nurse, perhaps in an area of poverty for a time.  She loves her family, immediate and extended, making family time a priority and crying when her faraway family leaves from a visit.  I remember far too many of those tears...hating the moment my car would have to pull away from her driveway or when we parted ways to head toward our respective homes.  Mickey is easy to be around, rarely putting herself before others, but often going with the flow...though not so hot at making decisions (the two of us together are hopeless decision makers).  I like to think I'm Mickey's favorite aunt, but she knows she's not "supposed" to have a favorite...I'll just pretend that I am.

Pat, Sue, Jessica (little sis), Mickey, me, Mom, and Dad following Mickey's graduation ceremony.

From a sweet little munchkin of a girl to a lovely young woman, MacKenzie has grown up beautifully.  Although, much to my chagrin, I have lived away from her nearly her whole life, I have been deeply impacted and encouraged by Mickey over the years.  I am thankful for memories etched in my mind and on my heart.  I look forward to hearing Mickey's stories from NDSU and finding out how well she is doing in the adventure of university life.  But, I can't deny that I will be sad to say goodbye at the end of the summer, knowing that I won't see her around near as often as I'd like.  I will miss getting down with her at Zumba and helping her on occasional school projects.  And, family get togethers just won't be the same.  But, I've already told her that I'm happy to come have sleep overs in her dorm whenever she wants me to.  I'm sure none of her friends will think it's strange that her 40 year old aunt is staying over....after all, it was only a few years ago when I was living in a dorm too, wasn't it?

Congratulations, MacKenzie!!  I love you and am so very proud of you.  May God guide you every step of the way as you move into your next blink of an eye.  And know that I am always here for you if you need an auntie to call on.

                   (For the longest time, Mickey thought this song was written about her - an old favourite!)