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.