Thursday, August 28, 2014

Surving the 5 year old Check Up

So I should be doing anything but blogging right now, I have a 3/4 packed apartment that needs to be organized now that we aren't going to finish moving just yet. I should be organizing or working on my writing for practicum but this was a big deal. Also I haven't had a break in over a year and after another whirlwind interviewing/discerning weekend I need a little down time. Besides if I wasn't writing right now I would be sitting her day dreaming about going home and to the beach for the weekend.

A few weeks ago we hit that whole turning 5 starting kindergarten milestone. Yesterday we had the check up that goes with it. Now if you have kids I know what you might be thinking, 4 is the hard one, 5 is a piece of cake. True, unless of course you have watched it all go wrong at 5 before.If you don't know me well enough to know my story let me catch you up. When I turned five I went from average kid to over sized kid, it was when kids started asking me things like, "Do you bounce?" on the play ground. It was nearly 20 years before I discovered a hormone problem that messes with how I process food, I work hard now at having a good relationship with food, yet I am still over sized. When my favorite youngest brother was five he woke up with a swollen gland one day.
Let me tell you how much my child is like my brother... their personalities are very similar. When said younger brother would upset me he would do things like eat shaving cream to make me laugh. When said child gets in trouble she puts on funny costumes to make me laugh. It makes me a firm believer in nature. Some days she says things that I am sure he has telepathically put in her head, her fearlessness and so on. It's all just like him.
The swollen glad didn't respond to the first antibiotic or the second but it did result in a trip to a specialist to reveal it was actually a freaking tumor which by the time surgery happened was the size of a softball and limiting range of motion in the neck. Years of hellish treatment followed and eventually the cancer was gone, he grew up to be a typical thorn in my side little brother clear through our young adult hood. I loved almost  every minute of it, I can't remember a moment from diagnosis on when I wasn't grateful for the very breath he breathes.

This summer I did Clinical Pastoral Education where we had to talk about what we brought into patient rooms with us. When the entirety of your childhood trauma revolves around hospitals and illness and death (Said brother wasn't the only sick one) it gives you PLENTY of fodder for conversation. One of the things I discussed was my anxiety around said kiddo turning five. One of the great insights I received was that to continue to no freak my kid out and stay sane I needed to find ways to express my anxiety. That's where you all come in, thanks for not charging me!

That all being said every time the kid so much as sneezes there is a little voice in the back of my head that screams "OH GOD THIS IS IT!" I have to shut her up and fast. When the kiddo turned one and her head jumped into the 120th percentile in circumference and we had to make a trip to the pediatric neurologist while dad was on a business trip I had to bring my mother with me who of course was probably as tense and about to barf as I was because said brother is her kid after all. Turns out after measuring my head the doctor had a good conclusion, genetics, I gave her my big head. We monitored it for awhile but she has grown into that noggin.

The four year old check up was 4 freaking booster shots and made me want to die but my anxiety before hand wasn't too bad. There is always a little but it wasn't too bad. Yesterday though even though she appears to be perfectly healthy I was a mess. The only concerns we had were minor, a spot that mysteriously appeared above her lip this summer, her flat feet, some digestive issues. Turns out the little spot on her lip is blood vessel related and will eventually disappear. Her feet are fine. We are working on her holding her potty needs too long. The kid got the all clear, healthy height and weight, good eyes and ears and all that jazz.

The most uncomfortable part of the whole thing was my remembering at the last minute at the 3 year old check up they tested her blood sugar and I had promised no needles. I kept thinking crap I am going to have to fight a nurse... not so we were good. Then there was how she kept telling them awkwardly that she dressed herself that morning with mommy's help just a little on the shirt. Earlier, she refused to dress herself, which I am sure is part of her adjusting back to life with us after a summer with grandma. I told her five year olds dress themselves and when the doctor asked if she could dress herself I would have to say no so she needed to just get dressed so we didn't have the doctor worried. Well I guess that stuck with her, not the best parenting moment I guess but it was better than screaming at her.

Today I am grateful for the all clear. I can now hold my breath until we hit six and then falsely believe we are safe. If I get all hyped up over ear infections, colds, or a stomach flu this year... have a little grace for me, ok?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Unexpected Kindergartener

There is a lot going on in our lives right now and I have debated the wisdom of writing about it in such a public forum, especially as I seek a call. However, even Pastors face challenges and I think there is something to be said about transparency.

Yesterday was supposed to be my daughter's first day of kindergarten. We are in this great transition right now and we have to kind of plan life one day or month at a time. Last spring we decided to keep her in her school to provide continuity because we anticipated moving before the year's end, something we wanted to make as easy as possible for her. Then two weeks ago all of our well meaning planning got turned on it's head when we found the end of our lease fast approaching with no option to renew (that's life in student housing). The complication here is that I am actively call searching which means I cannot commit to a new lease, I have to find somewhere month to month. Add to that some travel this weekend for a potential opportunity and I won't know what we need until we return from our trip. So we have had to make a lot of decisions quickly, first we rented a large storage unit and we have been slowly packing and putting all our stuff into storage. Then we had to make a decision about school and decided to keep her home with me and do a form of home school until we found where we would land. That brings us to yesterday when I was taking my daughter to her school (she did two years of preschool there) to have lunch with her friends from last year and her teachers. All morning she was asking if it was time yet and begging to go to school. Then we got there and she wanted to be dropped off. We had already paid for this month so she could stay. I ended up dropping her off half way through her first day of kindergarten after talking to her teachers and the staff. She wants to go to school and not stay home, we believe in child led learning, so we are letting her spend the next two weeks in school. I left with unexpected time on my hands and what I call an accidental kindergartener.

Jump to today, when I was again with unexpected time on my hands, and by some small miracle my muscle spasms and excruciating back pain shockingly gone.  I had to balance working on packing with rest because I knew if I over did it with the packing that the spasms would return. I spent the morning organizing our moving mess so that there was space to live or at least eat. The friend who helped me survive seminary was here helping me making sure I didn't over do it. I took a break at lunch time and then headed out to purchase more boxes. I was pondering things, like wow I could be three days away from homelessness at this time next week. (We have some contingency plans so not really homeless but with out our own place.) I thought about what God might want me to notice in this. I went into a store I really don't like because I knew where the boxes were and that they would fit into our budget. I had 20 minutes left before school pick up time so I listened to some music in the parking lot and then headed out closer to pick up time. As I was pulling out there was a man sitting in the grass with a card board sign. HOMELESS written across the top with anything will help underneath. I thought to myself I/we am not facing true homelessness. I made eye contact with the man and he waved a very friendly wave, I liked him. I waved back, looked at the clock, looked for change, I had nothing but my debit card. I had ten minutes to get to the school and there was no way I could turn back and get some cash. I was frustrated again, I am never prepared, I have got to find a system that provides me with a way to respond on the fly. Some gift cards or something in my car. This was a healthy dose of perspective, I started thinking about all I have that I could potential sell to help get us through this thing place. I have a lot.

I came home to an email offer of a place to stay rather than our plan to take up residence in an extended stay hotel for a week or two. This generosity, genuine concern, and sense of care made me smile and tear up all at once. It was certainly not expected. Tonight I went to class and received another offer. We have had a few others as well from friends and family near and far. Grace.

When talking about this with one of my friends I was saying you know sometimes we need a sign and we look everywhere and can't find the sign we want. Perhaps this is a sign I didn't want. She responded God just pushed you off the cliff. Yes, yes God did. I hope that God will be there to catch me as I get close to the bottom and there in these offers of hospitality and grace is God reaching out and catching me/us. The hard part as a helper type is to accept help when I need some. I want to be strong and independent and self sufficient. I have to say yes to offers of help not just for my sanity and my humanness but because if I don't I/we won't survive and that is the best lesson in community, perhaps especially Christian community I could ever give.

Today I am grateful for God working through our chosen community to catch us and for the strength to say yes to help.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Love, Hate, and Lessons

One of the awesome things about the privilege of seminary is that I have gotten to know those rare gems of people that are both brilliant and incredibly compassionate. I have great hope that the folks I have encountered here are world changers. Actually I shouldn't just limit it to seminary folks, most folks I have met in Louisville have been the kind of folks that I think are going to change the world. A side effect of this is we tend to think critically about everything. Sometimes I find myself doing this as I put toilet paper in my shopping cart, what is the environment impact, was this made in fair conditions, is there a better choice, if there is can I afford it? If I can find it in the budget to send my child to private school should I? Other children don't get that option, is it ok to use my own privilege like this? Would my money be better spent on working toward change in the public school system, or just feeding people? This thinking sometimes overwhelms me, a lot!

Let's add in all those awesome people that I don't often see in person these days as I have graduated but alas we have social media. Everyone has a cause (this is a good thing), people who think like me (as in all that over thinking) are calling me out on my choices through their shared info graphics, etc. Sometimes I wonder if there is anything left that isn't horrible in the world? It's hard to say all this but it leaves me wondering, how do we draw the line between world changers and bitter persons who enjoy nothing? If we believe, as I do, that life is a gift meant to be cherished, are we getting it right if we never get an ounce of pleasure out of it. If we claim that God created us, every part of us, then wasn't our sense of pleasure a gift from God?

A few months back I was doing that whole awkward parent hovering at a kid's party thing. We made it a point to take our little lady to these parties even though they are torturous for our  introverted selves. Munching on party snacks because there is nothing else to do, awkwardly standing in the corner trying to balance hovering and normal. (We were well on our way into a phase of less hovering when our daughter broke her arm, I am now back to a full time hoverer who tries to hide it.) Another one of the moms and I started chatting, it was clear pretty quickly that we didn't have much aside from similar aged children in common. So we stumbled along and the topic of the movie Frozen came up. Let me come clean, I really like Disney, it was a source of happiness in my childhood when our family had some dark days. A while back I read a book about how princess culture is hurting our young girls and breathed a sigh of relief when my daughter rejected the whole thing but she was immediately enamored with Elsa. I mean come on kid Anna is so much cooler! I digress!

So here we are having this already awkward conversation when the conversation gets a little harder Frozen is being blasted for what a miserably bad story it is, followed by it's horrible I can't even go see it. WAIT you haven't seen it? Then how do you know? I just nod along. There were some good points here, the boy tricks a girl to make her fall in love, which yes is true but in the end the sisters learn that their love as sisters has value. Also, we don't condone physical violence in our home, but Anna decks that dude right in the face and he goes all man over board into the icy waters below and that was kind of awesome. I got nothing on that locking Elsa in her room bit, Elsa is going to need some serious therapy. All this to make a point there were two totally different views here and I think both of them were valid and OK. I have been thinking about this though, for a while now. There is a choice that happens every time we interpret something which is pretty much nonstop for us humans, we are constantly interpreting through all five senses. I noticed my choice here, it had been to see the good parts of the storyline even though there were bad parts. Should I only expose my child to stories that are completely and 100 % happy? NO! NO! NO! I will not because here's the deal, life is NOT all happy. The truth of the matter is there are people out there that will try to trick people or at least not be honest about who they are or what their intentions are, so that they can get what they want. Sure it might be a traumatic story line for some, but it's life for others now isn't it? Even Elsa being locked in her room could be used as a commentary to teach about alot of the miserable things in this world.

I have to be intentional to choose carefully how I see (interpret) things. I am trying to choose to see the lesson or the love rather than the hate. It's hard to see the hate and hate isn't necessary for a good lesson on anything in life. We are so caught up in being right that we are painfully divided. Politics, religious beliefs, and don't even get me started on motherhood (I could say parent hood but mom's are so dang catty sometimes and I have never heard dads get into heated debates about breast feeding and day care). I think part of this reason is that we are ALL terribly insecure in what it means to be human and alive and the meaning of it all, especially when it seems like people die in senseless conflicts and from disease and disasters... every. single. day.

So here is where I am at, eggs are torture, my peanut butter is killing apes, my toilet paper is causing massive deforestation of precious rain forests, my clothes have likely been sewn together by children forced into slave labor, my car is killing the world and supporting big oil, the environment is in crisis and we need to do something, the very keys I am typing on could have been assembled in some horrific prison camp in China, both honey and avocados are nearing extinction, riots because of and followed by police brutality, wars between Israel and Palestine, terrorist groups, someone is trying to use their morals to oppress _______ (insert group of people there). You get the point it is easy to be overwhelmed with just this short list. Am I suggesting that we just turn a blind eye? No! Absolutely not! However if we consume our lives with worry and anger we miss the gift of our very lives. How do we balance our call to LOVE people and social justice with actually enjoying the gift of our lives? I am not sure I have to full answer but choosing to see the love, the places we can learn from the hurt in the world. Let us not be consumed by HATE because when we fight hate it is easy to do so with hatred in the opposite direction. Let us continue to think critically about what we do but let us not let life pass us by with out any enjoyment at all. Let us continue to love. Let us continue to learn.

Let us be honest...
Lest you think I am preaching at you from my soap box and just merely pointing a finger... I did the very thing I am writing about this morning. I opened facebook, there at the top of my news feed was a picture of two of my former students (whom I miss very much) with their dads at a gender specific parent event. I "liked" these photos with out hesitation. Then I thought to myself I always avoid these kinds of events because they leave hurting kids out, the ones whose dads are sick, in prison, dead, or the ones who have two moms etc. I think like this because I was that kid, the one whose dad was sick. I spent most of my life in relationships that provide me with a "replace a dad". You know what though I stopped myself, this picture wasn't about me at all or as much as it pains me the hurting kids who could have possibly been left out. It was about two boys beaming with pride because they got to be with their dads. I am so very grateful to see dads being involved in their kid's lives as I would be with any parent. Really if anything we need more of those "replace a dad (parent)" characters to step up so no kid is left out.

All that to say it's hard work to think like this but I don't have a choice, if I didn't I would crawl into the bed and put the covers over my head and never get back out. And don't you worry there are a ton of situations where I can never find the Love, the Good, the lesson.

So... let us continue to change the world.

So by now everyone on social media has seen or heard of the ALS ice bucket challenge. Basically you get the challenge and you have 24 hours to either donate $100 or $10 and post a video of yourself getting doused with a bucket full of ice water. I saw this back in the spring as church mission trip fund raiser. Now I find myself wondering how many times I am going to be asked to dump ice water on myself. It was maybe five days into the challenge when I saw the first anti ice bucket meme, looks like a missionary in Africa and the graphic is something along the lines of "You mean people are wasting perfectly good clean water to not donate to charity."  First in theory people should be donating either way which seems evident by the numbers reported because millions have been raised. Here's the thing about clean water in the US vs. places where there isn't easy access to clean water, we can't get it there. I know this because I tried! six years ago I found myself in East Africa with a group of people had very little access to clean water. When I came home during a brutal heat wave and I saw all the ways people use water that seem wasteful and cried my eyes own. It was my own use of water that brought me to that point as I was power washing deck furniture. It seems absolutely ridiculous that I would use perfectly clean water to spray through a high powered hose to get dirt off some chairs. So I stood there power washer nozzle in hand tears streaming down my face. The truth hit me then by circumstance of birth I live in a place where I can have a deck, chairs, and what most days seems like unlimited access to clean water. I can raise money for wells but I can't ship water, I can't get my clean water halfway around the world with out spending enough money to have built a well. Here's the thing if you have ever swam in a pool, went to a water or spray park, watered your flowers, washed your car, taken a long HOT shower... you have participated in wasting perfectly good water. I don't know how I made it a whole week with out being challenged but today it came I was challenged by my niece and so as I type this I have a large drink cooler outside filling with rain water. I will likely buy some ice to put in there because I have a microscopic  fridge. Money I could use to for better things or even put into my donation. Wait I know what you are thinking, the ice isn't rain water, nope it's not but have you ever bought some ice to fill a cooler to say I don't know keep your beer cold? I guess you wasted some water then too, unless you put the ice in your beer. And you never know maybe this research will lead to a cure or prevention and then the person who will find a way to provide clean drinking water to all people won't be taken out by it. It's a long shot but hey... any thing is possible.