To my soon to be adult child(ren)

You are a teenager on the edge of independence, almost ready to leave the comfort and safety of the nest. You can see the freedom of the world outside and long to enjoy all life has to offer.

To you, my protection has sometimes felt like a straight jacket, because you can’t feel my arms in the sleeves hugging you. You don’t see the detours I know are there. You don’t have the wisdom of my years of life experience to warn you of dangers around the corner.

I know because of the unique challenges our family has faced, you are much wiser than your years. But you are still young, and that emotional maturity cannot replace life experience.

I challenge you, as you prepare to make your own way in the world, to remember these 5 things:

1. Everyone has something to offer.

No matter how young or old, everyone has had some experience that you haven’t. They can offer you a different perspective on life or share a unique tidbit of wisdom that nobody else can. It could be the innocent view of a child, untouched by a cynical world, or the calm patience of someone who has learned to stop and savor each moment.

2. Choose your friends wisely.

You can be friendly without getting too close. Don’t trust until you know someone is trustworthy. Don’t follow the crowd because it’s easier than making your own decision. Make sure your friends are a good influence on you, and you are a good influence on them.

3. Don’t give too much of yourself.

It is important to be a good friend and to give back to society. Just be sure you don’t give to the point that there is nothing left. Protecting yourself from harm is just as important as giving and doing good. If you can’t function, how will you be able to serve others?

4. Do what brings you joy and peace.

Do you enjoy drawing? Then grab your sketch pad a few times a week and get lost in the art. Does music calm you or lift you up? Make sure to take a few minutes every day to listen to some favorite songs. Whether your passion lies in animals, dancing, baking, or playing an instrument or a sport, make time for it regularly. This is what takes you from being alive to really living.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

The only stupid question is the one that you already know the answer. It is easier to ask or answer a question than to fix a mistake. If someone thinks less of you because you asked, they are the one with the problem. Know that they are not wise enough to help you learn, and move on. Never lose your thirst for knowledge.

I can see you becoming a fine young adult with a faith and compassion that are not common in our world. I love you and am beyond proud to have had a hand in shaping who you are. You are a precious child of God and many, many people care about you.

Don’t ever lose the spark that makes you uniquely you.

Photo credit http://elderberry.blogspot.com

Hey Mama

Hey, mama. Yes, you with the sleeping child. The child you just comforted enough to relax and sleep in spite of the pain. The sick child.

We’ve been there. One day your child is healthy, the next day they have a fever. One day they are playing, the next they have lost their appetite and every ounce of “endless” energy. One day they are exploring their world, the next all they want is you. Mama.

Having a sick child is a game changer. Cleaning is unimportant. Laundry can sit unwashed. Dinner may be late, and will not be what you are used to. Those bills will have to wait. Your sick child needs you. 


We get it. You have to take care of your child. You love and care for them, nurture them, and teach them to become independent.

Suddenly they don’t need to hold your hand. They don’t want help carrying their science project. I can manage my own gear, thank you. Can I go to the party if I’m home by midnight?

But tonight they are your sick baby. You would move heaven and earth to heal them. You would change places with them in a heartbeat. It tears you apart, and you are exhausted. 

You can’t take away the pain. You can’t give them back their energy and appetite. You are helpless, reduced to giving comfort and praying. And trying not to let them see how concerned you are, because that’s your job. Mama is supposed to make everything better. But it consumes you, because a kiss won’t make it all better. 

It doesn’t matter what is wrong or how old they are. It could be the sniffles or a major illness. Teething or surgery. A fever or a severe, debilitating disease. They may be six months old or 22 years. We understand. We’ve been there.

If you are among the fortunate majority, recovery will be quick. Your child will soon be running, jumping, eating and playing again. When this happens, be thankful. Because not every mama bear gets to see their cub get better. Some cubs stay sick. 

If you haven’t been there, count your blessings. Too many of us have. 

Blessings in Disguise

We’ve all heard the saying, “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” People keep saying it because it’s true.
For over a year now, I’ve been trying to make a certain change in my life that just wasn’t happening.  For one reason or another, God kept closing doors. The one time it seemed to be an urgent need, He provided another solution to the urgency. Because of this, I have been patient, looking for solutions regularly.
Recently a solution practically fell in my lap.  Through a course of events, and a little nudging from the Holy Spirit, my son was the broker for an act of kindness that our family gave to one of his friends. Although it was not a big deal for us, it meant a lot to the friend.  What I didn’t realize was that it would turn into a big deal for us, providing a solution to that year-long quest. 
After we made the initial gesture to the friend, I felt God telling me to take it one step farther. This next step was one that most people would think is completely illogical, but I trusted God. During that conversation with the friend, we both cried, hugged and talked about options. Immediately I felt a sense of peace that I haven’t felt in a long time.
She accepted the offer, and in doing so managed to open that door that had remained closed for so long. There is one other step to take before we can walk through that door, but God has already shown me the way to navigate that brief delay.
By doing what I thought God was telling me to do for someone else, He provided me with a blessing I have waited for over a year.

The Blog is named Random Thoughts after all…

Don’t you hate it when you can’t tell if you have a cold or allergies?

Blogging isn’t nearly as much fun when you have to write for work about a subject you’re not terribly excited about. It’s also no cake walk when you want to put something on your own blog but also want to submit it to a blog where you guest write on occasion.

When you’re having a heated debate on Facebook, it’s not very productive to play grammar police with the other person. Unless you are just trying to make them angry…

Why does your boss always want something big right at the end of the day when you’re anxious to leave, but totally ignores you when your evening is free?

Why does your brain leave the building when you have a new relationship?

Don’t you hate it when you’ve just gotten comfortable then you realize you need to use the restroom?

Have you ever had so many thoughts you wanted to share that you knew your Facebook friends would think you were nuts so you wrote a blog post about a bunch of random thoughts?

To my son’s first girlfriend 

I wasn’t ready for you. I was just getting used to him driving and working. He’s not even close to being independent. I know that is supposed to be the goal, but deep down I have to admit I don’t want it. 

I have always told my kids they are growing too fast. I imagine most parents feel that way. Those feeling are purely selfish. The goal of every young person is to have the freedom of being independent, even if they don’t understand the responsibility that comes with it. 

He seems to think I don’t like you. That’s not the case at all. I don’t know you very well, but what I know is a sweet, likable girl who happened to catch the eye of my first baby. That is hard for me to swallow. 

 

Wasn’t this just last week?

 
My job as a mother is to protect and nurture my kids, and teach them to be responsible, caring adults who love God and family. So far I think I’ve managed to do that, even if my ways are not the most conventional. Yes, things have happened that were beyond our control, but I was there to pick up the pieces when our world was turned upside down. 

Of course, I want to guard my son’s heart. It’s only natural. It’s hard for me to let go and allow him to make his own choices. I’m trying very hard to offer advice without telling him what to do.

I’m glad he is comfortable enough with me to talk about you in ways most teens wouldn’t share with their parents. He knows I won’t judge or jump to conclusions. He also sees the value of lessons I learned by making bad choices when I was young. 

I hope I have a chance to spend time with you soon, just the two of us. I would like to get to know you myself, instead of just hearing what he thinks of you (which seems to be all good, by the way). If you’re lucky I may tell you some of the cute things he did when he was little. I may even show you some of those embarrassing pictures every parent seems to have. 

What am I doing here?

This week I had my first experience as part of the creative team for a community theater production. I joined the table read (just what it sounds like) of a play that was just cast. A few times I helped by reading stage directions, but I am not particularly cut out for that sort of thing.

I am looking forward to this challenge, but at the same time I am a little intimidated. This is the first time that so much of the lighting design has been my responsibility. I have a co-designer, who is also the stage manager, but her help will mostly be hanging and focusing the light fixtures.

The talented cast jumped right into character with no prompting from the director. Soon we were all laughing. I decided I need to watch several rehearsals. Not only do I need to observe blocking and other details important to light design, but I need to be able to watch the show without falling out of my chair laughing. I am also running sound and lights when the show is performed.

I can’t wait to get into the meat of this project. I will be challenged and maybe a bit overwhelmed, but mostly grateful for the chance to stretch my creative wings.

Any tips or suggestions will be gratefully accepted.

Chemo times 2

Some of you have asked about my kids being on chemo. They don’t have cancer, they have juvenile arthritis. JA can cause excruciating pain and deformalities, steal childhoods, bankrupt families, destroy marriages, cause blindness, and even kill. Although for different reasons, the difficulties my family has faced are not unlike the problems of cancer families, but without the public awareness.

download.jpg

The public’s knowledge and perception of cancer and juvenile arthritis is a touchy subject for the JA community. We know that arthritis can be just as life altering, if not as deadly, as cancer. We also know the general population is not aware of the similarities. It is hard to educate without sounding like whiny, self absorbed divas who want special treatment for their kids.

While both diseases have periods of remission and risk of recurrence, one way or another cancer treatment usually has an end. For many JA patients, treatment is a never ending battle. I have heard heartbreaking stories of JA children who shared infusion rooms with cancer patients and constantly asked their parents when it would be their turn to ring the bell announcing the end of their treatment. For them there is no end.

The mortality rate for cancer is definitely higher. I am thankful that I have not watched my child deteriorate, knowing there would be no recovery. My heart aches for parents who have lost a child. Even in remission, recurrence is a continuing threat. Parents of JA kids in remission have that same fear.

A friend of mine shared recently that her daughter was in remission. I joked that she was asking for trouble. A few days later she was back at the hospital. I felt bad, like it was somehow my fault, though I knew it wasn’t. That friend doesn’t blame me, but the pain is still there. JA parents hurt when one of “our” kids suffers, and we rejoice together on good days.

I won’t pretend to understand what it is like to have a child with cancer. But I do know what it is like to have a child in ICU, their sibling wondering whether they will recover. Both my kids have lived that hell on earth.

I parent, you parent, we all scream at our kids

No two parents have the same style. They shouldn’t. What works for me isn’t going to work for everyone. I have always tried to keep the lines of communication open. My kids know they can come to me with anything and I won’t yell or have a knee jerk reaction. I may not be happy, but I always try to get the facts before getting upset. The more severe the offense, the more time I take deciding how to handle the situation.

I am also open with them about my past, in the hopes they won’t repeat my mistakes, but learn from them. I make a point to try and adjust the things my parents did with me that clashed with my personality. If one technique doesn’t work I don’t keep beating the dead horse, I try a mule. Or a carrier pigeon. Or…you get the picture.

kids5

My favorite picture

I have friends that take a quite different approach. They manage the details of their kids’ activities, monitor their social media, keep a tight rein on their schedule and do their best to keep them away from bad influences. That works for them. It would never work for me.

With all the medical and emotional challenges we face, I don’t have time or energy to micromanage my children’s lives. I trust that I taught them well enough they can be responsible. I have gradually given them more autonomy, remembering how I was when I no longer had my parents watching my every move. I don’t want my kids to suddenly have freedom without the experience and judgment to handle it.

If you have teens, do you trust them? It will only be a few short years before they have to make their own decisions. Will they be ready? If you aren’t sure, it might be time to ask them some tough questions. Questions about sex, drugs, alcohol, choosing friends, being responsible with their time and money, all those things that teens and adults face.

Do your children confide in you? Do they know it is safe? Are you sure your teens feel they can talk to you about whenever is on their mind, without you judging them or dismissing it as trivial teen drama? Do their friends see you as an adult they can trust?

I’m not so naive as to think my kids are perfect. I know there are things they keep from me. I spend plenty of time praying that God helps them through the consequences of their choices.

But they know I am safe. Their friends know I am safe. They can call me in the middle of the night for a ride home without the Spanish Inquisition on the way home. They can confide in me when they aren’t sure how to handle something their friends have shared. And I keep their (and those friends’) secrets, unless it is something I absolutely believe the parent needs to know. If that happens, I discuss it with my kids before I go to the parents, so they understand why I have to break that confidence. They usually agree with my decision.

I encourage you to ask your kids, wherever their age, some open ended questions and then listen to the answers. Really listen. Don’t judge, don’t try to tell them why they are wrong, don’t jump to conclusions or tell them how they should feel. Ask. Listen. Love them for who they are. Let them see your humanity and imperfections.

And above all make sure they know you are safe. Nobody should be afraid of their parents.

December 21, 2008

Today is a bittersweet anniversary. Seven years ago our family joined an exclusive club that nobody wants to be in but has the most wonderful people on earth.

We have laughed and cried. We have felt joy and pain. We have had moments of complete despair and of grateful thanksgiving. We have met some absolutely wonderful people in the most devastating circumstances. We have been encouraged and have encouraged others.

Our family, like so many others, had a trial by fire so to speak and came out victorious. I asked my son yesterday how he deals with the constant pain and he said it was a supernatural God-given strength. I believe my daughter and I were given a similar mental strength to live the lifestyle that comes with having a special needs family member.

We have all had an education we didn’t want. We have learned medical jargon, coping skills, accommodation law, pain management, and how to maneuver the maze that is public school for differently-abled students. We have gained extraordinary patience, empathy, endurance and flexibility. We have become closer to each other and to God.

I would never wish this journey on anyone, but am beyond thankful for the friends I have made along the way. I have fond memories of a weekend this summer with a small group of these friends in New York City, thanks to the research efforts of the Novartis pharmaceutical company. I frequently spend time online with these friends and others discussing the joys and trials of life with chronic medical issues. Many of us have come close to losing our precious children to a devastating illness that most people aren’t even aware of.

If a nickel was donated to research every time one of us heard, “She is too young to have arthritis,” or “He was fine yesterday,” or “Isn’t she over that by now?”, scientists would have found a cure years ago.

Life is full of contradictions. Life with a chronic illness is no exception. Today I mourn the loss of my healthy son but at the same time celebrate the gift of the life we share with close friends who also grieve.

December

The weather was nice today. Like 75 degrees. On December 11.  It’s hard to remember Christmas is 2 weeks away when I don’t even need long sleeves and the thermostat in the car wants to turn on the air conditioner (although my friends in Australia would think it is chilly for this time of year.)

It’s easy to remember it’s December when I look at my calendar. On top of my regular work, medical appointments and handbell rehearsals, I am running lights and sound for a Christmas play, have a couple extra tech shifts at the church for special programs, and am playing in the handbell choir for 2 services on Christmas Eve. Whew!

If you are anything like me (and half the general population) it’s easy to meet yourself coming and going in December. I (and the aforementioned general population) also have to consciously carve out time for prayer, relaxation, meditation, or whatever you to do keep yourself centered and sane.

No matter what keeps you busy this time of year, make sure to spend quality time with those you love, and to take that time for yourself. Don’t get so caught up in the busy-ness of the shopping, decorating , cooking and celebrating that you find yourself exhausted before the holiday arrives.

Well, the play is starting. Catch you later. After some quiet time.