Who’s the parent here?


Who's the Parent?

Every now and then, instead of hearing my Mom’s words come out of my mouth, I hear my Dad’s. Lately it’s been one phrase in particular, “Who’s the kid and who’s the parent, here?” That was always my cue, as a kid, to shut the heck up and remember my place.

For whatever reason, something in the air maybe, my kids have been feeling their oats and forgetting that they are the ones who are NOT in charge. While I do drive what feels like a taxi service and work as a food distributor or short order cook, I am in fact a parent, not a servant.  I’ve had to reestablish that the way things get done around here are based on some expectations of us all working together as a family (aka team). Fail to uphold the expectations of the team, to fulfill requirements, and like any team, even star players will be benched. Let’s just say I am not always popular around here. That’s okay. I got over popularity contests when I stopped being in High School.

I’ve found that things don’t run smooth when we cease to respect each other, but more important, when the kids forget to respect their place. I am often shocked at how many parents allow their kids to call the shots, to be the one who runs the show, and for whatever backward reason, they actually care if their kid likes them or not. Oh don’t get me wrong, I love when my kids like me. Heck I get crazy happy when I get to be the hero! But being their friend and being liked? That isn’t going to teach them the things they need to know before they are tossed into the world to have a go at it themselves.

We have three kids and as I see it, three mini-adults-in-training who need to know how things go once they leave the nest. I, frankly, know how to cook, clean, and do chores. My charges here also NEED to know these things. If I was “popular” and did all these things for them, I would honestly be failing them as a parent. How can anyone learn if they are never instructed, get the chance to practice, and to have someone along to mentor them? So the way I see it, it’s good parenting to make my kids sigh loudly, probably hate me a bit under their breath, and get a chance to do chores, learn to cook, and to develop skills in and outside the house. As a bonus, our home runs smoother, stays cleaner, and I catch a small break where I don’t do EVERYTHING by myself.

Think I’m terrible? The kids are handed nearly everything, from toys and gadgets to food, clothes, and a warm roof over their head. Requiring them to contribute to the team for a half hour a day in chores/mentoring-for-adulthood and abiding by house rules for having homework done before partaking of anything that plugs in or uses a battery is NOT torture. It’s just good sense.

Who’s the kid and who’s the parent in your house? I hope it’s YOU!

 

This post first was published by MOMs for the July/August print issue in Fort Wayne, IN. Their website is http://moms.fortwayne.com and my blog with them is located at: http://moms.fortwayne.com/?q=blogs/blog/will-settle-chocolate

Little Brother/Big Brother


I’m one of those lucky people who have a sibling that they, not only can stand, but actually love.  I am stupidly proud of my kid brother. And when I say kid brother, I turn the big 4 0 this month and he’s just two years younger than me.  Yeah, so he’s not much of a kid anymore… even though he retains his youth by NOT growing up and getting all stuffy like; refusing to stop running in the parking lot, spontaneously has out-of-control ice cream runs (not his fault, the CAR WANTED to go there) and always staying up past bedtime when he’s home so we can chat long after the parental unit has retired to their room.

10540869_10204624481358428_7727118533491492554_nI started out life way bigger than this kid. He was a pudgy, cute, fire engine red head who had a personality unmatched by anyone I have ever met since that fateful day 38 years ago, today.  I took it upon myself to mother him when my mother wasn’t around. Lord knows he needed two mothers. No, seriously, he was always into some kinda trouble. He was intensely curious and very spontaneous.

This kid had a brain that worked ten times faster than it was supposed to. He was doing MY math problems in his head before he even went to school.  Needless to say I was a tad miffed at him in first grade.  I was having trouble learning to add and subtract and he was saying the answers to flash cards before I could even read what was on the blasted card.

Let’s politely say I was not always in love with his brain. It really worked overtime and by the time he was in Jr High and High School he was creating his own engineering inventions that seemed annoying to me. He would take things apart just to figure out how they worked.  Once he understood, he didn’t always feel the same excitement for putting them back together.  Oh he COULD, but it wasn’t always as fun to do that. Sometimes he’d “borrow” something of mine to “learn” on and then “forget” to put it back together. Once I had this fan, which mysteriously stopped working one day.  I shook it and it rattled in the base.  He had figured out how it worked on MY fan and left his put together.  We’ve never let him forget these (what seems funny now) moments because now? Well now this kid is a bit of an amazing wizard when it comes to electronic engineering.

10378933_10204624506919067_5747370074226480096_nMy brother lives WAY the heck too far away, in Texas, where he runs a company called Sparx Engineering.  I don’t get to see him as often as I’d like, (as in Sunday dinner every week) but I’m already counting down days till I see him in August before his kids go back to school. While I am not happy about the distance, I can’t complain about what he does there and how he got down there. Having settled in Texas after an internship that turned job with NASA after college, he found his niche and expanded into the company he owns today. They do amazing things. He is quite literally changing the world there. I don’t say that bragging, (okay so maybe a little bit) but truly I am in awe that this little brother of mine grew up taking stuff apart I was furious about, and into an awe inspiring man who has the ability to think through projects that, for me, don’t even register on my brain’s comprehension charts. He staffs a company with amazing brains like his own and together they are honestly doing things that make a massive difference, everyday, to many. One project he is working on right now is for a group mwater.co in Nigeria. They are working on a device being used in a research effort for water that will contribute to efforts to empower communities to obtain clean water to drink. That is something I don’t even have to think about as I open up the tap and get a drink. The women there walk miles and miles a day for water and must carry it all.

They’ve worked on medical devices for the Army and changed how they can monitor wounded in battle, they’ve worked on things for space missions and so yeah, this kid is truly out-of-this-world.

So as I sit way too far away to celebrate properly on my brother’s birthday, and I was NOT a good sister (but treated him equally with my sister-in-law in forgetting to send a card) I thought I should embarrassing him a tad and brag on him a lot. It’s my right, my birth right in fact. I am the big sis. He may have gotten taller, stronger, and MAYBE even better looking, but he will never be able to do my job in being the sister who is soooooo gushingly proud of her kid brother that she goes out and shouts it to the world.

LOVE you BRO!  You’ve turned out to be amazing, and I want everyone to know it!

Time to take the helm


 

Boat sterring wheelThe following blog was published to my sister blog over at Moms.FortWayne.Comhttp://moms.fortwayne.com/?q=blogs%2Fpost%2Ftaking-back-helm

TO PUT IT MILDLY, it’s quite possible that THIS summer is going to be the WORST-summer-EVER. (This would be from my kids’ perspectives, and honestly, quite possibly, my own.)

 

It happens every summer. The kids come home from school to a shout of hurray and they then proceed to get instantly bored. Routines are mixed up and the usual daily rigamarole is not the usual anymore. It’s nice in a way, but it also means that the kids have a tendency to run amok. I always let the first week play out as it will, let their wind-downs happen and let summer set in. Then I try to corral them. This time around I am frustrated, irritable and annoyed.

Why so crazy? Probably because my kids are as big as I am, could eat me out of house and home because they are bored (and having teenage growth spurts) and because I am far less tolerant when my health is flared up and I am personally not on top of my game. I have decided I am taking back the helm. For whatever reason, in the week and a half since school let out, the kids have decided they run the show. Yup, they got the idea that since school wasn’t in session, normal rules don’t apply. It’s gonna be a rude wake up session starting today.

I find that I go crash into bed, and I am still finding kids rotating up for drinks, “I’m hungry”, and “can’t sleep” complaints till after 1 a.m. Yeah, totally uncool. When did bedtime stop being bedtime?  “There’s no school tomorrow so it doesn’t really matter.” I beg to differ. It matters to ME and the cranky way you’ll behave all the next day, as if it’s my fault you’re tired … oh, it matters, my child!

For some reason, we are playing musical rotating beds. My son wants to sleep on the couch nightly as if that is the only place he can crash, but then ends up in my room. Why? Because Dad works third shift and that side of the bed is empty and comfortable is my guess. I don’t buy into the new reason given every night. I’m not dumb. It’s all made up. I agree that though it began with real issues, I must admit we now are simply used to doing what we want, and so it prevails. All the children will clamor for the living room soon enough because it is getting hotter and we have one window air conditioner placed in said room. I get that, I do, but this must end. I sleep in my room … we all have rooms. Sleep in them until it is truly so hot it’s not possible. Now is not that time. In fact, in my current state of mind, it may NEVER be that time.

I know that parenting today is different than it was when I was a kid. I would never have dreamed of pulling the things my kids have pulled this week or the last few weeks of school, frankly. I’ve been lax. I’ve let things slide because I’ve felt like crap. But crappy or not, I’m done getting told what we do around here by kids. I don’t remember all my parents did, but the respect was there. It’s somehow missing here. It ends now. My kids KNOW how to respect, they just aren’t being made to. Time to man up (or MOM up)!

I’ve mandated their chores to be done and scheduled reading for an hour a day and math a half hour on a math program online, each day. All of them, with checkoff logs on the fridge. Until that’s done, don’t touch anything that plugs in. Just don’t try it. Forget? Lose tomorrow’s plugged-in time all together and still do all the work to earn the time you don’t get. Kids get one hour of plugged-in time a day, then they earn it minute-for-minute by reading or playing math games, and I’ll consider chores to trade for game time. Don’t ask me for more. Don’t ask for freebies. The answer is no.

I will lose my mind as they go through withdraw and the spasms of how unfair life is. I will lose my cool as they loathe and hate me as all teens and preteens do. Make no mistake, though, I gave them their stubborn streaks … I own the rights to the moxie they call upon. I will outlast the attitudes and the sass. I will make them rethink it in fact, for I am far more stubborn and I’ve got more moxie than they have in their little fingers.

Don’t mess with this mama! She’s taking back the summer!

 

 

 

I’m still kick-ass (if you don’t look close)


photo 9

Me… The kick-ass version from years back

When I stay far away from a mirror, I can pretend that I am a bad ass. Oh stop it. Mom’s CAN be bad ass too, ya know. Think of the quietly aware Angelina Jolie as Laura Croft, ‘Tomb Raider’ mode, only with this mom, sporting somewhat untamed red curls, decked out in an old tank-style Tee, ripped jeans, and an old pair of black combat boots, my favorite uniform of choice.  Well that, or maybe swap in a pair of red converse. photo 13 Yeah, I know, way less kick ass, but I adore these beat up old red kicks, so bear with me here. I can kick the world’s ass in any pair of footwear I choose, trust me.

Lately, however, I have been sporting far less of my kick-ass self and far more of my withdrawn and pathetic sister-self.  I really loathe this in ways I can’t even begin to put into words.  I’ve been faking it, playing a role, stepping into and out of it like an actress on a movie set.  I am so all about “ditching the masks” but I never want to admit the final truth that lay behind this one mask I often refuse to admit I wear… The “health” mask. I hide behind this one. I hate anyone knowing my truths here and the reality on this one. I feel so “less than” when I am forced to reveal that hand and abide by the restrictions that come with it. I know my family get’s good ole, “Chiari Christi,” but I loathe her. I don’t like anything about her. She annoys me and sounds whiny in my head, so saying those things out loud seems impossible. Who would want to be around me if I was always being truthful about the question, “How are you?” There are very few people in my life I will look in the eye and tell them the truth. THAT is the real truth right there. Why? Because I fear letting anyone know this side of me. Because I am sure they will turn and run the other way. Because I am sure they will say to themselves, “I just walked into a hot mess.”

My reality IS a hot mess. Chiari Malformation is a hot mess.  Period. What is Chiari Malformation you ask?  If you are new to it, the layman’s terms (very non technical) is that my brain is simply too large to fit into my skull.  My skull is too small.  What happens when your brain is too big for the container provided to keep it in?  Bad stuff, that’s what. It then herniates (or squishes down into) the brain stem where all the nerves run from your brain into your spine so that you can do lots of messaging work to the rest of your body.  Squishing brain matter into a space specifically designated to do some demanding networking  work and things get mucked up.  It can cause many different things for many different people, and no two Chiari patients are the same. Why? Because we are talking about squishing a brain and it’s networking system of nerves and signal translators. No two brains squish the same two nerves the same way. It makes it hard for anyone to really understand, and why it goes undiagnosed for so long for most of us.  (More info read over @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arnold–Chiari_malformation )

I wasn’t diagnosed until 4 years ago now.  The fact is that I was born with it and had constant issues with it much of my life. We never had a clue and for me, it wasn’t life threatening, so it was okay that it wasn’t diagnosed. Right now I am waking up each morning on at a 7 on a 10 pt scale.  My pain is so high I am beside myself most days. It makes me irritable and grumpy.  If I didn’t wear a mask, even my family would disown me. I had so much I wanted to do this summer and I am now just mad, constantly, about the damper this puts on my plans. Last trip for 4th grade

My goal, recently, was to just make it through the rest of the school year, to go on that one last school field trip and make it appear I somehow was loving every second of the day with my son,. I wanted to laugh with him, to help him shake the stoic seriousness he seems to wear as his mask at school, and to have him cut loose and have fun. Only then I would gratefully return home to collapse. (When no one was watching, I did exactly that.)

Still, I had one last goal.  I HAD to make it to my writer’s conference.  It was scheduled for the last day of school and that weekend.  If I could hold my act together for just one more round… one last performance, then I could come home and just let it all go.  I didn’t really know what I’d do then, exactly, but at least I would get to go and then I’d figure it all out. So now I am in the “figuring it out” stage. When the Chiari calms down, and it doesn’t decide to add extra stress to my life, I feel so normal it’s easy to forget this even exists.  It feels like a bad dream.  When it flares up, I am hit with 2 tons of bricks swinging directly at me.  There is no way to duck. I just have to face the full brunt of it head on.

It’s been harder this time around to really dig in my heels and do what my Dad taught me. Yesterday was Father’s Day and I really thought of him a lot.  My dad has known pain, a LOT of pain, and most of it is chronic and can’t be “fixed,” meaning no cure.  He’s been though numerous surgeries to combat pain and to try to make it better, but he will never, EVER, be without pain.  I have a whole family, honestly, who had chronic pain issues stemming from an assortment of this and that, none of which are Chiari, but who all have shown me that pain is not something that stops you, but that is an obstacle to simply be overcome.

My dad talked me down off a hypothetical cliff one day in the midst of one of the biggest pain days, and one in which I was scared out of my mind as they discussed brain surgery with me.  The surgery would “relieve” some pressure and symptoms, maybe some pain, but it would not cure this.  Not ever.  So at that point I had to decide to keep running from the pain and loathing it, or turn and embrace it.

10473184_10204434408446724_1070815805391277483_nMy dad told me that sometimes we are not meant to live pain free lives.  You have to turn and face the pain head on and not even tackle it… not overcome it.  Instead look at it and hold out your arms and embrace it.  Each time you feel the pain getting stronger, squeeze tighter, know it as a sign you are alive, and own it as your own.

Like it or not, Chiari makes me who I am.  I would not be the woman I am without it. I am forced to do hard things every day of my life.  Getting out of bed today, for instance, took a hell of a lot of doing, will, determination, and drive.  I can guarantee you I would prefer to still be back there in  bed, pretending I was not awake.  Sleep never claims me easily and when I wake I am sad.  The pain is right there saying, HI!!  REMEMBER ME??  and I want to punch it in the face.  But I am gonna kill it with kindness and instead just hug the thing to my chest and claim it.

There isn’t much I fear in life, except failure.  Once you live with chronic pain your brain says, “seriously? If you can do THAT everyday, then this is a cake walk.” I’ve found that the only way to fail is to never have tried at all. I can’t succeed if I don’t step out the door and try the day. I’ve failed if I don’t get out of bed and I don’t try to meet the day and all it throws my way.

So watch out world, Chiari Christi or not – I still intend to kick some ass out there.  I got dreams ya know.  I still got things I wanna do.  I don’t care how hard you try to knock me flat, I am still gonna stand back up and try twice as hard as I did before. That’s just how I roll.  You’ve been warned.

You can read more over at the Chocolate Blog about how the last week has been… http://moms.fortwayne.com/?q=blogs/post/forced-make-smart-choices

When THEY are watching every move…


Every now and then I get a glimpse that I am not alone in our fight here behind our front door, and it selfishly feels good and is freeing.  Then I get a little sad, because I realize someone else has a life that is hard, frustrating, heartbreaking, and more than a little overwhelming. I don’t wish that on anyone. I had a Momma break-down-without-anyone-noticing moment recently when my mask was called upon to really do a a hell of a job protecting my dignity.  I wanted to break down in tears and instead had to continue to sit and be not just mom, but a smart, intelligent parent who appeared to have a clue what was going on in my daughter’s life.  I am supposed to know those things after all. I am ashamed to say, I realized that I have misunderstood some of what my daughter has told me for 15 years of her life. I got what she said, but I never understood the severity of it.  It was during a standard question and answer portion of her medication review with her psychiatrist, and it hit me like being slammed into a brick wall at 100 miles per hour. It’s a normal monthly appointment where we check to make sure the meds she’s taking both works for her still and that there are no questions, health changes, and that all the “understoods” are actually understood.  So when the doctor said, “Do you ever feel like you are being watched,” the answer is always yes.  My daughter feels on display constantly.  Anywhere we go she feels like it’s a red carpet moment. She feels unable to blend in, instead feeling intensely that all eyes are fixed on her at all times. It can be overwhelming just running in the store to grab a gallon of milk.  Running errands is fear-facing therapy sessions for us.

By artist DLouise found at http://dlouiseart.deviantart.com

By artist DLouise found at http://dlouiseart.deviantart.com

But when she said, “yes” this time, she added an explanation that changed everything. She said that it was hard for her to simply change the wallpaper on her iPad because she was afraid what “they” would think, so she always chooses something that she thinks won’t be “judged” when seen.  I asked if she meant seen by her dad and I, or her brother and sister.  She said no… she meant by “them.”  Reality began to dawn on me, because she has no contact with anyone except us on a daily basis, and after a long question and answer session, we arrived at an understanding that she felt, though never having seen the movie, “The Truman Show,” she was Truman, and every camera possible was hidden somewhere unseen, and somehow it was even possible to look through her own eyes and see what she sees and watch her every move. It was as if she were a personal reality show that could be watched, “The life of Lindsey” show, and all of THEM were watching it all the time, day and night.  THEY were not nice either, but harsh and judgmental. THEY were always looking to pick her apart. There was never a time someone was NOT watching her. being_watched_by_entangled_minds-d5fa1qrMy brilliant daughter has to sit just so in her room where she does school tucked away, so that who ever is watching will see her working away diligently and not judge her lazy or stupid.  She has trouble just relaxing and not performing for “them” constantly. She feels their eyes like you do when you get a sense of someone staring at you and the hairs on your neck stand up. She is overwhelmed and taxed to the max somedays and she doesn’t even know why, all she knows is that the feeling of someone peeking around the corner or watching from the corner of the room, just out of sight, is so intense she is almost unable to function.  I can not imagine living under that stress. She didn’t realize everyone didn’t feel that way.  She assumed everyone did. Now many things suddenly make sense. It makes sense and I am intensely sad. you-are-being-watched-sign-k-9828I knew that once she had great trouble with worry about being watched and we put a special lock on the bathroom door, thinking this would fix it. It fixed the fear of someone coming in, but never the fear of someone watching. I thought if she knew no one could come in, then she would not feel someone was watching anymore. The fact I never truly understood the extent of her personal hell just brought me to my parenting knees. Honestly?  It brought me to my human knees. I would have been broken if it were not my own child.  The fact it is my own girl just breaks me in ways I can’t put words to. Then I came across a book I have to go find.  I want to go get it for my daughter and for me to read this summer.  Not an easy read, but one I really want to dive into.  It’s called “Remnants of a life on Paper” and is written by a mother with her daughter’s diary as they traveled through the difficult roads of growing and struggling together with Borderline Personality Disorder. Found over at http://remnantsofalife.com As is so often the case, ours overlaps with eating disorders and BiPolar Disorder, and OCD.  For whatever reason, these disorders all often come on the heels of each other.  Maybe because they all play off anxiety and fears.

Regardless, it is hard for my kid. It is hard for me, my husband, and her siblings.  It is tough for our extended families to understand our life at home. It’s hard to explain because we have all gotten good at masking up the reality, going to visit and enjoy the outing, then coming home to reality and dealing with the vast array of fears and anxieties that come with trying to live every day life.

1534301_1477731715775942_8768059514068455149_nThe hardest thing however is the complete stupidity that exists outside these walls of ours.  The lack of understanding of what mental illness is.  It’s not just a few kids who decide to go on a killing rampage.  It’s a beautiful girl with long red hair, with a mass of freckles, strikingly gorgeous green eyes, and the only thing killer about her is her smile.  She can knock you flat with her grin.  She can take your breath away with her giggle and her laugh will flat out make you wish you could do anything, instantly, to gain it one more time, to hear her laugh with abandon.  This girl is amazing, brilliant, artistic, and I’m not just being a mom here, she is precious and needed by this world.  She struggles to even put her toe out into it, because she knows how harsh it is. Mental illness is just chemistry of the brain that makes if function differently than the majority of the population.  It makes it harder to do “normal” things and harder to think clearly.  It does not mean less intelligent nor stupid. Just gonna keep plugging away at loving my girl, and you have a friend here if you need one. Know I understand how hard life can get behind that pretty exterior door you shut when life gets rough.  But being there for your kid matters.  And that is the most important thing you can do.  Just love them and be there. Day after day. We will get through this thing called life, together.

Grace changes EVERYTHING


(As appeared in the Mt Zion/Barkers Chapel UMC newsletter for May 2014)

I looked into the eyes of my friend, who had tears spilling, and listened as a question tumble out. “What is grace? You talk about it all the time. What is it?” For a moment, a split second, I had no words. I never think of grace in terms of words. For me it’s an overwhelming expression of love. It’s the biggest part of love. It can’t be separated from  love. The question came on the heels of my saying that all the worlds problems could be solved with one single thing. Just one thing…GRACE. If we all practiced it, every single thing would be different. Everything.

I sat a moment and tried to think. Grace is like nothing else. I wont try to put it in theological terms. Here is how I understand it best. To understand grace you have to first understand mercy.  Think of compassion, leniency, and kindness, as they are other ways to describe mercy.  It would be giving someone imprisonment when they deserve death, it’s giving my kid a one-day grounding when they deserve a week. It’s receiving less than you deserve to pay for something.

traditional-kids-productsGrace? Grace is like a magic eraser. God’s grace is writing all the wrongs on a chalkboard, in detail, with all the ugliness fully exposed (because God knows it all whether we confess it all or not) and God taking an eraser and wiping the board clean, so that not even left over chalk dust can expose what was written there. It’s gone.  God CAN remember, but he CHOOSES to forget.

There was a time in history when people had to go to a temple, confess their sins and wrongs, and offer up a blood sacrifice in order to be washed clean of it. It was the only way to know forgiveness. Then God said, “ENOUGH!”  He decided to give the world a gift that only HE could give.  He sent his sinless, spotless, perfect son into the world to experience our pain, our trials, our sufferings, and our temptations, so he would fully understand us. He wanted to really understand our humanness. Then he allowed His son to pay for all of our sins, our wrongs, our evil. He wanted to end the bloodshed. So He sacrificed his OWN son and said that all we had to do was to love HIM. That would be enough now. All we had to do was to love, and say yes.

Christians today often make this out to be so hard. There are things you have to do to be saved, steps to take in order to know God, to be a REAL christian. Nope. None of it is in the Bible. The only thing that is? Know that Jesus was the Son God sent to us as a gift. Tell God in your own words, wherever you are, that you want to be covered by a love that wipes clean all you have done, you do, all you WILL do, and that you really want to have a relationship with Him. Tell Him you’d like to get to know Him better. Tell Him you’d like to be a better person.

You and God can do that alone, anyplace you are, anytime of day or night. He’s awake, ready, and listening. That small warm spot that hears the voice in your head when you talk to yourself? Yeah, that’s God listening to you there if you want Him to be. Truly. It’s that easy. You don’t even have to say it out loud. He hears you if you call out to him in your heart. He’s that amazing.

My friend sat with tears streaming, understanding dawning, and a light beginning. Grace is so precious, it’s so beautiful, and it’s unbelievably hard to understand because it’s so simple.

Can you imagine a world where everyone practiced GRACE?  Giving grace to each other, to other peoples, cities, nations? Grace would change hearts and we’d care about so much more than the newest gadget we covet…when there’s someone going hungry. Yes. Grace changes EVERYTHING.