Wednesday, March 4, 2015

March Is Dream Season.....

True to form - March has blown in like a lion. On Monday it was 30' and sunny.  The kids were jumping on the trampoline and the grass was bare. Tuesday brought a winter storm and blizzard warning and this morning it is hovering near zero degrees.

I'm 'ok' with these erratic Spring weather patterns because  I know that soon things will shift and we will have survived another winter. A concept I never really understood growing up on the temperate coast - but one I fully embrace now that I have spent 20 years on the prairies.  March is a time of expectation, a chance to dream and an opportunity to stretch.

Monday I asked the kids to each share some things they would like to try/do/experience in the next year or so.  It was fun to talk about and now I have a better idea of where each ones interests lie.  The best part is that already I have found ways to make 2 of them happen - simply because I heard them spoken.  That's the personal part I'm working on this March - hearing the unique voices of each of my children and encouraging them to be wholly themselves.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

How Little I Know About Trauma......

Today NPR reported on one of the findings related to the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) scale.  It's designed to be sort of a rough guideline for evaluating how traumatic experiences in early life can affect your adult health and it's some fascinating stuff. (More on the ACE and the actual 10 point quiz here)  Like how what happened in your family growing up might affect your chances of things such as cancer, obesity, autoimmune issues and heart disease.

It came on the heels of several conversations centered around both  childhood and adult trauma at church, the coffee shop, my kitchen table and our homeschool co-op.  Again taking me to that place where I have no words - no explanation - no way to express the sobering reality that I have very little true understanding of the impact that trauma has on human lives.  I know we can see and taste and experience the consequences of it.  I believe that the weight of trauma can become overwhelming to many people - defining who they are, how they think and establish the framework of their lives.  I see infants who have experienced trauma failing to thrive, teens who choose cutting and adults abandoning their families and relationships through addictions, withdrawal, denial and broken attachment patterns of their own. 

Sometimes its origin seems so obvious.  An explosion, an attack, a sudden loss.  But other times it seems inconsequential - a single day in a string of three thousand growing up -  a break in routine - a fear that never materialized - a hiccup in the lives of the people around you.  It look like nothing -but for some it becomes everything and it changes the lens through which they view the world and their place in it. 

Trying to understand trauma -from living my own and walking with others through theirs - the more I realize it is like a grape vine.   A living thing that once planted, creeps through our lives  - needing to be pruned and tended to in healthy ways so that it will bear fruit and be beautiful instead of simply wild and taking over the garden of our hearts. It's generally not a sunrise - or a burned finger - quickly forgotten in the details of life.  It's more.
Like a grape vine it can lay dormant for years until it is ready to grow - and then suddenly what looked dead and dry will spring into life - needing us to quickly move to provide new support and structure - training and guidance.  Bringing strong words into our lives like resilience, recovery and hope - replacing anxiety,  despair and darkness until we are no longer defined by trauma...even if we lived unaware of its affects in the first place.

Now that we are starting to see the long lasting effect trauma may have on our bodies as well as our minds - it is wise to take it seriously - to watch for the signs (even if they seem minor.)  To help ourselves and those we love to prune and shape the hard things, the trauma things, in our lives, so that they can become a beautiful and fruitful part of our story instead of allowing the trauma to shape us. 

God bless you today friends.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

FASD: What a Lack of Cause Effect Learning Might Look Like in The Middle Of The Night......

It's 2am - a child wanders into my room and stands next to my bed until I say the magic words which I have uttered a hundred or more times to them in this exact situation......"please say something so that I will know that you need me.'

"My head is hot."
"OK. Come close enough for me to feel your body.  Are you sick?"
"Did you have your head under the covers?"
"Are there lots and lots (like 4 down comforters )of them?"
"OK. Go back to bed, don't put your head under the blankets and only use one of the comforters over your body,  I think you have too many for tonight,"

Repeat again the next night.
And the next night.
And the next night.
Talking about it in the morning or at bedtime may or may not effect the outcome and sometimes things are learned.  But I have often been baffled by how to live with and teach individuals who are strongly affected by the inability to learn or change behavior based on cause-effect patterns.

It's just hard to live in our world and not understand why the water overflows if you leave the sink on or your brother hits you if you poke him in the eye.  And it's even harder to not blame/shame/and accuse those who don't understand in our own stupid ignorance of what is going on (or not going on) inside their heads.

I think that living without cause/effect must make everything look utterly random, chaotic, unconnected and especially with things like discipline - scary.  After all - if cause-effect isn't connecting....then why should school performance affect my ability to play high school sports?  Or my grades affect my ability to go to college? Or my attitude toward my boss affect my ability to keep my job? It's all totally unrelated and feels as if they are being unfairly persecuted.

There is no magic answer to 'fix' this particular problem - but you can help by finding ways of explaining life that don't use if/then as the basis of logic.....but it takes practice and lots of patience as you learn to look at why things happen in a totally new way.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Living with Challenging Behavior: Reality and Knives.....

The last time I saw my kitchen knives laid out in a drawer like this was February 2011.  That cold February night  I realized that something had shifted in our household and I no longer felt it was either wise or safe to leave out an array of sharp items for uncontrolled hands to latch onto in moments of panic or anger.  So I bought my first locking safe on clearance at Target and began a journey into safety plans, psychiatry, medication and a new life where even kitchen scissors became suspect and closely monitored.

This weekend I realized that we have shifted again.  The spiraling instability and chaos that was our trademark for the past 4 years has leveled out and I am ready to try lowering the level of behavioral  management. It's not a random decision.  I started slowly with evaluating  medication adjustments for stabilization - even to the extent of being able to remove many that were necessary in the past to help us deal with anxiety and fear but are not needed now.  I have evaluated risks and watched patterns emerge that show maturity and better coping skills in some of my more challenging kiddos and most of all I have watched with hope for opportunities to make improvements.  Circling and limiting freedom when needed and opening up the boundaries and loosening my hold as growth and ability matched new skills.

Taking the knives out of the lock box and putting them in our kitchen drawer may seem a small thing to many of you (and I am not putting out the big butchers or chefs knives yet- I'm not THAT crazy) - but rounding this corner and realizing that living with FASD/RAD/ADHD/DD/ASD and a plethora of other descriptive letter combinations means finding joy and a cause for celebration in these small signs of hope.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Turbo Tax State Drama 2015 ....

Wednesday the State of MN accepted my on-line Turbo Tax prepared 2014 filing....Thursday AM this story was released which made public the states decision to  longer accept turbotax elctronicaly prepard returns because there was some sort of privacy breech that led to fraud concerns.  This article published the 6th helps clarify what is happening and why - and for those of us who had returns accepted before the shut down it's a simple game of 'wait and see' to discover if we have been hacked, will be audited or if we skate through unharmed.

As a survivor of the 2010 Adoption Tax Refund Audit nightmare  I am anticipating that this is likely to be a much more complex problem then it appears in these first few days.  Call me a pessimist - and I hope I am wrong.

Really I do. 
Because the mess could be monumental.

And as one of the flag waving - horn sounding wackos - who first identified the problems with how Turbo Tax was computing the Carry Forward Adoption Tax Credits back in 2009/2010 (prior to them being refundable) and the ensuing wave of 1040x's and 8839's that were filed to clear up all that Turbo Tax mess before the 2010 filing- I'm just a little wary of how TurboTax and our taxing agencies work out their problems.

For now - I'm watching my return status and keeping my tax documents close at hand in case I have the opportunity to be one of those lucky ones who meets with the audit teams.

Update:  As of 3:00pm is again accepting Turbo Tax filings. :)

Thursday, February 5, 2015

No More Fear......

Fear is an amazing emotional response. I have lived with a tangled thread of fear running through my own life long enough to know many of the various shades, forms, flavors and disguises it likes to take.  Fear is not healthy.  Fear is not Biblical.  Fear is not safe.  Fear can slowly creep up on a person and rot away the roots of faith and stability even as it robs us of joy. Fear is a taker that leaves emptiness.

But I am done listening to the siren-song of fear.   I don't need to focus on the waves of trouble lapping at my chest - even if the furnace shuts down/the 15 pass van needs tires/ the dryer is full of blue ink/the light in the bathroom shorts out/ there are some serious relational issues to be faced and a chicken runs past screaming that the sky is falling.


Because those are pretty silly daily problems at my house this week.  Almost to the point of being called insignificant....except for the chicken.  That would be a little unusual since the neighbors who raise them live a block away and it's the middle of a deep freeze around here that could kill them. But whatever......I have to remember that my life will always....ALWAYS be filled  with irritations and trouble and things which will tempt me to fear.  Shoot - that's pretty much what the Bible promises when I really read it isn't it?  But it also promises is that I don't need to be afraid because I will never be alone - no matter how deep the water or how high the waves -  Christ is with me and he is stronger than any of my fears or fantasies about squawking, doom-projecting chickens.

Monday, January 5, 2015

2014: The Year of Remembering What Blessed Means............

When we are truly blessed our happiness is independent of our circumstances. It is self-contained, meaning that regardless of what is happening to us externally, we can be truly happy internally. We can be genuinely blessed as followers of Jesus Christ living out the way He has called us to...even if the walls fall down, the earth shakes and everything we think is true about our world flips on its head.
(summarized, ripped apart, rewritten and probably remembered wrongly from a devotional  I read on Harvest Ministries - but they are where I first read it so I credit them.)
Last year I learned what it meant first hand to be Blessed.
To be truly happy-
in the hardest places.
of if I got what I wanted
or what was 'right'
or even what 'should' be.
from if I was healthy or sick
tired or rested
cherished or forgotten.
Because it wasn't about what was happening in my world - my circumstances. It was all about my relationship and happiness in Christ.
Not that it was a sudden transition - like lightening - but a slow process more like the March melting of the thickest winter ice - where my hope transferred from a false place of trust ( in man) back to a rock solid foundation in the unshakable, unchanging Christ.
And I moved from the place of constantly focusing on the good and bad of the situation - to the awesome awareness of how truly Blessed I am at all times
Because of the One who is I Am.
And because I am very likely to forget and need the constant reminder....I have added Blessed to my left arm.  Beloved on my right - Blessed on my left - I am hemmed in by truth and hold that amazing peace that surpasses all understanding.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

My One Word For This Season..........

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.
Matthew 7:7-8

This is the word written on my heart as I face the 'next' things in life....
behind it are
-be bold
-be courageous
 -do not fear
simply trust (in God)
take a deep breath
and ask.

Monday, December 29, 2014

How Can We Help The Qualls?

Saturday morning, the lives of our real-life friends the Qualls of Idaho spun into a new and unexpected place as their vehicle hit an icy patch on the road and the life of their teen daughter ended in a sudden tragic collision.  Many of you know them from Lisa's blog One Thankful Mom or various adoption related connections.

Today - their lives continue.  Dealing with the details of life, planning their precious daughters funeral,  facing and feeling the first layers of grief as they wash through each member of the family and remembering along the way the tiny details that keep each of their individual lives running as well - prescriptions to be picked up, movies to be returned and rent to be paid as the first of January approaches.

The oldest of the Qualls kiddos has spent the last 2.5 years woven into our family here in Minnesota while she works through her medical residency in the cities. This loss feels like family to us -  it makes me want to run to them to do carry part of the burden because I can see that it is overwhelming.

But that just isn't a reasonable idea. Especially since my own 11 kiddos need me here and they are surrounded by a church and community in Idaho that has
the hot-dishes moving and the connections to do everything locally.  So I continue to pray and hold the rope at this end for their oldest daughter. 

And there is a tangible way that I (and you if you want to) can help  -  in the accident the car was totaled  - a stupid detail in the middle of tragedy - but a very real one that gives us the chance to step in and  pick up a piece of the burden for a family that drives their vehicles far longer than the number of years for an average US household. 

There is a go fund me account set up to do just that and so far - after 24 hours of being open - 42% of the goal has been donated.  (Whoot! Wahoo! )  I would love to see that piece- the 'how do we buy a new car' one..... totally off the table and put aside with a big hug from all of us -saying that they are so well loved (by strangers as well as everyday friends) that their energy can go into healing and caring for each other first.

After  I hit post on this - my next task is to make my offering toward that replacement vehicle.  If anyone wants to join me but doesn't want to use go-fund-me I am happy to act as an intermediary through paypal or what ever way you do feel comfortable - just let me know. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

What Was Intended To Tear You Apart......

"What was intended to tear you apart, God intends to set you apart." Genesis 50:20

This was the main theme on day 9 of Unwrapping the Gift  - this years Advent readings and I'm clinging to the unending truth of it as the pounding waves of suffering batter those I love the most.

 Because I know that life will often if not always be hard - and (not but -  AND) God always has a plan, a purpose AND a way through it.

Blessings friends - you are precious and whatever big hard things you are facing today - may you trust wholly in God.