Monthly Archives: October 2014

The Doorkeeper

 “I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.” — Psalm 84:10

There’s something about autumn that makes me nostalgic. My thoughts turn back the pages of the years and I think of the happier times before I made unwise choices. I remember the faces and places, and I get a little sentimental yearning.

One of the faces that always pops into my mind is Miriam’s. When I first met her, I was a freshman, and a maladjusted one at that. Miriam was always bright and shiny; her eyes crinkled and twinkled, and her silver hair pleasantly glistened under the harsh cafeteria lighting. She was petite (translate my awkward, gangly body towered over hers); she was so grandmotherly you wanted to hug the stuffing out of her every time you saw her.

Two meals out of three on her work days, she sat at the door and scanned our students IDs so we could get our meals. Even on the busiest days, she was never really cross or harsh. When she wasn’t at the door, she was usually on clean up, gathering trash and wiping down tables, injecting a bit of warmth wherever she met someone. On slower days, different students would plop down on a chair beside her and start to talk, and it wasn’t small talk. The kids always shared their troubles, issues, and joys. When Miriam didn’t have an answer, she offered a prayer for wisdom.

She was different. She did what the other cafeteria ladies either didn’t do or didn’t do as well–she saw us as people and tried to build relationships. This difference arose from a vibrant, living faith that showed her into the unseen realms to see Jesus walking with us students and to see Jesus walking and talking with her. Admittedly, her devotion to Jesus put off many of the more liberal or well-off or rebellious kids. But for those of us wandering and to those whose devotion to Jesus mirrored hers, she was a welcome fixture for so many years.

I wish I would have kept in touch with her. I never quite mastered the whole art of relationship; even in my forties, I still struggle. I suspect she’s home with Jesus, as the lady was quite a relic. In another way, I’m glad I didn’t. My poor choices would have been disappointing to her, almost to the level of wounding her.

Instead of wallowing in the past that was and wasn’t, I’m going to choose to mirror her as she mirrored Jesus. She was content with any job in that cafeteria, from the cleanest to the dirtiest. She always tried to be kind and patient with every one of us, even when some of us were haughty and hurried. She shared her faith, but it was never with a thwap of the Bible over the head; it was always in a related situation that was similar to ours that Jesus got her through.

Miriam lived Psalm 84:10 with all her might. Maybe, if we all learn to live that verse, the world will be just a tad better for our passing through.

Changing Seasons…

Child A, my oldest child and the older of my twins, has been an interesting person for me to watch as she develops.

I was once so scared for her. She was so like I used to be: quiet, mousy, doing her work as hard as she could, never talking about herself or her feelings.

I didn’t know how to teach her some of the lessons that I’d learned the hard way and so wanted her to avoid in the school of hard knocks: standing up for what you want even when you’re the only one who thinks it’s good for you, working to resolve all the issues that make you uneasy, and walking away when you’ve done all you can and nothing changes.

At the end of her last year in middle school, she walked up to me after school and made a grand pronouncement that almost shocked me into wordlessness: I have signed up for Club XYZ. They are depending on me. You will have me at the practice downtown at 5 PM.

I was stunned. I knew all the stereotypes of Club XYZ. I knew good people who did it for the right reasons, too, but I was more worried about what would happen with the stereotypes. I knew that I hated the uniforms with a passion because I felt the immodesty screamed by the uniforms added to the stereotypes. I had always said no child of mine would ever join the club.

And yet… I felt a surge of relief. She just defied me. The child who was most like the pre-feminazi me before I got so verbal just got verbal and backed the words with action.

I called a one-hour time out for both of us during which time my still, small Voice and I argued. (Yes, He was laughing with delight at me and my chagrin and my discomfort and my frustration.) I really wanted to tear Child A to shreds, but I felt almost like I was being led in a different direction. At the end of that hour, I went to Child A. I told her I did not appreciate the rebellion, but I appreciated that Club XYZ was important enough for her to stand up to me. I would let her do it IF her grades stayed where they should or the teachers felt she was doing her best should the grades slipped.

In her first year of high school, we had so much fun with practices and performances and community events. Mid-year was tough, but she dug down and met the challenges with determined effort.

Her second year of high school wasn’t as great. Adult leadership in the club had changed; the fun was almost sucked out of it, but she kept a great attitude. She wrestled again mid-year; again, the determined effort allowed her to overcome the many academic hurdles she faced.

As part of this year, she got involved with Group AAA. This group is devoted to a professional category of jobs that are hands-on and down to earth. I started to see growth and maturation that I didn’t see in Club XYZ. She actually began to enjoy Group AAA so much that she went for and was awarded a leadership position.

This brings us to this year. Club XYZ really turned up the heat in a way that devastated me as a mother to see. I watched Child A spend almost an entire game not even making eye contact and showing no enthusiasm. When I tried to talk with her, she always changed the subject to Group AAA and began to positively glow.

I should have seen it coming at the beginning of this month. I didn’t. I don’t know why. Child A came to me and announced: I’m quitting Club XYZ. I want to focus on Group AAA.

She’d rumbled it a little at the end of the school year, but I thought I had pointed out all the benefits of completing her high school career with four years of Club XYZ. I thought I’d shown that being able to substitute Club XYZ for missed gym was a phenomenal extra perk. A month of silence at the beginning of the school year made me think I’d won.

I didn’t. She spent last week writing a letter of resignation that was phenomenal given her learning issues. I only had to help break the text up for ease of reading and refocus two sentences; she even had everything spelled right. She printed it off on my ex’s dime at the local library, and she turned it in.

Then I realized on the very night she was resigning that as a mother I won, just not the way I’d expected.

Child A has realized that Club XYZ no longer fit her goals and she could not learn anything more from them. She had assessed all her activities and was choosing to eliminate those that no longer fit the competent, professional she was becoming or wanting to become. She had the courage to stand and walk away knowing she would be criticized for leaving the more popular Club XYZ in favor of Group AAA and knowing she might stand alone without the support of any of her peers. (Although, from what I’ve seen, I suspect Group AAA members are laughing with delight inside and will surround her with all the support she needs. But I digress…)

Child A hit it out of the ballpark. She learned in her mid-teens what it took me three decades to learn. Seasons change, and people change; it’s okay to change your activities to reflect a change in goals and priorities. Sometimes, the loudest rhetoric is a silent back as the person walks away.

The student has surpassed and taught the teacher.

“I don’t know, I don’t know where I’m a gonna go when the volcano blow”

I was recently blessed to go out with a Facebook friend and her son to lunch. Although we grew up in the same small town, Tina and I ran in different circles for many years. Then as our children were born and started growing (and getting diagnoses), we started rubbing elbows more and more. It was finally time to just spend some time talking (over food of course).

I remember the first time I saw Tina with her son Logan. A denominational church was doing a special service for parents with special needs children. My mom and I had taken all three of my angels. I watched Tina walk in, hand carrying Logan and a diaper bag and an oxygen tank. I must have done the whole “tired-mom-with-spasming-brain” stare, because she walked over and asked a few questions to determine that we had indeed gone to the same school.

As she spoke, she shared with me that Logan was born with a chromosomal abnormality (Trisomy 13). It’s rather nasty issue when you read about it. The doctors had never expected him to survive beyond a few days after birth. The thing that struck me most was her gratitude for Logan’s life and her devotion to her son.

We kept in touch through Facebook over the years. Still living, Logan continues to be Tina’s pride and joy. He’s also her biggest challenge.

Like most women in the band of parents of special angels, lunch isn’t just lunch for us. It’s a rare time to connect with people who, although they don’t walk in our shoes specifically, at a high-level understand all the issues we face, the complexities we are always trying to wrap our minds around, the fears we have about what happens when we’re gone, and the generally different perspectives we have on life about success and the important things and living.

I wish Tina’s life had the low-level of constant chaos mine has. I’m just worrying about affording special diets and preparing kids for life without me and finding ways to “encourage” mine to accept responsibility. Unfortunately, she’s living a life characterized by a whirlpool in a whirlwind about to be hit by a tsunami while a tropical volcano rumbles to explode.

  • While I have the responsibility of trying to teach my children to communicate in a socially appropriate manner, Tina has to try to interpret the non-verbal gestures of a child who makes few vocalizations.
  • While I try to help my kids figure out what jobs to do and what life might be like on their own, Tina has to worry about what kind of setting to place Logan in when she’s gone–group home versus nursing home versus something else no one is yet willing to discuss because Logan’s not yet 18.
  • While I’m trying to get my kids to eat some of the new recipes, Tina is trying to follow midnight feedings that could cause sudden health emergencies, keep Logan from eating things he shouldn’t, and keep Logan from pulling out a GI tube.
  • While I am getting stronger on my diet and doing some more physical activity, Tina is trying to just get her body chemistry to cooperate a little longer to provide another decade of care for Logan.

In the midst of this maelstrom, her insurance company for Logan decides he doesn’t really need overnight nursing supervision anymore. Tina is fully competent for running his overnight feeds. Like any good special angel’s mom, she appealed citing the frequency Logan has issues with his feed, requiring emergency care at a hospital over two hours away; she cited her own health issues requiring overnight medications that ensure she couldn’t operate a remote control, let alone a motor vehicle; she even got tons of therapists, doctors, and others working with her and Logan to write letters appealing the decision. The appeal was denied yet again.

As Tina’s sighing and describing lawyering up and all that entails, I have the following going on in my head (yeah, listening skills aren’t my strong suit):

  • Lyrics to Jimmy Buffet’s “Volcano” are playing in my head
  • I hear the words (including tone and cadence) of certain leaders in our nation promising us Obama’s health care plan wouldn’t change a thing, we could keep our insurance, and we’d all be happy
  • I have the pictures of the Holocaust concentration camps of the mentally ill and intellectually disabled going through my head like the old slideshows

In a way, I feel bad for Tina. I know that only prayer (God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob please) will change anything for her. Yet, I know she joins countless other parents fighting and scrapping and clawing with insurance companies, and the numbers seem to be increasing since the beginning of the year.

I wish I could wave a magick wand and make it all right for Tina and Logan and all the other parents suffering through similar things. The reality is there are no easy answers. We in the band of parents of special angels have to work, not only for our kids, but also to change a society woefully off course.

We have to fight the attitude that a person’s worth is measured by his or her portfolio instead of the joy he or she brings or the lessons he or she teaches us.

We have to stand guard in a society that wants to quickly dispose of a difficult situation without discussion and through courage and humor and intelligent, emotionless discourse demonstrate that the best lessons in life are the ones you have to work to understand, the ones that threaten to unravel the very fiber of who you are as a person, the ones that rock your world and leave you looking for stability.

We have to recognize that we are not islands…not a one of us can stand alone. We have to learn to band together and work together and speak for each other.  In the words of the esteemed Benjamin Franklin, “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.

Recipe for Kale Chips

Since one of the topics of my blog is supposed to be food, I thought it might be time to share a recipe.

The back story is that nearly one year ago my body went into a mode of high pain. Translated: It was so excruciating I didn’t want to even get out of bed and once I found a position that settled the pain I didn’t want to move.

Someone suggested I try a particular diet. I won’t name it by name, but I will tell you it was the see/no eat diet: If you see it and you like it, you can’t eat it.

I tried (and inflicted) many new recipes on my family. In a way, I feel sorry for all the flops. In another way, I am so proud of them and me because it prepared all of us for a journey into food allergies and intolerances and reading labels in 2-point font. We are getting healthier for it.

So, without further, adieu, here is the kale chip recipe. Kale chips make excellent replacements for potato chips.

NOTE:

If you are on warfarin-based blood thinners, these delights may be not so delightful and can cause issues with your blood clotting rates. Please consult your physician before trying this recipe. Additional Nutrition Information: http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/kale.html

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 and line cookie sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Get as much kale as you like. Wash it and break it in small bits (1-2 inch square work best). Let it dry.
  3. The next two steps you may have to do multiple times. In a 1-gallon ziploc baggie, place 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (cold pressed) with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder. (You can adjust salt and garlic to taste. There might even be other seasonings/spices/herbs you can use, but I’ve not tried them.) Mix all the ingredients for a few seconds.
  4. Add enough kale to fill the bag and shake. Dump onto parchment lined cookie sheet and bake, usually about 15 minutes (but a lot depends on the oven). Pull when leaves are brown and crispy.
  5. Repeat until all the kale you want is complete.
HINTS
  • We find that we can only do two batches before having to replace the ziploc baggie. Otherwise, the seasonings are too strong.
  • Usually, one full baggie correlates to a full average sized cookie sheet.
  • We find that a grocery bag of kale usually makes two batches.
  • We let our kale sit at room temperature for two days before baking it recently. It worked even better; we will try this again next time.

That One Moment…In a Series…

Dictionary.com first definition of turning point is “a point at which a decisive change takes place; critical point; crisis.” That’s way too melodramatic for me, especially the last two phrases about crisis and critical moment.

As I see my life, I have had a series of little turning points, moments of course correction where I wasn’t completely off course in a critical, churning storm of chaos and crisis but I was meandering slowly down a path that would not be pleasant if I stayed on it.

Last night, I was celebrating my anniversary a little early with my husband. We were chattering and laughing, and my mind went to a time when I wasn’t so relaxed and free, a moment where I knew things had to change.

My husband and I had just started dating, and he’d already met my kids in a fun atmosphere of their choosing (we’ve not gone rollerskating as a family in a long time since). I had decided to expose my husband to a full dinner with my entire extended family, not just my kids, but my mother and siblings too.

He made it to the house, and he’d chosen to stay despite my lack of clutter management skills (which have vastly improved, by the way). We sat down as a family, said grace, and passed food. We bantered and chattered throughout the evening. We were close to the end of dinner.

To that point, my “baby” brother had been well behaved. Usually, he manages to get me giggling convulsively to the point I can’t breathe. If I try to eat while he’s at his antics, I inhale corn or choke on spaghetti or snort beverages out my nose; it’s just not pretty. He’s quick and sharp, and he uses physical humor as elegantly as he uses intellectual humor and male (disgusting) humor.

Right before dessert, my brother just could not resist. The urge to make me laugh just overwhelmed his ability to resist temptation. He started with his funny voices and physical antics and faces. Then, my boyfriend who became my husband started; he didn’t miss a beat, and he picked up in every opening my brother made. The two of them did this mysterious and funny tango of words and actions that left me in bad shape. They just fed off each other in a synergistic series of comments and gestures and antics. I was totally unprepared.

I was overpowered. Undone. Laughing hysterically. Barely able to breathe with sides splitting. Snorting and coughing. Until I saw the faces on the twins…

They were scared. They didn’t laugh, and they just looked at me like something was wrong with me.

Although the laughter was overpowering, mentally I was at one of those turning points. If my kids were scared by me laughing, our family had a crisis of sorts. It meant that I had gotten far too serious and wrapped up in my own world to appreciate the little things. I was too focused on adult stuff to enjoy a flour battle as we baked together or the humor in an embarrassing incident during the day. I wasn’t sharing with them how to find joy and life in the midst of stress and schedules and agendas.

So, we started baking once in a while together and laughing at the failures (I’ve now expanded beyond desserts). I started watching the kiddie movies and laughing wildly at the humor. I started sharing my embarrassing moments at work (picture a slip slid down around my ankles as I walk in the door) and how to recover (river dance until the slip slides off and you can stuff it in your pocketbook).

And they now know mom is okay when she laughs.

The Mountainous, Tortuous Molehill

I know I’ve mentioned that I’ve switched denominational pews recently. What I haven’t mentioned is why I left my kids in the old one.

It’s crazy. As an abuse survivor, I hated not having a choice (or the appearance and perception of not having a choice). I hated going where I didn’t want to go, saying what I didn’t want to say, and being someone other than what I was created to be. I didn’t want to force them to choose my way.

Also, they are right at that age where they are just beginning to be mature. There are decisions adults make, and denominational pew might be one of them. I don’t want the kids to feel like I perpetually see them at the toddler play station with the dolls and the fake plates and food.

I also felt that I had made several big changes in my life that I have tried to force… er, include the whole family to participate in, including diet and physically aggressive housework days. I didn’t want them to be an unwilling participant in one more.

It’s not that I don’t want them to join me. It’s that I want them to freely choose to come with me. I don’t want to be the big, nasty momster making them do something they don’t want to.

I do pray hard that someday they will choose to join me for the right reasons. And that’s not to say that I’m not daily tempted to strap them down and make them leave and come with me.

I had one just the other day. The senior pastor at my new denominational pew was teaching on dreams and their importance in revealing God’s will to us at times. And one verse jumped out at me in a way I’d never seen before… or maybe I just flipped the truth diamond one too many times.

Matthew 1:25… oh, how the text rang through my body and my mind. I thought for sure I could prove their denominational pew wrong and mine right on the issue of the perpetual virginity of Mary following the birth of Jesus. I could savor the moment of leveling the playing field and not having to have so many points of view under one roof. (Tradition clearly violated the Word of God in black and white. Yes, the imbalance was creeping in…)

After a long conversation with my still, small Voice, I realized several things.

First, I was falling for a foolish controversy. Major leaders from several denominational pews have held a contrary opinion to mine for centuries. If they could agree to a contrary opinion from all their backgrounds, maybe I needed to just let it go as a minor detail.

Second, I was trying for a battering ram to sway the opinions in my favor. Although I wanted independence and free will for my children, I still wanted independence and free will in my favor. The longer the divide, the more desperate I become to swing the vote in my favor, the more willing I am to release the inner control freak and try to manipulate the situation my way.

So grudgingly, I returned to the plan of letting them choose and praying someday they will voluntarily choose to join me.

That out of the way, I put on a feminazi mindset about the traditional view.

It is supposed that the woman in Proverbs 31 was not just one woman but many women melded together in an effort to set the bar on the ideal woman so high the son would not necessarily choose marriage although marriage was an aspiration. But some women forget this and push themselves hard to do everything and be everything.

What if perpetual virginity post nativity is another such idea? A high, lofty standard to which women are subconsciously held and judged, designed to make achieving dreams and goals even harder? That is, the idea is right, but the motive for holding and teaching the idea is unbalanced.

Okay, I feel the rumblings from here. Out of deference to my brethren in other denominational pews I will stop. But maybe the idea is just worth a brief caressing in the intellect…