Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Absolutely Most Important Thing for Parents and Teachers to Recognize

It’s that every child is different. They arrive different. They are motivated differently. They learn differently. They express themselves differently. Their emotional responses to everything in life can be light years apart from their siblings and even you. Their strengths and weaknesses are like day and night from one another. And whether it’s your children or your students, many or sometimes, even most, will be different from you in all these ways.

That sounds obvious, but if you watch yourself as a parent or teacher, you soon realize that we expect them to respond as we do, to be motivated by what motivates us, to come from inner viewpoints that are similar to our own. To even have the same intuitive knowledge about people or right and wrong that we do.       Even your first child may seem like an alien from Mars and throw you for a loop as a parent. (That difference may inadvertently insure that they remain an only child.)

To a certain extent it is their inalienable right to be different. The reality, of course, is that to some extent as social beings, we all have to learn to accept group limits and learn to adapt as best we can in a world that does not center around us.

The most helpful tool for recognizing and understanding many of these differences that I have found, so far, is the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator. My husband and I are extreme opposites on every area of personality that this attempts to describe. (Married for fifty-four years, we consider our marriage a witness to the possibilityof world peace. Though we admit that his intense dislike of change and my devout cowardice at the thought of raising five children alone may have been significant factors.)

And our five children are mixes of every imaginable combination of our personality traits. Imagine my surprise when everything that worked so well with number one, evoked a totally opposite response from number two, etc., etc., etc.

Though as a past consultant on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I’ve done workshops on its significance in education, spirituality, marriage, and management, at seventy-five I am not up to date on the best resources. The internet has many, but the quality varies greatly. If you are interested in following up on this, use the Association for Psychological Type as a guide.

Addendum:  For examples of differences in a first and second grade class see post: Important Things I Learned from First Graders When I Was Forty: June 28

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Call on Somebody You Know!

I have been creating and leading devotionals at a nursing home for about a year and a half. This is a rich experience in every way. Speaking to a group of people, most of whom are comatose or deaf, is humbling to say the least. And spending time with a dear friend there, who is losing it mentally, triggers memories of my mother’s journey into the darkness of Alzheimer’s.
Sometimes the caregivers and I share a moment of gentle humor, that brings a tiny sunbeam into the darkness of the situation. It’s really the only way you can persevere in this kind of situation.
Interestingly enough, with my mom, flashes of her own humor would surface unexpectedly. When she was still living with us, she would want to help me, though she was no longer really competent. One day I was working at home at the counter in the kitchen. She kept offering to start dinner for me, so I finally, to just get some time to focus on finishing my work, put a large pot of water on to boil for six ears of corn and a small pot of water on for a pack of frozen broccoli. I told her to put them in when the water came to a boil. A while later, she said, “Eileen, something doesn’t look right.”  So, I stopped reluctantly to check it out. She had put the small amount of broccoli in the huge pot of water and all the ears of corn in the small pot of water, which had all boiled away.
I said irritably, “Oh, my God!”
Without a blink’s hesitation she replied, “Call on somebody you know!”

Death Two

Death Two.

Winter Grace: Humor and Hope

Winter Grace is a book by Kathleen Fischer on Spirituality and Aging.
I particularly like the chapter on Humor and Hope
Here’s a quote:
But only when we have lived long enough to experience humanity in its range and complexity is our humor at its deepest and truest. Redemptive humor is more than the ability to enjoy an isolated humorous situation. It is an attitude toward all of life. Not only is humor a gift of the later years; it is indispensable to hope and healing during that time. Humor recognizes that limitations and failures are not final and unredeemable tragedies. Like a ray of sunshine piercing a dark and overcast sky, humor suggests God’s abiding presence and brightens our human prospects……Humor is a gentle reminder of the reality of redemption

Fibromyalgia: Intensifier and Prolonger of Pain with Flare-Ups Severe Enough to Make You Pray to Die

I discover more people struggling with Fibro every week. I am in remission and have only had a few relatively mild flare-ups for over four and a half years. Unfortunately most people who do not have fibromyalgia really haven’t got a clue about how crippling it can become.

I started having just mild and brief attacks of pain in my hands, when I was in my thirties.  I assumed it was arthritis.  In my late sixties I had a couple of week long flare-ups with wide spread pain so severe, that I could not sleep or find anyway to get out of pain.  I got slight relief from hot baths, but spent days and nights huddled in a recliner, wrapped in quilts, sobbing.  If someone just touched me gently on certain spots, I cringed in pain.  I am allergic to most pain medicines, including even aspirin, but steroid shots helped.  I am a devout coward about many things, but I have come through five Caesarian Sections, a hysterectomy,  gall stones attacks, and gall bladder surgery, always recouping quickly without much drama or whining.  So, I was pretty sure the pain was really bad and not just me being a wus.

Finally about seven years ago, I ended up bedridden for two months.The pain in my wrists was so severe that I couldn’t lift a cup of coffee without wearing wrist braces, my back and hip pain not only kept me from walking, but awake night and day. My ankles hurt too much to put pressure on the gas or brake pedal in the car, so I couldn’t drive. My husband decided to net-work our home computers to his office computer, so he could work from home and take care of me. The then only marketed medicine did not help the pain and made me feel drugged.My doctor had run out of suggestions.

I went on line and joined the Fibromyalgia Association, receiving their monthly newsletters. In these, there were a variety of testimonies about treatments that had helped others. I decided to start with the simplest and cheapest and work through the lists.

The simplest was taking Dextromethorphan, available across the counter. After several weeks this actually stopped the flare-up that seemed to have become chronic. I stayed on this for several months, until my blood pressure began to rise. This is not a good medicine for anyone with high blood pressure. Fortunately, since I stopped taking it, I have not had any totally crippling major flare-ups.
Partly from age related actual physical wear and tear, at seventy-eight when I have to walk long distances, I use a walker. I don’t need it to walk, I need it to sit down just for a couple of minutes to relieve pain and then I can go on. Also, since I both work and play on a computer, I end up with numbness and pain in my right wrist and hand from carpal-tunnel syndrome. I have found that wearing a wrist brace, just when sleeping, actually solves this problem. Most of the time, tylenol extra-strength handles any other type of flare-up.

The problem for me is that at my age I have some wear and tear that would cause some pain anyway, but fibromyalgia not only makes the pain worse, it tends to make it constant. Finding ways to handle stressors
is the key for me. Hating having to do physical chores triples my pain. My best way of managing physical activity is to balance it with frequent breaks. Working consciously to mentally and emotionally accept large and small unpleasant realities and to find grace in them on a daily basis has brought me the most relief.

One woman I met several years ago, who had been bedridden for over two months, got relief with the medicine Plaquenil, though it took almost three months to be pain free.

There are success stories with various natural treatments and there are new medicines on the market.  Fibromyalgia has a wide spectrum of symptoms including fatigue and confusion.  It seems to be caused by the central nervous system becoming hyper-active and sending out pain signals much more severe than any soreness,injury or emotional response merits and also prolonging the pain way past when the cause has been cured.  No one has a clear handle on it yet.

Get a doctor’s diagnosis, which generally will involve tests to rule out arthritis, lupus, and other serious muscle related illnesses.  Be proactive. Become knowledgeable through the Association newsletters about options for treatment.  Sometimes, doctors have a certain mindset about medicines and treatments, so find one that is willing to work with you to find the best for you.

Though cause and effect aren’t clear, there are some things that seem to make it worse.  Again, this can vary greatly from person to person.  Become aware of triggers for you. Changes in atmospheric pressure, exhaustion from overdoing physically, particularly when tense, are some I’ve noticed. Depression and resentment are major triggers for me.

If you have a personal relationship with God, surrendering all to God mentally or verbally over and over while in the pain, or praising God even in this time of suffering, and persevering until you mean it wholeheartedly, often can be incredibly healing. I admit that there are times I personally don’t manage this.

When in a flare-up, cut yourself a lot of slack. Mentally treat yourself tenderly, like you would a beloved child in pain. Prioritize and do only what is the most important. Allow yourself to just be. No matter what anyone else thinks, this is the a path to relief.

However, become aware of what is going on in your inner world. There may be something needing healing, resolution, or acceptance. This has the potential to bring more permanent relief than just medicines or rest.

Lately, I have been feeling overwhelmed by a difficult situation and am having some flare-ups again. It has taken over a week, but remembering what God has brought me through before, and working on letting go of my picture perfect expectations of myself, life, and others has given me relief.

I recently made a CD of favorite songs about peace, inner peace, personal peace, and world peace. Playing this when driving in heavy traffic, when needing to relax, and when going to sleep has been a great help.

Anything that relieves stress can help lessen a flare-up and allow you to get needed rest. Sex is actually a good temporary stress reliever, as long as the circumstances don’t cause resentment or anxiety.

Repetitive physical exercise,however, particularly during a flare-up, can make the pain worse.

Don’t despair.  There is help.  But it may take some trial and error. Persevere.

Tunnel of Fear

Homing through a frost
of silent shooting stars,
the blowing icy flow
of winter’s crystal breath,
my car lights tunnel
through its frozen milky way.

Suddenly, I glimpse a shadow,
a hitcher thinly coated
with the jacketed nonchalance
of adolescent bravado,
James Dean image not quite masking
the soft edges of his youth.

A fragile hope flickers
at my moment’s hesitation,
then quickly disappears
behind me in the night.
My “Good Samaritan” – extinct,
afraid of death – dead of fright.

Travel Visions

An opulence of travel visions:
Paris, London, Lisbon, Prague,
beauty rampant with history and art.

Yet etched forever in my mind
the beaches and cross-crowned cliffs
along the shores of Normandy.

A cliff face sheering from the ocean,
Pointe du Hoc, where army Rangers
climbed point blank into German guns.

Now, just empty bunkers on pitted earth
and beaches, wave washed innocent,
below silent sentinels left behind.

Row on row of small white crosses
guarding fields of blood-rich ground,
Old Glory whipping, snapping in the wind.

Don’t Count on Drawing to an Inside Straight

It took me a long time to figure out that life isn’t a multiple choice question.
My father wanted me to be a nuclear physicist. My mother wanted me to be a wealthy socialite. My church wanted me to save my soul by having an unlimited amount of babies. It turned out that I wasn’t designed for any of these.
The reality was that I was a bottomless pit of needs and wants. The main one being to be loved unconditionally. I married a gentle, kind man, who has accepted me just as I am and never asked anything else of me. All he has ever wanted in our fifty-three years of marriage is to make me happy. Sadly for him, no human being can make anyone else happy.
Happiness comes from the paradox of first, realizing that we are fully known, understood, and loved by God just as we are. Then listening to God to discover the person God created us to be and at each stage and challenge in this life long process, staying open to the grace for the courage and perseverance to become it.  It’s about who we become, not what we become.
Probably the most difficult part of the process is actually getting to know ourselves in our very unfinished state. Not a terribly pleasant experience and sometimes too discouraging to attempt without knowing with both mind and heart that God already knows us far better than we do, or anyone else ever can, and loves us anyway.
Ultimately, we discover that we are only called to play the hand we were dealt, and it may turn out we never find the card to the inside straight we’ve been bluffing hopefully with.  But with God, it isn’t about winning a competition, it’s about how well we play the hand we were actually dealt, however humbling that may turn out to be.
A way of working on this is just reading the bible like a story or a letter written for us personally and discovering that Jesus also was unfinished and grew in holiness. That he grew through challenges, many of them from women, who had no credentials as women in Judaism, and some of whom were not even Jews. He recognized God in a Gentile woman challenging Him to minister to Gentiles. This was a world changing difference in His assumption that His mission was limited to being the Jew’s Messiah.
Jesus was familiar enough with Jewish Scriptures to apply them to His life challenges, while spending time aside praying and listening to God. He allowed God to speak to Him and call Him to growth through the people and situations in His daily life all the way to the very end. He was still growing even on the cross. There’s a big leap between, “My God why have you abandoned me?” and “Father, I commend my spirit into your hands.”

Christian spirituality is the dialogue between Jesus in the scriptures and our experiences in daily life, through taking time to go to God for understanding of what He is saying through those two, and for the grace to respond.

Our becoming only ends with our very last breath.

Grace for the Hard Times

I’m seventy-five now and once again, I can walk, climb a hill, and even dance a little. In my late fifties, I was dependent on a wheelchair to even get across my house. It was a long house with a lot of two stair changes in levels, so it wasn’t really handicapped accessible. The house, designed by my architect husband to uniquely suit our own way of living, was in the middle of our hundred acre weed and rock sanctuary, almost fifteen minutes from town, down dirt roads, and through a creek. It was my idea of heaven, until I ended up in a wheelchair.
My five children were grown and gone and my husband worked long days, six days a week. So, I was pretty isolated. I put a roll away bed in the middle of my kitchen, where I could spend the day, and usually manage to cook meals and load and run the dishwasher and the washer/dryer.
Two fairly new friends began bringing out delicious lunches and delightful movies twice a week. They also took me in the wheel chair to events at Museums and even Christmas shopping at a Mall. These visits and outings were filled with laughter and special treats of Caramel Frappuccinos and White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies, that quickly became traditions.
One of the movies we watched was a Canadian film, Strangers in Good Company. This was about a tour bus of elderly ladies getting stranded in the Canadian woods. The younger woman bus driver had a sprained ankle, so the little old ladies had to rally and organize for survival. The women became quite resourceful in finding food. They stretched the rather large bus driver’s panty hose open on shrub branches, and held it across a creek to catch small fish. Another woman showed how to go frog-gigging with sharpened sticks. Shared leftover cookies, apples, and candy bars helped supplement foraging. The women bonded, sharing life memories, and renewing their spirits through taking time to just soak in the beauty surrounding them. Of course, at the end, they were rescued, but it was what they made of the time together, that was the point of the movie.
In spite of my friends helping me, I did struggle with depression over my situation, fearing it was permanent. But the movie made me re-evaluate my priorities.
Nature was really a source of connectedness to God for me. And my house was open to the woods around us through walls of glass doors. The kitchen was open to the great-room, so from both my bed in the kitchen (my “bitchen”) and my bed in the master bedroom, I could see and hear birds of all kinds, watch the hummingbirds kama-kazi diving at each other, and even watch a doe and her brand new fawn in the small clearing outside the windows. She brought the fawn just as it was learning to gambol and play. For several weeks she and I would both lie contentedly watching the fawn play. Other times, a male wild turkey would do his awesome dance in courting a couple of “ladies” in the clearing. A possum came in the evening and scratched on the screen door. A crazy, but beautiful cardinal, fixated on his reflection in one of the glass doors, spent days flying into the door and then regrouping in the plum tree next to it. Cardinals in the snow whitened winter landscape or among the spring dogwood blossoms were among my favorite things.
The movie made me realize that I experienced the presence and grace of God most in two things: the beauty of nature and in relationships. And wheel chair bound or not, I was blessed with good friends, a husband that loved me, and surrounded, up close and personal, by the beauty of nature. Even in a wheelchair, I had a bubbling spring of grace around me.

The Explosion of Experience: Enlarging My World View

After years of feeling like white noise to family and friends, since starting my blog three months ago, I have been shamelessly exploiting blogging as a way of expressing some of the opinions, insights, and experiences I’ve garnered in seventy-five years of living the questions of life. Now, that I’ve done my share of  flooding the blogging world with the pent-up musings of a frustrated guruh wanna be, I’m focusing outward and discovering the amazing riches of exploring the world across all kinds of physical and metaphysical borders through other blogs.

It’s like being able to teleport yourself anywhere immediately and to experience the world through both another’s literal views and their mental viewpoints to far exceed your own limited mind and means. It’s what books , television, and travel have done in the past, except this is on a much more personal level and has the advantages of immediacy, convenience, freedom of choice, and even interaction, all without the need for affluence or influence.

I reread this and it sinks in even more, how mind expanding and world changing the internet is capable of being.  Not just for young revolutionaries on the other side of the world,  but for people of any age, any gender, any nationality, any religious persuasion, any financial means, any limits, as long as they can get to a library or coffee house that has computers and the internet.

I think if I had the means, I would pour money into making it available to all people in every country.  I realize there’s misinformation and poison on it also, but where there are human beings, those exist.  In the past, if our immediate environment was limited to that, the possibilities for overcoming it were few.  Those possibilities have now exploded exponentially.

I want to mention once again just several of the blogs that I look forward to.

Doctor Dad @ carlocmd.wordpress.com;  Beautifully described father-sons relationship, and insights into the daily experience of  a caring, committed doctor in a third-world country.

patricklatter.smugmug.com; Vicarious mountain hiking experiences through amazing photography of the awesome landscapes of Canada along with first person commentary on the experience with each photo.

Field Notes from Fatherhood.com; a blog by a teacher in a private English school in Hungary.  Excellent on many levels on parenting, teaching from the insider’s view, travel with children.

youllshootyoureyeout-kathy.blogspot.com; delightful travel experiences, laced with touching honest reflections on relating to a beloved father, once a public figure, now suffering from Alzheimer’s.

For humor: (of course)  The Bloggess and also maleparentalunit.blogspot.com(one of my sons’ blog, so some prejudice involved.)