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Monday, March 16, 2015

12 Tips for Moms with A.D.D. (Part 3)

Continued from Part 2:

9.  Harness Structuring Tools

I struggle to even use tools like planners, lists, recipe schedules and the like.  But I still try and go back to them and start all over.  Especially when I lose the list I once had.  I often forget that I even have a list.  This is what it is like to have A.D.D.  Lists and planners sound like great tools, but they don't work if you don't use them - or if you forget to.  I have only had a cell phone for just over a year now and am beginning to see what a great tool it is!  Now I can put in reminders and calendar events and it will ding me when I need to know!  I'm sure this is news to no-one.  But it is exciting to me!  Maybe in time I will learn other tools that can help - but I put this in my list because someday I'll come back to this and I'll need the reminder. ('Cuz I'll forget there were tools - just call me Dorie).

Some other tools are: Make a School Lunch plan - stick it on the fridge.  Keep a post-it pad in the car with a pen.  When you remember something while you're out and about you can jot it there and stick it on the dashboard.  Have a list on your fridge of three main food categories: Protein, Veggie, Starch.  Underneath each have a list of the things your family likes.  This provides many quick meal ideas for me.

10.  Tell People Around You: "I Forget Things A Lot."

The friends you want in your life will be forgiving and patient.  But it is probably helpful for those you are around frequently to know what you're like.  That way when you're late or forget something they know you are just like this and won't take it personally.  And if they do, well, that's another situation.  I tell people all the time, "I have A.D.D."  Probably half of those have no idea what I mean by this and some of the rest don't believe it exists.  That's okay.  They've been forewarned.

I also tell them that I'm always learning and growing and seeking to become the person God wants me to be.  I don't ever want A.D.D. to be an excuse.  But I know my brain does seem to short-out sometimes.  And we wouldn't condemn a dementia patient for forgetting things - we wouldn't judge them for their lack of responsibility.  But because A.D.D. is some other kind of thing others may think it is okay to judge it.  That's their choice I suppose.  But I would avoid such people.

11.  Continue to Re-Start

It goes without saying that a chaotic interior life can often lead to a chaotic exterior life.  I don't count the number of times I've embarked on some self-clean-up mission.  It's just a part of my life - this starting of things and forming goals only to have them vanish somehow and then I wonder if I had any goals?  When a new year begins I often think, "Oh yeah!  I should think up some great accomplishments I want to do or some way I want to work on myself."  And I take so long trying to think of these things that by the time I'm done thinking up something, it's March and I forgot where I was at the beginning.  So then I think, maybe next year I'll apply these things!!  Yeah, whatever.

I love hearing about famous people who failed and kept trying - like Einstein, Lincoln and Edison.  So what that what they set out to do didn't work the first time.  They didn't give up.  So I won't either.  So what that I'm forgetful!  I'll keep learning new things to help myself!  Do I need guilt to weigh me down?  No, I just need to pick up and re-start.  This is a way of life for me.

"Never give up."  I tell myself this over and over.  My family needs me and loves me, in spite of my quirks.  So I will continue to plod along.

12.  Receive ALL the Help Offered to You

I have been the recipient of immense support and help.  I have borne five children and run them to school and back, packed lunches, helped them grow and develop.  But I have not done this alone.  Yes, Sam has been a super-supportive husband and Dad.  But beyond that, I have been blessed with others who have served, assisted, helped and supported me.

One Mom drove my kids to school every morning for three years!  That's a LOT!  I was so humbled by such kindness - I know I didn't 'deserve' it.  But she was available and willing.

Every time I had a baby my Mom came from out of town (I'm talking, from Hong Kong out of town - that's way farther than anyone I know!)  She didn't just come for a week - usually a month or more.  She did school runs, lunches, took the kids on outings, bought them stuff, made most of our meals, babysat, did laundry and much more.  I needed that help.  May God bless you with such a serving Mother.

Sam's sister has homeschooled two of our kids.  She has come when I've been sick.  She takes the kids on extra outings and fieldtrips.  May your kids be blessed with such an Aunt.

You get the picture - be willing to receive help.  Don't feel you have to prove yourself capable of being a super-woman.  If someone is out there offering help - take it.  It is such a relief to me when someone offers to help me.

I'll take all the help I can get :)

12 Tips for Moms with A.D.D. (Part 2)

5.  Become Pragmatic

Do you know what Pragmatism is?  It means doing the practical thing over the ideal thing or the creative thing or the ______(insert descriptor here)________ thing.  I love aesthetics (when things look beautiful) - but I don't have the time, energy or resources to fix everything around me up nice and pretty.  I see people's beautiful kitchens.  And I sometimes want my kitchen to be like that.  But I cook in my kitchen.  I love all my super gadgets.  People with pristine kitchens often don't cook much or have no addiction to gadgets like I do.  So I have decided to just be myself about my kitchen.  It may not be fancy-schmancy.  It is mine.  I have stuff out everywhere - accessible.  I have decided my dream kitchen is no longer the stuff I see in magazines.  My dream kitchen is an industrial kitchen with easy-to-clean open shelving and carts - and it look cluttery and very practical.  Magazine-like kitchens often are not very practical.  Sure, they look nice.  Counters are clear.  But when you want to whip out a fruit smoothie for the kids on a hot afternoon you have to dig under counters to pull out that blender that is providing that visual appeal.  I'll take the clutter with the practicality.

I just applied that to the kitchen - but the principle is the same in other areas of life.  Sometimes being practical means only buying/owning clothes that don't require special laundering (no dry-cleaning), or ironing.  Being pragmatic may mean we don't have all 5 kids in extra curricular activities at once.  It may mean enrolling them all in the same activity to cut down on running-around all day.  You get the idea.

Pragmatism.  It works wonders.

6.  Realize Your Gifts: Maximize Them

Part of this is knowing yourself.  I know my strengths and my weaknesses.  I'll work on my weaknesses the rest of my life.  But my strengths - these I can harness and use fully to the benefit of my family and surrounding community.

I don't mind cooking for a crowd, so we have people over a lot.  Is it chaos?  Sometimes, yes.  But I roll with it - because I'm parting with perfectionism!  I can empathize, so I talk and visit with people!  I can play the piano, so I do, wherever I can, whenever I can!  Having A.D.D. can be annoying and downright frustrating.  Sometimes we need to just learn to be our nutty, weird, fun, odd, bizarre mix of traits - simply put, ourselves, and just get on with life.  Which leads me to no. 7:

7.  Quit Comparing Yourself to Others

It is natural to compare what we do, how we look, what our homes look like, how our kids are doing, our hobbies (or lack thereof), travels, you name it!  But natural (or instinctive) doesn't make it good and right.  It is a waste of energy.  Like I said earlier, I have limited resources.  I choose to not waste those mental resources on comparing myself with others.  Others might seem to have perfect lives.  But they don't - I guarantee it.  It only looks that way.

Focussing on your own stuff means less time thinking about how others live.  For me - I see other Mom's who seem to do it all.  They can have a job, a pristine home, well-mannered children, clean laundry and nutritious meals.  All. The. Time.  They have: Perfection!!!  Oh well, back to MY real life.  I don't live their lives.  I don't know their struggles.  So what if they look perfect.  I don't have time to dwell on such things.  Neither do you, probably.  (Just tell yourself, "My brain does way more than their brains.  Mine is super charged all the time!")  Great consolation, that line.

8.  Allow Yourself the FREEDOM to BE YOURSELF

This is just like the last one, but aside from comparing.  Just enjoy being who you are - creativity, imagination, daydreaming - whatever makes you you.  I just love being me.  Not always - mostly.  There are times I annoy myself.  Like when I talk too much (which is most always), or slide into anxiety mode.  But other than these pitfalls I realize I lose the joy of being who God made me to be when I wallow in guilt and self-abasement.  Get out of the doldrums and thank God for making you the way He did.  There is a song I sang as a child and the words always puzzled me.  They just didn't sound right.  It was a cute song - but the message has taken decades to sift from the cuteness into my experience:
 "If I were a butterfly, I'd thank the Lord for giving me wings,
and if I were a wiggly worm, I'd thank You Lord that I could squirm,
 and if I were a fishy in the sea, I wiggle my tail and I'd giggle with glee,
but I just thank You Father for making me ME.

   'Cuz You gave me a heart and You gave me a smile,
   You gave me Jesus and You made me Your child,
   And I just thank You, Father, for making me Me."

Sometimes it's hard to thank God for making me me.  But I am part of His creation so it is insulting to Him to constantly wish His creation were something else.

Click Here for Part 3: Part 3

12 Tips for Moms With A.D.D. (Part 1)

I'm not going to address the fact that there are those who deny the existence of a psychological condition called 'Attention Deficit' (I left off 'Disorder' on purpose).  If you need evidence just videotape my life for a while and then make your decision!

Regardless of where you stand, I have become quite familiar with this territory and figure it might be helpful for others to glean from my experience.  Here are 12 tips for Moms with A.D.D.  If you need help understanding your child with A.D.D. I'd be happy to answer your questions from my own experience and memory of being a child with A.D.D.  Yes, putting two-and-two together - that means you don't grow out of it or recover - it is a lifelong personality style.  Everyone has some hiccups in their personality - things that don't fit with the majority culture - nuances that might make life difficult for us or others.  A.D.D. just happens to be one of those types of things.  Learning our struggles and addressing them can be helpful to cope with various challenges.  I'm always learning, failing, and re-learning and re-failing - and I'm okay with that.  Hope you are too.

1.  Teach Your Kids to be REALLY Responsible

I am so thankful that my kids are familiar and comfortable with me enough to remind me: "Hey Mom, it's cold today, don't I need a coat?!"  (No, I'm not embarrassed to admit this to the general public.  I am just so completely devoid of a detailed mind that these things fall by the wayside).  Another way to help yourself is to be open with your older kids (like, age 7 on up) about your struggles and invite their input, such as:  "We are getting out the door so late so often.  I have such a hard time getting your lunches and backpacks and papers signed etc.  I know you're not to blame for us being late.  Can you help me think of ways to be on time more?"  We were late so much to school and I asked my kids to help me.  And they did.

If your kid has A.D.D. too, then your challenges are greater.  But not impossible to address!

2.  Become a Commune-ist not an Individual-ist

I had to learn this the hard way.  I thought, "This kid fits best with this schooling option, this one with that one..." etc.  I wanted what would suit each kid the best.  Then I had four kids going to four different schools.  What a logistical nightmare and headache for me!  Don't do it!!!  Especially if you have A.D.D!!  What a way to stress yourself out!  I ended up losing my temper more - with everyone in sight (apologies to all those who had to deal with this).  I woke up one day and pondered my understanding of Communism.  Now, as a political structure - not so great.  But as a family ideal - now this was something to consider!!!  No more: "We will choose what's best for each particular child."  Oh Noooooooooooooo.  Now it was, "What's best for the family will have to be best for you.  You'll have to figure out how to deal with it."  I decided we would shift our family-style to commune based rather than individual based.  It has changed our family and we love it.  So glad to be done with the 4 kids in 4 schools episode of my life (just takes me a while to learn these things - I have a steep learning curve).  If you figured that out early - good for you.  I'm a slow learner.

3.  Toss Out Perfectionism

I don't really see myself as a perfectionist - maybe that's because so little of my life is perfect.  But it is troubling when I set out to clean a room and spend all day on one corner.  That corner becomes my perfection.  It is shiny, clean, tidy, organized and perfect.  Unlike me.  It gives me joy to waste an entire day on a corner of a room.  It just doesn't help anyone else.  It wastes time.  The laundry may be pushed back a day, supper is nowhere to be found.  But my shiny corner awaits!  I need to not do this to my family.  I need to call it what it is: a warped need for perfection somewhere in my life.  At these times I need to acknowledge my desire, re-group and toss perfectionism out the window.

It may not be as easily done as it is said, but these are just reminders - there are many ways to address perfectionism.  This is just a tip to make you think about possibly considering how perfectionism may be stealing your joy and that of your family.

4.  Learn Your Limits

I have extremely limited energy resources.  And Mental resources.  And time resources.  In general, I am a low energy person.  I cannot take on everything there is to do.  I see how much stuff goes on in every community I'm in and it exhausts me just to think about it!  I know my purpose in this season of life is really to give myself to my home and family.  There are wonderful blessings to serving others too - at Church, school, in the community and beyond.  But I try to assess my involvement in these things in the context of my primary purpose in my home.  Call me traditional or whatever, I just realize that I can't do everything, I'm not a superwoman and I admire those who do/can.

Once I learned that I did have limits I felt freer, more at peace, more in control of my life.  I had less panic and anxiety and gave less thought to what others think of me.  (There was very little of that to begin with!)  I recommend learning your limits - see where such growth will take you!

Click Here for Part 2:  Tips 5-8

Thursday, March 12, 2015

When Healing Includes Pain

Maybe this is Part 2 of my previous post.  Because you know my mind keeps whirring after I've said my bit.

So on Sunday evening I was sitting in an Easy Chair that rocks.  And Hannah has this need to climb all over me and mash her face up against mine while she strokes my face.  Which I try to allow, since someday, I'm convinced, she'll quit it.  She climbed up on my lap and as I leaned back I realized we were going to go over - which is usually no big deal - it has happened once or twice.  The problem was that my arm reached out to break the fall and said arm got twisted backwards and pinned under the chair back with her still on top of me.  And I couldn't move.  So I screamed - for help, yes - but mostly out of the sheer pain and agony I desperately wanted to stop.  At that moment, nothing meant anything to me but the hope that someone would pull me out of my predicament.

Enter the dashingly handsome knight in shining armour - Sam.  He was actually sitting across the room and stood above me not knowing where to pull or help or how to move.  I didn't know either!  I kept trying to nudge myself out of the twisted arm position but I was pinning myself down and any movement meant further strain on what I was sure was a mutilated arm.  I quickly realized I would need to be pulled immediately upright so as to un-pin my arm.  And Sam did this for me!  Hooray Sam!!

I was gasping for breath and absolutely freaking out with pain.  I just sat there moaning and couldn't believe that one minute of my life could hold such pain - and with only one limb forced beyond it's limit.  The amazing thing is that nothing seemed to be broken - not even a torn tendon or ligament (I think, it's just a guess).  But within a few seconds the pain subsided and my arm went completely numb.  It had been twisted and pinned down opposite of where it is meant to go.  And the pain came to a halt pretty quickly, only to be replaced by total numbness.  I was pleasantly surprised - and quite pleased with the outcome.

The only problem with numbness (while I admit it is a great blessing), is that it messes with you in ways you forget - like the times you realize you actually need a left arm to, say, bring your cup to your mouth, or to pull down a seatbelt from behind or to reach up to wash your hair in the shower.  The numbness was a welcomed relief.  But it incapacitated my arm to some degree.  Though I have no great medical knowledge I had to surmise it was some kind of mild nerve damage, and I just figured it should resolve itself in time.  (And here I am typing this, so obviously it was a very minor, short-lived thing).

For the last three days I haven't done any laundry.  Try doing that with a household our size and it can be depressing to look at the pileup.  I couldn't cut things in the kitchen so it was pretty simple meals too.  I found my arm to be like dead-weight and somewhat useless at times - and frustrating.  Once in a while it would give me a shock of pain, only to return to numbness.  Until this evening.

Suddenly I felt a horrible ache over my arm and it throbbed and seemed way worse than before.  I got a bit nauseous and lounged on the couch for a while.  The pain seemed to spread, and I reached out my arm and it moved almost with complete range of motion.  I realized in that instant that my arm was figuring out it's proper nerve connections or something and decided to get back to being useful in my employ.

And like puzzles magically falling into place, it presented a picture to me of what healing of the soul might be like.  Injury occurs.  Pain is inevitable.  But sometimes pain exceeds what the soul can bear and paralysis sets in.  Complete numbing of emotion and deadness of heart seems to overtake what was once a healthy, engaged, vibrant human being.  This may seem like some kind of disorder, clinically, but I wonder if it isn't also a blessing - a mechanism designed by our Maker to calm the raging sea when we have no control over the things that grieve us so deeply.

But the numbness may or may not last forever.  And it is a bit of a band-aid over the pain that resulted from some kind of injury.  And when the healing begins, sometimes the pain emerges again.  It can be frightening - when the pain washed over my arm I wanted out.  I'd rather go back to numb, I thought.  But that would mean having a limp arm that wouldn't serve it's purpose.

My guess is that in healing we re-visit pain and it is part of the pathway to wholeness.  Because if I am numb, I disconnect from the stimulus of whatever is around me.  I fail to own the pain that is a part of my story.  I think it is okay to stay there for a while.  But certainly the hope of healing, even if it brings with it a painful process, is worth exploring.

And explore I shall.  With my left arm to boot.

Christmas in March

We have Christmas at Christmas time.  We have Christmas in July.  But today I'd like to celebrate Christmas...once again.  I should save my thoughts for another time, I suppose.  But these are the overflow of my heart today...

I have been mulling over the thought of 'inner healing'.  Yes, I put that in quotes so you can catch my meaning - is it real?  What is it exactly?  How do you know when you've experienced inner healing?  I mean, really.  What do people mean when they go through life and experience some heartache or tragedy or trauma and then come out of it through some "journey" and arrive on the golden shores waltzing under the welcome banner of "You have now entered INNER HEALING.  Enjoy your stay."

I don't mean to mock it.  Okay, maybe I do.  Maybe because it is hard to grasp - and I wonder what it looks like for each of us - and that begs the question, do we all need some experience of inner healing?  Maybe, maybe not - I guess.

To be sure, I have experienced my own seasons of grief.  I have seen a need for inner healing, and I have sought it and prayed for it and come out wondering what it's all really about.  But the concept of healing isn't just related to my experience.  It is a theme throughout human history - the longing of the soul for wholeness, for integration, for a sense of the self that needs not to hide from the piercing gaze of truthful, honest, open, transparent relationships.

Perhaps this is why my favourite Christmas song of all time is Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.  Well, the first reason is probably because it is by Charles Wesley, my favourite hymnwriter.  I'm sure all of you reading this have a favourite hymnwriter, don't you?  Okay, it's just one of my very odd, distinctive hobbies - hymnology - knowing who wrote what, why and when and what page number and key signature it's in (in my Hymnal, of course).

What does this song, which we rightly associate with Advent, have to do with healing - much less inner healing?

I can barely sing through it without it stirring my heart - when I get to the line: "Ris'n with healing in His wings..." a sob is choked by my effort to sing.  Maybe that's why singing is healing in and of itself - because we are so stirred by music we might explode if we didn't have to get to the end of the song to resolve the harmonies.  Maybe music doesn't do that for you - but it does for me.  Perhaps that is why I hide behind a piano at times - because I don't need to be singing to hear and meditate and worship and can let it wash over me working its magic in my soul.

Recently a friend mentioned that the issue of healing is inherent in the Gospel message - that the good news of salvation is intricately linked to the healing of our souls.  The line in Isaiah has always puzzled me: "By His wounds we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5) (and 1 Peter 2:24).  Right in the middle of describing how Jesus has come to save our lost souls we have this line about healing.  Good theology students like to tell us it is the sin-sickness of our souls that needs healing and that salvation is the cure.  I get that.

But the wounded soul may still need to drink deep of the well of healing that comes from the glorious message of the cross.

And I may be that wounded soul, in need of that continuous flow of hope and rescue - in need of healing and salvation.

So, I bring my woundedness to God and sing in worship: "Hail!  The Heav'n Born Prince of Peace!  Hail the Sun of Righteousness!  Light and Life to all He brings (and that means me!!), 
                      Risen With Healing In His Wings.

Mild, He lays His glory by, Born that man no more may die,

Born to raise the sons of earth, born to give us second birth..."

We are now in a season of Lent - where in the Christian tradition some take these six weeks to mortify the flesh in some way so as to increase our hunger for Christ and enter into His self-abasement for a short season.  Whether you celebrate lent or not, the habit of reflection on His passion, the cross, our salvation and ultimately His resurrection is a worthy one.

This hymn celebrates the incarnation - the birth of Christ.  But it doesn't stop short of reminding us of why He was born - born to die.  And that with His birth, and then His death, and ultimately with His resurrection, we are born not only to new, everlasting life, but to the experience of healing.

He experienced the ultimate wounds, and He resurrected with ultimate healing.  There is hope for the wounded soul - By His wounds we are healed -

...and He calls us to return to Him - the Shepherd and overseer of our souls.

The conquering King, acquainted with grief, a man of sorrows, has passed through the deepest suffering that brings with it our hope of healing.

I need His light and life.  I need the healing only He can bring.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Is Introspection Narcissism?

Recently I've been mulling over a few things - things about myself and my life and unprocessed junk I thought I'd processed.  Guess I'll have to continue processing.  When do we say "I'm done!" with sorting out our experiences and journey in life?  I thought I'd come to the end of that.  So then I mull over things and memories and messages from my earlier years ring in my ears and I wonder, "Were these things true?  Did I buy into these messages and incorporate them into myself and live with the results of half-truths?"  Maybe, I don't know.  You tell me.

You see, I have felt that in writing - especially writing for the random public - though I don't really write for you, but just to unload it into cyberspace - I burden readers with too much about me.  Somehow I picked up on messages of:  Writing or talking in the first person means you're self-focussed.  It means you're self-absorbed.  This was a great message to get me to shut up.  And I did - I took it to heart and quit going into what I was thinking and feeling all the time.

Another message I got one time was when I was a young teenager and seriously depressed.  A very dark cloud hung over me for about two years.  It was miserable - deep depression that wouldn't go away.  I also had a woe-is-me approach to almost everything during that time - not uncommon for people whose outlook has become dragged down by depression.  And a friend got tired of my drama and misery and was just a little fed up.  (I don't blame her - she had every reason to be, and being a peer was no expert in how to deal with a depressed teenage friend).  She finally one day just blurted out to me, "Look Sarah!  No one really cares!  Don't you see that?"

This was harsh, to be sure.  It took me a lot of thinking time to take in those words.  As a 38 year old now I recognize they were not the worst or most damaging words ever.  They just were.  I'm sure she'd take it back now.  But those words affected me.  I took them to be true.  The message was: You are wallowing in it and no one has time or patience or care for this kind of thing.  Get over it.

Sometimes people do need to be shook up.  Maybe harsh honesty is helpful, to someone, somewhere, sometime... I don't have that in my experience - as in, it hasn't been that helpful to me.  But I have been on the other side too - where I am harsh and direct and tired of another's drama.  I say this to my own shame - because I don't think it's the best way to be.

These twin messages: "No one cares about your drama" and "speaking in 1st person all the time is narcissism" have coloured my writing and relationships.  I have feared to open myself up to others - if I talk about myself that must mean I'm self-centred, right?  But how do you develop relationships without sharing yourself with others?  You can't.

Someone recently encouraged me to reject these messages.  I had held onto them as true.  What hogwash!  So what if some people don't care?  There are so many who do care.  So many potential friendships out there - people who love and give and welcome a hurting friend.  That's the kind of friend I want to be to others.  Will I allow others to be that kind of welcoming, warm, nurturing friend to me?  It sounds possible!

The second issue I've had is with being introspective.  Navel-gazing is what I call it.  There is no end to self-analysis and soul-searching.  I have shied away from doing the hard work of cultivating my soul - for fear of becoming a self-absorbed hermit.  Well, I guess I'm not really afraid of that - I'd quite like it actually.  (I could be a Rock, an Island...and a rock feels no pain, and an island never cries...)

Apparently introspection can be helpful.  But how much is too much?  How much until we get wrapped into a pretzel psychologically speaking and can only see things through lenses of labels and identity categories?  I don't know - I'll toss it out there.  Maybe you have opinions about this.  I don't have an answer for it...yet.