Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Be Ye Therefore Fake-thankers?

I remember when I was a kid, well meaning adults would often remind me of the starving children in Africa when I didn't clean my plate."You should be grateful you even have food."
I think this was one of my earliest introductions to fake-thanking. The obligatory 'thank you'  was taught because our natural instinct is to forget we only have what we do by the Grace of God.
If you think about it we were all trained early on. The last thing my mom would say to me before I went to a party was "remember to say Thank you."Thank You" cards are the second thing you learn to write, proceeded only by your name. Thanksgiving, though became the biggest obligatory 'thanks' in our lives. We gave little speeches about what we were thankful for, my mom even teared-up a couple of times. I understood the meaning and purpose of Thanksgiving, but I never really understood what I was missing by being a 'fake-thanker'.
Ten years ago, on Thanksgiving Day, I awoke in a hospital bed...alone. I was not thankful. I was six and a half months pregnant,miserable after almost six weeks of bed rest, and covered in a rash from head to toe. My family was having Thanksgiving at the grandparents, playing with cousins and eating too much. I was having rubber turkey, and white rice because my kidneys weren't working and potatoes aren't on the diet. I couldn't have pie, rolls, stuffing, or any other treats because of the diabetes and to top it all off...No one else in the hospital was any happier than I was. It loomed like a black cloud over the whole place.
One of my favorite nurses, Vicki, brought me my meager lunch, patted my hand and said, "Happy Thanksgiving, honey."
"You, too," I replied automatically. "I hope your Thanksgiving is a good one."
With a smile on her face she told me how she'd get off of a 12 hour shift, go home and heat up a Turkey frozen dinner and wait for her son to call. Her eyes lit up when she talked about how he was stationed in Afghanistan. Because of the distance, the military, the satellites and a myriad of other things, she didn't know what time he'd get through. She said it didn't matter. She'd stay up all night if that's what it took. She'd volunteered to work Thanksgiving day to give the other nurses time with their families, because she just needed to be home before 8 p.m. to hear from her son.
"I'm so thankful," she said with tears in her eyes, "for the invention of satellite phones. I couldn't survive this time of year without the chance to hear his voice...even from thousands of miles away."
Perhaps for the first time in my life, I understood what Thanksgiving really meant. It's not a chance for us to bask in our riches, gluttony, and self absorbed accomplishments, with a nod of 'fake-thanks' to God for allowing us such privileges. It's not about the food, the company, or the fun. We can be thankful for all of that and more, but do we feel it? Does it fill our empty hearts as well as our empty stomachs?
After Vicki left my room that day I sat and cried. I thanked my Heavenly Father for children I was never supposed to have, for a husband with enough courage and perspective to see beyond today, for a baby, alive, happy, and kicking  my bladder, even though his life wasn't supposed to be possible.
We take so much for granted in our fast-paced, self indulgent world. If the turkey is too dry, or the pie was burned we whisper under our breath that Thanksgiving was just Okay this year. When we go around the table and say we're thankful for our I-phone, or the new big screen, or even for good food, are we 'fake-thankers'? Is it just our obligatory training kicking in?
If its not, if you're one of those people who 'feel' gratitude fill your heart and soul at Thanksgiving, you are the lucky ones. If you've forgotten what lonely, depressed, scared, hungry, or abandoned feel like...then you're even luckier. Gratitude is a gift from someone who loves you. It's an expression of your worth in their lives. When you feel the thanks and love of those around you this holiday season let God's infinite power and love fill your heart as well...and remember to say Thank You!
Have A Truly Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Making Someone RAD

After the crazy weekend my family has had, perhaps its time to take a few steps out of the darkness...
I have three great children. Intelligent, charming, helpful, hardworking and special kids. One of them is RAD. When people compliment me on my wonderful kids I always say, "Its not me. They came here this way. I'm trying not to get in the way of their awesomeness."
The truth is...They didn't come to earth like this: passionate, powerful, determined and brilliant. Their lives have taught them some of those things. They came here: dependent, vulnerable, desperate, and fighting. No one so much so as my RAD son.Here's the difference.
Two of my boys went through difficult gestations, traumatic births and long periods of time in Newborn ICU. My youngest especially.
He was born 8 weeks premature. After popping his lung 12 hours after his birth, he was sedated, put on a ventilator and given chemicals to strengthen his lungs. His heart pounded with the effort it took him to breathe. His respitory rate was too high almost constantly. There were a few exceptions, however.
Even hours after he was born, he lay in a tiny heap in his incubator. His less than 5 pound body laboring, his eyes closed, and  barely making a sound. The nurses told me, from the moment I walked into the room and he could here my voice, his heart rate would return to normal. His respitory rate would slow and he would rest. Just from the slight indication that his mom, whom he didn't know, had never seen, and didn't have enough cognitive power to process what a 'mom' is, he knew he was alright. We had a bond. We spent, in his case, seven months together. Some of it while he was just a clump of dividing and reproducing cells. Some of it singing to him, talking to him, asking him what his name was and sleeping curled up together. It is an unknowable but iron bond which forms between two people who are literally a part of one another.
Now, my RAD son...
RAD stands for Reactive Attachment Disorder. When a baby is in this dark, cold, and scary world they cling to their mom to care for them out of the womb as she did while in the womb. When their hunger, fear, discomfort, hydration and well being are not just neglected but ignored, the world is no longer a dark place from which they need refuge. The world is a monster, full of monsters who won't do anything except make you miserable.
My youngest son and my middle boy as well were both born into cold, medicinal, sterile enviroments. Because my husband and I talked, held, touched, fed and nurtured these little beings, they knew to trust and thrive because we were teaching them how. My oldest son recieved some care from his birth mother for a brief time in his infant life. We don't know how much. Because she helped him learn to attach to her, her decision to put him in an orphanage before he was two months old, shattered their bond like a fragile icicle. He still retains the remnants of the icicle, because she began building it. However, the impact of the shattering left him so deeply wounded, he is afraid to heal. If he closes his wounds and then someone, someone like me, tears them open again...he's sure he will die.
Instead he picks at the scabs to keep them open because the pain reminds him not to let anyone hurt him again. (By the way, this is an actual physical part of the disorder. Picking at sores, cutting themselves, digging at their skin, etc. etc.)
Some people dismiss this phenomenom stating that there is no way for a child to harbor these types of deep feelings about someone they can't remember. They dismiss the behavior as normal rebellion, kids who make mistakes and 'boys will be boys'. Those people are wrong. Why can a smell bring a memory to your mind. Why can a name, not a person, just the name gring emotions to your heart? Why do humans search for a loving Heavenly Power that they've never seen and can't remember? Because our cells have memory not connected with our brain. Those memories trigger: adrenaline, increased heart rate and respiration, hormones, chemicals and RAD behaviors
So...they're just victims of bad parents, chemicals, and hormones right? Ask yourself...Do you want your son or daughter growing up to believe they are broken, wounded, and victimized and there's nothing anyone, including themselves, can do about it? Its not the child's fault, but their dangerous behavior won't stop without accountability. They don't understand mercy, to them it is weakness and like a predatory animal they will attack.
RAD parents are taught to fight fire with water. A simple concept, but it means shutting down your outward expressions and meeting the attacks without emotion. It means listening to my son tell me how he's going to kill me, where he's  going to hide the weapon, and how he's going to get away with it. The only thing I can do... nothing. Instead I walked him calmly and reasonably through the consequences and the outcome. He might not have meant it. It may have been his way of trying to scare me. It doesn't matter. The harm he will do himself doesn't register on his motivations scale, because revenge for the broken bond is all he feels.
When my RAD kid was 5 yrs. old, he started coming in the house with his hands covered in bee stings. Every day for weeks he'd cry and complain about the sores. "Honey, where are you finding all these bees? can you stay away from them?"
"I'm catching them in my hands," he said.
Stinging me hurts my hands, but it kills them."
After about 4 months of this he stopped. When I asked him why, he said, "I thought they'd stop stinging me because they'd die, but they didn't."
"There are too many for you to kill them all, bud."
He nodded. "That's why I stopped. It hurt too much and I couldn't win."
This is the memory I refer back to when I'm trying to figure out how to help him past his self-destructive behavior. He won't stop until it hurts him too much and he knows he can't win.
I can never give up, take a break, let someone else try, or 'send him back' as my nephew recommended. What ever pieces of his broken heart are starting to heal will be ruined if I can't have the strength to refuse to stop loving him.
When I first learned about RAD kids, the woman teaching the class told the parents..."You are in an abusive relationship. Your child is the abuser and you are the abusee."
I broke down and sobbed. On one hand It was a relief to have someone say I'm not the worst mother ever because my child hates me, but on the other hand I was defeated.
I always thought if I were to become involved with an abusive relationship I could walk away. Boyfriend, husband, parent, friend, roommate., it didn't matter I had the power to choose. On this day I knew I was naking a conscious decision to love, accept, and spend my life willingly accepting abuse.
My husband helps to sooth the scars. I'm lucky that way. Eight out of ten marriages with one or more reactive individuals end in divorce. The RAD kids divide and conquer to create disharmony in the family and keep the consequences off themselves. If they only understood they are creating the bee-stings while killing the bees. And it hurts them too much.
RAD kids are charming, adorable, happy, and sweet with distant acquaintances. Individuals like, neighbors, teachers, aunts, uncles, and even grandparents. These people don't have the power to tear open their deep wounds. Closer individuals will see it because they have to live with the behind closed doors behavior. Parents, siblings, therapists sometimes and anyone who lives with or knows someone who lives with a RAD kid. Parents get judged for being mean, cruel, and unloving because real love is doing what's best for the person you love, not watching your own back. My RAD son taught me this. As far as he's concerned teachers aren't looking out for him, they're keeping peace for their other students, their families, and their jobs. Friends, neighbors and well-meaning family members aren't doing what's best for him, they're more worried about their own feelings, families and lives. Public humiliation and looking like an abused child in public is another of their weapons. You will create different consequences in front of people whom you care what they think of you and your parenting. Consequence gone, or parent becomes monster...either way they win. Being right is always more important than being happy and "their way" is the only way. The more mature section of their mind thinks they wouldn't hurt so much if things had been done their way in the first place, admitting you're wrong means someone hurt you and you let it happen. RAD kids won't even approach that mind set.
I've read and studied everything I can find on RAD kids to try to understand and do what's best for him. The truth is there is no cure. Parents can make progress and pray for a day in the future when it finally sinks in, but many RAD kids never get it. Some do, though. Not giving up is the answer.When their choices have consequences that take them out of your home, its their choice. Let them know with soft conversations, clear and concise dialogue and "the water" we talked about earlier that you love them, want them and always will. It is their choice to behave in such a way that they  can't remain in your home. Don't send them away because you're frustrated though. You must choose to take the abuse. I know its sounds wrong, but everything you do with a RAD kid is backwards from your loving tendancies.Those of us who have RAD kids say this to each other all the time. "I totally get it. You're a good parent, hang in there and call me if you need to talk."
Most of us don't do it. We keep our dirty secrets locked behind closed doors so No one can judge our bad parenting.No one can label our kids and No one can make it worse by being well-meaning but clueless. If you had the solutions to raising my RAD son, God would've given him to you. My Father-in-Heaven believes I can do this. If God is on my side, does it matter who isn't?
So I'll say it again to any of you who have a RAD kid. "You are a good, loving, tough parent. Keep it up. I know its lonely and I pray and cry for you. If you ever want to talk to someone who gets it, e-mail me. Mostly Hang on, you're not alone!"

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

This Is Not A Memorial Post For Veterans Day

Today is probably the third or fourth most popular Day of the year for people to post on their blog. Especially people who are patriotic, proud americans, and staunch supporters of the military. I, myself have read quite a few touching stories of heroic service, tragic death, and memorial devotions to those who dies serving our country. Veterans Day is a great time to honor and memorialize all those who have given their lives for the defense of regular people like you and me.What about the regular people, though?
I read somewhere once that Americans prefer their heroes dead. We want to talk, cry, and honor those who fought the good fight and sacrificed all to defend and protect. What about the heroes who came home?
What about the men and women who slogged through the heat and sand to fix some platoons jeep, missed their kids, were homesick, and came back to find that without wounds or scars nobody knows their name.
What about the family where both the Mom and the Dad served: him in counter intelligence and her in a support division. Their two sons were taken care of for over two years by uncles, aunts and grandparents so their parents could make the little things happen for the Military Machine.
Veterans day is meant for the support of our troops, but not just to call attention to the fighter pilots, medal of honor recipients and soldiers who came home covered in American Flags.
My 17 year old niece has yet to serve over seas, but she spent four  months of her life, her teenage girl life, sweating and crying through boot camp. Another niece of mine is married to a Marine. He misses family vacations, cruises, celebrations and special occasions so he can be ready when the Military calls. My brother-in-law, who served in Iraq and came home with a family and a life that missed him terribly, came home without any flashy scars.
There are  a million soldiers who stand at our defense and never get noticed, because they're just doing their job. One of my favorite lines from The Star Spangled Banner is from the third verse where it says:
O thus be it ever when free men shall stand between their loved homes and the war's desolation.
That is what we honor, cheer and memorialize today and every other day we can. Not the fallen, though we shed our tears for them. The greatest power our military possess though, isn't in the weapons, the tanks, the planes, or the Hum-v's. Our great power is that line of men and women who stand. In their homes, In their jobs, in their service and in their hearts. They stand for us, for those who can't, and for our children as the last line between our loved homes and war's desolation.
Don't spend today, crying, remembering old battles and cemeteries full of those who sacrificed. Today is about the brave men and women who stand, even when no one is paying attention.
So give the nearest service man or woman your love, your admiration and your determination to make this country worth protecting.
You'll never know what the living breathing wall of service men and women mean to regular people like me. Know, however, that the living, breathing heroes hold a deep, tender place in my heart. Happy Veterans Day!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Blessed Art The Eyebrows!

If you've seen me in the last few days, you'd have noticed I've got purple eyeshadow on my right eyelid. Okay...so not really. What I've got is a black eye. I'd like to tell you I got it fighting off bad guys with my cane, or throwing myself in front of an attack to protect my kids, or even blocking flying debris from hurting someone else. Unfortunately, it was not so heroic or exciting. It was simply the failure of my eyebrows.
I spent the last four days in Salt Lake City, Utah seeing my transplant team,hanging out with my guys, touring temple square and avoiding Halloween. A number of times, the unfamiliar territory and strange surroundings messed with my sense of direction and mobility. We were walking through City Creek Mall and I got disoriented by a rather overpoweringly pungent perfume shop. I almost ran into the lady in front of me, I was so distracted by the strange scent.
I was saved by my eyebrows brushing her coat. I exited the Traxx train to attend a soccer game with my kids and kept from smacking into the slowly opening doors, thanks to my eyebrows. There have been a few times when I have impacted something or someone, scarring my eyebrows but not hitting my face. Eyebrows are actually awesome protectors. You've probably never even noticed because its a subtle sensation and your eyes will "see" what you're about to hit before your eyebrows even have the chance. However, when you're in the dark, when you aren't using your sight, or when something gets in your way too quickly for your eyes to warn you...You've still got your eyebrows.
Then Why, you ask, did I come home this weekend with a black eye?
Simple...Somethings you go through. There's not supposed to be a warning.
This particular morning, I was getting in the shower. The glass door was open beside the bench where I was undressing. I lost my balance for a second when my feet got tangled in my pajama pants and I tipped to the side. The sharp pain to the side of my head was the only warning I got. If I could see stars I'm sure I would have. We iced the injury and it was swollen for a couple of days but other than the black eye, its hardly noticeable.
You must be wondering at this point, why the long diatribe about eyebrows when mine failed me on this occasion?
Most things in life have warnings if we pay attention. That greasy feeling in the pit of your stomach when you know you're in the wrong place. The feeling you pass of as nerves.
The twitter in your pulse when a certain person's face or voice comes to mind and you suddenly want to talk to them, but dismiss it as nothing.
The chill going down your spine when you're with the wrong people doing the wrong thing, but you don't want to look stupid.
Those are your spiritual eyebrows. The sensitive parts of your soul warning you you're about to smack your face against all kinds of ugly badness, or you need to be there for someone who already smacked into something and they need to know their not alone.
What, if anything, does this have to do with the black eye? My eyebrows couldn't help me when the threat came from off-sides.
Life happens. Our 'eyebrows' can only do so much good. Being protected from harm and danger can cripple a person who works to be stronger. A wise man once said: "Comfort retards growth. A seed would never become a tree if it lay comfortable beneath the soil and didn't reach for the sun."
Your spiritual eyebrows are there for a reason. To let you know God is watching over you and warning you whenever he can. God is also watching over you when your eyebrows can't help you and knowing he loves you through life's black eyes is the best kind of love.
I thank God my eyebrows have saved me from disaster and bloody injuries, but the truth is...
I still wind up hurt, scarred, and a whole lot stronger when the eyebrows didn't work.