Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What If I Told You.....Part 1

What if I told you about a girl I know.....22 years young with her whole life ahead of her. A recent college graduate, she attends church regularly and loves the Lord with all of her heart. She was married on June 30th, days after graduation. Protected her entire life by a loving family, can you imagine her surprise when she was turned across the knee of her new husband and spanked hard? His reason: "You have been spoiled your whole life and it is time for things to change." The horror she must have felt. The abuse continued and even escalated as time passed. She tried to run away, but her attempts were not successful for many reasons, so she decided to retreat into a secret place she created for herself. A safe place. In this place, she shared her fears and anxieties with only One person. Her Father. The only real Father any believer has. And He listened.

Some days were better than others, because some days her husband chose not to say hurtful things. Some days he didn't push her, pull her hair, threaten her, or hit her. In fact, some days things went fairly well and she hoped her prayers were being answered. Finally. But then the pattern would continue. For years.

What if I told you this 22 year old became a mother when she was 26? I am sure you would be surprised to learn her husband threatened to kick her in the stomach and kill both she and the unborn child when she was almost due to deliver. He didn't, because she gave him what he wanted. A ridiculous request he made, but she honored it. On the day of the delivery, something inside this young mother changed. Perhaps it was hormonal, or maybe it was maternal instinct that she had never known before this time. Whatever it was, it rose up in her and caused her to hate her husband. She decided on that day that she would never allow him to hurt their son.

Two months passed, and with each passing day the love between mother and child grew deeper and deeper. The abuse continued. "One day I will tie you up and run away with will never see him again." You can imagine, as I can, how her heart must have been torn in two. Her upbringing reminded her and taunted her: "Divorce is wrong". However, her instinct screamed at her to protect the young child. So she obeyed her instinct and prayed that God would forgive her for being a disappointment to Him.

When she had her next opportunity to escape from her husband, the mother packed up her small infant child and ran away. Heart thumping madly in her chest, hands shaking with terror, she scooped up her precious baby and fled. She promised she would never go back, and she didn't. But this is only the beginning of the story......

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

You would think I would have learned by now that I should NEVER be surprised by anything...

But I am a slow learner....

And again today, my heart is breaking:

Most of you know by now that I have decided to run against Jack Johnson for the office of District 23 TN State Senate because of his proposed bill that would have given educators the right to lock special education students in isolation rooms as a form of control/discipline. It is still early in the game, but I am causing quite a stir. I have been receiving emails and phone calls from people who uphold and defend the idea of physical restraints and locked isolation rooms being used for special needs children in the classroom as a means of discipline. Each of these folks, surprise, do not have disabled individuals in their families. But they are all too eager to explain to me what a nuisance disabled individuals can be to the outside world.

For a moment, consider if a national law were to be passed that would allow ALL educators to place ANY school child in locked isolation rooms as a disciplinary measure. Seriously, what would happen? I believe there would be such outrage, the legislators who proposed the law would be afraid to show their faces in public. Something like that would never pass, because it would be considered abuse. Now consider for a moment if a mother was tying her child to a chair and locking the child in an isolation "closet" each day as a form of discipline. That mother would face child abuse charges, and her child would be taken from her.

My grandmother, before she died, was placed in a state run nursing home because she was showing signs of Alzheimer's Disease/Dimentia. I put up such a fight about it that things are still not right with some of my family members. When I would visit her, I would find her in a diaper, strapped to a wheelchair. She would sit like that for hours, and I was not allowed to take her from the place. On two separate occasions she told me she had become a prisoner and couldn't believe this is how her life would end. She knew. The law actually protected the nursing home in Mamow's case. It is tragic, and it is happening every single day.

What has become of our society? We seem to have thrown out scripture that instructs us to care for "the least of these". A car accident, cancer, old age....each of these things change lives daily. You and I may not be disabled individuals right now, but we could be tomorrow. What is the future going to look like?

One lady actually accused me today of hating "typical" children. She obviously didn't take the time to learn I am a mother with two "typical" children that I love to pieces. (sigh) So, my arguments on behalf of the disabled community is turned upside down into a "Melanie hates normal people" session. How in the world did that even happen? (bigger sigh)

Monday, June 28, 2010

A Day In The Life Of Charlie

Playing with my favorite red truck.....

Lookin' for sticks in the grass.....

Catchin' a rerun of Barney or Elmo.....

These are all my favorite things.....but you know what tops it all off????

A kiss from Hope:

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Our Lord's Surprise Visits

Sometimes Jesus meets us on the mission field in Africa....

Sometimes He meets us in a big church building filled with people dressed in their Sunday best....

Other times, however, He meets us in the everyday, simple things we call "life".....

This morning, He met me in a little girl's room as she was waking...a little imperfect girl who is disregarded by most, but to Him, she is oh, so precious!

"A Christian worker's greatest need is a readiness to face Jesus Christ at any and every turn. This is not easy, no matter what our experience has been. This battle is not against sin, difficulties, or circumstances, but against being so absorbed in our service to Jesus Christ that we are not ready to face Jesus Himself at every turn." by Oswald Chambers
Here is a video of Hopey waking up...worth a 1000 words!
"You also be ready....." (Luke 12:40)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Please Be Outraged With Me

From the Tennessee Disability Coalition, a blog post by Todd Hash (February 2010):

In this post, Todd makes these key points regarding the proposed bill allowing special education students in Tennessee to be placed in locked isolation rooms as a means of discipline/control:

1. This bill would make it legal to lock special education students---of any age or diagnosis---in isolation at risk to their health and safety.

2. This bill contradicts health and safety codes that prohibit locking students in an educational facility without a way out.

3. With a locked door, a student is trapped with no mechanism to call for help if they are forgotten by school personnel.

4. This bill places all special education students at risk of locked isolation.

Then Todd adds: "This would undo years of work that outlawed locking students with Autism, Down Syndrome, ADHD, and other disabilities in isolation rooms."

I am a pretty easy-going gal, but let me tell you, if anyone ever tried to lock Hopey or Charlie in an isolation room for any reason, there would be heck to pay. Non-vocal, Hope and Charlie would not have the ability to tell me about being locked up; and in addition, they would not have the ability to understand why they were being mistreated. This would not be discipline, this would be abuse! How many Hope and Charlie cases are in Tennessee? How many children would be victimized by reckless legislation such as this?

"Whatever you do for the LEAST OF THESE, you do it for Me." As believers, Jesus instructs us to take care of the disabled, not put them in restraints and lock them in isolation. This bill has been the catalyst for my running for State Senate in my district. Our current senator, Johnson, is the one who proposed the latest bill: 2517. As you are aware, I was too late to enter as a party candidate and get on the November ballot, so I am the grassroots write-in candidate flying in on a wing and a prayer. How in the world am I going to get thousands of district 23 residents to go to the polls and WRITE my name on a ballot??? God help me.

I spent the day ordering political business cards, post cards, etc. I am way out of my league in this effort, but I have a burning passion inside of me that is pushing me to stand and be a voice for the LEAST OF THESE. When looking through the slew of bills in Tennessee this afternoon, I also found a couple of proposed bills that appear to make the adoption process MORE bogged down than it already is in TN. Hello? Why do our legislators not understand that our Foster Care system is already so overloaded with cases that neglected children are falling through the cracks each day? As an adoptive mom, this is another hot bed issue for me. Where is the common sense, and where is the compassion?

Please feel free to give me advice of any kind. If you have contacts that would benefit me in this monumental effort, I want to know about them. If you have ideas, I want to hear them. If you know Sarah Palin, please get me in touch with her (smile). How about a country music star that has a heart for the special needs community or adoption community? That would be amazing. Thank you for all the supportive emails and prayers. My journey with Hope has taken me alot of places....I praise the Lord for choosing me to be her momma (and Charlie's too).

Hope, Charlie, and momma bear are gonna take the fight to 'em.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

About God....

Tonight, Chappy and I went out on our routine evening stroll with the babes, and we ran into some good friends, the Hathaways, who introduced us to some "new" friends. God met us there too.

About God, I wonder how different things would be if everyone in the world would stop to consider God. AND, more important, I wonder how different things would be if everyone would stop to consider that God considers us all of the time, because He does.

As a mom with a little one who has a heart that can't be fixed, I often wonder what life would be like without Hopey around. How would I deal with losing her? What would life be like without her tugging at my legs all day long? Would the emptiness ever go away? How often would I think of her? Questions like this pop in and out of my brain from time to time.

The new friends we met tonight shared with us that they lost a daughter 19 years ago. She was five.

I don't vocalize my thoughts about losing Hopey very often, because truly, I am choosing to be positive and enjoy each moment of her life. She is completely alive right now; in fact, that little rascal is full of more energy than anyone else in our family, so I want to drink in all of her. With that being noted, however, fearful thoughts and unanswered questions still run through my brain from time to time.

God knows. He knows every single thought and every single question I have. In fact, God stopped to consider my thoughts tonight.

This evening, when our new friends mentioned their loss, I knew in an instant God had provided a sounding board for me. I could almost hear Him prompt me: "Just ask her anything!" So I did. I asked this fellow momma and new friend what it was like to lose her 5 year old daughter. I asked her where she buried her, did she still miss her, how often she thinks about her, etc, etc, etc. And she answered each and every question.....this beautiful mother who lost her little girl 19 years ago when she was only five.

Hopey turns five this year. Still taking it step by step, day by day......hoping against Hope for many more years.....loving her more and more moment by moment,

Tonight, dear precious Father, thank you for answering the many questions I haven't voiced....and thank you for using a beautiful momma who can really understand me to offer such warmth and thoughtfulness....I am so glad you chose her to be Your messenger.

"....even before there is a word on my tongue, O Lord, You know it."

Monday, June 21, 2010

BIG NEWS...Do You Believe In Miracles???

"SB2517 as introduced, allows the use of locked isolation rooms and physical restraints in certain situations involving students receiving special education...."

I am very excited to announce that I have decided to run as a write-in candidate for State Senate in Tennessee, 23rd District.

My chances of winning are likely the same as my chances of getting struck by lightning (although I much prefer one over the other). What write-in candidate EVER wins? From what I can gather, there is only one other person running for the office and he is the incumbent who proposed the insane bill written above. So, it is just him and me. You might say: 50/50, think again.

My name will not show up on the ballot; instead, people will have to remember my name and write my name on the ballot! Can it be done? I think it can.

I have had a desire to enter politics for some time. I am an avid follower of the economy and am always amazed by governmental maneuvering. A bit of a tea partier, I dig most things "Glenn Beck" and admit to being Hannitized. I am not a typical politician, because I truly do not care about being liked or disliked, whether my core beliefs are accepted or rejected, and I do not want to take any money to run my campaign, because I fear being beholden to any organization or platform. What I do care very deeply about, however, is exhibiting honesty, living out integrity, and being who I am.

In a nutshell, this is what I believe in:

*SMALL GOVERNMENT where states can still make some decisions for themselves and individual citizens have a voice.

*LOW TAXES that give plenty of room for small businesses to birth and existing business to grow. Keeping money in the hands of the citizen means it will be spent to support our local economy.

*CUTTING THE FAT from spending and BALANCING BUDGETS in the process. Having worked in the Financial Services industry for 8 years, I understand a thing or two about the importance of spending within limits and wise investing. Chappy and I have worked hard to balance our budget at home which has resulted in the gratification of being completely out of debt.

*LISTENING TO INNOVATIVE IDEAS FROM EDUCATORS WHO ARE ON THE FRONT-LINES WITH STUDENTS EACH DAY in order to improve the public school system. In addition, I support giving parents a choice when it comes to education for their children, because every child has his/her own learning style and individuality (I currently homeschool one of our children and the rest attend public school)

*HEALTHCARE IMPROVEMENT for Tennessee, but not FEDERALIZED OBAMACARE stuffed down our throats.

*ADHERING TO THE LAW AND THE CONSTITUTION....not settling for interpretation that benefits one group over another or changes with the so-called "times".

*CARING FOR THE LEAST OF THESE....If elected as Tennessee State Senator, I would be an on-going, out-spoken advocate for ALL special needs children, Tennessee's gigantic adoption community, the unborn, and the elderly.

How intelligent is it to run in a state senate race with no money? with no party affiliation? with no political experience? without my name on the ballot? Most say I am nuts. To a certain extent I would agree....I am nuts enough to believe in miracles, but I know I have what it takes to stand up to whatever political storm may come to make a mark for all those I would have the honor to represent. On my beliefs, I absolutely will NOT waiver. NEVER.

The bill posted above is what prompted me to act NOW. Unfortunately, I didn't learn of the bill until it was too late for me to be placed on the official ballot. This detail almost kept me from running for office, but the more I thought about this type of legislation being bantered about, the more I realized my voice, on behalf of ALL parents who have special needs children, needs to be heard. And if I don't run, even as a write-in, then I am guilty of sitting by and doing nothing.

I would argue most legislators do not understand what it is like to raise a special needs child.....and have no idea what it is like to adopt a child......many will never know what it is like to have a child who faces ongoing medical issues......or what it is like to be pushed to abort your special needs child and be treated horribly for resisting the establishment.......I wonder how many know what it is like to divorce an abusive spouse and fight for the rights of the child who was a product of that failed marriage.....or how many know what it is like to fight for child support payments.......Most probably haven't exercised their right to homeschool a child.....and what do they know about the Special Education Program and the required IEPs? Me? I have been a part of all of these things. I believe I represent a great population of average America, and definitely my county: Williamson County, TN.

Perhaps a voice like mine could make a small difference. I would like to think so.

I have finally opened a Facebook account, so look me up if you get a chance. Following Sarah Palin's lead, I decided Facebook might be a good avenue for my election bid since it is FREE and I have VERY LITTLE MONEY TO CAMPAIGN!!! We'll see how it goes....this will be more than a journey; I have a feeling it will be quite an adventure!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Happy Father's Day!

Some people absolutely hate all the special "days" on the calendar: Mother's Day, Father's Day, Grandparent's Day, Valentine's Day, Teacher's Appreciation Day, Etc. I don't. My schedule tends to be so busy that I need these gentle reminders to make me stop to appreciate the one's I love.

My dad, actually I still refer to him as "Daddy" most of the time, grew up in a pretty rough environment. Both of his parents worked in factories for minimum wage and weren't home very much. As a result, his older sister became his primary care-taker, and she was only three years his senior. At five years of age, he was sent out to walk several miles to school each morning. He didn't know any better, so it didn't bother him. My dad's father was a Baptist preacher on the weekends, but drank alcohol and often beat my dad with a belt so hard he left marks all up and down his legs. As a result, my dad would never be caught in public in a pair of shorts---even if he was playing basketball as a teenager, he would wear pants to cover his red-marked, bruised legs. On Sunday's, from the pulpit, my grandfather would use my dad as an example. If ANY child was acting up during the service, he would slam his hand down on the pulpit and scream: "Billy, you better settle down!" It would humiliate my dad, but the kid who was being disruptive would heed the warning and settle down for fear his name would be called out next time. Needless to say, dad dreaded Sunday morning worship.

At the age of 14, my dad realized he had a gift called athleticism and a passion for it as well. He started playing basketball and was quite good, so good in fact, he was offered a "full ride" college scholarship by several schools. Without a scholarship, my dad would never have been able to afford college. Dad was dating Mom by the time he became a senior in high school and didn't want to take the chance of losing her by moving to another state (smart man), so he entered college on a basketball scholarship at what was then Lee College in my hometown of Cleveland, TN. Today, the same college is called Lee University. My dad averaged 35 points a game and was a local superstar. His parents never saw him play a single quarter of the game.

When my parents married, dad decided he no longer wanted to attend church since his experience with church had been so negative. My mom, young and brilliant, went without him. She was the organist in another local Baptist church and stayed true to her commitment. After several weeks of being home alone on Sunday mornings, my dad decided to join her. He hasn't missed a Sunday since.

Pretty soon, my dad became involved in the church bus ministry....picking up kids who were growing up just like he had and toting them to church. He called them by name, joked and teased with them, and reached out to their parents too. Dad and Mom would get up early on Saturday mornings to visit the children in their homes and minister to them. Whenever they saw a need, they would do their best to meet it: coats and shoes in the winter, school supplies, and money for groceries. Eventually my dad became leader of the Children's Worship on Sunday mornings...loving kids and teaching them about God's love for them.

As far as work is concerned, my dad has worked with the same company, Olin Chemicals, as long as I have lived. He has held almost every job at the place, and consequently, knows everyone. He continually talks about retirement, but the folks at Olin are like family to him, so I think they will have to literally run him off at some point. (They may have to throw rocks at him to get him to leave) My dad and his coworkers have walked life together, good times and bad. Through it all, he has remained steadfast with a strong work ethic. As a result, he has a house that is paid off, a vacation home that is paid off, and no debt.

My dad, I think, decided early that he wanted to give me a different life than the one he had. He is one of the most giving individuals I know. Growing up, I never wanted for anything; in fact, Dad met my needs before I ever asked and enjoyed being able to do it. He encouraged me in all of my endeavors, and when I was a cheerleader, he never missed a single game....whenever I was on stage, he was always there. My dad was present at the birth of each of my children and has been by my side through all of Hope's surgeries. When we decided to adopt Natalie, he and Mom kept the other children while we were in Russia and waited at the airport to welcome Natalie upon our return home with gifts in hand. An avid sports fan, he had a golf club and a basketball in Caleb's hand as soon as Caleb could walk and he loves attending all of the girls' recitals. And Hope and Charlie....he adores them.

A strict disciplinarian when I was a child, Daddy had a famous wooden paddle that my brother and I hid on more than one occasion. He never used it in anger, though, and it really did hurt him when he felt he had to spank us. When my brother and I disappointed him, he would cry....unashamed to show his heart to us. He poured his life into us and truly desired for us to live life to its fullest. For sure, he was determined to keep us on the straight and narrow path. With the grandkids, he is the biggest softy that has ever lived. My kids cannot believe he ever owned a paddle in his them, the old wooden paddle is a terrible myth. I wish I could find it so I could prove it to them, but the last time my brother hid it, he found a VERY GOOD hiding place and conveniently forgot about it. I am sure it is buried somewhere in the yard of the house on Timber Trail that we grew up in. He will never tell.

Back to my dad's parents, when his father was dying of lung cancer, my dad was at his bedside each and every day....he bathed him, fed him, and treated him with such tenderness. Likewise with my Mamow, Daddy visited her in the assisted living home every day without fail until her death a year and a half ago. His childhood had not been a very good one, it wasn't filled with warm, fuzzy memories, but he still treated his parents with love and respect. Why? My dad learned the most valuable lesson in the world. His worth and esteem never needed to come from his parents or from anyone else. His worth comes from God. In response, my dad loved his parents out of the abundance of love in his own heart for his Heavenly Father.

Daddy, please know how much I appreciate all the sacrifices you have made for my life. The example you have set as an overcomer has molded me into the person I am today. The love you have lavished upon me is now lavished through me to my children, and your giving spirit reaches through me each time I give to my family. The many times you have driven to Nashville to help me paint, redecorate, or work on a hair-brained project is etched forever into my memories (even the time you fell off the ladder and scared me half to death as well as the time you had an open blade in your back pocket and kept accidentally cutting Chappy's leg every time you bent over while the two of you were wallpapering our tiny half bath in Brentwood), each time you held my hand and reminded me that God holds Hopey in His hands while she was fighting for her little life in the hospital is sealed in my heart, and each time you have shed a tear out of pure love for me has endeared you to me beyond measure. You listen to me, you speak frankly to me, you support me, and you love my children with a crazy kind of love that can only come from God. Your life serves as a light to so many. You overcame many obstacles and have continued to get up and walk each time life has knocked you down, pressing forward to the goal of eternal life. I just want you to know that I think I am the most blessed gal in the whole world to have parents like you and Mom. Happy Father's Day to you, one very deserving of honor!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

So far, So good....

"Project Positive", thusfar, has been a booming success. In addition to re-training my brain, I am also taking more control over what I am eating. This week, we started each morning with a fresh dose of carrot/orange/apple juice squeezed fresh from the Hollis juicer. The kids choke it down to please me (ok, sometimes they gag it down), but I happily drink my cup of energy. For lunch, the kids are allowed to splurge, but for dinner, it is a great big salad loaded with an abundance of fresh fruit and veggies (occasionally a steak on the side for Caleb since he is training for football).

Deciding to take action and replace negative thoughts with positive ones has been easier than expected. I have to be deliberate about it right now, but I am strangely empowered each time I choose to re-direct my thoughts. With a life that has been spinning out of control on the Hopey front for the last (almost) five years, being in control of SOMETHING is a bit exhilarating.

Next step in "Project Positive":

Since I am managing all the steps attempted so far, I have decided to add one more. For the next several days, I will make it a point to smile at EVERY single person I come in contact with.....even the grumpy ones. By spreading warmth to others, I believe the energy might be returned to boost me along. Hopefully, in this process, I am forming some great habits that will follow me and make me a better person.

To recap "Project Positive":
Step 1: For seven days, choose to think only positive thoughts; when a negative thought enters your mind, replace it with a positive thought.
Step 2: Make a list of traits you want to change about yourself
Step 3: Find either a "pleasure" or "pain" that is linked with each trait you want to change. Write them down.
Step 3: Choose to consistently re-direct thoughts, specifically turning the "pleasure" to a newly attached "pain" and vice versa to change behavior.
Step 4: Smile at every person you meet or pass each day
Step 5: Eat right and exercise daily

With "Project Positive", I am definitely taking more time to laugh at life---especially at life with teenagers:

On my birthday, Caleb (15), gave me a birthday card addressed to "Momma Dog"....his quirky idea of love language. Jokingly, I asked him privately how many other teenage boys he thought had called their mom a "B" word?? He laughed so hard, because he hadn't even made the connection. Now, I am officially "Momma Dog". (wonderful) This week, he has laughed equally as hard watching me try to keep up with his "Air Alert" exercises as his "partner". MUCH jumping is required, and natural child birth has a way of forcing an unwanted "trickle" every now and then. Well, with "Air Alert" the occasional "trickle" is more like a gusher---so, to remedy, I have to take lots of potty breaks. One of the exercises is 4 sets of 15 squat hops while holding a basketball (just use your imagination). As I squat hop around the great room holding a basketball, my son cheers: "C'mon Momma Dog!" and I shout: "It's all for that extra 12 inches on my vertical leap!" He nearly lays on the floor in laughter.

Natalie and Lydia are typical girls....almost 12 year old girls. They have been attending a Wednesday night youth group with Caleb and some other friends. Last night, Lydia decided it was time for her to step out of her box and meet some new people, but she didn't inform Natalie of her plan prior to the occasion. When it came time to sit down for worship, Lydia quickly found the ONE seat that happened to be left next to a little guy who (reportedly) looks alot like Justin Beiber. Well, this left Natalie to sit alone until a sweet friend asked her to come sit with her (thank you Alex)....anyway, next it was off to play a game where a partner was to be chosen. You guessed it, Lydia chose someone other than Natalie. When Natalie came home, she was furious and preaching: "Mom, my own sister chose another partner during game time, so a teacher, who felt sorry for me, had to be my partner...I was humiliated!" The reason this is soooo very funny, is because two weeks ago, the same story was being told by Lydia about Natalie. When I reminded Natalie of this, she admitted she had (conveniently) forgotten with a sheepish grin. Lydia, in response, shot up off the couch like a rocket with her long skinny legs and threw her (equally) long skinny arms up to the heavens and said: "Natalie, I am soarin' and meetin' new people!" Natalie's quick comeback: "Well, next time I'm gonna be soarin' so watch out." And with that she crossed her arms and stuck her nose way up in the air. Not paying one bit of attention, Lydia kept "soarin" all over the room. Can you say never-ending drama times two???

Pulling a red wagon loaded with Hope and Charlie, two nights ago I sang "The Wheels of The Bus Go Round and Round"...singing every verse at least two or three times all around the neighborhood. The entire ride, Hopey worked out all the hand motions correctly and tried her best to make a joyful noise with the melody in her heart and a smile on her chubby face while Charlie clapped his hands wildly trying to imitate Hope's hand motions. Priceless. Hopey the teacher and Charlie the student.

And sweet Chappy, even though he works in a very stressful environment daily, he takes time to walk two miles with me each evening, strolling the babes, and talking to me and listening. In addition, he goes along with drinking the carrot/orange/apple juice in the morning and downing rabbit food for dinner while salivating over Caleb's juicy steak. Then he takes the time to brag on my new homemade bread creations even though he only gets one slice while the kiddos get two (and I add honey & butter to the kid's slices while Chappy and I take ours plain). Gotta love him.

"Project Positive" is so good.....I am counting my blessings....and laughing a whole lot more! While there is so much negative news in the media right now, those things cannot be changed by a pouty attitude or grim spirit. Choosing to find joy in each moment is where the change is, and I hope it catches on!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Positive Thinking Step Two!!!

So far, I am happy to report, the positive thinking project is going great. Are you aware that only two feelings impact every single decision we make? They are pleasure and pain. Of the two feelings, interestingly enough, pain has a stronger affect than pleasure.

Consider this: I drink sweet tea every day even though I know the sugar is bad for me. Why? It is linked with great pleasure in my life. Throughout my childhood, I drank sweet tea with my grandparents and my parents. When I drink it now, in a strange sort of way, I am drinking in wonderful memories.

To change my behavior, then, and stop drinking sweet tea altogether, I need to link a "pain" to the behavior that will outweigh the pleasure. Hmmmm. Statistics show caffeine and sugar are linked to some forms of cancer. Ok, that is a definite "pain", but it is not as near and dear to my heart as the memories of grandma and grandpa. But, if I think of people I know who have either died from cancer or who have battled cancer.....NOW, the "pain" becomes more personal and therefore more powerful.

Thus, by associating daily drinking of sweet tea with loved ones who have battled cancer, the sweet tea is not nearly as tempting. Hopefully, vice is defeated.

The reverse is true as well. Exercising for most people is equal to "pain". To make a change and become a regular workout junkie or health nut, therefore, a person would need to find a "pleasure" that would be a greater influence than the "pain" linked with a treadmill. Living a long life, feeling energetic, losing weight, etc. are all "pleasures" that could possibly work to make the "pain" more insignificant. (A picture of yourself 20 years ago AND 20 pounds ago posted on the fridge might work too. Ha! Ha!)

Sound simple? I really think it might be. This is sort of what I am attempting to conquer with the depression I battle from time to time over little Hopey's uncertain heart condition. Obviously, my bouts of depression are not clinical or chemical, but circumstantial....something I can control.

To remedy, I first recognize the sadness as behavior I want to change. Whenever sadness creeps in, I have made a seven day pledge to turn that thought into something positive. In the process, however, I am also beginning to add a new step. I am now working to link "pain" with the sad feelings.

You might be thinking: "Why does she need to link "pain" with her sadness....what kind of "pleasure" could possibly be linked to any form of depression?" Oh boy. After five years of dealing with a child who has an ongoing heart condition, sadness has become a faithful friend....something expected....almost a strange comfort at times. I know it might sound nuts, but being sad is sometimes an excuse for me to drown in selfishness....almost an enticing form of "All About Me Syndrome".

Like I linked the "pain" of cancer with sweet tea, I have started to link the "pain" of missed opportunity with Hopey, Charlie, Nat, Lydia, Caleb, and Chappy with sadness. Therefore, whenever I feel sadness creep in, not only do I re-direct my thinking to something positive, I also remind myself of the good times I would miss with my family by being self-indulgent in despair. Each moment of sadness is re-directed with a thought of missed opportunity with my family....kind of like Pavlov's dog now that I think about my brain and thought patterns. The point is, time passes by no matter whether Hopey has three weeks to live or three years to do I want to spend each moment of time that can never be recaptured again??? Of course I want to make the most of every moment.

So, to close, "Melanie the Blog Queen" has become "Psycho-babble Blogger" for a few days as I work through this. Most of you are aware that our family has an organized family meeting, prayer time and Bible Study every evening in our great room. Would you be surprised to learn we have been working through this endeavor together? We have. Each of the kids have noted something they would like to change about themselves, then together we have pinpointed the "pleasure" associated with that behavior. Over the next few nights we will work to link some kind of "pain" in order to make the change. We are a work in progress, but it will be interesting to see if we are successful.

On another note, Caleb has started a new fifteen week basketball workout called "Air Alert" that is supposed to increase his vertical leap by 12 inches. He watched the DVD and read the book, and both noted he will be MUCH more successful if he has a partner to do the workouts with. "How difficult could it be", I foolishly asked myself, "this will give me good conversation time with Caleb." Then, I excitedly said: "I will be your partner, Caleb!"

I type this with a pain in my legs that is difficult to describe. I used to be a cheerleader....many moons ago....and jumping was an everyday part of life way back then. I haven't jumped since UNTIL I began this workout with Caleb. Lord help me. My brain totally remembers HOW to jump, but I'll be darned if my legs do. It seems they have completely forgotten. Caleb has a bright face when he walks in the room and asks: "Ready Mom?" I answer "Yes, of course" and pull my legs (using my hands) to follow him and then force my legs to jump. I am STILL trying to link a higher level of "pleasure" in order to defeat the "pain" in my legs with this one, but I am not too optomistic. I should have stuck with the treadmill.

Friday, June 4, 2010

MAKING Changes.....MAKING The Decision To Change

How is it possible to live with an unknown?

If you are born in Africa with family members who die of AIDS and starvation, you never know anything aside from dying of AIDS and starvation. A horrific pity, but no surprise.

If you are born in Saudi Arabia, you are born into Islam without freedom of religious choice. Your reality encompasses the knowledge that if you ever steal, you will lose a hand and if you murder, you will be swiftly murdered. The rules are in place and are always applied. Intense, but no surprise.

If you are born in an orphanage in Russia, you never know the experience of family. You watch as teenagers are turned out to live on their own at age sixteen or seventeen and wait for your turn to be that teenager some day. Frightening and terribly unfair, but no surprise.

In contrast to the above scenarios, I was born into a comfortable home, was surrounded by love, was given a wonderful education through the generosity of my parents, and was taught to make my own way in life. I made goals for myself, as a result, and enjoyed working toward achieving them. As an adult, I am a free thinker, an avid reader, and an individual who is unafraid to tackle new things. Within the last twelve months, for instance, I have written several songs with Lydia and had the songs copyrighted, submitted an invention to a "toy making" company, written and published a book about Hopey, and have read over 40 books ranging in subject matter from politics to fiction....thriller to history....God's Holy Word to the Occult.

Point is this: My experience can be summed up in one word....ready for this?

CONTROL!!!!! I set out to do something and do it. Period.

A dear friend of mine, Sarah Hathaway, has been dropping off loaves of bread by our house over the last few weeks. Sarah is a much sweeter version of Martha Stewart but every bit as talented....and better still, she shows love through beautiful acts of service. Understanding that I have been in a funk of epic proportions over the status of my little punkin' head (Hopey), Sarah lovingly leaves the scrumptious loaves of bread at the house with a simple words of wisdom....just a smile. Perfect.

Well, my kids have become hooked on Sarah's bread, and when we don't have a loaf for them to munch on they become complainers: "This bread is not as good as Miss Hathaway's bread!" So, control freak that I am, I went out and bought a bread machine and am teaching myself to make bread.....though it will never measure up to Sarah's in the kids' estimation I am certain.

Total control freak. Guilty.

So, what does a gal who has been able to control her life-circumstances her entire life do when the Lord gives her one of His little angels who has a totally unpredictable heart? A heart that baffles even the most brilliant heart specialists? Answer: She goes nuts.

I can't tell you how much I want to control this situation with Hopey. If there were only a formula I could follow, I would follow it to the letter. Fast for 10 years, only eating raw spinach and water.....yep, I would do that! Pray 10 times a day out loud on my front lawn with a covering over my head wearing no shoes.....yep, I would do that. Travel to the Holy Land and kiss the ground where Jesus walked....become a perfect Sabbath-Keeper....give all my money away to the poor and live in a tent....I would do it all and could do it all! But it would be pointless. You know how I know? Because I have tried more hair-brained religious ideas than you could count over the last five years, believing with all of my heart, faithing with faith much greater than a tiny mustard seed, and Hope's heart continues to get worse.

I can stomp my feet, I can speak in tongues, I can shout "Glory" until my vocal chords give out, but God simply isn't a vending machine needing my pathetic "quarters". Put this in and get this out. Nope, that is way too small minded and feeble for our tremendous God. Those words, friends, can preach an entire lifetime of sermons. They weren't learned in Sunday School or in a good Christian book. They were learned through being smashed into a million pieces and stomped on. Sinful/Carnal Melanie, aka "Control Freak" has reinvented God so many times to make Him fit into what "she" wants. But Almighty, Unchanging, Awesome God is still the same God He has always been. Take Him or leave choice and your choice.

We returned from the beach on Wednesday, and my happiness gauge went straight down to empty. For some reason, the beach has become my escape from reality.....home tends to be a kick back to the real world for me. Anyway, I was going through my library (again, books are my thing) and found a book I read years ago. I thumbed through the worn pages and came to a section that talks about making the decision to change.

That's me.

I am making the decision to change. More specifically, I am making a decision to change my thinking. Over the next week, I will choose to NOT ALLOW myself to dwell on negative thoughts....and if I do find myself getting sucked onto a negative path, I am going to redirect my thinking onto something positive either through a task or through scripture. So, to sum up, whenever I feel afraid of Hope's love balloon (aneurysm) bursting, I am going to redirect the fear and negative thought with positive energy....maybe grabbing Hopey up to go on a ride in the red wagon with Charlie, maybe painting on some canvas with the girls, or even baking bread (ha! ha!) I am going to CHOOSE to do this even though I may not feel it at all.

For one week. Seven days.

It is a baby step, but it is a step.

Who's journey is easier? My journey or the journey of the poor African, the boxed-in Saudi Arabian, or the lonesome orphan? I don't think anyone's journey is ever easy. Each day we battle our minds and the world around us. Food is an issue for the man starving while pornography is just as big an issue to the SEC Executive. Ironic, isn't it? The message, however, is that we will all get through and will cross to the blessed other side, by taking baby steps toward the ONE who beckons for us to simply "Come". He knows the battle is difficult; He warned us it would be. He knew we would try to re-invent Him and make Him to be what we think He should be. But it is in our our realization of our utter need for our cries of pain and sorrow....that He must smile and drink in real hope for humanity.

"Amazing Grace....was blind, but now I see."