Archive for the ‘Communication’ Category

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Sincere Reflection

May 3, 2017
I am biased. I think the new catch phrase is “implicit bias” and as a new para-educator I am supposed to be looking at that.
I am prejudiced too.
I think I resist even admitting those two things because usually someone will also throw in that I am closed-minded, racist, bigoted, Bible-thumping, hateful and hate-filled.
But I was having a conversation (if you want to call it that) with another parent volunteer the other day and at the end of it, I felt convicted and rightfully guilty.
It started simple enough. I was propping my feet up because they were swollen and hurting and as a responsible and reasonable adult I could not take any meds to allievate the pain and still drive my child around. This began my discourse into my current medical state–a journey that began last December when on the job I picked up pneumonia. This parent I was speaking to had indicated a fairly decent amount of medical knowledge so I knew she understood when I named my condition and the medications I take that weaken my immune system. And I know everyone understands that a school is a cesspool of nasty germs.
My assignment at the time was a difficult one with the most challenging students. I actually learned a lot about myself–that I could do something I never had the intention of doing before, that I could be an advocate even if I didn’t have the license or title behind it, that I had things to offer.
But none of that matters if I say, “This has been a horrible year for illness and THOSE PARENTS, you know, they send those kids to school so sick.”
I think that is the moment I lost all credibilty and respect in my listener’s eyes. It didn’t matter what else I said. Because after she let me ramble on about how the pneumonia turned into three back-to-back sinus infections followed by tonsilitis and now because I couldn’t take my necessary meds I was in the worst flair since I was diagnosed…. she told me she had one of those kids. Not school-aged yet, but she was one of THOSE PARENTS.
Usually I reserve my bias and prejudice until I have multiple interactions to form an opinion. I am an introvert that avoids anything that makes me uncomfortable so I gravitate to what I know. It doesn’t mean I fear or hate or whatever people that are different from me (be it looks or lifestyle or status). It just takes me longer to get to know others and feel comfortable. Often I really have no opinion or feelings either negative or position about people I meet.
But my negative bias, prejudice, opinion, comes from a negative experience. I would like to say often I give people and experiences multiple tries before I write them off or have negative bias and prejudice. But not always. Rather than expressing any kind of sympathy or understanding for THOSE PARENTS, I blamed them for my current medical condition and swollen, painful feet.
Just by labeling them THOSE PARENTS.
And I can’t even say it was the pain talking. I had used the phrase before. While I may have had nods of understandin from those listeners–I wonder how many were thinking, “Wow! I can’t believe she said that!”
I don’t think there is any “politically correct” and un-biased way of saying parents who send their children to school put many at risk without really considering that maybe, just maybe, some of those parents (and children) do not have a choice. I have sick leave that, while precious given my health, I can take and not worry about losing my job. What if THOSE PARENTS don’t? My children are healthy–what’s the phrase “neuro-typical” and in fact are high achievers. I’ve never not known what to do with them, really. Only once post-op did I call the grandparents to come get them because I couldn’t physically take care of them yet. What a luxory!
It is okay to have opinion. It is okay to have and to exercise judgement. It is okay to have a preference for what we like and do not like. But when we do not “walk a mile” in their shoes and we say things to separate ourselves from individuals or groups just because we had an unfortunate experience… we are biased and prejudice and we may not even know it.
And I did not like the mirror held up to me because of my own actions. And she didn’t have to say a word.
I truly hope I learn from this and grow in compassion and understand how my biases and prejudices shape me and influence what I say and do. And I hope that I will be better and set a better example for my children.
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My daughters and I have had conversations about race and prejudice. Sure I don’t know what it is like to have anyone look at me in fear and distrust because of the color of my skin but please don’t make a blanket statement that I have to be racist because of the color of my skin. If anything, I’d say I’m “situationally biased”. If I were to find myself in a dark alley–I’m not looking at your skin color; I’d be fearful of anyone I’d meet in that alley from the smallest Asian man to the tallest white woman. I’d even say I’m probably a classist–is that a thing? Again, it doesn’t matter the color of your skin if you look the part. Are you dressed like a homeless person or a contributing member of society? Are you dressed like a prosti-tot or an honor student? Are you dressed like a thug or like a entrepreneur?
And it is these attitudes that I need to temper and soften and give people more benefit of the doubt and stop seeing it as me (or us) and THOSE PEOPLE.
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Here I go again..

February 28, 2016

What do depression and anxiety look like? I just looked in a mirror and saw for myself.

That’s where I’ve been. I think I am very fortunate that I saw the signs. I knew something was not right.

It is so hard to explain. And I was real, I mean REAL good at hiding it from the Chief. But not so good hiding it from my daughters, my best friend, or my SIL. Even now I struggle to find the words to describe it because it is almost indescribable–it just is.

I got the house decorated for Christmas in record time. The girls and I really enjoyed that. I enjoyed Black Friday shopping. I was listening to Christmas music since Thanksgiving. I enjoyed the candlelight tour of homes with my BIL and SIL. It wasn’t the typical “has the person lost interest and enjoyment in the things they once loved to do?” No. It was an overwhelming sense of dread and confusion and inability to make a simple decision. On the days I had to sub, I could get right up and get going… but when I got home from school I’d still want to curl up in the fetal position. Actually, the first alarm bell was the day I didn’t want to go to the gym. Not because it wasn’t enjoyable but because I had a day’s worth of activities following that I panicked over and worried about and couldn’t make a decision on.

I didn’t write my year-in-review letter. I had made a Christmas card with our beautiful family pictures we had taken in October. But I didn’t see a point to the letter. If you were in my life you knew what a year it was–tonsillectomy, ruptured L4/L5, subbing, surgery, camp, personal relationships in turmoil, my dad’s cancer… who wants to read all that and have a Merry Christmas?

And I didn’t want to host New Year’s Day. I just wasn’t feeling it. I didn’t know when the Chief was going to be home and I felt the world closing in.

One night the girls were fighting. T2 was pulling a stunt her sister had at that age, wanting something and not letting it drop–some absolutely annoying thing–right after I had shelled out $60+ to take us all to the movies. I will admit that as loud as I could reasonably do so in the theater lobby I called her a spoiled rotten brat. I drove them home and let them out and then drove away. I went less than a mile away and sat in my car at the park. I texted the Chief. He called the house to check on them. I played Sudoku for 2 hours. The oldest texted and I told her to tell her sister to go to bed; her too.

Then there was an incident over text messages with the Chief. Out of respect for him I won’t air the dirty laundry–we’ve already talked about it. But I stopped functioning. I sat in my car so that I wouldn’t curl into a ball on my bedroom floor. The girls were scared. A numb fog surrounded me. For days. Even the day he came home. I was ambivalent.

I described things to the Chief in these terms: anxious, fogged, as if every nerve in my body was on fire–I couldn’t handle loud noises or touch beyond the gentlest of caresses, an inability to see beyond the next minute let alone the next hour or day and if I had to think about it the pain and anxiety came back in a vicious cycle.

I had already made the decision to ask my therapist and GP to start some kind of antidepressant. Now it was just a matter of making it through the holidays until my appointment. I didn’t host New Year’s… getting a nasty case of Strep throat and a sinus infection was the perfect excuse. I had hoped the Chief could have gone with me to my GP but he had to leave for a class. We decided to start on Cymbalta for a couple of reasons–it is used for pain management and doesn’t seem to have a weight gain side-effect.

It took about 10-14 days for me to start to feel normal again.

The Chief has honestly said he doesn’t know if it is making a difference–I was REALLY that GOOD at hiding it from him. I guess that’s a hazard of this lifestyle. But he has been so supportive and understanding once we really had a heart to heart. I haven’t had the courage to talk to the girls about it to see if they’ve noticed.

I’ve been on Cymbalta for 40 days now. The Chief has gone back to sea. I feel fortunate that I was that aware of something wrong. It was gradual … two years building up with one kick after another… but I think my dad’s cancer scare left me so raw that the misunderstanding between the Chief and I just highlighted how broken, how out of balance I was.

Do I hope I’m only on Cymbalta for a short time, like when I had post-partum depression? Sure. But I also know it may be a long-term solution.

The day I didn’t dread going to the gym was the day I knew I was turning a corner. I guess this is another corner in this journey.

 

 

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10,000 Reasons

November 9, 2015

Bless the Lord O my soul
O my soul
Worship His holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I’ll worship Your holy name

Read more: Matt Redman – 10,000 Reasons Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Sammie gave me permission so here goes.

I’m going to look over here so I don’t look at my daughters.

OK, kids, I know you think these teen events and summer camp are all about you and what you get out of it, but I know what God has done for me at these events. If you’ve been at camp W over the years and you’ve been in my class you’ve heard the story of my tough relationship with my father. Just to summarize, it was bad. And one day at camp I had a talk with God and I said, “I’m done. I’m laying it all at your feet.” You see I had spent 10 years resisting Him–to the point that I developed a chronic illness. And God answered and I got to hear my father say the words I never thought he’d say. “I was wrong and I am sorry.” I can’t begin to describe what that was like! I still get goose bumps. That IS the peace the passes understanding. A burden lifted. God restored me to Him, restored me to my father. My relationship with my father is so much better. He even insisted on being the one to take care of me this summer when I had back surgery and my husband was at sea. If you want the long version of the story just ask T1 or Tess or anyone who was at camp. I made three out of five classes cry–I don’t know if that was some kind of record but it was intense.

So what does this have to do with this weekend? I didn’t want to come. You see, when your husband is at sea and you see an opportunity to send your children away you really want to jump at the chance to do that and to sleep in! I was very tired but at 2 PM I got an email with last minute housing instructions for this weekend. And I saw the email address of someone I hadn’t seen in a long time. I was excited to see him and I thought, “ok, I’ll go even if I’m tired.”

Last night was great. Got to see my Brother, the singing was great, my daughters were enjoying themselves. Not too bad. Sammie asked us to think about why we are here this weekend. Well I found out this morning.

I got a call from my mother. My father has cancer.

You know the first thing I wanted was to hear my husband’s voice telling me it was going to be ok. While we were driving over here and I was trying to figure out how to tell my daughters their grandfather was sick, a text message came through. Just a simple, “Love you.” Let me tell you that after almost 20 years of marriage there have been too many times to deny that God has made sure my husband knew by the Holy Spirit when I needed to hear from him!

One of the first people I saw this morning was my Brother. He asked me how I was doing and I said, “Not good. My dad has cancer.” And he was like “Wow.” And he stopped and we talked and before we came in here he said, “Let’s pray.” If you have never had Brother A pray with you, you are missing out! When we were in youth group together, he was the cement of our group. I even texted my mom, “A prayed for us!”

And then the singing. Oh, the singing! I may have been standing there with tears streaming down my face, but they were tears of faith. Every song was about declaring the mighty power of God. I even took a picture of the screen “Our God is a God who Saves”. He is! And while I hope and pray for physical saving, I know even greater is the spiritual healing. He’s got this. I will follow Him.

I am here this weekend because God did not want me home crying alone. He wanted me here among all of you beautiful teens, with our youth volunteers, with my daughters who are surrounded by their friends. Singing songs of praise and worship.

So I am asking you to pray for my father and his surgery on Nov. 18th.

Sammie and Brother A came down the aisle toward me. “Oh Sammie, no!” “You said, pray. What did you think we were going to do?” A Sister who I hadn’t seen in years ran up and joined our circle for the prayer. God is so good.

And God continues to work: the girls and I were on our way home from the event. I was trying to figure when we could see my father…I offered the choice of swinging by that very day or trying to arrange to go the next week. My girls said stop now. It was the right decision. (Though going up next Sunday is still not off the table…)

Last night I got a FB private message from, again, friends we hadn’t seen in a while. He asked me what was my secret to not changing in 17 years and that he was going to tease my BIL about his NY Giants. And then he asked how was my family. I replied, “God must have been working on your heart. My father has cancer.” His response was, “Wow, I was thinking and praying for your family and I decided to reach out to you!” I think I will call this and all these experiences a “God work”, kind of a sighting/example of how God is actively working.

I really want the Chief home so badly but I have trust and faith in God. I am scared but God has this. My dad is ready to fight. It seems so different from my mother’s breast cancer. Her’s was caught so early–praise God. There is a chance he’s had this for over 3 years. So in the moments when the tears are too great, I let my soul sing like never before.

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Well, That’s That

October 15, 2015

Well the Chief has shipped out. It was a strange occurrence. I told someone that day that I had never been the one to leave first. In other words, the Chief almost always got the first flight of the day and therefore left at o-dark-thirty, leaving me in bed. But he had a mid-day flight and I had to go to work (my last day of a 21-day assignment). Surely when I was working full-time prior to children this had occurred before but I honestly don’t have a memory of it.

Because the school I was subbing at was only a mile down the road, the Chief texted me about swinging by to do his documents check. When I used to drop him off at the airport, this was always the last thing we did at the trunk of the car–to open up his back pack and his documents folder to verify his TWIC, passport, license, and credentials were all packed and all valid and current. Even when he was leaving at o-dark-thirty I would wake up to check his documents before sending him out the door. I was on a 45 minute break so I went out into the gorgeous sunshine to check his documents one last time.

Callie’s Mariner posted a beautiful piece expressing what many of us are going through this time around called “be safe”. She talks about the routines, the talismans if you will, of the things she always says to her mariner while he is at sea. I guess the document check is sort of our talisman. As I was walking away and he was getting into his rental car, I called back, “Be safe, fly safe. And no hurricanes!” I hadn’t read Callie’s article till later that night.

The Chief texted me from the airport that he almost had a heart attack moment–when he went to pull out his TWIC for his ID he couldn’t find it! He had put it back in his wallet in a different spot! Maybe the change in our routine caused the deviation. We will have to be more careful next time!

Neither T1 nor T2 seems to have any extra anxiety about the Chief going back to sea. We haven’t shielded them from the El Faro incident but I did have to ask at one point, “You do know a ship sank in the hurricane, right?” On the wives FB page “what and when should I tell my children” was a topic of discussion. I have very mixed feelings about it. 1. With the exception of like only two who’s husbands lost classmates, no one on the board had a significant connection to the crew of the El Faro. 2. Many of these spouses were talking about telling toddlers and primary school-aged children of the horrors of being lost at sea. No. Just no.

Too many of the spouses were (are?) so deeply personalizing this tragedy. The fear mongering, the blame casting, the misinformation, the continuous grief expressions are just all really unhealthy and to pass that along to children who for the most part cannot grasp why their parent goes away for stretches at a time is just so unhealthy. And sadly quite a few on the board do not wish to hear any other viewpoints or logic. To me it has ceased to be a supportive outlet and has become quite toxic. Very unfortunate. Through a link on Callie’s Mariner I am going to be checking out a British MM spouse group to see if they are not more supportive and less “dramatic.” I’ll report back on my findings later.

I am pleased to report that T1 seems to have found support from a few of her friends. I don’t know the details of the conversation, if the El Faro came up or not, but when they found out she had gone to school rather than stay home a few final hours with the Chief, they told her she should have stayed home–it was more important than a few hours at school. Okay, most things to a teen are more important than school but the sentiment was appreciated at least by me. I think if they had been a bit younger I would have thought to have them stay home with him for a few hours–of course he had errands to run so it might not have been as beneficial as one would hope.

I’ve had two days off–I had hoped that he would have been here but what can you do? I have a one-day assignment tomorrow. It has been a busy week adjusting to his absence but I know December will be here before we know it. Life move on. But hearing his voice tonight just seems a little more precious and I’ll hold on to that.

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