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The Roaches

We bought a house. The house was occupied by unforeseen tenants whom we met the night we got the keys. Swarming, crawling the walls, threatening to climb even on our persons, making their dominance known.

The joy of buying a home is lessened by a cockroach infestation.

My mother instinct went into a very primitive mode; “Unsafe” it yelled, drowning out all logic and my number one concern became killing the roaches. I saw two choices in front of me: kill them all by dismantling the kitchen which was the main source of the problem or burn the house down. Since we had nowhere else to live, the kitchen was dismantled. Three days of work.

In the face of something hard, work seems to present itself in a way that is unavoidable.

Tyler took his life. Work. Work to breath. 

The bigger the problem, the more work there is to do and there is no bravery in this work because the option not to do it isn’t there. You must do the work.

Breath. Just breath. Take air in. Pull it past the rising lump in your throat. Expand your chest for the air even though the weight of your broken heart makes it so heavy that lifting your chest is the most work you have ever done. Now push it out. Do that again. You must do this work.

In a frantic, instinct driven panic, I cleaned. I cleaned and killed. There were many, many roaches. More than I could have handled in any normal state. I hate bugs….all bugs….but I particularly hate roaches. I could not live in a house with roaches. My kids cannot be in a house with roaches. I must keep my kids safe. I can keep them safe if I kill all the roaches.

Linnea is missing. I must keep my kids safe. I must keep my heart safe. I’m so scared. Find her. Do the work. Find her and feel safe again.

I pulled every cabinet and appliance outside and dismantled and cleaned them. Roaches ran out each time I opened a door. In any other state, I would have refused to do this work, but the choice wasn’t there. I didn’t stop. I didn’t eat. I lost 5 pounds. Three days of cleaning out roaches.

The nest was behind the cabinets. A cockroach nest in my kitchen. The worst thing you can imagine.

Not the worst thing I can imagine though. The worst thing I can imagine is not knowing where my child is. There is a feeling of panic when I can’t find them for a moment at the park. It is the most fear I have ever felt. For 10 weeks, Linnea’s mom lived that fear, day in and out. That is the worst thing I can imagine.

In that three days though, I the work had produced a result. They were gone. Safety returned. We could move in. Nothing was packed because I had spent all my packing time battling roaches, but there was a sweet relief in knowing the job was done. The worst was over. Safety could return. That work was done.

The work for Tyler and Linnea doesn’t end. Grief is so much work. It hangs like a heavy blanket on my soul. I cannot pray or sing to God without tears because in the deep parts, I am fear and grief and God sees the deep parts. I need to feel like my children are safe but I cannot because Tyler and Linnea. My need to protect my children cannot be satisfied. 

The work to dispel the roaches is over. We love our new home.

Other work continues.

 

 

 

Joshua

Tonight my son asked me to lay with him while he fell asleep. He put his arms around me and I pulled him close and breathed him in and all was right with the world.

Unschooling: Letting your child lead

Unschooling.

I don’t love this term as it often is seen as not schooling, even by those that practice it.

Unschooling is a home school philosophy where you allow your children’s interests to lead the curriculum and use the world as your classroom. This way of educating tries to move against the idea that children are passive participants in their education and give the child a say in the focus of his or her learning.

Unschooling is not “no schooling.” The parent is still the parent and has to make decisions based on what is best for the child. Playing video games all day may be what the child’s interest is that day, but it may not be the healthiest choice and parents should have boundaries. As a busy working mom, it can be tempting also to do “no schooling” because following your child’s interests takes a lot of time. Unschooling takes time. Unschooling is schooling. Unschooling is child led education with parent facilitation.

My homeschool adventure has been led by an unschooling philosophy laid out by my parents, who homeschooled me and my 6 siblings. My parents had us do “school” everyday. We did have curriculum, although it was super basic. We each had one of those “Everything You Need to Learn in ___ Grade” books and we had the library once a week and we had the world to explore. I loved learning. Home schooling was good for me.

But at some point, I needed more and my parents always left the choice up to us on when we were ready to go back to regular school.

Child led education.

So when my mom couldn’t teach me Algebra, I went back to regular school, but home schooling has always been and will always be an important part of who I am.

Now, I face a bit of a dilemma as I evaluate my own role as a home schooling  mom and my deep seated belief that education should be child led whenever possible.

There is an opportunity for my kids to go to a Montessori school. They would be at school 8:30-2:30 four days a week. This would be essentially giving up home schooling for me. They want to go. My children are leading their education away from home schooling.

And I am having an identity crisis because of it.

Home schooling is a defining role for me. I work in a charter school for home schoolers, I hang out with other home schooling moms, and my day revolves around home schooling. I love that my kids give me the excuse to skateboard early in the morning and do long beach days or museum days. I love being with them.

However, I know that I don’t serve them as well as they need. I work. I am dragging them around often to meetings and having to push their needs aside while I answer emails and do reports. They need more than I can give them right now.

I feel insufficient.

Letting them go to a Montessori school feels like I am a failure and also feels like a scary lifestyle change for me. The reasons not to do it are all about me. But home schooling was never meant to be about me. It HAS to be about them. My children are not my security blanket or my identity.

Unschooling means child led education. My children get to choose their path in life. My job is to guide and facilitate that.

So this is the thing that applies to all of us as parents, not just the homeschooling ones: Your children are unique people who will eventually outgrow you. They should move on. You are there to help them grow into who they are; not who you want or need them to be. Give them boundaries, help them say no to things that are bad for them, guide them….but in the end, they will have to go out into this big, beautiful world and you will have to let go.  Listen to your kids. They have a say in how they are raised. This is their life, so get your own needs and wants out of the way, listen, and seek what is best for your child.

A child who has a say in his or her education is an empowered child who will grow into an empowered adult, able to stand strong in who he or she is instead of going with the expectations of others (including yours). I want my kids to be strong, empowered adults, so I need to step back.

My hope and prayer is that my kids will outgrow me and head out into the world, independent and strong, to follow the destinies that God laid out for them.

I’ll just have to get out of the way so that can happen.IMG_9921

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Monster

Today I am on the 5th day of a mental health crisis. I’m coming out of it. I can see the light at the end of the tunnel but two hours ago, it was very dark and scary and I didn’t think I could keep going.

When a woman is close to giving birth, the pain is more than she can bear. She will cry out that she can’t go on. But then soon after, a child is born and the pain is forgotten.

Before this feeling passes and I forget this pain, I want to write it down because some people live with this all the time and I need to remember what they are going through. Pain brings compassion. I need lots of compassion, so God blesses me with pain.

What caused this to come on? Was it a stressful event or was this coming on and that caused a benign event to become stressful? I am not sure. All I know is that an event happened that I can pinpoint as the start, and I felt like my whole body was consumed with emotion; emotion that would not be contained and so it shook my body trying to escape. I had a constant movie going in my head. A replay. Sometimes I participated in the replay; talking back to these imaginary voices with what I wanted to say or should have said or would say. Sometimes I just begged it to stop. But it didn’t stop. I haven’t slept right in 5 days.

I have overeaten and drank, even though I thought I was past using both to deal with stress. The pain has been intense and getting it to stop has trumped all other needs.

I get it, addicts. I get it.

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When these times hit, you would think faith would fix it. I am here to tell you that Jesus will not always stop the pain. When the voices of anxiety are doing a constant replay of one event over and over, the quiet voice of Jesus is hard to hear.  I know Jesus and He comforts me very much. I never walk alone because of Him, but I still have anxiety. I still have bouts of depression. He walks with me, but sometimes I can’t hear Him.

Two hours ago the anxiety began to break and the depression is coming on. It feels like a weight in my chest that is holding me down; stealing my joy and motivation.

I have been here before and I know this will pass. This is an illness that will run its course, but the illness is real. The pain is real. And some people that I care about are feeling this pain regularly.

So I implore you, healthy self, remember this feeling. Remember how you could not just “Let it go” or “Cheer up and quit feeling sorry for yourself.” Remember that what you really needed was someone to listen and then listen.

Hold a sacred space for them where they can be their broken selves and rest while their wounds heal.

 

To the addicts, the depressed, the anxious, the neurotic…..I feel your pain.

We are in this together.

 

The Worst

Being a teenager was hard for me. Being a child was easy. I played. I fought with my siblings. Homework. Cartoons. It wasn’t too hard. I mean…life is never perfect, but kids can roll with most things that are happening. Then I became a teen and all these emotions started happening. Life got confusing and harder and since I was 13, in comparison with the previous 12 years, this really was the worst. The certain group of girls at school not wanting to hang out with me was the worst thing that had ever happened because I had all these feelings and they were strong and I didn’t  know what to do with them. It sucked. The worst.

And then I got older and harder things happened and I realized: that was not the worst. THIS is the worst.

Really hard things happened. Like really, really hard.

People died.

Friends lost their children.

I lost a dear student.

Those were the worst.

I’ve been bedridden sick for 3 weeks now, but this is not the worst. I will eventually get better, my kids are not missing, I did not lose anyone, so this is not the worst and since this isn’t the worst, I am so very grateful.

Perspective through pain has led me to gratitude.

Thank you God that this is not the worst.

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Blurred Lines

I know that I am having a bit of a meltdown and this is really not the best platform for meltdowns, but let me explain a little about why the bigotry towards the Muslim faith hurts me so much.

When I first learned about the atrocities committed towards the Jews during WW2, I was of course appalled. How could the world let this happen? And I was so innocent too. The equation was simple. Hitler=evil and we=good. Hilter just somehow snuck this under our good noses.

I continued to learn about the Holocaust in college and then again as a teacher, reading books such as Night with my students. I went a few times to the Museum of Tolerance. My education on the events of WW2 are limited. I am not a historical scholar, but I know something went very wrong. My heart hurt. I almost threw up at the Museum of Tolerance when learning about how the soldiers used babies as target practice. Not only was there a lack of compassion, the Jews had ceased to even be human in the soldiers’ eyes; less than even animals.

Remember how for awhile in the 90s everyone was into swing music? I was right in there on that fad. One night, I rented “Swing Kids” thinking it would be about swing dancing, but it isn’t. It is about how the Nazi party spent years training children that the Jews were not human. They were vermin.

So then it started to feel like maybe it wasn’t just Hitler=evil anymore. Lots of people started to equal evil or maybe lots of people started to equal misguided. All the simple equations began to fall apart.

And then…..there is my grandma. She was raised in England during WW2. She was there when the Nazis bombed London. A bomb fell through her roof. It landed on a bed and didn’t explode or I would not be here. My grandma was raised in Europe during the time that the Holocaust was happening, and she is a very personal connection to the ideals of Europe during that time. She makes the good and evil equation fall apart for me.

My grandma was raised to hate Jews. She was a racist. That hurts to even write because I loved my grandma. And it wasn’t her fault. She was a good person, but the lines got really blurry. Jews killed Christ you know. Christians and Jews didn’t get along so well back then. And then media blamed them for what was wrong with the world. Media made them less than human. Media and propaganda taught Europe to ignore the pain of the Jews, just as you ignore the pain of vermin you are exterminating.

So world….when I see you blaming all Muslims for the heinous acts of terrorists, I feel pain that the shame of racism and bigotry will continue and I will not have that for my family. I cannot stand by and keep quiet while innocent people are reduced to a simple equation. Islam does not equal evil. Middle Eastern decent does not equal terrorist.

Atrocities such as the Holocaust didn’t happen because one guy decided to cause immense suffering. It happened because of many, many years of many people reducing an entire race of people to something less than human; something to be feared and destroyed.

Let us not repeat the same mistake.

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On ISIS: The Power of Compassion

Today I read that several states have refused to take in Syrian refugees and a felt my heart drop into my stomach. Fear is winning. ISIS is winning. When our compassion is trumped by fear, we are letting terrorism win.

When something painful happens, we as humans react badly. There is too much emotion. The grieving process includes fear and anger. While we are grieving is not the time to make decisions that will cause even more pain.

We are in grief and some of us are making bad decisions right now.

I texted my friend today to see how she was holding up. My friend is the most beautiful person, inside and out. We call her our Egyptian goddess. I love her. We talk about raising kids, homeschooling, eating right and even religion. She’s a Muslim. I am a Christian. She respects my faith. I respect hers.

Today, we talked about the states not wanting the refugees and about how Mosques are being burned in the USA and Muslims are being threatened. She’s afraid for her children.

And yet, she still has compassion. She can understand the fear that causes the hate and she is choosing to stand strong and share her culture and faith in love.

This Muslim woman shows me Jesus.

Do you know about Jesus? He’s the guy that the people calling for us to close our borders to refugees claim to follow.

I know Him. I fell in love with His because of the very compassion that makes me love my Muslim sister.

He said and did many amazing things, but the running thesis to all he said and did was: “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”

Empathy.

Compassion.

I do not think Jesus would let fear trump his compassion. You know….he was once beaten almost to death and then nailed to a cross to slowly and painfully die. He was persecuted. And in that moment of pain on the verge of death, he looked out at his murderers and asked of God: “Forgive them for they know not what they do.” Compassion was Jesus’s response to being hurt.

We are hurt right now. ISIS has wounded us, but please, don’t let fear win. Do not take your pain out on your Muslim neighbors or refugees who are both Christian and Muslim.

If you and I are going to fight ISIS, we have to do it with compassion. Fear is their weapon. Let love be ours.