What Tools Should You Have in Your Toolbox?

If you hang around neuro-psychologists long enough, you just might pick up a couple of their phrases. Going through the evaluations, various testings including follow-up MRI’s and so forth with Greta’s Acute Disseminated Encephalomyelitis (ADEM), we’ve spent some time with a great neuro-psychologist. One of her phrases that we love -Tools for your Toolbox!

Basically, this doctor, who is a favorite among all the kids and parents because she is just so awesome, says her goal is to make sure Greta has enough tools in her toolbox to handle dealing with ADEM in day to day life. Now nearly three years after that terrifying ordeal of seeing my little girl hospitalized and hooked up to all kinds of things, I realize that tools in the toolbox can apply to any of us. I’ve also seen that we’re a lot happier when we embrace this.

I’m getting ready to send my firstborn off to college. He has his own issues that he deals with, like being an intense introvert and being addicted to his routines. Seeing him being forced by circumstances to change his routine is like watching ants that have lost the line. So yeah, I’m a little nervous for him, but I’ve taken on Dr. Harder’s mantra and I’m doing everything I can to make sure that Michael has the tools he needs in his toolbox to deal with life as a college student hundreds of miles from home.

So what tools should you have in your toolbox? That’s easy, the ones that help you cope and deal with life – in addition they should be legal, moral and ethical. That usually helps. While there will be similarities, there will also be tools that will be different for each person. Greta, being very literal now and decreased math skills due to ADEM, needs tools to help her remember to ask people to help her when she doesn’t understand something. She needs to tool of asking others to slow down and help her until she gets that joke, because she’s so literal.

Michael, the extreme introvert, knows he would rather do just about anything before talking on the phone to anyone. So a tool in his toolbox is going to be a good friend willing to make a phone call when he can’t.

What tools should be in your toolbox? Find those things that help you cope with life and deal with the day to day stresses that living on planet Earth serves up on a regular basis. The amazing thing is, you’ll usually find tools for your toolbox in your family, church, community and friends.

 

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The Four Piles for the Prospective College Student

Denial.

I think the first phase of grieving my oldest son’s leaving the house for college is beginning with denial. I’m way too young to have a child leaving for college, or at least I’d like to think so.

In the process of helping Michael clean his room (which he shares with his younger brother) and sort out what’s what, we had to come to an understanding. I told Michael there were four piles for his stuff and he needed to made decisions and put things in the right pile, and these piles have different sizes as well. They are as follows.

Largest pile – toss that junk!

Next largest pile – pass down to younger siblings or donate to charity

Medium pile – stuff he’s actually taking with him to college

The smallest, tiniest, almost microscopic pile – things he’d like us to store for him while he’s getting his first degree

Of course when I was telling Michael the parameters of the piles, I made sure that he realized the last pile was only out of the goodness of our hearts and he needed to be extremely grateful. I know he’s going to miss my sense of humor when he’s gone.

As we gradually filled up one bin of stuff he’d like to keep forever, just not take with him to college, I saw once again the importance of memories, milestones, and souvenirs. I also saw how personal they are and the sentiment attached to these things are only understood by the rightful owner. You can pass down a favorite old toy, but you can’t always pass down the sentiment as to why that faded, beat up old thing is so special to you.

Things that stood out: DVD’s and t’shirts from his class at church, notes from his sister (they really do love each other!), and a page that represented the most awesome semester of history class he ever experienced. It was very interesting that some of these precious things were buried under a layer of clutter and multiplying dust bunnies. Thanks son, for teaching me that there are great things to hang on to in life and I need to get rid of the junk that’s covering them up. I wouldn’t have traded helping you clean out your room for anything, because I needed to go through this journey along with you. It would be expected for me to say that the experience will soften the blow of losing you around the house each day. But can anything really make this transition more bearable?

One late night, when my eyes are puffy and red from crying from missing my firstborn so much, I’ll probably sneak into the space we’ve allocated for his keep forever box, open it up and spend a few moments with things that are treasured by the one who took a piece of my heart with him.

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How Perspective Defines the Unthinkable

One of the things my husband and I enjoy presenting at our marriage seminars is the fact that the differences men and women find fascinating about each other at the beginning can become frustrations after they are married – but there’s hope! We teach people how to reignite understanding their spouse and give them tools to turn those frustrations back into fascination about the person they love!

The funny thing about these principles, and many others, is that they can be applied to many relationships, not just marriages. So we found ourselves having yet another discussion with the oldest regarding the youngest of our offspring. Here is the scenario.

Greta was told to wash her hands before handling a book. She went to the kitchen sink that was full of the dishes I had just used to make breakfast, instead of either of the other two sinks in the house that were completely free. Michael was dumbfounded. Why would she choose theĀ  most difficult sink to wash her hands in? That’s easy. For Greta, she just wanted it done so she could move on to the next thing and the kitchen sink was the closest to her. She went for it.

After discussing it further, we came to the crux of the perspective problem between the two of them. Michael finds it unthinkable that someone could care so little about a situation. We then assured him that it was equally unthinkable to Greta that someone would care so much!

We interact with other people on a daily basis and perhaps we even judge them because of something they have done that we find unthinkable! But we must bear in mind that the unthinkable is molded by our perspective. Let’s give others some grace that their perspective may be different than ours and therefore their actions may not be as unthinkable as previously thought.

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The secret to my super duper peanut butter & honey sandwich

I just didn’t get it. Why did Matthew only want peanut butter and honey sandwiches that I made? How in the world did very simple and straightforward a+b=a peanut putter and honey sandwich become so much in demand?

Karl didn’t get it either. He knows how practical and “let’s just get this done,” I am and he was also bewildered. He had technique in making a sandwich and he took his time with the attentions to detail, but my sandwich got the ranking of super duper and only mine was good enough for Matthew. How could this be?

Then one day I ruined it all. I showed them how I made the sandwich.

I think at this point, there are not enough words in any thesaurus to convey the amount of disappointment, let-down and “really, that’s all there is to it?” As far as technique goes, Karl’s scored way more in the artistic area. Me – I just slapped down two pieces of bread. Put peanut butter on one. Squirted honey on top of the peanut butter, so that I didn’t have to use a knife or anything to spread it – too much fuss – then slapped on the top piece of bread. Done. Eat. You’ve been provided for.

After the “great disappointment” as to my secret method, we were able to ascertain that since I didn’t blend the peanut butter and honey together artistically with a knife like Karl did; and since I didn’t put the honey on its own slice of bread like most amateurs (it starts soaking into the bread immediately and losing its potency) that somehow my simple method allowed for light airy layers that tantalized Matthew’s taste buds.

But it was no longer called the super duper peanut butter and honey sandwich.

Since when did something, simple and perfect just the way it is, deserve to be ostracized from the super duper? Why does something have to have tons of steps, like Common Core math, or lots of bling (lifeystyles of the rich and famous)? If something is good, perfect even, and simple – why can’t it also be super duper?

It’s not the first time. We human beings have a way of rejecting the simple and perfect, because we’re expecting something spectacular and flashy. If we like it, if it’s good, well then of course it has to be over the top – right? It couldn’t possibly be simple.

I still make peanut butter and honey sandwiches the same way, even if they’ve lost the title of super duper. Nothing has changed in the sandwich itself. It is just the preconceived ideas and expectations of the recipient. Time to do some inventory. Are there things I’ve been given that are perfect though simple, that I refuse to call super duper just because it’s not super flashy? Time to call all the blessings, gifts, people and things that I love what they are: super duper!

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Filed under Community, Parenting, Spirituality

Scrapped Rights and Duties

Everyone wears a seat belt. That was the rule laid out by mom and dad. When my sister and I were driving the family car, everyone riding with us had to wear their seat belt. Failure to follow this rule would result in loss of driving privileges. Pretty simple and straightforward.

A lot of life and living took place between my young driving days and my oldest son turning 16 years old. Let’s get Michael his driver’s license! Rite of passage just like I went through at that age. But it wasn’t that easy in the great state of Texas for a 16 year old to get a driver’s license. I had visions of Michael driving himself and his two younger siblings to school each day. That would take a load off of Karl and I. We were looking forward to it. But someone told us that wouldn’t work and we looked into the rules about driving in Texas. Things had changed a lot since I was sweet 16 and driving the family car!

Somewhere between my parents and their rules and my son being of age for a driver’s license; there were a whole lot of parents that began scrapping their parental rights and duties. Instead of being their child’s parent, they gave in to the popular notion of the time (that is still floating around out there) that their primary objective was to be their child’s best friend. Really? So if your parent is your best friend, who do you go to when you need a parent? Look no further, big brother is standing by.

This is how it works. Parents put restrictions on their offspring when new privileges are granted. As the young person proves trustworthy, the restrictions are gradually lifted. Parents have been parents. Young people have learned trust and accountability and the roads are safer. When parents quit parenting, the government steps in. It may be local, state or even federal, but when parents stop parenting someone has to be come the parent. So now the state of Texas is the parent for all young drivers. There is no way to determine if they have been trustworthy or not, so specific ages are set down. Regardless of how wonderful your little darling is, the law has specific restrictions and limitations until they reach a certain age. It’s what happens when you govern the masses.

It was so much easier and more gratifying when parents held those duties and responsibilities. It was intimate, something you achieved under the watchful eyes, cheering and support of those closest to you. Now it’s a number in line and the same rule applies to all universally – no matter how safe of a driver you are.

Will parents ever take back their rights and duties? I’m hoping so.

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Movie Bites

We took a family walk this evening and I gave the order to my youngest son – nothing that comes from a movie please!

I noticed it this morning and commented on it; that everything he said was little sound bites from various movies, TV programs or computer games. Was it cleverly done? Of course! Was he right on the mark? Absolutely! But I wanted to be able to have a conversation with him without having to visualize the movie he was pulling bits and pieces from.

This led to the family challenging each other to various levels of “screen-free” days. Matthew’s response was, sure, but you need to give me something interesting to do instead.

Isn’t that the problem? You have a bookshelf full of great books, shelves full of great science project games, art supplies, science gadgets, games, challenges and Legos. And you need something interesting to do?

And so it begins.

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Culture Becoming Anti-Social?

We’ve all been there, at some sort of event or even just a nice dinner out with your spouse and someone’s cell phone rings and they start conducting business right there – ruining the atmosphere you came to enjoy. Then there is Facebook. Are we fast becoming addicting to all of these electronic devices and mediums that our culture is becoming anti-social as some of the experts suggest?

I’ve seen a funny picture, posted on Facebook of course, saying our culture has become anti-social. But the picture isn’t of a modern day subway car filled with people ignoring each other using their iPhones and Droids. It’s an older picture of passengers on a train and each one is being anti-social to his neighbor because they are all reading the newspaper!

I don’t see it as an anti-social culture. I see it for what it is: a practical demonstration of how this culture longs to stay connected. Can we try to hard to maintain one connection that we damage another? Of course! But that’s been happening for centuries and has nothing to do with mobile devices or Facebook.

Let’s accept that we were created to be social beings and that we long to stay connected. Then let’s work on balancing our connections. Each one of us needs to find out what our priorities are. Sometimes we just get distracted by one connection for a moment and forget the connection in front of us that is more vital to maintain. We’ll figure it out. We’ve done it before. Because we like to stay connected.

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