U2 and Me TOO

40a46f00-bc99-42c8-be6a-baae3b06f233.jpegTheir mind bending words are,

“I can’t change the world, but I can change the world in me.”

The artist goes on to say,

“When I rejoice…”

No, this is not a contemporary hymn (it should be), but rather lyrics from the iconic band, U2’s song “Rejoice.” God resonates throughout their music. I confess I am an avid fan. Their story, their music, their lyrical questioning of how things are disturbs me in a good way. I’m impressed their band has not allowed egos or money to compromise their values and that giving back continues to be important to them. (Of course, a few zillion fans’ adoration, nice digs, and luxury travel aren’t bad either, I presume.)

Kendrick Lamar is another phenomenal, Pulitzer Prize winning (and a Grammy or so) influential artist with an important voice. His message to his fellow Compton- raised, struggling population is that they are visible and not forgotten. He said in a recent Vanity Fair article that he wants to give back and help rather than just leave it all behind and “luxuriate.” That is a powerful and promising choice he’s made.

What I’ve observed in my half century existence is that no matter our zip code, finances, or health status, there is a definitive choice we all have. We choose our outlook. I have known joyful people who have been through things that would buckle anyone’s knees and also the opposite. I gravitate to the former.

Circumstances are often completely out of our control. You can’t pick what family you were born into, nor your DNA (not yet, anyway), and sometimes, BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE. However, our perspective remains optional.

All can easily succumb to defeat when adversities bombard. Personally, I have been there but got really tired of my gray-skied view. I sought all resources I could to fight my own defeatism. Daily I guard myself against “Stinkin Thinkin.”

The brick wall of life will allow you to repeatedly beat your head against it as long as you’d like. There are certain questions for which there’s no good answer (or any, for that matter). Still, life goes on and we have to decide our position.

What then do Eeyores of the world do? They CHOOSE gratitude, kindness and positivity. I’m not fooling anyone that I don’t cry, get knocked down and suffer disappointment like anyone, but I won’t stay there anymore. I have found my own remedy for discouragement and bullying circumstances. My personal weapons of choice are: reading the Bible, prayer, practicing gratitude (a whole lot of it) and serving others. I haven’t found anything better to help me choose joy.

Tattoo Who

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I always thought tattoos were interesting. I have no idea why, but I would look at them and think to myself, “What does that mean?” and “Why do they have that?” I was inexplicably drawn to them and could only imagine the story behind the ink. I even researched what the Bible said about them. However, I was raised by a father that said a tattoo was a “permanent reminder of a temporary feeling.”

Throughout history, tattoos have sometimes had negative connotations. My husband had a grandfather who was a merchant marine that was embarrassed of his – so much so, he hid his with long-sleeved shirts in sweltering heat. Cher even had hers lasered off. Yet they seem more ubiquitous and socially accepted now than ever.

To me, tattoos are interpretive, personal art. The only thing that stopped me from getting one was the fact my intuitive husband said I’d want to change mine out after a month like an accessory. His opinion was correct in that I was easily bored with decor and fashion. In those areas, he had me pegged.

There were, however, nonnegotiables in my life: my devotion to my family and my faith. To explain, it takes supernatural, God- equipped strength to raise  (much less live with)  4 teenagers. So, when I hit a particularly difficult, rough patch, I decided to take a personal “break.” I have no clue how to define or what constitutes “a break,” but I will say it was the healthiest choice. No kidding, I hit a very high, hard wall in parenting. So, I separated myself to avoid perpetuating anymore negativity and to gain perspective. I went to the beach and started praying fervently. I had no idea what to do, how to do it, or what could come of my quandry.  I just kept seeking divine guidance.  I knew God was there and would help me but I didn’t know what that would look like. The more I prayed, the more God drew closer. I felt His comforting presence and sensed my job was to back off and let Him do His work. I felt without a doubt that God was telling me to “Be still” and just “Be Thankful.” That message, after days of prayer, was all I needed to stop trying so hard to force change. My role rather, was to rejoice and be thankful for all God’s blessings. This was new for me: I was to stop micromanaging everything and just “be.”

After contemplating this reality, it dawned on me that I felt a permanent reminder was in order. It was like I was driven by an external force that sunny weekday to go to the beach tattoo parlor. Yep, a middle aged, mother of 4 had an unwavering plan to commemorate this “God moment” in ink.

With their high-tech, graphics design program, and medical grade equipment, the artist created a light- hued, grey scripted message on my inner wrist. It was and is my permanent message from God to be still and be thankful.

It has induced hilarious banter from some like, “Did you get that in prison?” I also find it humorous that I am the only one in my family with one- none of my college kids do. Interestingly, it has also been the impetus of deep conversations with strangers regarding faith.  I don’t regret it and haven’t for one moment wanted to change it out either.

ABC Diagnose Me

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Howie Mandel had it right when he said, “ADD, ADHD, OCD…I wanna buy another vowel!” He was referring to the multiple diagnoses he had been given.

School-aged children tend to be stuck with the most vowels. Once they start school, their obvious differences in learning, self-regulating and temperament begin to emerge. Of course, when you put 25 children with one teacher in one room, there will be issues. Asking tiny people to be still and be quiet can be like asking social media users to post only kind remarks. It’s the impossible, yet we continue with this style of teaching, continuing to force squares into circles.

When a child’s behavior stands out exponentially is when the real fun begins. From the notes sent home, to the red marks on their schoolwork, to the teacher’s conferences (I must hold the world record for those), the message sent is “something is wrong with so and so and needs to be corrected.” My heart aches for children in that predicament. When possible, changing the environment, trying different schooling options is a luxury. More often than not, the parent is forced to send their child to a losing environment.

I’m guilty myself. By God’s good grace, my children got through it. It was ugly at times and painful at others but they did it. In hindsight, I recognize I nearly lost my mind obsessing over their behavior, grades and if their teachers liked them and what their diagnoses were. To medicate or not, switch schools (but to which and what kind?), and find therapies to correct our issues, were all consuming. After many MD appointments, we finally found a local specialist and he helped tremendously. However, it wasn’t a cure-all but another tool instead.

What truly mattered was how they, individually, developed as human beings, not if their teachers liked them (a few did), if they could read on time (a few did) and what diagnoses they had. Hilariously, I got the vowels myself seeking their’s! My point is that it’s great to decipher what issues are at hand, but not to get bogged down with them.

The point is to help your child navigate the process of growing up into a productive, self-regulating, caring adult. The world overall won’t accommodate because of a diagnosis. He or she will still have to perform and be expected to conform to the world around them. Focusing more on their positive nurturement is much more helpful. I wish I had done that instead of trying to “fix” them.

Once hyperactivity and impulsiveness were identified, I read every book available (not many back then) and made appointments with every expert I could find. I even flew to New York City and paid $400/hr to talk to the author of the only book I could find on the subject. For that costly hour, the doctor didn’t give me the secret tools of success or the magical cure, he simply spent the hour telling me to take care of myself first, as their caregiver, and to love and praise them! That was it! My $6.67 per minute consultation was spent learning self care and to cheerlead my brood. I was sure he’d give me something tangible and he did, he gave me a book about people who turned out famous with, and despite, their ADHD.

You can wear yourself out procuring knowledge on learning disabilities and the like. I did. But I’d suggest perceiving treatment as a tool or partnership, a more light handed approach. In the end, it’s most important they feel loved, supported and cared about. In the end, isn’t that what everyone wants?

STINKIN THINKIN

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“Get Out of Your Own Way” is a song by U2 that by intention, is politically charged, but by title, encompasses what we all need to do. It is a perfectionist’s battle song.

I was once told by a counselor that I needed to conquer the negative voices in my head. She said I needed to replace my detrimental “cassette tape” with a new, positive one. (Obviously the reference is betraying my demographic because it was the 90s.) However, a modern analogy might be to replace the “download.”

We can be our own biggest foe. It’s hard enough having difficulties or enduring painful circumstances then by default, adding insult to injury with negative self- talk. Destructive thinking can be worse than the actual problem or outcome we fear most! We can self-inflict more damage than an army of enemies by believing the inner bully. It is a learned skill to defeat and reprogram the banter from adversarial to realistic. I learned through counseling. It did not come naturally and literally took years. Today, if a hint of negativity whispers in my ear, I can easily relegate it to the “lies” section and move on. I have no energy or time for negative self-indulgence. I have too much to accomplish to be burdened with the impossible weight of self loathing. Amen!

Lady! It’s Just Eggs…..

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I will never forget the feeling I had the day I got the “break” to be able to go grocery shopping with only one of our four, small children. I was thinking how great it was going to be to focus on just him as I did our grocery, weekly run. Equipped with a long list and a happy toddler I got down to business. We had a lot of items stockpiled in our cart as he sat strapped in the front of the cart. I was no fool when I made sure the delicate carton of eggs were placed as far as physically possible away from his tiny grasp. We had made it to the far back of the store and our cart was over flowing. I turned to the left and in a flash saw an 18 carton of eggs go airborne and crash to the floor. All eyes were on me and my precious angel who had arched himself as far as he could just to grasp the flap of the carton. I had placed those eggs as far as the cart would allow. How did he do that? My reaction was, “Omg! I have to clean up all these eggs!” and “I can’t believe I’m here with just ONE KID and THIS happened!!?!?!!” Tears were streaming down my face as I felt massive defeat as a mom and thoroughly embarrassed. An employee took note of my emotional response and said, “Lady, it’s just eggs.” But I was looking at the eggs as the villain that had once again, conquered me and deemed me incapable. Thank God, a fellow church member saw my teary dilemma and helped me to the cashier and car. I didn’t do big grocery store shopping with children for a long time after that.

God Will Never Give You More Than You Can Handle

If you, like me, despise the above saying, then you will easily understand me. I absolutely believe there IS a higher power and have come to know him as Jesus. Yes, He most certainly WILL give you more than you can handle. It’s His means to draw you closer. It’s not to disregard your surely, evolved abilities, but to salvage those in overwhelming, unbearable circumstances.  I learned this tough lesson when I, Katie, Miss do-it-all, over-achiever, was given natural, identical triplets 3 months after my mother succumbed to Alzheimer’s and while I was raising a 1 year old. My sister said God did this to get my attention because that was the only way. I beg to differ. I think God did this to bless my husband and me and to teach us. Now there has been a cost: loss of prior beliefs, less invitations and others, but they pale in comparison to the life lessons we’ve gained. Maybe you have a similar story from a different perspective. Maybe you were blessed with a special needs child (greatest nod from God I can imagine) or you have endured a trial that has left you more aware of what really matters. Maybe you lost something that opened your eyes to something greater.  I don’t know, but I do believe we all can learn from and gain perspective from one another. That is why I decided to do this blog that many friends say might help someone else.