Monday, August 15, 2016

Q news

I'm writing from the surgery waiting area at our Children's Hospital. Q is asleep now and various co-ordinated specialists are working away. This is something I try not to think too deeply about, since I'm acutely aware of the details anyway. He should be awake in an hour or so, and we'll get busy with Life with a G-tube.

The decision to go ahead with this was validated especially this summer as we've been enjoying time with family. Many days, especially highly active days, don't offer themselves up as easy ones in which to manage pureed foods at the perfect temperatures, eaten at his pace, out of the wind, etc. Another plus will be dosing certain meds without Q having to taste them. One in particular tastes like nuclear waste, and it's not going away any time soon.

Q's medial eye muscles are also being adjusted to counteract some of the exotropia/strabismus he's had since he was tiny. I'm hoping that all of these "small" adjustments will be bearable for him and truly improve his daily life, allowing for less energy to go into gathering adequate calories and more energy to go into cognitive and physical goals.

Speaking of goals, Q continues to work with his magnificent speech device, and is making small but significant and steady headway. Since so much of his interaction at every level depends on his having a fast enough and precise enough motor plan to pull off the desired result, we work on the small targets, with a calm body, rather than allowing larger, jerky or "bashing" movements. It's paying off in many important ways, but perhaps the most important one is that he has an expectation of being heard and involved in his own activity. The coolest thing ever (I think) is that this expectation has resulted in his replying when other people are trying to engage him in conversation. He has begun to vocalize a "hi" quite predictably upon seeing his favorite people, and to have an almost as enthusiastic smile or sound for other folks who speak directly to him as though they're expecting a response. This has also happened in conversation, when someone has asked him a question or series of questions, and it's almost easy to miss. Because who doesn't expect a young man to respond when spoken to? or to comment upon something he finds particularly awesome or regrettable? It's a lot of fun to hear this play out in person, especially when the whole scene sort of materializes in front of you, suddenly.

At the end of last school year Q's suspension gait trainer helped him to walk about 300 feet, chasing a soccer ball. So we borrowed the nifty contraption for the summer, hoping to get outside with him a lot, but we really haven't.  Between weather and scheduling, the opportunities have been fewer than I expected.

They're wrapping things up now, so I should too. (How does that happen, anyway? I barely had time to get the rest of the stuff out of the van and eat a salad.) More news later.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Feeling Better

"Pastors hear/see a lot of theologically spurious statements they choose to graciously ignore. However, sometimes a pastoral PSA is needed. When you make the choice to steal a car, cheat on a spouse, abuse your kids, or any number of selfish acts, please don't suggest Jesus led you to do so. That's worse than saying, "The devil made me do it." I understand that "things happen," and when they do own it, embrace grace and forgiveness from Jesus, and make amends as far as possible; but don't try to tell me He made you sin. Not only is that unbiblical (see james 1v13, Matthew 6v9-13, John8v11); but it's entirely the opposite of what Jesus intends for us. Jesus came to destroy selfishness, not sanction it."

A pastor friend posted this today, and I've been reflecting, shall we say. I'm not sure I can really add to his thoughts, but that doesn't mean there isn't more to say from additional perspectives.

Invariably, people who undertake monumentally selfish acts seem blind to the concurrent realities of those living with or nearby them. Sometimes this is the result of a literal stroke of diagnosable Narcissism. "My needs are my needs and therefore yours do not exist." Sometimes this is instead a result of environmental conditioning, some other form of mental illness, traumatic brain injury, addiction, or immaturity. Whatever the cause, too frequently people who wander blithely down the path of self-fulfillment at nearly any cost are also parents or function in a parental role. Sometimes they're also in leadership positions that make their destructive choices particularly widely painful.

When a person is capable of practicing reason, though, the causes become somewhat less relevant, while other details snap into focus in the foreground. Those of us witnessing the trainwrecks they set in motion can use our own grasp of socially acceptable behavior and life choices and faith to help recognize folks who are able to tell the difference between right and wrong, and therefore hold certain groups to higher standards. Certain professional groups have a higher fiduciary duty, for example, and most of us would say that the same should apply to parents.

So how does this work out for children whose parents see no problem twisting scripture (and not just the Christian Bible) to suit their wants? Predictably badly. Wallerstein, et al, address aspects of this in The Unexpected Legacy of Divorce, a somewhat horrifying read. The "sins of the fathers" show up, alright, and usually in ways adult children have sworn and committed to not drag their own kids through. And yet...

A couple of years ago I was chatting with a friend about hot topics in the global church and we ended up wondering together how to distill Jesus' message for the modern world. All the "A new command I give you: Love one another as I have loved you," and "Love your neighbor as yourself," taken apart and rolled back up, so to speak. One of my proposals was that the theology of Jesus pretty strongly supports healing acts, whatever those might look like. As in, maybe, "Guys, let's have less suffering."

I don't know about you, but by this point in my life, I am so ready for less suffering, more healing, and I can easily imagine Jesus enthusiasm for this. I think his language surrounding the meek and the suffering (Matt 5-7) reflects this. I think his invitation to cherish children and protect the innocents reflects this (Matt 19:14, Luke 17:2). I think his flipping of the tables in the temple reflects this - who in their right mind walks into a temple and tries to cheat those who've come to worship? Who does that!? Those who were comfortable making a temple into a den of robbers, that's who (Matt 21:12, 13), and who were Just Fine with the risk that someone in authority would figure them out and destroy their "business."

If we proceed on the principles that Jesus is for less suffering and against taking advantage of people, we have rather a lot of material to discuss, which I'm not especially interested in delving into here. Except for the parts relating to my pastor friend's quote.

While I have no specific knowledge as to the possible prompts for that opening quote, I've got some train wrecks in mind. Yesterday afternoon, three boys, 13, 16, and 17, were arrested for murder and attempted murder, after they bragged about the incident to undercover cops and other witnesses. Their mother sent them from their own homeless camp to another homeless camp to collect on a drug debt. Two people are dead, three more recovering, and these kids... Their lives are over. I cannot begin to imagine what propelled their mother into living in a tent with her three sons, or dealing black tar heroin, or making sure they had two guns with which to do their business. I cannot remotely grasp what stunning trajectory resulted in this irredeemable act. I mean, who does that!? *Someone who is Just Fine taking those risks and placing her children in the middle of taking responsibility for choices they cannot possibly understand, that's who.

That's not most of us. I know that's not most of us. And yet... What about those of us who just want to be happy? Who just want to feel loved? Or have that car? Or feel powerful, in some way, for crying out loud? We all just want to feel better, really, and that's not so hard to understand, wanting to feel better. Yeah, except when it costs something that we're not willing to pay. To use the initial examples, you wouldn't want to exchange places with the kid on the receiving end of your ire, or have your own car stolen, or be cuckolded (so to speak). Even if you deserve it.

But here's the thing. If you're someone's parent, those choices are now much less complicated. "Feeling better" needs to be tied to the outcomes of your kids. Because you have them, you owe them that, and then some. Being a moral human is now an obligation that's taken on epic importance, and it needs to begin with redefining how you're going to make yourself feel better. You're the adult, and you need to act like it.

If you're in the middle of justifying an action by attributing your desire to self-soothe to the Almighty (and I realize how unlikely it is that anyone fitting that description will see this), knock it off. I mean it. You've got a bazillion ways to think about whatever it is you're doing that DO NOT involve lying to yourself or becoming the kind of person you don't want influencing your children. Does that seem a little too far-fetched? Too "out there" to describe your choices? Then keep in mind that a child's first picture of God is his or her parent(s). "Whatever is good, whatever is true..." is not equivalent to the nonsense claim that children just want their parents to be happy (A lie. See Wallerstein.).

Kids are great at seeing through their parents, no matter their ages. They're never as interested in what you say as they are in what you do. If you're a parent who hopes to raise those kids into adults who love Jesus, are active in the church, and relate responsibly toward your grandchildren, then you have to knock it off. You cannot expect to engender in them an appreciation for a God who is Love while you destroy the other half of their DNA, wreak havoc on their home, do time for your theft and fraud, or just reframe the whole world to support your stinky, manipulative behaviors. No matter how you couch it with them, no matter what their developmental stages, there's no better way to make sure they're not interested in the Jesus you claim to follow than to fulfill your role as their example by being faithless, controlling, abusive, or "just" pathologically selfish.

If you're really interested in Feeling Better, find a good counselor and lay yourself bare. Begin by stating how deeply committed you are to every level of personal work required to do this, and end by committing again to being vulnerable and doing your homework. Excruciating as it may be, and oh, will it ever be, it's pure joy compared to looking around and realizing that you undercut everything you were supposed to protect. With the help of that counselor, execute plans to change your behaviors so that you can apologize and mean it, and get busy earning the respect you want to see in their faces.

Isn't that what we were supposed to have learned from Jesus' example, anyway? Self-sacrifice, in order to lift up what is noble and beautiful, despite our urges to the contrary, in order that those who look to us for leadership may yet rise, too. "Guys, let's have less suffering. For such is the kingdom of heaven: wholeness begat by the Love that I am." More frequently than some would like to acknowledge this means finding new ways to die to self, asking trusted friends to help us, and admitting uncomfortable things to those whom we've wronged. This includes defining and redefining what it means to really Feel Better.


And if you're feeling desperate about this kind of thing or anything else, call a friend or call 911, and say so. You are needed here, and as long as you are here, there is so much potential for help, goodness, and redemption. All things are possible, and there is always a reason for hope. If you can't feel that right now, let someone else carry it and believe it for you. Do not give up. We are all in this together.

(*The roles of neurotransmitters and epigenetics should figure large in this kind of conversation, but another time.)

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

November begins

Fall is finally here, with a light freeze last night. The purple peppers, yellow summer squash, figs, and wee acorn and butternut squashes came in. It was chilly enough to wilt the tomato bushes into mush, but not cold enough to completely discourage the honey bees or the yellowjackets. There's one spot that harbors an in-ground nest that's been problematic for a few months now. I'd hoped that today we'd finally gotten to weather that would allow some digging up and drubbing of that particular location, but alas. K and I went out to trim the seed heads off the bronze fennel (injuries have us tag teaming pretty much everything these days) and made it halfway through before the first honey bee appeared, and had just finished when the yellowjacket landed on me. Since my last run-in with this bunch of wasps resulted in steroids and an epi-pen, we were done for the day. Never have I wished so for a good, hard freeze.

The yard. Well... Our late summer and early fall were sort of devoured by injuries, allergies, and appointments. Since school started, we've been lost amid the piles of books, calendar management, and practices of various types. So the back needs those trellises and supports stuck into their quikcrete, the ramp needs someone to crawl under it (haha), and the weedy bits need black plastic stretched over them. Winterizing is going to be hit and miss, I'm afraid. Although, if the current weather pattern keeps up, we'll be weeding well into December. Last winter, the tulips started coming up Christmas week. Perhaps we'll have a similar experience this year? Meanwhile, I'm going to try to be more patient about not being able to dig, pull, or lift - so many things to transplant to more favorable spots!

Q is well, if a bit confounding lately. We've had some slight changes to meds in an effort to eliminate the myoclonic jerks he's been experiencing. So far, no change. He's more or less unperturbed by these events, though, so we're all just monitoring for the time being.

Equipment needs are in flux again, since he gained eight pounds in ten months and outgrew everything. New wheelchair seating, foot and hand splints, and sit to stand stander are all in the works. I'm wondering about trying to figure out an adjustable bed, too, since we're all having a tougher time minding good body mechanics with dressing and other personal care needs. I need to think a little more on some of the details and pursue a variety of helpful supports, some of which I'm only vaguely aware at this point.

And now we sleep. Appointments tomorrow. 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Race Report

It seems we've become a family of runners. We've slowly increased our mileage over the last few years, as the bigger kids have been increasingly able to take on more and have been increasingly interested in doing so. The race fees haven't been easy to come by (the kids work and save up), the shoes and other gear have required rather a lot of planning (and sales at Amazon on past year's models), and the learning curve for running with offspring... Well, it's a curve, for all of us, but definitely worth it.

Almost three years ago, we tentatively stuck our toes into a 10K, because by then running a 5K in intervals was a regular thing, just for burning off steam and PE.  We'd had to take a break from running with Q because we, uh, broke his "all-terrain" chair (oops) with things like 9-10 miles per week and that attempt at the long jump, which the big brother will have to tell you more about one day. (Q couldn't have been happier about that adventure, by the way.) Amazing and kind friends sent us a WIKE Special Needs jogger stroller/bike trailer, which has been completely life-altering for many reasons. Probably the most important being that Q likes to go as fast as possible, which is much easier when we can have him on wheels, because he's still growing.

With that lovely piece of equipment, we struck out into new territory: local paths for biking, increasing gradually to 22 miles down a trail from a mountain pass, and regular rides of similar lengths. Last spring we tried out running 12Ks, and repeated them this year - one with small hills and one with two looong uphills. This year those two races were a bit harder than last because the boy grew, gaining about 8 pounds over that time period. I'd also needed some PT after wrenching my back getting him dressed, which was annoyingly debilitating (why don't we just have replacement parts, anyway?), and which meant more careful training this year than last.

We'd discussed our next plans a few times, including a local run that's a bit like Ragnar (but shorter), and the possibility of finding a 15K or similar. In January, we started running longer distances nearly every Sunday morning, supported by Grandma. Thanks to a very mild winter, we hadn't really had much downtime (no hail in our ears this year - much to Q's chagrin), so it was comparatively easy to add a half mile or a mile every couple of weeks, while maintaining a couple of shorter runs during the week (2-5mi, sometimes with stairs, sometimes with Tabata sprints, sometimes with general bodyweight circuits). In May, we shifted to longer runs on Sundays, then 3mi on Tue, 4mi on Wed, 3mi on Thu, with rest and "crosstraining" (yardwork for the win!) on the other days. By June, the Wed runs were 5mi, and the miscellaneous cross-training was back in for two days a week - some of which looked a lot like PT exercises, including stretching and foam-rolling.

In the middle of this, I opted to not run with Q when our distances were above roughly 10mi with an outdoor temp above 85 by the end of the run. Trying to keep him cool enough and hydrated can add an extra 30-60min to an already long time in the heat for the rest of us, plus we started experiencing some wear and tear issues with the Wike. This has not floated his boat, even though it has meant he instead spends time finding bullfrogs, beavers, and blackberries with Grandma and Grandpa.

The last weeks have been busy and scattered - kids with different obligations, our summer program at church, etc., preventing longer Sunday runs. After having hit the 12.15mi mark, not having those longer runs felt a little weird. We ran 8mi last Sunday, then 3 and 2 for the rest of the week, with some light circuit work. At 8 this morning, my mom dropped the girls and I off at a local middle school and we joined 171 other runners for a half marathon in the rain, over a course of various terrains.

Highlights: the racing couple arguing hilariously about when the whining should commence (now - less than a hundred feet past the start line), the mile plus of mucky trail with tree roots and a couple of waterfalls, running through the ravine where the bridge had collapsed closing that piece of trail except for race day. Also: running most of the race with my (gulp) adult daughter and kibitzing as we went, S coming in third in her age group at 2:22 (8min ahead of her goal), 55 degrees F start temp after weeks of unseasonable highs in the 90's. It was fun to follow the orange arrows off the side of a gorgeous arched bridge, into the valley by the river, through a couple of fields, up a newly chip-sealed road that squeaked under our wet shoes, and onto the shoulder of a highway where the trucks full of four-wheelers waved and gave us nearly a lane to ourselves, before we met the paved trailhead.

The race support was fantastic: water at four stations along the route, with GU and Gatorade at an additional three. The volunteers were terribly supportive and encouraging (and maybe glad that the alert County Search Rescue team were kept bored?), and the folks at the finish line positively exuberant. They had plenty of bananas, Rice Krispies treats, whole oranges, and Propel water bottles - all of which were gratefully received. Thanks to the grandparents, we have nifty photos of Q ringing the bell at the finish gate, and of our muddy feet. We are tired, but happy, and (having soaked feet in Epsom salts) might even want to do all this again... As much fun as the irregularities were, I hope the trail and bridge can be completed soon - then Q could join us on this route.

I slowed down as we were within the last couple of miles. I'd run all but maybe a mile of the course - walking parts of the slippery single-track trail and stopping briefly for GU, drinks, and portapotty. God bless the volunteers with the hand sanitizer. This meant more consecutive miles and less use of intervals than ever before, and my knees and hip were making themselves known. K had slowed too, having similar issues, so we stretched a little and she took off again, finishing a couple of minutes ahead of me. I think if I hadn't stopped, I'd have come in under three hours. My time was 3:04, which I'm more than happy with.

We're home and cleaned up (I have never loved a hot shower in quite this way), the muddy shoes are drying by the door so they can be tidied, the two very old CamelBaks are empty and ready for next time, and with everyone fed we're much less wobbly than a few hours ago. Q has even decided to make eye contact again - possibly forgiving us for not taking him along this time. The medals are shiny, the technical shirts really nice, and best of all - the proceeds have gone to trail maintenance and construction.

The air out there smelled so good today. Of wet earth, clean evergreens and ferns, fresh wild edibles, damp rocks, and a complete absence of wildfire smoke. Luscious. A blessed way to spend a rainy Saturday.

You should come next time.

I wonder if there's a really inexpensive one nearby before Christmas..........

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Nothing truly stops you.  Nothing truly holds you back.  For your own will is always within your control.  Sickness may challenge your body. But are you merely your body? Lameness may impede your legs. But you are not merely your legs. Your will is bigger than your legs. Your will needn’t be affected by an incident unless you let it.
~ Epictetus

Wednesday, February 04, 2015


    Good Timber

      by Douglas Malloch
    The tree that never had to fight
    For sun and sky and air and light,
    But stood out in the open plain
    And always got its share of rain,
    Never became a forest king
    But lived and died a scrubby thing.

    The man who never had to toil
    To gain and farm his patch of soil,
    Who never had to win his share
    Of sun and sky and light and air,
    Never became a manly man
    But lived and died as he began.

    Good timber does not grow with ease:
    The stronger wind, the stronger trees;
    The further sky, the greater length;
    The more the storm, the more the strength.
    By sun and cold, by rain and snow,
    In trees and men good timbers grow.

    Where thickest lies the forest growth,
    We find the patriarchs of both.
    And they hold counsel with the stars
    Whose broken branches show the scars
    Of many winds and much of strife.
    This is the common law of life.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Hello, 2015

As Q was having another layer of foam triangles applied to his tray today, I was thinking about how alienating equipment can be. It's such a good thing to have access to and use of so much excellent technology, and yet... As I was watching the magical OT work, it occurred to me that the rest of the world is experiencing ever-shrinking devices and ways of acheiving access. While Q's chair looks more and more like a small armored vehicle. Well, not quite, but I do wonder how much it weighs with the Accent, the support arm, the tray, and the various foam supports and/or universal mounts.

I've been saying for a few months that Q is in an amazing place of balance for meds that work but don't have wretched side-effects, for equipment that's working for him, and for growth and medical trajectories. It really is amazing: no seizure activity since starting meds, better everything for his tummy (it's kind of fun to see a truly dleighted pediatric GI doc), botox working well for those pesky upper extremity issues, and more. It's a place we've been enjoying.

After the summer's bizarre path to obtaining the Accent (a delightful combination of HIPAA violations and a frightfully persistent SLP who earned her halo), we've been working to learn new stuff - like how to incorporate Q's voice into every day, when we haven't been used to hearing such big words from him. Today, he played the ice cream cone color game with his SLP, building a cone by taking turns identifying the colors she hinted at and picking his own. He's terrifically vocal when he works with the Accent, frequently throwing a word into the mix, and it always makes my head spin for a moment, watching him transform into a kid who expects to speak and be heard. The learning curve with this is steep, and I always feel like I should be doing more - like pushing harder for the one to one I asked the District Special Services for during his school days. Have to make another phone call next week.

The girls are doing well. E wrapped fall quarter of her second year of dual enrollment with a 4.0, and works a few hours a week. K and S are swimming along through their respective school years, filling binders with writing, maps, and outlines, practicing music, and discovering new material across their subjects. All three continue with orchestra - tour in the spring, and running - 11.57 miles this week. And as of January 5, G is in the Navy. Amazing stuff, this growing up business.