Monday, July 9, 2018

What If I Fail?

Am I strong enough to face my fears, all of them? Am I strong enough to fail, to fail spectacularly?  Am I strong enough to shed all my protective layers and be honest? Am I strong enough to do what I dream without considering the consequences? Am I strong enough to fight for the weaker, disadvantaged, and those on the fringes of society, regardless of the cost? Am I truly strong enough?

You know what, I no longer care if I'm strong enough or not.  I've spent too much of my life caring about these things.  Now I have come to a fantastic realization.....wait for it: No one cares! No one cares if I fail. No one cares if I am strong enough or not. No one cares if I fight or lay down and bury my head in the sand.  If I choose to be an ostrich, no one will know that I ever had the thought to fight.  And if I fight, they will just assume that is who I am and will have no idea or care about the internal battle it took for me to get there. 

 Nobody cares because it's not about me! It never was. It was only my insecurities and pride that ever made it about me.  So I no longer care. I no longer am going to wait to be strong enough. I will no longer live my life trying to protect myself from failure, even spectacular failure.  I'm 41 years old and have so many things I've wanted to do but haven't because I was too consumed with myself; my self-doubt, fear of faiure, fear of what people think, and my all-consuming need to do it right.  Yet even with all that analysis and anxiety, I have still failed.

I have been broken into so many pieces that I couldn't even count them. And do you know what has happened, even in that failure? I survived. I grew. I glued myself back together into a whole different kind of woman.  And then I broke again. And once again, I pieced myself back together; this time, the pieces came together more quickly. Failure happens.  Breaking happens.  I no longer fear the process because I have survived and will survive again.

 So, I no longer care if I'm strong enough to take it.  I'm going to give it my best shot. To hell with success. To hell with failure.  To hell with me and my insecurities. So, I no longer care if I'm strong enough to take it.  I'm going to give it my best shot. To hell with success. To hell with failure.  To hell with me and my insecurities.

None of it matters.  All that matters is: have I lived my life with true integrity? Have I been kind?  Have I been compassionate? Have I been honest, even with myself? Have I loved fully and completely?  Have I tried with everything in me?  Have I shot for the stars? Have I dared to believe I could live the dream? Have I truly failed? Have I spectacularly failed? When I die, I hope I can honestly answer that I have.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

A Glimpse of the Avalanche

Yesterday I was blessed to meet another special needs mom as we both waited for our boys to be finished with camp for the day.  Her son is around the same age as my oldest.  We talked about the struggles of having a child who is legally adult but in no way ready to "adult" on their own.   There is a bond, an affinity, between special needs parents that is hard to explain. Whatever our race, creed or politics, it doesn't matter.  We share a commonality in our daily life experiences that few can comprehend, much less understand. So we sat and commiserated for close to two hours, both of us ignoring the work we had brought to accomplish while waiting.
  I felt a distant rumble as I walked away from that conversation.  It felt like the start of an avalanche, high in the mountains above, as you stand in the valley below.  You stand in the warm spring air, the sun shining upon you, knowing that if you don't take emergency measures NOW you will be buried under tons of snow and ice.  You start shouting and running, trying to warn everyone surrounding you of the frozen fury that is about to rain down upon them. But they look at the green grass and blooming flowers, feel the warmth of the sun and shake their heads.  You are Chicken Little crying"The sky is falling".  You point out the distant rumble that is getting closer every minute. They laugh and say it's just a train going by.
So you do your best to fortify what you can and try to save your family.   But there has never been an avalanche in this valley.  There is no evacuation route. There are no shelters. You furiously start throwing together what you can with the limited time and resources that you have. Off in the distance, you see a person here or there doing the same as you are.  You know if you could combine resources you would all have a better chance of survival.  But there is no time.  So you nod at each other, offer a slight wave and continue with your own preparations.  All the while the rumble is getting closer and it is picking up speed.

There is an avalanche coming to your community and it is coming quickly. My oldest was diagnosed at the forefront of the huge increase of ASD diagnoses. We could spend all day today and tomorrow discussing the WHY's of it all. But really the why doesn't matter at this point because the results are the same. In 1992 1 child in 150 was diagnosed as autistic, by 2006 that number was 1 child in 59 (statistics by the CDC Children born in 2000, when we just starting to see the rise in diagnosis, turn 18 this year. They become legal adults.  However many, like my oldest, are not capable of being independent yet.  Legally, we as parents lose the ability to manage their medical and psychological needs, to help them navigate the legal world, to have a much needed voice in their education.  Many of the services they currently receive they will age out of when they hit the magical 18 year mark.  We as parents have the choice to get partial guardianship (a complicated and hard process), sue our own child for full guardianship (which is an expensive and heart wrenching experience) or just throw them on the mercies of the very ill prepared system.

Many of you are reading this and are thinking "That's sad but it doesn't affect me or my family.  I've got my own crap going on."  Oh my friend, you could not be more wrong!! There is an avalanche coming for you and there is no place for us to direct it.
The U.S. cost of autism over the lifespan is about $2.4 million for a person with an intellectual disability, or $1.4 million for a person without intellectual disability.

-35 percent of young adults (ages 19-23) with autism have not had a job or received postgraduate education after leaving high school.
-It costs more than $8,600 extra per year to educate a student with autism.  (The average cost of educating a student is about $12,000)
-In June 2014, only 19.3 percent of people with disabilities in the U.S. were participating in the labor force – working or seeking work. Of those, 12.9 percent were unemployed, meaning only 16.8 percent of the population with disabilities was employed. (By contrast, 69.3 percent of people without disabilities were in the labor force, and 65 percent of the population without disabilities was employed.) (all statistics compiled by the Autism Society

For the last 18 years, we parents have absorbed much of the cost of caring for, treating and getting therapy for these kids.  We  have 5 kids with disabilities in our family.  Even with that large number of diagnosed dependents, we did not receive a single dime of public assistance, with the exception of services provided by the public schools, until 4 months ago.  Now we are only getting help because some amazing people found loopholes to get my kids further services that they desperately needed but we could in no way do on our own.  I am not complaining.  I don't begrudge my children the care they needed.  We are parents. We simply did what good parents everywhere do, made it work for the sake of our kids.  However, all those very needed therapies, interventions, etc we pursued for our children, on our private insurance or simply out of pocket, quickly begin to go away when they turn 18.  Unless a plan is in place, our kids will lose all those services that make them as functional as they currently are.  Without the necessary support, our kids begin to spiral out of control and we don't have the legal authority to step in to help. Quickly those young adults become a burden on the already  dysfunctional mental health and legal systems.  YOU, the taxpayer, will pick up a much more expensive tab because nothing was in place to help these kids transition into adulthood safely.  The incredibly frustrating and heart breaking  part of this is that the entire spiral is completely avoidable!! Keep in mind, we aren't talking about a couple of kids here or there.  We are talking about 1 in 59 kids all coming of age within a few years of one another!!! That is a huge strain on an unprepared and at times willfully ignorant system.
"How can we prepare?" you ask.  Write your legislatures! Demand that they begin to fund transition services for special needs kids coming of age. We need educational outreaches for the parents of these kids. The process of getting any kind of guardianship is confusing.  Setting up trusts for your kids future is extremely complicated, time consuming and expensive.  Ask lawmakers to stream line the process for parents to get partial guardianship of their disabled children.  Volunteer to be a mentor for a teen with special needs.  Donate time or money to the underfunded, private organizations that struggling to give services to the multitudes coming their way. There is an avalanche coming your way. We few advocates are not enough to stop it from crushing not only our kids but also the entire system.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

A Glimpse of the Cuckoo's Nest

There are moments in time or things we experience that have the power to change us forever, to define us, and bring clarity to our callings. Such a moment happened to me two weeks ago amid a family crisis. It was one of the most heartbreaking, shocking, and enervating experiences ever. It broke me in the best way possible. 

 I write this today because most of you will never have the chance to experience this moment. Most of you will never see the reality with your own two eyes. Most of you will only get the sanitized version from the news or a story you read online.   You will never be privileged to see the truth or have your heart broken and your protective instincts fired. Even after reading this, most of you will return to your sheltered existence. Choosing to believe the experiences and sights I am about to share with you could not possibly be as bad as what I am going to portray, and even if they are..... well, those people had it coming. 

 I know this little blog post will have little impact on the grand scheme of things. However, I would betray everything I stood for if I did not speak out. If I did not use what little voice I have to scream from the rooftops how broken and dangerous our mental health system is.

Here's my story. I swear to you, not a stroke of this keyboard is an exaggeration or manipulation of what I have witnessed.   Sit back and read this with an open heart and mind. If we don't make changes immediately, I fear for the future of our most vulnerable children.

During the past month, my youngest son's behaviors had started to spiral again, and he was experiencing side effects from one of his medications. His psychiatrist advised that we change his medication under his supervision; he referred him to the children's hospital for PHP (partial hospitalization program). He was to go to the program 8 hours a day for observation during the med changes and therapy.   It took two weeks after the doctor wrote the order for the program to have a slot open for B.

On the first day of the program, we grabbed breakfast and started bright and early. B was happy and chattering the entire hour and fifteen-minute drive to the hospital. We arrived and were led to a private room by a hospital therapist to answer the intake questions. There had been a breakdown in their system; had they done things correctly, they would have seen he had been a patient in their facility in September, and PHP was ordered by one of their doctors. If any of these facts had been communicated as they should have been, we would not have had to repeat the entire intake process, and the rest of this story would not have happened. But as is often the case in our healthcare system, there was a breakdown in essential communication between coordinating facilities. 

If you have never done intake for psychiatric purposes, it is a little more time-consuming than intake for your typical ER or hospital visit. You must answer many questions concerning your mental state, thoughts, home life, etc. It can be overwhelming to anyone. 

The process is especially challenging for my youngest son, who struggles to discuss anything emotionally without breaking down on his best days. Because he was there primarily to change his medication protocol, I had not given him his medication either. He needed to see the doctor and start his new regiment. My son started working up within two minutes of beginning the intake process. Within five minutes, he was in a full-blown meltdown.

For those who don't know what a total meltdown looks like, imagine a 250-pound, five-foot-nine teenager screaming, hitting his head on the wall, scratching his arms, trying to run off, and swearing at the doctors and security officers. To be clear, this is not a choice. He isn't "acting out." His brain is so over-stimulated that his logical thinking process has stopped. He doesn't even remember what happens during these episodes once he has come out of them.

 We gave him medication, hoping to calm him enough to complete the intake. Instead, he worked up even further. The therapist apologized because there was no way to admit him to PHP in this mental state ( an obvious conclusion we all agreed upon). He needed to be placed in inpatient. It took two armed security guards to escort us to the "special" ER ( as I call it). We were in a room with a bed (with restraint hooks) attached to the floor,  a single chair made of the same material as the bed, and NOTHING else. 

A doctor quickly examined him and ordered the therapist to find him a pediatric bed at one of the area hospitals. Though we were already at the hospital, it was the children's hospital. They do not take children over 12 in their behavioral (psychiatric) ward. My son melted down for two hours, even after being given medication to calm him.   We spent the next eight hours waiting as the hospital called every behavioral hospital with a teen ward in the area, looking for a bed for my son. We live between two major cities (Dallas and Fort Worth). More than a dozen behavioral hospital wards and hospitals in our area matched the needed criteria (most of which I would not recommend, but we will get to that later). It still took eight hours to find a single pediatric bed. This is not unusual. It is normal for people to be turned away from the hospitals when they seek help for their kids because no beds are available. This is also a problem for the adult population. But for this article, we are focusing on the pediatric aspects of the mental health system.

 After waiting hours, they found him a bed at Dallas Behavioral Health in DeSoto, Texas. We have been dealing with our kids' mental health issues for a while now, meaning we have a working knowledge of the hospitals in our area. I had heard some questionable things about this particular hospital. When I told my husband where they wanted to send B, his initial reaction was the same as mine, no way! But we had already spent eight hours in the ER with the therapist calling and re-calling every hospital looking for a bed. This bed was literally the ONLY bed available in all of North Texas. My husband did what research he could online. He found that the hospital had improved its facilities and recently won a few awards for its behavioral unit. So with reluctance and no other options, B was assigned the bed. It was voluntary, but they would have admitted him under the Baker Act (non-voluntary admission) if I had not cooperated. That would have severely limited my control in making medical decisions for my son. So though we had a choice, we didn't have one.

We waited for the ambulance to take us the hour and a half to Dallas Behavioral in DFW rush hour traffic. The entire ride, B was chatting away, asking questions about all the equipment in the ambulance. The paramedic asked me twice if he had received the correct transfer paperwork? Was B actually supposed to be transferred to DBH? Yes, I assured him the paperwork was correct.


We exited the ambulance into a different world from the one we left. Because B had been labeled a flight risk during his earlier attempts while melting down, we were sent to the locked flight risk intake ward. Before I begin, let me say I have gone through intake with my kids on many occasions. As a missionary and parent, I have visited the behavioral ward of different hospitals in many states. This was not my first rodeo, and I am not easily shocked. However, this intake waiting area managed to shock and horrify even me. I will try to capture the experience, but I don't think even I can do justice to the absolute chaos that assaulted us as we were ushered through the large locked doors.

The first thing I noticed when walking in was the smell. The pungent odor is not new to me. I spent years doing homeless ministry. I lived above a homeless mission and worked there full-time for my college internship. The smell of un-bathed, inebriated individuals with dirty clothes and no access to hygiene products is not new to me. It was, however, new to my son. He immediately asked why it stank. Milling around the narrow halls were adults waiting to be admitted. Some were rocking, others were screaming, and one lady kept trying to remove her shirt and have everyone feel her stomach and "baby."  She would start screeching and yelling if you did not acknowledge her imaginary baby. She was demanding to leave so she could have her "baby." 

Around five police officers crowded the narrow hallway as they brought in two patients. One patient was a young teen girl ( I later learned she was 12). She had handcuffs over bandages where she had attempted to cut her wrists and was held between two large, muscular officers. Several of the male patients tried to touch her or engage her. I was grateful to one officer for keeping them at bay while he was there. Of course, he left as soon as he signed the admission papers.

 To our right was a large waiting room with more adult patients waiting to be admitted. They were sprawled across chairs and on the floor. Some had blankets; others just sat on the floor talking to themselves. They wandered the halls freely, with no visible supervision. 

To our left was a room with teenagers. Adult patients kept wandering in and out, even though the nurse would kick them out of the room the few times she walked past the door. Most of the teens were unaccompanied, brought in by law enforcement. B and I were instructed to stay in the cramped, loud, and poorly monitored hallway until the staff could "get to us."  They dealt with the patients brought in by the police. B kept pushing himself between the wall and me, scared. He didn't know what to make of the chaos that surrounded us.

 Finally, they called his name. It was our turn to meet with the admission nurse. Our belongings were locked in a locker (standard procedure at every psychiatric hospital), and we were patted down and scanned with a metal detector wand. I was surprised when they told me to bring B to the teen room. After standing in the hallway for over an hour, I thought we would be doing the admissions paperwork. But instead, we were being shuffled off to yet another waiting area. When I asked what was going on, I was told I could leave if I wanted. I did not want to leave. At this point, I wasn't sure if I would leave him at the hospital, the Baker Act be damned!

 As we waited several hours, more patients were brought in by the police or nurses. Some were loud. Some looked high; others looked utterly beaten down by life.   Some were violent. One began beating on the doors with so much strength he shook the entire ward. The teens were terrified. One girl looked at me and asked if he could break the glass windows of our room. I assured her we were safe and that security would deal with him. After twenty minutes of the nurses ignoring him and his behavior, they finally called security. However, security took nearly 10 minutes to show up after they were paged.

 One adult patient kept stripping naked over and over again. They would barely get clothes back on him, and he would take them off again. Having autistic kids, I understood his behavior. But it made the teen girls very uncomfortable to have a large adult male wandering around completely nude.

 While this happened, the teens were unprotected in an unlocked room with adult patients wandering in and out. When the nurse returned, I asked that the door be locked to protect the kids. She only complied after demanding to know who I was. I explained I was a parent and knew that teens should be separated and protected from the general adult population by law.

During our wait, I talked with the kids who were there. They were dying to be listened to. Most of them had been in inpatient before and began comparing the facilities with good food, the best staff, and places with the best therapist. 

One thin boy with the saddest eyes I've ever seen told how he had been a patient at a different facility over the Easter holiday. The nurses had sneaked patients Easter candy, and a kind doctor had ordered the entire teen ward pizzas for dinner that night. He said he had asked to be brought back to that facility when he had been removed from school by police in handcuffs because he had been overheard threatening to hurt himself. The sad boy explained that was the only facility where he had made progress because the staff cared. But the officers said it was too far, and they could only bring him to DBH.

As I sat there listening, my heart was broken over and over. The beautiful girl brought in by law enforcement in cuffs with her wrists bandaged began to talk to me. She had just been released from inpatient two days before. She had tried to slit her wrists again, so she was brought back in handcuffs after they bandaged her wrists. It is just standard procedure to handcuff our youth. So common, in fact, the kids were all comparing their cuff bruises while we waited. Most of the teens had been waiting 6-8 hours for a bed. They were not given food or even water the entire time they waited. To get to the bathroom, they had to wade through the sea of adult patients wandering the halls without supervision.

After three more hours, we were finally admitted. So for those of you keeping count, we drove an hour to the PHP program, waited eight hours for a bed to become available, and drove an hour and a half to the hospital. Then we stayed in the hallway for an hour and waited three more hours to be admitted. And we were "rushed" because he was transferred from another hospital, and I was making waves about the lack of proper security or supervision for the kids who were alone with adult mental patients.

Once I looked over the ward where B would stay (well, what I could see of it from where I was told to stand), I was reassured that he would be completely separate from the adult population while on the teen floor. I signed the last of the paperwork. They did a complete physical exam of B (again, standard procedure for psychiatric wards), documenting any scratches, rashes, bruises, etc. They skipped any more intrusive exams because of his autism. I am grateful for that. He would have been even more traumatized if they had done a rectal exam.

B was there for eight days with limited visitation and phone calls. Their doctors balanced his meds, which with B is no small feat. However, the teens were allowed to put whatever they wanted on the TV after therapy. They chose horror movies. My son had never been exposed to graphic horror movies before his time there and has had nightmares since returning. I don't understand how it is healthy for teens in a mental facility for self-harm or violence to be exposed to violent, gory, rated-R movies with full nudity at the hospital that is supposed to be treating them. The people on duty would watch the movies with the kids, so they knew what was being played.

Eight days later, B came home. The doctors had been able to balance his medications, but the hospital experience was traumatizing to him. 

I sleep haunted by the faces of the kids I waited in the intake waiting room with. So many of these kids were traumatized by things and situations in their lives. They are crying out for help. Our solution to that trauma as a society is to slap cuffs on them and stick them in an unsafe and traumatizing waiting area alone. Then we admit them to hospitals with little supervision, drug them and send them back to the environments that traumatized them, to begin with, in many cases.   Kids have died in mental hospitals in our area.

We have a national mental health crisis with our young people today. You only have to turn on the news to know I speak the truth. How can we help them if the institutions meant to help are so overcrowded that it takes nine hours to find one bed in a vast metropolitan area ( and we were lucky to find that one, I was told repeatedly)? How can we help them when they are dropped into traumatizing situations like I described, with no one to advocate for them while waiting? How can we help them if, while they are in the hospital, they are exposed to more violence, gore, and sexualization?

Some of you think this does not affect you, so why should you care? Or maybe you think those kids have it coming to them because they wouldn't be in this situation had they not earned it. You are wrong. How many school shootings and mass public attacks will it take before we as a nation wake up to the mental health crisis we face? 

 I want to be clear that most people who suffer from mental health problems are not violent (someone with a diagnosed mental illness commits only 3% of violent crimes).   You may be lucky. Maybe you or someone you love is not affected by mental illness. However insulated you think you are, let me assure you that you know someone that struggles with mental health issues. According to NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health), 1 in 5 adults has a mental illness. That is 20% of the adult population. Of those, only half receive ANY treatment at all. I included a link to NAMI's statistics on pediatric mental health issues here. I encourage you to click the link. There is a lot of important information there.

This is a very long article, but I wanted to share our experiences. We need to change our mental health care system in this country. The only way those changes will happen is if we demand them. The only way we can demand them is if we know the actual state of the mental health care system in our country. Unfortunately, many people in our society who need things to change the most cannot advocate for themselves. So we must be their voices. 

 I reported our experiences to the hospital and, more importantly, our insurance company. I am writing this blog. I purposely did not obfuscate the institution we visited because I want to see changes. I demand better for the most vulnerable members of our society.

Saturday, May 5, 2018

41 Things I've Learned at 41

Today is my birthday.  In usual Skiff fashion, I spent the first few hours of it in the most dramatic way possible; at the hospital, on morphine, with a raging kidney infection.  Fun times.
Now that I am coming down off the drugs, I have decided to make a list of things I have learned over the past 41 years.  The goal is to have 41 lessons I've learned at 41 but I'm not sure that I'm that wise.  But we are going to give it the old college try.

1) Live life laughing.  Let's be honest, life can be crappy at times but if you find something to laugh about, the crap stinks a little less.

2) Be nice to people. This is particularly funny coming from me today because coming down off pain meds makes me a raging bitch.  But on the whole, I have found that if you genuinely smile and are kind to the people in your life, life goes much smoother.

3) Live life charitably.  When you see a need and you have the means to help, help out. It's simple.  The high you get from giving is like no other. You honestly get back so much more than you ever could give.

4) When you give, give freely, with no strings attached.  It isn't truly a gift, unless you have let go of it and any expectation of what will happen to it. A gift with strings, isn't a gift, it's a tool to manipulate.

5)Forgiveness is essential for your mental health.  For real, unforgiveness led me to some very dark places.

6) Forgiveness is not the same thing as forgetting, nor does it mean that you have to restore the relationship.  Sometimes people are genuinely toxic for you or your family. Forgiving the wrongs the have done against you does not mean that you have to let them back into your life.  You can forgive and move on without them.

7) Have a few ,very close, friends. The kind of friends who will laugh with you at inappropriate things, who will hold your hands and cry with you through the crap that life slings your way and will help you bury the bodies, should the need arise. *I'm not saying that the need has arisen*

8) Have some shallow friends and acquaintances. I'm just learning this one.  We talk about shallow relationships like they are a bad thing. If ALL your relationships are only skin deep, that is an issue. But it is important to have people in your life that you just shoot the breeze with and laugh.  They don't need to know all your crap and you don't need to know theirs.  Not every relationship has to be strong and deep.  It's good to have a little levity in your life.

9) Be young while you're young.  I grew up way faster than I should have.  Looking back, I wish I had embraced my youth and had fun with it.  I was too serious and too responsible way too early.

10) Be grown when you're grown.  You cannot relive your youth.  For everything there is a time and a season.  Enjoy the season you are in because once it is over, it's gone.

11) Embrace your inner bitch.  Now hear me out, I'm not saying that it is okay to just be nasty and bitchy all the time. (refer to lesson 2) However, there are times when you have to be strong, unbending and even short.  If you are a woman, some idiots in the world will view that as you being a bitch.  That's okay. Embrace it; not everyone has to like you.

12) This brings me to my next point: You cannot please everyone. Don't even try. Live life making the best choices you know to make, with a clear conscience. Live the life you want to live.  If you live it trying to make other people happy, you will never succeed and you will be miserable because you aren't being true to yourself.

13) Be true to yourself.  The deepest betrayal, one of the hardest to forgive and overcome, is when you betray yourself.  Live a life that allows you to like the person that you see looking back at you in the mirror.  Forgiving yourself is the hardest thing to do. Believe me, I speak from experience.

14) Have Faith, not religion.  I have a deep and abiding faith but I no longer have a religion.  For years I mistook religiosity as faith.  I look back on those years in shame.  Religion made me intractable and judgmental.  Faith has made me grateful, loving and accepting.

15) I don't know everything. In fact, I know less every year.  I used to think I had the answers to so many of life's quandaries. Everything was so black and white; it was so simple.  Then I grew up and experienced more of life's roadblocks than I had ever anticipated.  I now understand that very few things in life are either simple or black and white.  In deed, most of life is lived in varying shades of grey.....and orange....and blue....and pink....and yellow.  Life is a veritable rainbow of life experiences.  How sad and boring would it be if it really was only black and white.

16) Date and date a lot.  I grew up in the "I kissed dating goodbye" era.  What a foolish notion that was!  Dating is a skill, it takes practice to do it well.  It takes time to know someone.  How incredibly stressful is it to think that every first date is the person you are trying to marry!! Go on casual dates, have fun, get to know a person without the stress of a lifetime hanging over your heads.  For the love of Pete, HAVE FUN!!

17) Make time for fun!! I am working on this one.  Life is short and we only get one chance at it.  Don't spend it so locked down that you miss out on fun!

18) Have adventures!! Again, we only get to do this rodeo once.  Make it a ride that others will talk about long after you are gone

19) Speak truthfully and frankly.  Don't couch everything you say in so much fluff that your point is lost.  Speak your mind. Speak the truth.

20) Balance your truthfulness and frankness with kindness.  Being truthful does not mean you must be harsh.  You can be kind even while being direct.

21) Fly first class, at least once.  Life is short, pay the extra money for the experiences at least once.

22) If you need it, get therapy or take meds.  Do what it takes to be healthy, not only in your body but also in your mind and soul.  There is no shame in admitting you need help.

23) Don't marry your "better half".  Be the better half someone wants to marry.  If you go into marriage expecting the other person to make up for your own lack, you are starting your marriage off ready to fail.  Be the best you. Let them be the best them.  Come together as complete, separate people who are choosing to journey together because you each bring your best self to the table.

24) Find heroes.  Find people that are worthy of your respect, people further along the journey than you.  Listen to them, learn from them, spend time with them just absorbing the character traits you admire. You will become what you surround yourself with.  Surround yourself with greatness.

25) You cannot control anyone or anything but yourself.  It's a hard but real truth.  Accept it and move on with your life.  You cannot change anything or anyone but you.  So work on yourself and stop wasting your time trying to force others to change.

26) Being female does not make you less than. God did not create women as a lesser sex.  We are created equal to men.  Having a penis does not entitle someone to respect or deference.  Respect only people who have earned your respect, regardless of their genitalia.

27) Drive in city traffic (also known as Do the hard things).  It will teach you patience, self control and sharpen your skills.  Also, you will gain self confidence.

28) Learn to fail.  Don't Fail to learn.  You will fail in life because almost everything we do in life takes practice.  So learn to accept failure as part of the journey and learn from it.  If you back away from every challenge out of fear of failure, you will never learn.

29)Get the hair cut.  Hair grows.  Get that funky hair cut or dye your hair the crazy color.  Do it!! If you don't like it, who cares. Hair grows.

30) Do your make-up. Wear the dress.  Wear the fascinator. Bling it out!  We only live once.  Do it with style and pizzazz. (if that's your thing) Don't walk around as a Neutral Nelly if you are Blingy Betty on the inside. Be true to who you are.

31) Remember pain does not last forever.  Whether emotional or physical, this too shall pass.  Don't lose sight of the hope in the midst of the pain.

32) Read all the books!!! You can never read too much.

33) Finish the books you start.....unless they are free on Kindle and completely unreadable!

34) Memorize poetry.  Make it a part of your soul. Quote it often and aloud.

35) Listen to ALL the music. Sing it!! Sing it loudly!!!  Make your very breath a song.

36) Love art! Appreciate it!! Go to the art museums and admire the greats. Buy from the street artist! Collect what you can afford to collect! Support artist just starting out and artist that have been around a long time.  Surround yourself with art that stirs your soul, not what has a great investment value.

37) Create traditions for your children.  Celebrate the holidays and birthdays.  Show them the joy in celebration.  Teach them the reverence of tradition.  Tradition anchors them to the richness past while giving them something to look forward to.

38) Don't treasure things. Treasure people and memories.  Things are temporary and can be gone in an instant.  The memories that we make with the people we love, last a lifetime.  Pass those memories down to your children.  It is important for them to understand where they come from.

39) Make time to be alone.  Make it a priority.  Be comfortable and at peace in your own company.  Take a vacation all by yourself. You need that time to relearn yourself, to ground yourself, to prioritize your life.

40) Age is more than just a number, it is the mile marker of your life.  It shows how long you've been on this journey and how much you have learned along the way. Learn to embrace your age (I'm still working on this).

41) Order the Pop Rock pancakes ( also known as: don't be afraid to do the silly things that make you happy).  Once we went to Denny's; I ordered a special pancake that they had as a promotion for Star Wars. I didn't realize the pancakes came with Pop Rocks on them.  My first bite was an explosion of sizzley, snapping, popping flavor and I LOVED it. My husband and son laughed at my Pop Rocks pancakes because they were so
silly (all in good fun mind you).  But I loved the fun they brought to my life.  And the next time we went to Denny's you better believe I ordered the Pop Rock pancakes once more!  I have no regrets.

41 things for 41 years. If you made it this far, bless you.  I know this has been a long one. However, 41 years earns you a few words (or in my case, more than a few). Happy Birthday To Me!!! Now go buy Pop Rock Pancakes!~ Kristine

Sunday, April 8, 2018

A Glimpse of the Sun


My dark night of the soul is coming to an end. I feel the sun breaking over the horizon; the light at the end of this tunnel is warming my face. 

 I came to the end of myself in a way that I never have before. In the past, when I felt myself crumbling away, I found a way back; whether through faith or some inner strength, I was able to claw my way back from the ledge.  I feared the abyss that awaited me over that cliff; I knew whatever lurked down there was dark and deep.  To fear the unknown is human; it's our survival instinct to fear that which cannot be quantified.  Even now, as I write this, I struggle to relay the depths to which I plummeted when I no longer had the strength or faith to avoid that dark and endless drop into the unknown.

I know the very moment that my last finger lost the strength to hold on any longer.  I was sitting in the neuro-psychologist office as she officially diagnosed my thirteen-year-old son with Schizoaffective Disorder;  when I saw the tears that I didn't know I was crying hit the table in front of me.  That was the moment that everything that was left of who I used to be crumbled away.  I sat through the rest of the appointment as an empty shell. The woman who walked into that appointment did not walk out.  She now lay in the rubble at the bottom of the abyss of her personhood.
For a week, I functioned on auto-pilot. But I knew there was something very wrong with me. The internal strength that had held me steady through all the diagnoses, all the advocating, all the illnesses, homelessness, losing everything....twice,  the strength that I was known for and proud of, was completely gone.  When I wasn't on autopilot, I lay in my bed, tears that could not grieve falling from my eyes. I was empty. I was gone.

After a week, I messaged the only two people in the world I knew I could trust to tell me the truth; the only two people I knew would be there no matter what shape I was in.  I knew this wasn't something my husband or family could help me with. They are too close, too much a part of the person that now lay in pieces. So I called the only two people I knew I could trust with my brokenness.  Everyone needs these kinds of friends; if you don't have them, find them now.  Because one day, you may need someone to look at you as the pieces of yourself are scattered on the floor and then sweep those pieces up and tell you that you need help, real help. You may need them to hold you accountable to get that help. You may need them to be the ones to find the help you need because you don't have it in you.  So, find your true friends in the good times because if you ever get to that point, they will be the ones to sweep you up and carry you to the people who can start putting you back together.

I went into therapy. I was diagnosed with Complex PTSD.  Yes, living my everyday life has given me PTSD.  I sat in my therapist's office, and she told me if I did not do the work and make the hard choices now, she feared I would lose the ability ever to come back from the sea of numbness and detachment that surrounded me.  I had disconnected from everything that was me; my family, my emotions, the things I loved, the things I hated. Nothing of who I knew myself to be was there

My entire life, I have focused on fixing things for others and being reliable and strong.  If I made my list, I was the last thing on it.   But now, I had to choose to make myself the priority because if I didn't, I would end up useless to everyone.

I wish I could tell you that this was a fun process of getting a couple of pedicures and soaking in a few bubble baths; self-care done. Check! Kristine is back to being Kristine.

It has been an excruciating process of facing the pain that I haven't let myself deal with because I was too busy dealing with life.  It has been a process of letting go. I had to admit that I am not enough.  I am not enough to fix my kids.  I am not enough to cure my husband's MS and Bipolar.  I'm not even enough to fix myself.  I had to admit that I needed real help and hard changes had to be made.

 I had to accept that my oldest needed emergency help to deal with his issues, help beyond what I could provide. I had to admit that my youngest mental illness is not something I can fix or even therapy out of him.  He has a chemical imbalance in his brain. The only way to manage it is the kind of meds I never wanted to put my kids on.  I had to let go of the illusion that I was in control.

I went back to work, but that was a journey of self-acceptance.   I had to face the fear that I had been out of the workplace too long, that I was no longer relevant. I had to face my fear of failure and inadequacy.  Again one of my ride-or-die friends brought me the opportunity because I wouldn't have fought those demons unless I was placed in a position where I had to.  I hadn't realized how much my self-confidence had taken a beating over the years. But once working, it all started coming back.  It gave me pieces of myself that I thought I would never get back. 

Most people don't know this about me, but being a stay-at-home mom was very hard for me.  I am not naturally wired that way. I LOVE my kids, but I never dreamed of tending the house and raising babies. I have always loved working and having a career.  Honestly, I rocked working.  I gave it up because I needed to stay home with our kids' unique needs.  But it took a heavy toll on my sense of self.  Working has restored some of that for me.  I had to learn to be okay with the fact that I was doing something good for myself.  The mom guilt ran deep in me.

Honestly, the things I had to face, admit and accept would take a book, not a blog, to cover in detail.  Suffice to say, to come back from the bottom of the abyss of who I was, I had to examine each and every part of my fractured self.  Then I had to rebuild myself; that isn't even accurate. I had to re-sculpt myself from new clay.  The old me was not salvageable.  The me that emerged was different than the one who lay in the rubble at my feet.

 I am still learning to live in this new skin of mine.  I'm stronger and softer at the same time. I am like a toddler in some ways, still unsteady on my feet, still learning what this new me can and can't do.  But for the first time in nearly 20 years, I feel like the real me, not the me that simply survived in the crises and chaos.

The sun is rising. I don't know precisely how all of this is going to play out. I can tell you that I am excited to see what the future holds. I have hope for this new me, who is like the old me, only different.  Thank you for your support and love on my journey.
 If you are the place I was, please get help. Without my friends and therapist, I would not be writing this blog right now.  I honestly don't know where I would have ended up.   This is a journey that my family could not help me with.  It took people outside to drag me to the help I needed.  We cannot do this life alone.  We are not enough, and that is okay.   To Donna and Becky, I love you ladies and owe you more than I can ever repay. Thank you!  As always,  love, Kristine.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Glimpse of World's Apart

In the past, I have written about the importance of having margin in our lives.  It is so much easier said than done.  I know this is a struggle in all families but it is amplified in a special needs family.
My life consist of driving from one doctor's/ therapist/ case worker's appointment to the next; managing one crisis to the next.  I joked with my therapist that one week I was going to show up to my therapy appointment without a single emergency or crisis from the week before to report.  She literally laughed and said "Yeah, that's not going to happen".  We had a similar experience at church.  Here is a portion of what my husband wrote about it "one of the songs in church this weekend said something about God setting order to the chaos in your life. I burst out laughing, right out loud before clamping my hand over my mouth.. more because of the insanity that is Skiffdom than theology...." Usarian Skiff 2018
I wish our experience was unique to us, that going through life bouncing from one crisis was confined to the four walls of our home.  Though it feels that way at times, the truth is that we are not the only family that is balancing the tight rope between sanity and hospitalization or one paycheck away from financial disaster.  In today's society, we all live life without much margin, running constantly at full steam, praying that our family's train is able to make it around the next bend with out derailing.  The difference in our family, and in most special needs families, is that our trains don't run at full speed, they are always at turbo speed.  We have to keep the engine's of our lives in overdrive, pushed beyond what they were ever designed to do. This leads to more maintenance needs and no time or resources to do said maintenance.  When things start breaking down we are in  another crisis, one that many of you would say could have been avoided had we just......(insert advice we already know here).   However, we were stretched so thin dealing with the prior emergency that there was literally no way, time or money,  to do blah, blah, blah (no matter how small a deal it may look like to those of you standing on the outside looking in at our chaos). So we are judged for not being able to handle the small things that are now big things.
  Our friends and families become overwhelmed just hearing about our lives, so they stop asking. Or  they continue to ask and then become so overwhelmed by what we say, we know that by sharing even a small part of our world, we have become a burden. We know they love us and want to help fix the issues.  But our problems are too big to be fixed by us and they are too big to be fixed by those who love us.  The advice they lovingly give, we have already tried many times.  So we stop answering  when they ask because we hate always being a burden.  Also, we don't have the emotional energy to handle their feelings on top of our own. We have also lost the ability to once again, tactfully say their advice isn't helping ; we don't want to hurt their feelings. 
This life is isolating by it's very nature.  We are always on the go; balancing doctors, therapy, education, more doctors, more therapy.  After that, there are still the regular life things  like homework, school activities, cleaning, cooking, and paying bills, to handle.
 There is never extra money to do the fun things that friends and family want to do.  We know that someone would offer to cover us financially, once again.  But it is hard to always be the taker, always be the one in need.   On the rare occasion that we have the time and money to hang out there is the issue of finding child care, which for special needs kids is not as easy as calling the teenage girl  down the street . Heck my kids are the same age as she is or older anyway. So we just say no to the invitations and after a while we stop being invited at all.
Our lives are lived in space that cannot be comprehended by most.  If we lived life off the grid or in the shadows of society, people would at least have a point of reference.  Instead our lives happen parallel to theirs, similar enough that they think they can understand until they look closer and realize ours is an entirely different world; a different dimension that somehow broke into their reality and set up house in their neighborhood.
We long for connection, to break free of this loneliness so we try to enter their world.  We attempt to go to their churches, shop at their stores, attend their PTA meetings. But it never lasts long.  Their churches are too loud for those with sensory issues, our kids are too old for kids church but too young mentally for youth group. Shopping trips become nightmarish outings of meltdowns and judgementalism. PTA meetings have no place for our kids and they don't address the issues are kids are facing anyway. So we go back to our little worlds until the loneliness drives us out to try to connect once more, knowing the results will be the same.
We come across the occasional fellow traveler, whose world is like ours so there is understanding.  But like us, their train is plowing through life on overdrive, so there is limited time and resources for  more than the occasional meet up.  We find relationships online, our friends become global, and our interactions become a series of 0's and 1's flying across the web. These relationships are real, they are important, but they lack the personal contact that we all need and crave.  It's hard to grab coffee on a whim when you are separated by oceans and continents.
This is what it is to live in our words.  These are the truths we don't share for fear that we will offend, overwhelm or burden most of our loved ones.  Even the things we rejoice in often have an underlying sadness for those we love.  When I become ecstatic that my son remembered to shower and wear clean clothes on his own, they remember how old he is and know this shouldn't be something I'm still having to deal with.  They try to be excited with me but their grief for what could/ should be still comes through.  I however stopped grieving what could be a long time ago. I truly do celebrate what is, even if it is 10 years later than when most people experience it.
When we stop answering texts or messages, we aren't pulling away because we don't trust  or don't love them.  It's just that our world's don't match up anymore. We want to bring more to our relationships than the need for pity, judgement or grief.  Honestly, we also want more from our relationships than those things.  We long for relationships where we all can be real and equal.  It is a real conversation ender when a friend share's the struggles they are facing with finding a good coach for their son's sport of choice; then they ask you what's going on with your child.  I tell them how things are much better and leave it at that.  Being a good friend, they press for details.  I share that his behaviors are more under control since the doctors changed his meds during his last hospitalization.  Then there is an awkward silence. Their struggle is as real as mine.  Their worries about their son getting the right coach so that he can get the right scholarship, for the right college,  are not less valid or concerning than what I am facing with my son.  They are just very different.  Our world's don't align.  We live a life that has no margins; it doesn't even use paper most of the time. Their life stays at least on the page, if not within the lines.
I'm not sure why I'm writing this today, it is more stream of consciousness than my usual post.   guess the rain and our current set of crises have made me a bit melancholy and reflective.  AS always, thank you for reading. ~ Kristine

Thursday, February 22, 2018

A Universe of Love in Pieces

I remember bringing him home from the hospital, wrapped tightly in his brand new receiving blankets, so tiny he could fit in the palm of my husband's hand. He was my first child; the love I felt for him from the moment I laid eyes on his scrawny wrinkled body cannot be described.  Love is too small a word to describe the new universe of emotion that exploded within me in that single second. It was as if every heartbeat that I had now belonged completely to another being.  There was no sacrifice too great; no amount of pain too intense. No mountain was too insurmountable when it came to protecting him.  It was the purest and truest form of emotion I had ever experienced.  There are no real words to sum the expanse and the depth of that feeling.  Every mother throughout history has tried to find the words and failed.  As I looked at the most beautifully wrinkled  alienesque being that  I had ever seen, I whispered over and over "Mama loves you so much.  You are so precious.  I will keep you safe. I love you
I whispered those words through round the clock feedings, through scary illnesses, through first steps,  new siblings, meltdowns, first words, first days of school, developmental problems, eventual Autism diagnosis, long nights of homework, more meltdowns, homeschooling,  surgery, mental breakdowns and eventual mental illness diagnosis.  I whispered those words as I fought for accommodations at the schools. I whispered them as I cried quietly in the night, my heart breaking for his struggles.  I whispered them when I could no longer hug him because the feel of anyone touching him was almost painful to him. I whispered them as he cried for the loss of his dreams of normalcy.  I whispered them nightly over him after his anxiety finally settled and he fell asleep.  I have whispered those words so often that I'm sure to him they are route and hold little meaning. But each time I say "I love you, my precious boy. Mama is here. I'll protect you.",  I once again feel that universe of emotion expanding, trying to reach through my very soul and somehow make the the world understand just what this boy, now nearly a man, means to me.
So what happened I could no longer protect him from his own mind, when his disability threatened his siblings who have their own universes swirling around my soul? What happens when you have to choose the safety of the many over the protection of your precious child, who though almost grown still possesses the heart of a child?  Unfortunately, I know the answer to these questions.  I know what it is to have to shatter your own soul into pieces for the safety of all whom you love.
Our family is a family of unicorns.  All five of my boys are on the autism spectrum to some degree and have various mental health co-morbid conditions.  My oldest child was diagnosed as having Gifted Asperger's (now gifted high functioning autism) in Kindergarten.  He always had major anxiety and OCD tendencies but we were able to manage them.  However once he hit 13, he had a full metal break.  A perfect storm of events coalesced to drive him that point but telling that story would require an entire book, not one chapter.
His breakdown made it so that he could no longer leave our house without severe panic attacks, the simplest things would set off large, uncontrollable meltdowns. We lived years always on edge, emergency meds within reach, waiting for the next thing to set him off.  The most heart wrenching part of this was that my son has always had a soft heart; he would never purposely harm a fly.  But when his brain chemistry would go awry, he was no longer in control of his actions.  Our saving grace was that he was still small enough that we were able to physically restrain him when he was in danger of hurting himself or one of his siblings. That small reprieve lasted only a short time. At 14 he hit a growth spurt that still has not ended; at 17 he was 6'2 and 300lbs.   Still, we were able to keep everyone safe by being ever vigilante to separate the boys when they would start to work each other up, as brothers are want to do. We had them all on a strict regiment of medications to deal with their various issues and had emergency meds on hand to be administered at the first sign he or his sibling was starting to spiral.
It was a well monitored powder keg, waiting to explode.  We could only hope that we would be able to minimize the damage when it finally went off.  Then the inevitable happened and all our contingency plans were not enough.  The powder keg exploded.
It was evening, the most liable time of day in our home because everyone's medications are starting to wear off.  The boys were getting ready to watch a movie and drink hot chocolate.  It was a an ordinary evening.  Nothing seemed amiss.  Then, out of the blue my oldest son and my youngest son were at each other's throats, loudly arguing (about what is still debated to this day).  In a 'normal' family, this would just be brothers being brothers and it could be dealt with as such.  But in our home there are too many variables, too many syndromes and disorders that exasperate one another.  In our home a normal, brotherly, argument can lead to week long in-patient stays on the mental health ward.  My husband and I both moved quickly to intervene.  In the few seconds that it  took us to reach the boys, the argument had become physical.  We separated them, gave them each an emergency med and sent them to their separate bedrooms to calm down.  The plan was once they had calmed down we would deal with whatever had caused the ruckus to begin with. In the past, this plan of action had worked well.  However, on this particular evening, my oldest son decided he was not going to go to his room, that he was too old to be told what to do.  Again, this is a normal thing for teenagers to do, every parent faces a moment when their teenager challenges their authority.  Unfortunately in our home, normal behaviors can become extreme in an instant. This was one of those instances.  When we insisted he go to his room until he was calm, our son began to physically attack his father, my husband.  My oldest is 2 inches taller and 50lbs heavier than his dad.  Restraining him was not an option, he was no longer in control of his actions.  Talking to him, only increased the outside stimulation, pushing him further into his meltdown and he was not stopping.
In that moment I had no choice but to make the most difficult call of my life.  On that night, I broke that whispered promise I had uttered thousands of times to my son.  That night I fractured my soul into hundreds of pieces as I had to choose between the safety of my husband and other children and protecting my oldest from actions he could no longer control.   I picked up the phone and I called the police. While on the phone I informed them that my so was a minor and autistic. I requested a mental health officer come out on the call.  The 911 operator was amazing and passed on all the information to the responding officers.
Three big officers arrived at our home in a matter of minutes.  Thankfully by the time they arrived, his emergency medication had started to take affect. He was still emotional but he was no longer being violent.  The officers were amazing with him.  They talked to him calmly and stayed as he continued to calm.   Instead of being arrested, I was able to bring him to the hospital his psychiatrist works out of.
It worked out in the best possible way but the fact remains I called armed police into my home to protect the rest of my family from my son.  I had made a choice and in that choice, his protection had come secondary to the safety of everyone (including him).
I've only had to call the police about him on one other occasion.  We have been blessed that in both instances we had amazing and caring officers come out.  They understood my son's issues and worked with us.  But both of those situations could have gone very differently.  He could have become more agitated.  He could have had to be restrained. He could have been arrested.  He could have had these things on his criminal record. As a mother, this was the hardest choice I have ever had to make.  It shattered pieces of my soul that I didn't know could be shattered.
Still I would not change the choice I made.  It was the right decision to make.  Sometimes we as mom's cannot protect our children from their actions, even when those actions are driven by  brain chemistry they cannot control.  Sometimes protecting them is outweighed by saving them and/or others.  And sometimes we simply are not enough to do both.  Sometimes that universe of love looks like our heart breaking into a thousand pieces.  Sometimes that love looks like calling the police on your own child, the same child you held within your body for 9 months, in your arms through their growing up years and in your heart , and all it's pieces, forever.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Breaking Bad Theology

I was asked to share my experiences as a child, now an adult, who was raised under the parenting philosophy of needing to break a child.    This request came out of a blog post by The Transformed Wife, that was shared on a FB page for women that I manage link here,(I DO NOT ENDORSE THIS WOMAN OR WHAT SHE TEACHES IN ANYWAY.  Her teachings make me sick)  I struggled to read past the intro statement that she used to share her post on FB.  Here is a direct quote  "Our job as parents is to break our children’s stubborn, rebellious, and sinful will and replace it with a will that first wants to please and obey their parents and when they grow older with a will that wants to please and obey the Lord"

Before I truly begin I need to be clear, the stories I share here happened when my parents were not only young, impressionable, newly saved Christians but they were also young parents.  Anything they did, they did from the doctrine they were taught in a church that they believed was teaching Biblical truth.  This is not a post to bash them, as they are two of the most giving and loving people you will ever meet.  That being said, the church we attended early on in their Christian walk and during my formative years, took what were good Biblical principals and twisted them into legalistic teachings that quickly morphed into an abusive and controlling theology.  Looking back now, I can say with 100% certainty, we were in a cult, not a legitimate church.  Unfortunately these twisted and perverted teachings, have invaded the main stream evangelical and Charismatic churches.  It is because of this that I feel the need to share my experiences.  If what I experienced and learned will save just one child or woman, then I will consider this blog well worth the emotional vulnerability I experience in sharing these things.

My parents were married very young, both having come from dysfunctional homes.  They were saved before getting married, in the mid 1970's during what was known as the Jesus Movement.  Here is a link explaining the Jesus Movement for those who would like more info: link here.
I was born at home, my parents were the original crunchies (home births, homemade tofu, the works. lol).  The church they attended taught that women and children should be submitted under the headship of the man of the house.  Children needed to have their wills broken from an early age through strict corporal discipline. A mother's submission to her husband and the church was judged by how her children behaved.  Though I was protected by my parents,  older, problem children and teens, were brought before the church elders to be "disciplined" by the church leadership.   I learned very early that I was never going to be good enough to avoid punishment.  I wasn't just spanked for doing things wrong, I was spanked for my atitudes or even for what my parents thought were my hidden attitudes and thoughts.  By the time I was a young girl, I literally shook every time my father even said my name (for any reason).  I have amazing parents, my Dad has taught me more in this life about everything from theology to a good work ethic to cooking and art than I have learned from any teacher or professor.  My mom has taught me what true faith and worship look like.  Unfortunately, early on, they were deceived by abusive teachings that were taught as Biblical fact.  I can't count the number of times I was quoted  Proverbs 22:13 "Foolishness is bound up in the heart of a child; The rod of discipline will remove it far from him."  or  Proverbs 22:6 " Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it." or Hebrews 12:7 "It is for discipline that you endure; God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?";  all of which I had memorized before I was 4 years old.
The result of these experiences was that I not only had an unhealthy fear of my earthly father, I also was terrified of my heavenly father.  I spent all of my childhood and most of my adulthood into my thirties feeling like a piece of shit person, that was so incredibly sinful and evil that the only way God could deal with me was to discipline me.  I didn't deserve to be loved or accepted because I was sinful to my very core.  When I was abused, well I had that coming because I needed to be disciplined.  Fall down the stairs and nearly lose my babies, well I had that coming too because I must have been being rebellious and needed to be disciplined.  After all, God only disciplines those he loves, right?
When I was 16 my Dad brought me out on an ice cream date and sincerely apologized for the way they had "disciplined" me during my childhood.  It broke his heart that I feared him so much that I felt the need to apologize as soon as  he entered a room or that I would shake when he said my name.  Our relationship started on the long road to healing that day.
It took a long time for me to overcome that fear of authority, especially men, that I had.  
I share this because know there are other young parents out there that are being taught this same bullshit as the way to raise Godly children.  Let me be clear, what you are being taught is unbalanced and is abusive.  The Bible says in Ephesians 6:4 "Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord." and "See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven." Mark 18:10
Jesus loves children.  He encouraged the children to come to him when all the adults tried to send them away.  When the disciples asked who was the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, here is how he responded "He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.
“If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea." Mathew 18:2-6
Parents love your children, guide them, listen to them and teach them the way Jesus taught us; lovingly, through stories and sitting with us instructing us in love.  We as parents can not change the hearts of our children anymore than we can change our own hearts.  But we can do real damage to not only our relationships with our kids but also to their view of God when we chose to break them. It's called breaking for a reason.  It is damaging, it is abusive and it is not how scripture teaches us to instruct our children. My parenting goal is to raise healthy and whole leaders, not beaten down and broken down followers who will submit to whatever bully is the loudest.  The only time Jesus broke out a whip and broke anything was in the temple where adults were hypocritically doing things in God's name (defiling the temple) that were abhorrent to God.  He never "broke" his disciples, even when they abandoned him to the cross.  Instead he loved them and showed that love in his forgiveness of them, even in the most egregious mistakes.  Let us use Christ as our ultimate example of  Godly parenting.

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