Sunday, February 27, 2011

Growing up...

It's been amazing this week working with the kids and seeing how much they have matured and learned. They are all so different from one another, and yet the growth in them is amazing.

I am talking about my son and my godchildren. They all call themselves best friends and the two boys often act like brothers, complete with extended periods of bickering followed by highly imaginative cooperative play schemes. The girl can behave like a little Mom. It's very sweet.

We have been working this week on creative writing. They did well on their pieces, but it was the other stuff that made me take notice. They worked as a response group for each other and had great thoughts that they presented in supportive ways. At points, I asked them to organize themselves for activities, and they managed it, each assuming leadership at different times. Oh, there was a bit of subbornness on one part or another now and then, but they almost always sorted it out themselves. Not mmuch adult intervention was needed.

They are growing up. It was so good -- if a little bittersweet, in a way -- to see.

I thank God for these beautiful children and their gifts.

Have a good day.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Learning is never wasted

College students are being steered away from majors like philosophy that are perceived as having no practical application (or future job prospects).

There are women being discouraged from being (or remaining) stay at home moms because that would mean their college educations would be wasted. Culturally, this is probably even stronger for men who want to rear the children as their primary occupation.

And people are concerned about switching careers because they have invested time and money in learning their first career. I know that argument has been used to try to turn me aside from a change in profession.

I am not buying it.

First of all, philosophy is practical. It teaches you to think, analyze, deduce, debate. And on and on. It can be the foundation for many careers from law to education to research to spiritual leadership to business.

I can not think of a single area of knowledge or training that will not be useful in parenting and/or running a home at some point. Throw homeschooling into the mix and that becomes an understatement.

An investment in knowledge and training can not be wasted. At the very least, learning something trains our brains to learn new things. I have never used much of the algebra I learned in high school and have forgotten most of it. Still, the process of learning it was valuable.

But beyond all that, I think there is a Guiding Hand who calls us to different things at different times. He may well call us out of one vocation into another. Or perhaps we went our own way for a while and need to change to get more in line with His will. Either way, He can weave our experience into the tapestry of our lives so that it all comes out for our good and His glory.

And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

God's calling incorporates our gifts and our real desires. So go ahead and follow your heart, take a risk, make a change. Not one moment or one penny of what we spent on education will be wasted. God will see to that.

Have a good day!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Peace Day

A friend of mine invited me to a facebook event called "A Day of Peace". It is meant to be worldwide. Here is a quote from the page:

"Just one day in the year where we all held our tongues. A day where we ignored others' shortcomings and made a valiant effort to be kind and understanding. A day where we all got along."

Sounds great and I accepted the invitation. Not that I think it will work all that well, but still, it's a good thought.

It reminds me of The Four Absolutes that Rev. Bob Baggs used to urge on us up in OP. Absolute love, absolute honesty, absolute unselfishness and absolute purity. At one point, he would tell us, there was a leader (I forget the name) who would get the whole conference to give it a try for 24 hours. He said it would be like heaven for the day. People would fail of course, but then they would begin anew, all reinforcing each others' attempts. After I learned about that old tradition, I had my cabins try. I think I had a camper who made it to 40 minutes once. That's how it is, isn't it? When we go for perfect behavior we fail. That's why we need grace. From each other and, more importantly from Jesus who thankfully is more thatn willing to offer it.

Oh -- when I was in Nagaland I met a woman who worked for a worldwide youth oganization that bases its work on the Four Absolutes and I have just learned that they were the early cornerstones or "yardsticks" of AA and are still used in recovery programs. That's just a side note, because I can be random like that.

Another friend of mine recently quoted to me the the verse "See that no one repays anyone evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to everyone." (1 Thessalonians 5:15). The theme of not repaying evil for evil has been brought to my mind repeatedly, especially in my Bible reading over the last couple of days. Based on the description, I think that this is what it at the heart of the "day of peace", even if a biblical basis isn't being claimed for it.

Anyway, as I said, I do not think this will have amazing results. Human effort is not enough to bring about peace in either our individual or corporate lives. We need to rely on God to work through us for that, and I am not sure any of us are perfect enough at that either. I know I am not. Still these exercises are useful. They help us to see what needs to be done and how to work toward it. They help to fit us for Heaven, which is where peace will finally reign.

So maybe you'll join me for this day of peace. (It's March 4th. Here's the link And we can include some prayers that the Kingdom of Heaven will prevail. Soon.


Tuesday, February 22, 2011


I spent a recent weekend with my favorite community, being refreshed, rejuvenated and reminded just how much this group of people cares for and supports each other. As the communion worship leader said, "We are a community that is exceptionally good at bearing one another's burdens." (This was proven to me personally by various people -- campers through the Dean --throughout the weekend. Thanks everyone.)

During those couple of days I was also repeatedly challenged, in a good way, on several things, one of which was focus. I need to work on staying in the moment and keeping my mind on what is before me. So this week I am going to make a concerted effort to do that.

I am away from home. I still need to do some routine daily tasks and Jordan's medical concerns still need to be addressed. But beyond that I have decided to pare down what I am doing.

My spiritual life has been stalled for a while. I would like to get it in order before Lent so that I can move through that season in a productive way. So each morning, while the kids have chorus, I will spend time with God, focusing on scripture and prayer.

I will be leading a creative writing workshop with the kids most of each day. When I am working with them, I want to try to leave all else aside and make the teaching my sole focus.

And during recreational times, I want to focus on building relationships so I will not be playing solo computer games this week and my time on facebook will be limited.

I am going to try to leave things that are at a distance, and beyond my control, in other's hands for this time. I will be praying for my mother consistently and will call her once or twice a day, but I am going to try not to think about the logistics of her care and future needs too much these few days. That will be the toughtest thing to leave behind. I will not be involved much with CYC planning and will not concern myself with church building issues. I will have to handle work items as they come up but will try to do so effeciently and then set them aside.

I think I can do this for a week. I certainly have support here for it.

A friend of mine, back on that weekend, likened focus to a river and streams. When a river divides too much it becomes little streams which aren't good for much, but a whole river is powerful. I want to see if my focus can become less like streams and more like a river.

God bless.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Toxic Medicine

We are reading Gulliver’s Travels with the kids. In it Jonathan Swift describes doctors and medicine. He doesn't have much good to say. He talks about doctors making disgusting medications from vile things in order to cause vomiting and evacuations. Overall, his opinion seemed to be that physicians made things worse, rather than better, especially with their "imaginary cures" for "imaginary illnesses." He also mentions that many illnesses were lifestyle-based -- related to excessive food, drink and laziness.

I like to think that we have come a long way in the medical arena in the last 400 years, and in a million ways we have. We can cure things that physicians in the 17th century couldn’t even diagnose, surgery and medicines are safer and more effective and we have the ability to prevent many diseases.

But I am not sure that Rev. Swift’s observations would be entirely out of place in a modern context. A lot of treatments and medications still come under the umbrella of what my mother’s chemo nurse called “friendly fire.” I saw this not only in my mother’s trial with chemo and then radiation, but also with my son’s recent antibiotic therapy.

The side effects of cancer treatment – fatigue, nausea, hearing loss—can be nasty. For many thousands they are worth it in the end. That wasn’t the case with my mother who is now on hospice treatment. I am grateful we had the chance to try to get past her disease. We know we did everything we could.

In my son’s case, we allowed the doctor’s at Children’s Hospital to do as they thought best. They prescribed antibiotics targeted at the specific bug that was making him so sick. In the hospital, I didn’t worry about them. While I wouldn’t make different choices, I think I am glad I didn’t know what I have learned since.

Here are some quotes from a website about his medications:

"Because [name of drug] therapy has been associated with severe colitis which may end fatally, it should be reserved for serious infections where less toxic antimicrobial agents are inappropriate, as described in the INDICATIONS section."

Intravenous [name of drug] has been associated with a higher incidence of hepatotoxicity than [names of other drugs], or other intravenous antimicrobials in children. The onset of hepatitis occurred after 6 to 43 days of [name of drug} treatment."

Jordan actually now has a seriously lowered white count because of one of his antibiotics. His iron count is down also. Despite the probiotics he is taking he is experiencing diarrhea.

Scary, eh? Still, he needed those meds. Without them, he may well not have survived. It has made me very thankful that I live in this time and not centuries or even decades ago,

In the future, I hope medical research invents and discovers less “toxic” means of treating cancer and serious infections. In the meantime, we work with what we have and thank God he has given us so much knowledge.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Weight Change.....

I recently joined a weight support group on Facebook. It was started by an old college acquaintance of mine and a friend of his. We report weekly weigh-in results, share tips and act as cheerleaders for each other. Pretty typical, right?

But there is a twist to this group that I really love. This group if for those who need to lose or GAIN weight. The idea is for each of us to set a goal toward a healthy waight and go in whichever direction we need to.

I like this because there is so much emphasis on weight loss even though eating didorders are growing more prevalent. While the WII has an "underweight" designation, every diet I have ever seen in a mainstream woman's magazine is for weight loss. Thin is still considered ideal. I saw an article the other day that eating disorders are on the rise in boys. This new group acknowledges that getting to a healthy weight may mean gaining instead of losing. (Personally, I need to lose weight.)

There are many reasons that people may need to gain weight, not just eating disorders. Metabolism abnormalities, chemotherapy, and illnesses that lead to temporary drops in weight, among other things, are also reasons why people may need to look for an upward direction on the scale. I am not sure why any individual member of this group need to gain (or lose for that matter).

I am just glad it is out there and I am a part of it. I hope the idea catches on.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Some Other Costs of Being Sick.

My family has had three inpatient hospital stays and a week of daily outpatient treatment during January amd continuing into these early days of February. I have discovered that this is expensive.

I am not talking about the cost of medical care. With good insurance, these are limited to copays. For others, they can be severe, but we are all aware of that. There are all kinds of other expenses that are related to hospital visits that we don't really think of until we are in the situation.

I'll mention a few:

Travel: Family members either have to spend money on gas going back and forth to the hospital or pay for a nearby place to stay. When a child is hospitalized one parent can sleep at the hospital. The other needs to work something out. For us, this wasn't so bad. We live fairly near Mass General and Children's. There are families here, though, who have come from much further -- across the state, across the country, across the world. Some will be eligible for assistance, others will not.

Unless you live in a spot that allows for a public transportation option, you need to pay for parking at the big hospitals. There is a discount for patients/families, but it still comes to $9.00 a day. If, like us, you are only in for a few days at a time, it's not so bad. For longer term patients and those who are frequently hospitalized it's a huge burden.

Food Patients are fed. Family members, unless they can brown bag it, have to buy food. I have met one family for whom that has meant one caregiver eating two meals a day from the cafeteria or the local food court, for over a month. This adds up quickly.

And there are other small costs, like purchasing necessities you forgot to bring from home, buying things to distract or entertain the patient, coin-op laundry, phone calls.

Health care reform of any type can't do anything about these costs. Charities which support patients and there families can and do, but from what I have seen there is not really enough help around. (Again for us, this is just a little blip, but for many families hospitalizations are ongoing. Their savings can take a serious beating before they ever see a hospital bill. that)

I'd love to see a few different restaurants chains provide a meal a month for long-term patients. Or maybe churches could do something like that if they have the right food service capabilities and credentials. A parking program that allows more significant discounts for long-termers would be a great idea, too. And I strongly suggest that everyone prepare for this possibility with a "rainy day fund."

And finally, most importantly, I would like to see real health care reform that stems the tide of rising costs and helps these tangential items are less of a problem for families facing serious illness. I am not sure exactly what that would look like, but I hope somebody figures it out.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ewoks -- cutesy or resourceful?

The Ewoks, which made an appearance in The Return of the Jedi back in 1983, still have a couple of active fansites on the internet. They also have plenty of detractors -- some folk think they ruined the original trilogy.

Jordan and I just watched the movie (because my poor guy is back in the hospital and that's what we do here at Children's, watch movies) at his insistence and I loved seeing it again, being a Star Wars fan and all.

But I am not sure what I think about the furry little critters. When I first saw the movie, I loved them. Later, I decided they were way too cutesy and wished they had been left out. Now, I guess I am somewhere in between.

The Ewoks are cutesy. They are presented almost as if they are children play-acting at being fierce warriors. That is how the other characters, most notably Leia and Han, react to them. Leia entices one with food, soothing it as one would a small boy, rather than considering it a threat. Han is just annoyed by them, even after they become friends with the rebels. Tolerant, but definitely annoyed. They do cling to him in ways that make that unsurprising. Again, it's childish.

On the other hand, Ewoks show themselves to be courageous and resourceful in the face of battle. A child playing dress-up will run in an intense situation. When my son goes larping he hides under the table when the fighting gets "too fast" and that's just foam swords. The Ewoks prove themselves intelligent and capable as they use their primitive technology to defeat the Emperor's forces.

But, one of them stops in the middle of the battle to pout over a friend who had just been kiled. They think C3PO is a god. And they look like teddy bears.

I don't know what George Lucas was thinking, but art is generally reflective of the culture in which it is produced, to some extent. When we think of other groups, especially those less technologically advanced, are we guilty of thinking of them as children? Do we take them seriously when they came to the international table? Do we respect their arts, there skills, there ways? Sometimes, sadly, the answer to these questions needs to be "no".

Ewoks are old news, but can their part, however we view them, help us consider our treatment of others? It is good to self-reflect as individuals and as communities or nations. How do we need to change?

Just something to think about.

Have a great day!