Tag Archive: taboo topics


hands

I never fully realised what an impact one little girl could have on a community, just by being herself.

Adoption has always been on my heart. I can remember asking my parents, repeatedly, for years, for a baby sister for Christmas. Preferably adopted. It’s obviously something that I’m meant to be involved in. I got my baby sister when I was thirteen. And then a baby brother when I was nineteen. And there have been a string of safety placement babies through my parents house ever since. Continue reading

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Aaron Fullerton pic

Continuing to share some of Aaron’s story of his journey with and away from testicular cancer which you can find in full over here, i decided to grab three sections from three longer posts to share some of the insights he gained along the way as well as some of the challenges he faced and encouragements he received along the way. There is something for us all to learn here:

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With no power comes much less responsibility [which is nice]

Mind over matter extends to attitude and optimism, and I still feel very optimistic about this whole cancer thing. But mind over matter isn’t about control, and it’s been truly humbling to learn that. Cancer and chemo are going to battle inside my body for awhile – that’s the deal. I can view it through whatever-colored lenses I choose, but I can’t control the process. I can’t make the pain submit to my will. I’m not an Expendable.

I’ve touched on this before, but recognizing how little you’re in control? It’s a valuable experience. More than ever, I have to accept that I’m not in charge. I’m not God and my plans may not be His.

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It’s cancer but you can call it “Terriballs” if you want to

“Cancer’s not the bad word it used to be.” That’s what one of the lab technicians told me as I had to do insane breathing exercises that simulated blowing up balloons underwater or something. “Yes,” I told her, “you can even say it on network television now.” We went on to discuss health care, our faith lives, and how much she loves Bones, but I keep thinking about how she casually downgraded the word “cancer”… and how badly I needed to hear it.

Cancer. That dang word has been one of my biggest obstacles. I fear pity and I hate worry, so I want to distance myself from a word that carries such weight and stigma. I wish I could call my condition something like testiculitis, or terriballs, or a bad case of the nutz. (Probably the first one.) Most of the time, when you drop the word cancer, it lands on the floor with a shatter, sending shock waves of seriousness through the conversation. It hints at mortality and suffering. It turns goofy laughter into tight, serious smiles with sympathetic eyes. That never happens when you just have terriballs.

Chemo, too. The moment I name drop “chemo,” I know people are trying to imagine me 20 pounds lighter and minus a head of hair. In movies, characters who go through chemo almost always die at the end, especially if Abigail Breslin won’t give them her bone marrow. American vernacular has given the word a ring of hopelessness.

I’m not trying to say chemo and cancer aren’t serious or difficult. They are. But they’re large, encompassing words that include a variety of experiences. I’ve been feeling owned by these words, by their ability to put me in a box, to define me in the eyes of others.

But now I’m realizing: I’m the one with the mouth. I’m the one with the pen, the keyboard. I get to define cancer as it applies to me. I don’t have to write “cancer” or “chemo” apologetically. I don’t have to say them carefully, with a wince. They’re my words now and I will use them in whatever flippant fashion I SO PLEASE. “Yeah, dude, just zippin’ on over to chemo to do a little cancer blastin’, then we can ron-day at Chili’s and watch the sports contest.” I don’t really talk like that, but I think you get the idea. Cancer? Chemo? You guys are mere nouns to me right now.

Maybe it’ll still stop others in their tracks. Maybe the words will grow heavier on me as time passes. I’m not sure yet. But if I precede those nouns with odd, pregnant pauses, then I’m giving power to something that doesn’t deserve it. For now, the only time I’ll say “cancer” with a somber tone is if I’m trying to get a free appetizer at Chili’s.

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Hairless & Magically Healing like E.T.

I’ve spent most of 2013 either in bed or in a medically reclining chair. Chemo, especially as you get deeper into your cycles, zaps you of energy. And when you’re lacking energy, you start to feel like you’re lacking your own personhood. Narcissism creeps in and you start to believe that the world won’t really keep going while you’re down. Nothing all that important will happen without you – you write topical tweets about the news, for Pete’s sake! But the world forgets and the days fall by the wayside and when time passes without you and you’ve contributed nothing to the world, you feel like the disease is stealing some of your personality. (I mean, looking through these tumblr posts chronologically, I can see my joke-to-paragraph ratio fall to a point where I worry if solemnity is becoming me.)

But then, like E.T., something comes along with a magical healing touch (and bald head) and helps remind you who you are. As you may have seen in my twitter feed, my co-workers made the incredibly touching decisions of shaving their heads. It’s a tried-and-true move of solidarity, but it still feels (and is) incredibly personal. As they sent me pictures of their half-shorn heads through the evening, a tear may have formed in the crinkle of my eye. It’s not just that it was for me – it’s that it had the goofiness, whimsy, and, yes, ballsiness I would have wanted it to have. It reminded me of who I am day-to-day, when I’m not stuck in a bed. It was a welcome jolt, a refreshing laugh. It was a deeply felt and appreciated act. It made me feel like maybe the world is spinning without me, but damn it there are people who are determined to make sure my mark on it doesn’t easily disappear. Somehow, I keep getting luckier.

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You can follow Aaron Fullerton on the Twitterer at @AaronFullerton

[To read some more of the posts i have shared from Aaron’s blog, click here]

[For other Taboo Topic stories of people struggling with cancer, click here]

This is a piece that was shared with me by Leigh Geary but which originally was published on her blog, The Mom Diaries under the title, ‘The Terrible Twos: Am I being punished for all my sins?’

leigh

Lets talk about the terrible two’s shall we? Holy Moley! I think I’m about to lose my shit in a big way but lets face it that would just be teaching him that tantrums and inappropriate behavior are acceptable.

I forgot what its like to have a two-year old in the house who thinks he’s Lord Muck and that our lives revolve around his every wish and command. I honestly don’t think I’ve ever been ordered around so much in my life. And I REALLY hate being told what to do. This is today’s conversation with my cute as a button two-year-old son as we were getting ready to leave the house:

He enters my bedroom looking very hard done by, because lets face it being two is a rollercoaster ride of eating, sleeping, playing, outings, treats, afternoon naps followed by more playing and eating. It’s tough.

“Mommy hold you” (in a moan that’s so dramatic you think there may be something sinister brewing)

“Mommy is just getting dressed bub then I will hold you, come let’s go to the gym. Go get your shoes and then we can go!”

“No mommy do it”

“Ok I will. Just let me finish putting my shoes on then I will get your shoes ok?”

“MOMMMY DO IT!!!!”

“Yes I will do it now”

“MOMMMMMMMMY DOOOOOOO IT!!!”

In a huff I go and get his shoes and as I reach for them in his cupboard the freak out escalates to disturbing levels:

“NO. NO. NO!!! I DO it!! I DO it!”

“You said three times you wanted me to get it babe” (how’s me trying to reason with a two-year old?)

“No I DO IT!”

“Fine, by all means do it yourself”

I stand back to allow him to do get the gumboots out and he begins the painfully long process of negotiating them onto his feet. Just as he is about to fall from, all the wiggling and winding, I reach out ever so gently just to offer him a hand. (I’ve been burnt in the past and have learnt my lesson)

“No I do it!! Brody do it! I do it by self, NOO HELPING!!!!!!!!!”

I stand back in a panic (a little afraid for my life too) and watch his will power and stubborn nature refusing to give in to the help that is only a hand reach away. I wonder who he got that from?

I try one last time to gently show him we can work together and he throws himself in a lump on the floor.

I have a gym class I would like to make and I will be damned if my two-year-old kid and his boots are the reason I’m late. So I walk back to my room to finish putting on my other shoe.

What followed can only be described as a meltdown of disturbing proportions when he followed me back in to the room, threw the boots at me and said ”MOMMY DO IT MOMMY HELP YOU!!!”

And so there we were back at square one. My worst place to be. Square one represents energy wasted and time you will never get back.

After what feels like the longest exercise of coercing him to work with me, we get the boot on!

And just like that, as thought nothing has happened he screams “I DID IT!”” And with a bounce in his step and enough giddy excitement to bring a circus to back to life, he marches off.

I on the hand, was left in the fetal position on the floor wondering if I even needed to go to the gym after all the effort it took to get through that.

I get that toddlers are in a very intense stage of self-assertion and independence but it can be tough on the rest of the family. It can be tough on the neighbours too.  It’s even harder knowing when you are allowed to be extra firm and tell them how its going be and when you need to encourage their independence and nurture their strong wills by letting them go through the process themselves.

This is what DR Betty Liebovich says about this time in a toddler’s life:

“Your toddler may show developing independence through eating, dressing, playing with toys, and drawing. Sometimes, your toddler will want to do these things without any help; other times, she will need your help with everything. With the uncertainty of whether help is needed or not comes frustration on your part and that of your toddler. This is when your toddler may resist and throw a tantrum”

Or the world may end in my case.

She goes on to say:

“Your toddler may resist any help from you, insisting that she can do a task on her own. However, she may then become frustrated because she is unable to complete the task, as s/he would like. The resistance to accept help is your toddler asserting her independence. In order to assert her own will your toddler may reject your own. Negotiating when to assist, when to hang back and when to anticipate opposition takes time and patience. Having some ideas of what to anticipate and how to negotiate independence may ease resistance and opposition”

I’m hoping to find some ways to diffuse these situations and learn how my little guy thinks, how he is wired. If you have any tips to share with me and other moms please feel free to comment below. Who knows maybe we can brainstorm another post together!

This mom needs all the help she can get!

Love,

Leigh xxx

[To read Belinda’s story of her two year old and a very public meltdown, click here]

wendy

For the past 3 weeks, Masi has really been struggling to go to sleep. And when I talk about Masi struggling, I don’t mean that he just lies in his bed and plays with his fingers and can’t doze off – I mean he jumps out of bed and slams the door repeatedly, he pulls the curtains down, he opens his cupboard and flings all his clothes around the floor, he jumps on his sister while she is trying to sleep, most of the time yelling and screaming and kicking, hitting and fighting us when we try and calm him down.

Continue reading

cand

[Candice is one of my oldest [as in time spent together] Improv friends and now that she has moved to Australia i am realising how much i miss not having her around… but she has written an excellent post which i’m sure is going to resonate with and encourage many of you so here goes…]

Because I am going through a challenging phase with my teenaged daughter and many of my friends are having babies at the moment, I have been thinking a lot about what I would do differently in the parenting department should I have another child. Knowing what I know now about how the mistakes of the past come back to haunt you in your teenaged child, I guarantee you that it is easier dealt with when they are young, even though at the time all you want is some silence and a glass of wine in your hand without having a nervous breakdown. I know, I’ve been there.

Continue reading

My friends Terran and Julie Williams were going about life with their three delightful children, sharing regular stories of funny statements and learnt lessons and chaotic moments, when suddenly the news of a 4th child on the way… and then further news that their 4th was a set of twins… If you think three young children is hard, try to get your head around five! Terran shared this piece on Facebook yesterday and gave me permission to pass it on to you as he gets completely real about some of the harder moments of being a parent of a number of smaller children:

Permission to get SHOCKINGLY real about parenting small kids?

williams

It’s hard. Much harder than you can imagine. Much much harder.

A few months ago a friend of mine who is a professional therapist said, ‘A family with a kid under the age of 3 is in crisis mode.’ At first I thought that was a bit negative. Upon reflection, I conclude they’re right.

Yesterday someone said to me, ‘My youngest just turned 4. I am starting to think we might be coming out of it. ’ I didn’t need to ask what ‘it’ was. She clearly meant the chaos. The crisis. The crazy zone.

My experience confirms that parenting infants and toddlers puts you under a kind of constant pressure that lttle else in life comes close to matching. To be fair, Julie and my situation of having five kids aged six and under only compounds this reality, but treat me as a magnification of what is still there for parents of fewer kids. (Besides, I know, I once had fewer kids.)

Of course there’s more to parenting nascent ones than it being hard. That’s what all the photos on Facebook are about – the sweetest things in the world, they are. Your heart walking around in someone else’ body. I get that, and it keeps me going.

However, in this post I thought I would get real about the (dark) side we don’t talk about. It’s no good running a marathon, and you’re doing uphill and you’re trying to tell yourself this is wonderful. Facing the fact of the agonizing incline is necessary if you’re going to make it.

As for those parents whose kids are all four+, looking back from your hard-earned view, it’s amazing how you tend to forget the pain. (One aspect of trauma is that you tend to forget the event itself, a kind of self-protective amnesia, I think.)

Would you mind if I get VERY REAL? Just so that I never forget, and maybe to help those of you who think something’s wrong with you as you suffer the little ones.

Here goes. Julie and I are experiencing the PHYSICAL strain of parenting. We’re exhausted. In the last two weeks, I get about 5 to 6 hours of sleep per night, but here’s the catch: it’s broken by the need to get out of bed and deal with a crying or calling kid, usually about 5 to 10 times per night.

One reason is their need for constant re-assurance. On this point, a curse be upon the inventor of the Pacifier! Our little suckers fall asleep more easily with those suckable things in their mouths, but by the time they’re 8 months they have formed a dependency on them, and every time it falls out of their mouths they wake and cry, lost in the universe. Do the maths on how many times per night a wriggling infant might lose their dummy. While writing this (5:30-7am) I ran through 11 times to put dummies back. Who’s the real dummy?

Other things wake our kids. At 4:30am this morning I got head-butted by my sweet lullaby of a 2-year old Ivy as she was waking up out of a nightmare. Unsatisfied that I was not-the-Mama, she ran down the dark passageway shouting for Julie, waking up the other kids. It’s impossible to fall asleep any time soon after that kind of ill-treatment from someone I love. (By the way, this assault provoked me to write this post an hour later.) Perhaps the sleeplessness is the real, foundational problem: all the other strains would be more manageable if our bodies and brains weren’t yearning for the unconscious state. Thankfully, we can grab an afternoon nap. Not.

And sickness. You know those new viruses that sweep the globe every year? I have to admit the original viral mutation happens in my house. Families with little kids can turn an ordinary flu that would set back a single person a few days, into a plague that loops through our entire family, two or three times – lasting a month on average, sinking us parents into our own mini-Great Depression. (Sick kids wake up a lot more, and sick parents need sleep if they are to shake off the virus they got from their kids.) In the last five years I have got more colds, flu’s and tummy bugs than in the preceding decade.

We have endured the FINANCIAL strain of parenting. Having kids necessitated that Julie and I fork out enough, not all at once thankfully, for a home more suitable for a family (bigger, garden, near a decent school), a bigger car, Mon-Fri domestic and child-care assistance and (gulp!) educational fees. Then there’s medical bills. For example, little Charlie (10 months) has cost us about 5k in doctor’s bills and medicines over the last 3 months. Next week he goes in for surgery to get grommets.

There’s also more mouths to feed. I spoke to a single dad in the beach-front parking lot of my surf spot the other day. He has one kid. He said, ‘Terran, I just got back from the shop. I am shocked by how much it costs to feed my little family. How on earth do you feed yours?’ Good question. By the time they’re two they’re eating almost as much as I do on some occasions. All these new costs are often augmented by a diminished income. In our case, Julie’s earning power went down (up till now she’s been a pay-by-the-job, part-time freelancer) at the very moment our costs escalated. That’s pressure.

There’s the MARITAL strain of parenting. On our better days Julie and I team together like Batman and Robin, but on our more stressed days, we turn on each other. Beat down people tend to beat others down if they’re not very careful. In the nights, we keep count of how many times we got out of bed, and when our number is higher, ‘gently’ nudge the other person who is pretending to be sleeping through the baby cry. By day, we play the ‘who is suffering more’ card, and sometimes have a go at each other verbally in front of these not-yet-pyschologically-scarred kids. Yes, we know how damaging it is upon a young child’s psyche to see mom and dad at each other. But the guilt doesn’t have power to stop the bickering.

This paragraph for the guys: there’s also little and sometimes weeks of no sex. Since it’s public knowledge that Julie and I have had sex at least five times (once on our honeymoon night, and four times for our five kids, the last arrow splitting into two), I feel the liberty to make this point. No seriously, pregnancy means less sex. Birth-recovering and breast-feeding moms (sorry Julie, I don’t know what other words to use) means no sex. The smells and sights related to changing nappies and wiping toilet-training bums mitigates against the daylong foreplay-messages that spice up a marriage. Stress and exhaustion work against one’s sexual capacities. As for the rare moments when the stars align, I am thankful that the Flight of the Conchords are right: two minutes in heaven really is better than no minutes in heaven.

There’s the SOCIAL strain. Friendships go into maintenance-mode. We have hardly anyone round. For all kinds of reasons: our house is a mess, we will be embarrassed if people glimpsed the real chaos of our lives, we keep telling ourselves that on the day we stabilize we will open diaries and think who to invite over for a meal. Would you be my friend?

There’s the SPIRITUAL strain. Maybe you can’t relate, but since I was a teen, early mornings have been a sacred time for me to tune into God so that I can keep sensitive to his promptings and stay within reach of his power and guidance throughout the day. Now that I need this kind of spiritual alertness and empowering more than ever, I seldom get the time that I need. I know God understands and loves me anyway. But I also know that not spending this daily time with God tends to put me out of frequency with the Spirit’s energies and nudges, setting me up for yet further stress-inducing errors of judgment and lapses of sanity.

There’s PROFESSIONAL strain. In the last decade, I have had two notably under-performing years in my work-life. My lack of sharpness has been evidenced in emails not responded to quickly enough, under-preparedness for critical meetings, increased strain from less quality attention to fellow-workers, and a tendency to lose composure when leading people requires that I stay calm. Those two years just happen to be the ones that immediately followed the birth of my third, and now the birth of my twins. (Would you let a pilot fly you if you knew he was bottle-feeding one baby, while trying to tame a volcanic tantrum in a toddler running amok in the cockpit, threatening to push ‘eject’? My policy: smile and wave boys.)

There’s LOGISTICAL strain. Our house is a mess almost all the time. Julie and I who are not A-type when it comes to neatness, but we start to come undone with the constant mess. Trying to keep a kid-inhabited house tidy is like trying to shovel snow while it snows. As for leaving house as a family: for every kid you have, add another 30 minutes to get-ready time. (For our first few months after the twins came, I was okay with us not having a car big enough for seven. I thought to myself, ‘Where can we go with this many kids? And when we get there, what will we do?’ So we just stayed at home.)

Air travel is another story. The fact that kids under-2 fly free makes bargain-hunters like me want to capitalize upon this fleeting opportunity. Bait for us fools. We just flew our family to another part of the country. It was as simple as one, two, three. One day of packing. Two cars to take us to the airport. Three tons of stuff. You have never seen people in a plane praying as much as when we queue in. ‘God, please no! Not next to me! No.’) When I notice enough people doing the count, and mouthing a silent ‘five’ to the person they just elbowed, I usually break the ice with one of my two jokes: ‘Yes, everyone. There are five! Our TV was broken.’ Or, ‘Who’s the lucky person who gets to sit next to us?’ The cabin laughter at that moment helps us all for what is about to happen in the next two hours.

There’s EMOTIONAL strain. Parenting introduces a panoply of negative emotions that are new to the lifetraveller: new fears and anxieties, feelings of inadequacy, the crippling curse of comparison, and post-natal depression for some moms.

In my view the most emotion-intensifying thing about family life is that we tend to absorb each other’s emotions. If we were all emotionally self-contained units, that would be easier. But as it is, every tantrum and tear and sibling-tiff emits an emotional toxin that the try-hard parents tend to take into their tender hearts. Our kids bounce back remarkably, but we parents, the emotional filters, are left with the residue. Keeping your head while all those around you lose theirs is easier said that done. I once came across a best-selling book on parenting titled ‘Keep calm and parent on.’ It’s one of those titles that say so much, you don’t need to read the book. That title is probably the best advice there is. But also the most unachievable advice there is. It’s like telling a person who is tumbling down a mountainside to keep calm and enjoy the ride.

My point? Parenting the youngest of humanity is not for the fainthearted. It’s brutal at times. It’s incessant in its challenges. To complicate it all, these strains – physical, social, financial, spiritual, etc – have a domino-effect, one causing or exacerbating the other. The result: life in a fully fledged crisis mode. A trauma being inflicted in slow motion.

It’s true. Parents of little lives are in nose-dive.

I don’t want to sound like I am complaining. Some of you have it much harder. I think of parents who lose their income, or single parents, or kids with severe disabilities. You guys are the masters of the universe. We are in awe of you. Some of you don’t have it as hard. The thing so many parents say to us is, ‘You know, when Lee and I are freaking out as parents, we think of you with five, and that helps us. So thank you!’ Glad we could help.

Do I have any perspective to share for the fellow-traumatized? Other than ‘Keep calm and parent on’? For starters, one thing I can say: You Are Not The Only One. Parenting is hard for almost all of us. The other thing I can say is that You Are Not Alone. A small verse hidden in the massive book of Isaiah says ‘God carries us close to his heart, especially those who have young’. It has helped Julie and me when we’ve been at our lowest. It reminds us there’s a Parent in heaven who’s there for you as you parent another. Our vulnerability, as we rear the most vulnerable, catches the loving attention of One Above. We might feel alone, but in reality there’s a Heartbeat as close to you as your child is to yours.

(Permission given to share with the so-journers who can identify.)

[For some other stories shared from those who are finding parenting tough, click here]

[How to raise your young children as World Changers, click here]

mc

I have often said that ‘Being Married to the Right Person’ is one of the best things in the World’ and I hold by that.

Not the easiest though. Or the most comfortable necessarily.

A large percentage of the people I know who have gotten married typically go through some kind of marriage counselling or preparation before the wedding day happens. Dealing with conflict and putting a budget together and decision-making and things like that.

Then the wedding day happens and it is like a fairly young child being thrown in to a swimming pool with the genuine belief that it will be okay and pick up swimming. Except maybe with even less supervision or the sense that if something goes wrong there is already someone in the pool or someone more than ready to dive in to rescue.

Kind of like how we put so much focus on the wedding day as if that was the big event as opposed to a huge celebration signifying the beginning of a big event. The wedding is not the thing. The marriage is the thing. And it sometimes feels like we don’t put enough emphasis on that.

The idea of ‘Marriage Counselling’ once someone is married is typically reserved for a moment of huge crisis or last resort.

Marriage, like money or sex, tends to be something we typically don’t speak a lot about, especially when things are a bit of a struggle or really going wrong, even with our closest friends. Because there is a shame factor. If my marriage is struggling then something must be wrong with me. So we tend to walk that road alone and do our best to figure things out with our partner and hope for the best.

What I want to suggest though is that this is a Taboo Topic that could really use a lot more conversation. It needs to be healthy conversation and it needs to be safe for both us and our partner and so we have to be clever about how we go about it.

I also want to suggest that Marriage Counselling within a marriage can be the most helpful thing . It doesn’t have to be only when things are falling apart, but can be a helpful way of helping you as a couple steer yourselves in a healthier direction, by picking up on blind spots that may be causing conflict or by giving you tools to help you to live together in a way that helps you serve each other better. In a way that helps you both to shine.

Let’s be honest – the commitment to spend the rest of your life living with someone else, sharing their space and your money and your bodies and more is an enormous thing. We should definitely be giving it a lot  more attention than most of us do. Learning from those who have successfully journeyed for a number of years and inviting a professional to sit with us and help guide, direct and counsel feel like two very powerful ingredients for a successful marriage.

tbV and I have benefitted from spending some time with an excellent counsellor – having someone who was on both of our sides who helped create a safe space for us to be able to work through some difficult things. Someone who helped suggest structures, rhythms and equip us with some tools to be able to do this marriage thing better. We have seen the results in our relationship.

I can highly recommend it. And am hoping to share some stories here from others who have experienced a similar thing. Don’t wait until you’re standing right on the edge of a cliff before calling out for help.

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