Tag Archive | family

Stretching Limits

If there is one think life has taught me it is that I really do NOT know my own limits… and surprisingly, this is in a GOOD way! Now don’t get me wrong, using hammers – not my thing, lifting heavy items – nope, reaching things off the top shelf – you must be joking, I have stools and a tall husband for a reason. BUT on the other side of that, did I ever think… all those years back… that this diminutive Canadian woman who weighs 114lbs soaking wet could be all that I am, NOPE, NO WAY! And that is AMAZING!

My newest challenge, on a long list of challenges yet to come, is for my children. One of those things I kind of wish I had gotten to try as a child was to learn the piano. Well, the boys are 12 and Zander is in love with singing and hearing his voice… I remember taking recorder in school around the age most of my kids are now and we have this house to ourselves. Add in an amazing deal on a keyboard and amp from my beloved and gorgeous friend Shandai and the time is nigh. This 37 year old mother of 5 is going to learn how to play the piano! Now I am sure I am not going for concert pianist… but… I have faith in myself, in my friends and family online as mentors and my insatiable need to figure things out. I am going to give this a go!

Two years ago I never thought I could learn how to play with yarn. Cross stitch, yes, but that is a grid and X’s… but the wild world of hooks and yarn… could I do it? Well, it turns out all I needed was a lefty in my life again. Here comes Shandai AGAIN! Such a helpful and supportive friend she is… and BAM I am a yarn addict. May I even slightly suggest the student proceeded to surpass the master??? (she is so much a knitting first girl… ooh knitting… that is on my to learn list to!).

I remember, back in the old days when I was merely a mom of THREE. (I know insane) And there was a fire of some sort in our apartment building. I managed, with the help of my next door neighbour, to bundle up THREE kids, grab my prepacked diaper bag (see organization is key), accept a ride and get to my mother’s house. To top it off I was able to call the landlord to remind him that the downstairs neighbour’s mother was often home and an older lady. This was all with Ken on his way into the city with out cell phone. I didn’t think I could do it. I wasn’t sure I could survive Ken being an hour + away for work each day. That moment, that situation showed me that I hadn’t even STARTED to stretch my wings.

Heck, at the beginning of summer I looked at the schedule at the YMCA and saw an amazing opportunity in ClubY. The kids and I did the math and checked Google Maps, we gasped at the 2 mile walk ONE WAY, we realized we had to find a way to not walk the highway the whole way (what is it with this state and its hatred of sidewalks in the suburbs???) and we pushed Daddy out the door to walk that first walk with us. It was grueling and frustrating (the boys managed to forget their bag of swim gear, Emanuel and Trinity were distracted by every shiny thing they could find) but we did it… and almost 2 months later they are chomping at the bit to walk that walk and get to their events. We hadn’t realized we could make that 30+ min walk into a family event, that we could prove to ourselves and the world that we didn’t NEED the luxury that is a car to get us going each morning and get us into the world. And with that stretching of lazy legs we doubled and tripled our work out each day. We’ve proven to ourselves that those two miles are a journey into adventure and excitement.

I think this unknown strength we have locked up inside is key to our family and its ongoing growth. Homeschool has been one big adventure of trying to stretch ourselves. There have been tears, and laughter, anger and frustration, but most of all there has been realization… we are only as far as we are willing to go, we are only as strong as we are willing to try and we are only as smart as we push ourselves to learn. The limits we see… the too hards, the impossibles, they are all just false limits. They are the points we refuse to look past. Maybe the stepping stones need to be tiny, maybe we need to take extra time (and as everyone knows who knows us, we make time for the foundations always) but we are capable of those events and so much more.

Parenting is scary that way too, only I don’t have the choice. We are now facing puberty and the teenage years. I have already had to cope with the hormones running wild with the twins (not cool, Zander goes angry and Gavin whiny/weepy). The future looks straight on uphill with the teenage years looming. But then again… so very long ago, that is how potty training TWO babies at once felt. And we managed. It may not have been graceful and I think we ALL learned things at time but we managed. I don’t know how far I can go, how many limits I will come across, and I won’t know until I get there or until I try. Who knows, we may be even more successful at it than we think we will.

So what am I truly capable of? I guess the answer is… I don’t know. But you know what? I sure can’t wait to find out! The day I started crocheting the projects I pick up now looked impossible. There are some on my to do list that are daunting even now, but I know I have yet to reach my limit.

The future is full of challenges and unknowns, and we have choices. We can sit back and fear them, we can halfheartedly try to defeat them, we can simply accept defeat and move on to something else. I think I am going to make it my mission in life to try and head out there and meet at least SOME of these challenges face on! I am going to sit down at the keyboard and give it a go, do more than give it a go I am going to PRACTICE and QUESTION and LEARN. I am going to dust off the old record skills and I am going to make MUSIC. I am going to pick up those knitting needles in the fall and figure out this fancy knit and pearl thing (and probably suck up HUGELY to Shandai on that one). I am even, one day, going to face my fear of driving head on (don’t get excited I did say ONE DAY not tomorrow). I am going to walk into the gym and face those fancy machines and (with Ken’s guidance) learn something new next month. I am going to make sure that I show my children that my limits are always changing, that my skills are always growing and that if they can make and effort and try something new, well Mom is right there with them!

Now I am sure I can tie this all back in on my depression series. I know Ken has worked hard to stretch his own limits. But you know what? I think we all need to drop our limits and stretch out wings, regardless of our situation, of our fears and of our illnesses. So maybe… just maybe… you can draw your own parallels and see what I mean without my leading you through it? And when you chose to make some leaps, think of me and my family. We are leaping with you! And if you really want a buddy on something – hey you never know, I have tried sushi, gone all the way to the top of a glass elevator, done a maid of honour speech in front of nearly all strangers, met new people way out of my comfort zone and even faced down the bad behaviour of my own kids with strength and honesty and in public no less! Perhaps not the most amazing accomplishments to everyone else… but to me! Well here I am stretching my wings, bursting through my limits and making life even more amazing!

(thanks to my “baby” cousin David on the awesome conversation which inspired this post, and piano assist… love you and thanks for the virtual pep talk! Good luck with the PhD – you got this!)IMG_20160625_203409

Moments of Weakness…

Remind me time and time again that for the most part I really AM a strong person. There is so much imperfection in the world, in our selves. Some of it is wonderful and amazing, like a broken dish put together with gold (a Japanese tradition I do believe) and other things (like the news recently) are broken and horrible and scary and impossibly dark and so much more rolled into one.

I have written extensively in a post about being the “healthy one” in a marriage and family where one member is definitely in the midst of a process that is ongoing and lifelong. There is a need and a drive to ALWAYS be the healthy one. The knowledge that if I DO get sick or somehow incapacitated the family does NOT go along its merry little way intact or even the least bit organized can be a point of anxiety.

Now I do have family and friends (close family in fact) that are actually diagnosed with anxiety and taking medication for this issue. This is not where I place myself on the spectrum of mental illness with any degree of concern, but then again, we ALL experience anxiety at some point in our lives. Years ago, before I had realized (well any of us including Ken) how ill Ken truly was events combined to create a situation where I actually experienced my first ever panic attack. It was scary and upsetting and all sorts of not want to experience EVER AGAIN sort of things… it is something that I can clearly remember, hiding in the upstairs with the kids in the downstairs on the phone with a friend that I could contact instantly in tears. But in that moment of severe weakness and stress I found my way through it. And afterwards I realized that I made it, I survived the experience, I found strength with the help of another and was able to continue on.

On a regular basis I am faced with my own personal weaknesses… one that I am sure most of you are familiar with… my lack of a license. This is a phobic level issue. The idea of driving and being in charge of a vehicle does literally make me want to just curl up in a ball and hide. The twins have already discussed how one day THEY will get their licenses and drive Mom around where ever she needs to go. BUT, I have taken that weakness, that inability and made it into an adventure. Now at least 3 times a week we are making the 2 mile (one way) trek to the local YMCA and we are spending hours there meeting new people, trying new things (Echo has recently fallen in love with Little Lotus Yoga) and creating an independent moment that is HEALTHY and full of together time for us outside of the classroom and the home. The lack of driving is now a strength.

At the end of the day the tally is out there… so many things in my life are beyond my control, but really, if you look at your life can  you really say that the same it not true? It may not be your transportation or your inability to work in the country not of your birth (not that I WANT to, but the ABILITY to would be wonderful… and will be in time) but we all have our weaknesses. The trick is to find a way to find strength right there in the face of them.

I think I will always worry about what would happen if I couldn’t run the house properly for a period of time (because really it is 6 vs 1 on the let’s live a clean and clutter free life some days), and the driving issue isn’t going away any time soon. I am always going to be too short to reach the top shelves and worried about people who I love and care for. BUT, I am always going to be an optimist, I am also going to be in the corner crocheting my heart out so that I have gifts I can pluck out of my finished pile and send to a soul who needs a pick me up. I am going to be me, weaknesses and strengths and I am going to show my children that we don’t always have to be strong, as long as after we fall down we get back up and continue one!

Maybe one of my weaknesses will end up being a strength I just didn’t realize was there? What do you think?DSCN1124

Daily Life and the Far Reaching Effects of Depression

I know I have mentioned time and time again that our family has been affected by depression on a grand scale, it is a daily part of our life and often dialogue within the house, and within the greater world. This has meant grand and small changes on a very consistent basis.

People have had varied reactions to our choice to homeschool (and have from the very beginning). This is a choice we made when we first married, something we discussed during our engagement in great detail and implemented from the birth of our twins in 2004. But anyway, we have had people laugh, think we are nuts, tell us we will ruin our children, support us with a smile on their face (sometimes this reaction is from the most unlikely of acquaintances), go out of their way to help us find resources and even ask us when we were going to come to our senses and put them in a proper school.

Ken’s therapist stands apart from all that, when he walked into therapy at a low point in his health, where his confidence in himself and his choices was tarnished (in fact, he had sided with some of the naysayers on things that past year simply to avoid arguments and complex situation which was devastating for yours truly) she said explain your family and your home. When he brought up homeschooling she lit up and embraced the situation.

How better to start bringing Ken back into the family and out of his self imposed isolation (seriously locked himself on the computer and in our bedroom while I ran the house like a single parent) than to bring him into our daily lives? Simply have him sit down and read a story, take that first step out the door and walk that nature walk with us while we enjoy Minnesota on a basic level.

Homeschooling is a 5 day a week process for us with a basic and consistent backbone of work and then the varied topics and processes we add as we go. Someone who is actively depressed often cannot slip into that process without resistance and resist Ken did. BUT we had him involved in simple things and through that he reconnected with his kids. Something that was crucial to our FAMILY’S well being.

That is not to say there wasn’t and isn’t hiccups. Part of the process is to give Ken a responsibility… like science, that he will captain. This is a two fold problem. He needs to take responsibility and finish what he starts, but at the same time I cannot allow the schooling to suffer. Give and take, a tug of war, but it is for a good reason. The kids need his involvement and I need the break. Thankfully there is a lovely ebb and flow to schooling. When a month simply does not go according to plan (not a unique thing to be sure), the next month or months compensates.

It is not all sunshine and roses, but that unique bond that is there with the teacher and student allows for interaction and a role Ken can take on and tailor and show the kids that this illness is not going to take him away from them permanently.

This is something I cannot stress enough… while you are depressed, actively depressed relationships ARE injured. You push people away, you put out that false front. Our kids are so much smarter than you think. (HERE) In the middle of your suffering they are suffering too. We all are, I have never felt so alone as when Ken was in full on depression (Capital D depression as we call it). I never signed up to be a single parent (for the most part who does), but there I was coping with everything but rides and minor disciplining, alone. That is hard for the entire family and one of our first steps in recovery and change was to repair those breeches. (not easy, I still have my moments of anger at the situation, guilt at not catching on and sadness for time lost)

Homeschool became the catalyst for that. And while not everyone homeschools (we ARE in the minority right now), there is most likely some activity in your life that would work wonderfully for instigating the regrowth of relationships and personal connections. This is something you should strive for. Contrary to some people’s beliefs we are not islands, we are built for interactions (maybe less so for some but total isolation is never healthy). Any sort of illness will damage or at the very least, affect these contacts. That is one of the joys of becoming healthy, it is a chance to make the repairs a part of your process.

Our entire lifestyle has been altered with the return of Ken’s depression. We are becoming more and more aware of how we need to be an inclusive unit. We cannot allow for someone to hide away in a room for long periods of non productive time (Ken IS a coder after all), to remove themselves from all of the hustle and bustle of a busy family of 7. We need to be inclusive and accepting that this is not an instant thing. Ken took ages to want or have the energy to be involved with us and even today fights procrastination tendencies. This is the reality of things, our reality and really all we can do is embrace it and move forward.

As always I want to thank everyone for their support as I find my voice in this life of ours. I want to extend love and support and acceptance to all that are finding their own path and thank each and every person who is a supporter. No one has to be alone and my family and myself are here!

As well, please feel free to suggest topics or ideas to cover. Many of my newer posts, like this one suggested by a good friend and fellow transplanted Canadian mom (Thanks lady!) are based on a suggestion or even a sentence that triggers a whole new pattern of thought.20160709_201845