Monday, January 21, 2013

I normally refrain from posting on Facebook my political views mainly because it slightly irritates me to see people constantly posting theirs. Frankly I don’t care and the posts are usually so one sided, I scroll right past to find something more uplifting. But I thought I would take the opportunity on my blog to express my thoughts on the recent school shootings and the gun control politics going on. I plan on blogging multiple posts due to the many complicated issues surrounding the topic. Today’s focus is school violence.

My experience as a teacher is now less than then my experience in healthcare. My bachelor degree is in Physical Education and I was in the classroom two years after I graduated college. In that very short career experience, I saw more than I had ever bargained for and I strongly feel that those years have helped me in so many ways. I’ve carried what I’ve learned throughout the rest of my life so far.

Honestly – in regards to the school shootings in Connecticut just before Christmas – I didn’t feel shocked from the news. My inner feelings were sadness, disappointment, and sorrow but not shocked. I used to be employed at a school specifically for students that were not able to be in a regular classroom because of behavioral or physical challenges. This school had two rooms used for lock-up when needed. I even witnessed a student’s parent physically assault a teacher by beating her head into the hard linoleum hallway floor. I ran to get help while the contracted painters we had at the time worked to get the parent off the teacher. That’s when it hit me that everything I had been aspiring for was slightly jaded and I remember that "ah-ha" moment of realizing the dangers of teaching. This was the 2002-2003 school year. Not too far away from the Columbine school shooting. It takes seeing to believing.

Violence happens every day in regular classrooms as well. As a PE teacher for 6-8th graders in a regular public education middle school I saw violence regularly there too. If you think the school where your child(ren) attend has no violence, you are ignorant. Violence is not just guns; it’s the verbal abuse to homosexual students. It’s a dig at the poor kids’ lack of hygiene or clothing. It’s the vandalism to peers belongings. Stop worrying about locking the doors and security guards. Start committing yourself to teaching (by example) kindness, community, and lifting one another up. If you treat children like they are in a prison, they will soon act like criminals. Do your research – check out "A Class Divided" Be a volunteer at school. You will at least get a few more pieces of information as you decide for yourself what is needed in our schools. I personally find that locking doors, cameras and having security staff can be helpful if used appropriately. If those things are put into place just to check off the checklist, then they will not be very effective and give everyone a false sense of security.

Here are some tips that I have found useful and easy to apply every day:
  1. Teach your children how to call for help. This sounds way to simple doesn’t it? With more and more homes that do not have a land line phone, dialing "911" is not as easy as it once was. If cell phones are the only type of phone your family uses, make sure your children know how to turn it on, unlock it, make the emergency call when it is locked, and how to dial a number on the cell phone.

  2. Talk about good strangers and bad strangers. When I was in kindergarten, I vividly remember a stranger trying to kidnap me in the car pick-up line at school. He told me he had candy and to get in and I could have it. I remember considering it. Then I asked him what our secret word was. He couldn’t tell me so I didn’t get in. I must have told my teacher about it because the next memory about this incident was the principal taking me out to the parking lot to try to get me to describe the car I saw from looking at the teachers’ cars. I remember exactly now what he and the car looked like but a five year old struggled with that. My children have secret words now too. They know not to go with anyone that can’t tell them their secret word. They don’t even know each other’s. And we tell them if someone besides us will pick them up like a grandma. Then we practice with them over and over and then throughout the year for reinforcement.

  3. Teach them to follow directions from their teachers and principal. If the teacher says go out the window (or things that sound silly), they should follow the directions. This is different from instructions that may be inappropriate and you have to talk to them more than once about the differences. If someone "bad" is in the school, we’ve taught our daughter to always listen to her teacher even if the request seems really silly. We talk to her about what to do when she needs help in the hallway on the way to the restroom for example and someone is causing problems. Depending on the scenarios we talk about she can recite what to do: either go get someone she trusts, find the nearest adult, or simply scream - as loud as she can and for as long as she can.

  4. I think that this tip is something most people would rather avoid: teach coping skills. As parents we don’t want our children to feel pain, ever. Is that realistic? Absolutely not. Unfortunately pain, loss and suffering will be a part of our children’s lives despite our efforts to prevent it. Parents are responsible for teaching children coping skills otherwise, they will learn their own or seek other methods of coping. Feeling pain is part of being human and we must help them navigate these emotions. How are we for examples? I have my moments, believe me, but when something bad happens in the family or in the news, how we respond is their first indication on how they should act. We simply cannot just tell them to suck it up and move on. Violence on the level we’ve seen on the media lately requires some processing for all of us. Children see life differently, not as adults so we have to be patient, answer questions as best we can and help them cope in a healthy way even if that means getting past the stigmatism of mental health services.
My final thought for today is about the children/adolescents that are on the side of thinking about doing horrible violent acts. As a community, how are we doing in supporting them? Are we giving them outlets to cry out for help and encouraging them to use those outlets? Everyone needs a hand to reach out to, yet, not all do. Above all, ask for help. Our culture could do a better job of encouraging people to seek help without judgment.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Christmas Celebrations!

With some time and effort (and Google searching) I'm slowly making my blog my own.  Personalizing it a bit difficult until you know where to navigate.  Then once you see the changes and transformations, it's really fun and rewarding!

Looking back on our recent Christmas celebrations, I am happy to share that the holiday season went realatively well.  Holidays are a huge source of stress especially for our house-hold.  We purchased a new home almost two months ago so we were a little excited to host Christmas celebrations at our house and my husband is awesome in the kitchen.  We committed to two of them (we normally have four total).  Since I knew family that had not yet seen our new home were coming, I thought I needed to have every nook and crany cleaned and organized in case they happened to check out our new closet space!  With two young children around, cleaning is sort of unproductive.  I also struggle with wanting things to be perfectly in there place.
Social situations are not always enjoyable.  Not due to anyones' fault.  When someone has social anxiety it really doesn't have anything to do with anyone else.  It is a feeling that overwhelms the body and produces physical symptoms.  I thought a list of things that have helped our family would be great to share:

  • PLAN, PLAN, PLAN!  One of my strengths is organization and planning.  Most of the time it makes my family a bit crazy but planning out events and making lists saves us alot of heartache (and money).  I basically did event planning for each Christmas.  I also had my Christmas gift list ready to shop with.  Menu planning helps us not spend too much and also keep track of who is bring what.
  • Find time to relax.  Try to stick to your normal routine as much as possible.  Don't push back the kids' bedtime because "it's Christmas".  Everyone is already hyped up, normal bed times help!  Also, don't feel bad about taking a 30 minute break to watch your favorite show or play a game on your phone.
  • Find someone to watch the kids while you do shopping, cook or clean.  Swap times with another parent and help each other out.  Grandparents are great too!
  • Have the family help!  There are loads of things children can do to pitch in. My children always have fun when we make it a competition.  "Who can pick up the most things" is fun and very quick!
  • Be understanding.  I know that look my husband gives me when he's had enough.  Allow for a timeout and don't get bent out of shape about it.  Eric likes to slip away for just a little bit to breath.  He'll take the dog out, go get a pop at the local gas station, things like that.  He always comes back and can carry on with the celebration.
While planning a devotional topic for my United Methodis Women's circle this November, I came across this article from the Mayo Clinic that had a great list for depression and the holidays.  It is an awesome comprensive list and I hope you find it helpful as well.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Welcome to my first blog attempt!  This is something I've thought about for a few years now and just decided to go for it.  I love to read, write and enjoy the online world.  My hope is to share my life stories with others who may not be able to find this kind of content anywhere else.

My blog content is going to focus on living life with mental illness.  Throughout my families' struggles and achievements I've often wondered if we would get to a place where we could start ministering to others from the experiences we've had.  I'm not sure my husband, Eric, is ready but I am and so my blog begins.

My first story I'd like to share will explain the title and URL of my blog.  At first glance my title Filling the Ice Cube Trays and mental health doesn't seem to connect.  Here's how it does for me.  At a difficult time in my husbands depression, I got resentful about several things.  You see when someone is battling depression they cannot function.  Getting up and taking a shower is a major accomplishment.  I'm not mocking whatsoever.  One thing that really irritated me was the six empty ice cube trays that were perpetually on the kitchen counter.  I would fill them up and sure enough after the water had turned to ice, there they were again ready for refilling.

I believe in the Holy Spirit and how it can move me unexpectedly.  One random ice cube filling moment it dawned on me.  If Eric's only one good thing in his day is his large (one of those gas station 60 ouncers) mug of ice tea with extra ice, it's not too much of me to fill up the ice cube trays a few times a day.  When I looked at the task through different lenses, it didn't feel resentful.  I felt helpful. Whenever Eric said "there's no ice" it was my cue to do something to help my husband.

If you are looking for a blogspot that is a forum for complaining and disrespecting, you've come to the wrong place.  I love my husband and family more than life and will represent them with honor and repsect.  I know all things happen to be a blessing somehow.  My dream is to share things that help us, lessons learned, and also find the humor in life.

To my husband Eric.  I love you more than you will ever understand.  You've helped shape me these past 10 years.  I hope now to help others find hope and strength.