Should We Trust the Trustees?

When you live in the disability community like we do, you meet a wide variety of people. Different diagnoses, different experiences, different perspectives on life. And, yes, different interactions with the same people. Ask five different people their thoughts on a particular doctor, clinic, or charity, and you’ll get a dozen different answers. Yes, I said that right. Five people with a dozen different answers. Because sometimes those answers change over time, or sometimes the individual is conflicted and has had varied experiences with the same entity.

Something has happened recently within the Rett Syndrome community. There’s been a divide. A blog post came out, which was written by a Rett parent, that brings into question the reliability and honesty of a very well-known Rett Syndrome charity. Some would say the most well-known Rett charity. Because they’re the primary fund for research, they receive the most donations. So bringing into question their trustworthiness is big. Really big.

We (in the Rett community) are updated periodically about new discoveries, clinical trials, and general good news about the search for a cure. When I say cure, the hope and goal is to be able to fix the DNA, restoring it to how it should be without the Rett mutations. The reality of the clinical trials, however, is that they are testing drugs which are meant to decrease the symptoms enough to increase the quality of life for individuals with Rett. So there are two different end-games here. The clinical trials are basically buying time until the cure is found. Whether the cure is even possible remains to be seen, so many prefer to put their money on the clinical trials for symptom-suppressing drugs, rather than the pipe dream of a cure.

Parents whose children have a disability are indeed desperate, but some are naturally more cautious and cynical than others. I have one friend in particular who has become disenchanted after 20-something years of caring for her son with a severe disability. When she first got the diagnosis, it was easy to get on board with the primary charity organization, and they promised a cure in five years, ten years… They kept making new promises, all the while raking in lots and lots of money for research, and the parents never receiving a dime for assistance in daily living, or receiving any real support at all. The more she spoke with other parents, the more she heard about the charity being rude to them, dismissing them, or being painfully honest by saying that there would never be a cure for their particular variety of this disability. Thus, her trust was broken, and she is vehement about now warning others not only about that specific charity, but she also warned me when I was new to the Rett diagnosis, to not put too much stock in promises for a cure, and to not trust the larger organizations.

There’s a lot of money to be had in charity work. And the con is simple. Hang out that carrot of a cure in front of desperate parents and let them do all your fundraising for you. Sounds simple, right?

Well, it’s not that simple. You see, many of these organizations, and–to my knowledge–all of the Rett organizations, are run by parents of children who have that disability. So they have a vested interest in actually obtaining a cure, or at least some good drugs to help with symptoms, and aren’t going to solely be in it for the money. Could someone be so hard-hearted as to use their child as a prop and make lots of money? Of course that’s a possibility, but I would say that is less likely. It would be more likely for the group of scientists and researchers to be using the parents to keep their work funded, putting pressure on the charity organizations to get more funding, all the while knowing there would never be a true cure. That’s also a possibility.

Another wrench in this narrative is that there are families in clinical trials who have seen good results. Not perfect, not a cure, but improvements. And we know at least some of the money is going towards those trials. So for that, it would be worth continuing to support them, wouldn’t it?

The other thing to consider is that these organizations DO receive federal money to support their research. Parent-raised funds are tiny compared to the millions (billions?) given by much larger entities. So what would be the drive or purpose in exerting so much effort into taking advantage of parents if they are already receiving so much more from the government? It wouldn’t make sense for them to be desperate enough to hamper Rett parents for money if what parents contribute is almost negligible when looking at the whole of their budget. Wouldn’t be worth their time.

Yet at the same time, some parents have reported that representatives of these organizations are rude to them (and unfortunately I’ve seen this online for myself), that there have been whispers of “There will never be a cure…”, and there is the fact that these organizations continue to target Rett families as their fundraisers instead of contacting supermarkets, coffee shops, and the like for cross-community fundraising like so many other charities do.

It doesn’t make sense either way. And as a Rett parent, it leaves me feeling uncertain. Do we continue to support these organizations? Do we trust them? Do we push back and demand changes from them? Or do we sit back, confused, and try to stay out of the fray?

Personally, that last one sounds the most desirable. Then again, I avoid confrontation as much as possible and hate to be caught in the middle of things when there isn’t a clear answer present. And yet I’m writing this blog, bringing up these questions, and presenting this information to others. I suppose it’s a matter of making others aware. Like I say in my birth work, it’s about informed consent. It’s not always about who is right or wrong, but about the individual having all available information presented to them, and being empowered to make their own decisions confidently. That’s what this is about, I suppose. Giving my friends and family, who I know for a fact have donated their hard-earned money towards this organization, the chance to come to their own conclusions. The chance to do research on their own, look into the different charities available, and make their own decisions as to whether or not they will donate. Whether I will continue to promote them remains to be seen. This is still a new conflict, and where it leads is anyone’s guess at this point.

All I know is that my daughter has been made captive by Rett Syndrome, and as her parent, I would do anything within my power to free her of that prison. That, I think, is what we all have in common, whether we are just “normal” Rett parents, or whether we are the founders and trustees of large charity organizations. We would do anything to give our children a better life…

Posted in Disabilities, Rett Syndrome | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Stop and Listen

I was at the Art in Bloom Festival yesterday, talking with someone at a booth about a hot political issue. I actually agreed with him on the political issue, so we were making small talk, and I was telling him a little about our sweet Anna, and describing how a potential bill would affect her (and our family, as a result). The following [paraphrased] conversation ensued. See if you can spot where he went wrong and where I started to get frustrated. For special needs parents, it should be easy.

Me: Because she’s disabled, homeschooling her wouldn’t be as easy as the other two. It would make a bigger impact on our family to have to homeschool her.

Him: Have you tried detoxing her? I’ve seen so many families improve symptoms of autism with detoxing.

Me: Well, it’s not autism. It’s a genetic disorder, so… can’t really change that. It’s not a toxicity issue.

Him: But still, there’s so much in our environment, and surely a good detox would help with her symptoms.

Me: No, not really. She has a protein missing on a chromosome. It’s in her DNA. Nothing will change that.

Him: You might be surprised how much it can improve.

Me: Okay, yeah. We’ll look into that.

 

Friends, can you see the problem here? I’m telling this guy, who knows nothing about my daughter, nothing about Rett Syndrome, that no amount of detoxing will change the fact that there is a mutation of MECP2 on her X chromosome. But he continues to push it. If he had simply said, “Oh, it’s genetic. Ok, different situation,” that would be fine. I’d be happy with that. But I had to lie and say we’d consider detox to try and get rid of Rett Syndrome (the other Rett moms are surely doubling over with laughter at this point) just to get him to stop talking about it so we could move on in the conversation.

Don’t be this guy.

Don’t try to push your own opinions or agenda or perspective on special needs parents who know for an absolute fact that your remedy will not work to alleviate their child’s disability.

You all know (or you can look back at other posts and see) that I am all about natural remedies. I use homeopathy, herbs, acupuncture, chiropractic, and many other alternative and traditional remedies. But they can only do so much, and because I am familiar with them, I know their limitations. Detoxing will not cure Rett Syndrome. They’re working on a cure, which I am very hopeful for, but I can promise you that detoxing is not it. It’s quite simple, really. Just listen to special needs parents. Believe me, they know what they’re talking about. They know more about their child’s condition than many (if not most) doctors.

This also brings to mind an instance when a sweet older lady at a friend’s church, after hearing about Anna’s diagnosis, asked, “Well, have you prayed for her?” Again, I am not against prayer. I do it all the time. Multiple times a day. But to ask whether I’ve prayed for my disabled daughter? Ask any believing parent whether they’ve prayed for their typical child. I guarantee they have. Now ask any believing special needs parent whether they’ve prayed for their disabled child. That answer is obviously YES ALL THE TIME.

I have cried out in agony over Anna’s pain, communication barriers, and her prognosis for the future. I have bawled on the bathroom floor begging God to please take this horrible disability away from my precious little girl. And this lady. I’m certain she was well-meaning and wanted to encourage me, instill hope in me. But. This. Lady. has the audacity to ask a believing special needs parent whether I’ve prayed for her. Because clearly the problem here is not that God has allowed my daughter to have a dysfunctional chromosome, but is rather that I simply haven’t prayed for her. Clearly it’s because I’m lacking faith and not because… you know… it’s in her DNA. Literally a part of who she is.

Don’t be this lady. 

When you encounter someone whose child has a disability, don’t act like you know better than they do. Even if you are fully convinced that you know better, that you can cure their child, that you have THE answer they’re looking for… Just stop. 

Stop and Listen. 

I hate that I can think of at least half a dozen more of these scenarios that I’ve encountered. Some with health care professionals. Some with social workers. Some with everyday people. I’m more understanding with everyday people, but honestly if you are a lay person and not a professional, why do you think you know better than the parent of the disabled child? Or better than all the doctors, specialists, and other experts that we communicate with, consult with, and read published information and studies by, all throughout however many years we’ve had the diagnosis? You don’t know. Or maybe you do. But even if you do, we still don’t want to hear it. Because we hear it all the time and frankly we’re just tired of hearing it. So please…

Don’t be those people. 

Just stop. 

Stop and Listen.

 

 

 

Posted in Natural Living, Rett Syndrome | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

That Mom in the Store

Not long ago, I was in Wal-Mart. Go ahead and judge me for feeding into the corporate machine. But when you’re a student, living on a single income, with three kids… Sometimes you just have to shop where your budget allows. That isn’t really the point of this, but I just had to step past that and shut down the haters.

What this post is actually about is a mother who was ahead of me in line. In my younger, less experienced, and certainly in my child-free days, I would have judged her. I don’t actually remember how many kids were with her, but it was probably four or five, ranging in age from maybe twelve down to three. Most of them, while a little energetic, were well-behaved and were listening to their mother as she told them not to play with the displays while the clerk rang up her large order. But the littlest one–he was a firecracker. A stubborn firecracker who had his sights set on one of those Kinder eggs (you know the kind–the hollow chocolate eggs with a little toy inside). He wanted it badly. But mom said no. He kept asking, she kept saying no. He threw a fit. And she just kept going with her purchase.

Again, in my less experienced days, I would have been annoyed. There were kids running around, one of them throwing a tantrum, the others interrupting their mom as she tried to keep her wits about her in managing the toddler, and I could see her stress rising. She kept her eyes down, not looking at the other customers or the clerk, would take deep breaths, and a couple of times had to speak quite firmly to her children.

To top it off, when she was done being rung up, she was writing a check. Others–including my younger self–might have been tempted to let out an exasperated sigh and complain on Facebook about how unpleasant the scene before them was turning out to be. How dare she have children in public! How dare that two- or three-year-old lose his temper in a public place! How dare those older children get bored after a long shopping trip! And how dare that woman have the nerve to use a check instead of a debit card like a normal person!

But none of that happened.

Instead, what happened is we saw the village emerge. 

Surely becoming embarrassed at her toddler’s tantrum and overwhelmed at all the moving parts involved in her shopping trip, she looked to the clerk and apologized for making a scene. “I’m so sorry,” she said, her voice quivering. 

Immediately the clerk, an older man around 60 or 70, replied with a chuckle, “Oh, don’t worry about it.”

I had been keeping quiet to not draw attention, because the last thing *I* want when my kids are having a meltdown is people looking at me. But in that moment, when she was feeling so vulnerable and, if I’m not mistaken, perhaps even on the verge of tears, I knew I had to add to that encouragement. I told her, “I’ve got three of my own. I’ve totally been there.” And I have. I have most definitely been *that* mom with three kids all going wild in the middle of the store. The customer behind me assured her it was all normal and told her it didn’t bother any of us.

In that moment, where we had all been hesitating, not wanting to bring more attention or embarrass her, we spoke up and reassured her that she was doing just fine. She was a mom, doing the best she could, and no one should ever judge her for that. Some kids are more challenging than others (don’t I know it!), and who knows what other factors were going on? Maybe it had already been a rough morning. Maybe the kids were tired, hungry, or just having a less patient day than others. Even if this was the norm, the fact is I’ve seen much worse reactions to kids’ behavior in the stores–both from the other customers as well as from the parents. But she was doing great.

Not only was it just a normal part of parenting that no one should be ashamed of, she was handling it well. She was staying firm with her tantrum-throwing toddler, she was being reasonable with her older ones, balancing boundaries with appropriate freedom, and though she had taken a stern tone with the ones who disobeyed, she didn’t yell, berate, shame, or threaten her children. She did an amazing job.

And yet, she still felt the need to apologize. I could probably make a whole other post all about how Americans today are less tolerant of children being children, how we have unreasonable and unrealistic expectations of children in this modern age, and how we need to accept children in each developmental stage, even at their worst. I won’t make an additional post about that (at least not today), but I will say this: Parents today do not need judgment; they need patience, understanding, empathy, and encouragement. 

I wish I had spoken up earlier, before she felt the need to apologize. And maybe next time I see a mom having trouble, I will speak up sooner. But the lesson here was clear. Let’s support parents, especially when their kids are being, well… immature kids. Let’s show them that they’re not alone, that we understand, that we have been in their shoes. Even if you haven’t been in their shoes, you can at least sympathize and be compassionate towards them. That’s my challenge to you today. Be kind to a parent who is struggling. Don’t look down on them–instead, lift them up. Give them a little of your strength so they can stay the course and feel confident in guiding their children. Don’t just refrain from judging or growing impatient; truly love them.

Posted in Parenting | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

So Your Baby is Breech… What now?

In this season of change for myself, I wanted to take time to start writing more often, and with that writing, review some of the information I’ve learned as a student midwife.

Recently, the subject of breech birth has been coming across my path. Often when that happens to students–when a particular subject keeps coming up–we start to wonder whether that is preparation for an upcoming birth. I hope this is coincidence and not the truth, but I’m paying close attention just in case. I do have a new preceptor on the horizon, a very experienced homebirth midwife with whom I’ve worked for one birth a few months ago, but there are no births coming very soon for me. So–knock on wood–hopefully the next birth I attend will be smooth and easy.

All that prefacing to say… Let’s talk about breech birth.

First, what is breech? In short, it’s when baby is upright in the womb instead of head-down. A baby may have their bottom coming first with either their legs extended upwards (Frank Breech) or their legs crisscrossed (Complete Breech), or they may have their foot coming down first (Footling Breech). When it comes to breech, Complete is the ideal scenario, producing the fewest additional complications, followed by Frank. Footling does come with more complications, for a variety of reasons. A woman may make a different choice about what to do about her breech baby depending on what kind of breech it is, so it’s important to make a note of the different kinds of breech that may be encountered.

The big question is, Can this be considered a variation of normal? Or does it always mean that something else is going on and baby is in danger?

The answer is… there is no absolute answer. Some babies have come down breech (sometimes without anyone knowing until baby came out) and had no trouble at all. Some have come out breech and had many complications. I don’t think we can say there are any absolutes, but we can say, at least statistically, that breech birth does have a higher potential of creating complications.

Complications of breech could include cord compression (where the cord gets stuck and “clamped” by baby’s wonky positioning, cutting off blood supply to the baby), aspiration in the newborn (if baby startles with their head still inside, they could breathe in fluids, causing breathing problems later on), stuck baby (because the bones of the skull do not fold the same way they do in vertex–head down–presentation, it’s more likely for baby’s head to get stuck), and injury to the mother (mother is more likely to tear). There is also a higher risk of cord prolapse (when the cord comes out before the body, which is a serious complication), since the baby’s bottom doesn’t fill the pelvis and stop the cord from coming out like a head does. When a baby is coming breech, midwives will often prepare for the worst and be ready to resuscitate as soon as baby is out, due to the increased risk of complications.

This is not to say that anyone should panic if their baby is breech. Many babies are born breech without complications, with the help of skilled and confident care providers, and these can be amazing, empowering, beautiful births. My view is simply that each mother should be informed, and should make her choice based on the facts (both of her individual situation and on statistical information), and she should be aware of all her options before she decides. Informed decision-making is my only goal here.

So if your baby is breech, what are your options?

  1. Spin that baby! The first step that most midwives will suggest is to visit http://www.SpinningBabies.com to start following an exercise regimen meant to turn the baby around from breech to vertex. Many times, the physiology of the mother (tight ligaments, torqued muscles, joints out of place) can influence a baby to turn breech, and releasing those can allow baby to turn. Other times, baby is just being silly, and doing certain exercises can encourage baby to flip around to vertex. Other non-invasive methods to encourage baby to turn head-down include moxibustion, chiropractic care, massage, and verbal instruction. Some are more evidence-based than others, and mothers should explore all possibilities.
  2. Accept and trust. Some women feel breech is a variation of normal, and without absolute indicators of complications, believe they should birth breech without attempting to turn baby around, or simply trust that baby will turn around when it’s time to birth. While that’s a beautiful thought, the higher incidence of complications (which cannot be predicted) should also not be dismissed or ignored. I do advocate for women to make their own choices in birth, but I also strongly feel these choices should be informed, and a long discussion should be had with the midwife to review the risks versus benefits.
  3. Perform an External Cephalic Version. This procedure involves a care provider physically turning baby from the outside. They will oil up the mother’s belly to provide lubrication. Then, with firm-but-cautious movements, will use their hands to guide baby into a head-down position. This should only ever be done by a care provider who has received full training in how to do it, and mothers with anterior placentas (where their placentas are located at the front of their belly) should only have this done in a hospital, where an ultrasound can keep track of placenta health and show the care provider where to put (and not put) their hands. It is more invasive, but compared to the risks of delivering breech, may be worth a try.
  4. Schedule a cesarean. This is always an option. Perhaps not the ideal option for all women, but in many areas, it may be the only option, if doctors trained and experienced in breech are not locally available. Breech is not the kind of birth you want to pressure your doctor into. If they are not comfortable with it, a cesarean is the safest option. You do not want an uninformed care provider accidentally causing more harm by delivering breech without the knowledge of how to do so. It is quite different from vertex birth, and requires an entirely different mindset. The same goes for midwives. If your midwife is not comfortable with breech, or if she is not permitted by her license to deliver breech (birth centers in Oregon are not allowed to deliver breech unless birth is imminent), and if turning techniques have not worked by the time you are in active labor, then it likely is the safest option to have a cesarean.

I don’t want to make this too long, so I’ll stop there. But if you are still curious about breech, you can always watch videos on youtube about it, google it on your own, or have a chat with your midwife about the available options for your area and per her license.

Here are a few resources to get you started:

Definition, Statistics, and Other Details

Evidence Based Birth: Evidence for ECV

Spinning Babies: About Breech

Ina May Gaskin’s Take on Breech

Peggy O’Mara’s Take on Breech

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Pregnancy and Birth | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

New Year, New Identity

It’s hard to know where to start. I’ve not written here in a long time because I’ve been busy. So very busy. In particular, I’ve been busy in my midwifery apprenticeship. But that came to an end today. I’m not giving up on midwifery–it’s too much a part of who I am, and I’ve invested far too much to give up now. But I had to come to a point of recognizing my limitations, and knowing that the way I was learning it was not the way that was right for me. It took me two years at that apprenticeship to realize it, but today I finally said that I was ready to take a step back. I only wish it hadn’t been after several months of struggling and barely hanging on by a thread.

Being in a birth center is wonderful for my OCD brain. Everything in its place. Plenty of spare supplies. Knowing where things are. Having the routine of what needs done. But when exhaustion, family issues, and mystery health concerns crept up on me, it took away my organization, my memory, my growth. I was stunted by my own personal struggles, and couldn’t progress. Not when I was being pulled in so many different directions. Others can handle it, and I admire them for it, but I couldn’t. Not in this body, not with the family I have, not with the limited resources available to me. I had to acknowledge my limitations, my mistakes, my failures.

As I said, I won’t–can’t–give up on midwifery. But for now, it’s on hold. I don’t know when I’ll find a new preceptor. I don’t know when I’ll finish. I don’t know how that will all fit into my still-crazy home-life. With one child severely disabled, another being homeschooled with multiple learning disorders, and the third being so intensely high-need, I will likely never escape that need to attend to my home, first and foremost. While others may manage their homes and their midwifery training with grace, they do not have my children, and I can’t keep pretending that they don’t need more care and attention than other children.

They also don’t have the health concerns that I have, which can’t even be named because I don’t know what’s going on with me. I don’t know why I’ve been having episodes of vertigo that send me to the ER. I don’t know why I have all the symptoms of hypothyroid and adrenal fatigue but all my labs are in perfect range. I don’t know why my previously perfect blood sugar and previously textbook blood pressure are both rising (while keeping a low-glycemic and mostly whole foods diet). I don’t know why I feel as if I could sleep all day and still never wake refreshed. I don’t know why I suddenly have the memory of a goldfish and the emotional stability of a thirteen year old girl during her first PMS. These are all mysteries which doctors are yet to solve, and which are affecting me greatly in both my career and my home life. Until I find a way to manage these things, and until I can build up the energy required to care for mothers and babies, I must step back and care for myself. I must attend to my own body before other women can trust me with theirs.

So with this break, though I keep reminding myself I’m not giving up, I feel a loss of identity. I feel a loss of self. Over the past two years, I’ve found so much of my identity in the title of “student midwife”. I thought I had found a home in the birth center where I’d been training, but it turns out that birth center work–at least, in a birth center as busy as that one is–cannot work for me. It cannot be sustained with all the other plates I’m spinning. I made friends which were more like sisters. I had purpose there. Now I feel everything is on hold, and I don’t know what I’m doing.

This is not to say that I don’t still have those friends, who are more like sisters. They were, and continue to be, some of my biggest cheerleaders and supporters. My decision to leave was not one that has resulted in being ousted or rejected. I don’t feel rejected at all. I feel loved, supported, cared for, and missed. I have simply come to realize that in this season of life, I cannot be part of the staff. At another time, perhaps when my children are older and my health is in another place, I would be welcomed back, if I was ready. But for now, I’ll no longer be wearing the logoed scrubs, or a representative of the birth center (though I believe I’ll always carry a little bit of it with me wherever I go). And that is my choice: for my family, for my health. There is no bitterness or anger; there is only the acknowledgement that I had other priorities in my life, and I couldn’t do my job well while juggling those other things. I will always be a part of the Rogue family, just not on staff at this time. Those midwives, and the students I worked alongside, are some of my closest, dearest friends. They always will be. In that kind of intimate work, you can’t help but feel connected to the people you work with. But for me, my time there–at least for now–is complete.

I’m trying to enjoy the pause. Trying to spend more time with my kids, tidy the house a little more, study whenever possible, and care for myself (body, mind, and spirit). But the identity I had found at the birth center is gone. And now I can’t help but ask, “What now?” and “Who am I?”

I can’t help but question my decision to keep moving forward and to continue pursuing midwifery. Is this the right career for me? Can it be done? Will I ever succeed? A great loss like the one I’ve experienced will of course bring those questions to mind. Even when it’s my own decision, and I know it’s for the best, I have my doubts about my own ability to finish what I’ve started. I must keep telling myself it’s not over. I have no idea how it will be accomplished, but I will finish what I set out to do. I will be a midwife–someday. How soon that will happen, only God knows.

But for now, in the pause, in the time between, I will heal. I will care for my family. I will prepare for the future. And I will take on those identities that had been in the background. Wife, mother, homeschooler. I will rest, grow, and strengthen myself for the journey ahead.

There are probably dozens of inspirational quotes I could end this with. But this one, it seems to me, is the most poignant for the situation and one that is speaking to me the most in these dark moments. I hope it inspires you as well.

 

46420095_1137112543117019_9160124348453879808_n

 

Posted in Midwifery Study | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Shy” Is Not a Bad Word

21743270_10212163986107520_5921425019465949624_n

 

I’m frustrated. 

Several times over the past few years, I’ve found conversations online as well as articles and blogs which put shyness into a negative connotation. And really, these conversations have covered it all.

A child’s shyness is something to be overcome.

They need to come out of their shell.

Maybe there’s something wrong with them and they need a dietary change.

Did they have vaccines?

Have their blood tested for a genetic disorder.

Don’t call them shy. You don’t want them to feel bad…

Utter nonsense–all of it!

Can we finally accept that shyness is a personality trait and not something to be ashamed of? Not something that needs fixed? Not something that our children should feel shame about?

I’m begging you. Please. Let’s stop stigmatizing shyness! 

As a shy introvert (the two are different), I have had to learn social skills to function in a world primarily made of not-shy extroverts. I’ll admit it’s resulted in some social awkwardness and too-frequent nervous rambling in an attempt to connect with people… But on the whole, I’m a pretty well functioning adult. But no one pushed me to “get out of my shell”. No one was ashamed to call my shy. No one thought it was a bad thing. It was simply… who I was. Who I still am, at my core. I can cover it up when necessary and pretend to be a little less shy, but when I lean into my own personality, that’s who I am.

I also have a shy daughter. She uses that word herself. I find it empowers her to accept who she is, and gives her vocabulary to describe how she’s feeling at that time. She will now say, “I’m feeling a little shy right now.” And I totally understand that, so I don’t force her to say hello to the elderly stranger at the store.

Unfortunately, that elderly stranger sometimes confuses shyness with rudeness. I try to smooth it over a bit, explaining, “She takes a while to warm up to people, and that’s okay.” Sometimes they accept this, sometimes they don’t. But it doesn’t matter what a stranger at the grocery store accepts or doesn’t accept. I accept my daughter for who she is, she accepts herself for who she is, and that is enough.

As a Christian, I believe that God created us intentionally, with personalities that ultimately will be used to His purpose. Do some people change those personalities and cling to the negative attributes instead of the positive ones? Absolutely. That’s why we have people struggling with addiction, anger, and deviant behavior. But shyness is not one of those negative attributes. It’s a variety of the human experience.

Of course I want my daughter to feel brave and confident. I want her to make friends and to be polite. I want her to not feel fear when she meets someone new. But giving her that encouragement, instilling in her that confidence, and bolstering her bravery–that all begins with accepting who she is and not making her feel like there’s something wrong with her. She doesn’t need to be fixed; she simply needs to be loved. 

So let’s stop viewing shyness as a negative attribute. Let’s accept and love our shy children, and strengthen them with that love and acceptance. Let’s recognize shyness as just another personality trait, and not as something that needs corrected.

Shy is not a bad word.

 


 

What do you think? Are you a shy person, or do you have a child who is shy? What has your experience been with shyness being viewed negatively? How do you think we can change this perspective?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On Becoming Oregonian

It was just over seven years ago that my husband and I, along with our girls (just under two and a newborn at the time) packed up and left California, heading for Oregon. We had no choice in the matter, really. California was just too expensive for our family to really be sustained there, and my in-laws lived in Oregon, so we had family support and somewhat of a plan when we got there. When we arrived, we had somewhere around $200 to our name. After all the moving expenses and having lived paycheck to paycheck as it was, that’s all we had. To say it was a leap of faith would be an understatement.

Since that time, a great deal has changed. We’re more stable now, though the economy seems to be insistent about making it consistently difficult to get ahead, and we’ve settled into this Oregon life. We’ve grown as individuals and together, and we’ve added to our family. I’ve found my calling and am working towards that goal: something I thought was an impossible dream while living in California.

Looking back over the years has made me ponder the question, “Are we Oregonian now? Has it been long enough? Have we shed enough of our California-ness to say that we are Oregonians?” Native-born Oregonians would probably say no, that we never could be true Oregonians. I mean, can one truly call themselves an Oregonian without having a preference of Duck or Beaver? But we never really cared for sports in California, either, so I don’t think it’d be fair to hold that against us.

Yet I still see so many ways in which our lives–and our perspectives–have changed since we’ve moved to Oregon, and I can see the subtle ways it’s tempting me to call myself an Oregonian, rather than a Californian living in Oregon.

For instance…

The Coffee. I enjoyed coffee on occasion–when meeting friends or at an event–in California. My addiction, however, developed in Oregon. I don’t know if it’s the colder months through fall and winter, or whether there’s something in the water, but now it calls to me. It’s something I need, not just something I want. And having never been in the habit of visiting coffee shops in California, the convenience of a Dutch Bros stand pretty much every 0.5 miles makes it all too easy to feed that addiction.

The Bubble. By this I mean the reluctance to leave one’s immediate surroundings. It’s something that’s totally foreign to a big-city native, because most things require you to travel longer distances, and to endure the endless traffic on the way. For years I went to school at a college 30 miles away, which took an hour (at least) to get to, four days a week. Now I work 25 miles away, and though it only takes 40 minutes (if there’s traffic), there’s still something about it that feels far. Maybe it’s having to go through mountain passes to get there, or the feeling of great expanses of farms and forests in between, but yes–it feels farther than it actually is.

The Driving. I can’t say I’ve lost all my California driving habits (some of them I actually summon when I’m running late), but I have grown accustomed to the strange law requiring drivers to remain in the right lane when not passing. It really only works on two- or at most, three-lane highways (doesn’t really work on four, five, six lane highways I was accustomed to driving on in California), but now I get irritated when drivers don’t follow that law. Usually when they’re hanging out in the left lane going under the speed limit and just plain getting in the way. But my point is, my driving has changed.

On the subject of driving, however, I have to ask–why are Oregonians so afraid of merging lanes and making left-hand turns? I can’t believe how much space they require just to do those things. It’s like they want a full two miles open to feel confident in doing those. I don’t get it. Okay, so maybe I haven’t lost my California driving. But I don’t think that’s always a bad thing.

The Weather. As a self-proclaimed spoiled San Diegan, I have fought for years against the evil that is a Southern Oregon summer. Temperatures hovering around 90-110 for weeks on end, with little relief outside of air conditioning. And, again as someone who has been spoiled, the single-digit winters were such a foreign concept to me that I couldn’t imagine going out in that weather in anything less than a full snowsuit. And yet… The other day, I came out of a store and thought to myself, “It doesn’t feel all that hot today. Must be cooling down…” I checked the weather app on my phone and it was 97. There’s something disturbing about that. And I have been known to go out in single-digit weather in just a slightly thicker hoodie and those cheap knit gloves. No parka or snowsuit or heavy boots. Just my regular jeans, tennis shoes, a thick hoodie, and thin gloves. I’ve acclimated, and that’s both strange and comforting.

The Condiments. Fry sauce with French fries; ranch dressing with pizza. Sure, I still put hot sauce on almost everything, but those two condiments are somehow part of Oregon culture, and I’ve adopted them. I’d never heard of fry sauce in California, and truth be told, it’s just mayo and ketchup, so it’s nothing special. But still, it’s something that was new to my California eyes and taste buds, which I now really enjoy. And ranch with pizza was rare back in California; only the pizza from my high school cafeteria was ever eaten with ranch in my pre-Oregon days. But now, for some reason, it just makes sense to use it if it’s available.

 

So maybe I still say “the” in front of freeways (even the Oregonian ones), and maybe I still crave a California burrito from time to time. Maybe I drive a little too much like a Californian from time to time, and I don’t complain quite as much as the locals do when I have to drive far. And yes, I still say “dude” quite a lot, and laugh when an Oregonian says there’s “traffic”. But I’d say, for being here just seven years, I’ve inched over into an Oregonian identity. And the longer I’m here, the more I see how I am distancing myself from California and choosing to become Oregonian, slowly but surely.

 

What about you? Have you changed states and found yourself identifying more with the new location than with the old one? 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Just for Fun | 1 Comment