Monday, February 28, 2011

The "S-Word": the 6-letter one

My vocabulary of "no-no" words is ever growing lately.  Remember I told you about my new "F" word, the one with 7-letters...forgive.  Unless you want to irritate me, don't go there.  Oprah has a great definition of forgiveness.  A friend shared it with me and the first time I read it, I cried.  Oprah says forgiveness is "letting go of the hope that the past could have been any different."  There is a lot of wisdom in that.  I cried because while I love the definition, I am so not ready to go there.  Don't start...

My "S-word" with 6-letters is Safety.

I shudder when I hear it.  Ok, maybe not shudder...cringe.  Yes, cringe.  I'm serious.  A couple months ago in church someone said, "There is safety in the gospel."  That struck a sensitive cord and sent me into a spiral that took me 2 hours to recover from or if you consider I am still working on it...2 months and counting.   It wasn't just that comment, but the idea of safety in general.  It is a concept I simpy cannot believe in.  As a child I was not safe, one of the people that was supposed to take care of me was abusing me.  My home was not safe.  Though it pains me to say it, my inner child says, even God didn't save me.  Thus, there is no such thing as safety.

Peter Griffin
One day I got caught in one of those rooms in my Haunted Mind. It was a room full of a child's anguish and fear of not being safe.  I cried and cried.  I rocked and I mumbled, "no safe places, no safe places".  On some level I, as an adult, was observing all this and I thought I must be having a nervous breakdown.  I worried that my husband would come home and find me in a fetal position muttering, "No safe places, no safe places."  Fortunately that didn't happen.  But now you know why I seriously cringe when I hear that word. 

One day I mentioned to my 14 yr old son, Caleb, that I was struggling with the idea of being safe.  (I don't know what possessed me to do that.  I don't usually tell the children those sorts of details, but please believe there was some good reason for sharing, even though I can't remember what it was.) 

He said, "You know, Mom, I don't believe in safe places either.  Since I was a little kid I have been afraid of something bad happening. What if someone breaks into the house?  What if there is an earthquake?  So I don't believe in safe places, but I do believe in happy places.  A Happy Place doesn't mean you are always safe, but it means that you have family and friends to support you when bad things do happen."

So there you go...thank you all, my friends, for being a part of my Happy Place.

Photo Attriution: Peter Griffin

Saturday, February 19, 2011

THE Chess Klutz speaks on Chess

I love chess.  I hate chess. I am a chess fanatic.

Reading that you probably assume that I am also, therefore, good at chess.  Wrong.  I'm pretty terrible actually.  (Don't tell my chess students!)   I know this is a real dichotomy.  I love chess and teach it, but I am not very good at it.  How can that be? 

The answer is more simple than you think.  I love chess for a multide of reasons that I will explain more in depth shortly.  I hate chess because it is like a diabolical butterfly.  It taunts me.  It hovers just out of my reach.  I read about it.  I study the rules, but I can't seem to keep my focus in a game long enough to keep me from making stupid mistakes.  ("Ah, so the problem is YOU, Leslie, not the game," you say...shut up this is MY blog!)  I can teach chess because I have mastered the rules and basics enough to help beginners.  I give them their chess wings, so to speak, and then watch them quickly out grow me!

Sabine Sauermaul
So why do I continue to torture myself with this game that eludes my clumsy attempts at mastering it?  Why do I teach it to all my children and anyone else that I can persuade to learn?  I do it because at least for a short time I will have an opponent I can beat studies show that the benefits of playing chess are amazing, especially for children (hopefully me, too!)  There have been numerous studies done and the results have shown again and again that chess helps children improve in math, reading, and vocabulary.  It develops logical thinking, imagination and creativity.  Chess teaches independence, inspires self-motivation and rewards hard work.  There is an excellent, readable article about it here: The Benefits of Playing Chess.  Chess can benefit special needs kids as well.  You can read more about that here: Chess and Special Needs Education.

Because my whole family plays chess, my almost 5 yr old has recently decided he wants to play.  He is something of a computer nerd and has already tried computer chess.  He was very upset that he kept losing.  He doesn't realize most of us lose to the computer! 

"But 5 yr old is too young to play chess!" you say.  (where are your manners today?  I was getting to that...)  Each child is individual, so it depends on the child certainly, but yes many children can learn to play as young as 5 yrs old.  I'm going to share the best resource for doing that.

Chess for Success by Maurice Ashley

I read his book a few years back and a still use the ideas I got from him regularly to teach young people to play chess.  He has great ideas for simplified chess games to help learn the rules and begin to develop your chess skills such as: Pawns Asleep and another one my family nicknamed Dessert Chess (I can't remember what Maurice Ashley called it...Giveaway Chess...something like that.)  Anyway, amazing book.  I highly recommend it.

Now if someone could just recommend a good book for me so I can beat my teenage boys. . .


Photo Attibution: Sabine Sauermaul

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Guest Post: The Mist

I am feeling   I am feeling social.  (phew, better.)  So today I thought I would share something different.  In the past I have shared a few things from my daughter, Vienna; her Unusual Christmas List,  and her "fan fiction"  "Woman Found in Pumpkin".  But wait!  Vienna and I are not the only writers in the family. 

Today's tribute is to my oldest son, Ammon.  I haven't shared his writing before because it is dark (read: dark as in violent like The Hunger Games, not dark as in evil.)  I asked his writing teacher about this and she said it is" normal for this age and not a sign that he would some day need therapy like his mother."  Ok, that's not really what she said.  She did say that it is normal for teenagers to write in this dark genre.  This is reprinted with permission, of course.  Thanks Ammon!


by Ammon

“I don’t care if you don’t want to go, you don’t have a choice. You were chosen to come with us,” said the man in the dark blue trench coat, and captain’s hat that cast a shadow over his face all the way down to his long unkempt beard.

“But mister, I’m cold,” complained the little boy who was still in his rocket ship pajamas.

“We’re here” announced the captain. Then he swung his lantern three times and slowly the schooner appeared forming from the mist. When it was fully formed, dark mist started to emerge. It soon consumed the entire city with a mist that was darker then death itself.

When the suns first rays peeked over the mountains the mist simply vanished, leaving nothing but death and destruction in its wake. Where there was once a happy home there was now a pile of rubble, where there was once a busy street there was now only broken glass and twisted metal and where there were living breathing beings there were now only corpses, but the schooner was not amidst the wreckage, and the captain and the boy were not among the corpses.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

"Pain needs a Witness"

My last post was about Wonder and Awe...what I didn't think to mention...perhaps I just really didn't want to think about it at all, is how fleeting they are.  Sigh...'Reader Beware', I am in a dark mood today.  I once told my therapist that I have an bottomless well of pain.  No matter how much I try to 'trust the process', cry, release the pain...there is always more.  He said, "It's because you cry alone.  Pain needs a witness."

If you are in the mood for on.  If not. . .I don't blame you, I would put a huge distance between me and this stuff if I could too.

When I first started writing about abuse, I called the after effects "the ashes of abuse".  I think now I should have included "smoke" in there somewhere.  The pain from the abuse feels like smoke that floods into every room (read: every facet of your life), it lingers, it stinks.  One of the things I worry about the most is how the smoke will affect my family.  I'm not "Mommie Dearest" but I am no "June Cleaver" either. I am moody and distracted.  And so I worry.  My husband keeps reassuring me that he is only sorry that I am struggling, this mess is not a burden for him. "I love you and I always will," he told me today.  He says the kids are fine, better than fine, "wonderful" he says.  But still I worry. 

I think that one of the things that is hardest for people who have not experienced trauma to understand is why it is still so difficult so many years later and why it takes so long to heal. There is not one answer for this but many.  I will try to summarize it though. If I were in a car accident (which lasts a couple moments at the most) would you be surprised if my injuries were serious and it took months or even years to heal?  I have a friend that still suffers from the effects of a car accident she was in 20 yrs ago.  Why do we expect healing from other kinds of trauma to be any different?

Why do I struggle now with something that happened so many years ago?  One day I asked my therapist why I have to be burdened with all this stuff twice...first as a child and now as an adult.  He said, "Because YOU didn't experience it the first time."  What he meant was that as a child, I couldn't cope with it so I 'dissociated' it.  I put it away in my mind to deal with later...and now "later" is here.  That is a very primitive explanation of it, but it will do.  Basically, I am dealing with events from years ago, but I feel like they happened yesterday.

The other thing I want to touch on is how lonely this all is.  If I had a physical challenge like cancer, for example, people would rally around me with support.  I would have all kinds of offers for people to bring in meals, watch my kids, clean my house.  Lot's of phone calls...etc.   I know because I have been the recipient of all that goodness in the past when I was ill.  My current difficulty is harder for people to understand.  In the beginning I tried to explain it to people, but quickly learned not to do that (except here on the blog) because it makes people uncomfortable.  If you tell people more than they are ready to hear and they will start avoiding you, or look at you like they feel sorry for you, but don't know what to say.  I don't know which is worse.  I don't want meals brought in.  I don't need help with the kids or the house.  What I really want is to feel not feel alone. 

That last part is where you come in.  When people tell me, "I read your blog", my first thought is "I hope I didn't write something stupid!" but the second is a huge sense of gratitude.  Reading a blog is a voluntary thing, you come and you read because you want to.  And THAT makes me feel supported and loved.  It may feel like a small thing to you, but it means the world to me because it tells me that you care and that...I am not alone.

Thank you for reading and being a "witness".

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Wonder and Awe

This morning I discovered a new room in "the haunted mind".  It was a child's room, a room of wonder and awe.  For a short time everything was new and amazing.  The droplets of water on the shower curtain mesmerized me.  The water droplets are different sizes, did you ever notice that?  As I wiped away the steam, it would slowly build up again.  As I swiped it again, I could see three levels of "thickness" to it.  The warm air from the blow dryer felt as wonderful and amazing as the breeze on a beach with white sand and green water like Aruba. 

Perhaps this sounds a little strange, my Therapist was teasing me that it is like an "acid trip" without the drugs.  But it lead to an interesting discussion about other kinds of the wonder that we find in nature.  Think for a moment of your favorite outdoor place and how it makes you feel.   Or the wonder that you can feel from spiritual things...remember the last spiritual experience that filled you with awe.  Some how the conversation veered to science and math and the wonder there. Have you ever felt awed by math, science or literature?  I am afraid that many people miss that one, but it's there, really!  

As we talked I wondered how I could have forgotten all these things that feel me with awe...each in a different way, but each powerful.   I pondered it and decided that sometimes when hard things happen to us it can be like piling shovel fulls of dirt on top of the joy and wonder in our life.  When enough dirt gets piled on the you can forget the joy was ever there.  How tragic!

My therapist says perhaps I could throw the dirt somewhere else rather than covering up the joy.  I don't know how that would work, but for now it feels like enough to remember that joy, wonder and awe that are there somewhere.  More importantly to know they are in the Haunted Mind.

How about you my friends?  Have you felt wonder and awe recently?  If not, may I suggest that you get a shovel and dig it out?  It's worth it, I promise!