Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Being Dismissed from Services

I heard those dreaded words today. "I'm afraid that most likely your child doesn't qualify for services anymore." I paused afraid that if I responded too soon I'd yell or cry. I asked a few clarifying questions, blinking back tears of panic. I held my own for nearly the entire conversation. And then the therapist said, "You should be so proud, Mom. He's made so much progress." Then, I cried.

The truth is he has made so much progress. The truth is I am very proud of him. Still, the truth is I hate hearing those words. Every time a specialist says to me that one of my children "no longer qualifies" for services, bile-like panic rises in my chest.

"But he still has such anger issues," I said. And, "His impulsiveness gets in his way on a daily basis," I added. Doesn't she know? Can't she see the things I see? "I did tell you that he pulled a knife on his brother last week, didn't I?" Somehow she had to see that despite her folder full of data she was missing something.

We talked some more. I cried the whole time. I heard everything she said and understood it. I work in special education, I'm fully aware of the qualification process for services at school and that the qualification requirements for services at school is very different than the qualification requirements in the medical/professional arena. I get it, but still I was reeling inside, wondering what the effects of this dropped service would be for my son.

At one point, the therapist looked me right in the eyes and asked, "How are you doing? You have a lot on your plate with your job and your kids, are you taking care of you?"

It was a sucker punch to the gut. It's no secret that I'm not the pinnacle of self-care. Nor is it a secret that I have a crazy life. I've had people say we should have a reality TV show because you simply cannot make this stuff--my life--up. I had one dear friend compare my life to Murphy's Law: anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. She offered to have a warning sign made for my front door. Warning: Murphy's Law in full effect. Enter at your own risk.

The bruising blow was this: I suddenly realized that my panic wasn't truly for my boy. Or, at least, it wasn't only for my boy. With a blaze of clarity, I realized that I wasn't panicked for him alone; I was panicked for me, too. When my son no longer qualifies for a service and loses that support, I lose it too. It's one less person I have in my corner, cheering on not only my kid, but me as well. One less specialist is one less person I can talk to who understands what my day-to-day life is really like. One less person who sees all that I have to wrestle with everyday and appreciates how hard it can be. One less person who loves my child without judgement. One less person who fights for my son's progress. One less person who sees the good and helps me see it too. It's not just one less person on my son's team. It's one less person on my team.

Of course, I didn't tell the therapist about my revelation when it struck. Perhaps some day I will tell her. But, for today, I was able to stop crying. Awareness can be liberating. My son has made a ton of progress and the truth is we will survive being dismissed from this service because he's in a place, we're in a place, where it's not as critical anymore. And that's okay. That's as it should be. We should all hope and pray for a day when our children no longer qualify for services. But I recognize that's not always the case. It hasn't always been the case for us. Sometimes funding is cut. Sometimes insurance won't pay. Sometimes specialists won't listen. Sometimes doctors and teachers belittle you and dismiss your concerns entirely. Sometimes you don't even know who to go to for the help you need. I have had to fight for my boys since before they were born. And I'll continue to do so when it is truly warranted.

Here's what I want my future-self to remember: Progress is miraculous, every inch of it. Don't ever hold on to things your child no longer needs. Recognize that you'll be okay, too, mama. We don't make progress in a vacuum. Odds are that if your child is progressing and no longer qualifying for services, then you've made a hefty amount of progress, too.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

What I Hope My Children (and Students) Learn from State-Mandated Testing

It’s that time of year again. STAAR is here. We’ve had a lot of complaining, questioning, and even some crying at our house this week. Let me let you in on a little secret, teachers don’t like it either. And, like you, we pray that someday legislation will do away with state-mandated testing. But that day isn’t today, so here’s what I hope my children (and my students) will learn from taking the STAAR test. These state-mandated tests aren’t everything, but I want you to do your best. I promise you can learn a great many things through this experience if you do.

#1. I hope you learn that you can do hard things. These tests are hard y’all! And regardless of the outcome, you do it; you tackle the monstrous challenge again and again and again.  You forge through figurative language, fraction problems, and facts. Armed with only a pencil, you slay the dragon every year. Multiple times. You’re a knight, a ninja, a new-aged rock star! And don’t you forget it! Mom and dad are proud of you!

#2. I hope you learn that no score defines you. These tests do not define you. Nor do they determine your future, regardless of what anyone might say. It’s a snapshot of a few hours of your life. Whether your score is advanced or unsatisfactory does not determine if you will be advanced or unsatisfactory as an adult. You determine that by your willingness to work hard. Numbers on tests like these sometimes feel like they carry a lot of weight, but in truth, your small day-to-day actions weigh more than any paper score ever could.

#3. I hope you learn to accept that sometimes you have to buckle down and do things you don’t want to do. Whether it’s chores at home, tasks at school, or responsibilities at work, you’ll find there will often be things outside of your comfort zone, things that you detest, things that are exhausting, and, sometimes, things that are disgusting that you simply must do anyway. And that’s okay. It’s part of life. Just as sprouting seeds must push their way through the dirt, we all have to push through unpleasant things to grow.

#4. I hope you learn that your teachers are invested in you. You. They are there to teach you. Not to teach content, not to teach test strategies. More than anything, they want to give you valuable life lessons that will carry you into adulthood and help you become a happy, healthy, productive adult. Your teachers are aware that the results of state-mandated testing do not predict your future. They know these tests don’t define you. *See #2. And they see you. You beyond the test. The kid who comes to class burdened by unnecessary anxiety, hunger, family stress, bullying, financial concerns, identity crises. They see you. They love you. They worry over you, pray for you, dream of ways of helping you while they sleep. You are so loved.

#5. I hope you learn that God is in the little things, even the STAAR test. He cares about you and every detail of your life. He knows that sometimes you have to do hard, unwanted, unfair, daunting tasks that don’t prove anything about your intelligence. He knows that these test cause you a lot of unwanted anxiety. He knows you desperately want to succeed. He knows sometimes you fall short. He’s okay with that. He’s got your back. He hears your prayers and pleas and He will answer you. He will not leave you alone in anything great or small. He’s in the details. He’s with you. Learn to lean into Him… even in, especial in, the big-little things.

Above all else, I pray that you learn to trust in yourself. To trust that you are a wonderfully creative, capable, remarkable person. To trust that you are good enough, smart enough, valuable enough. I hope you grow to learn that you do not need validation from a test designed by someone who doesn't know you and doesn't get to see you progress like I and your teachers do. You are amazing. Never forget that. Trust in who you are. "You is smart... You is important." Don't let anyone or anything take that knowledge from you. Ever.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

To Be Alive

I wrote the following a year and a half ago.

"We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul-We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things." Articles of Faith #13

It's ironic almost to the point of laughter that this is the scripture we have have been focusing on this month in Primary, children's Sunday school. Almost.


"We have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things." It makes me want to laugh... if only to keep from crying.


It's no secret that life in the Marrott household is never dull. In our nearly fifteen years of marriage we've endured: twelve moves (to include those of the international variety), several separations (of the military variety), fifteen surgeries, sixteen hospitalizations, several family deaths, multiple job losses (though one is technically called a retirement), not to mention the rare medical anomalies, financial challenges, mental health crises, homeschooling, public schooling, military schooling, and the regular, run-of-the-mill, daily grind of family life. Yes, we have endured many things.


I have to admit though, I've been pretty sure lately that I'm not able to endure all things.


The thing is, we seem to go from one crisis to another, with little to no recovery time in between. And I am exhausted. Like, marathon runner exhausted. I've never run a marathon, but I've heard that it takes some time to recover. Your legs are all jello-y and things you take for granted, like walking, are suddenly incomprehensible. This I totally get.


This summer, things I took for granted, you know, like getting out of bed each day, were incomprehensible. Too hard. Too much. It was all so overwhelming and my jelly legs couldn't bare the weight of it. I laid in bed for days at a time, reading, escaping, trying to recuperate.


Something a marathon runner will tell you though, is that even though it can be painful to walk the next day after the race, walking is exactly what you need to be doing. Notice, I said walking, not running. You need to be up and moving, but you could very well seriously damage your body if you push it without allowing it to recover.


Since I wrote that I've started a new career (and was a finalist for First Year Teacher of the Year); I've written, not as much as I'd like, but I have written a few short stories (one of which won an honorable mention in the prestigious contest) and I'm in the beginnings of a new novel; I've made new relationship; I'm fostered and deepened existing relationship; I've read too many books, graded too many papers, cooked too many meals to count. I've kissed my loves a thousand times. All proof that I am indeed up and moving.

But there are times, despite how good life is, how much good I have accomplished, that it's still ridiculously hard to get out of bed. Times when the house is filthy, when the kids eat cereal for three meals a day. There are times when papers go ungraded and plans go unexecuted. Not long ago, I was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in my neck and spine and arthritic joints in various other parts of my body, which has slowed me down. I continually struggle with PTSD triggers, though it is getting better. I am recognizing triggers and set backs sooner and processing and recovering faster. All things considered, time marches on. The world steady turns in its orbit. And, for better or worse, I am making my mark on the world everyday. For that I am grateful. 


Every moment I am given, I will keep moving on. To struggle is to progress. To struggle is to learn and to love. To struggle is to hone purpose. To struggle is to be alive. Keep calm and carry on, my loves. Every day is a godsend.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

New Year's Staying Power

This time last year, I was salivating for a new year full of opportunity. I was aching for new chances to learn, to grow, to prove myself, to improve myself. And I had this great plan to help me accomplish all these dreams I had: I was going to have a word for my new year. I was going to research my word, dive into my word and let it guide me through my year. This word had to be perfect, had to sum up all the things I wanted to be, to do, to gain. I found the perfect word.


Fixed.


I mean, that word was so many things. I defined how I wanted to feel, what I wanted to become, how I wanted to live. I wanted to be fixed mentally and emotionally, healed from past hurts and freed from those things that had once haunted me. I wanted to be fixed in my course of moving towards financial peace and prosperity. I wanted to be fixed in my ways of believing in myself, allowing myself to dream, allowing myself to achieve. I wanted to be fixed, firmly rooted in my life, present every moment, to give up my tendency to dissociate and wander in my own brain, alienating my family and friends. I wanted to be fixed spiritually to my family and, most especially, to Christ. I wanted those relationships cemented, becoming unbreakably strong.


I spent hours finding quotes and scriptures with my word in them. I compiled pages and pages of beautiful, inspiring, meaningful words. I decided to start the year off with a bang by sharing my quotes, one-a-day, for the month of January.


“My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise.” (Psalms 57:7)


That was my scripture for the year, the first one I shared. I made a art/quote thing out of it, hung it in my kitchen by our family calendar, and knew it was destined to be a great year of being fixed in all things.


January was a good month.


In reality, my whole year was good. As years go, I don’t have anything to complain about. I mean, I know it wasn’t a great year globally, but in my small world, there were no major tribulations, accidents, illnesses or injuries. In fact, 2016 might have been the one of the best years (incidentally, anecdotally) that my little family has had since our inception in 2000. But, as this year comes to a close, I’m realizing my year wasn’t nearly as fixed as I wanted it to be.


I gained an additional 10 pounds. We are no closer to being out of debt… or any closer to our goal of buying a house. My relationships haven’t declined, by any means, but nor have they grown the way I envisioned. I haven’t logged anymore time in my scriptures or on my knees in prayer. I haven’t written my great opus. I haven’t published anything new this year. Honestly, I’ve written less than 10 pages total this year. And, again, though not declining, my mental and emotional health hasn’t made any major strides forward in the last 365 days.


As much as I wanted to remain fixed, a year is a long time to holdfast to such a lofty ideal.

Apparently.


I was initially tempted to fully berate myself at this realization this past week. I mean, let’s be transparent here, I haven’t consciously thought about my word ‘fixed’ for months. But, as part of my small growth this year, I am refusing to be mad at myself. Instead, I’m looking for the learning. Analyzing how to better set myself up for success. This is big. I believe it’s called growth mindset. Perhaps I’ve made some progress this year after all.




At any rate, this is my new plan for 2017:


Since my January 2016 was strong because I was researching and sharing what ‘fixed’ meant to me, and since my focus was so easily shifted after I stopped such a deliberate, intentional process, I am committing to, at least, 12 words in 2017. I’m shooting for, at least, one word a month. We’ll see how it goes. I’ve decided not to pre-compile a total list, but rather to find new words as I go. I’m hoping a more consistent focus, coupled with having to find new words each month, will give me the staying power I need to see my goals, dreams and aspirations for 2017 through to the end by seeing me through this year little by little.

“For behold, thus saith the Lord God: I will give unto the children of men line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little; and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, and lend an ear unto my counsel, for they shall learn wisdom; for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.” (2 Nephi 28:30)


For now, my first word(s) for 2017 is STAYING POWER. And this is where I will start:


“Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not” (Gal. 6:7–9).
“If we sow seeds of decency and goodness, the fruits of our honest labors will be blessings in heaven.
“Hold fast to those basic principles that are tried and true. Consistently develop your talents, protect and preserve your honesty and integrity, and build a sound character. This is the secret of real staying power, for these are principles that will not depreciate with time. Why? Because they are God-given principles founded on eternal truths.” (excerpt from “Staying Power” by Elder L. Tom Perry, 2003)

Monday, July 20, 2015

Today's Line

Anyone that follows my blog... ehem, all two of you... has probably noticed that the tone has changed over the last year. I've written less and what I have written, some of it has been almost cryptic. There's a reason for that.


I've been struggling with this question: How do I write my story when it involves so many others?


Perhaps this is the answer:




Also, Ernest Hemingway said, "Write hard and clear about what hurts."

So here it is:


 I was sexual abused as a child.


The pit of snakes in my stomach are alive and biting after typing that for all the world to see. Shame. And yet, I feel empowered. Strength is running through my veins at the liberation that owning this statement brings. It's not that I need to wear it as a badge, but not being able to have an open dialogue about it is suffocating. And yet, having an open dialogue about it often leaves me feeling too exposed. Ya know? Vulnerability hang-overs suck.

Mostly, I don't want this thing to have power over me any longer. For, as William Ernest Henley said, 

"It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
      I am the captain of my soul."

This fact, these incidences are an integral part of my existence. It's not who I am, but it has shaped me. It does not define me, but it is a piece of my puzzle. 

Over the years, I've had to work to learn a few things: I did nothing wrong or deserving of abuse. I am not an abuser. I have broken the cycle that has existed in my family for who knows how many generations. And, perhaps most important, I am not alone.


This is where I am, where I've been. Healing. Finally.


I have been diagnosed with PTSD, clinical depression, anxiety attacks, and dis-associative tendencies. But let me tell you what else I have: COURAGE. DARING. FAITH. KINDNESS. FORGIVENESS. PERSEVERANCE. LOVE. JOY.


It's all a co-mingled mess. On a good day, I can separate it out.


I've had a several experiences lately that have given me the drive and inspiration to be more vocal about what's happened to me. First, I was introduced (via the internet) to Lena Strickling, an amazing teen girl who used her Wish from the Make a Wish Foundation to create a video in hopes of encouraging others who have been sexually abused. Please take a minute to watch her video here.


Another push in the "coming out" direction has been reading other women's blogs about their experiences. The strength in owning what has happened to you without the shame of it clinging to you is an indescribable thing. I wasn't sure I could pull it off. I've been leery of how the implications of being open about my past might effect my family.  But here it is.

My hope is that someone else hurting and in the need of healing can, at the very least, know they are not alone.


For now, I leave you with this:


What have I learned from my abuse? First, that despite the awfulness of it all, God was with me in it then and He is with me in it now. It would be easy to rage at God, and I have to admit that I have from time to time, that He didn’t rescue me, spare me. The ‘how could you’ and ‘why didn’t you’ questions have stormed my mind frequently and, for today, I have made peace with them, knowing that God does not allow us to experience pain in vain. Though I do not always see or understand the full breadth of His purposes, I know He has a plan. I know His plan includes my happiness, my redemption, my healing. His plan most definitely includes my rescue. I’ve learned to submit to His purposes and stop letting my expectations of how things should have been or how I think they should be now rob me of my happiness and peace in this moment, on this day.


I’ve also learned to be patient in my healing. So often I get frustrated that I am crying again, lashing out at my kids again, pushing my husband away again… I curse myself for slipping backwards, for losing progress. I used to tell myself everything was going to be okay because someday I wouldn’t be working on these things anymore. Someday, I’d be whole and healed and could finally move on. Someday these things wouldn't be a part of me.


I think often that we assume that because the Atonement can heal all things, that God will heal all things, and we (read I) become very grumpy when He doesn’t. However, I’ve learned over the years, that it’s okay that He doesn’t heal everything. Also, that, in fact, it’s best for me and my progression that He doesn’t erase it all, and, certainly, not all at once. It's taken me thirty-five years to be able to face the pain, I can't expect it to be gone overnight. We all, no matter what has caused us pain, occasionally experience echoes of that pain. Phantom pains, indeed. Even Christ still carries His scars. Little by little, I am learning to live with mine. The pain is less each time it resurfaces. And, through my continued awareness of my reactions to the pain and trauma, I am getting better at course-correcting my reactionary behavior to the ghosts of my past.

Line upon line. Sometimes, most of the time, it's the only way to live.