Monday, March 31, 2008

Darfur and the Good America

I just finished reading another great book. If you read my blog, you probably wonder how I have time to raise 5 children, home school them and read so many books. It's really quite easy. I just don't clean my house. No one seems to care anyway, and I would rather read than clean. I also blame my husband because he brings me books every day, and I figure that if he really wanted a clean kitchen floor, he'd stop bringing home so many books.

Anyway, this book is called The Translator: A Tribesman's Memoir of Darfur. As you can also probably tell from my blog, I'm not really into light reading. Sometimes I am, but mostly I'm into reading stuff that's exciting, controversial or at least unusual. The author of this book Daoud Hari, is a Zhaghawa tribesman from the Darfur Region of Sudan. Although he's from a small village in the desert, he was able to obtain an education and speaks several languages, thus has worked as a translator for the reporters wanting to enter Darfur and retrieve the truth about what's happening there.

Incidentally, for people who don't know what's happening there, it's a genocide. There are two groups of people in Sudan: indigenous Africans and a ruling Arab minority (placed in charge of Sudan when Britain pulled out back in the 1950s). General Omar Hassan Ahmad Al-Bashir is the president of the Sudanese government. He has overseen the expansion of sharia law, and closed the mouths of all opposition. He also has established friendly ties with Osama bin Laden and other fundamentalist terrorists (of the muslim variety, not Jerry Falwell), allowing them to open training camps in Sudan. Yet, our military is caught up in a war in Iraq! Go Figure.

Without going into what is probably necessary detail, Bashir armed traveling bands of Arabs, called Janjaweed, to wipe out the indigenous population of Darfur. The death toll estimates range from an unlikely 100,000 to the more-than-likely 400,000, with about 200,000 refugees fleeing to the neighboring country of Chad since the year 2003.

While Hari tells the horrifying story of his country, I'm impressed with his faith in the sovereignty of God (while he and I would differ on exactly who God is -- he's Muslim). Many times through out the book, Hari takes courageous steps to sneak reporters into Darfur, and continues down incredibly dangerous roads believing he is doing what God requires of him. The other aspect about him personally that comes through in the book is his sense of humor, with chapter titles such as "Our Bad Situation Gets Worse" (He, a driver and reporter, had been captured and beaten in the previous chapter -- getting worse was days of imprisonment and torture), and also in his whimsical one-liners that were interspersed throughout the story. Not enough to laugh out loud, but enough to see not only his humanity but the humanity of the people that are being slaughtered.

There were also interesting parts in regard to the USA. After he, an American reporter and their driver were captured, beaten and then transferred to a government detainment center, he wrote about how bleak their future looked. A cruel military leader, believing that they were spies, had just informed them that they were going to be tortured until they revealed all their information.

"Torture was the popular new thing," writes Hari "because Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib were everywhere in the news at that time, and crazy men like this were now getting permission to be crazy."

Just a little sentence, written by someone who now lives safely in America, that should just send shock waves of guilt down every American's spine. Guantanamo, while revealing just how "christian" our nation really is, has brought a totally different American influence to the world than most Americans would hope. What an incredible shame. What an incredible evil.

But then, the other side....

After weeks of prison and daily torture, the prisoners were moved again, and this time, finally taken to a court. When they walked into the courtroom, there awaited a surprise:

"What was extraordinary was that standing in the back of the courtroom were four U.S. soldiers in their uniforms: a Marine, two U.S. Army Officers, and a U.S. Air Force officer. I had some idea that some wheels were turning to do something for us. But look at these guys, My God, you have no idea what they looked like to us. They came up to us, and Paul [American Reporter] was very moved to see them. This made the officers very emotional and everyone was wiping their eyes.

"Depending on your situation in the world, U.S. soldiers may not always be what you want to see, but for the first moment in all this time, I thought that I would probably not die today. I did not think the danger was over....but certainly not today -- not with those guys in the back of the room smiling and winking at us. The good America was in the room." (italics mine!)

The Good America! Wouldn't it be great if we were always the "good America"? I felt really proud to be American when I read that. Am I part of the "good America"? I hope so! I've seen the good America when I saw the line of hopeful immigrants waiting to try for an immigrant visa at the Warsaw embassy in Poland. I saw the good America in my daughters' orphanages when most of the children there were wearing clothing donated by Americans. I also saw it when I was told by many people in those countries that they knew that Americans would come to adopt the girls -- no one else would be willing. Even in this book the author points out that many communities in both the US and Europe have taken in thousands of Sudanese refugee boys and helped them start new lives. It just stinks that when we're not good, we're really bad.

I won't ruin the rest of the story by telling you how it ends, although you'd have to guess that Hari doesn't die since he wrote the book. However, I will lead you to an interesting thought.

There is a really easy way that you can influence the tide of events in Darfur!

All wars have to be financed in someway. Certainly, as an American currently financing a war, you're aware of that! The genocide in Sudan is being financed by the selling of Sudan's oil and natural resources. The biggest offender is China (who also politically supports the government of Sudan), but unfortunately, a number of large American investiment firms invest in the companies that are buying that oil! Over 70% of the profit from selling that oil goes into the genocide, and without the money, the genocide would have to stop. This idea is called "divestment", and has been used to peacefully bring about change in other international violent situations.

By clicking on this link you can go to the Divest for Darfur website and sign a petition to urge the big offenders to withdraw their support and invest elsewhere. It only takes a few seconds to do, and, especially if you have money invested with these banks, it's something you really should do.

To quote Hari, "The leaders of the world can solve this problem, and the people of Darfur can go home,if the leaders see that people everywhere care deeply enough to talk to the about this... For it has no meaning to take risks for news stories unless the people who read them will act."

Well, you've read it, so now it's time to act. Be Good America. Be Christ.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Race Factor

Well, the other day, my daughter had her first experience with racism. She's taking a gym class at our local Y, and the grievous (more for me than her) event happened there. They had been placed into different groups for relay races and a little boy -- the one with the green shirt, according to my daughter-- tapped her on the shoulder and said, "You're funny looking."

She turned around and ignored him. He tapped her again. She looked at him.

"You have funny eyes and really funny puffy cheeks. You're funny looking."

When she told me this, I had to remind myself that this was a little kid. I had to bite my tongue,because I couldn't sink to his level no matter how much I wanted to sweetly say, "I'm sorry that happened honey. The poor little boy is obviously really stupid and has culturally ignorant parents. He probably never leaves his house and his only experience with other cultures is Dora the Explorer. These are the people we pity, dear, because these are the people that lead truly pitiful, unenlightened lives."

Instead, my heart buckled a little and I said, "What did you do?"

"Nothing. He hurt my feelings and made my eyes feel like I had tears." She looked at me, and I had to inwardly laugh that ANYBODY would think a girl as absolutely beautiful as my daughter was funny looking. Then she went on.

"But then a funny thing happened. I couldn't think of anything to say then, but then the rest of the day I thought about all the things I should've said to him."

I explained to her the normal human failing of only being able to think of a comeback hours after an experience happens and then asked her, "What did you think?"

"I should've told him that I was from a part of the world where everyone has puffy cheeks. That there is a whole country full of beautiful puffy cheeked people and that that's what I am. I am a beautiful Kazakh girl."

Oh YA! That's my girl!!!! She's a doll and she knows it. Still, though, there's a part of me that grieves over the fact that there will always be stupid people, and most of them don't have the excuse of being a 5-year-old boy.

I was thinking of this in light of all the race-talks surrounding Obama and Clinton. While what we experience is nothing like what African-Americans experience in terms of racism, we've had a taste of it with our family, and it's definitely hurtful and frustrating.

Since we are blessed with not having cable television, and we don't watch much television news, I haven't had the privilege to see Obama's pastors infamous speech -- until today.

Admittedly, there's a lot of anger in the sermon, but there's also a lot of passion, and to differentiate the two is somewhat difficult. And, while, I'd hardly call Obama a poor black man, I think that the point Jeremiah Wright seems to be making in the beginning, is that Jesus, as a Jew living under Roman occupation, can relate to the suffering of an average black man. He's talking about a "mold", a stereo type, if you will, of what person has the advantage: white, rich and elite. Who can deny what he's saying? While there have been definite strides in the area of civil rights and equality, we hardly live in a nation where all men and women have equal advantages and equal opportunities.

On these counts, he's right. Hillary (or I) has never had a cab pass me by because of my skin color. I've never had my race defined as "non human". Although there are many people around the world that would term my girls, because of their disabilities, "non human", and we do run across those people occasionally. Nobody has ever called me, Hillary, George W. Bush or John McCain a nigger. Nobody has ever judged us because of our skin color -- it's a perspective we just can't have. It's a suffering that we can't really understand, but we sure have a calling to be sensitive to.

I do, however, identify with the need he talked about with having to work harder and prove yourself over people who are not as intelligent or qualified as you. My oldest daughter has to do this every time she tries something new with new people. It isn't fair, it isn't just and it isn't right. God does, however, bless her in that it develops a tenacious persistence and strength of character unusual in a 9-year-old. People can be as ignorant as they want in pre-judging her because of her disabilities, but in the end, God's plan will prevail. She'll accomplish all that God wants her too, and then lots of people who said she couldn't will feel really silly (as well they should!). So, these problems can be a catalyst to greater faith. I think you could say similar things about racial discrimination.

What saddened me about his sermon was that he's done the same thing as the religious right. He's politicized the gospel -- just in the opposite direction. Obama, who, while on Late Night With David Letterman, once said, "This country is still the last best hope on earth." is hardly the savior anyone is looking for. Hillary, who is not only not black, but would like to socialize everything in this nation so we can be like the second Soviet Union, and who has no understanding of poverty, discrimination or anything else, is not the savior. And, John McCain, while appearing to be a pretty good guy, isn't either. There's only one, and how sad that Rev. Wright has confused Him with these other people, and chosen to use his pulpit for political purposes (I sure hope he isn't planning on keeping any tax-exempt status with his church!) .

It strikes me that Obama's Christianity is a pretty accurate representation of American Christianity: a bit of politics, mixed with social and civic religion, and devoutly tied to a political party. It's a means to an end, just with his "end" (not meaning that physically!) being different than those on the right.

But, I have to say, that I agree with Rev. Wright about 1 thing: I'm glad that he has a God that understands what it's like to be a part of an oppressed group. I truly am, and I'm truly thankful that that same God will forgive him for his political transgressions (preaching politics in the church) just like He forgives all the religious right pastors that do the same for the Republican party.


And, to that racist little boy who said my daughter is funny-looking, I'd just like to say this:


Thursday, March 20, 2008

Two Birthdays

On March 12, my youngest son, green-bottle boy, turned 10. It's hard for me to believe all that's happened in these 10 years. His birth was the catalyst for so many choices we would eventually make with our family -- namely, the decision to adopt. When I was almost 5 months pregnant with him, a routine ultrasound revealed that green-bottle boy had a birth defect with his brain.

I was floored by the news, alone for the ultra sound (it wasn't the first and wouldn't be the last, so we didn't think we both needed to be there for it). The doctor was baffled by what was then referred to as a "mysterious bump" on his head. The mystery of it was unnerving -- it could be absolutely nothing, brain protruding though the skull or a fatty tumor. We spent the next 4 months dealing with the shock and grief involved in know that something was wrong, but not knowing what, and unsure of if he would even live.

However, on March 12 Green-Bottle Boy made his loud debut, and three weeks later had brain surgery to correct what was then diagnosed as a cranial menegecil. He made a complete and total recovery -- in fact, he smiled his first smile the evening after his brain surgery.

He was an easy going, lovable baby with a great sense of humor. The next year flew by quickly, and we drove home to my parents to celebrate his birthday -- the weekend following his actual date, the weekend of March 20, 1999.

Also on March 20, 1999, in a small city in Ukraine, unbeknownst to us, our oldest daughter was born. Her birthparents, I'm certain, had no prior knowledge of her birth defects. The shock and grief they faced on a day that they likely thought would be full of joy, was probably only increased by the negative attitudes of the doctors and nurses who should've been there to encourage and support them. But instead, likely insisted that she should be turned over to the state, that her disabilities couldn't be handled by them and that she would probably just die anyway.

I've often thought back to the irony of the fact that while I was happily celebrating the birthday of my son, far away on the other side of the world, a couple was grieving the loss of their daughter. And our daughter, an infant though she was, was grieving the loss of all that sounded and felt normal to her. I also think it's interesting that because we celebrated green-bottle boy's birthday exactly 8 days after the actual date, I remember what I was doing the day my daughter was born.

I'd be lying if I said that on her birthday I don't think of her birth parents. I do, and I suspect that at some level she does too. I'm certain that they remember that today is the anniversary of her birth. As a Mom, I know that this date must be carved into her birthmother's memory whether she wants it there or not. I wonder if they have peace, if they know Christ, and if they know that they are forgiven. I wonder if, on each March 20, they grieve for what was lost. I also wonder if they know what a great life she now has, and if they have any inkling of all the joy that they have missed over the years. I wonder if they have any idea how God's hand protected our daughter, guiding to a great orphanage and then home to a family on the other side of the world. I wonder if they have any idea how incredibly grateful we are that they left her in safe hands, and that we have been given such a tremendous gift by them.

So now, Green-bottle boy and Swimmer Girl are best friends. They love having birthdays one after another, and the are like two peas in a pod. But, I 've always really thought that they were joined long before they ever met, and you can't have one without the other.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Lies My Teacher Told Me

So, I finally finished the book, "Lies My Teacher Told Me" by James Loewen. Overall, I found the book extremely interesting. Chapters 1 and 2 discuss the topics of hero-making and Christopher Columbus. I found both to be enlightening, and agree with Loewen's assertion that history books try to create heroes out of historical figures -- something that is detrimental to teaching children accurate history. I think it's interesting to note that the Bible is not afraid to show the "dark side" of it's historical figures, and does a superb job of telling the story of God's redemption and plan for the church, despite human failings.

The chapter on Christopher Columbus was especially enlightening. I love how Loewen annually asks his college students, "Who were the first settlers on our continent?" and they routinely get the question wrong. (Remember, the first settlers were actually the native Americans). He also points out the strong possibilities of visits to America by both Africans and Phoenicians, long before even the Vikings who proceeded Columbus. I found it interesting to note his identification of the fact that most people did, indeed, know that the earth was round, that the "discovery" of the Americas was a perspective unique to Europeans, and that Columbus was also at the root of a number of serious human rights violations.

The chapters on the treatment of the natives, slavery and racism were also fascinating. The Civil War (which was really about slavery, not preserving the Union -- ha! ha! to my 7th grade history teacher. You were totally totally wrong!!!) and Reconstruction were presented in a totally different light than my text books growing up, and most that I have perused through as a home schooler. I found especially interesting, the chapter on Abraham Lincoln and John Brown. It was inspiring to read about Lincoln's personal struggle with racism, and that he made the choice to do what was right despite his inner struggle. John Brown was painted as a fascinating individual, who, quite possibly, might be the most interesting "civilian" in American history -- yet painted as a crazy man by textbooks.

By the middle of the book, though, his bias started to show through. The main issue I found was that he insists that America is not a land of equal opportunity -- well, historically that's obvious. However, he tends to blame the system more than the individuals. Any system that supports racism and slavery is a product of the individuals that make up that system. I think personal responsibility makes up a big part of why someone "makes it" or not in this country today. I see this on a daily basis, when my daughters get out of bed, and do there work despite their disabilities. Then I drive downtown and see men begging for money on the road side because they "have no legs and can't work." Seriously, I want to stop the car and lecture those people. The missing legs ain't the reason they're not working!

Anyway, he goes to blaming "the system" far too quickly. You can't deny that people here have overcome tremendous odds, something that just can't happen in many places in the world, no matter how diligent or tenacious someone is. While I do believe racism is still an issue in this country, I think that, like disability rights, it's gone beyond the system and it's an issue of changing people's thoughts and hearts. People do move from class to class in this country -- I think of my own family where my grandfather and grandmother were not college educated people, yet raised both their children to be college-educated professionals and now, collectively, all 7 of their grandchildren are as well. I think the vast majority of the reason that people don't "make it" here has less to do with systematic injustice and more to do with personal habits, laziness and priorities, as well as thought patterns and practices that take generations to change.

However, he points out that textbooks try to portray America as a place where everyone is middle class, which is, of course, not true. But to that I would also say that while I have been personally involved with some children who are very poor and live in situations that are far from healthy, I can walk the streets of my city and not have 2 and 3 year-olds come up begging. No, everyone is not middle class. But, there is definitely more here for the impoverished than elsewhere in the world.

In addition to that, is the "American dream" that everybody should be rich, or is it that everybody should have the opportunity to provide for their family in a safe and healthy way?

At the end of the book, he had an interesting section on the use of history textbooks for the purpose of "socialization" of our students. I found this fascinating. The books are written to create nice little patriotic students who can list dates, recite all the great things America has done (and exclude the not-so-nice stuff like our involvement in the Phillipines and the Mexican-American War or some of our involvement in Haiti not long after the American Revolution). They also like to down play slavery, and bias against women and racism to produce a nice "Godly" nation that we will all love and serve. The Iraq War, especially, is ill treated -- much in the manner of the actual war itself!

After reading the book, I'm even more thankful that God has led our family to home school. I have never liked what I've seen in secular history textbooks, and most that I've seen published by Christian publishing companies err in the opposite direction. For now, we read history from "living books" (historical fiction, biographies, topical books etc) and plan to use primary sources for the upper grades. What could be a subject that prompts great thinking has really been reduced to various types of indoctrination.

"Lies My Teacher Told Me" -- I give it two thumbs up!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Deep Thoughts

Since my 9-year-old daughter has always been very insightful, I decided to keep a list of her most thought provoking sentiments in order to share with the general public:

1) The most popular sport in Ancient Greece was the sport of disco.

2) In reference to the fact that her service dog is only a little 25-lb goldendoodle, "This is my starter dog!"

3) "It would be hard to have a disability -- glad I don't!"

4) After a conversation about what exactly it means to "process" a duck, "So, how much money does it cost to butler a duck?"

5) "Being a girl means knowing all about all the princesses -- even when you don't want to."

And, my personal favorite:

6) "My mom is like a chihuahua -- sweet, cute, and lovable with just a touch of feisty and mean."

Saturday, March 15, 2008

4-H: Raising Ducks in a Great American Suburb

Spring is here, and my children are, once again, thrilled for a new year of 4H. I like 4H because all my kids can go to one place for an activity. They like 4H because the meetings usually have cookies, and 4H projects mean getting new animals.

This year my oldest is raising Pekin ducks, studying archery, photography and learning how to bake quick breads. My oldest daughter is studying dog obedience, dog care, dog showmanship, raising pekin ducks, and also doing a project aptly entitled "the Horseless Horse". My middle son, the one of the green bottle, well... 4H is like a little bit of heaven for him.

Last year, we did the great Pekin duck experiment and it went so well, that we're doing it again this year. His second project, muskrat trapping, didn't go off too well. In fact, when I looked at the pictures on how to skin a muskrat, I decided he might need to "lose" the project book. As you might guess from my other writings, it's not difficult to get him to "lose" something, since most days he doesn't know where anything is.

So, this year he is doing: Market Ducks, Market Chickens, Dog care, showmanship and obedience, Exploring the Insect World, woodworking and some project on making nutritious breakfasts.

Now, I'm sure you're wondering how in the world did such a nice respectable suburban family end up allowing their 10-year-old son to raise a chicken and then go on to allow all three of our older children to raise ducks? This summer we'll have a total of 6 pekin ducks and 1 roasting chicken (doesn't that just sound yummy?) staying in our nice rectangular back yard.

Let me start this by saying that most of our neighbors really like us. At least we think they do. Our neighbor on the left likes the ducks and thinks they're funny. The neighbors on the right spend the summer in Florida, and I really don't think our ducks were the reason they bought a condo and put their house on the market.

We gave in to our youngest son last year for several reasons.

1) Raising duckies sounded better than skinning muskrats
2) I'm a sucker for cute animals
3) He loves hands-on science and agriculture, and he just thrives when we let him do stuff like this.
4) Our kids always love small animals for about 3 months and then tire of them -- perfect for a meat project because they get auctioned at the fair at about 2 1/2 months old.

Last year was a blast! Ducklings are cute! And, we watched them grow up. We watched the down change to feathers, got to see their ear holes when the down was gone and the feathers not full. We were able to watch the first time they figured out how to dive under water, and the kids loved to sit at the edge of the wading pool and let the ducks swim around their feet. I had no idea, until last year, that ducks go through "puberty" and their voices change! Over the course of one week they went from "peep peep" to "peep-quack peep-quack" to "quack!"

After they were gone, I did miss their quacking. It provided a unique soundtrack to my day, especially since it sounds kind of like maniacal laughter.

"Children, today," from outside you hear "wahh...qauck....whaa...wahhh", "you will do all your chores and do them well." (more maniacal laughter).

Also, suburban duck farming leads to other interesting situations. Like, for instance, driving with ducks. In our back yard, they don't really stink. We quickly learned that, when enclosed in a minivan with us, they stink. The easy solution, of course, is to open the van windows.

So, there we were, driving down busy old Galbraith road, windows open and 4 ducks quacking on the top of their lungs. The best times were when we stopped at stop lights. We all faced forward, not cracking a smile, as the people in the cars around us pointed and looked for the source of all the quacking.

I also learned that ducks get car sick in the heat. (That's what "don't travel well in heat" means). My son learned a few things about duck digestion, namely that a cricket eaten at home won't be digested by the time it's puked out at the Hamilton County Fairgrounds.

"Look!" He said, pointing at the cricket, "That must be Sunshine's puke. She's loves it when I feed her crickets."

Everyone assumed that it would be hard the day the ducks left. After a long discussion about what "processed" meant, it was difficult. I found my son in the back yard, hugging a duck and crying.

"I hate that everything has to die! It's just not fair!" He said.

However, several months later, he had a different perspective.

"Roasted duck is delicious."

I guess how fair life is might just depend upon what species you are.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Arthrogryposis: A Great Opportunity?

Our youngest daughter has a physical disability called arthrogryposis. In lay terms, it means that she has joints that are locked. Arthrogryposis is merely a catch-all term for about 250 conditions that can lock joints. In her case, it is assumed, that there was not enough space or amniotic fluid in the womb for the fetal movement necessary for her joints to develop mobility. The truth is, we'll never know for sure. Arthrgryposis can be so bad that it effects every joint, even the jaw and spine, but in her case it presented in her feet, ankles, knees, hips, wrists, elbows and shoulders.

In some of those joints she has some mobility -- like her hips and her shoulders and one wrist. And some of the joints, like the elbows, she can move a bit by pressing her arm on something and forcing it. She just can't move it on her own. Because, oddly enough, while it is a joint disorder, at it's heart, it's a muscle disorder. Those muscles never developed so they can't move the joints. Then the joints locked into position. As a result, she also has parts of her body that are weak.

The biggest impact this has, of course, is her inability to walk. While we're praying and trying everything we can to help her walk, the odds are she never will. And, even if she does, she'll still be relying on wheelchairs as a main mode of mobility. I struggle with this much more than she at this point. She, for the most part, is a happy kid who thinks arthrgryposis (or art -o-pote as she calls it) is just a part of life.

The worst, for me, is when I start thinking too far ahead. Instead of trusting God in the now, I worry about her future. The other night, I thought about teaching her to drive.

We're going to have to get her an adapted van in order for her to drive. How will we pay for that? How will she her whole life? Maybe we should just move back into the city limits then she'd have better access to the bus system. I thought, as I laid there trying to fall asleep. Ugghh, public transportation is such a mess in this country! It will never work. Maybe I need to try to get a master's degree in city planning and then I can work at getting a decent public transportation system set up.... and so it continues until I fall asleep into a land of nightmares and worries.

Incidentally, she had a nightmare the same night too. Someone stole a lollipop from her and then made her take a nap. Obviously, the bigger picture is still lost on her. I'm really thankful it is. I'm glad she doesn't worry. I would rather she see her inability to walk as just a bump in the road. In fact, I make it a point she never see me worry.

Then I saw an interview with the most amazing teenager I think I've ever seen. Aaron Fotheringham, who has spina bifida, was the first person to ever do a back flip in a wheelchair. A year or so ago, I saw the back flip on You Tube. I was impressed (and also thought I really didn't want my daughter to see it because I really don't want her to want to do a backflip in a wheelchair -- those little rods at the back are there too keep her from doing a back flip!). However, in an interview with ESPN, Aaron talks about this new sport he's invented called "Hard Core Sitting".

During the interview his father talks about a time Aaron, just out of the blue, told him, "Dad, you know I'm really kind of glad that I can't walk."

As we watched this, my youngest son said, "I just don't understand why people think you have to walk. You can do so much without walking. It's not like it's a big deal."

Big words for a person who can walk. However, I know what was in his 10-year-old heart. He sees all that his sister does, and he understands that life is much bigger than any disability. In the scheme of eternity it's just not a big deal. He has a unique perspective that he never would've gotten if we hadn't adopted physically handicapped children. It's one of the blessings of following God.

I know that, too, but then why is it such a big deal to me? Because my little girl has lost something that, in general, we see as something everyone should be entitled too. If she had been born into a creation that hadn't been corrupted by the effects of sin, she most certainly would've been entitled to the right to walk. Life just isn't fair, and that reality is painful.

His dad goes on to talk about how he used to sure that there would be a time Aaron would have to "face his handicap, when he would have to deal with 'I can't walk',' But according to his dad, after all these year of it never holding him back, he doesn't "think he's ever needed to."

And, that reality is freeing! While I can't deny the pain and grief involved in her inability to walk, I can't deny the joy there is in seeing how God can redeem it all. I can't deny the wonder of how amazing God is that he can take a situation so grim, give hope and redeem it into something so incredibly amazing like Aaron Fotheringham. I can't deny the joy when my daughter tells a doctor, "It's okay I can't walk. I'll walk in heaven." I can't deny the beauty of my girls' faith that isn't encumbered by their limitations, but actually flourishes because of them.

The interviewer asked Aaron, "How would you define Spina Bifida?"

His answer was, "A great opportunity."

So, while I can't deny my grief, I won't deny that, truly, he's right. Not just spina bifida, but also Arthrogryposis is a great opportunity. It's an opportunity to see how God will reveal his glory in our daughter's life. It's a great opportunity for us to grow in faith and trust him to provide all that we need and she needs. It's a great opportunity to watch her rise so far above the constraints of her disability and amaze people (just like our oldest daughter). It's a great opportunity to put our faith into practice on a daily basis, and trust in the goodness of God.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Am I Really Missing the Boat?

Yesterday was another "reality check" day. Once again, I was back at the hospital trying to figure out what we are supposed to be doing with our daughter whom all these people think is broken, and we don't think needs fixed.

This time was better than before. We were really not clicking with her last specialist, and at the advice of another doctor, switched to one of her partners. So, I have to say, this was so much better. First of all, I had all my questions answered. Second of all, she helped me develop a plan for how we will manage this case of arthrogryposis, including which limbs we should start with and in what order (right leg, left leg, right arm).

However, there were still things that bothered me. The first was a question asked by the nurse.

"Is she in preschool?"

At first I responded with a "no", but then I realized she goes to a preschool class at our home school co-op once a week (we've been sick for 3 straight weeks, so she's missed a lot lately).

The nurse looked befuddled at my "no."

"Well, actually, she goes to a preschool class once a week."

"Oh great. Then she does get some socialization."

UGGHHHH! Do people have any idea how tired home schoolers get hearing about "socialization." I thought about telling her that, actually, she's quite socialized for a 4 year old. She has 3 "good" friends, likes to make new friends, loves all her family and also wants to be with us rather than strangers. I thought about telling her how there have now been numerous studies done on the socialization of home schoolers (some even done by university education departments trying to prove that home schoolers are socially deficient) that have proven that, on average, home schoolers have better social skills than their public and private school counter parts. I thought about telling her that socialization is part of the reason I home school. I like having confident kids who understand how to make friends with people, don't instantly judge other kids by how they look or act, and also know how to stand up to peer pressure. But, instead, I just smiled.

Then, a resident came in and looked at our file.

"How long are you planning on home schooling?"

Am I wrong to think that this really isn't any of their business? I have worked with many other doctors at this particular hospital and none of them have ever questioned how my children were schooled. I didn't question it though, I just answered her.

"Until we think it's no longer in her best interest."

"So you're making her go with out an I.E.P. ?"

I wanted to say, "No, actually, her entire education is an I.E.P. (Individualized Education Plan), because she's my only preschooler right now. Her also home schooled 5 year old sister just finished up with all her kindergarten work and has started first grade -- obviously disadvantaged by homeschooling." But, again, I just smiled and said, "No, she doesn't have an I.E.P."

All the questions done, the real doctor came in. Everything was fine. Our daughter has multiple issues with all four limbs and this doctor was extremely helpful, but then she said something that really bugged me.

"She's really more limited than you realize. Maybe you're just used to her because you've been with her for the past year."

Is she really more limited than I realize? Is that really true? I mean, I live with the kid. I'm the one that has to drop everything and lift her onto the toilet when she needs to go. I'm the one that helps her put her shirt on and off. I'm the one that lifts her onto furniture when no step stool is available. I'm the one that waits while she climbs the steps, moves a step stool and climbs onto the furniture, and also waits while she wheels herself places.

Can a parent really not realize how physically limited their kid is?

In addition to that, how would things bode for her if I wasn't as positive about what she can do? Where would she be if I was approaching her from a standpoint of how limited she was?

I just really don't get it. She does everything that she is developmentally supposed to be able to do, with the exception of walking, putting herself on the toilet and taking off her shirt. How limited is a person if they can do all that's expected of them?

I realize that there are hurdles down the road. She'll have to learn how to put on her own braces (something that she isn't expected to do right now because of the design of the braces), how to put on a coat or jacket, how to cook, how to do more complicated chores and how to drive. But, am I missing something somehow? She has no problem manipulating small objects with her hands so handwriting and learning an instrument won't be a problem. She's shown an aptitude for letters, so I doubt reading will be a problem. She's great with numbers. Where's the problem? She's capable.

But, then again, I don't have an M.D., so maybe I'm just missing the point.

Monday, March 3, 2008

John McCain Just Called

The other day I left my older children at home while I ran up to the corner pharmacy to pick up a prescription for my daughter. When I returned home, I was greeted with a phone message as recorded by my 10 year old.

"A, uhh... Mr. McCain called for you." He said.

"Mr. McCain?" I asked, "Are you sure?" The name wasn't ringing any bells.

"Ya. I think it was John McCain. It was actually his friend calling. He told me that he was calling because John McCain really wants you to come over to vote on Tuesday."

Then it all made sense. The number of political calls we are now getting is astounding. With the union giving out our phone number to every union and left-laiden group out there, we are now getting calls from both the Republican and Democratic parties, and both parties call assuming we're "on their side." Funny, since we're not on either side.

Yesterday, a lady called me to ask me to vote for Obama. She asked me what my political affiliation was.

"I'm an anarchist." I said. "We meet weekly in the basement of a local church, and have planned quite a comprehensive scheme to reorganize the government. Our motto is, 'Anarchy. The Bigger the Government, the Better.' "

Silence on the other end. It was obviously lost on her.

"Do you know what an anarchist is?" I asked.

"No. I've never heard the word before."

"Really. Well, actually, you've convinced me. Anarchy is not the way to go. Actually, I'm a Libertarian. You've heard of that haven't you?"

"uumm... is that the same thing as a liberal?"

It was really too much fun. So, today, when Hillary Clinton called, I couldn't stop myself.

"Hi, I'm calling on behalf of Hillary Clinton. She wants you to remember to go to the polls tomorrow. Are you planning on voting?"

"Yes, I am."

"Am I able to ask you who you are voting for?"



"Uhhmmm.... who are you voting for?"

"Well, that all depends. Way back at the beginning of her campaign, Hillary was offering to provide free cable T.V. to all Americans. I haven't heard her say anything about that recently. Is that still part of her platform?"

"Umm... I'm not aware of that being part of her platform. Are you sure?"

"Oh ya. It was all over the news. A regular rage about the blogs. Important stuff. What about cell phone minutes? There was something, too, about unlimited national free anytime minutes if you elected her president. I think that she needed to know if you voted for her or not."

"Ummm... I really don't know about that.... I guess I can't help there. I don't think that's part of her platform. She's more concerned with stuff like health care and education. Is there any other issue I could help with?"

"YES! I've been looking and looking and I simply can't find the answer to this one question I have about Hillary."

"Okay! Ask away!"

"How does Hillary feel about Brittney Spears' parenting?"

"Uhh... does it matter?"

"Well, of course, it matters! Hillary is so concerned for the rights of children, I would just love to know where she stands on this issue!"

"I'll have to look into that. Don't forget to get to the polls tomorrow.... thanks for your time!"

It's just too fun. With all the calls and front door visits, I had to find some kind of coping mechanism, and messing with the minds of these people is far to fun to pass up. I'm actually going to almost miss the primaries when they're over. Oh well... I've still got the actual election to look forward to.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Deb Takes on the Union -- again, and again and again, unfortunately

Unfortunately, my husband's workplace has unionized. I say unfortunately, because in this case, there was no need for a union. The administration had made some really stupid decisions, and people reacted in a panic and voted (barely) to organize. So, now, my husband, because of collective bargaining, is forced to be a part of a union he doesn't agree with. It's times like these where I just have say, "Isn't America a great land of freedom?"

So, he is a part of a union that is NOT advocating on his behalf, and probably never will. He will end up with less vacation, less of a pay increase if he gets promoted, and less sick days. If there are lay-offs he'll be one of the first to go -- because of his lack of seniority and the union. In addition to that, they get to take their union fees (so we can pay the salaries of their professional union members) out of his paycheck.


Well, as if that wasn't bad enough, the union bullied its way to procuring a list of all of the library's employees -- a list with phone numbers and address etc. With a blatant disregard for the privacy of our families, some idiot judge agreed they had the right, so the library was forced to turn over the information.

Does any of this seem like it should even be legal? It's astounding to me that any one organization can function so outside of the parameters of freedom, and trounce on our privacy and get away with it.

That doesn't even start to portray the problem. Apparently all the unions combine information and then ASSUME that the spouse and family of the person on the list will want to support the union as well. As I told the woman in charge of my husband's union, that is sexism like I haven't heard in a long time -- to assume that just because my husband is a member, I'm of the same political position! You'd think that any thinking woman would be ashamed to be a member of an organization such as a union, but then again you'd think that any thinking woman would understand the concept of personal responsibility and not jump to the conclusion that collective bargaining is actually going to protect her job. But, I digress...

So, since this list was released, we have been getting an average of 2 calls a day from various unions, all supposing that I'm ready to jump on the bandwagon and donate my time and money to them. This was bad enough as it was, because if I say "no" then they just start asking why and an argument ensues and several minutes of my day are gone. But now, in light of the primaries, they are upping their calls to 3, sometimes 4 a day, and when I tell them not to call back, they totally disregard it and call back, sometimes with in an hour of the first phone call.

In addition to that, they have sent representatives to my door, asking for me (me, mind you, not my husband) by name to find out who I am planning on voting for, and to tell me who I should vote for since I'm "in the union." Interestingly enough, they always show up the evenings that he works late. So, they send some strange man to my home, when they know that my husband is at work, and he wants to talk to me about who I'm planning on voting for. How is this not harassment?

So, I'm about as fed up with the union as I can be, and its not even my union.

Anyone know a good lawyer?