Sunday, February 24, 2019

Just do the next thing. Our steps towards home-school. {fmf}

It started as a financial issue. A few years ago we realised would probably need to home-school our children. I met with people, read blogs, started to learn about it. We discovered we had more reasons than just financial to home-school. It seemed like a great idea but still totally scary and overwhelming.

Leading up to when the kids finished at preschool was stressful. But then just at the right time we realised the reasons we had enrolled the kids in preschool weren't needs anymore.

I was wondering what kids books and toys and educational activities I should be looking to buy, and where to get them and how to pay for them? But then just at the right time, a friend was moving back to America. She has a child a bit older than ours, and we ended up with soooo many kids books, puzzles, stationary etc.

And what about friends? Preschool had been our whole social life for a couple of years. Now we wouldn't have that anymore and we were moving out of town. But then just at the right time a homeschooling expat family moved out of town too! And a few more moved to town from elsewhere, and a couple of families started homeschooling.

End of 5 min.

After that came a few months of getting used to being at home together, they call it deschooling. It was uncomfortable. Next both Soeun and I became a bit unwell. A few months we were both extra tired, but just at the right time the kids seemed to start playing together more, and getting more involved in their own creations. And then just as the school year in Aus started the kids and I both seemed ready to start some letters and numbers work some mornings a week.

Linking up with Five Minute Friday, for JUST
.. a one-word prompt every week, and you have the opportunity to free write for five minutes flat on that one word, then join the link-up...word prompt:

Friday, February 15, 2019

Not really sure {fmf}

"At its best, I think all the arts allow us to tell ourselves our own story. The canvas or the page or the theater is always willing, always open to receive, and to mirror back, that which needs to be said. It's a gesture from the inner world to the outer one. In a way, we let a thing be true when we express it in creative form. In telling ourselves a story, we give shape to something real. In sharing what we create, we give others a chance to enter our world, if even just for a moment."

Megan Devine 

The Unexpected Practice That Helped Me Cope With Grief — When Nothing Else Could

My husband was dizzy. 
For two years. 
For no reason.

That was over 5 years ago.

But now things are manageable. So I wasn't really sure why it felt so good to write about The Dizzy Monster in my spouse for My Migraine Brain a few years ago, or if it was a good thing to be doing. But the other week when I read this Megan Devine article I felt confident about it. Writing about grief is "a gesture from the inner world to the outer one".

"Tell the story until you don't need to tell it anymore" came up in a Facebook group last month. I think in relation to trauma recovery.  This made sense of what had been going on for me recently. Life has settled down now, no major changes or stressful things, but my recent blogging includes a dark blindfolded photo. I was unsure why something like that felt so good, but now I'm thinking of blogging as post counselling therapy.  I'm feeling confident that it is a useful thing to be doing. 

End of 5 min.

The posts I was thinking of while writing this one:

Linking up with Five minute Friday

... a one-word prompt every week, and you have the opportunity to free write for five minutes flat on that one word, then join the link-up...The word this week is confident

Photo by Oli Dale on Unsplash  

Friday, February 08, 2019

From boredom to building {fmf}

"I'm bored"

I often hear this from our kids. It can be a torturous 20 minutes when the kids feel like they don't have anything to do.

But what happens next is amazing.

They build things.

Over the last 6 months we've had some indoor structures big enough to climb into. A house, a boat, a spaceship. Sometimes with multiple rooms and various windows and skylights.

We've also seen small things built such as rockets, planes and helicopters. These are usually made to just the right size to be held and flown around inside or outside.

The building materials include but not are limited to- furniture, suit cases, blankets, pillows, pegs, rubber bands, cracker boxes, oat tins, the old broken bread maker....

Sometimes the boredom hits when I'm in the middle of doing something. I'm always trying to decide if I should drop what I'm doing and play with them. To play or not to play? Either way somebody is going to be upset.  I've been trying to remember all these amazing creations, hopefully it will make the next time of boredom easier, at least for me.

... a one-word prompt every week, and you have the opportunity to free write for five minutes flat on that one word, then join the link-up...word prompt: BUILD

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

5 ways living with undiagnosed illness in the family is stressful

I couldn’t have articulated it at the time, it was too overwhelming. 

But now all these years later, and with the help of A Chronic Voice‘s  Link up prompts I’m able to explain some of the things that made the initial years of Soeun’s sickness so hard. I also want to share this with the Velvet Ashes community while the theme is "marriage".

My husband was consumed by an incapacitating, invisible, incurable disease. I didn't have any of the physical symptoms but it had a huge impact on me. 

The stressors listed here are about what it was like before we had a diagnosis; he is still sick but now but we are not in crisis. We have a name and a way to manage it.  Although some stressors are still part of our life this list is mostly in past tense. 

I’m thankful for chronic illness websites and counselling that helped me identity these stressors , I hope this list can help you and your family too.

 1. Adjusting to unexpected change

We didn’t know we were adjusting to a new normal. It only dawned on us years later. We weren’t given a warning or time to prepare. It took us by surprise. And even after the symptoms started we kept making plans, thinking that he would get better soon. It was always about waiting to see the next doctor to work out what was wrong and how to cure it.

2. Hoping in vain for health

I was always eager to see what was around the next corner. What would the next doctor say? What would the next test results reveal?  Always hoping there will be answers or something new to try.  It was horrible seeing Soeun in pain for so long, I kept hoping it would end. Surely he will be healthy in a few weeks’ time? The frustration of watching him in pain and not knowing why motivated me to keep waiting to see that next doctor, or try that lifestyle change.

 3. Surviving without him

“When will my husband get better?” morphed into “Will he ever get better?” and we just had to live day by day.

A heavy pile of symptoms had swallowed him up. It was hard to imagine him ever coming back to life. Physically present, with all normal test results, looking healthy- but it felt like he was absent. I missed the person he was before he got sick.

Without Soeun daily stressors were harder to cope with; I was used to talking to him about everything. Happy experiences also became hard to deal with as I had been used to sharing everything with him. I discovered it was hard to enjoy anything if Soeun couldn’t enjoy it too. I didn’t know how to function without him, or even how to articulate that’s what was happening. And it felt selfish to focus on my own pain when I wasn’t even the sick one.

Living with uncertainty. Not knowing why he had gone, or having medical acknowledgement that something was wrong, not having a treatment plan, not knowing if he would come back to life or if he would be like this forever? Or would he actually die? Just surviving.

4.  Befriending and social isolation

We had just moved to a new community when the symptoms hit.  People started befriending us...well trying to anyway. When we were invited to events it became to frustrating and disappointing. We would say “yes” to an invitation but on the day Soeun would be sick so I would end up going by myself, or not going at all.

As a few one-offs that’s kind of OK, not so OK when it becomes the norm. I hated not being able to keep commitments, not being able to show people they are important to us by spending time with them.

It became easier not to make plans, and then we didn’t have the disappointment of breaking them.  So I came to dread invitations, but also dreaded that people would give up inviting us.  

The Chronic Traveller has a more poetic way to describe this- The Well of Despair.

5. Awakening and unsolicited medical advice.

I didn’t have a way to describe this at the time; it was a nameless struggle. When we shared our medical issues with people they tried to help- so why did that make me want to scream? I should be grateful for help.

It wasn’t until years later I came across websites such as The Mighty, Fruitful Today and My Migraine Brain and found others had the same struggle. The awakening was such a relief and I allowed myself to feel the bitterness that had confused me at the time. I was able to move on from delayed bitterness when I read words from a Christian teenager:

"I have to choose to respond graciously and not be bitter towards people for misunderstanding what I’m going through. They have never been chronically ill so they can’t possibly know how hard it is. Jesus has demonstrated so much grace toward me and He is teaching me to reflect Him in my relationships."

This issue was described in a positive way recently by Erica on A Chronic Voice 7 ways to be a better friend to the chronically ill:

"2. Listen Without Trying to Provide a Solution
Sometimes I’m just frustrated and complaining. I’m not looking for you to fix the problem – I just want someone to listen. I’ve more than likely tried or heard the suggestions or advice you have to offer. Listen with an open mind and really hear what I have to say."

Its seems partners of the invisibly ill are likely to either end up with their own health problems too, or the relationships breaks down. I don't have any stats on that, just from the situations I've seen. When your partner keeps saying they are sick but the doctors say they are fine it looks like they are lazy and unwilling to pull their weight;  leaving may feel like the only option for some if this goes on over time.  I refer to Soeun's sickness as '"our sickness" which sometimes ends up being confusing, but its a mindset I find helpful.

Its only in recent years I've had counselors who listened first and found out the actual issue. My pain was seen, they used words like grief and trauma. At the time, all those years ago I didn't know how to explain it, and the only help I received didn't seem to have any positive impact. 

If its a choice between divorce and PTSD, I'm happy to take the trauma. But hopefully there is something in between. If you know someone in this situation it might help them to find ways to work out what is happening for them emotionally.  In last month's linkup I wrote about this under Allowing Emotion and posted some grief resources which might be helpful.
 Photo by Tony Rojas on Unsplash

Friday, February 01, 2019

Are you a big rice eater? {fmf}

... a one-word prompt every week, and you have the opportunity to free write for five minutes flat on that one word, then join the link-up...


It looked like such a small serving of rice, I had to laugh. Eating rice with my parents and siblings in Australia meant I had to ask for more.

It was such a confusing experience for me as when I'm in Cambodia with my in-laws they are always careful to serve me an extra small plate of rice.

I'm pretty sure I eat the same amount which ever place I'm in, but next to Cambodians I eat hardly any rice,  in contrast to Australians I'm used to a bigger serving of rice.

Its easy to talk about rice. Something obvious and tangible. There are so many other aspects of culture which are hidden below the surface. Out of sight, but they make up the bulk of the iceberg.

Depending on where you are, "normal" is different.  Its fun when you can see it and talk about it, like the rice. Not so fun when it unknowingly shapes communication.

So, am I a big rice eater? Well, depends on where I am.