Help Leena Learn in Tanzania This Summer

26 05 2017

I’m taking a risk and have partially paid for a study abroad adventure in Tanzania this summer! This class is  one more check off the graduation requirements list for my Master of Divinity Program at Seattle Pacific Seminary. Students in cohorts from my seminary entry year and earlier have a cross-cultural Immersion study abroad class option to fulfill a particular requirement. If you want the travel option you kind of have to jump onboard as they are offered and if it is of interest to you or you need to graduate because our program doesn’t offer trips every summer. 

I technically could wait another year or two and wasn’t sure how I’d afford this trip, but my husband convinced to take a risk (or leap in faith) and apply for the trip because:

 (1) because as mom and congregational child/youth/Christian Education minister when will this kind of opportunity so blatantly present itself? 

And (2) because, he reminded me – Africa in general and Tanzania specifically, was the place that I always said I wanted to travel to learn about and experience the culture. as a child, teen, and before I became a mother. I was shocked I actually forgot how much I desired this opportunity in the past and apparently life has taken me other directions in the past 20 years. 

This Tanzanian travel dream is dusted off and making a comeback now that I’ve turned 40. Our trip is coming up quickly  – July 8-27, 2017 – Would you like to join me and be on my “Leena Learns in Tanzania Support Team“? 

You’re invited to support me through prayer, encouragement and learning with me as I learn in Tanzania via following my blog (you’re reading  it) and/or joining a little Facebook group for trip tidbits and updates that I just created. 

If you’d like to help support me financially with a few dollars or several you can donate via my FundMyTravel.com page or contact me directly for offline donation options. 

I hope you’ll choose to join me on this adventure one way or another!





Grief – Resurrection – Mission: Life as Mom in Grad School

27 03 2017

It is my Spring Break – alas, I have a bit of energy to blast a blog post.

I just read an article from the Presbyterian Outlook magazine regarding the first words Jesus spoke to his grieving  disciples in the first moments they meet him after resurrection. The author emphasized Jesus’ first words to be words of peace and then encouragement to send them back into action with the good news that he is alive, has conquered death, and is God incarnate (God/human) whose mission is to point people back to a genuine life of loving God and loving one another. Having just come out of a very emotionally and physically intense seminary quarter of study this past Tuesday (I was granted an extension on a final paper) and getting ready to start back into studies on Wednesday my soul somehow resonates at a perhaps lesser level in experiencing this cycle of working hard, falling into grief, surprise at resurrection, peace and then having to get myself back on task. Actually I feel this almost every quarter.

It doesn’t seem to be a very healthy cycle, but I’m almost certain it is normal for most graduate school students to have a similar experience we have ten weeks on the quarter system to open ourselves up to a fire hose of information with a requirement to filter what we can to produce deep theological and even new and surprising work. At the start, this doesn’t seem too daunting, but by the end it feels like one of those survivor type reality shows where you’re exhausted trying to get to the end and yet working as a team to hold one another up to accomplish the task together. We all have some type of obstacles trying to take us out through the quarter – finances, family, friendships, negative interactions with professors or struggles to complete the workload, work outside of school, health concerns, and more.

My obstacles this past Winter quarter have been a combination of timing of events:

  • Working through the beginnings of a major transition with our church that began the same week as winter quarter and added hours and emotional strain on church members and myself;
  • My husband’s structural engineering workload going overtime because the weather is getting warmer and people can build;
  • Deadlines or major events occurring at the same time for our daughter’s activities – normally it isn’t an issue to take them to a band/orchestra rehearsal, or an every other week girl scout troop meeting, or a sports practice. The difficulty was that all the concerts, cookie sales, basketball games, softball startup events, gearing up for martial arts testing and things requiring extra effort happened throughout the same three weekend/two week stretch of time – including my school finals week(s).
  • Also, ADHD – predominantly inattentive, is something I’m still learning to identify how my life is affected by this and trying out new strategies of which are and some are not effective and from there working to create new habits. However, it is not an easy feat to re-work forty years of very ingrained coping mechanisms to help my habits become a bit more healthy not only for myself, but my family, those I work with and serve, and those with whom I study.

All of this throws me into a frenzy at the end of each quarter and a type of exhausted grief and panic wondering if I will pass, am I worthy of continuing on for a Master of Divinity, and am I an imposter just thinking I can do this? Then by grace and with encouragement of God, professors, co-workers, family, and others I get the work done and anxiously await my grades and sleep – or stare at a wall – a lot. My grades come through and I pass – sometimes with ‘As’ sometimes with a C – but in my mind, a pass is a pass. I am overwhelmed with relief and peace. A few days later I begin receiving emails from Spring quarter professors with a list of books to quickly acquire and assignments to begin working on and have completed for the first day of class. Break and vacation are flexible terms in the life of a graduate student – we are quickly back on mission an ready to start the cycle all over again. Somehow we make it through. I am a part-time student (approx. 8 credits/quarter towards 120 credits total), in my third year, and still have two or three years of this mission left to go — Wheeeee!





How to Redirect Pent Up Anxiety and Overwhelm for Good – One Time Each Week

25 01 2017

I am NOT a certified professional of psychology, counseling, or therapy in any way.However, I AM a professional at allowing anxiety and overwhelm to take me over and eat me up inside. I am also a professional patient for those who are professional therapists and counselors. I just watched a video on Facebook of Cory Booker US senator sharing words to those who are anxious and overwhelmed by the actions of President Donald Trump and his administration. I really needed his words to calm anxiety that has set on my heart and mind. 

I observe anxiousness and overwhelmed emotions others are also experiencing through their social media posts as well as the face-to-face real-time conversations that happen with my family , with my friends , in the church I work at, and the classrooms of my seminary program. The basic question is: “Is there anything we can do? Is there really anything anyone can do?”. These questions come from people who oppose Trump because it creates legitimate worries and anxieties for the every day happenings in their life. These questions also come from people who are avid supporters of Trump in a manner that dismisses those who have concerns to tell them “The decision has been made, deal with it.” 
Here is the video I watched: 

First Days of a Trump Administration: We Must Resist


My takeaway response after watching this video is:

For all experiencing anxiety and overwhelm in our political climate hear words of encouragement, from U.S. Senator Cory Booker, that give you something to do with that anxiety. 

>> Do ONE THING A WEEK to support fighting for a cause or to show kindness and care towards others. 

>It doesn’t have to be money – but maybe that is what you are able to share right now – pick a different organization or cause each week. (Girl Scouts are selling cookies – support leadership of our future women! #hint #hint)

>It doesn’t have to be time -but maybe that is what you have (support causes and share kindness online or face to face, volunteer somewhere politically, in schools, in churches, in senior centers, after school programs, sports clubs or an organization promoting full bellies for all, etc, write emails/make calls to senators and representatives, etc, march to show your support and solidarity for a particular cause or people group, PRAY, etc)

> it doesn’t have to be talents – but maybe you have gifts, talents, and skills to share with others in your neighborhood or community, use them for good. If you need help brainstorming post here and I’ll help you out. 

>It doesn’t have to be stuff -but what if what you have that is just sitting around collecting dust can give life to another? (Buy Nothing and Giving communities online exist in a lot of places and you can start one up if your community doesn’t have such a thing. Support a school PTA or church rummage sale or “Fill a Truck” fundraiser – even if you aren’t a member or have any children in school. )

We have to refocus the energies of our anxieties and release the pressure of overwhelm in to loving and building up one another rather than tearing each other down. It can be your ONE thing a WEEK combined with the one thing a week of others that makes all the difference in healing divisions. 





Adult ADHD & Me Part 1: Discovery

21 01 2017

Have not blogged here in a while. The last three posts have been products from the past brought to light or shared thoughts from others.

I think I’ve been quiet because there is one topic I’ve so badly wanted to blog about but either needed more time, experience, research information, processing, courage, understanding, etc. And as I type that sentence I realize my topic is what causes me to need all of that before I blog – or do most anything in life.

Let’s just say that – as most all of us are – I’m continually on a self-discovery journey and ever since my last years of undergrad college over 15 years ago I’ve been trying to figure out what is ‘wrong’ with me. At first depression combined with co-dependency, then no it is actually anxiety and that causes the depression, then the therapist that told me to pray for my husband more and I would be cured, then Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (hormonal/chemical imbalance – PMS for 2.5 weeks a month), and then ‘busy mom’ syndrome.

My newest diagnosis came when I stepped out of my personal bounds of respecting the diagnosis of the  doctor I met with telling me I have “busy mom syndrome” – to whom I had been sent by a therapist (who worked with me on the PMDD but also life coaches women with ADHD) to be evaluated by since my health insurance would cover the visit. I returned to my therapist and said I normally respect the diagnosis of doctors but I just couldn’t take this diagnosis that felt like a slap in the face after a 10-15 minute ‘interview’ with only a list of the DSM-V criteria and questions about my present but not my past to be screened for hyperactivity that I already knew I didn’t have. So I went in debt to be evaluated by a psychologist who specializes in testing for and diagnosing and four hours of a battery of testing over two month’s time (because he broke his leg and needed surgery mid-evaluations!). I honestly was not searching until someone told me I had it but I needed real testing words and numbers to help explain somethings about me that couldn’t be explained by other conditions/mental illnesses. The funny part was I was giving a choice at the very end to decide whether or not I thought my brain functioned as a brain with ADHD.

The psychologist said that in every test except for one, and except for the evaluations by two persons close to me, I have a non-hyperactive version of ADHD. The trouble was he was supposed to make his diagnosis based on the results of a certain number of questions from one test and personal evaluations and they were not helpful. He concluded that the reason I did score for ADHD on these is because in the past 39 years of my life (just turned 40 in December!) I have managed to be able to somewhat function and get through life by developing many coping mechanisms and habits to help get around. However, there are ways life would be so much simpler without having to make sure I had all these coping mechanisms in place every morning before getting out of bed. Without any pressure, he said often medication can be helpful and if I wanted to try it he would writing a letter of diagnosis for me to bring to my doctor. Having already discussed medication options with my therapist I was OK to give it a try.

Ironically – I ended up taking this letter back to my PCP who referred me to her ADHD diagnosis doctor who was the one who diagnosed me with “Busy Mom syndrome”. So a few months later I was back in her office with this letter and she was floored. She took it well and I discovered she is a younger doctor who is still learning a lot about the world of ADHD, all the ways to assess it and all the ways it can be manifest in  person – for instance it will be different in a 40 year old woman compared to an 8 year old boy. I’m grateful she took this well without showing offense and I think I’m sort of a new lab rat for her. I started on a low dose of a stimulant medication to treat Inattentive/Non-Hyperactive ADHD. This type of ADHD means I physically may not be all over the place – but my mind on the inside is a computer with several windows and an internet browser with many tabs open, pretty much all the time. Sometimes the windows and tabs are revisited and closed and many times they are not.

This diagnosis explains so many things about my life and I will blog about that next.

I also want to blog about what I observe regarding my PMDD, Depression, and Anxiety diagnoses with a new ADHD diagnosis in the mix.

Additionally I want to discuss what has been difficult now that I am armed with this information about myself – because it isn’t all fun and 100% life improvement now that I know.

So there you go. My ADHD revealed to the world right here on my blog. If you need someone to share your story post it here or connect with me through About.me

Here goes nothing as I hit the submit button!





Insecurities and Being Mom to Active Girls

8 03 2016

I keep thinking I’m getting better at not being  competitive or anxious mother, and then something happens with my daughters and I realize I have all the feelings of anxiety turned up on high and wonder how in the world did I allow myself to get there?

I think I land in a space with other parents who are ramped up for their children and it rubs off on me. Plus, all my own insecurities and experiences from childhood pop up and I reflect them on my girls – despite all the times I tell myself I’m NOT going to do that. It just happens and takes me by surprise!

This month is intense for me as mom and Doug as dad. Some people might ask “why do you let yourself get SO busy” and it just works out that these middle two weeks of March are the moment at which every activity collides and all chaos ensues in our household – including my competitive parenting anxiety.

  • So softball started up last week for both girls – check!
  • It is girl scout cookie selling season – thankfully only for one girl this byear – check!
  • The school play in a week auditions (wondering if they’ll get in or not)/rehearsals/performance – check!
  • Getting close to martial arts testing for one girl – check!
  • School music concerts galore for both girls – check!
  • colds and ear infections keeping kiddos home from school – check!

Then let’s add mom and dad’s list:

  • Final papers, group projects, and take-home essay exams two weeks for my seminary program – check!
  • Structural engineering season in full swing meaning extra pay (yay!) and extra hours for Doug at work – check!
  • Easter is coming in a few weeks (ministry fun times for our family!)
  • Washing machine dead and finding time to bring in a repair person, order parts, bring in repair person again – check! (thank God for generous neighbors sharing their machines!)
  • Doug is semi-acting as interim interim church choir director for our church choir
  • Doug is coaching Katie’s softball team
  • We decided on no nanny this year to save some money, which means Doug is coming home early when I have my classes in the evenings twice a week

Um… there is more, there has to be because that is just how our life works in March! Can I apply the “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb” weather metaphor to our family life?

I’m noticing the parent list is a little longer than the kids list – ha! What the heck am I worried about then when it comes to our girls? It is interesting because when I think about my childhood experiences growing up – I tried for several things and I was ‘OK’ but not ever really the best at anything. I was involved in a lot of activities but I was going to places where people encouraged me to try or empowered me in leadership. It wasn’t perfection but I’m glad I had opportunities to learn – sometimes very painfully – about myself. Most of the things I did on my own volition as result of being a child of a single parent family and my mom rarely was able to be a part of my activities either because she worked full time at the hospital or finances. My dad usually lived too far away to participate. Maybe I had to prove myself by just trying and seeing if I could actually do something.

I wonder if because I don’t expect perfection from my children – just want to see them do the best for themselves even if they aren’t the best at what they do? And when they are good at what they are doing, because I have a hard time having confidence in my own abilities, I have difficulty accepting and allowing myself to believe they truly are talented at what they do. I think I also get anxious and competitive when I see it in other parents because I’m a people-pleaser and I want others to accept and like my kids – even if they aren’t the best at whatever activity they are pursuing.

Maybe competitive isn’t even the right word to use, maybe concerned is a better word. I’m concerned that my children get to have a variety of experiences, I’m concerned that they have a positive experience or at least a parent or other trusted adult to fall back on who will still accept and encourage them even when they aren’t the best – I think this is what I missed sometimes in my own childhood activities, even with plenty of mentorship in faith and getting through school. I do remember my mother wanting us to do well and was sometimes sad if we weren’t the best and sometimes upset at the one who did better – usually because of their standing in society. I wonder if I reflect my standing in society  that I sometimes think people don’t know what to do with – mom, church childrens and youth minister, and now forever seminary graduate student – and worry how that affects my children’s abilities in their activities. So I play the comparison and anxiety game without realizing until it is too late.

Goodness, the things we deal with as parents, without even realizing it, when dealing with the rest of our family’s happenings!

Praying for peace for this annual season of chaos. Amen





Lent De-clutter Day 2

11 02 2016

I’m going to keep photo sharing and blogging through this as much as possible. Not to brag but to publicly hold myself accountable and have something to show myself in the end. 

Day 2 and I’m still here, I often will forget and then day 2 becomes day 3! I also have a large seminary assignment and some other family details (daughters class Valentines and one of them has a big school presentation due tomorrow). 

Embarrassing that our house gets so gross when we are busy. But this is the clutter I cleared while praying today. It is NOT the same side table from Day 1, but the twin. I find it ironic that I was first drawn to the clutter surrounding these two pieces of furniture. They belonged to my Grandma Bette. Bette is my mother’s mother who passed away just over 15 years ago. 

I have difficult memories with my grandmothers, not abusive just not many happy or great memories with them. If there is anything positive that came from them it is that my parents despite divorce, distance, and other difficulties make up for the lack of relationship by keeping in touch and connecting with my daughters, nieces, and nephews to the best of their abilities. My daughters know they are loved by their grandparents – something I felt my grandparents felt they were forced to try to do. I am grateful for my parents and their love for my children. 

Wow. All that from a set of old brown side tables that used to smell like cigarette smoke!

#Lent2016 #declutter #sabbath #worship #hospitality #formyfamily #focus 

 
In memory …  





“Living the Sabbath” in Lent 2016 

10 02 2016

  

  
Today is Ash Wednesday. My church will observe the tradition of the Imposition of Ashes I’m worship on Sunday to begin the season of Lent. I often try to come up with a discipline. It used to be a habit I wanted to get rid of, then a habit I wanted to acquire and now some seasons I have something and some in don’t. I just decided on something for this year. 

I am  going to attempt de-cluttering one small area of my home & life each day as my Lenten practice. I remember reading that a life of sabbath includes allowing your home to be a place to practice a life of worshiping God. Family is not able to worship in a cluttered space of life because we are distracted by too many things – either acquiring or cleaning and finding space for stuff. This discipline is inspired by Norman Wirzba’s “Living the Sabbath”. While I clean I am hoping to incorporate a time of prayer. 

By the way, I’m not hoping for rest and relaxation as the cover page of the book suggests (see below) unless it is to bring peace, justice, hope, rest, and relaxation to all the rest of the world as well. 

#Lent2016 #declutter #sabbath #worship #family #wirzba  

    

 








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