Monthly Archives: January 2023

Celebrating a Life- Happy Birthday Russ

Image courtesy of Pixabay

Although it is generally known,
I think it’s about time to announce
that I was born at a very early age.

~Groucho Marx~

Russ Van Valkenburg was born in 1928. So were Edward Albee, Maya Angelou and Alvin Toffler. Some names are known in a small community, some nationally and some worldwide. No one is born with the intention of becoming world famous.

Babies are born every minute to the delight of their families. Each baby fascinates those of us who have lived for a while and reminds us of what it means to be human. Babies discover the world about them one marvel at a time and we have the opportunity to watch their adventures.

It’s easy to take life for granted until’ the delight of a baby or the misfortune of an illness makes us realize just how precious life is. As the years pass, we learn to appreciate our gifts such as physical strength, intelligence, creativity and social skills. We also discover our hopes and dreams. Eventually we become aware of our limitations.

Recently I had the opportunity to participate in Russ’s eightieth birthday gathering. I didn’t have to do it by myself. His wife of sixty-one years headed the group of well-wishers including family and friends of all ages. I counted myself fortunate to participate in his celebration. Having weathered the ups and downs which all of us encounter over the years, Russ played the gracious host, enjoying the presence of each guest and being sure everyone knew how happy he was to share his birthday with them.

Joy filled the day. I heard no harsh words, saw no cross glances and felt no antagonism from anyone in attendance. What would it be like to live in a world where everyone acted the way guests did at Russ’s birthday party? What if we could all get along, find a reason to celebrate with each other and enjoy each other’s company?

We tend to see ourselves as owner of our little corner of the earth rather than guests at life’s party. Maybe it’s all in our perspective. We don’t have as much control over our lives as we would like to think. Life invites us to share in the pageant of the universe and navigate with a body we use during our time on earth. We don’t know how long we will be here or what we will be able to accomplish.

We do have some control over what effect we have on people, how they think of us and how they will remember us. The house we live in, what car we drive, and how much money we accumulate aren’t that important in the long run. I consider myself fortunate to be touched by the magic of Russ’s life and to have had some small part in his life adventure so far.

Action Steps

  • If today is your birthday, stop to count your life blessings and thank God for them.
  • If it’s not your birthday, count your blessings and give thanks anyway.
  • Be thankful for the many people who have touched your life.
  • Give thanks for those who have touched your life in silent ways.
  • Celebrate the life you have to live just for today.

Political Restricted Diet

I talked before about a political fast I had decided on. I have not written much since then. I spent a weekend without viewing a single political broadcast. Then I decided it would not be good to live in a vacuum. I did not want to lose touch entirely with the world of politics and decided on a political diet.

The problem is that I find politics addicting and get easily drawn in, finding myself sitting there with my mind flooded by opinions, conflicts and positions of the various political persuasions. Even with restricted political viewing, I tend to be overwhelmed by conflicts with no reaI solutions, at least not any which we can all agree on. But I guess that is the nature of politics.

I have been in a better state of mind. I also find that it is easier to think of more pleasant topics other political wrangling. Even with my limited involvement, the sun comes up in the morning every day, maybe with some clouds. People go about their lives and I feel more settled and not tumbling in the bundle of political conflicts.

I don’t know how long I will be on this diet, but I find it nice not to be bombarded with conflict all the time. I will let you know how it turns out.


Haley’s ADHD

Reeling and writhing, of course, to begin with, the Mock Turtle replied, and then the different branches of arithmetic, ambition, distraction, uglification, and derision.

~Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland~

This and the next few posts are about people whom I have met over the years. I thought you might like to meet them too.

Reeling and writhing, of course, to begin with, the Mock Turtle replied, and then the different branches of arithmetic, ambition, distraction, uglification, and derision.

~Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland~

Most of what is written about AD/HD is from the point of view of professionals, teachers, or parents. Little is written from the child’s perspective. Many children are befuddled by AD/HD, or embarrassed to talk about it.

Haley is an articulate ten year old girl who was diagnosed with AD/HD in first grade. Her father is in treatment for cancer. Her parents are divorced. She lives with her father and half brother. She has visitation with her mother who is remarried and has a new baby.

Haley realized there was something different about her in kindergarten or first grade. She knew something was wrong but did not know what. She later learned it was called AD/HD. She sees her parents as both having AD/HD as well as her grandparents and thinks it can be genetic for some people. Parents probably give it to their kids.

Haley has been on medication since her AD/HD was discovered. “First I was on Ritalin. Then I tried Concerta but it didn’t help. Now I am back on Ritalin twice a day.” She does not think her condition will ever go away and does not really care if it does since she is not bothered by it and has learned to live with it.

She finds that sometimes AD/HD helps her. “I started doodling in class and found out I wanted to be an artist. AD/HD gives me a sense of creativity.” She took time out from the interview to show me some of the drawings she had finished or was working on.  Despite having come to terms with her condition, she is sometimes angry about it. “It makes me mad at people and makes me blame them.  I don’t know how this happens.”

On occasion she gets hyper during lunch. “Sometimes I act really goofy. Last week I was squawking like a chicken.” Her friends have asked her why she is so hyper. She finally decided to tell them why. She explained what she knew about AD/HD to her friends and felt they understood her.

Haley finds that she has some trouble keeping friends. “I have mood swings and then get in fights with my friends.” She also sometimes gets mouthy with her friends. They yell at her when she does this. Three girls on the bus still tease her about being weird, hyperactive and crazy. “A lot of kids in school make fun of me for playing with things in class.”

She thinks her AD/HD makes school boring for her. “As far as subjects, math, gym and health are okay. Science and social studies are good, especially when we do hands on activities.  Sometimes school is boring though.” She likes micro-school where everyone has a job during the last half hour of the school day. “There is a post office, bank, restaurant and court. I work in micro media production as an artist and make signs for people.”

She also has trouble doing her homework. “I lie and say I don’t have any homework so I can spend more time with my father. I usually don’t do homework because it’s boring. When I don’t do my homework, I get in trouble and am grounded or have to stay after school.”

Haley does not feel she gets enough time to spend with her father. She would also like to have more time with her mother who has a new baby. She had not thought of talking with her father about having more time together, but decides to try it.

“Sometimes I tell my father or mother I hate them or don’t like them any more. I don’t really mean it but sometimes I just blurt it out.” She would also like to see her grandparents more than she does. She takes a second pill when she goes to visit them.  She thinks they spoil her. She does not think AD/HD makes any difference to them and does not think her visits with them would be any different if she did not have it.

Haley does not talk much with other kids who have AD/HD. She knows there are others in her school but does not know who they are. She was in a group for kids whose parents were divorced and remembers there being a couple kids with AD/HD in the group. “I would like to be in a group where everybody had AD/HD because they would understand what it is like for me.”

She finds it easier to concentrate if what she is doing is fun or if she can work with her hands. She finds it hard to concentrate when her AD/HD is bothering her, when she thinks about her father being sick, or when TV is on.

Haley’s is one voice of children with AD/HD. Her circumstances are unique to her and her perspective cannot be generalized to all children with AD/HD. Nevertheless, her story is a reminder that all children have their own understanding of their condition and reactions to it. Knowing your child’s perspective on AD/HD and his or her concerns can be helpful in knowing how to be supportive.

Action Steps

  • Are you always able to stay focused?
  • What if you could hardly ever stay on task?
  • What if you handle every situation with a “Ready, Fire, Aim
  • Don’t assume everyone has the same coping skills.
  • Try to understand others from how life looks to them.

Where Have You Been?

Image courtesy of Pixabay

The last time I posted here, I was wondering where we were headed as a nation in light of political conflict and disagreement in the country. We have maintained some semblance of normality in the Senate while the House of Representatives descends into chaos since its new configuration this month.

Electing a Speaker of the House made it clear that The House has no intention of trying to accomplish anything constructive in the near future. Recent announcements indicate that their main objective is to make Democrats look bad. They got some help this week from the debacle over President Biden’s forgotten classified documents.

I have been puzzling over the document fiasco and some questions of my own, none of which has seen any adequate answers as far as I know.

When a document has been “removed”, does this mean that the original document has been released or just a copy?

What would prohibit someone from copying what had been borrowed and returning the document. Is there any law against this?

Does anyone keep track of what documents have been borrowed and by whom?

When someone with classified documents has their clearance ended (such as by leaving office), does anyone ask for “borrowed records” to be returned?

Is there a record of when documents are returned and by whom?

These are a few thoughts I have been having about the records controversies.

There is much more swirling in my head. I will get to work and try to make some sense of what is going on politically and how we might return to common sense.

How to Rise to the Challenge of Good Fortune

It takes more strength of character to withstand good fortune than bad.

~François de La Rochefoucauld~

Do you know that good fortune can be stressful? Some religious groups in the past have seen good fortune as a message from God. They took the message to mean those receiving the benefits were favored by God more than the less fortunate. It was an opportunity for gloating and self satisfaction. That message suggests that we don’t have to do anything else and have already made it into God’s grace.

I have always felt that if there were nothing left to accomplish, there would be no need to go on living. We tend to take good fortune for granted. I would guess that, for most of us, our thoughts and prayers are directed toward what we want or don’t want in our lives more than toward what we already have.

There is a bible story about ten lepers whom Jesus cured. Only one came back to thank him. The others were so busy enjoying their cure that they took it for granted.

Our good fortune could consist of greater wealth, a newfound love or even good health. Good fortune sometimes stays with us for a long time and sometimes appears suddenly, departs just as quickly. We are more likely to take ongoing blessings for granted and show greater appreciation for those which appear more dramatically.

We can think of good fortune as providing energy, whether it is physical, emotional, spiritual or monetary. We can also look at it as an opportunity which might not be available to others. It may also be available to us for only a limited time. I have often heard people talk of waiting for retirement to follow their dreams. They might not live until retirement or might not have the same resources available if they do live that long.

There is a saying that today is the first day of the rest of your life. It might also be the last day. In any case, it is the only day we have right now. How can we put it to best use?

We might not have the same opportunity tomorrow. I remember a time when I was writing short stories with ease. I decided to take a break and wait until an upcoming vacation when I would have more time to write. When the time came, I was out of ideas.

Each new day has its own gifts, opportunities and challenges. Henry David Thoreau wrote about how he started each day at Walden Pond. Before he got out of bed, he made a list of those things for which he was grateful before going about his business for that day.

Action Steps

  • What about my life today makes me feel grateful?
  • What opportunities do I have today?
  • If I don’t take advantage of today’s opportunities, how do I know I will have the same chance in the future?
  • How can I share my good fortune with others?
  • What challenges can I meet with the resources I have available today?