Thursday, March 21, 2013

Homeschooling with a Chronic Illness - A Guest Post from Mary R.

I am thrilled to share with you today a guest post by a fellow chronically ill mother I met through a homeschooling group that has met in the San Jose area for over 25 years. Mary R. and her husband Ken will celebrate 12 years of marriage in June, and are the parents of three children aged ten, eight, and two. Mary R. gives us a very dramatic peek into her life's challenges, and has taught me to see the blessing that being forced to slow down can really be to a family. 
"Preparing mass transfusion...."
The nurses were speaking in clipped, urgent tones. I strained again,  hoping this time I might really deliver the placenta. I thought I had, too, until I looked into Ken's stricken eyes.  It had been a tidal wave of blood, nothing more. 
When I thought I was going to die after Joy was born, my whole world changed.  In those few moments, I realized how important I was.  My whole being was a gift.  My love was irreplaceable.  To my little newborn, I WAS love.  Without me, my vibrant older children would wilt and droop in empty hunger.  And my husband would lose his soulmate, theone who always saw him and shared every joy and heartbreak.  As I struggled to stay conscious, I was fighting desperately to preserve the priceless gift of myself.  Until that moment, I didn't realize what it is to be a gift, a living flame of love.
These thoughts console me through the grit and grime of daily life. I have battled Hashimoto's thyroiditis for eight years, and the mind-numbing fatigue and inflammation are sometimes overwhelming.  After my youngest was born almost three years ago, I began to have increased struggles with bleeding, leading my endocrinologist to suspect an undiagnosed blood disorder. I have journeyed up and down to Stanford for iron infusions and countless blood tests, gone into Oakland and San Francisco for diagnoses and surgery. And through it all, the gift of that moment remains with me. I am love.
We mothers with chronic illness are blessed to live in the moment.  We never know how we're going to feel in a few hours, let alone a few minutes.  All we can do is relish the priceless gift of interacting with our loved ones in the moment that has been given us.  We marvel at the creativity of the older ones, at their sudden flashes of maturity or tenderness toward the younger ones.  We laugh till we cry at the the innocent doings or unexpected genius of our toddlers.  We celebrate every triumph.
No one really has control over her life, but a chronically ill mother gets to remember that liberating fact each day.  Her  illusion of the perfect family life or ideal schooling experience is shattered daily.  Instead, she relishes the messy, creative, jubilant reality of small victories.  When I can't crawl out of bed and must leave my children to forage for bread, apples, and salami, I cringe at the ominous clattering...and then celebrate their success.  Imagine--they covered three food groups, just like that!  They were even rather sophisticated about it, dipping the bread in olive oil and vinegar. I won't tell you whether, later, the olive oil and vinegar flew off the counter and created an oil slick in the kitchen. Suffice it to say that if it had, the towels still strewn over the bathroom floor would have been right there when we needed them!  The children could have dealt with the mess and I could later have congratulated myself for only washing the towels once...a win-win situation!
My exhaustion has changed me from a compulsive cleaner and a driven Martha to a more contemplative Mary.  Now I have to wonder a bit at all those prayers I used to say for the grace to be Mary, sitting at Jesus' feet.  Hey Lord, I didn't mean it literally!  Still, if this is what it takes to get me to rest in the moment and savor the priceless gift of my children's beauty, then so be it.  One thing only is necessary, to love. How joyful it is to be unable to run away from love!
Ken and I have embraced family life as a school of love. We want to love our children unconditionally and help them to know what true love is.   We want them to understand that they are precious, not because of what they do but because ofwho they are.  Once over-achievers ourselves, we would certainly have preached one thing and done another.  Now that reality has impinged, our family has had to approach homeschooling unconventionally. We snatch at anything that helps. Once, I swore technology would have no part in my homeschooling.  Now, a weary, wiser woman, I rejoice as my children use Reader Rabbit and Starfall to venture into reading.  Once I got over my purist hang-ups, I had to admit that Calvin and Hobbs made a great segue into the world of multi-syllabic words.  You have to read those comics phonetically or they just don't make sense.  And all those drives to doctor visits forced me to find something to occupy the weary passengers.  After we went through all the recorded books at the library, we happened on I-tunes Audible.  It revolutionized our schooling.   
As Ken drives me to my innumerable doctor visits, our minivan has become a traveling schoolhouse.  The children laugh at P.G. Wodehouse, relish Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, puzzle over Dorothy Sayers, and beg us to drive a little longer so we can finish the next chapter from Arthur Ransome.  Sometimes Ken picks me up after an iron infusion and as I jump into the car, I pick up in the middle of a course on the planets or the Middle Ages.  Maybe we listen to Thomas Sowell's autobiography and discuss the race riots of the sixties or the evil of discrimination.  Or maybe we turn off the voice for a moment to answer a question, only to have the whole family get caught up in a discussion of how diesel revolutionized the train engine. Necessity is not only the mother of invention, it has forced us into a lifestyle where my ten year old and eight year old argue over what we'll hear tonight.   Will it be What Einstein Told His Cook or will we finish the The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes?
Things I'm pondering after reading Mary's post...
*how joyful am I to be unable to run away from love?
*how has my chronic illness helped me to slow down?
*am I using technology enough to give myself needed rest time?
Mary R. Thank you for sharing a bit of your homeschooling with a chronic illness story here today. Thanks to you, I am starting to see what a blessing it has been to my family to have me at home with them more. 

1 comment:

  1. Thank you, Mary, for sharing your journey with us. You are an inspiration! Thank you, too, Tricia, for bringing Mary's story to us! Blessings to you both of you from one of your homeschooling friends :)


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