Living With Epilepsy: Baseball

Suiting up and Showing up

It doesn’t matter that he’s never played before, neither has 3/4 of the team. It doesn’t even matter if the ball is coming at him at 70 miles per hour, he wants to catch. Turns out, he’s really good at catching. It doesn’t even matter that I have a thousand what if scenarios running through my head that put him in the hospital with my “I told you so’s” spilling out of my mouth. What matters is, he doesn’t want to be treated like a kid with a disability. He is a kid who wants to be a kid and unless I want to emotionally and spiritually cripple him with my own fears, I have to let him.

D has had epilepsy (ADNFLE) since he was six and is one of the bravest kids I know.

 He’s fought epilepsy, (16 months seizure free and counting)

 and he’s learning how to drive; standing behind a plate facing down 70 mph baseballs and runners twice his size ain’t nothin’ compared to that. So, I keep my what if’s to myself and let him be who he is, knowing that God doesn’t have grandchildren and that He holds my hands even when I’m watching my youngest play through my fingers in front of my face.

He even played third base.

Written by Deana O’Hara for Redemption’s Heart. All rights reserved.

For more information about epilepsy please see The Epilepsy Foundation.

To help fund research and find a cure please see their Research Funding Challenge today.

Cooking with men

“I really like hanging out with the O’Hara’s. They laugh all the time.” — my youngest son’s girlfriend.

Being snowed in for Christmas break was fun. I had all three of my guys home with me and we all pitched in to make Christmas, well, Christmas this year.  They helped bake cookies, cook meals and hang Christmas lights. They even hung an upside dummy off our porch to make it look like someone fell off the roof while hanging lights.  Sadly the ice storm did him in before I could photograph their feat.

I would have taken a picture before the storm but I was too busy screaming and catching my breath every time I walked outside because I kept forgetting it was there. Life with boys is always an adventure.

On one of our snowed in days I decided to make gingerbread men. I baked the men and they all decorated them. Honestly, I’m surprised that there are no serious mutations, or zombies in this batch. The worst one is the wet diaper dude. And that one was created by my husband. I won’t be taking thes to a church social or anything. It was a just for us kind of deal.

Of course my oldest son, who is home from college, decided to dedicate one of our gingerbread men to Comic Tim Hawkins.

Seems the “fire ants” (red sugar crystals) have eaten this poor guy’s leg down to the bone already. You have to see the Fire Ant song on his newest DVD to totally get this. I think it’s hilarious.

That’s what happens when you are the only female in a house full of men. You laugh at really crazy things, like potty jokes, “that’s what she said” stuff, and you laugh at mutilated gingerbread men. It just happens.

Knowing that other people see us as a family that loves to laugh is a nice thing. We are real people, we don’t laugh all of the time. But we laugh a lot and I like that.

How often do you laugh at home? Every day? Every week? Rarely?  Why not make a promise to yourself and to your family to find something silly to laugh about just for today and see what kind of difference it makes.

Prayer Journals

I tell my Sunday School class to keep a prayer journal. Prayer Journals are a way for us to communicate with God. It gets stuff out of my head and down on paper and that act alone can take away the sting of a situation and provide clarity. Prayer journals also help me keep an account of the faithfulness of God.

Four years ago, my prayer journal was full of my concerns for my oldest. Charlie was a freshman then and he was so unhappy. His classmates argued constantly. Everyone seemed harsh and judgemental, and no one liked themselves much less each other.

Oh yeah, freshman year. Lord of the flies from junior high bleeding over into high school.

Charlie had no clue who he was then. He was a loner with very few friends. He hated school and he hated life. My heart ached for my wonderful son who was and is so brilliant, so funny and so endearing. It’s the same heartache I feel for my youngest, who not surprisingly is going through the same questions. “Am I a man? Do I have worth? Where do I fit.” Halfway through 10th grade, Charlie came into his own. He found his identity and he found new friends. He has learned that he has a talent for writing, for comedy, and is graduating top of his class (Three way tie for valedictorian right now). Charlie even has a girlfriend for the first time. He’s doing just fine.

I’ve been here before, watching my boys walk this crazy road called adolescence and I’d forgotten that. Ninth grade is merciless, but it doesn’t last forever. My youngest, will survive just like his brother did and just like we did. I’d forgotten that, but God didn’t. He was faithful then, and He will be faithful now. I just lost my remember-er for a few days.

The Day Mom Broke

I can remember the day, years ago, sitting at our dining room table writing our Christmas newsletter when “I’m gonna KILL you!” screams ripped through my peaceful writing time. The next thing I knew the door to the garage burst open with my five year old running for his life from his (very wet) seven year old brother. Dillon ran past me, with Charlie in fast pursuit. Through the kitchen and living room they went with a brief chase around the couch. Dillon then made his bolt down the hall and into our bathroom, locking the door behind him and falling against it in fits of laughter. Charlie hit the door too – pounding on it with both fists, screaming at him the whole time.

I crumpled up my Normal Rockwell lie of a newsletter and started over. “My sons are trying to kill each other today, and I have no idea why. Charlie is soaking wet, it’s cold outside and I can only assume Dillon decided to spray him with the garden hose. Who knew it still worked in the winter. I thought we’d put it away. Dillon found it again and plugged it back in. I’m not surprised. Dillon is locked in the bathroom laughing, and Charlie is pounding on the door trying to kill him. Should I intervene? Or let nature take it’s course. Ah yes, the true issues of parenting I can’t find in my parenting books:Do I make them love each other? Or let them fight it out and see who survives?”

Charlie finally gave up and went into his bedroom to change clothes. I knew the battle wasn’t over. Charlie would at some point get even. I just didn’t know when or how.

There was a time when these expressions of brotherly “love” would have me baffled to the point of tears. My husband had come home to find me sitting on the middle of the living room floor in tears because I thought I was a failure as a Mom. “They hate each other!” I cried. “What did I do wrong? I’m a failure as a parent.”

Jeff walked back to find them playing cars in their bedroom and asked what happened. Charlie piped up. “Uhm.. Mom broke Dad. We don’t know what happened, we weren’t doing anything.” Yeah right.

They were fighting – over I don’t remember what, and I had finally had enough and fell to the floor on my knees calling out to God. “I’m so sorry! I failed! My boys hate each other and it’s all my fault.” I basically had a nuclear meltdown.

That would be when Jeff sat me down and shared with me all of the ways he and his brother showed “love” for each other. Basically, they beat the snot out of each other until one got big enough to hit back hard enough that it hurt. After that, they became friends. OH.

My boys still mess with each other, but not as bad as they did. When they were younger, Dillon would throw himself to the floor crying hysterically saying that Charlie hit him and Charlie would get in trouble. It did not take long for Charlie to learn if he was going to get in trouble anyway, he might as well hit his brother. It did not take long for Dillon to stop throwing himself on the floor. Now they just play mind games.

Take Sunday night for example. Once a month we go to a leadership Bible Study. Jeff and I lead it, and the boys babysit. This month Dillon had the night off. He knew we were going, but was asleep when we left. When he woke up the house was dark and he was alone. He’d forgotten where we were, so he called Jeff.

Relieved to find out he wasn’t missing anything, he hung up. Charlie piped up then, “You should have have told him the rapture is real after all and he missed it. That would have been funny.”

Brothers. They WILL love each other some day, right?

My Poor Guinne Pig (not for the weak stomached)

Warning – this is not for the easily queasied…but this is my life today.

Snickers – our family guinne pig, passed to his peaceful rest, right in front of the vet’s office. In my sons arms. As I was putting the car into park. One minute he’s here, the next he isn’t. I had an appointment. I’m wondering how one discretely walks into the vet’s office to tell them you won’t be needing the appointment after all. I mean I had to tell her, I didnt’ want to be charged for a no show. So, I leaned over the desk and very quietly explained the predicament. Poor gal – didn’t know what to say. And frankly neither did I. Oh well.

Sad as I am to see snicker’s go. – I was slightly grateful that my son is now 15 and not five. We’ve burried 3 hamsters, umteen fish, three lizards, a few frogs, about five or so hermit crabs, an entire aquarium of “sea monkeys,” a cocker spaniel and another guinne pig that we had on loan from school. We’ve burried a lot of animals in our life time. Except Trapper – our cocker spaniel – him we had cremated. He now sits on the top shelf in my husband’s music room.

While Dillon is not immune to losing pet’s, he’s a little more used to it now, I guess, he still has a heart. He’s grown to accept death as part of life and knows that while our days are numbered, so are the days of our pets. Snickers was no exception. Except that he was only 4, and he passed due to fumes in our kitchen – we were having it painted and it didnt’ even occur to me until it was too late that the fumes might be toxic to the little guy.

That’s probably why I let him do it. – I don’t normally allow animals to be burried in our yard – well, except for the hamsters – they were little. But with snickers, I kinda felt guilty. Okay I felt a LOT guilty. So I let Dillon build a casket (out of wood) and he and his brother burried the poor guy in the farthest corner of our yard while dad was out of town.

I told my husband about it when he got back from his trip – and while he wasn’t happy about having an animal burried in the yard, he was willing to accept it.

Two weeks passed and while I was out of town at a speaker’s conference, Jeff (my husband) found a small dead possom in the yard – not to be gross, but the dogs were dragging it around and he and Charlie had to distract them to get it away from them and properly dispose of it – (Trash bin). This possum was in pretty bad shape from the sounds of it, and I was glad to hear they got it away from the dogs and into the trash.

Then I went to work in my gardens and checked on the grave while I was there. Alas – the tomb was empty. I saw the bottom and sides of the, well, casket, but no top – and no snickers. So how do you tell your boys that wasn’t a possum? I quietly decided not to. And I left the head stone and planted new monkey grass on that spot. They will never know.

My Son’s Search for Manhood

“Boys will be boys” or so the saying goes. But I’m struggling with what that really means right now. My boys are “almost 15” and 17 and both seem to be asking the same questions, “Am I a man?” when I’m still looking at them as my boys.

My youngest just finished Middle School – thank God. And I’m torn between giving myself a medal for surviving it and more truthfully – giving him one. Middle School is rough – Lord of the Flies rough. And somehow kids survive. My oldest survived by internalizing his emotions and my youngest – gives voice to everything, every change, every annoyance, every joy. I’m grateful for his transparency and really want to treat his adolescence as more than something that needs to be endured until he “out grows it.” I’m not raising boys, I’m raising men and I have no clue how to do that – why should I? I’m a female. Their world is so much different than mine. But I am trying to learn.

We got called into school last week because my youngest had come in under their radar. They wanted to know if he was happy – he’s been moody this year – and if there was anything going on that they wanted to know. Where do I begin? He’s struggling with his grades and afraid he won’t be allowed back for high school (he’s been accepted and is happy now) Girls are becoming more of a romantic interest than a platonic one, and he wants freedom. He’s looking for a rite of passage.

For three years (6th grade twice, and 7th grade) he was the smallest and weakest – THIS year puberty hit and he’s grown 6 inches, gained 20 lbs of solid muscle – the girls in his class have gone from mothering him to trying to romance him and he’s just taking it all in. And he’s re-merging with the boys in his class who are rough and tumble and learning how to effectively stand his ground in their midst without being over aggressive and overly passive. Granted he’s doing it with the grace of an elephant in toe shoes – but he is doing it.

This rough and tumble age of aggression with the boys has me startled and amazed. They “play fight” – poke and jab, punch and pinch until someone gets mad and someone gets hurt. They have a code that even I can’t break – they won’t “tell” because some how that effects their peer approval and disputes are “handled” among themselves. No one is getting stuffed into lockers, but someone was “almost” given a swirly. They are brutal with each other in PE – “Racking” is the newest game that is totally unacceptable to me – but part of what they do? I don’t’ get it. Apparently pecking order is being determined among themselves. No one person is bullying anyone else – it’s not like that. I can’t even really describe it. This particular group of boys seems to be navigating this time of transition with their own rituals and discoveries. Despite the apparent violence – both verbal and at times physical – these boys have been together for the last three years – they trust each other in ways I don’t understand. They have each other’s back in more ways than one.

Even though our church offers a religious right of passage in 6th grade called confirmation, I firmly believe that our society has become overly civilized and as a result forces our boys to create their own rites. In my Indian heritage on my maternal mother’s side – young men were sent into the wilderness to survive for several days on their own and to hunt. When they returned with their prize – either a bear or a panther or whatever there was a ceremony and they were accepted “as a man.” We really don’t do that today.

I should be grateful – adolescent males can make other rites of passage – in looking to the “Am I a Man” question – they’ll start smoking, use drugs, drink alcohol, or become sexually active. These things aren’t happening in this group. They are more aware of their surroundings and each other. Their morals and beliefs are still firmly grounded in Christ – and I’m happy for that. They are aware of how their behavior effects others and they are understanding cause and effect and consequences.

This is an age where these boys need strong male influences. While I’m a good one to bounce things off of, and give comfort on the increasingly rare occasions that I’m asked – this really isn’t my world. I feel lost more often than not.

My oldest – chose not to fight his way through this stage of peer development – he was the new kid in 8th grade. He had enough to content with what with his school closing and being forced to leave his friends behind. He simply chose to passively accept his place as low man on the food chain. For him – he didn’t come into his own until later in high school – and only after we changed schools. He’s settling in now, but to be honest – I kinda feel like I failed in the navigation with him. I’m glad though that he is finding his way and learning not only where he stands, but how to stand.

We are looking for ways this summer to help our youngest find these answers in healthy ways with safe boundaries. And true to form – I’m going to be reading a lot.

Some things I’ve found so far: _Am I a Man?

Margaret Mead’s Coming of Age in Samoa pointed out that all children, regardless of ethnic milieu, come to a watershed moment, during the teenage years, when they begin looking beyond themselves. In a very real sense, they awaken to the rest of society. This awakening is a time to celebrate their gifts, look for ways to fit into their community, and grapple with how to make the world a better place. But adolescence is a delicate time, far more tender, in some ways, than early childhood. The boy is not a child any longer, and he is not a man. Developmentally excluded from the community of childhood, ambivalent about adulthood, he faces two choices: to join the ranks of responsible adults (provided such exist!), or to band together with his peers in an alternate society, parallel and in many ways counter to the rest of the culture. Without guidance, too many of our boys choose the second option by default. While some traditional societies mentor the young through these “years of change,” in ..:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />America this most important life passage is often treated like an extended period of sickness, to be endured with much complaining on all sides until it (hopefully) passes. (Scary thought – Deana)

ReadStart reading about rites of passage. It’s too easy for us to hear a concept, and rather than search it out, to start planning a meeting or an event. Resist doing anything until you start reading about ministry to teenage boys. Read before doing anything else, let it slowly simmer, then allow it to boil. Here are some of the top ten resources I’ve read this year (in no particular order) that might be of help to you.
Passed Thru the Fire by Rick Bundschuh (Tyndale, summer 2003), suggests that we get boys connected and integrated with godly men in the church. This is a fun, fast, and excellent book. He has created a outdoor event for males to be published by Standard Publishing called The Passed Thru Fire Experience.
Raising a Modern Day Knight by Robert Lewis (Tyndale, 1997), has been an extremely popular book that focuses on the relationship between father and son. Lewis suggests a public ceremony for the teenage male before friends, family, and a community of men.
Professor Richard Ross pleas for a Christian Bar Mitzvah. He has created an experience for a parent and a youth that flows across 30 evenings as a prelude to a Christian bar mitzvah. Check out his Web site at
A Tribe Apart by Patricia Hersh (Ballantine, 1998) suggests that American teens today are “more isolated and more unsupervised than other generations,” and need mentors. A provocative and shocking book.
Richard Dunn’s Shaping the Spiritual Life of Students (Intervarsity, 2001) identifies teenagers’ alienation and disconnection with significant adults and calls for adults to “pace” and then help shape teens’ lives spiritually.
Wild at Heart (Nelson, 2001) is John Eldredge’s challenge to give up making young men “good boys” and recognize that boys were created with a “desperate desire for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.” Eldredge states that boys are meant to be “warriors.”
Michael Gurian’s A Fine Young Man (Putnam, 1998) is a compelling resource dealing with developmental issues of adolescent boys. Gurian has done extensive homework on each stage of adolescence and uses terminology like “journey” and “pilgrimage.” His view of ages 9-13, called “the age of transformation,” is particularly fascinating.
Young Lions: Christian Rites of Passage for African-American Young Men by Chris McNair (Abingdon, 2001) is an outstanding resource to enable African-American youth to “be the men that God created them to be.” This school-year mentoring program is extremely practical.
Spiritual Milestones by Jim and Janet Weidmann and J. Otis Ledbetter (Cook Com, 2002) deals with celebrating the various spiritual passages with your children and youth.
Crossroads: The Quest for Contemporary Rites of Passage, edited by Louise Carus Mahdi, Nancy Christopher, and Michael Meade. (Open Court Publishing, 1996) is a detailed work of various rites with a wide range of sociological and theological world views.