Saturday, February 12, 2011

Rainbow Fish and Cognitive Therapy

I was reading a book about Rainbow Fish to the kids the other day.  Rainbow Fish and his friends needed to go to a "Sea Monster's Cave" to get something for a sick friend, and all of them were scared.  They got each other all worked up about the scary things in the cave, but finally summoned the courage and went anyway.  Lo and behold, it was all in their imagination!  What they thought were dangerous creatures were really just sharp rocks, seaweed, and friendly fish.  And they all lived happily ever after.

And so it struck me: I can think of a handful of other children's books with the same theme. Scary sounds at night? Just a tree tapping on the window. Monsters under the bed? Just Sully, the big friendly furry blue nice guy who needs your screams. And then there's Scooby Doo....even though each and every day the monster turned out to be a guy in a costume, each and every day Shaggy and Scooby got scared. When would they learn?

So this is what we teach our children about fear? That there really isn't anything to be afraid of?

Not just children, I found out. This week I've been reading up on Cognitive Therapy for an essay I'm writing for an on-line class. Listen to this:

“List any negative expectations…that may frighten her or negatively influence her behavior….Rank the chances that such an event will happen on a scale from 0 to 100% and then list one to three options that may be appropriate to that expectation.”

The gist: Convince the patient that the odds are against them, and help them come up with options so that they will feel more in control if something bad does happen.

And this one:

“Most life situations are time-limited and specific to that situation. We recommend that you help your patient pull from other areas of his life to learn to view his own situations in different ways." (Overcoming Depression: A Cognitive Therapy Approach Therapist Guide by Gilson, Mark Freeman, Arthur Yates, M. Jane)

The gist: Convince the patient that life really isn't all that bad after all. She is just over-reacting.

Just like Rainbow Fish. Scary things aren't really scary. Bad things aren't really bad. Everything is going to be okay.

Really? Does anyone really believe that? Who are we kidding?

If that was true, then why do kids still get scared of what's under their bed? Why do we have such a hard time convincing them?

Because they know we are wrong! They know that scary things do exist. Maybe they can't describe them; maybe they've never seen them, but they know they are there. They know they are not safe. They know that even Mom and Dad can't protect them completely; they know they are not in control.

And they are right.

The truth is, denial only works part of the time. We can try to convince ourselves that the odds are in our favor, that planes don't usually crash, that kids don't usually choke, that boogie men only attack once in a while, but we all know that it could still happen.

Instead, the answer lies in Person. Veggie Tales got it right: God is bigger than the Boogie-Man. Greater is He who is in me than he who is in the world. My Dad is looking out for me. And He's got all the power in the universe. He's good; He loves me, and He is in control.

And the answer lies in a Promise: I know that when something bad does happen, it's because He ordained it. And will use it for good.

And that's why I can venture into Sea Monster's Cave.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Beautiful Sight to Behold

Introducing:  The Newest (And Probably Most Loved) Member of Our Family

After living here for almost 8 years, we finally caved and bought a generator. 

It was a struggle.  After all, we always told ourselves that since so many people never have electricity, why was it so hard for us to endure power outages?  Buying a generator definitely makes us feel weak.  And discontent.  And demanding. 

But we finally decided it was the right thing to do.  We do a lot of ministry in our house.  We host Youth Group every Friday night; we have people here for dinner at least twice a week; we host overnight guests all the time.  30 teenagers in the dark....nothing good can happen then. 

And you know what?  It's hot here.  It's kind of a defining sort of hot.  Like, you ask someone, "How are you doing?"  And he answers, "Well, I'm hot."  That's the standard answer.  It's the first thing that comes to your mind when asked to describe your state of mind.  It's like Florida in the summer, but it lasts six months...or longer.  My face is always shiny; my hair is always in a pony tail.  So fans are a basic necessity to function.  If you really want to be productive, air conditioning is the way to go...but these days, I'll settle for even fans.

Tanzania always has power problems.  But this year....this year will go down in history.  People are saying, "It hasn't been this bad since 2006."  Power rationing started over three months ago.  Meaning, the power doesn't just go off when a line goes down or something goes wrong.  It means the power goes off because the power company cuts it off--it can't produce enough electricity for the country.  And it's increasingly gotten worse.  Now, it's like clockwork.  Every other day, it's off from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm, and on the other days it's off from 6:00 pm to 11:00 pm. 

I have to tell you, it's rough right now.  For months, the power problems were the first thing anyone talked about.  Our students complained about it on Facebook every day.  Now, people are just tired.  Hot, tired, and worn out.  People don't talk about it anymore because what else is there to say?  We just look tired.  We don't sleep as well; we don't work as well.   HOPAC has a generator which can only run the lights and fans--no air conditioning.  And on days like these, that makes teaching really, really hard.  You can't keep anything in the fridge; unless you have a gas stove, you can't cook.  You have to constantly be thinking about plugging in your phone or your computer to keep them charged.

But of course, that's nothing compared to how it's affecting all the small businesses in the country.  The tailors, the welders, the carpenters, the mechanics.  There's a small store down the road which I like to frequent; they lost their entire freezer of ice cream.  You know what that does financially to a small store like that?  It's discouraging and disheartening to see.

I can't tell you how much our generator has made a difference in our lives in the last few weeks.  I can't run it all day; gas is too expensive.  But I turn it on for 3 hours during the day so that Josiah can nap and I can get some work done and do some laundry.  And we run it when the cuts come in the evenings.  It's helped our stress levels significantly and I am so thankful God provided the means to buy it.  But our country is in a crisis--a hot, slow, suffocating crisis, and it's hard to wait for relief. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Fantasyland without Mr. Toad

Gil teaches a photography class.

He sent out a notice to the HOPAC community that his students would like to take advertisement-type pictures for businesses....for free. 

So we got invited to Fantasyland....for free.  In exchange for photos. 

Seriously, almost like Disneyland.  Well, except for the roller coasters and food and Disney characters and shows and fireworks and stores full of overpriced souvenirs.  But they do have some things Disneyland doesn't have.  Like inflatable jumpers.  And donkey rides.  And sand.  Lots and lots of sand.
It was Princess and Pirate day.  Grace, Josiah, and Gabriel (who we brought with us) were the only little kids there.  So they got the royal treatment.  

That's Josiah stuck to the velcro wall.  I laugh every time I see this picture.

And this is how Gil treats students who don't behave. 

Monday, February 7, 2011

If You Could

If you could choose the gender of your next child, would you?

What about if you could space the births of your children in exactly the way you choose?  Or if you could pick out your child's temperment?  Even their looks?

Would you? 

I suppose that with genetic engineering, some of that is already happening.  And how do we respond?  That's God's category! we say.  Don't mess with God!  And we admit God knows what He is doing, right?  Because if we could make our families the way we wanted, we would probably screw it up.  Right?  Of course right.

But what if the choice was there, and if you didn't choose, a government worker who doesn't know you did the choosing for you?  Chose your child's gender, birthday, looks, temperment, etc?  Would you choose then, because you would say to yourself, Well, if someone has to choose, then it had better be me. 

What would you do?

Trust me.  It feels really, really weird. 

In Grace's case, we didn't have an specifications. We told our lawyer, "Any child under a year."  She is the one who matched us up with Grace.  In Josiah's case, we asked for a boy.  Social welfare gave us the name of an orphanage.  They told us, "Go pick."  There were five baby boys under a year.  And yes, it was weird.

And now we are here again.  Social welfare this time has told us, "Pick the orphanage; we'll pick the child."  But we all know that it's quite possible we can "suggest" a particular child, and that's who we'll get.

How do you pick a child out of 2 million who need a family?  How do you take one and leave the rest?  How do you choose knowing that you will profoundly change the child's life, and your life, forever?  It feels like playing God.  We're not supposed to pick our children.  Children are God's gifts; we get who He gives us and we love those we get.  Yet since we can pick, shouldn't we?  Since we have a choice, then of course we're going to think about gender and how we want to space our children's ages.  So that narrows it down....what then? 

I will go to the district office on Thursday.  I will tell her which orphanage we want; and most likely I will tell her a Name.  Maybe two or three, and let them choose.

Weirdness.  Pray for us.  With both of our kids, we saw God's hand of Sovereignty in placing them in our family.  Will you pray that He does it again?  Because of course, we believe that no matter who does the "choosing," ultimately it is God who decides. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Babies on the Brain

I've been thinking a lot about babies recently.

Maybe it's because tomorrow I am helping to host a baby shower for three, that's right, three HOPAC ladies who are having babies in the next few months.  The kindergarten teacher, the wife of the science teacher, and the wife of the history teacher.  Two are giving birth in country. 

Maybe it's because I spent an hour yesterday looking at these beautiful babies.  Forever Angels just might be "our" orphanage this time around. 

Maybe it's because my worker, Esta, is pregnant and due in April.

Maybe it's because Stella is always on my mind. 

That's a heck-of-a-lot of babies. 

So this here post is a dual update:  partly about Stella, and partly about what's next for us.  Here you go:

Stella had an appointment yesterday.  The doctor said she is doing great.  He said she will be admitted no later than March 10th.  They will do an ultrasound to find out the size of the baby at that point.  If the baby is big enough, then at that time they will take the baby by C-section.  Or she will stay at the hospital until the baby is big enough, and then do the C-section.  The doctor said that after losing 4 babies in labor, they will not let her go into labor this time.  So that means she has five weeks to go!  Pray with me!

And us:
Assuming that Mama S's report really was sent yesterday (and we've learned never to really assume anything), then the next step is that we wait for approval from the District Commissioner.  A few things would have to happen to make this problem-free:
1.  They receive the report, which really was sent, and does not get lost in the mail or someone's office.
2.  They accept the report as it is written and do not require Mama S to add anything else.
3.  They don't require us to do an International Report.  (We had to do this for Grace and Josiah, but were assured that we don't have to this time.  However, they could change their minds).
4.  They decide that they will approve us for a third child.

As friends have rejoiced with us, the inevitable question is always, "So when will you get the baby?"  Well, hypothetically, it could happen as soon as a couple of months.  But as you can see, a number of scenarios could lengthen that process.

Next week, I will go to the district social welfare office.  Instead of nagging Mama S, now I get to nag Mama A.  We will tell her which orphanage we are requesting, and remind her that we have requested a girl between one and two years old.  And I will weekly talk to her about the "progress" of our approval letter....until we get it.  That letter, Lord willing, will not only grant us approval to foster a child, but will give us the name of the particular child they have chosen for us.  We will have a name, a face, and then wait for the paperwork to be done on that child.  The paperwork gets sent back to the district office, and they issue a final-final-final letter which will let us take her home. 

It always starts and ends with a letter, remember? 

I love adoption.  But I must admit that sometimes I am envious of all these other ladies who actually have a due date.  :-)

Friday, February 4, 2011


Yesterday I went to visit Mama S again.  It had been almost three weeks since my last visit, and despite trying to call or text her, I hadn't heard anything from her. 

Got to the office, waited outside.  There was no place to sit, so I plopped myself down on the concrete floor with my Kindle.  I've seen other women do this (well, not with a Kindle), so I figured it was culturally appropriate, but I still got some strange looks.  However, I always get strange looks there.  I'm always the only white person.

After a while I realized that no one was going in or out of the office, even though I knew there were people inside.  I realized there was a sign on the door.  I couldn't translate all of it, but I got the gist that the social workers were now only seeing people on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Fridays.  Wednesdays were for meetings and Thursdays....well, I couldn't understand that part, except the word "kuandika."  To write.  That was encouraging.  Maybe they were allowing themselves Thursdays to write reports.

I peeked in the office anyway; there were a bunch of staff in there.  I made eye contact with Mama S, which satisfied me, since really this was only a "nagging" visit anyway...I didn't really have anything to say to her.  But at least she knew I had been there.  I sent her a text message....again.  And didn't expect much. 

That evening, I got a message back from her.  The report has been written.  It will be mailed tomorrow. 

And there was much rejoicing in the Medina household. 

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Spirit of HOPAC

"Mrs. Medina, what exactly is Spirit Week?"

They were sitting in my living room a few weeks ago, all six of the Executive Student Council at HOPAC--the awesome group of kids I get to work with this year. 

I had to laugh.  I should have known...of course they wouldn't know what it is!  After all, the only two kids in the group that hold an American passport have never actually America. 

But we had finally convinced our international administration to let us try it, and the Council had been excited about it...except they didn't exactly know what "it" was. 

But they caught on quick.  And thus began our very first ever Haven of Peace Academy Spirit week. 

Ab, our fabulous president, at the first pep rally of the week.

Our brand new HOPAC Mascot....HOPAC Heat!
And of course, Spirit Week would not be complete without fish....

shaving cream.....

and peanut butter.

We culminated last Friday night with end-of-season soccer matches by our senior boys and girls teams....and both teams won!  The girls' team was coached by this guy I really like...and they came out top of their league for the season!

We rigged up lights and the teams played under the stars.  200 people from the HOPAC community showed up for the was a first, and one that will certainly be repeated!