prepare to be THE ORIENTATION

When I have started a new job, I have been given a thorough orientation of what to expect, how to do the job, and the ins/outs.  This week, I am going through orientation of being a learning coach for our children.  Pretty cool title, but something I believe I have always been.  I have to be very honest, I would have NEVER imagined home schooling our kids before.  Anyway, the orientation process is always an eye-opening experience.  I think back to jobs and believe that had orientation taken place before I accepted the job, I may have re-considered my choice in taking the new job.  Not because I am afraid of work or a challenge, but there is something about the known and comfortable.  It’s like new shoes or clothes or pajamas… new is good, but once they are broke in, the feeling is totally different. 

I also think about all the roles in my life that include no orientation, but learn as I go. As a wife there has been no orientation process.  We said “I do” and went on to learn as I go. The interesting thing is that we have had very few fights in our relationship.  I literally could name probably 5 in almost 20 years.  That is a pretty great statistic I believe.  I hear about other people’s fights with their spouses and I cannot imagine living that life!  So, no orientation, but I think we have done pretty well.  I can tell you, I was blessed to have two wonderful mentors – my Grandpap and Grandma Frazee and my Dad and Mom.  They worked hard together, went to church together, talked with each other.  I don’t remember fighting in our home, maybe an occasional discussion, but always a kiss before they parted for the day and a ‘love you”.   I was also raised in a home where my dad was the Head of the House.  Yes, my mom generally made the decisions if we could go somewhere or if someone could come over.  But, I knew big decisions were left to my dad (and my dad and mom talked and agreed).  He was the bread-winner and she predominantly was the home-maker.  The roles changed as my mom’s multiple sclerosis took over her body.  My dad worked and did the house-hold things too.  But, it was then even stronger the lesson I learned – to stay for the worst, the poorer, the sickness.  So, I guess in reality, I lived at home until the age of 22 and could say that was my orientation to marriage.  However, I recently have been challenged to step up to being a better wife in many areas (a future blog I am sure).

The second role in life for “lack of orientation” has definitely been in having children.  I had the “What to Expect when you are expecting book”  which was an orientation manual to pregnancy (although, that was replaced with my neonatal ICU nursing books and obstetrics nursing books due to the high-risk pregnancies).  Then the manuals of what to expect toddler years, etc…  Well, let’s just say, neither of our children fit in those manuals.  Those manuals are great guidelines, but I can tell you in this society, if a child does not fall exactly on the milestones, big red flags go up!  How about looking at each child and saying “let’s see what YOU can do and how can I help YOU?”  Mary talked very early and hasn’t stopped talking.  Samuel started out slow and our one MD started early on about her concerns.  Part of the reason he didn’t talk was because he didn’t have to (remember Mary talked all the time for him and he would get what he wanted by going for it or his sister doing it for him).  But, we paid for private speech lessons (because of course our insurance would not) and now I want my money back for the speech, because he does not stop talking!  We look back and realize, it wasn’t because he couldn’t talk, it was because WE didn’t talk or ask questions that he could understand. Sam was not the problem, we were!  Anyway, if we want with the general orientation manual for girls – Mary would have loved Barbies much sooner than she did, would still be in dance, would want to dress up, and wear pink – instead it is give her a book, music, dance to her own drum, wear a dress with converse, and prefer purple!  And the general orientation manual for boys – now be into video games, riding bikes, playing sports, and favorite color blue – instead it give him trains and Godzillas, DVDs from preschool to prehistoric animals, unable to ride a bike, no interest in sports (except swimming), and favorite colors orange and pink.   Orientation manual would likely have instructed to stay in public school and make them fit in – instead we choose to let them stand out and discover their strengths outside the norm.  It is fine if children fit into the “typical orientation manual”, but also fine if they do not.  As parents, I have learned it is more important to write the manual as we go!

I think of the orientation to friendship.  I have been blessed in life with some incredible life-long friends and despite the distance, I know that all I have to do is send them a message and they will be there in prayer.  So, how did I learn to have friends or be a friend.  I never really thought about it much because I was blessed with the ability to learn social skills.  For children with autism, this is not a natural behavior, so it has to be taught.  I had no idea how hard of a concept that is to teach.  It also really difficult to teach mean / bully actions.  Anyway, I think my orientation to friendship was being blessed to have some great friends – you know the friends that I told secrets to as a teen and they still have never been released to public knowledge.  The friends when you asked if this looked okay, they helped you pick out a better look (peach shirt with grey pants – thanks to Lynn and my first date with my now husband).  The friends who just knew you needed space or a phone call.  My mom and grandma had some amazing friendships throughout life and I watched as they interacted.  I don’t ever remember them talking about friends behind their backs, but continually lifting them up. I hope that my friends believe I had a great orientation.  I can tell you, that many girls now have no concept of friendship.  They have no problem betraying their friends, talking behind their backs, calling them names, etc.  As parents and a society, I believe we better work on the orientation manual for girls.  They apparently missed the lesson on loyalty, respect, and approaching issues directly.  Stab wounds in the back are not necessary.  (This could be a whole blog in itself).

I think of the orientation to nursing that I received in college.  Basically, the picture painted was to be a bedside nurse.  I will never forget my first experience on the orthopedic unit and had I followed the “manual” for a bed bath on the gentleman (who by the way built grandfather clocks), I would have rolled him about 4 times after a hip replacement.  Instead, I used common sense, used more washcloths, but only rolled once for a bed bath and sheets to be changed.  I did get in trouble with my instructor for not following the “manual”, but I pleaded my case for the patient and the negative comment on my plan for the day was erased.   Well, I did bedside nursing for 7 years and moved on to developing an Oncology Rehabilitation program and spoke nationally, went on to be a nurse educator in Pittsburgh, then onto be a Director of Marketing, and then onto be a Case manager.  I do miss the hands on care of the cancer patients and their families.  They forever changed my life.  But, I am very thankful that I stepped outside the manual that I was taught as my jobs much better fit our family’s life!

I think of orientation as a Christian.  I grew up in a Christian home.  My father was a Sunday School teacher and my mom the pianist.  We went to church every Sunday and if there was too much snow, we took snowmobiles.  My biggest orientation was my role models – my parents and grandma.  They lived a Christian life seven days a week, not just on Sunday.  I remember my Sunday School classrooms, singing in the choir, and youth groups.  Orientation was an hands on experience.  I watched as Christians in our church went through hard times, including my mom, and listened as they continued to praise God.  Praising God despite the storms because they knew who held the umbrella for the rain, helped build the ark for the floods, and walked upon the water.  I wonder if Facebook would have been around what they would have said.  When my Grandma’s barn was destroyed by arsonists, we still went to church the next day, and she was grateful it wasn’t the house and no one was harmed.  I would say that would have been an “excused” absence from church, but not my Grandma and it was a Homecoming Sunday.   My orientation to a Christian life was that church was important and unless really sick (high fever and can’t get out of bed), there were no “excused” absences.  I found the quote below and it pretty much says it all – the Ten Commandments are the perfect policy manual and the Bible (if taught and lived) is the perfect life orientation manual.

I pray our life as a couple, as parents, as Christians serve as a great orientation manual to life for our children and any lives that we may touch…. Prepare to be the orientation manual our children need to see….

“If you have to have a policy manual, publish the Ten Commandments.” – Robert Townsent


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