Monday, May 23, 2016

Get. Over. It.

I got really tired of seeing the first version of this meme, "Please excuse the mess. The children are making memories." Puuuulease. The place is a mess because you HAVE children. The kids are making messes because they are KIDS. Sure they are making memories, but let's be real here and leave the rainbows and unicorns out of it. Of course that bugged me. If you know me, you know that I can get a little . . . irritated over fluff and the people who spread it.

Then I started seeing the second version of this floating around. The more Holly-like person had updated it for realism - the house is a mess "because I'm a crappy housewife," not because we're all rainbows and unicorns here making memories. But still - really? I'm taking all the blame? And HOUSEWIFE?

So I made my own.

YA KNOW WHAT? I'm not taking all the blame for this otherwise nice house being a crap hole. Yeah, the meme is funny. I get that. But you know what's not funny? Moms being made to feel like it all rests on their shoulders and they are failing if things aren't picture-worthy.

Nope - not taking that on. In my case, there are many able-bodied humans living in this house. All capable of cleaning up the clutter. 

So, NOPE. It's not a mess because I'm a crappy housewife (who even USES that term since 1979?) It's a mess because we live here all day every day and, quite frankly, none of us puts enough stock into making it look like Martha Stewart is coming over for tea. 

We have no (P)interest in our house looking cottage cute with a vintage teal-colored bike with flowers growing out of the basket leaning up against the porch railing for people to admire as they walk or drive by. I. Just. Dont. Have. It. In. Me. Our house is full of boys - boys that God handed us to raise. Our house is full of dogs - ours and foster dogs that we take in to find better lives for. And spending my spare time chasing a look just hasn't ever been on my radar. Dealing with special needs as well as letting my boys be boys has. 

We are quite confident in the fact that our family was not put on this earth to reflect current HGTV trends or any kind of cuteness. That was pretty clear when we had a 2nd son receive an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis. We don't live a charmed life. We live a real life. And that real life can be pretty awesome - but not because of how it looks but because of who we are to one another.

So no - our house isn't a mess all the time because I'm a crappy housewife. It's a mess because we're real people who live here with real priorities that matter.

And hey - those who actually think I'm offended by a flipping meme . . . these are the jokes. Lighten up.

Friday, May 20, 2016

What The Parenting Whaty-What?

Middle dude, who graduates in six days from high school, has finally decided on a college after visiting it yesterday. And just like that - the world shifted a little. Or perhaps it was just my heart.

Let's remember that this is not my first rodeo. We have a 25-year-old (that I clearly gave birth to as a small child - I'm not that old). So why the flutters? Whatup, mama heart? Why you gotta go acting like you ain't got no sense?

As my own mama's told me (and shown me) countless times, you never stop parenting. Sure, the dynamics shift as your babies grow up, but your heart apparently isn't on the list to receive that memo. Much like each time you hold your precious new child in your arms for the first time and your heart dances as if it has never done this before - no matter how many children you have welcomed into your family. It's like your heart regenerates anew every so often as a mama, and it blooms and swells and aches and hurts over and over again in the same ways - no matter how many times it has already experienced those feelings. It never seems to become "experienced."

However, just because I know this does not make the flutters any less disconcerting sometimes. So, back to it ...

Whatup, mama heart?

Mr. Anderson and I have never been those type of parents who worry about the empty nest. In fact, if you know us, you may have, a time or two, heard us talk about what in the heck is wrong with those people who are sad when they have the house to themselves? I mean, come on. Who is sad to be able to clean a room and it still be clean three days later? Who is sad that you can canoodle on the living room couch without hearing gagging sounds from one or more of your sons? Who is sad that you can live in a home that is not completely destroyed by little hands that turn into huge hands and feet? Who is sad about not spending nine MILLION dollars on groceries? Okay - some of that may come from the fact that we have all boys - and raising all boys is messy and loud and embodies the joke of THIS IS WHY WE CAN'T HAVE NICE THINGS. But still ...

Why in the world did my heart whimper a little at the thought of another child growing up and leaving the nest? When the thought dawned on me that in a few short months we will only have one child left at home, why did my mama heart . . . hiccup? Am I losing my edge?

No - I think I'm normal. The first child growing up hits you like - "Wow. We did it. He's alive and not in jail. We can SO do this!" and you walk around sort of puffed up like you just hit a hole-in-one in mini-golf (low standards, here). But another one? And you only have three, so it becomes most of your kids have grown up and are leaving ... It's a different feeling altogether - one that sort of caught me off guard. Kind of like, oh, almost everything you experience as a parent from day one because there is no freakin' instruction book.

So that happened. And today, middle dude is talking about making a plan for moving out and that we need to start working on that and I'm sitting here all but I just found one of your binkies stashed in an old desk drawer where we hid them and told you they were all lost ...

15 years in a drawer ...
Life screams on and our hearts just struggle to keep up. Carry on, mama warriors, no matter what stage you're in.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

What Would Charles Ingalls Think?

My husband loves to make fun of me and my "What would Charles Ingalls think?" statements. Because I make them a LOT.

I grew up a huge (HUGE) lover of "Little House on the Prairie" and was always fascinated by the idea of life in the 1800's. At least once a month during some type of conversation, I turn to my husband (or whomever I'm sitting next to at the time) and say, "Can you imagine what Charles Ingalls would think?" I always wonder how he would react if he were suddenly transported through time and found himself in the middle of a modern-day situation like sitting in a moving vehicle in eight lanes of traffic. Or in a movie theater. How FREAKED out would his mind be?

So now you know how my mind works and where I'm coming from when I say - How miserable have we made ourselves as a society through advances in technology and sheer knowledge of how things could be?

I seriously woke up this morning with a huge case of "Why?" and it's been a bad day because of it. I then proceeded to read a few articles and blog posts online where other people are floating down the same river of despair about what they don't have, can't achieve, or haven't been given by God that others have. 

Welcome to Modern Day Misery.

Think about it like Charles Ingalls. Back then, you worked for what you had and lived. If you had a big family, you worked harder to provide for it. If you had no children, then you had no children. That's just the way it was. 

If you came down with a disease, then you either died or you didn't. There were no drug companies charging 1,000 times what the drug is worth - and if you couldn't pay for it, well, then, you don't deserve to live; thus creating the question of "Why is my life worth less?" There were no insurance companies to hate for creating huge gaps in who gets what coverage.

Having or not having children was not a question of whether you could mortgage your entire life to afford to try to make a baby - it was just whatever God handed you. School was learning. Banking was a building simply holding your money for you. You got around with your horse and wagon. 

People supported one another with pies and prayers. AND THAT WAS GOOD ENOUGH.

My heavens what heartache and disappointment and unhappiness and uncontentedness we, as a society, have brought upon ourselves in the name of moving forward and "better" living.

Have you ever wondered what was so bad in the "old days" about just finding out that you have a disease and then living the time God had given you out? My friend with cancer said to me last week, "I felt just fine when I had cancer and didn't know it. Now I feel like hell every day because they are 'saving' me." She will, most likely, go on to live a long, full life because of her treatment; but many others do not, and live their days out miserable trying to be saved because modern medicine says they can do it. 

Imagine if we as individuals retreated to the personal mindset of not controlling every aspect of everything and having it the way WE want it. Some things are, obviously, much better because of advancements in technology, medicine, and life in general. But many things just create disappointment and despair where there really need not be any if we just accepted what we can and cannot (or should not) control and moved forward with our lives from there. 

If the soil and climate where you live are not suitable for growing a Crepe Myrtle tree, maybe you shouldn't try and spend thousands of dollars changing the soil, creating a false environment around the area, etc. Seriously - just plant a different kind of tree and live with and enjoy that tree. Or don't plant a tree at all. 

But we get so caught up in what we CAN or MIGHT be able to make happen if we find the right tools, people, and technological advances, we never stop to think if we should or if it will just create a whole new stressful part of our lives to spend money on, obsess over, and then be crushed about if it doesn't work. And then - THEN - you are right back at the same point where you started - only financially and emotionally bankrupt - and questioning why God won't make it possible for you to have this tree that other people have.


The older I get and the more I deal with that is seemingly unfair, the more I learn that I am the purveyor of much of my own emotional stress. Yes, I'd be happier with this greater flooring or if my kids had been without their issues being raised or if I had a farm where I could rescue many more dogs - but focusing on what I don't have and how unhappy I am without those things or ways of life is of my OWN doing. And I'm probably missing a lot of what I could be doing and enjoying instead. 

And I also realize that it is not at all fair to ask people around me to show grace and mercy for my attitude and emotional state surrounding something that I've built up MYSELF to be a huge monster to deal with. 

Some circumstances are incredibly hard to accept and deal with and require outside help; and some just are what they are and the emotional tornado surrounding them is of our own doing. We need to acknowledge that, accept those circumstances, and adjust our attitudes accordingly. 

Sometimes, we are our own worst enemies. 

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Trust in the Suffering

I shared a photo with somone earlier today, and the first thing I said was, "This was taken four days before we found out Dad had brain cancer." The photo had nothing to do with Dad, or his battle with cancer at all.

We learned he had at least six tumors in his brain in the ER two years ago last week. These dates in April will be seared in our brains forever because it changed our lives forever.

I still see pictures and refer to events as "before" and "after." Before we knew. Before we had to go through that as a family. Before we knew hell. Memories flood my brain and heart in formation like soldiers marching . . . BEFORE . . . AFTER . . . BEFORE . . . AFTER ...

"Before" = we were still happy in a carefree way. "After" = we are happy now, but in a different way. 

I wonder when that will stop happening. 

When does the before and after just become what happened in life?

When will that gaping, great divide be just a crack?

Everyone loses loved ones. It's a part of life. But not everyone must watch what we watched, see what we saw, do what we did, and feel what we felt - and still feel. If I had a dime for the number of times I have screamed at God for not letting my father someday just die of old age, I'd be richer than Trump.

But then again, I wouldn't have learned what I learned, loved how I loved, and seen the light of God in my dad's eyes like I did. I wouldn't have seen the hands of Jesus up close and personal at the end of my own mother's arms caring for her love of over 50 years - and the rest of us at the same time. Dad wouldn't have touched as many lives in the way that he did - by handling what he was handed with such grace - had this not happened. His life would have meant just as much, but fewer people would have seen God in action had this not happened.

In short - more people met God because our family suffered through what it did.

Some people know suffering through the experiences of someone close to them or have hearts for those suffering from afar and feel the pain that way; and some are placed in the middle of the fire and must trust God not to let them burn. These are two very different experiences, and there is seemingly no rhyme or reason to which group you may fall into at some point.

Sometimes, just sometimes, you learn first hand that suffering must happen in order for God's glory to shine through. And it's not fair at all to those who must do the suffering. But God never promised us fair.

One day - someday - it will all make sense to those of us who know God. Until then, we try not to go crazy wondering why  - and, instead, place our trust in the one who has a plan. 

Today, as I accompany my sweet, good friend to chemotherapy, I am reminded that God, indeed, is in control as I see a glimpse of why I have been through what I have and am now here on this side of the cancer once again. 

Being a passenger can be awfully hard; but we are not the driver, so we must quit trying to steer. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Our Hope Lies Not In This World

The "New" World Trade Center
I'm sitting at the World Trade Center in New York City next to the 9/11 Memorial where the two towers once stood. In their places now are two haunting holes - pools where the buildings once rose from the ground to heights hardly imaginable. If you've been here, you know how it feels to stand here and watch the water flow into these two huge squares, seemingly gone forever as are those who were lost that day - along with all of America's innocence, really. 

The North Pool

It invokes the most amazing feeling of smallness in this world - helplessness - if your faith is in things of this world. 

The South Pool
I just watched a leaf float completely over the South Pool - swaying this way and that, up and down - but never falling in. 

It drifted across, completely at the mercy of today's breeze, finally coming to rest in a tree on the opposite side just feet from the waterfall. 

Quite indicative of how these resilient New Yorkers - and the rest of America - were in the days, weeks, and years following those heinous attacks on us. 

We were floating adrift, wondering what had just happened and what had our world come to? But we didn't fall in. They - we - made it to the other side of the tragedy and have come to rest in a very different place. 

We will never forget neither those who were lost on that day, nor the way of life we took for granted before that. 

But one thing does not change no matter what the evil of this world tries to make us believe - and that is that our hope should not be resting in the things and people of this earth. Our hope and faith should rest in eternity. Beyond this rubbish. 

No - I cannot explain why this world is full of evil and why our mighty God allows it. I just know that this is not my last stop. If this world were perfect for us, we would have no reason to have faith in eternity and God himself. Our faith would be lying in the perfection of this earthly realm - and would be conditional upon God's making it wonderful for us every day. Faith is not conditional upon what God can do for us today, but what he has already done for us for eternity. Our God is an eternity-based God. 

Like that leaf, I will come to rest someday on the other side. I will hug my dad and have so much to tell him. Or maybe I will just lie there with my head on his chest like I did when I was little - and like I did the day I learned he would be leaving us soon two years ago tomorrow. The day he told me, "It's okay, girlie," and I looked back up from his chest and replied, "No, it's not," and just bawled. 

Where is my God through all of this hell on earth? Preparing my home in eternity. 

Eyes on the prize, people. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Give Me the Grief

I've spent the last year trying to balance optimism & realism, then grief & hope within myself - first for the sake of my dad, as well as for both of my parents, now for just my mom; and all along for my husband and for my children.

Death is sort of a lifelong pursuit, just not one most participate in willingly. We spend our lives avoiding it, anticipating it, planning for it, learning how to postpone it, learning ways to accept it, talking about it, *not* talking about it, and finding ways to cheat it. 

When all of that is sped up and reduced to 126 days with someone you deeply love, it changes you. I told a friend shortly after Dad moved to heaven that it felt like the molecules of my actual being had been rearranged. 

Going through the actual process of dying with someone you deeply love *changes you*. 

When Dad was diagnosed with six brain tumors, my focus went straight to him and Mom and my brother and sister; for that is where the circle of our entire extended family began, and so it shall be that the first one of us to leave will leave from that still-tightly-intact and bonded circle. And then we close it in tighter to seal the gap. 

I sometimes sing that old hymn from my childhood in my mind, 

"Will the circle be unbroken?
By and by, Lord, by and by,"

and I think, "No, never," because our faith promises we will all be reunited, one by one, in eternity to finish out what God started with us here on earth. 

The grief process, they say, is long and slow and can take years to get through. But I say it lasts an entire lifetime - grief is just the last leg of the tour. 

I now see that the process begins when you are born and you spend your life building and nurturing relationships with those whom God plopped you among - whether by birth, adoption, or just life circumstances. Bloodlines dictate looks and health history and that's about it. Love dictates family. 

The bonds you build, like roots, take hold early and grow deep from there. 

There is no grief without deep love, and there is no deep love without bonds, and there are no bonds without relationships. 

So deep grief from the loss of someone begins the moment those relationship roots start to grow. There is no avoiding grief without avoiding love in the first place. And having no deep love in your life would be far more painful than experiencing no grief would be painless. 

So give me the grief. 

Friday, April 24, 2015

Blessings and Brain Tumors

One year ago today - 16 days after an ER doctor found 6 tumors in my healthy dad's brain, and my "high-functioning" autistic son basically had an emotional breakdown trying to process and deal with his Papa's diagnosis and impending death - I posted this on Facebook:
Today my positivity meter has busted.
Today I can count on one finger the number of people who understand the special new kind of autism hell we are in.
Today [the day after Easter] I realized my kids' Easter basket contents are still in a Meijer bag in my room, and I busted out bawling for a whole new reason.
Today I don't know how I am ever going to get my 11-year-old through the front doors of his school again to graduate elementary school.
Today I want to kick dogs and punch babies and spit on nice old people.
Today I am uglier than I've ever been in my whole life.
Today I want to curse God for laying one. more. thing. onto my plate.
Today I don't feel like I have a friend in the whole galaxy.
Today - I have no idea how I'm going to do this again tomorrow.
Seth never did return to his 5th-grade classroom.

Autism won.
Brain cancer won.

Then in the first week of August, after four months of therapy and having wrestled with the Autism demons trying to sabotage Seth's ability to process the tragedy we were facing with my dad, we thought we were ready for the first day of 6th grade. But at drop-off that morning, he literally ran after my car like a dog who had been dumped on the side of a country road - crying and pleading for me not to leave him there.

Autism won - again.

Just a few hours later while I was coming increasingly unglued at the seams wondering what in the world we were going to do now about Seth and school, I watched Dad being loaded into an ambulance and leave his home for - what I didn't know at that moment - would be the last time. I took a picture as I sat in the driveway waiting to follow the ambulance.

August 4, 2014
To this day, I don’t know why I wanted to capture that moment.

He was only being transported to the hospital for doctors to find some way to relieve his leg pain from the torn meniscus that had become so great that he couldn’t walk on it - not for symptoms from the tumors, which numbered over ten by that point. We would learn all too soon that sepsis had begun its dissemination within by dad’s immune-compromised body from the leg injury, and that his ascent to heaven was imminent rather than at some fuzzy point in the not-so-distant future that none of us wanted to try to bring into focus.

Brain cancer won - again.

And so began the worst week of my life. I was forced to find, research, and choose a completely new school for my autistic son while living Dad’s last precious days with us this side of heaven in a hospital room - literally faced with making life-impacting as well as death decisions all at the same time for two of the people I loved most on this planet - one who raised me, and one I was trying to raise. I was not allowed to focus 100% of my mental and emotional capacity on either one, for God had dropped them both on me to deal with simultaneously. I thought I had asked God all the “why” questions surrounding our family’s situation to that point, but I was wrong. Dead wrong.

The months following that week, as well as the last year in general, have been the most difficult of my 44 years - as a daughter, a sister, wife, friend, and as a mother. Going through the grief process after losing someone so close - so dear, I am learning, is nothing short of inexplicable on a daily basis - sometimes on an hourly basis. Trying to unravel how the grief process is also affecting your child whose brain is wired quite differently and can be knocked off course by his clothes not feeling right or the sun in his eyes is . . . life-squashing. You suddenly want to throw bricks at people who complain about normal, everyday parenting woes.

Actually, as a special-needs parent, you often already want to throw bricks at those parents of neurotypical kids who never have such issues to live with and squawk about mundane, fixable matters. So this is actually a whole other level of wanting to throw bricks at people who don't appreciate what they *don't* have to deal with. Maybe swing socks full of quarters at them. Or just send your child to live with them for a day. That would do it, too.

But I digress.

It's been a year since I wrote that post. A year of surviving . . . a lot. A year of living a little more and dying a little less every day.

One year later - and this morning, I dropped Seth off at middle school for the first time since that horrible day at the beginning of the worst week of my life.

One year later - he trots out of the car and happily walks into the school chatting with friends.

I did it!
 One year ago ...
Today my positivity meter has busted. This still happens. Let's face it - that's life.

Today I can count on one finger the number of people who understand the special new kind of autism hell we are in. This is still relatively true, but I have a wonderful support system.

Today [the day after Easter] I realized my kids' Easter basket contents are still in a Meijer bag in my room and I busted out bawling for a whole new reason.
Well, this is kind of a Holly thing. But I'm back to feeling relatively okay with the unintentional parenting shenanigans I end up pulling on a weekly basis.

Today I don't know how I am ever going to get my 11-year-old through the front doors of his school again to graduate elementary school. I never did. He had to live through and experience the tornado of emotions that continues to pound him, just to a lesser extent each day, and be ready to move forward on his own terms. He learned how to fail at something and muster the courage to not dwell in that spot, but get up and try something new; and I learned that I can no longer shield him from life itself. He learned that he is bigger than Autism; and I learned that I am not. In fact, it's not about me much anymore at all. I toiled away from the time he was diagnosed at 2.5 years old being a 24/7 multi-faceted therapist when his actual therapists weren't with him; and now at 12, all of everything we all did for him and with him is coming to fruition in the form of him processing and figuring things out on his own and being able to recognize when he can't. And I have learned more and more to let him.

Today I want to kick dogs and punch babies and spit on nice old people. It really was that bad - many, many days in the last year. But thanks to prayer and support and good friends and therapy and time, I can say I haven't felt that strongly about what I'm going through for - well - at least a few weeks.

Today I am uglier than I've ever been in my whole life. Things got much worse before they got better, but I'm coming around to the other side of the mountain now.

Today I want to curse God for laying one. more. thing. onto my plate.
This is an emotion that, I'm not at all too proud to admit, can be recurring when you have the underlying responsibility of special-needs children of any level. Putting anything on top of that can be overwhelming and steer you toward the slippery slope of "Why, God - just WHY?These questions are best left for your first (or maybe second) face-to-face with the Almighty. Otherwise, they. will. destroy. you. Faith is about trust. Trusting that even what you cannot see is real. Trusting that the one who knit together each fiber of your being is holding you in the palm of his hands, even when you feel like you are free-falling. And trusting that his love for you is bigger and stronger and deeper than anything that this short life on earth can throw your way. You know when your kids are mad as hornets at you for not letting them _____ (get something, go somewhere, hang out with someone - fill in the blank), and you tell them that someday they will understand when they are older/when they have kids of their own they'll get it . . . they don't have the experience or capacity to understand why you are doing what you are doing now, but someday will? Yeah. That. God is that parent. We are those insolent, mad, unable-to-understand children. Someday we will have the capacity to see the big picture and there will be no more "whys."

Today I don't feel like I have a friend in the whole galaxy. A common feeling when you are enduring something that no one else in any of your circles is. The secret is to let those in who want to be all in with you. And that may turn out not to be who you expected, but it really is best to know who you can and can't lean on when life is feeling like something someone just scraped off the bottom of their shoe. Sometimes, these dark places are where the most beautiful of relationships emerge.

Today - I have no idea how I'm going to do this again tomorrow. I cannot tell you how I did it again the next day and next with Seth reacting differently each day to life as we knew it, as well as trying myself to adjust to our new normal as a family in our last precious months with Dad. Which means God did and continues to carry me when I can't put another foot forward on my own.
Today ...

Autism lost.
God reigns over brain cancer.

Dad & I a few weeks after his diagnosis.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Life, Love, Jesus & Dogs

I'd like to think there are a few things I've learned in these short 43 years I've been here. Some may disagree and that's okay, because that's actually one of the things I took to heart very early on (much to my parents' dismay). Disagreeing with others - and vice versa -  is perfectly fine. You just have to keep a good perspective on it and find the right balance. (Learning that last part would come much, much later.)

It's a really good thing they didn't have the whole it's-okay-to-drop-your-kid-off-at-a-safe-place-to-dodge-prosecution thing in the 70's, or I'd probably be writing this somewhere in Nebraska.

Listen. Half the people will agree with you some of the time. Some of the people will agree with you none of the time. A few people with will disagree with you for the sake of not agreeing with you. And most of the people will agree with you if you agree with them. Well, I'm just not wired that way.

My beliefs and faith are deep and I agree with what falls in line with those - and I disagree with things that sound and look stupid and might get me punched in the face.

I Am The Crazy Dog Chick and have been since the authorities in my tiny hometown knocked on our door when I was a child and asked my mom if I could help them catch a dog that none of them could get close to - because I'd been wooing the stray dogs of Farmland, Indiana, to my home successfully for years. I also may or may not have opened up the outdoor kennel behind the town fire station where those dogs were taken and let them all out a time or two.

Today I work in dog rescue and manage a dog daycare. Go figure. But here is something of what 40 years of whispering into the ears of any canine who would listen - and actually listening in return - has taught me.

Dogs are closer to showing the love of Jesus to every single person they set eyes on than any human I've ever met. You wanna wrap your mind around how much God loves us, how easily God forgives us, and how bad God's memory is of all our stupid human tricks? Go out to your garage for three minutes and come back in to your dogs. They'll act like you've been gone for a year and have no memory of you yelling about them running inside with muddy paws and immediately jumping onto the couch 15 minutes ago. That's how God loves us. No matter how long we're away from him - two minutes or nine years or forever - he's waiting on the other side of the door when we walk through it to love us and embrace us, with no memory of all those things we did and said. Just pure, unending love and unconditional forgiveness. Simple as that. It really is. Ask your dogs. Try and make them pinpoint why it is that they aren't mad at you for leaving them every day for work and forgetting to feed them last Tuesday, and what it is about you that they love so much? They're going to look at you like, "Have ya lost yer damn mind? I just love you. I LOOOOOOOOVE YOUUUUUUUUUUU. That's it. Let's not complicate this."

Of course, not every single dog is that way - but every single stitch of God's being is. And by the way, when you run into Christians acting in very opposite ways of that under the disguise of "God's love" or his word in the Bible, please run the other way and realize they do not represent God's love or Christians as a whole any more than Oprah Winfrey represents all women or Weird Al Yankovic represents all men. Keep it in perspective, folks. Just because someone calls themselves a Christian, doesn't mean they are showing the love of Christ. 

Pinterest Is the Devil's Folly I cannot think of many more arenas in the free world wherein good, smart, well-intentioned folks are being suckered into thinking that cutting old books into the shapes of letters for decoration (which is so stinking cute, by the way), making a party more about what everything looks like than who is there to actually spend time with you, and bringing back paper mache are good ideas. Paper mache is a flipping mess.

Ten minutes on this web site, and either your priorities are suddenly flipped upside down and you become obsessed with turning your suburban home into a Country Cottage photo spread; or you walk away feeling so deeply and unequivocally inadequate as a mom, wife, and all-around human that you're depressed for the next week as you look around your incredibly lived-in, messy, Goodwill-furniture filled, you-found-a-mouse's-nest-in-the-pan-drawer-of-your-oven (true story) home.

If you turn a very private moment of your life into an adorable Pinterest-worthy spread and post it on Facebook, (cue Jeff Foxworthy) youuuuuuuuuuuu might have your priorities cranked.

Devil's. Folly.

The People Who Matter Will Love You If You Let Them See You This is not so much something I learned, but something that's in my DNA and there's nothing I can do about it.

Be Real. Be real, people! You'll cut to the chase of who will love you back for who you are much, much quicker and with exponentially less drama and heartache. Some people are very well-refined. And some are not. Again - that's okay. If we were all the same, how absolutely mind-numbing and spirit-crushing would that be? Life is about diversity, about people thinking differently, looking unique, loving different things, and having different qualities. If you're trying to be like someone else, who is going to be you? I tell my boys all the time that when they are talking bad about themselves, they are dissin' God because he created them very specifically and they are doggin' on his work. Knock it off.

Diversity = dimension = how we discover deeper layers of ourselves and others to love and share and for others to love and share back = a richer, fuller life for everyone here on earth.

Life here on earth is too short and precious to try to be something you're not with a group of people who will only accept you if you are just like them and look at you sideways if you're not. You are you, and there are people out there who want you to be you, because that's what they love. These are the people who will make up your village. And believe me, at some point if you haven't yet - you will need a village.

Lastly, children are the future - and that's not just a song. Love them, embrace them, encourage them, do not let them get away with crap, teach and show them the love of God from day one. Cushion them when you need to, push them off the ledge to make them fly when it's time - and pray for discernment to recognize the difference. Children are precious - and absolutely can be broken in so many ways. So yeah - don't do that.

Here's to a great 2015 and learning more that we can share with others, loving those around you unconditionally, giving much more than you receive, and treating people how you'd like to be treated in return.

In 2014, I learned a lot that I never wanted to know and lost a lot that I am still ill-prepared to go on without. It was the absolute worst year of my life so far. But God has my back, as do the people of my village. So go rescue a dog (I can help you with that), stay off Pinterest, and be happy with what you have already.

Peace out, 2014.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Fight, Flight, and Failure

Years ago, within the early throes of my youngest son's autism, I received an email from someone I had been very close with my whole life. We had drifted apart some, due mostly to the fact that I had poured my every waking moment into my son and his diagnosis; and I take full responsibility for that. The letter stated that she couldn't stay silent any longer, and outlined all I had done wrong in recent years in our relationship along with all the ways I had not been there for her.

In what I feel was probably the first mature thing I'd ever done in my life, I did not respond in the way I wanted to. I could have countered each point with how wrong I felt she was. I could have outlined myself all the ways I had been there for her. I could have defended myself, but I did not. Instead, I responded that I was sorry and that I would always love her.

And the person walked out of my life never to return.

I received a similar message from someone else two weeks after my dad died.

Up to that point, 2014 had been rough on our whole extended family. In January we lost the love of our lives - my dad's mother, whom we had grown up just down the street from. In April my dad was diagnosed with metastatic brain cancer and was given less than a year to live. In May my mom's brother died very unexpectedly.

When I received this message, I had been trying to help care for my dad (who had been diagnosed just four short months before), along with my two boys on the autism spectrum who were reeling from this new normal in our lives. I had been trying to help my mom, from an hour away, as well as spend as much time as possible with Dad before he left us.

He ended up taking a quick, sharp turn for the worse in August and died within seven heart-wrenching days - much sooner than anyone had expected. During those seven days, we also had to pull my youngest autistic son out of his school and search for another education alternative. While watching my dad die. In the midst of Dad's death, funeral, etc., I was trying to work with my son's new school daily trying to complete his enrollment status to get him started and keep him from falling further and further behind. It was the last thing on earth I wanted to be dealing with. Actually all of this was the last thing on earth I wanted to be dealing with. Ever.

Also during this time, my aunt (Dad's brother's wife) also took a turn for the worse with her pancreatic cancer. She died three weeks to the day after Dad. Her funeral was in the same room Dad's was. She was buried right next to Dad's freshly-covered grave.

I have tried, to the best of my abilities, to keep all the plates spinning, all the balls in the air without dropping anything - without anything crashing into the ground and shattering. I can't let my mom crash. Or my children. Or my husband. Or my home. Or my job.

But when life gets ugly, your world gets small. Suddenly you are living on the essentials only. I haven't volunteered at my church for years. I haven't been able to do a single Bible study. My friends *never* see me and I mostly communicate with them via text or on Facebook. My laundry is piled up. In the words of the youngest dude, "Our house and yard look like the one in Jumaji." The inside of my house looks like a frat house during pledge week (not that I know what that looks like).

Autism sucks. Disease and illness and dying suck even more. Do you know what else sucks?


This second message I received was not as long as that one years ago, not as defining; but basically informed me of how I wasn't thinking at all of how my dealing with my father dying and my autistic child's most recent crisis was negatively affecting this person. The person let me off the hook because that was what I wanted anyway, wasn't it?

Most people feel like a failure at some point in their lives for one reason or another. I mostly live there because people who have to deal with special needs will drop the ball on something, sometime in favor of dealing with their child's needs and putting them first. It's going to happen no matter what. When you've got more than one child with issues, it happens even more often. Priorities shift on a dime. You are only one person and can only be in one place at one time, and have only one set of arms and one set of legs. You can only carry so much at once, which is why you often see me in constant motion doing three things at one time and going back and forth, back and forth. I joke about my ADD, but the foundation of the matter is, I'm constantly terrified of dropping one of those balls for fear of the result - and a lot of that fear comes from receiving that letter years ago of how inadequate I had been for that one person.

Give me 28 plates to spin in 3 different places at the same time, and something's going to fall. And furthermore, those watching me perform this circus act should expect it, because it's only logical that one person cannot be everything to everyone all the time.

But I'll be dadgummit if I didn't do it again - get told off about how I'd failed yet another person with all my spread-too-thin-ness.

After I commented this morning that, between fight or flight, I didn't have much fight left in me and flight was imminent, my sweet, good friend told me to go read Exodus 14:14, which says:

~ The Lord himself will fight for you. Just stay calm. ~

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Social Side of Special Needs.

We live as a society. By sheer definition we must be social, to some extent, to maintain our very lives within this world - especially in a society like America.

For the most part, this very concept is buried so deeply within the nature of how we are brought up from the moment we breathe our first breaths, that it is something most take for granted - this ability to be social - even just on a foundational level.

Do you think about it? Do you even give any thought to how you will function today within the myriad of situations you will encounter, whether it be school, a job, a doctor appointment, a grocery trip, or lunch with a friend?

This society that we live in is far from perfect, but we have made strides in recognizing disabilities and those who suffer from them. There is much work to be done, many eyes and minds to be opened; but we have come a long way. There are adaptive devices for the deaf and blind. There are accommodations for those bound to wheelchairs. Society is recognizing and answering the call for those with obvious disabilities. They clearly need help.

However, those suffering from issues that are debilitating on the very ground floor of how we are to function as humans - socially - are largely ignored. And even worse, not recognized as suffering from any real disability at all.

I have two children on the Autism spectrum - two high-functioning sons who are where they are today because of years and years of hard therapeutic work. But they will never function socially in society like most. No amount of therapy will grow them new, neurotypical brains. It will be a daily struggle that cannot be cured or fixed. Every day. For the rest of their lives.

Just as someone who will be paralyzed for the rest of his life will never run up the front steps of a building if he is late for a meeting, my sons will never hear of an upcoming event at church or be invited to a cookout or school function and just . . . go - no matter how much their hearts long to be able to be a part of things. Because you cannot simply will yourself to be able to do something that other parts of your self deem you unable to do. A blind man, no matter how badly he wants to, cannot make himself see.

Now imagine, if you will, raising a family with this type of dysfunction within it. The simplest of things that other families take for granted are things that we long for. Friend get-togethers. Attending events as a family. Volunteering together. Even worshiping as a family is no longer an option. We are able to get together with friends who live next door frequently, but why? Simple - the boys usually don't join in. Even those they once were comfortable spending time with are falling by the wayside. As they grow older and social cues are more and more important and peer relationships are harder and harder, their area of comfort becomes smaller and smaller.

Meaning? The more social life gets, the more problems they have and the more isolated they become. And the more isolated we become as a family - which is why special-needs parenting is so very lonely; and special-needs parenting of children with "invisible" disabilities is even worse.

There are sometimes surprising leaps in the right direction by one son or the other, but figuring out the circumstances under which this particular social situation was something they could handle is about as easy as putting together a 12-million piece puzzle. Blindfolded.

Watching others' children of the same ages as yours without these types of issues blossom and be able to have experiences that will grow them in amazing ways is difficult to say the least. Taking my boys to Walmart some days ends with me near tears and them out of sorts for hours. Yes, hours. So you can imagine how going on an amazing mission trip or youth group outing is pretty much out of the question. This breaks my heart because they have so much to give. They are amazing boys with such beautiful hearts that go unseen and unheard by most because they do not fit into the mold - and there is no one building special ramps to help them navigate the situations.

And when I cannot make someone who sees them every day try and learn and understand their pain and how hard they work, how can I possibly do that with those who are not family? To say it all feels unfair is the understatement of the century. 

When others are talking about this accomplishment and that great experience of their children, I am just trying to get one son to please consider coming to the church we've been members of for eight years and get the other son to please not start to panic about school starting a month from now.

So the next time you wonder what is up with so-and-so whose child has some sort of thing you never really understood going on ("Just make him mind and quit coddling him, for crying out loud ..."), please know that trying to simply hold our families together is largely the goal of special-needs parents much of the time.