Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It Was All About Me

God snatched me away from my reality and put me somewhere else while something very bad was happening at home. He knew what he was doing; and because of that, I got to live five days that were all mine. Not mentally or emotionally (with all that was going on in my home without me), but physically. All. Me.

drank my weight in coffee (and found out where to get the greatest coffee drink I've ever had).

slept much less than I thought I would (didn't want to miss anything).

leaped from a still-moving vehicle to run after members of my favorite band walking down the street.

had a "Modern Family" marathon with my brother and sister which may have caused a hernia ("DON'T CALL ME A RAT! SHE KILLS RATS!").

tried to sweet-talk my way with a security guard at Raleigh/Durham airport back into a restricted area for the sake of Starbucks (didn't work).

ate some jalapeno hush puppy funnel cake. Wrap yer mind around that.

learned how to make homemade Kahlua. Homemade Kahlua!.

got pulled aside and searched by airport security because of a jar of baby food.

carried on a conversation with an old man on a plane about Butler U. basketball. Those of you know me know how ridiculous of a concept this is. He was half deaf and so am I, so it worked out fine.

sat back and let my brother and sister take care of me. Because life would still be here, waiting on me, when I returned home.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

What Happened? Part 1.

A little over a month ago, while texting with my brother, whom I’m very close to, about how downhill things have been going recently with middle dude (who has Asperger’s and a mood disorder) and other life issues, he apparently concocts a plan within his cunning mind right then and there. He is determined to shuttle me out of my life for awhile by flying me to Raleigh, NC (near their home), taking me to see my favorite band in concert (for the 7th or so time) and spend a couple of days in Asheville, and making me spend time being taken care of instead of doing things for others.

Against every protest coming from me regarding money and anyone’s ability to pay for plane and concert tickets for me at this time, he is determined. He reprimands me for arguing with him like I’m 9 and he’s 18 again. Before the end of the day he has made airline reservations, purchased concert tickets, and I’m going regardless of my near inability to accept things like this from others.

As my trip approaches, I find out that it has been a combined financial effort of family members to get me away. I honestly can’t wrap my mind around someone else wanting to do this for me – even my own family. But these people love me like no one else. They never get in a snit and decide I’m not worth their time. They never turn on me, no matter how much my life’s issues splatter all over them. They recognize my strengths and praise them; they see my weaknesses and try to help fill in the gaps. They make me feel like I matter. They do not say the words, “You matter,” to me; their actions show me that I matter.

Do you have any idea what it feels like to have someone see a need that you have, step in to fill it regardless of all they have going on in their own life – simply because of the love they feel for you?

This is the blueprint for a family. And it’s what I try with all my heart to show to others whenever I can.

By the day before my trip, I am in such need of time away from my own existence that the uneasiness of accepting such a huge handout has been replaced with overwhelming gratefulness for such a blessing.

Life recently has been relentless. The parenting special needs issues have been like a hail of gunfire. You run one way, you run another, but it matters not. You’re getting hit from every direction. Just survive. Keep moving. I’ll survive if I keep moving. I have no idea which way to go, and I’m going to be hurt no matter what. But if I do nothing, I’m dead
Other issues unrelated to the special needs have been like salt on the open wounds of my life lately, as well, rendering already-difficult emotional terrain nearly impossible to navigate. You know when your prayers evolve to “Please just make it all stop, Lord,” that you’re close to the edge. I know this because I have skidded beyond that point before – and what lies beyond is a steep, dark, narrow crevice that’s much easier to fall into than to negotiate your way back out of. 

This trip was my family acting as a pile of boulders placed in the path between me and that crevice. But we all know (or we should) that even the most well-thought-out plan is no match for God’s timing and his own idea of how things are going to go down.

No match, indeed.

It all started with my mom waking me up the evening before I was to fly out – at a little after 6 p.m. I hadn’t realized I’d fallen asleep sitting straight up in my bed while making a packing list, and she’d arrived to begin being “Nana-mom” the next morning to my two younger boys and two dogs (Buddy and Heidi) while I was gone and Daddy was at work all day. I could hear middle dude (12) and youngest dude (7) yelling at one another downstairs and asked what was going on. 

“Apparently Buddy has thrown up somewhere and they’re fighting about cleaning it up. You don’t worry about it. I didn’t come to sit and do nothing!”


Oh, the providence of that my mother's words.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Round And Round

Life is hard. It really is - even for the people with the seemingly easiest of lives. Life on this side of heaven is . . . just . . . hard.

Add to this the fact that what is difficult for one person is not what is difficult for the next, which makes it all the more difficult for all of us to be understanding with those we interact with every day. We are dealing with our own circumstances, those around us are dealing with theirs, the world keeps spinning, and the price of gas keeps going up.

I honestly don't know how anyone keeps their wits about them. Which brings me to my next point.

Within all of this life going on every day fall each of our individual personalities and the tools and skills that God has given each of us - like monkey wrenches being thrown into the spokes of a very fast-moving bicycle.

Let me stop here and tell you about my experience with this.

One warm summer day when I was 11 or so, I was riding my bike home from softball practice with my mitt hanging on the handlebar. You remember, right, that the point of riding your bike, at the age of 11 or so, is to go as fast as you can, as recklessly as you can, without actually killing yourself in the process. Remember? That wasn't just me, was it?

I was flying along, sweating, happy, care-free, right up to the moment that my mitt slid - unnoticed - down the handlebar. It slipped cunningly between the frame of my bike and the wildly spinning front tire, acting as an instant brake that could surely stop a moving 18-wheeler. That front tire went from moving around something like 3,000 MPH to a dead stop while the rest of the bike and my entire body kept moving at the original speed - right over the front of the bike - like I was filming an episode of Jackass. Only there was no one around jumping up and down yelling, "DUDE! That was a-w-e-s-o-m-e!!"

It wasn't pretty; and neither is it sometimes when we are all moving around life like a bunch of tops spinning at all different speeds in all different directions and bump into one another. Sometimes the contact is positive and it makes us spin better, or we start spinning in the same direction and create positive momentum. Other times we make contact with others that sends us spinning out of control in the opposite direction, slamming into others who are then affected and sent spinning away from where they were content to be. At times the contact can cause us to stop spinning altogether, unable to get going again without help. This puts us in danger of being trampled by those who are still spinning. And the domino effect goes on and on, day in and day out.

We are all spinning within our own lives, within our own circumstances; but we are not living this life in a vacuum. What we do and do not do does affect other people whether we intend for it to or think it will or not. When we think we are being put upon, abused, or otherwise "victimized" with someone else's behavior, actions, or words, we need to remember that on the other side of that spinning top is the top that we ran into earlier and sent reeling. Did I intend to send someone else down a path of negative thinking, upset, or frustration? Probably not. So it may be very true that the person who is sending me spinning right now is not intending to, either.

Furthermore, on top of this is the fact that we are all equipped differently to deal with these issues. Some are strong, both mentally and emotionally. These people can analyze a situation rationally, see what really matters and what does not, make clear conclusions and decisions and move on from there. Others are ill-equipped emotionally to deal well with all the spinning and crashing and, therefore, are less able to cleanly and succinctly move through difficult situations. This makes for a lot of misunderstanding and a huge lack of empathy for others' abilities to deal or not deal well with life and everything it can throw at us.

This is what makes life so difficult much of the time. Beyond the illnesses, the parenting issues, the dirty house, the dirty boss, the job disappointments, the money worries . . . are simply our everyday interactions with those around us that can send us and our emotions - and other people and theirs - in 50 different directions in one day. 

So what can we do to make it all a bit easier? Heck if I know.

Okay, so here are a few things I have figured out but continue to need work on.

1. My way is not the only way. Life will not crumble into a million pieces if I sit back and shut UP when I really want to judge, scream, pout, or come undone about daily life not unfolding in the way I have it mapped out in my mind. God made me a certain way as well as he did the other people in my life. Who am I to have it in my head that the way I think this or that should be is the right way and everyone else must yield to that? And by the way, this does not mean shut up, but act like a mad, torqued-off jerk to make my point. This does nothing but make everyone around me miserable, which very much undoes the original sentiment of sitting back, shutting up, and recognizing the validity of someone else's way of thinking and doing things.

2. That being said, also be strong enough to assert when someone in your life is pushing you, emotionally, in a direction that is no longer positive for you. If you are bending so far to accommodate someone else and their way of doing things that you are no longer yourself, or that almost every interaction leaves you feeling worse than the last, then it's time to re-evaluate the relationship. Life is too short to spend it living within someone else's idea of what you should be instead of what you actually are. And if you are the one dictating who you think someone else should be and what they should be doing, see #1.

3. Act unconditionally. Whether you are someone who feels led to offer support to people financially, with your talent or skills, or with your time, do it unconditionally. Do not lend yourself with strings attached, because that is not authentic.

4. Quit making life more difficult for yourself by having unreasonable expectations - for yourself and for others. This can infect your life on so many levels and at the same time is something that we actually have control over and can change.

Life is hard. Remember the spinning tops.

Monday, November 15, 2010

I'll Take Heebie Jeebies for $200, Alex.

Death By Mortal Wound or The Heebie Jeebies?
My 7-year-old son is "star of the week" this week in his 2nd grade class, so he had to fill in a poster with photos of things he likes, his family, etc., as well as fill in a few questions. When he showed me what one of the things on his "wish list" was, I told him it was inappropriate and that he needed to change it. Am I wrong? Being a boy and the youngest brother of a Marine-bound 19-year-old, he'd written, "I wish I had a shotgun." Nice. No bueno, young lad. No bueno. So what did he replace it with?

"I wish I had a pet spider."

On second thought, I'd rather you have the shotgun.

At Least My Sons Have . . . Style?
So the only female in the house thinks less about her hair than each of the males. I haven't had my hair cut by a professional in one year and 10 months. I cut it myself. I haven't used any type of hair appliance that plugs in for, probably, a year. I put more time and effort into picking out my socks than I do my hair. I wash it and let it dry. And then the next few days, I put it up. Then I repeat the process. Sometimes I use mousse.

So I find it incredibly funny that I have three boys who care about their hair and how it looks. The 7-year-old is always trying to get his into a "fauxhawk" or combing it just right after it's washed. Today middle dude (12 years old) came home from spending the weekend with Nana and Papa with a freshly-cut flat top. In 2010.

Lastly, oldest dude (19) recently clipped his into a mohawk of sorts (leaving a thin layer on the sides) to honor an agreement he had with one of the youth leaders at our church. They both agreed to do it if the junior high kids raised a certain amount of money for the 30-Hour Famine, a World Vision ministry that fights world hunger. This is my son who used to have long, flowing red hair - which he cut off (16 inches total) for Locks of Love.

I used to think since I don't have any girls, that hair wouldn't be an issue in my house. This is not the case.

Well, There Ya Go.
This evening when I was helping youngest dude print out a couple of pictures for his "star of the week" poster, I printed one that was too small for his liking. After I made it larger and sent it to the printer again, he came walking back into the room, picture in hand, and declared, "Now that's my girl! This one is just right."


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Losin' It

I am losing faith. Faith in what, you ask? I'm not entirely sure. I'm trying to pinpoint what exactly this feeling is; this something-is-slipping-from-me-and-I-can-feel-it-but-not-stop-it feeling.

Faith in people? Faith in the process of life on earth? Faith in fairness? Faith in my continuing belief in doing the right thing when it seems to be an exercise in futility much of the time?

Have you ever been hit so hard with the realization that you are having absolutely no effect on a situation that you felt as though you'd just had the wind knocked out of you? Furthermore, have you ever been hit so hard with the realization that someone you thought knew you well is so far from knowing you and your heart that it makes you question your interactions with everyone else you know? Like - if this is what this person sees, what does everyone else see of me? Is this what I portray? Is this who I am to other people?

For instance, I was once told by someone I thought knew me very well that I act as though I think my family is better than anyone else's. If you've spent more than one hour with me and know anything about what I deal with and how little self-confidence I have in my abilities as a parent, this has to be as laughable a statement to you as it is to me. Right? But it happened. This was what someone close perceived of me.

More recently, when I was in a conversation with someone and mentioned, " . . . with the issues I have to deal with every day [with my two younger boys' diagnoses and issues] ..." I was mocked for portraying my life "as a big sob story" and called a martyr. To my face.

I am losing faith. In what, again? Well, I suppose I'm losing faith in, among other things, my own ability to do life in a manner that is anywhere in the zip code of what is appropriate to others. I am losing faith in being able to sustain a relationship outside those of my marriage and with my parents, brother and sister.

As I said in a previous post, I cannot seem to keep things to myself. Because if I could, I would have kept these incidents - that have stayed with me deeply - to myself. It is humiliating to know that is how someone sees me. It is disheartening to know that all my actions and beliefs in how to act and treat people and what to do with my time and energy seemingly amounts to this - at least to some. And it makes me want to shut down.

Why? Why would I let something like this dictate what I do or say or how I act? Because things like this affect me deeply. Yes, I am emotionally weak. You can take me down very easily, and I can stay down for awhile. Yes, I give away my power and give others a lot of control over how I feel. Not on purpose - it just happens to be the awesome way I'm built. There. I am not a strong person. Yes, I am stubborn and hard-headed; this is true. But stubborn and strong are not one and the same.

I am losing faith in the process of life as I am knowing and living it. I am losing faith in realizing any kind of remote fairness in the random way some families have so much to deal with while others do not. I am losing faith in getting through. I am losing faith in having any type of positive impact on any of it at all. I am losing faith in trusting that any of this that I divulge to anyone else is doing anything positive for anyone.

I am losing faith in trying.

If the above incidents are any indication at all of who I am and what I'm accomplishing in being authentic about my life as a parent, then I've been doing a whole lot of nothin' for a long time now.

If I live an average life span, then that means I'm half way through my time here on earth. And if this is all I've accomplished and the manner in which I've impacted those around me, then I'm doing it wrong. Very wrong.

Thank you, God, in all seriousness and honesty, for the awesome opportunities you've put before me. I've apparently completely derailed them. And for that, I'm sorry. I truly thought I was doing a good job for at least some of the time so far.

What can I do at this point? I'm not really sure. But I do know this. If these are the perceptions of my life and how it's lived, then I need to shut. up. about. it. I'm either obviously not portraying it accurately or, quite frankly, saying more than anyone can even fathom or believe. Or care about hearing.

I have been told over and over how people appreciate my "realness" and how authentic I am about my life being what it is, being honest about how I try to deal with it, and that I've even helped a few people who thought no one else in the world felt that way.

But it only takes one or two small things of the opposite manner to take me down.

So here it is. At least for now. I don't feel qualified or even comfortable talking about my parenting life in detail. I feel gun-shy, at this point, writing about my boys' lives being lived on the autism spectrum and about how things are spinning around here in any detail for fear of sounding like I'm searching for sympathy.

I really only feel even remotely okay right now writing about myself and my own emotional journey because it is mine and not another person on earth can tell me what is and is not true and accurate about that.

So if you'd like to hear about my own journey of ups and downs and of how I got to be where I am today, tune back in. That's all I'm promising for now.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Timmmmmme Is Not On My Side . . . No It's Not ...

I have two kids on the autism spectrum. I talk about it a lot. It's never been a secret; I actually don't have many secrets. Everyone has a few; and this girl does - just like everyone else. However, my secret bank has a low balance because, as we all know, I just say what I say and tell what I tell and that is who I am. The secrets I do have are not anything that anyone would find funny, amusing, or useful; therefore, I keep them to myself. Hence, the secret designation.

Besides, who really wants to hear about when my friend, Joel, and I (at the ages of about 7 and 5) used to hide behind parked cars on my street and throw dog food at passing vehicles?

See? You don't want to know my secrets. They are deep, dark, and very incriminating.

So. Two kids. On the spectrum. It's no fun, but as they say these days - it is what it is. But I'm here just to say out loud that this life I have as the mother of kids on the spectrum keeps me from being able to adequately participate in other, useful areas of life; therefore, I rely on people around me. I trust those around me and hope that they understand that I am not lazy or apathetic, just emotionally overloaded.

I feel the need to say this because, on the morning after mid-term elections with so many talking about the results, I feel like a very intelligent idiot. I could not tell you what candidate stands for what at this point. I cannot tell you that I'm glad or mad this person or that was elected or not elected into office. I am completely mortified saying this; and I know it makes some want to throw tomatoes at me. But I'm just being honest. I could keep it a secret, but I would rather use this opportunity to explain something that may open up a few to the reality of special-needs parenting.

First, this disclaimer: I am not speaking on behalf of special-needs parents everywhere. I know that a good majority of special-needs parents are very able to deal with all the issues they must deal with as well as become intelligently informed about the candidates representing them. In fact, many make it a priority because the candidates representing them have some say in issues that directly affect special-needs families. So, just to be clear - this is my experience, and not meaning to be representative of any other special-needs folks but myself. This doesn't even include my own husband. Just me.

So here it is. I have two boys on the autism spectrum; one diagnosed at two-and-a-half with PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder-Not Otherwise Specified), and one diagnosed first with ADHD at 9, then a mood disorder at 10, and finally Asperger's Syndrome at 11. It is a rough ride around here. Sometimes we're on top of our game, other times we are struggling just to keep our heads from exploding. This is the reality of our family.

I am the kind of person who, when faced with something I'm unfamiliar with, researches the topic to within an inch of its life. I need to know all I can; talk to whomever I can; find good, knowledgeable people and use them. I do not sit idly by and let what happens just happen. I will do all I can, in my power and within what is reasonable, to navigate toward the best possible outcome. And when it comes to my boys, you can multiply that tenfold. I'm not saying it always works, and I'm not saying it's always the most positive process. But I am a mother. And being a mother, to me, means doing everything that falls within what is feasible to help my boys overcome their challenges.

This takes time and a whole lotta energy - physical, mental, and emotional energy that must come from somewhere within me. We all have an energy bank, and every person's is different - just like our financial bank accounts. You earn only so much, and then there's only so much to go around. Some have unbelievable amounts and can pick and choose at whim what they want to spend it on; others have incredibly limited amounts and cannot do what others are able to.

I believe I'm somewhere in the middle. I don't think I have nearly as much as some people I see who have special-needs children. I see them deal with their children, work tirelessly in their favor, then spend their spare time working endlessly for the cause that has wrapped its wicked hands around their child's life and put them there in the first place. I am in awe of these people. Jane Grimes is one of these people. Look her up - you will love her instantly.

I feel I have a lot to give and spread around, but I also have a big budget that takes it all up. And - here it is, finally. One of the things far, far down in that budget is researching and knowing about mid-term election candidates. I'm sorry. I really, really am. I want to be a good citizen. I want to be informed. But this is one thing I'm relying on people I trust to help me with. People who I know think the same way I do and are parallel with me on issues. Because here is what I know about myself. If I choose to research and get to know the candidates, I will - again - do it to the fullest extent. That is how I do things. I will not stop at names and what they say they stand for. I will spend inordinate amounts of time to come to conclusions. And this is time and energy I do not have to spare right now in this season of my life.

Let's just say I'd be putting it on my energy credit card; and I would run up unbelievable debt. So I made a conscious choice. I cannot and will not compromise the time I am needed right now to deal with my boys' issues at home and at school (and it is daily) to become more informed about candidates. It's just the choice I have to make right now. Right now - when one of my child's issues are over. the. top.

So there. Secret's out. Or was it ever a secret? I feel bad and stupid this morning and just needed to tell why. Because that is what I do.

image from Indianapolis Times blog

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Alrighty Then!

Okay, I'm back. I just needed some time for introspection and self-pity, and decided not to take it out on you all. You're welcome.

My Own Brand of Idiocy
I do and say some admittedly stupid things. Some out-and-out mind-stoppers. And then I admit them to anyone who will listen because one of my favorite things to do is laugh. Especially at myself. I do not know why I cannot keep these things to myself and pretend that I'm normal like everyone else. I guess it's more important to me to brighten someone else's day with a good guess-what-I-just-did story than to seem like a normal person living an ordinary life.

Just now, sitting here writing this in the family room, I began to grumble internally that it was starting to rain outside - hard. Then I realized that it was my husband upstairs taking a shower. And now I'm telling you.

I am an intelligent person. I have common sense. I have a bachelor's degree in journalism. I was on the dean's list, for crying out loud.

Whatever the reason, it is daily; or as is the new thing to say, "it's how I roll."

The Canine Whisperer. Not.
I work part time at Club Canine, a dog daycare/boarding facility. (Check out our Facebook page, too!) I have to feed my Starbucks habit, and meds and therapy are expensive for this family. I have been one of those crazy dog people since birth, so this was a good fit; plus I get to dress down on purpose, yell at the top of my lungs (30+ dogs can get quite loud), and love on puppies at will - and get paid to do it. There's much more to it than that, of course, but these are the highlights.

Did I mention the puppies

Actually, the biggest highlight is that I have a super, awesome boss. She opened this business out of her love for dogs and her canine knowledge and experience are the legs that made it possible. Having a boss who respects you and is grateful for the work you do means almost more than money.

In my former life, I worked in the world of advertising - complete with office politics, bad bosses, undercutting, posturing, clawing to get ahead (and you're crazy if you don't want to do that), unrecognized talent and skills, etc. But in my job now - my tiny, part-time, out-of-left-field job - I am happy. I do not leave mad at the world and wishing to run over the first human I see on the way home. I do not dream of my boss being taken away by a tsunami. I love my boss.

Why? Well, many reasons. But the employee/boss reasons are that she treats us with respect, she is grateful and thanks us for our work, she does not take us for granted, and she works harder than all of her employees combined. 

I highly respect that she works her tail off to make her business a good one for the dogs she is entrusted with. This is not always the right "business" way to go; i.e., her first order of business is caring for a dog and not making a dollar off of that dog. So she's not cut-throat money hungry. She is caring. And if those two cannot coincide peacefully, then I'll struggle right along with her to leave the money-hungry behind.

As my friend and I sometimes say about our special-needs parenting lives when frustrated with making the decision that's best for your child instead of the easy, less difficult, less expensive decision, "There's another jewel in your crown," (referring the the crowns we will wear in heaven for what we're enduring here on earth ...).

We don't always feel the effects we are having on others, especially when everything around us feels like it's falling down and we're about to go with it. But when you're making the right decisions on simple things like how you treat people, the effects are far greater and deeper than dollars in your pocket. Society makes it very difficult to believe and live by, but I've slowly come around to the fact that this simple truth has greater impact than all the money and prestige in the world.

And yes, I absolutely recognize and am grateful that I have the luxury of taking advantage of this because my awesome husband endures what he does to be a good provider for our family; thus, allowing me to work part-time where I am happy as opposed to somewhere I am miserable just for the pay and/or benefits.

Now, that being said, we all need days off.

Fer Shizzle!
I have the next three days off. And I mean off. It is fall break, the younger set is going to Nana and Papa's for some freewheelin' grandkid time starting tomorrow; and I don't work again until Saturday. This is not a drill. I get to sleep past 5:45 a.m., do whatever I want within legal and moral limits, wear clothes that will remain dog-slobber free, and know that when I clean a bathroom - the floor will remain un-peed on until Sunday afternoon.

You KNOW it!

photo by bingbing

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Over & Out

Taking a break; don't know when I'll be back.
See you on the flipside.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Dog Lovers, Rejoice!

And be amazed:

Buddy, Heidi and I start at Arthur Murray on Tuesday.

You're welcome.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

I Am What I Am, and That's All That I Am.

This morning, I weighed myself and discovered I am down two pounds from a week ago. So I went downstairs and ate two PopTarts. What?

Isn't that so typical? Well, it is of me. My whole existence seems to be an exercise in contradiction, but not on purpose. It's just how it all seems to turn out most of the time. I feel like I live much of my life sideways.

I wanted to be a writer from the time I was around 11 years old, writing "books" with my best friend (pretty funny stuff). So I earned a degree in journalism, and ended up in . . . advertising account management? Then freelancing for publishing companies, then being a stay-at-home parent. It's just been in the last few years that my writing has somewhat been able to hop into the front seat. Well, it's at least on the passenger side. And sleeping for much of the trip. But it's right there, ready to take the driver's seat when the rest of this stuff starts to get tired of driving my life.

I'm also very, very cranky when I'm surrounded by clutter. And my house is t.r.a.s.h.e.d. I have three boys. I have no time. When I do clean it all up, it's trashed again in a couple of hours. Again, I have three boys. And two dogs. So I live in what seems like endless, utterly overwhelming clutter while I'm screaming on the inside about it. Okay, and sometimes on the outside, too.

Hair skeeves me out. And I have long (all the way down my back) hair that I never think to get cut.

I have next to no patience, so I birth three boys. Three boys all with some type of neurological issue going on - ADD, autism, Asperger's, a mood disorder.

I love the beach - and I'm a woman with fair skin and freckles.

I love love love to cook, and two of my kids ate PopTarts for dinner last night after football practices were over. The oldest is smart and made a salad for himself. He is Marine-bound, you know. PopTarts aren't the best choice, Mom ...

Did I mention that I work at a dog daycare and boarding facility? Now this may sound like the biggest contradiction of all. However, it's actually one of the more natural paths I've taken. From the time I could walk and talk and communicate, apparently, I have been a dog lover. My mom loves to tell stories of when I was growing up, how I always had something dog-related going on. I would bring strays home weekly. The small town where I lived once asked my mom if they could use me to bring in a dog they couldn't capture because they knew I could get it. Yes, I had a reputation.

I have a degree in journalism - so I work with dogs. And it makes me incredibly happy.  

I know that God has a purpose here in the path he's taking me down. Surely he does, because it's just too weird of a road to just be random. But random is what makes me happy. If I could do exactly what makes me happy when it's my time of the day, then I would be with the dogs, writing, and doing something creative with my hands (like the custom dog collars I just started making). And that's the truth.

I'm finally at the point after 39 years to say I'm okay with going down the path I think God is clearing for me - even if it seems random and not anything like where I thought I would be. I think it's interesting! I do not feel a bit bad about saying these are the things I do to people who ask about my life.

No, I'm not a senator. I'm not the president of an advertising agency. I'm not an author (yet). I'm not a journalist. I am me. I write when I can, get it published where and when I can. I dress in not-nice clothes to go to work because I'm going to get jumped on and slimed and licked and run into, and I'm going to scoop poop and clean up pee and puke - and love (mostly) every minute of it. I'm going to come home and deal with some sort of sensory issue causing a boy to come undone or scream at another one. I'm going to ask them at the last minute what they want to eat - or call home and have the oldest brother feed the younger two whatever he can find.

This is where we are right now as a family, and this is where I am right now as a person. And that's okay. I've lived a surprisingly lot of life in my short 39 years. Unexpected life issues will do that. It forces you to grow, to learn to live within a realm you weren't ready for, to branch out, to fail, to get back up, and to accept.

Yes accept. It forces you to accept the you that you are being handed at the moment. When you don't, this is where the misery creeps in. This is where the unhappiness, the backward glances, the questioning of your whole life can take you down; and it's much harder to get back up than to stay up in the first place. Believe me, I've had to make the climb and it gets harder each time. And then you're just mad when you realize how much time and effort you just wasted.

Accept where you are. Relish it even. Where you are right now is making you who you will be in 6 months, in a year, in 10 years. If you have a goal to be somewhere else, then use where you are as a great starting point and recognize its' very important role in helping you take that leap in the right direction. Where you are now may be a springboard for the next leg of your journey.

It all may appear to be a random pile of notes, but I assure you - there is a song in there. And if you stop to listen, you will hear it.

Pray for acceptance, for peace, for direction. You will probably find it where you least expect it.

photo by ilco

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Dog Day Afternoon!

Carmel's Annual Dog Day Afternoon was much fun! If you are a dog lover, or as we say in our family, "have the dog gene," you would have been in dog heaven.

Lots of activities, fun vendors with cool stuff to say and items for sale and my favorite part - all the different dogs you get to love on!

All. The. Dogs. Danes and pits and goldens and aussies and cairns and labs and shepherds and bulldogs and mutts and and and ... A dog lover's PARADISE.

I was there representing Club Canine, where I work, as well as . . . myself! Well, Joel (my 12-year-old) and myself.

You see, I have started making custom dog collars and collar bandanas to raise funds for Joel to go on his first mission trip. So I had a display in my boss's booth for them today.

Joel came home from church camp in July absolutely on fire to go on our church's mission trip to Kenya. With that not being a good first mission for a pre-teen, our church's "tour director" of world missions (his official title is pastor of care giving) suggested he go to Mexico for his first mission. So the goal has been set.
We need to raise around $1,500 for the two of us to go since he's under age and must go with a parent.

We thought about different things we could do to raise the money, and a friend suggested that we make dog biscuits and sell them. We began to pursue that when this idea came to mind. And that is an incredibly short version of the whole story, but I'm typing this on my Blackberry, so the rest will have to wait until later.

I found out about this event a week ago. S. E. V. E. N. days. Not enough time to do much in the way of having more than a few collars and bandanas to offer, but wanted to get something in the hands of this very concentrated gathering of dog lovers. So I did what I could; and in the interest of time, merely registered a domain name and slapped up a few graphics and pages on the site to let people know that the store is *coming* - and to also explain the cause that makes up part of the name.

What name?

Life is Ruff ~ Collar Casuals for a Cause. We have decided optimistically that once we reach the goal of this mission trip, we will set another goal - someone else to raise funds for. So we will always have some goal we're trying to reach in peddling our wares.

I know. Those of you with web site experience absolutely cringe at me saying that I published a site like that. Please, please forgive me. I need to find someone who knows what they are doing to design it, and I also need someone to do some photography for me to put on it.

Anyone wanna volunteer? Please?

Anyway, I'm so excited at the prospect of raising money for something, for someone else, of creating, of my son going on his first mission trip. I hope it really was God putting this on my heart, and not some bad shrimp I ate giving me heartburn.

Please feel free to visit the pitiful site-to-be and register to be notified when it is up and running. And please pray that we reach our goal and can move on to another and then another. This is the kind of thing that makes my heart leap!


Sent via my very awesome BlackBerry

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Different Set of Standards

My 7-year-old is playing his first year of flag football this fall and his first game was this weekend. He tried playing soccer a few years ago, which didn't work out so well. But he tried, and that's all that we ask.

Most of you know Seth was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2.5. He has made amazing strides since then, and for that we are so grateful to God and his hand in this.

When he played soccer, at five, he made it through about a third of the season before we could no longer get him to attend. It was too much, too confusing, too overwhelming. Even team pictures were too much. So when he began begging to play flag football in August once he heard about it at church, we were reluctant. Not reluctant to let him try. Reluctant to pay $80 for him to not be able to handle it after two practices!

Hey, that may sound harsh, but that's the reality.

So far with the practices, he has surprised me a lot. He has not complained once about going; he seems to be engaged while we are there, listening and talking to the coaches, doing what he's told. He tells me he really doesn't understand the plays, but he does what his coach tells him to.

For his first game, though, I wasn't sure how he would handle it. He doesn't handle people in a crowd watching very well. After his first grade spring musical last May, he told me that "everyone was watching me and it makes me feel confused." Everyone clapping made him feel weird, as well.

Another great surprise - he didn't seem to really care about the crowd. It wasn't very big, and was spread out enough among all the fields that I don't think it seemed much different than practice to him.

He ran around doing as much of a play that he could remember, engaged in the game for the most part, and interacted with at least one other player on his team that he is getting to know. I even saw them giving one another thumbs-up signs. That kind of social interaction melts the heart of this mama of a child with autism.

No, he really couldn't follow the game or process what was happening as a whole. No, I don't think he gets what the plays are doing and what the goal is. While other kids on this team of 2nd and 3rd graders were pumped to be playing the game like real football players and getting into the plays, etc., my son was running when the coach would yell, "Go get him, Seth! Go get him, Seth!" because that is how this very awesome man (Noblesville Middle School's very own Troy Leach) figured out very quickly to communicate with Seth from the sideline in a way that he could process, understand, and be a part of the action. He knew to go after the guy with the ball to get his flag.

And of this, I am extremely proud. You see, we have a different set of standards that does not include making touchdowns, being the fastest, handling the ball the most, or making great plays work. Our standards are not lower, just different.

Our goals? Interact with others. Make eye contact. Listen. Understand and learn the value of working together with a team. Engage. Try to process what the coach is telling you. Process and handle appropriately the sensory overload of lots of quick movement, people yelling, fast transitions, strangers all around you.

And this week we added to that sensory overload a dose of pouring down rain the last 10 minutes of the game, which I could tell was starting to send him sideways, but he handled even that well until we got to the car; at which time he came undone all the way home about being wet and cold.

You know what? That's okay, dude. You just spent the last 90 minutes completely taxing your processing, sensory management, and emotions. You pushed yourself to the limit without breaking. You can come unglued with the people who love you the most!

For all of this, I am so thankful to God for leading Seth to this point. Another milestone passed!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

You Might Want To Just Skip This.

This is how I feel. And I wish someone would pick me up and soothe me and snuggle me close until I drift off into peace.

Today I have a bad attitude. And this is my blog. I get to bleed all over it if I want to and no one has to read it. I did not come to your door complaining and boohooing. You have just clicked and come to mine. If you don't want to hear it, go.

I am tired of all kinds of things that have built up over time. Just like everyone else. God works on my heart most days and I know how I am called to act and what I am supposed to do. That doesn't mean I always follow it (not by a long shot), but it is there - always - and I try to listen and act.

Today I still know it is there, but am having an extremely hard time following it. How is it that I am supposed to change how I feel? I am not acting on this, just spewing here - in a space that I have created to write about what is on my mind and heart. Because I am me; and most of the time, people appreciate that realness. Probably not so much today.

I am tired of taking it for the team. 
I am tired of teaching and teaching and teaching to a deaf crowd.
I am tired of being taken advantage of.
I am tired of others' attitudes of entitlement.
I am tired of people having no boundaries, or ignoring them if they do have them.
I am tired of having more than "normal" parenting issues to deal with.
I am tired of driving an old van that has four cracks that span the windshield up, down, and all around.
I am tired of driving a van that's been hit several times by others who cannot or will not pay to fix their mistakes (one just drove away without even stopping).

I am tired of being blessed with a nice home only to have it trashed. And if you think I am exaggerating, please knock on my door, walk around, visit the basement. Then ask me, "How old are your kids again?" Old enough to know better; and certainly old enough to take responsibility for it. It is a never-ending vicious cycle that leaves me exhausted and angrier than a junkyard dog.

I am tired of Autism.
I am tired of Asperger's Syndrome.
I am tired of the whole, entire blankety-blank SPECTRUM and every rotten thing that comes with it.
I am tired of irresponsibility.
I am tired of Obama.
I am tired of being asked for money from schools that I already pay an inordinate amount to in the form of actual money, volunteer time, snacks, etc. Hey elementary school, middle school, football team, band - who are all asking for me to donate and ask others to donate in the first three weeks of the school year - I AM TAPPED OUT. And you haven't even sent me a bill for book rental fees yet.

I am tired of paying for meds.
I am tired of paying for therapy.
I am tired of life this side of heaven.

I. Am. Tired.

And yes, I know it could be worse. It could always be worse. But I am also tired of trying to make myself feel better by thinking, "Well, at least my child isn't deathly ill," or "At least this," or "At least that." That is no way to live. There is always going to be someone around the corner worse off than you. I get that.

Right now, like I said, I have a bad attitude. Don't worry. Tomorrow I'll be back at it. Chipper. Happy to be dumped on. Big thumbs up. Go team.Who needs what? Please let me do it.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Galas Galore!

We have a Gala Semi-Dwarf apple tree that we bought in a 5-gallon container for about $10 on clearance a few years ago.

This little powerhouse (we'll call her Gale) is capable of producing oodles of apples on a weekly basis.

This evening I took a small basket out to pick the ones that were ready and quickly realized how much I had once again underestimated Gale and her ability to be fruitful and multiply.

I turned to Mr. Zipps, who was just over the fence, and pulled out the ever-classic, best movie line of all time.


So I've got about 10 or so pounds to use up. Last week we had baked apple pouches and chunky applesauce. This week was apple crisp. What applicious delight should I make with these?

Any suggestions?

Keep it up, Gale!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What's Your Story?

So one of my favorite authors, whom I've mentioned before here, and you can get to know better here, also speaks at conferences and does seminars.

If you have read anything by Mr. Miller, and you know me, then you know why I connect with his writing so well. He writes true life in story format. Which is how I like to write. I do not write fiction. I write life. But not as advice, how-to, or factoid. Life as story.

People are always telling me, "I love how real you are." Well, I don't decide to be that way. It's not a concentrated effort or a decision. It's how it all comes out. Quite unfortunately, sometimes, for those who are in the line of fire. Because I just say what I say and tell what I tell - usually with a humor that makes a lot of people nervous unless they know me.

I talk about life like it is handed to me - like I live it. It's often not pretty. I tell almost every dumb thing I do. I don't try to hide much. What is the point? If you hide something, you may lose the opportunity to connect with someone else who may need to hear about that one thing to make them realize they aren't the only one.

If you put yourself out there as anything but exactly what you are, then being you becomes work instead of life. And isn't life already hard enough?

SO. In saying all of this, I'm trying to get out that every life is a story - and not always the one you originally outlined. The issue becomes finding the balance between being a participant in driving your storyline in a particular direction and letting the story unfold to see where it takes you - and realizing when you are in the between stages.

This is the most difficult part for me. It always has been. I tend to barrel through that part in the middle where I feel I'm stalling. My mind and heart are forever questioning where I'm going and why. Is this where I'm supposed to be? Did I make a wrong turn? There seems to be nothing here! God, can you please just get me there? And when I can't figure out where it is I'm going, where I want to go, where I should be going or where God is leading me - I get panicky about my life. I don't sit still very easily - physically or mentally.

A friend of mine knows how I struggle with this and recently recommended a book:

The Land Between: Finding God in Difficult Transitions by Jeff Manion
In The Land Between, author Jeff Manion uses the biblical story of the Israelite's journey through Sinai desert as a metaphor for being in undesired, transitional space. After enduring generations of slavery in Egypt, the descendants of Jacob travel through the desert (the land between) toward their new home in Canaan. They crave the food of their former home in Egypt and despise their present environment. They are unable to go back and incapable of moving forward. The Land Between explores the way in which their reactions can provide insight and guidance on how to respond to God during our own seasons of difficult transition . . . While it is possible to move through transitions and learn little, they provide our greatest opportunity for spiritual growth. God desires to meet us in our chaos and emotional upheaval, and he intends for us to encounter his goodness and provision during these upsetting seasons.

I have not read the book yet, and will be back with a review once I do.

This friend knows how much I struggle with this role I've been placed within and how I bounce back and forth between knowing this is where I need to be right now and being resentful, upset, anxious, and downright bewildered at not knowing the point of why I am where I am right now.

I have a degree in journalism and in my former life worked in advertising and then freelanced for a few years before becoming a full-time stay-at-home parent. I knew without a doubt that God wanted me to be home with my boys (at the time I had two). I was willing to put some things on hold, or at least slow them way down, to do this.

My goal has always been to be a full-time writer, but life keeps getting in the way. Raising three boys; having one, then two diagnosed on different parts of the autism spectrum (youngest with flat-out autism); wrapping my life around helping them overcome ...

In the meantime, where I want to be keeps getting pushed back and pushed aside. Little time. Little energy. Little motivation. And my confidence in my talent and abilities decreases with each passing year. (It's been 10 now).

Every time I try to take an opportunity to jump back in, to give it my all, it takes away from the emotional energy and time it takes to deal with my boys' issues. Well, let's be honest. They are exhausting and there is little left over in my mind at the end of the day.

Add in a new part-time job to help pay for meds and therapies, and I'm physically dragging, too. I don't feel that much of my time or mental energy is my own.

Which brings me back to Don Miller. Along with The Land Between recommendation, I discovered that Mr. Miller will be speaking at a conference called Living a Better Story. And being familiar with the way he approaches life, I'm sure it will be a couple of awesome days.

Living a Better Story Seminar from All Things Converge Podcast on Vimeo.

I would love to attend. But alas, I'm nowhere near Portland, Oregon; and nowhere near being able to use funds for something frivolous just for me that are slated for real life things in the Anderson abode.

That's just life!

So onward and upward. Or more appropriately for what I'm trying to get through my head: be still and know that I am Lord.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Dear Amy

The bacon of which I speak:

And the note that must be written on it when you have three boys - all of whom would eat the entire package unless told not to:

When Even Bacon Won't Make It All Better

You know it's all comin' down around you when stealing your son's bacon off his plate before school didn't make you feel any better. Yikes.

I love bacon. Who doesn't? Even my 7-year-old announcing, "You know where bacon comes from? A pig's butt," doesn't deter me. I love pigs. I live with three of them.

And when they make it vacuum-packed, already cooked so all you have to do is put it in the microwave oven and you still get nice, crispy bacon?  And you can get this amazing delicacy in HUGE PACKAGES AT SAM'S CLUB? WITH 72 MOUTH-WATERING SLICES? Oh sweet mother of all inventions.

It's like feeling guilty about an illicit affair. I guess? (And is there really any other kind of affair?)

You see - the grease, the mess, the clean up. That is a deterrent. That is what keeps me from bacon. The fat? The calories? Not enough. I would shave a few years off my life and accept a few inches around the middle for bacon. I would die for bacon.

But when even the closest-thing-to-heaven-on-earth taste of bacon doesn't make it all better - it's bad.

When it's Monday morning, and I'm not jumping for joy at having my alone time back when the younger boys are off to school - it's bad.

When it's a chilly morning for the first time in months and all the windows are open and fresh air is flowing through the house and I'm not giddy with the prospect of fall colors, smells, and wearing sweatshirts - it's bad.

What's so bad, you say?

I have green snot.
My throat hurts.
My head hurts.
I can't breathe.
I can't think.
Cough drops make bacon taste funny.
Bacon makes cough drops taste funny.


So I thought I'd make a big deal about it. People are dying. Kids are suffering. Animals need homes. They will never win the Whale Wars. But, hey - at least I'm writing.

Right, Brian?

Back in the saddle.

Now coffee. That will surely make it all better. Time to fire up the Keurig.

Monday, I'm back.



Seven-year-old autistic son decides no corner of White River Christian Church is suitable. Get to listen to sermon on marriage alone while husband walks halls with son.

Have to pull over on the way home because said son is upset and crying I can't stand not to hold him close.


12-year-old with Asperger's comes unglued at lunch over computer mouse. U.N.G.L.U.E.D.

Change of scenery. STAT!

Indianapolis Zoo.

Shark petting. Snake gawking. Cheetah racing. Ice cream eating. Lions "fighting." Baboons with red butts. Dolphins, rhinos, and giraffes. Oh my!

"I'm hungry!" (We just had ice cream.)
"I'm hot!" (It's the coolest day we've had in weeks.)
"Why is the dolphin show sold out?"
"What does 'sold out' mean?"
"I want to ride the coaster!!"
"I want to race a cheetah."
"I want to race a cheetah."
"Can I race a cheetah?"
"I couldn't beat a cheetah. I'm DUMB."
"I'm hungry."
"I'm hot."
"I'm hungry."
"I'm hungry."
"I'm hungry."
"I'm hungry."


Pork burgers on the grill for dinner.

"I want pork strips like last time." (pulled pork)
"I'm not hungry."


Bedtime. 9:00 p.m.

9:15. 7-year-old up.

"I want to sleep with Joel." (No. Not on school nights.)

9:17. 12-year-old still not in bed. 7-year-old up again.
"I can't find my fuzzy blanket." (in his closet)

9:20. 12-year-old back downstairs to charge MP3 player. 7-year-old back up.

9:22. 12-year-old in bathroom. 7-year-old complaining of being cold. It's August.

9:25. 12-year-old in my room to complain. Husband's head spinning around on shoulders like Linda Blair in The Exorcist.

9:32. 12-year-old's threatened to have head rolled down hallway. 7-year-old silent. Finally.

9:45. 12-year-old back in bathroom. Sent back to room for 459th time.

9:52. 12-year-old's light is on. Upon investigation, he is sitting backwards in bed, reading Brain Quest questions. He's told to turn light off and GO TO SLEEP. He asks if he can ask me a question. I shut door mid-sentence to keep composure. For his own safety.

10:16. Text-chatting with BFF next door about 12-year-old's sleep habits (or lack thereof).

11:12. Read friend's blog about her lovely, productive day (I love you, Amy!) and decide to keep the universe in balance by posting about mine.

12:14 a.m. Watching Mad Men and drinking a coconut pineapple smoothie.

Not bad. For a day in the life of parents with kids on different parts of the Spectrum?

We had family time. We laughed. We tickled. We cried. We cuddled. We pushed through frustration, anger, upset - to break through the clouds to the sunshine.

Not a bad day at all.

Monday, August 2, 2010

And This Is Why I Love Donald Miller

And respect his writing. And follow his blog. And his tweets.

It seems that when I'm struggling, God leads me to something or someone that will speak to me about what is going on in my head or heart. Today has been no exception.

Perusing through my Google Reader this morning to catch up on blogs that I follow, the title of Miller's latest post I'd Rather Be Hated Than Loved Conditionally knocked me over. It was exactly how I am feeling, but have been unable to weave into discernible words and sentences. It was how I tried so desperately to explain to my husband last night bawling in the driveway, sitting in the car, after we took a drive to get a coffee. I could not mix the thoughts and feelings into anything that made sense.

And that sentence. That sentiment. That blog title could have rolled right out of my heart in those tears. I just couldn't pinpoint it. So God gave me a little boost.

I have been in a bad place this morning. I was still awake after 3am, slept on the couch, and woke up to realize I hadn't shaken the feelings. Going off on a friend, who even complimented what a good rant it was, didn't do any good. It merely made my feelings razor sharp. (Which is exactly what my son's therapist tells us that ranting does. Perhaps we should listen?)

I love to love. I love to do things for people. I don't do it for the return; in fact, when people thank me or say something nice about what I've done, it makes me feel weird inside. I don't accept it very well for some reason. I have just taken this to be another thing within me that doesn't work quite like it should. I even tell myself, "Just say thank you. That's it. Don't argue."

I do things that I see that need to be done. It's that simple. I can't stand for things to go undone. I want others to be happy. If I do something well, and someone else doesn't, I do not mind using my skill to make it easier on them. I think it's more of an obsessive/compulsive thing. And I'm serious. I just want people to be happy.

The unhappiness often slips into my heart when I can't overcome when someone else doesn't see it my way. Or do it my way. Or think like I think. The thing is, I am so much better about it than I used to be, but I can't seem to kick that last bit of it hanging onto my personality.

I have been cranky and grouchy and generally upset today because I was feeling it from the other side. I was feeling treated badly, loved but only with conditions, made to feel yucky. When I saw the title, I was thinking of myself. And I was so happy that words had been attached to how I was feeling!

Then I read on. And realized that God brought me here for another reason as well.

I will not say that I do not love unconditionally, because I feel I do much of the time; but I am guilty of letting differences irritate me to the point that I'm ruining my own day. I am guilty of not letting these things roll off my back. And I am guilty of becoming frustrated when someone else does this. I believe this is why God led me to Miller's post. A mini coming-to-Jesus meeting, of sorts.

If I want to be loved without strings, then I must must be willing to do it myself. Jesus was not a control freak and, for crying out loud, he certainly had the right to be! But he chose not to be.

If you want to be a control freak, by all means - do it. Control yourself and quit focusing on when those around you aren't doing what you want, when you want, in exactly the way you want and are absolutely sure is the best way to do it.

And we are not talking about parenting here, where you are there to correct and lead. Not this time. What this is about is adult, consenting relationships. Adults do not need to be treated like children by other adults. They do not need to be treated well on the condition that they are doing life your way. 

Relationships are give and take - and that does not mean you give orders and conditions and those in your life take them and go about life so you will be happy. You give love, you take love; you give in sometimes, they give in sometimes; you give leeway, they give leeway; you give a good ribbing, they take it; they give a good ribbing, and you take it.

Laugh, talk, discuss the good and the bad. Let others be able to talk to you about how they feel without fear of ridicule and criticism. Listen. Love. Comfort. You do not have to agree to be supportive. And get this: sometimes your opinion doesn't matter.

I'm sure Jesus wanted to throttle 80% of those he encountered during his ministry on earth. He felt pain. He felt sadness. He was tempted. He was human. However, as God's son he could have called out everyone he had relationships with on how wrong they were about the way they went about so much in their lives. Yes, he cared for their well-being. Yes, he knew there was a better way. Yes, he could see their ways were not lining up with his. But he did not browbeat, did not criticize, did not act condescendingly to make them see things his way. He acted quietly and lovingly. Amazingly, the end does not always justify the means.

I was feeling browbeaten and realized that I was feeling conditionally loved, but ended up with so much more. I am feeling convicted to look inward instead of point fingers.

Thanks, Donald, for being the conduit for God's message to me this morning. It seems he's been trying to reach me without success.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Even MORE True!

Funny Because It's True.

Those of you who know us will recognize my husband with the palm tree shirt . . . or the Dockers . . . or the goatee . . . or the golf shirt . . . phone clipped to his belt . . . but NOT the douchebag bluetooth (except in the car while driving).

Oh - and he doesn't touch the weeds.


Friday, July 9, 2010

Beach Bawl

I sat at the edge of the water the other day - playing at the beach on Hilton Head Island, watching the littles in the water.

Seth (7) and I came to HHI with the Zipps, while the rest of the family was at home (Sean and the dogs) and at church camp (Alexx and Joel).

As I was taking in the absolutely perfect day - reading a book, sitting in the sand, kids frolicking in the surf - I couldn't have been more relaxed, more content. These are the moments we moms work so hard for - the times we realize it is all worth the stress, the tears, the sweat, blood, and dead brain cells that are left in the wake of repopulating the earth with the best little humans that we can raise with our limited abilities.

I was basking. I don't bask - in anything. Ever. No time, not nearly enough peaceful moments to get anywhere near the zip code of basking. It was so oddly fulfilling. I felt like God was patting me on the back, giving me a high-five.

And I heard a faint sound; a sound that was coming closer. Lifting my hand to shield the sun, I turned my face upward - just above the shore line where we sat peacefully - to see a military helicopter flying very low, parallel with the shore.

People around me waved. Some "WooHoo!"ed. It is July 4th week; they have just been reminded of what our country stands for and the people who continue to make our freedom possible. We just celebrated America's birthday. A sense of pride swelled in the actions and whoops of those around me.

First a small catch in my throat, then a full-blown choking feeling. On my own tears and fear. All I could selfishly think of was my 19-year-old son, who will be entering the Marines - and plans on going into Force ReCon, arguably one of the most dangerous routes for him. And it's what he wants.

We will not see him. Not hear from him. Have no idea where he is.

Tears flowed beyond my new pink sunglasses, stinging my sunburned face. My shoulders shook. I put my book up in front of my face until I felt like I was composed enough. I must have looked half crocked, had anyone looked my way. But of course, I was just one in a crowd on a hot beach. Just another mama making sure the kids didn't drown or do something stupid. No one cared what I was doing. In a way, I was alone.

Realizing this, I let myself have the moment. I cried; bawled, actually. This time, I basked in my right to view that helicopter as a mother, not just a proud American. Was God patting me on the back now? This didn't feel like a high-five. It felt like a punch in the gut.

The ugly cry. On the beach. It made my contacts blurry and my heart heavy. I gave myself five minutes to get over it.

And I did. This is the stuff life is made of, and you have to get over it. And live through it. Even make the most of it.

Today is the last day of this Mommy/Seth vacation. So we are going to make the most of it and spend the day together - exploring, having fun, discovering, watering the roots of our special relationship so they will continue to grow and strengthen.

I will bask while I can.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

New Math

Life is never what you thought it would be. It really isn't. Sometimes it is better, sometimes it takes a dive. I'm starting to realize after all this time, that it's more about staying composed. Keeping your head up and at the point where you can at least breathe. Because if you can breathe, then you can smile. And you can look around at what surrounds you. You can laugh.

If you can breathe, you are living.

From the very beginning, in this society, it is instilled in us that living = accomplishing; that living = finding success and having more, more, more; that living = constantly striving . . . for something.

This is all good and well for a portion of the population. I mean, let's be real - someone has to accomplish things or today we wouldn't have cherry Dilly Bars. Or the Internet (thank you again, Al Gore). The world would be like Woodstock day after day after day. However fun that sounds, it would not be sustainable. And we would all stink.

So yes, God has given each and every one of us gifts and talents and skills to be used to the best of our abilities. So the drive that some people have to get up every morning and conquer the latest computer virus or create the world's tallest cake with fondant icing really was placed within them by God and that's exactly what they should be pursuing.

But others? Those who have been taught that their lives won't amount to anything unless they keep up and do more, earn more, go further? And that's not the path God intends for them? Well, pardon my candor, but they are just pissing in the wind.

We all have different equations. For one, living = touching as many children's lives as possible. For another, living = protecting the public. For someone else, living = entertaining others.

And to add to the confusion, I further believe that our equations change at different seasons of our lives. We are not meant to do one thing over and over and then die. I truly believe that. We live, we grow, we experience, we love, we lose, we grieve, we meet new people, we have children, we have different jobs, we move ... Any tiny or huge thing can shift our direction and our focus.

Which is why life is never what we thought it would be.

I do believe in evolution. Just not in the common, unbiblical sense of the word. I believe in the evolution of each of us, every day of our lives. Living = changing. Living = growing more into ourselves with each passing day.

I am finally, after 39 years, learning to appreciate the evolution of me. Where I've been, what I've experienced, who I've loved - it's all made me who I am today; and will be the filter through which I look at the road stretched out before me.

What is your equation today? This week? This year?

graphic by Billy Alexander

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Check the Poo!

The effects on 7-year-old Seth of having a 19-year-old brother - his version of Check the Poo from Scrubs: (sorry for the quality - I took the video with my Blackberry)

Check the Poo! from Holly Anderson on Vimeo.

When you flush your dookie down,
you flush away the answer!

Anything comes down to poo,
from the top of your head to the sole of your shoe!

We can figure out what's wrong with you
by looking at your poo!

"I have a headache."
Check the poo!

"I feel sick."
Check the poo!

"I got shot!"
Check the poo!

"A homeless guy threw poo in my eye."
Check the poo!

"Mine or his?"
First him, then you!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow.

Yesterday was Mother's Day - my 19th one to celebrate. It also happened to fall 23 years to the day since Sean and I shared the kiss and first date that started all of this madness we have been blessed with. But the sentiment doesn't stop there. Oh no.

Our oldest son, Alexx, normally attends church with us. In fact, even when the parents do not go for some reason, he goes without us and then returns home later to call us pagans. Yesterday morning, however, he had an appointment before church and joined us a bit later.

As we were leaving Starbucks on our way to church (I'd like to say it was a Mother's Day special event, but ...), I looked over to see Alexx walking from his van to his appointment  - with his Marine recruiter. His appointment to get his paperwork going with the new recruiter. His appointment to start the ball rolling to leave us for good.

I was faced with an ocean of emotions. Like a survivor floating in the middle of the sea, I was lost thinking of where I started this journey and longing to see land; but not knowing what that land will bring or whether or not it will be safer or even more dangerous than where I am now.

Sean and I began this journey together 23 years ago yesterday when we moved from being the friends we'd been since meeting at 13 years old to a couple. A very unlikely couple. It continues to be an amazing journey with so much to be grateful to God for. Happiness, growing in the same direction, fun and laughter, three beautiful sons, faith in God, survival.

This was all heavy on my mind as I thought about the present day - my 19th Mother's Day - and everything I'd been through bringing me to this point in my life. Let's be honest, here. Mothering my three boys with their combined ADD, ADHD, autism, mood disorder and now Asperger's is quite the challenge on a daily basis. Which takes me back to being even more grateful for the last 23 years with this man whom I love so dearly. We couldn't have done it without the relationship that we have spent all these years building. It is not perfect - not even close - but it is what has delivered me to this 19th Mother's Day without losing every last marble in my head.

And as I look to the future with trepidation thinking about my first born leaving us, leaving the safety of my arms, to fly on his own - and into such a dangerous future of his own - it all feels a bit unreal. I don't think it will fully hit me until he literally walks out of my arms that day when he leaves. But seeing him walking into that meeting as I was basking in my Mother's Day glow forced it to the front of my mind (a place it is not allowed to be right now), and I thought it was going to suffocate me for just a minute until I was able to push it to the back of my mind again where it belongs for the time being. I want to keep being frustrated with him for not picking up his socks or taking his laundry out of the dryer - not wondering where he even is and worrying for his very life.

I'm not ready for that. Will I ever be?

You are always told, as a mama, not to wish your kids' childhoods away - not to miss too much of the present with them trying to get to some point in the future. I am aware of this now that I have a 19-year-old and know just how fast the time goes. I am painfully aware of it now that his leaving to walk, eyes wide open, into a very uncertain future is inching ever closer like a freight train. My only consolation is that he is doing exactly what he wants to do, and going toward a life that he feels God is leading him into.

Grateful for the yesterdays that brought me to the present I am now in; feeling blessed that I can handle today and what it is throwing at me; prayerful that I will handle with grace the future that is quickly becoming the present.

Whatever that may be.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

And I Just Made It Into the Front Door In Time!

Alexx and I are laughing our fool heads off at this man describing his encounter with some dogs. Enjoy!

Thank you, God, for sending humor today.

Emotional Flooding Ahead

***Warning*** If you aren't in the mood for a pity party, stop here.

Being the parent of a special needs child is, really, indescribable. This is mostly because the words that would accurately depict what it is like on a day-to-day basis change, oh, hourly. Further complicating this with the fact that the special needs in our family are on the autism spectrum along with what the medical community calls "comorbid" diagnoses (ADHD, mood disorder) - and you've got mental and emotional scrambled eggs.

You put on a brave face; sometimes you break down. You deal with it - sometimes any way you can - to keep sane. Then, when you've had some sleep and you are thinking more clearly, you apply, to the best of your ability, the recommendations and techniques you've learned from therapists and doctors and teachers and counselors and whomever else you've sought out for help. And you take it one step further to educate those who spend any time at all with your children to give them as much understanding as possible in order to deal with them appropriately. This is only the beginning of the exhaustion.

The money flies out the window almost as quickly as your peace of mind and sense of hope for normalcy, and you try to quell the thinking and worrying about the future for your own sanity. Financial exhaustion.

I've been through the initial stages of a new diagnosis before. Our youngest was diagnosed with autism at the age of 2 1/2 years. It was full steam ahead from that point on to pull him out as much as possible. He is now 7 and his progress has been amazing. Most who do not know him or his history cannot see his autism until we tell them. But the fact remains that he is still on the spectrum and we must deal with the ways this manifests itself daily.

I do not want to talk here about our oldest son (19) and the continuing struggle with his ADD, which started at around age 10.

We are now two years into an ADHD turned mood disorder turned Asperger's diagnosis with our 12-year-old son; and we are still in the learning stages. In other words, we are still turning in circles. This should not feel so new. This should feel "old hat." But the truth is, you never get "comfortable" living with the issues of your special needs kids, usually because those issues are ever-changing and you are constantly adapting and making your way through something new or something old that is evolving or worsening. As a special needs family, there is no sitting back on your laurels. You are not afforded that luxury. Mental exhaustion.

So you drive older cars while those around you can choose not to. You take one vacation as a couple in 18 years of marriage. You fight with the insurance company over every $1 they try not to pay. You live in chaos sometimes because some days you just. don't. have. the. energy. to keep it all running smoothly. And sometimes, no matter how hard you try, it WILL NOT RUN SMOOTHLY. No matter what. And things not running smoothly makes all the issues of your children amplified. It's a vicious cycle.

You lose your temper. You lose your grip. And when the smiles leave your face for weeks at a time, you lose your friends. Because even though they think they understand, they do not. Unless you are dealing with three kids with ongoing issues and have, on some level, for the last nine years with no end in sight - you do not know. Unless you are in this house every day starting at 6:00 a.m. and ending at 11:00 p.m., you do not know. Unless you meet with the number of people that I have met with over time to help your kids, and have fielded all the phone calls and e-mails, and tried your best to keep it all straight, you do not know.

Unless you have to watch each of your children struggle so heartbreakingly on an ongoing basis that you question God's very plan, you do not know.

Emotional exhaustion.

This brings me to a small side note - if you happen to have any issues of your own, you are dead in the water - because you have nothing left with which to deal with it.

So you employ humor. You try to act like you can handle it all. You see others around you spending time doing worthwhile things in the world, while you can barely even keep your own sons on the right track. You may have talent, but it is buried below all the rubble.

I am feeling more isolated than ever right now. There have been times, over these hard years, that I've been able to get my head above water long enough only to look around, feel completely left behind, and be pulled back under again.

Nothing I would like to accomplish gets much past the initial stages these days because I get pulled in a million directions; and if I'm accomplishing something for myself, that means that some issue with one of my sons is going either unnoticed or will spin out of control soon without intervention.

Why all three? I do not know. Why us? No idea. Am I doing all I can? Probably not. Would I choose different children if given the chance? Not. On. Your. Life. I love each of them with every fiber of my being; and they are each going to do fantastic things someday.

God willing.

photo by Asif Akbar

Monday, April 5, 2010

Hello, Spring!

I'm sitting up - it's after midnight - and it's starting to thunder and lightning; and I can't tell you how happy I am right now.


Because 1.) that means that it's SPRING and I haven't been dreaming the weather of the previous week, and 2.) Weather.com shows that by the time I get up again in the morning, the short rain will be gone and it should be sunny.

What a great end to a beautiful Easter celebrating the resurrection of Christ!

And I leave you with this photo of my middle son, Joel, and me taken yesterday while coloring Easter eggs. He has such an incredibly nurturing heart, just like his dad; looks just like his dad; has the comedic timing of his dad; and someone, some day, will be blessed to have him for a husband.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Who Are You to Someone Else?

God gives us all kinds of people in our lives to fulfill different needs. Some make us laugh uncontrollably, some make us think deeper than we necessarily would otherwise, some give us hope, others give us strength . . . and I could go on and on. The point is, everyone we know lends something important to our journey and is there for us at different times, depending on what our needs our. And the same is true on the flip side - we are exactly what someone else in our life needs at some point, for some reason.

So you're in a pit - a deep one - for whatever reason. It happens to us all. I work visually, so this is how it feels to me.

You are literally in a deep, narrow pit. All by yourself sitting there, and the sun seems so far up above you that it is only a speck - way up - where the entrance to this pit is. You've tried 10 different ways to climb out, but you just keep slipping back down. You can't seem to get a grip on the sides; it's slippery, or maybe so dry and rocky that it just crumbles when you try to dig in somewhere to go up.

You're tired of trying, so you slump back down and think, "Maybe tomorrow I can do it."

In the meantime, plenty of people stop by. You know all of them. There are those who have busy, chaotic lives of their own who genuinely care about you, but really can't help you. They do care enough to check in, make sure you are okay, and perhaps lend an encouraging word or two. It feels good to see them, to hear from them; but you're still down here and they are still up there, looking in.

There are those who recognize the pit you are in, but their decision is to yell at you from up there, outside the pit, to try and get you to come on out, already. This is their style, they think they are helping. But really, they don't get it and probably don't really want to. "Come on! You have to get out of there now. People depend on you. GET. UP. Get on your feet and CLIMB. Just do it!" They do not understand how hard you have been trying. They have not felt the walls of this pit - how impossible they are to navigate. They just see that you are not where you are supposed to be and you need to get out. Now. They almost always play the devil's advocate role. Sometimes this works. Other times it just makes you want to run from them.

There are those who stop by, it seems, just to make sure you are still there. They sort of wander by, look down at you in the pit, "Hey, just wanted to confirm you are still there! Take care!" and are gone again. Okay. They aren't meaning any harm, they are just not the people God intends to use to help you.

There are those who recognize the struggle you are having, really really want to be able to do something, but haven't a clue where to start. Their concern is genuine; and they will sit at the edge of the pit, dangle their feet over the side, and listen to every word you have to say. They will ask you over and over what they can do to help get you out of there. I like to think that God puts these people there to lend you an ear, make you feel loved - even if only for an hour or so- and, honestly, just to get the chance to feel a sense of "thank goodness I'm not her." No, I'm not joking. I truly think that we are sometimes put into someone else's life to give the other person some perspective.

Then there are these people. These very special people God has chosen this time to make a whopping difference. You know who they are.

It's the person whose voice you hear at the opening of the pit, waaaaay up there who rolls up his or her sleeves, grabs whatever they can for the journey and simply says, "I'm coming down there." They don't wait for your response, don't expect an answer. They don't know what they're getting into and have no idea how they, themselves, will get back out; but it doesn't matter to them. What matters is getting into it with you because if you are there, they want to be there, too.

It's the person who, in the face of your trying to hold back the tears, looks you dead in the eye and says, "I'm here. And I'm getting right in this with you." I'm. Coming. Down. There. They may have all these ideas of advice, of what they think you should be doing, visions of shaking you to bring you to reality. But what they do is simply get into the pit with you to be able to give you a boost from there. And sit and listen for as long as you need to until you are even ready to try once again to make the climb.

On the day we were leaving our home in Houston, Texas, I was in about the worst emotional shape I'd ever been in up to that point in my life. I had spent four years making the best friends of my life - friends who'd become my family in the absence of my actual family. On this last day, during these last hours, my very special friend across the street was gone for the day at an important class. We had said our tearful, ugly-cry goodbye the night before, knowing that Sean and I would be gone before she returned home the next day.

However, much like things often happen, we'd been delayed in leaving for several reasons - the very last one being the fact that, when we pulled up the rug we'd had in our foyer in front of the door - the two-sided tape we'd used to keep it in place was now on the tile like super glue. No big deal, right?

Well, in my crazy, emotionally-frazzled state, this tape had to come off. We couldn't leave it for the new owners to deal with. We tried everything to get this stuff off to no avail. We'd planned on getting on the road by a certain time and it was hours past that. The next thing I knew, here was my girlfriend, walking in the door, having seen our van still in the driveway, wondering what in the world we were still here for.

And when she saw what we were doing and why we were still there, she could have done a million different things. She could have been excited that we were still there and suggested that we go to lunch one more time before we left for good. She could have suggested that we go back to her house, forget this stupid tape, and spend time together before we took off. She could have told me how crazy I am, and pulled me up and tried to shake some sense into me - this TAPE DOESN'T MATTER. GO.

But no. She knew me, she knew how I was feeling, and she did what God had sent her to do.

Still in her nice clothes after spending the day in an intense class learning about how to teach dyslexic kids a certain type of way, she rolled up her sleeves, kicked off her shoes, got on her knees and started scraping away at this tape with me. Tears from both of our eyes coming down and laughing at how we were spending our last moments together, we scraped and scraped at that tile until all of that glue was gone.

I'm coming down there. 

So right now, in my pit, my husband has been rolling up his sleeves and climbing into the pit with me. He lets me come undone without judgment, without telling me all that I'm feeling is foolish or wrong. He hugs me, lets me cry so hard that my eyes hurt, admits he has no idea how to fix it, but will do everything he can to make it not so hard on me, and loves loves loves me. And that's really all I need right now. No advice. No one to try and turn me around and make me feel that what I'm feeling is wrong or something that I shouldn't be feeling. Just let me feel it and then we'll go from there.

I hope God puts me in a position so I can be this for someone else at some point. Because it's awesome when you've got it when you need it.

photo by Caetano Lacerda