“…growing up in front of you…

She is turning into herself in these little ways.  She is like stepping into the garden every day, when you know something is new, different from the day before.  That’s how children are, growing up in front of you the way they do.  Sometimes its a barely noticeable thing, like a stem that’s slightly taller.  Sometimes it’s a blossom that’s burst forth, obvious as a Vegas showgirl. WOW, you think. I’d better not miss a day. I’d better be here.

(Elizabeth Berg ~ Range of Motion)

In the blink of an eye..

2003

2011

A Loss of Innocence in Madison

So many days passed, so many words lost  into that constant we call “time”!

Despite recent struggles with articulating thoughts, I haven’t abandoned this, my respite.  But I do find myself more and more in need of that fictitious thing called a “Pensieve” : (“I sometimes find, and I am sure you know the feeling, that I simply have too many thoughts and memories crammed into my mind…. At these times… I use the Pensieve.  One simply siphons the excess thoughts from one’s mind, pours them into the basin, and examines them at one’s leisure.” ~JK Rowling, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire). Unfortunately, that is not an option for me.

Earlier today I was trying to remember a word I heard over 14 years ago. It was a word I read in the documents an attorney had given my husband and I describing the particulars of what somebody was suing us for following a car accident. I stress the word because, while the law in this state is if you rear end someone you’re automatically considered at fault, the facts of the accident were that we clipped a vehicle that was stopped, under a green light, with no brake lights on. Had my husband NOT swerved to avoid this vehicle as soon as he realized that it was not moving, we would have probably had much, MUCH more damage to both property and life. Ultimately we were indemnified, but that wasn’t where I was going with this.

As we looked over the document (in complete disbelief), it said we were being sued for emotional distress and (some word I can’t remember). The attorney explained that the SPOUSES of the 2 women in the other car were suing us for “loss of companionship” and that the other (unknown) word meant basically that these women were one way before the accident and now they were irrevocably changed. He further explained that because of the subjective nature of the claim, it was almost impossible to disprove. I wish I could remember that word, but from what I found today while looking, it is now referred to as “Quality of life damages (sometimes called hedonic): the inability to enjoy life or activities as before the harm.

A while ago, I wrote a post on the loss of innocence. The difficulties in having to watch as my children were painfully ushered into adulthood by life’s realities.

We watch as they go from believing everything,

to believing mostly,

to trying to sustain belief in the face of doubtful encounters with their peers,

to acknowledging that the magical KNOWING of things in their world has faded,

to experiencing life’s tragedies and knowing what grief feels like inside their own skins,

to questioning everything with a sometimes cynical expectation that their perceptions of the worst case scenario will become reality.

As a parent this is the part of having kids that pains me the most. Even as I realize that we are the sum of ALL our experiences and that people learn and grow most by walking through life’s storms.

The events of this past Friday here in our smallish town reflected every parent’s worst nightmare. Every parent who had a child in either of the middle schools or high school felt that free-falling  in the pit of their stomach as their cell phones went off, messages from their child or friends stating, “There’s been a shooting at school”.

WHAT?! Disbelief was short lived as my cell phone began an almost staccato peppering of beeps with tweets and messages from others confirming that yes, it was true and that the middle school my child does NOT go to was on lockdown while they rushed a 14 year old boy in “extremely critical condition” to the hospital and apprehended the 15 year old boy who fired the gun.

As a relief washed over me that it wasn’t MY children’s schools involved, the next thought sent my stomach plummeting again: oh my sweet Lord, the parents whose children were involved!

As my heart ached, I did the only thing I knew I COULD do: I began to pray. From the center of the maelstrom, with each rippling wave of fear outward, this event touched every soul in this small community. Even as I prayed for peace to deride the impetus of fear that flows from grief, I did so with the understanding that a time-dividing moment had occurred, forever separating life “before the shooting” and “after the shooting”. Even in families with children too young to know what had happened, the unspoken fear inside a parent’s heart can be felt. Hedonic damages have occurred in our lives. A harm has been visited on each of us that will affect our lives – our children’s lives – altering the way we perceive the world around us.

And no matter how we each react to our own personal fears and grief, no matter how sincerely we believe in Providence’s infinite healing powers to surpass all our finite understanding, no matter how we move through our grief to the other side, an innocence has been lost and cannot be restored.

My youngest went to the “other” middle school. When news came to her in the final class of the day, the students responded by joining hands and praying. When she arrived home, after being hugged for an exceptionally long time by her mama, I asked her if she wanted to talk about what had happened.

“Nah, not right now. I’m just going to go up to my room, okay?”

And she went upstairs to her room and did what she does: turned on her computer and began to type. This is what she had to say, not wanting to talk much at all:

Stranger

((I know. What business do I have writing this? I didn’t know them. I had no connection, at least none directly.
But I had to. I don’t know why, I just had to write something. and this is what came out.)

They say it sounded like a door slam,
Or a popped balloon, with whatever inside released;
But something shattered a life, a community,
And at the same time, shattered peace

I wasn’t there, I wouldn’t know,
The bullet screamed inside the other school
All I know is everyone’s breath caught
At the knowledge of somebody, taken so cruel

It was a whispered start,
One that could stop a heart –
“Someone’s been shot, someone’s been shot,
Someone at Discovery, they’ve been shot.”

It wasn’t our problem,
Our school wasn’t the site of this plan
But you wouldn’t know that by our closed eyes,
Our begging words, our clasped hands

The mayor flickers on the TV behind me,
Reassuring, and talking, with information to tell;
But all that comprehends is the names, the ages,
And not, not ever, the reason they fell

The information keeps pouring
And I’m reeling back, horrified
He WAS my age, He WAS a good guy,
Now…he’s not alive

In the pit of my stomach, something cold turns
As the impact hits me with the unspeakable force;
There is truly no one that I know of,
Truly no one who has it worse

Then the women that must close their eyes tonight
And dream of their baby boys’ faces;
Forevermore, now they can only touch,
A headstone, stamped with names and ages

Then the men who have to look down,
And try to understand their sons’ eyes;
One pair dark, lifeless, closed forever,
One pair unready to face the jury’s tries

Then the friends who will return
To the scene, in three days’ time;
Will they walk like zombies, staring at the ground,
Or will they laugh and talk and pretend everything’s fine?

What lead up to this?
What could we of done?
Was there some route somebody could’ve taken
That would save more than one family’s son?

We’ll never know now,
A community in shock
We taste the bitter words,
But we just can’t talk

I didn’t know them;
Now, I never will
But the web of connections leads me far away
And the feeling keeps my soul unstill

Rest in peace, Stranger;
Your death has brought us all to our knees
And whatever made you do it, Shooter,
I hope you realize what you’ve done to our peace

Namaste,

~me

View the Community Meeting held Sunday here:

An Excerpt from YWP Nanowrimo

A couple of years ago, c.a. from over at Southern Sinful Bliss, sent me an email with a link in it to something called “NANOWRIMO”, with the instructions to pass it on to my littlest (aka “Mary”) who, like c.a., loves to write (I don’t know where she gets it!).  I forwarded it to her with a note that it was a link that she “might find useful for writing” (side note – translated:I haven’t looked at it yet). Later, I asked her if she’d gotten my email and had she checked out the link?

“Yup.”

“Sooo… what was it about?” I asked.

NANOWRIMO (NAtional NOvel WRIting MOnth) is a annual event that encourages writers from across the writing spectrum to meet a 50,000 word novel goal, beginning November 1st and ending November 30th.  The website offers helpful hints, user forums, etc. in an effort to bring together a disparaging group of novelist and novelist-wannabees, with one common goal – to let the literature flow!

If you’re in K – 12 you can set your own goal of number of words written- sort of like in school, but without having to worry about a grade! But the obvious purpose is to set a goal and then write, write, write!

Last year, like most things in the harried and over-committed world we live in, Mary started with a BANG!, but got derailed by holidays and mid-terms and day to day STUFF that tends to distract. She was disappointed, but knew there was always next year.

Well, this year IS next year and last night, around 10:45pm, she bounded into the room with a “Guess what?!”

“What?” I laughed, mirroring and delighting in her barely controlled excitement, without a clue as to what it could be.

“Wait! Don’t tell me …you’re all done with all your Christmas shopping and you want to do mine? …no… You cleaned up your room!? …that’s it, isn’t it?!”

I did it!! I finally finished NANOWRIMO!! I actually DID it!!”

“That is AWESOME!! Congratulations, Babygirl! What was your goal?”, I asked, figuring it was a couple of thousand words – you know, like an essay.

“13,000.”

Wow. I mean wow. Seriously? I can’t imagine writing that couple of thousand in a month, much less thirteen thousand! When would there be time to do so much writing? I can’t even really find the time to post on my blog regularly…and even that is questionable, since I like to use quotes so much!

13,000 words.

“Have you finished your homework then?” I just had to ask, given the sheer number just thrown at me like it was no big thing.

“Er…almost! I just have a couple of math problems left, but I wanted to finish on time and tonight was the last night.  I’ll get right on that math. I just wanted to tell you about it – I’m so excited!! And the best part is that if you finish on time, you get a certificate to get your story printed into a paperback book!! So once I finish the story, I can get it printed!”

Whoa. Tap the brakes there.

“It’s not finished?! You wrote 13,000 words and you’re not done?”

“Well, I finished 5 chapters, but I’d like to add more to the story. I already know where its going to go,” she said matter of factly.

“That’s fantastic, Honey… it really is, but I know where YOU’RE going to NOT go if you don’t finish your math!”  (Hey! Its my job as a mom to redirect…)

Congratulations, my Mary! You GO, you NANOWRIMO-crazed girl! I’m very proud of you and excited for you!!

Namaste,

~me

With the author’s permission, here’s a small excerpt from the story (Chapter 3):

Suddenly, Madelyn smiled – and it wasn’t a friendly one.

“Well, then, Dylan, since you’re so interested in the woods,” She said coyly, putting her hands on her hips. “Why don’t you go do the squirrels a favor and collect some acorns, since they can’t, due to the rebuilding, because of the damage you caused?”

“B-but…” Dylan blanched, picturing the thousands of acorns strewn across the woods.

“I agree,” Shaniya chimed in, reaching down to pick up an empty paint bucket, which she handed to him. “Don’t come back until this is completely filled, okay?”

“And don’t pick up any wormy, diseased, or broken ones.” Madelyn added, still smiling.

Dylan looked from girl to girl, realized he was outnumbered, sighed, and started towards the woods.

The first step into the woods, and Dylan crushed a couple of acorns under his feet. He ignored them, and got on his knees disdainfully, starting to pick through the multitudes of leaves to find clean ones. The work was, unsurprisingly, monotonous, and, soon enough, Dylan found himself muttering random song lyrics to entertain himself:

“Cause there ain’t no rest for the wicked,

And money don’t grow on trees…

Got bills to pay, got mouths to feed,

There ain’t nothing in this world for free…

Ya know we can’t slow down, we can’t turn back,

Though you know, we wish, we could…

No, there ain’t no rest for the wicked-“

“Till we close our eyes for gooood!”

“Wha-?”

Dylan glanced up, surprised at hearing somebody else finish the chorus, and found wide, hazel eyes peering back not three inches away from his face.

“HOLY-!”

Dylan lurched backward, throwing his hand forward in a punch instinctively. Another hand reached up and stopped it, and laughter soon bounced off the trees, slightly nervous.

“Woah! Slow down there, dude, my singing’s not that bad.”

Dylan looked at his attacker frantically, only to find there wasn’t much to look at. While the voice made it obviously a female, the only piece of them that was really visible were the eyes, in between two pieces of teal cloth covering the rest of their head. The rest of their body was covered in the same colored outfit, stretching down to even cover their feet and hands – tight-fitting, but not obnoxiously so.

Holy crap. Dylan thought, recognizing the uniform. I’m fighting a ninja.

Somehow, that didn’t reassure him whatsoever.

“Let go!” He yelled, kicking at her. The ninja jumped back, but somehow maintained a grip – one that yanked Dylan forward and onto his stomach.

“Oof!”

The ninja quickly let go, eyes widening in surprise.

“Ah! Sorry, I didn’t mean to hu-“

But Dylan was gone.

W.O.W. from a Recovering Father

I wish that I had read this on Sunday, because this would have made a great Father’s Day post! But since its only MONDAY (mostly) and we’re only talking a day’s time, read this AWESOME article by Alex Blackwell that showed up in my feed (I’m a little behind in reading my from my reader)!

Peace,

~me

Confessions from a Recovering Father

Written by Alex Blackwell

If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. – Nadine Stair

I wish I could have a mulligan, a do-over, with being a father. I wish I could go back in time about 12 years and start again. I would have done it differently. I would have been a better father.

Last week was spring break for the University of Kansas. Caitlin, who will be nineteen-years-old in about a month, used her time off from class to accompany me to New York City. I attended meetings during the day, but my daughter and I were able to spend time together in the evening. It was a great six days. I hope Caitlin would agree.

When Caitlin was younger, my life was centered on my career and earning money. I didn’t want to be bothered with the details of everyday life such as helping with homework or being accessible to both love and discipline. I took good care of my family’s physical needs; just not the emotional ones.

My daughter quickly distanced herself from me. She craved my attention and wanted me to both love her and set boundaries and expectations for her. Caitlin had a simple and perfectly valid request – she wanted me to be an engaged and fully-present father.

When she was ten-years-old, Caitlin essentially washed her hands of me. She was tired of waiting and she was, I’m sure, tired of being disappointed.

The years which followed were strained and uneasy ones. She would only get but so close to me, before pulling away. Her trust was limited and very guarded. Time does heal most wounds, I would think, and given enough time she would come back to me.

Today, I have the benefit of looking at my past parenting mistakes through the lens of experience and humility. If I could convert the mulligan, if I were allowed to go against the rules and be allowed to take another shot, here’s how I would do it:

  • I would stay at the dinner table 15 minutes longer and not feel compelled to rush to my office and dig into my work. I would use those 15 minutes to ask one additional question about her day, to provide the nurturing she wanted and to offer my help in any matter my daughter requested.
  • I would insist my parents, her grandparents, treat her with equality and show her the same love and attention they showed my oldest child.
  • I would set limits with Caitlin. I would remind her to watch her tone of voice with me and to show respect. I would clearly establish my authority as her father, but in a positive and healthy manner.
  • I would volunteer to be her coach in soccer or softball. I would be the dad who would go from house-to-house collecting all of the other girls for practice and then go for pizza afterwards.
  • I would sit next to her at night and review her homework. I would compliment the right answers and help her with the wrong ones.
  • I would plan special times that only she and I would share. I would make myself available to show her that she was indeed just as special as the other children.
  • I would tuck her into bed at night and help her dream and wish as we gazed up at the ceiling together. I would remind her to give thanks for the abundance in her life. I would kiss her good night and tell her how much I love her.

That was then. This is now.

Regret and shame keeps us stuck in the past. My time in New York with Caitlin was about moving forward; about how our relationship could improve and be defined using new terms and conditions. It provided a new start and hope for what might be next as Caitlin’s father.

The last night we were in New York, Caitlin and I shared a wonderful dinner together prior to seeing the Broadway musical A Spring Awakening. After the plates were cleared and as we were waiting for the check, I confessed to Caitlin that I do need to take full responsibility for the conflict and strain that existed in our relationship when she was a child and young teenager.

I made the commitment to continue to reach out to her and to make her a priority in my life. I confessed to her I was looking forward to our father-daughter relationship as adults.

She smiled and said she would like that very much. My daughter granted me a mulligan: a second chance.

March is a month for new beginnings and the promise of hope springing eternal. The flowers that once lay dormant under the cold, hard earth are now finding the courage and strength to re-establish their presence for the world to see.

I may have lost my daughter when she was a child. I refuse to lose her again.

A Mother’s Day to Remember

I look forward to Mother’s Day every year for a variety of reasons. My children polishing their halos for a day, for instance 😉 ! Every Mother’s Day, I get reminded again just how fortunate and blessed I am to have such incredible individuals in my life. I cannot imagine my life without them and the joy that they bring. NOT to say they don’t have those moments where their halos fall askew. I just think that as a mom, I love them through those trials and try to help them learn to right themselves. I realized long ago that just as I don’t belong to my parents, they don’t belong to me either and the same Grace that carries me also shelters them. The love, however, remains the same.

This Mother’s Day was special.

This year, after a 24 year, 5 months, and 13 days (I wasn’t counting at all!) I had the opportunity to celebrate Mother’s Day with my ALL my family – including my first born for the first time. 🙂

Meet Megan.

October 1984

October 1984

24 years, 4 months, & 15 days

24 years, 4 months, & 15 days Later

I’m not going to tell the whole story (I’m going to write it up as a story), but the condensed version is that when I was younger, I made some poor judgment calls while under the influence that resulted in my becoming a teen pregnancy statistic.( <-That is the light version of my actual time spent with the Dark Side, but for these purposes, it’s right on the money!)

On my birthday this year, shortly after midnight on my actual birthday, I found my daughter that I had given up for adoption in 1984. It was through an adoption reunion site I had registered on back in 2002, but it was on FaceBook (of all places) that we re-connected. Through a series of undeniable Grace and serendipity, I had the honor of making her acquaintance and subsequently met and put my arms around her again, after years of hoping such a day would come. One of those serendipitous moments was this post, which I had written for her on her birthday in acknowledgment of her place in my heart. She was one of my “anonymous readers” of this blog and when she saw this, she knew that it would be okay to contact me and began drafting a letter of introduction.

This is also one of the reasons I’ve been a bit distracted from posting as of late. Eventually I’ll get back to my rhythm, but I’ve been processing, incorporating, and enjoying this new addition to my world and I say it unapologetically.

So HAPPY BELATED MOTHER’S DAY to all of you moms out there!!

I hope your day was filled with the joy of knowing that as moms, we have the unequaled honor of being given the opportunity to bring life and joy into this world. Bestowed upon me by undeserved Grace, I truly feel awed and humbled when I consider that I somehow had a small part in bringing these incredible people into being. 🙂  I love them ineffably.

My kiddos

My kiddos

And I LOVE being a mom!!

Peace,

~me

Behind the Autism Statistics – Soci-Able

The month has gotten away from me before I could finish all my Autism Factiods! 😦

I guess I’ll just have to extend it into a different month!

rob-eyesFor today, Fact #3:

“Children with autism don’t know how to play interactively with other children… Autism is a spectrum disorder. This means the symptoms and personality traits may vary from moderate to serious depending on how severely the child has been affected. And, contrary to common perception, it is a social disorder, not a disease.

ASDs can impact a person’s functioning at different levels, from very mildly to severely. Many people with ASDs also have unusual ways of learning, paying attention, and reacting to different sensations. There is usually nothing about how a person with an ASD looks that sets them apart from other people, but they may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most people.

They have difficulty interpreting what others are thinking or feeling because they can’t understand social cues, such as tone of voice or facial expressions, and don’t watch other people’s faces for clues about appropriate behavior.  They lack empathy.”

Social deficits are definitely one of the toughest problems facing autism spectrum kids. For Robert, that has proved to be the hardest thing to overcome and he still struggles with it on a daily basis. Daily. bday-boy4th

One of the first “big breakthroughs” I remember was when I came into our den to see what all the quiet was about. He was sitting with his little sister at a “tea table”, having pretend tea. PRETENDING to eat, drink, etc. Something as simple and “normal” as that scene moved me profoundly and gave me yet another piece of hope to add to the small, but growing, pile of possible.

adviceThey also said he wouldn’t have a sense of humor. Anybody who knows our family can appreciate how funny THAT is! As if he had a choice! He’s got a distinct, often slapstick type sense of humor and we love his laugh. One side of his mouth pulls into a half-grin and his eyes mischievously sparkle.

I remember once upon a time in Walmart, Robert was in the back of the buggy and he was screaming.  With his hands over his ears. He was maybe 4 at the time. In this case, it was simply sensory overload! Trying to hurry, I pushed him to the check out line, hoping not to get the line with the slowest cashier. As he continued to carry on, there was  a lady in the next aisle over. She had a boy about Robert’s age with her and they were both staring.

Shaking her head in disgust, she said in a loud enough voice for people around her to hear her “SOME people should learn to SPANK their kids more often!” Full of confidence in her obvious superior parenting skills, she added, “Then they wouldn’t misbehave so much, now would they?!”2004

I had SEVERAL different retorts come rushing to the forefront of my mind, each checked before leaving my mouth with my motto/mantra/sanity keeper “what good would come of THAT?”

Taking a deep breath and addressing the screaming child in my buggy who was painfully beyond my ability to comfort, I said in a soothing, yet loud voice, “SOME people should go home tonight and hit their knees thanking God for healthy children who don’t suffer from a neurological disorder that makes sounds and lights so painful they scream…isn’t that right, Honey?”

I often think it would be somewhat easier if Robert, as well as most ASD kids I know, didn’t look so “normal”. robngracieHell, most of them are downright adorable looking! If he had, say Down’s Syndrome,  in the same scenario, I doubt that woman would have felt compelled to offer a passive-aggressive lecture about lack of discipline causing him to scream. Taking the time to explain autism and that his outburst was directly related to his ability to process everything around him normally seemed a waste of time and breath. But I couldn’t completely let it pass without saying something in his defense! Progress, not perfection. 🙂 img_3515

He’s certainly tried!  Soccer…basketball…piano… currently electric pianomanguitar…soccer

all with varying success. Though truly amazingly talented at many “typical” activities for little boys, team sports don’t seem to suit him well, though the skills required, outside of social, he has in spades (he’s got some mad skills!).

To date, he still has a VERY difficult time “reading” others too. He doesn’t get subtlety or the typical playful banter teenagers, particularly boys, often communicate with. Interactions remain hard. Everything is very literal. If I sarcastically say something like, “That’s just GREAT…I didn’t REALLY want that picture” when he accidentally knocks over a frame and breaks it, he can’t tell that I’m actually upset. I just told him it was great and that I didn’t want the picture. The underlying hurt and anger don’t register. And that is a chasm I don’t have a clue how to bridge. I guess that will have to be one of the chapters written after its lived out.mylilman

Autism Awareness – Filler

When we began the journey through autism 14 years ago, there was little awareness about autism and precious few resources for families who found themselves trapped in the maze.

Some of our families have been told to put their child in an institution. Were hoping for Harvard.

"Some of our families have been told to put their child in an institution. We're hoping for Harvard."

←(Side humorous Note: Remember when I said “THEY” said “be prepared to institutionalize him”? Found this researching for current info!) hehehehe

During my son’s childhood and into his teenage years, organizations like Autism Speaks, F.E.A.T. (Families for Early Autism Treatment), the Autism Society have helped bring about awareness…which in turn has brought about funding for research…which in turn has brought about a multitude of services and options that even 10 years ago were unheard of. It amazes me how many different ways there are these days to help support both Autism Awareness and research these days!

To that end, I thought as a filler to the previous entries this April, I’d post a couple of the many opportunities available to learn more, help support, and just become a small part of the solution. 🙂

Peace,

~me

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Every time you use the toolbar to search and shop online,

you will raise money for the National Autism Association

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Gerda Brooks Cohen of Hull, MA has been collecting seaglass with her husband Irwin from the beach for 44 years.

When Cohen finds the seaglass on her walks on the beach, she turns the white, amber, green, red and blue pieces into jewelry. As people expressed interest, she began to sell them for around $18 and donates all of the proceeds to Autism Speaks, an awareness and fundraising group.

“I’ve got to do something,” Cohen said one weekday morning, pointing to more than 10 jars of sea glass in her kitchen. “I’ve got to find a good cause.” Cohen is familiar with the issue because her youngest daughter teaches autistic children in Delray Beach, Fla.

As long as there are buyers, Cohen will keep making the pendants and sending the proceeds to Autism Speaks. She includes a flier with information about sea glass and autism with every piece of jewelry sold.