Despite my hopeful nature, fear must have taken root in my heart somewhere in the beginning of motherhood or maybe that is just what happens to moms; we steal our hearts and strengthen them because we know the world can hurt those most precious to us without any warning. Going worst case scenario becomes an easy leap to take. Our toughened, ready for the worst hearts keep us on edge and ready to protect our sacred children; our most blessed gift at any cost.
My kids; all kids; face so many pressures. Childhood is no longer the breeze of playing kick the can in the street until dark.
I know our family has more to be grateful for than not. Unfortunately, no one is unscathed in this life. Suffering is heavy and universal.
Maybe it is the time of year; or maybe it is the shift from two jobs to one, but my awareness of my children seems to be in laser focus.
I have been watching my littles closely lately. Their struggles and hurts rippling through my own heart. One in particular is on my mind a great deal. He has Tourette’s; I have written about it before. I don’t feel right telling his side of the story or giving too much information here. However, I think voicing my side might heal me a bit; help me a bit.
As I watch him shake and hear his vocal tic I want to help. The recent increase in frequency isn’t slowing down. I haven’t seen him like this in years. It hurts my heart and I try to have open conversation, but anything I bring up lately just makes it worse. I don’t know how to help him without drawing attention to the tics. I am trying to ignore it; yet for some reason it is proving difficult. I wonder if it is bothering him at school. I know it is in his file and he doesn’t want me stepping in at school yet. It just hurts my heart to see his body jolt and jerk against his wishes.
I am grateful for his positive attitude, caring friends and his health. It doesn’t erase the hurt I feel though. I still worry that it bothers him; I still want to give him resources and options and that seems to be the last thing he wants. And I know that is his right and so I must wait on the sidelines as he makes the plays until he asks for my assistance.
I know it is just best to be a safe place to land and for weeks I have not spoken a word about it to him or anyone else. He will come to me if he needs me. The door is open and he knows it. So instead, I will have faith he is really unbothered and comfortable. To know he is confident and at ease is what is most important after all.
With four they each have their struggles. As I tucked in one of my youngest, he started to cry. When I asked him what was wrong, he said that kids make fun of him. Ah, the tale as old as time. And as I calmed him this Mama knew it would not be the last time we faced this challenge. Such is the way of the world. Hopefully, I help build his confidence enough the taunts from others fall at his feet instead of pierce his heart, for that is all we can do. I have to be the soft place to land, the cheerleader on the sideline.
Mistakes come on my end, too. Sometimes they call you in for a hurt or a scrape and in an effort to make them tough, you nurture too little. The balance between that becomes difficult as they get older. Kissing a bumped knee was easy, now too much or too little attention is harder to navigate with my pre-teen.
Mothering is not for the faint of heart. But as I tell my kids, I am doing the best I can and the therapy you may eventually need from my mistakes is on me.
From one mama bear to the next, do the best you can, hold on tight, keep those cheers from the sidelines coming and strengthen your patience because the older they get the harder this parenting gig becomes, richer and more rewarding for sure, but a whole slew of variables make it more nerve racking and moving from front and center in their lives to the side is tougher than you expect.
Fridays are usually my kids favorite days. No homework means straight up fun all afternoon. After the first full week of school I thought my kids would be stoked that Friday afternoon had finally arrived.
All seemed good in the car. Of course my momdar (mom + radar) should have gone off when my daughter asked, “Do you like my outfit?” five minutes into our car ride home.
By the time we arrived home and kids piled out of the car, tears were streaming down her face. “What happened?” I asked; still not putting two and two together.
After a long hug and a few sobs she tells me that a girl said to her, “What are you wearing? Seriously, if you had just changed the bottom of that outfit maybe it would have been okay.”
Fury. White-hot anger. Pain. Hurt. All this washes over me for her. As that simmers to a calm, I try to clean away this comment that will forever leave a stain. Nothing I say can completely erode the hurt from her heart. I know from experience. Whoever said, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” was a full-fledged dreamer and a stone cold liar.
We talk about responses for next time because apparently this girl thinks everyone needs to hear her opinion no matter what it is. My girl is finally calm and she decides to change her clothes. And even though we move past that hurtful moment, it sits with me still when my eyes pop open at 6 AM Saturday morning.
Kids say hurtful things. Adults say hurtful things.
I feel that I am doing my part for humanity to teach my children that if something isn’t helpful, kind, or necessary that maybe that little piece of information is better left unsaid. We talk about the Golden Rule at least 10 times a day. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you – or in our speak – treat others how you want to be treated.
But…will mean ever never stop?
Hurt people; hurt people. People who feel low and little feel the path to rise up is through stealing someone else’s power.
Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” This quote is embroidered into my soul.
Children learn to speak by listening to those around them. I hear the words I say spill from my children’s lips.
I have heard people say that parents cannot be blamed for how their children behave. I have heard moms excuse away mean behavior with “kid will be kids”.
If we don’t teach them, if we don’t take responsibility for who they become then who will? What will ever change?
I know what occurred Friday isn’t the first or last time that something like this will happen. Heck, I am an adult and I still face these challenges and comments from other adults! What hurts my heart more deeply is that this happens to all of us. That our world still has people in it that find excuses for hate – they hide behind religion, race, history or whatever excuse they can find to eradicate the simple fact that each of us alone is responsible for what we bring to the table. It comes down to the individual and if you can hurl a hate-filled slur at another human it has nothing to do with anything but your own bad behavior. There is no excuse you can hide behind. Your poor choices and actions stand alone. No circumstance, no religion, no difference, nothing defends that action. You hurt another human. That is all.
We need to teach our children that simple fact. We are the same. Despite our exterior and cultural differences, we are the same. We all have a heart. We all want love. We all need the human basics – water, food, etc. Treat one another with respect. Do not hurt another person. It should just be that simple.
School has started. Enough said. Am I right? Whether you have kids in school or not if you live in the U.S., school starting changes traffic patterns, moods and daily life all the way around. And since my brain cannot function without examining the minutiae of everything, it started spinning and I thought this was as good a time as any to share the lessons that I have learned lately. As always, hopefully this helps someone else out there in this great big universe feel a little more normal – even though there is no such thing – and also maybe sharing will help my mind to stop spinning.
People who hurt act out.
Don’t start judging me already; I get that is a pretty logical statement. However, when violence strikes we aren’t really acting in a logical manner these days. Experience has taught me control is an illusion. We make choices based on the events that face us, and we can make good choices or bad, but life doesn’t change. That shit has been rough since the dawn of time. I mean there has always been violence, destruction, hate, and awful stuff in general.
We now have media everywhere we freaking look, so it seems so very overwhelming, but it isn’t different in itself. It really is same shit, different day. We have to start reacting to what happens to us better and also being better at proactively offering solutions before the problem hits. It isn’t an easy deal to solve; I get that. But just as violence stems from anger and pain; great change also comes from pain and reacting with love, patience, compassion, understanding. We are meant to share our stories.
Don’t get me wrong, when people are acting mean that is my biggest pet peeve. Rudeness crawls up my spine and causes me to throw up a little in my mouth every.single.time. I am human after all. As a human though, we are the starting point of change. That starts with compassion, sincerity, honesty, the giving of our time to others. These things can heal someone else. We must listen to one another’s story and whether we accept it as our truth or not, we need to hear each other and offer understanding. Only then can we start to really change things.
I recently watched BrenéBrown speak about privilege so beautifully, I fear trying to even touch that topic without mentioning her description could not even do it justice. Privilege is something you are born with and do not have to earn; like finding people just like you on TV or finding a doll with your same color skin in any store you walk in. We as a people, we can change that.
Change is all based on reacting with compassion. We know better and should be making better choices. There is far more good in the world and those acting out right now fear the change that is coming. We got this people – good and compassion and faith – we got this. We always have. Don’t lose faith and continue to respond with an open heart, ear and mind and then change will come. We can heal one another one person at a time; one choice at a time; one compassionate action at a time.
Like the size of your life.
Some people choose big and lately that seems to be what our society is preaching and delivering. I choose simple. I choose small town everyday simple life. Simple, quiet beauty fills me up. I like the size of my life. I like it so much I am constantly trying to slow it down so I can soak it up with every fiber of my being. Somehow that never seems to work out; like sand it keeps slipping through my fingers.
There are advantages to playing small. Not many people write this down or preach it. Setting out each day to be a good human and do the simple, necessary things without a lot of hoopla; there is some real good in that. Doing what needs to be done every day without shouting look at me or tweeting it; instagram-ing it; Facebook-ing it; there is fullness in just the doing an act in and of itself.
Being who you are and doing the right thing when no one is looking means so much more than shouting it from the roof top. Choosing small, real simple life is wholesome stuff. It gives you time to really connect to those important to you. That is what really matters. The simple pleasures of homemade lemonade, family time, the view, and little love notes. Making a difference one person at a time in your every day ordinary life. I choose small. I choose simple. But whatever you choose; just like the size of your life.
Kids keep it real.
This one is just what it is. Kids see things simply and say what they feel. Mythirteen-year-old has told me twice in the past three months two things that have profoundly changed the way I look at things. It isn’t that no one has said this to me before, but it is the simplicity with how and when kids say things that just rock your world.
I had been worrying about work stuff and change and as I tuck my son in at night he says,”You know mom, all that stuff you have been talking about lately it really isn’t big stuff that matters. It is really kind of small stuff that shouldn’t bother you at all.” Well take that slap in the face! Yikes! He was right. That shifted my focus lickety-split.
Then just this week, first day of school. The twins are in two separate classes. I have to rush to get my thirteen-year-old to school and so I can’t stay and walk the twins into class. Every other child has a parent walking them into their class, but not my two. And just like that there is not just one set of class parents judging me as I speed off with my older son, but two sets of class parents and two sets of teachers. Talk about the weight of judgement. My older son notices this affect me. I tell him that I feel bad; he always had a parent walk him in and now the youngest are getting a less than experience because I am pulled in different directions. To which he says, “Mom, you put a lot of unrealistic expectations on yourself. The things you think you should do aren’t really humanly possible.” Touché! You got me kid.
Not that I haven’t heard this before, but there is something about your child pointing this out to you that just makes it sting and set it in a bit deeper. If you have experienced this lately; I get you; I hear you; this parenting gig is not for the faint of heart and your kids change you in ways you never expected. And on that note…
Pee protection is legit.
Not only does parenting take an emotional toll on you, but it also can wreck you physically. I am extremely tired of having to cross my legs to cough or sneeze. To have to stop jumping on the trampoline every five minutes so I can pee. Or to have to stop and pee when I run. Ridiculous! This seriously is not fair. Women give birth and carry these precious beings for 9 months and then we continue to love them despite the fact that they can push every single button and make us more upset and frustrated than we ever believed humanly possible, but NOW we also can’t even freaking sneeze without peeing ourselves. The injustice! The humanity! Good Lord why you got to do us like that?! WHY?! Okay, rant over. Just had to get that off my chest. Recently a friend recommends Poise pads because well the struggle is real and women around the world have this pee problem. The Poise pads help, they do. I just can’t stand putting one in my underwear every damn day. Blah! Blech! Ugh! But there is a solution and they do work; just in case you are wondering. Bottom line, getting older kind of sucks and I am still mostly just crossing my legs when I sneeze, but whatever – it is what it is.
I should have walked today. The past few months I have been working up my stamina; getting back into shape, counting calories. I think it’s working. Sunday I ran a 10K. Okay, I jogged 5+ miles of a 10K and walked the rest. The next day I ran another 5K and the day after that I walked/jogged another 3 miles. Yesterday my body needed a rest and so I walked a bit, but didn’t run. Okay jog. Semantics; shemantics. Well the day after that ended with a note sent home regarding my youngest that sent me into fiery mama bear mode and the day’s mode didn’t change much so while I stepped well there wasn’t much walking and peaceful calm in my attitude.
Today the universe seemed to know I needed to balance out yesterday and responded with a calm, stillness. I settled into that stillness in full gear; Uggs, sweatpants, and my favorite cozy sweatshirt. I hunkered down into work, reading, laundry, writing, and the small, even goodness of my life.
Plus I don’t do “shoulds” any more. There isn’t a place for them in my life any more.
My life fills me up and I thank God for that daily.
All the little moments…the smiles of my children, the way their hair smells after a shower, the unique ways they greet me at the end of a school day. My heart fills with the stories they tell, surprising my husband with 14 gifts for our 14 married years together. The coziness of my home, my clothes. The simple pleasures of a good cup of coffee, the way cold ice water quenches a thirst so completely. Or the smell of fresh-cut grass, a sunny day, a breeze that carries a hint of jasmine. Sweet, encouraging text messages from friends. You know all the little things that make you feel whole, complete.
There is a stability, a solidness that I feel in my soul on days like today. I wasn’t spinning in different directions, reeling from an act of unkindness, or torn in a thousand directions by a barrage of requests. Regardless if my day is still like today or chaotic like other days, my life fills me up. This life is greater than I ever imagined. I am so grateful for each second and so grateful for all the little things that make my cup run over.
Good gosh that Miss Poehler is dynamite. I really think we would be great friends. She is funny and profound and God love her those are my two favorite things in a human. But unfortunately this post isn’t about Amy Poehler, it’s just about what her words inspired me to write. Just warning you so you aren’t disappointed.
I figured it was high time I share what I am learning about over here in afourytale land. Maybe what I am learning is something you can relate to as well.
We have a great place in my town that let’s you paint pottery and they glaze it for you; Green Glaze Pottery. If you haven’t been it is well worth a visit to check out for an hour or two and the family that runs it is wonderfully kind and helpful. I am sure if you are in a different town that you have a place like it. We have been a couple of times and even had Dana’s birthday party there. It is one of my favorite places. Everyone of us has fun there. Well four of the six of us do and that is a pretty good success rate. Creativity is the expression of your soul. Plus the cup I made wasn’t too shabby. Being creative just makes you feel better. Period.
Go camping in December…
It may seem odd, but if you live in California I don’t see why you can’t go camping in December. And I am sure you can in other places, too. We sure had a great time. We found an oasis of forest right outside of the city and as Zach said, “we hit an animal jackpot.” We saw deer, cranes, ducks, geese, wild turkeys and woodpeckers.
We also bundled up and grabbed our umbrellas and went for a hike in the rain. It was my most favorite camping trip ever! But more importantly what the heck are we waiting for?! If there is something you want to do, go do it; time is short. Don’t wait for the perfect time, just go do it. As Miss Amy Poehler says, “Great people do things before they are ready.” I am pretty sure she is some kind of genius I tell you that. And if any of you all out there know her can you let her know that for me. I am sure she already knows it, but it’s nice to hear things like that, you know?
Little campfire morning
riding in puddles!
walking in the rain!
our bold turkey
…right up to the door
Be silly and let your kids take pictures…
This is a lesson I often forget and have to be reminded of from time to time. I take myself too seriously…I know shocking. But this year there were lots of moments for me to look back on where I was silly with the kids. I hope they remember these times.
If you have an Amazon Alexa pretty please ask her to tell you a joke. My kids figured this out the other day and she is pretty hilarious. For example: What do you call a small fortune-teller that is hiding from the police?
Wait for it…
A small medium at large! Come on that’s clever and funny.
Plus Alexa tells funny short bed time stories with your name in it. Check them out. So much silly fun.
And to top that off let your kids take pictures. We now have 57 pictures of the boldest turkey I have ever met. Colby could not stop taking pictures of this turkey that stopped by our trailer any time we were cooking something. But he is so proud of those photos.
Son of a nutcracker I wanted to make sure I did more Christmas-y stuff with my kiddos this year. Stuff like…
OR even as simple as this…
But I have only wrapped a third of the gifts, stuff was still arriving from Amazon yesterday and we don’t even have a Christmas cookie in this house.
Heck, I wanted to lose 25 pounds this year and keep the house clean and tidy. Shoot, I started aiming lower and just hoped to keep up with the laundry. But it’s today and none of those things are done.
And I have this hideous habit of apologizing for everything even the stuff I didn’t do. Like being sorry I didn’t make the Christmas crafts or get my Christmas cards out.
We can’t keep apologizing because it focuses on the shoulds. I am not sorry I have rested this past six weeks. I am not sorry, I am not sorry, I am not sorry.
Instead of saying I am sorry – say I am kind, silly, smart, rested, creative, growing, learning, playing. Whatever else that positively fills in the blank after I am, say that instead. “I am sorry” is defeating. It is shame-filled. Only apologize when it’s necessary; don’t let it be your default phrase when something happens or you don’t get to a task on your to do list. And never ever apologize for something you feel.
Miss Amy, I am learning not to be sorry, but to be comfortable. This 38-year-old, flabby skin is starting to feel just right these days. Okay, okay not the flabby part, but I am working on it. Any way, get creative, don’t wait to do fun stuff and stop apologizing. And that my friends is a great bunch of things to get yourself for the holidays. No need for Amazon Prime, wrapping paper or paper mache. You are welcome.
P.S. I know some of you are wondering where the holiday cheer posts are. I decided this year to do one big post and it is coming. We have two more gifts to deliver. Once those are done I will write it. Everything else has been delivered and well received I assure you. Thank you to all who contributed.
It’s Friday afternoon and I am beyond looking forward to the weekend and a little relaxation. As I sit in this safe, cozy chair I want to bare my soul to you. See you my dear readers are family and friends who support me. You have come to mean a great deal to me as I journey to find my most authentic self.
Lately my life has felt like a ball of yarn that someone grabbed the free end of and let unravel all over a hard wooden floor. As I have tried to scoop it back up and wind into back into a neat, little ball I have done a great deal of praying and introspection.
Is this where I am supposed to be?
Was not teaching this year the right thing?
Should I have shut down my side business?
Am I making the right choices?
I waited for God or the Universe to answer me back, but there was only SILENCE. But I have deep faith, and I knew God would answer back. So I just kept patiently listening…show me which step is next. I thought of all the ways God could answer me. That is when I remembered my very first prayer on this journey of authenticity; I prayed for friends. God had answered with abundance as he usually does. So I started to think about what I was hearing from them.
Strung together they may still seem random to you, but to me it was all the answers I had been looking for.
I am going to back up a minute because I think the whole picture is important. For the last decade and a half, which is most of my adult life, I have been preparing for WHAT I was going to be; not ever really focusing in on the WHO I was. See I only lived on my own for two years out of college and the majority of that time I was dating my future husband and just starting my career as a teacher. We were married and in that first year of marriage I was pregnant and preparing for motherhood. We went on to have four kids in the next seven years. I was always preparing to be…
The twins were two before the haze of my life was starting to wear off. Don’t get me wrong I loved all the moments, but they moved by at warp speed and I was so busy being WHAT I was that I never did stop to define the WHO. Maybe this didn’t happen to you, maybe you had it all figured out. But I sure didn’t.
So when I started to try and find my authentic self to see who I was, I figured out a couple of things quickly. I wanted to make a difference, I wanted to have deep relationships and have a life with purpose. I thought that meant career, home, and self all at once. So I set out to do all the things.
And I did. I performed well at my full-time job, now in sales, but none the less I rose to the challenge of a new career and was executing it well. I was raising healthy, well-mannered, kind children. I had a solid partnership and loving marriage with my best friend. I started a side business that was beginning to flourish. And last, but certainly not least, I was writing. A dream I have had from a very young age and to my surprise people were reading my little blog. Slowly at first, but more and more with each passing year.
I really was doing it all and doing it well. But with so many balls in the air at once things were slipping and falling. Unfortunately, my focus was on the things that dropped, not the things that rose to the surface. I was just noticing the things that went wrong or didn’t get accomplished.
I was running on empty.
It was too fast. I was on a hamster wheel and I needed to get off.
Fear gripped me though. Wasn’t I supposed to fill up my life with the things I wanted? And I was successful, so why pull back? Outside looking in; I had it all. But…
I was in the worst physical shape of my life and nearing an emotional low. How was this happening?I had listened to my intuition and by some blessing or luck I was achieving all of my dreams. But the problem was in the whirlwind of doing it all I wasn’t actually enjoying them. So I have started stripping things down. If something didn’t feel right no matter the public humiliation or sense of failure at the time I stopped doing it.
I needed to put my oxygen mask on first.
Maybe saying no to soccer so we weren’t gone all afternoon was saying yes to the precious down time we needed to re-energize.
So I stripped it all away – learning the things I didn’t want to do.
I’m still a work in progress, but I knew being a mom was what I really wanted. So I chose to put my family first. I am home afterschool and at bedtime. If my kids need me, I drop what I am doing and make sure they get what they need.
I am also putting me first. I am trying to find my way back to running. I am writing again. I have made overdue dentist and doctor appointments and am trying acupuncture to put myself back together again.
I am also taking stock in my success. My mediumship gift is just that a gift. It belongs to me and God will continue to show me when and where to use it. If it is meant to be a business again when my kids are older it will be. Just because others are demanding it of me doesn’t mean I have to share or answer their demands. My family and myself need to come first. Each of us is a gift. We must nourish ourselves, too.
I was “fucking crazy” not to like myself. I may be an introvert and run and hide. But I am kind, hard-working, bright, determined, compassionate and contrary to what I said on an Internet questionnaire 10 years ago – I would LOVE to be my friend.
So the last of what I heard hit home, too. I know that what I am doing is the right thing. When I got to hold my friend’s infant son for the first time, I was “glowing” holding that baby. I felt a sense of peace wash over me. God was answering me. Yes, taking the time for my friends and family – this is right.
I can say no thank you or maybe later. I do not have to do all the things all at once.
So I guess what I am hoping to share with you all is…
If you can’t find or see your answers, don’t stop looking for them. Handle yourself with kindness. You have permission to NOT do all the things all at once or ever if you don’t want to.
A wise person always tells me, “You can do one thing really well, two things okay and three things not all.” It is okay to slow things down and focus on the one to two things you really want to do well; the rest will fall into place.
So this past Wednesday was hat day for the boys. Did this mom remember? Nope. No dice. Read the newsletter, too darn it!
So it is Wednesday morning and I am feeling a little pep in my step because BP is able to take both older kids to school and I get to walk the twins to kindergarten. Lovely. It is a good day for a good day.
We walk up to school and pass two kindergarten classes full of little ones in all different kinds of hats. The boys look up at me with funny looks. One says, “What is going on today?” Nothing registers. Not even a flicker.
Upon final approach to their class line we see that every single five-year-old head has a hat on it. Parents are taking pictures. It finally registers. “You guys it’s hat day.” I say thinking that it will register with them to. Their teacher had to have reminded them.
“What?” A little voice says with a puzzled look on his face.
“We didn’t know” A little blonde shakes from side to side and a frown starts to appear.
Crap. Double crap.
“I’m sorry,” I say. “I forgot you guys. Do you want me to run home and get you hats?”
Their little dejected faces give them away even though they are trying to act like it doesn’t matter.
“No, it’s okay,” they both say.
They say good-bye and saunter in with the rest of their hat wearing classmates.
They are the ONLY two without a hat.
Crap! Double crap!
Mom guilt takes over and I speed walk home to get them some hats.
Now, hold on! Before you judge me let me break it down for you.
Exhibit A: These two boys have already moved schools twice because of me. They went to a different school starting the second week of school and by the fifth week of school were back at the first school all because of little old me.
Exhibit B: I am also one of the only moms that doesn’t help in class because I work I outside the home.
Exhibit C: And last but not least, I am relatively anti-social and don’t quite fit in with the trendy moms so my boys aren’t always invited to the class playdates.
We don’t have to be Matlock to see that I am justified in running back to the house to get those sweet little boys hats.
So I chose to go get the hats. So sue me.
I wanted them to remember that I brought them the hats and not that I forgot them in the first place.
Believe me, I know there are worse things, but mommy wars are real. The movie Bad moms, the new T.V. sitcom American Housewife not so super far-fetched. Maybe it extends it a bit, but it is there. So long story short, I brought the hats. And on top of that I felt pretty damn good about it.
Of course now I am panicking because I volunteered to bring Rice Krispie treats for the Harvest Festival and I bought pre-made store-bought ones; really they don’t want me to make them, but crap were they supposed to by fancy home-made ones?!
Yeah, first world problems I know. I know, really I do.
Anyway the day ended with mom fails #979, #980, #981 and #982. I mean there are no pictures because well, I forgot it was hat day.
In a weeks time I have written about bravery and grace and just being okay with the falls we experience in life and yet no matter how much I try there is an undercurrent of fear in my heart.
It’s okay to be scared right? Lately I am scared of everything. Okay longer than lately; it started when I was born. I think I was born with extra sensitivity to the world and somehow that made me more afraid of the world; well maybe not the world, but the energy and emotions in it.
I am scared of the little and the big things.
For starters, I am scared that no matter how much I empty my heart and pour it into my writing that this blog will continue to be nothing more than a diary that is more important to me than anyone else, which is okay, but I want to be a writer so much it hurts. So much that sometimes I run and hide from my own writing and I don’t write because no matter how hard I try or much I write it will never be good enough for anyone else to read.
I am scared that no matter how much I know that God loves me and believes that I am enough; I will never feel like I am enough. That the weight I continue to feel will only continue to grow – this weight that I feel has already manifested itself into the weight that I carry and I can feel myself waving the white flag as I am crushed somewhere underneath it all. I am scared that no matter how much I want to be seen; that no one really sees me at all.
I stopped watching the news a decade ago because if it hurt my heart then it definitely could damage my tiny son’s ears and heart, too. So off went the news, because I was so scared and my heart was so hurt by the toxins that spewed from it. There had to be better things to report. But now when we are praising men for sitting during our national anthem, when our police officers are seen as the criminals and men are shot in the street for the color of their skin and whole groups of people are killed around the world for their ethnicity or beliefs and our leaders seem filled with more darkness than light maybe there isn’t better news to report. And that is scary. So scary that when I think about the world I am terrified that no matter how kind I am or how much good I try to put into the world that the darkness in it will swallow me up whole and not just me, everything that I hold sacred; everything and everyone that I love.
Scared doesn’t begin to describe how I feel about being a parent. Failing seems to be the name of the game. I know I have taught them manners and I know they are the kids that will help other kids and be kind; that part of life I think they understand. They are really great kids. But this year my kindergarteners have been kicked, choked, pushed, shoved, yanked and called names with words I don’t even allow out of my own mouth. My daughter continues to try to navigate a place where mean is the norm. That scares the crap out of me. I have had to teach them how to fend for themselves and that shouldn’t even exist at their age. What in the heck is happening in the world that our children are behaving this way? This scares me to death. Haven’t we come to be a civilized people where we don’t have to fear for our lives every time we walk out into the world?
The chaos is gobbling up the innocence of our world. The chaos and darkness are pushing out the light at a fierce pace and I can’t help but feel helpless. And that terrifies me. How can I help my own children understand a world that scares the shit out of me? Scares me to the point that I can’t read the news anymore either, because what I read leaves me shaky and nauseous.
Yesterday as we drove home from school the kids started to talk about how they feel things they can’t see. How the current of energy runs through them. Other people’s energy. This scares me to death. They are like me, extra feel-y. I still struggle with not letting other people’s energy invade my space, my emotions, my thoughts. How am I going to teach my littles not only how to fend off actual physical threats but also emotional, maybe even spiritual ones too? They feel this same unbalanced chaotic energy in the world that I do and can’t explain how or why it is hurting them.
I know we have to go forward and love one another and do good and continue to live our lives to the fullest and that the darkness wins when we feel fear, but sometimes that isn’t enough to stop me from feeling it. Sometimes I am engulfed in fear and feel shaky all day.
I know people who the absolute worst has happened in their lives and they continue to take one step forward; sometimes because life forces them to, but they do it. I am inspired by that and I know that despite my fear that I will continue on as I have been and do my best to do good any way, but I feel better admitting the fear.
Maybe if we are afraid together something good can come of that. Maybe acknowledging the fear leads to a way to face those things we fear and conquer them. Maybe…
One of my kiddos is obsessed with monkey bars right now. He has to try out the monkey bars at every park, no matter the height or complexity.
This triggers my panic and fear index – reflex – whatever it is; it freaks me the hell out!
I am a worrier. It is a trait that has plagued me forever – seriously I have worried about everything my whole life. I have worried about what I wear, who likes me, if I stink, about my skills as a human, you name it I have worried about it.
Now, being a parent you know that when you have kids you worry about everything times a gazillion. You put them to sleep and check to see if they are still breathing a hundred times. You hope you are feeding them enough of the best, healthiest foods. Will goldfish at every meal damage their brains? That is a rhetorical question by the way. You drop them off at school and you worry…
Will they have friends?
Will they be treated with respect?
Can they handle peer pressure?
Will they eat their lunch?
Will they get the help they need?
What if they get lost?
Will they be a good friend?
Will they choose kindness when it comes to others?
Did I read to them enough?
Maybe we should have listened to more classical music?
Maybe I should have fed them more Omega 3s?
And on and on and on…
So where were we? Oh yeah, I know monkey bars.
Monkey bars seem like no big deal, but they are up high and I worry. Kids are letting go one hand at a time and dangling! Dangling above the ground at arm breaking height mind you.
So after several monkey bar attempts and a park that has 3 sets of monkey bars – seriously why so many different kinds of death-defying obstacles at a park? Who created this jungle gym of terror? Those big chips of wood underneath- who the hell thought that was good landing material?
But I digress. Any how, I got tired of feeling my own panic and trying to remain calm on the outside. Isn’t that the life of a parent or a human at all – calm on the outside, melty panic on the inside. Which then makes me think of chocolate and then makes me wish for M&M’s. Then I thank God there isn’t chocolate nearby because I am a stress eater and I would eat all of the chocolate at this death park.
Again I digress. But that is when I had an AH HA moment! (Yes, thank you Oprah for giving me the words for the moment when a life changing idea hits my brain.) This scenario I am in isn’t about being careful or worry or panic; he is going to fall. We are all going to fall. So instead of worrying about the fall; I need to plan ahead, I need to teach him how to fall.
So I proceeded to walk him through what to do when he felt like he needed to let go or when his hands got slippery.
“It’s okay to fall,” I say.
“Just let go. It isn’t that far to the ground,” I continue.
“Just fall like this,” I show a soft release and hop to the ground landing on my feet.
“Just do your best to land on your feet,” I finish.
Oh my gosh you guys!!! You guys!!! Did you hear that?! It is okay to fall. We don’t have to be afraid to fall.
While this logic applied to his monkey bar stunts, and worked extremely well I may add. He kept monkey bar-ring on without incident. This logic also applied to life. He might stumble in life, but it is okay. We can stumble, no big deal!
Like a roller coaster – life is full of these wild twists and turns. (I know I went from monkey bars to roller coaster, but bear with me. Both analogies fit what I am talking about here.) We may see them coming, but until we go through it we don’t know what it will be like. But if we buckle in and know the twists are there then maybe we will just roll through better. Maybe we won’t be so panic-stricken or uptight. I mean who goes through a roller coaster with every hair in place, and all their grace in tact?
When we embrace the fall and let it come then the ride might be a bit more enjoyable. We can be less afraid and worried all the time.
We are going to be okay.
So maybe falling is part of it; falling, getting back up, moving forward, balance, step, step, stumble, step. Maybe instead of all the worry and fighting against the current maybe we just accept the awkward, stumbling and recognize the beauty in that – maybe when we do that we will reduce the amount of pressure in our lives and feel free to explore and try new things. Maybe we will feel more free and able to connect. Maybe we feel free to love ourselves and show ourselves to the world because a fall is just a fall after all.
I don’t know all the answers, but I do know that teaching him how to fall made us both feel a whole lot better.
My heart is heavy tonight as I write my life lessons post for late June/half way through July, but I still felt this need to write so here I am.
I am going to start with the heavy.
We need to pray people…
France, Dallas, Baton Rouge, the whole globe. We need to take a moment and pray.
We ate out tonight and the family at the table next to us bowed their heads and prayed and offered gratitude before their meal. I was struck by how this simple act was so profound and healing.
We need to pray.
We need to lean in together and pray. No color, all religious preferences, all sexual orientations, just gather as humans and pray for one another.
And now on to the lighter side of things just because I feel like if I keep thinking about the heavy and the world my children may inherit if things don’t change I don’t know what…
Where does the title legit come from? Well, I have this awesome friend, Cristal and she is always saying how things are “legit” and well life lessons and life in general are just legit; I mean you can’t get more real than every day life.
We need to laugh people…
Laughter is truly the best medicine for the soul. We need to laugh and play and just enjoy the moments that we do have when we can. (Sometimes you have kids crying and shit is legit and you cannot laugh at that moment, but you will laugh later and that is the thing to remember…laugh when you can laugh). For example, one of the twins locked themselves in the bathroom 4 years ago and then seriously did it again this week. I was quick to laugh because I learned from that first lesson and that nifty little key to unlock the door this time was a life saver.
But a couple of suggestions if I may…
Download Snap Chat and play with it. My son thinks I am whack because I don’t post anything on Snap Chat, I have it just for the filters. And I say so what?! Because seriously I have never laughed so hard. And really do I need another place to post crap?
Because that is too legit to quit…am I right?
And play like a kid because sometimes it is just freeing and fun…
Billy Beez, I highly recommend it. It’s legit.
The family that dabs together stays together…
Enough said, because they did this over and over and over and laughed and laughed.
Even dogs get excited to order Starbucks…
Seriously, I think that dog ordered a latte and a lemon scone. I hope he paid for the car behind him, because random acts of kindness are legit.
Wear the crazy leggings…
So I know, LuLaRoe is kinda cray, cray the way people hunt and shop and talk about unicorns. You don’t have to get sucked all the way in…but those buttery soft leggings, I mean, I pull those on and I feel 12 all over again. It’s the 90s with Full House and Rave Hairspray. And that is worth $25 and a little embarrassment when you are wearing them at the grocery store right?
But mostly do what it takes to get through…
Life is not fair. I know I have first world problems, but I empathize and understand that a lot of people do not. I know that things can be so hard. I deal with death on a daily basis and I know first hand what shattered lives look like. I know. I do.
I think we each have to do what we can to get through. To find our way.
For me, it’s knowing that I will teach my children to leave a place better than you found it, use their manners, do their best, chase their dreams and always help the person up behind them. To listen to other people’s stories.
I will work to make sure they take responsibility for their actions and pitch in and help out wherever they can. To teach them understanding and compassion in a world that so desperately needs it. And mostly to love them. But also to love my life and set the example. To be a person who shows not tells. To be a person that is afraid, but lives life any way.
And these sweet faces help keep me legit. Two of these faces turn 6 tomorrow. Two of these faces are closer to being a teen than a kid. All five of these faces are the best parts of my life. All five of these faces can drive me absolutely bat shit crazy and at the same time make my heart explode with adoration and unconditional love. These five faces get me through each day…
In a world that always has fire-breathing dragons we need life-breathers, too.
Yesterday was like any other day; work steadily flowing in and projects to complete, kids to love and instruct, bickering to manage, meals to prepare, guilt and stress to squelch, and of course the echoes of the outside world that sneak into our lives via radio and TV. But as life does there were some pretty amazing moments yesterday and a wonderful visit from a beautiful, sincere friend. Those are the life breathers, the moments that give my life the pick up that it needs, the moments that matter more than the noise.
Lately the world has been super topsy-turvy. But, somewhere in the world it has always been super topsy-turvy. I am like you though, I feel a bit like my nerve endings are open to the world and when I watch the news or read an article about politics I am left feeling anxious and disappointed and saddened by those people in the world whose poor choices hurt other people.
The thing that gives me hope are life breathers, the moments and people who remind me that there is love, courage, kindness, and just plain good in the world. For me yesterday when things were getting a bit crazy and I had sat at the computer long enough and the kids had bickered long enough, I dragged them on a bike ride. My daughter was less than happy about it to say the least.
As we peddled along, and she sulked along, her brothers began to laugh and smile in the open air. I praised their attitudes and got a, “WOW, mom! You are the worst mom ever!” It stung, it always does. But, then it also made me laugh. If I am getting under her skin and holding her accountable for her behavior I am doing my job. And for a moment I thought about how so many moms and dads, grandpas, grandmas, aunts, and uncles are all trying to do their job giving a child the things they need even when it is tough love so that the world can be filled with people who are compassionate, thoughtful, responsible, and well just plain good.
That in itself was a life breather, that thought filled me with hope for our world, reminded me that there is so much good out there.
We came home and my parents stopped by. They are leaving on a cruise and wanted to give the boys their birthday gifts. Just watching them interact with the boys and the joy everyone had at just being together…that was a life breather. And to top it off, the goofy moment when I was trying to get the Spiderman silly string figured out so that it would spray correctly and accidentally squirted it right at my dad’s face and the ceiling; that was a life breather. We both laughed so hard. It felt good to laugh that hard. Life is funny and that is a life breather. We need to laugh.
We sent them on their way and I filled the dinner table with plates of food I prepared; a home-cooked meal, and that was a life breather. Sitting all together as a family over food I prepared. It felt good to breathe in that life moment. It buoyed me up and reminded me how to let the little things carry the same weight as the big things, maybe even more sometimes. I tend to let my mistakes carry the most weight; in fact sometimes I think my actual body weight is proportional to the guilt I feel about what I mess up in life. It is important to allow the moments of success fill you up, too.
At at the end of the evening my dear, wonderfully vulnerable, honest and real friend came by in her pajamas. I was in heaven. That was such a life breather. She had a terrible, horrible, no good bad day and came to seek a few moments of refuge with little old me; I was almost in tears I felt so honored and thankful. We talked until midnight. Sitting and talking with her reminded me just how much people need other people. We need to be seen and loved and lifted up; it breathes life into us like nothing else can. It puts the fires out when we stop and see one another. When we stop and listen to each other’s stories and offer meaningful exchange, we change the world for the better.
The bottom line is that life breathers can be little moments of happiness, peace, joy, sanctuary, ah-ha moments, or life breathers can be other people who love us unconditionally or the best part is we can be a life breather for someone else, or everyone else we meet.
Now, I know no one is perfect and thank goodness we aren’t. We would never learn anything or be even the slight bit interesting if everyone were perfect. The point being, we can’t always be life breathers, everyone once in a great while can have a fire-breathing dragon moment, that is just the way it is. But if we are life breathers most of the time what a wonderful world it would be; and what a wonderful world it is because if we really stop and pay attention and drown out the noise of the media saying, “Look here, look here” and we chose to look for the life breathers instead of the fire breathing dragons; I think you will find what I have found, there are way more life breathers in the world; way more.
In a world that always has fire-breathing dragons we need life breathers, too.
I know I can hear your cheers through the computer and yes, it is a miracle.
Well I guess because the twins are going to officially be big kids and we have been pretty busy up in our hizouse that I have a lot that I feel I need to share. I know I over share people…that is beside the point.
Any way back to my over sharing; I wanted to let you in on some more stuff that I am learning this month…
I talk too much. No for realsies…I really, really do. I am going to start carrying duct tape in my purse or on my person at all times. I think I will get some of the cute kind from Hobby Lobby though. Enough said.
I am passionate about education and yet I always feel under-educated to share my opinion on things.I speak from the heart and what feels right from experience. I should probably stack up some facts and research to back those feelings up before I go spouting them off. It’s just a thought. Don’t get too nervous for me.
Parenting is serious business people. It is daily marathons without any training or experience. This shit is for realsies. Like for real, for real. I have been peed on, pooped on, spit up on, thrown up on and scariest of all hovered over in the dark and scared to death by a child whispering “mom” in the middle of the night. That is some creepy-deepy stuff right there.
I have felt more joy and pain that I ever believed capable by a human heart all due to my children. But I have to say having four small humans all upset at you because of the choices you made as a parent sucks big time.
Mind you I know that if they are all upset at me I am most likely nailing it. All four mad at me that is a 100% success rate in the parenting world. I know you’re jealous. Don’t worry you can do it, too. If I can do it, so can you. Plus it was super easy, I just made them do homework, clean and help out instead of playing on their iPad/Video games and they lost their minds! Can’t say it didn’t sting a bit though to have them all gang up and be angry at me at once. With good friends to vent to and cocktails it is survivable. Also, learned that from experience. Just saying.
Having friends that you can pour your heart out to even if it is crazy nonsense like why do I care if my kids are all unhappy with me because I make them do their homework is absolutely priceless.Find your tribe and hang on for dear life because your people, friends who will hold you up and tell you the truth; they are invaluable. I mean I called a friend yesterday as I hid in the closet from my children just to vent about my crazy mom life and I can’t thank you enough for always having my back and always, always telling me like it is. Find your people. Hold on to them. Invaluable. Got it? Okay, next thing I am learning. Ready. Go.
When your parents are the absolute best people on the planet; let them know it.I already knew this before but being a parent really drives it home. I mean they are serious proof that you can survive your own children.
I have called my mom numerous times to apologize to her when my own kids have served up karma right in my face. I am sure I need to apologize to my dad too. You raised three girls, and I am learning girls have mad attitude, those are some serious survival skills, Dad. You made it through three girls. Mad props to you. Thank you for being amazing and still being my biggest fan. I am a lucky girl.
Last one, see I started with I talk too much to prepare you – see that now?
I am literally living on hope and faith and pixie dust these days. I make mistakes and learn. But one thing I have learned is that I am not too proud to ask for do-overs when I can. Whether it’s admitting I did something I shouldn’t of to my kids or asking for a do over from a friend; it is worth the ask.
Exhibit A. Sunday our family was at the Unravel 5K Family Fun Run and the kids complained all morning about every little thing trying to get out the door. It must have been too early for them on a Sunday. Any way by the time we get there I am doing everything possible to hold it together to try and SHOW them how they should behave and that they should be grateful that we are here to support this cause.
Two separate friends come over to say hi. And I said a very quick hi to them. Well once everything was calm I realized I was probably kind of snappy to them so I found them both and asked for a do-over hello. It went awesome and I felt much better. I am sure they did to. There is that saying people will always remember how you made them feel and I wanted to make sure I hadn’t made anyone else feel bad just because we (my kids and I) were having a bad morning. But it all worked out okay.
So I talk to much; I am working on that one. It’s a hard one for me. You are still reading this so it can’t be all that bad, right?
In a nutshell:Remember this too shall pass and keep living the dream.
Peace (And I mean that in the true 1990s since of the word)-
Tonight our family went to the local elementary school talent show. My daughter was singing Tim McGraw’s Humble & Kind.
This show was something so special. There were acts with kids dancing, singing, playing the guitar, clarinet, piano, recorder and trumpet. One child solved the rubik’s cube in 56 seconds. There were classes that performed together and courageous little’s who stood and faced the crowd alone. Children hula hooped and showcased gymnastic talents. There was even an impressive improv act that stole the show. Alumni including adults stopped the show with a quick flash mob! There was just a little bit of everything.
One of the other uber cool things about our local school is that the tech crew, complete with sound, lights, and back stage crews is all student led. It is phenomenal. All trained by an amazing woman who runs the theater arts program. Who takes no credit and gives students the ability to shine both in front of and behind the stage.
Not at all what you might expect from a school amidst farmland and across the street from a field filled with goats.
But inside there was something you would expect from humble surroundings; it was what left me in awe throughout the show.
What left me in awe? It was not only that these sweet, innocent performers had the courage to stand up before their community, friends, family and peers to bare their talent, but they way it was received. No matter what the talent was the students would cheer each other on. If a name was mispronounced; other students corrected the MC who was a local junior high student volunteering their Friday night to host. If someone couldn’t be heard the tech crew rushed mics over trying to be inconspicuous as not to disrupt the performer. Acts were able to start over if they stumbled. If someone got nervous the crowd roared in cheers of support. Young children without the aid of a parent or other adult sought out a performer to tell them what a great job they did. There were hugs, high fives, and smiles between all the children.
This school community is something rare and special. A place I cherish. A place filled with an amazing group of educators and parents who have built a community filled with kids who truly care about each other. No wonder there were so many children ready to perform. They knew they were in a safe place filled with people who truly cared about them.
Our little country school with its amazing talented children is most beautiful because it is filled with students who are humble and kind.
Kintsugi is the centuries old Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with gold.
My heart was shattered by autism on July 25, 2011.
“Your son’s delays are consistent with autism spectrum disorder, and we recommend you enroll him immediately in our intensive in-home autism preschool program.”
That word. Autism. Six letters punched me in my gut and knocked the wind out of me. The edges of the room blurred and the evaluator’s voice faded into static as my brain desperately tried to process this information. I nodded and appeared to listen, but I was frozen. It was like a movie where the character leaps and hangs suspended in perfect form while everything else continues at normal speed.
My husband Scott and I brought our son Matthew to be evaluated at our county’s early intervention school campus. Matthew was 22 months old. He had been a happy, outgoing baby; he started talking around his first birthday. I worried when his words vanished six months later. He began melting down in large, echoing rooms full of people and in large crowds. He stopped responding to his name and was happy playing alone as long as we’d let him.
Matthew’s behaviors raised alarming red flags and a cold fear settled into the pit of my stomach. I am a general education teacher, and in 2004 I wrote my master’s degree thesis paper on reading instruction for autistic children. I became fascinated by autism after having several students on the spectrum, and I intensely studied what was known about it at the time. This is why I recognized it so quickly in Matthew.
Even though I knew a lot about autism and taught autistic children, I was not prepared to hear that word used to describe my own child. I was confused about what I did wrong to allow this to happen. Had I missed some prenatal vitamins? Had I inhaled toxic fumes while we remodeled our house during my pregnancy? Did hitting his head as an infant cause damage to the part of the brain responsible for speech? I stupidly thought devoting my career to helping children learn would protect my own children from disabilities. Of course that is illogical reasoning; dentists can get cavities, oncologists can have cancer, and teachers can have children with special needs. Knowledge does not equal protection. However irrational it was, this false and naive belief intensified my grief.
Matthew’s days were immediately filled with behavioral, speech, and occupational therapies. His particular intervention program required intensive parent involvement; we found ourselves in a crash course of parenting a child with developmental delays. We learned to use icons to help Matthew communicate, activities and games to help him learn to follow directions, what his sensory needs were, and how to anticipate and respond to his frustration when he was not understood. Autism is a spectrum disorder with many subcategories of deficits and behaviors ranging from mild to severe; it doesn’t look the same in any two individuals. Therapy interventions felt like the “Whack-a-Mole” game we played as kids; we tried everything we could in this precious window of early intervention and desperately prayed our efforts would help the delays we already knew about and buffer against ones yet to emerge.
Autism was not part of my plan, and my organized and particular personality chafed against this unexpected detour. My older daughter Faith was starting kindergarten and needed me. I wanted to volunteer in her classroom on my days off and I still had my teaching career to tend to. I did not have time to drop everything and have therapists in our home five days a week. When I took Matthew to the park, birthday parties, church, or anywhere with children his age, I saw his peers flourishing in speech, responding to their names, following directions, and doing many other things taken for granted as developmental milestones. I felt sad, frustrated, and angry that wasn’t happening for Matthew and bristled at the unfairness of it all. These feelings quickly segued into depression. I scolded myself to end the pity party, to stop comparing him to others. I’d be paralyzed by anxiety and panic at the oddest times. One night in the shower, I felt crushed by thoughts such as “It’s time to wake up from this bad dream. I just can’t do this.” I reached my breaking point that spring and after talking to one of my pastors, realized I needed to stop suppressing my feelings and find a way to express and process them. I had to take care of myself in order to take care of my family. I started seeing a counselor for talk therapy.
My broken heart began transforming into Kintsugi. So many people poured gold into those cracks, so much that I had gold to share with other cracked hearts.
Our “first responders” were an incredibly gifted and caring team of Early Start professionals. They worked with Matthew and supported our family with a bottomless well of patience, sensitivity, humor, and compassion.
Our local family members mobilized to make sure we had our childcare and transportation needs covered. They were also grieving Matthew’s diagnosis but they all rose (and continue to rise) to his challenges with loving determination.
My church’s preschool bent over backward to include Matthew in a typical class two afternoons a week, completely covering the cost of a 1-1 shadow. The church’s special needs ministry was immediately there to support Matthew in Sunday School. Ironically, my interest in autism led me to help organize this ministry before it became a part of my personal life. I agreed to chair “Donovan’s Door” ministry for two years and connected with many inspirational families in our community. It was heartwarming how many youth and adults volunteered to work with Matthew and other children with special needs on a weekly basis and also at quarterly respite nights.
I’m a better second grade teacher because of Matthew. I considered myself a kind and caring teacher up until 2011, but autism opened my eyes wider to understanding children’s struggles and achievements. I know behavior is communication; this forced my patience to blossom in a way it could not have if Matthew could speak. My teacher experience with special education, Individualized Education Plans (IEPs), and the “system” helps me navigate them as a parent, and my parent experience helps me understand them as a teacher. I empathize with my students’ parents as we all muddle our way through trying to do our best. I know the fear of admitting something is “off” and the instinctual parent guilt we carry. Most parents appreciate how deeply I care for their children and feel we are a team. Their gratitude and trust humbles and reminds me why I teach, because that is how I feel about Matthew’s team. Many gifted and compassionate teachers, therapists, and aides have been part of Matthew’s village since our days in Early Start.
We benefit from living near two powerhouse autism research universities, Stanford and the University of California, Davis. Matthew received thorough testing and groundbreaking therapies for free that would have cost thousands of dollars otherwise. It feels good to know we are helping these dedicated doctors and scientists slowly piece together a complicated puzzle.
Friends showered us with words of support and offers of help. Anytime I share something about Matthew and/or autism on Facebook, the comments buoy my spirits. Autism brought new friends into our lives that we never would have met had his trajectory continued on the typical path.
I received the book Bloom by Kelle Hampton as a gift. Kelle’s second daughter was unexpectedly born with Down syndrome, and I was moved by her memoir about her grief of losing her imagined child and her path to finding beauty in a new reality. I started following her blog “Enjoying the Small Things.” A year later, I entered Matthew in Infantino/Step 2 Company’s 2013 “Everybody Plays” model search after Kelle blogged about her involvement in the campaign. Matthew won a spot in “Everybody Plays,” and my family flew to San Diego for the photo shoot. The whole thing was surreal and thrilling, from the modeling to seeing his photo in one of their ads. It was an honor to represent the special needs community with this toy company. But for me, the most valuable part was meeting Kelle. We had a strong connection in the short time we met and she injected my soul with resilience.
I also found an amazing blog written by Chrissy Kelly, a Fresno, California mom of two boys with autism. Reading “Life with Greyson and Parker” became a cherished part of my mornings. I felt as if Chrissy reached into my mind, took out the jumbled up thoughts, and transformed them into beautifully eloquent words. Her vulnerable honesty resonated with me so I reached out to her through e-mail. We corresponded and met in person a few months later. Before autism became a part of my life, I could not imagine connecting with unfamiliar moms online and drawing such strength and comfort from their witness.
Unexpected gold also seeped into my cracked heart. My husband and I had always dreamed of having two children. After Faith was born in 2006 and Matthew in 2009, we agreed our family was complete. As they grew, we gradually gave away or donated clothes, toys, and assorted gear families amass when babies come into the picture. I felt a blend of nostalgia and relief giving baby things away. I loved raising babies, but I was glad to be done with the nausea and discomforts of pregnancy. I happily welcomed full nights of sleep back into my life and I looked forward to the day when we were done with diapers. When friends teasingly asked me if we wanted more children, I’d laugh yet firmly say, “NO!”
Two years into our autism journey with Matthew, we saw that for all his progress he was still nonverbal and considered on the “severe” end of the spectrum. My husband and I considered the benefits of another child in our family. We painstakingly discussed the “what ifs” and decided to try. After one miscarriage, I carried a healthy baby boy to term and he arrived after a short labor on June 25, 2014. We chose the name “Tobin” for our third child, meaning “God is good.” Toby completes our family; I cannot imagine us without him. He is full of love, joy, curiosity, energy, and personality.
My dear friend Michelle, the author of this blog, helped me make the biggest breakthrough with Matthew. When she was at my home one day I said something to Matthew and she gave me a surprised look as she exclaimed, “I just heard him answer you!” If you are choosing to read this, I am going to assume you already know about Michelle’s incredible gift of communicating with spirit and know the authenticity of what she does. I had never considered that she might be able to communicate with a nonverbal living person, and I am not sure she had either! She later came back and listened to Matthew respond to questions I asked. I was moved to tears by the deep feelings, wisdom, and tenacity of my precious son. I got a glimpse into what it is like for him to live with autism; I learned how to better meet his physical and emotional needs. I know he is all too aware of what goes on around him and he can pick up on nonverbal cues and feelings better than most “normal” people. People sometimes talk about Matthew in front of him like he isn’t there or doesn’t understand; I think it’s a false assumption that a nonverbal child doesn’t “get it.” That drove me crazy anyway, but Michelle’s reading of Matthew lit a fire under me to be an even better advocate for my son. Matthew is smart, he is caring, and he feels everything so intensely that he has had to devise coping strategies just to get through each day. Those behaviors may seem odd to the untrained eye, but they all serve a purpose.
Above all else, Matthew knows he is loved. Words seem inadequate to express my gratitude to Michelle, for helping me know Matthew better and for her willingness to try something different than what she was used to doing as a medium.
For years, the word “autism” made me scared, angry, overwhelmed, and stressed, but now it makes me thankful for the unexpected blessings it brings. I can’t lie and say that every day is easy and that I still don’t get frustrated or worry for the future. But I imagine if my life had continued on the “neurotypical route” and I shudder to think of everything I’d be missing if had my route not been recalculated.
That’s the beauty of Kinsugi. The pottery is made even more beautiful because those flaws have been visibly healed.
“Not only is there no attempt to hide the damage, but the repair is literally illuminated…” — Christy Bartlett, Flickwerk: The Aesthetics of Mended Japanese Ceramics
Thank you for letting me share my illuminated heart with you today.
Let’s start at the beginning. It was one of the days where I woke up feeling like I was going to crush it. I was dressed, ready, lunches were made on time and my husband was taking all the kids to school. I had my 8:00 team conference call and was set and ready to go.
Of course, during the call I get thrown the loop of speaking because a teammate lost her voice, but that doesn’t throw me because I know the topic and it’s my team I can talk with them without feeling like I am going to screw it up.
Mistake Number 1.
I was too confident.
Some constructive criticism is given about a new feature being developed and I answered in a way that didn’t sound helpful. Then when I asked if there were any other questions the line was silent and I quipped that I scared everyone off because of how I reacted. This is all in fun of course because everyone on my team knows there was no malice behind my response.
But then this starts it off…
The theme of the call quickly turns to everything being my fault. And to be honest this year it has definitely felt like I have had an abnormal number of screw ups and mishaps. I had already been wondering why everything seemed to have so many hiccups…it just seems like each day there is something that goes awry whether professionally, personally, or both.
What kinds of things????
My husband has had a ton of unexpected changes at work.
We have had stomach flu, the flu, and been to urgent care and the emergency room all this year. Mind you 2016 has only included 10 weeks.
I am more forgetful than ever. We had tickets to Disney on Ice with my family – spaced it. Totally forgot. There was a birthday party for one of my son’s very best friend’s tonight – work got crazy, Brian took the care unexpectedly to get tires, I was on the phone the majority of the day and at 7:00 tonight at the end of dinner I remembered that we had the party – which by the way had ended an hour earlier.
Last night I threw a clothes party and the location had been moved. I thought I notified everyone, NOPE. I forgot to tell one person. She went to the wrong place because…yep you guessed it; it was my fault. And that I hurt someone’s feelings, that I had made someone feel so left out just because I can’t keep who I texted and included on the group text straight…it just isn’t okay! Awful…just plain awful.
So tonight as I was feeling like the biggest jerk ever, but trying to keep the perspective that even though I had forgotten things, been sick, and trying to let things go; I walked up the stairs to see dog diarrhea on the landing. Thankfully husband cleaned it up, but still which dog was it? The dog I added to our family of course, so once again it was my fault.
Well the thing of it is I can linger in the bizaster of it all (blizzard + disaster = a big, hug disaster) or I can look at the bright side and say at least I am doing “it’s my fault” well. I mean this is the Shit Storm of 2016 and I am at least surfing through it with a positive attitude so far. If it is my fault at least I am failing big and not little, right. 🙂 That all I can do is try and laugh through it because I can’t change what has happened. I can try to fix things moving forward with apologies and not making the same mistakes again, but I have to keep on the bright side of things right?
So, with all that said I will be wearing this shirt to my next team meeting …
And drinking out of this mug next week…
And setting so many reminders on my stinking calendar that if you pass me I will be buzzing because a reminder will be going off.