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.
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…
Each year I do a fundraiser and then deliver gifts to 25 people (1 each day in December) to people who need a little extra cheer. These people usually have touched, inspired, or changed someone’s life in our community (or far away – we have delivered to Denver, Utah, and well all over actually) and they are nominated to receive one of the gifts.
I recently received an email about one of our recipients from last year. I didn’t write about her last December because tragedy struck her family just after she was nominated. I waited. I wanted her to have some space to heal and even now I am going to call her Kate to protect her identity.
Kate and her husband, like many couples, had to do extra work to become parents. They have miscarried several times and decided to take one final attempt last year. Kate and her husband were thrilled because she was expecting twins. She was put on bed rest in the second trimester. At the beginning of December tragedy struck when she lost her babies; twin girls.
The person that nominated her still wanted to deliver something, but the basket that had been prepared for an expectant mother on bed rest would no longer do at all. So I found a small business on Etsy where the woman creates angel necklaces for women who have miscarried. The name of the shop is Blue Room Gems (you can check it out by clicking here). Creating a necklace for her seemed perfect. So a new basket was crafted with this handmade jewelry and a hand-made throw. My dear friend ensured that this was delivered at just the right time to Kate.
Well, Kate was so touched by the basket and the gift that she took our idea and continued it. She began to turn her grief into energy to help others, as grieving mothers tend to do.
She began creating and delivering baskets of her own to women in hospitals who were on journeys similar to her own. She wanted to gift them hope and love; just as she felt she had been gifted.
The blessings continued and Kate’s story evolved and grew and the hope she felt led her to try again for a baby. Kate is expecting and everything is going smoothly as of now. Continue to pray for her and her family and I promise to keep you updated.
Kate inspired me to keep Holiday Cheer going and this year I want to help as many people as we can. I am shooting for 31 nominations so that we can gift a nominee every day in December. I know we can make it a success this year, too. This is such a wonderful way to give back; because like Kate so many of the recipients pay it forward. This sparks so many to keep giving and hope continues to grow. Our world needs hope and so here we go again with our 3rd annual fundraiser – 31 Days of Holiday Cheer!
It is easy – YOU dear readers, nominate a person you think is worthy and YOU my dear readers can donate, make, or just share this with others so that we can make this the most successful Holiday Cheer EVER!
So how does this work:
To nominate someone:It can be anyone, adult or child, male or female. The person nominated just needs to be someone who could use some cheer or just needs some hope breathed into their life. To nominate someone is easy – just email me a short paragraph about the person, with their name and why you think they should be a recipient. Then include something you think they might need this holiday season. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To donate:I will have several “parties” that will allow you to purchase gifts for the holidays or just for yourself or you can purchase for one of our nominees. Then I use the proceeds of these parties to purchase gifts for our nominees. There will be an online Stella and Dot party and a Thirty-one party online. I will host a LulaRoe pop-up for those close by. And last but not least the things that worked best last year anyone can donate gift cards, cash, or even sponsor a recipient by purchasing something directly for them. Again, email me at email@example.com to arrange for donations to be collected and Like my facebook page for details about the parties.
Get others involved: Share this post with your friends, family, friends of friends, and community. I know if we have enough involvement we can raise more donations and help people even more than we did last year.
What do we need to beat? Last year we collected over $2000 in cash and gift card donations. Last year we purchased nearly $2000 in gifts and other goods. All together with hand made donations and other purchased items we topped over $5000 in gifts for the recipients.
Can we go bigger this year? Can we do 31 days of Holiday Cheer? YES WE CAN!
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.
So I haven’t done a lessons post in awhile; I worry they are too preachy. I worry a lot. But you already know that. But I figured there are some things going on in my head these days that I have found a tad helpful that you might like to hear, too.
1. I am a notorious cancel-er…I mean I am worse than ABC right now. I try to juggle the balls of life and I tell you what I drop them like they are hot! I schedule get togethers or try to host things and then people say they will show up and then I am a terrible reminder or a date has to change because of a school function and then no one can come. So it ends up getting cancelled. I think I am going to just stop planning things ahead of time. It just isn’t possible with kids, school functions, work, sports, and sleep. So if you want to see me, people who know where I live, stop by with wine or coffee and I will start-up the fire pit and we will hang. I am a home body so I will be here. That is it, that is the deal from now on. You are invited always and we can hang here whenever since I am not planning any more get togethers. This is easier – flying by the seat of our pants kind of works around here so now I am applying it to hanging out with friends as well.
2. I am back on the wagon people. My fit bit thinks it has been stolen. I am on day 5 of exercise and have won badges and all kinds of fit bit announcements. It seriously didn’t know it had to work this hard with me. Of course I am waiting to weigh myself for several weeks because even though I am attempting to eat better there are occasions where chocolate peanut butter shakes or a scoop of ice cream may make it into the vicinity of my stomach. But sanity is important and these things keep me sane and happy so they stay.
3. Tomorrow’s aren’t guaranteed; we all know that. So my advice and the lesson that I am learning is don’t wait. Try the new thing. Get the Henna tattoo even if they are for kids. Seriously that is it – just do the fun thing. The car that spun out of control and almost hit me as I waited at a stop light just reaffirmed that there are no guarantees.
4. Find good people. I am so blessed. I have found amazing people. I have a tribe of friends and family that help with kids, listen to me whine, save the day, forgive me, and most of all love me just as I am. They are all authentic, kind, funny amazing people and I seriously could not do this life without them. My bunco group is the best group of gals around. I LOVE you all soooooo much! And to the moms that can make my day with just one look, you know you are, thank you!
5. A girl who changes her hair is ready to change her life…I died my hair pink. Not my whole head mind you; just a few highlights here and there. Many of you know this already, but I am sharing because the feedback has been mostly positive. And even the one day when I had to see my friend’s parents with pink hair and I felt 16 all over again, they were super awesome about it which reminded me that I AM an adult. Even adults dye their hair crazy colors sometimes. But seriously, go for it. If it is something you have always wanted to do and have not; if you can (providing it is workplace acceptable) go for it! P.S. pink does fade, but it was AWESOME while it lasted.
See you all want hang out with me. I know, I know. I am a pretty cool introvert. Don’t worry there is a lot of room around the fire pit.
I hope you are all hanging in there and living the dream.
P.S. Enjoy the sweet moments in life, too. I can’t believe I have one summer left until these two are in school all day! I literally just threw up a little thinking about it.
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.
This year as I was collecting nominations for Holiday Cheer, I mentioned it to one of the teachers at my children’s school. I knew she was a long-standing member of the community and she would know if anyone was in need of some cheer this holiday season.
Without hesitation she knew the perfect family. She told me about Lee Block and his daughters, Sarah and Lauren. Lee’s wife and their mother, Michelle, had battled Ovarian Cancer. She was a teacher in the Gilroy Unified School District for 17 years and just recently retired. And then in September she passed away.
The teacher who nominated this family had known them for years and knew that despite their amazing strength that this holiday would be the first of many difficult ones. She thought it would be great if The Holiday Cheer Elves could do something for them.
We were able to put together a few items for everyone. We were able to get some gift certificates for the movies, Bass Pro Shop and dinner for Lee and the girls were each given “Inspire” necklaces from Stella and Dot, lotions, Beauty Society product and movie gift certificates.
The teacher that nominated them made the delivery with another family friend and this is what she had to say,
“Success! We delivered the basket to Lee, Sarah, and Lauren this evening and lucked out that all were home. At first Lee thought it was something from us, and then from Rucker. We explained it was the Holiday Elves. I think they were very touched….the girls were quite excited to be included in the gift and all are quite excited at the idea of visiting the new Bass Pro store.”
It is so lovely, that you were all able to offer love and support to this family during the holidays. Thank you to all who contributed. You are an amazing community and what you do does make a difference.
Roughly 7 years ago I met Raya. We met through work; I was training her on a new software. She was bubbly, friendly and it didn’t matter when I saw her she was always fashionable, always with great shoes.
Raya isn’t afraid to speak her mind or express her feelings. We quickly became friends and I learned of all her family’s struggles. Both she and her husband had lost their jobs due to the down turn in the economy. As they struggled to find their new way; they lost the family home that they had raised their three girls in. But always the optimist, Raya forged ahead knowing as long as they had each other they had everything they possibly needed. They moved a few times from rental to rental and finally at the end of last year decided to go on a grand adventure and head to Oregon to start over.
She knew that she and her husband would both be able to find jobs where they could actually live comfortably. Rent in California just continued to climb higher and higher, so they knew they needed to find a place where after earning their paychecks they could actually have some breathing room.
They have only been in Portland a short time, but already they are finding and creating a home there.
Bella, Raya’s youngest daughter, heard about holiday cheer and wanted to nominate her mom. She knew that even though the world couldn’t see the toll that the past few years had taken on Raya, she knew that it had. She wanted her mom to know how loved she was and how much people were rooting for their success.
Raya, was the recipient of Day 18 of Holiday Cheer. I found mugs on Etsy that showed a connection between CA and OR (Bella is still here in CA) and we made ornaments with pictures of the whole family in them to hang on their tree every year to remind Raya that even though family might be miles away they are always with her. We also got her a welcome mat for her new home and a Home Depot gift card.
Thank you Elves and Bella for helping bring some sunshine and cheer to Raya!
For today’s nominee I would like to share the nomination letter that was submitted by Tiff about Stephanie. Tiff relays why Stephanie needed Holiday Cheer:
“This recipient is an extraordinary lady. She is an amazing mom, daughter, friend, wife, sister and all around phenomenally loving spirit. She manages to keep this incredible beaming kinetic energy, and awesome sense of humor, and joy for life even during the rockiest of times. She has dealt with an exceptionally tough year, with some financial and medical issues that would have knocked anyone of the Avengers to their knees, but she has weathered it with an open and loving heart. For this reason , I was very excited to be able to nominate her.
She is one of those people that spend her time making sure that she has taken care of all the people around her that she loves. She is always taking care of everyone else, sometimes to the exclusion of herself. Her kids are such great, bright, centered little guys, and it is because she gives them balance and strength, and a soft, safe place to land when times get rough. She is the kind of mom who lets them be themselves , and reminds them that they don’t need to let anyone else define them.
She has also directed that same sense of light and love toward her other family members and friends. She is that mom who you would go to for shelter, for help, or just if you needed to whine about something. My gratitude for this woman is huge. My respect for how she lives her life as a go-er, a do-er and a mama-bear extraordinaire is unending. She has talked me off many anxiety ledges and has been such a comfort; a true friend when I was feeling isolated and alone.
Her effect on all the other people around her is deep and profound. I don’t think she realizes how much she truly does impact so many of us. I think this was a way to let her know how very much she is loved and appreciated. She has this gift of turning her burden into blessings on a daily basis and in doing so she is teaching her boys and all the rest of us an invaluable lesson: Cherish what you have right now…the rest of the story will play out in its own good time. Thanks for the lesson, my friend.”
Not only does this beautiful letter describe our recipient perfectly, more magic happened with this nomination when a local hair stylist, Patty Ann came forward asking to help out a whole family. She wanted to donate to a family because she had known hardship herself and had received kindness. She took this as an opportunity to pay it forward. Patty Ann (shown below) collected a grocery gift card, and herself bought a tree, Vans gift cards for the boys, a cut and color for Stephanie, and dinner and movie out. Patty Ann is also an extraordinary person and that these two selfless women were connected through Holiday Cheer is so very touching to me.
Our nominee for day five is Karin. Karin has recently become the primary caregiver for her mother who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She has selflessly opened up her home to both her mother and father while her mother battles this disease.
Despite what Karin is going through on a personal level, she always remains positive and upbeat. If you didn’t know about her personal life and were just meeting her, you would never know what she was going through. She never complains and is always ready to listen to others and help where she can.
Karin, also opens up her home to other members of her family as they need it. This past summer her niece was living with her. It is just second nature to Karin to help others when they are in need.
Our Holiday Cheer Elves were able to get her a little de-stress gift basket with relaxing lotions, beauty supplies, candles, a spa gift card, wine and a homemade scarf. We hope that she can take a little time to herself and know that she is an everyday hero.
Do you remember the day you met your best friend? Which friend of yours has been through your life the whole way through? Now could you imagine that after only knowing them for a few short years you would have to go through losing them. Now take even another moment to think about what it would be like to bear that loss at 6 years old.
Our recipient for day 3 doesn’t have to think about that she lives it. Jaeda lost her BFF when she was 6 years old. For the last two years she has had to learn what life is like here while her BFF is in heaven.
Her mom. Amy, has shared her thoughts via FB and I thought I would share them here as well:
“We love and miss her so much. Lately Jaeda has been noticing that the songs they used to dance to are now old songs. She wonders if they’d still be having dance parties to the new songs. Jaeda will forever miss this friendship, a young friendship that taught them how to be a friend.”
“One of my favorite pictures of these sweet girls! …These girls had so many first things together. First sleep over, first concerts (gilroy gardens concerts were so fun with these dancers), first time riding in cars together, sharing clothes, sharing exciting news (Jaeda told Jennifer on the phone when she found out about Ava ), swimming together, learning how to bribe moms for dinner dates and the talent of a princess show! This year without her friendship, her spunk and sparkle has been so very hard. I’m thankful for all the time we shared with this amazing princess…but so very angry that she is forever 6.”
Jaeda is one of the most mature and well mannered young ladies I have ever met. Whether she is Fluttering or manning a bake sale, she is incredibly involved with raising awareness and funds for Unravel, an organization that raising money for pediatric cancer research and treatment. She is committed to putting an end to the disease that robbed her of her best friend. Beyond her passion to put an end to pediatric cancer, Jaeda has been recognized both at church and school for her character.
Delivering Jaeda’s gift was such a wonderful experience. She was so excited. The homemade pillowcases she loved because she loves pillowcases and has one from a recent sleepover where all her friends signed it, which she excitedly showed me.
She was excited about the Descendants DVD, but flipped out when she saw the Justice and Claire’s gift cards. She couldn’t believe we guessed her favorite stores.
At 8, Jaeda is poised, polite, and carries a compassion that is greater than people four times her age. Thank you all for making this sweet girl’s day a little brighter and helping to let her know we are all supporting her.
Today’s recipient was Miss Karen, or at least that is how many in our community know her. Miss Karen is a local preschool teacher and retired fire fighter. She is a mother, friend, wife, sister and beloved daughter.
Karen loves her students and treats each of them as if they were her own child. She is a treasured friend. I hardly ever see her without a friend by her side and if you know her, you know why. She has the most beautiful light that shines right out of her soul. She is always smiling, always optimistic and puts others first.
Karen recently dropped everything and stepped outside of her life for 8 weeks to care for her mother. Unfortunately those weeks ended with the loss of her mother.
What amazes me about Karen is that even though she is coping and learning to live with loss she still maintains her optimistic outlook. She is still radiating with a warm and glowing light that draws you right in.
Thank you, Miss Karen for just being you and bringing light and goodness into the world. All those that know you or have come into contact with you leave changed for the better.
Bless you this holiday season,
Michelle and the Holiday Cheer Elves
Look at this cool box of goodness filled with lots of beautifying gifts…