Come on over :)

Hello to you…

If I were a more tech savvy girl, I would not have to up and move.  I know there once was a way to keep the blog but change the name but, being the old fashioned and stubborn girl I am ….it eluded me.

So, I am going to stay on wordpress but am blogging under “Wisdom from the Sisterhood”.  Some of you have already come to visit…thank you.  I love the community we have here, I love what I learn from you all and I love the sharing that we do.  So don’t be a stranger, come on over.  And, you know, if I could serve up some cupcakes to you…I sure would.  I will put up recipes though :).

Hope to see you sooooon!

j

Advertisements

Ending The Silence

Image

Yes, you’re quite right.  She’s been quiet.  Terribly quiet.  Scary quiet.  The kind of quiet that comes when silence is all you can manage.

Life happens that way sometimes.  Change, death, crisis, and chaos will all do that to a person.  If one or two crisis or changes happen, you can recover and sometimes the recovery is easy.  You just shake it off, grow your backbone and move on.  But, when the craziness strikes heavily and all at once, well, stunned is perhaps the only place it’s going to take you and no amount of backbone is going to help you suck it up and move on.   Life can leave you stunned and silent and when it happens like that, time is the only healer.  That is where I have been for the last five months.  Trying so hard just to swim up out of the silence.

Stunned, quiet and reeling from everything that came much too soon and in rapid fire.  It took all of five months to catch my breath and make some changes of my own.  It was five months ago this week that one of my oldest and dearest friend from childhood died quite unexpectedly.  When you talk about something taking your breath away, Mary was just that.  Healthy and happy on April 3rd and dead on the 19th.  Shocking, stunning…all those kind of words applied immediately. ( Just a side note and not to share too many of her personal details but I do want to pass a long to anyone reading this that it was lung and breathing related and, as you meander your way into these next winter months, do not mess with pneumonia.  Please, don’t.  She was healthy, she was vivacious but when the “worst case scenario” drops into your lap, there is just not a lot you can do.  Pneumonia is a tough opponent.  So, be careful out there and if you find yourself on the bad end of pneumonia or anything breathing related….PLEASE….go to the doctor.)

Anyway, as I said, shocked and stunned were my first response for a lot of reasons.  I had known her since first grade and, being from a small town, friends become like family.  There weren’t that many of us so you can’t just drop someone and move to another friend.  People in small towns become like second nature to you and when you lose them, it’s like losing a witness to your life.  There were things ONLY Mary knew.  With her gone, it was as though it no longer happened.  She was witness to the greatest laugh I ever had.  Decades later, when we’d see each other, we still talked about it, laughed about it.  She’d still bring up the time when I was six and I got ALL my hair cut off into a “pixie” cut WAY back in the day.  She would tell me how much I told her I loved the hair cut and I can’t even remember it.  She was my witness and with her gone, it’s like part of my childhood died with her.

Losing Mary was tough and it got tougher when, as parents, I realized the son she left behind was just about the same age as my daughter.  When I saw the pain and anger in him, I thought of my girl and how lost she’d be too.  I realized, as single moms, we both shared an extra set of fears that other parents may not since we played the role of mom and dad full time by ourselves.

Losing friends is not easy.  She was healthy, she was a professional, she was tough and I understood, for the first time, that youth would not guarantee longevity.  Life happens, with your permission and even without.  Life happens and sometimes it’s not at all fair.  And, as I dug in my heels and cried through my tantrum and asked God why… it did not change anything.  All it did was make my head hurt.  Finally, after three months and a memorial service, my angry fog began to clear and a new word emerged from the anger that defined the loss of Mary with more appropriate emotion.  It defined who she was.  And, as the anger cleared, I was finally able to understand it and to feel it.

Gift.

And then another word emerged….Blessing.

I never ever thought I would see gift or blessing as a description for Mary’s passing.  Angry, mad, confused and heart hurt were all better descriptions until I looked across my life and into the faces of my children and realized Mary was a reality check for me.  I can see so much more clearly since her passing.  Yes, I pouted for a few months and God and I were on the outs during those same months but, in looking at the big picture, even I finally get that there are no guarantees… except to appreciate the gifts you are given.  No one ever said everyone gets to kick up their heels until they are eighty.  No one ever said that we will all find Mr. Amazing.  No one ever said all children will be perfect.  No one ever said life will be fair and just and pretty.

Life will be life.

Life will be what you make it.  And, for me, this was the key.  Mary showed me that if your life is not what you want…change it.  If the people you have in your life are not gifts who nurture, love and add to the quality of your life, then change that too!  Don’t crowd your life with unkindness and unkind people and then complain that you aren’t smiling.  CHANGE IT.  Your life is a mix of what you allow into it so make it gorgeous, make it loving and make it YOU.  And, when those beautiful people like Mary pass from your life, soak in the amazing gift they were to you and how lucky you were to have them.  Love what you have as long as you have it and then be thankful for the gift.

I love Mary more today than I ever have.  And, thanks to my dear Mary, my life will be better because she showed me how very lucky I am and she put a very clean mirror in front of my face that clearly showed me I am NOT living the life I should be living.  I have been skating.  Wasting my hours playing on Facebook walls, enduring the unkindness of fake friends, spending time being frustrated by boy brain and chasing after relationships that are not fulfilling or healthy.  Losing Mary helped me to see that I was filling my life with whatever I found along the way .  When I took a step back I realized that a good many of the people I was clustering into my life were not good friends, not good role models for my kids and not even good people sometimes.

Thank to Mary, changes are coming.  Good changes, great changes but not one of them is an easy change.  Mary showed me that I need to grow my own backbone, set healthy standards and boundaries and fill my life with positive pieces because our lives are not meant to be mere trash receptacles set about to catch all the rubbish that abounds in life.   We are all meant for more than that.  Mary also reminded me childhood is a very short period of time and you have to drink it in, chaos and calm are equally important and have to be loved.  So I am off to start loving it all.

I have work ahead, changes to make and children to appreciate.  Next stop…deconstructing a life!

FACEBOOK: The Cream Always Rises :)

Facebook is a funny place.

Virtual as it may be it is still a well traveled destination. I have been traveling there since near the beginning and was quick to embrace the reestablishment of friendships I’ve lost as well as those misplaced over the years.  In the beginning, it was just love and hugs for those lost souls I was reconnecting with and a cheerful place designed to help friends relive some good memories.  Fun, fun and double fun.

And then it happened.

Facebook began to cultivate drama and crankiness.

The craziness of the virtual friendship shop started to do some wicked stuff.  The friends I thought were tried and true tarnished a bit.  Some people even used Facebook as a platform to splatter meanness across walls.  I started to remember that some of the people I added as friends were not very friendly at all.  It threw me a bit at first but then I remembered, they were simply being themselves.  And, if I started to recall our history with more accuracy,it was then that I remembered…they were just as unkind as they had been once upon a time… many moons ago.  Age and life had taught them little.  I finally understood that people do not change and, these “friends” reminded me of who they had always been.  The part that I started to finally learn was that, most of the time, people simply become MORE of who they are as they age.

The flashy friends were still all that and more, as self absorbed and inconsiderate as they had ever been.  The mean girls were still mean and they had gained not one iota of kindness in their travels.  On the other hand, people who were good and kind and considerate “back in the day” had not changed a bit either.  They were just as loving and sweet as they had ever been.  The really crazy fun part of Facebook, that surprised the heck out of me, was that some of the friends that I was not as close with, perhaps friends from older and younger class years than myself, became some of the most treasured friend discoveries I have made.  Some of them became the best friends of all.

Facebook may take a lot of hits and it certainly has its detractors but, for me, I find it is a good way to stay in touch, it provides a network for parents at home and it is also a good indicator of the friendship value.  Occasionally, as the cream rises and the chaff falls, friends behave badly, out themselves and show you who needs to be culled.  It’s not that they are bad people but sometimes friendships no longer fit and that is okay too.  There is value in growth.  I am thankful for that as well.

I keep my friends list small, I have never understood the value of high counts, and I appreciate the 254 friends and family I keep on my wall.  They are actually very treasured people in my life.  I occasionally peruse my list to make sure the list I keep reflects the value I seek in my life.  Without value, without kindness, friends are unapologetically culled when moments call for it.   I respectfully reserve that right.

Say what you like, detract if you must but I will assure you that the 254 treasures that comprise the faces on my wall are exactly that…treasures, and, in their own way, each one adds value to my life.  Whether it is because they are a treasured part of my history, a warm part of my memories, a part of my present or a key to the future I am building…I appreciate each and every one.

Parenting: Put On Your Big Girl Panties

Okay, I have a pet peeve I’m going to share.  This last week the monster reared its ugly head again and although I try hard to be accepting and tolerant, this one is getting to me….so I am sharing with you.

Did I miss the generational memo that some knucklehead sent out that said parenting was supposed to be easy?  There seems to be this sentiment among parents today that parenting was supposed to be fun and easy and comprised of little Ken and Barbie dolls that speak on command, don’t talk back and don’t fill their diapers with the smelly stuff.  Some parents seem to be suffering under the delusion that children were supposed to be another fun night out and they seem downright resentful of the realities of parenting.  I have even started hearing a lot of grown-ups complaining that life with kids is just too tough, not what they signed up for, and a whole lot of other drivel that reeks of self indulgence.

It seems someone in my generation, or the generation shortly after, has started this rumor and there are some of my generational people and generational neighbors who have bought into this big whopper…hook line and sinker.  Lately this rumor has gained such popularity that parents are actually flocking to web sites to vent their frustrations anonymously as to how their life with children is just such a struggle.  From one parent complaining that she isn’t able to get her manicures with regularity because it interferes with her kids’ activities to another saying she just can’t stand always tending to others anymore.  One mom complained she never knew she’d lose all her free time and sometimes she opens her wine bottle and never closes it back up.  Another complaint stated that parenting is so much harder than it was in past generations?

Really?

Who started this rumor?  Who would be so gullible as to believe such a rumor?  Can they be serious?  Our generation has so much at their fingertips, so many advances, that this almost doesn’t warrant the justification of a response.  But…I would be so remiss if I did not point out at least the most obvious.  When you get down to the nitty gritty and admit it, our generation, unless they are trying to be green, doesn’t have to struggle with cloth diapers or even glass bottles.  And, as far as the parent’s complaint that there is so much more competition today to meet the pressure of excessive scheduling, I would say past generations probably had us beat in the backbone department and they also indulged the whims of their children less back then (and I say that as a child who was raised in those “days”).  Back in the “day”, parents also had a handle on the value of using the word “no”.

I have to say as well that from what I have heard and read, most of the complaints have come from parents who live a life with a spouse in the house and who do not have a child with a disability and have never once faced down a deadly disease taking hold of their child.  So, truly, what are you complaining about?

Let me please set the record straight, without any candy coating, and tell you the truth about parenting:

Parenting is hard.  Some days are messy and loud and mushy.  Of course it’s full time.  Of course it’s going to be both dirty and smelly and the little people you had such fun creating are going to be absolutely and decidedly uncivilized.  Multiply that by ten if you have boys but get used to it because that is their job.  The days are going to be long and the house is going to be consistently messy…no matter how many times you clean it up.  Whoever led you to believe that having children was simply a way to allow you to keep up with your trendy neighbors led you wildly astray.  These kids you are creating are little “people” and they did not ask to come into this world.  You chose them.  They are not props.  And, to be clear, I want to make sure I say this as well:  manicures, spa days, nights out, drinking binges, luxury vehicles, Bunco parties and ‘escape the kids’ vacations are not owed to you….they are OPTIONAL.

If you want to know what it’s like to face a real daily challenge in the parenting arena, just holler at me and I will hook you up with parents who face REAL struggles every day with children who have disabilities and diseases.  Not once have I heard these parents complain about their lack of manicures or show resentment for the all nighters they pull with their children.  They are some of the most stand up, knock your socks off parents I have ever met.  They truly wow me.  From the friend of mine who has already lost a spouse to cancer and is still battling cancer with their child… to another friend whose autistic child not only doesn’t sleep but also has daily meltdowns that last several hours long …to yet another friend whose child is nearing the teen years and is non verbal and not potty trained.

These are the only kind of parents who are allowed to vent.

  • Parents of children with disabilities are the parents who are allowed to vent.
  • Parents of children who have pure melt downs (these are NOT tantrums) that last four hours straight are allowed to vent.
  • Parents with children that do not sleep at night, because their brains will not settle, are allowed to vent.
  • Parents with children whose cognitive levels will never reach their actual age level are allowed to vent.
  • Parents with children who have physical disabilities are allowed to vent.
  • Single parents are allowed to vent.
  • Parents of children who struggle with any kind of disease are allowed to vent.

If you involve yourself in this level of parenting then by all means, vent, complain and scream out to the world because you truly face parenting challenges every single day.  The really quirky thing about this pet peeve of mine is that the parents who are “allowed” to vent…they really don’t.  They may seek solace and comfort in a trusted few friends who understand their challenges but I don’t know of one who would sit there and whine and complain about their children.  Not one.  They no doubt see the challenges in their life but the ones I know step right up and they find the smile and the humor, even the humanity of it all, before they let the inner diva start broadcasting.

I would ask the DIVA parents, before they vent anonymously…what is there really to complain about?  If your children are healthy, I am not sure I understand why you need to complain at all.  If your complaint is that you are no longer able to practice self indulgence or live a self centered life, then please put on your big girl panties, or your big boy chonies, and deal with it.  Suck it up if you must because parenting is hard work.  Welcome to life.  Give your children a parent and a role model who is a grown up and who can look past the manicures, the wine and the escape vacations to tend to your children without resentment or complaint.

Sure…we all have rough days….days are long and hard, some are even unbearable,  and that is part of parenting.  Vacations are great and we all need a break on occasion but those vacations are for AFTER everything else is taken care of.  When the children’s needs are met, then by all means, do some taking care of you.  And, next time, before you complain and whine or drink yourself into oblivion, take a look at your blessings.  Look around you at all you have and all you have been given and ask yourself what it is you are complaining about.

Okay…my pet peeve is complete.  Thank you for your patience J.

Autism: The Joy of The Fall Aparts

ImageNot everyday with autism is a good day.  It’s just that way.  We have our ups and down.  Don’t get me wrong…my boy has his strong points.  He is a funny guy.  He is sensitive, he loves snakes and spiders, he is good at electronics, a guru with Legos, a wiz at Nintendo, an ace with the IPod he saved up for and the boy has a memory like a steel trap when it comes to movies and directors and the voices of actors from animated flicks.  He is good at lots of things.

That said, he is not so hot in the outdoor arena. Getting hot and sweaty on purpose?  No thank you.

Though we do have the bug area conquered, the great outdoors, playing sports, being competitive, playing with other kids socially is just not our long suit.  It is who we are.  As a parent, I have tried to reel in the electronics and force the outdoor adventures and, I will admit, some days are better than others.  I find that bartering works quite well.  Electronics become incentives to be earned through good behavior while outdoor activities become the “alternative” activity when the good choices are not embraced at school to earn electronic minutes.

So, under the heading of Marilyn’s quote, “Some things fall apart so better things can fall together,” Monday was one of those “fall aparts.”

It goes like this…On Monday, autism won.

We have fought hard to be where we are…in regular education class, full time, with no pull out or resource minutes.  I will say it has not been easy.  We did not start out there.  We started out in special ed, full time and with no one urging us to set our goals on anything but special ed.  There have also been some choice moments, after leaving special ed, when administrators wanted us back there but, we persevered and we have remained steadfast in regular ed.  I’ll give you the short version for now and just say last year was not a very good year for us academically, socially or behaviorally but, as we do, we hung in there.  This year, after some major battling, has been better and most days this year have even, dare i say it out loud, been quite pleasant.  But, as it is with autism, some days are just better than others.

Yesterday was one of the less better days.

Math class was our nemesis yesterday.  In math, my boy chose to not show his work on paper (because he does it in his head instead and then ignores the teachers directives to show how he got his answer), he then chose to read his Garfield book during math after the teacher asked him to put it away, and after finally putting the reading book away he dawdled around another fifteen minutes out of his seat, blowing his nose and sharpening his pencil.  To say the least, his teacher was NOT impressed.

Let me also mention, his teacher is a fabulous man and an amazing teacher so when I finally get an email home…I knew my boy had pushed a whole load of buttons on the poor man.  We own those moments and I try hard to find incentives to turn our behavior back around.

And, so it went…and when my boy got home we had the obligatory talk about why he would not be visiting any of his electronic friends until he made some better choices.  There have been moments when those conversation have not gone well but Monday went fairly smoothly.  No melt downs, no tantrums, no fits.  He knew it was coming and, as he has matured with age, he took responsibility for what he had done.  It has not always been that way so after I held my breath, I jumped for joy and smiled from ear to ear.

The moment then presented itself where the boy would have to fill his non electronic time with some unpreferred alternative activity which is sometimes a bit of a challenge.  In warmer weather, the pool is a no brainer since he is a good swimmer.  All those Medina Rec Center pool hours on snowy days when he was three to enhance his verbal abilities paid off in spades with great swimming abilities.  It is starting to warm up at our house and Monday was indeed sunny but the pool water is no where near warm enough to put a body into.

As he and I finished our conversation, his little brother ran out the door to join the fourth grade group of neighborhood boys who had assembled on our street and he quickly rode off on his bike as other typical kids would do on a sunny day.  And, then, as I pondered what we would do next, my sixth grade autism spectrum son, as nonchalantly and out of character as can be, asks me, “Can I ride my bike, Mom?”

I had to catch my breath and remember my words, as well as hide my shock, when I answered, “You betcha, buddy.  Hop on.”  I tried to pretend as though I was not concerned as I watched him grab his unused helmet, hop on the yellow Hummer bicycle that his Poppy bought him four years ago that is still in mint condition, and roll his wheels into the street with the other boys his brother goes to school with.  And, just as normal as can be, he began to ride up and down the street with eight other children as though it was just another day on the street with the neighborhood kids.  And, thankfully, the other kids could not feel my nervousness and they simply rode along side their friend’s brother as though it was just another day in the neighborhood.

I took a deep breath and I sat back down in my drive way chair and I tried not to fall into one of those mom puddle of tears. I tried to be just another mom on the street watching her kids play in the sunshine.  Inside I knew this was a God moment.  I knew it was a gift.  It was one of those moments that I would always cherish.  It was one of those days when it all had to fall apart so something better could fall together….and fall together it did.  And, truthfully, if you get too stuck in the falling apart part, it’s hard to allow the better stuff to fall together.  Autism is like that for us.  There are moments when the world seems dark and if you get too mired down in the muck you don’t allow yourself to notice the ray of sunshine that is forming on your own horizon.  There are going to be fall apart days but they are just another avenue or window into something else better and more brilliant that is trying to fall together.

Today at school was a good day and the boy earned his electronics.  The really terrific thing is that even though he earned the good stuff, he still came home and immediately joined his brother and the neighborhood boys on bikes in the street.  I am not sure if this will hold out.  I do not delude myself but I sure am enjoying watching him blossom socially and physically for now.  I realize he is still an electronics guru but I appreciate that he is enjoying this new experience.  I am also trying to be thankful for the fall apart days and remember that the dark moments have light too.