Funny things. Please.

I often write when I feel sentimental.  I write tributes to people who have touched my life, I write gratitude lists.  Sometimes I write funny things, silly things, cute things that make people go “awwwww…” with a little head tilt.  Rarely do I write when I am supremely pissed off.  But today is one of those days.  Lucky you.  Read on.

gecko huhI love to laugh.  When I am laughing so hard my cheekbones feel stuck in a smile, my stomach hurts and I’m having trouble breathing, well that is just *the* BEST.  People put funny “posters” on facebook, they share cartoons & crazy out-of-context quotes.  There are tons of funny things out there.  And if you do an image search (try goodsearch before those other search engines– money gets raised for good causes) you can surely find enough pictures to crack you up for a good hour or two.

Today I did an image search for “autism funny” and you know what?  It made me angry.  Apparently, the people who think they have a sense of humor when it comes to autism like to post pictures of kids who look like mine with terms like “a$$hole” in the caption.  Or “joke” quotes degrading or humiliating people with autism and their families.

Or maybe it’s the search engines who just don’t freaking get it.  When I type “autism funny” I want Big Daddy’s cartoons or Autism Army Mom’s photos.  I want stuff that is fun, that we all can laugh at, that’s not insensitive, intolerant junk.  Is that too much to ask??

Sheesh :S  … and Grrrrrr…. and all that.

Soooooo…. Here’s what I’m asking for today:

Send me something that is “autism funny” to you.  Find me things that celebrate kids like mine, that will make me smile or belly laugh, that are *specifically* under the category “autism funny.”  Because let’s face it… if we can’t laugh through this strange world we’re all navigating… then what’s it really about?

Okay, enough reading my rant.  Go search, find & report back.  Post in comments or email please (autismhomerescue@gmail.com).

gecko huh

… What are you still doing here?  Go find stuff– go now!

Oh yeah… and wishing you all a Happy New Year with plenty of things to smile about!

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:~) Quote for the Moment (~:

autismhomerescue11241101Beauty is a heart that generates love and a mind that is open. 

~Thich Nhat Hanh

An open autism family love story

Lessons from my mother

… important things i do remember …

Happy Birthday Mom Mom!

“Beauty is a heart that generates love and a mind that is open.”

~Thich Nhat Hanh

Today is my mother’s 67th birthday.  Happy Birthday Mom!  My apologies for plastering your age all over the internet.  But the thing is, I think 67 is pretty darn young.  Be proud of it, you are beautiful.

This morning as I trekked to the train station in a foot of snow, the wind rushing through the trees sounded just like the ocean.  Each step forward, my boots sank into slushy snow and my ears heard another wave crash onto the beach as “ocean spray” stung my face.  It seemed fitting considering we had all spent Christmas together at my mother’s house at the Jersey shore.  Midday on Christmas day we took a drive along the boardwalk and watched the ocean.  My daughter and I played a game of “which do you like better?” and concluded snow and sand are equal in her book.  …..

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
 
hope owlWhen I logged onto WordPress this morning to write a new post for my mother’s birthday, I found the above already written from last year.  Begun, but never published.  Isn’t that the way life goes so often?  Projects started, plans made, but we’re all ultimately following our noses from one moment to the next.  That doesn’t make me feel sad, I think it’s actually the way things are supposed to be.
 
This year there is no snow.  Christmas was very different.  I feel optimistic about my family’s future.  And I know 2012 will bring wonderful things.  So to honor my mother on what would have been her 68th birthday, a list of the important things I do remember:
 
faith
  • God is always present.
  • Love never dies.
  • No matter what happens in relationships, the connections we feel & the memories we have are ours to keep forever.
  • Cats are companions, and they are not as aloof as dog-lovers would have you believe.
  • There’s a way to dice onions into perfectly square pieces & this is how they should be cut for Grandpa’s turkey stuffing recipe.
  • If you love it, buy it– it will work.  Trust that the colors & patterns you love will work together as long as you are following your instincts & the finished creation makes you smile.
  • Scents carry memories.  Cinnamon candles & Obsession perfume bring you back to me, Mom.
  • Everything has its place, and you can always make room for the important things you want to keep.
  • If it makes you feel better to be a little obsessive about keeping track of things, go ahead & do it, no one’s gonna mind.
  • Most everything can go in the dishwasher.
  • People who don’t like to sit on the porch & enjoy the weather with a cup of tea or a glass of wine just haven’t done it enough to really appreciate this simple pleasure.  Try Tension Tamer tea or Woodbridge Merlot.
  • Take every opportunity to travel the world & meet new people!
  • Take lots of pictures, keep your notes about trips– your friends will appreciate these reminders of happy times.
  • Laugh often.
  • Love much.
  • trust-your-heart-sampleThere is a plan for every one of us.  Trust.
  • Be respectful of your neighbors.
  • A couch in the kitchen is the best place for an afternoon nap.
  • Give people the benefit of the doubt.
  • Women are just as capable as men.  If someone thinks otherwise, prove them wrong.
  • No matter what you remembered or forgot to buy to *cook-decorate-fix-or-update*  a  *meal-home-thing-or-outfit* you can always improvise and make something beautiful with what you already have.
  • Keep a spare key just in case.
  • Share.
  • Take a deep breath when people drive you nuts, and try your best to hear where they are coming from.  It doesn’t mean they are right, but it will make you feel better.
  • There’s always a Plan B.  Trust that truth, and don’t panic.
  • Be proud of your family traditions & the good things about your own culture & background– celebrating diversity means celebrating *everybody*
  • If you have hard day or you get stuck in a bad habit, destructive pattern or depression, forgive yourself & start over.
  • It’s okay to use cuteness to your advantage.  A sweet smile goes a long way.
  • You will remember everything that is important.  It will be okay.

Christmas Gratitude List

beautiful-christmas-tree

Today I am grateful for:

  • A perfect gingerbread house made by Aubrey’s mom which looked exactly like the ones my mother always got for our Christmas table.  And the fact that Aubrey’s mom sent it home with Hannah after dinner.
  • New family.  I feel so welcomed & accepted into Aubrey’s life, and I am so grateful for that!
  • Smiles of acknowledgment.  Alex liked his gifts, he liked being home again for Christmas morning.  And I am grateful I could tell!

Gingerbread_house_with_gumdrops

What are you grateful for this holiday season? 

Share the stuff you think everyone else may have overlooked!

Dear Mom….

People have been telling me lately that I should write to you.  It feels kind of silly to me.  I talk to you all the time, just as I’ve always done.  I cry to you in my car when I am upset.  I whisper questions to you when no one else is around.  I scream at you sometimes because I am angry you left me and sad that you couldn’t beat cancer.  I look at your picture on my fireplace and tell you about my day. 

Sometimes, as I’m going about my evening routine, thinking something happy, I smile at your picture– eternally smiling back at me– and I creep up close and secretly share my thought.  Just as I’ve always done. 

“Mom, did you see what I found for Hannie for Christmas?  I’m so excited, she’s gonna love it!”   …

Of course, I don’t tell anyone else all this.  Because even though I’m sure everyone who has ever lost a parent or someone close to them at some point talks out loud to their departed loved one, I still worry that someone would raise an eyebrow and judge me for “crazy” behavior.

(Did I just hear you laugh when I said that?)

Anyway, Mom, I’m writing this silly letter early in the morning on Christmas Eve.  Aubrey is still asleep upstairs, and so are her dogs– two little chihuahuas.  I know you’re a cat person, but you’d love them, Ma.  One of them is only three pounds and she thinks she’s a cat, I swear. 

 … So I’m here in the living room with the lit-up Christmas tree.  I took the real-looking fake one you and Dad bought and decorated it with Grandpa & Grandma’s old ornaments and whatever I could find from last year that didn’t get broken in the “ornament smashing incident” of 2010.  <Sigh>  The tree looks as pretty as yours did last year.  And I made a star out of cardboard and tin foil like you and Chris did years ago.  Aubrey was so impressed with my creativity that I had to sheepishly admit I had stolen the idea from you.  Aren’t you proud I actually gave you credit?

(You just narrowed your eyes at me, didn’t you?)

We have tons of presents under the tree.  Big stuff, little stuff, wrapped all different kinds of ways.  I was remembering last night how you used to wrap the presents all differently with fancy ribbons and patterns.  I tried for some variety, but my stack of gifts doesn’t come close to how beautiful yours used to look.  I appreciated that, you know.  I don’t think I ever told you.  … one of a thousand things I have left to tell you…

You died too soon, Ma.

Soooo… anyhow… we’re going to visit Alex today and hang out and maybe do a local day trip or a drive.  Then tonight we go to Aubrey’s parents’ house where her Dad will play Santa for the kids.  Then Christmas morning Dan will bring Alex here and we will all have brunch and open presents before Dan and Alex go to see Dan’s family.  …

I remember we were all together at your house last year.  I remember what you cooked, I remember how the house looked and smelled and felt. … I had a moment of panic last week and I broke down sobbing to Aubrey in my kitchen because I was afraid I couldn’t remember everything.  You said to me the last time it was just you and me together in your house that I would remember everything you taught me and all you said, and that it would be okay, that I would have it all inside me. 

… I miss you so much, Mom… 

I get afraid that the memories, the lessons, the important things will slip away from me, will fade from my mind.  But I did manage to find the ornaments and set up the tree and put some pieces of Christmas back together this year. That gives me hope that somehow it’s all still here.  Somewhere. 

You made this holiday special for our family every year.  Christmas was yours (and Grandpa’s before that) and it was always wonderful even if plans got changed or there was an argument or regular family life somehow threw a wrench into things.  It was wonderful because of your tin foil stars and all the little things you did.  You seemed calm in the busy-ness of Christmas, I think, because it brought you peace and you actually remembered to remember what it’s supposed to be about.

I’m going to try to make it good for the kids this year.  And I’m leaving your picture right where it is, so you can watch it all and I can shoot you a secret glance once in a while.  I’ll take a leap of faith and presume I’ll feel okay about it all in the end.

… And if you want to send me a sign, or leave me a message, or something like that… well, that would be good too.  There’s a new bluebird ornament on the tree for you, right near the star.

I love you, Mom.  Merry Christmas.

xoxo

mom cathy doll

Residential treatment, introductory post…

Well, here we are folks.  December has been an eventful month.  When Alex was diagnosed with autism several years ago, I discovered a whole new world that was bigger than the “typical” world where I had expected our family would live.  A few years into “autism life,” when I would meet with moms of newly diagnosed kiddos, I often used this analogy while chatting together in my kitchen over a cup of tea:

  • A baby is born and there are all these expectations we have.  It’s like everyone is crowded into the kitchen, oohing and ahhing over the new addition, and happily chattering about how wonderful it is to be right here in the kitchen.  No one wants to step outside of the kitchen for some odd reason because they firmly believe *everyone* is living right in here. 
  • But if you think about it, deep down everybody knows there is a whole house surrounding that kitchen.  It’s just that new parents are afraid to step outside of it.  No one really does it on their own, until someone else pushes them out the door into the dining room.  And once that happens, once we get pushed through the door, we discover a whole house– essentially a whole new world– outside that comfortable kitchen.
  • And it feels better to have these other rooms to live in.  It’s more comfortable than being crowded into the kitchen with everyone else.  But there’s no way to explain that to someone who’s still living in the kitchen because they feel warm & comfortable & safe in there.  Someday something will happen in their lives to make them leave that comfortable place and explore their own house, their particular life circumstances.  And then they too will discover the whole world outside the kitchen of which they are already a part.

My new friends, and the people who looked to me for advice since I was just a bit farther along on my autism journey than they were, often told me they found that analogy comforting.  Well, guess what folks?  I’ve got something new to report:

  • Not only are most people not living in the kitchen, not only is there a whole comfortable house we families with special needs kids have to inhabit– but there are *entire villages* of people, whole communities beyond our homes and what is most familiar!

For the last few years, my family has lived essentially in crisis of one sort or another.  We always managed to find the next service, the next step, the new teacher, the better intervention.  But at some point, I began to feel sort of lost and my faith wavered.  My son’s autism journey escalated to a crisis point where I couldn’t clearly see the next steps.  And I got scared and felt alone.

On the other side of that, I recently discovered that what I really needed to do to re-frame our current family reality was simply to go back to the kitchen analogy.  I had stepped outside that comfortable room years ago, but this month I walked out of the whole big house.  And what I found was a village community safer, kinder and more loving than I could have imagined. 

I share my experience with you here in the hopes that if you or someone you love ever needs to leave all that is familiar behind and take a similar leap of faith, you will find comfort knowing others have relocated, re-established themselves & their families, and have found hope in unexpected circumstances.

Residential Treatment: 

Day 1:  I drive to the clinic to meet Alex’s Dad and transport Alex to his new living place.  I feel tears well up as my car automatically navigates to the hospital I’ve visited nearly every day for 6 weeks.  I think:

“I hope the next place is good.” 

I wonder if we’ve made the right decision.  Logically, I know it is the best course of action.  I try to keep my emotions in check, but as I pull into the hospital parking lot, I start to sob.  I park, grab my phone, and begin calling my “autism network” one by one.  No one answers until I reach my sister-in-law, Adrienne.

“Am I a good mom?”  I ask, my voice shaking.  “I mean, I know I’m a good mother to Hannah, but I don’t know how to do this thing with Alex.  I need to know– really truly– am I a good mom for Alex?  Am I doing the right thing?  This is so hard…”

Without hesitation, Adrienne– who is a supervisor for child protective services two states away and who has seen every family situation imaginable– replies:

  • “You are the best mother for Alex.  You are making the ultimate sacrifice and so is he.  You are giving up control to someone else so that Alex can truly get what he needs.  It’s not something you want to do, it’s the hardest thing a parent can go through– to let go of your child, to let go of the dream of wanting him at home– but this is the best way to get him the things he needs that will help him.  That makes you the best mother.  And stronger than you know.”

I hang up the phone and take a breath.  A voicemail has come in from Elsie, another mom on a similar journey:

  • “Alex has a higher power and this is part of his journey.  You have dignity & grace to be his Mom.  Think of Louise Hay’s message– she wants you to transfer love and healing to him, and that’s what you’re gonna carry:  love and healing.  Just pass that onto him, because that’s what he needs from his Mom right now.  And you have that from the universe because whatever you put out is what you’re gonna get back.  You put out the love, you’re gonna get love back.  And I love you, I’m here for you.  I’m sending you love, healing, warmth, serenity and peace.”

Another breath, I’m as ready as I’ll be.  I meet Alex and Daddy.  We drive in separate cars to the residential treatment facility.  Alex rides with his Dad.  Once at the facility, we’re escorted into a small conference room for the official intake.  As inevitably happens, Alex wants to roam and Dad goes with him to help him explore and acclimate.  I’m left alone with the very sweet social worker, nurse, and various other professionals who drop in to make introductions.

Everyone is nice, they smile and they are patient.  They answer my questions.  They take the piles of paperwork I’ve collected.  They copy insurance cards.  They ask many questions and seem pleased to get the information they need.  I think:

“This is my baby!  I want to tell you everything!  He is my life, my heart is breaking, please, please, please hear everything!”

But I try not to talk too much and to only answer what they ask as concisely as I can.  I try to trust the process, and to not cry.  I fear that if all the intense emotions I’m feeling come flying out, I’ll lessen my credibility somehow and when I really need them to listen, they may not hear what’s important.

Some of the questions are hard:

“If Alex is ever in a situation where he is touched inappropriately, would he tell someone?  Of course, we take every precaution to keep all of the residents safe, but this is important information for us to know in case one of the boys may unintentionally cross a boundary.”

I talk about Alex’s expressive language, what he is capable of telling us and the needs he usually does or doesn’t express.  I tell the nurse Alex does not usually tell us when he is hurt or hungry, but he will answer direct questions.  To the professionals I appear to be coping well.  Inside my head, there is a mother on her knees crying and pleading loudly:

“Please, please, please take care of my baby! 

…my baby, protect my baby boy…” 

Intake finishes.  We go to Alex’s new “home” and see his room.  As we walk in, for the first time I meet kids exactly like him.  Almost like the boys at Alex’s school, but with one difference– all of these energetic, enthusiastic guys are at the same place  for essentially the same reason:  They have needs that could not be met at home. 

Alex’s roommate Anthony is talkative & perceptive like Alex.  Another boy David melts my heart with blue eyes & a big hug.  Still another, Luke, bounces by telling a staff member about his family.  We play with Alex on the playground, we meet the staff members on the unit.  I start to feel okay, I think maybe this situation will become okay …  

Each person I meet really “gets” these kids. 

Day 3:  Aubrey, Hannah and I visit Alex for the first time.  We hang out together in a special family visit room.  Alex is his usual distracted self, I feel a little anxious.  Hannah sees a small bouncy ball I included with Alex’s clothes and toys.  She cries that it is hers and she wants it now!  I try to be calm and understanding, but I am less than patient with her.  I think to myself she has rooms full of toys, Alex is living away from home among strangers, let him have the ball for goodness sake!  But I know why she protests, and how much she has given up over the years.  I explain the importance of sharing some things, and then I keep quiet.  Aubrey helps Hannah feel okay.

Day 5:  I visit Alex on the evening of his birthday.  He is wearing comfy pajamas, his favorite movie “Alvin & the Chipmunks” is playing on the TV in the common room outside his bedroom door.  There is a Christmas tree with colored twinkle lights sparkling.  I am amazed at how calm I feel.  I tell the Treatment Manager who runs the house how reassuring this feeling is.  I am grateful. 

Day 8:  We visit Alex at his classroom and then go with the class to the gym building for their annual Holiday Bazaar.  I learn that the facility is active and involved in the community in many different ways and I realize that working together they are able to provide amazing experiences for the kids there, in ways I had never imagined.  Their work not only benefits the kids, but benefits many families around them who are living in the land of the typical.  My kid is part of a community that educates, empowers & makes a difference.  More gratitude.

Day 9:  We celebrate Alex’s 11th birthday at his new living place with Grandma and Big Pop.  We decorate the play room.  Alex is happy to be hosting a party for his new friends.  The best part for me is being able to share pizza and cake with all of the kids and staff.  I am so grateful Alex is in such a supportive environment.

Day 15:  We attend the annual Holiday Show.  Alex stands on stage, he participates.  My eyes well up as each class sings & performs.  No matter what their challenges, each individual kid’s strengths are highlighted.  I sit with other mothers who share the same scars as mine, who have the same stories, who are walking just a little bit ahead on the autism journey.  They say to me:

“Only two weeks?  You’re doing really well!” 

They offer their phone numbers, they give hugs as freely as their amazing kids whose smiles can capture hearts as easily as my Alex’s grins.  I don’t even know how to tell these parents how much this connection with them means to me.  But I suspect they already know.  I drive home cautiously optimistic and begin to envision a new year….

… to be continued…

Today’s Gratitude List

gratitude-rainbowspiral1

Today I am grateful for:

  • Enthusiastic people.  The kind of folks who see something happy & smile, who celebrate the big & small triumphs of others, who derive as much– if not more– joy from helping other people win than from winning themselves.  Kudos to all of you!
  • Gluten-free pizza from our local pizza parlor.  Yummy thin crust, tomato-basil with super fresh mozzarella… mmmm… ’nuff said.
  • Soy mochas.  My new favorite.  Served, as always, with a smile by my favorite coffee shop buddies.  I think I mention coffee often on here. … But then again, I’m not sure… Could you go check the archives for me please? 😉
  • A day where nothing particularly extraordinary happens.  Just a basic get through work, get through life, one-thing-at-a-time kinda day.  How grateful I am that I’ve nothing particularly extraordinary to write about!

manifesting

 

What are you grateful for today? 

Did you remember to remember it?

 

 

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