Special Photo Challenge: INSPIRATION!

This is what inspires me to blog.  Yup, a sweet Halloween picture of me and my kids.  Alex was the grim reaper and Hannah was “Frankie Stein” from Monster High.  A typical family portrait, right?

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I like this picture because we all look happy and because both kids stayed still enough to capture this moment.  There are three other pictures in that series, and one good pic out of four is a pretty good success rate for us!

It is said a picture is worth a thousand words.  Well I’m guessing for most inspirational photos a good deal of those words are obvious and accessible and fairly easy for others to discuss and describe. 

For my family, however, words are often locked up inside my son’s head.  And even pictures don’t always give away the concepts underneath the image or behind the situation.  Much of the time we defy description and it’s nearly impossible to place us in any kind of “box.”  The term “think outside the box” doesn’t even cut it– you have to think inside, outside and beyond the oval aquarium to understand my beloved fish-in-a-tree and what it means to me to write about being his mother.

Let me take you behind this picture and into the huge collection of words it is worth, so you can understand what truly inspires me to blog.

First of all, notice how tall Alex stands.  I was scrunching down a bit here, but he is now as big as I am.  In his baby book, I noted when he hit 2.5 feet that he was “half as tall as Mommy.”  He inherited tall, lanky genes from his father and he continues to grow. 

I write because I want to capture this time and hang onto the child Alex I know before he grows into a man. 

When Alex was three I watched him slip away behind a curtain of autism.  Now I know how precious a minute of closeness caught on film can be.  I take nothing for granted, I live day-by-day and (most of the time) I don’t sweat the small stuff.

I write because I am grateful to be here now and I want to celebrate and share these little moments, which I now understand are everything.

I am so often the person behind the camera, but this picture was taken by Aubrey who will one day officially become Alex’s and Hannah’s stepmom.  It is a true joy to share my life with her and to see myself and my children through her eyes. 

I write because I want to shout to the world, “This is my family and we know what love really means!  We struggle, we cry, we laugh and we play.  We are here and we are real and we are thankful that the universe brought us all together.”

See the slightly mischievous look on Hannah’s face?  How proud she is to play her character?  How sweetly she smiles?  From the time she was born (with sparkles in her hair!) Hannah has had a unique role in our family.  She dearly loves her brother, she is compassionate and wise beyond her years, and she hasn’t had an easy childhood so far.  Hannah will be the one person in the world who will know Alex the longest and I am confident they will journey together, wherever life takes them.

I write for my future adult daughter, to share my insights, struggles and joys.  I want Hannah to know my journey as a mother, not because I have answers, but rather because I don’t.  I want her to keep trying when she struggles, to believe she can make it through, to be persistent in finding her strength.  To show her she can do it, I write to try my best to lead by example.

This is how we look post-autism diagnosis.  Post-divorce.  Post-inpatient hospitalization.  Post-residential placement.  Post-losing my mother.  This is my family (including the woman behind the camera) after opening our minds and hearts to a new life which is better than we ever could have imagined. 

I write because my story is only my story, but in the sharing of our collective community of stories, something wonderful happens. 

We create INSPIRATION.

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http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/11/21/special-photo-challenge-inspiration/

Fireworks for autism!

Watch all the way through to the hug at the end and you will feel inspired.

Par-Tay!!

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Today’s the online launch party for “Be Like Buddy!”

Go on over there now (click here or on the picture above)

to join the celebration & get your free stuff!

Chihuahua Glee!

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Funny things are everywhere!

Cartoon animal conga line gratitude!

“Write Mommy”

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Alex’s Mother’s Day gift.

:~) Quote for the Moment (~:

autismhomerescue11241101“Through the practice of deep looking and deep listening, we become free, able to see the beauty and values in our own and others…”

~Thich Nhat Hanh

Can you see a fish in a tree?
How about the world through a child’s eyes?

:~) .. the questions themselves .. (~:

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I thought this quote deserved a special highlight today as it seems to perfectly describe my autism life journey.  If it also resonates with you, please share!

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“Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart.  Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language.  Do not now look for the answers.  They cannot now be given to you because you could not live them.  It is a question of experiencing everything.  At present you need to live the question.  Perhaps you will gradually, without even noticing it, find yourself experiencing the answer, some distant day.”

Rainer Maria Rilke,
Letters To A Young Poet

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My Brother Is ‘The Biter’: On Smashing Guitars, Owning Hard Truths, and Coming Through with Love

Today, I’m pleased to share Autism Home Rescue’s first-ever guest post from Caroline McGraw!  Caroline is a would-be childhood paleontologist who digs for treasure in people.  Her younger brother, Willie, has autism, and she writes about finding meaning in the most challenging relationships at A Wish Come Clear.

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It takes a great deal of courage to say, as Cathy did, “My child is the biter.” 

It’s hard when your brother is the biter (and the bruiser, the head-banger, the one who punches holes through walls).  It’s hard when you’re living next door to him, and you don’t feel safe enough to fall asleep at night. 

But harder still is the feeling of disconnection, the fear that the person you once knew is gone forever.  That, more than the cuts and bruises, triggers anger.  Anger that wells up inside you and threatens to explode.  If you’re like me, you never thought you could feel such anger

And you never thought you’d feel such paradoxical desires; one moment, you’re wishing that this violent person would disappear, and then next, you’re thinking that you’d do whatever it takes if only it would offer that person some comfort, some respite from their self-injurious and other-injurious behavior.  You want to give up hope … and you want to believe that love can overcome all obstacles. 

In my first book, Your Creed of Care:  How To Dig For Treasure In People (Without Getting Buried Alive), I share a story that encapsulates that paradox:

“Once upon a time, when I was a teenager, I got so angry with my brother Willie (and his erratic, sometimes- violent behavior) that I smashed an antique guitar to smithereens.  (If it helps, it was an old, ratty guitar, not a collector’s item.)  This guitar had been given to my brother by my grandparents.  After a particularly difficult evening at home, I walked upstairs, saw the guitar and simply started smashing it against Willie’s wooden bed- frame.  I was so, so angry.  I so, so badly wanted him to stop acting crazy.  I wanted him to change back into the brother I knew. 

After, I felt bewildered, astonished…and relieved.  While the wood was splintering and the strings were snapping, I’d realized … I could not change him.  I could not change my parent’s decisions.  I was powerless to change any of those things, but I’d done something that I needed to do.  I’d released some anger that I needed to release. 

I’d stopped fixating on what I wanted to change about him and started letting myself feel what I felt. 

Ironically, this was the first moment in ages at which I could feel empathy for my brother, who had so much rage inside of him.  It was small, but it was a beginning.  Amidst the shards of a broken guitar, I took my first step on the road to loving my brother as he was, not as I wished he would be. ” 

I’ve walked much farther on my journey since then; I’ve built a stronger relationship with my brother and with many other remarkable, differently-abled adults.  And in the process, I’ve come to see that the beautiful thing about acknowledging hard truths is that the telling can set you free.  When you say, “My child is the biter,” or, “My brother is the violent teenager who got kicked out of school, the one who makes me so mad I actually smashed a musical instrument to pieces,” you’re acknowledging the difficulty and struggle and pain, but you’re still putting your relationship first.  Even in your darkest hour, you’re still saying, “My child,” and “My brother.” 

Whether you’ve thought consciously about it or not, you’re communicating that the person you care for is more than their behavior, more than their current difficulties.  You’re saying that your love for that person is bigger than whatever challenge you’re facing together. 

Some days, it hurts to believe it.  And other days, it feels like the only thing worth holding on to.  Regardless of what kind of day today is for you, know that you are not alone, and that your care of one person has more power than you can ever know.

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To read the rest of Your Creed of Care: How To Dig For Treasure In People (Without Getting Buried Alive), visit Caroline at A Wish Come Clear; the 60+ page guide for caregivers is free to all who elect to receive posts via email.

:~) Quote for the Moment (~:

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In any given moment, the universe is primed to give us new life, to begin again, to create new opportunities, to miraculously heal situations, to change all darkness to light & fear to love.      ~Marianne Williamson

Sharing a few autism journey miracles

… a fish in a tree…

 goldfish tree reflection

Everybody is a genius.  But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.

~ Albert Einstein

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About a week ago I saw this quote for the first time.  It struck me in such a profound way that an entire expanded blog post has been wandering around in my head since then, unpacking & rearranging & dissecting & analyzing & marveling at these words.

fish_in_a_tree_by_itsmebrownmindpopper-d2ztpxtA fish.  With a tree.  Climbing, not climbing.  Pondering the situation.  Wondering maybe why the heck someone would expect it to climb?  Maybe a slightly annoyed fish waiting for someone to recognize its fins are for swimming.  Like, duh!  … Or maybe a fish not really caring about trees, just being a fish and being content.  Not caring if someone else judged its ability at all, as long as it got the water it needed to live.  You know what I mean?

Or are you staring at the computer screen with your mouth hanging open, thinking maybe I’ve completely lost my mind?  Well, that would be okay too.  It’s all good, really it is.  See, it comes right back to the beauty of that quote in the first place:

We judge because our minds are constantly trying to make sense of our world.  Einstein’s quote is perfect to me because it clearly illustrates how ridiculous and imperfect our judgements of others really are, and then gives a gentle reminder of our silliness and sends us back out into the world to look at others through a new lens.

456088-sandy_cheeks_squirrel_largeDid I think that fish could climb a tree?  Did I expect it?  Was it fair?  Or should I set up a nice little oval aquarium and invite it to show me how it can swim better than a squirrel?

Can you see it?

I smile as I write this because I can see it, and I can feel it.  And just being able to do that brings a whole universe closer to me somehow.  I believe there’s a higher power who created the world, and I believe that everyone is special and important, every living thing has its place, things happen for a reason, and that we have lessons to learn in life.  Seeing that fish, imagining that tree, makes me realize the immensity of ALL of this.  I’m only one part, and me with my own judgements and ways of seeing the world…. well, maybe I have a lot more to learn, too.

Are you with me?  So to take this quote one step further into my life…

fish-and-monkey-jarsMy son is a fish.  He can swim like nobody’s business.  He loves the trees– all the typical stuff– but he’s not good at a lot of it.  For years I thought I’d find the “cure” that would change his fins to feet, would make him be able to survive without water, so that he could live in the trees with his little sister (whom I’ve always affectionately referred to as my “monkey”) and be happy.  Then I realized the key to everything, the key to really being a good mother (in my humble opinion) was to recognize his fishy-ness, to get him what he innately needs for the way he was created to live.  So that’s what I’ve tried to do.

But about a week ago, Albert Einstein reminded me that I missed another important part:

If in my world of trees, I had missed an obvious point entirely about the abilities of my little fish and about my own judgements of others, then what else could I learn from a fish?  What else was I missing about what fish *can* do?

flying-fish

As often happens in my life, an answer to these silent questions swirling around in my curious brain came to me in a truly beautiful and touching way.  Alex’s former ABA teacher Steph (of “Tigger Takes a Swim“) emailed me out of the blue yesterday:

“I’ve been thinking about Alex a lot lately… I just started doing consulting work and I’ve been going back over my years of doing therapy [with kids] and I keep coming back to him. … I don’t think [that’s] because of what and how we taught him during his [early intervention] days, but more about what he taught us and reminded us. …

“Alex taught me that answers aren’t always in books.  He taught me that patience and love get you a lot further than sitting at a table and doing things by the rules.  He taught me that sometimes you have to look beyond the obvious and search for the deeper meaning…  And even after searching if you still can’t find something, then just act goofy and laugh because laughter makes everything okay, at least for a bit.

I owe you a much needed thank you for allowing me to be a part of his life and learn from him.  I honestly believe it has taught me to be the best I can be in my job and that when A and B don’t add up, then maybe they aren’t supposed to so just move along!  I hope beyond hope that he is doing well in his new environment and learns all he can and continues to teach and inspire those around him.” 

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It seems my beautiful boy fish is already doing much more than I had expected — he is making impressions, teaching lessons, causing people to pause & reflect & remember.  And because of him, lives of other little fish have been and will continue to be changed for the better.

Thanks, Steph, for showing me the deeper meaning of my new favorite quote.  And thanks Alex, as always, for swimming to your own beat.

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