Love After The Storm.

Dear Electricity,
While you were away I had a lot of time to think. And now that you’re back, well… the thing is… I love you.

It might sound hokey and you’re probably thinking, “You say that to all the forces of nature after an ice storm.” But baby, I’m serious.

I know I haven’t appreciated you for all the little things you do, like running my dishwasher and lighting my front porch– and the night lights! man how I love those little things….

But I promise to pay more attention to you, and to be more grateful and not overwork you or curse at you if you run up my credit cards at PECO buying new currents or transistors or whatever you girls are into these days…

Hey wait, come back, that was a bad joke, sweetie, don’t be mad.

Anyhow, I know we’ve been on and off for a while. But I’m ready to take our relationship to a whole new level…I want you to stay. Permanently. Please tell me you’ll stay.

Love,
Cathy

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Never Assume Anything

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Today I am grateful for:

  • A slow ride down the expressway to work.  I was traveling behind a green sedan driven by a heavily tattooed, grandfatherly man in a hometown baseball cap.  On his bumper were several stickers including “Marine for Life” and “Purple Heart.”  And in the back window?  The cutest collection of stuffed animals ever assembled—including several critters from Hannah’s personal zoo on her top bunk bed.  It reminded me that no matter how much we may think we know about the world or about anyone else, we should never assume anything.
  • Aubrey, my beloved.  As I type this, she is at Children’s Hospital with Alex who is undergoing a fairly routine GI procedure.  She’s texting me the “play by play” and reassuring me that Alex is doing just fine with all that’s going on.  No matter how much time goes by, I remain forever grateful that she has come into my life, that she has glided so expertly into the role of second mom to my kids, and for the mutual love relationship that has developed between the three of them.  I could never have wished for anything more.
  • My mother, who in dying gave me the gift of knowing permanence.  She is still with me every day.  And she still gives me the opportunity to know her better.  As my life moves on, I think about her in new ways, I feel her presence and I see the signs she sends me.  I miss her as a living being I can hug, but – at least in my times of calmness and clarity—I understand without a doubt that she lives on and that one day I will meet her again.  Two years ago I had no idea I would come to this place.  And I’m sure the journey will continue.

I am grateful for…

the chance to live without assumptions…

the freedom to experience my life…

and the opportunity to learn from it over & over again.

What I Did in 2012.

Just a few of the things on my big list of 2012.  Stay tuned for 2013.  It’s gonna be a great year.

In 2012, with a guardian angel watching over, I …

  • Took pride in my new home.
  • Planted things.
  • Helped people on the phone.
  • Advocated.
  • Journeyed with Alex to residential treatment.
  • Re-discovered the connection I have with my son.
  • Packed a lot of boxes.
  • And unpacked them too.
  • Sold the first house I ever bought.
  • Framed Hannah’s artwork.
  • Created an awesome room for my first/second grader.
  • Adopted another gecko.
  • Traveled.
  • Lived a whole year without my mother.
  • Said goodbye to my mother’s house.
  • Started cooking dinner again.
  • Wrote a lot.  Wrote poetry too.
  • Cried a lot.
  • Started running again.
  • Finalized a divorce.
  • Made new friends.
  • Went to the theater.
  • Invested in things I care about.
  • Made contributions.
  • Gave gifts.
  • Fell more deeply in love with an amazing woman.
  • Fell in love with her two chihuahuas.
  • Got engaged.
  • Celebrated Thanksgiving with Alex and Hannah and Aubrey.
  • Reclaimed my family’s collection of Christmas ornaments.
  • Added new ornaments for my new family.
  • Expanded my vision for the future.
  • Started planning a wedding on the beach.

For all these things, big and small, I feel very grateful.

Best wishes for a Happy Healthy New Year dear readers!

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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/

The most precious thing…

“Write about the most precious thing you’ve ever lost.”

Over the last 12 years of my life I’ve become an expert at “complicated grief.”  I struggle, I mourn, I attempt to preserve the past only to discover that my efforts push me into the new-ness of the present and the unknowable-ness of the future.  I thrash around and cry, just to be led back to the only workable solution in the moment– which is to be still and endure (or enjoy) the ride.

There are times when I feel as if I’m teetering on the edge of a great, overwhelming despair which could swallow up everything I know.  Yet I’m not clinically depressed or hopeless.  It surprises me every time, but many days I actually find hope in that completely blank, dark space of loss and grief. 

It’s like being in a softly lit room… picture a cozy living room with a fireplace and old-fashioned wall sconces with candles, indirect light reflecting from table lamps.  It’s safe and okay, despite the shadows cast occasionally as the fire flickers.  Then all of a sudden something blackens that space and you can’t see anything.  It’s scary and unexpected and you wonder what happened to the room you were just looking at, or who in the world could have that kind of power to extinguish the light or  “turn off the sun” (as Alex once requested when he didn’t want to wake up for school one morning).

What would be your first reaction?

Mine had always been to panic, to scream, to put all my energy into finding the cause and a solution so that I could have my light (and my comfort) back.  But then I was pushed through so many blackouts and so much loss that my usual response mechanisms kind of broke.  After a few episodes of feeling helpless and confused, I just started to *notice* when the lights went out.  I had no energy to do anything else at that point.  So I rode it out.  And I didn’t let myself go spiraling down into the abyss. 

Know what happened?

I realized I could still feel the heat of the fireplace.  And I gradually became more and more sure that the room was still there.  That in itself was comforting.  Then I started to ask questions and wonder what else I was supposed to be learning in that blank space.  At times my questions still come in the form of irate screams at the unfairness of my circumstances or the heartbreak of a loss.  But I’ve become more interactive with that darkened room and I don’t feel it’s so different with the lights out now as I once did.

The most precious thing I ever lost was the conviction that I was in control and could change the things I experienced so they would feel different. 

Yes, I can choose how I react to anything in my life.  I can manifest lots of good things from yummy cups of sweet coffee, to snuggly animals in my life, to better health and more satisfying relationships.  But I am not in control of the things that “turn off the sun” or extinguish the lights in that room.

I could write about lost precious things from a hundred different persectives:

The day my ex-husband threw his wedding band out a second floor window during an argument and how I felt crawling around in the damp leaves and grass the next day searching for that lost precious ring.  I even distributed flyers to all our neighbors in the hopes one of them would locate and return it.

The moment when I first read an article about autism and realized that the life I had envisioned was going to be vastly different from that point forward.  The loss of the precious dreams I had dreamt from before Alex was born.

I could write about my mother.  Her knowing me in the way she did was a precious gift like none other.  So powerful for me that I still refuse most days to feel the loss of it, instead remaining firmly rooted in the idea that I will never lose the connection and somehow she still speaks to me through the stillness and dark space.

Many other precious things… my youth, my childhood, the scent of my babies’ hair and how it felt to rock them to sleep undisturbed by outside troubles.  Even the trinkets, the pictures, the first home I created…. all precious and lost to me now.

But for whatever reason none of those things are connecting for me… 

The most precious thing is still here, it’s the resiliency that comes with complicated grief and loss. 

It’s something that, were I a more evenly skilled writer, I could probably explain and describe far more articulately than I’ve done here.  I guess for now you’ll just have to trust me on this one.

And the next time the lights go out on you, tell me if you can still feel the warmth of the fireplace.

I have trouble with transitions….

… and a thousand other things.  But it’s all good because I’m human and I deserve to be loved for the individual, quirky person I am.  Which brings me to the topic at hand:

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Today I am grateful for:

Acceptance

Plain and simple. 

So simple, the beauty of it made me cry. 

We were away for the weekend.  When it came to Sunday morning, my anxiety was peaking.  I woke up and said to Aubrey:

“I’m feeling nervous and out of sorts.  I don’t know why.”

She put her arm around me, gently kissed my head and replied:

“You always feel that way before a transition.  It’ll be okay.”

I felt the tension I was holding in the back of my neck release ever so slightly and a tear escaped.  It is true.  I have trouble with transitions.  I have anxiety about making changes, doing new things.  That’s just me.  

But the relief I felt from her acknowledgement was like that feeling of soothing a sore throat with a cup of tea, or settling an upset tummy with a peppermint stick.

To be known…

to be accepted…

to be validated for the quirky, challenging, difficult things…

Indeed, to be loved for them as part of the whole person I am!

… well, that is priceless and beyond the words I have. 

It’s everything…

it’s safety…

it’s love…

it’s freedom… 

It is, simply put, just the best.

So Aubrey, thank you for knowing me like you do, and for helping me transition.  You are better than peppermint.  I am grateful.

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angry words and the mountain.

angry words and sharp comments
confusion, escalation, debate
misunderstanding stings
I feel shaken,
whipped around by the tones in your voice
 
heart racing and leaping
grasping at words as they fall away
down the sides of the mountain
that sprung up between us
it’s all wrong, my words twisted & thrown
… not what I meant, not what I mean…
 
frantic I try to put thoughts back together
and find my way back to the core
 
voices quieter now.
tears and a nod
a hug but it’s hollow
and panic is lingering
lonely and lonelier still…
there’s nothing to do but let the tears come
and stare out the window
watching the sky
 
… please help me come back …
…are you there? … are you gone?
 
it’s crushing, fast breaths
grief floods the insides
words scroll through my mind,
and I realize …
I’m talking out loud to myself
 
I try & I cry & I’m hopeless at this
fumbling, throwing out thoughts
nothing helps …
but I pound my fists on this mountain
as I cry & I try
desperate to find you again
 
the words lay in heaps on the ground where I sit
and the mountain looms large in the fore
I miss you, I’m broken
but finally listening…
I can find my way back to you now
 
I return with hands open, with words set aside
to hear your heart beat and your breath
my fingers tangle your hair, I let go and I soften
to feel the end of the journey apart
 
my back to the mountain
I breathe slowly once more
and give thanks that the climb didn’t break us
we found our way through, can we always do that?
I am grateful to simply be here.

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