How impressed are you that a fourth grader has written and published a book? I know. She tagged me in a blog tour, you can read all about it here. Because I know all of you are busy and most of you have been tagged in blog tours already, I am going to make this voluntary. If any of you would like to participate, please do! Thank you!
Below are my responses to Rena's questions:
WHAT AM I WORKING ON? Since my book came out in early 2013, I have been having a lot of fun promoting it in various ways. I've done a lot of book groups, a bookstore event, a couple fund-raisers, and I have a reading at a library coming up. I was asked to join a group of retired teachers that do philanthropic work, and that was an honor. I am looking forward to doing an event with Albertina Kerr, an organization devoted to children's mental and developmental health.
HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE? Good question! There are a lot of memoirs out there about mothers, in particular, and their autistic children. With the incredible rate at which autism is being diagnosed, and the huge impact it has on families, it's not surprising there are a million memoirs out there on the subject. How my book is different, is that it focuses on my own spiritual evolution through the process, my own "end" to suffering, if you will, arriving at a place of acceptance and even gratitude for the life I have - so different from the one I planned.
WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO? I believe we are all here to teach, that being said, some of us are more effective teachers than others. I believe my son came to teach us how to live without ego, without any of the trappings we can so easily get caught up in. He came to teach, by example, a pure and powerful connection to the Divine. Free from all dogma, all fear, all baggage, if you will, he demonstrates a true spiritual connection that is inspirational.
HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK? Hmmm... that's a tough one. I tend to write in fits and spurts. There are times (wonderful times) when what I write seems to be downloaded - I might be doing some tedious household chore, and all of a sudden a complete blog post or chapter of my book just "comes" to me. Other times I fight and fight to keep my butt in the chair and pound it out. I'm not disciplined enough to have a sacred writing time each day that I keep free from other obligations, although when I was working on my book, I would carve out particular hours/days/weekends to go somewhere and work on a particular part of the book.
I always admire writers that have a routine and firm boundaries around it. I am many things besides a writer, and for me, the writing has to fit in around all of those other responsibilities.
I came home from running around today and there on my doorstep were two bouquets of my all-time favorite flower, the tulip. And these particular colors/varieties are my favorite among favorites. There was a small card with them. Inside it said, "You spread joy every day." That's all it said. No name. Didn't recognize the handwriting.
Saw on Facebook that other friends were thanking the anonymous person that had left flowers on their doorstop today.
The Tulip Fairy. I love it and everything about it.
I was reading something recently about how we can personalize the Stations of the Cross, making it a "today" event. Praying for 14 minorities that suffer. Praying for 14 places of war. Visiting 14 rooms in a nursing home. Writing 14 notes to people that are sad, afraid, hurt or alone.
Those ideas are all great, and I am all for them. That being said, there is nothing wrong with spreading the love to the regular folk, too. Finding those tulips on my front porch raised my own game and made me want to pay it forward.
I am always torn each year when this date rolls around. Awareness? Really? With 1 in 68 children, 1 in 42 boys being diagnosed with autism, is there really a lack of awareness that it exists? More a lack of awareness of the cause(s), and what the hell to do about it. I dare say, everyone is aware of autism. If you aren't, you will be. 30% increase in the last two years. Do the math.
It is the tradition of our parish, to continually pray for those considering a religious vocation. Individuals or families sign up to receive the Vocation Cross, and on the sign-up sheet they indicate which of the three weekend Masses they will be attending. At the end of that Mass, the priest says something to the effect of, "This week the Vocation Cross will be in the home of..." and that individual or family walks up to receive it.
After we'd been attending this parish for awhile, Wil caught on and wanted in on the game. He marched himself over to the sign-up sheet at the back of the church, and in huge bold letters covering two or three lines, wrote, "WILSON LINK." We came home, put that date on our family calendar and he mentioned his excitement to receive it, no fewer than two million times.
The first time he received it, he was nearly to the front of the church ready and waiting, before the priest had even gotten the first words out of his mouth. We brought the Cross home, prayed each and every day, and reluctantly returned the Cross at the end of the week, so that some other lucky soul could take their turn.
Sunday, it was our turn to receive it again. As luck would have it, my brother, sister-in-law and nephew were in town for Spring Break. Wil was so excited that his "brother," or cho-cho (Tibetan for brother), would be there to witness him receive the Vocation Cross.
As we entered the church the priest said to me, "Wil is receiving the Vocation Cross today."
"Oh, don't I know it," I said.
As soon as Mass was about over and the presentation was about to begin, Wil was out of his seat and halfway up the aisle. He turned to our section of the church and said, "I'll be back, guys." We all smiled and watched him nearly run to meet the priest halfway.
The priest said, "This week the Vocation Cross goes to, hmmm...., I don't know, oh, yes, it's the one, the only, the famous, Wil! I'm so proud of Wil. He has become my little helper, keeping me on time. Wil comes to both morning Masses because he just loves being part of this community so much, it's just tremendous."
Then, the church broke into spontaneous applause.
Wil has found that place where the needs of the world and his talents cross.
This is a multiple-choice test. Pick the best response to these scenarios:
1) Two women are having lunch. One says to the other, "I feel like I'm in a whole different world than my friends. They're talking about the thread count of their sheets and the best place to buy quality towels. I get my sheets and towels on sale at Fred Meyer!"
A) Fred Meyer? I get my sheets and towels at Bi-Mart!
B) At least you get new sheets and towels, you should see MINE!
C) Tell me more about feeling like you're in a whole different world.
2) Two friends are having coffee. One says to the other, "I'm really worried about my son. He's not acting like himself. He's angry, sullen, I wonder if he's using drugs."
A) That reminds me of my friend whose son was on drugs and he....
B) At least your son is in college. My son is...
C) Tell me more about what's going on.
3) Two friends are on the phone. One says to the other, "I'm losing it. I can't remember anything, I'm not sleeping well, my heart is racing all the time, I feel like I can't even breathe."
A) Me, too! Let me tell you all about the symptoms I'm having, they're much worse than yours!
I have a dear friend named Laurie. Actually, I have more than one dear friend named Laurie, so, for this post, let's call her Laurie G. I love Laurie G. and everything about Laurie G. Laurie G. is pee-your-pants-funny, and not enough can be made of someone that makes you pee your pants laughing. Laurie G. is a homemaker to the nth degree, she puts me to shame in all regards.
She, however, does not, and never has, sent out Christmas cards.
I know this about her, and in fact, admire it. I recently dreamed that she had me over to her home, and she pulled me into the hall to show me 135 beautifully "wrapped" Christmas cards. Each and every card was inserted into one of those drawstring fabric bag thingies like this:
Though she never said it, I knew that not one of the 135 beautifully bagged cards, was for me. I wasn't asking to be named in her will, but out of 135 people, I didn't make the list? I was hurt. I was crushed, actually.
I woke up the next morning and e-mailed Laurie G., told her about the dream, and that I couldn't stop being pissed and hurt by her slight. She laughed (of course) and wanted me to probe deeper into the dream. Of course, the dream has nothing to do with Laurie G., but parts of myself that I slight, that I do not "gift."
I've let her know in the weeks following the dream, that I'm still a little pissed. Really, 135 people and I'm not ONE?
Last night I saw Laurie G. and she handed me this:
I about peed my pants, and then I opened it and found this:
(It says: Every day is Christmas when I'm with you!
For some reason, I'd never heard this Zen proverb until just a few days ago. Now, naturally, I'm obsessed with it. That kind of defeats the whole purpose, as obsession comes from attachment, and to let go and not be dragged, one must free oneself from attachment.
One thing I spend a lot of time doing, but not a lot of time writing about, is transporting my mother-in-law to and from the doctor. I sit in with her during her appointments, and for the most part, keep track of what's what.
We go to the same clinic over and over and we're not the only ones. Three floors of waiting rooms are filled with mostly the geriatric crowd. What seems to be happening, is they are spending the time they have left on this planet, in search of a cure that will stop them from dying.
Eckhart Tolle says, "The secret to life is to die before you die." Just another way of saying we, eventually, are forced to let go, to "die," and the sooner the better. We all know the feeling, the anxiety, the futility of holding on - of being "dragged," because the fear of letting go is so powerful.
Terry Whitaker, The Truth Teller, and I, have been talking a lot about how to go about that - how to die before you die. We think it starts with self-awareness. I believe that unless we have someone(s) that serve as "grit" in our life, to brush up against us, challenge us, really refine our own understandings of ourselves, then it's very difficult to die before you die. This, of course, is no fun at all, and would explain why most of us avoid it all costs.
As I said, I've been laboring over 1% problems such as pillow choices, trying to bring some new color and life into my house. I believe that everything has energy/qi. The qi in my house needed to move. We are a couple of over-fifty-somethings and a couple of late teenagers. Our house needed to reflect a different era of our life.
Down went all the school-age art.
Down went all the family portraits.
Down went all the pastel colors.
Out went to tired, dirty, cheap and wrong-to-begin-with, carpet.
Slowly, slowly, and I mean slowly, we've been re-shaping it. The paint took months to choose, the carpet, even longer. This whole process has moved much slower than I would prefer, yet at the same time, I have felt it's moved along at just the right pace. I am one to act in haste, repent at leisure. One to measure once, cut twice. Hang a picture just eyeballing it, then have three or four holes behind the picture because I wouldn't take 2 minutes to measure.
A word Wil uses all the time, and it makes me smile each time, is "eventiently." He means eventually, but he never pronounces it that way. "I'll do it, eventiently," he'll say. Today he told me that his friend, Lauren, was going to bring him an ice water from Starbucks when she went to get herself a white chocolate mocha. "But you know Lauren," he said, "she might forget. Eventiently she'll remember."
"Eventiently" has been the theme around here.
One thing that did not take any time at all to decide upon, was the plan to commission our friend, Candace, to do a painting for us. Candace has the perfect pairing of degrees: art and theology. Her art is infused with prayer, with love, and indeed, miracles. Things "show up" when she paints - surprising even herself. We knew that whatever she ended up with, would be just perfect for us, and it is.
My photography "skills" don't do this work-of-art justice. You probably can't see the faint Hail Mary written in there, nor the Buddhist temple, nor the Buddha, the Lady of Guadalupe, a Chinese symbol, the Holy Family, the blue angel with white wings, the glowing Mary and more. Believe me, they are there.
I've written, or tried to write, rather, several blog posts lately, then deleted them. Just not coming together. I'm better suited to go to Cost Plus World Market on a frequent basis, and spend my energies debating on pillows for the living room.
I'm in a place where I am very content chopping wood and carrying water. The mundane, repetitive, "brainless" tasks of the day, fill me up. It's nice spending hours in quiet with time to let my mind wander, better yet, be still.
My Lenten goal to give up worrying has not been 100% successful, but if I worry even 20% less than I had been, then I will consider that a step in the right direction. I read recently (sorry, can't remember where) that worry is an act of defiance. It's a loss of faith.
Did you know that a recent study shows 21% of all Americans believe faith is unimportant? I find that statistic shocking and depressing. I understand all the valid reasons to be fed up with organized religion, but to have nothing at all to believe in? No faith, and thus, in my opinion, no hope? Wow.
I just learned WIL OF GOD is being considered for an award given to a book that either illuminates, progresses, or redirects thought. I am deeply honored. It's funny, because just as I was deleting yet another post because I didn't have the oomph to hit the same points I feel like I make all the time, notification of my book's consideration, popped in my inbox. Say it with me, there are no accidents.
So, I guess if I can in any way illuminate, progress, or redirect your thoughts on faith, then I will get my ass out of Cost Plus and back in the writing chair.
Years and years ago when we were in the brainstorming and dreaming big phase of creating a program for Wil when he entered high school, we said we'd love to see the day he could go on the same 3-day spiritual retreat Woohoo had so greatly benefited from. It seemed like a long shot. At that point he'd never slept away from home except for Grandma's. What, when and where would he eat? When and where would he sleep? When and where would he ___________, _____________, and ____________? It was mind boggling to think about, yet, we continued to hold that up as a dream to one day realize.
Fast forward to this year. Wil is in a program that is in its third year of operation. The kids he started out with are now juniors - the year the school typically takes kids on the 3-day retreat. The decision was made to take all of the kids in his program on the same retreat, rather than splitting them up throughout the year. It made the most sense to the program to have them all be gone at the same time, and the staff could be made more available to assist if they were all together.
Word caught on that this group would be attending, and spaces quickly filled amongst the "typicals." They knew it would be a unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Staff and student helpers were enlisted. I had e-mail exchanges, one-on-one meetings and phone calls for months prior to the retreat. All the what-and-whens were addressed, down to the very last detail. I couldn't have dreamed of better "customer service." I could and would go on and on, but the details of the retreat are to be kept secret and sacred, as to make the experience special for each new group attending. I will leave you with the the simple fact that if I'd made a list of everything he wanted and needed, then padded the list times 10, it wouldn't have come close to how perfect blessed it was.
One of the very best things about the retreat, was the under-statement of the fact that this was the first one of its kind. Before, during and after, it was not a "thing." 60 juniors went on a retreat, and several of them just happened to have learning differences. It gave me great hope that there is a dawning of a new day. My dream is that one day it will be as politically incorrect and unimaginable to point out which percent of a group is "special," as it is to point out which percent is gay, of any particular race, or any other marginalizing distinction.
Tomorrow is the national Spread-the-Word-to-End-the-Word Day. Let's grab hands, sing "Kumbaya," and pledge to end all words that are disparaging, hurtful, hateful, and create division.
“All shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.”
Julian of Norwich (ca. 1342–ca. 1416), in her Showings. I've been giving a lot of thought and time during prayer, on what I want to do during this upcoming Lenten season. At Mass on Sunday I was seated next to a friend, someone I've known a long time, but not as well as I'd like. The homily was based on the readings of the Gospel, my favorite verse being Matthew 6:34: "So do not worry about tomorrow: tomorrow will take care of itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."When we were getting ready to leave the church I turned to my friend and asked, "So, what are you thinking about giving up for Lent?" She answered, "Well, after that, I'm thinking I should give up worry!""That's exactly what I was thinking," I said. We made a pact right then and there to do it together, to turn it all over for 40 days, agreeing that if we missed it, we could pick it right back up after Easter."Don't borrow trouble" is a favorite expression of mine and one I'm quick to offer others, when so clearly that is exactly what they're doing. It's almost as though we believe we are jinxing ourselves without expression of every possible way things could go sideways. And while I believe in the futility of "borrowing trouble," I'm prone to do it myself, mostly out of habit.They say it takes 21 days to break a habit. I've got 40+. I not only have enough time to break a habit, I've got time to spare.Breaking from the habit of worry is really a practice of mindfulness, being in the moment, and only in the moment, actively and attentively. When worry begins to creep in, I am going to chant the mantra, "All shall be well."I cannot imagine that I'll be excited to wake up Easter morning and commence with a full day of worrying, to make up for lost time.All shall be well.
I had the privilege of meeting Elizabeth ("Lisa") Heineman the summer of 2010, when we both attended Hope Edelman's memoir writing class at the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. Lisa is a professor at the University of Iowa, and an incredible writer as well as a learned scholar in the areas of gender, women's and sexuality studies. She shared her story with our writing group: the devastating loss of her stillborn son, and subsequent healing from the experience.
It is my bias that what makes many memoirs hard to read, is the lack of healing, the lack of transformation, the lack of insight and growth. Lisa's book, Ghostbelly, does not suffer from that, her process is complete and all on the page. Ghostbelly is Lisa's story of her home birth that ends tragically. How Lisa and her partner, Glenn, actively grieve their profound loss, is what made this book gripping. Lisa and Glenn make arrangements with the mortician, to bring their son, Thor, home for overnight stays, before he is buried. This may sound morbid and hard to read. I will admit that this book pushed me out of my comfort zone in many regards, but that is also one of the many things I loved most about it.
Lisa is refreshingly open about her non-traditional, "unorthodox" life. I, having a very traditional life and playing very traditional roles, appreciated being more intimately connected to someone so different from me, yet with all the most important things in common.
There is something going on in my community of friends and fellow parishioners - we're in a dying season. It feels as though not a week goes by that death does not touch someone I know. Lisa's memoir was helpful in that regard - helpful to to be reminded just how personal grief is, how deep, how differently it can be felt and experienced, processed and transformed. I have more compassion having read the book, for the vastness of grief.
To be able to write such a beautiful and personal account of something so horrific, is a trick not many writers can pull off. Lisa Heineman does. *Ghostbelly is available through the publisher, The Feminist Press, as well as other places.
Advance Praise for GHOSTBELLY:
“Ghostbelly is by far the most beautifully written and intimate account of something a lot of us have
gone through, which is the death of an unborn child. It's an incredible and moving book, and I'm so
thankful for it.”
—Jane Pratt, founding editor of xoJane and Sassy
“Ghostbelly illuminates the complex emotional landscape of stillbirth—putting into frank and poetic
words the unspeakable experience of simultaneously grieving and mothering a baby who has died.
Groundbreaking for its exploration of the unexpected benefits of reclaiming traditional rituals around
birth and death, Ghostbelly brilliantly demonstrates the value in determining what holds meaning
for you, and then unapologetically going for it, no matter what others might think.”
—Deborah L. Davis, author of Empty Cradle, Broken Heart: Surviving the Death of Your
Ghostbelly contains some of the most powerful and heart-wrenching sentences about mourning the loss
of a baby I have ever read. —Perry-Lynn Moffitt, author of A Silent Sorrow: Pregnancy Loss
“This is a book about birth and death seen with a smart, sensitive, well-trained eye.” —Barbara Katz
Rothman, author of In Labor and Laboring On
“Lisa Heineman's Ghostbelly is a poignant, haunting work. Lisa does not ask for permission, and in her
unapologetic honesty—that sometimes becomes audacity—we find courage and freedom.” —Jen
Silverman, playwright and winner of 2013 Yale Drama Series
ELIZABETH HEINEMAN is a professor of history and of gender, women’s, and sexuality studies at the
University of Iowa. Her other books include Before Porn was Legal, Sexual Violence in Conflict Zones, and
What Difference Does a HusbandMake? She lives in Iowa City, Iowa.
Wil was on a frozen yogurt kick that went on for years. I don't even want to add up all the money we spent on his habit. At one point we were going daily, and nine times out of ten he'd bring along a friend, and I'd pay for the friend, too. And let us not forget, Wil would get two bowls, and I was forced to get one, too. So. A costly, but ultimately "productive" era that put some much needed weight on Wil, and introduced us to many new people and tightened the bonds between the friends we already had.
It should be made known that during this period we got to know the owner of our favorite yogurt spot, and when my book came out, he agreed to sell it at the store, giving me all the proceeds. The employees kept a Carrie Link envelope behind the counter, and they accepted cash and checks, so often I came in to pay for yogurt, and was given a stack of money. Not a bad gig.
But, as with all his phases, they end as suddenly as they begin, and offer no warning or explanation. They are just over. Now, instead of frozen yogurt, and instead of daily, he occasionally wants to go to the dive drive-in, home of the famous Kelly and the "Hope you feel better" milkshake. They have a huge board on the wall offering their flavors of milkshakes, and you can mix-and-match to your heart's content. Rootbeer/creamsicle/Oreo is a favorite. Large. I can now get him to also order a small, plain and dry burger, too, and if we do this anytime after 4:00 PM, it totally counts as dinner.
Like with the yogurt, Wil prefers we take a friend when we go. I guess he's bored to death of me. That, or he just really likes his friends. Let's go with that. Because there is often an inordinate amount of texting on his end, verging on coercion, I always offer to treat the guest. "Get whatever you want - anything at all - it's on me," I say. What I've noticed, is the guests fall into one of two categories: 1) They try to order as inexpensively/little as possible, or 2) They go whole hog.
The "cheap" friends order one little tiny cheeseburger and keep it at that. The whole-hoggers get the "basket" deals, and substitute the drink for a shake, then upgrade the shake from a small to at least a medium. When I say, "Get whatever you want," they actually order what they want.
There is no question I'm from the former group, whenever I'm being taken out by someone, I scan the menu for the cheapest thing on there, and order that. I wouldn't dream of "taking advantage" and getting what I actually want, let alone "upgrading" it in any way. The other morning in meditation I had the dawning realization that I have globalized that mentality. The Universe "says" to me/you/us every moment of every day, "What do you want?" and I, historically, order off the dollar menu.
I have committed to believing and internalizing that the Universe is at the least, as "generous" as I am, and certainly has more in store for me than a burger basket with a shake upgrade.
Just in case you don't "read Wil" fluently, my birthday card says, "I love you so much I cry in the inside of my heart and love talking and fighting with you - you are a rock star - love Wil."
Wil's favorite word is, "No." He answers no before he's finished hearing the question. He loves to "fight" just for the fun of fighting. Often, when he is extra contrary, I say, "Let's fight." To which he laughs.
Happy Valentine's Day, everyone. I hope you all have someone you love to talk to and fight with in your life.
Wil loves Valentine's Day. He loves love. He loves to tell people he loves them. He even loves to write out valentines, despite his general distaste for writing. This year his list was ambitious: teachers, ALL the kids in his program, and favorite friends from school. Nearly 50 valentines.
We broke the task into bite-sized pieces, deciding he'd do 5 a day for 10 days. That was all well and good but when I'd pull out all the stuff, he'd add more people to his list. He also decided to write a (short) personal message to each person, and put some thought into the matter. To one of his teachers (teaching a group of special ed students for the very first time), "I like your teaching and your abilities."
I've been back to the store for more valentines but I think we'll run out of both cards and time. If you don't make it on The List, don't you worry. He loves you.
For the last three Sundays in a row, Wil has gone to church not once, but twice. The last two weeks he was able to ride his new bike up there, lock it up all by himself, be amongst the first to arrive, and set about greeting each and every person that walked in the door. He'd sit with a pre-arranged family for the first service (aka his 8:30 family) and then mosey on over to coffee and donuts. About the time that was breaking up, he'd head back over to the church and repeat the whole process. Greet. Sit with his 10:30 family, and back over for more donuts, then ride on home. This killed four hours of an otherwise very long day, and we were all quite happy with the arrangement.
Today Wil had both his 8:30 and 10:30 families all picked out, but a little thing called freezing rain attempted to thwart him.
He could not be thwarted.
We donned our snow boots and tentatively walked through the crunchy layer of ice covering the several inches of snow accumulation. It almost unnerved him, but he trudged ever forward. The usually packed service was quite thin, but the faithful few were there. Unfortunately, his 8:30 family got iced out and he got stuck sitting with us.
Coffee and donuts was cancelled and so we trudged back home, assuring him if he really wanted to go back for the 10:30 service, one of us would get him there. He felt quite certain his 10:30 family would be able to arrive safely, and so back he went. Not only were they there, but several other families of choice were there, making the efforts well worth it indeed.
And aren't any efforts to do what we love, worth it?
So, I finally have something to tell you of interest, actually, several. Let's start with the fact that I was blessed by the weather gods and avoided storms on both ends, and had a glorious vacation in Philly with my friend, Terry. We did nothing, nothing and more nothing. Woke up the next day and repeated it. After sitting in our jammies and robes until noon, walking, coming back and having lunch, showering about 2:00, it was nearly time for Beer O'Clock. "You don't really need to mountain bike or ski, or something like that to have fun, do you?" STM asked. I marvel that after 28 years of being together, he still marvels at that essential fact about me.
Terry, aka The Truth Teller, helped me uncover a few things that are irksome to me. She didn't help me uncover the fact that they were irksome - I was well aware of that - she helped me uncover why, and what I could do to make them less so. Likewise, she helped me see the role my choices played in the irksome-ness. In the end, it all comes down to choices and attitude, doesn't it? Why is that so hard to "get?"
When I got home I got to pick up my NEW CAR! I think that one should get a new/different car every 17 years, whether they need to or not. I had grown very attached to my car, Virginia. She took Woohoo to preschool and she took Woohoo to college. Now Woohoo is buying her from me. I had that feeling you get when you're pregnant with your second child, and you wonder how in the world you'll ever love another child as much as you do your first, but then two seconds after the baby is born you figure it out: Love expands. You grow a new heart. There is no scarcity to your capacity to love.
Silly to compare a car to a child, but Virginia had come to feel like an important member of the family. She was a constant through years of change and uncertainty. She is an outward expression of everything I hold dear: efficient, faithful, dependable, reliable, low-maintenance, modest, steady as a rock.
Let me just say this about my not-yet-named new card - cars have come a long way in 17 years! I don't quite know what to do with all the bells and whistles! Having Pandora in the car feels like I've died and gone to heaven! Seat warmers? Ahhhhh... Dual-controlled heating/cooling? Brilliant!
So, yes, I walked out with my same car, only newer, and told the gal, "I'll see you in 17 years!" Why mess with success?
Finally, Wil is doing the Polar Plunge on Saturday - a Special Olympics event. If you feel so inclined, any donation would be greatly appreciated. Thank you to all of you that have already generously supported Wil! Wil's Polar Plunge Webpage.
Wil has been sick, but true to form, he has not missed a minute of school. It is his MO to come down with a bug on a Friday afternoon, and be rarin' to go by Monday morning. This past weekend he was extra puny, but of course, Monday was a holiday, so his record remained in tact: perfect attendance. On Saturday he napped most the day, so I knew he was super sick. By Sunday he perked up enough to take a shower and put on clean pajamas before going back to bed. By Monday his appetite was back and he had me running to his favorite hamburger and milkshake dive, and getting him food to go.
"Where's Wil?" asked Kelly, our favorite gal there.
"He's sick," I said, "so I'm getting it to go."
"Oh, that's too bad," she said, "tell him I hope he feels better!"
"I will," I promised.
I then ordered from a guy at the cash register, that we have only seen a time or two. "Two plain and dry hamburgers, and a large shake with rootbeer and orange creamsicle, please," I said.
"I know who this is for," he said.
"At least this time he's not also adding the Reese's peanut butter cups to the mix!" I commented.
No wonder Wil is well-known there, not only is he engaging and friendly to all that work there, his orders are unique.
I then took my seat on the bench reserved for those waiting for their to go orders, and watched the mad flurry behind the counter that I've never seen before, as we always eat there. It was a choreographed dance, the likes of which I've never seen before.
I saw Kelly making the shake, then put it in the fridge to wait while the burgers were made to order. When they were done several minutes later, she reached back in the fridge, handed me the shake and the bag with the burgers. Again she repeated, "Tell Wil I hope he feels better."
I grabbed the stuff, said goodbye, but didn't take a good look until I got in the car and was looking for a cup holder for the shake. That's when I saw it, "Hope you feel better." Just four little words, but repeated three times by a virtual stranger. That's just the thing, "strangers" are just friends Wil hasn't met yet. I honestly can't take him anywhere where he isn't recognized and known, if he's been there at least once before.
And you know what? Right after that shake made with love and good will? He felt a lot better.
If you want to read a book for the sheer JOY of reading, look no further than The Rosie Project. Two friends told me about it, and I'll admit, I was hesitant. "It's about a guy with Asperger's that wants to find a wife," they said, "and it's funny." Not sure I was going to find that subject matter "funny," but they assured me, I'd LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the book, and they were right on the money.
Wil, unfortunately for him, was sick as a dog on Saturday. Fortunately for me, and thus, fortunately for you, that freed me up to do nothing but read, read, read. I started it Saturday afternoon and had read 3/4 of it by the time I went to bed (early). And I am a slow reader. I simply got my nose in it and couldn't/wouldn't/didn't get it out, so delighted I was by everything about it.
I don't want to tell you too much about it, I don't want to spoil your own joy in discovering it. The author, Australian writer Graeme Simsion, originally wrote it as a screenplay, and it's been optioned by Sony to become a movie. It would make a wonderful movie, but don't wait for that, hop over to your nearest independent bookstore, and buy a copy. I promise you'll want to own it so you can pass it all around and then have it returned lovingly to your bookshelf where you keep all your favorite books!
Apparently, my pumice stone tip was a big hit, lots of happy people out there with pristine, white toilet bowls. So glad I could be of help. I've got two more you're going to eat with a spoon, and they are as follows:
1) To get that filmy, stainy, not-clean look to go away from your flower vases? Drop a denture cleaner tablet in some warm water and let them soak, run them through the dishwasher, and, voila!
2) This one is for all you poor sleepers, I learned it from my BFF, Theresa Caputo, aka The Long Island Medium (more on her later). Do you have a bunch of crap under your bed? Are you like me? Do you have a compulsive child that cannot STAND anything being on his parents' night stands, and hence, there is everything but the kitchen sink under there? What I pulled out from under our bed includes, but is not limited to:
1 small saw
1 large hammer
1 roll of electrical tape
1 electric tester thingy
1 cardboard box
1 fluorescent light bulb
6 water bottles, each partially "used"
1 set of hand weights
innumerable dust bunnies
I'm sure you're wondering why on earth there ever was a SAW on the bedside table, but I can assure you, it was all on the up and up.
So. I pulled all that junk out of there, vacuumed the living daylights out of the carpet below, washed the dust ruffle (once a year, whether it needs it or not, despite the fact that Flicka Link (x3) lies up against it and it is NASTY), then smudged under the bed. And I did not put any of the afore mentioned crap back under there, not even the saw!
And guess what, for the first time in years, STM says he slept through the night!
So, get yourself over to Target for some denture cleaner (the Target brand works great, no need to splurge for name brands), and then hop over to the nearest New Age bookstore and get yourself some sage, and whatever else your guides nudge you towards.
As for Theresa Caputo, say what you want about her, but I love her and everything about her, including her hair, nails, and crystal-studded stilettos. If you want to read an EXCELLENT, and I'm not exaggerating, a completely wonderful book that spells out Spirit A-Z, I highly recommend her new book, There's More to Life Than This.
If, however, your name is also Theresa, and I am coming to visit you in 14 days, do not buy this book. That's all I'm saying.
I got to have coffee this morning with someone I haven't seen in years and years. The last time we met she was visiting Portland, and now she's moved here. We aren't close friends really, and on the surface, have next to nothing in common, yet when we talk we never run out of things to say, and have a shared love of books, writing, and several friends.
"You're radiant," she said, almost right off the bat. "What do you attribute that to?" she asked.
"I'm happy," I said. "2013 was a good year for us."
And it was.
But it's more than that. I was thinking how many things had changed in my life since the last time we shared time with each other. They say you replace most of your cells every seven years. You regenerate. It's been my experience that it takes about the same amount of time to regenerate as a person emotionally, spiritually, behaviorally, psychologically.
To regenerate means to grow new or replace that which is damaged. That's what the last seven years of my life have been about, both in a very concerted effort way, and simply by the grace that comes from the passage of time.
Driving home after coffee I thought of her choice of the word, "radiant." I immediately thought of Charlotte's Web, and how Charlotte spun the word into her web to help save Wilbur's life. Wilbur got all the credit for being radiant, but Charlotte did all the work. Nobody comes through a dark period on their own, we all need a Charlotte or two (or in my case, many more than that), ones that help us spin our story in a different direction from the one its going in. We all need someone to champion us, to believe in us, to sacrifice for us, to endure us when we're at our most unbearable.
And then we need those that bear witness to our progress and affirm it in us, so that we can go out and be a Charlotte for someone else.
I watched a fascinating interview with Starbucks' CEO, Howard Schultz about a month ago, and have been thinking about it ever since. Among other things, he said that one of his business philosophies is Everything Matters. The details count. How we do anything, is how we do everything.
At first I explored the opposite way of thinking, that nothing matters, and quickly became depressed. While not sweating the small stuff is wise, that doesn't necessarily mean that the small stuff doesn't matter. There is a paradox in that, and therein lies the lesson, I think.
We know for a fact that energy cannot be created or destroyed, and we're all just carrying it, moving it, spreading it and re-arranging it all the time, so it stands to reason that how we do anything, has far-reaching ripples. The energy that we put into the things we do, matters. Everything matters.
So, while we are busy not being busy sweating the small stuff, that's more of an energetic release of the anxiety around the "small," not an abandonment of our intentions around things that are "small." At least that's where I've landed on the issue for the time being.
I don't get too excited about the "new" year, don't make a lot of resolutions, don't stay up until midnight to ring it in. For me, it's better to one-day-at-a-time it, waking up each morning with a sense of newness and promise, hopes and objectives. I think it's dangerous to lump 365 days together, call them a year, and deem the whole sum as either "good" or "bad." Things come in waves, cycles, and it usually takes more than the turning of a page on the calendar, to abruptly interrupt that.
There is something to be said, however, for resolving, for taking inventory, for starting over, for having hope, faith, optimism and a can-do attitude. January 1st can be a good time to do that, because there is strength in numbers, there is a swelling and momentum, that can take hold and help move you "out" of wherever you are, and that is the first step.
Our dear friend, Claire Rose, Wil's guardian angel of 11 years, lost her mother on Christmas Eve. Her death was sudden and tragic, and the community is shaken, her family reeling, the sadness reverberates in every direction. I can't wish Claire a happy new year, I can't tell her everything will get easier and better and back to "normal." Her life has been altered forever. What I can tell her is she's not alone. She has a community ready and willing to step up, to not replace, but to substitute for her mother's role in her life. I can tell her that there are any number of people she can grab onto and hold on, until the wave of I-can't-do-this passes. I can tell her that although the year ahead may not be happy, it is not resigned to being terrible, either. It will be hard. It will be different. It will be sad. It will also have moments of piercing grace, love that shines through and sustains her. I can tell her that each morning of this new year, she will have to resolve to make the day anew, lean into the changes, make open her heart to receive all the love we have to give, so that one day she wakes up and the resolve to have resolve doesn't have to be so strong.
For Claire, the "page turned" on the day her mother left her in the physical world, and became a guide from the other side, one that will shepherd her through these dark and difficult days, with a little help from her friends.
This is, apparently, the first year Wil has heard of anyone getting a lump of coal in their stocking, because they've been bad. The minute he heard, he flew into action. "I am going to ask Santa for a lump of coal in STM's stocking, he's been naughty, and he's getting a lump of coal. I am going to ruin his Christmas!" he said with joy.
I assumed Santa had it all under control, but let's just say there was a little last-minute drama when said coal did not arrive with a moment to spare.
Traditionally, we go over to my mother-in-law's and open gifts on Christmas Eve. As we were walking out the door he announced that Santa would be putting coal in STM's stocking over there, too, even though we'd explained on numerous occasions that those stockings were filled by Grandma, and Santa didn't start his world-wide trek until Christmas Eve night. He accepted the answer, but was disappointed that STM's Christmas Eve would not also be "ruined."
As you may recall, Santa was also asked for an elephant for his friends, Barky and Elmo. There was much anticipation as to what this elephant would look like, and whether or not Elmo and Barky would be excited.
Because this is not our first rodeo, we also told Wil he would be getting a bike for Christmas. We have learned the hard way that he does not like surprises. A bright shiny, red bike showed up one Christmas morning, and he was underwhelmed, to say the least. He liked the (teeny tiny) bike he had just fine, and was not having any of it when it came to moving up to a bigger bike. Even if it came in his favorite color.
This time we got smart. We told him at his birthday time (and prime bike-riding weather), that he'd be getting a new bike for Christmas. His bike was too small for him, and he needed a new one. STM and I made multiple trips to STM's favorite bike shop, and consulted extensively about which bike would best meet Wil's needs. We got it down to two. We took Wil at a specified time to the bike store, explaining it would only take 10 minutes, but he had to ride both bikes and tell us which one he liked best. He chose in his customary "random" way (I think he liked the color, even though we could have ordered the other one in other colors). So, although he did know about the bike, he was excited for the bike, and told everyone, "I'm getting a new bike for Christmas!"
Be that as it may, the three big hits of Christmas were the lumps of coal that "ruined" STM's Christmas, Ellie the elephant for Barky and Elmo, and the true huge hit of the year, the $2.00 bottle of foaming hand soap with Santa on it.
"Sin is not the adult bookstore on the corner. It is the
hard heart, the lack of generosity, and all the isms:
racism and sexism and so forth."
- Anne Lamott Help, Thanks, Wow
You're either going to think me a genius, or a nut job, but I had another reading with a spiritual intuitive. It was an entirely an intuitive "decision," that is to say, no "decision" was made. I heard of this woman through a "weird" turn of events (say it with me...) and "knew" I had to schedule a reading. She is, of course, located in my stomping grounds, and was, of course, readily available when I called. That is not to say she is easy to get into, not at all, but everything lined up in a meant-to-be way, and within a few days of calling, I was seated across from her in a folding chair, in a make-shift room, having my chakras cleared.
Turns out my chakras were in pretty good shape. She did ask if I was having troubles with my right side, and I mentioned the hip issue from the dog pulling me on the leash, my cumulative injury. "More than that, though, is the issue of your yin and yang not being in balance, the feminine and masculine sides. Your left side, the feminine, is strong. Your masculine side, the right, is weak. That's the side that speaks out, that stands up for itself, that is willing to confront. If you ask your guides and angels to strengthen that side, I guarantee you'll be given plenty of opportunities to practice!" she said with a giggle.
I have decided that I will live with the occasional twinge. At least until after the holidays. There isn't enough eggnog in the world to entice me to take that on right now.
But the bigger question remains: Do I go out on a limb, and make a point of making a point? Both the astrologer and spiritual intuitive said my message is to awaken people that are asleep to their beliefs that those with lower "intelligence" have nothing to "offer." They are to be dismissed. We are to put up with them. To be "nice." To endure and possibly support, but not to elevate, learn from, watch, pattern after, and hold in high esteem.
Intellectualism is the final frontier. Martin Luther King, Jr. had his dream, and I have mine - to one day live in a world when we are as (appropriately) appalled to hear an intellectualist remark, as we are to hear a racist, or sexist remark.
I just finished Anne Lamott's newest work-of-art, STITCHES. No accident that I finished it on the anniversary of Sandy Hook, as it was that horrible tragedy that spurred her to write it. So at a loss of what to do, how to move on, much less restore hope, she did what she does best, she wrote.
I can't think of a single person I know that isn't struggling to find meaning, hope, and/or in need of repair. The one-of-a-kind Anne Lamott did much to help me heal from the Newtown event that I've yet been able to really write about it, it's been sitting on a shelf in my brain for a year, not to be touched. It is too much to take in, too much to grieve, too much to be horrified and saddened by. It's all just too much.
I've seen a few interviews over the last year with parents of children that were killed that day. The stories of how one mom almost didn't send her son to school because he had been up late the night before, and had the sniffles, and how she's had to live with that choice to go ahead and send him.
When I met with the past-life reader, she said she was told by Spirit that the children of Sandy Hook were volunteers, sent with a very special purpose to wake us up from our sleep and change the way we do things. My only issue with that theory is that it implies the shooter was fated to shoot, and I just can't believe anyone makes a soul agreement before coming here, that they will become mass murderers. Maybe they volunteered to come here to change the world, and had it not happened the way it did, they would have each gone on to change it in other ways.
I don't know.
A tragedy does that to us, it shakes what we believe and what we thought to be true, and knocks us so far off kilter we are never the same again.
If you need help being put back together, I would highly recommend both of Anne Lamott's latest books, HELP, THANKS, WOW, and STITCHES.
When I met recently with the director of the developmental health organization, we talked about "the look."
"There was a look Wil had in his eyes (besides the strabismus) that should have tipped off the doctor that something wasn't right. He was discombobulated-looking, I can see it so clearly now in pictures."
"There is a look," she said, "we know that now. We're training doctors to recognize it. Obviously, the earlier a disorder is recognized and treated, the better."
I'm trying not to let fresh outrage take over, and chalk it up to que sera, sera. But it's hard. Had our doctor seen "the look," I would have welcomed his concern. I realize not all parents of infants want to be told "there's a look," but when a parent comes in with a laundry list of complaints/symptoms, and has "the look" and is still not taken seriously, well... then memoirs are written.
I've occasionally seen pictures of kids, or held a baby and wondered if what I'm seeing is "the look." I don't know quite what to do in those situations. I don't want to be an alarmist. I don't want to force anyone to deal with anything they're not ready to deal with. And I don't want to be wrong. I haven't resolved this conundrum, but what I'm leaning, is to ask leading questions when given the opportunity, and see just where that does indeed lead, if anywhere.
And if it does lead any "where," I hope that is to a place of answers, reassurance, and hope.
Oprah says that for years her daily prayer has been, "Use me." If it's good enough for Oprah, it's good enough for me. I've been working with that prayer the last couple of weeks, and some interesting No-Accidents have occurred. My tireless, 1-woman PR team of liz, is systematically working her way through the Archdiocese of Portland, and will not rest until all the principals not only read the book, but order a complete set for all their staff. Apparently, liz is also saying the Use Me prayer each morning.
On Tuesday I received an e-mail from the executive director of an organization devoted to children's developmental health here in Oregon. Someone she works with had given her my book months ago, she'd put it in her briefcase with the best of intentions, but didn't have a chance to read it until Monday, at which point she read it straight through. We met yesterday, and she has since ordered the book for everyone on her staff, all the clinicians, behavioral peds, everyone. She wants me to do a book signing and give a talk. I mentioned that I would love to talk to a group of doctors someday, because it is my fervent wish that my experience of not being taken seriously, not be replicated. She said, "I can arrange that."
I'm trying not to get ahead of myself, just trying to stay in the moment of gratefulness that my book is doing the work it was meant to do, however big or far-reaching that may be, or not be.
This is my 20th Christmas as a parent, and the first one in which I'm not taking a kid, or kids, to see Santa. Last year Wil and I made the pilgrimage to the mall, and 24-hours later there was a shooting in the same mall, in the same spot, and that was enough to further traumatize me to the point I put my foot down.
I told Wil that this year he'd be e-mailing Santa, and that I would need to proof-read the email before he sent it, just so I could make sure Santa would know what he was talking about. God bless modern technology and the horse it rode in on. The whole thing took less than 2 minutes and he's as happy as a clam knowing Santa will be able to make his dreams come true.
DEAR SANTA I WANT COLLEGE T-SHIRTS PLUS THE OAKLAND RAIDERS AND THE SEATTLE SEAHAWKS MY STUFFED ANIMAL FRIENDS WANT AN ELEPHANT AND MY DAD WANTS THREE PIECES OF COAL BECAUSE HES BEEN NAUGHTY LOVE WILSON
Today he said, "Care? Will Santa bring a real elephant or a stuffed elephant for my friends?"
"I hope to God he brings a stuffed elephant," I said.
Then we pulled out the glitter glue pens and wrote ELMO on one side of the cheap-o, off-the-shelf stocking, and BARKY on the other. We hung the stocking with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas, soon would be there.
10. Primary care physicians, particularly those that deal with the geriatric crowd, should have to undergo some training in special ed. Let's face it, if we live long enough, we all end up with special needs.
9. Another great idea of mine is to employ people (such as myself) to sit in on doctor appointments and be the interpreter between the doctor and the age/special-needs-affected patient. It would be their/my job to read body language, to repeat what wasn't heard, to rephrase, reiterate, simplify, summarize and in all ways be most helpful.
8. Holidays need their own drinking games. These games do not necessarily need to include anyone but you. Just rattle off the Top 10 Most Annoying Things Your Family/Extended Family Does (this won't take long) and every time one of them goes into effect, chug.
7. You'll be drunk, but you won't care, and if that's a problem for any of them, let them devise their own game accordingly.
6. For every "bad" tradition (read: anything that makes you want to devise a drinking game), create a "good" one to counter-balance (read: devise a drinking game).
5. Everyday should be a day to give thanks, even if you have to dig deep.
4. Pandora, alone, is enough reason to be thankful.
Not a whole lot to report from these parts, at least not a whole lot of interest. I could go on and on about the thrill I get every time I see an empty shelf, drawer, tote, or space where something used to be, that isn't anymore, but I won't. The deep purge continues. I've got a few drawers and cupboards to go, and still haven't tossed all my old teaching materials or journals, but I'm plugging along. The recycling bin is full each week, and that is the goal. My car continues to fill with stuff that needs a better home, and each time I drop off a load, I feel as though my own personal baggage load has been lightened.
STM asked me the other day, "When is the last time we cleaned the light fixtures?"
The last time was never. In 10 years, they've never been touched.
This may sound silly, trite, and in the grand scheme of things, utterly ridiculous, but taking down the shades, washing them, cleaning the fixtures, wiping off the bulbs and putting them all back, was holy. It was an opportunity to practice giving thanks. Thanksgiving for the time and space to do it. Thanksgiving for the home I live in. Thanksgiving for the place we are in our lives, with our children, with our marriage, with our wherewithal, that allows this to be be on the To Do List, after 10 years of putting out fires, and chasing our tails.
We aren't the same couple that moved into this house 10 years ago. We aren't the same parents. We aren't the same family.
Wow, looking through all the files you created years and years ago, I can see just how hard you worked to create order out of disorder. I can see that you thought all the information you worked so hard to acquire, could be used to help someone else someday, and you'd be ready. You'd have your files set inside matching swinging files, all labeled and ready-to-go. When someone wanted information on ADHD, ASD, OCD, OT, how to talk to kids about dying, the signs of depression, and on and on, you'd be a vast warehouse of at-your-fingertips information.
You didn't know that all that effort to clip, sort, file and save was going to just sit there and never be opened. Not once would you take the green lid off that Rubbermaid tote. Not once. Years and years later, after the crises had all passed, you'd pull out that tub from the bottom of other tubs, and wonder - but just for a second - what it was you were thinking at the time?
You know what you were thinking. You were thinking you'd try to help others. You were thinking that if you kept your hands busy, your mind could stay quiet. You were thinking that if you were "doing" you were doing enough. You were thinking if the information was in a sensical form, you'd be able to make sense of the diagnoses. Actually, you weren't thinking at all - you were responding.
Maybe your husband was right, you should have been "smoking a lot more reefer," instead of doing and going all the time, but that's okay. That's not who you were. You were a doer and a goer and those are not traits to apologize for - the world needs doers and goers. The world needed you.
So, thank you, Younger Self, for your optimism, for your consideration, for your efforts all around. When you meet up with Older Self, smile at her from the past, wave as you pass the baton to her and let her take what you've done and where you've gone - all your doing and going, and bless her as she takes a deep breath.
Wil and I are going to be photographed together on Saturday, as part of a project a friend is doing. She wants to document mothers of special-needs children, and include in her project an ethical will/legacy letter-type thing.
"What have you found to know or trust or believe as part of YOUR life journey? What have you learned from adversity, how have you navigated the tough times, what or who gives you hope and perspective?"
I've been mulling over those, and the other questions she has raised, over the last couple of days. I wrote a whole book on that very topic, but how to condense it all down to just one page?
This morning I not only drove Wil to school, but two of his friends that also have special needs. All three very different boys, with very different needs and strengths. Two of the boys are in a religion class called Morality and Justice. They, apparently, are learning about the Stages of Morality. Wil's friend, Jack, told me all about it, "Carrie, there are three stages of morality. There's the Self Stage, where you only care about your self. Then there's the stage where you only care about yourself and a few other people, like your family. Then there's the third stage, where you care about everyone."
"You're in that third stage, Jack," I said.
"Yea," he said, "so are all of us. Everyone in this car cares about everyone."
Then we bumped fists and got really excited about how awesome we all are, what with our magnanimity and all.
Ironically, despite all the extra attention, extra therapies, extra miles gone for the special-needs child, it is my experience that most special-needs children are Third Stage People, they don't think it's all about them.
If I had to boil down what I've come to believe most through the journey of raising a special-needs child, is that we are ONE. There is no "us" or "them," we are all threads in the greater tapestry, and all of our thoughts, words and actions affect the WHOLE.