Monday, December 12, 2016

The Way of Life...

I learned a long time ago to tread softly when editing the kiddos’ writing. Whether it's a thesis statement, a report or a closing argument for mock trial, which was the case this morning, I'm quick to remember less is far more in terms of red slashes where my son is concerned. Planting red on the page too quickly will most likely lead to missing a larger connection a sentence or two down the road. He's a storyteller and he tends to write like he speaks.

On the way to school this morning the kiddo asked if he could read his closing argument for mock trial and while I wasn’t armed with my trusty red Bic, of course I said yes and was pleased to hear a very well written, concise, on point summation of his defense.  But one word stuck out and as he began to discuss the summation in greater detail, I found myself unable to concentrate on what he was saying because I was still back there, in the third to last sentence of his writing, kicking around that word—coherent (able to speak clearly and be understood). I was certain based on what he was trying to convey that his word choice was off.

I shared my honest opinion, which was overall quite favorable, and asked if he would please go back and reread the sentence containing the word coherent.  When he looked at me and grinned, I knew I had him.

“Something’s a little off there, isn’t it?” He asked.
“I think you meant cohesive (united and working together effectively),” I offered.
“That’s exactly what I meant!” He beamed. “Isn’t that the way of life?  So often we mean one thing yet we say another.”

Do we ever, sweetie.  Do we ever.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Every tree in the house...

“We were talking about Christmas trees in class yesterday and someone asked what our tree was like,” the kiddo stated this morning on the drive to school.  “When I said which one, they looked at me kind of funny.”
“Right,” I agreed.  “We have several.”
“Mom, we have nine!”  The kiddo corrected me.
“Are you sure? I thought it was like four or five,” I countered, truly uncertain of the actual number given several are seasonal/themed trees that stay up year round.
“Trust me, there are nine this year.  I counted as soon as you got done decorating last week.”
Of course he knows how many trees we have, I thought to myself.  After all, he’s the reason I have nine trees. 

When he was little, the kiddo was afraid of dark spaces, particularly the shadowy corners of rooms.  This was before we realized he would be diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome a short year later, back in the days when we offered patented phrases like oh well, that’s just the way it is if there was something he didn’t like or understand.

That same year when I was taking down our Christmas decorations, I was on the last small tree when he commented that while he liked our big tree best, the smaller trees I put up throughout the house helped light up the corners.  Several days later it dawned on me, I usually put our smaller trees in dark corners because that’s where I have space.

So this morning I smiled and watched in the rearview mirror as the kiddo finished his statement and grinned at me before taking a sip of his coffee.  I’m in awe of the young man my son is becoming—my actually fifteen, looks likes he’s eighteen, forever stuck at four in my heart little boy.  Every tree in this house is for him.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Share Your Heart...

In less than twenty hours the calendar will flip to a month that brings more dread, and stress, and fear, and chaos, and hurt feelings, and bad memories, and financial strain, and heartbreak to some people than the other eleven months of the year combined. 

Christmas didn’t start that way and it doesn’t have to be that way for you and yours.  But it will sweep you away if you let it.

By now everyone has likely received at least a dozen advertisements stressing the urgency of the holiday season, right?   Time is running out!  Hurry in!  You might miss out on something incredible!  What are you waiting for?  Hurry!  Hurry!  Hurry!  Christmas is right around the corner, people! Where are you?  HURRY!  You’re going to miss it!

If you’re anything like me, by the time you get done reading an ad like the one above, your heart’s racing and you feel a building anxiety over the fact you might just miss something if you don’t indeed hurry.  Even if all was well in your world before you even knew that ad existed.  Even if you had things well in hand this holiday season, the ad most likely did its job.  Have you ever noticed how marketers play on emotions that sit way too close to the surface for many of us?  They unsettle you (Am I ready?).  They place doubt (Did I get the best deal?).  They might even play on fear (Is what I’ve done good enough?). 

I’m the first to admit I can easily get caught up in this hurry frenzy.  As the baby of five kids, I never wanted to miss out on anything growing up and I can proudly say in my forty-six years, nothing’s changed.  I still hate missing out.  I’m the first one up on Black Friday and I’ve been known to follow a certain big brown truck to a nearby game store on release day for a kiddo I happen to adore.  I can hear you laughing but don’t judge me.  My guess is you’ve probably done this same type of thing, especially if you have children.  Whether it happens to you during the holidays or at some other time of year, like a birthday or special occasion, it doesn’t matter.  Even though my kiddo is older now, I can still hear his pleas from past holidays ringing in my ears.  But mom, you have to hurry!  They open at 4am on Saturday but you only have an hour.  If you aren’t one of the first three in line, they’ll sell out and I’ll be the only kid without a copy of the game!  It’s a boatload of pressure, I’ll tell you.  Yet there I went, running around town in a panic, wondering if I was going fast enough, afraid I’d miss out.

The morning I shared the details of the delivery man stalking incident to a good friend over coffee was right about the time I had the good sense to hit the pause button and insert a little sanity check into my life.  I heard the words coming out of my mouth, my confession if you will, but honestly, I couldn’t believe what I was saying.  I did what?  Why?  And then it hit me.

There’s a truth out there advertisers don’t want us to know.  Save for one or two new electronic items you might not even want or need, there’s nothing new this season that you’re going to miss is if don’t hurry.  While it’s true you might save a few dollars here and there, research indicates that stores only deeply discount a small handful of items banking on the hope you’ll fill your cart with other regularly priced merchandise while waiting in line to grab one of only five Hero Princess figurines being sold in the next ten minutes for fifty cents.  They’re counting on your trip to snag Hero Princess for under a buck costing you closer to a hundred dollars before you leave their fine establishment.

Whether you’ll be spending a quiet evening curled up with a good book this Christmas or circulating a room filled with family and friends, my guess is what you most need to hear you won’t find in any advertisement set to hit your inbox in the coming days.  Friends, you don’t need to hurry.  In fact, if you can find a few hours, let yourself rest and try hard not to feel guilty about it.  Remind yourself that most likely, you’re ready.  And if you’re not, force yourself to make a sane to do list you actually have a shot at accomplishing rather than a manifesto that will leave you feeling inadequate when you fall short.  Trust that you got the best deal.  If you learn that Hero Princess is going to be on sale for a quarter for five minutes on Christmas Eve, say a prayer for the sucker that’s going to be standing in line rather than diving for your wallet and coat.

Is what you’ve done good enough?  I bet it is.  If you share your heart with someone this Christmas.  If you reach out and make vulnerable a bit of yourself you otherwise keep guarded, you’ll ace Christmas 2016.  And if you don’t find yourself chasing a delivery truck?  That’s some serious extra credit.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Race is On...

Emails have been popping up here and there for a few weeks and I have to admit, I haven't given them much thought. But the kiddo received his first college letter via snail mail today and while he smiled and read about early admission and summers on campus and dual enrollment and all of the joys to be had once he flies the nest, it was all I could do to keep it together. 

There’s so much more I want to teach him. So many more things I want to show him. There are so many more heart to hearts to be had. I know there’s still plenty of time, yet I also know the race to snag my son’s heart has begun. And while I’m proud potential home-away-from-homes-to-be see impressive AP and SAT scores, when I look him I still see this…

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Fifteen years ago...

Fifteen years ago I was in my kindergarten classroom reading a story to my children when my Principal stepped in and caught my eye.  I excused myself and went to her, only to hear her say she expected parents to start arriving shortly to gather their children. In a quiet voice she then conveyed that the U.S. was under attack and that the Twin Towers had been hit.  News was still coming in about the Pentagon and Pennsylvania and officials in many major cities, including ours, were on high alert.  It was not impossible to think Chicago could be a target.  We’d been in class less than an hour.  

I asked if she could finish the story with my children to which she said yes.  My infant son, then just 5 months old, was in the school nursery a building away.  I ran to his room and found him sleeping in a swing overlooking a window with a view of a bright Chicago day.  I cradled and kissed him and told him that I loved him while he slept, and I prayed over him before I left.

And then I went on with my day.  I had twenty-four children waiting on me, oblivious that anything in their otherwise sunny world was wrong.  We had snack while parents trickled in.  We played with Legos, practicing our counting to twenty and naming our colors.  We wrote our names and practiced our spelling.  Time passed, every second feeling more like an hour, until the school day finally ended.  It was somewhere along the drive home I realized the skies above the Windy City were silent.

When I arrived home, I ran to the television only to be bombarded with images of devastation.  Pain.  Anguish.  Loss.  Desperation.  It was too much to watch yet I couldn’t turn away.  Disbelief.  Doubt.  Anger—they swamped me.  I was safe.  My husband was safe.  My son was safe.  But our homeland, this country I adore, was anything but safe.

While it felt like time stood still on September 11, 2001, life was taking place all around us.  I love you’s were spoken for the last time.  Promises of I’ll call you later would be broken.  Harsh words were left hanging between loved ones that could never be resolved.  Goodbye kisses were shared without hint of being final. And scores of selfless men and women laid down their lives for others.  I believe the best and worst of humanity met that day and that the battle still rages.  It’s not a battle of race or religion or color or privilege or geography.  Rather it’s the classic good versus evil.  Darkness versus light.  

There are times I feel that same fear and anger I felt coursing through me fifteen years ago.  As the events taking place in our world unfold, I often find myself shaking my head, disappointed we haven’t come further.  Then I’m reminded that darkness can’t drive out darkness.  Only light can do that.

We have a purpose far greater than staying trapped under the weight of our fears.  We’re called to be the light of the world and now more than ever we really need to shine.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

The Dark Days...

There's never been a thing in my life I’ve dedicated myself to more than being a mom. I wanted to be a mom.  I prayed to be a mom.  I planned to be a mom.  And I waited until I thought the time was just right for me to fully focus my time and energy into being a mom.  The majority of my days as a mom are pure joy.  But there a dark days, too.  Days I find my beautiful boy so deeply rooted in the quicksand at the middle of the Autism spectrum that I dare say a wrecking ball couldn’t shake him loose. 

The dark days..  I won’t lie; it’s not popular conversation.  But there are times I find myself pulled under, waving my fist at the God I adore and cursing fate.  I didn’t ask for this.  I didn’t want to have to start every conversation with a precursor.  I didn’t want my son to have some incredibly well defined condition in a medical book so he could be labeled the rest of his life and I could doubt every move I make as a mom.  Is this normal fifteen-year old boy stuff or is this because he has Asperger’s Syndrome?  Do all kids act like this or is this a new pattern of behavior he’s just now growing into?  Have we missed the diagnosis?  Are we being too hard (or too easy) on him because he has Autism?  Blah, blah, blah…  I could pave a road to China and back if I had a quarter for every time I’ve asked such questions.  Why me?  Why us?  My son didn’t ask for this.

The dark days call in to question every decision I’ve ever made as a mom.  The dark days test my stamina and make me doubt myself to the core of my being. They put my marriage in the crosshairs.  And they take my faith and put it in a mason jar and tape it to the underside of a teeter totter, tossing me up and down and shaking me until I’m barely hanging on, going too high and too fast for too long before I’m bottoming out and landing with a hard thud.  The dark days of parenting a child on the Autism spectrum take no prisoners.

The dark days make me wonder if I'm the right mom for this job.  And they cause an ache in my chest and bring a loneliness so gripping; I can’t put it into words.  Dark days bring a lot of tears.

I don’t feel like I know much right now about parenting my son and if you asked him, I’m sure he’d back me on this, putting my intelligence somewhere between that of a rock and your common variety garden slug.

It's true.  I don't always see a clear way forward. But I won’t stop trying to make the next right move no matter how dark the path.  I love my son with everything I am and I’ve never once questioned that he’s exactly the child God meant for me. No, I don’t always know what to do and I don’t always have an answer for the why.  But my belief is bigger than my fear and I love this kid.  And love is the answer.  I know that for sure.

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Marriage Challenge...

I was tagged to participate in a weeklong highlight your marriage game on Facebook and although I usually steer clear of too much Facebook "fun," I decided to play along.  I've been married almost twenty-three years and I'm proud of the life the hubster and I share.  And until I hit day seven, I was having fun.

As I started thinking about how I wanted to round out the week, my brain kept jumping to various conversations the hubster and I have had lately about what the future holds.  Almost every conversation now starts with the phrase "once we know where the kiddo is going to end up."  It's uncanny to think how many times I've uttered those words in the last several weeks.  Let me give you the back-story…

Summer brought with it SAT scores and the kiddo did well.  Very well.  While the hubster and I were pleasantly surprised, the kiddo was pretty gob smacked.  We had him take the test cold (no studying) and he hasn’t even taken the class where the majority of the math questions are taught.  Although he’s heard about the important of his grades, and studying, and testing well, and doing his best, I don’t think it all came together for him until he saw the actual results.  While it’s only four numbers, they have the power to open college doors.  After reviewing his score, the kiddo turned to me and it was as if all at once he realized what the hubster and I have been saying; that he has the power to give himself choices if he plays his cards right. 

So imagine the start of this new school year.  The kiddo is more motivated than ever to do his best, leaving the hubster and I to watch as he marches toward his college dreams with marked determination.  Everything is as it should be.  So why do I find myself wondering what happened to my shy guy that refused to let go of me and try new things?

This is my day seven post...

Day seven of the marriage challenge has the hubster and I thinking about the road ahead. It dawns on us that many of our current conversations oddly resemble those we had in the early days of our relationship. As the kiddo gets closer to leaving for college, we find ourselves talking about things that haven’t come up in years. Where do we want to live when we downsize (because there will come a day when the words “school district” won’t matter in relation to our neighborhood)? How do we want to redecorate the next house (so it doesn’t look like either a toy box or a frat house)? Where do we want to travel (you know, all those places the kiddo never wanted to go)? I remember how the kiddo held on to me during his first trip to the lake; how leery he was of taking that first step. Now it’s me who’s holding on with a death grip.

It’s funny how thoughts of closing one chapter are starting to feel so very similar to the beginning of the entire story…