Grief, Beauty, & Inspiration

Grief

Grief (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My uncle died last week.  He was 80, but it still came as a shock to everyone.  I was not very close to him, but I was sad for my aunt, and for my cousin who has Down’s Syndrome.  They would feel this loss most acutely.

I had decided to have The Boy attend school as usual, as he didn’t really know this uncle of mine, and missing school is a catastrophe.  Better that I go with my parents, and arrange for Fantastic Babysitter to pick him up from kids club so that we wouldn’t have to worry about making it back in time.  Mom and I sat in the family section off to the side, while Dad sat with his sister, who wanted and needed him by her side.  I had a clear view of her and my cousin, and as the funeral went on, I witnessed her grief ebb and flow, and then I watched as my cousin just lost it.  I’m not sure if this was the first time it really hit him how final this was, but he was inconsolable.  And I watched my aunt abandon her own grief, with eyes only for her son.  At one point, she switched spots with another son so that she could sit next to him, and hold him.  He was instantly better, and the two of them were able to share their grief and their comfort in each other.  It was sad, and yet beautiful.

My aunt has been a special needs parent for almost 50 years, and I realized that day what an inspiration she has been for me, since I have taken on that role.  My dad’s brother turned to me at the end of the funeral and told me how proud he was of me, and how strong I was to raise my son on my own.  All I could say was “Thank you,” and look to my mom, and my aunt.  We Tough Cookies are not just born that way.  We are inspired.

Crisis Averted: How I Turned a Crisis into a Game

Blue sock

We decided to go to the grocery store at 12:30. “That’s 23 minutes, from now, OK?” I remind The Boy.  A few minutes later, I get up to make the grocery list, and I hear the beginnings of a meltdown.  I hear the frustration in his voice, and the elevated volume saying, “I can’t FIND it!”  It turned out to be a sock, a very particular grey and blue sock, for which he could not find the mate.  He had actually looked in the laundry basket of socks first, which is huge.  Usually, he will visually scan a room and if it doesn’t jump up and say, “HERE I am!!” it is lost.  Forever.  Somebody took it.  So we looked all over his room.  We looked in the clean clothes basket.  We looked in the basement.  I told him it would turn up sooner or later, and sat down because it was obvious we would not be going to the store today.  I was making a mental inventory of our groceries and trying to determine how not getting groceries today would affect our Monday… The Boy began to get very angry and started throwing things.  After he tossed a blanket across the room (thankfully only a blanket), I walked over to him on the couch, and said “STOP IT.”

From here it could have gone two ways: I could have started shouting, making things worse, or I could have gone the other route to try to get him to calm down.  Today (because I don’t always make the right choice), I made a split-second decision to get him to calm down.  I got him down on the couch, and lay down on top of him, using my body weight to give him some sensory input.  He was still yelling about not going to school tomorrow, me calling the police on him, him calling the police on me, and ended with, “Get off of me or I’m going to be bleeding!”  But he was calmer.  We sat up, and I pulled him into my lap.  We talked about better ways to communicate his frustration, and I laid out the options for him: We could clean up his room together, and if we didn’t find it, I would buy him a new pair, or we could hope it turned up, and choose a different pair.  He chose to clean up his room, and look in the basement again, which we did.

As we cleaned up his room, we threw every sock we found on his bed.  When we were finished tidying up, I said, “OK, Now we’re going to play a game.  We will each make as many sock matches as we can, and whoever has the most will get a candy bar when we go grocery shopping today.”  We sorted socks, I taught him how to fold pairs together, and we each snatched socks from the pile.  In the space of about 20 minutes, we had gone from potential meltdown to smiles and laughter as we played a game together.  And he lost, and it was OK.  He found a different pair of socks to wear (because we still didn’t find that darn sock that started all this), and it was OK.

If it had been 7am on a school day, when these types of things usually occur, I’m not sure I would have made the better choice.  But I did today, and we are both better off for it.

Sunday Shout-Out: NAA’s Little Shop of Hope

 

English: Finnish road sign no. 791. Emergency ...

The National Autism Association has a shop on their site that they call NAA’s Little Shop of Hope – The Big Red Safety Shop.  They sell safety and advocacy items that are especially useful if your child is a wanderer.  I particularly like the stickers, iron-ons, and temporary tattoos that have an emergency number to call if your child gets lost.  I have experienced a few moments of panic at a mall when The Boy was younger, and more recently at his choir performance, where I just couldn’t find him for a few minutes.  I would have had a bit more piece of mind if he had had something on him that had my phone number, for sure.

I also like the cards that you can pass along to someone who is not understanding your child’s public meltdown.  I’ve never used these, but have lost count of the number of times I could have.

Please check it out, or pass it along to someone who might find these resources useful.

Residual Effects of a Fire Drill

fire_alarm

fire_alarm (Photo credit: auchard)

I bet moms with neurotypical kids don’t even know when they have had fire drills at school.  I bet they don’t even think about fire drills often, if ever.

In our house, fire drills happening at school is huge news.  We rarely know in advance, and yet hear about them for weeks afterwards.

The Boy’s school had a fire drill yesterday, and consequently, our Fun Friday consisted of going to another school in the district after kids club to look at their fire alarms in the gym.  The Boy found that they did not have the proper coverings (the cage-like covers that protect them from balls and other flying objects in the gym), and wanted to go find the custodian to inform him of the fact that they needed to be covered properly.  I suggested that I could email him rather than roaming through a school that is not ours to confront a custodian we don’t know about his naked alarms.  Luckily, The Boy was OK with that.  It was also lucky that The Boy is a bit of a celebrity in the district, and one of their kids club employees is the mom of one of our kids club employees, so that we were able to enter the school and let The Boy do his thing without anyone raising an eyebrow.

And so, for the next week or so, The Boy will be pointing out the different fire alarms he sees wherever we go, and comparing them to the catalog of fire alarms he has in his head, “Those are like the white ones at the middle school!”  As I write this, he is having a pretend fire alarm at the pretend school where he is the pretend gym teacher. “Mmm.  Mmm.  Mmm,” I hear from the dining room.

Moving

Remember when I said I had a couple of big things to share with you?

Well, one of them is that we are moving house in June.  It may not sound like that big of a deal – people move all the time, right?  The Boy and I will be moving 900 miles away, which means new house, new state, new everything.  And if you know anything about kids with autism, you know what a big deal this will be.

It also means a new job, and most likely a new career for me.  After (wait, I have to count…) 16 and a half years of teaching in the public schools, I will be done.  And that is also a big deal.

As you can imagine, there are so many emotions that we are both feeling… And this is why I am sharing this now.  It will be a process, and more and more, when I am brainstorming my blog posts, I find it harder and harder to not include this huge piece of what’s in store for us.

These are my answers to the most common questions I hear:

Why are you moving?

We’re moving because life is too short to be miserable doing what you are doing, and life is also too short to be living far away from the people you love.

Won’t it be hard on The Boy?

Yes, it will.  He has a great school here, and great people that love him, but change isn’t necessarily bad.  He is leaving elementary school, anyway, and the good thing is that he will have two adults in his household now, as well as grandparents that are 10 minutes away, instead of 14 hours away.

What will you do for a living?

I’m not sure.  I have a lot of experience and education that are applicable to other fields.  I may teach community college, I can tutor and teach private lessons.  The Man and I would also like to open our own business or start our own nonprofit (or both).  We have lots of options.

Isn’t that kind of irresponsible?  Leaving a good job with benefits and not having anything lined up?

Probably, but I’m not stupid.  I’m a smart cookie and have done my research.  I’m getting my ducks in a row, paying down debt and saving everything I can.  We will not have a mortgage payment or rent, so we will have a roof over our heads.  In my book, wasting your life living for the weekends is the irresponsible thing to do.

___

Moving Truck Ramp - 89/365

Moving Truck Ramp – (Photo credit: revger)

So, it is with mixed emotions that I share this news.  I grew up here, have great friends and colleagues here, and have watched my boy thrive here.  But I am also very excited for what challenges the future holds, and excited to be somewhere where we both have daily support from the people we love.

I’ll keep you posted :)

Feelings… Nothing More than Feelings

Angry Talk (Comic Style)

You know what I don’t understand? When people say things like,

“Don’t worry about it!”, or “Don’t feel guilty, sad, angry, etc.”

Newsflash: We cannot control what we feel.  And you cannot change your emotions.

For instance, when we have a rough morning, and something has triggered anxiety in The Boy to the level that he is refusing to leave the house, I get angry.  I am not angry with The Boy, and as long as I don’t aim my anger at him, it is perfectly OK for me to feel that way.  I am angry because I fear I will not get to work on time, and I fear he will have a rough day at school. Reasonable, given the circumstances.

For instance, when I feel guilty that The Boy has no pets, but clearly has a love for animals, it’s OK for me to feel that way.  I can’t control it.  I feel guilty because I fear that I am not providing him with opportunities to develop his interest in animals.  As long as the guilt doesn’t overpower me, as long as I use it to spur thought about how I could help him more in this area, the guilt I feel is OK, and can even be a positive force.

The challenge is having the self-awareness to understand the basis of the emotion: where is it coming from? Can I do anything about that right now?

The other challenge in my life experience is to make sure that my emotions are not escalating The Boy’s emotions.  If he is anxious, and I am angry (and I express that anger), he will only get more anxious.  Therefore I need to (quickly) figure out my own emotions, so that I can avoid negatively affecting him.

Rather than telling somebody, “Don’t feel that way!”, try expressing your own emotions.  “It makes me sad when you feel sad,” is a  much more open, accepting, and constructive way to show how much you care about the other person, and sounds much less flippant and judgmental than “Don’t worry about it!” or “Don’t feel sad.”

This Week

This week I am…

Reading lots and lots of blogs, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (with The Boy), and The History of Love, by Nicole Krauss (recommended here, by Holly Burns at Nothing But Bonfires whose writing I love, and figure if her book recommendations are half as good as her writing, I’m golden!)

Cooking pizza puffs, ugly chicken (looks nasty [nothing like the pic on the site] but tastes sooooooo good), and pasta, using my best friend’s husband’s meat sauce (he’s a chef!)

Anticipating the World Series (Go Tigers!), the delivery of my new Kindle (in November!), the new James Bond movie (love me some Daniel Craig [swoon <3]), Thanksgiving (only 30 days until I see The Man again!), and Friday, always Friday

Listening to Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, and Feist (The Metals album) – I LOVE this version of Undiscovered First, especially at about 3:50, when she starts whacking the roof of the car for percussive effect.

Keeping an eye on The Boy’s cold, his reaction to attending his first funeral (maybe), and how he handles one of his best buddies moving away

Finding every excuse not to work out

Getting up the nerve to write a letter to our neighbor about the volume of her TV (or is it a radio) every morning at 5:30am

In disbelief that I’m hearing Christmas music as we begin to prepare for our next concert in class, and hearing the s-word in our forecast

Savoring any sleep I can get, the chocolate chip cookies I made last week, the Ghirardelli chocolates The Man got me for my birthday (my favorites!), my homemade sweet tea, and a relatively quiet house in the evening

___

This post is modeled after this one from Ali Edwards…

Body Image, Cellulite, and The Man’s Perspective

Scale

Scale (Photo credit: vividBreeze)

I’m getting older.  I know this not because I actually know how old I am in years – I am already to that point where I don’t consciously think about how many years I have been alive and often have to do the math to figure out the correct number.  I know this because I had to go buy a new pair of pants the other day because I needed a bigger size.  And when I looked in the mirror (something I don’t have in my room, nor do I own a scale) I saw the cellulite I have seen making its way into the limelight over the past year.  I saw it plain as day, and I was, for the first time since middle school, a bit ashamed of my body.

Middle school was a rough time (wasn’t it for everyone?).  I am still in middle school, as a teacher, and I know intimately that no one wants to relive it.  As a student, I struggled with how others viewed me as much as the next kid, if not more.  I look back remembering the whole time period as angst-ridden about my appearance, when in actuality, there were maybe three incidents that were burned into my memory, forever tarnishing the whole experience.  Magically, I turned a corner in high school and never looked back, consciously deciding not to give a rip about what anyone thought about how I looked.  That is not to say that I did not care about my appearance, but I didn’t ever dress or do anything else to my body to please anyone besides myself.

Until now.  Here I am, for the first time since then, looking at my own body with self-doubt, wondering how long The Man will find me attractive, and if I will continue to gain weight, getting fatter and fatter… Part of my problem is that I never had a weight problem, and never worked out.  Why would I if I didn’t need to?  Don’t hate, please, if you have struggled with weight.  Just like we shouldn’t scorn those who are heavier than us, we also shouldn’t scorn those who are thinner than us.  I had nothing to do with it, it was just how it was.  And now that I really could use the exercise, it is a foreign concept to me, and it has been hard to incorporate into my already hectic schedule.  Something else will have to go if I am to add regular exercise to my schedule, and I’m not sure what I can afford to leave behind to make room.  It won’t be sleep.  That I can tell you for sure.  I will not be waking up earlier than I do, nor will I be staying up later.  Something else will have to give.

In any case, The Man reassures me that I have nothing to fear in regard to whether or not he still finds me attractive.  According to him, while a woman is running through a litany of things in her mind that her man might not find attractive (Can he see the cellulite on my thighs? How about the hair growing out of that mole?  My cuticles in need of a manicure?  That pimple on my nose? My split ends?)  The man looks at her and thinks, “Wow!  I get to touch her boobies!”

Ha!

Take that, cellulite!