Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Life and Legacy

Lovelies, are you still out there?

I've thought about blogging many times over the last few months but I just couldn't. There was so much to say that I couldn't say anything. So much to think about that my mind was blank. So much to feel that I was numb.

On October 23 we learned that there were no more treatment options available for my Dad in his fight against lymphoma and on November 23 he passed away. During those short 30 days we spent as much time as possible as a family. We celebrated an early Christmas, had waffle brunches, played crib, joked and cried. We made the most of our time together and it was so not enough.

Since his death we have all been moving through life, lop-sided and fragile. We have lived and breathed, laughed and cried, celebrated and mourned but all in a kind of daze. Grief is like a weighted, too-small blanket. You struggle against it, try to stretch it to cover you, hide you from the world but in the end you are left lugging it around. It only covers parts of you, the most fragile and broken bits. The rest of you is left raw and exposed. You try to act 'normal', you try to live as you once did but nothing feels right. Nothing is right. It is wrong to love someone so much and miss them so much.

It's just wrong.

Yet there is life. And legacy.

Dad was a funny, strong, loving, protective, gentle soul. His heart was full. He was wholly devoted to and madly in love with my mom. He loved, instructed and debated with us girls with intention and affection. He beamed with pride at the mention of his grandchildren. He was a faithful friend, a loving brother and a doting uncle. He loved in gallons.

This is his legacy.

He taught us how to love, how to be family. He showed us what friendship, forgiveness, dedication and affection looked like in action. He was an example of integrity and intelligence. He lived his beliefs everyday - all day. He was proud of our country, our heritage and looked forward to our future. He was intentional in how he raised us and in how he related to each of his grandchildren. He had dreams for each one of us and he spoke them, prayed them daily. His faith wasn't a Sunday morning thing. It was a moment by moment relationship with His Creator. Family first. Heart family or blood family, either way, family is family and nothing is more important.

Dad is deeply missed with every second of every day. we wear our grief but we are also his legacy. We are walking, talking proof of the strength of his life. We are all he dreamed of in life, all that really mattered to him. So we live on. We live - well. Just as he taught us.

Just as he did.

We are his legacy.


Thursday, August 14, 2014

Living Well

21 days. 21 days. 21 days.

21 days until the kid lets are back in school and my time is my own once again. At least from 9 til 4 it will be my own. I can work, grab a latte, visit with a friend, write, read (vacuum, do laundry, dust, clean bathrooms, grocery shop … ) all in relative silence if I wish. I can listen to the CDs I want to listen to, move around my house without being asked why or what I'm doing and go longer than 18 seconds without breaking up a fight or hearing about Dr. Who.

Just 21 days.

In the mean time, I sit on my patio, listening to my kids murder each other in the pool while I try to do the final (and this time I mean FINAL) revisions on my manuscript. In reality, these revisions won't be done today. I have lugged my ruddy laptop everywhere with me for the last six weeks and I am still two chapters away from completion. I have been distracted - big time - this summer. Between renovations at work (yay!), planning our summer programs in KidMin, doing some landscaping at home, putting in a pool, helping out some friends and running back and forth to my parents place and the hospital I feel like I'm unravelling. I just want to finish this book. And breath.

As most of you know, my Dad has been battling cancer for the past three years. He's had a few set backs this year and things haven't worked out as we had hoped. Trips have been cancelled, treatments have changed and changed some more and changed again. Just when we thought Dad was getting better there was another setback. My parents have been pretty private about the details of Dad's journey so I will try to honour that but you need to know that this has been a long and stressful six months.

Yet, still my Dad is smiling.

Right now he has an infection that has landed him in an isolation ward at the hospital. In order to visit him you have to go through two sets of vacuum sealed doors, wash your hands at least three times, don a lovely yellow hospital gown and wear latex gloves (after applying gobs and gobs of antiseptic hand wash between every step of cleansing and layering). This is an inconvenience for us but Dad can't leave his room. That is a nightmare for him.

Dad is an outdoor guy. He loves to putter, walk, garden, mow and snooze in the sunshine. He loves planning bonfires for the kids and BBQs with his friends. Days spent at the lake are his very favourite. He loves walking the beach, holding hands with my Mom, and watching the kids jump in the waves. Dad loves every second of summer so this confinement has to be a test on his patience but you wouldn't know it.

Dad has developed a bit of a reputation at the hospital. He has been in this ward a few times over the past six months and the staff know him well. They know him for his crazy pajama pants, his Mexico resort t-shirts and his huge grin. They know him for never complaining, always smiling and caring about their lives. They know him for being kind, patient and a pleasure to work with. They know him.

As I was leaving the hospital last night a group of nurses were standing by the desk. It was shift change and they were just getting caught up on their patients. One nurse asked another what patients they had. The nurse listed off four names, my Dad's being the last.

"You have Carson? Lucky! He's wonderful!"

I beamed with pride as I washed, antibacterialed and walked through the vacuum sealed doors. I thought about my Dad as I made my way through corridors and out of the hospital. The nurse was right. He is wonderful. I had spent seven hours with him that day. It had been tough, his temps were high and he was feeling crumby yet he joked, teased and smiled. He asked about each of my kids, about Mr. Awesome, my job and what was on my mind. We talked about plans and dreams and we talked about nothing. He dozed on and off but each time he woke up he smiled.

At one point, my mom rolled her chair to the head of his bed and leaned over til they were forehead to forehead. They stayed like that for several minutes, locked in private, intimate conversation. I almost took a picture of them but that's one image I want to keep just for myself. One mental picture of my parents loving well, living well.

Living well.

That's my dad. He has always lived well. He has always worked hard, loved well, been kind, generous and loyal. He has always volunteered his time and cared about those around him but all of this has been amplified in recent months. The worse his circumstances seem, the brighter he shines. He hasn't let setbacks and detours change him or steal his joy. He has been sad and frustrated at times but he has always lived well. In tough conversations with doctors and nurses he has been concerned for how they felt. In breaking hard news to me, he has been gentle and careful to not damage my faith. In comforting my sister, he has been patient, kind and protective of her. In loving my mom he has been constant, strong and sure.

He has lived well. He will continue to love well.

As always, he is an example to me. No matter my stress level, busyness or chaos I can still live well. I can still have a generous spirit and a kind heart. I can still see the needs of others even though my own needs are huge. I can still care for people when I need to be cared for. And I can smile in the face of uncertainty. I can because he does. I can because he has taught me with his actions more than his words.

I can because I am my father's daughter.

“Live simply, love generously, care deeply, speak kindly, leave the rest to God.”

~Ronald Reagan 

Monday, June 16, 2014

In Their Natural Habitat

"I think we can! I think we can! I think we can!"

This has been our mantra for the past couple of weeks. We are in the slow climb to the last day of school (9 days, but who's counting?). We've been in survival mode. Git 'er done, eye on the prize, push through the pain mentality. But as we've slogged through portfolios, crammed for tests and scrambled to finish up projects we also enjoyed a few rare moments of fun and organized chaos in the form of field trips.

Mr. Awesome and I both have been able to attend a couple of field trips during the last few week and while we had moments of terror (like when I was the only adult sitting at the back of the school bus for a two hour ride) for the most part our trip pin' days were fun and educational. Sure, we learned more about our local government, fossil discovery in our province and just how many windows to open on a school bus to combat preteen musk without creating a hurricane force wind tunnel as you drive down the highway but mostly we learned about our kids and how they interact with their world. And some of the findings surprised us.

They aren't extroverts. They aren't exactly introverts either but seriously, I was a little surprised to see that all three of The Wee Ones were more reserved than I expected. Crafty is always more cautious and watchful in new situations but I was genuinely shocked to see that Mischief reacted exactly the same way as his sister. He is usually our go-getter but field trip day, parent day and track day all saw my Wee Wild Child hang back a bit and let others take the lead. He still had fun and was part of the group but he was no longer the kid out front - and that's okay.

They're okay with flying solo. All three Wee Ones have some really great friends but all three of them are fine with doing their own thing alone if no one else wants to join them. Sometimes, their are disappointed that their friends aren't with them but that doesn't stop them from participating in something they are really interested in even if no one else is. I also noticed that all three of them crave alone time even when they are in a crowd. They eventually rejoin the group but they each seemed to need a time out during the busyness of the day.

They ask great questions. This wasn't a big shocker for me when it came to observing Dude. His mind is always going and he's always asking questions - and I'm usually not smart enough to answer most of the questions he asks. I was more surprised by Crafty and Mischief. They are smart cookies, too, so I wasn't surprised that they had thoughts. What surprised me was Crafty's boldness to ask questions to strangers in a group setting and the depth of though Mischief put into his questions. It seems that although Mischief is in constant motion he is, in fact, taking in most of what he hears and Crafty has figured out how to let her curiosity win over her anxiety.

They are growing at warp speed. I often think of home as their natural habitat but that's not really the case. These Wee Ones spend most of their wakeful hours out in the world, with teachers and peers. Most of their learning and maturing happens out of sight from us and this is so evident when we have the opportunity to observe them in their natural habitat. They are not little anymore. They don't need us to navigate the world, step by step, for them. They are figuring things out pretty well on their own. They are stronger, smarter, more thoughtful, more courageous than I give them credit for. They are not babies - they are Wee People who have carved out their own place in their world. It's really remarkable to witness. And it's happening so fast!

They still want us. Whether it was a wink across the room, a seat saved on the bus or a wee sticky hand slipping into mine, my kids all let us know that they still want us around. While some of the other kids didn't want to be in their parents' group, didn't want to sit with them on the bus or didn't want them taking pictures of them together at the events all three of my kids loved every minute of having us present. They were happy to walk with us during the tours and looked forward to us joining them and their friends for lunch. They wanted to stand next to us, hold our hands and give us hugs throughout the day. They may not need us but they want us - and that makes my heart sing!

This school year has flown but and our kids have grown by leaps and bounds. I'm proud of them for persevering, for being brave and for being teachable. I'm in awe of the people they are becoming. As I watch them grow from year to year, and learn a little more about them, its as though I am slowly unwrapping a precious, and much anticipated, gift. Maybe because I am. As much as I'd like to tear of the wrappings and see the fullness of this precious gift, I also want to savour this time. Savour the anticipation, the discovery, the quiet moments of becoming. Time rushes on fast enough on its own and though I can do nothing to stop it, I can be purposeful in enjoying each second that passes. I can soak in the newness of each day. I can peacefully observe these Wee Ones as they move through the world and make it their own.

And I can be grateful
.

Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person's character lies in their own hands.” 
― Anne Frank

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A God Moment, Undeserved

On Tuesday mornings I lead a short devotional at the middle school my kids attend. A couple of weeks ago I was having a rough morning and I was seriously thinking of skipping it. I had a horrible sleep the night before that resulted in a good-morning pounding headache and the kids were exceptionally morning resistant that day. As I fumbled through my morning routine I very familiar scripture verse came to mind and I knew I had to fulfill my commitment to the kids at the school so I dragged myself to the school. I was being obedient, just not enthusiastically so.

When I arrived at the school, my own kids were the only ones in the library waiting for devos to start. I knew it. Nice weather and all the little dudes are out playing soccer instead of coming inside early for devotions. I was irritated at the big time-suck that morning was turning into but I waiting. I stood in the room, watched the clock and thought of my bed and a nice, tall cup of The Precious. Just as I was about to send my kids outside and head for home, the doors opened and within a minute the room was full. Nearly 50 kids! I shared Isaiah 40:28-31 with the kids …

27 28 
Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 
He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 
Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 
but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

We spent a few minutes talking about how our strength is not compared to a hummingbird, who has to flap its wings constantly and quickly  to sustain flight, but to an eagle who has to relax and trust the wind to carry it, to help it to soar. When I was done talking I prayed for the kids and sent them off to their classes.

As I was leaving the school, glad that I had followed through with my commitment, I ran into one of my Buddies from Kids' Church. He was waiting outside the school for his grandma to pick him up because he wasn't feeling well. This little dude had lost his father a couple of months ago and although I had thought of him often and prayed for his family I hadn't had the opportunity to connect with him. I asked him if he wanted company while he waited and he said sure. We sat in the sunshine, talking of vacations, sports and favourite things to do in the summer. When his grandma arrived he said good-bye and hopped into the car.

I sat there for a few moments. Humbled and grateful. And sure that I received far more from my encounters of the morning than I had given. Despite my stubborn self-focused ways, God still manoeuvred the morning and gave me the opportunity to encounter Him in the conversations I had with  all of those buddies that morning. In the large group I was reminded that my strength is never enough but my willingness is a good starting point and in that one to one conversation I realized that God often uses the ordinary, everyday moments to remind us that He sees us and loves us.

Kindness doesn't cost anything more than time .. just be willing to give that much.

And I will, too!

If there is any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not deter or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again. 
~ William Penn

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Join the Vigil

Unless you live under a rock you've probably heard about the 274 Nigerian girls who were kidnapped from their school on April 14. Since the news broke internationally, social media has been flooded with calls to Bring Back Our Girls. While I support the sentiment, retweeting or reposting this hashtag has seemed trite to me in light of the enormity of this tragedy, so I haven't. I've not said one word publicly about this kidnapping until now. I didn't want to retweet something because it was trendy or make some kind of hollow call to action when I felt powerless so I've been silent. But I can't be silent anymore.

Today is Mother's Day. I've spent the day helping the children in our church celebrate their mothers and  relaxing while enjoying my own children. This has been a peaceful day that has filled my heart. I've feel content, blessed and blissful in my motherhood today … until I decided to get a little reading in.

I'm trying to read the Bible all the way through and I've fallen behind a bit so I thought this afternoon would be the perfect opportunity to catch up. I got seven verses in and was stopped cold. The next thing I knew I was grief-stricken, angry, heartbroken and dedicated to the action.

"And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them?' (Luke 18:7). When I read that verse I suddenly felt empowered to do something. I felt capable of taking meaningful action in support and defence of these missing girls. I could pray and I could call on mothers all around the world to join me.

As peaceful and lovely as this Mother's Day has been for me, there are hundreds of mothers in Nigeria (and thousand of mothers around the world) who don't know where their babies are. All they know is that their children are missing and in danger. All they know is that their world is off kilter and their hearts are full of grief. I can only imagine how alone they feel in this pain. But they don't have to be alone. I can stand with them. I can kneel with them. I can pray for their child as if they were my own. I can cry out to God and He will hear me.

You can cry out, too.

There are an estimated 27 million slaves in the world today. Mothers, daughters, sisters, brothers who have been trafficked and are living in bondage. This is not okay … but we can do something. We can take action.

Join me in a global prayer vigil. Set your alarms to 7pm local time. When the alarm goes off pray. Pray for the Nigerian girls and their mothers. Pray for the millions who live everyday in the bondage of slavery. Pray for those on the front lines, fighting for justice. Pray for our politicians and law makers, that they will be compelled into action. Pray.

I commit to pray everyday at 7pm until slavery is history. This isn't just about these 274 missing girls … it's about our missing generation. Cry out to God with me, pray today and everyday.

Tweet, retweet, update your statuses and share your prayers for the victims of human trafficking #jointhevigil #makeslaveryhistory #bringbackourgirls!

 "Don’t pray when you feel like it. Have an appointment with the Lord and keep it. A man is powerful on his knees." 
~Corrie ten Boom

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Gatekeeper

… otherwise known as 'The Mom'. That's me. As a mom, and particularly a mom of kids on The Autism Spectrum, I'm often asked what advice or tips I might have for other parents of ASD kids. I'm reluctant to give advice because each family, each kid is so unique that I know the things that have worked for me might not necessarily work for others. The only really helpful 'advice' I can give boils down to two mindsets that I've adopted in recent years and they've served me well.

1. I have a kid, not a diagnosis.
   
Whenever a situation arises with one of our kids the first thing I remind myself is that I have a normal 12 year old or 14 year old kid who happens to have ASD. Not every challenge, conflict or outburst is because of Autism. Sometimes kids wig out, have disagreements with friends or think school bites. That's just the way it is. So, when my kid comes to me with an issue I don't automatically jump to Autism as the culprit. My kids are more than Autism therefore their life has to be about more than their diagnosis.

As we work through the challenge together, sometimes it becomes evident that the struggle stems from their ASD perspective and that's fine. We address it and move on. And sometimes it has nothing to do with ASD and that's fine. We address still just address the issue and move on. Either way, my kids need to learn how to function and thrive in a nuero-typical world. They need to learn how to manage conflict and problem solve. They need to learn to respect themselves for who they are and to not use Autism as an excuse.

As long as we're talking about excuses … we have a saying in This Random House; Autism is not an excuse for disobedience, disrespect or bad behaviour. It's just not. There is no reason why children, with or without, any type of diagnosis can't be taught to be respectful and polite. It's harder to do with some children than with others but all can be taught. I have seen non-verbal low functioning kids learn how to use manners and indicate their needs calmly because their caregivers have taught the child, not succumbed to the diagnosis.

2. I am the Gatekeeper to their world.

When Dude was little he was an absolute sponge, and to a certain extent he still is. He was constantly studying the world around him, desperate to make sense of it. It was kind of like living with that robot from Short Circuit, "I need more input!" He took in everything he saw, good or bad, and applied it to his own social situations.

At first it was cute but soon we began to realize how sarcasm, 'slams', quasi-swears, verbal jabs/burns, mockery, mimicking and disrespectful tones and facial expressions were turning our boy into a brat. Some of these things he was absorbing through school and neighbourhood contacts but most of it he was observing in our own home, on our own TV.

We'd always thought we were careful about the shows and movies we allowed our kids to watch. We kept things rated G and Disney-esque but when we started really paying attention to what they were taking in we realized how wide we'd left the gate open and how rampant the wolves were in our sheep pen.

Many of the shows our kids watched, though marketed to kids their age, had characters who were wee smart alecs with stupid parents. The themes of most of the shows revolved around dating, greed and bickering. And in between shows the kids were blasted with commercials that quickly convinced them that they needed more toys, more food, more clothes, more EVERYTHING!

We tried limiting their TV time and the shows they were allowed to watch but we had a hard time policing them as they adjusted to the new rules. We also spent far more time than we wanted in negotiations and discussions of the 'why' and 'how long' of these new rules. So eventually we just gave up. No more negations, no more bickering and no more cable.

We cancelled our cable package and disconnected the internet from their computer. We removed all movies from the family room with the exception of Veggie Tales, everything else they had to ask us for. We also disconnected the Wii. We did a full stop on all screens for a few weeks and then we gradually reintroduced appropriate movies and limited gaming time with limited game options.

We aren't religious nuts and we don't think the world is full of evil influences. We do, however, think that we are responsible for what and how our kids learn. This is a weighty responsibility that we can't just shrug off on Family Channel. We need to be intentional with the influences we let into their lives. Even with us being as intentional and careful as we are, we are still constantly fighting against cultural norms and teen attitudes.

And being a Gatekeeper isn't just about stopping things from coming in but it's about inviting the right things in, it's about creating opportunity for learning. We explore, google, read, research and plan our vacations around learning something new. And we talk. We talk a lot in this house.

Everyday we have conversations about who we want to be and what we want to do. We talk about the impact we have on those around us and whether or not we are on track to becoming the people we want to be. And, before you ask, yes it's exhausting and no, I don't always feel like talking, explaining, reasoning and teaching.

 But I am the Gatekeeper and it's my job.

Whether you have a nuero-typical kid or a kid with extra needs, two things are true for all of us; Our children are sacred gifts and we are their first and best teachers. And with that I'll remind you of the best piece of advice I've ever received. My very wise and lovely friend Becky once told me that I don't need to be an extraordinary mom to raise extraordinary kids. I just needed to be a good mom.

Be good to your kids. Be good to yourself.

“When you want to teach children to think, you begin by treating them seriously when they are little, giving them responsibilities, talking to them candidly, providing privacy and solitude for them, and making them readers and thinkers of significant thoughts from the beginning. That’s if you want to teach them to think.” 
― Bertrand Russell


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

It's a Girl Thing

I am about to write about something I know nothing about. Usually I try to stick to topics I at least know a little something about but this time, I'm in the dark - but at least I'm not alone on this one. Most people are in the dark when it comes to this topic, even 'the professionals' are just taking educated guesses, for the most part.

It's a girl thing. It's a girl and autism thing.

Dude was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome when he was 7 years old, in 2007. At that time I had no idea what Autism was, I just knew that it was something I didn't want my kid to have. I spent months reading every book on Autism that I could get my hands on. I spent hours in the local library, pouring over medical journals, psychology textbooks and every obscure reference to Asperger's Syndrome that I could find. Slowly I pieced together an understanding of what Dude's diagnosis meant and how we might be able to begin to reach him. During this time we were also referred to a paediatrician who specialized in treating children with neurological issues.

At our first appointment with Dr. C she asked about our other two children. She wanted to know if we had any concerns about either of them. I looked at three year old Mischief, who was literally tied into the stroller, lest he break free and climb the bookshelves to 'web' people (a la Spiderman) and five year old Crafty who was wearing butterfly wings and sunglasses that looked as though they came from Elton John's personal collection and said, 'No, I'm pretty sure these two are … er … normal."

Every year, at Dude's big check up with Dr. C, she would ask about Mischief and Crafty too and every year I would make some wisecrack about how nutty - but normal - they were and I would walk away from the appointment with a wee twinge that maybe our normal wasn't exactly normal.

You see, Crafty wasn't exactly like other girls her age. She had a wicked vocabulary and an interesting cadence of speech. Her memory was like a steel trap yet she seemed to move through the world slightly off beat to everyone else. She was a habitual sleep walker and talker and she had a peculiar fascination with collecting like objects - so much so that we began calling her Meg-pie because she was like a wee magpie. She also suffered from intense social and environmental anxiety. But that was normal, right?

When Crafty was eight we realized that things with her collections were getting out of hand and had turned the corner toward hoarding. Her anxiety attacks were also beginning to resemble Dude's Aspergian meltdowns. When we met with Dr. C that summer I finally set the jokes aside and told her about my concerns with Crafty. She immediately set us up with an appointment with a children's psychiatrist. After a twenty minute conversation with the psychiatrist, all of which Crafty spent with her head under my jacket, the good doctor proclaimed that Crafty had an anxiety disorder and we were dismissed.

I spent the next year taking Crafty to appointments at the anxiety clinic every week but we saw little improvement. At the end of the year her councillor admitted that although Crafty certainly had issues with anxiety, there was something else going on with her. I felt it, too. All of her quirks and behaviours didn't stack up right, they didn't add up to anxiety alone. I saw hints of blue in the mix. I saw undeniable traits of Autism.

The next year was spent going back and forth with the psychiatrist and Dr. C. The school wrote letters to the doctors and the doctors explained to me, again, that anxiety 'fits'. It was a frustrating and at times humiliating year for me. The psychiatrist was making me feel as though I was crazy and on an Autism witch hunt. Finally, Dr. C stepped in and assessed Crafty for Asperger's. The test indicated that Crafty was, indeed, on the Autism spectrum. The psychiatrist disagreed.

After some more back and forth and hoop jumping Dr. C and the psychiatrist settled on a PDD-NOS diagnosis. And I exhaled … but only for a moment. Although her diagnosis was very similar to Dude's, Crafty's behaviours, strengths, challenges and quirks were so different. I didn't even know where to begin. And three years later I'm still pretty much in the same spot. Maybe even a little worse off.

You see, as Dude has matured managing Asperger's has become easier. He understand what Asperger's means to him and he's working on bridging the gap between his world and the neuro-typical (NT) world. He can play to his strengths and he's learning to ask for help when he's facing a challenge. He is actively dissecting social interaction to better understand them and replicate the success he is beginning to experience with more regularity. And Crafty is moving in the opposite direction - or so it seems.

The older she gets the more glaring the differences between her and her NT pals become. Where two years ago she could just follow the crowd and be 'that quirky, shy girl' now her behaviour is considered odd, rude, strange and inappropriate for her age. Even people who know her and love her see her issues as a behaviour problem and not as Autism. They see Dude and understand his Autism because it's by the book, ordered and to the letter Asperger's. Crafty's Autism is different. It's chaotic, in constant motion with no sense of reason or pattern. Crafty's Autism is like a wave on the beach, you don't see it until it's thundering toward you and crashing against you and then just as you try to grab hold of it, it's gone again. But it will return and when it does, you are just as unprepared for the encounter as you were the last time.

Most days I feel like I'm slogging uphill, through knee-deep mud with her. I'm at a loss when it comes to helping her make sense of her world and helping the world make sense of her. I feel like I can't get in front of this thing, can't control it or explain it. I feel a world of judgement every time she acts out of the norm yet I can't even find the words to define her for myself never mind the words to explain her to the outside world.

I see her struggle to understand, her hurt when she doesn't belong and her confusion when she offends. I see her heartbreak when she is left out and her devastation at being called a 'retard', a 'freak' and a 'loser'. I see the anger at being toyed with by the other girls in her grade and the rage at her own perceived deficiencies. I see her fear. Her overwhelming fear of being alone, of being misunderstood, of being forever out of sync. And I feel my own fear, the very same fear.

But I also see her incredible, undeniable strength. I see her face each new day with courage and optimism. I see her creativity and I marvel at it. I see her whimsy, her humour and her compassion. I see her soft, gooey, loving heart and her deeply loyal soul. I see her mischievous eyes and her sassy smile. I see her, my beautiful, brave, glorious girl and I see hope.

I don't know what Crafty's autism is and I don't really know how to help her. I just know how to love her and how to accept her just as she is.

And, I think, that's the thing she needs the most right now.

Being a typical teenage isn't easy. When you have autism, it can be extra difficult. We need more public awareness about these hurdles as well as compassion towards young people.
~Holly Robinson Peete


PS - This is a brilliant article that outlines the issues girls on The Spectrum have with getting the appropriate support.

Here's also an excellent video featuring a group of girls who have autism talking about autism.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Independent Filmmaker

Today's post is a short one.

For the Pink Shirt Assembly this week Dude wrote, story boarded, directed and edited a video. I was there on the day of filming just to make sure he got all the shots he needed but that was all the adult involvement he wanted. It was his concept that he fleshed out with his best buddy over pizza and chips at our place one Friday night. He recruited the background actors and he scouted the location. He did it all and I was relegated to the status of a PA for the morning of the shoot.

From my vantage point, manning the clipboard and holding back traffic in the hallway between takes, I was blown away but the focus and leadership he displayed that morning. The shy and mumbling boy melted away and a decisive, collaborative director stepped forward. He was relaxed and kind with the cast yet wholly focussed on getting his message on film. He ticked off the checklist of shots need then declared the shoot wrapped. I followed him to the lab for editing but he stopped me at the door.

"I've got this, mom," he said as he gently yet firmly closed the door on me.

My feelings were a little hurt and I was more than a little worried about the finished product but when he showed it to me, and the guidance counsellor, a week later I got goosebumps and teared up a little. The message in the video was in itself enough to start the waterworks but knowing that my boy did this on his own, that he worked with a team and crafted a piece of art that spoke his heart, moved me.

Everyday since he was a wee boy caught in the tangles of Autism I have prayed that he would find his way to independence and see his own strength realized. This video is evidence of this prayer being answered. He's determined to reach his goals and to Stand Up and Speak Out against injustice along the way. He is determined to be a good person and he is committed to changing his world.

I'm so very, very proud of him! Take a moment to click on the link and watch.

The Note Video

If that doesn't work click here to view the video on our local radio station's blog. It's a write up on the assembly and Dude's video is about halfway down.

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it's those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”

~Desmond Tutu

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Silent No More

Yesterday, Dude and Crafty's school celebrated National Pink Shirt Day. This day began a number of years ago when a boy in Nova Scotia wore a pink t-shirt to school and was bullied for it. The next day a couple of classmates showed up at school with 50 pink t-shirts to hand out to the other boys in the school. That day they sent the message, loud and clear, that bullying was not okay. These kids became part of the solution in their school and now Dude and Crafty have become part of the solution in their school, too.

Most kids have felt that they've been bullied at some point during their school career but for us, because of Autism lives with us, dealing with the aftermath of bullying becomes nearly a full time job. Not only are kids on The Spectrum a fairly easy target of meanness but they have a much more difficult time understanding the why and the what next of bullying. Because kids on The Spectrum don't pick up on social cues and nuances everything everything has to be explained in detail and are often best received when explained as 'rules'. The problem arises then when everyone doesn't follow the 'rules'.

Dude working tech for the assembly
For instance, Dude was having issues with a classmate. She was offended by the way he expressed himself and she had begun to lash out at him, verbally and physically. He was absolutely frustrated and confused at her behaviour. When the principal sat them both down to talk our their issues, Dude was shocked to hear that he was offensive when, in his mind, he was just being honest. She asked if he liked her drawing. He said 'no' because he doesn't like cats. She was talking to friends about Lord of the Rings and said dwarves are better than Elves but, according to Dude, that's simply not true because Elves are excellent archers - and he told her so. These types of exchanges went on for a while, understandably, frustrating her to the point of near insanity.

When the principal explained that although Dude was speaking the truth, from his perspective, he was being unkind and tunnel visioned in his delivery. As soon as he realized that he bore some of the responsibility to the friendship breakdown he apologized and waited for forgiveness and an apology from his classmate for her part.

He waited.

And waited.

...

Then he blew up. He was hurt and appalled that he was playing by the rules, as explained to him by us, and his classmate wasn't. She refused to forgive him and absolutely refused to apologize for her behaviour toward him. The conversation ended with the rift unresolved.

Dude came out of the school that day spewing venom about his classmate and friendship in general. It took us hours to talk him down and reason with him. We tried to explain the unexplainable. We tried to reason the unreasonable. By the end of our two hour conversation we were able to get him to accept that not all families have the same rules to relationships, and not all kids respond the way their parents would like them too (including him,sometimes!), but in This Random Family we do our best to be kind, forgive and move on.

He generally accepts this for friendships gone awry but when he becomes the target of aggressive kids that he has no connection with or previous interactions with, he is dumbfounded. He doesn't understand how someone can be randomly mean to someone else. He doesn't know why he is the target when he hasn't done or said anything to the aggressors. He can't find sense to the cruel and malicious behaviour.

We've told him there is no reason and it doesn't make sense but there is something he can do about it. He can be part of the solution. He can stop being a bystander, he can stop turning a blind eye to other targets. He can stand up and speak out - against cruelty, against injustice, against bullying.

Crafty and her pal reviewing their speech
So Dude and Crafty and four of their friends formed a small yet mighty band of school changers. They came together with support of teachers and parents and decided to make a change in their school. These spark of change has become a movement and today they invited the entire school to join them, to be the change.

This group of grade 6 and 8 students found a slogan, designed t-shirts, wrote speeches, produced a video and honed their message. They hosted a school wide assembly and together they stood in front of their 500+ classmates and asked them to Stand Up and Speak Out with them.

Because of their intense sense of justice, Dude and Crafty both understood the importance of standing up for what is right - they just didn't realize that they could do it, right in their own school, right now. They didn't know that their friends would support them. They didn't know that a group of ragtag middle schoolers could turn the heads of the entire community and shine a light of truth and friendship wherever they go. They didn't know that they, and their pals, could change the culture of their school.

They didn't know but we did. We, who know the greatness inside them, the depth of their caring and their desire to be a friend and have a friend. We, who love their quirkiness and celebrate their individuality. We, who know that when you play to their strengths their potential is limitless.

When Dude was first diagnosed seven years ago we were told that he would never feel or give love and he would never be able to feel or express empathy. We were devastated and discouraged but as time went on we realized that the psychiatrist was wrong. He only knew what Autism could take but he didn't know the strength of heart inside of our boy. He didn't know that he loves so much that it overwhelms him, that he cares so much that his heart aches and that he empathizes so much that he physically feels the pain of others. He didn't know - but we did.

If you are blessed enough to have a special kid like this as part of your life, play to their strengths, support them, challenge them and encourage them. Tell them they have a voice and show them how to use it. Show them that they can make a difference, that they are agents of change. And love them. Love them. Love them. Love them.

Love them enough to teach them to play by the rules, even if no one else does.

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil.
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer


Here's link to one of the local news stories from yesterday.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Autism in our World

Today is World Autism Awareness Day and as friends, family, neighbours and classmates have donned The Blue in a show of support I've been reflecting back on our journey with Autism. As I wrote about yesterday, we are in a much different place today than seven years ago when Dude was diagnosed. We have all grown, matured and learned volumes about life with Autism and on the surface it might appear as though living with Autism is no big deal for us but that would only be partially true.

Our day to day life is much easier to manage than some other families. Dude is verbal (maybe too verbal sometimes!), high functioning and very intelligent (often too intelligent for his own good).

-- This blog post is interrupted by an Asperger's moment --

I started writing this post three hours ago. I was just beginning to write about how much easier our life is now and how well Dude is doing when he burst into the room in a frantic fit of upset because of something that happened at school that he couldn't understand. He was on the verge of a full fledged melt down because he couldn't understand why someone would behave inconsistently towards him.

We talked for two hours and just as abruptly as the conversation started it ended. It was 15 minutes past supper time and I hadn't even started cooking it yet so he dismissed me. Now dinner is done and cleaned up and he is content to continue to work on the language he is inventing. That is the reality of Autism in our world.

A friend once described life with Autism as 'living in a minefield, never sure of when or where the next explosion will come." I have never heard a better or more accurate statement about Autism. On the surface a minefield looks like a field. It might even look like a pleasant field with flowers or grass growing on it but its not until you step into the field that you realize how unpredictable and jarring this field can be. As long as nobody moves nobody gets hurt but that's not how life works. You have to keep moving, life is in constant motion so you are at constant risk of experiencing an explosion.

When Dude was little we could have fifteen to twenty explosions a day - no joke. Now that he is older we can go a day or two without hitting a mine but when we do watch out! He takes it personally when life doesn't work out as he expected. He feels deeply betrayed when others don't play by the rules of social norms, as he understands them. He is defensive when his actions, words or attitudes are questions because he is terrified of making mistakes.

Because we live in a minefield we spend countless hours painstakingly digging up mines and defusing them. The ones we can't defuse we mark and do our best to avoid as we move about our field. And sometimes the mines we fear the most are duds; they aren't loaded and we've been stressing for nothing.

Sometimes people walk by our field and comment on how nice it seems, how lovely it must be to live in our field, how easy it is for us. Outwardly we smile and thank them for noticing, inwardly we scream, 'You've got to be kidding me!!!' because we know the hours, the tears and the stress that has gone into defusing our field.

Sometimes I get angry and frustrated. Often I am exhausted. I walk the thin line between optimism and bitterness, one moment of self pity could push me into the abyss, so I just keep moving forward, marking and defusing as best I can. When self pity does threaten to overwhelm me or when anger simmers just below the surface I remind myself that if I feel this off kilter then how does Dude feel?

He didn't choose this wiring system we call Autism. And neither did Crafty. They aren't trying to be difficult or defiant. In fact, they are desperately trying to make sense of a world that is as foreign and strange to them as their world is to us. They want to connect with people, they want to love and be loved. They want to relax, laugh and enjoy the world but how do you relax in a mine field?

You see, the minefield isn't them or their reactions. The minefield is the disconnect between our worlds. Sometimes the mines are set off by their Aspergian points of view and just as often mines are set of by my emotional reactions to a world that makes no sense to me - their world.

So today I think of its not really World Autism Day but Autism World Day - a day to acknowledge and respect that Autism is it's own world within our world and our world is a world inside Autism. We are separate yet overlapping, apart yet together - coexisting in one giant field ... trying to dance between the mines.

I have my own little world but it's okay, they know me here.
~Unknown

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Autism Lives with Us

April is Autism Awareness month and tomorrow, April 2, is World Autism Awareness Day although everyday is autism awareness day in our world.

Two out of our three kids have a form of Autism and I firmly believe that if Mr. Awesome were tested he'd be right there with them. Even though two members of our family have the diagnosis we all live with Autism, we all think differently, do things differently and see the world differently because Autism lives with us.

At this point in our lives most people who know us casually may not notice Autism in our midst. It's quieter now. It's been tamed. It hides behind learned social graces and practiced politeness. It has been taught to think before it reacts and to trust more than it fears. Autism has matured in our family, it has been taught to speak the common language and we have learned to speak its language. We understand each other better now. We are on the same team ... but it hasn't always been this way.

We used to be afraid of Autism. We saw it as a thief and a murderer; it stole our happiness in the present and it killed our dreams for the future. It broke into our lives and brought chaos and stress into everyday moments. It turned our kids against us and made us a spectacle wherever we went. Autism, for a time, stole our hope, our dignity and our sense of order in the world. Autism held us hostage; we rarely went out or mixed with other families because it was unpredictable and hard to manage. Autism, we thought, had ruined our lives.

In the midst of the chaos, fear and sadness we saw a flicker of light. It was small and weak but it was there. This light would shine in quiet moments of puzzle solving, of nature walks and of hours spent watching the History Channel. The light grew stronger over time and we began to actively look for it, even in the midst of chaos. This light, this little blue light, was curious and quirky and intelligent. This light saw the world in a way that made mundane things seem new. It shone on buildings, on animals, on science and on history. And it shone on me.

I saw myself as a teacher, a nurse and an adventurer in the glow of this light. I saw myself as a translator and fear slayer in every shade of blue. And I saw myself braver, smarter and more loving than I thought possible when this light was with me. Then I saw that this light was Autism.

I began to recognize the strengths and beauty of Autism. And all the possibilities it brought with it. I stopped trying to make Autism behave the way I wanted it to and started listening to the language it spoke, seeing the way it moved through the world naturally. I looked for the benefits of Autism and coaxed it through its challenges. I encouraged my kids to get to know Autism personally and to understand what it is to each of them, individually. The more time I spent learning about Autism, the easier it got to teach it without containing it, to work with it rather than against it, to love it rather than hate it.

Autism is neither a thief nor a murder. It does not take from us. In many ways it has added to us. It has taught us to be more patient, more forgiving and more open minded than we were before it moved in. Autism has taught us to live acceptance and to love diversity. It has revealed that gifts and talents come in many shapes and packages. And despite its own rigid tendencies, Autism has taught us to expect the unexpected and to adapt to its little surprises quickly. Autism has taught us that different in not less and that there is more than one way to view the world. It has made us laugh and hope and dream. It has made us choose our battles and celebrate every victory. It has made us be deliberate with our words and honest in our intentions. Autism has made every moment a teachable moment.

Autism lives with us ... but its not who we are. We are a normal, laughing, teasing, learning, loving, growing, dreaming, forgiving, serving, mistake-making, messy, chaotic family. We are brilliant and we are ridiculous. We are brave and we are strong. We are bold and we are caring. We are Random. We are beautiful ... and Autism lives with us.

"Not everything that steps out of line, and thus 'abnormal', must necessarily be 'inferior'"
 - Hans Asperger (1938) 

**Check back all this month for posts about Living with Autism**

**Don't forget to wear blue on April 2 in support of World Autism Day!**

Friday, March 21, 2014

A Group Project

I've never been a huge fan of group projects. I like the idea of them but the reality hardly ever resembles the idea. When I was a kid and the teacher announced that we would be doing a group project I would experience a brief moment of hope and excitement at the thought of working with my friends to complete a project in perfect unity thus attaining high grades and a closer connection with each other in one fell swoop. This optimistic moment would only last for a few seconds before my guts would twist with dread and anxiety.

What if no one chose me for their group? What if I got stuck working with the kid who never bathes or the one whose homework always looks like it was sent through the garburator before being handed in? What if no one liked my ideas? What if they wouldn't let me help? Or what if I get stuck doing all the work? 

Even writing this now I am feeling anxious as I remember the group projects gone wrong from my childhood. Times when work wasn't done, when bickering caused the group to disintegrate, when I was kicked out of the group, when I wanted to kick someone else out of the group, when I did get stuck working with the kid that never bathed and our project looked like it had been sent through the garburator. But there were other times, times when everything went right and it was magic.

I failed my grade twelve English Lit class. It's true. I did. At first I thought it was the worst - and most humiliating - thing to ever happen in the history of the world but it turned out to be one of the greatest gifts of my life. Because I failed the English Lit course in my first semester I had to take it again during the second semester and then take my English option course at night school. I ended up getting into an option course at the university and I loved it. My second semester English Lit course was filled with other 'failures', oddballs and ESL students ... and it was marvellous! Both classes were filled with back to back group projects which translated into new and interesting friendships, unique projects and fantastic grades.

Through that one course failure a door was opened for me to learn about the beauty of relying on friends, opening my creative process to others for support, encouragement and ideas and that if I want it done right I don't need to do it myself. In fact, if I want it done right, I need to trust the opinions, talents and abilities of others. I learned that group projects are fantastic!

I learned all this as a teen but somehow through my adults years some of these truths have faded away. I've forgotten how exhilarating it can be to share ideas and strategies with others. I forgot how fast friendships can form while working on a project together. I forgot how much sweeter the sense of accomplishment is when it's shared.

As many of you know, last summer I wrote a book. It's an inspirational book based on my own life experiences. I've spent the last several months trying to figure out how to publish it. I've looked into getting an agent and submitting my manuscript through traditional routes. I've also looked into self-publishing. I've chatted with friends, fellow writers and industry professionals and I've spent a lot of time praying about what's next. Sadly, for me, there was no divine sign or moment of clarity so I'm just giving this a go. I'd like to self publish this book but I can't do it on my own. Every time I've started to save up the cash to pay for the printing fees some other regular life issue pops up and my little stash of cash diminishes. So, I've turned this into a group project.

Many of you have been supportive and encouraging through my blogging years beyond my expectations. Your kind words have been a balm to my soul and in my darkest days have shone a little light into my life and I thank you for that. I feel as awkward as heck asking for more from you but here it goes ... 

I've opened an account with an online fundraising site. My goal is to raise $4,000 to publish my book and order extra copies to donate to Siloam Mission in Winnipeg, Manitoba and Teen Challenge. If you'd like to donate towards getting my book published you can go to Go Fund Me to view my profile and donate. I also invite you to click over there to read a chapter from my book, just to get a feel for what I've written.

Thank you for being in my group ... whether your contribution is a kind word, a message of support or a financial donation I appreciate it greatly. I love being in this Group Project called life with you!

Individually we are one drop. Together we are an ocean.
~Ryunosuke Satoro

Friday, February 28, 2014

38 Complete

Today I completed my 38th year of life.

I'm pretty stoked about that because I'm not always great at finishing things. I've written before about how I am easily inspired and often start a project with grand ideas. But usually by the halfway point, right around the time when things become more like work and less like fun, my enthusiasm fizzles and I bail, leaving projects either incomplete or hastily thrown together. Because of this chronic lack of follow through I tend to be very hard on myself. My inner dialogue regarding this less than desirable character trait is pretty harsh and ugly, but last night I stopped the conversation.

Last night, as I started drifting off to sleep with the list of all my unfinished work swirling around my brain, I had an epiphany. 38 times I've started a year and 38 times I've finished the year. I have started and finished 38 years, that's 1,976 weeks. 13, 832 days. That might not seem like much to be proud of at first thought but it is.

38 times I have looked a new year in the face and agreed to give it a go. 38 times I have journeyed through the year ... sometimes with smooth sailing, sometimes slogging it uphill the whole way. 38 times I have survived and thrived in whatever the year threw at me and 38 times I finished with a thankful heart.

Life is hard and messy and lovely and exhausting and wonderful and overwhelming. Life is a gift that's almost too much to bear sometimes. Unexpected things happen. Disappointments. Disease. Accidents. Heartbreak. Exhaustion. Depression. Ugliness creeps in and whispers to you to just give up, to call it quits, to allow the darkness to overtake you. But there is another voice. There is the voice of light and life and joy. The voice that reminds you that after every darkness there is light, that finishing is the best way to beat the Ugliness.

I'm proud of myself for finishing 38 years. I'm proud of my stretch marks, scars, laugh lines and extra pounds. I'm proud of the lessons I've learned during this life that I've lived. I'm proud that I know more now that I did ten years ago, that I love myself better and certainly love others better than I did then. I am proud that no matter what life has thrown at me I have stuck to it, I have stayed the course. I am proud to have crossed the finish line 38 times.

The thing is, life isn't a sprint. It's that long race on the oval track (I know, very sporty of me to know the technical jargon), the one where you pass the finish line easily at first but that doesn't mean you're done because there are many more laps. You keep running past the finish line, counting off another lap successfully completed as you continue the race. The finish line becomes less of an end point and more of a marker to how far you've come. Each time you pass it, each time you start a new lap, you sign up for more of whatever the race has for you.


If you're reading this give yourself a pat on the back because you've finished every year that you've started, too. You've not given up. You've kept on moving forward despite hardships, despite difficulties and despite whether you've felt like it or not. You've stepped into each new year, willing to give it another go, whatever may come your way. You are on the track, ticking off laps, too. Yay for you!


And, yay for me, too! 38 laps finished ... many more to go!

Here's to more love, more friends, more growth, more wisdom, more challenges, more victories, more joy, more peace, more compassion and many, many more finishes!

“Ends are not bad things, they just mean that something else is about to begin. And there are many things that don't really end, anyway, they just begin again in a new way. Ends are not bad and many ends aren't really an ending; some things are never-ending.” 
― C. JoyBell C.

Monday, February 24, 2014

What to Expect ...

I have a few friends who have recently become mothers. They were so cute during their pregnancy with their little pregnant bellies and their trendy maternity clothes. They oohed and aahed over their chic diaper bags that coordinate with their ergonomically correct strollers which are a perfect compliment to their swanky infant sling that has some kind of unpronounacable european name. They went to prenatal classes, pre-joined mommy groups, studied infant massage and read up on what to expect once they had baby in hand. Boy, did they read!

They bought books, read blogs, googled and googled some more. They became experts on what to expect but, seriously, they had no idea what they were in for! Even now, months later, with countless sleepless nights, innumerable puke stains on their strollers and a funky smell inexplicably coming from their once beautiful diaper bag, they still have no concept of what this motherhood journey is really all about. And those of us with tweens and teens laugh at them. And those with older teens and young adults laugh at us.

As I look back over my nearly 14 years of motherhood, one thing has become glaringly obvious; those first few years, the years I had studied for, planned for and read up on, those years were the easiest years of this journey ... the easiest by far. I am, by no means, discounting the adjustment, the stress and the feeling of utter inadequacy that new motherhood brings. I remember well struggling through colicky nights and unexplained fevers and rashes. And I also remember the moment by moment decision to just keep moving forward even though post partum depression was calling me to a dark, isolated place. I remember. I remember.

But what I've come to realize is that there were aspects of those days that were so easy. It was easy to create a bubble in my home. It was easy to pretend the world outside of our four, finger printed walls didn't exist. It was easy to be the gatekeeper of who and what affected our lives. Caillou was annoying so we didn't watch it, Raffi's songs gave me a headache so we didn't listen to them. Veggie Tales made us laugh so we sang those songs. Colouring was fun but play-doh was messy so we spent hours colouring and the giant box of play-doh collected dust on the shelf. Nothing existed in our world that we did not allow in.

Then came Kindergarten and everything changed. Our Wee People began to mix with other Wee People. And they learned from each other. Most of it good but some of it not so good. And that exchange of information went both ways. Fast forward a few years and you'll find me longing for simpler days.

Sure, I'm still dealing with funky smells but this time they are coming from my teen age son's room and not the diaper bag. But more than that, we're dealing with influences that can't be easily shut off or turned down. Our everyday life is filled with the unexpected, and mostly unwanted, drama that occurs when you pile 500 hormonal, impulsive teens and tweens into a building for seven hours a day, five days a week and expect them to learn.

So, to my pals with infants and toddlers, I'm going to pass along some wisdom that a few of my friends who are further along in their motherhood journey passed along to me ...

What to Expect After You've Expected

~Develop a good poker face.
     Your kids will say shocking things, do shocking things and ask shocking questions and like the old commercial says, "never let them see you sweat." Whether your kid is saying and doing to shock you or they are coming to you, looking for answers, with genuine curiosity don't let your shock/horror/confusion/panic show. Keep your wits about you and at least appear to be stoic. Keeping your emotions in check will keep the door open to future conversations. If you don't wig out, your kid is more likely to come to you first when they need advice, information or a soft place to land.


~Be honest.
    If you don't know the answer, it's okay to say you don't know. If your feelings are hurt, it's okay to tell your kid. If you're having a tough day, it's okay to let them know. Your kids don't need all the details to your life's struggles but they do need to know that disappointments, hurts and ...well, life ... happens to us all. They need to see that you can come back from a rough day, that you can be appropriate in your anger, that you can grieve, forgive and make mistakes without it being fatal.

~Being good is good enough.
     One of the best, and most freeing, things ever told to me was that I didn't need to be an exceptional mom to raise exceptional kids, I just needed to be a good mom. As moms, we can easily stress ourselves out, trying to keep up with what we perceive other moms are doing. All you need is five minutes on pinterest to convince yourself that you are an inadequate parent because you don't make baby food from scratch, you aren't 'going paleo' and you bought valentines instead of hand making them. We set unreasonable expectations for ourselves and then flog ourselves when we don't meet them. Your kids don't need the world's best mom, they just need you ... you are good enough.

~Be intentional
     If you want your kid to know something, you are actually going to have to teach them ... repeatedly. When your Wee Babe was first learning how to walk you didn't talk to them about it once, help them to stand once and then expect them to know what they were doing from that point on. You let them see you walking. You held their hand as they walked. You caught them when they stumbled and you helped them to stand again. You walked along side them. You called them to come to you. And you celebrated when they finally could walk on their own. You understood that it was a process. You understood that in order to teach your baby to walk you were going to have to model, practice, coach and be intentional with them. That process never stops. Anything that's really important, anything that is worth teaching your kids, is going to be a process. You are going to have to be purposeful when you teach them to persevere, to be selfless, to be brave, to be authentic, to be kind. You are going to have to walk them through with baby steps. You are going to have to be patient. You are going to have to be intentional.

I'm sure there's more to this sequel of What to expect but these are the chapters I'm stuck on. These are the ones I have to read over and over again before they truly sink in. These are the ones I study so that I can make it through this phase of motherhood. These are the lessons my children are teaching me. And, as hard as they are to learn, I thank my kids for having the patience to teach them to me.

There's no such thing as ready. You just jump on a moving train and you try not to die.
~Vic, What to Expect When You're Expecting

Friday, February 14, 2014

Boomerang Love

So, last night it started.

At about 10pm my Facebook feed was flooded by lonely and disappointed people. It wasn't even Valentine's Day yet but scads of people were already anticipating how lonely and lost they were going to feel today. Most of the people cyber-sighing about their aloneness aren't hermits, living in their mother's basements. They are intelligent, loving and caring people who don't have that one person who thinks the sun rises and sets for them ... they have dozens of people who are thankful for the love and relationship they bring into the world.

After reading about a dozen different statuses full of lamenting and disappointment I posted this.


I tried to be as nice as I could but in truth, I was pretty frustrated. I couldn't believe so many people were so willing to overlook the love they have in their life because of the love they don't have. They were so focused on their own sense of loss that they couldn't see how their love, the love they give, is filling a hole in someone else's life. They were missing the point, love is not about how much you get, but how much you give.

The most satisfied and fulfilled I've ever felt in my life are the times when I have reached beyond myself to love someone else. I didn't wait until I felt loved and appreciated to give love. I just acted without thinking of myself and every time, without fail, I have received love in return. When I have set aside my own needs, wants and comfort and offered love and affection to someone else I have been rewarded with the same ... in spades!

A while back I was talking to a friend about the importance of leading through encouragement. She said it is impossible to give what you've never received but I don't buy that. I see examples of people giving generously from where they've never received all the time.

My Dad never knew his father therefore he has never known the protection, guidance and love of a dad yet he has always given those things freely, generously and constantly my whole life. I have a friend who was an only child, never knowing the love, companionship and mentorship of being a brother yet every week he is a Big Brother. He gives his time, wisdom and brotherly love without restraint. I know a lady who was an orphan. She never had a family of her own, never married, never had children yet she is mother and grandmother to many in her church and community. She pours out family love to everyone who has the privilege of knowing her. These people, and dozens more, prove to me that you don't have to get in order to give. And that most often you get once you've given.

Today, I challenge you to give love. Think of someone who you can love on with a note, a treat or a cup of coffee. Focus on giving love and not on getting and I promise you, you'll get exactly what you've been looking for because love is a boomerang. Once you toss it out there, it doesn't take long before it comes back to you at full force!

Love beyond yourself. Love. Love. Love.

The love we give away is the only love we keep.
~Elbert Hubbard

Monday, January 27, 2014

Healing

If there is one thing I should be an expert in but really know nothing about it's healing. A little over two years ago my body was torn apart in ways I would have never imagined possible and yet today I am whole. Cancer had infiltrated my body and the first step to health was cutting me open and removing the tumour. The cutting took about four hours. The healing took much longer.

In the days after my surgery I wondered how I would ever be whole again. I wondered if I would ever be able to laugh and play and run (okay, who are we kidding? I've never run ... not ever ... and I doubt I'll ever run. Not even if I'm chased by an axe murderer!) again. I couldn't see how I'd be able to move through my life like I did before. I thought I was too hurt, that I'd be too scarred, to every fully live again. I settled in my mind that things would never be the same and I'd have to adjust to and accept a new normal.

I was so right and so wrong all at the same time.

I did heal. Little by little, day by day, my wound closed. Stitches and staples were removed. Scabs came and went. It was painful, then itchy, then irritating for a while. The wound went from angry red to a light pink and healed into a fine pale line. When I touch the scar I can feel that it's there and sometimes when I move a certain way I can feel the tightness and pulling of the healed tissue but for the most part I am healed. So much so that I rarely think about the surgery and the pain any more.

So if I have experienced such a profound healing then how can I know nothing about it?

Healing is a mystery. It happens in secret and by measures. It happens slowly when you focus on it and rapidly when you don't. Healing takes time - longer if you constantly pick at the scab and poke at the wound. Healing is most successful when the wound is cared for and then left to mend on its own.

If I know this about my body then why did it take me so long to apply this to my heart?

A little over one year ago, an adult in our world betrayed our trust and manipulated one of our children.  He used his influence to undermine and confuse our child. He inserted himself into our lives and twisted our values and contradicted our instruction to our child. When we confronted him and informed him that we no longer wanted him to have contact with our child he reacted in a way we never would have expected, causing further damage to our child and our family.

We were all devastated. We were shaken to the core. We were damaged. We were wounded.

At the time that this all came to a head I thought there was no way back from this. I thought this man had forever changed our family dynamic. I thought he had ruined who we were trying to be, as a family. I was overwhelmed, depressed and heart broken. I thought I was going to feel that way forever.

We sought help from councillors, pastors, doctors and legal professionals. We patched ourselves up and tried to move on but it felt like someone was always poking at the wound. We couldn't get away from this man - by product of living in a small community - so just seeing him would set me, Mr. Awesome or our affected child off. Running into this man on the street or in the school or in the community would send us into a tailspin. Us ... me.

Mr. Awesome and even the Affected Child seemed to heal faster. They were able to leave the bandage in place, to let the mending begin. Me? No so much. I struggled with rage, hurt and disappointment for months. I wanted justice. I wanted ... I wanted ... ack ... I don't know what I wanted but I wanted it so bad that I was consumed by it.

Gradually I realized that I had to live. I had to re-engage with my world and not return to the moment of hurt every time I saw this man. So I did. I lived. I became good at masking my homicidal rage whenever I saw him or had to talk about what happened. I sounded reasonable, for the most part but I knew I had not healed. I knew that I had let the wound become infected with hate.

About a month ago, another parent who had had a similar experience with this same man spoke to me about how devastated she was still, how she was still so angry and hurt. As I stood there talking with her, trying to offer words of comfort I realized that I was in exactly the same place she was. The words I was saying to her were exactly the words I needed to apply to my own wound.

Over the next few days I thought about that conversation, I thought about my own feelings of anger and hate. I cried. I prayed. I waited in silence. I offered all my hate and brokenness and disappointed to God. And He took it.  In essence, I removed the rotten bandage from the wound and allowed it to be cleaned and properly mended. I stopped picking at the scar.

I'm not 'over' what happened to our family but I am allowing healing to happen. I still don't like or trust this man but I have stopped revisiting me hurt every time I encounter him. My scar is scabbing over. Soon it will be just a faded line in our memory where a little tightness and discomfort exists but it won't hurt anymore.

It won't hurt. It will be healed.

God can heal a broken heart, but He has to have all the pieces.
~Author Unknown