Project: Sanity 2013

My friends seem to know that something isn’t right when I go AWOL on the blogosphere. All of a sudden my inbox subject lines read, “Had you on my mind” and “just checking in”, and after a few weeks my best friend inevitably asks me, “Why don’t you blog anymore?” I tell her I’m in a funk and she suggests writing my way out of it and I moan something about being afraid of what might actually come out if I start typing and how I ought to take up dog grooming as a hobby instead and whine, whine, whine… so here I am. It’s just that when reality hits you between the eyes and all you see in front of you is a kaleidoscope hail storm of events pelting the heck out of the hood of your LIFE, no amount of disaster insurance, Pinterest therapy, or episodes of Scandal is enough to untangle your headspace. The good news is, my blurry vision as of late is slowly coming into focus. Every once in a while a girl just needs to get reacquainted with those things that make her feel more like herself… not Mommy, Housekeeper, Bookkeeper…ZOOkeeper. Some women make New Year’s Resolutions and post them on their fridge, their bathroom mirror, or their Evernote. Lately, I have felt perhaps a Top 10 list of things that make me feel more like myself entitled Project: Sanity 2013 might be just what I need to get me over this bump.

#10. Running
Bottom Line: Running is cheap therapy.

#9. Nora Ephron
Writer, Director, Producer, and what I like to call Master of the art of everyday dialogue, Nora Ephron wrote and directed some of the most loved romantic comedies of our time such as When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, Something’s Gotta Give, and Julie & Julia. Just for kicks, comment below with your favorite Nora-character quote. Mine would have to be…

(From Sleepless in Seattle)
Sam Baldwin: What is “tiramisu”?
Jay: You’ll find out
Sam Baldwin: Well, what is it?
Jay: You’ll See!
Sam Baldwin: Some woman is gonna to want me to do it to her and I’m not going to know what it is.
Jay: You’ll love it.

#8. British Life
Speaking of brilliant novelists, Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice just turned 200 this week. (I will pause while you do a cartwheel). No really. Whether it is pop/rock music or a hot basket of fish and chips, I for one believe the Brits hold the corner market on all that makes like worth celebrating. They gave us the Beatles, J.K. Rowling, Will and Kate, Antiques Roadshow… should I go on? Who are we kidding really? God Himself speaks in a British accent. Therefore, in an attempt to be more like my Lord and Savior, last week I ordered my Tall Skinny Hazelnut Misto at the Starbucks drive-thru in a British accent. For some, getting out into nature helps them to commune with the Divine. As for me… it is “ma’am and in ‘ham’ not ma’am as in ‘palm’ “.

#7. Anne Lamott
For all those who must laugh to keep from crying. Hilarious, self-pity-less, and wit-wealthy, author Anne Lamott can either make her readers stop feeling sorry for themselves or laugh so hard they forgot what they were upset about in the first place. I recommend her book Operating Instructions to every new mother and mom-to-be. Like I always say, “Put the Baby Wise book down and walk away slooowly.”

#6. My passport
I found it the other day and I gave it a seat at the dinner table. Granted, it is on life-support, but it still bears a faint unexpired pulse and faded ink stamps as proof that one time I travelled far beyond my current 2 mile radius and re-run episodes of Dora the Explorer. Sigh.

#5. The Sopranos
I’m not talking about Tony and Carmella but rather Whitney, Faith, Mariah, Martina, Celine, Kelly, and Christina.  All I have to do is crank one of these vocalists loud enough so I can belt my lungs out without hearing myself and suddenly, I’ve shoved all my inner-angst into a C6 (give or take a few half-steps) and I am waving my chiffon on the bow of the Titanic… near, far, whereEEEVVEERR you are… sing it with me….

#4. Red Velvet Cake

#3. Orange Juice with extra pulp

#2. A bottle of tropical flavored antacids upon consuming large quantities of Red Velvet Cake and Orange Juice with Extra Pulp

…and the #1 Life Line of Project: Sanity 2013:

#1. My Morning Filling Station

morning filling station pic

Trust me when I say, I am Joan Crawford covered in cold cream beating the shower curtain to shreds with a toilet wand yelling “NO WIRE HANGERS!” unless I have my 6AM quiet time… time to read, meditate, caffeinate, and take a deep breath before plunging into the madness of the following 16 hours.

… and if none of the above works to help me feel more like, well… Me, I am hereby hitting the tanning beds and changing my name to Olivia Pope.

Have a great week!

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Freedom From the “What If Only?”: Some Thoughts on Sandy Hook

Hannah Sandy Hook painting

Image via Hannah Renae Art

Let’s just say that having barely survived the last 4 days, I am now willing to reconsider my position on the flu vaccine. First Salem and then myself, and now little Mia is turning up sniffly. Clark is the only one who has managed to avoid the viral plague. He had to stay home from work yesterday on account of my being completely incapacitated. Earth could be under threat of evisceration by Melancholia, and I will still manage to empty the dishwasher before the sun comes up. So for Clark to wake me by asking if I wanted lunch at ELEVEN FORTY FIVE, it is safe to assume this isn’t your garden variety head cold. Now seeing as I slept more yesterday than I’ve slept since I was single and unemployed, it isn’t any wonder that I was up at 3am throwing the covers on and off and then on and then off again– thinking… thinking…thinking… Yesterday’s flu-medicated stupor had worn off sending my brain into hyperdrive. Sure, I thought about things every woman thinks about at 3am… my Christmas menu, my holiday wardrobe, my crusty kitchen floor, my pre-schooler’s class party… in no particular order of priority. But most of all, I thought about the families of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. If I’m honest, my thoughts and emotions have ranged from morbid fantasies of what if that was my child or what if I was that parent to simply being unable to stomach the reality, so why not watch another episode of Property Brothers and pretend like everything is business as normal. But could there be anything less normal than the seemingly motive-less murder of innocent children? And people have had all to much courage to speak from their self-published, social-web platforms, but let’s face it, all of our efforts to try to explain, justify, spiritualize, or politicize what happened on Friday just adds salt to the wound. Perhaps there will be a time and place, but for the Newtown families who wring their hands and cry “if only”, this is hardly the ideal occasion to prove a point. Agreed? God, help us grieve with those who grieve.

I have come across some perspectives that do help, like this *inspired painting by my friend, Hannah. Such a beautiful picture of freedom for the children and faculty whose lives were over before they most likely realized it was about to end. But what does freedom look like for those who remain toiling through the land mine of unanswered questions? We ladies especially are field experts at asking one unanswerable question in particular… “what if?” For instance…

What if I never find a man and get married?
What if the man I never find loses his job, or loses his hair, or loses his nerve and leaves me at the altar?
What if we can’t have kids?
What if we have kids and they grow up to be terrorists?
What if we vaccinate our kids and they grow up to be, autistic (yet polio-resistant) terrorists?
What if they drop out of school or join the cast of 16 and Pregnant?
What if they don’t get into college?
What if they do get into college and major in something completely useless like Music History? (Why didn’t anyone tell me so?)
What if they do get into drugs… into gangs… into prison… into the Amish Mafia?

If you have asked any combination of the above “what if” questions, then make me feel more sane and comment below, but at least admit that we spend most of our motherhood trying to “what if?”-proof ourselves and our kids from any of the aforementioned scenarios and then some. It is why we marry young, marry for love, marry for money, remain childless, fill the quiver with more arrows than Legolas himself can throw, vaccinate, don’t vaccinate, breastfeed, bottle-feed, sanitize, play in the dirt, pre-school, home-school, un-school, buy organic, buy imitation, Gluten-Free, Red 40, Free & Clear, or Expensive & Cluttered… the choices are endless! If I can somehow make a decision that keeps the “what if?” question from ever being answered much less having to be asked, then I may just go on believing that I am the Master of My Own Fate and the Fate of My Dependents.

I doubt that one parent of any of the Sandy Hook victims feared, “What if I drop my kid off at school today, and it is the last time I ever see him or her alive?” And yet, the only phrase more tortuous than “what if?” is one that I can only imagine some of them are using now because it is a universal fact that when something goes down involving our children, all parents everywhere hold an honorary PhD in Blaming Ourselves. When “what if” becomes “if only”…

If only we hadn’t moved to that community, to that neighborhood, to that district…
If only we had put him in private school…
If only we had kept her home that day…
If only fire arms were banned…
If only the criminally insane wore a sandwich sign board…
If only… if only… if only…

…and round and round until the grief has run its viral course, if it ever does completely run its course. The truth is that when I lie awake at 3am fearing the “what if” in order to avoid the “if only” at all costs, I will spend my daytime hours under the false assumption that if I can brew the perfect mix of parental smarts with the right amount of preventative measure, I can somehow make enough decisions that will insulate me and my children from the ills of the world around us thus guaranteeing optimal health and well-being with a side order of a successful future. By no means am I suggesting that we send our kids out for some playtime on I-75 because after all, we don’t control our own destinies. But what I am saying is that I can labor over the big decisions with all the research and conviction and sleeplessness I can stand and then make a seemingly mindless choice– walk or drive, Kroger or Publix, drop him off or keep him home, and that is the option that made all the difference. I can simply be grateful that there is a God, and I certainly am not Him, and He didn’t assign me the task of coming up with a half-baked explanation for what happened on Friday.

Final question…What does freedom look like for those of us parents still struggling with so many unanswered questions?

Perhaps freedom is…
… climbing into bed with your sick pre-schooler even though all the books warn you not to for fear they want you to sleep in their bed until they graduate from high school.
… wiping his snotty nose for him even though he is quite old enough to wipe it himself, but his Autism keeps him terrified of getting his hands dirty.
… letting her watch Toy Story 3 for quite possibly the 500th time this month even though it means exceeding the hour dose of recommended television per day.
… sending your child to a specialized pre-school program to expand your support for his special needs in spite of all the well-meaning parents who led you to believe your kid was bound to become an anarchist if you chose to educate him any other way than by homeschooling.
…letting her eat the batter
…letting him avoid large crowds
…letting them hear mom and dad fight fair
…letting her explore her Papaw’s Skoal can (Whoa now! Reel it on in.)

What does freedom look like for you this season?

*proceeds from the purchase of this painting help benefit The Sandy Hook Elementary School Victims Relief Fund

Laryngitis

…I have only had it once as I can recall. Perhaps I’ve already shared this story, but for a brief period during my early twenties, I was a full-time children’s music director at a church. Five minutes into that career, I wondered why I had just spent the last 4 years and EIGHTY THOUSAND DOLLARS (which I am still spending) on a Music History degree. Not only did I feel I had somehow been duped by the establishment (whichever establishment specializes in duping unsuspecting over-acheivers such as myself), but I was feeling so 24, and small, and single, and alone, and uninspired, and oh so very. very… single.

Enter Clark Beasley.

And I thought he was beautiful and talented and off-beat enough to at least enjoy a free dinner or a cup of coffee. Shortly after we first met, I found myself peeking at my phone throughout the day hoping to see a number I didn’t recognize. I would answer. It would be Clark. He would say he had “ways” of tracking my unlisted phone number and within minutes, he would ask me out for dinner and next thing you know I’m imagining what I would wear and what I would say and what he would say… and then I would say… and then he would say… and then I would say…

You get the picture. But alas. It would remain but a fantasy… for SIX WHOLE MONTHS. That’s enough time to pen The Tales of the Blind Date Train Wreck– of which I was soon becoming an expert.

Twenty-four. Single. Duped. Set up. Needless to say, it wasn’t a good look on me.

And so, one Spring day I woke up with a scratch in my throat, and next thing you know, it’s noon and I am unable to utter an intelligible phrase. It was laryngitis and I had no choice but to shut up until it passed. So, I clocked out of my cubicle for the day, but not before I heeded the advice of a co-worker who swore that Maker’s Mark and hot tea would whip me back into shape in no time. Now, I have said it before, and I will say it again, there are a few things in life, namely church work and cubicles, that can drive a sober person to drink. However, as single and duped as I believed myself to be, I generally chose to abstain.

Generally.

So here’s a pop quiz for you: What do you get when you combine a prescribed holistic remedy by an ex-rock and roll band member turned church worker with an unexperienced drinker nursing her first case of laryngitis?

Answer: A Twenty-four year old, single. duped. set up, mute, and now completely SMASHED ministry worker. Things somehow went from bad to worse.

The phone rings. I don’t recognize the phone number. It’s a Nashville area code. Clark Beasley is from Nashville. I’m drunk (add that to a very short list of inebriated episodes in my 24 years..Praise the Lord) and all alone, sitting in the dark in my apartment crying out a completely inaudible, “NOOOO!!!!!” as I watched my flickering green fantasy roll to voicemail. It was quite the dramatic scene.

But you know how the story ends. I sobered up and my voice came back and we went out and five minutes later we were married and… they lived happily every after.

I remembered that story this morning while I was texting a girlfriend at 6am. That’s what happens when you have kids. You start getting in touch with people at weird and inappropriate times because normal people are able to complete a thought in their brain during business hours. Mommies do their best thinking between the hours of 2am-4am with sentences including words over two syllables. Such is life with small children. But, if I may speak candidly for a moment, I have been battling the blue sense that in the current edition of my life, I run the risk of losing my voice (figuratively speaking). Do you ever feel that way? Perhaps you had a platform or a forum to be heard and people actually listened and nodded as though every word you spoke (or in my case wrote or sung…. I loathe public speaking) was dripping with noteworthy brilliance. I’m not saying it happened every day. But when it did, it felt as though my voice somehow mattered to people. But lately, I’ve spoken, written, and sung less than I ever have before which usually leads to healthy introspection or at the very least more Maker’s Mark. In my attempt to explain this in my wee-hour text to my friend, I described it as a sort of “Soul Laryngitis”. Perhaps it was the sleep deprivation. I can’t remember if she said it or if I did, but at some point one of us said: Well, that’s the good thing about laryngitis. It’s temporary.

And so, this post is brought to you from my empty garden tub because the window next to it provides the prettiest view of the Autumn leaves barely hanging on to the trees in my backyard. With this cold ceramic as my witness, I have never intended to stay completely quiet. Perhaps if we pick up our conversation here, it might help me get over my voiceless funk. Or you can be my guest and help yourself to a hot tottie and we can proceed in silence. Either way, I’m reaching out so tag… your it.

{And no, Mom. I am most certainly not an alcoholic.}

A Picture’s Worth $80,000

I was a Music History major in college. I learned rather quickly that this wasn’t the most lucrative choice of B.A. degrees, as my first job out of school was working at a smoky arcade in Houston, TX– the sort of dignified establishment where retirees risk their entire life savings at the video slot machines at eleven in the morning. Four years of hard work+ $80,000 tuition= Magna Cum Laude dealing virtual Texas Hold ‘Em. Not every mother’s dream for her baby girl, but what can I say… music notes make me happy. Recently, Clark and I indulged our inner-music nerds and quizzed each other on the historical timeline of every musical era from the Renaissance to the twentieth-century. Some married couples get their kicks with Ben & Jerry’s and Red Box on a Saturday night, but for us, its Mendelssohn and 12 tone. To each his own. Needless to say, I shamed my 15-year Sallie Mae loan (at a fixed 4% thank you) as I could not complete the timeline to save my music-loving life. Of course, Clark could, but he is admittedly a bigger music geek than myself. Fortunately, it has served him well.

I don’t get to put my music theory degree to use very often. I am a singer, but aside from listening intervals and the occasional sight reading exercise, I don’t have much use for sheet music, (aside from a few crafty Pinterest projects of course). However this morning, I not only used my theory degree, but my musical knowledge meant the difference between staying indoors or being able to leave the house.

I can usually tell what sort of day Salem is going to have mere seconds into his waking moments. Call it a mother’s intuition or whatever, but I can look into his eyes and simply know if the daytime hours and activities before him will pose a moment to moment struggle in how to relate to the world around him or not.

To say he is struggling today is putting it rather mildly.

I spent two morning episodes of Blue’s Clues begging God for the grace to get through this day. No sooner than the timer went off indicating TV time was over, Salem refused his breakfast, snapped at his sister (on her birthday), and began furiously flapping his hands in front of his eyes as he often does when he is anxious, tired, or overstimulated. In order to diffuse the situation, I funneled him into the *Recording Studio for a little “me time”. I could hear him tinkering with an ABA iPad app that I recently downloaded for him at the suggestion of Clark’s cousin who is a speech therapist. It is a problem solving app that features a chart picturing 4 objects (3 are in sequence and one does not belong). For instance, visualize a quad diagram of a rooster, a frog, a camel, and a leaf. Clearly, the plant-life does not belong, but to an abstract-challenged little thinker, this is quite the mind bender. An enthusiastic female voice then asks, “Which one does not belong?” Salem needs only to tap on the odd image to invoke a flood of affirmative responses from the automated inquisitor– “Awesome”… “Great Job”… “You’re Super.” I often wonder how I can get “Vickie Voice-Over” on an audio loop so she can flatter me every time I change a diaper or reload the dishwasher. Anyway, one of the images that didn’t belong today was a purple music note– Salem’s current visual addiction. He has entertained a series of inanimate shape and/or object infatuations which include, but are not limited to a plush red tomato, a foam blue letter “x”, a plastic yellow circle block, and a pink bath toy bearing an odd resemblance to the number “8”. While I have great respect for the app writers who are sponsoring my son’s attendance to iPad Preschool, don’t they know that ASD children have manic visual obsessions upon which they fixate so hard and so long that the momentary absence of such sends them into a downward spiral of hyperventilation? Hence, when the object of Salem’s unparalleled affection (in this case, the purple music note) is there one moment and gone the next unable to be retrieved even by Mommy’s frantic touch screen tapping, it is as though a Mac Genius himself is cutting off his blessed oxygen supply. And thus it began– the inconsolable string of tears and incomprehensible syllables. Thinking fast is my new thing, so before Salem, Mia, or I even knew what was happening, I scooped them both up and put them in the shower. All I could make out in his screaming was, “Want the moose-kick note”… “Want the moose-kick note”. I thought about drawing one on the steamed glass of the shower door, but that would inevitably fade resulting in a swell of fresh tears and tortured gibberish. So, underneath the hottest water he and I both could stand, I held him while he cried and I cried and cursed iPads and app writers and ASD and “moose-kick” notes. After about 45 minutes in the steamy shower, we were all prune-y and lightheaded, but before any one of us passed out, we emerged unscathed. Hysteria-bomb: dismantled. But he didn’t soon forget his first love. As I was dressing him in fresh Buzz Lightyear underpants, he asked to see the music note. Thinking fast AGAIN, I rummaged around and found a legal pad and a dull pencil. We all know I am a terrible visual artist, but I DID go to college where I spent (actually, I am still spending) $80,000 and the better part of FOUR YEARS drawing music notes. That ought to be worth SOME-thing, right? I proceeded to recreate the music note he so desperately wanted to see. It didn’t light up when he touched it. It didn’t resound with any recorded praise or affirmation when he identified it. It was a wrinkled up, chicken-scratched, erasable pairing of two 16th notes, and yet that was the moment my Bachelor’s degree paid off. He shook all over with excitement. Thirty minutes later I had dried my hair and dressed for church, and I found him still shaking and holding the penciled drawing repeating the phrase, “Look Mommy. It’s a ‘moose-kick’ note” over and over and over again. Salem rarely expresses his feelings verbally, so when he does, my whole world stands still. He looked at me while I was Velcro-ing his shoes and he said, “Mommy, ‘moose-kick’ notes make me happy.” Then, I started crying (a-GAIN) and said, “I know, buddy. Music notes make me happy too.”

He clung to that tattered paper all the way to church and he kept it with him during his nursery class. So what if he uses drinking straws as drumsticks and carries sheet music with him to church? So what if he IS the only kid who wears big blue Vic Firth headphones on the Chick-Fil-A playground and knows exactly how fast to count backwards from 10-1 during the instrumental turn around of Coldplay’s Paradise? So FREAKING what?! If “moose-kick” notes make him happy then see if I don’t notate my forehead, his bedroom wall, and the side of the family mini-van for crying out loud!

Don’t worry, Buddy. Moose-kick notes make me happy too. Moose-kick notes make a lot of people happy. Some people see the world through Moose-kick notes and it hasn’t turned out too bad for them. I have a feeling that it won’t turn out too bad for you either.

(*Note: The Recording Studio consists of iPad musical instrument apps and a potty seat on which Salem is known to spend anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour banging on virtual bongos or plinking out a blues scales on the virtuoso keyboard. This is not an actual recording studio).

Think Different

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Image via TRPrints Etsy shop

When faced with a challenge for which there is no foreseeable resolve, I transform myself into a front-row student of the Solution. I can’t help it. I have spent much of the summer reading reading READING my way through a file box full of titles– topics ranging from cutting-edge therapies, to specialized nutrition programs, and yes, the war cries of those who believe vaccinations are the root cause of both autism and Al Qaida terrorism. Yet, much like the bear cub that recently wandered into a suburban Sears department store, I have found myself roaming through volumes of doctoral theories in feeble attempts to understand this thing called ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). Then, before I can help it, my amateur brain has trespassed on the property of experts who are way smarter than myself. Suddenly, I am barreling through aisles of fancy medical terms and brain foods and testimonials and toaster ovens and women’s lingerie until someone comes along and shoots me with a tranquilizer dart!

Today, I explored some Etsy therapy to avoid Certain Brain Implosion. It was a fast-acting reminder that pretty things make me happy, and BONUS when I stumbled on a pretty thing inspired by the late Apple Genius, Steve Jobs. In all of my mental-department-store-obliteration reading, I knocked over some interesting articles that discuss whether or not Steve Jobs was autistic. The Aspergians says he was (kettle?), and the more reputable blogs devoid of annoying pop-up ads say he wasn’t (although he was known to obsess over things like how many screws were in a lap top case). Perhaps this is not enough to label him ASD, but it is a cozy thought to consider that he saw the world different from the other 97% of human thinkers… not unlike my three-year-old. I have read so many words in recent weeks that it is no wonder if I develop blurry vision because of it. And yet, in all of my reading, only two have helped to make it more clear.

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…and so we will.

Mind Over Mizunos

Mile 1:  Getting reacquainted

…favorite tunes are pumping, body is falling into stride, feeling good in my skin again as complete thoughts begin to flow. No little voices begging for a juice re-fill? No stopping mid-stride to change a diaper? No spelling the big words? Nope, it’s just me and more me, a rhythmic indulgence of unedited thought… a chance to blow the dust off my adult intellect which, let’s face it, wouldn’t stretch past the first mile anyway, but for now, life is good, I’m a rock star, and brilliance is mine if I can just keep putting one Mizuno in front of the other.

Mile 2: Negotiations
My legs start moaning, “not again” and proceed to rain on my mile 1 parade. My muscles make their best attempt to strike a deal with my mind to stop this madness because everyone knowns that running is pointless unless someone is chasing you and no one will really know if you walked instead because you’re still sporting the iPod arm band that makes you look like a legitimate runner even though you are a complete poser. I hate Mile 2. Mile 2 is the Antichrist.
Mile 3: Confession
My muscles forfeit the battle of wits and turn their dirty work over to an emoti-gland for which medical science has yet to come up with a proper name. Suddenly, I am flooded with the awareness of every horrible thing I have said and done or wanted to do since the last time I rounded the Terrorist Mile 2. The open sky becomes my confession booth and I begin my merciful plead for forgiveness in hopes that once this run is over, I may resume some sense of decency, dignity, and compassion for humanity…if only the humanity dwelling under my same roof .
During yesterday’s open-air confession, I began to rehearse the flood of responses to my last post about Salem’s recent diagnosis. Each one took my breath away. I felt as though you all wrapped your arms around me in some great big cyber-group hug and for the first time in weeks it seemed like everything was really going to be ok even if it wasn’t. You used words like, “courageous”, “brave”, and “strong”. One girlfriend send me a text saying she was proud of me and I had to ask her why on Earth everyone keeps saying that, for the spirit in which I wrote that felt more like an admission of guilt than a fearless war cry. The truth is, I am completely terrified of this Mystery Intruder who recently marched into our family’s life uninvited and unloaded all of its unpredictable baggage. No amount of sleepless nights or online research or Mile 3 Confession Sessions relieve me of thoughts like, “perhaps I should have taken prenatal vitamins,” or “maybe I ate too many tuna fish sandwiches or Malamar cookies when I was pregnant.” “This is because I stood in front of a bass amp that one time I was singing”, or “I knew I shouldn’t have exposed him to all those noisy basement rehearsals when he was an infant”. Too much TV, not enough vegetables. Too much room time, not enough socialization. To borrow a lyric from my favorite British pop-psychologist, it is “guilt on guilt” on “play” repeating–a broken record loop of torture which brings me to….
Mile 4: Talking to Myself
Comprehension has never really been my strong suit. Most of the time I only pretend to know what everyone is talking about when really I don’t have a fat clue, and I have to ask Clark about it after everyone else has gone home. So when I receive the news that my son has ASD, I nod like I know what that means. The therapist could have told me he had Autism or Asthma and it wouldn’t have made a difference in my mind because the truth is, I don’t understand what we are getting into whether we are ready or or not or want to or not. So, yesterday I concluded my mileage by talking to myself in a sort of mock-convo– proof that I too need therapy of a different kind. But perhaps if I can wrap my head around what this is exactly I might be able to explain it to friends and family who are just as foreign to the world of Autism as I am.
Tune in next time to eavesdrop on that admittedly dysfunctional yet surprisingly helpful chit chat with Yours Truly.

It’s My Story To Tell: Living with an Autism Spectrum Disorder

Clark and I were asked to sing in a wedding last weekend. It was hotter outside than I can ever remember. So hot, in fact, that a bridesmaid passed out right before the pastor said,”I now pronounce you husband and wife”. It was all very exciting, perhaps not for the bride or for the faint-ee, but it did get me out of singing a Band Perry tune that I had only heard for the first time earlier that afternoon. No offense to Kimberly Perry, but a “firefly catcher all dressed up in a tux and a bow tie” takes a backseat to locked knees and heat stroke. After all of the commotion had settled, we joined up with some old friends sitting at one of the reception tables. One of them told me that she missed reading my blog which I must admit, felt pretty good. To all of you that have commented toward that end, please know that I have missed you too. So, my bridesmaid-fainting-witness friend then proceeds to tell me how my posts, particularly the mommy stories, have reassured her that not everyone has it all together. To which I replied, “Thanks?” No really, I had to laugh because somewhere along the line, the bitter truth of maternal humanity became the lens through which I wrote of my journey here whether I meant for it to come out that way or not. Let she who stands take heed lest she faint in the blistering heat of marriage and motherhood.

And faint I have.

I explained to my friend that I never intended to permanently close up cyber shop but that I’ve been simply going thru something personal to which I can’t yet find the words to explain. And I still can’t, but at the urging of my mother who feels I could benefit from the support of an extended community, namely yourself, this is my story to tell. Perhaps its true that if I don’t capture the humor and the humanity in the hand we’ve been dealt, I may miss a golden opportunity to encourage other women who reach for both a post and a paper sack when the realization hits them between the eyes that they too don’t have it all together. Breathe. Breathe. Here goes….

It started about 3 months ago. I began spending time with a new friend who’s children are around the same age as my own. During one of our visits, she asked me if I ever considered taking Salem to see a speech therapist. She may as well have asked me if I ever considered flying to the moon. Um, no. She obviously hadn’t heard him recite the entire James Earl Jones narrative of Disney’s Earth or Bono’s ONE campaign speech from the 2005 Vertigo Tour: Live from Chicago. So, I was quick to dismiss the question. Why would he need speech therapy? Sure he mixes up a pronoun here and there, but I can interpret his needs perfectly well, thank you. Then she asked me if I ever noticed that he drums on everything upon which I began to ask myself where on Earth this line of questioning was going. Of course I’ve noticed he drums on everything. Clearly, she doesn’t know that we’re raising another little Boone Daughdrill here. I felt myself starting to grow anxious and defensive, and the minute she left I burst into tears and called Clark to hear him tell me that everything was ok and my son was just fine and there’s no need to be worried about his development or his speech or his rhythmic (albeit noisy) habits. Like a good husband should, he eased my motherly nerves and told me to bring up her concerns at Salem’s upcoming well-child appointment.

I am eternally indebted to my observant new friend.

A few weeks later, I was in the pediatrician’s office filling out a developmental questionnaire for Salem. As I began checking off the “Almost Never” box for most of the communication and fine motor skill questions, I got the same nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach that I felt when my new friend brought up her concerns about Salem’s development… like the pediatrician might have something to say other than Salem is a prime candidate for early admission to Juliard. That’s when I started getting nervous. She did recommend that we take him to a speech and occupational therapist for further evaluations. In the same breath she says, “Now, I don’t want you to panic because most parents panic and start thinking their kid has Autism”.

I wasn’t panicking, but I am now. Thanks, Doc.

And what does panic look like in this case? It looks like two months and two thousand dollars spent in a child development center in a whirlpool of consultations, testing, and discussions of possible diagnoses all of which sounded completely awful. Several times we would be sitting in the waiting room next to the little boy wearing a helmet or the pre-adolescent image to Cousin It who bobbed her way off the elevator bleating like a billy goat, and I could have sworn I was scarring my pre-schooler for life just for taking him there because OBVIOUSLY we do not belong. My kid can kick a ball and eat with a fork and count to 20 in English AND in Spanish, and I would be happy to prove it if it means we don’t ever have to come back to this terrible place.

And then one day I heard Salem playing in his room flapping his hands and counting to 20 forward and backward in English and in Spanish over and over and over again…”one…two…three…dieceseis… Diece-“ssippi”… Dieceocho…diecenueve…BEEF-TY!” I interrupted him with a simple question.

Mommy: “What is your name?”

Salem: “Como te llamas”.

Mommy: “No sweetheart. What is your name?”

Salem: “What is your name?”

Mommy: “How old are you?”

Salem: “How old are you?”

After realizing that he couldn’t answer my questions, it occurred to me that Salem and I have never had a conversation. The day before, a little boy ran up to us on the playground and said, “Hi! My name is Jacob and I’m three years old and my sister’s name is Ansley and she is having a birthday party, and”… On and on and on… And Salem is over by the swings, flapping his hands, and reciting the Judeo-Christian plan of eternal salvation utterly disinterested in anything this child had to say.

No sooner did the pieces all start coming together then we concluded all of our tortuous visits to the child development center. And as it turned out, we did belong there.

Salem has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).

Hence the two-month cyber-blackout, the unreturned voicemails, the elusiveness, and the vague response around the wedding reception table. And if I didn’t have 7% power remaining on this IPad, I would tell you how we are really doing. Perhaps those words will come eventually.

And so it seems now we have a new story to tell.

Hang on a Sec

I’m giving myself the time it takes for my hot tea to turn cold to post a short update. Nearly two years ago, I birthed not only my baby girl but also this blog. Motivated by a hybrid of reasons including but not limited to occupying myself during Mia’s feedings and making sure my husband says to me at least once a week, “I can’t believe you blogged about THAT!” This might come as a shock, but in seven years of marriage, I’ve finally learned to let Clark proofread most if not all of my written correspondence as he is my more dignified and less sarcastic and thus better half. I love you, Sweetheart. But for reasons beyond nursing and marital entertainment, I was sensing that my artistic identity was hanging by a thread. So, as a last ditch effort to keep my right brain off life support, I started logging bits of daily inspiration…. inspiring spaces, creative finds, and some funny stories seasoned with some gut-level maternal honesty. Three hundred posts later, I’m starting to reevaluate my little corner of cyber space. I haven’t kept a detailed baby book for Mia. Therefore at the very least,  I picture her years from now reading through this blog and the details of the first two years of her life and saying, “Well, that explains why I need counseling.” What I wouldn’t give to observe my mother’s written commentaries and evolving tastes in trends. It will no doubt insure a laugh or two.

But, I find myself at a crossroad once more. I’ve just relocated to the most inspiring environment I’ve ever lived in, and yet I just spend twenty minutes watching a crow attack a bird feeder as though it were a stranded pinata from Cinco de Mayo filled with cocaine gummy worms. Call it a brush of boredom or a creative identity crisis, but I can’t shake the sense that my inspirational inventory is low and perhaps the best thing to do is lay low with it for a while.

Note: This is not the part of the story where the brooding melancholy threatens to trade in her blog for a book of Sylvia Plath poems and listen to nothing but albums by Radiohead and the Weepies. Nor is it a lamesauce attempt to score a few extra comments punctuated with sad faced emoticons about how cyberspace just won’t be the same without me. I’m just not one to do things unintentionally, nor to leave loose ends untied. I can’t say I’m wrapping up this two-year-old conversation as much as I’m just asking, “Can ya hang on a sec?”

Uh oh, my tea is cold and the crow is jittery.

So…can ya hang on a sec?

Seranade

Seven years ago this week, I had my first date with the handsome guitar player that is now my sweetheart. Last night, I went to see him play in town, and I realized half way through the first set that I still can’t help but wear a big goofy grin whenever I hear him shred a lead guitar solo. He won my heart back then and he still does now. And from what I can tell, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

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My girlfriend sent me this photo this morning of Salem serenading her 8 month old. Watch out, little lady. Those guitar players are hard to resist!

The Story of Us: My Former Life

Well, date night was a smash hit. Nothing screams “romance” like sipping on a Cherry Coke Zero while watching Tom Cruise blow up the Krenlin. Some girls dig flowers and chocolate. I’m generally satisfied with saccharine and explosives.

I picked up the February 2012 issue of Glamour magazine over my morning coffee today. I can assure you, I skipped over the dish about Katy Perry’s marriage woes and What Your Doctor Won’t Say to Your Face to read an article by actress and comedian, Ali Wentworth. Here, Wentworth provides hilarious details about her premarital dating habits which led to her finding the love of her life, White House advisor, George Stephanopoulos. Even before the caffeine had worked its charm, I was growing more sentimental by the minute as I began to reminisce over how I met my sweetheart. Once I reached the bottom of my coffee mug, it occurred to me that I have never shared this story with you, my lovely readers. Now, I can’t guarantee that our love story would ever merit sharing the same binding with the reasons why Kim Kardashian eats her ice cream cones at noon and not late at night. However, I can promise you that your fingers won’t smell of potent perfume sample inserts by the time you are finished reading, nor will you be tempted to clutter your mind with thoughts of the Dad ‘stache {circa 1972} threatening to come back in style. {I have already wasted .2% of my waking hours today picturing Clark with a Burt Reynold’s ‘stache, and my only regret is that I will never get those 26 seconds of my life back. EVER!}

I believe I will enjoy re-opening this particular window into my former life. It was only seven years ago that I met Clark Beasley, but you’d be hard-pressed to find me nowadays dancing on a stage with Family Force Five in a pair of kitty-trampling high heels. {It happened only once, and I can assure you there was no alcohol involved}. But, I’m a mom now, and well, moms don’t exactly “Shake it like an earthquake” in public. But I was young {-er} and I ran with bands and I danced on stage speakers {fully clothed} with musicians that spent more time and money on hair products than our current monthly diaper budget. Ah…. those were the days.

And that is where our story begins….

 

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