Category Archives: Misc. Thoughts

The Lowdown, Vol. 2

It’s time once again for another edition of Personal Posts! Some might recall that I started this series of posts back in November and, well, I started it. I haven’t written any additional posts on it since, and I figured it was time. Because, you know, I have such an exciting life and all.

When we last left off, I was not dating, and that is still the case. My co-workers and I recently had a good laugh over some headline we read that Kate Gosselin, with her new long ‘do, wants to start dating again, and I was like, “I don’t have time to date with two kids; how is she going to date with eight?!” But I’m thinking that summer might be a good time for me to try. That gives me ample time to finish up some projects and grow my hair back out. I had my hair cut a couple of weeks ago, and even though I went to the same stylist who’s been doing my hair for about five years, and even though I brought a photo of myself with the cut that she did last time that I loved, she wasn’t able to replicate it. It turned out completely different, and way shorter than what I asked for. And since, unlike Kate, I’m not into hair extensions, I’ll just have to wait a few months for it to grow out.

Next up is something I’m truly excited about – my plans to gradually switch to what’s called a raw vegan diet, or simply, raw foods. Back in September, I realized that I never felt that great. I felt like every morning I had to drag myself out of bed and had so little mental and emotional energy. I wasn’t sick, but I didn’t feel completely well. I had found out about the raw food diet through one of my clients at work, Raw Family Publishing, a year and a half ago, but at the time it wasn’t something I felt compelled to pursue. In September, I felt drawn to research raw foods due to my low energy level, and I read 12 Steps to Raw Foods. An entire chapter was dedicated to the subject of increased energy as a result of eating raw foods, along with many other positive effects. This is it! I thought. This is what I need to do!

But I knew that such a huge lifestyle change would need to be gradual for me. There are people who go 100% raw all at once, but I knew that wouldn’t work for me since I have two teenagers for whom I still need to cook. So I decided to start off with my breakfast and make that completely raw by drinking green smoothies every morning. I bought a Vita-Mix high speed blender (an investment, but worth it), and since the first week of November, I’ve had them every day. I’m convinced that when I was sick last month it would have been much worse if I’d not had my daily green smoothies. I’m addicted to them and cannot start my day without them! Since I asked Nigel and Aidan to be supportive, they humor me and refrain from making comments (especially the one who thought it would be a good idea to make a pizza smoothie). So I’ve got the raw breakfast down pat, and I’m slowly working my way toward a raw lunch, which I hope to accomplish in the next couple of weeks. Eventually, when I’m 100% raw, I’m excited to see if the amazing results I’ve read about will happen for me, like increased energy and time, two rare commodities around here.

The progress on publishing my book came to a grinding halt when the holidays hit, and if I don’t get back to it soon I won’t be able to live with myself. Unfortunately, this time of year is my busiest with my second job, which is seasonal. For my primary job, I am an account manager for a fulfillment company. One of my accounts is a music label with about 50 artists, and for my second job, I do their semesterly royalty calculations and statements. I’m about neck-deep in spreadsheets now. So, my friends, I’m afraid I’m going to have to cut back on posting and blogging (wah!) for a bit until I meet my deadline (meh).

If I can, I’ll pop in every now and then with a Nigelism or something, like yesterday when he got home from school and decided to take inventory of all the clocks in the house – his watch, everybody’s alarm clocks, the living room clock, the microwave clock, and whichever ones I’m forgetting. He then came into my office and announced, “Looks like all our clocks are out of order. But mine is the right time.”

Ba-da-bum. Cheers!

Flying Solo, Part 1

Part of the big let-down for Nigel and Aidan not making their flight to LA on Christmas was that their dad had purchased tickets for them to see Avatar that night. He canceled those tickets and definitely planned to take them at some point during their visit, of course. However, knowing that it’s a three-hour movie, I questioned whether Nigel would be able to sit through all of it – he usually doesn’t make it all the way through movies in the theater. He often needs a break from the sensory bombardment of a movie theater and has to take a few walks during the film.

But something tells me that he’ll sit through all of this one. I know because I saw it tonight, and I was enraptured. I got off work early to go see a late afternoon show, and it was sold out on a Tuesday. So I purchased a ticket for the 7 PM show and came back later. I, meaning myself. Flying solo. I am uber-introvert, going to movies alone and enjoying it. (I’ve taken myself out to dinner before, too.) I show up at the theater an hour early to get a good seat, and there is already a huge line. Even so, I am able to sit near the center, about three-fourths of the way back, which is my favorite area. I sit down next to a guy in his twenties with a scruffy goatee and watch as the theater fills to capacity. Moments later, I realize that not only is he scruffy, he stinks. I am accosted by the low-grade, but unmistakable, scent of permeating old sweat. As soon as I make this distasteful realization, another guy in his twenties with a full beard sits in the empty seat on the other side of me. They appear to not know each other, but they both are clearly hygienically challenged. The bearded one stinks too.

Are you kidding me? I yell in my head. What are the freaking odds? This is what I get for going to the movies alone! I get boxed in by two guys who are taking some time off from bathing. My olfactory sense is completely assaulted, and I momentarily consider leaving. How am I going to enjoy the movie while constantly inhaling these noxious fumes? But I tell myself that feces and vomit would be far worse and decide to employ shallow breathing and “tune out” the BO surrounding me.

And, no, nothing magical happened during the movie with regard to the stench. I wasn’t so enraptured by the movie that I didn’t stop every ten minutes or so and still notice the air around me. But it was tolerable, if only because I enjoyed the movie so much. Without going into a whole commentary about its humanitarian/environmentalist theme, I will say that it really affected me. What struck me the most is how we, as a whole, are perilously close to losing our sense of connectedness. I drove home crying, and it wasn’t because I’d been smelling old sweat for three hours.

I got home too late to call the boys. For some reason, I desperately want to talk to them about this movie, get their take on it. It’s obvious – missing them, I yearn to connect with them. But then I realize that I don’t need the phone to be connected to them. I can feel it at my core – the constant connectedness I have with them. It is always there. I know that they are well and having fun with their dad, while I enjoy some time alone. And I’m breathing more deeply now, too.

Down Time

I am relieved to report that I am almost back to normal, after being sick for a full week. I haven’t been that sick in over eight years! In recent years, I’d been guilty of taking my health for granted – you know how when you’re well, you sort of forget what it’s like to be sick? Well, I do, since I’m not sick that often. Let me tell you, I will definitely be more conscious of my good health from now on.

But something else happened while I was sick, something I hadn’t expected. Included in all of the wonderful get-well wishes I received from my friends and family (thank you, everyone!) was a little advice in Carrie’s comment:  “. . . in the meantime, try to enjoy the down time!” It’s not something I’ve ever thought of doing while sick; it just either didn’t occur to me or wasn’t an option in the past, when the boys were younger. And granted, I still had to drag myself out of bed this week to get them off to school, pick them up, and make their dinner.  But aside from that, I actually took it easy. It’s sad how I have to get really sick before I force myself to slow down – because by then it’s not a choice. And so, I found myself with a little down time. I felt pretty lousy during it, but at one point I just sat on the couch, wrapped in my soft, warm robe with a down blanket over that. I drank a cup of tea. And I did nothing else. I just sat there. What an experience!

I just sat there and tried not to think about much of anything, like some of my sporadic attempts at meditating (which I haven’t done for a very long time). Thoughts would come, I would acknowledge them, and let them go. Thoughts of Nigel’s future, of my own, and how intertwined they will be. But the great part was that I didn’t attach any emotions to the thoughts, which was very different for me. Usually all of my thoughts have emotions attached to them. I can easily get emotional about things that have never even happened, just by thinking about the possibility of them. But somehow the illness gave me a sense of distance – a bit of a novelty, I must say.

So I rested. I read. I drank a lot of herbal tea. I forced myself to stay away from the computer. For the first time ever, I read the current National Geographic issue before the new one arrived (barely – the new one arrived today and it looks amazing). I noticed that National Geographic does not use a hyphen in “email,” so now I feel justified in not doing so. Who knows if I would have noticed that had I not been sick? All these hidden benefits – down time, thoughts without emotion, proofreading insight. I’ve been missing out.

But now it’s back to the grind – and Christmas a week away, no less. Fortunately, because I had pushed myself prior to getting sick, I have nearly all of my shopping done. And although I’m not completely 100%, I feel calmer than I did a week ago. I feel sane. I feel like I’m ready for the busyness of having holiday guests, cooking and baking, and getting the boys ready to go to LA to visit their dad. A lot to do, but I am rested and ready. I didn’t see it coming (getting sick) and thought I would totally fall behind, but it turned out all right after all, as things often do when you don’t fight what is. Sometimes, you get the rest you need, and you might even learn something while you’re at it.

Under the Weather

Ugh. Sorry, gang, but I am sick. I usually go a year or more without getting sick, and when I do, it’s brief and relatively painless. I credit that to a mostly organic diet. But this time the bug really got me, probably from burning the midnight oil too much lately. In any case, it’s definitely going to be a few days until I feel human again!

And what’s the meaning behind the phrase “under the weather” anyway? I know I could Google it, but I’m too sick. Meh. Hope all is well with you and yours!

Moments of Grace

I was going to write a post about all the things in my life that I’m thankful for. You know, sort of like those classroom assignments we’d get while we were growing up, a few years after the handprint turkeys and construction paper pilgrim hats. I had the usual list going – my children, our health, my job, our home – the heavies. My extended family, of course, and my good friends, including my fellow bloggers and wonderful readers, those I know and those I don’t. All of you have enhanced my life in numerous ways, and for that I am very thankful.

My ready-to-post list continued with the people in my life who have been most important in my children’s lives – Nigel’s case manager, his teachers, his speech and behavioral therapists, his new wrestling coach, and the Scoutmaster of his troop and all the Scout families who have been so patient and accepting of Nigel over the years, even when his behaviors were more difficult. Where would we be without these wonderful people? Where would we be without the doctor who finally, after many anxious weeks of multiple tests and screenings, identified Aidan’s medical condition earlier this year? And the surgeon who skillfully removed the offending party? I am so very grateful. Words cannot express my appreciation.

My list extended in a broader, global sense to include my trip to Nepal a few months ago and the beautiful people involved with Knowledge for People and AutismCare Nepal. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to learn from them and work with them, and to have had such an amazing experience that enriched my life. Last, but in no way least, I am thankful for those who selflessly serve our country, who sacrifice time with their loved ones, on Thanksgiving and always. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude.

I had thought about it last night before going to sleep and knew exactly what I wanted to write. I knew what I was thankful for and had the whole post planned. And then something happened this morning. Something happened that made me rethink my Thanksgiving post. In fact, it made me think outside the whole Thanksgiving box. I witnessed a near tragedy, and it shook me.

Since Nigel has wrestling practice every day after school and finishes after dark, I drop him off in the morning and pick him up in the evening instead of having him ride his bike. This morning, I pulled up to the main entrance of the school and waited at the stop sign to turn into the driveway. A boy about Nigel’s age started walking in the crosswalk in front of us. Across the intersection, a car suddenly began driving through. The driver, a middle-aged man, was headed right for the boy in the crosswalk and didn’t see him. I gasped, frozen. NO! This was not going to happen! Nigel and I would not witness a boy get hit by a car! In a fraction of a second, I willed the driver to see the boy, to stop, stop, STOP! At the last possible moment, he slammed on his brakes and missed the boy.

Nigel did not seem to grasp the magnitude of what we had seen. In fact, when I asked him, “Did you see that?” he said, “See what?” Then the fact hit me that it could have been him. It could have been my son in the crosswalk. And while that boy was not my son, he’s someone’s son. Someone’s son almost got hit by a car in front of the school today.

But he didn’t. And it made me realize, as I arrived at work this morning and sat in my car crying, that I am most thankful for those moments of grace – when something horrible could have happened, but it didn’t. That all the times over the years when Nigel wandered off and was lost that I eventually found him, unharmed. That all the times when he was little and a sound upset him and he bolted into the street or a parking lot, he was unharmed. That the boy who was almost hit by the car this morning wasn’t.

These are all moments of grace – “there for the grace of God go I” –  a divine favor, a gift. A break. All the times when I’ve muttered, half to myself, half upward, “Can’t I ever get a break?” – now I know. These are my breaks. I’ve had them all along. They are all around me, still. And my thankfulness is boundless.

Wishing you and yours a very blessed and Happy Thanksgiving!

The Lowdown

From time to time I receive e-mails from readers asking how I’m doing, often about things that don’t necessarily pertain to this blog, which is totally fine. Here, I write mostly about my experiences raising my two boys, one of whom has autism. I don’t go into much personal stuff because I think of this blog as a resource for other parents. But then I realized that when I read other blogs, one of the things I truly enjoy is a post on a more personal level.  I feel like I get to know the blogger a little better, identify with him or her, and often learn something new. And since I usually enjoy reading the personal bits, I figured that some of my readers might like that too.

So, in that vein, I’ve decided to occasionally write some personal posts to address those “touching base” e-mails that I receive. For example, I am often asked how my writing is coming along, especially since I’ve been threatening to publish a book for over a year now. Well, as with everything else in my life that doesn’t have to do with work and raising kids, it’s coming along slowly. I’m close, though! Really close! I just have a few more things to iron out, and then it’s off to the printer! I had considered having another editor look at it, but I gave it some careful consideration and think that I just need to bite the bullet and get it out there. It’s time (almost).

Here’s another popular question – am I dating now? And the answer is no. I have not dated for a year. For a while now I’ve been telling myself that I don’t have time to date, which is mostly true. But I’m also not that impressed with the caliber of single men I’ve met lately. And here’s a little story to illustrate that point. Okay, so Saturday night I go out with a friend of mine, another full-time single mom. It’s been weeks since either one of us has gotten out of our homes other than for work, errands, or appointments. A band is playing at a local pub, so we sit down at the bar and have a drink. After a few minutes, the guy next to me starts chatting me up. He seems okay, apparently a recently (by my standards) single dad whose kids are the same ages as mine. He’s even from the LA area, as I am, so I think those are pretty cool things to have in common. We keep talking, and my friend joins in. The three of us talk about our six collective kids, we make jokes, we’re having a good time. And then – brace yourselves – the guy blurts out, “Yeah, I’m really over the whole kid thing.”    

Really? You’re hitting on a single mom of two kids, and you think a line like that is gonna get you anywhere?

I was so shocked that I couldn’t even say anything. My friend, however, had a few choice words to say, including, “How sad for your kids” as we turned on our heels and walked out. I mean, it’s not like I’m expecting to meet a great guy in a pub. I wasn’t expecting to meet anyone that night, nor was I wanting to. I just wanted to go out and kick back with my friend. Instead, we meet a jerk who’s been a single dad for three years and thinks he’s going to impress me by complaining about it and insulting good parents everywhere. Next!

In other news, I recently received the Friendly Blogger award from my friend Nicki at Slow Down, Gym Shoe. Nicki was a recipient of the Lemonade award that I passed on to her for her positive outlook. Thanks for this cool award, Nicki!

One of the rules for accepting the Friendly Blogger award is to post the most recent photo of yourself, so again – brace yourselves:

 

And that’s the lowdown – not much success in the writing, dating, and portrait-taking departments. Tune in for the next episode of Personal Posts, in which I’ll discuss convalescing cats, workplace gossip, and file cabinet organization! (Kidding, but who knows?)

Sitting This One Out

Long-time readers of this blog might remember that last November I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel-Writing Month). The object was to complete a 50,000-word (approximately 170-page) novel in 30 days, and somehow I did it! It’s a very rough draft, of course, and I intend for the finished book to be double the pages, so I still have more work to do on that one. This year, I was very excited about trying my hand at another one. I had a plot outline and character sketches that I’d been toying with for a while. I was looking forward to being Kyra‘s “writing buddy” as I was Vicki‘s last year. I was anticipating another November of frantic but thoroughly enjoyable writing sessions. I couldn’t wait.

And then, a week or so ago, reality hit. I took a good, long, objective look at my life at the moment. Last year, I was working part-time while I homeschooled Nigel; this year I’m working full-time and also took on the volunteer position of the Southern Oregon Chapter Rep for the Autism Society of Oregon. And with all the regular insanity of raising two children by myself, there’s just no time for NaNo this year. And I’m deeply disappointed.

So, I’ve decided to do NaNoWriMo SP*, the single parent version. The object is still to write a novel of at least 50,000 words, but there is no time limit. Because, by God, if you can write a novel while working full-time and raising children by yourself, well, it doesn’t matter how long it takes. The fact that you’re doing it at all is mind-blowing. And this way you’ll still get to experience frantic-but-thoroughly-enjoyable writing sessions. All year long!

 

*yes, I made it up. But I really think the NaNo people should consider offering this as an option for the more time-challenged writers who want to participate. Think of the possibilities!

Spreading the Word

Yes, this is a mostly autism-related site. But it is also a parenting site, and a special needs site. And in that spirit I would like to help get the word out about a family in need. Please click on this link and then help spread the word. You might not know anyone who could help, but someone you know could know someone. Thank you!

With My Eyes Closed

Most of you know that I am a single parent. From mid-June to mid-August, my sons visit their father 700 miles away, and I get a much-needed break. I get some extra work done, take trips, and get a little time to myself – and time to miss my boys like crazy. Two months is too long of a break if you ask me, but we’ve been doing this for nearly eight years, so we deal with it.

But those ten months – from mid-August to mid-June – are all me. I am a full-time SP of two. Some days it feels impossible to fit it all in. Some weeks are so full that I feel like I just can’t do it anymore. I finally reach Friday night and collapse on the couch with a glass of wine and stare at the TV because I can’t even think straight. And so, I’ve written a bit about single parenting, including my 5 tips for single parenting with autism. When I think of that post it makes me laugh (hysterically) because it’s so difficult for me to do the things I am suggesting that other people do! Not practicing what I preach in that regard, that’s for sure. I never applied for respite. Ever. Missed that boat. My life feels so disorganized. I don’t have time to exercise. Sometimes I fear that I’m a walking “before” photo of a nervous breakdown.

So it doesn’t surprise me that last week, after trying to cram a bunch of errands in one fell swoop, I forgot the toilet paper. Not just as in “I went to the store and forgot to buy toilet paper,” but as in “I bought toilet paper at the store and forgot to bring it home.” And it took me eight days to remember that I forgot it. I was going through my wallet full of receipts at the end of the week and saw it on the receipt – a 12-pack of Scott’s 1000-sheet rolls. I get that kind because it lasts longer, so I have to buy toilet paper less often. So infrequently, in fact, that when I do buy it I just leave it on the bottom rack of the cart in the parking lot. And then I drive away. And I don’t remember that I left it in the parking lot until eight days later when I see it on the receipt and realize that I don’t remember bringing the large package into the house. No recollection whatsoever. Here I am, in the store, so proud of myself for thinking ahead because I don’t need toilet paper yet, we’re only half-way through the current 12-pack, but it’s on sale for a fantastic price, like, half what I usually pay, so I put it on the bottom rack. I am careful to mention it to the checker so that he rings it up and I pay for it, but then I promptly forget about it.

Oh, eff me, I mutter at the receipt. It’s not like it was a huge financial loss, but I just think, really? I try to get ahead of the game and this is where it gets me. I briefly consider calling the grocery store to explain what happened, to ask if maybe one of their courtesy clerks remembered seeing an abandoned multi-pack of toilet paper when corralling the carts. Eight days ago. I dismiss it – like I have time to do that in the first place. Chalk it up to loss – one 12-pack of Scott and my semblance of sanity. I’ve had to let go of worse.

But my subconscious, it would seem, will not let it go. Unbeknownst to me, my subconscious ruminates for a few more days. It thinks, Yes, she’s got a lot on her mind, a lot on her plate, but this isn’t the worst shape she’s ever been in. Surely she didn’t leave the toilet paper on the bottom rack of the cart in the parking lot. My subconscious works on this for three days, apparently, and then all of a sudden, while sitting in front of my computer and not thinking about the toilet paper, something pops into my head. A flash of memory:  I am putting the toilet paper on top of the vacuum cleaner because there is no room on the shelf where I usually store it. I gasp and run down the hallway to the closet where I keep the vacuum cleaner. I rip open the door and there is the Scott 12-pack, sitting on top of the vacuum cleaner. And I laugh.

I laugh because I realize, once again, that it’s not as bad as it seems. I may not be exercising yet (must get back into yoga), and I sure need to organize my time better (life coach, maybe?), but I think I’ve got a handle on things. If I can remember something as insignificant as the toilet paper I thought I forgot, I’m doing all right. Right? I can do this. I can do this with my eyes closed, it would seem. Some days, at least.

End of an Era

With the school year ending, it’s time for me to hang up one of my hats – for good. For the past year and a half, I have been homeschooling Nigel, and in September he will attend the high school for a full day, so I will no longer be his academic teacher. When he started back at the middle school in March, it was only part-time, so I continued to homeschool him for language arts and social science. He made some amazing progress in those areas, writing a total of five essays, including a comparative analysis of Ancient Greek and Roman cultures. His case manager at the middle school was so impressed that she took a copy of that essay to give to his future teachers at the high school. I’ll have to make sure they realize how much of an effort it was for him to complete that; it took him weeks to write it. They need to be aware of that before they expect him to produce more work – or at a faster pace – than he is capable of doing.

At any rate, come September my academic responsibility will be limited to helping him with assignments and encouraging his organizational skills. I will no longer be designing his curriculum, preparing lesson plans, or teaching the material. It was doable in middle school, even though it took me a while to get used to the idea, but I don’t think I could do it for high school. I mean, I consider myself to be fairly intelligent, but there’s a lot of high school knowledge that I would need to relearn in order to teach it to my son. It would take quite a bit of effort and time, and as a single parent of two, I’m in short supply of those items. I also had to radically reduce my work hours so that I could homeschool Nigel for the amount of time that I did; as a result, my bank account is in sorry shape. So continuing to homeschool is really not an option, and I’m glad that Nigel no longer needs it. We’re both looking forward to his return to full-time regular school, for many reasons.

But there’s something else that happens at the end of every school year, and has for the past eight years: Nigel and Aidan go visit their dad in Los Angeles for several weeks. LA is nearly 700 miles away from us; it’s a long drive. And another world away. They get a taste of big-city life, get to bodysurf on warm beaches, and Nigel gets to go to the day camp for autistic kids. These are all things they get to do that they can’t do at home in southern Oregon, and I am glad that they have the opportunity.  I’m also glad they get to spend time with their dad, whom they miss so much during the school year. But I miss them while they’re gone every summer. It’s just consuming, this missing. It’s not like when they’re gone for a week at Spring Break. One week is nothing. But seven, eight, is a daunting expanse that cannot be filled. Maybe I’m being melodramatic – I mean, after all, we go through this every year. But it never gets easier. I walk down the hall and see their empty rooms. I can’t watch a movie or eat ice cream without thinking of them and missing them. True, I’m keeping busy, especially since I’m back at work full-time, thanks to my wonderful employers. Life is full and good, but there’s this void with the boys gone. It doesn’t feel natural. I feel disjointed without them. And I’ve got a long summer ahead of me.

Since it’s impossible for me to go more than a month without seeing them, I’ll be visiting them next month, so that will break up the time, make it a little more bearable. For a while now, Nigel’s been requesting to go to the Grand Canyon, so three weeks from today, that’s what we’ll be doing. I can’t wait to share another adventure with them, but mostly I can’t wait to see them, hug them, to be in their presence. Of course, until then, I have phone calls to look forward to: “Hello, Mom. This is Nigel [insert last name] speaking.” Or perhaps a conversation like this one. Oh, well. I’m just happy to hear their voices.

So summer begins. And it just dawned on me that I’ve essentially combined two separate posts here – the end of homeschooling and missing my kids. Correlation? Nada. Let that be a testament to how disjointed I feel with my sons being away! I can’t even write!