Thursday, September 08, 2011

How to get waited on hand and "foot"

My father always said I couldn't walk and chew gum at the same time. I would have argued with him, but I was too busy falling on my face. Despite my lack of coordination, I have been pretty lucky. I have only ever broken three bones in my lifetime. The first time I broke a bone, I was in my early twenties; it was my ankle. I was taking the stairs two at a time at work, and rolled my ankle, landing on it, from one step to the ground floor. I broke my foot in three places. (My friends' response to that? "Don't go there, anymore!" Get it? Yeah, it wasn't that funny then, either). After that, over the years, I have broken my little toe, twice. The first time, I hit my son's Rescue Heroes fire truck. The second time, I slammed my toe into the Lego table, and I went one way, the toe went the other. Let me just say: "OW."

Honestly, though, when I twisted my ankle this weekend by taking a wrong step from the sidewalk into the flower bed, it really, really hurt. I have spent the last few days icing it and finally went to the doctor on Tuesday because I feared I had broken my foot. Thankfully, I managed to save the iPad from plummeting to the cement in what would have been a certain death. The fall I took instead was a small price to pay, but I paid dearly. The verdict: severe ankle sprain. I actually pulled some tendons. The doctor gave me a brace and I am supposed to gradually start bearing weight on it. But for now, I am mostly confined to the couch with my foot up while everyone else around me is a whirling dervish trying to accomplish what is day-to-day routine for me: cleaning, cooking, taking care of pets, driving kids where they need to go... You would think I am enjoying this, but I can't. I don't do well being waited upon. And I really don't do well watching other people work and not accomplish things to my standards. So I am constantly getting up to do things, and my family is constantly making me sit on the couch again. Very frustrating.

When I do venture off the couch, it's slow going. I can't walk fast at all, I sort of shuffle around, dragging my bad ankle behind me. Right now, I am looking at a least a few weeks of the "zombie shuffle." So much fun. I sit on the couch, and the cat lies down on the blanket next to me. With the walking stick and the cat I am one shark tank away from being a super-villain, I suppose. I would also like a trap door, please.

Still, all is not lost. At least I match my toenails, now. It's something.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

What Not to Do With Your Underwear

I walked into my hotel room and stopped short. The maid had been there.. The wastebasket had been emptied, the sink was wiped down and the beds had been made. Housekeeping had made another discovery, as well. How embarrassing. My turquoise boy-cut Hanes underwear were on top of my pillow, staring at me.

I was in town for the womens' blogging convention, Blogher. Leaving my hotel room bright and early, I was rushing to get to breakfast and then my next session. That's how Blogher is..there is always somewhere to be, and always five minutes ago. Or maybe that's just me.

I have a terrible habit of leaving my underwear under my pillow at home. My giant dog, who can put her head upon my higher-than-normal bed, has a tendency to steal underwear that are left at the foot of the bed at night. After a few mornings of waking up to find my unmentionables had become a snack, I took aversive action. Into the hamper with those skivvies. She found them there, too. Yum yum. Munch, munch, munch, she said. That's when my underwear ended up under my pillow when I sleep.

So here I was, at the Marriott, 5-star resort, and the housekeeper thinks I am

1) a pig.
2) so drunk I either
A) forgot where I put my underwear
B) got lucky and was so carried away I didn't think about where my underwear were

Unfortunately, the truth is a lot more boring. I didn't get drunk. I certainly didn't have sex with anyone. I simply went on auto-pilot without thinking. It's like when you drive the kids to school everyday and then forget that it's a weekend and you are going to the grocery store and you drive there only you end up halfway to school? Again, just me?

It seems silly, I won't ever see the housekeeping staff again. But I realize...I am so boring. I can't help wishing I had at least had sexier, more interesting underwear. Something hot pink, lacy, racy and thongy? I have those, I just didn't wear them. When you get to be my age, sometimes comfort wins over sex appeal. And since I knew no one would be seeing my underwear but me, I didn't really worry about it. (What comes to mind is the age-old momism, "Did you put on clean underwear? What if you get in an accident??") Instead, the maid not only saw my underwear, she had to touch them.

When I left the hotel room, I cleaned up after myself, picking up trash, making my bed, rinsing out the sink. I checked under the pillow twice. And I left a big tip.

My check-in tip on foursquare: "Check under your pillow so you find your underwear before the maid does," Social media for the win. Don't say you haven't been warned.

Monday, August 08, 2011

My Blogher Recap: The Third Time was the Charm, Four Balls, That's a Walk

This is not the popular opinion, and I feel the need to write a disclaimer. This is my fourth Blogher, and it has treated me well, for the most part, but this year the star didn't shine nearly as brightly as it has in the past..

Back from BlogHer and there is one word that comes to mind for my experience: disconnected. I know, sounds like I had an awful time, but that's not true. What is true is that there were a lot of people at BlogHer, which, at times made it very difficult to find my people. It is true that the first night I came this-close to heading back to my room after cruising The People's Party, saying hi to the scant number of people I recognized, and a few I didn't. Then, feeling like a fish out of water, I flopped on to a nearby bench,where I had a great conversation with someone I had never met. Later I went back to the party, and found people I knew. And it was good.

It's true I spent sessions mostly alone or with new people. It's true that I ate lunch, again, mostly by myself, or with new people. I headed into parties and saw a sea of unfamiliar faces, all of whom were already attached. My wing-woman friends didn't make it this year, so I was on my own to find companionship.. It proved to be a challenge. Because, really, how long can you hang out in a cocktail circle of people you know in real life (but better online) without seeming like some sort of creepy stalkerish person? I can tell you. Exactly ten minutes. Beep. Time to find a new circle. Ever wonder how you can be lonely in a sea of 3000? I do. Everyone is very friendly; but where are your friends? Hopefully, you brought those with you. That sounds pathetic. I don't mean to complain.

I don't want you to feel sorry for me. In some respects, I had a great time. There were high points. I did a lot of dancing with friends, (When I could find them) and hung out in hotel rooms for great conversations with both old friends and at 2 a.m. in the lobby, as well. I had some nice meals with people I basically foisted myself upon (thank you to you, by the way). In outward appearance, I am sure it looked like I was having a grand old time. I did have fun, in snippets. It was just the overall package that didn't work for me. At some point, you get tired of inviting yourself along and just want to be included by someone who wants you there. You want to be expressly invited to dinner, to the party, to wherever, instead of just...tagging along.

On the way home, I had a lot of time to ruminate and I have decided that as much as I like Blogher, that ship has sailed. That martini has been shaken. That blog has been posted. This was Blogher #4 for me, and I think I am just done. I am at that awkward stage: I am too old to drink 'til distraction, but I still like to stay up until the wee hours. I just feel like I have no business there, with the cool kids. I love almost everyone at Blogher, but am a friend to few. I enjoyed seeing people, but as far as deep connections? Few and far between. I felt in the way, a lot. If you fall off the face of social media and no one is there to see it, do you even make a sound? That's where I am right now.

I will continue to blog, and to tweet, but think during the week of Blogher, I will take a sabbatical. I am too old to feel "in the way." High school was a long, long time ago, and wasn't much fun; I really don't cherish reliving it. So I won't be doing that again.

Ever want to feel like the only girl in the room? Go to Blogher by yourself. The experience will trigger every insecurity you have ever felt. And you will find just how far you have yet to go in order to feel accepted.

Friday, August 05, 2011

So Blocked This Post Has NO Title

It's like when you get constipated. You have the urge, but can't do the purge. The problem is not that I don't have ideas. I am so clogged up with ideas that one can't make it through the pipeline. I can't seems to narrow my focus or lessen my stress enough to actually get something of *import down on paper. I read others' blog posts and think, "I could have written that! I had that thought, I just didn't take it to fruition.

I think I need my Eighth grade english teacher. She is the one who taught me to write. She gave me permission to develop my voice; I believed that what I had to say was important, and it was. Of course, later that year, she leaned over me, took a big sniff, smelled the acrid second-hand smoke that I was marinated in from my mother smoking in the house and said, with disdain: "Do you smoke?" She was loud enough for some of my classmates to hear, and they snickered. Yes, she wasn't named Mrs. Dick for nothing. True story. But the damage was done; I believed I could write. It was in my blood.

My daughter is also a writer, and a more prolific one than I was at her age. I would write what I called "story starters," pen several tens of pages of my "novel", then either get stuck or bored and intend to go back and add to it. Sometimes I actually did. My daughter, on the other hand, has done a program for writers called, NoNoWriMo, which is simply National Novel Writing Month. In one month, she has written 50,000 words. And not only has she done this once, but twice. I could only hope to have that kind of commitment.

Why is it that when you are young, with nary a story to tell, the pen flows freely, almost on it's own, but once older and with more experience, it is much harder to find the time to tell the story? I consider this God's cosmic joke. I know I have a story to tell. I just can't FIND it.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Pity, Party of One, your table is ready

I haven't been very funny lately. I know, I know. you come to this space to find the tongue-in-cheek witticisms to distract you from life, and I have been letting you down. in my defense, things aren't hilarious right now. And, since this space is all about me, it's well, all about me.

What changed, you ask? From the fight with the spider to zombie conversations...what made life So Serious? About a week ago, I realized: This is My Life. Just like that. I actually see it in caps. this is what I live. It is what it is, and it won't really get any better. I won't write the Great American Novel. I won't be rich, or glamorous. I won't rise to the top of the glass ceiling. I know, that doesn't seem that important, and I really don't want to conquer Corporate America. But I still want the option.

When you are young, the world is your oyster. Pearls are there for the taking. At twenty, you aren't a bestselling's ok, there's time. In your forties, Time Is Running Out. You're old. You're washed up. You're irrelevant. Leave it to the youngsters, they have more energy, and why don't you just go and find yourself a nice rocking chair there by the fire? Yeah. NO.

I am usually a fairly positive person, though I bitch a lot. I can always find the "blessing" (how I hate that pious it seems, but really, no better word can be found) in the mess. There is always a silver lining. For example: In 2006, we had a house fire. The structure was still standing, but we lost damn near everything.

We had to move out into a rental for six months, with little more than the clothes on our backs. We found ourselves wandering WalMart at midnight on a Sunday because it was the only store open, and we needed underwear, people! How do you put your life back together after that? We had to buy clothes, and pajamas, and toothbrushes and and and. I was in shock. It was awful. I would never wish the experience upon anyone. BUT. And here is where I am crazy: I was blessed. My faith increased, my family became closer, I learned gratitude. I started over. Now I try to keep only those things that as William Morris put it, " find to be useful or believe to be beautiful." And my house was completely redone, from top to bottom. For the first time, I had real bedroom furniture! And dishes that I didn't inherit from my mother! And a home that was completely my style, and brand new everything! And that was the silver lining. I didn't blog about it, the emotions were too raw. In fact, I didn't blog at all for almost two years. That experience helps to keep it all in perspective.

Cut to this last Sunday: I had one of the worst days that I can remember. Right now, JNerd is out of town, along with JBug. It's just me and the two youngers, fending for ourselves. Sunday afternoon, our cat started yowling and lying on the ground. He wouldn't walk, and something was wrong. So to the ER vet we went. Verdict: urinary blockage. LIFE-THREATENING emergency. Exactly the reason that vets exist. The vet needed to do some things that required sedating the cat, so I took the kids to Taco Bell for a quick bite. When I went to start the car, my battery was dead. I had to call AAA to come jump it, and hope that, since it was after hours and I couldn't call the vet, they would be understanding in case I was late. (thankfully, they were, and I wasn't). Because the battery was dead, I had to keep the car running while I picked up the cat. Environment be damned. I wasn't going to get stuck there...I had a sick cat to get the after-hours clinic for overnight treatment. And let me tell you, you haven't lived until you have pumped gas with the engine running for fear if you shut it off you will be stranded.

Finally got home after 9 p.m. and my kids were a wreck. Tucked them in. Made myself a drink and opened my laptop to find: nothing. The screen was black, but I could hear it was on. I tried a whole lot of tech support stuff ("Did you turn it off and one again??") but it was unresponsive.

So, a recap.. cat, battery, computer. It comes in threes right?

My point, people, and I DO have one... that day sucked. The next day sucked as I had to get up at the buttcrack of dawn to get the cat from the Night ER vet to my regular vet. Thankfully, I had my husband's car. Once I did that, I had to get my van to Costco so that they could explain to me why my battery had failed after less than two years. Turns out Costco doesn't install or remove batteries, but it doesn't matter because we don't have yours in stock right now anyway ma'am and there's an auto store down the street that can probably help you, have a nice day. Well. Fine.

I drove my van, which by some miracle started, to Pep Boys (who I cannot say enough nice things about, you guys!) Bought my battery. They took pity on the poor married lady who was abandoned by her husband for greener conventions, and took one look at the small ragamuffin in tow who was heat-bedraggled, and had me in and out of there in fifteen minutes! Fifteen minutes! New battery, yay! And, Costco gave me a full refund on my battery that failed.

When I finally got home, and was reflecting upon the events of the last coupIe of days, and it was all feeling a bit like being pecked to death by ducks. Then it hit me... (here is where I get all treacly) I really am blessed. Talk about First World Problems! We had enough money and resources to treat our sick cat. I have an auto club so that I don't get stranded when I have a problem. I have an extra car so that I could get my cat and not rely upon the kindness of my friends. I have enough money to get a new battery, and the resources to get it installed. I am rich compared to much of the world. That thought shut me up. I really have nothing to complain about. No one is dying. These are all transitional worries. I realize how obnoxious this sounds. Who really appreciated when Dad said, "Eat your peas, there are children starving in Africa?" And honestly, I got smacked when I once retorted, "Well, then, send the peas to THEM!" (made sense at the time) I am not telling you to eat your peas. I'm really not. I am telling myself. I am reminding myself that though I just turned forty_ahem is not over. Life is still beautiful. My body may be changing, and my youth may be fading, but life is still good. Life is always good. Sometimes I just forget it for a bit.

As I write this, the cat is still at the vet, and will probably be ok. It will just be expensive. And I hate having to spend the money. But I love the fact that I have the resources to make the decisions that are required. I am not loaded monetarily by any means. It will be a stretch and we may eat cheese sandwiches for dinner for a bit. (more or less) but I am rich, in all the ways that count. And that revelation? Is priceless.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Homeschooling is not what you do, it's how you live

As the school year winds down, I am reminded of an exchange I had recently with a colleague. We were discussing our blogs and our families, and school came up. “Oh, that’s right, you homeschool. When do you finish?”

That question took me by surprise, not because it was asked, but because I wasn’t sure how to answer it. I mentioned something about summer, and how we had activities planned, and changed the subject. I don’t think she even noticed. The truth is, I never “finish.”

You know that awkward review time that teachers have for the first couple of months after summer break? Where they can’t really teach anything new for fear the kids don’t remember what they were taught the year before? I don’t have that. I learned long ago that my kids don’t retain much over the summer if we take a 2 or 3 month break. So? We don’t break.

We scale back, maybe. Do less than we would normally, but we keep on keeping on. And my kids progress. Don’t get me wrong, we do all the fun things over the summer that you do. We go to the park. We go to the beach. We swim. We just do our school first. And sometimes, we even do it at those places. It keeps my kids in a routine, and when it comes to autism, routines are good.

If I gave my son a months’ long break? I would never get him back into schoolwork again. He is all about what he always does and a week of the same thing means it's a habit. He needs that structure. If I allowed my little one to take a break that long? We would lose much of the ground gained in her reading and math. She continues to see her speech and reading tutor throughout the summer. She also does vision therapy.

I suppose my oldest would be fine; but I have never had to push her academically. She pushes herself hard enough for the both of us. But she putters around and will finish her Psychology and get a jumpstart on her math for next year. I also expect she will pre-read some of the books for her government class next year to make it a bit easier.

How does year-round school work, you ask? Don’t the kids get burnt out? Not really. For once, we don’t worry about taking a break here and there. I take a break for almost a month around the holidays. (we always keep our foot in something, to keep up routine) and if we want to take off on an impromptu visit to the grandparents in another state for a week, we can. If we travel, we can throw in some area history, or a museum visit.

Here’s the thing: homeschooling isn’t just schooling at home. It’s a way of life. It’s a way of looking at life, to see what you can learn. Every experience can teach us something. My daughter learned to count at the grocery store. My son learned about life science through gardening. Is it more work to live this way? I don’t think so. I am actually one of the least-motivated people you will meet, to be honest.

I attend homeschool conventions and think, “When would I have time to do that? Formal planning doesn’t work really well here. At the beginning of the year, I do a master lesson plan for each child. We rarely finish it on the schedule I set. That’s not the point. The plan is the point. And we eventually do get done with those books, and those lessons and that plan. We just move on to the next plan. I am a learner. I am happiest when I am learning. I want my children to discover that joy of “Aha! I didn’t know that!” Showing them that learning is a way of life is how I do it.

Saturday, July 02, 2011

It wasn't about the dog park, it's about autism

One of the advantages of having a blog (not to include the adoration, popularity and buckets of money being thrown my way) is that I have a forum where I get the last word. Sometimes, that's helpful. So I can tell you about my run in with the crazy woman at the dog park last night and that might be healing.

Last night was just like any other summer night. The days are so hot that we wait to take the dog to the park until evening. That works well, most of the time. Poppy was her usual boisterous self, bouncing from one dog to the next, having a grand old time. There is a smallish Austrailian Sheperd that is pretty obnoxious. It flits back and forth, trying to herd the dogs, barking in their faces. I have seen it there for the last week or so. It likes to bark at Poppy. She pretty much takes it stride, the way she takes it all in stride. She is big, bouncy, but harmless. She is big, and black, and that seems to put people on edge who aren't familiar with Newfoundlands. Read: just about most people. There is even a name for it among newfy owners: Big Black Dog Syndrome.

Poppy figures that since this dog is yapping in her face, she must want to play, so they were chasing and bouncing, so far nothing out of the ordinary. The little dog was on its back and Poppy was standing over it, the way dogs do. This crazy nut job went over and started kicking my dog! You need to understand, I am rarely more than six feet away at any given time, and usually even closer than that. I am the original "helicopter parent" when it comes to my dog. At any point, if she starts getting too rambunctious, or if the other dog looks like he isn't having fun, I pull her out of the fray, and we take a break. I am a responsible owner. I read books, I educate myself. I have learned dog body language and figured out what to watch for. My dog is not aggressive. And even in play, I would never allow my dog to go too far with another dog. So when this, for want of a better word, bitch, started kicking my dog I lost it.

I would never hit anyone. But I started yelling at her. She tried to say my dog was "biting" hers. Her dog was driving the play! Some other guy (I cannot call him a man) who was so good at watching his dog that I never even knew which dog was his (that's sarcasm) said it was my fault and I needed to get my dog under control. Know this: Poppy is at the dog park five or six times a week. She does not have a control problem. I can pull her out when the play gets to be too much. She takes a time out. After she was attacked by another dog (and I was bitten) I worked really hard on this. His accusations were completely unfounded.

One of the most frustrating things that I find about myself is that if I am in the right and I feel persecuted, I cannot have an argument when it gets heated. I lose all eloquence and cannot form a coherent thought. Basically, I sound like an idiot. This time, not only did that happen, I was going to cry. Time to get the hell out of there. My brain short-circuited. As I was leaving, I uttered words to make a sailor blush. I am not proud of my behavior, and I am furious at myself for acting that way. Fight or Flight kicked in and I lost it.

Once I got to the car, I burst into tears, and promptly had a panic attack. I couldn't breathe and I felt like my heart was in shards. I continued to cry after we got home, locked myself in my room, and just couldn't function. What the hell is the matter with me? I just don't know. But after sleeping on it, I think I know a bit more of what set me off.

I have a stressful life. It isn't anyone's fault; it's just the way the cards were dealt. Most of the time, it's ok. Last night, it just hit the fan. I was devastated that someone was rejecting my dog. While you may want to laugh at that, consider this: it was just one more special-needs "kid" in my family who was snubbed. In other words, it was a trigger for me.

For the last seventeen or so years, I have watched one or another of my children struggle to make friends, be accepted, be loved. I have stood by while being silently judged, "WHY can't you stop that child from tantruming/having trouble with social stimuli/being rigid?" I have endured the cold shoulder from parents who have decided that my child isn't worthy of their child's time because she is "different." I have watched my son embarrass himself in front of others and be completely oblivious of their reaction. I have seen my daughter be left out of social events because she doesn't like the same things as her peers, and watched her cry over her lack of acceptance. So, no, I will not apologize for losing it at the dog park when people who had no idea about actual dogs judged my dog as beneath theirs. I will not.

I realize how ridiculous this sounds. She's a dog. I get it. For me, it was about more than the dog. I had a reason to be angry over my dog's treatment, but the anger I really felt was misplaced. It was grief.

Over the years, I have had to come to terms with the fact that I did not give birth to cheerleaders. There is no Big Man On Campus in my home. Indeed, there is no campus. None of my children will get the lead in the school play, though they might be in the chorus. I did not give birth to "popular" kids. The phone doesn't ring for play dates much. I am actually ok with this. What I am not ok with is how others see them. They are smart, generally well-mannered (if you don't count the twelve year old and his twelve-year old boy behavior) and loving children. They deserve better. They deserve friends who like them for who they are. And they deserve grown ups, who should know better, that give them a chance and don't automatically write them off as playmate for their kids because they are "different." I am fucking tired of this. That's right, I just used "fucking" on my blog, for the first time, ever. I am done.

So. You are on notice. If you snub my child, I will call you on it. I will try to do it kindly, but I will do it. In an era when we are trying to pay attention to others' rights and difficulties, I will call you on bad behavior, leaving out my children simply because they have autism. I am done being nice. Now I am fighting back.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

College Room and Board will be cheaper than I thought

This exchange took place in the car on the way home today:

JBean: Yay! When JBug goes off to college, can I redecorate the room just for me, all to myself?

JBug: No! I will be living at home, forever, in the basement.

[to JBean:] JBug isn't going off to college, she is living at home for a while while she is IN college. Don't sell her off just two will still be sharing a room.

[to JBug;] You can't live in the basement; we don't have a basement. Besides, we have Basement Cats...there would be no room in the basement.

JBug: JBear will be living in the basement. Playing first-person shooter video games.

Me: Probably. You can live in the ceiling. We don't have a Ceiling Cat.

JBug: ...

Monday, June 06, 2011

Autism is a vampire and it sucks out your soul

Today was promotion Sunday, an annual event through our homeschool group. It is usually a big deal with all the kids going up to receive their promotion certificates, and graduates of both the eighth grade and high school. I don't have any pictures; we barely managed to get there. Today was one of THOSE days. Those who have kids with autism will understand. We just keep on, keeping on, trying not lose ourselves.

My son is twelve, going on sixteen, he thinks. He has a real problem with being told what to do.

every interaction between us seems to go like this:

Me: polite request
Him: protest
me: again,with the polite request
Him: "logical" reason why he should not comply
me: a bit more forceful request
Him: complaints about how I think he is stupid/difficult/it's not his fault, it's mine
me: [frustration ensues...either walk away and take a deep breath or yell]
Him: [depending upon what I do] yells at me, how I am such an idiot and I don't get it..
me: come back,and try again, cajole/plead/explain why he would do whatever it is I wanted him to do in the first place
Him: [grudging compliance]

Part of the problem is that he and my youngest are absolutely oil and water these days. JBean, my youngest, is usually a very happy little girl. Unfortunately, this extends to her high-pitched voice, often singing, or talking, incessantly. It makes my JBear, my son, crazy. He starts lashing out, and getting on edge, and will say mean things to her about can't she just shut up, and her voice is driving him crazy...hurtful things. She doesn't know how to fight back verbally (nor should she learn...he is out of line) so she does one of two things. She will either hit him, or yell at him. Neither of these things are particularly useful in dealing with him, and often make things worse. Where am I, you ask? Probably the bathroom, or taking the dog out, or loading the dishwasher....I cannot be in their face 100% of the time. They have to learn not to aggravate one another. Of course, when there are problems, I am always right there. Often the damage is done.

My son has no remorse. I realize this is part of his autism, no matter how high-functioning it may be. The lack of mirror neurons that allow empathy are definitely a hindrance for him. As a teenager, his cerebral cortex is not quite connected to his brain. He is in fight or flight, all the time...he sees the entire world as against him. He is rarely sorry, and doesn't think he ever does anything wrong. He does not admit mistakes and generally has a self-absorbed entitlement attitude. I did not raise him this way, and am still trying to fix it. Often, I feel like I am banging my head against a wall. I know he is trying...but he just has such a long way to go. I feel like I am not helping him much. I seem to be the problem, as far as he is concerned. He is oblivious to his role in the whole mess.

Today, while I was trying to finish in the kitchen, he was having a hard time with his sister. Everyone ended up yelling at everyone else, and I had had enough. JNerd tries to out yell them, and it doesn't work. I told them all I was not going to live like this anymore; I have had it. We weren't going today, not with the way they were acting. So I decided to take a drive for a bit, to cool down. After about ten minutes, I came back, a bit calmer. Apparently, all hell had broken loose while I was gone. My son had tried to goad my husband into a physical altercation. He hit my husband, as hard as he could. Apparently, it was side-stepped, and I was able to defuse the situation. We ended up going to the ceremony, and everyone was on their best behavior.

When we returned home, I tried talking to my son, and he was not receptive at that point. He hates to be called out on his behavior, and will deflect as much as he can. I stayed calm for the most part, and finally was able to get through to him, for now. Eventually, my son did admit he was wrong, but it was several hours later.

Remember, on top of this, I also deal with a younger one who was diagnosed with autism, as well. She has her own issues, usually pertaining to transitions, change, rigidity, anxiety and MamaMustBeThereAtAllTimes. The worse he gets, the more she clings to me. The more unrest in our home the more she clings to me. She tries so hard, but she has a hard time coping at times. That means relying upon me, more often than not.

I am DRAINED. Exhausted, and really questioning every decision for my children I have made thus far. I am hoping tomorrow will bring more clarity. So tonight, I sleep. And pray and hope that I figure out what I am doing wrong. Autism is hard. Teen boy is hard. Putting the two together: feels insurmountable. My migraines have gotten more frequent and worse. I don't sleep well. I am, so far, staving off the depression that threatens to crush me. (I eat well and exercise, both help) But so help me, if I survive his growth into manhood, I hope it is with my soul intact.

Thursday, June 02, 2011


I have deleted every first sentence I have tried to write for a month. Nothing I write is good enough, witty enough or explains what goes on in my brain enough. I am feeling frustrated...I am well and truly blocked.

So today, I decided I am just going to write, stream of consciousness, and publish. If none of you read it, that's ok with me...I just have to get something out there.


All of your life you have battled perfectionism. The more you succeed, the more pressure you feel to continue succeeding or face the thing you fear most in life: failure. Yes, you know failure is a normal part of the creative process; indeed a normal part of living. And on the surface, you can talk a good game. You Know failure is often the path to success, and that you are not a bad person if you fail. You even know that failure depends upon how you define it. Thomas Edison is purported to have said he didn't fail 99 times creating the light bulb, he simply found 99 things that didn't work, bringing him closer to that thing which would. On the surface, it sounds great. But it doesn't quell the anxiety regarding climbing higher and then going splat when you fall.

If success is a Tree, you are stuck sitting in it, and there is no K.I.S.S.I.N.G there. Eventually, you grew tired of the vertigo when you looked down, so you stopped climbing. Oh, you made some lateral jumps here and there, but you pretty much remain safely ensconced on the sturdiest branch. When you look up, you see, high above, teetering in the wind, that all elusive *SUCCESS*...whatever that looks like. And along the way are some perilous branches that would rather break under your weight than support your journey towards the top. So, like the smart primate you are, you found the most comfortable spot and camped here. While others climbed to the top of their tree, towering above all, you sat. While they mastered the tree, and then whole forests, you sat, content in the safety of where you were. While others planted seedlings that grew into saplings and finally towered over the rest of the arboreal layer, you watched, convincing yourself that where you were was the most comfortable place; chasing dreams was impractical, and with one ill wind they would come crashing to the ground. You could not help feel a small prickling of envy. You shut it out.

So what does that mean? Simply this:

You are tired of working to make other people money. The only money made by "content farms" and "featured blogger" sites is made by the owners of the sites. The money doesn't trickle down to the writers. They work hard and get little in return. Most "Brands" don't have respect for bloggers; they seem to think bloggers will work for nothing. P.R. firms send out mass emails figuring bloggers will jump at whatever meager offer they send , because bloggers are just housewives anyway, and free stuff is cool. They really have no idea what to do with bloggers. Along the way, some P.R. firm will throw a couple of tickets your way that you might not have been given if not for your internet presence, and so you feel validated. At least for a while. You try to maintain your integrity, and only focus on what might be a good "fit" so that the writing is the focus. And you write. Or at least, try to write.

The currency in social media is renown, but it doesn't pay the bills. At the end of the day, what do you have? A blog that everyone knows, sure. Here's the thing: Other sites have steadily eroded the traffic of blogs. Conversations take place across platforms now, and the instant gratification of blog comments is mostly gone for all but a handful of the top bloggers. And what keeps you going? Maybe this post...this idea that you must share...will be the one to catapult you to Internet Fame, and then the endorsements and syndicated column and book deals will come rolling in. Only, it doesn't happen. You've lost sight of why you started writing in the first place; before book publishers even knew blogs existed. You wrote. Because you loved it.

You have been blogging since most of the big names have. Over time, you have watched many of them get book deals, and each time, you died just a bit more inside. You always fancied yourself a writer. At almost 45, you are not saying that anymore. You are just some housewife with an internet connection and a keyboard. Nothing more.

What sets the big players apart? They know something you don't. They have to be visible. They promote themselves. They TELL people how good they are. And the more they say it, the more they believe it, and others believe it, too. They pitch companies and write book proposals. They have a plan. You? You don't work that hard. You only ever wanted to write, not sell yourself. Besides, you were always taught that good girls don't brag on themselves; they let their work do the speaking for them. That's your problem to overcome, and you really haven't. Somewhere deep inside, you still feel like you are not good enough, that you don't deserve what others have And because you cannot get past that hurdle, you cannot succeed.

Which brings you to where you are right now: sitting on the sturdy branch, In a tree that you never really wanted to climb in the first place, with no idea how to get down, resenting those who have mastered the game before you ever even knew the rules.

------------------------ ****

My blog has become a "have to" not a "want to." It has caused my anxiety to rise at the mere thought of trying to type a collection of words and hope they make some semblance of sense. It has become a slap in the face, a reminder of what I have not accomplished. I have no idea how to make it fun again, but I am not willing to abandon it completely. Much like an errant child, or a disobedient dog, deep down, no matter how much it pisses me off, I still love it.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Talking Sex with your Son who has Autism...and not wanting to jump off a bridge afterwards. Mostly.

I had “The Talk” with my son. We both survived, barely. He is twelve now, and I know what you’re thinking: WHY are you just now having this discussion with him? Do you live under a rock? Don’t you know what kids are capable of getting into these days? Do you want your kid to be a statistic?

Believe me, I get it. But you have to understand…I have tried to have The Talk with my son before this, many times. Each time, he politely rebuffed me.

My son has High-Functioning Autism. It is as the name implies. Some professionals call it Asperger’s Syndrome. It means he has trouble with social cues, reading body language, some processing problems as well as trouble controlling his impulses, like anger. He is easily embarrased, so it didn’t surprise me that he did not want to discuss his burgeoning sexuality with his mother. This is the kid who hides his eyes if I take him with me to mall and we happen to pass the lingerie store. There have been no shortage of attempts on my part to usher him into the ways of the world. He always swore he was not interested.

So when I found that he had been googling, “penis” and “breasts” I figured, protest though he may, it was time. I am a smart woman. I have safe search on, so he didn’t find anything except Wikipedia pages…no trauma. I get that kids, boys in particular, can be curious. I am just thankful that no damage was done! And I am also grateful that I have enough technical savvy to know how to lock down the computers!

So, how do you talk with your son about something you both find highly embarrassing without losing your mind? The answer, it seems, is just do it. Do not make a big deal about it.

Five Ways to Discuss The Subject Without Wanting to Run and Hide

1. Be as matter-of-fact as you can. Lay out the information without a lot of emotion, as though you were tutoring someone who speaks a different language. We are talking autism here. That is, after all, what you are doing.

2. Refrain from idioms, editorializing, and heavy opinion. All of these will be ignored by a kid with autism. He probably won’t get most of them, anyway. It is easy to get “on a roll” and end up losing the kid halfway through the process.

3. Don’t bother asking, “Do you understand?” He probably won’t admit it either way. Just lay out the information as best you can. If you are good at reading your child, you can elaborate if need be.

4. This is a good time to explain society’s views on women, respect, pornography…just try to do it without making the kid feel belittled. Did I like that my son googled body parts? NO. Did I tell him I don’t want him to do it anymore? YES. Did I make him feel like a bad person? Absolutely not. Kids need guidance, and that’s what I gave him.

5. Refrain from what I call “Aesoping” even though it is very satisfying as a parent. This is basically when you say, “I told you so!” Kids learn from their experiences. You can certainly point out the learning, but don’t rub their nose in it. That only serves to make you feel bigger than he is. One-upping a child doesn’t make us better, it makes us bullies. And with a kid with autism, it makes him shut down.

Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m no Pollyanna. It’s not all roses and sunshine around here. I was floored when I found out my son had been …exploring google. It wasn’t easy. But instead of making it about me, and my parenting, and what I am doing right or wrong, I made it about my son. Having a child going through puberty is difficult. I can only hope I have set the groundwork for my son, and that if he does have questions later he can ask instead of looking in all the wrong places for answers.

All in all, it was a painless process for us both. But I have to admit: I am very glad that I only have one son! Somehow, talking to the girls is just so much easier.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Easter Bunny needs a new job, pretty sure he is over this egg-thing

Today dawned cold and rainy. I think there is some confusion as to our locale, hello? If I wanted to live in the Pacific NorthWET, I would move to Seattle, which is about as cool and hip as you can get, if you don't mind being a duck and/or being suicidal wet the majority of the time.

I personally do not like being either, so I live in beautiful, sunny (hello?!) Southern California. So.
Anyway...the bunny decided he doesn't like moist fur, so he waited until after noon to hide the eggs. And he was sneaky. I sent JNerd out out with JBean to get cookies for Easter brunch with our extended family. Then with the help of JBug, the eggs were "dealt with" and placed just so. Then I left in the van with JBug and JBear, calling JNerd so that he could return and she could "find" the bunny's handiwork. I came right back because I "forgot my wallet." Mission accomplished. I don't have one picture because I was protecting my camera from the wet conditions. But take my word for it, she had fun.

Afterwards, we headed over to my sister-in-law's who generously hosts all 18 of us for brunch. My ultra-cool brothers-in-law supplied amazing cocktails, which always makes things better. Good food, good conversation...I am very fortunate to have the family that I do. There is no way I can get a picture of all of us, so here are a few of the kids.

Happy Easter, to you and yours!!

Friday, April 22, 2011

It's Never a Good Day to Say Goodbye

Gregg at our first tweetupLast week, I said goodbye to a dear friend, Gregg Gallagher. He was a sweet man with a quick wit and an easy smile. He put the "social" in my "social media." He was the first person I met on twitter, and one of the first people I met in person from "the Cloud." (Not everyone is an ax murderer or an imaginary unicorn!) I attended a few meet-ups that he attended as well. Gregg was a connector. He enjoyed his friends, and he enjoyed creating circles of friends around him. He hosted potlucks, and Rock Band sessions...epic Rock Band sessions. We laughed, and ate and drank...and it was good. Because of him, I have a wonderful circle of friends. That's who Gregg was.

Before Christmas, he was diagnosed with cancer. He fought, and it looked like he was winning. But it continued to progress, quickly. A few months ago, we got together for a Rock Band party that none of us knew was going to be our last. Soon after, he was in the hospital. We visited him. He never went home again. He was transferred to a rehab facility, and though JNerd and I were able to visit him a few times there, he finally went to hospice in his son's home. I had hoped to visit him there, but he died soon afterwards. I regret that I didn't get to spend time with him all happened so fast!

He was a champion of social media, and few know that he was instrumental in bringing the internet to AT&T in the beginning. World Net was his baby, along with his team. His team won an award that sits in the Smithsonian because of it. He was the one who turned me on to the iPad. I was the one who talked him into getting his greyhound, Ares. "You need a dog, Gregg," I said.

Gregg's hobby was photography. I loved the way he saw the world. He helped me with my camera, and got me excited about taking pictures. Just after he died, I saw this picture again. The finality in it made me ache.

photo by Gregg Gallagher
The copy from the above photo is: "You may have gone back to school, but you'll be missing me come Spring Break."

You don't know how right you were, Gregg.
Last Saturday dawned warm and sunny. The perfect California day. We boarded a boat with some of Gregg's closest friends, who, because of Gregg, became our friends as well, and we laid him to rest. Afterwards, we had a luncheon at the Bluewater Grill, complete with a Guinness and some calamari for Gregg.

No one touched his Guinness.

To you, my friend. May you be at peace.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Another reason I haven't blarged

a week ago today I was bitten on the arm by a dog. I cannot type much, so will be back when it heals in a few days. Miss me!


Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Is this the blues or Spring Fever?

I don't know what's wrong with me, I just can't seem to keep my blog updated lately. I am not particularly depressed, but I am a bit burnt out, so that has something to do with it, no doubt. I am just not feeling it.

It just finished raining for two days here, with a break yesterday. Now it is raining again. I don't really like the rain, it's depressing. I don't know why, it just is. I am a sun kid, all the way. It is why I live in Southern California. I think I have always been very sensitive to weather.

When JNerd and I were first married, he had an opportunity to work for Microsoft. (this was before they were Uber-Evil) and I just knew I could not do Seattle weather. It rains there, what? 200 days out of the year? I would be suicidal in six months. We opted to stay in Southern California, and I think we are both very happy we did so. There are certainly trade offs. For the cost of our house here, we could have a mini-mansion in almost any other state. (Except Reston, VA, which is the only other place I ever considered moving..when JNerd worked for AOL years ago. The homes there cost as much as they do here, due to being so close to Washington D.C.)

Every once in a while, I see pictures of the seasons in other states that my friends post on facebook and think, "Wow, maybe we want that. The newf would love that weather!" And then I remember as a kid, watching my mother curse the snow and ice in Alaska as she bundled up and threw hot water on her car windshield, trying to get the ice to melt. I remember her chipping away with an ice scraper. I recall my dad, endlessly shoveling snow so that we could move the car, and I know I really don't want to deal with any of that!

So, here is where we stay. The weather is temperate, the people in my city are nice, and I like it here. I don't like the political climate, but unless I move to Vermont or Berkeley, that's not likely to change. I've learned to live with it, and bite my tongue...a lot.

I am not saying we would never move; if JNerd's job took us out of state, we would go. But this is home. It is the only home the kids have ever known. I have been here half my life now, but I am not bored. I am still finding areas I don't know. It is very easy to do so since the concentration of cities is so dense. Google Maps is a lifesaver! I am still learning city names, believe it or not!

Love it or leave it, it's home. And while the sky may let loose, I know the rain will soon come to an end, and it won't require a snow shovel, or boots or wool socks. So all of you out there in Maine, and Wyoming, and Nova Scotia, though I admire your pictures, I will live where my toes stay relatively warm!

T. who has cold feet, but a warm nose T.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Help for Christchurch after Earthquake

On Tuesday, Christchurch, New Zealand, one of the five largest cities in the country, was rocked by a 6.3 earthquake that caused buildings to collapse, leaving hundreds trapped and sixty-five dead, as of last count. Several aftershocks have left more damage in their wake, and the people of Christchurch sit on pins and needles waiting for what’s to come.

Last September, a series of earthquakes tore through Christchurch, weakening buildings, but little else. This time, the damage is far and widespread. Buildings that have been standing for hundreds of years have crumbled under the weight of this quake. Large cracks in the roads have appeared. California? This? Could be US.

I know, not my usual upbeat, humorous piece. But you see, I was just in Christchurch, last year. I fell in love with the historic old city, and I am so saddened to see what has happened there. And what do politically conscious, social media types do when we feel like we can’t do anything? We write. We publicize. So.

If you feel that you might want to help, you can give to the

Red Cross NZ

if you want to follow trends on twitter:

#NiewZeeland (Dutch)
And I, for one, will remember my beloved Christchurch like this:

In time, buildings can be rebuilt. The people of Christchurch? Well, that's another thing entirely.

Monday, February 21, 2011

A Morning with my Eldest

Teenagers R Hard.
cartoon: xkcd

Saturday, February 19, 2011

What the hell was I thinking?

Seems I am always apologizing for not writing more often these days. I have a really, really good excuse this time, though. So be nice to me, I am an emotional basket case currently.

Poppy, my Newfoundland, is now 13 months old, and it was time for her to be spayed. I did all due diligence, and trust my vet implicitly. We decided, at the same time, to do what is known as a "gastropexy" which is basically a stomach tack. The stomach is moved about 1.5 inches, and stitched to the abdominal wall. It sounds barbaric, but I assure you, it is actually helpful. Some background:

Broad-chested dogs can have a problem that we refer to as "bloat." This means that the stomach fills with gas, and cannot escape. Often when this happens, the stomach twists, which is called torsion. It cuts off the blood supply and you have roughly a half-hour to get the dog to the vet, or you are going to lose her. Bloat is a concern, because we really don't know what causes it. Some say elevated feeding bowls, some say bowls on the floor. Too much water, stress... there are many thoughts, but no one really can pinpoint which dog will suffer from it. So while we had her there for her spay, we went ahead and had the gastropexy done, as well. If it keeps her alive, it was worth it.

Now that you know that, you will better understand the next part. The day we brought her home, within two hours I could tell she was in pain. So I drove the 30 minutes back to the vet's office to get her medicine. That first night, she was drugged out of her mind, but didn't have a lot of pain. By Friday, she had some pain but it seemed mostly controlled. She wouldn't stop licking, so we bought a "cone of shame" and put it on her for nighttime, since we couldn't watch her while we were sleeping. The rest of that night, she would alternatively wake up crashing around, or just stand and refuse to lie down. For two nights now, I have been awoken with an adrenalin rush because she refuses to settle for long. I am exhausted. Luckily, today is Saturday, and JNerd let me sleep in once the dog finally collapsed into sleep.

Skip to now. Today, Saturday, she is in pain. Panting, and standing, pacing a bit. She is eating, so that's good. I drove to the vet's office again and picked up an anti-inflammatory, to try bring down the swelling. Poor thing will lie down, and then jump back up quickly. I think the incision or the razor burn are very uncomfortable. If she isn't better tomorrow, I will be bringing her to the vet. She is absolutely NOT herself, at all. I wish there was more I could do. Her meds are delivered via vanilla ice cream, the thing she loves more than anything in the world. At least there is that bright spot in all of this. But honestly?

I am worried.

Friday, February 04, 2011

How do I stay sane?

"Mama HOW do you stay sane?" My eldest asked me this today after a marathon day that included my twelve-year old's belligerence, my youngest's obsessive behavior, a glitter mishap that looked like a fairy crime scene, fits, complaints and just overall needneedneed. I looked at her and said, "I drink." Of course I was joking. Luckily, she knew it, too.

But I started thinking, how do I remain sane in the face of two with autism, one who is turning into a testosterone-infected teenaged boy before my very eyes? Sometimes, it isn't easy. I guess I have a choice, you know? I can fall apart and cry, rail at the universe, and curl up in a fetal position (which I do end up doing upon occasion). Or? I can just take deep, cleansing breaths, try to give hugs, and get on with my day. Hugs are a stretch for me. I am not a touchy-feely person by nature. I tend to ball up into my shell when I am feeling stressed. But God, in his infinite humor, sent me a child who needs that closeness. If she is feeling on-edge, that is the first thing she wants. Me? I want quiet solitude. Funny how kids stretch us.

How do I remain sane? I take time for myself, no matter what. Even if it is just five minutes, stolen in the bathroom ("The door is NOT a speaker!") or the rendition of my favorite song by the Pogues. I close my eyes, and For sometimes 30 seconds at a time. But it gets me through.

How do I remain sane? When my husband is home, I take the dog to the dog park, 5 days a week, sometimes 6. It is the place I feel happiest. I like the people there, and I like watching the dogs. It keeps my dog tired and content. It is my stress relief. When he isn't home, I load up the kids and the dog, and go walking in a nearby park. It isn't nearly as relaxing, listening to the litany of questions, comments and obervations from a nice-year-old who is just never quiet, but it is easier than being at home.

How do I remain sane? This helps, a lot:

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