A Visit From Gramma

Wednesday night I dreamed of my grandmother. I was outside on a patio, in bright sun, there were people milling around, and then…. there she was in front of me, dressed in all white. All white cotton, and a white sun hat. I was overjoyed and I hugged her and started to cry. I had not seen her in such a long time.

She smiled and hugged me back, her bony frame just as it always was. Petite and strong. It felt so familiar to be with her. It also felt like relief. Like she’d been lost to me and I’d found her.

Pulling back from our embrace to study her face, I asked, “How long can you stay?”

She smiled gently and replied, “I’m going to be here for nine years.”

Thrilled, I hugged her even harder.

My grandmother died in 1997 and this was my first dream visit with her. I can only imagine what the next nine years have in store for me, but with her help, I know I can do anything.

Chihuahua Love

Yippeepalooza.

I’m in love with a Chihuahua. You want to make something of it?

It was so unexpected.

He’s just so darned handsome. How’s a girl supposed to resist? All the rumors about his kind have proven to be untrue. He only barks when appropriate…when someone comes to the door, etc. Sure, he isn’t too keen on people who aren’t family. He’s not going to let a stranger pick him up or pet him, but would you? His trust must be earned, but with us… he’s a total snuggle bug.

He loves long walks. Fetch. Standing on his hind legs and spinning in a circle. Wrestling Jingle. French kissing (we’ve all learned the hard way).

Seth has not spent a night without him since September. First thing he does when he enters the house is pick up Yippee and kiss his forehead. They are so close. I’ve read the average lifespan of a male Chihuahua is 14-18 years. He might just define Seth’s entire childhood and be with him into adulthood.

May it be so.

Tiny Chat

My Photo

Some of you who read this blog are no doubt familiar with Lydia of the wonderful Autistic Speaks blog. Lydia is great at instant message, but sometimes becomes overwhelmed in real life conversation. IM is a wonderful way for her to communicate with others and for others to learn more about her. If you love IM and would like to chat with Lydia do consider joining her new tiny chat group. She’s a good egg.

Reiki from Riley

At camp a couple of years ago, Riley learned about Reiki. She knows how to send her good energy out to anyone who might need it. At church recently, the kids learned more about it, and this is a picture she made to represent herself sending healing energy out into the world.

Call it Reiki. Call it prayer. Call it being present. Anytime we take a moment to stop and think about others with loving intention, it not only benefits the people we are doing it for, but also ourselves.

I asked Riley to send Reiki to all who read this.

You’ve been blessed, by one of the sweetest.

Love.

Counting My Blessings

On Thursday Riley had a cold, and did not feel up to Girls on the Run. There had been some discord in the group while I was away and I was prepared to give them a stern talking to, so I was more than happy to let Riley stay home because she certainly would have taken it personally, even though she was not one of the ones acting out.

Girls on the Run wound up going really well. I walked home after it feeling good. My street is a very long street. I could see them way before they ever saw me. Riley and Seth were out in the yard, playing. She was twirling and running around happily. He was in his fedora, every now and then his play interrupted by a sudden burst of MJ moves.

Seeing them from far away…I smiled. With each step my heart just felt fuller and fuller.

The thought that went through my mind was this:

“There are two of the best people on the planet.”

And I know I’m their mom, and I might perhaps be a teeny bit biased, but they are really, really good kids. I am so blessed to get to have that thought. I am so blessed to get to be their mother.

Parents….you are enough.

While in LA, I met up with some friends, (more on them in a later post) who mentioned Elaine Hall of The Miracle Project. I was familiar with Hall because I’d done a review on Autism the Musical for Age of Autism a couple of years back. It is a wonderful documentary. So she was on my mind when I got home, and I googled her, and up pops her blog with this gorgeous message: “Dayenu.”

For Hall’s full post on this video click here.

Take a breath.

Then another.

We are all enough.

Love.

The Makepeace Brothers and other good things

The Makepeace Brothers performed at the Agape Revelations Conference.

Listen to their song Thank You here. They are dreamy young men with a sound similar to Paul Simon.

Talk about a rampage of appreciation!

It was so good to go to the conference, and it is so good to be back. I’ve spent the last 24 hours breathing in my children and my husband.  One of the processes Abraham recommended at the conference was to enter any situation and find ten things to appreciate about it. So…I’m sitting in my kitchen presently, and here we go:

1) I love my childrens’ art all over the walls.

2) I love the black and white photo of my grandmother and my brother Donny when he was three. He is so little and adorable and I loved my grandmother.

3) I love the back story behind the photo, how Donny’s twin refused to be in the picture. He was mad at Gramma. I love that even then, he stood his ground and knew who he was.

4) I love the water cooler/filter that gives us pure clean water to drink without ever having to lug jugs around.

5) I love my baking stones, acquired over the years. A sheet, a muffin tin, a pizza stone. Heavy as hell, all piled on the shelf above my oven.

6) I love the clay plates the kids made. We use them a lot.

7) I love the string art Riley has been making with her tutor and I love how she is handling her emotions when she gets frustrated doing it.

8) I love the mats under the dog bowls, because they remind me of the concert we had to raise money for Jingle and all the love that poured toward us the second we surrendered and asked for help.

9) I love how Riley is playing Lego with her brother and how she is willing to join him in his passions.

10) I love my computer, and how easy it is to take and download pictures.

Ten things.

Easy.

And it really lifts your mood.

Gotta go read Harry Potter with the kids. We’re starting book four today. Wishing you a delicious day, filled with wonderful things to appreciate.

Love.

The Source Which Created the Universe and Everything In It, Doesn’t Play Favorites

What would your life be like if you knew, really knew God loved you as much as everybody else?

This was a question (paraphrased) posed by Hans Christian King, one of the speakers at the conference I just attended. Hans had an amazing presence. People asked him questions, and he countered their inquiries with so much love…some of them squirmed, and tried to kind of move away from it. Not physically, but they’d start rambling or jump to a new question and he would interrupt them and bring them back, and force them to really be in the love,

“Wait a minute,” he’d say. “I’m loving you.”

Yowza.

(I’m pretty sure this is the first “yowza” I’ve used in all the years of my blog).

It was really powerful. Most of us are uncomfortable with that kind of full out loving attention. Plus there were about a thousand people in the room, more reason to squirm.

So, yowza. I just remembered there was a dance party Sat. and there was some disco going on and some “Freaking OUT!” and some “YOWZA, YOWZA, YOWZA” which put the fun word in my brain.  I love brains. They are so fun, and mysterious, how they work.

At the dance party Sat. I saw Hans standing on the wall. Everyone was dancing. Ricky Byers was playing some mo-town music,

“We’re having a party. Everybody’s singing. Listnin’ to the music, on the radio….”

In my joy I bopped over to Hans and asked him if he wanted to dance. He kindly said, no, and reminded me of his bum leg. Standing along the wall, I put my arm around him and did a little bopping, and he politely excused himself. SMACKDOWN! The whole exchange took about 30 seconds. I walked away feeling ashamed and began berating myself.

I shouldn’t have done that.

He was having a good time, and probably has had hundreds of conference participants globbing onto him. He’s probably tired of it.

Wasn’t he using some kind of cane the other day? How thoughtless of me to ask him to dance!

I pushed it aside, and continued dancing and having fun…but deep in the back of my mind, or maybe not too far back at all….the self-criticism remained.

After the party, alone in my room…my ego came back full force. But I was at a conference about unconditional love. That’s what Agape means. I stood in the bathroom, looked in the mirror and said,

“NO.”

“Is that the best you’ve got ego? Is that the worst thing I’ve done lately? Then I’m doing pretty damn well aren’t I?”

And just like any bully, my ego slunk away when called out on the table.

I refuse to be mean to myself anymore.

God loves me as much as anyone else.

Whoops.

Today was glorious, sunny…blue skies. This afternoon I stood out on my balcony brushing my hair, when I noticed my brush had accumulated a bunch of hair in it. So I pulled the hair out of the bristles, and tossed it over the railing, thinking it would land in the grass 17 stories below. Then I watched the wind catch that wad of hair, and take it gently onto the balcony just below mine. I thought of the people in that room. How gross for them.

I prayed they weren’t actually on the balcony. I didn’t hear anything resembling cries of disgust. Whew!

I’ve thought about it all day. The way it wafted gracefully.

LA may never have me back.

Lost and Found

A woman at the conference lost her purse. When it was found, the $630.00 which had been in it was missing. Rev. Michael Bernard Beckwith made an announcement about this at the dinner banquet last night, and asked the participants to each chip in a couple of bucks.

Her problem was solved in very short time. There was more than enough.

The extra money, will go to the offering basket at today’s service…to fund community projects at Agape.

Pretty cool.

The Universe is abundant.

All is well….

Green mat, third in on the left, closest row.

I’m in LA. Typing this from my balcony on the 17th floor. The picture was taken yesterday at 7AM from my friend Kathy’s room. We are at the Agape International Spiritual Center’s Revelations Conference. Amazing speakers. Incredible music. Abraham was here today. So much to take in. So much expansion. So much love here. The energy is incredible.

I’ve met many wonderful people. I’ve been prayed for. I’ve been massaged. I’ve had energy work done on me. I’ve been singing and dancing.

I’ve talked to my Hot Toddy and the kiddos on the phone, and felt the love from there. I am so very full right now.

My life is a good life.

And it is only getting better.

I love my family. I love my friends. I love the breeze blowing through my hair. I love my understanding of spirituality.  I love knowing I am one of God’s perfect ideas, and so are you. I love the sounds of happy people swimming in the pool 17 stories below. I love knowing I will be going to a banquet tonight, and there will be music. GOOD music, and I love knowing I’ll be dancing.

Ripples and ripples of appreciation for it all.

Amen.

Yippity Snip

This is the face of someone who is about to be neutered. We’ve held off, because the thought of complications, the thought of anything happening to this dog… let’s just say Seth lives for him. It would be bad. I know….it’s silly to worry about it. Dogs get neutered every day. Not a big deal.

But recently young Yip lifted his leg at the corner of my bed. My bellow of “NOOOOOOOOOOOO,” stopped him before he peed, but how many other little marks has be left around when we weren’t looking? And…last night I saw him humping Jingle’s arm. She was just lying on the floor, holding it out for him, ever accommodating. He comes up to her shin, but whatever.

He’s a darling dog. A snuggly little guy, who adores his people, and can’t bear to be out of our sight.

Hopefully he’ll still feel the same way about us after the snip snip.

Wish him luck.

En-lak’ech Ala-kin

On Sunday at church, Rev. Tony gave a talk about the concept of “what I see in other people is actually something active in myself.”

He spoke of “form vs. content,” a concept in A Course in Miracles, and gave this example: Two people are at a party, both of them feeling unworthy. One might retreat into a corner and hope no one notices them. The other, having the same sense of unworthiness might feel the need to call all the attention to themselves, wearing a lampshade on their head, etc. The “form” is different, but the “content” is the same.

He went on to say, any time you feel an emotional charge around a person or a situation…whatever you dislike about them, is active in you. You might express it differently, but the underlying emotions are there. The classic example which came to mind for me is the bully/victim relationship. Both feel weak and afraid. The bully deals with feelings of weakness, by picking on someone else who appears vulnerable.

And isn’t it always the cheaters who are the jealous ones? Show me a very jealous person and I’ll show you someone who can’t be trusted. Hello mirror.

The following video is the meditation which followed Rev. Tony’s talk. He asks you to picture someone you hold a grievance against. It starts out dark, for meditation, and then lights go up as the music starts.

A year ago Riley helped me overcome my fear of singing. Around seven minutes in, Riley and I get up on stage with our friend Kathy and sing a song we heard while taking part in Ohio treasure Hal Walker’s Intergenerational Peace Choir a few months ago. Walker wrote it based on a Mayan greeting, En-lak’ech Ala-kin, which means, “I am you, and you are me.”

I am your self.

The great news is, it works both ways. It’s not just grievances. The good you see in others is active in you. The beauty you see in others is the beauty in you. The kindness is your kindness. The love is your own love reflected back.

Come meditate with us, won’t you? Come here us sing. It’s not perfect, but I guarantee, what you see in it will be the perfect reflection of you.

Love.

* You can download Hal Walker singing this song and more Hal Walker music at CD Baby. Or visit his website for more info on Hal and his music.

Pillow Talk

The other night, I turned out the light, then requested HT spoon closer.

“How can I get closer?” he asked.

“I want your molecules, all smashed up against mine,” I said.

He snuggled in a bit more. After about ten seconds of this I had a hot flash. Throwing off the blankets I said,

“Blow on my neck.”

“What?” HT asked.

“Blow on my neck,” I said, my hand holding the hair up off the back of my neck in the dark.

“Did you just say, “Blow on my neck?”

“Yes.”

“Blow on your neck?” he asked again, incredulous.

“What part of BLOW ON MY NECK do you not understand?” I implored.

At which point he cracked up. We both did.

He went on, “So if I said something like…lick my elbow…don’t you think you’d ask…what a couple of times?”

I’ll admit, it was a slightly odd request.

But blow he did. Eventually.

We couldn’t stop laughing.

“Shhh…you’re going to wake up the kids.”

Drifting off to sleep, my neck was cool, and my belly hurt from laughing.

It was a really good way to fall asleep.

Friday Rampage of Appreciation

I’m feeling kinda in love with life today. It was the first day of the new homeschool co-op session. I am teaching a Lego class:

Seth preparing borrowed Lego, getting ready for the class (JACKPOT)!

It went well. We worked on two dimensional projects today. We’re going to slip in some architecture concepts, careers in Lego, and lots of challenges, but mostly it is just fun. Lego literally means “play well,” and I plan on sticking with that theme. I am getting a lot of ideas from Lego Quest Kids. I appreciate the website so much! If you have Lego lovers in your house I highly recommend it for ideas.

Seth's creation (MJ-because obsessions aren't just for Asperger's)

Hot Toddy has arranged his schedule so he can come to co-op most days

In the afternoon block, Riley is taking a puzzles and games class. They did some brain teasers, then moved onto a charades type of game, and in the middle of it, she dismissed me. She did the “come here” motion with her index finger and whispered in my ear,

“Mom. I don’t think I need you in here.”

It was awesome!

I let her go to a scrap booking class last session by herself (me out in the hall within earshot) because it was small. Just one other kid, and two instructors. This class had about eight kids. She did great, even getting up and doing the charades, and dealing with it when people weren’t guessing what she was acting out. I held my breath for a second…she was clearly feeling worried and on the spot, but she got through it on her own. It was after that, when she gloriously gave me the boot.

Also this week….Riley’s Spanish tutor is 70. She has taught homeless men, juvenile delinquents, those with dementia, and those with autism. She uses art and music. She told me she prayed for just the right client and here Riley is. This sweet woman stood in front of me and told me my child is the answer to her prayer. Any parent would love that, but this mom, who remembers her darling girl getting kicked out of preschool…it balms those wounds. We all want our kids to be included and loved.

We had homeschool book group this week. Such a great group of 8-10 year olds. We read Frindle, by Andrew Clements, about a boy who has the idea of inventing his own word. The kids were so enthusiastic and I have to say they stay on subject better than the adults in most of the books groups I have been in! Various moms take turns hosting at their houses (we don’t have it at our house because of cat allergies) and I lead the discussion. The best of both worlds for me. I get to lead the book group, which I love, but don’t have to clean for the occasion!

Speaking of “the best of both worlds,” this is the phrase I have coined for going to bed, backing up to Todd in a spoon position, stealing his body heat. He falls asleep while I read. We get to snuggle. I get to read. It’s “the best of both worlds.” One of life’s greatest blessings.

Okay, I’m gonna wrap it up before I make you gag if it’s not already too late.

May you have a beautiful and blessed weekend.

Lovingly yours,

MO’N

Autism on PBS

Subject: PBS Press Release: Autism Today

Importance: High
Robert MacNeil returns to PBS NEWSHOUR to report on Autism Today
6-part series airs during Autism Awareness Month
April 18 – 26, 2011
ARLINGTON, VA (March 29, 2011) – Autism – it’s a developmental disorder that has become increasingly prevalent, affecting 1 out of 110 American children. Despite years of study, little is known about its cause and access to treatment varies. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of American families hungry for answers struggle to care for the unique needs of children with the disorder. Among them, Robert MacNeil, co-founder of the PBS NewsHour and grandfather of Nick, a 6-year old boy with autism.
“I’ve been a reporter on and off for 50 years, but I’ve never brought my family into a story … until Nick,” MacNeil said, “because he moves me deeply.”
MacNeil and producer Caren Zucker tell the story of Autism Today in a 6-part broadcast series beginning Monday, April 18, 2011 and a robust online component where viewers can join the conversation. Ms. Zucker has produced many stories on autism and is the mother of a 16-year old son with autism.
Monday, April 18 An introduction to Nick and autism as a whole body experience: MacNeil brings viewers along on a visit with his daughter and grandson Nick in Cambridge, Massachusetts, to see how autism affects the whole family, including his 10-year-old sister, Neely. Nick experiences autism not just as a disorder in brain development but also as physical ailments affecting the whole body.
Tuesday, April 19 Autism Prevalence: Why are the numbers of children with autism increasing? At the UC Davis MIND Institute in Sacramento, California, MacNeil sees the wide range of different behaviors that comprise the autism spectrum. Anthropologist Richard Grinker argues that the rising numbers of children with autism is explained because conditions previously given other names, like mental retardation, are now included in the autism spectrum. Scientist Irva Hertz-Picciotto says the wider definition only partly explains the increased prevalence, pointing instead to a variety of environmental factors.
Wednesday, April 20 Autism Causes: The rise in autism numbers has caused a surge in research to find the causes. For the latest thinking, Robert MacNeil speaks with four leading researchers: Dr. Gerald Fischbach of the Simons Foundation, Dr. David Amaral of the MIND Institute, Dr. Martha Herbert of Harvard University and Dr. Craig Newschaffer of Drexel University.
Thursday, April 21 Autism Treatment: Although children with autism see doctors periodically, they go to school everyday. It is the school system that bears most of the burden of treating children with autism because treatment means education. MacNeil visits two schools in New York – a public school in the Bronx teaching 700 children with autism and a charter school created in Manhattan as a model of possibilities in educating children with autism. With only 30 students, it can use one-on-one teacher/student ratios employing intensive Applied Behavioral Analysis – the gold standard treatment for autism.
Monday, April 25 Adults with Autism: Although federal law mandates educational services for children with autism, there are virtually no services when they become adults. MacNeil profiles Zachary Hamrick in Mahwah, New Jersey, about to turn 21. As his family contemplates the uncertain future now facing hundreds of thousands of young people like him, his parents ask themselves, “What will happen when we die?”
Tuesday, April 26 Autism Policy: The NewsHour series ends with a discussion of the public policy issues raised in the series, including the enormous discrepancy in the quality and availability of services for children and future adults in what the federal committee that determines research priorities for autism now calls a “national health emergency” with a panel of experts including: Dr. Thomas Insel, Director of the National Institute of Mental Health, Catherine Lord, Professor of Psychology, Pediatrics and Psychiatry at the University of Michigan, Ilene Lainer, Executive Director of the New York Center for Autism – a private advocacy group, and John Shestack, a Hollywood producer and the co-founder of “Cure Autism Now” a former advocacy group.
PBS NEWSHOUR will host an online content hub that will offer easy access to video of all the pieces in the series, as well as web-only features that are part of Autism Today, including:
First Look Online: In a brand new online-on-air cross promotion, check the NewsHour’s website after each night’s broadcast during the week April 18: We’ll post the next chapter in the Autism Today series online by 7pm ET.
·         Autism 101 – A primer on autism, how it’s diagnosed, the spectrum of disorders, and available resources. We’ll also look at the costs of austim, through the lens of the families profiled in the series and others.
·         The Story of Donald – A new look at Caren Zucker and John Donvan’s profile of the first child diagnosed with autism as reported in The Atlantic.
·         Live Chat with Experts – Viewers can ask their questions directly to the experts and doctors profiled in the broadcast segments via live text chat moderated by PBS NEWSHOUR digital correspondent Hari Sreenivasan.
·         Ask Robin MacNeil – Hari Sreenivasan will preview the series with Robin MacNeil in a special interview on the Rundown news blog. MacNeil will also answer viewer questions after the series concludes.
·         Join us on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook: We want to hear how you or those you know are coping with autism. Use the Twitter hashtag #autismtoday to ask questions or join the conversation on the series.
PBS NEWSHOUR is seen five nights a week on more than 315 PBS stations across the country and is also available online, via public radio in select markets and via podcast. The program is produced by MacNeil/Lehrer Productions, in association with WETA Washington, DC, and THIRTEEN in New York. Major corporate funding for The NewsHour is provided by Chevron, Bank of America and Intel, with additional support from the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and public television viewers.

Contact: Anne Bell 703.998.2175, Rob Flynn 703.998.2174.

There are also 890 references/links that come up when you do a search for autism on the PBS television website

Virtual Choir

Okay, I know this is really gorgeous, but it’s also somehow unsettling to me. Yes, the music is hauntingly beautiful. But I have to admit, the balls floating around with all those faces in the videos do wig me out a bit. All those heads bobbing around reminds me of the pictures hanging on the walls in Harry Potter, where the people in the paintings are alive.

It also drives home the fact that we are, have already, moved into a different world. It makes me think of a time in the future, when the earth is uninhabitable and we’re all floating on space ships or something. Perhaps Mommy’s watched too much Wall-E? I heard somewhere recently (was it Gayle King on XM radio?) that people today receive 300 times more information in a day, than they used to in an entire lifetime.

Technology.

I love it. I love how we can connect with people all over the world, but it seems vitally important to deliberately make time to back away from the screen and connect with real people. And I know that sentiment isn’t anything new. We all say it. And I am a big offender of too much computer time.

It’s just, no matter how beautiful a “virtual” choir is, you can’t beat the real thing.

But then again, that kind of thinking is limited. It isn’t either/or, it’s AND and MORE.

In the ever evolving expansion of the Universe, there is room for it all.

We get to have both. We get to have everything.

And that is good.

Fill in the ________.

One of the songs we are doing in Windsong this season is called Stand. One of the lyrics in Stand is…

“It starts with a whisper, the smallest I am.”

When we were working on this song in rehearsal my friend Jan scribbled, on a piece of paper, “That line reminds me of Horton Hears a Who.” (Of course she did this when Karen our director was working with a different section…we second sopranos are always paying attention at rehearsal).

I scribbled back “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

Jan scribbled back,

“A person’s a person, no matter how _________.”

Fill in the blank.

Perfection.

And since we’re on a Dr. Seuss roll, the following is an e-mail exchange between HT and I last night.

He worked evening shift yesterday, and earlier I had whipped up a nice dinner for him(not a daily occurrence but he sure appreciates it when it happens), packed it up and sent him off to work. Later, I received this e-mail:

I ate my dinner and it was delish. Thank you very much. I appreciate you so very much and think you are the greatest. I hope you have a good night and I’ll talk to you later.

I replied with this:

Would you love me on a boat?

Would you love me on a float?

Would you love me though I bloat?

He shot back:

I would love you on a boat, on a float, and in a moat. I would love you on a train, in the rain or on a trip to Spain.

Note the glossing over of the bloat situation.

Well played, Todd O’Neil.