All you unmarried gals, see what you’re missing?

Drying off from my shower, HT is stretched out on the bed. We’re chatting, all light hearted when I catch a glimpse of toes. His toenails specifically.

“Your toenails are atrocious, and they’re a hazard,” I scowl.

“A hazard to whom?” he feigns innocence.

“To me.”

“They’re not a hazard.”

“You’re not the one having to go to the ER for stitches.”

“You haven’t needed stitches.” He chuckles, then adds, “Yet.”

Swear to God, he’s sleeping in socks tonight.

And to think I almost didn’t stop at the BMV

I had some running around to do, and driving down the road, out of the corner of my eye, I saw The Bureau of Motor Vehicles as I passed it. My birthday is coming up and my license expires on it. In Ohio they don’t send out any warning. Todd learned this the hard way in May, so I wasn’t taking any chances. I hadn’t planned on it, but figured I might as well get it done, while I was out and about.

I swung into the next lot, and made my way over to the BMV. (In NY state, where I come from, it’s called the DMV, department vs. bureau). Anyway….I went in, and it took less than five minutes. A miracle, I know.

But wait! There’s more!

I’m generally not a photogenic person, but my driver’s license picture looks good. It’s probably the best picture ever taken of me. Including the photos on my wedding day. It’s like they photoshopped it. On my new license, I’m a freaking supermodel. I came home and shoved it in Todd’s face, “You have a hot wife,” is what I said.

He looked at it all, yowza! with his eyes.

Then I remembered this one other time in college when my photo I.D. came out good. Everywhere I went from the book store, to the cafeteria, to the dive bars where bouncers checked with flashlights, people would look at the ID, do a double take, and say, “This barely even looks like you!”

It hurt.

Luckily, I don’t get carded much any more.

Treat Him Like a Rottweiler

We were having a problem with Jingle. She’d started to become aggressive with other dogs when we were out on walks. She used to love every dog in the neighborhood. Now she’s snarling at them, showing her teeth, the second they start to sniff. We deduced it had something to do with Yippee the Chihuahua. Was she protecting him? He’s full of bravado but he’s less than ten pounds. Does she think he’s in danger?

We started walking them separately, but Jingle continued snapping at other dogs she used to be thrilled to see.

I took her out in the back yard one morning to do her business, and as I watched her sniff around, I thought, “I wish I could get inside her head. I wish I knew what was upsetting her. I wish I could talk to some kind of dog whisperer.”

While were were out, while I was having this wishful thinking about Jingle, someone was commenting on my blog. Someone who had interviewed us back in July for a news station in Denver. Someone who is a pet intuitive, though I didn’t know she was a pet communicator ’til I came inside and clicked on her link!

I made an appointment for the following week.

Before I could keep it, the very next day, a neighbor was over and her sister happened to be in town, and the sister used to be a dog trainer. She gave me a lot of insight into what was going on.

She believed the problem behind Jingle was Yippee. And the problem behind Yippee, was me.

While out on walks, Yippee barks and lunges and it’s really quite ridiculous, since he’s afraid of his own shadow. I don’t take it seriously and don’t correct him, because I can control his leash with one finger, and just yank him back. The thing is, Jingle does take him seriously, and if he’s misbehaving, and he isn’t being corrected, then in her mind, he’s the boss. He’s the alpha. And even if she really wants to listen to me, she can’t, because in a pack, you listen to the Alpha. So Yippee has all this fear, and barks and lunges at the other dogs, and Jingle follows suit. And now she’s actually taken on the fear and the behavior. Our neighbor’s sister said we need to treat Yippee the same as we would if he were a Rottweiler.

Who, me?

Next, it was time to talk to Marianne, the pet intuitive. If you don’t believe in things like intuition or psychic abilities feel free to run along. I’ve personally had experiences which lead me to believe there is a lot more going on in the Universe than what we understand with our five senses, so I am open to it.

This is how it works. You send her pics of the pets and she communicates with them and asks them questions and also tells them things we want them to know. Whether it would turn out to be legit or not, it was not too expensive, so we thought it would be worth it to try.

Jingle:
She said Jingle is exasperated with Yippee, appalled by his bad manners and needs regular breaks from him. I can’t imagine why?


She said Jingle is overwhelmed and confused with the Yippee situation and also with her role as a service dog as Riley becomes more and more independent. We have not been taking her out in public as much because Riley has not needed her as much and she doesn’t understand why she’s being left behind.

Yippee: She said Yippee truly believes in his heart, he and Seth are brothers.

Like a cocky (yet inwardly insecure) frat boy, he is happily running the show, and could benefit from some time in training, learning manners, tricks, agility, etc. to challenge him and allow him to use his brilliant mind for good and not evil.

Sam: 

Sam is our gray cat, and as you can see he has an eating disorder. He eats anything and everything. He ate my curtains. He eats the rubber pad underneath the treadmill. He eats paper bags. He eats plants. He eats cardboard boxes. He eats shoe laces. He chews stuffed animals. We got him and our calico at a shelter as kittens and believe he was probably weaned too soon.

Sam also wants to go out. He tries to slip out the front door all the time. We made the decision to have Sam and his sister Tanya strictly “indoor” a fear based decision, after our beloved cat Crystal was mangled in our back yard. Then we had them de-clawed because they were destroying all the woodwork in the house. In hindsight, I would risk it and let them be outside, and not de-claw. So now, the dilemma, let Sam out? Without his front claws? It would help his restlessness (and his girth). Some of our neighbors’ cats are outdoor and de-clawed. They tell me cats use their back claws for fighting and the front ones don’t matter so much.

So I asked the intuitive this: Is it worth it to Sam, to take the risk and have the freedom? She answered for him, “Yes.”  (I had only sent a face shot to her, so she hadn’t even seen his impressive derriere).

Tanya:

Tanya is our chronically pissed off cat. She’s the one who chased the stray kitten under Seth’s box spring and would not let it out. She terrorized the poor thing. She struts around the house, flicking her tail like she’s just so irritated. She is LOUD. Demanding. Strikingly beautiful. Marianne said Tanya feels like the leftover pet. The one we pay attention to last. She had Riley all to herself before Jingle and now she’s an afterthought. She said she doesn’t like having to sleep downstairs in the basement at night (we make her because she wakes up at the crack of dawn meowing and we were losing too many hours of sleep). Since talking with Marianne, we’ve been trying to give her more attention and it seems to be helping. We typically had to chase her around the house to get her in the basement and the past few nights she’s been walking downstairs voluntarily.

So that’s it in a nutshell. Lots to think about.

Overwhelmed? Me too. When you clump it all together like that, it’s a lot. But in the course of a day, two happy dogs keep two happy kids company. Two cats lounge lazily in sunbeams. It isn’t as bad as it seems. Yippee is taking direction, being forced to sit and mind, rather than bark at passersby. Jingle is getting breaks, and eating separatly from the “Rottweiler.” We still have a lot of work to do, and we’ll never get it all done. Everyone’s needs won’t always be met. Human needs will always come first, but we’ll do our best to make the critters happy.

We love our animals.

Pray for us.

Amen.

Glee – You’re on Notice

Shuffling out of my bedroom still half asleep, I’m greeted by my bright-eyed tween with her usual morning after questions.

“Did you watch Glee?”

It’s our Tuesday night assignment. She can’t watch Glee ’til we’ve watched Glee and screened it. And she might explode if she doesn’t get to watch it, today. She’s as “hopelessly devoted” to Glee as I was to Grease when I was her age. Only more so.

I hug her tight and she stands on her tip-toes, arms around my waist. The tip-toes are to make herself taller than me. It’s new, and she can’t stop doing it. We look at each other eye to eye.

“We need to talk about Glee.”

“Was it appropriate?” She asks, hopefully.

“Well, most of it was okay, but there was a part that really upset me.”

Her face drops. I call her father and brother into the room. Todd and I talked for hours the night before about how to address this and I can’t say we’ve really figured it out.

“Riley, you know how sometimes kids with Asperger’s, when they are having a hard time, they can be misunderstood and people think they are brats?”

She nods.

“I mean, even Dad and I didn’t get it at first, right? When you were little?”

She waits for more.

“Well last night on Glee, there was this new character, who behaved really badly, and said because she had self-diagnosed Asperger’s, she was entitled to act like a brat.”

“What did she do?”

“She insulted the Glee club, and even though she wasn’t talented, she felt she should be the star of the show, and she was really mean and rude.”

Todd adds, “She might not have really had Asperger’s, we’re not sure, but was using the diagnosis, as an excuse for her bad behavior.”

Riley looks back and forth to each of us.

I continue, “And we really were mad about it, because it’s not fair to stereotype kids with Asperger’s like that. You have Asperger’s and you would never act that way. You are never cruel. You don’t think the world owes you favors. That’s one of the reasons I love writing about you, because it gives people an understanding of how sweet kids with Asperger’s are. You’re a great ambassador for Asperger’s.”

Neither child knows what an ambassador is, so we explain the concept, while inwardly I question whether that’s a bit much to put on a child. Will I ever feel like I’m not winging the parenting thing? Ugh!

Seth nods along, affirming his sister’s awesome ambassador worthiness.

Riley listens intently, then says, “Maybe the writers didn’t mean to depict Asperger’s in a bad way.”

That’s my kind hearted girl, always giving people the benefit of the doubt.

Todd says, “Maybe not. And maybe they’ll take the story line further and explain more about what Asperger’s really is in future episodes. We don’t know.”

Her face suddenly twists up with worry.

“Can we just assume they aren’t talking about me?” she asks, her voice rising a couple of octaves.

The second agreement from The Four Agreements pops into my mind. Don’t take anything personally. Could I just assume they aren’t talking about Riley? Could it really be that easy?

Somehow I feel I have to protect her from what the world thinks of Asperger’s. She’s not rude. She’s not lacking empathy. She’s not robotic. I hate those stereotypes. And I’m not sure Riley really understands the repercussions for kids like her if negative stereotypes about Asperger’s are propagated unchecked in our society.

But then again, I know how pushing against something makes it bigger. Why not just let Riley do her thing, and continue to touch the people she touches, and change perceptions in her own little microcosm, one heart at a time?

Finally she looks at me with tears in her eyes and squeaks out her worst fear about the whole thing,

“Are you not going to let me watch it?”

This is where I want to put the powers that be at Glee on notice. Seriously. Ryan Murphy? Brad Falchuk? Ian Brennan? Dante Diloreto? (My daughter told me your names. She has everything about the show memorized). It’s really unfair to make people who are so vulnerable the butt of your humor. What’s next, kicking puppies? You better redeem yourselves or I’m leaving your viewership and taking a whole lot of people with me. The autism community is a big one, and it’s a divided one, but I think we can all agree, don’t mess with our kids. And BTW? We have lots of friends. 

I look at Riley and tell her, “We’ll keep watching it, and we’ll keep talking, okay?”

She sighs big. Relief all over her face.

She loves you Glee.

Keep that in mind.

Glee’s Depiction of “Asperger’s” DISGUSTING

“I have self-diagnosed Asperger’s so I can pretty much say whatever I want…I’m pretty much like a diplomat’s daughter.” Then the character proceeds to be an obnoxious no talent brat.

Yo Glee. WTF? My kid’s not going to understand this. She’s going to think this is how people view her. Thank God Todd and I screen the show before ever letting her watch it. We’ve spent the evening discussing what we’ll say to explain this to her. Better hearing it from us, than from one of her friends, or anyone else.

My daughter has better manners than almost any child you will ever meet. My daughter would never act the entitled brat. We can’t even figure out what the point was for the character to even be on the show.  I’m so sick of Asperger’s/autism being the Hollywood flavor of the week.

Riley described Glee Live over the summer as “the best day of her life.”

I hope the show she loves so much, the show about outsiders finding a place to belong, doesn’t wind up being the thing that makes her ashamed of having Asperger’s. I hope Glee doesn’t break her heart.

Let’s go outside…

I’ve been to the Botanical Gardens dozens of times and somehow never saw her before. She’s huge. How could I have missed her? Did they trim back the foliage around her, exposing her? Or was I simply more present this time? 

And this foot bridge into the Japanese Garden, it wasn’t always there, was it?

Surely I’d have remembered this plaque on the inside railing?

Gentle direction, and protection

I love the smell of dirt. The rustle of the leaves. The sun filtering through the branches. The sound of a little stream. It doesn’t take long. Ten, twenty minutes before my breathing changes. I become more calm. Petty worries melt away. Solutions to larger concerns become more clear.

A trip to the gardens. Or coffee on the deck behind the house with little birds flitting about. Squirrels doing acrobatics in the branches of the trees. Right now I’m sitting in the big front window. Screens wide open, breathing fresh air, watching my happy kids ride by on their scooters. Green leafy trees, pink and yellow and purple and orange flowers still abound. Not for for long, I know. I’m about to close my computer and get out there.

Mother Nature will tend to us if we let her.

We just have to go outside.

Lice and Mosquitos and Rashes and Colds

Three days into summer camp, Seth was sick. Riley followed. I shook my fist! Four weeks is all I get, and they’re home? Poor me!

We ended up missing a lice outbreak.

A few weeks ago, two Wednesdays in a row I couldn’t make “porch night” because Todd had to work evening shift. Porch night is when a few of us ladies gather on our friend Melinda’s awesome front porch after the kids are in bed. We have drinks. We chat. It’s fun.

Two weeks in a row! A consipiracy, I wailed!

Turns out, the mosquitoes were out. Two of the women got West Nile. Low grade fevers, achey bodies, mottled rashes.

This weekend Riley, Seth and I have nasty colds. Sore ears, eyes, noses, throats. We’re coughing, sneezing, the whole nine yards.

God only knows what we’ve been spared, stuck inside hacking up our lungs.

I’m just going to trust we’re where we need to be, and say thanks in advance.

Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar Video Trailer

When I think about my main audience for Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar it is, obviously, adult children of alcoholics. We’re everywhere. It is with this group in mind I made a video trailer for my book. (All the cool authors have video trailers). I did it by myself, with just a little emotional support from HT during moments of frustration as I learned how to use my trusty iMovie capabilities.

Please try not to let my fancy permed orange 80’s hair distract you from the poignancy of the video.

Please forward said video to anyone and everyone you know.

Please let it find the people who would benefit from reading my book.

Please know my blonde ponytails were once used as paint brushes, when a little neighbor boy and I happened upon a gallon of pink paint in the garage and painted everything within reach, including the Toyota. There was only one brush. What could I do?

Please know my sister got a real xylophone, and I got stuck with a “baby” Fischer Price piece of crap. Santa? I was not fooled, nor was I impressed.

Please know my little brothers are as handsome now, as they were cute back then.

Okay, enough dilly-dallying. Ready set go. I hope you like it.

Love.

Remembering 9/11

Riley was 15 months old when 9/11 happened. As a result of those horrible events, I decided I didn’t want to bring another child into this scary world.

Seth came anyway.

Ten years already. The sky was so blue. We lived in the Chicago suburbs. I’d been out walking the baby in the stroller accompanied by a friend and her dog. People came running out of their houses,“Did you hear?” We quickened our pace, anxious to get home. I was so terrified. Alone all day with the damn TV, hugging my baby. Afraid to turn it off thinking something else might be happening, feeling I had to stay informed. Wanting to keep her safe. Todd worked all day and didn’t get home ’til 10:00PM. He had clients in from out of town and took them out to dinner per protocol. I thought dinner could be skipped, just this once. Selfish of me to be so mad, when so many never came home that day. But I was frantic. I was livid.

What did my Riley take in that day? Little ones absorb so much. Did she understand what was happening with all those images on TV? Did she feel my anxiety? Of course she did.

A few days later a Pakastani woman wailed on our door. Intuitively, I knew it was her, our neighbor across the street. Her husband no doubt taking a lot of heat, and taking it out on her. I didn’t want to open it. I didn’t want to open it until we’d dialed 911, but there was no time to discuss, and Todd flung the door open despite my gesture to wait. Wait ’til I get the phone! She barreled into the house looking like a wild animal. He’d tried to choke her. I’d never seen fear like the fear in her eyes, and my knees went weak. It felt like her husband might any second be busting in the door right after her, and what would happen to my baby if he killed all of us?

It took me a long time to forgive Todd for not coming home ’til 10:00PM. It took me a long time to forgive him for opening the door that night, before I had the phone.

There is a certain kind of day. Where the sky is the bluest blue. And there is a slight hint of crisp in the air, barely there. And there is a glorious breeze. And there is not a cloud in the sky. And in my mind those are “9/11” days. And calling them 9/11 days doesn’t ruin them for me. It makes me value them. It makes me remember. It makes me reverent. It makes me appreciate my life and want to live it more fully.

One week before the first anniversary of 9/11, Seth O’Neil was born.

My own personal proof that fear and anger and hate didn’t win.

Judgy Wudgy Was Amusing

There are people in our life who think we’re too “out there.” With our organic, chemical free food. Our homeschooling. Our limited TV time. Our lack of the latest technological doo-dads. Our old cars. Our second generation smells like dog pink couch (gonna replace it one of these days, I swear). Our recycling. Our shopping at Whole Foods.

There are other people in our life who think we’re too “in there.” With Seth’s extensive Lego collection, (consumers, we are), our “tutors,” our spending money on summer camp and bouncy castles, our shopping at Whole Foods (what, you don’t grow all your own food)? Our using paper bags instead of bringing reusable ones each time, and letting the occasional recyclable container go because I’m too tired or lazy to clean it out.

It might be easier if we were hard core either way. Full throttle consumerism or full throttle counter-culture. Oh what I wouldn’t give to pick one and be right! I used to be a right person. I had my opinions and they were “right.” End of story.

But “right” is just an illusion.

What I really want is to be a woman who is amused, rather than upset by other peoples’ judgements about her life. When I can pull that off consistently, I’ll be happy.

When I can stop judging others, and stop judging others for judging me, I’ll know I’ve truly arrived.

Until then, at least everyone can agree on our wrongness about Whole Foods.

I’ll be the one with too many products in the express lane, and I’ll be amused.

Children Get Older (…but just because everyone else is doing it doesn’t mean you have to do it. If everyone else were jumping off a bridge, would you do it too)?

At nine, he’s Lego and Harry Potter and Indiana Jones and MJ moves.

He’s more generous and patient than I’ll ever be.

He’s never been cruel, not a second in his life.

He always holds the door open for people, touching the hearts of strangers wherever we go.

He’s not into sports, but will wear a Yankee’s shirt, for his dad.

He’s a great dancer.

He has his own fedorable style.

He had a birthday over the weekend.

I can still pick him up.

I can still pin him down for tickling.

He still thinks I’m pretty cool.

I begged him all year not to turn nine, but he didn’t listen.

For now, he’s promised to give me piggy backs when I can no longer lift him.

It’s something.

It’s what I’m clinging to.

Big Fun and Mac’s Backs After Tommy’s

We went to the Coventry area for dinner tonight. It was too hot to cook. Attached to the wonderful Tommy’s restaurant is the infamous Mac’s Backs. A local independent. A Cleveland establishment. I brought some of my bumper stickers and put them on the bulletin board, but when it came to talking to Suzanne, I totally chickened out. I can promote the daylights out of anyone else’s work, but for some reason, my own? Not so much.

It’s not that I don’t believe in the book. I do. I know it has an audience. Over and over I am hearing from readers, “I couldn’t put it down.” People are reading it in one or two days. I’m not saying Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar is a masterpiece, but’s it’s my own, and people (even those I don’t know) are e-mailing me unsolicited and saying good things. 

Back to Mac’s Backs. We walked out. I had lots of excuses. I needed to put more money in the parking meter. The kids were suddenly thirsty. So many reasons why I couldn’t talk to Suzanne. Not then. Maybe another day, when the kids aren’t with me. It’s too hard. I don’t want to bother her. Gotta run. 

So anyway…right near Mac’s Backs is a store called Big Fun. Seth’s favorite. A novelty store full of crazy toys, nostalgic things, gross things, FUN things. Some freaky things. Packed to the gills with “Big Fun.” Even the ceilings are painted in graffiti. Riley has never gone in. It has always been too, too much for her heightened sensory system. Merely peeping in the window has frightened her.  

Tonight as we were walking by I asked if she would like to go in. Predictably, she said no. We stood in front. Little brother perfectly willing not to push for it, not to upset her, totally wanting to go in. I said, “Riley, I think you are at the point where you could do this now. You are handling things so much better. You are really growing up.”

She is.

Seth looked hopeful but tried to act casual. He shrugged, hands in pockets, fedora on his head.

“I don’t know,” she said.

Gently I said, “Riley, I think your fear of this is worse than the actual reality of what’s inside. You can do this.”

We stood there, the three of us taking deep breaths, getting up her nerve. She clutched my hand tightly and at last, we went through the door. Once in, she was cautious for about sixty seconds, repeating to herself, “I can do this. I can do this.” Then, she wound up loving it. So many fascinating trinkets to look at. So many whoopie cushions.

Watching my daughter explore the store, I admired her so much. She is so brave. I am such a chicken.

The kids had their big fun for a half hour. Stepping out of the store, it was my turn. If she could be that brave, I could too. Back to Mac’s Backs.

Suzanne was there, warm and lovely. Supportive. She bought a copy of Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar (which I had in my bag) and said she’d order more to sell in the store. Can you hear me exhale?

The Universe wants to support me, if only I’m brave enough to ask.

I can do this.

I can do this.

I learned it from my girl.

Living in Technicolor: An autistic’s thoughts on raising a child with autism By Lydia Wayman

Living in Technicolor: An autistic's thoughts on raising a child with autism

Many of you know Lydia, of the blog Autistic Speaks. Lydia is a young woman with autism and she has a new book out, full of wonderful information for parents of kids on the spectrum. It isn’t a how-to, but more of a “this is what goes on inside me, and maybe it will help you relate better to your own child if you understand.” But it isn’t just for parents. Anyone wanting to better understand people with autism would enjoy this very engaging book.

Lydia is in the process of fund raising for a service dog of her very own (his name is Blue and he’s a looker). The proceeds from Living in Technicolor will go toward bringing Blue home to her.

To purchase Lydia’s book in paperback or e-book form, click here.