Safe Travels

After an exhausting month, and following an exhausting day, I dropped the girl off at school and headed to the beach. I had about an hour before I was to teach. I walked for a little bit, then sat in my trusty four-year-old $10 beach chair from Target.

A family walked by. Two boys. Maybe 8 and 10. One boy flapping his hands fast and furiously, appearing to be excited by the water, the freedom of the ocean air. It likely wasn’t his usual routine to be at the beach at 9AM on a Tuesday. They seemed to be on vacation.

Passing me without noticing me, I noticed them. My attention went to the mom. My heart went out to her.

Without knowing her story, I know her. Having autism comes with gifts, but it isn’t easy. It comes with challenges. When those challenges cause your child to suffer, you suffer too. So this mom has been through some stuff. The whole family likely has. And let’s be real, vacations with kids are technically not vacations for moms, as a rule.

Closing my eyes, I took a breath and sent them loving-kindness. I prayed for their happiness and that they be safe from harm. That they be healthy. That their lives be easier rather than harder.

I like to pray for unsuspecting people. It’s a good way to pass time while you’re waiting. I do it in line a lot. If you’re bored, antsy? Look around and pray for someone. And if you don’t pray…you can just wish them well. Or give them the benefit of the doubt.

If you want a real workout, pray for someone you don’t like. I did this recently and it really changed a very charged negative loop I was on about someone. It reminded me I didn’t really know her struggles, or what would make her act like such a hag.

What a relief.

Anyway…I hope that family is having the best vacation. I hope that boy is flapping with joy, and that his heart is content. I hope the mom is getting some time-outs, just for her. May they be well.

Safe travels, everyone.

Is Your Kid the Welcoming Kind?

Cleveland Circle of Friends (2009)

One day when Riley was in third grade, I met her on the playground after school and she fell into my arms, sobbing.

“Why doesn’t anyone like me?”

No one had made fun of her. No one had shoved her down.

But no one had included her. Lots of playdates happened every day after school. No one ever invited her.

Soon after, we started a monthly “circle of friends” group in our home. Initially, we talked about Asperger’s, and how it affected Riley; her gifts and challenges. We talked about how those girls could support her as friends, and they did. They were awesome once they were given the tools to know what to do. We usually did one activity, and then had free time and occasionally I’d lead them in a guided meditation.

You’ve probably given your kids the “don’t you ever bully” speech.” Or even, the “stand up for someone if you see them being bullied,” speech or maybe the “get help if you see someone being bullied” speech. But have you taught them how to include someone who might be struggling socially? Because excluding someone is bullying’s cousin. If done deliberately I would go so far to say it is bullying. But like the girls in our circle of friends group, I think many good-hearted kids simply don’t know how to include someone that doesn’t easily jump right in.

It isn’t just autism. It could be shyness. It could be anxiety. I have a friend whose sweet daughter (who happens to be chubby) was the only girl in her class not invited to a birthday party…in ELEMENTARY SCHOOL.

Even as an adult, excluding someone from a community has serious emotional consequences on the person being shunned. I’m not sure the popular people, people “social” comes easily to, truly get the long term ramifications of shutting out another human being. If it’s never happened to them, they might not understand just how crushing it is.

I know when a group of kids ignores the presence of a quiet kid, they’re not plotting, “I’m going to scar this person for life.”

But it can.

It also scars their mother.

Teach your kids to be gracious and welcoming. To look out for the one who is struggling. Teach them to be kind and to have the common courtesy to acknowledge every person in the room. Offer them guidance on what they might say to welcome someone who is shy or holding back. It can be as simple as a smile, a hello to acknowledge their existence. A stepping back and widening the circle to include them in a group conversation. Lead by example. Compliment others that are gracious with new people, (in front of your kids). Let it be known that you value this welcoming quality in a person.

My child has worked all her life on developing social skills and it still doesn’t come easy. She is so brave.

If your child were on a group hike, and sprained their ankle, and no provisions had been made for the injury..no choice but to soldier on, would it be reasonable to expect one or two kids to slow down, to maybe walk with that child? Might they even see some rich and beautiful scenery that would have been a blur had they kept pace with the rest of their classmates?

Would it be reasonable for those classmates to trade off? They of course don’t want to spend all their time at someone else’s pace, but could they go a little more mindfully for 20 minutes, and then let someone else walk with that classmate? Might they recognize and honor the one that is working harder than any of them, just attempting to keep up?

Would it be okay with you, if your kid was part of the group that ran ahead and left that child to limp for miles, alone?

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.

Being Fluid

The best, most valuable lesson I have learned from having a child on the autism spectrum is: be flexible.

I don’t get it right every time, but over the last several years, I have learned  to get it right the majority of the time. And when I forget. When I forget….that’s when a whole heap of pain is headed my way and quick.

This morning I picked out an outfit for Riley (choices are sometimes overwhelming, if time is of the essence and today it is). She balked. I was frustrated and in a hurry, but instead of digging in my heels dictator style and insisting she just get dressed, I took a breath and asked her why she didn’t like the outfit I picked out. One of her favorite shirts. Pants with no stains. It all matched, which is important to her.

“I like it, but the last time I saw M. (whom she’s seeing today), I was wearing that.”

There is always a reason behind the behavior. Even if she doesn’t articulate it.

We could have had a really crappy morning had I “been more firm.”

“Being more firm” ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

“Being more firm” is often a recipe for disaster.

Being fluid is what has saved our mother/daughter relationship.

And as I’ve learned it, she’s learned it.

Recently she’s taken to debating with me, instead of having a meltdown when we disagree. A huge and wonderful step. And beyond that, she’s listening and sometimes even saying,

“I see your point.”

When you’re willing to see someone else’s point, they’ll often be willing to see yours.

My girl taught me that.

She’s dressed, and ready to go, and I even had time to write this post.

It could have been a very different morning.

Glee

There is a sweetness in the air today. Seth got up early and hung out with HT while he got ready for work. They had breakfast, while Riley and I slept.

I came downstairs to a fed, happy boy. HT had already left. Doggies wagged with glee at my appearance.

Glee.

Last night on Glee, there was a first kiss. It was between two teenage boys. Hats off to Glee for the handling of this. It has been a slow, steadily progressing relationship between the two characters on the show. Both are upstanding, honorable, and very sweet young men.

When I think about images of gay men in the mainstream media, what comes to mind is raunch. The television loves to show snippets of gay pride parades, it’s always a guy in a belly top and daisy dukes, or drag queens vamping for the camera. They tend to be dancing in the street, half-loaded. I don’t begrudge anyone their fun, but those images don’t represent most gay people.

When I was a teenager, I remember seeing a movie where a young Will Smith kissed another man. I was very uncomfortable. I think my hands actually flew up to cover my eyes. I’d never seen anything like it. I’d lived in a small town my whole life. I didn’t personally know any gay people (actually I did, but I didn’t know it about them yet).

It took going to college, where my RA had a gay uncle and gave all of us a good education on how hurtful throwing words like “queer” around was, and after that, living in a major city hugely affected by HIV. I met a person who would become a dear friend, whose family was forever changed by one of them having to hide his bi-sexuality. I volunteered with children affected by HIV.

The AIDS quilt covering the entire National Mall in DC literally brought me to my knees. Panel after panel, after panel, after panel… put together by people who loved someone who had died. Sons. Husbands. Friends. Daughters. Lovers. Little peoples’ daddies. I was not prepared for seeing that quilt. Faceless silent volunteers handed me tissue after tissue. No words between us were necessary. No words would suffice.

Gay rights are human rights, civil rights. At this point my knee jerk reaction to homophobia is the same as it is to racism. I have no tolerance for it. But I do remember what it was like to be uncomfortable in that movie theater so long ago. Ignorance is ignorance. You don’t know what you don’t know. But the world is changing.

My kids love Glee. We TIVO it, and screen to see if it is okay for them to watch. Often it is too sexually explicit, so they only get to watch bits and pieces. They have all the CD’s. They have mad crushes on some of the characters. They talk of Glee all the time.

Riley is not awake yet, but when she comes downstairs she’ll be greeted by me and her brother and two dogs happy to see her. She’ll lean down and nuzzle Jingle and then look up at me. I guarantee, the first question she’ll ask is, “Can we watch Glee? Was it appropriate?”

I’ll smile at her and say, “Yes, baby. It was.”

Meandering


It had been a long week. Too many appointments. Not enough down time. HT had to work the weekend, and yesterday I woke, not quite wanting to climb back into my life.

“When is your next day off?” I mumbled to him.

“Tomorrow,” he said.

I closed my eyes and nodded. Good.

“It just happens to coincide with your next day off,” he added.

With that, I hoisted myself into our day.

It was a big one for Riley. She’d been invited to a party and was going unaccompanied by me. I had to skip chorus to be available at a moment’s notice. I love chorus and quietly resented missing it. But she is not invited to many parties, and this one was with a mom I trust implicitly. It was a good one for her to forge on her own. Still, if she had a hard time I did not want the mom to have to deal with it, and take away from her enjoyment of her daughter’s party. I was on call, just down the street.

Seth and I stayed home, had rare and precious one-on-one time. We made snacks. We watched a movie, all snuggled up together with Yippee the Chihuahua and Sam the cat on his chest, together in perfect harmony. (Yippee usually chases Sam). We also got Seth started on his second oil painting. This time he’s painting the same thing he painted last time. Another portrait of Yippee. From a different angle. A profile. What can I say? He’s passionate about his puppy.

Riley did beautifully at the party, BTW. She had fun. Not enough can be made of that.

So today is my “day off,” though I do have to coach Girls on the Run later. I went for a long walk this morning over crunchy snow. It felt good to have the sun shine on my face. Forget sunscreen. I just want to feel it beaming into my skin at this point in winter. Suck up that vitamin D.

Despite the lovely time with Seth, by last night I was feeling caged in. I get that way often enough. Not so much since Todd changed his schedule and is no longer working a 7 day in a row shift. But there it was. This feeling of a total “disappearance” of me.

I firmly believe I’d be a better mother if I could get out of here and work part-time. We have not yet been able to figure out how that would be possible with Todd’s all-over-the-place work schedule, and our kids who can’t be left with just anyone.

I know it’s all relative. Some women wish they could stay home with their kids. Do I have a right to my feelings, anyhow?

The other day a FB friend complained about her  kids being home from school, (snow day or such)and how it interfered with her work at home schedule, and it hit a nerve. I wanted to yell through cyber-space BUT YOUR KIDS CAN GO TO SCHOOL, CAN’T THEY? THEY’RE HEALTHY,RIGHT? YOU DO HAVE AN AMAZING CAREER, DON’T YOU?”

Again, it’s all relative, she has a right to her feelings too. Of course she does.

The grass is always greener. No path is perfect.

Very few men have to juggle work around their kids. I feel victimy about it sometimes, but I know men have their own vulnerabilities and pain. Todd would actually love to be a stay at home dad. Working in a hospital pharmacy is not his dream, no matter how good at it he is.

Today on my walk, I visualized the life I want. If I could choose it out of a catalog, what my schedule would look like, what the kids would be doing, etc. How much time I would need to really feel a balance between being me and making sure their all encompassing needs are met.

We’re really not so far off.

It’s possible.

Seeing it is important.

Appreciating all we do have, is the key to unlock the door.

And so…off I go to do my daily rampage of appreciation.

Ciao. May you have a beautiful day.

Homeschool Co-Op

This is Riley, (below right), enjoying a quiet lunch with two other girls at the homeschool co-op. The three of them decided to excuse themselves from the busy gym and eat in one of the classrooms.

“Mom, can I go eat with A & H please?”

Um, yeah. Why yes Riley, you may.

Friday was the last day of this session, (our second with the group) and it was sharing day where tables are set out and everyone can look at what the kids were working on in each class. I taught a class on dogs this time around.

We learned about service dogs.

And breeds.

Grooming (everyone got a turn brushing Jingle)

And lots of other things like canine body language vs. human body language, how dogs see, taste, hear, etc. Where dogs come from on the evolutionary scale, how they got to be domesticated, and on and on. You should have seen me pulling curriculum out of thin air! It was a stretch coming up with eight weeks of material, but mostly it was a success.

Children in the co-op sign up for two classes each, with an hour for lunch and recess in the middle. My kids were in the dog class for block A.

Jingle lives for co-op.

For block B, Riley enjoyed a scrap-booking class, not taught by me. Or assisted by me. Or requiring a single thing of me. The whole time.

Me? I sat outside of the class and worked on material for my next week’s dog class. Like it was nothing! Just another mom, not having to be in her kid’s class with her. That’s right baby, check me out!

Seth took a class called Discovering your Artist’s Eye. He learned about positive and negative space, drawing using different sides of the brain by turning objects upside down and sideways. Using grids to ensure correct proportion. That kind of thing.

Other classes offered included Spanish.

Oragami

There was even a class on “How to be a knight,” which was adorable. A bunch of rambunctious little boys learning how to be chivalrous, all while using homemade swords they helped saw, and shields they cut out themselves. They even sewed their silver knight costumes!

There were other classes too, one on theatrical and other games, there is a Girl Scout troup that meets during Block B. A nursery for the little ones and a class for preschool age kids. I’m probably forgetting something. Classes change up every session and parents are expected to teach or assist or help out with set-up/clean-up. There are between 40 and 60 kids in this co-op at any given session. I’ve so enjoyed meeting all the parents.

It has truly been a blessing to us. (HT got verklempt the first session, seeing Riley sitting in a small classroom, relaxed, engaged, learning without intense anxiety and fear).

On the way home Friday, in the van, I said, “Riley, I am so glad you have Asperger’s. There was so much about school that didn’t make sense for any of us, but if you’d not been such a sensitive person we never would have realized it. It’s because of you that we are homeschooling, and we get to go to co-op, and do so many other amazing and fun things together, and spend time with so many nice people. I appreciate you.”

She’s taken us down a different path and many gifts have come with it. She is such a blessing.

She thought about this for a minute, then said,

“And I couldn’t do all the things we get to do without your support. I appreciate you, Mom.”

Imagine, from where we’ve been, to this?

A sense of calm came over me. We’re okay. Rolling along, I felt all doubt melt away. We are where we need to be right now.

Things have a way of working out.

Standing in Another Hollywood-istic Place

Just over two hours ago I woke my husband from a sound sleep and told him I couldn’t take it anymore.

Riley had been sick all night, (tummy trouble associated with autism)and though he took the first shift, and was up ’til 2AM, by 5AM I was spent. Because not only is she sick, she can’t deal with the sensory issues of being sick, so she cries and moans, and ruminates on every bad feeling and worries and worries and worries and worries and worries, and worries and worries and worries and worries and I have spent so much time on the bathroom floor with this kid lately, flu bugs, and colds and now this, and my body is cold and achey and I lose compassion and feel the years being taken off my life because everything is just so much HARDER than it is for most, at least typical kids, and on and on, sinking my own self into despair.

And here’s the thing about Todd. I can come in and wake him when he himself has only had three hours of sleep, and I can say things any other person on the planet would judge and condemn me for. Things mothers should not say.  And he can look right through it and know my heart, and tell me he gets it, and it’s okay, and then two minutes after I cry and blow my nose and get it out, I can have him cracking up laughing…goading him to tell me whom he would tell to F off, right now if he could. And he indulges me.

And it’s after all this, I can put things in perspective, and remember the absoutely great day Riley and I had, and be grateful, so very grateful, to be her mom.

She had her first professional manicure yesterday (and I got a pedi). She was so cute reading People Magazine. Searching for Glee characters, and she found them.

She chose two glittery shades and was pleased,

“I feel like a celebrity,” she said, admiring her nails. Sorry for the blur.

Then we were hungry so we went to a restaurant, and had the good fortune to witness a man propose to his sweetheart at the very next table. We clapped! And then Riley whispered to me,

“Isn’t she a little young to be getting engaged?”

She was. Good eye Riley.


She had a gift card to Justice Just for Girls, a Christmas present from her grandparents so we went there. The ever so helpful girls who work there, asked every two minutes if they could assist us. Trying be polite and make conversation, I mentioned to one, “She has a gift card burning a hole in her pocket.”

Riley leaned in, looked the salesgirl in the eye and said, “She doesn’t mean that literally.”

She spent a nice chunk of her gift card and saved some for next time.

From there we went to Charming Charlies and she bought even more accessories, cause the girl is all about accessories lately.

I love when Riley makes up her own words, which she did here after trying on this headband, “I feel very Hollywood-istic.”

Indeed.

We spent less than $25.00 at Charming Charlies and she got a whole lot of bling. She even tried some of it on her dad.

So at 5AM, I might have been stretched to my cold achey limit, but I can look back several hours and stand in a another place. I know I have linked to this video before, but I do it again, because I need to be reminded of it.

Special needs kids have it harder. Special needs parents do too. But we also get the amazing highs over things parents of typicals take for granted. No one has ever been more in love with their kid than I was yesterday on our first girly girl mani pedi shopping day.

Bliss. Because a couple of years ago, she never could have stepped into a nail salon due to the smell.

Stand in another place.
Stand in another place.
Stand in another place.

In this minute, you may feel like crap, but you won’t always.

Thank you Todd. Thank you, thank you.

And Riley,

I do so love being your mom.

Dogs and Kids

Yippee likes to sleep with his nose in Seth’s armpit.

Eventually he comes up for air.

Little Man loves his dog.

And then, we have the girls.

Jingle was over at her BFF’s the other day,(they like to romp together in our neighbor’s big fenced in yard) and when I went to get her, she was nowhere to be found. I knocked on the door, and the neighbor’s dog was inside. Apparantly she’d barked to come in. We don’t know if she wanted to come in because Jingle left, or if Jingle left because her friend went in. Either way, Jingle found a way to escape the fence and she was outta’ there. It’s a tall fence too. We don’t know how she did it.

I stood in the silent yard, attempting to stay calm, thinking, she’s got her tags on, she’s micro-chipped. Also thinking….how am I going to tell that little girl I can’t find her dog?

And that’s the thing about love isn’t it? If you do it, with all your heart, you risk loss. You are suseptable to being hurt.

I made my way down to the end of our neighbor’s driveway, and there was Jingle, sitting politely on our front steps, as if she was just waiting for me to let her in. She’d been “missing” roughly ten minutes. Good dog!

My children will one day lose their beloved pups. Hopefully a long, long long time from now.


But what they’ll learn, is the love…it will have been worth it.

Clay 2011

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After our first disastrous run at homeschool clay class last year, I was afraid to ever go back. What seems to be true though…. is some of our most tumultuous moments appear to stick with me, way longer than they do my girl. We took a session off, and then she was just begging to jump back in. I couldn’t fathom why she would want to. The thought made my stomach hurt. But she was adamant. This time of course, Seth is on board too.

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The teacher is an amazing woman, who simply loves kids. She wasn’t phased by Riley’s screaming or my tears last time. She gave me such a huge hug back then, on that darkest day. Somehow, miraculously, she was glad to see us again.

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Just a couple of weeks into the current session she… (gulp)…she wanted to let the kids try their hand at the wheel. You know…the wheel, which requires hands and feet to work together. The wheel which can be highly frustrating. The wheel, which can throw your clay across the room if you aren’t careful. The wheel which can collapse your masterpiece instantly if you don’t hold onto it just right.

I’m not Catholic, but between you and me? I crossed myself for luck.

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Both kids worked really hard.

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Riley’s first crack folded in on itself, just as she was getting on a roll. And you know what she did?

She tried again.

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She’s doing so much better this time. Jingle comes with us now, but has not really been needed.

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(We always wipe our bottoms because the glaze will stick to the kiln if we don’t).

Seth is having fun too.

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I’m so glad I didn’t let my fear keep them from signing up this time.
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Sometimes what seems like the worst scenario can propel you forward into new, uncharted territories, making you realize things have to change. Things have to give.

That awful day last year, when I lost my mind and said things I never wanted to say to my child, I sat on a window seat in our bedroom, distraught. Practically catatonic with grief, I held up the camera I’d been absentmindedly holding in my hand, put it in front of my face and pushed the button. I didn’t publish the photo because in it, I looked hideous. Ugly. Old. Raw. Used up. Like those photos you see of meth addicts who age 30 years in 12 months. I didn’t want anyone to feel sorry for me, because I didn’t feel I deserved sympathy. I felt like the biggest loser monster mother ever. At the time I was certain all my hard work, all the mother-love I’d given this child her entire life had been smashed to smithereens. (Of course that was untrue).

When I look at the photo, I see a mom who is beyond exhaustion. The expression on my face is pure grief.

Todd took Riley to a couple of those clay classes last year. Talking about it the other day he described it as “inhumane,” what we all went though during that time, dealing with her truly debilitating anxiety.

I learned so much from that awful experience. Huge life lessons, and not just about Riley and parenting, but about people and about judgement.

Most of all, that awful day pushed us to find more help for our girl, and to take better care of me.

Oh Riley. You are and have always been my teacher.

One night recently, Todd and I were tucking her into bed. It was a lighthearted mood, with both of us being silly, kissing her on opposite sides of her head and I said, “Riley I am so sorry for every time I’ve ever yelled at you, your whole life.”

Todd added, “Me too!”

(FYI we’ve hardly ever truly yelled at either one of the kids).

She sighed, reached out her hands and lovingly patted each of us. After a moment she said,

“We’re all humans.”

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And forgiveness. I learned about forgiveness. Forgiving myself, and forgiving those who may have judged me harshly. We’re all doing the best we can with what we have to go on.

“We’re all humans,”she said.

That we are little love-bug. That we are.

I love you beyond measure my sweet, sweet girl and I am so very blessed to be your mom.

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Driving in the Snow

Driving in Snow

Driving in the snow, I look in my rearview and talk to the kids.

“You know, I’m lucky. I had a really awful beat up car when I was young. It had a big dent in the side. Sometimes I had to start it on a downward incline to pop the clutch.”

They look at me funny. They don’t know what “pop the clutch” means. They’ve never had a car break down, leaving them stranded, (such was my life for way too long).

I continue.

“When it snowed, I would take it into empty parking lots, and drive around, swerving, hitting the breaks hard, letting it spin out, getting a feel for how to drive in the snow. It’s why I’m not nervous driving in the snow today. I wouldn’t have gotten that experience with a nice car. I’d have been afraid to damage it.”

They smile.

“So you see, I didn’t like having a crappy car back then, but the experience really served me.”

Riley says, “I hope when I’m sixteen I’ll get a car.”

Seth asks her, “What kind do you think you’ll get?”

Before she can answer I interject cheerfully, “Hopefully a beater!

Silence for a while and then Riley says,

“Mom, I’d really prefer a nice car….no offense.”

~

*Photo from http://www.bestcarsguide.com

First Grade Sleep Competition

HT accompanied Seth’s class on a field trip today. There was cow milking and ice cream making. It was a fall festival type of thing.

The kids were out in the fresh air all day. They ate bagged lunches.

On the bus ride back to school, one of the first grade teachers raised his hand to get the attention of the children, and whispered out of the side of his mouth to HT, “Watch this. They’ll all be asleep in five minutes.”

Todd didn’t believe him.

“Okay, listen up. We’re going to play a game. Whoever falls asleep first wins! Everyone close your eyes, and no peeking, because if you open your eyes you don’t win. Ready, go!”

Todd said every single kid on that bus, (about 40 of them) fell asleep, and stayed asleep the whole quiet 30 minute ride back to school.

Competitive little bunch.

The teachers had to shake some of them awake to get them off the bus.    

Everybody won.

Man at the Market

I took Jingle to the Farmer’s Market yesterday morning. After tactfully extricating myself from a conversation with my Mennonite friend who was adament animals have no souls, I walked around with purpose, gathering my wares.

-Beets

-Potatoes

-Onions

-Bread

-Butter

“Good girl, Jingle! Good girl.”

After finishing shopping I took the opportunity to walk Jingle around the whole market, getting her acclimated without Riley in preparation for the next outing with Riley. One woman stopped me to ask about her. Then another stopped, then a man, who kind of hung back, listening to the conversation.  He seemed a bit odd. Perhaps homeless? Perhaps mentally ill? I couldn’t put my finger on it.

“She’s a service dog for my daughter. We just brought her home two days ago.”

“Is your daughter blind?” a woman asked.

“She has autism.”

The man stepped forward and touched me on the forearm.  

“I just had to touch you. Bless your heart,” he said, beaming kindness. 

He was holding me in reverence because my child has autism.

Most of us who have kids on the spectrum have been looked at with scorn. With judgement. With pity. With blame. With, “Whew, thank God I dodged that bullet.”  I don’t know if I’ve ever received reverence before.  

My first thoughts about this man were, “Perhaps homeless? Perhaps mentally ill?” I couldn’t put my finger on it.

Perhaps angel? Perhaps teacher?

Perhaps a reminder to hold reverence, for everyone.

Too Much Togetherness

Day six of being together 24/7 in a small hotel suite. I can feel myself gasping for breath. Not literally, but I do feel a slow suffocation. I’m out of my element. We can’t go out to eat (per Seth’s health issues) and therefore I’m preparing every meal in a tiny kitchenette with no counter space. No matter where I turn, someone is in my way. I am a person who needs a lot of space. I used to fight it, worried I might be too high maintenance. I no longer apologize for needing what I need.

Yesterday, during our lunch hour, I went out to the van and did a meditation while Todd took the kids to the outside play area and let them bounce on the trampoline. The wildest thing happened.

In my meditation, the whole crew at 4 Paws, all the families and staff, became a cast of performers. We were all there, doing a play about a place that trains service dogs. We were actually taking our curtain call. The two beautiful actresses playing the kids in wheelchairs, stood up and walked, unlimited in every way, smiling huge grins as they took their bows.

The  actors who played the other children with disabilities came forth one by one to the front of the stage, radiant, clear headed, composed. 

When Riley came forward, she got rave applause, her acting was so complex, yet so subtle, and had earned the respect of the audience.

We all came forward together, the supporting actors who played the part of concerned and loving parents. The siblings took their bows. The employees at 4 Paws.

Jeremy the head trainer came out, and took his curtain call with all the dogs in class. They all bowed together and the crowd went wild.

I came out of this meditation feeling exhilarated. Like I’d gotten a glimpse of who these kids really are, beyond their physical or cognitive limitations.

This afternoon I locked myself in the bedroom in our hotel suite and did another meditation. It was not filled with imagery, just relaxation. 

Whatever comes of it, I’m better when I take the time to meditate.  I’m a kinder person, a more patient mother, a more tolerant woman. I feel better about life.

I no longer apologize for needing time to myself.

If you have high expectations of the kind of person you want to be, high maintenance is required.