Windows

This morning .. as I made my coffee.. I let the things on my agenda roll around in my head.

I looked out the windows.. watching the world wake up around me.. a world wet from the overnight rain… and I noticed something..

Out the back windows, the world looked wet and gloomy. There was a beauty to it still, but no light.

When I walked to the front windows, I could still see a wet and gloomy world. But the sun was breaking through the clouds as it rose above the horizon. The light shining through the shadows has always fascinated me.

So as I stood there for a moment enjoying the beauty of the moment.. I noticed my dog looking out the same window. She hadn't chosen the window with a gloomy view, she had chosen the one with beauty.. and warmth..

I have often been accused of finding silver linings in every situation. And sometimes it may seem ridiculous to some to find something "good" in emergency surgeries.. or moves across country.. or your little girl going back to college..

But to me?

It just makes sense.

I simply pick the window with the best view.

Both windows this morning are realistic .. both show the wet world and the clouds..

But one of those windows shows the sunlight.. and with sunlight? We can feel the hope of the future on our faces.

So this morning, I enjoyed my coffee on the front porch.. with the warmth of hope on my face..

.. tomorrow I will likely chose the same…

Safe place..

We went to church yesterday for the first time in awhile. I love attending services.. but churches aren't always the safest places for kids with special needs.

I know.. I know.. I was surprised by this too..

You see? My son has Autism with a side order of Bipolar.. add in the fact that he is also still a kid? It can kind of be a mess at times …

When my son is distressed he quotes movies.. Blue's clues, Dora, Alone in the wilderness, Peter Pan.. you name it.. he quotes it..

…but talking in church is typically frowned on.. even if it's in the back corner of the back row by a cute boy with lots of freckles.

We have gotten a lot of dirty looks.. a lot of stares.. and shushed more than a few times… throughout the years…

The problem is?

The more shushes.. the more glares?? …the more anxious he would get… the more he would quote.. AND the more often we would end up in the lobby listening over the speakers.

So we stopped going to church for a while… choosing to worship at home.. where he was safe..

When we lived in Missouri we found a church that smiled at my son when he quotes randomly in the middle of service. They high fived him in the lobby.. and we went to church regularly…

It was amazing..

But when we moved back to Michigan .. finding a new church was a little daunting and my son was very unstable.. so we kept our services at home again.

Yesterday we attended church with some friends at their invitation. We have attended this church a couple times with these family friends and another family as well. But my son was unstable and it was still uncomfortable for us.

But this year has been a good year for us, and my son is making great strides. So? So we made plans.. marked it on the calendar like it was an appointment.. and we went to church.

We arrived at church .. my daughter in jeans.. my son in his favorite 3 piece suit.. and we were greeted by a handful of people.

ALL of us were greeted.. especially my son.. who was obviously overdressed.

The extra effort that the congregation put into making him feel welcome.. and the extra effort our friends went through ??

It meant that my son sat through the 2 hour service holding my hand … mostly quietly.

To someone who goes to church every week it might not seem like much..

But to a mom who thought church was an impossible task?

It was a modern day miracle…

Stories in my head

I never go anywhere without a camera.

You would think that (as an author) I would never go anywhere without a notepad. But for me? It's a camera.

When I see a breathtaking scene .. I take a picture of it to savor later. Yes I have been known to stop on a deserted road and take pictures of the sunrise .. or sunset.

Or the light coming through the trees..

Or a leaf covered in frost..
Each of these photos is beautiful to see. And I love to share them with anyone who will look..

But for me?

For me .. each of these snapshots in time are filled with stories.. and filled with emotions..

All of these stories fill my head and want to be told.

The leaf with frost? A beautiful life with unexpected frost? Tragedy? It makes my breath catch..

The barn in the sunrise and fog? A mystery? What happened on that farm before the mist settled in? Curiosity.. with a touch of unsettling…

The light through the trees…? The light always makes me think of hope shining through darkness..

So if you see me deep in thought … I'm probably writing stories in my head..

And they probably involve a picture I took..

Cherished messes..

I am sitting here this morning.. drinking my coffee out of my favorite cup.. and looking fondly at the messes I need to clean up this morning.

I know.. I know..

I sound crazy..

No one likes messes..

This weekend I had a few of my favorite kids over to my house.. (ok.. more than a few).. and we had some chaotic organized fun..

Organized.. because there was a plan (in there somewhere)…

Chaotic.. because… well? .. because it's life … and well? …they are kids..

We had game time, swimming at midnight, shaving cream painting, sundaes after dark, bonfires.. beautiful makeovers… movies until dawn..

.. and so much laughter..

For me?

I like to sit back and picture the room full of kids.. full of laughter.. full of memories.. full of chaos… so I can take a picture with my mind.. before I clean up the mess…

Those cherished memories stick with me long past the popcorn under the couch .. or the crayon marks on the table. Long past the grass in the pool or the loads of laundry..

And these little faces grow faster than I like..

Cherish your messes today.. and hug your loved ones..

Campfire stories..

When I was a little girl, I always had stories roaming around my head.

While I was picking flowers.. or doing chores.. or laying in bed.. the stories were there .. flitting in and out like snippets of a movie.

Ha.. many times I would get SO lost in the stories I was creating.. that I would pause in my chores .. and JUST enjoy the storyline I had come up with.

Yes… I probably was frozen in place, still washing the same cup.. with a dopey grin on my face…

((…you can imagine how thrilled my mother was with me.. most of the time….))

Then my two youngest brothers were born… the perfect audience for story snippets .. mwahahahahaha

Sitting out under the trees, I could weave grand adventures for the teenage mutant ninja turtles.. and Star Wars characters. And they would listen enthralled.. and then act them out.

Ok.. ok.. not the best characters for a teenage girl who wanted to be creative and adventurous.. but I honestly didn't mind.

Why?

Well?!? .. probably because for the first time, I was able to let those story snippets out of my brain and into the air. And 2 little faces enjoyed them as much as I did.

It felt amazing…

Years later I am still telling stories to little faces. First to my own kids.. and then to my nieces and nephews.

In fact… if we have a family campfire? I usually have a child or 2 on my lap (of varying shapes and sizes) asking for a story.. or 2 .. or 3..

Sometimes I tell stories of my kids when they were little.. (..especially stories of my daughter and her imaginary friends..)..

…sometimes I tell stories with "not so hidden" messages in them.. little pigs getting lost in the forest.. or trains that keep on trying..

… sometimes stories just for fun… stories about Curly (the smallest pig of 9 brothers.. who never gets enough to eat.. and is always looking for food.. )…

… lately I have been getting requests for stories that put the kids on my lap into harm's way.. so that they can be saved… (..bears, wolves… little old ladies who don't live in "gluten free" homes .. (shudders)..)..

But whatever the storyline, I love to see the upturned faces hanging on to my every word.. waiting to see what will happen next..

..begging for another one..

And it makes my heart happy when they tell me stories in return..

Life is so good..

Un-plan.. 

Some of the best things in my life were unplanned …

Don’t get me wrong.. Some of the things I PLANNED for are pretty amazing .. I planned to have kids.. and they are the joys of my life.. 

.. but the sunflower that popped up out of nowhere is gorgeous… the wildflowers that are growing wild in my flowerbeds are more colorful and healthy than the ones I planted … the detoured road I drove on today caused me to look around instead of driving on autopilot.. the car repairs that gave me a chance to have lunch with my parents.. the exchange students I didn’t plan to “host” are a part of my heart.. the theatre kids I didn’t plan on directing are a huge part of my life.. 

I am a very spontaneous person.. 

..it’s true…

It took me a lot of years to Grow up enough to come up with plans.. make plans.. make budgets.. 

Years of reform.. 

.. and I am mostly proud of myself.. 

But there is something so beautiful about surprises in your life.. finding the unexpected… and enjoying the unplanned Blessings  in your life.. 

.. so next time Life throws you something unexpected? Look up.. look out.. and take a moment to appreciate it.. Pause before you pull that wildflower.. wonder what’s down the detoured road.. 

.. and plan time for the Un-Plans… 

Growing.. 

A little over a week ago, I took my exchange daughter to the airport. It’s always hard to say “see you later” to these girls. They truly become a part of my heart during the time that they stay with me. 

But this last daughter was something that I didn’t expect. She was something I didn’t even know I needed. 

She helped me grow. 

Yes .. yes.. I know.. I should be done growing. 

But I’m not.. and honestly I doubt I ever will be. 

And today? Today I am so glad that she was a part of my year. I’m glad she taught me to live in the moment.. and to love myself.. and to remember what is truly important.. 

I can’t wait to hug her again.. but she is a part of my heart everyday from now until I do!!! 

I love you Başak.. today and always… and I am EVER so thankful that God led you to my door.

Too many hats…

Growing up, I was really close to my Dad. (I still am.) We talked about everything.. but I only remember him yelling at me once. 

Now don’t get me wrong.. I wasn’t a perfect kid.. so there were many times that he was disappointed in me.. and many times that he corrected me. 

But he only yelled at me once. 

It was my senior year, and I changed my college plans at least 5 times .. and my majors even more. And when I changed to a completely different field of study, my dad told me I was going to have to make a decision. And then he said something I will never forget.. “You have so many interests that you divide your energy too many ways.. and you will NEVER succeed at any of them.”

Wow did that hurt… 

At the time? Yeah.. at the time I was mad .. and hurt. I mean why would he say something so hurtful. “..NEVER succeed..?”

Well??  I see what my dad was talking about …now…

I have always had a lot of interests. And I mean.. A LOT!! I volunteer for everything… and I never ask anyone to do something I could do myself.. 

But… 

I get really tired. 

These days, I call these interests my “hats”.. 

There is my Mom Hat.. the one I wear whenever my kids are my biggest priority.. Chaperoning, rides to school, panicked calls from college kids, help with homework.. baking cookies… 

I have 2 kids of my own.. and I have had 4 exchange students call me “Mom”… the most amazing of all my interests! These kids amaze me. 

My Wife Hat.. (kinda self explanatory) 

The Aunt Hat.. closely related to the Mom Hat.. the Aunt Hat is a nurturing Hat but in a fun way. These 17 nieces and nephews are blessings to my life .. and I love to put my Aunt Hat on and invite them all over for Cousin weekends. Hide and seek in the dark, swimming at midnight, shaving cream paintings, watching movies until dawn.. I wouldn’t miss this.. 

House Elf Hat.. All things having to do with the house.. There is the typical cleaning.. then canning veggies… making jams.. baking bread… caring for the birds.. gathering the eggs .. haircuts.. pool cleaning.. it seems like the House Elf Hat is always on.. 

Then there is my Author Hat, my Director Hat, my Exchange Student Coordinator Hat, my International Club Hat, and my Substitute teacher Hat.. my Research Hat.. OH .. and My Creative Hat..

I could go on and on.. 

And I realized my dad was right.. 

I am not really a success at any of them. I do not focus ALL my energy in any ONE direction.. and as a result everything is mediocre. 

So this LAST year? 

I tried to put some Hats away.. I put my Author Hat away during Musical season… I put my Director Hat away during off seasons.. I don’t take the Substitute teacher Hat home with me. I don’t even think about my Creative Hat .. most of the time.. 

But still I find myself not giving my “all” to the things that are important.. because my interests are still divided .. 

So I am going to take this next year to put away Hats I can’t wear anymore.. and it will be hard  (because I love ALL the jobs I do).. 

…but if I want to make a difference in the world?? (And I know I do..)

I think I need to finally take my dad’s advice. 

A new day.. 

Raising ANY kid poses its own challenges.. but raising a child with Autism (and a side of mood disorder)? 

Yeah… we’ve had some rough days .. 

…ok.. a lot of rough days … Days that I never want to go back to. New meds, withdrawling from meds, NO meds, no sleep…

… I could go on and on…

It was never hard for me to forgive my son for his bad days.. but it was hard for HIM to forgive HIMSELF.. 

So early on? We started telling him, “That was yesterday buddy.. TODAY is a new day.. today is going to be a good day!”

If he had a bad day and we had to take away his TV or his computer privileges? It ended when he went to sleep… 

Everything reset with the morning .. 

Luckily for us? We have had amazing support at the schools we have attended. They have maintained this “new day” policy with him through out his school career. Always forgiving him for bad days and moving forward. Sometimes easier than I could have…

Today as I watched him walk confidently into the school..? I think about how he is counting down the days until he will be a senior. And I think back to when he could barely get through a school day.. 

…there were days I thought we would never get to this level of independence.. this level of confidence.. 

..but in the morning when the sun would rise.. so would my faith that good things were going to happen.. 

When the sun rose this morning, it was such a sight. And I am filled with the promise that Today IS a good day.. 

I hope you all rejoice and are happy in it.. 

Celebrating…

What a fabulous day!!

FIRST? First we woke up late because we all slept through our alarms (hey… it was a great dream) … I barely made myself look presentable for public.. then we all rushed through our morning.. I made a boring lunch for Sy.. rushed everyone out the door and then a bus was parked at the entrance of the school.. 

And SIMON WENT to school… 

Like he physically (and calmly.. I might add) walked IN TO the school with not more than a cross look at the bus in our way (that he deems a “muddy mudslide” that’s in our way).. 

Some of you may wonder if I am serious to be celebrating such a “terrible” “mom” moment..?? HaPpY we overslept and I took my kids to school late? 

Haha.. 

I AM serious.. 

This is amazing!!!!

When Simon’s Autism was at its worst and his mood disorder was unstable? Everything had to stay on schedule .. and nothing could be out of order.. or he wouldn’t (couldn’t) have gone to school.. 

So exciting!!!

Maybe tomorrow he will let me stop and take a picture of the sun peaking through the fog on my favorite road.. lol.. 

I guess I shouldn’t press my luck ..

Everything sounds better with the echo of a still small voice.