Category Archives: Parenting

..among the weeds…

We planted a garden this summer.. the way we usually do.. Planned which vegetables we wanted to plant.. the way we usually do. And then my husband installed the irrigation system.. the way he always does..

… and then life happened…

This time of year usually finds me knee deep in green beans and surrounded by quart jars of dill pickles..

.. but life happened this summer… and we have neither..

With graduation events.. family trips planned… and family emergencies that weren’t… laughter and camping that were scheduled into our plans… finding a sick kitten in the driveway tube that wasn’t.. lawn mowers that wouldn’t start…  to-do lists that wouldn’t end…

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… with no rain… high temperatures… and no extra time to weed and pamper the vegetable plants…?? The garden didn’t do well… and by the time we remembered to check on it.. the weeds were high and it was definitely too late to replant…

Wandering through the weeds today, I noticed a couple plants had survived.

One was the reliable zucchini plant. It’s not very exciting but we are really good at growing zucchini in our garden.

More exciting to me.. there were quite a few tomato plants. I always enjoy tomatoes.. especially the little cherry sized ones. NOT to mention fried green tomatoes…

img_0790 YES.. the tomatoes were a good find.

As I pulled back some weeds to give these plants some room to grow.. I stumbled across a couple cucumber plants. Struggling to survive without sunlight.. choked out by the tall weeds.. but still alive.

Excited to see so much surviving in this overgrown and neglected garden, I started pulling weeds with more energy.

As I knelt there in the dirt… I realized our lives are like my garden..

There are seasons where we will not have the energy or resources to water our talents or hobbies. We may not have the time to weed out our bad habits or negative thoughts..

And harvesting? That will have to wait.

When I first became a mom.. the only thing I paid attention to? Yup.. watering those baby plants. The other corners of my garden were virtually forgotten..

When my son was diagnosed with Autism.. and then a mood disorder… Yup.. the corners of my garden grew high with weeds again..

I didn’t water my friendships… I didn’t weed out my worries… I didn’t take time to read for fun.. or to write for enjoyment.. My adventure plants were nearly choked out…

…and my self care?

I don’t think that plant survived…

Doctors and friends often remind me that I never take enough time for myself.

You see?

My “zucchini plant”? My boring, stable.. always present … can’t kill talent?

Taking care of others..

And I do it really well… sometimes too well. So well.. at times.. that I over-volunteer.. I over-work myself.. over commit …

…under eat.. under sleep.. under relax ..

… and forget to leave enough energy to enjoy my interests…

My tomato plants…? My exciting adventure plants… my love to read and write… my love to play baseball in the backyard? .. to watch Jane Austen movies?

Those plants are surviving.. but they don’t have a lot of fruit on them.

And those cuke plants? Friendships and relationships?

Pulling back the weeds, I always find that they are still there. Ready to listen .. and to laugh. But I need to go looking for them more often.

Surprisingly… after the really long year ?

My garden is full of ALL KINDS of interesting things. I pulled out unique plants I have never seen before, beautiful weed flowers.. and huge pricker bushes.

I find that all kinds of beauty.. and ugliness can come from struggles in life. Doubts and bitterness… anger… fears… they can ALL take root in your garden. So can surprise friendships, new knowledge… new skills… blessings in unexpected forms.

While I walked my journey as a parent of a son with Autism.. I had doubts as to whether I could be a good parent.. I had anger that my son had to endure so much.. FEAR that we would never make it past each “phase”… fear that I would fail my son…

… but…

But I also found some amazing friendships among the flowers that walked with us… Paraprofessionals, special education directors, speech therapists, teachers… students in his classes… parents of his peers…

I developed a huge knowledge data base.. that I found could be applied to all kids..

I developed a vast amount of patience… that I didn’t know I had… Patience that I apply to every aspect of my life.

When a difficult season of life was over?

I found myself kneeling in the dirt… pulling weeds.. letting the sun shine on forgotten parts of my life.. finding friendships that I had neglected…

Today I pulled out those pricker bushes… all the fears and anger… Remembering how happy and thriving my kids are… I threw those fears in the pile with the doubts and exhaustion….

But… when my hand came across a weed flower? A friendship I hadn’t expected.. one I didn’t plant… and I certainly didn’t plan for?

I simply smile… and clear the plants surrounding it.

And today.. as I looked around my garden…? Among those weeds..?

I realized that some of my favorite things weren’t planned for…

.. thrive

img_0574As we traveled home from dropping my daughter off at her first apartment, we pulled off on a scenic overlook.

High on a hill overlooking the beautiful Lake Superior, the colors were vibrant.. the lake was calm… The whole area was stunning.

Everything was thriving.

Except one tree…

There in the middle of all the green trees.. in the midst of the green grass growing high… right next to one of the largest supplies of fresh water in the world… ??

Right there was a very brown, very dried up tree.. The brown was such a contrast to the greens around it, that you couldn’t help but notice it.

As I snapped a few pictures of it, I wondered what was eating at it. This tree couldn’t thrive in the most optimal environment.. so something had to be eating at it.

I enjoyed the view for another moment and then continued down the hill to the beach below.. img_0591

The lake was unusually calm.. and it was a beautiful place to take pictures..

As I tried to get artistic with a pile of rocks, my foot came to rest next to a stump in the sand. At first, I thought it was a rock and tried to move it… but it wouldn’t budge.

So I shifted my footing and snapped a picture of it.

A stump… from a tree… that had survived and grown on a sandy beach. No dark rich soil.. No minerals and nutrients… nothing to shelter it from the winds.

As I pushed on the stump again, I could feel how solidly the roots were planted still.

img_0676 Here was a tree who had lived in an environment full of difficulties and right next to a turbulent body of water.

And yet?

Yet.. this tree dug its roots down deep.. deep enough to hold on and thrive for a number of years.

Again my attention was drawn to the brown tree on the hill.

So often we are like these trees.

Some of us are planted in fertile soil.. in a beautiful environment… with so many blessings…

Yet?

And yet… we let things eat at us. Anger.. disappointment… something from our past that we feel like we can’t let go of… Something that has a deep hold on us..

But those things eat at our roots.. and steal the joy from our lives if we let them control us.

When we let those things go?

When we let them go.. they can’t control us anymore. And we can thrive…

I have met a number of people in my life… who are like the stump on the beach. Some of them were parents of kiddos with extreme special needs. Some were people with the most horrific childhoods.. Some survived diseases.. some survived without parents…

But… ?

But they ALL survived…

What stood out about these people?

They stood on the shores of those turbulent waves… they dug their roots down deep…

..and they survived…

In fact?

They didn’t JUST survive.. With smiles on their faces.. and counting their blessings … and reaching out to help others… They were thriving…

I snapped a couple more pictures and thought about my daughter that we just dropped off at college.. I thought about my son that stood there beside me… We have no idea what the future holds for either of them. We have no idea where the future will take either of them…

A smile came to my face as I whispered a prayer for them.

My prayer? … as I sat there in the sand?

My prayer for my kids is that they will thrive wherever they are planted …

… my smile?

My smile is because I believe they will…

.. our own luck..

Today is Friday the 13th .. one of the most superstitious days for some people…

As I sit here drinking my coffee, I started to wonder how many people are waiting for something bad to happen…

Not that I don’t believe in bad luck..

.. in the theater, we have a “tradition” where we have one performance where EVERY THING falls apart backstage. Costumes disappear.. buttons come off vests.. props break.. someone falls apart emotionally… the lemon/orange water springs a leak all over the floor…

.. every season it is the same..

.. we learned to expect that “bad luck” show..

.. and we laugh during the absurdity of it all…

So I can’t laugh at people who are superstitious.. and go into the “Friday the 13th’s” of this world.. prepared for the worst.

..in fact? Maybe it is foolish for me to go naively into the world .. ASSUMING that I will be able to handle any bad luck that comes my way.

Naively thinking that my Faith in God.. my faith in my family.. my faith in my friends.. and my faith in myself will get me through any luck that life throws at me..

But honestly?

The curve balls that life has thrown me aren’t things I ever would have expected.. let alone things that I could have prepared myself for..

yeah.. I’ve had an accident.. and a flat tire.. and some car issues.. and I even locked my keys in my car once..

.. but having a kid who has Autism?

I didn’t even know that was a possibility 19 years ago.

… having to have my son’s hips screwed back together?

I didn’t even know that was a thing.

.. having severe food intolerances be the cause of my kids health issues?

That only happened in movies.. right?

… a pack of raccoons wiping out my whole bird flock?

Ok.. I probably could have expected that one..

Recently my mom was in the hospital. It was pretty scary. The nurses needed to draw blood from her but they were finding it to be nearly impossible.

When another nurse came in to try to find a vein that would work..?

Well? Someone wished him luck..

Without looking up? He stated, “I make my own luck.”

And he was successful!!!

At the time, we were all simply grateful for his confidence.

But since that day?

Since that day, I have found that this simple statement is true.

We do make our own luck.

There is a saying out there..

Life isn’t about surviving the storm…

Life is about learning to dance in the rain..

I laughed when I saw it because this was how I approached raising a son with special needs…

… this was how I approached raising a very independent, strong willed daughter..

.. this is how I approach life…

I could let bad luck hold me back.. or I can focus on the good things that are still there..

Through everything? Through every tough situation I still have 2 beautiful children.. I have an amazing family… a Merciful God.. and some pretty spectacular friends..

… through everything we choose to laugh through the tears… sing through the frustrations .. and dance in the rain..

After all.. can it really be bad luck if we are all together? Or can we change those bad situations into good luck by finding the good around us? Can we change that bad luck to good luck simply by having Faith in ourselves and those around us?

So today?

Today I won’t worry about what bad luck this “Friday the 13th” has in store for me…

.. because I make my own luck…

.. mosquitos ..

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind here in our house..

.. graduation and family vacations …

… emergencies…

.. new pets…

It was so busy that I almost cancelled one of my author events. It seemed selfish to do something for me, when there was so much to do at home.

But in the end, I kept my event. And I spent a marvelous couple days with my girl..

.. even though my girl didn’t feel well..

.. even though the hotel was less than we had hoped for..

… even though the weather was a little too cold for the sunset..

Still???

Still we had a marvelous time..

.. we laughed and talked as the sun went down..

.. we shivered and talked as we took pictures of the seagulls..

… created works of art and had a few laughs as we watched the sun go down a little more ..

As we limped across the sharp rocks to the warm car, we laughed at each other’s gasps of pain..

BUT when I got into the car.. it filled up with mosquitoes..

when I left the door open to get one more pictures.. ?? Even more mosquitoes flew into the car..

ok.. more than few.. it was like a cloud of mosquitos… and they were biting me through my sweatshirt..

This surprised me…

We had sat on the beach for over 30 minutes.. and I had not noticed ONE mosquito..

.. NOT ONE…

.. but then? Then I realized .. I had been focusing on the moment. Focusing on my girl and what she had to say.. focusing on the laughter.

There could have been a million mosquitoes.. and I wouldn’t have seen them.

Life is like that..

If I let the mosquitoes bother me? The bills.. the busy schedule ahead.. the housework.. conflict.. ??

It blocks out the “present”..

But when I write down those worries .. and schedule a time for them? Then maybe… JUST maybe.. I can focus on the present …

MAYBE I’ll even find time to write more..

As we drove away from the beach that night.. we laughed at the mosquitoes swarming around our heads..

… then decided to stop .. and get one more picture…

..footprints..

I watched my son run down the shoreline today.. kicking sand in the direction of his sister. He didn’t even try to be sneaky about it. Laughing at his own antics, he would wait for his sister to splash him in return.. My daughter would pretend to be offended .. and then they repeated the whole scene again.

.. as I watched them play fight.. I noticed the footprints that my family left behind them..

.. the footprints that weaved in and out of the ones that stayed straight and steady…

.. the deep twisting prints of my kids’ playful actions..

… the steady footfalls that others left behind…

It got me thinking…

…it doesn’t really matter what path we take in life… it doesn’t even matter where we are going…

What REALLY matters?

What really matters is how we are getting there… Are we enjoying life? Are we enjoying our family? Are we living each moment to the fullest?

And most importantly?

What are we leaving behind?

Are we leaving behind happy memories? Memories of laughter and playful water fights on the beach? Are we leaving behind feelings of love and being cherished?

What will people remember us for after our walk through life is finished? Will they remember how hard we worked? Or how we enjoyed life? Will they see the impact we had on others?

When I looked up from those footprints in the sand.. I watched my kids with a tear in my eye… (maybe more than one tear)..

I think both of my kids will leave some pretty special footprints through life..

both sets different ..

but equally beautiful in their own way…

That makes me one proud momom…

A lifetime in a moment…

Last night, I watched the beautiful colors fill the sky as the sun set behind the trees. The brilliant display was only accentuated by the play of lights and shadows.

And then in a few moments?

In just a few moments it was over and the light faded from the sky .. and the moment of beauty was over.

There are days where time speeds by in much the same way.. and you wonder where the time went. Hours that passed in a moment.

And then there are moments that last hours..

I have experienced a lot of moments in my lifetime. Some great moments and some.. well? Some not so great moments.

The moments after the doctor confirmed my son had autism?

That moment felt like it lasted an hour. As your mind categorized every thing that diagnosis would change for his life .. and ours…

The moments after the doctor told me my son needed a screw to hold his hip together..? Felt like hours…

But mostly I remember the happy moments.. like watching my son dancing in the waters of Lake Michigan as the sun set behind him.. watching my daughter perform in any one of her performances, watching my kids laugh, laughing with my nieces and nephews, watching a shy student shine on stage, early morning talks with any of my exchange daughters..

So many moments that could fill a lifetime..

.. and then I realized …

Life is like that sunset…

Sometimes the most beautiful moments are the shortest.. and if we don’t enjoy the beauty while it’s there? If we don’t keep our eyes glued to the colors playing amongst the shadows? If we don’t stay IN THAT MOMENT.. we will miss it…

… and life is already too short..

We blink and our kids grow up too fast.. We blink and months pass by..

We blink and we miss so much.

So.. we get to choose…

Do we turn our moments into lifetimes?

Or turn our lifetime into mere moments?

It humbles me.

For me? I will continue to live in each moment .. waiting to see the beauty life has for me.. waiting to make memories in each of those moments..

This …

Every once in a while something comes along to remind me of the start of our journey we call “Autism”…

This….

http://on.today.com/2opmM7q

As a parent of a kid with special needs.. you have to go through a grieving process.. You have to give up your expectations for your child.. you have to give up those dreams you had FOR them… and it’s hard…

Really hard….

..and then you create new dreams. Ones that feel like you are giving up on them at first…

… but it’s really hard…

People often tell me how strong I am… but.. there isn’t really a choice. I move forward and we push for every goal..

.. and it’s been hard..

…but it was worth it all..

At 19? My son is amazing and I see the dreams he has.. and I see a future that will be good.

…but it’s still hard.. and I remember feeling where this mom is at in the video… and the memory makes my heart hurt.. wondering what My boy would be like if Autism hadn’t altered the course of his life.

.. but for me?

.. for me, I began to think that maybe Autism was supposed to alter mine.

Wherever my son goes?

He spreads happiness and hope through his smiles and his struggles…

… and he doesn’t miss the dreams I had for him at all…

…because you see?

He has his own…

..the game of life..

.. this Christmas Eve I had the pleasure of playing the game of Life with my nieces and nephews…

..now…?

Most of these nieces and nephews were well below the suggested age bracket of “8 and up” that was printed on the box…

But they all wanted to play… so we opened the box… and put the board together.

… when I pointed out the starting place on the board.. one of my nephews looked at it with doubt.. and said that it looked more like the end of the game…

HA ha…

I think more than one person would say that starting a career or starting college would be the end of their life.. or at least the end of all things “fun”…

.. as I tried to get them all focused on setting up the game to play… they were FAR more interested in filling their cars full of kids … or visiting their uncle Tim in Jail.. or picking out their houses.. and definitely running over their little people…

.. finally I gave up trying to show them the rules and just watched them play.. I watched them drive their cars backwards on the roads.. ha .. that is IF they stayed on the roads at all..

As I watched them play?

I couldn’t help but think how they represented the world around us.

Not everyone wants to follow the rules of Life..

.. and some people don’t get the option of starting at the beginning.. OR following the road exactly..

Some of us start OUT doing things according to the rules.. traveling the roads in the directions we are supposed to.. ONLY to find a detour (or two) that takes us off the main stream road..

…special needs

…widowed

… job changes

… house fire

The point is?

The point is.. that there is no “perfect” road through life. No rules that apply to every person..

Who was I to tell them that my game “rules” were more fun than the “rules” they were playing by… ??

…so I laughed.. and pointed out to my nephew that it didn’t matter if he was driving backwards on the road.. but that Jesus wouldn’t want him to run over his kids…

… He looked down at the game pieces and scowled..

“Those aren’t my kids.. that’s my wife.”

I silently vowed to never loan him my keys as I helped his poor wife back in his car.

The obvious issue…

img_8646-1Last week, we drove to the frozen Northern coast of Michigan to see my daughter perform on stage.

…and yes… with it being December? There was snow… a lot of snow.

Yes… the beautiful upper peninsula of Michigan was very white.

Joking around with my son, I pointed to Lake Superior (with its chunks of ice) and asked him, “Hey Buddy… should we go swimming?”

He looked out the window at the huge waves and the snowy beach … “No.. no .. no.. wait a minute,” he told me, obviously appalled at my lack of good choices. “We CAN’T go swimming.”

Trying not to laugh at his tone, I asked seriously, “Why not?”

Annoyed, my son stated, “There are FISH in there.”

As if the FISH were the OBVIOUS reason we could NOT go swimming in Lake Superior in the middle of December.

After we all burst out laughing, I told him that it was “too cold” to go swimming anyway.

He looked at me for a second, then said, “Yeah, it’s too cold.” … like EVERYONE knew it was too cold.

It makes me laugh to see the world through my son’s eyes…

…but it also makes me think.

You see?

My son has Autism .. and he sees the whole world differently than I do. And it fascinates me. The things that I see as obvious? He looks past them. The things that I look past? He finds them fascinating…. and very important.

As a result, he makes me look at the world differently.. every day.

My son is a senior in high school this year. Which means that next year we will be heading down a different road. An unknown.. untraveled road …for us.

… and I admit… it looks a little bit like that windy beach… high waves crashing down on the sand.. limited visibility of the horizon???

Yeah… I have some worries.

My son wants to go to college. There are colleges for students with Autism… and there is even one in Michigan.

Even so…

.. there are still unknowns.. there always will be unknowns with mood disorders…

But… where I look at obvious worries and stop?

.. where I see obvious worries… my son looks beyond .. He sees the “cold weather” and the “waves” as a given… and looks beyond to the things that worry him.

So what I figure?

…if we have gotten through 18 1/2 years of wind and obstacles on this journey through life?

… Then maybe.. just maybe… we can help each get past the obvious issues.. I can help him past the fish and he can help me see past the cold…

…and we will make it through this new adventure together…

..and it will be beautiful….

 

 

Left behind..

Today I was flipping through the 100’s of photos I took last week.. and I found one I hadn’t intended to take.

The accidental picture of my shadow on the pavement amused me at first..

Partly because my first novel is titled “Shadows” … and it’s based on my belief that we are often affected by the “things” left behind by others in our lives.. the “shadows” that are left behind..

As I flipped through the rest of the pictures from that parade?

I started to see that picture in a different light..

So many of my pictures were intentional. I was capturing memories of my son as he rode in the back of a truck with a top hat .. talking to an angel of a girl. I intentionally took photos of the international students as they carried their flags in the parade. I tried to capture the joy on the faces of those kids around me as they enjoyed that day.

THEN? Then in the middle of these amazing photos.. is a random picture of the ground (and my shadow) .. that I had not intended on capturing.

How often is that the way life is?

Today I INTENDED to comfort a girl who was nervous about a presentation…

Today I INTENDED on being a good influence on a young man who struggles to trust people..

Today I INTENDED to encourage a little guy who hates math.. because he doesn’t understand it..

Today I INTENDED to impress on my son, the importance of good behavior in all places.. even the halls of school.

…but what about the other impressions I leave with people ..

…the impressions I hadn’t intended to give them?

My last few weeks have been jam packed and as I go into the last few weeks of theater season? They aren’t about to get any calmer..

… I always worry that in my times of stress, I will leave behind an impression.. (or a photograph of time…) that I hadn’t intended to give…

As a result?

When I feel emotions in me start to rise? Anger, frustration, impatience, .. or tears…? I take a deep breath … and decide on an intentional impression…

… and I hope that it’s the “photograph” of myself that sticks with someone..

.. and hope that it’s enough…

What are you leaving behind today?