Adventures..

Last night I took my son on an adventure. Honestly? It was the first adventure I had been on in awhile.

It wasn’t extravagant.

Actually.. it was the simplest of adventures. But it was amazing.

If I had to list the ONE thing that I thought was the least known about me? It would be how adventurous I am. I love to explore. I love to learn knew things, meet new people, explore new places..

In another time? I would have been a pioneer. Searching out new lands..

But as a parent of a child with special needs? (Ha.. actually? Just being a parent in general…) Parenting is an adventure in itself..

So for awhile? I didn’t have time for adventures.

But this week.. my soul called out for an adventure. I have been wanting to see the sunset on the big lake again.. over Lake Michigan. Something I hadn’t seen for a long time.

And I wanted something I thought my son would enjoy…

So I packed my camera.. and some extra clothes… some food for a picnic.. and we set out for the beach as soon as my crazy schedule allowed.

With a few unexpected delays.. and a 45 min delay in traffic… we arrived.. a little hungry .. and a little stressed..

But with the feel of the sand on my feet..

..and the breeze from the lake on my face..

.. the waves crashing against the shore..

.. I was relaxed within a few minutes..

And surprisingly…so was my boy…

We ate our picnic in silence as we watched the waves .. and he was completely calm.. like a peace had washed over him.

Then? Then, I talked him into taking off his socks and shoes and putting his feet in the water.. He was tentative at first.. worried it would be cold. But then he did something amazing .. he started to dance.

Often with Autism, simple things can seem overwhelming.. the beach can be too hot.. too loud.. too overwhelming…

As a parent of a child with Autism? I struggle with the balance between keeping him successful.. and challenging him to try new things. My adventure side always wants him to try new things.. but my realistic side? Well? I know realistically too many new adventures would stress him out..

But as the sun set last night? I watched a happy .. relaxed … giggling boy dance on the shoreline… jump waves with me.. asking me to take pictures..

If I had been cautious last night? If I had ignored my need for an adventure?

I would have missed seeing that happy, peaceful boy come out to play…

So with tears in my eyes I enjoyed those moments.. and these small hours will remain in my heart for a long time..

.. and I took a few more pictures..

…selfish…

When we go to camp with my family? Chances are some small animal will be captured within the first day..

That animal?

Whether it’s a frog or a toad.. a snake.. or once even a lizard… That poor animal will be handled from one kid to the next.. making each kid enormously happy.. and making the animal enormously stressed.

Fortunately most animals take the stress well and just learn to carry on.. and well? .. I’m sure they will hide better when they hear the pitter-patter of little feet.

In some ways I know how the toad in this photo feels…

I love to make people happy.. especially my family .. especially the little ones. So by taking the little Blessings in my life for fun rides.. walks.. to make sand castles… to hunt for small defenseless animals … and to make snacks.. ? Tell stories around the campfire…?

It feels good.. I love to see them happy. In fact?

In fact it seems selfish of me NOT to do little things to make them happy.. It seems so selfish not to use my time to make the lives of other people better and happier places. So I have always avoided being selfish..

And I am always happy with my choices..

But at times?

At times I think I know how that toad feels.. over handled.. tired.. desperately in need of a shower..

Just recently I have been learning that there is a difference between being selfish with your time..

…and taking time to care for yourself..

You see.. if I have to choose between doing something for my kids and doing something for myself..? I will pick my kids.. and squeeze reading for pleasure in between bedtime and 1 am.

But I often do too much .. for too many people.. and I just end up feeling tired.. and overhandled.. just like the toad..

Last weekend we went camping for the last time this summer. As everyone planned a kayak trip down river, my niece came to ask me if I wanted to go.

In the past? I would always Loan my kayak to someone else.. because after all..

it IS my kayak.. I could use it another time.

As I started to offer it to someone else, my niece scolded me. And said frankly.. ” You KNOW you want to go kayaking.”

You know what?

I really DID want to go kayaking.

So I loaded up my kayak.. and we went kayaking..

This was the laziest, slowest kayak trip I have ever been on.. I got to take 300 pictures (no exaggeration there).. my nieces and nephew decided on trying to kayak the “gondola” way.. we got stuck a few times..

We got a little sunburned as our 1 hour trip turned in to 2 hours.. or 3…

We laughed.. we sang songs (loudly and beautifully)… we counted how many times the gondolas tipped over… and we let the peace flow into our souls..

What about you? What have you done lately to take care of yourself?

**No animals were hurt in the making of this blog…

..washed away..

With all the rain in the south, it seemed trivial for us to worry that a sprinkle of a rain would ruin our hike yesterday… so hiking we went.

Up a VERY steep hill to see the Dead River Falls..

For me?

For me .. I was going up that steep rocky hill in flip flops..

You see? I had not anticipated that we would have time to go hiking .. so I did not come prepared with hiking shoes.

But I would never miss a chance to see a piece of wilderness.

And a beautiful piece of wilderness it was. Rugged and untamed… At one point, I left my shoes behind and continued bare footed. Not as comfortable as I would have liked (and I wouldn’t recommend it). But I was able to experience laughs with my kids, see them marvel at the beauty of it and I took so many pictures..

So prepared or not? It was worth it…

As I walked back to the rickety log bridge… I saw the most beautiful sight. A tree that stood strong and healthy.. even though half of the soil was washed away from its roots ..

The soil was washed away.. Big rocks pushed up from underneath.. it looks like gravity and a little wind would push that tree right over..

.. yet there it stands.. strong and sturdy…

And it brought tears to my eyes..

As a parent of a child with special needs?

I feel just like that tree..

.. 18 years of Autism.. 18 years of tears.. 18 years of letting go of how “things were supposed to be”.. 18 years of learning new autism research.. 18 years of medical issues.. 18 years of having life wash away at the roots I had dug into the Earth…

I should have fallen over long ago..

… but I have also had 18 years of laughter, 18 years of watching this boy grow with joy in his heart, 18 years of discovering the beautiful soul buried beneath the surface…

The laughter and joy have kept me strong and sturdy… despite the feeling of being worn down..

As I pushed back my tears.. I walked back across the log bridge .. ..my son ran towards me with a smile.. and his hand outstretched to me.. and said with confidence, “Here Mom, take my hand.”

Ok Buddy… I will take your hand. And no matter how prepared we are? …we will make it strong and sturdy…

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.

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