Friday, December 26, 2008

Larger than Life

Somewhat appropriate that Dennis Wilson is singing "Under the Moonlight" as I type. Talk about some one who was bigger than his physical self--I was telling some one yesterday that DW always looked so much taller than he actually was (5'9) and it was always a shock seeing him next to his literal big brother Brian (6'4).

Literal size has almost zero to do with presence.

So what is it, then, some combination of aura, physical stature and sheer force of personality? I just find myself thinking in terms of presence these days, and it might in part be a way of dealing with the physical absence of loved ones this holiday season. We went to my uncle's house Christmas Eve, and it was weird, not having Gran there, the first Christmas she is gone. He is doing well, better than I expected, decorating his tree as ever with help from me and the boys.

Gran wasn't there, but she was. The house is different now, but she was there at least in spirit. And my uncle, oddly, fills the space of the house in a way he didn't while she was still alive. He is a tall (6'4) man, but his reticence makes him seem smaller. Not so this year. Not so now.

Gran is gone, but he continues to care (in his own way) for the women who cared for Gran the last few years. He makes them dinner on holidays and has them over. They are his family, as are the cats he adopts.

My mom used to say he didn't have a life. I would argue that he does--a far richer and more nuanced one than most of us.

My hat's off to him. I think he gets things most of us have missed.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Misspent Youth and Other Thoughts

Just batting clean up on a few things, then onto baking and festivities.

I've been chatting with a good friend about a few things lately that have turned me backward via Ernest Hemingway and misspent youth. Thus 'Ed' was conjured.

'Ed' was an old boss of mine, one of those people you expect much to come of in life and are somewhat surprised to learn in the fullness of time that he is just like everyone else. I would go drinking with him and another co-worker after work--at the time, I wasn't legal, but where we went, that didn't seem to be a problem.

Anyway, on two memorable (if I could remember them that is) occasions, I managed to wend my way home afterward. The first time I went via the Market Frankford line and crashed on a friend's couch. Really, I'm not sure how I made it from 2nd street to 34th Street, nor am I quite sure how I made it to the safe haven right off of Drexel's campus. Angels? Have YOU a better explanation?

Looking back at my distant self, more than 21 years ago, I would have to backhand her a couple of times just on principle:

1) a)When you stand 5 feet 7 and change and weigh 120 pounds soaking wet, there is NO WAY IN HELL you will be able to keep up with, let alone out-drink, some one who is b) 6 foot 3 plus and over 200 pounds.

2)Drinking won't turn you into Ernest Hemingway--or anyone else. It's just you--only drunk.

3)Going ANYWHERE in such a state at night, alone (and see 1a) is a VERY BAD IDEA.

A few good things came of that night, but my presence necessitated that. And it wasn't my good sense that kept me here at that time.

In many ways, my misspent youth was laughably sheltered. I never did drugs, because I have a hard enough time handling life without chemical distraction; I like my wine and beer with an occasional scotch and port, but too much is too much. I moved out at 20 and have supported myself since, so most of my concerns have been in keeping food in my fridge, clothes on my back, and a roof over my head. That I do these things, have been doing them for two decades, without expecting some one else to do it for me, that's a source of accomplishment for me. Everything else is gravy.

I'm listening to the boys in the other room while I finish up a few things. Then we'll bake and get things ready for Santa. Giving thanks today for all my wonderful friends, colleagues, family and partners in crime who make my life a rich and wonderful place to be. Even DH remarked that I'm amazingly happy these days. (He was happy until I told him his gift was the stove, but he recovered).

Life is good. God is good.

To work with me.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Al on my mind

I love this guy. He's my best friend's husband, a navy guy, marksman, IT genius, superdad, and all-around mensch. He looks a little like Fred Astaire and fills a room with his presence, even though he's only a little taller than I am. He's lean, wiry, runs 4 miles a day, has a quick smile, and doesn't take shit off of anyone.

I was thinking about him this am, because he once said 'every house needs a staging area.' The irony is that his house does not have any such discernible feature--his and K's house is immaculate--and with 3 young boys, I don't know how they pull it off.

Actually, I do. Al is a navy guy, and he likes his stuff squared away. So it is.

Meanwhile, my whole house is a staging area. Despite my best efforts, IEPs, toys, bills, and other flotsam of our lives start in the dining room, trail across the foyer, into the living room, and office (where Nic's elevators take over), family room, mud room, back into the kitchen, thus we have come full circle.

Upstairs? That's where we run everything and shut the door if anyone comes over.

So, bringing this around to my point--for 2009, I want a STAGING AREA. Not a STAGING HOUSE. Organization. Simplification. All Zen. All the time.

(Now the reality--my multiple hats and responsibilities may not work well with this. But Al does as much--if not more--than I do).

I think a bottle of Aquavit may make him spill his secrets... :)

Monday, December 22, 2008

There is no "I" in Team

I have to get back into the mindset of being on a team again. It's been such a long time since I've really felt a part of any work environment, yet this am I came into an office and found two cards, a book , and container of Godiva Hot Cocoa waiting for me.

I wasn't going to come in tomorrow, but now I think I should. I have to spread some cheer around.

I am leaving after my meeting with the executive director to do a little shopping (still need to get something for DH even though technically the new stove IS his present)and baking. My pumpkin bread demands have doubled this year, so have to get more flour and pumpkin to make them, and yes, I am actually baking cookies this year. I told my little one at breakfast this am that I needed help with cookies, and his eyes just got huge.

So he's excited. 3 more sleeps until Santa.

And I have to do my book chapters, too. It will all get done.

AND still got have that bug. At some point I will be able to take myself off the BRAT diet, just not sure when. I ate the wonderful paella I made last night anyway--I'm paying for it today, but there was no way I wasn't going to enjoy that.

So, hmm. Making progress, always lots to do. STILL have not mailed Christmas cards, still have to get the care package out to CA. That'll have to happen today.

Baking, shopping and working! DH finally got the outside lights up, so we are looking festive at last. Have to take the kids over to see the Holiday Railroad this week. Probably after Christmas we'll get there.


AND what a wild windy night the longest night of the year was last night. Thank God for thermal underwear.

Did I say I was leaving after the meeting? Hah. I need to stick around a little longer than I was expecting--learning more about how to be a technological whiz. My role here at the nonprofit is expanding (alas, not my hours), but I think we're positioning for the big time (just had a good meeting with the boss boss).

In the meantime, I need a plan B for lunch--was going to eat that at home.....

UPDATE 6:45 or so, time to make dinner, made a huge dent in my shopping, all that's left to do is get some baking going, cards sent, and one last package to get together.

A good afternoon~!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Night Before Christmas--autism style

As my older son builds a contraption with a fishing net, masking tape, toilet paper and soap boxes, the following showed up in my inbox with impeccable timing:

'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house

The creatures were stirring, yes, even the mouse

We tried Melatonin and gave a hot bath

But the holiday jitters, they always distract

The children were finally all nestled in bed

When nightmares of terror ran through my OWN head

Did I get the right gift, the right color and style?

Would there be a tantrum or, maybe, a smile?

Our relatives come but they don't understand

The pleasure he gets just from repeating and focusing

They say "He needs discipline, just a well-needed smack"

"You must learn to parent" and on goes the attack

We smile and nod because we know deep inside

The argument is moot, let them all take a side

For only we know autism's procession

The struggles and triumphs, achievements, regression

See, what they don't know and what they don't see

Is the joy that we feel over simplicity

"He said Hello!", "She ate something green!"

"He told his first lie!", "She did not cause a scene!"

"He peed on the potty, who CARES if he's ten!"

"He stopped saying the same thing again and again!"

Others don't realize just how we can cope

How we bravely hang on at the end of our rope

But what they don't see is the joy we can't hide

When our children with autism make the tiniest stride

We may look at others without the problems we face

With jealousy, sadness, or even distaste

But what they don't know, nor sometimes do we

Is that children with autism bring joyous simplicity

They don't get excited over expensive things

But we jump for joy over the progress work brings

Children with autism try hard every day

They make us proud more than words can say

They work even harder than you or I

To achieve something small, to reach a star in the sky

So to those who don't get it or don't have a clue

Take a walk in my shoes and I'll assure you

that ten minutes in you'll look with respect

at the little child who no one ever expects

To be larger than life because he's so quiet or so different

before being judgmental perhaps you should try it

Our holidays are different, they're special, it's true

Wondrous children make it so through all that they do

But our joy is no less, my lights just as bright

as I look at my child and say "Merry Christmas, good night".

Friday, December 19, 2008

Article is done, DONE!

Man, I hate to compare writing to labor (SO overdone), but this last project tortured me in ways I just am not accustomed to. But it's done, submitted for review, hopefully I'll have all my comments back by Monday, and I'll be able to invoice. Yay.

Then all that remains is the book. I have seven chapters in backlog right now and hope to get to a couple over the weekend, and do some here and there over next week. I think those are all due the Monday after Christmas. This is proof review, so it should be relatively painless.

And then some quiet until the new year.

We just got the tree up; the kids helped me decorate him--him?? My tree's a him, I'll be damned. (5 ornaments broken, think 2 can be repaired). G did his last holiday show at his preschool yesterday--that kind of caught me flat-footed how misty eyed that made me. And this is the first time in six years of attending these concerts that one my kids ACTUALLY SANG. (Nic cried through his first two, sat stone-faced through the third). Nic had his holiday party this morning, a holiday breakfast, and that went well.

And I had my first holiday party in years with workmates. I have some gifts that I put under the tree now to open Christmas morning.

Not a lot of Christmas cards this year. I haven't even gotten around to that yet.

6 days left. Nuts. I have a lot to do.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

All I want for Christmas

Remembering my dear departed dad today. He would have been 70 this year.

He's been with me much this past week, but this morning he made me smile.

My mom has said through the years that one of my dad's favorite comments at Christmas (They shared 17 before he died) was that if it weren't for Christmas, there would NEVER be any replenishment of socks and underwear.

We have home movies to document this. Mom opening a box and soundlessly (there's no sound on those old super 8 movies) rhapsodizing over a pair of granny panties she pulled out of a Christmas card box. I think of that image, her comments over the years, and I smile.

Because my socks are at least 6 years old and worn through. Don't even wish to discuss the state of my unmentionables.

Did I say I wanted nothing? Scratch that. Santa, please bring me some socks and underwear?

and a quick chuckle

href="" title="Pearls Before Swine">Pearls Before Swine

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

9 days left and I haven't started shopping?

Nope. It's a lean year, and my list is small. I'll be doing a lot of baking.

Had a nice set of parties last weekend, and the kids had a great time. This weekend will be quieter, but enough out and about to keep everyone happy.

Will be doing a lot of teaching the kids how to give. We've been fortunate, so we will be helping out those less so, because we can. My kids will be the ones doing the giving. I want them to understand that you get back so much more than you give.

I live that. I want them to learn it.

I also want them to learn what mercy is. There are so many adults who don't get mercy, so with a little help from Wikipedia, let me explain:

Mercy is a word used to describe compassion shown by one person to another, or a request from one person to another to be shown such leniency or unwarranted compassion for a crime or wrongdoing. One of the basic virtues of chivalry, Christian ethics, Judaism, and Islam, it is also related to concepts of justice and morality in behaviour between people. In India, compassion is known as karuna.

Leniency. Compassion. Traits sorely lacking in some people. A big conundrum with me is people who think the world owes them something. People who are bitter because they refuse to take responsibility for their own lives (self-determination, anyone?) or their own actions. It's so easy to point the finger at other people and blame others for what the blamer has failed to accomplish in his or her own life. When you are looking for blame? Find a mirror.

You make your own luck. You make your own decisions. Aspergers has cost me friends, jobs, relationships, but you know what, I don't blame Aspergers. I learn from my mistakes. AND I MOVE ON.

I encourage others to do the same. Own your lives. Own your mistakes. Take responsibility for your actions. Everything has a cause and effect. It takes so little to bring joy to others. Why not expend that energy for good in this season?

Make your life extraordinary. Make your corner of the world a better place.

Think the world owes you? That other people owe you?

Think again.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Had Gabriel's last meeting with the IU today. And it is the last, since finally we have all the pieces we need in place for a successful transition to Kindergarten.

And it's been a hell of a road. We've had eight meetings for G in the last year. We nearly went to due process last year over OT, and ironically, he's getting more of that (and without an argument) than any other therapy.

Today, his team was all there, and Miss M, his teacher from his regular ed placement, played a pivotal role today in giving the rest of his team a perspective that they haven't gotten. It's a marvel she gives so much, when really the only thing she is getting out of it is how to effectively teach MY child. How wonderful that she is so invested in his success. I am amazed and touched at how much she has done and continues to do for my little guy.

I feel much better about this big change ahead. I think he will be ready, and we will be ready, for what lies ahead.

On another note, Nic continues to make friends and headway in third grade. The neighborhood still leaves much, but that's okay. There's a bigger world out there that both my boys are preparing for. And they continue to amaze and inspire me.

The thanksgiving dinner happens tomorrow night--yay!

Monday, December 8, 2008


Tonight I am making a special dinner: roasted chicken with sausage and spinach stuffing, turnips, asparagus and cranberry sauce. I'm giving thanks. It's a special occasion.

It'll be the first time I'm using the new stove; indeed, it'll be the first time I cooked a meal in a couple weeks (or close to it). Andy took MIL back on Friday, I stayed home and played catch up with work and home stuff, and we went to our family retreat weekend Friday night.

The short report is that it was awesome. With a little tweaking it will be brilliant. My partners in crime not only heard everything I said in setting up, they heard a lot of things I didn't say, and the result was a weekend of healing and respite for all of us. We made new friends--and our kids made new friends, too. Nic had a great conversation with a brilliant 15 year old boy about the properties of magnets (they were working at the Magnetix table together, and I daresay they both learned a couple things from one another).

I had some great conversations with people I've previously been in the same room with, but never had time to talk to. Andy had some great conversations with the guys as they drank beer and did a service project together. We exchanged emails, phone numbers, and are making plans to get our families together offsite.

The boys had a blast. We had movie night on Friday, Saturday they spent moonbouncing, playing kickball, doing various sensory play, computers, swimming, running, jumping, and bouncing, and Sunday we all made a gingerbread house before closing up and heading home.

I got together with my family for a birthday party, and that let me down. I cried some going home. As near as I could figure, it was the contrast between spending the weekend with other people who 'get it' and then listening to my mom and sisters rip apart other people.

I stopped them a few times reminding them that it's not their place to judge, reminding them that I am well aware that people judge ME. They would cool off for about five minutes and then ramp up on some one else.

Andy asked me what was wrong, and I couldn't verbalize it.

But if I had the sense to say so at the time, I would have asked 'and what makes you so perfect?'

Andy says I take people--I guess meaning our families--too seriously. But he reminded me that plenty of people in our situation are actually estranged from their respective families of origin--but we are not.

Well, we are not because we both realize that our kids recognizing their tribes of origin is important.

But honestly? Sometimes my own family does me more harm than good. I want to shield my boys from the harm, but I don't know that it's possible. My brother and SIL 'get it'--and no one else in our families seems to.

And my boys always seem to know where they are welcome. They never want to leave my brother's--and yet despite all the toys as their aunt's house, when I said it was time to go, they were ready, jackets on, zero arguments.

It was also a long weekend.

But anyway, giving thanks--thanks for good friends, the family of my creation, those which do not share my blood but share my heart and soul, that there is a place in this world for my boys, and I know how to show them where to find it--and at worst, create that space, if it comes that.

I couldn't have appreciated this weekend without the contrast, but it was bittersweet, nevertheless.....

Thursday, December 4, 2008

It's a Faith Thing

It's been an eventful 48 hours.

Where we are at this moment: it is unclear when or if nephew will show up to pick up and deliver MIL to her rightful residence. Adding to the fun is the fact that DH is somewhere to the north and west. Possibly at Costco. But we are not sure, since he left his phone plugged in here to this outlet, where it is not doing him much good.

MIL tried calling him repeatedly. Until I pointed his phone ringing on the chair across the room.

She started to admonish me for this, but thought the better of it. Good for her. She's figuring it out.

Necessity compelled me to speak with Perky this pm. She parked herself in my driveway while I was talking to G's bus driver. Trying to think if I gave her any ammo; it wasn't a bad conversation, but I always suspect she's on a fishing expedition to tease out something to discuss with Capri2.

You know what, I don't even know why I devote any bandwidth to this. She talks about everyone to everyone. Leave it there.

Nic owes me language arts homework. I'll sit on him in another 10 minutes to get that done.

A Christmas card from an unexpected source came today. I think for some odd reason that it will have some company in the coming weeks. It'll be interesting to see who else I hear from.

Poetic justice comes in a variety of sizes, shapes, colors and flavors. Savory irony is my favorite.

And I had lunch with a good friend today. I met my brother on Tuesday. It's been a good week to connect, reconnect and realign. I have a job on my hands straightening out my life sitch. It's not bad--DH and I have arrived onto the same page in different ways and different times, but we are here, and it's working out.

But I sketched out all my commitments--the work, volunteer, church stuff--and add to it my boys''s all gotten a little out of control. I tend to over commit because 1) I never turn down work 2) a lot of causes I care about are tied up directly to my kids and their services, so I am constantly volunteering and training with that in mind 3) my faith is important to me and I am trying to teach my boys the important role that God plays in their lives--with no help from my agnostic DH--so the church stuff is another nonnegotiable and 4) this isn't necessarily the real order of my priorities, it's just how they came out.

Part of this can be attributed that I am literally running from my house, which needs repair and renovation, neither of these things I want to address in this iffy economic situation; the other part of it is that I am running from my neighbors and giving my sons lives and friends beyond this street. I'm not saying this is the right way to do this, but it's what's going on, like it or not.

Actually, circling back here, my church stuff is what really gets DH's knickers in a twist. Which is tough, because it's the most important to me, and he's got to figure out a way to accommodate it.

My faith gets me through. A friend sent me this yesterday: Don't tell God how big your storm is; tell your storm how big your God is.

My entire adult life has been a leap of faith. And God has never dropped me.

I'll work it out. I always do.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

No Easy Fixes

Staring at the smoldering pile of ruins that was my image of myself. I know I am not always right, but being shown precisely how wrong I am and in such a detailed fashion is humbling.

Hand me the shovel and find yourself a good book, this could take a while....

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Maybe not so much

So Andy came back with Nic and said that Nic started falling apart during the scrimmages. The North Hills kids on the team naturally have game, and Nic clearly does not.

This is something I can actually work with him on, having played myself. Whether he wants to is another story.

And Andy said there was a bunch of fifth graders making fun of Nic. One made the mistake of getting in Andy's face, and Andy flipped him off. Apparently that came as a bit of a shock to the offender, because that was the last Andy saw of him.

So, so, so. So Andy will bring Nic over to practice from camp on Saturday afternoon. We really can't afford to miss, so we need to keep on this.

Why does this have to be so fucking hard?

MIL is still here. Of course. She was on her cookie mission yesterday (she had all her stuff all over kitchen and instructed the kids to me for dinner....fortunately, she didn't have custody of the microwave) and she will be making pies today. And she HAS to stay until Thursday.

Here's the other thing. She could make the freaking pies at her place. We don't have any place to store them, since she BROUGHT 3 pies, no, make that 4--with her. I have a freezer full of food. I am guessing she is making these pies and nephew will schlep them back to his house, because there is no room at this inn.

Okay, *deep breath.* Time to fill that half-empty glass. Let's see, ample work to do? Check (get it done, you have a whole day to catch up). Clothes to wear? Check (do some laundry). Family with you? Check. (Hugging my little one).

God is good. Back to work.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Early reports of success

Nic is doing township basketball tonight. Dad's report from 15 minutes ago is that he is having a blast.

I think going with his peers was the right move in this case. More news as it comes in.

Ah, sweet escape

***************************deep cleansing breath************************

Now I can get my week off to a good start.

Figuring this Life thing out

Okay, so MIL has landed and no amount of bitching and moaning is going to make her go away.

Facebook is not letting me in.

It's just getting on 7 and the boys had a late night last night.

And I need to go into the city. I need to leave in an hour.

I spent yesterday with my buddy and her two boys--we met at a bounce around indoor gym, then went back to her house. She's had no end of troubles with her ex, her step mom, settling the kids into their lives post divorce. I spent most of the time listening, and whatever time I did speak trying to be helpful. I regaled her with my own recent adventures with the plagiarist, panhandling fangirl and Brian Wilson.

If nothing else works, I can be an amusing distraction.

Then we went home, had dinner, and DH and I went to see some friends play at a Vegan hookah bar two towns over. That was fun. But that's when I heard about how inflexible I am. All I can think is, what are they bitching about? She's HERE, isn't she? She's gotten her way again.

I guess she's not liking the hard stop to her visit, but I honestly don't understand why she needs to move in. She's an hour away; we can visit whenever she likes.

I think she likes to come here and fantacize she still has a house to keep.

I need to be more compassionate. But it's hard when she prefaces everything with a comment on my lack of experience...