Sunday, May 30, 2010

Getting My Zen On

Yesterday was precisely what the doctor ordered.

As evidenced here, we had a tough week. Friday was fine for Nic, so he earned a trip out to mini golf and elevator adventures.

Yesterday was all mine. My sherpa talked me into signing up for a glassblowing class. I'll post links to pics as soon as I get them. Probably for the first time in my entire life I was 100% focused on what I was doing. In the face of a 2,000 degree oven and molten glass, you can't afford to be otherwise.

WOW. What a beautiful thing to be able to single-mindedly shut out bs and engage in creating something. I think the only other moments in my life like this relate to birthing my two sons. That's the only other thing I can think of that required everything I had.


And we reconnected with friends who I thought were gone from our lives. It was good to be proven wrong.

A most excellent day.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Bent, not Broken

Class trip. If it were better planned, organized and executed, that would have been helpful. As it was, one teacher sort of bullied her way into running things and changing things on the fly--which is something you really can't do a) in a city b) with 80-something kids and c) without informing the 20 or so adults chaperoning what your whims are.

I had three kids, including Nic. Nic did not like the itinerary, and that already made it hard. The other boys were game and good sports. I was able to keep them engaged and amused, despite the fact that another kid helpfully told me that the other boys were stressed out at the prospect of having to spend the day with Nic.

If that were the only 'ouch' moment, fine. But I lost count after about 15 of them.

The moment with the Ducks provided me with a lot of life instruction. First of all, owing to bad communication and bathroom lines, about a dozen of our people would have lost out on the trip if I hadn't stepped forward and said "we are missing people, we can't go yet." (Why didn't the teachers do this?) And one of my charges helpfully yelled out that he saw them coming (He didn't, but he stalled them long enough for the group to get there).

An aside, my friend was with another mom and her group and they were late because the other mom said she knew where she was going--and didn't. K and I had been texting all day, so she called me and I directed them via phone. I texted her once we were enroute that she could thank me later for holding up the tour.

Nic had a complete blow out meltdown. He was terrified of drowning, the Duck was antique and it would never float. I SO didn't see that coming. The whole damn Duck could hear him. So the teacher on the bus went up to the driver and asked if she could let Nic off.

I loved the irony. This woman couldn't speak up to ge the rest of the party on the Ducks, but she sure could to get my kid off the Duck....

Anyway, I started talking quietly to Nic, told him he was the most precious thing in the world to me, that I would never let anything bad happen to him....and then I started talking about all the things we were going to do this weekend.

He sat up. Looked around. And started enjoying the trip. When we got to the ramp, the driver stopped and I yelled up "We're fine!"

A security guy got on anyway and kept his eye on us the whole time we were in the river. Nic was very excited and enjoyed it very much. And said "You know, when I said this was a mistake, I was wrong."

So I was the last person off the Duck, having done a sweep to make sure none of the kids forgot anything. And the driver told me as I came off, "I need to shake your hand. You are amazing."

I just shrugged. "I'm really sorry about that. He has autism, and sometimes stuff like this is a crap shoot."

Nic was right there and chimed in, "I was wrong about this. I want to do it again!"

The driver shook his hand, too.

The teacher wanted to know what I said to Nic to calm him down. I just shrugged and told her the truth, and that I'm never quite sure what's going to work.

So by the time I got back to the bus to head back to school, I just wanted to crash and burn. I was just bone tired. Then I heard this kid say "And he was saying 'I want to get off! Don't let me drown'."

"Seriously?" I turned around, and I heard my own voice, the voice that hubby says can cut glass. "You really want to go there right now? You want to relive that? How would YOU feel if I dragged out something YOU had issues with for everyone to laugh at?"

Oh man. I am expecting a phone call.

Anyhoo, my good friend came to sit with me, and her calming presence--despite her own frazzled state--made me grateful to share my ride home with her--thank you, K.

Oh, God. I am so tired.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Bird Dogging from the Pool Balcony (written May 22)

I brought the laptop to swimming because it’s going to be a long day. I downloaded two jobs that I will probably do offline during Nic’s meet today, and I’ll upload this at day’s end. Because there is a lot behind me and a lot more ahead of me.

So today. It’s 36 years since I landed with my mom, dad, brother and two sisters (my youngest was with my aunt and uncle) in Florida for ‘the last hurrah.’ Dad was terminally ill, but I didn’t know it. We then went to Sea World, where he bought me a small stuffed seal (whose fate is now unknown to me—given subsequent events, the poor thing is more than likely moldering in a dumpster somewhere). We swam in the hotel pool, and my dad let me ride on his back, as if he were a dolphin. He only did it once, but I will always remember that moment of joy—and later recollect what that must have cost him.

In the present moment, both of my boys are in the pool. Both are a little bitter about the fact that one will go to tee-ball, a cookout and soccer and the other will go to a swim meet and a get-together with friends. Scheduling is such that it’s just not possible for them both to do everything. We are on the verge on many things; my anxiety is amped up because I feel like I am at the top of the mountain on a foam sled, getting ready to slide down, but it’s looking high, steep, and dangerous.

Yet I put on my goggles, secure my valuables, and push off.

My kids are both on the verge of big things, and so am I. Dad worries me somewhat because he is just not making smart choices. He hasn’t yet figured out the ramifications of his actions in the bigger world, and I fear he will be schooled fearsomely for it.

Of course I know he will deserve it, because I *did* warn him.

It’s hard enough to teach the kids consequences when one of the parents haven’t figured it out yet. But we have been at a variance before, and he always invariably catches up.

But in the immortal words of The Man With No Name, “God is NOT on our side, because he hates idiots, also.”

I don’t agree. God is always on your side, but there’s that whole free will, consequences, and circumstances triumvirate that guarantees that you WILL learn from your mistakes.

Or not.

So I have committed to this new gig, much to my own surprise. I like it, and I like the people, and it feels like the right situation. And I feel too damn lucky for words and so am grateful. I am adding to my community, and it feels good, and I can already see that I am doing good.

My Sherpa (who is now departed) yesterday told me as we walked to our company cookout, “You seem to fit right in. You would never know you were out of corporate for ten years.”

The funny thing is that I was thinking that very thing as I drove in yesterday morning. And I answered, “You know, I have been doing what I do now for free for years. Now I’m getting paid for it. That’s about the only difference.”

It’s true. I am taking everything I learned about leading teams Nic and G for the last decade and just applying those lessons to the workplace. And MAN. I have actually LEARNED how to play in the sandbox as a result.

I was telling another colleague about my experience as a working mom at home, raising my kids, managing their cases, while meeting my deadlines and managing my home and relationships, and he was polite enough to try to cover over his surprise at my parenting/village elder philosophy.

Every one there seems to think I am much younger than I actually am. And I am okay with that. I figured that one day I would be able to make my youthful genes work to my advantage. The other piece is that the boys really do keep me young. I love their wonder at everything. It’s infectious. And I love how they still want to share their discoveries with me.

Life is good. Extremely good.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Call and Response at the 7

I like lectoring the 7 AM mass. It's a good, small crowd, and I know everyone in the room.

And as usual, Fr M and I have our synchronicity thing going on. It never fails that I have a question in my heart and Fr M gives me an answer.

The readings today centered on the whole idea of God's love, and our response to it. The passion and emotion of falling in love is only a shadow of God's love for us.

I've been struggling with a relationship that I have not been entirely comfortable with, borne of not understanding some one else's choices and judging them on my lack of understanding.

Unconnected? Well, they were until Fr M started his homily. He began talking about his love for romance and old movies; unfortunately, his memory failed him and the movie he was trying to describe, relating to love, was falling flat.

"In this movie, they were supposed to meet, ah, not at the Statue of Liberty..."

He was going on in this way for about 2 minutes when I called up "Empire State Building."

"Yes!" His eyes lit up. So that gave me the movie.

"An Affair to Remember," I hissed.

He grinned and looked at me from the Ambo. "Do you want to come up here and finish?"

I grinned back and shook my head. And he went on to give one of the best homilies he ever gave. I can't do it justice, but I'll try. He spoke of the intensity of first love, and how reading the readings was like being given insight into some one's love for some one else--and being invited to partake in that love.

Deeper than that, not judging others. Truly loving and accepting others, because that's what God does, that's what Jesus did.

So anyway. I'm done judging. I insist that I don't, but I do. And listening to Fr M today reminded me of how far I've come in my loving and acceptance of other people, but reminded me I'm not done yet.

I wanted to tell Fr M about all these things, but he has a busy day ahead, and I was shooed out.

It's okay. I know he knows these things, anyway, and telling him would be beside the point.

But more importantly, I know what I still need to do. I need to be more generous and accepting, and just allow people to do what they do because everyone is doing the best he or she knows how. But my job is to do better, because people see it, and are moved by it. I really do believe that much can be accomplished by example, by not just talking the talk, but walking the walk.

I already see the good I do. But I know I can do more.

And beginning today, I will.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Mastering the Life Curriculum

I am a mean mom.

Not only do I expect my kids to excel in school, I also expect them to excel in life.

A tall order for my 10 year old. Who apparently has been having a rough time for weeks, according to his teacher in a phone call yesterday.

"Weeks?" I asked, dumbfounded. She let behaviors go on for WEEKS?

"We're having a team meeting tomorrow," she continued.

"What time?" I cut in. "I'll be there."

"Um." She clearly wasn't expecting that. "You work, right?"

I smothered an exasperated sigh. "I do, but Nic's my first and most important priority. And if it's a team meeting, well, I'm part of the team and I need to be there. Right?"

She paused.

"RIGHT?" I re-iterated, trying not to shout. I was outside, on my cell phone, pacing like an animal outside the offices. "I mean, team meetings include everyone."

"Um, well, okay. It's at 8:30."

Of course she didn't tell me where, so I got there a little late. The long and the short of it is that I had quite a bit of information that was useful to them. And they had a lot of information that was useful to me. There was disagreement, but we kept it real and respectful. And got a lot done.

At the end, I turned to the teacher and said, "Now aren't you glad I was here?"

She agreed, but couldn't resist adding, "But I thought since you worked...."

My sherpa called me while I drove enroute to the office. "Don't people know that what they do as a job won't matter in 50 years?" I asked her. "Meanwhile, the proof of what you were as a parent lives on for generations."

Former teacher she, remarked, "People don't get it."

It makes me think I mastered something in the life curriculum that I wasn't quite expecting to master. My kids are my best teachers.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Pushing That Bad Boy Up the Mountain

A red tail circled overhead as I parked my car yesterday morning at Arcadia. Since I was one of the answer folk at the IEP clinic, I took it as a good sign, but I had my lapis lazuli earrings and necklace on, just because communication is important and sometimes my mouth fails me.

It's always good to see my compatriots, and yesterday was especially good, since I was tiffing with hubby right before I left over the company I arranged (yeah, there's never a good time for anything, I am finding). I settled into Answer Woman mode and had three different people from three different areas in my life settle down in front of me--one asking if I was THAT Liz Lipp and 'my husband said I shouldn't talk to you.'

Guess what, she did anyway. And I wonder what the hell I did to him to merit that kind of response. I don't even KNOW these people.

Anyhoo, I sat down with another fellow warrior mom and did some brainstorming at lunch (found some answers for you, Karen, will message you right after I am done this note), and finished up the day doing more listening than talking. Which was fine. I learn a lot when I am supposed to be teaching. I think that's the way it works.

Came home, whisked the boys off to soccer. Watched my lanky Nic sprint up and down the field and G hung on to his buddy as he did his drills on his field. The wind howled across the field and I wonder whose p*ssed off spirit was driving it.

Best part of the day was a dinner visit from a family we know from school, their boys the same age and grade as ours. Nice time with simpatico people who look beyond labels. And push me to think beyond them, too.

Days like yesterday remind me that there are results to my actions. The results are never fully revealed to me, but I am given just enough of a glimpse to know I am making some sort of difference. And to keep moving forward.

Fr M I think needed to hear that this am. I made it a point to tell him after church. He smiled, squeezed my hand, and said "You are always so tremendously in my corner, and I need that, and I thank you. And thank you for loving your kids as much as you do and being such a great example."

Wow. I think *THAT* was a singularly cool Mother's Day gift.

Thank you, Father M, and thank YOU. You keep me focused, inspired, and always moving forward. Thank you.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Okay, But Not

Last night was open house at the kids' school, and more reminders how far behind Nic is. I had an epiphany of sorts a few minutes ago why he likes his Segway chase on Wii and Poptropica. In the latter, he bought a ghost with a membership, which follows him around. On the Segway game, he has a dog that helps him defeat the moles.

The common denominator is the 'friend' these objects are to him in their respective universes.

The friend he doesn't have in the here and now.

I am not sad often, but when I am, I am overwhelmed by it. I like anger better; anger motivates you to act.

Sorrow drowns you, weighs you down. It can kill.


A little while later, we were talking about the day. I was lying on the floor in his room, he was on his bed. He came down to curl up next to me and talk about some of his favorite things.

He wanted to know what foods I liked to eat when I was his age.

In the spaces of our words, I understood that he *gets* my deeper worries about friends, or lack thereof. I also understand that he was letting me know that he's okay. After all, he has me, dad, and G. And in some ways, that's all he needs, and it's good.

How sweet that he wants to protect me. He's stronger than I ever guess--wiser, too.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Special Guest Valerie Hobbs!

I'm happy to have another guest writer here at ASH today, and if you comment below, you have a chance to win some pretty cool stuff! Valerie is celebrating the launch of her new book, The Last Best Days of Summer, which is a very worthwhile read.

Worth the price of admission for me is the whole conversation about acceptance, middle school and popularity (and the realization that some people have never left middle school, but anywho). Featured prominently is Eddie, a boy with Downs Syndrome, whom our protagonist must decide is either duty or friend.

EL: Val, thanks for stopping by to chat! So where did Eddie come from? And how did your vision for his eventual inclusion in the community evolve? And what drove his inclusion into your story?

VH: At first Eddie didn't have much of a part in the book. He was just Lucy's "job". But the more I thought about him, the more I wanted to let him have his say. From the beginning there was an endearing sweetness about him and finally I just couldn't just assign him a bit part. He won me over just as he finally won Lucy over.

EL: I enjoyed Grams' interaction with Eddie, because it resonated with the foundation of her character. But she is also exceptional. Do you agree?

VH: Yes, she is. And isn't it interesting that the best and sweetest of us are the exception rather than the rule. I wanted Lucy to begin to grow into a person like Grams by the end of the novel, the kind who can think outside herself and her own needs.

EL:What I particularly enjoyed is the fact that Lucy's week with Grams was a life lesson in meeting people where they are. Was that your intention?

VH: Absolutely. It seems to me that a big part of life is exactly that. And it's not always easy.

EL:You surprised me somewhat with the arc of your story. I half-expected Justin to be an undiagnosed Aspergers kid, but he factored less into the story than I initially figured. But having said that, your depictions of kids moving into middle school and greater social awareness ring true. How did this blend of circumstance and personality evolve from your initial idea of this story? Was this final version what you originally envisioned when you set out to write this story?

VH: Well, the initial story was just Lucy's and Grams', but when Eddie got into it the circle widened. His interaction with Lucy ends up being nearly as important as the one with Grams. I wanted to work with peer influence--like the self-involved popular girls that so impress Jenna. The most difficult part of middle-school for me--and I think for most kids--has to do with what all those other kids thought. Was I cute enough? Etc. . .

EL: What impressed me about your depiction of Eddie is how much of it/him you got right (and by it, I mean just the whole milieu surrounding a person with disabilities). How did you come about this, how much of it was organic, how much of it was research, how much of it was direct experience?

VH: Eddie appeared in an earlier novel of mine, Letting Go Of Bobby James Or How I Found My Self Of Steam. I can't say that I know any kids with Down Syndrome personally, but I've met a few and watched some of the Special Olympic events here in Santa Barbara. The rest was research. Except for his voice that just came in one of those magical, irresistible packages from the gods.

EL: That WAS a gift--very few people with little direct experience get it right. :)

VH: Thanks! I really wanted not to mess that up.

Thanks for checking in! If you comment today, you have a chance to win free books or T-shirts! Good luck!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Loves me my Karma

I am swamped six ways to Sunday, under deadline, and otherwise involved and engaged. BUT, I am also surrounded by good people, overwhelming support, and general good vibes.

I am just in awe of how cool and connected my life is. Ever since I made a conscious decision to think outward, of how all my words and actions affect other people, how my care in my thoughts, words, and actions have come back to me a thousand-fold.

I am not all about me, but everything I do and say ultimately comes back to support me.

What a wonderful world this would be if everyone could think outside themselves. I see it more and more, and am encouraged by all the good I see happening. This is the good stuff you take to the next life; this is the good you leave behind in others.

What my dad figured out in 36 years I am finally getting to in my 43rd. I'm glad I got here. And sometimes I wonder what took me so long.

Sunday, May 2, 2010


My head is swimming with all the stuff going on, internal and external. This is probably going to be the only time this week I get to meditate on some things I've heard and seen this week.

So the past week's new House episode focused on the whole idea of relationships, touched off by a patient's open marriage. One couple managed to split (again) and come back together, while the other couple's fate remains up in the air.

In The Lovely Bones, mom leaves to find herself, because she has gotten lost in being wife and mom. I was equal parts empathetic and exasperated with her. I get getting pulled by parental and spousal obligations. Truly, I do.

But this is what I think. If you come into a relationship being any less than who you are just to make the other person happy, you've already doomed your relationship. Because you will never be able to smother who you really are forever. And if you do, then you, or parts of you die, and then you have to ask yourself whether it was really worth it.

Part of the reason I've lasted now more than half my life with hubby is that my two previous (abusive) relationships stripped me of any will to be anything but who I was. And if he couldn't deal with who I was, then he shouldn't be with me.

As his first serious relationship, he just followed my cues. The end result is that we have grown up together. We have not always agreed with one another, but we have always been able to approach our disagreements like adults, with open minds, and always the agreement to agree to disagree whenever the twain shan't meet.

I have never had to hide anything for him, nor he me.

I would never want to leave this earth with he or my kids wondering who I really was. I want them to know EXACTLY who I am.

I'm proud of the people my kids and my husband are becoming. And I am pleased at how their lives have shaped and informed mine.

It's all good.