Saturday, December 19, 2015

Facebook: The Good, The Bad and The Salvation

Facebook can be a cesspool. If anyone tells you otherwise, they are wearing rose colored glasses with blinders on the sides. There are people you will find on Facebook who only put forth their most attractive moments, and will let you see just what they think will make you like them. More likes means better LIKED, right?

Whatever helps them sleep at night.

But if Facebook can be so phony and soul-less, why does someone like me invest so much time connecting there?

Let's start with parenthood. There are lots of parents who manage to maintain a healthy social life with a good amount of personal interaction with peers. Fellow parents connecting on the soccer field, attendees at monthly PTA meetings, coaches and dance moms can all be a social lifeline. Science has taught us, peer interaction is good for our mental and physical health, so these social outlets serve to keep lots of parents healthy and sane.

Not every parent has these opportunities. When both parents are working, or in single parent families, just trying to keep up with everyday responsibilities like laundry and homework can suck the energy out of any good mom or dad, making any kind of personal interaction an effort we just can't manage. We spread ourselves thin just to help our kids keep their grades up, devote a decent amount of time to an extracurricular activity, and pull off dinner a few nights a week that doesn't come from a drive thru. We have no time for personal relationships or friendly outings, and even if we can set aside an hour or two, we're too damned tired.

So if parenting the most typical of kids can run us too ragged to carve out an hour for coffee with a friend, I'd like you to imagine how difficult it is for some parents of special needs children. I've written before about the hardship of maintaining friendships as the mother of a child with severe autism. You can peruse the old blog posts to find those thoughts because I'm still navigating this "blog" thing and haven't figured out how to link that stuff yet. But rest assured, leaving the house for ANY social event is always a painstaking project, and most days and nights you will find me alone at the kitchen table, watching Criminal Minds, or playing Candy Crush, just killing time until I have to go pick up my daughter from whatever friend's house she escaped to, or drop her off at dance. Like so many other parents.

Until suddenly we realize, "Holy shit, I'm so fucking lonely".

This parenting gig was lonely enough when there was still a husband in the house. The fact that the marriage was dead long before either one of us would bury it surely contributed to the loneliness factor. But now that it's just me, there's a lot of silence around me. It's better than hateful silence, but it's still hard to endure. So how do I keep from banging my head against the wall, just to remind myself I'm still alive?

Oh, that's right...Facebook.

I have made some really great friends, from all over the world, thanks to the magic of Zuckerberg. Because I have set up a public Facebook blog page, I have found a way to interact with LOTS of people who can relate to the story I tell. I have (virtually and in a few cases, personally) met some amazing people who seem to think I am a writer, of sorts. I guess. I don't write the beautiful words so many of these friends are so skilled at expressing, but I guess if you like reading the story of some real life ups and downs, and you don't mind how they are expressed in exactly the same way they would be if we were sitting at a table, sharing a beer, then yeah, I'm a writer. I think of it more as being a storyteller, but if I'm writing it down, I'll suck it up and say I'm a writer.

Where do I write most of these stories? Oh, yeah...again, it's Facebook.

Once in a blue moon, I'll pop over here and tell some kind of tale to the blogosphere. But I don't submit my words to other publishing sites, because to do so would run the risk of having to give someone else power over my words. No, Scary Mommy...I don't want to put my thoughts in the form of a list. No, Huffington Post, I don't want to give you the right to change my words, or the title of my story. Whatever they might pay, it's not worth giving up my right to speak my own way. And I don't give a flying rat's ass how grammatically incorrect my thoughts might be laid out. I'm not fucking stupid. I KNOW how the words SHOULD be written in proper grammar, but most of the free world does NOT speak that way. So forgive me if I prefer to just tell it like it is, and not have to reconstruct my thoughts to follow some college English text book I never got to read. Believe it or not, I'm a pretty smart cookie, and I don't need to use fancy words and literary formulas to get my point across.

And before somebody else says it, I am NOT so full of myself that I think any of these publishing sites would actually pay for my words. My story is pretty simple, and not at all controversial, so I doubt any giant crowd would be interested enough to warrant a prominent platform such as a Scary Mommy or a Huffington Post. But the small crowd I have managed to gather, they are fierce. And they are loyal. And they are smart enough to decide for themselves that what I write about is real. And they can relate. That matters. It's why we connect.

So I tell my story on Facebook. Some people may think I lack ambition. Some people may think I lack any actual talent in the art of expressing the written word. That's fine. The truth is, my words are my words. And they tell my story. It's a true story. And those people on Facebook who have connected with me, (and I, so very much with THEM), they bring me validation, purpose, and the very real connection of friendship. Without them, I would truly be lost.

Some folks believe that Facebook is a dying outlet of social media. To me, it is very much alive, and bringing me the only interaction I have, some days. I hope it will remain the outlet that provides the greatest opportunity for me to find my peers. I hope these friends I have made across the universe will remain my friends for a lifetime. They have saved me in so many ways, and I hope they find something of value in our friendships as well. As for the phonies and the sharks in the cesspool, I'll continue to do my best to scroll on by and choose NOT to allow them to occupy my head. That's another saving grace of Facebook...I get to choose who surrounds me, and I can delete the rest. Now if only we could do that in real life...

Monday, December 14, 2015

Please Choose To NOT Be A Joy Suck

Some folks will tell you, there are two kinds of people: those who see the glass as half full, and those who see the glass as half empty. And then, inevitably there will be the smartasses who claim there are also people who see room in the glass for more vodka.

*flails arms, wildly

The truth is, no matter which kind of person you may have considered yourself to be at any time in your life, every minute of every day is a chance to be whoever you'd RATHER be. 

Since finding my voice on social media, I have made a ton of friends. I am closer with some of these online "strangers" than I am with friends I have known all my life. Some of these folks are friends I have reached out to, based on how much I might have related to a story they told, or the laughs they had shared. Some friends reached out to me because they felt connected to my own story. The one characteristic that draws me closer to one friend than another is the inclination to be a positive life force. It is my hope that I can be that light to others. 

Some of my friends I have discovered, do NOT see the glass as half full. They don't see room for vodka. Not only do they see the glass as half empty, but whatever is in the glass, they see as poison. 

Some of these friends are actually family members, or people who have been in my life for AGES. Some of these folks will wake up and before their eyes are even opened, they already see the problems that lie ahead. No matter how many good sides of a situation you point out to these naysayers, they can always counter with the equal or more urgent cry of doom. It is a RARE occasion these friends will offer a positive or happy story, and even if once in a good, blue moon they post a status update that doesn't make me want to jab my eyes out with a spoon, it will quickly be followed with a detailed account of all the ways the day managed to turn against this poor soul. These members of my social media circle are the ones who I have come to know as:


Right now, there are a few folks who are asking themselves, "Shit, is it me?" If you are wondering this, chances are, you may, at one time or another have been on the "JOY SUCK" list. Or maybe you are just a totally self conscious ball of nerves with low self esteem, but I have always found you to be a delight:) I am certain there have been times when I have been the JOY SUCK. But my friends, 

I have found a better way.

Life has dealt me a few rough cards. Some of those cards were drawn by my own choices. Some of them, bad choices. Some, REALLY bad choices. Some of my bad choices were made with the best intentions, making the road to hell seem sparkly and beautiful, but it was the road to hell, nonetheless. Now, I could have chosen to sit down on the road and cry. I could have chosen to point a finger at everyone who had a hand in leading me down that road. I could also have chosen to keep paving that road until I was too close to the rusty gates of hell to ever claw my way back out. I couldn't rip the road up, like it had never been there in the first place. Instead, I chose to use those painful bricks as the foundation for the road back to happiness. Instead of wallowing in sadness, on a road I probably never should have been on, I vowed to pave myself a new road by following a few simple guidelines. 

*I will never again wonder why people have mistreated me. I will feel sorry for them, for having lost the love and devotion of a good person. There is nothing I could ever have done to change what another person did or felt, but I can sure as hell choose NOT to allow it to define me.  

*I will not feel badly about having failed to complete everything on my "to do" list. I will forgive myself for whatever gets put off until tomorrow, and be satisfied with my best effort today. 

*I will not allow the fear of a particularly challenging day to defeat me before the day even begins. As long as I reasonably plan ahead, I will do my best to complete whatever I set out to accomplish, and be thankful for whatever I survive. 

*I will take responsibility for my own actions and for what I have allowed to happen. Even when the choices of someone else are the cause of whatever may have hurt me or caused me hardship, I will realize I had the power to walk away from a bad situation, (even the ones I preferred not to see), and I will make better choices to keep myself safe from the questionable intent of others. 

*I will NOT wallow in sorrow. Allowing sadness to consume me has been exhausting. While there are days I don't have the energy or the inclination to put on my "happy face", I have realized it is SO MUCH MORE energy consuming to give in to sadness. In much the same way as expending energy while exercising will give me MORE energy, forcing myself into a happy frame of mind will actually ignite a happy frame of mind. 

*I will always realize there are options. I can choose one action or another, and THEN I can choose one REaction or another. What I choose to say or do or be can dictate the temperament of a day. I will keep in mind if I approach a situation with an open, positive outlook, the chances of a positive outcome are much higher than if I am approaching with the JOY SUCKING negativity of a Debbie Downer. 

*Before I post any of my thoughts on social media, I will carefully consider whether or not those thoughts have the potential to uplift, or to be a drag to someone who might read them. Life is hard. Every day WE ALL encounter hardships. WHY would I want to ADD to someone's struggles? If I find a way to overcome whatever stressors I might face in the course of a day, why on earth would I not prefer to share THAT?!!! 

Now, with all these points being made, I feel I should point out, I don't mean to suggest we should NEVER complain, or whine or bitch. WE ALL do those things. We all NEED to do those things. It's part of our ventilation system. We blow off some steam so we don't spontaneously combust. But it's not healthy to STAY in that pit of sadness. We have to be able to draw the line. If you're unsure as to whether or not you are the JOY SUCK in your own circle, look back at your last ten posts. If you read them all through and come away feeling uplifted, it's not you. But if after revisiting the last ten thoughts you chose to share with your friends and loved ones, you feel feel terrible for the person in those posts, it's you. You are the JOY SUCK. And I have news for you: you are sucking the joy from yourself, too. 

There is a great big energy swirling around us. It's electric. There are positives and negatives. If all you ever put out is negative energy, that is all that will ever find its way back to you. It may feel like the world is dumping all its finest CRAP on you, but it may very well be because the CRAP is all you are inviting. STOP IT. 

All this "choosing happiness" is what works for me. I surely don't think anyone needs to be "more like me". Being me works for me. You should be you. But if you are a JOY SUCK, you may find that people initially feel bad for you. You may find people offering sympathy, an ear to listen, a shoulder to cry on. But eventually, all the JOY you have SUCKED will become a burden that is too heavy. You may feel like you are a victim of bad luck and the wrath of the universe. You may feel like people have abandoned you when they can no longer carry that burden and the sympathy runs out. But you  have to keep in mind, people want to be helpful and caring, but people don't want to feel oppressed by additional hardships. I promise you, they all have their own.

But fear not, my positivity challenged compadres!!! It's never too late to invite joy back into your being! 

Pay closer attention to the aspects of a specific happening to which you assign your focus. This week, I have $6 to carry me until Thursday. I am not focusing on all the things I CAN'T do because I'm short on funds. I'm grateful to have that money so I can make sure I have enough gas to get me to work. I just keep telling myself, it's only 3 more days. I can do this. I COULD choose to dwell on the hardship, but who does that serve? It creates a bad atmosphere for my kids, my coworkers, my family. I don't want to be that person. So I make the CHOICE to stay positive:) And maybe my positivity has me on some list of "obnoxious positivity pushers", but I'll take it. I much prefer to be the joy BRINGER. 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

My Favorite Little Box

When we have children, it is a great blessing if our parents are around to be a part of their lives. If there is anyone on this planet who will love our kids as much as we do, it is surely most grandparents.

When I was growing up, my Grandma was probably the most loving person I knew. I had a Nana as well, and she was my mother's mother. I have seen families who tend to be closer with the maternal grandmother, but my Nana had 19 grandchildren. The five in my own house didn't fall into her "favorites" category. Which is NOT to say she didn't love us. She surely did. We just weren't as close with her as we were to Grandma.

Grandma had only the five kids in our family and two grandchildren from my dad's only sister. My aunt had moved across the country even before the birth of her second child, so Grandma didn't get to see them much. Therefore, for Grandma, the sun rose and set on my house.

I was the oldest granddaughter. It gave me a bond with her that holds close today, 23 years after she left us. She took my older brother and me to our first show at Radio City Music Hall, took us out to eat at The Lamps Of China in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, all when I was about 4 or 5 years old, and all by subway.

She took us to our first Yankees game when I was 7. We took the B train from her house in Bensonhurst and switched to the D train at DeKalb Avenue. That D train left us right at the doors of The House That Ruth Built.

She carried a plaid, vinyl, insulated bag full of heros she had made that morning. Peppers and eggs, veal and peppers, sausage and peppers...(must've been a sale on peppers)...and she had a separate bag with drinks. A hot bag and a cold bag. She held those bags the whole trip, but never let go of our hands. That memory is so vivid, I go back there in my mind every year when baseball season starts.

There were lots more trips to the stadium after that. I remember going on "bat day" and getting a Roy White baseball bat, only after my brother conned me out of the Bobby Murcer bat that was originally handed to me. Could you imagine the stadium giving out bats today? Thank God, those were simpler, less violent times. We were there once for an "Old Timers Day". I think it may have been 104 degrees that day. Grandma had to break down and buy us drinks when her supply in the insulated bag was gone. My love for The Yankees is fierce, and stems from those trips with Grandma. She made baseball a magical experience, even for a little girl in the early 70s. She often told us the story of being at Lou Gherig's last game. "There wasn't a dry eye in the stadium", she said.

Christmas time with Grandma was probably the greatest bonding experience in all my memories. We're Italian, so the big fish dinner on Christmas Eve was the tradition. Even as a young girl, she made me love scungili salad, fried shrimp, and those amazing blue claw crabs in the sauce. She prepared everything at her house, and cooked it at our house. We were all in the kitchen with her. The antipasto (and if you pronounced the "o", my father would slap you off the back of the head), was the job of the kids. We would tightly roll up the 3 pounds of salami and arrange them on a platter. We would open cans of olives, put the roasted peppers in a bowl, and arrange lettuce leaves and sliced tomatoes on another platter. When I got a little older, I would help her bread and fry the shrimp. She made sure to make enough so my brother and I would have leftovers to eat the next morning, cold out of the fridge. By the time the antipasto was finished, we were hardly hungry for anything else, so she would wait to boil the linguine. My mouth is watering right now just thinking about it. Those meals were some of the most incredible of my life, because they were made with pure love.

After our fish dinner, Grandma would hand us each a card with money in it. She couldn't get around to shop too much, and she knew we didn't have much to spend, so it was a big treat to have pocket money. Even when we were older, she always had that envelope and a Russell Stover chocolate Santa. And magic. My Grandma gave us Christmas magic.

When Grandma got older, she sat me down and gave me a collection of costume jewelry she used to wear, back in her party days. Some of it is quite exquisite. There was one piece that must've been a more recent addition. It was a necklace made of stainless steel links, and in the front was a locket full of a solid version of her perfume. Windsong.

🎶I can't seem to forget you. Your Windsong stays on my mind🎵

I have treasured those pieces. Even the ones I have never worn.

Grandma left us in 1992. She was 79 and I was 28. She only got to meet my oldest, but I know she watches over all my kids. Every spring, when a butterfly lands on my girl, I know my Grandma is with her.

One of my kids was going through my box of jewels. I can't remember which one, but maybe I don't want to remember. The necklace with Grandma's perfume was broken. All the links scattered across the floor and there was really no repairing it. So I collected up all the pieces and put them into a little box that my daughter had painted for me. It's a flower shaped box, and it was painted red and green for Christmas. She may have been 3 or 4 when she painted it. But much like my Grandma, I have cherished every gift from my kids, and that box seemed the perfect place to hold that treasure from my Grandma.

Whenever I am sad, or feeling alone, I open the little box, and the smell of Grandma reminds me I am never alone. I love my Grandma. And because of her, I love The Yankees and I love Christmas. And I love that little box.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

What Happens When We Ignore The Joneses - (Or, How Being Broke Gave Me Back My Christmas Spirit)

We're only four days from Thanksgiving, and that means the Big Kahuna of holidays is right around the corner. The Christmas music has already started playing on the radio. People have their lights going up. I even have a neighbor whose Christmas tree is already aglow in her living room window. And you know what else all this festivity brings?



Family conflicts.


I no longer have any of those dilemmas. I have no more worries about anyone bitching about too many lights to hang, or why it takes three weeks of boxes all over the house to finish the decorating. All that stress, anxiety and depression moved out over a year ago.

Last Christmas I surprised myself by getting through the holidays with very little worry and almost no stress at all. Being left alone to handle all of the holiday prep while continuing with the day to day raising of my kids might have seemed daunting. Being left to do it all with very little money might have been frightening. But it turned out to be the best Christmas I have had in a long time.

There used to be a need to keep up. You know those pesky old Joneses...the ones whose piles of gifts under the tree are taller than their children, and are wrapped up in beautiful paper and tied with fancy bows. I don't understand why we all go through this nonsensical need to keep up with those Joneses, but inevitably, most of us do. We want to give our kids that picture perfect Christmas. That one we wish we had. And social media seems to issue a challenge to post the most impressive photos in some sick and twisted attempt to outdo the Joneses, or even ourselves from last year.

And there it is.

There's the stress.

We have to spend money we don't have, on presents we don't need. We have to bake the right cookies, use the right wrapping paper, send out that perfect picture card.

But WHY?

What's the prize?

What's the benefit?

What if we just stop?

Last year, I was broke. Really on the balls of my ass broke. I managed to scrape together a few dollars for a couple of gifts for my two youngest kids. I never even got a gift for my oldest. I told my whole family, I just can't do it this year. Take me off the exchange list. Please don't buy me a gift because it will only make me feel bad to not be able to reciprocate. My ex took care of all the teacher and bus driver gifts, and I bought dollar coffee mugs and filled them with wrapped chocolate kisses for all the helpers that were left.

And it was the best Christmas ever.

Christmas didn't burst into flames because there wasn't a mountain of presents. We didn't spend the day in misery because our photos on Facebook didn't measure up to all our friends and family.

"Maybe Christmas," he thought, "doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!" ~ The Grinch, in How The Grinch Stole Christmas, by Dr. Seuss

And I found my Christmas spirit again. The spirit that had been missing for so many years, that had been sucked away by the misery of a partner, who was likely suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (but would never get help because there was never anything WRONG with HIM), and by my own silly, unnecessary need to keep up with the Joneses.

No more.

I hereby declare war on those superficial Joneses. I don't ever again want to keep up with whatever you feel the need to accomplish for your holiday. If you are in a position to shower your family in treasures, and that is your choice, then so be it. Good for you. (I'm talking to YOU, Gwyneth Paltrow!)

As for me and mine, we're going to celebrate the love we have for each other. We'll bake whatever we can afford, we'll decorate with what we have, we'll listen to really cliché holiday music, we'll wear ugly sweaters, and we'll enjoy every blessed moment of it.

"And when Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he's gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse!" ~ Clark Griswold, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

*If your name really IS Jones, my apologies for using your moniker as an unfortunate example.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Please Don't Accuse Me Of Being Amazing

I write a lot about surviving the challenges of daily life. Some days, my challenges may seem more difficult than the next person's, and other days I breeze through it all.

Very often, I will receive a message or see comments on a Facebook post that praise me as some kind of super parent. I know the whole "Cape in the Dryer" thing would lead you to believe that somewhere in my mind, I think I'm pretty super too. But that's the irony of the whole "In the Dryer" concept.

When the kids need me to do all things and be all things, and my mother calls and wants to know why I haven't called her, and the boss calls and says one of our ladies called in sick and I'll be two hands short, and the dog has diarrhea, and I found out when I stepped in it...on my way out the door when I was already running late for work...THAT'S when the universe seems to think I must have some super power. Some supernatural ability to manage all of it. There is always a possibility that I am having an "ON" day and I WILL get it all taken care of. But it's much more likely that I will fall short.

The actuality of my superpowers might look something like this:

After sleeping until the last possible minute, (because the boy only stopped jumping and singing Christmas songs around 4 AM), I might have missed the girl's bus but we have 15 minutes to get to school, and if there's no line at the drive thru, I can get her a bagel and that takes care of breakfast. Then I'll drop her and head back home to shower the boy and get him outside in time for his bus. I'll contemplate a shower for myself, and realize there is no way I can pull it off, so I'll put on the work clothes and extra deodorant, slip into my shoes and go back into the kitchen for my purse. When I step in the puddle of what leaked out of my dog, I will rinse my shoe with bleach in the sink, (as I THANK JESUS I was wearing my shoes!!!), and I'll leave for work without having a minute to clean up puppy's puddle. I will then come home from work and have to chisel dried on dog shit off the floor and disinfect the whole damned kitchen. I'll be so damned disgusted by the time it's cleaned, I'm not about to start cooking, so I'll run to the store for two $4.99 rotisserie chickens and pray I have paper plates. The only thing super about the whole day is that I survived it.

By example of the above scenario, not only would it be more likely my cape is in the dryer, but there is a good chance it is a wrinkled mess, lying at the bottom of Mount Laundrasuvius on the dining room table.

There may have been a time in my life when I allowed myself to feel stressed over trying to accomplish everything that was dropped in front of me. That time is a distant memory. Being married to an anal retentive control freak (who grew up in a house where you couldn't walk on the vacuum lines in the carpet) was always a factor in the stress. Having kids, and throwing autism into the mix made me see the most important priorities more clearly. The hubby had no such epiphany, and the differences in what we could personally tolerate were certainly a driving force in the inevitable split. But now that he's gone, I can comfortably wear my cape, or I can curse a lot because the boy wanted to hold the cape and he fell asleep and peed on it. Either way, no stress.

The only difference between me and the parent who is pulling out hair by the fistful on the way to the psychiatrist to refill the Xanax prescription is my CHOICE to be satisfied with whatever I accomplished today. I have no preset vision of what I'm SUPPOSED TO get done in the course of a day. I have no unrealistic expectations of what has to be finished before I finally pass out from the sheer exhaustion of the daily grind. So the fact that I am dancing at the end of a particularly harrowing afternoon is thanks to my choice to set the bar a little lower. I might start out a day having full confidence I can complete every task on a long and tedious to-do list, but I no longer beat myself up for leaving half the list undone. The dirt, the dishes and Laundry Mountain will be there tomorrow.

If you ever read about all the craziness that rolled through my day, and wondered how I could possibly get it all done and still have the time and energy for dancing, the answer is, I didn't. I didn't get it all done. I got the most IMPORTANT things done. I fed the kids. I got them to school. I got to work. I took care of the dog. I made sure the house was inhabitable. I made sure we were safe. Anything over and above that list is gravy. I'm NOT amazing. I'm NOT a supermom. I've just learned to forgive myself for NOT being an amazing supermom. And I've learned to dance about it.

There is no superpower.

There is no magic.

There is no cape.

Well, there IS a cape. There really is. But it's in the dryer.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Autism Has Made Me More Thankful

As I have in Novembers past, this year, I have chosen to record Thirty Thankful Days. I've been keeping track on my Facebook page, and now that I'm up to day number 4, I was thinking of how thankful I have become since embarking on this autism journey with my child.

Back in the early days, I was never the kind of mom who cried much, or felt despair or defeat. I was always the mom who wanted to know, "What do we do next?" Run to this therapy. Set up the boy's room for the therapists to come over. Twenty two vials of blood for testing? No problem! Cod liver oil? Alrighty then! Vitamins, minerals, Specific Chiropractic, GF/CF and Specific Carbohydrate diets, OT, Speech, videos, flash cards, listening therapy...whatever it could possibly take to help my boy advance. To help him progress. To help him function independently. We pretty much tried it all. And there comes a point when we have to figure out how much harder we can push, and how much better it would be FOR HIM if we just stop pushing. Not completely, but pull back just enough to help the boy breathe without the anxiety of always having to be ON his game.

During the course of the journey, I have made a few friends who share the path. I have been to support groups, seen people cry and fall apart, and I've seen people lock themselves away because they just can't deal with the stares, the judgment, and the difficulty of leaving the house.

You know what else I've seen?

My boy's happy face every morning, and that same sweet smile before I go to bed every night.

That beautiful boy has taught me what's really important and what's not. The petty bullshit that might once have driven me crazy, no longer holds a shred of importance to me. I have learned that ironing those shirts can wait, (forever, in some cases...I HATE ironing!). I have learned that the bickering over meaningless irritations that takes place among families is simply a waste of time. It doesn't matter who sits next to whom at a party, whether we go out for pizza or burgers, and for the love of all ridiculous things, it sure as shit doesn't matter who called whom last!!

A few years back, my boy was not a fan of restaurants. He couldn't tell me why, but I imagine it had something to do with the conflicting types of noise and the constant movement and visual stimulation. It was just too much. When my family was making plans for a dinner out to celebrate a birthday, I would opt out. It made me sad that they weren't hearing me when I tried to explain hohard it was for my child. They thought I was worried about disturbing other restaurant patrons. They thought I was worried about being embarrassed.

It was like they had never even met me.

While I sure don't set out to be a public nuisance by allowing my son to have a Defcon 5 meltdown while another family is trying to eat a meal in peace, my greatest concern was always about not wanting to push my boy past his comfort zone. I was worried about the sensory assault he would endure in a busy venue. I was worried about putting my need to be part of the party ahead of my son's need for avoiding sensory chaos.

Since then, my very hardworking child has powered through the restaurant trials, and has learned to sit (mostly) quietly while we celebrate with family, I have learned that headphones (which he will now tolerate on his head) are my best tool for keeping the boy calm, and my family has learned, I never did give a flying rat's ass about being embarrassed. I am NEVER ashamed of my son. And all this progress, for the boy, for myself and for my family make me thankful, thankful, thankful.

All that gratitude achieved thanks to autism.

Without autism, I might never have known the incredible joy of watching my son drink from a straw for the first time at the age of 4. Joy that brought me to sobbing tears in the middle of an amusement park. Without autism, I would surely have taken such a simplistic task for granted.

Without autism, I might still be taking the personal criticism of others to heart. I might be constantly questioning and doubting myself, wondering if I was ever "getting anything right". But with all we have attempted, achieved, failed and given up, I know with all my heart, I do everything I can for this kid (and for all my kids) out of pure love, and I will fail, I will forgive myself, and I will try again tomorrow. By accepting this for myself, I set the example for my kids. For that, I am thankful.

Now, let's not make the assumption that because autism has given me a long list of reasons to be thankful, I am thankful my child is autistic. I am not. I don't have any need to "cure" him of his neurology, but I do wish I could make this life easier for him. I wish I could help him understand enough to make it possible for him to someday function independently. He's 15 and he doesn't know how to tie his shoes or shower by himself. I'm not thankful for that. But with all his struggles, and with every effort he makes to understand something better, or try a new food, or keep himself calm when his brain is telling him to jump up and down and scream at the top of his lungs, I still get to see that smiling face, every morning and every night before I go to bed. He is a happy, loving, snuggly young man who loves his mom. Thankful. My LORD, I am so very thankful.

There may be some folks who take offense to my feelings about my son's autism. There are those who feel we should all embrace each neurology, exactly as it is. If that is how THOSE FOLKS feel, I completely respect their feelings, but I will NOT apologize for mine. I walk this autism path with MY child. Our path is about HIS autism. We are entitled to feel how we do. My boy has no way to express to me what he might be thinking about his neurology, so he can't tell me how he feels. But I can tell you that some days are really hard. I can tell you the future terrifies me. I can tell you it tears my heart out when I see my son struggling with a simple task like taking off his shoes. But I don't allow myself to be overcome with worry and anxiety and grief. I choose to focus on the joys, which are far greater than the challenges. And I'm thankful.

So today, on this fourth day of thankful consideration, I may not be thankful FOR autism, but I am deeply thankful TO autism, for giving me a clearer perspective on what matters, and for showing me what a great blessing my huggy, kissy, loving boy really is. I am so very thankful.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

It's My Free To Be Me-Iversary

The date had been on my mind for a few days. At a different point in my life, it may have brought on some feelings of sadness and loss. But to the ME I am today, this day gives me every reason to celebrate!

One year ago today, I left for work in the morning and I did my five hour shift in the school lunchroom. I came home and started to get ready for the kids coming home from school. There were a few things out of place in the kitchen, but I didn't really pay them much mind until later. I went upstairs to collect my daughter's dirty clothes, and when I walked past his room, that's when I realized, my husband had moved out.


The marriage had been dead for a long time, and neither of us wanted to be the one to pull the plug. I guess his current relationship was what it took for him to finally walk away, and there are a million reasons that should be devastating to me, even today, but it's not. I don't even want to talk about any of that right now. It's become exhausting. I DO want to talk about the wonderful things I have learned about myself in the year without him.

Lately, I have been fixated on evolution. I don't mean the kind of evolution that turns volcanoes into islands or dinosaur remains into fossil fuel. I mean personal evolution. I mean having the ability to be who I was yesterday, and knowing I have the power to change the parts I don't like and become somebody new today. Every day.

I am a huge Anne Rice fan. I started reading The Vampire Chronicles back in my early twenties. I know people will either love her or maybe not so much, but I LOVED every word. To this day, I am in love with The Vampire Lestat. Right now I'm sure you're thinking, "What the HELL do vampires have to do with a broken marriage and evolution?" Hang on. I'm getting there.

At some point in The Chronicles, somebody asks Lestat how he manages to survive the changing centuries when so many other vampires have been driven mad by the progressing world. It's been quite a few years since I've read the books, and I couldn't tell you where or in which book the question was asked, but the answer was,

"I am able to adapt".

Five words in a fiction series that have given me power my whole life.

Now, I'm not some storybook groupie and I don't mean to say that my life doctrine is based on a fictional character, but you have to admit, the concept of those words is pretty powerful. When we are faced with sadness, we can crumble or adapt. When faced with hardships, we can either be defeated by them or rise to the challenge. And when faced with life altering changes, we can either be devastated by them, or we can adapt.

I loved my husband. His selfish need to justify his behavior will compel him to disagree, but if you want to know how much I loved him, ask his mother. I believed he loved me, and didn't ever consider  I could be wrong until an argument toward the end. I asked him, "What do you need from me, to move toward fixing this marriage?"  His answer was,

"I need you to change EVERYTHING ABOUT YOURSELF!"


So I said, "I am exactly the same person I was when you met me. If this is how you feel, does it mean you never liked anything about me?"

"I guess I just never realized it."

That was what it took. That conversation made it so easy to let him go. It was mean, it was hateful and it was hurtful. And it relieved me of any lingering hope that we could ever fix what was so very broken.

Living alone with my kids is sometimes a struggle. Most of the struggles are financial, and we have all learned to live without. This week, the dog has eaten Cheerios for three days, but we'll all be just fine because we're infinitely happier. There is no more stress. No more stress over what time dinner is ready, (it never was on time for him, but there was always the stress). No more stress over the tension when my oldest came to visit. No more stress over every damned thing I do being "wrong".

So now that it's been a whole year of living without all that stress, let me tell you a few other things I have come to enjoy over the last twelve months:

1) I can cook (or not cook) WHATEVER THE HELL I DAMNED WELL PLEASE. All those Asian dishes served with rice (that he hated so much and I absolutely loved), 3 times a week! Breakfast for dinner? Why not?!! Pizza? $8.49 pies on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday!! WHAT. EVER. I. WANT.

2) The girl and I can wear perfume and polish our nails in the house without offending his sensitive sinuses.

3) When attending family functions, I don't have to keep watching the clock because he already gave me a "departure time". I can get there early, be the last one to go home, or spend the damned night if I want!

4) My family comes over more often. All the years my loving hubby told me that nobody came over because they couldn't stand to be around me, the truth is, it was HIM they couldn't stand to be around. Not so much him, as he related to THEM...but the way he treated ME left my sister-in-law, on numerous occasions, dragging my brother out the door early so he wouldn't feel compelled to teach dear old hubby how wrong it was to be such a hateful ass to me. Now that he's gone, I see them all the time. It's been warm and also validating.

5) My son has fewer meltdowns. His OCD is still sometimes intense and his inability to express himself sometimes leaves him incapable of controlling how upset he might be. But for the most part, I handle it without the anger and frustration that were the instant reaction of dear old dad. I'm not saying I NEVER lose it...I'm human. But it's rare. Without that constant disapproval, he is a much calmer, happier child.

6) My girl is less stressed. She can be herself without the daily challenge of "living up to daddy's image of her". She still deals with some deep anger with her dad that she keeps bottled up, but I'm doing my best to help her through it. And she's my very best friend, so we enjoy that much more now that it's just us.

7) I don't have to pretend to enjoy vacuuming and ironing. I don't have to feel guilty for so intensely loving my holiday decorations. I can boldly LOVE Christmas again.

8) I can associate with good, decent, loving people who he always thought were beneath him. Then again, he thought most people were beneath him. Including me.

9) My oldest can visit me any time he likes, and NOT have to feel hated. This is my favorite freedom.

10) I can be 100% authentically, unapoligetically myself. And I can love myself without the constant self  doubt that comes from someone constantly telling me how wrong I was. About everything.

It's been a whole year on my own, and I am happier than I have been in YEARS!! I would say that's cause for celebration. So happy free-to-be-me-iversary to me!!!

Sunday, October 18, 2015

What Kind Of Parent Sends a Kid Out In Shorts In The Winter?

This morning I posted a meme on my Facebook page about Sensory Processing Disorder that seemed to strike a nerve in the community. Now, I'm no trained professional on the subject of SPD, but when you're a parent of a special needs child, you tend to become an unwilling "expert" on a lot of things. We tend to be on top of our kids, everywhere they go, and that brings us in contact with lots of other parents of special needs kids. We talk. We commiserate. We compare. We suggest. We learn.

Networking on Facebook is a salvation of sorts for parents in the special needs community. If you discover upon becoming a parent, that socializing for yourself has become a hardship, for the special needs community, that struggle is greatly increased, to put it mildly, so Facebook is often our only "human" interaction and we network via whatever screen with which we can manage to sneak away. That's where we hear so many of the stories that tell us we are not the only ones who are desperately trying to help our kids navigate their way through the SPD challenges that can make the simplest of tasks a torturous event. But the judgment of how we choose to deal with those challenges can be found everywhere we go.

When my son was first diagnosed, back in 2002, the clinical psychologist who made the formal diagnosis mentioned SPD, and explained it in the simplest way possible to my novice mind.

"Do you hear the hum of the air conditioner unit? You really didn't notice it until I mentioned it because your mind has been trained to tune it out in favor of what is going on in front of you. To the person with SPD, the sound of that motor can be impossible to tune out, and can seem like giant tower bells between the ears, leaving them completely unable to focus on anything else, and perhaps causing a meltdown. These seemingly irrational reactions can be triggered by any kind of offending stimuli. What is perceived as an assault on the senses...a smell, a taste, a sound, a touch or a visual stimulus, can truly render an SPD sufferer incapable of controlling his or her reaction."

I may have SLIGHTLY paraphrased that explanation, (it WAS 13 years ago), but I am certain it was pretty damned close to word for word.

For those who battle SPD, the offending object or situation can change from time to time, depending on a great deal of variables. How much sleep was had the night before? How long has the person
been "holding it together" prior to the introduction of the offending stimulus? Is there more than one stimulus present? Are there fluctuating hormones involved? Has there been a disruption in a routine? Sometimes there is no telling why something that was perfectly acceptable yesterday might have triggered a Defcon 5 meltdown today. But when the disorder has been triggered, we who are doing our best to help our kids (or ourselves) through it will do whatever it takes to keep everyone safe and bring calm back to a situation.

I have seen kids whose hypersensitive gag reflex is triggered by the smell of a certain food. I have seen a 6 year old boy attempt to refuse broccoli on his dish only to be accused of wanting his snacks instead of his meal, and to be told he would have to take the broccoli like everyone else. I saw that boy burst into tears and walk out with no meal because he would rather be hungry than to smell broccoli on his plate. That is Sensory Processing Disorder.

I have seen a child watch all his siblings having fun in the snow, throwing snowballs, building a snowman, sledding down a giant snow slide. He watched in tears from the living room window because he couldn't tolerate putting on the snow pants that would keep him dry. That is Sensory Processing Disorder.

I have seen my own son scream and cover his ears as he threw himself on the floor in the middle of a busy restaurant, all because the sounds of the conflicting noise was too much for his brain to take in at once. He has the same reaction to the sound of the crowd roaring at a ballgame, or the sound of a baby crying. That is Sensory Processing Disorder.

Bright, flickering lights, the loud, Dolby stereo speakers of a movie theater, the strong smells of a farm, the feeling of certain fabrics...anything that is overwhelming to an individual with SPD in a given moment has the potential to trigger a meltdown, which IS NOT the same as the temper tantrum of a "spoiled brat". When a person with SPD or autism or any developmental disorder reaches the point where they are in a full meltdown, it is NOT a choice they have made, and they will need help to regain control.

So if you happen to be out somewhere and encounter a scenario that seems out of the ordinary, do you instantly pass judgment or do you consider the possibility that there may be more to the situation than your own experience might lead you to surmise? What do you think when you see the mom who only gives her child chicken nuggets at every meal? When you see a dad who is pushing his six year old in a stroller, do you think "How ridiculous?" And when you see my son, rocking back and forth in our booth at the restaurant, wearing his big headphones and watching a video on my phone, do you think, "How rude! There should be no screens at the table!" If these thoughts cross your mind, you should keep them to yourself, because those chicken nuggets, that stroller and that God forsaken Barney video are the tools that we are using to keep our kids safe and calm. These are the strategies we have found to be effective at helping our kids maintain control of their behavior. We are doing our best to help them to try new foods, navigate through crowds and remain calm even in very noisy places, and since your judgment can't HELP us and our kids in any way, it's a negative we can really live without. And keep in mind, most of us are hanging on to our last shred of sleep deprived sanity, so you really don't want to be what pushes us right over the edge.

Oh, as the colder weather approaches, you might also keep in mind that those kids who are coming off the schoolbus in shorts, or in a skirt with no tights, and even on the coldest days with snow falling, you'll see kids with no hats or gloves...Sensory Processing Disorder. When you think it was a "bad parent" who allowed that kid to leave the house with his legs exposed on a 28 degree morning, it was actually a parent who loved his or her child so much, no expectations of keeping up with a social "norm" could justify torturing that child with a clothing item that would've made focusing on school work impossible. And the next time you have to cut the tag out of the back of your shirt, or readjust the seam of your socks, or you cringe at the sound of someone biting the fork...Sensory Processing Disorder.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Never Leave The Girls Behind

Growing up, I had lots of friends. As a young kid, into middle school, and into high school, I was always part of a crowd. Once boys became a focus for many of us, we would drift.

There were a few members of a few groups who stayed close. All through high school, and wherever they went after, I've heard the stories of trips they took together, who was in the other's wedding party, this one was Godmother to that one's kid.

I was not one of them.

I had been screwed over a few times. I shied away from the groups and followed the boys. After all, wasn't the prince going to save me?

So I never had the trip with the girls to Acapulco. Never did the girls ski trip to Vermont. Never went to most of their weddings. And I've never met most of their kids.

At 19, I got involved with the father of my oldest. I spent seven years blindly devoted to a man who was incapable of being faithful back then, and only when my son was born did I realize it was NEVER going to get better. I moved back to my parents' house, and spent the better part of a year and a half sporadically dating, but mostly alone. Still no girlfriends.

When my boy was not even two years old, I met the man I would marry. We dated for two years, then moved in together for five, just so he could "see if he could handle raising someone else's kid". That concept was a debacle for another post, but he finally married me. All through those years, I lived for my man. I didn't go out with friends, and hardly kept in touch with anyone from my childhood. There were two or three of the girls I was closest to in school with whom I would exchange Christmas cards, but no flourishing friendships to speak of.

Now, please understand, it was never my husband's idea for me to have no friends. Like I said, being screwed over in the past gave me some real trust issues. Besides, I just wanted him to love me, and for us to build our life together. We were a couple, and all I really needed was for him to be my partner. In everything.

Looking back, that idea may have been the undoing of my marriage. That's not to say, my choices forced my husband to go sleep with my cousin. But I will definitely take responsibility for putting an awful lot of pressure on him to keep me entertained. I don't mean like, put on a clown suit and dance for me...I mean like when he went fishing with the guys, I was left behind, alone with the kids. If he was going to a business dinner with his partner, I was left alone with the kids. I never created a backup plan for myself, and it left me feeling slighted and neglected. I needed him to devote as much time to me, as he did for his own recreation, and he didn't understand that.

There were plenty of times he encouraged me to make plans with old friends. Most of the "girls" from my past were all women with husbands and kids of their own by then. We had lost touch for so long, it was awkward to reconnect. And let's face it, all the running I did from the time my Spartacus was first diagnosed with autism, and all the sleepless nights that followed left me completely exhausted. I really just wanted my husband.

MAC worked while I was home with the kids. I was constantly running to schools and therapies for the boy, and because MAC owned his own business, he was able to arrange his schedule so he could be around to pick up and drop off the girl from day care, (which he owned, thank God!), and dancing school...we were always running. Keeping up with the house and dinner, was a challenge, to say the least, and that was always an issue for him. I did make time to meet my parents for breakfast from time to time, and did the annual Christmas shopping with my sister, and he could never understand how I could justify going out with my family when the laundry wasn't being done. He didn't understand that I needed to see PEOPLE. I needed to have conversations with grownups. He didn't talk to me all that much unless it was about the kids. He was tired. I get it. But I was lonely.

There was a two year period when MAC's childhood friend moved into the downstairs apartment in our house, and he ate with us every night. Having an extra person at the table forced us into the dining room, and made us eat like a real family, with real conversation. That happened during the time my girl was 4 to 6 years old, and I think it was probably the happiest time of my marriage. There was life, and conversation, and real interaction. I felt human.

When we made the choice to move to the suburbs, we had to leave our friend behind, and it was just us again. The first year we were out here was hard. Money was tight, and that could've torn us apart, but we actually got closer for a short while. I still had no girlfriends to talk to, but I had my cousin. My best friend, and the one woman I wouldn't have to worry about screwing me over.


We were always together. Always. My house, her house, everywhere we went. I could tell her everything, and she confided in me. I finally had a best girlfriend. We were Lucy and Ethel, and we laughed our asses off. Until her husband left. And that's when I started to notice things were changing.

I don't want to talk about how wrong that all went, but I do want to say, when I figured out what was going on, and I ended my relationship with her, it was only the beginning of what was taken from me. My husband stayed in the house, for another two years, but the marriage was over already. So when he finally left, he had taken 22 years of my life and tossed it away, he took the closest friend I ever had, he took my daughter's original Godmother, and because of all that has transpired, he also oddly ends up taking my whole extended family...all MY cousins, MY aunts...the whole situation has been an eye opener in regard to who ever really had my back. It's a short list, but at least I know.

And now, I'm in the heart of middle age, and besides my immediate family, I'm wondering what connections I have in my life. I have made some friends. Moms of my daughter's friends have become confidantes and I'm learning to reach out. I have also rediscovered some of those long lost childhood friends and love catching up with them. More than anything, the friends I have made online have been my lifeline. They are the ones who understand, and support, and never judge me. I think without the connections I have made on Facebook and among the autism and blogging communities, I would surely have gone mad from loneliness.

But I'm still left with an emptiness. Now that the happily ever after is all up to me, and I have  discovered I am comfortable and content with my own company, there are still times I feel completely alone.

Which leads me to the point of this whole, long, rambling novella!

I wish I had kept in touch with my friends.
I wish I had the memories of the vacations.
I wish I had kept an outlet for my OWN connections all through the marriage.
I wish I hadn't put all my life eggs in the one basket of a husband.

Maybe if I had kept my friends in my life, I would've felt validated, and I wouldn't have needed so much constant attention from my husband.
Maybe if I found other ways to occupy my time, he wouldn't have felt it was such a chore to spend time with his wife.
Maybe if I had allowed people in my life, I would've felt more supported, and wouldn't have needed so much from one man.

Now, all those thoughts sound kind of like I'm having regrets. I assure you, I'm not. Regrets and guilt are emotions that take too much energy from finding answers and solutions. I believe with all my heart that everything that has happened in my life, and everything that I have ALLOWED to happen in my life were all a part of what has led me to become exactly who I am. I love myself now more than at any other time in my life, and I will take responsibility for all the mistakes and errors in judgment. That surely doesn't excuse the betrayal that ultimately ended my marriage. But it allows me to move forward with a plan to be smarter. To do better. To make ME a priority. I don't plan to become selfish, but I fully intend on being self AWARE.

Only I can make me happy. It is nobody else's job. My happiness comes from inside, and it's the choice I will make every day for the rest of my life. If ever I meet someone who wants to make me happy, he'll discover I already am. And if he ever makes me UNhappy, he'll be gone.

But more importantly than thinking about ever finding another man in my life, I intend to make up for all the lost time I spent without friends. Girlfriends. The other women who will understand when I need ice cream and someone to watch Steel Magnolias with me. The women who will let me drag them through the mall, even when I have no money to buy anything because even window shopping is a form of retail therapy. The sisters who will come and drink wine with me while we pull out that giant Christmas sled.

I'm going to spend more time focused on really connecting with friends. And I hope that by telling this story, I can inspire a younger bride to always have an alternate outlet for connecting, apart from her husband. Putting all your eggs in one basket is rarely a good idea in any aspect of life. It's a good idea to have a backup. Just make sure the ones you choose to have your back are never the ones who are behind you with a knife.

Friday, September 11, 2015

I Am The Positive Change That Came From 9/11

"Where were you on 9/11?"

We hear the question every year. It's one of those things that will always stick with us. I remember it as clearly as if it were yesterday. My oldest son had just walked to school with a friend, and my little guy was 16 days from his first birthday. We were in our kitchen as I fed him his breakfast, and MAC was in the garage, as his business was booming at the time, and he was home doing some work in the house that day. I had the news on, as I did every morning. I was watching Good Day New York with Jim Ryan. I watched the whole, tragic event unfold and then I ran to my son's school to bring my kid home.

But that's not what I want to talk about.

In the midst of chaos, and terror, and sadness, and devastation, the "RUDEST" city in the world came together in unity in a way that can only happen during a time of tragedy.

On that awful day, as survivors desperately sought a way to get home, and family members were frantically trying to reach ANYONE who could give them news of their loved ones, strangers were reaching out a hand to pull someone to safety. Nobody cared that day what color you were, what language you spoke, how many tattoos you had...if you were within arm's reach, somebody would help you along. It's not what you could pay attention to as it was happening, but the stories came out days later. And there were LOTS of them.

There were a few isolated incidents where the narrow minded hot heads sought out anyone who looked even remotely like they could be Muslim, and tiny flames of hate were fanned. I remember feeling disgusted, and thinking how awful it must be for someone like my friend Ehab, who made my coffee every day at my Dunkin Donuts window. I remember asking him if he felt safe. He said there were a few people who made him nervous, but for the most part, the locals were especially kind and treated him like the beloved member of our community he was.

I remember feeling perplexed. There were preconceived notions of who these terrorists were, and I struggled with my own fear and the ideas of prejudice I had been exposed to as a child. I had evolved to a certain degree on my own. I had friends of all races, gay, straight, immigrant...but even though Brooklyn is a great melting pot, there are still lots of folks there who are very provincial. They belong in their corner of the universe, and outsiders do not. Each new faction of settlers in "the neighborhood" was seen as intruders. So there were lots of people whose opinions about the subject of terrorists was completely one track. But it didn't sit well with me.

I wondered if all these angry people who were calling for the heads of anyone who might have a middle eastern connection realized that it was exactly that kind of blind fear of "what we don't understand" that led these evil terrorists to commit such a heinous act.

As I spent the next few weeks finding bits of charred paper that was still drifting over the river on the wind, I also began to make a concious effort to see everyone I encountered for their character, and paid less attention to an accent, or the style of clothing someone wore. Before 9/11, I already had a pretty open and accepting mind. AFTER 9/11, I became accutely aware of the impact of hating someone, or disregarding a person's right to be HUMAN, based on a biased and uneducated opinion that had been passed down for generations. And I surely wasn't going to allow my children to be raised surrounded by judgment and hate. I let everyone around me know, I would not tolerate anyone teaching my kids to hate, simply for the sake of letting the ugliness ride. My wishes have been MOSTLY respected, except for a few extreme cases, and I am blessed to have strong children who have followed my lead, and nobody else's. They have even taught me a thing or two.

This morning I posted a request on my Facebook page, for readers to comment with a memory, or positive action that they relate to 9/11. One reader mentioned how Autism Daddy had highlighted the unity that followed. ( challenge with all things technical prohibits me from tagging, but go find him. I have enjoyed his writing for a long time!) This reader mentioned how she wished it could've stayed that way, and I told her it HAS!! In me. I felt a positive change in the people around me in the days and weeks that followed that devastating day, and I carried it with me. Even in the "rudest" city in the world, we all became like brothers. We can fight with EACH OTHER, but anyone ELSE screws with us, they screw with ALL of us:)

I may have moved to the suburbs of New Jersey, but I will always be a native New Yorker. Having witnessed the greatest atrocity on American soil in my lifetime, I can honestly say, I come from truly badass stock. I am a proud American. I was a few miles from the attack that day, but I am a survivor. My heart breaks for every life that was lost that day, and I refuse to fall victim to the plot to perpetuate the hate that caused this travesty. In honor of all those lost souls, I vow to live my life open and accepting of every human. I will, at the very least, presume goodness in each person until it is proven otherwise. Instead of judging, I will LEARN. I will ask questions and get to know people instead of resting in my preconceived, erroneous notions. I will put forth the kindness of which all those victims were robbed. I can't promise I will always succeed, but I can damn sure do my best.

If you lost someone on that horrible day, if you lost your faith in humanity, if you were traumatized by the attack, please don't allow terror to win. We all have the power to keep alive the unity of the days that followed 9/11. Like so many other possibilities, it's all about making the choice.

Choose kindness.

Choose acceptance.

Choose understanding.

And if there is ever a question as to whether or not you should reach out to someone you don't understand, always "err on the side of compassion"~Jess, Diary of a Mom ( tag here, either! But find her...she's awesome!)

To all those who will forever miss the ones they lost that day, my heart is with you💗

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Happy Birthday, Samara!

Social media is kind of magical. We're connected to the universe and somehow we encounter people we might never have had an opportunity to know. I have made friends from all over the globe. It always manages to blow my mind.

And then, we may also connect with folks who have always been right in our own back yard, but we have never managed to find. That's magic, too. 

We both grew up in New York. We are both divorcing. We are both single moms. We are both smart. We are both pretty badass. 

And we live five minutes apart. 



I'm a little older than she is. She is the same age as my sister, so it's not beyond the realm of possibility that we could've crossed paths. But we didn't. Not until a certain PunkRockPapa brought us together. 

It's comical to think of myself as a punk in my fifties. But in lots of ways, I've always been a punk. I don't follow the crowd. I don't follow the rules. Marching to the beat of my own drum? How about dancing, instead? However I need to fly in a given moment, that's how I'll fly. Maybe her own free spirit is what I love about her:) It's why I'm drawn to her. 

There are lots of ways we are completely different. There are so many life experiences she has conquered, both good and bad, that I was never attracted to, or I never had the chances she had. When she writes about all she has experienced and survived, I find myself enthralled by every word. Some of her life stories lead to controversial conversations, and whether or not she realizes it, that's a positive contribution to "changing the world". When we talk about the hard stuff, it makes people think. It makes people discuss. That's how we make changes for the good. 

While we seem to have made a really great connection, and I feel like I have made a really good friend, I'm still waiting for the chance to meet her. Trust is a hard thing to give away when it has been trampled all your life. I know that story all too well. But I have never allowed that lesson to crush the possibility of remaining open to making new treasuring friendship. I hope she someday allows herself to be open to a cup of coffee with a friend. 

In the meantime, I'd like to wish my friend Samara the very happiest of birthdays! My birthday wish is that she always knows she is loved, and that she believes with all her heart, she is worthy of all that love.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

There, But For The Grace Of God

I read a lot. I mean, a LOT. I haven't made much time for the novels that are piled in my closet, probably because I prefer getting lost in a good story without being interrupted. We all know THAT won't happen. But I read lots of blogs, and news articles. And since becoming closely involved with an amazing group of writers, I read most of what they post online, and most of what they share. I trust their choices in reading material for the most part, and more often than not, I greatly enjoy what they suggest.

Many of the posts I have read are stories that were inspired by pain. I find it comforting, on behalf of many of my friends, that they find some healing in the expression of their pain.

Today, as I was reading about the inner struggle of one of these amazing writers, I was hit by a realization: 


I'm not sure I ever realized before what an incredible blessing that is. It isn't that I haven't experienced pain. Maybe I haven't endured the kind of pain some of these courageous writers have battled through, like sexual abuse, drug addiction and clinical depression, but I have known hardship and pain. But there was never any question in my mind or in my heart that I would bounce back and come out better than before. 

I don't know where my confidence comes from. I'm not sure if it's something my parents taught me, but considering my mother's own struggles with self esteem, I would guess her influence is not solely responsible for my titanium backbone. She DID always keep me accountable for my actions, and taught my siblings and me to be responsible for each other, so I guess that surely was the basis for my strong character and my fierce integrity. But the KNOWING I would never be held down, that is something of a mystery. 

I have written before about betrayal. I have been betrayed more times than the typical human should ever have to know. Some people, (like my mother), might think I have ALLOWED this betrayal to happen. It has been suggested (by my mother), that I am too nice, and too trusting, and too forgiving, and that's what leads people to screw me over. That suggestion comes from people who have a need to lay blame. It comes from the mindset of someone who thinks it's easier to be suspicious and bitchy, and keep people on the outside, than to ever be "made a fool of". Frankly, when people screw me over, I don't ever feel like a fool. I think, "How sad to be them". 

With all the rollercoaster of lifetime experiences I have survived, a lesser person may have buckled. A person who struggles with self doubt might have shut down and withdrawn. I have even heard too many stories of people who have taken their own lives over much more seemingly benign struggles than I have conquered. While all those stories leave me feeling horribly sad for those who tell them, it also makes me feel intense gratitude for the strength with which I have been blessed. 

Each of us has our own threshold for pain. Each of us has our own tolerance level for hardship. There is no doubt that what we are all able to endure is completely relative to our strengths. But it makes me wonder why one person can be so much better able to withstand a struggle than the next. Why do some people struggle so terribly, while others breeze through trauma? 

The only explanation I can wrap my head around is, it's simply by the grace of God that I am able to survive it all, unscathed. Or for those who don't believe, it's pure luck. However a person may choose to look at it, it's a gift for which I am eternally grateful.

During times of extreme stress, including (but not limited to), parenting a severely autistic child, (comparable to the stress of combat soldiers), some folks might think I am a perfect candidate for anti anxiety meds, anti depressants, cold, hard drugs...but I've never had to head down that road. I do reach for a glass (or a bottle), of wine from time to time, and I have certainly had my days where a good, stiff vodka cocktail would take the edge off. But for the most part, I really handle it all while standing on my own two feet. (And walking a straight line:) But I don't EVER, under any circumstances think that makes me better than the person who DOES need extra help. On the contrary, it makes me feel intensely grateful to have been so blessed. And it makes me want more than anything to be able to help those who DON'T find it so easy to rise above.

When I write about the challenges of my life, you can be sure there will be a point in the story where I survive. For me, the survival comes easy. The more I read about the inner struggles of so many others, the more grateful I find myself feeling for the ease with which I achieve that survival. It has taken me many years to realize how very blessed I am. Living within the bubble of my own existence, I never had the privilege of knowing so many people who fought so vehemently through hardships I have never faced, and who, by whatever means necessary, made it out alive. In addition to my gratitude for my own strength, I am also thankful for coming to know such brave and giving individuals, who share their stories in an effort to heal their aching souls, and to extend a hand to anyone else who might be hurting too. I'm not sure if others who read these blogs realize how much strength and courage it takes for some of these writers to share their stories. I wonder if some of the readers ever take a moment to really appreciate how much of a writer's soul goes into what they share. Not me, but the writers who really battle with the stories they share, and pull it all together to share them anyway.

As for me, I'm a tank. I'm a Phoenix. I'm the Honey Badger. I felt the need to put my epiphany into words. I don't ever want to take my strength for granted. I don't ever want to forget how easily survival comes to me, or how very difficult it is for others. I want to remember EVERY DAY to be grateful for who I am and what I have, and for the truly remarkable friends I have made, who share their lives in the written word. Those friends may have no idea what a gift they are, and how much I am affected by what they write. But by sharing these thoughts, I hope they will know how very much I appreciate who they are, and what they do. I am a better person for knowing them. I am a more grateful person. I am richer in all the ways that matter most. By sharing these thoughts, I hope I can remind even one more person to appreciate what others endure, and be thankful for every day we survive. It's all a gift. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Fuck You, Tina Marie Ernspiker

It actually killed a few of my brain cells to even have read your post, Ms. Ernspiker, but after seeing so much reaction to it, I simply felt there was no way I could NOT weigh in.

I may not be a big, fancy, schmancy blogger like yourself, and truthfully, I only started blogging, mostly on Facebook, a little over two years ago. But what I have to say has value, even if it is buried in profanity.

There may be only a comparitively few people who check in to read my thoughts, but among them are a good number of folks who are helped by the things I share. I have written a great deal about the struggles through which I accompany my son on his autism journey. I have written about just trying to keep breathing in a hateful, broken marriage, and I write about the hardship of divorce. All of those situations can be pretty FUCKworthy. More importantly, everything I write about is real. Truthful. Genuine. Authentic. And I don't feel the need to sugar coat or gloss over the fuckity fucks because a tightass, pompous, holier-than-thou douchewad expresses a belief that my choice of colorful language  may indicate I am somehow less intelligent than she is. Does my language portray me as a neanderthal? Considering the positive changes I help bring to so many, anyone who might choose to believe me to be somehow intellectually beneath themselves, strictly based on my very sailor-like potty mouth would actually be making more of a statement about his or her own narrow mind.

I make a very conscious effort to keep from passing judgment on others. I slip. I'm human. But I would never presume to turn my nose up at anyone, simply because they DON'T swear. I don't roll my eyes and declare them to be uptight, goody-goodies. And yet, you feel you are somehow above me, and in a position to assume, and then post the judgment, that by using vocabulary you, yourself are uncomfortable with, I am trying to bait my readers with sensational language. Perhaps if you would pull that giant pole out from up your ass, you could stop squinting long enough to see that there are lots of intelligent words between all the bastards and cocksuckas.

I have family and dear friends who are ministers and devoted, churchgoing people. When I am in their presence, or in personal conversations with them, I show the utmost respect to their views, and curb my vocabulary. But on my blog, on my Facebook page, it's my chapel. I'm free to express myself as my thoughts and feelings pour out of my head and my soul. Do you know why I write it exactly as I feel it? Because it's real. It's human. People want to relate to experiences that are real. They don't want to read something that is heavily coated in whatever you deem to be PROPER, so they can feel like they are somehow not good enough, or that they are failing because they can't hold it together quite as well as you seem to be.

There are so many aspects of my life that would have made a lesser person break a long time ago. But I talk about it all. I write about it as a way of relieving myself of some of the weight of all the stress. I also write for other people who are just trying to keep breathing, and just need to know that on the days they feel like they a failing at life, there are other people who are not getting it all right either. And most of the time, my honest expression comes out in the very colorful sound of the streets of Brooklyn. Because I'm from the streets of Brooklyn. Glorious, badass, holier-than-thou-tightasses-would-never-survive Brooklyn.

Before I drop my mic on your snobby ass, I would just like to respond to a few of your points:

Yes, you ARE being self righteous.
If you're going to compare writers who swear, to a presumably suicidal rodent, you should do the research and realize it is a fallicy, and really just an adorable little creature. So thank you:)
Just because you are able to express yourself without swearing, doesn't make you better than anyone, and doesn't make anyone want to be LIKE you.
Yes, I CAN write honestly without swearing. But I prefer to write exactly as I speak, as if we were all sitting around the coffee table, freely and comfortably. No worries. No judgment.
I don't give a fat, flying rat's ass if you ever visit my blog. Nobody will miss you.
And I'm just going to keep my own blog rated F, for...well, you know.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Becoming the Phoenix

Going through divorce is hard. Every fight and painful event that led up to the divorce was harder. I'm sure HIS side of the story would paint me horribly. Some of it would be true. But one thing that is ABSOLUTELY true:

I never cheated.

He can NOT say the same.

I have come a long way since finding out the truth. Upon making the devastating discovery, I fell into a depression that consumed me for a while. I was stunned for a bit, and didn't have a clue what I was going to do. We have kids. I wanted him to leave, but I needed him to stay. It was a monumental inner struggle that lasted over two years, until he finally moved out. Those two years were ugly in many ways, but the transformation that took place in ME, as a woman, as an individual, can only be compared to the Phoenix, rising from the ashes.

Discovering the man who promised to love me forever was, in fact, loving someone else, knocked the wind out of me. It pulled the floor out from under me. There is a grieving process that takes place when you are mourning the loss of "happily ever after", (which I now FULLY believe is an impossibly elusive myth). It is very much like mourning the death of a loved one. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance...they are all there to some degree. I could probably have added devastation, self loathing, temporary schizophrenic tendencies, and near homocidal rage, among other emotions. But once the tornado died down, I emerged, like a hunk of carbon rich rock that endured the intense heat and pressure occurring 100 miles beneath the surface of the earth, a shining diamond, precious and infinitely stronger than before.

Some of that tornado left me feeling empty. So much of what I felt and did was a reaction to feeling so deeply betrayed. And because I knew HER, (let's not go there today), it was even harder. I wanted to know everything.

How long was it going on?

How far did it go?

Did anyone else know?

Was I being laughed at?

Social media made it a THOUSAND times worse. We had all "blocked" each other on every social media outlet. I had no way of knowing if THEY were connected online. While he was still living at home, I wanted to know if he was in contact with her, but I was shut out. I couldn't check his phone or his computer. I found myself constantly driving past her house, and looking for where he parked his truck. The NEED to know had taken me over. I was so frustrated by NOT knowing, I would often find myself sitting on the floor in my bedroom, crying, unable to breathe, having chest pains. I was eating baby aspirin to keep from giving myself a stroke, because even though I felt like the world was completely falling apart, I still had kids who needed me. I was not much good to them for a few months. I would cry, and my daughter would cry. I felt like I was suffocating.

My daughter's face was what ultimately pushed me on my feet. I don't remember what it was she needed me for, but I do remember telling her, "Mommy just can't come down right now". And the look on her face was NOT of sadness or disappointment. It was a look of understanding. She understood that I was feeling so devastated, I couldn't drag my ass out of bed to interact with my kids because HE was home. I was teaching my daughter that when life gets too hard, it's best to just check out for a while. She was ten years old, and I was teaching her it was ok to just give up. I couldn't live with that.

And that was the day I made the choice to JUST STOP CARING.

I wasn't going to care if he was with her. I wouldn't care where he was. I wouldn't care if he lived or died. It was the greatest choice I made in the entire process.

I have to tell you, it WAS NOT easy. Most people don't realize how very much we are in control of how we will feel about a given situation. It really is as simple as CHOOSING to feel one way or another. But then, we have to COMMIT to feeling it. It takes careful thought, and every ounce of strength we possess, but it can be done. I did it. I completely convinced myself that I just no longer cared if he was with her. He might have been living under the same roof as I was, but he was not WITH me in any way. He had completely disconnected. So it didn't matter if he was with her. When I felt the urge to drive past her house, I would take a deep breath and swallow it down. Many times, I would tell myself out loud, "I just don't care where he is. You DON'T need to know. It doesn't change anything." I stopped asking him where he was working, I stopped checking his pockets, I started breathing again. I focused on my kids, and I focused on me. I began to heal.

Because I had no smoking gun, no naked photos, I wanted more than anything to believe I could be wrong. I wanted to hold out hope that we could fix this. I found out the hard way, he had other plans. When he snuck out in the middle of the day, I was blindsided. But because I had begun to condition myself to life without him, even while he was still here, I was better able to handle the blow.

At some time early in the process, I had started an anonymous Facebook page, to talk about my life. I talked about my kids, about autism, and about the failing marriage. I couldn't talk about any of what I was going through on my personal FB page. Nobody wanted to hear me "airing my dirty laundry" in such a public forum. But anonymously, I found people who could relate to my story, and that gave me strength, too. Life as a parent makes it difficult sometimes to have friends of our own. Being a parent to an autistic child makes having friends even harder. There was no one to talk to. My FB page saved me. I have found friends there whose presence in my life has become invaluable. There are frequent visitors to my page who are truly a part of my life. And there are so many people who relate to my story because it has happened to them. Every day, I hear a new story of betrayal. It breaks me all over again, each time a friend is hurting the way I was hurting. I want to fix it. I want to help them. I want to kick the significant other in the nads. I want to write the homewrecking whore's phone number across the cybersphere, and I want to go full on, Carrie Underwood-Louisville-slugger on the bastard's car. I won't do any such thing. But I want to help. I want to make it easier on my friends.

To that end, I have made a list of a few things the "recently betrayed" might consider, upon finding themselves in that emotional tornado:

1) Double check your privacy settings on your personal page. Make sure you check off the most private setting, where only your CLOSE friends can see what you post. And then post NOTHING about what you're going through.

2) Go through every person on your friends list, (yes, this is tedious, but worth the peace of mind), and edit the "friends list" setting to allow access ONLY to those you are comfortable with. If there are people you don't want to unfriend, but are not sure of how much you want them to see, switch them to "restricted".

3) Create an alternate account, in a name no one you know will associate with you. Then you can still search for those who have you blocked.

4) DON'T USE THE ALTERNATE ACCOUNT TO SEARCH FOR THOSE WHO HAVE YOU BLOCKED. Unless it's absolutely necessary. It sucks a piece of your soul when you get consumed by the investigating. And chances are, they have tightened up their privacy settings too, and you won't be able to see anything anyway.

5) MOST IMPORTANTLY, there will come a time when you realize this situation is eating you alive. This is when you will have to make the choice to stop caring. It is the hardest thing you will ever do, but the best thing you can do for your inner peace. Every time you feel the need to search, or stalk, or even peek, breathe deeply and tell yourself that neither of them should have that much power over you. If you feel like you have to constantly be wondering if they are in contact, or you always have to be searching and checking, it will eliminate any chance you might have to feel at peace. You have no idea how important that is.

Recently, my brother and SIL stayed at my house for a weekend. Early on a Saturday morning, my SIL got me out of the house to go Walmart shopping. As soon as we pulled out of the driveway, she asked, "Where does he live? Let's go see if that bitch's car is there." I told her "I really have no need to know. I decided a long time ago that if he doesn't want me, it's HIS loss, and it just doesn't matter who he's with". She told me she couldn't believe I could be so calm, and that SHE would need to know everything they were doing, and would probably have beaten the shit out of them both. Yup. I get it. It's what I WANTED to do. But I can't go to jail. My kids deserve a happy, peaceful mom, and I deserve that for myself. Those two assholes have taken enough from me and my kids. I won't let them have my happiness and my peace.

To anyone who is going through this pain, you will get through it. It's going to suck for a long time before it gets better, but it WILL get better. And always keep in mind you are NOT alone. There are others who have been there, and can be an example of coming out so much better on the other side, or maybe they will just be a shoulder. Or an ear. Just know, it gets better. And if it makes you feel better, start an anonymous FB page and call it "Flushing the Catfish", or "The Trash Takes ITSELF Out". Or maybe YOUR page could be "Rebuilding After The Fire". Whatever you need to do, to convince yourself there can be life after betrayal, do that. And don't forget to dance:)

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Autism...And ONLY The Version Of Autism I Know Personally

A long time ago, (three years, really), I opened up a Facebook account, and dug my way out of extreme loneliness. I have written before about how isolating the life of an autism parent can be. In all honesty, parenting ALL kids can leave us isolated if we don't find our own outlets for social interaction, but for parents of children with disabilities, (or DIFFERING abilities, because God forbid someone should be offended), I promise you, the struggle is VASTLY different. This post is not about who "has it hardest". There are just challenges that come with parenting a child, that you can't fathom unless you experience that challenge. If you think I'm wrong, come on over for a weekend. You can wear my shoes.

I don't mean to tell this part of the story because I need sympathy, pity, donations, a pat on the back...I tell this as a matter of fact. It just is. But I needed to state that matter of fact, to set up what I really want to talk about.


I tell true stories about what goes on in our lives. To be honest, autism is probably a small part of our lives, but it does manage to touch every other aspect, so it becomes bigger than it seems to be. My own child is severely autistic. His level of understanding is probably less than that of a two year old, and he has NO COMPREHENSION of social media or opinions of others. If I see another child pointing at my son and laughing, or making comments, it rips me to my core, but it doesn't affect my son in the slightest manner. What others think or say has no meaning to my boy. He could see a group of kids pointing at him, and he would simply continue smiling in his way because that scene from Rudolph is still playing in his head. He doesn't understand the concept of shame, embarrassment, cruelty, or anything else that has the potential to emotionally hurt him.

When I tell stories of having to clean sheets almost every day because my 14 year old son is a bed wetter, I don't tell those stories because my son is too cognitively impaired to be embarrassed by them. I tell them because there are too many parents out there who are isolated, and they have no one. And when they are going through some of these same struggles, they think they are doing something wrong. They feel like they are failing. They are NOT failing. Like me, they simply haven't found a solution yet. Maybe there IS no solution. There are lots of folks who would disagree, (I'm currently divorcing one of them), but the people who are loudest with their criticism, are often the most silent when you ask for help, or an answer to the problem. (And before we go off on THAT tangent, I have tried limiting his liquid intake and waking him up in the middle of the night. We just end up with a thirsty kid who doesn't always go back to sleep.) Bed wetting is just one example of something that is a little harder for our kids to overcome, but it was the first example that popped in my head of a story that might be embarrassing to the average NT (neurotypical) kid. It means nothing to my child.

I also tell the true stories because there are lots of folks out there who have very misguided views on what life with autism might be like. There are the exhausting "Rain Man" references, (a movie character who wasn't even autistic...), the horror stories that are told in an effort to compel folks to open their wallets and change laws, (even if these stories make you sick, they are a necessary evil, because they make it possible for our kids to get help when they need it, so simmer down), and there are the beautifully painted rainbows and butterflies stories, that only emphasize the most positive and heart swelling moments we experience. And then there are the real life stories.

When I first logged onto Facebook and found other parents who were talking about some of what we were going through, I was elated!! I found people I could talk to who weren't judging me, or telling me I was wrong about everything. There were people who didn't second guess every, single fucking choice I made for my son. These people weren't calling me every time the news was about to report the latest "cause of autism" or the "latest autism treatment" (that we had tried, unsuccessfully four years earlier). These people just "got it". As I continued to interact with some of the public autism related pages, I began to realize that I had something helpful to say. So many of the parents I encountered were just starting out on this autism parenting path, and were struggling with so much of what I had already overcome. I realized I could make a positive difference. I had no idea how big a difference I would be making in my own life, and how many others would find comfort in what I had to say, but I knew I was meant to do this.

When I tell the stories of the hardships and the joys, (because I promise you, there are plenty of both), I am careful to consider the possible ways my son could be impacted by our public story. Believe me, I WISH I could ask his permission before discussing our private moments on such a public forum. But I can't. I am not trading my child's dignity for a chance at helping someone else. I am helping someone else feel less alone, offering solutions wherever I can, and hopefully educating those who have no clear understanding of the reality that some people would prefer to hide. Providing this reality to people who might otherwise have no way of knowing the truth is my way of clearing a path of greater understanding and acceptance for my boy, exactly as he is.

Now, there are some folks, who disagree. There are people who are high functioning autistic individuals who are offended when some parents tell the true story. I absolutely respect the right of these folks to object. I believe that if a child is able to understand the impact of their story being told, they should be included in the process of deciding what parts of the story are made public. At least, that's how I feel about my own contributions to the conversation. If I am telling about something relating to my older son, I discuss it with him. Even though my daughter is not on Facebook, and doesn't read anything I have to say, she is aware that I sometimes talk about how much she drives me crazy, and she thinks it's pretty funny. I chose from the very beginning to tell my story anonymously, because I DIDN'T want people in our personal circles to have the opportunity to think they knew us better than they actually did. I didn't want them to feel they had a deeper perspective from which to judge us, (and they WOULD). And I felt the need to protect everyone in the story, including my most vocal critic, who has thankfully exited the building:) Telling the truth and sharing a difficult story with people who can relate is a therapeutic and cathartic outlet. It is also life changing, and in some cases, life saving, to find someone with whom we can relate. It is never my intention to purposefully or thoughtlessly paint anyone in a negative light.

I understand how some of these folks who are offended can find fault with those of us who share our truth. I understand that by talking about the difficulties that some of us live with every day, the general public can be misunderstanding, and lump every autistic person under a single, umbrella category. To me, this is only another reason we HAVE TO speak up and tell the truth. There IS no umbrella category. When we say "If you've met one person with autism, you've met ONE person with autism", it is the truest and most accurate way to describe how very different and completely INDIVIDUAL each person with autism really is. By telling my story, it is NOT my intention to imply that EVERY person with autism experiences the same challenges as my child. It is simply my intention to find one other person who will read it and say, "Me too". I need that. They need that. Every person who ever struggles with ANY challenge needs to know there is someone out there who can say, "Me too". It is inherently human to NOT want to feel alone.

My own child will be dependent for the rest of his life. I don't say this as a complaint. It is simply a fact. He is a dependent, but he is NEVER a burden. Not to me. Not to his brother or his sister. It is my joy and my privilege to be his mother and to care for him until I take my last breath. I have had these conversations with my oldest and my youngest. They both understand and insist that their brother will always be loved and cared for, no matter what should ever happen to me. I ask them both, "But what if you marry someone who doesn't really want to be responsible for your autistic brother?" The answer I get from them both, "Why would I EVER marry someone who didn't completely accept that I am responsible for my brother?" I included this conversation here because it needs to be completely understood, no matter how difficult our days might sometimes be, my autistic child is loved, wanted and cherished every single day of his life. Every. Day.

Sometimes life with autism is hard. Sometimes it's really hard. But here's a newsflash: parenting EVERY child is hard. The hardships of autism aren't "worse"...they are different. The hardship of a challenge is relative to the capacity a parent has for facing that challenge. So my own level of strength might deem our challenges rather small in comparison to those of the more easily flustered parent of an average, NT child.

But I'm never trying to make a comparison. That's kind of the whole point.

The people who take offense to how I share my story are certainly free to express their opinion. I pray every day for the miracle that would allow my son to tell me he is upset by the sharing of our story. If that day should ever come, I'll be happy to explain to him how badly his mom needed to find these people who understood. I'll gladly tell him how many other parents were helped by the sharing of our experience. I'll be proud to tell him how many people were educated by the stories I told. And if he should choose to hate me for making these choices on his behalf, I will accept the consequences of my actions.

I know for a fact that sharing my story has helped people. I know it has helped ME. I am certain it has helped to shine a light that will illuminate a path for my son and others. If people choose to be offended by that, I'm sorry, but that's a choice they will have to live with. I don't disrespect your right to feel the way you do, so please don't crap all over mine.

For now, I'm just going to keep doing what I do, and pray the folks who need to hear my story will somehow find their way to it. The folks who are offended by what I share are free to NOT READ IT. And to anyone who finds their ANONYMOUS part in the story to be unpleasant, in the immortal words of Anne Lamott, "If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better".

Now I'm just going to light the campfire and we can all sing Kumbaya. Or you can leave my campsite. Eeny meeny.