Today, Gladiator.

The thing that I don’t often speak of, as parent of a child with special needs, is the never-ending fight to make sure that your child is being cared for, educated and treated in such a way that will allow him or her to fulfill their ultimate potential. The level of vigilance that is required on a daily basis, to ensure all members of the team are consistently acting in the best interest of your child… 

It’s imperative, but exhausting. 
Not to mention managing the team!
Coordinating multiple providers of therapy, several days a week, both private and within schools, with the team of educators, after school care providers, coaches and family. Turning down the rare play-date invites that do arise because our therapy schedule often won’t allow it, but fully knowing that the therapy is providing more progress than we’ve ever seen before! So we stay the course…
Pushing on, knowing that we are fighting for what is right for our child.

That being said…

Friends in education, please keep this in mind when you see us in an IEP or ARD meeting and we are depleted, defensive and emotional. That meeting simply represents another step and we aren’t yet sure if it is going to result in the creation of a team of champions, or  require us to gear up for the role of gladiator, yet again, in another fight for what our child needs.

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly…” Theodore Roosevelt

To the little girl at recess…

To the little girl who held my son’s hand today at recess…

You don’t know me, but I’m Cam’s Mama.
I have been waiting and wishing for someone like you to come along for a very long time.
You see, Cam is different in a magnificent sort of way.
He has autism.
That means that there are certain things that might come quite easily for you that Cam struggles with GREATLY.
Things like talking and making friends are BIG challenges that we have been working on for years.

I used to wonder if Cam would ever have special friends in his life that he could turn to when he needs them.

As his Mama, I try to listen and play, and just be there for him.

But I also know the value of a good friend.
It hurts my heart to think that he might not connect with people in that way.
Not like he does with his Mama.

Although in many ways he is just like other children his age, I sometimes wonder if Cam is starting to notice that he is different.

He is SO smart, and he notices the tiniest details in the most wonderful things.

He learns some things quickly, like the names of all of the planets and many moons!
He’s also great at reading sight words!

Some things take a lot of practice, like making those same words come through the difficult journey starting in his brain and ending at our ears.

Words are not his main language.
Pictures likely are, and he remembers EVERYTHING.

So, I wonder if he sees the incredible beauty in the differences and in himself.

I hope he does.

Today, you did.
 You saw through the differences and right to his heart.
You made a friend on the playground and held his hand as the two of you walked, talked and played together in the sunshine. He enjoyed your friendship so much that he sought you out later in gym class.
I’m pretty sure that his teachers cried.
Gosh, I sure did.

I hope that someone explained how precious it was that Cam was searching for words to talk to you. Because for him that is  A LOT of work, but clearly he thought that it was worth it.

I wish that I knew your name so that I could thank you and foster your new friendship. I wish that I could hug YOUR mama or daddy (and likely your teacher) because they have given you an incredible gift that you shared with Cam today:

The ability to truly see Cam and to reach out to him in the purest form of friendship.

Autism awareness?

Autism Acceptance.
(Edit: Today, at pick up, your name was the first thing he mentioned when I asked about his day…)

Thoughts for my younger self…

They say that with age comes wisdom.
I don’t entirely agree.
In my experience, with age comes life experience, and with those experiences we are either open to or closed off from a whole series of opportunities to learn…

Of all of the lessons in life, these are the ones I wish “we” had mastered much earlier.

Kindness: This is the number one tool to use whenever possible. It takes so little energy to give, and the rewards are so impactful.

Self Confidence: Not to be confused with arrogance, attention seeking and self righteousness. But the knowledge that “I am a work in progress and I’m proud of the progress I’m making.”

Self Respect and with that… Boundaries: The message that you put out into the universe, about who you are, how you act, what kind of people you want in your life… It all creates the formula for the things in life which will be inextricably pulled into your reality. It’s as inevitable as gravity. You set the tone for how others perceive you, treat you, and remember you. 

Stoke the fire: Follow that inner voice that says, “This world is broken and I need to fix it!” You are not an idealist, you have ideas.

Some of them will work, some of them will fail, some of these failures will break your heart greatly. Ignore the voices who tell you that you can’t fix everything, because your fire inside… That’s EXACTLY what it is for. It’s the fuel for the overwhelming passion that has led you through this life. It will not consume you if you put it to good use.
Or, it might… Either way, rage on.

Love: Freely giving love to everyone, because everyone IS deserving, as opposed to only giving what we feel people deserve, when they are in our good graces.

Knowledge: this does not come as a guaranteed partner of our aging minds and bodies. You have to do The Work in this life in order to learn anything about it…

Sometimes, what we learn is what we expected. Other times we find ourselves dusting ourselves off from a battle of wits with Life’s Lessons. We only learn from the lessons that we open ourselves up to. If we reject all that isn’t aligned with our current beliefs and systems of understanding, we MISS OUT ON SO MUCH.

Find Teachers that you respect and learn from them. These people will be knee deep in the most important work of their/your life. Study them. Read their research. Explore their ideas, question everything and then add what you need to your toolbox. Grow from it. Then, go find more teachers. Never stop learning.

Compassion: When we are angry, when we are joyous, when we are resentful, when we are afraid, when we are at our worst, not only when we are at our best.

Find your Tribe: They will NOT be who you think. They may, even, find you. But these are the people who will have your back when you need it and they will tell you that you’ve screwed up, too. They will also be the people that you can simply BE with, without frills, pretenses, makeup, or even a shower… They will love you with a passion that fills your heart with abounding joy. They may or may not be family, and they may be constantly changing themselves. Support their journey as fiercely as they are supporting yours.

You got this.

Bitterly Breaking up With EVERYTHING

Why do we feel the need to devalue past experiences in order to give our current situations worth?

So often, I have found myself moving onto the next stage in my life feeling SO GLAD that (insert anything prior) was behind me. Of course, all of our experiences with any longevity have both positive and negative aspects to them. But is it the negative ones that have a lasting impact on our opinions of those experiences?

A new job. It makes sense. When things are going well for us, we are motivated to perform at our potential in order to propel ourselves to a status that we aspire to. timetomoveonWhen things become too stagnant or we are deeply unhappy, we in turn become complacent. Our job performance suffers, and so does our potential for happiness in that job that once may have fulfilled us. It isn’t long before we say the words out loud, “It’s time to move on.”

I once had a new colleague who preemptively stated that her threshold was approximately three years in any given role before she knew it was time to move on. I remember thinking to myself that it was an interesting way to approach what could otherwise be a very emotional, time and energy consuming process. And how mindful to know that about one’s self!

Still, in the throes of her eventual growing disdain for her new job I regularly heard the lamenting of how awful the conditions were and very little of the positive aspects. There WERE laughs, I was a part of them. There were most definitely incredible successes and many stellar experiences, although to hear it after the fact you would have thought that this person worked in purgatory.

The end of a relationship. A much more delicate transition is found at the stages of a relationship when it is absolutely over. Moving beyond the eventual (or not) processing and acceptance of the end, you find the perspective which lingers on, jading the memory of everything that once was.

breaking upAgain, most people have very little positive worth to attribute to the previous experience, because frankly, it ended for valid reasons. The feelings that are involved in the dissolution of a relationship often include despair, denial, jealousy, confusion, etc. It seems only therapeutic that we use these emotions to help to propel us into healthy stages of healing.

In some stages of these emotions, we may romanticize the prior relationship by choosing to remember it as more positive than it truly was. However, I have seen many lengthy relationships end with both parties committing absolute genocide of their shared memories, saving the ones that were the worst for any future recollections.

Again, why are we so frequently unable to bring some of the positive experience with us through the healing?  Does it make it so much easier to create a clean break by devaluing the length of time that we were wholeheartedly involved in the relationship? Can something not be over and still have been beautiful and worth our heartache?

Moving. Recently I overheard someone explaining where they lived, but also referring to where they had just moved from with an emphasis on, “I got out of there as fast as I could.” I suppose there are valid reasons for being loud and proud of a new zip code, but it left me thinking that the statement devalued the experience and opinion of others who remain there. moving boxes

In a recent cross country move of my own I found people on each end of the move eager to hear about the horrible reasons that we fled. In truth, we had stories that spanned the spectrum of reasons why a family might move, and yet people only wanted to extract the breakup version. This was what really got me started on paying attention to how I, personally, reflect the value of my experiences. I realized that I was doing the same and it had almost become habitual.

A new stage in life. I remember being a new college student approaching the world with the fresh knowledge learned in a semester and a huge dose of ego, certain that my new-found knowledge outweighed anyone else’s uninformed opinion.allthebooks

These days I thank God that social media wasn’t around at that time to immortalize some of my ignorance and lack of perspective.

It wasn’t long before I was IN the WORKPLACE as a full-fledged adult, making my way to THE TOP! Of course, so were millions of other people around me, but I laughed at the college me for her lack of experience and her naivety.

Fast forward about fifteen years and a couple of career changes later, and I’m happier to reflect on my growth as a professional these days than lament over the horrible jobs that I endured to get me to where I am today. I could tell some horror stories, but it doesn’t do me or anyone else any good. Yes, there has been growth due to positive and negative experiences, but the emphasis now is on being mindful of that and some days IT TAKES A LOT OF WORK to maintain that mindfulness.

“You will never know true love until you’ve had a child. Until you are a parent, you just can’t/won’t understand.”

I really dislike comments like these, because not all people choose to marry, couple, or have children. Their choices do not reflect a deficit in their happiness, because happiness is relative to our experiences. Many people do, however, look back at their days before having children as being something less in value or importance than it is once they have become parents.

I disagree!

While our job as parents may be important and rewarding, it’s all relative…
In my opinion, it’s living through the experiences of my child that gives me such a strong connection to the memories of my youth. I remember things more vividly when reminded by my son’s laughter and even his tears. I reflect upon times before he came along and see them as the perfect road map for the journey that brought me to where I am at this very minute. And, oh! The sleep from that memory borders experiences of a divine nature. Had I chosen to not have children, my happiness would be weighed on a different scale, completely independent from this variable. 

happy-725815_640I’ve been there.

I’ve made the same decisions to emotionally dissolve an experience in order to move on to the next with a clearer head. But in an effort to be more mindful of the importance of being present, I focus on the magnitude of this very moment.

Granted, it’s the negative that lends credence to the positive. We couldn’t fully appreciate the blissfully happy experiences if we didn’t know the depth of great sorrow. Perhaps it’s the yin and yang pattern to the universe, where opposing forces are actually complimentary. We take the good and bad together, as a choice or NOT, in order to attempt to find some balance.

In a few years I hope to have made it a habit of looking back, with a fond recollection of where I have been.
Starting by being happy… Right here, right now.

Paddle Out…

Last year I decided that waiting for the day when I might be facing death was a horrible time to begin knocking items off the good ol’ bucket list. I had witnessed some of my bravest friends fight great odds against cancer, and something had ignited within me.

wintersurf

Winter Surfer- Long Beach, NY

I spent many winter mornings watching the surfers of Long Beach don their thick wet suits, hoodies and boots, embrace their boards and head out into the frigid water. I was mesmerized by their synchronous movements, and the delicate yet athletic dance that they performed with the waves.

Inspired by the beauty and compelling call of the water, I started with number #1 on the list, Learn to Surf. As romantic or cliche as it sounds, I had waited my whole life for what was within my reach.

I was equal parts inspired and terrified.

Sometime in the last decade, I developed an irrational fear of sharks. I could work myself into a tizzy imagining how I might die at the hands-er mouth- of a shark.

Death by shark attack. I’m sure that there’s a whole wealth of meaning if we were to psychoanalyze that one; an insanely violent death in the place where I feel the most zen. Hmmm… For another time.

The ocean has long since been the place where I feel closest to God, to a creator that feels so present in every breaking wave and crashing shoreline. I go there to fill my soul and I can find my center and a modicum of peace. I was sure that my love of the ocean could help me to face my fear.

So I set myself to the task of learning to surf. I remember falling asleep the night before my first lesson thinking, “Please don’t let me get eaten by a shark tomorrow morning.” When I woke I immediately felt a crippling senseFear-is-a-Liar of fear spread throughout my body. My mind began to race with a dozen different reasons that I could use to cancel my lesson. A picture flashed in my mind that a friend had recently posted on Facebook. It was a wall with the words, “Fear is a liar” painted in large, bold letters. It became my anchor.

I dragged myself out of bed and took a long hard look at myself in the mirror. I could feel my insides trembling and a surge of adrenaline spread outward reaching my fingertips which then began to shake.
I looked at myself again, and spoke the words, “You.Have.Survived.Worse…”

I decided to try to ignore my fear. I could easily let it take over, as it clearly had intended to do. But I had been through much, much worse and this was not going to be how my story played out. I was not going to be the girl that caved to fear. I went to my lesson. I showed up. Because that’s how we get past the stuff that scares us, that traps us into a state of stagnancy where no growth occurs and our spirit slowly begins to die.

On the sandy shores of Long Beach, I learned the art of popping up onto the board, and that I’m clearly a goofy foot. I spent about 15 minutes practicing this until the instructor and I both felt that it was time to try it in the water. I awkwardly carried my board out to the water and pulled myself onto my stomach when the water was deep enough. I was at a particular vantage point where I realized that I could not see anything below me in the water because I was looking outward, toward the incoming waves. I listened to the instructor explain how to determine which waves were worthy and which were not going to be able to carry me at all. I heard his words, and although I understood what he was saying, I heard a voice (Fear, no doubt) carry over his instructions. “You can’t see the sharks.” I instantly felt the surge of adrenaline push through my veins like a sick and toxic drug.

I’ve struggled with anxiety throughout my life, and I wish that I could tell you that there’s a great trick I’ve developed that helps me in times like this. I had nothing. I looked at the instructor’s calm and gentle face, full of this zenned out expression. He was clearly stoked that I was about to catch my first wave.
Amidst the pounding of my heartbeat in my ears, I dug as far down as I could to salvage any remnant of courage that I had left. I found myself coming up empty.

“Paddle out.”

I looked up and saw his face again. Smiling this knowing smile that suddenly held so much more meaning than before.

“Go, on. Paddle out!”

I don’t know what happened in that moment. I looked out at the ocean and as I watched the waves coming toward me I noticed that the arms next to my board were pushing through the water so effortlessly, propelling me forward and into the blue.
There was such grace in the arms that had a sense of purpose beyond the levels of anxiety my mind was trying to trap me in. I looked at the hands as they cut through the blue and followed them back to the arms.

My arms.

Pushing through the water, breaking the waves and allowing my board to sail into the cresting waves; my arms led me. I grabbed the sides of my board as a very large wave came under me, and pulled it toward my chest. I was under the wave.

I was IN the wave.

I was… Free.

I pushed my face through the surface in what seemed like forever but was truly only an instant. I instinctively began paddling out again. I looked over my shoulder at my new surfer friend who had somehow cracked his face into an even bigger grin. He motioned for me to turn my board toward the beach, so I did, and realized that this was it. I was going to, either on my board or on my ass, ride this incoming wave into the shore.
cantstop
I don’t know what it was about the paddle out into the ocean that day.
Some moments in life don’t have explanations, they simply fall into the beautiful simplicity of just being.

The paddle out had given me breath, and I found a rhythm that was not my own but belonged to the sea.

As the wave approached I watched it over my shoulder until I had to furiously paddle toward the shore so that I could catch it. I felt my grasp on the board and pulled my legs up under me in a swift, albeit awkward first pop up.

I was standing.

I was moving toward the beach.
It took a moment before I realized that I WAS SURFING.

I heard the proud whooping noises made by the surf instructors that were teaching the lessons that day. When I finally fell from my board I turned around, somewhat embarrassed by the attention. About ten instructors were waving their hands in the air and clapping over their heads. I had gotten up onto the board on the first try. Although I knew that I must have looked like a brick heading into that shore, their love for the sport and the stoke spread throughout my body taking the place of the fear.
The only thing left to do was turn around and paddle out again.

surfing

Me, with my beloved board

“I Was Born in a Small Town…”

dcs by gibby

DCS – Photo Credit: Sheldon Gibson

Some of my very first memories of what it meant to live in a small town were my desperate dreams to escape it. I remember feeling so caged in that at times I could barely breathe.

It was TOO small, TOO boring, there wasn’t ANYTHING to do, nothing exciting EVER happened there, everyone knew everybody else’s business and therefore EVERYONE knew when you got into trouble.
Not only that, but they knew what you did, who was involved and exactly how you got caught.
AND they knew it by 9 am the next morning.

Don’t get me wrong, our kind of trouble consisted of sneaking out at night to watch meteor showers on a friend’s roof, or driving around at night before we had our licenses, spinning out in the snowy parking lots. We made our own adventures in our too-small town.

As we grew, our most dangerous tales led us driving down wine country vineyard rows in a Pinto or swiping a road cone from a construction site and then guiltily taking it back.

When things were REAL slow, we’d meet out in the middle of nowhere to throw a bonfire party where we thought we were totally hidden. AS IF it wasn’t bound to be interrupted by the police who knew us each by name, or the occasional coach dragging us out of our teenage reverie. It was good, clean fun that never amounted to much trouble, because we all kept each other honest and took great pains to make sure that we were all safe.

I realize now that our town, and the experience of growing up in it, was more than beautiful.

autumn

Glenora Wine Cellars – Autumn

It was magnificent.

The hills that turned into a brilliant autumnal tapestry.

The fog that crept up lazily off of Seneca Lake each morning.

The love of a Saturday morning football game, and the delight of the occasional night game under the lights of a rival team. (Our one-stoplight-town didn’t have lights at the football field, but these days you’d be hard pressed not to find the whole damn town at a game!)

The annual Pep Rally bonfire.

Teachers who ALWAYS had time to listen. And still do.

Our bus drivers proudly honking their horns after every victory, no matter how small.

Finding my uncle and grandfather at the corner restaurant after school whenever I needed some cash.

Walking to and from school at all hours without any fear.

Ice skating on the basketball courts outside when they froze over.

Square dancing in PE class… (Still somewhat traumatized by this)

Sledding down every hill in town.

Wading in the creek (that most people pronounced “crick”) and hunting for “crawfish.”

The roar of the Friday night races, and watching my “Uncle Bill” win. A lot. Woot, #82!

Learning to drive around “horse and buggies.”

I remember being walked home from school by a friend when kids were being horribly cruel, as they sometimes are.

I remember that same friend trying to hit me and my girlfriends with a BB gun from his bedroom window a few years later.
We’re still friends.

So many memories, and the beauty of each one resonates in the feelings that I have for the people.
Years ( more than a few) have come and gone but those relationships? They are still so strong and that’s a testament to that small town and how it raised us.

These memories have come bubbling to the surface recently, because contrary to all of my attempts to escape that small town, I am now at a point of my life where I’m desperately trying to recreate it. I’ve lived and worked in two of the biggest cities in our country, and I’d much rather find myself in a rebuilt Chevy pickup truck hauling flowers back to a little house on some land. I want nothing more than for my son to experience the freedom and the sense of community that come with growing up in a small town.

Yes, there were bad times and certainly my life was tainted with a few memories that Perhaps, one day, I will put to paper. But through it all, I always knew that I was part of something true and beautiful and bigger than myself.
But not too big… 🙂

Oil Cleansing Method

SAY WHAT?

People always want to know what products I use on my face. They’re eager to learn how I keep my skin clear and often comment that I look much younger than I am – OUCH! Thanks for the reminders, friends! Luckily, I am growing increasingly comfortable with aging and although most of my youthful glow can be contributed to genetics, a healthy lifestyle (including NOT smoking) helps greatly! My skin care secret is that I wash my face with oil.

Yes, you read that right.
I, too, was a disbeliever until I tried it out last fall after a summer spent in the surf, which dries out your face GREATLY and brought out age spots making me look like I was a leopard! I use spf 60 on my face, and even used a wetsuit most of the time, but alas, I’m afraid the damage was done in my youth. Recently, I went to a spa and the esthetician (with flawless, gorgeous skin!) was so excited with my skin care regime that I felt instantly affirmed.
She gave me some insider info, too! More on that after I play the role of your guinea pig.

Oil Cleansing Method

Oil Cleansing Method – Going 8 months strong! I’m currently using a lovely blend of 40% Castor Oil:60% Cold Pressed Organic Olive Oil, and 8 drops of the highest quality lavender essential oil I have found direct from the producer. My two favorites, so far, are Native American Nutritionals and Original Swiss Aromatics, but I’ve also tried and greatly enjoyed distributors like Young Living and doTERRA.

Why do I recommend this method? It cleanses my face without leaving it feeling dry, moisturizes and pampers my skin and it has even lightened some of those less desirable signs of aging. The best part is that it is entirely natural and free from chemicals!

*For my next batch I will most likely use rose.
(More on those adventures soon!)

My early morning routine consists of:

1. Splashing face and neck with warm water to steam the pores – NOT too hot!
2. Massaging about 2-3 pumps (shake your oils before using each time!) into my face and neck, really enjoying the massage as much as the washing. I mean, REALLY enjoy this part of the process. We don’t spend a whole lot of time soothing our face and we use it A LOT, from expressing emotions to talking and eating. Love your face.
3. Step into the shower and proceed as usual with rinsing my face last so that the steam from my shower helps to allow the goodness to work its way into my pores… I let the hot water run over my face, and use my hands to massage the oils off of my face. I do not use anything harsh on my face in the morning, and if I need to use a washcloth I make sure it is the softest one I’ve got!
4. Proceed to moisturize with my favorite oil (coconut) and a drop of lavender. I’m getting brave enough to try other oils soon!

So there you have it! Sounds gross, and hard to believe, but it’s absolutely my favorite new beauty regimen and I swear by it! BUT you don’t have to take my word for it… Read more HERE!

Shiny Happy Person

Shiny Happy Person