Thursday, October 23, 2014

Small Victories, Baby, Small Victories

Sometimes I think I must be the most obtuse person in the universe.

A little background. Darling daughter started public high school this year, after several years at a 2-days-per-week program 12 miles away. Twice a week, I drove her and picked her up. Had to. No other option. This year, we started by having her ride the bus. School is one mile away. That lasted a week because there wasn't time to get her stuff after school and get to the bus in time. Without thinking it through, I said, "Hey, I'll take you and pick you up."

Here's what I forgot. Darling husband is rarely here at going to school time, so KEPLER and I take her to school. Does Kepler enjoy this process? No, he most certainly does not. He has shown his displeasure many a morning by refusing to budge. He's a strong kid, and it takes both me and DD to hold him (gently!) by the upper arms, and perp walk him to the car.

Isn't it Steven Covey who first emphasized the power of being proactive? I finally got proactive yesterday.

Kepler needed to understand what I was asking him for. I was waiting around for him to catch on, and wake up one morning, and say, "Mother, I now see that it is futile for me to be so obstinate about taking big sister to school. I'll be right with you as soon as I complete my morning ablutions. It won't be a problem anymore." Ooh, good plan there, mom.

See, obvious, like I told you.

But, poor kid, before I got specific and slowed down enough to explain it, he was in a whirlwind of activity every morning, usually me looking for my glasses. And then my keys. And my shoes. And his shoes. (another thing to be proactive about, obviously).

First try had me explaining that I wanted him to cooperate, but I didn't make it very clear what that meant.

Our first trial run was yesterday afternoon on the way to speech therapy. He was doing well, until he determined that me placing his unfinished cup of milk into the refrigerator was decidedly unwelcome and should not be tolerated. FINALLY we got into the car, but I decided he hadn't been cooperative enough. Which then made me realize that I had to get really specific.

So, I explained that I wanted him to cooperate and I explained exactly what cooperation is. In this case, it's simple: put on your shoes, put on your jacket, walk to the car, when asked. Such cooperation earns the privilege of listening to the Frozen soundtrack (for the 87 millionth time).

After speech therapy, he COOPERATED. This morning, he COOPERATED. This afternoon, he COOPERATED. I guess I cooperated, too, by making it possible for him to be successful!

Small victory, but trés, trés sweet.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The end of the day

So I have been told that God doesn't give people more than they can handle. What utter nonsense. A statement like that does little more than soothe the speaker who sees someone else going through something, some pain, that is heavy and intense. Someone who gives that statement as reassurance to the one in pain wants to be reassured that *they* can make sense of something confusing and mysterious.

As most pithy sayings go, they are normally uttered without really thinking through what they might mean.

What does it mean to be able to handle something? Apparently the old English pattern of word formation was to add -le to words to identify a tool relating to the item. Thimble was "thumb" + "le." Handle came from hand plus le. The modern usage of the handle verb refers to one's ability to manage, to cope, to take care of. Maybe it's just me, but nothing is simple anymore. And handling things? Is the definition that we are handling something as long as we are actually living, in the simplest definition of the word?

Is it actually the case that there are varying degrees of handling things? I'd say so. I think handling things and whether or not God gives us more than we can handle is not even the point.

I'm alive after a harrowing day. I guess that means I handled it, and everyone can be assured that God didn't give me more than I could handle today. Except I know I had more than I could handle today because life or death isn't the standard I use. For me, it's about how desperately I want to escape my present circumstances, how much I'd like to be able to change what IS.

On the other hand, I got her picked up, him dressed, that prepared and transported, that meeting attended, that other meeting attended with young child in tow, that girl given several hours to rest, that boundary drawn and enforced, that interruption and that one and that one and that one handled, that person's silence experienced, that person's stress and worry witnessed, that bottom cleaned up, that room picked up (and soon after, re-messed up), that one driven to her evening meeting, that one read too and put to bed for the night, and I'm still here. But it doesn't make ME feel better that you think God doesn't give anyone more than they can handle, ok?-

I'd like to think that however poorly I might accomplish the day's tasks and handle what comes up, the point isn't that I don't have too much, the point is that I keep trying, that I keep getting up after I get knocked down, that I keep finding my footing when a strong wind blows me around. Because I'm in the thick of it, and any discussion of whether I have too much to handle or just enough is completely extraneous to the reality of what is.

I'm grateful for the opportunities Life continues to offer me to grow up, to move beyond where I am, to make choices. Setting that boundary today was something I'm not good at, especially with this person. Bring clear in my communication is challenging, but I did it, even though the feeling sucked and the mood in the room was dampened considerably. I did it. Yeah, I'm a champ, and I fall down every day, but I'm still a champ. So are you. You're keeping on. You're hanging in there. I'm proud of you for continuing to figure out how to handle however much you have in front of you.

Let's remind each other that whatever we are handling today, we are doing a bang-up job. I will if you will.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Thing 1, Thing 2, Thing 3, Thing 4

Small things pack a big punch

Yes, they are upside down in the picture. I don't care. It just a perfect illustration of something that I find to be exasperating, enraging, unbelievably frustrating.


I believe I have probably written about something like this before, but things have reached a fever pitch lately in the area of electronics and their absolutely maddening help. Please note: this is about the electronics, and not the electronic setter-upper, no matter what the next paragraph says.

While [the wife cat] was away, [the husband mouse] did play, adding some sort of sound system to our already-complicated (to me) television set-up.

We went from having a TV, a cable box, and a DVD player to having a TV, a cable box, a DVD player, a blu-ray DVD player, and a sound system. And somewhere along the way the television because a really big black box of doom and despair to me. And that's before I even turn it on! I'm not talking about FOX news here! Just the actual appliance!

On/Off has been replaced by Standby. Which means what, exactly. All the remotes have approximately the same configuration of buttons, but they do not work the same, no they do not work the same, no they do not.

Look, I'm already spitting nails this morning because the "simple" task of switching phones with Greg has turned our iMessage accounts into schizophrenic madpeople who send messages to themselves, in the name of being logged into a particular iTunes account.

This morning, Kepler wanted to watch a DVD. He put it into the DVD player, and then looked to me for the rest. I crawled around on all fours, hung from the ceiling to examine the back of the TV, and did a few back handsprings in front of the TV to coax it into action.

First, the remotes are LOST. Stuffed down into the couch cushions or abandoned on a kitchen counter. Except for the one I don't need. So, first order of business is to find them. Where's the TV remote, I ask Kepler, over and over. "The tv remote?" he replies. Over. and Over.

Finally, all four remotes are in hand and I begin to peruse the directions Greg has written out for me on how to use the TV. Push THIS on THAT remote, and THAT on THIS remote, and make sure the THING is in THAT position, hold your mouth just right, and press PLAY.  Success.  "Success." SUCK-CESS.

Because the DVD is not at the PROPER PLACE in the movie, mom, so let's see the scene selections, and now is good. Me, loathing every minute of this, "This one? This one? This one? This one? This one? This one? This one? This one? This one?" Him, knowing exactly what he wants: "No! No! No! No! No! No!" Silly me, I gave up before we got all the way through and said, "Just watch this!"

I left the room, done with the process.


Kepler finds me in my hiding place under the bed. (Curses, foiled again.) He comes in, holding the DVD in his hand, effectively telling me that I've done it wrong and I must start again. ONLY THIS TIME, THIS TIME, THIS BLEEPING TIME, the TV has a screen within a screen telling me I must set it up, asking me questions written in English but not meaning anything comprehensible to me. (How would you like to get your television signal into your house: A. by elf, B. through the microwave, C. by courier pigeon).  I answer as best I can, then wait as it thinks, then gnash my teeth when it tells me I have alas committed an electronic crime and must start again. After another fun round of this, I rip the DVD out of the player, and tell him the TV doesn't work and he has to watch it in the laptop. He's happy as a clam to do so. Should have tried that sooner.

Because indeed the TV DOES NOT WORK (like I want it to, in any way that makes sense, like a normal human being would think it would work, like things worked in the olden days, in any sort of logical manner).

And that's all I have to say about that.

Friday, September 5, 2014

I’m firing my inner critic

Dear Sir or Madam:

It has recently come to our attention that you have elected yourself to be the critic of our life. We believe this appointment was tacitly agreed upon by us quite a few years ago. You were able to stay undetected for quite some time, as we were already convinced that you were right. The purpose of our letter today is to let you know of some upcoming changes in regard to your role as self-appointed Critic of me, myself, and I, and our creative output.

Your role as critic has been carried out with brash aplomb; with brusque equanimity; with bold commentary, and without a scrap or iota of compassion. Your one-dimensional approach has been exhausting to us, but unfortunately seems to be what you actually thrive on, much like the Monsters of Monstropolis did when they used the fearful screams of children to power their city.

You've done your job quite thoroughly. I recognize that you have been attempting to keep me in my place; to prevent Tall Poppy syndrome from arising, as it were. However, your insistent words of caution and unrelenting words of criticism are no longer welcome, and indeed are decidedly unwelcome. All of us are just as Tall Poppy as we are, and do not need the likes of you and your cohorts to cut us down. Have you even ever looked at a field of Poppies? Have you ever considered the beauty that is in every one of those poppies? Same things applies to people, dude (or dudette).

Although yours is a familiar voice, Critic, I will be listening closely for it to creep into my consciousness. That familiarity has rendered me insensate at times and unable to dispute your comments because they have simply oozed into my awareness. Your observations entered just below the level of my conscious awareness, right in the tender spot where I feel my life. No more. Believe that I will be paying attention so as to be prepared to respond to you immediately; to tell you in no uncertain terms to get lost; stop talking; cease and desist; STFU.

Your most-used refrain seems to be all the things I shoulda woulda coulda done; denigrating, minimizing and ignoring what I DID do, overlooking the brilliance of the try, the power of the step. Perhaps you feel mighty when you point out my imperfections. Perhaps you feel in control. Perhaps you don’t know any other way. Perhaps I’ve had enough.

To borrow a phrase from Matthew Kelley, Critic, I’m perfectly imperfect. I do not embrace your equating imperfection with being defective. I learn from my mistakes, Critic, every attempt, every failure, every step -- even the backwards ones.

Your most beguiling trait is your ability to take something that has some truth in it and twist that morsel into a weapon. No, Critic, you are no longer welcome. You shall be as children of old; seen, but not heard.


If you wish to hang around, listen and observe and learn something, I’ll allow it, but make no mistake: comments will get you banished from the area.

Aside from that, you're outta here.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Mom, You are a Hero (well, technically, a Heroine)

When your child really doesn't want his fingernails ... or toenails ... trimmed, and you patiently work with him to get it done.

When your child does his best to declare he is all better so he doesn't have to see the doctor, and you take him anyway.

When you help hold him down for Dr. Shott to look inside his ears with the microscope, although you'd rather be the one being held down.

When you try to console him afterward, telling him it's all over now.

When he cheerfully says, "Sure!" after you've heard "No" a hundred times.

When he is so proud of himself for brushing his own teeth, and you go ahead and get the spots he missed.

When your child has you close your eyes so he can surprise you with his clean hands by letting you smell them.

When he is sleeping, and when he is awake.

When your child is in pain and doesn't understand it, and you do your utmost to comfort him.

When he asks loudly for the window lock to be turned on, instead of just leaving the window up himself, and you cooperate.

When he is so delighted about giving or receiving an "appise" (surprise) and you recognize that he has caught your generosity.

When he notices that the picture on the book page matches the cover and shows you, and you marvel at his ability to notice such things.

When you manage the logistics for multiple children and one of them gets sick, and you have to quickly shuffle things around.

When you observe each and every single step he makes toward being more independent.

When your husband travels for work, and believes in your ability to manage your home, even when you feel like you're too tired to move.

During the times you marvel at the blessing that your child is, and you recognize the gifts that come to us through no action on our own part.

During the times you wonder how things can be so hard, but you wouldn't trade it.

During the exhausted times when he has been getting sick, or needy, and asking for Something Different than he just asked for, and you stay patient (or sometimes, not).

When his little body snuggles up against yours and you feel his gentle breathing, and you are reminded what a gift he is.

When he gets out the pictures of his big sisters and brothers and talks about them, clearly adoring them, and you are grateful for the gift of family.

When he mispronounces words and it's too cute to try to correct, and you even pronounce some of his words the same way.

When he pretends to be Santa Claus by making a finger mustache over his mouth, and you act surprised.

I've read some blogs where mothers don't want to be considered heroes. But when I consider the definition that a hero is someone who, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage and the will for self-sacrifice for some greater good of all humanity, (definition from DuckDuckGo), it seems to me that it fits.

Life move fast for me. Taking time to write slows me down and reminds me of all that I do, imperfect though it is.

Mom, You are a Hero!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

I Read a lot of Books ...

Of the 33 books I have read so far in 2014, Michael Koryta's Those Who Wish Me Dead has touched me most deeply. Two of my favorite authors, Harlan Coben and Lee Child have review snippets on the front cover. Coben says, "Warning: Michael Koryta's wonderful, riveting, and harrowing Those Who Wish Me Dead may just move you to tears. Enjoy at your own risk." And Child says, "Outstanding in every way ... Don't you dare miss it." With those two recommendations, I was primed to like the novel, but not to get what I got out of it.

The protagonist, Jace Wilson, witnesses a murder and is subsequently pursued by the killers. He is pursued all the way from his Indiana home to Montana, where he has been sent to participate in a wilderness camping program, which will presumably hide him from the bad guys.

Having been involved in wilderness camping myself throughout the years, I was immediately drawn to this aspect of the story. I vividly remember the muscles used to rappel, rock climb, canoe and hike. I remember learning backcountry skills like orienteering (before GPS), map and compass, reading a topo map, starting a fire, cooking, making water safe to drink. I remember the little treasures -- gooseberries along a path, a beautiful sunrise, the wonder that is Lake Superior.

In chapter 8, not too far into the book, which I was alternately reading and listening to, I heard the narrator say, "Anyone remember the chain? The order of our [survival] priorities? ... Positive mental attitude, wilderness first aid, shelter, fire, signal, water, food. My mind connected these paragraphs with my son, who is currently in rehab for issues with heroin. I saw how a positive mental attitude would be essential for survival in his situation. And I realized that just as the two killers were tracking Jace in the book, so the killer heroin has been tracking my son in real life.

The wilderness leader, Ethan, was teaching the boys how important shelter is in the wilderness. "With shelter, the environment is no longer in control." With drugs, when you have any type of shelter from the drug environment, the environment is no longer in control. How essential then for anyone trying to recover from drugs to find their shelter, which could be and probably is all inclusive of a physical shelter, a mental shelter, a spiritual shelter, and a social shelter.

As Ethan taught the boys how to survive in the wilderness, he taught this important concept about recovering from mistakes they might make in the wilderness: "Anticipate and recover, anticipate and recover. If you could do the first well, you were ahead of most people. If you could do both well? You were a survivor."

Is this not applicable to recovering from drug abuse as well? And, actually, life in general. Although we cannot anticipate everything, I appreciate the approach here which is suggesting that we are intentional about looking at what we are experiencing, and thinking about situations we may face.

Take for example the simple situation we all face twenty times a week; having a time we are supposed to be somewhere. I may not be able to anticipate the exact traffic jam that is on the highway when I am driving, but I can certainly anticipate the possibility of it happening, and when I anticipate that, and leave ten minutes earlier, I'm that much closer to being on time. And when the traffic jam lasts 15 or 20 minutes, and I can recover from the frustration, I am even more than a survivor. I thrive.

In situations of life and death, which drugs most certainly bring about, anticipating where we might get tripped up, by identifying triggers and urges, puts the recovering user ahead of most people who haven't thought about those things.  Getting connected with others who have traveled this road and who are intent on supporting the recovering drug user into a meaningful life puts the socially connected individual ahead of those who try to go it alone.

Mistakes happen. In drug recovery, relapses happen. But when we anticipate and recover, we have a chance to survive.

Lastly, Ethan gave this speech to the boys, which was instrumental in saving the lives of more than one of the characters:

There is no such thing as quitting time. Remember that, boys. You rest, you sleep, you pout, you cry. You're allowed to get mad, allowed to get sad. But you're not allowed to quit. When you feel like it, remember that you are allowed to stop, but not to quit. So give yourself that much. Stop. Just stop. And then, remember what STOP is to a survivor -- sit, think, observe, plan. Spelled out for you, right there at the moment of your highest frustration, is all you need to do to start saving your life.

Preach it.


This isn't just helpful for people recovering from drug abuse or addiction. Can you think of five situations in your own life where this would be a wise plan of action? I love the idea of being able to stop when things are stressful or disappointing or I'm struggling. I've always thought stopping meant I was quitting. But if I sit, think, observe and plan, and then get back into action, stopping is simply that -- a stop. It's a step on the journey.

I used to think that me seeing connections and applications like this was enough. That if I could see it and somehow just say it with enough conviction and clarity, he'd get it. He'd apply the idea and stay on the path of abstaining or recovery. I know now everybody has their own path, and it's rather unlikely that he would see these things even if he read this book. But, what a great addition to my toolbox for life wisdom to consider, apply, and share where I can, like on this blog.

So, go on and survive. Instead of quitting, stop if and when you need to, and fortify yourself for the next curve in the road.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Sauce on the Side -- Restaurant Review

I used to know a kid. He grew up and opened a restaurant in St Looey called Sauce on the Side. I lost touch with him, but thanks to the wonder of Facebook, I caught up with him about 15 years after I'd last seen him. While it's true I don't live anywhere close to St Louis, we traveled through there recently. My official title was "Excellent Restaurante Finder," since Driver, Navigator, Teenager, and Are-we-there-yet-er, were taken.

I phoned ahead. OF COURSE. The answer threw me off. All I heard was, "Hello?" Don't businesses say the name of their establishment usually, to keep the caller from saying, like I did: "Is this Sauce on the Side?"

Thought I'd go ahead and place our order to pick up in an hour, when we'd be driving through the city. They thought different. "Um, can you call back closer to the time?" Maybe they didn't have the electronic ability to mark an hour for any future time? Almost always agreeable and willing to accommodate, I agreed with a laugh. The guy had made me laugh early on by telling me he would write "Andale! Andale!" to speed up the order. (We would later find out how ironic this was.)

In 30 minutes, I called the hello guy back. He needed to put me on hold. Actually, he needed to put me on HOOOOOLLLLLLLD. Three minutes later, I called back thinking maybe my call had been dropped. I called back -- TWELVE TIMES. Each call went to their voicemail, which says, "don't leave an order on here, buddy. call back."

Finally, I reached them and placed our order. Thanks to the wonders of electronic navigation, we cruised right downtown and found a parking place in front of the store. We went in and I told them I was there to pick up an order for Susan.

This started a veritable "who's on first?" comedy of errors. That'll be $39, he said, and handed me two receipts. One for me to sign, one for me to keep. So far, so good. But THEIR copy of the receipt said $42.65, and my copy of the receipt was for a completely different order and had been signed by Brandon. I inquired about the difference in the price, and mentioned that Brandon’s receipt really wasn’t mine.

The young man (let’s call him Dude) was clearly mystified. Apparently, they had had another order for another Susan, which was further confusing this terribly bemusing situation. So, Dude called another guy (aka Fuzzy Hair) over to investigate this huge mystery. Of course, in any case of mystification, the confusing item must be restated at least 8 times. Dude and Fuzzy Hair needed a third guy to come and powwow with. Crewcut, who I suspect was management, came in and authoritatively cleared everything up. But this process took approximately 10 minutes.

Remember I had called ahead.

We proceeded to wait for about another 15 minutes in the store. The order was originally supposed to take 20 minutes. So, from the time I called in, it had now been about 40 minutes. Well, we weren’t in a big hurry, so we were ok with it.

Finally, Fuzzy Hair walked out from behind the counter and began to call out my name in a monotone: “Suzanne, Suzanne.” Pretty much exactly like Bueller’s teacher did in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. He walked to the left of the pillar in the center of the restaurant, and was walking clockwise. I heard “Suzanne” and assumed it was me. Problem was, I was on the opposite side of the pillar, and also walking clockwise. I began to speed up more and more, but couldn’t seem to catch him! I finally decided to stop, drop, and roll. Or at least stop and turn around.

We had to ask for silverware. Hm, seems like something that should be included in an order which contains three salads. But, I digress. Suzanne and the crew carried the to-go food to the car and began loading back up. Suddenly, Fuzzy Hair appeared next to the car. “Do you have a pen?” he asked. “Did you eat at Sauce on the Side?” (as though we are complete strangers he’s never seen before).

Sadly, the extra chicken we paid $2 each for for three salads was only on one of them, so the three of us divided the two little pieces of chicken into sixths.

The salads were good. The calzone was reportedly good. The location was good. The restaurant decor was cool, although a bit of a mystery.
However, I’m all for letting “art ... flow ... over me.” The guys were friendly. Overall, it just seemed like they were still working out some of the bugs. I don’t know how long they have been open, but they are opening a second location, so it’s been a little while.

Although I didn’t get to see the guy I used to know who was the reason we even stopped there, I’m glad we stopped. I recommend it, and even more so if you are eating there, and can have them correct anything they leave off.

I love the concept and the energy that clearly exists among the three principles. So, much to commend it. Just don’t walk clockwise around the pillar when you hear your name (or a reasonable facsimile thereof). Stand there.

Suzanne? Suzanne? Suzanne?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Now is the time

Now is the time to blog.

It's been awhile.

Sometimes living and managing all of the excellent lessons The School of Life presents is all I can do.

I have missed blogging. Maybe some of my readers have missed me.

I'm officially baaaaaaaaack!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Thoughts from Room 8

It's 3:17 am.

I'm sitting in the emergency room. As I drove here, I passed the church of my childhood and I remembered how often my dad had to go out in the middle of the night to respond to the church burglar alarm. Never once was there a burglar. Never once did dad hesitate to go check out another false alarm. I always felt like my dad would protect me. It wasn't his fault I found the world to be a big, scary place.

Each time I've come to the emergency room, it hasn't been a false alarm. My heart breaks. Just like it wasn't dad's fault, this is not my fault. And yet, I'm not sure I've done anything harder than stand by while someone makes their own choices that do not serve them well.

The doctor thinks we'll be able to leave at 4, that it will be safe by then. We will leave behind that little crying baby girl down the hall, all the lights and sounds of the E.R. and head home where we will see if "I'm really sorry" lasts.

I'm numb because of what else will come in response to this night. I'm thankful that of all things today, I drank some iced tea, which is why I'm even able to be awake in the middle of the night. I'm tremendously grateful for the emergency personnel and the doctors and nurses.

May this be a turning point.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Why I'm not going to the National Down Syndrome Conference

(Note: a truncated version of this message was distributed owing to Blogger behavior on certain iDevices. This is the complete post.)

I've been seeing Facebook posts from excited people talking about the upcoming convention in July. The early bird deadline is today. But I've decided not to go.

(This post would probably be a lot more popular if my reason was owing to disagreeing with the official position of someone who is speaking, or with the vision statement of the NDSC. However, I'm just not much about controversy. I tend to think that both sides are worth listening to in *most* cases. My reasons for writing have to do with my own experience, and my hope here is that my experience will resonate with someone else.)

My file cabinet, inbox, reading list, desktop and a box are full of materials on so many aspects of Down syndrome. How to teach reading, kindergarten readiness, inclusion best practices, oral motor tools, lists of apps, apps, physical considerations, speech and language development. I could probably throw my own convention!

I think the ongoing challenges (opportunities, in the positive thinking parlance) take up a tremendous amount of energy for me. I can see how extroverted moms and dads might really thrive in the convention atmosphere, but I think my brain might just pop if I try to put too much more info in there.

Maybe the biggest challenge (opportunity) for me is to actually use my resources with any consistency. I often say that if Kepler had been our first child, he'd be being raised differently. More lessons, more teams, more play dates, more therapy, more deliberate educational activities at home. But, well, with him being our fifth, and coming along when I was losing energy rather than gaining it, I can occasionally accept my more lackadaisical, laidback parenting and recognize that Kepler is a happy, well-loved, smart kid.

More often than not, though, especially in environments such as a convention, I become aware of how very lackadaisical and laidback I am and always wonder if his speech would be more intelligible if I were doing more; if he might be reading already if I'd followed through on all the reading resources I know of. So events like conventions just seem to drain my energy.

It finally occurred to me recently that it might be a great idea for me to hire a babysitter sometimes. I have had several built-in babysitters, but Kepler adores being the center of someone's attention, which is what he gets from a hired babysitter. What a relief to discover that I don't have to do every. last. thing. myself, that babysitters can even put Kepler to bed! That's a step in the right direction to being able to be a little more free for events such as a convention. (Of COURSE Greg puts him to bed sometimes; he just travels a lot.)

The thing I would enjoy about something like the convention is the possibility of finding a new heart-to-heart friend who understands life with Ds from the inside. Between all the moving we've done, Greg's traveling for work, and homeschooling, many friendships have faded away over time, and have been replaced with e-friends. These days, making new friends IRL seems like a challenge indeed.

But if parenting has taught me anything, it's that I am resourceful and creative and persistent. Simple next step is to invite a mostly online friend to get together! It's not like I have to plan a 200-person catered affair to get to know someone!

I've already got two people in mind.

Tl;dr: Writer is on information-overload, but social-underload.

Friday, May 23, 2014

How Saying No Blows Procrastination Away

Are you among the elite who have perfected waiting until the absolute last second to complete something? I bet you're in that special group with me.

The excellent procrastinator usually neglects to consider absolutely normal events that require adjustment. Traffic is normal and often I pretend like I don't need to imagine there might be a slowdown, or someone I'm meeting is late, or I make a wrong turn, or I spill something, or better yet someone else spills something, or I have to go back because I forgot something. No matter how many times life offers me natural consequences for procrastination, I refuse to change my ways.

Lately, I've been procrastinating on several projects I actually want to do! Can't seem to drag myself to the start line. I've been sitting in a comfy chair with my iPad and iphone handy so I can keep up with the people on Facebook who are posting about getting on with life.

Thinking, "Hm, I should get started on that project."
And then I say, "Nope. I'll just stay here thanks."

So I was driving son to work today and I realized I don't want to keep driving him to work. BUT.

I do not say no. Not just to him. I don't say no to ANYONE unless I am physically going to be elsewhere during the requested time. I'm SO good at pretzelizing myself to do something for someone else. And while I do enjoy helping others, I realized today that I DO NOT SAY NO.

That's why I sit in my chair. Procrastination is my way of saying no. "I should get started on the project." "No."

The only person I say no to is myself.

I was this way before I had kids, even saying yes to a proposal of marriage to a young man I was pretty sure I was not going to marry. I said yes and then suggested we keep it a secret. He was a good guy who deserved (and ultimately found) a woman who would treasure him. But, man, being a mother has turned this tendency into a raging addiction. And even I know that saying no is a huge and very important parenting and life skill.

So that's today's huge revelation. Captain Obvious is tapping me on the shoulder and pantomiming "Duh." I knock Captain Obvious's block off and think about the situations where I want to say no to others.  If you need me later, you'll find me in front of the mirror, practicing saying that word. "N-n-n-o, [insert name here]."

And then I'll get going on those projects.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

How Gary Keller's The ONE Thing got Kepler to Stay with me in the Parking Lot

Look at that little angel face.  Would you ever suspect he'd run away from his mommy in a store, parking lot, park, anywhere-he-needs-to-stay-close? For Kepler, it seems that "Stay with me" is apparently secret code for "Run, Forrest, Run!! Talk about danger!

Taking him places was becoming a huge problem. I dreaded every trip.

Enter Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. Or at least their book, The ONE Thing, The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results.

Not only did I:

- hear about the book, but I also 
- reserved it at the library, and I
- checked it out and brought it home, and amazingly,
- read it from cover to cover, blanketed it with PINK post-it notes, AND
- put it into practice

I'm particularly adept at those first three steps, but actually getting around to reading the book is more challenging, putting it into practice is as rare as a two-headed unicorn.
Keller examined the research on multi-tasking and writes on page 44, "Multi-taking is a lie." We simply cannot FOCUS on two things at once. Narrowing our focus to ONE thing yields extraordinary results, as he says. Let's see.

With multiple areas in life that simply must be addressed daily, I have tried to do much multi-tasking. Sometimes it works for things that don't need strong focus, but one where it doesn't is parenting. Applying Mr. Keller's thesis I made a list of the essential areas, and then asked myself this question about each area (see The ONE thing, pg. 106). Here's parenting:

Q:  What is the ONE thing I can do today in regard to parenting that will make everything else easier or unnecessary?
A:  Read and complete the first three chapters of "Without Spanking or Spoiling," a parenting book I have had since 1996 and have not yet read!

Q: What did I discover in those first three chapters?
A:  To define the problem specifically and behaviorally. Vague problem definition was "Kepler doesn't obey." Specific is "Kepler runs away when I tell him to come to me."

Q: What else did I discover?
A: To brainstorm solutions. I came up with 10. 
  1. Buy and use a child leash.
  2. Take a 3 ft rope along to show him maximum distance he should be from me.
  3. Create a simple rhyme like "Obey means Stay."
  4. Appeal to his desire to be helpful.
  5. Find books on the topic to read to him.
  6. Create a social story.
  7. Leave him home at all times.
  8. Carry him everywhere.
  9. Allow him to lead and explore occasionally on errands.
  10. Make a leader badge for him to wear where it's his turn to lead.
Q: What happened when I took him next to the store?
A: We got out of the car and he proceeded to dash out into the parking lot while I was getting the cart. (I hadn't made my plan yet!) I grabbed him by the arm and his eyes got wide as we got into the backseat and I gently continued. I looked in his face and said words I guess I never really said before: "Kepler, you MUST stay with me for your safety. There are cars and you could get hit by a car if you run away from mommy. If anything happened to you, I would cry forever." Of COURSE  I had told him bits and pieces of this but not like this; not sitting in the car giving HIM my full attention, focusing on just this ONE thing. 

My words apparently resonated with his sensitive heart, because when we got out of the car, he specifically stood right by me and looked up at me showing me what he was doing. I ended up allowing him to lead part of the time, gave him huge kudos for the good things he was doing -- staying with me, helping me, listening, and I used a previous helpful rhyme: OK means Obey, and added, Obey means Stay. 

You probably know Kepler is the youngest of five kids. The other four didn't run away. Ever. Why? I don't know. They probably thought about it, but maybe my face was stiffer and sterner back then. So who needed strategies for this back then? 

tl;dr: Gary Keller's book The ONE Thing, The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results, has practical applications in parenting and made a huge difference in my experience of taking my child on errands with me.

I'll probably have to review all of this next time, and the time after, and the time after, but he will eventually understand and apply, and so will I. I just have to remember to focus, really focus, on ONE thing.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

This Electronic Life

Have you ever called a company and been frustrated by the phone menu? Ever tried to login and forgotten the answers to your security questions? Ever wondered if we might not be better off having personal relationships with the people we do business with?

Square the phone menu, add in a quadrupled set of websites, all with their own login, password, security questions, and blasted captchas.

And what do you get?

A REALLY LONG TIME on the phone, navigating the very complex phone menu, entering digits and passwords and account numbers, waiting on hold, finally reaching a person, and then confirming all of the same digits and account numbers, and then ending up with answers like: "Your husband will have to call us or write to us to grant permission for us to discuss your account."

I admit I find this whole thing exasperating. I don't see it as an opportunity, but maybe it is. An opportunity to write down every last detail there is for every account we have ever had?

The irony here is that my very capable husband has NO interest in talking with the XXXX Insurance Company about this claim or that coverage, and is so very happy that I am able to and interested in handling these details.

As much as I try to simplify things, the sheer vastness of the internet just makes it very challenging to stay on top of the details. I always thought of myself as a detail-oriented person, but the volume of details has increased to the extent that I dread trying to call someone, especially the insurance companies, to solve a problem or get information.

And then there are the places that require authorization EVERY SINGLE TIME from my dear husband. Not that he is working or otherwise busy or anything. Aargh. I love how they ask if he is right here with me so they can get approval from him. Ha.

Do you have any tips for how to simplify things? Because I'm all ears, here.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Beautiful Thought

A blind child …….. guided by his mother ……… admires the cherry blossoms.    --Kikakou

At times, I am the blind child.
At times, I am the guide.
At times, I am the cherry blossoms.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

If I Knew Then What I Know Now -- Ten Things I'd Do Differently as a Homeschool Mom

This is not what homeschooling looked like here.

Saw a link on Facebook from a homeschool mom who shared what she would do differently now as a homeschool mom. I could relate to some of it. It was posted by a homeschool mom I rarely see, but care about very much. I often read the comments on blog posts, but decided this time to write about my own list first.

First of all, I didn't know then what I know now. Part of the journey of homeschooling is the learning that the parent does. So, maybe this is all just a moot point. But, let's see ...

1. I would de-emphasize intelligence and strongly emphasize character. Thing is, I actually thought I was doing this. Truth is, my "students" were all above average. I was constantly amazed by their grasp of concepts, their precociousness, and the joy I felt at just watching them learn. I didn't realize I was reinforcing intelligence as much as I did. There were multiple times when something they did or said just BLEW ME AWAY. Like Valerie just up and reading the back cover of the Billy Graham autobiography I was reading. What was she, three? Four, at the most. I hadn't even tried to teach her to read. I didn't know that kids could learn to read just be being read to.

2. I would understand that no one else was going to be as thrilled about my children as I, and instead of rueing that, I would be affirming and encouraging to every other mother I came into contact with, realizing that she was as excited about her kids as I was about mine. At the time, my hands (and mind!) were full. The kids were born in 93, 94, and 95, and then 98. Kepler came along years after the first four, but I wasn't just homeschooling one -- I had a class!

3. I would be so much kinder to myself. Nothing ever felt like it was enough, and I know MANY homeschool mothers who experience this. Probably just about everyone who homeschools feels this at some point.

4. I would recognize a kid "come-apart" as an opportunity, not a sign that I was failing at my job. This might be the biggest one for me. I had a misunderstanding about my own role and responsibility in the feelings of my children. I needed them to be happy, and that was probably the biggest disservice I did them in my zeal.

5. I would remember that every type of school situation is good for someone, and every type of situation is also less-than-ideal for someone. Now that I'm on this side of things, where the educational methods of our kids include(d) some homeschooling, a bit of public school, years of a two-day-a-week homeschool set-up, an exhausting early grades online school, a poorly-administered online high school online, and the learn-while-you-sleep method we practiced for a few weeks months, I've discovered that there are PROS and CONS to every method.

(As an aside, big-time homeschooler mother, Mary Hood, wrote a book (June 1995) called "Onto the Yellow School Bus and Through the Gates of Hell." Back when I started homeschooling, there were only a few voices writing about it. Although I never bought into Mary's philosophy, the title comes to me often when I put my little Kepler on the school bus and send him to school where he is absolutely loved and cherished by his team. From the bus driver, to the school secretary, to the librarian, to the other students, I hear all the time how much joy he brings them. And they, as a group, give him things I simply cannot provide at home. )

6. I would find a balance between the heavy peer pressure of the school setting, and the freedom we had as homeschoolers. Without adequate preparation, going into public school can be (and was) traumatic. Happy-go-lucky kids who were unself-conscious became very self-conscious when they entered the public school system, not because they were deficient, not because the school system was evil, but because there are developmental phases that happen.

7. I would never, ever, ever compare my insides to anyone else's outsides. Because, you know what? My insides ALWAYS came up lacking, when I looked at someone else and thought I knew ANYTHING about them based on what I saw.

8. I would find a balance between my very laid-back teaching style, and a more directive style. Both styles work in different situations, but some work better than others with young learners.

9. I would get up earlier and get us going and have a routine that we stuck to for more that a few days or weeks. Yes, back then, I was exhausted, dealt with depression, and had several "owies" on my heart. But that would have been a great example to my children, and one less thing to chastise myself about.

10. I would get professional photos taken every year. Well, I think I would. No, this one is that I would take a similarly posed photo in a similar place every year. I still have extra copies of the professional school photos I got of every child from every year. They're so hard to let go of, even if we have enough for every person in our family! My photos would be all about the heart of the learning, the heart of the family, the heart of the giving, the heart of the love.

Things I am extremely glad I (we) did?
1. Read out loud, nearly every day and evening.
2. Do as much experiential learning as we could.
3. Practiced as best I could, a lifestyle of learning.
4. Enjoyed our children.
5. Made it through.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Testing out the Creaky Writing Fingers Again

Hello? Hello? Anybody there?

I guess you can't see all the blog posts that are in my mind, because they never got written down.

Remember? I started working at the grocery store in June. Two times I crept home from the store and wrote about my experience. Most other days, I collapsed on the couch and pondered the state of my aching knees, hips, feet, shoulders, arms, and hands. Even with that, it took me four months to quit the job, in tears, and begin to heal.

At first, I dreamed about the store. I missed it and had to clothespin my lips closed when I went in to shop lest I blurt out my desire to come back to the familiar pain.

A month of recovery later, my knees could bend without constant pain; my hips went back to their normally schedule programming; and the knot in my back had loosened.

Two months of recovery later, I can walk in the store, buy my pomegranates and cereal and grass-fed beef, and have but a distant memory of stuffing product on shelves, cleaning up after customers (such messy people), and rushing, rushing, rushing to get the unending and unreasonable to-do list a little smaller.

I do miss T., one of the store co-managers, and L., my remarkable boss, and N., a co-worker.

In the quiet of my home, the memory of the non-stop sensory stimulation continues to become more distant. No longer does the advertisement for Forever Stamps echo in my head. The ache in my hands from baling the cardboard has faded. Straightening hundreds of bottles of shampoo and body wash no longer takes up any space in my life.

Retail is kind of brutal, when all is said and done. Local store personnel, dedicated and committed, are constantly dealing with choices made by distant corporate types. Distant corporate types who occasionally come by, unannounced, and see that their minions are doing it all right. The pay is low, the hours are long, the work is hard, and the workers are faithful. Not all of them, of course, but the core group at my store were committed to providing the customer with a great shopping experience. And they did, as great as it can be when the shelves are mostly full of highly processed products, all crying out for attention -- Buy me! Extra roll enclosed! See my colorful packaging! New! For a limited time! 

Plenty of other women my age, in my season of life, don't have the luxury of deciding the job is too physically demanding. If nothing else, that brief foray into working in the retail grocery business opened my eyes to what many people have to do to earn minimum wage.

Testing. Testing. Check 1. 2.