AH-HA MOMENTS

Last week I bought this sign for my kitchen.

edp352nateksefzhlg5fdq

 

Today, that sign played out in my life as an all-too-rare “Ah-Ha Moment” and for that I am grateful.

It all started with a beautiful sunrise this morning which morphed into a cool afternoon devoid of rain. I decided to take a hike on one of the numerous trails that surround my home. It was a beautiful fall-like day with crisp-clean air, sweet dew laden grassy smells and wildlife galore.

 

After visiting “The Point” my son, Paul, and I started back up the trail. As we turned the corner near the visitors center where a few houses sit back of the path; I heard a Swoosh- followed by a rather loud SPLAT. Looking up I saw two 10-year-old boys lobbing lemons in my direction.

My first reaction was, “those little assholes. Why haven’t their parents taught them better.” That was obviously not the thoughts of the 70+ yo ladies who were heading up the path while I was going down.

“What was that?” the woman asked.

“Lemons,” I answered.

The woman looked over at the young lads and exclaimed loudly, “LEMONS!!!! I JUST LOVE LEMONS!!! CAN YOU THROW SOME MORE MY WAY?”

The boys looked at one another with a total look of surprise on their faces. Then they smiled and gently tossed more of the yellow fruit to the two old ladies who picked them up from the ground with the delight of 10 yo girls playing baseball on a summer’s afternoon.

AH-HA MOMENT…the sign…when life gives you lemons make something sweet…or funny… lighthearted and enjoyable. Why, I wondered, do I use the lemons life throws my way to leave a sour taste in my mouth instead of finding the sweet that is embedded in the moment? Why go to negative first instead of finding and embracing the positive? Why not ask, “Can you throw some more my way?” and be pleased to have them land at your feet?  Yes, I could definitely infuse many parts of my life with more sweet and less sour.

I thought about this as I walked home…tired but enlightened. And later, as I was munching on some of the best lemon bars I have ever made, I was grateful to realize that making something sweet was much more satisfying than being an old sourpuss.

 

Resisting Your Impulses

download-3

Throughout my life I have gone through periods of impulsivity. During my teenage years impulsivity reined supreme as I cast off my life as a teenage daughter and tried on a new set of clothes as a 15-year-old “adult” making her own way through the world alone. Sure,  it all turned out okay in the end… BUT… was it the really the best way to go about things? Did impulsiveness help me to embrace myself and my talents, love myself more, while not inflicting unnecessary pain upon my soul as I journeyed? I suspect not. As the years have gone by, I have come to believe that there was a kinder gentler way of leading me towards myself and I suspect I would have found it sooner had I had been less impulsive.

During the past three years,  the “almost divorce” period, I found that impulsivity tried to rear its ugly head once again. Repeatedly.  My thoughts became dominated by:

  1. The things I should do
  2. How I SHOULD react
  3. What I needed to do to not look foolish to myself and others
  4. The steps I needed to take in order to “feel better” again (can you really in this type of situation?) and take back my life from a husband in the midst of a full-blown mid-life crisis.

Yet, ultimately what I discovered was that impulsivity did not allow me to “feel better” again. In fact, it produced the opposite effect. It created both physical and mental chaos. Slowly I came to comprehend that by acting impulsively instead of mindfully, I inflicted deep wounds upon my soul. Over time, I realized if I did not “rope it and rein it in” my suffering would increase exponentially, and God knows, I didn’t need anymore of that!

When I think back to the number of times I almost walked out or threw B out over the past three years…well, it was almost a daily occurrence. But thankfully, during these times I would hear my therapist reminding me (over and over again) how now was the time for mindfulness, discovery and curiosity. It was not a time for impulsivity.  She showed me how “sitting with things” and “seeing what comes naturally” instead of forcing things allowed me to examine my fears and act in ways that I am now extremely thankful for. This is true especially in regards to learning how to let fear pass through me without acting impulsively because of those real/or imagined doubts and anxieties that were hiding in my mental closet.

While I am still working diligently on seeing impulsivity for what it is and reacting appropriately; I have discovered that there is great power and joy in just letting sudden impulses pass by me without acting on them. By observing and not reacting to impulses, I don’t stop the flow of what I need to know from occurring naturally without the roadblocks that impulsivity puts in the way. I can truly say that I have found a greater sense of peace by not bending to fleeting/momentary “desires” or “fears” which I have discovered are actually often only transitory thoughts.  Dismissing impulsivity gives me the ability to postpone the immediate gratification of “action” and instead look ahead to find those things that fulfills me more or improve my life in ways I never dreamed possible had I given into the impulse.

In nine days it will be the one year anniversary of finding out about the affair. I am grateful that I have not let impulsivity direct these past 365 days.  For if it had I would be in a far different place than I am now and while things are not perfect they are much better than I imagined that they would ever have been just one short year ago.

images-1

 

Coming Home

Make no mistake about it. We are the lucky ones. With so many families displaced by the Camp Fire (over 45,000 people, and over 13,000 homes burned to the ground) I am lucky that the only thing we have to worry about is a slight stench of smoke which has permeated our home.

We have lived out of boxes for two weeks and I feel incredibly lucky to have had those boxes with us at so many points during this crisis. So many people did not even have time to grab their valuables much less simple things like toothbrushes and a change of clothes. They literally ran with the clothes on their back into the thick black smoke to get away from the flames that were whipping from tree to tree above them.

Today, I started unpacking the car. What I realized was that everything I had packed had deep meaning for me and most were old family things belonging to relatives I had and had not met during my lifetime.

IMG_7810

 

I saved that 1893 stamp, worthless to anyone but me. It is the one that was taped together by my grandfather and I down in his basement after an epic failure at removing it from an envelope destroyed its purity. Along with it,  came my fifth GGrandmother’s lace sleeping cap and the christening dress that was my 4th GGrandmother’s wedding dress repurposed.

I took my kids adoption records and their citizenship papers, my third great grandmothers carnival glass salt and pepper shakers, and the pot we bought at the souk in Morocco; the one where we almost lost our daughter, probably never to be seen again.

HvIRf0OZSJq5mKcKzPMXog

mMox8Z3cQjCRKVyMM76Ipw

I took as much artwork as I could fit into the car. Pieces that we have collected during our travels like the deity from Argentina, part of the collection of Japanese woodblock prints and the breastplate we bought from the potter in my husband’s town of origin in Ireland on our 25th Anniversary holiday.

VjIN9nVITRy5jUYDfj3CJQ

dvKHnshPSx2lySvc18zBIw

yPGSeESlRJuafZvW7HrteQ

 

I took old photographs, the Civil War Sugar bowl belonging to my 3rd maternal grandmother and my GG grandmothers white calling card bowl. The Buddha rode shotgun guarding the collection of celadon pottery that I bought while in my children’s country of origin.

JLX3IwroRryPq117ybBbCA

ghDvMhkZQDSJsyAwzr1Q8g

Everything I took had deep personal meanings and connections to the past. Everything had historical/familiar significance to me and to those who came before my time. And while these items are only “things” and I can’t take them with me when I die; they bring meaning to my life now and I am grateful to have them.

I am glad to be back home. In a home lucky enough to remain untouched by a fire that killed so many. I can’t imagine having nothing left of my life but ashes and soot. I can’t even wrap my head around how that must feel. But this I know…it isn’t the collection of things that we have that are the most meaningful, it is the collection of people, our tribe, that we call our own that bring us our greatest joy.

Now go and give someone you love a hug. Then look around you and think about what you would take if you had to flee. It only takes a minute to determine what is of value to you and unfortunately sometimes a minute is all you have. So be prepared.

The Good That We Can Learn From The Bad

36526-goodtimes-or-badtimes

Believe it or not sometimes I am beginning to see light shining on the path I have been forced down due to my husband’s infidelity. I am beginning to see a little clearer how I contributed to this debacle. NO, it does not mean that he was just in doing what he did. It just means that sometimes we unwittingly do things that help shift the tide of events to a road that was never meant to be traveled. For it is often NEVER just one persons fault when a relationship unravels. Let me explain.

Before B’s affair came to light I had not been enjoying my life for quite a long time. Sometimes autism took its toll. Sometimes my own negative thinking. Sometimes it was just situations involving me in things I shouldn’t have let myself get involved in in the first place. Other times is was a very low level depression and large amounts of stress that contributed to my thinking that life had somehow become a struggle. And while I recognized that life was never meant to be a struggle somehow it was turning into that very thing it was not meant to be. Often I felt I had lost control of my own life.

Recently, I have come to see that this pain of my husband’s betrayal  has brought good things to my life. When I came close to divorcing I was distraught and depressed. If I thought life had been a struggle before, now it felt like a 1000 pound weight had been added to the backpack that I carry on my life’s journey. All my self doubts rose like a tsunami and smashed my ego into smithereens like wooden boats thrown against giant breaker walls. I was a mess.

Yet, slowly I have come to see many positives that have come my way after this experience, one of which I would like to share with you. You see, in almost losing myself and my life as I knew it all of a sudden I realized what a good life I had. For the most part I have loved it and when taken as a whole it had made me happy and has brought me much more joy than sorrow. I had just forgotten the good parts and was concentrating on the bad. Trying to fix things that were not mine to fix or living for the future and not in the present which created suffering and unhappiness; discontent and anger.

And so, in almost losing everything, I have gained a new and positive perspective on my life…and when I got that back I realized that my remaining years are meant to savored, grabbed, and spent looking for the first buds on a tree. So now I stop and listen and look, recognizing and appreciating the pure joy I hear in the laughter around me, all the while enjoying brilliant sunsets that are best viewed when still and contemplative. For life was never meant to be a struggle and I am trying not to make it so.

images

Home Alone Horror

images

Home Alone is one of the most seen movies in the world. Although it was made years ago, you can always find it on one channel or another because it is a family favorite. It is funny and it makes you laugh out loud…unless it comes to roost in our own life. Then it ain’t so funny!

B and I were heading home from New York the other day after a wonderful weekend anniversary trip. Though we had been through two years of a “maybe” divorce, this weekend felt like we were in love again. That is when the sitter texted me.

I JUST LOOKED AT MY WORK SCHEDULE AND I HAVE TO WORK TONIGHT. I WILL NEED TO LEAVE AT 10 p.m.

“THAT IS FINE,” I texted back. “WE WILL BE HOME FROM THE AIRPORT AROUND 10:15 .SO IT ISN’T REALLY A PROBLEM”…until it was.

Standing in the crappy line with a GROUP 6 boarding ticket while annoying, is not a problem. Usually. Unless, you step on everyone’s toes and piss them off, while trying to maneuver yourself  back to the cockpit to get your suitcase checked because all the overhead bin space is taken. Placing your belongs in the overhead bin…no problem…for the GROUP 1-5 passengers. GROUP 6…FORGET IT! Fastening my seatbelt was easy as pie as my anti-anxiety “fear of flying” pill kicked in.  Everything was going as expected until these words were uttered by the cute and spunky stewardess whom everyone suddenly looked like they wanted to slap:

” PLEASE RETRIEVE YOUR BELONGINGS AS EVERYONE WILL NEED TO DEPLANE. THERE IS A PROBLEM WITH THE EMERGENCY SLIDE AND GROUND MAINTENANCE HAS TO BE CALLED TO FIX THE ISSUE.”

imgres

Now I will confess I try to keep positive in these types of situations. I mean, after all, it is better to be riding on a “fixed” plane than a “broken” one. But an emergency slide? Really? I mean how often are they used anyway?. Hell, I thought, if there turns out to be an issue, I will gladly stand at the open slide-less door and just toss people out onto the ground below. Problem fixed. Now, let’s get this freaking show on the road!

A collective groan so loud it nearly popped the rivets holding the plane together ensued. This was followed by a sound reminiscent of a herd of lumbering and pissed-off elephants starting back up the gangway.

images-2

Faces that had been smiling only 5 minutes previous were now pinched and drawn. The variety of cuss words I overheard was astounding and during the race to the customer service center several people nearly lost there lives. Frankly, there was not enough free alcohol in the entire terminal that could cheer up this downcast and angry crowd.

As B and I stood in the wrap-around line waiting to talk to that poor unlucky agent who had been plucked by the previous 50 ticket holders; it finally dawned on us that we had a problem. A serious one.  We only had an hour layover after we landed before we were to catch our final plane home. Unfortunately, this was the last plane for the night we were soon to discover.  Suddenly, were having our own HOME ALONE moment and nothing about it was the least bit entertaining.

Now being home alone is okay in our household during the day but certainly not overnight. We knew that Andre wouldn’t care as long as he could lay around in his underwear eating chips without being bothered by anyone. Change is hard for kids with autism but as long as there is food available and no one around to boss him around; Andre was happy.

Paul started crying over the telephone. The unknown is difficult for him but an unexpected change of plans is a catastrophe. . Let’s just say this didn’t fit into his scheme of things and the breakdown started.

Gracie…well, she isn’t one for being away from her Mommy and Daddy…especially at night. But we knew she would suck it up if she had to.

And so we started calling everyone we knew as the minutes started ticking away. 10 minutes late. 20 minutes. 40 minutes. 50 minutes…which was the point of no return. We were now officially screwed. Finally, an hour and 40 minutes later we lifted off unsure of what the future held…except that most likely Children’s Protective Services might be giving us a visit in the near future.

As nicely as I could I explained our situation to the stewardess. HOME ALONE.  TWO WITH AUTISM. MELTDOWN.

“Would you like a beverage?” she responded cheerfully.

I was tempted to ask for a double scotch on the rocks but decided that a drunk absentee parent was most certainly worse than a sober one when talking to government officials. Therefore, I took my seat,  bought the WI-FI service for $29.95 and sent out a plea for help on Facebook. I am happy to report that by the time we landed, I had three friends offer to help and a neighbor who informed me that she would take the kids to school. These are the times in life when “do unto others as you would have them do onto you” suddenly takes on a whole new meaning.

Flying five hours across the country we still had hope that we would make our flight but it was not to be. So we took our food vouchers and ate dinner in the airport, then took the shuttle bus to our hotel and finally settled in to watch a movie. When we turned on the t.v, guess what was being shown? Yep, you’re right… it just happened to be HOME ALONE. That apparently is the way we roll.

 

 

 

Pitter Patter of Little Feet

images-3

Today after a wonderful day in the Florida Keys I arrived back at the hotel and saw my sweet grand babies. My daughter, Noele, drove 10 hours with a three-year-old and an almost two-year-old in the back of her car. She endured much crying, fighting, and a MAJOR puking incident just so she could see us again. Somehow, with all the mistakes we made as parents she turned out just right despite our good intentions. How that happened I will never know.

From the time she was a tween this mother/daughter team could always find something to argue about. Things like… which side of the toast is the correct side to butter, whether being a strict vegan was taking things to the extreme, and if boys were allowed to be in her room. Much to my dismay while I knew I loved her deeply, I didn’t like her  much and our relationship didn’t match the Brady Bunch ideal swimming around in my head.  I would see mothers (Carol) and daughters (Marcia) walking the malls together and it would pull at my heart. Seeing teens and their mothers enjoying a movie together hurt like hell. And those mothers who ran the Booster Club with their kids helping along side them…I knew it was never going to happen.

imgres

B hunkered down. As a man who avoids conflict at all costs, having two of the women he loved most in the world living in a war zone with him serving as a NATO soldier trying to broker a peace deal was not an easy task. He never could understand all the slammed doors and word grenades being flung from one side of the house to the other and he visibly cringed when skirmishes erupted.

images-2

When Noele was fifteen I never envisioned that we would have any sort of relationship until she kicked my casket into the ground. In fact, my biggest hope was that she would graduate early so she could move out of the house sooner and after a year away as an international exchange student, she returned home more stubborn and determined to ignore anything thing we had to say. And who could blame her? She tasted freedom for a year and wanted even more. The parental role I once relished became a nightmare and a battle of wills ensued in which both of us suffered heavy losses. Recovery seemed remote.

But then it happened. One day she grew up and into her own woman. It took a while and a first child for that to happen. The birth of my granddaughter brought several miracles along with her. No longer at odds with each other our commonalities soon surfaced and within those we found mutual respect and a deep well filled with love that was once bone dry.

These days we live at opposite ends of the country. We SKYPE almost daily so we can share tidbits of our daily lives and so that her kids “know” their Grammy and Papa. Noele willingly comes and takes care of her own children plus her brothers and sister so B and I can travel to far-flung places. I can’t imagine someone I would rather invest in a friendship with than my daughter. She values family, is generous with her time and is a good all-around person who has made me proud.

Tomorrow I will wake up with little ones running into my arms again. Squishy hugs and wet kisses will fill my day. We will squirm together, laugh together, and make real- life memories together. And its all because of her…my daughter…a once formidable foe who is now one of my best friends.

 

Sparkle

images-2

Several months ago I wrote about the chandelier that has been sitting in my garage for the past year.  You can read about it here Assigning Meaning To Things

The fact that B knew the emotional significance to me about having this hung and it never was done still stings a little but for the most part I have let it go. He is busy. We are busy and he hates doing electrical. I am giving him the benefit of the doubt that not hanging the chandelier is not an indication as to the depth of his love for me or how he feels about our relationship. It is all I can do.

All this week B has been up at Boy Scout Camp with the boys. He takes a week off of work every year to make sure that they have that experience. It is hot. It is dusty and he has to work very hard to make sure that Andre’s autism does not get in the way of him having fun and building memories. It is a fun week but an emotionally tough one too. Sleeping on cots in tents is no longer my idea of fun so I am grateful that he does this because he loves our kids and wants them to experience all that they can.

While B has been gone this week, I decided to make myself happy. I decided to take a chance on the goodness I see in our relationship and where I think it is headed. So I called out an electrician and…HAD THE DAMN CHANDELIER HUNG!. It looks beautiful. It is shiny and looks perfect in the room. And it makes me happy which is the best reason of all to have hung it. IMG_9903

So there you go…happiness in a box; happiness within me.  May it inspire me to sparkle and shine everyday as it does. For it no longer matters to me who put it up; I am just happy that it is there.

IMG_9905

 

 

Magical Places

I am fortunate. I have been to many magical places in my life. I have visited the hot thermal waters coming out of the ground at an ocean front setting in Greece. I have seen the birth of my grandson. I have sat on a hilltop in a field of flowers overlooking the Sierra mountains and watched magnificent sunset of reds, yellows ,and brilliant oranges. Yes, I have been blessed many times over to have experienced some truly exceptional moments in my life.

Lighted-Cherry-Blossom-Lake-Sakura-Japan

Magical places for me provide opportunities to connect with myself and others. I realized that when I inventoried all those magical moments they have not been solitary. For me, they are shared moments/places in which we get a glimpse of our own awe reflected in the faces of those we love which serve to bond us tighter as we witness something truly spectacular. They are those moments which become shared stories in which the words, “Remember when…” are uttered for decades to come. They are the times, after you are gone, that your children tell their children about and their children do the same. Although they may not come often when they do that we really sit up and take notice and discover through them, what is important to our souls.

Magical moments are the heartbeats of the universe. We all experience them at one time or another and the sense of discovery and wonderment is what binds us together as human beings. They connect and transform. They provide a way to shared experience and give us a way to say, “I know what you mean” even amongst people half-way across the world from one another. We may not have even see the same thing but somehow the feelings brought about from what we have each observed can build a bridge over which we can both traverse. Magic indeed.

imgres-7

Magical moments sometimes arrive on their own out of the blue. For me, they are the best because they are spontaneous and unplanned. But often, I think that we have to create these occasions ourselves. We have to be open to trying new things and stepping out of our comfort zone to make them happen. We have to take a path untried. But mostly, we just have to open our eyes and recognize the beauty in what we are seeing and  celebrate it. And when we do this, somehow the magic just takes over. For its a choice we make to appreciate what is in front of us and to celebrate the beauty of those moments that forever imprint themselves on our lives.

 

 

The Christmas Party

3349268_orig

The company Christmas party was last night. I usually dread these affairs because I do not do “president’s wife” well. While most people would probably not guess, I am fairly socially inept. I spend the night trying not to put my foot in my mouth or wanting to kick someone’s ass if they get a little too drunk at the party. A fine line I walk trying to remember names, number of kids and spousal occupations; then I go home and start counting the days until the next one.

This year it was different. Many of the employees could not find babysitters for their children so B told them to bring them along. This meant I got to spend a lot of time at the table coloring with them and looking like a saint when in all actuality they were saving me from myself. Afterwards, B said that was great maybe we should have kids next year…ya think!?

One of the things I love about B’s office is it represents a side of the USA that I love…diversity. There are professionals from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and South America all working for this fairly small company. It is a true melting pot of people, ideas, and understandings. And that is the thing I do love about the party…hearing about their cultures, their families, and the way they celebrate their particular and unique holidays. Talk of grilling a goat at a company function, going on Safari and having family arriving for extended stays were just a few of the tidbits I enjoyed hearing about. I just reinforces to me how similar people are, and while they may go about things differently, they all want to be heard/seen for their  unique perspective on things that matter to them and their adopted country.

And so this morning I bask in the glow of a beautiful evening as I begin the countdown until next year…only 364 days to go!

 

The Shooting At The Regional Center Touches Too Close To Home

images

As I listen to the news about yet another mass shooting I wonder where did we go wrong? As individuals, as a society, as a nation and as citizens of the world? So much hate. So much misunderstanding. Too much religious influence. Too much disregard for others and ourselves. Too much interference in other nations foreign policy with its resulting unintended consequences.

My sons are served by the local Regional Center (RC) where we live. The RC serves individuals with autism, cerebral palsy, seizure disorders and mental retardation. They have allocated ABA services to my boys for several years and help with planning for their future. The people who work there are kind, loving and passionate people who work within the system to get their clients what they need so that they can live meaningful lives and reach their full potential. They are social workers, humanitarians and people trying to make a difference in this world. These are the kind of individuals who work at the RC…underpaid, overworked and empathetic in recognizing that disabled persons are often beat down by a society that ridicules those who are different. Most of all they try to give their clients and their families hope for their themselves and their loved ones with uncertain futures.

In the many years we have been served by the RC many of these case workers have become my friends as we spend time together trying to navigate a system in which the disabled have an unequal playing field where unemployment is rampant and the disabled are not seen nor heard. These RC workers often become of the voices for those who have little resources to take their concerns to the forefront of the political system.

Yesterday, I first became aware that something was not right with the RC when I received a phone call in the early afternoon. I picked up the phone to hear, “This is an emergency phone call. This is an emergency phone call. The Regional Centers will be open tomorrow.” Odd, I thought. Later I turned on the news and witnessed the carnage. I was horrified moreso than ever before, meaning ALL the unending shootings that have become a way of life for a country that in of itself is not suppose to be in a war zone.

So why did this particular act of violence have such an impact on me? Because I knew of these people. No, not the people who were murdered but I do know their co-workers in a different center and I shudder to think if it had been this RC instead. How, I wondered, would I explain this to my children had it happened here? How would I make them feel like the world was a safe place after walking through RC doors for so many years? How will the clients served by the Inland RC ever feel safe again in a world that already feels unsafe by many people who are autistic? How do you explain to a child that some people just view others as pawns in a game that is played with unwilling participants? How do you teach children to trust in a world in which just anyone can randomly shoot you in a restaurant, at work, on the soccer field, or at a concert; especially a child with autism who has already been bullied one time too often in his short life? How do you make them feel safe again?

The true answer is that you can’t because the shooters have taken away something that cannot be replaced with platitudes and pundit ideology…trust and the feeling of being safe. Yet, my kids have also learned that when bad happens that the response in the face of tragedy is the opposite. So while they saw sadness on the tv screen they also saw hugs, embraces, tears and people standing together to face adversity. But most of all they saw the love that fellow human beings can show one another and that defeats everything the terrorists stand for every single time.