Gone Forever…Happy Birthday Mom

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Today would have been my mother’s 84th birthday. She only lived to celebrate her 50th.

For years I was sure that I would not live to see my 50th birthday (we had the same freckles, you know). I spent my 50th year in mild fear, fairly certain I would not live to celebrate my 51st or see my children reach adulthood. After I reached my 51st birthday plus one day, I calmed down. It was if making that milestone lifted most of my fears about dying young. I was relieved and it showed.

My mother died of lung cancer. She never smoked a day in her life. I just had genetic testing down which showed I was at a greater risk of lung cancer. Same with my oldest daughter. And while it is a little disconcerting I am glad to know about this increased risk so I can do the things that are necessary to watch for any early signs that may come along. Lung cancer is cruel and I will do what I need to in order to try and beat the odds of ever having it.

My mom died young. Besides all the wisdom I missed out on it still saddens me that she never knew my husband nor seven out of her eight grandchildren. She never had the opportunity to be the mother of the bride at both of her daughter’s weddings. We never shared adult stories nor did we get to explore what an adult relationship between the two of us would look like. I wonder what she would have said about how I have lived my life and what advice she would have given me concerning my marriage. I wish I knew. I would give just about everything I own to find out. Funny how her opinion is still so important.

When I see mothers and daughters at odds with each other it saddens me. I wish they could understand that there is a hole that opens up in your heart when you no longer have a mother to shop with, eat with, or share stories with. Thirty four years later the missing still hurts. Thirty four years gone and I still wish i could call her and have a few heart-to-hearts. I wish I could smell her perfume and see her in that green dress again. I would love to hear her sing and play the piano for my family. Just once.

Those of you with moms still on earth… try to be kind. Treat them well. It is hard being a mom and trying to live up to all the expectations society puts on mothers…having: perfect kids, pies, hair, gorgeous body, happy husband, no wrinkles, Able to: cook, change her own oil, keep a household running and looking magazine cover ready at all times, be a sex pot and a taxicab driver… all at the same time.

Most of all call your mom…today. You never know for sure if you will ever see her again. Treat her as if you won’t.

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Letting Yourself Alone Or Self-Acceptance

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I sometimes wonder why it takes so long for most of us to get to the place where we just let ourselves alone in peace. Finally, we get to the place were we no longer pick ourselves apart, engage in negative self-talk, worry so much about what others think, or put so much emphasis on “what we should be” but instead accept ourselves for just what/who we really are.

I don’t know if it takes age to know you are tired of feeling crappy about yourself or if it is finally coming to an understanding that you are done with letting others treat you in ways that you don’t deserve. I am unsure if it is a greater self awareness or just the desire to experience positive change that finally allows us to say ENOUGH! I WANT MORE! I DESERVE MORE! But I do know that as I get closer to 60 that I have come to realize exactly that…that accepting myself is one of the most important things that I can do before I punch out on life’s time clock for the final time.

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Acceptance. It’s easy to say we should accept ourselves…yet it’s hard to put that belief into practice. But I am finally learning that self acceptance involves being realistic about my good qualities and playing them up. It means giving those best parts of me the respect that they deserve. By honoring them and giving these positive attributes the opportunity to expand and grow, it is making me a better friend to myself and a better person in general.

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Acceptance also means that I reexamine my “flaws” by asking myself how they have helped me in the past. Then I look for ways to challenge my old notions and accept those parts of myself that I am less than comfortable with by giving them the opportunity to change and not by regulating them to a distant corner of my life. I let these “fixers” out so that others can see them and help me find the good in them too. Just like I accept my friends good and bad qualities it was wonderful when I began to grant that same grace to myself. Sometimes I find it helps to ask myself “Would I say to a friend what I am saying to myself? ” If the answer is no, I try to gently remind myself that negativity directed inward is not helpful, and then I find something positive to focus on instead. This is exactly how a good friend would act… they would talk you up not down. I deserve nothing less.

Another thing that has come to the forefront for me is that the concept that “Trying” to accept myself will not work. That is like “trying” to diet…I will fail miserably. It is only when I practice “seeing” myself with kindness and compassion that self acceptance can occur. And then, finally, one day I suddenly realized that my “bad” parts were okay and I finally embraced them.

Rituals can help promote self acceptance. Every morning I have taken to looking in the mirror and saying out loud, “You are wonderful just the way you are.” Somehow putting those words out in the universe makes me accountable to them and encourages me to find small ways throughout the day that make that statement true.

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I wish self acceptance came easier. I wish it came earlier. I envy those for whom self acceptance is just a natural part of their being. Yet, I am glad that this feeling of acceptance is working itself into my life now. I enjoy the freedom it brings. Freedom from pain. Freedom from so many worries. Freedom to be myself. But instead of concentrating on the “I should haves” I am now just being thankful for the “better late than nevers” no matter when they are discovered and put into practice in my life.

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I SUck At New Year’s Resolutions And So Do You

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I am not one for New Year’s Resolutions. It’s not that I don’t think they have merit. They  do…just for other people.

For me New Year’s resolutions are akin to yelling ” Fire” in a crowded theatre…only very bad things will come of it no matter how loud you yell.

In the past my resolutions have looked something like this…

2011…I will lose 20 pounds. Day 1 begins promisingly enough. I hide the Christmas candy while only sneaking one piece. I eat one banana, drink enough water to fill a lake and load up on enough salad that rabbits begin to terrorize me in my sleep. Day 2- First thing in the morning I step on the scale naked and am shocked to see my left boob laying on the ground as I bend over far enough to read those little led numbers that have gone up 10 pounds due to that fucking banana and the three pounds of lettuce I mowed through the day before. I am so tired due to my scales rather rude agenda and last night’s rabbit revenge that when I look out the window  I swear all I see are rabbits giving me the finger and laughing hysterically therefore, I sneak two pieces of chocolate in order to clear my head and give myself “I energy I need to make it through the rest of the day.”  Day 3- I fall off the scale as it registers 3 more pounds, hit my head and get a concussion. Of course, the only cure for that is candy…lots of it….and so it goes. By the end of the week I have gained 20 pounds and I have paid the garbage man a rather large ‘New Years tip to “accidentily” back over my scale 100 times.

2008. I would be a more observant and careful driver. I was but the 8 people who managed to run into my car that year were not.

2015. That my husband would find happiness once again in his life…he did in the arms of our Vietnamese tour guide.

As you can see, resolutions have never really worked out well for me. So for 2019 I have decided that I will wish for nothing and not try to implement any big changes in my life. No, this year I will just accept myself for who I am and offer myself forgiveness for my perceived failures . In the car and out of it. On the scale and off. I will have no expectations of others and I will expect nothing of myself in return.

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So here is to 2019! Nothing to be gained and nothing to lose. I think this will be my kind of year!

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The Year In Pictures

So another year is coming to an end. Frankly, it has been the worst year of my life. So much change and pain…The coming to light of my husband’s three year affair, the “almost” divorce, the loss of a job, a big move and how that impacts autistic kids, selling our house, the development of PTSD due to B’s affair, the big fire and evacuation…anyone of these are considered top stressors but they arrived on my doorstep all within the year of 2018… resulting in the death of one life and the re-birth of another.  Yet, there are now rays of light shining throughout my life because with truth instead of deception (B’s) comes the ability to re-build, allows for understanding and growth. Our six kids are happy and healthy as are our grandkids and really… you can’t ask for more than that!

So as crappy as this year has been, in ways, it has been one of great personal development for me and for that I am thankful. I am making a conscious effort not to induce further suffering…mine or contributing to others. With age comes…well, heck…I have no idea what comes…except wrinkles. Hard to believe that sometime within the next three years I will be 60. Where has the time gone?

Up until now, I have never shared a picture of myself as I have always felt the need to protect my family from the gritty-ness and pain of this blog. But with the filters available today, I decided to post one picture of myself because, well, it doesn’t look like me!

May everyone have a glorious 2019. May we each find peace, joy and love in our everyday lives as well as the time to contemplate whatever it is that needs to be “looked” at. And like a good egg, may we gently break open to get to the yolk of our lives! Amen!

Scattered Thoughts On Older Age And Sex

Things are going fairly well at this end of the earth. We have re-settled after we evacuated from the Camp Fire and the Amaryllis has bloomed for the holidays.

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The past few weeks I’ve been painting and wrapped more presents than I care to remember.

The new “Happy Holiday” 2 seater hot tub came. Getting that tub up the back stairs was a bit daunting but now our backs are loving the warm water and our muscles thank us everyday. Of course, falling down said stairs did make the hot tub a mandatory requirement at least until the bruises disappear.

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Funny thing about that 2 seater…it reminds me of the first indication that B was beginning to have a mid-life crisis…a two seater sports car that mysteriously appeared in our garage. From there it progressed to the affair. I think I will make the lock downs on the hot tub so tight that only I can open them…a chastity belt for the hot tub.

Today I went to the doctor and found out I am a walking heart attack waiting to happen. My cholesterol is a whopping 303 and the bad is steady 224. I think it is time to have DNR tattooed to my chest. The doc is putting me on meds and suggests I go vegan. Oh and there was also that…” let’s get a thumb wrap for that appendage, let’s up the thyroid meds and maybe you should start running…you are going to need a new knee soon anyway so why don’t you just blow out the one that you have got!”

Years ago I was a vegetarian. I baked my own bread twice a week and grew my own food. My hippie years were healthy and carefree…getting old is a bitch. I wish I could say I walked 30+ years ago in a pot induced haze but I can’t… I opted for the love-ins instead. I think I may have gotten it wrong.. that too much sex and too little drugs thing… because at this point in my life it has reversed and frankly doctor induced “old age” drugs are a lot more concerning than a joint. I think the more sex and less drugs of my younger years was a much better option than what is available to me today. Now I am left to only dream of those good times…when I can remember them at all.

One of my adult children is urging me to try cannabis gummies to mellow me out in my old age. I have to admit that I have considered it but I am afraid that I might never get off the sofa if I did. Also, I have never been one for marijuana…it always made me paranoid and after B’s affair and feeling like I was crazy for those three years I am not sure that being anything less than fully present would be a good thing for me. There is nothing enduring about paranoid.

Yesterday as I was returning home I listened to a podcast which encouraged each person listening to celebrate and create for themselves a designated Day Of Compassion. This means waking up with intension of showing compassion and helping others whenever the opportunity presents itself or creating those opportunities throughout the day yourself. Doing things like thanking the woman who cleans the restrooms and telling her how much it means to you to know that when you use the bathroom you can always count on it being clean and fresh thanks to her hard work. Buying a McDonald’s food card for the person on the street so you know that they have something warm in their stomach. Noticing and commenting to your husband and kids when they help you or others. Just being there for someone in need no matter how big and small.  So I have decided to schedule my Compassion Day for January 3. I will let you know what discoveries I make and what opportunities presented themselves.

 

After The Affair

I was talking with my therapist today. It was exhausting. Almost 60 years of life to look at…some of it not pretty but a lot of it brilliantly played and enjoyed.

After the three years of B’s affair and the “almost” demise of my marriage it has been difficult at times to believe that B has changed and that our life together is stronger too.  The doubts that plague me have swirled fast and furious especially in the first six months after the storm.  The calm surety I have been searching for has been more elusive and more difficult to trust when I see it. Sometimes it appears to me that my life is only an illusion and I am always checking to make sure what I see is real. That process is exhausting and life-robbing. It is not life affirming nor is it increasing my sense of stability.

As I come upon 11 months of “knowing” about the affair I do feel hope and real joy again. The anguish and pain are slowly diminishing. Parts of me have been re-born and parts re-shaped into a better part of my whole. I have grown, explored and examined parts of my life that I saved until “LATER.” Yet, conveniently, LATER never came… until the affair… when I was forced to pick up the pieces and try to rebuild myself and my marriage. And now, believe it or not, at times I am even thankful for B’s affair because it has allowed both of us to evolve and create something different within ourselves and within our relationship. We are rebuilding on something that resembles bedrock and our foundation is no longer sinking in quicksand.

Another tidbit. For years I have not dreamed. Not once. EVER. But in the last month I have had three vivid dreams about B and “the other woman.” All involved water. In the last one, right before I woke up, an image of a goddess came to me and she held her hand out and said, ” Stop looking, It will come to you if needed.” The imagine was vivid, profound and unlike anything I have ever expeirenced before.

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My therapist tells me this is a good thing. That my psyche is clearing things out and washing them away.

I have also been busy creating my therapist provoked artwork. A recent picture is of a bird’s nest filled with various objects along with the words: LEARN, REST and FAITH interwoven into it. She says these are important words for me to concentrate on.

“What is faith?” she asks.

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“It is the essence of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. Can you see the wind? No? But you can see or hear the evidence of it in the sound of the wind chime or the rustling of the leaves. So REST in the hope that you have for your marriage and have FAITH in the evidence that you are seeing that things are changing for the better. Believe your goddess who is telling you to stop looking for trouble. and to believe that you can LEARN from your past, REST in the comfort of now, and have  FAITH in your future.

AND THEN SHE SAYS

“What if you get the stability you have been searching for your entire life? Will you see it and embrace it or will you run from it?”

GOOD QUESTION…AND FOR NOW…I DON’T HAVE AN ANSWER.

I would like to think that I have matured suffienctly to embrace all that has come and will come my way. Yet, at other times, I am just not sure. Sometimes I still want to just slide down the rabbit hole into another time and place.

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Yet, no matter what I choose I know that I am strong enough and wise enough to handle it because I have lived through the worst year of my life and not just survived but thrived!

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Autism and College

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We have worked hard for this moment.  All of us. When your child has autism the old adage is really true…it does takes a village.

Our family has spent years going to therapists, doing nightly neuro-therapy, hippo therapy, social skills classes, ABA therapy, special autism programs and attending IEP’s galore.

And then one day it happens…it all pays off.

Today, Andre received his first acceptance letter into college. Frankly, it feels like a miracle. All the sacrifice. All the sleepless nights. All the arguments about taking pride in what you do. All the school calls about his behaviors and going there, not to bring him home, but to force him to clean up the school yard if he wouldn’t cooperate and listen to the teacher. No rewarding bad behavior here!

Admittedly, there were days we weren’t sure if we would make it….all of us…parents, kid, and teachers. For Andre, an uncovered classroom window meant watching the birds instead of listening to instructions. His life consisted of figit boxes, weighted vests, and mechanical pencils of a particular type or he could not concentrate in order to do his work. Autism combined with ADD makes sitting still incredibly hard, listening very difficult, and organizing darn near impossible. His narrow list of interests and the thought he shouldn’t have to learn what he didn’t deem important made his teachers want to pull their hair out. But still he persevered and so did they.

Four years ago he received Boy Scouts highest award…The Medal of Honor…for saving an  elderly ladies life. Last year he became an Eagle Scout and immediately stopped going. Most of the time he stays in his room drawing characters for the novels he has been writing for the past several years. And not because I am his mom, but because it is the truth, his books are really good.

I don’t know if Andre will go off to school come fall. He might delay leaving home for another year so that he can finish his Associates Degree that he started working on in high school and allow himself the time to mature another year. Sometimes I think he might be ready. Lots of time…not…especially when I realized he has not showered for a week, brushed his teeth for days, changed his underwear since he last showered or remembered to take his medicines since I last reminded him. Frankly, he is several years behind his peers maturity-wise so he has some catching up to do but then again sometimes the birds that soar are the ones that are kicked out of the nest missing a few feathers.

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As I look back over the years the times of despair were many. The worry was great. The uncertainty was sometimes crippling. Sleep was lacking. But Autism didn’t defeat us then and it won’t in the future. The village has got this but more and more it’s up to Andre now. And you know what…he can do it. For autism no longer defines Andre… he defines it. With a little help and understanding my son will reach his full potential. It may be a life that is different from what I envision or what I would want for myself but it will have meaning for him, purpose and joy. And that is what really matters anyway.

 

 

The Importance of Taking Action

Sometimes showing up just the way you are in the moment is freeing. Other times it is difficult and scary. But ultimately if we want to experience life in a different manner and see ourselves in a different way; we have to do things differently… which means we have to be willing to take action.

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It is easy to show up, accept yourself, and get on with life when you are feeling: curious, happy, and have no expectations of how something you are engaged in will turn out.  When we try something new IF we allow our minds to stay open and curious, we often find there is a full-range of possibilities available to us; especially if we just accept ourselves and strive for being immersed in the momentary experience instead of seeking perfection our first time out of the box.

Let’s face it…it is harder to show up just the way we are when we are feeling: anxious, have ruminating negative thoughts, are sad, worried, afraid, ashamed and angry. But sometimes we must do it anyway.

When our lives have fallen apart one of the most important things we can do for ourselves is take simple action. It may be as easy as trying something that we have always wanted to do… like… going to a new restaurant and experiencing a new food. It may involve learning something new by taking a class of some sort or even attending a lecture on a topic that we have always been interested in. Or it may involve going to one of those social mixers that sends our guts into spasm just thinking about it or making that phone call we have been putting off for weeks

In order to stretch ourselves it helps to remember that we don’t have to be fearless… experiencing uncertainty is just a normal part of life. For if we allow ourselves to consider that every time we take a chance to reveal ourselves further, there is less to be hidden and fearful of in the future; then taking action provides a much needed sense of purpose to our lives. When we give up hiding parts of ourselves in the shadows, it gives us the opportunity to show up as our true and wondrous selves. And it is indeed a glorious day when we finally realize that even if we fail to catch the fly-ball, sing off-key, or spill the paint, there is nothing inherently bad with whatever happens even if it involves perceived “failure.”  Just showing up and putting ourselves out there will give us  the useful information  that we need (I like this…I don’t like that) to take us further down the path that we want to end up on.

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So today…Take Action! Take A Chance! Today just might just be the day that changes the rest your life!

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