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.

 

 

Stress Eating/Mental Health Nightmares

I started my diet to lose 20 pounds at 6:00 a.m. It is now 11:30 A.M. and I have downed two pieces of fudge, drank another cup of coffee that is mostly milk and devoured a bag of moon cheese. All within 30 minutes.

I had good intentions. Truly I did. And I was sincere too in the belief that this week would be the one I got off my kester and set to work reducing my waist but at this point my resolution appears to be a waste… for life got in the way.

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It all started yesterday. I drove home from Las Vegas after Gracie’s dive meet where she took a first in one event. So proud of that kid. Anyway, after driving 6 hours I was met at home by an angry teenager. Paul was fine while we were gone but seems he and Gracie got into it the moment she came through the door.  An hour later I was holding him while he melted down and cried. Damn you autism and mental health challenges!!!!

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After those difficult and emotional moments it appeared things were better until I decided to spoil myself with a nice warm bubble bath.  And therein lies my first mistake…actually thinking that I could do something nice for myself without being interrupted.  For as I lay in the tub I suddenly heard very loud shouting and a slamming of a door that shook the entire house. As I jumped up and wrapped a robe around me I heard uncontrollable crying coming from Paul’s room. I walked into a mess caused by a kid who had dumped, in a rage, the contents of his desk all over the room and he was sobbing. I went over to him and he yelled at me to leave him alone. Now I don’t know about you but when I hear those words spoken with the tunderous roar of a fighter jet I know that I am needed more than ever. I also know I need to change into my Green Beret mentaility to succeed in turning things around despite the odds being against me.

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What ensued was not easy. I ended up on the floor while this child both raged, hyperventiled and talked scary stuff. I held onto him like his life and mine depended on it. This went on for almost an hour until at last he wore himself out. His words broke my heart. His pain broke my soul. And his anger touched a place in my brain that I never want to visit again.

Later, after going down to the kitchen I realized what the problem was. While I was gone he had not taken his medicine and B had not checked his box to make sure that he had. Two days without meds in Paul’s case is a disaster. He becomes a tsunami of emotions that threatens to wipe out anyone nearby and the result is anger that cannot be contained.

I worry about my son. I worry that one day he will rage at the wrong person. I worry that while “out of his head” he might get shot by police or hurt himself. I worry that in his anger he may seriously hurt his siblings instead of a kicking a hole in the door that is a reminder of when he got seriously mad. Sometimes I worry that his mental issues will engulf us all and carry us down the mountainside with him broken and  buried under tons of stone. I know my marriage has been effected by Paul’s issues and that we all suffer in different ways when he is off-balance and out of control.

This morning, I packed everyone’s lunches and drove each one to their school. I proceeded to the gym in order to kick my diet into high gear. As I was nearing my goal of three miles I received a phone call. Paul was having an anxiety attack at school and could I please come and get him?

He’s sleeping now. His face soft and relaxed. Quiet breaths making his chest rise and fall in a slow steady rhythm unlike yesterday when he sobbed so hard he chest was moving mountains. I look again and my heart fills with love for my son; this boy who feels others emotions so intensely and takes them on as his own. This boy whose face I first saw on an adoption site. Right now, he looks like an angel which is what I am afraid that he might someday be. For unless, we can find a way to teach him to control his emotions I am afraid he will be hurt and possibly killed. By a stranger, The Police. Or himself. Either way, our path is a hard one and we are scraping our knees as we once again escape the sharp edges of the precipice which is our lives.

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Saying YES To The Ring

I have been pondering for the past couple of days how to write this post. I have started it, deleted it and started it again many times. For at this point, what I am about to write is embarrassing, very confusing, and probably tiring to all who read my blog.  Frankly, I know that if this on-and-off again relationship was happening to a friend or my daughters I would say, “Get the fuck out! You deserve a man who wants all of you all of the time!”

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Yet, sometimes life is not that cut-and-dried no matter how hard we try to make it so. Over thirty years of marriage is a long time together. It is doubly hard when you have two boys with autism and who do not do well with change. Add to that three children who have already lost their original families and splitting up becomes fraught with minefields that just are not present in most families.

Now to tell you this particular story I have to take you back to October. It was then that B asked me what I wanted for Christmas. At that time I flippantly told him a commitment ring but frankly I thought that the possibility of receiving one was nil. Winning the lottery had better odds. And anyway, who doesn’t like a ring, right, so what was the harm in asking?

Fast forward to Christmas night. As we were winding down from the days festivities I told B I thought we should tell the kids tomorrow that we were separating. Tears came to B’s eyes and all of a sudden he called the kids down to do THE board. You see, every year on Christmas day and July 4th, we measure our kids to see how much they have grown (seems we will need a longer board for Andre next July.) Then, just as the kids were about to go upstairs B told them to wait and proceeded to say. “Hey, guys, there is one more present here and it is for your mom.”

With that, he walked over to his briefcase and pulled out a jewelry box and in it sat a woven silver and gold ring. Nothing elaborate (that is not who I am) and nothing too expensive (not me either). As I looked at the ring in shock he said something to me and the kids along the order of:

“The silver in this ring represents our Silver Anniversary (25th) while the gold represents striving toward our Gold Anniversary (50th). In this ring there are little breaks and holes that represent life and how during our lives we have to navigate through them, around them, and out of them; to get back on the path we have chosen. So I am giving your Mom this ring to show her that I am committed  and will continue to try working together to reach our Golden Anniversary.”

My first thought: Maybe he really does love me…and tears

My second thought: I am not sure I want this. Maybe it really is time to be out on my own.

My third thought: Why did he say this in front of the kids?

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Luckily, the next day was Tuesday, the day I see my therapist. She said:

“I’m confused.”

That made two of us.

So we talked about the conflicting feelings this brought up. About how for the last week every time we talked about leaving and splitting up our family we both cried. How our guts were both twisted in knots and how discussing dividing children, assets and animals was devastating. And that in this heartache we had gotten closer at least for the past few weeks but that it should be viewed as temporary.

In the end, I decided to accept the ring…for now. Instead of deluding myself into thinking this ring is a piece of jewelry that signifies B’s commitment to me for life; I have decided to view it as a day-to-day pledge until I decide otherwise.

Last night we went to our joint therapist and I asked for clarification regarding the ring, the commitment and why he said what he did in front of the kids.I will say that I received some very well thought through answers to my questions and that we both acknowledged that we have a long way to go to save this marriage if it is even possible.

At this point I have no real answers about life or the status of my marriage. What I do know is that every day we manage to make it is one more day our children have had a chance to grow older and more mature. It is one more day that we have successfully re-committed to working hard and to trying our best to listen to what is in the others heart and act accordingly. And it is one more day that we have attempted to let love win, move towards acceptance of both ourselves and the other, and its one more time that we have had the chance to try to find peace in a relationship that once had little.

Sometimes life is hard.

Sometimes life is isn’t.

And maybe, just maybe, given a little more time, the hard times will decrease and the good times will grow more frequent and blossom. And maybe someday I will realize good times and bad are just part of life and that is just the way it is and I won’t take it personally. And maybe, just maybe when the good times are abundant I will be able to rejoice in them knowing that I have done everything humanly possible to make them happen….with or without him.

 

 

 

Death Of My Marriage

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Yesterday was the day that we decided to meet for lunch to exchange lists regarding how we would like to divide our property, arrange child custody issues, and the like. We have decided to try to forego lawyers and see if we can work this out between the two of us.

We slept the night before holding hands and when we woke up B tells me, “Maybe we should go back to the belief that divorce is not an option,” so when we went to the restaurant for lunch I half expected that he might give me a piece of paper that said I DO NOT WANT A DIVORCE but he came fully prepared. I guess there is a little part of me that is still floating down DE-NILE. A part that does not want to enter the raging, swirling currents of divorce that could at any time capsize my raft and suck me under the torrents of tears that seem originate at the mouth of this river.

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These days I find tears are always threatening to leak out of my eyes at the most inopportune times. Paul came downstairs and found streaks from tears that I quickly wiped off my face but he saw them and asked what was wrong. Thank goodness I am still wearing this arm sling because it hides a multitude of emotional sins that are bubbling at my surface surprising me as the burst forth when least expected.

“I’m okay, sweetie. My shoulder is I just hurting me right now,” has become a great response when my sad and raw sentiments threaten to take me down to places in which I do not want my children to see or dwell.

After Christmas we will detonate their world by blowing up all they believed to be right and true to smithereens. They will never be the same and I am afraid that my two sons with autism will regress/rage as a way to handle the major changes that their lives will undergo. Change is something that is very hard for people with autism to endure.

I also feel terribly guilty. As adoptees my children have already lost the first parents, their first country, their culture and their language. We were suppose to be their Forever Family and we have let them down. Paul’s therapist tells us his biggest fear is ending up alone with no family and I am sure it will set off feelings of abandonment for him. This is one of the things I am finding it difficult to find peace about and find the compassion to offer forgivness towards my husband destroying our lives together.

Last night B and I got into bed. We held hands all night and we both cried on and off. It was a night in which sleep eluded us but sorrow did not as it swept us up in its tight grip and kept any sweet dreams at bay.

Today is a new day…I think I will go back to sleep.

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13 And Counting

I remember the first time I saw Gracie. She was sitting on her foster mother’s lap, so tiny and delicate, that she looked like a doll. She was a preemie so everything about her seemed fragile and small. I fell in love with her right then and there as I stared at the tiny 3×4 inch photo in my computer screen; engraving her sweet face on my heart forever. Truly, it was love at first sight and I was bound and determined that she would become our daughter. I thank my lucky stars that my dream came true because everyday with Gracie has been a delightful dream with a mixture of happiness, joy, and a pinch of awe thrown in for good measure. She truly is amazing!

Today Gracie turns thirteen. It is hard to believe that I will never again be raising a mere child. Instead, I am guiding young adults towards the time when they leave the nest…hopefully for good.

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Since Gracie is a now an official teenager, it means I have four teens living in my house. Maybe I should say co-existing, as war could erupt any minute when you are stepping through emotional teenage land mines which are scattered, undetected, here and there. Gracie assures me that she will not act like a teen but she is already rolling her eyes and using THAT tone of voice which indicates that somehow I have become the absolute dumbest person ever to live on this planet. Forget the 55+ years of experience, the college degrees and my affable personality…I am soon to be regulated to the status of something below pond scum.

While I am excited about someday becoming an empty nester (finger crossed) I do have to admit I miss those times when my children thought I could do no wrong, when they believed I was smarter than G*D, and when the little things I did brought them such pleasure. Those were simpler times though I didn’t recognize them as such. I often viewed them as chaotic with all the meltdowns that two children with autism could bring. But now… well, even the meltdowns don’t seem quite as bad as when I was in the midst of them and I can look back and be proud of how I handled some situations that would tax the patience of a saint. Not to say I handled them all well but I did GOOD ENOUGH and that is just fine with me at this point in the game.

Today is one of those momentous days. Time and perceptions will shift for both Gracie and I as the label of TEEN is applied like a gooey sticker to her soul. May we each grant the other grace and dignity in the coming years as she grows wiser and my brain cells shrink in number. May we create memories that sustain us and may we see the best in each other instead of the worst. For the teenage years are upon us…may we both survive them with patience and our sense of humor intact! And may Gracie happily survive the impact that autism has on a family and a sibling..she has done a remarkable job thus far.

Happy Birthday My Sweet, Talented, Gracious, Fun-Loving And Hard-Working Baby Girl! You are my Superhero!

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Dear Teacher…

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To My Child’s Teacher:

I wanted to make you aware of something you may not have considered in regards to these “Where I Came From” type of assignments. My daughter does not have a birth picture as most international adoptees do not. This can be very painful to some adoptees when class assignments such as this come around. My daughter was born in Korea where children are adopted in a very legal and orderly manner with children being placed with agencies after birth. Yet, part of her past is missing. And some kids from China are left in public places as it is against the law for parents to abandon a child and in that culture the gender of choice is male. Therefore, often girls are abandoned. In addition, due to the one child policy; abandonment happens to females in high numbers. These children often struggle with the fact that they were “left” somewhere.

In addition, having to include a story of their birth is very difficult because many children who are adopted have no clue about the story of their birth. They can’t say things like my mother ate pickles during pregnancy and cried and cried when I was born. They have no idea of the circumstances of their birth except that in many countires it is one of disgrace and shame. Instead of their birth being a happy time many adoptees feel that it is a time of sorrow where they lost their identity and their heritage.

My daughter cannot answer the questions of the hospital where she was born and who came to see her and how her mother felt. We can answer those questions from when we first saw her picture at three months and when she came home at almost 8 months but this seperates her out from the other kids. In addition, we only encourage her to share what she knows of her birth story with people she wants to and frankly it is not appropriate for just anyone to know nor it is not everyone’s business to know the circumstances of her birth.

These kinds of assignments can be hurtful to adoptees or children who come from “different” families other than a two parent mom and dad type of family. Many kids now come from gay families and may not be comfortable sharing that. Many kids now come from single mother with unknown fathers and may not be comfortable sharing that. Many children come from foster families and had abusive first parents who may have told them over and over things like, “I wish you had not been born.” Many times the birth of a child is not a “happy” time in a family and a child may know that. While the jist of these assignments are made with the noblest of intentions, in reality, these types of assignments are often uncomfortable and hurtful for children.

Just wanted you to consider this from another point of view.

Thoughts on “Maybe” Divorce

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“As you become more attached to yourself you will become less attached to the outcome,” my therapist says with a smile.

Sometimes I wonder about this statement. Although it seems true enough as I continue this journey of the “maybe divorce” sometimes I wonder if this attaching to yourself, this honoring your self and your desires, really means at some point that you just dial back the caring…maybe you just begin to not care anymore because the fight for keeping your marriage has cost you too much personally. Your anxiety has increased to the point that everyday you wake up wondering “if this is the day.” And while once I believed that this thought might kill me, now, sometimes, I just wonder if it would be a relief for it is difficult to live with a man who no longer loves you the way he wants to and the sadness plays out like recessed shadows etched deep into his face.

I know when this began two years ago I felt like the world was coming to an end. It seemed as though my heart was being ripped out of my chest and I couldn’t sleep at night. After all this time my anxiety about divorce and what it would do to my children has decreased but is it because I am working really hard on integrating all aspects of myself and discovering more about who I am or is it because I am shutting down? Perhaps I see the train wreck in the distance, so I move away, because I don’t want to witness the carnage firsthand. I also don’t want to deal with the repercussions that it might have on two boys with autism and one with mental health issues much less the fact that four of my children are adopted and have already suffered so much loss in their young lives.

And so I continue to work on myself. To find corners of sunlight and to open the shutters wide to let the sunshine flood into my life. I work to make myself more aware of what I am doing and why I am reacting in the ways that I do. I am practicing ways of building up my resilience and incorporating peaceful ways of thinking as a habit that I can rely on to keep me centered. And I am trying to learn not to allow negative self-talk rule my head and my heart even though it still wants to.

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So if this work, if all this trying to find better ways of attaching to myself, is going to make me wiser, happier and more peaceful; I am all for it. For I am becoming a better me and I am finally doing all of this psychological work for greater self understanding of what makes me tick.  And if the “maybe” divorce comes to pass I think I will be in a much better position to retain my own dignity and grace during the process. And for me, that is what is important.

So be it.

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Attaching With Nothing In Mind

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Okay, I will admit it. I have a slight attachment issue that stems from childhood that I am working on with my therapist. This issue makes trust more difficult for me than the average bear.  It puts doubt ahead of belief and fear ahead of calmness. Needless to say, with the odd things that have been happening of late regarding my marriage; my attachment issues have been magnified. Not to the point of  extreme anxiety but enough to make me feel uncomfortable that I can trust what I see in this relationship.

You would think I would have attachment down. After all, I adopted four children and worked extremely hard on creating an environment in which attachment could occur as easily as possible. I read every book ever written on it. And I followed all the advice on how to attach to a child who has been through trauma. Turns out, I should have been working on myself in regards to my adult relationships too.

This week I told my therapist, “Let’s get on with this. Let’s not dance around the edges of these attachment issues. Let’s tackle them head on.”

“You have been,” she replied. “You are learning to attach to yourself again.”

“I want more.”

So she gave me this assignment.

Just work on accepting the moments that are good. When B reaches for my hand, don’t question the act; just savior the moment. Notice what it feels like in that moment. Accept the emotions that you feel. Don’t analyze, just enjoy.

Well, of course, I had to push back.

“Why attach myself to someone who may not want me? Surely, if we divorce it will make it hurt all the more,” I moaned.

“You need to do this for yourself to feel closeness if only for a minute,” said THERAPIST. “You become more attached to yourself when you are able to let down your guard and discover yourself through your relationship. This process opens yourself up to you. You owe it to yourself to go work your way through it so you can become a stronger you.”

And so I am giving it a try with my whole heart. Just accepting his love, his touch, his words without over analyzing, questioning, or doubting. It is hard after being together for so long and both having a way that we interact with one another.

I’ll let you know how it goes as I try to trust myself and this process.

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It’s Been A While

So it’s been a while since I have blogged. Life has gotten in the way. One of the reasons I have not been blogging is because I have been so ill and when you feel that sick just putting one foot in front of the other is sometimes the only thing you can manage to do.

The other reason I have been absent is that I just returned from South Korea. It was a blast. That is not to say that autism didn’t rear its head like a dragon…it did but we managed to keep the fire contained within the dragon’s mouth.

I love Korea. Not just because it is where my children were born but because of the numerous surprises that greet you while you are there. Like it raining and someone just hands you their umbrella and continues on their way. Like the fact that my children are now old enough to sit away from these two big white folks so they can blend in and become part of the majority instead of always being part of the minority. I wish I could give them that freedom every day of their lives. And I like the fact that pumpkin is valued and eaten in so many different ways.

I love seeing the small boats out with the huge freighters as they ply the waters for fish along the coast. I love the hidden temples and that sort of foggy mystical reverence that permeates the air.Riding the bullet trains are almost orgasmic with their down the the minute time tables and the snack carts that sell dried squid. I also love the open markets in which you can find the mass-produced and the antique amongst all the noise that radiates off of the stalls. And the smells of noodles of all kinds, ginger, kimchee and steaming hot bean buns bought just as they come out of the molds are to die for.

There is something about Korea…a people who have been taken over by invaders again and again. Who have known war too often the results of which allows them to then hold the holy and the beautiful above all else…even their pain. Same goes for my children whose understanding of their short lives here is bittersweet. Joy and pain sometimes it is one in the same.

And then we came home and I immediately went in for an endoscopy because I have been so sick with severe reflux for so long. And while I await the results I decided to try the anti-reflux diet and stop drinking coffee…and the next day feel so good that I don’t take the prescription medicine that never makes me feel great. And the next day I feel great. Better than great. And so I stop coffee and pills and one week later I feel better than I have for the past two years.

So now I rejoice. For travel. For discovery. For the happiness of my family. And for my health. And for the oh-so painful re-discovery of myself, my husband and my marriage over the past 18 months.dsc04814

I’m thinking that 2017 is going to be a pretty great year! I hope it is for you too!

 

Busan

Today we took the bullet train south. I love the train system here and wish that in the States we had a great train system like they do all over Asia.  In 2 1/2 hours we were down at the opposite end of the country and it was a great ride. Smooth, fast and comfy and in a blink of an eye we were there.

I love Busan, South Korea. It is a very special town to me because one of my children was born here. I first visited it about 15 years ago and I have to say it has changed. No longer the sleepy port city it once was, it is now a vibrant, racy place with a touch of its past tucked within its alleys.

Busan is a town that reminds me of another…San Francisco. Hilly, temperate and scenic this city is a place I could spend a lot of time at. One of my favorite things about it is the food. I love Changseondong Meokja Golmok food alley. Here you will find live eels, octopi and other sea creatures ready for the grill…or not. One of the delicacies here are live octopi swallowed whole which I am told tickles when it slides down your throat. I do not think I will be that brave but I wish I was.

But rather than tell you about Busan, here are some pictures to show you what a great food town this is. Bon Appetite!

 

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