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!

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.

Thoughts About The Camp Fire in NO CA

With the fire slowly creeping forward and containment at 35%; I have decided to leave for a bit for the coast, which is not immune from the toxin filled air.

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The smoke is so heavy that breathing is becoming more difficult and it is seeping through the cracks in my house like a snake slips and slithers through the smallest of holes. I have to wonder that even if the fire does not reach us will the smoke smell permeate our home making it smell like a barbecue shack for years to come? How does one get rid of that deep-fried charcoal smell anyway?

B just called me as he drove to work. He says the smoke is so thick that it is like driving through pea-soup fog making driving more hazardous than the normal commute. Toxins from the fire will have effects on the average persons health for years to come and so you begin to ask yourself do the risks of staying outweigh the risks of leaving?  Yes, we want to stick around to guard our house against the fire but most of all we want to protect ourselves from the lower than pond scum looters that prey on situations such as this to enrich themselves. Yes, almost everything is replaceable except that feeling of violation that may never leave.

The death toll now stands at 56. It appears that it will reach well over 100. So many people gone. So many folks who made the community what it was no longer alive to contribute to the re-building and bring the enthusiasm that is needed for such an endeavor.

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The border of the fire now stands less than 5 miles from my home. The winds are blowing the pines to the right just a bit. My solar panels are no longer producing power. The birds have stopped singing and the deer have a desperate look to their eyes. The skunk has a slightly gray parlour to him and so do I.

It will be nice to leave for a bit. Nice to be where the air smells fresh and the sky is actually blue rather than brown. I feel for those who have no choice but to stay waiting in lines to have their licenses re-issued, take a shower, try on donated clothes, find a rental, talk to FEMA and the insurance adjusters. Sometimes being in shock protects you until it can no longer do so because you are just plain weary and you lose hope.

Yes, for so many there is a lot to do. A lot to overcome. And so far I have had little to worry about. I am one of the fortunate. Yet, even if we lose our home  I think I can say with confidence that we will still be one of the lucky ones…because we have one another and we are still alive.

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Batman And Other Fine Creatures

Sometimes, when we least expect it, something happens that forever changes the dynamics of your family. In our case, it appears to be Batman.

On Halloween, son #3 was outside trying to hand out candy to the local youth. Since we recently moved here we went all out to ensure we could meet local demands and based the quantity of candy needed on our old neighborhood numbers. We bought 600 pieces. This was a mistake of epic proportions.

We had ONE trick-or-treater. ONE. This, of course, means that I must personally consume the other 599 pieces within one week in order to ensure that said candy does not expire. At this point I will need to eat 300 pieces tomorrow and 299 the next day. But who is complaining? According to my calculations to burn off this amount of candy I will need to stay at the gym until the last of my still-in-the-nesters reach 18…and that is another four years. Good luck, Dad! It’s my turn to stare at the buns now!

Anyway, besides the lone costumed candy kid, there was one more creature that hit our driveway on Halloween night. As related by son #3, he decided it was time to take a look around after hearing strange noises as he sat waiting for the other 599 children to show up at our door. Imagining spooks, grim reapers, and the like out for his head; son #3 was pleasantly surprised to find this creature of the night which was immediately brought inside and cuddled.

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According to the vet he is 5 weeks old and very healthy for a wild kitten. He weighed in at 15.5 ounces and his vocal cords are very busy. Due to all of his “talking” there has been a divide in our home as one contingent wants to name his Chairman Meow while the other insists that Batman be his moniker due to the pointy ears and the fact he is nearly all black. But this isn’t the only issue facing our young feline friend.

I have always believed that you are either a cat person or a dog one. I grew up with cats but when I was old enough to have a home of my own; canines became my companion of choice. But then this cat shows up completely unannounced and uninvited. For our boxer mix this cat is a menace and because of his DNA he likes to chase and kill small rodents. It is obvious that he considers Batman is of that ilk (small rodent) and his proudest moment would to be to serve Batman up on a platter as a nice tasty dinner for his human friends. Obviously, perspective is everything.

The other hurdle we have to overcome is Paul’s previously severe allergy to cats. Thus far, it appears that the weekly allergy shots for seven years are paying off. There are no itchy red eyes, swollen faces or sneezing going on here.

So for now, like it or not, it appears that Batman is here to stay. Doors are now shut to keep dog from cat and cat from kid. Earplugs are worn to keep us from hearing Chairman Meow’s views on everything under the sun. So while this cat issue remains up in the air for now one thing no longer is. Next year I am making everyone stay indoors on Halloween.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Dance

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Tonight I chaperoned a high school dance. The girls were glitzed and glammed, each out doing one another in the hair, makeup, and dress department.  The boys….well they were typical  teenage boys…nerdy, sweet, and 100 years behind the girls in just about every way imaginable. Most of them sat together and played video games while the girls stood around whispering to each other, laughing, and talking the talk. Meanwhile the boys who weren’t gaming, looked somewhat green around the gills, as if they were in intense pain trying to outdo one another to impress the girls with puffy-chest macho displays. Frankly, it’s a wonder that the two sexes ever come together at all.

After spending the first half of the evening checking the kids in (what do you mean you forgot your parental permission slip) I decided to head over to the dance floor in hopes picking up some new steps. Unfortunately, watching teenage boys move to the grove is like watching an elephant attempt to play the kazoo while dancing the lead in Swan Lake…there is NOTHING that can make it look pretty. Hips go one way while butts go another and I swear I saw a couple of heads do a 360 while sitting squarely on their shoulders. But the worst thing was the fact that not one of them could keep tempo to the music. It was like watching a little old man crossing the street using a walker…one speed only… with head bent and body stooped their bellies almost dragging on the ground. The ones still moving upright were sweating like Trump’s Communication Director when the President is in front of a microphone… never sure what ungodly thing might happen to destroy all their carefully laid plans.

Yet, with all the hormones on high alert things stayed sweaty but calm and everyone was having a good time, chaperones included. Something about the unchanging ways of nervous teens brings you back to your own school dance and you realize just how far you have come!

Of course, there is always some sort of drama. At our school dance this is the End Of The Night Song. It is the one and only slow dance that the deejay plays the entire night. Stomachs tense and butterflies alight and the girls begin to giggle as the time draws near. If the truth be told no one wants to dance the last dance and everyone is crushed if they don’t. As the first notes of Fade Into You began, I was surprised to feel a tap on my shoulder. When I turned around Paul was standing there.

“Would you like to dance, Mom?” he asked strong and sure in his choice.

“Me?” I asked.

“Sure. You’re the prettiest girl here.”

And as I stepped into his arms I knew without a doubt that all those years of hard work raising two children with autism had paid off.  I was obviously doing something right in this life and was finally reeping the rewards.

 

 

Woodie 2

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You want to make love to me.

I……. see

Is this to bring us closer?

Or to confirm to yourself that the fireworks are not there?

Is this to see what you have already promised yourself?

That nothing I can do is good enough

Including sex

Or are you just horny?

A horny man with a wife

Laying beside you

And heaven forbid

You would not want to break your marriage vows

But you have if only in your head

You want all life can offer

A fifty-five year old man

The sex, the admiration, and everything your way

You want love passion and more fireworks

Yet, you have none for me

No love, no passion

Only a big fat woodie

Or do you really have a hooker in your bed

And is that woman me?

If so…

Leave the $1,000 on the bedside table

And get the fuck out

Just Relax And Enjoy It

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Last night I had a real honest to goodness date. I had my hair done earlier in the day and was dressed to kill. I had butterflies that were flitting here and there within my innards and I even wore eye liner. From my head to my toes; I looked hot for a woman of my age.

The date was with B. I was worried that things would be strained and that the only thing we would find to talk about would be the kids. I also wondered if I would need to have a drink to loosen up because I didn’t know if I could do what my therapist instructed… ‘Don’t project. Don’t think about motivations.  Don’t over-analyze. Just live in the moment and see and feel what is in front of you. Just enjoy what there is to enjoy and let the other stuff go.”

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We drove to a little French restaurant another town over. The weekend clarinet player was doing his thing and the vibes going around the room were cool and groovy with a dash of sexy thrown in. Good clarinet music is almost as magical as sax if the musician knows the right mix “Give it to me baby,” songs and this dude was at the top of his game. This backdrop set the stage for a lovely evening of laughter, flirtation and lightness. It was the kind of night that second dates are made of.

After dinner we drove to a little massage place that we love. It’s cheap…$19 for a half-hour and you keep your clothes on. Okay, the soft touch is missing but the crunching of bones isn’t. By the time we walked out of there I felt like I had been run over by a truck and a massive headache had quickly overtaken me. That demure little masseuse definitely had the whole whooshie finger thing going on.

It was a lovely evening full of everything that makes a date special, yet, I have no illusions. I am no Cinderella and B is no Prince Charming. But it was nice to laugh, find some common ground, share memories, and just enjoy ourselves without all the anxiety that sometimes interjects itself when you are working to better your marriage and yourself at the same time.

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Maybe we will make it to a second date or maybe we won’t. But one thing I do know is just sitting with the moments and recognizing what is good is a much better way to live than analyzing what isn’t. Being mindful of living in the present and letting go of the past made our date as close to perfect as it is ever going to get, and today, that is good enough for me.

So be it!