Eat Chocolate Cake

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The school called today

Andre didn’t turn in his homework

He said he burned his book

I don’t think so but…

I eat chocolate cake while I contemplate the situation.

The other school called about Paul

The teacher tells me there is a group issue

Paul is missing assignments

I will check and let you know….but first

I eat chocolate cake before digging around in his room

I go to the school to discuss the situation

I let all involved know

That Andre will be staying after school in the tutoring room

Everyday until all the assignments are done

He clings and claws at me

He baby talks and pouts

I escape and walk around campus

And eat that emergency piece…

Of chocolate cake

That I tucked in my purse

Really this is getting too much to manage

Maybe I should turn to booze

And give up the chocolate cake

We get home

Paul is upset because I insist that he does his chore

That he did not do before he went to school

Man, that chocolate cake looks good…tastes better than it looks

Two boys with autism

One deep dark chocolate cake

Almost gone…

Autism makes you fat!

Please Leave

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This week while I  spent a week away at the ocean I wrote a “Dear John” letter to my husband. It was five typed pages, single typed. That’s what you should expect when you marry a writer I suppose.

This was not a letter I wanted to write. Six kids, several grandkids, 30+ years, lots of great times and discovery as we traveled the world together. Until recently, my heart still skipped a beat when I saw him. He is still sexy and the most handsome man in the world to me.  Other women think so too. So this is scary. It is sad. It is heart wrenching. No, this is something I never in a million years envisioned. I mean we got married in an old castle so our love would be timeless like the stones that held those old walls together. The castle remains standing while our relationship crumbles, the dust rising up thickly through the rubble threatening to choke us both.

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In the letter I told B that I would like him to move out preliminarily for a month so we didn’t have to say anything to the kids and disrupt their lives until we were positive of the direction that our relationship was going to take.. We could tell the kids that he is in China. I asked that he try to figure out who he is and what he wants the rest of his life to look like. I asked him to increase his sessions with his therapist. I told him to date, get laid or something. It’s time to move on for both of us. If you don’t know by now if you want to be with me then they way we are living is not giving you the clarity that you need. We need to shake things up a bit. But also just because you might decide you want back into my life there is a very good chance I will not be there and that that door will be closed and locked to you forever. For I am tired of you holding the master key to all the rooms in my soul

I was waiting until I got home to give the letter to him when we had time to spend together. However, on Wednesday night he told me his therapist suggested that we go back into marriage therapy. That triggered me and I told him I was no longer interested in attending therapy with him. I told him I wasn’t sure I wanted to be with him anymore, my love for him was quickly diminishing and that it was time we separate. He was shocked. He told me he loved me. I rolled my eyes over the telephone. I began to cry. He wants to keep trying. I don’t want to continue to suffer. Eighteen months is a long time to keep someone on a string. Eighteen months of wondering if today was going to be the day B walked in the door and said he was done was, in my opinion, 17 months too long.

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“It is awfully hard to admit that our relationship has expired but we both have felt it draining us and I see that we are getting resentful, frustrated and are losing hope if we have not lost it already. Sometime it feels like I’m “the other woman” waiting for her lover to choose between her and his wife. Loving him fully but he cannot commit to her fully because he wants both worlds. You want the world of having me for the business side of things (taking care of the kids, house, doing the things that make your life easier) but you don’t want to give your heart to me. You want to keep me on a string until you decide what you want and whether or not you judge me capable of giving it to you. Frankly, I am tired of that game, having to prove myself over and over again to some weird sets of arbitrary conditions that you change at your whim. It is time for me to get off this merry-go-round.”

I still love the man but just because you love someone doesn’t mean you should be together. Most woman would love to be with the man I was with for the first 25 years of this 30+ year relationship. It is hard. This is not what I expected as a come close to turning the corner on 60. I want happiness for him. I seek peace for myself…happiness will come later and that is okay with me.

“I know that putting myself through the discomfort of losing you and the changes that go along with it will not be easy. Separating will be hard and there will be times when we both will feel insecure, needy and totally off balance. I am sure the first time I see you with a new love my heart will shatter in a million little pieces. But I am also trying to remember that change is empowering because it will allow new things to enter our hearts and our minds. Things that we are obviously lacking as a couple may become available as we become single or enter into new relationships. Endings just set the stage for something new and allows exactly what we are needing or seeking to make its entrance into our lives.”

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So there it is. New beginnings. Painful endings. But I am okay and I will be okay. I am strong. I am invincible.  I am ready to move on from what I have today. I am not sure what the future looks like and I am okay with that. I am just trying to wish the best for all me included. I do worry for my children. Kids with autism do not do well with change and he has been an awesome dad. But…what is…is. And so everyday I have started my day with a meditation to bless myself and everyone in my life. Even B.

“I wish you happiness and that you are free of pain and suffering.”

It makes it easier to face the day and it makes me feel better.

I think it is time for me to get that dignity & grace tattoo

Power

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I ask B to share with me the emotions he has  felt on this “maybe” divorce journey as part of the 365 Days Little Buddha Challenge. My intention is just to listen in hopes of greater understanding and clarity.

He says that he feels under appreciated, under valued, and like he has been in a rowboat rowing all by himself.

I ask what would it take to make feel him feel that he was valued and appreciated.

“For you to focus on the family instead of yourself. I work and have taken on a lot in the last 5 years.”

What would that look like I ask?

“I don’t know.” It always comes down to I don’t know. Or I want to have the last word in our relationship. My word is the final word. And I know that at 56 I do not want to become a caricature of who I want to be and who I am.

And as I ponder his answers I realize that everything he has said I feel the same way about. Exactly. Undervalued. Unappreciated. Unloved. And when you have two people who are intrenched in those kinds of feelings it seems like there is no chance of moving on.

I wonder how exactly he feels I focus on myself. My writing? My genealogy work? He has work, the gym where he works out with Gwinnifer, Rotary, Boys Scouts, his various  industry organizations and playing the bagpipes.  Yet, he does focus on the things he likes to do with our family. Boy Scouts. While I focused on getting the kids to their therapist once a week for years, hippo therapy, diving lessons and meets. I write and research…that is all I do for myself except clean house at least two hours everyday, make dinner, lunches, do laundry, grocery shop, taxi the kids around, work in the garden, paint all the rooms in our house, etc.

I think having two children with special needs has impacted our relationship in ways that most families never experience and it has increased the stress in our relationship. In addition, it has made it difficult to socialize with others who do not understand how we must live. So we have isolated ourselves as a couple and I have isolated myself as a person.

And as he says these things resentment screeching out of his words like nine-inch nails on a blackboard; I realize once again there is no way to get over this. Even if I bowed down and “obeyed” like he says he wants in a woman, it would never be enough because he will never see anything but what he wants to see/ how he wants to feel…resentment (which he denies), cheated, and all the un-everythings so that he can justify his feelings about wanting a new life, a new wife, and find a way to feel comfortable in his mid-life crisis which actually started 7 years ago when he bought a two-seater Mercedes convertible for a family of six.

And so I inch that much closer to the demise of a relationship in which one person never expressed his needs or told the truth and one who expressed all of it. Constantly. Who asked the deep questions that B couldn’t answer in an attempt to learn about his wants but never could because the information was top-secret and I never had that kind of clearance.

It is time to make the kinds of chances that break hearts. It is time to make the kinds of changes in which it feels that you have been eviscerated and your guts are hanging outside of your body for the world to see. It is time to let go and get on with life unhindered by 30-year-old anger and disappointment. For every time I talk with you I feel horrible about myself afterwards. I’m selfish. Not appreciative enough, skinny enough, loving enough, a good enough mother, a good enough wife, a good enough partner, a good enough person. Like I am nor will I ever be enough. For anybody and certainly for you.

“You took my power,” he says.

“If you really felt that to be true it was your responsibility to get it back, instead of blaming me for not having the guts to do what you should have done.”

So here it is. The power that you accuse me of stealing.The power that you’ve always had and were afraid to control.  It’s all yours and it always has been. Let’s see what you do with it.

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Re-Cycle

 

Today you leave on a “business” trip

To give us space and time

And next week I’ll do the same

While our children

With all their special needs

Watch the slow

Splintering of our lives

Not seeing the whole picture yet

But getting a glimpse of what is to come

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Next week I will walk the cliffs

Gather my thoughts

And sit in silence as waves of emotions

Threaten like a gale force wind

To toss me off the path

Down to the jagged rocks below

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Wanting to make the decision that must be made

And hiding from it like a field mouse

Scampering everywhere just to avoid

Going THERE

Decisions that are far-reaching

Into children’s minds not yet formed

Which when released

Might set off an explosion

One from which this family may never recover.

I’m a freedom fighter

Setting a charge on a dark and gloomy bridge

As the flame slithers along towards it final detonation

But as you look up you see… it is your own loved one

Making their way slowly down the cobblestones

Their last seconds burned into your mind

As you try to squash the flame that you intentionally set

Not knowing at the time

Who the victims would really be

I know what is coming

More heartbreak, despair, second-guessing,

More anger, blaming and worry

Until at last

My soul will be left hollowed away

Into something completely unrecognizable to me

Something vast, flattened, and empty

Something I can abandon or recycle into something new

A vessel that only I can begin to fill again

And it’s my choice what to fill it with….

I think I’ll start with wine.

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Las Vegas

Driving to Las Vegas is always interesting. Between the weird signs of half-naked women, the smiling cactus and the odd out-of-the-way museums; most of the time I feel like I have been  drinking before I hit the bar.

There is the Borax Museum sitting on the hill in the middle of nowhere. Even better, the airplane graveyard where huge jets sit waiting to be scrapped or built into a home for some eccentric old lady. And then there are the potholes. Dodging them keeps you away during this rather boring drive. Unfortunately, for our friend she landed in one yesterday that completely shredded her tire out in the middle of the dessert…at night… which is the thing nightmares are made of.

There is also the last alphabetical road in America on the drive…Zzyzx Road which lays out in the middle of the Mojave Desert. There used to be a hot springs hotel out that way but it is no longer like many of the ghost towns that inhabit the area.

And now we are here on Vegas time. It is cold and due to the weather the mountains are covered in snow. Such a contrast and so beautiful against the now brilliant blue skies.

Of course, traveling away from home increases Andre’s anxiety to a point that at times it makes me want to find the highest mountain and jump off of it. Yesterday was tough. Those are the days in which I wish autism could be turned off like a light switch. Watching him struggle breaks this Mommas heart while driving her a little crazy. The sadness at watching him and the stress I feel when he tries to pull my hair because of it can be overwhelming at times. But in the end after he is settled things return to our “normal” and life goes on.

 

 

 

Breaking Records

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I’ve lived with autism for 16 years. I have yet to understand it. Take Andre. High school student who is also taking college classes and getting A’s and B’s. Smart, right? Then why can’t he change his underwear?

Seems to me that he is on some sort of record-breaking quest because recently I have noticed a pattern which I am sure Guinness World Records would love to have a stake in.

Record Breaking Attempt #1.

Number of Days Between Showers….SIX

Yes, six stinky days. Believe me, it’s not that we are willing participants in these record-breaking attempts. It’s just that life gets in the way. Often we take notice after Andre walks by smelling like road kill and the following conversation ensues:

“Honey, when was the last time Andre took a shower?”

“I don’t know. I thought it was your month to remember all his idiosyncracies.”

“No, my month was last month. This is your month.”

“No, last month I caught him hiding cookies in the downstairs bathroom so he could have a snack when he was on the toilet. It is definitely your month this month.”

And then all is revealed when little sister pipes up with:

“Well this week is my week to clean the bathroom and he hasn’t been in there once!”

AGGGGGG…epic parental fail.

AGAIN

Record Attempt #2.

Number Of Days Without Changing Underwear…..SIX

Yes, I am at fault here. I forget that an almost 6 foot tall person may need reminders to change his underwear EVERY SINGLE DAY. The lazy mother in me is tempted to teach him to turn his skivvies inside out in order to get a few more days use out of them but butt skid marks on the outside just look worse than skid marks on the inside so I am going to let this one ride.

Record Attempt #3.

Number Of Days Gone By Without Brushing Teeth……FIVE

I know this to be true because we just returned from a holiday where I put his toothbrush in his bathroom. On the last day I asked him to go get his toothbrush so I could pack it.

“Toothbrush? You brought my toothbrush with us on vacation? Why would you bother…its our vacation.”

At home I have signs up as reminders to brush his teeth. I have placed multiple toothbrushes in multiple locations. Even at the kitchen sink. And I think that is the problem. There are so many around that, just like dust bunnies, pretty soon they just begin to blend into the scenery. Sadly, little sister who brushes her teeth numerous times a day has cavities galore. Andre…not one. Ever. He is the Anti-Christ of the American Dental Association.

 

Record Attempt #4.

Number Of Times Per Day “I DON’T Wanna” is said. 1,440 x2=1880. That is about every 30 seconds.

“Time to go.”

“I don’t wanna.”

“Did you brush your teeth?”

“I don’t wanna.”

“I think you better start on your homework.”

“I don’t wanna.”

Clean your room. I don’t wanna. Take out the trash. I don’t wanna. Take a shower. I don’t wanna. Come eat breakfast. I don’t wanna. Find your shoes. I don’t wanna.

And so it goes.

I admit, that these things, while annoying, are definitely not life-threatening. YET. But that is exactly the point. Because one day we will no longer be on this earth to monitor (even half-assed) Andre’s idiosyncracies and our fear is that one day his mummified body with rotten teeth laying nearby, will be found in year-old underwear, crushed under piles of pizza boxes and food wrappers that he refused to clean up. And like global warming; we don’t know how to stop this slide toward disaster.

The one positive thing about all this record-breaking talk is that it has spurred me on to try to break one myself.

Record Attempt #1.

Number Of Days I Remain Consistently Sane

I’m going for….

ONE

 

 

 

 

 

Friendship

This morning I had a long overdue coffee date with a wonderful woman. We are about the same age and are both on the road of discovery about ourselves while deciding what we want the second half of our lives to look like. We have a lot in common in many regards and I hope she is on the way to becoming a good friend.

After coffee was over it occurred to me how much I miss having close female friends. Sometimes I miss it so much it feels like a piece of me has been ripped away and left abandoned out on an isolated road. Alone.

Don’t get me wrong I have some wonderful friends. But due to our constant moving or their moving; these women that I cherish and love are scattered throughout the United States. There is N… my been with me forever friend who has seen me through my youthful indiscretions and has nursed me through the past year. There is C who knew me as a teen and with whom I share a birthday. There is L who makes life something to laugh at and enjoy to the fullest even when I am whining like a baby. And there are several other special ladies who I know would be there for me if I picked up the phone. But what I need at this juncture of my life, and what I miss most, are a couple of good girlfriends to go to coffee with every Thursday to catch up on each others lives.

It is hard making friends at my age. It’s an art really. The type of art I have really never possessed in sufficient quantities… because I don’t do acquaintances. I do… “I’ll save your life if you’re in a raging river”… types of friends. I would do anything for them and they would do just about anything for me. These are the plunging off a cliff, Thelma and Louise, kinds of friends.  Frankly, there are not a lot of people I want to risk my life for or go down with at my age. But I am still willing to try to find those kinds of inspiring and fun people and offer them all that I have to give… which is quite a lot.

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There are other reasons I find making friends difficult. Sometimes when you have special needs children with challenges it makes it difficult to make friends. Most people have no clue of all the things you have to do to make your life work. They don’t understand when you have to cancel at the last-minute because of a major meltdown that is occurring ten minutes before you are supposed to meet. And being around others whose children also have challenges can be draining for both people because it seems as if too often you are both drowning at once and just holding on by the thinnest of branches. While things have improved in my household sometimes I feel like past behaviors hold me back because I am unsure when those issues will rear their ugly heads again. It makes me afraid to risk “those” looks and “those” whispers from someone I thought was special only to find that they really aren’t. Sometimes I wonder if that isn’t how my sons with autism feel.

There is also the issue that most women’s lives are so full that they barely have time for the friends they currently have much less making time for someone new in their lives. With old friends you know what you have and how to relate. Most people just don’t have the energy to figure out the quirks of a stranger. And I get all of this. I truly do. But damn, it just means that so many of us are missing out on something that is so good.

But really, I don’t want a lot of friends. I just want a small group of coffee klatching Thursday morning women to hang with. Some 40-60 something gals who won’t try to convert me. Won’t try to change me. And will love me despite all my idiosyncracies.

With all the lonely people out there you would think it wouldn’t be that hard to find but it is. Which makes me thankful for all that I do have in my life. Yet, I am greedy and I want more. Much, much more.

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On Giving Love When You Have None Left To Give

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Sometimes my house is pure 100% chaos. Sometimes it is as quiet as a lamb. Most of the time it is somewhere in between. But then there THOSE TIMES; the times when Andre digs in and NOTHING I can do will change the trajectory that we are about to embark on.

Change for Andre is difficult. It often is for those on the autistic spectrum. Sometimes that change is as small as using grape jelly as opposed to strawberry on Andre’s PB&J. But more often it is something along the lines of telling him to do his chore.

“Andre you need to empty the dishwasher!” (for the third time)

“I dun’t want to”

“There are lots of things I don’t want to do either but they must be done so empty the dishwasher. NOW”

“I dun’t want to”

This I dun’t want to would go on 100 times if I permitted it. Usually at this point the conversation will escalate to one more warning. Then I head upstairs (with him trying to stop me…pulling on me or poking at me) and take all of his electronics and tell him that he can have them back when his chore is done.  This is followed by ten minutes of attempted manipulation, threats (I’ll put your phone in the sink if you don’t give me back  my stuff) and flat out increased defiance. Finally, Andre will realize that he has gone too far and then resorts to such things as:

“Tell me you love me mom”

“I need love. Give me a hug NOW.”

I want a kiss NOW”

Along with all the demands he begins hanging all over me DEMANDING a hug or a kiss by clawing at me.

Of course, by this time I am worn out and tired of the CRAP. I try to remember where this is coming from inside his head (fear of abandonment/fear of being unlovable/anxiety) and react accordingly. But there are times when giving him what he needs (a hug) feels so ugly and disingenuous after all the chaos and manipulation that I find it hard to wrap my arms around him. I find it hard to find a place in my heart to grant him the grace that he needs. Most of the time I manage to dig it up from G** knows where but there are times it is almost impossible to find and it is at those moments when I feel like I have been swallowed whole, the best parts of me ripped out and flung far and wide. It is at these times when I start crucifying myself for not being able to give my son what he needs because it is such a little thing that feels so big.

Luckily, most of the time I do not get to this place of self torture because as I start to fall down the rabbit hole; I get ensnarled in the tree roots and find a foot hold to make my way up again. But there are times that I would like to keep falling down that rabbit hole just to feel the impact upon landing. To feel the brokenness that results. And when that happens it makes me realize that is probably what Andre is feeling (the impact) and then I find I can go over and give him that hug. A hug that will ultimately mend us both. A hug that that tells him that I love him and he loves me and that we are in this thing called autism together. Forever.

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Sparkle

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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.

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Drivers Ed

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It’s early in the morning and Paul is sitting at the table with me, sleep still nestled deep in his dark brown eyes. He is studying for his drivers education test and as I look at the almost 6 ft boy sitting in front of me, I ask myself, where did the time go?

When I first saw the boy in the yellow hat, I knew sure as anything else I had ever known, that he was destined to be in our family. In probably the fastest Korean adoption ever, we were on a plane bound for Seoul within 5 months of turning in our paperwork. It was if the universe knew he needed to be settled.

When we saw him at his foster mother’s house he was a chubby thick-boned sturdy 10 month-old already walking faster than the speed of light. The boy was quick and moved like a prize fighter, bobbing and weaving the entire day. Throughout the apartment the drawers were taped shut an indication of the whirlwind that was to enter our lives.

The day we brought him home, he toddled over to his 7-month-older brother, and swiftly knocked him to the floor. Thus a dynamic was put into place in which whatever Andre had, Paul wanted. It’s a pattern that remains to this day.That first day home I told B, “Mark my words there is something different about this kid.” And there was.

We soon noticed that parenting was harder this time around. First came the tantrums the likes of which I had never seen before. They were like HUGE thunderstorms…in your face, with screaming so ragged and loud that I was sure that eventually the police would arrive at our door. Often Paul would rage uncontrollably for an hours at a time. Obsessions with clocks, then water, then spoons developed which lasted for several weeks and then they were gone as if a magician waved his wand only to be replaced by another. Before the age of 2 we were already consulting with behavioral therapists in an attempt to change the path we were on. It wasn’t until Paul was 5-years-old that we got the autism diagnosis, the Tourette’s Syndrome pronouncement came when he was 7-years-old and the Central Auditory Processing Disorder diagnosis a year after that. Then for two years we had ABA therapists in our home 5 days a week working with both Paul and Andre to help alleviate the most pressing challenges that autism wrought between the two of them. Between weekly hippo therapy workouts, psychologist appointments and daily hour-long neuro reorganization exercises, we barely breathed for 4 or 5 years and when we did it was ragged, coming is fitful spasms, like a marathon runner as he crosses the finish line. Sometimes we were broken and worn only making it through the day because we were on autopilot.

But then, miraculously, things started slowly changing. Fewer tantrums occurred. Less resistance. More control. More sense of responsibility. A new willingness to help out and think of others feelings. Slowly all the years of hard work began to slip into place finally resting where they needed to be and Paul began to mature.

Those younger years were often dark. They were sad. They were scary and they were the most difficult of my life but today I have come out on the other side with a newfound appreciation of my two sons, knowing first-hand all the hard work they have had to put into themselves in order to become the wonderful and engaging people that they are.

These days when I see other parents on the on-line bulletin boards struggling with their children; I try to encourage them and assure them that it does get easier as their kids mature. And when I see their pain and fear sometimes it takes me back to mine. When this happens I involuntarily shudder but then marvel at all that our entire family has accomplished together through hard work, fighting the system, and never giving in/up.

This morning I sit at the table watching as Paul studies for his drivers ed test and I wonder…where did the time go?