Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I did it! And I'm going to keep doing it!

I challenged myself to writing 50,000 words this November for the 3rd time. I offer the experience of National Novel Writing Month to students (and that means I have to attempt it too!). Each year November is nuts. I did notice by doing this, that I am sick every November for around the first week of the month. Like clockwork. Grades are due, also like clockwork. And assorted other things, like the girls have lives and me being the main organizer and schlepper. So there is religion class, Science Fairs, homework, dance classes, Odyssey of the Minds that I decided to be a co-coach for, and all the other things that are the unplanned parts of our day-to-days. 

But I decided this was my year to make it. And it was. I wrote 50,063 words in one month. I have four stories started and good starts to a couple other writing projects. But I love learning about myself in the process, that is always an adventure. It's like a metaphor for my life--writing, that is. It's chaotic and messy and so much is always going on, but if I sit and meditate about what is going on and pull one string out of the knot of events, I can begin to disentangle and make sense. That's a messy metaphor...I will probably come back to this in another blog.

So, after that I began the crafty stuff. I'm working to finish a blanket I promised Alex a few years ago. I made 5 scarves. One for a student, one for the girls' dance teacher, one each for the girls' teachers and one for one of Kath's aide. But I will be working on one for another aide this week (as well as for Nano winners)...I always try to make sure some of my presents are home made, it feels more Christmas-y? :)

So the idea came to me while I was trying write this month to write stories for the girls. What a great idea but now I'm into it. Blankets and scarves to crochet. Backlog of papers to grade from spending the last month writing and not grading. And now I am working on writing/editing stories for the girls...

Although I didn't finish the stories I did get at least Kath's tidy enough to be able to read aloud at Christmas. And one of the best reviews of it came from Kath who did not move while I read it aloud off the boring black and white screen of the computer and who has referenced it for the past few days...."just like in your story...."

And so now...during this week of break from school...I will hope to get more of the stories going and tidy...who knows maybe I can even print a piece here at the end of the week. And hopefully a good Christmas with Kids Blog will be here in a few days. :)


Kath;;;I want to eat that smell...when she smelled TGIF

Sunday, November 13, 2011

This November has light. Happy birthday to my gift.

Every November for as long as I can remember, I struggle. I think it's Seasonal Depression. The dark has always bothered me. I don't like to go out in the dark and if I come home in the dark I want LOTS of lights on. If I go shopping I park under the lights. I can't camp anymore, I used to, but no more. I have nightlights, allegedly for my daughters....I love summer and sunlight, but even in the summer I struggle with the dark edges of my front porch. I have issues, I know!

Five years ago one of the lights of my life came into my world in November. We didn't know at the time but Kath had already fought so hard to get to us. She had a stroke before she was born. The oxygen shut off. She stroked. The oxygen came back on and she continued to fight to reach us. Then during her delivery my blood pressure dropped dangerously low. I felt a floating away sensation as she was struggling just to be born. She had her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck, she was face down and there was merconian fluid. She came out silently while I was fighting back from through my comfortable haze of disconnect while my blood pressure normalized. Then we both thunked into reality.

Amidst the chaotic life of a family already in motion Kath easily went along with the flow. She stayed still in the middle of the floor and watched us all buzz around her. She smiled.

Chris packed up and prepared for a semester in Nicaragua. Nick packed up and prepared to be a freshman in college. Alex danced through her days.

Kath was a hip baby. She didn't crawl or walk. Why should she? There was always someone moving her to catch her up with the lives in progress around her.

Kath didn't talk. Why should she? She had a big sister who anticipated her every need...and talked enough for the two of them.

Then as life will often do, especially if you ignore it enough, it all came to a grinding halt. Not a screeching, noisy halt, but an eerily silent halt. Just as when she came into the world.

It started with a fear. Small and insinuating, then growing to near suffocating.

What possibly could be wrong? Kath was missing all of the milestones. The ones she should have hit without thinking and working on too hard. All of them.

November, a year after she was born, was when Roger and I took her to the pediatrician and explained my fears. The testing began soon after. I traveled to Nicaragua that month to visit with Chris for Thanksgiving while he struggled abroad.

Lots of dark.

By February we had a bunch of new people in our lives. We knew what acronyms like PT and OT meant and we had faces to fit those letters. We had our own people. We had a team. We also had a neurologist. A speech therapist A special education therapist. A teacher for the visually impaired. It was a year of learning how to stay afloat while new waves threatened each day as we saw how much Kath struggled with...everything. Including swallowing. We lived in a state-of-being known by most special needs families as "Holland."

Kath went through many phases. Some 'normal' kid phases, but many just 'off' enough and difficult enough to make me feel like we were living in a different country with different rituals, with different references, with different life goals, like, Holland. Since Kath struggled with transitions-being around people was difficult and very challenging. Playdates. Church. Shopping. Parties. Park. These were all parts of others peoples' days that were normal. Kath was so far behind her peers that it was too painful to socialize. People insisted on approaching her quickly, loudly and often peripherally (she can't see peripherally), touching her and absorbing her with their eyes. She'd jump, cry, flip out. They took it as a personal rejection and left her, sometimes paid attention to her sister, but often not coming back around to try a second time with Kath. So she'd sit and watch on my lap or hip, left out. But even the attention to Alex waned as people seemed to fear that we were 'catchy.'

For a long time I blurted to anyone within shouting distance, 'My baby had a stroke!' As if repeating it would help me heal. As if I could find someone who could possibly understand the shaky unknown of our diagnosis. As if I could say it enough to relieve the pressure so I wouldn't implode.

I threw myself into doing things with and for Alex so she wouldn't one day resent it all since most of the attention was not ever on her.  I started a Girl Scout Troop. I surrounded us with moms and girls I thought were safe and would be understanding and supportive as we all embarked on this raising of our daughters together. I signed her up and coached two seasons of soccer.

Meanwhile Kath worked hard but was showing signs of struggling in her special education school. Her teacher wrote things like "staff is struggling with how to deal with Kath." We threw around the idea of selling the house, moving and homeschooling.

When November swung around again, this time it was my other son Nick struggling; he was finally diagnosed with Post Concussive Syndrome.

Every plate that was supposed to be spinning seemed chipped and shaky.

Then suddenly things began to unlodge from the STUCK position.

Like a chest cold you have forever, it makes you cough, bone weary tired and it makes it difficult for you to breathe, but then as time heals you-- you realize you are coughing less, sleeping better and breathing more deeply---things began to improve.

Not before several things flung themselves completely into the ether though. I'm no longer the leader of the troop I began. The moms decided their daughters needed more than I could give, needed consistency. I was lucky I was breathing, they understandably needed something else, their path is very different from ours. I understand, I used to live there, once upon a time, too. I stopped coaching soccer, Alex was too sick all the time, I coached other people's kids more than my own daughter who was home sick more often than on the field. One close friend and one family member moved on.

But this November has been lighter than any I remember in a long time, except for when maybe I was a kid. It has been warmer too. Lots of sunshine. The colors of the leaves and sky are brilliant. Even my yellow mums seem to be lit from within. I have started an Odyssey of the Mind team; individually registered my girls for Girl Scouts (and talked to another former GS leader who had similar issues who wants to do joint projects with my girls and her girls, our own little group); the girls are taking religion classes (Alex makes her First Reconciliation this weekend); and we are looking into joining 4H.

I look forward to snuggling, reading and putting the girls to bed. Nick is working towards his own recoup. Chris is working full-time and going to grad school full-time. Roger and I are both writing again. This November has been filled with light and hope and understanding and peace.

Yes, our lives are still chaotic and filled to the brim, but our November Light is singing the ABCs, drawing story pictures, 'writing' notes, making up stories, dancing.

Kath has helped to show us that all darkness is temporary. Darkness is sometimes a rest before the light. A time to catch your breath before the light comes back. It is not always to be feared. It's a time for honest reflection, priorities. Even before the brilliant sunrises we have helps highlight those beautiful sunrises. After storms,we have rainbows.

This November we have sunrises and rainbows. It's a different light than before. Everything is slightly different. The pacing is different. The priorities are different.

And we have our beautiful and amazing Katharina. Our gift who worked so hard to reach us and who has shown us the true meaning of resiliency, hope and breathing in the little moments.

Happy birthday to my gift. These 5 years have truly been a wonderful gift. Thank you.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A Month of Writing

Several years ago a couple of my high school students came to me and introduced me to National Novel Writing Month. The name is misleading since people from all over the world participate. The goal is that for the month of November you write 50,000 words. That is about 1,666 words a day. Everyday.

Of course I thought this terrible idea was a wonderful idea.

I invited all my students to join us. I even created Gaboury's Novel Writing Month which is to write 8,000 words. Between NaNo and GaNo we have classtimes filled with talk about writing...from the inside. I hear students talk about 'my protagonist' and "I wrote last night until my mother freaked out and told me to shut down and go to bed, she doesn't believe I'm writing my novel, she thought I was on Facebook!"

This year one of my old students said we needed a midpoint goal. So we named it after her and 25,000 words is the goal.

I love how kids gets excited about writing, how some of my old students come back and want to participate even though they won't be exempt from other writing assignments. I allowed my students who participated in the writing month to be exempt from certain assignments. They also receive an A in the place of the exempted assignments. If they reach the new VaNo, they will received some baked prize from my old student. And if they reach NaNo's goal they get a hand made scarf from me.

I explain the word count. I tell them how insane it will make them. And I tell them they can't edit (believe it or not that really bothers them). And I tell them their name goes on the wall in the back of our room and they have to update it as they write. I tell them they can write about anything. The story they have festering in their head. A daily rant of their lives. I tell them about the A for trying, the baked goods, the scarf.

You wouldn't think they'd want to go near this challenge for what seems like 'little' prizes for the outcome. But they can't wait to start.

As they begin to write some find the voice they silenced many years ago. Some find a voice they never knew they had, as well as a confidence. Some find writing can be therapeutic. Then they come back next year and even though they have to do this writing in addition to their regular English work, if they don't have me as their teacher again, they throw themselves back into the melee.

I think that for the month of November some of the society walls are taken down. Kids look at each other as fellow authors, writing to tell stories, be it their own day to day stories, or the fictional ones living in their head. A few students, once they crossed those barriers for November, leave them down for December and beyond. Once they were able to communicate as writers, once they realized the person they thought fit in a certain clique...also fits into their own world...they realize that impressions are not always accurate. What is more telling is how a person deals with life when it gets hard and stressful (and believe me solid writing for a month IS stressful!). They find they count on one another more than their regular friends during this time because their friends just think they're nuts.

Amazing things happen in my class in November. We all end up a little crazy. Overwrought. We learn more about what we are made of and what others are made up of.

Some of my most struggling kids choose to participate and find success in ways they never thought they could.

I always tell them you can always edit SOMETHING but you can't edit NOTHING. You have to get things out and onto paper or a screen...then you can readjust it, reorganize. But you need to get it out there first, you need to stop being afraid it won't be perfect. Give yourself permission to flop, to hate it, to make your ideas go wild. You have control. For one month you are the Controller...of at least your story/writing.

And you can edit in December. But for November just dream the impossible.

When they see that happen for one is easier for them to buy in for more...they are the controller of their own LIVES. And they can make the impossible come true.

When I see my students so thrilled about writing, so jazzed up about what is going on in their head, or finding peace through their writing, I rediscover the power of writing in a fresh way. Alex, my 7 year-old wants to do it this year, so she is doing MiniGaNo, and her goal is 2,000 words.

So, for the month of November I will trying to write my novel. Dreaming the impossible. Wish me luck!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Being broken...otherwise known as Mosaic

A mom at dance class asked me about some of Kath's swallowing issues and opened up the vein of memory from when we worried continuously about Kath's swallowing. We don't have to worry in the same way anymore, though of course we watch her eat and when she coughs I stop breathing until she breathes normally. Otherwise some of the other panic feelings have abated. But all it takes is the 'right' mood and the 'right' question...and wham I feel the weakness in my knees and my gut starts wrenching all over again.

This time, because the conversation was brought around to the mom of a child newly diagnosed with health issues, and how she was handling things, I was brought back to the not-so-distant past and of how I first felt when Kath was diagnosed (we are coming up on almost 4 years ago). I looked around the dance studio waiting area at the other moms watching their daughters practice and I realized that I still felt an 'otherness' from them. Since Kath's diagnosis I never fit back in with other moms...or at least moms who don't have children with some sort of disability or health issue.

It is as if when I was told of Kath's stroke diagnosis I broke. I shattered. I remember that feeling, I remember exactly how I felt, and even just by pulling back the little piece of that scab, I find I still bleed. I remember how I vainly tried to cover up my brokeness, how I tried to hold my seams together and not just scream. Scream. Scream. I had sharp, pointy pieces inside of me; whenever I breathed, it hurt. I could only take short, pant-like breaths. I could only get enough air into my body to survive. Some days only barely.

That shattered feeling lasted a long time.

A long time.

What helped to make that time last longer and feel even more despairing was that I lost 'friends' who either misunderstood or couldn't handle what I was going through. I lost friends because I couldn't pay attention to their needs when I was so shattered---I felt that I needed all of my energy to remember to breathe and that I had to be there for Kath and the rest of my family. I couldn't spend time with others, away from Kath. I had to be near her every chance, every second I wasn't working. I felt like everything was so fragile, so delicate, that I had to be there if anything else broke. I still sleep in the girls' room...but that's probably a whole blog unto itself. :)

One person made the comment on her way out to the effect of something like this, as if life is some bumper sticker, "You'd find the time for me, if you really wanted to."

That is false. And so painful to have thrown at you--as if life was just that easy. As if my life and my time was/is my own.

Those types of comments made me feel that not only was I somehow a failure at being a parent (why else would I be going through all of this?), but I also was horrible at being a friend?! Just at the time I needed friends, it felt like they were leaving and scarring me on their way out.

More pointy edges. Further withdrawal on my part.

On the outside, I smiled, got up and dressed each day, taught, embraced the students who could weave through the brier patch into my heart, ...and I watched my old life disintegrate. A couple of times very publicly and always most painfully.

Then something very magical did happen. I began to realize that there were still people around. I didn't chase them all away! Those who did weave through the thorns I was protectively cultivating, let me lean on them so I could regain my footing. I had started to build up a wall so I wouldn't ever shatter again (as if one can ever truly prepare for that). These people didn't expect anything in return. They just stood beside me and waited for me to catch my breath. They gave me hugs. They smiled. They let me frown and cry and they weren't scared away by my intensity. And even though it has taken a few years, I can feel it happening, I'm finally starting to catch my breath.

I have a few friends, my mom and my sons, who I can text on a Friday night at 9PM. Most of my people know I don't like to talk on the phone. I'll text, but talking is akin to opening a vein some nights and I just might not be able to stitch it back closed by the time everyone wakes up and needs me in the morning. So I text short blurbs and swallow the rest. And they understand. They are still there as the smoke settles.

Many adults seem to think that if you share a problem they have to help fix it, kids don't have that misconception. They know so much is out of their control and that sometimes, without even knowing the specific problem, just saying "Hey" ...sometimes that is enough. "Hey, are you okay? I'm thinking about you." I think teaching the groups of kids I had the past few years (many of them, maybe not all! haha) helped me to get back on my feet too. They too live with the thorns and broken glass of their own lives and yet they come to school and try all over again every day.

There were a few friends who may not have known what I was really going through, or may not have wanted to face the fear and pain that I'm sure I reflected in my eyes, but they waited. They stayed on the sidelines and instead of making me have to start from scratch with them or walk away to find new friends, they have reopened their arms and said, "Hey."

Ah. My hemimoms. I'm crying as I write this because these are the moms I have shared my Life with even though I haven't met most of them, probably won't ever either. But I have shared so much with them, as they have with me. As heavy as it all gets, these women inspire me and help me to share my burden. These moms understand the triumphs better than most, sometimes better than my husband, and they feel the anguish as deeply as I do. We breathe the same air. They laugh and they sob as if they are right by my side, which of course they are, in our virtual Facebook commune. I only hope I have been able ease some of their burdens a bit along the way sometimes too.

And of course there is Kath herself. Her joy. Her laughter. Her love of life. Her curiosity. Her smile. Her abilities. My amazing gift. One of the five amazing gifts I have been granted.

I have started to pick up my shattered pieces. With much time, energy, patience and assistance; I've started to glue myself back together.

I'm not the same as I was before that bitter day in February when I was told Kath had a massive stroke.

I'll never be the same.

What I'm finding, as the mending and healing continues, is that the pieces do not fit back into the the same places they came out of.

And thank God for that.

Some of those edges needed to be worn down so as not to puncture my lung or make me bleed out. The edges are smoother ~ like rocks and shells churning in the ocean for hundreds of years. Some parts are even shinier than they were before. I am a better mother. I am a better teacher.
Those are the spots I pull most of my energy into and I'm glad at least those two spots are improved.

I'm not some vase to show to company. I'm not working towards some kind of show. I'm for use, this life is my show. I can't 'fake it' as well as I used to, I don't really feel like I need to have that curtain shielding and providing a boundary like I used to.

I'm me. This is it.

I've become a mosaic. I am broken and in pieces, but I've been rearranged to show a different beauty (a different perspective to life, a different purpose, perhaps?). Bits and pieces of brokenness put back together, sometimes with an eye on creativity, but mostly just glued back together in a quick fashion to stop my insides from pouring out and landing in a puddle at your feet.

So you see, I can't really worry if the pain in my eyes makes you feel uncomfortable, I have too many other things to deal with each and every moment. So leave if you must, but be sure you tell the truth to's not because of me that you go. It's because of you. The people who left me will probably never read this or begin to understand and though negative perceptions hurt me, I really can't do anything to fix them. It's their problem, afterall, not mine. And it has taken me awhile to come to that understanding.

My mosaic is the art work of my SELF--A Work in Progress-- of my healing and of my living. I'm actually more than I was before I was broken, even if it doesn't always seem that way, even if I have more wrinkles, my hair is thinner and grayer, and I cry quicker. I also laugh and love deeper, I understand students better, I believe in grace and I give good strong hugs. I see brighter colors. I understand how quickly things change from worrying about silly things like your credit rating, to worrying about whether your child will choke if she swallows too much while trying to breath, or god forbid, even laugh.

I could have handled things differently, better even, but I do the best I can with what I have. Every day I have to be aware and conscious in a way I never was before. Now the path I chose is not to wallow (most days), but to take my Elmer's, my thread and needle and a few pieces of beach glass and continue forward creating the new path, redefining and fixing who I am, as I go.

I'm broken. I'm mosaic.
But I'm still here, trying.
I'm here for the long haul.
I will be worth the wait when I catch my breath.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

I want to be the teacher for my students...that I want my girls to have in their lives.

I had a student today ask me why everyone comes and talks to me. I said, "because they know I love them" in a flippant, quick way. But when I thought about it I DO think that is one of the reasons some of them come to see me even when they don't have class with me. I have kids in my room from the moment I open my door in the morning (sometimes earlier if I forget to lock my door the night before!); they come just to check in and say good morning, or to vent about something bugging them in their life, sometimes occasionally to even turn in a late assignment! I have lunch in my room because I share that time with students, too. I often share my prep blocks with students who 'need somewhere to go.' Students often bop in while my current students are working, to check-in, grab a lollipop and reset themselves. At the end of the day when they could be running to hang with their friends, they come in and tell me about their day, their life and then bop out saying, "Have a great night, Gabs!" (No wonder I am always behind in my grading!)

When I look at my Katharina and I look at her horrible test scores on her neuro pysch evaluations I know that what is absolutely KEY for Kath is for her to have a teacher who is so tuned into her and her way of learning that she (most of Kath's teachers have been female) can guide her along her path, not just lead her, but allow Kath to set the pace at times, nudge her other times and sit back at others. Alex works her the path and she gallops down it with occasional looks back to make sure she's going on the right path. So my goal this year is look at each one my kids (I consider my students my kids), even the ones who I can't get to sit still for 10 minutes at a time, and try to figure out how they learn; how they think; then to figure out how can I guide them to go-at-their-own-pace. How can I make it so they can understand who they are at their core and where they want to fit in in this world?

I'm not sure exactly how I will do this without being completely exhausted. I have just about 100 students in my English classes and another 45 in my study halls. I found this year that even my study hall kids need me. One student said to his friend who was confiding a rough life history to me, "Why are you telling her all of this?" "Because she listens," was my study hall student's answer.

I think I am pretty good at teaching grammar, teaching literature meanings, teaching writing. But I think what my students get the most from me Old fashioned eye contact. An ear that listens. A smile that warmly says, "Hi, how are you?" Then patiently waits for the answer.

I don't think I'm special or different. I think having my own kids and not doing the 'right' stuff over the years has taught me a little about how to do things better. I think I'm a better teacher now than I ever was. I wish I could recall those students from the past 14 years and try again. I think having my children in two sets has helped me to have time to learn hard lessons. I think having a child with a different-abilitied life in front of her has made me try to think differently about how I approach all children. It impacts how I approach the ones who walk past me in the hallway and those who stop to talk and those who I teach English to...and those I corral in a study hall.

I am trying to be the teacher I hope my own daughters get as educators. The kind that shows 'care' through the teaching. The kind that embraces the child in front of me, not the ideal student I wish I had, the ones who listen and learn fast and easy. I want each student to feel success, have a goal and be ready to step out, even if it is not in my subject matter. I want each student to be ready to find their place in the world, the place they want to be in, not what others have relegated them to.

I want the students in my life to find their voice, their callings, their joy just as much as I want the Katharinas and Alexandras to find their places. This world will be such a great place if each person could find a place they feel good about themselves. And I try to be the mother and the teacher who helps my kids try to find that place.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Lessons Learned from Little Ones

1) Love with your whole heart. Give big hugs that really mean something. That really give the huggee something to hold onto...whether it is your love, hope, forgiveness, whatever reason you are hugging...make it feel like you mean it.

2) Forgive and forget. Not many kids hold a misstep over on someone. They more tend to warily move around and around, but they don't gossip and hold grudges. Usually.

3) Laugh until your belly aches. My daughters both have t-shirts that say this...and it is one of their favorite outfits. They love to laugh, they do it often and we never tell them to be quiet when laughing...ok, almost never.

4) Color. If you haven't done this recently you should buy some Crayola crayons and a big old coloring book and then sit. and. color. It takes your blood pressure down and you actually have great convos with your little one while doing it.

5) Look up at the sky often. And either decide what shape the clouds are or try to create your own constellations.

6) Look down at the ground often. Pick up rocks and notice hard working ants.

7) And truly notice what you see. Pay attention to the little things. To people who take the time to look you in the eye and listen to you. To people who slow their world down to say hello, how are you doing? And then wait for a reply.

8) Golden rule. We teach it. We say it. We need to think before we act...and not just about our actions effect ourselves, but the long range Big Picture.

9) "When I get bigger...." Kath has a million goals. Driving. Visiting me. Having kids. Eating ice cream after breakfast tomorrow. She always has a plan. Always have a plan. Especially those big fluffy plans that some people might try to discourage you from and say they are out of reach and reality.

10) Keep your eyes opened and snuggle. Fight sleep to read a good book, but then dream good dreams.

11) If you want to be a lima bean for Halloween (like Alex does) then you should be one. By all means...dress up as weird vegetables you enjoy.

12) Every day BE what you want to DO. Be happy. Be a teacher. Be motivated. Be caring. Be funny. Be hardworking. Be in the moment. Be loving. Be peaceful. Be you. Do what makes you feel alive. Do what makes you happy. Be and Do.

I'm sure I will have more, but after not posting for awhile, and after having this one in a holding pattern for a will be good to let it go and feel somewhat accomplished this weekend. :)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Maybe healing is really more about how you look at the storms....

I've been wracking my brain to figure out how to write about my other thoughts about healing...without sounding new-age-y or crazy. Oh well, that might be impossible. I last wrote about how healing sometimes seems like it's about getting back up and moving forward (as Dori would say in Finding Nemo 'Keep swimming')...but I often feel it is really more than that.

When I first found out about Kath's stroke I just kept swimming...some days in circles, but I knew I had to keep moving. Mind you I did my turtle impression and pulled away from every one and everything that I possibly could, thereby losing several friends because I simply didn't have the energy to keep swimming and also be there for anyone else outside my home. I was concentrating on keeping my nose above the tide while trying to hold everyone in my family, with their variety of issues, up above the waves. And everything was so heavy. So darn heavy that it took all I had to just. keep. swimming.

Then things began to ...I'm not sure what to call it...but I was able to start to breathe...maybe the waters started to recede...but, no, not really because all of the same problems were there...well, more actually, because now great financial difficulties raised the water level.

You know that anecdote that says that most American families are one crisis away from financial ruin? Well, we were hit over and over...within two years.
1) While I was working part time (job sharing my teaching position),
2) Nick had his TBI accident.
3) We found out I was pregnant (not a 'crisis', quite a blessing, but still a financial struggle).
4) Then after she was a year, we found out Kath's stroke diagnosis.
5) Two weeks later Roger had his roll-over car accident during a snowstorm, totaling the car we had just paid off and taken the collision coverage off--to save money--a few weeks prior)
6) and his head injury.
7) Our well stopped working and we needed a new one.
8) Our entire cesspool system stopped working and we needed a new one.
9) We had to purchase two new-used cars.

Each time we thought we were getting a grip on some unwieldy part of our life--something else slammed into us, with our credit card companies adding the icing on the cake by raising our interest rates and decreasing our limits then charging for being over this new lowered limit and all that craziness before federal credit card regulations thankfully came into play this past year. This basically decimated our credit scores.

What I noticed and maybe Hurricane Irene helped me notice--was how far I've come in how I look at problems and recovering/healing from them. In the beginning I used to say things like "Now what else?" but as time went on I began to say, "Ok, I'm ok, I can handle this."

I actually walked around saying that for a long time.
Until I believed it.
It took a long time.

I was introduced then reintroduced to the idea of Positive Thinking and Law of Attraction. Sounds hokey. But whatever works, right? It finally 'took.' I of course prayed, found strength in myself and found that all of those together are pretty amazing tools to have. I began to think of healing as being able to handle the big problems and the little problems without feeling like I was ripped open and walking around raw.

While Hurricane Irene was building momentum and coming up the coast we took her seriously. Afterall, this was a possible catastrophe we could actually PLAN for...we don't often get that opportunity. In my world, catastrophes hit you when you don't expect it...I don't get days notice to stock up on essentials. So we filled containers of water, made sure we had plenty of food, ice, batteries. The wash was caught up. Bathtubs were filled. Then we kept checking the news and the weather, watching the stories of what others were going through as the storm came closer. Praying Manhattan, where our son Chris lives, wouldn't flood. Praying my NYPD brother wouldn't have to risk his life to rescue some Hurricane Jerk. Praying my parents on Long Island would be okay without power and not need to evacuate. We packed up and packed in all outside objects we could so nothing would be a projectile, including my favorite outside porch chairs.

I also checked facebook and watched friends struggle with power outages, flooding and scared kids, prior to the storm actually reaching here...having a bit of a 'heads-up' warning of what to expect was pretty nice. Then I also read posts from people who seems to be trying to egg on the storm. "THAT was a hurricane? Irene was nothing!"

Those comments made me angry. Really upset. Didn't they know that when you are blessed to walk away from some catastrophe you don't say, "Eish, is that the best you got, Mother Nature?" If you are so fortunate to walk away unscathed from any type of storm, diagnosis, or evaluation, you don't taunt it, you walk away gratefully. You say thank you to God, the Source, whoever you pray to. To your planning, the early warning, the president, FEMA, your governor, the squirrels, whatever, but you don't thumb your nose and say, "Phsaw."

The reason people's attitudes probably bugged me so much because I was a bit cavalier like that before our crash.

Having so many issues to deal with, especially in a span of 2 years, has made me appreciate when things go right with a strength of conviction and gratefulness I never did before. Even the little things that others may take for granted, a sunny day after a storm, the fish survived another night, the dog didn't eat my junk food, are reasons to celebrate and be thankful.

I look at this storm...and the cups my daughter Alex, filled with water (we have jugs in the basement) so she could help prepare, and the furniture that could have stayed out of the garage and I say, "Whew, thank God we didn't need all that, but at least we knew we were as prepared as much as we possibly could be. We did what we could, we prepared ourselves for the worst and hoped for the best.

So when the basement sprung a leak, it was annoying and frustrating, but it was not as frazzling and overwhelming as it would have been when Kath was first diagnosed. Although when Kath did fall up the stairs, --after following us up and down while we swept up the water, she tripped and almost bit through her lip,--I did lose it. I couldn't even look at first. I held her, Roger hung up on his father and we tried to figure out if we were heading to the ER during the storm. The bleeding stopped and ice pops calmed her. Monday morning when I called the doctor's office to ask what to do...and found out I was doing right (Woo-hoo!) and all that could be done, I felt that notch click into place. I DO know what I am doing. Sometimes.

I think my idea of healing is also being able to breath again, without reminding myself to. You have to find what works for you, kind of like my idea of religion and faith (previous post). Some things that help me are Healing Touch, Power of Positive Thinking, Law of Attraction, doctor and therapy visits, grateful meditations, praying. It could also be as I said in my last post...showing up and getting back up after being knocked over. Or a combination of all of the above. I had to go through each of the above topics, reading, researching, trying them on, keeping the parts I felt worked, letting go of the parts that didn't.

One of the major constant sources of hope, help and sanity have been the fellow families who also struggle with a child on a different path, whether it is CHASA (see sidebar link for more info), facebook groups or friends I have who also have challenges. People who understand are priceless in surviving and healing in a way you just don't understand until you need them, and they are sadly scarce.

Whatever happens, whatever storm, diagnosis, evaluation, issue, I'm grateful that my tool bag of healing ideas is bigger today than it was five years ago when I began 'falling apart' with my son's accident. Some days I need each and every tool to get through the day standing. Other days, just one or three.

Healing one's body, mind and spirit is a slippery thing...maybe that's why there are so many books about it, therapists and thank goodness friends to help get us through.
Whatever works works.

Some days it all clicks and notches into place and I'm okay with the juggle of trying to keep everyone above the water. Other days I want to be on the damn beach already, sunbathing. But many of us know in our very core that now that we have embarked on this life, this journey of having a child with a different ability/path, a different Holland (, our days on the beach sunbathing are cherished healing breaths of regrouping--which may not happen as often as we want or need. No longer are those beach days the beach days of a carefree youth. We move and think differently than we did, than many of our friends do. No easy feat. One that often leaves us feeling lonely and adrift, unless we connect with other families.

We prepare for the worst and we hope the best. We smile. We laugh. We cry. We try to heal those around us and build bridges for them so they can reach mainland as often as possible and we hope we can heal ourselves along the way. And if we are smart, we learn that by trying to heal ourselves, by putting the oxygen mask (more on that soon) over our own face first, we can heal and be strong enough to help those we love around us, and we can weather the life storms with a bit more of ourselves in tact.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Book Review for Goodreads for Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings

Real Mermaids Don't Wear Toe RingsReal Mermaids Don't Wear Toe Rings by Helene Boudreau

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love reading YA books. I enjoy books from YA better than any other type...except maybe classic lit...but I really only like them after I've read them a few times and geek-discussed them to get at the core. But YA books, I love them. First time reading. And second. Especially when they are written well, with respect to their audience and with a strong protagonist. And if they have a good sense of humor...all the better!

Ms Boudreau's book was a choice book for my 7 year-old. She saw me reading it, liked the cover, loved the idea that I knew the writer and so she stuck with it although some of the talk (first period and boyfriend crushes) were beyond her (at least I HOPE they were, I explained some, but not everything).

The main character, Jade is grieving the loss of her mom (Alex is NOT happy with how many mom's die in stories, so she was thrilled at the ending, but wants a sequel) who allegedly drowned a year ago, and although this is tragic and very sad, Ms. Boudreau manages to play the healing sensitively and humorously, especially when Jade gets her period for the first time and her geeky father showing up, trying to help, with a shopping cart FULL of feminine projects from of her crush.

When Jade discovers that she turns into a mermaid she also finds out her mother was a mermaid, who had special permission to stay human. So how could a mermaid drown? The mystery thickens. Along with a frazzled best friend relationship which promises to pull her apart, unstudied for final exams, a mom sighting, Jade shows the reader that she is made of tougher stuff than that.

My daughter loves whenever a strong female character stands up for herself. She gets that nervous, excited giggle and she stands crouched on the balls of the feet at the end of the couch waiting for the next scene...she is a true pleasure to read to, she laughs out loud, she gets so nervous she'll hide her eyes, groan, and even ask me to stop, she can't take anymore. She went through all of these emotions, and I of course did too because this was a gripping, funny tale of a girl discovering who she is has more to do with her heart than her outside, whether she means the overweight outside or the fin-encased mermaid outside. Jade stands up and takes her spot in her own life and learns the power of making things happen. She learns how to apologize, how to keep good-for-you promises and how to stay true to yourself even if the boy has cute curly hair and a mysterious back story himself.

This was well worth the read and you should give it a read.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Watching the Clouds at the Beach (AKA Healing? We are NOT Life Wimps!)

I have been thinking a lot about healing lately. Healing of body, mind and spirit.

I think about how different it is-- for each type as well as for each person.

Three and a half years ago Roger had a roll over car accident, he needed 6 staples to his head, and we believe he has undiagnosed post concussive syndrome. He has memory issues as well as issues with too many stimuli-he can be easily overwhelmed-which is not good for the father of four, high school teacher in an inner city school, early morning newspaper deliverer and husband of ME. He still struggles with parts of it but he isn't as easily flustered now, and believe me, Kath tries. He's trying to find coping strategies that work around his issues.

Nick had his head-on collision with a cinderblock wall five years ago and is diagnosed with post concussive syndrome and he struggles every day with memory, as well as self discipline and assorted other issues. He's still trying to figure out the outer edges of his injury and what his new goals have to be in order to move forward.

Then there's Kath stroke and the myriad of issues that has provided us.

For each of these things that needs healing I notice that it is similar to the other two types...even when one deals with a mental or spiritual 'hit' you have to go through a grieving process, it seems. The mourning for the life path you thought you were on, but are no longer. The person or persons you thought you knew and find you don't. The confusion over 'why' and 'why me' and 'who is driving this boat, anyway?'

Roger and Nick wish they could get those seconds before their accidents back and stop them from happening. I remember thinking and praying I wouldn't have a child with issues, I didn't think I could handle it (I didn't know about Law of Attraction back then, but Nick had just had his accident). However, when I was asked to take tests for different health issues...I chose not to...knowing I would have and want my baby no matter what the tests showed. After Kath was diagnosed, I definitely mourned the life she didn't seem to have a chance at anymore and the life I wouldn't be able to fold back into.

But as I sat on the beach this week I thought a lot about healing. The girls and I went to Long Island to check in on my mother who is healing from spinal surgery (Alex was finally ready for some travel after healing from having her tonsils and adenoids removed) and also so the girls and I could go to the beach.

The forecast for the day we were to go to the beach called for thunderstorms. I decided to go anyway, with the idea that we could sit in the car and eat lunch, while still be breathing in salt air. We weren't going to be fair-weather beach bums. So we packed up towels, sunblock, beach toys, umbrellas, rain boots and off we went.

The clouds were even darker and more foreboding once we arrived at Robert Moses, field five, but we trekked to the water, opened our chairs and pulled out our lunches...and we were not alone. There were several other blanket neighbor families. About three minutes into eating we had our first metaphor for life. Kath put her sandwich on top of the cooler and I thought it fell, so I did the normal mom whine..."Kaaath, you have to watch what you're doing. Now your sandwich is in the ....where is your sandwich?" She just looked at me, and a little beyond me, eyes wide. I turned around and there was a Band of Brothers Brood of Seagulls staring at us, looking a little militant. The sandwich was already consumed and they were looking for the next weak move on our part. It was swallowed whole and they had no qualms about staring us down until we dropped our guard.

Just like in life, sometimes you think you are going along all fine and good and wham...someone snatches away your moment. Or your food. Sometimes it takes the wind right out from under you and startled you just stand and say, "What the hell just happened?" Luckily this time I was semi-prepared. I packed extra sandwiches! And my blanket neighbor buddies all shared in the moment, we laughed and it is a funny story. Now. Especially when Kath tells it in her high breathless squeal, "THE SEAGULL STOLE MY SANDWICH!!!" I thought, "This is fun, I'm so glad we came."

There were boughts of sun as it burned through some clouds. It really did look like it BURNED through too. The sky was covered in strips upon strips of layered clouds but there were areas where the sun lit up the sky in light waves and other times when it blew completely through the clouds...and poured straight down in a perfect circle of a hole that lit up where we happened to be. And I thought, "This is so beautiful, I'm so glad we came."

It did start to rain. One of our blanket neighbor buddies--an older couple with their grandchildren said, "Don't worry, it will pass quickly." I laughed and said, "Ah, spoken like the people who are under an umbrella!" And he laughed and said, "Well, we always have to believe that, don't we? That it'll pass quickly? Or we wouldn't do anything!" And it was suddenly one of those moments where you know you are getting life advice from a wise person...not just a weather report. This couple was one of the healthiest older couples I had ever seen. They ran around and played with the three kids, he swam laps in the ocean and had very fit legs, might I add, in a hopefully nonstalkerish way! And she smiled and laughed with her whole essence. And because he said that, even though I started to pack all of our things into our beach buggy, we stayed and it DID pass quickly. And I thought, "Wow, that is like life, sometimes those storms look so bad and you think you'll have to duck and cover, but all it takes is one person, sometimes a complete stranger to say, "Hey, it's okay..." and you stop the panic and you say..."Hhmmmooookay" and you see those great big raindrops aren't meant to be scary (this time), that the bad did just pass quickly and we can get back on track with our fun. And that was exactly what we did. Sometimes 'bad stuff' isn't horrible and breathtaking, it's just 'notgreat/notgood' and having that reminder is good. I thought, "Wow, I'm really glad we stayed."

Alex build a huge sand castle kingdom. Alex is my shy, focused kid. Very much like Nick use to be when he was younger, and in many ways he still is. She was determined to build this huge kingdom...she brought buckets up and down so many times, and the sand just sucked them up (we were too far away from the water), and she was too stubborn to stop. There was a two foot drop off from the area we had our blanket on to the water (it looked like the state had done some plowing of pushing sand inland) and so she had to go down a little ways where it wasn't so high, and back and forth she continued. Alex was not distracted by the two little grandboys next blanket over who were 'falling' off--in Charlie Chaplin style-- the two foot cliff, she barely looked at them. Well, except to eyeball them and her castle as if to say, "Don't mess with this, grrr." (Come to think of it, she might have learned something of that look from the militant seagulls.) Kath, on the other hand, was belly laughing at their antics...thereby providing an appreciative audience for them and egging them back on.

Side by side my serious girl and my goofball.

Kath lay back in the sand and swung her legs and left arm up and down. "What are you doing?" "I'm making a sand angel!" So I went over and helped her right hand make its path so she could have her angel with two wings. It was an instinct, but maybe I should have let it be. The way she is is fine with me, but I do try to 'fix' it sometimes and I never know if I'm right to. I know it is right for her to have therapy and to work so she can have the most use out of her body with cerebral palsy, but I wonder if I always should be 'correcting.' Sometimes, I think she should just be allowed to be. I didn't try to 'correct' Alex...I let her just be to figure it out on her own, but for Kath everything seems to be a lesson or therapy. I sat there watching them thinking, "I'm so glad we came and played. And that they make me rethink, always, even if it's exhausting."

Down by the water Alex is a dolphin who would LOVE to dive right in. Kath makes me hold her, then she clamps her lips tight. The last time we went to the beach she laughed sea water right in and down her throat. Kath learned quickly to keep her mouth closed, but she learned it to such an excess that even up on my hip, her lips are pursed and locked as she laughs nonstop, although muffled. I finally put her down and made her reapproach the water on her level...and by the end of the day she was doing that great little girl loop of running-and-laughing-like-the-wild-thing-she-is into the little waves then running out onto the beach and still laughing-and- running back into the waves. Watching them, I thought, "This is so freeing, I'm so glad we came."

Then another healing/life lesson was the rip tide. Once they both got their confidence wouldn't you know, the tide shifted and there was a very strong rip tide current. So I had to teach again about how beautiful and fun it looks on the surface, (my little self-life metaphor is it's just like some people, situations, life itself) but yet underneath there is something that wants to just knock you off your feet. Despite this, they still had fun feeling the tug from a safe distance, digging, grabbing shells, running in the winds and laughing deep in their core. Despite the danger, I was glad we were there.

I'm not sure if I really did learn anything earth shattering about healing, but I know that I came to the ocean for some healing and as I watched those clouds, the seagulls and the riptide I was oh, so very glad that I hadn't sat back; that I had risked the day. Instead of staying safe at home, I went to the beach when a storm was possible, and in my effort not to lose any beach time, I dipped my toes into solace, watched my kids just be and have fun and I breathed. Maybe it isn't really about healing (whatever THAT word does mean!)...whether from physical injury, mental insult or injury, or spiritual lags, maybe it's just about waiting the yuck stuff out, hoping the rough stuff passes through quickly, but at the same time keeping your eyes open to the humor, the joy, the inspiration, the teachable moments, the importance of blanket neighbor buddies, and the deep breaths of just being. in. the. moment.

On the way home the girls dug into a bowl of watermelon slices, polishing them off before we reached grandma's and our dinner out-- more stickiness added to the baby powder sand removal, some sun on everyone's skin that eeked around the sunblock...and further proof that worrying about dinner appetites and sticky, sandy skin is for wimps. And if my girls helped to show me anything on this storm-like beach is that we are definitely not Life Wimps. And maybe healing is just a metaphor for getting up and trying again the next day.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

If you haven't hung around a 4 year-old in a while...

I strongly suggest it. As long as your intentions are pure.

Have you ever heard the squeal of a child who is watching a slug inch its way across the pavement and when she accidentally touches it she says it felt like a kiss--wet and squeeshy? I never would think of describing it like that...but she does not yet have the prejudices of 'good' and 'bad' bugs or whatever species they are. All bugs are kinda cool to Kath..except the ones that bite..oh and ants (we've had our fair share of those buggers this year).

"This paper makes me smile; it's fun to write on!" "Why did he say he hated her?" "I playing." "I love you."

How about when a four year old grumbles? That is pretty hilarious. "Grrrrr, where is the garbage pail?!" I moved the garbage pail to a new post in the laundry room yesterday, but since I'm on a cleaning rant it has been following me room to room. So it moved to the front of the pantry and craft area with me today. She looked at me, eyes flashing, "You need to move that back!" She didn't like going to the pail's new spot and finding it gone. She likes things in their spot, even if that spot is only one day old. She especially finds a value to things being put where they belong if she is trying to FIND that object, not necessarily when she is putting that object AWAY herself.

Or how about when they exclaim "Dammit!"? Roger doesn't think it's funny, but of course I think it is. No, I don't want my kids to be cursers, but Kath actually uses the word correctly...when she is extremely frustrated. Yesterday she even had Roger laughing. He asked if she was ready for her second book (at bedtime). She told him, "I have no underwear on!" (How he, who got her ready for bed, wasn't aware of this---I have NO IDEA, but it may help to explain the high level of frustration I have some days and then the shrugging and 'whatever-mode' I alternate between--I cannot make up this insanity.) So Roger told her she had to go get her panties, she left them in the bathroom. She heaved herself up, grumbling, "Dammit!" as she went.

Oh, and as for feeding the animals. Whether it is the birds outside, or the cat, dog or fish inside it is a major production. If we spell C-O-O-K-I-E, Bucca (our Staffordshire Terrier, aka pit bull) goes nuts and tramples (in comedic form) whomever is so kind (crazy) to attempt to get her a dog treat. Moran (our feral, no-longer-quite-so-wild cat) will weave between anyone's legs when she is trying to coax you to the food and bowl. The birds outside will 'yell' at us if we forget to feed them. They sit at the feeder or on the deck and squawk, staring in the windows, until I grab the food and fill the feeder. The squirrels will help themselves if the birdseed is accessible--which it IS to anyone who can chew through plastic containers. The fish...the aquarium is up and running and we finally have Alex's favorite fish, the pleka AKA the sucker fish. The girls fight over who gets to feed the fish and who gets to feed the sucker. However, no one fights over cleaning the tank or the kitty litter box.

I love the sounds of my two little girls playing in the playroom. Amazingly cool. I love when they play 'family' and 'the mom' sounds so kind and loving. (Whew! :D) And I love when they play school and say how much they love to learn. I love the spontaneous concerts of songs sung at the tops of their lungs, I've missed that while Miss Alex heals. I love too how Kath will just sit down and play with playdo, imagine sandy worlds in the indoor sandbox or find fun books to look at. And how much Alex loves to read and write and draw. Alex's healing from getting her tonsils and adenoids removed has been slower than we hoped but she's starting to play more, a sure sign of recovery.

"I found the book we jump in!!!" (It was Winnie-the-Pooh, Kath saw the movie coming attractions where Christopher Robin jumps into the book.) "I had a dream a penguin came home!" "Hold me, I had a bad dream."

My, how little kids love with their whole being! "You are the best mommy in the whole world!" That's something I hear daily from my 4 and 7 year-olds, but rarely from my 22 and 23 year-olds. :) Not that they don't think it (haha) but once we become adults we don't tend to GUSH our love so openly and unconditionally.

When people say to me..."You were almost 'done.' Why were you so crazy as to have more kids when the boys were almost out of the house?" I say and I mean it--now more than ever: Because I never want my house to be empty of little voices that belly laugh, point out how clever slugs are, or how amazing sucker fish are. I never want to forget how wonderful the lens is which kids look at life, unprejudiced by the things adults allow to fog up their life's windshields. Because when I sit and talk to my little girls I see what really matters and I breathe a whole different air than I do otherwise. The only other time I get to feel that way is when I write, when I try to recreate those worlds where a person can just jump in and get absorbed by a book, like Christopher Robin.

I want to be the one who has playdo in my nails, crayons in my pocketbook and a sandbox in my foyer...forever. I want to be the person who watches that sucker fish wiggle around and says, "Hey! Look at that guy!" I want to be the life experienced 43 year-old woman I am with the perspective, optimism and love of a 4 year-old and the wisdom, kindness and appreciation of a 7 year-old.

This is my new life goal.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Book Review for Goodreads for Persuasion by Jane Austin

PersuasionPersuasion by Jane Austen

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jane Austin managed to write books that were not simply romances, not simply cultural/societal tellers for the time period, but also studies in human behavior. I never thought of the similarities between the Cinderella story and this until I did some further reading on the book.

I read this book awhile ago and enjoyed it, but now that I reread it I think I must have been sleeping when I first read it. Here is a story of a person who has made a decision when she was 19, has to live with it and around it for 8 and half years until she can somehow try to fix it and reclaim her life.

There are so many really great literary parts to it but the story itself...I was never impressed with Anne Elliot. I thought she was weak to have been persuaded so easily, until I remembered (especially now that I am OLDER) how easily it is to be unsure of one's self, especially at 19. She spent the next 8 1/2 years living her life, taking care of others and keeping true to herself. She didn't believe in the societal trappings of needing to marry for the sake of marriage and since she feels she threw away her chance at love, she stays single.

Throughout the book we see Anne Elliot's softness and her quietness is often overlooked as a sign of weakness. But underneath she is a strong person who is trapped in her time. Well, until Captain Frederick Wentworth steps back into her life that is. He is still the man who makes her stomach flip, but she stands aside as he seems ready to chose another. She has no claim. However, once he is at liberty (minor misunderstanding that almost traps him in Lyme), she makes sure he knows her feelings and she steps back into his life, literally at the concert and figuratively with her philosophy about how a woman loves longest with Captain Harville. Captain Wentworth is a man worthy of Anne, he has stayed true to her and he writes an incredible letter asking her to say once and for all, is there still a chance?

At the same time as all this soul piercing love is going on, we see the silliness of Anne's own family as they feel they are worthier and better looking than they are. I enjoyed how dimensional all the side characters were designed. We get to see how important connections were to the society levels, and how easy it was to get away with being a false person. We see the trappings of this time period and how people either rise above it or succumb to being caricatures of themselves.

I enjoyed Ms Austin's language, her story and her ability to grip your heart as you breathed life with the characters then also laughed with the absurdities. I will definitely be rereading this one. Again.

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Sunday, August 7, 2011

Book Review for Goodreads for Princess School:If the Shoe Fits

Princess School: If the Shoe FitsPrincess School: If the Shoe Fits by Jane B. Mason

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ugh. I just wrote a pretty long review and something made it disappear.

And of course I didn't save it first. Ugh. Anyway...

My 7 year old has been eating and loving these books. Her eyes light up when she reads them. She even has to put the book down sometimes because she gets so upset with some action a character did. She asked me to read these books along with her and I said yes, but it really did just go on the bottom of my own huge mental pile of books-to-read until I was trapped under a sleeping child and this book was the only thing I could reach.

I was very grateful and happy that Jane Mason and Sarah Hines Stephens are so good at telling a good story. By using the main princess characters that many of us know, with peeks at a few other fairy tale characters (Red Riding Hood), these authors weave the story of 'before they were famous.' This book is about Ella and how she not only has to deal with her horrible backstory (abusive family, yes a silent father is abusive in this situation), but also school, fitting in, figuring out who she is, clothes that don't fit and are rags, bone wearying chores, and dealing with other girls who bully.

Overall, I found the voice of this story easy to get into and easy to like. I found that what and how the authors were saying was a really great and powerful message for young girls to hear. Life is tough sometimes, but a magic wand will not solve your problems, however if you study hard, work hard and do the right thing (even when it is hard) and surround yourself with a strong support group of friends you can weather anything.

I will not worry about my daughter being so absorbed in these stories. They are well-written with a good message told by likable characters who don't get a wand and a fairy godmother to get them out of the difficult times, they have to use their brains and count on their friends. This was a good read.

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Friday, August 5, 2011

Tonsils and Adenoids Gone AKA Didn't There Seem to be More Fireflies When We were Growing up?

My brave Alexandra worked on making a potholder on the way to the hospital on Monday. Then while waiting to be called she and I walked around the gift shop and we worked on a Word Find Puzzle book with daddy.

We spent the weekend before worrying about whether we would be able to even HAVE the surgery since Little Girl started to sit around and say assorted things like, "My ear hurts," "Both ears hurt," "My stomach hurts," all which are indicators for Alex's strep. I took her to on-call on Sunday and she was even running a fever. However, that was the only time she ran a on-call. She tested negative for strep and no for an ear infection. So we went to the hospital the next day, told them about our weekend. They checked her over and decided that since their check-up and our thoughts were in agreement, the surgery would go on. (I think her body was reacting to pre surgery stress.)

I don't think I would have been as brave as she was. Actually I was nervous and sick to my stomach, but trying to fake it. I think I did okay because she usually feeds off my vibes and she was, as I said, amazing. She made sure her mind was occupied so she didn't get lost in the fear. Wow.

And during this week of recovery she has continued to be amazing. She takes her medicine. Eats her ices and she tells me not to make her laugh. Of course there is pain and discomfort but she seems to have expected and prepared for the worse, until Thursday and Friday mornings, when she seemed to falter for a few hours but she got the meds in her and rebounded. Those were also the first mornings after she slept through the night, taking meds but not drinking every few hours.

She and I sleep on the couch so she doesn't wake Kath, and so I can grab her ice, meds, walk her to the bathroom. Yet every early morning Kath has woken up, searched us out and followed our scent to the living room. She climbs over me and snuggles in so the three of us are sleeping on one couch.

Big Bro Nick came to the hospital and was there when Alex woke and came the next day and watched a movie with her (Spy Kids). Big Bro Chris wished he lived closer but called and texted. She has enjoyed having time to just be together with me at night. She has been reading now that she can handle it again, she wouldn't read the first two nights, but now she can read for hours. She has loved the cards she has received and is looking forward to the IHOP gift certificate when she heals and can devour pancakes.

While we were waiting in the surgical waiting room Roger asked me if I ever had to go to the doctors with the boys as much as the girls. I said no, but then I remembered that shortly after Chris was born the doctors found his fontanel closed up prematurely. Every month for his first year I had to take him to a hospital to have him checked. Every month, while I was 20 years old, I had to look at Chris' developmental stages and remark back to the doctors. We were lucky; each month he was ahead of the developmental curve.

I thought back to each child and each one has had his or her times of stressful worry. A couple of them keep it going for longer than the other ones, but each one has dug in and made a niche of worry in my heart and claimed certain grey hairs as his/her own from the boy whose fontenel closed up too early to the boy who ran into the wall to the girl who has been sick since she walked into kindergarten to the girl who had a stroke before she was born.

Alex asked me to 'test' her on these bug info cards Wednesday (I know...isn't she crazy?) One of the cards was about the firefly. My girls didn't recognize that beautiful bug that magically lights up the night time dark areas of my childhood. Granted some of it is because they are inside and in bed by dark most of the time. Granted they are too young (and we live in the boonies) to play SPUD with the neighborhood kids, but I thought how sad it was that even now I didn't see many of those bugs. Is it because I didn't stay up late playing SPUD and other street games like I did growing up on Long Island or was it because the bugs are disappearing or is it because we don't often stop to really look around at the things that light up...especially when we can play on Facebook for hours or get lost in the dark areas of our adulthood doing our day to day stuff?

I thought I would spend the summer sitting outside writing. I do try. I sit on the front porch and watch the hummingbirds in the morning for a few minutes, before my kids' locator device zones in and I'm found. But my visions of sitting on the back deck in the screened gazebo, after everyone goes to sleep are not happening, partly because we don't have a screen on the back door and I would have to close the door. One more barrier if I have to escape a bear...I'd have to unzip the gazebo door and pull open the oft-stuck back sliding glass door...I'm not sure I can do that faster than a bear. Yep. I'm a freak.

But even so. Where are the lightening bugs? Remember that time of life when it was fun to run around in the dark, the glare of the streetlights shining/blinding you to a loud obnoxious neighborhood game of "Freeze Tag" or "Hide and Seek." Our parents were usually sitting at someone's stoop talking, maybe drinking a beer and they were laughing and being obnoxious, too. We caught lightening bugs, kept them in that special Lightening Bug Container with the green top with the air holes.

Didn't life seem so much easier? When all we had to do was yell "Spud" or "Freeze" or "Red Light Green Light 1-2-3" and everything did stop? For at least a few seconds. Or how about when you asked to be spun around--Salt meant slow, Sugar was medium, Pepper was fast. The Spinner would grab your forearms and spin you both around in circles and sometimes just let go of you...well, usually just let go of you. The next part of the game was when after you fell the Spinner got to come around and tell you what he wanted you to pretend you were or were doing based on how you fell. And you had to do that until the Spinner yelled stop or you all just laughed too hard and someone needed to go to the bathroom.

Nowadays it is filled with...a lot of other things. When I read my homepage on Facebook it is a mix of people who have children with health issues, friends who have health issues or their family members who do, friends with children with disabilities, writer friends, high school friends, students. Everyone has something going on, but so many times my wall is filled with people who stop and show the rest of us their lightening bugs.

The pictures of accomplishments. The positive quotes. The amazing stories. The wonderful "Like" button.

Of all things..Spy Kids...I think 3...lots of movies this week...ended with the grandfather saying to his arch enemy that he was upset with all that he lost because he was in a wheel chair...but he wouldn't trade that for all he living this different life. This adult life of mine is not about catching real lightening bugs anymore, chasing them in the dark, gently placing my hands around them, trying not to smother them, watching them light up, then move on, then light up...but my life is a lot like that still.

Today Kath traced her hand (by herself), cut it out and then taped it to the wall so everyone could see. She did some mazes (follow the letters A,a to get Abigail to the apple trees). My little lightening bug lit up, moved on, lit on, moved on. (Her attention span is about as long as those bugs light up, but even that is improving in leaps and bounds). Alex flitted through the last few days lighting up and showing us how to deal with something out of one's control, she did it with strength and with heart. She lit up, moved on, lit up.

While I've been looking around saying, "Eish when I was kid I chased lightening bugs and life was easier" my daughters have showed me, 'Childhood might look like that when you look at it from 5 foot 4 and 43 years but it really is about the same kinds of things. That is IF you let it. The setting might look different, the players may appear wiser, but maybe that is just how it appears with these hindsight glasses.

Maybe some days we are just more weary than others and we don't move on, so we rest, and we don't appear to glow. Then after we regain our strength, we move on, lighting up as we go and not even realizing we lit someone's path.

This is a thank you to my friends who especially helped me this week (and well, for all those other dark times too), whether you watched Kath, made us a tray of mac and cheese, sent prayers and healing thoughts, texted, sat and watched a movie or even shared a funny story in your memory about someone cutting off their hair just like Kath did this week (that can be its own blog post!)! Thank you for reminding me that those little lightening bugs are still there bringing the magic into the dark spots.

Thank you, my lightening bug friends and family.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Book Review for Goodreads for Jane Eyre.

Jane EyreJane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well, since I've been on a Jane Austin kick and I happen to see the movie "Jane Eyre" who had an actor from "Persuasion" as Rochester, I decided to give it a go. That lead to looking for more movie versions of "Jane Eyre" (I get obsessed sometimes). I read that Toby Stephens' Rochester from Masterpiece Theatre's version was fantastic and steamy. So I figured I would give it a try, not expecting to like it half as much as the BBC version. Alas, I fell in love with Toby Stephen's Rochester. I watched it several times and then grabbed the book off my shelf so I could compare the dialogue between the two versions. Finally I stopped the movies and threw myself into the book.

Ah Ms Bronte. You wove such a tale that when I was younger I would not have appreciated the difficulty of Rochester's life decisions, nor Jane Eyre's. There were passages where I stopped and reread for the simplicity of the power of her language. For example, when Charlotte Bronte writes, "And with that answer he left me. I would much rather he had knocked me down" I don't think one too young can understand that intense feeling, how devastating one's coldness could be to someone who is passionate. (And that just made me dislike St John, the person she was writing about, even more.)

I have carried the book around with me this week so that I can read whenever possible. In between my daughter's surgery and running for ice chips. Admittedly I did sneak it several times because my stomach was in knots waiting to see what and why and how Jayne Eyre would carry on in a time when women were limited in their choices. I was often mad at her for her apparent coldness to Rochester, even though I understood her motivations and fully supported her. I wanted her to cut him some slack, and I really wanted her to toss St John on his backside. (She was good enough to be a labourer for St John, but not to love! Hurumph.)

Then when Jane Eyre heard Edward's voice cry out to her and she answered. AND HE HEARD. Wow. I thought how powerful a connection they have (I believe in that stuff), even though she does not tell him that she did cry out those same words. More than just a romance novel this book made me rethink the time period, the long walks that cleared one's head and made one healthier (I'm afraid of the dark and JE often came home wet and in the dark, weren't there wild animals there?) and of course the importance of staying true to one's core. Afterall if you don't have yourself, then who do you have when everyone else leaves you?

I did wonder why Ms Bronte left the book ending talking about St John though, instead of our Edward, since he was the chosen one and the one I most wanted to know 'what else' about.

I enjoyed the "Dear Reader" aspect of the writing and I'm considering using that tool myself since I found myself looking, paying more attention when Ms Bronte addressed me specifically. It was as if we were talking across a cup of tea and she was trying to give me a head's up to what she was thinking.

This is a book I would reread. It actually made me consider working on a course of women's lit...The Nondamsels or something like that. Enjoy!

View all my reviews

Friday, July 29, 2011

You know those puzzles in a plastic frame you find in goody bags?

We spent Thursday morning together at the Albany Art Museum. Alex went to a mosaic class and Kath and I roamed the museum. Since we were there for Alex's class, an hour before the museum opened, we sat and read books in the closed gift store's outer chairs first. One would think that it would be like a cemetery in a big old museum before the people come, but it's really an energy filled place. But that may have been partially due to my company.

Once we were permitted to roam we scanned some rooms of newer art. Kath surprised me with her perspective. In front of some pieces she stepped away and said, "I don't like that one." I said, "Why not?" "It's broken." And sure enough the picture showed some sad component of life. Hmmm.... Later on that night she plopped down on the couch and said, "When I growed up, I'm gonna be an artist."

How great is it that she sees so many options in her future? (After a class at the science museum she said she wanted to be a science teacher in a museum.) How many 4 year-olds even think of that? How many 40 year olds do?

We saw the sculptures, one of her favorite exhibits. Then the Egyptian section. She. Did. Not. Like. That. Room. She made me hold her as she peered at the two mummies as if she expected them to sit up at any moment.

A snack on the grass in front of the buildings watching Albany traffic pass us by, restored her good humor. Double Stuff Oreos are magic.

Alex made a beautiful tiled mosaic picture (I'll upload a picture). She loves art. She loves making and doing anything creative. Her art teacher at school calls her Georgia (as in Georgia O'Keefe).

On the way back home, so big bro Nick could watch the girls while I ran to the pediatric neurological psychologist for Kath's results, I snapped at Kath. I've been so patient, not that I haven't tried to move her along at times, or that I've allowed her to walk all over me, just that I haven't snapped with impatience/anger. I've been able to slow down this summer and really follow her thinking, if that makes sense, so that I can anticipate issues and try to provide her with some balance and tools so she can better figure out this world and its rapid changes. Not this time. She looked at me as if I betrayed her and she wailed. Not the cry of someone who got caught doing something wrong, not the cry of someone thinking, "Oh, yeah! Make me miserable, I'll make you miserable (and deaf)." No, this was a look and a cry of, "I thought you 'got me' but you're just like the rest." During this past school year there was lots of that, with me going back to teaching full time and her entering preschool, but this summer we've really been able to figure out our rhythm, for the most part. And I believe that has made a huge difference in how far she has come this summer, she's been a sponge.

It broke my heart and stayed with me the rest of the day. But I had to get her home and run back out to the appointment 45 minutes away.

The appointment. According to the doctor her play is the play of someone a year younger than she is, especially because of her cooperative play, he says she doesn't do that. I'm not real sure how that is gauged, perhaps from a school report. However, when Kath is home and playing with her sister the two of them reenact books they've read, movies they've seen and many times they just make up stories. Kath does usually follow Alex's lead, but Alex is the big sister. Although Kath is not the kind to just go along if she doesn't want to (as anyone who has read any of my FB statuses knows!).

She was tested as knowing 6 letters from the alphabet. She of course knows more than that now when they are in order, but since she's been home for the summer she has been sponging all things ABC. We restarted our ABC movie nights. We choose a movie that begins with the letter we are covering that week, then we have food that also starts with that letter. I point out the letter where ever we see it in the real world as well as books we read. Today we watched "Beauty and the Beast" and ate burritos, blueberries, black bean salad, rapsBerries, blueberry juice, bananas. Since another aspect the doctor told us would be difficult for her is her connecting the sound to the letter, we started to work on that this week, too. (B says bbbb)

A few other highlights from my appointment were that there was a huge discrepancy in how the school and in how we scored Kath for her executive brain functions in regards to how she handles transitions/shifting. We both ranked Kath as normal range for inhibition and emotional control, and in the danger zone for working memory and organization/planning, but her school ranked her normal also for transitions.

These scores are not based one question, but a survey of questions (I think there were over 100 questions) that are then scored and ranked to provide the range for each area.

Anyone who has spent an hour with Kath, especially when she has to work at something, knows that she doesn't transition easily/normally. That's actually a huge deal in her learning process. And I find it very concerning that her school would not have remarked that transitions were so tough for her. Although it does help me to understand her level of frustration in regards to school itself the past few months and maybe they just thought she was not behaving.

The doctor and I spent time talking about how lucky we are that Kath is female since girls have a stronger ability to use both sides of their brains even after the stroke impairs one side, unlike boys who are usually more one-sided. Then we had huge important conversations about reading readiness and how, because of where the stroke hit in her brain, she will have to be handled differently with her reading process.

Many of you know (or will) how important reading is for the success of a student in school and then of course in many aspects of critical thinking and life (and how it starts waaaay before the actual reading begins). Kath also has vision issues which can hamper her ability to see and handle reading as well. And yes, I have hopes that my Kath will far exceed the prognosis she got at Boston Children's (where we went for a second opinion) when we were told she might not ever graduate and will have heavy Individual Education Programs for her whole school experience. I am however, expecting she will live a full and complete life, have a career and a family, travel (and take me with her!), write, read, and do whatever she would like.

So. I haven't written because it was exhausting to once again process all and then try to figure out what to do with the information.

I calmly absorbed the information in the office. Like I said, no big surprises other then that the doctor acknowledged that I know my daughter. He said usually the school gets it more right in regard to how the child 'works.' But he acknowledged that I seem to be more on target with who she is and I'm very in-tuned with her.

But once in the car those nervous tears began. "What am I going to do to make sure that Kath gets all that she needs from her schooling when during her first year in, I feel like she didn't? And her evaluation from them also seemed to show some misunderstanding of who she is." (There was another part of the evaluation where the school report was pretty much a polar opposite to what I thought in regards to her attention level. The doctor said sometimes teachers score that side down so doctors won't prescribe meds...really!?) We got a report from the school before the end of the year that the staff didn't know how to deal with Kath when she got frustrated. That disheartened me when I consider that she was in a really small class and she should have been able to find a solid footing of success there. Especially since she was in a special education school. What will happen in a public school?

(I'm not trying to bash her teacher or her school. As a teacher I know full well how overwhelming teaching is. I believe they did the best they could with what they understood about Kath. I'm now worried about Kath going into school at a time when so many education cuts have drastically reduced programs for all students and have overextended teachers to the a dangerous point.)

Then I had a sudden thought. I had brought up with the doctor when he was discussing how she would need a program like Reading Recovery that I had my Master's degree in Reading.

But what I suddenly thought about Master's in Reading certifies me to teach Kindergarten through 12th grade, which is in one of the most important and fundamental areas my daughter is going to need help with. I could teach other people's children in any grade K thru 12, why not mine? And after seeing the special ed teacher's appraisal, maybe I wouldn't be such a bad option afterall. I know her. I know teaching. I know her.

When I chose my Master's Degree I didn't really know what to choose. It was more of a fluke. Sure, I enjoyed reading. Sure, I wanted to be the least expendable crew member by being able to teach all grades...and when I first began my education I DID want to be an elementary teacher...until I actually taught the upper grades and fell in love with that. So now all of this has me wondering if everything has been gearing me towards this.

Whatever 'this' is.

When my boys were younger I wanted to homeschool them. I was talked out of it and I am a bit glad I didn't because I know so much more now. Every year we have considered it with Alex. And now here I am again. Although with Kath it would be so much more intense, what to do with the therapies?

I believe I am on the cusp of so many huge changes, I just feel it, but I feel like I'm one of those puzzles you find in a child's goody bag, where you have to shift the pieces around in the plastic frame to make the picture. I keep getting closer to what I want/to figuring out the Big Picture, but then a piece will be out of place and I will have to readjust and redo a huge chunk of the puzzle, then I get close again....

So, only time will tell what 'this' is. What the Big Picture is. I suppose the only way I could realistically trade in my classroom keys for my house keyed classroom is if somehow money was not an issue.

Like I said, things feel close to pulling together. Wouldn't it be great if this blog morphed yet again into a blog about a writer on the cusp of publishing her first YA book and homeschooling her stroke survivor daughter? :) The opportunities are there. I just need that door to open a little wider so I can get my butt in. :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Kath teaches me. Again. I wish there was a section for this on her neuro psych eval!!

I write this knowing I probably won't publish this until I know the outcome of her testing tomorrow.

Tomorrow I go to the neuro pysch and hear what his evaluation is of how Kath learns. I know from past experiences and from how she did on the test while I sat there, that she won't score well. But I also know that she knows MUCH more than she ever shows at these tests.

She is asked to do many tasks she does every single day...repeat back words, phrases, sentences. When she and Alex play together, Alex will feed her lines. Kath will recite entire sentences. But when asked to repeat in a testing situation "Sleep well" she turns her head to the side and ducks under my arm as if her brain can't handle it.

When she is asked to look at pictures and decide relationships and connections, she again turns away and acts as though she doesn't know what a relationship is.

When asked what objects in a picture are, she crosses her arms, looks away and hides her eyes.

All of this appears to be signs of a girl with very short term memory who cannot recall words, doesn't understand relationships, and so on. Yet this very same girl recites lines from her sister; looks at art work in the gallery and tells me the 'story behind the picture' from clues some adults don't notice; when we visit people's houses she remembers what we ate or some other obscure thing from months ago; or a day or so later she'll ask me a question of understanding the motivation of a character in a movie she saw ('why did that mommy try to sink her daughter?'...from the movie "10th Kingdom." It's not as bad as this sounds.). I love that although she has no idea the word 'drown' exists, she found a word and made it work for understanding. Pretty cool, huh?

Kath learns differently. I used to say the world just needs to slow down so Kath can catch up, but sometimes I think we should all slow down because Kath notices things the rest of us are missing.

This girl with a vision issue, a possible field cut, will see a dandelion, or a wild blue flower (no idea what it is called) and just need to go capture it, show me, pick it. She will stop us in our tracks during a walk through a parking lot to pick up a rock we bypassed and show us its amazing inner beauty.

The girl with CP and a lack of fine motor control will grip the pencil in a most awkward position (believe me I try to make her more comfortable with the 'correct' grip, but now I wonder if I should just shut up and leave her alone) and she will draw pictures that when anyone looks at them, look like an absolute mess of scribbles. But if you request a walk through that picture you see so much thought, originality and feeling. AND if you pick up that picture a week later and ask her to explain it again...she will say the same thing. Because it IS what she said it is. She's not just scribbling.

This girl with CP also loves to dance. When she dances her whole body lights up and smiles. She giggles that joyful laugh of someone absolutely filled with love and joy of what she's doing. She is in love with what her body can do. And her body doesn't even listen to her brain half the time.

This girl has speech issues, but if you could hear the songs she makes up! They vary from beautiful ballads to the worst bathroom humor thrown into a melody. Oy.

My girl's eyes light with impish delight and bold creativity and thirsty intellect. But whenever she takes these tests, or must 'perform' on demand, in a school setting especially, she folds her arms, pulls her heart and soul into her turtle shell and refuses to dance.

This is why I say the world should not judge others who learn differently and tag them as "disabled" or "slow." The world may look at my daughter's skills and think they know her abilities and her limits, they may think her scores say or justify them saying, "Oh, she is special ed and needs to learn more slowly. She needs...."

Yes, my daughter learns differently. Somethings fast. Somethings slow. Just like most children do. But she has shown me that learning is definitely not linear. Kath learns by doing, redoing. Discussing, reading, thinking, acting it out. Sometimes repeating all over again. (I learn best that way too, hmmm, I wonder how many of us do.)

She works harder than many of us ever have to. She knows the world spins the same for the rest of us, but for her a bit faster because she so often falls down (and we don't), so she has to fight that gravity pull every day. She knows the world deals with letters and numbers so she's pushing to get that darn E and F and M and N and V, and W figured out.

But Kath walked into IHOP today and handed the waitress who greeted us with a huge smiley welcome, one of her special shells from her beach trip last week. She did this just because that lady was nice to us. She draws pictures (remember they look like scribbles to most others) and gives them to people she meets who seem nice. (I think she has a stack in the back of the van somewhere and she pulls them out when needed.) She will give people change (she has stolen from me) and she hands it to the next nice person. She will pick a flower, love it (sometimes cut it from my garden...ugh), then hand the dried up wilted thing to the next person she sees and likes.

I have no idea whether or not people really understand the gift she is bestowing. Most of them are so nice and thrilled looking, they must have an inkling.

But this behavior, this type of 'knowledge' of how to be kind, how to treat others, is never tested on these evaluations and these acts show me more about what type of person Kath is, what her cognitive abilities are, than the hours and hours of testing she has gone through to evaluate her cognitive abilities.

So, thank you for reading this post because by writing this out tonight I went from thinking I needed another bowl of stress ice cream as I worried about her results tomorrow to being okay with the Kath who IS NOW and who IS GROWING and learning everyday. (And I will leave my starting sentence as a testimony to how differently I thought this writing entry was going to be.)

Wow, writing again saved my sanity. Although maybe I deserve that bowl of ice cream anyway....

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

What is it about writing, anyway?

When I first started this blog, and so aptly named it 'Attempts at Clarity,' I was trying to document my writing life. It was to be a blog about how I made writing my centre, how I was about to finish my Young Adult story that had been floating in and between my fingers for the previous two years, and well, it was also to be a bit of a sanity break.

I didn't envision it to be useful to anyone other than me. It would force me to be honest and to write. The end.

After that brave announcement I didn't write again for two months. Kath was diagnosed with having survived her massive stroke and the blog morphed into talking about what was going on with my family, especially Kath. I found reading a blog by another mom to be useful so I had a new mission, to perhaps be another mom's 'voice in the dark.'

Over time I sometimes bounced in and out of actually listening to myself and the power of writing and I wrote...the name of this blog came true.

I write to try to clarify what I am living. Sometimes when I live and breathe I feel like I am muddling through the dark murky underwater of an alternative life. I peek up through it and see other people living 'normal lives' and I wonder who I may have killed in a previous life (like I'm living down a past life penance) that makes it seem I ALWAYS have so much going on.

I write to tell the story that is so clear in my mind sometimes that it's like a memory. That is a bit spooky when I go to relay an event/story and realize it's really one I created... :)

I write to remember because my memory seems to be suffering from some kind of ...what was I saying?

I write because if I don't I feel like I am not living. That may sounds weird to some of you, but when I write...I'm calmer, I understand more, I see more. That's probably the same for anyone who has a secret/or-not-so secret passion involving creativity (maybe just any kind of hobby).

My attempts at clarity are my reaching out to the 'normal world' and saying, "Hey, is there room for me?" And sometimes there are voices I hear and sometimes I hear nothing back.

Lately the voices (at least the ones in my head) have been clamoring to be heard (and read). They are tired of being silenced and placed on the 'After I Do Suchandsuch I Will Write' burner in my life. Lately I can almost taste this other life that I feel I need to grab onto...My Writing Life...with the feeling of 'the rest will be taken care of if I trust myself and the plan.' But I still also feel the pull of living in the 'normal world' and having a normal life/career/obligations/pension, so I get scared and go back to playing my part.

But this month I challenged myself to writing 50,000 words. I wanted to see if I really did have a Young Adult novel in me. I'm only a little past half way there with less than a few days of July to go, but I have written the beginning of a pretty decent story (if I do say so myself!). And I have found faith in myself. I will reach at least 50,000 by the end of the summer, but now I KNOW I've got 'it', so arbitrary lines in the sand are not as important to me at this point.

I wrote by hand this month, I carried a blue composition notebook with me everywhere. I wrote just about every day. I even wrote with a pencil (I love my pens), but I learned the differences of pencils--the ones made with REAL wood write much better! :) If I had 10 minutes, I wrote. This, in between visits to NYC, Long Island, the Science Museum, the Art Museum, doctor appointments, graduation parties, and the day to day summer world. Writing by hand somehow allowed my brain the ability to slow the white noise of the outside world and listen to that voice that keeps telling me to WRITE, to have faith in myself, and in my story.

And while doing this, listening to the voices in my head...guess what? I found I am seeing things with clarity. See? Writing works! It helps you make sense of your world, the real one and even the imaginary ones you create.

Join me for the second half of the summer. Pull up a notebook and a pencil. It doesn't have to be a Young Adult novel or a bestseller. It just has to be you writing for clarity, clarity for yourself. And be sure to let me know know how it goes! (What do you have to lose?)

Happy writing!