To Unnecessary Drama...

We try to teach our children to pick their battles wisely, but often we forget to do the same.

We try to teach our children to handle others' unkind words by considering the source and refusing to give the others power over them, but we often forget to do the same.

We try to teach our children to be kind to everyone, but we often forget to do the same.

We try to teach our children that they don't have all the answers, but often forget we don't either.

We can allow ourselves and, by extension, our children, to get mired down in unnecessary drama or we can reject the notion that we must get worked up over everything. Life is both too short and too long for this.

Meaningful work, whether it's paid work or not, a purpose, and giving of oneself and one's time, are worthy pursuits. We teach our children to leave the world a better place than they found it--how can we afford to forget to do the same?

It's a new day, a new chance. Why waste it on unnecessary drama?


Worrying Over Worries

I've always been a worrier, turning things over and over in my head, imagining from all angles, trying to see all outcomes, far too often seeing Stephen King-like outcomes. Flashes light up in my head, movie-reels playing out, as I take a decision and work it out to the bitter end. I take little for granted and prepare for the worst--in part because of my own unpleasant experiences in the past, and partly because my husband's propensity for always going to worst case scenario and having to backtrack to see that there's any other possible outcome.

Nightime, as I lie in bed, is such a good time to go into hyperdrive. Frankie, bless him, had a way of shortcutting that for me. It's hard to worry when a giant orange tabby is lying on your chest, his paw on your chin, staring into your eyes with a warm intensity. He stopped it cold--it was impossible to worry when he did that, and I would fall asleep with a smile, drifting off quickly, worries silenced.

It's been hard to learn to live without his loving reassurance, and I count the weeks since he's been gone--five this Wednesday--and sleep eludes me at night. If not for this prolonged bout of illness, I wonder how my sleep would be at all. Rick drops into sleep like leaping off a cliff, and as soon as his soft, muffled snores (courtesy of the CPAP) begin, I get up and I wander. I lie on the couch and worry. I get up and sit in my chair and worry. I move around the house and worry. I heave great sighs and worry. And worn with my worrying and tired of the constant hamster wheel of my mind, I lie on the couch and sigh myself into sleep.

It's only at night that it's hard. This morning, as soon as everyone walked out the door, I went back to bed and slept with no problem, dreaming of Hercules and Lara Croft and me trying to save the world. I know I need to accept the new reality and that my Frankie won't be there at night, lying on my chest, calming me. I've tried imagining it, I've placed his picture at the end of the bed. I've got Mabel near me, butt resting on the top of my head, but it's not the same.

How easy it is to become accustomed to someone, to rituals, and how hard it can be to live without, to adjust. It isn't that he kept me from worrying over worries--silly as that is--do I worry too much, am I overreacting, is it okay? He simply gave me comfort at a time each night when I most needed it and allowed me to turn it all off for a time and sleep.

Trying to train the other cats to lie on my chest, paw on my chin hasn't worked well yet. Lucy prefers to be lower on me and meows incessantly. That's no good. Mabel's a butt-on-head kind of gal--she doesn't like to be held or be too close. Aphrodite sleeps in the bathroom since she's only litter trained if confined to a smaller space. She's good for daytime loving, but that's about it. Dude prefers to stare from a higher vantage point and isn't much of a lap cat. Sure, he's a midnight snacking cat and will share your potato chips or cookies and he'll give kisses, but he doesn't put a paw on your face and tell you silently with his eyes to get a grip. Daniel and Jack are rambunctious, but when they do rest with you, Jack's a feet-kind of guy with me and Daniel really prefers the ottoman and to watch you with his amber eyes, sphinx-like. It's a new reality, and I'm just going to have to adjust. Frankie, full of zen-like wisdom, if he were here, would demand it.


Roadblocks When One Least Expects Them

Parenting children with special needs is challenging. We spend so much time brainstorming ways to help our children get around some of their issues and which issues don't need the getting around because there's really nothing wrong with the "issue." We are inundated with experts promising all the answers and pounded on all sides by people certain they know the right answer for our families better than we ourselves do.

Many of us come looking on the internet for community, for support, for ideas on how to best help our children accomplish their best. Some of us stay because the ever-abundant opportunities for discord and oneupmanship are more interesting and distracting than solitaire or designing Sims houses in which we trap our Sims in a room with no door and no bathroom, just to see.

I've been blessed to have found both support and community and some of that distraction of getting into it. It's been awhile since I bothered to weigh in, put my foot in and offer my opinion on why I'm right and someone else is wrong, wrong, wrong, and honestly, I'm not going to start now, because, in part, after fighting illness for well over a month, I don't have the energy, and because it wouldn't matter anyway. I'm not certain I am right, or that there's only one way.

I do think, though, that there are many of us looking for the chance at outrage, for an opportunity to lash out, and I understand that. There are so many truly horrific things to be outraged about. The Judge Rotenberg Center is an abomination that should be closed down, that should have many people doing hard jail time. And that's just the most visible tip on the iceberg of things that need to be fixed. We should be horrified, outraged, and moved to action.

Instead, some of us spend our time searching out individuals to be pissed at, good people doing the best they can, but who might differ from us on our views regarding autism and its place as a determining factor in who a person is. It's so easy to pen angry pieces. So satisfying.

Instead of chances to build support and community, we find ways to divide and conquer, to strike out at others and bring them down instead of building them up. Instead of high-fiving a young boy who read aloud his first word, we can bash a mom who associates her son's struggles with his autism and crows in celebration over her son's hard-won victory.

We pick sides. We divide ourselves further. We tear partnerships apart and we make certain that each of us feels a little more isolated.

Ah well. All in a day's work, right?

The last month plus has taught me about myself, my husband, my children. As my time has been spent sleeping, lying ill, with no energy, and far too often with no voice, we've learned that not everything needs attending to, that families that lean on each other can get through unexpected challenges, that messy rooms don't hurt anybody's feelings, and as long as people are getting fed, dressed, and most of all, loved, it's all good. Drama is a wasted emotion, wasted energy, especially when it's not placed on a cause that really matters, that is important.

Judge Rotenberg Center is an abomination. It matters and drama is called for. We should be pissed and forced to constructive action over it, consistently, not just when it crops back up in the news for the latest horror to be related. Petitions are a start. Go read Lydia Brown's petition, and if you believe that this center is the abusive, illegal, corrupt place I believe it is, please sign the petition.

Google the center and kwombles and read some of the pieces I (and Kathleen) have written over the years.



Three Ways to Sunday: A Major Rant

I want a do-over. Some weeks, there's just no winning. Those hassles pile up and weigh a body down, sink the person into a seriously growly mood. Except I'm working on my second case of laryngitis since the semester began. At the rate it's going, I'll have no voice by the end of the day, so instead of saying all this, I'll rant via keyboard because these things need to be said.

Frak me three ways to Sunday. What is with this crap, anyway? I am still not well, after weeks of being sick, and a new study just came out, as I sit here considering whether to go back to the clinic, showing that antibiotics are ineffective with sinus infections. Given that the last batch of antibiotics didn't knock this stuff out, and that I have a mono diagnosis, I guess I just have to wait this out. I'm getting tired of this crap, tired of sleeping every single chance I get, tired of being in bed before eight at night, tired of being tired. It's keeping me from things I want to do, need to do, and it makes it challenging to do things that I do manage to get done.

Ah well. Maybe my body knows something my mind doesn't want to admit--that I'm in need of a break, in need of restoration. Makes you wonder is it my spirit that needs restoration, more so than my body, and if, in the process of taking care of my own mental well-being, the body will follow? I hope so. Both are feeling worn thin, given the feeling I have of battles on all sides of me demanding to be fought; there are things that make me beyond frustrated.

The girls's schools seem to have lost their collective heads--Lily's coach making the kids play a game called prison ball that's as bad as it sounds, and Rosie's thinking that having the kids beat the crap out of each other's legs with swim noodles is good fun--math testing gone to ridiculous lengths--what 10 year old kid needs two months of four hours of math testing a week in order to prepare for the new state test? Hours of stupid math homework a week that leave Lily, Rick, and me ready to drop kick the math homework and the backpack it comes home in out to the dumpster.

Every afternoon and evening has become a battleground to get the homework with the girls and the studying for various tests done. No wonder I'm in bed at eight. I've spent the time from the bus dropping them off sometimes right up to bedtime helping them get their work done, fighting them to get it done.

It's building up, my dissatisfaction with the school system, with its stupid stuff an animal workshop (don't forget your money!) and items for sale in the office, with a testing system that has ruined third grade on--we're making kids HATE school and hate learning, and parents hate it as well. We're breeding a culture of anti-intellectuals because they associate learning with ridiculous circling and bubbling and writing paragraph numbers down.

I don't get how or why we as parents put up with this bullshit, unless there are those of us who think it's appropriate to bring commercialism into the school system and inept, incompetent state testing demands that force the curriculum to be cut to teaching to the test.

Consider this my war cry.

My kids aren't buying shit at school, especially a stuff-your-bulldog thing.

We aren't selling fundraising crap, either. You want money from me for school supplies, ask.

And unless you, as a coach, want me hitting you in the legs with a swim noodle, my daughter better not be getting hit with a frakking noodle. Don't even get me started with prison ball.

And the homework crap is on notice. Five afternoons and evenings a week, we're held captive to some of the dumbest homework I've seen that DOES nothing to build skills but everything to kill any enjoyment or appreciation of an incredible subject that should light my daughters up with joy. I loved math, loved the manipulation of numbers, loved the underlying patterns that numbers have and of finding those patterns. I hate the math my kids come home with. And so do THEY.

Honestly, some days it's enough to make a person want to go back to bed!


F*%king Mondays: Always Out For You

What did I expect? I had to wear a tee with this saying:

Have a Nice Day. SOMEWHERE ELSE!

Setting myself up, right?

Our oven died this weekend--bottom heating element managed to have a half-inch portion just disintegrate. $80 for a new heating element for a nine-year-old stove or $320 for a new one.

Migraine at midday, but at least the meds worked.

Paperwork snafu leading to trip in to the business to fill it out again.

Frustrating principle question and having to do something I disagreed with...grrrrrr.

Lost part of a filling--flooding me with immediate anxiety over the tooth and the dentist trip in my future.

Toilet overflowed all over the floor...sigh


I'm going to bed. Somedays we just have to make Mondays go away fast.

That nice day happened someplace else after all.


Looking Back Never Hurts

Lily found our wedding dvd the other day, and we sat down and watched the fading, crackling dvd capture of the vhs tape. By the time we converted the video to dvd, the tape was over 15 years old and showing its age, but it's still fun to see Rick and me so young, and we laughed along with the giggle fit I had during the vows. We're working now to get it onto the computer and converted and trimmed, but we're not having the best of luck. 

We pulled out our wedding photos, too, to show the girls, who didn't remember seeing them before. It was odd to realize that Bobby is two years older than I am in the photos below, that I am now older than my mother was when I got married, that Rick is the same age as Dad was. We'll celebrate 24 years this year, and it's comforting to look back at us as we began and see that while we certainly wear our years, we're still laughing and full of life and joy. And occasionally still shoving cake in each other's faces, too, of course. 

Dec 24, 1988

 Early 1990; I can see Bobby in my face.
The continuity is comforting.

Rick and Bobby.

Looking back never hurts, especially to see just how far we've come and what we've brought with us.



It's been a rough two weeks--tears galore, bright spots, strep, then mono, and days passed in bed, sleeping hour after hour, as if in a week, I managed to make up for 22 years of child-created sleep debt. I'm pretty sure there's still some sleep debt remaining, as I remain wiped out, with a shower and getting dressed this afternoon taking all the energy I had and depleting it.

Two weeks ago we had to put Frankie, our giant orange tabby, to sleep. Although he had been ill since before Christmas, we weren't expecting to make that decision as suddenly as we had to, and there's a part of me that remains mystified that he's really gone, so great was his presence. The fact that I can replay the scene where we pet him, crooning to him, as he fell asleep and died seems to have no real impact on that desire to wish it weren't so. If I feel this, after all the deaths I've dealt with, it's no wonder that Rosie can be reduced to inconsolable tears at being told we'd brought Frankie's ashes home today.

It's been a weird two weeks--being sick and spending a lot of it separated from everyone else, in bed and asleep has made it doubly so--I feel disconnected, disjointed, out of it. Bobby and Lily deal with death differently--they bounced back resiliently, and neither had made any mention of Frankie in the last two weeks. After the other losses this past year, I understand that they hurt, they care, they haven't really forgotten, but that it's easier for them to not think of it  and not dwell there. I hadn't raised it because it seems incredibly tacky to bring something up just to check and see if they are feeling something--to impose sadness for one's own reassurance is cruel. Besides, Rick hasn't talked about it, either, and I would never presume he isn't in pain over it simply because he doesn't talk about it.

In our culture, we don't tend to talk about death, bring up our feelings about it, share in any great detail with others that we are hurting. Grief is something we are taught to wall off, distance ourselves from, and mourning, something our culture once took seriously, is not something we tend to engage in if we can avoid it. We gloss over it all, wanting to return to the normal rhythm--to experience grief-that peculiar pang of the heart that leaves us gasping for breath and certain our heart has shattered--this is too hard an emotion, and we have taught ourselves to find some way to distract ourselves, numb ourselves from the loss we feel.

So we replace pets--which is not a bad thing--we brought Daniel and Jack home four days after losing Frankie--so that we will not be alone, will have a distraction. Why should we be surprised at when people enter into new relationships soon after losing a mate? Replace, distract, move on as fast as possible. That's not all bad, but it's certainly not all good if we do it to numb ourselves.

Jack and Daniel--wonderful distractions

Kubler-Ross has us as a culture certain that we have but to move through the stages as fast as possible and we'll be good as new (not her fault, of course, that people took her stages too literally). We wonder at people who seem to linger in their loss, their pain always visible, and we grow impatient, but the reality is that although we may be sure our job is to move on with our lives, our dead left behind, we are far better off if we find a way to remain in relationship with our dead, to carry them with us, our love for them remaining in the present.

Death may separate us, make it harder, cause tremendous pain, but it does not mean we must go on without our loved ones. We just have to find a way to carry them on with us. A favorite perfume, a watch, a piece of jewelry, a favorite meal, a sweater: so many ways we can carry our loved ones along with us, honor them and their continuing impact and influence in our lives.

Frankie's gone, and I miss that giant orange cat. Bringing his ashes home today hurt, caused the tears to flow, but there's still humor to be found. His ashes were lovingly placed in a gift bag with a poem and tissue paper. I pulled his box out, and saw in gold-plate "Fannie" and busted out laughing. To think of my Frankie, that giant of a cat with a soul as wide as the world, as a Fannie was just the thing I needed. The vet will get us a new plate with the right spelling and in the meantime, Frankie's on top of the fridge waiting, but instead of crying when I see the bag, I will smile and think of him as a Fannie.

Nothing "Fannie" about him.


Marching On

It's been a week since we let Frankie go. I find it comforting to look at his pictures, to reach out and touch the screen. When we lost Ibit and Cookie last summer, I found it painful to see pictures of them, but this time, I find it a relief to be able to see Frankie, looking so immediate and touchable, as if he's not really gone, just slightly out of my reach. Perhaps it's a comfort because it is so painful to be without him, my constant companion.

While it's hurt to have him gone, it's not been a week without joys. Saturday, Mom took Rosie and me out to the shelter to find a new cat, and we came home with two! They are charming nine month old brothers who remind me of Frankie and ease the sadness. Rosie named them Jack O'Neill and Daniel Jackson, and the names have stuck with no changes (unusual for us).

The other cats, perhaps sensing Frankie's absence and my sorrow, have stepped in for him, too. Lucy has taken to sleeping on my chest at night and spending more time in my lap. Mabel continues her pattern of nearness to me without quite being intrusive. Her golden eyes watch me, keep pace with my movements as she sits regally, silent and unmoving, only her eyes shifting. Aphrodite has made sure to give my feet an extra bite, to let me know she cares. She butts her head against mine and climbs all over me. I am entwined with cats who show their care.  Either that or they're hungry. One can never be certain. Perhaps it is only that they want dibs on Frankie's portion?

 Aphrodite showing her love.
 Daniel showing his contentment.
 Daniel and Dude.
 A lapful of love.
Lucy keeping watch.
Daniel meeting Mabel.