Appropriate Gravitas and Trepidation

Tomorrow my family's world will change in significant and profound ways, a change that has been years in the planning, a careful, watchful ticking of the clock and continual assessment. Tomorrow is the girls' last day at school. Period.

They are both finishing the year on a high note. They have made friends, connected with other children through their art. They excelled in their schoolwork. They love their teachers and there is no doubt in my mind that my girls are well liked and cared for by administration, faculty, and students.

In short, the school, my old school, has tended and cared for my girls and been fundamental in the strides they have made.

But on Friday we will begin homeschooling in earnest. No Summer break. No rest for the weary. And no matter how many times I ask my girls if they are sure, they come back with no hesitation...they want hard work. They want to be challenged, to boldly go where no other fourth and sixth graders have gone. They want to study science, to immerse themselves in math, hard math. They want to read the classics, study history, soak in all there is to know. They are self-motivated.

They want time to work on their art, to practice. To excel.

Who am I to say no to that? To not heed what they are rationally, calmly asking for? And have been for awhile now.

This is not a decision made lightly. I know exactly how much effort is involved in keeping these girls on their toes as they keep me on mine. Lily wants quantum mechanics and particle physics under her belt. Heavens help me, but at least I already have the books.

We're fixing to embark on an extended geek camp (what we called our breaks from school) that will last until I can get around the loopholes of minimum ages for college and make sure that all the basics are covered, that their foundations are solidly constructed. And at the same time, we have a lot of work to fill in the gaps, gaps that are chasm-wide and  come out of nowhere. We've got life skills training to do. So much work, so much to learn.

This kind of change must be approached with the gravitas and trepidation it warrants. These are bright, shining lights, these girls of mine, and they deserve the best I can offer them and the right to participate actively in their education.

It shouldn't matter that they are young, not when they know what they want and they know how to get it. And especially not when I have the tools to help them realize it and the humility to know just how sacred a trust theirs is of me.



My father served in the Air Force; I grew up an Air Force brat, a fish out of water, at the schools I attended...at first because I was that brat, and then because I was me...shy, always feeling late to the party and uncomfortable because I didn't get the inside jokes.

When I got to college, I joined ROTC. I have no idea why, now, looking back, but I was one of two girls in ROTC. I wanted to fit in somewhere...that was as close as I could get. And then I joined the Army Reserves.

Talk about a fish out of water, and yet...the history, the connections--it might have been a pretty horrendous experience, but it was one steeped in familiarity.

I met Rick at AIT, where he was retraining to be a terrain analyst and I was learning to be a printing press operator.

The military life is instant community for the rest of your life. Isn't that something for a person who's always felt out of place?

It doesn't matter what branch of service, it doesn't matter when you served or for how long. You have found a place where you will never be the fish out of water.

According to Wikipedia, "From the U.S.'s establishment to September 2012, 40 million Americans have served in the United States Armed Forces."

That's a lot of people sharing a common thread, a common experience, a bond that survives across generations. It's kinship at its finest.

We are connected, not just by the commonality of service to ideals like freedom and patriotism and honor and duty, but by the loss of those we served beside who made the ultimate sacrifice.

The news may have decided Afghanistan and Iraq were no longer newsworthy, but those of us who are connected to the military keep our ears to the ground. We pause when we learn of new losses, we take a moment to think of the families left behind, the fellow soldiers who grieve the loss of the men and women they served next to.

We count our blessings each and every day and know that those blessings are because of the men and women who stood together and took a solemn oath and then had the courage and conviction to carry it out.

I, (NAME), do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.


Walk the Path...

No one saves us but ourselves.
No one can And no one may.
We ourselves must walk the path.
~ The Buddha ~ 

--wisdom courtesy facebook 

I read this passage over and over. 

The more I read it, the deeper it sinks into me, 

Becomes a part of me. 

It is a lesson that takes a lifetime to learn... 

We can take people along with us, 

or our belief that Jesus/God is with us, carrying us. 

But the reality is, no matter what the companionship, 

No matter how committed our loved ones are to being there, 

some journeys must be carried out alone. 

And no one can walk our path for us. 

We live in our heads. 

Our deepest feelings, our biggest fears, 

these are ours alone to feel. 

Even when we share common experiences, 

similar heartache, 

We are still alone. 

Even when what we feel is transcendent, 

We carry that feeling alone. 

Words are poor substitutes at best. 

Majesty and glory pound against our heads, 

threatening to explode, 

And yet, it remains ours alone. 

We share, 

We offer our words, 

our love, 

our support, 

our understanding. 

Layers upon layers of feeling. 

And we look up and are in awe 

at the wonders of this world. 

And we are in awe at how everything we know 

can be torn asunder in one swipe of Nature's hand.

Our world is filled with wonders.

With indescribable majesty. 

Next to the reality that not even that majesty lasts long. 

We walk our own paths.

Sometimes with trepidation. 

Sometimes with barely controlled terror. 

Sometimes in solemn contemplation. 

Sometimes with gallows humor that shocks even our senses. 

But still we walk it... 

Because we have to, to bear witness, to experience, to continue... 

In order to understand the majesty and miracle of our existence. 

Even when it is our existence that is ending... 

We may all have to walk our own path, 

But we can reach out, 

And share what can be shared, 

so that even though we remain alone, 

We can exist in the contradiction 



Keep Calm...Remain humble

You know I've got a variety of the keep calm tees. It's my latest obsession, the collecting of offbeat tees, and it works, because Rick and I share them, and he loves sci-fi mash-ups as much as I do, so I figure I'm good for awhile.

Keep calm...

It's more than a little funny to wear those keep calm tees, as I'm not a calm person. Ever. I'm high strung, high maintenance on the best of days.

I asked Rick the other day if it was obvious I was terrified, and he said no, that there was no outer sign. There were certainly inner signs--I had just taken my blood pressure, which was high, and my blood sugar, which was low...on the inside I felt jittery, scared, and ready to wig out.

I'm grateful for the disconnect...but also worried by it. If I can hide it, then chances are the kids also hide their worst fears, their most embarrassing terrors, and move through the day without me knowing they aren't okay on the inside. And if I don't know and can't see, then how can I keep them safe and whole?

Rick, Bobby and I are rewatching Fringe--we're almost through season 1, and it's the episode where Charlie gets impregnated with the snake creature's larvae...he calls his wife, visibly trying to keep his voice normal, his tears from falling, and his wife hears none of his fear, his sorrow, in his voice. To her, it's just a regular day, no big deal.

And I think...how do you miss that? How much do we miss? Each and every day as we go about our lives, interacting with strangers, acquaintances, friends, family, how much do we miss? How many people's lives do we make harder because we miss it?

We hide ourselves, tuck in our sorrows, our fears, our worries. We don't want to be vulnerable, open wounds. We don't want others to see it, see our weak spots. We don't want to burden our loved ones...

And we know there's only so much people want to hear, want to deal with. We're so busy, so caught up in a flurry of meaningless tasks, that we forget to connect with people, to be there, to be open, to let people have the chance to share themselves. We are quick to judgment (all of us), and quick to demand people behave in a certain way.

I am humbled when I think of how quick to judgment I can be. I am a black and white thinker who constantly has to remind myself that there's a lot of gray. I have to work to let go of harshness, remind myself of the mindset I have with hospice families, with students: I am not there to judge--I am there to care and to help. And when I fail, when that sting of judgment stays in my mind, I am humbled.

We are fallible. We fuck up. What's important is what we do after. Are we sorry? Are we willing to try to fix it? Are we willing to get back up and keep going?

Keep calm...

Maybe not.

Stay humble.

That's the trick, the key, to getting through each moment with any chance of grace--not to keep calm--but to remain humble and remember that each moment is a chance to grow and to learn.

And fear is part of the package, so learn to breathe with it.


Blowing in the wind

Fear and Loathing...part 2 (wait, what was part 1 and why loathing?)

Can't think of fear without the loathing part thanks to Hunter S. Thompson. I think that's in part because you tend to feel some level of self-loathing for feeling fear, and you certainly do to other people whose fear renders them less than noble, like Yossarian in Catch-22. He's not heroic in the traditional sense, although it occurs to me that Ayn Rand might consider him to be an incredible hero for putting self-preservation first.

Fear, though, is about self-preservation. It's an adaptive emotion, most of the time. The problem is when fear is crippling, disabling, and leaves a person feeling like her heart will explode out of her chest. Fear and anxiety go together--isn't that we're really talking about when we say we are anxious? That we are scared, full of fear, and ready to bolt?

Our bodies are where our emotions show themselves and we can be hard pressed at times to put a name to the physical arousal..to the shakes, the sweat, the increased blood pressure, the stomach ache, the general physical distress...other than to be honest and generic--we are in the middle of our brain telling our body to get us the fuck out of here and now.

It sucks when the situation demands we stay, that we wait, that we endure. We end up running on fumes, and the longer the wait, the more likely we are to make ourselves sick.

My anxiety, when full blown, drops my blood sugar low and raises my blood pressure through the roof and that's through my regular anti-anxiety meds. And that's with positive thinking and breathing and stuff...

My biopsy (ultrasound guided core needle) is next Wednesday, a whole week away, and even though the chances are overwhelmingly in my favor (only 1 in 5 biopsies end up being cancer), I am in full flight mode...jittery, shaking, and oddly sleepy at the same time (the extra meds trying to do the trick for me).

Mentally, I have faith that everything will be okay. I do. Physically, it feels like my body is in full revolt and snickering at me, which I think is a bullshit move, honestly.


Mikaela, Owen, Drew

I read a lot of bloggers; I feel it's important to keep connected to what other parents are dealing with, and to read a diversity of autistic bloggers, as well as blogs dealing with disability.

One of the things that I can't help but focus on is how we are all involved in similar life experiences. All of us will deal with health issues, all of us will deal with the loss of loved ones, with financial struggles, with the big questions of why we are here and what our purpose is.

On many blogs, where families are struggling with devastating tragedies, there is an outpouring of support, and it's both uplifting and heartbreaking to be a part of that support system. You find yourself hurting for strangers who really don't feel like strangers because they have shared their story, their struggle, their heartache.

This past week, three autistic children wandered from their families and were found drowned in bodies of water. Three families devastated. Three children lost.

The loss of a child is not something we will all deal with, but we share that it is our worst fear, and we feel our hearts ache for the children, for the families, for the communities.

Some will use these tragedies to further agendas, and I suppose that's true even of those reaching out in support--we do have an agenda--to show unconditional support and concern for the families.

To Mikaela Lynch's family, to Owen Black's family, to Drew Howell's family, I am so sorry for your losses.