There are moments in life when we just want to let out a primal scream of anger or rage, moments when our fears cloud our minds and make our fingers itch for the feel of porcelain between them to simply throw and watch shatter. As if we could shatter the fears or doubts that shimmer and sway in the vast twisting and turning chasms of our 3 am thoughts.
I have had the moments many times before, and I am sure I will in the future, because lets face it, life isn’t always rainbows and roses, sometimes it’s about storms so bad your whole world is rocked and blown apart. There is a lovely woman involved in Health Advocacy named Heather Von St. James who has a place where I can smash plates to my hearts content. They are virtual plates in a virtual place (her blog) but I still find the ability to write down my fears or apprehensions and smash them very cathartic. The irony for me of her site is that I had only just been telling a friend to think of life as “If I could live without fear, I’d…” and here I am being given the opportunity to metaphorically smash my own fears to bits, the irony of it all is rather poetic 😀
Heather didn’t make her site because she was having a bad day and figured others could use some virtual plate smashing too (although some days I totally can! 😀 She made it as a way to celebrate actually having a bonfire in her backyard and smashing actual plates into it with fears written on them to commemorate her surgery. See she had a lung removed due to cancer, she was diagnosed when her first daughter was only a few months old, and the fears that cancer brought are what she smashed in that first bonfire. Now each year they have another on February 2nd, but Boston’s a wee bit far for me, and so dear readers I urge you to visit her site (Links at the bottom) and free yourself from any fears you might be holding onto. (Without having to clean up broken plate pieces either! 😉
My first “date” with my now husband was an outing to go rock climbing. I say date like that because it was supposed to be just two friends having a bit of fun trying something new together. Perhaps if we’d done something else together it would have stayed just friends hanging out, but there was something about being up that high, looking down and realizing that I had to trust this man with my safety, this man was the reason I wasn’t going to fall. Sounds a bit melodramatic when I re-read that part lol, but that’s how I felt. He confessed he felt the same when he was up at the top, and that it made him look at me differently. It made him think about me, who I was, what I stood for, and the fact that he could indeed trust me with his safety and perhaps even his heart.
I had been rock climbing many times before, only I never actually climbed when I went, instead I belayed for my eldest every week. I started taking Mr. C when he was 3 and a half years old. See he had a fixation with climbing the furniture at home and I figured if he was climbing the furniture it was because he wanted to climb stuff in general (I know, total genius on my part lol) Since I didn’t like him climbing the furniture I thought about what would be a great equivalent and came up with rock climbing. He loved it, and so we’d go and I’d belay for him while he climbed to his heart’s content.
Fast-forward the years to now…There is a rock climbing wall at our local YMCA that members can use anytime they want, IF they are certified by the Y to do so. They also offer an instructor there every Saturday from noon till 2pm that will belay for anyone interested, but because it’s a once a week thing, there are lots of kids eager to climb and I just find it difficult because of having 2-4 other children with me every Saturday especially the wonderful Mr. N and Miss. G, both of whom seemed to have inherited my deficit in the patience region, and so aren’t all that great at sitting in their stroller just now waiting in line for the elder 1-3 kids to climb. However, each Monday night from 7:30-8:30pm the Y offers a certification class! So of course last night I was at there showing off my ability to tie really secure knots to the friendly instructor and by the end of it she had certified me.
I can now take the wee ones any day or time to use the rock climbing wall, I can even belay for my husband again which might be a fun night out, filled with reminders of our beginning and the very potent reminder to trust one another, because we will be there for each other no matter what transpires, no matter what life throws at us, we’ll always watch each other’s butts as we climb the obstacles life puts in our paths.
A few months ago I went out and bought a mattress. I then threw out the couch in my living room and promptly put the mattress in the living room instead. My husband was aghast at my plan originally, after all mattresses are for bedrooms and sleeping and couches are for living rooms and sitting. But there was a theory to my outwardly odd idea…
What if Mr. N would accept physical touch more if he could slowly inch his way towards it? What if by having such a large space to sprawl on with his siblings and myself on a daily basis he would eventually become more comfortable with touching other people? What if by exposing him to the constant opportunity for physical touch he eventually started to view those opportunities as a positive thing?
So theory in mind, and a tentative hope in my heart for a time when Mr. N would be perhaps accept regular physical contact with those of us that loved him I changed our living room and made it quite an unconventional area. I bought a bunch of pillows and scattered them about the new “couch” and sprawled out. He was adamant at first that no one be touching him even a little, not a leg, or arm or torso could be in direct physical contact with anyone of us. But slowly, as the days went by it changed…First he didn’t notice when my leg was “accidentally” touching his…Still many more days passed and then one otherwise gloomy afternoon he plopped down beside me, and his whole left leg was against me, but he appeared to not notice! A few weeks went by with that being the level of contact he could handle, and believe me when I say I was thrilled with just that, but it didn’t stop there…Then it was him actively initiating contact by laying snuggled up to someone….Just last night he tried to stay up after he was told it was time for bed, what “tactic” did he use? He kept asking for kisses and of course his dad and I kept obliging!
There are still moments when he’s overwhelmed and will say “Don’t look at me” or “Don’t talk to me” and while he’s told he has to say it politely, (we are helping him to learn sentences he can use to say the same thing in a polite manner) he still has a right to vocalize how he is feeling and to decide what level of interaction he wants with someone else.
While my living room might look strange to some I don’t really care, because it has been SO worth it. Having a mattress in our living room has helped Mr. N to be okay with physical touch. While it’s not a constant yet that he actively seeks out physical touch, he does regularly seek it out now, and to finally be able to show my youngest son that I love him through touch, through snuggles and hugs and kisses upon his soft brow, all while he’s still actually awake and aware of it, that dear readers is a blessing that brings tears of joy to my eyes.
I read another’s blog post today. It can be found here. What I got from it was that it was about his fears for his Autistic daughter’s future after watching two girls from the same grade not even notice her during a morning walk. As well as his hopes for his daughter’s future after attending a dinner filled with Autistic young adults.
It struck a cord with me because there are moments when I worry for my boys. I worry sometimes as I watch other children surpass them socially, I worry as I see news reports of an 11 year old Autistic girl who didn’t respond being tasered by police when found walking nude along a free-way. (Full story found here) I worry when I think of the only time Mr. C was in school (preschool) and his teacher told him he wasn’t good, that he was lacking and so many other things that tore at his fragile self-esteem which lead me to taking him out of there and choosing homeschooling instead because I didn’t want to risk him having more teachers like that. I worry when I start to think of the world as it is right now in regards to acceptance and the lip service that is often given, but real efforts not.
I was still thinking of it when I was getting Mr. N out of the bath (juice, play-doh, and stickers make one huge mess lol) as I closed the bathroom door behind us, for the first time he noticed something I’d forgotten was there; a blue index card I’d written that says “You are perfect exactly as you are” Originally I’d written it and put it on the outside of the bathroom door for the 3 children quickly getting older and noticing the media’s messages about superficial images. But he pointed at it and asked what it said. I read it to him and he smiled and said “Awe” and I asked him who it was about, he told me me it was about him, that it was his… He was right. He IS perfect exactly as he is, all of my children are, and instead of being worried about their future I’m more determined than ever to ensure I help to change the world’s perception of Autism so that people will be more open to truly seeing them. To talk and write and do whatever it takes to help create the world I want for them, one where they and others are valued as they are, one where diversity is embraced, one where others see the value they can bring to a friendship and try to cultivate them, one that sees my boys and all people as perfect exactly as they are.
This morning I received a phone call from my step-daughter’s mother. She wanted to know if Miss. D was sick as she wasn’t in school. My stomach bottomed out as I knew that their dad had not just dropped both of them off, but watched them walk into the school. I told her as much, and tried to stay calm, but I couldn’t manage it at all. I was in a full blown panic attack, I couldn’t breathe properly, I was thinking about what clothes she had been wearing, how would I contact my husband while he was cooking at the Bistro with his phone off, who I could get to watch the 3 kids at home so that they didn’t have to know their sister was missing. All the while Miss. D’s mother is trying to assure me that it was probably just a simple mistake, but calm was not within my reach.
Now I understand fully that for most people they would just assume it was a simple error, but I couldn’t, my mind thought of the worst case scenario. Normally (not always, but typically) I am not the type to full out panic, especially before the worst case scenario has been fully confirmed. But here’s the catch to today’s phone call, by the time I was Miss. D’s age I had lived through 2 attempted kidnappings in 2 different countries by 2 different people. The first one was a full blown stalker that my family had to protect me from for months, the obsessed person was a 6ft blond woman with a brown belt in Judo. Her obsessive stalking and attempts at kidnapping me played a big part in shaping how overly protective my mother and brother were (still are) of me. The second was a man of average height and build who worked at a campground we were visiting, I had simply wandered off further than I was supposed to from my mom.
Now I am beyond THRILLED to say that it was merely a clerical error; the teacher had indeed mistakenly checked off Miss. D’s name instead of the child that was absent. A simple mistake, checking off one line too low or too high on a list, so easy to do and in turn to understand another doing it. But for this step-mom, that clerical error certainly caused panic. Thankfully, it was an unneeded panic.
Last week I saw a link on a friend’s Facebook feed about WEGO’s Winder Wonderland Project. The concept was simple, create a snowflake, any size/color/material and write on it or attach to it a health resolution you have for 2014, then send it in to WEGO Health.
I thought for a couple of days because I wanted to make sure it was one I truly wanted to commit to. I didn’t want to just write it, and forget about it. I wanted it to be something that I would actually do, something that inspired me. I’m a strong minded individual already, I take pride in the strength of my convictions, in my loyalty to those that have earned it, in my ability to mentally deal with every twist and turn on my path (maybe not gracefully, but I deal with them, I don’t run from them or hide my head in the sand hoping they’ll go away. I focus on solutions and plough forward through them the best I can) So 2014 is going to be my year to make my outer strength match my inner strength. I mailed my snowflake on Friday, and since I mailed it I have been working every day towards my goal. By the end of 2014 I believe I will have succeeded in my health resolution!
If you’d like to make one yourself, the link for the WEGO Health Winter Wonderland is here: http://info.wegohealth.com/wego-health-winter-wonderland/ They will be collecting them until the end of January, so it’s not too late to give it a go 😀
My Facebook feed often has different videos in it, and this was one that I felt compelled to share. It’s about a doctor that treats homeless people, not in a shelter, but out on the streets. For the last 22 years he has been going out 5 nights a week and offering health care to homeless individuals including providing antibiotics, inhalers, cold medicine, splints, bandages and more should he feel the patient needs them.
At one point in the video he says that he can see himself in them, that they are just people and that he too could have been homeless if for different circumstances. He then says at the end “Everybody matters, we need to look out for the people that are the most ostracized” Here’s the thing, according to Canadian Alliance on Mental Health and Mental Illness 66% of homeless persons in Toronto, Ontario have a diagnosis of a mental illness. Furthermore, according to them 1/3 of homeless persons are without a home directly due to their mental or physical illness preventing them from obtaining and or keeping housing for themselves. This makes me angry, why because he’s right, and most of society isn’t paying enough attention to the simple fact that we as a society should be helping one another in constructive ways. It also points to me at least to the disparities in what is needed for those with various mental illness diagnosis’s to thrive compared to what resources are actually readily available and easily accessible. It points to me to at least to the fact that mental illnesses or disorders or whatever word you want to use are still stigmatized and this makes me want to talk more about things like Autism, it makes me want to be louder about my real life with my kids, to be so loud for as long as it takes to stop the stigma, to push for better services (not just for Autism, but all persons not classified as “neuro-typical”)
Be loud with me, and together we can change the stigmas attached to not being neuro-typical, we can change our society one step at a time, because we ARE our society. Just as Dr. Withers has been changing it with his nightly walks.
Dr. Wither’s video can be found here: http://www.nationswell.com/making-house-calls-people-without-homes/
The Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health page that I mentioned can be found here: http://camimh.ca/mental-illness-awareness-week-english/about-mental-illness/what-is-mental-illness/homelessness-and-mental-illness/
I do my best every single day to be a loving and devoted wife, pink-haired homeschooling momma to 3 kids, 2 as most of you know are Autistic as well as my 2 step-daughters, advocate for Special Needs inclusion, workshop presenter and educator about the many aspects and differences of Autism, true friend, understanding sister, and aunt to 2 very special girls who happen to have CP (hence my learning sign language to communicate)
BUT every once in awhile I am reminded that I am also a woman who loves to wear beautiful things. Today was one of those days. After posting my ASL word of the day on Facebook, I saw the most incredible selection of boots I have ever seen in my life. After wiping the drool off my keyboard I decided to share their site with you all, cause really, they truly are the most beautiful footwear I have ever seen! They are made by a company called Gipsy Dharma, which is located in Buckinghamshire England, but they ship worldwide. Below are a couple of my favorites (it was hard to limit it to just 3 pairs, cause honestly, each one is so pretty I just wanna pet them!)
You can look at ALL of their fantastic items via: http://www.gipsydharma.com/collections/all
Today three wonderful interactions occurred; the first was between Mr. N and Mr. C. Mr. C was upset that he wasn’t going with his dad and I to run errands, Mr. N walked over to him:
N: “Why you upset?”
C: “Because I want to go too and mom says I can’t”
N: “Don’t worry, we’ll be back soon”
Mr. N then proceeded to refuse to go with us and stood beside his brother! The compassion and understanding he clearly demonstrated had me overjoyed! I was seriously tempted to have Mr. C come with us at that point, but for other reasons I did not. Eventually Mr. N was convinced to come with us. This moment will always be etched in my memory as I saw the beginnings of the deep bond that I believe will eventually be woven between the two of them.
While out running errands, Mr. N said it was cold out and then Miss. G said “CO” we asked her if she was saying it was cold out, she smiled brightly and nodded yes. It’s the beginning of a new word for her 😀
Then later on this evening I was with my nieces and Miss. F had finished her dinner, I used the signs I’ve been learning to ask her if she was finished, she signed that she was, so I signed to her that I was going to clean up and that she could play while I did so. Did I sign perfectly? Probably not. Did I know all of the signs I’d wanted to use today, nope. But it was a start, she smiled so brightly when I started to sign to her, she was very clear in her excitement about me signing with her, and that made me so happy. I certainly will be continuing with learning how to sign more with her!
As I posted yesterday, I am determined to learn ASL so that I can communicate with my niece fully. ASL (American Sign Language) is a wonderful communication tool for any person that does not communicate verbally. While eventually I’d like to take classes at my local college, to start right away I’ve been using a site created by Dr. Bill Vicars who also teaches at California State University in Sacramento, California. I find his descriptions clear and easy to understand. I also like how he talks about deaf culture with each sign he shows you. (Such as his explanation on if “welcome” should be used after someone signs “thank-you”) It’s all free as he wants people to have full access to learn ASL. If your child does not communicate verbally, but has fine motor skills, consider ASL! I know I’ll also be using it with Miss. G as she does not tend to verbalize but she does pick up on ASL very quickly. Knowing what you want to communicate and not being able to express it is a terrible thing which is why I am pro sign language for any child or adult that does not communicate verbally. (As well as anyone that is in their life)
Here’s a link to his site: