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Stumbling Towards Adulting

This past May I turned 41.

I would like to say that entering my 40's introduced an epiphany of adulthood and responsibility, but...not so much. I am still messy (thought much improved), I still swear far too much, I still have lax grooming standards (in terms of wearing grown up clothes or owning more than one pair of black pants, not actual cleanliness. I shower, comb and deodorant on a daily basis). I forget that I won't weigh 100 lbs no matter how much I eat. In all, I've not succeeded at this adulting thing.

Still, there are a number of things that I have figured out with age, from music to parenting choices to adult beverages:


The Rolling Stones- While I still don't really want to go to a concert and watch Mick, Keith, et al flop around on stage, I have grown to appreciate the mastery in their music. The documentary "20 Feet From Stardom" played a huge part in this, but songs like "Gimme Shelter," "Paint It Black," "Sympathy For The Devil" all have a sound that I have grown in to. I'm sure that the fact that Debbie Gibson (bless her heart) is no longer on the main stage of my musical tastes has much to do with this. Side note: Merry Clayton on "Gimme Shelter." Her voice makes me feel like I couldn't possibly be good at anything, at all, ever.

Keeping Things Neat- So, I am still a slob. It's my nature, but now I work really hard to try and combat it. And when it rears its head, either because I let it get away from me or because my son is actively combating my attempts at neatness, I don't just meet it where it is and settle down in it. Messes affect my psyche now, and when the house is in chaos, I am as well. Now I try to do the work needed to combat it, and it often feels like Adulting Level 10. Plus, and I can't lie, the fact that PJ has therapy at home three days week means that people are here at least three days a week. I need to keep my shit together.

Margaritas- I am not a big drinker, not in the slightest. For one thing, I was (and still am) a goody-goody, and second, I just don't enjoy the taste of most adult beverages (ie, wine). I had to work my way up to it, but margaritas, man. They're my jam.

Dealing With My Hair- The older I got, the curlier my hair got. For a long time, I had no idea how to combat that, and my head was enveloped in a cloud of WTF pretty much all of the time. Now, thanks to spray gel, wide-toothed combs, Pinterest and plopping, I have the curly thing pretty much down.

Judging Other Parents- With the exception of letting your small child ride in a car without proper safety restraints (for which I will judge you all the live long day) I have learned that there is so much more to the things you see play out between a child and his parent/caretaker. I'm sure that a lot of that is becoming a parent myself and then, in addition, becoming the parent of a child with special needs. Oh, but I will judge you a bit for being judgey. {shrug}

Love Languages: When you are little, love plays out in hugs and kisses and presents and joy. When you get older, you start to realize that the language of love is not a tangible thing. My mom speaks her love language in wanting all of the people that she loves to love each other. My dad spoke his in sharing his knowledge, and telling us things to make us smarter and better people. My friend Randi speaks hers in the way she stays connected to her tribe and my friend Amanda in being one of the most clutch friends I have ever known. Being an adult means that you understand that love is not in the extras, but in what the people you surround yourself with have to offer right off the bat.

News Radio: While music is still the mainstay in my car, and though I still love nothing more than blasting music with the windows down, I have grown to love news radio. KYW 1060 (local Philadelphia radio) is turned in for more than just traffic reports, and I ask Alexa to tell me the news as often as I ask her to play the Mean Girls Broadway soundtrack. It's become important to absorb the happenings of the world in my down-time- as a mom, as a person in a service field, as a voter and as a human. Understanding the world make my vote more powerful and valuable, and it lets me know what things I have to try and make better or different (ahemahemBETSYDEVOS.

Regular Doctors Visits: I used to be that asshole that showed up at urgent care super sick because not only did I put off handling an illness, I didn't have a doctor to go to (see me for the story about how I got fucking Rheumatic Fever in college like someone from the middle ages)! Frankly, that shit is unacceptable. Go to your checkups. Get your mammograms, butt checks, bloodwork, etc, because the bad news is that the older we get, the more difficult it can potentially be to bounce back from an illness. Also, the stakes go up as we age. The older we get , the weirder the stuff that happens to our bodies. The moral of the story? Go. To. The. Doctor.

Grocery Shopping: Eh, just kidding. I hate it. But we need to eat so I go. Adulting is also doing crap you hate.

Compromise: I am kind of stubborn. My mom and dad like to pull out a picture of me as a little girl, sweetly resplendent in a 70's pinafore dress and sandy blonde hair, with my arms crossed tightly across my chest and a pissy-ass look on my face because I was steadfastly not giving in to something or another. If camera phones has been a thing then, it's likely my parents would have thousands of pictures in a similar strain. I have a hard time giving in, but as I age, I start to understand what things can be let go and what things are the hill(s) to die on. It doesn't get any easier- I'm a control freak and always will be- but it does get more clear.

Honorable Mentions: Annie Lenox, guacamole, proper arch support, the jokes on Golden Girls, investing in good bras, most parenting decisions, flossing, how important your parents are

When did you realize you were a grown-up? Was it in your 20's? The first time you voted? Was there a seismic, life-changing event that forced it? Discuss.


Onus

Second grade is in the books for my Boy, and now that it is August, third grade is just around the bend. This was a profoundly difficult year for all of us, as we struggled with growing pains and loss. Pete and I can try to use all of the tools we have as "typically-developed adults" to try and grapple with what this year has thrown at us and even with that advantage, we usually fail spectacularly.

PJ, however, does not have that advantage. While he has all of the feelings, fears, hopes and needs of a typically-developing 8 year old, Autism has left him without the tools to properly convey those things. There are a million amazing things about our Boy that float to the  top for the people who know and love him but often, his difficulties negate those things to people unable to see differently.

Let me say this: we are not trying to gild a lily here. The things that make life hard for PJ can, in turn, make things hard for the people around him. PJ can be aggressive, and it's not okay for the person on the receiving end of that. PJ has been aggressive towards peers before, and I wear every incident like a scar- who is ever okay with being the parent of "that" kid? He can use language that sounds scary when he doesn't have the words to describe what is bothering him. PJ doesn't have the social skills that make approaching a peer easy for him, despite that fact that connecting with peers and making friends is something he desperately wants. Instead, his behaviors may come across as off-putting or rude, and without someone to prompt PJ on how to approach someone, the connection is missed.

PJ had an amazing experience at day camp this summer. He tried out new things, met new people. He was welcomed by the camp staff and community- a strong special needs program meant that he wasn't just tolerated, but made a part of the group. At family night a few nights ago, we ran into staff who knew him, each with something positive to say. It was inclusion the way it should be, and because of that, PJ was able to feel like he was a part of something.

Still, there were difficult moments. Towards the end of camp, one of PJ's more annoying idiosyncrasies started getting on the nerves of another kid, who got in his face. This is something that happens to every kid, but PJ had no idea how to handle it and quickly dissolved into a meltdown that resulted in his having to deescalate indoors and miss free swim, his favorite part of camp.

This is not to say that it is okay if PJ hits another kid, or uses language that is frightening. There aren't words for how it feels when I get a call that PJ hit a peer. When we are in those situations, the best we can do is to redirect PJ's behavior and teach him an acceptable replacement behavior. We also have to understand why the behavior happened. Was he scared? Trying to engage the other child? Provoked? Understanding the antecedent is key as well, and means that we often have to be three steps behind and two steps ahead at the same time. We do this not just situationally, but also in at-home therapies and social skills training. It is more than just a disciplinary reaction- along with that (and yes, we do discipline our child) there has to be time taken to not only let PJ know not only that the behavior is unacceptable, but HOW to behave instead. By "how," I mean literally going over the situation with him, and telling him the words to use and ways to act in order to replace the impulse to behave negatively. It's work. There are hours upon hours spent at home, trying to teach PJ how to behave like a typical child. When your child comes home from school and hops on his bike or zips off with neighborhood friends, PJ is at the table in our dining room, trying to learn how to earn that right.

I'm certainly not ready to just scrap those therapies, but I have to wonder: Why is the onus of acceptable behavior taken on completely by a child with a disability? We work so hard to break PJ of those Autism idiosyncrasies and negative behaviors that put others off, but who is working to help our typical children gain tolerance, patience, acceptance? Why is the idea of having someone meet PJ in the middle so foreign? Frankly, that viewpoint underestimates kids who, more than anyone else, are able to see what is special and interesting about my son.

In most schools, inclusion is still a tricky thing. Some districts still completely eschew the practice, preferring to place our children in self-contained classrooms or schools completely dedicated to serving kids with special needs. Other schools offer some form of inclusion, but it is a club with an application process, and only when a child is working as close to "typical" as possible are they allowed in. I have heard other parents say that a child with a disability is a "distraction" or time suck that can funnel resources away from other children.  This is an attitude that suggests that our children are not equal, and that some children are more deserving of an education than others.

PJ is a child, no more or less worthy than another. Yet so much of the focus on him zeroes in on what his difficulties can take away from his peers, rather than what his many, many gifts can offer. And I get that not every kid is easy. It takes work and resources to make sure kids like PJ have their needs met while also having access to the same type of learning landscape that all children are entitled to. Studies continue to show that both typical and disabled children benefit from an inclusive learning environment but, in terms of implementation, public schools remain very far from that goal. It's broken system, one that relies on our differently-abled kids alone to close the gap.

Parenting PJ In Alphabetical Order

Always bathe before bed, because this child has a propensity for getting dirty like nothing you have ever known.

Believe in him, even when it is hard. He is capable of so much more than anyone might think.

Cleaning up the trains is a useless endeavor. Just hang a "Sodor" placard our the mailbox and call it a day.

Discovering the amazing things about your child has no end and will always surprise you.

Everybody knows your name at two places, Cheers and our house, because PJ remembers everyone's name. Truly. He did not get this skill from me- I am the WORST with names. I am embarrassed to admit how many time I have had to ask PJ to remind me of someone's name.

Failures will happen. It's okay. Learn, even if "learning" is the thing that leaves a scar on your heart.  Dust off. Move on.

Growing like a weed, this one, but I wonder: Do girls end up in awkward in-between sizes? Right now PJ is between an 8 and a 10 and it's driving me nuts.

Haircuts are torture for him, but he gets through it and gets better every time. I try to imagine how intense the feeling is for him and can't, and somehow that breaks my heart even more.

Intense: PJ is not a cry baby, but he feels emotions very intensely. He might not cry if he falls down and gets hurt, but if he is frightened, sad, or apprehensive, he can be intense in his display. That is something he is grapples with often, as Autism has left him with little by way of organic tools to deal with these emotions. Instead, he may start to make threats, or throw things, or become aggressive. He has grown and improved and learned so much thanks to years of therapy and work (isn't that a weird thing to say about an 8 and-a-half year old?) but they can still sometimes float to the surface. PJ is old enough now to understand the repercussions of his negative behaviors, and I, somehow, seeing the shame on his face is a pain that is sharp and stinging and permanent in my mama heart.

Joy is hiding everywhere. It might be in bubble letters, it might be in farts. But my kid can extract happiness from the mundane like, whoa.

Kisses are still on demand, and I dread the day he decides he is too old or too cool.

Lettering and fonts hold huge interest for him. I wonder if maybe PJ will be a graphic designer. He is an amazing artist and his handwriting is even better. Astounding, really.

Math is his jam. Pretty soon I won't be able to help him with his homework.

Nikes. The Boy is partial to his Nikes. I am dying to get him in a pair of red Chuck Taylors but he will have none of it.

Ocean. I think PJ may have come from mer-folk. The ocean speaks to him and is the happiest of his happy places. He is basically Moana.

Parkour has been a blessing! We stumbled on lessons after he had a phenomenal parkour birthday party a few years ago. The sports has an amazing, inclusive climate and it is perfect for PJ, who is not yet ready for team sports. Parkour is individual, but the community is close-knit and welcoming.

Quiet? No thanks. He might be talking or he might be singing or he might be stimming, but my PJ knows how to make a joyful noise. Lots and lots of noise.

Religion is not a thing we have touched on yet with PJ. He has been welcomed into both of our faiths, but we have not pursued any sort of true religious following for PJ. It wasn't important before, but as he gets older, I find myself wanting more. I want PJ to know and love God, to be a good human and have a faith that he finds comfort, community, and guidance in.

Surfing. Again with the ocean, but riding the waves has made my Boy smile like I have never seen before. His first time on a board, the instructors only brought him back because he was chilled to the bone- practically turning blue. His smile is carved into my heart forever, and hearing some of the volunteers talking about the kid who was "so awesome" and a "real surfer" filled me with pride for my brave, mer-man of a son.

Thomas the Train. PJ is a little less mature than the average 8 year old, and Thomas is still his best guy...er, train. Still, as PJ has grown, the way he plays with Thomas et al has grown as well. As a toddler, lines of engines would cover any flat space- our kitchen table, the tv stand, a windowsill. Now, he builds whole worlds with his tracks, and if he doesn't have a piece that he's looking for, he creates one out of Lego's or magnet tiles or, once, Ritz crackers.  His original playmate might be the same but the way his creativity had blossomed is really something else.

Understanding my Boy can be a tricky thing. It takes work, lots of work, and without it, it is easy to simply see a misbehaving, aggressive brat. Sometimes, I see something in his face when he is in the throes of a meltdown that looks like shame, and it chips a piece of my heart away every time.

Victories come in huge doses, like his happiness when he surfs of the first time he cheered in front of hundreds of people. But they also come in small doses, like when I showed him the "Griffindor" shirt I bought him (side note: I'm a Ravenclaw) and he asked me "Where did you get that?" Follow up questions have not been his bag until recently. Small sentence, large victory.

Warrior is the term most often used for Autism parents. I get it, but I don't know that it's an accurate description of me. Frankly, I feel like I'm a cross between Napoleon and a honey badger with a smidge of Dorothy from the Golden Girls thrown in. If you asked our school district, the description would be similar, but with more swear words and eye rolling. Warrior kind of gives the impression that one is storming the castle with a plan and all their wits about them when, truth is, I can spend hours preparing for an IEP only to dissolve into tears ten minutes in because this is my baby we are talking about.

X...you guys. I just don't have anything for X. What do I look like, a sorcerer?

Yes is a word that PJ has become used to hearing. Picture it, our living room, almost 7 years ago. PJ had just been diagnosed with Autism and we were like lost souls, trying to find their way to Holland. We were desperate for PJ to have language, and when he finally started using more than just word approximations, the word he said often ended up in his hands. Come back to the present where PJ now has tons of words and...uh...is kinda spoiled. While we have certainly pared way back since  our "YES PRECIOUS CHILD HAVE THIS!!! AND THIS!!! AND SOME OF THIS!!!" days, we are still dealing with the fallout of a child who has difficulty with social skills understanding that "no" is a thing.

Zest. PJ is full of it. Some of his color is part of his sensory disorder; PJ needs to FEEL things, hard and strong, in order to get any input out of it. But I also like to think it's his nature and pure love of adventure that makes him want to jump into the roughest waves or ride the tallest ride or hear the loudest applause. He wants to feel things under his feet and in his hands, feel the wind whipping past on a roller coaster or the water engulf his body when he jumps into the pool. And sometimes it's subtle- he stopped a teenage girl the other day to talk about her bright red lipstick (and also asked to hold her hand, LOL!).


A Weirdly Sporty Post: Remembering Gordie and his Biggest Fan

An early Sunday wake up call from my son left me scrolling Facebook at 6:30 in the morning. Before the coffee is done brewing, scrolling Facebook is Top Level Brain Function for me at that hour. First coffee, then frying bacon because, safety.

I clicked into the Memories Feed and was treated to the usual montage of pictures of PJ in various stages of fun, mixed in with the Angry Flyers Updates that permeate my feed during hockey season (those should be trailing off until the fall) and other random thoughts when I came across a news piece on the life of hockey great Gordie Howe, who passed away two years ago today.

Growing up a child of my father meant that Gordie Howe was mentioned in our home the same way one might talk about a family member. My Dad was a man of science, but he was just as much a man of sport, and Gordie Howe was his idol. I think my Dad would have run away to join the Howes the same way another child might have run away to join the circus. Although Howe was done with his playing years before I was old enough to stay up to watch a hockey game, I was treated to tales of his career, told with an enthusiasm that was almost like watching it happen. He was as talented as he was terrifying, as gritty as he was great. In our home, he was The Great One, no matter what fancy West Coast-style players may have glided into the game (ahemGretzky).

Gordie Howe was a talent for the ages, but the driving force behind his success was his wife, Colleen. She managed her husband (and later, her sons) with skill and creativity in a time when it was unheard of for a woman to be in such a role. They also raised four children, one of them growing up to be the one of the finest defenseman and classiest human beings to ever play for my beloved Flyers
(Shout out to Mark Howe).  Colleen was not merely his love, she was his equal, and a trailblazer, and his support allowed her to be that in a time when few women were. My parents enjoyed a partnership that was the non-athletic superstar equivalent, my Mom the equally valued brains and talent in their little empire.

One of the hallmarks of the career of Gordie Howe was its longevity. Howe had a career that spanned six decades. Six. Decades. To give it some perspective, I won't be six decades old for another 20 years, and 20 years is considered a career of length in the NHL. Six decades, long enough to have already become a legend before he hit the ice professionally with the children he raised while becoming a legend (you may need to read that twice). The latter decades may have been missing some of the jump of his earlier ones, but teams were well aware of the value in his presence and the skills that even age could not dull completely. My Dad was a workhorse as well, never content being at home during layoffs or between projects during his career as an electrical engineer. He knew he had value, knowledge and worth to bring to employers and did so into his 70's.

Howe was gritty, fearless, and calculated in the manner that every movement sent a message. He gave up being needlessly scrappy early in his career, allowing his skill to come to the forefront but still able to send a physical message when needed (a skill for the ice, not for the non-athletic arena of school and work, lest any weirdos want to take me to task). He was an ambassador to his sport in the comparatively brief time he was off the ice. He was an inspiration to many of the players I grew up watching, and to the kids those players produced. Even my cat, named for him, led a Gordie kind of life- she lived long (almost 19 years!), tough (ask any guest who came to our house), and skilled (gentle, patient and understanding of PJ in a way that belied her general nature).

Both my Dad and Gordie are gone now, and in that cruel irony of adulthood, I can see with clarity now just what lessons my Dad gave me having introduced Gordie into my lexicon, too late to thank either of them.

Check HERE for a fantastic piece on the life and passing of Gordie Howe by NHL.com




Of which we do not speak...

A little over six months ago, I lost my father.

This is not going to be a post about that, because I am not there yet. In fact, I don't know where I am most of the time. My grief feels like something pretend, something that isn't real yet. 

From moment to moment, I catch myself feeling normal. I am in the middle of making PJ breakfast or fighting traffic to get to work and the world feels as it should, which means my father is in it. But then, triggered by nothing more than one breath to the next, I remember.

When that happens, my grief turns to cement, literally weighed down inside of me. I can talk about how much PJ reminds me of my dad when he's doing his math homework. I could talk about how much he would have loved the Eagles Super Bowl win. I can talk about how much he loved science, even though in the end, science is what took him from us sooner than his cancer may have. I can say these things with light in my voice, with love in my thoughts.

The kicker is that I know this is not healthy, that to keep all of this inside of me can equate to actual physical toll on my body (see the amazing TED Talk by Ash Beckham). I know that there are people who want to help. I know that shutting down when things get bad is stupid at best and insane at worst. I know. I know that is this not the thing to do to protect myself and yet this is what I do to protect myself. I can not talk about my grief. All those things, the math and the Eagles and the science are things I might have talked about when we still had him. My grief is that cement inside of me, a million pounds of it, and to start chipping at it feels dangerous, reckless. If I keep chipping at it, there really will be nothing left when it is gone. To hold it feels like holding on to my dad, a feeling that is stupid and sane at the same time.

The sane part knows that my Dad would not want me to go down with the ship. Even though my Dad was a man of science and math, there was also a bit of the poet in him, and I think it's that poet that connected him to his high-strung, sensitive daughter, even when the scientist wished I had majored in IT instead of social work. His duality in his existence allowed him to be proud of his do-good kid and still wish she had chosen an educational path that would not leave her on a steady diet of ramen. The problem solver in him would know that I need to face my grief. The insane part of me knows that to face my grief, to let it air out and then heal, means that I will have come to terms with losing my father. And that seems impossible, so I will continue on in this weird, self-imposed limbo.

“For now is my grief heavier than the sands of the seas, she thought. This world has emptied me of all but the oldest purpose: tomorrow's life.”
― Frank Herbert, Dune  

 

Job Description

There have been thousand upon thousands of essays written about what it is like to be a parent. We write about our strong-willed children, our shy children, our wild children. Tales are told about what it is like to raise a child who is differently-abled, a child who is gifted, a child with amazing athletic ability. When we talk about raising our kids, parents usually say that they want to raise good, kind humans, but while we are all looking for the same finish line, we are all running a very different race.

From the moment I heard about PJ's Autism diagnosis, I assumed I would take on the Mama Bear role. Want to suggest he can't do something? Want to try and keep him from services he deserves? Want to exclude him? I would be fighting it with claws out and bear strength. And I won't lie- sometimes being a Bear is fucking hard. When PJ was first diagnosed, I had so much to learn about the hats I would wear. One example was learning that gathering him up in my arms when he was upset was not always the best thing for him, no matter how much I wanted to shed my bear suit and be a regular Mama. Being both advocate and parent to your child is a tricky thing,

So, fast-forward to six years later. My bear suit had come on for school districts, teachers, insurance companies, other children...really, anyone who seemed to keep my son from reaching as far as I knew he could. I thought it was just what you did. Something in the way? Knock it down. That's the job.

Last month, I was watching the Olympics and catching up on work notes when I heard the strains of a song during a commercial. I rewound to watch it again, and the sweet voice of JJ Heller floated over a montage of tiny future Olympic athletes as they fell on skates, tumbled on skis, and endured teasing from competitors. Each time, their mom was there to soothe their bumps and bruises, warm freezing hands, and offer snuggles and words of love and encouragement.

"Go after your dreams, crazy as they may seem.
Go chase all the stars in the sky.
Baby, I'll be paving the runway
 'cause I know that one day you're gonna fly."

I pressed "Rewind" and watched the commercial again, a few times. I felt my eyes fill with tears, knowing what it is like to watch your child struggle. I could relate to these television commercial mamas who picked up their babies and let them take another shot at the very thing that hurt them. Plus, tiny kids on skis. I mean, really.

I listened to the song as it floated over the pictures. I grabbed my phone and in a minute, the song, Paving the Runway, was downloaded. JJ Heller's song now in my hand, I realized my job description as PJ's mom. I had the verbiage all wrong. I am not a Bear or a Warrior. Those words write a narrative that speaks of being adversarial or at war with this thing that is a part of my son or, more often than not, with the people who surround him. My job is to pave his runway, making sure that every opportunity, every experience, and every chance to learn is right under his feet, and I'll pave his runway until he's ready to take off.

"Paving the runway" became my mantra over the next few days. I listened to the song over and over. But, I can't just have a mantra like a normal person. I needed it with me. So...



I know. I have no chill. Normal people would have stopped at downloading the song. But something about the lyrics were so important to me that I knew I needed a reminder. When I am at a meeting that is making me crazy, when I am frustrated with so much therapy, when I am working so hard to make everything right, I just need to glance down and remember. PJ is going to fly. I'm just paving his runway.



Stumbling towards mediocrity...

If you somehow stumble upon this page, I want to apologize. I haven't been here in a while and, much like an abandoned house or the back of my car, things can get messy when I'm not tending to it.

It's been, by all accounts, two years since I have lived in this space. Once upon a time, this was my church, my confessional, my happy place. It was the literary version of those places you can go and throw axes. I came here to spew thoughts that I wouldn't share with someone in person.

Writing gave me more than an outlet. Writing gave me the chance to bask in a rare feeling for me; I could know that I was doing something I was good at. Writing gave me a mirror in which I could look, hard, at who I am and the things I was doing. And, on occasion, writing gave me a very tiny income and some free stuff. I even had the opportunity to share an essay on-stage. I have made great friends through writing and have had the chance to fill my heart with the things that other people have written.

Writing was my jam. But, somehow, I drifted away. I stopped by a few times but found that my rhythm was gone. The things that were on my mind were stuck there, left to feed and grow in my head. I was too busy to write, then things became too heavy. Facing this blog and all eight of my readers felt like facing a firing squad.

It wasn't just here- I wasn't talking to anyone. My penchant for social media was sidetracked by my penchant for shutting down. Texts went unanswered. It was bad, y'all. That kind of stilted feeling leaked into all aspects of my life. I was functioning at Mediocre at best- mediocre parent, mediocre wife, mediocre friend, mediocre employee.

It's time to try and climb out of this funk. It will be messy, and it will involve cycling back to some things I really, really would rather just move on and pretend never happened. But I am a grown-up- a middle aged woman!- and I can do this.

So, to quote the esteemed poets of our time, Salt-N-Pepa:

Here I go, here I go, here I go again.

Dipping my toes in.

I am not getting up from this computer until something is written.

I guess that last sentence would have qualified, but I know that I want more. It's been a long hiatus, this blog and I- the longest it has ever been. It's high time that I found my way back.

In the nearly-a-year that it's been since I sat down in this space, there have been so many changes, both for me and my little family as a whole. The first change is that back in September we bought our first home. It was heart-wrenching to leave our little apartment and our little town. It was the place we began our marriage, where we brought home our newborn son. We had grown friendships and has always assumed it would be where we planted our permanent roots. But, our issues with the school district became too great to conquer. There was just no place for PJ.

So we packed up and moved 11 miles away, to a much bigger town with a much different vibe, but with a place for my son to learn. The move was hard on PJ. He was terribly homesick and it took a few months for him to feel better. September and October were hell- poor PJ would sob every day asking us to take him back to his old neighborhood. Every time he cried, I cried, and I cursed the broken school system that made it impossible for PJ to have a productive place in the school and with his peers. But, things slowly got better. He is enjoying school and has an interest in his new building, new friends, and the perks of having a much larger living space! He has been invited to birthday partied, enjoyed school events, and staked out some favorite spots in his new town ( like the kick-ass playground!).

As PJ has learned to spread his wings, I have needed to toss aside some of my own social anxieties and meet some people as well. It's not really my thing, thanks to my general awkwardness and dull social skills. But, I managed, enough to make at least one great friend, a bunch of potential great friends, and to be a productive part of the school parent community.

Now it is May, and we are planning PJ's first summer in his new town. For the first time since he was 2, PJ will not be spending his summer inside getting autism therapies. Instead, he will go to day camp, and (hopefully) enjoy his first "typical" summer. I wanted PJ to have time with his peers and, even though he will have the one-to-one support of his therapist, have a dirty, buggy, swim-y summer. We are also hoping for some beach time, some surfing time, and some family time. Lots of ice cream, lots of sun screen. I hope it's the summer I have always dreamed of for PJ. Thanks to our tax return, we can even pay for it!

It's bedtime. There is a busy week looming ahead and things to do before I sleep. For now, I will hit "Publish" on this wretched post. Day One. Thanks for having me.

"I feel like all my life I've tried to find the answers."

My LTYM Experience or How I Accidentally Ended Up On A Stage

The final chapter of my participation in the Listen To Your Mother Show ended with our live performances. I turned 39 on May 3rd and on May 7th, I was on a stage at the beautiful South Orange Performing Arts Center with 12 other souls  (as well as our incredible producers, Sandy, Brooke and Deborah) that handily out-shined the beauty of the space. It all still feels as if it may have been a dream. A very gratifying, emotional dream.

It ended the same way it began, with my worrying about clothes. Before our first rehearsal, I was stressing out knowing that the next morning, I would be meeting a room full of strangers. Not only that, I would be taking a cast picture with these strangers and reading a story of the worst moments of my life. It seemed like too much to be vulnerable about my story and about my precarious self-esteem at the same time.

Despite all of that, I got into my car on a Saturday morning, armed with coffee and the soundtrack to "Hamilton." Clad in the pink and grey sweater I had chosen, I entered the loft space of the SOPAC to find a circle of chairs and the only faces I knew- those of our producers, who had sat before me as I auditioned in that very same space.

The rest of the faces trickled in, faces I knew vaguely from Facebook. I had no idea what stories I was about to hear, I just knew they would all be better than mine. I really had no idea what I was doing in this room. One of the women was even having a book published, for God's sake!

There were introductions and hugs and lots of "Hey, it's so nice to finally meet you!" We drifted to our chairs, and then it began. It sounds cliche and dumb, but these weren't just stories. There was so much truth and vulnerability and bravery, and it suddenly all made sense. I would have never made it to this room alone- none of us would have. We all needed each other. I could see the connections from one story to the next, like strands of sliver that tethered us all together. What an outstanding job the producers take on, to create this living being from nearly one hundred random tales.

We met again a month later. Instead of being impervious to the stories we'd heard, we were somehow even more open to absorbing them. We gathered after to eat lunch, giggling and exchanging pictures of our people and enjoying the indulgence of an afternoon cocktail. I realized that these were people I was going to know.

One more month and I found myself, again, stressing about clothes on a Friday night. But this time, it wasn't a pink and grey sweater at the ready, but a dress and heels, accessorized by jewelry chosen by a heavily pregnant sales girl at Nordstrom Rack. First thing that morning, I made one last drive to South Orange. I went in through the wrong door and, in a few steps, found myself onstage.

Many moons ago, in a life previously known as mine, I lived to be onstage. The itchy, awkward girl, plagued by acne and low self-esteem, would lose herself in Sandy or Mary or the screamy life of a Sweet Apple teen. Talent shows, Homecoming, every school choir concert, I would remember that there was something I was good at.

Fast forward about ten years (and at least forty fucking pounds) and there I was on stage again. This time, I wasn't playing anyone else. I was just myself. But despite the reservations I felt about being myself on stage, I found that the feeling of waiting in the wings to go on, the glow of the lights, and the sound of genuine, kind applause hadn't changed. It felt like a combination of a warm bath and an electric shock- two things that do not generally go together.



I sat on stage with my people and listened to their stories. Despite the fact that I was up there in front of hundreds, the stories felt as visceral and real as they always had. I had tears in my waterproof mascara-clad eyelashes when it was my turn. I walked up to the podium and totally blacked out. Seriously. I know I read my story, but it was like I was underwater. I forgot about the audience, didn't worry about looking fat. I could see the story I was telling as if it was happening right there.

My story was about the most terrifying moment of my life so far; I could not find PJ, and feared he had wandered from the house. As I read my piece, I was in my bubble until I got to the part where I found PJ, safe and okay, and the entire audience audibly groaned with relief.



That groan was the single most gratifying experience I have ever had as a writer. I suddenly remembered all of the people in the theater and realized that they were with me on this journey. It meant that I had told my story well enough for them to understand how terrified I was, and the crushing relief I felt when I found PJ safe. That was an amazing and unusual experience for a writer. I have no way of knowing if the things I create have any impact whatsoever because I am not there when people read it.

After the show, after all of the incredible stories had been told, I headed out to the lobby to find Pete before the second show began. We talked a bit and as we did, people came up to me with words of sweetness and encouragement and thanks. It meant that telling my story served the purpose I wanted it to- to let people know that sometimes, blame and finger-wagging and I would never let that happen's are just hot air on a fire.

We moved on to the second show, and I felt a new jolt of electricity go through me as I thought of my sister and my friends who had schlepped almost two hours to come see the performance. The second show had a different vibe, more intimate and serious. But it was a great show and before I knew it, we were backstage again, celebrating with champagne sipped from hijacked Dunkin Donuts cups. The performance space was transformed into a reception area, where I sipped a little more champagne and ate the most delicious meatball ever. I switched my very high heels out for a pair of socks that were more forgiving, if not fashion forward. We partied together until there were just a few stragglers left, and then we moved the party across the street to a great little bar.

In my grown-up life, there are not a lot of opportunities like this and that's okay. Seeing my son perform the first time, and to be witness to how much joy it brought him, eclipsed my biggest performance high times a million. I love my life, even when it's messy and dumb, but I also loved this glimpse back to who I was. Ironically, the bridge that took me there was who I am now. Either way, I could not be more thankful for this incredible opportunity.

I can not encourage you enough to visit the channel for our show and listen to all of my amazing, brave, talented, beautiful cast mates. Our stories, all together, made the show, not any one piece. To borrow a phrase, you will be changed for the better.

"My blurry lines, my messy life
Come into focus and in time, maybe...
I can heal and I can breathe
'Cause I can feel myself believe
That everything changes..."
-Everything Changes- Waitress Original Broadway Soundtrack

White Girl Talking

The news lately has swirled with stories of division, hate, fear and exclusion. From the stories that made national news in my own little town, to the stories that made national news for their heartbreaking disregard for human life, it all certainly gives way to a lot of talking.

I had a conversation with someone today about a YouTube video he had seen. In the video, an African-America.n gentleman told his story of an encounter with police that remained un-contentious (is that even a word?) and peaceful. He conveyed that the reason for this was because he was respectful and cooperative. Which, of course, is more than likely true. His tale seemed to say "If it happened to me, it can happen to you. Just behave."

Of course, in 99% of the cases, this is true. I know that most people have positive interactions with law enforcement, no matter how they feel about getting a speeding ticket or being caught without car insurance. Things almost always go a little easier when every acts like human beings.

Almost always, except when they don't. I know I'm just a White Girl Talking, but it seems offensive at best to hold up the story of one person and say "See? The cops didn't beat this guy up! You just have to know how to behave." That logic is flawed. Would one woman ever say to another "Well, jeeze! I forget to make dinner all the time and my husband doesn't beat me. You just have to know how to behave!"

Sounds asinine, right? But that's exactly the attitude conveyed when we tell people of color "Well, if you didn't talk back/have a record/resist/etc..."  Any other time, when a section of human life is marginalized, we try to do better by them. Nobody would say to a group of women, marching to being awareness to domestic violence, that "Men's lives matter, too!" Nobody would say to a group marching to prevent child abuse that "Adult lives matter, too!" I have never seen anyone standing on the sidelines at a walk for Autism yelling "Cancer matters, too!"

Yes. All lives matter. That's without a doubt. Every life is important and meaningful and necessary, no matter how much to the contrary that may seem. All of the lives matter equally. That said, it is not for anyone to look at a group that has been marginalized, that feels as though they need to raise their voice to be heard, and patently set them aside by saying "All lives matter" when they mean "...but some more than others."

Last week, the world lost a powerful voice upon the death of writer and Nobel Peace Prize winner Eli Wiesel. His memoir, "Night," changed my life, as a Jew, as a writer, and as a human being. The morning that the news of his death broke, I pulled it from my bookshelf and read it cover to cover, sobbing as I took in this story that I already knew. It's a slim novel, but so powerful in its telling of what can happen when hate spills over. The way that hatred can sweep out an entire people and how the hated can change, so quickly, into people who themselves hate as a means of survival.

It seems like every time I turn the news on, there's heartbreak. The stories get worse and the casualties pile up. And in all of that rubble there are beacons of hope but, on the whole, I don't know what the answer is, or how to even begin to go about finding it. All I can do is try to keep my eyes open and my heart open, and to make sure that my son is doing the same. I hope PJ will see color and difference and celebrate it, not separate.

Nothing's what it seems, I mean
It's not all dirty, but it's not all clean 
-"Stand," Jewel

Today, I am...

Today, I am...

...happy. We had a weekend full of friends and family and celebration and playground time and Mr. Softee truck treats. I tucked my son into bed tonight, worn-out and full of the stories of all he did this weekend (a weekend that was extended by a day off today!). Even better, he fell asleep the second his head hit the pillow. Winning. 


...weird. I have been away from writing for a while now as I learn to navigate going back to work. It's been about four months, and while I love my new job and am thankful for this new opportunity, I am still learning to juggle All Of The Things. God bless the mamas who go back to work full time and have more than one child. Or any woman who works full time and has a full life outside of her work as well, for that matter. I am pretty certain that level of life management is just not in my skill set. Still, I have missed writing, missed this outlet, missed being creative. I am rusty (hence this lame post), but hoping to become shiny again soon. 

...thankful for the amazing opportunity that was Listen To Your Mother. I still can't believe that they allowed me to share the stage with the incredible story-tellers that were my cast mates. It was a very profound, educational, life-changing experience- a change for the better. I'm wanting to share so much more, but this was something to mention tonight. 

...transitional. We have some big plans and dreams for this summer and Pete and I are just hoping that they come to fruition. I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate when plans are up in the air, but I am trying to remember that patience is a virtue, good things come to those who wait, and all of that other bullshit. And no, we are not pregnant. {shudder}

...bewildered because, seriously. What in the name of hell is this Pokemon crap? I saw grown men skulking around the playground yesterday, phones out and heads down, not to mention the handful of other adults that I have seen milling about. I suppose they could be child molesters, but it seems more likely that Pokemon is the culprit. WTF? 

...more excited than I should be that tomorrow is Prime Day! 

...tired. It's time for bed, and I'll sleep a littler better for having checked in here. 

Good night. 


And it's hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off...
-Shake It Off, Florence & The Machine 

The New Face of #Xfinity

{sponsored post}

So, real talk, peeps.

Comcast has not been known for spreading happiness. If I talked to my friends about Comcast, I often heard tales of poor customer service- the kind of poor service that has reached internet meme status.

Often it can seem like those kinds of complaints reach deaf ears. But, guess what? Comcast heard you, and Comcast has made changes that will blow your mind in the best possible way!

When I first got the call to join the #XfinityMoms for a presentation at the Comcast Xfinity Store in Willow Grove, PA...well, I almost RSVPed "no." My experience with Comcast stores was kind of bleak. Long lines, bullet-proof glass, and cranky staff. Thankfully, I was highly impressed with the first change I saw Comcast had made- I arrived at a sleek, gorgeous, welcoming store where a cute guy named Maurice held the door open to welcome me!

I glanced around the store and saw all of the amazing options #XfinityHome has to offer. It was, frankly, pretty cool! Video monitoring, thermostat controls, home security systems and ways to access all of that from your home or from the road! During our demo, our #Xfinity rep Ander used his own device to show us how he could turn the lights and televisions on and off in his home! It was, I have to say, pretty cool!

All of the cool bells and whistles that #Xfinity customers can provide to keep your home connected and safe are pretty amazing, but let's face it- I just want to talk about how I can enhance my tv watching experience! Does #Xfinity have a way to make vegging out on my couch, watching "A League of Their Own" for the millionth time, even better?

Oh, yes. Yes they do.

Let's just start with the fact that I don't even have to be on my couch! I can access my favorite shows and movies thought the Xfinity TV app! Just a free download to my phone means that I can watch a "Say Yes to the Dress" marathon  while standing outside watching an actual marathon (And while I'm mentioning apps, there are a suite of #Xfinity apps to help you access your e-mail, change the channel on the TV, locate an #Xfinity hot spot, and manage your home security systems!)!

But the crux of TV watching, being on your couch, has been brought to new heights with all of the things #Xfinity X1 has to offer. Let's start with that magic wand of TV watching, the remote. The new Xfinity Voice Remote gives you the power to search for TV shows, change the channel, set your DVR, and find out what's on Xfinity On Demand!

Have kiddos? You can use the Kid Zone to make sure that anything your child dials up to watch is safe and appropriate, yet still able to be independently accessed! So, yes, it means your kid might watch Caillou, but he won't accidentally stumble on the RHONY reunion show!

Are you home alone and jonesing for some Chaning Tatum? It's Chaning O'clock somewhere! A quick query of his name into the remote and BOOM. Instant hotness on your screen.

And my favorite feature of the the Xfinity remote? You can say a line from a movie and the remote will find the movie! What kind of sorcery is this (that quote would actually lead you to a few different movies)? That means that when my sister and I start speaking our love language of movie quotes to each other, we could watch the correlating movie together afterwards!

Mic. Drop. Except don't actually drop the remote because that thing is kind of magical.

I could go on and on about all of the cool things I learned about at the Xfinity Store, but to truly see what there is to offer, you need to mosey on down to your local Xfinity Store location, grab a seat on one of those cute benches, and just take in the show. I went in a skeptic, but I've changed my tune!

And to help you change that song you've been singing, Xfinity is offering you the change to win a NEST Learning Thermostat System! This thing is amazing, and you want one. Trust me.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


-This post was sponsored by #Xfinity. I was compensated for my time, but everything written here is my own, non-coerced opinion. I mean, could I make up that stuff about the movie quotes? No. I could not. All opinions and thoughts are my own. 

Thoughts On Autism {re-purposed}

Originally posted April 2014

Today is April 2nd, World Autism Awareness Day, and it is Autism Awareness Month.

The month begins on the heels of news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that Autism is on the rise. 1 in 68 children in the areas followed by the CDC are identified as having an Autism Spectrum Disorder, up from 1 in 88 just a few years ago. In New Jersey, the numbers are far higher then the national average at 1 in 45. 

You can view a summary of the latest CDC report here, but there are two points of the report that stood out to me:

  1. Less than half (44%) of children identified with ASD were evaluated for developmental concerns by the time they were 3 years old.
  2. Most children identified with ASD were not diagnosed until after age 4, even though children can be diagnosed as early as age 2.

PJ was diagnosed with Autism shortly after his second birthday. Pete and I had already utilized an evaluation with our state Early Intervention program, which allowed for PJ to have nearly six months of therapy under his belt by the time we received the official "Yup. It's Autism." I think about how lucky we were to be surrounded by supportive staff at our pediatrician office, who didn't say things like, "Well, he's a boy." or "It's not that he can't talk, he just won't." 

I don't think that the people who say things like that say them out of malice or ignorance. Not at all, and I am sure there are some amazing physicians out there who just aren't alarmist, and might not recommend action when a milestone has just been missed. PJ was hitting all of his milestones late- rolling, walking, teething- so when he still only had a few words at 15 months, we were concerned but not alarmed. It was pure instinct that led us to follow-up again when nothing had changed by 17 months, and I am very, very thankful that our physicians trusted that instinct and gave us the correct information, allowing us to follow through with our concerns. 

Autism is on the rise, and while it's certainly something to be concerned about, it shouldn't consume you. If someone was dumb enough to ask me for advice, I would say "Enjoy every minute with your baby. That baby is yours and wonderful and perfect. Don't obsess, but always trust your instincts, and try to work with people who will understand and respect those instincts, be that your spouse or pediatrician or pre-school teacher. You are, always, the people who knows your child best and the strongest and most qualified advocate for that child." 


We are thankful for every second of therapy PJ has had. Seeing PJ grow and learn and stretch and love has been all the reassure that we need. It is never too late to start therapy- not by a long shot. But it is never too early, either, and it's up to us as parents to decide which road to take.  

Every child develops at his or her own rate, and it is up to you to decide if that rate is the right one for your child. Watch carefully, listen to your heart, and in the meantime, love, love, love those babies. Emphasis on the latter. 



Through the door, what do I see? 
 Something is happening, is it for me? 
Is it for me? 
Toad The Wet Sprocket- Is It For Me