Monday, October 28, 2013

If you're lost and alone or you're sinking like a stone, carry on...

{things on thursday}

Stuff on Saturday

The crap I'm writing about at 10:59pm on Sunday.

There we go.

The past few weeks have been full of nonsense. There have been so many times that I wanted to sit and write, but I either felt too stilted, too tired, or just plain didn't care. It hasn't been a stellar time lately, and it would be so easy to just sit down and pour out sentences filled with woe. I could work the whole "It's my blog and I'll bitch if I want to" angle and let it all out.

But so much of it is just nonsense. Bickering with Pete as we try to get through this whole working-out-our-marriage thing. Trying to find an evenness in my baby, who has been so manic and disorganized lately. Just trying to live. The living is just so damn hard sometimes.

This past Friday, we lost a friend of mine to a rare form of leukemia. She gave it a long, hard fight but, in the end, her body just wore out. Dominica was a friend of mine, and she had a family around her that would have blocked a hurricane to keep her here. One of those family members, my dear friend Carmen, is one of my closest friends, someone who is a part of my own family. Her brother and her nephew Noah are left trying to pick up the pieces of a new life, one without their Dominica, and it's so fucking unfair that I can't find any words.

So, instead, I'll talk about this.

Back in February, Carmen's friend Jennifer was flying in from Florida for a visit. We had been hearing about her forever and were dying to meet her. We planned a girls night in Philly, but started to rethink it when we realized that Jen would need to fly in, get to Carmen's place in NJ, and get ready just to turn around and walk back out the door to go out. We didn't want to waste any potential hanging out time, so Marla and I hatched the brilliant idea to have a girl's night at her house. Her dining room has been newly painted and we hired a chef to cater the affair. We were staying in, but still going balls to the wall.

We settled on a "sparkle" theme, with all of us wearing a little bling. Marla and I had even glued crystals to wine glasses! Chef Mark started to cook and soon, women started to trickle in, laughing and noshing and talking loudly to be heard over all of the noshing and laughing. We sat down to the table to start our meal, but Dominica's seat was still empty. We were wondering if she was going to make it after all when there was a knock at the door. Dominica walked in and a huge cheer came up from the table- we were complete.

Empty chair? Where's Dom??
Dominica's arrival was the missing piece we needed to transform  a pleasant girls night into an evening of Epic Lady Nonsense that included wildly inappropriate discussions and a frigid dip into Marla's hot tub, where the water kept us warm as the steam droplets froze in our hair! And the dinner...oh, my. Chef Mark is a culinary genius and if he hadn't been showing us pictures of his children on his phone, I would have kidnapped him and made him cook for me forever.

I am not always a girls girl. I am awkward and easily intimidated and my low self-esteem makes it difficult for me to not feel like a loser in front of other women. Sad but true. But this night, among a mish-mosh of all different types of women, I felt right at home. There was a magic in the air and it wasn't just the copious amount of alcohol flowing about.

Oh, hell yeah! There she is! 
We all laughed and talked and even yelled way past midnight and into the next morning. It seemed like it would go on forever, but eventually, we all lost steam and, one by one, left to go home. When I got to our apartment, Pete was still up. I shared my leftovers with him and talked his ear off about how fun our night was.

If I had thought that the evening would be impossible to ever recreate, it's even more clear now. That night, Dominica's cancer seemed to be at bay, taking a rest after it had kicked her ass around for a bit. But, Dom was an ass-kicker herself, so we all figured she was one her way to better health and a beautiful life with her love and her son. But, back to life being unfair again, it came back, and this time it was just too much.

Right now, everyone is doing the holding up thing. Making arrangements, making phone calls. Dominica comes from a huge, tight-knit family, and judging from the endless stream of comments, pictures, and videos on Facebook, documenting the life of this woman, she is so loved. Her husband and her little boy have so many hands to help lift them up and so many hearts to use while they patch up their own.

Life is just hard sometimes, for no good reason. We all have some sort of cross to bear, and nothing annoys me more than when people try to compare sadness. "My dog passing beats your terrible asthma attack" and such. Each persons sadness is their own, and it doesn't help anyone to get into a sadness pissing contest. Instead, strive to share your good, and in the midst of your own, send some prayers and good vibes to a family who is desperately missing someone tonight.

Dominica, you gave it one hell of a fight. Thank you for always being so good to my Carmen, for being so stinking funny, and for loving Carlo and creating such a little spitfire in Noah, who PJ adores. There will always be a place at the table for you.

Rest well.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I must be one of the wonders, God's own creation...

{stream of consciousness}

I feel like I should note that I have been trying to write this post for over a week now. I write, reflect, erase, shut the computer, come back, repeat. I have been trying to convey just how emotional, how special a quick moment was for me, and I keep missing the mark. So I am just going to write and not worry and just try to get this down on paper the screen.

A few Fridays ago, I saw the future. Kind of.

I had been having a rough week, so when my dear friend Michelle said she was free for coffee while PJ was at school, I jumped at the chance. A good chat with a great friend at our favorite hangout seemed like a recipe for a better mood. We sipped our coffee and talked about our babies and laughed over gossip and I felt my soul easing up a bit and my mood lifting.

When our coffee was done, we gathered up our things to leave. As we walked to the door, I saw a familiar face out of the corner of my eye, someone I could tell was tall even though she was sitting down, and I turned to see an acquaintance I knew through a family member.

Jennifer is one of those women who truly seems to do it all. She is tall, willowy, and lovely. She is brilliant, a professor at a local college. She has a handsome husband and gorgeous sons, and together they are outdoorsy, intelligent, and giving. I know, right? But we don't hate her. Jennifer is incredibly gracious and nice. I don't see her very often so this was a pleasant surprise.

As she sat with her oldest son, we did the usual life-update chat- this is what I've been up to, here's a picture of PJ, "He's so big!", etc. Her son was either just finishing up or had just finished his degree in film, and later that day had an interview for a coveted internship position at a local television production company. We talked about handshakes, about PJ, about his studies and his hopes for the future. When he got up to go to the counter, I turned to Jennifer.

"He's so self-assured...and tall!" Seriously. This is a tall family. I have to look straight up to speak with Jennifer when we are standing, and her son is even taller. Either way, it was time to go, and we walked out of the shop. I wished him well at his interview, promised to keep all of my fingers crossed, and got into my car, where I promptly burst into tears.

PJ is just about to turn four. I am, really, just starting my adventure of being the mother of a son with Autism. And in just four short years, everything I thought would be was rewritten. I find myself living day-to-day, and not able to see into the future. It's sometimes difficult to envision PJ in high school when we are struggling to put together his IEP, or deep-breathing our way through a tantrum. Life with my son is beautiful and amazing and brings every joy I imagined, but it's something we often take a few moments at a time. Maybe it's because I don't know too many young men in their late teens/early twenties. But suddenly, meeting Jennifer's son, I saw the potential for what PJ's future could be as a self-assured young man pursuing something that has meaning to him and makes him happy.

Why such a sudden, emotional feeling of what PJ's future could be like? It's because Jennifer's tall, bright, self-assured son also has Autism.

It's not so much that I have such specific goals for PJ in terms of what I want him to be when he grows up (a hockey player) and/or how well he will do at school (three-time valedictorian with a Ph. D in something awesome). Well, maybe I had  a few ideas, but one of the first lessons I had to face when PJ was diagnosed was the lesson that PJ's goals, the things that make him happy, and how he relates to others maybe different then what is considered "normal". But what struck me about Jennifer's son was how amazingly self-assured he seemed. He gave the impression that he is happy about who he is, and that's enough of a struggle for any young adult, much less one who might have had some challenges to face.

Oh, my lord. I am crying. Because that is the crux of that I am trying to get at. We can guide PJ through school, try to encourage him to be a good person, make sure that we fill his body with nutritious food to help him grow from the inside out. He may or may not be traditionally successful academically, he may or may not have a lot of friends. He may grow into an adult who lives on his own or he may live with us forever. He's still in clothing sizes that end in "T", so it's still too far out to even know which of those scenarios I think he will be capable of. I can hope that he has something that he has a passion for, and I can just hope that he will be happy, with who he is and what his world has to offer.

And Jennifer and I...we are miles apart in so many ways- in faith, in ambition, in sheer brain power, and in height. Are you getting that she's tall? some point, Jennifer had to have a young child who was just so clearly different. Possibly, most days were amazing but some days...some days were so damn hard, and a little confusing. Days where you just don't have any idea what you're doing and if you're doing it right. There are times when things get difficult and I have no idea if we'll all make it out unscathed. But I can look ahead and see Jennifer and her beautiful family, her grown-up, happy, confident, engaged son and know that it's possible to get there.

PJ's path doesn't have to be exactly the same. He may or may not complete high school, go to college, have a career choice in his sights. I hope he does, but it's okay if he doesn't. Whatever his journey is, I hope that I can guide him along in a way that lets him know that he is happy, loved, and confident in who he is.

It's a big challenge, but now I can say that I've seen it be done.

Monday, October 14, 2013

...and ain't this position familiar, darling?

{and then she spewed out a bunch of random crap...}

Morning. Trains. Sunlight. 
...We just got back from spending a weekend in the Poconos. Pete's parents own a little house in a very pretty mountain community, so earlier last week, when we realized that we had a three-day weekend looming ahead, we decided to make our way upward. 

The weekend was very relaxing- we took PJ to the pool, did some outlet shopping (Holy. Holiday. Shopping. Crowds. Never again.Plus, some of my clutch stores yielded an uncharacteristic lack of things for PJ), took walks and played on the back deck where PJ happily shoved crispy leaves through the gaps in the wood. On our second night there Pete and I watched the movie "42". I was a little nervous about letting Pete pick out another movie with a number in the title after the "Movie 43" mess I had to sit through, but this movie was very, very good. All in all, it was low-key and mellow, a change of scene my little family needed. It's still a little awkward and strained sometimes, this business of trying to put our marriage back together, but being a family is what we want, so we'll just hope that time can heal some of our cuts and scratches. 

...I am not a huge football fan, but right now, Eagles wins equal a free Dunkin' Donuts coffee the next day. Yup! FREEEEE!!! So, football gets a "meh" but free coffee because of football gets a big "HELL, YEAH!". Nothing like a cash-free way to feed the beast! 

...Last week, a bunch of chicks gathered for a great cause, to raise money for the Lupus Walk! Marla spearheaded a girl's night at a local paint-your-own-pottery place, with all of the sitting fees going towards her walk. She expected a handful of girls, but instead, over twenty people crowded into tables to paint coffee mugs, Halloween figures, plates, vases, etc. We let our creative juices flow while we noshed on snacks, sipped on wine and beer, and laughed our heads off! I trolled Pinterest for some creative ideas and came up with this: 

I can't wait to pick him up! 

...Cheer practice continues to go well for PJ! As he gets more time under his belt, his behavior and compliance continues to improve. He still needs quite a bit of guidance and prompting, but he's learning the routines, taking part in stretching exercises, and making friends. One of the older girls has a particular way with PJ, and she helps to guide him through practice with a sweetness and patience that blows me away. I know that Pete is still a little uncomfortable with the whole "cheer leading is for girls" thing, but on the whole, we are thrilled with what this experience has given PJ so far. 

Oh, and also? I know the stereotype is that cheer is for girls, but there are some fiiiiiiine looking men who are on the floor helping some of the other teams with the gymnastics aspect of the sport. I'm not sure who they are, but day-um. If he chooses to use them, I have a feeling this activity will help fine-tune PJ's future lady-schmoozing skills! 

...There is still time to win TWO VIP TICKETS to the 9th Annual Virtua Women's Health Symposium! If you haven't entered, you can click the link at the top of the page, below my blog logo (see it up there?) and use the promo code "breezylife" to enter! It sounds like an amazing day of learning, shopping, fun and fellowship with all kinds of women from all over southern New Jersey, plus OMIGOD GOLDIE HAWN!! I'll be there, along with my plus one, so don't let this chance pass ya by!! 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Have I said too much? There's nothing more I can think of to say to you...

The other morning, over Nutella french toast, Pete and I had a conversation about my blog. Or, rather, the conflict that my blog presents. But more on that in a second.

Why do I have this blog? I am honestly not entirely sure. I have been "blogging" for a long time, before the term became popular. I had enjoyed writing my whole life, but never kept a diary- that is, until I realized that I could type much faster then I could write, allowing me to keep up with the flow of my thoughts with much more ease. Almost five years ago, I switched blog hosts and moved to this little space, and found a tiny little group of readers who somehow stumbled here. I've met some amazing women and made some real connections. People who have never laid eyes on me or my little family were among the first to reach out when I talked about PJ's diagnosis of Autism, of how hard it was to put him on the bus that first day of school. Who offered real words of support and love when I wrote about the problems in my marriage. Being willing to open up can be risky, but there were people listening when I thought there was nobody listening, and it made the risk worth taking.

So, back to my Nutella-fueled talk with Pete. He wondered how I reconciled my very private self, who doesn't like to talk about my problems with anyone or be discussed/gossiped, with the self who spills it all in words and paragraphs on her blog. The question annoyed me a bit in a "I JUST AM, OKAY??" kind of way. What the hell kind of a question was that? I write because I want to write and I talk to whomever I do or do not choose to. OH-KAAAAAA-AAAAAYYYY?

However, petulance aside, it was a valid question, and I thought about it when I wasn't near Pete anymore and it was safe to consider it was a valid question without losing face.

Why I write: I have always loved to write. I remember the look on the face of a teacher in the 6th grade who accused me of plagiarism. She asked me to show her the books I used for reference, and when it was clear that I had written the paper entirely on my own, she apologized, and I remember the look on her face to this day. I remember turning in a report in the eighth grade, and when the grades were returned, my teacher handing me mine back, saying "Brie, you are a hell of a writer". I never had enough self-esteem to try looking for validation or feedback as my skills developed. I didn't know I was good at this until someone told me. Am I great at it? Oh, hell, no. But, I'm okay.

So, I write. I have written about cloth diapers, Pinterest, breastfeeding, gay marriage. Tons of things that I have a vested interest in but doesn't let a reader in too far if you know how I feel about it. Then there are the things that let a reader very, very far in, and 99% of the time, those are things I wouldn't discuss face-to-face with someone if my life depended on it.

For one thing, this blog has some relative anonymity to it. Yes, I have met some wonderful people through this blog, I have been able to reach out and correct some wrongs through this blog, and those rewards are amazing. I also know that family members read my blog, which lets the people closest to me have a view of something that I might not share in person. But for the most part, most of the folks who stop by my blog are "lurkers"- they read, but don't let me know that they were here, and my blog isn't even close to being popular enough to draw the real crazies. So there's not always someone there to call me on my bullshit the way there would be if I spoke to someone face-to-face. I write, I spell-check, I close the computer, and there's nothing left to face unless I want to face it.

I don't always want to share, but I always want to write, and since I want to write, I share. There's no real way to reconcile it, and I have to remember that when I put something out there, it's not just out there in a don't-put-naked-pictures-out-into-the-interwebs-because-OMG!-the-pervs! kind of way. It's out there in every kind of way, and using my computer as a middle man doesn't really change it any more then if I stood outside and shouted it.

So after all of that babble, there's no answer. Maybe I'm not a very good writer, after all.