Monday, July 30, 2007

Happy Birthday!

Nine years ago today, the love of my life came into the world. What a wild and wonderful ride it has been. Hooray!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Rainy Day Thoughts While Waiting for a Friend

If you had asked me a little over a year ago (and you wouldn't have, because I wasn't in the blogosphere yet), I would have said I had five really close friends: one from jr. high, one from high school, one from college, one from my seminary years (though not from seminary) and my husband. None of those folks lived near me, other than the hubby.

Over the course of the last year, I lost my husband. He's still a friend, but obviously the friendship is strained and will never be as intimate as it once was. I also had one of my closest friends fall away as we both endured pretty hard life transitions and did so very differently. I have been wondering whether to reach out to her again, but I know that I do not trust her as I once did. Another friend (see yesterday's post) is now closer in distance, but her own life difficulties have made it harder to stay tight. That might change. And with another friend, we've simply fallen out of touch from years and years of not seeing each other and rarely speaking any more.

That leaves one friend. She's coming today for a visit so I'll be out of touch for a few days, probably.

I'm starting to make friends in this new city. It is a slow process at this stage of adulthood. Not like college or grad school when you can sit around for hours shooting the shit. We all have jobs and mortgages and kids and parents to care for. Our lives are busy and we sneak in walks or talks over coffee when we can. I have lived in eight places in the past twenty-two years. Now I feel like I'm starting over in so many ways -- career, relationships, place, sense of self.

On Sunday the sermon was called "Sweet Surrender." Using the Martha/Mary passage, the preacher talked about moving beyond doing or being, beyond action or contemplation, into a kind of surrendered living where we practice daily allowing our lives to be shaped by the spirit, so we learn to know instinctively when to be in the kitchen working and when to be sitting at the feet of Christ listening. Last night I was reading Sue Monk Kidd on this same topic: surrender. Using the image of the caterpillar beginning the work of the chrysalis, she talked about "diapause," a process where caterpillars can actually put off the timing of the cocoon for up to a year if they don't feel ready yet to leave behind the caterpillar life. How hard it is, she noted, to really let go of who we have been and surrender into a new life, trusting God to shape us into who we might become. We let go a little bit and then grab hold of some old security again. Bit by bit, we let ourselves be changed. Or we don't.

Surrender is not my strong suit. Yet I long for this next stage of life to be God-driven, God-shaped, God-fragranced. I long to let myself be surprised by the workings of grace. God, save me from being Martha when I need to be Mary, and when the nurturing, sacred work of Martha needs to be done, let me do it gracefully. Amen.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Shopping, Redux

Just spent the weekend helping a friend get settled into a nearby city to start a new job. She has been stuck in a horrible, god-forsaken place for the last seven years, during which time she grew deeply depressed, as well as physically ill. I'm so delighted that she's out of there, has an interesting new position at an area college and is within easy driving distance for weekend visits.

Some of you will remember my post on shopping. Being with this friend was an eye opener. During her depression she became a compulsive shopper and her new place is piled floor to ceiling with her purchases, most still in their boxes or with tags on, never opened, never used. Four coffeemakers, for example. Close to a hundred new towels. She realizes this is crazy. She said to me, "I hope I'm never that sad and lonely again."

Yeah, me too, my friend. Me too.

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Illusionist

Having depressed myself with Sick-O last night, I needed me some eye candy. Mmmm, mmm, I loves me some Edward Norton. The Illusionist is a fun flick. This photo isn't from the movie, cause the movie shots weren't close ups of the boy. Sweet dreams.

Back to the Pope ...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Now I Feel Sick-O

Just saw Sick-O. I was working on my personal budget today and since I'm now living paycheck to paycheck, this budget really has to be followed. When I added up what I spend monthly on health insurance and then paying for the therapy, medication and so forth my health insurance doesn't cover and thought about what I could be doing with all that money if I lived in Canada, England, France, Cuba or pretty much anywhere else in the civilized world, I got quite depressed. Great. Now I'll need more therapy and medication that my health insurance won't cover.

Ed's Funny

Thanks to Ed for this good laugh. As my self-description says, always in search of a belly laugh, and Ed provided it today.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What Conservatives Say When They Think We Aren't Listening

Oh dear. If you can stomach it, try this article: Neocons on a Cruise. Written by a reporter from the Guardian (UK) who infiltrated a cruise for readers of the National Review.

White Bread

Last week, when most of my family was together for my dad's 80th, Mom got sentimental and hired a professional photographer to come to the house. We're not really a professional photograph kind of family. We do snapshots. None of us even has a camcorder. (Can you imagine -- three generations of Americans and no camcorder among us?) Anyway, it was for Mom, so we obliged by putting on plain t-shirts and neutral pants to try and look, you know, presentable. Last night the photos appeared on the website for the photographer so that we can order as many as we like, no hassle.

They're sweet photos and it is nice to see us all together. But you know my first thought looking at them? Oh. My. God. We have got to be the most white bread family in the U. S. of A. I mean, talk about Midwestern corn-fed! It's tempting to post one just so you can see, but I don't have permission to do that and I'm still maintaining this illusion of semi-anonymous on my blog.

Evil? Me?

This site is certified 36% EVIL by the Gematriculator

This site is certified 61% GOOD by the Gematriculator

OK, who's paying attention? The numbers above don't add up. That's because the evil and the good are from two goes of this silly thing here. Last night I was going to post but my connection was slow as molasses and so I decided to wait. Then I was 33% evil. First time this a.m. 36% evil. Next time 39%. No changes on blog. Conclusion. The test is evil. That's what! (Thanks to PJ for this).

But even at 39%, it's better than totally depraved, I guess.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Jesus Yoga

Oh, why not? I have nothing better to say tonight.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Heart Advice

Several of us in my little circle of the blogosphere seem to be going through major life transitions -- career, marriage, or just general "what's it all about, Alfie" kinds of stuff. Four book recommendations, one of which I've made before.

In When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd she writes, "The life of the spirit is never static. ... That's the sacred intent of life, of God -- to move us continuously toward growth, toward recovering all that is lost and orphaned within us and restoring the divine image imprinted on our soul. And rarely do significant shifts come without a sense of our being lost in the dark woods, or in what T.S. Eliot called the 'vacant interstellar spaces.'"

Joyce Rupp, author of the devotional guide Dear Heart, Come Home: The Path of Midlife Spirituality, worked for years with "Midlife Gatherings" as she worked through her own midlife issues. She discovered: "The most common and consistently repeated theme of the respondents was that of control -- recognizing their limitations and letting go of the belief that, if they just worked hard enough or figured things out well enough, they could make life go the way they wanted it to go."

Pema Chodron's When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times reminds me, "Chaos is part of our home ground. Instead of looking for something higher or purer, work with it just as it is."

Finally, to include a man and a book without "heart" in the title, I recommend Richard Rohr's Everything Belongs. The title pretty much captures the essence of the book. It's not about running away from the mistakes, the chaos, the discomfort. They are all part of the picture, part of how we discover who we are.

What are you reading these days?

Autism blogging, part one

I have so much on my mind right now that the possibility for numerous rambling, self-referential posts looms large. So let me go by topics. I have noticed that I am more open in comments on other people's blogs than on my own about some of the realities of my life. Such as my son being on the mild end of the autism spectrum.

I don't talk or think much about this in my day to day life any more for a few reasons: I no longer drive for hours each week carting him to special therapies and interventions; I worry about the labels we give our children and how it limits us all to focus too much on the deficits; I am used to our routines and have (mostly) adjusted my expectations; and he is very high-functioning. Also, because explaining often doesn't seem worth the time it takes.

The short version is that he was diagnosed with Sensory Integration Dysfunction at age 4 after a series of weird tests which were required if he was to be allowed to stay in his hoity-toity pre-school (where we sent him hoping its calming atmosphere would allow him to blossom, whereas the very stimulating pre-school where he had been made him nuts). Turns out, we did everything they asked and they still kicked him out ("We're just not set up for a child with special needs like his") the day before we were to leave on a long vacation and just before public schools were getting ready to start. We hurriedly enrolled him in kindergarten, which turned out to be a wonderful thing.

SID can mean many things. It's kind of an umbrella diagnosis for kids demonstrating autism-like behaviors in some areas, but not in others. My guy is not Aspberger's syndrome, which is a little farther along the spectrum, but you may have heard of Aspberger's, which seems terribly common these days. (Many have noted the correspondence in the rise of autism spectrum disorders with the rise of a) vaccines and b) C-sections. I 'll not debate that here).

While on vacation I spent two nights with a friend who adopted three kids (siblings), all of whom turned out to have fetal alcohol syndrome, to greater or lesser degrees. She and I bonded back in those early days after the diagnosis when I was adjusting to the idea of being a mom of a "special needs" child. I remember a day when I took my son to a local indoor pool and he went into full-blown hysteria. There was absolutely no child psychology technique that could have calmed him down. I just had to do everything in my power to get him re-dressed and out of there. Later he begged me never to take him to the "talking pool" again. After my initial confusion, I realized that the loud echoing nature of the indoor pool had scared the bejeebers out of him. One of his areas of sensory dysfunction is around sound. He has extremely good hearing, with little to no capacity to distinguish between sounds or filter them. So he hears everything at once. This makes focusing on what a teacher is saying in a classroom full of squirmy boys and girls very difficult and showing up at a pool with loud splashing and squealing echoing around the room downright unbearable. But at the time of the pool incident it was this friend to whom I could confess, "Some days, I just want a normal child."

As is typical of autism spectrum children, mine is gifted in certain areas and absolutely obsessive about those things which interest him. It is beyond comprehension for him that other people are not endlessly fascinated with the machinations of elevators, for example. So we compromise. He got to choose the places we visited on our first two days in DC and they were the buildings with his favorite elevators. But for my side, we also got to enjoy other parts of the buildings, once there. So we rode elevators all over town: the Library of Congress, the Botanical Gardens, the Museum of Natural History, the parking garage in downtown Silver Spring and, his all time favorite elevator, the Old Post Office on Pennsylvania Avenue (in the photo). Other than the parking garage, all of them have pretty nice exhibits attached, as well. So it was a good trip for both of us.

Like with some of my own stuff (which can make my life hell, but also keeps it interesting), there are days when I still think, "I just want a normal child," but many more when I think how much of life has been opened up to me that I never would have noticed before if it weren't for this unique and wonderful and maddeningly obsessive little person with whom I get to share my life.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

I'm a Monster, How About You?

You Are a Chimera

You are very outgoing and well connected to many people.
Incredibly devoted to your family and friends, you find purpose in nurturing others.
You are rarely alone, and you do best in the company of others.
You are incredibly expressive, and people are sometimes overwhelmed by your strong emotions.

I didn't know what this creature was, so here's a description: In Greek mythology, the Chimera is a monster, depicted as an animal with the head of a lion, the body of a she-goat, and the tail of a dragon (sometimes it has multiple heads). This is also a real term for a genetically strange creature, formed by more than two parents (I don't quite get it).

But the description is pretty accurate, I have to say. Thanks to Max for this one.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Happy Birthday, Suzanne Vega

One of my favorite singer/songwriters. Enjoy.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Home Sweet Home

Arrived home last night, spent this afternoon and evening at my mom's where my two brothers are visiting, along with families. Tonight we celebrated Dad's 80th birthday. He was confused, as usual, but happy to have us all there. Tomorrow we all go white-water rafting. Well, not Dad, but the rest of us.

DC trip was all about my son and his friends and obsessions (another post), but it was fun. The highlight for me came Saturday a.m. when we metroed down to the American Indian museum for DC's little version of Live Earth. I got to see AL!!! I was so excited. The short version is that when arranging all the Live Earth concerts around the world, organizers naturally wanted a DC presence. But they got blocked. No to the capital lawn. No to the mall. No to all the monuments. So they just gave up. Then the American Indian museum said, "You can have our lawn." How's that for irony? Unfortunately, their lawn is slightly larger than a postage stamp and it was a typical July day in DC (mid-90s by 10 a.m.), and the sound system sucked because it was facing the museum building and nobody could see the stage. But, whatever. I was there and I was proud. Whoohoo! (Didn't last long in the crowd and the heat with the boy, I must confess).

Nice to be home again and in my own bedroom.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Crying for my country

A few days late (I am on vacation, after all) and probably y'all have seen it elsewhere, but just in case one of you missed it, go watch this now.

I walked by the Supreme Court Building today and almost cried. I don't want to sit weeping. But what are we to do? Ideas welcome. I really have no idea to kick Bush butt when they continue so flagrantly to act above all laws.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Vacation Thoughts, part two

When I think of the beach, my internal vision is of this beach: the one in NC where I’ve been coming since childhood. Most summers of my childhood we would rent a beach-front cottage for a week with a family of cousins and hang out, body-surfing in the waves or floating in inner-tubes out beyond the waves, for hours on end. We got blistering burns every year, but it never kept us out of the sun the following year. This was long before the day of SPF 50. The pier where we would take our dripping ice-cream cones, longest pier on the East Coast, is now gone, the victim of one of the more recent hurricanes.

When not swimming or searching for shells or digging in the sand, we played cards and put together jigsaw puzzles. No TV, ipods, DVDs or video games back then. We ate sandy sandwiches for lunch and one night of the week we’d go to Jone’s Seafood Restaurant where every year of my childhood I ordered fried flounder with all the hush puppies I could eat. Which was a fair number. My dad always got the deviled crab or fried oysters.

The beach had no amusement parks, no arcades, no boardwalks, no high-rises. Just ticky-tack cottages, affordable to families like ours, one restaurant, one over-priced grocery store and one putt-putt course. We got to play there on the night we ate out. Now, of course, there are more and bigger of everything, though the beach-front itself remains relatively undeveloped. The houses are bigger and fancier, but still no high-rises.

The strand is wide, with soft sand, the dunes are gentle, with the occasional turtle nest protected by orange tape. The waves are big enough for body surfing, but not too big for toddlers to enjoy. The water is warm enough to go in at 8 a.m. without screaming but not so warm it feels like a bath. I’ve enjoyed the northwest coast and the eastern shore from Jersey to Florida, the southern coast of England and the Northwest coast of Scotland, the Mediterranean, the Caribbean, the Gulf coast from South Padre to Sanibel and, of course, the North Coast where I lived for ten years (that’s Lake Ontario for the uninitiated). But this beach will always be what I think of when someone says, “Let’s go to the beach.”

Monday, July 2, 2007

Vacation thoughts, part one

Two initial thoughts, from an internet cafe:

Getting ready to leave -- shopping, packing, taking care of the animals, closing up the house, making sure the car was ready, checking off the lists -- I had an insight. Through my 20s I really dug traveling. Hopped around the country and world with not much money and loved nothing better than packing my duffle and ending up in an unknown city and finding my way around.

In my 30s, leaving for vacations began to bring on anxiety attacks. I would get nervous and flaky and forget important things and feel stupid. I wondered what had happened to that happy-go-lucky traveler. I thought my best traveling days might be over.

Sunday morning, I felt great: calm, happy, secure, happy to hit the road. Then the ex stopped by to get the dog, made some off-hand comment about something I wasn't doing right and I suddenly felt that tightness in my chest and immediately recognized it for what it was. It wasn't my anxiety. It was his. rrrrrr ....

On the other hand, once at the beach and happily flopping about in the wild waves last night, I thought kindly of him. We did have lots of fun vacations, once we got where we were going. In fact, those are probably our best memories. So, for the good times we had, I rejoice.

And for the awareness that my best traveling days are not in my past, I rejoice even more.