The ‘same old, same old’–once more with gratitude!

Counting down. One more day till the end of Christmas break. Bittersweet, it is.

On one hand, the children return to school and those vacation days are over. On the other, it’s back to the routine. I’d like to say I spent the week off baking and communing with the three still at home, but we didn’t. It’s a different kind of family when the kids have autism; we set alternate milestones.

Our holidays have been a whirl of activity since mid-November, when my daughter came in from her environmental education gig in Nevada. We put the tree up early, had company in, company out through the Thanksgiving period, and again through Christmas as my daughter in culinary school and her partner came to stay (and do their laundry). The children had their school field trips and celebrations, a total disruption of routine, just like the home life. While you and I might find this a delightful break in the usual, the children with autism find it a painful disruption of everything they know. My son can bury himself in cartoons to escape, hardly noticing when you pass or speak to him. My daughter takes it harder and has to find a quiet place alone, often outside, even in the snow, just to regain some peace.

But there are bright spots, too. The girl child, 8 years old, finally understood the purpose of a list for Santa; she enjoyed picking out and giving presents to please others. It was she, with her obsession for detail, who helped her father unstring the Christmas lights and replace the broken bulbs. The boy child has turned twelve, and we see him gradually (OH so gradually) learning about respect and responsibility for others. After years of therapy, watching them blossom into individuals who just may be able to take care of themselves someday is a gift no guy in a red suit could ever get you.

So back to the routine. And maybe that’s a gift, too. It’s all in the perspective.

On the passing of Benazir Bhutto

The assassination of Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan has occupied my thoughts since it first hit the news. Mostly, it makes me sad.

Twenty years ago, I would have been overwhelmed by a righteous feminist anger that anyone dared to try to keep women down, especially by such extreme measures. While that still rings in my head, it is tempered by the reports of the last several years showing that male candidates and officials across the region have been routinely killed by bombs and assassins. No feminist agenda there. Only people with a faulty moral compass.

I’m sure they will debate for some time to come to whom the real fault belongs. The shooters themselves, of course, but their funders, perhaps the government of Pakistan itself, perhaps the terrorist organizations, perhaps the U.S. government that supported her and that support alone making her a target? Bhutto herself for entering what she knew was the line of fire?

While Bhutto was the first woman elected to lead a Muslim state, fighting an uphill battle to take that place for a third time, Muslim feminist Irshad Manji says that Pakistani women do not call her ‘brave.’ Bhutto did little to change the state of women during her previous tenures, for example, her failure to remove the anti-female rape and adultery laws, and so missed her chance to truly take advantage of her office.

I would disagree. In looking at Bhutto’s return to Pakistan in the fall of 2007, almost immediately marred by a tragic assassination attempt, and her persistence in the face of almost certain violence to appear in public and bring her agenda to a people hungry to hear it, I believe she showed bravery. She didn’t have to return. She could have remained in exile, where she’d been for nearly a decade. As the character of Peron points out in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita,

All exiles are distinguished, more important, they’re not dead…

So it’s a lesson to be learned, perhaps, and a moment to look at myself and wonder if I believe anything so strongly that I would take such a risk to prove it.


What’s Awalkabout?

Wikipedia defines “walkabout” as an Australian pidgin term referring to the belief that Australian aborigines “go walkabout” at the age of thirteen in the wilderness for six months as a rite of passage.

What’s that to do with me?

I’ve considered this process of blogging as a rite of passage in a way, moving into a new sphere, where people will consider my words for what they are, not who I am. It can be very comfortable when you are a big fish in a small pond and as on Cheers, ‘everybody knows your name.’ It’s a little more challenging to step into the unknown with nothing in your hands but a keyboard and an active mind.

So this is my walkabout. I expect I will spend some of it alone and some of it with friends. I hope you come along.

A funny thing happened…

It always does.

Or at least it helps to think it’s funny; finding humor in even the darkest situation helps pull you through. It’s usually there. Maybe you won’t see it for years. Then you’ll think back to the time you nearly got busted on your 21st birthday for hitchhiking home from the bars, and instead the cop made you drive the other guy home IN HIS CAR.

See? It’s funny now.

Life needs humor. It’s the only thing that keeps you from just losing it a lot of the time. As a parent, being able to smile at the achievements of your children, even the goofy ones, makes up for the tantrums and dark times. As a writer, being able to insert a clever bit of wit in an otherwise tense scene really makes your piece. As a lawyer, being able to lighten the process of disintegration we take our clients through every day is a true service. “Laughter through tears, that’s my favorite emotion,” Truvy says in Steel Magnolias.

I think she’s got something there.

How does humor light your dark corners?