Nirvana: different strokes for different folks

The end of the week spelled happiness for our household, but in such a variety of ways:

  • The Captain got to stare at cartoons for a whole morning when I was in court and couldn’t monitor.
  • The Cabana Boy continued work on a freelance project for another law office in town, creating an office computer network from the bare walls up.
  • Ditto Boy got his yearly fix of cotton candy and the Ride-a-Rama at this week’s county fair.
  • Little Miss got five rides on the carousel.
Heaven in 360 degrees

Heaven in 360 degrees

Seriously, for a child with sensory integration issues, not only does it spin, it goes up and down, and goes fast and forward at the same time? Her face just radiates bliss.

Me? I guess my part is tonight, when I have a face to face meeting with an editor who’s reviewing my latest manuscript. She’s already done a wonderful critique of another piece of my writing in connection with a workshop, so I’m really looking forward to it.

Something for everyone. What else can you ask?

This week I have a guest blog over at Imperfect Women . I certainly qualify–c’mon down and see what else these ladies have to offer!

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The last few days of summer

The back-to-school countdown is on.

More so on our parts than on the children, sadly. Isn’t it time for school yet???!!

It’s also Fair Week, which is the biggest event of the calendar year here. Thanks to my clients, I learned a lot about what it takes to enter and maintain cattle through 4-H, and Little Miss also entered some zinnias, taking home Fifth Place. She was delighted. We’ve survived the fair visit with games and goodies–Ride a Rama will be coming up later in the week, and perhaps we will survive that too. IF we’re properly fortified with elderberry pie from the Methodist Women’s booth.

But the week after that is back to school. We have supplies, new bookbags, new shoes, and a few new clothes, though we’re waiting till a little later in the season before stocking up on clothes, hoping for economic downturn sales.

The garden is chunking out zucchini almost faster than we can give them away. All in all, our community garden experiment has turned out well. We have sent at least one bag of fresh produce a week with my father to distribute to the older folk who have bravely come out (some with canes and walkers, even!) to weed and maintain the garden while we’re working. The green beans are wonderful, and we have a dozen butternut squash coming along. The only garden disappointment this year has been the tomato blight, and since it’s widespread, there won’t be many tomatoes to even buy and can from other growers.

We’ve completed the summer reading programs through the library, watched a few more hours of television than I would have liked, and traveled the country to see both far-flung relatives and friends and landmarks of all sorts. Everyone’s grown up a bit and they’re looking forward to another school year.

I heard through the grapevine that the Captain’s itinerant autism support teacher left the school system, and they’ve got a new one. We hope this one is more receptive than the last to parent requests, and that a change (as always) doesn’t throw him into a tizzy. Ditto Boy goes on to sixth grade (“So we can Rule the School!”) and Little Miss is back with her familiar surroundings half the day and the rest of the day with the fifth grade teachers who found the Captain to be such a trial they testified against him to the home school principal. Hurrah.

I hope all of you hold on for those last few days and enjoy the sunshine, the fresh flavors, green leaves, and the opportunities to do things with the children before the days of fall set in.

Can I get fries with that?

I recently caught a look at a local car dealer’s commercial on late night television, and I could hardly believe my eyes: “Buy a car and we’ll give you a gun.”

Is there a health care town hall scheduled in our town and I didn’t know about it?

I thought maybe I’d been mistaken, so I called the dealership the next morning to ask them. Sure enough, with the purchase of a new car, you could get a brand new Mossberg 500.

Not familiar with firearms, I asked what one might use this particular gun for, i.e., was it a deer rifle or what? The salesman was suddenly very helpful, saying you can use this for deer, for turkey, for many different purposes. For home defense? I asked. “This gun is awesome for home defense,” he assured me.

The guy was extremely anxious to make an appointment to get me in there, so I explained that I’d have to get my husband’s permission (ha!) and hung up.

They must be really desperate. The cash for clunkers program aside, this is the best they can do to get people to come in? We’ll give you a $200 weapon to shoot things with? What about, “We know you’re hurting financially so we’ll give you $200 worth of gasoline so you can afford to drive your new car?” Better yet, “How about a $200 gift certificate for your favorite grocery so you can feed your children?”  Or a coupon for your pharmacy so you can afford the cost of your prescription medications?

The sad thing is, knowing the makeup of this mostly-rural, NRA card-carrying county, this will probably be a huge success. Like I’ve said before, I’ve had many abuse cases where the abuser will trade away the right to see his kids if it means he can keep his guns.

I guess my priorities are just screwed up. But I won’t be visiting the Chevy dealer any time during this promotion, or maybe any other time, either. I’d rather give my business to someone more in touch with real life.

The next day

Most often tragedies come as an event, a moment, after which things are never the same.

In my work life, I deal with these events all the time. Families that were once happy, functioning organisms come to a point where they no longer work. While the buildup may have taken days, months or years, the point where someone decides “No more” begins the end.

The same is true when someone receives a terminal diagnosis, or loses a much-needed job, or suffers the effects of a natural disaster, or loses a spouse, or parent, or child to an accident. Even that diagnosis of autism. From that day, life changes.

That day may be one that you relive again and again, trying to see where you could have done something differently, wanting desperately for life to return to the moment before it became too late.

But in my opinion, that’s not the most important day. The most important is the next day.

No matter what’s happened, or how devastating that is to you, the long-term impact depends on how you greet the morning after. If you wake up with the view that your life is now over, it very well may be.  I know people who, after their spouse died, followed them very soon thereafter, unable to forge a separate existence.

It takes a certain amount of heart, courage and determination to move past these difficult life changes. There are cancer patients who get six months to live and turn it into remission. Hurricane and flood survivors build a new life. Divorce ends one phase of your life and begins another. As the mother superior says in The Sound of Music, “When God closes a door, he opens a window.”

There is a morning after, and a new way to look at your life. Take that chance and fly out that window into what awaits.

Charles Darwin says:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

Humans have proven over thousands of years that they can survive. Depends how you handle the next day, and the day after that. You can do it. Believe.

When a parent’s not a parent

There may be some doubt as to who are the best people to have charge of children, but there can be no doubt that parents are the worst. ~George Bernard Shaw

This month I’ve got a whole run of cases where a parent’s rights may be involuntarily terminated. The purpose of the termination is to free up the children for adoption, some by stepparents, some by foster parents. It’s given me some thought about the nature of parenting, and the needs of children.

What society pictures as the perfect upbringing, I suppose, is that “Leave-it-to-Beaver” family, one mother, one father, 2.4 kids, and they stay together. I sure didn’t have that, and I imagine most people don’t. I lived with my parents till I was 7, my mother till I was 9, then my father and a ragged series of stepmothers. My girls lived with me all along, but experienced a couple of stepfathers and stepmothers over the years. Of course, that creates a whole passel of stepcousins and stepgrandparents and stepsiblings and…

Are more people in children’s lives a better way to go? In my foster care cases, parents were in some way considered inadequate to raise these children now living in foster homes. (For the most part these are not cases of physical abuse.) The foster parents want to adopt and keep the children. So the real parents will be legally excised and tossed aside. While I understand the children are “entitled to permanency,” as the law says, I’m not convinced that throwing their genetic heritage and families away is necessarily the way.

Same with the cases where a parent has really not stepped up to the plate, and a new spouse fills the bill much better.  I’ve done several of these recently. Most of them the child is old enough to voice an opinion and is firmly bonded to the stepparent. So maybe it works out. But it’s still pretty sad.

On the other hand, maybe Hillary Clinton is right. It does take a village to raise a child. We each have a role to play in making sure every child has the best shot at becoming a successful adult in the next generation. Those who are willing to pick up the load and carry it further should be encouraged. Those who have done all they can should be acknowledged. The collective eye should be on the ultimate goal.

The same is true of parenting our special needs children. Certainly we cannot do everything ourselves. Overreaching leads to debilitation of the parent’s ability to care for the child. We need to learn to let others in, to take respites, to share the load and seek out the help that will improve our children’s abilities to cope and learn. For some, that may mean passing the care of the children on to others who are better equipped to handle it. This shouldn’t be a shameful thing, but an honest acknowledgement, as I said earlier, that the parent has given their all. Surely a child can ask no more of a parent than the selfless choice of their child’s benefit over their own.

These are hard cases. The parent and child bond is one created by the fates, and a court seems a cold place to break that bond. Finding a way to create that village, where everyone could pull together and give what they could to support each child… maybe that would be the better way.

The sunshine of life

But you got to have friends
The feeling’s oh so strong
You got to have friends
To make that day last long…

This weekend we hosted the Navy Girls Reunion Tour as my daughter M, three of her former Navy galpals, and their six children all descended on the house. Six adults and eight children, even in a house this size, is pretty exciting. But we cooked and swept (and swept) and played and watched movies and went to the Great Lakes Medieval Faire and generally had a good time.

By Sunday, Little Miss had hit overload and needed a couple of hours’ retreat into my office, with the door closed. She’s so much better that I forget about her sensory issues sometimes.  Even Ditto Boy, who’s been so whiny about having no one to play with since the Captain went away on visit, starting picking fights with the boys and announced that he never had fun when M’S son was here. (Absolutely untrue. Just welcome to the ranks of what having a little brother would be like.)

But overall, very little damage across the board, so we ranked it a success– short and sweet.

Truth be told, I envied M for her reunion. It’s been years since I had “girlfriends” like that–high school probably. I never connected with anyone in college or law school, or when my ex was in the service. Even my old reporter friends are Christmas card newsletter types.  I’ve lived in this small town since 1990 and I’ve met women, had study groups at church and the like, but no one close.

The Cabana Boy’s the same way. His Oklahoma years are well behind him, no old Army buddies, and while he’s been at school, both as student and now as teacher, he’s much more focused on the companionship of his family.

Part of it is the autism, I think. It’s difficult to connect with other families when your children are dealing with much different issues, even if they are welcoming and tolerant of those differences. Part of it is that neither of us are social butterfly types.But we really tend to stick close to home and children.

I suppose we’ve set a bad example for the children by not demonstrating that ability/necessity to have a social network. Certainly K is reflecting the difficulties of starting in a new place by not knowing how to make new connections. B finds her friends and her closely-knit workmates in the same place, so she has a support group of sorts. And while M may not have a solid friendship set in whatever place the Navy sends them each time, she’s able to pull this diverse group of young women together frequently to meet and share with each other. Good for her. And this weekend, good for us, too.

the more the merrier...

the more the merrier...

Robert Louise Stevenson said, “A friend is a present you give yourself.” No need to wait for a special occasion–this gift gives all year round. Celebrate.