The closet under the stairs

When I was a child, visiting my grandmother’s farm in Indiana, I found her old house fascinating. It had been built in the late 1880s, and there seemed to be nooks and crannies everywhere.

Upstairs, there was my grandpa Joe’s bedroom, which I never fully explored, even when he was out in the fields. The curtains were dark and red, shadows filling the corners. When I read Jane Eyre, I imagined his closet was the room in which poor insane Mrs. Rochester was confined. Maybe that’s why I never went in.

Polished wood floors set the stage for the formal parlor with velvet chairs, the room that was never used except for taking official photos of the family. The basement was dark and spooky, vaguely hitched to the memory of tornadoes for me. We must have hidden there a few times. My mother told the story of a tornado passing right through when she was safe, down the angling road at the school house. When she walked home, my grandmother’s curtains were in the road, blown there by the wind.

But the most cunning place in the whole house was the little closet under the stairs. No budding wizard lived there, unfortunately–just a tiny rack for coats, and a hard chair next to a small table where one could find Image result for old telephonethe telephone.

Most people had to bend down to get inside, since the upward climbing stairs were above the space. Games and other things filled the angling back of the closet, but that telephone was a lifeline back in Bunker Hill, both for my grandmother and for the lives of others that she touched.

When we lived across the road in the 1960s, the phone was on a party line. You had to wait your turn to make a call–but oh, the things you heard, if you were rude enough to listen in. My grandmother would have been shocked and horrified to even consider such a thing. I doubt her neighbors were always as courteous.

She used the telephone to connect with others. As a farm wife, she didn’t always get out of the house into the community, especially in her younger years. There were people to feed, and chores to do. She called to set up her precious 7:30 Club, where ladies of the community would meet monthly in each others’ homes to visit and play cards.

The phone calls I remember most, though, were those on weekend afternoons, when she went in and left the door barely cracked open. She volunteered for the Red Cross, and her job was to relay calls from soldiers to homes, and from homes to soldiers. I sat outside the door and listened to the stories, bad news often, but sometimes good things like the birth of a child. That tiny closet became a microcosm of the world, gathering all the feelings and sympathy passed on from one caller to the next, bringing the news that really mattered to those who needed it most.

 

Why was this mission so close to her heart? I suspect it was because of her brothers, my great uncle Cmdr. Jim Moore, (left) who was a Navy veteran aboard the USS Antares at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, and Capt. Paul Moore, who was a POW of the Japanese. She, of all people, in a pre-social media time, would know how important it was to have any information about loved ones far away from home, serving our country.

I’m proud of her work. As much as she had to do to run a huge farm, she found time weekly to improve the lives of others.

What sorts of volunteer work makes you happy?

 

 

Advertisements

Sciencing the sh#t out of things….

No automatic alt text available.

Eclipse at near maximum in San Jose, CA–photo credit John Wright Canon 7d thru eclipse glasses as filter, from the Fujitsu Planetarium DeAnza College.

After so many months of hype, we all finally got to experience the two minutes more talked about than the Kentucky Derby–the solar eclipse.

Little Miss and I began on the NASA broadcast from C-SPAN, watching as totality moved through Oregon and Idaho, Nebraska and Missouri, and finally went out when it began to darken outside here in Asheville.

But it was clouds!

Definitely dismayed, we moved around the yard until we could almost see it through our glasses. As clouds tend to do, however, these moved on, and we caught the first third disappearing. It was easy to understand how the ancients, not having the benefit of years of scientific study, felt like the sun was being devoured and might never come back.

Sitting back in a lawn chair, taking in the moment, I experienced so many sensations as the event transpired. The grass was freshly mowed, and it smelled wonderful. We charged my large rose quartz crystal. The quality of the light itself changed, taking on characteristics of bright moonlight, a grayish-blue tint to the scene around us. The temperature dropped, and it definitely darkened. (We were in the 99%, not 100% so we only saw the corona on television.  😦   )

But at the same time, even as that small fingernail crescent slid from the left, to the top, to the right, knowing 99 percent of the sun was blocked– it was still fairly light. It was warm, maybe 70 degrees. Even with that tiniest fraction of the sun. How powerful it must be.

What would happen if the sun really did disappear? Jonathan O’Callaghan has the answer for you here. Let’s not rush for that one.

Overall, it was an exciting experience, and just as exciting to know we were sharing the wonder with literally millions of others across our broad country. Finally something we could all share that didn’t come with a red or blue, black or white, male or female distinction.

Better yet, science predicted it, and we all believed.labkylie5

So if science can be right about this, can’t we give scientists back their funding? Can we support some of their other theories, like global warming and conservation and preservation?  To paraphrase Mark Watney–Let’s science the sh%t out of this world!

 

When they finally grow up–but not really

Regular readers know that I’ve been on quite a journey with my third family–three kids on the spectrum, and all of them a little different even from each other. Well, we crossed a milestone this week–Little Miss turned 18.

Yes, they’re all adults. Under the law.

The two young men are both working part time, and living with their father. Little Miss is entering her second senior year, now in a school with a superior program in terms of directing these kids to find meaningful work. She’s interned over the summer with a local barista, in order to strengthen her position applying for a formal internship at Starbucks this school year.

But I can still hardly let her out of my sight.

She’s very polite, not always aware of stranger danger, and she can’t always handle herself well. I push her to do her own talking at doctor appointments–which works well until she announces that she has “severe depression” after watching too many drug commercials on tv. In reality she’s one of the happiest people I know. Really. That one took some explaining.

Suddenly I see why the teachers were nudging me to get her a guardianship. She is entitled to do whatever, now. She can stay out all night, she can get married, she can….

Huh.

Fortunately she doesn’t want to do any of those things. She has a boyfriend at school, but it’s in name only. They’re both pretty immature. An occasional handholding is sufficient, and I’m surely okay with that.

Gradually I’ve been urging her to do some cooking, some cleaning. Wash her own clothes. She’s pretty responsible around the house. But it’ll be some time before she’s ready to live on her own. If ever. (I’m finally being realistic about this–I always thought she was running behind her peers, but that she would eventually catch up. Now I’m not so sure. But we’ll see.)

Any of you who’ve gone through this, I’m open to suggestions. So many parents of neurotypical kids shoot for 18 and done, or maybe, college and done. What do you do when you really don’t know when “done” will be?

A day in the LEAF

LEAFAsheville, a center for arts and culture in the Southeast, has no shortage of events that enrich the soul. Fortunately, the local arts councils are also generous with these events, providing free tickets to those who could not otherwise afford them. Little Miss and I were lucky enough to score day tickets to the Lake Eden Arts Festival, or LEAF.

The clouds had burst the night before, and some rain lingered into Saturday morning, but it certainly didn’t extinguish the spirits of those on site. When we arrived, the event was in full swing, concert music spilling into the air outside the tents, a poetry slam tearing words from writers’ hearts, the aromas of hot garlic and smoky grills on the breeze. Brave (foolish?) younguns ziplined down into the lake, now a balmy 50 degrees. One bank of the lake was lined with the tents of those staying for the weekend, the other with the festival venue.

Kids ran everywhere, enjoying being kids, many barefoot, even in the squishy mud left from the rain the night before. Arts and crafts booths lined the perimeter, and soon Little Miss sported her own magenta and lilac African mask on a necklace.

The crowd was a burst of colors, so many dressed in flowing fabrics and “hippie” style. I fell in love immediately with the atmosphere, one which pervades Asheville as a whole, but seemed concentrated at the event in one glorious serving.

The headliner for the music scene was Macy Gray; she’s playing today, so we missed her, but we didn’t miss out. Saturday afternoon, we listened to bluegrass artist Sara Watkins, and as the evening wore on we were treated to a show by Cuban R&B/hiphop artist Danay Suarez.  She’s one of LEAF’s teachers in the visiting artists program at local Erwin High School. Though her concert was in Spanish, even her commentary to the audience, it was easy to decipher her meaning once she began to sing. The reggae and jazz beats reached into the soul and lifted it up.

Such a wild and wonderful combination of folks! We, of course, hunted down our family connections with Lucia and Kevin Barnes from Ultimate Ice Cream (did you know they have a CSA for ice cream???), then moved on. I loved the folks with this sign–good advice was free, and “bad” advice, you paid for. Sounds about right.

I’d had a rough weekend physically, so I had my cane and a folding cart with a camp chair, etc. that I finally set up outside the concert tent. Little Miss announced she wasn’t done exploring, so she spent the next few hours going from booth to booth, talking to vendors, learning about sound healing, swinging on some awesome hanging chairs, smelling incense and candles and much more.  I know it may not sound like much to most folks that a 17 year old worked a crowd, but for those who know the autism spectrum, and Little Miss, this means she overcame the noise of the music and crowd, went on her own, spoke with strangers to gather information, and experienced independence–knowing I was in one place where she could find me if she needed anything. Pretty awesome.

Mid-afternoon, LEAF was treated to a parade with a host of performers like those of Imagine Circus from Raleigh, sparkling and dancing in the sun. 

 

A glorious day, in the end, though I hadn’t expected it would be.  Something I’ve been working on, my expectations. When you have debilitating conditions, it’s so easy to slip into a niche where you automatically choose not to go out and do things for fear of increased pain or repercussions or inability. I’m trying now to “expect” that yes, there will be difficulties, but the experience is worth it once all is done.

And the lovely Danay Suarez proved my point. The beats of her music got me to my feet, moved me like a hurricane wind from her island. I didn’t look around to see what people were judging this old, fluffy lady, swaying her hips with one hand on her cane and one on her chair. I was simply the music.

We went to LEAF. Little Miss got to be a real teenager. And I danced. 🙂

 

 

Another new venture!

In preparation what what is likely coming, in terms of dealing with my diagnoses, I’m feeling out possibilities in the event I won’t be able to keep working full time. One of my decisions is to create an Etsy shop with my sister Dianna.

IMGP2258Both of us are “artsy,” me in the crafty sense and her in the art and photography sense, and this will allow us to both expand our reach a little and indulge our deep passion for working in art and hopefully, make some money from it as well.

100_3514Stop by Copper Moon Creatives some time and see what we’ve got–I can’t guarantee exactly what you might find, but I can promise it will be eclectic and wonderful!

 

Copper Moon Creatives!12630699_10205380953778318_951714695_o

Not always the most wonderful time of the year

A phenomenon many divorce attorneys like me encounter each year between mid-November and January 2 is the sudden drop-off of clients and client activity.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s the holiday lull, the last-ditch effort to grasp the fast-fading warm feeling of family or at least the rational attempt to try to preserve the illusion that ‘everything is all right’ for the children.

DSCN0169Often, the holidays are a happy blurred memory batch from childhood, with ham dinners with families gathered at grandparents’ house, favorite (and not so favorite) presents we’ve received over the years, candlelit church services, carols and much more.

Overlay this with the commercial media blitz of glitter, bling (every kiss begins with k?? Who knew? Awesome!) and price cuts, and the secular Holidays take on an almost sacred tone of their own.

We want our children to experience this, to feel whole, to be glad and warm and loved. Often we are able to swallow our own pain–or drown it with well-doctored eggnog– long enough to let the little ones experience Santa and the magic.

But what we also see as the years pass is the carving up of these happy days with a broad knife, dividing the time the children “must” spend with father, mother, siblings, grandparents and others. When parents cannot look beyond their own needs to compromise with their children’s lives, the court will do it for them, with lack of emotion or feeling to guide it.

Four hours for mom. Two hours for grandma. Twelve hours for dad. Splitting the day so you have to be hauling kids on the road for two hours of the holiday you’d all rather spend at home. Weather? Schmeather. The court order says… Alternating years, so every other Christmas your hearth is empty and dark with no children to celebrate. Christmas Eve. Christmas Day. Thanksgiving Thursday. Friday? Maybe, if you’re lucky, a few extra days of the vacation when the children can have a parent all to themselves without other obligations.

DSCN0207There’s no good way to do it, so this yields the sucking-up and effort to maintain through the holidays “for the kids.”

In my generation, divorce was not as prevalent as today, and we visited in summers only, so our holidays, though father was absent, were not disrupted. My children, however, were subject to visitation orders, and spent most holidays with their fathers, which was fine with me. Holiday is a state of mind, as far as I’m concerned. You can have a special day on the 23rd, 25th, or even 31st, if you put your mind to it.

Many more children of my kids’ generation grew up in split parenting situations, so maybe for them, it’s not as traumatic for their own children to be visiting other households during these magic periods. And often, no matter how hard you’re trying to hold things together, the children are well aware of the tensions underlying the surface. If those tensions become toxic, then perhaps separation, even this time of year, could be the right choice, for everyone’s peace of mind. It’s important, though, not to compete with each other to “buy” the children with stuff.

But even if the magic fails on one front, there are many more, like these suggestions from Suzy Brown. As she says, “Holidays are about peace and sharing and gratitude and love. During tragedy, or divorce, or heartache we have to reach down and find those core things at a deeper level, a more meaningful level.”

It’s a tough time. I’m going through the single parent thing again for the first time in 15 years, and it’s a big readjustment. But it can be done. If you feel that you can’t hold on, for any reason, please seek professional help, whether in the form of legal counsel, psychological counsel, or just a heartfelt cup of cocoa with a good friend or close relative. Take time out for yourself. Most decisions about situations (absent actual danger) can be put off for a week or two. Give yourself and the children time in as de-stressed a manner as possible. This will pay off as they learn coping skills from you they can use all their lives.

lights06