Summer trip, Part Two

DSCN0611I’ll start with the view from our campsite at Curry Hammock State Park which was interesting in a number of ways, including how close we were to the beach, although pursuing the wildlife was much more fun. The park is “green”, so the restroom/shower facilities were all specially designed to fit with the local ecosystem.

The wildlife that popped up all around our campsite included some fabulous green iguanas like this guy:

igianaThe area, though is known for its blue crabs, which had hideyholes in the ground all over the place, several around the campsite itself. My daughter had the chance for prolonged conversation with some in the mornings, since she is an early riser, but I didn’t get to see so many.

Out time in the Keys sadly came to an end, and we headed north, where M and kids rented a car to head home, while we stayed in Satellite Beach with a friend of mine from the old newspaper days. It was two days full of fun, great food and success!new adventures.

Linda’s friend Rob was so generous with his time–one afternoon, he took the girls to his neighbors’ dock. Here’s the result–they each caught one!

success strikes againAnd yes, Mr. Redfish was delicious.

While we were there, we also had the chance to visit Kennedy Space Center. Yurie was excited to go there because of the rocketships and the history. Little Miss just went for one reason:

DSCN0637Yes. Angry Birds in Space. A whole building devoted to it, with a maze, and games, and the opportunity to sling birds at pictures of pigs. What says space travel more than that?

She actually did pay attention to several of the other exhibits (though she was still pretty obsessed with the Birds), as she demonstrated in later conversation. We took a bus ride out to see some of the outbuildings (including the one where Rob works!) and then came back to sit through a mock-up of a moon landing, which was cool (especially for those of us old enough to have watched it on live tv) .

DSCN0630

DSCN0632It was great reconnecting with Linda. We’ve both gone on to interesting lives, she as a counselor/teacher and me as an attorney/writer. But to take just a moment to relive those escapades as young writers–driving out onto the flight line at the air force base, checking out the drug hangouts in Florida City and nearly getting nabbed by the DEA–was awesome.

Then a sad day as we drove to Miami for Yurie to catch her plane home to Japan. We all survived the logistics of getting her to the airport during rush hour in Miami in a giant RV, AND of getting her multiple suitcases to the baggage carrier successfully (and the fact that the Miami Heat apparently won some sports event and we could have been marooned in city traffic for days, but we didn’t know it at the time). Goodbyes were tough. We’ll miss you, kid.  😦

The next leg of the trip was to Fort Pierce to visit another old friend of mine. We were both a little worse for wear for the years that had passed, and both dealing with chronic pain. But it didn’t stop my friend from being a delightful hostess, and we had a wonderful couple of days. Here she is with her friend going to a Mad Hatter party:

DSCN0642She looked great, and I’m so glad we stopped to see her. She lives in a beautiful condo overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, and invited me to come stay with her on a more permanent basis. Have to admit, I’m keeping that in the back of my mind. There are worse choices.

Little Miss was more delighted with the two miniature dogs living there:

DSCN0644They were cute, but definitely fonder of her than of me or other visitors.

Finally, north to Asheville, to complete our travels, to visit with K and her lovely partner L. We always have a good time with them, and they work so hard at creating a life together with L’s son, even though the state of North Carolina is much less than helpful in its acceptance of gay rights. We took the chance to do nothing a lot of the time, preparing for the long drive home, and took advantage of the KOA’s nice facilities, pool, park, etc. to just let go.

DSCN0654poolAnd of course we visited L’s new job–Asheville’s Ultimate Ice Cream shop. With unique flavors like goat cheese and bing cherry, chocolate and ginger, and even caramel with blue cheese (to DIE for…), it was an amazing tastefest. That was before we got the maple and bacon ice cream.

Yes, I said bacon.

It was unbelievable. Please put it on your bucket list. Right now. I’ll wait while you get a pen.

Hard to believe all this fit into 16 days, but it had to come to an end eventually. What didn’t come to an end, of course, was the pile of work waiting for me when I got back. But then that’s what the real world is about. Time to start dreaming of next year’s vacation!

 

 

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Never give up, never surrender–a way of life

So, as many of my readers have commented, I have a pretty busy life, trying to balance the day job with the writing career and still take care of a family and breathe once in awhile, too. Fortunately, as the children have grown up, their special needs have been addressed, for the most part, and don’t affect the day-to-day living situation as much as they did in the past.

That’s a huge accomplishment in my book. Two out of three of the children have overcome their ‘disabilities’ to the point where they can function alongside their peers on a day to day basis and also contribute in the home setting. The Captain is still struggling with his issues, but we encourage him in his therapeutic placement and continue to hope that he will do the same, someday.

Because so many people were asking how I can manage all these things at the same time, I’ve written a post about it for the readers/writers site The Polka Dot Banner.

I left out the part, of course, about how I do all these things because I’m a woman and a mother and we just do what we have to do. The political candidates can bellyache about all those who complain they need help from the government to keep on surviving, but I’m here to tell you that I know a whole subculture of parents of autistic and other special needs kids who bust their butts every day to keep those kids moving forward, no matter what personal sacrifices they have to make. I applaud each and every one of you. Keep on keeping on, even when it seems like no one else is on your side and you’re ready to just lay down and surrender. Don’t. It pays off.

Why grandkids rule

We got to visit this week with M and her three kids from Pensacola, as well as S and her batch from Tennessee, and we were lucky enough to hook up with some free time with D, my daughter in town and her family too, for a wonderful BBQ chicken dinner in the neighbor’s garage (thanks, neighbors!).

Even though M’s plans changed and I ended up missing part of the time she was here with court events, we got some real good time in. I felt like we had some conversations that were really meaningful–adult, woman to woman conversations about life and how we did things in our households and with our kids. She’s just graduated (finally! yay!) with her BA in education, particularly special ed–so she has some valid input for my three kids with special issues, and I appreciated what she had to say. As an experienced mom, I had some things to share with her about potential health issues her kids were having. It was all good.

But for grandkids, you can bend the rules and miss a bit of work–I took off two days, one to go to the Grove City outlet mall to satisfy Miss Chloe’s penchant for fashionable clothes at Justice, once Little Miss had shared a 40% coupon with her cousins. Interesting to have them here, while outside the store it was 40 degrees and raining, but buying clothing to wear in Florida where it was 90 degrees! Another factor that played in was their move to the Seattle area later this year–a real switch in weather, for sure.

The other day, we drove up to the Tom Ridge Environmental Center where we experienced the wind off Lake Erie (holy cow, it was cold!) as we climbed the tower to check out the roller coasters from nearby Waldameer. My sister works with the Pennsylvania Sea Grant in the building, so we got a VIP tour behind the scenes, where the kids fed earthworms to the fish in the experimental tanks and got to check out whole racks of dead things in jars and boxes. (Okay, okay, the praying mantises were cool…) Above is the new dinosaur exhibit, and the expressions on their faces, well, they define how we lasted the day.

The TREC has a great little kids’ space, with puppets and puzzles, and the little ones got a big kick out of them, especially the owl puppets whose heads turned around like that girl in The Exorcist.

  Altogether a lovely day, despite the cold temperatures. Perhaps a heads-up for M, who’s lived in Florida and Guam and all sorts of warm places, but is on her way to Washington state. A little adjustment,  but she’ll handle it like she handles everything: efficiently and minimalist. So what if we eat off paper plates for awhile? Clean-up is easy, huh?

Especially after the April we had, it was nice to reaffirm life once again with an onslaught of children and growing things. Thanks for coming, guys. It was a wonderful early gift for Mother’s Day.

Whither my little girls have gone?

I’m on the road today, somewhere in Iowa, on my way to a five day intensive writing workshop with Margie Lawson, having a “deluxe continental breakfast.” Not really sure what continent it might be from, but the coffee is fabulous.

But the topic of conversation on the TODAY show overhead is whether mothers and daughters can be best friends. They interview a set who are, at the same time the experts are horrified and gasping “no! No!”

This is a subject I’ve been thinking about for awhile. Not about being best friends with my daughters, but my relationship with them. As I’ve said before, most of my girls packed up and bailed for parts unknown. M picked the Navy, traveled the world, met The One, has a lovely family now living in Florida and soon to take off for foreign parts, if she has her way. B lives 2500 miles away in Nevada. K moved to North Carolina. (D is still in town, but she’s so busy we hardly see each other!) It’s hard to stay close from that distance.  They have their own lives. Mother isn’t part of it.

I asked M recently if she’d done it on purpose, moved away to exclude me. She laughed and called me a “silly mom” and assured me it wasn’t like that.

So many people I know in our small town live here forever. As do their parents. Children. Brothers. Sisters. Cousins. Even the ones once removed. Big family parties, cookouts, so on.  I see B doing this with her new family, and I’m glad she has the support.

So am I wishing they were too frightened of the “big world outside” to leave to stay home near me? Of course not. Maybe I’ve just done my job and sent them out, free and secure, to fly on their own, like any good mother bird.

At the same time, I resent only seeing them once every year or two. I wish they were close so we could do things together, so I wouldn’t worry when they had hard times, so I could pop over with a pot roast when I knew they needed it.

Mary Quigley quotes Jonas Salk like this:

Good parents give their children roots and wings. Roots to know where home is, wings to fly away and exercise what’s been taught them. — Jonas Salk

She makes some good points in her piece on adult children. It’s certainly not my intention to become a helicopter parent. I hate flying, for one. But I have grandchildren I hardly know, and all three of these girls are just slipping away in the passage of time. None of us knows how much time might be allotted to us. We might say, “Oh, someday we’ll…” but we don’t know whether we’ll ever get that chance.

Meantime, I suppose, I should be grateful they’re flying so successfully. If they don’t need me then I’ve done my job, right? It makes sense. But sometimes it just doesn’t satisfy my heart.

Up for a visit?

I’m guest posting over at Jean Myles’ blog today on the subject of marriage and autistic children. Jean has two little boys, one with autism, and she now works at home so she can make sure her little guys have all the special support they need! 

I know I’ve talked about the subject of marriage stress and divorce before, and many of you commented on the study I cited.  But you know, for all the autism parents I know, so many of them are on the edge or have divorced over the issues their children have, that I stand by my position. It’s a hard life. Jean’s focus on early intervention is outstanding–what a difference this makes, as we’ve seen in our own house. My best wishes to her and to her readers.

Take a break from the summer heat to come by and say hello!

What fathers want

After dealing with the aftermath of several families’ dysfunction of late, I’ve noticed a certain pattern that shows that the old model is severely out of date. Sometimes when Dad is out doing what he feels is expected of him–providing for his family financially–Mom is just not living up to her side of the bargain.

And that’s not fair.

Take the example of a dad working twelve hour shifts a day driving a truck, picking up and dropping loads, even on the weekends, so he makes a steady income enough to pay all the bills in the household. What a man’s supposed to do, right? Or so the 1950s model would say.

But let’s remember the moms in that model–they were home, baking cookies, making sure the children had nutritious meals, cleaning the house, doing the laundry, running the errands, doing the grocery shopping. Taking good care of the children. The REST of the work.

That was the half they picked up as their part of the bargain. Dad, you work hard outside the home to bring home enough money so we can feed the children and keep them safe and warm; Mom, you put that money to work and devote yourself to carrying that task through.

But for a lot of stay at home mothers today, that’s just not how it works. While the fathers are at work, the moms are Facebooking all day.  How often does all that Farmville gardening feed your own kids, hmm? (At least the cases I’ve seen haven’t gone as wrong as this Korean couple, whose real life baby starved to death while they raised a perfect one online.)

Or maybe the moms are drinking all day to escape the children, while the children get into God knows what. Or maybe they’re watching TV all day while the laundry piles up till no one can walk through the bedrooms, and dirty dishes are a mountain in the sink.

Is that really what a hard-working father wants to find when he comes home?

What about the real damage that might not come out for a decade or more? The child neglected by the mother living a “better” life online or texting or partying with friends all day, so that he learns, even at the age of one or two, that the only way he’s going to get lunch is if he scavenges through the refrigerator for a hot dog, or leftovers, maybe, if she’d even cooked dinner the day before.  When he learns that he should steal or hoard food, because he doesn’t know when he’ll eat again (even if he’s now lived in a home for over ten years when he always has food to eat). When he learns to shift and lie and hide to avoid punishment because he knows soon her attention is diverted back to her games. When he learns that nothing is the same day to day, so the “rules” change constantly and he doesn’t have to do what he was told yesterday because now it’s today. When he finds that only his current impulse governs what he does, because he’s not accountable to anyone.

When a father is working a second shift job in construction, a third shift job at a convenience store, and most days of the week, stopping for another few hours in the morning to make donuts to get just a little more money, is this really what he should have to deal with?

It doesn’t seem fair. But it’s too late to undo it now.

Dads who worry about what’s happening at home probably have a good reason to. Please take the time to talk about your bargain and make sure everyone understands what’s expected of them. Take action. Before it’s too late for your children.

Does the truth really set you free?

Candor is a double-edged sword; it may heal or it may separate.–William Stekel

I’ve seen promos recently for a program on the WE network called “The Locator.” It’s a reality show about a guy named Troy Dunn, who’s made a career out of looking up long-lost family members for hire. This week, for example, the featured hunt is “a young woman’s search for the biological father she didn’t know she had.”

My thought would be, if she’d grown into young womanhood without this man, does she really need to find him?

I don’t know anything about the facts of that case, but I’ve run into this sort of situation many times over my years of legal practice. It almost never turns out well.

For example, husband and wife live together for ten years and raise two children. Everyone remarks over the years how daughter looks just like dad, but son must have traits from a prior generation. Lo and behold, when they break up and he wants to file for custody, mom pops out with “But he’s not your son. Mr. X is really his father.”

Son learns this truth and then spends the next however many years trying to rationalize why his real father left, whether he should love or hate the man who’d raised him, and why his mother is a cheat and a liar. Lose-lose in my book.

Or a case where one parent has moved far from the other to escape domestic violence or a parent who’s commited sexual acts against the children. It’s possible to change names, Social Security numbers, and vanish into a new place, where parent and children can be safe–as long as they’re not traced.

What if one of these children finds some evidence of a former life and begins to unravel the careful web that’s protected her?

Or in the worst possible set of facts I’ve encountered, mom has an affair which brings her a child. Husband, horrified because of the affair, divorces her. Because she’s married at the time of the birth, a legal presumption applies and the biological father, though verified by genetic testing, is let off the hook for support.  Husband will have nothing to do with this child, knowing it’s not his, and the father has vanished from the child’s life. Child grows up with no father at all.

When he gets old enough, what could he possibly learn from the man whose DNA makes up half his chromosomes but who walked away and washed his hands of the mess?

Would someone like Troy Dunn really help any of these people?

On his website, Dunn talks about the need to “purge,” that people will heal and feel better once they’ve come clean, as it were, and revealed the truth.

Every family has one or more secrets they have chosen not to share, for one reason or another. Some of these old family stories might just be a fictitious wedding date, to protect the legitimacy of a child, or they might be something very serious, like the ones above. Even adoptees desperate to find information about their birthparents might discover that that mother or father had very good reason to place a child into a loving home, and the revelations uncovered could do a lot of damage.

Sometimes Col. Jessup is right: we  can’t handle the truth. And we shouldn’t have to.