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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Autism PTSD

In my constant state of self-observation, I have noticed a lot of changes in myself lately.  In other words, I'm always trying to figure out why I am so crazy. 

There are so many things that I used to enjoy that now...I just don't. Some things are simple like, talking on the phone. When I was younger, I lived for the phone to ring just to chat or make social plans with my friends. Oh, and the single days of waiting for a certain fellow to call.  Makes my heart flutter just to think about it. (Honey ...I'm totally talking about you.) 

Now, there is a slight sense of dread, maybe even panic when the phone rings. Most of the time, it's Red wanting absolutely nothing other than to repeat himself.  Otherwise,  it's Blue or my mom  requesting services from me.  The other minority of the time, I just don't want to talk.

There are a few people who are an exception to that rule. I still have girlfriends across the miles that I like to catch up with occasionally. It's just so rare that I have moments quiet enough for lengthy conversations.  With one of my best girlfriends, I usually make an appointment for us to talk if we haven't seen each other in a while.  It sounds kind of crazy and weird, but hey, that's my life.
A big part of the reason I don't like to talk as much, is that after listening to my kids talk, all.the.time. I got nothin left! My mother gets her feelings hurt because I don't come down to small talk and chat when the boys are not home. Sorry, but I am busy trying to decompress from the constant noise! 

I used to love to go to parties and socialize. Now, unless it's a very close friend, I  look for excuses not to go.  This past weekend, I attended one with my husband and his friends. I tried to avoid it.  In my head, I made up all sorts of excuses. But since hubby has been traveling a lot, I ultimately decided to be a good wife and go with him.  I actually ended up having a pretty good time. Plus, there was cake! Deep, dark, decadent, chocolate, chocolate cake. Totally worth the trauma. 

The thing is now, I find myself taking these sensory breaks at parties. I hide in the bathroom for just a bit of quiet for a few minutes.  I look for places to sit quietly alone, so that I can stop smiling and being pleasant for a few minutes.  I need time to collect with my thoughts and clear my cluttered head.  

I have also noticed that I find myself dreading holidays and all of the pressure that comes along with them. I used to be the queen of Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and oh my God, birthdays!  I have written about our last disastrous No Thanks Giving and many others in years before.  I've written about our family's Christmas insanity many times. (You should really read those posts if you haven't). If you're an autism parent, you will definitely identify, if you're not, you'll probably cry for me. 

I know that I'm not alone. A lot of autism parents feel the same level of hatred for holidays.  It's because of how our children may or not behave with the extra pressure and anxiety.  It's a part of this thing I call Autism PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).  PTSD is an anxiety-based disorder that happens when a person has experienced trauma or has been repeatedly exposed to a traumatic events. PTSD can occur to soldiers who have been in a war zone or to a victim after a crime.  Autism PTSD is when you are constantly experiencing traumatic events in your own home or out in the community while raising your child with autism, who may fall apart emotionally, act out physically and have a meltdown at any given moment. 

I've read several articles about it lately.  Jess at Diary of a Mom wrote about it. A few weeks ago I read an article titled "Stress PTSD and Parents of Kids With Special Needs". It was a huge aha moment for me. I was like, YES! This is my life! 

According to the National Institute of Mental Health One of many the symptoms of PTSD is Avoidance. 
  • Staying away from places, and events that are reminders of the experience (I want to stay away from home all the time. I have to take a moment to gather myself in the car in the driveway before I come inside). 
  • Feeling strong guilt, depression, or worry. (Check! Constantly!
  • Losing interest in activities that were enjoyable in the past. (Talking on the phone, having parties, attending parties.) 
  • Feeling emotionally numb (Check! Check!) 
Hmm...sounds eerily familiar.  Avoiding talking. Avoiding socializing. Avoiding holidays. No longer enjoying them because of the many traumatic experiences in the past. Feeling numb -no desire for the enjoyment that used to come along with these activities. 

When our kids are diagnosed, we begin living a new normal,  which is really anything but normal. We are pretty much in a constant, heightened sense of stress ...always waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the phone to ring with the school or the kid on the other end of the line with some major issue.

Lately, in our home things have actually been a little bit better. Red is not melting down and ranting quite as often.  He's still a stick in the mud and negative, but things are ever so slightly better.  Of course, where Red slows down, Blue speeds up. So even the slightest progress is hard to celebrate or enjoy.  It can be perfectly quiet. I am sitting here reading, but I'm waiting for the screaming to start, for the argument to begin or for the actual physical fight to break out between teenage brothers. Autism PTSD! 

I am constantly diffusing, trying to keep my mother from pulling a trigger --to just stay out of everything or not scream at the boys. I flinch when I think my husband is about to blow a gasket and set one of the boys off. I usually jump up and try to deescalate it. I feel like a puppeteer trying to control all of the strings so that the puppets don't end up saying the wrong things and end up all mangled together, the house destroyed, another hole in a wall or a door in the process. 

I am by the way, working on that need to control all interactions at all times.  I just can not do it!  I can not control the kind of relationship my husband has with the boys. I can not control their every interaction.  It's impossible and my husband really resents it.  I'm sure my mother does too, but hey, she lives there by her choice and she is not their parent. I realize that especially when it comes to my husband and the boys, I have to just let the chips fall and the dust settle. It is super hard for me to let go. But again, I am trying to keep control in order to avoid explosions, like a soldier, in a war zone! (PTSD)

For Mother's Day weekend this year, my husband did take the boys out of the house on Saturday to go see a movie. It was heaven ...for me.  I did nothing.  I just absolutely relaxed with no guilt of, I should be doing this or that. It was torture for my husband. Red spent most of the day complaining, and asking his father, "Why do you have to be so military?" Nothing was enough. Nothing his father did was good from his perspective, not the shopping or the meal that he gulped down in 15 seconds flat. 
My Mother's Day Gift
Peace, Quiet & Sweatpants
Sunday the actual Mother's day, was mostly good.  I tried to relax. I did not cook. Hubby picked up Italian food. The boys were mostly home and mostly bored, so you know how that goes. Red did go to church, but he came home complaining about the fact that he couldn't see his girlfriend that day. She was busy spending it with her mother, seeing as it was Mother's Day and not Red Day.  Her mother deserved her daughters' full attention without any extra drama or distractions. Red complained
However, there was no screaming.
There were no major fights or major meltdowns.  
That does not mean that I didn't spend the entire day waiting for one to happen. 


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Thursday, May 7, 2015

Imagine a Life

Image by
Imagine a life
complete thoughts
my own discretion

Imagine the child who is still being raised
less battle

Imagine a life living in relative peace
no judgment
less debate

Imagine a bedroom

Imagine a couple

Imagine his life
a man
finding his people
living his dreams
providing for himself
making his way
finding love

Moving toward reality

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Good Therapy

After weeks of resistance and avoidance, instinct prompted me to not only drive Red to therapy, but to actually be a part of the session. As a result, I ended up with the most valuable insight into the motivation of his behaviors that I've received in a very long time.  If you read this blog regularly, you know that many times throughout an average day I ask myself, what the actual f% is he thinking?  He can be impossible to understand.  Well therapy gave me a few answers.

For the longest time, I have wondered the point of "talk therapy" for Red.  He loves to go! I've even used it as a consequence. If you don't behave, I will not drive you.  I think because he loves to hear himself talk. Other people, including the therapist?  Not so much.  I believe that for the most part,  he really only wants to hear his own point of view reflected back to him. In the sessions I've attended with him, that's what I've seen. When I ask him about sessions that I don't attend, he isn't able to give me any earth shattering insight that he gathered.

The ride to and from therapy within itself stresses me the hell out. I'm a captive audience, key word, captive.  I'm a hostage, trapped in a small space listening to his ranting, arguing and debating.  There have been times when I just pull over until he will shut up!

A month ago, I cancelled 2 of his 4 monthly sessions because of the lengthy, stressful drive home. That appointment had us driving home through five o'clock traffic. It could take almost 2 hours. Oh.My.God! I wanted to drive off a cliff!

For his last session 2 weeks ago,  I asked his Community Supports provider Kevin, to take him for me. I felt like the goose that laid the golden egg and no one else new how valuable it was.  Score one for me! I saved myself some aggravation.

One of the boundary issues we have with Red is when he hugs me, he totally engulfs me in his arms. I am much shorter and so much slimmer (not) than he is. He puts a lot of his 200 plus pounds of weight on me and won't let go usually, until I pinch him or something. He also continually picks up Harry our little 7 pound Maltese.  He hugs him to death or at least until he yelps.  Let's just suffice it to say, he is overly affectionate with the dog.  Harry runs when he hears him coming.

Red also seems to panic when I'm leaving the house. Where are you going? When will you be back? Then I get a zillion phone calls while I'm gone.  I come back home, he meets me in the driveway before I can even get out of the car.
Banging on my car window.
Yesterday, I learned that fear, anxiety and a deep need for love and affection are the main drivers behind a number of Red's behaviors.  He has a girlfriend, but he doesn't get to see her that much because of her own issues and behaviors with her parents. He really only has one close friend and that friend spends most of his life being grounded. It's sad. He does have his church family, and I'm sure that attention, love and caring are major motivators behind him being so closely involved in church.

Red's therapist believes that he is panicked by his fear of losing everything.  That's why he is holding on so tight. He is deeply afraid of change.  In facing adulthood there are so many variables, so many unknowns is  and it's frightening to him.  Red believes that once he walks out these doors, he looses everything. That's why he constantly references moving out, as being "kicked out." I imagine he sees my foot on his ass as he heads out the door, never to be able to come back again.  

I realize now, that fear has been perpetuated by us. In recent months, his behavior has been so all over the map. Boundaries have been next to non-existent and we have been close to moving him into a group home. In fact, when he misbehaves, our first line of defense is to say, "That's why you need to move!" Turns out that's not so healthy. It's actually making matters worse.  I never claimed to be perfect, especially when being driven to the edges of sanity. 

Of course, if we did have to follow that course of action,  it's not as if he would not have any support. But, he can't see through all of that.  He's afraid of losing all of his comforts. Gasp! He may have to struggle a bit, like every young person in America. 

Oh yes, and buying all of the things.  That's another way that he is holding on, tightly.  Buying video equipment is something that he can control, when he can't control anything else.  He buying things in a panic because when and if, he gets "kicked out," he won't be able to buy anything again, ever!  It all makes perfect sense! Why didn't I see all of this before? Duh! 

His therapist also pointed out, that Red sees that his older brother who has been out of the house for almost 9 years, hardly ever comes back home. I don't think he knows that  we continue to support his older brother when he really needs it.

Red may act like he doesn't like us, but he loves us. We are all he has ever known, especially me. I have been his rock, and his crutch. What will he do without that? Of course, he thinks he's going to fall if he no longer has what has been holding him up for his entire life. Standing on his own,  becoming an independent person literally scares the crap out of him.  He is the bird in the nest, that thinks that there is no way he can possibly fly.  This is a very normal feeling that many young adults go through. It's is only exacerbated by autism and anxiety.
Moments later running from a bug.

What we need to do number one,  is all of us including his dad and his brother,  have to reassure him that he is loved, right now, today, and that he will always be loved.
He will always be a part of this family.
He needs that love and affection to be shown by ALL of us.
We can't continually be angry, because he's angry and scared.
We can't let the only attention that he gets be negative. He acts so unlikeable, because that's the only way he knows how to get attention.
What he needs is encouragement to know that we are positive that he can do well on his own.
He can fly.
We need to reassure him that we realize that even if he is out of our house, he will continue to need support.
We will be there to give that to him or make sure that he receives it from outside sources, until he doesn't need it anymore, just as I have ALWAYS done.
We need to  continue to encourage and remind him how well he does in other environments, which is a sign that he really can be happy and independent.
When he travels to see family for weeks at a time, he thrives.
When he has gone away to camp, he loved it and did well.
When he is at work and volunteering at the high school with special needs students,  he is happy and self-assured.
We have to continually encourage his strengths and consistently reassure him, that we know he can do this!
He can be an independent person.
Someday he can be a husband, and perhaps even a father.
In order to get there, he has to be willing to walk through the fear and walk out of our front door.
He also needs to visually see a plan for his life. He needs a roadmap to follow,  so that he can actually feel himself heading in the right direction.
He needs to see that it's just one step at a time, instead of becoming constantly overwhelmed by the big, fuzzy picture. I have arranged that his Occupational Therapist will be helping him map things out, creating a blueprint in the coming weeks.

So it turns out that therapy can be a good thing after all. Thanks doc!


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Thursday, April 23, 2015

2 Drink Maximum

It got so ugly last night. Blue, the boy who is basically agnostic, called his best friend's mom so they could pray together, for me. He also called his father who is out of town on business to tell him, "Mom is losing it!"
He told me this morning, that it scares him when I get angry. It also makes him really sad. He has this fear that I'm going to die of a heart attack or something. I can only hope that he's wrong.

I am usually pretty darn good at remaining calm.  I will laugh and make a joke instead of yelling or screaming. Sometimes, when Red is coming at me with judgment, lunacy or just looking for a fight, I'll say something ridiculous like, "Yo mama!" It makes me laugh. He just looks at me like, "What do you mean? You're my mom." Or maybe I'll say, "Bye Felicia," just to brush him off and let him know, I'm not buying what you're selling. Of course, he has no idea what in the hell I'm talking about, but I amuse myself instead of getting angry.

Last night, there just wasn't enough vodka to calm my nerves. Don't get me wrong, there's plenty of vodka in this house. Unfortunately, my bladder has a 2 drink maximum.  If I drink more than two drinks, I will be up and down all night peeing, and I need my sleep. I think that's God's secret way of not allowing me to turn into a complete, falling down drunk.

Before I closed my door I told Red if he touched the door (he usually starts beating on it when I close it) or if he touched Blue's door, I would call the authorities. He couldn't believe it. He stands there looking at me, and says "Why are you so mad? Why are you being this way?"
Really? Why are you getting so angry, just because I'm doing everything within my power to make you angry?  

The straw, that broke my last nerve wasn't even that big of a deal in his mind.  He was just being his usual special flavor of rude because my mother ssh'd him so that she could hear the last few moments of "American Idol."

"Why are you yelling at me?!" he screamed! (She was literally whispering).
And then it went on and on from there with, "You people need to change!" Yada, yada, yada.
He had just come home from church. What did you get out of being there? 

What really killed me was the night before, his Home Community Supports provider had taken him out and they had a long talk. He really likes this guy. His name is Kevin. He is African-American, retired Army and a practicing Christian.  I say practicing because he's not one of those who claims to be Christian and then goes out and acts like a jerk. He is actually walking the walk in the work that he does with young men like Red, for minimal pay.

Red likes him.  He comes home from every outing with the biggest smile on his face. He seems to also really respect him.  Of course, Red usually shows respect for most adults who don't live in this house.  I thought the conversation they had  was like divine intervention or something. I felt like God sent this man directly into Red's life, like so many other blessings that he has been given. This boy's mentor network is vast and deep! It's extraordinary!

Kevin told him, that he was on thin ice in this house. He gave Red an earful about respecting his parents, following the example of Christ, actually walking in his faith, instead of just talking in it. He told him he's going to take him down to spend some time with the homeless, so he can get a taste of "humble pie."  He wants Red to meet first hand, some of the young men  who have lost it all because they didn't know how to treat the good situation they were in.
He told Red that we don't owe him anything!
We've done our job.
We have raised him through to adulthood.
Still being allowed to live in this house is a blessing.
He's sitting on easy street.
All he needs to do is "honor his mother and his father" who have given him nothing but the best and want nothing but the best for him.
He also said, "I know your mother has given you more than the best. I know she's been fighting for you from day one of your diagnosis."  HELLO! 

He then told me he's coming back to get him on Thursday. He is only scheduled to take him once a week. He wants to know if Red has made any changes by then. Get this ...he is VOLUNTEERING to spend an extra day with Red this week! He really wants to help this knuckle head boy!

I have all kinds of doubt in my faith, but this is nothing but God!

Last night, I guess I just couldn't believe after all of that, and Red seemed to be really listening, that he would turn around and be so disrespectful to us.  I thought that he had received the message that God was trying to send him. When he started yelling I just thought to myself, it doesn't matter how much help he gets, he is not going to change. Nothing helps. Nothing works. He just really doesn't give a shit. Either that, or he is not capable of change when it comes to his family.

Why am I starting behavior therapy? (We had an evaluation earlier that afternoon. BTW...the therapist knew in the first five minutes that even though he was saying he wants to move out, he is very comfortable here, and has no intentions on moving anytime soon. We're going to go ahead and get him ready for it anyway.)

Why am I getting him connected with any of these resources? Why do I take him to therapy? Nothing seems to matter. Do meds need to change? Why isn't he getting anything? Why does nothing sink in with him? Where is the missing link? Why is he not connecting the dots?

Red ended up calling Kevin on the phone, since I refused to talk to him anymore.  Moments later, he came back to my door and humbly apologized. He asked to come in. No thanks. I couldn't do it. 

I'm praying for guidance and answers. There is a reason for everything that happens. I'm supposed to be learning something through this process. I wish I had a crystal ball, or a whisper from God to tell me what I'm supposed to do. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Evil Medication

When it comes to psychotropic medications, most autism parents have ambivalent feelings...
We hate that our children need it.
We're glad that they have it.
We despise the trial and error.
We love when it works.
We lament over the side effects.
Sometimes, we want to hurt the doctors.
Other times, we want to kiss them. (This is rare.)

I should clarify that medication does not treat autism or make it go away.  It can help with some of the co-morbid conditions such as, ADHD (lack of focus, always moving) ), anxiety, depression/mood disorders, OCD -obsessive compulsive disorder, extreme difficulty sleeping. Many children with autism just can not turn those brains off at bedtime. The same goes for many worried autism parents.

In the past few days, I have been reminded how important medication is for both or my boys.

I wrote a post,  "Turning Blue" a couple of days ago about how well Blue is doing. There are number of factors that are in play, one of which is a medication that works along with several vitamin supplements.

However, this past weekend on Saturday, Blue slept until noon. I never wake a sleeping bear. He did not eat breakfast and therefore did not take his medication and supplements on time. He decided he was going to walk to the local diner for breakfast. Only, he farted around watching videos on You-tube for a couple of hours. Then he went to take a shower and get dressed. By 2:30 p.m. he ended up in full rage.  He came down the stairs after his shower, entered a conversation that he was not a part of, and then proceeded to curse us all to high heavens!

I immediately made him take his medication and literally pushed him out the door to go eat and get away from us. He wasn't finished with me yet. He got down the street and called me from his cell phone,
"Look! You better f-ing listen to me!"! I don't think so kid. Of course after I hung up, I prayed that he had already made it across the busy street and wasn't out there going berserk.

By the time he got home, he gave me a hug and a sincere apology. I told him that from now on he will eat something first thing, so that he can take his meds. Crackers, a piece of toast ...whatever!

Think he doesn't need his meds? It's all a part of helping him keep it together.

Yes, he has made a lot of progress over the past year, but that doesn't mean that we are beyond all challenges.

Yesterday, I picked Red up from work. He works with young children which usually leaves  him feeling relatively happy. As he walked towards the car, the look on his face made me think he had just been fired or something. He looked angry, sad and mad all at the same time.  I felt sorry if the kids had to see that face.

When I asked him what was wrong he said, "Nothing." That within itself was strange. He never passes up on an opportunity to complain.
I pushed.
As he began speaking, tears started to fall.

"I don't know what's wrong with me. I've always felt like I was a messed up person. I'm broken inside. I'm scared. I'm afraid that I can't make it in life.  You're just trying to kick me out and make my life as hard as possible. Dad doesn't love me. No one cares about me. Sometimes, I even think God has forgotten all about me."

It's been ages since I've seen tears from him.  Even as they were falling softly he said, "Men don't cry. I'm usually more angry." He really didn't understand why he was feeling the way that he was.

My heart ached.

This morning I read an article, "Why High Functioning Autism Is So Challenging" .  It described Red to a tee.

"...people with high functioning autism are, in general, very aware of their own difficulties and extremely sensitive to others' negative reactions."

"Anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders are more common among people with high functioning autism... We don't know whether the autism causes the mood disorders, or whether the disorders are the result of social rejection and frustration..."

Red being less angry and more vulnerable allowed me to see how he's really been feeling for months. His feelings have been showing up as anger and negative behaviors, lack of forward movement (fear), buying things to make himself feel better (self-medication),  attempts to show me that he is not ready to grow up and be responsible (more fear). He is deathly afraid of the changes that he is facing (anxiety). The possibility of moving out will be a major change. Starting some kind of post secondary education (fear of failure) most likely feels incapacitating.

Yet, he goes to therapy week after week and talks about how he needs more equipment for his video business, instead of the things that really need to be addressed.

The tears also made me aware that something was way off. After further investigation, it turns out that he has been out of one of his meds (Intuniv) for a few days. He had mentioned it to me casually, after he ran out.  I called it in, but there was a delay because he was out of refills and they had to call the doctor.  Then, the pharmacy didn't have it in stock. You know the drill.

In the back of my mind, for the longest time I thought this particular medication really wasn't doing much for him. He's still so all over the map with behavior. Apparently, it has been helping him sleep and it does augment his ADHD medication (Focalin).

I found out he had been waking up in the middle of the night 2 nights in a row with a headache.

Yeah. So there goes my mother of the year award. Letting him run out of medication. Parenting fail!

The bottom line is that we both were reminded the importance of his medications ...taking all of them and taking them in a timely manner, every day.

I think I will always have a love/hate relationship with psychotropic medications. Unfortunately,  for us they are a necessary evil.

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Monday, April 13, 2015

Turning Blue

The amount of growth Blue has gone through within the last year is extraordinary.
From the boy who called me a couple of times a week to come get him out of that f-ing high school...
-to the boy who now calls me to process his feelings before he heads back to class.
From the boy who had a meltdown every Wednesday morning because it was uniform inspection day in R.O.T.C.
-to the boy who started his very own club for those who feel like they just don't fit in anywhere else.
From the boy who thought all high school students were complete idiots because they think differently than he does...
-to the boy who decided on his own, to start working on himself, trying to be more positive so that he can get along better with his peers.

Parents in my support community on Facebook have asked, "What do you think is making such a big difference in him?" I think there are a few factors in play:
  • His hormones have balanced out some. -In the past couple of years we were in the throes of puberty and raging hormones. I saw my sweet little boy turn into an evil teenager who hated everything. He was more aggressive than ever, especially with his brother who at the time, was bigger than him. It didn't stop him from regularly trying to knock the crap out of him. He is 16 now and I think we've made it past the crazy hormonal changes. 
  • We have medication that works in place. We had DNA testing, which showed us that he has adverse reactions to SSRI's. Because of his anxiety over the years, we have tried a few of them. They seem to work for a while, and then end up not working, or making things worse. He can't take them. He now takes a psychotropic med that helps balance the anger and aggression. (I won't say specifically which one for his privacy). He also takes a mixture of vitamin supplements: 
  1. Vayarin (a medically prescribed vitamin food that helps with thought processing and focus) *Warning most insurance do not cover it. 
  2. methylfolate B9 (helps with depression) 
  3. vitamin D (mood) 
  4. B6 (anxiety and mood), 
  5. magnesium glycinate ( helps with his restless leg syndrome and sleep) along
  6. melatonin (sleep). 
  • Person Centered Planning  is a process where we come together with a facilitator, a group of mentors, teachers, parents and friends. (Our facilitator is from the Special Education Department of our school district. As with most special programs, you have to ask for it.  They won't volunteer to give it to you.)  As a group, we help Blue set individual short-term, life goals that help the him develop personal relationships, participate more in the community and develop the skills to take control of his own life.  
Blue struggles somewhat with self-esteem. Initially, depression and negative thinking would not allow him to see himself as successful.  He could not accept a compliment. Even with his excellent grades, he was constantly comparing himself to someone who he believes to be better than him. We put Person Centered Planning on board last year.  However, with his state of anxiety it didn't seem to help very much. He couldn't seem to focus and he really could not see the point of it all.

As we got him balanced out more hormonally and chemically, he started to get more into the process, scheduling his own meetings, without prompts and inviting more trusted mentors to participate in the process.  I am actually very proud of the mentor network that he has developed at school.  He is definitely his mama's son! Except for the whole math and science thing. He's excellent. Me ...not so much. 

During the first step in each meeting, we go over Celebrations. What has the individual accomplished over the past number of weeks since the last time we met? Nothing is too big or too small.
Blue's Celebrations on Paper 

This year in his more balanced state of mind, he is able to concretely see the things that he is accomplishing.  He sees that his accomplishments are to be celebrated. He has expanded his planning team beyond just me and dad, to 3 additional teachers/mentors whom he respects.  When he hears their praises and then sees them in writing, it makes him feel so much better about himself.

He floored me when he decided to make one of his goals to become a more positive person.  He didn't like the way that he was being perceived when he repeatedly started arguments with peers and always had to let everyone know of his opposing views. He wanted to change that.

Another goal that I love that he set was to try to understand the way his brother Red thinks, in hopes to get along with him better. That's a work in progress for both of us. Red definitely has a different perception of the world and his place in it.

I could go on all day about the positive things that I've seen happen with him this year, like his development of friendship with female peers, but that's a whole other blog post.  I have to leave something for you to look forward to the next time.

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Love and light...


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Embracing 50

In the months and weeks leading up to my 50th birthday I thought about how amazing it is what time and children do to your life.  Motherhood, marriage and daughterhood have completely changed my priorities.  I miss that selfish girl from my 20's, but I'm so glad I have her to reflect on from time to time.  That girl knew how to have a damn good time! Too bad she wanted so desperately to get married. Like she was missing something. Ha! I laugh at her now.  Especially, when I think of my niece who is in her 20's and spending it traveling the world, without a care about getting married or having children. I am so impressed by and proud of her.

I always thought I would do something fabulous for this special birthday. Maybe I would go to Paris! Maybe a girls trip with my closest girlfriends.  Maybe I would have a big party.  But as it came closer, through mental exhaustion all I could do was think, I just want to sleep for my birthday. How boring am I? 

Having grown up not really celebrating my birthday because of my mother's religious beliefs,  which in turn became my beliefs that I never quite felt comfortable with.  We were a part of the Jehovah's freakin Witnesses until I turned 17 and had finally had enough of that bullshit.  I just could not see why I had to be continuously judged by a group of people about the way I lived my life.  I hated the all invasiveness of it all.  Hence, I am scarred for life.

I finally started celebrating my birthday at the age of 17.  I had the first the birthday party since my 5th birthday. I vaguely remember my mom planning a surprise party for me. That was when she and my dad were still together, before she turned to the Witnesses as her support system.

After reclaiming my life and independence from that religion,  it was like my birthday was a national holiday. I couldn't get enough attention from my family and my friends. I felt like I had missed out all of those years. I had to make up for lost time.

During my 20's when I still lived in Los Angeles where I grew up, my birthday was a month long celebration that I couldn't stop talking about the entire month before. I made sure everyone remembered. I may have been a little obnoxious about it. (Right Jenny and Mary?)  But my friends indulged me and so did my family.  There was a special dinner and/or lunch with each and every set of friends in my honor. Occasionally, there was a party and it was all about me!

As I turn 50  of course, it's hard to believe. I'm still a young party girl in my head. Except now, most of my partying takes place in my car, as I drive around in circles within a 10 mile radius of my house doing all of the mom things.  I dance unabashedly to my 80's and 90's tunes, from rock to R&B to rap. My boys hate my dancing and loathe my music choices. That doesn't stop me. I play it louder when they're not in the car. 

This year leading up to the big day, all I could think about every day was just how tired I am.  It's been a busy few months with trying to pull together services for Red, dealing with his behaviors and crappy, ungrateful attitude. I felt a special kind of mental exhaustion  Some days I was so tired, I wondered if I was dying. Seriously.

I  desperately wanted some peace and quiet. I had nothing left over for planning anything special.  All of my planning and coordinating was for my family.
All I really wanted was...not to have to do anything for anyone
Not to listen to or solve anyone else's problems. 
Not to buy anyone's groceries.
Not to drive anyone anywhere for any appointments. 
Not to cook, make sure anyone eats or takes medication. 
No meetings or phone calls to coordinate anything for anybody.
Not to talk or have to listen to anyone talk, and talk and talk. 

I mused of days of freedom to do whatever I want. Just a few days ...a month, or the rest of my life.
A girl can dream right?

I even found myself having frequent thoughts about quitting my job. Sorry dudes! I quit. I'm outta here. Find another sucker to be your mother.

Back in the days when I had an actual career, if I got tired of a job, tired of a boss not appreciating all of my hard work, that was it! Good bye! Sayonara baby! Moving on to bigger and better things. More money. More opportunities.  Something new. Some place new.

Sadly, this is not a job that one resigns from.  Lord only knows we can't afford a replacement. Someone might take the job, but I don't think they would stay long.

A part of me is still that little girl who would have a big ballyhoo for her birthday.
I just did not have it in me to coordinate such an event that would include everyone that I love, or at least a good portion of them.
I couldn't make a decision about what I wanted, or where I wanted it.
I knew for sure that I didn't want a party for the sake of  saying, I had a party, with only my local friends in Texas and I love my friends in Texas. However,  this place still doesn't feel like home to me. I wanted to be surrounded by my people.  The ones whom I love and who have loved me most of my life.

Lately, my husband hasn't had the bandwidth between work, travel and our family drama to put something like that together.  Especially for a high maintenance, control freak, wife like myself.  He will love that I have admitted this, in writing no less.

But you see that one of the wonderful things about age and maturity...
You know who you are, flaws and all.
I embrace the beautiful mess that I am.
It's glorious really.
I know what I want
I know what I don't want.
I know that I don't have to settle, just so that I can say I did this or that.
I don't have the time or energy to just go through the motions.
If I could not have it all, I'd rather not have it.
I don't surround myself with people, just for the sake of  having people around.
I spend what little free time I have surrounded by with people who I truly connect with.
I spend time with those who I know truly love me, flaws, craziness and all.

I have come to value true friends.
People who never go out of their way for you, but will come to the party to have a good time are not your friends. They are people you know.
People who will actually reach out when they can see that you're down ...those are friends.
True friends are there for you through the good, the bad and the crazy.
True friends are able to pick right back up wherever you left off, no matter how much time has passed since you were able to spend time together.
True friends don't keep score.
They will call you out of the blue to say hey, I was thinking about you. Let's get together, even though it's been months, or years.
My family sometimes teases me saying, "You know your friends are crazy."
I absolutely know this.
Being crazy is kind of a requirement to be my friend.
I don't judge my friends for their choices in life.
They don't judge me for mine.
We love each other for exactly who we are.

For my 50th, I didn't get that totally relaxing week or month, to myself. I chose to spend a fun-filled weekend in New York City, just me and my husband.  For someone who wanted to simply sleep for her birthday, that may seem like an odd choice.  The city that never sleeps. 
Hubby: There's always a lot of traffic on 34th Street
Me: Is it because of the miracle? 
I knew that we needed to reconnect and we had put this trip (that had already been paid for) off due to family obligations last year.  It would not require a great deal of planning, decision making, coordinating or a huge expense.

I got to sleep in, but our days were packed with activity from walking, to subway rides, taxi's, a Broadway show, "It's Only a Play", drinking and dining our way through Greenwich, all over Manhattan, to Mintons, Jazz Club in Harlem.  We even traveled as far north as Yonkers to have dinner with my sister-in-law and her family.

On my actual birthday, we took a long walk through Central Park, sat, people watched and listened to all of the accents being spoken, from German, to Italian and Russian.  The whole time, all I wanted to do is pull out my laptop and write. Wow! So many stories were walking through that park.
Me and Hubby -Central Park
We had a great Italian dinner, followed by an evening of jazz. When all was said and done, I was physically exhausted. But this exhaustion was a good exhaustion.  It did not come from mental anguish or frustration.  It came from living life and creating memories.

The Big Apple was there and I took a bite.
Central Park April 6, 2015
Fabulous at 50! 
I still plan on finding at least a quiet weekend to myself someday in the near future.  I need a vacation to recuperate from my vacation.

Wishing you all Love and light....