Monday, October 13, 2014

Discussions with my Daughter... the ones only I can hear.

Discussions with my Daughter ... are sometimes only in my head.

A few weeks ago, I finally worked in some time to take down the pool.  Of course, the day we decide to do it the weather was so warm we should have been swimming in it instead.  None the less, it was the one day I had and I was determined to get it done.

To move the project along, I asked Allison to help me.  Repeatedly. While she said "Yes" she would help me each time I asked, her eyes and attention never actually left her Mindcraft game on her iPad. Finally, I told her one last time to please come out and help me before I went outside to get started.

That's when this discussion with my daughter took place, more or less. It was not necessarily a discussion with my daughter but with myself about my daughter going on in my head.  One that may have been very good for both of us, even if only one of us actually heard it.

It went something like this...

I had been scrubbing along the bottom of the pool while blasting it with the hose for awhile... long enough to be basically done when I had begun to accept you were not coming outside to help as I had asked.  My mind debated between several conversations we would have if I went back inside to tell you to come out. I thought of how completely dead I would have been if I would have not come out when asked, or if I would have been asked multiple times by my parents to do something at your age.  (At least with my dad, I honestly can't remember my mom asking me to do much outside of clean my room which I rarely did so...maybe not "completely" dead - it would just depend on which parent asked!) As I struggled between disappointment, frustration and feeling like I'm completely failing as a parent I looked up to see you standing on the deck, eating a Popsicle looking down curiously at me.

"Hey there" I said to you, "I'm glad you made it outside to help me.  Do you want to grab a towel and jump in here to help me finish scrubbing?"

You looked at me for a minute while finishing your Popsicle and then, without saying a word climbed the ladder into the pool to join me.

"Why are we cleaning the bottom?" you asked in a curious and innocent tone.

Appreciating your interest, I explained how there were places on the bottom of the pool that dirt and stuff had built up over the summer that we never got completely cleaned when vacuuming it and how it's better to get it completely clean and dry now before we put it away or next summer the pool will be disgusting.

Happy with that answer, you let me know you would rather spray the hose than scrub with the towels.  I felt that was fair enough and handed over the hose.  Together we worked to finish cleaning the bottom, reaching every spot that needed our attention.

Draining the small amount of water left turned out to be more difficult than I anticipated.  I too am learning as I go through life.  Feeling a bit overwhelmed by the heat, I let you know I was going to take a break to get some water and rest before taking the pool apart and figuring out the answer to draining the rest of the water. While I went inside, you happily played on the swing set. I thought to myself how much I appreciated that you stayed out to play instead of coming in and jumping on the iPad.

When I returned outside, I walked over to the swing set to let you know the next steps and that I would need your help.  I had walked into your world, filled with imagination and felt badly asking you to leave it to work with me.  In my mind I justified the importance of balancing work and play... even at 11.

As I walked around the pool taking apart the pieces you would pick them up and put them in a pile near the garage. It went fast enough, I didn't even mind stopping to pick up some of the pieces for you as you had a habit of getting sidetracked during the process.  In my mind, I began to wonder about what goes through your head, what do you see through your eyes when your imagination is free to explore and create in the world around you.  You've always had the most incredible imagination, this hot late summer day was no exception and I couldn't help but smile as I watched you interact with each piece clearly off somewhere else more fun than taking down the pool in our backyard.  I stopped now and then not to tell you to hurry up but to appreciate and adore the innocence I was witnessing at that moment.

I talked with you over the options of getting the rest of the water out.  We agreed that w could pull one end over the other, basically flipping the pool to dump what was left.  We talked it through together, your input was appreciated and then I walked over to begin pulling the far side to the direction we wanted it to go.  You watched.  My mind wondered why on earth you were watching, that wasn't at all what we had just discussed yet there you stood, not moving at all.

There is that part of me that wanted to snap at you, telling you to get your butt over with me as we had just talked about to help me pull the heavy pool over to the other side. I couldn't bring myself to do it as I saw how intently you were watching what was happening, almost calculating if it would work or not.  When the pool became too heavy you ran over, holding a spot near me ready to pull together.  I was not sure why you chose to grab where you did so I stopped and asked.  You simply replied "this is where I need to be" and it turns out, you were right, it was the perfect position to help us dump the pool.  I smiled as you smirked with our accomplishment.

We flipped the empty pool back to start drying it off.  I handed you a towel while taking one of my own to start soaking up missed spots and drying what was left.  As I worked, you simply wandered around the pool tossing your towel down once and leaving it there.  My frustration was building as I noticed you had left your towel and were interested in the feel of the pool between your toes instead of looking for water spots to dry.  I asked what you were doing and why you were not drying the pool.  You simply said that you "could not find anymore wet spots" so you were doing this instead while you waited.  I wanted to be frustrated as there were clearly many puddles of water remaining but instead appreciated your curiosity and wonder of how the pool felt different in different places along the bottom.  Feeling out each spot and how it varied from another.  It was actually fascinating to watch you.  You shared with me the difference in the spots and encouraged me to feel them too.  Against what my mind wanted me to do, I stopped and did it anyway...I'm glad I did.

While the pool was drying in the air and sun, we talked of picking up all of the pieces to be stored for winter.  I grabbed a couple of pieces and headed to the shed, cleared out the spot they would go, put the pieces I had in and walked back for more.  You were still trying to figure out how many pieces you could balance and carry at once. I made three trips, you continued to fine tune your balance and attempt to add pieces, frequently dropping some that you had in your arms.

I was hot, tired and wanting to be done.  I tend to go through life a little too fast sometimes so on my fourth trip back for more pieces instead of snapping at you to just take 2 at a time and get them put away, I asked if I could add a piece or two for you to help you balance knowing if you didn't have to bend over to pick them up the odds of keeping your balance were better. Your face lit up as you explained to me exactly how to stack them in your arms, 3 on each side, triangle tip down - flat side up.  While I could see the fault in your plan, I could also see the determination so I stacked them exactly how you asked verifying each piece was how you wanted it.  With 6 pieces stacked in your arms you began to walk to the shed - beaming from ear to ear.  I walked beside you carrying my 2 pieces, also smiling and watching the pieces begin to slip from your grip.

When they crashed down we both burst out in laughter.  Not at your failure as neither of us saw it that way but at the attempt gone wrong.  The busy part of my mind wanted me to say "enough" of the silliness we needed to get this done.  But the mom in me, constantly amazed by how your mind works, won out and encouraged you to try again but maybe stack them a bit differently.  Taking a minute to lay them out on the ground you quickly saw multiple new ways to fit the flat and triangle pieces together.  Starting with them flat, then adding the triangle piece down to wedge between we stacked not only your 6 pieces but my 2 on as well. You successfully made it to the shed...we laughed when you discovered you had no way to put them down without dropping them - so I encouraged you do to just that reaching out for a fist bump after your hands were again free.

I smiled as I reached for each piece to stack in the shed while you ran back for more and ready to load your arms without me using one of the new ways you had figured out.  I congratulated you on your success when you returned with the next load.

When all of the large pieces were away you drifted off away from me again filled with imagination you were back in another world.  We still had lots of small pieces to pick up, I called for you - you continued to play while singing a song you had just made up. I took my load of smaller joint pieces to the shed, as I walked back I called you again.  I was not sure what you were thinking or playing but you were very deep into the thought of it not hearing my call either time. I made another trip to the shed.

As I picked up my  joint pieces ready to call you over and remind you of why you were outside, I looked over and watched. Beyond the signing I watched your motions, your curiosity as you checked out bugs and I stopped to appreciate the incredible ways in which your mind works.

You see, while I needed help, I also need you to take this time in life to discover, to explore, to imagine, to believe.  The older you get, the harder that becomes.

There will be a time in your life where part of your brain is hurried too.  I just don't want to rush that, I don't want to take away your curiosity and wonder of the world you are exploring around you. Instead of calling you over, I went to your side when you asked me to come check out some bugs that you found.  Trying not to let my distaste for the bugs show, I pointed out what I saw in them too hoping to build your curiosity and tell you what I did know about the ones I recognized - hoping it would encourage you to learn more and most of all asking questions not just for answers but to encourage more thought.

You live a life different from your friends, you were born into a situation that forced you to grow up faster than most.  You have more responsibility, more frustration, more understanding of disappointment when things don't work out.  While you struggle with how fragile x complicates your own  life, you take on tremendous responsibility of helping to care for your brother who is significantly impacted by his disability.  Moments for just us are rare. Even when we have a job to do, it's important for me to let you step back and just be 11 and more importantly to enjoy this time for just the 2 of us even if it wasn't something we would have chosen to do.  While your brother stayed inside to watch t.v. our world outside was quiet and filled with opportunity to take in the world around us .  We both had a choice, to focus and work quickly and hard or to slow down and take in so much more than the work at hand, appreciating time, the world around us and curiosity. I'm thankful we both chose to slow down and look at the world in a new way during that time, I know the difference it made in me being able to appreciate the world through your unfiltered eyes.

As we walked away to finish picking up the joint pieces when you were ready, you couldn't just pick up one with each hand and walk them to the shed though, that would be too easy.  You are always looking for new ways to make things happen and how you can stack items to carry more than two at a time.

Instead of being upset, I was thankful you were there to help me and encouraged your ambition to carry more pieces.

I wondered if at 11 I had your imagination, curiosity and vision - you see I too, liked to daydream and imagine.  Like you, I loved to make up songs, I still do you hear me sing them often to your brother.  You've never been impressed with my silly song ability, the songs in your mind are much more complex and thought out.  You put many of them in your song book, like me - you love to write and see something come together.

As I started to roll up the liner of the pool, I sent you in the house for some duck tape to hold the tarp together. A significant amount of time later (I was ready to go see what happened to you) out you came with tape in hand.  I had the liner completely rolled up and in the tarp ready to seal closed with the tape.  When you handed it to me, I realized it was masking tape and gave you a look.  You said it was all you could find and assured me it was still sticky while sticking a piece to your arm.  While you were right, it was sticky, it didn't have the strength needed for this project. I decided we were fine without tape and put the final piece of the pool in the shed finishing the project we had started together.

As we walked back to the house, you asked me the purpose of masking tape for which, I had no answer.  You laughed at me for owning it when it doesn't have a purpose.  I reminded you everything has a purpose even if it takes us time to figure it out.

Inside the cool house we fixed glasses of ice water to drink to cool us down, as I handed you your glass I put my arms around you for a hug - while you never knew of the conversation going on in my head - I heard each word.  I could see you, I'm always watching.  You make me proud, of who you are every single day.

I kissed your forehead as we went to sit down.  You picked up your iPad and returned to your game while I sat quietly watching you, appreciating the many ways in which your mind works.  And in complete awe of how you are able to slow mine down to be sure instead of rushing your life along I stop to encourage the curiosity and exploration that build within you.  I remember once being filled with never ending imagination - I still am only in more focused and realistic ways.  At times I miss the playful imagination of far away lands I had as a child and cherish that your mind is still able to whisk you away in such amazing ways.

While the conversations that impacted us both the most today were all inside of my mind, they changed my actions because you changed my thoughts simply by being you. Thank you for slowing me down, giving me the opportunity to appreciate not only our time together but all of the amazing things I love most about you.  You continue to amaze me every single day.

I was once 11 too.  I remember.  I want to keep the curiosity alive not only for yourself but for your mom, who at 40, can still see your world through the eyes imaginative eyes of an 11 year old.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Embracing the Single...maybe there's more to it.

I wasn't going to write about this anymore... 

I'm not sure who my writings about being single were more helpful to, me or those who read it but the series of 3 are currently ranked in the top 10 highest blog views of mine and the responses were just as fun and enlightening on my Facebook page.

A couple of which even made me second guess my fear of online dating - and well, dating in general. That, honestly surprised me.  Typically when I make my mind up - it's made. It was the smallest response that got my attention and started me thinking.

I opened up on Friday night to write about this mostly to calm my nerves about Parker's homecoming date the next day.  I was going to write about that... or Allison both topics that are in my mind just waiting for me to type out but I couldn't do it. I needed to clear my mind not focus on what my worries were.  I also needed to write, so I opened up about me. It turned out to be a fabulous (and entertaining to many) distraction.

Saturday was homecoming (I'll blog about it soon) and I was very focused on making the day a success (it was).

Sunday though took Parker and I on the long(ish) drive to my hometown where Allison was riding in a horse show.  The 1 1/2 hour ride to Cambridge was filled with drumming on my headrest and a very wandering mind.

I love to drive this time of year, watching the crops come out of the fields, the leaves turning colors, pumpkins everywhere - October has always been one of my favorite months - it makes for a tranquil drive.  I feel more observant when I drive in the fall, possibly because there is so much more I want to see in the landscape around me.

It was the first time in a long time as I drove that I wondered who else would appreciate the beauty of the half picked fields... of the incredible colors of the fall leaves... or appreciate the crisp air that is such a nice change. My mind kept thinking back to that smallest response and wondering if something was being said by not actually saying something at all.

Just as my mind started to wander just enough we approached Kewanee which switched my focus back to Parker who was still drumming on my headrest and preparing him for our day ahead.  He was cleverly distracting by encouraging me to change the songs on his playlist and sing along to something other than Old Time Rock and Roll that I preferred instead of listening to what I was trying to prepare him for.  It was likely a tie, neither of us winning but both somewhat accomplishing our goals.

As we drove into Cambridge, I was a bit relieved that we would stay on the very edge of town - I knew if I drove through my mind would return to wondering how interested anyone else would be in my little hometown.  So much of my childhood was there, memories and locations that I want to share and reflect upon now and then. I wasn't sure I was ready for that thought and was happy to take the side road to the arena where the horse show was.

The time during the show was pretty focused on getting Parker out of the car and Allison riding. Scott was there with his girlfriend as her girls were riding too.  It was really wonderful to see all of the girls riding together and sharing something they loved.  Not to mention the smiles on all of their faces.  I was glad I reached out to share the event and that they made the long haul with their horses to participate.  My parents and younger sister were there, I was able to win over a couple of points with my dad for wearing my new t-shirt showing I was proud of my dad, a Vietnam Vet... and I am proud of him which is a bonus ;-)

After a long day, both Parker and Allison climbed in the van for the drive home.  After stopping for gas and snacks we started to drive. It was fairly quiet with a movie playing and leaving my mind to take in the landscape around me. Almost half way home, Allison fell asleep and Parker returned to drumming...my mind returned to the thought of dating.

I've said all along that while I'm not looking, I wouldn't rule out letting someone into my life.  It could happen without me looking for it, quite often it happens that way anyway....right?  I started to wonder if I was pulling myself away without trying for the wrong reasons. I'm clearly content. I'm ridiculously happy at the moment. Everything "feels" in place in life. So am I not looking because I don't want to lose that feeling?  Or.... because I am so afraid that someone isn't ready for the challenge of Parker that I simply can't let myself let my guard down?   Or... is it the fear of not being good enough in general.  I don't know.  And maybe it's a combination of all 3 and more.  I am realistic on the amount of time I don't have.  I also know that the right people inspire you and I've always found a way to make time too.

Tonight, as Parker and I played Wii (and Allison slept) I found myself creating an online dating profile for myself in my mind and trying to figure out what pictures I would use.  After Parker went to bed, I took one more look through match.com...through every angle. If I were a man looking for a woman my age - who would I find?  As a woman looking, who would I find?  Can I really get past my insecurities enough to do something like this?

I glanced back to the Facebook tab, the first thing I saw was a quote/post that seemed to answer my question...



Is that all this is?  An imaginary fear?  Eh... I don't know.  I think I have realistic fears and I try really hard not to set myself up for disappointment.  I stared at this for awhile, a little puzzled how normally something like this would only bring thoughts of my children, IEP's, Advocacy, Inclusion and more from the special needs world I live in to mind but this time those thoughts were not there.  Instead the walls I've created within myself were.  Am I basing my walls on imaginary fears?  Or am I right on track with reality and reclaiming my life by acknowledging them? Honestly, I don't know.

So I kept scrolling...and saw this from HuffPost Women " I Tried Online Dating and No One Even Messaged Me Back."  You know I immediately clicked on that hoping not to be able to relate but instead could see myself in the writers shoes. As someone who struggles with insecurities and depression is that something I seriously want to subject myself to willingly? When I'm happy?  And content?

Oddly I debated that for a good 15 minutes in my mind while replying to emails, which led me here to my blog to write, hoping I'd find that answer as I put the words down.

The thing is, I don't think there is a right answer. I think there is an "at this moment" answer. An answer that could clearly change in a different moment. I just found my peace that was missing from within me. It's an incredible feeling to have that I'm not sure I've felt it before.  Maybe that is what makes part of my mind tell me I am ready but the fear of rejection - of me, and even more honestly of my children is something I would have a difficult time recovering from... the feeling of the 3 of us not being good enough.  That's a hard one. I don't know if the peace within me is strong enough to take that on yet... or ever.  I'm still trying to figure out the purpose of my new found peace. Maybe it's purpose here is to help me tear down the walls that keep me so guarded ... or maybe to remind me that it's ok to build the walls and apply more mortar to the bricks. I'm just not sure.

I believe that things that are supposed to happen do.  Stars line up, wishes are made, prayers are granted... whichever it may be, or a little of each - I believe in it.  If there is someone who is meant to be in my life, I will meet him.  He will find his way to me and we will figure it out.  Maybe his fears are the same as mine and we both need time to build the peace within a bit more before that happens. Or maybe tonight when he lays his head on his pillow to sleep, he's wondering how to get me past my paranoia to let me know that somethings are worth giving a try and building his confidence to reach out.

I don't know.

The only thing I know for certain is that the only thing you can expect in life is the unexpected.

Time will tell ... and as much as I want to say I'm not going to write about myself anymore but keep my focus on the kids, I think we've all just discovered that likely won't happen.  So I guess "Embracing the Single"... is to be continued.



Saturday, October 4, 2014

Embracing the Single - My online profile

If you missed part one on Embracing the single - it's here.  Part 2, Embracing the single - online dating is here.

This is the last on this topic and then I'm going back to blogging about my kids.  At the moment, I'm highly amused and on a roll though so one more to finish this out.

Looking through Match.com and reading entirely too many "about me" profiles left me wondering what I would write. I don't like surprises and would rather lay it all out on the table from the get go instead of surprising people with important facts that should be openly discussed from the beginning.  Should I ever join, I'll likely just link this blog and say "If you are honestly interested read here" and then maybe add this picture ...


Partially because I find it amusing... and partially because it's so extremely true.

When I was growing up, we were not allowed to go out on a date until the guy came to the house, met mom and dad and survived a heart to heart talk with my dad.  A talk that may or may not have prevented guys from ever asking me out and also may have required a few to purchase new underwear. While at the time, I was not so thrilled about it - later in life I developed a great appreciation for the rules my parents had around dating.  The reality was, if you weren't willing to meet my parents and toe the line with my dad - you weren't worth my heart, or heartache. Whichever it may have been.

And while this information will likely come across as every reason not to date me, it's actually kind of the same thing. Yet in my own way.  I'd happily adhere to my parent's rule and make everyone meet them first still to give their approval, it's not exactly practical.  They live further away and some people don't take kindly to my dad's threat on their life if they hurt me. (Rolling my eyes).  This a way to protect myself from anyone not worth my time, heart or God forbid- heartache.

Here is what you need to know about me.

1. I am a mom. First and foremost. It is who I am. I am the mom to the 2 most fantastic kids I have ever met in my life. They complete me, inspire me and have made me the person I am today.  They also have Fragile X Syndrome.  Translation - I have 2 kids with special needs.
Now, while it's not noticeable with my daughter who is very high functioning and as "typical" as you can get for an almost 12 year old girl, my 15 year old son is pretty moderately affected. Not only does he have intellectual disability but aggression, sensory issues, fine motor delay, speech delay, anxiety and hyper-arousal is part of each moment of our day.
If you plan to be in our lives, wanting to and learning about it are essential.  Understanding is the key to making it all work.
My son and I are pretty much joined a the hip and I'm good with that.  He depends on me for many things, including helping him wipe after he uses the bathroom (while I repeat "Do NOT flush yet, No, no flushing, NO .. DO NOT... Sigh. I said, don't flush yet). While he is becoming more independent each day, he will likely always require some level of assistance.
Each night at bedtime, it will take me 4 trips up and down the stairs tucking him in and covering him back up before he goes to sleep.  This also includes him yelling up to me several things which is part of our routine. He'll also wake me up around 6 am. This is our thing. It works for us.
Routine is important and the 3 of us do not handle surprises well. At all. (*slight exceptions, I'll list below. We don't do well with routine change, too much preparation goes into our routine and it's important we stick to it.)
My son would prefer that no one else be joined to my other hip.  Just ask my daughter who sometimes likes to attach to the other hip. He's rather selfish in that way and isn't fond of me sharing my time.  That said, he's also extremely compassionate and caring.  As is my daughter.  Despite their disabilities, at the end of each day when I reflect on the moments - I am extremely proud and know I am doing something right.
My son frustrates easily, you would too if you lived in his overwhelming world of fragile x.  This can lead to yelling, screaming, throwing things, and some pretty difficult meltdowns.  If he is overwhelmed and needs out of a situation - his mind will not be able to form the words he needs to tell anyone that. Instead, he will likely physically lash out. There is nothing I can say to prepare you for seeing that happen. Only that you need to trust me that I know him better than anyone in this world and if you listen to me, we will get through it.
He sometimes throws up.  And it won't phase me a bit. If we are sitting at a restaurant or at the table and he has eaten too fast/too much or something tastes or smells funny - he's going to puke.  I'm likely going to catch it in my hands or with a nearby plate, cover it, set it aside,  clean my hands and continue on eating as though nothing has happened. If you can't handle vomit... that might be a problem.
When we travel, he will drum on the back of my headrest while we listen to "Old Time Rock and Roll" on repeat with the volume at 10.  It won't phase me a bit as I have it completely tuned out.
If you embarrass easily or don't take well to people staring at you when you are helping a young adult through a situation - that will be a problem. There will be times Parker doesn't want to leave the car, or wherever he is. There will be times he completely falls apart in public. Each time it happens I learn something new and we grow from it.
While I will proudly show you every second of how fun and amazing our lives are (which is true), you cannot mistake that for thinking our lives are easy. Our lives are not. Our lives are calculated, trying and sometimes draining. Our lives are also worth every second of that time.

2. I'm extremely protective of my kids, that's probably putting it mildly.  While we live a very public life, they are very closely guarded by me. The odds of you meeting them are rather slim until I feel you are a consistent person in my life who will be around, support them and see how much better you are for loving them.

3. If you drop the "r" word around me (retard, retarded or any version of it) - I will give you a look that will make you want to curl up in the corner in the fetal position and cry. As you should. The fact alone that I am a special needs mom should be enough for you to understand why this won't fly.  That and the fact that it's 2014. I will explain 1 time and 1 time only why that is not acceptable, if it's said again - I simply will move on with my life. I spend too much time teaching the world around us to be.accepting and to use respectable words to tolerate it from anyone.  This also means if I hear anyone around us say it, I'll correct them too. In the line at the store, at the movies, anywhere. It's not acceptable - it will not matter if I know the person or not. If this will embarrass you... we are not a match.

4. I am married to my job. I love it. Like all jobs, it frustrates me too at times, but I love it. I am often glued to my desk. I also am taking classes again which means when I'm not glued to my desk working, I'm glued to my desk doing homework. A lot of it. My time with the kids is important to me so wrapping things up and studying happen after they go to bed. Free time is not something I have much of. I would love to find someone who respects my work ethic and dedication while also giving me a reason and showing me how to slow down.  I need to slow down.

5. Sleep, I don't. Well, I do but not much. I tend to go to bed between 1 - 2 am and get up between 6 and 7 am. It works for me. I get a lot accomplished.  Minus housework... which brings me to number 6...

6.  On my list of priorities, cleaning is number not on the list. I have 2 kids, 2 cats, and 1 dog and no time. I clean quickly and when it's necessary. While I wish I was OCD about it, I'm not. If you are expecting my house clean, hire me a housekeeper or two...maybe 3.  And someone to pick up the dog poop from my yard. Do not mistake this for laziness.  The last thing I am is lazy.

7. Food. Feeding me is quite simple. I like only a handful of foods. If you are wanting someone to take to a Mexican, Chinese, Indian... any specialty restaurant - I'm not your girl. Most 4 year olds have a bigger selection of what they will eat than I do. That said, I love a very good steak.  I'll never be a vegetarian. I don't eat spices or salt or gravy.  I like plain food.  Remember the movie "When Harry Met Sally?" and how she ordered?  She and I have a lot in common. My friends find this very entertaining. Will I try new foods?  Sometimes, if I really like you. I probably won't like it though.

8. My ex husband and the only other guy I've dated both had the same first name.  Therefore, if your name is Scott, despite the fact that they are both great guys... I'll likely run quickly away. Sorry, it's nothing personal - I need to move onto other letters of the alphabet, and it's confusing to my family and friends.

9. One of my favorite places is the Jukebox Comedy Club. One of my very best, most closest friends owns it. He will always and forever be one of the most important people in my life.  You have to be ok with and supportive of that. The staff there are like family to me and I love them all.  That said... everyone there also loves me and is very protective of me.  The first time we go you get the feeling of "they would be willing to take you out" that's because they would. It's a nice reminder to be good to me. Trust and respect is something that has to be earned. It's totally do-able, they want me to be happy...just not hurt.  I love them for that.

10. My best friend knows everything. I will tell her every detail of every moment we spend together in person or in conversation. I'm not even kidding a little bit. There is a good chance she will be getting frequent updates while we are out.  Loving her is a must if you ever plan to love me.

11. Travel. I love to travel.  Within the US and Canada. I'd love to go to Sweden one day and to Australia but beyond that I prefer to stay in the US.  Liking the Boston/Cambridge area of Massachusetts and being willing to go there frequently is a must. (Yes, this would be where you will find my very best friend.)  I don't have much time to travel outside of work but would love to do more, weekends or a couple days away are perfect!

12. I am afraid of water I can't see in.  This does not make me an idea person to take to the beach if you plan to get in the water.  I love to go because the kids love it.  I just need someone to go in the water with them because I'm not doing that. I'm also not going on a float trip, swimming in a river or lake, or anything that would involve me possibly ending up in water that isn't a swimming pool. It's a fear I can't explain beyond I can't handle not knowing what is in the water with me. My anxiety will skyrocket and I'll have a heart attack.  Water skiing is a thing of my past.  That said, I love the beach, I love to be by the water and I don't mind boats.  I find water to be peaceful, the crashing of the waves on the beach, the calm water on the lake... I love to see the water... just not be in it. My aunt has a lake house with the most spectacular view... it's incredibly calming.

13. I love winter. The first snowfall of the year is my absolute favorite.  The one with the great big wet flakes ... since they were born I've taken my kids out no matter the time of day or night to dance in the falling snowflakes. Before having kids, I did it by myself. I'd love for someone to enjoy this with me, it's like kisses from Heaven from all of the most amazing people I've lost in my life. Watching the snowfall is one of the most peaceful, beautiful things I've ever seen. It always captivates me. 

14. I sleep with Sully.  Yes, from Monster's Inc. Sometimes he travels with me but he's rather huge so unless I am taking a big suitcase he has to stay home but when I'm here... we like to sleep diagonally across the bed - which is a new thing for me.  Really new. Up until a few weeks ago I slept on a tiny space on the edge of the right hand side of the bed.  The dog enjoyed the other 3/4 of the bed.  I'm not sure why after 40 years I decided to change that... but I did.  The dog sleeps with me too. And usually at some point in the night at least one if not both cats. If that is a problem, I'll simply remind you it was their bed first...

15. Speaking of - if you don't like my dog, don't bother to come over. She is like a child to me. If she doesn't like you - there is a problem. The cats, well they are a little harder to love so I won't hold that against anyone but you have to be respectful of them. They, too, our my babies.

16. I would love someone to travel with me for work on occasion.  Not always but now and then, especially for larger events.  This means you need to be able to clean up well and socialize appropriately.

17. I work from home which means I leave my house to take the kids to and from school and to run errands. It limits how many people I meet. I don't have many opportunities to go out but when I do, you can usually find me at the comedy club, dinner and movie are always nice too. I'm just as happy catching a movie at home and ordering pizza and spending the evening in my pj pants.

18. Jack... Jack is my neighbor who I help care for. He's more like a grandpa to the kids and I. I mow his lawn, shovel his snow and am his first contact if there is an emergency. I love and respect him dearly. I enjoy spending time with him. I believe in helping others. Jack is pretty high up on my priority list.

19. Family (this should have been way higher on the list clearly they are in random order) - my family means the world to me. Meeting them and enjoying spending time with them will be extremely important to me. I don't get to see them enough so when I do, I cherish every moment. Someone who's family is important to them, with a close relationship with their parents is important to me.

20. Kids. I don't mind dating someone with kids but I really prefer that they are older than mine.  While I love younger kids and being creative and helping with school projects... I really don't have the time they deserve from someone who plays an important role in their life. My children are my world and do not leave much room for more.  I do not plan to have any more, not to mention I can't. If you want to have more children with someone... I am not your girl. This body is not having any more babies but you are welcome to love the 2 I have as your own.

21. I love my socks. (Sometimes, I'm random)

22. It'd be really nice if you liked to ride horses... and owned horses... or would just agree to ride with me.  I am a country girl at heart.  I grew up in the country and would love more than anything to be living in the country again. While I love and appreciate the conveniences of being in town, I miss the quiet of the country.

23. I run a volunteer support group on the side in my "free" time. We hold multiple fundraisers locally each year and I'm very passionate about the work I do with it.  This often leads to me over extending myself but, it's part of who I am. Having you at the events to support me - and know I will likely lose my mind somewhere in the planning process and still adore me is important.

24. I'll volunteer to do things I don't have time for. You have to learn to look past it and smile and appreciate my huge heart.  It would help if you had a big heart and loved to help others too.

25. The world we live in scares me. I hate violence. I hate war. I hate fighting. I hate conflict. I hate disease. I hate death. I want to make the world a better place. Never discourage me from this but instead help light that fire and inspire me on how we can make this  happen together.

26, I live a very public life. I take the work I do very seriously and am constantly thinking of ways to improve. I need someone who is proud to be seen with me, not afraid or embarrassed to be tagged in a Facebook status or picture with me and prepared for the influx of questions and friend requests by people who are very protective of me.  The picture thing is kind of important... can you take a good selfie of us?  What I love about pictures of couples is it shows they are proud of who they are with. It's nice to have someone proud to be seen or have others know they are with you.

27. I am painfully shy. Extremely anxious. And worry all the time. I know it seems crazy for someone who loves public speaking and does the work I do to be shy and anxious but in places where I do not know anyone, I am.  It takes me time (a long time) to open up to people. It's difficult for me to trust, I believe that has to be earned and takes time.  Sometimes this comes off as snobby which is the furthest thing from who I am. I am simply insecure and shy.  It takes time for me to warm up and let my guard down.

28. My weight is as unpredictable as a snowfall in an Illinois winter. Sometimes there will be a lot of it and sometimes there will be very little. There are a variety of reasons. You just have to know and accept it's going to be always changing.

29. As much as I love my independence and pride myself on what I can do, there is that part of me who simply wants swept off my feet. I want to be spoiled and taken care of... pampered and loved.  Most of all, I want my children taken care of and honestly loved.  If you can help me create and follow through with a plan to build a special needs community for Parker to live in and a horse stables and land for Allison to have her dream job on... I'd be forever swept off my feet for certain! More realistically, I want someone who respects the kids and myself, who works hard, is unconditional and wants to make a difference in our world and help me check off things on our family bucket list.  Helping me navigate through Parker and Allison's futures, finding Parker a job, surrounding him by supportive people, helping Allison achieve her dream,  knowing they will be ok and Parker will be independent enough not the complete responsibility of his sister when I am gone are crucial.

30. I'm afraid of heights, mostly because I have vertigo and am convinced as I lose my balance I will fall to my death. (Yes, you likely have caught on by now - I'm slightly concerned many things will kill me.  It's best to find this adorable)

31. I have a fantastic sense of humor...if something is funny.

32. I rarely ever watch TV but always watch the Walking Dead (which is interesting because I hate shows about zombies, blood and gore and to be scared and that show freaks me out but I love it) and really love HGTV.

33. I don't like coffee.  At all. Or tea. Or Starbucks. I do however love hot chocolate and Dunkins. If you like Starbucks more than Dunkin Donuts... we are going to have a problem.

34. I love to write. Reading my blog and encouraging my writing is important to me.  It is possibly the best thing that I do for myself. It's very therapeutic for me.

35. If I let you into my life, I will always look out for you. The people I let in our my world, I will stand up for, spoil, and put your happiness before mine (but not my kids). I am a giving person by nature and that often leads to me being taken advantage of (hence the trust issue) I always look for the good in people and that has bitten me in the butt yet it's who I am and I don't want to change that about myself.  As much as I "don't have time" you'll discover that I always find time, especially for those who can find it for me.

36. My faith is important to me. Going to church together would be one of the nicest things you could do, especially if you can talk my kids into going.

37. I believe in time together but also time apart. Time with friends is valuable and should always be encouraged and supported.  Speaking of friends... my friends - they are such a huge part of my life. While they are spread out across the world - they are my lifeline. Meeting them and knowing them is as important to me as me meeting and knowing your friends.

38. I don't do drama, crazy ex-anythings, fight or fuel problems. I am a problem solver by nature and everyone getting along is important to me. My plate is too full to deal with unnecessary issues that are childish.

39. I don't watch scary movies, talk about ghosts or do anything that may enhance the nightmares I already have.  Ah, I should mention, I have nightmares. They are few and far between now but me waking up screaming or crying in the middle of my sleep is not unheard of.

40. Surprises... while I say I don't like surprises, it's really more about our routine. And I'm just a tiny bit of a control freak.  That said, I love flowers and getting them when I'd never expect it. If you tell me you can't be at a function and then in the middle of it I look up and see you smiling as you surprise me... heart melted. I need you to understand, Parker can't be caught off guard - that never ends well.

41. I am an extremely optimistic and encouraging person.  I believe good will conquer evil, I believe there is an answer to every problem. I see the glass as half full.  That said... those who are closest to me also get to see the side of me that is hurt, frustrated, angry and unsure. Not many get to see that side of me and I know it's not fair that those who are closest to me get it... but they are also the ones who love me unconditionally and know that we all must vent now and then to survive. Depression is something I have always struggled with, sometimes it's at arms length and sometimes it's strangling me. I do my best to keep a steady balance.

42. I don't take anything in life for granted, life is too short and people are too important.  We celebrate the "small" things in life as they really are the big things. "Inchstones" as those closest to me and I like to call them.

43. Not a lot of people are going to read past number 1 when looking for someone to date. They will see I am the mom of special needs children and stop reading right there and walk away. If you read completely through but only out of curiosity and still plan to walk away - you won't be alone.   If you are still reading this and interested... you are a pretty good soul.  I appreciate that and look forward to knowing you more. I want to be up front with the challenges that come with being in my life and also clear that being in our life is extremely rewarding. I am highly guarded, which also may appear as paranoid (I'm laughing at that), I've been through a lot. With time I do relax, my guard is slowly dropped and one day someone will make it through the brick wall I surround the kids and I with. It honestly isn't that hard as we don't expect a lot. I like to know I'm being thought of, a good morning, good night and when I least expect it "how are you?" text goes a long way with me. There are many things about me that this simply won't cover... really knowing someone takes time but this is at least a start.


At the end of the day... right now, I'm simply not sure I am ready.  I am happy with the peace I have found within myself and my life as a single mom.  Will it change?  I'm sure at some point. I want someone to grow old with, to sit on the deck and watch the sunset with, to share the joys and the sorrows of life with... to complete us.

But for today, I'm not sure I am ready to date.  I'm too busy rocking this single thing...



When it's right, the time...the person.. it'll happen and I'll date again - hopefully I'll even find love.  But for today, I love my focus, appreciate my time and enjoy each day.  Happiness within us individually is  the key to happiness with others.





Friday, October 3, 2014

Embracing the Single... online dating.

So... now that the "cat is out of the bag" and I'm openly happily single... can we talk about dating?

Here's the thing. Ok, things.

1. I'm 40.  Part of me finds the thought of dating completely ridiculous. I have no objections at the moment to adopting a litter of kittens instead.  Except, I can't afford them. Really, money is the only thing preventing me from being the cat lady.  Well, and the litter box.

2. I married my high school sweetheart. We were together 22 mostly fantastic years of my life, 17 of them we were married. That's a huge chunk of my life. He was the only guy I ever dated before getting married.

3. When I did start dating again - it was someone I knew.  The thought of dating a complete stranger of who we have no common friends at all seriously freaks me out.

(Points 2 & 3 = I honestly don't even know "how" to date, as strange as that sounds. It really is a foreign concept to me...and I'd be much more comfortable dating someone that at least one of my friends knows well.)

4. My friends are very much enjoying my single life.  Possibly because I amuse them.  Mostly M because she gets told e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.  No really. Everything. There are no secrets there, if I've thought it, she knows. If it happened, the look in my eyes should be a sign that I'm already planning to tell her in my head.  If I start laughing at inappropriate times, it's because I know her reaction already and am figuring out the best way to tell her.

All of these things (well, minus number 4) make me very leery/anxious/nervous about dating... and looking into how I can adopt a litter of kittens...or puppies, I like dogs too ;-)

What I've learned is that when people know you are single, they like to send you articles like this:

7 Things I learned about love when my dad  started online dating  ...Ok, truth be told, I actually enjoyed this one.

and this ... 

10 of the weirdest dating sites online   ... I'm not completely opposed to the wealthymen.com option, - who wouldn't love to have someone pay all of their bills?!?  I'm slightly freaked out by the majority of the ones on this list.

and this ...

Tips for Using Online Dating Sites... Who doesn't love the satire of the Onion?!?

Not only do they amuse me but the peak my curiosity into online dating sites and who is actually on them.  Which lead me to Google this: Online dating in Central Illinois.   This entertained and amused me to no end. Probably more than it should have.



I've always been told I'm an "old soul" and it's true. While I may be 40, I have little no tolerance for drama and games. I'm set in what I like, what I want and what I will seriously laugh at the thought of doing... right before not doing it.  That quickly rules out anyone under the age of 38 - and honestly I was being super nice looking even that young. I really need someone in my life who is established, past the partying, past the drama and well... grown up.  (*yes, I am sure there are guys out there under 38 that fit this as well, I just haven't met any yet).

So I type in that I'm a woman looking for a man between the ages of 38 and 50 on several of the sites I found through my Google search. Here's what I learned about the men on these sites in this age group (and of course, not all of them... but a significant majority).

1. No one owns a shirt. Seriously. 98% of the profile pictures the guys were shirtless. Now, I am not opposed to a shirtless guy but let's be real. For us to go out in public, you need to wear a shirt. To be around my family, my children and my friends - you need a shirt.  I need to know that you own one...and are capable of doing your own laundry.

2. While spelling isn't my strongest suit, it's also not my worst and well... there is this thing called "spell check" and maybe even more obvious, a little red line that appears under your misspelled words (it's a hint that it's incorrect.)  Captions that say "Lookin 4 Mrs. Perfict" ... I don't even know what to say about that...except "you spelled "Perfect" wrong".

3. There are 3 things men from Central Illinois love... Hunting, Fishing, and Camping.
While I don't mind hunting and you may be impressed to learn that at one time I used to hunt (and by "one time" I honestly mean "1 time") - I'm not going to ever clean or eat anything you kill.  My dad would but I won't. However, I do like that you can shoot a gun and/or bow and that would be most handy in a zombie apocalypse and it will stop you from being freaked out that I have guns (and know how to shoot them.)
Fishing - this is actually a perk to me because Parker loves to fish and I really don't have the patience for it. And I don't like fish. Or worms. Or fishing. But Parker does and I'd love to have someone to take him fishing preferably without me or while I wait in the car.  In the air conditioning. Away from bugs.
Which probably can help you guess how far you would get with me and Camping.  The only saving grace slight possibility is the fact that Allison loves camping - for that reason alone I might try. But it's not likely to happen, she can camp with my mom. I prefer to camp in a hotel. With air conditioning and no bugs.

Not impressed with what I was seeing and at the urging of a friend who swears by Match.com (as do many of my friends who found love there) and who isn't ready to accept that I'm I have no desire at all to date right now, I agreed to log into her account and see who's out there.

I altered her profile to match me... that's not so fun.  Mostly because every guy describes himself as "athletic and toned" (which is amusing when you look through their pictures) and is looking for a woman who is "slender, athletic or toned" - rarely are there guys looking for "no preference" or "curvy, a few extra pounds or heavyset" - most are looking for women about 10 years younger too.
I simply refused to answer that question about my body type.  I said  had 2 kids who live with me and I don't mind dating someone with kids (although, I'm not sold on that and would prefer their kids are older than mine or someone who doesn't have kids) but I do not want any more kids - not to mention I can't have anymore.  (I can have kittens though and puppies... by adoption for anyone who needed clarification on that!)

I filled it all out honestly.  I put I was looking for someone from 3 foot to 8 foot tall (because I don't care what your height is) , I have no preference on their hair color, eye color or body type (because it's who you are inside that matters to me).  I listed family, friends, animals, volunteering, comedy, music and movies as interests. I said I preferred a non smoker, I don't mind a social drinker, no preference on the ethnic group, and I don't mind if they have kids.Oh, and I checked that they needed to be single (why is this a choice?)  Then I let match work their magic.

The first profile that was a "98% match" ... I kid you not... well, this is the last 1/2 of his "about me" I deleted the top part about his name and where he lives.


I'm sorry, Match.com but what part of my "no preference on ethnicity" let you to believe this person and I would be compatible? No where did I check a box saying I am interested in a racist jerk. I really wanted to email him to tell him exactly what I thought of his personal description but chose to walk away. Really from the line "And I don't take any crap" and down is nothing but a huge red flag. And FYI... I'm not the one it sucks to be.  Smh. Seriously, what year is this?

The next match started out sounding great with talk about being open to getting to know other people, "not being judgmental on their appearance" but finding out who they are on the inside because that is who you ultimately fall in love with - who someone is on the inside.  Nice.  I like this perspective so I read on to the next few lines that said what he was looking for.  "A toned woman who spends more time at the gym than at the refrigerator, she must be athletic, toned and slim to show she cares for herself and her body." He has a lot of "high profile" friends and "appearance is important"  um. Wait. Didn't you just say people shouldn't be judgmental based on appearances? Where is the box to check for "hypocrite? "

To say I was not impressed with the first 2 "matches" is an understatement. Not being one to give up (translation: one who is extremely curious) I keep looking.  Actually the other 10 "matches" for the day were pretty good.  I enjoyed reading about each of them, looking through their pictures and actually thought for a moment or two that dating would be fun. I even searched "woman looking for women" to be sure I wasn't overlooking anyone.

Then panic set in and  I remembered they were all complete strangers, we have no common friends (well, I don't know that for sure - I don't know their names - it's not as easy as Facebook to see our common link!) and a slight panic attack occurred in at the thought of meeting someone I don't know in person and - well, dying. You know, because anyone with an online profile is certainly out to kill me. Not that I'm anxious or paranoid or anything.  ;-)

The other reality of it was I knew in my heart that if I wrote a profile about myself it wouldn't matter how toned my body was (although it's totally not even close to toned, lol) or how beautiful I may be on the outside - I come as a package deal.  And my package is unique and going to be seen by most as an impassible obstacle. I'm not willing to invest time and certainly not heart to anyone who wouldn't be accepting and supportive of the entire package. I'm still in the finding peace process, I'm simply not sure I am ready for any of this.

I'm content.  I'm busy.  I'm happy. And life is very uncomplicated at the moment. I have incredible focus.  I like that.  Shaving my legs is optional. Sleeping diagonally across the bed with Sully is the best. And having complete control over everything in my house: the temperature, when I take the trash out, if I clean (that was funny), or cook or paint my walls pink.... they are my decisions.  I like that. I have all the time in the world for my kids without distraction and when they are not with me, I can do whatever I'd like or visit who ever I want without questions or guilt. It's nice to be able to show my daughter how a woman can be strong and independent and happy.  I'm rather proud of that.

Maybe one day I'll show her that her mom is capable of falling in love too... just not today.

And for your entertainment... if I can stay awake long enough - I'll write one more blog of what my match.com profile would look like if I were to join, I'm positive it will be amusingly enlightening! I did!  It's here.

And for anyone looking to build a dating website... I would find it extremely helpful if people listed all of their friends and family so that I can see if we know any of the same people - I would find that a bit more comforting ;-)








Embracing the Single - Finding the peace within me.

For the past 11 ish years, I have lived a very public life. I share almost everything and have been a pretty open book - sharing my life which sometimes makes me a fun person to Google. It's fun to look through the countless articles, interviews, videos and blogs that I've shared over time. And, if you are really curious, apparently what I am doing on Pinterest shows up too.

My goal has been to make a difference in the lives of families living with Fragile X, sharing the ups and downs of my life as Parker and Allison's mom. As public as I am, there are many things about me that I keep very quiet.

One of these things... my divorce.  From the separation through today... it's been a subject I've chosen not to discuss publicly and I've been pretty successful.  How do I know I was successful at keeping it quiet?  People still ask me how my husband is. When I tell them we are no longer together they are both embarrassed and shocked. Really for no reason, they didn't know.  We separated quietly on good terms.  We divorced quietly on good terms. We come together for our children and lend each other a hand where needed.  We make good friends. He is happily dating a wonderful woman and it's nice to see them happy, I anticipate them getting married and living happily ever after.  I'm good with that.  I'm the ex wife who doesn't want her ex husband back but does want him to be happy.  I'm the ex wife who will text her ex's girlfriend and invite her (and her girls) to ride in a horse show with my daughter because I know it would make my daughter happy. And if it puts all of us together for a day of fun, even better and what a fantastic example for our children of how adults should get along and respect each other.  I have no reason to be her enemy or wish bad upon them, I have no reason to be anything but supportive. They are a great couple and I enjoy seeing how happy they are together. It's nice to see the smiles and feel the happiness that radiates from them. That's a good thing and should be appreciated, which I do.

My focus wasn't on keeping life a secret but on helping our children through the transition. It should not surprise anyone that they were my focus as they always have been and will always be. I like it that way. They are my everything, nothing and no one will ever be a higher priority. While not everyone agrees with that, it's my choice, my life and what I want.  I don't get to re-do their childhood or our time together. Life is unpredictable and I refuse to go through it with anymore regrets.

After being on my own for awhile -  family and friends were constantly telling me I needed to start dating, I put my foot down and told them all I wasn't ready.  The next weekend, literally the next weekend, I found myself smitten with an acquaintance that I had never really noticed in the past (I tend to have tunnel vision - see the previous paragraph on my kids). It led to a great friendship and dating.  With time, we agreed to part ways while remaining friends.  In our time together, I met and made great new friends and adopted many of his family into my life. I am better for that time we spent together. In the end though, we are better as friends.  It's kind of like a pattern with me. I'm a great friend. There are worse things to be in life and really, it's fitting for where I am at in my life right now.

It's left me in a place filled with deep thought and reflection as to who I am and what I want in life.  I was very clear when dating that there is no part of me that wants to get remarried.  Ever.  I don't know if that's true or not, part of me wants someone to seriously sweep us (yes, us, we are a package deal) off our feet and live happily ever after... I just don't know if I'm ready to be swept yet.

The truth is, right now -  I'm happy being single. I know it's a strange concept to some but it's honestly true for the current time in my life.

I'm not alone. I have my kids with me honestly every single day of the week for at least part if not all of their day. I have awesome friends who look out for me. I have fantastic people in my life I can meet for dinner, have over, spend time with or call in an emergency. People who love me because they honestly know me and won't judge me if I'm running late because I can't get myself to leave my desk, have my hair pulled back in a ponytail for the 8th day in a row or haven't shaved my legs in a month.  They won't mind because they love who I am... unconditionally. They accept my flaws, my over commitments and my heart.  And I love them just as much and equally unconditionally.

I need time just for me, which is almost impossible already with the exception of anytime after 11 pm if I can convince myself to step away from my desk.   I honestly don't have time to date right now or really get to know someone in the way I would prefer which requires them having at least a small bit of my attention.

I work all the time - because I really love my job. I love the people, I love the purpose, I love the potential for what the work we do can be and mean. It's extremely hard for me to step away - although I am getting better at it, especially now that I'm taking classes too. Oh yes, working full time and taking a class while being a single mom who also volunteers on the side and writes... leaves you with about 22 seconds at 2 am of my time before I fall asleep.  Yes, sleep that thing I really don't do much of.

As soon as I was ready to see that I was ok alone, it opened my eyes to the beauty around me. I love re-connecting with old friends who I let slip too far from my life. I love spending more time with family who I don't get to see enough. I love sleeping diagonally across my bed. I'm rather thrilled about not shaving my legs unless I actually want to at the moment too.  I love that I am writing more. I am more focused on everything in my life - home, work, school, family and friends.  And of course, I am taking on new projects.

I have so much I want to accomplish, so much to still do, so much to learn. And so much to heal from. I'm sure there will be a time when I am ready again but right now - I'm happy with my life.  I'm ridiculously broke which I wish was not the case but - I am happy and finding myself in this great big world at the same time. There is a great sense of peace that brings to me.  A peace that was missing from within me and needing to be found.




Sunday, September 28, 2014

Discussions with my Daughter - Suicide


Discussions with my Daughter... Suicide 


As I sat in the airport a couple of weeks ago waiting for my delayed flight to Ohio, the following article caught my attention: 


Click HERE to read the article
The article starts: "Morgan Schmidt was a typical 12-year-old — an honor student with straight As, popular, fun-loving and beginning to show promise as a cross country runner. 
But when she began to be bullied through social media, the hurt became too much to bear. The Pleasant Valley Junior High student took her own life on April 6."
My heart sank. 12.  She was 12 years old. I wished more than anything that I could go straight home and hold my daughter, 11, as tightly as possible and never let her go.  My heart ached as I grieved for this family who has taken the loss of their daughter and turned it into a mission of kindness. I admire their strength and understand their passion yet can't even begin to imagine how they make it through each day. Each hour. Each minute.

I wonder about the students who bullied her.  And their parents.  Has anything changed? Do they feel responsible?  Do they care? Do they even know?  Many of the comments were anonymous and fake accounts happen all of the time, which makes me wonder - why aren't parents monitoring what their children are doing on social media?  Or through texts?  
We have reached a time where access to social media sites is available to anyone and while some use it respectively, others have found it as the perfect excuse to spew hatred which can be seen in the comments of the article I posted above. 
It's inexcusable  yet nothing is done to stop it. It's so simple for someone to hide behind a computer, especially under a fake name and lash out at others. Comments that would likely never be said in person to someone, comments that should not be typed out either. And while I understand Freedom of Speech and the right to disagree and have your own opinion - I also believe in respect. If you can't respectfully make your point without attacking or belittling someone - odds are you point is not valid to begin with.
My daughter, who is just days away from turning 12 now, asked late this summer if she could join Instagram as many of her friends are on there. It was hard not to let her see the fear in my face as my stomach turned in worry over what she could potentially be exposed to. I also understood her desire to fit in and respected that she came to me instead of just doing it. Allison has a heart of gold and like her mom, wears her heart on her sleeve. We talked it through together and after putting some guidelines in place, we opened her account together.  An account I watch like a hawk.

The article remained on my mind throughout my weekend away for work.  Naively, I didn't even realize that 12 year olds committed suicide or would know how. Maybe I've unconsciously sheltered myself from this. Whatever the reason, I was now very aware of this possibility. I knew it was something I needed to discuss with Allison. I have no doubt that Morgan's family told her daily how much she was loved and how important she was.  It didn't change the outcome. I was not sure what more I can do, so it led to a conversation I never dreamed I'd have with my daughter.

The day I returned home, after Parker went to bed, I crawled into bed with Allison.  We talked about our weekends and then I said, "can we talk about something else"?  She was more than happy to keep talking.  As tears welled up in my eyes my mind raced with what to say, the tone of our talk had changed as I could see her concern as she noticed the tears filling my eyes. She reached over and grabbed my hand, I said, "We talk about everything, me and you, and that is so important to me. I love that we can talk about anything even those things that are hard to discuss."  Her eyes started to fill with tears as worry set in, I continued on.. "I know last year was difficult for you at school and I know you've had some instances this year where people haven't been the nicest... I need to know - honestly - has there ever been a time when your feelings have been hurt so much that you thought you would be better if you were not here?"

I could see the confusion on her face so I kept talking... "Has there ever been a time when you thought about suicide?"

She was taken off guard that I had asked. "No way mom, I wouldn't do that!"  As I breathed a sigh of relief, I realized she was trying to comfort me as much as anything. I also know she's not yet 12 and has a long road ahead of her, this was a discussion we needed to have. I had the article pulled up on my phone, I showed it to her and said, "There was a little girl close to your age named Morgan, last spring she committed suicide.  She was being bullied."  We discussed how beautiful she was, what she could have done, who she could have talked to and all that she had to live for.  All things I am sure Morgan's parents had also discussed with her over time. I needed more.

It is so hard for me to imagine that being a conversation at 11 or 12 yet it is and it's happening. This wasn't an isolated incident with Morgan, the reality is that the suicide attempt rate is increasing for youths ages 10-14. 
I asked if any of her friends had ever talked about suicide and reminded her that I would always be there to help not just her but her friends through any situation they felt they couldn't talk to their parents about.  
I told her how much this scared me.  How much it scares me to know that people her age are committing suicide.  That bullies are winning and people are so hurt that they feel there is no way out.  We talked about making mistakes and learning from them. We talked about ways to help our friends and people we can talk to.
We talked for over an hour on a subject I never ever thought we would be discussing, especially when she was 11.  Yet, we had to and I'm glad we did. It's a conversation I know we will have again as I always want her to know we can talk about anything. 
There has to be a place where a line is drawn. There are social media sites that are simply not safe for children or young adults, sites that are open market for people to attack and are harder to monitor than those that are more public. This needs to stop. As a society, we need to put our foot down, not just with these sites but with the negative comments all together.
I am a huge fan of social media, it is extremely important in the work that I do and for my connection to family and friends from all over the world. I also see the dangers and drawbacks. It's not always a safe environment, allowing not only bullying but for unsuspecting victims to be targeted. It doesn't stop with the social media sites, as I mentioned - look through the comments on the article I posted. Absolutely uncalled for, looking for attention negativity and hatred that needs to be stopped. Guidelines need to not only be in place but strongly enforced. We need to take a step back in our lives, in time to the very basic rule of "if you don't have something nice to say, don't say anything at all".  As silly and simplistic as it seems, it's true.
We can't make our world a better place when we allow such negativity to fill every place we look.  Sites need to be monitored. Abuse needs to be reported and removed. It should get to just be accepted or expected.
Kindness needs to be rewarded, highlighted and made to stand out. The feel good stories that get buried under the negativity need to stand out. There are many in this world making a difference, we need to make that number grow.  We need to raise children who are compassionate, respectful and kind.
And KIND. I never in a million years would have dreamed I would have spent so much of my life trying to teach others to be kind. Why is that not a core value and expected responsibility for everyone?  It really should be. 
Suicide is not an easy discussion. Not at any age and especially not with your child. Please don't think it could never happen to you, that your child would never consider or carry out such actions. It happens. Know what is going on in your child's life. Monitor their social media sites, texts, and friends. Be involved. And never stop talking to them. Don't let any topic be off limits. 
As hard as it was to talk to Allison about suicide, it pales in comparison to what Morgan's parents go through every day without their daughter here on Earth with them. Keep the conversation going.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

High School Open House

At 15 years old, Parker is now a sophomore in High School. It's ok if that thought blows your mind, it certainly does mine every single day.  15.  High School. Sophomore.  I'd love to go on about how our kids grow up too fast but that's not my point... tonight, so I'll move on...

Tonight was the Canton High School Open House.  Open houses are something I learned very early on that it really wasn't necessary for me to drag Parker along to (although I tried for a few years before I figured this out).  He would lay on the floor, hit, kick, do anything he could to get out of being there after I literally drug carried walked him into the school. I don't recall when I stopped bringing him but it was in early elementary school.

At some point in Middle School (5th - 8th grades) he decided, with some persuasion, he would go.  It was such a huge milestone I can't believe without looking back I don't know exactly what year it was.  Instead I remember every detail of the night.  I clearly remember walking through the extremely jam packed halls with my son.  With my son.  It was surreal to say the least.  It was extremely crowded, packed with faces of parents I had come to know well over the years, friendly faces, encouraging faces, full of pride in this accomplishment for Parker faces, only trumped by the many greetings for Parker from their kids.  It was a night I'll never forget.  Except the year, clearly I'll forget that part.

Parker transitioned beautifully to high school. He's really flourished there.  Maybe its maturity.  Maybe it was time.  Likely it's the result of the many, many members of the incredible teams of teachers, therapists and professionals he's had on his side since he was 3.  Each person on his team throughout the years has played an important part in helping Parker become who he is today.  There will never be a time where I say "This was all me"  or "us" as his parents.  This was a team, a team we were a very involved part of but a team way bigger than just the 2 of us and I am very thankful for every single member of that team.

The open house is something Parker has been talking about since school started, he has it on every calendar of his.  He's been excited about it and reminding me constantly.  So odd and very unlike him but something I totally encouraged (as did his teachers).  Even when he is this excited about something, it doesn't mean he will go... but he did.  Willingly and excitedly.

For the high school open house, you pick up your child's schedule from the tables in front of the auditorium before heading inside for the welcome and instructions.  Then you follow your child's schedule through each class period (6 minutes long each) to hear a bit about the class from the teacher and wrap up in home room at the end.

Perfect, we can totally do this!  I get his schedule and notice the main entrance to the auditorium is rather packed so I begin to open a side door to go in just as Drew is opening it to come out.  DREW, yes DREW! If I were a person who questioned if God existed, it's little things like this that would prove to me He does.  Drew was exactly who Parker needed to see at that moment to calm his anxious nerves.  Drew has a knack of making life better for Parker.

I wish this wasn't blurry, it's such a great picture of Parker and Drew!


After the announcements we went on with the tour of Parker's day.  Now, this... THIS is where if you were skimming you need to stop and really read because this is what is so important and has left me with a sense of peace and pride.

Parker has 3 classes that are general education classes (Art 2D, PE, Tech 1), 4 counting homeroom.  We already know his special education teachers are amazing, they are part of his team and really - phenomenal.  What I loved about meeting the other teachers was after two of them finished talking about the class time to those who were there they made sure to say to us how much they enjoyed having Parker in their class.  They pointed out how much he enjoys class, how he participates, how he is part of the classroom - sharing his work and/or stories.  This meant a lot to me.  Not just because they enjoy having Parker in their class but because it shows they really understand and support inclusion which is huge!

I know there doesn't seem to be much that can top this.  Parker wanted to go to open house and did - successfully.  Parker's teachers said wonderful things about him - awesome.  But there is one more thing and possibly one of the most important of the night to me...

Not only did the teachers talk about how wonderful Parker is but they talked about how amazing the (general education) students are with Parker. Some went as far as to specifically name another student and talk in detail of how that student offered to sit by Parker the first day, has helped him and shows extreme patience with him all the time.  They talked about how kids in the class pull together to help Parker when he needs it.  They talked about how amazing our kids are together.  This... this is success.  Not just for Parker. But for all of our kids.

Each of these kids who takes time each day to talk to Parker, in class, in the hall, at lunch - they impact his life in the most positive way.  Each of these kids who takes time to let Parker into their life... has that positive impact returned.  This... this is why inclusion is important.  It's more than just the difference it makes in Parker.  It's the difference it makes in every single child and teacher in our school.  Our kids are better because of each other.

I cannot even begin to tell you how much of a sense of peace this brings to me.  It's scary to send my son to school each day... scary.  I hear the horror stories.  I worry so much about him.  I needed this.  I needed to hear he continues to be accepted.  He continues to be involved with his friends and make new ones.  He has fewer opportunities at the high school to be included in classes, my fear was he would end up lost in the shadows.  He's not. Not at all.

For that, I thank each of you - the parents of the kids at CHS who have become Parker's friend.  You are doing an amazing job!  Your child, your children, are compassionate, helpful and caring.  Just as you smiled and said 'Hi' to Parker in the halls tonight, your children are taking it a step further each day and really reaching out to be his friend.  I hope your hearts are filled with as much pride tonight as mine has been.

If you needed a reason to hug your child tomorrow, let this be it. With gratitude and thanks for being a friend to someone extra special who really needs a friend to help support and encourage him and not letting him get lost in the shadows of the high school.

With all of my heart, thank you.