Post-Mother’s Day

It’s Mother’s Day. It’s a day of breakfasts in bed and handprint art projects, of last minute flower arrangements and sappy social media posts. It’s a day where Hallmark and the entire rest of the world remind you to appreciate your mom.
I require no such reminders. Not only due to the morbid fact that I don’t have a mom anymore, but because I appreciate her now more than ever before.
I knew Mother’s Day would be tough this year. I mean, d’uh. But knowing that something is going to suck doesn’t reeeeally make it suck less.
If my mom was still here, I probably would have re-posted one of the five or six pictures of us that I had in my possession with a caption about my favorite “crazy lady”. I would have ended it with “ti amo”. That’s how we ended most of our conversations.
It’s how I still end them. Because I talk to her a lot. After a lifetime of relying on her to listen to me wax poetic over every inconsequential inconvenience I suffered, I’m not sure how to stop. I miss her talking back though. I miss that a lot.
It’s been nearly eleven weeks since my mom died.
Eleven weeks is a long time. It’s long enough that the calendar has changed over three times. Long enough that the snows have all melted and my daffodils have come and gone. Long enough that the world has emphatically moved on and long enough that for the most part, it expects me to have done the same.
Eleven weeks is a short time. Short enough that we haven’t even ordered a headstone yet. Short enough that I still have the box full of pictures from the wake sitting on my dryer. Short enough that her name still pops up when I go to call a 781 number. Short enough that sometimes, even despite my best efforts, I forget that she’s gone.
That might be the hardest part in a sea of unspeakably hard parts. Every so often, I’ll read a headline or hear a song and make a mental note to bring it up the next time I talk to her. And then it hits me. It hits me so, so hard.
My mom and I were not the Gilmore Girls. We spent more of the thirty-one years we had together at odds than in harmony. Still, she was my best friend. And I miss my best friend.
Ti amo, mom. Happy Mother’s Day.

Scream of Consciousness

My mom has been gone for twenty-four hours. And the crazy thing is, time is just going to keep on marching along. Soon, it will be forty-eight hours, and then a week, then months and years. The amount of time between her last breath and the current moment is just going to continue to expand. It will grow, infinitely.
There is no preparing for this kind of thing. Sure, most people are vaguely aware that, statistically, they’ll probably outlive their parents. When a parent is sick, that possibility feels more explicit, more tangible. When a parent is dying, that possibility is utterly suffocating. You live with it hanging over your head, pervasively winding its way into your every thought. And the worst part is that it doesn’t matter. Because, no matter how much you’ve thought about it and worried about it and cried about it, it still takes your breath away when it happens. It still leaves you feeling like a fucking astronaut, floating in space, realizing that someone has cut your tether and now you have no way back to comfort and safety.
My mom was my comfort and safety. No matter how sick or tired or stressed out she was, she would listen to me complain and try to help me put things into perspective. She had a way of being the most chaotic and most calming presence in my life, simultaneously. I don’t know how to do this without her. People talk about not knowing what you have until it’s gone, and it sounds trite. Cliche, even. But there is so much truth to it. My mom used to apologize for relying on me so much, and I always waved it off. Of course she could lean on me, don’t even worry about it. I never really stopped to consider how much I relied on her in return, until today, when I subconsciously thought about calling her to tell her about how hectic things have been, no less than five times.
And it wasn’t until today, as I dug through a box of old notes and photos, that I really gave very much thought to who my mom was a whole person, not just as the person she’s been for the last ten years. She was a baby, as evidenced by the immunization booklet from 1962 that I found bearing her name. She was a kid, who made her mom homemade cards with crayons and glue sticks and tissue paper. She was a teenager that hung out with her friends and went to concerts. She was a bride, smiling and radiant on her wedding day. She was a daughter, who went through the same agony of losing her own hero as I’m experiencing right this second.  She had history. She had wisdom. She had thousands of shades of gray.
She lived twenty-six years of her life without me. But, I had never lived a second of mine without her. Not until twenty-four hours ago.

Breaking the Habit

Hey, all. It’s me, your friendly, neighborhood bad blogger here.
Giving up on projects has been a lifelong bad habit of mine. I’ve started more books and blogs than I can remember. I dive into a project with so much hope. I work on it day and night. And then some minor obstacle comes up. One of the kids is sick. I have an IEP meeting to prep for. My husband has to work overtime. I help a friend move. I miss a day of writing. I jump back in, telling myself that it’s okay. Life happens, and I just need to find my groove again. I don’t like the way a post is reading, so I start it over. The next day, I still can’t seem to get it right. I miss another day. And another. I have a bad week. And before I know it, it feels almost embarrassing to keep trying. Isn’t it easier to just archive the evidence and try to forget about the failure? Well, sure. But as I get older and become more accustomed to this “life” thing that we’re all attempting, I am learning that “easy” isn’t always…well, easy.
One of the prompts on the list that Ali and I compiled was to discuss a bad habit that we wanted to break this year, and I fully intended to use this blog as both a vehicle to shift my nature, and proof that I had, in fact, overcome it. Really, my goal was more about creating good habits than breaking bad ones, but those concepts are kind of two sides of the same coin, yes?
Well, as the second half of 2018 rapidly approaches, and I am still able to count my published blog posts from this year on my fingers, my brain is sending up its default white flags. Typically, this is the point where I would accept defeat, quietly delete posts, and deactivate my Instagram, and tell myself that it’s okay because nothing bad can come from dropping this one project. No one is counting on me.
I can rationalize until the cows come home, and maybe even feed them my innumerable excuses. I mean, I’ll still be constantly stressed out over my unsuccessful blog, but at least the cows can offer tea and sympathy.
They say that the first step to solving a problem is recognizing that it exists. I am an expert problem existence recognizer, but like so much else in my life, I usually lose interest after the first step.

Not. This. Time.

Puzzling it Out: An Autism Story

Today is World Autism Awareness Day.
While the world at large is made “aware” of autism today, here in our house, we are aware of autism every moment of every day. Autism is pervasive, in that it affects multiple systems of the body, but also in that it affects every part of our lives.

My son was one of the most social, easygoing babies I have ever met. He hit all of his milestones on time, even early, in some cases.

Screenshot_20180402-104934_Dropbox

I have spent my entire life hearing that I was a brilliant little kid (imagine peaking at age four), and people who knew me back in my glory days often remarked upon how he took after his mama.
At seventeen months, he began to point out and identify letters and numbers. If you’ve spent a lot of time around small children, as I had, being a daycare provider, you know that this is peculiar. I was teaching Pre K at the time and I had plenty of completely typical kids who still struggled with letter and number recognition.
By some coincidence, while this was happening, a facebook friend of mine posted about her son’s hyperlexia and its relation to his autism diagnosis. Somewhat nervously, I mentioned this to a coworker at the daycare center and she laughed. “Jamey? No way. He’s just really smart.” Mollified, I let the idea go.
Right around that same time, Jamey began biting other kids at daycare. Having worked in the industry for a decade, I had seen my fair share of serial biters, but it is a different animal entirely when it’s your usually sweet, loving baby who is inflicting bodily harm on unsuspecting kids. Nothing worked to curb it. There was no method to his madness, no way to predict when he was about to attack. I can’t remember ever feeling that helpless in my entire life. Eventually, my director suggested I contact early intervention. There was some buck-passing regarding who could work with him, as I lived and worked in two different areas of coverage and, before it was sorted out, the biting had let up. When I gave birth to my daughter a couple months later, I left the daycare center to stay home with the kids.

Screenshot_20180402-105521_Dropbox

By the time Early Intervention came out to evaluate Jamey, he had just turned two. During the initial visit, the specialist asked if I had any concerns about autism. I mentioned the early letter recognition, but said I wasn’t terribly concerned. She said, rather convincingly, that she wasn’t either.
At some point in the next year, however, it became glaringly obvious that we had been mistaken. He began to exhibit behaviors that are frequently attributed to autism, the “red flags” that I had learned to keep an eye out for while working in the early childhood field. He stopped playing with toys, preferring to line them up, or hold them up in his peripherals to examine them closely. He became prone to meltdowns, flapping his hands, and dropping to the floor. He began to fixate so intensely on what he was doing/thinking, that it was essentially impossible to get him to focus on anything else. He stopped communicating, and began speaking only in lines from Sesame Street episodes. By the time he hit his third birthday, there was nary a doubt left in my mind that he was on the spectrum, though it would be nearly a year before we would get in to see a developmental pediatrician, who would confirm it.

There’s a cliche in the autism community “If you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” It’s meant to convey what seems as though it should be the apparent fact that people on the spectrum are not a monolith. Like any other population, they are individuals with their own set of skills and challenges. While there are hallmarks that most autistic people have in common, autism means something different to everyone affected by it.

In our house, autism means a constant, epic war between routine and chaos.

Screenshot_20180402-104731_Photos

It means that we never know what time we’ll finally be able to go to bed. It means striking a balance between giving in and standing our ground. It means that we can’t always get out and do the things we want, because our lives and plans revolve considerably around what kind of day Jamey is having. It means that there is constant noise. It means repeating ourselves a million times and sometimes still not getting the intended result. It means feeling like we are constantly on the defensive, because the general population doesn’t understand people like Jamey. It means enduring unsolicited advice from every armchair expert on the planet. It means digging deep and finding patience when we feel like we’re at the end of our respective ropes. It means worrying endlessly about what the future holds for him and crying at the thought of what would happen to him if we died. It means that there are days where the autism wins.
It also means snuggles, and lots of them. It means watching the shocked, impressed looks on people’s faces when they hear someone as small as Jamey spelling words at the grocery store, or doing subtraction at the playground. It means being immensely proud of things that most parents take for granted, like mastering a basic self-help skill, or greeting someone without being prompted.

Screenshot_20180402-084856_Instagram

It means laughing to the point of tears over something dreadfully simple because his laughter is so infectious that I can’t help but join in. It means accepting that my four year old’s knowledge of certain subjects is already more vast than my own. It means feeling like my heart may explode from how fiercely I love this little human who keeps me up all night and throws his dinner on the floor. It means that I would not change a moment of this crazy life or a single hair on this little boy’s head.

If you’d like to learn more about autism, or support an organization that cares more about autistic people than lining their pockets and fear-mongering, check out ASAN.

A Series of Unfortunate Events that Have Kept Me from Blogging for Six Weeks

Miss me yet? I know, I know. I have been positively dreadful about keeping up with my blog lately. I have a million and one excuses, but most prominent is that my typical routine has been so disrupted by illness and inclement weather, that I haven’t had a normal week since before February vacation. And I am, undoubtedly, a creature of habit. If it makes you feel any better, I haven’t touched my bullet journal or my novel in the last six weeks either.
But enough with excuses. Back to blogging!

Walking in a Cold, Soggy, Windburnt Wonderland

I have spent all thirty of my years living in New England. For someone so very accustomed to winter weather, you would think I may have adapted by now. You would be mistaken. I hate shoveling. I hate slush. I hate having to bundle up (and re-bundle…because I ditch all my cumbersome cold-weather gear any time I am in an enclosed space). I hate my car being encased in salt and ice. I hate dressing my kids in super cute clothes that no one gets to see under their coats (this one may be a me problem). I hate my heating bill. But the winter isn’t all bad. Just like 95% or so.

Here are the very few redeeming qualities that winter possesses for me:

IMG_20170122_201933_800

Football. Fall always gets all the credit with football fans, and yes, the rush that comes from the beginning of the season is brilliant, but c’mon. Play-offs. Super Bowl. Pro Bowl (jk fuck the Pro Bowl).
Of course, being a Pats fan nearly always pays off come January, so I may have more of a reason to appreciate winter football than most.

IMG_20171127_221921_554

Christmas. You know those jackasses who start playing Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving? Don’t worry, I’m not one of those. I’m actually one of those even more annoying jackasses who starts playing it the day after Halloween.  This year, I’m pretty sure I spent approximately 5% of my life wandering through the holiday displays at Target and Homegoods, soaking in the magic.

 

 

Snapchat-1021824593

Hygge. If you’re not familiar with the Danish concept of hygge (unexpectedly pronounced (HEW-gah), it’s basically a hipster-y way of saying coziness. Yes, there’s more to it than that, but the pseudo-bastardized American version mostly means a plethora of blankets and socks and low lighting and greenery and warm beverages, all of which I am rather fond of.
IMG_20161217_153031

Quiet snow. There is something unbelievably peaceful about snowfall. I’m not talking about blizzards, which account for most of the snow we get around here. I mean the kind of snow that falls gently and muffles the sound of the world.

 

Signs of spring. This is a bit of a gimme, but there is something so hopeful about little hints that spring is on its way. Technically we only just past the halfway point Screenshot_20170409-175134of winter last weekend, but we all agree that winter sort of unofficially runs from December through February, and that March is like a transition into spring, right? Last Monday was Truck Day for the Red Sox, which means that baseball is just around the corner. Local photographers are already starting to book their spring mini sessions. We’re only about a month away from the start of Daylight Savings Time. It’s coming, guys.

And Now His Watch Is Ended

I used to be an avid reader. I was the kid who would camp out with a flashlight under the blankets after the lights were out and stay up half the night because I just needed to know what happened next. Just one more chapter. The one who read ahead in class. The one who broke out a book whenever I had free time. However, like most things that I once enjoyed, it has taken a backseat to parenting. With two small, very busy children, I simply do not have a lot of time to myself. And when I do have time, the peace is usually too short-lived to dig into a good book. But I sorely missed reading.
A few years ago, I discovered the closest thing to a compromise that exists: audiobooks. Sure, you miss a few things that you get from reading the book (like the ability to assign your own tone/intent to characters’ words), but I think you gain a few worthwhile things, as well. There is a wonderful performance aspect to it. And you can take in a story while folding laundry or cleaning the playroom or driving your kids all over creation.
Prior to subscribing to Audible, I had made several attempts at reading A Game of Thrones. I enjoyed the show and I knew I would enjoy the books. But as much as I loved the story and the writing, it was simply too complicated for me to keep up in between screaming at parenting my kids. After reading the first five chapters, for the billionth time, I decided to try out the audiobook.
Screenshot_20180208-090722I was instantly hooked. The narrator, an acclaimed British actor who I had somehow never heard of named Roy Dotrice, was incredible. He had a unique voice for every one of the 200+ characters and read the book the way I expect it was meant to be read. It was dramatic and passionate, and I couldn’t get enough of his performance. I went on to download the entire series, and have since listened to it four times.
Whenever  I have heard people complain about GRRM dragging his feet on Winds of Winter, my thoughts have drifted to Roy, wondering if he would live long enough to narrate it, because truly, I cannot imagine anyone doing half as good a job.

Last night, I was on my favorite online forum and someone mentioned that they were listening to the ASOIAF books for the first time. I was typing a reply, and I googled Roy to figure out his exact age (I knew it was ninety-something) and I found out that Roy had passed away in October.
I felt stunned. I felt hollow. I felt bereaved. And, in truth, I also felt a little ridiculous. After all, I had never met this man that I am currently crying actual tears for. I hadn’t even followed him closely enough to realize that he had died.
But I had spent more than 800 hours listening to his voice. He had gotten me through long drives and dark days. He had lulled me to sleep countless times. He had given life to a story that has come to mean more to me than I had ever anticipated. We shall never see his like again.