Tuesday, September 11, 2012

If you have nothing good to say....

You know the good old saying, "if you have nothing good to say....say nothing at all."  And that I have done.  I have been silent.  Silent on this blog and silent on this life.  Yes, I talk, but I don't say anything.  I don't say what's really inside my head and inside my soul.  I don't say much because I can't.  I figured if I have no words of hope, then I shouldn't say anything at all.  Hey, you all know that thoughts become words and words become actions, so I figured if I don't talk, I am not sabotaging my life with negative thoughts verbalized in words and becoming my reality.  My reality is my truth.  It might not be all that great right now, but it's mine and I choose not to have a dark one.  I walk in the light and no matter how many clouds are on the sky, I will find the one ray of light left and I will follow it.  I am choosing happiness over sadness; hope over despair and I am choosing it for myself, for my children and for all the ones who I love.  I might not have much to say these days but I still believe that every day God gives me the opportunity to start over again.  Every day, every time - it's always a new beginning.

Now that I think about it, I do have a LOT to say but I am not saying it because it's a mix of good and bad.  It's overwhelming to have been afraid, very, very afraid and have taken a leap of faith anyway.  Packing up and coming back home might have seemed like the no-brainier answer to anybody but yet it was the scariest thing I have ever done.  I knew we needed to be back with our family but I also knew it was going to hurt.  I have managed to be strong on my own because I couldn't be weak, because I didn't have my loving parents near to comfort me.  I knew I was going to cry.  I knew I would be tempted to let down my guard before my family and take that shoulder that was being offered to cry on.  I knew that when my sister-in-law would tell me I wasn't alone, I was going to believe it and I would probably cry.  I didn't want to do it but I knew I was going to. I have broken down and it has felt terrible but it has also felt good.  As I write these lines, I am crying too but I am feeling the relief of sharing how blessed I am to have been given a real chance to be accepted and welcomed - understood and loved. Yes, my son has difficult days - he does, and now my family is witness to his struggle.  Not for a week in the summer and a few days in Christmas but everyday.  Every little meltdown; every big dissapointment; every therapy; every homework, every battle.  It's hard to see them learning to understand Autism and it pains me that they have to go through it with us because it's hard.  At the same time, I see how they also enjoy our little victories of everyday and appreciate the bright, amazing individual he is.  It's great to have someone to cry and laugh with at the same time and although I knew they were always in our corner, the hugs, the smiles and the tears are more real when they are not 3K miles away.

Moving from Seattle has been difficult because we had to start all over again - this time with a special needs child.  Locating the right school setting is still a work in progress and we struggle everyday with inclusion and services.  Building a new support team is exhausting because Frankie has constant changing needs and strengths and we are still searching for the right approach.  Throw in an unhappy teenager and a middle child that is still trying to find his way into this equation and it's a recipe for disaster.  But it's not, not really - it's more like a huge blessing wrapped up in bright foil paper.  This second tour of Miami has been an eye-opening experience of what's really important and what it's not.  Forget the heat, the traffic, the rudeness, the fast pace of an overpopulated city - keep the focus on our patient family members, caring and understanding old friends and the treasure of new-found friends walking with us through this uncharted territory.  It's all good.  

We are now where we need to be.  It's all part of a painful but perfect plan to grow strong in the midst of our weakness.  It's painful to talk about it but it's liberating.  If you are one of my Seattle friends, I do miss you and I am sorry for being silent.  I will forever be grateful to have met each one of you because you touched my life in a very special way.  If you are one of my Miami friends, I might not say much and I am not ready to party yet, but I will be - and that's a promise, not a threat.  If you are one of my family members, I have no words to tell you how blessed I feel to have you in my life - you are a kick-butt family that sticks together and makes it happen no matter what.  Thanks for loading and unloading, thanks for driving and for flying (Erin, that's for you too!), thanks for allowing us the space we need when we need it and for being in our face when it's time.  Thanks for the glass of wine and for the cup of coffee and thanks for the dumb jokes and the teasing - yes, one day we will eat organic food.  Right.

Turns out I do have a lot to say and it's not all that bad after all.  Perhaps I will start saying more from here on because there is always something worth sharing and we can all use a little pick me up story here and there!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Raining cats and dogs

It rains in Seattle. It rains a lot! It's not a heavy rain but it does rain quiet often...now, lately, it's been raining harder than usual. I am not sure if it's a spring thing or if the weather is just changing due to the hole in the ozone layer... the reality is the rain in this city is getting harder and harder. One rainy morning, while driving the kids to school, I couldn't help but to use the good old saying known to us all: "Oh, God, it's raining cats and dogs!" From the back of the van Frankie's voice questioned me right away - "Mom, is it REALLY raining cats and dogs?" Of course not....

Once again I had to explain to my son that I was using a "figure of speech" - an expression that is not literal but just used to describe something that is happening. I didn't question it when I first heard someone use it and I went on repeating it like a parrot, having no clue of  its real meaning. I had to promise Frankie I would Google the story behind the expression as soon as we got back home. And I did.  There are like three different stories, none confirmed and NONE makes any sense.  It figures...

Because of this kid I have learned more than I ever wanted to know about the history behind all sorts of things we say, read, sing, etc,...from nursery rhymes (don't remind me about "ring around the rosy," - it's creepy!) to everyday expressions and terms.  The quest for reason is never ending!  Now, people like me, who talk a lot, sometimes tend to fill "dead air" with totally superficial and meaningless things we say - this is not a good mix for living with a kid in the Autism spectrum! Frankie has taught me that every word has weight, meaning and consequence. I am more careful about what I say because for him, words have value, positive and negative and he will question every sound out of my mouth. I remember the first thing I had to learn when I was being trained to do ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis) at home with Frankie was to reduce the amount of words I used with him. I had to use mostly action words and keep them to a minimum....It was the hardest thing I had to do in my entire life but it taught me to place importance and meaning in what I said and did. Best lesson ever learned now that Frankie is out to get me!

Our interactions regarding this matter is not always pleasant and funny like the dogs/cats/rain one; sometimes, they are just plain shameful for me.  There was a time when I was very overwhelmed and I didn't even realize when I told someone on the phone that I was ready to "kill myself" from all the stress I was under.  I don't think anyone who was around me at that moment even blinked at my words but Frankie came to me crying and asked if I really wanted to kill myself. No laughing matter, people - this really hit home. Once again, I had to explain to him that I really didn't mean to say something like that  and that I would never, ever consider taking my own life.  "Why do you say things you don't mean?" was his reply.  The truth is that I don't know why...but I must stop doing it. 

Being in the Autism Spectrum makes Frankie a student of "typically developing" beings and he questions our words, our actions and our decisions. Because he is different from the rest of us he goes around trying to figure out why we do the things we do - he often finds out there is a lot of following and not a lot of meaning in our conduct.  Why do we go through life saying things we don't mean; using expressions that mean nothing; wasting time and energy building empty sentences that have no substance? I guess it took a kid struggling with a condition we know so little about to remind me of the importance of speech and the responsibility that I have to him, and to others, to use it wisely and properly.

Lesson learned: No, it doesn't really rain cats and dogs. It does rain hard and a lot. Let's keep it simple but true.  Let's keep it real while we walk the talk, trying hard to remember not to talk too much.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Light it up BLUE for Autism this April 2nd, 2012

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

In my daugther's laugh

I seldom write on my blog about my daughter, Rebecca . It's a shame and I am sorry. I am going to fix that today because I just discovered something: we have the same laugh! Yes, we don't look alike - we have never even looked like we are related but thanks to a special gift from an amazing photographer, we learned we have the same laugh....

I wasn't planning to be in Becca's 15th birthday photos because this session was about her and about her only. I didn't dress for it, and I had hardly any make up on - even my hair was messy! It felt so awkward when Carly, our photographer, asked me to join Becca for a shot. "You have to trust me!" she said. So I did.

See, Becca doesn't get much attention these days; she is kind of on "auto pilot" ever since our lives went on "Autism mode" with our youngest child - add a middle child with ADHD-overload and you get an eldest daughter who needed to mature fast.....sadly, there wasn't much time left for her. We got lucky because Becca was born old; sometimes I think she is an old soul who has been here many times and yet, because of that, she manages to stay a child at heart. I think she always will. She doesn't ask for much; she blends in the background and is hassle-free to raise. I do feel guilty sometimes that I don't have to deal with many issues when it comes to Becca - more like none. Honestly, it would tip me over the edge to face teenage drama when our house is an ABA-center, treating tantrums, meltdowns and emotion regulation issues all at once - so I am grateful and I count my blessings, starting with a special daughter like Becca.

Besides all the fun stuff we have planned for her 15th birthday I did want to keep one thing traditional; the Quince Photo Session. Still, I didn't want it to be traditional, on the contrary, I wanted to capture and share with the ones who love her, the real spirit of being young, beautiful and most of all, kind and simple. This is a lot to ask from a photographer! I wanted her to capture the very essence of what makes a daughter special for her mother.... Really??? I agree, it was an unreasonable expectation but I found Carly and she did more than what I expected.....

Carly took pictures, yes, but she also helped me discover that a lot of what Rebecca is, she has learned from me - perhaps I am not slacking off so much on paying attention to Rebecca the way I sometimes feel. Perhaps, facing Autism as a family has also made her become more compassionate, more patient and it has given her a sense of belonging. We all have a common goal in this family and it is to make each others lives better, easier and fun. Most of all, we do strive to have FUN. We cry sometimes but we mostly laugh - and whether the going gets tough or it gets easier, Becca and I walk together - Countless times, she picked me up when I was falling into an ugly hole and she would offer a listening ear....she also made me laugh when I really didn't see anything funny about long hours of early intervention sessions and missing our family in Florida.

I know a photographer doesn't work magic, but an artist, who has a true passion for her art, can strive to find the magic in others.....Carly did find it in Becca. Because I believed she had a gift, Carly in turn gave me one. I trusted her when she told me to do so....I hugged my daughter, kissed her and laughed together because I do love her laugh.

Wait, it's also MY laugh!

Like mother like daughter, they say..... In this case, it probably is the other way around.

Thanks, Carly, we owe you one!

Thursday, February 2, 2012

When you least expect it....the sun comes out.

It rains in Seattle....a lot. Winter is cold and gloomy and the rain is freezing. When it's not raining, it's still dark and sometimes windy. And then, out of a sudden, there it is - the sun comes out and it surprises all of us. After days and days of being cold to the bones, wearing your boots and feeling like your coat is an extension of your body, the sun comes out and you reach for your shades because it hurts your eyes, so used to the shadows of this season. A winter sunny day is a true miracle for us here in the Pacific Northwest. The sun shines and it changes everything! Strangers in the street, at the market, at school, smile, wishing each other a nice day because the sun is shinning. You often hear: "get out there and enjoy the sun!" "Hey, it's sunny today, make it count!" - It's like the sun alone is reason enough to be happy, no matter what. The kids look forward to getting out to the playground because the sun is shinning and they don't have to have "indoor" playtime. It's like there is a big party and everyone is invited to join.

Around here, everything looks different when the sun shines - it's like things are not so hazy anymore and you can see that what looked scary in the darkness, it's not so bad once there is light. Your fears, your hesitation, your lack of hope; it all gets erased away because you can see how small your problems really are and that all it takes to face them is to wait for the rain to stop. And the rain does stop and usually, it does when you least expect it - then, the sun shines and it makes it all better. Hey, what can I say? I am easily amused and small wonders just take my breath away. Today was one of those days. When I looked up in the middle of a rainy, cold morning, and I saw the sun, I smiled because it always reminds me that no matter how long bitter winter days might be, there will always be a sunny day in store. The good Lord knows that we need this sunny day that brings hope and promises of better tomorrows yet to come. Because good things do come to those who wait.

To be really honest, I'm just exhausted and worn out from the winter, the cold, the rain, the wind, the snow and the trials and errors to make things work for my kids, especially Frankie. It's tiring to wait and hope and then to try again when it didn't work. But there is always tomorrow and that might be the lucky day when what you are trying out would work and then it would just be like a sunny day in the middle of winter - a true miracle. The unknown makes me uneasy and it makes me fearful, especially when I don't see immediate results but I press on. When it gets dark in my life and I want to stop, I push myself to keep on going because there is always someone who will have a flashlight and will offer to light the way for me. When it's cold or rainy on my path, I get plenty of umbrellas and coats along the way and better yet, I often get the arm of a friend around my shoulders to keep me warm and keep me company along the way.

On a clear day like today, it's easy to realize that although nothing might be falling into place in my life or in yours, the most important thing is to keep on going, one day at a time, because after many grey days, you are bound to find a sunny day along the way - when you do, just stop, enjoy it and treasure it, because in the winter, they are not easy to come along.