01 October 2012

the last of spicy dragons & dinosaurs


It has taken me awhile to claim who and what I am.  And I am still claiming and discovering what I want to take on and what should be left behind -- umm, nothing is left behind but some things need to be put on the back burner of spirit.  Sure, I need to shed some unnecessary, useless and hurtful experiences, but I don’t have that many of those.  The cliché of saying that I am moving on has purpose.  Finally, moving on is what I am feeling.  I would so much rather stay where I am -- mentally, physically, spiritually -- but I cannot.  What I mean is that I cannot stay where I was/am and survive.  And my aim has always been more than survival.  I want to thrive.  

And so, this is my last entry on Spicy Dragons & Dinosaurs and my first entry on smoothed stones.  It is not easy to make this change.  I have been pushing for so many changes.  All the cleaning and sorting and junking is both liberating and sad.  This change of writing venue is the same.

Autumn has always felt like a new year’s time.  Happy Autumn.  Come and read on smoothed stones.

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One last Julia report:  A most faithful reader and friend asked me to give a status report on Julia, specifically whether last year's battle of the bug bites resolved itself, if Julia still prefer dresses over pants, how whether there was any changes after last spring’s Bus Stop adventure.  And so, to satisfy my curious “admirers” . . . 

First, in case I have not said it before, Julia is really enjoying her reprise of fourth grade.  I feel that the decision to have her repeat the grade was completely on target.  Julia is ready for some of the work and is doing more with her class.  I’d say she is working on about a second grade level although her reading may be closer to third.  All this is such progress!  She still needs support to keep her on task and to encourage her to interact in appropriate ways.  She does her homework with me or her therapists and works hard at it.  She is very good in spelling (her Dad would be so proud.  Finally, another speller in the family.) and her penmanship is excellent.  Her writing is very simple but she is writing the paragraphs that she is assigned and writing page-long stories (that don’t always make straight line narrative sense) for me in her free time.  She is getting quicker with her addition and subtraction math facts and beginning to be able to use those facts in simple word problems.  I took out her current IEP for her speech therapist, and realized that she may make most of her goals for the year -- we do a new IEP in January.  If she does, this will be the first time that she has made the predicted progress.  I am very excited to see her next steps will be.

Julia still has a few bug bites on her body.  But very few, maybe 6 or 7.  She has a few on one wrist which were the toughest to keep from scratching and picking, and another few on her leg which have just hung on.  We still put on moisturizing lotion and the herbal itch cream that we have.  She also wears socks and gloves to bed.  This has been a long siege but Julia and I have learned a good deal.  I don’t think I will ever be glad that we found this sensitivity, but we used it learn about healing, will power, resilience, and our relationship.  No lesson is wasted.  Certainly, not this one.

Julia is wearing pants most of the time.  She has a favorite long skirt and still enjoys skirts and tights.  On the weekends when I let her put on whatever she wants to wear, she will pick a skirt or dress more than half the time.  But for school, she is in jeans.  Julia is tall and skinny with long legs.  The jeans look great and she knows it.  I think that she sees herself more like the rest of the kids when she dresses in jeans -- I don’t think this is just mama projecting, but take that with a grain of salt.  She tried wearing a skirt to horse back riding once this summer and it really hurt.  Julia also like to dig in the dirt for bugs whenever she can and jeans go a long way in being comfortable and not looking incredibly dirty after playing the in the dirt.  She appreciates that.  Other than her preference for dresses or pants, Julia wears whatever I lay out for her on school days.  Rarely does she voice any objection -- when she does, she can pick out what she wants.  I am aware of buying clothes that help her fit in and also that look her age.  It is not that she doesn’t like to pick out clothes but she does not have any interest in “style.”  In that way, she is still a very much younger kid.

And the upshot from the bus stop adventure -- my first experience watching Julia be bullied -- was pretty minimal.  I spoke to the girl’s parents.  The father accepted what I said, the mother denied that her daughter could do such a thing.  I watch bus stop interactions like a hawk, but I know that there is a big playground out there and even Julia’s loving aides turn their heads for a moment.  We have worked on responses to bullying together and using an iPad app.  She has not been aware of anything this year and neither have I. 

Julia still needs friends.  There are candidates who are lovely girls with big hearts.  It is Julia who needs to figure out what to do with friends.  The give and take of conversation is still hard, as is the ability really be concerned about another person.  But Julia grows and changes, and I hope that friendship will be a learned lesson.

30 September 2012


Having a very hard time finding the time to sit down and write.  I like the busy and I life being so tired at the end of the day that I don’t feel like writing but . . . Today, this afternoon, I had planned to write as soon as Julia’s therapist came, but got caught up in chores and cooking.  Still, there is laundry to put away and move from washer to dryer, but I only have another 40 minutes and the rest of the day and evening is busy.  

Trees are glorious.  More color every day.  And the temperature is warm and I can sit on the deck in the shade with a tee shirt and watch the slow fall of golden chips.  I thought the other day about how I had wanted to be married in the fall but how we also wanted to marry at SLC.  The only time we could use the school was when it was out and so August it was.  I don’t mean to say that I had forgotten about that, but it was stored so far back there that it was virtually forgotten.  Some things that have to do with my life with David come forward now yet while we were together, I didn’t give them a thought.

I brought the last of the books and records to Half Price Books today -- St. Vinnie’s really doesn’t take books or vinyl -- and I noticed that the garage is beginning to really clear out.  A few more old pieces of furniture -- everything that belonged to David’s Nana who Cheshire called Great Nana  is gone -- a few boxes for the church garage sale and an old bike and I am done.  The quality of finish took my breath away.  Even though I’ve been working towards it for a year now!  I picked up an apple box to re-box Nana’s china.  Oh, yeah.  I forgot about that.  Not that I had it but that it was Nana’s.  I wanted to get rid of it but Cheshire is not ready to part with it.  It will go to her at either  my next move or her first permanent residence, which ever comes first.  For now, it will go into a sturdy, newer box.  I have some of the movie equipment that didn’t sell that might be donated to the kids museum--they like old machines--and I still have to poke around to see if anyone wants the dozen or so slide carousels.

I’ve been writing on another blog for LEND which I have been keeping off line until I was ready to launch a new personal blog, but I am still fiddling and unsatisfied so I will add it to the Family Internet Sites on the side of the page if anyone wants to take a peak.

This entry has stayed on the drafting screen for more than 24 hours and I am ending it on Sunday.  Last day of September.

Last night, I went to see a new Forward Theater production of 44 Plays for 44 Presidents (http://www.forwardtheater.com/on-stage/44-plays).  Lovely and fun production.  I stopped to say hi to Jen Grey, the director, and she told me that another small theater company east and south of here asked if they could read a few of the new plays that Forward produced, including David’s Kiritis.  Funny to think that someone would want to read it without David having to send it out anywhere.  Of course, perhaps he did.

28 September 2012

Gratitude

This morning for a myriad of very, very small and inconsequential reasons I felt sad and sorry for myself.  So, I wasted two hours.  And then I wrote an email that I needed to, included my sadness and the addressee called me and we chatted for a few minutes.  Sadness is still a way of life.  True.  But time without purpose doesn't have to be.  Living all my minutes to the fullest is still my aspiration.  And to do that I need help.  And the miracle of the day is that all I have to do to get that help is to suggest or hint.  I don't even need to ask directly.  How wondrous!  That is the heaven, the joyful world.  And I am so grateful.

27 September 2012


The leaves!  The leaves this morning!  There are golden leaves this morning that were only hinted at yesterday.  There will be a few days, coming tomorrow and very soon, when those leaves are so golden that even on a cloudy day they will light their world.  I remember writing a long time ago, in Indiana, about those golden leafed trees.  I had not remembered them from Jersey and never saw them in NYC, but in the midwest they are a treat for my eyes.  And although they herald the coming cold and winter and end of summer’s comforts, they are so beautiful that for moments I forget their prophecy and bask in their splendor.

I woke up last night with my bed wet from sweat and my mind full of thoughts that would not let go.  This was not the hot flashes of menopause which always woke me at the beginning of the coming warmth and coursed through me body from deep inside out.  Those flashes shook me awake and I could not feign inattention.  This was not those.  Last night, I woke up in the midst, perhaps as an afterward.  And I was not immediately awake but slowly came to myself and only later could I not get back to sleep.  During my period of tossing, I thought of walking through doors again, walking out of comfort and into the challenge.  I got up, made myself some hot milk, answered some email and read.  This morning I am tired and slightly perplexed, but ready to walk into the new room.

26 September 2012


I spent the day, in fact the better part of two days, organizing paper for LEND and all its separate topics and for Quest.  The paper pile has been growing since the beginning of the month and it has been hard to figure out where what belonged.  Then, today, after the plunge of the last few week, it was all clear enough to separate, tab, hole and put in binders.  Now, it feels like the work, the real digging work can begin.

And I swear that I noticed yesterday that a few trees has a bit of a red glaze on their outer most leaves and today, there is a lot of color in the leaves.  Slow, slow, slow, and then very quick.

Just a few thoughts:

  • During the first workshop with Andy Paulsen, he stressed the importance of sleep and I dismissed his message.  Lately, the last few weeks, I have been abusing myself in that regard.  I stay up late, most of the time wasting time, and then drag myself out of bed to get Julia to school.  During the tough days after David died and even last last year when the grief was the muckiness, I had many sleepless, or near sleepless nights and send Julia to school in the morning and go back to bed.  This weekend, I realized that I am heading in that direction again.  I need to sleep sometime and if I don’t do it at night, then days are the only option.  Except that, I have a list a mile long of how I want to spend my days and the only reason that I am not sleeping is my own reluctance to go to bed.  Some of that was resolved during the retreat.  I was so exhausted each night that I went to bed as soon as our programming was finished (I was not the only one who did that.) and slept hard.  I have been living on 6 or less hours a night which leaves me with an awful headache in the late afternoon and some very restless nights.  This weekend I slept 7 hours both nights and I am getting close to 8 since I’ve been back.  It is strange but it feels like some part of health is returning.  What is strange to me is that this lack of sleep has been self-inflicted.

And dreams are coming back.  I can almost breathe a sign of relief.  I was beginning to believe that I would never remember my dreams again.  Since Saturday, I’ve remembered something when I awoke in the morning and on three of those mornings what I remember was dreams with David in them.  They were not “visiting” dreams by any means -- last night, David was the grumpy, dissatisfied younger man from 10 or 15 years ago.  When I woke up, I remember how much he has changed during the last few years of his life.

  • Julia and I worked on her reading homework which includes answering teacher generated questions.  The questions are getting harder and especially for questions of inference, Julia struggles, but she is able to stick with it and although I still feel like I am pulling the answers out of her at times, she is able to do more of the mental gymnastics.  A slow climb to be sure but a climb nonetheless.

  • And Julia is reading to herself.  She has been getting closer to it for more than a month.  Sometimes she has read softly or reads slurring over some of the words, not as if she does not know the words but like she is rushing because she wants to read faster.  I’ve noticed in the car that she has gotten softer and softer when she reads, and today, she was silent.  She probably really began doing this in school where silent reading is built into the day.  How incredible to see her get to this stage.  Her love of reading is such a ticket for her!

  • I used a notebook and wrote by hand during the retreat as was strongly advised.  I’d say required but that might be an over statement.  At one point on Saturday, my left hand began to ache.  I wondered if arthritis was getting the better of me -- I have a few aches and pains which are harbingers of the condition but on Saturday the whole hand hurt.  Then I realized that  what I was feeling was a hand that has not written extensively for a long time.  Typing has taken over and to the extent that my hands are tired after typing, it is both of them.  Handwriting puts a lot of pressure on that dominant hand.  

And I enjoyed it -- the writing -- which, of course, makes me think of David who hand wrote all first drafts.  I still don’t intend to abandon me keyboard, but I will take the idea of writing some by hand under consideration.  I have allowed myself to fall out of the habit of daily writing because it was time to do that.  Now, as the urge to write comes on again, I will pay attention to the mechanics.  Perhaps some by-hand scribing would be of value.

  • I have been working on a new blog now and then.  I started something on Blogger and then on Wordpress.  I am not completely satisfied with either but I need to just take the plunge and then work from within.

Maybe soon.

I started to write yesterday and got distracted.  Yesterday would have been David’s birthday.  It is so strange to me to realize that there are very few people who would think about or remember the day.  It continues to amaze me how the circle of memory has shrunk and there is no possibility that our family will grow in any way and more people will sit round a table one day and drink celebratory wine and eat home made cake for his natal day.

Today, I am not sad about this, although I was a bit yesterday.  Rather, it is a perplexing fact of life, of my life, of the life I now live.  

Email to Julia’s teacher:

Julia told me that she had a "problem" in school today.  She told me that she got angry at Mrs. Stork because she (Julia) wanted to be left alone and it was time to work on something, perhaps reading, with the class.  Julia said that when she got angry, she called Mrs. Stork an "idiot" but did not hit or yell.  She told me she was sent to room 208 to calm down and after she calmed down she went back to her class and worked.  She said that this was the first time this year that she needed to leave her classroom.  She said she had a hard time apologizing but that she knew that she hurt Mrs. Stork's feelings.  She says that she will try to do better tomorrow and we talked about how she needs to work with her class whenever her teachers want her to.  

So, I wanted to check with you and find out how much of that is true and/or accurate.  It was in the front of her mind when i picked her up.  She was ready to talk about it as soon as I asked about her day and told me many more details than she used to.  She is genuinely remorseful, although she feels very strongly that she wants to spend more time alone.  If you have any ideas on how I can support her teachers, please let me know.  Does she get time to be alone in school?  I understand if you are trying to limit that kind of time -- she needs to work towards class time and participation -- I'd like to be able to talk about this at home but I need to know what you are working towards.

I'm also sorry that she calls people "idiot."  It is not a term that I use, but she has heard it in too many kids' movies and she usually has the angry, sarcastic inflection down perfectly.  From what Julia has told me, there was a good deal of name calling when she was in China, and she reaches for the worst word she knows when she is angry.  She used to call us names in Chinese when she first came home.  We never knew what they meant but the inflection was unmistakeable.  If you think that I should address some way of extinguishing name calling, I can talk to her therapists.  

It also sounded like Julia got angry, calmed down, and was okay during the rest of the day.  I was wondering if that was true.  And I haven't even asked about behavior, but I would like to know how that is going.  Is anger and behavior part of every day?  And also, how difficult are transitions?

Thanks,
Suzanne
___________________

I am two days back from my first Quest retreat.  It was my first weekend away from Julia since David died.  I left Julia with Comella who was her senior therapist last year and who has since become a friend.  Her weekend was full of her usual appointments although they did not go to church.  Instead, they went out to eat, went to the zoo, and visited with Comella’s family.  Julia even read a bedtime story for a younger child at that younger child’s request.  Comella told me about that and then yesterday, after Julia forgave me for leaving her for the weekend, she told me.  She was pretty happy about being asked to read.

We had an ambivalent reunion on Sunday afternoon and she kept me at a bit of a distance until Tuesday morning.  It was a very stepped down version of how she acted a few months after she came home and I went back to work in Chicago.  After we did strong sitting on Tuesday, she told me how much she missed me.  And that was sweet.

I was a bit of a mess before I left for the retreat.  Physically anxious which  was a rather new reaction for me.  I had arranged to carpool with someone to the retreat, and then at the last minute, I cancelled because I needed to drive myself.  Control!  Not just my kid’s obsession.  Mostly I needed to have access to my own transportation whenever I needed it.  Comella texted me each night and sent a picture which was a really good anchor for me.  Quest participants were supposed to give up all electronic devices -- contact with the outside world -- other than emergency, but it was fine for me to have this little crutch.

The retreat itself was pretty wonderful and two days home, I am wondering how I can incorporate some of what I am learning into my every-day life.  The peace, intensity, quiet time, writing time, sense of wonder and depth of soul living.  And this was only the first retreat.  Well, I didn’t learn all of that.  What I got was a taste of an altered life and I see it as having a good deal of value for me at this time.  

18 September 2012


Julia is starting art therapy today.  Lissa, the therapist, has dinosaur pieces out and Julia is building.  She is concentrated but she does have a bit of divided attention.  She responds when Lissa tells her about the time and she in interested in the bits of colored paper that Lissa put on the table between them.  It is hard to get Julia from the playing with the dinosaurs to the next activity, check in.

Lissa asks Julia to pick out a color that expresses how she feels.  Julia plays with the dinosaur that is still on the table and also wants the Mario figure to pick a color.  Finally, she picks blue and says that she feels happy.

Lissa asks, “Are you ready to draw?”  The assignment is to draw what you like so that they can get to know one another.  Julia starts with a rainbow and talks about a safe rainbow place where dinosaurs live.  She decides to keep thieves out.  When they take money from someone, Julia tricks the thieves and also bites them.  She gets the money back and gives it to the person it belongs to.  Her story continues in loops.  She answers Lissa’s questions in a very free form way.  Although the rainbow takes a long time to draw and color, Julia answers questions and keeps the story moving forward.

After the rainbow is finished, Julia puts Lizzy and Lukie on top of the rainbow.  Dinosaur thieves sit below the rainbow and Lukie watches the thieves.  Lizzy says that she will eat the thieves and the thieves run away.

I spent most of the day reading the education report for Lisa at DRW.  On first impression, I am frustrated that I am 30 pages in and there are very few new facts.  Perhaps I didn’t know the exact stats on how many 20-somethings can’t find work or the percentage of college students who graduate in 2 or 4 years, but most of what I’ve read is current newspaper content.  I am taking notes but I am a bit disappointed.

Tonight, I am doing the online “courses” on hospital emergency procedures and HIPAA -- not that anyone is going to let me administer anything but I need it to be in the clinic at Waisman.  But then again, its nice to know something and emergency procedures are never a waste of time.  HIPAA, on the other hand, . . .

Written 16 September 2012


“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” ― Lao Tzu

I saw the quote a few days ago and had some idea that it pertained to what was going on, but then never wrote.  I am always so sure that those days when I have wonderful ideas but not time are the days when I would have been eloquent.  

I laugh at myself for such thoughts.

It is after three in the afternoon and the yard sale is virtually over, but it is lovely sitting out under Maria’s pear tree with my glass of cool water and my computer to scribble into.  I’ll put things away soon.  Just not this minute.  

So I got rid of some things -- two of six bookcases.  The best two.  Lots of records and all the bit frames.  Toys and clothes, although there is still a few bags for St Vinnie’s.  All but one of David’s hats.  The sofa table that we took from great nana’s house and used for 35 years.  (I just found someone to make me one -- longer and plainer than great nana’s, and not too expensive at all.)  No one touched the projectors or the camera -- I’ll keep them on craig’s list -- or the posters or the clay pots that I reluctantly decided to part with.  Also the three sets of wine glasses of different sizes that I really didn’t want to pack up again.  

So now to figure out where what is left goes.  FUS has a rummage sale coming up. Glasses and frames.  Records?  Mostly classical are left.  Grandpa’s operas.  A few odd treasures and a few kitchen tools.  Half price books will take the books and tapes and the few CDs that didn’t go.  Toys to IDS as a donation.  I was surprised that the kid easel was not even considered by anyone.  Clothes will be packed up for St. Vinnies.  But the clay pots, the bed frame, the collapsible sand box, and the remaining book shelves are still orphaned.  

I was exhausted by the end of Sunday.  It was the work of the sale but also the work of the week which included an all day legislative hearing and along Friday for LEND.  Little by little, tasks are coming.  I am very conscious that I am beginning to overload myself.

07 September 2012

Feeling a little lost today.  Working on a vision statement for LEND this morning.  Much more emotional work than it was two years ago.  Well, too years ago vision was not my only concern.  Sitting through part of class, enjoying a presentation on early childhood development, but then feeling the descriptions of healthy development like punches in the gut -- Babies “elicit the emotion of tenderness and a caring response to them from other humans, especially and specifically from their mothers.”  “There is no such thing as a baby, there is a baby and someone.”  We are born with the need for relationship.  The importance of relationship and quality of experiences.  Early development lays the foundation for life.  Amazing how personal it all is when your child has been deprived of all of it.  I can feel the same way when I watch parents interacting with small children.  How would have enthusiastic parents, loving words, and an attentive caregiver formed my girl?

It breaks my heart.

The class was not responsive.  I love enthusiasm in a class and seeing the lack of it makes me want to jump in.  Help the speaker.  Cheer on the lesson.  Answer the questions, damn it!  At the very least.  

Then, in the middle of class, I had the suspicion that the therapist who was supposed to get Julia from the school bus was not going to be there.  I had texted her in the morning to make sure she would be and she never responded.  I could not let it go to chance and so missed the last hour of class.  Sure enough, I received a text after Julia got home that the therapist was not going to make it today.  I breathed a sigh of relief that I went with my impulse.  Julia is not ready to be left off the bus without someone to open the door and take care of her.  

No harm, no foul, but a close call.  

First swipe at a vision statement:  My vision is “to be of use.”  The idea is easy, hard won, but easy.  The execution, not so much.  I have no idea where this idea takes me.  Hyperbole.  I want goals to chart a trajectory, and I am uncomfortable with patience and ambiguity.  Absolutely no hyperbole there.  I balk at living the questions as Rilke advised his young poet.  And yet, questions are what I have -- what is Julia’s future?  Will we ever have a meaningful conversation?  Will I ever put down roots again or live close enough to some loved one to call a place home? Will I ever find and be allowed to work at tasks that I care passionately about and that form a right livelihood?  How far into the world around developmental disabilities can I go?  How far do I want to go?  What I have is the present.  Today and today and today.  I would like my days to include contemplative practice, writing, learning, teaching, gathering groups together and engaging in conversation, and some fun. 

All this searching and all the ambiguity is getting tedious, and so, I have to hope that the light at the end of this tunnel is soon shining bright.  

04 September 2012


First day of school for Julia and five hours of time alone for me.  I got back the basement and getting ready for the garage sale more seriously than I've done since the beginning of the summer.  Instead of the 'easy' stuff like records or toys or clay pots, I spent the whole time cleaning, pricing, and posting on Craigslist 11 pieces.  Two movie projectors -- 8mm and 16mm --, a 16mm movie camera, a movie screen, a slide projector, our old stereo -- turntable, tuner, and two speakers --, a SLR still camera with a variety of lens, and my mother's marble topped coffee table.  Except for the coffee table which I hoped to use in my kitchen but never fit it in, it all belonged to David.  Except for the stereo system and the table, it was all connected to his life in film.  As such, it was tough to get rid of.  Most of the pieces had two moving stickies on them, marking them as moving from Kenwood Avenue to Washington Boulevard in Indianapolis and then to Madison.  That represents more than sixteen years of sitting in a basement.  Most things that made those moves lost their stickies long ago, but no one has touched any of their pieces except to move them from house to house.  And yet, they were hard to get out of the house, not because I ever intended to use them again but because they are things that David refused to get rid of even though he had not used them for years.  

David got rid of his double bass and the piano that came from his parent’s house after we moved to Madison.  The bass had been a decoration for a long time.  He had given up playing music except to fool around on the electric keyboard that I gave him one Christmas.  He could do whatever he liked on that with earphones on.  David was not a performer and did not enjoy playing even for our family.  The keyboard gave him the privacy he liked and some young teen got a double bass and a young couple took the piano.

I was wondering today if he had not gotten rid of his film equipment because he had not completely separated from those dreams.  Pure conjecture on my part.  It is hard for me to make the separation, but keeping that stuff, storing it and eventually moving it will not keep those dreams alive.  Not that such dreams die.  I imagine them set off into the aether waiting for some other soul to catch them and re-make their substance.  And maybe selling the equipment sets those dreams free.  Maybe some of it will even go to one of the crazy dreamers.

Priced to sell and get taken away.  I hope so.

So, I cleaned up each piece and looked each of them up on the internet.  I found every piece and a price, either on ebay or on some speciality site.  I don’t know how close anything is to working order and I don’t really want to promise working order with things that I have no idea how they work.  And so, I priced everything about half of the lowest prices that I found.  I put it all on Craigslist and hope that it goes before the garage sale.  No bites yet, but its only been a few hours.

It is raining, a wild storm is passing through.  It comes at a tough time for Julia.  She rarely sleeps through a storm, and never falls asleep during a storm.  We had gotten to bed early, washed, brushed, flossed, a chapter of the new book -- Dinotopia read -- and lights out.  And then the storm.  So, I may not get any LEND work done tonight.  I can type a bit or watch a movie or read on the web while she snuggles against me, but I can’t do written home work.  

So, that will wait until tomorrow.  

Will you snuggle with me?  Julia asks.  And when I do, she says that she is much happier now.  

Me too.

First Days of School

 2007 - Kindergarten
 2008 - First Grade
2009 - Second Grade
2011 - Fourth Grade
2012 - Fourth Grade 2

02 September 2012

Upham Woods with FUS.  Woods and cabins and nature activities and camp food and camp fires with marshmallows at night.
 Paddling a canoe.



Crawling through a cave and not bumping her head.

Digging in the shallows for artifacts.  Finding lots of rocks and a few pieces of plastic and finally a nymph.
Archery was a challenge.  And I couldn't get a picture of her firing because I was either helping her or shooting myself.  Julia had three turns, each time shooting three arrows.  She was a bad sport when she shot and could not hit the target.  At one point, she threw the bow and at another she told us all that she hated archery.  Then, on her last turn, two of her arrows hit the target, and then archery was her favorite activity of the weekend.

My girl who never tried anything without a fuss can now be intense about a sport.
A face watching a snake.
So here I am touching a snake.  Well, I never.  But you know, anything when that kid is happy.

Written 1 September


So many times the anxiety of anticipation trumps all feelings about the actual events.  So it was this week.  Wednesday and Thursday at Waisman orientation with a short power point on Wednesday.  Listening to descriptions of the program was so much easier the second time around.  I understand this time.  And suddenly I get the wash of realization that the entire program is another course in Civil Procedure.  Yes, there is content to learn and lots of it, but the purpose of the course is leadership and so the content serves the lesson.  It is not the lesson.  I knew that but I lost track of it.  I got very lost in content.  Maybe, it would be more accurate to say that my training two years ago was about content.  It was not that I did not engage in the leadership lessons but they drifted to the side as I crammed my plate with subject matter.  

This time, for this second year . . . but then I still need the content.  Hopefully, I can keep myself a bit more on track.

I have been thinking about how I listen.  Something was said in the initial Quest meeting about learning to listen and the idea has been banging around inside my head.  I recall that there was a time when I was a very good listener.  It was a time when I was quieter, when I did not like speaking and actively pushed responding away.  But that was a long time ago.  I don’t listen as much as anticipate.  I am not unusual at this in the least and it is more noticeable to me because without David, I don’t have the constant companionship of a listener to whom I listen.  I am also coming out of a long period when my dearest friends check in with me and listen.  I have talk a lot, pouring out my guts to them day after day, week after week.  I do not deny how much I needed that wonderful gift, but recently I have felt the ability to ask, ‘how are you?’

To bring this back to a LEND related topic, I was struck by how I ordinarily “listen” to instruction.  I take notes, I think about responding.  I may not respond.  There may be no response required but that is the way that I listen.  And so, I tried to be attentive to what was said.  I took only necessary notes, instead I concentrated on speakers and took in without thought to response what was being said.  It is not that this kind of listening is foreign to me but I do not do it often enough.  I don’t know why it feels notable but it does.

I started a LEND blog but it is not on line yet.  I will be writing there regularly to keep track of what I am learning and some of the resources I am finding.  I did that some here during my first year but it is too mixed into this blog to ever use as a reference.

A friend commented on my post about Julia not participating in our adoption day anniversary that perhaps as an older child, Julia does not see that as a joyful day and really does not want to celebrate.  I was ready to reply that if Julia was a typically developing child I could believe that but she probably has no feelings about gotcha day at all because she really doesn’t understand it.  

Oh, how wrong I can be.  Thank goodness, I can listen.  The day after our anniversary, I began a conversation as we were walking the dog.  I asked Julia is she liked the tea set and she said that she did.  Then I asked if she liked celebrating gotcha day and she said that she didn’t.  I was taken aback.  She did not ignore the question or respond with  some dinosaur fact, she clearly said she didn’t.  I had to take the next step and ask why.  Asking Julia why can be futile.  She answers in non sequiturs or applies circular reasoning.  But again, she was very clear.  “I don’t like it because I was terrified.”  “When were you terrified?”  “In China.  When I met you.”  “Why were you terrified?”  “Because I did not know you.”

So, there it is.  She is reclaiming her story, just as Marilyn has been urging her to and our trauma work has been leading her to.  She could also tell me -- once asked -- why she acted as she did.  I do not expect such insight, such self knowledge from her.  I am a bit ashamed by my assumptions.  I did not suspect that her reactions came from anything else but her lack of understanding.  I will try not to make that mistake again.

28 August 2012


Yesterday, in the middle of the day, I wrote a whinny, complaining entry that I will post below this.  I could chalk it up to backsliding or rekindled grief but it was really fear.  Tomorrow is LEND orientation.  It marks the end of my fallow year and the beginning of the activities that follow from the applications and decisions of the last few months.  And I am terrified.  

What if I can’t do what is asked of me?  What if Julia needs me while she is in school?  What if the respite plans that I’ve made fail?  What if I don’t find what comes afterwards?  What if this is a bad path?  A dead end?  What if I fail?  What if I can’t figure out a future?

And then I breathe.

Julia is with her therapist Morgan and I am at Panara.  I needed to get out of the house and away from her.  It is not Julia but me -- she cannot do things fast enough and in exactly the way I want them done -- ooo, shades of my mother’s style.  It is just me that is like a untethered sail in a gust of wind.  

I had thought to do some house work this morning or garden or put some food in the house, but I am going to indulge myself with coffee and a muffin and then on to shop for a blazer for an hour -- does anyone find clothes in an hour?  

So many doorways.  I see myself in my mind’s eye walking through doorways.  Leaving comfortable, well-appointed rooms and striding into new damp, blank spaces that don’t even have a chair to drape a coat on.  David’s death was such a door.  Julia’s adoption was another door.  Some possibilities were closed off, some were opened.  On the eve of entering this new room -- once again at Waisman to toil among the experts and at the Quest retreat later in September -- I pause at the door way in utter terror.  I have no idea where I am going.  Hyperbole to be sure.  I have some idea, just not a ticket and seat assignment for a hub city.  

There is no rational way to calm myself, to assure myself that all will work out.  Just a whiff of such pandering and I am defensively screaming that “all” has not worked out.  Instead, I need faith.  Leap and wait for the angels.  Work and keep my sights on today, and just know that tomorrow will be taken care of.  Be a lilly.  Faith, trust, knowing, wisdom.  Absolutely none of this is easy for me as I wrestle my demons of ambiguity.  Living the questions.  How the hell do you live the questions?  

“…I would like to beg you dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” ~Rainer Maria Rilke, 1903 in Letters to a Young Poet.
I have admired that quote for so many years.  Thought of it often and told other people of it.  And here it is again and I am have so much trouble really living it.  Can I force the learning?  Will I get it this time through?
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Yesterday’s entry:  Today is our Gotcha Day -- 6 years as a family.  Any remembrance and/or celebration is my responsibility and I am very ambivalent today.  It feels like a chore today to be so responsible.  I have to talk about it, remember it, encourage Julia that this is a notable day.  And it all takes energy, much more than I have today.  Julia is not the child jumping up and down, wanting the party, the remembrance, the story of our first meeting over and over.  It was easier when there was three of us to be celebrating.  If I asked Julia what she would like to do to celebrate gotcha day, she would ask to play with her dinosaurs or the new game on her iPad.  Probably alone.  Not really appropriate requests for celebration and so I can’t ask.

And yet, I do not want every special day to go by just because it is me remembering.  I have been enthusiastic in the past because I believed that one day, Julia would be part of the anticipation and the celebrating.  Maybe that is happening, and I am just too grumpy today to see it.  With the first fall decorations in the stores, she is ready to talk about Halloween.  She does love to sing Christmas songs.

I need to breathe.  This is not all about today.

Wednesday is LEND orientation and I am doing a small powerpoint presentation.  

This is Julia’s last week of summer vacation.  Today, it is beautiful outside and I have the intense feeling that I should be gardening or doing something fantastic with Julia.  Instead, we have meeting, therapy and inside chores.  This morning, Julia and I went to a conference to sit and talk with her teachers.  Julia was able to answer some of the questions they asked about what she enjoyed doing and what she wanted to do this year.  Her anxiety was lower than it was last week, but she was far from focused.  She will settle down a bit when school is in full swing, but her special ed teacher’s work is cut out for her.  What will Julia learn this year?

Julia had therapy all day today and she is having a hard time listening to my directions.  I let her work/play with her iPad when she is free and in the car while I drive, but she does not turn it off when I ask.  That is driving me nuts!  There is a combination here of age appropriate behavior and her behavior age-level that is compounding the annoyance.  I am also having a hard time giving up her summer academic curriculum, but it is time to let the school take over.  

And I am not focused.  I have a list of shoulds’s and coulda’s and feeling very stressed and unprepared for the week.  I have child care for most of the time that I need for orientation but I will be coming on the late side and leaving early each day.  

And I have a headache.

Oh, I don’t mean to sound so ungrateful for this beautiful child and her strange, but magical journey.  Today’s anniversary is encumbered.  I cannot see it -- at least right now -- with that joyful time of family building.  I see losses that have diminished our family.  I see changes that stole the last whiff of naiveté from my expectations.  

And I didn’t know that today was going to be hard.  

________________________
We had a nice evening.  We picked up Chinese take-out from our new favorite place after therapy.  I gave Julia a tea set that I bought in China six years ago and she had a wonderful time serving us tiny cups of tea during supper.  We watched a bit of a movie and then we got ready for bed.  Harry Potter I is just about over, but Julia has two books that she wants to start -- she is interested in these chunky chapter books that are mostly too hard for her to read.  She is interested in the stories.

And when Julia’s light was turned out, I went downstairs and organized my desk, paid bills, and got ready for my week.  

I am breathing again.

24 August 2012

Started late on the 23rd


I’ve been wanting to write something all day but tonight, after Julia went to bed, I’ve only been dragging my feet.  

Strange day.

I was not completely sad.  I sort of went in and out of it.  High waves of realization that today was an anniversary and then low tides of focus on the present.  Is it because after the crush of heavy grief, the truth is that David and I never made a big deal of anniversaries?  Than again, the happiness of just wishing him a happy day has receded so far in to the background.  

And the day was busy.

I have a list to get done before the school year starts, but every time I think that I can get started, something comes up.  A therapist cancels and we have the afternoon to ourselves.  I get poison ivy and have to get a doc visit for a round of steroids.  Today, it was trying to close out the sbcglobal email accounts after being hacked.

It’s all okay.  I don’t want to miss time with Julia to clean the basement.  School begins in another week and then she will be gone for whole days at a time.  I relish the time when I can be productive but I will miss our summer time together.  

And Ed, my contractor and handyman, and the painter were working today.  The porch is painted after the leaks in the roof were sealed.  Now, the entire first floor matches.  Same wall color, ceiling color, and molding color on everything.  It may sound a bit boring but I find it so soothing.  It is so me right now. 

At the end of the day, Julia and I rushed home from therapy to get to my conference call lesson for Lay Trainers.  I am on the phone listening and responding to the class.  Julia is at my feet playing with her iPad.  The painter is touching up the hall ceiling -- where he painted last year and it peeled.  And Ed is sanding the front door opening.  Just a slice of chaos.

In attachment therapy today, Julia started by saying that she didn’t want to sit by me.  I grabbed her -- gently, really -- and pulled her towards me.  She complained that I was squeezing her too tight and she couldn’t breathe.  I wasn’t really holding her, just an arm around her shoulders, and not tight at all.  Marilyn asked if she had ever been held too tight and could not breathe.  Julia said she didn’t want to talk about it.  Marilyn pushed, asking again, rephrasing but asking.  Julia stood her ground and insisted that she didn’t want to talk about it.  She could have just said no, but instead she got angry, yelled at Marilyn, and made fists in her lap.  “I do not want to talk about that now.  Not ever.”

We switched gears and she wound up cuddling in my arms, very sweetly and lovingly, and then Marilyn asked her again.  I don’t think Marilyn expected Julia to answer, but Julia seemed to straighten herself up and answered.  “Yes, someone squeezed me.”  “Yes, it was too tight.  I couldn’t breathe.”  “It hurt.” “It was a mama.” “At the orphanage.”  “She wasn’t made but it hurt.” 

Julia was clear.  Much more cogent than usual.  Direct, like she rarely is.  

The moment came and went.  Julia asked to go into the other room to draw cars and seemed to leave the words behind her.  

I said, “I don’t know if that was real.”  Marilyn said, “It was real.”

Another sad, awful memory.  Resurfaced and faced head on.  Julia is more willing to go through the tunnel of pain and sorrow, still fighting at times, but learning to surrender, feel the hurt, and then move on.  I hope moving on includes healing.

During class this evening, each student did a five minute teaching.  I was nervous but I was one of the last people to do it and by the time I heard the others, I was confident that I would do much better than most of them.  Ok, I admit it.  The thrill of competition rose and I took the bait.  Oh, it was only that I had a page to teach, I prepared thinking of the exercise like a performance piece, and I am comfortable talking to people and presenting.   I find myself wondering about that rise of competition, the wanting to be the best.  It has been a long time since that has been any sort of an issue for me -- heck, there has been no competition in my life for years now.  Am I just biding my time to get into some race?

On another hand, I think that I can do a decent job of teaching parents about topics related to their kids with special health care needs.  I find that as we go through the topics, I am learning a lot.  I need to learn a lot and I really wish someone had organized the material for me this way about 6 years ago.  If I can insert a little clarity into someone’s life, clear a bit of the fog of challenges and systems and demands and requirements, I will be very happy.

23 August 2012

From Facebook: Just a simple Juxtaposition.  Today would have been my 32 wedding anniversary.  For the past hour and a half, I've been on the phone with AT&T who took over Yahoo who took over SBCGLOBAL, with whom I had my email account for a long, long time.  My email account was a sub account of David's account and David's account was active enough (not fully active, mind you).  I had to log into his account, delete my sub account, and then delete his account.  Now, I am sitting here trying not to imagine that some higher being was micromanaging.  "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy."

18 August 2012