30 September 2010

the next step in the LEND program

I am going to just write forever today! These are my revised goals/vision/project proposal for the LEND program. I am talking to my mentor tomorrow about these proposals. I'll see how close I can get to what I want.

Leadership Goals:


Communication, communication, communication. I want to become a better writer and speaker. I want to advocate effectively for the causes I believe in. I want to learn to be effective and comfortable. I want to gently draw people in to listen and understand, not command attention.


Caregiving with different cultural contexts. I want to learn to listen deeply without bias or prejudice. I want to learn to step into the shoes of someone who has experienced life very differently than I have.


Negotiation, conflict resolution, and peace. I want to learn how to guide others towards a peaceful resolution of conflict. I want to find peace in my own center, to find words to say or actions to perform to spread that peace to others.



Vision Statement:


In five years, I am running the first Ready-Set-Go House in a small coastal city in China. Julia and I are living with 6 girls ages 7 to 13 and preparing them to be adopted by Western families. Julia and the girls attend a Chinese school half the day and are either home schooled or attend an English speaking school for the other half of the day. I am also working with children in the near-by orphanage who have neurological impairments or who suffered trauma and are developmentally disabled. I am hoping to work out, with the help of visiting experts, exercises, learning plans and therapies that will help these children develop along age appropriate paths. Our RSG House hosts visiting experts from around the world who come for short or long visits to help our children. The RSG House and ongoing therapies are supported by grants and the sponsorship of private funding. I plan to begin spending a few months each year visiting in the US, Canada, and Europe to raise funds for the House, lecture about what I have learned, and consult with those who know much more than I do. In the future, I hope to open two or three more RSG Houses in other Chinese cities. I also hope that I will be able to take some of the girls living in the RGS House with me when I travel back to the States.



Leadership Project:


Explaining trauma. Trauma is an overwhelming experience that effects the mind and body. Children who spend months or years in orphanages or foster home may experience trauma from their earliest days. They may compete for the attention of a caregiver or for sufficient food. They may experience long hours alone without their basic needs being met. They may be treated unkindly or worse. Even adoption, that most happy event for parents, may cause additional trauma. Trauma changes the development of every child it touches.


I propose to learn about those changes of the mind and body, the behavior that results from those changes, and the possible ways for parents, caregivers, medical providers, and teachers to react to and deal with the behavior of children who have suffered trauma. I would like to figure out the best way to communicate about these issues



The sky was intensely blue today. So blue I could get lost looking. The trees are turning colors -- which is the tree that has small leave that turn such a gold yellow that I have extra light when walking under them? Those leaves fall quickly as well. Fall brown and crinkly. I love their early fall crunch on walks. These leaves start small and dry smaller and they do not yet demand to be raked. They don't holler for a new chore. Rather, they clump almost neatly on the edges of side walks. Lawns and walks are softened. (Don't ever let me buy a house in the fall. I love the clutter and mess of trees and gardens that disguise all sorts of careless sins.) And now, I see the first red in the trees. Again, I should know a few names and I do not! The red is too bright. It competes with the yellow. A room would be totally ruined if I painted it that color. High up on the trees, that brassy red is loud and proud of itself. I cannot help but salute and smile.

I walk next to our lake. Me and the dog. The wind picks up at this time of year. Her fur and my hair blow. Soon I will be in hats and she will shiver and move much quicker than she does today.

I greet this fall. I wonder where it will take me. So much to learn. So much to process. So much. So much. I miss the old. I miss what I have always known. I miss what I had gotten back and lost again. I put aside all that missing and take in blue and yellow and red. Color fills me up. Color and wind sweep me along. I will think about missing some other day. I will. For now, I travel with the fall. With the change of season. With the change of heart and mind. With a solitude and a strength.
Okay, 20 minutes before I leave to pick up Julia and go to Marilyn's for therapy. I thought I'd sit down for research this morning but I never got there. Still, made some beef stew for tonight, filed Cheshire's income tax (no biggie, but ever so good that I remembered two days before our extension was over), and I also slept in. I've been letting myself do that this week. I hope it doesn't continue for too long -- really cuts into the day, but it feels good. It is indulgence. Maybe it is putting me in a better mood; maybe I am just lazy.

I feel the lack of not writing about Julia as much as I am writing about myself. It is intertwined and I need this space for myself a good deal, but I am missing things! And I hate to miss anything that Julia does!

So, a few things:

I got a report from school that I am just going to copy here. Of course, seeing that she is doing this much, I want to push her ahead and have her do more. When will I learn!? It sounds and feels like Julia is doing 1st grade, and maybe that is what she is doing. Here is what her teacher wrote:

Morning routine - off bus, things away, go over schedule, then Julia chooses something to do while the kids are coming in and doing morning routine. *transition - foreshadow what we are doing next and count to 5 to put things away.

Math- Work time varies between 20-30 minutes depending on her attention span. She does activities with me and earns 4 stickers. Activities include: counting items, number tracks (covered numbers 1-5, I can show you), sequencing Dinosaur number cards, story problems with dino pictures about eggs, story problems with dino cards given money value - she roles a dice and gets that many one dollar bills then chooses which dinosaur she wants to buy, visual math sheets - identifying how many objects in the picture, color by number... At the end she can choose her activity, sometimes I end with something in math she can work on coloring since she likes art so much.

Literacy - Reading with someone: she practices turn taking - reading a book to someone and listening to someone else read (started with practice with adult). Reading to self: She has time to look at books by herself that she is interested in. Reading to adult: She has books in a folder at her level that she practices with an adult, Adult then asks comprehension questions about the book (4 books = 4 stickers and then her choice). Other reading: Nicky is introducing listening to reading today - books on tape, on playaways, on computer program. Julia will be trying the computer book today.
Writing: Julia gets opportunity to draw and then write about her drawings. She can either dictate or get help with spelling. *I am trying to work in more time to do the sounds practice - she did well with that and I want to do it on a more consistent basis.
She also does activities for Science - they are studying rocks. I can get you more information on that.
_________________

When I asked Julia what she did yesterday in school, she told me she drew. When I asked her what, she answered, Fall. What about Fall, I asked? And she said that in the fall it gets colder and the leaves turn colors and then fall to the ground. JULIA IS LISTENING!

Yesterday, when we were getting ready for bed, she asked how my rash (ugh! welts) were doing. She examined them and then told me that she would kiss my back to make me better. Then, she looked at me very seriously and told me that she loved me and wanted me to be very healthy. I know she is scared of losing me and I know that it will take a lot of time for that fear to diminished a bit. But she is right there and feeling it, and being with me.

She had a wonderful time at clinic yesterday but when we left, Bethany, her therapist, still had work to do. Julia doesn't like leaving without making sure that the therapists are safe and going home as well. I don't know where she learned this, but it is very dear.

She also liked playing with the Wii at clinic for the last 15 minutes. This is getting to be a very big treat for her. And I guess I am thinking about Christmas. Bethany was telling me that Julia is figuring out things about the Mario games by herself. She is using the controls (with funny names that I am sure everyone else knows!) and moving them and pressing buttons to explore what her character can do. So much like a regular kid.

I still feel the need to ask others, my professionals, what they think about letting her have such a toy. We raised Cheshire without any video games and it was a point of pride with me. I don't believe in that much media, but if it is going to make Julia fit in, then I will do it.

29 September 2010

I put up the screen to write an entry at least four times today. It was a good day, and I did good chores and studying. I felt very strong today. And strangely, I felt more like I was living some half life, some fantasy than I have ever felt before.

How to describe?

I was not sad today. Simple. Sadness seems such a part of my days that the lack of it feels like something important is missing, like a foot or that last ten pounds. I dreamed last night and early this morning. The first remembered dreams in a long time. The first light and silly dreams since David died. Believe it or not, one dream was of kittens and the other of very small dogs, not quite puppies but close. And walking on a campus that I knew well -- some place that I have dreamed of before with parts of my grammar school playground and convent in it.

I spent the day in chores -- bills, phone calls, emails, letters, and then studying. I went through a huge list of items on my to do list. I took a bag of clothes to good will and visited the bank. Not an exciting lot of activities, but productive and busy. It felt good to get those things done.

While I worked my brain was awhirl. I was watching myself at times. I was aware of how I moved and how what I did felt. I was a character in a story I was writing. I was living someone else's life. I was struck by a strange feeling that (1) David was traveling somewhere and would return at some point in the future or (2) that the last 35 years happened in some completely different way than what I remember. Am I desperately trying to hold on to my life with David and if that fails, it deny all sadness by denying that I never lived that life. Mind you, all this was feeling, not thinking, and so, it was stranger and less explainable than words made it sound.

For today, I was in another place -- a move, possibly sideways, but away from the intense grief of the last almost three months. I would not say I was happy, but I was not sad. I instinctively started making plans -- for the weekend (yard work), for thanksgiving (looking at flights to Maryland). I was enjoying being alone. That was the most remarkable part of the day. I enjoyed being alone and doing my work. I was not achingly lonely alone, as I have been since David died. I was as I always have been alone.

And yet, I am still so shocked when I type those words, "since David died." How could that ever have happened? How could we have been planning our summer one day and calling 911 the next?

I have not thought about the week before David died since it happened. I am beginning to process it now. I am beginning to remember. It is as if I walked though it as an actor, as if some shade of mine did all those things. I am both connected and disconnected from all that I lived through.

I ramble but this is the whirl that has been going on all day inside. And I still say, I was not sad today.

28 September 2010

Going Home Barbie

When families go to China to adopt a child and stay at the White Swan Hotel in Guangzhou, capital city of Guangdong province, the receive a special Barbie Doll, called Coming Home Barbie. Each year there is a new Coming Home Barbie, and this is the Barbie doll we received in 2006, when we brought Julia home.
I had packed that doll away, not hidden it exactly, but put it away until some time when Julia could appreciate it properly. I don't really know when that was going to be. I stopped thinking about it really.

Sometimes Julia goes down the basement and explores. There is not much that she can hurt and so I let her do it. One day, not too long ago, but just before our China reunion, Julia brought the Barbie doll upstairs and asked if she could open it. (There was a time when she would have opened it without asking.) I was perplexed. I wanted to save the doll. I guess I wanted to keep it perfect in its box so that Julia could have it for all time. But Julia wanted to play with it.

And so, I asked lots of people about it. My fellow China travel mates, my Madison mom friends, and some others. And almost to a mom, they all thought I should give Julia the doll and let her play with it.

Julia forgot about the doll for awhile, but today, she remember again, and asked to open it and I said, yes!
I made her take a picture with the doll in the closed box.
And then we opened it.
She has had fun with it all afternoon and evening.
Waking at 4 with this mind whirling. I did such a great job getting to sleep early. Couldn't I stay asleep until the alarm went off? It is early enough. I know I am going to pay for this early waking later today.

Worrying this morning. Feeling overwhelmed, although when I make the to-do and to-be-concerned lists for the day, they don't appear to be impossible. I am a bit crazy/hyper-sensitive about my lists. I do this even when I cook, clean, or take the dog for a walk. Will there be time? Will I finish? Will I forget something else? I do need to calm myself. Take deep breaths. Take the worry out of my head and chest (the worry has a physical feel) and breathe it into my center, my core where it can get taken care of.

I love so much of what I am doing. I really hate that I have to do it all as I sludge through the pain and grief of David's death. Everything is colored by grief -- and sometimes every assignment and action goes slower, feels more looming, can be viewed as impossible because of grief. Not that I really want to give up grieving. It is what connects me to David right now. It is all that is left. Not all. No, not true. But the grief is the tangible. It is what is in my hands when I cup them.

I started this school year with the idea that I would do what I has assigned to myself -- LEND, PTO, Julia's therapy, estate work, house and garden -- as completely as I could under the circumstance of grieving. I knew I would have to cut myself a bit of slack. Allow for work that was not my best. Even now, a month later, I am having trouble with that decision. I want to be working harder and taking more in.

This moderation that I have assigned to myself. This slack I should be giving myself is not easy for me.

27 September 2010

facts and dreams

Fact 2: For a very long time, almost my whole life, at least since 6th grade, I have wanted to be some kind of an artist -- dancer, singer, actor, writer, writer, writer. Fact 2: Whatever I've done in my life -- actor, director, lawyer -- people who I meet are always surprised because I've never "looked" like my chosen profession.

Desires: I want to live simply. I want to live with at least one other adult person. I want to look like what I do. I want to walk the labyrinth path to a straight tree-lined road on which I can see where I am going. I want to be free of economic worries and workings, and live purposely in the present.

Started on Sunday, finished on Monday

Back from a lake weekend in north eastern Indiana, and ah! The ah of a lake. I do have one two blocks from my house, but still. Ah!!!! We played, ate, talked, drank a little wine, walked, and talked some more. It was good to be with old friends. To share news of other old friends and colleagues. To talk about David. To talk about children.

There were seven kids, 8 to 15 (?16). They were busy with each other. They drew Julia in at times and she demanded that they play with her at times. They were very kind to her. Every one of them. And she had a lovely time. She learned to play a few new Wii games -- why does she have to be good at boxing and sword play? She also played archery after watching two of the other kids doing it and she was shooting those arrows pretty well after a very short time. She is now learning from experience and from some instruction. Julia is changing.

She did not eat well, after eating very well last week. The kid looks too skinny to me and there doesn't seem to be much I can do about it. She does not really like fattening foods and she rarely eats too much. She will more likely skip a meal than nibble on a second helping. If only I could trade food desires and metabolisms for a while. Then we could both be perfect -- or nearly so.

I have to start writing about my LEND experience, but not tonight. This is just a reminder for me!

I have a pretty fierce allergic reaction to something -- I think the fabric softener drier sheets that David used. I have not used fabric softener for years and years because I broke out in hives from it. There were lots of soaps that I couldn't use, and even soaps that David could not use if he wanted me anywhere near him. But it seemed that in the last few years, my skin did not react to changes in soap. So, I figured to use what is in the house, and in went the drier sheet to each of Friday's loads. And out of the dried into the bag of weekend clothes.

Saturday morning there were a few spots that I could attribute to late, ambitious mosquitoes. Then, I wondered whether it was bedbugs from the slightly ratty hotel we stayed in when we stopped on Friday evening. I checked Julia and her skin was perfectly fine -- we slept in the same bed, she is much more tender than I am, what is the chance that I would walk away with loads of bits and she get none. And it got worse on Sunday.

That's when I realized that it was an allergic reaction and the only thing that is changed in my routine is those dammed drier sheets. They go in the trash this morning. And I am takingbenedryl for the duration. The "bites" have turned into welts and oh, how they itch. It upset Julia who I realize is now overly concerned about my health and well-being. I am sure I will survive hives. Hives sounds like tiny bumps, is there a word for allergy caused welts that seem to change the shape of an arm?

Even though we were in bed and asleep way before nine last night, we over slept this morning. We had about 17 minutes to get dressed, eat and get Julia ready for school. The kid still does not know how to rush, but she wanted to get on the school bus (the "threat" was that I would have to drive her) that she did it all and hopped on the bus when it was time. She told me she had to see her friends on the bus and she had to get to school because her teacher liked seeing her there. There may be some teasing going on in the playground that Julia does not like, but she is still so excited, much more than the first day, to go to school. And I am cheering!

24 September 2010

Considering my goal these days is to lighten my load, I took the first step today. A few days ago, I put an add on Craig's list to sell David's phone -- used for less than 2 months this spring and a good deal of the time he was not interested in phoning anyone. Today, I sold it.

Big step? Nah. Not really. Not much connection with a phone that David hardly used. No real emotion. And realistically, it lightened my load by ounces. Metaphorically, it was a leap. Maybe I attack a manuscript box this morning.

School, then home until Julia's therapy is finished, then part of the drive to a lakeside cabin in eastern Indiana.

Happy Birthday.

23 September 2010

I should be folding clothes but . . . .

Two things happened today and one yesterday. I don't know whether to call it synchronicity, or just the return of letting some needs and wishes out to the universe. This is not magical thinking, but comings together -- needs being met.

I have been wanting to participate in another group, as I am studying groups in the LEND program. Today, I was asked to by the Franklin-Randall representative to a Parent Council that the school board is putting together.

I had asked Marilyn, our attachment therapist, about idea for my LEND project last week. And today, all I could think about was getting a reading list together to point me in some direction. When we arrived at therapy today, Marilyn has books and articles for me.

And one of my LEND leadership goals is to get more comfortable talking to groups. Two days ago, I was asked to do a 15 minute presentation about living with a child with autism for our class tomorrow. I arranged pictures for a short power point and thought about what I'd say. No one else has talked about adoption and disability, and it is not covered in our course work, but the profs and instructors are excited to explore those ideas.

I do need some help from the universe these days. I need to keep eyes and ears open for opportunity. After all, I have no idea of where I am going with these interests or what I will be doing in a year. I am not talking about fate or predestination, just about gentle nudges and possibilities.

Tomorrow would have been David's birthday. Another special day. Right now, I am feeling that I've had too many days of note recently. I am tired of mourning special days. But no one will say happy birthday to David tomorrow. I will not see him smile or snarl. Julia will not make a card and Cheshire will not call. It makes me so sad, but no more sad that I am every day. The sadness is seeping deeper and deeper inside and at least for now, I cannot feel more than I am always feeling. If that makes any sense.

Tomorrow, I go to school for most of the day. I will present to the class. I will come home and get ready to leave for a weekend at an Indiana cabin of friends. I will try to drive a few hours tomorrow after Julia's therapy. By the time we stop for the night, I should be tired and I will sleep. And it will be another day.

22 September 2010

Photo boards from David's memorial

My Friend, Amy, took these pictures. She asked me whether I wanted pictures and at first I said no, but later reconsidered and I am so glad that I did. Amy is a professional and although I could have taken a picture of these boards to remember them, she did such a better job. So, these are the boards that Cheshire and Linde put together for us. (And they put four pieces of tape on every pictures. Oy!
And David's books and magazines where his stories appeared were also on a table.
Amy managed to take a very nice picture of Cheshire and I (as well as many other good pictures). I will post some. Just not soon.
Some movement today -- how can I say? I have not felt overly uptight or frozen inside, but now I feel some breaking up of a brick wall. I will need a lot of shaking out and self renovation before I am myself -- silly phrase -- again.

Late breakfast with friends this morning. Ah, the absolute joys of SAHM-hood. We talked about nothing important and yet, I left with a grin on my face for the rest of the day. These friends are what I am doing for myself. And I am still grinning.

Health insurance, my worry for the last few weeks, may be working out just fine. Big sigh! I couldn't let it cripple me, especially this year. I want to be open to possibilities after I finish my course work. What kind? You may ask. I have no idea, but open I will be. And paying too much for health insurance would have put a damper on everything -- well not everything, but my budget which feels like everything sometimes.

And two things I did today. I sorted our family pictures the past two days and finished what I could find. Yes, Cheshire, there is a missing box. "Missing" means that it is somewhere in the depths of the cellar. It will appear, just not right now. The pictures that were there are in 1.5 plastic boxes (that is, room for a bit more in box 2). I threw out negatives and sorted our lots of pictures that we've taken of relatives and friends that I will send/give to those people. In the old days, we always got doubles of prints for free. Only a few were really given away, and so, I sorted out the doubles and those of others. It eliminated lots of pictures and I hope that those I send them to will enjoy them. Pinpoints of memory.

And I got to look at years and years of David and I and then Cheshire -- holidays and trips, school presentations, band and orchestra, and pictures of our Washington Blvd. house during all sorts of renovations. Such sweetness. I am very glad for them. And yes, I had some tears. I miss that man.

I am taking apart the lovely picture boards that Cheshire put together for David's memorial service. This is hard. I've decided to keep the pictures together in an envelope marked memorial service. I don't know why but it is what I can do. I'm going to post the pictures that I have of those boards. Cheshire made the boards. She and Linde worked hard on them and did a beautiful job. I almost didn't see them until weeks after the memorial. Still, I love them. I love the effort and the love that went into making them.

I put David's phone on Craig's List and his diabetes monitor. I may have sold the phone today. This is a big step for me. Part of me hates to change or move anything -- and I am starting with these because both are almost new and have more value right now than they will in a few months. But there are other things I want to sell as well -- and if not sell, then get rid of. I need a lighter load.

I am watching the Vicar of Digby while I sort pictures. And I will do more of the same when I sort manuscripts. I am avoiding nothing, but there is a need for relief from intensity, and a British tv show is just the medicine.

And I better get going . . . a note came home yesterday that lice was found on a kid in Julia's class. I am just going to wash her hair with that awful medicinal shampoo and change the sheets right now. I know I could wait and check her head but I am awful at waiting.


21 September 2010

Wedding picture

The bride and her attendants. Aren't they just grand? What faces!
You know, I am fine for awhile, a few days, even a week, and then I have to drop out and be with myself for awhile. This is getting harder to do with my LEND class and PTO in full swing.

Took yesterday completely off from the world and worked on sorting pictures and putting things away. It was good although there is still a mess on the dining room floor which I may have to leave until next week. The thing that brought me to tears was a card from David -- yes, I save cards -- that had a quote from Danny Kaye on the front (the big crush of my youth) and a short message from David inside. It said "You can do it all." It seemed to come from somewhere just to me yesterday. I am grateful for the encouragement.

I worry about the future. Where will those messages come from? That unconditional support that I really need. And I agree that I need to concentrate on today, not some fuzzy future (thanks, Robin).

So, I will be grateful for today, and for the message I found yesterday. I needed it.

And another day passed.

20 September 2010

Okay, so I did end the day yesterday feeling sorry for myself. And I did stay up too late yet again. But this morning I managed to get up, wash my hair, and get Julia off to school before going to the Apple store for a one-to-one tutorial. Then a stop at Staples for plastic storage boxes and home to sort photos.

So this may be the start of the anger part of the grieving process. Watch out!

I am making a trip out east in a few weeks and probably going to see cousins that I haven't seen in years. I have pictures from our shared grandparents and I thought I'd gather them, maybe burn a few discs for everyone, and give them all the pictures of their family that were in that stash. So, I tootled downstairs to the basement to find that box. As I was going through boxes, I realized that there are still many, many, many boxes of David's manuscripts. Each one filled with 20 or so manila envelopes labeled with the work title.

Oy.

I distinctly remember David announcing last year that he had gone through manuscript boxes and had reduced them by 6 boxes. He allowed me to believe that he had gotten the total down to a manageable number that would not burden our heirs when we passed to that better place. Well, the truth is -- dum-de-la-dum -- he had skimmed the icing on the cake. There are at least 10-15 boxes in one storage room, and I know there are another 5-8 in other parts of the basement. And that is not counting Schanker memorabilia. Urrrr. What do I do with this stuff?

So today I start. I am sorting pictures first -- and perhaps finding what I was looking for for my cousins, but no guarantees right now. I am purging negatives and doubles. Once I finish that -- and it might not be incredibly quickly, I will get to David's boxes. I guess I will try to save a version of everything; however, that leaves 5 or 6 versions that will go in the garbage or the fireplace. The man wrote.

Don't believe it is easy to throw any of it away. This was not supposed to be my job, I might rage!! But I want a simpler life.

At church yesterday, Michael quoted Gandhi as saying: "Simplify, simplify, simplify." Did Gandhi really say that? It sounds too much like: "location, location, location." Still, it is a good motto for this time. A good motto indeed.

19 September 2010

I have to get on a regular sleep schedule again! So tomorrow, a trip to the Y is in order. Time to get to working out and time to be so tired at night that I can actually stop thinking and start sleeping. Falling asleep at 9 is better than being up until 2.

Yes, indeed. As Julia says.

I have a "new" reader -- Hi, Alycia -- and I clicked on her thumbnail pic and then clicked on one of her other blog reads. There was a story of a family who lost three small children to a drunk driving accident and then went on to adopt twins from China. I am in awe. To rise from such tragedy and love again, and make a life again. They are my heroes. I am humbled.

Julia is downstairs playing with a therapist. They are playing dinosaur wedding and we just better work on Julia's social skill a whole lot over the next years! LOL!! She is the bride and she is telling her "groom" that he IS GOING TO MARRY HER! She will "steal" him if she needs to. I don't know how Tiffany is playing with a straight face. I am cracking up.

This morning -- very lazy and sweet -- was also very productive. We did nails. Truth be told, David was the one who has always taken care of the girls' nails -- as kids that is. He didn't file or polish, but he did cut and clean. I have never, ever, ever been good at it -- and because I bit my nail for most of my life, I didn't even have to do my own very much.

I don't really remember it being much of an issue with Cheshire, but Julia's nails grow at what seems an extraordinary rate and she gets them incredibly dirty -- dirt, clay, wax from wicky sticks. Bathing and brushing do little to clean those nails and my first really attempt at cutting and cleaning nails during the summer may have scarred the kid for life. So, this morning, I set the kitchen table up like a manicure station (still no polish, but I might get there yet) and put on a BBC Dinosaur show and did Julia's nail.

Success!!

I might apply for girly girl status yet. Well, maybe when I'm 70 or so.

Julia and I also sat down and did some home work. She read for me for about 20 minutes. Our reading in the evening is much less structured. She will read a page or a few sentences, and then I take over. I don't push her to sound out the beginnings of words. I want that time for her to enjoy the stories and to relax. This morning I made her try every word that she did not know. And I was impressed with her tenacity. The kid is learning how to read. We also worked on six very simple addition problems and she worked through them. Math continues to be very hard for her -- numbers are hard. But Julia is working. She will get it enough to survive. I believe that we will get to money sooner or later.

And a world class artist needs to know something about money.

Last week, my friend, Suzanne, gave me a dinosaur watch for Julia. Her son had learned to tell time with it and had abandoned this very cute watch. It needed a battery and so, I had put it on a kitchen window sill for a trip to a store. Julia "found" it and claimed it! So much better than giving it to her. She also remembers Suzanne's son (I'd say a bit of a crush has developed) and was very pleased that it was his watch. She agreed to take it off for sleep last night, but she is really intrigued by it and has it on. Now, all I have to do it get it off long enough to get that battery, and also make a big clock to start working on time telling.

Carpe diem. Indeed.

I have another hour of therapy time, and I need a break from school work. If I can dig out my grandmother's photos that I inherited when no one else wanted them, I am going to scan some and put them on discs for the rest of the family, including some cousins who I haven't seen in years but might see when I go back east in October.

Oh, and I am not feeling so sorry for myself today.
Today, or rather yesterday, I got through another day. I did good things -- a bit of cleaning, another lecture, some reading, some walking of the dog, picked up my healed camera, and picked up the milk that we did not have. We went to church and the evening service on Saturdays is a good solution to a lonely Saturday. We came home to dinner, a bit of reading, and another dinosaur movie. And Julia went to bed and sleep without any fuss. And I got through this day. How many will I have to get through? I feel a bit haunted by the woman who told me it took her two years to be herself and happy again after her husband died. How many days is that? Days of trudging along, getting through, watching the clock just so that at the end I can check it off and hope that I am closer to . . . something that I don't even know right now.

I'm doing things, good things, worth while things, but everything I do is encumbered. There is no lightness in my movement, no joy. I can feel like a terrible drag when I talk to people. I am nothing but sad.

I am feeling a bit sorry for myself right now. This path is trying on the soul. I have the optimism of being sure I will get through it, but I wonder if I will ever really be happy again. I may, but I may not. And I am lonely for companionship that may just be over for good and all.

18 September 2010

help with school work

I am posting this note to a number of the adoption-related yahoo group that I belong to. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know.

Hi everyone!

Julia and I have gone through a rough time this summer, but we are coming out the other end, and coming out in better shape than we went in. To those who don't know, my husband and Julia's beloved Daddy died in July after receiving a heart transplant in March. I was worried that this sadness could reverse all the attachment work we have done, but that was not at all the case. Julia seems stronger in our relationship, she talks about taking care of me, and she has turned to me to talk about her grief and to cry when she misses Daddy too much. If I understood what we did together to bring this about, I would write the book, but alas, it is the result of a year and a half of attachment therapy, great friends and support, and luck. Julia is also enjoying school for the first time ever, and boy, is that wonderful. She still has lots of challenges but her progress this summer has been miraculous. I am very grateful.

Thanks to everyone on and off this group who wrote to me with thoughts of sympathy and support. Every email and message helped me through a very dark time.

This fall I have enrolled in UW's MCH LEND program which provides interdisciplinary and disciplinary leadership training for graduate students and community professionals to improve systems of care that promote the prevention of disabilities and assure access to services for children with neurodevelopmental and related disabilities and their families. Classes are held at the Waisman Center and as a trainee, I have access to many, many incredible researchers, scholars, and clinicians.

As part of my program, I have to develop an individual leadership project which I will work on for the year. I am interested in doing work on attachment and the behaviors of children who have failed to attach to a primary caregiver in the early days of their lives. So far, that is all I have. I am looking for idea to flesh out this project, and thought I'd use some of the adoption related yahoo groups that I am a part of as a resource.

And so,

What would you like to know about the lack of attachment?
How would you like the information?
What have you done to encourage attachment with your child that is slightly out of the box?
What behaviors did you child do that led to faulty diagnoses which later were revealed as attachment issues?
What other questions should I be asking?

I am going to post this to a few groups, so forgive me if you see this a few times.

Thanks for taking the time to think about these issues. I hope that I can be of some use to our adoptive community and the beautiful children we bring into our families.
Saturday morning -- we slept in and our therapist's knock on the door woke us up. I had been listening late to a lecture and had a few PTO emails to get out before I went to bed last night. So, I stayed up too late and needed this sleep. Still, I am always a bit embarrassed to be woken up by someone who I should be expecting.

It is soggy and rainy today and Julia has 6 hours of therapy. I hope to clean upstairs, get clothes washed and put away for the week, and listen to yet another SW lecture. Because I started the course a week late, I have three 90 minutes to catch up on, and I am hoping to do all the catch up by the middle of next week. So, sometimes it takes more than one sitting to listen to a lecture, sometimes I can get through more than one.

Julia is obsessed with making books -- she has been making drawing books for a while now but now she is writing in the books, many times just strings of letters. She cuts and staples paper into the perfect size, depending upon who -- dinosaurs or squirrels -- are going to "read" the book. Then she draws pictures and writes on each page. This past week, she has been asking me to help her write words. I make the sounds and she writes the letters. She isn't always perfect, but generally I do not correct her. Because this is playing for her, I have not pushed her towards writing anything in particular and I am surprised and please to see that she is now going from strings of letters to words.

At my neighbor's house, Julia discovered a new computer game that is on a disney website. She will probably want to spend some time there today.

I'm lonely today and it is very hard to be in the moment. I was planning to take Julia to an Irish festival today but I don't expect that a plan like that will work. Maybe a movie. . . .

17 September 2010

LEND thougths

A good deal of the personal work to do during this first month of the MCH LEND program is to figure out what leadership values I want to work on, and to chose a project which I will work on for the rest of the year. I have done all the exercises and reading, but have come back to my gut to figure out both my values and my project. It will be a while yet before I narrow down my topic and figure out how to incorporate my values into my project, but I have been thinking and working on a first draft.

Leadership Value Goals:
1. Communication: Become more comfortable with written and oral communication, including presentations.

2. Cultural competence: Learn to work with families with cultural experiences different from my own.

Leadership Team work: Do not direct the group. Give more people a chance to take control and be an active listener.

Leadership Project (solo): Lack of attachment in young children and the resulting behaviors. Learn more about the results of a lack of attachment in adopted and foster children. Learn about the trauma that results from a lack of attachment. Find a way to present the information and some conclusion to help families struggling with their children's behavior.

16 September 2010

It is late.

I've listened to two online lectures today and almost finished all the week's reading. One more pre-test to fill out tomorrow, and a bit of work on my list of goals. Coming to a bit of an unformed idea about my year-long project but as of yet I am inarticulate and a bit confused. Tomorrow I will talk to my mentor, Barb, and she will help (and also tell me how brilliant I am -- Isn't that so nice?).

PTO has taken any free time these days. I have help for which I am so thankful. I love doing it but if I am ever going to weed my garden and clean my house, I better get more organized.

I said good bye to a friend tonight. This is not a good time to be losing anyone, but it was not up to me.

I wonder about loss and strength and enduring. It all just sucks.

Julia brought home a list of 12 spelling words at the beginning of the week. Easy words in three rhyming families that most 3rd graders would have no problem with at all. There was also a "work sheet" for the words on which the child writes the word, then checks three columns as she reads the word, spells the word while looking at it, and spells the word with her eyes closed, and a final column where she is supposed to write the word without looking at it. I have been trying to figure out how to work on this all week, talked to Marilyn about it today, and wrote the following email to Julia's teachers tonight:

I wonder if we could take some time to talk about Julia’s reading/writing curriculum. I assume that you’ve finished testing and assessing Julia’s reading level, and I was wondering if you think that Julia is ready for the spelling words that were sent home this week, as well as the spelling sheet with directions. I could not comfortably work it into our week, and after reflection, I see a few problems with the spelling assignment for Julia, at least at the present time:

  1. Julia doesn’t understand the concept of rhyming words completely. Julia and I have been working in a rhyming workbook and she is getting better at recognizing words that sound the same, but I have not found that she understands that to spell words like pan, dan, can, the “an” stays the same and the first letter changes. Julia and I have worked on some rhyming families and to Julia each words still has to be sounded out and spelled separately. Thus, a list of 12 words (that are really just three families of words) represents a lot of spelling work for her. Possibly more than she can handle right now.
  1. We have worked with sight word flash cards and this has been somewhat successful when the words that we are working on come from a story that she is interested in reading. However, when I tried to expand to words that were not story connected, I had less success. For Julia, the key to learning is her desire to master some skill or task. Learning for its own sake, or learning because she has been directed to learn, has no value for her yet. I hope that a student persona takes root in Julia one day, but I don’t think we are there yet, making a list of unrelated spelling words a pretty daunting assignment.
  1. Julia has learned to read (to the extent that she can read) by going over books and words over and over. I think that most of the words she knows are memorized, but we have not worked on memorization per se. Filling out the spelling sheet is rather dry memorization work. I just don’t see doing it without lots of resistance, at least right now, and unless you can convince me that she is really ready for this kind of work (and maybe you can), I don’t want our at-home school work to be fraught with resistance.
  1. Julia is very interested in pleasing her teachers this year and I am so happy to see this. This is the first time that she is reporting some measure of success at school. She feels that it is possible to meet the expectations in the classroom. She comes home and tells me that she has worked hard at school and she says it happily. Although I want her to move along with her work, I do want to insure her success at this point. She does not have a history of school success and so, I do not feel comfortable with stretching her ability too far.

Finally, and this has nothing to do with the spelling assignment but about Julia’s life. Julia does approximately 26 hours as week of therapy outside of school -- intensive autism therapy, OT, speech, and attachment therapy. Julia does three or four hours of therapy after a full day of school every day. We are incorporating reading into her therapy time and I think Julia is ready for this. We can try to do the spelling as well, but I really need to be convinced that this kind of spelling work should trump some of the other therapy goals that we are working on.


I write not to criticize but with concern. I am not trying to second guess methods that I hardly understand. Please be patient with me. I am probably feeling much too protective, but this is the first time that Julia has been happy and willing to go to school. And I want her to learn and to love learning so much.


All the best,

15 September 2010

I am feeling an incredible gentleness of being today.

Part of that is because of the re-newed experience of disciplined reading, part due to a lunch date with two friends, part due to the weather which is just warm enough to sit outside in shirt sleeves, part to the double espresso that finished off lunch, part to knowing that after therapy Julia and I have the evening alone. Julia will be getting off the bus soon, then I take her to clinic where her therapy involves playing with other kids.

There was a sort of anniversary yesterday -- last night really for me. It was the evening of the first PTO meeting last year, which I presided over as president for the first time and thus, had so much to tell David about, that he told me that his doctor recommended it was time for a heart transplant. He had found out earlier that day, and keeping the prognosis to himself for the rest of the day was not easy. He let me have the meeting free of that worry, and waited for me to gush on about it, before we talked about the transplant.

I remember the metaphoric punch in the stomach. Metaphors can hurt sometimes. The disbelief. It was just three years since he started medication, and check ups seemed to be going well. Yes, medications had been changed, some balances were hard to get right, and David was beginning to be tired all the time. Still, a transplant. It was the extreme remedy that might happen years and years from then. Even from now. But then, the remedy was all the hope that we had between living and dying. We talked a long time, cried, and talked again. We were going to push through and make it. We were going to survive this challenge. We were strong.

And we were. We did. We tried very hard.

It was a year ago.

That is hard to believe.

So short a time. So very long ago. Minutes. Centuries.

I can tell you just where he sat on the couch, where his arms were, where his hands were.

I can be back there. I can be here.

I wrap my arms around the whole year. I hold us for the moment. I am full. So very sad. So proud that we could do what we did and love each other every day of it.

And I am sad today in a new way. It is not the extreme grief of weeks ago, it is not shock. It is a gentle holding of a moment. It is an ache for the loss, for the love, for the beauty of that time. Like dough, soft and yeasty, before it is left to rise.

student

I am studying today. I better write later. Two courses this semester, the LEND curriculum and a graduate social work survey course. Finally, finally, I am calm and centered enough to really get down to it. And slowly, I am learning. I may be the proverbial old dog but I think I am ready for a few new tricks.

14 September 2010

The pulse of the day. Yesterday. Waking up to where I am. My time no longer defined by a 9 to 5. Just like I always wanted. Except I have to lose David to lose the whole 9 to 5. Again, I am a scholar. Of which I have always been envious. Except I study to make life better for my little one and others like her. And I am completely sure that I want a housemate, an adult to bounce off of on a casual basis. Except my house is too small.

But I am learning.

The day is carved to accommodate Julia's school day and soon my course load. We cuddle in bed at night, not reading but watching some of a movie. I am making it up as we go along. When it does not terrify me, I revel in the new day, the creation of my reality.


13 September 2010

morning

Progress is measured in such small quantities but each seems like such a big step.

This the beginning of the third week of school, Julia wakes up with less bother, is very cooperative about getting dressed (I am still doing that with her), eats breakfast, and puts on her jacket for school. She has no problem getting outside to wait for the bus, and actually waved this morning. I see that some of the kids at the stop are not enjoying her talking to and at them but she is not deterred and I am not going to stop her. She will practice until she gets it right.

Last night, we watched a bit of a dinosaur documentary-type show. She did not object to it being turned off -- which was great transitioning even though she was dead tired. And when I kissed her and told her I loved her, she said, "I love you too." Just as natural as any other kid. I have had to kiss her through a lot of "boo ya"s and no's and head turning and pushing me away and ugly words but all that melts away now.

Oh, I am so sentimental right now.

12 September 2010

Sarah and Andy's wedding was the last of three "summer" weddings that we -- all of us, including David -- has planned to attend. Julia and I bought pretty wedding clothes, and although we did not make all three of the weddings, we wore those party clothes three times. Yesterday, as I put on my purple dress for what I think is the last time this year, I was pulled to each time I put it on, where I was, what I was thinking, where grief was.

When I tried on the dress in April or May, I was so ready for a summer of parties. David was getting stronger and we were planning to travel and party well. We were being reborn -- the stress of waiting for that heart and then those first tough weeks were drawing to a close. We were going to have our next 20 or 30 years together. We were making plans. A purple party dress seemed to be perfect.

I don't often dress to please anyone but myself, but I admit to trying to look good for David. And as it happened, it was too late. Tell me how sad that is. And we never made it to our first wedding, Chris and Sophie's wedding.

Wearing that dress to the memorial service, I see now, that grief was like a confusing, heavy, scratchy blanket thrown over my shoulders and head. I was drowning. I was in some sort of prolonged shock.

When I wore the dress for Alice and Jonathan's wedding, grief was beginning to become a part of me. I wore it like that dress, like a slip that covered everything, that was close to the surface. It had a feel, a texture. It was real.

Yesterday, grief was inside. It is part of the very fabric of my spirit. It is woven into every action and thought. It is still moving to my core in some way, but it is closer than ever.

Maybe this is some kind of cheesy metaphor, but it feels real today. right now.

Some sort of wedding photos

I am the worst! I cannot put up a set of photos that actually give some insight into the event. The only good thing is that at least I am taking the photos.
Julia wore her pretty dress once again. I swear that sweater went down to her wrists when I bought it. As we can into the hotel, we saw some of the wedding party heading out for picture taking. Julia saw that many of them, including the bride and groom, had sneakers on. And so there was no way that I was going to get her to put on her white sandals . . . Well, it was after Labor Day anyway.
I do wish I had washed them but she wear them too much to .wash. Maybe tonight . . . . only a day late
Cheshire was a bridesmaid for Sarah and Andy. She wore ridiculously high heels that she swore were very comfortable.
My girls on the dance floor. The wedding band was a funk band. They were good but loud. When Julia and I first went into the dance room which was separate from the dining space, Julia said the music was too loud and she wanted to leave. We got ready to leave and went through the dance space again, and Cheshire and Linde wanted Julia to dance. And she did! We stayed for an extra hour. Julia danced, she was carried around my Cheshire and also by me. She had fun with other wedding guests and finally admitted that she was tired. At that point, she could barely stand on the dance floor. When we got back to our room, she told me she didn't want to take off her dress because she was so tired. She did however, and hit the pillows and was asleep.
Julia, Cheshire, and our bride, now wife, Sarah.
Sarah, Linde and the bride's father, Don.
Julia and Cheshire doing a good night dance. Julia told me this morning as we were packing up that she didn't want Cheshire or Linde to leave.

11 September 2010

9/11/2010

Today, this morning. Waking up slowly, watching part of a way too romantic movie with Julia who loves the strong female lead fighting with sword and knife and being mouthy with everyone. Yes, Ever After. Only tough moment was in the beginning when the Daddy died. Does every movie for kids have dead parents? Getting ready to leave for the wedding later on today. Doing a few email chores. Thinking of the day as well. A day so long ago, and just yesterday when my city was hurt. I see Sept. 11 as simply that. And like so many others, I stared at a tv screen, mouth open. Now, I cannot believe that we have not grown to wanting to heal and not hurt more. When will we learn?

Last night, I realized the power that writing my vision statement gave to me. I still have an imagination! I can still make plans that are fantastical! I can acknowledge that I may never make it to China to open foster homes, although I may get there for other reasons. So much depends on so much. Will I find a voice and a way to do such incredible things? Will Julia be able to stand such a life? More, can she thrive there? And can I bear to be away from a supportive community and loving friends?

But I have dreamed it and put in down on paper. That is something.

Today, is Sarah and Andy's wedding. Julia and I will leave soon for Spring Green about an hour away. This was the third of our summer weddings. So much has changed for me, for us, since we got the invitations. I will dance at the wedding today. I will think of David and I will think of the future.

Oh, I think way too much. Maybe I can do a bit of laughing and crying as well.

09 September 2010

It is interesting, ever so interesting, when I see/hear/perceive that someone is getting along well with Julia. I adore this child and have since I met her, but it took me a long time -- months? A year? -- before I really got along with her.

Two things today: First. When I went into school to pick Julia up early so that we could go to attachment therapy before her at-home therapy, I met on of the aids (SEC) who help Julia in school. I saw this woman with Julia yesterday when I went to the playground dedication. She helped Julia find a place to sit with her class and then retreated to the back of the group. She put Julia in the front row. That was scary for me. Julia has never behaved well enough to sit alone (with other kids) or to be any where but the back of any group. As it turned out, Julia was absolutely fine. She picked her ear -- a new bad habit -- but she was not distracting or noisy.

But I wondered about the SEC who would just leave her, and I couldn't tell from her manner whether she was leaving Julia because she thought Julia could sit alone or leaving her because she, the SEC, just didn't want to be bothered. Okay, my protective mother radar was up really high.

Today, when I met her I could see instantly that she was happy to be working with Julia. She was helping Julia read a Lilly book (Kevin Hanke), and shook my hand sincerely when I came in. Julia clearly likes her and make a point of saying good-bye when we left.

I could let the mommy radar rest.

And then later this afternoon, Julia was working with one of the newer therapists. This young woman seemed very competent but I don't think she had really connected with Julia yet. I heard them being silly together, heard the therapists being at least as silly as my girl. Later, they played Velcro ball outside -- Julia is not fond of playing this game -- and Julia was praised every single time she caught the ball. I could hear a sort of melting together.

Good day for community.

Cheshire came home with a really black eye, but it is healing fast. Not fast enough to be gone by Saturday's wedding, but it will be quite improved by the time she leaves here. It is amazing what our bodies can do -- there is so much i want to learn about healing, more about the mind than the body, but certainly a bit of body work would be welcomed.

08 September 2010

Sarah and Andy are getting married in Spring Green this weekend and Cheshire came home today. She is staying through next Wednesday. An out of work daughter has her advantages. It is so good to have her in the house. We feel like a family -- I have to get over that, but it is how I feel right now. I need more than me and Julia to be a family. She had sent me her travel plans last week but I didn't realize that she was staying for more than the weekend. I was quite happy to have her for a longer time.

It was so much nicer making dinner for three, and doing errands with both girls, and taking an after dinner walk together with the dog. The lake -- I am two blocks from a big lake -- was beautiful tonight. It is cool, the bugs are beginning to die. The sun is going down a bit earlier and a breeze is blowing. Just lovely.

Cheshire came home with an awful black eye. Two days ago, she was hit by a car while she was on her bike. She has ridden her bike all over the city for the past two years, but this incident has scared her. The driver didn't even stop which stunned her. Pedestrians helped her to a nearby fire station and she got help there. Thanks god for her helmet! She hit her eye on her handle bars and then went to the ground hard. She is bruised up some on one side of her body, and she got a nasty cut through her eyebrow. Not a great look for a bridesmaid. Everyone has New York stories like that, although it is different when it happened to me or David or our friends. This is my precious daughter! And i can't even bother to tell her how much safer she would be in Madison because a good friend of mine had a bike accident this summer which had him in a full body brace for a few months. Bikes are wonderful, but . . . . well, I worry about my dear girl.

Julia had another good day at school. I really questioned her teacher today -- she is calling me most days after school -- and Julia's behavior has really improved a great deal. They are still "practicing" how the classroom works, something I never realized that teachers did. Cheshire says, of course! Julia is getting it this year. Getting that she needs to line up, or do things in a certain order, or sit with certain other kids, or go to the rug to hear a story. She still is not eating her lunch (except for the pieces of carrot cake that I put in her lunch the last two days) but that seems to be the only kink in her day. And her reading at home is getting so much better. She is remembering words from one sentence to the next. A big improvement.

07 September 2010

smooth stones and attention

I have way to many online accounts that require passwords. The newest directions about passwords are that they need to have a capital and small letters and another kind of symbol, like numbers, and be longer than 8 of these. The password should not be a word or something that you can remember and you should change it four times a year. Am I the only person having trouble with these directions? I used to have a few levels of passwords -- the lowest security -- for things like websites with printable coloring pages -- was a certain word that I used for lots of sites. And then, I had another two or three passwords that I used for fewer and fewer sites, depending on where I saw the sites in my private security system. But I tried to use just a few passwords so that I could remember them. Now, of course, the letter/number/symbol combination is supposed to be unique for each site, and it is not supposed to be a word. Of course, there are no letter/number/symbol combinations that are words. Who remembers all of this!? Getting a student ID at UW seems to only complicating this (There is also the fact that I am only recognized as a student by some departments and not others who need to recognize me. But that is a whole other, long story.). The list of passwords grows.

Of course, there should be no pattern or system to passwords either. So, I have passwords for two email accounts, the bank, the investment company, credit and payment organizations, pension plans (both mine and David's), Apple, ebay, Facebook, etsy, and now UW, UW distance learning, and My UW, plus a long list of unimportant websites.

I think the UW three passwords have pushed me over the edge. I don't want to have any account of mine broken into, but I just may not be smart enough, young enough, savvy enough, or something, to keep up with all the security. Suddenly, I feel like my grandmother who never understood why she needed to put zip codes on Christmas cards.

Change of subject.

I am probably feeling more like myself than I have since David died. And there is something sad about that too. I can do more, I can almost multi-task, and that feels great. I have eased some burdens and I am being more and more able to make lists and then stop worrying about the tasks and concerns on the list (thank you, Jeannette!). But for this moving forward, it is also moving further and further away from David. If my grief is a very pointy edged stone, the water of time is smoothing the stone. Oh, there are lots of edges yet, but I can see where the process is heading. I can see how grief will become a smooth stone. I feel how I will forget the sharp pain, and I feel how I will have to let go of David more and more and more. There is no way to keep him near. I cannot stop the water, I cannot stop time. Who want to hold on to pain, to grief? I have to let go of the pain to move forward, but letting go of the pain, also lets go of the immediacy of the life that I lived with David. And letting go sucks.

Of course, I do it every day. The process continues even into my sleep.

Another change.

Julia is amazing. Another good report from school today. The therapist who was supposed to come after school, had a change of plans that I did not register completely, but I wound up with an hour to work with Julia. We worked on guessing the number of "eggs" without counting them each time up to five eggs. She is getting better at this. We did a page (just 4 problems) of addition, and another page of sentences to write. She needed to be reminded once to stay on task. She did the rest without complaint and without distraction.

Right now, I can hear her reading with Morgan. It is a book that she knows and we have worked on reading it many times. And she is getting more and more of the words correct. It does seem like she wants to learn.

Good meds, good maturity, good people to work with Julia all the time.

06 September 2010

Work

This has been a good work day. And so a very happy labor day!

Julia and I finally got outside to do some gardening. No, the grass is not mowed and no, the beds still are a mess, but I got beginning work done -- arranging the compost bins to be emptied and to receive more garden waste, I called the young man who mowed for me in July and hope to employ him again, and I did a bit of gross weeding, that is pulling weeds that were threatening to take over the City of Madison. I have a few weeks worth of work to do, but boy, does it feel good to get outside. It was not quite the meditation that it usually is with Julia in and around, but it felt so good. I am ready to assume these tasks again and it feels like it has taken a very long time.

When I was young -- late teens and very early 20's -- I reacted to depression by not combing my hair. My hair can look pretty okay with just superficial care and I let that go to the limit. I no longer neglect my personal appearance quite that much, but I have let me garden go in just the same way. If it were not for professional help twice this summer, i would have a jungle. I love my garden and it has hurt me to see it go so wild, but I could not force myself to take care of it. But gardens are patient and most perennials, at least the ones that I plant, are sturdy. They have waited for me. They have bloomed on time, tried to delight me, and then waited.

And finally, I am back.

I had a great work PTO meeting on Saturday. I am grateful for the help which will allow me to continue as president but provide some extra support because I cannot do all that I expect of the job. Again, I bask in the sunshine of friends. Today, I wrote a welcome message for the newsletter and a bunch of emails to make sure of committee chairs. Again, work that should have been done a few weeks ago, but work that I just could not make myself do.

This grief process probably has some rules, but boy, no one gave me the manual.

I have so many emails that I've collected since July that need answering. So many cards and wishes to say thank you for. So many kindnesses that need my gratitude. That I am not ready for yet. I hope soon, and I hope that those who sent messages and cards, and were so kind are like my sturdy perennials and are willing to wait for me.

05 September 2010

Today is two month since David died. I am all over the place inside. I am grateful for yesterday -- a day of real ups and downs, and the hope that the day would be over soon. I look forward to today -- hopefully finding time to get outside to my overgrown lawn and gardens and starting to really think about a future. Acknowledging during the last few days, the reality that my life, as I knew it, is over -- not altered, but over. Facing -- or just starting to face -- the possibilities of the future. My future. Rather lonely at the moment, but really enjoying the support of friends at unexpected times. Feeling the power of writing my mission statement last week, and amazed that I have the reserves for such imagination. Also, feeling the power of working together with friends. Allowing myself to feel weak and broken, but still available to do work that I love.

This is an amazing time. Oh to write such trite words! But where are the words to describe transformation and possibility. I fixed the toilet! I had advice from afar to get through it! I found out that more than our house faces the same challenges and some suggestions to avoid the challenges in the future. This is silly and little, but a moment that helped me get to the next moment.

I am still scared, but I tell Julia that it is okay to be scared. I have to remind myself of that as well.

04 September 2010

Some things just exhaust me. No good reason but they just do.

Today, Julia flooded the toilet because she used too much paper. She uses too much paper all the time and I am constantly reminding her to use less. She must have used almost a half of a roll today and sure enough there was a flood. She didn't call me until it was over the top -- interestingly, she was trying to "fix" it with the toilet brush. We were supposed to be leaving to go to a friends house for a play date/PTO work session. I got out the plunger and plunged with all my might, I made a flurry of calls to my friend and a plumber to make an emergency call. I also yelled at Julia and "punished" her by having her clean up the play room and living room of her toys.

Waiting for the plumber, I posted on facebook and my cousin from England suggested I try using an unbent hanger. It worked. And I cancelled the plumber. But still got all the toys cleaned up.

And reminded my girl that even though I am angry at her, I still love her forever. She still needs that reminder.

But now I could take a nap.

Is this normal?

03 September 2010

Friday afternoon and all is well. Just finished my first class -- still a bit confused about the online part of the course, and I have a social work distant learning course that I have no information about, but I expect that it will be sorted out by the middle of next week.

I met with my mentor, Barb, this morning and thrashed out some of my computer problems. She was a big help, especially making clear what it was I was supposed to be doing. I have not even registered for the social work course that I am suppose to audit.

I lunched with another of the family discipline trainees (which is what I am as well) and then we went to class. We sat in our assigned groups and once again I was impressed with the people who are part of this program. Although my group is composed of all young grad students and me, these young women bring a deep understanding of their chosen fields and I have so much to learn from them. I definitely think that the grad school model does more for the active learner than the law school model. (I also think that UW is probably a good place to study SW or psychology in some form. )

Of the home work that I completed, I like writing my vision statement the best. We were supposed to write what we wanted to be doing in 5 years. I have been walking around all week, thinking that I could not do it at all, but I did all the pre exercises, some of them during the week, and then just sat down and wrote this morning. It came out as a whole. This was what I wrote:

I am running the first Ready-Set-Go House in a small coastal city in China. Julia and I are living with 6 girls ages 7 to 13 and preparing them to be adopted by Western families. Julia and the girls attend a Chinese school half the day and are either home schooled or attend an English speaking school for the other half of the day. I am also working with children in the near-by orphanage who have neurological impairments or who are developmentally disabled. I am hoping to work out, with the help of visiting experts, exercises, learning plans and therapies that will help these children develop along age appropriate paths. Our RSG House hosts visiting experts from around the world who come for short or long visits to help our children. The RSG House and ongoing therapies are supported by grants and the sponsorship of private funding. I plan to begin spending a few months each year visiting in the US, Canada, and Europe to raise funds for the House, lecture about what I have learned, and consult with those who know much more than I do. In the future, I hope to open two or three more RSG Houses in other Chinese cities. I also hope that I will be able to take some of the girls living in the RGS House with me as I travel.


Two questions right now: Can I really do that? And what can I do to prepare for this kind of an adventure. This is the kind of crazy lady dream that I told people that I wanted to do. It is what David's death almost demands of me -- to live as fully as I possibly can. Dare to leap, dare to plan, dare to risk everything.

Julia is playing Go Fish with one of her therapists. I can hear them ask for cards and say go fish to each other. In the beginning of the summer, Julia could not play this game. Now, she sounds like a regular kid from when I sit and type.

02 September 2010

Julia got off to school and I've had a hard time getting anything started. My goals are simple. Clean the upstairs, shower, and do my LEND work. I did get an email from my Jersey realtor. We have a low offer on the house. If the buyer can get it up a bit, I will go for it. As is. No repairs. Maybe a credit on the electrical box. The remediation still has not occurred but hopefully within a month. All this means that I could be free of OZB estate work by late fall. Now, that would be a huge burden lifted off.

With this I should get my simple things off my list.

Julia and her teachers reported a good day yesterday. She needed help but was relatively compliant. They did a lot of practice of procedure and it was a short day. Julia could get to the rug, line up, and raise her hand. So, she could succeed at procedure. She was very happy the rest of the day.

At attachment therapy, Marilyn asked Julia to draw humans -- something she rarely does and usually refuses to do for Marilyn. She drew three girls in dresses, gave them names and dispositions, and then agreed to give Marilyn the picture.

All this is moving ahead.

I could almost be optimistic about progress. But I am prepared for a bit of slide back when school and the weather is challenging.

For today, Julia woke up, I helped her get dressed, she ate a good breakfast, and got on the bus. She forces everyone to talk to her at the bus stop, and a few of those neighbors (and their kids) have not been friendly towards Julia (I imagine because of her developmental differences). Julia doesn't care. She talks to everyone. I put away my own prejudice about their prejudices and follow my daughter's lead.

Simply, she is my master.

01 September 2010

First Day of School Pictures

A bit thing to make note of in these pictures is that the kids is smiling! Also, not the dinosaur book that made it to the breakfast table and on to the bus.


Yes, she was the last one on the bus, but that is only because mom demanded a extra kiss, and she is young enough to give it willingly.
And there she goes. Off to third grade.
On my, tornado sirens sing.

It is a wet, rainy, dark day for the first day of school. The first rainy first day of school we have had in Wisconsin, and teachers (at Franklin) were commenting that it had not rained in 10 years here on this important day.

Julia did great! And I haven't gotten a phone call yet -- she has another 45 minutes until she gets on the bus to come home. She was not that crazy about waking up, and I did help her get dressed, but she was cooperative and happy. Something that she has never been for a first day of school.

She put on her light jacket and joyfully took up her umbrella. She loves her umbrella! And put on her very heavy backpack and we headed out the door and across the street. Really, if the bus picked her up any closer to our house, I 'd be serving breakfast to a crowd of kids.

Julia mingled with the kids and adults waiting for the bus. She was very friendly, and although it is in her own way, which is not like other kids, she does have a way of spreading her joy. If she is able to keep joy . . . . mommy prays real hard! If she can be happy like she was this morning, she will learn and she will find her way.

Writing as I just did, I can almost feel that it is her fear, which turns into intense anger, that keeps Julia apart from other people. Her joy is a magnet.

After I saw Julia off, I went to our Kindergarten "Kiss & Cry" room at Franklin to greet new and old parents. This is PTO and Amy did ALL of the set up work, including getting the room. We had about 20 or so parents come through and grab cup of coffee and eat some fruit or cookies. And talk. It was wonderful.

I have been thinking that I could not handle PTO this year, and the logistics of it have been a burden weighing heavy on me, but talking to parents this morning was fun and good and right. It might be hard right now to do all that I need to do, but Amy and Dawn have said they will give me a lot of help right now. I do get such energy from people. And people need more of what we can do for and with them.

I came home from Franklin, and took a nap. Yes, it was almost 10. I think. I went up to bed and pulled the covers on and slept. And then did almost nothing this morning.

And it was just what I needed to do.