30 November 2010

I read a few pages of Joan Didion's The year of Magical Thinking, somewhere in the beginning, and I brim over with tears. It is all the same. Completely different but exactly the same. Yes, I count this year from what went on last year. Our waiting for a heart year. Our first year of having therapists in the house all the time and our getting used to it. It is cold today, spitting with rain. All day dark and rather dismal. The rain with a few fewer degrees of warmth would be snow, flecks of ice. And it will be soon. Why is the changing of seasons especially hard for me? David would want to have a fire tonight. Maybe we would eat chili or soup, something warm. The sadness wells up and subsides. Didion went on. I go on.

I was turning an idea over in my mind last night. When we came back -- Julia and I -- from England, I wondered and asked dozens a times a day, "when would I be happy?" Last night, walking the dog, I wondered, why should I be happy? Why should I expect that the world will turn once again, or a hundred times and find some way to tease me into happiness? There is no reason why I should or will. When I was younger I thought that everyone ought to be happy. I was not always so but I expected that one day I would be. Now, I see the gray of late November and feel it deep inside my soul. I am not sorry for myself -- well, a bit, yes, -- but sorry or not, I see no reason to assume happiness. And know, know for sure, that there are a lot of people who walk around without happiness. Could I really become one of those?

I do not believe that I am owed happiness. I know for sure that there is so much that I experience, that I do or have done to me that is not for me. That "not for me" is from the voice that I perceived awhile ago when my old friend decided to stop writing to me. It had nothing to do with me -- I mean, that our correspondence was not intended to ease my pain and hurt. It was not a gift to me to make be feel happy. It was not for me.

Having a partner for a long time made me . . . not selfish exactly, but self assured that there was at least one person in the world who was there for me. For me. And no one else in the same way.

If everything that I am writing is muddled, that is all that I mean. That once there was someone whose life circled mine as my life circled his. I was sure of that. And it gave my life such meaning.
Grown up time. Trolling around Craig's List I could not help but check out their Men looking for Women section. Here I found the best personal add ever! Ever! And it goes like this:


This guy bills himself as a 55 year old in a rural part of Wisconsin. Now can't you just imagine giving him a call for some "sex purposes"?
Last night, before Julia went to sleep, I asked where the cat was because I couldn't feel him on my side of the bed. Julia told me he was near her knees and then told me that she loved her cat and dog. She was so sincere. When we were walking the dog on Sunday, Julia stopped and pet the cats that the corner neighbor allows outside on leaches. She talked to them. This is such a change from the little girl who was afraid of animals and who would have liked to hurt Latkah when she first came home.

Time works miracles.

I see such comfort and happiness in Julia.

29 November 2010

Everything, every move is still feeling new, untested, tentative, and possibly a mistake. It is not confidence that I am missing, it is assurance. I shake off the Monday morning inability to move and try, not try, but do something! This is hard.

Yes, hard. And when, oh, when will it get easier? There are still substantial times when I feel like I am running in place and waiting for some "real" life to begin. Am I waiting for David to come home? Am I waiting for direction? I have sworn that I would not live life as a dress rehearsal and that is EXACTLY what I feel like I am doing.

Those first weeks after David died, everything I did was painful, slow, deliberate. I moved in shock. The shock is gone now, but there is something more than David that is missing.

I am in no way finished realigning. I am still adrift and I can't stand it.

Being with Lisa, and having Cheshire come down on the bus during the week, was lovely. I am pulled to be with them. I would not have to work so hard if I was with Lisa and her family, to be with people. I think I should be here, in Madison, because of the team Julia has, because of her school, because of my program at UW, because I have the feeling that there is work here for me, because I do have a house, friends, and a church here. But I have to work hard here to balance it all. And I am not being social enough these days. Julia and I had the weekend together without much therapy and I didn't try to find someone to have dinner with.

I am moaning about effort.

And my journey.

And just where I am supposed to be going.

And I smile. The pets -- Latkah and DiDi Chi -- are arranged themselves on the couch with me, trying to get as close to me as they can but trying to stay as far from each other as they can. I think these guys missed me.

Okay, waiting for the a-ha moment(s), after which I can mark a trajectory. My patience is thinning to nothing.

Living out loud, following bliss, is just not feeling too blissful these days!

Oh, also, I am fat!

27 November 2010

Our rag-tag Madison family is now under one roof. Julia and I home last night, and the house felt less than full. Latkah picked up this morning, and then DiDi Chi picked up from Amy's house after we did our food shopping.

There was some peace in this day's round. Once more, I am reminded that the chores once divided are still all necessary to do and must be done by me. Why does any family like mine do everything for themselves? Some kind of co-housing, co-family life would be much preferred, and yet, I want to stay in this house.

So, this morning the sun was so strong that it felt warm. WARM! It was gardening -- cleaning really, but cutting down the last rose bush and cleaning up the corner beds. I am stiff tonight from the work, maybe not the work itself but the cold and the work. It is almost time to take out the flannel lined pants -- almost.

After Julia's therapy, we had tomato soup and went food shopping and picked up DiDi and came back home. Then, Julia had time to pick at the fossil kit that Lisa and Nick gave her and draw. I cleaned up the kitchen and cooked -- salad for me for a few days, sweet potato casserole with marshmallows for Julia. She ate like she used to today.

Talking to Lisa and Cheshire. Together. There is something there, some answer, some direction. Questions in these answers. If nothing else, a step. It is a step.

26 November 2010

Coming home. A bit hard after a week away, but Julia is looking forward to collecting our pets and sleeping in my bed. I am looking forward to getting back to work. And talking to my LEND mentor, and making a coffee date with the Dane County trauma expert, and finding a date for the PTO's international dinner. To do's for the week.

Lisa asked how -- how am I going to adopt another child, find and start my blissful work project. Both take so much time and dedication and energy. I agree. But I am putting it all out there. child, job, place to live, China, fostering orphans, foster care, money, and travel. It is not a roll of the dice but I am waiting and watching carefully to see what is coming.

Julia is playing with her leapster beside me. She finally discovered the drawing and coloring program and is spending time creating. She is still coloring her new "Tangled" coloring book. She is going page by page enjoying every image. She "helped" Lisa by sharpening untold amounts of pencils -- regular and colored. Lisa let her use a battery powered sharpener and Julia was in heaven. Too autistic?

Julia has also been eating very well this week. I've been urging her to eat, making sure there is always something that is a favorite, and having strawberry ensure on hand for the extra calories. I am hoping to find out she is a pound heavier when we get home. She seemed to have gained about a half pound last week, and I am hoping for the same. Julia really loved the sweet potato casserole we made for Thanksgiving. It included sugar and marshmallows -- I am going to have to make it. Can I hide protein powder in sweet potatoes?

I spent time with Michael exploring and playing with his Wii. Now, who knows about Wii bargains? And talking to Nick about money and tires. Yes, I need tires. Who knows about tires in Madison? Sometimes I fell like I did not pay attention to so much that David handled.

Being with Lisa and family and Cheshire this week, David feels so close. Like he had just gone out of the house, just walked around some block, just, just . . . We listened to ipod on shuffle during Thanksgiving and off and on at other times. I found myself listening to music choice and wondering if there was a message from David. Oh, how he would not have sanctioned that! For all that I believe in an afterlife and probably reincarnation, I cannot really believe in the least that David would be using his ipod to communicate. LOL.

I put some of his ashes in Lisa's labyrinth. That felt right. But I never expected to do that.

So many things I never expected to do. I say and write that over and over. And Lisa asked if we ever talked about life after one of us was dead. I don't know how anyone can talk about that. Not really. If for no other reason, we all want to hold on to the image of life for as long as we can. Besides, what could we have said.

25 November 2010

Autumn walking in the woods.

I have not seen Julia so happy before this. She is finding a new part of herself where happiness hides.
I just finished a load of dishes, like David would have done. Lisa and Nick do not have a dishwasher. And when we are all together, we make so many dishes! We take turns doing dishes, and usually I don't do many because I am cooking, but I had made the stuffing last night, Lisa stuffed the bird and got it in, and I sat drinking coffee, backseat cooking as the youngers made scones for our breakfast, and pontificating.

Pretty nice.

I miss David, but I am not lonely today. That is nice.

Julia is drawing. Making books. Asking Sarah Grace how to spell words. She, Julia that is, loves it here. She is smiling. She is listening, for the most part, to the directions, instructions, and corrections of those who are her elders. That is everyone here! Is it the bigger family? Does she long for that?

Cheshire got in last night and it is so good. Sooo good.

I am more content than I have been for a long time. I have had some hard moments the last days, no specific reason, but a wash of sorrow, awareness, and then the wave retreats from the shore of mind.

I had an energy appointment yesterday. Again, Ellen is intuitive and in person, stronger. She knew when my mind drifted from the assigned work. She worked to separate my father and brother's energies from my own. She told me that I was born in this life to be different, to do work away from the crowd -- of course, i knew that. She told me the mission of my current life is service and forgiveness. She told me I needed a goal, and to allow myself in limbo only for a short time. She told me other things as well.

Yes, I am thinking of another child. Another child close in age to Julia. But nothing is in stone. And those who think I am nuts, or just very foolish, can weigh in. Lisa and Marianne have. Yes, i know all the arguments not to do it, but I also know that I have mothering that I have not used up. Maybe, taking care of others, finding the service I need will suffice, but I am not ready say no to that ever present tickle for another child.

Today, the day is grey and rainy -- very mellow, not cold. Easy on the eyes and the spirit. Enjoying the sitting, typing, just outside the circle but available for comment. David's ipod is on shuffle.

22 November 2010

Oh, the last entry was left midsentence because I was writing it on the plane and we were landing. And now, I don't really want to go back and finish. So forgive my leavings.

It is Monday, late, now, Tuesday morning. Julia is asleep in Sarah's bedroom which we are using for the week. Julia is having a very nice time in Maryland. She is comfortable -- eating well, drawing with Lisa's markers and colored pencils on big pieces of news print. She went food shopping with Lisa when I had a massage, and generally was content following us around.

I finished this post but it was gobbled up by blogger.

Lisa is out getting a hair cut. Julia is sleeping and I can write a bit. Feeling overwhelmed by my lack of focus on my LEND leadership project. Feeling wonder at having that writin' feeling without knowing what I should do about it. Wondering about those adoption teases in my comments -- hey, I need to know more! But also comfortable, like my kid. Being looked after and cherished by friends. It is so weird that David is not here but good, so good to be loved.

I cooked Chinese last night. I have been cooking at home -- we do not starve by any means -- but Julia is in her reduced variety of food phase of childhood and she wants what she known, preferably rice and bok choi. Which I made as part of last night's dinner. It was good to cook for people to eat! I have to start having friends over to my house again. And cook!

More later. Maybe. Maybe.

Oh, and to those commentors who teased me with hints of China opening up to singles, give me more information, please!!! Or tell me who to contact, which agency is thinking about testing the waters. By sometime next year, I would be in a good place to start the process to find a Chinese sister for my girls.

20 November 2010

Saturday evening on the plane. Yes, yet again, we are having a long travel day. We went from Madison to Detroit without a hitch, but then in Detroit our plane was found faulty a few minutes before boarding. Delta told us that there was another plane of the same size coming in, and we'd all be transferred to that one. But when it was being cleaned, another fault was found and the flight was cancelled. There was one later flight that could take about half of those on our Baltimore bound flight and because I happened to be in front of the counter when the announcement was made -- yes, I had been paying very close attention -- I was able to get two seats. I didn't want to be in a hotel room for the night and take up flying again tomorrow morning. Julia had been pretty good after a bit of a rough start (not listening when I told her to pack toys and then stuffing way too many dinosaurs into her bag) but I didn't want to press my luck with a night in a hotel and then more traveling.

So, we should make it to Baltimore a few hours and a few grey hairs later.

Another David is dead story --

Going through security, my bag was searched and our bag of vitamins and drugs were removed and the doubled bagged baggie of David's ashes were removed. The woman who was holding the ashes asked what was in the bag and I said ashes. She looked again at the bag and asked, what do you mean ashes? My husband's ashes, I answered. And then she dropped the baggie and looked at me with a mighty queer expression.

Kinda funny.

This is the first time that I opened the white box with a heavy plastic bag of David's ashes. There are more than I thought there would be and the ashes are heavier than I thought. I've cleaned up at least that many ashes from the fireplace and I don't think those were as heavy, but I've never picked up a smallish full bag.

So, I spooned some ashes out, doubled bagged, and put it in my backpack. I will put these ashes in Lisa's Labyrinth if Lisa approves. Although I love the labyrinth much more than David did, it is a holy place for me and I would like to think that a bit of David is in the holy place on the land that belongs to Lisa and Nick. A place that we've had so many wonderful, warm, joyous times.

Another thing about the ashes box. A few weeks ago -- and I don't think I've told this story, but I might have -- I noticed that the white box had black letters on 5 of the six sides. At first I wondered whether the box came with this writing. Then, I realized that it was Julia's writing. She has been doing little things like that lately. She goes somewhere in the house, is quiet and busy, and then I discover that she has taken all the books out of a book shelf, lined up all the dolls in our Marouska doll, or written on the box that houses David's ashes. She readily told me about the writing and asked what was in the box. I told her and she worried that we had burned Daddy before he was dead. And that burning was why he was dead. What ensued was a good conversation of what happens after someone dies. What happens with their body. Julia accepted it all but I think she will be asking more questions at some point.

And that is fine.

Last night, as I was walking the dog, the idea that I would never see David again went deeper. Words are hard to explain this, but I felt it sink closer to my core and I felt the bewilderment of knowing the truth. How can it be that I will never see him again? Rationally, I know what goes on, but on another level, sometimes I feel like I am

19 November 2010

Yesterday, in Facebook, I posted: Talking to the guy at the Honda Service Department and feeling a wee bit frustrated when he was not happy about changing my contact info from David's name to mine. Really it was just a wee, wee bit of frustration but I said, "my husband took care of my car and he is dead." The guy is now falling all over himself. I think he will try to shine my sneakers. Weird and funny. Sure, sad, but . . .

Mind is darting from one topic to another. Much too fast to record. Yesterday, I did an assessment of a almost 4 year old. The normal-ness of her development was fun, made me sad, and set my mind whirling. I've been constructing some project since then. China, orphans, two mountains to get over: trauma and attachment, wanting to do something original but truthfully I don't know enough. And obviously, I can't write with punctuation. But there is something -- getting rid of the ego piece of wanting recognition for doing something original. Yes. But playing with an almost 4 year old yesterday was pleasure and no ego at all. I want more of that. It confirmed my feeling, vague up to that point, that I wanted to be in the trenches, working with kids and not on the mucky-muck research side for the long run. I can see the burn out but it is the children not the advancement in knowledge that interests me.

On to Julia . . .

To everyone who ever gave Julia a coloring book, a dot-to-dot book, or a puzzle book. I had no idea if she would ever use them, but we may run out soon!!!! How wonderful is that. I "caught" her counting doing a dot-to-dot. She was having trouble with numbers over 30 and had to go real slow. She did not give up. She asked for help. She erased over and over again, but she persevered. Yesterday, she drew and then signed the paper quickly! She did not labor over each letter as she has done in the past. She is signing Julia Dinosaur, with the "s" turned the wrong way.

Seeing each step, steps that parents usually take for granted. Steps that I regard as a miracle each time. Divine intervention? I know we have done so much work with her, but each step still seems to come from out of the blue -- actually, each step is built from a series of littler steps, more like a ramp than steps. But there is no way to know how far a child who is delayed can go. My heart holds the grief of finding her limit, but I will not let that stop my from singing for her accomplishments.

If only I can bring one more home. I want Julia to have a sister close to her age. That is for sure. I'd like her to come from China but I don't know if that is possible -- there is a no singles rule. This is a wish for another year -- next year, I hope. And then, we shall see where this next one will come from.

16 November 2010

I woke up this morning with a twinge of fear skirting around my gut. What am I going to do with the rest of my life? I have no idea where I am going with the leadership project that I must have thought was going to answer all questions. And my busyness is giving way to a few moments of contemplation. Not good to be contemplating the rest of life before the alarm goes off!

And so, I called the car guy to put the engine guard on the car that I ordered last March. I called the snowblower guy to tune up my little machine tomorrow. I ordered fish oil on line and found a better price. I ordered a book for me and some for Julia that I've been planning to do.

Practical everyday things that will get me through the day, and probably the week. I don't mean to avoid the rest of my life, but I don't think any worth while planning goes on with those twinges of fear.

I finished raking the leaves yesterday in time for the city to pick up my piles and to fill my compost to the brim. There was frost on the leaves yesterday and more today. If I can get out today and tomorrow to finish up the garden, I will be really prepared for winter.

I talked to my architect yesterday and we are planning the renovation. Working with her is very spontaneous and plastic. She brings ideas and plans, but modifies them instantly when we talk. As soon as she sends me a sketch of what we talked about yesterday, I will send it out to my builder and to someone she knows for pricing. I have done this before with the old plans, but I think that these new ideas suit me better. Now, if only the Jersey house would sell in the Spring so that I could use that money to pay for the renovation instead of looking to what I have.

I am so much more concerned about money these days. Probably over concerned at the moment. Is it a widow thing to check the bank accounts too frequently? It feels like it is taking too long before all of the money dealings are settled, but then, it is not 5 months since David died. Patience in financial matters is hard for me to come by. It is the doing alone of it after so many years that is hard. Not hard, really. I am doing okay. Making bills and affording to travel a bit for Thanksgiving and Christmas, but I do not feel secure yet. Secure in my own judgement, secure in what is coming in and how I need to plan, secure in standing alone and strong.

People have said from the days after David's death until even today that I have handled life so well. That I move forward so confidently. That they could never do what I am doing. I have wondered so many times what they were seeing, how else I could have proceeded, and why they did not see my falling apart inside insides. This is one of those days that I am putting one foot in front of the other -- faking it in some way. Making appointments and plans. Moving forward even though I have no idea where I am going.

Leap and the angels will catch you. I have been in free fall for more than 4 months. I am putting my faith in my angels whether they be from my insides or from without. I move forward with faith that I will find answers. I move despite soul numbing fear. I have no idea where I am finding the will and the strength to do this. To me, at least, what I am doing is very brave.

And I smile right now because the bravest person I know is Julia. The most daring person I know is Cheshire. I am taking my cue from the both of them.

14 November 2010

Sunday morning on waking

I wake up late with my child gently snoring beside me. The shades are drawn but it is not the yellow sunlight bringing gently white light into our room. Clouds and rain of November, our preamble to winter's white challenges. I am blank today. Peaceful and a little bored. A good place to start from again as I climb out of the pit of the last few days.

The waves are grief catch me unaware, triggered from unexpected outside stimulus. The smell of late fall, the glimpse of an optimistic picture where I do not anticipate it. Julia decorating the white box that houses David's ashes.

But the pit serves me well. My dreams of a wild life, a life of commitment and action, have slowed to an acquiesce of the middle class, middle aged, single mom who can only do what she has been outfitted to do. Who must sit in her box and work within her means.

The grief of the last days was a cold water plunge on that boring, bored spirit.

I can do anything. And that is what I just might do.

12 November 2010

Bad Dreams

This morning I wrote an entry and then lost it. Where it went, I have no idea. What I did, the same. No idea at all.

Anyway, so here at the end of the day, which is a good bit better than yesterday, although not a banner day by any means --

I wrote this morning almost in answer to a friend's comment for a sweet dream of comfort and love. I did not have a sweet dream last night but a typical nightmare. I have had these dreams throughout my life although they have changed in scope, and even as this dream was scary, I was not so scared as to cry out or wake up shaking as I did at one time.

In this dream, David and Cheshire and I were living in an apartment. Not one we ever lived in but something small and crammed full of stuff. There was a big closet as there was in our NYC apartment but there were a series of rooms closed off from one another. David told me that I had to leave and Cheshire told me that it was my fault. It was awful and I was hurting very badly. I walked around the apartment intending on packing up my belongings but found that there was nothing there that was mine. I was very confused and wondered if David had taken all of my belongings away already.

I woke up sad and with a great feeling of inadequacy, but as I came up from sleep, I remember that when I had these kinds of dreams I used to ask David to hold me and then drift back into sleep in his arms. I did not have him to hold me last night but the memory of all the comfort that I found in his arms for so many years filled me with such joy. I fell back to sleep remembering the comfort and love.

And so, it was a bad dream with memories of such lovely times.

Today, one of my team members and I went to visit the agency that our team will write a grant for as part of our LEND program. The agency was Common Threads and it provides services for school and therapy for kids on the spectrum and with mental health needs. They have a beautifully renovated 100 year old building and it is run by an inspired mom without specific therapy training. A woman after my own heart. It was a good meeting, awkward only for a few minutes at a time. We, one of my team mates and I, came away with more concrete feelings for the agency and what they need. We still have to gather specific data but this project is on course right now.

My leadership project, however, is feeling in the dumps. I think I have to endure a time of confusion. I will start reading again in earnest -- I had stopped to do other LEND work and was waiting to see what would happen with the IA team. It is hard to once again proceed blindly with the faith that something will spring to mind, but it is the option that I have.

Julia, oh yes, my little Julia, seemed to have a lovely day today. A bit ornery when I came home and told me she was not hungry because she wanted to color, but she ate a big bowl of fresh chicken and carrot soup with egg noodles and a bit of Halloween candy before bed. And now she is snoozing.

11 November 2010

Julia and I went to her parent-teacher conference at 8 this morning and it was the first parent-teacher conference that was wonderful! Gosh, it is totally unfair that David was not here to hear it! We met with her teacher, the special ed teach, and the speech therapist and all praised Julia willingness to do her assigned tasks, sometimes her initiative to do those tasks, and her generally good mood and behavior. It sounds like there is actually a chance that she will finish the first grade curriculum (or get close to finished) by the end of the school year. This is a giant leap forward for my dear one. She is finally ready to be in school.

I wonder if I had it to do over what I would do with Julia. Should I have kept her home longer? Probably. I don't know if I could have done it through all of her behaviors, but ideally, I think that would have benefited her. At least for another year. I don't believe that I would have gotten any further than her dedicated teachers at Franklin in Julia's learning, but seeing her ready for school now I realize how unready she had been. She has been so far behind her age peers. And although she is still not caught up in any way (except for art), I can see her road. Finally.

For me, this qualifies as a miracle.

I, on the other hand, continue in a downward spiral. I have no resilience. No bounce in my ball. I missed a clinic meeting this morning because I did not have the correct address, I got my rejection from the IA lab that I hoped to work for, the didn't do dishes last night -- it doesn't matter. I find my self reeling out of control. I expended a lot of energy at the beginning of the week for PTO and I am still exhausted -- but not amount of sleep helps. I am depleted. I know this is just a phase, another wave of grief, but man, is it a bear and could not be more inconvenient.

I will get through this. I will make another date for clinic and I will figure out a project for myself, and I hope that one day, I will regain a bit of the resilience that I have carried most of my life.

10 November 2010

Julia met a new speech therapist today. The rehab center that we go to has with without a speech therapist for most of the fall.

Linda, the new therapist, gave Julia a battery of tests today. I don't think that Julia has ever been given tests like this that are for her age. Usually testers have gone down a few years in the hope that they could get her to do an easier test, any test. Today, Julia was able to do a nine year old test! Yahoo! She answered questions when they were asked and she tried to follow directions. I am sure she scored only about 30-40% correctly, if that, but she did not refuse to test, nor did she ignore the directions or questions.

Success is measured is so many different ways. I saw success today!
To some extent, I believe that I can choose how I feel. I can choose optimistic and satisfied. I can count my blessings. I can smile. I can be excited and at times I can be happy. It is a decision. Always? I am not sure. I know that in the midst of chaos, confusion, sadness, being way too tired, it is a hard decision to make and stick to. Sometimes I chose it all day, for days at a time and then fall in on myself and want to sit still in misery. Sometimes that sadness is too thick to fight through to get to any positive feeling. And it doesn't matter what I am doing or who bright the sun shines.

If I could have stayed in bed all day today, I would have. I am very low. No particular reason, just low. Anxious. I bought tickets for NYC for Christmas and wonder if that is the right place to be. It was a hard buy today because today I would have preferred to cover my head and stay in the dark.

I know this passes -- the the cop at my door who was following up on a complaint that the dog was barking, almost put me over the edge. He told me that there had been complaints 7 times since October. Perhaps some "Dear" neighbor might stop over and ask if I was okay instead of calling the cops. The cop was nice, the neighbor, if I knew who it was, I could imagine torching the house today.

Yeah, this is not a good mood.

08 November 2010

A morning decision whether to go out into the warm and sunny outside and rake or take some time to write. So write now. Right now.

But first, I had about a half hour of email and organizing for the rest of the day. And there is a wasp in the house that is buzzing around driving me nuts, and will certainly drive Julia nuts. Nuts!


This morning was our PTO board meeting to review grant proposals submitted by faculty, principals, staff, students and parents. This is my fourth year at this meeting and it is one of the hardest meetings of the year. We have to say no to some very good ideas -- because they are not flushed out fully, because they overlap with other school programs, because we don't have unlimited funds. Every year, our PTO is paying for, and asked to pay for, more items that used to be funded by the school district and have been cut. A good example is our school grounds. There use to be money for cutting grass, trimming trees and taking care of the foundation planting. There use to be money for planting. In the past 10 years, all of that funding has been cut. So custodians mow the grass and PTO committees take some care of the grounds. But never enough. And one of our school is just not looking very good. We needs a landscape and playground face lift. This is not asking for new equipment but a few shrubs, pulling weeds, some plants in the flower boxes, and grass, grass, grass.

The idea of a proposed grant to do a little bit of that is a good one, but can we afford that and the books that were asked for, and the OT equipment that was requested, and another five or six big ticket items asked for what the students need for learning. Then I think that school need to be beautiful places as well as good educational places. The balance is almost impossible.

And we look for creative ways to fund as much, or get done as much as we can. Still, it is hard to know that not everything can be funded.

What I started off to write was more about the executive board than our grant applications. This is such a good group of people to work with. When I applied for the LEND program, I had to answer a question about leadership and I wrote that leadership was service. I am by no means a great leaders -- I am adequate and I am very happy I can be that. Working with these people is service to our schools and our kids, but it is also pleasure. I love the unique and experienced voices that we have on our board. I learn something every time we meet. Sometimes PTO is a burden or a stress but at the end of the school year, I am surely going to miss the opportunity of serving this community in the manner I have been able to do this and last year.

Julia is looking at chapter books! She can't read them and really she is not ready to even listen to them. She is attracted by wonderful pictures on covers of incredibly age appropriate books. So interesting. So amazing. Last Friday, I bought two very easy chapter books that have pictures in and among the writing. I think we need these as a transition from picture books to chapter books. We started reading on of the books last weekend and Julia enjoyed it -- more words, less pictures. I wonder if she is picking up chapter books at school. I know they are in her classroom.

I am a bit panicked about Julia losing weight. I don't see her gaining the weight back from what she eats these days. And except for occasional chocolate, she is not interested in anything fattening. Would we could trade appetites we would both be better off. I have explained to her that she needs more calories because she lost weight. If this had been Cheshire, I would have explained first and expected her to respond by eating or trying food that I was serving. Maybe I am under estimating Julia. We are now talking about food!

Evening. Tonight I notice that it is really dark at 5.

I am driving Julia after school today to clinic, then OT, then back to clinic. I decided to stay at clinic the second time through and just read my LEND material for the week. Cultural Competence. I am finding it depressing. How many years has it been since I was training college students in diversity? Are we ever going to learn this as a society? It doesn't help that I heard a story today about a 4th grader with allergies being subjected to bullying. "Gonna' force that into your mouth." Can you believe that?!

When I think about what I/we've had to teach Julia, I attribute the intensity of necessary training to autism or her early neglectful life in China. But what is our society's excuse or reason? We have this country that appears to have been founded on cultural diversity from the get go. Granted it was northern European cultural difference in the beginning, but once we had worked out that English, Irish, French, German, etc. could life and work together, why couldn't we apply it in a global way. Why do we need diversity training and cultural competence? Kids of different skin tones, kids with different religious beliefs, kids who are differently abled, kids who eat different foods -- it is all the same.


When I was about Julia's age, I was learning how to do household chores. I was not an engaged student and my mother was not an eager teacher. She just wanted me to do the work her way, I wanted to do it as fast as I could and go play or read. I think we were still on Wilson Place when she taught me to wipe the table. She used a wet wash clothe and started at one end of the table. She wiped all the crumbs and rubbed at the sticky bits, pushing everything down to the other end of the table. After showing me, she wanted me to do it. I copied her method for awhile but then I found a better way for myself. When my mother saw I was wiping the table a different way, she scolded me and declared that her way was the right way. And even then, I knew she was wrong. And in a way, that disagreement was at the center of all of our disagreements, it was why we never really came together. Ever.

Do we all just want it our way? Are we a society that wants it our way? I've had a similar discussion about school prayer -- I don't mind school prayer, as long as it is MY religious experience that my child is getting. That seems to be everybody's position.

05 November 2010

Four months.

In general, I am feeling more myself. Also, have more energy. Still, gulps of time when I have no ambition for any part of life. Those are hard. Especially with Julia. Feeling that I am not doing my best for Julia.

Uncertain with the extent of my uncertainties. Adventuring can make me itch behind the knees. Slight paranoia the I can keep us afloat -- no reason but fright.

Hard to not have a partner. Hard to imagine another partner.

And gosh, who signed me up for single parenting?

I think I need someone to clean my house.

I miss David. Missing sharing excitement. Missing every little thing. Especially the very little things.
Just finished an interview with the person in charge of the IA Clinic at Waisman. 17 minutes and I did most of the talking. I didn't try to be anyone other than I was, didn't try to sound like I knew what I was doing, didn't try to impress, didn't try to make it look like I has a destination in mind. He asked me to explain myself, why LEND, why the IA clinic for my project. I answered. I have no idea whether I have wormed my way into working for him. He is an extremely pleasant and courteous man. He may have thought I was nuts.

I was excited to talk to this man, because I think I could learn a lot from him. But I don't really know what I can offer him. Enthusiasm and a bit of writing ability? Is that enough?

Truthfully, I would love to find a place here at the Waisman Center for awhile. Like Madison, the Waisman Center feels like home. But what do I have to offer? What can I do for them.

If I could answer that question, I I had some real direction, it might help. But I don't. I really don't know where I am going. Yes, it is an adventure and it is following this bliss of mine. And I have to be content with it just as it is.

Secure in the questions. Secure in change. Secure in insecurity. Secure without decisions.

I don't know whether I can be that holy, because I think that holiness comes in here somewhere.
Short report on the household:

I had a crazy day yesterday -- very high after a good lecture about trauma and autism. I have found another person to offer guidance with my project. This is someone who really gets what I am concerned about -- she is interested in kids in the social services system and have ASD diagnoses; I am interested in institutionalized kids. The profiles are very similar and we could help each other.

And then later, totally overwhelmed and exhausted in spirit. This is a tough journey and I feel like I am not as present as I'd like to be for Julia. This is a tough balance and right now I am not confident in my use of time as I'd like to be. And Julia has lost 4 pounds since August. And she is picking at the skin behind her ear -- I think a new stimming. The doc who oversees our drug doc told me that Julia was capable of controlling herself, and I only needed to find the right reward system and she will stop any behavior. He said it with such authority that I wanted to hit him. He definitely has not raised a kid with significant challenges. Bedside manner of a eel.

Julia is still enjoying school. I can write that everyday and it is still new and wonderful to read! I still help her dress in the mornings but recently, it has really become fun for both of us. Tickling and joking, with her very cooperative. Like dressing a happy 4 year old with lots of words. It is a very nice time for both of us.

Di Di Chi is learning to pounce and to climb. He also loves to knock things off tables.

Latkah is mellowing out about her little brother.

03 November 2010

I watched Temple Grandin tonight. It has been on my night table for almost a week. I put it on top of my Netflix list, David had put it on our list in June sometime. I moved it up to No. 1, and then, it sat on my table.

God, I was moved. I laughed and cried. It was a work well done. I want everyone to see it because what I saw was not just about autism, but about difference. Wonderful, wonderful difference. I was so reminded of Julia. Julia is not at all like Temple, but her differences are just as different as Temples. It was about how hard it is inside and out when a person is different.

And it left me inspired. I don't need to be inspired these days. I have my course work for that, but I have left off pushing myself and Julia just a little bit further, left off because I get tired, because I am alone, because I have to do everything and let myself off the hook for going beyond everything. But that is where I must go, must be. For nothing else but my girl.

Because she too has a unique vision, a unique way of viewing the world, gifts that useful but that demand mentors and understanding to see them developed. I cannot do it all but I can get her ready to find it all.

Okay, off the soap box.

Good movie. I've read most of what Temple has written so this was a renewed inspiration.

And I got my hair cut today. Julia noticed, but I had to prompt her to tell me she liked it. I like it.

01 November 2010

Halloween Story time.

Julia wanted to be a dinosaur for Halloween. It is not a surprising choice but last year it was her choice to be a bat and not a dinosaur. So she wanted to be a green dinosaur, and last weekend, she and I went out shopping for a sleeper and material to make a tail and scales and a hat. She helped me pick everything out and was very patient when there was an awfully long wait to get material cut.

That same night, a friend told me that she had a great costume that was a bit smaller than I really needed but that she thought that Julia could use. When I saw the costume -- a blue dinosaur -- the next day, I knew that it was really better than anything that I would make -- it even had a roar button in one paw. Paw? I'm not sure if you call a dinosaur's upper extremity a paw. Or claw?

Julia took one look at the blue dinosaur costume and did not want to even try it on because it was blue. I tried to insist telling her that I could not make something this neat and she told me that she wanted to wear "her" dinosaur costume. Suddenly the conversation changed direction. Now, we were talking about some existing costume and I was lost. She took me up to her room, rummaged through her make-believe box and pulled out a dinosaur costume that another friend had sent be a long time ago -- it was either a size 3 or 4, very tiny, and also very thin. Julia could get into it but it was too tight to put much under it and the legs came up to just under her knees. She pulled on a skirt and explained that she was a dinosaur girl. She wanted a bow on the little hood and agreed to put leggings and a shirt under the costume. But it was going to be a squeeze. I wondered about her being cold, she told me she would be fine.

Forward to Sunday evening and Julia getting dressed. We put on the long sleeved shirt and leggings and I opened the green costume for her to get into it. She looked at me like I was nuts. "Mommy, I have to wear the blue dinosaur so that I will be warm." Yes, mommy was crazy trying to put her darling into a costume that was going to be way too cold for her. She loved the blue dinosaur costume.

We put a bow on her head and a few on the tail, and she was a dinosaur girl.

And she had a great time collecting candy, telling grownups to take off masks, and educating everyone about dinosaurs. She is a wonder!
My goodness, I can't get these in any order. The picture below is after candy gathering. Time for a pickle!

And just look at that tail. it is what the best dressed dinos are wearing this fall.

Julia made the bats with one of her therapists. I have to get a closer picture because their decoration is really neat.

I should be writing about Halloween and the costume story, which is full of twists and turns, but I have to first note once again and again, how much I am loving my connection with the Waisman Center. There is a lecture on Thursday morning in Milwaukee which is on Trauma and Autism (!!!) that my substitute mentor emailed me about on Saturday -- she bumped into someone at an airport on her way to a conference. They got to talking, she emailed me. I emailed my contact, who gave me the email of the conference chair, I wrote to the chair, asking if I could go to the single lecture (only because I can't spare the time, not because there was not lots of good stuff to go to), and the chair replied yes! I am so excited!

The conference and the lecture are aimed at inner city kids, but the kind of trauma talked about is the kind that I am most interested in -- long term neglect and abuse. I have not connected with anyone who knows both these topics. I so hope the lecturer provides references to delve into, and I also hope she is approachable.