Monthly Archives: November 2018

Mulling Over the Good Gifts

In a spirit of Thanksgiving, I’m pondering things for which I’m profoundly grateful. It’s appropriate for this month, but really for anytime, always.

Being Well

After having been sick for several weeks, I’m thankful for health, and modern medicine, and hot showers. Emerging from illness is like breaking free from an eggshell and giving thanks that life can be big again–not defined by the confines of one’s shell. For those who face chronic illness, my heart aches for you. You do things that most people can’t understand, and you do them bravely.

Stories

I’m deeply thankful for books, and for the time I have to read them. There have been periods in my life when I couldn’t read. I just mentally couldn’t be still enough to focus. Sometimes I felt the weight of my own problems so much, I couldn’t read about someone else’s problems. This distance from the release and rejuvenation I find in reading was painful. I’m so glad that people write stories, that the world is a creative place, that books nourish my mind in ways the internet simply can’t. I have wondered if there are books in heaven, or if everything is simply instantly accessible by our big, brilliant minds. I don’t know, but I’m banking on oodles and oddles of stories. I also love movies, which are visual representations of something that someone wrote. Three cheers for films. And libraries.

Live Music, Dancing, Theater

I attended the ballet last weekend with my mom and Charlie (he’s my one ballet-loving child), and felt that familiar exultant tingle through my body when the conductor led the live orchestra in playing live, glorious music to accompany the live, exquisite ballet dancers. It is just so incredibly beautiful, all of it. And magical, all these moving parts and people creating something so lovely in real time before our eyes. I will never not be astonished by the power of the arts.

Jack’s Caregivers

I got to Facetime my giant lanky ginger teen yesterday. Every time I see him, I’m filled with a swelling of gratitude for the darling and wonderful young men who take care of our Jacky. They are so good. They see Jack for who he is. Jack loves them. They make all our lives possible. It’s pretty ding dong fantastic the way Jack is influencing everyone in his sphere, while they are doing the nurturing, charitable work of helping Jack to fulfill his life’s mission. I feel God arranged this intentionally. We are a web of caregivers, all of us, helping and being helped by the people life brings to us.

My Students

Every semester they change, and every semester I love them just the same. It’s such a privilege to meet so many people and learn from them, even while teaching them. God gives me a little glimpse of my students’ potential when they are in my classes, and I just basically absolutely freaking love them. I love them for who they are now and for who they have the capacity to become. It’s a gift to me that our paths have crossed.

The Promise of Eternal Life

When my dad died, when Jack’s diagnoses leveled our lives, when two of my other boys were diagnosed, when every hard thing happened in the interim, my baseline thought was, “I’m so thankful for Jesus Christ, for making life about more than the pangs of mortality.” There’s healing and strength in Him. When everything else is bombed from our lives, He remains, and he nurtures us with both power and pure love.

Tiny Thankful Letters

Dear November,

You’re a beautiful woman of a certain age. There’s loveliness in maturity, and you’ve got it.

 

Dear Murder Mysteries,

Why did it take me my whole life to find and appreciate you? Let’s get married.

 

Dear My Students,

I love you all so bleeping much. You’re adorable and amazing. Stop emailing me late papers.

 

Dear My Children,

Just when I think I know about parenting, you get creative with the attitudes and behaviors. Remember how you thought I didn’t ride roller coasters in Disneyland? Well, parenting you guys is a giant roller coaster so joke’s on you.

 

Dear Holiday Music,

I really love you, but you’re making all the feelings of my childhood Christmases well up in a hot pressing ball in my chest, and I can’t even. Maybe in small doses. But if you whip out I’ll Be Home for Christmas or Silent Night, there is going to be a situation. Those are my dad’s songs. Back away slowly.

 

Dear Daylight Saving Time,

Ugh. Everything that everyone says about you is true, which is not a compliment.

 

Dear Jack,

Seeing you for 20 minutes last week was really good. Some day in the next life we will have long conversations and all the distance between us will shrink to a hands-breadth. When that day comes, I WILL BE THERE FOR IT.

 

Dear Charlie and My Mom,

Thanks for being my ballet dates this season. I love that you love what I love.

 

Dear People Who Loathe the Christmas Creep,

I’m putting up my tree within the week. Avert your eyes. It will be okay.

 

Dear Sweater Weather,

I like you. You can stay.

 

 

Empathy and Equilibrium

My littlest boy is seven years old today and I’m like, “what.”

I can truthfully say that Truman’s birth was the actual beginning of the most trying and refining period of my life. I honestly don’t even know if anything I have yet to experience will come close to the deeply difficult, yet transforming experience that was the half dozen years when I had all my young children under one roof.

It was so hard.

Once in college, I had an education professor who was then in the season of her life where I am now. She was teaching college classes and raising two young boys. In class one day, she said something to the effect of, “You think you are busy now. And you are. You are in school and that makes life busy. But you will one day become infinitely busier. It will make this time in your lives seem like a cake walk.” I’m pretty sure I curled my lip in disgust when I heard this, because gosh dang it, I WAS BUSY. Who did she think she was?

But she was right.

Life ratcheted up the intensity steadily through the years until that moment early in the morning one November 3rd when Truman came into the world prematurely. The increasing pressure did not let up. Not ever.

Not until sometime in the last six months–as I came to terms with my dad’s eternal progress on the other side of the veil & Jack’s living situation changing in miraculous ways–and I reached homeostasis.

It may be fleeting, but I am holding this sense of equilibrium gently and carefully within myself.

In the last week, I’ve talked to two friends who are facing a new diagnosis and a premature/scary baby delivery, respectively. They both reached out to me and I felt this huge sense of gratitude that I had been through it before. I simply knew what it felt like. I could offer them my experience as a bridge to a future day when things will be less terrifying, and even peaceful.

I hope that doesn’t sound smug. I don’t feel smug; I feel empathetic. And grateful that the Savior led me through the supreme mess of my parenting life into a place which often feels balanced.

I know it’s not fashionable to talk about Jesus being the reason for finding happiness in the weird complexities of life, but that’s the reality I have lived. I don’t believe he’s there for me. The last seven years have shown me that he IS unequivocally there for me.

My friend Marla and I were recently texting about some things, and about the counter-intuitive feeling of peace she has in the middle of so much uncertainty. She said, “I don’t think it is positive thinking. I think it is my testimony of God and His ability to take care of me.”

It was like she had struck a gong somewhere in my midsection. I thrummed with the resonance of her words.

Life can be impossibly hard. It will be impossibly hard. My Heavenly Parents get it. They weep with me.

The good news of my life has been that Jesus gets it because he’s lived it.

My miracle is that his whole purpose is to see me in my trials and see me through them.

I Don’t Like Halloween

I’ve written before about how Halloween is a sad day for me. It just is. I suppose I have PTSD from all the years when my children on the spectrum struggled mightily to both embrace and tolerate the excitement and sensory overload of this particular holiday.

I don’t like the way it makes my kids into overwrought child-shaped tornadoes. Too much candy. Too much freaking out over costumes. Too much noise and expectation and frenzy. Autism plus Halloween equals the worst, don’t ask me.

Well, this Halloween has been no exception to this stupid personal tradition.

Truman opted out of the party/parade/chaos of the elementary school. Charlie soaked it up, meanwhile, in his truly hideous creepy clown costume, but also flipped out over just about everything. Henry and pals dressed as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. He was the one with the orange mask. I forget which one that is.

And I finished prepping my Thursday lesson and cleaned the kitchen. Raise your hand if you cry while doing the dishes.

I feel old.

I feel wrinkly.

I feel out of shape and my shoulder hurts since I’ve been sick and haven’t exercised in quite some time.

I feel incapable of fully managing Truman’s neuroses and sensory integration issues.

I feel tired of the sensory explosion that is Halloween.

I feel sad remembering my dad dying at this time last year.

I feel like I want to be a hermit and never leave my house.

I feel like taking a nap. Or reading. But definitely escaping my own thoughts.

***POST UPDATE***

I’m writing this addendum after Halloween.

When evening rolled around, I put on my happy face and handed out candy with a smile. The boys went trick-or-treating with their friends and loved it.

I put Jeff on door duty at 8 pm and I cleaned up all the Halloween decorations. After boxing up the vestiges of the holiday which wears me out like nothing else can, I got in the shower and let the day die.

November 1 dawned cloudy and drizzly. I listened to Christmas music on my way to campus because it’s my car and I do what I want.

It was a new day, and it felt like a clean start.