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Monday, June 19, 2017

Wonder Woman

We are lying in bed on Tuesday morning.
Me -"What would you like to do for your birthday?"
Hubby -"I want to see "Wonder Woman,"
Me -"You're looking at her. Lucky you, you're married to her."

A quick, witty response is my automatic mode of communication. I get it from my daddy, Ward Hollywood  Wesley. In our house, it is referred to as Wesley humor and it is not meant as a compliment. Personally, I think it's so much better than biting someone's head off, although, I am known to do that too on occasion. Luckily for my family, I chose humor more often than I choose violence and yet, they still don't appreciate it.

I referred to myself as Wonder Woman in jest. It just kind of danced out of my mouth as the perfect response.

I've had friends and people who read this blog who actually see me as this superhero kind of mom.

"You are such an awesome mom. I admire your strength," they say.
I'm all like, Who are they talking about? 

I feel like a fake and a fraud --so weak and beaten down --like I'm barely holding on. Most days I'm inches from running away and changing my name because I just can't do this anymore.  And yet somehow, I'm still here trying to survive each day.

We were supposed to see "Wonder Woman" over the weekend. We didn't make it because Saturday morning I got one of those phone calls.  You know one of those heart-stopping, double palpitation -calls, where the world is turned upside down in a moment's time.

Even when things seem to be moving along --progress being made every single day.  You can still get one of those calls. As a mother of African-American sons who have autism and mood dysregulation, which clouds their thinking and judgment at times, I am always just a little on edge, waiting for that shoe to drop.

My boys live in a mostly white, somewhat alien world filled with all kinds of landmines that can easily make their path more dangerous. I never know when everything could suddenly go wrong. Have you seen the news lately? Are you aware of how high racial tensions are in the United States of America right now? And we live in Texas...very white, primarily Republican, Texas.

Things go wrong every day. So many small things that happen become heightened by their anxiety. They worry constantly. They worry me constantly. Stress on high is the norm around here. Their anxiety is my anxiety.

After this particular call, I jump into action, sewing open wounds, putting on anesthetic and Band-Aids to stop the bleeding.  I jump to help minimize and problem solve however temporarily, until the next time they fall...backward, onto a bed of nails.

The boys are adults now.  Means nothing --besides parenting harder because they think they know everything, but they are so clueless when it comes to many things. There are still so many intricacies, nuances, and things about this adult world that they have yet to learn.

Yet, the world sees them as adults who must play by the same rules that everyone else does, even though their autism is an obstacle that makes the road more difficult to navigate.

We are parents who live by example.  We consider ourselves to be upstanding citizens of our community. We've been married twenty-three years. We are hanging in there ...together...by a string.  Dad is working incredibly hard to provide. I put every ounce of my energy into advocating for them and making sure their needs are met, giving up all kinds of pieces of myself in the process. We give them every ounce of support and opportunity that we can muster to give and still ...they fall.

And when they fall ...it still knocks the wind out of me. Yet, there is no time for attending to my own wounds or catching my breath.  I immediately move into action --problem-solving, advocating, teaching the additional lesson we've been dealt for the moment.

After the marathon of action to stop the bleeding, there was no energy for going to see a movie. Instead, I tried to catch my own breath from the gut punch that had been thrown. Dad can compartmentalize this stuff much better than I can. I sit in a stupor for a few days wondering what the hell just happened and what the hell is going to happen next? Will I ever be able to just fucking exhale and live like a normal human being?

But on this Tuesday, it is my husband's birthday. I have to pull it together. I have to put away the mom-to-the- rescue-advocate face and put on the loving wife face. The husband has been neglected over the past months of exacerbated stress with the one who just about killed me getting through his senior year.  If I don't water the garden,  our marriage, the relationship dies. It has been on life support for weeks now.

So, I go with him to see "Wonder Woman" for his birthday. I am not feeling witty or the least bit excited by the action of the film. I can't focus. Everything that happens in the movie somehow reminds me of the fight that I've been fighting for so many years. I am exhausted.

My mind drifts. In one scene, Wonder Woman takes a lick from an ice-cream cone for the first time and I think of my boy --the first time I watched the joy on his face as he licked an ice cream cone. I miss those days of innocence. I ache for them.

I wonder if I will ever be able to truly relax again in this lifetime?

How many more lessons of life do we have to support these boys through? Right now, the list feels infinite.

I made it through the movie and dinner.  Afterwards we walk the promenade of a popular dining and shopping area. The summer wind is blowing in the breeze from the south.

In this moment, I am grateful that I have this man by my side.  Thanks to him and champagne cocktails, I exhale.




Thursday, May 25, 2017

Hotel Room, Alone


Hotel Room Alone
Really I don’t need to say anymore. 
That's it.
End of blog.

Every mother I know thinks about this on a regular basis. 
We dream of the tranquility it would bring.
What would it be like to have total peace and quiet for 24 hours? 
How awesome would it be to be able to go to the bathroom with no one yelling through,  sniffing underneath or banging on the door? 
Wouldn’t it be phenomenal not to have anyone asking you to do anything for just one day? 

"Mom where is my …blah blah blah?"  
"Mom! Can you help me yadda, yadda, yadda? "
Mom who? 
My name is not mom.
I can’t remember exactly what my name is, but it’s definitely not Mom for the next 24 hours.

Wouldn’t it be incredible to sleep in complete quiet, not listening to anyone else snore, with no preordained wake-up time?
When you decide to get up, you could go down to the lobby, braless (maybe that's just me) and people watch. Maybe you could find a quiet, sunny spot on the patio, the terrace or by the pool and have coffee …alone.

Conversation? Who needs it? I’ve had plenty of coffee conversations in my life. I've had more conversations than I ever wanted to have. Talking is overrated --played out. 

Sure, you could just have a pot of coffee delivered to your room…you know, where it’s quiet. 
I know they usually have a coffeemaker in the room, but who wants to pour the water and make the coffee? I do that every day. I want to do NOTHING that requires labor. Besides, I want fresh cream. Yes. I'm spoiled. 

Just think...  
What would it be like to only think about myself and what I want? 
What would it be like to NOT be in a hurry? 
What would it be like not to worry about a got-damned thing for a day?

Hey! I’m not disappointing anyone! This is cool. It feels great! 
No one is looking for me. Weird...but good. 
It’s like I’ve disappeared off the face of the earth. How awesome is that? 
Don't you want to just disappear sometimes?  

What would it be like to have my own agenda? 
My.Agenda.Only.  
Or no agenda at all, if I that's what I choose. 

Every since I had kids and moved to hot-ass freaking Texas, I’ve had this fantasy of going back to California (No -I can’t tell you why I ever left) and renting a beach house or an apartment, okay, maybe just a hotel room with an ocean view and a patio or a porch where I could just sit just and listen to the sound of the waves...alone.
Did I say, alone? You did get that part, right? 

It doesn't have to be California. The beaches are mostly cold there. Beautiful, but cold. It could be Florida. I owe some friends in Miami a visit (Elena and Caryn).
Better yet, while I'm dreaming, it could be South France.  But then it would have to be more than a day. It would absolutely have to be for at least a month.
Alone, for a month?
Could I do it?
Hell yeah! I could totally do it.
It's amazing how motherhood changes you. 

So a few weeks ago, I went home to Los Angeles for my brother’s memorial service.  (He passed last November.  That's a whole other story, which I won't get into now.) I was tired. I had no energy for running all over town like I usually do when I'm in the city where I grew up. I wanted to spend time and support my siblings during this difficult time. I just wished I could have done it without actually having to talk to anyone for any extended period of time. Yes. I was that kind of tired. 

I wanted to see my friends, but I also desperately needed some rest --a short sabbatical from life, worries, caregiving, and taking care of everyone except for me. I needed a break from All of the Thoughts. I felt emotionally drained from literally taking on all of the feelings and emotions of those in my care. My empathy meter is way out of whack.  It has been for a long time. 

When I go home, I am usually in constant motion. I end up spending a lot of time driving from my one brother’s house in Los Alamitos to my siblings in Los Angeles. I usually go to see my friends in the San Fernando Valley, the hood where I spent my young adult days living and hanging out.  I travel up and down the 405 Freeway (which is code for you will spend at least 4 or 5 hours every time I go to L.A.)

This time, after two nights at my brother's lovely home in Los Alamitos, I talked my husband into reserving a room for me at the airport Hilton, a party of one, for not one but two nights. I wanted to be in the middle to reduce my driving. It was a self-care boundary that I set for myself. My therapist is slowly teaching me how to do this after years of NOT having boundaries. 

You see, my husband travels often for work. I consider his business travel to be a luxury.  (He would disagree, but who cares?)

He gets to leave home once or twice a month and check into a quiet hotel room, alone.  There is a door that shuts and locks with a “do not disturb” sign if he chooses to use it.  Late at night, children do not interrupt him with questions. He doesn’t have to stop listening to his music to break up a fight or to prevent a meltdown.  There are no phone calls from school telling him, “Hey! Your kid is losing it. Can you come pick him up?” There are no therapy appointments to attend.

Sure he’s "working," but he is also having fancy dinners that the company pays for. He is having said dinners with adults, who are not picking at or complaining about their food or the choice of restaurant.

On some trips, his company even rewards their sales people with private concerts with the likes of Bruno Mars, Bon Jovi, and well... (I won't go on. It's not like I'm envious or anything.)

He is "working" while I’m at home taking care of the details of our life —holding it down, keeping the peace, keeping our children and hope, alive.    

Over the course of our 23-year marriage, my husband has seen the world thanks to business travel. He has been all over Europe, including Spain, Germany, Hungary, and France. He has been to Australia, China and countless cities within the United States.  (Again, absolutely.No.Envy.Here.Nada!)  

Now, I admit that I have periodically benefited from his business travel. With the points that he earns, we have been able to take some vacations.  We've had upgraded seats. His travel points paid for our stay in Rome several years ago.

At least once every couple of months, we do a staycation right here in town to get away from the kids and take a break from taking care of my mom.  Taking time away as a couple has been the saving grace for our marriage. It helps us remember that we do actually like one another. Sometimes, there’s even a serious love affair between us. Sometimes.

Couple time is great, but sometimes a girl just needs to be alone. Quiet —still, as in not thinking about other people’s stuff.

In the quiet hotel room, I had the time to think about MY life —my wants and needs. Time alone is essential to my sanity.  It's not selfish. It's self-care. I do not apologize for needing it and neither should you.

The stay in the hotel was the highlight of my trip. It was nothing fancy, just small, quiet and just for me. For two days I had no deadlines. There was no one looking for me and questioning my whereabouts. There was no place I HAD to be, only places I wanted to be.  There was no one I had to please —no one to compromise with. It was heaven.

Leisurely dessert and coffee in Manhattan Beach
I got to see my girlfriends from the valley, but I didn’t get on that freakin’ 405! (That was a self-care boundary I set for myself.)  I had traveled from Texas. They came to meet me within a few minutes of my hotel. We dined, had cocktails and dessert together at our leisure. There was no one hunting me down or asking me what time I would be home. I loved feeling free, just kind of floating in the wind. When I did come back to my room, it was so lovely and quiet.

I could drink these all day!
Two nights in a quiet, hotel room, alone and it was incredible. 
Turns out that silence really is golden. I can’t wait to do it again. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

All of the thoughts...

So many thoughts in a given day.  So many feelings of complete overwhelm. I haven't written about my mother's troubles in great detail, but they feel huge and weighty. Perpetually occupying space in my already overcrowded head.

I can't see her without thinking all of the thoughts and feeling the sadness over this space that we're in. You know that when you're taking care of a parent, sooner or later you will be dealing with health issues, and ultimately you will have to face their mortality.  You hope that it will be short and painless, but that would be impossible. There is no such thing. You hope that you will be prepared for whatever comes. I was not prepared for this. 

She is not near death but her issues are not easily "fixed" if fixable at all. And yet, I constantly think about what I can do to help her. What will make things better? I just want to see her happy and enjoying this time in her life.

I was writing while sitting in the airport. When I got on the flight, I noticed that somehow I hit publish instead of hitting save and 71 of you have already read my incomplete thoughts so...I guess I should finish this post.

I can never make a reservation without hesitation.  Thoughts about all of the things and all of the people and details must be considered before I take off. Even this time as I head to Los Angeles for the memorial service of my brother who passed earlier this year, I have to consider my mother.

This time, it wasn't so much about my kids (who are not really kids anymore). It was more about my mom. I didn't want to leave her at home. I didn't want to take her with me. Maybe I'm lazy or maybe I'm just tired of constantly having to consider others before I go to the toilet, much less anywhere else. I didn't want to have to consider her every time I move from place to place in L.A.

Will she be okay? Will she comfortable? Will she be upset because I went here or there?

As it is at home every time I move, she is watching.  She's asking, "Where are you going? When are coming back? Why are you going upstairs?  You're going to bed now? Why can't you wait?"

I've never been a loner, but my God! My family has turned me into one.

I went ahead and purchased the ticket because of course, I should go support my other siblings as we lay my brother to rest. I'm just so peopled out right now. And as much as I want to see everyone, I also would really like some time to be completely alone and not worry about anything or anyone. 

It's weird to be going home not excited. I really don't feel like peopling.

Parenting and caregiving has turned me into someone I hardly know. I'm sure I'll get my groove when I get there.

Hopefully, I can spend some time with my feet in the ocean ...just being.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Girls, Girls, effing Girls!

Young love. Isn't it everything? I certainly thought it was when I was a teenager and a young adult. Now that I'm a mother, not so much. It's murder watching my kids go through heartbreak.  Which is why I would basically like to forbid both of them from ever looking at females until they are emotionally ready to handle all of the feelings that come along with them. 

Girls, girls, effing girls! These situations make me want to scream! 

When they ask for guidance about their relationships, I feel my veins tighten, my stress level elevating. I feel like it's all a big setup --a trap so that when it all goes wrong, it will be my all my fault! Because everything that ever goes wrong in their lives is my fault. 

I was a hopeless romantic as a teenager.
There was no instruction, other than romance movies which are so authentic, right?
I was totally Sandy from "Grease." Hopelessly Devoted. 
I had no idea what I was doing.
I only thought about how good it felt when I thought I was in love.
I didn't analyze the meaning of love or calculate the probability of heartbreak.
I only thought about how handsome, sweet and popular my fellow was.
I didn't completely fall apart every time a relationship ended to the point where I couldn't sleep or handle the rest of my life. 

Young, immature and lacking confidence in myself, having a boyfriend gave me a sense of validation. I didn't see myself as attractive. I lacked confidence from all of the teasing in middle school about my rather large nose. I didn't have long pretty hair. I had dark skin. I thought I was average at best.

Looking back now,  I was cute as a button with a slammin body! I would give back my children to have that body again.
Hawaiian Day, Circa 1983

Now, I'm a mom of three young men. Two of my sons have autism. They are twenty-one and eighteen.

Some people think that autism means they may not want a relationship. Maybe they're  loaners --socially reclusive. Maybe they don't want to be intimately social.  Nothing could be further from the truth. My boys crave social relationships.  The lack the ability to read people just makes them more difficult.

They want affection like every other hormonally charged teenage boy. Ultimately, they want what they've been fighting for their entire lives --to be accepted for who they are. They are just not clear about all of the interpersonal dynamics of relationships, especially with females. 

I get these dating questions...

"Exactly how many dates should I go on before I ask a girl to be my girlfriend?"

"Well, first of all, you don't ask every girl you think is pretty to be your girlfriend. It's not like middle school. You take the time to get to know her, become friends and then decide how you feel and if you have things in common.  Now that you're older, relationships become more intimate, so you really have to get to know one another first."

"So exactly how many dates is that? Two? Five? Ten?"  *Insert eye roll here. 

I have discussed this subject with other moms in one of my online support groups. We have to remind our young men on the spectrum that a girlfriend is not a prize. A girlfriend is not a status to achieve. Each individual comes with their own thoughts and feelings, and they may not be the same as yours. You have to listen to them and not just talk. You have to get to know their wants and needs and consider their feelings, not just your own.  These things just don't come to our boys naturally. 

Sometimes, I am asked blunt questions about sex...things that I would NEVER have considered asking my parents.

"The more attractive the girl,  the sex feels better, right?"
"I have to keep in shape and have a perfect body so I can have better sex."
OMG seriously dude?  

Me -"Umm...not really. There are a lot of factors that play into what makes sex feel good. How you look has very little to do with the actual feeling. Connection with the person you're with is a huge part of it."

He just looks at me like I have three eyeballs. I think he imagines that sex is just like it looks in Hollywood movies.  The girl is always totally hot! And the guy has six pack abs. 

No. My dear.  Even old, fat people like me and your dad still enjoy sex! 

My eighteen-year-old is an old soul. In the past year, one might say that he is intensely interested in love. He has studied it ...like it's a science.  He reads articles about it. He researches the history of it. His thinking about it also seems to be very intellectual, black and white, and quite frankly, pretty idealistic.

So in real life, when gray happens, it totally knocks him out of the water.

There was a girl.  They had so many things in common. She seemed like she genuinely cared about him as a person. They were developing a lovely friendship. When he decided to express his true feelings, she practically disappeared off the face of the earth. The semester ended. Summer came, and he did not hear one single word from her.

He was left laying in the middle of the road after being hit by that truck. It seemed like it came out of nowhere.

That was last summer. And OMG! It was the most miserable summer of our lives! And we've had some pretty miserable summers. His misery was the shock and intense emotion of loneliness and heartbreak. Mine was taking the shrapnel from the bomb(s) that went off every time he melted down over anything and everything. 

I saw the signs before it happened. Of course, it wasn't my place to say anything. He would have chopped my head off if I did.

The signs were subtle. He was always the person reaching out, going out of his way to do things to make her happy. I never saw her reaching back. She was always "so busy."  Someone new to the game of teenage dating and having autism, he missed the signs.

Many with autism have difficulty reading the emotions and social cues from others. So the learning curve in their relationships will ultimately be higher.  Autism can be like wearing a mask which makes the signs that someone doesn't feel the same way you do, easy to miss.

What you see is what you get from most people with autism. My boys expect people to say what they actually mean because they mean what they say.  If a person with autism says he's your friend, he really is your friend. At least that's what I find to be true with both of my sons. They will be there for you for life if you'll let them. They are loyal and authentic. They don't play games. They don't really know how. So when other people are not honest, or they suddenly change their minds, it's extremely confusing.

Most people with autism feel emotions intensely. It's the way their brain works. In my boys, their emotions seem to make feelings appear bigger. Every hurt and disappointment can feel like the end of the world.  This is especially so with a feeling they've never felt before or when something happens that they were not expecting.

What are you supposed to do with all of those feelings when you thought you finally found the person you always wanted, and it turns out they just don't feel the way you expected they would? It can feel pretty overwhelming for the average person. Autism magnifies everything. 

Love is a rainbow. Love is fluid.  It's ever changing. It can be evasive.  It can be pervasive. It is so many got damned things, it will make your head spin. It makes it pretty difficult to handle for someone who thinks in formulas. If you add two and two you are supposed to get four, not negative four. 

For those of us who have experienced love in various degrees, we know that it can be the best thing ever. Then when it's over it can knock you out. I'm talking... laying on your back, up under the covers for days wondering if you will ever feel anything good again. Seriously like... will you be able to stand and take another step, or will you just lay there and die? 

Experience tells us that eventually, you do get back up. You do rise again. You walk and then you run. Ultimately, love finds you again. Sometimes it's even better than before.  Sometimes it's just an experience that makes up a part of who you are.

There is no "sure thing." So if you're a person who likes to know what to expect, when it comes to human relationships, there is no standard expectation. Let's face it, most teenagers are flakey. They don't know what they want. So when they find themselves in a situation with a person who has such intense emotion, it probably freaks them out a little.

Blue has told me, how hard the open-ended part of relationships is for him. His anxiety really would like some guarantees, some assurances that it will all work out. Love is a world in which there are no guarantees. 

The longer we live this life, we start to see that for every closed door, there is a new one that opens that could have a new wonderful prize behind it. I tell my boys, every relationship teaches us something about ourselves that we didn't know before, and that's okay.  In fact, it really is a good thing.

The person who acted like they cared and then stopped reaching out. The next time that happens....ding, ding, ding, ding!  Hopefully, an alert will go off. Something ain't right here.

So many nuances of life unfortunately only come with experience and usually with some degree of pain.  When you're young, and you have autism, these subtleties can slip right by you. You may not see them until it's too late. 

At twenty-one, Kendal still thinks, you see a girl, you think she's cute, you ask her to be your girlfriend. Then, you expect her to behave in the exact same way that your last girlfriend did.

What? You mean they're two different people? Aren't all girls basically the same? How exactly am I supposed to figure that out?

We find out these things from experience. When you have autism and you have a vision of the way things are going to go and then they don't... it can cause real fireworks. It can set off a shockwave of emotion and sometimes anger. Add together immaturity and autism, you simply do not have the tools to handle all of the intense feelings.

Okay, so I'm the mom. I am their person.
Got damn! How I wish sometimes, I wasn't their person.

Because they are transitioning into adulthood, I try to step back from being their person.
I try to run away from being their person, but sooner or later, they always find me. And when they do, they shoot me with bullets of emotion, and feelings, and questions about how all of this is relationship stuff is supposed to work.

I can run, but I can't hide.

What they really want is a sounding board. They want someone to process their feelings with. Yes. They both have therapists, but I'm the in-home, on-call, 24/7, therapist.  They both need something more like a therapy school, like 5 days a week,  several hours a day, at least. Come to think of it, I do too.

Sometimes they will talk to their dad. Kendal actually listens to his father better than he listens to me, but he will NEVER go to dad first. Dad's reality check is the last resort. Blue and his father are so much alike, they can barely have a conversation most of the time. They are both so rigid in their thinking. They end up setting each other off.  Apple meet tree. 

Occasionally they will use other resources, their relatives, mentors, and friends. Eventually, through enough experiences, they will learn. Lucky me. I get a front row seat to it all. It's an entertaining show, in a horror movie kind of way.

Hopefully, I won't die of stress before they meet the right girl. I pray that someday they will find someone to take them off of my hands. Oops. I mean, I'm praying that they will both find the right person who loves and accepts them for exactly who they are, unconditionally.

Seriously God. I've done my time.

Give a sistah a break will ya?

The good old days, before girl questions. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Words Can Hurt


After all of these years, and hundreds of meltdowns, they still suck the life out of me. This latest one took days for me to recover.  PTSD is definitely a factor. So many years of these traumatic events give me flashbacks of shattered glass, broken doors, holes in walls and rips in my heart. 

Experience has made me better at keeping my cool. The “don’t do’s and to-do’s” are now ingrained in my head. 
  • Don’t raise your voice. 
  • Don’t argue. 
  • Don’t advise. 
  • Don’t talk, just listen. 
  • Know when to walk away. 
  • Do not invite more debate. 
  • Keep your answers short and to the point (if you talk at all).
  • Deescalate. Deescalate. Deescalate.  
  • Don’t lose your shit! (not always possible, but try) 
  • Don’t knock him in the head even though you feel like you have every right because he is being an ungrateful… (okay, I won’t go there) 

How I feel after a meltdown
photo -made with Bitmoji
~~~~~~~~~~~~

You haven't had a full meltdown in several months. Thankfully, we've only seen short bouts of anger that have been quickly resolved. I'm proud of that progress. 

I know you’re feeling all of the pressure that comes along with your senior year and becoming an adult. The weight of it is excruciatingly heavy, I know. 

So the other day when you suddenly went all the way off into a complete rage, which ended in me be called a most egregious name, I was floored. It caught me totally off guard.  I was able to remain calm, but afterward, I felt like I had been punched in the gut --the wind knocked out of me. 

Of course, I've heard “I hate you,” (which isn’t fun, but it’s kind of expected at some point of parenting. You'll see when it's your turn.)  

I'll admit, I remember saying some pretty awful things to my mother when I was a teen. However, I don't think I EVERcalled her outside of her name. In fact, I don’t think I ever cursed in front of her until I was very much an adult. And my mother could be pretty darn irritating, as I’m sure I am to you. 

I have never been called such a name by anyone I love. You’re father, old boyfriends, not even a close friend family member has ever gone there with me. If I was ever called that, it was by someone who really had no regard for me, certainly not someone I know and love intimately.

So when it happened the other day it was shocking, to say the least, and hurtful. Especially because I know that I am your person —the person you call when you need help. The one who does everything within my power to make your quality of life better. It felt like a huge slap in the face. 

The next day, I went straight to thinking of your future…

Dude, you say that kind of thing to a girlfriend or a wife, you won’t walk away from it with a simple apology. In a future relationship, the woman will not be obligated to forgive you. 

A mother’s love is probably the most unconditional love you will ever experience in your life. You are part of me. We are forever connected, so I forgive you. I may not forget, but I always forgive. Eventually, I let go. But don't get too comfortable with that, because you will probably NEVER see anything like it again in your life. 

So the next day when you're over it. You were already back to…
“Mom, can I have some money?” 
“Can you give me a ride?” 
“Can you help me coordinate transportation for my friend’s birthday celebration?” 

Um…no! I wasn’t feelin all of that. 

You see in a future relationship, if you mess up like this, you better not only say you’re sorry, but you should be busting your butt to actually SHOW the person that you’re sorry. I’m talking bringing flowers. Doing something …extra. 

Now I know, I’m not your girlfriend. I don’t expect flowers, chocolates or diamonds (although they wouldn’t hurt).  

I’m just saying, I doubt seriously if you will ever find someone who will put up with all of the crap that I’ve put up with because I get you and your autism.

So far you have demonstrated nothing but the utmost respect and kindness in your relationships with females. Of course, a girlfriend or friend who is a girl when you’re a teenager looks nothing like a long-term relationship, where you have to put up with each other’s moods and idiosyncrasies because you spend so much time together. 

I tried to explain to you the gravity of what you said and how it made me feel. I could not assume, that you just “know better” (although you should). I realize that you may not be fully aware of what you’re saying when you’re in a rage. But then again, I think there is some level of consciousness because you’re hurting and I think you want to make me feel the pain that you’re feeling. 

I didn’t want to shame you or make you feel worse about what happened. But I had to let you know that it will take me some time to deal with my feelings and to let go. And even then, I will probably never forget. 

I was deeply hurt and I wasn’t ready to smile and pretend everything is okay the following day.

So …no, I would not be transporting you around town to hang out with your friends for the weekend. I really didn’t even want to look at you for a few days.  

I realize that things are said during a meltdown that you don’t really mean. However, the hurt is still hurt. It doesn’t just magically disappear just because YOU have moved on. 

Damage is done with words. 
Scars are engraved. 
I have the right to feel injured. 
I don’t have to smile and pretend that everything is okay. 
To do so would be a disservice to you in your future. 

In reality, you’re going to have work extra hard not to hurt those you love when you are seriously angry. I know that’s not fair. So much about autism and life is not fair. It’s going to require some conscious effort. I trust that it will get better as you continue to mature. I think there is still a sensitive boy inside you who would never want to hurt anyone with words or actions. 


There will be times when you lose control, we all do. But I have to let you know that sometimes the wounds created are deep. They don’t just disappear. They take time to heal. 

p.s. Before I wrote this I thought, "Oh! The thought of my mother writing publically about MY behavior when I was 18. What horror?! But then I realized, if I didn't want her to write anything bad, I should have behaved better.

Favorite Quote Ever -Ann Lamott
Photo Credit: Not Mine? 




Tuesday, March 21, 2017

How Did This Happen?


Wow! This is my kid! How did this happen?

I stopped by Gold's Gym where he works and exercises to drop him a little cash. He never carries money. He just swipes his card for every little purchase. I personally hate the idea of him never having cash in his pocket (not that it's really my business). 

I had not seen him in a week, so when he comes out in full work-out gear —his weight-lifting belt and gloves, showing off his small waist and broad, muscular arms. He had just finished lifting. The definition of his physique notably more pronounced, veins popping out of his arms. How much he has grown and developed his body was strikingly noticeable to me. Especially, because he's always complaining that he doesn't feel like he sees results! 

This boy who was overweight most of high-school, his body all puffed out as a result of horrid medication and an even more horrible diet.

 “There’s nothing better than a cheeseburger and a milkshake,” he would say.

Throughout most of his childhood, his diet had never been good. Anything green was a definite, "No!"  Everything he ate had to be plain and dry. There was no mixing together of foods. Everything had to be separate and distinct —no casseroles, no sauces, nothing wet or too soft in texture. Even french fries had to be skinny and crisp so that they didn’t taste too “potatoey.” 

Occasionally, I may have been able to coax him into a healthy meal, but Lord, the drama that came along with it. Ugh! It completely took away my joy of cooking. Days slaving in the kitchen, only to be met with, “Do I have to eat this?”

The expression on his face was as if the food I was feeding him came from the trash can. 
"The look"
He was oppositionally defiant from the moment he could walk …away from me in the opposite direction of wherever we needed to go. His defiance crossed over into him defiantly eating only what he wanted to eat and not what I wanted him to eat,  as soon as he learned to say no. There were so many fights day after day.  Most of the time, I was just plain out of energy. 

Cut to when he turned 18 years-old. He was working and buying his own food, which meant eating absolutely nothing healthy. One day we walk into his Psychiatrist's office and this time he tips the scale at 280 pounds. "That’s it!" She said. "You must change your diet …today! You can’t keep heading in this direction."

Hah! First of all, I laughed that she thought that was going to work. Secondly,  I felt like it was at least half her fault for all of the bullshit medicines that she tried over the years in order to tame his moods, depression, and anger. I had a real love-hate relationship with both his doctor and the medication. 

We had been working on tweaking and changing medication for years. I knew that what he was taking was partly responsible for the mega appetite and the propensity to gain weight, not to mention, his behavior was still horrible!
Milkshake and Cheeseburger Days`
To my surprise, that day when we left her office,  we got home and he decided to get rid of all unhealthy foods that he had bought. "Give this stuff away! We have to get it out of the house!" Suddenly, there was a light so bright! The Lord arrived and the angels sang, "Glory, glory hallelujah!" 

In the weeks to come, he started researching on YouTube about weight-loss and bodybuilding programs. We had previously insisted that he actually workout at the YMCA gym where he had been employed for two years, both to help with his mood and his weight. We would tell him "We are not picking you up from work until you swim at least ten laps in the pool." 

Two painful hospitalizations later,  we finally got him off of that horrible mood-stabilizer and onto the right combination of meds. It took an act of congress to get the doctors to listen to my instinct.  My goal was to get him on as few medications as possible and to take nothing that had a weight gain component. 

He then researched a high protein, low-carb diet. He became obsessed with it, along with his workout routines by different trainers online. One year later and 100 pounds lighter, he was a different person. 

One of the main ingredients in his transformation was the fact that it was ultimately his decision.  Self-motivation is key to a person with autism deciding to achieve a goal, especially someone as defiant as Kendal.  He is capable of doing anything that he sets his own mind to conquering.  No amount of coaxing from us could have ever made him completely change his life. 

We are entering into his second year of this new-look. As with everything in his life …his accomplishment is still not good enough for him.

“I want to be elite! I want to be the strongest guy in the gym! I’m still weak compared to other guys.” 
“I need the perfect formula to get stronger.”

He asks the opinion of any and everyone who will listen to him.

"What should I do to get stronger ...to tighten my abs ...to cut this remaining fat around my belly?"
"If I start to bulk up, won't that make me fat again? I never want to be fat again!”

He works in a gym! He is surrounded by trainers and like-minded people.  Yet, no one has given the magic answer.

The latest request?
 “Mom. I need to hire a coach to figure out exactly what to do. Will you help me hire a trainer? They cost about 100 dollars an hour.  Will you pay half?” 

Umm ...no! 

“But Mom! I’m not as strong as so and so, or so and so. I want to look like the Rock," he says 900 million times, whenever I talk to him or see him, until I zone him out, walk out of the room or hang up the phone.  

He changes from cutting to bulking, from bulking to cutting every other week.

What he should do next about his body, his workout routine or his diet, is the only thing he posts about on Facebook ad nauseam.  God bless his friends who continue to comment and try to help him.

One of my Facebook friends from high school even gave him his phone number so they could talk about these things. This had to be a God thing. As in, God saving me from killing him because he won't shut up about it!
(Thank you, special friend. You know who you are.) 

Still, he wonders why women are not falling all over him because of the way that he looks. We try to explain that there is so much more to finding the right relationship.  Women want someone who will listen to them, and not just talk about themselves, constantly. This doesn’t compute for him.

He is currently taking an online course to become a certified Personal Trainer, with the help of his Transition teachers. So when he asks me about helping him pay for a trainer, I tell him to hire himself.

There are no magic answers. He's already way ahead of the game! Time and persistence will continue to give him results. 

I pray that when he begins to work with clients, he will be able to acknowledge them for their progress, however incremental. Currently, he can not see his own progress. Everyone who looks at him sees this incredible guy who has completely transformed his body. He still sees someone who is not good enough. 

I’m proud enough of him for the two of us. I just hope that someday he can be happy and satisfied with himself. He wants so desperately to find love and acceptance. I’m afraid that it won’t come until he learns to love and accept himself. 


Edit: After having Kendal read this post, he wanted to add this. He actually lost 120 lbs total and since then has added 20 pounds back of muscle. He approves of this message. 



Wednesday, March 15, 2017

My Own Hero

A week ago I was so angry with my husband. 
I felt like I was just done. 
I can’t do this anymore. 
I’m tired of this life. 
I’m tired of living with the choices that I made 25 years ago when was young and too dumb to know anything about who I am, or who I wanted to be. 

Turns out marriage isn't anything like what you see in the movies. In fact the other day, I was watching one where the heroin passed up a chance to travel around the world with a very rich, handsome, lover. She wanted to wait for real love --the one who she would marry, and live happily-ever-after. I wanted to scream at the television, "Girl! you better get on that jet! It ain't all it's cracked up to be!"

We got married when I was 28 years-old.  
What the hell did I know about life, motherhood and being a wife? 
I was a self-employed, entrepreneur who saw no limits in this world. 
I thought that I was tired of the party life. 
I was tired of the dating game. 
Apparently, I was tired of being independent with the freedom to travel wherever the hell, I wanted to, whenever I wanted to. *rolls eyes at my younger self 
Big.Dummy! 

Cut to today, and I am a completely.different.person. 
Next month I will be fifty-two years old.  
On June 4th of this year, we will celebrate 23 years of marriage. 

Together we have raised three sons. The eldest is 28, (my step-son). We also have a very high maintenance 21-year-old with autism and a cocktail of other diagnoses.  And finally, we have my 18- year-old know-it-all who also has high-functioning autism that comes along with a shit ton of anxiety which makes him really fun to live with. 

I have pretty much made these children the focal point of my life for the last …forever. 

And frankly, and I am just plain tired of them …all of them. 

I know you’re not supposed to say that out loud. You’re probably not supposed to think it either, but I do. 


I’m surrounded by all of these men and they are so …for lack of a better word, male.   Sometimes I look and them and wonder, who they are and how the hell did I end up here? 

So the nest is almost empty. I thought I was getting close to being done. Who am I kidding? In my head, I am done. This shit is over! O.V.E.R.  The whole marriage, and motherhood thing ...I am ready to check out! Sayanara! Arrivederci! I'm out! 

Not only am I burnt out, I am burnt to a crisp!

But then I wake up and I realize, this job is NEVER really over.  
Raising two boys with autism has been like raising six children.
I have the right to be tired. 

I thought raising teenagers was hard. Well, it is! 
The transition to adulthood is just a whole new mixed bag of nuts. The teenage, silly high-school problems are over. 
Now the real life decisions have to be made.  
Who are they going to be in this world?
Will he be able to finish college? 
Will he at least get some kind of a post-secondary education so that he can be independent? 
When will they conquer the skills of daily living? 
When will they ever be able to manage their everyday lives without help? 
They are both so different, with different strengths and weaknesses. 
When will the dust settle?
The ups are higher. The downs are lower and have heavier consequences. 
They are boys. It takes the average boy a little extra to grow up. Add anxiety, mood disorder and autism to the mix and you can multiply that extra by ten

And then, scratch the record! 

Now, I’m in the throes of taking care of my mother who at 77 years-of-age, is beginning to lose her shit a little more each day.  I have yet another puzzle to piece together. 
I am scared. 
I am overwhelmed and frankly, a little pissed off that most of this is on me. 
She lives in my house and my brother is thousands of miles away. It doesn’t even matter if she didn’t live here. 
I am her person.
I am everybody’s freakin' person!
I am the anchor that keeps them all from floating wildly across the ocean 
Only I’m drowning in the process. 

So for a week I only spoke to my husband when it was necessary.  I was angry even though he hadn’t done anything particularly egregious.  I mean he’s a man. He says stupid things when he’s stressed. We think differently —so very, very, differently.  He is practical to my artistic, go-with-the-flow. He is the no, to my every yes
I don’t know how we haven’t killed each other already. 

He takes my sarcasm and humor very personally, which subliminally makes me even more sarcastic. Our relationship is a real piece of work -or is it a work of art? 
I’m not sure. 

He gets on my very last nerve with his incessant talking and I get on his nerves with my jokes. But basically, he is good.  He loves me and wants nothing for the best for me. He wants me to be happy. He is loving and faithful. We have never had any major marital issues. 

I’m sure he’s frustrated when I am not happy.  He wants to be my hero. Only, in this case, he’s in over his head. He can’t do it. He can not be my hero because he is not responsible for my happiness. 
My happiness belongs to me. 
I have to be my own hero.

So yesterday, the sun came out. It had been cloudy and cold for a number of days and apparently, so was my heart. As the sun burned away the funky fog and clouds that had been hovering over me. Suddenly, I could see.
We had a conversation, where I thought I would tell him all of the things he had been doing wrong. But in the course of the conversation (or should I say, in the course of him talking and me listening) I realized that he hasn't been doing anything any differently than he has always done.
  
It is me that I have been unhappy with. 
I am unhappy with what I’ve allowed to happen to my life. I have allowed a big part of myself to completely disappear behind the cloud of my obligations and duties to this family. 

It is was through the darkness —depression and that week long funk, that I was able to find the necessity to look for the light —to figure out that I actually need to be my own light. No one can do it for me, and no one can take it away from me.

I can not tell you today exactly what I’m going to do to find the parts of me that have been erased, but at least I know now that a part of me is missing.

I have to do some exploring —some soul searching.  It’s up to me, and no one but me, to get out the road map to find the peace and the freedom that I need to make myself whole again despite my situation and my obligation to my family.

The biggest obligation I have is to myself. 

I think I'll keep him.