On a good day, parenting will test the integrity of your character. On a bad day, parenting will test your will to live. Parenting children with trauma histories will cause you to test the integrity of everything and everyone you thought you knew, for the rest of your life.
~J. Skrobisz

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Four years

I didn't mean to.  That is, I didn't mean to neglect the blog for a month.  I'm going to blame it on my laptop.  The 'r' button is sticky and won't cooperate so I type and retype and retype a third time just to get the 'r' to work. My left pointer finger is sore.  *holds it up*   Kiss it?

Blame.  That's an easy trap to fall into. No one wants to take ownership for their failings. It goes against human nature - probably a prehistoric genetic trait initially developed for survival of the species when primates eeked out a miserable existence.  Now it just makes the evolved human irritating to deal with.  I envision it as a de-evolution with eventual destruction of the species.  Much like the unused appendix in modern man that could kill us today if it ruptures but at one time was an evolutionary adaptation necessary for digestion.

Yesterday the therapy agency closed Sissy's case.  "She can behave at school, " they said, "so she has shown that she can use the therapeutic tools she's been given.  It means she chooses to behave poorly at home."  Thus, it is no longer a mental health issue.  It's a DJJ issue.  Should Sissy decide to toss her crap because, oh, taking a shower is such a hideous expectation, so hideous that I should be imprisoned for the rest of my earthly days, then I call the police on her.

Here's your hat, there's the door, what's your hurry? 

Alone I stand again, parenting my challenged children without support systems.  The years it took me to get support for them, the phone calls, the hours of talking to people, the mountains of paper work, the countless times I retold our family's story all of it for me to come full circle.  And Sissy's behaviors not much better than before we started.

The only difference is I grew a set of shiny brass balls in the process. 

Four years ago, when we elected a new president, Sissy hadn't spent one day in a hospital.  She was attending only a one hour group support session at the psychologist's office.  Four years ago I didn't know about RAD moms and support groups for me.  I didn't know that RAD was incurable.  I didn't have the slightest clue that I would need brass balls to weather the storms of life. 

This week we reelected the same president and it was but a blip on the radar of my life.  I know, there's lots people have to say about the election and the results and I should probably care at least some.  Truth is, no president has come to my neck of the woods, knocked on my front door and offered to listen to my family's plight, let alone lent a helping hand.  They haven't restrained a nearly 13 year old Sissy when she's been in a full rage, naked, in the bathroom and screaming at eardrum shattering decibel levels that she can't shower until she knows she'll get 11 minutes to do it instead of 7.  (She COULD spend seven minutes screaming about it though.)

I try not to let the hardness of my heart show on my face or in my posture.  I choose to let every day stand alone and speak for itself.  Because who knows, maybe the next 24 hours will be beautiful.  Hell, the next 10 minutes just might bless my socks off.  Wouldn't want to miss that precious 10 minutes of loveliness.  I roll my head on my shoulders, stretching out the tension in my neck.  I play uplifting music on the radio.  I laugh heartily every chance I get.  I remind myself to receive and give physical affection.  I make a concerted effort to text or call one person a day to ask how she is doing.  I use aromatherapy at bedtime to relax.  I watch old reruns of relatively "clean" sitcoms.  I hand quilt and english paper piece hexagons into dainty little flowers.  I pet the dogs and soak up the autumn sun.  I breathe in the crisp smell of dry leaves, then intentionally kick them up with my toes because the swishy sound of their crunchiness makes me giddy.  I sip coffee while playing mindless computer games in the few minutes each morning I have to myself.  I feed an old, blind Tennessee Walker that is recovering from colic.  I brush the dirt off the winter coat of his barn mate, a quarter horse that gives me hugs... when he's in the mood.

I'm not dancing.  I've forgotten how.
I'm not carefree.  Life is unpredictable.
I don't play.  There's no time. 
I won't sing.  Don't ask me.
I don't dream.  There's no point
I can't hope.  I have no reason to.
I don't blame. Truth is deliverance.
I won't recover.  I'll move forward.
I will survive.  I choose to.

I pray. That the next four years won't be as hellatious as the last four for distinctly different reasons than the conservative republican voter is praying.  Four years from now Sissy will be nearly 17.  I have a sneaking suspicion that whichever political party is seated in the white house as the head of the executive branch of our national government will still mean precious little to me.  Here's hoping my brass balls won't be sagging lower than my boobs by then.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Baby Step

The parking lot is busy when I pull up to the building. Parents, mostly mothers, are walking to and from the building, pushing strollers, holding the hands of walking toddlers, laughing, smiling, happy to be picking up their little children from the preschool and kindergarten program hosted by our church.  Sometimes I smile when I witness these happy moments; snippets of time in childhood and parenthood that fade all to quickly.

Sometimes I wince because it is just one more reminder; a cold slap in the face of my reality.  A mother with a daughter that looks just like her walks in front of my stopped vehicle.   I find a parking space next to a minivan that is being unlocked by a woman with a toddler by the hand, a baby in a stroller and a bulging belly with another on the way.   I shake my head a little to refocus my eyes and attention on the task at hand: put the vehicle in park, lock it and walk to the counselor's office for therapy. 

I enter the doorway that leads directly to the main office. The senior pastor is there, opening the door.  I smile and say hello, taken aback by his kindness.  Then I realize as a shout of jubilation echoes in my ear when I walk through the doorway, that he is holding the door for the new mother carrying her newborn in a car seat. She was entering the building a pace or two behind me and I was just the lucky recipient of good timing.

Still, I tell myself, it's nice to have someone hold a door for me. Even if the act of kindness wasn't initially intended for my benefit.

I take a deep breath and let it out slowly, making sure to relax my shoulders as I exhale. I keep walking down the hall toward the Sunday School classrooms.  Separate from the children's wing, this hall is quiet, the lights are low. My shoes clatter on the tile floor and echo off the bare walls.  The dark coffee color of the hall is soothing as I approach the two chairs flanking a side table.  Sunlight filters through the paned doors that lead to the courtyard, reflecting off the dancing dust particles in the air.

Taking a seat, I let my bag fall to the floor while I close my eyes. Breathe in through your nose. 1...2...3...4...5....  Hold and breathe  out through your mouth. 1...2...3...4...5...  The white noise machine my therapist keeps on a petite circular table just outside the classroom pumps soothing ocean wave sounds.  Breathe in...  breathe out.

The custodian walks by, whistling a tune as he pushes his yellow Rubbermaid mop bucket with the handle of the mop. The caster wheels rumble like a distant thunder.  "Afternoon, Ma'am," he says with a slight nod of his head.

"Hello to you too.  How are you today?"  I inquire. He is usually the only person I see in this hallway while I wait for my counselor to open the door signaling the beginning of our session.

"Fine, fine. Can't complain. Nice weather we're having."

"Yes sir.  Busy day today?"

"Always, always.  Sumthin' always goin on here.  This place is busy, thank you God.  Fine place to work.  Nice folks too."

"I agree."

He continues on his way, pushing his bucket down the hall, whistling.  We have nearly the same conversation every time I see him.  I like it.  It's familiar and he never asks what's wrong with me that I should need therapy.  He never asks.  He just whistles and pushes his mop bucket.

The door opens and my therapist invites me in to her office. It's really a classroom but during the week, she is allowed to rent the space for her sessions. She puts the chairs in a circle, her own personal chair up against the wall.  The lights are low and candles are burning.  She has a small table with a clock on it so her clients can keep track of time for themselves.  The other tables between the chairs have knick knacks from her missions trips, coasters and tissue boxes. I sit in the chair I always sit in. Sometimes I think  I'll sit in a different chair just because, but I never do. Maybe next time I think to myself.  But I think that thought every time I walk into the room, just before I plant my bottom in the seat I always take.

She sits across from me and smiles. She asks how I'm doing. We begin.

In February 2009, the ex told me just a day or two before Valentine's Day that his credit card lender had called.  On a Saturday.  The card with a balance tumbling past the $5K limit because of late fees and overage charges had gone unpaid for six months.  The collections agency needed $1280 immediately or my van would be repossessed as collateral.  He didn't have any reasonable answers for why he let the card go unpaid.  He figured that would be as good a time as any to also inform me that his Lowe's card was also past due, and over the limit... and that he was getting collections calls for it as well.

The money was needed within four days with a signature agreeing to a repayment plan in addition to the cancellation of his credit card. I couldn't speak.  My mouth was open but words did not come out.  Dazed, I walked out the back door and sat on the stoop.  No good.   I got up and paced the porch. Anger?  No that wasn't the right emotion.  Betrayal?  No, that wasn't it either.  Hurt?  Nope.  Shock.  Dizzying, mystifying, rendered speechless,shock.  I staggered a few steps.  I tried to catch my breath.  I went in and called my parents.

They bailed him out.  I still owe them $800 of that money.  I got to keep the van and the bank garnished his business account in the amount of $264 every month until the remainder was paid in full.  I made an appointment to speak to our senior pastor for advice.

His advice was to make an exit plan for the marriage and he referred me to their contracted pastoral counselor and their sliding scale scholarship fund for members that need financial assistance paying for counseling services.  Three and a half years of therapy later, I'm finally walking through that exit plan.

"Jennie?  How are you?"  she asks again.

How am I?  What can I say today? Sissy screamed at me all night and woke up this morning at 5:45 hell bent on making me miserable. And do I mention that she had me up at 3:00 am getting a drink of apple juice when she HATES apple juice?  At least, when I ask her to drink it, she hates it.  Do I mention the pregnant mommies in the parking lot that take all of my self-will and energy to overlook just so I can get through the door of the church building?  Do I just start bawling until I can't cry anymore (which would be the entire session and then I'd be paying her for something I can do at home in my bed)?  Do I tell her how my cute chihuahua got afraid of his shadow on a plastic grocery bag?  I don't know.  I just don't know.  There is so much in my life and in my head and on my heart that I never know where to begin.

"I don't know where to start today." I tell her.

"What's the first thing that comes to your mind?"

"I'm angry."

"Talk about your anger."

Talk about my anger?  It's me with clenched jaw, lying in fetal position in my bed at night, rocking myself to sleep, my left hand up to my mouth but my thumb tucked in.  It's visions of smashing beautiful, breakable things into piles of dust. It's secret, unspoken images in my mind of hurting people that have hurt me.  It's exhaustion and hair loss.  It's lines on my face, chronic cold sores on my lips and another 10 pounds on my body.  It's abject apologies for my carelessness and forgetfulness.  It's a steady stream of expletives constantly running in my head and uttered under my breath. It's aching joints and throbbing  temples. It's taking prozac and klonopin even though my doctor swears that I do  not suffer from a diagnosable mental illness rather situational anxiety and depression. It's having situational anxiety and depression when I can't even change my situation.

I laugh. Snicker, really. Maybe snort.  Anger. I roll my eyes and let out a loud breath. "I don't know. My anger is big.  I can't contain it.  It's bigger than me. It goes right into the stratosphere, all those miles directly above my head of anger.  Red, hot, steaming anger shooting straight up like a geyser with so much momentum that it soars that high. And I don't know what to do with it."

"You take it little bits at a time."

"yeah," I say feebly.  Only I don't know how to take it little bits at a time. I don't know how to take it at all.  I only know it's there, and it's bigger than me. And it's justified.  And it's fair for me to feel so angry and to say so.  "I don't know how to do that," I offer. Because what's the point of being in therapy if I can't be honest. REALLY honest.  I mean, I forgo haircuts and new clothes in my budget so I can have the money for therapy every month.

"Some people write about it. Others find expressing their anger in artwork is helpful. Talking about those events that have caused you so much anger and pain. Taking care of yourself.  Do any of those ideas sound good to you?"

"All of them.  I guess I do some of all of those things. It just doesn't feel like enough. It feels like the anger won't ever end."

"And maybe it won't. But you can try to get some of it out little bits at a time."

An image immediately pops into my head.  "It's like pouring out a salt container, very slowly onto a bowl so it heaps up into a perfect pile, each crystal rolling down the side of the cone, some bouncing.  There's a steady cascade of white coming from the salt container and the container isn't really a blue cylinder of Morton's salt with the umbrella girl. It's a brain.  Pouring the hurts and negative words and horrible memories and painful moments out of my brain onto a dish and there's so much it just keeps coming and never stops. It's like that.  That's what I see when  I think of trying to be free from this."

"Can you draw that?  Or create that? It might be one way to get a little bit of the anger out.   Say more about the salt.  Why salt?"

"It lies.  Salt is white and pure and perfect crystal shapes.  But you can't drink salty water, it will kill you. You can't have too much of it on your skin,  it will burn you.  It's a natural preservative, curing meats for safe consumption with a shelf life up to two years. Plus, chemically speaking, salt is ionic so it's reactive and easily decomposes when combined with other compounds. Not to mention that the two elements that salt is derived from are extremely reactive and dangerous in their natural states."

"So  salt is..."

"Anger.  Hurt. Pain. Insult. Injury.  Suffering."

"And salt is in your brain?"

"Yes. It's all the memories I have trapped in my head that won't stop tormenting me.  And I have to get them out.   I know I do.  But it's so hard.  And slow.  And it feels like there's no end."

"But it's important that you know that there IS an end."

"I know that cognitively but I don't trust that to be true."

"Just keep pouring out the salt little bits at a time. You'll get there.  Look how far you've come already."

"Yeah.  OK."

"Would you be willing to try making that image for next time? Draw it or create it, or stage it and take a photo?  I think that would be something we could continue to work on and talk through."

"Yeah. I can do that. I WILL do that."

"Good.  See you next time?"


Uncharacteristically, when I stand up to leave, I feel compelled to give her a hug. She accepts and I leave feeling some better.  Stronger.  Safer from my emotions.  Fortunately, during the time of my session, all of the preschool families are already gone, the parking lot very sparsely dotted with a few cars. I get in my van, roll down the windows and put it in drive. The radio is blaring the classic rock station I was listening to when I pulled into the parking lot.  I switch it off, opting to listen to the wind as it blows through the open van windows.  I pull out of the church drive and onto the road, grateful for my van, this church, my therapist but mostly for my strength to keep keeping on.

I stop by the dollar store on the way home and purchase a container of  Morton's salt and a discounted plate on the clearance shelf.  As luck would have it, the Halloween decorations are out and I find a really disgusting  zombie brain.  I'm certain the clerk at the checkout thinks my purchase is very odd but I don't care. It's one more baby step toward being free.

Monday, October 1, 2012

My story

I don't have a fancy cell  phone. It's a $35 model.  It makes calls, texts and takes grainy photos.

I don't have a plasma or LCD TV. I have a 15 year old 27" box.

I don't have surround sound.  I have a 16 year old AIWA that I've routed through a 14 year old VCR so the television sound comes through the speakers.

The 14 year old VCR doesn't work.  It sits on top of the 8 year old DVD/VCR combo. 

I don't have TIVO or direct TV.  To change the channel we have to get up and use the channel buttons on the non-functioning VCR.

My dining room table was a Craigs List purchase.  I cut and drilled out the plywood to make new seats to the chairs, supplies purchased with birthday money sent to me from a RAD mommy.  I bought foam and covered them with fabric that a reader sent me.

My van is 7 years old and on my birthday I will make the final payment on the loan.  It will be the first time I own a car outright.  I'll be 38 the day I make that payment.

It was a bottom of the line fleet vehicle.  No bells.  No whistles.  I manually close the side doors and lift gate.  
The laptop I'm typing on is almost five years old.  My students tell me it's a dinosaur.

My washer and dryer are 16 year old Kenmores.  I load the washer from the top.  The dryer has three options.  It's stained blue on the inside from years of the ex washing shop towels in it.

I can change my own flat tire in 15 minutes.  That includes putting the jack away when I'm through.

In the past 11 years that I've lived in this house, I've put in all the ceiling fans and light fixtures.

I built my daughter a loft bed because I promised her that if she could be rage, self-harming and threatening-harm-to-others free for six months I would convert her safe room to a proper preteen bedroom.

I designed it myself.

I fix my own mower.

My house is 34 years old with the original windows.  But I pay the mortgage on time. Every.Single.Month.

I don't have luxury items.

I don't have savings account.

I don't have a life insurance policy that has value.

I haven't had health insurance for 8 years because the ex got fired from his job.  8 years ago he lied and told me he was laid off.  I believed him.

I was happy when I ended the month of September with $60 left in the account because I thought I would be $40 in the whole.

My divorce lawyer became a judge today and is no longer my lawyer.

A student I tutored all summer owes me tuition.  His parents drive Lincoln Navigators with leather interiors and heated seats. I've given up calling to ask for the money.  I know I'll never see it.

I've maintained all of it.  Every last ounce.  Myself.  My children.   The bills.  The house.  The cooking, shopping, cleaning, yard work, all of it.  Me.  I've done it.    I've done it all while working, while taking my children to appointments, while picking up their meds, while never messing up their many medications, while enduring the never ending parade of therapists marching in and out of my home, while advocating for my children, while losing sleep, while taking shit from others along the way that haven't understood just how much I do.   Just how much pain and sorrow I've endured.  So.Much.Pain.

People keep saying my life is going to turn around, that good will come.  When?  It hasn't happened once in my life.  Ever.  It's always been me, taking care of me and everyone else.  I can't rely on anyone else.  No one else is trustworthy.  No one else is safe.  No one else knows what I do despite what's been done to me.

And I do it all with a smile, laughter, peace, gentleness, kindness, goodness, patience, self-control, love.

I want life to stop crapping out on me.  Just stop.  I don't deserve it.  I don't deserve any of it.  None of it.  I've never been anything but what everything else needs, 100% of the time with 100% of my energy and love.  I've done it without abusing drugs, alcohol or sex.  I've done it all without hurting myself or others.  I've done it all while taking the abuse from others.  I've done it all without being loved back by the people I loved the most.

All my life I've been told to walk in someone else's shoes and imagine what things look like to them - why people respond the way they do.  To empathize.  It's time people returned the favor. I accept nothing less from this moment forward.

I am a single adoptive parent of a special needs sibling group in a domestic open adoption.

I'm Jennie and this is my story.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


WG is so happy to not be in the classroom.  She had a brief moment of ennui when we went to the grade school this morning to formally withdraw.  She saw some classmates and a teacher and paused for a second.  Then a slow smile crept across her face and by the time I had a copy of the withdraw document she was skipping and singing again.

It's a little hectic at the moment.  The cyber school program is fantastic but we're still in the meet-and-greet stages so there's a lot to do and no obvious routine.

My school is awesome.  Originally we began as a supplement for home school families. We offered workshops and classes in the subjects that homeschool parents felt like they were unable to teach their children, in particular the sciences that required lab experience.  The founder/director of our school had her two sons at home, or with her when she substituted at the local prep school, or taught at the local christian school, etc.  She was not surprised that I made the choice to pull WG from public school and is flexible and understanding so that WG can be with me.

For right now, she's using my classroom computer in the back of the room but hopefully I can get into the building this weekend so I can rearrange my classroom and put the computer and student desk up in the front by me.  I have some learning challenged and ADD students that are disruptive and she can get caught up in the fray.

Tomorrow a 6 week homeschool workshop begins and I'm up for the science labs. Grades 3-12 so WG gets  to attend.  Even better, our math teacher that has taken the year off to raise her newborn is homeschooling her grade schoolers, including her daughter that is two days younger than WG.  Social events already!

Still working on the lawyer thing.  Still mad.  Still breathing and trying to get through  one day at a time without losing my mind.  Sissy makes that last one hard: she screams.  A LOT.


Best wrap up to the day?  Coming home after buying the kids ice cream (a bribe to get them to finish their homework/classwork) to a message on the voicemail from the bank.  He's behind on the equity line. Again.


Sunday, September 23, 2012


I want restitution.  For everything.  ALL of it.  Every last ounce of every bit of everything that has been taken from me.

I want it NOW.

The children's dad had his lawyer send a financial settlement agreement to my lawyer's office.
1.  he doesn't want to pay his portion of accrued marital debt
2.  he want's Sissy and AB's SSDI to count toward his portion of their child support
3.  He wants to reduce what he's paying in child support
4.  He wants to continue to use the home equity line of credit, borrowing freely even though that's MY equity because I have paid the mortgage, insurance and taxes on my own for the last nine months
5.  He doesnt' want to be held in contempt if he doesn't pay the equity line according to the loan agreement
6.  he wants ME to be held in contempt if I do not pay the mortgage, taxes and insurance in accordance with that loan agreement
7.  He wants to file joint taxes for 2012
8.  he doesn't want to pay alimony because we're both self-sufficient (but if I'm self-sufficient and have been since December 2011, why should I be expected to file jointly?)
9.  beginning in 2013 he wants to claim  Sissy and AB every year and I only claim WG

I am so mad I can't sit still, think straight, eat or speak.

Oh, an my lawyer quit, referring all of her clients to the ex's firm.  All clients except ME of course.  And my lawyer has yet to make a recommendation for who could take my case.  And I don't have money for another retainer for another lawyer.

And Sissy nearly ended up in the psych hospital again this week.  And knowing that I had so much crisis with her and called the state crisis hotline twice and had the mobile crisis team at the house to do an intake to determine if she should be hospitalized, her therapists NEVER called me or showed up.

And WG is an angry mess and the school is not seeing the whole picture so I've decided to withdraw her and home school her.

I haven't told her dad that yet and her first day is tomorrow.  he can kiss my grits.

I busted up my  ankle and haven't been able to wear closed shoes since Wednesday.

There's just so much on my plate.
I want to scream
I want to hurt something
i want someone to hurt as much as I do
i want restitution for all of it.
I want people to stand up and say, "HEY!  SHE MATTERS!!!!!!'
I want the pain to stop
I want life to be happy
So much has been taken from me.  More than words can say.  I have nothing more to give. To anyone. Ever.

I'm going to change my name back to my maiden name once the divorce is final.  And should there ever be another individual in my life that I might consider spending my life with, I still won't change my name.

Friday, September 14, 2012

I'm Gonna Be RICH!

Yesterday was a half day, the county was doing in-house teacher work days so the children got sent home at 11:35 and 12:15 respectively.  Which meant I had to find a substitute for my classes because our private school doesn't do in-house days.

I took advantage of the extra time and went to the music store to purchase the mouth piece for AB's Baritone.  Yep.  AB is in band and playing the Baritone.  It is SO.STINKIN'.COOL!  Except for the cost. EEK. A mouthpiece cost $60 and that was the discounted price.

The kids were bustling around the store looking at all the instruments and music books.  It was fun to be in there with them.  When I was in school I played piano and sang and the music store always felt like a safe, friendly place.  So much potential for greatness just at my fingertips.

Sissy had the same buzz.  She ran to me waving a Beatles Anthology music book.  "MOM!  Can I buy this?"

OK, first of all, Sissy is perpetually broke because she can.not.handle.money.ever.  (Side note: this week she told me she wanted to run for student council: assistant treasurer.  No, I didn't laugh at her.  I kept my composure but it was hard to do.)  My reply, "Uh, you don't play guitar."

"Oh."  She spun around and looked at the wall of hanging guitars.  "Can I get a guitar so I can play this?!?" She shook the music book in the air over her head.


"But mom..."

"My name's not butmom."


I turned to pay for the purchase while the three of them wandered into the guitar room.  I took a few deep breaths and walked over to them, receipt in hand.


"yes. they are beautiful guitars."

They erupted into a chorus of pleas that I make purchases of $1200 guitars for each of them.  Even the ukeleles were $100.  I smiled sweetly and remarked that they really were lovely and so cool and yes who wouldn't want to have one and of course it would be fun to learn to play.

I managed to get them out of the store, Sissy still stuck on how she was going to save all her money and buy a guitar and the Beatles music book and then, just as we pushed entered the parking lot she exclaims, "I'm going to be RICH!!!!!"

"Ok.  How, exactly?"

"Everyone loves the Beatles.  They're famous!"

"Still don't so how that will make YOU rich."

"UGH!  The Beatles are FAMOUS!  I'm going to make so much money!"


"I'm going to learn how to play guitar and then play the Beatles music and people will pay me!!!"


"Because it's Beatles music!"

"But you're not a Beatle."

"I'll be playing Beatles music!"  then to herself, "All the girls are going to be crying."

"YOU'RE a girl.  Why would the girls cry when YOU play the Beatles music when you're not a Beatle?"

"Because that's what girls do.  They cry when they see the Beatles."

"You're not a Beatle.  You'll be Sissy playing Beatles music."

"STILL!  They'll cry."

"And HOW are you going to make money?

"They'll pay me $5."


"Yeah!  So they can let me teach them how to play Beatles music!"

"It may take you awhile to become rich at that rate."

"STILL!  I'm going to be rich.  And FAMOUS!"

"Can I have your autograph when you're rich and famous?  And will you buy me a new car?"


We all got into the van and as I buckled up I realized just how hard it is to keep a straight face.  When she's a giant toddler it can be very amusing!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Perhaps Today

How am I?

I'm pacing inside a delicate china shop, being ever so careful not to break or bump or disturb anything.  It's considerably challenging.  I was asked by the proprietor to check my bat at the door but I have big backside, wide hips, jabbity elbows and huge feet.  And I really don't like to be without my bat.

I don't like to leave home without my bat because it's the only way I know how to protect myself.  Speak softly and carry a big stick, you will go far, Roosevelt said. [1]  Good advice.  There's never been a time that I haven't felt like I needed protection.  There's also too few times that I felt like someone had my back.  One hand. I can count on one hand who my staunch defenders are.

I laugh because then I don't have to share my pain. I don't share my pain because it has no limits.  It has no limits because I've only known pain.  So I laugh.  I wield a stick.  I ...

I pace in a china shop being certain that I break nothing.  Delicate items just scream at me, "You're such a stupid idiot.  You can't have nice things like us.  You don't deserve it."  I pace and admire, hands clasped behind my back, my feet dragging on the floor because I have enormous clown feet that trip me and get in the way. A dangerous physical trait in a china shop.  I verbally declare how pretty the items are knowing the compliment won't be returned.  I avoid seeing my reflection in the polished silver and crystal because my likeness on those surfaces will decrease the value.

I think to myself, all I have to do is make a mad dash for the entryway, snatch my bat and charge through here, destroying at will.  That's all that stands between these precious momentos and their anhilation: my will.  I chuckle to myself.  I know how strong my will can be. Strong enough to hold back my own anger and pain.  The Hoover dam has nothing on me.

I walk past something especially poignant that captures my attention.  A carved figurine of a mother holding a newborn infant.  She is embraced from behind by her spouse.  I twist my fingers around the invisible leather grip of the bat in my hand, the bat that I've left at the front door.  Yes, even THAT has been taken from me.  THAT.  That moment.  Stolen.  Not retrievable.  No restitution. No apology.  Just "in your face bitch, you can't have this.  ever.  NOT EVER.  You will NEVER get this."  Maybe a tear fills my eye.  Maybe I bite my lip.  Maybe my hand makes a fist so tight that my nails dig into my palms and leave a mark.

The salesperson approaches me, "Can I help you with anything?"  I am pulled from my darkness back to reality, the lights of the shop suddenly too bright.  Can she help me with anything? She has no idea what she is asking me.  No. No she can't help. No one can.   I pause and say politely, "No.  Thank you. I'm just looking."  I walk to a nondescript corner of the store that has a generic product display of some colorful mass-produced flip-flop adornments. Useless crap that ends up in the trash.  Why do people spend money on this shit?  To make a flip-flop look pretty?  What's the point?  I look at the price tag. $17.99.  I snort.  I can't afford a flip-flop that costs $17.99 let alone the interchangeable pink polka dot ribbon straps with plastic gem stone in the center.  If this is the kind of crap a woman is supposed to buy to make her look pretty and desirable or to make her feel good about herself I guess I'm no kind of woman at all.

I leave the store, grab my bat and head for home.  Next time I tell myself.  Next time I'll let this bat make a hole in my self will and I'll fly through there like a wild banshee and destroy it all.  Next time I'll be brave enough to let that glass menagerie know that I deserve to be heard.  That my pain is real.  That I count too.  Then I remind myself that I'm barely making the mortgage and how the hell am I supposed to replace a store's worth of expensive merchandise? And do I really want to go to jail? Or end up on "Snapped" on the Oxygen Channel?  I turn on the classic rock, roll down the windows and crank it to full volume.  Ozzy is singing "Crazy Train".

I get to my driveway and put the van in park.  I turn off the engine and sit.  I sit in the silence until my mind isn't shouting angry thoughts anymore.  I sit until my hand is no longer itching to throw the bat around.  I sit until my eyes stop watering and my nose stops stinging and the lump in my throat melts away.  I sit until I can count out 10 blessings that I have in my life currently.  I sit until I can remember that there is a woman on this globe somewhere who would gladly trade my pain for hers because she's been through so much more than I could ever dream of.  I sit until I'm back in the present, the broken record of hurtful, stinging words and memories has ceased to repeat and is replaced by the chatter of the squirrels in the pine tree over my head. I sit until I can hear the wind whisper something soothing in the crest of my neighbor's fifty year old oak.  I sit until I see the face of my chihuahua peer through the front window and scratch at the glass, beckoning me to go inside.  I sit until the front door opens and WG comes running out saying, "Mommy!  Guess what animal I am today?"  I sit but I turn back the key in the ignition so I can hit the power window button on the driver's side door, letting it automatically roll down at just the right moment so WG's face and arms lean in through the open window to kiss and hug me.  I sit until she says, "Mom? Are you crying again?"

"No." I wipe my cheeks with my sleeve.

"Mom.  Yes you were."

"No.  Really.  Just allergies."


"OK. Maybe just a little WG."

"It's going to be OK mom.  I promise." I hear my words coming back at me from my eight year old daughter.  I chuckle.  Do I really say stuff like that?  Geez.  I'm so fucking optimistic.  What a pain in the ass.

"Yup. OK.  I'm coming."  I unlatch my seat belt, bend behind me to grab my purse out from it's hiding place so it won't be stolen in my absence, take a deep breath and open the door.  All the while WG is chattering away about the dog she is going to pretend to be for the rest of the day and I bite my lip as my eyes well up because she's blessing number one on my list, always. One day, I tell myself, One day I'll be brave enough to let people know what has really happened to me without the fear of retribution from the people that have hurt me. One day I'll be strong and not be afraid.  One day I'll be important enough to myself to no longer roll over and take it. 

One day when I get fucked off on facebook by my sister because she got pregnant a third time without being married and I just didn't want to read her messages on my facebook wall about how hard her life is and simply asked that we take a break from talking on facebook and after all the years of her shit I just couldn't deal with it, I'll defend myself. 

One day when I find out my former spouse and his entire family knew that he was sterile when he was 15 from a severe case of the mumps but no one bothered to tell me, i'll stand up for my rights and ask for an annulment instead of a divorce.  Because it was never a legitimate marriage if he never disclosed his sterility.  Because I didn't find out until January of this year, a month after I left him. Because just last October his own mother was still crooning that she knew, just knew that one day God would bless the two of us with biological children...

One day when my mother asks me what happened to me and my sisters and wants to know why we turned out the way we did, I'll tell her that when dad died, all the parenting we were ever going to get on this earth died with him.  One day I'll tell her that her emotional, negligent and mental abuse of the three of use remaining in her care after his death nearly cost her our custody on numerous occasions but the people that always asked me if I wanted them to report her to social services always got a "no" response from me because I was afraid that my youngest sister would be separated from us and put up for adoption.

One day when I am stalked at college by my mother's ex fiance who is psychotic, I will call the police to protect myself instead of calling her to tell her i'd seen him so she could deny that it could ever possibly be HIS brown, 1982 station wagon with the five trillion bumper stickers all over the back and HIS fucking fedora upon HIS fucking bearded head behind HIS fucking steering wheel, driving 10 miles an hour down the exact road that I had to cross at that exact time of day to get to my next class.  

One day I'll tell people that last fall the ex called me a fucking bitch in the morning because I pointed out that he never met our son's developmental delay specialist, a doctor that has been treating our son since he was three but by four pm that afternoon he was posting on his facebook wall  that I was the best wife ever.  One day I'll make people understand that he does shit like that so you won't believe me when I tell you the TRUTH.  So he can laugh and say, "What?  That's nonsense.  She's crazy.  I never said that to her.  Didn't you see what I put on facebook just this afternoon?  She doesn't remember how things really happen.  Her whole blog?  It's a complete exaggeration.  I only told her I was proud of her for writing it because I knew it was a good emotional outlet for her.  Of course I never called her a fucking bitch.  I've met AB's doctor.  Many times.  We have always been equal partners in the responsibilities of raising the children."  

And you'll say to me, "Wow.  I don't know what to believe.  he seems just as certain of his truth as you do of yours."  

One day I'll say to that, "Hopefully the integrity of my character speaks for itself.  If you don't know me well enough to see the truth, then you don't know me and we don't need to continue being friends.  Or family."

One day I'll tell you all of that.   And more.  One day I will matter to myself.  One day the burden of carrying my pain and anger will outweigh the burden of pain it may cause others when I tell the truth.  One day I'll actually use the big stick I carry when I speak softly and that bat will come flying through the air and smash the facade to smithereens. One day.

Perhaps today.

Then I remember that WG is still chattering away at me about her doggie plans and I look down at her and smile.  My left hand smooths down the hair at the top of her head and I kiss her on the forehead.  I take her right hand and enthusiastically say, "That all sounds like a really great idea!  What will your dog name be?"  We go through the front door to see Sissy picking at our black lab's hemangioma again and I sigh, still standing on the threshold of the doorway and say, "Sissy.  Room.  Now." And  she screams and wails that she hasn't done nothing, she's always getting blamed for everything and I only take up for WG and it's not fair.  I hold up my right hand and begin counting down from five.

"FINE!"  She screams again and  stomps to her room.  WG pulls on my left hand reminding me that she is still standing there just as AB paces past us, mp3 player in hand, headphones on, asking me without stopping or making eye contact what we're having for supper.

I turn to WG and smile."Well little beagle named Tawny, I think it's time to eat. What do you want for supper?"

*BARK* is her reply.

[1]Big Stick Ideology

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Good Day

Every time I think I've gotten to a place in my personal therapy where I think I will finally be "OK" something else comes up.


Onward and upward.   I will pull through and I will be stronger and more whole.  I've long since surrendered the hope that I will fully recover and have accepted that a part of me will always be missing.  But I won't let that one dead part of me consume the rest.  Here lies the difference between a substance abuser and an over-comer: the self-motivation and will to do more than survive but to thrive despite the pain and heartache.

This is where I tell you that I can empathize with Sissy.  I can accept that parts of her will also be forever unfixable.  But it's also when I tell you that choice will always be a determining factor in success.  Where is the line drawn in the sand?  Ah.  The conundrum.  The distance between self-actualization and surrendering to the pain is different for everyone.  My new job as  Sissy's parent is to help her see where the line in the sand is for HER and to give her the strength to acknowledge that she can still choose to over-come.

It also means that as I accept my own short comings, I have to accept whatever hers will be so we can cohabitate in a healthy, functional way.  For a parent, it means grieving for self AND for your child.  Children of trauma are often blissfully unaware of what has been taken from them.

So I continue on this odyssey of ups and downs, twists and turns, brick walls and sink holes.  One day I will stop being afraid but conquering that fear means I have to face the darkness head on.

In four weeks it may be possible that all three of my children will be on A/B honor roll for the first time in our family's history of education.  If it happens I've promised them a fancy dine-out experience complete with wearing our Sunday best.  Meanwhile, Sissy is on restriction.   AB is coming around, begrudgingly accepting that sixth grade requires more of him and WG is soaring high, finding new strength in different extracurricular activities than she's had before.  It's a fledgling year for the four of us.  I'm hopeful, apprehensive, nervous and daily fighting my own emotional battles.

Today I woke with a start without the aid of the alarm.  Eyes popped open, pupils dilated.  One more nightmare startling me awake.  WG curled up by my side because after visits with her Dad, she is often upside down emotionally and finds comfort just being near me.  I covered her with my "sheep", a fleece blanket that is piled like a woolly sheep, beckoned the dogs to go out for their morning business, woke up my two middle schoolers and began another day.  Coffee on, music turned to our favorite 80s mix station, my mom's bird chirping good morning and Sissy actually getting up after only three calls for her to wake.

Maybe today will be a good day? 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

MAD Hatter

In my last post I argued that it is pointless to be angry with mental illness because all it does is make the healthy people in the relationship angrier.

Apparently fate thought it would be fun to prove myself correct.

Good gravy, I'm so freakin' mad.  SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO SO mad mad mad mad mad.

I can't even intelligently type my thoughts.  I have 500,000 angry thoughts running through my head, the accumulation of a lifetime of loving mentally ill people that have abused me and lied to me and lied ABOUT me, betrayed me, belittled me, devalued me and ... dear God, I'm so mad.

I'm sick of the off handed apologies when the mentally ill loved one decides it's easier to just apologize than defend their error.  Those aren't apologies, those are statements that get me to shut up because why would I stand my ground then?  Any kind hearted individual says to themselves, "well, they apologized.  That's something."  Except when the apologies keep coming and the restitution never follows.  Or the acknowledgement that I'm not a punching bag.  Or that I deserve more than an apology.

Or the fact that the mentally ill person's choices have irrevocable consequences on MY life that I will have to suffer for the REST of my life.

Loving people with mental illness is so isolating.  And inadvertently they capitalize on that isolation.  If you're spending all your day trying to assist mentally ill persons through their mentally ill machinations then you're not spending any time with healthy persons.  In the absence of healthy thought processes and behaviors from people that love you correctly, you begin to think the only way to be treated and loved is in the mentally ill fashion.

Then you forget.

You forget that you're being abused, mistreated, devalued, betrayed, lied to and lied about, belittled and harmed irrevocably.

Until  it's too late and the damage is done.  And no amount of apology or restitution will make up for it.  And you're left holding a bag of writhing, poisonous snakes, no healthy relationships to find solace in and a lifetime of consequences for the choices of the mentally ill people that say they love you but in reality have no friggin' clue what love is. 

And then you wonder if you're loveable yourself, particularly if you've only surrounded yourself with people that love you in erroneous ways.

Then when you get so mad you want to do something erratic to release the tension and anger and sorrow, the mentally ill person points a finger at you and says, "see, YOU'RE the crazy one, not me"

I've followed patterns of mental illness from one relationship in my life to another and I just can't take it anymore.  I'm not sure if I'm more mad at myself, mental illness, the system that doesn't provide genuine help for these diseases, or the mentally ill persons that don't give a flying flip who they hurt just as long as their mentally ill thoughts and behaviors can be justified at all cost, even at the cost of losing their loved ones.

Because mental illness ALWAYS thinks it is the only truth.

I'd be less vague if I thought I wouldn't get hell, fire and brimstone from the mentally ill people in my life: past, present and future, who might or might not be reading my blog now or in the future.  Because if there's one battle I DON'T have the energy to fight is the battle that defends the truth on MY behalf, the battle that wages war for ME, the battle that advocates for MY rights.

That's what mental illness does to the healthy loved ones. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Truth

In a court of law before a judge, we are asked to raise our right hand and solemnly swear to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth so help me God.

The whole truth?

The whole truth is humans don't know how to be truthful when they think their butts are on the line.  It's our carnal nature to save ourselves at all cost.  Throw in mental illness and well, the whole cause-and-effect, morally-ethical, conscience-driven attitude doesn't exist.  It's broken.  Caput.  Zip.  Zilch.  Nada.  Never existed, don't expect it to appear out of thin air.  The diseased brain is quite simply, chemically incapable of doing anything other than preserving self.

Consider it the system default of survival mode.

The truth is, when you spell it that way, can you really blame a person for hunkering down, locking jaws, sinking in their teeth and defending the carnage of their erroneous thought processes if said individual is instinctually tripping the fight-or-flight switch when faced with any and every situation in which their appears to be a threat of survival, no matter how small?

Can you?

I don't see how I can be angry with that.

No.  Anger at the chemically diseased brain and the individual in which it resides accomplishes nothing.  In fact, it can be argued that said anger only makes the healthy individual in the relationship angrier.  Because the truth is...

Mental Illness is NEVER a curable disorder.

Cancer attacks at the cellular level and destroys tissues, organs and organ systems.  Viruses lurk and pervert healthy cells with their terrorist DNA.  Bacteria eat and eat and eat and destroy, destroy, destroy.  All can be treated. Some with successful outcomes, others with the inevitable preternatural demise.

But mental illness?

It is the proverbial Boogey Man that stealthily and silently attacks when the victim is unaware.  It is the vicious bull dog chained up in the junk yard and never fed.  It is the conniving temptress on the street corner making promises of pleasure at a cost.  It is the Grim Reaper, stealer of souls.  It is the slithering snake that glides under the front porch to wait for you to let out Mr. Jingles for his  morning game of cat and  mouse.  It lies, how it lies.  Lies upon lies upon mountains of lies until the truth is so far gone that it becomes the lie.

The mystery of Sissy's "capped out" status is solved.  The current agency that is working with her case cannot write the PRTF because then medicaid will consider them as incapable of providing adequate services to their clients.  In other words, medicaid will say to themselves, "hey, this is the third time this patient has been referred by this agency for residential treatment. Clearly this agency doesn't know what they are doing."

The new game becomes not how to therapeutically manage my daughter's illness with medications and DBTs while she lives her days at home being pleasant for teachers and screaming shit at me but how to seamlessly switch core providers without interrupting the dosing of her psychiatric medications or letting on that my whole M.O. in switching providers isn't to provide better services for her but to get another agency to write the PRTF.


I could play the "call 911 or the crisis mobile team and go to the emergency room and hope to get a bed on the temporary pediatric psych floor while she is assessed by the on call team so they can determine if she needs a 1013 or a RTC placement"

Which, as history and experience will tell me, is crock load of crap.

Because the truth is, everyone that works in the mental illness field is being convinced by insurance companies that mental illness IS curable, manageable, treatable.  You see?  Lie becomes truth, truth becomes the lie.

I've had just about all I can swallow of mental illness, the stigmas, the idiocy of bureaucracy and the insanity of insurance.  Today my daughter was all over the universe with her mood swings, tantruming, erratic behaviors and mania.  And that was just today. From 4-8pm.

Oh, I'll raise my right hand and solemnly swear all  right.  How offended are you when you hear a steady stream of expletives?

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


I didn't fall off the planet.  I thought about it but decided access to oxygen was paramount to my survival.  So I succumbed to gravity and kept my feet on the ground.

Although there have been days I have begged to get off!

Sissy is back to full-on nonsense.   Her CAFAS is just shy of meeting hospitalization requirement but wait, what's this?  That's right.  Apparently she's capped out in medicaid for PRTF and IFI services.  Still not sure how it's possible for a disabled child to cap out of services.  Still too dizzy from that recent revelation to take the time to start digging and researching again.

Mostly, I've spent my time being an effective single parent.  The kids are all processing the divorce in different ways and like myself, it varies from day to day.

AB has grown so much he is just three inches shy of being taller than me.  Sissy is the same height she's always been and WG is catching up to Sissy, much to her big sister's dismay.

Today the kids went back to school, Sissy and AB getting on the bus a full hour before WG had to leave for school.  She and I were quite pleased to realize that we have the next three school years of morning time alone; the kids won't be at the same school again until WG is in ninth grade.

I've been thinking long and hard about returning to blogging.  After the blog was used as an attempt to prove that I'm unfit as a mother before a judge, it became very difficult to return to my openness and honesty about how raising challenged children impacts an entire family.  At the hearing in June,  I asked if I would be legally prevented from blogging and was told that there is no legal jurisdiction to stop me.  Then his lawyer provided her own opinion about blogging suggesting that if I thought about it, I wouldn't want my daughter to know that I speak about her issues in a public way.

But that's an opinion, not legal advice.

Let me tell you what Sissy has to say about herself and her issues:
ME:  Well when you grow up you'll need to be prepared to take care of yourself
SISSY:  I don't want to live without you, even when I'm grown up
ME:  You might change you're mind when you're grown up
SISSY:  No.  I won't.  I can't do this by myself, it's too much.
ME:  Do what?
SISSY:  All of this.  My medicine and my doctors and ... all of it.
ME:  OK.  Then you can stay with me.  But I still think you'll change your mind later.
SISSY:  I won't.  I can't do all of this.  I need help forever.

In another conversation:
SISSY:  I wish I wasn't born this way!
ME:  I'm sorry, I wish I could change it for you.
SISSY:  I hate my illness!
ME:  I understand, it would make me pretty mad too if I were you.
SISSY:  It's not fair!  Why do I have to be like this?
ME:  I don't have an answer for that.  I can only tell you that everyone has SOMETHING they have to deal with.  No one's life is perfect.
SISSY:  Not like ME!
ME:  Actually, there are LOTS of people with mental health illness.  Do you remember what the bulletin board in the nurse's office said?
SISSY:  One in four people have mental illness.
ME:  Yup.  And when you turn 13, you'll be old enough to attend the NAMI support group.  You'll be able to talk to other girls with the same issues.
SISSY:  And the same meds?
ME:  Maybe.
SISSY:  You take meds.
ME:  Yup.  I have thyroid disease and ...
SISSY:  ... and you can't eat gluten and you can't have children ...
WG:  And you have panic attacks like me!
ME:  Yup.  See, everyone has something to deal with.
SISSY:  Can I have a hug?

The long and the short of it is, although I may be more open than most bloggers about our family's situation, I believe my raw honesty is justified in the sense that in order to demystify mental illness, assuage stereotyping and support our loved ones that suffer these brain disorders, it begins with education.  And who better to educate than the families living this life day in and day out?

I could pretend to be anything or anyone with any situation. I could create a completely false picture of how our family copes with supporting and providing care for two disabled children but who would benefit?  Not my children.  Not me.  Not my readers that are walking this road with me. Not the people that aren't aware that such challenges exist.  In fact, NO ONE benefits if I remain quiet.  So blog I will.

There's been lots of changes the past several months.  Stay tuned!  Same bat time, same bat channel.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Missive to the Whistling Tea Kettle

Just because I can...

Dear Tea Kettle,

I hope you can assist me in understanding better how you think and operate.  At this time, I am greatly concerned about your emotional well being.

When I fill you with water, you do not protest.  Thank you for that.  When I put you on the stove, you are compliant and you stay on your spot until I remove you.  I am grateful for this as well.  In a world filled with ADD diagnoses, it is quite comforting to know you will be still without reprimand.

However, when I am anxious for my tea, you refuse to boil quickly.  When I walk away and sit down because I'm tired of waiting on you, the instant my bottom hits the sofa, you begin screaming like a wild banshee.

Is it absolutely necessary for you to holler so loudly?  And this, when the children are in bed sleeping?  Don't you know you will wake them up?  I'm just trying to make a cup of sleepytime chamomile so I can rest easy too and there you go, screaming and hollering and making such a huge fuss.  It startles me and hurts my ears!  And the dogs protest. 

Your behavior is most irrational.  Of course the stove is hot and the water that is boiling within your stainless steel belly is 100'C.  You knew that such would be your plight when you were forged into your kettle shape at the factory.  Why scream about it every time as if you had no idea that it would get so hot?  Seriously.  It's too much.  I need you to calm down.

Be glad I'm not using the microwave to warm my water.  You and I both know that the microwave doesn't heat water as evenly as you do.  In many homes, the microwave has made the whistling tea kettle obsolete so you should be thanking ME that you still have a job!

Please, kettle, boil when I watch you and don't whistle so loudly while the children sleep.  That is all I ask.

Matron of the Abode in which you Reside

P.S.  I can always boil water in a saucepan...

Monday, May 14, 2012

Little Things

Yesterday was such a lovely Mother's Day.  Sissy greeted me with her tiara on the pillow I made her for her birthday.  "Happy Mother's Day Mom.  You can wear my crown today."

Of course, it was promptly put upon my head and I did indeed wear it all day, even while in the grocery store. 

Sissy and WG asked to wish their birthmother a happy mother's day but at the last minute, WG chickened out.  Over speaker phone, Sissy said, "Happy mother's day Mom" to her birth mom.  So very, very cool.

A nice rainy day spent coloring mandalas with their Aunt who was celebrating her first mother's day as a new step-mom.  Noni played cards on her laptop, Sissy and AB watched TV (and napped a little) while WG and her new cousin ran themselves ragged.  Papa snoozed it out until supper.  I couldn't have asked for a better day.

Recently, my biggest personal struggle has been learning to know what I need and want, putting myself before others for the first time in my life.  It feel so backward and incongruent with the title of Mother to think and do for oneself.  Inherently I know that if I'm happy, then my home is happy but what makes me happy?  Every time I asked myself that question, I kept coming up with one thing - I wanted something little and snuggly to hold.

Our dog Hope will be gone two years this September.  I've missed her very much but have always had it in my head to get another animal.  Knowing I needed something little to hold and wanting to add a new family member, I'd been searching craigslist, the local shelters and foster homes for about eight months.  I knew that it would be obvious when I found the right match.

Tiny little Roscoe, a brindle teacup chihuahua now sits on the recliner armrest next to me, curled up in the tiniest ball of fur, gently snoring.  He's exactly what I needed and what I wanted.  Indeed he has filled up a gap for all us: the kids, Gracie who grieved Hope the most and myself. 

I can't remember the last time my heart felt so full and warm.  I could get used to this!  It's nice to know that little things really DO matter.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Have Fun

Tomorrow is the last day of instruction for my school.  Next week is exams followed by graduation. My three finish school next Friday, Sissy and AB "graduating" from grade school.  Then before me lies another long, hot summer with bored, arguing children that have gotten older, stronger, mouthier and less tolerant of, well, everything in the universe. Somehow, in the midst of that I'll have to figure out tutoring and possibly teaching summer school.

The days grow long and I feel myself being pulled to the memories of my own childhood summers, playing badminton and volleyball using the clothes line as the net.  Catching fireflies. Star gazing.  Watching summer thunderstorms roll in from the corner of the corn field to our back yard while we sat on the covered porch savoring the smell of the rain and the cool wind on our faces.  Fourth of July in the park, walking to the library for more Agatha Christie novels.  Sleep overs.  Hanging laundry on the clothesline and forgetting to take it off before dusk and the June bugs clung to the cotton fibers of your shorts as though their very lives depended upon it.  Mowing the tall green grass that was thicker than a carpet.  Watching bunnies hop out from under the shed in the early morning.  Listening to the corn grow.

I wish my childhood summer memories could be my children's memories.  Instead, it will be another summer of therapists marching in and out, approaching every conflict with a therapeutic flair, listening to Sissy whine or scream or tantrum and begging inside my head that she be a neurotypical 12 year old for just one day.  Dancing around AB as his moods fluctuate and threaten like the dark cloud that hangs over only Eeyore's head.  Trying desperately to bring normalcy to  at least WG's childhood knowing that it's futile.

Lightening bugs.  Anoles.  June bugs.  Stars.  Blue moons. Fields. Thunderstorms. Windchimes. Books.  Fireworks.  Swimming. Sunburns.  Hotdogs.  Watermelon.  Corn. Sandals.   Beach.  Shells. Friends. Fun.

That's what I want this summer to encapsulate.  I hope I can make it happen. It won't be long before their own summer plans usurp mine.

I will myself to ignore Sissy's "Mom!!! Since we're here can I get a magazine?!" shrieks from the backseat of the van when I pull up to the gas pump.

 I choose to not engage when she screams in my face, "My new earbuds hurt my ears!  You know my ears are sensitive!!!"  when she begged for new earbuds and has no problem with the pair except that she simply wants to use the headphones designated for the television and any excuse to prove that she should have that privilege is a better expressed excuse when screamed at 180db to my bewildered expression. 

I will steel my nerves when she runs through the library holding herself and exclaiming loudly that she has to pee.

I will think of lightening bugs, anoles, stars, blue moons, fields, thunderstorms, windchimes, books, fireworks, swimming, sunburns, hotdogs, watermelon, corn, sandals, beaches, shells friends and fun when she is chattering incessantly to no one in particular but getting exponentially irritated when no one in particular is listening to her.

I will chant, "god doesn't hate me" when I'm quite certain that he must unequivocally detest every fiber of my being when the children are in nuclear meltdown at the checkout of the grocery store.

With all that is in me, I will provide the children with the platform to have beautiful childhood summer memories that will stand the test of time, patience, tantrums, arguments, the blistering heat and their challenges.

I will survive, nay I will have fun.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

New Problems

What is "under"?  Because if I say, "the dishwasher detergent is UNDER the sink" why does my daughter reach for the Palmolive ON TOP OF  the sink?

What is "be quiet"?  Because if I say "Sissy, stop talking and BE QUIET" why does her mouth keep running?  And then when I say, "BE QUIET!!!" a little more forcefully why does she scream at me that she's "NOT TALKING!"

What is "eat politely"?  Because if I'm out in public and I ask my daughter to eat politely when she is having an ice cream, why does she have so much chocolate all.over.her.face.hair.hands.chin.and.clothes that it looks like she fell into a pile of poop?

What is "stop screaming"?  Because if I say, "Sissy stop.screaming.at.me" why then does she proceed to get nose-to-nose and scream louder?

What is "put your things away"?  Because I've asked Sissy ten times to put her personal items away and yet, they remain on the sofa, table, kitchen floor, hallway floor, kitchen counter, bedroom floor, back porch steps ...

What is "take your medicine"?  Because I literally have to stand over my daughter at med dosing time and tell her five hundred times to take her pills while she gabs, talks, giggles, fusses, shouts, you name it.

What is "close the back door"?  Because I've told her to close the door behind her countless times and yet, it remains open.

What is "do your best"? when my daughter comes to me with her sleeping bag all balled up and twisted into contortions with the string double knotted somewhere around the mid section and says, "i  can't do it"?  Because I know she hasn't done her best.  And so does she.

If someone can please tell me where I'm erring in my efforts to communicate directives in the English language, I would be much obliged.  Until then, I seem to have new problems to conquer, the least of which is that my 12 y/o daughter seems to have a hearing issue.

The best part so far for my Sunday morning that began three and a half hours ago?  Sissy announcing that she'll be a teenager this year (eight full months from now) and not three seconds later she was in a full-blown two y/o toddler tantrum.

eh, perhaps I'd be more forgiving if I hadn't had the brilliant idea of spending quality time with the children in the tent in the backyard ... all night.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Another week of crazy looms on the horizon

After last week's school fiasco, Sissy ended up on a two week restriction at home and with much narrower parameters at school. Voila. With the exception of Thursday night's rabble rousing event over toothpaste (why is it always toothpaste?!?) she has done SO.MUCH.BETTER.

We had a quiet weekend. She wanted to go full-tilt but I refused, refused, refused. We spent one and a half hours out of the house Saturday doing chores like recycling, a quick trip to the grocery store and a fun outing to browse the pet store with our dog in tow (it's silly but the kids really enjoy being allowed to take the dog into a store so even though we walk out of there empty handed, they have a blast.)

 Her restriction is no TV, no Wii, no DS, no music beyond radio, early bed time. Two weeks. On her restriction contract we've included what she IS allowed to do. I made sure the list of DO's was longer than the list of DON'Ts.

The past 72 hours she's been so much better. Of course, she initially had trouble finding ways to amuse herself and wanted to pester, pester, pester for time with someone else and entertainment from another person. I simply said, "well, I have plenty of chores you can do..."

She's played with her dolls, her b.arbies, she finished another biography on E.lvis, she played outside, drew pictures, tidied up her space, brushed my hair, sat on the swing, took a bath and put herself to sleep.

Amazing how narrowing parameters makes the intense emotions fade. Of course, I'll probably be eating crow next time she hits another roadblock but I made sure to compliment her on her success of excepting her limits thus far. We've only had one ten minute time out for being mouthy since Friday morning.

 I sure do like quiet in the house!

AB is loving life with his new glasses. He's also self-modulating by spending an inordinate amount of time on the trampoline. And may wonders never cease, the boy said, "mom. canIopenmywindowtogetfreshairinmyroom?" He recognized that his adolescent self had made his room a den of pre-teen boy aromas. He's such a cool kid. He watches M.thbusters over and over and over and laughs heartily at the same funny scenes a hundred times, begging for me to watch them time and again.

 I'll politely say, "well, you've shown me that one before."

"Oh yeah. I forgot. It's so funny."

But I watch it anyway because I love to see and hear him laugh. He's also tremendously helpful. We made a quick run to H.ome D.epot to get a replacement blind for the back door, WG having annihilated the old one. Looking at the vinyl blinds, AB said "mom. this one is good." He was pointing to the bamboo version. He's right. It's much better. I like it when he makes suggestions that seem innocuous but are spot on perfect.

Their Aunt was here this afternoon just hanging out and I can't believe that he is only one inch shorter than she is. Good golly that boy has grown!

Speaking of growing, our caterpillars have hatched into beautiful painted-lady butterflies. One didn't make it but nonetheless, it's been so much fun. I never get tired of the wonder and curiosity of metamorphosis. Tomorrow we plan to release them and hopefully in the morning before the bus comes so the neighbor kids can participate too.

I'm rambling. It's late and it's Sunday and there's another week of craziness looming on the horizon. My but 6 a.m. comes quickly. Love to all!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Screamfest 101

Yikes. A new blogger format. It scares me! *shivers*

 Learning new technology stuff is annoying. I don't have the time to readjust. I'm too tired. Why do things change? Oh well,if they didn't I'd probably complain that it was boring.

 Change has smacked me in the face this week. Sissy... she's coming undone. How she managed to avoid suspension this week is beyond me. She bribed another student: if she was paid $1.00 she'd stop stalking the student. When confronted by the teachers and the stalked student's parents, my daughter decided to reduce her fee to $0.50. If that wasn't enough, she marched up to the parents of the victimized student and told them what was what - explaining that it was THEIR daughter that was the liar.

 I may have to insist that my daughter be returned to the EBD classroom. This is the third outburst during school in two weeks. Last week the PE coach was rather put-out to say the least when she approached me in the car rider lane, handing me a fist full of nail polish vials and a miniature skate board she had confiscated. Apparently Sissy was refusing to participate in PE, huddled in the corner fiddling with things. When approached by the coach who inquired what Sissy was doing, my child's first response was, "I didn't open the nail polish." But of course her hands and skateboard were covered with various colors. And whom did Sissy blame for her choice to squirrel away these items? The student she was stalking.

 *bang head here*

 So pretty much, it's been screamfest 101 out of Sissy's mouth every night this week including a crisis call Tuesday night. The therapist's opinion was that should she get that bad again, I should call 911. But do I REALLY want to go down that road again with her? Um. No.

Bottom line, I think this school business is driving her monkey train and moving back to EBD is likely the best bet. Let's hope I can convince the county of the same. I think I'll mention the fact that on Monday, just a few hours south of here, a six year old was handcuffed for her classroom tantrum. And do they really want that kind of publicity for our perfect little county? I don't think so.

That's enough of my pity party for today.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A welcome Return

I had the privilege of spending 16 days throughout the last month with my youngest sister as she passed in and out of town. I love her very much and wish she would stay but she's a free-agent, a traveler and has other things to do than make her big sister feel loved and at peace.

However, she did leave me a few treasures, including Tibetan meditation music, fresh sage for burning, a macaw feather,a medicine bag and the strength to keep on keeping on. With the addition of new skills learned in Orlando like hooping and practicing my own henna art (with paper and pen for now until my hand is steady), I feel like an energized woman. Incense, meditation, relaxation, mandalas all of it have given me hope.

Being back in the classroom has helped me spend my days productively. The teenagers are still teenagers but I don't mind. It gives me something else to think about during the day. My own kids think it's too cool that I'm back in the classroom and AB and Sissy are begging to be enrolled at my school next year as rising middle schoolers instead of the public school they're zoned for. Oh how I wish I could make that happen. The tuition bill alone doubles what I'd make teaching for the year. WG likes to come to my classroom and pretend she's a teacher. Sissy likes that we have a library. AB likes all the science stuff I have every where. It's really neat to see them interested in ME and what makes MOM happy.

We are even doing our own home experiments. The girls caught tent caterpillars and one has already gone to chrysalis. I think the other will die because Sissy keeps handling him. I purchased painted lady butterfly caterpillars and in one week they went from being one centimeter long to this!

The kids can't wait until they're all in chrysalis. I'm a little panicked that the tent caterpillars in the butterfly tent won't have hatched yet and as future moths, may pose a threat to the survival of the butterflies. Time will tell. But as luck would have it, cleaning out my classroom from the previous instructor, I found a certificate to order more butterfly larvae so I can repeat the experiment with my biology students. I don't know why but that just makes me so happy. Literally, I squealed with excitement when I found the certificate. I showed my students the postcard sized piece of paper and gushed and gushed about it but 14-15 year old teens don't much care about such things. So I guess that makes me the nerdy science teacher? Oh well!

AB has had some changes recently. He's walking so much better that he's not been wearing his AFO's for several months. It's a lot less hassle in the morning getting him dressed, I assure you. His growth has slowed some and he is steady at 85% height and weight. His voice is DEEP, it changed so fast and he's convinced he's part werewolf because his body hair has grown in so much. He's still not ready to shave his mustache and I teased him that it looked like one of the caterpillars we're growing. He thought that was hysterical. He's back in glasses, this time for near-sighted vision. He was so happy to put them on that he actually smiled! (If you know my son, you know that expressing outward emotion in a public place is HUGE.) Alas, in addition to getting glasses, he has failed the initial hearing test too so we're off to a specialist to rule out or confirm hearing loss. C'est la vie. We've been down this road with him before. We'll see what the tests reveal and go from there.

WG is doing much better at managing her anger and anxiety but the PTSD still affects her sleeping. She has nightmares frequently and despite my best efforts, I've not been able to convince her that sleeping alone or with a sibling will be just as good as being with mom. Thus, she is putting up royal fusses at bedtime, sleeping in the recliner, on the sofa, on the floor, in the hallway ... it's a mess. I really need to have my bed at night or I'd just let her sleep with me every night. But as tiny as she is, she can fill up a bed all by herself which makes her a lousy bed fellow. For now, we've tentatively agreed to her sleeping on a palate on my bedroom floor. *sigh* I keep telling myself this will pass. I remind myself that in no time at all she won't need me and I'll be the bane of her existence so I should revel in this time. But those admonitions are always usurped by my desperate need for alone time.

Sissy fussed and hollered at me this evening when I cut her outdoor time short for bedtime routines. Our county is doing state standardized testing and she needs proper sleep. She insisted that it didn't matter: she has already repeated fifth grade, doesn't need to pass the standardized test to move on to sixth grade and please, please PUHLEASE, she'd do anything, ANYTHING if I just let her have a few more minutes of scooter time. And anyway, she begged, she thinks she got all of the reading questions correct today. My can she wail and holler. In the long, narrow hallway her shrill screeches really echo.

When she gets like that, you can't reason with her. So I just stone-faced wait until her mouth is closed and there's no sound coming out of her being. When I open my mouth to speak, she usually starts in again with her wailing so she can't hear me. That's when I hold up my hand and count down from five with my fingers, her queue that if she's not silent to hear mom, she's getting a time-out consequence (and close to bedtime that means just going straight to bed.) My ears were still ringing when she stopped begging, just one finger still standing. "Sissy, if you hurry and do your routines you can read quietly until 8:30."


It's so hard not to laugh! She dashed up lickety split and then when all was said and done, opted to just go straight to sleep. OK then. So all that screaming was for nothing. Fun times, fun times.

I'll never get used to seeing a 12 year old behave like a two year old but at least it doesn't ruffle my feathers anymore. I let her use up that negative energy but I don't reflect it back. Instead she gets a hug and love as a welcome return.

A quilt I made for my friend's baby who will be here no later than next Friday. I have two others like it just about finished and ready to put up on the etsy site.

My sister sporting a leather skirt she made by hand. It, along with many other items is for sale on my etsy site as well. Go check it out. The link is at the top of the right sidebar.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Where the Sun Don't Shine

I gave up anger for lent. The intensity of that emotion was weighing me down and impacting everything in my life. I purposefully chose to lay down that emotion so I could concentrate on the other emotions that get hidden behind that blind wall. I felt grief, longing, happiness, hope, courage, wisdom, fear, strength, sorrow, despair, hatred, love, beauty and so much more. Anxiety came visiting a few times but it became easier and faster to snuff it out. It was very satisfying and I'm glad I made that choice.

Now that Easter has passed, anger has risen up hard and fast. I have good reason to be angry. Having spent 40 days refusing that emotion, I now feel that I have more control over my anger so I can use it as a positive tool that propels me into proactive directions as opposed to destructive paths.

I grieve that I haven't blogged as much. For so long it has been my lifeline to sanity, hope and strength. Knowing that other families were just a few typed characters away from understanding my situation has fortified me and allowed me to keep plowing headlong through the chaos that is mental health illness no matter how difficult it became. Sissy still has difficult moments, as does AB and now WG who is finally processing the trauma of the past several years but we are a cohesive unit and more often than not, support each other instead of hinder.

Just this morning I was agitated, having not slept well last night. I tossed and turned, brooding and stewing on some recent events that have been upsetting to me. At two-thirty in the morning I reminded myself that anger only helps me if I use it to better myself. I finally fell back asleep but awoke to a fresh wave of frustration. Unintentionally, I allowed my frustration to ooze all over our normally peaceful morning routines. I apologized quickly and explained briefly why I was upset and acknowledged that it was still no excuse.

I was standing at the sink, filling the dishwasher while this exchange occurred. Sissy was practicing her math skills on the computer while gibbering on and on to no one in particular, WG was in my room doing her homework, frustratingly waiting for me to get her some breakfast, and AB was pacing in front of the counter waiting for me to dry my hands so I could tie his shoes for him. With or without external life stressors, the particular set of circumstances would unnerve the most patient of moms, I know that and I give myself some leeway in my fallacy. No one is perfect but I except no deviations for myself. It is who I am and how I operate.

Sissy, after hearing my apology and explanation said, "Mom? Do you think a hug would help?"

Typically, when Sissy is agitated or perseverating on an emotionally troubling conflict, I say nonchalantly, "Huh. Sounds like it's hug time." So I was taken aback that my typical response to her difficulties was coming full circle. I stopped what I was doing and stood still at the kitchen sink, AB still pacing, WG still hollering from the other room for her breakfast. Would a hug help? I asked myself. Is that what I need at this time? I decided physical contact could never be a bad thing so I said, "You know what Sissy? I think it would. Can I have a hug?"

She got up from the computer, walked to me and wrapped her arms around my middle. Even though she's 12, she's still so very small so her head still fits under my chin perfectly when we hug. I breathed in her essence and allowed her hug to warm me. I took three slow deep breaths and let out my tension. With each exhalation, a little more melted away. "Thank you Sissy. That was EXACTLY what I needed. Thank you for knowing what I needed and providing it for me."

"Your welcome." And she walked back to the computer. I bent down to tie AB's shoes then poured the cereal into WG's bowl, walking back to my room to give it to her while she finished her homework. Magic. I can't believe such simple magic occurs in my house now. It's so beautiful and peaceful. There are many bends and twists, hills and valleys, rocky and steep paths still ahead but we take them one step at a time.

I've not allowed the "sun" to shine on some aspects of my personal life in this blog. But I feel it is unfair to my readers who have followed our family's story for so long to not offer further disclosure.

I have filed for divorce. I have been separated since December 3rd. This blog became a point of concern at the first hearing on February 8th. At that time, it was intimated that I had used this blog to misrepresent our story, manipulating the goodness of my readers, abusing the system for selfish gain and to "get rid of" Sissy all while telling everyone how they could abuse the system in like turn. The entire blog was printed and presented in court.

It has been very hard to continue our story in light of such strong, blasphemous accusations none of which are true.

In the long run, although blogging has been so supportive and amazingly restorative not to mention the life-long connections I've made with so many readers in addition to finding and plugging into the ETAAM support group, it has become a weapon used against me. I'm not the only blogger that has experienced such a turnabout. Ultimately, if your life story is a challenged one, people will begin to question the verity of your tale. All I can say is, every person perceives an event or series of events in their own way with their own backgrounds, histories, emotions, trauma, anxiety, behaviors and preconceived notions. 100 people could witness the same event and yet all 100 will write a different account. This disparity is not error, it is humanity. Thank GOD we are all different. What a boring world this would be if we were drones experiencing life in exactly the same measure.

That said, a blog is never "wrong" unless an individual begins blogging with the expressed intent of deception. But that is not my nature, never has been. My expressed intent of blogging our story was to make it known that we were in crisis and were desperate for help; desperate to know if others were experiencing the same trauma; desperate to help others in like kind.

There are still several areas of my personal life that I won't disclose in this blog as is my want. But my nondisclosure does not make this story any less true.

Why is Sissy so much better? I believe it is because the anger, violence and abuse in our home has finally stopped. I believe choosing to get divorced was the path that led to such clarity.

Today Sissy asked ME if I wanted a hug when I was feeling bad. THAT truth alone speaks volumes - more than any blog could put into words.

Be well this day. Be good to yourself. Let an unexpected someone hug you today.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

April Fools

I've never understood the reasoning behind April Fool's Day. I suppose it doesn't help that I don't like to be tricked. Trickery and deception are a quick trigger for me. Nonetheless,Friday Sissy announced with glee that Saturday would be April Fool's Day.

Me: "Um, no. April Fool's Day is Sunday."
Sissy: "huh? No it's not, it's tomorrow."
Me: "Tomorrow is Saturday the 31st."
Sissy: "No. It's April first."
Me: *sighing* "There are 31 days in March. Today is the 30th. That means tomorrow is the 31st. April Fool's day is not until Sunday."
Sissy: "But I thought there were only 30 days in March."
Me: "There are 31."
Sissy: "are you sure?"
Me: *sighing deeper* "yes."
Sissy: "So Sunday is April Fool's Day?"
Me: "Yes."
Sissy: "YAY! Mom! Sunday is April Fool's Day!"
Me: "Yep."
Sissy: "So I can play tricks on you on Sunday?"
Me: "technically."
Sissy: "YAY! Mom? Why aren't you excited?"
Me: "I don't like April Fool's Day."
Sissy: "but why, it's fun!"
Me: "I never think of good tricks and I don't like tricks being played on me."
Sissy: "Oh. So can we still celebrate April Fool's Day?"
Me: "I wouldn't necessarily call it a day for celebration, but yes. If you want to."
Sissy: "YES!" and she skipped away.

The kids woke me up this morning and not one of them has remembered it's April Fool's Day. I'm not about to remind them. I MIGHT mention that it's Palm Sunday but April fool's Day? I'm no fool! I'm keeping that little nugget a secret for as long as possible ... say, until tomorrow morning?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Manifest Destiny

AB's OT is awesome. Have I mentioned that before? She comes to the house and does all kinds of great stuff with him, but predominantly social stories. This past week she had a spot of wisdom for me. Once kids hit the double digits between 11 and 15, subtract ten years and that's how old they act

See, that's why Sissy is acting 2. She's 12. Finally she's "normal". LOL

My readership numbers are steadily declining. My life is suddenly uninteresting. Such is the price to pay for a life that isn't filled with daily chaos. Of course, chaos is relative. I still had to call the crisis team yesterday for Sissy because she was melting down, so irritable, so whiny, so...TWO. She got over it and her therapist came to the rescue and whisked her away for a few hours.

When she returned we went to the indoor pool at the Y, having not been in several months because it was being renovated. I forgot how much I love the water. I was certain an hour and a half in the pool would be prefect to calm everyone's frayed nerves but, alas it wasn't to be. By the time we returned home, all three of the kiddos were crying-screaming-melting down on me again. My error? I let them get too hungry.

Food and VOILA! All was well again. Heck, I even got them to do chores yesterday for allowance money, a first that I hope to replicate weekly. The issue has always been finding the extra cash to throw their way for doing things they should already be expected to do. I'm acutely aware that other children at these ages; 12, 11 and 7, are doing household chores regularly with or without monetary incentive. i know that's where I've been remiss as a mom but honestly, my energy has been so singularly devoted to therapeutically parenting them that the mundane things of childhood have fallen to the wayside. It's nice to be redirecting our family course to something resembling normal.

Their respite provider who has become my friend in no time at all stopped by later during the bedtime hour just to "hang out" but by golly, I'm awfully glad she did. Without a word, she stepped in and managed the bedtime routines with Sissy for me. None too soon, I was about to go lulu on her. Around seven, just before Sissy takes her bedtime meds her brain just stops. Some days I have the patience for it and other days I just can't deal. Last night was one of those nights. So glad to have a rescuer! I can't seem to convince her to move in...

Throw in the immediate return to the classroom directly after returning from Orlando, I'm swamped. And gloomy. Going to the annual ETAAM event in Orlando is so perfect but the unconditional love I receive from all of those amazing moms makes my heart ache when it disappears.

So many mixed emotions. I'm glad things in life have settled down, it's still astonishing to me. But I was so used to being on high alert that it's still an adjustment to this less frazzled pace. I'm glad to have a job and I'm enjoying my students but I miss the quiet afternoons alone. I'm eternally grateful for the ETAAM moms because they keep me grounded but I miss them desperately. Thursday I got sick and had to leave school early. I was feeling like I did last August, stress-induced illness. It hit me so fast. When I got home I flopped in the bed and didn't do anything until the next morning. So many changes so fast - even though they're good changes, it still causes stress.

The light at the end of the tunnel gets closer every day. I just have to keep walking, one foot in front of the other. And somehow, some way, get myself plugged into that unconditional love that I get from my ETAAM sisters, every day.

How does one do this, live this journey of pain and survive? I'm living it and yet I don't have an answer to the question. I just know it's possible because I believe it to be so, a manifest destiny.

Off to the barn for AB's riding therapy then. Have a blessed Sunday!