12/31/2015

Bidding 2015 Adieu

There were some seriously low moments in 2015. But then I watched this and felt all the gratitude for just what a beautiful life I am blessed to live.

As many of you know, 16 is my FAVORITE number, and I am convinced 2016 will be AMAZING. So, here is to a new year and hope!

Enjoy this quick little look back!



12/30/2015

You Are Perfect

Yesterday we had a really rough experience taking our kids to see Star Wars--trust me, we did everything we could to be as considerate and unobtrusive as possible out of respect for other patrons: midday showing on a weekday, weeks after opening, got there early to sit as removed as possible from other people, lots of popcorn to keep them munching and distracted, etc--but a few incidences of Roger loudly commenting on what he saw on the screen and a few chair bumps (with both Jason and I carefully whispering in their ears and helping the kids adjust) greatly angered a few people.  Most people didn't even turn their head but the people directly in front of us were shooting death glares and complained to a manager and essentially got us kicked out. Even though it's very obvious that Roger is special needs. And they never even flinched when the 10 year old boy directly to their right was asking his dad questions during the movie.

We left humiliated and ashamed. We were given vouchers, but the manager, whom we told about the autism, hovering over us from four feet away to kick us out at any minor infraction--in front of the entire crowd--was dehumanizing and I escaped with Juliet before he had the chance. In the hall he saw my face, so red it was purple from the shame, and as I told him through tears that we did everything we could to make the experience go smoothly even though we didn't have a single issue at our first family movie in July, he said there are theaters that do special sensory showings, like it's the first time I have heard that before. That our family doesn't belong, but there is a "special" place for us.

[Caveat: Yes, I know there are sensory screenings of movies. Trust me--if that were a good option for our kids we'd be all over it! Those aren't a good option bc Juliet is super easily distracted and lights on would lead to her running around instead of sticking close, and Roger actually prefers the dark so he's less aware of--thus less anxious about--the room full of people. Not to mention if it was loud with a lot of other kids that would distress them, as they both are deeply empathetic emotions wise and get overwhelmed easily by anyone who seems upset in any way. And please also understand that we aren't aholes--if our kids were actually making any sort of scene we would get them out of there. I could sense Juliet getting restless once so I missed 15 minutes of the movie to take her with me to the bathroom and have a short walk to calm her down. No different than if we had a crying baby we would rush out of the room. But these infractions from our kids were not that, were legit VERY minor.]

I told Jason through tears on the way home that if they isolate enough genetic markers of autism I have no doubt that we'll see parents testing for it in utero and aborting their babies the same way they do with Downs babies (at a rate of a whopping 90%). There are persistent attitudes our family, and others I know, face from people that we don't deserve to access the same public spaces because we are special needs. And I think next time we are clearly working hard to help our kids know they belong in this world, too, and the Lord created them and gave them life just as much as everyone else, and someone tells us we should go to a special / separate place I will look them in the eye and ask if it's next door to the special room for Black people.  

The tragedy of our society (and world) is humans want nice, easy clean lives with perfect little children. What people don't know is that, yes, my children have autism, AND they are perfect. Not but--AND. P!NK's song "F**kin' Perfect" played on the radio a lot when I was pregnant with Roger, and almost five years later, autism and all, I still cry every single time I listen to it and attempt to sing along.

Anyone who knows Roger and Juliet knows how sweet they are, how they don't have any comprehension of what it is to try and make another person feel bad. How pure they are, with no guessing games or manipulation at play; it is easy to know what they are feeling and it never even occurs to them to do or be anything other than exactly what and who they are. There are so many hard parts, to be sure, but there is great beauty in the complexity of how they are knit together. 

Friends, I beg of you, the next time you see a mom with a flipping out toddler don't assume the kid is just a brat. Or that if the mom just spanked more the kid would get in line. You NEVER know someone's circumstances. Maybe the kid has autism. Or excruciating chronic pain. Or maybe the dad recently walked out on the family. So many of us go through life feeling like we're barely holding it together and as little as a kind look from a stranger, or a word of encouragement to the struggling mom, can be the super glue that gives us the strength to not give up on life. 



Lastly, this: I keep telling our kids they are a gift. So Juliet climbed up on my lap as I pondered these things and said, "I'm being a present!?" 

Yes, my darling Bubby Girl. Yes, you are.

10/30/2015

Three Days Later

It's odd the things that break us.

I'm a person who, when really big things are happening, somehow I just deal. Stress ebbs and flows but I don't feel like I can't carry on. No real breakdowns through autism diagnoses, job losses, family deaths, super tough pregnancies and postpartum depression, an infant who screamed constantly and I only got 45 minutes of sleep at a time 5-8 times a day for four months, my own struggles with autoimmune illness and chronic fatigue, our entire life falling apart when our church was revealed to be destructive and corrupt...and that was just the last 6 years, though mainly the last 3. But none of those things felt like I was seriously just going to break down.

Then there have been the last four months. I could describe it again but blah. Just read this if you don't know what I am talking about. October is ending tomorrow and we still aren't home. It's ok, you can cry. It's been hard, there have been cranky days, but no breakdowns.

But then there was this past Tuesday.

Understand me, I am about to say something that will make many hate me. It's all right, I would hate me, too.

I never get stomach sick. Other than morning sickness or a weird thing where I will throw up the next morning if I don't get enough sleep, I don't throw up. I have never had food poisoning in my life, and I am one who will leave my leftovers from the Mexican restaurant in the car for 10 hours in 50 degree weather, put 'em in the fridge that night, and then reheat and eat them the next day. [True story, just did that last Friday.] I have thrown up from the flu three times in my life, and two have been in the last 6 years since I was nannying and then had my own kids. Before that it had been 17 years.

But some miracle, my kids seem to have my iron stomach. Roger threw up for the first time in his life in July, when a crazy super bug wiped out just about every person in our church, four months into his fifth year of life. Juliet has never thrown up and she just turned 3. Jason never throws up, either. In 8+ years of marriage I don't think he has ever thrown up. We're all fairly prone to colds, but not stomach bugs.

So, Tuesday. I was so excited because it was my first real day with both kids in school for 8 hours and no errands or chores to do or appointments. I planned to go back to the hotel, get in bed, read my iPhone, and sleep from like 11-3.

lolololololol

We were sitting in the car waiting for the bus at 7:45AM when I heard a god-awful sound in the backseat and turned to see poor Rog projectile vomit all over. And then again and again and again as I scrambled to get out and get back to him.

It was all over my poor Podge, his $350 car seat, and the seat and floor of Felix. Plus a little bit splattered onto Juliet's car seat and leg. I don't need to detail the next 15 minutes, but just know there was a lot of panicking from Roger (and remember that autism greatly limits his ability to understand and he definitely couldn't tell me his tummy hurt ahead of time), anguished tears from both kids, and oh, yay, we accidentally put the emergency car pack of diaper wipes in a bag that was at the hotel so I had to sneak across floors I am not supposed to walk on in our condo to go grab a giant Costco sized pack of wipes. And yah, this is the minimal detail version.

Suffice it to say, Roger came back to the hotel with me and threw up a bunch more. This time it mostly went into a bucket, but Tuesday was a lot of me trying to comfort a very confused little boy throwing up for only the second time in his life while cleaning up puke and then diarrhea out of couches and carpets with minimal cleaning supplies at the hotel. And you might think, "Hey, hotel perk! Make them clean up!" but they say they can't touch bodily fluids. Yippee.

I had some serious bouts of self pity, but mostly tended to my poor boy. And still, no breakdown.

I never got a chance to get a coffee that morning because I was trying to get back to the hotel ASAP since I had no containers in the car for puking. By afternoon I had the nastiest headache and I can tell when it's going to turn into a migraine and it was right on those fuzzy edges.

I decided to risk never sleeping again and grab a late-afternoon Starbucks after picking Juliet up. And for the first time that day, I felt a little reprieve.  I was grabbing a mocha to savor on the drive back to the hotel and knew we could rest all evening.

Grandes get me through many a day. Some days require a venti.
Especially when I've earned enough stars for a free one.

It's hard to explain, but the way the Rose Hill Starbucks drive-thru is set up requires a bit of awareness because only one extra car can fit behind where you place your order, or you block a lane of traffic and people get REALLY impatient. I am always cognizant to wait until there is space for me to not be hanging out and blocking that lane.

So, there I sit, and as I am waiting a gal pulls up next to me. I think she's pulling through, but is waiting because a truck is pulling out and it's not clear if he'll need into the same lane she's in. But the next thing I know she just shoots me a dirty look and guns it into the drive through, only there is no space so she's totally blocking that lane of traffic I was leaving open for others.

I can't even explain it, but I just LOST IT. I sat stunned for a second, like, "Did that even just happen?" and all I could do was stare at her black 2004 Jetta with the Seahawks Super Bowl Champions license plate surrounder thingy and think about how I wanted to get out of Felix and SHRED MY KEYS ALL ACROSS HER STUPID OLD UGLY CAR. I was going to wait but I was so overwhelmed and just done that I gunned the gas and left. I might have rolled my window stretched my arm out as far as it would go to display a choice finger to her.

Before I knew it I was SOBBING. Like, wrecked, heaving, how-am-I-not-crashing-this-car-right-now anguish.

One second I was saying, "Seriously, Lord? After EVERYTHING WE HAVE BEEN THROUGH I have to clean up puke all day on my first opportunity to actually rest and not have people needing me and climbing all over me and crying at me in months and months and now I can't even get a coffee to get rid of this headache when I AM PREGNANT AND I CAN'T TAKE ANY MEDICINE AND TYLENOL DOES NOTHING all because some stupid selfish bitchy girl couldn't wait her turn like the other 10 people in line? I never put you on blast for all the shittyness of this summer, kept leaning into you, but now I can't even have a coffee?" and that sounds angry but really it was 10 parts frustration and 90 parts anguish.

And then I got really mad. I was like, "Ain't no damn way I am crying over this." So I fantasized about crushing her car--with a giant rock, a bat, a golf club, a wrecking ball--for the 20 minute drive home.

I am really, really holy, you guys. Super Christian, here.

In all seriousness, I really have clung to the Lord this summer even when I didn't even know how I was still hanging on. Not because I am strong, but because he is faithful to remind me how truly good and trustworthy he is. Tuesday it was just all gone.

I have vulnerably asked God why he kept cranking the heat up higher and higher, didn't completely lose it when the 90th person said, "Oh man, even a few nights in a hotel would be so hard," like that was supposed to help me feel better in week 4 or 10 or 15. I didn't even fall apart or give up on God when I pretty much felt abandoned by him and his people due to the massive silence from the people I thought would be most eager to sacrificially love and serve our family.

But on Tuesday there was nothing. I was ANGRY with the Lord. There was a lot going on in my heart and I know better to pretend that I can hide it from him.

Now, if you read this and think I am endorsing this kind of behavior, or acting like this is "celebratory failurism" then honestly, go away. People like you drive me nuts.

The hardest part of a day like Tuesday is I didn't see it coming. All day I felt stressed and overwhelmed but at no point was I willfully choosing to say I didn't need the Lord. Never was I lazily neglecting to fight the temptation to give into feeling sorry for myself, not even as I cried trying to clean puke out of our car that we're supposed to trade-in in December with stupid baby wipes because at the time I had nothing else.

So, no, I didn't give up and give in, like that's a totes cool thing to do because #weak. Rather, I felt that I was consistently turning to the Lord in my weakness and my desire to not just be a bitter and whining hag. And then the next thing I knew, I was a hot angry mess with not a zilch of desire to hear a damn thing from him.

Straight up, I don't know how we survived the last 4 months. I really don't. There have been bright spots (like Juliet's turning three and a healthy Bébé Trois and finding out the gender, which I'll share next week!, or the fact that after many, many hours on the phone and emailing and fighting we got our insurance coverage for our hotel back) but overall it's just something where I don't know how I survived. I just did. There was no magic verse that made it all better, no sweet prayer that gave me the best perspective. It was a lot of daily grinding to say, "Lord, you don't feel good right now but you are and that's true no matter how I feel, so though you slay me, I will trust you. And I trust you to change my feelings, too."

But Tuesday? I had my break down. I wasn't proud of it, didn't want it, didn't invite it, didn't fail to fight it. It just happened. And you know what? The Lord was faithful. Nothing has magically been better. Wednesday was meh, but then yesterday had a whole heck of a lot of Juliet diarrhea to clean up and both kids were home sick (thus another no-day-to-myself-to-rest day) and even now I am writing from a very uncomfortable seat in a Panera because my kids had an event this morning that I attended and it just didn't make sense to sit in traffic for an hour going back to the hotel just to turn around again and pick them up.

I mean, my tush hurts, but it always hurts. It's not the worst. It just isn't home.

Truth be told, I'm not immune to the pressure to be some spiritual guru. Some lady who refers to sin in the past tense, like I used to have issues but I'm so holy now. Who talks a lot about fighting temptations and spiritual disciplines and dedicated times of Bible study and all that stuff. And, I'ma tell you straight up, I'm not telling you I don't read my Bible or pray or that I do think it's cool to be all lazy and treat my faith like some convenient thing. Knowing Jesus requires death to self and sacrifice. I just find that putting more effort into feeling spiritual never results in increased love of Jesus or other people.

You know what does? Being real. Admitting that eventually something can break me and I actually will in my heart feel and think things I thought I wasn't capable of, because I have grown so much and know better. But then I remember that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. I remember that even Jesus got overwhelmed and tried to get away to the mountains to get a little peace and quiet and likely to feel like he could breathe for just a hot second, be real with his Father without the noise of the world and everyone who needed something from him.

But he didn't come back down to the hordes of people opining about how to be nice and spiritual and then maybe God would heal their infirmities and make them super resistant to temptation; rather, he died to himself and loved and served. He healed and he preached. He walked on water and calmed storms and fed people literally and with his words.

I got home Tuesday in a cranky mood and guess what? I still had two needy toddlers, one quite sick, who needed their mama. I didn't snap at them harshly and tell them to seek Jesus about how to not be inconvenient mongrels. But I have been thinking about Matthew 11:25, and wondering if we really believe it. Sure, we throw around verses 27-30 about how to find rest in Jesus, because his burden is easy and yoke light and all that, but do you notice how it's preceded by verse 25?

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. [Matthew 11:25-26 ESV]

My kids? Little children. And, truly, while they are sinners they are about as innocent as can be. They don't know how to be mean spirited or hurtful; the idea never even occurs to them. They simply go through life existing, engaging when they can bear it. But they don't plan out ways to soften me up to get what they want from me, nor do they have any concept of performing in any way in order to get me to do something for them. So when they need something, they simply come to me as they are, in the same state in which they were when trying to do something on their own and then realizing they needed me be that state happy or mad or frustrated or desolate, and they say, "Mama help?"

Simple. Easy. No pontificating about how to establish the disciplines necessary to come to me. No evaluating their sanctification nor graphing out how they used to come to me before vs how they come to me now.

They just come to me, as they are in the moment.

"I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children."

I love that. So, if you, too, read or saw or heard or were told something this week that said you should be so wise and spiritual by now? And you remembered your equivalent of my Tuesday, and thought, "Lord, am I just a great un-holy disappointment to you?"

Friend, read the Bible. For real. Not some special structured time so you can feel all spiritual, but actually reading the words and asking God to help you believe he really does speak living words through it. Every time I wonder if I am supposed to be more like those shame- or pride-inducing articles about holiness and temptation, it's the actual scriptures that take me back to the Rock of Truth upon which I stand, the character and personhood of my Lord, my Savior, and my God, Jesus Christ.

Tuesday I completely lost it and fell apart. Three days later? Still in love with Jesus. Still his beloved baby girl. I'm still here, and so is he.