Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Summertime Rulez

Ahhhh Summer!!!!!

The time of year where we can let the bedtime routine go. The time of year when the sun is hot, the pool feels welcoming, and fresh fruits taste amazing! This is the time that most of look forward to all year!

But, for families of autism, summer can be the most stressful, nerve-wracking, patience-disturbing time of all.

Our kiddos with autism crave control and structure. It is in their DNA. This is why they love school so much. School is a bubble. It is a test tube of endless lists and tasks that are implemented by teachers that are trained to do such things. Home is a battleground of pesky siblings (who know the autistic's every button to push) and of over-tired parents who are just trying not to drown in their own problems of keeping it all together.

As one mom said to me in tears, "why can't I seem to get it together enough to have the good report that my son's teachers seem to have of him?" In other words, why do our children seem to behave better at school than they do with us at home?

I have a few theories about this:

-First of all, as stated earlier, school has all the resources needed to set these little people up for success. There are at least 2-3 more adults in the room than at home. (hello!! Wouldn't we all love at least 4 more sets of hands at home?) There are other children that are NOT related to them that can distract them from whatever is bothering them in the moment. (aaaaauuuuhhhhhh!! This shirt has a tag in it!!) Also, this is what these certifiably insane people have SIGNED UP to do in life. Yes! They have signed up to teach/corral/herd these children by CHOICE! So that means that they have had more training and (hopefully) more patience than you ever will. They can be almost perfect with scheduling because they have to in order to keep more than three children alive!

-Secondly, our children will always be more well-behaved with strangers. This is a good thing! We want our kids to act out with us because then we know they feel safe. We tend to "show our butts" when we feel like we can. We are our truest selves with those that we know will not abandon us.

-Thirdly, these teachers can do all of their schedules, ABA appropriate rigors, and rule-keeping because THEY GET TO GO HOME AT THE END OF THE DAY.

Let's just cut to the chase. Summer is hard. Breaks are hard. So here are a few things I have found to help make it through.

1. Every summer when Liam was younger I poured over websites of churches and camps to see who would be able to handle my little bundle of joy. Sometimes my searches came up short, but I eventually landed on a YMCA camp through Easter Seals. This would be more geared for elementary age children through high school, but well worth looking into to see if they have a program that would work for your child. We also did Vacation Bible Schools-several of them! It could be that a particular church has a ministry for special needs children. Or, maybe you could volunteer to go with your child and act as an aid for others. Obviously, if you're looking for a break, that is not the best option, but if you are looking for something to get you and your child out of the house, it could be ideal.

2. Schedule your down time!! This is my least favorite. By now, if you've kept up with this blog you know how much I hate schedules. But, for everyone's sanity, I would at least try to have a skeleton of a schedule for each day. Your schedule may have a large amount of digital activity on there (i.e. THANK YOU, JESUS, FOR IPADS!) This is okay. We're in summer mode and their brains are not going to rot if they watch several shows in a row. This is parenting bootcamp, let's not kill ourselves here.
How do they come out of the womb knowing how to  do technology?!

3. (in the same vein) Let go of Mommy/Daddy guilt. This may be your hardest task yet. Let go of trying to have it all together. You're exhausted, and so are they. If you need a nap, plug in the iPad and let that be their quiet time. Stop comparing yourself to their teachers and other parents on Facebook. Trust me, they're using the iPad too. That's how they have time to post on Facebook.

4. I realize that not all parents may have the luxury of taking a trip. Maybe a trip is the worst thing in the world for your family. Maybe it's just easier staying at home. BUT, every summer, we would plan a trip to the beach with my parents. I can say that I have been blessed with two people who, are not perfect, but love my children well and do pretty good with having them around. They have had to learn, like we all have, to roll with the punches and parent a little differently than maybe they did with me. This is a week that we always look forward to because it allows us to get away from our norm and rest. I encourage all of my readers to take the time to find rest--and water. Water is healing and  may be the one thing that helps calm your little one.

Nashville Public Library Story Time
5. Find something to do once a week that can become a summertime routine. One thing that we used to do each week was go to story time at our local library. Nashville has a beautiful library in the downtown area and has an award-winning children's outreach through their puppetry program. This is a free program and they have a beautiful outdoor area where you can picnic and kids can run around without people staring or judging you for their squeals of joy. I would encourage you to find something that you can do as a family once a week that helps both of you. It also teaches your little one to adapt to the outside world. They have to learn how to sit and behave at some point, and this could be a safe way to do it.


7. Remember to laugh at yourselves.

8. Phone a friend.

9. Let go of household chores for maybe one day. (or 5)

10. Be kind to yourself.

Wake up. Repeat.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

First Chair

In the hustle and bustle of life, we forget to feel. Well, it's not exactly like that. We just forget that we have all of these emotions pulsing through our veins at any given point.

Yes, that's right. Those things you thought you were pushing down into your belly don't exactly go anywhere. They tend to just float right back up to the surface. Those pesky little things that were created to tell us the temperature of our emotional selves continue to bounce all around us. And, as my mentor said, "If you try to get over 'em, you end up under 'em."

And, alas, the more work I do on myself (by way of counseling others and my own therapy), the more I find this statement to be true.

I found myself out and about a few nights ago, celebrating my best friend's birthday. We had amazing wine, great food, and hilarious banter! It was a fancy restaurant and I was dressed up both inside and out. I had my "outfit" on and I had my witty Self on that night as well.

On the car ride home, I was ecstatic to get to see Liam and tell him how proud I was of him. He had made first chair that day in percussion. First chair is as big a deal as any in our household. This is because the phrase starts with the word "FIRST", and as I have commented on many a blog, this is the word that sends my little guy through the roof!! He both loves and disdains competition. It excites him and freaks him out at the same time. He wants to be first every week, but there's always someone a little bit better than him...until this week.

The idea of chairs in percussion is you must play a scale on marimba the fastest without missing any notes and playing it in time. It occurred to Liam's friend, Zach, (see the blog "Sleepovers") that all of the other players had played the piece at 135 bpm, so Liam should bump it up to 140! Liam reluctantly decided to follow his advice and speed through his scale at 140.

He was so nervous after he played, he ran to the practice room and turned off the lights, waiting to see what the results were!! The pressure was just too much!

The list was typed up and printed off...the band teacher slowly walked over to the wall and slapped the results up so everyone could see who got what.

And there it was...Liam, after almost 7 1/2 months of school, was first chair.
The coveted FIRST CHAIR-I picture a throne in my head. 
So, you can imagine my excitement for him! I couldn't wait to hear the play by play and get a high five. I couldn't wait to bask in the moment with him and see his face light up when he told me about it.

Admittedly, I did get home a bit late, but I knew he would not be fully asleep. So, I tiptoed up to his room to have our big moment. 

"Liam," I whispered, "I am so very proud of you getting FIRST CHAIR today!" **enthusiastic, but still tempered whisper**

Instead of rolling over to give me the high five my heart clearly wanted, he shot up so quickly in his bed, that he smacked his head into my forehead. It was most definitely going to leave a mark- on both of us.

"MOM, WHAT ARE YOU DOING- GET OOOOUUUUUTTTT!!!!" **enthusiastic teen rage in loudly audible voice**

"FINE!!!! I WAS JUST GOING TO SAY HOW PROUD OF YOU I WAS, BUT NOW I'M NOT! GOD, YOU RUIN EVERYTHING!!!" **enthusiastic teen rage coming out in a mommy's body**

Yep. Not my proudest moment. I was hurt- both physically and emotionally. I was angry. And I was lonely. 

In my counseling office, I am teaching my clients to use feeling words instead of the all-too-popular responses like, "meh!", "frustrated", "stressed", etc. These words do not hit the heart the way that anger, sadness, shame, and lonely do. They just don't. So often we use these words to hide the very things that we NEED to be feeling. So, the very things that I am teaching my clients have to be put in to practice in my own life. (oy veh!!)

It's much easier to say that the traffic was mildly irritating, but my actions spoke much more like rage when I honked and cussed in my vehicle. Or, when I try to shrug off something important in my life and call it a "blah" day, I'm more likely extremely sad. I'm in grief. 

My response to Liam was anger, but it came from a deeper place of hurt and longing for relationship with him. When I am honest with my feelings, it puts me in touch with my soul. It allows me to know ...well, ME! I can then begin to know the deepest places in my heart that need healing, that need restoration. If I am constantly using other words to describe myself, I am leaving myself on the operating table of life-bleeding and, sometimes, without a pulse. 

When anger creeps in (as it does a lot of the time), I can begin to see the roots of other emotions that are trying to drive the bus of my heart. When I own up to it (what is actually going on inside of me), my heart/soul/Self then drives the bus. Then, it is I who sits in the "first chair" of my own heart. And I can begin to help my emotions sit in the passenger seat, continuing to give me clues to who I was made to be.  

There will always be a tinge of loneliness, hurt, and anger as I live with a child who has very little capacity to see me. But, on those rare occasions when he does see me, I will relish it! I will know beyond a shadow of a doubt because there are no mixed words in autism. 

There is only truth.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


We had our first sleepover....

I was so nervous to ask. What if this boy says no? What if he was just being nice to Liam at school, but had NO intentions of striking up a friendship? What if he says YES? Then what?!! 

I wouldn't know unless I asked.

For months, Liam had been talking about his friend, Zach, that happened to be in band with him. Liam talked about how cool he was and how he was always getting "first chair" in band-playing tests. Because, with Liam, everything is a contest. I have never met someone more competitive than my child. I don't know if it's better or worse that his mother simply doesn't care about winning per se. I just don't have a competitive bone in my body. So, maybe we cancel each other out? - or, maybe his competitive nature makes me want to drink...not sure.

But, in his talking about Zach, there was a longing. A longing to have a friend. He saw his brother have friends over and spend the night out- why couldn't he? And, I don't have to remind you of all the years I have been writing about birthday parties. Birthdays are painful reminders that he, more often than not, doesn't always get those invites. 

So, I prayed. I have been praying this prayer for a long time actually. Lord, just one friend. That's all. I would love it if you just provided one person that would see Liam for who he is and accept him-nay, ADORE him the way we all do. 

(Now, I don't want to freak this kid out. I mean, I'm sure more than one friend will come along....hahahahahahahaha...seriously, though, will you be his friend???!!!)

So, needless to say, his mom said yes, and (gasp!) that Zach was really looking forward to coming over! 

When I told Liam about this, he was beside himself! Pacing, eyes staring off into space as his wheels turned thinking about the possibilities of the slumber party events. 

I imagined his thoughts were something like this:

"First, I'll show him my video games and how I like to play them. I will win every game we play. Then, we will go outside. Then, he will watch me play a computer game. I will win all of those as well. The end."

The whole back and forth thing hasn't been nuanced quite yet in our house. He would prefer if everyone just did exactly what he wanted to do the entire time, no questions asked. We're still tweaking that one.

(hmmm...sounds like a few adults I know as well...)

So, in an effort to have a back up plan in case Liam sat in front of a screen for 6 hours while his friend twirled his thumbs, I decided that we needed a destination. 

"Where do you want to go with Zach when he comes over?"

"Chuck E. Cheese".

I panicked. Do 13 years olds still think Chuck E. Cheese is cool? Doesn't Charles du Fromage (what we used to say in order to "hide" it from the kids) peak around age 9-10?

I reluctantly agreed. 
Yes! You are!! 

The day came for Zach to come over. Zach rode the special ed bus to our house like a champ! Didn't even bat an eye! He earned major friend points in my book for being willing to be seen on the not-so-short bus. (I don't know about your school, but the SPED bus at ours is SWANK! It is not short, and it is really nice!)

He walked in, confident, but not too much. He was great with Liam. He was patient, kind, funny...do I sound desperate? Because I totally am. I had to tell myself to quit asking him if he was having a good time, or if he needed another snack, or if I bought the right snacks, or if I needed to pay him money to stay. (Okay, I didn't ask that, but I thought it!)

The thing of it was, that I think Zach really DID want to be there. He knows that Liam is different than he is, but it's not a deficit to him- it's a bonus. He totally thinks Liam's ways of doing things are funny. And, he gets a kick out of seeing him excited about a video game, or an 89 yard touchdown on YouTube. 

He also knew when to set boundaries with Liam and when to let the small stuff fly by! He knew that Liam would be anxious about what time they would be going to bed (there would be no improvising or playing "outside the scale" on the schedule!), so Zach said, "you know what Liam, let's play one more round of USA Soccer on Xbox and then go to bed at 9:30"! 

I have to admit, I was high-fiving myself at that point!! 

Call it what you will, but as much as people my age want to complain about the new generation coming up as being emotionally stunted from technology, or having issues with socialization, or even being exposed to too much too fast, I have to say that there is a new wave of compassion and empathy that my generation missed out on. 

These kids have been exposed to children of special needs from the get-go. No longer are the SPED children sent to another building to be "dealt" with. Kids with autism, Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, and other neurological disorders are included in the mainstream classrooms. Kids today most likely have seen a child with autism have a nervous breakdown in the middle of class, or watched a child in a wheelchair struggle to move around a classroom. And, because of that exposure, they are not intimidated by differences- they embrace them. I do not think I would have been that patient or kind as a middle schooler. I was much too impressed with myself to give unconditionally to others with differences. So to now see these kids getting involved and helping their peers is so very inspiring!!!! 

Now, I do know there are sad stories of bullies and mean-spirited kids who have taken advantage of this inclusion of SPED children. I do not pretend to believe that there will never be someone who will be mean to my son. But, the overwhelming sense that I have gotten from all the classrooms my son has been in is that once his peers know what is going on with him, they are ready and willing to help him along. And Zach is a great example of someone willing to go the extra mile! 

His dad picked him up the next morning, and we have seen this family several weekends this fall at various school events. Zach even plans to have Liam at his house this weekend, Lord-willing! :)

The other day I asked Liam about Zach and his friendship with him. Liam replied, "Sometimes Zach disobeys me."


Like I said, little tweaking here and there.

Baby steps. 

My hope is there will be more steps, and more friends like Zach. 

And maybe, just maybe, this journey won't be so lonely after all.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Wild At Heart

This week has been especially hard.

The news of Robin Williams showed up on my phone just as I was leaving a meeting with a friend. It felt like a punch in the gut, as I'm sure it hit most everyone the same way. How could this man, so full of life, leave just like that? How could he not know how much we all loved him? How could he not know the blessing that he was to our lives?

Over the next day, I watched as tributes and dedications poured in to the news networks and twitter-spheres. Celebrities, stunned, shook their heads and openly weeped for a man so full of heart and passion. From all accounts, he was everyone's favorite guest on the talk shows, as they never knew where the interview would go. Robin was wild and unpredictable, yet warm and inviting. Wherever he was, people forgot about their problems. He made people belly laugh until they cried. Robin Williams took them to another place.

When the final report on how Robin Williams died came in, my heart broke. I began to sob and I knew that this was touching my own story in more ways than one. It was, once again, time for me to grieve my own loss.

I lost my first true love to suicide.

Will and I were married when I was very young. We had our two boys, one of whom this blog refers to all the time- Will's namesake, Liam. Our marriage lasted for almost ten years before, sadly, ending in divorce.

Will was not unlike Robin Williams. He was passionate, larger-than-life, hilarious, warm, caring, crazy, silly, talented. His highs were wild and it was all I could do to keep up. But, his lows were low and there was a tragic theme of self sabotage and destruction always lurking around the corner. He could flip on a dime-keeping all of those around him guessing as to which person they would get.

His talent was undeniable- an artist's artist. Musicians still talk about his record, his guitar playing, and the way that his music made them feel. He made you love music. I mean, really love music. He would make you sit down in a chair and listen to whatever it was he was working on. You would grin ear to ear because he would "air" play every single part of the song as if he had a thousand people in front of him. He would so lose himself in the moment that he didn't care how he looked. He wanted to convey THE SONG. That was all that mattered in that moment.

He could tell the best stories. His imitations of people were so spot on that you would be crying with laughter on the floor. He was so animated while he was talking that you couldn't help be enamored with whatever story he was telling!

My sisters and I would laugh at him because anytime he would come in to the house it was like a windblown whirlwind. He was like Kramer on Seinfeld! He couldn't just walk quietly in the house- he and his presence would come in and overtake the room.

And then, one day, just like that. He was gone. He took his own life. And, even as I type this, I still cannot believe it. How can someone so full of vitality be gone?

Yes, there were the signs- depression, anxiety, but I never pictured life and the world without Will in it. It just wasn't an option in my mind. He was too big-it would never be something he chose. Never.

But...it did. And in one act, his seemingly endless light was extinguished. Such a profoundly dark ending to a life so full of light.

It is no wonder that I have been deeply affected by the events of this week. The accounts of Robin are so similar to Will's. But, I hope that writing about it will move me towards the necessary pain of grief and loss. As a mentor once said, if you try to get over pain, you end up underneath it.

And so the onion gets pulled back another layer. Another step towards the pain of grief.

I miss you, Robin.

I miss you, Will.

The world will never be the same without you.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Italian Siesta

I came home yesterday the same way I do most days. Armloads of Trader Joe's bags, exhausted and wiped out. My body felt so tired and depleted, I had to lay down for a quick power nap.

Unfortunately, this is not uncommon for me. I was recently diagnosed with something called Hashimoto's disease, which is a type of hypothyroidism, or Japanese for "no more happiness". Actually, I don't know what Hashimoto is named for. Maybe it was for the Japanese god of narcolepsy. I don't know. What I do know is for the millions of people who have this disease, it is crippling. The symptoms are unending tiredness, hair loss, weight gain, and endless tv watching.

I have always been tired. An unpopular personality trait in a world that says that napping is an abomination and being tired is equal to weakness. Our culture frowns upon siestas, while the rest of the world naturally shuts down their businesses between the hours of 2-4 to rest, (I'm looking at you, Italy!!) cook their evening meals, and catch up on life. Quality of life is not taken into account in our fast pace, "gotta strike while the iron's hot" way of existing. It is of no wonder that our adrenal glands are screaming at us to slow down!!

And, us mommy's of autism? FUGET ABOUDIT!!!
This actually looks good to me right now.
I would go so far to say when there is anything "extra" in life that you have to deal with in the hustle and bustle of life, it is exhausting. Mothers and fathers dealing with other special needs, learning disabilities, health conditions, ADHD, even a child with emotional instability, can be that extra thing that pushes you over the proverbial edge. A friend of mine has a child that has difficulty just getting along with other children-it is something extra that she has to deal with on top of the other children in her family-and it is exhausting!

And we hate to begrudge our "extra heaping helping of hard" child, but sometimes we do...let's be honest!

 As I was laying in bed, life was still happening around me. The groceries needed to be put away, phone calls kept coming in, Liam was coming in and out from playing outside, Walker was studying and doing homework. I felt guilt for not exactly knowing where my child with autism was. I felt shame for not really knowing if my teenager was really studying or playing video games. And, I felt irresponsible for not remembering if I put the milk away or not. But, I quickly shoved all of those pesky emotions down for a few prized moments of sleep.

I woke up groggy and out of it- the worst feeling at the bewitching hour of 5pm. (see Bewitched!) I began researching essential oils that would help with hypothyroidism, exhaustion, and crankiness (funny, they don't have one for the that!). I began to think about all of the other supplements, oils, and holistic medicines that could help my kids. I started down a rabbit trail of research for autism, and alternative medicines used for attention and focus. Fifteen minutes later, I was overwhelmed thinking about adding something else to our already full routine.

And this is when it struck me: I CANNOT HELP MY CHILDREN WHEN I AM DEPLETED!!!!


Isn't this our plight? We spend so much time thinking, loving on, and doing for our own fold when we have nothing to give. I must be willing to research things that will help ME, so that I can, in turn, give to those I love the most.

It's the old, "put the oxygen mask on yourself before you put it on your child" mentality. If we are sucking for air, we cannot possibly be any good for those around us.

As Brene Brown said recently, we all wear exhaustion like it's a badge. We can all one-up each other with stories of our heroism and valor of staying up all night to bake cookies, holding down 4 jobs, stirring dinner, and sewing Suzie's ballet costume, but we cannot tell you the last time we actually felt good.

My son's therapist told me recently that in all of his years of practicing, this is the most anxious group of children he has ever seen. They are all medicated because we expose them to adult-like pressures of having so many balls in the air, that they cannot manage.


If I am overextending and not paying attention to my own exhaustion, how can I teach them to listen to their bodies?

It's time to stop. It's time to rest.

I closed all the tabs of my computer, and opened one window to ask questions about my own disease on a forum. I got helpful responses, and now it is up to me to take the plunge and try a few things that may work.

I think it may be an uphill battle to introduce the 'Italian siesta' into our culture. We are pretty stuck in our ways as Americans. But, I can introduce that concept of balance and holistic living in my own corner of the world. It begins with me.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


The weather is FINALLY warming up after a brutal winter over most of the United States. Even people in LA have experienced torrential downpours that are out of the ordinary for CA. (don't worry, I do NOT feel the least bit sorry for them!) The weather in Tennessee is bipolar at best. It is often said if you don't like the weather, stay until tomorrow. Because it does so often feel like that. My birthday was a few days ago and it was a wonderful 75 degrees, only to wake up this morning to a cool 28. It will make you crazy as you get excited for spring around the corner- only to be disappointed that you have to bundle up again.
This picture sums up our weather experiences down here!

Speaking of bipolar weather, the mood of my preteen has been an unpredictable map of highs, lows, sunny skies, rain clouds, tornadoes, and spring delight. Each day I wonder which one I will get. The one thing that is consistent is the spring delight rarely shows up. 

Now, I am not naive to think that this is not normal behavior. I do know the stats on preteens. But, it doesn't make it any easier to navigate. 

The truth is, I long to connect to my son. There, I said it! He has autism, and as my oldest pointed out, if you look up the diagnosis in the DSM "connection" and autism are not in the same paragraphs. If they are, the words "lack thereof" are some place close by. 

This is difficult to me, as this is probably the most important thing in my life- my connections. I cherish them. They are my life-force, in many ways. That is just the way God made me. So, not having a connection to my offspring is a little difficult for this attachment junkie. 

Sadly, he is growing up. So that means he is pulling away. Before, he would ask me to tuck him in the bed or read to him. Even if it was slightly 'robo-tronic', he still asked for ME specifically. And, that connected us. 

Now, he has his after school routine of playing alone outside or playing video games alone. Or, he searches alone on the computer for his latest obsession, whether it be funny lines from Sheldon on "Big Bang Theory" or a long touchdown run by an Alabama player. I can always know his thought process when I look up his Google search history. 

But that is where it remains. Google history. 
The key to my son's heart. 

He doesn't want to share with me his thoughts about friends, life, love, and hurt. He shuts me down when I ask how his day was or probe into his middle school brain. And by probe I ask him what friends he has in his class. 

Now, some of you reading this will be tempted to "normalize" things and tell me that I am simply dealing (as stated earlier) with a preteen. Preteens are known for their sudden distaste in all things parent related. 

I like this picture for Denial.
I would tell you that you would only be partially correct. And, not to mention, shaming. This is not just your average preteen mood swing or distaste- this is a pattern, not an event. And, being the parents of these children, we know this in the back of our minds. We know that this is a pervasive pattern and not a 2-3 year 'season'. Our hearts are all too familiar with the disappointment and letting go that has to occur with autism. And, please, don't be one of the "those" people who say "well, at least he..." (see Brene Brown's brilliant take on that phrase in this clip). 

There is not much to say to make things better. I must grieve this part of autism- otherwise I live in complete denial. As I have said many times in this blog, life is not easy, and the sooner we can accept, feel, and face this reality, the sooner our true JOY can be felt. 

Then when he does do something out of the ordinary, it is absolutely felt. When he sees me, or touches my face, or hugs me without prompting- those are the joy moments. Those are the times when I am touched deeply in my soul. It does not take away the pain, but the pain gives way to true gladness. 

TRUE gladness. It is a rare gift. But, it is something we all long for in our hearts. I believe the desire for true gladness was put into the very fabric of our being. 

When I look at this photo my dad took this year, I see Liam enjoying true gladness. He absolutely loves tossing the football up and making "touchdowns" over and over again until he can barely stand up. It reminds me of my own desire and the places where I am able to gain access to this rare gift. 

But most of all, it reminds me that some things will change. It will not always be cold or rainy or unpredictable.

One thing we are promised. 

The spring will come. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

New Normal

Life has changed quite a bit at our household these days. I have begun working.

I am currently in the beginning stages of my internship at school. I am seeing clients a few days per week in the counseling center of the college I attend. I have had the privilege of walking with college students in the throws of reality. It has been a blessing to see these brave students wrestle with who they are apart from their family of origin, and the fear that comes with not knowing who they will become. I remember that season of life very well, and really didn't figure out the answers to many of those questions until recently. Change that...I am still learning.
This room is very similar to the room I meet clients in!! Very calming!

But, it has definitely changed the pace and routine of life around the house. I am not as emotionally capable as I was before. I am not as attentive and present as I have been in the past. Sometimes, my oldest has to come and push me when I am catatonic on the couch after a day of seeing clients in order for me to 'come to'. Okay, not exactly. But, there have been many conversations lately that go like this.


"Oh, hey, honey. I'm sorry. I'm a little out of it. How was your day?"

We are still trying to figure it all out. What is the balance? How do I self-care, yet be a mother?

As most therapists will tell you, we have a different type of exhaustion that sets in. No, I am not lifting a pile of bricks every day, or running around on the floor of the stock exchange, OR even saving lives in the back of an ambulance.  I am sitting. In a chair. All day. In a room. Alone with one other person.

But, the thing we have to do that is not required of many other jobs is that we have to sit and be perfectly present with another one's story. My ONLY job is to hold a sacred space for the other to come and sit in their pain. And, I cannot waiver from this in that hour. I cannot "check out" and look at my phone or get up and walk around. I am looking straight into their eyes and tracking every single word they say. And I am trying to honor their life story in (hopefully) a way that is healing.

Now don't get me wrong, I do love this work!! I am, quite honestly, so honored that someone would allow me to come alongside their journey. It is remarkable to see people be so brave as to look at their pain dead in the eye!

But, when it comes to the end of the day, I am, many times, flat as a pancake. Our professors have been harping on something called 'compassion fatigue'. And, they are correct! As therapists, we must be balanced in getting enough sleep, good nutrition, breaks, self-care, emotional support, etc, before we can help other people.

And so begins the evenings with my guys...

Bless the genius behind this place!!
They are having to get used to this new way of being. As their mother and only parent, they rely on me to meet their needs that are largely emotional at this stage in the game. (and physical, if you live with two boys, you understand the messes they leave behind!)

So, we have a lot of Trader Joe's frozen, heat-up-and-eat meals. Thank heavens for TJ's!!!!

As my sweet friend calls it, the "Working Mom's Grocery Store". I am really sorry for those of you reading this that do not have access to TJ's. God love them. They make wonderful prepared meals that ACTUALLY have somewhat natural ingredients, are priced reasonably, and taste delish!!!! And, if you have some "study" that says that TJ's actually has GMO produce or their freezer food is laced with carcinogens- please keep that information to yourself. Thanks.

So, many of you mama's reading this will say, "What else is new? I've been working since my baby was two days old!!"

And, you would be right to say that.

This is just new for us. I have been working different part-time jobs, music stuff, singing, and performing this whole time. But, the work has been sporadic, and I have had the blessing of being able to, for the most part, be at home when my kids got off the bus every day. I have not taken it for granted one second. Because, in this day in age, my story is the exception. Most families are two income families. And, it is unheard of that single mama's get to stay at home. I have scrapped and saved to make that work because I knew it was the best thing for MY family. Not anyone else's story. Only mine.

So, things are different. And change is always hard.

But, this is the part of the blog when I say, HOW DO YOU ALL DO IT???????

How do you single, working parents juggle it all????????

I realize this may be the scariest picture of all time!

Seriously, how do we all make it work? I think that being a working parent has gotten so normalized in our society that it is often seen as WEIRD if you don't work. I remember my son asking me one time why I wasn't employed full time. I had to work really hard not to forcefully grab his collar, pin him up against the wall and say, "I DO WORK FULL TIME!!! LOOK AT THE FOLDED LAUNDRY, EXCEL SPREADSHEET BUDGET, AND FROZEN DINNER BEING HEATED UP ON THE STOVE!!"

No, no, I didn't do that. I slapped him across the face and demanded that he go get a job in the coal mine because he wasn't 'pulling his weight around here'.

Okay, okay, I didn't do that either. I simply said, "You'll understand one day."

I guess what I really want to say is, I want those of you who are doing this alone to stop and think about all you juggle. It wasn't supposed to be like this. No, I am not suggesting that women shouldn't work and should stay in the kitchen. NOT EVEN A LITTLE BIT. It's just that it wasn't supposed to be this hard and complicated. In a perfect world, we would all have energy to love our kids, love our work, and have fulfilling lives in between!

It is hard stuff. And, don't let the culture tell you it's just what we do. Stop and take care of yourself. Feel your feelings and let yourself cry over the pain of not feeling like you're enough. Because you are not, and you weren't supposed to be. Let go of the expectation of being together and perfect! We are all so hard on ourselves and harbor such self-hatred over the comparisons we make to other people.

Say it with me:

It is okay if my child plays on the iPad for an inordinate amount of time.

It is okay that we are eating something out of a box.

It is okay to say this is hard.

As my spiritual director, Gail, says almost every time I see her, "Be gentle with yourself."

Even though you are fighting a big battle, put your weapons down for a bit, and let this tired warrior catch a breath. For when you do this, you are giving yourself a little more to give with each breath.

This is very counter to our culture of "Go big or go home" in America.

We aren't built to do it all.

But, once you give yourself that nod of acceptance, a crazy thing happens. You find you do have a little gas in the tank left to give to someone else. You can play that silly game with your kids, or have a serious heart to heart about girls, or go throw a football.

And, when they have their own kids, they just might get it. Maybe.

One can only hope.