This is Why..

This is a post I have been pondering for quite some time. Truth be told, I’ve written it dozens of times in my head, but hesitated to send the words out into the world. Why? Because as much as I KNOW this post isn’t about any one person, I am pretty certain that there are people in my life who will think this is about them. But it’s not. It’s not about any single person, or any single incident. It is about setting the record straight for anybody and everybody who doesn’t understand why I am sharing our family journey – and that group of people does include some extended family and friends.

So if you are reading this and include yourself among my extended family and friends, please believe me when I say this is not about you. And with that out of the way….

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We are quickly coming up on the first anniversary of We’re All A Little Broken. What started out as a way for me to first process my own thoughts and emotions, quickly became a way for me to provide a peek into our lives in an attempt to help loved ones understand our reality. In the early days of the blog,  my solitary goal was just to help family and friends understand the day to day challenges in our house. But somewhere along the way, the little blog bloomed into a small community of people all over the world who are reading my words and finding some meaning. Somewhere along the way, our story began to resonate….with those who read and can see a similarity to their own family in us, with those who read and see the struggles and triumphs of their own loved one in my son or my daughter, with those who read and are having their own perspective shifted, with those who read and sigh with relief to know that they are not alone on the journey.

Time and again this past year, I have been overwhelmed by the positive response to We’re All A Little Broken. But it hasn’t been all positive. There are people who have questioned my intent, and even some who have wondered out loud if I might be opening my kids up to ridicule by sharing our story. There were enough of these questions, that I actually spent time really wondering if I am being helpful or harmful. And while I do share openly about the challenges we face in our family – autism spectrum disorder, childhood mental illness, learning disorders, fibromyalgia – I do not over share. I do not tell the stories that feel too fragile.  I take great care to balance out the raw and broken bits of our story with the beauty that is found in our day to day reality. And the people who are beside me in this day to day reality – my husband, son and daughter – are all incredibly supportive of me telling our story. So do I think  I am doing harm by sharing our story? Absolutely not.

I know that there will always be people – both in my personal life and in the world in general – who will never understand the intent and message in my words. And that’s okay. I’m not writing for them. I am writing for me. But more than that, I write for the people out there who do understand the intent and message in my words.

I write for my son, who can’t always find the words himself to express his experiences or feelings, but he reads my blog and tells me how proud he is that his story can help other kids.

I write for my daughter, who is already an amazing force for good in this world and I hope that she find some inspiration in my journey as she charts her own path.

I write for my husband, who is my partner, ally and greatest supporter in this life we didn’t expect.

I write for the childhood friend who has confided her own son’s struggles that in many ways mirror my son’s challenges.

I write for the high school friend who has shared her daughter’s challenging journey with me.

I write for the college friend who talked with me about her own hunches and fears on the eve of the first in a series of diagnostic appointments for her young son.

I write for the friend who’s adolescent nephew has been recently hospitalized as he battles with depression.

I write for the woman I have never met, who sent me a message thanking me for words that helped her feel that her family was not alone in their own struggle.

I write for all of the parents and caregivers who are searching for answers.

I write for all of the family and friends who are trying to understand and wanting to be supportive.

I write because the raw and broken parts of our lives are as real and formative and important as the beautiful parts of our lives.

And I will continue writing as long as somebody out there continues reading.

I Believe in Santa Claus

I adore Christmas. To me, Christmas has the ability to bring out the best in people. Christmas  is equal parts magic, wonder, joy and love – all things this world could use more of on regular basis. The stories of both the birth of Jesus and of Santa Claus fill my heart and my soul.  I love the decorations, the special traditions at church and home, the choosing, wrapping and giving of gifts, the tastes and the smells. But most of all, I love the music of Advent and Christmas – the church carols, the traditional secular songs, the modern versions of traditional songs, the corny and sappy songs made famous in Christmas cartoons. I love all of it.

Growing up, my mom had a “rule” about when it was acceptable to  pull out and start listening to the family collection of Christmas music. The record albums and tapes (first 8-tracks and then cassettes!) were off limits until the day after Thanksgiving. But once we reached that magical day after Thanksgiving, it was pretty much all Christmas music all the time. This “rule” has stuck with me through life, and for the most part I still follow it today. I adore Christmas music, but it loses it’s magic when you listen to it too far ahead of the season!

My “favorites” have changed over the years. While I still appreciate and enjoy almost any version of Santa Claus is Coming to Town or The First Noel and , my favorite albums tend to change from year to year and are somewhat reflective of how life has shaped me over the course of a given year. Right now I have an eclectic mix of Christmas albums that I’m listening to in heavy rotation – Vince Guaraldi Trio, Rend Collective, Jewel, Francesca Battistelli , Straight No Chaser, Lady Antebellum, and Pentatonix have been playing on my phone in the car and in my office pretty much nonstop. There’s some really amazing stuff on these albums – some that is soul stirring and some that is just joyful and fun to belt out in the car.

While those have been my go to albums this season, there were a couple of times this past week when I got in the car, tuned to one of the Christmas stations on the XM radio, and was greeted by an oldie but goodie from my childhood. It is a song I hadn’t thought about in years, but was one in my mom’s frequent rotation for a good part of the ’80s & ’90s.

That song is “I Believe in Santa Claus” written by Kenny Rogers, and recorded by Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton in 1984.

The first time I heard it on the radio this week, it brought back a flood of childhood Christmas memories. It was warm and fuzzy and lovely. The second time I heard it on the radio this week, I really listened to the lyrics and was blown away by the fact that the lyrics speak to not just what I love about Christmas, but also about what I fundamentally believe in as a person.

I am particularly struck by the last verse of the song:

I believe in viewing life
As a journey that we’re on
And looking at our troubles
As another stepping stone.

And I believe that everything
That it is what it’s meant to be
I believe there is a God somewhere
Although he’s hard to see.

I believe I am so therefore
I should do all that I can
To be a better piece
In the puzzle of God’s plan.

And I believe in Santa Claus
I believe in Santa Claus
I believe there’s always hope
When all seems lost.
I believe in Santa Claus.

So very much YES! These lyrics capture what I love about Christmas. The words inspire  magic, wonder, joy and love. But they go deeper than that. The lyrics also capture the essence of how I view the world, how I try to live in the world and how I hope to inspire my kids to live in the world as well.

I do believe that we can reap the most good out of the bumpiest parts of our life journey. I do believe that everything happens for a reason. I do believe that God is everywhere and in everyone (although I don’t agree with the premise in the lyrics that God is hard to see – He really is everywhere if you just look for Him). I do believe that we all have an obligation to go out and do all the good we possibly can in our own way each and every day. I do believe there’s always hope. Kenny Rogers was spot on with these lyrics.

I do believe in Santa Claus!

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Me and My Shadow

Several months ago, I developed a habit of getting up early in the morning and walking. I take the same route every day – just a little over 2 miles around and through my neighborhood – and usually start and finish the walk at approximately the same time each day. In other words, there is a predictable pattern to my walk, that has really only been modified by how much daylight there is, or isn’t, depending on the time of year.

This morning, I was awake earlier than normal. My husband had an early flight out for a business trip, and since I could not fall back to sleep after his alarm went off, I decided to get out of bed and walk earlier than normal. I walked my same route, but because of the earlier time it was still quite dark for most of the walk. My walk was lit by the streetlights, instead of by the new light of the morning like it is normally.

About half way through my route, I turned a corner and was startled by a shadow on the sidewalk in front of me. It was my own shadow, cast by a streetlight. But I wasn’t expecting it, and for a second I truly was scared by my own shadow. I quickly realized what it was and had a little chuckle at myself. But then I began thinking about what it really means to be scared by your own shadow.

What if the “shadow” is the part of each of us that we dislike the most? What if the “shadow” is the circumstance that may be beyond our control, but still shapes us? What if the “shadow” is the thing we can’t change?

The shadows are the things that follow us around, no matter how hard we try to either get rid of them, or ignore their existence.  The things that are always there,  because whether we want to admit it or not, those things are a part of who we are. And those things we don’t want to acknowledge, or name, or bring into the light are as much a part of who we are as the things we do acknowledge, name and shine a light upon. Those things are our shadows, and our shadows are connected to us.

We all have shadows. Mine are a self doubt that is deep and wide,  and the exhaustion (both physical and emotional) that comes from living with Fibromyalgia. That’s all a part of who I am. Those are my shadows.

But in order for there to be a shadow, there must first be light.

 

 

 

It’s Okay to Cry

We’re in Philadelphia for a few days. As we walked around near Independence Hall today, we spotted this…


As my son walked past it he said, “Sometimes you have to cry. It’s okay to cry”

Yes it is. 

Grace and Respect

I did not have a candidate in this election. Not from the beginning. Not in either major political party, and not in any of the 3rd party options. So I was never going to feel “great” waking up on this day. What I do feel is confused, and concerned, and a little bit sad. Because while I did not have a candidate in this election, there is no world in which I would have ever made a choice that a slim majority of our country did make yesterday. But this isn’t about me and my feelings, this is about my children and what they can learn from where we do find ourselves today.

We are privileged to live in a country where there is a democratic process. That process may not be perfect, and we will not always agree with the outcome, but there are people all over the world who don’t even get a voice. We may not understand how we got here. We may not agree with the outcome. But it happened, and as in anything it is not the circumstance that defines us, it is how we choose to respond to the circumstance that shows the world who we are.

So how do we respond?

We respond with grace and respect.

Each and every day, I tell my kids to go out into the world being the best version of themselves and to do good all the good they can. Each and every day that is what I tell them. What happened in the election does not change that, if anything it makes it more important.

We live with grace and respect. For all people. In all situations. That was true yesterday. That is true today. That is an eternal truth.

We live with grace and respect, and we move forward. And we show the world who we are.

Enjoying the Journey

When I fill up my car with gas, the electronic display looks like this…

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When I filled up the gas tank on the car for the very first time a couple of years ago, I glanced at the display and read the word “empty” as “enjoy”. I thought to myself, “Oh how nice, the car is basically telling me to have a good day.” Then I glanced at the display again, and realized my error…empty, not enjoy. To this day, every single time I fill up the tank, I think about that little error and laugh at myself. Today when I filled up the gas tank, I thought about the shift in perspective just one little word can bring about.

Empty vs Enjoy.

210 miles to Empty means how far I can drive or how many days I can make the tank of gas last. The full tank will slowly trickle toward empty as I drive the kids to day camp, therapy appointments, ninjitsu classes, aerial classes, and coding classes. It will also take me to and from work, and to a variety of errands. My son’s anxiety levels are usually pretty high when we are in the car, so while we are using up the gas in the thank this week, I will also probably be diffusing his anxiety levels. The car is also where my daughter has been hitting me with her most burning tween questions, so I will likely find myself having to answer a question I am not necessarily prepared to be hearing. As the week progresses, the gas tank will slowly become empty as we live the day-to-day of our lives.

210 miles to Enjoy means making memories when the miles are shared with my kids, and savoring the rare moments of solitude when the miles are solo. The tank is full at the beginning of the last full week of Summer break. It is a week where my kids get a final chance to pack in fun and friends without the added responsibilities of school and homework. That tank of gas will take my son to the coding class that we have recently discovered and that he adores, it will also take my daughter to and from the aerial studio where she finds absolute joy. As the gas gauge gets lower, I will travel to and from a job that I love, and find a few minutes each day of rare time alone. The car will get us safely to my son’s therapy appointments, so he can continue to figure out how to exist in a world that he often finds overwhelming. It will also provide a safe haven for my daughter to ask her most burning questions when we are the only occupants of the vehicle..something about the combination of not having to look me in the eyes, but still having me to herself is working for her little brain and heart right now. As the week progresses, that tank of gas will give us opportunities to enjoy the day-to-day of our lives.

And by the time the gas tank needs to be filled again, we will probably be well into the final long weekend of Summer, enjoying time with family and friends.

So…210 miles to Empty, or 210 miles to Enjoy?

I’m going to choose Enjoy…

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