Going home

Today my mom and I went to see Matt for his birthday. He spends the day at a program for autistic children and adults. While we were there, Matt’s caregiver asked him to tell us about his special morning in a high pitched sing song voice reserved for a small child. Everyone was optimistic and cheerful, except me.

I felt such sadness I could cry. My brother should be meeting up with his friends for his birthday, or maybe going out to eat with his wife and children after driving home from a long day of work. His normal isn’t right.

I feel such grief every time I see someone with a developmental disability, especially my brother, that I don’t want to be there. I feel guilty for visiting out of obligation. Visiting makes me think about the families and all of their lost dreams. He shouldn’t be putting stickers on a chart for good behavior, he is a grown man. It shouldn’t be that way, but it is.

I feel tired today. I slept good last night. But the night before was restless with nightmares. I was triggered by the developmentally disabled girl backstage. I heard people ask her sister what was wrong with her. I remembered all the times I was asked that about my brother. I got sick of explaining after awhile. They never asked about me.

Then I dropped my mom off at home. I went in and said hi to my dad. He didn’t get many birthday cards or calls this year. I wonder if it will be his last. He looks so old and weak. He rarely leaves the house. No one really cares about him much anymore, certainly not my mother. I want to reach out and help him. But he was a very cruel father. Why should I care? Why is it so painful to see the consequences of his bad choices when I was one of the people he hurt?

I walked through the house. There are still clothes from the 1980’s hanging in the closets. Hoarders. Piles of mail on the table. The same linoleum lies on the floor from my childhood worn with holes in it. Bags full of food line the floor. Dirty dishes clutter the counters. Nothing must be thrown away, but much more to be collected.

I feel depressed. But writing about it makes me feel better. I am starting to process how I feel and why I feel the way I do. I feel sad that my family is broken and nothing I do can fix it.

On the way back home, I drove through town and did not avoid it by driving through the outskirts. I drove by my Aunt Grace and Uncle Harold’s house. I drove past the area where my grandparents lived. I remembered how the town looked when I was a child. It was alive then with parades and festivals. But now it is a ghost town. Small town businesses closed. New houses stand where old homes once stood.

Everything has changed. But I still remember how it used to be back when my aunt, uncle, and grandparents were still alive. The town was alive then and that’s how I want to remember it with my loved ones alive in it. But that is not how it is anymore.

That is what it is like going home. The broken things still have not been fixed. The town and relatives that made my life magical as a child are no longer there. Emptiness.

Writing helps me process the way I feel. I think I understand why it is so hard to go home. Maybe you would feel the same way.

 

Goal 8: Try not to be too hard on myself

When I was a child, my parents were very hard on me. They expected perfection and I tried to deliver. The better behaved I was, the more I was loved.

I was punished for not being good enough. My parents had a hard enough time with my autistic sibling, they didn’t need any problems from me.

When I got a bad grade in elementary school, my dolls were taken away from me for a semester.

I am hard on myself to this very day. If I don’t accomplish enough in a day, I feel very anxious.

So it is no surprise that when I had kids, I tried to be the perfect parent. I thought that if I was the best parent I could be that my kids would turn out the way I wanted them to. If I was loving enough, they would get good grades and like school. If they were disciplined right, they wouldn’t try drugs, etc…(Insert problem here).

Let’s be totally honest, if kids do something wrong the first place society looks is at the parents. What did the parents do wrong to have a child like that? I am just as guilty. There is some truth to that statement, but some kids just make bad choices against their parents wishes.

My own mother faced a lot of blame for having a violent autistic child in the 1980’s.

I tried to be the best parent I could be and that has to be good enough whatever my children choose.

It was so easy when they were babies. I had full control. I decided where we would go. I picked out the little outfits that they were going to wear. They ate what I made.

I tried to share my values and beliefs with them. But I’ll admit, as honest as I am, I lied to my children all the time. I lied to them about who I was. I tried to hide my faults. I pretended to like cartoons and Barney when I really wanted to be head banging to hard rock and watching horror movies. I didn’t swear around them and said a lot of nice words like please and thank you.

Hey, get me a beer was replaced by may I please have some more milk. Gangsta rap music was replaced with catchy tunes like I love you, you love me..we’re a happy family..

I hated pretending to be perfect and being someone I wasn’t. I always just thought that was a part of being a good parent though.

Then my kids grew up. I no longer picked out their little outfits. We stopped reading books together and listening to baby music. I was slowly more free to be me.

Part of the process of letting go is learning to fully be me again. It is losing some of my identity as a mother. Part of that is also showing my kids who I really am. I will share my book with them when they are ready and someday my blog as well.

I also have to accept that the choices my children make might not be what I have in mind for them. I have to be less hard on myself and them when they screw up. I also have to be less hard on myself when I am not perfect.

Perfection should not be my goal. If it is, I will live a life of disappointment because it is unattainable. Plus it annoys the crap out of my family. It is difficult to unlearn something that is so ingrained in me. But it is worth a try.

Maybe I would be a better person if I was a little less perfect. Now doesn’t that sound like an oxymoron?

 

Goal 5: Work on documenting and preserving family history

This month I got an Ancestry subscription. I just started working on compiling the family history. As of now, my parents, husband, and all of my children took the DNA test along with me. We are still waiting for some of the results. I just started a family tree with my mom online.

It seems like yesterday when I was walking around cemeteries with my grandma. We stopped by the family home of my great-great-great grandparents. I never would’ve figured it out if my grandma didn’t know where it was. We talked to distant relatives and found out that my ancestors were involved in politics, art, community theater, and had a love for cats. Not all that unlike our family today.

It is so wonderful to hear stories instead of just names and dates on a headstone. Next month my grandma will be gone for 10 years. You don’t know how much I wish she was still here.

Now I’ve decided to work on this project with my mom. It is amazing how quickly time flies past. I want to hear her stories and preserve them for future generations. I want to make them living characters in my mind. I want to attach names to faces in the black and white photos. I want to give everyone a story. That would be much more exciting than names and dates.

I want to take the stories I remember and that have been handed down to create a wonderful story for future generations. Today I found out that my 5th great-grandpa was hung. Such interesting stories. Too bad my ancestors didn’t have WordPress!

2018, the year of great change

I think my life changed more in 2018 than it ever has previously.

It has been a roller coaster ride with many twists, turns, and plot changes. Almost everything that happened was unexpected. Before I reflect on the goals of 2019, I want to summarize the year of change in chronological order.

  1. We sold our start up company. It was the biggest year of financial growth. We still worked for the company under the guise of things staying pretty much the same. My husband Paul started the business 20 years earlier and I joined him 11 years ago. Together we worked hard to build and sell a successful business venture.
  2. We were able to pay off all of our debt.
  3. Our insurance changed. We changed doctors and dentists.
  4. We crossed our first continent outside of our own off of our bucket list. We spent 10 days touring Thailand.
  5. A close friend was diagnosed with cancer.
  6. We invested in real estate and moved to a new town. We sold our little house that we lived in for 18 years and moved into a mansion with an indoor pool. We said good-bye to our old neighbors and everything we knew.
  7. My daughter Angel and I visited Nevada for the first time for a music competition. I checked off visiting my 31st state.
  8. Angel started dating Dan.
  9. We said good-bye to the 16 year old daughter of close friends who died tragically in a car accident.
  10. I ran my first trail marathon, the 4th marathon that I ran. We spent the weekend of my birthday sleeping in a tent. It rained 2 inches the first night. The next morning I got up and ran a marathon. It was so challenging that instead of saying that I am never going to run again, I asked myself what more I could do. I decided that the following year I would try a 50k.
  11. My mom retired and started to have issues with her health.
  12. My daughter Arabella started going to a new school in a different school district.
  13. Arabella got her first job and started driving.
  14. My son Alex and his girlfriend broke up after dating almost a year.
  15. My son had his car damaged the same day he got it and the perpetrators are facing criminal charges.
  16. My husband turned 50 and had a health scare.
  17. My son’s friend started staying with us. We hoped to help him turn his life around, but he stole my ruby ring and is no longer welcome here.
  18. After touring a college for music, my son dropped out of band. The future that I had played out for him is gone. I’m not sure he will go on to school at all.
  19. My daughter’s beta fish died that she got in high school. Now Angel is a junior in college and is not planning on coming home after Christmas break.
  20. The people that we were renting office space from sold their property. We stayed in the same building, but said good-bye to the people we knew there.
  21. We left our church. Again, we said good-bye to the people we knew for the past decade.
  22. I lost my job unexpectedly. The new owners decided to move operations to a new location. I said good-bye to two long term employees that I managed. I also had to say good-bye to clients and colleagues.
  23. We closed our office and had to be out by the end of the year. My husband and two sales people are still employed and work out of their homes. I am wondering what to do next…

I think that pretty much sums up the year of change.

Oh boy!

A couple of weeks ago, my best friend Cindy told me that she is going to be a grandma!

Oh boy! (Or girl!).

And so it begins…My first friend to become a grandma.

My daughter’s best friend is going to be a mom.

And so it begins…Her first friend who is going to be a mother.

And so it begins.

And so it begins…

That’s life!

 

My last day of work

Friday was my last day of work. I thought that I would be feeling down like I did most days leading up to the last day. Instead I felt relief, and a lightness of spirit. I did end up inviting some close friends over that evening. Two out of three couples came out for my pity party. Two out of three ain’t bad for short notice over the holidays.

I invited out the brewer and his wife, the psychologist, whom I will call Rhett and Sue. Sue told me that she gave my name to her boss as someone who was interested in talking to the parents and siblings of autistic children. I still feel interested in helping people through similar experiences that I’ve had. I want to write a book. But first I want to go through all of my journals. It is going to be a slow and tedious process.

We also invited over Tim and Cara. Cara just wrote a book and now that I have more time, I offered to read it critically. She encouraged me to write my own book. Right now Cara’s job is also on the line. She would love to be a full time author. Paul and I thought of starting a sailing business with Tim and Cara. Paul is working on his captain’s license as we speak. It’s crazy, but we are thinking of starting another business together.

I’m not sure where the future leads right now, but I know that these other couples are involved in it in some way. We had a lot of fun Friday night and did a lot of laughing. I felt like whatever happens everything would be alright.

And so the journey starts…

The radiant red ruby ring

I noticed it was missing right before we left for church on Sunday morning.

The ruby ring was a very special college graduation gift from my mother. It had a large rectangular radiant cut ruby with 4 small rubies and 8 tiny diamonds on a gold band. I wore it last to a Christmas party a week and a half before.

It was gone and another ring was put in its place. I searched the whole jewelry box, but it was still missing. Stolen, I believe, with a painful realization on the way to church. Paul, Luke, and I went to church while the rest of our families slept in. I was planning on going to a Christmas Eve service with the rest of the family at another church the next day.

The church service started out with Joy to the World, but I wasn’t feeling much joy in my world as the tears quietly slipped from my eyes. Someone stole my ring. When we got home, my nieces wanted to play detective and solve the mystery of the missing ring. They left to go home after lunch. I felt relieved when they left. It was hard to hold it all together. I felt very low and was rather snappy.

I wasted the day with my grief…grief over losing my ring, grief over losing my job. I felt like it was one of the worst Christmases ever. I knew it would be a hard week with my employment ending on Friday. I had planned on going to the gym on Monday and running 10 miles. I also planned on going to the candlelight Christmas Eve service. I woke up with swollen eyes and decided I wasn’t going to go anywhere. It wouldn’t have worked out anyway. Angel had a Christmas party with Dan’s family, Alex was with friends, and Arabella had to work. My kids were gone too.

Instead, I spent the day scouring the internet looking for my ring. I called a local pawn shop which was very helpful. I tried to get an idea of how valuable the ring is.

I checked all of my jewelry to see if anything else was missing. Nothing was. I checked all of my pockets on all of my pants and coats. I took everything out of my jewelry box. Did I misplace the ring? Maybe if I check everyday, then one day it will magically be there.

Who was at our house since it was gone? I counted 16 people outside of my immediate family. It could be anybody. At first we put a lot of blame on the boy with the face tattoo. He has been living with us off and on for the past 6 months, without incident though. We just don’t think it was him.

I also called the parent of one of Alex’s friends who was over. She admitted that her son tried to steal some of her jewelry. I think it might be him. As of yet, I haven’t filed a police report. I’m not sure what to do. I hate to cast blame on an innocent person. I just want my ring back. It was one of my most expensive and favorite pieces of jewelry. It was a special gift from my mother for a big accomplishment. So it had high sentimental value as well.

I don’t have any pictures of the ring. Big mistake, but you know what they say about hindsight. My mom has the original receipt with the description of the ring. I haven’t had the heart to tell her that it was stolen. She is so much more sentimental than I am. She just threw out my brother’s baby blanket a few years back and he is almost 40.

I feel stupid for not locking up my valuable items. Who would’ve thought that someone would go into my bedroom and take jewelry out of my jewelry box? I never had anything of any value stolen from me before.

I also visited a used jewelry store. I talked with them about my stolen ring. The next day I went back and bought myself another ruby ring. I also bought a lock box to store my valuable possessions in. I have to somehow let it go. I will probably never get it back. But I’m going to do everything I can to make sure this never happens again.

Season’s greetings from your favorite demon slayer

Wow, Christmas is less than a week away already!

Tomorrow I am hosting a Christmas party at my house for the entire family…while I am working out of the house…and cooking a meal for over a dozen people…Nothing says overachiever (or insanity) better than that.

I really didn’t want to have a Christmas party on a day we had to work and the kids have school. I wanted to have the party on Sunday, the day after the extended family Christmas party. But my sister-in-law Carla couldn’t miss the kids Christmas program at her church. I guess that wouldn’t be such a big deal to me if she actually had kids. But I can’t complain too much, she is the only person that was ever able to get my brother Mark to go to church. So Friday it is.

Carla wanted to have the party in January. After we scheduled the party for Friday, Carla wanted to switch it again. I finally told her to let me know if she would be unable to make it which is a polite way to say that I am NOT going to change the date again unless it is back to Sunday.

My brother Luke and his family will be staying over for the weekend. Luke didn’t want to make the far drive out a couple weekends in a row, so we ended up scheduling the Christmas party for Friday night before the extended family party on Saturday…after I am done working…instead of Sunday (which I preferred) because of Carla’s schedule.

Talking about work, I only have 4 days left until I am unemployed. I was angry and despairing about it at first, but now I think I should throw myself a big party on the last day and get on with my life. Maybe I’ll have a bonfire and burn all my work clothes!

Angel is home from college. Soon all of the kids will be done with school for Christmas break.

We bought Alex a boxing club membership for Christmas. He has been bugging me about joining for over a year. Boxing seems kind of dangerous, doesn’t it moms?? I was the kind of mom that had to close my eyes at middle school football games. I enjoyed watching Alex wrestle, but there were a few times…Somewhere in my mind he is 8, not 18. I still feel the need to protect and mother hen him. Although I know he would end up protecting me if push came to shove.

Alex says that boxing helps him express his anger in a healthy way. Maybe I need to start boxing since anger is no stranger to me. Can you imagine me showing up at the boxing gym? Oh my gosh! He has been working out every night. He is like me, all or nothing. The hard part is to convince him to give it his all when he wants to do nothing. He is a stubborn one, also like me. But he is doing better! He just might be ready to move on with his life come spring.

I just want everyone to know how thankful I am that you put up with me! Consider this my Christmas card…I haven’t actually sent one out in years. Lucky you! I hope that you have a wonderful holiday season with family and friends. And if anything exciting happens, I’ll be sure to tell you all about it!

 

New beginnings

Change is hard, but it is time for new beginnings.

With each and every day, it has become easier to adjust to losing my job. There are some positive things about it. I will have less stress from work. Plus I am planning on taking some time off to do all of the things I have been putting off since I didn’t have time because I was working over the past decade.

Just think of all the things I could do with an extra 130 hours a month!

I am planning on spending time with my parents putting together a genealogy record for my family. It seems like yesterday that I was walking around cemeteries and talking to family, since deceased, with my grandma. Next year grandma will be gone 10 years and now is the time to start the process with my parents. I also want to take all of the old family photos and put them into digital format which is a huge undertaking.

I want to write two books, one about growing up with a violent autistic sibling and the other about Paul’s journey from rags to riches. I don’t care if they are bestsellers, I just want the family history documented if only for future generations. Maybe I’ll take some writing classes. At the very least, I will have time to read a few books.

I want to double my time at the gym. I want to be ready to run a 50k.

I want to take a photography class and at the minimum take more photos.

I want to learn how to cook different ethnic dishes. I want to eat healthier. Maybe I will brew my own beer.

I want to spend more time with my children. Alex is doing so much better, but there still have been a few bumps in the road. Arabella wants me to audition for the next community theater show with her. I want to be a better singer and dancer.

I am starting to let things go. My staff and I had a combined 20 years of experience that we used as a team to handle operations. It is hard to hand over operations to a staff I deem as inexperienced. Although it is terribly frustrating, it is nice to hand over all of the resulting customer service issues to them. It’s not my problem anymore.

Today my daughter Angel’s beta fish that she got when she was in high school died. Now she is a junior in college. I flushed the last remaining shred of her childhood good-bye. But I will be able to spend more time with her when she is home and take more trips out to see her when she is gone.

Change is hard, but it is time for new beginnings.

 

 

Is it normal?

I imagined the way it would be in my mind. Thick heavy intricate snowflakes dropped with a plop on the cold empty ground. There were horses with jingling bells pulling a sleigh behind it. Hot chocolate stirred with a candy cane. It’s a picture of us trying to find that perfect tree. Even the boy with the face tattoo is there. He is the one taking the family picture of us finding that perfect tree. A ray of radiant light shines through the snow on the right one. We are all smiling and happy.

It wasn’t that way at all. It was raining and the kids had other plans. Paul ran out to the closest tree lot by himself and picked out the tree. But it was that way once. The problem is that I still expect it to be that way now. I spent some time that afternoon crying curled up in my bed playing lullabies that I once played for my babies. Is that normal?? I am off my rocker, literally and figuratively this time.

Is any of this normal?? Paul and I have been struggling lately with this very concept. This will be the last Christmas break that our whole family will be together. Angel is not planning on coming home after college this year. Alex will be graduating (hopefully) this spring and moving on. Arabella is still seriously interested in becoming a foreign exchange student.

I put a lot of time into this whole motherhood thing, and now my kids don’t need me anymore. Who am I now? I am excited to have time to myself to do the things I always wanted to do. But I never thought that the letting go process would be so painful.

Our son is really struggling right now. Although he is 18, we still have boundaries and rules because he is living in our house. We have been asking ourselves if his behavior is within the realm of normal. It was hard to let go of our firstborn, but she was heading off to college and we knew that she would be okay. We feel unsure about the future of our son.

There are really only two scenarios. Our son is completely normal. Then the problem is with us. We need to let him go even if he has to fall on his face a few times. He has to figure things out for himself. We need to let him go even if his future isn’t what we planned on it being.

The second scenario is a bit more troubling. What if he has mental health issues? Then I think it is our job as his parents to make sure that he gets the help he needs. But he is an adult. Is it our job to try to fix him?

Would you try to save someone from drowning if you knew that they knew how to swim??

I think that our son is normal. But what is normal? People have been asking us if he is depressed. I don’t think so. But I’m not sure. I want answers. I want to be guaranteed that he will be okay.

Letting go of a kid to go to college is normal. It is painful, but you are also happy that they somehow became fully functional adults with you as their parents.

But what happens if you think they are not ready yet?

This has been my struggle lately. I probably won’t get all the answers I’m searching for. Plus it doesn’t help that I have unrealistic expectations in my head of how I expect things to be…the way they once were, but no longer are.

Is any of this normal?