Monday, October 31, 2011

Halloween,oh my!!

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It was a beautiful sunrise here in the heartland. Because Daylight Savings time lasts longer this year I get an extra week of sunrise meditations. With the clock going back on Sunday, I may not get up early enough for sunrise for a while. I can't remember a Halloween with such nice weather. Usually it is cold and wet, a few years ago we got a huge snowstorm, still referred to as the October Surprise by weather forecasters around here. The trick or treaters will actually get to show off their costumes rather than hide them under winter coats this year.

Halloween chills and thrills are fun for some, but for others it is simply the harbinger of a time of year fraught with difficulty. The holiday season draws nigh!!!!

It is amazing isn't it how many emotions get stirred up in us as the holiday season draws near. There are those of us who had less than functional families growing up, and this time of year always seems to be a time when family dynamics can be trying at best, and downright dangerous in some instances. I remember the first Christmas stocking I ever had. I was a freshman in college, and in conversations with a new friend, it came out that we didn't have pleasant holidays in my family. I loved hearing the stories told by my friend Lizzie of the traditions of her family. Christmas stockings were important to her family, so much so that her stocking was being sent to her to hang in her dorm room before she took it home with her for Christmas. When the package came, there were two stockings. The one she had treasured all of her life, and a brand new one for me. As alien as the concept of loving family was to me, the concept of a non loving family was even more alien to her, and she had asked her family to make me a stocking. I visited her home several times over four years of college. Stopped off at her parents house a few times in my travels as an adult. I will always remember that they taught me about Christmas.

So when I became a mother, I purposed in my heart to create traditions for my son. There was just the two of us for the first 12 years of his life, and we created wonderful traditions. Then I met my husband, and we  adapted some of our traditions into family traditions. We have pizza on Christmas Eve because I was too tired from working at the store to cook, so my son is in charge of Christmas Eve. He cooks the pizza and serves us. While I am at work he bakes 2 batches of cookies. One batch is a recipe he has baked every year since middle school, and then he combs the holiday magazines for a new recipe to try. Christmas morning my son opens presents, there usually aren't any for the 'grownups' we spend the money on my son. I fix biscuits and gravy for breakfast, and we go to the movies in the afternoon.We come home and have our dinner, ham and wild rice dressing. I am not sure how that came to be our tradition, but it has been since my son was small.

Traditions can be created where there were none. Traditions can be changed when the original traditions no longer fit, traditions can be thrown out the window when they simply aren't good for us to continue them. We can choose to make healthier traditions. Do we usually cook too many things that are tempting? Try new recipes. Yes, stick to those one or tow things that you have to have, but honestly, we all cook things that no one will miss. Think about what goes into the fridge as leftovers. Maybe that's a dish that can be changed.

Not only can we change the things we cook, but if there are issues that come up for us in this emotional time of year, we can change how we think about them. If there are expectations from others that aren't in our best interest, we can choose to not feel like we are letting someone down. Our well being is our concern, and we are not dishonoring anyone, or disrespecting anyone when we choose to honor our needs and respect our choices. Choose to take care of you! YOU are then better able to take care of the ones you love.

Do something spectacular for yourself today, choose to not let the candy dishes take control. Choose to be in control of what you eat.

Peace and Blessings,

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Let's Go Racing!

Last weekend was a racing weekend. My son and I have season tickets at Kansas Speedway, and yes I have had people question whether that is a good use of our money. I usually answer that if I have to rob a bank, my son will have his Nascar tickets! It is a one of the no compromise parts of our budget. There are only a couple of people who the right to question, and they don't. Our entertainment dollars are budgeted for the Nascar tickets, and the return on investment is priceless.

Nascar is one of my son's sports interests, and it has been very good for his social skills. When we were at Crazy Horse Memorial he was able to have a conversation with a stranger once the subject of Nascar came up. When we go to the Speedway, the other season ticket holders that sit around us no longer notice the things that make him different. In fact, our arrival is eagerly anticipated and my son is warmly welcomed. Everyone is glad to see him.

One of the positive aspects of my son's autism is that when he becomes interested a sport or any other subject he studies it in depth. In fact, I would venture that very few people understand the rules of a sport he is interested in as well as he does. Now that I think about it, it may be a male thing more than an autistic thing. My late husband could give you infinite details about college football teams and players. My son can do the same thing about Nascar. He knows the rules, he knows who owns and  drives every car, he knows every detail of every drivers career. And he knows the rules. So, when we go to the races, the people around us don't see someone who is challenged, they see someone who is knowledgeable. They see someone who can answer any question about the sport, and they look forward to sharing that sport with him.

It is always a joy to go to the races with my son. It is always good for me to see him in a situation where he is admired. Now I personally think he is the most amazing person I have ever known. But, I admit that as his Mom I may be a tad biased, so it is always good for me to see him succeed in a social situation.

Races are a week long round of activities in our lives. There are show cars displayed around town and there are opportunities to meet your favorite driver. We take advantage of as many of these opportunities as we can. One of those opportunities this year was also what I call a divine appointment. Like the young woman I was able to share with at Mt. Rushmore, or the gentleman that talked to my son at Crazy Horse, an opportunity to be in the right place at the right time. We were standing in line at a local grocery store waiting to meet Clint Bowyer. I got in a conversation with the 2 people in front of us in line.

The conversation started off about Nascar. But was soon about something even more important. It turned out that the gentleman was the father of a 9 year old son, a son blessed with autism. As my son was able to hold a conversation with this man about the sport of Nascar, I could see that something even more important was happening. This father had never met an adult with autism, and he was soon sharing with me how important it was for him to be able to talk to my son. To be able to first see my son as a fellow Nascar fan before he saw him as a person with autism.

When we become parents, we dream dreams for our children. The first time you hold that child in your arms, you think of the future.As your child grows from a newborn to a baby to a toddler, you start to imagine what they might be when they grow up. When you start to figure out that there is something different about your child, and then perhaps when you receive a diagnosis you often have to let go of some of those dreams, but you are in uncharted territory, and you don't know what the future is going to look like. So often, we have no frame of reference because we have never met anyone who has faced similar challenges. Standing in line that day, this father met an autistic young man. A young man who was knowledgeable and interesting, and for the first time in a long time this father could imagine a future for his son.

I think that is a great return for our Nascar dollars, don't you? Makes me a very proud Nascar MOM!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Social skills?

Our neighborhood had it's fall picnic over the weekend. Unlike the weekend before, the weather was perfect, and the turnout was good! My son went with me for the very first time. He used his best social skills, shook hands with the people I introduced him to, enjoyed the hamburgers and hot dogs, stayed much longer than I thought he would, and chose to leave when he felt uncomfortable. I was very, very proud of him. His social skills get better all of the time.

This story isn't about my 26 year old autistic child, however. This story is about neighbors.Like  the 2 year old I met at the picnic. His behaviors were the spitting image of my son at that age. He was a beautiful little boy, the MOST interesting grey eyes, and to this MOM, exhibited many characteristics of autism. His parents had their hands full keeping up with him!

I attempted to open conversation with his parents a couple of times. After all, if he is indeed autistic, I have a lot of experience. I could offer support and encouragement. But, they are fairly new to the neighborhood, and seemed a bit wary. Now that may or may not have anything to do with their son, who may or may not be autistic. It could have just been the nerves of meeting all of us old folks, many for the first time.

Our neighborhood is a throwback to a different time. The 100 homes in our subdivision are inhabited by mostly older folks who have lived together for decades, raised families together, become family for many. I can remember the address of the Southern California house I grew up in, if pressed I might be able to figure out the addresses of the rest of the houses on our street. But in my mind, and my memories they will always be remembered by the names of the families that were living there. Our house was the Jones house, William E to be specific, and we had to be because directly across the street was the William H Jones family-no relation. There were 6 original families, families who built their homes themselves, upgrading over the years. Then in the late 1950's a new subdivision replaced the fields across the street creating a new neighborhood. A very interesting neighborhood, a mix of ethnicity's and family styles moved into the really nice 3 bedroom houses-2 floor plans available-that were affordable for working class families.

The homes were built on the same floor plans, but every house had it's own color and landscaping as the families made them their own. As we children grew up together we knew all of the houses by the names of the families. We knew that we were safe on our way to school as we walked past the Bartletts, the Martinez, eventually past the Bachelor's house. As an adult I know that the bachelors were a same sex couple. As a child, they were just the Bachelors, a very important part of our community. They were always there to lend a helping hand when needed.

I thought about the Bachelors today. I was reading some really hate-filled comments on facebook, and I felt so blessed that I grew up in a diverse neighborhood. A neighborhood where you were not judged by anything other than your being part of our lives. I don't know when it dawned on me that the Bachelors were a 'same sex' couple, because it just didn't matter. What mattered was that they were neighbors. Good neighbors. It can be so easy to get jaded in this day and age, but then I think about our neighborhood and the neighborhood I grew up in. When I see people saying ugly things, I need to remember that there are places in the world where you can grow up to believe that all people are just your neighbors and it doesn't really matter whether you have much in common with them other than the most important thing, they are part of the weft and weave that makes up the tapestry of your life. Just like this neighborhood has been for my unique son, and hopefully will be for the little guy with the grey eyes.