One for the Ticcer

*this post is for my son, Jacob, who happens to have Tourette Syndrome, and he happens to be one of my greatest teachers.

Things happen for a reason. Even the “bad” things. We just have to be willing to search for meaning in the chaos. It’s there.

When Jacob began to show signs of being “different”, I panicked. None of the books that were on my shelves told me what to do. The books were meant for the mainstream mom, the mom whose kid tended, more often than not, to follow the “rules” of what it means to be an infant, toddler, preschooler, etc.

Jacob was never that kid. Ever.

Some of the unexpected was easier to embrace then others. He walked before he was a year old. He was reading by age three and a half.

But by age five some of the things I wrote off as eccentricities that I was certain only accompanied genius, started to take a turn more towards the bizarre.

Loud sounds would cause meltdowns.

Strong smells would cause meltdowns.

Sudden (or even not so sudden) changes in plans would, you guessed it, cause meltdowns.

And all of these were quick to happen and not so quick to dissipate.

Beyond that he began to exhibit some strange, ritualistic behaviors that really scared me. They scared me because they weren’t as easily explained away as the tantrums. Tantrums could be written off as he’s just had a long day or he must be coming down with something.

But how do you explain it when your child starts punching himself in the stomach repeatedly? There’s nothing in the books about that.

And trying to figure out why your child sticks his finger down his throat hundreds of times a day is not as easy as thumbing through the index in the back of some book.

What I needed was a book called What to Expect When Everything You Expected Isn’t What You Got. Sadly, no such book exists.

Fortunately, what did exist for me was a strong sense of who Jacob was aside from the oddities that defined him for others. Even after the diagnosis of Tourette Syndrome and OCD, I knew that those labels were only parts of the whole and that the whole was the only thing that mattered.

I’d love to tell you that I knew that from the get-go. But I spent much of the first 5 years of Jacob’s diagnosis living as the mother of a child with Tourette’s instead of simply living as Jacob’s mother.

And through it all, Jacob never once stopped being amazing. More often than not, it was Jacob who comforted me on the days when his tics were high.

The same kid who caused me such worry and pain, has taught me that life has so much more to offer us if we learn not to dwell on the bad stuff and stop letting it define our present and our future. When I stopped seeing Jacob as the son with TS, I was finally able to see him as the blessing that he is.

Jacob taught me that the meaning in the chaos for me, was finally having a greater purpose in life. He helped me evolve into a kinder, more compassionate person than I ever was.

Without Jacob I never would have had a story to share. I hope and pray that my book, He’s Not Broken, will help other parents embrace the child they have been given and live in the moment, no matter how difficult it might be, knowing that, although he may not be the child they wanted, with an open heart and mind, they will soon realize he is just the child they needed.

May 15 – June 15 is National Tourette Awareness Month – pass this along to one person and help us create a chain of awareness and compassion.

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My Journey to a Kinder Life

Vegans in the making

Recently Jacob and I watched a documentary called Forks Over Knives. The information it presents about the toll the Western diet has taken on our health is disturbing.

The feature film Forks Over Knives examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting animal-based and processed foods. -excerpted from the website

Forks Over Knives Trailer

If it is within our power to make a change that can simultaneously affect our health as well as the health of our planet, why isn’t everyone doing it?  There are several arguments powered by a multitude of successful industries who want to perpetuate their success, even at the risk of pretty much guaranteeing the failure of our health and our planet.  Sounds harsh, but if you consider the resources needed to maintain these industries, you’ll begin to understand how crucial it is that we make a change, and make it NOW!

On the way to school today, Jacob turned to me and said, “Mom, let’s do it. Let’s start today and do it together.”  We shook on it.  And no doubt that shake will resonate in our lives and cause some turbulence as we figure out how to navigate the road to a kinder life.  But the pay-off is huge.  It may be the road less traveled, but, the way I see it, it’s the only road leading to the place I want to go.

I am taking it slowly and learning as much as I can about the vegan lifestyle.  I’ll be blogging about our journey in hopes that my words will inspire and be a map for that road less traveled.  I’ll be honest about the ups and downs. and I’ll be sure to get Jacob’s views too – you know a teenager’s going to tell it like it is.

Two books I recommend:

The Kind Diet – by Alicia Silverstone

Main Street Vegan – by Victoria Moran

So, here we go…let the journey begin.

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My Uh-Ha Moment

Oprah constantly talks about her a-ha moments. And while I’ve had my own variety of a-ha moments including a few in the 80’s that included a Norwegian dude caught in a comic strip, just recently I had what I would call an uh-oh moment, followed by an a-ha revelation – an uh-ha moment if you will.

Let me ‘splain. Over the holidays as I made my list and checked it twice and thrice, I neglected to keep myself in check. As I am inclined to do, I overdid. But my overdoing wasn’t just about making sure Santa delivered the proper amount of joy to my offspring, it was about my tendency to have an Atlas complex. As you might recall Atlas had a particularly heavy load to carry, that being the world and all. (* side note here – the literati in me wishes to acknowledge that she is fully aware that originally the sphere Atlas was depicted carrying represented the celestial sphere of ancient astronomy – just saying) Whatever it was, it was heavy stuff.

While visions of worry danced in my head, my ability to handle much of anything dwindled and I went into ASM – automatic shut-down mode which translates into stress eating (mostly my nails), too much wine and an unhealthy amount of sleep. I’m sure to some people my opting out was selfish, insensitive and downright bitch-like of me. And they would be right about at least one of those things – it was selfish, and I’m slowly learning that a bit of selfishness is necessary at times as a means of self-respect. I’ve neglected and disrespected myself both literally and figuratively a good deal recently and I’m ready to end that cycle.

If that means someone feels hurt because I’ve grown distant, I am in no position to nurture them back to a place of contentment, because right now, I come first.

After being sick for nearly two weeks now with upper respiratory infections, stress-induced impetigo, and blood pressure topping out a near ER high of 160/130, not to mention vivid stress dreams that included me vomiting maggots, driving an out of control car, and having a tick embedded in my body, I have to say the time for change is two weeks too late. My father died at the age of 45. He had heart problems, but stress factored in as well. I’ll be 45 in October….and I’m not ready to die.

So, as per my usual MO, I went online searching for ways to help me overcome my need to solve everyone’s problems, so I could spend some quality time working on my own. And things began to click and make sense when I happened upon Judith Orloff’s website where I took a quiz called, “Are you an Empath?” I answered yes to nearly every question – which is not a good thing.

What I discovered is that according to Orloff, empaths often become “angst-sucking sponges”, and “perpetual shock absorbers for people’s pain”. Oh yeah, that’s me. And with no means of wringing myself out, or surrounding myself with only shiny, happy people, I feel overly saturated all the time. It’s self-destructive.

Starting today I am making a vow to myself to spend at least five minutes a day meditating (I’ll work up to more). The sitting still physically is the easy part. It’s the mental sitting that poses a problem for me. The Daoists call it “monkey mind” – and mine’s like a chimp on crack.

But it’s all about baby steps right? One foot in front of the other…one breath in at a time.

Orloff says, “Stress comes after you, whereas calm is something you go after.”

So this is me going…

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Why Heinz had it right in the 70’s

If you’re old enough to remember the 70’s then you’ll get my reference when I say “anticipation”. If, on the other hand, anticipation, to you, means waiting for your Kindle book to download so you can read the latest bestseller without having to leave the comfort of your couch, then you’re missing the point.

Remember the days when you couldn’t wait for Thanksgiving because the day after was the day when the Christmas spirit began? The days when Santa wasn’t disguised as some corporate mind who wanted to jumpstart the Christmas cheer (and his profits) in October?

Well, let me tell ya people, Ho Ho Ho has taken on a whole new meaning as the marketing gurus sell out to cash in. Ho indeed!

The day after Halloween I was in Michael’s scoring some scare for next year’s big party. As I filled my basket with skeletons and witches, I was stopped dead in my tracks when what to my wandering ears did I hear…Frosty the freaking Snowman???! Unless Frosty is sporting a costume or donning turkey feathers I’m thinking he’s way out of line showing up in the middle of someone else’s month. Damn Frosty that’s cold!

So how does Heinz fit into this you wonder? Remember the ketchup commercial where the ketchup came out painfully slow as the hungry waited in, wait for it, anticipation? Carly Simon’s song played in the background: Anticipation. Anticipaaation. It’s making my wait. It’s making me craaaaazy.

The sad thing is that even ketchup doesn’t come out all that slowly anymore thanks to the squirt bottle. No wonder our world is so impatient. We are spoiled and denied the beauty of a good wait.

I miss the crazy. My kids have no idea what it means to wait for Christmas. The painfully sweet days leading up to Thanksgiving when your parents would pull out the Elvis and Carpenters Christmas albums and dig the decorations out of the bowels of the attic. Opening each box was a treat in itself, guaranteed cheer and good will.

Now the cheer comes out to freaking early and by the time it’s December I’m pretty much reaching my bah-humbug point. I refuse to buy anything Christmasy until after Thanksgiving. But then the problem becomes finding what I need. You see, if I’m lucky and I time it right I can get the decorations for 70% off because they need to make way for flip-flops and beach gear…in De-freaking-cember!

My Christmas wish is that we could somehow bring back the magic of the longing for Christmas so our kids could appreciate it more. See what you can do about creating a bit of healthy anticipation in your holiday season. Teach your kids the wonder of the wait.

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Five Things Friday – Ways My Dad Still Lives

October 17th marked my 44th trip around the sun and the 25th year that my dad’s sun hasn’t shined. Hard to believe it’s been that long.

For a long time after he died I refused to celebrate my birthday on that day. Instead I celebrated on his birthday, October 24. But then I realized that regardless of the bad memories I had surrounding that day, my mother still had one memory that remained beautiful and it was one she shared with my dad. For that reason I chose to honor that day again – the day that my parents welcomed me into their lives.

It’s still a bittersweet day for me. Too many haunted memories mingle with the birthday wishes. Being the age that my father was when his life was cut short, makes the pain a bit sharper. I realize exactly how young he was and how much he left behind.

The past 25 years have given him 5 grandsons. 5 grandsons that he will never take fishing from the Moon River bridge like he did with me. 5 grandsons that will never know how much he loved to read comic books and Louis L’Amour westerns. 5 grandsons who will never know how his kind blue eyes and how they disappeared when he smiled – bedroom eyes he called them.

I see parts of him in each of his boys.

Tyler, the oldest of my brother’s boys, used to talk about my dad as if he knew him. He used to say things like “back when I was older I used to go fishing”. I believe in reincarnation…who knows. Tyler is quiet and stubborn like my dad.

Joshua, Dave’s middle son, is also stubborn and a bit reserved at times. He is in art school – my dad was an artist.

Then there’s Luke, Dave’s youngest and perhaps, spunkiest. He’s a little guy like my dad was but he struts around like a giant. I hear stories about my dad as a little kid and how he would carry his bottle around in his back pocket when he was old enough to be rid of the bottle – but he carried it with attitude. Luke doesn’t walk around with a bottle but he does have a pocketful of attitude with him at all times.

Then there are my two boys, Jacob and Nicholas.

Jacob reminds me a lot of my dad. He loves taking things apart and seeing how they work. I used to do the same thing with my dad. Daddy could fix anything and Jacob is my Go To repairman at home. anyone.

Nicholas loves to draw. And while I’m sure he gets a lot of that from Warner, I like to think my dad had some say in the matter too. And when Nick smiles, his eyes disappear…just like Daddy’s.

Maybe this is daddy’s way of sticking around – living in each of his boys. It’s comforting to me that when I look at each boy I can see my dad peeking out reminding me that he never really went that far away at all.

I love you Daddy.

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Five Things Friday – Why the Wal-Mart parking lot sucks

I have a love/hate relationship with the big W.  I love to make fun of it , and I hate to shop there.  Unfortunately, in my fair to middlin’ town of Pooler, GA, I have no Target to woo me unless I drive into Savannah.  So sometimes I just have to make do.  That being the case, I use my Hell-mart time wisely and while I shop for my home essentials, I also shop for writing material.  Yes, I do have a dialogue notebook that I carry around with me, so be careful what you say or you may wind up in a book of mine!

Here are five things I HATE about Wal-Mart parking lots:

1.   Shopping carts – It’s not that I hate the carts themselves, but the lazy bastards who can’t seem to put them in the corrals, even when the corral is right next to their car.  On a windy day it’s like a buggy bumper carfest.

2.   Handicapped spaces – Again, nothing against handicapped parking at all.  But when did laziness become a justifiable handicap?

3.   Trash – Even though there are several trash cans placed strategically in EVERY freaking row in the lot, it seems that, once again, laziness (or stupidity) wins out and trash cans are nothing but a suggestion.  I have seen everything from chewed up chicken parts to loaded diapers littering the lot, creating a fetid obstacle course rife with putridity and potential hazardous waste.

4.   Campers – When Smokey the Bear said “only you can prevent forest fires” he didn’t mean only you can prevent forest fires if you stop camping in the forest and camp in the Wal-Mart parking lot.  Apparently, his message was misinterpreted by a large percentage of vehicular campers who squat their Winnebagos alongside the trucks decorated with Playboy mudflaps and pissing Calvins.

5.   Kids – I love kids.  In fact, over the years, I’ve acquired two of my very own.  What I do not like is kids whose parents allow them to wander aimlessly in parking lots.  Usually said parents are either on the phone, or too busy trying to manage their other offspring to attend to the one who has wandered into the middle of the road and is standing there picking his snotty nose completely unaware of the “handicapped” twenty year old with who is gunning it in reverse.  I’m tired of feeling responsible for other people’s lackadaisical approach to parenting.

I’d love to hear what you hate about Wal-Mart.

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Remembering

The day it happened was like any other day in my house – I was up way too early contemplating the homeschool day ahead, my three year old, Jacob, running rampant somewhere in the house. I was tired as I sipped my coffee while I watched as much of the Today Show as I could before Jacob demanded my attention. I’m sure I was caught up in some chaotic sweep of thoughts about how little time I had to do the things I needed to do that day.  I’m sure I was aggravated as my son yelled “Moooooomma!”  from the other side of the house interrupting my too short moment of quiet each moment.

Then it happened.  I stopped and stared at the TV unsure of what I was seeing as the first plane hit.  I continued to watch as the drama unfolded and the reality of what was happening hit me.  Suddenly, the things I was worried about seemed so trivial.

Today I remember those whose lives were and continue to be affected by 9/11 and the events that unfolded so horrifically before our eyes that day.  I would never begin to equate any loss I have ever experienced with that of those who lost loved ones so unexpectedly that day.

I pray that some sense of peace enters their lives and comforts them though I know it will never end their suffering. I also pray that we, as Americans, continue to remember these families and celebrate their lives.

I leave you with a quote from one of my favorite authors:

“There are ways and ways of dying, and some of them leave you walking around.” – Anna Quindlen

God Bless America and those who died, both literally and figuratively in the 9/11 tragedy.

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Five Things Friday – Why I Have Been MIA

Here are 5 reasons I have been MIA for so long.

Reason #1: Summer is a suck! Yep, I bah-humbugged that 12-week black hole that comes every year and dumps buckets of humidity ridden heat on my doorstep, along with two people who begin the holiday as my sons and end as my sworn enemies.

Reason #2: When it rains it pours…cats and dogs. So, over the course of the past few months I have been nursing my kidney-diseased 18-year-old cat Smudge, my newly blind, newly diabetic 8-year-old Min Pin, Neutron, and my attention-seeking, Tylenol-scarfing dog, Eva.
Let me ‘splain that last one. Eva is our 1-year-old rescued dog and I love her dearly. However, she has a bad habit of eating my life in small pieces everyday – small pieces like a flip-flop, remote control, ink pen or in one particularly memorable binge a bottle of Tylenol – a meal that cost her 5 days in the ER vet and me $1300.

Reason #3: I am now a partner in a small business – Ink Tank Studios, LLC. My best friend and I decided to start making money doing what we love. ITS is a writing studio that specializes in developmental editing, copywriting and intellectual property and content development – in a nutshell we provide our clients with kick sass words! We just finished phase one on a big project for LeapFrog. Go Team Tank!

Reason #4: He’s Not Broken is agent ready. Laura, my editor and writing partner, has worked relentlessly to help me clean up my proposal in the few kid-free hours we had each week while the littles were in summer camp.

Reason #5: The summer heat mixed with the inferno temperatures that have become my own personal hell of a body (thank you whore-mones!), did little to fuel my creative fires. Too much freakin’ heat and humidity sucks the life right out of me.

So there ya go and here I am!

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Mini Pause

This Tibetan monk working on a sand mandala reminded me to slow down

Lately I’ve been battling with some pretty big issues. Life issues.

Much of it has to do with being 43 and being a girl and all.

Whore-mones.

I’ve sunk to the depths and dragged my aging ass along the sandy bottoms of depression and overwhelm. But now thanks to a 28-day lifesaver in the dainty blue packaging my hormones are beginning to simmer down some…I think.

But this summer was a suck. Heat indexes of 116 don’t go well with a person whose inner inferno now houses Satan. Hot Momma took on a whole new meaning.

And there was this terrible feeling of disconnect pulling me farther and farther from my life. Like a character in an episode of Twilight Zone I felt like I was watching from the outside as my life carried on around me. Eventually, like me, that started getting old.

I decided to give it my best Helen Reddy and go all lion on this thing called menopause. I am woman, hear me roar. I am queen of this thing called me and while there are some things I can’t control (like my bladder on occasion) there are other things I can and will control.

So I picked up a book that I read long before kids, long before aging meant anything more to me than a free pass to buy Sun Country 2 Liter wine coolers whenever I wanted, long before it was relevant. The book is How to Simplify Your Life. And when I saw it on the shelf it spoke to me and said, “Now, dummy, now is the time for simplification.”

So I’ve been reading it and trying to put some of its practical wisdom into practice. Things like make a list of those things you want to do in life and then cut that down to what is really feasible. Well, damn. My list began to dwindle quickly.

I mean realistically will I ever find the time to learn Gaelic because it would be cool if I ever went to Ireland and met Celtic Thunder and had the opportunity to impress them all with my mad skills? Am I ever truly going to be on Dancing with the Stars (three potential problems there – two left feet and one lacking star), and do summer theater, and become a piano and/or guitar playing mofo?

So I’ve begun to pare down my list to things I really can do, things that really matter and will fulfill me rather than overwhelm me with their presence on my life list.

I’m taking a mini-pause in life to consider the value of those things that take up my time, because the older I get the more I realize that my confidence is not nearly as bold as Mick’s and I’m not going to put my faith in the belief that “time is on my side”. I’m going to put my faith in this little thing called me and try to come up with a plan to make me happy.

Wish me luck.

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Mad World

Full disclosure – I’m a Gleek.  In fact, I’m a proud, jazz hand sportin’ Gleek.  I think the show is amazing and not only because it involves a group of people breaking out into full song and dance at any given moment…unrehearsed…as if it’s the most natural thing to do.  In my world, that’s not far off.  I often dream of a world where spontaneous choreography and vocal ability go hand in hand with taking out the trash and grocery shopping.  Don’t judge me…I’m a closet hairbrush singer so what exactly did you expect?

But back to my point…Glee is a show I can very much relate to on so many levels.  I was a high school theater/chorus girl (we didn’t call it Glee then and we sure as hell didn’t do such cool songs – just imagine 30 sopranos singing Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” while the church pianist accompanied us – so very not pretty!).  But I loved to sing.  And I loved to act.  For me acting was a chance to be someone else.  In high school I was a tad bit insecure, but on stage I was confident.

This past Sunday on The Glee Project the contestants had a very challenging and revealing assignment – coming face to face with their insecurities by coming up with one word that describes their vulnerability.  The words included fat, gay, anorexic and misunderstood.

It got me to thinking – what would my word be, a word that sums up my insecurites – and I decided it would probably be “inferior”.  There have been so many instances in my life when I’ve felt inferior on some level.  And it’s never really had to do with anyone else, it’s all me.  I compare myself to everyone and believe me that can get quite exhausting, because on some level I will never measure up simply because I’m not that person.

High school was particularly rough for me.  I went to an all girl school so I had plenty of what I saw as ideals to choose from.  At a reunion years later, I learned that most of the girls, even the “perfect” ones were carrying around some similar personal demons.

The older I get the less inferior I allow myself to feel, although I can’t say the feeling is completely gone.  But having a child with special needs has taught me a great deal about self-acceptance.  My son was diagnosed with Tourettes and OCD when he was younger.  He has always rocked a high level of self-esteem despite his challenges.  I find it fascinating.  I was a “normal” 13-year-old, and I use that term very loosely, and yet I never felt secure in who I was.  Here is my son dealing with his challenges on a daily basis and he could care less when people stare or laugh.  He’s happy with who he is.  I love that about him, and I’m thankful to have him in my life to teach me how to love myself, even if it has taken me most of my 43 years to find this path.

So what would your word be?  And how will you choose to confront your insecurities?  Just something to think about…

Here’s the Glee Project Video:  “Mad World” – assignment vulnerability

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