A Boy and His Frog

I’m not one to plan too far ahead. There are always fuzzy plans in the future and then about an hour or two before we’re to set out, I’ll start to consider what the plans entail. This happened Saturday when we had to go to a party hosted by one of the partners at my husband’s firm. The party was to begin at 2:00 so at noon I began sending him a flurry of texts about the afternoon ahead. Do we need to bring anything? How long will we be there? How should I dress? What else do we need? This is where I find out it will be a pool party so I hunt and gather the things Liam will need: swimsuit, towel, flip flops, sunscreen. Flowers for the host. After a time, we’re ready to go.

I forget Liam (a 10-year-old) sometimes has an issue with new situations and I didn’t foresee that this would be one of them. Surely anything that involves a pool is outside the realm of social anxiety. I’m not sure where he gets this. OK, he gets it from me. I was an awkwardly shy kid and still get quiet in new situations or with meeting new people.

For a good hour, I sat with him on a couch away from the other party guests coaching him on strategies on how to enter into the fun going on in the pool. I empathized with him about new situations. I reminded him of other occasions where he overcame his fear in similar circumstances. I reminded him how much he loves to play in a pool. I asked him what was the worst thing that could happen. What was the best?

Finally, I outright bribed him. $2 to jump in the pool. He upped it to $5. I said he needed to do a cannonball and stay in 15 minutes. He suggested he could jump in and get right back out for $10. Nope, $10 was too steep a price for something that should be fun, but if he’d stay in for 30 minutes, I’d consider it. We weren’t getting anywhere so I settled on $10 for him to jump in and get right back out. Negotiations had fallen apart because I was dying for some adult interaction. He agreed but still couldn’t bring himself to do it. Defeated, I buried my face in my hands and then heard a splash. He did it!

He realized it wasn’t going to kill him so he got out and jumped in again. And again. And again. I told the host he was going to have trouble getting rid of us at the end of the night and I wasn’t wrong. Before I knew it, Liam was leading the younger kids on an excursion into the woods where they discovered a giant family of frogs. Many, many frogs. Apparently, we have a shortage of frogs around our house and he begged to take one or two home.

I know there are people who are great with stories and explanations about why their kid can’t or shouldn’t do something. I tried to channel this skill. The frog could die if we take him out of his habitat! He could get lost in the car and die there! The frog might not find any friends in his new home and die of loneliness! All roads led to death for the frog so apparently, I wasn’t very good at this. Eventually, I gave up and said if he dropped the $10 surcharge for jumping in the pool and having fun, I would allow the frog to be transported home.

This may have turned out to be the wrong choice, however. When we returned home, I won the battle of leaving the frog outside on Saturday night. Liam gave him intermittent attention throughout the day Sunday but at one point I went to get something from the bedroom and was stopped short by the sight of the frog languishing on my new throw pillow (cue the prickle) while my son looked on as though he couldn’t believe his luck to have found such a good friend. I was left wondering if the frog would suddenly transform into a person right there on my beautifully crocheted and tasseled pillow. Of course, I screamed. The frog, now known as Tony, has been returned to the pond in our garden so he doesn’t die.

Living the Dash

Several months ago, our nephew lost a long battle with depression and addiction at the young age of 32. It is not something I could imagine being able to survive, but my sister-in-law bravely took to the podium to talk about his life and referred to this piece by Linda Ellis. She spoke of the dash between his dates of birth and death and told us the story of his life in a moving and beautiful way. He was not to be remembered by how he died but the dash he lived between the two dates.

The death of a loved one is always a shock to our system regardless of whether it is expected or not, whether they are young or old. Whether the person lived a full and happy life or it was cut too short, we are sad. And it lingers. But it also can serve as a wake-up to those left behind and this is a good thing.  We are human. We are going to die someday and we don’t know when that time will come. We must make the most of our dash.

My dash has been relatively eventful as is with most. From birth to now I have loved and lost (pets, people, things, and beliefs), experienced poor health as well as good, been financially unstable as well as solvent. I’ve felt very low personal emotions such as shame, anger, hurt, and resentment but also joy, excitement, hopefulness, and pure love. I am a wife, a parent, a daughter, sister and friend. I have faced addiction and sobriety. I have been both greedy and generous. I have traveled near and far and tasted countless beautiful meals. Many of my bucket list items have been attained and I’m working fervently on one of the longest, most sought after items.

I am in my dash and don’t know when it will stop so I must keep moving. God is in the dash of everything I do. Sometimes I forget He is there but then I’m reminded by a beautiful song in church, the perfection of a day, the peace in my heart. I would not be able to live out my dash without Him.

What will you do with your dash? I wish you a long and beautiful one.

MC

 

 

Parenting a sensitive, intense child

Like the chronic dieter eager to try every conceivable plan to help reign in their eating habits, so too have I sampled many different parenting approaches with my now ten year old son. From the time he was a highly active infant, I found myself paging through book after book to try to find the answers to parenting, starting with Harvey Karp’s The Happiest Baby on the Block. I didn’t really understand if this was they way all kids were or if my kid was just a little different.

Looking back, I can see he was a pretty intense kid. He walked early and from there he was off like a bolt of lightening. He climbed anything that went up and there isn’t to this day a banister that hasn’t seen his backside. My default is to tell him no. Don’t do that, you’ll hurt yourself. Don’t do that, your not modeling good behavior for the younger kids. Don’t do that. Don’t do that. Don’t do that.

When he was four we made a very poor decision. We took him on a 7 day trip to Paris and Rome, wanting to get a travel fix for ourselves and a stamp on our passports. We promised him Euro Disney and thought we could spend the rest of the time visiting landmarks, museums and churches. Like I said it was a poor decision. It was a time when he was becoming fiercely independent. No more stroller, no more holding hands, no more listening.  All he wanted was to run away. Run away from us. Looking back, this was a bit of a farce.

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One of those happy times!

 

I managed to eke out about a half dozen photos from the trip that didn’t make it look like we wanted to kill each other. But by then his intensity was scaring me and I found myself looking around at other children and parents who seemed to be doing this family thing so much better than us and wondering what we were doing wrong. I read many, many more parenting books but did not find any lasting answers.

I kept hoping he’d outgrow this intensity of his. He is an arguer, a negotiator, prone to fits of anger but a sweet kid too. I wanted more of the sweet kid than the other stuff but it seemed to go hand in hand with him. His first grade teacher was wonderful with him and told me how smart and kind he was and how these other traits that get him into trouble will serve him well when he’s an adult. I knew she was right but I didn’t know how I would survive the years in between.

In second and third grade we saw how his personality butted up with those of his peers and I tried talking to him like a little adult about the things he should to do to be a better friend. It worked for a few days at a time but there was never any meaningful change. And finally over that summer between and third and fourth grade, things steadily declined until we finally sought help from a therapist. One of his teachers told me to ask about oppositional defiant disorder (ODD) and I quickly googled what it was. While not 100% accurate, it was fairly like reading some of the harder aspects of our child and it was then I realized what we were doing wasn’t going to work. There needed to be an overhaul in thinking and action on all our parts.

To be continued.

MC

 

 

 

I am not writing

Ha! I thought I was back. Not yet, apparently.

I can’t understand how the yen to write on a nearly daily basis has dried up so suddenly. Do I have nothing new to say? Have I said everything I need to? Maybe I’m living life differently now so that I have less stuff bottled up to throw out on the page. I’m pretty sure none of these are true.

Perhaps by naming this blog I Am Writing, I have jinxed myself into not doing it. So therefore I must force the issue until it happens more naturally. It brings to mind a quote I borrow from Louis L’Amour:

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So today, I am turning on the faucet and what comes out just might be a little rusty.

I think I’m going to have to rely on the word prompt of the day, even though I’m not sure what it means to me: parlay.

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The word couldn’t have been stuck, huh?!

A cumulative series of bets in which winnings accruing from each transaction are used as a stake for a future bet.

I can do this.

Maybe this  can describe my newfound frugality? (not sure if that’s the right word) where I have forgone shopping for the sake of shopping over the past month and decided to roll it right through lent. Instead of buying clothes for myself and things for our home, I’m saving, paying off debt and thinking of better uses for my part of the family money. I’m trying to purge and simplify. Lighten and minimize. Experiences over things.

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I am a shopper at heart and I love style and new clothes, shoes, makeup and the like. I also love to peruse stores like Target and Home Goods to find little things that will make life just that much better.  But along the way, I finally took a look at what these purchases are adding up to and I’m finding it isn’t much. The newness always wears off and begs to be replaced by something shinier and bigger than before. I was always running ahead of earnings if you know what I mean. Always carrying just a bit of debt that would never be paid off so I could have the things I wanted when I wanted them.

On February 1st after scanning my multiple charge accounts, I announced the plan of no spending to my husband and challenged him to join me. He was reluctant but finally agreed (his Amazon Prime habit is HUGE) and for a month the boxes stopped coming. I went on vacation with my dad near the end of the month and haven’t had a chance to ask him about how it felt to cut the spending for the month yet but I plan to soon.

As far as my experience, the first 2-3 weeks were great. I stayed right away from any stores that were not strictly for groceries. I didn’t step near Target, Marshall’s or Macy’s. But somewhere in week 3, my resolve started to loosen. What did I really need to prove? It’s not like what I was doing was going to save the world.

But it was about this time I was at church where a visiting priest came to talk about a mission he was involved with called Food For the Poor. I wasn’t expecting to be inspired by this man who was quite ancient and stooped over and could barley stand upright for the homily he was to present. But, boy! He was fierce and passionate and had me at hello.

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I suddenly knew what I needed to do with the “extra” money I was saving from not shopping. So many children and families could benefit from what I took for granted. By not buying a new outfit or a few books each month, I could provide something even more crucial than these things to someone else. Giving is not new to me, but I seem to to have gotten away from putting much thought into it. Where I work, we had been hit up by the annual United Way appeal and I would give an amount each pay period that really didn’t impinge on my lifestyle. I barely missed it and when they decided to move away from it, I never replaced my giving with another program.

I was getting the right message at the right time as they say. So I decide to up the ante (parlay my winnings) and pledge a monthly sum to Food for the Poor and renewed my commitment not to shop. I’m confident I can make it through lent as I did through the month of February by which time I hope to be quite cleanly off the charge and spend mentality I have been riding so long.

 

MC

Hello again!

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A couple of months ago I said goodbye to my former blog Mary 2.0. In it, I chronicled my first year of sobriety and shared so much about myself and my recovery that I thought it was time for a fresh start to reflect the newish me. It was a year of ups, downs and most importantly, a year of learning who I was after pealing back the many layers of me I’d tucked away. The break has been really good. In between, life has been going on and on as it tends to do and I’m ready to say hello to writing again.

I have been so conflicted of late. Everywhere you turn there is news about our new President and I’m considering another Facebook hiatus because of it. People cannot agree to disagree and some of the threads on my feed can turn downright ugly. You see I worked for a newspaper and many of my online friends are from that era. They take the criticism of the media very personally and I don’t blame them. The people I worked with are by and far some of the most honest, truth-seeking people I have ever met. But this is NOT a post about politics.

This is a post about what we need to do for each other. How we need to hear each other’s stories. We need to listen with our ears and our hearts. Really listen. It’s that simple.

Yesterday I was working with a co-worker on a problem that has come up in a project we’ve been working on together over the past year. Instead of jumping right in we started talking about books – she saw a copy of the Woman In Cabin 10 on my desk and I ended up lending it to her when she told me she had heard good things about it. I am an avid reader and if I find a connection with someone else who loves to read, I will feed that relationship with recommendations and books from my own library.

curiousOur conversation then turned to A Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (it is the story of an autistic boy who finds a dead dog in his neighbor’s garden) and I remembered we both saw the play (powerful!) a few months ago. We had nodded hello from our seats across the aisle and the next week we briefly talked about our impressions of the show but that was the end of it. When she brought it up again, something made me wonder and I uncharacteristically asked a very personal question. Is your son autistic? It turns out he is and she shared some of what it’s like for her. It’s a life I cannot begin to imagine.

Simple human connection. It can do so much for us, especially when we’re wallowing in our own struggles. I often see the quote about not knowing what other people are dealing with so be kind and I really take it to heart. Yet rarely do I try to find out what that thing is. But isn’t knowing each other and what we’re dealing with part of what gives us a connection? It’s time to ask these questions and stop shouting over each other to get our point across.

The world won’t end because we agree or disagree on important issues. Two catch phrases from my recovery that I hold onto dearly are live and let live and one day at a time. It gives me immense peace to do this. But when times call for tough conversations, let’s try to be gentle with each other and really listen to what is being said. Often we’re missing what they are not saying because we’re busy formulating our own response. Look for the clues. Dig deeper. Learn about each other. And be kind.1a28c27dbb265381222d56c0a2b18b92 MC