Archive for the ‘OCD’ Category

I’ve Never Been So Happy to be Sick!!!!

ginger20ale

Just like everyone else’s, my life sucks from time to time! This past month has been one catastrophe after another. Marie, my daughter who is deaf, had again been hospitalized due to a dangerous PTSD episode. When in a dissociative state, she downed staples in an effort to kill herself. Ever the optimist, I was hoping against hope that her memories of severe abuse would begin to soften, maybe even heal. Alas, not yet…this will be a lifelong battle.

My son Angel, who had just begun to drive, was involved in a rear end collision. While slowing down for a red light, KAPOWEE! another car hit him in the rear, pushing him into the truck in front of him. He was briefly hospitalized for whiplash, but the emotional impact was even worse. Sleeping is a luxury he no longer enjoys; wild fears and thoughts flood his already befuddled mind. He has stopped doing the things he used to do, clearly depressed that his means of freedom no longer sits in the driveway. Through no fault of his own, his major pride and joy, his ability to drive around and help others all day, has been destroyed. The car, safe and well running, was bought new in 2008. The insurance company only paid the Blue Book value of $4200. Because we do not have additional financial means, trying to find a car for such a small amount of money has been a real challenge, and every day that goes by without a car for Angel pushes him further and further into depression.

Marie’s recent birthday party was ruined when Steven “acted up”…having a full fledge outburst. (He has a severe sensory deficit with which he can not tolerate crowds or things not in his regular schedule. I should have had the foresight to arrange for him to be elsewhere.) Steven punched a hole in the wall and swore obscene obscene obscenities, (I know most obscene obscenities, but he came up with a few that were even more hard core.) As he stormed off down the street to settle himself down, the damage had already been done. Mortified at this behavior that most of our guests had never seen, everyone left, making a bee line for their cars, children in tow. Marie, who in her deafness had not heard the commotion, had been fishing on the dock behind our house. When she turned around, everyone was gone! She was quizzical at first, but not being a real “people person”, she took it in stride, especially because everyone had left their gifts for her!

My own work has been more difficult. The agency has hired a public relations person, and suddenly referrals have been flooding in. With an exponentially increased workload, putting in 50 hours a week has not been uncommon. What HAS been uncommon is the wrenching ache that developed in the pit of my stomach. Food would spew out of my stomach a half hour after I’d eaten. I felt awful, but I trekked on, saltine crackers and ginger ale bottle in tow. All my life, stress did not bother me. I could handle anything! No problem! Que sera sera! A little stress was not going to deter me from my job duties! (Like a mailman, neither ran, nor snow nor dark of night would keep me from my mission.) But as the stomach ache dragged on, my enthusiasm waned. I actually became depressed! My life, as I knew it, was over… or so I thought…..

After two weeks of eating nothing but chicken rice soup and saltines, I dragged my depressed little body to the walk in clinic. Taking one look at me, they sent me to the hospital emergency room where an intravenous was started to alleviate my dehydration. Laying there, I watched several bags of liquid force fed into the little vein in my hand. They did many tests, some to which I may have objected but I was too weak to stand my ground. Lo and behold, I was really sick! It wasn’t stress! It was salmonella poisoning from an egg breakfast at a local diner two weeks previously! Although I lay there on the gurney still feeling ill, happiness filled my heart. I was sick, not stressed! Life would return to “normal”, including all of the small tragedies and heartbreaks and problems associated with having five children with disabilities. But I could handle it! Life would go on!

The Dance of the Snake Goddess Redux

snake

I apologize for repeating this post from 2011, but it is one of my favorites, and a memory that is brought to mind on those few occasions that i have to go to court for my children and I see this particular lawyer there…and I always giggle…

A very conservative lawyer friend had a very conservative lawyer wife who had taken up belly dancing.  She and 2 friends were so skilled in this talent that they were chosen to be performers for a large audience for First Night, the annual New Year’s Eve celebration in the city.  For an added “twist” to their act, my lawyer friend asked if his wife could borrow one of my son’s 5 foot long boa constrictors for their dance.  I had plenty of reservations, but I said okay. (It is always good to keep a lawyer friend happy because you never know when you will need a lawyer’s help.)  The ladies came to our house, and practiced with the snake while my son, Steven, who is very familiar with snakes, supervised.  The practice went very well, and the ladies excitedly decided to bill their act as the “The Dance of the Snake Goddesses.”

Well, New Year’s Eve came and I reminded Steven that we had to take the snake to the performance hall for the act.  Steven, who has Asperger’s and an anxiety disorder, was mortified!  There was no way HE was going to go to a large hall where there were a lot of people!  He handed me a pillowcase to put the snake in, and a bottle of alcohol “in case it bit someone”. He promptly took off on his bike peddling away to destinations unknown to me, (but far away from  First Night appearance.)  I started to panic!  These excited dancers were billed as the “The Dance of the Snake Goddesses” and they would have no snake!  Feeling extremely obligated to provide them with a snake, I decided to bring the it myself.  I had not minded the snakes when they were locked in the glass tanks, but somehow I was going to have to get up the nerve to actually take the snake out and put it in the pillowcase.  My hands were shaking as I undid the lock and took the cover off of the tank.   It looked docile enough, just lying there.  I reached in and managed to push it into the pillowcase using a long sleeved pot holder, proud of myself for not having to touch it.  Maybe I’d be okay! I tentatively carried the pillowcase to the living room, but I had miscalculated by not securing the top of it.  The snake’s head popped out, I pushed it back down.  It popped out again, and I pushed it down again.  This time it was stronger and its head came our farther.  When I tried to push it back in, it wiggle away from me and the whole snake came slithering out of the bag, which I promptly dropped.  There, on the floor of our living room, was a slithering 5 foot long snake!  I screamed.  My husband came to see what was going on, and he jumped up on the couch and screamed.  Even though I was shaking and my first instinct was to smash the thing over the head with a broom, I remembered  my commitment to our lawyer friends.  I gathered up my courage and, using the broom gently, I nudged it back into the pillowcase, this time immediately tying the top into a knot.

I was still shaking from this experience as I drove to the city with the wriggling pillowcase on the seat next to me.  I was feeling tremendous relief that I had at least caught it and was on my way to the performance. I even felt a little sorry for it, and turned the heat all the way up in my car so it could be warm.  (It had started to snow outside, which would mean there would be a larger than usual audience for an inside performance as the outside First Night performances would involved standing around in wet snow.  Great!  A bigger audience for what was sure to be a Snake Goddess fiasco!)

When we got near the theater, I put the pillowcase inside my coat to keep it warm. (MY I was brave!)  There was a line around the building waiting to see the performance.  I went to the head of the line, and quietly said to the guard at the door, “I have the snake for the performance.”  In his loudest voice, he parted the crowd by saying “Make way for the snake handler.  Make way for the snake handler!”  I wanted to hide!  As a middle aged, shaking, nervous, dowdy woman, I no more resembled a snake handler than a chipmunk would resemble Santa Clause.

I managed to get back stage with the snake and the belly dancers were very excited.  They carefully took him (her?  I couldn’t tell the difference,) out of the bag and began to practice.  By now I was shaking so badly that my stomach was in knots.  I was holding the bottle of alcohol (“in case it bit someone”.)  I was on the verge of tears, both from relief that I’d delivered the snake in one piece, but also fear that it would bite and there would be blood and screams and lawsuits.

The audience in the large theater was packed, standing room only.  The music for the dancers began.  They dramatically began the act hidden behind veils, with the snake on one woman with the head at one hand, draped across her back, and the tail on the other hand.  They did a dramatic dance, dropping the veils at different intervals for the audience to get a glimpse of the snake.  I could hear  “ooooh”  and “aaaaaah” from the audience.  I was hoping the snake wasn’t going to slither down and into the audience causing mass panic,  emptying the audience out into the street, or, worse yet, go around biting audience members with me following along with my bottle of alcohol. (Then I’d really need a lawyer for the lawsuits!)

Then something strange happened. The dancers dropped their veils, and the snake actually seemed to join in the dance.  Soon its head was wriggling in time to the music, its tail was swaying around, and it seemed to be having a grand old time!  It began to slither in time to the music (a pure coincidence I’m sure,) from one dancer to the next.  It was an amazing sight, the graceful gyrating dancers and the graceful gyrating snake, all moving in time to the music.  Mesmerizing. Amazing.  The act finished to a standing ovation, and darn it if it didn’t seem as though the snake bowed his head in response to the clapping from the audience.

After the show, the dancers gave the snake a few affectionate pats and back into the pillowcase it went.  I tied it in a knot, put it under my coat, and carried it back to the car.  I felt as though I was going to cry, but this time it was tears of relief.  I don’t know how I get myself into these situations, but, again, I’d come through it unscathed, with a little more respect for the reptile in the pillowcase next to me!

*************

To read more about our life as a family, please read my book. Here is a link:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-apple-tree/id538572206?mt=11

The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

Another Year, Another Memory

be-more-positive-af
(cartoon reprinted from Readers Digest. Two angels are standing on Cloud 8 with the caption “Well yes, I’m happy. But I could be happier…) Don’t let this be you!

A new year has begun! Whoopee! I am so excited to see what great things the new year brings! I only have two annual New Year’s resolutions:
Resolution #1: I think back on last year, and am grateful for all of the wonderful little things that worked out well.

*Found out about Orange Leaf yogurt place where I could get healthy sugar free, non fat yogurt with my choice of toppings, m&ms, hot fudge (yum!), gummy bears, snickers and all the whipped cream I can fit!

*My daughter, Marie, has finally found a counselor trained in trauma and abuse who is fluent in American Sign Language. After all these years! FINALLY she is able to make some progress in this area. As her mom, I have been the only one she has confided in, and it will be nice to share that weight with a professional.

*I loved watching The Good Wife! And Storage Wars! And Survivor!

*I lost a pound and a half. Not quite my goal of 30 pounds, but at least it is in the right direction!

*I have two new grandchildren on the way with a whole lifetime to enjoy them. (Long live nana!)

*Another year accident free…where’s my check from Allstate?

*Another year major illness free! (The hubby had a bout with colon cancer a few years ago, but has been fine ever since surgery because it was caught early.)

*My daughter, Dinora, has a great new job, a fiance, and a cute little house.

*My son, Steven, (who has autism and ADHD,) has a wonderful new fiancee whose OCD keeps things structured and in place for him, stabilizing his disability. (There IS someone for everyone!)

*During several great movies, (The Butler, Gravity, and all of the Pixar films,) I ate plenty of buttered popcorn and jelly bellies. (Ahhhhh! May be the reason I didn’t loose more weight.)

*My son, Angel, who has Dissociative Identity Disorder, has miraculously made it through high school without seriously harming anyone. (Except for the refrigerator he overturned on a teacher…which turned out to be the teacher’s “fault”. In Angel’s IEP was the stipulation that he cannot be yelled at lest the “angry part”, over which he has no control or memory, comes out to protect him, a reflex reaction.) Life with Angel is quite interesting…

*Our cars, both over 8 years old and with more than 150,000 miles each, are still running and getting us places.

*My son, Francis, who, despite his blindness, is still making boatloads of money in the Silicon Valley computer industry. (On less child I have to support.)

*All in all, another successful year with more ups than downs.

Resolution #2: I look forward to the coming year with optimism and enjoyment. Hopefully it will be another successful year with more ups and downs, and I will make memories to put on my list for #1 next year!

Hopefully, your life will also have joy, happiness, love, and some interesting foods to eat!

**************

To read more about our life as a family, please read my book. Here is a link:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-apple-tree/id538572206?mt=11

The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

And The Paper Creeped out the Bottom of the Door

gg60360062

A very large, very tall, very old 15 passenger van with a wheelchair lift with over 138,000 miles on it is my vehicle. Not my ideal choice, but “it is what it is” as all of our money is allocated elsewhere. (All those cute little kiddos with disabilities grow up to be cute little adults with disabilities who, unfortunately, find it impossible to be able to work. Not that that makes them any less wonderful, enjoyable or successful, it just puts a little extra strain on our family budget.)

In the van on Wednesday, I was enjoying a beautiful, crisp autumn day, with a slight wind moving the branches around for the trees to show off their few remaining colorful leaves just waiting to join their friends on the ground. Contentment filled the van as I hummed while I drove. I didn’t quite do the lovely singing I usually do because I was on a mission for work. (While driving to make home visits is not usually included in my job description, on this day I was helping out a colleague.) Because I am awful with directions, “mapquested” directions lay on the floor next to the driver’s seat.
As the van whisked along on the interstate highway, I noticed that the directions had moved towards the door. Keeping one eye on the road and one eye on the directions, I watched with panic as the papers moved closer to the door…down one of the steps…down the next step…and finally on the third step. It happened in the blink of my eye (the one that was watching the papers!) As I was in heavy traffic, it took a while to maneuver to the side of the road to stop, and the papers inched towards the bottom of the door. (The door gasket had long ago aged out and fallen away, leaving a space at least an inch wide at the bottom.) Panic set in as a piece of paper entered the crack and ever so slowly inched out…it was like seeing my life flash before my eyes, quarter inch by quarter inch, as the paper made its way free out of the opening. It was so surreal it reminded me of a cartoon…person chasing paper in the wind and the paper is always one step ahead, teasingly just a little bit out of reach! I would have laughed, but inside I was sick to my stomach. My directions were gone! The client I was going to be meeting would be sitting, forlorn, at her home, waiting patiently for the me that would never be able to find her house.
But WAIT! There was another paper there, clinging to the bottom step. Maybe I could salvage the final steps of the street directions. By this time, the van was safely stopped by the side of the road and I flung myself out of the driver’s seat onto the floor of the van to look down the stairwell. On my knees looking down, almost crying with happiness, I grabbed that one precious piece of paper…it included the final steps to get to the client’s home. I would be able to find her! I would make that visit! I was soooooo happy!

While in the scheme of things, losing mapquested directions would not be the end of the world, in retrospect it symbolizes the constant struggles one has when raising children with disabilities. There are often solutions to their problems, but they are flighty and hard to come by. Sometimes they flip through our fingers through no fault of our own and we are left in a slight panic, (sometimes a huge panic…) Fortunately for me, I have always found that last page to my mapquested directions, just enough to make life work out. Just enough to relieve my panic and restore the happiness in my heart. Such is the ups and downs in life…

There’s Just Something About Fishing…

images

 

Marie has always loved to fish, and would spend hours at home fishing in the pond in the backyard.  While at residential school, she has not had this opportunity. So, after last week’s fishing mis-adventure, Marie and I went today to a nice, official “fishing spot”, (not the water reservoir.)  It was a beautiful 80 degree day as we found the perfect spot in the shade alongside a small, tranquil lake.  Despite being near a city, the lake was apparently house-less and had the appearance of being way out in the country.  The fish were apparently starving because as soon as Marie dropped the worm in the water, the bobber would go under and she would be reeling in a fish…a SMALL fish, but a fish none-the-less.  She would expertly take the hook out of its mouth, and throw it back in to be caught again…again…again, and yet again…

Sitting on the grass, looking up at the azure blue sky, with clouds so white and puffy they looked like you could pluck them out of the sky and eat them like cotton candy, I watched Marie in her excitement as she caught the fish.  It was silent except for the sound of birds chirping…many DIFFERENT types of bird noises so that the first time in my life I was aware that they actually made distinct sounds and they did not all sound alike.   And the breeze ever so slightly rustled the leaves. Lazing in this wonderfully peaceful terrain, I let all of my worries and thoughts just drift away until I filled with the joy of nature and this amazing love I have for this daughter who has had such a difficult early life, but who seemed to be so relaxed and carefree while she was fishing. The feeling was not unlike the feeling one gets when meditating, but it was so much more!  Not only was I relaxed and worry free, but I was also filled with such an innermost love that I felt my heart would burst if I broke the reverie. It wasn’t only a love for Marie, but a love for everything in my life.  A warm, gushing, face turning red, eyes tearing up, love.  And my thoughts turned to my dad…

For those who have not read my book, you may not know that I had a very unconventional childhood, roaming the country with my parents and brother.  My father was…odd…uncommunicative…obsessed…paranoid…”crazy”…   My mom simply explained that he had returned from World War II “shell shocked”, but his love for her had never changed.  Satisfied that that love was enough, my mom married him, and the two of them had a long and happy marriage.  She understood him, where I, as a child, did not.  I did, however, grow accustomed to his strange ways.  He never demonstrated any affection towards me or my brother, and never said he loved us.  “That’s just your father,” my mom would explain, and I would accept it.  He would not attend any childhood award ceremonies, or graduation, or baptism of my children.  “That’s just your father,” my mom would explain, and I would accept it.  He would get upset if we spent too much money on toilet paper, or bread, or hot water.  “That’s just your father,” my mom would explain.  And I DID understand.  And I DID think that, deep down, he loved me, he just never said it.

But, until this day fishing with Marie, I had completely forgotten the times he and I had gone fishing, the one activity we did together.  He liked to fish, and I rarely had anything better to do, so I would join him.  Almost silently, he showed me how to bait a hook and how to take the fish off the hook.  We would sit for hours on a lake with his small aluminum boat with the small, electric trolling motor.  Anywhere we were in the country, he could find a lake.  We would sit and enjoy this pastime, quietly, peacefully, and productively catching fish after fish after fish, all which were gently and carefully returned to the water, unharmed, and bellies a little fuller with a worm.  I learned about the habitat of a large variety of fish; catfish, eels, pickerel, sunfish, pike, trout, bass and perch, (which we both agreed was our least favorite to catch because they were so EASY!) I could see now where this activity would quiet his bad memories, enabling him to relax and find a little piece in this crazy world.  To sit quietly on a calm lake, looking up at the azure blue sky, with clouds so white and puffy they looked like you could pluck them out of the sky and eat them like cotton candy.  The boat rocking every so slightly and little waves splashing against the aluminum making a tinkling sound. I realize that maybe  he felt the same way I did today while fishing with Marie, and it was a comforting thought to think that I shared such a peaceful time with him.

And I could feel now that he loved me…

************

To read about my early childhood adventures, here is a link to my book:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-apple-tree/id538572206?mt=11

The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

Link to the Readers Digest review of my book:  http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/

Miracle of Miracles: Turtle Tanks and Pony Tails

150Gal040807

 

 

My life raising kiddos has been full of excitement, as well as challenges. Steven has been my most difficult child to raise. The 7th child born to a woman who was mentally ill and addicted to crack cocaine and heroin, we took Steven home from the neonatal unit as soon as he was able to be released.  He was unbelievably “messed up”.  (Don’t you just love my knowledge of medical terms?)  He cried constantly, his whole body twitching.  Once I learned to swaddle him tightly in a baby blanket, keep the room dark, and talk in a whisper, he could tolerate my presence.  To touch him lightly would make him scream in pain, but cuddling him strongly, the deep pressure somehow calmed him.

Whether due to the drug exposure, or just because his birth mom was mentally ill, Steven exhibited extreme symptoms of ADHD, autism, bi-polar disorder, sensory integration deficit, obsessive compulsive disorder,severe anxiety disorder and learning disabilities.   (The whole concept of “diagnosis” is fraught with contradictions in my mind, as the “diagnosis” with which he was labeled were arbitrary, useless except for the benefit of getting special education services. We were fortunate to find a psychiatrist with vast knowledge of children born addicted to drugs, and he became our mentor.  Like myself, he does not not believe in labels, but in treating the symptoms.)

Steven has led an interesting life.  With his Asperger’s-like super knowledge of reptiles, and an uncanny natural love for children, he has shined in these areas.  He would be fascinated with the foster babies in our house, and his most favorite activity was sitting in the rocking chair by my side and rocking a little one.  He is, however,  unable to understand the concept of money, wear shirts with tags in them,  eat textured foods or adapt to an unexpected change in his schedule.  A strict, structured environment and predictable schedule has been the key to helping him manage every day life.

As any parent, I have thought a lot about his future and how he could possibly survive as an adult…

Then, a miracle happened…he found the perfect girlfriend to love him! Wonder of wonders!  Joy of joys!  I never thought is was possible, but the adage “there is someone for everyone” is true in his case!

Wonderfully patient Alexandra loves to keep everything controlled.  Where other young men would go running in the other direction at the sight of a young woman in strict control, for Steven, it was just what he needed!  She manages their time, his money, and their life together with strict precision.  JUST WHAT HE NEEDED!   They also have similar interests in reptiles, with Steven using his vast knowledge to ensure the safe upbringing of their many “pets”; three turtles in a tank, (recently caught in the lake behind our house, during one of their day long fishing adventures,) a small snake, a Chameleon and two lizards.  They are affectionate with each other, with Steven smiling brightly as she gives him deep bear hugs. The icing on the cake, as far as both of them are concerned, is her young daughter.  Again, where other young men would go running for cover, Steven goes running towards her sweet three year old daughter! He adores her!  This very large, 6 foot talk, husky, bi-racial, often scary looking young man who has an aversion to shaving, is like a loving angel with her daughter! He gently holds her hand to guide her when they are walking.  He plays Shutes and Ladders and Go Fish with her. He helps her pick out her clothes, (shirts without tags, of course!) Most amazingly, he has become her hair stylist, putting her hair up in braids and pony tails.  She loves showing off her new hair styles, proudly telling everyone that STEVEN did it, as they both stand there and beam happily!  She needed a dad to love, and Steven needed a family of his own. He adores Alexandra and she has a huge calming affect on him. And he has such a natural caring for children, and for Emily in particular, that it melts my heart every time I see the three of them together.  He LOVES them…an emotion I once thought he would never feel…as a boyfriend, (husband?), and father. Yes, he has found comfort in his own family…and has a content, structured, “normal” life.  Isn’t that amazing?????  Miracle of miracles!!

Is there no greater joy as a parent than seeing your child happy as an adult? Especially when you thought that may never happen…

 

********

To read about Steven’s early childhood, here is a link to my book:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-apple-tree/id538572206?mt=11

The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

Link to the Readers Digest review of my book:  http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/

Also, for just the cost of transportation, I am available to do presentations for your groups.   I can be funny on serious subjects…

Easter reminds me of the Easter Bunny and the Easter Bunny reminds me of Santa…

easter bunny

Easter.  Ham.  Easter Eggs.  Jelly Beans.  Marshmallow peeps.  Chocolate Easter Bunnies, (see picture.) AND the EASTER BUNNY!!

(Spoiler Alert:  Do not let anyone under the age of 7? 9? 12? read any further.)

 

I am sure that most of us of a Christian faith believed in the light, magical myths of the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and Santa Claus.  Bah Humbug!

My realization that there was no Santa Claus happened on the day before Easter when I was seven years old.  Friends and I were playing hide and seek in our house, and my hiding space of choice was my mother’s closet.  I opened the door and plopped in…right on top of a cellophane wrapped Easter basket!  I could feel the jelly beans fall out, trickling down my legs, and the weight of my body squishing the basket with a sickening sound.  As the marshmallow peeps were flattened, my childhood fantasies vanished before my eyes!  It was only reasonable to assume if my mom pretended to be the Easter Bunny, then the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus were also non-existent.

This was actually a good realization for me.  For many years I had questioned Santa’s fairness.  If he was omnipresent, then how did he not know what I wanted to Christmas?  Even when I sat on his lap and told him…repeatedly…and wrote letters…repeatedly…he still did not bring me that all important, desperately desired, Barbie Doll for which I had asked. The Santa who came to my house had always disappointed me.  Having parents who were obsessively frugal, Santa would bring me unexciting gifts…a new toothbrush, a t-shirt, hair ribbons, and small bottles of shampoo (which I later learned came from the times my father traveled for work and stayed in hotels.) One year I even got 3 pairs of underwear that were much too big, but, judging from the price tag which Santa had neglected to remove, they were on sale for an unbelievably low price!   As a child, I could never understand why my friends and classmates received wonderful gifts of not only Barbie Dolls, but Barbie houses, Barbie cars and tons of Barbie accessories.  They would receive many, and I longed to own just one… but it was not meant to be.  When playing with my friends, they were always kind enough to share “Midge”, Barbie’s “best friend”.  While I appreciated this, I still felt resentful of their good fortune.

It wasn’t until I realized that Santa Claus did not exist that I understood that my parents had purchased all of those “gifts”.  As my childhood revolved around my dad’s “crazy” obsessions, I suddenly understood the significance of the gifts.  It wasn’t that Santa didn’t love me, or that I was somehow less worthy than my friends, or even because my good behavior wasn’t appreciated, it was because our family life was very different than most other families. And I took some solace in the fact that my dad, on his work trips, was thinking of me when he brought home the shampoos.

The whole concept of “Santa” has been a difficult one with my children. My oldest son, Francis, who is blind, hated the thought of having a stranger he could not see come into his house on Christmas Eve.  It was the one night of the year that I let him lock his bedroom door.

One year, I made the huge mistake of hiding the gift of a Little Mermaid comforter set underneath Dinora’s bed.  When she discovered it, she became hysterical, screaming that Santa had been in her room and he could have hurt her!  (She was going through a particularly rough phase with PTSD where she was seeing apparitions of “Bloody Mary”, so her sensitivities to having Santa in her room were heightened.)   She was only five at the time, and the only way I could calm her down was to admit that Santa did not exist, which caused her to cry even harder at the loss of this icon.

Steven, with his autistic tendencies, never did admit that Santa existed.  He was used to his strict schedule, and gifts from a stranger were not a welcome change.  He would wake  up every Christmas morning, walk by the Christmas tree under which the gifts sat, go down to the kitchen to grab breakfast, and sit in the family room to watch The Animal Planet on television.  It was his familiar routine…he never did acknowledge or look at his gifts. (In fact, to this day I have the SAME bag of gifts.  I bring them out every Christmas Eve, and pack them up every Christmas Day, only to be brought out again the following Christmas.  It is very selfish to say, but I have saved a LOT of money by not buying him gifts!)

Angel, my son with Dissociative Identity Disorder, (multiple personality disorder) had a great time each year developing his very eclectic request for gifts to satisfy his many “parts”, male, female, baby, toddler and his appropriate age.  I am sure that not many other boys asked for a complete manicure set along with baby rattles, Superman and Spiderman toys, and a complete bow and arrow set, (don’t ask…)  The problem that developed was that Angel had finally begun to trust me, a conviction he had previously  not held in his four other foster placements. Everyone else had lied to him and let him down.  But here he was in our family with a family he could finally trust, a family that would not lie to him, a family in which he felt safe.  When he found out that Santa Claus was a lie, he felt devastated, furious, betrayed, conned, tricked and misled.  This lie has left an indelible mark on his life, one which he continues to discuss with a counselor.  Every single time I have gone into a therapy session with him, the fact that I am a liar comes up, and that lie is always about Santa Claus. While it is easy for us to say “just get over it”, for him, it has been impossible.   If only I knew then what I know now, I would have done things very differently.

Marie, I am embarrassed to admit, was a young teenager who STILL believed in Santa Claus.  Learning from my experience with Angel, I have never perpetuated this myth on her, but she came to live with us with this belief.   Because Marie is deaf and developmentally delayed, she had few opportunities to “heard” or learn that Santa is not real. This became very apparent to me last Christmas.  On Christmas Eve I put out the individual bags of gifts from “Santa”, which included one expensive item for each child, (a DVD player, Gameboy, camera and so forth.)   On Christmas morning, Marie woke up before all of us and deftly went through the bags, taking out all of the expensive items and putting them in her bag, leaving the other children with only minor items.  She excitedly showed me the wonderful bag of gifts Santa had brought; HER gifts, along with the valuable gifts from everyone else’s bag.  I was mortified to think she would be so selfish, and I told her so!  I told her that there was no Santa Claus and that I had bought the items and they were not all for her.  She tried in vain to argue with me that Santa left them all to her because she had been good, but both of us knew better…

So, this has been a long winded way of saying I DISLIKE SANTA!!!  While he may be a wonderful myth to many, for me and my children, he has been nothing but trouble. BAH HUMBUG!!!!!

The Easter Bunny?  Hey, SHE’S okay…

 

 

********

Link to my book

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-apple-tree/id538572206?mt=11

The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

Link to the Readers Digest review of my book:  http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/

 

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s my Brother

I led a very untraditional lifestyle when I was growing up.  My father, whom I later realized was schizophrenic, had the wanderlust to travel, which our family did for about 6 months of the year. He would remove me out of school and we would take off for various areas of the country, living in our Volkswagen van. ( Although I am sure that today’s public education system would not allow it, somehow I think my father would have taken me out anyway.)

It was quite an adventure for a child like me.  I have a vivid memory of cracking eggs in a big, black, iron frying pan over a campfire in the Badlands in South Dakota.  The rocks the pan was on were not sturdy, and the pan fell sideways with the eggs slowly leaking out onto the pine needles on the ground.  (Clumsy then…still clumsy.) I remember traveling in southern Georgia, driving for miles watching red clay cover everything…the houses, the cars, and even the clothes hanging on the lines.  It was at the beginning of the civil rights movement, and I was uneducated in this area, (probably because I didn’t go to school!) The whole concept of a bathroom for “whites only” was a shock to me.  Did that mean that only people wearing white clothes could use it?  (I’m picturing nurses, dentists, pharmacists…)  I couldn’t use it because I had on my only pair of pants, jeans, and a multi-colored t-shirt. But I had to go to the bathroom baaaaad, where would I go?  Behind the bushes? How degrading!  My misunderstanding of this concept is now a slight reminder of what it felt like be African American in the 60’s. I also have the memory of  a bear at Yellowstone Park coming onto our campsite to eat our dinner as we all huddled in the car. My brother, Curtis, was upset because he had left a package of Cracker Jacks on the picnic table.  We had to restrain him from leaping out of the car to get it.  Afterwards, I was not so keen to sit by the campfire…

But most of all, I remember my constant companion; Curtis.  He was four years younger than I was, and he had been born with Rubella Syndrome; developmentally delayed, cleft palate, legally blind, and severely hearing impaired.  He was my buddy.  Because my dad was extremely frugal, (ie obsessive compulsive disorder frugal,) I did not have many toys to play with.  So, in addition to reading a lot, I played in our surroundings with my brother.  I have a memory of  sitting by a stream, sun shining down on the water through the leaves on the trees. Curtis was happily splashing about in the shallow water.  I was looking for rocks that somewhat resembled people.  (They were no Barbie dolls, but some kind of looked like Alfred Hitchcock and Potato Head.) All of a sudden I heard a whoooooosh!  Curtis had ventured too far into the water and the current started to carry him downstream!  Fortunately, I had long, slim legs (in those days,) and with a few strides, I picked him up by the back of his pants. He was laughing heartily.  To him it was a real adventure.  Like the poor person’s substitute for a ride at Disneyland!

We actually had a lovely childhood together. I had to carry him everywhere because he could not walk sturdily.  Carrying him was just a natural way of life for me.  I don’t know why, but I never thought to be embarrassed by him, (although his screeching and attempt at speech WAS pretty scary).  I never ever thought of him as a burden.  He was just my buddy, Curtis.

75502-004-47C41965

My parents rarely took pictures.  (The money thing again…) But I do remember ONE picture.  It was a picture of me and Curtis, standing in front of Mount Rushmore.  I was characteristically giving him a piggy back ride.  The photo shows Curtis, looking over my shoulder, eyes squinted shut by the glare of the sun.  I was wearing a stupid, treasured, red velvet derby hat, (you know, like jockeys wear.) As the dead presidents loomed behind us, I gave my characteristically stupid, toothy grin, (like all children do when their parents ask them to smile.) And on that day, I first heard the song from Neil Diamond which fit my sentiments exactly: “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother”.  It was a powerful moment to think that someone had put into words what my life was like.

I was so very lucky to have been raised the way I was because it formed my personality, my temperament, and my compassion for others. I personally cannot take credit for the way I live now, fostering and adopting children. I am not selfless, nor amazing, nor wonderful, nor any of the other adjectives readers have used to describe me. I am simply living my life the way I was raised and it is a wonderful life!

****

 

Link to my book  The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

 

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother Lyrics

The road is long

With many a winding turn

That leads us to who knows where

Who knows where

But I’m strong

Strong enough to carry him

He ain’t heavy,he’s my brother

So on we go

His welfare is of my concern

No burden is he to bear

We’ll get there

For I know

He would not encumber me

He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

If I’m laden at all

I’m laden with sadness

That everyone’s heart

Isn’t filled with the gladness

Of love for one another

It’s a long, long road

From which there is no return

While we’re on the way to there

Why not share

And the load

Doesn’t weigh me down at all

He ain’t heavy he’s my brother

He’s my brother

He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother

written by Bobby Scott and Bob Russell

performed by Neil Diamond in 1970

******

 

Link to the Readers Digest review of my book:  http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/

Lets Agree to Disagree…Mental Illness and Violence

I recently received a response from a blog colleague who’s beliefs are different than mine.  It is normal for people to have different views on things, and everyone’s views are welcome. This is my version of  agreeing to disagree…

Dear 5KWD, I wonder if you would have any insight on the following. After doing a smattering of research I learned that virtually every mass shooter on record was taking antidepressant psychiatric drugs when they “went off”. The news media and many posting here are examining the mental illness angle, but we know that depression, asbergers, etc, does not cause homicidal behavior. However, it seems very plausible to me that these FDA approved psychiatric drugs, which have known side effects, may be inducing this behavior. I think it’s the drugs, not the mental illness. This makes way more sense to me than the idea that sometimes formerly quiet, law-abiding people are randomly “going off” and shooting rooms full of children.  artandlifenotes.wordpress.com

 

I agree that every mass murderer may have been on antidepressants.  It would go along with my theory that they have underlying psychiatric conditions.  All of my adopted children are on psych meds.  My oldest daughter has attention deficit disorder.  Prior to medication, she couldn’t pay attention, she was flunking school, she couldn’t pay attention to read a book, and she developed sever anxiety over her inability to function “normally”.  Once on medication, (which includes an antidepressant,) she brought her grades up to straight A’s, attended college, and has a career in her chosen field.  I understand that some people would say that the side affects of medication would outweigh the benefits, she calls me from time to time to bring her medication to work because she forgot it, and she cannot concentrate to do her job. My middle son, who was born addicted to cocaine, has been diagnosed with a variety of mental illnesses, but I personally like to give him just one:  his brain and wiring is screwed up due to his prenatal exposure to drugs.  As an infant he would flail about and injure himself, he rarely slept, wouldn’t eat, and climbed out of his crib by 9 months old. (He couldn’t walk, but he could climb!) He would run around destroying anything in his path.  Without psych meds, it would have been impossible for him to attend school because he surely would have climbed out the bus window!  My youngest son, who was severely abused in his early childhood, has Dissociative Identity Disorder, (previously called Multiple Personality) a condition in which a child withdraws within himself/herself when abused, sort of “blacks out”, so to speak, but another part of the brain still feels the affects of abuse.  That other part remains in his “psyche”.  Hidden.  Buried. Showing itself from time to time in an angry, violent outburst, often requiring hospitalization. Without psych meds, he would not be able to function as well as he does.  He would be encompassed by deep depression and obsessive thoughts.  My youngest daughter has severe attention deficit disorder, and cannot sit still or pay attention without medication. Similar to my youngest son, she was abused as a child. Her hidden demons come back in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, tearful, angry aggression, often on herself, but sometimes against others.  Without psych meds, she would not be able to function.  She still has PTSD and “episodes”, but they are far less frequent than when she was not on medication and it would be a daily thing.

I understand people have different opinions about psych meds, but in my family, without them, it would have been impossible for my children to live life “normally”. I know that there may be side affects, but the side affects are far less intrusive on their lives than their mental health issues. The doctor always goes over the possible side affects, and not a single child has ever indicated they bother them.

Regarding your concept of not believing the idea that sometimes formerly quiet, law-abiding people are randomly “going off” and shooting rooms full of children, again, I can only point to my own children.  Childhood abuse, even verbal abuse, and non-loving parents, can permanently harm a child’s developing psyche.  Permanently.  Even counseling and medication may not be able to fully quiet the demons hidden in a child’s brain.  My son, who is the sweetest, nicest, most generous boy, often displays his “angry part”, a part so vile and violent that it reminds me of Linda Blair in the Exorcist.  He is unrecognizable and so angry that violence surrounds him…sometimes resulting in a call to 911 for assistance with restraining and hospitalization.  For my daughter with PTSD, her episodes are more invasive.  The slight touch, smell, or thought can cause her to fall back into anger of abuse, and she dissociates and becomes violent.  She is not herself…well, that’s not true because even when she is having flashbacks she is herself, but the self as a young child being abused.  Regarding the randomness of violence, case in point:  she was recently arrested for “assaulting a police officer with a deadly weapon” when he charged towards her to get her to stop flailing about and screaming.  (She ripped a board off the wall and tried to ward him off.) She is living in a restrictive, “locked” facility with staff trained in behavior modification and restraints, but her behavior has horrified and shocked them.  It is not her fault, she cannot control it, but she is very violent.  Other people looking at her would never think such a sweet, friendly child could harbor such demons.

I know many people not exposed to individuals who are mentally ill to the serious degree of my children would find it hard to believe they just “snapped”.  No one never knows if a person who appears to be “normal and quiet” is really “normal and quiet” underneath.  I believe wholeheartedly that one has to have a mental illness, even if undiagnosed, to be a mass murderer. I believe no one in his/her “right” mind could possibly do such a thing!  Of course, this is just my one biased opinion.  I can understand, though, that there are different sides to every story.  Let’s just “agree to disagree”!

The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane by Linda Petersen.

Volunteering is a Gift You Give Yourself

Volunteering is a gift we can give ourselves that can also improve the lives of others. It is a win-win situation with huge implications for both parties. When I volunteer or do something nice for someone I feel happy, almost to the point of giddiness. Before the invention of the Fast Pass for tolls, we would often pay the toll for the car behind us. My children and I would giggle about this gesture, a cheap happiness booster for only $1.00!

I have to admit that all of my volunteer efforts are completely selfish, starting with the adoption of 4 special needs children. People who say I’m “a saint” or “so very special” for doing this are completely wrong. I do it because it benefits me. I get 4 wonderful, if not troubled, children to love and who love me. Despite their many problems, I know that if they were anywhere else, their problems would be much worse. Seeing any improvement in them is a joy, and knowing that I had something to do with that is extremely satisfying. Additionally, I HATE to clean house, so if I have the work of caring for 4 children, then I certainly don’t have time to clean. See? Win-win for me!

I have volunteered with a recreational group of adults with disabilities for 30 years. It is a wonderful group! I do not have to worry about wearing make-up or dressing fashionably because they accept me as I am, as I care for them. I have 50 great friends! We have a bowling league every Monday, and an activity to follow, such as Bingo, a guest speaker, chair dancing, Yoga just to mention a few. We take 2 inexpensive trips together annually. We have been to Disney World, Penn Dutch, New York and Radio City Music Hall, Niagra Falls, Montreal, New Hampshire and more trips too numerous to mention. This is great for the organization’s members because they can have the support they need to travel. I make the arrangements for a motor coach with a wheelchair lift so that our friends in wheelchairs are able to join us. We stay at accessible hotels. The group is great and helps each other, thus proving my theory that almost everyone can volunteer. We have people who are blind who push people in wheelchairs. (The person in the wheelchair acts as the sighted guide!) We have people who are deaf who are sighted guides for the blind. We have people who are developmentally delayed carrying bowling balls for individuals in wheelchairs. It is a wonderful, supportive group. We send each other birthday cards. We have a great social outlet that is entirely dependent upon volunteers. We are so “tight” that when I was pregnant with my oldest son, they threw a shower for me, and they gave me all items I could use so I could bring my son on trips with them…portable crib, stroller, travel size baby lotion and baby powder. At the age of 4 months, my son first started attending this group, and he traveled and volunteered with us until he was a teenager. When my other 4 children were adopted, they similarly came with me and this group, and volunteered to the best of their ability. They loved to help the developmentally delayed play Bingo, and they delighted when their “friend” won! They have learned to be happy in the success of others. They have all provide sighted guide assistance for the blind, pushed wheelchairs, carried bowling balls and assisted in any way needed.

My children have been raised to be conscious of the needs of others. My older son, Francis, is legally blind. That did not stop him from volunteering. In high school he became and Eagle Scout by organizing a collection of 5,000 pairs of eyeglasses which were donated to the local Lions Club. He volunteered at a local child care center and loved playing with the little children. He was an assistant Sunday School teacher and a volunteer annually at a camp for the blind and Bible School. In college he volunteered out of state several times for Habitat for Humanity. He might not have been able to see to pound in a nail, but he was strong and completely capable of carrying heavy materials and helping to hold walls up. He also helped to coordinate several food drives and walk-a-thons at his college. Currently, after obtaining his PhD from Cambridge University in England, he has his dream job of designing computers for people with disabilities.

My daughter, Dinora, adopted at an early age from Guatemala also joined us weekly and on trips with the recreational group and she also was an Assistant Sunday School Teacher. She and I did some fund raising to help open the soup kitchen, Tus Manos, in Antigua, Guatemala. Her most rewarding adventure was to spend the summer after high school graduation in Guatemala to help open the soup kitchen. I was there on the actual opening day, and the joy was overwhelming. Dinora had on an apron and a huge smile as she passed out food. She made sure to make eye contact and was friendly with everyone by giving them a pat on the back. Even the individuals who were disheveled and barefoot coming through the line with their eyes glancing downwards were rewarded by the accepting, compassionate friendliness of those passing out food. When they left the line, tray of food full, their eyes were looking upwards, often filled with tears. Dinora said to me she was thrilled to come and help out “her people” because she had led such a privileged life and they had not. I had brought with me a collection of new flannel shirts (on sale so cheaply I could not pass them up.) Dinora and I passed them out and the men, in tattered clothes, would humbly bow and thank us. It was a wonderful, uplifting trip. We traveled in a beautiful country and met many beautiful people who touched our hearts forever.

My son, Steven, who has Attention Deficit Disorder, Asperger’s Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder also attended the recreational group as an infant and toddler. Despite his disability and limited social skills, he developed compassion for people with all types of disabilities from all walks of life. When he was about 8 I remember traveling with him in downtown Boston where there are many beggars on the streets and in the subway. That child had to give money to each and every one! He gave out all of his own money and then asked me for more. As we were about to get on the last subway he saw a disheveled man playing the guitar and he asked for more money. I had no more dollars to give and he said he couldn’t get on the subway until we gave this man something, so we both dug in our pockets to look for change, and managed to scrape up 37 cents which he ran over and put in the gentleman’s bucket. Now, at the age of 17, he uses his obsession with reptiles to volunteer at a reptile education center. He stands at the entrance with a huge boa constrictor, python, turtle or alligator, allowing people to pet the reptile and answering all of their questions. He may not be good at social interactions, but he found his own niche in which to volunteer.

Currently, my 15 year old son, who has Dissociative Identity Disorder from years of early childhood abuse, uses his “game show host” personality to call for the monthly Bingo game with the recreational group. He is HILARIOUS! He puts so much humor and energy into the Bingo games that this is their favorite activity. He also uses some of his own money to buy little Bingo prizes when he sees something he thinks they might like. In return, he gets their acceptance and love. He likewise calls Bingo games for a local nursing home. As a boy who desperately needs affection and acceptance due to his disability, it would normally be inappropriate for a 15 year old boy to hug adults. However his Bingo groups are comprised of many adults who have no family and no one else to care for them. They need his hugs and affection as much as he needs theirs. It is a win-win situation.  He also volunteers at his school as an “Autism Buddy”, a social group where the high school students provide activities and social interaction for younger children with autism.

My 13 year old daughter who is deaf and has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Attention Deficit Disorder loves to come to the recreational group so she can be a sighted guide. She has taken great pleasure in her ability to do this. She regularly guides women who are blind into the ladies room, showing them where the stall is. She has helped to feed individuals who need assistance, gently wiping their mouths if food drips down. She also volunteers in the same nursing home as my son. Her job, however, is to clean out the bird cage, (which she LOVES,) and to play Rummy with the residents. They are buoyed by her youth and enthusiasm and she loves it because she is helping.

Perhaps the greatest opportunity my children have had is having an uncle, (my brother) as a relative. My brother was born with Rubella Syndrome in 1951, He is developmentally delayed, legally blind, has a severe speech impediment and has a hearing impairment which has progressed to profound deafness. He became schizophrenic when he was 18, and this has gotten worse, with most of his conversation having to do with his rides on the Starship Enterprise. His head is greatly misshapen, he has only 2 teeth in the front, one side of his mouth droops down, he drools, and he has difficulty walking around and frequently trips without a strong arm to hold onto, My children adore him! He generally lives in a group home but I pick him up on Saturdays and holidays to spend a day with our family. He is greeted by a “Hi, Uncle Steve”, a hug and a smile by them all. The children are used to being a sighted guide for him, and will sometimes argue over who gets to do it. My brother is very easy to please. His greatest joy is riding the escalators at the mall, getting a diet coke and, to make it a perfect day, having a piece of cheesecake or a sundae. We took him yesterday to the mall, riding around for 1/2 hour on the escalators and going to the movies. He got his soda at the movies and afterwards we stopped for dinner and cheesecake. He was ecstatic! When we brought him back to the group home, he clapped his hands and told them it was the best day he ever had! Seeing someone so happy over simple pleasures is extremely humbling. Although caring for him is not in itself “volunteering”, it contains the same components. We do something to make his life better and we are rewarded by his happiness and joy. Money can’t buy the sense of satisfaction that brings to everyone involved.

In summary, to volunteer is a gift we give to ourselves as much as the gift we give to others. Most people, including children and people with disabilities, have the ability to volunteer. It is an extreme self-esteem booster and makes life much more fulfilling. I highly encourage it.

Tag Cloud

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 10,508 other followers