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Like many of you when driving, my mind races with thoughts of things I have to do, problems to solve, errands to run, crisis to deal with and so forth. Yesterday was different. As I was driving on a back road to get to a client’s home, I found myself following a gentleman, (or gentlewoman as I couldn’t tell; the only clue being the gray hair on the back of his/her head.) Because it was an awesomely beautiful day after a horrendous winter of being snowbound, the top to the MG convertible was down, sunlight shining happily on the occupant. Looking at the car, I recognized it as similar to the one bought with my own money when I was a teenager. My pride and joy that was purchased with my dad, a gentleman who did not generally interact with people, including me. Buying that car bonded us in a way that still brings tears to my eyes. The fact that HE always wanted such a car and possibly was living vicariously through me didn’t dampen my extreme love for him, even when he borrowed it for a joyride himself.

I loved driving my little MG, especially with the top down, and joyful memories flooded back to me while following the car. That was a happy, carefree time in my life. Not that I have regrets about anything I have done since then, including dealing with five difficult children, but remembering being young and without worries induced a sense of euphoria. My current thoughts and worries disappeared, and I became one with that little car. Instead of a stranger driving it, I imagined it was me. My own windows were rolled down so the wind was flying through my hair. My radio was playing songs from the 70s, turned up very loud so it could be heard through the whoosh of the wind. I sang along to the songs, surprised the words came to me so easily. And I was innocently, thoroughly happy without a care in the world.

When the car turned off onto a dirt road, I wanted to scream “No! Stop! Let me follow you!” but of course I didn’t. Instead, the happiness of this memory was etched in my mind. It still gives me a warm glow when I think about it, and I am smiling as I type this.

My thought is; it is easy to get overwhelmed with every day problems and issues. Making time for ourselves may be almost impossible. Look for unexpected joys and happiness, a grandfather walking down the street holding onto a toddler’s hand, the sunlight streaking through the clouds, the flowers bright and blooming, or an old memory that strikes you at unexpected times and makes you smile. Sometimes we have to make our own happiness in unconventional ways, but we all need to have joy in our lives. You just have to look for it.

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The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane
Authored by Linda Petersen
The link to the book:
https://www.createspace.com/5321986?ref=1147694&utm_id=6026

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My son, Steven, has somewhat struck out on his own with his infant daughter. He moved far away from home…across the street to the small house my mom used to live in. It is a great use of the house as he has a “convenience store” across the street, OUR house, which is VERY convenient because he has neither money nor car.
Thinking as an adult, Steven bought a used Kuerig coffee maker. Using those little coffee cups to make coffee can be quite expensive for someone who has limited money. He came over the other morning, and looked at me with his puppy dog, young adult trying to be grown up, eyes. He was out of coffee! Could I help? Sure! I had about 10 jars of instant Maxwell House coffee that I’d purchased for $2.50 at the local Walgreens. Each jar made a zillion cups of coffee. He looked at it quizzically; for his Kuerig? Sure! I handed him a little coffee holder for his device, and showed him how to put a spoonful of coffee granules in it. Off he went happy, none the wiser that he could have made the same cup of coffee with boiling water instead! Someday, when I have a lot of money to buy coffee, I will explain the difference to him. In the meantime, grown up Steven can have his cup of coffee in the morning without it breaking the bank!

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The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane
Authored by Linda Petersen
The link to the book:
https://www.createspace.com/5321986?ref=1147694&utm_id=6026

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Driving around with my daughter, Marie, is always spirited fun, especially during the nice weather. She loves to “listen” to the radio by feeling the vibrations from the speaker when she leans her leg against the door. Today, with the windows rolled down, we were bopping away, tapping our hands on the car door, and shaking our bodies in time to the music. The music was not generally my “type”, but in a way it was, because any music that brings me and Marie together is my kind of music, even if she did the choosing, (and she choose based on the sound of the base vibrations.)

As we were bopping along with the windows down, I became self-conscious of the booming vibrations coming from the car. We were having fun, so what! THEN I became shocked when I heard a word in the song that should not be spoken…a word I didn’t even know the ASL sign for. Previously not even listening to the words, I started to pay attention. There were many words not suitable for family listening, as well as words that are not socially acceptable. I was MORTIFIED! Here was this sweet little, ole mom and her teenage daughter listening to urban (VERY urban) rap!

Marie didn’t understand my quick channel change, and I did manage to find some tamer, not as exciting base vibrations for us to bop to. I explained that the song had “dirty” words in it and it wasn’t appropriate to listen to. Marie said she couldn’t hear the words, anyway, so what did it matter? Thinking of all of those cars stopped next to us at red lights and in traffic throughout the day, I shuddered!

So this is an apology to anyone who was driving near us and heard the booming, top level, uncensored urban rap blasting from my car. I didn’t meant to do it…REALLY!

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The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane
Authored by Linda Petersen
The link to the book:
https://www.createspace.com/5321986?ref=1147694&utm_id=6026

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As a busy mom, improvising is a way of life.

Have YOU ever used:

Aluminum foil as a scrubber when your cast iron pan is real dirty?

A hair dryer to warm the bent frame of your glasses so you can bend it back into position?

Butter to remove your wedding ring? OR to put on chapped lips?

A plastic fork to substitute for a hair pick?

Eyeliner as a pen?

Socks as mittens?

A bathing suit bottom to substitute for underwear?

52 pieces of paper, with appropriate hand drawn markings, to replicate a deck of cards?

Guilty of all of above. My biggest new “substitution” happened the other evening. Being on an everlasting diet, I try not to keep chocolate and candy in the house. After a hectic day, an overwhelming chocolate craving overcame me. Frantically searching the house for one last piece of Easter candy, (or even a Halloween candy that had fallen behind the seat cushions,) my search came up empty. Desperate, I expanded my search, standing on a kitchen chair to look high into the cupboards. AND THERE IT WAS!!!! Hiding behind the flour and the spices sat the jar hubby proudly used to make chocolate covered strawberries. CHOCOLATE!!!! So there I sat, on the kitchen floor, sticking my finger into the jar of chocolate and licking it off with great satisfaction. Sometimes, you just have to improvise!

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My heart has been very heavy lately, which is a feeling that I am very unused to. The fact is, as my children age, some into young adulthood, their problems are more real life problems, not just a tantrum in the grocery store. 2 of my younger children, with as many good traits and skills that they do have, do not having the capacity to be fully self-sufficient as adults, including incapacity to maintain a paying job. Yes, SSI is a possibility when they are adults, but even that provides only poverty level income. They are my family and my financial responsibility, which necessitates looking at the ability of our extremely diminishing finances to care for them during their lifetimes.

Although hubby and I both work, often 6 days a week, and are considered solidly middle class, our bank account does not reflect this. Every time Marie has a PTSD episode, (every 6 weeks to 2 months,) the ambulance bill exceeds $1000, money that is not reimbursable. (She requires additional emergency personnel because restraining her safely requires at least six, strong professional emergency adults.) We have funded one college tuition, and are currently funding another at expensive colleges to best meet the special needs of my children, (for which they received no financial assistance because we are, after all, “middle class”…) In order to attempt to give them the best education to be able to succeed despite their disabilities, we subsequently have taken a large second mortgage on our home. And then a third… Hubby and I live “paycheck to paycheck”, as I am sure many parents of children with disabilities live.

But I digress…what I was saddest about is that Steven now has partial custody of a beautiful, vivacious daughter who is one year old. (Note to parents: make sure you talk OFTEN about birth control to your teenagers, especially your teenagers with disabilities…) He, and we, do not have any extra money to support her in the manner to which we are accustomed to supporting our children. With his Asperger’s (and extremely capable skills in caring for animals,) Steven is a doting dad. Not working, he has tons of time to spend with her and can generally be seen sitting on the floor of the living room playing with her interactively, rocking her for a nap, singing her nursery rhymes, or taking her in the large, fenced in back yard to swing and explore and play to her heart’s content. What he does not have is money to pay for her needs, and this breaks my heart. This morning, he asked if I have any “change” and if he can go look in the car if there are any quarters that have fallen behind the seat. At last count, he’d managed to scrape up $2.19.

Driving home today, I was stopped by the light near our house. On the corner is an ice cream stand where our family often used to take a walk for ice cream. The kiddos would giggle over whether they would get the chocolate jimmies or colored ones, (the sprinkles were free!) Today, I noticed the young man sitting on the picnic bench. Across from him was a stroller with a young girl in it. Both had tan skin and wild, curly black hair. Holding a small container of ice cream in his hand, he was using a spoon to feed her, laughing and playing the “airplane” game to put the ice cream in her mouth. She was giggling also, throwing her arms in the air as if to say “wheeeeeee!” after every spoonful. Steven exhibited pure happiness, that special kind of happiness a parent has for their child. They were joyful and the fact that she wore cheap diapers and wore hand me downs that didn’t always fit did not matter at all. Suddenly I felt a little bit better about not have any money, because Steven taught me today that money does not makes life purposeful, but it is love, which is free. Life is good!

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The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane
Authored by Linda Petersen
The link to the book:
https://www.createspace.com/5321986?ref=1147694&utm_id=6026

She Looks Just Like Me!

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My children who are adopted are of mixed races, which has instigated a lot of joking over the years about how much we are like each other.

Three of my children have brown eyes, just like me! Two have blue eyes, just like their dad! Amazing, just like each other!

All of us love ice cream, especially cookie dough! What are the odds?

Swimming is something we have in common, (mostly because we live on a lake.) Dinora was able to swim by the age of 18 months old. She used to jump off the side in the deep end of the community pool with me. Everyone kept saying it was dangerous being so deep. But she was so tiny that even if she jumped off the lower end she wouldn’t be able to touch the bottom, so what was the difference. All of my children are natural swimmers.

Three of my children are creature lovers, anything from earth worms to boa constrictors to the every day dog, cats and bunnies.

With the exception of me and their dad, everyone loves scary movies. (Don’t know where they got THAT from, I hide under the pillow and shake if I even hear an eerie chord.)

With all of these similarities, of COURSE we are related! And so we have built MY family…

Now they are building theirs. Francis has a one year old daughter who looks JUST LIKE HIM, (minus the vision impairment!) Dinora has a young daughter who looks JUST LIKE HER, (with the exception of reddish hair, taking after her Irish dad.) And now Steven has a baby daughter who looks JUST LIKE HIM! All of the similarities we fostered as a family cannot compare to the fact that their flesh and blood look similar to them. But that is not what they focus on. They continue to bond over similarities…Steven’s daughter really loves animals and strawberries, she MUST be his daughter! And Dinora’s daughter is a little diva, enjoying make-up and nail polish, (so much like her diva mom.) Francis’s daughter loves vanilla pudding! And MUSIC! Go figure!

The truth is, family is not what is built by flesh and blood, but by common interests, tastes, and a whole lot of love. Of COURSE we are all related, we are a family!

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The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane
Authored by Linda Petersen
The link to the book:
https://www.createspace.com/5321986?ref=1147694&utm_id=6026

The GPS is Set to Home

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I don’t write much about my son, Angel, who has dissociative identity disorder. It seems to be such a sensationalized topic in the media that I don’t want to trot him out to add to the scrutiny. The fact is, he leads a pretty normal life.

After years of counseling, (which continues) he understands his issues with his “peeps” very well. He is appreciative of the mechanism of their development because he has only minimal memories of the severe, prolonged abuse he suffered as an infant and toddler. (Who can DO such things to babies????) He had worked with a psychiatrist who wanted to meld the 12 personalities, but Angel was not in agreement with this treatment. To him, it seemed like abortion because each of his peeps was valuable to him.

11 of his personalities live contently together. He can sometimes be seen staring off into space with a slight smile on his face. When I ask him what’s going on, he says his peeps are having a tea party in his brain and he starts to laugh. He has told me many times that he appreciates having peeps because life is exciting and he is never lonely or bored.

The 12th personality, the “asshole”, used to appear uncontrollably when Angel got angry. Angel learned through therapy to accept this personality because this is the personality who endured most of the abuse. (He does not know this personality well, because to know him would be to remember his abuse.) In order to temper any damage that could be done by the asshole, his peeps have learned to work together to nurture and control him so he is no longer dangerous. Quite a feat for a brainful of peeps!

Angel works as a security guard in the evening, sometimes through the night. He loves this job because it can be done by most of his peeps, so there is no fighting over who gets to come out. He has a nice circle of friends who understand his issues, and he feels comfortable in social situations with them. They know that if he suddenly starts to dance wildly and strut his stuff, his “diva” personality has the floor. (She loves pink boas and nail polish.) Or if he becomes the center of attention, leading the activities like a pro, his “game show host” personality comes out. Or if he just sits in the corner, withdrawn, his baby personality comes out, too frightened of the world to interact. This peep will need to be driven home by one of his many friends.

Driving is the biggest issue because one peep might be driving somewhere and another peep might take over and not know where they are going. He has learned to accommodate for this problem the way he has accommodated for all issues that have come up in his short life. He now keeps his GPS set to home so they can all find their way home!

With all of these personalities, he is just Angel. Accepted by his friends and family in his amazingly normal life.

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The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane
Authored by Linda Petersen
The link to the book:
https://www.createspace.com/5321986?ref=1147694&utm_id=6026

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