Archive for May, 2013

I Get All of My Exercise in the Driver’s Seat of My Van

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My daughter, Marie, is in a residential school, out-of-state.  I drive the hour and a half to see her at least once a week, sometimes twice.  If you have read my book, you know that I HATE to ride.  (I spent my childhood zig zagging across the country.) Driving is no better, and I need to focus or I will fall asleep.

Talking books on tape used to keep my attention for the ride, but taped books are getting harder and harder to find.  Music has become my new listening alternative.  Not just ANY music…noooooooo….only the rock music of my youth; Proud Mary, Sweet Caroline, Born to Run, Papa was a Rolling Stone….   Of course when one hears this music, one’s body can’t help but “dance” to the beat and one’s mouth HAS to sing along, and I am no exception.  The fact that I am in a van somewhat limits my moves, but not altogether.  While driving down the straight highway at 55 miles per hour, (the fastest my 2002 van can manage,)  I can safely swing and wave my arms, (alternately, of course,) bounce, tap and kick my left leg, twist at the waist, and move my shoulders, and do so with great veracity in time to the music.  I have found this new driving routine to be loads of fun helping to both pass the time AND exercise!  Although I am not self-conscious, and the stares from others would not bother me,  I am so busy looking at the road that I don’t see them! Reality comes into play every time a tractor trailer truck drives by because our seats are at the same height.  I am sure that the driver is mortified at the sight of me, as I am no substitute for the sexy young woman for whom he was looking, but what sexy young woman would be driving a huge old old, rusty van like mine anyway?

As the summer approaches,  I will be singing with the windows down because the vans air conditioning met an untimely death last summer.  Most people DO have air conditioning and thankfully (for them) their windows will be closed and the buzz of the air conditioning will drown out any ear shattering notes coming from my van.

If you see me doing my “moves like Mick Jagger” on the highway, I will be too busy driving and exercising to see YOU. However, if you happen to see a somewhat middle aged woman, hair wild and wind blown, climb her way down from the seat of a very old, high van seat, and she has skinny arms, a skinny left leg, tiny waist but a big butt and plump right leg, smile and wave because that would be me….

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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/

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I Ate From All the Major Food Groups at the Buffet…the DESSERT Buffet…

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Before you “yell” at me, let me explain; my husband and I went to a buffet the other night and there was a long line for the regular buffet.  I was really hungry, AND I have been on a diet for YEARS, AND it was my birthday, AND did I mention I was very hungry?  As he grabbed a plate to wait in the loooooooooooong regular buffet line, I snuck over to the dessert buffet, perchance to find something healthy I could eat in lieu of waiting in the regular buffet line.  Lo and behold, I found desserts containing all of the major food  groups:

For protein, the custard and pecan pie (eggs and nuts) fit the bill.

The bread pudding counted as a grain.

For fruit, the strawberries with whipped cream and the blueberry cheesecake offered a sufficient amount of fruit, with the whipped cream and cheesecake also fulfilling the dairy requirement.

I had a little more trouble finding two servings of vegetables, but I solved that by choosing two pieces of carrot cake.  (A person’s got to do what a person’s got to do…)

I lined all of the pastries expertly up my arm and 3 fanned out in my hand like a diner waitress.  (Waitressing is a skill one never loses…)  I easily carried my little treasures back to the table, and chowed down. Mmmmmmm……..I hadn’t had desserts in so long it was SUCH a treat!  I savored each morsel, smiling on the inside as well as the outside.  I had managed to finish them all, had the waiter clear the table, and ordered a cup of tea before my husband came back from the regular buffet.  He was fuming at the long wait, and indicated there was a meat slicer who was obviously  new.  She took F O R E V E R to slice the prime rib and turkey and strategically place each piece daintily on each person’s plate. As he sat down, he looked at me, smiling, drinking my cup of tea. He asked “Aren’t you eating?” To which I replied, “I’m just sitting here enjoying my tea.  I think I will join you when you go up for dessert…”

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PS.  I would love to come and speak for your group or at your conference.  I would do it for free, but would need the price of travel. For functions in the North East, that would be only gas money.

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/

A Name a Ventriloquist Would Love…

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We had to put our  beloved dog, Brandy to sleep last summer, and our house has been empty, dog-wise at least, until Jody, a labrador/poodle mix came to live with us a month ago.  She is a sweet three month old, with a lot of energy and not much common sense.  Of course, she is still a baby and I guess babies themselves don’t have a lot of common sense, so I shouldn’t be so harsh.  After all, babies don’t come out of the womb knowing how to use the toilet, so why should I expect anything different from a puppy?  The problem is,  she is a fanatic about only peeing on a pile of newspaper.  We have to be very careful not to leave any paper lying around lest she pee on yesterday’s top story which I have not had a chance to read.  We have been desperately trying to get her to go outside, but she has developed this irrational fear of  going anywhere OTHER than on the newspaper.  She seems to be very stuck in her ways, because at the dog park she ran around and played with the other puppies for a few hours, and she did not leak so much as a drop of pee.  Have you ever heard of a dog that plays in an area where there are other dogs and it does NOT mark it’s territory, or at least leave a little fragrant sample for others?  Not Jody…she held it in until we come home, when she ran straight for the newspaper and peed a massive amount, like she has been holding it all in for hours, (which she clearly HAD.) Poor President Obama’s news would not get read that day.

I began to move the newspaper closer to the back door so she would get the idea that she should be doing  it outside.  She was getting there…closer and closer.  Finally, I eliminated the paper altogether and left the back door open for her to go outside whenever she wanted.  (Fortunately, it was not one of those days where we got a freak snow storm.)  She went outside to play.  She went outside to dig in the dirt.  She went outside to swat bugs from her face.  She went outside to chew on the branches of a nearby tree.  But she would not go outside to pee.  Sensing her distress, I did the only thing I could think of; I put a piece of newspaper outside. She ran straight as an arrow to use it.  Now, she goes to the door, barks, I let her out, and she pees on the newspaper.  If there is no paper, she looks at me with a forlorn expression, and just stands there…it appears that my newspaper subscription will have to be doubled!

Yesterday, I drove Jody up to visit with Marie, (who attends a  residential school for children who are deaf.) Marie loves animals, but they do not take to her too kindly because her semblance of speech is loud and guttural, (even scaring me if I was alone in a dark room and didn’t know she was there.) When she called the dog, she scared the poor puppy, which cowered. Marie looked at me with a great sadness. HOW could the puppy not LIKE her?  Then she called the dog again, but as I stood behind her, under my breath, I also called the dog, which came running to us.  Marie angrily turned and looked at me.  “YOU called her,” she signed in ASL, “I saw your lips move”, obviously with the eyes she has in the back of her head.  She was devastated the dog would not come for her alone.  So, we tried it again.  This time, I put a large smile on my face and forced a cheery “Jody!!!” through my smile, not moving my lips.  The dog came running, Marie was happy that I had not called her, (?) and my lips didn’t move a bit!  (Try it….)  The fact that her friends and teachers to whom she introduced the dog were also deaf was also a lucky break on my part because they couldn’t squeal on me.

Okay, so it was a little bit dishonest on my part, but what parents don’t do things a little bit out of the ordinary to see their children happy?  Nothing feels better than the warm heart you get when you see your children smile, and Marie was smiling a lot that day.  Besides, the dog will soon learn to love Marie as we do, even though she can be a little loud and scary…

 

 

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I would love to come and speak for your group or at your conference.  I would do it for free, but would need the price of travel. For functions in the North East, that would be only gas money.

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/

Have You Ever Run out of Clean Underwear?

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My husband and I took a little “romantic trip for two” last weekend, so I did not get my usual laundry done. This week, being school vacation, saw me working 60 hours coordinating an educational and recreational program for children with disabilities.  It was an awesome, fun week, and the kiddos were a joy!  However,  by the time I dragged myself into the house in the early evening, I had no energy to do any type of cooking/cleaning/thinking/talking or moving. The only movement I could muster up was my index finger on the TV remote…

Getting dressed this morning, there was not a piece of clean underwear to be found. Not in my underwear drawer, in the dryer, under the bed, on the floor of the bathroom, in the puppies bed, or in the refrigerator. (You never know…)  What was I to do?  It briefly crossed my mind to not wear any, but that idea was quickly tossed aside.  In “my” generation, we just didn’t DO that.  So, I dug up the only pair of underwear left…the unworn g-string bikini bottom to a baby doll negligee I had brought on our romantic weekend. (I always optimistically pack several “outfits”…)  Slipping the bikini on, it was immediately apparent that it were not going to adequately cover all of my “private areas”, but it was either that pair or nothing, and nothing was not an option.  The thought of getting into an accident and having the paramedics see a woman my age wearing a g-string bikini did seem horrifying, so I promised myself I would drive very carefully and walk very slowly all day so as not to get into an accident or trip and fall…

Finding a bra was almost as difficult, but in the back corner of the drawer was  one bra that had eluded trash day.  The straps were so old and loose that it did not properly support my breasts in the manner to which they are accustomed.  Other than going braless, which would surely have traumatized a few people, I put on the saggy resemblance of a bra. To say that my breasts came within inches of my waistline is not an exaggeration.  But it was better than down to my knees…

Finding a shirt was almost as difficult, but way in the back of my closet was a “beautifully” flowered shirt that I used to wear when I was two sizes larger.  For some reason I’d always loved that shirt because it was “comfy”, so on it went.  At least with all of the bold flowers, my sagging breasts were not so apparent.

For pants, I wore the same pair of jeans I had worn earlier in the week.  Jeans seem to be the one item that do not have to be washed every time they are worn.  Of course, when you wear them a little more than you should, they DO get baggy in all the wrong places, which resulted in a bigger rear end than I would normally sport.  Fortunately, the flowered shirt was so large that it completely covered this area anyway.

The biggest challenge, even when I DO the laundry, was finding a pair of matching socks.  I looked ALL OVER….and I was thrilled when I finally found a pair of matching red and white striped socks.  Of course, the stripes were on candy canes, and  big red Santas graced the top band of the socks, but at least they matched!

My Dansko shoes, (the only type I can wear comfortably,) were on the porch where I had taken them off.  Unfortunately, Jody, our new puppy, had decided they made great chew toys, and she had chewed the decorative leather band  around the top of them.  Fortunately, she had chewed them both equally so they at least matched…

I quickly tried to fix my unruly hair, which can usually be coaxed into a semblance of curls and puffiness. Not today.  Today it refused to be tamed.  My hair is longer than usual because there has been no time to get a haircut, so it is super fluffy and frizzy, and standing on end all around my head like a wild lion mane.  Better than that….like Phil Spector…

Looking in the mirror, I assessed my appearance. Hair unruly enough to scare  Frankenstein.  Saggy breasts under a garden explosion of a shirt that was so large my daughter could have fit in it with me. Saggy jeans, which are somewhat of a relief because they do not fit tightly enough to force the bikini bottom to slide up into my butt. Shoes missing the decorative strap, but otherwise presentable.  And white and red striped socks…not too bad if you don’t look at the top of them.  I was “passable” as long as I stood up all day lest people see the Santas on the top of my socks. Then I would look REALLY ridicules….

 

 

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PS. I have recently been honored with a special award from http://lyricsonthelake.wordpress.com/2013/04/29/because-why-not/:

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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

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/

I Lost All of My Money at the Casino :(

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I admit it… I LOVE to gamble; to play the slot machines at the casino.  It is one of my wicked vices. (I’ll bet you are all shocked to hear such an admission, which I have been consciously keeping from you so as not to tarnish my good image.)

It goes back to the days when I was a young adult.  My mother and my brother loved it when I took them to a casino in a nearby state.  We would take a day trip sponsored by a local bus company, and for a mere $25 fee, we would get a coupon for a free buffet and a coupon for $25 in gambling money.  As my mother was extremely frugal, this deal was enticing to her, and it allowed the three of us to have a nice day together.  My brother, who was severely developmentally delayed, legally blind, deaf, and schizophrenic, loved the long ride on the bus, to eat at the buffet where he could choose all of his favorite foods, and to enjoy all of the bright lights. But his favorite thing to do was to play a martian slot machine.  In his schizophrenic haze, he thought of himself as an alien, so he felt somewhat vindicated to see a slot machine “of his people.”  His $25 in free gambling money would last for hours as he would always bid the  minimum, 5 cents.  Every time the symbols on the machine matched, aliens would swoop down to bring them into their spaceship.  With his eyes pressed close to the machine to see, my brother joyfully whooped and hollered every time that happened.The money he won was secondary. He was in his “element”, something which he rarely felt elsewhere. Plus,my brother loved Diet Coke,and he could get all of the Diet Coke he wanted free. (We had purchased a refillable plastic cup one time, and my mother held onto it like gold…washing it and bringing it to every visit to the casino….for years my brother was thrilled to get free soda!)

My mom would always cash in her $25 gambling voucher.  She did not believe in gambling and preferred to take the money in cash, which to her meant a great day out with a free trip and buffet.  Her joy over a great bargain was greater than her playful spirit. She was certain that the machines were fixed, and that they “let you win” in the beginning, and then, when your money was gone, you would put in more and more, never winning again. Although I thought this idea was ludicrous, I have to admit that, over the years, I have seen this happen time and time again…those crafty slot machines!!!!  Regardless, I LOVED to play the slots. I would have to sneak away from my mom because when my $25 voucher ran out, (as it ALWAYS did,) I would play my own money.

And so it was yesterday, when I took a similar bus trip with the recreation group of adults with disabilities that I coordinate.  (After all, just because they have a disability doesn’t mean they should be excluded from loosing their money at the casino like the rest of us!)  It was during that trip that I lost all of my money.  As the last few cents dwindled away in the slot machine, I felt a sick feeling in my stomach.  I was so sure I was going to win!  It was FATE for me to win, because I really needed the money and therefore God could work his “magic” and allow my machine to his the jackpot, therefore getting me out of debt.  Isn’t that the way God works?  Unfortunately not…

As my money ran out, I sat there sad, disappointed, and frantic. What would you all THINK of me? How was I going to buy lunch for the rest of the week?  How could I have been so STUPID?!?!?! All my money was gone…

It is a good thing I only brought $20 with which to gamble…

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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

Mother’s Day and Delayed Rewards

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Mother’s Day is a wonderful time to appreciate moms, step-moms, birth moms, adoptive moms, wanna be moms and women who love children. Bless you for making a difference in a child’s life! Don’t you get joy from seeing the joy in a laughing child, the shy smile of a child with twinkling eyes, and the serene look on their faces when they are sleeping?  Ahhhhhh……..what sweet little rewards of being with a child…

Most of us know, however, that it is VERY difficult to be a mom and sometimes the REAL rewards are far apart….

When my son Steven was in nursery school, it was a real challenge because of his autistic and ADHD problems. He had been born addicted to cocaine and heroine and his nervous system was “messed up” (my professional diagnosis.) Bringing him was a real challenge as he would kick and scream and cry, yet I did it because he could not hide out safely at home for his entire life with me vacuuming around him. At first, he would  spend most of the time in school hiding out in the “quiet tent”, playing with his plastic reptiles, sometimes soaking in the information from the teacher. Eventually, he sauntered out of his safe space to see what was going on.  He did not join the other children, but he was with them…a huge improvement.  Eventually, nursery school became normalized for him; part of his routine.  He would come home with his little projects; a paper flower, a painted snake, a play dough alligator.  I had learned not to make a “fuss” over these things, but to quietly tell him they were wonderful while his head dropped to his chest, eyes closed.  (He was not a child who could tolerate excitement of any kind.)  He survived two years in that classroom, and I wondered how he would act on “graduation day”, a celebration seemingly out of his tolerance level.  All of the children stood there in their little paper graduation caps, tassels dangling in front of their noses so they had to keep blowing them away.  All of the children except Steven.  The children sang a song, and thanked their moms and generally wowed the crowd with their antics.  All of the children except Steven.  The children walked in a nice, straight line to get their nursery school diplomas; all except Steven.  When all but one diploma had been handed out, the teacher walked over to where Steven was hiding under a chair, butt facing outwards. (If I had been smart, I would have sewed a smiley face on the butt of his pants, but, alas, I had been unrealistically hoping that he would join the other children in the graduation ceremony.)  The teacher bent down with the document and Steven’s  little hand reached out to grab it.  He quickly pulled the diploma out of sight.  Calm and cool under the seat, he had made it! Steven had graduated from nursery school without a tantrum, yelling or screaming.  He graduated in the manner he felt most comfortable, but graduate he did!  What a reward that was for me; I was a proud mother, indeed!

Diagnosed in elementary school with Dissociative Identity Disorder, Angel, has been very carefully placed in specialized classrooms.  Although intelligent and able to do grade level work, he frequently changes “parts”, (his word for his alternate personalities.)  His teachers and teacher aids, bless their souls, understand him well, and manage to educate him, even if it means repeating the same lesson because a different “part” was out that day, or giving his the test over because the “part” that studied for the test is not the “part” that took the test!  He has a baby part which necessitates him to just “veg out” in a large mushroom chair.  On those days, nothing was learned.  His condition has been kept top secret and no unnecessary teachers or others in the school know about it. Fortunately, he has been living a very “normal” life.  I have found one surprising benefit…he has a “Game Show Host” part.  I work with a recreational group of adults with disabilities, and every now and then we play Bingo or Family Feud. Angel, as have all of my children, regularly comes with me.  One day, he asked to be the moderator for Family Feud and his “performance” was beyond hilarious.  Usually a reserved child with groups, all of a sudden he channeled Richard Dawson! He went down the rows of “contestants”, gave each of them a peck on the cheek, and, while holding their hands in his, asked their names and a little about themselves.  The older women, who probably have not had much attention in their lives, giggled and smiled and blushed.  Then, Angel read each question with gusto, and made a “ding” noise when they got it right, and a loud buzzer noise if they got it wrong.  It was sooooooooooo funny because it was so out of character of the Angel that they knew.  This group of adult with disabilities, many of whom live alone on a minimum income with this once a week outing their only time out of their houses, were laughing hysterically that evening. Ever since then, they look forward to Family Feud and “Gameshow Host” Angel! What a reward for me to see Angel’s  give such joy to these wonderful people!

As a graduation present, my daughter, Dinora, and I took a trip back to her birth country in Guatemala.  She had done fundraising to assist with the opening of a soup kitchen in Antigua, and we were there for “opening day”.  We went shopping that morning, taking a little “putt putt” (2 wheeled open air taxi) into the village, giggling all the way as it bounced along. We bought flowers of all bright shapes and sizes, which stuck out of the putt putt on the way back, narrowly bopping passers by on the head. We spread the flowers out in front of  the  alter where a mass was to be said in honor of the opening of the facility. An overflowing crowd of people filled the make-shift pews, and it was a beautiful, emotional mass. Even though it was all in Spanish I seemed to understand every word, and I could certainly feel the emotion in the songs which the Indigenous Guatemalans sang.  After mass, people lined up for the food in their brightly colored clothing. There was my daughter, a young adult, behind the counter, dark hair pulled back into a pony tail, serving food with a beaming smile on her face showing dimples I never knew she had, (or perhaps she had never smiled so brightly.)  She was old enough and cared enough to give back something and help “her people” as she called them. I will never forget the sight of her…sweat on her brow, wiping her hands on her apron, making pleasant conversation in Spanish while smiling that amazing smile…   How could that sight NOT be a reward for a mom after years of raising a difficult teen?

Raising Marie has been the most difficult because of her many serious challenges.  When she came to us, she was street smart at the age of seven.(See post “All She did Was Scream and Say No! No! No!) She had no thought of danger and no social skills.  Although this may sound silly, one of my concerns was the fact that she would litter.  Get a drink; throw the bottle on the ground.  Have a piece of gum; throw the wrapper on the ground. Popsicle; stick thrown in the grass.    Repeatedly, I would have her pick it up and throw it away, explaining that we don’t litter in our family.  Marie could not have cared less…she did not want to be in our family anyway…  It took many months with us before she learned not to litter.  That’s why it shocked me when we were at the mall one day and she casually flicked the paper from her straw onto the ground.  My eyes widened, and just as I was about to ask her to pick it up, she bent down and picked it up, signing to me “I was just teasing you!  I know we don’t litter in this family!”  What a reward it was to hear her say that!  Finally, she felt part of our family!

My most favorite reward I saved for last.  For all of you parents, especially parents with children with disabilities, I will share that there has been no greater reward in my life than seeing my son, Francis, become a successful adult. Despite being legally blind, he has a college degree, is very successful in a job which he loves and through which he is benefitting others, and he recently married a great woman who not only loves him for the wonderful person that he is, but can also drive a car so he won’t have to take public transit to work any more!  There IS no greater reward for a parent; to know that the problems, fun, hard work, love, difficulties and dispersed joys of childhood have come together in a positive way. My son has officially “made it” to adulthood.  Now he can look forward to the rewards he will experience in raising his own children. Then I get the extra rewards of grandchildren!

To all of you mothers and others out there, Happy Mother’s Day!  Beyond the handmade cards, the flowers, the breakfasts and dinners out, and the gifts of the day, so many more rewards await you.  Sometimes you just have to be patient…

Another Daughter to Celebrate!!

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For those who know me, you may be sure that I am referencing a new foster or adoptive child. Not this time! This time, my new daughter is my son, Francis’, new wife.  She is wonderful and sweet and recently blew me away with the Mother’s Day Card she sent.  Separate from my son’s, she sent a beautifully designed Papyrus’ Mother’s Day Card with 3-D flowers and a lot of sentiment.  But the sentiment that was most important was what she wrote inside; “Thank you for being such a great mom and raising such a wonderful son!”  Isn’t it thoughtful?  I now officially have another “daughter” and she’s all grown up.  I didn’t have to  do a thing…

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