Archive for the ‘home’ Category

Snow and Soap Operas

 

snow-centerville

 

We have had some frigid weeks, colder than I ever remember. The recent storm buried my car in snow, and eventually a five-foot snow pile lurked behind it. I had learned about “displacement” in science, and usually related it to “if I jumped into a small pool, the water level would rise.” In this instance, each time the snowplow came by, the snow from its big shovel displaced to create a mountain behind my car. Bully snowplows!

Many a time after other snowstorms, I had put on my snow boots and been able to traverse my walkway even if it wasn’t shoveled. It had been a fun challenge, pulling each leg up, out and forward as though walking through fluffy cotton candy. No such luck after this storm! Opening the front door, I tried to step out into the snow, but the cold was debilitating, freezing me in place like Elsa froze her sister in the movie “Frozen”. Hurriedly getting back inside, I vowed to stay housebound until the spring.

Trying to keep the house warm enough was the real test, and our old boiler chugged along continuously to provide a temperature high enough for the pipes not to freeze, but low enough that a second mortgage on the house wouldn’t be necessary to pay the bill. I bundled up in regular clothes, throwing on a bathrobe and slippers for added warmth. The lower household temperature, however, froze the butter I leave on the kitchen counter so it will be soft enough to smooth on my raisin toast. The mornings after the storm found me ripping my toast as I tried to butter each piece, huge lumps of unhealthy butter just sitting there without any chance of smoothing out. Alas, it was the final snowstorm humiliation!

Normally, I like snow when the temperature is reasonable. As a child, I loved to sled and make snowballs. Last month when shopping at Ocean State Job Lot, I found the ultimate, much needed, snow accessory; a box like plastic container with the shape of 6 snowballs inside. Apparently, the eye hand coordination of children these days is so poor that a tool is needed to make snowballs. They no longer have to maneuver their hands to form the balls, but just need to shove snow into the container, shut it, and perfect snowballs would be the result. One would have to assume that such ammunition would far surpass the handmade balls that might fall apart in mid-air were they not so cleverly created.

A gift I received for Christmas has managed to maintain my sanity while housebound. Where I would normally sit and watch television while sipping on tea that gradually cools, (a real problem for me, who only likes tea at a certain temperature,) Hubby bought me a device that keeps the tea at whatever temperature I want. Really! So it was, with contentment, that I braved the cold, bundled up in a velour blanket on a Lazy Boy, sipping my hot cup of tea and watching the real life soap operas. No, not the Housewives of Atlanta or Sister Wives, but the news channels that continue to entertain me with the twists and turns in politics.

 

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‘Twas Once a Child

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My daughter, Marie, has reached adulthood, having graduated from a residential program that had services for both her deafness and her mental health issues. This is the age of worry for any parent, especially one with so many challenges.

When she came to live with us at the age of seven and we were told she was “just deaf”, we could not have properly prepared ourselves for the roller coaster ride of a life she, and we, would have. She was a wild child, blonde hair askew, eyes angry, mouth so hungry she would hoard food under her mattress. She was very angry she had been removed from her mother, (for doing unspeakable acts which shall remain unspoken.) Despite providing her with a healthy, well cared for childhood, Marie’s disposition had been preformed. She would lie, steal, beg strangers for money, and reject all of our efforts to parent her. A hug and a kiss would throw her into a fury. Discussing our parenting situation and our need to show her love, she reluctantly let us “fist bump” her. Years later she apologized and told us her birth mom made her promise not to hug or kiss us, and that we really wouldn’t be her parents. It took us many years of fist bumps before she would accept a hug, and many years more before she would let us kiss her. She is now a young adult, and freely hugs and kisses us if the mood suits her. She shows genuine affection and appreciation, the highest reward any parent could expect from an original wild child.

Although Marie can be very capable, she has been unable to live in a non-structured setting because of her unstable bouts with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. For those unfamiliar with this life altering condition, it is experiencing horrific memories so acutely that one becomes “in the moment” of prior abuse, crazed eyes staring back as though at her accusers, ready to defend herself with flailing arms and legs and gnashing teeth. An ambulance ride to the hospital and sedation was the only thing that could bring her out of her experience. It has always been especially tear inducing, (for me,) when at the hospital, with her hand in restraints, she would wake from the sedation, look around, and finger spell (ASL) asking me where she was, having had no memory of the event. Next she would say her throat hurts, (from screaming, no doubt,) and ask for a Popsicle, which she would skillfully eat while still in restraints.

Marie is now formally an adult. A lot of planning has gone into finding an adult home for her, one that would be staffed 24 hours. My calling all possible supported living programs in our state began about a year and a half ago. With the dual diagnosis of deafness and mental illness, no program would accept her. Many of the programs who may have had prior experience in working with her, never even returned my calls.

After working closely with the Department of Developmental Disabilities, whose frustration and efforts equaled mine; they were able to establish a placement for her that has far surpassed our expectations through a program used to dealing with adults with more severe developmental disabilities. They had no prior experience with a young adult with both of Marie’s difficulties, but once they learned there was someone in such need, they stepped right up and took on the challenge.

Marie now lives in a cute, little house on a nice residential street. As described by those on the show “House Hunters”, this one would be described at “Retro”, with bright yellow tile, a front door carved with circles, and a front porch with wrought iron table and chairs. Neighbors bring over cookies and wave to each other on the street. There are three bedrooms in the house, and she is hoping that a housemate will join her soon. She insists that her house buddy like to watch scary movies, (VERY scary movies,) and, most of all, must not be allergic to pets. Marie has a guinea pig that is usually perched on her chest with both of her hands gently stroking the lucky animal, a calming activity that works for both her and Oreo, who is black with a white center, of course.

Marie is thrilled to be able to go shopping for food she likes, not necessarily the food I have cooked for her. She is no longer in school, so work activities will happily replace the classes with which she used to have such frustration. She has directly chosen the things that she would like to do during the day, throwing out suggestions I would have thought unobtainable.

Marie has always loved to ride horses but gets frustrated that when we go, her horse needs to be tethered to another due to her deafness. She recently began an activity at a horse farm that facilitates riding for children with disabilities. For such children, the riding is therapeutic, but the horse walks slowly. Marie’s job is going to be to trot the horses at the end of the day because the horses themselves get bored walking slowly. What better job than that for someone who loves to ride horses?

Marie’s penchant for all animals has earned her a spot working with “disenfranchised” cats and kittens, that is, homeless felines. She will clean the cages, feed them, and then “show them off” like Vanna White highlights the letters on “Wheel of Fortune”. Oreo will be jealous, I’m sure, so Marie will have to wash the cat scent off before she returns home.

At this point in her life, Marie is feeling very good about herself and her care for others. She has signed up for a Meals on Wheels route, and all of those hugs she didn’t give in her early years will undoubtedly be dispensed ten times over among her lunch recipients.

As a mom with a daughter for whom life experiences didn’t start out well, I am so thrilled that in her adult life she will be doing the things she enjoys with people who will support, encourage and appreciate her. What more could any parent ask for?

 

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To read our story raising Marie and her four siblings, please purchase my book, The Apple Tree:  Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane. It is on sale on Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Thank you for your support!

A Home is a Home is a Home

HOUSE

I was going to a home visit with a colleague the other day and the house we went to was absolutely gorgeous! Probably a $500,000 house, perfectly laid out and decorated. A comfy family room with a large screen tv and new, modern furniture. It had a large, expertly maintained backyard with a perfect multi-level playground system for their happy, young children. As we left the visit, my co-worker told me that she would LOVE to have a house like that, as would her children. Since her divorce, she has had to explain to them that they can only afford a small house, using the excuse that she only has limited money so she can’t afford anything better. It was an honest comment, and one that many people probably share.

I have four wonderful, loving sisters-in-laws. They all have beautiful, large, and well maintained houses. Granite counter tops and stainless steel appliances, (which I’ve learned from House Hunters is a “must”.) We gather at their houses regularly for birthday parties and holidays, and I always enjoy admiring their latest piece of new furniture, wall decoration, or new carpeting. After that conversation with my co-worker, I realized that I admire their houses, but I am not jealous, nor do I covet their homes. Good for them that they have the money to have such a nice home for their families! I am happy for them! If I had the money, sure, I’d be happy to have a home like that, but I don’t, and I’m still happy.

The thought never crossed my mind to to feel badly about my own, old, ramshakle house. After spending much of my childhood living out of a VW van, I think ours is a perfect house for our family. It is old because it was once a summer cottage and my dad, in his schizophrenic frenzy, added on here and there. It has some quirks; the hot and cold water faucets are backwards, the doors of the kitchen cabinets are made out of wall paneling, the parquet wood floors have been stained from years of foot traffic in and out from the snow, and the windows are old and some don’t open anymore. But we managed to set up three suitable bedrooms on the main floor, (sometimes four while fostering infants, when we turned the laundry room into a nursery,) and three suitable bedrooms in the basement. (Only our biological son and adopted children could sleep in the rooms in the basement because the Department of Children and Families does not allow foster children to sleep there.) We also have a large dining area to fit 16 at a long table with benches for seats, and a family room where the tv, toys and computer are kept. And we commenced to raise our family. This house, while not elegant or even attractive, suits us. We’ve had many years of children’s laughter and tears. Many years of care and patient acceptance. Many years of tragedies and triumphs. Even though we don’t have the money to have more luxurious surroundings, our home contains the most important thing of all; indescribable, life affirming, heart warming LOVE!

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