soul food

November 26, 2014 § 2 Comments

I am not a cook, I am barely a baker. At my best, I am attentive to directions and curious. The never ending task of coordinating healthy meals that are a pleasant balance of familiar and unanticipated has made me an exhausted, under-inspired family cook. Excuses and invitations interrupt the tediousness of my children’s predictably plain palates with an opportunity to peruse the pages of my oft-overlooked recipes for an idea. Slowly the search becomes an extension of a backyard treasure hunt, the entire process an enthusiastic quest for a  new experience.

This is the playful path that lead me to shuffle the expectations for our Thanksgiving meal. Without the company of family our meal is a collection of unexceptional staples, a menu dictated by memories that is more reassuring than creative. Not wanting to challenge the harmony of the day with disruptive substitutions, I instead conceded my place at the helm of preparations. This year my children gathered the groceries and their hands will soon craft the meal. We will play with our food before we eat and maybe, perhaps, we will carve new traditions.

While my children stand taller in their tasks, I am counting my good fortune as their mother. The menu matters so much less than the company of my children. Our time together, food for my soul.

home & holidays

November 23, 2014 § 9 Comments

Curled beneath the blanket my mother knit, the sounds of my family sorting through individual distractions interrupting the silence, I am content. Old toys and new projects, quiet interests and easy company are hallmarks of our weekends. Holidays are similar in their simplicity; well-loved decorations will nestle corners of our home in nostalgia and familiar meals will draw us around our child-weathered table in good company.

Our traditions are informal, inviting opportunity and chance to interrupt the stillness while holding our place at home with a promise to return.

This morning we ventured outside our routines, gathering new memories along familiar streets. Shuffling between store windows and street performers, we settled into the magic of a musical. Both children, too grown to be so easily lost under the spell of make-believe, leaned into the performance allowing themselves to be tricked into a story. Returning home to the comforts of less grand endeavors, I thought of days past and marveled at the inequality of time.

Traditions slow the minute hand least I move too quickly through my days. Just as the trees have emptied their leaves beneath the burden of shortened days, I too have drawn myself further into the season; giving thanks for time shared and conjuring magic with a celebratory spirit. Stretching the days across fleeting years.

one

November 22, 2014 § 2 Comments

We began our son’s high school experience with a clumsy, unapologetically honest introduction. As a student on the autism spectrum he is a contradiction of expectations and assumptions; his needs are misread as predictably as his ability to perform consistently. I walk a delicate balance, informing teachers and support staff of the invisible needs that shadow my son’s experiences and permitting him greater autonomy to speak for himself.

Somewhere in the language of advocating for my child as a student with special needs, emotion becomes muddled with words weighted in clinical knowledge that sometimes consumes my vocabulary. Years of navigating a second language of need has created a sterile dialogue that suffocates the lightness of my love with terms that cannot contain the colors of my child’s personality.

Each year I hope for someone who speaks the same language of care, but celebrates the complicated prism of my child’s spectrum of light.

Yesterday the person I had been looking for stepped more clearly into our path, speaking the language of our need with a smile. More importantly, he volunteered to partner with the spectrum of teachers whose worries are as diverse as their personalities to help inform my son’s assumptions with practical exercises in deconstructing the social language of his days as they create a new path toward greater independence.

Within this singular exchange I was able to reshape my words from an armor of advocacy to a partnership of possibility; infusing the language of need with a joyful celebration of my child’s spirit. One person has changed the entire landscape of our experience, bridging fear with hope.

On this, the eve of our Thanksgiving holiday, I am counting my many blessings and celebrating the power of one.

yesterday’s tomorrow

November 21, 2014 § 6 Comments

The past has tumbled too quickly into the present. I stacked my hope into milestones, one toppling into the next until the momentum of my experience misplaced the art of intention.

I have been thinking on this all week, standing stubbornly outside the normal pattern of my days. Lately optimism seemed an effort too cumbersome to contort around my worries. The heaviness of helplessness chaffed against the memory of another self, one who smiled more recklessly and leaned forcefully into the unknown.

Lost in the shape of my days, I began to map a path to self in the company of others. I interrupted my routine with invitations to old friends and new; planning for joy in such a way as to still myself in anticipation and dislodge the dread that had been chasing after my footsteps.

The pieces of self I could no longer avoid clattered against my consciousness and I became, once more, the architect of my intentions. Crafting yesterday’s tomorrow, today.

 

conscience & conscious

November 17, 2014 § 2 Comments

Awake and attentive, intentional and intuitive. I like to believe I aspire to live a life entrenched in authenticity, but some days I catch myself toying with judgments and certainty that blind me from my own consciousness. That awareness sits heavy on my conscience.

The irritation I feel for self-centered, busy body behaviors of others distracts my attention from my own tendency to dwell in a space of self or interject my opinions against another’s experience. The woman whose world is a perpetual catastrophe of need is not so different from my role as a mother navigating special needs. I judge the woman who gossips about others in unkind tones to my husband’s ear without hearing the hypocritical undertone that taints my purity. Were someone to cast a stone my walls of glass would cut painfully into my own distorted sense of entitlement.

I have come to stand too long in a place of self.

Even my recent wishes to shield my children from unhealthy familial relationships assumes that my guards are less damaging. Perhaps it is healthier to let my children see the truth of an unpleasant situation, the brokenness of family, from a place of safety rather than deny them the exercise in unconditional love. On this note, I am yet undecided, but I am aware that in protecting my children there is a new harm as they grieve the loss of something they do not fully understand. To balance the emotions of grief and assumptions of security is an impossible scale for certainty.

I tell myself that I am maturing into boundaries that define respect and foster kindness, but the abruptness of my certainty is unforgiving in its noisy righteousness. I am not like her, don’t want to be them, wouldn’t do that, or allow this are petty whispers that speak more of my shortcomings than others’ character. Perhaps the greater truth is that I am certain of very little and so I cling to threads of dignity.

The only true surety, for me, is the accident of awareness that perpetually humbles me in my assumptions. Last night I found a borrowed perspective in the musings of a woman I barely know, a college acquaintance I remember only tangentially to my own muddled memories, someone gracefully navigating a terminal health crisis. In her words I read a clarity of value for imperfect days  and a vulnerability for her death that informs acceptance for an absence of control. There is no pettiness or greed for what is lost, no comparison to what cannot be.

The universe rarely whispers once and so this morning I recognized the lesson still unformed in a friend’s company. In the warmth of her ease I noted a similar grace; a bright soul who sees the world’s imperfections with an amused acceptance for inconvenient truths. Without an unkind thought I am drawn to her lightness.

Perhaps this is the lesson for me today: the little things that collectively inform a burden are only heavy when we carry them across our days. Today I am letting pebbles of unkindness and certainty slumber beneath my path to better navigate the day with a lighter sense of self.

 

waiting on change

November 16, 2014 § 5 Comments

The language of my son’s academic/emotional needs are largely universal; to be accepted as an individual and included as an essential member of a greater whole. Most of my messages of advocacy for special needs are inclusive, suggestions of compromise that enhance the collective experience of individual classrooms. However, in order to make requests I first spend a burdensome energy validating need; filtering assumptions in a way that informs a clearer image of one child against a larger, more diverse, experience.

It is a seasonal cycle, educating educators and building a team. Some will come to identify my child as a cluster of initials. A rare soul will come to see the child behind the mask of need; these are our gentle warriors, the courageous few who blaze a trail of acceptance that creates change for a new population of students with special needs in a mainstream environment.

This month I welcomed anticipated challenges and began informing the error of assumptions. I was tired and tender, the burden of my responsibility chasing old doubts with new fears. This pressure curves against my thoughts until each breath is a private prayer for wisdom and strength as I endeavor to model compassion and inform confidence with measures of humility for the lessons I too must invite.

Each challenge is an opportunity to impact our community and to aspire to evolve further as individuals. Within this new group of educators, there is a future advocate who will one day soon recognize evidence of need and an administrator who will facilitate support. They will do this to include one child, but in doing so they will enhance an entire community of students.

On the days I grieve the change I cannot yet see, I realize that it is my job to create cause for hope. When it is too easy to count burdens, I remember our blessings in the names of the fearless individuals who have walked beside us each school year and remember that we have just begun to assemble a new team of warriors in a never-ending campaign for change.

postage

November 12, 2014 § 2 Comments

How do we weigh the words we cannot send? The thoughts we dare not shape into letters yet carry in the corners of our consciousness. Remembrances and old wishes that peek from the peripheral of our perspectives. Apologies and invitations that sit unmarked with intentions that get shuffled beneath the momentum of our days. I wonder if it is better to gather these letters into bundles stowed safely in the archives of our hearts or to cast them anonymously into the company of so many lost moments, companions of others’ misplaced memories.

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