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Archive for August, 2012

Unless you just stumbled upon this blog, you know my son Jonah lives and goes to school at the Anderson Center for Autism.  We could no longer keep him home because of his violently aggressive behaviors.  Jonah has come a long way in the year he’s been at Anderson!  So many parents like us depend on this school for their child’s fundamental education.  Anderson is holding a Fundraising Gala on October 6th.  The idea is to raise money for the school.

I am not one to ask for money often, but today I am.  For Jonah I will.

I am so grateful to the Anderson Center…

If you can give any amount, I will appreciate it very, very much. (Choose gala donation when you get to the donate page). Your information will be kept private and your donation will be processed on a secure server, though you will be acknowledged in the Gala Program and of course can use your donation as a charitable contribution on your taxes.

And if there happen to be (or if you know) any owners of restaurants, Bed and Breakfasts, stores, hot air balloons, art centers, museums, bookstores, grocery stores, amusement parks, gyms, hotels, airlines, spas, hair salons, gas stations, toy stores, resort properties, etc. reading this– or if you have a superfluous surplus of iPads, those things/gift certificates/gift cards would be amazing to have for the silent auction.

May your kindnesses come back to you a thousandfold!

I’m starting my blog vacation now…be back in town on the tenth.  I am so excited I am almost shaking just to think about crossing the threshold of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s home, kept just as she left it when she died three days after her 90th birthday, on February 10th, 1957.

(Yes, I know what a geek I am).

Some Jonah pictures and maybe a video until I return:

Isn’t this a great picture of Jonah and Grandma?

A video of Jonah being on-purpose bad and somewhat gross and us not doing much about it.  We choose our battles.

solving complex algebraic equations

disappearing into a dive

Bye, people who use vacation time to go to beaches on oceans and lakes instead of the center-of-the-USA Missouri Ozarks home of a dead children’s book author!  You’re missing out.

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This weekend my mom and I are going down to see Jonah on Sunday instead of Saturday.  A switcheroo, so I could go to the Latin Fest today in Washington Park.

It’s still going on as I type this, but I could only last so long.  The day was lovely and Hades-hot.  I’d arrived early, and I went by myself.

I saw the Marines were there and tried the pull-up bar, which I jumped 5 times to reach, but eventually realized it wasn’t going to happen.  Look at the picture – the bar was about 10 feet high!

If only I were in secretly-super-power shape and could amaze those guys.

I did, however, win a prize for a game where they boost you up and you do a flexed arm hang, chin not touching the bar, for as long as you can, the max being 110 seconds.  I eyed that bar and watched two or three other women last anywhere between o.o seconds and 10 seconds.  When it was my turn, a lady behind the Marine booth set her camera on me.

The Marines smiled a bit smirkingly amongst themselves.  (I really am a twiggy limbed lady):

So they boost me up and I get my breathing going and I’m flexing those skinny arms and giving it all I’ve got, stretching my neck to stay above the bar, bicycling my legs in the air for distraction and whatever ounce of help it might give me.  Then I fell, not expecting the sudden give-out, and landed hard on the ground.

But now the Marines were smiling a different smile at me.  “34 seconds,” the one who was timing it said.  It felt like an hour and a half , but he had the stopwatch so we’ll go with 34 seconds.  This was impressive to them even though we all knew the only reason I could stay up there for those 34 seconds is I am a light-weighted woman and even weak-ass arms can hold up 115 pounds for 34 seconds.  But I won a Marine baseball cap and everything.

I thanked them for their service to our country before I took my hat and walked away.  The Few.  The Proud.  And Me.

Then I hung with some awesome kids, doing chalk drawings and body art:

First I drew the Puerto Rican flag.  Most of the attendees seemed to be Puerto Rican; the vendors sold a lot of Puerto Rican flags and shirts, so I had plenty of opportunity to make sure I was getting it right with the stripes and colors.  Then I couldn’t leave well enough alone so I added a sun and a tree.  That’s when all the kids came, and the real fun began.

Soon I had many friends.  I handed out juice boxes and we all worked hard.

Next it was time for body painting in the kids’ zone.

Thank God she and my next volunteer both wanted rainbows.  (Who can’t draw a rainbow?)  The girls were equally concerned with whether or not the rainbows would include the color pink.  (They did).

Then I walked around and bought some trinkets for M’s kids, and climbed a hill to hear the band and dance in the sunshine, toward the back of the crowd, all of us enjoying amazing Latin music in the big, wide field.  I danced like I was at a Grateful Dead show, because that’s really all I’ve got in my inventory.  But only for one song.  Heh.  Getting old.  Plus I was just sick two days ago.

Nearly collapsed from sweat, the heat of the music, and all the many people under a bright, hot sun, I left early-ish.  I was hungry and thirsty and had used up all my money.

Two things happened there, though, which smashed  any stereotypes I may have heard about Puerto Ricans/Latinos.  That made me feel all people are generally, in fact, good.

The first is when I slowly walked maybe 500 feet away from the dancing to sit on a bench in the shade.  After a minute I realized I’d taken my camera out of my sack and had left it in the grass where I was dancing.  I honestly thought it would be gone by the time I got back, so I wasn’t exactly running back to retrieve it.   But when I returned to my spot, there was the camera, sitting right where I’d left it – even though the crowd had thickened and anyone could have easily swiped it.

Thing number two happened when I was mucha sed (very thirsty) after dancing, and walked down the hill toward a pineapple drink stand.   The idea of their booth was to sell Pina Coladas, but I asked if I could just have a small cup of the pineapple drink without any alcohol.

Then I remembered to ask: ¿Cuánto es?  (I really didn’t need to speak Spanish much, but I did so want to practice).  The lady selling them told me $7.  “I only have $4.50 with me,” I said, automatically switching back into English, offering the money with something between pessimism and shame.  “Do you think maybe I could have half a cup?”

<-The lady in the orange shirt

She smiled and poured me an almost-full cup of yummy icy pineapple deliciousness.   I was a little afraid she’d get all nasty and dismiss me:  sorry, gringa.  Instead she smiled wide when I profusely thanked her.  “De nada,” she told me, and waved me away.  I’m going to find out who she is, though, and get her the rest of her money.

I took a few more pictures during the day – some posed (amazing balloon hat, no?)

(this guy was awesome)

…and some, more candid…

I loved her skirt

This was a landmark Amy-in-an-unfamiliar-crowd challenge, and I not only had no anxiety but I really enjoyed myself, by myself.  And tomorrow I get to see my Boo.  Sounds like a great weekend to me!  Plus, T minus 7 days until I fly to visit Laura Ingalls Wilder’s home and museum, where I will no doubt burst into intense, amazed tears and perhaps collapse on the floor.

“…Each of us is born with a box of matches inside us, but we can’t strike them all by ourselves; just as in the experiment, we need oxygen and a candle to help.  In this case, the oxygen, for example, would come from the breath of the person you love;  the candle could be any kind of food, music, caress, word, or sound that engenders the explosion, lighting one of the matches.”

~ Laura Esquivel, Like Water for Chocolate

One of my matches was lit today.  It shines even still.  I think I’ll keep it burning…

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never forget

I’m so sick today.  Must have thrown up 9 or 10 times.  My head is pounding pounding pounding.  Now it is almost 6pm and it’s my first trip out of bed except to the bathroom.  Ginger ale and crackers, here I come.

Two things.

1.  It is Andy’s birthday today – happy birthday to Jonah’s wonderful daddy

2.  It is the first anniversary of the D.C. earthquake that we could feel way up here in Albany, NY.  You know, the one which caused virtually no damage whatsoever.

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I am in an excited state of preparation for my Labor Day week trip to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s home & museum in Mansfield Missouri.  Before that, though, I have to write an article for the Capital District Parent Pages and judge 20 entries or so for NYSARC’s annual media awards contest; they’ve asked me to do this for several years now, and I enjoy it.

But the writing and the judging is time-consuming, and I’d rather create more nature art in the woods or something.  Something simple, like this:

At any rate I am mostly going to blog some quotes, videos, and short tales of Jonah/nature art/fun lists until I get back.  I am fine, and I am taking healthy steps to become downright awesome.  Jonah has been enjoying his 2-week break before school.  He learns well, but he does love to ask no school today? and have his words validated…

That’s right, buddy.  No school today.

And so today’s quote is from my favorite book, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett.  Its protagonist, Sara Crewe, is arguably one of the greatest characters in literature.  Someone gifted me the book when I was 10, along with The Secret Garden, and it took me 6 years to finally pick them up and give them a chance.  They looked Victorian.  Boring.

I was never so happy to be so wrong.  I have read them and re-read them probably 40 or 50 times.  I loved her other books as well, but this one tops the list.  It even tops (I’m gritting my teeth here for going out on such a limb) The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder, which may well be my second favorite book.  Maybe I should try to make a top 10 list.  It’s as mutable as water, though, and could change tomorrow.  In fact I’ll forget all kinds of books in the very consideration of ranking them.  And most of them are children’s or young adult books.

“Perhaps there is a language which is not made of words and everything in the world understands it.”
~Sara Crewe; A Little Princess
But I’ll try anyway:
1.  A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett
2.  The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder
3. The Giver by Lois Lowry
4.  Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
5. Watership Down by Richard Adams
6. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
7. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck
8.  Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
9.  The Glass Bead Game: (Magister Ludi) by Herman Hesse
10. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
There’s no way I can stop at ten.  So many books belong in my top ten.  Why did I start this impossible task?
11.  Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
12.  The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd
13. 1984 by George Orwell
14.  Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
15. The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
I have also been instructed to write ten positive things about myself.  And so, one more list:
1.  I am a giver.
2.  I can make people laugh.
3.  It is easy for me to love.
4.  I am friendly.
5.  I am kind.
6.  I care about my planet and its people.
7. I want to make a difference in the world.
8. I am a good writer.
9. I smile at strangers.
10. I am a nurturing mother.
And hey:
Thank you to everyone who commented, or treated me with an extra bit of kindness, or has reached out to me because they care.  Thank you.

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this is why

“The writer, when he is also an artist, is someone who admits what others don’t dare reveal.”

~ Elia Kazan

 

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I felt anger yesterday.  And resentment.  Envy.  Ugly thoughts.  I don’t belong on facebook because of my hyper-sensitivity, but I’m on it to be the Scare-Me-Not mommy.  Facebook, childishly, really hurts.  I look around the site and see things that make me jealous, or left out, or angry.

Sisters on a beach vacation – beautiful, strong sisters I wish with all my heart were my own.  Family at Yankee Stadium – something I’d love to be invited to (and have vocalized this wish to my mother many times when she was one of the crew) but have been left out of over and over again until I gave up.  Young couples with their arms around each other, grinning ear to ear.  Friends who get 3 vacations in one summer.  The beach, the beach, the beach.  Their children playing together, jumping in the waves.  More sisters, four or five, all grinning, all looking like one another, all there for one another, no matter what.

(Oh, to bring Jonah back to the beach.  To hear him gleefully cry “the ocean!” again.  Now, it’s impossible.  Next year I will plan ahead and see if I can hire someone like Joe to go with me to help me with him – and we’ll take him to Cape Cod. )

The young family living in Hawaii.  The really nice rich cousin whose family goes to Rome, or Milan, or wherever else the 1% go for vacation.  The family who has little material possessions yet is drowning in love.

Then, the people fighting diseases, fighting for causes, fighting for their children…trapped in the midst of horrible things – all of them rooted deep in faith, all of them brave and uncomplaining.

And then there is me.

I don’t have the diplomacy to keep my mouth shut and I don’t have the grace to be uncomplaining and I don’t have the faith to hold me up.

For all those who so kindly commented on my last post, you see I am mostly just a little girl, emotionally – frightened and bratty as hell.  The spoiled only child who grew into the downwardly mobile idealistic hippie chick college student, who grew into a married woman who had a baby largely because she knew the child would have an amazing father (never even considering what kind of a mother I would make) who grew yet again into a numbed, dumbed-down version of herself – a broken, tired, jealous, Peri-menopausal mess.

There is no heroism in me and very little strength.

The acts of kindness I like to commit are only a conscious effort to combat what I know about myself…to have something, anything, to put some weight on the other side of the scale.  I like to believe myself a Buddhist, a least a little, and a Christian, a little more, and yet I fall so short of the ideals, the teachings.  I can’t stop these tight, tears-behind-my-eyes, ugly feelings that come roaring up inside me like a sickness.

So yesterday, when all was said and done, I eventually reaped what I had sown – ripe seeds of nasty, intrusive, pissy, uncalled-for emotions.

But I’ll get back to that later.

My mom and I drove down for our Saturday Jonah visit, and, as Andy said later, “he was on his A game.”  He was so amazingly good.  Almost too good.  What do I mean by that?  I guess mostly that it’s easier to leave him behind when he is aggressive and scream-y and difficult.  When he’s so good, I want to hold him close to me and never let go.

I taped a small “conversation” I had with Jonah but I’m not sure how easy it is to hear.  If you listen closely, at the very end, Andy asks, “Jonah, what’s a fart say?” and Jonah blows a raspberry.

And not only did he go swimming at the river,

He dropped his purple “octopus” in the river and then just pointed to it. “Go get it!” I told him…

…so he did.

Jonah and his dad, running back to the car at Jonah’s request to go to “grocery store?”

Andy, strapping Jonah into his car harness as Jonah laughs hysterically and clutches “purple octopus.”

…as visions of grocery stores dance in his head…

…but we also drove to “grocery store” at Jonah’s request to buy waffles and syrup and orange soda.  I watched as my boy got his own cart, spun it around and into the store, expertly steered it past both produce and people, and acted like a good little kid, only occasionally asking for something we weren’t going to buy (and taking it very well when we said “not now” or “tomorrow” or any of the other distraction words — anything but “no.”)    Jonah acted better, even, than some of the other kids there.  Of course we did have to go to the self-check out to avoid any waiting, but still it was so incredibly cool to watch him growing and learning and doing so well.

When my mom and I left, it was with the hope we always have when Boo is good – that he will continue in this direction, steadily learning patience and life skills as well as academics, gradually improving, progressively making his way out of aggression and into verbalization.  Socialization.  Happiness.  It never happens, of course – there is always the backslide, but every time, we hope – we have learned its necessity.

When I returned home from our visit, I drove up to the Rensselaerville Falls and made a large nature art creation.  Nobody was around.  Nobody almost ever is…even when the parking lot is full, most people are on the ridiculously steep trails.  I hefted rocks that I looked at after I was done, wondering how I’d lifted some of them at all — then, with my rock-circle-wall sufficiently constructed, I began decorating it, first with two branches to make a cross, then with fallen leaves I could find on the ground or trapped swirling around a stick in the water.

I sat on a rock shelf nearby and listened to the waterfall, always rushing, never-ending, as calming and reassuring a sound I’d ever heard.  I first searched for patterns in the sound, and for a while I opened myself further and let them enter me.  When I arose from my reverie, I realized I had made this creation for Liam the Brave –  The sweet, suffering toddler for whom I made the box.

And I walked fully clothed into the area of water surrounding me, into the middle toward the next waterfall level, feet groping as the water rose higher and higher on me.  To my calves.  My mid-thighs.  My waist.  Close enough to the drop of the falls for the sound to swallow my screams, loud and long and enraged.  I screamed and thrashed around in the water as if dousing Wicked Witches into melting pools.  I cried and I sobbed.  I yelled primal, awful AAAAAHHHHHs, and, finally, raised my body tall and straight.

I walked purposefully up and out of the pool of water, back over to my rock creation, and felt the rage rise again.  I barely stopped myself from deconstructing the creation, rock by rock, and shot-putting the smaller ones into the water, smashing them against rocks, pitching them at the falls.

But I didn’t.  It isn’t mine anymore, I thought.  It’s Liam’s now.

I picked up my things – my bug repellent, my camera, my sandals – and carried them up the hill, along the trail, and back to the car.

It was not until the moment I reached for the driver’s door handle that I realized I’d locked the doors (something I almost never, ever do).

With a sinking heart, I realized I’d left my purse (with my cell phone and my keys) in the trunk.

And what did I do?  I smiled.  The karmic slap.  You reap what you sow, you jealous, angry bitch.

Instead of finding someone in the Huyck Preserve office (I was sure it was closed anyway) or knocking on a neighbor’s door to ask if I could use their phone to call AAA, I just smiled again.

I know what I’ll do.

I searched around the parking lot for a little while until I found what I thought was a hefty, perfect, pointed rock.  Then I walked over to the driver’s side way-back triangle-window, and brought down the rock as hard as I could, right in the middle of the glass.  Instead of hearing a satisfying shatter, I watched a white scratch appear as the rock bounced off.  It was loud as hell, though, echoing throughout the park.  Again and again I brought the rock down on the glass.  More and more and more white scratches appeared.  Some small nicks.  Nothing much else.  By now the glass would need replacing anyway, I realized, whether I broke it or not.

So I reached down, grabbed up the uncomplaining rock, and walked maybe two feet away from the car.  I aimed as best I could and threw the rock at the window with all the strength I had.  Rock bounced off window.  I picked it up and threw it again, where it bashed in the silver trim halfway between the way-back-triangle window and the back window.  Still I threw it again, this time making the familiar white-mark-scratch, only this time even further off mark, on the back window.

At this point I was half in tears at my stupidity and half-laughing at the strange fun of trying to bash a window in with a heavy, sharp rock.

Finally, I walked to the office, which was actually open, and found a young man inside.  “Did you just hear all that noise?”  I asked him.  “Yeah,”  he answered.  “I was about to come out and see what’s going on.”

“What’s going on,” I said, “is  I’m trying to bash out my back window because I locked my keys in the car.  Do you happen to have a hammer?”

He did.  Both a sledgehammer and a pick-axe.  He chose the sledgehammer and held it out to me.  “Do you want to do it or do you want me to do it?” he asked.  “You do it, please,” I answered, not wanting to make a wild swing and cave in the roof or something.

“Well I’ve never done this before,” he said before giving the window just a wee more than a tap with his giant sledgehammer.  The result was my anticipated, satisfying SMASH, glass all over the inside of my car.

If you look closely you can see where I white-scratched the back window and dented the trim.

I thanked the dude, stuck my lanky arm through the hole, unlocked the back door, opened it, stuck my body in the car, used my lanky arm to reach the front door lock and unlock it, popped the trunk, grabbed my purse, slammed the trunk shut and the back door closed, and drove the hell home.

Another view of my happy little car

And so, in one of the longest posts I’ve written in quite some time, there lies the moral of the karmic smash:

Don’t waste time being angry, or jealous, or resentful.  You’ll end up falling under the illusion of surface-sight and misunderstanding.  You’ll end up making assumptions that may not be true.  You’ll end up a grasping fool, unhappy and repellent.  There is no good in any of it.  Let it all go. 

Learn it, Amy.  And right quick.

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A year ago today, Andy and I dressed Jonah in a green “Hi!  My name is Jonah” shirt, drove him to the Anderson Center for Autism, dropped him off, and left him to live and attend school there.

I have a good memory for dates, so this was an easy one to remember – aside from the fact that it’s the day Elvis died (35 years ago today).  I woke up this morning with a strange feeling of dread, as though I were going to have to go through the whole thing all over again.

And yet something saved me from turning into the weepy self-pitying woman I, left unchecked, have the tendency to be.

That something was a boy.  And a box.

Someone on Facebook commented on the Scare Me Nots page (I am their facebook “mommy”) – and when I saw the name, I was compelled to look at their page.  The page is for a little toddler who enjoyed 3 months of health before seizures led to a discovery that his little brain is essentially degenerating – and there is nothing they can do.  I wrote to the boy’s mom and asked for her address so I could send her the Scare Me Not she liked.

Then, last night, I spent hours filling and decorating the box, all sides of the box, with pictures from books and magazines and calendars in my crafting basement.  I used a whole roll of packing tape and carefully adorned the box as though it were a gift in and of itself.  The process distracted me from thinking about how I haven’t had my Boo with me for a year.

This mama may not have her little boy at all for much longer.  There’s nothing like perspective to keep you from self-absorption.

When I got to work with the box in my passenger seat, I felt an urgency to get the box to her for her boy.  So I left work and stood in line when the post office opened, and I mailed it the fastest way I could.   Now I feel like I love her boy as well as my own.  I pray for him as I pray for Boo.  And after I mailed that box, I was no longer so worried, so pained, so obsessed with thinking, wishing, complaining, crying about my own boy — and I let go of holding myself bow-string tight.

Instead I felt humbled, and no longer alone in my sadness.  Pain is pain.  Loss is loss.  Everyone has to have some.  None escape grief and trouble.  We all have crosses to bear, some of them terrible.  Unimaginable.

Yet there is a hope we all must hold, that things will get better, that the light at the end of the tunnel is not an oncoming train but rather a beacon of sunshine.

That on the other side there is beauty — and others – even strangers – who really do care.

“All that matters is what we do for each other.”
  ~ Lewis Carroll

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