Back Then

I remember feeling amazed and nervously excited when I descended the stairs in our tiny 2-bedroom apartment to tell my husband of 8 years I was pregnant. He looked up at me, “Really?!” Nodding, I confirmed what we’d been planning for about a year. We were thrilled.

I devoured all the books, the guided meditations that were supposed to help with birth, ate all the ginger things and was sad when I had to quit my job because of severe morning all-day-and-night sickness. Eventually I felt better with the aid of medication and tracked all the changes in my body and read details about the growing baby.

Over a decade ago, Jenny McCarthy could be seen all over spouting her doctor’s erroneous findings that vaccines cause autism. Back then, this was my worst fear; (and likely a fear of many parents-to-be) that something could be “wrong” with the life growing inside of me. I remember telling my friend at the time, “I pray that nothing like that happens to my baby.”

Jacob was born 4 days after our due date and was a hefty 9lb 11oz. He hit all the physical developmental milestones, had the most adorable smile, and was the center of our world. I struggled with breastfeeding and postpartum depression, but felt our “new normal” of life with a baby around 3-5 months.

As he grew, we noticed little things that, at the time, gave us no cause for concern. Things like his inability to be laid down on his back while asleep. He would startle awake and scream. We carried him and let him fall asleep in our Ergo baby carrier. We co-slept because as long as we were all getting sleep, the location didn’t really matter to us. He nursed and didn’t desire solid foods. Getting messy and exploring foods with fingers seemed not to be his thing but for just a handful of times. He wasn’t verbal until almost 3 after speech therapy interventions. We had taught him sign language and had developed our own unique way of communicating. We discovered his right eye blindness as we prepared for preschool and kindergarten. Jacob struggled at the dentist and doctor visits. We prepped him well in advance for changes in routine, as well as transitions from one activity to another. We adapted. We learned. We read and researched and asked questions.

Jacob was evaluated at 2, 5, and diagnosed with ADHD-inattattentive type (with Autism Spectrum Discorder verbiage in the paperwork, but not formally ASD diagnosed) at 8, and now at 10 we are looking forward to another comprehensive evaluation. His IQ is 133. He’s crazy smart, and loves to learn about things that interest him. He as a 504 plan in place at school for accommodations as needed. We are working with an occupational therapist who has taught us both.

Sitting in the car before an appointment, we were chatting before heading into “food school”.

“Mom. I want to work at Microsoft,” Jacob told me, veering off of whatever topic we were currently discussing.

“Really? Why is that?” I asked.

“Bill Gates is thought to be on the spectrum. Maybe I could work with him and help other people like us. Plus, I like computers.”

“I think you would be great at that.”

As he walked into the appointment it hit me how far we’ve traveled on this autism journey. How scared I was for him, and frustrated at times because life with someone on the spectrum isn’t always easy. I struggled (and sometimes still do) when people are judgmental or unkind, knowingly or not. He makes me laugh out loud at his literal way of thinking, his interpretations of figures of speech and his other little quirks. I love the protectiveness he feels for his sister. He has taught me compassion, patience, and to slow down and see things from another perspective, that different isn’t wrong, it’s just different.

Back then, I just didn’t know.

I didn’t know how much I could love another human. I didn’t know that autism spectrum disorder really sucks as a label because it doesn’t feel like “disorder”. I stopped asking the futile “Why?” and “What is the cause?” questions years ago. It doesn’t do any good and there are no satisfying answers. It just is. I didn’t know that I would one day be thankful for resources and knowledge and tools to help him navigate and understand the world.

I never thought that I would be thankful for autism.

That was then.


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Scary Things and Happy Tears

Do things that scare you.

Such a great idea – in theory. But things that really scare you? Um….but….it’s scary!

A scary thing to me is anything car engine related. Eric has done a TON of work on this beater, whom we lovingly named Bertha. I grew up in the midst of many cars in various states of completion. I remember playing in the body of a Pontiac pretending to drive. The thing had no wheels or engine, but it drove me all over my imagination! Playing in cars and actually trying to get them running, however, are two very different things.

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We’ve been driving a little Honda Civic for a while now, but it’s tiny. My minions have long legs, we have 3 dogs. I eat my knees while I drive. It’s a bit ridiculous.

We limped her down to have a friend take a look and narrow down what may be the issue. When I turned around to see why Hannah was just standing by the open door, I noticed she was crying.

“What’s wrong??” I thought maybe she’d slammed her finger in the door or something.

“They’re h-h-h-a-p-p-y tears,” she said, sobbing. “I’ve missed Big Bertha so much!!” She climbed in and started petting her seat. (Can’t imagine where she might get her flair for the dramatic and emotional.)

After being told it was likely the alternator (draining the battery and giving us issues dying), I looked in and thought, “Hmmm, I wonder if I could do it myself.” It would have been convenient to have a mechanic just do it, pay for labor, the parts etc., but where’s the fun in that? Plus, paying for an alternator is cheaper than buying a new car! I called around and got a remanufactured alternator, got my military discount, and brought it home.

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I mean, really, what could possibly go wrong?

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Cover and air intake manifold off. DUDE. I know what an air intake manifold is. Also, ratchet, sockets, torque, drive belt, tensioning rod are all terms I am now VERY familiar with!

Huge thanks to the FaceTime interview with my dad, emails with Eric, the YouTube how-to video, and for the Facebook conversations narrowing things down and tips given! Helped me keep my sense of humor for sure!

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Who knew this dang connector would give me such fits!? It was a beast to get out, but I finally did it. Fighting with this thing is what took the most time. That and walking back and forth to hubby’s toolbox a bazillion times to get the right sized sockets and wrenches. Side note: all bolts in cars should be a standard size. Seriously. Why must they be 498 different sized items?

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Not ashamed to say it – I totally sang The Lion King “ahhhh savanya!!” when I got that alternator out!

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Hannah came out to “help” but played on my phone while I put the new shiny alternator in and put all the puzzle pieces back together.

Only one misshap: I lost a nut during reassembly. (Hate it when I lose my nuts!) It’s in the depths where I can see, but cannot reach. I even tried a magnet, but it was too far down in there. This is the point at which I thank my dear husband for being a pack rat with tools and parts. I was able to easily locate a replacement nut and get it done.

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The tensioner was the part the freaked me out the most. Turns out, it wasn’t that bad. You just have to pull on it to loosen that belt and voila! Came right off.

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Put back together good as new! (Well still dusty, but back together!)

Finally I grabbed the keys and because I didn’t want to jinx myself, I refrained from putting away all the tools. I would have hated to have had to drag them all back out again should it not start. I called my parents and said, ” Okay, moment of truth,” and turned the key.

It started.

Annnnd, I cried. (Seriously, I have NO idea where my daughter gets it.)

It runs much better than it did. Going to grab some fuel injector cleaner next, (because I now know what that is) and get my core charge back (I know what that is now, too!)

Welcome back to life Bertha! We’ve missed you!

Anticipation

I’ve always been afraid of it. I don’t really know why. Frequently maligned and mocked things can come across as scary. It was with great trepidation I even gathered the courage to…

put it in my grocery cart.

But I did it.


Steeling myself as I reached for what I assumed was gelatinous goo, I set it on the counter to open the packaging. The label said “extra firm” but I could hear the sloshing of liquid inside. Frustratingly, the label offered no window with which to peek.

“Deep breath,” I told myself.

Gently peeling back the label, I was greeted with nothing more than a simple white rectangular prism sitting in its own nice little pool of water. No mold, no worms, no other disgusting materials of which nightmares are made. Just a rectangle of white.

I poked at it with my finger, curiosity overcoming my trepidation. “Hmm, it IS firm,” I thought, and proceeded to follow the directions for my breakfast scramble.

The white rectangle stared silently as the other vegetation warmed itself by the fire.


I crumbled it in, added garlic and tuneric, cooked and stirred. “It really resembles scrambled eggs,” I told the kids who really couldn’t care less.


Bottom line: It really DOES take on the flavors it is cooked in. With a bit of salsa and in a tortilla, it could easily be a delicious breakfast taco. Ahhh, the possibilities are endless. Like most scary things, the anticipation was far worse than the thing itself.

One thing I did learn through this recipe is that I’m not a huge fan of turmeric. I don’t mind it in tea, but in my scramble it wasn’t my fave…..but I’m excited to experiment more!

What is your favorite way to make tofu? Were you ever scared to try it? Tell me and share your favorite recipes!

via Daily Prompt: Impression

Complicated Risk

BAM!

The sudden crack of the window next to my computer sounded like the thud of an errant ball lobbed in the wrong direction and as soon as it did, I ducked, certain I was about to be covered in shards.

When the raining glass never fell, I opened my blinds to figure out what the heck had slammed so hard. There lay a bird in the grass, blinking slowly, stunned.

I took a deep breath and watched.

Early this morning at church (and for as long as I can remember) our pastor discussed getting involved. “Become a part of the community,” they invite, week after week. They have this picture of the church logo at the front of the sanctuary, but it’s all puzzle pieces. Various names have been written on a few – a visual of people volunteering time and talents for the community at large.

I’ve often contemplated volunteering, not just here, but at many of the churches we’ve attended in various duty stations. Some I have, others I haven’t. We’ve done children’s church, nursery care, and hosted small groups. Looking at our last year here, I’ve been telling myself, “We only have one year. Why bother now?” I also work at a gym. I know in my bones that working in this field is what I’m meant to do. It’s a way to serve others, help, and contribute something positive. I know the positive impact that health and fitness has had in my life, as well as my family’s – how could I not pay that forward?

We all have a tendency to complicate these things when we are afraid of being told no, or of what we perceive as failing. It has been put to me (in numerous ways, as will happen) that “I have a year left. What am I going to do with that year?” If the invitation presents itself, what will I do with it? Will I say no? My introverted self would like that. No risk, but no reward, either.

Towards the end of today’s sermon, the pastor takes two of the puzzle pieces out of the easel and throws them in two directions. One flies in one direction, the other flies in front of my seat. Usually when I hear people talking about “God saying” this or that, I cringe. It always sounds “churchy” to me. How the heck do you know what God is saying?

I chuckle at Lily Tomlin’s quote: “Why is it that when we talk to God we’re said to be praying, but when God talks to us we’re schizophrenic?”

While I have never heard God audibly speak, I do experience intuition, a gut-knowing, a without-question-clear-cut indication when I’m being urged in one direction or another. Call that what you want, God, the universe, what have you – it’s usually pretty clear. The question is always, how then do I respond?

Eric heads off to pick up the kids and hands me the puzzle piece. I promptly head to the bathroom to collect my thoughts. What if I’ve got this all wrong? Who needs a fitness instructor in the church?

Ugh. Okay, okay, fine. I’ll go.

I swallow my nerves, gather my stuff and that darn puzzle piece and wait a moment to chat with the pastor. Holding it up, “Can I chat with you for a moment about this,” I ask, voice trembling, hand shaking. “Sure!” he says as he takes the piece. Briefly explaining what I do and my passion, his eyes light up and he nods, taking down my number, asking if we can meet later this week to discuss ideas further.

*FREAKING OUT*

“I would love that,” I exhale, relieved, grateful that I’m not way off base here in thinking that perhaps fitness and the church community are not mutually exclusive.

My thoughts return to the stunned bird at the bottom of my windowpane. She’s still blinking. I watch as she continues to slowly blink her blue-rimmed eyes. A quiet, “Get up little, one. you can do this,” comes out. I want to call my kids over to watch, but hesitate, not sure if this bird is going to make it or not. I don’t want to frighten the poor thing, or have my daughter want to bring it inside, only to be heartbroken if it doesn’t survive. She gingerly stands up, waddles over to the edge of the window where I can no longer see her. I don’t know if she will make a go of it, if she’s broken a wing or a leg.

Perhaps today, right now, it’s just enough that she took a step.

Confessions of an Introvert

I showed my husband the website. We organized the dates, arranged for time off of work, and made it happen. I was going to attend a fitness conference on the east coast. It seemed so far away when we were planning it months ago. There were 4 locations to choose from. Why not go somewhere I’ve never been?

Then as it came nearer, so did my apprehension.

I don’t know what it is that makes me this way. Being married with kids, I am so accostomed to the hubby “handling stuff”, especially when we travel. It’s been a while since I’ve traveled alone, much less to a place I’ve never been. On the flip side – I’m a military spouse so independence is something that you either have, or you get – one way or another. I’m good at independence. I can do solo stuff. I can sit in a restaruant alone and eat – no biggie. Social solo? Meh.

2 flights, rental car and a drive from Boston into Providence – I survived rush hour traffic on little sleep. I got to see Fenway park. This part of the country is breathtaking and reminds me of the green of the Pacific Northwest. Day one of the Perform Better summit and I’m loving it! All the tools, the expert presenters, the lectures (yes, I’m a nerd at heart and would love to figure out a way to be career student!) Then there are hands-on clinics. Love them, and am learning a ton – but the whole “pair up, get into groups, introduce yourself to someone you’ve never met blah, blah, nightmare, blah.” I do it. I’ve met a couple of people. It’s tolerable, but not my comfort zone at all. And then the lovely evening coctail social. I went. I had a cocktail. I left and took myself to dinner. It was delicious and the company lovely. I don’t know that I will ever be entirely comfortable in networking situations. I hated them even when I worked in banking, and not much has changed.

And that’s okay.

“Introverts dislike small talk, but we are fluent in the language of ideas and dreams.” – Michaela Chung

“Introverts are capable of acting like extroverts for the sake of work they consider important, people they love, or anything they value highly.” – Susan Cain

What about you? Are you a social butterfly or a more of an introvert? What do you do to survive awkwardness?

Side note: The regional accents here are THICK! I feel like I’m having conversations with characters from Saturday Night Live!

Tattoo Part Two

Since leaving Hawaii, I knew that I wanted to help people. To help people do what I did, and I’m not just talking about losing weight. Fitness is the vehicle, but more than that, I wanted to help people discover their own strength. To help moms see that being a martyr and giving without ceasing helps no one in the long run. That it’s more than okay to take care of yourself – in fact it’s necessary. That it’s healthy to show our kids what self care looks like in action. They learn more from what we do and how we treat ourselves than just lip service. As the cliche goes, actions speak louder than words.

But wanting to become a trainer and help people and actually doing it are very different things. I even blogged about having a big dream, but was too afraid to specifically articulate it publicly at that point. Dreams are scary. What if I fail? What if I am no good?

What kept nagging at the back of my mind was, “But oh my, what if you succeed?!”

Up until last year, getting certified and becoming a personal trainer was something I would do “someday”. Maybe next year. Maybe when the deployment is over. When “life isn’t so busy”. (As if it’s ever NOT busy!?) Someday. Truth? The truth is I was scared. Petrified. What if I don’t pass the certification test? What if I suck as a personal trainer? What if I can’t find a job? And the “What ifs…” go on and on.

I made a decision at the beginning of the year to make this one a year of action. I was going to stop talking about doing stuff someday, and just go do it already. Enough procrastination. Sink or swim, this dream of mine wasn’t going to go anywhere so I better lace up and start chasing it. Even if I was afraid.

I got my first tattoo a few years ago. Personally, it’s not an impulsive thing to decide to get a tattoo. I like having significance or a story behind it, or to bookmark an event or chapter in life. This year of action has been an important next chapter. This year has been one of, as Theodore Roosevelt called it and Brene Brown discussed further; “getting into the arena”:

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It’s also been a year of being afraid, nervous, but moving forward regardless. It’s been one of turning fear into fierce.

In addition to the theme of “Action Despite Fear”, there were a couple of other components that made this tattoo selection seem almost a forgone conclusion:

As a Christian, I love C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. It is a beautiful allegory of faith, grace, unconditional love, touching on themes of courage and fear and what that looks like in life. I also love the film adaptations and am thrilled that my kiddos love it as much as I do.

My Hair. Through school I was called names and made fun of because of these crazy tresses, this wild unruly mane that I have only truly embraced over the last decade or so. (Thank goodness for great hair products!)

Astrological Sign. I’m not a huge proponent of astrology, but it does pique my curiosity as some of the general descriptions are pretty close. Mine happens to be Leo.

After considering all of these things and thinking about it for a few months, this is what I came up with:

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The butterfly represented the change. The lion represents living out those changes, even when it’s hard. Even when it’s scary. I can say I chased my dream. I get to get up and do something I am unabashedly passionate about.

Fear into fierce.

Have a tattoo? What’s the story behind your ink?

Inside Out

Have you seen the latest Pixar film Inside Out?

I love how recent animated movies are shifting away from the typical “damsel in distress” or “good vs. bad guy” themes and moving more into deeper territory. Inside Out depicts the inner monologues of a young girl and her family, and how so often the voices in our heads can steer us into the right or the wrong direction. It also beautifully illustrates that we need joy and sadness, for without one, there isn’t the other. Like so many children’s films, there’s plenty of humor for the entire audience, but there are some wonderful, more substantial themes.

We viewed this film while on our mini vacation to visit friends. Along the way we went to a waterslide park which was fun, and sparked the memories of waterslides I went to as a kid. I LOVE the water and always have. Any vacation was met with the question, “Does the hotel have a pool?!!” because to kids, the pool IS the vacation. I did not have a fear of heights that I remember growing up. For whatever reason, that has changed. My stomach does flip flops, I get panicky. It’s not pleasant. I have to concentrate and focus to push through it. The voices in my head were raging as I gulped down some terror approaching the stairs. “Do not look up,” I told myself. “And when you get up there, don’t look down.”

Focus.

Hannah was screaming, “BEST DAY EVER!” racing up the slippery steps and Jacob was taking two stairs at a time trying to beat Eric to the top, wind blowing his inner tube around crazily. Death grip on the railing, my knuckles clenched white,  Eric asks, “How are you doing?”

“Fine,” I mutter, just trying to breathe. Trying not to envision the minions plummeting down to their deaths. Hoping I wouldn’t biff myself too badly on the slide, I kept telling myself that it would be worth it. “One step at a time. Look only at your feet. Just get to the top, the ride down will be worth it.”

And you know what? It was.

I kept climbing up every time the kids shouted, “Let’s do it again!!” Each time I swallowed hard, focused and just did it. It was a blast. I’m never going to be that cool mom that sun bathes on the lounger. That’s fine, but it’s just not me. I want to get in there with them and play, even if the voice of fear in my head is screaming, “NO! You’re going to DIE!”

I want my kids to remember me in the moment, not always taking a picture of the moment. I want them to be having fun with me, not around me. I want them to see me get my hair wet and crazy, but with smiles on our faces. If I want them to know how to breathe in a moment and revel in their own joy, I have to lead by example. 

No matter what the pesky voices in our heads say!