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There are some bright spots today – Aidan, my little 5-year old boy who is autistic, has decided that he wants to wear big-boy pants!!!! Hallelujah, he may not go to school in pull-ups. I’ve been changing his diapers for 5 1/2 years, and I am SO ready to be done with that. I think he got jealous of his 3-year old sister, which is FINE by me. 🙂 That, and the “tooth fairy” left a note for him telling him he had to be a big boy and wear big boy pants, because he’s growing up. ;p

The other bright spot comes from my daughter Rebecca – I’ve never seen a child narrate her life to music the way this little girl does. Everything is something to sing about – “I going to water, water plants…” to “I go to the pot-tay, pot-tay, pot-tay…” to (at the top of her little lungs) “Mommy’s driving, Mommy’s driving cossetrate!” Seeing her sing reminds me of myself at her age…I loved to sing. My mother used to tell me “Laura, you couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket.” Well, Becca doesn’t either…and I LOVE to hear her singing. It’s the most beautiful sound in the world to me, next to hearing my kidlets laugh – it shows she’s so happy with her world, that she just breaks out in song.

How much better does it get? 🙂

Aidan and Becca playing "hide from Mommy" at the park - June 2009

I have to admit there are days when I wonder HOW we survive our children…”Capt. Obvious” decided, in his infinite lack of wisdom that it would be a good thing to torrent/download a copyrighted file containing the Harry Potter audio books… How many ways can you say, “DUH???” So, in typical litigious fashion, our internet provider (who shall remain nameless, because *I* don’t want to face any kind of lawsuit) has sent their “warning letter across the bow.” Meaning, they have told us, “BUSTED!”

Now, here’s the thing…Capt. Obvious knows better. He’s 19. But this is also a kid who has no driver’s license, no money in the bank, no job, and no car …and who wants to move in with his friends next year to go to another college – one for which he has not applied. Ok – how many ways can you say “Unprepared”? This is a kid who is 19 going on 10-11. He says he’s going to take full responsibility for the copyright thing – and I think that’s wonderful. However, if he gets fined, I’m wondering where he thinks the money is going to come from? AND, he’s 19 – he’s not a kid anymore in the eyes of the law. The penalities could (and should) be bigger for someone who should know better.

Hopefully, this is a warning and it will go no further. Me, being me, though – I catastrophize. I’m envisioning lawyers descending on the house, subpoenas in hand, having to turn over every bit of electronica for examination of something that MIGHT have violated the copyright. I try to be honest – I really do. I know my husband does too – he works for the police, for crying out loud…I have to wonder if Capt. Obvious here realizes the hot water he could get us ALL into.

So…am I ticked off with him? OH yes…Hubby and I have told him he has to erase/delete every single bit of everything he’s ever downloaded. If he doesn’t have a receipt for it – it’s gone. Period. He has to use his computer in full view of us at all times, now, and I’m tempted to tell him he has to use it for school purposes only (although even that might be a stretch given his grades last semester.)

Meanwhile, MY blood pressure has skyrocketed, and I’m afraid I’m going to lose my connection because of his stupidity. Sigh…I guess we’ll see what happens. In the mean time, if I disappear, you know why. If someone else out there has gone through this with their kid, would you please let me know, and let me know how it turned out? I love my kid, pain in the rear that he can be.

I don’t know about you all, but to me the idea of a “retreat” sounds pretty wonderful right now. (A Caribbean vacation does, too – but hey, I’m trying to think realistically!). A friend of mine in Connecticut, Corinne “CoCo” Melvin is hosting a women’s retreat with the theme “Realize, Release, and ReFire” in Westport, CT. (Not to mention that face that being in CT in and of itself is a retreat for me!)

I admit it – I’m jealous! Frankly, I would love to ease back, and enjoy a retreat…I’d have hot teas (herbal, decaf, and regular), and yummy foods: fruit, cheese,crackers – and of course, chocolate! Soft relaxation music playing… I envision a group of about 20-30 women, interested in empowering themselves, living fully, and realizing the power of each other by learning about themselves and each other over the course of a day…a place where we can come together, and know that we’re not alone in all this. We are not alone – powerful words, again.

I’d have journaling workshops with all kind of creative materials, a stretching or yoga class, a meditation class, or creative visualization. I’d do a session on developing and writing your own personal myth – YOUR story, and where you want it to go, as well as do something where people could develop and create a personal symbol for them – to symbolize their growth, their self-love, and their connection to what’s important to them. I would hope to find something where people could connect with their dreams, and the person who gets lost in the day-to-day hassles of everyday living – and be able to take home that symbol as a reminder that this person is STILL there.

I would love to finish the day with a meal – literally, break bread with each other, and end with a releasing and celebration service or ritual, in the outside world…a park or yard, some outside space whereever we’d be.

As women, we often have the sense that we have to go it alone, that we have to be perfect and never show any weaknesses. We feel so isolated, even around people, because it’s so hard to let our authentic selves out. We feel vulnerable, judged, possibly rejected because we may or may not fit in, or we may not fit what we thing others want us to be. We are so alone, and lonely sometimes…I would love to have this retreat as a way to connect with each other, to say “you’re NOT alone” and “I understand”…”WE understand.” “You really CAN be who you are here, it’s ok.”

Anyway, that’s my dream retreat. I hope someday soon, I can make it happen. Until then…I’m dreaming, too – and working to make that dream a reality.

This is cross-posted from my other blog, “The Other Side of the Couch” where I discuss more psychological and professional issues.

Do you ever have times when it feels like the world is crashing down, and everybody wants everything – not just now, but yesterday-than-you-very-much? Sigh…it’s been one of those days for me. I feel like I’m spinning my wheels with trying to find work -and setting up a private practice feels like starting to climb Mt. Everest. There’s not just the therapy/psychology stuff to tie up (application for licensure, getting supervision, finding office space…) but also the business aspects, like registering a business in Colorado, figuring out what taxes and how much I’m going to have to pay, finding all the right forms, dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s. And the big thing, of course, is the money.

I’m like a lot of you – I have a lot of student loans and a credit card. My credit card, I will take full and total responsibility for – after all I decided to use it and I need to be the one to pay it. It’s that simple. My student loans…well, I wouldn’t have gotten through school without them, and I WANT to pay them off. I’m making payments now – barely – with my job as a nursery supervisor in our church. BUT – the money to start my practice has to come from somewhere, right?

I feel like I can’t apply for a loan – how am I going to say I’m going to pay it, when I’m not even sure I’m going to get clients? How do I advertise my services (groups, couples, individuals, personality disorders, DBT, etc) without spending some money somewhere on promotional materials? It feels like a catch-22, and I feel so discouraged.

If you ever looked at my professional blog, you know I advocate strongly for coping tools. So…I’m practicing what I preach. I’m telling myself that I don’t have to do it all at once, that I can get help if I need it, and somehow it will work out. I’m writing (something that helps me), journaling and soothing myself (hot cup of tea, anyone? I made a MEAN coconut chai…) I’m planning, too – I’ve got a notebook and am keeping track of everything I’ve done, people I’ve contacted, promotional ideas, and initial/start-up expenses.

In all actuality, my start-up costs are going to be pretty low for a new business – about $3000. I COULD finance that on another credit card, but I figure I”m worried enough about making payments on the one I have and on my student loans. I guess that getting a loan isn’t much different, though – I’d be making a monthly payment no matter what, right? So…I think the hardest part is getting over the fear.

And funny I should be facing this yet again…One of my favorite self-help books is called, “Feel the fear and do it anyway” (Susan Jeffers – AWESOME book). The fear is really what’s overwhelming, when I get down to it. Everything else is details, and are things I can take care of…it’s that fear – the fear of failing, of having to declare bankruptcy, of having my credit ruined (my ex-hubby did that for me before and I NEVER want to go through that again) – there are any number of things to be afraid of.

So if I were working with a client, what would I say? Probably pick one baby step, and do it. Just do it, and then deal with the fear. I’d remind myself that I really don’t have to do it all at once, and that baby steps are fine. I’d probably have myself list the tasks and then prioritize them a couple of ways -in order of easiest to accomplish, most pressing, etc. And, me being me, I’d have myself keep a record of what I did, how I felt and what I thought while doing it, and how I felt/thought after it was over. Yeah, folks, I really use this stuff myself, too 🙂

So…I guess with these things in mind, here I go…wish me well 🙂

This is also posted on “The Other Side of the Couch,” my more professionally oriented blog.

My son, Aidan, is autistic. We began to suspect that something was wrong when Aidan didn’t start to walk on time, like other kids. He eventually did walk, at 16 months, and our doctors told us, “Don’t worry, he’s fine.” Now to any other parent, that might sound reassuring – but to me it was extremely frustrating, because I KNEW something wasn’t right. I have the advantage of doctoral training in counseling psychology; one of the many things we learn is how to recognize, assess, and treat developmental disorders in children. And yes, autism is one of those disorders. So, I had an “in” when I started recognizing symptoms.

Aidan is a little different in that he never really regressed, as many children with autism do. Aidan simply stopped. At about 18 months, he had tubes put in his ears for chronic ear infections – we had hoped that he would start catching up when he stopped being sick so much of the time. His second birthday came and went, and he was still delayed. He had trouble eating independently, and didn’t like to be hugged as much as I would have liked to hug him…so, although there were some “red flags,” they weren’t flying high enough to really warrant a lot of attention. Still, at his checkups, I brought up the possibility of autism with our family doctor. Her advice was to “wait and see.”

One thing I should tell you is that I have a really, REALLY good working relationship with my family doctor. She is an incredible, amazing woman that I trust. More importantly, she listened to me and considered my concerns. Again, though – I had an “in” because of my training, and I’m sure that helped.

Aidan’s sister was born a few months after his second birthday, and Aidan didn’t react to her at all in the way you’d expect a toddler to react to a new intruder. He simply didn’t care and actually acted as though she simply didn’t exist. Unlike most toddlers, he wasn’t curious and he wasn’t jealous. He simply…was. Again, I was concerned – after all, I knew what to look for.

Aidan’s 3rd birthday came and went, and he was pretty clearly not meeting the developmental milestones. I’d been keeping track of these since I’d first noticed difficulties early on – and, as I mentioned earlier, he simply “stopped.” He wa stuck at about 2 to 2 1/2 years old. Our doctor listened to my concerns, and again we give it a few more months just to wait and see. Ok…so we did.

At three and half years, she saw him again – she’d wanted to assess his development specificially withing the few months between visits to see if there were any changes. There weren’t…he as still “stuck” in the two year old phase.

Now if any you know, have been around, or have children at this age, you KNOW what fun I’m talking about. Learning the power of “no” is huge at this age – now imagine getting stuck there, and dealing with it for over two and half years. Potty training – the same. Stuck at early two.

After this visit, our doctor decided that it would be a good thing to run a complete evaluation – ironically enough, she recommended my training clinic as the best place to do this. I KNEW what the outcome of the evaluation would be – after all, I’d been tracking symptoms and such for 2 1/2 years. So, off we went to CSU for the evaluation. I remember telling therapist (who again ironically enough was in the same exact position I’d been in three years before) that I thought Aidan had autism and oppositional defiance disorder (ODD; essentially disobeying for the sheer idea of disobeying and argumentation.) She said, “Well, let’s do the tests and we’ll see.”

Guess what? Amazingly enough…he was diagnosed with mild-moderate autism and oppositional defiance disorder. Here’s the thing – even when you’re prepared, even when you know what’s coming – hearing it is a shock. No parent ever wants to hear that there is something wrong with their child. I’d been through this before when my oldest was diagnosed with ADHD. I thought I was prepared.

And on the way home, with Aidan babbling in the back seat of the care, I cried. Partially out of relief – here was the evidence for what I’d known for years – and partially out of a profound grief. There was something very wrong with my baby.

From this point, we entered the world of “services” and “therapy.” I have to say that I’m eternally grateful to the local hospital and therapists – their work in speech and occupational therapy worked wonders. It’s expensive and I’m also glad we had insurance that covered it. AND, I thought about what life would be like if we didn’t have these advantages.

Today, Aidan speaks relatively close to his age group – he’s about 1 year behind. His motor coordination is better, and he interacts with people much more often and appropriately. I thank God every day for that. He has improved immensely, also in part due to the wonderful Head Start program – he had a wonderful classroom staff and was thrilled to be a “big kid” and go to school. He hugs, kisses, shows affection, interacts and even initiates play with other kids – all of these are miracles I’ll never take for granted again.

There are things about Aidan, though, that are noticeably different. He tends to speak in a monotone that sounds intense or pressured – there isn’t much emotion or inflection in his words. He looks a little different too – there is just something about him that seems a little “off.” He’s fascinated with things no other child I know of has ever even noticed: power poles and lines, “red balls,” train tracks (not the trains – the tracks) and signs. One more thing – heaven help me…I’m STILL changing diapers. (Changing poopy diapers for a 5 1/2 year old is NOT fun, either!)

His little sister speaks more clearly and in a more complex manner than he does, and she’s potty-trained now. She’s teaching him some things with language, interacting, and normal pre-school stuff that he needs and can really only get by interacting. He’ll be in a regular kindergarten next year, and I’m worried for him.

We all know how kids treat other kids who are different and how early it starts. My prayer for the other children and for Aidan is that, somehow, they can overcome the differences and help each other.

Okay – I know I’m fat. I weigh 200 pounds, and wear anywhere from a size 16 to a size 20, depending on the item of clothing and whether it’s for my top or bottom. AND, I’m a good, interesting, worthwhile person. I wasn’t always fat, and it’s interesting that I like and respect myself MORE now than I did when I wore a size 7 and weighed 110 pounds. For all of my life until I had children, I was thin – and I hated myself.  Physically, I probably looked the best I ever looked, but inside I was a mess. After a disastrous first marriage, I was still relatively thin – 135 pounds, after having one child. My metabolism was never the same after giving birth, and after each child, it’s continued to slow.

(For those of you who think that you have the “cure” – please don’t bother – I have been and am continuing to work with my medical doctor on the best way for me to exercise, eat well, and be healthy. I walk, I watch my portion sizes and type of food, and like everybody, goof up *occasionally*. Please don’t say that I couldn’t be doing these things, because I wouldn’t be fat if I were. It’s simply not true. I’m also on medications that are known – scientifically – to cause weight gain. I try to counteract that effect every way I can.)

The point to this rant? It’s taken me a long time to accept that I am the way I was intended to be. In our society, you can’t go anywhere without seeing, hearing the message that you’re no good if you’re not thin. I still struggle with accepting my myself, but overall, I like myself a lot more as I am, except when I have to shop for clothes. I hear women say sometimes that they’d rather die than be fat…and I feel sorry for them. They truly have NO idea that life isn’t about being thin. Life is about living, loving and being – no matter WHAT you look like.

For those of you who aren’t plus-size, have you ever stopped and really looked at the clothes that are offered to large women? Many of them are flat-out UGLY. And please don’t say that it’s incentive to lose weight – everybody should be able to find stylish, well-made and comfortable clothes at ANY size. When I go shopping, there are times when I feel as if the designers, manufacturers and buyers of stores think, “Well, these are fat clothes, so it doesn’t matter if they look good or not.” I mean, who decided that huge, fluorescent polyester floral prints look good (on ANYBODY)?? Who in their right mind would want to buy clothes that are cut like tents? Just because I’m fat does not mean that I don’t have a figure – I do, and it’s hourglass shaped, thank-you very much. I have beautiful curves that I WANT to show off – just because the way I look doesn’t fit society’s ideal of what a woman should be does not mean that I or any other large person should be delegated to the “crap” section.

Frankly, it is *absolutely* possible to make the same styles and shape of clothes look good in larger sizes. Shopko does it (Please, PLEASE, **PLEASE** come back to Colorado!!) Coldwater Creek does it (and if they’d add some more of their dresses to that line, I would buy them). Talbots Women does it. Kudos to these places that make larger women feel pretty, good, and desired, just as they are. There are a number of places that prove it’s possible. Frankly, I don’t even mind paying a *little* more; I understand that more fabric is required. I’m reasonable. There are also many, many places that offer one stylish line for “regular” sizes and one fugly line for plus-size – I won’t mention names, but those of you who have had to shop for decent plus-size clothes know exactly who I’m talking about.

And forget trying to find a decent bathing suit, or lingerie. Blech! Land’s End has beautiful bathing suits in a large variety of sizes (thank-you, thank-you, thank-you!) Cacique specializes in lingerie for plus-sizes. The rest of you – GET WITH IT!! You don’t really think that all plus-size women are celibate, do you? Hello?? Don’t even get me started on trying to find plus-size maternity clothes – Motherhood Maternity has a few, JC Penney’s has some and that’s pretty much it. And nursing wear is literally nonexistent, except for a few sets of pajamas. Folks, fat women have sex, and fat women have babies – yes, we enjoy life as much as anyone else. Do you know why most large women work out in baggy sweats? Because it’s next to impossible to find good quality, comfortable, workout clothes in our sizes!

To all retailers: PLEASE!! The average size of women in the US is a 14 – do you REALLY want to lose that much business? Yes, most of us would love to be thinner – some of us even die trying. And yet, some of us, believe it or not, work to be healthy and can actually accept ourselves and (GASP!) love ourselves as we are.

We are tired of being told we’re not good enough, that we’re lazy, that we’re ugly, that we stink, and that we’re not worthy. We’re tired of having very little choice in finding nice clothes, bathing suits, and lingerie. We’re tired of hearing “You’d be so pretty if only…” (We’re pretty just as we are, thank-you very much.) We’re tired of being around thin friends who complain about how fat they are…trust me, you’re not fat, and I’m not here to make you feel better about yourself. We’re tired of being forced to justify our very presence in a world that despises and hates us. (How do you think we feel when we hear people say, “I’d rather die than be fat!” Then again, the people saying these things probably don’t care what we feel, because to them, we’re worth less than than the caca they flush away.)

Guess what world? We’re here, we always will be here, and we aren’t going away. And you know what? I like who I am, and I’m learning to “love the skin I’m in.”

Saga of the energy vampire…AKA, the H-bomb in a kid suit
Current mood: Beyond pooped

Have you ever noticed that, when you are at your most exhausted, your kids are at their most hyper-active? Honestly…

Let me preface this by saying that I love my kids with all my heart and would give my life for them in a heartbeat. That said, *ay carumba*!!! Aidan was a small H-bomb in a kid suit today! He likes to start his day by waking up his little sister, usually by bouncing on her bed (and her, if he can get away with it) until she wakes up – today was no exception.

The difference today was that Becky-buns seems to be coming down with the crud that’s going around and was sleeping with Mama. So, I became the trampoline. Now, if you have trouble waking up in the morning (like I do), there is nothing like having 40 lbs. of jumping preschooler land right on your soft belly to wake you up out a peaceful dream. And I was dreaming that I had won a shopping spree! Sigh…

His next adventure was to climb over the baby gate blocking the main floor bathroom – I’m feeding the baby (who is busily spitting carrots on her hands and then running them through her hair in an attempt to look like a miniature Lucille Ball) when I hear a suspicious splash-flush-splash… “Aidan, get your cup out of the toilet – NOW!” (Followed by more splash-flush-splashes)…Sigh…Fish screaming preschooler out of bathroom, clean him up and cover his hands with sanitizing gel, put on gloves and fish floating sippy cup out of toilet, immerse sippy in pot of boiling water before deciding to throw it away, haul wailing and now VERY WET preschooler out of the bathroom AGAIN, put gate 6 inches higher, and turn off water in sink.  Return to find more carrots ON baby than IN baby, note that baby managed to untie bib and cover clothes. Bathtime…

Okay, so I wipe off as much of the carrots off as possible, strip the baby and cover the NEW dress in Shout, Clorox-2, and detergent…  I turn around to hear a mysterious banging…”Aidan, don’t climb in the dryer – you could get hurt and that would make Mama really sad…” (Long pause as impatient and wiggly baby kicks Mama in stomach – put baby in crib to check on preschooler – yell to be heard over baby’s LOUD protests) “Aidan – out of the dryer NOW!”  

So now I’m getting the bath started…get the baby in, wash out the carrots, start soaping…” What the HE**?!? Aidan, turn off that shower now! That water’s cold!!”  Aidan has just discovered that he can pull down the showerhead (a Waterpik with a nice long bendable cord), turn on the water and spray his unsuspecting mother…with ice cold water, of course. 

Next up – find clean changes of clothes for everyone and hope there is something clean for me outside of Laundry Mountain (which is beginning to resemble a whole mountain range…Sigh…) 

Other quotes of the day: “Aidan, get off of the oven!” (climbing on the opened oven door trying reach the cabinet above the stove where the treats are stored –  is this kid half monkey?? Sigh…run out to store, find and intall oven lock – on oven AND refrigerator). I’ve TRIED to kid-proof the house – honestly. We’ve got cabinet locks, outlet plugs, baby gates, door-knob covers, you name it, we’ve got it. And it looks like we’ll have to get more. This kid is ingenious when it comes to climbing – he’s tried things I’ve never even thought of. Now if he can just channel that ingenuity and energy…”

Becca, you need a bath again?” (after a diaper blowout of truly epic proportions), “Aidan, we do NOT hit sister on the head with toys.” “Aidan, sister is NOT target practice.” And so on and on and on…

The most important moments were not like these, though. They went more like, “Aidan, I love you so much. I’m so glad you come to cuddle with me. Big hug!” (during sister’s nap – we both sit and cuddle on the recliner and watch a Sesame Street video). “Aidan, thank you for getting Becca’s binky. You are such a good helper!”

There are times when I look at him, and just want to squeeze the stuffing out of that kid – he can be so darn cute!! And Becca – watching her learn walking, talking, everything about her world: “Wow – you went across the room all by yourself! What a strong girl!! I’m so proud of you!” followed by Aidan’s “Sister good job? Aidan good job!” and a big hug with both of them. And now, he’s next to me in bed, snoring away and looking for all the world like a little angel (of course, as I type this, he lets loose with a sound from his nether regions that would rival a Harley “Hog” in heat…) Man, I love this little kid…

And the big kid has his own dramas, too – Captain Obvious has a date for prom! (Am I really old enough to have a kid old enough for prom? YIKES!  Where did the time go – I remember changing HIS diapers.) I remember him as a toddler – the classic moment being in the grocery store. He loved to have me blow raspberries on his belly – so we’re in line at the grocery store, he lifts his shirt and yells at the top of his little lungs, “Blow me, Mommy!” Every head around me turns and stares at me – I wanted to sink through the floor, but tried to explain – “Raspberries on his tummy – see? (Picture me in line, demonstrating blowing raspberries on his tummy and managing to look like a COMPLETE idiot…) Ah, those were the days…

Will I look back on these days with Aidan and Becca with as much, uh…”mirth”? Actually, I know I will. I’ll smile and miss their little smiles, hugs, and boundless energy.

Yikes…ever notice how busy-ness can creep up on you? I’ve just finished two weeks of having *something* going on every night, and I’m exhausted. I mean, tired to the bone, walking-and-waking-dead pooped. And the fatigue is not just physical – it’s emotional and cognitive. Busy-ness, although marginally productive in the traditional sense, sucks the life out of me. I’ve figured out that I’m the kind of person who needs “me time” – alone, with no kids, no husband, no friends. It’s not that I don’t want to be around these people – they are the most important people in my life, and I love and care for them. However, after data collection/research, peer counseling training, nursery work, meetings, running kids everywhere, there’s just not much left to give. So…

Tonight I’m on strike. I’ve been invited to a scrapbooking event, which I’d normally enjoy for the social contact and the creativity boost, even though I don’t “scrapbook” in a traditional sense – too cutesy for me. I said “no.” It was hard for me to do, as I’m not the most assertive person in the world, especially when it comes to taking care of me. In our last peer counseling class, we covered assertiveness, and I kept thinking, “I need to do more of this – with everyone.” So, I told my friends that I appreciated the invite, but that I was very tired and would not be able to make it. I feel kind of bad, because I missed the last one, too – my in-laws came into town that night – but I need to care for me.

So, why is it that I feel bad/selfish for doing so? Well…”selfish” was the label of choice my mother slung at me whenver I insisted on caring for myself. If I didn’t do what she wanted when she wanted and how she wanted it, I was “selfish” and “bad.” Unfortunately, I’ve internalized that and now think it every time I insist on caring for myself. I figure that I at least recognize it now and can counter the message with some positive thinking. (Thank you, cognitive-behavioral therapy!) So now, I tell myself, “You are human, too. You have needs and desires, just like any other human being, and it’s NOT wrong to consider yourself. It’s not wrong to value yourself, or think that you’re worthy of care.”

Women in general seem to suffer from the burden of busy-ness in our society. If we’re not huge successes in business, we feel pressured to be the perfect stay-at-home mother, with immaculate houses, perfectly clean and dressed children, with several clever crafts on hand to keep them busy while we make dinner, bake bread, sew their adorable, fashionable, little clothes, and plan the PTA bake sale. All this while managing the local girl/boy scout troop, carpooling the little darlings to soccer/baseball/gymnastics/cheerleading, and reading up on developmental milestones and how to help your children be better than anyone else’s. BLECH!  All this emphasis on being the perfect professional woman, perfect employee, perfect mother, perfect wife/partner…it’s busy-ness in another form and is life-draining, not life-sustaining. Sustainable living should take into account, in my not-so-humble-opinion, emotional and mental elements as well as physical.

I confess – my house is a mess. In fact, I’m lucky it hasn’t been condemned. Laundry Mountain continues to grow, even while I excavate small loads. I’ll have to strip-mine it soon. Iron? That’s a vitamin, right? (Oh yeah…there is that appliance-thingy gathering dust in the closet.) Dinners come from the microwave (except when the in-laws visit – that’s when I really feel the pressure to be perfect and actually cook.) My kids sometimes wear the same clothes two days in a row…and yeah, they come from Wal-mart. (No, not Children’s Place, Baby Gap, or Macy’s.) So do mine – I don’t make money staying with the little kidlets. There is no homemade baked bread (at least not on a regular basis – I make it when I have time, feel like it and want it.) Developmentally-geared and cutesy crafts? Forget it…more like a coloring book and crayons (at least those that haven’t  been eaten or stomped to smithereens…) 

But you know what? Perfection is no longer any of my “busy-ness.” I’m not perfect, and I never will be. Yet, somehow my children are happy – and they are generally clean (at least as clean as a toddler and pre-schooler can be.) Aidan and I played “Balloon Catch” today – he was all smiles and giggles. Rebecca got in on it, and we played “Monkey in the Middle.” They are growing, they get fed (even if it isn’t homemade,organic, and fresh-grown/picked/juiced) and they seem happy. They come up to cuddle with me, they ask for Mama and they give me hugs and kisses. And, I’m happy – generally. When I let busy-ness take over, that’s when I’m not happy. And including “me-time” is not just respectful to myself, it’s necessary for my to function.

So, what’s the point of yet another rant? Ladies, we don’t have to be perfect. In the business world…we do our best, but we can’t do our best if we’re killing ourselves in the process. At home…we do our best, and somehow our families survive. I’d much rather have a happy, well-adjusted me and a happy, well-adjusted family than a perfect house, etc.  Taking time for ourselves is not only good, it’s necessary. Even if we veg out watching “Desperate Housewives” or “Lost” while eating Ben & Jerry’s (or, my favorite: a bowl of ice-cold melon, mandarin oranges and grapes – YUM), taking time to decompress is necessary to maintain our sanity. We are so good at helping others, at succeeding, at living up to everyone else’s expectations – isn’t time we develop our own?

For what it’s worth, I’m not talking about the hundreds of self-help/self-improvement “programs” or books – read/use them if they nurture and help you. But if you find yourself feeling a load of shoulds descending on you, ask yourself, “Is this really helping me? Is this really going to help me BE me?”  (Think of Albert Ellis’s comment, “Don’t ‘should’ on yourself.” ) Someone else’s idea of what is good may or may not fit – use your sense of what you need to help you out here. In therapy with my clients, I tell them to listen to their inner therapists – the part of you inside that wants you to be happy, fulfilled, and has your best interests at heart. Even that part of you has been called bad, selfish, unworthy, or anything else negative – it’s part of who you are. Now if I can just take my own advice…

Some of my favorite website resources: (These may or may not inspire you; I don’t leave these sites feeling like I’ve got a case of the “shoulds.”)

Jennifer Louden’s “Comfort Queen” material (http://www.comfortqueen.com/),

SARK’s material (http://www.planetsark.com/) – she has an excellent piece this month on treasuring girls

Small Steps to Health – the source of those commercials where people find “lost” body parts, such as double chins, “love handles,” “spare tires,” etc: (http://www.smallstep.gov/index.html)

The Foundation for a Better Life – inspiring source of billboards, posters, and other public messages that are life-affirming: (http://www.forbetterlife.org/)

For the Little Ones Inside – an affirming site: (http://www.forthelittleonesinside.com/)

The Spiral Muse – for women’s well-being: (http://www.spiralmuse.org/)

Creativity for Life – to help get you inspired, fired-up, and ready to live life: (http://www.creativityforlife.com/index.php)

Another Girl At Play – Women artists’ biographies and links: (http://another.girlatplay.com/)

So…play, enjoy, let go of perfection, just be. It’s okay – it really is. (or so I keep telling myself. )

What is it about certain places that make them feel like “home”? I’ve lived all over the country in my 44 years…everywhere from Ohio to Washington to California to Colorado…and yet none of them, even the place where I was raised and lived over half my life, felt like “home.” There is one place, though, that always did – Indian Cove, in Guilford, CT.

I recently had the opportunity to have a short visit there again, and went back to this magical place for the first time in over 24 years. The last time I’d been there, my grandfather was alive and I was 18 – I’d just graduated high school and was full of the bravado and grand plans that most young adults have. I’d gone to visit my grandparents, and we spent time at their home in Stafford Springs, and went to their cottage in Indian Cove – a small association of summer cottages with a private beach. I remember going to the beach, and trying to soak in the smell of the air, and the feel of the ground-shell sand on my toes…the taste of the salt water and the incredible colors of this place…I didn’t know when I’d be back again. As it turned out, it was nearly a quarter of a century – a time that spanned two marriages, many multi-state moves, a few college degrees and the birth of three children.

People say that when you leave a place and try to return, nothing is ever the same. My sisters and my mother and I went to Connecticut for my mother’s 50th high school reunion, and the chance to revisit the places and people we’d known since we were all children. I met men and women who had known my mother since grade school, and one of them had harbored a secret crush on her throughout their years together. Seeing him look at her, I could see that, in his eyes, time hadn’t erased her beauty or his love for her. Likewise, time had not changed my heart toward this small bit of God’s country…my heart ached to see how much things had changed, and how much things had stayed the same.

As I sat on the beach at Indian Cove on a Friday morning, I had the beach entirely to myself…and again found myself trying to soak in all the smells, sights, sounds, tastes and textures of the cove. Again, I found myself unable to stuff in nearly as much as I wanted – I’m greedy for the salty air and water, and feel like a fish out of water when I’m away. To say I’m in love with the ocean is an understatement – it’s as much a part of me as are my blood and bones. That I live 2000 miles away, is a daily sliver in my heart that seems to bleed and ache whenever I think about it. I thought that being close might ease this pain – after all, I’ve felt it for over 24 years, and have learned to live with it – but found that instead of soothing the pain, the ache has become much, much worse. I dream of being on the Sound again, and of hearing the waves – I walk the beach in my dreams, and explore the rocks again and again.

As I beachcombed that Friday morning, and later on Sunday, there were moments when my tears blended with the salt of the ocean water…Sunday afternoon, I watched families sit and children play in shallows, and could see the ghosts of my childhood self playing right along with them. I remembered the adventure and daring of actually climbing the rocks out to the diving board, and how deep the water seemed to me as a child – even at low tide. Wading out to the raft, I was surprised that the water only came to my waist or so…and remember how scared I was of the possibility of sharks swimming alongside my vulnerable little legs. Once more, I braved the rocks to get to the diving board, and once more I sought the solitude of the back beach – no one went there, but that was where the best shells were found. Once more I walked along the paths to my grandfather’s cottage – now brown and tan instead of blue and white and home to a new family. Once more I felt the breeze in my hair, and heard the sound of the water gently lapping and licking the roughness of the rocks. One last time, I walked away, and felt the itchiness of the drying sand on my skin, and tasted the residue of the salt water on my fingers…

Will I get back? God knows I hope to…the dryness of the Colorado air has nearly scorched my lungs and I’ve developed asthma since living in the West. While the mountains of the Rockies are breathtakingly beautiful, Colorado – the subject of so many wistful and nostalgic songs – will never feel like home. Neither has Idaho, Utah or California…although they are each beautiful in their own ways, there is a foreigness to them that doesn’t quite ever touch or enter the place in my heart labeled “home.” I need the Atlantic, the humidity and the sea…without them I feel like a dessicated, empty shell -quite literally a fish out of water, gasping and frantically trying to get back to its natural home.

There are other considerations, however…my children were all born in the West – one in Idaho and two in Colorado – and have never known the pleasures of letting the salt water envelop and cradle you…have never heard their hearts beat in time with the waves. My husband was born in Texas and raised in Idaho – and until recently, had never been east of the Mississippi. None of them can even imagine living so far from home. There is a part of me that thinks, “If I can just get them out there, then they can see for themselves – they’ll have to go.” But the more realistic part of me knows that uprooting a tree from its native soil and transplanting it to another climate zone can be life-threatening.

So…I’m caught between fulfilling my heart’s dream and sacrificing my dreams for my loved ones – as women throughout the centuries have always done. Where will this end? I don’t know, but I do know this: The call of sea is strong, and the tide runs in my veins. I will be back, even if only for a visit. And it won’t take 24 years this time. If home is where your heart is, right now, home is 2000 miles away. And even if you never can go back, I do know you can always visit.

What is “The Power of Each Other”? The power of each other is supporting one another, in tragedy and joy. The power of each other is spreading kindness, especially in a world torn by strife, polarizations, and war. It’s sharing and caring with and for each other. It’s the creative urge we all have, and the urge to reach our highest goals and be the best we can be – individually AND together. The power of each other is not letting issues, politics, religions, social status, or anything else that points out differences divide us from our common goal: creating peace and unity. The power of each other is within us, around us, and flows through us – we ARE the power of each other.

We are all in this together, and I’d like to invite you to share the poems, quotes, stories, songs, photos/pictures and humor that inspire you. Life is hard enough, especially in these tough economic times – let’s share with each otherwhat helps us. What’s going on in YOUR community? What groups exist to help each other, lift spirits, and inspire hope? What are you doing, or what do you know others are doing?

For me, I’ve posted the “Healing Prayer” from the Terma Collective: https://lauraburlingame.wordpress.com/2009/05/24/a-healing-prayer-from-the-terma-collective/ and I can post some other resources as well (for example, Google Steve Goodier and LifeSupport – a great inspirational resource).

Let’s hear from and support each other – I’ll post the resources you send me, along with your contact information if you want. Tell me what inspires you, what lifts you up, what helps YOU cope and feel better.

Let’s spread the word – get everyone you can to participate! Let’s start a “feel better” revolution and see where it takes us. I believe in the power of each other – let’s believe in each other and lift our spirits by combining our gifts and knowledge.

Take care and believe – We can do it!

Peace and Unity - Design and Image copyright 2009, Laura Burlingame-Lee

Peace and Unity - Design and Image copyright 2009, Laura Burlingame-Lee

Reflections of Reflections…

Other Facets of the Mirror