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Pine Cone Spiral - copyright 2009 by Laura Burlingame-Lee

Pine Cone Spiral - copyright 2009 by Laura Burlingame-Lee

Hearing my kidlets laugh and playing with them
Helping others
The ocean, the shore, and Connecticut
Beachcombing
Listening to the sound of ocean waves
Traveling to new places
Adventures
Bright, sunny days and cool rainy days
Autumn
Spring
Sun sparkling on untouched snow
The smell of fallen leaves and ripe fruits
The smell of bread baking
Soft blankets and warm quilts
Hot cups of tea
A really good, engrossing book
A clean home
Good humor and jokes
Teaching
Learning – always, always learning!
Working for peace, unity and justice
Playing with art and office supplies
Knitting
Making Art
Photography
Writing and Journaling
Watching football all snuggled up
Swimming
Snuggling!
My spirituality
Learning about new religions and faith traditions
Quiet time
Good music
Appreciating art
Singing
Found and spontaneous art – chalk, PostSecret, guerilla art
Being creative in any way

What makes YOU happy?

Roses from Grandma's Garden - copyright 2009 by Laura Burlingame-Lee

Roses from Grandma's Garden - copyright 2009 by Laura Burlingame-Lee

1) Kids, cars, and hours do not mix well
2) Shake well and serve does NOT work in cars!
3) Your brand new mini-van becomes a “family car” in about 5 minutes
4) French fries find their way into crevices that you never knew existed
5) New crevices are invented the longer you’re on the road.
6) When the kids say, “Are we there yet?” and you haven’t even left the driveway, you know it’s going to be a long day.
7) There really is such a thing as purple dirt
8 ) It’s great to promise kids that we’ll go in the hotel swimming pool – until the weather changes
9) Do NOT allow noise-making toys to come in the car with you. You will lose your sanity within 2 1/2 minutes.
10) Sugar is NOT your friend.
11) Never take toddlers on long trips until they’re completely potty-trained.
12) Even when you leave space for more crap, the crap you get STILL ends up taking more space than you have.
13) When the water coming out of the hotel faucet is brown…worry. Worry a lot.
14) Little kids tag team to annoy, and the sum of the volume of their voices is greater than each one could possibly be alone.
15) Tinkerbell is NOT cute after the DVD has been played over 20 times. In one trip.
16) Your significant other will invariably pack more than s/he will ever use and will insist that it’s all necessary. (Sorry, Matt…)
17) Schedules are made to be broken.
18) Construction delays always occur when your kids are at their crabbiest.
19) The food you ate that morning will inevitably visit again by noon.
20) You will always be one diaper short. Always.
21) Family is…family. ‘Nuff said.
22) Kids always have to go to the bathroom immediately AFTER you pass the rest stop.
23) There is always another souvenir.
24) When going uphill, you’re always behind the truck.
25) You’ll never have enough time or money while on vacation – and they both go too fast.
26) Someone, somewhere WILL throw-up. Usually either in the middle of nowhere in the car or in the hotel room where you can’t escape it. Sigh…

Any more you all want to add? Let’s see what we can come up with?

What seems to be a weed, may be a bouquet of blessings in disguise (image copyright 2009, Laura Burlingame-Lee)

What seems to be a weed, may be a bouquet of blessings in disguise (image copyright 2009, Laura Burlingame-Lee)

I recently had a couple of lessons on appearances and judging people by their appearances. I was on the receiving end of an act of verbal violence when someone drove by and yelled, “Fat Rear!” Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident for me – I’ve been “moo’d” (as have many of you, unfortunately), barked at, and been called “a dog.” We live in a society where a person’s worth is initially judged by their appearance – a quick judgment that often dismisses a person before we even know anything about who they are.

Glenna Peterson, a columnist for the Idaho Statesman, wrote that:

Height, weight, shape, hairstyle, dress, age, complexion – all are things we see and catalog when we look at others. When they open their mouths, we note accents, grammar, speech patterns, and make more notes in our mental catalog.

There is an old adage that “you can’t judge a book by its cover.” While external clues may give us information about the person, they do not really give us the full picture – and often we make a decision without all the facts. My mother often lamented what she referred to as a “rush to judgment,” noting the times she had written off someone, based on appearance, who on closer acquaintance displayed personal qualities that led to admiration and friendship.

I suspect most of us have had such an experience. While appearance can provide some clues regarding a person, it does not tell us about the “real” person.

She hit the nail on the head in this article. And even though I had so recently been the victim of such judging, I found myself doing the judging a few days later.

After being at my mom’s in Orem for a few days, we left to head to Idaho to visit my husband’s parents. This was a long, tiring drive and by the time we were a few hours away from Boise, we were all cranky and sticky and dirty. The kidlets needed a potty break and we needed gas, so we stopped in this little brush town called Rupert. What initially looked like a travel plaza turned out to be a refurbished hotel that was turned into a gas station/convenience store. The restrooms were outside, and so I took little Becca to use the girls room. We locked the door, and a few minutes later heard a knock – I said, “We’ll be right out.”

When I opened the door, I was faced with a large woman with tattoos, long dyed platinum blonde hair, tight “biker” leathers and T-shirt – if you’ve ever seen the “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” and know his wife, Beth – this lady could have been a much larger, dusty ringer for her. And I – who had so recently been judged myself on the basis of my appearance – fell into the trap.

All the stereotypes of bikers came up. I was immediately concerned for my daughter’s safety even though NOTHING even remotely threatening had occurred. We came out, and I smiled and said, “Sorry we were taking so long, she’s just starting to use the potty.” Here’s the thing, though – even though I didn’t SAY anything offensive, I was caught in the trap just as surely as were the young men who yelled at me.

My daughter – being the little extravert that she is – beamed up a huge grin and said, “Hi!” The woman smiled at me and said “hi” to Becca, and then smiled again and said, “She’s a little doll isn’t she?” She was a nice, friendly person and I’d almost missed the chance to find that out because of MY prejudices and biased thinking. Again, I learned a lesson – one that seem to need to learn over and over again – you can’t judge people by what they look like. Really.

I’ve heard that we keep gettings experiences designed to teach us, until we learn the lesson these experiences teach. If that’s the case, I must have a long way to go. I learn each time something like this happens, though – and I’m grateful for the lessons even if they ARE painful on occasion. So, I keep trying – I keep forgiving those who hurt me, and I try to be a better person myself. In a way, I hope I keep learning because it means I’m still growing – and I never want to stop learning or growing.

Glenna Peterson also wrote,

By looking only at the external we may miss opportunities to learn and grow from the interaction with a special person. I look at pictures of famous people who have contributed to mankind: Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Gandhi, Eleanor Roosevelt, Nelson Mandela. Some of them are not attractive. Others might be discounted because of gender or color of skin. But reading their words or others’ accounts of them leaves me wishing I had known them.

I agree with my sister-in-spirit here – attractiveness, skin color, weight, height, hair color, skin condition – any physical attribute that you can think of simply doesn’t matter and has no bearing on what kind of person someone is. The clothes they wear, the car they drive, the state of their home – it may give you information on how they live their live, but it doesn’t tell what kind of person they are.

I hope that someday I can be as gracious and wise as Ms. Peterson – as well as the people she mentioned in her article. At this point though – I have a long journey ahead and the road is long. And I’d better get started on that path.

Till next time, when we meet again – God/dess be with you and may your days be full of love and acceptance.

Something happened to me tonight, that I’m sure has happened to millions of other large – fat – women worldwide. I was verbally assaulted, on the basis of nothing more than my appearance. I am visiting my mother in Orem, UT and I was unloading our van, when a truck full of teenage boys roared by. As they leered out the window, they took it upon themselves in all their righteous ignorance to yell out, “Fat Rear! Fat Rear! Fat Rear!”

I was shocked. I was hurt in a way that few people can do to me anymore – this was sheer violence, expressed in a verbal way. Now one of my areas of expertise in psychology is peace and violence. Violence is expressed in two ways: direct and indirect. Direct violence is an attack, whether it’s physical, verbal or another form. Structural or indirect violence is the structure in society that allows the direct violence to occur – these are our prejudices, our stereotypes, our discriminatory actions and our “isms”.

Tonight, I was victim of direct violence – a verbal attack that was meant to be cruel and hurt. Even more harmful, though, is the fact that these young men felt justifed in making the attack. Fat prejudice is so ingrained in our world, that we don’t even think twice about denigrating someone who doesn’t fit our idea of conventionally attractive. Women who are fat, who have deformities, who are different-looking from the norm are all considered fair game. This is wrong, in any uncertain terms. Women in general are paid less than men – fat women are paid even less. One study examined hiring biases and pay biases. Men in general earned more and were hired more often than women, but here’s the really interesting part: Fat men were hired less and paid less than thin women, and fat women were paid the least and hired the least often of any of the groups. The students who participated were divided into groups, and each group was given the same resume – the only difference was the picture attached to the document.

Fat women were judged to be less intelligent, less competent – not to mention completely unattractive. Being fat in this society is bad enough – fat prejudice is one of the last “acceptable” biases there is. We are seen as “fat and ugly,” “fat and smelly,” “fat and lazy,” or “fat and stupid.” The point is that no matter how you justify it, no matter how righteous you feel in believing that it’s a matter completely under control and that if “you only exercised more and ate less, you’d be fine”, no matter how “helpful” you think you’re being by mentioning someone’s size – even if commenting on weight loss – you are engaging in fat prejudice. That sounds harsh, doesn’t it? It is – and imagine what it’s like being on the OTHER side. Think about what it would feel like if someone said to you, “Wow – you’ve gained some weight! You were starting to look like you were starving…remember those concentration camp survivors? I was wondering if you were one.” Insensitive, clueless and prejudiced, isn’t it? Point out what seems to be a good thing – weight loss – often reminds the person of how unattractive s/he used to be perceived.

I’ve had people say to me that I’m making excuses for looking the way I do. Here’s my question back – Even if I am, SO WHAT? What business of anybody else’s is it if I look different from the norm? Ok – some of you are going to say, “Well MY insurance premiums and health care costs are higher because of you” – is that REALLY true? If you say this to me, I’ll first tell you that a) I”m healthy and have the medical records to prove it, b) that I DO eat well and exercise, even if you don’t want to believe it, and c) Mind your own f***ing business. Frankly, there are so many conditions, so many socioeconomic reasons – including the pharmaceutical companies’ greediness, so many people in poverty that being larger than normal is a drop in the health care bucket.

I’m not talking about morbid obesity, or fetishist obesity – those are problems, and in the case of a lot of involuntary obesity honestly beyond control (and don’t even get me started on voluntary – or fetishist – obesity.) The bottom line – if you’ll forgive the pun – is that we, as a society need to move beyond our prejudices and discrimination. We consider it a hate crime to use certain terms about people of color and people of Jewish descent – as a society, we HAVE accomplished some things.

So, why – WHY, WHY is it acceptable to do the same to large women? This is every bit as much a hate crime, and should be treated as such. And here is where my struggle comes in.

Being the kind of person I am, I realize that these young men at their root are more empty, more lost than I ever will be. THEY are the ones who are hurting – and they express their insecurity, their immaturity, and their emptiness by hurting others. I, at least, have a sense of myself as a warm, caring, intelligent, helpful, and yes, beautiful human being. I hope these young men eventually grow out of their immaturity, and I’m praying that they do. If I have to be honest, there’s a part of me that wishes they would somehow experience the hurt that they’ve inflicted on others. I’m sure I’m not the only one who they’ve hurt. There’s a part of me that wants vengeance, that wants to crack their empty heads together.

But…the part of me that values who *I* am really doesn’t want to do this. That part of me wants to use this experience. That part of me will use it – to help me understand the people who end up seeing me in my office, who I end up working with as colleagues and as students, and who I encounter when I’m not feeling my nicest. I pray that I remember this when *I* feel like being hurtful or cruel, or when I feel angry. I pray I remember it as I move on, and I pray for those young men – and everyone else – who can’t see past our physical bodies to see the wonderful people we are inside.

Something really cool happened this week – Aidan lost his first tooth. I know I wrote about that earlier, but what’s amazing to me, and where I learn so much from this child comes from what he did later.

Now you all know that the tooth fairy is a pretty cool gal, right? Leave your old, fallen-out tooth under the pillow and she gives you MONEY for it – sounds like a golden exchange in MY book! And inflation has affected the exchange rate since when I was a kid…I used to get a dime. Kids nowadays get more. I’ve heard of as much as five dollars…but in our world, the tooth fairy is an activist that shares a little with each kid so (ideally anyway) every kid gets something. So, in our bleeding-heart liberal, activist house the tooth fairy gives the kids a dollar.

Now some kids would be saying, “ONLY a dollar? C’mon, Mom…you can’t buy anything with just a DOLLAR!” Aidan with his autism really doesn’t have any real idea about what quantity means with money, just that money means you can buy things. And Aidan didn’t want the tooth fairy to leave paper money – no, he wanted COINS.

Aidan likes coins…they’re shiny, you can line them up, you can count them, stack them, roll them…they’re a lot more fun than a piece of paper you can’t even color on. Aidan also knows that you can buy things with coins and “cards” ( or “plastic fantastic” as one tour guide I ran into called them.) Paper money really doesn’t mean much to him – coins are more substantial and have a lot more meaning.

For days after the Tooth Fairy came, Aidan held onto his coins with a vengeance. NOBODY was going to touch his coins. He either carried them in his little fist, or had them neatly lined up on the kitchen counter. Yesterday (Saturday) he wanted to take them to church.

Now I run our church nursery during all the services on Saturday night and Sunday morning. Aidan is friends with one of the pastor’s little boys, and I assumed he wanted to show Gabe his coins. Gabe wasn’t there that night – in fact, there was no one in the nursery so we went to sit and enjoy the service. Becca doesn’t do too well during these, but Aidan loves to go. He’ll listen and try to say the prayers, sing the hymns and generally do what everyone else is doing. It’s not just imitation, though – Aidan seems to genuinely “get” church and spirituality. I learn a LOT from this little guy.

So when offering came, Aidan pulled out his four quarters from the tooth fairy, and put them in the offering plate. The usher looked at me, and I shrugged. I whispered to Aidan, “Honey, if you put these in, you can’t take them out again. Do you know that? He nodded and the usher went on. After the service I checked in with him again: “Aidan, did you want to get your money back? I’m sure they’d let you get it.” He shook his head, and I said, “Are you sure, sweetie?”

This is the moment where, yet again, Aidan blew me away. “No Mommy. I give it to God.”

Wow. How many of us, thinking about everything else we can do with money, think of God last? And here is this little 5 1/2 year old boy, who knows he can buy things with coins, giving literally every bit to God.

I like to think of myself as a giving person, but that day, in that room, I saw how little I actually do give. This little person, who gave everything he had, has given far more than I ever will. Most importantly, he gave to me – the lesson of giving, and of God.

Happy Father’s Day to all of you who love your children…the single mothers taking on both roles, the new fathers, and the fathers with children who are growing up…the fathers of grown children and the grandfathers…the men who are fathers in every way except for biology, the men who realize that “fathering” is a verb that goes WAY beyond conception, and most of all, our Father and Creator.

Aidan and Becca, June 2009, Loveland CO

Aidan and Becca, June 2009, Loveland CO

After about a week and a half of weird, volatile weather, we finally have a typical sunny Colorado day. The temperature is 77 – just about perfect for being outside, and the around here to be able to just relax and enjoy the day; usually someone has to be somewhere and we’re rushing here and running there. Today is a wonderful exception to that rule.

We started our day by going to the park and playground. Loveland has some great parks and one of our favorites is Dwayne Webster Veteran’s Park, on Lake Loveland. The munchkins were able to run around and climb, swing, and slide to their hearts’ content, and I grabbed a table in one of the shelters and worked on some art ideas and wrote. There was a group of older adults from an assisted living facility having a picnic in the same shelter, too – I again realized how much I enjoy talking to people and hearing their stories. Some of the people obviously had Alzheimer’s or another sort of dementia, but it was so nice to talk about our kids, show pictures and listen. Two gentlemen were veterans of World War II, and we shared stories – my father was also a veteran of that war. The ladies were thrilled with Aidan and Rebecca, and my little princess-diva was captivated by all the attention. Aidan, as usual, simply took it in stride and looked for red balls.

After playing, we rediscovered the joy of Dairy Queen…is there anything more indicative of summer than seeing children eating ice-cream cones? I love seeing their little faces covered with ice-cream as they dive in and not just eat, but savor the cone with all their senses. Aidan especially loves to do this – he’ll talk about the taste and color of the ice-cream, how the cone has squares on it, and how the paper around the cone sticks to it and is blue. We enjoy these on the patio tables by the street, and he comments on the cars and trucks going by, and wonders where the nearest red balls are. Becca, meanwhile, just sticks her face in the cone and laps it up doggy-style.

Now home, we are outside and I’m on the porch writing while they splash in the kiddy-pool on the front courtyard. We live in a townhouse, with no yard, and I really miss having the expanse of green on which to play and run. Anyway, we have the kiddy pool set up on the flagstones, and they splash around having a good ol’ time. The latest bit of fun is filling cups with rocks and pouring water over them – making fountains. That’s Aidan’s idea, and it’s so nice to see him be a normal kid. (Except when he has to line up the rocks on the porch and freaks out when anyone touches them … sigh.) Even so, he’s engaging and playing and enjoying, and that’s wonderful to see. Little bit by little bit, we are unlocking Aidan, and he’s coming out more and more into the wider world we share.

The Tooth Fairy visited our house recently too – my little boy is growing up, and it’s bittersweet. The sweet part – as you might guess – is that he’s FINALLY potty-training. Big boy pants have been popular around here lately! He wants a guitar when he’s a big boy – and we’ve agreed. He thinks that he’ll get to be on “Jonas” when he gets it, and that Becca can be Hannah Montana. Who says autistic kids are completely in their own world? Higher functioning kiddos like Aidan very definitely notice and interpret the wider world. Getting them to stay there and interact with it is the challenge, and day by day, we’re still unlocking Aidan.

Summer…well, life is good, popsicles are sweet and cold, and the water from the hose is refreshing. Slides are slick, swings rush, and green grass grows, as do our kids – every day.

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.

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.

I posted a little while ago on how “fat” is not a four letter word. And yet, it comes up again and again and again – in how people have lost weight, gained weight, lost it again, gained it again, etc. Look at Oprah – how many times are we (and her) confronted with her weight? I mean, REALLY! The woman has done incredible things with her life, and has helped so many people…but what do we (and the tabloids and magazines) focus on? Whether Oprah has gained or regained weight -as if her entire identity is defined by what she looks like. Puh-LEEZE!

Nia Vardalos – the writer and star of “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” has written about her journey with weight loss…yes, yet another star telling us how she did it. (http://www.usmagazine.com/news/nia-vardalos-opens-up-about-pressure-to-lose-40-pounds-2009126)  The difference? She’s REAL. She doesn’t talk about liquid diets, personal trainers, diets in general, weight loss pills or anything of the like. She talk about how diet changes and exercising more was the way she did it. Nia also mentions that people don’t want to hear that – they want the miracle cure and quick fix.

Folks, there is no magic pill or quick fix. The weight didn’t come on overnight  (although for some people it’s quicker than others – and I’ll explain that in a bit), and it’s not going to come off overnight, either. I know this from both research and experience. Yes, I’m fat. I wasn’t always fat, and I’ve both gained and lost weight in the last year.

Over the last two years, I had lost 70 lbs. I had people coming up to me all the time, asking “How did you do it?” These people wanted the same answers that people wanted from Nia – they wanted to know a diet they could do, a pill they could take, etc. I got the point where I’d say, “It’s pretty simple. It’s called the ‘Eat less, exericse more diet’ .” I’d see people’s face reflect disappointment as they’d say, “Oh. Ok.”

I wish I could say I’ve kept the weight off. Throughout my life, I’ve also dealt with a mood disorder, and have been looking for something that woud help that as well. I finally found a combination of medications that has really helped. The problem? They CAUSE weight gain. Not just “weight gain may be a side effect,” but actually, “This product usually causes weight gain in patients who use it.” I am faced with a choice of feeling decent in terms of my mood or staying thin.

You can guess which path I chose, based on the focus of this post. I’d much rather be feeling good – about myself, my world, and my future – than be skinny. This flies in the face of what a lot of women say: “I’d rather be dead than fat.” That kind of thinking really pisses me off, to be honest. So, in the 6 months that I’ve been on this medication, 30 of the 70 lbs. have come back.

Here’s the thing that’s really hard. I still eat the way I did and exercise the way I did when I lost the 70 lbs. That hasn’t changed. It’s hard to look at myself in the mirror and realize that, after all that hard work and continuing hard work, the weight is coming back. There are times, honestly, when I’ve looked at myself and cried. I really worked hard for that, and it took time.

My doctor tells me, “Well…just eat less and exercise more again.” Folks, I eat 1000 calories a day. I walk 3-4 times a week, for about 4-5 miles (at an aerobic pace.) For those people who are going to tell me, “Well, you can’t be doing all that and have weight gain,” guess what? I can and do. And it sucks, to be honest. If I cut out anymore or exercise more, I’m going to start falling into the realm of anorexia. I sometimes joke that I’d be the world’s fattest anorexic, but it’s really NOT funny. Anorexia is serious problem, and eating disorders run in my family. I’m NOT going to go down that path, simply to look thin so other people can tell me how great I look.

Frankly, I think I’m stronger and healthier than I’ve ever been. My latest blood pressure reading was 106/69. And again, for those of you who want to believe that you can’t be fat and healthy – think again. It IS possible, and I’m living proof. Am I going to give up and just go back to the way I had been before my weight loss? Hell no.

I’m going to keep doing what I did to lose the weight in the first place. If things stable out and I start losing again, great. If not…well, I’m a good person, I’m attractive the way I am (and yes, I’ve had people tell me that), and I like myself. And that’s worth more than anything any diet or weight loss pill could ever bring me.

I’m fat…and I’m smart. I’m fat…and I feel good. I’m fat…and I’m heathy (believe it or not). I’m fat …and I exercise and eat well. I’m fat…and I’m beautiful. Period.

I took the kidlets to the park today. We are lucky here in the Fort Collins/Loveland area, because there are some really nice, well-kept parks. Our favorite is the Veteran’s Park by Lake Loveland. The weather was nice (and lately it’s been pretty volatile), the sun was shining and it wasn’t too hot or chilly – Perfect park weather.

I learned a lesson today, too…never, ever judge a situation by what it appears to be. A few weeks ago, we went to the same park and I was looking for a picnic table. I work on my art and writing while the kids play, and a table really helps. This particular weekend, both shelters were booked. “Ohh-kay,” I thought..there was a group using one shelter and they had dragged over the two “public” tables as well – and weren’t using them. So I asked politely if they would mind if I used one of the tables. The lady who had rented the space coldly told me that, “We paid $100 for this and we’ll use what we want.” I was taken aback and told her that the fee didn’t include the public tables and she argued that it did. Long story, short was that she pretty snidely informed that it was “first come, first serve” and too bad for me. To say it left a bad taste in my mouth is an understatement – I was PO’d. Anyway, we stayed at the park that day for a little bit anyway – the kids wanted to play, and I sat on the grass and the edge of the playground and watched.

Which brings me to today. We went again to this same park, and there was a group setting up a birthday party in one of the shelters – they had taken two tables. I TRIPLE-checked the reservation list, and they weren’t on it, so I sat down at one of the tables where I could both work and watch the kids. There were some murmured comments, which I assumed were “What’s she doing? Doesn’t she see that we have these tables?” Me being me, I stubbornly refused to move, just waiting for a confrontation like the last one. This time I was working on reading and planning for my business, so it was easy to concentrate on the other stuff.

My munchkins had brought sidewalk chalk with them, and I encouraged them to share it with everyone – not just themselves. They did and we got quite a gallery going on the sidewalk of kid’s drawings in the summer – it was great. A few of the girls from the birthday party even joined in. So, after a bit everyone kind of scattered. Aidan and Becca came over to drink their water, and it was at this time that the party gathered to sing “Happy Birthday” and open presents. My kidlets watched and I told them, “It’s not ours guys…but you can wish the little girl happy birthday if you want.” They didn’t, and so I went back to work.

About 5 minutes later, someone touched me on the arm. It was the mother of the birthday girl. Uh-oh, I thought…here it comes. I’m sure my face reflected this, because she immediately said, “Oh, nothing’s wrong. I was just wondering if your kids would like a piece of cake?”

And yes…there was the lesson I’ve written about, wearing a kind smile and an offer of friendship. Be the change you want to see in the world, indeed. My munchkins gratefully accepted, and we decided to do something in return. We got the sidewalk chalk, drew some balloons and wrote, “Happy Birthday Arianna! From Aidan and Rebecca”

I was humbled today. I thought I was above being judgmental and arrogant, and I was taught a lesson. Thank God for people who teach us – and I’m glad I was open enough to hear the lesson. And so…I pick myself up, dust myself off and begin again to try to practice what I preach. It pays to look at the other side of the mirror.

So, happy birthday Arianna – you and your family gave ME the gift today. I wish you the best, and am glad there are people like you and your family in the world. You give me hope.

Reflections of Reflections…

Other Facets of the Mirror