I’m Depressed

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I’m depressed. There. I said it. I’m depressed.

Frankly, it worries me as I have never allowed myself to go there. With so many people depending on me and a sister who spent time in a mental hospital; I have never before let myself plumb the depths of the despair I am feeling. However, now I am trying to give myself permission. Permission to explore what is on the other side of two years of marriage chaos and confusion. Permission to grieve for dreams that have been pushed aside by reality and for children who struggle due to the challenges of autism. Permission to just feel what I need to feel, even if it hurts. And permission to feel those deep rooted emotions and to not intellectualize my feelings as all the intellectualizing I do just makes me hurt worse.

I will confess this intense feeling of sadness scares me to my core. Not because I am afraid to feel those lows but because when you have had a family member who has experienced hospitalization due to her mental health issues and you have spent years dealing with hers…well, I just don’t want to put my family into that vat of pain and helplessness you can’t help but feel when surrounded with all of that. Yet, my therapist said to me that I have the skill set to survive if not thrive while looking at those things that make me uncomfortable and sad. And after reading Thomas Moore’s The Dark Night Of The Soul I know that there is plenty to be gained by going there for a brief respite. But still, I hesitate, my feet in cement for fear of going in too far or deep. For fear of becoming like my sister. Of letting people down.  Of not “performing” the requirements that are expected in this one act play that I am living.

I know I need to take a look at what is coming up from the depths of my soul. I know that I need to allow myself to feel these intense feelings. I suspect that it is similar to drilling for oil while trying to contain the amount that surfaces at one time. And its also acknowledging  that what comes up will have to be refined in different ways depending on how it will be used. And I acknowledge that any spills that occur will give me new skills to better contain the overflow the next time.

If I had my way I would stay in bed for a week and pull the covers over my head. I would play every sad song I have ever heard and have a Bailey’s on the rocks sitting on my bed stand sipping it over several hours. Oh hell, maybe I would guzzle it instead. That is what I wanted to do today. BUT…I had to make breakfast and lunch for everyone, take them to school, take a kid to the doctor and another to get her allergy shots. I had to wait for the dryer repairman, do the dishes, and mop the floor. I had to pay bills, get the oil changed and attend a meeting. Tomorrow it is more of the same.

So, here I sit, one toe half in and half out of this deep sadness. This depression. Perhaps if I am brave enough I will step on in and let it take me where I need to go.  To places I have never visited but probably should. Only afterwards will I understand that there are things to be gained from examining things below the surface. And who knows…I may just strike the motherlode while I am exploring with the sheets making the perfect tent in which to hide away from the world.

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13 And Counting

I remember the first time I saw Gracie. She was sitting on her foster mother’s lap, so tiny and delicate, that she looked like a doll. She was a preemie so everything about her seemed fragile and small. I fell in love with her right then and there as I stared at the tiny 3×4 inch photo in my computer screen; engraving her sweet face on my heart forever. Truly, it was love at first sight and I was bound and determined that she would become our daughter. I thank my lucky stars that my dream came true because everyday with Gracie has been a delightful dream with a mixture of happiness, joy, and a pinch of awe thrown in for good measure. She truly is amazing!

Today Gracie turns thirteen. It is hard to believe that I will never again be raising a mere child. Instead, I am guiding young adults towards the time when they leave the nest…hopefully for good.

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Since Gracie is a now an official teenager, it means I have four teens living in my house. Maybe I should say co-existing, as war could erupt any minute when you are stepping through emotional teenage land mines which are scattered, undetected, here and there. Gracie assures me that she will not act like a teen but she is already rolling her eyes and using THAT tone of voice which indicates that somehow I have become the absolute dumbest person ever to live on this planet. Forget the 55+ years of experience, the college degrees and my affable personality…I am soon to be regulated to the status of something below pond scum.

While I am excited about someday becoming an empty nester (finger crossed) I do have to admit I miss those times when my children thought I could do no wrong, when they believed I was smarter than G*D, and when the little things I did brought them such pleasure. Those were simpler times though I didn’t recognize them as such. I often viewed them as chaotic with all the meltdowns that two children with autism could bring. But now… well, even the meltdowns don’t seem quite as bad as when I was in the midst of them and I can look back and be proud of how I handled some situations that would tax the patience of a saint. Not to say I handled them all well but I did GOOD ENOUGH and that is just fine with me at this point in the game.

Today is one of those momentous days. Time and perceptions will shift for both Gracie and I as the label of TEEN is applied like a gooey sticker to her soul. May we each grant the other grace and dignity in the coming years as she grows wiser and my brain cells shrink in number. May we create memories that sustain us and may we see the best in each other instead of the worst. For the teenage years are upon us…may we both survive them with patience and our sense of humor intact! And may Gracie happily survive the impact that autism has on a family and a sibling..she has done a remarkable job thus far.

Happy Birthday My Sweet, Talented, Gracious, Fun-Loving And Hard-Working Baby Girl! You are my Superhero!

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Dance

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Tonight I chaperoned a high school dance. The girls were glitzed and glammed, each out doing one another in the hair, makeup, and dress department.  The boys….well they were typical  teenage boys…nerdy, sweet, and 100 years behind the girls in just about every way imaginable. Most of them sat together and played video games while the girls stood around whispering to each other, laughing, and talking the talk. Meanwhile the boys who weren’t gaming, looked somewhat green around the gills, as if they were in intense pain trying to outdo one another to impress the girls with puffy-chest macho displays. Frankly, it’s a wonder that the two sexes ever come together at all.

After spending the first half of the evening checking the kids in (what do you mean you forgot your parental permission slip) I decided to head over to the dance floor in hopes picking up some new steps. Unfortunately, watching teenage boys move to the grove is like watching an elephant attempt to play the kazoo while dancing the lead in Swan Lake…there is NOTHING that can make it look pretty. Hips go one way while butts go another and I swear I saw a couple of heads do a 360 while sitting squarely on their shoulders. But the worst thing was the fact that not one of them could keep tempo to the music. It was like watching a little old man crossing the street using a walker…one speed only… with head bent and body stooped their bellies almost dragging on the ground. The ones still moving upright were sweating like Trump’s Communication Director when the President is in front of a microphone… never sure what ungodly thing might happen to destroy all their carefully laid plans.

Yet, with all the hormones on high alert things stayed sweaty but calm and everyone was having a good time, chaperones included. Something about the unchanging ways of nervous teens brings you back to your own school dance and you realize just how far you have come!

Of course, there is always some sort of drama. At our school dance this is the End Of The Night Song. It is the one and only slow dance that the deejay plays the entire night. Stomachs tense and butterflies alight and the girls begin to giggle as the time draws near. If the truth be told no one wants to dance the last dance and everyone is crushed if they don’t. As the first notes of Fade Into You began, I was surprised to feel a tap on my shoulder. When I turned around Paul was standing there.

“Would you like to dance, Mom?” he asked strong and sure in his choice.

“Me?” I asked.

“Sure. You’re the prettiest girl here.”

And as I stepped into his arms I knew without a doubt that all those years of hard work raising two children with autism had paid off.  I was obviously doing something right in this life and was finally reeping the rewards.

 

 

WE

 

We have built houses together

Planted a vineyard and gardens

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Raised six kids together

We have survived your mother

The death of parents

And your brother

We have moved

Numerous times for your career

Starting over again and again

Just knowing each other

In a city of a million faces

Finding comfort and love in that

And we have stuck together

Through so much adversity

Pain and sorrow

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We have traveled the world together

Had much happiness and joy

Done things as a couple

That brought us closer

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We have struggled

Raising two boys with autism

Put their needs ahead of our own

Done everything possible to give them

The best chance for a good life

So why it is now

After all the hard years

After all the time we have sweated and pushed

And fought the school system

After life and death

Hardships and pain

You want to abandon

Our future

And all the good times

We dreamed about

For so very long?

We’ve slogged through

The Rough Times

Taken so many wrong turns

But you don’t want to share

In the best that is to come…

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The walking along the beach

Holding hands

Visiting Grandchildren

Kayaking the rivers

And taking art classes

Working to save the river

And the seals

Old age sex

And wrinkles

And watching with a tender heart

Fingers intertwined

When one of us takes our last breath

Being there for the other

As one passes to the other side

To the unknown

The other left grieving and lonely

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We’ve been through the hard times

Why can’t we share the reward

Of all we worked for together?

When life is finally getting easier

Why should a future wife

Get all the benefits

Of our hard work?

I do not understand

I will never understand

And don’t expect me to…

Don’t ever expect me to!

 

 

Yesterday I had a private therapy session with our third and final marriage therapist. He was highly recommended by my therapist and she believes he can help because he does in depth therapy examining both partners pasts and seeing how they effect the dynamics of the relationship. He looks at attachment in childhood and how that influences attachment within the marriage.  I think he is a good fit but I was exhausted after our session. I felt like I had run a marathon and got run over by a truck at the end. Working on psychological/relationship issues is hard work if you are honest with yourself and others.

Recently I have been reading the book Hold Me Tight by Dr. Sue Johnson. The book jacket says ” Forget about learning how to argue better, making grand romantic gestures, or experimenting with new sexual positions. Instead, get to the emotional underpinnings of your relationship  be recognizing that you are emotionally attached to and dependent on your partner in much the same way that a child is on a parent for nurturing, soothing and protection.” It is an interesting book and I see B and my relationship on so many pages and it saddens me. But we both keep trying.

 

 

“FOR YOUR OWN GOOD” List

I don’t know about you, but there seems to be an exclusive list that it handed to each woman during the heat of labor which is promptly and conveniently ignored until the first child heads off to school. It is then, during Kindergarten Round Up, that you realize that every parent in the building decides what kind of person you are after watching your child interact for exactly 4.2 seconds and he is doomed to be a social pariah for the rest of his educational career. It is then, at that exact minute of total mom failure, that THE LIST suddenly re-emerges only to hang over our heads for eternity, flapping in that empty space that our brains used to occupy.
Every mother knows about THE LIST. It consists of all the things our kids must do at least once so that we can check the box that verifies to the world that we ARE A GOOD MOM.
Trying new food. The latest…brocollini….images-1
Yearly pictures at Sears…oops missed that one…but now that I am aware of that fact so by next Tuesday it will be done…semi-check.
Playing the piano and while he may not ready for Carnegie Hall, he does know where middle C is located…images-1
Now B is the sports minded one in our family but because two of our three children get crazed if something as small as an ant touches them, trying to knock out athletic activities…well… it’s a challenge. If I had my druthers I would just scratch that whole section off THE LIST because several family members consider high quality endurance sports akin to laying on the couch and dipping ruffled potato chips into a savory dip. (the endurance part comes when you have to turn the chip around and dip again being careful not to double-dip)
But I have to admit that I do have a fear that scratch outs might just not get you into heaven so I persist in introducing my kids to new sports, knowing in my heart of hearts, that is what all GOOD moms do. That feel-good, doing-the-right-thing, going for Mother Of The Year, attempt is what lead us to the Broken Leg Ice Skating Rink yesterday afternoon where the kids tried ice skating for the very first time.
 I will admit that sometimes it seems as though it takes a while for my kids to get comfortable with new activities. First, we have to check out each and every toilet in the entire facility. If the seat is comfortable then my kids might give it a try. If not, we are OUTTA there thanks to Andre’s unrelenting complaints about the lack of high-quality plastic engineering.
Next comes the vending machines. Anything that has hidden ingredients that make one of my kids break out in hives is considered an immediate success and suddenly every one wants a buck to insert into the machine as they rapidly make their way towards anaphylactic shock.
Finally, throw in a 16-year-old cashier who is making minimum wage but will answer every one of the 20,000 questions thrown at them about the history of said sport…the equipment used and the rules of the sport, then participation is a definite maybe because all bets are on that they can continue with the questions until the place closes for the evening. Better yet, if the cashier can quote numerous safety statistics; then its a go-home because no sport is even safe enough for my boys. Yes, even contemplating sports can be an exhausting endeavor.
So after spending one half- hour tying and re-tying the skates, using the bathroom…for the third time… and learning to walk on blades; the time had come for the kids to make their way onto the ice. If, as the old adage goes, you can smell fear; then the fumes around our family was like the pungent odor that follows us around for three hours after eating grandma’s chili. We just couldn’t shake it. As we left the bench, feet started going every which way but forward and the sound of our bottoms slapping the ice…HARD… reverberated throughout the arena. To top it off, I pulled my back out trying to hold up one child while falling down with another. Mom was done and judging from the little faces surrounding me, the vending machine owner was about to become a very rich man. AGAIN.
Yet, we persisted. Paul put his game face on and after one trip around the rink fell and got a bloody nose that spurted ten feet.  Gracie whined until her daddy escorted her like the princess she is around the rink. But I knew all was lost in regards to Andre when he spent ten minutes making it half-way around the rink with his toes turned in towards the wood paneling the entire time. Never have a seen a child so happy as when he took his blades off of the ice. His face actually beamed so brightly he was in danger of melting the ice.
Later, after exiting the rink, Andre looked up at me and said, “Well, those were absolutely the worst minutes I have ever spent in my entire life!” And needless to say, his assessment didn’t get any better despite being bribed with hot chocolate by B.
On the way home, Andre talked about the experience. His take?
“Well, I am glad that is over. I did it once, it’s a no-go and thank goodness I will never have to do that again. Now, mom, what else can we cross of your list of things I have to do?”
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“What list?””You know, the one that you have that makes me try everything for my own good even though we both know I am going to hate it. But still you try. Again and again. Pushing me to be a better kid so you can feel better about yourself as a mom. So really, if you think about it, this list is really about you and your feelings of inadequacy. Frankly, I think a therapist for you would cost a whole lot less than this “contrived family time.” I think that is something you need to seriously contemplate before one of us dies during these little mini-olympics of yours.”

And with that he was done.
But I’m not.
I want to know… how he knew about… THE LIST?
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Thoughts on “Maybe” Divorce

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“As you become more attached to yourself you will become less attached to the outcome,” my therapist says with a smile.

Sometimes I wonder about this statement. Although it seems true enough as I continue this journey of the “maybe divorce” sometimes I wonder if this attaching to yourself, this honoring your self and your desires, really means at some point that you just dial back the caring…maybe you just begin to not care anymore because the fight for keeping your marriage has cost you too much personally. Your anxiety has increased to the point that everyday you wake up wondering “if this is the day.” And while once I believed that this thought might kill me, now, sometimes, I just wonder if it would be a relief for it is difficult to live with a man who no longer loves you the way he wants to and the sadness plays out like recessed shadows etched deep into his face.

I know when this began two years ago I felt like the world was coming to an end. It seemed as though my heart was being ripped out of my chest and I couldn’t sleep at night. After all this time my anxiety about divorce and what it would do to my children has decreased but is it because I am working really hard on integrating all aspects of myself and discovering more about who I am or is it because I am shutting down? Perhaps I see the train wreck in the distance, so I move away, because I don’t want to witness the carnage firsthand. I also don’t want to deal with the repercussions that it might have on two boys with autism and one with mental health issues much less the fact that four of my children are adopted and have already suffered so much loss in their young lives.

And so I continue to work on myself. To find corners of sunlight and to open the shutters wide to let the sunshine flood into my life. I work to make myself more aware of what I am doing and why I am reacting in the ways that I do. I am practicing ways of building up my resilience and incorporating peaceful ways of thinking as a habit that I can rely on to keep me centered. And I am trying to learn not to allow negative self-talk rule my head and my heart even though it still wants to.

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So if this work, if all this trying to find better ways of attaching to myself, is going to make me wiser, happier and more peaceful; I am all for it. For I am becoming a better me and I am finally doing all of this psychological work for greater self understanding of what makes me tick.  And if the “maybe” divorce comes to pass I think I will be in a much better position to retain my own dignity and grace during the process. And for me, that is what is important.

So be it.

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Rare Days

Some days just turn out better than you think they will. B went home with two of the kids while Andre stayed with me. This can be a bit of a challenge because basically Andre likes to be left alone…completely alone. Here we are at the ocean basking in the coolness of the water’s fresh breeze and Andre just wants to stay in his room all day. As a person with autism, finding a spot to feel comfortable is his main priority. Dealing with people and the newness of places and situations are the crux in his craw. I did manage to get him to walk along the cliffs one afternoon but he complained the entire time and made the trip somewhat miserable. He does that when he is doing something he doesn’t want to do…he makes it taxing and a chore in hopes that you will never ask him to do anything like that with you ever again.

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So today, I woke him up and told him we were going to a town about two hours away to take the train. He told me he didn’t want to go on the train but wanted to visit the museum. Unfortunately, we got there 10 minutes after the museum closed so instead we went to lunch, walked around town and went into some shops. It really wasn’t his kind of day but on the way home he said, ” I really had a good day with you Mom. Thank you.” Needless to say, I almost fainted for he rarely lets you know if he appreciates something much less tells you he enjoys your company. It was one of those rare moments that is so surprising and lovely that it suddenly feels as if life has picked you up and carried you away to Nirvana. Everything is right with the world and your place in it and after a weekend in which B talked separation, it was such a nice place to be.

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Later this evening I went down to the Lodge. It was one of the situations that you are trying to talk yourself into doing. Should I stay home or leave. Which will it be? The stay at home option almost won out but I eventually, after a heated debate with myself, chose to go to the bar. I took my drink outside to one of the comfy Adirondack chairs and parked myself in it to watch the sun disappear over the ocean while pinks, golds and yellows filled the sky. Flocks of pelicans flew in V formation past the cliffs while Sid the Great Blue Herron strutted his stuff. The temperature was perfect, the scenery divine and I had the place to myself…until a tall good-looking man about my age appeared out of nowhere. As it turned out he was from the local Buddhist temple complex and as we sat and talked I became “enlightened.” I have always strayed to the edge of Buddhist philosophy for years while attending Christian church at the behest of my husband putting my own religious convictions on the back burner. The talk that this gentleman and I had soothed my soul and it felt nice to be appreciated and admired by a nice man again.

Yes, some days take you by surprise. Today was one of those rare and glorious days and it felt just like a day when my garden is in full bloom!

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http://odiyan.org/

 

Negative Chatter

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My inner spirit has yet to be rekindled. I may have written about the importance of it a couple of weeks ago but for some reason I have yet to feel the spark. I have not been taking the time for me and as a result negative chatter is filling the air around me and is so thick I could cut it with a knife.

THOUGHT #1

“Why keep trying? He will never love you like he did again.”

THOUGHT #2

“Yes, I could have bet on the fact that I would be unable to reach B while he was at dinner with FRED and by golly I was right. Why is this? What is going on here?”

THOUGHT #3

“Can I ever trust again?”

Yep, my brain is suddenly like a chipmunk after a peanut…darting here, there, everywhere…but no place healthy or good for my soul.

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My headmaster just keeps churning out negative thoughts day in, day out. But why?

Is it because I am still so unsure of myself?

Is it because I am so unsure of my relationship?

Is it because I feel I am not being true to myself?

Is it because increasingly I feel like abandoning ship because I feel like nothing I do is ever right?

Or is it because I am just plain tired of the constant pushback that two boys with autism seem to relish every chance they get?

Whatever it is I know that I need to work hard to get rid of it. Because all this negativity is like wallowing in a shit-filled cow barn. If the methane doesn’t kill you the stink certainly will, coupled with the fact that there is so much of it piled around that I am afraid that I will get sucked down into it …never to return.

So, I am trying to implement past strategies that have worked.

I am shouting in my head “CANCEL, CANCEL,CANCEL” when a negative image or thought appears. I then look around and make a running commentary of what I see:

“Wow the sky is blue today. Look at that big fluffy cloud overt here. It looks so clean and white”….and so on.

Today I meditated and practiced visualization. I am trying to exercise more.

Yet, nothing is removing that chipmunk, whose cheeks are filled so full of negativity, from my brain. It’s kind of like having Alvin singing “Christmas Time Is Here” in your head 24/7 meaning that the A on Alvin’s shirt doesn’t just stand for his name.

 

I read this piece to my therapist. She says the rekindling has not begun because I am not using the proper things to build the fire with. The first being self love which has diminished so much since the “I might want a divorce.” Somehow that love of self has wafted away like the smoke that comes from lighting a fire. It no longer feels like I need a bit of kindling. Instead, it feels like I need to burn down an entire forest to revive my inner spirit.

My therapist also says that living with no air conditioner in 110 degree heat 43 C also fries your brain. She says she suspects this is what I am actually suffering from today. But all I know is the part for the air conditioner won’t come until Monday and someone better hide the matches because something is about to go up in smoke!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The War Of Words

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Recently, I have been thinking back to the days when the boys were young. Those were the days and many of them I would never like to repeat. They were stressful with meltdowns and words that took a cruel aim to the heart.

“I hate you” “I wish you were not my mom” “You’re a whiney little jerk” “Mom, he called me a butt.” Those kinds of things. Normal, yes, but the frequency at our house was 100 times what was normal. It was exhausting.

I remember at one point trying to get the boys to think before they said something. Hard to do when you are seven and in the heat of the moment. Hard for me to do now at 55+ and if I am honest; I have never been a model for saying quiet well-thought-out words.

During these early days of chaotic boyhood, a friend once  told me what she asked her kids when the War of Words was going on. I thought it was genius and wished I had done more of it as they grew up. She would ask her kids:

Is what you said kind?

Is what you said helpful?

Is what you said loving?

Often times just by asking these questions I found I could bring a temporary respite to all the chaos. It was a blessing. It taught my kids that words have meaning and repercussions too.

Recently, I was thinking back to those times and I decided that those questions of yesteryear were valuable not just for kids but for me too and I have been trying to be mindful before I speak by asking myself these questions before spouting off. I have also added two other questions to ask myself before responding to others:

Is what I am about to say true?

What is my motivation (honest) for saying what is on my mind?

Admittedly, it is hard for me to remember to ask myself these questions before talking. Often, I fall far short of where I would like to be. But usually, if I just pause before speaking, I can do a quick inventory in my head of the answers to these questions and decide whether my response is:

True

Honest

Loving

Kind

Helpful

 

If what I am about to say is not any of the above; I am trying to learn to shut my mouth and keep it that way. As a person who has shot from the hip most of her life this is a real learning experience for me. A challenge akin to climbing Mt. Everest. It is not easy. It takes a little bit of awareness and planning. But every time I succeed in being mindful I know I am getting to be one step closer to the person I want to be which gives me hope that maybe one day before I die I will master this ability to speak mindfully and to shut my mouth when needed. But somehow I suspect that it might take my deathbed to figure it all out if even then. Yet, I keep trying because I know for the sanity of all involved that when I am kind, loving, honest, helpful, and true I give the best of myself to those who deserve only the best of me.

Amen (so be it)

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Eat Chocolate Cake

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The school called today

Andre didn’t turn in his homework

He said he burned his book

I don’t think so but…

I eat chocolate cake while I contemplate the situation.

The other school called about Paul

The teacher tells me there is a group issue

Paul is missing assignments

I will check and let you know….but first

I eat chocolate cake before digging around in his room

I go to the school to discuss the situation

I let all involved know

That Andre will be staying after school in the tutoring room

Everyday until all the assignments are done

He clings and claws at me

He baby talks and pouts

I escape and walk around campus

And eat that emergency piece…

Of chocolate cake

That I tucked in my purse

Really this is getting too much to manage

Maybe I should turn to booze

And give up the chocolate cake

We get home

Paul is upset because I insist that he does his chore

That he did not do before he went to school

Man, that chocolate cake looks good…tastes better than it looks

Two boys with autism

One deep dark chocolate cake

Almost gone…

Autism makes you fat!