Home Alone Horror

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Home Alone is one of the most seen movies in the world. Although it was made years ago, you can always find it on one channel or another because it is a family favorite. It is funny and it makes you laugh out loud…unless it comes to roost in our own life. Then it ain’t so funny!

B and I were heading home from New York the other day after a wonderful weekend anniversary trip. Though we had been through two years of a “maybe” divorce, this weekend felt like we were in love again. That is when the sitter texted me.

I JUST LOOKED AT MY WORK SCHEDULE AND I HAVE TO WORK TONIGHT. I WILL NEED TO LEAVE AT 10 p.m.

“THAT IS FINE,” I texted back. “WE WILL BE HOME FROM THE AIRPORT AROUND 10:15 .SO IT ISN’T REALLY A PROBLEM”…until it was.

Standing in the crappy line with a GROUP 6 boarding ticket while annoying, is not a problem. Usually. Unless, you step on everyone’s toes and piss them off, while trying to maneuver yourself  back to the cockpit to get your suitcase checked because all the overhead bin space is taken. Placing your belongs in the overhead bin…no problem…for the GROUP 1-5 passengers. GROUP 6…FORGET IT! Fastening my seatbelt was easy as pie as my anti-anxiety “fear of flying” pill kicked in.  Everything was going as expected until these words were uttered by the cute and spunky stewardess whom everyone suddenly looked like they wanted to slap:

” PLEASE RETRIEVE YOUR BELONGINGS AS EVERYONE WILL NEED TO DEPLANE. THERE IS A PROBLEM WITH THE EMERGENCY SLIDE AND GROUND MAINTENANCE HAS TO BE CALLED TO FIX THE ISSUE.”

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Now I will confess I try to keep positive in these types of situations. I mean, after all, it is better to be riding on a “fixed” plane than a “broken” one. But an emergency slide? Really? I mean how often are they used anyway?. Hell, I thought, if there turns out to be an issue, I will gladly stand at the open slide-less door and just toss people out onto the ground below. Problem fixed. Now, let’s get this freaking show on the road!

A collective groan so loud it nearly popped the rivets holding the plane together ensued. This was followed by a sound reminiscent of a herd of lumbering and pissed-off elephants starting back up the gangway.

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Faces that had been smiling only 5 minutes previous were now pinched and drawn. The variety of cuss words I overheard was astounding and during the race to the customer service center several people nearly lost there lives. Frankly, there was not enough free alcohol in the entire terminal that could cheer up this downcast and angry crowd.

As B and I stood in the wrap-around line waiting to talk to that poor unlucky agent who had been plucked by the previous 50 ticket holders; it finally dawned on us that we had a problem. A serious one.  We only had an hour layover after we landed before we were to catch our final plane home. Unfortunately, this was the last plane for the night we were soon to discover.  Suddenly, were having our own HOME ALONE moment and nothing about it was the least bit entertaining.

Now being home alone is okay in our household during the day but certainly not overnight. We knew that Andre wouldn’t care as long as he could lay around in his underwear eating chips without being bothered by anyone. Change is hard for kids with autism but as long as there is food available and no one around to boss him around; Andre was happy.

Paul started crying over the telephone. The unknown is difficult for him but an unexpected change of plans is a catastrophe. . Let’s just say this didn’t fit into his scheme of things and the breakdown started.

Gracie…well, she isn’t one for being away from her Mommy and Daddy…especially at night. But we knew she would suck it up if she had to.

And so we started calling everyone we knew as the minutes started ticking away. 10 minutes late. 20 minutes. 40 minutes. 50 minutes…which was the point of no return. We were now officially screwed. Finally, an hour and 40 minutes later we lifted off unsure of what the future held…except that most likely Children’s Protective Services might be giving us a visit in the near future.

As nicely as I could I explained our situation to the stewardess. HOME ALONE.  TWO WITH AUTISM. MELTDOWN.

“Would you like a beverage?” she responded cheerfully.

I was tempted to ask for a double scotch on the rocks but decided that a drunk absentee parent was most certainly worse than a sober one when talking to government officials. Therefore, I took my seat,  bought the WI-FI service for $29.95 and sent out a plea for help on Facebook. I am happy to report that by the time we landed, I had three friends offer to help and a neighbor who informed me that she would take the kids to school. These are the times in life when “do unto others as you would have them do onto you” suddenly takes on a whole new meaning.

Flying five hours across the country we still had hope that we would make our flight but it was not to be. So we took our food vouchers and ate dinner in the airport, then took the shuttle bus to our hotel and finally settled in to watch a movie. When we turned on the t.v, guess what was being shown? Yep, you’re right… it just happened to be HOME ALONE. That apparently is the way we roll.

 

 

 

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Pitter Patter of Little Feet

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Today after a wonderful day in the Florida Keys I arrived back at the hotel and saw my sweet grand babies. My daughter, Noele, drove 10 hours with a three-year-old and an almost two-year-old in the back of her car. She endured much crying, fighting, and a MAJOR puking incident just so she could see us again. Somehow, with all the mistakes we made as parents she turned out just right despite our good intentions. How that happened I will never know.

From the time she was a tween this mother/daughter team could always find something to argue about. Things like… which side of the toast is the correct side to butter, whether being a strict vegan was taking things to the extreme, and if boys were allowed to be in her room. Much to my dismay while I knew I loved her deeply, I didn’t like her  much and our relationship didn’t match the Brady Bunch ideal swimming around in my head.  I would see mothers (Carol) and daughters (Marcia) walking the malls together and it would pull at my heart. Seeing teens and their mothers enjoying a movie together hurt like hell. And those mothers who ran the Booster Club with their kids helping along side them…I knew it was never going to happen.

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B hunkered down. As a man who avoids conflict at all costs, having two of the women he loved most in the world living in a war zone with him serving as a NATO soldier trying to broker a peace deal was not an easy task. He never could understand all the slammed doors and word grenades being flung from one side of the house to the other and he visibly cringed when skirmishes erupted.

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When Noele was fifteen I never envisioned that we would have any sort of relationship until she kicked my casket into the ground. In fact, my biggest hope was that she would graduate early so she could move out of the house sooner and after a year away as an international exchange student, she returned home more stubborn and determined to ignore anything thing we had to say. And who could blame her? She tasted freedom for a year and wanted even more. The parental role I once relished became a nightmare and a battle of wills ensued in which both of us suffered heavy losses. Recovery seemed remote.

But then it happened. One day she grew up and into her own woman. It took a while and a first child for that to happen. The birth of my granddaughter brought several miracles along with her. No longer at odds with each other our commonalities soon surfaced and within those we found mutual respect and a deep well filled with love that was once bone dry.

These days we live at opposite ends of the country. We SKYPE almost daily so we can share tidbits of our daily lives and so that her kids “know” their Grammy and Papa. Noele willingly comes and takes care of her own children plus her brothers and sister so B and I can travel to far-flung places. I can’t imagine someone I would rather invest in a friendship with than my daughter. She values family, is generous with her time and is a good all-around person who has made me proud.

Tomorrow I will wake up with little ones running into my arms again. Squishy hugs and wet kisses will fill my day. We will squirm together, laugh together, and make real- life memories together. And its all because of her…my daughter…a once formidable foe who is now one of my best friends.

 

Sparkle

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Several months ago I wrote about the chandelier that has been sitting in my garage for the past year.  You can read about it here Assigning Meaning To Things

The fact that B knew the emotional significance to me about having this hung and it never was done still stings a little but for the most part I have let it go. He is busy. We are busy and he hates doing electrical. I am giving him the benefit of the doubt that not hanging the chandelier is not an indication as to the depth of his love for me or how he feels about our relationship. It is all I can do.

All this week B has been up at Boy Scout Camp with the boys. He takes a week off of work every year to make sure that they have that experience. It is hot. It is dusty and he has to work very hard to make sure that Andre’s autism does not get in the way of him having fun and building memories. It is a fun week but an emotionally tough one too. Sleeping on cots in tents is no longer my idea of fun so I am grateful that he does this because he loves our kids and wants them to experience all that they can.

While B has been gone this week, I decided to make myself happy. I decided to take a chance on the goodness I see in our relationship and where I think it is headed. So I called out an electrician and…HAD THE DAMN CHANDELIER HUNG!. It looks beautiful. It is shiny and looks perfect in the room. And it makes me happy which is the best reason of all to have hung it. IMG_9903

So there you go…happiness in a box; happiness within me.  May it inspire me to sparkle and shine everyday as it does. For it no longer matters to me who put it up; I am just happy that it is there.

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Magical Places

I am fortunate. I have been to many magical places in my life. I have visited the hot thermal waters coming out of the ground at an ocean front setting in Greece. I have seen the birth of my grandson. I have sat on a hilltop in a field of flowers overlooking the Sierra mountains and watched magnificent sunset of reds, yellows ,and brilliant oranges. Yes, I have been blessed many times over to have experienced some truly exceptional moments in my life.

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Magical places for me provide opportunities to connect with myself and others. I realized that when I inventoried all those magical moments they have not been solitary. For me, they are shared moments/places in which we get a glimpse of our own awe reflected in the faces of those we love which serve to bond us tighter as we witness something truly spectacular. They are those moments which become shared stories in which the words, “Remember when…” are uttered for decades to come. They are the times, after you are gone, that your children tell their children about and their children do the same. Although they may not come often when they do that we really sit up and take notice and discover through them, what is important to our souls.

Magical moments are the heartbeats of the universe. We all experience them at one time or another and the sense of discovery and wonderment is what binds us together as human beings. They connect and transform. They provide a way to shared experience and give us a way to say, “I know what you mean” even amongst people half-way across the world from one another. We may not have even see the same thing but somehow the feelings brought about from what we have each observed can build a bridge over which we can both traverse. Magic indeed.

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Magical moments sometimes arrive on their own out of the blue. For me, they are the best because they are spontaneous and unplanned. But often, I think that we have to create these occasions ourselves. We have to be open to trying new things and stepping out of our comfort zone to make them happen. We have to take a path untried. But mostly, we just have to open our eyes and recognize the beauty in what we are seeing and  celebrate it. And when we do this, somehow the magic just takes over. For its a choice we make to appreciate what is in front of us and to celebrate the beauty of those moments that forever imprint themselves on our lives.

 

 

The Christmas Party

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The company Christmas party was last night. I usually dread these affairs because I do not do “president’s wife” well. While most people would probably not guess, I am fairly socially inept. I spend the night trying not to put my foot in my mouth or wanting to kick someone’s ass if they get a little too drunk at the party. A fine line I walk trying to remember names, number of kids and spousal occupations; then I go home and start counting the days until the next one.

This year it was different. Many of the employees could not find babysitters for their children so B told them to bring them along. This meant I got to spend a lot of time at the table coloring with them and looking like a saint when in all actuality they were saving me from myself. Afterwards, B said that was great maybe we should have kids next year…ya think!?

One of the things I love about B’s office is it represents a side of the USA that I love…diversity. There are professionals from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and South America all working for this fairly small company. It is a true melting pot of people, ideas, and understandings. And that is the thing I do love about the party…hearing about their cultures, their families, and the way they celebrate their particular and unique holidays. Talk of grilling a goat at a company function, going on Safari and having family arriving for extended stays were just a few of the tidbits I enjoyed hearing about. I just reinforces to me how similar people are, and while they may go about things differently, they all want to be heard/seen for their  unique perspective on things that matter to them and their adopted country.

And so this morning I bask in the glow of a beautiful evening as I begin the countdown until next year…only 364 days to go!

 

The Shooting At The Regional Center Touches Too Close To Home

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As I listen to the news about yet another mass shooting I wonder where did we go wrong? As individuals, as a society, as a nation and as citizens of the world? So much hate. So much misunderstanding. Too much religious influence. Too much disregard for others and ourselves. Too much interference in other nations foreign policy with its resulting unintended consequences.

My sons are served by the local Regional Center (RC) where we live. The RC serves individuals with autism, cerebral palsy, seizure disorders and mental retardation. They have allocated ABA services to my boys for several years and help with planning for their future. The people who work there are kind, loving and passionate people who work within the system to get their clients what they need so that they can live meaningful lives and reach their full potential. They are social workers, humanitarians and people trying to make a difference in this world. These are the kind of individuals who work at the RC…underpaid, overworked and empathetic in recognizing that disabled persons are often beat down by a society that ridicules those who are different. Most of all they try to give their clients and their families hope for their themselves and their loved ones with uncertain futures.

In the many years we have been served by the RC many of these case workers have become my friends as we spend time together trying to navigate a system in which the disabled have an unequal playing field where unemployment is rampant and the disabled are not seen nor heard. These RC workers often become of the voices for those who have little resources to take their concerns to the forefront of the political system.

Yesterday, I first became aware that something was not right with the RC when I received a phone call in the early afternoon. I picked up the phone to hear, “This is an emergency phone call. This is an emergency phone call. The Regional Centers will be open tomorrow.” Odd, I thought. Later I turned on the news and witnessed the carnage. I was horrified moreso than ever before, meaning ALL the unending shootings that have become a way of life for a country that in of itself is not suppose to be in a war zone.

So why did this particular act of violence have such an impact on me? Because I knew of these people. No, not the people who were murdered but I do know their co-workers in a different center and I shudder to think if it had been this RC instead. How, I wondered, would I explain this to my children had it happened here? How would I make them feel like the world was a safe place after walking through RC doors for so many years? How will the clients served by the Inland RC ever feel safe again in a world that already feels unsafe by many people who are autistic? How do you explain to a child that some people just view others as pawns in a game that is played with unwilling participants? How do you teach children to trust in a world in which just anyone can randomly shoot you in a restaurant, at work, on the soccer field, or at a concert; especially a child with autism who has already been bullied one time too often in his short life? How do you make them feel safe again?

The true answer is that you can’t because the shooters have taken away something that cannot be replaced with platitudes and pundit ideology…trust and the feeling of being safe. Yet, my kids have also learned that when bad happens that the response in the face of tragedy is the opposite. So while they saw sadness on the tv screen they also saw hugs, embraces, tears and people standing together to face adversity. But most of all they saw the love that fellow human beings can show one another and that defeats everything the terrorists stand for every single time.

 

 

 

Give Thanks

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GIVE THANKS

For my sons

And for my daughters

For my man who is

My  best lover

And for my friends

Who have taught me about myself

Even those parts I delude myself into thinking

Are good for my soul

GIVE ME APPRECIATION FOR ALL I HAVE

 

GIVE THANKS

For all the people in the world

Trying to do their best

Suceeding with what they have been given

Never giving up

Never giving in

Putting one foot in front of the other

On a journey which is so different than my own

GIVE ME UNDERSTANDING AND EMPATHY

 

GIVE THANKS

For all I have been blessed by and with

And all I have had the opportunity to discover

May I never forget

Fatima’s mother and her daily struggle, her smile

Etched in my memory

GIVE HER MUCH NEEDED BLESSINGS

 

GIVE THANKS

I have a warm belly

No bombs dropping and  causing chaos and destruction

A life free from true suffering

That so many must led

Through no fault of their own

Lives shattered by policies

Not of their making

GIVE MUCH NEEDED WISDOM TO THOSE IN CHARGE

 

GIVE THANKS

For life-giving trees

For abundant fresh water

For those remaining polar bears fast disappearing

Due to man’s negligence

A earth that supports so many

In peril and under stress

Because of wants not needs

And our throw away culture

GIVE ALL HER CITIZENS INSIGHT TO DO BETTER BY HER

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE HAPPIEST HALLOWEEN EVER

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Sometimes I am really worried about the young people growing up in today’s impersonal world. Often it seems as if they have little compassion, are involved in things that are questionable, and spend way too much time on video games while not spending enough effort on interpersonal relationships. Tonight, I am pleased to say I am going to have to re-consider those impressions.

This Halloween Andre chose to forego the usual costuming and instead he decided to be the one to hand out candy to all the kids in the neighborhood. I remember years past when Trick-or-Treating was very hard on him. Too much commotion, too much noise and too many scary things. Yet, tonight he wanted to be part of the action; just from the safety of his own front porch.

This evening I heard constant giggling coming through our door from the little kids as they came up to the front porch where Andre was sitting, candy in hand, excited to hand it  all out. Andre talked to every child and had a running commentary going with everyone who approached. There wasn’t one person who came to our house that he didn’t  talk with and befriend. And then something magical happened.

To understand Andre, you have to understand that he has only been invited to one or two birthday parties in his entire life. While kids at school are mostly kind, he has never had much of an out-of-school relationship with anyone. His rapid speech and his way of relating to others due to his autism has made attracting and maintaining friends difficult for him and so I was amazed by what I saw as I opened the front door by chance.

There on the porch stood five gangly boys all of whom had been in Andre’s class last year. They were the popular kids, the ones THE OTHERS all wanted to be like, especially Andre. I watched as each one of them came up to him saying “Hi Andre” while giving him a teenage boy pound on the back usually reserved for young men on the football team.  All seemed glad to see him and each told him that they missed him. But the most profound moment came when one of the boys looked Andre in the eye and said, “School isn’t the same without you. You taught us all so much.”

And then they left.

“Did you see that mom? All my friends were here. I can’t believe it. Wasn’t that great!”

Yes, Andre, it was great and for more reasons than you will ever know. For those boys restored my faith in today’s teens. They are good boys with great hearts and an ability to make everyone feel liked and included. But most of all, I came to finally understand that there are all kinds of friendships, and while Andre’s are certainly different from mine, to him they are every bit as valuable. Even if those friendships occur just for a few minutes at a time on a spooky Halloween night.

Living For The Magic Of The Moment

Many years ago I lived in the Midwest. Our property sat on a bluff overlooking the town and in fall the leaves were so vivid and red that it seemed that they were painted in rich shimmery oils aptly named CANDY CANE or FIRE ENGINE RED. We had an idyllic six acres on which to roam. On the north side a succulent pear tree grew silently upward, its branches winding silently around an abandoned wood pile, while hybrid cold-weather wine grapes dotted the steep hill out front. But the best place to be was near the back of the property where remnants of a old fort lay rotting on the ground and a bowl-shaped mass of thorny gigantic red raspberries grew; the best I have ever tasted. Seriously. All these years later I haven’t experienced anything that comes close.

It was a sliding-into-fall sort of day. Jackie and I were taking a walk at the back of the property where an old car lay on the other side of the fence being claimed by no one for the past 30 years. The sun was starting its descent while still warming the stagnant air when a monarch butterfly floated by; the light shining through its semi-transparent wings like the Rose window at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. We were surprised when another butterfly glided by, soon to be followed by another, and another, and yet another. So we began to follow them to the far back edge of our land, a place we rarely visited.

As we rounded the corner we were suddenly blinded by intense hues of orange, black and green swimming in the trees. Swarms of Monarch Butterflies, starting their migration, clung to the limbs one on top of another like necklaces of cascading orange pearls. It was mesmerizing … wings sunning themselves in the remaining light of the day and legs climbing one over the other as the dominant butterfly would make it’s way to the top of the chain.I had never seen anything like it. And then it happened…

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Our beast of a dog ran up to us barking joyfully and the butterflies released themselves from one another and the trees, swarming and swirling outward and upward, luminous in flight with hundreds upon hundreds of the magnificent creatures filling the sky. I still remember the chorus of the velvety fuzzy flap of their wings as the flew around us, some alighting on the pear tree and others settling on our heads and arms. It was one of those exceedingly rare “Take Your Breath Away” moments; the kind that you remember as you take your last dying breaths. The kind that you try to artificially create time and time again but can never quite capture the vivacity, artistry and allure of that type of spontaneity again. Yet, it doesn’t stop us from trying with mostly disappointing results.

What is it about these elusive and precious seconds that makes us want to experience them many times over? Moments like those few first seconds when you meet someone and immediately you know they are the soulmate you have been waiting for your entire life.  Or the first cry of the baby you have anxiously imagined during the last nine months. Or the moment your child shows empathy towards someone who is struggling and you realize that how you have been parenting this kid has been right all along. It’s those rare fleeting glimpses of beauty, compassion, love and mystery that give us idea of who we are and what we want for the future.They provide a meaning to life and it is in these special moments that we are reminded of the possibilities that still exist. They give us hope for something better and sometimes closure and the peace that come with it. And if you are lucky and on a day least expected, sometimes you can find those magic moments right around the corner and in your own backyard.

Copyright 2015

The Rain…292 Days To Fix This

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Sometimes when I listen to the rain

I hear your heartbeat in every splash

As droplets quietly bounce on the pavement

or splatter across the rose bushes with a

steady, familiar, and oh-so-sweet rhythm

ka-plut, ka-plut, ka-plut

Hearing the rain fall across the lanai

Made me think of you this morning

Gone East but I still hear your steady rhythm

Your almost silent hum that fills the spaces in my life

Like an imperceptible background noise

Providing a sense of comfort just in knowing

That it is there…steady and true

I have missed the rain and I miss you

The earth and I are parched and aching for moisture

And new life that a shower affords

We were in the midst of a drought, you and I

And I have missed you and your calming waters

Making me wet

Helping me to grow

Into something bewitching, alive and revived

I am thankful that now we are leading each other gently

Towards the sweet nectar of this life conferring rain

A sprinkling that falls so sweetly from the heavens

Rain that has blessed us

Rain the brings to life things long-buried

Deep within the ground

I have waited for the rainy season

Impatient, sorrowful

As clouds blocked the sun

And held tight to their dew

And as I stand in the cloudburst

I hear your heartbeat once again

As the rain falls and nourishes my soul

And so do you

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