Summer Solstice

Today’s Summer Solstice, the first day of summer and the longest day of the year, will be a little longer for some.   Today my sister-in-law buried her oldest son.  What should have been a day to celebrate the beginning of summer, instead was a day of mourning.

At the graveside service, the officiant quoted from the third chapter of Ecclesiastes.  This version is from the New Revised Standard Version Catholic Edition (NRSVCE).

3  For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

2  a time to be born, and a time to die;
    a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
3  a time to kill, and a time to heal;
    a time to break down, and a time to build up;
4  a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
    a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
5  a time to throw away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
    a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
6  a time to seek, and a time to lose;
    a time to keep, and a time to throw away;
7  a time to tear, and a time to sew;
    a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
8  a time to love, and a time to hate;
    a time for war, and a time for peace.

While there may be some wisdom in these words, the loss of a child upsets the order of things.  For everything there is a season… a time to die for us all.  Parents want that time to be before our children.  Time will bring acceptance and healing.  Until then, we allow ourselves to grieve the untimely passing of Zachary Rausch, gone too soon.

A Prayer

Many people around me are hurting today.

Today’s post is simply a prayer…

A prayer for comfort for my brother-in-law and sister-in-law who just lost their son, and for all those who have lost loved ones…

A prayer for healing for my step-father who is very ill and headed back to the hospital, and for all those who are struggling with health issues…

A prayer for rest for those who are overworked…

A prayer for abundance for those who are struggling financially…

A prayer for sobriety for those with addictions…

A prayer for safety for those in harm’s way…

A prayer for companionship for those who are lonely…

A prayer for courage for those who are afraid…

A prayer for the human condition.

When You’re Right, You’re Right

As Father’s Day comes to a close, I am thinking about all the fathers in my life.

My son, who is celebrating his second Father’s Day, has a baby girl who simply adores him.  I am proud of the dad he is, especially because he didn’t really have a role model.

When I was a teenager, my step-father sewed a skirt I ripped as I cried out of frustration.  He took me to the emergency room when I fell down a flight of stairs and split my noggin open.  And he made some killer cubed steak and gravy too!  He doesn’t sew or cook much anymore.

My brother-in-law is celebrating his first Father’s Day.  He had never held an infant until his own son was born.  By my sister’s own admission, he is a better mother than she could ever be.

My father-in-law is a wonderful man and has treated me like a daughter nearly since the day we met.  He looks out for me, sends me things he knows I would like, and takes a general interest in what’s going on with me.  (I think he likes me better than my husband.)

All kidding aside, my husband learned a lot from his dad.  I always say the line that hooked me was when my husband’s online profile listed one of his favorite things as “telling jokes that make me laugh and my kids roll their eyes.”  I always heard that the best gift a man can give his kids is to love their mother.  Well, we don’t have any children together, but my husband has certainly given his step-children the gift of loving their mother.  And I know it has been good for them.

Finally, I have been thinking about my dad all day.  He could make any situation seem better with just a few  words.  I can remember calling him late at night, because I knew he would be up… and if he wasn’t he would talk to me anyway.  He always knew just what to say.  One of the things he used to say to me, popped into my head first thing this morning.  It was usually after I had done something stupid and he wanted to let me know he was in my corner no matter what.  He would say, “You’re my daughter.  When you’re right, you’re right and when you’re wrong, you’re right.”  Now I was smart enough to know I wasn’t always right… especially in those moments.  But it sure made me feel better.

Little One

This is my oldest son and his daughter (my only granddaughter… so far).  I don’t know what it is about babies that is so enthralling, but I could watch her for hours.  Maybe it is that everything mesmerizes her… everything is an adventure.  Oh, to remember that everything is a miracle!

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Thriving With Autism

I walk nearly every day. While I’m walking, I listen to personal growth mp3’s, webcasts, podcasts, or radio programs. As I walk and listen, I frequently begin composing my blog post for the day, often unintentionally. Tonight was no different.

Today was my youngest son’s 12th birthday. Although all children go through things as they grow and develop, some have more challenges than others. My youngest son is one of these. Fortunately, he has dealt with these challenges well.

He was initially diagnosed with generalized anxiety, ADHD inattentive type, and a short-term processing deficit. My purpose is not to get into a dialogue about labels, but to paint a picture of the struggles he was facing. Later added to his diagnoses were mild Autism and possible dyslexia.

When very young, my son wouldn’t make eye contact with anyone except immediate family. He was extremely anxious. If we drove home a different way than we usually did, he panicked. We avoided many places and situations in order to keep him calm. Like many children with Autism, my son has sensory issues such as hypersensitive senses of smell and hearing. He also has proprioceptive problems, which cause him to walk so hard that he wears holes in the bottoms of his shoes in a very short period of time, and make it difficult to do things that require balance, like riding a bike. He had great difficulty with fine motor skills such as writing and did not learn to tie his shoes until he was eleven years old. I could write a book on the difficulties my son struggled with, but I would rather celebrate his successes.

Over the years, my son has seen psychologists, psychiatrists, neurologists, naturopaths, pediatric Autism specialists, educational Autism specialists, language therapists, occupational therapists, reading specialists, and special education teachers. All of them were impressed by how much progress he has made over the years. He was essentially a non-reader in the second grade. He had a series of teachers who have helped him get close to grade level now that he will be entering sixth grade.

When my son was eight years old, I took him to an international camp for young people. Prior to attending the camp, we took him off the medication he had been on for his ADD and anxiety, at the suggestion of the facilitator. One purpose of the camp was to teach children how to face and overcome their fears. On the way home from the camp my son told me he didn’t think he needed his medicine anymore. He hasn’t been on medication since.

Socially, my son is working on things that many children with Autism must be taught more explicitly than other children (i.e, taking turns in a conversation, showing interest in other people and what they have to say). He tries to turn every conversation back to whatever he is interested in at the moment (currently it’s the Beatles). Ironically, he loves middle school. Even more ironic is the fact that he likes it for the social aspect.

Tonight at the dinner table, we were talking about the fact that my son likes older music (mostly from the sixties, seventies, and eighties). His classmates often give him a hard time about this. (I’m sure they point out his idiosyncrasies well.) He commented, “I’m just different, and that’s okay.” I know that no matter what he says, he doesn’t like being teased. I do believe that he has healthy self-esteem and realizes that the children that aren’t so nice to him are simply ignorant and rude.

In addition to his positive outlook, my son does love music. He dabbles in guitar and piano, and sings like a bird. He loves costumes and getting into character. When he likes something, he learns everything he can about it (one of the Asperger’s traits he displays)… and will tell you all about it. Above all else, he is happy. So my son is not suffering from Autism, he is thriving with Autism. And for that, I am happy.

Tutoring for a Teenager

My son needed to make up a half credit of Algebra II to complete his graduation requirements.  He attempted Credit Recovery (essentially, online summer school) for the same, with negative results.  This program leaves out one of the most important components of education, which is the aid of a human being who can diagnose problems and coach the student accordingly in real time.  

So I hired a tutor.  Incidentally, I used to tutor through an online tutoring company, so I did my search there.  As I searched for the right tutor, I found a woman I knew.  We had done some personal growth work together, so I knew her character and work ethic.  After I hired her, my son pointed out that she had been a teacher at his previous high school.  He had not been happy about getting a tutor, but knowing that this woman was going to be the one seemed to ease the discomfort for him.

Today was his first session.  It seemed so natural, as the tutor had been to our home in the past and she knew both my son and me.  She has a natural rapport with teenagers, maintaining a good balance between connecting with them as a fellow human being and maintaining authority in the situation.  

As she worked with my son, the tutor quickly spotted holes in his learning and set forth a plan of action to fill those holes and move forward.  I am so grateful for the twists and turns that brought us to this place.  My son (did I mention he was not happy about getting a tutor?) seemed very happy when she left.  He actually told me he liked her.  I am hoping this is going to facilitate his learning process. 

Broccoli Greens and Being a Good Steward

My son planted a garden for me this spring.  So far, we have enjoyed red leaf lettuce and butter crisp lettuce from it.  I have also used the spearmint we’ve grown in a cucumber and pineapple dish that I love, and in iced tea.  Because my broccoli began flowering, I researched whether I should toss it or whether it was still edible.  I was fascinated to learn everything that could be done with broccoli.

As it turns out, broccoli can be eaten after flowering.  In fact, the flowers alone can be purchased in some places for consumption.  The stalk can be grated and used to make cole slaw (which  I have seen but never tried).  What I found most surprising was that the leaves could be cooked and eaten like any other form of greens.  Tonight I cooked the broccoli spears and I also cooked the leaves, adding some bacon bits to them as they wilted.  I was surprised at how good they were.  They had the texture of kale, with a milder flavor.

I share all of this to say that I have always strived to be a good steward of what has been entrusted to me.  In this case,  food is the currency.  I often use leftovers to make soups, stews, or casseroles.   I just can’t stand to throw things away.  Incidentally, growing my own broccoli and studying it has allowed me to use all of the vegetable.  (I actually think I like the greens better than the florets.)

If you have any recipes that use other than traditional parts of plants,  or recipes that utilize leftovers, I’d love to hear them.

Coming of Age

Today is my son’s 18th birthday.  (It is also my sister’s birthday, and my nephew’s… and mine was yesterday. Whew!  Busy couple of days!)  It is one of the those bittersweet occasions.  I am happy for my adult son, but my little boy is no more.  I only have one more in the nest, so I am a little melancholy… but quite frankly, I’m also a little relieved.

Today I was thinking about where my son Bailey is right now in life.  He just finished school (although he does have a credit recovery course to take this summer).  He doesn’t really know what he wants to do with his life.  The internal pressure must be great, and the possibilities are endless.  Coming of age is exciting and a little scary.

It has been interesting watching my children grow and change.  Interestingly enough, I notice that I am really no different from them.  I am constantly evolving.  I am still learning new things.  And I am still exploring new possibilities.

So as my son moves into adulthood, I hope he finds something he loves to do and that he gets paid well to do it.  I hope he surrounds himself with people who love him and will encourage him (so far, so good).  I hope he honors himself by taking care of his health.  And I hope he is appreciative of everything, especially life itself.

Happy Birthday, Bailey!