Wednesday, July 1, 2015

GOD IS GOOD

It was the perfect summer day.

Hot.

Crazy over the top, hot. 106 degrees hot.

Like the kind of hot that makes you fell like you are accomplishing something just by being outside. Droplets of sweat like condensation on your forehead. Hair sticking to your neck. Sweat racing down the back of your knees. Sweaty underwear hot. Sorry just telling the truth.

Like anything out of your comfort- you get used to it. You carve out your new normal and adapt. You definitely don't let it stop you from Summer.

Yesterday evening we went to a local Farmer's Market to sweat and listen to a group called the Fresno County Youth Choir (FCYC). The FCYC is an auditioned honor group of singers aged 16-26 recruited from the from the 34 public high schools, three community colleges and two universities in Fresno County. Each summer season the practice and tour all over Fresno- anywhere from Soup Kitchens to Cathedrals and thankfully for us, even Farmer's Markets.

We stumbled onto them at this exact same place last year and we were so excited to do it all over again. 


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They were every bit as magical as I remembered. This time Grey stood back to absorb it all. He was overwhelmed by the crowd and the smaller space, but he loved the music.  Every so often when the guitars would sound a little flap would escape his hands. 

The choir's collective voices brought me to tears and gave me the chills. Not just the sound, but their heart. Their passion. The fact that they were here in the heat- singing their lungs out, sharing their gifts with us. I think some of our greatest callings in life are to be happy, and to share our gifts.

You could feel the vibration of the sound pounding in your chest. If anything the heat just helped it absorb and heal. I fully believe music is therapeutic. Don't believe me? Roll down your windows in your car, blast your favorite song and sing your lungs out. Then we can talk. 

We are still discovering the benefit of music on Greyson and Parker. Individuals with autism show equal or superior abilities in pitch processing, labeling of emotions in music, and musical preference when compared to typically developing peers. The most compelling evidence supporting the clinical benefits of music therapy lies in the areas of social-emotional responsiveness and communication, including increased compliance, reduced anxiety, increased speech output, decreased vocal stereotypes, receptive labeling, and increased interaction with peers. 

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As I sat and watched the group I saw instruments some that I don't remembering noticing before. There was a cool little flat boxed drum called a Cajon, a violin, guitars, even a ukulele. Each sound layered gracefully on top the next. I took moments to pay attention to each one separately. Then just listened to them all swirled together.

Each one sounded perfect. I noticed the piano didn't compare itself to the guitar- wishing it was stringier or smaller. The ukulele didn't try to sound like a guitar- it seemed to enjoy sounding smooth and beachy like. Each instrument just played its little heart out and sounded exactly how it was made to sound. Each layer important. Unique. Beautiful.

We compare so often. And berate ourselves in the areas we think we fall short. When really- made we weren't just made to be that - to do that- to play like that.  The more we tap into what we were actually created to play- the more we do the work of our soul. The more we feel passion for life. It's taken me so long to play the sounds I was hard wired to do. I'm still learning. We must play the music we were made to play. WE don't need to sound or look like anyone else. We must simply play.

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Luckily we were able to cool off with some ice cream.

This moment shocked me and had me on the floor laughing. I expected Parker to be completely freaked out by this guy but he wasn't at all.

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In fact, it was like they were old buds. Maybe Parker has a whole other life I don't know about. 

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My best friend, Annie and our kids- running some serious sugar off. Although we are only a couple of weeks into Summer, I'm certain last night will go down as one of my favorites.

And a little later we had the opportunity to listen to more live music in a wide open space that gave Grey room to get flappy.

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THANK YOU FCYC. You make a difference.

Ever notice how good God is when things work out? Your mom's surgery went well? Praise God! You sold your house? Praise God!! Everything at the Gap is 40% off? GOD IS GOOD!

And then at the crap hard in between times we don't mention him as much. Unless it's to ask him to change something about our life. Lately I've been trying to practice gratitude on the awful parts. Seriously. It's EASY to practice gratitude when things go our way- so really- that isn't practicing. It's during the hard times that we really learn gratitude at its deepest level. A few weeks back I had this awful adult confrontation situation. Ughhh, I had to be a grown up and do the right thing. I hate that stuff. At first I was a little annoyed with God- WHY DO I HAVE TO DO THIS? Feeling like I mistakenly got stuck in a cross fire. And then after crying and stomping my feet I realized I was picked for this exact moment. If I didn't have this awful grown up, kind of confrontational conversation- no one would. And it was something that needed to be done. Plus I suck at confrontation, so I could probably use a little practice anyway. And I did it- and it was hard but I didn't die. I changed my tune. "Thank you God for picking me to go through this. It was important. Thank you for trusting me. Thank you for helping me strengthen the places I am weak." 

I've been trying it more often. Traffic. Bad stuff. Anything that doesn't go my way. I'm remembering to say GOD IS GOOD. Because it's true. And it always seems to work out in the end anyway. 

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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

brave new world

The lights are brilliant and so bright they actually hurt my eyes. Everything is foreign to me...the street signs, the cars, the buildings, the smells hung heavy in the air; a mixture of fish and scooter exhaust and other things I can't pinpoint. My head is pounding and it is hard to focus.

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I am walking down a street alone in Shinjuku- one of the busiest places in Tokyo.

Amplified and so intensely loud, sounds reverberate in my ears causing an echo that almost makes me dizzy-making it difficult to think clearly. All I can focus on is how thirsty I was...how long it had been since I had eaten. I don't speak a bit of Japanese and unfortunately- everyone around me didn't speak a lick of English. They all understand each other though. I am an outsider.

So I search. I search for anyone that can help me. Anyone that looks like they might understand me. Anyone that can help me get my needs met. We are not talking about a need to be found smart or funny. Not a need for self-actualization, but primal, basic needs, Friend... Survival mode is kicking in.

Excuse me. Do you speak English? I would ask to foreign faces shaking their head in confusion, their hands high in the air. Then they get too close to my face, staring deep in my eyes in a way that makes me instantly uncomfortable. I could feel their breath on me. I pull back, desperate to regain my personal space as they inch closer and closer. Why are they so close? Why are they doing that? I know I am in danger- I can feel it. My adrenaline is spiking. 

People speak slowly and loudly- as if enunciating will suddenly help me understand them. The more I don't understand them- the more frustrated they seem to get with me. LIKE IT'S MY FAULT THEY DON'T MAKE SENSE. They are yelling louder and gesturing wildly. Why are they so angry? Don't they understand I have no idea what's going on? Don't they know this place is foreign to me? 

I realize I am actually able to figure out every tenth or so word around me. I can hear a million conversations going on around me but I am unable to listen to just one. I try to respond but suddenly my mouth just won't work. The wrong sounds keep coming out! Wuba, woo doo doo doo- I don't even know what I'm saying. I'm trying to ask for help and I can't even do that. I'm shaking and don't know how much longer I can take the assault of my senses. Please God, I beg, just let me find one person who understands me.

The smells. The lights. Every touch against my skin feels like a burn. I can't survive like this. I wish there was a door to my sanity somewhere. A portal that can take me to a reality not so completely out of my element. My heart is pounding... Please...someone help me- I finally am able to say out loud while I fall to my knees. No one even stops.  I just start to cry while people walk by me as if I do not exist. So I start to yell and scream at the top of my lungs, over and over again until my throat swells shut. I slam my fists against my head to stop the fear from swallowing me whole.


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This is my son Greyson. He has autism and he can't speak. Sometimes I think he is trying to talk to me- but I have absolutely no clue what he is saying and that kinda breaks my heart. I often imagine what life must feel like for him. I don't want him to be scared and frustrated. Whatever it takes I will do everything I can to make life easier for him.

I've never actually been to Japan... but I imagine being Autistic would feel something like I described above. He lives a lot of his life inside his own head. I do everything I can to help Greyson bridge the gap and feel like part of this world since I can't go there. 

I have to work hard to get Greyson to even look me in the eyes...

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I think about how important words are to me, not only to get my daily needs met but to express how I feel. How I feel is everything...and being able to express myself to others is a necessary release.

I imagine how bare life would feel without any words.


It's hard to imagine a day without Grey. He reminds me that every little thing is possible and that true joy is experienced most often in regular old every day moments. He reminds me how important it is to adapt--he actually shows me how to do that one.

I still have lots to learn.


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(a version of this post originally appeared in December of 2012. I still think about it all the time.)

Monday, June 22, 2015

the importance of a year

This year marked the boys first birthday where I wasn't sad, scared and feeling that terror in my stomach. That feeling like they are drowning, reaching out for me and I stand there watching them claw for the surface, yet I am unable to help.

The first year I wasn't weighed down by developmental checklists and charts.

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This thing used to haunt me. One day I finally threw the sucker away and never looked back. It's called HELP- Hawaii Early Learning Profile and it's a checklist containing 685 specific skills and behaviors in relation to all areas of development. I've spent countless hours of my life reviewing this with teachers, psychologists and State case workers. Plus numerous other reports based on developmental assessments.

I've spent so much time feeling scared because the communication gap was growing bigger and wider and into unknown dimensions we can't even measure yet. And there were so many skills they needed to be doing that they just weren't.

The state always scheduled reviews and evaluations right before each boy's birthday. We painfully would discuss each report and assess where the boys were in developmental age. It sucks the wind out of you to hear your almost three year old is communicating at a 10 month old level. It starts a cascade of awful feelings which made birthdays feel like funerals I simply had to get through. I felt that typical- Why do they have to grow so fast? Mom emotions. But on top of that panic and fear- Please God- Don't let them grow so fast without learning what they are supposed to be learning. I am so scared at how far behind they are. I am so scared about everything. And then the guilt- the guilt for feeling the pain. The inner voice that said You are AWFUL. If you were a good mom you would only feel joy on this day that we celebrate their birth.

I ached. For them and for me. To hear about all the things they weren't able to do was awful- but also it brought the fear of the unknown and the not knowing if we would ever be able to teach them what they needed to know. I would leave those meetings exhausted, wanting to sleep a thousand years and wake up in a place where life felt alright.


And this year for their birthdays- without warning or preparation, I suddenly just realized I wasn't sad. There were no checklists or assessments in sight. I was joyous and grateful and filled with the perspective I have tried unsuccessfully to talk myself into over the years.

A year forward is a gift. A one of a kind, incredible, irreplaceable gift. I looked through my last twelve months of pictures and I can see that now, at least for today. A year is so many good things that have absolutely nothing to do with charts and spreadsheets.

A year is approximately 1,342 leg hugs.

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A year is holidays and celebrations together.

It's 365 sunsets.

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And trying exciting, crazy new things.

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A year contains so much laughter that hopefully you can't even count that high. But I'm guessing somewhere around the lines of 40 billion infinity times infinity squared.

A year can contain the first time they ever held hands.

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And four million, twenty thousand happy, flappy jumps.

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A year contains about 48 Speech Therapy sessions where I sit on the floor so I can get the best view possible. Where I cheer and yell out loud answers by mistake because I get so excited. BLUE!!! SAY BLUE!!!

A year is 100 wishes, made by me and them.

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A year is a thousand trips to Target.

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A year is Greyson learning to write his name.
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And Parker kinda, sorta, mostly being potty trained.

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A year is a trillion kisses

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And 84 ice cream cones

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A year is a blessing. A year of outgrowing old habits and shoes and hair cuts. A year watching them sleep and breathe, chest rising up and down. A year is a gift of magic, unique to each and every one of us. A custom portrait made with all the colors of the world.

It's not about the checklists, charts and evaluations. It's about the moments. The incredible moments we have together on this earth. The hard moments, the beautiful ones, the moments we ache and the moments we can't believe how lucky we are.

That's what a year means to me.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

the cure for autism

The decent into California felt like a mixture of magic and dreams, and instantly gathered a a million filed away memories from every old television show set in Los Angeles that 25 year old me had ever seen.

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I was in absolute jaw-dropped awe. My very own script of Beverly Hills 90210- starring ME. A pre-dosed vial of possibility was administered with each and every landing in the City of Angels. Looking out at the sparkling lights felt like Life. Even the traffic was breathtaking and from a distance resembled lines of red and white twinkle lights pointing me towards home.

Missouri girls don't move to LA. Missouri girls get jobs and get married and have babies and then quit jobs and make casseroles. It's how the whole world works- at least I thought--that is until I had my first dose of Los Angeles.

Life was never the same after that. I could never unknow the intoxication I felt with every landing to a place that also felt instantly like a backwards and upside down version of home. Six months prior I had met a boy who called Los Angeles home and we were dating long distance. And only six short months after meeting The One- I moved in with him in his pad in Brentwood. After a year and a half I discovered he was not in fact my The One. My heart was broken. It physically hurt. I was sick with anxiety and sadness and a fear that I could never survive in the chaotic and expensive city all on my own. I couldn't run back to Missouri without trying Los Angeles on my own first though. I was discovering who I was- and I knew I wanted to be someone who was strong- even when life was hard. Especially when life was hard. I was scared and hopeful all swirled into one cone. I got a six month lease on a studio apt--the entire thing could now fit inside my current bedroom. Should I stay or should I go now? The question I would only allow myself to ask at the END of my six month lease in my very first very own apartment on Barrington Street in Brentwood California.

It was in Los Angeles that I first learned and understood- my life was going nothing as I planned. I was now 27 and single. Little kid me planned for 27 year old me to be married with a child, maybe even another one already on the way. And here I was- starting over with absolutely everything. Work. Love. Grocery store. Friendships and all of life.

At this time I also learned that whatever you look for, you will find. You think there are only fake people in LA? Then only fake people you will find. You think it's impossible to afford to live there on your own? It will be impossible. We are reflections of what we want to see. I had to make certain I looked for the good stuff.

Despite a fear and pain and sadness so deep it bled, I was alive. I was alright. I felt like ME, real me for the first time in so long. Life had an endless feeling of possible again. That feeling of possible that only pain and change can bring. And the answer to the question- What do you want to be when you grow up? Could still be answered in any way I wanted.

Fast forward to now. About 15 tiny little drips in a bucket later, as measured by human folks in 'years'. My nouns and definitions have seriously changed a million times since then. Almost everything I thought was true- isn't. And everything I didn't think possible - is. It's taught me that I don't really know much at all- and that's ok. I understand that when it's important for me to know it- I will. God- the universe- whatever you believe is your bigger power- will reveal it to you at exactly the right time. 

And our nouns, our nouns we hold with white knuckled fists-they are not us. Even the ones we demand to define us- whether mother or wife or runner or lawyer. The things we pray don't define us- divorcee, over eater, angry, impatient, anxious, depressed. They are all just layers on top of the core that always has been and always will be glorious YOU. 5 year old discovering the world you. 14 awkward, blooming, growing you. 23 year old who am I? you. 34 year old- where did I go? you. 45 year old- who am I now? You.
Always you
Only you
We are always lost. We are always found. We are always me and you.

We act like life is a processing of getting. Getting a marriage and a car, and house and a job and toys to occupy our time. Getting love and children and then a bigger house and different stuff.

But I'm discovering that in reality- real life is the opposite of getting. Real life is letting go. Letting go of expectations. Of things that will never be reality. Of love. Of our children when they are ready to fly the nest. Of friendships that just aren't right. Of jobs that hold us back. Of stuff that doesn't matter and never ever will. The letting go is much harder than the getting. It is what hurts but it's also what heals.


When Grey first showed signs of autism we were desperate to help him. To fix it or stop it or cure it. We tried everything. Special diets, new therapies and treatments. Injections, pills, creams, and a thousand different supplements. If something is broke- you fix it. And when that something is actually your child-your satellite heart? You flip the world upside down and backwards. 

But you see I couldn't fix him. I tried. I couldn't cure him. If I could it would have been done a long time ago. But I could and can and always will- help him. It still means working our asses off, trying new things, and continuing the things that work- but it's not to cure him- it's to make his life better and easier.

The other day I realized in awe, that there IS a person who could be cured from autism. It was me. It was me that had to go through a process of grief and acceptance. It's been me all along that HAD to try those things as part of the journey. That had to turn over every rock, and try every therapy. It was me that had to let go of expectations and pain and resisting what is. It was me that had to take care of myself so I could be a better Mom- with running and writing and yoga and God. It was me that had to realize that autism is here to stay- and everything is STILL going to be okay.

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Scratch that- EVERYTHING IS AMAZING. It's taken a few years, but I can finally say I'm cured of autism.

Will I tell new folks on this journey- "You need to realize you don't need to FIX your child. They are perfect they way they are" Just as SO many people constantly told me? Absolutely not. Like me- they probably won't listen to it. And like me- they need to do their precious journey in a way that does their own soul and family justice. They may need to discover this important realization all on their own as part of their own process of curing themselves from autism. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

life on the spectrum

Sometimes we long so much for the perfect life, that we completely miss out on the perfect moments that are occurring daily.

Perfect moments are about as good as it gets for humans. Which is actually pretty darn good--crazy good. We just have to remember pay attention to them when they are happening. It's easy to get so distracted by life that we miss them. Check in every so often with your life. Pay attention. You will find perfect moments scattered throughout.

Today was Greyson's last day of school. And I might hate change even more than he does. Author Lisa Genova says, "The spectrum is long and wide, and we're all on it. Once you believe this, it becomes easy to see how we're all connected." Life throws us into the cold water of change. I'd prefer to just stick a toe in at a time, but change doesn't work that way. I'm trying to think of the water as less painfully frigid-- and more exciting and invigorating. Change takes time to feel like a new normal. I always feel like I just got here though. No matter what here I'm talking about. 

This morning we went to school a few minutes early as we always do. Greyson sat up front with me and opened and closed the sun roof over and over and over. 

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The sun was shining hot through the windows, the air conditioning was on cool- the perfect mix of salty and sweet. Sun beams would fill our car with magic. Doodle thought we were on a ride at Disney Land.

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Jack the dog was in the passenger seat, window cracked just enough so he could poke his nose out and smell all the amazing smells. 

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The Rolling Stones song, "Wild Horses" was turned up loud on the radio. The guitar in that song feels like a sunset and tastes like honey mixed with tears. I'm listening to it now as I write.

Childhood living is easy to do
The things you wanted I bought them for you
Graceless lady you know who I am
You know I can't let you slide through my hands

Wild horses couldn't drag me away

Wild, wild horses, couldn't drag me away

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Rock star

I looked down at my legs and realized I had the chills. I noticed then- that I was submersed in a moment so perfect that it was disguised as real life. Crazy good real life. I wondered how many times I miss them. I was grateful that at least this one- I caught. 


Real and perfect seem to lie opposite on their own spectrum. I wonder why we spend so much time chasing perfect. Why are we so afraid of real? Real is where the stuff happens. The human-making stuff.

Good times make people have fun.
Hard times- make people.
Imperfect people with beauty, depth, empathy, hope, faith, problem-solving skills and even humor. Really good people.  

So much of life is a spectrum, a term that was first fully understood when we learned that Greyson had autism. And then again, in new and different ways when Parker was diagnosed. It's a repeating message in my life-something the universe is hell bent on teaching me. I'm realizing the hardest times can ruin us- OR teach us the greatest gifts imaginable. Happy times are my favorite- but they don't teach me squat. They don't make me better. They don't make me stretch outside of my comfort zone.They don't remind me what is important.

"Where are they on the spectrum?" I'm frequently asked in regards to the boys and autism. And there really isn't a simple answer, but I offer one anyway because neither one of us has time for a six hour response. "Somewhere in the middle" is what I say. Which is true. Both of them are completely different and have their own strengths, but both still lie somewhere in the middle.

First of all- for anyone to receive a diagnosis of autism, one must have delays or abnormal functioning in all three of the following areas:

1. Communication: 
Delay in, or total lack of, the development of spoken language. In individuals with adequate speech, marked impairment in the ability to initiate or sustain a conversation with others. Use of stereotyped and repetitive use of language or idiosyncratic language.

2. Social Interactions: 
Marked impairments in the use of multiple nonverbal behaviors such as eye-to-eye gaze, facial expression, body posture, and gestures to regulate social interaction. Failure to develop peer relationships appropriate to developmental level. A lack of spontaneous seeking to share enjoyment, interests, or achievements with other people,

3. Behaviors: 
Restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities, as manifested by at least one of the following: 
a.  Encompassing preoccupation with one or more stereotyped and restricted pattern of interest that is abnormal either in intensity or focus.
b. Apparently inflexible adherence to specific, nonfunctional routines or rituals.
c. Stereotyped and repetitive motor mannerisms (e.g., hand or finger flapping or twisting, or complex whole-body movements).
d. Persistent preoccupation with parts of objects.


So really each of the three categories also has their own spectrum too. 

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Just like this totally non-scientific, confusing x/y-ish (plus L,M,N, O and P) grid shows. It's confusing and not easily plot-able because autism is confusing and not easily plot-able.

A child can be nonverbal and also have very few behaviors that are in line with autism. Or a child can be highly verbal but have huge difficulty with social interaction. If a child has severe impairments in all three areas: communication, social interactions and significant behaviors- they are "low-functioning." "High functioning" means their impairments do not restrict their abilities and independence as much. 

People often assume Parker is "less autistic" because he is more social, even tempered and flexible, can speak words clearer than his brother and is usually a pretty happy little guy. I think he's just different autistic. Parker has significant communication delays. He struggles with receptive language- the understanding of the spoken word. Only recently he started to understand and go to the door when I tell him, "Let's go bye bye!" Parker also does not speak more than 2-3 words at a time and usually it is only when prompted. Although Parker is more socially engaged - he interacts more with adults and less with children. He does not engage in play with peers his own age. Parker does not have many behaviors in line with autism- he doesn't need things a specific way. He isn't sensitive to sounds. He tries new foods. He doesn't fixate on an items parts. He plays with toys as they are meant to be played with (ie- Grey lines cars up. Parker makes them drive around).

Grey is the Spring weather. He is birds singing and rainbows and sudden gray skies and tornadoes. His weather always passes quickly. He shocks me with his knowledge receptive language- even though he can't speak much, he understands so much. He learns fast. When he gets something wrong- he frustrates slower than his brother. He always tries again. He has apraxia- his brain and mouth can't properly work together to get out the correct sounds. He thinks he is saying it correctly so it's extra frustrating for him when we do not understand him. For example- He says "mies" for fries- which we now know but it took a few days/weeks to figure it out the first time. He frequently leaves off the end sounds in his words. Cup is "cuuuu". Grey has more behaviors in line with autism- sensitivity to sounds and new foods and new situations.

And then they are so much the same. Moppy headed giggly boys. 

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They think our back yard is the greatest place on earth. They think a sun roof is a good time. They love the pool, swinging, being outside and long wagon rides. They remind me of how little it takes to be happy. Truly happy. I think adults get so caught up in life that we forget. Seriously. Why is it so hard to be happy? Why is it so hard to remember what makes us happy? Why is it so hard to be a grown up that still plays? 

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Like me- it's impossible for them to hide their feelings.



Most of my thoughts lie opposite on their own spectrum.I'm scared of being ordinary. I want to stand out. I want to do remarkable things.

Also, I just want to blend in. Mesh together with the people around me so that it feels like home.

I want adventure. I need adventure! I'm empty and achy in its absence. I'm so tired of my Groundhog day existence.

But I also need the same. I crave the same. I love the familiarity of our routines. I use the same mug for my oatmeal every morning and that brings me great comfort. My world is predictable. A balm that soothes.

I think many of us lie somewhere in the middle of our own spectrums in our own lives. Falsely thinking we need to be striving for one side or the other, when all we really need to do is find the good and perfect moments where we already are right in the middle.

Happy Summer my friends. I hope yours is the perfect mix of perfect and real.

XOXO,

Chrissy


Sunday, June 7, 2015

Surfer's Healing + Greyson's 6th

The salty spray cascades down my sandy legs. My clothes are wet from a few energetic waves but I'm not cold, I'm warm from a blanket of adrenaline. I squint towards the horizon, desperately searching for my two hearts amongst a sea of surfboards. I feel happy and alive and as if every painful moment of the past few years has led me up to today and has been worth it. And no matter what happens in the future? Everything's going to be just fine.

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Except for wow, truck, and chips, 22 month old Greyson still wasn't speaking. Every single day I woke up hoping THIS would be the day that the language explosion everyone promised would finally happen. His eyes, a beautiful blue that once locked into mine, were drifting off to sea. Every day he got further away, and I was desperately reaching my fingers out to him. I was scared because I couldn't stretch much further.

Our second son, Parker, was born and that slight divide between Greyson and I grew into a canyon. I set up camp in a place called denial so I could deal; it was easier there. Despite my disbelief we still saw a slew of specialists and started Speech Therapy and Early Intervention services through the state of California. I was excited for the day I could walk in to all those places and announce- See ya later suckerssssss! Greyson was just a late bloomer, we're all good now!

That day never arrived. And a hole in my heart the day the doctor said, "Greyson fits the diagnostic criteria for autism", grew bigger than the ocean. Grief became my wingman. I believed everything it told me, including we would never find happiness again.

Fast forward three years to now, and one additional autism diagnosis for Parker. Here I stand in awe of the Pacific Ocean as well as the enormity of life. I can't remember the last time I felt this happy. This alive. I pull myself out from deep inside my always thinking mind and force myself in the present. I feel so much that at times it's hard to make sense of it. I feel the sand on my feet and exhilaration in my chest. There's nothing better or more real than this very moment.

For Greyson's 6th birthday we signed up for a very special surf camp for children with autism. Surfers Healing is a non-profit organization started in 1996 by pro surfer Izzy Paskowitz and his wife, Danielle. They were inspired when they saw the dramatic and transformative effect the ocean had on their son, Isaiah. Isaiah has autism, and Dad- Izzy had a feeling that surfing might just be able to help other children with autism too.

It's not often that you get to see someone doing the very work of their soul. Someone who listened to that inner whisper and didn't let life's 'what ifs' hold them back. It inspires you to ask yourself- what more can I do?

While helping to heal these kids souls, I think Izzy is also healing his own too, as well as so many proud parents who have had the honor to participate in his surf camps.

We gathered Saturday at Surfriders Beach in Malibu CA, home of some of the sweetest, smoothest-breaking waves.

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It was amazing to see the shore lined with people gathered for the very same reason as we were.


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I love that on this beach, in this little slice of heaven -I am kind of the minority. I am in Spectrumville. I look from left to right and see and whole slew of kids- fixating, happy and flapping. It was amazing to watch.

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Greyson is in sensory heaven.

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It makes Michael and I so so happy to see our boys so completely at peace and so happy. Every time we go to the beach it's feels like we are all encountering a long lost friend.

My throat gets tight and my eyes glisten as I think of all of the awesome volunteer surfers sharing their talent and time, wave after wave, all day long. They have some serious brass to ride tandem with kids of all sizes, paddling and balancing all that extra weight. Some kids screaming and crying, many are unpredictable. Some clawing to get their arms around their necks- to be held like little baby monkey (ahem -Parker). Some doing all of the above. There were also many kids who headed out scared, and rode back with grins as big as the ocean. And some who were just chill from the beginning. Here- anything goes.

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There were definitely some tears. Clearly both boys were way out of their comfort zones. The volunteers were confident and patient with them.

I see two tiny black specks grow into surf boards as they grow closer. Life is moving so fast I can hardly process as quickly as my eyes can see. In disbelief I realize BOTH Parker and Greyson are riding the same wave towards the shore, perfectly choreographed in synchronization. I'm shocked- I had no idea surfers could work such magic. Did they work that out during the lull of the waves? I wondered. (Check these rad little dudes out.)




I later found out the incredible surfers, Peter and Brandon, had no idea Greyson and Parker were brothers. They both just happened to grab the exact same wave at the exact same time. Trust me when I tell you God was there on the beach with every one of us, working exactly that kind of magic all day long.

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I can't even put words to the feeling of this moment. Both boys- same wave=Perfection.

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(Awesome picture courtesy of Caryn Baitel- Thank you!)

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Picture by Caryn Baitel

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Pay no mind to the boy's sad faces, they were overwhelmed here- but they still had an incredible experience. They are like me- sometimes they just need time to process. And the volunteer surfers are FRICKING AWESOME.

Nothing could have ever prepared me for the pain that autism can bring. But even more indescribable is the immense joy that frequently threatens to make your heart explode right out of your chest- like it did here. I love my boys for cracking my heart wide open and teaching me what really matters in life. Autism can be so hard, but it also just slaps you on the face and cuts through the bullshit and yells --THIS. PAY ATTENTION. THIS IS WHAT LIFE IS ALL ABOUT.

Yesterday I realized that life and autism are a little like the beach. There are many people who go and hate it. They just don't get it. They complain that the sand gets all over everywhere, and they got a sun burn, and parking sucks. The water is cold and salty and hurts their eyes. Yet still there are others, they may experience some of those feelings, some of the time, but they pay attention to the good stuff too. They find the water cold yet exhilarating. The sand- warm and calming. The horizon hopeful. They relish the wave that sucks at their feet at the shore before heading back home.

No matter what your life's circumstances, make sure you find the good in it. It's there, I promise.

Izzy's take on surfing, found in his honest, hilarious, raw and heartwarming book Scratching the Horizon is also a perfect rule for life- "A lot of times, you'll see surfers hanging on the outside, sitting on their boards, waiting and waiting on the perfect wave, but that isn't the Paskowitz way... A lot of folks don't get this. Serious, kick-ass surfers - some of them just don't get this. They'll see me point for a nothing-special wave, and they"ll call out to me. They'll say, "Hey, Izzy, there's a much bigger set coming." But in my head I'm gone. In my head I know there's no such thing as a better wave than the one I'm on."

Today, June 7th we celebrate Greyson's 6 years on earth. I've learned more in these 6 years than the entire 35 that preceded. I'm emotionally hung over from our trip. I don't want to leave this little pocket of wonder and return to the sameness of our days. I'm infused with calm, and desperate to make some of yesterday's perspective stickier than the sand on our legs.

No matter what happens, I'm ready to catch the next wave, no matter what it looks like as soon as it comes along. I'm ready to ride it out. To borrow from Izzy- "There's no such thing as a better wave than the one I'm on."

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A very very special thank you to Surfer's Healing, especially Izzy and beautiful mermaid Danielle. We are so grateful to be on this earth at the same time as you guys. Also- thank you to Brandon and Peter for taking such loving care of our little guys. If anyone would like to make a donation to Surfer's Healing- CLICK HERE. They don't charge a dime for their camps, and they need the generosity of sponsors and donors to make this kind of magic happen for as many families as possible.

Happy 6th birthday, Bitty G. You beat my heart. XOXO