Saturday, January 23, 2021

what color are your emotions?

When I was younger, I always wondered why old people spent so much time talking about their physical maladies. Now that I am approaching old people in age, I get it. (kind of). But please intervene if I only talk about everyone who I don't really know- and you don't know at all that died- ie- "Remember Sally who I used to play cards with? Well her neighbors husband had a heart attack while mowing the lawn and he died. And Stan from the Meat Market just had a quadruple bypass."

I have arthritis and degenerative disc disease. It's not really a disease, it's just your spine getting old- even if you aren't old. Basically, the discs that cushion the vertebrae begin to dry out. Discs can also get damaged from normal wear and tear or an injury. I figured this out soon after I turned 30, and I had a ten month long severe headache. Turns out, I no longer had the spongey matter in between two cervical discs, and I had to get them fused. I made that sound like it was easy- it wasn't. It took months and months of advocacy and trial and error and medicines and procedures and specialists. 

Sometimes there is no silver lining to the pain we are going through in real time, however, we might be learning skills that we will need later on in life. That research and advocacy and relentless pursuit for answers has served me well since then. 

Did I tell you I had scoliosis as a child? Yep, I got to wear a real fancy BACK BRACE for years. Let me tell you, that sure was a blast. Especially around puberty where you already feel awkward and ugly. The brace didn't do its just (probably because I would go to school, and take it off and hide it in my locker for the day), so I ended up having my thoracic spine fused right after I graduated from college. I've got an 18 inch scar and unbendable steel rods on either side of my spine. 

Now I can add arthritis in my knees and shoulders. And for the past month, my shoulders have been aching like crazy. Something to do with winter and rain and barometric pressure. I can't lift my arms straight up without wincing. My neck muscles feel like rocks. I've been doing lots of stretching and strengthening and popping advil like crazy. Sometimes it all depresses me. Sometimes it gives me something positive to focus on during the many hours I spend at home. 

The other day I was able to get an appointment at a local Physical Therapy office for a massage. My first one in over a year. On a scale of 1-5, I like a 10+ when it comes to pressure. Please, get in deep, make my muscles feel like they are about to bleed and bruise pretty please. The amazing masseuse did an incredible job, and even went several minutes over our scheduled hour. I got in the car after to let Michael know I was running late, and I just started crying while talking about the massage. I started laughing while I was crying. "I don't even know why I'm crying." I said. Technically, I know it's called an "emotional release." It is because massage accesses the soft tissues of the body deeply, and it can unlock emotional energy locked in those tissue. I think that we think of emotions as arbitrary, ghost like things because we can't see them. But they are so very very real. 


Sometimes life is hard, but sometimes it feels easy. Right now it feels easy. Don't forget to notice the easy. Here are some scenes from regular old ordinary life, which is my favorite. 











This one made me laugh because it's so Parkery.




And this kid...his eyes still take my breath away




I shared the following story on Facebook the other day. There are many stories like this burrowed deep in my bones. Writing helps get it out.





I was sweating in the small booth, hands shaking while holding two year old Greyson tightly on my lap. We were at a Hearing Evaluation, and they wanted to see if he would at least orient towards the side the sounds were coming from through his head phones since he couldn't point or tell them. He struggled against the head phones, and I just knew the entire thing was going to be a bust. 

I started to feel claustrophobic inside that booth and inside my head. "Michael- you come in here and hold him, and I'll see if I can help keep his attention on the outside?" There was a big glass window where the evaluator was running a switch board that appeared to be older than me. 

Sitting still and Greyson were never used in the same sentence, and he was struggling. "Some kids are talkers, and some kids are do'ers" the evaluator said. The words felt like aloe on a sunburn- yes, my mind said. That's what must be going on with Greyson. He doesn't talk yet, because he's a do'er. 

This was one step out of 100 that we had to take to get answers. It took so much work, and a willingness to change my own perspective to realize Greyson is exactly who he was meant to be, and as his Mother, unconditional love means accepting every single part of that. Imagine how sad you would feel if someone who you trusted with all your soul was constantly wishing you were something or someone else. 

It's been almost ten years since that hot sweaty booth, and my throat hurts when I think about how scary the beginning was, and how different things feel now. Remember that if you are at a beginning of something in your own life. I promise things will look and feel different soon.



What are you holding inside right now? I think if we could see our emotions- like if they showed up as a color, we would realize how very real and how powerful they are. 



Thursday, January 14, 2021

The Pandemic

 I don’t remember the first time it was introduced to me. I vaguely remember hearing it said in the background television news while I was making dinner one evening: Corona Virus. The only image that conjured up for me was a cold Mexican beer, kosher salt on the rim with a lime. 


It went from being a “that’s a funny name for a virus, “ to being the whole word in what felt like 0 to 60. Nothing to everything all at once.  


Some of the details are fuzzy, but this is around the same time that we got word from the school board- school would be closing until after spring break to stop the spread of this virus. It was a Friday- on March 13th. I was FREAKING OUT. Three entire weeks with NO SCHOOL?! What the what? Like TWENTY ONE DAYS?!!!!! It’s all the news reported on, and the world went into a frenzy of shopping and stockpiling for the Corona Apocolypse.


Sign outside of Costco




My version of stocking up. 


Online Therapy with the boys sucks. It's probably 70% less effective than in person. Luckily most of our learning is still in person. 


I went grocery shopping a few times that weekend buying the essentials- protein, and Applegate Farms hot dogs for Grey. The paper aisles were ransacked, and toilet paper hoarding officially became a thing, (According to the Business Insider, When the coronavirus pandemic hit, toilet-paper sales in the US jumped by 845%. We're talking $1.45 billion in sales in just one month.) I received forwarded texts to fill my gas with car, make sure we withdrew cash from the bank, and had enough food to eat for as long as possible. 


It was like a Tom Cruise adventure movie had come to life. Slowly and quickly the world became more and more restrictive. 



You guys- TJ Maxx even closed. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT?!


Each trip to the loo, and each preparation of a meal showed me how much I wasted BC- Before Covid. Life slowed down. Then restaurants and gyms and hair salons closed. Shit gets real when you have months worth of gray roots. The school reopening date kept getting pushed back further and further. We had to wear masks anywhere we went. 

Here are some facts for you John Hopkins about Covid 19:

  • COVID-19 appeared in Wuhan, a city in China, in December 2019.
  • Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can cause illnesses such as the common cold, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). In 2019, a new coronavirus was identified as the cause of a disease outbreak that originated in China.
  • The virus is now known as the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The disease it causes is called coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). In March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.
  • Coronaviruses are named for their appearance: Under the microscope, the viruses look like they are covered with pointed structures that surround them like a corona, or crown.
  • The virus is spread through droplets released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets generally do not travel more than a few feet, and they fall to the ground (or onto surfaces) in a few seconds — this is why distancing is effective in preventing the spread.


That was now 44 weeks ago now. And those 44 weeks have been lots of lows, and many highs. In our District, schools still have not reopened. I laugh when I think about being afraid of their three week closure. Ha! The human spirit is so adaptable. 

During what we call, “The Pandemic”, the divide between the Left and the Right became even more pronounced. There was a constant battle between people who think the virus is a joke, and people who fear it daily.  People who would wear masks, and people who refuse them. 

The world became even more divided after the death of a black man named George Flyod in May of 2020, a year that became a curse word equivalent. A video showing a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on Floyd's neck went viral following his death. George Floyd told the Officer that he couldn’t breathe…he called him “sir’…he called for his momma. It was impossible to watch the video without wanting to vomit, or yell or jump through the screen to save him yourself. Floyd's death on Memorial Day sparked international protests pushing for an end to police brutality against communities of color and calls for social justice reforms all over the world.

What about protesting the lives of black people would ever make someone defensive? I can not wrap my mind around it. I know Black lives SHOULD MATTER, but they don’t to everyone and that’s not ok.The subsequent deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor in the USA sparked a new wave of protests. 

I shouldn’t be- but I’m shocked by how many everyday racists there are walking around in neighborhoods all over the United States. People who refuse to acknowledge that racism even exists. White people who don’t acknowledge their “white privilege” because they didn’t grow up rich. That’s not what it means- it means the color of your skin has never negatively impacted your life. If you’re white- you’ve got it. Period.

There is so much work that needs to be done, and it is up to you and I to have hard conversations and ensure we denounce racism and racist actions.


As an introvert, I enjoy solitude and quiet- but no where near the level the Pandemic has brought. Sometimes this new abnormal feels suffocating. Seeing kids wear masks feels sad and like a breeding ground for future paranoias we can’t yet define. I miss people and seeing whole faces and smiling to strangers in aisles at the grocery store. I feel a hopelessness punctuated by a dread that the end to this is not right around the corner.


Sometimes the new abnormal feels good. Life is simple and easy. We find comfort in home, and doing the same thing over and over. We remember in the calm, that the old hustle often distracted us from what really matters most.




It isn't all bad. Not even close. We spend lots more time outside. 


Vaccines are just starting to roll out. I think maybe, just maybe we are turning a corner. Changed, but still the same. Trying hard to hold onto the good we learned. I’m still holding on to Hope and Optimism for our health and for the world. As I begin this post, I'm the first awake in my house. I have the back door cracked open, and the cold January air is crisp and the pavement is wet. Oliver is by my side, and the moment is perfect. That's what I seek. That's what I hope to recognize when it happens- that's my prayer for me and for you- that we notice the perfect moments in our own life, despite whatever chaos is going on outside of it.


Love,


Chrissy 


Friday, January 1, 2021

2021

Life is 80% choices. 

Boy is that a relief. A truth. A fact(ish). It can be an empowering realization -if we let it be.

But sometimes we swell the 20% so it’s big and puffy and fills up the room. Like my face the morning after sushi (Is that just me?!) It doesn’t always feel like a choice- I know. And it’s so easy to hear others blaming circumstances.

I would be happy but...

I would work out but...

I would move but... 

I’d quit my job but...

I don’t always hear my own but. Yes, that’s funny (hear my own but/butt- get it?) I’ll pause so you can giggle like the third grader that I am. 

But sometimes I do hear it and I don’t know how to climb over it. Because it doesn’t usually feel like a but at the time, or even a choice, it feels like a fact. It feel's like the 20% of life that isn't a choice. 

A friend was asking if I was more like Parker or Grey. G and I love to stay in bed and wear pajamas. We can introvert like a BOSS. 

We can and do spend hours each weekend- just like this. It's our favorite.


He loves to be around a small group of people he knows (ditto). He hates to be around big groups of people he doesn’t know (ditto). Not like at Target or an amusement park- but like at a big party with slightly known acquaintances. 

Like Parker, I am a big feeler and a life enthusiast. We can be very LOUD and chatty. I notice the little things and I must announce their presence to others with glee- "Look at the moon- it’s beautiful!" (Parker says bootiful and I can’t correct him because it’s so adorable.) It's why I write.


However, Parker loves a crowd (and getting lost in one would not bother him one bit). His toe tips on extroversion much more than mine. He’s always up for an adventure or a last-minute visit to a friend. He’s spontaneous. Flexible. 


I wonder how much of our introversion/extroversion is wired in brain chemicals from before birth, and how much is circumstantial? It’s hard for me to believe that our environment has nothing to do with it. I have always a huge feeler/thinker. Even as a small child, I would present questions and thoughts to my mom that would stop her in her tracks. My brother died when I was three. I recall being sometimes scared to leave the house- thinking- I think they left him somewhere. What if they leave me somewhere too? I realized then- the simply act of leaving your house and walking down the street can be dangerous. The simple act of loving someone and needing someone can be scary. Loss can hurt. Love and loss shapes who you are for life.

I don’t need a lot. A small group (or even one) of people that feel like safe. Someone who can go deep with me. Someone I can trust implicitly. Someone who will show up without me having to ask. Someone I understand. Someone who understands me. I remember when Grey was first trying to talk- and I was watching the level of difficulty he experienced trying to get even simple needs met. I recall thinking of how so so frustrating and terrifying it would be if you could not express your needs and hopes and desires. And really, I realized that is true for all of us- autism or not- One of our greatest pains in life is to be misunderstood. We all want to use our words to be understood, and to connect with others. Regardless of our personality. It's simply part of being human.

Recently while on a walk, I was listening to the song Walls on repeat. Click HERE to listen. I love this song (I linked a version I love- the Lumineers covering Tom Petty). It holds simple lyrics that stop me every time. 

And all around your island 

There's a barricade 

It keeps out the danger 

It holds in the pain

Listening to these words made me instantly cry one morning. I cried because of how well these words knew me, and how well I knew these words. Was it the loss of Doug that makes the world feel scarier than it should? Is it introversion? Is it anxiety? Is it autism? Is it Parker’s lack of safety awareness? Is it my genetics and brain chemicals? How do we separate who we are, how we are genetically wired, and our life’s ability to completely rewire everything we are inside?




2020 was a crazy year. Staying home went from an option, to a requirement. And like so many of you, I am getting more in touch with how I am wired. Despite a pandemic, I feel like I am less scared of being out in the world, because I've had more time to realize who I am and how I am wired. It’s been a healing year. It’s been a hard year of restrictions. It’s been a year that has helped me realize- I don’t want or need resolutions or bucket lists. I just need to continue to seek the small perfect moments that make me feel alive. They are there- pandemic or not. They are there regardless of your life’s choices or circumstances. They are there. 

Will you seek them? The moments where, for a flash in time, you feel gratitude and joy and peace and purpose. 

Welcome to 2021, my friend. I don’t know the answers, but I will keep asking the questions. That’s all I got for now. I can’t tell you how happy I am to have you here with me. 


Love 

Chrissy 


Wednesday, December 23, 2020

The worst and the best

I assumed when you got old, you intuitively knew how to get old. Like one day you woke up and decided to let your gray hair grow out, and you suddenly craved Metamucil and a weekly standing appointment at JCPenney to get your hair set. 


But so far, that’s not how it’s working for me. Sure, I’m a few years off from mall granny. But I’ve never been so aware of the aging process as I have been over the past few years. I thought I’d be forever young until I wasn’t. 


Complaining about aging often meets you with the, “You are lucky you are still alive” sentiment. I can confirm to you dear friend, that you can feel lucky for being alive AND think physically aging sucks and is scary. 


I want to run like I used to- but I don’t have cartilage left under my knee caps, so I can’t. Boy does my brain wish my knees could still run- but apparently wanting it isn't enough. My shoulders ache from arthritis when it rains. My eyes squint a lot more- and I’m pretty sure directions on bottles now have micro-sized fonts. (At least that’s what I tell myself.) I don’t have crows feet- I have big bird ones. I’ve tried the Botox thing, and will probably do it again when I remember I don’t fully care for something that is expensive and only lasts 3 months. Plus, after one zealous poke job to get rid of my 11’s I saw a reflection I didn’t fully recognize. I don’t want to not look like myself. I just want to look like my 30-ish year old self. 



Last year I went to Los Angeles for a podcast interview. I find all things nostalgia to be 20% pure bliss and 80% pain. I want to wallow deep inside it even though it hurts. It’s like the exact opposite of being grounded in the present moment, which is something I know is a direct route to happiness- so I try not to stay in the past for too long. 


But being in Los Angeles is so painful, despite the fact that I am so glad I lived there for 11 years, and so glad I don't live there now. I just ache for the past, for the memories, and for the versions of me I was when I lived there. 


One night I went walking though the heart of Beverly Hills- just a few blocks from my hotel. Holy ghosts of Christmas past. The September night air was warm and alive with the vibration of people and electric and energy. I stopped by a restaurant to order take out to bring back to my hotel. As I sat at the bar and waited for my order, I  spotted a little girl in pajamas, her mouth curled into a shy smile. I instantly smiled back, and she started telling me her life story. I was enthralled.


A gentleman to my right started making small talk. (An introverts version of a horror movie.) I'd much rather be chatting it up with the two year old. He asked where I lived, and I shared that although I used to live here, I was now a resident of the Central Valley of California in Fresno. People in Los Angeles often refer to the city I live in as "the armpit of California". It's right in the middle, and isn't Los Angeles (South) and isn't San Fransisco (North). We are landlocked, and agriculturally based- and to those who are attracted to fast and shiny- we don't measure up. "Is that your grandaughter?" he asked, referring to my previous conversation partner sitting on my left. 



My GRANDAUGHTER?! I asked, shocked. Feeling like the record screeched to a stop and everyone stopped and turned to listen. 


No.

She’s. 

NOT, I emphatically replied.


In fact, I have two small kids at home. (I recently realized since Greyson is 11 and Parker is 9, I can not factually call them small children anymore.) He hit me right where it hurts any woman. (How about you call me fat next sir?) But the truth is, I can no longer relate to the leading lady in the Lifetime movie. I am now her mother. When and how did this happen?!



The truth is, I am scared the best isn’t yet to come. Motherhood, and babies blew my mind and everything I thought I knew about the world. I am motherhood in my very core. Being needed so desperately was exhausting and so defining and everything I ever wanted but didn't even know until it happened. 


And because of that, it kind of feels like the grand finale finish and encore happened in the middle of my life. It’s so hard to believe that- that stage of my life and motherhood is over.  It makes my uterus ache. Expectant ultrasounds and diapers and exhaustion and chubby tummy raspberries and clothing in month sizes- it's all over. I stare at exhausted mommas and babies in Target longingly. It feels like there should have been a ceremony to commemorate this end I don't think i'll ever be ready to let go of.


I turn my eyes to the present, and try and focus on the good, knowing that has always been the key to my survival. 




Parenting is so much less physically demanding now. Sleep is predictable, nightly and not interrupted by teething or growth spurts or stuffy noses. Clothing sizes last longer than 3 months. Diapers are a thing of the past. New milestones reached are just as magical. 



Lately, he has loved helping in the kitchen. This never would have happened a few years ago. 


                                              And watching this took my breath away. 

I know more of what I want and need from life, although sometimes it takes me a minute to get there. I know life is not a resume to be read out for validation, it’s a day to day and interaction to interaction. For the most part, friendships and relationships are truer, easier and drama free. The good ones take effort you are glad to put in, because it’s worth it. Life is still good- it is just different.


Last night we went to Hillcrest Farms, the oldest tree farm in the San Joaquin Valley, to experience the magic of moonlit steam train rides through the Redwood trees, and Christmas lights. There was live music and oversized fire bowls that crackled in the crisp December air. 


Hillcrest Farms Pajama Train Ride 2020



My boys are both so excited for Christmas. As most people’s kids ours in age are stopping belief in Santa and the magic of Christmas, ours are just beginning. This is something I never ever expected. Their joy, especially Parker’s is contagious. 


Hillcrest Farms has a real old fashioned steam train. The vibration while riding the train was electric and magic, and I had the good kind of lump in my throat. I felt so much gratitude for my boys, for the Holiday Season, for the birth of Christ which we celebrate in this Season. 


The clear horizon of clean air and trees felt like something Mary might have witnessed as she made her trek from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and scenes from the Nativity on the ride put a tear in my eye . It was absolutely the best. And riding in the train I just kept looking at my boys thinking that over and over- this is the best. This is the best.


And driving home I wondered, is “the best” as far as seasons go- ever really “the best” from start to finish? Absolutely not. Babyhood is exhausting and leaky and for me was filled with constant doubt. Doubt I was doing the right thing. You feel a new lack of freedom. You forget who you were before kids. You long for alone time. It's hard.


                                  This stage of life was an absolute blur.



Don’t the best of times always come with a side of the worst of times? (Charles Dickens would certainly agree.) And if that’s true- don’t the worst of times also always come with a side of the best somewhere inside of it? I wondered, even though I already knew the answer. 

Absolutely

Completely

Whole heartedly. 


I don’t know what Act Two will bring. But I’m ready for it. Sending you so much love this Holiday Season. And if you aren't in the best of times, may they change soon.


Chrissy





Tuesday, December 15, 2020

writing to remember

It's been so long since I've been home. Home here on this blog. 


I started writing in 2007, because Greyson's babyness was going by so fast, and I wanted to chronicle it. I couldn't ever find a pen, so I decided to journal moments just for myself or my family. I started sharing what I wrote in 2012, when I was realizing that Greyson had autism. In a world that spends 99% of our time on the surface in the shallow, I was diving in deep. Sharing was terrifying and felt like icky vulnerability- but was also so so freeing. 

I write to remember who I am. 

To remember and to clear the clutter I shove under the bed of my mind to get through the day. I write to process. To make sense of my thoughts. To organize them into categories slapped with labels and put on shelves to make room for next. I also write to share with the world what autism looks like from our life. No two families are the same, but boy do us autism folks have a lot in common. I also desperately want to connect with non autism folks, because that is where world changing comes from. I processed and I wrote and I wrote and I wrote. 


I wrote and begged you to accept my son despite his difference in this post HERE.

"So World, I want to share with you that I have a son, and his name is Greyson. He is almost 3 and he is so perfect and he is so beautiful that I still can't believe that he really belongs to me. He makes me believe in God and in Magic. He doesn't talk much, but when he does, he lights up my World...and he has Autism."


I wrote until I realized "despite" isn't even the right word to use there- "despite" his differences. I wrote to ask you to notice, and even celebrate my son's differences. Even to ask you to notice and celebrate your own differences- because inside is where unhappiness starts. How terrible the world would be if we were all the flavor of same. 

So so many accept different in words, but so rarely in action. This I so desperately want to change - so desperately that tears filled my eyes as I wrote that out right now.

Somewhere in the past couple of years, Blog writing became an old thing. An antique. Now we have tik tok, and reels and social media things I don't even know about yet. We tell stories in 15 seconds or less. We fast forward commercials and we get bored quickly. We don't read posts over 50 words unless there's a discount code. We like to swipe up and buy things. We like to smooth wrinkles and get fit quick. The less I wrote, the less people read what I did write. So I started to write less.

I remember so vividly the day I realized I didn't "fix" Grey's autism. (Don't worry, I know he's not broken now). But it was the day he was diagnosed. I thought with Speech Therapy and Early Intervention and Typical play dates would make him like everyone else. But it didn't. So on that very day I realized- I couldn't change the fact that he has autism, so I would instead change the world. Oh sweet divine, I meant it. I thought I could do it with just a little awareness. I thought the only thing stopping people from loving and TRULY accepting kids with Special Needs was understanding. And if they understood- "poof", the world would be swiftly change like magic. 


All the while, I advocated my ass off. Constantly. Rarely there were moments it wasn't on my mind. Sometimes it paralyzed me, sometimes it fueled me. I've read thousands of words to understand everything I can about autism, about autistics and about the world and education, and law, and science, and God. And it is soul-crushing work in ways that terrify me still and always. Because as I mentioned before, 99% of the world is ok living on that surface. Where the focus of the day is going to work and getting gas and throwing away the spinach that rotted (again) in your crisper drawer. Changing humanity from the very depths of your soul is the 1%, and it's a lonely, lonely ledge. 


To be truthful, the world started to change me, more than I think I could ever could change the world. My heart started to break in ways that felt beyond repair. My voice and my words and my work offended many who fight almost as I hard as I do- but instead of fighting for change- they fight for the same. Status quo- you are a bitch. However, the truth is-  most people aren't evil, or actively working to suppress people with autism- or any special need or category of minority. I still believe people are good. But people are also incredibly apathetic about the things that don't affect them. 

Sometimes I think that hurts even more than the anger. The apathy.

The lack of understanding isn't the barrier- it's the lack of empathy. The lack of saying- I don't have a child with autism, but let me imagine a walk in those shoes. Let me walk beside you, even though I don't know where we are going. (Spoiler alert- I don't either. It's ok.) Also- replace autism with anything that makes you different.

I couldn't really process all of this because it hurts so freaking bad. All the words that would be used to create writing, and the energy I needed to create- died. And some things I couldn't discuss publicly. So I started to keep those words inside. They had nowhere to go. So many words inside it makes my eyes leak. And since I write to remember who I am- I forgot. I forgot me, and I forgot my why. And then my Dad died and I really, really forgot.  It's been a year and nine months. The ache of loss has echoed through the halls of my life. I’ve never been as aware of the concept of mortality, as I’ve been since my dad’s death. My own and everyone elses. 


What’s it all for?

I wonder over and over again. The big things (advocacy, parenting, love, God). The small things (exercise, cooking, reading) I don’t know where this uncomfortable middle fits into the grand scheme of things. Sometimes in the middle of a moment so sweet, I remember. But much more often lately, I forget.


So I write to figure it all out. Sometimes I write to remember- and as Matthew McConaughy's Memoir shares, sometimes "I write to forget." I need to write for me sometimes, regardless of if it's read. And if you read it and find connection, I am so humbled and so glad. So today I decided to write, without expectation, but with the hope that someday it will come back to me. 

(SIGH)

I feel better already. Today is my birthday. The year is 2020. One that I hope will go down as the weirdest, worst year ever instead of the new normal. And the gift I'm giving to myself are words. Something I thought my boys would never ever be able to understand or use. Despite the chaos of the world and my heart, I am hopeful. I am alive.

I even pulled my camera out for the first time in awhile. Yes, now I remember what it feels like to feel like me. A camera is a great way to truly notice what you are grateful for. 

 

How it's going..



 

How it started. 


If you feel lost too- let's find ourselves together. We're in there.


So much Love,

Chrissy




Wednesday, September 18, 2019

The In Between

Life is one big in between, yet we desperately push for the end. We feel the pressure of a phase or a season and want to instantly push through to the other side. We can fast forward through commercials and order our coffee on an app so we don't have to wait in line. We are forgetting how to be uncomfortable. Being ok without being ok is a marvelous skill to possess. It doesn't mean fake it until you make it (also quite useful at times). But it means- I WILL be ok even when things aren't ok. I WILL be ok when things are hard. I WILL be ok. I just will, because I choose to be. It's a muscle we must strength like anything else. I think I need a brain trainer for a little tune up.

I've often associated some level of shame with not being ok. My inner asshole says, GET IT TOGETHER WOMAN. You are not a victim. You are in control of this. Yet, I still struggle to see the blurry line between what I can control, what I can't and what I simply MUST let go of. What I am not and never have been able to control. That list is long, yet I try to cut it down. I think- if I can control it- it won't shook me. It won't drown me. I will not be unprepared. It won't kill me.

It hit me last Spring. I am NOT ok. It wasn't a bad day or even week- it was a deeper level of not ok. My anxiety had blown my roof off my head. In January my person- Jack the dog died suddenly. It had been so long since I had experienced that level of loss, and I was undone. And five days later his sidekick, Belle the dog died. They were our first babies. Our constant companion from kidless young marrieds in Los Angeles, to two kids and old people in Fresno. They knew all the me's I've ever been, even when I had forgotten.


Then at the end of January, my Dad had a routine-ish surgery on a brain cyst, then complications, a second emergency surgery, and then a lengthy stay at a horrible Nursing Home/Rehab facility, and in March he died. My dad is so much a part of my DNA, I still don't quite know who I am without him here. There is a level of safeness I've always felt that is gone because he is gone. I didn't realize that, until it was gone. I keep his picture at my nightstand and on the kitchen windowsill where I wash my hands elevently hundred times a day. 





My Dad's death has made me reevaluate everything about life and my own mortality. The initial intense pain is lessening, but it still hurts to look at pictures. I cup my hands on either side of my face and close my eyes and pretend it is him. Oh, to just touch his face ...

So as we started the process of having Greyson evaluated to go back into public school for the first time in almost 2 years, and I realized all the glue and tape and temporary fixes I had used to put myself back together like Humpty Dumpty, weren't working. I recognized that I felt scared all the time. I was ready to stop feeling that level of intensity. 

I signed up for an appointment with a psychologist on an app called Doctor On Demand.  It's an app for all things Doctor covered through our health insurance. It seemed the easiest way to work with our crazy schedule. I eagerly awaited my appointment. Finally the day/time arrived and I logged in. It's like Facetime- (I know kind of weird). And for the first 8 minutes the screen read "technical difficulties". I hung up and tried again. And again. And again. Finally, I tried again from my computer and it worked. Until it didn't The screen would freeze, while I could still hear her talking. It was distracting and annoying. It kept freezing up and booting us off. So then she decides to just call me. Immediately- not being able to see a person and have them see me felt like not therapy.

ding ding ding

I hear her opened her car door. I am so distracted. Is she driving? Where is she going? This is still our allotted appointment time. It was hilarious. I was honestly laughing out loud. I make an appointment to help with the piles of anxiety I had been feeling, and I got off the phone feeling SO SO EXTRA ANXIOUS. Turns out tele- mental heath therapy isn't for me right now. 

That unbearable intensity has let up a little. Summer (and doubling up on my Effexor) was a welcomed break and refuge. But I have still found myself hiding. I always want to stay home. I'm scared to leave my dogs. (There I said it). After Jack and Belle died, Oliver and Lucy joined our life. 




And there is this irrational fear that accompanies my deep love for them. We were out of town for just 24 hours when Jack got sick. We came home and he was in so much pain, and then he was dead. If I don't leave Lucy and Oliver- they won't ever die, my mind tells me. Add this to big anxiety when I (rarely)leave the boys overnight. Can you see the running theme in my life? Fear. Anxiety.

I realized I feel scared a lot.

When Summer started, the beautiful Jamie-Lynn Sigler asked me to be a guest on her podcast Mama Said. Of course my first instinct was NO. And then- Why would you want me on there? (But I told that inner chatty asshole suffering from Imposter Syndrome to shut the F up and replied that I would LOVE TO DO IT. Because that was the real truth.)

And we booked it for September, and this weekend it happened. It's been so long since I had done anything like that- just myself. It was out of character for who I have been feeling like for so long, but - it is absolutely IN character with the real me- if that makes any sense. I stayed in a hotel BY MYSELF. At first I was a little nervous with myself, like it was a first date. So, do you come here often? (actually no.) And then in tiny little droplets I remembered me. The me I've been before and after marriage and kids and everything in between. 

I took a long walk that evening up and down Wilshire and all the tiny side streets in Beverly Hills. Nostalgia smacked me in the face repeatedly. I can't believe this used to be part of my life- Los Angeles. It's a place that feels so familiar yet so far removed from my day to day now. I loved it then. I love my life now, here in the Central Valley. But the rapid movement of time, and the ability to hold only so many memories at once scared me. How did I forget all about this part of my life? 


I will NOT take a selfie with Villa Blanca in the background. But I WILL take a picture of it like a total tourist while walking by!


And of course it was ALL perfect and exciting and so much fun. I am so inspired by Jamie's honesty with her diagnosis of MS. I love how she shares the honest struggles of it, yet isn't a victim. I love how her whole life isn't MS, it's just a part of it. It doesn't define her- she is not MS. She is a Momma and wife and daughter and actor and sharer and connector. Maybe it's because she and her incredible co host Jenna Parris, are so damn relatable, or maybe because I feel like I know them from listening to their podcast, but it wasn't scary at all. I felt all of Joan of Arc's words: I am not afraid, I was born to do this. 



These ladies saw a need- more communication and connection around the ever-evolving feelings of motherhood. Sometimes it feels so isolating, and so often we feel as if we are the only one who feels these things. 

Here are some of my favorite episodes:
This one on Grief is SO GOOD
And this one on being an F***ING awesome mom is LEGIT.
And an interview with the Husbands  (SO RELATABLE).

So often we wait for the end. It's written in bold font in the fairy tales, and it's when it all finally comes together. It's often the beginning too. But my Dad's death reminded me- maybe we don't want to get to THE END. Because sometimes it really is the end-end. And at the end, we don't know what will have- things we might take for granted now, like the ability to walk or talk or see or not experience intense pain. The beauty and the grit and the lessons and the profound and ordinary is in the mucky complicated middle. If we are really, really lucky- we are so far from THE END, and we are drifting through our own in between. Truly feeling ok, deep in our bones, even when we aren't.

Monday, August 26, 2019

one more step

Today is just one step on your million mile journey. In the moment it can feel like your forever, but it's all so temporary and tiny. Even the big stuff. Endings crash into beginnings at a rapid pace at this time of the year. All an imbalanced mixture of excitement and pain and fear of loss and the unknown.

Man is being a human hard sometimes. Constant transitions and the reminder that we must (we must we must, please Chrissy- YOU must) learn how to let go. "You are in control of nothing," I remind myself by the day. Sometimes by the hour. Sometimes it's so concrete. But more often, it's hard for me to see the line between what I can control and what I can’t. It is SUCH a blurred line that overlaps in many places.

At the end of last school year, I wrote myself a SMART IEP goal. Something along the lines of: By September 2019, Chrissy will make an appointment with the following medical providers: OBGYN, Mammogram, Dentist, Ortho, Podiatrist, Primary Care with 100% accuracy, as measured by calendar data.

While Greyson was in a home school program, I seriously neglected this aspect of my life. Don't feel sorry for me- I found a way to work out and on occasion, stop by TJ MAXX way too often for retail therapy. But when I have "me time" I'd prefer not spend it getting my teeth cleaned or my boobs squished. But alas, I am old people, and old people are like old cars that you can not trade in for younger models. You just must find the problem and the missing part and then wait for it to come in as you also wait for the next thing to break down. You just hope it isn't your heart or your air conditioning or- I don't even remember what I'm talking about anymore. It's 8:30pm and all my brain is fit for is BRAVO TV. So forgive me.

I've been chipping away at making those appointments. (Atta girl, proud of you.) Today while at the Dentist (on a MONDAY no less. Warrior I say. Someone give me a trophy), the woman cleaning my teeth said- I see a spot. Not sure if it's a cavity or just a dark spot. Also, this part here feels a little sticky. We'll have the Dentist look at it. I don't mind going to the dentist, and I can totally handle dental work. But I can NOT handle waiting while the Dentist reviews my xrays to see if anything is wrong. I won't to yell out like I do when watching crime shows on TV.  "WHAT IS HAPPENING?! WHAT DOES 'STICKY' MEAN?! I BRUSHED MY TEETH BEFORE I CAME HERE AND DIDN'T FEEL ANYTHING STICKY.

So, the Dentist came in and said a spot under the crown I have is "sticky". But since I had a root canal on that tooth, the root could be decaying and I wouldn't feel it until it was too late. "This pocket here, could be decaying but we can't tell", he says, pointing at an xray where everything looks the same to me. (Me,  imagining a pocket of rotting funk in my mouth that takes over my face like a zombie unexpectedly.) I start swallowing rapidly while my eyes grow big as dinner plates- "Can we do something about it now?!" I ask. Attempting to control the situation to avoid the horrible and unexpected. But nope, I just have to use this tiny Christmas tree looking floss pic and make sure I keep the underside of my crown root clean. (Also, I'm eating chocolate as I type and I'm not a small bit regretting that.) Also- I have TWO cavities- in between two teeth and I have to go back to get them filled.

I left the office feeling like all of this was a 9-1-1. That's the thing about Generalized Anxiety- it can't usually categorize big from small with any regularity. But I brush my teeth! I floss. I can control that- so why can’t I control cavities? I asked the Universe, who then laughed at me for STILL not learning how to let go. We can't completely control our physical and mental health, but there are many aspects within them that we CAN CONTROL. THIS IS TOO CONFUSING.

Ugh. Maybe my next IEP goal will be to understand the difference between things I can and can't control. My baseline is pretty inconsistent, and boy would that knowledge take a load off.


So, Grey is back at school after a break of almost two years. Doing home school was always meant to be temporary. He needs and deserves peers and community and the group routine that only a school environment can provide. His time in his home program was so valuable. You guys- he can read (not decode, not yet) but can read HUNDREDS of words and do basic comprehension of the text he reads. He can use his device to say SO MUCH. SO SO MUCH. He can write things- with a pencil- in correct form!  These are things I KNEW he could and should learn but wasn’t in the school environment. I had the privilege to keep him home and come up with the skills I knew he needed, and then work with professionals to make it happen. (Don't ask me advice on how to Home school. I am lost without subject matter experts, and I seek out everything I don't know how to do- which is A LOT.)





Every year I make an "About Me" for the boys. It's hard to hand over a little piece of your soul, especially if they can't verbally express themselves like a General Ed student can. So I do my best to give staff- all staff, from the cafeteria to the nurse to the Speech Therapist- a little glimpse into my boys.


But what about everyone else who deserve to be presumed competent and given the supports they need to learn ? (A thought that keeps me up at night.)

Today marked the beginning of week three of school, and he's handled it like a CHAMP. Both boys are, but they are already ready for next Summer. Grey tells me, "Greyson all done school", eleventy hundred times a day, but he goes and he tries every darn day. I am proud of them.

I don't talk about specifics with regards to the boys and school. I have to respect the process, and respect the privacy of the many people who work hard (often with limited resources) and do the right thing. I will however continue to discuss the advocacy I do to change the system and the World.

"You can only advocate for your own child" many seasoned Special Education Parents of older children have told me. But that wasn't God's plan. I know that so much of what my boys need and are legally entitled to- everyone needs. I believe if you see something that isn't right- it is your job to speak up if you can. The outcome I can't control, but the speaking up- I most certainly can and will.

Baby steps my friend. The end of the million miles will be here before we know it.

Friday, June 21, 2019

respect the breed

Author Kelly Corrigan's Motto is "Things happen when you leave the house". She is absolutely one of my favorite writers and feeler ever, but her life motto sounds more like a torture theme to this high anxiety introvert.

But sometimes our greatest pains are directly connected to our greatest strengths. I remind myself of that when I beat myself up for not being (more extroverted, less anxious, more adventurous, a better cook and approximately 11 million other things depending on the day and the amount of grace I have left in my cup). I like to stay home. A lot. All I really need are the people (and animals) I love, a good book, a comfortable spot (hopefully in the sun), and exercise. I like home. Sometimes the world just feels too big and too scary. Home is predictable. Safe.



I told you about our new dog Lucy. Lucy is so chill. So sweet, so laid back. The other day Parker squeezed her face too hard- to the point she yelped. And two seconds later she was following him around ready for any attention he would give her. She also doesn’t get worked up when someone rings the bell. She runs into things all the time. She literally ran into the back glass door this morning causing a thump so loud I jumped. She’s a little bit of a doofus. And it’s perfect. Because it’s also how she’s so chill with the kids. Lucy is Lucy. Chill with the kids, not a watch dog, and a bit of a clutz. 





Now Oliver is kind of high strung. He is part chihuahua- so he guards the castle. He’s fast and super agile and doesn’t love the unpredictability of the boys sounds and movements. But he does love to run with the boys and play outside. He doesn't tire easily. He's also a super fast learner, and takes what we tell him seriously. You can't expect a chihuahua to be a Golden Retriever. And vice versa. 


I can so easily look at my dogs and respect their breed combined with their own natural tendencies. Respect that for them to be one thing- it might completely exclude them from being another thing too. I don’t judge it, I just notice it and try to work with it.

I am trying to offer myself that same grace. So maybe I am too anxious, and definitely too this, and not nearly enough that. I am anxious more often than not. I am constantly thinking, researching, writing. But I am also super organized and love to meet fear of the unknown with learning everything I can. 

I am deeply by routine, and often rigid in my patterns. But I don’t need much at all to entertain me. I am organized predictable and dependable. 

I can’t be anxious AND laid back AND organized AND constantly moving and going. I can't be all the things at once. It’s not my breed. I'm a HUGE fan of self-improvement, but I'm trying to tackle that from a place of "I am enough, and I can always be better," not from a place of, "Boy are you broken!" 

All of our lefts have rights, our yin’s have yangs, our sweets have sours. Life is a series of contrasts. One cannot exist without the other. 

What is your breed? How can you love it?