Wednesday, July 18, 2018

random stream of consciousness

The sooner you realize
Your life circumstances are on purpose (yep, even the crap ones.)
The happier you will be

or

You can hate them
And fight them
And blame them for your unhappiness

You can find excuses to stay stuck
You will prove yourself right
See! No one would be OK in this life.

And that becomes burdensome truth.

However, the sooner you let go
The sooner you will find
You



I swore I wouldn't complain about the heat. Because Summer is so much my favorite that I want to marry it. So instead I will complain about boob sweat, and the fact that my car steering wheel is so hot it could fry an egg. It feels too hot to go swimming. Today I stupidly wore jeans, and I was so hot that before Grey had Speech Therapy, we stopped and bought me some new light weight linen pants at TJ Maxx which I then immediately changed into in the parking lot. I swear they are even cooler than shorts, so I might just wear them for a week at a time. If you see me wearing them daily, don't bring this up.


We've been continuing our plan of Summering our faces off.




Parker one morning before heading out for Behavior Therapy.  Carrying just the bare necessities: An Eiffel Tower, a Yo Gabba Gabba Boom Box and a guitar.  He's so Steve Martin in The Jerk.




Recently I took Grey to Toys R Us to show him it is closed. He would tell us, "Let's go to Toys R Us" 3,456 times a day. Telling him they were closed didn't make any difference, so I showed him. He was surprisingly chill about it. Now he only asks 20 times a day, so I call that progress. (insert laughing emoji here.) Grey also knows most good things in life comes from Amazon Prime anyway. A few kind folks have told me that the one on the other side of town hasn't closed yet, but I'm going to leave that coffin lid closed!

Sometimes we all need a reminder that something is over. Closed for business. No more. Especially if repeated thoughts about it aren't serving you. The more we think about it, the more we keep it alive. Yes, we can multi-task and do a million things at once. But there is only a finite amount of time to think each day. Why waste it on fear, anger, remorse and regret? When you find yourself going down that thinking path, think of something you are passionate about instead. 

Think good thoughts. You deserve it. Stay cool my friend.

Love,
Chrissy


Thursday, July 12, 2018

what makes you

I don’t care about the weather, or how Kylie Jenner is a billionaire or that The Bieber got engaged. I want to know what makes you feel alive? What are you passionate about? 

What keeps you awake at night? What do you struggle with most?

How do you take your coffee? What's your favorite cereal? Non chocolate candy?

What brings you joy? Real, filterless joy. The kind that makes you lose track of time and your phone? For me, it's the Ocean. We went to Hermosa Beach last weekend for one night, and as always, it was magical. Hermosa is a beachfront city in Los Angeles, and the place Michael, Greyson and I lived before we moved to the Central Valley of California.













I go to the Ocean to reset. To feel the pull of the tide at my feet. To remember what and who matters most to me in the world. Three hours passes in ten minutes here. I think I could stay forever.*

(* that is a lie that sounds good. I need to go get a shower and get the sand out of my parts every once in awhile too.)

When was the last time you laughed? Like hold your stomach, don’t make a sound laugh? Mine was April 16. I know because the date is on the video from my phone.



My boys LOVE going to my friend Wynema's house. Like LOVE LOVE. The week after we spent Easter day with her and her family, Parker asked to go every day. One morning he asked on the way to school. "Let's go to Meema's house", he said. "Neema is at school." I told him (she is a Teacher.) For weeks Parker repeated that conversation over and over and over. And every single time it made me laugh. But when we did it with snap chat filters I lost it. I was sitting on the ground with Parker, literally hunched over in pain I was laughing so hard. Man, I love laughing like that. It's so happy, that it almost makes me cry that it doesn't happen more often


When was the last time you really felt hopeless and cried? Mine was for this girl, Belle.



Belle is 10- wait- maybe 11 years old. And a few weeks ago she had a little lump on her neck. A few days later the little lump turned big. The Vet thought it was an infected salivary gland. After a week of antibiotics, it was only a little smaller. So we had it surgically removed- you can see her gnarly scar in the picture. Doc said there were no mast cells present when she did a needle aspiration so we weren't concerned. The labs came back that it was Mast Cell Cancer. Michael and I were a wreck. We laid on the floor with Belle and pet her while we sobbed. Her little baby life flashed before my eyes. 

She's been here. Always. Before we had human kids.






Bitty Grey, Belle and Jack. 

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The Vet said that the tumor had clean margins, and they think they got it all. For right now, time will tell. I can't imagine a world without Belle in it, so I don't. 
What do you dream about doing? Are you doing it? Toe by toe or inch by inch?

Sometimes life can feel so shallow end of the pool and my brain can feel like the depths of the deepest part of the ocean. What we think about is also what makes us. Makes us happy, or passionate, or follow or dreams or love others or be alive. 

I'm all for talking about Amazon Prime or my favorite color of nail polish (Orly- Light as a Feather!) But sometimes, I just want to connect to another's soul.

(The End)

Love,
Chrissy

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

successful hair cuts and autism

We discover the world through our senses.

The nervous system must receive and process information in order to react, communicate, and keep the body healthy and safe. Much of this information comes through our sensory organs: eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and skin. 


Many people on the autism spectrum have difficulty processing everyday sensory information. They experience too much or too little stimulation through these senses. Hyposensitive kids are under-sensitive, which makes them want to seek out more sensory stimulation. Hypersensitive kids are extremely reactive to sensory stimulation, and can find it overwhelming. Many autistic individuals are a mixture of both. 

This is important, because these sensory processing issues can make hair cuts traumatic for individuals with autism in ways those of us with a typical nervous system can't begin to imagine

A person with hypersensitive senses may:
  • Be unable to tolerate bright lights, loud noises, or the sound of a clippers or scissors
  • Refuse to wear clothing because it feels scratchy or irritating—even after cutting out all the tags and labels
  • Be distracted by background noises that others don’t seem to hear
  • Feel physical pain when getting their nails or hair cut
  • Be unable to tolerate the feeling of cut hair on their body
  • Be fearful of touch 

One way we have helped make hair cuts less traumatic for my two sons with autism, is by Systematic Desensitization. Systematic Desensitization is a fancy term for a technique that can move a person from stress and avoidance to success gradually over time. This therapy shares the same elements of both cognitive psychology and applied behavior analysis (ABA). We do ours during ABA therapy. 

Systematic Desensitization is not just for individuals with autism, and can be useful for many kinds of phobias or fears (ie fear of bugs, fear of going to the Doctor). Essentially, a person is exposed to a simulation and eventually small amounts of the actual aversive condition in longer and longer doses as they are able to demonstrate calm behavior with exposure to each step. In this way, they are able to build up to the ability to tolerate the troublesome event. 

As with any therapy we do with our boys, our goal is not to eliminate autistic traits. I love how my boys view the world. My goal is to help reduce their anxiety around situations that are traumatic for them. 


It's best to individualize this program based on what causes the discomfort for the person with autism. An individualized approach and a systematic way to move forward are key to success. It's different for every person, so what works will be different. This process has evolved for our family, and for our boys. If something no longer works, we keep trying different ways. 


I used to hold him on my lap because that made him feel more secure. Here the stylist was spraying the water in his hand so he could feel it before she sprayed his head. He likes advance notice each time the bottle is sprayed. We also would give him two red (his favorite!) suckers to hold so he wouldn't try to grab the scissors.

For Greyson, current specific triggers are the sound of the scissors, and the feel of the hair hitting his skin. In some cases you can eliminate some trauma by working around these triggers. For example, now with Greyson we listen to the iPad turned up loud on a preferred YouTube video to drown out the scissor sound and we cover his body/neck/everything exposed with a towel so hair doesn't fall on him. 

The things we can not eliminate- we work on in small bits, gradually exposing the child to more in a structured environment replicating the actual situation as best as possible.


There are some universal things that can may also be used to help many children during the process like:


  • If the child has a visual schedule, put the hair cut on the schedule and remind them of the upcoming hair cut each day.


  • Have the child select a reward that will be delivered after the hair cut. Bring the reward with you and keep it visible during the cut. Remind them, "First hair cut, then (AWESOME REWARD)." Don't rely on them being satisfied with stickers or some "reward" they don't like. It's gotta be awesome!


  • If possible, go to the salon for a walk through before the actual hair cut. Call ahead to discuss.


  • Do practice hair cuts daily. Depending on the child's baseline and tolerance (remember individualized!) this may start out with the child simply wearing a cape- or just getting their hair combed for one minute.) I suggest buying a hair dressing cape, a spray bottle, and anything else you may need to replicate the actual environment.





  • If your child responds well to Social Stories, create one about their upcoming hair cut. Your child is the main character in the book. It doesn't have to be Pulitzer Prize wining- Microsoft Word and Google images will do the trick! Keep wording and outcomes positive. Remind the child about any coping techniques you may have for specific aversions, ie, "I will wrap a towel around my neck so I don't feel the hair fall on me."  End with a successful hair cut and a happy child with their awesome reward.


  • Watch videos of children getting hair cuts. If your child has a cut that requires the use of clippers, make sure you are watching videos that include that aspect of the process. 


Autism Speaks has a helpful page with tips for a successful hair cut, as well as a link for stylists that have experience working with individuals with autism. They also have a guide that includes a visual schedule for the actual hair cut!!! I LOVE VISUAL SUPPORTS! 




Here is a video from the Autism Speaks site that can be used for both kids with autism, and for hair dressers. (It says that hair cuts can be fun for all individuals. I have to say- I'm not buying that! My goal is to make hair cuts consistently tolerable. I don't ever see it being fun!)


For hair dressers: 

  • In some ways, you will treat a child with autism just like any other child. Get on the child's level but don't try and get eye contact. Greet them, introduce yourself. Ask them their name and their favorite things. Give them extra time to respond. If they can not talk, and don't use a communication device, ask the parent or caregiver- "Tell me a little bit about him/her." Even if the child does not respond, talk directly to them. 


  • Find out specific triggers that make hair cuts traumatic for the child.
  • Use clear, concise language. Keep directions simple. 




  • Don't start cutting instantly- let the child explore your tools- spray bottle, combs, clippers etc. See if you can find out what specifically has been difficult during prior hair cuts. Keep your routine consistent. 

Hair cuts have gotten so much better for my boys using these techniques, and I believe they can help you too! Any questions, comments or tips of your own, let me know! 

GOOD LUCK!

Chrissy






Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Transformation Lane

 “Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation." (Elizabeth Gilbert)

I hold this quote in my heart's pocket. It helps me turn pain into gratitude. Fear into action. Anxiety into patience. Anger into love. It's impossible to see the ruin as anything but complete destruction when you are surrounded by it. You are certain this is the end. 

And maybe it is the end of something. Which also means it's the beginning of something else. Author Liz Gilbert (like how I did that- called her by her nickname like we are old pals?) embeds these words in her brilliant book, "Eat Pray, Love." 

*****

"A friend took me to the most amazing place the other day. It’s called the Augusteum. Octavian Augustus built it to house his remains. When the barbarians came they trashed it along with everything else. The great Augustus, Rome’s first true great emperor. How could he have imagined that Rome, the whole world as far as he was concerned, would be in ruins? It’s one of the quietest, loneliest places in Rome. The city has grown up around it over the centuries. It feels like a precious wound, a heartbreak you won’t let go of because it hurts too good. We all want things to stay the same. Settle for living in misery because we’re afraid of change, of things crumbling to ruins. Then I looked at around to this place, at the chaos it has endured – the way it has been adapted, burned, pillaged and found a way to build itself back up again. And I was reassured, maybe my life hasn’t been so chaotic, it’s just the world that is, and the real trap is getting attached to any of it. Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.”

*********


We are a make it quick and one of every color society. We can order our coffee from an app. Fast forward through commercials. Use predictive text to send messages, not even needing to bother typing out full words. We can have groceries delivered. These are all beautiful advancements of modern day society, but it also means that we forget how to wait. We lose touch with how to sift through the uncomfortable middle. The depths of a wreckage, sifting for the golden parts. We want to fast forward the pain right to the gift. It doesn’t work that way. Ruins isn't the same as Amazon Prime. (Damn).

I think back to a year ago now. Even though it was Summer, there was a constant ache in my mind and an anxious pounding in my heart. Trying to get Greyson the things he needed at school had changed me. All the rules of the world were different there, and I didn't know any of them, nor did they make any sense to me. I didn't know how much longer I could do that. Be that. Feel that. Watch that. Each Summer day ticked forward leading us to the start of a new school year. And all Summer break I held that fear close tight, and close to me. Fear of potentially needing to home school scared me more than anything in the world. And one day, a few months into the school year, keeping him at school felt much more frightening than homeschooling. And so we did it. 

Recently I looked back to a post I shared on Social Media soon after we first started this new transition.

"The beginning of this week knocked me down flat on my tuchus. It was like I woke up and suddenly realized- HOLY COW, I’m homeschooling Greyson. I am responsible for his entire education. It’s like I started a new job that I have no training for and no supervisor to tell me if I’m doing a shitty job. I started thinking about what I was going to do and how I was going to teach him in high school. I thought about how he will miss graduation and all my friends and their kids will be there and it’s just not freaking fair and why does it have to be this way?"

I had to have a talk with myself. Self. Calm the frick down. 1,000 things can and will change in the next year, let alone the next 10. Focus on TODAY ONLY.  24 hours you can do. 10 years in a 24 hours IS NOT HUMANLY POSSIBLE TO LIVE OUT. Today I FINALLY remembered, Greyson and I really are getting the hang of this. It’s hard for me to start something new and not be perfect. That’s a crappy perspective that I don’t want to leak onto my boys. Today I remembered that we are beginners learning our way and making mistakes as we go. Some of it is even- dare I say- fun! And he’s learning a hell of a lot more with me than he did at school this year. That alone is proof that this is exactly where I’m supposed to be right now.

Sometimes the dull pain of staying the same hurts so much more than the sharp stabs of moving forward. And that’s the truth. This is hard, but hard in a way that I know is best for Grey- and that’s all that matters."

I was in the ruins then. And just like every other time I'm in the ruins, it feels like the end of the world. The ruins never ever feel like a gift. They feel anywhere from mildly uncomfortable to hurting like hell. There is no fast forward. There's just a day at a time. And if that's too much, it's just an hour at a time. That's all you need to do.





Our first two weeks were awful for both of us. He would spit on the floor and hit me to try and get out of working. One day he head butted me so hard I saw stars. These were behaviors that previously worked for him at school. I knew if I was firm yet loving, we would get over this beginning hump. And it worked. We both grew in ways I never ever imagined.



I loved figuring out what made him tick. Like this resistance band around the chair gave him the ability to fidget and pay attention.



I am so lucky I am in a position to stay home with him during this season of life. We are going to continue to do this for the upcoming school year. After that we will reevaluate. One day at a time.


I love Summer. It reminds me to go slow. We still have therapies to do, but we don’t have to be anywhere earlier than 9am, which feels ridiculously luxurious. 

Here's a short video of Grey at Speech yesterday, which is always a highlight of my week.



I wake up early so I can have a love affair with my coffee and my thoughts. They are usually pretty friendly thoughts in the morning, so I like to be around them. I am always thinking of the next three things I have to do, so I practice being in the moment. I practice going slow.  Sometimes I forget who I am and in the morning I can remember easier. I meet her shyly. Yes, I know you. Let’s get together again soon.





Since most days are 100 degrees plus, 92% of our free time is spent in the pool. 



I would give all the pennies for his thoughts. 


 “Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation." Feel free to slap that on a bumper sticker (you might want to ask Liz first) or tattoo it on your arm. The transformation doesn’t happen overnight. If it did- it wouldn’t be remarkable. And life is remarkable. 

So (so) much love,


Chrissy





Wednesday, June 27, 2018

summertime

I want to challenge the way you think about the world and the people in it. I want to challenge the way you think about you. I want you to accept your own differences because only then can you truly and whole-souledly appreciate the different in others. I want you to examine what your eyes see as winning or perfect or enviable or beautiful or smart or productive or successful. We’ve been hard wired to believe some pretty messed up stuff about what matters. Don’t define yourself with the things you don’t love about yourself. You are so much more than that. Get quiet with you soul, slow down, and listen to your feelings- the ones that don’t lie.  Listen to the smaller, authentic voice that says you are glorious and strong and here on earth for a reason, and know that the most enviable things about you as defined by others, would absolutely be things that also make you different. 

Love your different. The mucky parts. The parts you think are supposed to be kept hidden. The parts you think are too much or not enough. 
*****

We are simmering into Summer. I can not believe it's the end of June. In five minutes, folks will be sharing back to school pics on Social Media, so I am paying attention to the moments to slow down time. I'm not going to complain about the heat, I'm just gonna Summer my face off. 

Here are some scenes from Summer...



A super cute photo op at a good friends birthday party.


Parker looks like he was here for a nap. He must have been so confused by my antics. "Lay down! Look up! But stay down!"


 Unprompted eye contact from both my boys stops my heart for just a second, every time. I'm afraid to exhale or move and end the moment. 




He has 4,000 different facial expressions. Some hilarious and some so serious. He also has the longest eyelashes.



For years he wouldn't wear goggles. Nope, not interested, so I didn't push it. Last month friends came over to swim and they all wore goggles. The very next day Grey brought a pair of goggles over to me and said, "help," he wanted them on. And now he wears them every day. Peers can teach my boys things that I never could as a mom. It's remarkable all the little tiny baby steps I've seen my boys take because of peers.


This is his, "I am up to no good" face.






And this is his, "I'm happy it's Summer" face. It's 6:48 pm and time for one last swim for the day, so I'll sign off. What are you and your people up to this Summer?

So much Love,
Chrissy

Monday, June 25, 2018

understanding the functions of behavior

Parents and caregivers of children with and without autism often ask many questions that start with- 

"Why does my child do (blank)?" 
or, 
"Why can’t I get my child to do (blank)?" 


To be able to answer these questions in my own life, it was imperative for me to first understand the FUNCTIONS OF BEHAVIOR- "FOB"- (Just kidding. For once, that isn't an actual acronym, but it made me giggle so I'm keeping it in here.)

Understanding the function of behavior is a cornerstone of ABA. Applied Behavior Analysis is a researched-based science in which the environment is manipulated to change behavior. ABA calls for the assessment of behavior and the environment it occurs in, prior to any treatment. Once extensive data is collected, treatment is applied to decrease problem behavior AND increase desired behavior. This all sounds very formal and fancy, so let's break it down.


Behavior is any observable action made by an individual. Behavior is NOT synonymous with bad behavior. The following things are behaviors: working out, eating, riding a bike, raising your hand in class, cleaning up, HIDING IN THE PANTRY EATING KIT KATS. The function of a behavior is the reason why people behave in a certain way (Yep, even you and me). The book, Behaviorspeak defines Function of Behavior as, "the variable maintaining a given behavior (e.g, what might be reinforcing behavior?)" People engage in millions of different behaviors each day. 

Although everyone's behaviors are unique, the reasons for doing these different behaviors fall into four main categories. We have to become private detectives to figure out the function in order to understand how to appropriately design an intervention to stop unwanted behaviors and increase wanted behaviors. Without understanding the function of a behavior any intervention put in place could be ineffective, or unfair to our learners. The four main functions are:

Sensory: The individual behaves in a specific way because it feels good to them or meets a sensory need.

Escape/Avoidance: The behavior occurs to escape a person, task, or environment.

Attention Seeking: The individual behaves to get focused attention from parents, teachers, siblings, peers, or other people that are around them.

Access to Tangibles: The individual behaves in a certain way in order to get a preferred item or engage in an enjoyable activity.




We can use an acronym for this one: SEAT. Sensory, Escape/avoidance, Attention, Access to Tangibles. I don't believe all behavior is communication. However, I do believe that all behaviors serve a function. Kids don’t do things like injure themselves simply because they have autism. When behaviorists analyze the situation, its important that they have:


  • A clear description of the behavior (the topography).
  • An understanding of what is happening before the behavior occurs; to include the environment and behaviors of other people within it. Within behavior analysis, this would be called the "antecedent".
  • A description of what happens after the behavior occurs; This would be called the "consequence" within behavior analysis.
  • The identification of desirable behaviors that the child can already engage in so they may be used to substitute the challenging behavior. For example, if a child can already make requests, then they could be taught to say “I need a break” instead of screaming or becoming aggressive.
  • A data analysis of the behavior occurring in diverse environments which includes the above information.

Here is more information on Functional Behavior Assessments.

So, let’s use a hypothetical behavior of a boy named Luke. Luke hits his head on the table.  We can’t assume anything from just this sentence. Let’s talk about what the function COULD be based on the functions of behavior.

1st: medical should be ruled out for any behavior. This is important! 

Sensory- the pressure on his head meets a sensory need. He only engages when he needs the release.
Escape/avoidance: He hits his head when he is given a task to complete that he doesn’t want to do.
Attention: whenever he hits his head adults surround him and give him attention. At home it’s- Oh baby, don’t hurt yourself. And an adult picks him up and rocks him. At school he is scolded-DO NOT BANG YOUR HEAD! That’s dangerous Luke! 
Access to tangibles: He hits his head because when he engages in this behavior, his mom attempts to distract him by giving him his favorite toy or candy. 

The intervention must be based on the WHY, and all the above factors must be analyzed. If not, in cases like Luke's mom giving him candy- we can mistakenly increase an unwanted behavior. Luke has learned- if I want candy- all I need to do is hit my head. Instead, the mom should give candy to Luke when he is engaging in wanted behavior, and she should withhold candy when he is engaging in head banging. She should also teach a replacement behavior of requesting candy with Luke's current method of communication. ALL PEOPLE NEED A FUNCTIONAL METHOD TO COMMUNICATE TODAY. Vocal, Picture exchange, Speech Generating device- doesn't matter what, as long as they have one.

Or in the case of the SENSORY function- enjoying the pressure of the hit- a replacement behavior must be offered. Perhaps Luke needs tight squeezes, or a weighted vest, or to engage in exercise before the pressure builds up. Consulting with an Occupational Therapist can be imperative for our sensory seekers and avoiders.

When we understand the functions of behavior, we  better know how to support our learners. Some behaviors need to be replaced with a behavior that fulfills the same function, some behaviors need to be ignored (the behavior- not the child). But we don’t know which is which without understanding WHY. 

That's why there is no simple answer to the question of, "Why is my child engaging in XYZ?" But understanding the WHY is the first step. HERE are some function based strategies for affecting behavior. 




Understanding the functions of behavior has been life changing for my parenting, and for homeschooling my oldest son Greyson. It's even helped me understand myself better. But even better, it's helped me understand and support my sons better, and helped them be happier and more understood. I often say, being misunderstood is one of life's most painful experiences.


Thursday, June 21, 2018

yet to come

Sometimes I get scared that my best years are behind me.

A sentence that is so hard to say out loud, but even harder to feel. It goes against the way I try to live my life- Focus on the positive. Live inside today--not the future, not the past, and DEFINITELY not in forever. (Life is too fickle and fleeting to live in forevers.)

I think about the way we are programmed by society. By tradition. How we get married and have children and raise them and then retire and be a grandma and garden somewhere. So much pressure to do all the things in the right order too. God forbid you skip a step- like have kids before you get married- nope. That's not allowed. 

Screw the rules society makes. Ima make some new ones. Individualized. Author of You are a Badass, Jen Sincero says, "Most people are living an illusion based on someone else's beliefs." I think that's an even scarier thought to have- because sometimes, at least for me- it's true. I say what I think I'm SUPPOSED to say. I do what I think a good friend or wife or mother or human SHOULD do. My mind always feels it when I stuff down my real feelings for how I think I'm SUPPOSED to feel. My shoulders feel high up in my ears, and I can't remember what matters most to me. When I wake up early and drink coffee by myself- or when I go for a walk or write- then I can usually sort my real feelings out. 

But here I'm left in my 40's. I know I still have my whole life ahead of me. But I'm afraid the very best parts have already been lived. I moved from Missouri to Los Angeles a million years ago, when I was 25 years old. For a boy- of course. All the transplants are there for love or acting. And the boy and I didn't work out- but California and I continued our love affair. I lived by myself right off San Vincente in Brentwood California. I would walk to the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, surrounded by celebrity studded sidewalks and Range Rovers and life was somewhat magical, albeit surface. But 25 year old me was somewhat intrigued by surface. I thought that the deep thinking, aching for more parts of me were the broken parts. I thought I needed to hide them from people.  I look back on young me in admiration. I worked hard for everything I had, and I survived on my own, and I worked every day to find my true voice. 

And then when I was thirty- I met the husband Michael. And after we first met, we didn't spend a day apart for months. He was the one, of that I was certain. It was never weird or confusing or a game at first. It was just easy. And good. I knew I loved him when he fixed my dresser drawer that always pulled out so wonky it went off the tracks. I was so touched by that gesture, I started to cry, and I didn't know why. In a world with so much fancy, it was so nice to have something real. We lived in Hermosa Beach - a beachfront city in Los Angeles. I try and even remember what stress I had then?! Where to go to dinner on a Saturday night? Sand in my crack after going to the beach? It was so good. Until it wasn't. I suddenly felt a pull for more meaning in my life. The pull I always tried to squash back down. I wanted something more to do then work, work out, wake up and do it all over again. It's funny - these times were perfect on paper, but I know they were far from my happiest times.

Because then came Greyson and everything I knew about life and the world and what mattered was flipped upside down and over. He was everything. At first mothering was filled with terror, anxiety and feelings of inadequacy. But that was quickly replaced with a love so deep it hurt. I never cared about anything as much as I cared about being a mom. When Greyson was 13 months old I was pregnant with Parker, and we had finally moved from Los Angeles to the Central Valley of California. 

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And when I was able to hold Parker in my arms, everything was perfect. 


Man, I love rose colored 20/20 hindsight. At first I felt like I was drowning with two, but I also wanted more kids. It's too late, but I still wish I could have had just one more. Or twenty more. Depending on the day you ask me.

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I just got back from a walk and came to my computer to write. Like I mentioned, walking always helps me gather my thoughts and put them in the right order. What comes after love and marriage and the baby carriage? The truth is-I don't know but I'm open to it. Yes, beginning mommy and babyhood was one of the most precious and tender times of my life, as well as the hardest.

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It's no coincidence that the best times often take the most out of you too. 


But with so many monsters under the bed that scare us, sometimes all we need to do is turn on the light to the thing that scares us. And writing is how I shine my light. I don't want to fear the future, I want to be excited about it. So that's the energy I'm going to put out there. I know that in the book of my life, there are still amazing chapters left to write. Not the traditional chapters society says we need to do- but ones I will write from scratch. Just for me.

You have so many chapters left to write too. What will you fill them with?




Monday, June 18, 2018

much more than one thousand words

I squint my eyes and strain to think of the exact moment it happened. The moment the light bulb went off in Parker's head and he realized what the small black machine I carry can do. For all I know, it may have been years ago, waiting dormant until he wanted to turn thought into action. Last weekend in Hermosa Beach, was the first time Parker ever acknowledged my camera out loud. Not only did he acknowledge it- he wanted to use it.

I want cam-rah, he determinedly exclaimed, with a white knuckled grip that wasn't taking no for an answer.

I used to do photography professionally, and when I started, I purchased the mack daddy of cameras at the time; a Canon Mark ii. I don't know what that means in terms of bells and dohickeys, but I know the lens sees life almost as beautiful as it actually is. I love this camera, and its ability to remind me of the beauty my life already contains. I no longer do portraits professionally, I prefer to funnel that need to create into writing and taking pictures of our life to share with you here. My favorite pictures are no longer perfectly arranged - smile and look here, portraits. They are of a perfectly mundane Monday. A bubble bath.  A trip to get ice cream. Perfect square little boy feet. The everyday goodness that we sometimes forget to notice. My camera reminds me to notice, and wakes me up to the stuff that means the most to me.

He can NOT use my camera, was my first thought after his request. He will get it sandy and break it and I'm not shelling out thousands of dollars to replace it. Nope. Big fat nope. But he kept his hands on it stubbornly- and in the tug of war I realized- why not? It's already sandy, and so what if he drops it? It will just get sandier. At first I helped. I made sure the strap was around his neck, should he decide he suddenly didn't want to hold it anymore. With my finger over his, I showed him how to click the shutter.

And like me, he was hooked. Each click emits a vibration satisfying a need you don't know you have until you are hooked. It's the same feeling you get when you are vaccuuming and can hear stuff coming up. (Clearly I can't be the only one who loves that sound?)

Over the past week, Parker has taken hundreds of pictures. I've tried to give him my old Canon Rebel, only to have him exclaim- "I need big camera." He's already a camera snob. Good thing he doesn't know Canon now has a Mark D IV.

Photography is all about lighting and perspective. And Parker's point of view is unique and beautiful. There are no great secrets when it comes to photography, other than you have to be willing to take a ton of bad pictures in order to get ones that speak to the soul. And Parker is a willing participant. I've deleted a million hilarious and awful photos- (he loves to take pictures of the television screen). But there are some that he has taken that make me pause and feel. That's all I want from my own pictures- to make people pause and feel.

Here are some of my favorites...

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"City" he exclaimed after taking this one.


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"I want camera", he tells me at 6:30am, our first morning home after the beach.



And then he roamed the house looking for his next subjects. 

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I took this one of my beautiful boy. We were in the front yard, and he had just finished taking pictures of the lemon tree nearby. The lighting was perfect and my perspective was clear after watching Parker come alive by the same thing that makes me come alive. photo IMG_5070_zpsu2izuvg7.jpg

Each one of Parker's pictures speak more than a thousand words. They say everything. They say- I am capable. I am creative. Focus on my strengths. I will always amaze you with what I can do. 

They show me that he too finds beauty in the small details too. I've realized the people happiest in life do. If you want to create more happiness in your life- don't be afraid to be bad at something and pay attention to the details.

We all deserve to find the things that make us lose track of time and come alive. What does that for you?