What He Said

Here’s a different take on fasting, or giving things up for Lent. To me it’s a description of how I want to be all the time, not just in the forty days before Easter.

The quote below appeared today on the Edge of the Atlantic, one of the blogs I follow.  I’m not Catholic. I haven’t made a habit of attending church on Ash Wednesday, or “giving something up” for Lent.  So when I looked through my followed blogs on the WordPress Reader today and found this, I realized it expressed what I was going to try to express, and did it much better than I ever could:

 

via are you ready to fast this Lent? (take your pick) — Edge of Atlantic

I’ve been trying to stay in my lane, and to avoid investing my energy into worrying about things I can’t control. Instead I’m thinking about how I can control my response to both small everyday frustrations and the monumental, unrelenting shit storms that seem to have enveloped our planet. These past weeks, it just seems like it gets worse every day.

Losing Mike and living as a widow has helped me understand, “this too shall pass.” It has made me want to remain unperturbed by everyday stresses and to learn to be still and silent enough, to find sufficient serenity, to tune in to more eternal things:  love, compassion, gratitude, simplicity, patience, joy, reconciliation, hope, kindness – prayer and God.  These things don’t pass with the passing moments of each day.  I want them to reside with me in each present moment, and stay with me as that moment passes to become the next.  It’s far more difficult than it should be, and unsurprisingly, I fail at it much more often than I succeed. I succumb to petty worries and mundane stresses. I lose patience. That’s why I appreciate reminders like Bill Schulz’s post today. They help me regain my perspective.

Angelic Daughter is my guiding star. I admire her more than I can say, and I am more ashamed of succumbing to impatience with her than I am of any of my other many faults. She marks one of life’s milestones tomorrow. Today she described handling an uncomfortable situation by using a strategy we had practiced. She solved the problem of feeling anxious in one environment by asking to move to another, at a place where choices like that are available to her. She continues to assume more responsibility for the moments of her day – being on time and prepared, adapting to different types of transportation and advocating for herself if she needs accommodation, as she did today. She does all this without dimming her angelic, compassionate, loving, emotionally intelligent self one bit. The strategy she used today worked, and she’s realizing that she has more control over things that bother her sensitive, autistic self than she used to, or that she believed she could have. My pride in and boundless love for her is wrapped in hope.  May there be a future in this world for Angelic Daughter, where people choose compassion, kindness, good stewardship for the earth and all that’s in it, love and reconciliation, and where we work together to solve problems that touch us all.

I hope your present moments are infused with calming little bits of the eternal, and may those  moments bring you peace.

Yours with gratitude to God for the gift of a daughter whose spirit is far more naturally generous than mine, and who inspires me every day to try to be a better person, I remain, your one-moment-to-the-next,

Ridiculouswoman

 

 

Autumn Reprise

Well, lookit you, November. Didn’t know you had it in ya. Very nicely done.

That slant of afternoon light is there, the bright blue of the sky and a blanket of gold on the lawn from leaves brought down by the weight of snow, now melted. My phone’s camera just can’t do it justice.

I got the fire started, and the S’mores made. Lit the Jack-o-Lanters for a few extra nights, until they took their place in the new compost heap that used to be the chicken run.

Mine is the only lawn on the block still covered with leaves, but I don’t care. The lawn guy suddenly seems to expect me to pay him in advance, before any work is done for the month.  Electric mowers are getting cheaper, and I had fun raking up a few bags of leaves to start the chicken-run compost. So maybe I’ll just handle it myself next year.

Angelic Daughter and I are gearing up for big changes; my going back to work full-time will mean she has to step up, step out and deal with new transportation, new people and new activities. I’ve been amazed and grateful and what a positive attitude she’s shown about it.

Anytime we have to change something that affects how she lives, what she does, where she goes and with whom she spends her time, it rattles me to the core. But I’ve got to suck it up and trust her. And trust God, who seems to keep throwing just what we need in our path just when we need it.

It’s concert week, and the choir I sing with is doing some incredibly beautiful, comforting music.  When the sound melds into one from out of the many and becomes a thing in itself, a perfect merger of text and music that swells or hushes with the promise of “lux aeterna” or the plea of “dona eis requiem,” I still get goosebumps.

I thought I’d be scrambling, but within the past two weeks everything came together to make sure Angelic Daughter has a companion while I’m at the rehearsals and performances we didn’t have covered yet, and even that she will be able to attend the concert. I can function when I know she is safe and well cared for.

Which is why this going back to work thing, as necessary and welcome as it is, still feels daunting. This has to work this time – I just can’t be interrupted with phone calls or texts constantly (while I simultaneously worry about why I’m not being interrupted with phone calls or texts constantly).

If you’re a parent you’ll never forget the first day of school, that autumn when you had to turn around and go, leaving your child in kindergarten. Maybe yours took it in stride (as did Angelic Daughter) but it didn’t stop the tears from forming, even if you were trying to hide them.

Fast forward through twenty years, and imagine having that experience over and over again, with each change of teacher, aide, school building or enrichment program. Will she be safe? Will she be happy? Will they understand her? Will she get any benefit out of this?

And now it’s happening again.

I’m counting on deep breathing, the kindness of people in our (relatively) small community, and help that keeps showing up unexpectedly, right on time.

So I’ll pack lunches the night before, (who am I kidding, I’ll do it in a mad rush in the morning) like I used to do. I’ll make laminated schedules and 3″ x 5″ card reminders and tape them to doors and put them in purses; I’ll add a few additional emergency contacts to her phone while also trying to teach her not to bother them unless it is a real emergency.

Tomorrow we find out if we’re set with the new program she tried out today, to fill her most of her day when I’m at work. I can’t imagine they won’t take her. She liked it and seemed really happy. I hope they don’t pull that rug, and leave us scrambling again.

Breathe.

I don’t want the lawn guys to come, yet. I want to savor this day, with the golden blanket of leaves, that remind me that beauty can come even when you thought the chance had passed.

I’m looking out the window through that gorgeous slant of sunlight, at the new chicken run compost heap with the Jack-o-Lanterns half buried in leaves, thinking about phases of life and how things that pass can transform into things that nourish the future.

Hoping I’ll catch the lawn guys when they do come, to ask them to empty the leaves and grass clippings into the chicken run compost, I remain,

Your happy, hopeful and still anxious as usual,

Ridiculouswoman

Turndown Service

I sleep with Hilda.

Hilda is a lavender stuffed hippopotamus.  Go ahead,  laugh. I’m your neighborblog sixty year-old widow.  Hilda makes me feel better, so get over it, OK?

Every night when the leftovers are put away and the dishwasher is loaded and running, I haul myself and my creaking knees up the stairs, and find Hilda, looking adorable, tucked in under the covers, waiting for me, the bedside table lamp aglow.

Angelic Daughter’s turndown service.

I take it as a sign of Angelic Daughter’s deep emotional intelligence, and her ability to pick up on cues I didn’t know I was sending about needs I wasn’t conscious of having.

Ok, that’s a flat out lie. I know I have NEEDS, primarily for the calming, anxiety-curing, panic-attack abating hugs Mike gave, and for the comfort that his very presence provided.  While people on the autism spectrum might have difficulty making eye contact, demonstrating “focus,” decoding facial expressions, or understanding tones of voice, it would be a mistake to assume they lack emotional intelligence. It may not be obvious, but it’s there.

“I miss Dad.”

“I miss him too, sweetheart.”

Angelic Daughter knows Hilda is a comfort to me, both because stuffed animals are comforting in general, and because Hilda has been a comfort to her, too.  I created a voice for Hilda (a sort of “bless your heart” kind of Southern accent – not sure why) and Hilda comforts Angelic Daughter by conversing with her that way, from time to time.

I found Hilda at a local toy store, a really good independent toy store that Angelic Daughter and I liked to poke around in. Its narrow aisles had shelves of stuffed animals, baskets filled with quirky fidget toys, bouncing balls and toy soldiers, racks of costumes,  arts and craft stuff, board and card games, books and a large section of model trains.

So naturally it went out of business. But not before I found Hilda.

I seized on her immediately.

Hilda righted a childhood wrong.

When I was about three years old, I had a stuffed hippo. I loved that thing, but I don’t remember naming it, or who gave it to me. It was grey. One day I decided to add some color.

I took a set of markers and drew a rainbow of parallel, curving lines all around that Hippo. Encircled its eyes and traced its tummy, big face, back and legs with a multi-colored, multi-lane highway of marker love. I was proud of my artistry.

When I showed Cruella DeVille my mother my gorgeous design, expecting praise and delight,  she snatched that hippo away and screamed at me for “ruining” it.

I had no idea why she was so angry, and I never saw that hippo again.

So Hilda was a second chance at hippo happiness.

Never mind that actual, living hippos are one of the most dangerous animals on the planet – they can bite a crocodile in two, run at speeds 35 mph or more and have huge teeth and powerful jaws. They’re very aggressive on both land and water. They kill around 3,000 people a year.

But my stuffed Hilda hippo is a skwooshy, lavender beanbag of love.

She doesn’t complain when I squeeze her tight, or squish her giant jaw-face, or take up too much room in the bed. She’s just there for me, if I need her.

And something deep in Angelic Daughter gets that I do. Need Hilda.

Everyone has a comfort item.  I hope.

I still have my baby blanket. My uncle borrowed it for my infant cousin, and never returned it. On the brink of heading off to college, I suddenly decided I needed it back.

Unc was living in my late grandfather’s grand house, an English manor-style home with a huge living room and a huge dining room opposite, across the front hall, where Grampa’s cook (yes, his cook) would call for us that it was time to “go through,” meaning, cross the front hall and find your place at a dining table that could seat 12.

Around the time of the disappeared decorated hippo, our family dog was a  black and white malamute (like a husky, but bigger) named “Buddy.” Because he was my brother’s buddy.

My cousin, Unc’s son,  named their red and white husky “Scary.”

When I asked for my blanket back,  it was discovered at the bottom of Scary’s huge chain-link cage.

Unc gamely retreived it, filthy and full of holes. I gladly washed it and took it to college with me.  I’ve had it ever since.

So you won’t hear me laughing if your self-care includes your bwanky, or dolly, or your teddy bear. Or your stuffed hippo.

Grateful for my amazing Angelic Daughter, I remain,

Your about-to-find comfort in a cuppa and a nap (with Hilda),

Ridiculouswoman