Where I’ve Been and Why It Took So Long

Today is the first day, in a very long while, that I’ve even attempted to write something coherent for the public to read.

In May 2015, 3 years and 3 days ago, I received my acceptance letter into that Occupational Therapy Assistant Program. The excitement of that day, dampened by my grandfather’s death a few days before, held nothing to foreshadow what school would do to hijack my life.

Not just me going back to school at 38, wait, WHAT!? Yes, I did. With 2 kids and the extraordinary help and support of my family — my WHOLE family. We ALL got me through that 2 years. We enrolled our son in Montessori School and now our daughter attends there as well.

For the last year, I’ve been working, learning the ropes of my new career.

I’ve missed writing. I haven’t written anything in so long that I was a afraid that I had forgotten how. But, just like everything else. I’m jumping back in. No planning ahead today. Just making a renewed commitment to pick up my keyboard again. And, oh does it feel good!

I want to take what I’ve learned on this sabbatical and share how it has helped and changed our lives for the better. Inside and out.

Some topics that I’m planning on covering are:

  • Occupational Therapy (what it is and who we are)
  • Montessori Education (especially the public school to Montessori transition)
  • Teaching Independence
  • Work, Life Balance
  • The Caregiver Role

My goal is to start conversations. I want to hear from you. I want to know what you think and what will help you live a more fulfilling life.

Post your questions in the comments below.

Confessions of a Packrat: My Organized Life

Magenta Mushrooms

I wanted to write this post old fashioned style first so that I could lay it out in a logical way. I wanted it to make sense and not dissolve into an rambling mess of words and half described images. But I can’t (ironically) find my notebook of blog post ideas and drafts.

I stand in the doorway to my dining room-turned-office. Most of the time I just throw the bill stubs and EOBs on the desk or other flat surface (aka a plastic tote holding more keepsakes) I turn out the light and quickly walk away, listening and slightly wincing at the soft cascade of paper that was the proverbial last straw to that stack.

My office it that room. The Room of Requirement. Only mine doesn’t disappear when company comes. And most of what is hidden inside will never be required again. Ever.

When I stand in the center of the room, the midpoint in the trail from the door to the desk, I can hear the ghosts of the past echo. Two actually, in a patronizing tone after I had been talking about making/maintaining a daily schedule for my kids. “Wow!”, they both said, “you must be really organized.” Their words sound patronizing to me. From my perspective they had never been to my home and seen mounds of laundry of all the kinds, clean and dirty, in baskets and on the couch, folded and crumpled. They hadn’t heard the soft whisper of falling paper from my office. They didn’t know about the sink and the dishwasher and the floors.

The truth is that in some areas, I can be very organized: Legal paperwork, recordkeeping and the like. I don’t miss regulatory deadlines, only library due dates and the occasional bill. I’ve learned those skills out of necessity of performing job duties and a little bit thanks to Abby on NCIS. She inspired me to make a manual for duties at one place I work. When I left I didn’t even really have to train the guy that replaced me. It was pretty cool. I’m sure nobody remembers it, but at least it’s a moment where I mentally shine my fingernails.

But no amount of self-loathing has allowed me to parent out of myself the overwhelming stacks of “important” papers that come with running a household. And then there are the school projects and coloring sheets and work that show my beautiful babies’ progress through the years. When I look through (and I do every few years) I get to relive the moments that so rushed by me, the ones I missed because I was stressed, working on school work, working 55 hours a week,  or forgot because I was just surviving. I think about how many moments I’ve forgotten and keeping those relatively few papers gives me the feeling of control over the time that’s rushing past me so quickly that I haven’t even had time to savor it. Living in the present is a very difficult thing to do, as it happens in several places at once and I can only be the one. in The End-All Guide to Getting Out From Under Your Office Crap, Jason Fitzpatrick writes that hanging on to stuff, for some of us, is fear of scarcity. I can say beyond a doubt that the majority of my sentimental attachments are due to the overwhelming realization that time really is scarce and will be increasingly more so as I get older.

clear glass with red sand grainer

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The conflict of this story is that I love beautiful things. My soul craves the peace of an orderly environment. The condescension that I hear in their statements is really from my own feelings of inferiority. I know how hard I have to fight my desire of sentimental attachment with a desire for a peaceful and organized home and my tendency to procrastinate the mundane tasks of filing and sorting paperwork.

Neither do I have the desire to dedicate hours and space to all those stupid EOBs and bill statements. I know I don’t need to keep them all. But I don’t have an industrial shredder just to process all of the mail we get in a year. I will add here that I broke my last shredder trying to stick an unopened envelope from the cell phone company in it. Turns out that 5 or 6 pages folded in half plus an envelope really is more than a small home office shredder can handle.

We are in the process of listing our house and ultimately can’t finish the process until my office is as beautiful as we are making the rest of our home. I’m not even going to start on how frustrating it is that we work so hard to finally finish our DIY projects just so we can sell rather than completing them 5 years ago so that we could enjoy them. :brain sizzling emoji:

But to rev up my motivation and inspiration to tackle this Everest of a room, I’ve rounded up a couple of posts with insightful and practical advice. Not too many because it’s better to get to work that sit reading about it!

The End-All Guide to Getting Out From Under Your Office Crap – Lifehacker.com

An 8-Step Guide to Decluttering Your Office Once and For All – Inc.com

I’m not sure if I’ll ever be brave enough to post a before picture of the office, but I will be sure to post one of the result.

 

**Our office is also where my sewing maching, papercrafting and knitting storage is. It is a crazy kind of place!

***We will probably use Jason’s method of pulling EVERYTHING out of the room due to that it is in our home AND we have to repaint the walls and trim going from the dark spice to the neutral gray that we have slowly bathed our home in.

Do/Did you have a Room of Requirement? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

True Love

I can still see him standing there saying those four little words. A simple sentence with eternal implications that I wasn’t old enough to truly understand. I can feel the passion as he would point at us with his thumb, his fingers curled, emphasizing the first and last. He would look us each in the eyes with the unspoken demand that we obey this commandment. Continue reading

It’s been a good minute.

I took an unplanned break. I meant to write. Really, I did. I had all these things to say and yet, somehow, weeks and months and a whole year went by. If I’m truly honest, and I will be with you, I stopped writing long before I stopped typing posts because I was playing that comparison game that I fall into so often. I, being my over-critical and over-thinking self, thought that what I had to say wasn’t important, or polished, or edited, or well-planned, or proof-read enough to put out there for someone to read. And so I stopped writing.

I have many unpublished posts, or skeletons and even more scribbles on paper, notebooks and index cards. All of them great ideas at the time and then pushed aside as I let Self-Doubt and Fear talk me out saying what I really had to say.

But I want to write again and here’s why. I miss the old blogs. I miss the friends I made and the realness of them all. The days when we just told our story without all the affiliate links and SEO and worrying about stats and who was seeing us (or not visiting, landing or otherwise spending time on our site.) I got caught up in the stats (I’m a sucker for stats). Ha! I just typed status, and maybe that was a Freudian typo. Don’t we all love status in some form or another? I got caught up in statistics. I measured the worth of my words by how many clicks and looks I was getting. And that’s really not why writers write. Not because we want to know that everyone loves our words. We do it because we have a story that must be told.

Just over a month ago, I started a new life job. I loved working with the older adult population in the setting that I was in, but that + all my other roles = me being really exhausted, sick all the time and a wee bit crazy. I’m working in a school setting now, summer looming around the corner and having the same schedule (roughly) as my own kids and it’s pretty fantastic.

My dream of writing and working and being a real live wife and mother is looking very possible and I’m super excited. And guess what? If you read this post and love it, great! I hope we can be friends. If not, that’s ok, there’s still room enough for us old-fashioned bloggy types. I know you probably miss those days too.

P.S. We are beekeepers now! We expanded to our second hive this last week with a swarm from the wild bee tree in our backyard so, I’ll probably mention that every once in a while too!

 

DSC00639

Dyslexia and Sequencing

We were outside a few minutes ago. It was 10 o’clock and getting pretty dark. We saw a flash in the sky to the east. Then more and more. We came in since our yard has a track record of lightening strikes. Now, I’m sitting inside hearing the thunder roll in. I love thunderstorms, mostly. Less when they send 30 million volts into my big oak tree and flower bed shattering limbs, bricks and concrete. Maybe I’ll post more on that update to our landscaping later.

We’ve finally settled into the summer routine. I love not driving an hour round trip to drop the kids off at school. I love even more that they spend two nights a week at my mother’s. Bliss.

I suppose storms always make me pensive. Since I recall that I made a tiny list of things that I’d like to post about, and the first that my mind settled on was dyslexia, dyslexia it shall be.

I have far more frustrations and questions than answers when it comes to dyslexia. Even though my credentials say that I must have a wealth of knowledge on the subject including coping strategies and activities to improve skills, I feel dumb on most days when it comes to my own child. All that stuff is hard to put into practice when your kid can’t seem to do any of his every day tasks without getting steps out of sequence.

I’ve read that a lot of people think that dyslexia just means that a person can’t read. In fact, the word means reading dysfunction. Since most dyslexic kids struggle with reading on some level, and reading is the most visible affected deficit during school hours, the misconception is understandable.

The truth is, that not being able to read is just a symptom. It’s the result of not being able to match sounds with letters and not being able to get those sounds in the right order. Putting things in the right order = sequencing. Sequencing deficits affect every single thing we do every day. Everything we do from tying our shoes to fixing a PB&J requires steps that have to be done in the right order. A break down of those steps and you have peanut butter on the counter and the bread sack lying there open and shoe laces flopping getting the ends frayed as he walks back to the living room (against the rules) to eat his sandwich.

At school, kids with sequencing issues may have problems with reading, writing (including handwriting) and math. Yep, that covers just about all they do in school. All of them involve complex sequences of steps that must be done in the correct order, not to mention the classroom procedures of turning in works, going through the lunch line etc.

The answer to correct sequencing issues? It’s not as much accommodation as it is practice. And practice. And MORE practice. Developing actions until they become automatic just like a quarterback practicing throwing that perfect pass.

As a mom, I have to bear the brunt of all the crankiness that comes from asking for all that practice on things that he isn’t particularly good at. I mean, we like to do things we are good at. That’s a fairly common human trait. On the other hand, most of us get tired of having to constantly work on things that we are really terrible at. And, honestly, I get tired of having to remind the kid of the SAME exact thing EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. By tired, I mean the bone deep emotional exhaustion.

I don’t have and answer on how to ease the weariness that comes with parenting a child with a learning disability. Not a good one anyway. The only one I have is, I can’t give up today. And tomorrow the answer will be the same.

The thunderstorm is already gone. I wish life calmed down that quickly.

Pink and Purple Hearts

image

If life is about compromise this year has been full of life. 

I’ve said before that birthday cakes might be my love language.  My baby girl turns four tomorrow.  My helpful,  sassy,  thoughtful baby girl. 

I don’t have time to bake her cupcakes this year.  I can’t stay up until 3 a.m. making fancy cookies for her school treats.

She stood right beside me while I pulled the store bought sugar cookies from the package and piped fake strawberry flavored frosting into little heart shapes. She counted down how many I had left.  She cheered for me when I got done.  And then her eyes sparkled and her mouth opened like a baby bird for some of the leftover frosting. 

The grace and acceptance that this girl gives never fails to amaze me –even when I’m not living up to my own standards, or especially when. 

She really doesn’t care that she won’t have fancy cupcakes.

I saw Jesus in my baby girl tonight.  She accepted those pink hearts not because they were perfect, or beautiful,  or gourmet flavored, but because I gave them to her.

Jesus accepts our hearts,  bruised and broken that they are.  He loves us because our brokenness is the best we have to offer. Then he takes it and gives us a way to love others.

Pregnancy & Infant Loss Awareness Day: 1 in 4

psalm-100-5-squareI don’t talk about it much anymore. I didn’t even know there was a day for remembering pregnancy loss. It’s been a long time — twelve years, in fact. My days of remembering are usually December 26th and March 22nd.

Today, I saw a shared post that said that October 15th is Pregnancy & Loss Awareness day. But, I felt like today would be a good day to post since I haven’t in so long. I finally have a day off from school, though I probably should be doing homework.

Like I said, it’s been twelve years. I’m still a little sad after all this time. I think more than anything the time has allowed me to realize that the loss was more real when I was going through it. Sure, I felt it. I thought my heart had been ripped out. But it took years to see that there is hope even in the loss of a child. And even more years to finally understand that I lost more than a tiny life that I was carrying. Two lifetimes of daydreams and expectations disappeared instantly. That was when the grief came full circle.

The hope came, of course with our third pregnancy. Fear came too. But before that came a person who taught me what prayer was really supposed to be. With the simple gesture of giving me a slender pink book, she opened the door for me to tap into God’s grace, and freedom from fear. Just by reading over his promises and committing them to my heart.

The verses that I learned are still some of my favorites. Over time, speaking his truths changed my life… and healed my heart.

Psalm 137:3

“He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds.”

If you are grieving a loss today, let me tell you, first, that you are not alone, and that you are not being silly or over-dramatic. Second, I want you to know that there is hope for healing even without all the answers. It’s OK to be angry and confused. There are people out there who understand. Find them.

I also want you to know that I’m praying for you today and that you are on my mind often. I understand your heartache — how your arms feel empty and how you wish you could look in your baby’s eyes. I want you to know that the love that you feel is genuine. Love is never wasted. No matter how small, love changes this world for the better.

I can’t make you any promises except one. God, Our Father, understands what it’s like to lose a child. He hears you when you call out. He is always listening. If you call to him, he will be there and with time, you will recover.

One Year

365 chalk

One year.

A year to find my place. 12 months that I never once searched the internet for a job. 52 Saturday nights that my stomach hasn’t been tied in knots because the weekend was almost over. 365 days of knowing that I have the power to make someone’s day by helping them.

It’s hard to believe that it has been a year since I took my first step into a hurdling run toward a new career. When I walked through the gate and down that sidewalk sandwiched between manicured grass for the last time, I drove off and literally did not look back. I was free from trying to fit a mold that was clearly not something my soul was meant to be crammed into.

I walked into CNA classes one month later and knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

I wasn’t just switching my vocation, I was finding and fulfilling my life-purpose. It was real. It was deep. And it was the scariest thing I’ve ever done. I was leaving everything I had prepared my whole adult life for.

When I was high school and then college I wrestled with The Questions. “What should I do forever?” and “What is my calling?” because that’s how seventeen and eighteen-year-olds and twenty-somethings think. I made the choice that I thought would please my people. Then, I backed out and made the choice that felt like the right one at the time. Perhaps it was. I still love environmental science. Truth be told, if I had done things like I should have, I’d probably still be in that field.

It served me well for a time, and I’m not convinced that it won’t serve me still yet.

A year later and I’m in over my head (a good thing) learning about nerves, muscles and diseases and the things I can do to improve someone’s life. I love it. I devour it. I’ve started early because I’m a biology geek like that.

In one week I start classes full time. Sitting with people that have the same goals as I. A huge change from last July. That first step was crazy, scary. But I couldn’t be more convinced that I’m in deepest waters where grace abounds.

Does your next week look drastically different that your one year ago?

P.S. My son says that I’m not a geek. He doesn’t know that I’ve been reading on muscle groups in the legs for the last week. And meditating on the plasticity of synapses. He still thinks I’m cool, “kinda”.

Easy School Day Breakfast

bburritos1The countdown to the first day of school is  winding down to days rather than weeks now. I’m frantically checking and rechecking To-Do lists.

I may have developed some clinical anxiety over this whole life-change thing. I sense the great potential for our fragile morning schedules to nose-dive off a cliff with the resultant ball of fire if there isn’t some serious preparation done beforehand. I have to get a grip on something.

I can’t control a whole lot of things, like how much homework we will have or if the kids socks are just going to feel “wrong” that day. To keep my desperate grasp on sanity the best course of action is for me to have to make as few decisions in the mornings as possible. This translates to preparing a whole bunch of stuff beforehand, from clothes organizers to breakfasts.

I spent all, and by “all” I mean every spare minute, getting heat-and-eat breakfasts and freezer meals ready last weekend.

Some other moms are doing the same thing, so I thought I’d share my ingredient lists and few tips for the breakfast burritos I made. This is not a food blog, but we get pretty ungraceful around here when we are hungry, in a hurry and flustered.

I’m really, really bad at doing step-by step directions. Here are my ingredient lists for the four kinds (yes, four!!!) of breakfast burritos that are now sitting happily in my top freezer basket just waiting for the first day of school.

Note: the measurements for ingredients are estimated. Add or subtract as you see fit.

Sausage, Egg and Cheese 

  • 1 lb. breakfast sausage (I use Jimmy Dean)
  • 12 eggs beaten with 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1 cup of your favorite salsa
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 12 large tortillas

Southwest Breakfast 

  • 6 slices of bacon cooked till crisp and crumbled
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup anaheim chili chopped
  • 4 medium baked potatoes, cooled completely and diced
  • 12 eggs beaten with 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1 cup cheddar cheese
  • 12 tortillas

Spinach, Ham and Mushroom

  • 1/2 package of thin sliced ham
  • 1/2 medium zucchini (optional)
  • 1/4 cup onion, chopped
  • 1 can of mushrooms
  • 2/3 package of baby spinach
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 14 eggs, beaten with 1/2 cup of milk
  • 12 tortillas

Black Bean and Chorizo

  • 1 tube of chorizo, beef or pork
  • 1 can black beans drained and rinsed
  • 12 eggs, beaten with 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 package of queso fresco, crumbled
  • 12 tortillas

The process for each one is essentially the same. Cook the meat and set it aside in a large bowl, saute any fresh ingredients (and potatoes) in the same skillet, set that aside then cook the eggs. Mix them all together and add the cheese while it’s all still hot.

I used a 1/4 cup scoop to fill and put 2 heaping ones in each tortilla (a little more for the southwest because of the potatoes) Once your burritos are filled wrap them tightly in plastic wrap.

Tips

  1. Wait until the filling has cooled before wrapping and freezing
  2. Save the resealable tortilla packages and use them to put the finished burritos in.
  3. Reserve your bacon grease to saute your vegetables in.
  4. Fill each with a 1/2 to 2/3 cup of filling.
  5. I forgot to add the salsa in the Southwest so I didn’t include it here, but 1 cup should do it if you love your salsa like we do!
  6. If you make all four types in the above order you don’t really have to wash any bowls between batches
  7. Use two large bowls: one bowl will be cooling while you are cooking the next one.
  8. Experiment! Meat, veggies, eggs and cheese – the options are endless!

How do you prepare for school? What is your most helpful trick or tip?

A Shelter for Me

Chabad.org

image of a tallit from Chabad.org

It was one of those Mondays.

My schedule was new. Again.

It was occupational therapy day. Which meant that we made the four hour round trip to the therapy place. The kind of trip that the very tired kids fight all the way home. And so, I sat on the couch and did exactly nothing except make tacos for supper. I didn’t burn them so I count it as a win for everyone.

It was as though a tidal wave of overwhelm washed through my living room tonight. And that word that seems to pop into my mind so much lately showed up again.

Lately, it seems like it changes as soon as I get it written down on the calendar. I’ve been so busy. You know, that kind of busy…where you finally crash on the sofa and scroll through facebook on your phone while half-way listening to CNN on the TV in complete denial of the very real to-do list sitting on the table just hoping that the kids don’t drip their third popsicle on the rug.

I guess I feel overwhelmed a lot. When I look at all the details, I see how less than capable I really am to do all this. I feel weak and helpless and like a failure.

Self-check: It’s time to step-back.

When I consider the landslide of change that’s going on in our lives, and has been going on since March, it would be an even more concerning detail if I weren’t overpowered by days like today. It is days like these that I’m forced to cry out to God in my weakness. I’m forced to look into the face of my need for guidance and protection. That’s probably the point, after all.

A few days ago, I was flipping through the pages of my New King James Version study bible. My eyes rested on Psalm 61 just long enough to see the word “overwhelmed”. Cue sound of brakes screeching.

I needed this Psalm. My heart needed this.

“Hear my cry, [Elohim]…when my heart is overwhelmed. Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.” (emphasis mine)

I was desperate for help and rest. It’s rare that I don’t fret over why things happen. It’s almost only when I’m so exhausted that I can’t. I simply needed a moment of relief and safety.

“…For you have been a shelter for me…”

And in the median of my page I had previously sketched a tiny little tent and written “chuppah”.

“…I will abide in your tabernacle forever…”

I found this description on Chabad.org, “The chuppah is a tapestry attached to the tops of four poles. The word chuppah means covering or protection, and is intended as a roof or covering for the bride and groom at their wedding.”

And it further explains that “it also symbolized the covenantal marriage of G‑d and His people.”

During some Jewish weddings, the requirements to fulfill chuppah is by the groom’s covering of his and the bride’s head with a tallit (prayer shawl). The word for the corners of a garment, including a tallit, is the same Hebrew word as wingskanaph.

“I will trust in the shelter of your wings.”

The groom is covering his new bride, his new family, with his prayer cloth to symbolize their relationship with God.

On the overwhelming days (and weeks), we can trust in our words given to a God who made that covenant with us — the promise to make us his own, to separate us from the unholiness, to protect us, and to listen to us.

He doesn’t only want the people that have it all together; He accepts us in our weakness and does not expect perfection, only trust in our relationship with him.

Please know that you are accepted. You don’t have to be whatever perfect looks like that day. You just have to be willing start a relationship. God is waiting there to cover us and claim us as his own. And no matter how you have been broken he offers hope and healing.