Dreams amidst lament

Hi, Friends. This has been a hard week, hasn’t it? So much pain. So many people are grieving the safe world that they thought they had/knew. And so many people are angry that it has taken this long for the white majority to begin to understand and recognize the disparities between us and people of color. I’m hearing people lament over the treatment of Black people in America, revealed through the Black Lives Matter movement and through the unjust deaths of so many. Why has it taken a video of a Black man’s murder for the world to wake up? I don’t know.  And I’m hearing people argue about “all lives,” who I think are afraid that maybe their own life won’t matter as much if Black Lives Matter. 

It is possible to proclaim (long overdue) “Black Lives Matter” and still recognize that every life does matter.

In fact, until Black Lives Matter, every life does not matter, does it? It can’t. When we look at the history of how Black people have been treated in America, how can we deny that they have been the victims of injustice? When we talk to our Black neighbors and they reveal the deep fear they have because so many people they know have been neglected and abused by the police and the justice and the education system, how can we insist that we don’t see color and that racism no longer exists? 

I think of the Scripture verse where Jesus says, “ No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Who is our friend? Who is a friend to Jesus? Who is our neighbor? These are critical questions we must prayerfully explore. 

I have learned this year that I am racist. I confess this. I am ashamed. I am learning to recognize my racist instincts, and to act differently. I am learning to make friends differently. I am learning to seek out and celebrate diversity; but I still have a long way to go. I am deeply sorry for my role in perpetuating a racist system designed to elevate those with white privilege, intelligence and money. I am sorry I denied having privilege. I have not been a good neighbor. I have not heard the cry of the needy or the oppressed. I have not done God’s will. I am learning and I am changing my behavior. 

I think that we, as a country, must atone for the pain our system has caused many people (wealth inequity, racial prejudice, patriarchy, inequitable health care access, violence, injustice) As we do so, we have a chance to hope, dream and build a new way. 

Perhaps Martin Luther King, Jr’s speech, “I Have a Dream. . . “ is still relevant, 60 years later.

In our dreams for an equitable, just system, we have the opportunity to play a part in building the Kingdom of God here. We are stewards of this earth, and we share responsibility for the health and wellness of our world, our nation and our neighbor. How do we ensure that we as Christians are loving our neighbors? How do we pursue justice for God’s sake and for our neighbor’s sake? These are questions that I don’t know how to answer, but I think we need to have these conversations as a community. 


Kindness isn’t wasted

How do we show children we love them?

Sometimes, I slip a little note in my kids’ lunch boxes. My youngest still enjoys the notes and looks forward to the smiley face and love letter I occasionally add.

It’s such a small thing.

I didn’t think it was a big deal. Just a little “magic” to give her a smile and warm fuzzy at a chaotic time of day.

I was out of town for work two days this week. Both days, my youngest made a double batch of smoothie for her own breakfast and for her older brother. She also added a kindly worded note on an index card, mirroring my own notes, but tempering the language because 13 year old boys don’t receive “I love you” in the spirit in which it is intended.

Have a great day
A note a little sister wrote to her older brother.

The notes I wrote mattered. And they taught a little girl how to share kindness and love.

The little, small, consistent actions matter–perhaps more than the grandiose. God is found in whispers, in gentleness, in kindness, in smallness. An ocean can roar, yes; but it can also gently whisper in the seafoam as it trickles ashore. The Kingdom of Heaven is built big and small.

I’m going to visit a kind little girl at lunch today.


A New Beginning for School

I thought I was prepared for this year. But I don’t think anyone can be truly completely prepared.

The days leading up to the beginning of school had me on edge.

I felt very triggered by many little moments, and my emotions crescendoed when I drove past the police officer (police car ironically wrapped with “Autism Awareness” art) who had initiated my child’s Baker Act.

I took my own advice and made arrangements to meet with all of my child’s teachers before the year began. They graciously stayed through part of their lunch break in a day packed with meetings to give me an opportunity to highlight my family’s care for our child, my child’s strengths, and special concerns. The school administrator who has taken point with my family accompanied me and had already explained the circumstances of last year and why this meeting was so important.

At orientation to pick up his schedule, my son seemed more relaxed than he had been the previous year. Adults greeted him kindly and he lit up, giving special “secret handshakes” and grinning at some of his favorites. He showed me where all of his classes were, negotiated an elective with his guidance counselor and waited patiently in line for final sign off and planner assignment.

The vice around my heart eased a little.

The first day of 8th grade passed uneventfully.

The first week of school, I waited for a phone call about his behavior. And it came–from a teacher notifying me of the remarkable growth he is showing.

My son filled in his planner every day. He was doing homework. He had me sign the class syllabi and other forms. We offered him an end of the week reward to continue using his planner, and he earned the (appropriate) movie rental of his choice.

I attended his school’s Open House last night, braced for the sympathetic glances and platitudes.

Instead, every single staff person–from administration to teachers–had positive comments on my son’s demeanor, attitude and behavior.

This was such a moment of grace for me.

The relief flowed over me and as I recall this wonderful evening, I am undone.

Reflecting upon what has changed, I realize that last year was stressful for all of us. A disastrous and traumatic first day coupled with missing the first 3 weeks of school catapulted my son into daily uncertainty.

He had missed the typical instructional season of instilling routines and rules into the students–step by step building of the notebooks, navigating early friendships and use of planners. He had to learn the rules and consequences and he had to learn to trust the adults at his new school.

They have proven themselves trustworthy.

Thank you thank you thank you.

Fear, Adrenaline, Curiosity

My 8 year old and I were discussing fear.

I had been listening to a fascinating podcast about turning unproductive, purposeless fear into curiosity.

I brought up our zoo’s interactive, “pettable” non-venomous snakes. Perhaps fear could be transformed in that safe moment into questions about the creature’s habitat, adaptations, and appearance.

My insightful daughter pointed out that fear can create adrenaline–which is useful for real danger.

And then my little girl broke my heart with her casual example.

Its like if you’re in the bathroom and the school goes on lockdown. But if you don’t hear the lockdown alarm because you suddenly can’t hear, and then you go outside and there’s someone with a gun….and you trip and break your legs….fear will give you adrenaline to run away even on broken legs!”

I affirmed that fear and adrenaline do work purposefully in dangerous situations while inside, unproductive fear seized my heart.

I cannot muster curiosity to combat this.

And days later, I am still heartbroken that this is a potential reality for my 8 year old, who so casually uses that situation as an example.

We have to take better care of our children. I need my autistic child to be safe. I need my neurotypical children to be safe.

I need safe schools.

I think we all agree on those points.

The problem is we disagree on how to create that safety.

please, please, please–we have to work together to make our country safer for our most vulnerable.

Our children need freedom to explore, curiosity to be nurtured, joy to be enhanced.

Instead they cower under desks in lockdown drills.

What are we doing to our children?

This mama’s heart cannot bear more tragedy in our schools.

Perfect 10

Have you viewed the “Perfect 10” gymnastic floor sequence?

My daughters and I have been enthralled by Katelyn Ohashi’s outstanding gymnastics performances.

I seized the moment to talk to my 8 year old about body image, societal expectations and reality. As we watched the videos, I asked my daughter, “what do you notice about her body?” My daughter commented on her flexibility and high jumps.

We talked about being a gymnast and the muscular structure necessary to do those amazing exercises.

I shared more of what i had learned about this gymnast–about how criticism of her body led her to almost lose her love of this sport. How when she listened to other people she forgot that she was made beautiful and powerful and strong and talented.

And what a loss it would have been because she brings joy and inspiration to so many now through her performances.

I paused the video a couple times and pointed out the muscles in her hips and thighs. We noted how her rear end jiggled a little bit. And then my daughter sighed, “i have skinny legs. Theyre not strong like hers.” So we talked more about comparison being unfair. We discussed being grateful for the body God gave us and taking care of it–and understanding it is unique, with mom and dads genes mixed differently in each sibling and the wonderful gift our bodies are.

I read that 8 year old girls are at the pinnacle of their body self esteem; saddening me. How I treat and speak of my own body is the beginning to my daughters’ self talk.

May I be kind and gentle.

Heres something awesome: I float very easily, making an ocean swim delightful!

Don’t Push the Power Button 5 times!

FaceTime wasn’t working last night. I was trying to disconnect from an attempted/unsuccessful call but my phone was stuck with a keyboard blocking the “end call” prompt. In my flustered state I managed to accidentally hit the power button 5 times.

You know what that does? It calls 911. 😱

I explained my technological incapability to the kind voice on the other end of the phone. Still couldnt operate my phone and had to wait for emergency services to disconnect our conversation.

A few minutes later, dressed in my pajama top and pants, hair wet from a shower, I took my dogs out in the front yard before retiring for the night.

At 8:30 PM. Because I am pushing 40 and morning comes too early.

I stopped at my car to get my glasses (blind without contacts) and grabbed my daughter’s water bottle and shoes she had left in the car while I was there.

So now I am carrying in my arms: my keys (attached to a wallet and chapstick), my phone (to track every step I take), a tall stainless steel water bottle, a pair of sneakers, and am wrestling with my Great Pyrenees on then other end of the pink leash I am also holding.

It is just a quick potty break for the dogs.

We walk down the long driveway (really should have grabbed all the stuff after the dogs’ walk, not before) and a car drives through our cul de sac…and stops at my mailbox.

It is a police car.

The very nice officer asks if everything is ok. I thank him for his prompt response and he tells me he happened to be close by when dispatch called him.

I reassure him I am really fine. Standing in my yard, in my pjs, arms full of miscellaneous treasures. This is totally normal. Really.

He opens his car door to pet my dogs, and my unleashed Basset Hound, Olive, tries to go home with him. Luna, my Great Pyrenees, must also get on on the action. She pushes Olive out of the way, pulling me along in the process, so that Deputy Chris (we are on a first name basis by now)must pet her.

I would like to just go inside my home as quickly as possible.

I get control of my overly friendly dogs, thank him once again for checking on us and invite him inside. He declines, saying he doesn’t imagine I would be out walking the dogs if there was a problem. I do not dare to disagree.

I suspect my fresh makeup free face convinced him that I had been neither crying nor distressed–rather, just cast in The Walking Dead.

That is a face mask, which i was thankfully not wearing last night, but it helps you get a complete picture.

I wrangled the dogs inside, not sure if they had ever finished their business and authorized the system update on my iPhone.

I sincerely hope that is the end of my story. Next time, my kids can get their own stuff out of the car.

How to Prevent an Autistic Child’s Baker Act

Another 8 year old was just “Baker Acted” in my county.

I want to say bad words.

Instead, I’ll take this opportunity to share what I have learned the hard way to help prevent psychiatric institutionalizing from happening to anyone else.

It’s not fail safe, and I am not an attorney.

I am a mom who is angry, sick and scared that parents of children with special needs not only have to worry about IEP meetings, social skills, physical care, emotional well being of their children but ALSO they have to worry about an overzealous person removing the child unnecessarily from their home.

I get it: Sometimes Baker Acts are necessary. This act exists to protect a person who is danger of physically hurting themselves or someone else. AND the law also states that this is only to be enacted if “it is not apparent that the harm may be avoided through the help of willing family members, friends, or the provision of other services.”
How to determine if the individual appears to meet baker act criteria.

So here is what I have done to help prevent a Baker Act in the future.

  1. I met with school staff to explain my child’s diagnoses and behaviors. A  school employed behavior analyst walked the staff and teachers through my child’s Behavior Intervention Plan. I explained that my family can and will supervise my child 24/7, we have no weapons in the home, my child is under regular care of a psychiatrist and we have resources to hospitalize him other than the awful county facility should we agree he need hospitalization.
  2. An attorney friend sent me the website of the Citizens Commissions on Human Rights on preventing Baker Acts, which has helped me with step #3.
  3. I filled out and had the form from the website above^^ notarized, and put in my child’s school file after the guidance counselor signed acknowledgement of receiving this. I keep a copy, too.
  4. I scheduled a meeting with the school resource officer. I brought a copy of my son’s IEP and Behavior Intervention Plan. I spent an hour talking to him about my son’s behaviors, what to do if he had a meltdown, and gave him a copy of the notarized form from #2 and 3 above. I talked about our ability to care for him, our family support, and that we have insurance and resources to choose which hospital our child should go to if it was necessary. I made it clear that we would employ litigation if my son was Baker Acted unnecessarily. The SRO thanked me and suggested all parents of children with autism or behavior difficulties should take the time to meet with SROs.
  5. I let the IEP Team and the SRO know that the SRO is not to become a preferred person for my child. The less interaction, the better, per our advocate from Florida Disability Rights.
  6. At our IEP Meetings, our amazing advocate reminds the team that a Baker Act for a child who has known statements and behaviors consistent with autism is inappropriate. Autism is a developmental disorder, NOT a mental health disorder.
  7. I check in via email weekly with school personnel, so they know I am continuing to be involved even if I am not physically present at the school.
  8. One thing I would *like* to have in place is a psychiatrist willing to sign release on Baker Acts in the future. Our current provider will not involve himself in “legal cases”. I’m working on changing providers, because I think it’s really important to have this “Uno Wild” card just in case. A psychiatrist is the only person with legal authority to sign a child out of a Baker Act situation once the process has been initiated.
  9. I pray daily for my child and the people who surround my child. God can cover what I can’t.

What do you do to help prevent this? I’d love to hear your ideas.


Cinnamon Rolls

My last recipe was sushi rolls. In the spirit of round recipes, I present my favorite thing to bake:

Cinnamon rolls.

I don’t usually enjoy baking. It is very exact and I prefer to play things by ear. And I get bored easily, so I do not normally make the same baked good twice.

But cinnamon rolls are totally worth it to me.

When I was in high school and college, I worked in my local mall at a popular specialty cinnamon roll shop.

I used to bring home “expired” day old rolls and my family was delighted.

The calories weren’t such a blessing but mmmm … they were a delicious breakfast dessert.

I usually worked customer service rather than actually rolling out the dough and preparing the product, but I did learn a few techniques and ingredients.

At home, cinnamon rolls are time consuming to bake from scratch.

They are a symbol of decadent luxury, with calories and time to spare.

The dough has to rise–twice. Just warning you.

But the aroma in my home when they are baking is a blast back to my past. And my children all flock to the kitchen because they know it is magical baked good time.

Some classic jazz in the background (Causebox has a fantastic playlist on Spotify) completes the experience.

I am also feeling smug because I misread the flour amount once, and was able to identify the dough had the wrong consistency, add more flour in, and save the recipe. My instinct was confirmed when I caught my mistake.

These were not perfectly round but thats okay. They are delicious.

The basic cinnamon roll recipe I use is from Paula Deen. Her frosting is good.

But I use this recipe for the Classic cream cheese frosting.

The secret is in the lemon juice.

Trust me.

Interactive Dinner

When our oldest was a toddler, I learned how to make and roll sushi.

Its kind of labor intensive so we haven’t made it in eons.

But we were all home this week so my husband and I decided it would be a fun menu option.

I made the short grain rice in my Instant Pot. 2 cups of rice, 2 c of water, press “rice” and walk away. Add 1/4c. sushi vinegar with seasoning and voila! Rice is ready.

Everyone took a turn creating a special roll. We had cooked shrimp and ikrab, cream cheese, avocado, and cucumbers.

Note: I sometimes refer to ikrab as the “hotdogs of the sea” but my husband doesn’t appreciate that humor so I will refrain. Probably.

The plastic rolling mat was given to me by a Publix sushi chef 13 years ago when I asked him how his rolls were so tightly packed, because mine fell apart.

My youngest won’t eat seafood (you’re eating a body!!) so veggie cream cheese rolls were her choice. That is her favorite plate–with a picture of her, a birthday gift from when she was 3!

The girls both participated and enjoyed the meal. We dined on edamame as we took turns creating rolls to share.

Our son had a ham and cheese sandwich of course. We have decided not to force him to eat unpleasant (to him) options.

We all ate fortune cookies for dessert–a novelty for the kids.

The girls had kitchen patrol duties following. They are growing up and so helpful! I am more willing to do the messy or difficult projects when the kids can actually help. Funny how that works!

New Year and Resolutions

So, what’s new for 2019?

Well, my planner is brand spankin’ new–and getting it prepped with washi tape is kind of fun.

Besides looking at a beautiful brand new open slate of blank pages waiting to be filled, the truth is:

nothing else is new.

I am still flawed. I still have dreams and goals.

My family is still, at its core, the same.

Same habits exist, some good and some that need to go.

Same teachers and homework and projects when school resumes.

This quiet Christmas space of reflection and preparation is a chance to breathe and an opportunity to set a course for when chaos resumes.

I have learned this year what and who is most important. I have discovered that God never stops caring, never ceases delighting and surprising me.

I am enjoying this family time playing new board games, listening to classic jazz while baking homemade cinnamon rolls and reading Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone out loud with my youngest on her first reading of my favorite series.

People talk about setting a word of the year, about creating New Year Resolutions. For me, that feels confining. I have some ideas in how I want to grow and how God can use me this year. But I am open minded.

I am setting my priorities and goals for this new year, and confident that my family and I do not walk alone.

Happy New Year!

Side note:
Here’s a referral link for Erin Condren planners because i love them so much–and I hope you will love them too!)

Pursuing Joy