December 29, 2010

Purge

Posted in AMT's Faves, Life's Little Moments tagged , , , , , , , , , at 10:34 am by autismmommytherapist

I’ve become a technology queen this year, what with blogging, importing pictures from both our own files AND the internet, as well as mastering the art of the hyperlink (Mark Zuckerberg is running scared, mark my words). My husband has been a (mostly) patient instructor in all of these areas so that I might wear the crown rightfully, has generally ignored me as I’ve complained that the kids sucked out all my technology brain cells at their births, and has instead encouraged me to keep on trying no matter how seemingly insurmountable the task at hand. I’ve got a few skills under my belt now (watch breathlessly as Kim learns to download her own photos in 2011 AND send them to the right people), and have since felt a sense of confidence return to me that this old dog can learn a few tricks, and perhaps recapture those she enacted with ease before her sons permanently incapacitated her memory.

Always blame the kids when feasible.

I’ve been on a roll lately, and since I had some time left before my little one came home one day, I decided to knock one more technological item off my list in my remaining minutes of freedom before I donned the mommy mantle once again. It seems I’ve ignored my bookmarked links, which had subsequently mutinied against me and become an unwieldy mess (it takes me three full minutes to scroll down to my own blog, something has to go). So, I decided in the spirit of year’s end to downsize, a skill I’d actually managed to retain all these years (after Jeff reminded me right-clicking was NOT a fast-track to erasing my entire hard-drive). I grabbed the good chocolate and got down to business, reminding myself this couldn’t take THAT long as I had employed the delete button on numerous occasions since Justin graced us with his presence (okay, I’d done this twice since he’s been born, but who’s counting).

As it turns out, when you haven’t conducted more than a light weeding in seven years, and there’s several hundred bookmarks mocking you, you should really prepare for quite a walk down memory lane. In my own defense, I did leave a lot of these sites as visual prompts for when I was writing my manuscript, but since I finished my tome almost a year ago I don’t really have a lot of excuses left for my laziness. So I encouraged myself to indeed let go, and then I got down to business, deciding to go in chronological order for old time’s sake.

We’re just a bastion of spontaneity chez McCafferty.

As I banished each site to the etherworld, I briefly placed myself back in the time period where I had felt it necessary to have that information, perhaps even deemed it vital. With hesitation, I recalled the fear I’d felt in those last few months before Justin’s diagnosis as I clicked to that first excellent site I’d discovered, the one regaling me with early signs of autism that seemed to embody so much of my oldest’s son’s behavior.

Delete.

I recalled the desperation I’d felt when searching for words to reveal to me the mysteries of autism’s causes, and my frustration as the word “unknown” seemed to mock me at every turn.

Still annoyed delete.

I smiled ruefully as I perused the half-dozen screens promising refuge from the scourge of colic, none of which alleviated a single symptom in my boy.

Vengeful delete.

I didn’t even bother opening the myriad pages describing different therapeutic approaches all touting progress, because we’ve immersed ourselves in ABA, and it’s made a profound effect upon my child’s behavior.

Confident delete.

I right-clicked on numerous sites promising the best party supplies EVER for a one-year-old’s under-the-sea theme birthday party, and remembered how I knew in my soul this would be the only party Justin would ever have where he was just a difficult child, not one with a diagnosis as well.

Sigh, and delete.

I laughed as I purged the site revealing the caloric content of Starbuck’s lighter liquid fare, both for my idiocy for caring, and my remembrance that for many months that walk down that long hill with Justin for a break from ABA was my (and truly, our), single daily saving grace.

Joyful delete.

I briefly opened a few of my bookmarks related to the “autism diet” to see if anything new would hit me, recalling how I concocted homemade chicken nuggets from scratch for my reluctant eater for over a year, despite my cooking disability. I remembered my despair when it became apparent Justin was not a “responder” to his new food repertoire, and my elation when the removal of gluten and dairy seemed to appeal to Zachary’s troubled tummy.

Somewhat grateful delete.

I had to pinch myself from rereading all of Doc Jensen’s insightful LOST missives, reminding myself I had a kid getting off a bus in ten minutes and that this iconic show was indeed, despite my devastation, over.

Wistful, soul-sucking delete.

I brutally purged the sites where we ordered the pH strips we used to discern if Justin had left even a drop of urine in our toilet bowl during our year-long potty training debacle, the flimsy papers we’d used in our hopes we’d one day reward him for a single success before he turned fifty.

Exhausted delete.

Next to go, sites which for a small fee would absolutely GUARANTEE our son’s recovery.

Pissed-off, magnificent eye-rolling delete.

And last, but not least, the site with the fabulous review of Speed-the-Plow, the Broadway play we used as a brief escape from our youngest’s regression last year, only to be told upon arrival our boy, Jeremy Piven, was not available to play his role due to illness from mercury poisoning.

For this one, I used the Tina Fey/Amy Poehler SNL “REALLY?!?!?” delete.

The entire activity was as therapeutic as I imagine a good cleanse to be (nope, not old enough for that colonoscopy yet, thank God), and I managed to conduct it in enough time to finish that chocolate and prevent those bus drivers from returning my kid to school. It’s done. Those reminders of the past are gone. Those issues from our past are gone. The only thing remaining is both my gratefulness at having surpassed these problems, and my glee at having remembered how to scourge my bookmarks ALL BY MYSELF.

And for those of you looking to purge, to relieve yourselves of at least some unnecessary worries as we near year’s end, I’ve got one small encouragement for everyone out there.

Just hit delete.

May 26, 2010

Lost and Found

Posted in Fun Stuff tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 6:43 am by autismmommytherapist

Lost aired its final episode Sunday night. I am bereft, even though intellectually I know it’s only “TEL-EE-VI-ZUN”.

I’ve been sad when other dramas have departed the big screen, none more so than when Sex and the City went off the air six years ago. I remember that evening, recall telling my toddler that “short of him stroking out Mommy was going to see this episode live, so he’d better behave and sleep tonight” (I am just that kind of mom). I was disappointed and mildly disturbed at my lack of closure when The Sopranos went off the air, and my mourning for Six Feet Under was mitigated only by viewing the second last best fifteen minutes of a television series EVER (thanks Alan Ball, genius emeritus).

I also spent ten minutes sobbing in my husband’s arms when I realized not only was Jimmy Smits dying on NYPD Blue, but the little boy who spoke to him in his dreams was his unborn future son, which really put me over the edge (I know, that wasn’t a series ending, but I felt compelled to get that in here somehow). After my children came along I found I didn’t get out much anymore, so good television series, and fortunately there have been many as of late, have been a source of escape for me. I’ve relished every minute, looked forward with unswerving loyalty to every SATC movie that will ever be made, and contributed to every actor’s third luxury home by owning every DVD of each series. I am a dedicated fan.

And then, there was Lost.

Lost aired when my family and I were still living in Northern Virginia, just weeks before our lives would be changed forever by the brusque, slightly irritated declaration of “autism” by our son’s pediatrician as he shoved the names and numbers of some developmental pediatricians into my shaking and outstretched palm. The weeks that followed rendered his parents lost indeed, as we struggled to figure out what to do, who to call, what therapies to choose, what this meant for our lives, and what this meant for our son’s future. My husband, fortunately still employed, got to put it all behind him for the lion’s share of his day when he went to work. For me however, it was continuous, consecutive fourteen-to-sixteen hour days of chores, therapy, general child care, and the sinking feeling that this intruder into our lives was permanent, that my son would not be one of the fortunate crew who would live with his ailment yet be fortunate enough to lead an independent life. Lost became my invaluable escape from autism, and the knowledge that at least twenty-two hours of the year I’d have to stretch my brain for something other than the ramifications of my son’s neurological disorder was a great comfort to me.

I was not the only person captivated by the rich story lines, intense character development, and tantalizing mythological references that comprised the television show. Even famous people have been seduced by its magic, as when Rainn Wilson outed himself as “gay for Richard” after that particular character’s backstory episode aired (I must admit, as much as I loved gazing at those miraculously unlined eyes I reserve my gay for Tina Fey – Mean Girls and 30 Rock will forever have my heart, as will that Brownie Husband segment on SNL). Lost has been viewed and revered by millions, and I’m proud to count myself and my husband as part of the flock. I will miss all of it dearly, from Jeff’s and my unwavering commitment to view every episode together, to our discussions afterwards as we pretended to understand what had transpired, as well as when we fooled ourselves that we could dissect the missives of the brilliant Doc Jensen on EW.com for hidden meaning the following day. We once tried to play “drink mythology” as a way to reward ourselves for figuring out literary references as an episode played out, but when we quickly realized our palates would remain primarily dry we ditched that approach, just laid back, and took it all in. It’s been a wild ride ever since.

It hasn’t just been the excellent writing, the consummate acting, the eye candy of Matthew Fox or Josh Holloway, or those fabulous one-liners intermittently dropped by Jorge Garcia on his loyal viewers. There have been the themes to explore, a handful of which I feel pertain strongly to my life as well. Sacrifice. Redemption. Choices. Faith. Producers Lindelof and Cuse have included something for every viewer, should they care to drink at the trough.

All of the characters on Lost had to make gut-wrenching sacrifices in order to grow. Clearly, as any good parent of a child with or without a disability does, my husband and I have made sacrifices too. Our relocation to New Jersey from Virginia somewhat stalled my spouse’s career, and definitely tanked mine, at least for the time-being. We left behind a fairly rocking social life for two almost middle-aged people with a child, and found it’s taken almost four years to begin to build one again. Then of course there’s the financial aspect of autism, where we pay out-of-pocket for every therapy our oldest has, because our adopted state south of the Mason-Dixon line has yet to get on board in the insurance wars. We’ve given up stuff. The truth is however, we’re parents. It’s our job.

I’ve found, through sacrifice (which trust me, I was not inclined to make too many of prior to giving birth), that I am a kinder, gentler person. Letting go of my singular desires for the good of another person, particularly a child I adore, has redeemed me from the somewhat career-obsessed/what are we doing Saturday night individual I once was in my twenties and early thirties. Having a child with a major neurological issue forced me to dig deep into my soul, question everything I thought mattered. My son, and his autism, redeemed me in a way, encouraged me to make better decisions about how I spent my time, more insightful choices as to what would define my life from now on. He’s made me a better person.

As I’ve watched each character on Lost struggle with the choices that have lead to redemption for many of them over the past six years (many were engaged in battle in two worlds simultaneously, I should stop complaining), my husband and I have endeavored to make the right ones for our son, then our sons, then our entire family as we’ve taken this journey. I’m not certain the choices we’ve made have always been correct. Some days, just like the characters on Lost, I think we haven’t even come close. I’ve witnessed the actors fight to exit the island with all of their will, and sat mesmerized as many of them realized departure wasn’t the answer, that escaping a geographical location would not release them from their inner torments. I mirror their conflict when I contemplate how I regard my sons’ “extra”, when I attempt to consolidate my acceptance of their plight with my understanding that I will never be completely at peace with it. I understand it is ultimately my choice as to how I view this disorder and how it manifests in my family. It may truly be the sole event over which I have any control.

I have to admit that the one theme that has resonated most with me over Lost’s tumultuous journey is the one embodied by the good doctor, Jack Shepherd. Watching his tenuous transformation from a man of science to a man of faith for more than half a decade has enabled me to define my concept of faith, and to whom I bestow it upon. Back in the day, my faith was unquestionably linked to my parents and grandparents, then as I grew older came the subtle shift to friends and husband. Ultimately, my choices have lead me to a greater faith in myself. This feeling, this certainty, is stronger than any I personally have ever encountered in my Presbyterian parish when I was growing up, or later in the great cathedrals of Europe as I prayed and waited for a feeling, a moment, even the slightest sign that indeed something was out there greater than myself. I tried. It never came. It hasn’t to this day.

But what has evolved in me is a confidence that although there will be bumps along the road of life – polar bears, Smoky, a disastrous detour of a storyline – eventually my husband and I will figure it out. Sometimes it won’t be pretty. I have not been above imagining a sideways world myself, one without sleepless nights, the vagaries of intermittent OCD, and a seemingly endless supply of poop. I had twenty months of “normal” with my second son, and although that experience was difficult at times too, it never carried with it the emotional pitfalls that an autism sentence inherently conveys, and for me that has been the most difficult concept of all to transcend, the idea that this is permanent. There is no escape for this family, no plane that might or might not be blown up to whisk us away from autism island.

I have learned, however, that a fairly happy ending is indeed possible.

I know there are naysayers, but for this fan, I now feel this is THE BEST ENDING OF A TELEVISION SERIES EVER. No, not every mythological question was answered, and we’ll never know how long each of the characters lived in their parallel universe, and how they died. I do know however, that as we watched Matthew Fox’s eye close in the only possible last scene that could have given me closure, my husband and I had already been bawling for twenty minutes and had vowed at least six times to become better human beings.

I hope it lasts.

So for now I’ll say goodbye to the show that has followed my family’s progress from downright miserable to most days enjoyable, and at the very least, tolerable. I will count the months until the six season box set is made available for my viewing pleasure, and will voraciously explore every extra, deleted scene and actor’s chat made available to me, save the choice to be regaled by the aforementioned options in Spanish. I will hope for yet another hit show or movie for Matthew Fox whose work I’ve enjoyed since his Party of Five days, and pray that no other network will feel compelled to try to emulate Lost’s success with some flimsy replica which I will be forced to disparage. Some things in life, and in art, are simply epic, and cannot be repeated.

To the writers, actors, directors and producers of the show (and the craft services employees who kept them happy), I bid a fond adieu, and my thanks for six incomparable years of entertainment.

Your fans, are indeed, lost without you.