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Monthly Archives: September 2015

Things That Make Me Happy

The sunshine is streaming through my window onto the plants that my husband brought me for my birthday.

None of us are very good at picking out gifts for other people, but every once in a while something is chosen that is just right. We try. We really do – it is just not something we are good at. My oldest foster son was good at this. He would go to a children’s shopping event, and come out with a terrific gift for each person. I don’t know how he did it. It has always been so hard for me.

My birth son has taken to making cakes for us on our birthdays. It is his gift to us, and highly appreciated. As my birthday also fell on his night to make supper this year, he also did that for me, and did a wonderful job. This year I got a roast chicken dinner, and cherry cheese pie for my dessert. Both were delicious.

He doesn’t know how, but he always tries to make these days special for us. Typically this means setting aside his time to give to us, which he knows is what I want most of all. This year I asked him to walk with me along the nature trail. Maybe it is something we try to do most weekdays from the fall through the spring (since he had to do some physical activity throughout his school years as part of his graduation program, this became the activity of choice, and I chose to follow along.) That didn’t make it any less special.

As I have mentioned in a previous post, the day of my birthday was dark and rainy, and I was feeling exhausted. To take this break when the rain let up, and go on this walk with my son – who despite his Aspergers is very capable of thinking of others on such occasions – was such a treat for me, it left my heart swelling with pride over the kind of man he is becoming.

The rest of the day followed its typical pattern, and I did not expect to receive anything more than a “happy birthday” from my husband. He doesn’t always buy us gifts – I don’t think it is that he doesn’t think about it, but more that he doesn’t know what to get, and that becomes stressful.

What a wonderful surprise it was, then, when he came home with two beautiful plants for me. From what he said, I gather they were brought in as a donation to the thrift store where he works at the end of his shift that day. It doesn’t matter. He saw them, and he thought of me, and I love them!

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Every time I look at them, especially at times like these where the sun is streaming onto them through the window, I feel happy, hopeful, and content. I love things that grow.

Sometimes it is the little things that really brighten up my day, and I would just like to say to him, “Thank you.”

 
 

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When The Future and Present Collide

Last night was the fourth of the tetrad of blood moons, and a super moon to boot. We took our dog for his walk a little too early, as it wasn’t out yet. Then we were slightly too late to see it in full.

We went out about 8:30pm – I can’t believe how dark it is at that time. It is the same each year, but it always surprises me.

It wasn’t a full lunar eclipse when we saw it. The earth’s shadow covered most of the moon, but there was a sliver showing as the eclipse was ending. There wasn’t a lot of red, either, but I am sure we would have seen that if we had gotten out a few minutes earlier.

The night before, the moon was amazing. So full, so bright, so huge… but as I was looking out at it last night I thought, this is what people have been talking about? For how long? I don’t know. Does it mean anything? I don’t know.

But for a while people have been studying this. Writing about this. Talking about this. And now it is over.

Time is strange. Always the passing of time has been hard on me, but the moment that hit me hardest had to do with my cousin.

She was a year older than me, and much younger than me at the same time. She had Cystic Fibrosis, and as long as I remember I knew that meant that she (and her older brother who also struggled with this) would die young.

We didn’t know when, but someday her body would stop fighting, and she would die. That was the future, and the future always scared me – I never felt ready for it.

Then the day came. July 1st 1997. I was twenty, she was twenty-one, and she had only been really sick for about six weeks. I was there with her when she died. She opened her eyes, and looked at us, and then she was gone.

And that was the moment – the very first moment – when the future collided with my present, and I realized, I can never go back again. And I have never been the same.

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2015 in Autism: Reality

 

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Autism: On Aging

Today is my birthday, and I am now 39. I don’t feel 39. I don’t remember ever feeling my age.

It is a dark day, and despite trying my best to make it different, I still feel tired and depressed. It is almost always this way on my birthday – except the year I had just started school for construction the day before. That was three years ago, and it was a wonderful day.

Most years on my birthday, I feel reflective, and usually not in a good way. The question always comes to me, “how have you grown?” and mostly I feel that I haven’t. I am not a better or more successful person than I was. I haven’t done anything wonderful. I have yet to experience life in a way that makes it worth the pain – and on my birthday, especially, I feel my failures more than anything, and it hurts.

As a child, I was always ‘younger’ than other children my age. I was still carrying dolls to school long past when the other girls stopped, and I only left them home when their response to me became uncomfortable. Colouring was still a main favourite activity late in my teens, when others had given up the activity shortly past kindergarten. Emotionally and socially, I was years behind my peers – always. I still am.

Most days it surprises me that I am an adult – let alone reaching middle age. I am still not ready. Time just seems to go too fast for me, I can never catch up. I joke with my son that I am ready for him to be 5 now – but it isn’t really a joke. I wasn’t ready the first time around, and it scared me when he became so “old.” In two days, he will be as old as I was on the day he was born – 19 years, six months, and 1 day. It doesn’t seem possible. I’m still not ready.

I think that may be a lot of the reason for my burnout. What passes as a week to others, feels more like a day to me, and I am always rushing to catch up. I move too slow for this world. I think too slow for this world. The sensory input that I receive each day is more than I could handle well in a week… and all of this overload causes me to shut down.

Autism… I can’t move at the same pace, and so I fail at life because I just can’t keep up, no matter how hard I try – and I do try hard.

This year I know that is the reason. It is good to know. Now I know why I have always felt younger, and why I have always felt like I was failing. I am not as hard on myself this year over my failures, and that is progress. But it is still dark, and still raining, and that still weighs heavily on me this year as it always has before.

So I turn 39 today – but I am not really 39. It is just a number that counts the years, but doesn’t look at who I am really. Today I am maybe ready for 20-24 – but only a little. Today I am almost ready to claim my space as an adult – but only if I don’t have to go to work. If I have to go to work, I am reminded again how fast the world goes, and I am not ready.

I am not ready to move so fast… I don’t know if I ever will be. But that is okay. Today I know that I am autistic, and that means I wasn’t created for the world as others live it. I wasn’t meant to be like everyone else – and it really is a relief to learn that.

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2015 in Autism: Reality

 

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Autism: Visits With My Autistic Son

For one wonderful day, I had energy. It never lasts long, and this is a big issue for me in doing work. When I have the energy, I do very well, and feel I could keep going – but the next day I crash, and can’t even push myself to do anything at all.

This is why I have to set my own schedule and routine, and cannot work on the demand of others. I want to give my best, and to work consistently, but I just can’t.

This morning my son and I walked along the nature trail beside the lake, which is just down the road from us. We walked about 4 km in total, and talked all along the way. I missed that time together, as we took a break for the summer (he can’t handle the heat, or the insects.)

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My son and I are both autistic, and although we are very different in many ways, we also seem to understand each other well.

So while we walked, he talked about television shows and video games, and I talked about housing and nature, and we both enjoyed the conversation, even though there wasn’t a lot of back and forth. Despite his strong interest, I still know very little about TV and video games. Despite my strong interest, he still has little thought on housing and nature – but that is okay. We accept that difference in each other, and enjoy the company just the same.

By the time we got home, we both had our fill of interaction, and each went our separate ways – him to his computer in the basement, and me to my computer upstairs. It was enough, and it was good, and I look forward to possibly doing it again tomorrow – but I am also content to be alone now.

Yesterday I watched the movie About A Boy. In it, the main character didn’t work, he lived off royalties from a song his father had written, and did nothing at all. At times, he was highly aware of how uninteresting he was because he didn’t have a job to talk about.

Watching that movie, I thought he should get a job, so that he can have something to feel good about, but then I wondered why I don’t feel the same was about myself. I have worked. I have had that to talk about when I had my job, or was going to school. Does that make my life less interesting now that I am home? If I had the money that I never had to work again, would that make me less of a person?

For the man in the movie, my answer would be, “yes.” For myself, however, I don’t believe that is true. I have so many interests of my own, and so much I do during those times I actually do have energy, that work actually takes away from the person I am. It leaves me feeling guilty – that I don’t have an income – but I think with who I am, and what I am capable of, I am able to develop my interests and personality much more thoroughly when I don’t have the interruption, and exhaustion that comes with working.

Maybe the goal to not have to work seems at the very least unusual, but also unworthy to other people, but that is the truth I live with. I feel I have much more to contribute to the world, and much more to live for, when I am NOT working. A truth that leaves me feeling guilty, but a truth nonetheless.

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2015 in Autism: Jobs and Careers

 

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Light Through the Darkness

It took about a week, but my medication has finally settled down so that I have some energy once more.

The sun is shining on this beautiful fall day, and I can SEE it!

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For days, I thought that would never happen again. It is hard to live with depression. It is hard to be so exhausted that no amount of light can ease the darkness. In those days, the question of what I was still living for overcame me too many times to mention, and it was hard to keep going forward.

Today, though, the sun is shining. My head is clear, and once more I desire to plan, and dream, and grow. I spent all of yesterday cleaning and organizing, and ended up sending a van full of stuff to the thrift store. It felt wonderful.

My mind, however, returns to thoughts of that house – that house on the privacy of 2 acres that needs so much work – and I still wish I could live there. So much work, but today I want the project. Today I want the experience, because today I have energy.

I suppose when my moods are under control, this is who I am… but we can’t afford it. If it were just the house, maybe, but the cost of the land is too high to be able to afford to fix the house, too, and it is the land that I want.

With the energy, the anxiety has returned, but it is not too bad. I have nowhere I need to go this week, and that helps a lot.

The fixation on houses and lifestyles is part of my autism, I assume. It has always been there, and when it isn’t, I know something is really very wrong with me. I don’t know that I can do anything about it. I don’t know that I would like that part of me to be removed – but I would really like to be able to do something with it.

I know I couldn’t work at a job renovating with others. I have tried it. I even went to school for it. The demands, and the noise level were far too much for me, and caused me to shut down in anxiety. If I knew what I was supposed to be doing, however, and could be left to do it, I believe that is something that I would really love to do.

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2015 in Autism: Mental Health and Healing

 

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The Adoption Part Eleven: September 21

It is Monday, September 21, 2015. On this day, six years ago, my children were taken from my home for the final time, and it was not for something I did wrong in parenting them. The social workers even admitted that, but they took them just the same.

Like this year, the 21st also fell on a Monday then. We had been battling lice in our house that month. First with our younger son, and that weekend, with our older daughter. It was not fun, but when you have children in the school system, lice is something that happens.

We felt it was unfair when, at the beginning of the school year, after a summer spent in their daycare, our son’s daycare left us a message on our phone that our son had lice. None of our other children had it, and that was the only other place he went, but they blamed us as if the cause were in our parenting.

We were driving to the airport that day to drop my mom off, after having spent several weeks in our home helping out with the children. We do not have cell phones, and so were not able to answer the call. We were just (at the insistence of the ministry) switching respite providers, so our emergency contact at the daycare was wrong.

It really seems like poor judgment on the part of the daycare – or perhaps cruelty, it is hard to tell. I wouldn’t think that the children’s ministry should be called for a matter of a child having lice on the first day of school. That is what they did, however. Not being able to reach us, and not having an emergency contact number that was in use, they called the social workers to report to them that our son had lice.

We treated him, and all of his bedding and toys, as well as everything he might have come into contact with. I shaved his hair, and treated his head, and he was back to school the next day. We checked all of our other children, as well as each other, but none of the rest of us had any signs of having lice.

Every night and every morning, I french braided both of my daughter’s hair. If they had this issue, we would have been pretty quick to find out. As it was, it was about 2 weeks later before my older daughter was found to have any.

We treated her, and everyone and everything in the house that weekend. We got out all the lice, but missed a few eggs, and her school refused to take her that morning.

As was our routine, we dropped our younger son off at school that morning, expecting to see him again after daycare that afternoon. As my husband went into the school to talk to our older daughter’s teacher to see if she could attend that day, I played on the playground with my baby. At nearly 4 ½ years old, she was very excited about birthdays, and mine was coming up at the end of the week.

On the playground, she pretended to make me birthday cakes, and had me blow out the candles. I wasn’t feeling good that morning, and wish now that I had been more involved in her game – but I did my best, and she seemed to enjoy herself.

My husband came back with our daughter, and we took our baby down to preschool, expecting to pick her up just before lunch a couple of hours later. She asked for a hug before she left that morning, and I didn’t give her one. I think I will regret that decision for the rest of my life. I was sick, and was staying in the van with our other daughter. I was also frustrated about the lice issue, and didn’t want to lean through the van to reach my baby. There was always later, I thought, but later never came.

We had an appointment that morning with the ministry, and called ahead to see if we could have someone watch our daughter while we were in the meeting. They said, no, and so we brought along our older son.

When we got there, we gave her her lunch so that she could have snacks if she wanted. For whatever reason, they wouldn’t allow our son to go in to the room to watch her during our meeting, so he sat awkwardly waiting in the waiting room.

They spoke a lot of words that meant very little, and finally came down to them saying they had decided to (suddenly, without reason) take our children. They promised they wouldn’t, but promises mean little to social workers.

I said, “but we did everything you asked us to, and we haven’t hurt our children at all” and they responded, “we know.” They took them anyway, and there was nothing we could do.

We left all three of our children with full expectation that we would be seeing them in a few hours. I never would have done that to my kids – broke an unspoken promise to be there for them – I never would have left them expecting us to show up, and then suddenly have them taken by someone else. I never for the world would have hurt them that way – but the ministry did, and we had no options.

I got my son from the waiting room, and we left. We left, and the three of us went home to cry alone.

Six years. Six years and it still hurts as much as it did that day every time I think of it. They took my kids. The ministry might not have thought of them as our children, but when I think of them – no matter how hard I try to change that, to lessen the pain, it remains. They took my children, and there was nothing I could do to stop them.

September 21st.  Four days before my birthday, and it has now become the hardest day of the year for me.

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2015 in Faith Walk

 

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The Adoption Part Ten: The Final Months

We got them back with a list of rules, and a stomach full of anxiety. How would this time go, and would we be able to keep them this time? How could we trust the ministry with all they had done? How could they trust us with the children they placed in our care, not knowing if we were being truthful or really had harmed them, and were able to convince people otherwise?

Whatever questions and anxiety going around from both sides, the children were brought home, and we were grateful.

The children had been enrolled in school and daycare while they were back in care, and this was something we had to continue. Unfortunately, their foster home was in a different bus district, and we were unable to transfer them once they were back home.

With our son in fourth grade and after school care, our older daughter in half day kindergarten, and our younger daughter in two different preschools four days a week, it was tricky, and time consuming to drive them to all of their programs and back. Above this, we also had many appointments and meetings to attend each week.

My husband had been laid off of work very shortly before the children had been removed, and had this not been so, it would have been impossible for us to follow all of the ministry’s demands. For all of that time while our children were back home with us, he was unable to search for other work, as the ministry required him to be present and participate in all of the meetings, and the care of the children.

Their time in care caused many challenges for our children. They came back home with a strong lack of trust or respect for us as parents. Their already fragile attachments had been broken, and their challenges more pronounced than when they had first been placed with us over two years prior. They lied more, stole more, fought and argued more, raged more… it was a difficult year. A year in which none of us had a chance to heal or overcome due to the demands placed on us by the social workers.

Our older daughter, being overwhelmed in attending kindergarten, would come home raging every day. We could not distract her, or calm her, and leaving her to rage meant great fears over the children being removed again. For that reason we, along with several of her specialists, requested after school daycare for her as well.

As she would require a one on one assistant to attend daycare, which was highly challenging to get funding for at the kindergarten age as they limited that funding to a couple of hours a day, and she would require about 5 hours a day, we had to battle quite strongly to have this put into place.

When we got that for her, she would go straight from school to daycare, come home for supper, have her bedtime routine, and go to sleep. She wouldn’t have time to rage, and in this way, we were able to deal with her going to school. It was the only way.

However, unless we had in writing from the specialists, which the ministry would accept, we could not have this funding continue once our children were moved back to an adoptive placement (which we were told was the goal.)

So when we spoke with the Intensive Family Preservationist, who we were required to see once the children were brought back home to us, we spoke of these concerns, and asked her to, in no uncertain terms, write that in order for our daughter to attend school, we would also require the funding for her to attend after school daycare. She wrote that down, and we agreed to her wording – but in the end, the social workers twisted the wording, and used it against us. So unfair, as we asked for it to be put there in the first place, and all they would say to that was, “that is not how we understood it.”

Before the children were moved, they were eating diets free of sugar, food dyes, wheat, and cow’s milk. I found it had a significant impact on the behaviour of my middle two children, and the health of my youngest. They all had really good appetites, and would always take seconds, lick their plates clean, and thank me for their food. When they were given back to us, we were no longer allowed to restrict their diets.

This made meals a lot cheaper and easier to prepare, however, the children’s appetites became very poor. During almost every meal, at least one would complain about the food. Most of the time, this was food they had requested, or enjoyed the last time we had it. It was very difficult to get them to eat, though what they did eat caused them to appear bloated.

How the food affected their behaviour during that year made little difference, as they were struggling anyway, but was this what the social workers felt good parenting was? Providing foods that were less healthy, and caused bad appetites, just to get them to gain weight in unhealthy ways? It didn’t make sense to us, but still we followed through.

This move also taught our children that if we didn’t give them what they wanted, or if they were upset with us, all they had to do was say we were hurting them, and they would be able to go to “grandma and grandpa’s” house. This was very bad, and happened very frequently during those last 10 months in our home, and it was no longer confined to one person, or even the person closest to them.

There were times when the social workers were even in our home talking to us, when one of the children was across the room from us, screaming that we had scratched, hit, or hurt them in some way. It was obvious this was not the case, but that is an example of a truth about our children that the ministry chose to ignore.

On one occasion, our son was at one end of our breezeway, heading towards our van. My husband was on the other end, about 20 feet away, when our son began screaming that my husband had punched him. We dropped him off at school, and I broke down and cried as I said to my husband, “they are going to be taken away, and there is nothing we can do.”

During those months, there was so much required of us and the children, that even though neither my husband or I were working, it still took all of our time and energy. For hours each day we were taking the children places, and in between, we had meetings and appointments to attend. The children, also, were feeling the pressures, and were pleading with us to allow them a break – but we had no options, we had to do what we were told.

That is no way to raise a child, and they knew it. Pretty soon they learned that we were powerless to help them, and their trust for us as parents was strongly impacted.

It was a very difficult year, but it didn’t have to be that way. It felt to all involved (including the children’s many specialists, psychologist, and pediatrician) that the social workers were piling all of these things on us in order to cause us to either fail, or give up. We did neither.

In the end, it wasn’t something we did with the children, or even an accusation against us, that caused them to remove the children from our care.

In the end, it was about respite and mediation, and nothing more. The social workers, for whatever reason, decided that the children’s respite provider (their previous foster parents, who they knew as “grandma and grandpa”) would no longer provide care for the children.

While the children were still grieving that news, they brought in a new foster parent, a complete stranger, and told us all that she would be taking the children for the weekend. That was hard on all of us – especially the children and I.

I did my very best to prepare the children for that weekend, and to get them excited about going to a new place. The new foster parent had a pool, and since all of my children liked to swim, I thought that would help them.

She picked them up from daycare, and never even told us where she lived. I provided her with a booklet containing my children’s routines, and what I hoped would help make the transitions easier. She thanked me for that, and was on her way. I went home and cried.

Two days later, when she brought my children home, they were all screaming. She wouldn’t even let me go in to comfort them, but pulled me off to the side to tell me that “for no reason at all, the social workers could take your children away from you.” She was upset with me for telling the daycare that she was our respite provider (how was I supposed to introduce her?)

She was upset with me for giving her a list of routines, that were impossible for her to follow since she didn’t know them ahead of time – how was I supposed to give them to her, I never had the chance? She was upset that the children had to be supervised at all times; apparently that wasn’t possible – I couldn’t understand that one, she was a foster parent after all.

When I finally got away from her, and was able to return (very shaken from her conversation) to my children, I was told in tears by my son that she had discussed her drinking habits with him, and that she was a smoker, and would go off to have a cigarette. All of my children were upset from the weekend, and begged to never return there.

That is when I asked for mediation. It was for my children, because I needed to be able to say, “that is enough” and have some way to stop the ministry from adding in something that was harmful.

Instead, they took the children, saying that asking for mediation meant that we were too stressed out working with them. They told us right from the beginning we could ask for mediation. They promised right from the beginning they wouldn’t do this… they lied.

They moved my children into that foster home which my children had begged never to have to return to. Six weeks later they moved them again to their previous foster home. Six weeks later, they moved my older daughter to another home, and tried to move my son, but that placement fell through.

After they were told specifically they couldn’t handle change. After they promised never to do this again. After they admitted to me that we hadn’t done anything wrong. Still they moved them, and six years later, it still breaks my heart. It didn’t have to be that way.

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2015 in Faith Walk

 

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