Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Holland: A New Twist

Long before I had a special needs kid myself, I read Welcome to Holland by Emily Kingsley. The essay landed in my life multiple times. Sometimes it came as an email forward and sometimes it was posted on a friend's blog. I can remember the first time I read it. I thought it was quite brilliant. I love a good metaphor when trying to explain the unexplainable. Though, I have to say, Holland is higher on my "To Visit" list than Italy.

This past week, someone I know referenced this wonderful essay and I looked it up again. Now that I am parenting a special needs child myself, I read it with fresh eyes and more than a few tears. However, on this read through, something struck me that never had before...

It is all well and good to be told you are landing in Holland instead of Italy. It is a plan change for sure, but you go in knowing you are not in Italy. It didn't work that way for us. Instead, the flight attendant didn't bother to tell me we weren't in Italy. For years, my husband and I wandered the streets looking for pasta and gelato. We couldn't find the Vatican no matter how hard we searched.

How confusing, to board a flight to Italy and get off in Holland without anyone informing you of the change. Years passed before we realized with certainty that where we were was not Italy. Slowly, using context clues and advice from the locals, we are learning how to navigate Holland. It is a pretty amazing place if you can find your way around. In my bag, however, is a map of Italy and a book of Italian phrases. It is hard to let go of those things, no matter how many beautiful tulips grow in this new land.

Holland is hard but beautiful. One day, I will be glad we came.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hocus Without Pocus

I wish it had been me,

but it was David and I can't
take that back.
David, who found the neighbor's cat
curled up dead
just a few months before
yesterday when he
found our own cat
curled up like he was
but he wasn't asleep.
He was stiff and there were
ants on him,
and still my sweet boy
knelt to check 
the kitty-cat heartbeat we were all
accustomed to feeling
when we held his furry body close
to ours.
He was our fat mound of feline,
the brother who liked to be held and stroked
and fed all of the time.

Hocus and Pocus
we called them,
two solid black cats
who came from a litter
of twelve abandoned
What is Hocus without Pocus?
Skinny cat,
sleek coat,
he wanders room to room
giving that slow pitiful
meow he always used
when looking for his brother.
He has forgotten his aversion to our touch
and crawls into laps,
sleeping peacefully only when we
are near.
He cries at night,
leaping from bed to bed,
pausing to gaze out the back window
where he watched us bury
his other half.

It's only a cat
I am sure some would say,
and I am well aware
that Pocus was a cat,
not a human,
but he was our cat,
one of our two
therapy cats.
He taught us all
to stay still for longer
than we might have
because we didn't want to disturb
him sleeping on our laps.

He is in a better place,
I told my boys.
Uncle Greg met him at the gate
and will take good care of him.
In heaven, I said,
there are red laser lights
that Pocus, our kitty,
can actually catch.
All of his feline dreams
are coming true.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Kitty Heaven

In the fall of 2010 we adopted 2 cats. Brother kittens named Hocus and Pocus. We called them the therapy cats, because they were such a comfort to Haydn. If you know Asperger's, you can appreciate the attachment an AS child can have to animals. He felt able to show them affection and be with his cats in a way that he never has with humans.

This morning, we arrived home from church and David asked to ride his scooter in the driveway. I said sure and out he went. Just a few moments later, he ran into the house crying. In our front yard, he had spotted Pocus, apparently napping. Upon closer inspection, he discovered ants on the cat's body. My poor kid even checked for a heartbeat before coming to get me. This is the second cat he has found dead. The last one belonged to our neighbor and, just the same, appeared to be peacefully sleeping. As you can imagine, I have a traumatized 7-year-old.

Haydn has drawn a picture to be buried with Pocus, and we talked about kitty heaven. We are all sure that Uncle Greg spotted Pocus upon arrival and has taken him in. My boys know they can trust their Uncle Greg to take good care of our cuddly fat cat. I told them Jesus will definitely drop by to visit him and offer him string and catnip. Also, in kitty heaven, in case you were wondering, there are red laser dots that cats can actually catch. The red spot that constantly alluded Pocus is now within his reach.

Hocus has been wandering the house, periodically giving the very specific meow he always used to call his brother. It's rather heartbreaking. Corey is not here today, and I could not bring myself to touch the dead cat. I lay a towel over him and stood in the front yard sobbing until a truck drove by. I motioned for the driver's attention as he pulled up to our stop sign. He was very kind and helped me check the cat for injuries and transfer him to a box for burial.

Enjoy a few pictures of Hocus and Pocus.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

How to Spell Banana

My oldest child turned ten this week. TEN! Surely this explains the gray in my hair. I mean... how did I get a ten-year-old? We celebrated with pizza and the third Harry Potter movie. I made cake balls for our co-op the next day. They sang to him and signed a birthday card. He received gift cards, checks, a bank shaped like a giant bottle of Hersey's chocolate syrup, and a box set of 6 Warriors novels. All in all, I think he had a lovely birthday.

Our week was filled with new neighborhood friends, reading about Temple Grandin, one major meltdown, baseball at the park, and pitching practice. Mostly, it was a good week. I was pretty discouraged most of Thursday, but a couple of things fell into my lap that afternoon that gave me hope.

I dressed up as a capitol girl and joined some teens for the midnight Hunger Games premiere. I love any excuse to play dress up. I donned a blue wig with a bright animal print tank top and neon pink tights. I used purple eyeshadow and liner to decorate my face and topped it off with purple lipstick and a pink sweater. The movie did not disappoint. I am one of those people who looks for every change from book to movie, but I don't always hate the changes. I like to play with them in my mind and see if I can figure out the reason for making them. Example: In the movie, the Mockingjay pin is a gift between Katniss and Prim instead of Madge. I figure this change eliminated a peripheral character (Madge) and gave the pin a bit more meaning for Katniss. I can handle that kind of change.

Friday morning found me drowsy. Three hours of sleep is simply not enough. I struggled to spell banana while teaching Essay Writing. Banana. Go on. Laugh. You know you want to. But, as the morning progressed, I woke up and felt quite fine until evening. Eleven hours of sleep last night and I am still exhausted today. The older I get, the longer it takes to recover from sleepless nights. It will be early to bed again tonight.

I hear the kitchen timer. Dinner time. Y'all have a beautiful weekend.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Happy National Poetry Day!

In honor of the beautiful spring bursting into life in Mississippi...

Tree grew by driveway.
All winter it was bare.
Today. White blossoms.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

Life, Zapped

In my life this week... Corey was out of town. I didn't mention that here or on Twitter, because I don't feel comfortable announcing to the world that I am home alone. I do fine during the day, but I don't sleep well when he isn't here. I need him at least inside the house, if not in the bed. Alone at night, I hear every sound the house makes. I heard Haydn tossing and turning in the nylon tent he currently insists on sleeping in. He has a comfy bed, but he chooses his tent on the floor. Go figure.

In our homeschool this week... we were mostly off. My youngest son is in public school, and he went with his dad on the Senior trip. Haydn and I stayed home (Haydn got to go on a similar trip over Spring Break when he was seven, as David is now). We played the "zapped" version of Life, which I received for review from the Amazon Vine program. We had fun with that, though I still cannot get the sound to work. We rented The Adventures of Tin Tin and watched half of The White Lion. We went to co-op, and that is always fun.

Places we're going and people we're seeing... We did the monthly grocery trip, covering Sam's Club and Walmart. Haydn had his regular therapy appointments. Yesterday, we had Co-op, where I teach essay writing to the teens and help with their book club. Haydn takes a Young Peacemaker's class, is reading Charlotte's Web with his book club and then learns sign language for an hour before lunch. We all spend the afternoon at the park together, after classes are finished. I look forward to that all week.

I'm reading... When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead. It is a lovely book and won a Newberry Award. I dream of Newberry awards. I picked it up rather randomly and am pleasantly surprised to find it is a time-travel novel. I posted a few weeks ago about Bookish Serendipity, and this is one of those occasions. I am also nearing the end of 2 Chronicles in The Message Bible and working my way through a reread of The Hunger Games for book club.

I'm grateful for... a husband who supports me and encourages my writing and my pursuit of publication. He has never once belittled my stories or poems, never made me feel like what I do is less than since it has not produced much money at this point in the journey. Quite the contrary, actually; he seems to think I can be and do even more than I ever hope for myself. I see women complaining about their husbands often (and often with good reason), and I am reminded again and again that I snagged a good man somehow, and I better hang onto him for dear life. Men like Corey seem few and far between in modern day America.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Currently: Marching, Onward and Upward

Current Books: I am reading Mare's War, because I failed miserably at giving up fiction for Lent. It was actually easier the year I gave up all pleasure reading for Lent. Anyway, Mare's War fell into my hands because I just wrote a character who served in the WAC during WWII, and I was interested in the subject. The boys and I are reading the third Harry Potter book. For Homeschool, Haydn and I are nearing the end of Story of the World Volume I and also enjoying a biography of Temple Grandin.

Current Playlist: I asked a bunch of Facebook friends to tell me what songs they listen to when they feel happy, and I have been listening to those one by one.

Current Shame-Inducing Guilty Pleasure: Junk food.

Current Colors: Brights, also gray paired with another color

Current Fetish: nada

Current Food: I just discovered this maple/peanut ice cream from Kroger's Premium line.  So good.

Current Drink: bottled Vanilla Frappe

Current Favorite Favorite: Literary tattoos

Current Wishlist: an agent to represent me, clothes that fit and feel good, someone else to do the cooking, magic housecleaning fairies, etc... I don't want much, right?

Current Needs: a crown on one tooth and a root canal on another.

Current Triumphs: I finished the first round of edits on my latest manuscript. I'm taking a break before the second round, so I can come to it with fresh eyes.

Current Bane-of-my-Existence: My own impatience and lack of self-discipline

Current Celebrity Crush: Do you watch White Collar? Yum.

Current Indulgence: Above described maple ice cream

Current Mood: Not bad.

Current #1 Blessing: My husband. He did a huge wonderful thing for me this week. I love that man more each year we are together.

Current Slang or Saying: Oy!

Current Outfit: the "my Bad" tee Ashley bought for me years ago, jeans, painted TOMs

Current Link: Janet always inspires me. I may do this meme soon.

Current Quote: “Stupid people are dangerous.” Suzanne Collins, The Hunger Games

Current Photo:  My baby sister is expecting. I can't wait to meet this new niece or nephew.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Talk to Strangers

I am reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, and I would highly recommend it to all of you. Even if you think you are already as happy as happy can be, I bet you will love her take on things. I have had her commandments and experiences running through my head all week, and one thing in particular stood out to me.

Talk to strangers.

This put me to thinking about my friend, Cheri. I was telling my husband, a few weeks ago, all of the many reasons I love Cheri, and one of the qualities I pointed out was this: Cheri never meets a stranger. No joke, all of my memories of her involve fast food places and her talking to the person behind the counter as though they'd known each other since play school. Then there are the hilarious stories she tells about her interactions with employees at Game Stop and elderly people in Walmart. I often feel isolated and lonely, so I used to wish for such interactions. Reading this book, it hit me: I have to make those things happen. Cheri has those kinds of experiences because she does the one thing I so rarely do...

She talks to strangers.

Today, waiting for Haydn to try on pants at Azkaban (aka Walmart), I said to the attendant, "They don't even give you a chair?" I told her how I had done the fitting rooms at Target for years and we always had a chair, and then we chatted about retail. Turns out, she has worked at that Walmart, part-time, for 25 years. My mom has worked at Walmart back home for 18 years (I think that is right). I told her so and we shared the joys and miseries of Azkaban/Walmart.

Then, this afternoon, I walked onto the back deck to check on the boys and the friends that were playing in our yard, and I ended up having a lovely conversation with a neighbor and talking about cats and bracelets with his adorable granddaughter.

As tempting as it is to chalk my weekend happiness up to the agents that requested my manuscript on Friday, I can't do so honestly. They certainly have made me happy in an anticipatory sense, but stepping out of my comfort zone today helped me to feel less isolated and more a part of this community.

Little things can make a big difference.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Going Back to Oz

When I was in junior high, we visited my grandmother about twice a year.  Always, we took a trip to "town" and went shopping.  Mostly, it was to buy groceries for our stay.  However, one year I discovered books two for a dollar in a discount store.  These were the Oz books written by L. Frank Baum.  I can still hear Grandma telling Mom to get them for me or else she would buy them herself.  Mom got me a few.

That is when my obsession began.  I wanted to cry the next summer when all of Oz had disappeared from the shelves.  I never have found such a deal again, but I still have those paperbacks filled with stories.  They never fail to delight me.

I can remember playing in Grandma's front yard, bossing my little sister around.  I was the great Ozma of Oz, I told her.  She could be anyone she wanted, but never Ozma.  Ozma was the beautiful fairy ruler, and only I deserved that crown.  After all, my sister didn't even like to read.  I read them to my belly while I was pregnant, checking out new copies from the local library.  I have forced my boys to listen to the audio versions of each story, via

I find it sad that people only know the Wizard of Oz.  It wasn't even the best of the stories, just the first.  Dorothy doesn’t always show up in Oz.  There are other characters more imaginative than she.  There is the princess in the land of Ev, the one who wears many different heads to suit her mood.  There is even a patchwork girl, sewn together like a rag doll, and there is a beautiful fairy who lives in the clouds- the rainbow's daughter.  I can never forget the deadly sands of the desert surrounding Oz or the land where it snowed popcorn.  What wonderful weather that would be!

Even now, the books sit near me.  The covers make me smile.  One is being loaned out to a high school girl who didn't know Oz existed outside the movie.  I invited her to visit there, where the Emerald City glistens in sunlight and Jack Pumpkinhead tends to pumpkin graves. 

When the going gets tough, as it often does, I can’t help but think, "I'm going back to Oz.”  Anyone with me?

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