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Maintaining The Balance

7 May

I am participating in the 2012 Wordcount Blogathon, which means one post every day for the month of May.

I’ve been feeling disoriented and out of sorts all day. I woke up very early this morning after a night of virtually no sleep, had to deal with an autism meltdown resulting from a power outage, and then due to circumstances beyond my control, had to skip the long run I’ve been itching for all day.

Because of all of this, when I sat down to write this post, I came up empty when I was digging around in the warehouse of my mind for a topic. All is not lost though, because Facebook came to the rescue. I posted a status update asking for topic ideas, and a friend of mine who is a fellow mom immediately fired off a whole list of ideas, that will pretty much see me through the rest of the month.

If anything, I was left with the opposite problem: too many ideas to choose from.

In the end, I decided on this one for today:How does Mom manage parent time, marriage time and self time while also working outside the home?

How indeed?

Moms in general have to wear many, many hats. Special needs moms have to wear even more, simply by virtue of the fact that parenting a special needs child requires a completely different set of parenting skills to parenting a typically developing child. Add to that the fact that I work a full-time job that involves two hours of commuting each day, and I do all of the admin for my husband’s business. I also make sure the household bills get paid, and I am trying to establish myself as a writer.

It can be very, very hard to carve out time for my husband, much less for myself. But for the sake of my sanity and everyone’s happiness, I have to find a way to do it.

I have tried to stay on top of things through a variety of means. Written daily schedules. Routines. Planning. To-do lists.

All of that helps, but it is not the complete answer. I can plan and schedule until the cows come home, but it all comes to naught without one crucial ingredient.

Commitment to go to bed by a certain time.

It is incredible how powerful a simple commitment like that can be. It cannot merely be a commitment with myself – it has to be a declared intention. I don’t exactly post it on Facebook, but I do tell my husband that I will be going to bed at such-and-such a time. Once I make and state it, I feel obligated to follow through. And so my mind immediately calculates how much time I have, and how I can best arrange what I need to do, to fit within that time.

And you know? It works.

By following this practice, I have been figuring out how to do things more quickly. I have also been spending more time with my husband and getting enough sleep to enable to get up early to go running in the mornings.

I don’t always get it right, as some late night status updates on Facebook will testify, but I am doing a lot better than I used to.

Now, if only I could find the time to follow my secret career ambition of becoming a Mythbuster…

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/leoglenn_g/5789714663/. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.)

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The First Date That Never Ended

28 Apr

I am participating in the Health Activist Writers Month Challenge, in which I publish a post every day for the month of April, based on health-related prompts.

April 28 – The first time I…: Write a post about the first time you did something. What is it? What was it like? What did you learn from it?

The first time I took a man home with me on the very first date, I ended up marrying him. Not on the same day, of course – the marrying part took about ten years. But right away, I just knew that this was the man I wanted to be with forever.

The beginning of our romance had a whirlwind quality to it, much like a fairytale romance. The fairytale began the moment we first laid eyes on each other.

It was a balmy afternoon late in the summer, and I was sitting on a rock in the park trying to bring my life into perspective. I was reeling from a recent ugly breakup: the man I had been dating for six months had conveniently neglected to mention that he was married. I was feeling depressed, lonely, and utterly foolish.

Something made me look up, and I saw a man heading towards me. I had never seen him before, but he walking in my direction with purpose, as if he knew me. I wondered if he had mistaken me for someone else. He sat down beside me, gazed at me for a few seconds, and then said, “You have beautiful eyes.”

I looked at this man and saw a whole new future open up before me. We stood up, and hand in hand, we went for a walk through the park.We found ourselves on the patio of a restaurant, eating, drinking wine, and sharing our life stories with each other.

It was perfect, that first date. When I let him come home with me that night, it was simply because neither of us wanted the date to end.

Although almost eleven years have passed since that night – eleven years that have seen many trials and tribulations, many joys, the births of our two beautiful children, tons of parenting adventures and our introduction to the world of special needs parenting,  and eventually, our wedding, neither of us feels that the first date ever really ended.

(Photo credit: Kirsten Doyle)

Non-Canadian Thanksgiving: Things I’m Thankful For

24 Nov

My social media feeds are making me hungry today. My Facebook newsfeed and my Twitter timeline are full of people in the United States talking about turkey, wild mushroom tartlets, various kinds of fresh-baked breads, pumpkin pie, sweet-potato-this-thing or roasted-carrot-that-thing. It all sounds delicious, and I am truly happy that everyone is having such a lovely feast. But you know, sitting up here in Canada, the ham and cheese sandwich that looked so nice while I was making it suddenly seems a little sad.

Yes, I know. We Canadians already had our turn last month. While I was Facebooking and tweeting about my own Thanksgiving dinner six weeks or so ago, I got a number of responses that said something along these lines: “Lucky cow!”

Anyway, even though it is not technically my Thanksgiving, I thought I’d take a moment, while everyone is in the mood, to reflect on things that I am grateful for. Because sometimes we get so caught up the busy-ness and stress and noise of life that we forget about the things in our lives that make it all worthwhile.

Like these:

  • I have two gorgeous children who are in perfect health. Yes, my son has autism, and yes, this affects both of my kids, but I get to hug them and cuddle with them and kiss them goodnight. I get to read to them, play with them, and arm-wrestle them into eating their veggies. They are there to wake me up early on Saturday mornings while I’m trying to sleep, and they are there to dump toys all over the house and then refuse to clean up after themselves. There are some parents who have buried their children, who can only dream of all of this. My heart aches for them, and I appreciate every second with my kids – the good moments and the bad.
  • My husband and I have arguments. I mean, who doesn’t? Every couple has arguments. There are times when he drives me crazy, times when he makes me cry, times when I feel overworked and underappreciated. But then there are the good times. The times we laugh together at some joke that only the two of us can understand. The times we go to meetings at our kids’ schools and work together for the betterment of their future. He calls me during the day for no reason other than to tell me he loves me, and when I’m on my way home from work, he walks to the bus stop to meet me because he wants to see me that badly. He is the love of my life and I cannot imagine life without him. And I am truly thankful that I sat in a park that day ten years ago and fell for the stranger who approached me.
  • The economy has been up a certain creek without a paddle for some time now. I know of people who have lost their jobs, who cannot afford a simple visit to the doctor, who struggle to feed their families. I spend a lot of time griping about my commute, but at least I have a job to commute to. It’s a good job, too. Challenging work, reasonable pay, good benefits and for the most part, people I enjoy working with.
  • I have some phenomenal friends. Some I have known for a very long time, and some are relatively recent additions to the fabric of my life. Many people talk about their online friends versus their “in real life” friends. I make no such distinction. If you have hugged me (either in person or virtually), cried with me, advised me, been there for me, allowed me to be there for you – you are my friend, whether I have met you face-to-face or not. Knowing someone exclusively through online media does not make that person any less real. So, to my friends – whether we have physically met or not –  I love you and appreciate you. Truly.
  • Then there are the people who I don’t really know well enough to be able to be able to call my friends – not yet, anyway. I hesitate to use the word “acquaintances”, because that word implies that I merely know these people. It does not adequately convey the idea that they are important to me, and that I greatly value their presence in my life. Many of the people I interact with on Twitter fall into this category. I cannot say that I know them, but they brighten my day, or somehow make me feel that I’m not alone; that no matter what I’m going through, someone understands and more importantly, cares.

Sometimes, life gets overwhelming for me and all I want to do is run away and hide. But when I turn on my taps, I get hot and cold running water that’s clean enough to drink. I walk outside and all of the buildings are standing. There are no bombs flying around and I haven’t lost all of my loved ones and possessions to an earthquake. I live in a house, not on the street. Although I live halfway across the world from my mother, I don’t have to worry about whether she is sick or injured, because through the magic of technology that I can afford to have in my home, I am in daily contact with her.

No matter how bad things may get from time to time, there is always something to be thankful for.

(Photo credit to http://www.flickr.com/photos/lonecypress/3264410416. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.)

Jon & Kate: Was TV To Blame?

16 Aug

The news is out: TLC are finally – finally – pulling the plug on Kate Plus 8. The last show will air about a month from now, at the end of the eighth season.

Not a moment too soon.

In the beginning, I had some interest in Jon & Kate Plus 8. I was not an avid fan who had to rush home in time for every episode. But if it happened to be on I’d watch it. Seeing this couple manage all of those kids made me feel alternately better and worse about the struggles I had juggling my two boys.

By the time the first season was over, though, my interest had waned. While I admired Kate’s superhuman organizational skills and Jon’s tolerance levels, it struck me – and probably most of the TV-watching world – just how mean they were to each other. This meanness seemed to escalate with each season, culminating in Kate barely saying a nice word to Jon and Jon running off to have an affair.

When Jon and Kate announced their separation, Kate was subjected to a lot of criticism over the fact that she decided to continue with the show. Phrases like “exploitation of the children” were bandied about a lot, and general consensus was that the pair of them should focus on the children during this difficult time, and not on the show.

While I agree with all of the above, I think the rot started a lot earlier. I don’t know what Jon and Kate were like together in the days before the show, but you have to assume that they were deeply committed to one another. You don’t go through the physical and emotional roller-coaster of fertility treatments with a partner you don’t see yourself going the distance with.

There’s really no way of telling whether the show itself was the cause of the problems between them, but it’s not a far-fetched notion. The dynamic of any relationship could be changed by the presence of cameras and producers who tell you to re-enact arguments to make them more dramatic and over-the-top.

Regardless of where things went wrong for Jon and Kate, I cannot help thinking that perhaps they should have put a stop to the show as soon as the problems began. If their energies had been dedicated to their relationship instead of the TV cameras, maybe things would have been better for them and their kids. Maybe they would have been able to save their marriage. Or at the very least, maybe they would have been able to part with fewer malicious words passed between them.

And of course, the question on the public’s mind is this: What about the children? How have they been impacted by the very public way in which their parents separated?

What will it be like for them when, one day, they look back at old tapes of the show and relive their family disintegrating in the public eye?

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rittysdigiez/2983274366. This picture has a creative commons attribution license.)

Time For Each Other

22 May

So, my post a day initiative has gone to goat shit lately. Sometimes life has this annoying habit of getting in the way of stuff we really want to do. Having said that, this evening me and my husband took some time to be together in a special way. He came home from work (yes, he was working on a Sunday due to a ridiculous deadline), and we had a picnic. Right in our front yard. We had nice fresh-baked bread, some cold cuts, cheese, and wine. And we spread out a blanket in the front yard, and sat there eating our food and drinking our wine. And just being together.

After a while, the kids migrated from the back yard to the front yard, and they joined our little picnic. James showed us some games that he tells us are virtually mandatory at picnics. Red Light, Green Light. Doggie, Doggie. Bug In The Rug. We played the games with him. It was lovely.

Sometimes we struggle to find time to just enjoy ourselves, either as a couple or as a family. But when we do, it is totally worth it.

Being married is awesome. Yes, we have lived together for ten years now, so in practical terms, nothing has changed. But somehow the depth of our love for each other is more pronounced. Looking at this man and being able to call myself his wife – that’s pretty darned special. I really and truly appreciate what I have in him. We have our moments of conflict, but that doesn’t matter. Because we have each other.

At our wedding, we had well over 1000 photos taken. Out of all of those, there is one that stands out. It stands out because it is a perfect reflection of the joy we felt that day. The joy we feel now about being married to each other.

Sometimes, life gets in the way of important stuff, like running, or writing, or spending time with loves ones.

But sometimes, the important stuff wins.