Tag Archives: time

The Good And The Bad

26 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 27 – 5 challenges, 5 small victories: Make a list of the 5 most difficult parts of your health focus. Make another top 5 list for the little, good things (small victories) that keep you going.

Autism can be a very complicated thing to live with. Its manifestations change from day to day. One day, my son will be able to tolerate loud noises but a small change in routine will send him into meltdown. The next, we’ll be able to turn his entire routine upside down but anything louder  than a whisper will set him off. Different strategies work for different kids on different days, and everyone you might see guidance from is convinced that their opinion is the right one.

The things I find most challenging about being an autism mom don’t really have to do with the autism itself. Whatever might be going on with my child on any particular day, I just deal with it. Sometimes it’s hard, but I always know that I’m doing my best, my son is doing his best, and at the end of the day we’ll all survive.

My challenges tend to come from sources other than my son and his autism. I list them in no particular order.

  1. The judgmental critics. It’s a moment every autism parent has lived through at least once. You and your child are in a grocery store, which let’s face it, is a mecca for sensory overload, and your child is getting more agitated by the second. You throw things into your cart at quickly as you can, but just as you get to the checkout, your child reaches his breaking point and explodes. As you are trying to calm him down, some snarky stranger loudly proclaims, “What that child needs is a good hiding.” I once heard someone say (referring to me), “If that mother was doing her job properly, this wouldn’t be happening.” Like I’m not already carrying around enough angst with me. With my social anxiety, I’m not great at the quick comeback, although I’m definitely better than I used to be.
  2. The third-person talker. These are the people who will talk about someone who is present as if that person were not in the room. The chances of this happening increase exponentially if the subject of conversation happens to have autism. I get it all the time. “Would George like a hamburger?” they will ask. My answer always seems to throw them a little: “Ask him,” I say. Yes, it is true that George is not the world’s greatest talker, and may not respond to everything that is said to him. But, you know. At least give the kid a chance to try. If he struggles to answer, I will help him.
  3. Guilt. I was educated at a girls-only Catholic school run by nuns, and I am married to an Irish Catholic man. I can therefore say with some authority that the Catholics turn guilt into an art form. And some of the guilt that I feel as a special needs parent (hell, forget special needs – just as a plain old parent) almost makes me think I should just convert. I feel guilty about everything. Did the Taco Bell I ate during pregnancy cause George’s autism? Did I give him enough affection as a baby? Am I paying enough attention to my other son? Did I get too mad at George when he tipped over the laundry basket?  The list goes on and on, and my guilt makes me constantly second-guess myself when I should just be following my parental instincts.
  4. Time. Time very often seems to be my enemy, so much so that I sometimes regard it as a person. Time with a capital T. No matter how much I try, Time seems to run away from me. At the end of each day, there is always something that remains undone. Parenting is my absolute number 1 priority, so my kids’ needs are always taken care of. But I tend to let other areas of my life slip occasionally, and that is detrimental to my physical and mental health.
  5. The Internet. When George was diagnosed with autism five years ago, the first thing I did when I got home was Google autism. I obsessively read web page after web page. Every link that I clicked on seemed to have some information that flatly contradicted something I’d read somewhere else, and in the end my brain was hurting from information overload. I was overwhelmed by not knowing what information to trust. Since then, I am wiser in my use of the Internet and I have learned, for the most part, how to tell the good information from the noise. But the Internet, with all of its gazillion theories about the causes of autism, can still hinder more than it helps a lot of the time.

In my house, there is no such thing as a “small victory”. Every single accomplishment, all of the positive things in our lives – are massive, big things. That’s the way it often is in special needs families. We tend to place extra stock in things that other families take for granted. And as hard as it can be to live with autism, there are many things that I am grateful for, that enable me to keep chugging along even at times when I just want to cry.

  1. Love. Love really does make the world go around. Out of all the challenges my son has, lack of affection is definitely not one of them. Both of my sons give the best hugs that I can carry around with me all day. My favourite moments are when my boys somehow manage to squeeze onto my lap together to give me a hug. I sit there, with my arms full of squirmy, giggling kid, and never want the moment to end.
  2. Running. Yes, running keeps me sane, and when something stops me from doing it – like illness or injury – depression starts to creep in. The fact that it keeps me in good physical health is almost a by-product of running. My prime reason for doing it, along with raising funds for autism, is to keep my mental health on an even keel. I struggle with mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, and there’s no better way to combat my darker moments than a good long run. I am stubbornly resistant to using medication to deal with my issues, and running acts as a decent substitute for chemicals most of the time.
  3. Therapy. It has been said that running is cheaper than therapy, and while that is certainly true, I actually do need both. The therapist/client relationship is a very strange one. It involves the client placing complete trust in someone they actually know nothing about. I have been going to my therapist for a little over a year now, and it has taken me almost all of this time to build up my trust to a level where I can really open up during my sessions. Sometimes the sessions are very hard and they make me feel all weirded out for a while, but the truth is that once a week, I get the opportunity to talk without reservation in the sanctuary of my therapist’s office. I can say whatever I like and there will be no judgment or anger.
  4. Writing. I am somewhat inept as a verbal communicator, and I experience high levels of anxiety in social situations. When I am talking to other people, I hold back a lot, not only because of my natural shyness, but because my brain actually doesn’t work well during conversation. I can formulate a completely coherent thought in my mind, and even mentally phrase how I want to say it, but when it comes time for me to speak, my words get lost somewhere between my brain and my mouth. With writing, that doesn’t happen. I truly have a voice, and I treasure the opportunities to speak my mind on things that are important to me.
  5. The Internet. The Internet is both a blessing and a curse. Despite the evils described in my “bad” list, the Internet is a haven of sorts. I belong to two Internet support groups – one for moms who have suffered pregnancy or infant loss, and one for parents of children with autism. Both of these groups are places where I can vent my concerns, ask for advice, or celebrate good news. Some of my best friends are people who I have known online for a long time, but have never met in person. Here’s the wonderful thing about the Internet: no matter what I am going through on any particular day, I will always be able to find someone who knows, at least to some extent, how I feel.
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Time’s A Bitch, But I’m Gonna Beat It

25 May

I am having a battle with Time. This battle has been going on for a while, and I confess that for the most part, I have been letting Time win. I’ve decided that from now on, I’m going to stand tall, square my shoulders, hoist up my big girl panties, and KICK TIME IN THE ASS!

I am tired of the following statements being rules of my life:
– I don’t have time to run.
– I don’t have time to write.
– I don’t have time to cook nutritious meals.
– I don’t have time to get enough sleep.
– I don’t have time to relax with my family.

Basically, all I have time to do is commute, work, commute again, and then do a different kind of work when I get home.

This is no way to live. And I’m not going to do it anymore. I’m going to take the time to sort out the logistics of my life, so that going forward, I can do the stuff that matters.

I’m going to systematically go through the stuff in my house and throw crap away so that I can have the physical space to be organized. (I’ve already made a start on that – this weekend I cleaned out my kitchen cupboards and linen closet, and Freecycled three big garbage bags full of baby things).

I’m going to get all of my paperwork filed and up to date, and THEN I’m going to deal with things as they come in instead of waiting for a big fat pile of papers to be teetering over like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. (I’ve made a start on that too).

I’m going to prepare kids’ clothing and lunches for the following day, and get my own stuff ready as well, as soon as I get home from work. That way it will be over and done with, and I won’t be dashing around at eleven at night looking for the kids’ socks or trying to find an apple to slice up for a lunch box.

I’m going to go to bed at a reasonable time.

That way, I will be able to get up early to RUN.

I will have time to write, time to cook real food, time to live my life the way it should be lived.

And with all of the crap and clutter out of my way (physical and mental clutter), I will have time for the most important stuff of all. My husband and children.

So that’s the plan, and I am publicly declaring it here.

Now, wish me luck. I think I’ll need it!

(Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/atportas/329630852)

The Juggling Runner

16 Feb

Those who know me well know that I have the dual problem of (a) having way too much on my plate and (b) having crap time management skills. Juggling a full-time job with parenting a child with autism, parenting a child without autism, helping manage Gerard’s business, and everything else that I have going on, can really take it out of me. That is a lot of balls to have in the air, and dropping any one of them is not an option.

Despite all of this, though, I run. I am living proof that the excuse of not having time to exercise just doesn’t hold water. Anyone who wants to exercise badly enough – assuming they are medically and physically up for it – can find a way to make it work.

That being said, it is far from easy, and several people have asked me how I do it. And so, for people who are overtaxed, overworked, and overwhelmed and still want to exercise, I offer my words of wisdom (and thank you to the Running on Empty blogger for suggesting this as a blog topic).

1. Get your partner/spouse/significant other on board. I cannot stress this enough. I’m not saying you have to drag them out of bed to go running with you at five in the morning against their will, just ensure that you have their support. Explain to them what you want to do and why it’s important to you. Let them understand what impact, if any, it will have on them. I am very fortunate in this regard. Gerard occasionally grumbles and complains when I abandon him to the mercies of two lunatic children so I can go for a long run, but he understands that it is something I need to do. Come race day, he is always a rock of support for me, taking me to races at ungodly hours of the morning and cheering me on at the end.

2. Planning is essential for people pressed for time. At the beginning of each week, write down what days you are going to work out and how long each workout will be. Be sure to take into account the amount of time you will need to change into your workout clothes and get to wherever you need to be. Once you’ve done this, schedule the workouts in your calendar. Once they are in your calendar, don’t move them. Schedule other stuff around them.

3. Once the workout is scheduled, just do it. If your calendar says you’re getting up at five in the morning to go for a run, then get up at five in the morning to go for a run. There will be times when you just don’t think you’ll be able to drag yourself out the door, when all you want to do is go back to sleep. Your mind may even try to convince you that this would be healthier. If you give in, though, you will spend the rest of the day regretting it. If, on the other hand, you get up and do your workout, you will feel an amazing sense of accomplishment. As an added bonus, I frequently find that the runs I am really, really not in the mood for turn out to be some of the best ones ever.

4. As much as I’m going on about scheduling and planning, you have to be prepared for exceptions. Sometimes it won’t be possible for you to go running when you planned to. Your child will keep you awake all night, and you will genuinely need to catch up on sleep instead of running. Or your boss will call an emergency meeting that will cut into the time you had reserved for your lunchtime workout. Or you yourself will get sick and be forced to rest. This is all OK. Sometimes life gets in the way of running. If you’re not able to reschedule a missed workout, no problem. Just go for the next scheduled workout and life will continue to be good.

5. Remember that shorter workouts are still worthwhile. If you were planning to run for an hour and only find yourself with twenty minutes, it’s still worth running for those twenty minutes. From time to time, I’m not able to get out at all because I have no-one to watch the kids for me, but even on those days, I manage to do sprints up and down my road, checking on the kids between reps.

6. The key thing here is perseverance. Even when things get so overwhelming that you have to skip runs or take an extended break because you’re ill or injured, don’t give up. Remind yourself of why it is important to you, and think about how great it feels when you complete a great workout. When things get tough, don’t just give up and tell yourself it will not work. Ultimately, you are doing this for YOU, and you should never give up on yourself.

Running in the concrete jungle of life

22 Oct

I suffer from the age-old, clichéd, and frankly boring problem of being a woman with not enough hours in the day. I find myself going to bed ridiculously late and not getting enough sleep, and from time to time I wonder why this is. Am I really that busy or do my time management skills just suck? In analyzing this question, I decided to draw up a rough schedule of what happens in a typical day.

6:00 – 7:15    Wake up, get myself dressed and ready, get James dressed and ready.
7:15 – 7:30    Take James to daycare
7:30 – 8:45    Commute to work
8:45 – 4:45    Earn my keep
4:45 – 6:15    Commute home
6:15 – 7:30    Cook dinner, eat dinner, get kids to eat their dinner
7:30 – 8:00    Supervise George’s homework, read library books with both boys
8:00 – 9:00    Get kids bathed and into bed. Throw load of laundry into washing machine. Make sure car is locked. Make tea.
9:00 – 9:30    Get clothes ready for myself and kids for the following day. Make George’s lunch. Ensure kids’ backpacks contain homework, library books to be returned, forms to be returned to teachers, etc.
9:30 – 10:00    Clean up kitchen. Unload and load dishwasher. Turn dishwasher on and wash any dishes that don’t fit in dishwasher. Get coffee machine ready for the following morning.

What this means is that in the evenings, it’s around ten before I can even sit down at my computer and read emails. This is why I have given up on all of the Facebook games that end in “ville”. I just never have enough time to check on my farm, or my kitchen, or my pet. FarmVille – crops keep dying. FrontierVille – weeds keep growing. PetVille – pet keeps running away to the pound. You get the picture. So now, my Facebook games are the ones that I can spend five minutes or less on, where I won’t suffer penalties if I neglect them for five days.

Do you notice anything missing in the schedule above? Running. Where am I supposed to find time to run? If my daily timetable is anything to go by, my only options are (a) go running in time to be back by six in the morning, or (b) go running after ten at night. Option (b) isn’t really an option to me, because I would be worried about safety.  Something tells me that a woman running alone at that time of night would not be the smartest idea. So I’ve been going with option (a), getting up at 5:00 a.m., being out on the road by 5:15, and trotting back into my driveway by around 6:10 or so.

Except lately, this hasn’t been working out too well. George has been having issues sleeping – a phenomenon very common to children with autism. On any given night, there is roughly a fifty/fifty chance of him – and thereby me – actually getting a full night’s sleep. On the nights he wakes up, he crawls into bed next to me and plays with my hair. No matter how many times I gently move his hands away from my head, they always find their way back there, and he wraps it around his fingers, scrunches it up in his hands, sniffs it, strokes it, on and on and on until he drifts back to sleep. On the good nights, this lasts for half an hour or so. On the bad nights, it will go on for two or three hours.

It doesn’t matter how dedicated a runner you are. If you have a small child keeping you awake from 2:30 until 4:30, it is going to be near-impossible for you get up at 5:00, go running, and then put in a full day of work. It’s not even as if George’s nocturnal adventures are an occasional thing.  For the last month or so, it has been happening two or three nights a week.

It is hammering me, and I am increasingly stressed out by my inability to find time to run. Not running is not an option. Running late at night when I feel vulnerable is not an option. Running first thing in the morning when I’ve had no sleep is not an option.  So I have to get creative.

To solve the problem, I started by considering each run individually. I run five days a week, with Mondays and Fridays off. The weekend runs are not a problem: even if I have to get up early for those, I have the option of vegetating in front of the TV for the rest of the day (true, I’d have two kids jumping on me, but still). That takes care of four days of the week right there. On Wednesdays I go running with a group after work (kills my Wednesday evening schedule but I can live with that once a week), and I’ve worked out that I could do my Tuesday runs on a treadmill at the gym at lunchtime.

All of a sudden, the problem is a lot more manageable. Now, all I have to worry about are the Thursday runs. I’m still not too sure what I will do about those, but I’ll figure something out, either by just living with the early-mornings-after-no-sleep once a week or by doing some kind of creative reorganization to my schedule.

It just goes to show: when the running bug bites you, somehow you find a way to fit it all in.