Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Montage of a Month

The month has flown by with nary a peep from the land of Skiff.  I'm worried says I as I sneak around glimpsing in windows and doors.  Skiffland is busy and noises abound and this silence is just absurd.  I creep to the first window and what do I find, a courtroom is what I do spy.  Sitting high on a dais gavel in hand, the judge's voice rings throughout the whole land.  "Not guilty!" he declares in a voice sure and strong. "The Skiffs are not truant and that is all."  I smile as I quickly move on.  Justice is served and I sing out a song.
The next door I spy is opened up wide, heat and delicious smells waft right on by.  It is a kitchen and in there I see Momma Skiff busily cooking.  Mountains of lasagna and lakes of chicken a'la king are cooking at a frantic speed.  In between stirring and testing, momma does hang Christmas decorations to be enjoyed by the whole land.  I can see at a glance this building is the church and the sign reads "Women's Christmas Dinner....Come! We'll have dessert"  Momma Skiff ,as part of a team, is busily enjoying this time of female bonding.
It is clear Skiffland is doing just fine.  My smile increases, then I see the school line.  One, two, three...but no I see more.  There are five now waiting at the door.  Skiff Academy is still going strong and now all five Skiff boys are enrolled.....Can there be more?!?  No Momma Skiff assures me, five that is all.  All five little chicks are now schooled a home.  No wonder Momma has not blogged in so long!
I come to the last window and peak quickly in.  There on the couch are Grandma and Granddad.  They've come to celebrate Christmas in Skiffdom.  Oh what fun, the kids do exclaim:)  The house was scrubbed and painted just in time for the arrival of the grandparents from Virginia.  Christmas morning arrives to much excitement and fuss. Everyone is blessed beyond what words can describe.
I have come to the end of my tour of the town and now you are caught up on the goings around.  The Skiffs wish you all the merriest of  all season's.  Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Glimpse of Fiction-Part 2

The sun peaked over the horizon, turning the sky into a masterpiece of reds, pinks and purples.  She looked at the beauty of the morning and smiled a sad smile.  Memories began to flood over her again, faces, places, smells and sounds that no longer belonged to her; pictures and memories of another life, another love, another time.  Sometimes she wished she could erase her own memories the way she erased her name.  It would be so much easier to walk away if you did not know what you were walking away from.  But now other memories began to encroach, memories of darkness and needles and screams.  Memories of endless corridors and insanity and much blood.  Now it was easy to remember why she had run away, not walked away, but run like the devil himself chased her, because he did.  The panic began to rise, her heart began to race and her breathing came hard and fast.  She reached into her purse and grabbed a prescription bottle.   She desperately fought with the child safety lid and finally poured one pill into her shaking hand.  She looked at it, sitting in her palm.  She could swallow it and in fifteen minutes her world would right itself once again.  The terror would fade; the memories would once again become hazy and painless.  Yes, she could swallow this oblong slice of oblivion and everything she had fought so hard to accomplish would be for nothing.  Slowly, she opened the prescription bottle once again.  She forced herself to place the pill back inside the bottle, close the lid and place it back into her purse.  She willed herself to take slow, deep breaths and to silently count backwards from 100.  By the time she reached 35 she was calm once more, in control of her thoughts and her fear.  She glanced at the purse and thought about dumping the pills for good.  But no she needed the reminder. Yes, some memories one should never forget.
She cautiously looked around the parking lot.  It was empty.  First placing the knife in her purse she then unlocked her door, put her sneaker clad feet on the pavement and stretched.  She locked the driver's side door once more and made her way to the restrooms.  The smell assaulted her senses the moment she stepped through the door causing her to wrinkle her nose in disgust.  She glimpsed herself in the grime streaked mirror.  She looked like a street urchin, her hair still piled in the baseball cap, her clothes loose and ill-fitting, months of stress had reduced her appetite to nothing, her eyes over large and haunted.  She looked more closely.  Yes, she could be a Kate.  It suited her almost as well as her old name, maybe even better.  Kate....Kate what?  Why Smith of course!!  She laughed aloud, the sound of her own voice startling in the empty bathroom.  Listening to the sound of her own laughter Kate realized it had been 48 hours since she had heard a human voice.  She cleared her throat and held her hand out to the mirror, as if to shake hands.  "Hello.  It's nice to meet you Kate Smith.  You and I are going to be great friends."

The Beauty of Loneliness

The world around me is noisy and full, nearly bursting at the seams with its commotion
Yet I am alone
My kids chatter away, my husband tells of his day, my cats' meow their discontent
Yet I am alone
My social calendar is scheduled, my days packed with essentials
Yet I am alone
I have learned there is a beauty in loneliness.  It is in the quiet stillness of loneliness that I have time to sift through my thoughts and ever changing emotions.  In the midst of loneliness I am grounded, I am anchored.  Sometimes it takes the quiet ache of loneliness for me to discover the hidden truths, those pearls hidden for the earnest seekers of truth.  Lonely seasons, seasons of reflection, seasons of growth.  It is in these times that serious heart work is done.  It is so easy to distract myself with everything and everyone else around me.  Loneliness is the mirror in which only I am reflected back at myself.  It shows the imperfections of my nature that I mask so often in front of others; pride or envy, anger or apathy, love or hate are all inescapably reflected. 
It is in loneliness that I come to understand the truth that I am NEVER alone.  The One who placed the stars in the sky, the One who knows the beginning from the end, the One who sacrificed Himself to bring salvation to the world, yes He who knows the number of hairs upon my head, He awaits me in the place of loneliness.  How often I have missed Him by refusing the beauty of loneliness?

Dear friends I have been reflective this past week.  It has been in my reflections that this piece was born.  I am blessed to have so many beautiful friends who are there for me in any circumstance.  I know you are there:)  I firmly believe in the importance of having a good, trust-worthy support system.  I do not for a minute want anyone to think that I am now going to become a recluse.....I enjoy people way too much for that.  This is just the other-side of the coin of loneliness.  A perspective that I hope will encourage any one of you my firends who may be walking down the path of loneliness right now.  If you are in that place please know that I love you and am here.  Lots of love-Kristine

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Glimpse of Small Town ISD Harassment

You've probably have noticed by now that I have plenty to say;)  Actually it is not very often that I am at a loss for words but now is one of those times.  I have been very honest about our struggles with the school system here in small town TX.  Our battles have led to me homeschooling three of our five boys.  It won't be too much longer before we pull the last two boys out of the system.
Unfortunately, I am not able to go into to detail about our latest battle quite yet because it involves legal action but I am going to share a few things that I have discovered about our ISD (Independent School District) along the way.  I want to be clear that I have met many wonderful teachers with in the district (some have become lifelong friends) and this editorial does not reflect upon them in any way.  No this is about the "system" and administration.  A system that is compromised at its very foundation, a system that claims to want the best for our children but prizes the almighty dollar above the child's welfare, football above education and shoves our SPED programs into darkest closet they can find.  This is my experience with Anna ISD.
When we moved here nearly four years ago from VA I was quite naive.  The school system we were in had an excellent autism program and we saw massive improvements in the two of our boys that were diagnosed at the time.  I mistakenly thought that the SPED system down here would be similar, after all it is federally funded and over seen.   But I was wrong!!!  From the moment we enrolled our children in the public school  it has been one nightmare after another.  They have constantly and consistently tried to get out of providing services to our children.  From losing my sons confidential records not once, not twice but SIX times (a file that is around 300 pages) to losing my actual child TWICE in the same school year we have seen it all.  Diagnosticians have tried to change the diagnosis on my children three times, diagnosis they received from actual doctors who specialize in autism.  I was once told by the then head of SPED co-op (now disbanded) that my son could not possibly be autistic because he knew his ABC's and could use scissors.  When I refused to sign paper work agreeing with this exercise in the absurd his paper work was conveniently lost......notice a pattern yet?
Teachers have been disciplined for talking to me about MY children, one teacher (one of the best in the SPED department) was actually pushed out of her job as a direct result of her involvement with our family and trying to provide the best education possible to my boys.  There is systemic harassment of any parent or teacher who dares to speak out against the ISD in any way.  Most parents simply pull their kids  and homeschool them or move out of the district because it is easier and less costly than fighting the system.  I say enough is enough!!!  I will not be bullied, I will not be silenced.  I dare any credible news agency to come and invsetigate the shenanigans going on here.  I guarantee you will be shocked by what you find.
Standing my ground-Kristine Skiff

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Glimpse of Fiction part 1

Windshield wipers beat a sharp staccato as she drove through the night.  The rain, which had begun as a soft drizzle, was now a torrential downpour.  The defroster had stopped working 30 miles back and she was now forced to lean out the rolled down window, every few minutes to see the road ahead.  Another 50 miles and she would find a rest stop and stop for the night.  This was a dangerous choice for a woman traveling alone but she really had no choice.  She had spent a good portion of her cash on the clunker she currently drove.  Besides, the truck stop could hold no monster more terrifying than the one she currently ran from.   She laughed at the irony her life had become.  She, who was once a power player,strong and independent, was now weak, scared and disillusioned.  A mere whisper of the woman she once was.   She shivered at the mixture of cold and memories threatening rise again to the surface of her consciousness.  She reached into the console and ran her fingers over the knife she had secreted there.  She was not defenseless, she reminded herself.  Not now at least......never again.  She pushed the memories down, swallowed the lump of fear in her throat and forced her hand to release the knife.
Her eyes were growing heavy from lack of sleep.  She had not slept the past 48 hours, determined to put as much distance as possible between herself and the monster of her nightmares.  She had driven across much of the country.  It was funny, here she was checking off one of her bucket list items and she could not even appreciate it.  Actually could a nameless woman even have a bucket list or dreams  or were all her hopes, dreams and ambitions gone along with her name.  Another irony of life.  She who had once been so proud of her name, her lineage and now it was gone, forever gone.
Elizabeth, Lisa, Sue, Anne, Catherine, Becky, Marianne, Emily, Hannah....she said each name aloud, trying to settle on one that felt right.  It had to be simple, something that she would remember to respond to if it were called out.  Erin, Melissa, Rachel, Kate.....Kate.....Kate.  Yes Kate was simple and easy.  Something she could remember.   She cleaned her rear view mirror with her sleeve and tried to glimpse herself in the smeared darkness.  Could she pass for a Kate?  Nope she couldn't tell right now.  She would have to wait until morning to decide. 
Finally, she caught sight of the rest stop ahead.  Bone weary she pulled into a brightly lit spot.  She shoved her drenched hair into a ball cap, she would have to cut it soon.  The one vanity of her former life she had yet to give up.   She put the sun reflector in the windshield and hung towels on her side windows to shield herself from the view of curious onlookers. She dared not change out of her sodden clothes completely but she had to put on a dry sweatshirt at least.  She was suddenly very glad she had worn a button down blouse.  She could put on the sweatshirt and take off the blouse without  being disrobed.   Somewhat dry she reached into the back seat for a blanket and a granola bar.  She hadn't eaten anything since lunch and she was suddenly famished and very thirsty.  She grabbed a bottle of water while she rummaged around.   Suddenly she began to hyperventilate, she felt trapped and claustrophobic. She tore down the towels and the sun reflector frantically and took a long look around, looking hard into the darkness to see if any shadow was out of place. Everything seemed alright but once you've met a monster you know better than to ever feel truly safe.  She double checked to make sure her doors were locked tight, her windows rolled up as far as they would go,  she took the knife from the console and placed it in her lap, under the blanket she had pulled from the back seat.  She would feel safer if it were a gun but you can not buy a gun when you are nameless.  Well, she was sure you could but she didn't know how to go about it but she would learn she promised herself, oh she would definitely learn.   She took a long drink of water and closed her eyes and tried to grab a few minutes of restless sleep.  

So you know how I say I never know what I am going to write....well once again  this proves true.  I have had this story in the back of my head for several years, I even started to write it once but it never quite gelled.  Tonight it would not be denied any longer.  Over the next several months I will write more of it as it comes.  Hope you enjoy a glimpse into my somewhat twisted imagination (I think I read too many Nancy Drew's as a girl;)  As always lots of love-Kristine

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

A Glimpse of a New Look

We have had some big changes here at Glimpses of Skiff the past few weeks, which is why I haven't posted.  First we are now found at  Not a big change as to the reading but it makes me smile every time I type it in. It definitely makes us easier to find without a link.   The big news however is our major face lift!!   I have to say I LOVE the classy results.  I must give a huge shout out to graphic artist Michelle Hartfield for the much improved look.  I have been quite frustrated for some time with my limited graphic and technical abilities.  Michelle listened to my rambling description of what I wanted for this site and gave a result that is above and beyond what I had dreamed.  If you are in the market for a graphic artist I recommend Michelle highly.  Here's a link to her site:

Here are few things to look forward to in the future here at Glimpses of Skiff.  In the next two weeks I will be doing a small Thanksgiving drawing.  All comments on this blog, sorry folks facebook comments don't count, since our first post in Sept will be entered into the drawing.  Good luck:)
My last post before Christmas will be our Christmas giveaway.  All comments between our Thanksgiving giveaway and the the Christmas drawing will be entered.  Again only comments on the blog itself count:)
I am super excited to see what God has instore for us from here on out.  Lots of love-Kristine

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Glimpse of Tomorrow

Tomorrow, I said as I blustered on by
Tomorrow, I will have time to look in your eye
Today is so crammed, with so much to do
I really don’t have time to focus on you
Tomorrow I’ll slow, tomorrow I’ll stay
Tomorrow….really it’s much better this way
Tomorrow is yesterday, and today is all through
But tomorrow next week I know just what we’ll do
We’ll go for a cup of that old blessed joe
We’ll talk, we’ll catch up on the need to knows
Tomorrow, I said as I blustered on by
Tomorrow, tomorrow…..tomorrow says I
Tomorrow, how many times I have been guilty of missing the needs of those around me in my preoccupation with the needs of the day.    This week has presented me with many opportunities to lay down my agenda, to stop and be an ear, a shoulder, an open heart for those around me.  Sometimes, I did exactly that but other times I kept on going with my day, completely oblivious to the need I just missed.  Too often the ones I miss are the ones I should be most in tune with,  the ones I share a roof with, my life with….my own family.  Sometimes I get so used to hearing the voices, the noise, and the chaos that I miss something, someone important.    After the day slows, the voices quiet and the chaos stills I realize what I have missed and my heart breaks a little.  It is my prayer that God will help me to slow down and notice the small, quiet needs that are easy to overlook and that I will learn to lay down my agenda and pick up his perfect plan daily.  If you are one of the one’s I have missed in my blustering, please forgive me.  If you are one who is blustering along beside me maybe together we can learn to slow down and see those we miss in our harried, hurried lives.  Lots of love-Kristine

Sunday, October 16, 2011

A Glimpse of Margin

Unlike many in my family, I am not a great poker player.  I had moved out of the house before the big poker tournaments began.  However, one thing is consistent when I play.  I am an all or nothing kind of player.  I will either fold at the beginning or I almost always I am going to play the hand out.  This works well for me sometimes.  When the cards are running my way or the other players are playing as poorly as me this strategy can indeed be quite effective.    But if one little thing goes wrong….if the cards aren’t so favorable or a new player joins the game: I am sunk.  For this reason I don’t play poker;) However I live my life the same way I play poker.   I am either all in or I’m not in at all.    This style of life pursuits has its advantages.  If I commit to you that I am going to do something, you can bet your bottom dollar I will do everything in my power to do it.  If I am your friend, you know I will be loyal to you through thick and thin.  If I believe in something fervently, then watch out world! I’m coming for you!   In fact once I get going on something I leave myself no margin, whether it’s money, time or energy if I’m all in then I am ALL in.    It is this that God has been working on in me this week.

This week was a rough week.  We started the school week WAY behind in our lessons, hubby worked late almost every night, one of my little guys was sicker than sick for two full days and physically I was at one of the lowest points I have been at in a long time.  In fact I spent an entire day unable to get off the sofa.  My body hurt everywhere and I was completely exhausted, not tired but so exhausted that just standing up for a few minutes meant I had to sleep for at least an hour.  I don’t often talk about these times because quite honestly I find them annoying and embarrassing.  I hate having weaknesses and I hate even more allowing others to see them.  My house was/ is trashed (we’re slowly getting it back together) and I was at my wits end.

Thursday came around and started out well compared to the rest of the week.  I was feeling better so I set to work.  I cleaned, made challah for sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles), taught the kids school (caught up on a lot), made a special dinner for Sukkot , and was getting ready for our home group when I just completely crashed.  My husband looked at me and asked what was wrong.  I burst into tears and told him to take the kids out of the house for a drive because I NEEDED a few moments to myself.  I just sat in a quiet, empty house and cried.  I was used up, done; I had nothing left to give.  I took a long, hot shower and cried some more.  I turned on an old movie on TCM and cried again (yeah I know weakness again…I hate that).  My hubby got home; we put the boys to bed and watched some TV.  He looked over at me and said “You know honey you never leave yourself any margin in any area of your life.  You jump in with both feet and run until there is nothing left to give.”  Right then in there I felt that convicting tug of the Holy Spirit. 

Friday was another crazy busy day.  I had my Rheumatologist appointment in Dallas.   Dallas is really not very far from our house (around 40 miles or so) but the drive can be long simply because of traffic.  Once the doctor saw me he placed me on more medications, medications I have been fighting going on simply because I hate weakness (I know a theme right?).  He looked at me and said without an inflection of any kind in his voice “You are going to go on this medication because you need to give yourself a break.  You need to sleep and there is no reason for you to be in this kind of pain.”  Again I felt the Holy Spirit gently speaking to my heart, give yourself a break, and leave yourself some margin in your life.

On the way home from the doctors a car lost control and nearly hit me.  He spun across four lanes of traffic, coming so close to me that if my window was down I could have reached out and touched him.  I always leave a lot of room between me and the other vehicles on the road.  You drive 95 or 495 enough times around northern VA or DC you figure this out pretty quickly.  Again I felt that still small voice:  When you leave margin you can better deal with the crises that arise.

So this weekend I gave myself permission to leave margin.  My plan had been to rush around cleaning like a mad woman, catch up on more school work and have a generally stressful weekend.  Instead I enjoyed a wonderful Saturday with my boys.  They got haircuts, we ate out and when we were home we chilled out.  Today I had wonderful morning at church, a leisurely lunch with my family and friends and then went to get my hair styled.   I gave myself margin, I started my medicines and gave my body a break and I am in a much better place as I start this school week.

I don’t know if any of you, my friends, are living a life without margin.  I don’t know if you cram your page of life so full of stuff that you’re writing up the sides (Like me).  If you are living full speed ahead I would encourage you to take a moment to breathe, to reassess where you can give yourself a break, to leave a little margin.  I know I will need to be reminded of this many times in the future.  We can walk this road together.  Lots of love-Kristine

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

10 Promises to Other Mothers

I awoke bright and early this morning, rushed two of my beautiful boys through their morning routine and onto the bus and then sat down at the computer for a few quiet moments of Facebook before my other three boys woke up.  Facebook is my vice, I admit it freely.  I love staying in contact, daily in some cases, with friends and family I would never speak with otherwise.  Facebook does have its drawbacks though.  One of them is that people, including me at times, are often too free with their opinions on how others should live their lives.  After reading one such post I have decided to compile my list of 10 things that I promise to every other mom out there.

1.      I will never tell my horrific labor and delivery stories to a new, expecting mom.  I will wait until after she has delivered and wants to share her own.  Then it’s no holds barred if she asks ;)

2.      I will NEVER lay a guilt trip on any mother about breastfeeding, cloth diapering, natural child birth, making her own organic baby food, or when her child sleeps through the night.  There are plenty of ways a mother will pile guilt on herself throughout the next 21 years.  She really does not need me to add to her pile of guilt.

3.      I will never just pop in unannounced on a new mother or a mother of small children.  This is cruel and unusual.  I will also respect that if a mom only opens her door 2 inches and speaks through the crack that there is probably a very good reason.  I will not try to glimpse her house, her hair or her attire.  We all have those days.

4.      I will not judge the mom at Wal-Mart or the mall whose child is screaming bloody murder.  I understand that I am not in possession of all the facts and that this one moment in time is not a reflection on her parenting abilities.  Again we all have those days.

5.      I will not judge a mother on working outside the home or putting her child in day care.  This is one of those family decisions that I have no right to an opinion on.  Having been both a working mom and a stay at home mom I know each has its own challenges.

6.      I will not judge a mother on her choice of schooling for her children.  I will not push any particular schooling method on her.  I have done both public school and homeschooling (I would love to do private school but it has not been an option) again each has its advantages and disadvantages.  This is another family decision that is not my business unless asked to share my experiences.

7.      I will not judge a mother on her choice of whether to medicate or not medicate her child.  God has given her the wisdom for her child, not me.  My opinions are only opinions and will only be shared if I am asked for them.

8.      I will not judge a mother if her child gets dirty while playing.  Seriously people the cool thing about kids is that God made them washable.

9.      I will not judge another based upon her size. Some moms have 15 children still wear the same size jeans that they did in high school.  While I find this very unfair and annoying I know that God loves them just as much as he loves those of us who have increased the size of our laps;)  I will not tell anyone woman what they should or should not weigh. 

10.  I will never, ever tell another mom that she is not good enough and I will always endeavor to view my fellow moms through the lens of grace that I so need to be viewed through.
There it is ladies; my pledges to you.  Lots of love-Kristine

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Map

              There are many roads that dissect the map of my life.  Some cut big, gaudy highways across my treasured guide.  Others are gentler, wandering roads whose marks are light.  There are others still that are little more than dirt paths, barely legible upon the worn creased page.

Super Highways of Busyness and Necessity war with the slower routes of Intimacy and Connection.    The dirt paths of Meditation and Remembrance are often neglected all together, over grown and barely visible.  My map is chaotic, filled with so many roads that often it is hard to tell where one begins and another ends.  The roads often merge and divide making navigating life confusing even in the best of times.  The corner where Need crosses Want can be quite tricky.  And merging onto Goal Turnpike is often fraught with danger.   But it was not always so.  I can remember when I was first given this map, all shiny, new, blank……full of possibility.  I would day dream about where I would first set off for in the vast unknown wilderness.  I was warned to slow down and enjoy where I was at the moment because before I knew it my map would be full.  But I didn’t heed the warning, instead I continued dreaming of the places I would go, roads I would forge completely unaware I was already making the first tentative markings on my exciting map.  I remember when I noticed the first few roads that marked my map.  I was confused and angry.  Who had touched my map, my guide?!?  No one had the right to lay roads on it but me.  A friend said “But it is you who drew those lines.”  I shook my head vehemently “It is not I!!  Those roads are not going the direction I would have chosen.  Surely I would remember marking my map!” My friend responded with a simple rhyme “Dear friend careless roads are so easy to lay, be very careful with your choices every day.”  Such beautiful pearls of wisdom that I disdainfully tossed aside choosing instead to carelessly busy my map with unimportant dead end roads: Vain Ambition Drive, Beauty Boulevard and Popularity Terrace.   As the years went by more and more roads were laid down: Self-Depreciation Lane, I Told You So Palisade, and The Guilt Round About weaved inefficiently through my daily commute.  I tried so hard to establish Friendship Lane. Instead I built Acquaintance Avenue.   So many, many roads…… so many, many important places to be, times to catch, people to meet….so little actually being accomplished because my map was so unclear.  I actually called my friend, the one whose advice I had disdained in years past.  “Dear friend a road laid by only you will have a very limited view.”  Sound advice, good advice, cryptic advice.  I then began to look for a map maker, a master cartographer who can make sense of this sad, worn map of mine.  Most when presented with my humble map  disdainfully handed it back.  My map has no eloquence, no great beauty.  It was never gilded with gold or embellished with beautiful art or even precisely laid out to scale.  No, this is a map of happenstance, the culmination of my seemingly insignificant daily decisions.  I then found a little map store on my daily commute, surprisingly it had been there all along on the corner of Busyness Expressway and Necessity Parkway.  It’s an old store, neglected and run down.  I almost didn’t stop but I thought that maybe just maybe there would be someone here who could help me make sense of my map.  I approached the beautifully carved wood door and I had a vague sense of familiarity.  I turned the handle and pushed on the heavy door, old hinges creaking as if trying to remember their unfamiliar task.  Inside sitting at a large desk sat my trusted friend, waiting….for me.  He smiled and tenderly took my worn, tattered, weathered map.  He gently spread it upon the large cherry wood desk in the center of the room.  Beside the desk was a small table with all sorts of tools: compasses, rulers, erasers, elegant pens and beautiful paints.  He sat down at the desk, motioned for me to sit in a leather chair across from him.  We chatted for hours that first day, me telling the tale of how my map had come to be in such a sad state.  He listened, nodded and occasionally commented and then handed me back my map as I left.  I was disappointed I said as I was about to go out the door.  I had enjoyed my visit but he had never really looked at my map.  He smiled and in his gentle voice told me to look at my map.  I hesitantly opened it up, expecting the same confusing and heart wrenching disarray.  Imagine my surprise when my route for the day was highlighted and clear, some of the dead ends had been erased and some of the torn places mended.  My day went so smoothly, my energy was renewed I could not wait to go back to the little map store the next day.  So my daily trips to the cartographer have continued.  My map is becoming more clear and beautiful with every visit.  I am often surprised by the routes the map maker lays out for me.  I find myself spending more time on Relationship Crossing and Compassion Way and less time on Necessity and Busyness.  Yet somehow everything gets done that needs to be done. There are days when I don’t go to my friends shop and things begin to become unclear and jumbled once more.  I then return and my friend graciously asks me to sit down and quietly fixes the mess I have made of his beautiful work.  His words are so very true and they replay in my head often “Dear friend, careless roads are easy to lay. Be careful with your choices every day.” 

So this is what came out when I sat down to blog last night.  Not my usual offering but I hope you enjoyed a more lyrical change.  I pray each of you has a fabulous week-Kristine

Sunday, September 18, 2011

A glimpse back

This past weekend I was cuddled up on the couch with my littlest guy Benny.  I gave him a big hug and said “Boy do I miss my Benny hugs.  What are you getting too big to hug your momma now that you’re in first grade?”  He looked at me quite seriously and said “Yes.  We have to separate.”  “What do you mean we have to separate?” I ask a little confused.  “We have to be separate.  Big people move away, get jobs and drive cars.  They separate.”  I said “You don’t have to leave yet.  You’re only 6 years old.” “Yeah, I think I’ll wait until I’m 10 to get a job.”  I hugged him tight, laughed out loud and felt a little pang in the general area of my heart.

Big people separate…..a very big truth coming from a very little guy.

My husband and I were watching a TV show together.  The main character had lived through 3 seasons of huge, life changing events.  His goal throughout the whole show was just to make it back home to the people he loved.  Finally, he made it back!!  Yet he no longer fit.  Everyone else was the same but he wasn’t.  Fundamentally he had changed.   In the end he left again for the great unknown, fighting bad guys and keeping the people he loved, but could no longer relate to, safe from horrors they could not imagine.

Sometimes you can’t go home….a harsh truth born by an imaginary hero but truth just the same. 

I have been feeling homesick for my family and friends back east these last few weeks.  The past few years there has been a big family event for me to go home for in the early fall.  This year there is not.  I keep track of the big family news through phone calls with my mom and watch my nephews and nieces grow through the limited, blurry window of Facebook and yearly Christmas cards.    

Don’t get me wrong; I LOVE TX and I would not trade our lives here for anything.  We have fabulous friends that have become like family to us.  I love the small town life, the fact I know someone on almost every corner of several neighborhoods. I love the open hearted culture that my boys are being raised in, the strong faith we have encountered in so many.

Oh but I do miss walking into my Grandma’s house and seeing the same candy jar sitting on her end table that was there when I was a kid.  I miss girl’s nights with my sisters, watching movies and eating dinner.  I miss the smell of my momma’s house, the sound of my brothers fighting and laughing (they were always doing one or the other), “men’s meetings” at our house that had nothing to do with Bible study and everything to do with Texas Hold’em (and were quite boisterous at times ;), the smell of my Dad’s aftershave.  I miss laughing with my aunties and Momma until tears streamed down our faces.   

But what I miss most of all is that even when I go back, I can never go back.  We are all grown up and the winds of life have changed the landscape of who we are dramatically.  I am proud of what my individual family members have become and accomplished.  I am proud of their families, choices and characters.  Still these truths remain:  Big people separate and sometimes you just can’t go home, bittersweet truths that cannot be escaped.  So tonight I pay homage to the years past, the laughter and tears, the pain and the pleasure.  I pay tribute to those who have departed this life to soon, I still look for you in the crowd when I hear a certain laughs or smell a certain scents.  Your places in my heart still remain.   Sometimes you can’t go home but another truth remains: you can carry home forever in your heart. Lots of love-Kristine

Sunday, September 4, 2011

So I Married As Aspie-part cuatro

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I've heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

-Emily Dickinson

Hope, such a simple word, a word that has lost so much meaning in today’s culture of immediacy.  Hope, such strength, such fragility, all summed up in one syllable.

Hope means to hold on when everything around you screams to let go.  Hope means to look for the good, the peace, the rest ahead while in the midst of the bad, the striving, the endless night.

I wish I could say that I held onto a nearly dead marriage all those years out of hope.  I wish I could hold this as one of my limited virtues.  Alas, that was not where I was at when we left the story.  No my hope had faded; I had surrendered to a life just as it was.  I stayed out of sheer stubbornness and conviction. I had made a commitment till death do us part and only death would separate us.  But hope can be found even in the darkest, deepest places.    Hope found me when I had given up all hope.  It came in a form I least expected.  It came in the form of my son Jamie.

I wrote briefly of the traumatic pregnancy I had with the twins.  That story alone would take a book to tell in its entirety but for brevities sake I will skip pass the details and go straight to major points.  After falling down a flight of stairs at 25 weeks, I was hospitalized for the majority of the remainder of my pregnancy.   Twin A (who is now known as Jamie ;) sack was leaking amniotic fluid.  Wanting to give the boys the highest survival rate possible they monitored the fluid for any sign of infection and had me lying on back on bed rest in the hospital.  We made it to 35 weeks.  Once he was born he was placed on oxygen because he was not breathing.  After a few days in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) another miracle of miracles happened.  He was breathing and ready to be released.    I noticed instantly that Jamie was different from Alex.  Alex looked for Jamie and wanted to be close enough to touch him.  As young as a few days old Jamie pushed Alex away.  Alex like most babies would respond to your voice….Jamie very rarely did, I chalked all this up to personality differences.  Around one Jamie began to babble as infants do.  But by one and a half he stopped.  I began to notice more disturbing things.  Jamie did not respond to stimuli the way our other kids did.  One night I was putting the rest of the babies to bed.  Jamie had taken a longer nap than the rest so I left him in the playroom to play a little longer.  The sun went down as I was doing the bedtime routine and I did not realize it.  When I walked into a dark playroom I was horrified at myself as a mother for leaving my baby to be in a dark room.  Most babies would have cried out or at least made some sort of commotion. Not Jamie.  He was sitting in the exact same place I left him staring blankly into space.  When he would fall and get hurt Jamie would not cry.  Instead he would start picking at the wound.   He actually pulled his stitches out one by one when he cut his knee open.  Barely a day after getting the stitched they had all been pulled out.  Around two Jamie began to scream for hours on end.  I could not figure out what was bothering him.  He also began to beat his head on the floor, not a toddler temper tantrum beating.  No he would beat until it was bloody if I did not restrain him.  I would hold him all day long, rocking him and counting in a monotone voice (the only way I found to calm him).  We brought him to several doctors, all of whom diagnosed him as severely autistic.  We were not given much hope for him.  Although not definitive, they felt the best bet was to medicate him to control the violent melt downs and to give anti-seizure meds as a preventative measure.  I refused to accept that this would be my son’s life.  My husband and I both began to research autism and decided to send him down the educational route.  We were blessed to be in a great school district that had a fabulous early intervention program.  ABA therapy, speech therapy, OT, PT, and a fabulous teacher made a world of difference.  The meltdowns began to lessen and slowly the real Jamie that was trapped inside began to emerge.  I remember vividly the first time he hugged me on his own.  I still cry when I remember the first time he told me he loved me.

Throughout my research I kept coming across information on Aspergers.  My oldest son Paul was now in Kindergarten and he was not assimilating well at all.  In fact, he was regressing at an alarming rate.  Through our research we began to suspect he was on the spectrum as well.  Again God was with us.  Paul was placed “by chance” with a teacher who specialized in SPED kids. In fact she had only that year returned to the regular classroom and had won awards for her work with autistic children.  She called me in for a conference and told me she thought Paul should be tested for Asperger’s Syndrome.  Since we had already started to suspect it ourselves we had no problem sending him for testing.   Sure enough, Paul was the poster child for Asperger’s (normally Aspies are not diagnosed this young.  Paul was a rare case because of his extreme giftedness and extreme Aspieness-for lack of a better word).  Now both my hubby and I began to research even more about Autism and Asperger’s.   The more I researched the more I learned how to communicate with my boys.  Simple things like keeping my emotions in check completely when dealing with them.  People on the spectrum have a hard time placing emotions and understanding them.  The more emotional I became the less engaged they were….in fact often they would ramp up and begin to melt down.  Another simple thing was I had to be explicit and precise in what I said to them, especially Paul.  Aspie’s tend to take everything literally.  When I once told Paul it was raining cats and dogs out he went to the window and looked out.  He turned around and said “It’s not raining cats and dogs, it’s raining a lot of water” Some of this was age appropriate but with him it was to an extreme.  I learned I had to prepare them for every, single change way in advance.  My boys were learning coping skills and how to mimic appropriate social responses. If I sprung a change on them they had no idea how to respond thus pushing them into a meltdown.

I need to break here and explain what an autistic meltdown looks like.  When I say meltdown some of you are thinking of a toddler screaming in the mall, others of you have watched a special on Autism and have seen a child screaming or flapping their arms or beating their head on a wall.  In the special they cut to the frazzled parent, back to the child and then to a commercial break.  In real life there is no commercial break. In real life, a meltdown can go on for hours.  In real life you look into the eyes of your child and realize they aren’t there, they have no control over themselves and it is your job to deescalate them and keep them safe at the same time. The causes for meltdowns vary.  It can be overstimulation from their environment, anxiety over an unknown situation or  often their minds race.  They can’t turn their brain off and it drives them crazy.  People often expect the Aspie can control it.  The truth is that in the middle of a real meltdown they are not in control, they are not even there; my guys often have no memory of what they did during a meltdown.  One night, not all that long ago, Paul was being driven absolutely crazy by the sound of the crickets outside.  Now short of going out and hunting down every cricket in north TX there was not a lot I could do to ease the situation for him.  We tried to drown out the noise, we tried to distract him but nothing worked.  He had a complete and total meltdown.  He tried to run out the front door completely naked except for his whitey tighties.  In the end we cocooned him with a blanket.  This works really well for several of my guys on the spectrum, they actually asked to be wrapped up like a burrito now when they start to feel out of control.  Cocooning is taking a blanket and wrapping the child tightly in it.  Only their head and feet pop out (like a burrito).  The pressure calms them.  I don’t know why but it works.

 My husband has given me the perspective of the person having the meltdown.  He has says it is very overwhelming,   Paul describe the noise and light as actually bringing physical pain that  you can’t escape it.  Hubby describes it more like being in shock, He says there is a serious disconnect between what you are thinking, which seems very clear and what you are able to get out.  .  Outside all we (the people around) see is the meltdown in progress. 

Ok back to the story…..

It was becoming more and more obvious to everyone (doctors and us alike) that my boys were not the only ones on the spectrum.  My husband was a Class A AspieJ  I began to apply the same communication techniques to him that I was using with the boys.  The results were amazing.  I also began to apply the same grace to him that I gave my boys.  Some of his obsessions began to have some sort of reason to me, the fact he rocked back forth almost violently as he fell asleep (making me somewhat seasick in the process) now made perfect sense.  He wasn’t just ignoring my needs or wants.  He honestly could not even see them.   When he obsessed on some particular thing when we talked, when he thought I was lying when I rounded 3:05 to 3 o’clock, when he flipped his coins over and over again, when he could not decide what flavor of ice cream he wanted, when he fought even the tiniest change of schedule, when he took every word out of everyone’s mouth literally, it all began to add up for me. Suddenly I knew how to communicate with him, suddenly I wasn’t going crazy….It wasn’t in my head.  Now I had hope that things could get better.  I just needed to learn the right language. 

I learned that I had to prepare my husband for things in life the same way I did my boys.    A good example would be when my son Sam wanted to join the boy scouts.  Sam asked me almost a year before he actually joined.  I slowly began to prepare my husband for the change.  I would once and while point out what a great organization Boy Scouts was, I would occasionally say how nice it would be for one of our boys to join.  At first his response was completely negative.  One day he looked over and said “I know what you’re doing but it’s not going to work this time!”  Finally when it was time for Sam to join I asked hubby the question “What do you think of Sam joining the Boy Scouts?”  He looked at me and said “I’ve seen this coming for a while.  I think it will work.”  Now if I had just asked him right away the answer would have been an immediate NO!!! Not for any good reason but simply because he was not prepared for the question.

Our relationship underwent a radical change in dynamics.  Honestly, this amount of management would be devastating to a typical relationship.  Like I said before, we are an outside of the box kind of relationship.   What works for us will not work for many relationships out there.  But there are relationships that resemble our out there; relationships that more often than not fail because no one is around to say that there is a different way.   The divorce rate where one partner has Asperger’s is over 80% according to some studies.  Other studies suggest the same rate is true with parents of one or more children on the spectrum.  We have beaten the odds.  We have succeeded through God’s mercy and grace.   That is not to say we have a perfect relationship.  There are still things we have to work out, still wounds that are healing.  But we now have hope.  We now have a roadmap that works.  It is my prayer that a couple that is just beginning their journey will read this blog and understand that it is possible.  All it takes is hope, a willingness to change, a willingness to give up your idea of what marriage should look like and embrace what it can look like, and a willingness to give and receive grace.    Lots of love-Kristine 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

So I married an Aspie-Part 3

The storm was magnificent.  The sky, dark with storm clouds that were relieved only by the occasional strike of lightning, grew more menacing by the minute.  The wind howled, whipping my hair around my face, making me brace my feet on the rocks just to stay standing.  The ocean waves to the left of me pounded the jetty relentlessly.  The waves of the inlet broke with equal fervor to the right of me.  The rain pounded against me like tiny shard of glass, mixing with my tears until all evidence of my hurt and pain were completely obliterated by the magnificence of the storm that raged around me.   I slowly calmed, I slowly found peace.  Compared to the greatness of the nature surrounding me I was small, my problems miniscule…..manageable.  The God of the boundless ocean, the controller of the uncontrollable storm, the being whose very breath spoke all of this into existence, yes to Him everything in my life was easy to remedy.  To Him I was small and protectable.

I can’t tell you how many times I drove to the ocean during a storm through my late teen, early adult years.  Every time I crossed the bridge into Ocean City I felt beaten, out of control of circumstances that seemed insurmountable.  Every time I left Ocean City, crossing the same bridge, I felt peace.  I knew God could control what I could not.  I know that this seems a strange way to start the next to last installment of the story of my dating, engagement and early marriage.   It is so appropriate though.  Before I begin I must say a few things.  First and foremost I am going to do everything in my power to be completely honest while still being mindful that this is not just my story to tell.  Secondly, I do not share this story to drag up hurts in the past.   Rather this is a story of hope.  Thirdly, remember that these are the fires in which we were forged.  Please do not stray from the path.  There are places that are still tender, places that are still scarred.   I share this in the hope that others who have similar stories can avoid some of the dark times we walked.  There is hope, there is light even in the darkest of times.  Sometimes we just need someone else to point the way.

Our dating and engagement months were fraught with communication issues.   Hormones, naivety, and the crazy busyness of the season allowed me to ignore the freight train steaming toward us.  A couple weeks into the marriage I could no longer deny we had problems.     It seemed that my husband had decided I could do no right and he had taken it upon himself to fix me.  Everything from the way I handled money, to the way I cleaned, even the way I talked was up for renovation.   We had never heard the word Aspbergers at this point.  I had no clue that when I said I spent $40.00 and had actually spent $41.50 he would consider that lying.   I would grab a grocery basket and he would correct me; “It’s not a basket it’s a cart.”  I was a newlywed and wanted so badly to be the perfect wife.  Instead it seemed I was becoming a worse wife by the day.  I craved affirmation and instead I received constructive criticism (for the record I didn’t call it constructive at the time).  I spent hours being lectured on my failure to communicate correctly, being told over and over how my feelings really didn’t matter because emotions had no real meaning, and being instructed on how I could get “it” (whatever “it” happened to be at the moment)  right.  I felt completely worthless as a wife.  Please understand I am not beating up my guy.  I wanted to leave this out and he insisted that I put it in here.  His exact words were “Why would I be offended.  It’s accurate” 

We sought out council but it only made things worse.  What normally would be excellent advice to newlyweds nearly ended our marriage. My husband took EVERYTHING literally, and when I say everything I mean EVERYTHING.  When advised that we should consult each other before spending money, he began calling me from work to ask if he could by a coke or a candy bar.  My response “Do you have $.75?  Great! You’re an adult you can make this decision on your own.”  This actually happened, more than once.   He had been told we should be open with each other (fabulous marriage advice you’re thinking, right?)   Yeah, not so much.  Open to him meant sharing every thought that ever crossed his head.  “Hey honey just wanted you to know I’m thinking about pink flamingos.”   “Alrighty then” I would respond.  When he would ask me what I was thinking about and I would respond “Nothing really” he thought I was keeping secrets.  He began to doubt my fidelity.    I had noticed as when we were dating that he flipped coins all the time.  What I did not realize was that he was incapable of making any kind of decision without flipping a coin.  Something as simple as buying ice cream had to be flipped on.  This is a funny little quirk until really important; life altering decisions are based on a coin flip.  Not so cute anymore.    Throughout all of this I felt like I was not only a terrible wife but that I was also going insane.

We fought…boy did we fight.  I tried so hard to stop the arguing but nothing I did worked.  If I agreed he would say I was being patronizing.  If I disagreed he said I was being argumentative.  If I didn’t say anything I was being uncommunicative.  There was just no right answer; there was no way for me to make him happy.

We found out we were expecting our first born about six months after we got married.  I was so excited.  I might suck at being a wife but I am going to be the best mother in the world, I thought.  Our son Paul was born in July of 2000.  He was different from the moment he was born.  The nurse who delivered him freaked out a little because he not only focused on her immediately after birth but he studied her and tracked her with his eyes.  According to both her and the doctor this is unheard of with newborns right after birth.  Paul was very advanced but he was also very sickly.  He had to nurse every twenty minutes around the clock for the first three months.  If he ate any more than that at any one sitting he would empty his stomach.  By five months we had stretched his feedings to every two hours.  The flip side of the coin is that by three months Paul crawled and by five months he was climbing stairs.  He had started to teach himself to read by a year and was playing online video games completely by himself (of course at a year he weighed less than he did at five months and still had to sit in an infant carrier).  He was very sick until we moved to VA when he turned three.  When Paul was 10 months old I found out I was pregnant with our second child.  Between the stress of having a sick little baby and the stress of a marriage that was spiraling out of control I was barely hanging on to my sanity.  Sam was born 5 weeks early in December of 2001.  Although he was early, Sam was born healthy and cheerful.  He was always smiling and would chatter at you all day.  It was such a blessing to have a healthy baby because Paul was still so very sick.  The stress had taken its toll on our relationship.  My man had gone back to school to try and get a better job; he was also working full time.  I was a stay at home mom with two babies, one of whom was always sick.  It had gotten so bad our pediatrician would call several mornings a week just to check on how Paul was doing.  The stress in our lives was through the roof and we were completely falling apart as a couple.  We tried more marriage counseling.  This turned out to be a huge mistake.  The marriage counselor gave us great advice, if we had been a typical couple.  Unfortunately we were not a neurotypical couple and his advice nearly put the nails in our marriage coffin.  I felt like the lowest of low.  I was a terrible wife, whose husband considered her a liar and a cheater.  I was a terrible mother whose son was always sick.  Then I found out we were expecting twins.

The twins changed everything.  When I was 25 weeks pregnant with them, two weeks after Sam turned one year old; I fell down the flight of stairs in our house while holding Sam.  Sam miraculously was unscathed, not even a bruise.  I completely crushed my elbow and spent the next ten weeks in and out of the hospital (mostly in) trying to keep the babies from being born too early.   To say it was a bad time would be an understatement.  Every other day the doctors were predicting either I or the babies weren’t going to make it.  At one point they asked my husband if it came to a choice between me and the babies what should they do.  He chose me, I chose the babies.  It was a hard, hard time.  We called all the churches we had been involved in, trying to find someone who would be willing to watch our boys at home so my husband could work.  My father was willing to pay a great salary to whoever would help us out.  However none of the churches would even ask their members if they were interested.  So my husband was out of work to top off everything else.   He would call me and start his normal “communication lecture”.   Honestly I can’t say he was doing anything wrong.  He was just being who he was.  Unfortunately he was completely insensitive to anyone else’s feelings or state of being.  Laying in the hospital, fighting for the lives of my babies I couldn’t handle it.  I was an emotional wreck.  The nurse walked in at one point and said to me “Honey I don’t know why you’re so upset but these babies need you to be calm.  They need you at peace.”  Right there I made a choice.  Right there I decided I had four little boys who needed a sane momma; four little boys who needed me to be at peace so I chose to distance myself emotionally from my husband completely.  In late February 2003 we had two more beautiful boys: Jamie Patrick and Alexander Usarian (he had it rough when he had to spell his name in Kindergarten ;).

A lot happened over the next five years, more than I could ever fit into a blog.  But over that time I did not speak to my husband at all unless it was something unimportant like the weather or completely unavoidable.  Emotionally I completely detached from him in every way.  We had moved to VA, he was working 80 hour work weeks; I had another baby (our last little boy Benjamin Timothy born October 2004).  Our relationship had gotten so bad a family member offered me $35,000.00 and a house if I would leave my husband.  I appreciated so very much that someone loved me enough to try and intervene but I was committed for better or worse.  I had to hope the better was coming soon.   Around that time Jamie was diagnosed as severely autistic.  That diagnosis changed everything and saved our marriage.  

I am going to break here, in our darkest of dark times.  I promise the hope and the light is just around the corner so bear with me.  I do want to say one thing about this blog:  this is not a blog to beat up on my husband.  I learned later on that he really did not understand at all what he was doing or saying and the impact it had on me.  He was living life as he always had, in an Aspbergers world where accuracy is truth and emotions really are not weighed in at all.  Empathy was not something he was even capable of thinking more or less acting out of.  Indeed he was just as frustrated as I was with the beginnings of our marriage.  I was just so inaccurate and emotional!!!  Please know my heart and that of my husband, who has graciously not only agreed but has also encouraged me to share the harsher times in our relationship, is to show that some relationships need different advice, advice we did not have access to.  Some relationships face different challenges; some relationships exist outside the box.  I hope that as I write the final installment someone out there will be spared some of our hard times.   As always, lots of love-Kristine

Sunday, August 28, 2011

And the winner is........

Happy Six Month Birthday to me, and you, and Glimpses of Skiff!!!

I’ve turned up some tunes; I have on my party dress, yummy food scents the air.  Welcome, come on in!!!  Here’s your glass of champagne.   It’s time to par-tay!!

I am so excited to be here with each of you today.. Six months ago when I started this journey I had no idea what an amazing trek it would become.  I have truly enjoyed sharing glimpses into our chaotic world, meeting so many new friends and getting glimpses into your lives and reconnecting with old friends, understanding each of you just a little better.  I have learned to laugh more, cry more and love more than I knew was possible.  Each of you has expanded my world a little bit more with your insights and comments.  I am very thankful that you have opened your hearts to me the way that you have.  It makes the more vulnerable, painful posts so much easier knowing that so many people will handle the post with such care.  So this party is a thank you to each and every single one of you.  From the bottom of my heart I am grateful for your willingness to read my crazy, sporadic, sometimes silly thoughts and still come back a read again.

Ok for the moment we have all been waiting for. I have asked my son Sam to do the honors. 

And the winner is: Krysta!!! Congratulations!!  You go girl!! Contact me and I will set up a delivery time. 
Thanks again friends.  I’m sending you each a huge hug.-Kristine

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