Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Plain as the nose on your face

This year, my fall has been defined by the weather. Specifically, it's been defined by Bud's anxiety about the weather. Rainy days - even those unaccompanied by thunderstorms - have been horrible, because in Bud's mind they all bring with them the potential for thunder. But even clear days have been a struggle this fall - because any cloud in the sky might be the wrong kind of cloud, and because every clear day ends with dusk. And dusk means that the sky gets dark.

Just the way it does before a thunderstorm.

In recent months, Bud's anxiety has been so intense that it led to a trial run with a new medication that is (so far, fingers crossed) having positive results. These days, Bud is not as anxious about the weather, but he is just as conscious of it. A few weeks ago, Bud jumped at every noise - real or imagined - after nightfall: "What was that? Is that thunder? Is that a storm? Is a storm coming? Are the lights flicking?" But these days, the anxiety has been replaced by mere preoccupation: "That's not thunder. That's just the dryer. Is that you, Nana? That's just Nana making some noise. Don't you worry, Mama. There's no storm. That's just a truck." It's not as troubling, but it is just as constant, just as ever-present, just as nonstop.

I've tried every approach I could think of over the past few months to respond to Bud's weather preoccupation. I've tried reassurance, negotiation, rational explanation, scientific analysis, myth and fairy tale, joking, ignoring, and (in my less proud moments) grouching and whining.

Nothing has worked.

This weekend, however, I began to see a glimmer of hope. Bud was doing his now-typical "it's-not-a-storm" commentary, and I was continuing to vary my responses in an ongoing trial-and-error way, until, finally, I was approaching wit's end.

Bud asked, "There's no thunder, Mama?"

And, with no game plan and no good ideas, I put a silly look on my face, zoomed across the room to Bud, put my face in his, and bounced my nose against his cheekbone.

Bud laughed.

He laughed.

I crossed back to the other side of the room and resumed what I'd been doing.

Bud asked, "There's no storm?"

I dropped what I was doing, zoomed over to Bud, and wordlessly bounced my nose against his face.

"What you did to me, Mama?" Bud asked, giggling.

"That's what I'm going to do from now on," I said, keeping the silly look on my face. "When you ask about a storm, I'm going to do this {zoom-nose-bounce} and that means 'no, there's no storm.'"

I began to walk away, then heard from behind me, "That's just the wind?"

Zoom-nose-bounce.

Laughter.

I walked away again. This time I heard the laughter first, then a giggle-filled sentence asking "There's no storm today?"

Zoom-nose-bounce. Laugh together.

So far, the slapstick comedy of zoom-nose-bounce has carried us through three days - three rain-free days, of course, but three days nonetheless. Its effectiveness seems to be diminishing a little as the weather preoccupation regains its foothold, but unless it's my imagination, I think that maybe - maybe - the intensity of the perseveration is diminishing a little, too. Time will tell.

In the meantime, I'll keep following my nose, keep my fingers crossed, and hope that the skies stay clear.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Grand theft meme

Rules and conventions of the blogosphere be damned!

I'm posting my responses to a meme. The thing is, I have not actually been tagged for the meme; I just read about it at Bubandpie. And, though Bubandpie was tagged, she didn't really respond to the meme. Bren, the person who tagged her, did respond to the meme, but I tracked back and discovered that Erin, the person who tagged Bren, had thrown meme-ing caution to the wind and just went and made the darned thing up.

So, given the rampant flouting of the rules that has defined this meme so far, I'm stealing it.

What song is in your head?

Chris Cagle's "What Kinda Gone." It's the story of a guy whose partner slams the front door and gets into her car saying something that sounds like "I'm gone." The singer doesn't think much about it until hours pass, she's still not home, and he starts thinking about what exactly "I'm gone" might have meant:

These days "gone" can mean so many things:
There's "gone for good" and there's "good and gone,"
There's "gone" with a "long" before it;
I wish she'd been just a little more clear.
There's "gone for the day," "gone for the night,"
And "gone for the rest of your dog-gone life."
Is it a whiskey night, or just a couple beers?
I mean, what kinda "gone" are we talking 'bout here?

It's just the sort of word-obsessive sentiment that I might have written myself.

What is the newest album in your collection?

Tricky question. The latest actual CD - real, live, take-it-out-of-a-plastic-jewel-case-and-hold-it-in-your-hands CD - that I bought was Paul McCartney's Memory Almost Full. But I'm an iTunes kind of gal. I'm all about the download. And really, I'm all about the single-track download - the most recent of which was Billy Currington's "I Got A Feelin'."

What is the top album on your wish list?

If I were going to download an album today, it would be Keith Urban's Love, Pain & the Whole Crazy Thing.

What is the most recent live music event you attended?

Brad Paisley, with opening acts Taylor Swift, Kellie Pickler, and Jack Ingram. Fun, fun, fun, fun, fun.

What is the top live music event on your wish list?

I wish I was going to be here tomorrow night.

A bit more about live music: I saw a lot of live music in my teens and twenties, but I've seen significantly less in the Post-Bud years. I've probably seen Elvis Costello the greatest number of times - I'd guess it's somewhere around a dozen. I've seen him with the Attractions, with the Imposters, with the Brodsky Quartet, with Nick Lowe, and on his own. I've seen him skinny and edgy; I've seen him heavy and bearded. I've seen him indoors and outdoors, in large venues and small ones, from the second row and from the balcony. And it's been a great show every time.

Paul McCartney must run a close second for the number of shows seen (though he's a clear first for best show of all time). Leo Kottke probably comes in third.

What are the top three albums currently in rotation at your house?

Again, I'm not all that album-oriented these days, but I'd have to say that between Bud and me, the highest-rotation albums at our house are all Dierks Bentley - his self-titled debut, Modern Day Drifter, and Long Trip Alone. They're actually Bud's CD's, but he lets me listen to them.

I'm tagging no one, since I'm not playing by the rules anyway, but should you choose to join this little den of iniquity, post a comment so I can follow the link and read your answers!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Wholesome prison blues

Bud and I watched the DVD 101 Dalmatians II: Patch's London Adventure recently.

As the movie approached its climax, the evil Cruella de Vil and her henchmen foiled a rescue attempt by the film's hero, a puppy named Patch. The villains swooped down upon Patch, scooped him up, and tossed him unceremoniously into a cage, where they locked him in and left him.

As little Patch peered forlornly between the bars, Bud burst into song on the couch beside me and I had to pause the video while he performed a full-scale emotional rendition - complete with verses, choruses, and instrumental breaks - of Dierks Bentley's "Long Trip Alone."

I can't imagine why...

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Do not dissterve

Bud's assertiveness skills are better than ever.

These days when someone invades Bud's personal space - tries to cuddle when he's not in a cuddling mood, or (heaven forbid) plants a kiss with out expressed permission - Bud is quick to redirect: "That's not nice. You have to do nice things. Otherwise, there won't be any (fill in the blank with whatever activity was scheduled to happen next)."

Yesterday, Bud's Nana joined him on the couch, but was apparently sitting too close for comfort.

He picked up his book and moved to a different location, saying matter-of-factly, "I'm moving. You're dissterving me."

File this one under "be careful what you wish for." We've been telling him to use his words...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

When is a school a house?

It can be so hard to understand the game plan when you're a literal thinker. And so hard to explain the game plan when you're not.

This morning, I told Bud that tonight was Open House at his school, and that after supper he and I would return to the school with all of the other kids and parents so that he could show me his classroom.

Later, I was upstairs getting ready for work and Bud joined me in the bathroom.

"I'm ready for my supper now," he said.

"It's not supper time, Bud," I said. "We just had breakfast. You need to get ready for school."

"It's not a school day?"

"It is a school day."

"It's just a house day?"

"No, Bud. It's a school day. You have to go to school."

"It's a school house? House school?"

"Oh! Yes. Open House. It is Open House day, but not until after school."

"After school?"

"Right."

"Not at school?"

"Well, yes - at school. But not during the school day. Later. At night."

"At night?"

"Yes."

"Open House day at night?"

"Yes. First you go to school and have regular school, and then you come home, and then later you go back with Mom. But not right now."

"I don't go to school now?"

"No, you do go to school now. For regular school. Not school with Mom."

"Not with Mom? Nana will take me to school?"

"No, honey. I'll take you to school for regular school. But then after supper, I'll go back to school with you for Open House."

"Let's have supper."

Sigh.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Digging for the meme

It's like looking in a mirror. And, I have to admit, I'm a little freaked out by what I see.

Let me back up. Last December, Linda H. left a comment on one of my posts. She wrote:

Hi MOM-NOS,
I have a totally different subject matter than your post. I hope you don't mind. I just recently read a book, and you kept coming to my mind when I was reading it. It is a bizarre connection because the book is about archaeology. Possibly the connection because in human history there are many mysteries where there are clues to what happened, but no smoking gun evidence to make positive conclusions. To me understanding autism is very similar to this. Anyway, if you are looking for a book to read, I think you will really enjoy it. Don't let the title scare you away if archaeology is not your thing. The book is by Josh Bernstein (from the History Channel), "Digging for the Truth, One Man's Epic Adventure Exploring the World's Greatest Archaeological Mysteries".
Take care,
Linda
How could I ignore a recommendation like that? I added the book to my "to do" list even though I'd never seen Bernstein's television show (still haven't), and it has taken me until now to finally get around to it.

So far, I've read the Foreword of Digging for the Truth, which is less than two pages long, and I can already see why I kept coming to Linda's mind as she read the book. And I don't think it's because I'm the Archaeologist of Autism.

I think it's this: Josh Bernstein writes in my voice. Or I write in his. Either way, we each use a quirky combination of writing conventions that, when taken together, create a fairly distinct style. Or I thought it was distinct. But (now, I see) perhaps not.

This discovery is actually well-timed, because I've been watching a writing meme float around the blogosphere, morphing with each post. For Kristen and Kyra, it was meme about writing strengths. For Drama Mama, it was observations about writing. For Niksmom, it was more of a writing confessional.

So, I'm jumping aboard the memewagon and morphing the meme a little further. My meme is entitled: "What I Learned About My Writing From Reading Less Than Two Pages Written By Josh Bernstein, or: How I Discovered that I'm Not So Original After All"

Some things that Josh and I have in common:

1. We use italics when we want to help the reader (and we always want to help the reader) know which word in a sentence should get the most emphasis - because, as you know, the right emphasis can make all the difference.

2. We tend to use a lot of dashes - though we use parentheses, too (like this) - because we make a lot of tangential comments in the middle of our sentences.

3. And we also start sentences with coordinating and subordinating conjunctions. Even though some people consider it weak writing. But we don't care. So sue us.

4. For us, the comma is a useful little device, because it allows us to collect our thoughts, giving our readers a moment to pause, allowing us to construct lengthy sentences in which we reflect upon subject matter, insert our own perspectives, ponder their meaning, and, of course, make lists.

5. We're concise.

I'm anxious to continue reading the book, if only to find out more about my writing. But, I have to admit, I have a feeling that by the time I reach the end, I will want to either marry Josh Bernstein or punch him in the nose.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

No Go PoMo

I've made a decision.

It's the thirteenth day of October and this is my eighth post of the month. That feels good.

I have a hunch that if this were the thirteenth day of October and this were my thirteenth post of the month, it would not feel as good.

I'm opting out of NaBloPoMo this year.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Ever goofy past

In my last post, I made the claim that Paul McCartney was "at his goofiest" in the new video for the song "Ever Present Past."

I stand corrected.

A good friend and fellow McCartney fan sent me an e-mail reminding me about a dance sequence from McCartney's 1973 television special James Paul McCartney. The song was "Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance" and the sequence was... well, it's hard to describe. I wish you could see it for yourself, but I've only got a grainy copy on VHS and it seems that no one has added it to YouTube yet.

Let's just say that compared to "Gotta Sing, Gotta Dance," the video for "Ever Present Past" shows Paul being downright dignified.

Here's a still that captures just a bit of the flavor of Paul in his 1973 glory:


Thursday, October 11, 2007

Panned on the run

You know I adore Paul McCartney. You know I do. When Paul is at his best, there is no one better.

But when Paul is at his goofiest... well, you just have to see it for yourself to believe it.

There is a video for "Ever Present Past" on YouTube. I just don't get it. It's Hairspray, cast by Robert Palmer, filmed on the set of The Thomas Crown Affair.

What do you suppose he was thinking?

Bud loves it - but I have to admit, I was greatly relieved when, after only the second viewing, we got to switch over to "Settle for a Slowdown" for the five-billionth time.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Spotlights and shadows

The students in my writing class have spent the bulk of the semester writing personal narratives about a single day in their lives. They're currently on the fourth draft and they have officially reached the point at which they are 1) sick to death of that day, and 2) resentful at my insistence that each draft be comprised of entirely new writing.

"But I like my last draft," they say. "How much more can I say about that day? I've already said what happened."

I respond by talking to them about spotlights. "Let's say," I begin, "that I am writing an essay about this classroom. Look around. There's a lot here. There's a lot to write about. But I only have four pages to work with. So I'm going to turn off the lights and shine a spotlight on just one area of the room, and I'll write four pages about just that area."

I turn to a young man seated in front of me. "Let's say that when I shine my spotlight, the only person I can see is Jim. In that case, my essay is going to be about Jim's experience of the class, or my experience of Jim in the class. I'm going to write in depth and in detail about Jim, and to my reader, Jim will be the most important part of this class.

In my next draft, though, I'm going to shine the spotlight on that spot on the wall where the clock used to hang, but no longer does. Now my four pages are going to focus on how things fall into disrepair while we're not paying attention, or about how the presence of a clock affects the sense of timing in a classroom, or about how the absence of something can be even more powerful that the presence of something. And this time, my reader will think that the missing clock is the most important part of this class."

At this point in the lecture, the students sigh heavily and resign themselves to the fact that they are just not going to win this one.

But why am I telling you all this?

Here's why: Blogging is a lot like those hypothetical essays about my classroom. That clockless spot on the wall was there when I was writing about Jim. Jim was there when I was writing about the clockless spot. But they weren't in the spotlight, and so to the reader, they didn't exist.

So I want to say this: I've been shining spotlights in recent posts. My last post about entrainment captured two lovely snapshots - two real, true, genuine, lovely snapshots of my life. The post yielded a lot of "wow." And I can see why: the snapshots were wow. But outside the frame of the snapshots, there in the shadow not illuminated by the spotlight, there was much less wow. Or there was a whole different kind of wow.

So why am I still telling you this?

Sometimes when my writing focuses on one kind of wow to the exclusion of the other, I start to feel disingenuous. I start to feel like I'm lying by omission, like I'm painting a picture of life with Bud - life with autism - just plain life - that is designed to make readers believe one thing, when another thing is equally true. And I start to worry that people will read my writing and think "How can it be so easy for her when it is so blasted difficult for me?"

So, I'm writing this vague and blurry post to let you know that if I shifted the spotlight on recent days and weeks, you'd walk away with a different perspective. But I won't shift the spotlight. And I'll continue to focus on just one kind of wow.

Because, sometimes, that's just the best I can do.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Parenting at the edge of magic

"We are embedded in a world of rhythm worlds. The rhythm world of the body is one, our own personal rhythm world. The rhythm world of nature, and the rhythm world of culture. Those are the rhythm worlds. They all move on together okay, and how you relate to all that stuff is how well you go through life, how happy you are. If you're in love, that's rhythmic. When you're in love with somebody, you feel the synchroning, you feel this entrainment with somebody, you want to be close to them, your heart beats the same way. You feel this thing. That's rhythmic entrainment. That's what love is. When you fall out of love, you fall out of rhythm. What about health, disease? You're out of rhythm. When you're in health, you're in rhythm. Your body is functioning well, the blood is pumping you know, you exercise in the morning, you feel vitality in your life and you're rhythmically tuning, it's a tuning fork, this is what this is. Drumming, rhythm, music allows in the focusing technique, that's what this is. Drumming is a focusing technique, that's all really it is." - Mickey Hart

Mickey Hart's book Drumming at the Edge of Magic has been on my mind for the past couple of days. I read the book in 1990. I'm not even sure why I picked it up - I like the Grateful Dead, but I've never been a serious fan. I've never been a drummer. But for some reason, it called to me, I read it, and it has stayed with me for the past 17 years.

The book is about Hart's life as a drummer and about the art and the spirit of percussion, but it's also about the rhythms of life - the rhythms that are in all things, the way we feel when we suddenly find ourselves in sync with the people around us, the environment we're in, the universe itself.

Hart calls it "entrainment" - the groove that develops when drummers play together in a circle and a spirit emerges and takes over, making the resulting rhythm something greater than the sum of its parts. But, Hart says, entrainment is about more than just drumming. There is a rhythm in life, he says, and we spend our lives trying to get in sync with the rhythms that surround us, to find our groove, to engage with something in a way that helps us become greater than we could be alone.

I thought about entrainment yesterday as Bud and I hiked through the woods together. Bud and I had been out of sync for a couple of weeks - not just with each other, but in general, with the rest of the world. Somehow it seemed like we'd both been going through our days clapping on the off-beat, though, somehow not together, not in counterpoint, and never at the same time.

The weather certainly didn't help. We'd been out of sync since a morning thunderstorm broke our rhythm and started us flailing - Bud beating too fast, me struggling to keep any beat at all.

But not so for a few glorious hours yesterday, as Bud and I hiked together in the woods, alone, together with the universe for the first time in a long time. As we hiked, we fell into rhythm with each other - our footfalls, our heartbeats, and the intake of our breath - we worked together and built on each other, and as we did, the leaves that crunched beneath our feet, the wind that rustled the branches overhead, the squirrels that darted by unseen - they all joined the rhythm, and I was suddenly aware that it was not merely a nice day. It was a spectacular day. It was the sort of blue-sky, cool-breeze autumn day that actually makes you happy that summer is over.

It all came together as we hiked.

Entrainment.

I've also been thinking about Drumming at the Edge of Magic since a meeting with the team at Bud's school on Friday. They'd invited me to join them for some note-sharing, brainstorming and problem-solving as they tried to figure out the best way to address some challenges Bud has been having lately. It was a productive meeting and as we were about to wrap up, one of the team members brought up another behavior Bud's been exhibiting at school: tapping. Tapping with pencils, tapping with hands, tapping with feet, tapping, tapping, tapping, at all kinds of volumes, during all kinds of activities.

"Is he humming when he does it?" I asked.

"Yes."

"He's drumming. To a particular song - whichever one it is he's humming at the time. He's actually very good at it. You can bet that he's drumming the exact same beat he's heard on the CD. Honestly. It's pretty amazing. You should have him do it when a CD is on sometime."

The women at the table were quiet. I glanced around nervously, then added, "But of course, that doesn't make it okay to be disruptive when..."

Then, before I finished my sentence, the team members started talking, their ideas flowing, their energy building, their excitement growing:

"We could capitalize on his interest in drumming..."

"What if we got one of those practice pads that dulls the noise? He could use that in the classroom..."

"Maybe drumming is something we could use as a reward - you know, instead of using the computer all the time..."

"Let's talk to the music teacher. Maybe she could use this..."

"Maybe she'd be willing to work with Bud one-on-one..."

The energy grew, the ideas meshed, and I could almost hear it buzz and resonate and echo as it filled the room.

Entrainment.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Write or wrong?

Are you surprised to hear from me again so soon?

I know. It's only the fourth day of October, and this is already my third post. That doesn't sound extraordinary until you consider that since May I have averaged six or seven posts each month.

So what's it all about, you ask? Why am I suddenly emerging from my self-imposed blogxile?

I'm testing myself.

I'm testing myself because it's October. Which means that it will soon be November.

Which means that NaBloPoMo will be here before we know it.

Which means that I need to decide whether or not I can participate again this year.

Even though I complained for most of the month last year.

At which time I wasn't even emerging from self-imposed blogxile.

But, still, I'm thinking about it. Maybe an external commitment is what I need to get my blogging groove back.

Maybe there's not enough stress in my life already.

Okay, maybe not.

I don't know. What do you think? How many of the rest of you will be participating? Is anyone willing to be my Anne Lamott of November and help me feel incompetent but in good company?

We've got 27 days to decide, folks. Are we thinking write?

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Sleep, surgery, speculation

I learned this week that Bud needs to have his tonsils and adenoids removed. I knew it was coming. His tonsils are the size of my head. (Okay, not really - but you know what I mean. They're really big.) When he's sick, he has trouble breathing. This summer we had to rush him to the emergency room; that's how bad it gets.

It turns out that his tonsils aren't just causing problems when he's sick. They are also causing sleep apnea, which, in turn, means that he is not having restful sleep. The lack of restful sleep was not news to me. The apnea - the fact that he stops breathing while he sleeps - was. And that's a fact that could give me a lot of sleepless nights.

So he's scheduled for surgery in December. I had my tonsils out a few years ago, and it was the worst experience of my life. Now, I understand that 1) I am, for the most part, a big baby about things like that, and 2) recovery from a tonsillectomy is easier for a child than it is for an adult, but, still, I wish it could be avoided.

There is a silver lining here, however. Yesterday I told a special educator at Bud's school about the upcoming surgery and she said, "Have you seen the research that suggests a connection between tonsils and ADHD?"

I hadn't. But now I have, and it makes me hopeful. Bud doesn't technically have an ADHD diagnosis, but behaviorally, a lot of Bud's challenges look an awful lot like ADHD. So it will be interesting to see what the long-term benefits of the surgery are for him.

At the very least, it's likely to result in more and better sleep. For both of us.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Blame Canada

One evening last week, after a particularly difficult morning thunderstorm that sent Bud into a panic attack and caused him to be half an hour late to school, I was more than a little concerned when I heard thunder rolling in the distance as I came home from work at the end of the day. When I entered the house I was surprised to find that, though Bud was highly attuned to the thunder and was talking about nothing else, he wasn't panicking.

My mom explained to me that because it wasn't raining and because they could only hear a distant rumble, she'd told Bud that the thunder wasn't near our house. He wanted to know where, exactly, it was, and since she didn't want to make him afraid to go to any of the places we normally frequent, she took a cue from South Park and told him that the thunder was in Canada.

The thunder continued to roll for the better part of an hour, and with each distant roll, Bud asked for a status report: "Where was that?" And each time, we gave him an answer:

"Winnipeg!"

"Ontario!"

"Toronto!"

"Vancouver!"

It worked, and it kept his anxiety from escalating. Of course, his weather-anxiety has stayed at a constant level all week, bubbling right under his emotional surface, but it hasn't spilled over yet. And for that, I send my thanks - and my apologies - to my good-sported neighbors to the north. I hope you're finding that the storms (and the incrimination) are not too great a burden.