Stan

For over 15 years we’ve lived in the same house we bought new while we were waiting to deliver our youngest son to this world and our family. A brand new house, with a new baby, and our then older son, just a toddler – who was sinking farther and farther into Autism as the days went by.

We’ve done a lot of living in this house, and it shows. The floors are worn, the tiles cracked, the carpet threadbare – every room needs a facelift or overhaul. Daily living is exhausting enough with a busy family of four. Add in Autism along with the special diets, therapies, processes and procedures thats not covered by insurance…….not a lot left over for interior design.

Our neighborhood is one of “those’ neighborhoods – and while I rebel a bit by planting enough poppies along our fence line to invoke a little Afghanistan along the street, we love it here.

Stan is the original real estate agent who listed the homes in our ‘hood from the very beginning. Being an astute professional, he keeps in contact by letter or postcard a few times a year. These tips and news are usually market driven – and a pleasant reminder that he’s still alive and so if you have real estate needs, give him a call.

The last letter from Stan is different.

Stan baldly discusses the poor economic news, flat market and the need to remember conventional wisdom of home values rising – may be a matter of the absence of falling prices. This is not the usual Stan letter, no….not at all – but I was at attention. He delivered a personal punch in the gut, if you will. Yes, your crappy house is falling prey to the economy, but guess what – you aren’t special. Everyone is in the pool. What can we do? Not a lot really but tread water, together.

This is not your typical salesmanship by any means.

So, here’s Stan’s advice – direct from his letter…..that has me thinking, what can I give up?

“Now let me change gears and list 15 things to give up this summer, if you and I want to be happier.

1. Give up on your need to always get the last word
2. Give up playing the blame game
3. Give up your need to be in control
4. Give up your need to always be right
5. Give up complaining
6. Give up criticism
7. Give up your need to impress others
8. Give up your resistance to change
9. Give up your labels
10. Give up your fears
11. Give up your excuses
12. Give up your past
13. Give up living YOUR life to OTHERS expectations
14. Give up self defeating self-talk
15. Give up your limiting beliefs

“Easier said than done, but with so much gloom and doom around us, will you join me in making decisions to give up some, if not all on this list, and be happy? Not only will you see a big difference, but the ripple effects will bless those close to you.”

“Good luck with this,
Signed ~ Stan”

Timely advice, provided by an unlikely source. Myself, I will give up criticism, and accept my house for what it is, our home. A home full of love, compassion and understanding. Our families home.

Thank you, Stan. ~ Wendy Frye

“A man who is a master of patience is master of everything else.” ~ George Saville

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One Percent

When two people meet, date, fall in love and decide to move forward and get married – the union automatically has a 50% chance of dissolving before the end of the first five years. When you have a child with a disability, especially one like Autism, the odds are a whopping 99% that the marriage is doomed to be an epic failure. I believe that the amount of time taken from the core relationship while caring for a sick child, that leaves one of the two without time or attention – ultimately the whole thing just sputters and spins down the loo.

Eighteen years ago, my husband and I were the newest of the newest parents on the block. Our baby boy was five years in the making – complete with surgery, fertility processes and procedures with only a sliver of time to conceive – WOW, we had won that lottery, didn’t we babe? Netting a ten pound, four ounce baby boy – and he was beautiful!

We lived in a tiny little house on a hill in our city – and it was the middle of January. The snow had abated, our little family needed to leave the cabin for a bit of time in the wilds or someone was going to be sacrificed. And it wasn’t going to be the baby or cats. So we concocted a plan. It was a good plan, and we weren’t ready for anything specifically, just everything that might happen “out there”.

Anyone with young babies or smallish children in their life can agree that the sheer amount of GEAR required for such a speck of a person is, well, honestly absurd. But we did what most new parents do – hauled every gift, item or article perceived to be necessary anticipating any circumstance we might encounter “out there”. This was our first outing as a new family and we were going to the “mall” like other families to use that pram and/or the kangaroo sack baby holder thingy, and it was going to be FUN dammit!

Tension notching a little higher after changing our boys diaper two more times before leaving. Not just a wet diaper but a blow out – a change complete with new clothes. Good thing we had enough newborn outfits for a third world country all washed and organized neatly in the dresser drawers ready to go.

Our two door 4 x 4 was loaded and I actually managed to crawl into the backseat to sit next to our new baby boy. We buckled him in, strapped his seat down, piled blankets on him and both secretly wished the other would call off the expedition. No such luck. It was my piece to watch out, bark driving instructions, all while belying my own anxiety making me the WORST backseat driver in the world. My husband, not too kindly, told me to RELAX or he was going to have a heart attack and careen off the road – OMG not what I wanted to hear! I was shutting up now – yep….shutting the hell up so my husband, the father of my son, could drive to the mall without incident. LLLLONNNNNGGGGEEEEESSSSSTTTT ride, ever.

I watched our boy next to him in the backseat, anticipating the reality of his first outing. Sporting a cute little bear outfit, camera in hand – we were almost there. Timing is everything with a newborn, breastfeeding done within the last half hour, diapers changed (repeatedly) – the sleepy little guy should last a couple of hours before he needed anything, right? A couple of hours out of the house, long enough to call it an official day out, right?

Wrong. Oh, so very VERY wrong.

We made it all the way to the parking lot of the mall, but needed to change diapers again. (Seriously?) Another blow out – complete with new clothes…the whole shebang. And me? It was time to calm down (it was cold out there changing diapers!) and exit the vehicle. My husband had the pram ready to go……

A nursing mother hydrates, a lot. A new nursing mother who gained more weight than her doctor felt was reasonable, is re-learning her own parameters. We had a two door 4 wheel drive vehicle – and I was in the back. Our son was already placed in the pram. I had that STUPID kangaroo sack thingy around my neck. It tangled on the seat base and I was dragged back into the vehicle without the thrust available to me to launch out of the car. Boy, I had hydrated admirably that morning, the morning we were going to have our first family outing. While my husband and I shared uncontrollable laughter together, in and about my condition while wedged in the back of the car, I ultimately managed to pee my pants…….

What a day, one day in the many that have come since, dealing with Autism, trying to keep our unconquerable souls well fed with laughter and humor that abounds from such bizarre and absurd circumstances.

Happy Anniversary to my Husband! We are the other 1%, aren’t we? The 1% that make it to another side while raising two beautiful children – one with his heroic traits and genius appetite for knowledge, and the other an astronaut we’ve managed to juggle all these years. Happy First Anniversary on the other side of Autism, my dearest husband.

~ Wendy Frye

“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing.” ~ George Bernard Shaw

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Missed Adventure

Sometimes, and you know when it happens, the Universe hands you your backside and you decide, with all the dignity you can muster, you must make a choice.

This happened, again, in our family the other day. Our oldest, diagnosed Autistic, graduated high school with honors – and we were set to celebrate. BIG! A vacation, a little time carved out for each other, traveling to a strange and wonderful place together. A time to explore the possibilities that the future has to hold. San Francisco! A haven for the artist within our oldest, and the dynamic venues available to our youngest – who’s thirst for knowledge will never be quenched.

Plans were drawn up, tickets bought and at the last moment, mayhem. Our dog sitter didn’t show up. It was at the last minute we realized how vulnerable the two little white dogs we love so fiercely had meant everything to us. The slippery slope of quick change for our oldest can make or break any adventure – and no amount of planning could so quickly derail all our efforts to take a break as a family and adverted the disaster that loomed Sunday morning.

She just didn’t show up. An agenda aside of our own, we never realized how a vindictive wife of my husbands friend could so easily change our fates. How her callous disregard for our sons victory dance to San Fran, after a long school career and the regaled graduation of our eldest. We trusted this person, who had known our family for 10 years, and had cut and styled or sons hair from the time he couldn’t cope with the sound of clippers in our home, the very person who just didn’t show up.

We proverbially woke up, shifted admirably, and I dropped off the three most important men in my life at the airport. At the break of dawn, there we were, plans blown up – and surprisingly the subsequent damage to our sons dream vacation was minimizing as the minutes ticked by.

What an alien feeling coming home, alone, to the dogs who were snubbed by the woman they saw only two nights ago, nuzzled and loved on her as they do us. A quick woe is me post on Facebook netted several phone calls from real friends willing to come over and salvage our plans.

No, we had already made the on the spot decision to send my husband solo with the boys. A male bonding adventure, complete with municipal traveling, arriving at the wrong hotel, with low blood sugared sons competing for security with the man they know as their father. He was just as alone as I, in a strange place – pulling up his big boy pants, he is now on point, determined to show his sons the time of their lives……..

My other mother, Cynthia, called me to talk it out. “The Universe is telling me something here.” , I say. “Yes, and everything happens for a reason.” She replied. We laughed out loud at how my husband went to the wrong hotel after I told him every day for 2 months that it was the Hyatt ON the Pier. (Who knew there were TWO Hyatt’s in San Francisco!) Really, they will be fine, and now – after two phone calls on day two, they are having a great time, without me – and that is the best news, ever!

I was disappointed for a while. But you know, navigating the lives of the members of my family so throughly and for so long nets me a little me time to call my own, too. It is worth what we are out for my plane fare and cost of a hotel bed for this, this forced bonding time for the boys.

Chasing the dogs back to bed from the front room window, where they keep watch for the rest of the family, kept me up most of the night. But alas, I had a long lunch with my mother in law today, one of only a hand full of times we’ve had 3 minutes to string together for each other. We went shopping, nixing the mall for the salvage stores and having a delightful bite at the local bistro. It was priceless spending time with her…..and I promised to do a better job in the future.

An era has come to an end. My two boys – they are not the babies I borne or the little boys I worried over for so long and so intently, especially the eldest with Autism. No, they are men of the world now. And their father? He is making the mutual memories with them to call his own with the two young men he helped craft over the years. Beautiful. Absolutely beautiful!

So right now? I’m going to eat Fritos and string cheese for dinner, chase the dogs off “Daddy’s Chair” and wait for the next phone call from my family. Spending time in boxer shorts, cruising the internet and Facebook has been delectable. Can’t wait to hear about the mis-adventures and experiences they have shared together – alone in a big city – without me, the navigator of the family.

A long, long time ago, my very close friend Jenny told me every year for Mother’s Day she spent 24 delectable hours alone at a local hotel with the explicit orders to her family that she was not to be disturbed. UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES was she to be disturbed, and that meant blood too. It was her time to recharge – the mother of three children that includes twins all under the age of two years old, living under the roof of a single wide mobile home trailer. All the while raising them all at the same time. Her husband honored her wishes and she found her center, once a year – and now, I get it. Alone time is divine, in small doses actually therapeutic. OMG Jenn, I get it.

Thank you Universe – this time to myself is welcome. The hand dealt to my husband, alone with his boys also, again very welcome. Now please, move along to the next family, hand them theirs so they learn the lesson of solitude and sharing the responsibilities of life – and please, leave a little more time for us, the ones who have learned and honor your wishes. Because ultimately, all we have are our memories, and in the end? Its the time well spent, together, and apart – that is most remembered by all.

~ Wendy Frye

“Fathering makes a man, whatever his standing in the eyes of the world, feel strong and good and important, just as he makes his child feel loved and valued.” ~ Frank Pittman

Relations

When your family (immediate and extended) receives a diagnosis of “Autism” (seriously it doesn’t even BEGIN to matter where on the spectrum) ALL things change. The changes evolve in daily living, future plans and especially in the way one relates to the world.

Within the mindset we CHOOSE when our son was diagnosed 15 years or so ago, the mindset to heal and support his pursuit back to well, most of our superficial relationships fell off a cliff. Our extended families remained, and we stood still, for the most part, in “social time”.

Moving forward to today, when our boys (the astronaut and his heroic brother) are healthier and more mature, we are beginning to breathe again. Still we live in a certain and special framework, but are beginning to live a little more out loud. Life is good. We know it, and live it. Life is good.

Today, I just know that Zuckerberg got it right. The mighty, mighty Facebook really is AMAZING. I have to be one of the last people in the world who held out, never had the “time”, didn’t have the “gumption”, and wanted my “privacy”. Whatever. WOW! It is because of Facebook that I am inspired to write this blog entry. Since my social life fell off the cliff, it is a little simpler to look back at the relationships that really matter – and have been valid all these years since our “autism” diagnosis so long ago.

Initially, I had a handful of people to add to my “friends” list, sincerely they are the most important in my life.

For instance:

Janice, my first “other mother”, who nurtured me spiritually, told me OUT LOUD how cute I was and supported my friendship with her youngest son, Trent. Trent, my very first friend, who I re-connected with on Facebook a few months ago – he was and IS a superior educator. When I was in kindergarten and he was in 1st grade, it was Trent who took the time to tutor me in fractions. Yes, I was able to understand fractional math at the age of 5. I will never forget that moment – after I worked so hard in my bedroom to spell and write my name – that Trent went on to demonstrate how much more there is to know and learn. My first friend, Trent Ling, has gone on to surpass his education from Duke University to further educate the world. He shines brightest in the pictures of himself and his beautiful family traveling all over this world, and I am so proud to know him and someday I hope to meet up again with him and his family.

Trent’s family friend, Mrs. Shelley, was best friends with my now “other mother” Cynthia. Mrs. Shelley drove me, at the age of 5 or 6 years of age, between where Trent lived and where I live now. Mrs. Shelley, who was best friends with Cynthia, (my next other mother) knew I was so alone in this new place, wanted Cynthia’s kids to know me, too. What a boon! My other mother’s daughter, Jenny and I have been friends from that time to now. Cynthia’s youngest daughter, Laina, son Damon and I all still friends to share and celebrate family events. Thank you Barbara….I honor you here and thank you for your kindness and help when I was so young……again, I thank you.

Last night, Jenny, my long time friend, posted a picture of her Dad, James, on Facebook. It was his birthday, and she was reminiscing how long he had been gone (over 18 years) – I was so moved seeing his picture that I cried. I never cry….it is not in my soul or nature to do so since my son was diagnosed Autistic. Talking to my husband tonight, telling him how undone I was about the post of Jenny’s Father, my “other father”, reminded me to be grateful and thankful for the relationships I have, have had – and will always have in my life. Those enriching relationships where we will take a bullet for our friend – surpassing those who we would hold up as a human shield when fired upon.

Thank you, Janice, Trent, Cynthia, Barbara, Jennifer, Laina and Damon. I honor you all, here. Again – it really is within the relationships we have that we grow to be the people we are. I again, thank you all…… ~ Wendy Frye

“Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” ~ Proverbs 22:6

Mincemeat

We have a rule in our house: We are the nicest to each other because we should be.

From time to time I reach down, pull out my worn out soap-box, step up and preach to my children about the people out “there” in the world we live in. The people you meet who would willingly punch you in the throat to get ahead. “Let those persons have at it” I tell them, in the end you won’t want to know them anyway. While choosing how you interact with other people, remember to always consider your own family first. We will always be stuck with each other, get used to it, so be nice.

I then require them to re-commit to the “team”. The family “team” who WILL ACT CIVILLY, TREAT EACH OTHER WITH RESPECT, AND REMEMBER TO USE THEIR MANNERS WITH EACH OTHER!

“What?!!” “Why are we having this same conversation again……MOM!” My teen-aged boys cry out in unison.

“Well, let me go down my current list of reasons why in sequential order.”

  1. Telling your autistic (but not even close to helpless) brother that the magenta colored golf shirt he picked out for our vacation to San Francisco will make him look “gay”, is unacceptable. Gay people wear purple and straight people wear purple. Don’t be judgey of anyone.
  2. Snapping at each other (semi-forcefully) while folding laundry over which channel to watch on the television is complete lunacy. On that perfect day the window was open and the neighbors heard you bickering like holler monkeys. Not cool.
  3. Punishing your parents for wanting to take you to lunch after shopping as a family JUST because you couldn’t agree on a restaurant after 25 minutes is unacceptable. It’s called deferring to each other from time to time, gentleman. Go look it up.
  4. Launching air squadrons when either of you enter the kitchen just to protect your soda, ice cream or (insert here) from the other one this summer will not continue. And the Nerf gun your Dad brought home? I buried it in my garden.
  5. Remember, the dogs are family too. If you let them out, you wait for them to come back in. Standing on the deck, again bellowing like a holler monkey, wearing only boxer shorts and a t-shirt is not okay. You are hurting their feelings yelling at them in that tone – and use patience! Sometimes they need a little privacy too.

Lastly, in general, the snapper-fish answers to anyone who asks a question will end. Automatically responding “no” is lame. Please try harder in the future to craft your answers and use your words, please.

As punishment, each takes a turn going all day without referring to themselves in first person. Think about that, all day without starting a sentence with the word “I”. The mental fatigue will be epic. But you will be fine. “Are we good now?”. “YES MOTHER!”

I retired my soapbox for now – a little wary……..knowing full well that the potential to be submarined by my two children and just as insolent husband is lurking around any corner. Seriously, is turnabout always fair play? Maybe, maybe not.

Oh man, I am doomed. ~ Wendy Frye

“Counsel woven into the fabric of real life is wisdom.” Walter Benjamin