She’s Leaving Home

This time of year always reminds me of when I first gained independence as a teenager. At the age of 18 I was still living with my Dad and stepmother. It was a bad situation. Though I didn’t fully realize it until I was away, my stepmother was an alcoholic.   She had issues that for whatever reason were taken out on me and I was abused by her frequently.  One of her main drives was a strange need to control what I ate, and I was so nervous around her that I could not eat much of anything.    After meals I often had to run to the bathroom, convulsively  throwing up anything I had eaten in her presence as she glared at me across the table.  She herself was very thin, and during this time I unintentionally lost a good deal of weight because of the constant stress that living with her was causing me.   Apparently this set her against me even more as I was turning from a child into a young woman.  In her mind I was her enemy, even though I loved her and wanted her approval so much.  Acceptance and approval that would never come.

Mealtimes were a nightmare. I would sit and repeat to myself one scripture I had learned somewhere along the way…”I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”  It was like a calming mantra to help myself as I sat trembling at the table.  The situation with my stepmother was just insane.  One memorable evening she literally tried to stuff a dessert cake in my mouth, saying “eat the whole f…ing thing.”  In that moment my anger overcame my fear of her. I grabbed her wrist and said “NO.”  As I think back on this now I think that was the beginning of the end. She could not handle her whipping boy (girl)actually getting a spine.

But even then I truly saw no way out.  My last year of living in my parents’ house I was in college. College had always been a huge deal to my family, especially my Dad.  The thought of telling him I wanted to quit seemed more than impossible to me.  I was so afraid all the time and felt I could not go against their plan for me.  And I had nowhere to go, though I daydreamed often of calling a taxi and disappearing.

I love Jesus so much now,  I have for years, but at that time I had no idea who He was.  In those days I saw Jesus as a block between me and God….I guess this was because of the people who were a block between me and my dad.  My stepmother most of all.  But I cried out to God often without words. One night in particular I remember lying in bed sobbing, and all I could do was reach up through the dark of my room, reach up to heaven and asked, “Please help me, please help me.”

He heard and He answered.  Within a couple of days, miracles occurred.  A friend I’d known from my first year at school called me to tell me she was going to be renting a place for the 2nd year, and would I like to live with her?  I was amazed!

Second miracle…my dad came to my room one night to talk with me. This was a rare event. He sat beside me on my bed, put his arm around me and told me, “If you want to leave school so you can get that apartment I understand.  It’s okay.”   Looking back I know my stepmother wanted me out of the house.  So this was an out for them too….a graceful way to get me out without literally kicking me out.  Kicking me out was one thing Dad would Not do, though he didn’t stand up to her otherwise.   The few times he tried he had paid for it. I have learned this is the way narcissists and abusers work.  They keep everyone around them under their thumb and you suffer the consequences if you try to resist their control.

I. Was. AMAZED by both of these events, these doors that were suddenly opening to my freedom.    I called my friend the next day and told her YES I would live with her in that wonderful apartment.   One additional miracle was that when I asked my employer if they could use me full time they told me yes they could!!  Immediately!!  This was a job I had applied for repeatedly…working at a veterinary clinic that I had always loved when I was growing up.  I did quit school which was a relief.  Because of my stress at home I was not sleeping and was often in a fog through my classes.  Though I liked my courses I was not in a place where I could take full advantage of them and I was failing several.

Moving day came and  I never had to lift a finger.  My parents were so eager to get rid of me that they moved me during the day while I was at work.  They gave me bunches of household items, furniture, dishes, etc. that had been sitting in the basement since being replaced after my family had moved to a brand new house.  That day stays in my memory.  I always felt like the Israelites who had escaped Egypt. In the biblical narrative, the Egyptians had literally thrown jewels and valuables at the Jews as they began their great Exodus.  Watching The Ten Commandments on tv every year had ingrained that scene in my mind and now I was living it.  To be fair I am sure my Dad was glad to be able to set me up with what I needed for my first apartment.  And my being gone would restore some measure of peace to his house, which had been a war zone through no fault of his own.

She’s Leaving Home by the Beatles was a running soundtrack in my mind during my last pain filled months in my parents’ house.  It was my secret wish though I didn’t dare let anyone know.  Looking out the window this morning at the November weather, grey morning skies, some sun peeking through the autumn leaves, the song came back to me. It always does this time of year.

Not long ago two of my children moved away, to live with their oldest sister across the country.  I wonder if they would relate to this song.  Their time growing up here was not without struggles and sadly there was often a lot of upheaval and upset.  One of them especially suffered.  I won’t share that here because it’s his story to tell.

She’s Leaving Home is a sad and melancholy song. But it brings back memories of true deliverance for me and reminds me of God’s watching over me.  It helps me honor the child I was and the young adult I was becoming…helps me to be more gentle on my weaknesses and fears, and helps me process the losses and grief of those years.  It even helps me to forgive more deeply.  I hope this post might help anyone who is enduring any form of abuse.  It does not last forever.  If you have no way out that you can see, call an abuse hotline. They can point you towards resources in your area.  I pray you will reach out.

 

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Autism~Aids to Healing

I am the mother of a child with autism. If you find yourself in a similar situation, be open to the possibility that your child has physical illness contributing to what are commonly known as “autistic behaviors.”

My son first received a diagnosis of autism shortly after he turned four years old. Our pediatrician had recommended speech therapy since he was not talking much at all. Once he began receiving this therapy, it quickly became evident to the teachers that there was more going on with my boy than just speech delay. Further inquiry was made and we were given the diagnosis of autism.

He did not show many of the more problematic behaviors associated with autism until about 3 years later, which I have since learned is common. Autistic behavior problems often kick up when the child turns 7 or 8 years old. This was the case with us. (and they frequently go into overdrive at the onset of puberty. Hormone changes, etc are no different for autistic kids than they are for others. ) My boy became violent at times, especially when not feeling well. It took a long time for me to make the connection between his violent tantrums and what he had eaten. For example, I would give him spaghetti for lunch and he would begin a huge meltdown within minutes of finishing his meal. Literally screaming, crying and kicking on the floor. Needless to say this was very distressing. We tried going gluten free and found that after several weeks of stricly following a GF eating plan, his tantrums greatly diminished. When our doctor recommended having my son tested for allergies, we learned that even though he did not technically test as allergic to wheat, the gluten in the wheat drastically affected his brain chemistry. Our allergist and pediatrician supported our use of a strictly gluten free diet for him. It is essential for our son. Gluten is not found only in wheat but several other grains as well. And we were surprised to learn in all of our label reading at the grocery store, wheat is added into many foods you would never suspect, such as tomato soup! It was and continues to be a learning experience!

As time has gone on I have discovered several more physical, illness related problems that contribute to my son’s behavior issues. I share this to encourage any parents who are at a loss on how to help their child’s problem behaviors. Things that are considered “autism behaviors” are Not just an issue of developmental delays and brain issues.

Dr. Michael Greenberg is a UCLA physician who has written extensively about autism and other developmental delays. In his book The Myth Of Autism, he makes the observation that it is not possible to have an epidemic of something that is purely mental/ developmental. The only source of an epidemic has to be physical illness related. Why there is such a dramatic increase in the number of children diagnosed with autism and other developmental challenges is still being studied and debated. But the component of physical illness is getting more and more attention which is a very good thing.

Another great source for learning about the physical basis of brain/ developmental issues is the book I Know You’re In There by Marcia Hinds. As the parent of a son with autism, she shares her family’s journey during which she discovered “Autism is medical and treatable!” I am finding this statement to be true. Not every autism patient may find complete healing and resulting ‘normalcy’ , however quality of life can be greatly increased! Looking at possible illness and pain issues in autistic children and adults can be a lifesaver. It is so important to consider these factors, especially for those who are low or non verbal, as they cannot express their pains to those around them.

One example….if your child is engaging in head banging, frequently squinting or closing their eyes, crying, pulling their hair and otherwise acting out, consider…the child could have a headache, even a migraine. And this can be brought on from being dehydrated or constipated. More and more gastroenterologists are finding that their patients who have autism frequently have stomach/ digestive system disorders. This is extremely common in autistic people. More and more the medical community as a whole is coming to the conclusion that many children and adults diagnosed as autistic have physical illness and pains, and that when the source of the illnesses are dealt with, the common ‘autistic behaviors’ are greatly reduced. Thsi makes life much more bearable and even enjoyable for the person with autism as well as the family who cares for them and loves them. I am so thankful that the knowledge that autism is not just a brain problem but a whole body system problem is becoming more widespread. Physical illness in our kids must be considered just as it would be for any neurotypical child that is in distress. This gives hope for the huge and growing community that is affected by autism.

 

Providence after all

You might have noticed the address for this blog is providence55.  I didn’t think this sounded lyrical enough to be the title, and so I called this blog ‘the view from Kembleford”….but I have changed my mind.

Providence means a lot to me.  It is the place where we have received so much help for my boy….it is the name of my grandmother, which I love….and most of all, this word speaks to me of God’s overseeing care of my life.  He perfects all that concerns me.

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Somewhere in scripture it says that God ultimately is the one who chooses the area/country/city you live in. I can believe that is true.  I had no thought of this when we moved to the town that has been home for many years now.  As time has gone by I can definitely see the tracings of His hand in where we ended up.   We are not far from the city of Providence,  in my beloved New England.   And I know I can say with surety, we are never far from His Providence and care.  More and more He is melting my heart with deeper gratitude for all He provides, despite difficulties that have come up.  It’s alright.  I know this more and more.  Despite what my eyes see and my heart feels sometimes, Jesus is helping me to experience His peace that really does pass understanding.  The word and the name of Providence is dear to me and I pray His protection over all He has done.

Thanks to Toby Mac for this graphic.  His song Move has been a huge encouragement in my life.  Here’s a listen if you’re interested and would like some motivation today!

Not Neurotic….Just Never Giving Up

Torn between wanting to write, and binge watching Parenthood on Netflix….

My youngest son has autism.  To say this has been life changing would be an understatement.  When my daughter introduced me to the television series Parenthood, it was about to begin its fourth season.  It had been recommended to me by a few people before then, because of the storyline about Max Braverman, a character who has asperger’s syndrome.  This part was perfectly performed by a young actor named Max Burkholder. I am sure both Max-es have a permanent special place in the hearts of many thousands of families.

At the time my son was 9 years old, and for the previous 2 years his difficulties had been increasing.  He would become violent at times, and it culminated one morning with him jumping out of the car while I was on the highway with him.  This was not something I ever thought he would do!  It never occurred to me that he would try this.

On this particular, eventful morning, my son had begun attending a specialized autism school (after having been basically kicked out of our local public school because they could not deal with his behaviors…understandably so)  and was about to complete a 45 day evaluation period.  On the day of the final meeting for the evaluation results, I was driving on a city highway, on the way to an appointment with yet another doctor.  My boy had fallen asleep in the back seat, and I had gotten lost.  When he woke up he was not happy to find us still driving around after over an hour on the road and he became more and more agitated.

Thankfully the traffic was slow moving,  bumper to bumper and we were beside a grassy area when he decided to make a run for it and jumped out into the grass.  As Mrs. McCarthy would say, “You can thank the Holy Angels” that he jumped onto the shoulder instead of the other direction, into the traffic!!!   I threw the car into park and ran to try to catch him.  Someone passing by must have alerted the police because they arrived quickly. By that time I had him back in the car but he was venting his pent up rage and pain on me.  As I held him and tried to calm him down, I was crying as much as he was.
This led to him being admitted for the first time to a children’s psychiatric care hospital. I had never been separated from my boy until then.  Though he had been through several hospital stays, I had always been able to be with him until he’d be home again.  I will never forget how he looked at me when I had to hug him and walk away, knowing he would not be home for awhile.  I have no way to know how much he understood of what was happening.

During the days home alone, I began watching Parenthood.  I think I watched 3 seasons in about a week or so.   Over and over again I would have to hit the pause button so I could cry.  Most every episode had me sobbing.  I could relate so much to everything and I loved the characters.   Of course I identified with Kristina Braverman most of all.  As the mother of Max, she was an untiring warrior on behalf of her son.

It surprised me when I read an opinion of someone online, that described  Kristina as neurotic.  I had never looked at her that way.  Which made me also look at myself……was I neurotic?  I thought I was just careful and persistent and protective.  Since my boy is very low verbal, I have made it my job to explain him to the world.  To be his advocate and protector.   Now that he is older and his aggressive episodes still happen, he lives at school most of the time. What a huge adjustment this has been.  I am sure I drove the house staff a little crazy during those first couple of months.    Letting go and having to trust other people to look after my boy has been extremely painful and difficult at times.  One of my older children suggested we describe his situation as being like Harry Potter living at school during the year.  Since he likes HP this has worked pretty well.

All of this to say……I didn’t know Kristina was neurotic.  To me she is simply a Hero Mom.  Here’s to all of us Hero Moms and Dads and siblings and caregivers who really truly love these precious people with autism (or any other mental and physical challenge).  If someone ever said I was like Kristina I would take it as a great compliment!!!

download (2)Teaching Max to dance.

The View From Kembleford

So how does one begin a blog?  Is there need for long explanatory paragraphs to introduce yourself?  I think I’ll just begin.

I live in a small New England town. As fall is fast approaching I find myself really appreciating this place in a new way. I’ve been here for almost 3 decades now, the longest I’ve ever lived in one place. It feels like home.

Being a fan of Father Brown, I’ve begun to think of this little town as my own version of Kembleford.  We even have our own St. Mary’s!  🙂  And to be honest, our priest, though he is still a young man, reminds me very much of Father Brown which I think is high praise.

The stage of life I have recently entered ….. adult children moving away…has made me reassess my life on a lot of levels.  They all grew up in this town, and moving away has for them been great adventure.  I was the opposite…moved a lot as a child and teenager and did not really stay anywhere until my first child was born.  I appreciate so much the feeling at home-ness that staying put can bring.  And though the years here have been far from perfect, and there are a lot of painful memories, there are also many, many good ones.

For those of you who are fellow New-Englanders (and even if you’re not!) you will appreciate the artist and author Susan Branch, who lives on Martha’s Vineyard. I only discovered her 3 years ago or so, and I love her take on the beauty of daily life.  She was a transplant from California who bought a little house on the Vineyard….”by accident” as she describes in her book “Martha’s Vineyard~Isle of Dreams.”    Isle of Dreams

I am currently on my third reading of it and it never fails to inspire me.

One aspect of the book that really speaks to me at this time in my life, is Susan’s description of her alone-ness on the island as she built a new life for herself.  I spent the past 20 plus years surrounded by family, and now I am often alone.  Though my nest is not completely empty, which I am very thankful for….it frequently feels too empty and too quiet.  Many women find themselves thrilled by all of their new found free time but for me so far it’s been a challenge to say the least.  A lot of tears, but at the same time I am proud of all of my kids and thankful they are independent and hard working.  In my sad moments though I am especially glad to have discovered Susan Branch’s book and I find myself looking through it sometimes, just leafing through my favorite parts without even necessarily reading them.  There are lots of photos and illustrations, and it is hand written which is one of Branch’s trademarks.  It feels comforting and like a friend. I have read it here at home, in hospital rooms, carried it with me in my car….I just love it.

During this most recent read through, I find I am connecting with my house in a new and unexpected way.  I am almost imbuing it with a personality.   Every house has its own personality, any decorator or true homebody will tell you.   But what I mean is I am beginning to think of this house like a friend. I have never had this experience before.   I suppose it could be a new and different form of gratitude.   It makes me feel sorry for the many times I complained about this place over the years…being over 100 years old there have naturally been a lot of repairs needed, and we still have some renovations to do.  I had wondered if I’d even want to live here once my children had all moved out.  Now I know I do want to stay. There’s so much of my own personal history here in this little house and in this town I love.

All of this leads me back to the title of this post and the name of my blog…..The View From Kembleford.  I am thankful to live in New England, thankful to be in a little ‘house of my own, out of the wind’s and the rain’s way.’  Thankful to have a dog and a cat to care for, and to greet me when I come home from work or wherever.  Thankful for the woods and rivers nearby, church steeples and church bells and falling leaves.  Even though my life has changed in some huge ways, most of which I did not want or plan for, I still have so much to be honestly grateful for.  Thank You God.  🙂  I love my own little Kembleford.  I hope as I get older I’ll be as spunky as Mrs. McCarthy and as gracious as Lady Felicia.  And I’ll always be thankful for the real Father Browns of this world.

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