Grace for Another Year

My oldest son turns 17 today. I've never been one of those blogger moms who has a post ready to go on each child's birthday every year, but I've managed to write a couple here and there. Also, I'm more inclined to protect their privacy these days, so I try to write more about myself than about them.

I was 22 when Sam was born. That's only five years older than he is now. This blows my mind. Who decided that was a good idea? John and I certainly didn't plan on having a baby when we were so young, but I guess Sam's maker had a plan for when he first entered the scene.

When you're a kid you have this idea that all the grownups in your life know exactly what they're doing. Like when they turned 18, someone gave them a certificate and a manual and they were all set. Like there's a grand list in their pockets that tells them everything that's expected of them from the younger people in their lives. Like there's some magic diary with the answer to all of life's mysteries, and all the adults in the world have a key.

But when I turned 18, all I got was a cookie cake and a surprise party in my dorm room.

Three years and 27 days later, I walked down the aisle and promised to spend the rest of my life with just one man. Again, who dreams up these crazy plans? Who actually has the hope (or the idiocy) to believe that they will work?

Thankfully, in my case, it has. So far anyway. But that doesn't mean we haven't had some casualties along the way. Doesn't everyone?

When I got pregnant with Sam, there was only one book parents were talking about: What to Expect When You're Expecting. I guess I read about a chapter a month for nine months, paying special attention to the chapters on birth and delivery. When Sam was born, someone bought us the sequel: What to Expect the First Year. I treated it more like a guide book than a prescription. That's how things were before Social Media. There were not so many camps to choose from, and the members of those camps had a lot more grace for those outside their fences. I shudder at the idea of being a new mom in the digital age. Bless all of you who are doing it now.

When Sam was three, he taught himself to read. Yes, you read that right. He watched a lot of Sesame Street back then and one day he realized that all the letters he knew made sounds, so he started asking me what those sounds were. After a couple of weeks, he had all the letters and sounds memorized, and not long after that, he started putting the sounds together when he saw their corresponding letters on the page.

We'd known Sam was not your ordinary child before that, but this gave us something concrete. This kid was a genius. (Aha!) Just look what we created! (Wow-wee!) Isn't he so awesome? (Brag, brag) We must be pretty cool, too. (Let's pat ourselves on the back, shall we?)

Sam has continued to excel in intellectual and academic arenas ever since, but socially and emotionally, he's had some struggles. We took him to various experts when he was younger. We asked all the questions we knew to ask. They tested him in all the areas they knew to test, but the answers we got were inconclusive. We were about five years ahead of the non-textbook definition of Asperger's syndrome. People told us Sam was close, but not enough that we needed to label him.

Ten years later, we wish we would have known more. We wish we could have gotten more help. We wish we would have learned how to protect him, and how to educate all the people who would be in his life, so they couldn't hurt him in all the ways he's been hurt. So we wouldn't be responsible for hurting him as well.

But there's no way to change the past, and whenever I obsess about it, I stop moving forward. You do the best you can do. That's all anyone is able to do. Really. I promise. (I'm reminding myself here, too).

Sam passed his driver's test a few weeks ago, so I've been adjusting to watching him back out of the driveway all by himself. Then I go in the kitchen and stand by my phone until I get the "made it here safe" text. There's only one more year of high school left for this guy, and perhaps it will be his last year living at home as well. I hope he won't be driving away that soon, but I can't predict or control the future. None of us can; no matter how hard we try. Turns out bad habits are still hard to break, but this year I'd like to replace worry with prayer. Here's one for today:

Lord, please bless and keep my son, Sam. Be gracious to him. Jesus, turn your shining face toward Sam and give him peace. And maybe one day Sam will share some of that peace with me, too. That would be a special kind of grace, Father. You know how much we both need it. Thanks for all the grace you've given so far. May your precious love cover the many mistakes we've made along the way. 

We love you so much, Sam. Keep to the old roads. You'll find your way. 


Two Out of Three Ain't Bad

I haven't posted much lately because my writing efforts have been focused elsewhere. The good news is that this effort has paid off in other ways, the first of which is pretty exciting. A story that I wrote is now published in this book of essays. This is my first time to be published in print, like with ink, and real paper, so I'm kinda pumped. It's also a privilege to be part of a book with these writer friends that I've looked up to for so long. I haven't got my copy yet, but you can buy one here if you want. I'm in Volume Four.

The second thing I wanted to point your attention to is this little website. I've been editing it with a friend for a year now, and we've garnered a bit of a following. If you're interested in reading what I've posted there, you can follow this link. I'm proud of this site, and I think the work I've put in helping other writers has made me a better one myself.

The last bit of news is not so good. In January I applied for grad school at UT. The application process was no small task. I had to take the GRE, and submit two lengthy writing samples, one of which required me to do research. Ugh. It was difficult. I also had to get three friends to recommend me for the program. It was a two year degree, a Master in Fine Arts, but it looks like I won't be getting that after all. This morning I got an email saying my admission was denied. Rejection. It hurts, I won't lie. But hopefully this will motivate me to get back to work on my book.

The truth is I don't really need the degree. I wasn't looking to be a teacher or go on to get a PHD. I just wanted an academic setting that would force me to work on my writing. I was hoping that getting regular feedback from teachers would improve my writing as well. And I wanted the chance to do college again, without the distraction of looking for love and happily ever after. But no one needs any of that to write a book. I've already got everything I need to do that. I just have to make myself do it. I'm tempted to say it's no small task either, but when I think about it, that's exactly what it is. It's just a whole bunch of them, strung together, day after day, until the big job is done. 

I hope to tell you all about it when that happens, and I hope it happens soon. Thanks for cheering me on. 


Update on November

I set some goals for myself this month, but apparently I don't do too well under pressure. The day after I posted about exercising and writing more this month, I fell into a deep funk. I kept up with the exercising for about two weeks, but I didn't write anything else during that time. It's worth noting that I was scheduled to take the GRE and needed to put some of my energy toward studying. Maybe that's why I wasn't able to focus on writing. I'm not sure what happened.

The good news is that the GRE is behind me now. I got a 156 for my verbal score. I was hoping for a 160, but I'll settle for this. It's 5 points higher than the practice test I took online at the beginning of September. Now all that's left to do is get my writing samples ready to submit and complete the online application process. The deadline for UT is Jan. 15th, and I think I'm on track to finish in time. Yay, me!

The day before I took the test, I went to see my doctor. I told her that I felt like my monthly PMDD struggles were starting sooner, lasting longer, and proving harder to bounce back from in the past year. She suggested I start taking an antidepressant again. I took her advice. I was tired of losing days. We only get so many of those, you know. I don't want to not be able to function for three days every month (sometimes it's more). I don't want to keep feeling ashamed of being sad when I have no legitimate reason for being sad. I don't want to feel so sad and angry and tired all the time. My kids deserve better. My husband deserves better. I do, too.

Depression doesn't let you see that when you're in the midst of it. It convinces you that you're broken and it's your own fault. That's not true. I'm really trying to adopt this new language and educate myself about how this is a medical condition that I need to take seriously. I don't want to become another statistic. If I was diagnosed with some other chronic illness, would I be embarrassed to talk about my treatment? I don't think so. I want to do what I can to erase the stigma that exists around these issues.

It's not a lack of faith or some unconfessed sin that makes my brain crazy sometimes. It's an actual chemical imbalance. I'm more sensitive to hormonal changes than most people. I'm more sensitive about a lot of things. That's part of the reason I'm a writer. I can't change that, and I don't want to. But I also don't want to hide anymore. Taking medicine is not like some magic happy pill. I know because I've been on it before. It doesn't automatically turn you into a different person. That's not how it works. It just takes the edge off my feelings and helps them to be less intense. That's what I need right now. I hope that if you're feeling overwhelmed by your emotions, you'll seek out the thing that helps you, too.

Last week I posted a poem where I basically confessed to having been suicidal before. I've never come up with an actual plan, but I've gotten close enough to know how it happens to people. I want to be an advocate for those of us with this kind of pain. If you're a reader who's been there too, please let me know if there's any way I can help you find some relief. You can find me here on FB.

As always, thanks for reading. Cheers and sunshine, people. Drink them in.