Sunday, December 26, 2010

Yes Noah There is a Santa Claus

It is easier to dismiss the idea of magic, than it is to believe in something you don’t see or haven’t experienced, when you are an adult. Noah was questioning whether Santa was real this year, I don't know if it was because he had some difficulty more recently, or because I told him christmas was going to be light.

When you are child, believing in magic of course is much easier, and not believing it in would feel foreign and wrong. Something happens to us along the way which flips these two ideas-the one which believes with the one marked with cynicism.

Life happens to us, as we live we lose. We lose people who mean the world to us, we lose jobs, pets, friends, and sometimes we lose our homes, our sanity and even our way. The loss of things that mean more than a misplaced toy, slowly affects our inner-workings. We still believe, but our prayers go unanswered much more often than they did before.

At some point we get to a cross roads where we can take one path or another. We can choose to believe in good, in magic and in life. Or we can choose to dismiss those things, value them as unimportant and embrace bitterness. My husband took one road, and I have been on the one which believes in magic, even though countless things have happened to me which should kill that. However, there has been magic too, like blowing a tire on 95 in the middle of the night and being picked up by nice people who drive you home, and like what happened to us this Christmas.

Most of us Have Been Dealt a Bad Hand from One Time or Another.

Sometimes the hand is temporary, and the next round is better. We only wind up a bit behind, maybe we still break even at the end of the game, or only take a minor loss. And with that loss, we at least gain some wisdom.

Other times the hand we are dealt is not the type we can recover from so easily. Not without the help of others, and not without a little magic.

The idea of Santa Claus when you are a child fills you with hope, excitement and can make you a bit nervous. Santa is judging you after all, but it didn’t feel harsh, cruel or in the ways people judge each other later in life. Santa still accepted that even if you were flawed, you were still worthy, and loved for trying.

As you grow older you then can find yourself feeling as if magic is dead, it never existed, and it was just a lie. Cynicism takes hold, yet somewhere within me, I refuse to accept it.

We had some bad luck about 6 years ago, just before Noah was diagnosed. I will give what I call the Reader’s Digest version.

We are a good example of people who did things right, made good choices. We saved money to buy the current home we are living in, and bought something a bit smaller to not have to take on a huge mortgage when a smaller house would be just fine for awhile. While selling our former home laws changes regarding underground oil storage tanks, and it took some 2 years to get the house sold. During this time we had 2 sets of taxes, mortgage payments, water bills and though we lived conservatively, we could not afford 2 homes. And it wasn’t as if we could sell the new one and move back into the old, it had an “environmental problem” now, and was deemed uninhabitable. So there was inevitable debt, plus testing and clean up costs for the soil. This wound up costing close to just over 75,000 dollars. Then Noah was diagnosed with autism, just after the house was sold. The costs of Autism ran up another 40,000 over the past five years.

We still live frugally; we do all the things suggested to save money. No landline phone, cheap cable, thrifty shopping, and no extras. We do not buy new coats or shoes every year. We do not go shopping for fun stuff; we do not go out to eat. And for seven years, never took a vacation. During Noah’s treatments it was not possible for me to go back to work fulltime, it still isn’t because there is no one who can handle him in between. When he was getting therapy it had to be done here, for 40 hours a week, with multiple therapists. But I digress, I wrote all about that in a book.

We both work as much as possible, but it isn’t enough to keep up with the $1,000 of debt bills we have in addition to regular bills each month, but it helps. If not for our frugality, things would be worse and we would have lost our home years ago. So even though it is this way, I am grateful it isn’t any worse, and I have always believed deep down, since we didn’t ask for or create any of this. One day, the universe will balance, and it will be ok. One day, there will be such prosperity it will give new meaning to our suffrage. I have always cared about others, but it will force me to never forget…when I am wicked famous :)

The economy has been a problem for many people the past few years, at first for us it wasn’t that much different. We were already living the way other people now had to. Of course with no raise from my husband’s job for over 2 years, but higher costs for everything, healthcare, tolls, taxes ect. We now had less money, for an already stretched out budget. We skip meals, we are sometimes cold, but I have also found that you can adapt to a lower thermostat and make it a personal goal to push it a bit lower each year. Christmas has always been small for us; we give to others, but not ourselves.

A Child Shivers in the Cold, Let us Bring him Silver and Gold.

This year, a miracle happened. I decided to look into getting food from our town’s food bank. Hoping this will help shave something off of the food bill. I figured there wouldn’t be too much for Noah’s diet and particular aversions. But something is better than nothing. Somehow this outreach for help led to help.

A former school mate, and now current council member of our town decided to do something about it. His wife and he did a toy drive, they collected gift cards, cash, boxes of gluten free/dairy free food and reached out to two members of the Maple Shade Business association who are Santa and Mrs. Claus ever year.

These two people have been adopting a local family every year for the past 12 or 13 years, it is their gift to each other. They deliver gifts, and bring food. This year, it was our family they shared Christmas morning with. This also led to another old friend donating a tree to us, and some elves who know Noah’s occupational therapist donating some food gift cards. Another writer from one of the websites I write for is sending a $100 to us after I mentioned part of this story in our forum, not because I was asking for help. But because I was remarking how wonderful people can be, and they are as good as they are nasty.

Noah woke up earlier than expected on Christmas morning as children can do, and found nothing new under the tree. “My sock is empty.” he said, and noticed Santa’s coconut milk and cookies were still uneaten. He didn’t cry, or get upset-though I think the Farmville gift card in his stocking from me took the sting out. He just said he would go on Farmville and open his presents!

About twenty minutes later, Santa and Mrs. Claus knocked on the front door, and with them brought cookies and gluten free dairy free donuts for Noah, as well as two huge contractor bags of wrapped presents.

“ Wow Santa you were busy at your workshop”

Noah was extremely happy and excited to tear through gift after gift, even was excited to open up box which held an Eagles sweatshirt and wind breaker.

“Oo a sweat shirt!”

They had a big wheel! Something we wanted to get for him for some time. Legos, playdough, games. Noah is a big toystory fan, and someone even got him the Andy's toys gift pack, I couldn't afford to buy this year because I missed the black friday sale at Target. I cried when he opened these gifts.
They even had a few gifts for my husband and I. His heart did indeed grow "three times this day." My favorite was an ornament of a stocking with one small powerful word on it. Believe.

On Christmas Eve, our new best friend dropped off a ham, card and small box to us to be opened after Noah went to bed. We opened this, and it was full of gift cards. So many we had to keep reaching in the box and more and more came out. What we received from the good people of Maple Shade was more than what was in the many boxes. Hope, love and belief were the best presents of all. I am always overjoyed when I see people helping people, it gets me every time. I just never knew it would happen to me one day.

Gift cards and presents = about 60 items
money, gift cards, food, presents for Noah given = about $3,000
Hope, faith restored and love= Priceless

It isn't as if this will wipe away all of the debt by magic- it certainly helps, and this Christmas was the best ever. It absolutely has made me believe this is the beginning to it getting better. All of this generosity warmed us so much inside; I didn't feel cold in the 62 degree house. And now some extra money means I can crank that heater up to a steamy 65 least for the next few days. There is enough food, and food gift cards to last us until February at least.

I know Santa is real, he was in my living room! Twice, but only one of them had a beard. Santa is as real as love is real, and magic is real, for it took a bit of it and some luck for this to happen. When people come together like this, it is amazing. I have loved Maple Shade my whole life, people often joke about how you can't leave it, if you do, you come back. This is one of the reasons why. Local businesses helped too, they donated, and one night this week Joe and I will enjoy a nice dinner out, thanks to Charlie Browns.

Thank you good people of Maple Shade and elsewehere you helped our family this magical Christmas.

Yes, Noah there is a Santa Claus.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Ready, Set, Holidays!

The holiday season has begun. Haul out the headache medicine, do the plastic shuffle and try to not go insane. You will need your mind when it is all over. Personally I love the holidays. I love the lights, the music, the movies, the special foods! My favorite aspect though is being able to laugh and exchange ideas and just have fun with friends. I have been fortunate where I have had some wonderful memories with terrific people over the years.

From Halloween through New Years there are so many different tastes, sights and smells to enjoy. Parties or activities to attend or tend to, and people to share your time with. It is a season of good stress, but stress all the same. Here are a few tips I use, which helps me look forward to the holidays every year.

My Top Holiday Survival Tools.

Be Prepared. Wrapping paper, check, Gift tags, check. Tape, check. Scissors??? Where the heck are the scissors! I discovered after many misplacements of my scissors to just buy an extra pair and keep them with all the other gift wrapping supplies. Try to get these types of items at the end of the season, pack them all together-maybe in a red and green tub, so it's all there for you. Stock up on batteries, and don't forget the sensory tools for your special child who will sense every bit of your stress.

The House to Yourself. You need to be able to have the house to yourself for a few hours, a couple of times during the holiday season. Not only to get things done, but to decompress. Send the kids (and maybe even the husband) off to the grandparents, your sisters, your brother, best friend’s house …somewhere they will have fun for a few hours. This also makes a great gift.

A Money Plan. No one wants to go into debt. But you do want to have funds to buy extra food, and even making gifts costs money. The best scenario is to save money-even if it is your extra change, in a jar or Christmas club account throughout the year so you have extra cash. There are also pay-to-read email companies, shopping websites where you earn points or money for reading their ads, and shopping on their site. You can save your earnings all year and cash them out in November as money or gift cards. Spending just 30 minutes to an hour a week on this can add up to an extra 200.00 in your pocket at the end of the year.

Credit for credit, not just using it as a convenience and paying it off in the month is fine if you have a plan. If you shop well, you will get some amazing deals, and if it means having a holiday over no holiday just factor in your comfort zone on interest. I normally match my savings as long as I can pay it back in 3 months. This yields two months of interest, which sometimes only adds up to an extra 40 dollars or so, with great deals-I am still a head.

Wine and Whining. You need to vent. Let it out. Call your best friend, swap horror stories and let it go. Wine is also a welcome addition to the end of your day. One glass of wine not only helps you relax, it gives you antioxidants and is good for your blood. Several glasses of wine will just give you a headache and unnecessary calories, so if you can practice moderation then add a bottle to your shopping list.

Christmas Music and Movies. When the “shitter is full”. Nothing works better than watching the Griswold’s with their Christmas adventures in Christmas Vacation. Watching Christmas movies while wrapping or listening to music- or if you are Noah, both; adds that holiday feeling and some humor.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Think you Can Cure your Child’s Autism? Sure Why Not. - Newark Autism & Parenting |

Think you Can Cure your Child’s Autism? Sure Why Not. - Newark Autism & Parenting

The crashes worked!!

I am pleased to report that doing crashes and moving shower time has helped with the anxiety and wind-down again. So on the shopping list is lavender airwick refills, lavender soap and lotion, and foam soap. All of these work for calming anxiety in Noah.

Noah is awake longer than I would like, because I would like to have a normal bedtime. However, I suppose having to stay up a bit later and watch some late night TV isn’t the worst thing in the world. (That is being smacked and screamed at by the autism-monster). If only I could train my body to make the morning adjustment and sleep later, but know I wake up between 5:30-6:15 every day.

Ah..a sigh of relief…for now.

One thing I can say for certain, Noah when not the autism-monster, is the most polite and obedient child. Because of that, it becomes obvious when he is not in control, he is just not himself. Behavior is always a symptom of something, the test is finding out what it is.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

No Rest for the Wicked

It was ten days before Christmas and all through the house all of the creatures were stirring because Noah was restless again.

Noah has had sleep issues on and off for…well since birth. We did get it under-control this time last year after taking melatonin for a few months and being fortunate enough to take our first vacation. He was staying awake until midnight or later most nights, but once we started the melatonin he was going to sleep by 10 most nights. Since the clocks went back, it’s been a growing battle. Now the mornings are back to the joyous times of the past where he battles me about going to school, or wants me to build him a time machine.

I get the time machine request. He isn’t the only person I know who wishes to have more time, or wants to go back in time to make changes. Perhaps if he listened to me the evening before and went to sleep when requested, he would have woken at the normal time. But it isn’t all his fault. His body is wound up and restless. I get it since I had restless leg syndrome during my pregnancy-which is this creepy feeling in your legs where they want to run but are too tired to do so. Except it’s not just his legs, it is probably his whole body.

I have considered doing the melatonin again, but I know more occupational therapy is a better fit. Unfortunately his current OT can only work with him in school, and though she is practically magical, she is very pregnant and can’t toss him around like she normally does. I have no doubt she does the most she can with him. I have done occupational therapy with him over the years; however I am not as magical in that way. I also have limited time and energy because of necessity of work, which occupies just about every Noah-free-minute I have.

It is an annoying circle. Insurance doesn’t cover autism therapies, so you have to rely on the school or pay for it yourself. But to pay for it means you need more money. But if you already don’t have enough you need more work to pay for it. Yet there are only so many hours in the day, and if you burn yourself out trying to make the money. Then what is the point if you’re dead before your time or now in need of therapy yourself?
                                                 Ah Summer...and Beach Success!

Regardless of the trials, I know the only thing I can do is keep moving forward. Staying positive is all you have sometimes, and being persistent is more important to finding success then most other things in this world. You have to figure for everyone who succeeds, someone else had to fail. This is why I keep going, one day it will be our turn, and we will be the ones who are fortunate and successful and it will be our jobs to help those who aren’t as fortunate yet.

But for now, I suppose I will give him a few more crashes and tickles, and some melatonin.

When Noah is restless he likes to get into things, line them up and crumble playdough...or paint the dogs, floors and what-not with glitter glue.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Where Does the Time Go?

Writing in my blog hasn’t occurred much recently at all. All of my time for writing has been spent on making money due to the necessity of having it for those pesky things like the electric bill and groceries. Still, the blog is more enjoyable, and like many writers, I hope it will one day bring in some funds so I can justify writing in it. Or I hope to at least win the lottery so I can write more.

I am a HUGE believer in doing what you love, following your natural talents and abilities and not selling yourself out or short. I live this and I am hopeful one day I will also reap the financial benefits, or at least make things even from some bad luck from the past.  I am grateful I am determined, unshakable, and keep persevering despite the length of this journey.

I believe a person who has interests that drive them-has to do this, because there is no real choice if they want to be successful and fulfilled.  If you don’t have many interests and just wish to make money to survive this is something else, life isn’t just work. But I believe most people have abilities and gifts they should share as opposed to squander.  A career takes up most of a person’s time, where a job can vary.

Time is a valuable resource in which we cannot replenish or buy, no matter what we do; it just has to be spent wisely. So here's to spending my time as wise as possible and working smarter, not harder. I need to divide some of my time for this blog and other non-income generating things which can one day lead to more income. Perhaps 25 percent of my allotted time is a fair amount.
I also have to spend more time promoting my book until I get an agent who will do that for me. So here is a link to my fan page on Facebook.