Being Jewish Makes Me So Happy

I love being Jewish….

There, I’ve put it out there.

But really it’s true.  And it’s so true that I really feel deep inside that I have to embrace my Jewish life ever closer to me.  I hate that I fell away, that I am so far away from it.  I want to be closer and while I still feel so embraced by Gd, I still feel that my foot is still on those first few rungs of the ladder.  My very own Jacob’s ladder.

But it’s still on there.  And I know I’ll climb up it again simply because of sheer will and determination.  I just feel that fire inside and as I grow ever closer to my return.

I really don’t even know that my return will ever be complete but I know that it’s a road I never want to stop following.

And Baruch HaShem, it’s one I never have to STOP following.

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Rosh HaShanah: Pride

I am so afraid of new situations.  It’s not new to me.  I guess I always have been my entire life.  I remember hiding behind curtains when I’d have to meet someone new when I was a very little girl.  I made my mom take me to the first day of school until my sophomore year in college for fear of things like the school bus stop, the school bus itself and walking into the building for the first time, roommates and just new things.  I actually became anorexic when I was interviewing for becoming an exchange student during my sophomore year, nearly killing myself with anxiety on top of the hell and horrors that went on in my house.

This fear continued on into college and still continues.  I would get sick on the first day of a new job or a new experience like joining a new club or group even though it was something I wanted to do.

It’s just always been this way.

And now that I have other more serious phobias, my social phobia has turned into full-blown agoraphobia, although very specialized and very defined.  It’s very, very real.

Last night was the evening service for the first night of Rosh HaShanah and I decided we would go.  I told Scott not to listen to any excuse I made short of a cerebral haemorrhage and me in the ER.

Scott has to work today and I also figured it was dark (it’s easier for me to do something in the dark) and we had every little step planned out.

We planned getting there REALLY early so we’d have a parking spot in the parking lot.  I’d wear clothes I was comfortable in and we would be hyper prepared.  I even called the temple early in the morning to just scope out the parking since it was what was really stressing me out.

I was ready.

I made a really festive dinner.  Cooking calms me so I made roasted curry chicken with apples, wild rice pilaf with apples, sweet and sticky green beans and apple cake along with gala apples and honey.  It helped because it turned out absolutely perfect, delicious and right on time.

Scott and Evan looked fantastic.  I was in a skirt that I felt good in, a sweater and a pashmina shawl.  I felt good.

Of course we forgot our tickets but we got them and still arrived in time to snag a space in the parking lot.  We backed in.  I took a klonopin so I’d be really calm and okay.

And it all worked out better than I could have hoped.

I cried throughout parts of the service as I felt Gd welcoming me and His love wrapping around me and the angels, Michael, Gabriel (especially), Uriel and Rafael surrounding me to keep me safe and there.

Scott was beside of me and I felt him there as I leaned against him.  It wasn’t overly crowded and people didn’t really bother me although the gentleman in front of us wished us a “happy new year.”  I replied “Shana Tova” and he smiled at me.

I thought the organ and choir would bother me as I tend to be more traditional but it was really, really nice and I loved it.  I felt at home.  The rabbi felt perfect for me.

Next week for Yom Kippur I am ready to go back.

I wish we could go Saturday for services but I know it’s all baby steps and that going for Kol Nidre and the next day may be more than my weak neshamale could handle and I don’t want to tank myself before I am ready even though I feel enthusiasm.

I am happy and I feel good.  I am proud of myself.

I did it.  And IT was huge for me.

Today

Today is a day where I feel really good and am getting a lot accomplished.  So far:

  • I have slept until 6:00AM (not a small feat at all given MY track record of being up at 4am which, to be honest, I kind of felt cheated out of when I lost some of my “quiet time)
  • Done a load of dishes (the kitchen threw up on itself this weekend…I didn’t feel good Saturday or yesterday so there was a LOT of catchup since I forbid Scott to do them)
  • I vacuumed the living room AND the dining room
  • I got the trash together for The Boy to remove
  • I watched countless episodes of Say Yes To The Dress and cleaned up the DVR
  • I combed my hair
  • I watched Morning Express a gazillion times
  • I read an article about the Israeli offensive, “Protective Edge”
  • I read an article about the migrant crisis down south
  • I took my meds on time
  • I dusted the living room, straightened up my “nest” area and have two sleeping dogs to show for it
  • I made french toast
  • I have eaten 5 slices of provolone cheese
  • I drank two steaming mugs of tea and learned there is a HUGE difference between Yorkshire Gold and your top shelf store bought US variety (sadly)
  • I watched a preview for “Tammy”
  • I washed my bear, Edward’s, hair after a BAD cedarwood essential oil mishap
  • I ordered Evan a new ACCESS card (don’t even ask…his was thrown away)
  • I listed to Evan tell the dogs a story before he left with his “colleague” (read: aide)
  • I watched the rain
  • I checked out how my shamrock plants are doing

Not bad for 11:30 AM huh?

Life As A Headcase: Frustration

I love to use websites for inspiration for my writing, especially when I can’t seem to come up with anything I think is worth writing.  My favorite site is Thoughts From The Blue Notebook and today’s topic deals with frustration.  Which…I guess is a good topic for me because Frustration is a great friend of mine.

Back that one up, maybe not a great FRIEND but due to my physical issues, it is a constant companion.

Frustration comes to visit right along with the Darks.  I feel down and I get frustrated because it makes me feel inadequate, lazy and whiny.  I am afraid I am getting a reputation as a hypochondriac because I have so many things on my health plate.  I get myoclonic seizures which annoy the hell out of me.  Imagine having your reflexes tested non stop for minutes or even hours!  And there’s nothing I can do to stop it except take medication that I often run out of if I have a particularly bad month.

Frustration is there beside of me.

I want to take my son to the book store, have a mocha latte and read a magazine on home remodeling.  I can’t because I have seizures and my license has been gone since September.  I am optimistic though that I’ll get it back but Mr. Frustration mocks me now.  And the time drags.

I think time and Mr. Frustration are close, personal friends…or just in on this together.

I’m content and happy with my life but I have this part of me that longs for the
magical recreation of those happy moments in my life.  It’s like this part of me whom I call The Little Dreamer Girl wants to collect all the happy she can so we can just fall into it and roll around naked.  (Okay TMI, I know but that’s what it’s like).

And very often this quest to bring me baskets of happy blows up in her tear stained face because like a cat bringing home a dead rabbit, only to make it’s owner happy, other people don’t really understand what she’s all about.  Hell, I hardly understand all these parts of me.  How can I expect anyone else to get it.  And when they don’t get it, how can I even explain that it’s not ME doing this.  It’s Little Dreamer Girl and I really have a hard time stopping her from gathering those happy things and bringing them home.

Frustration holds her hand I think and I wish she’d quit going off with him.

Frustration digs deep into my soul, what little I have left, when old friends won’t talk to me anymore.  When people I thought would be there forever don’t want anything to do with me.  And especially when they stop by and say hi never to return. Frustration exacts his revenge and takes his pound of my flesh and blood, and mind, and runs, cackling into the darkness.

Frustration is a contant in my life.  Not MY constant (ala LOST) but constant enough that I am not surprised anymore when I feel his presence.  I just try to remind myself that Frustration comes and goes, although at his own whim.  I never know when he’ll show up or even when he’ll go.

He knows of my neshamale’s (Little Soul in Hebrew) deep connection to Israel and Jerusalem and he sits by the sidelines taunting me, enveloping me in sadness and homesickness, and making sure I know it will never be in my grasp again. He plays with my life like tinker toys.  Some days he let’s me be built up and other’s he pulls me apart.  His exaltation comes when there is absolutely nothing I can do, when I feel completely overwhelmed, powerless and empty.

But that’s how Frustration is.  And sadly, I have to learn, somehow, to live with him.  He will always be there and somehow I have to find a safe place and never let him win.

Fireside Chat With The Autism Mom: Life After the Autism Waiver

My son, Evan, is 21.  We were out of the country immediately after his graduation from high school which was an incredible experience.  I have to tell you, Israel is DA BOMB for autism services.  There are services for babies, little kids, big kids and adults.

TONS OF SERVICES!

So many services that they apologize to you for not being able to get your kid into a group home (if they so choose) for 6 months to a year.

SERIOUSLY???

In the US, you’re lucky to have a multi-year wait much less the blink of an eye that is a year. We really appreciated the services there but…all good things much come to an end and we returned last March for various reasons.

I got Evan back into therapy again at the John Merck Center here in Pittsburgh that specializes in autism spectrum disorders and their treatment.  Then I got him back with his case management service that helps provide various services he needs.  Unfortunately, the state cannot provide adequate services to everyone who needs them.

You know the drill…there are other children more severe than your child, yada yada yada.  So we got limited funding which would get him a community aide for a few hours a week and at least get him out of the house and into the community. This was especially important since I was having seizures (and still am) and lost my license last September.  We live in a pretty happening area but you need wheels to MAKE it happen.  It’s kind of disappointing to me to miss out on it all (although since I am agoraphobic it’s really not as bad as I make it sound – I’m all “big dog on the porch” though, to talk about it!)

Evan feels so isolated because in Israel we were in Jerusalem and it was like paradise. He figured out the bus system and with his monthly bus card, he could go anywhere the buses or light rail went, including school which made him so much more independent.  He knew the bus system so well, when stranded at the mall by a visiting friend, he called and told me he had it covered and walked in the door 20 minutes later. He could shop on his own, buy iced coffee (an Israeli treat and very unlike the US version) and generally do the weekly shopping if asked and given the credit card.  He was Mr. Jerusalem and absolutely blossomed there – including becoming fluent in Hebrew!

But now we’re home and there aren’t any buses and so he does feel kind of trapped.

Well, I was informed by our case manager that some full waiver slots were coming open.  What that would mean is that Evan would have $30k to use for aides, supported work situations, camps, programs and other goodies we can’t even begin to imagine.  When we had the original money for the aide for a few hours a week, we couldn’t even find an organization that could provide a local aide or even an aide close to Evan’s age.  We had used the services before Israel and basically he would go out for dinner and an evening at Barnes and Noble with a kid who probably couldn’t get a better job.  That discouraged us this time too since we wanted someone local to keep him in touch with his new community but also someone closer to his own age (they sent a grandma once) who could be more of a buddy and not so obviously an aide.

Once I heard full waiver slots were open, I started my campaign to get them for my son.  I called everyone I could think of, including the county social worker who would hold the determination conference, and begged.

I talked about my epilepsy and how my inability to drive really limited Evan’s life. I knew he was on the list but I didn’t know if he’d make the cut.  After all, they were reviewing ALL the individuals, some older and some younger, and some with greater need.  It was a crapshoot whether we’d get funding or not but I made sure I brought his case before the right people and fought the good fight.

And…he was the first to receive waiver funding this year. What this means is that he has this funding for life.  FOR LIFE!  Unless we move, of course, which I don’t think we would even consider unless we went back to Israel but I don’t see that happening except for vacations. He has 25 hours a week of aides who come to take him out, play basketball and do artwork with him.

It’s overwhelming actually to go from zero to 100 mph in such a short time period but I can see, while he is tired and a bit overwhelmed, he is happy. He gets to go to baseball practice and play on another league he wanted to join.  The girls who are his aides are his age and they play basketball and catch and color with him when he wants to.  They take him shopping with them and out to lunch.  He is 5th on a waiting list now for supported employment.  His psychiatrist and I think this is a great option right now as he prepares for regular employment (if he wants…but its his choice.)

Right now his days are filled which is exactly what I wanted for him.  And my heart is filled for him.  His world has opened and it’s his for the taking.  He arranges what he and his aides will do, he makes calls to schedule things and actually used the internet to find the local library’s address the other day so he could go there. I am so proud of him and glad that people listened to me with compassion for him.  That’s what we need more of.  I thank those people who made this possible.  I actually called and thanked the county social worker who I doubt gets much thanks for the hard decisions she has to make. But we thank her.

And every time I see the smile on my kid’s face after his aides are gone for the day, I thank her even more.

Top 15 Things Every Mommy Should Have In Her SUPER MOMMY Diaper Bag

diaper-bag-4You’d think a mom of a 21 year old wouldn’t have a diaper bag wouldn’t you?  And I probably wouldn’t except I ordered what I THOUGHT was a tote bag and it turned out to be a diaper bag.  Vera Bradley natch, so you KNOW I couldn’t just hide it.  No, being bright yellow with little flowers and a plastic liner just screamed “This is a DIAPER bag!  USE me!”

So I did.  And it’s kind of funny how useful it became.  I could carry everything we could, should or would need, everything we might IMAGINE we would need and all those weird things (“Honey, do you have a lighter in there?”) you can’t even imagine you’d ever need.

Kind of like your basic “Let’s Make a Deal” bag, you know?

I mean, how many people actually HAVE a Sackajaweewa quarter and how many actually have it ON them at the precise moment their boyfriend’s mother wants it to complete her state quarter collection?

You guessed it…ME!

So here is a list of what I carry in the diaper bag for my 21 year old son who, while very high functioning, has less regard for his personal hygiene or the memory to remember to bring his batting gloves to baseball practice.

  1. antiperspirant – and not just ANY kind.  No I go for the rad, Right Guard, kills anything germy or gross smelling on contact, gel variety.  Believe me, this is a 21 year old’s diaper bag essential.  I should mention I also carry same in the glove box and in my purse.  Call it self defense.  Some people carry pepper spray?  I carry Right Guard.  Don’t judge me.
  2. baby wipes – I mean, duh.  You know someone is going to spill something on the seat of the car and believe it or not, baby wipes are REALLY good at getting that and other unidentifiable substances out of car upholstery, clothing AND neckties.
  3. hand sanitizer.  This is double or even triple duty.  Not only can it make me feel less icky about the possibility that my kid used a public toilet, touched everything in there and didn’t see the sinks on the way out…but, should be come near me and reek of ripe burrito to high heavens, this on a baby wipe will KILL anything and refresh the pits.  Then a fresh application of the Right Guard, waiting until it dries, followed by ANOTHER backup application has the back of ANY lengthy cartrip.  I also occasionally wonder if it could save ME if I started licking it off my hands but I decided that wasn’t the best idea I ever had.  Bring on the baby bottles of wine!
  4. Clean t-shirt.  I found this to be essential after we were on the Ocean City Boardwalk and the scream echoed “I have BIRD POOP on my SHOULDER!!!!!!”  Now I am prepared with everything listed above AND a clean t-shirt.
  5. plastic zip bags.  These are extremely useful to organize the diaper bag and to contain those items that might pollute the other things if they get opened – like the Right Guard and hand sanitizer.  If you store your baby wipes in one, it can also keep them from turning to paper towels on your trip.  They are also good to keep books, snacks, well, just about everything you can think of , in.  I also like to keep them arranged by “grab a bag for all your needs” – Right Guard, small zip bag of wipes, small hand sanitizer grouped together.  That way I grab for one bag to neutralize a situation (pun fully intended!) instead of scrounging for each item and then shaking the wipes out of their original pack.
  6. Pens, styluses (styli?), small screwdrivers, nosepads for glasses, screws for glasses, a microfiber glass wipe and crayons (because you never know) all packed into their own bag.
  7. Contact lens case, glasses, sunglasses, contact solution and drops all in THEIR own bag.
  8. Sock yarn and knitting needles in a yarn bag – I love these.  They are little nylon bags you can store your little project in and even carry around your neck to knit while you walk if you are so coordinated.  I’m not but hey, I am a knitting fashionista so while I can’t do it myself…I can look like I can!
  9. For some reason I carry coins and cash from other countries.  Weird but I do.  Usually it’s because they are in my other things (like bookmarks in books or just stuck in my wristlet) and I have been too lazy to take them out.  But…as you can see from the example above…a Sackajaweewha quarter can make an old lady’s week complete!
  10. Nail polish and nail polish remover wipes.  (Boredom…take that!)
  11. Nintendo DS and games.  Yeah sure, we all have our iPhones and iPods now but occasionally while battery charging or just for a change, someone wants to go old skool and I AM READY!
  12. Snack crackers, mints and chewing gum.  While we don’t eat this stuff every day…wouldn’t you know someone in the car cannot live without it at that VERY MOMENT???
  13. Eos lip balm.  I’ve said it before…I love these.  They are cute.  That is all.
  14. Sunscreen.  Do I need to say anything else when I have a child with white skin and blond hair?  No.  But even if you don’t have a child with white skin and blond hair, take it anyway.  I get at least 60 SPF.  Your mileage may vary.
  15. Band aids, spray neosporin,  and methialate (evil, evil laugh).  I thought of all of this this past weekend at the baseball game.  The little girl in front of me in the stands fell and scraped her knee.  Had I had my SUPER MOMMY diaper bag with me, I could have flown to the rescue with soothing neosporin spray and dapper Hello Kitty bandaids.

Of course there’s a lot more in there.  My Buddhist prayer beads, extra earrings that might strike my fancy, tylenol, advil, tissues, packets of paper towels, books I am might be will never be reading, Neutrogena hand lotion and zit lotion, hair brushes, makeup bag (I mean come on…I AM a girl), maybe some essential oil that I smell to keep me from committing some kind of Mommy Homicide – you know, Life on the Streets?  But whatever, I make my diaper bag my own and have plenty in there not only to protect but to also serve.  I can handle anything from a boy in need of extreme deodorizing all the way to bird poop accidents.

Now tell me, WHAT’S IN YOUR DIAPER BAG???