dog · running

The Year’s First Snowshoe Excursion 


I love running (especially trail running), I love hiking, I usually like bicycling, and throw in an occasional video for variety, but snow shoeing has got to be my favorite exercise. 

Last year stunk for snow shoe conditions, I don’t think I got out at all, so I was all the more eager to go when the snow started piling up this weekend. Hannah popped upstairs late this morning and suggested that I take off; I didn’t let the door hit me on the way out.  I might have been premature as conditions were less than ideal, but was loathe to dismiss the opportunity. 

We have trails right behind our house, easing my access so that I can literally walk outside and go.   Abbi was just as eager as I was, and if possible, she took an even greater enjoyment out of it than I did. 


Pictures don’t do it justice. The solitude and peace of being in the woods in the snow is palpable. The white coating over everything insulates noise, smell and sight, making for an idyllic kind of quiet that is nearly impossible to obtain in any other setting. 


I found myself longing to become lost in it, and fell down into the downy fluff in surrender to it.  An angel or five later, the exploration resumed. Though I’ve tromped these trails hundreds of times in the 15 years we’ve lived here, each season, and even day by day there are new discoveries to be made, and it was with sheer delight that I did so. 

The wind kicked up momentarily, showering me in clouds of snow displaced from the trees above. I found myself reaching for my phone to catch a picture, but instead I paused to tune into my senses and savor the moment.  I’m a bit sorry I can’t share it with you, but wouldn’t trade the otherworldly moment for a photo. 

Yes, snow shoeing is a workout, and according to my Fitbit, a darn good one, but it’s greater purpose is the restoration of my soul that the abject solitude grants, the physical benefits are just for show. 

marriage

5 Reasons I Love To Dress Up For My Husband 

Not every day, but fairly frequently, I throw on a flirty dress just to wear around the house. When I do, I style my hair, and dab on a bit of makeup, just for an audience of one. My husband. It’s been my habit for some time to do some special preening from time to time, just for him. 

I don’t know if other women do this, but it’s a habit that reinforces itself. Here’s why:

  1.  When I take the time to look flirty, I feel flirty and playful. I’ve been with the same man for a couple of decades now, so building in some playfulness goes a long way toward keeping things fresh.
  2. I’m often tired. Who isn’t, really? Today is a day that I’m riding out a snow day in sweats and bed head, and it does nothing for my self-image. But those days when I brighten up my face, spruce my hair and throw on something flattering, I feel better about myself.  And when I feel sassy, it carries over to my demeanor and everything else I do, including interacting with my husband. 
  3. My husband has still got it. Yeah, his hair is on the sparse side, and more gray than brown these days, but he’s avoided the dad-bod, and still has some serious swagger. The fact that he still has my eye makes me all the more eager to keep his. 
  4. It lifts me out of my circumstances. There’s a lot of unglamorous work involved in parenting, especially with special needs added in. It would be so easy to leave myself in the back seat and not bother with my appearance. I am convinced that having a few days a week out of yoga pants and put together helps me feel and even be more together.  I like to think of myself as a professional parent, and dressing with pride enhances that self image. 
  5. My husband responds. He likes it, and it shows. 

Maybe it’s silly, or trite, but for us, it works. It’s a little secret of a marriage that’s successful for the long run. It’s not rocket science or a sure fire marriage fixer, but just one little tool in a marriage toolbox that in my has been beneficial both short and long term. And it’s fun. 

parenting · special needs parenting

The Big Move Backward…or Not

Yesterday afternoon I sat down at a table and completed the paperwork to move Ben’s school placement to a center based program full-time, starting after Christmas Break. This turn of events has been a long time coming, and is the culmination of an effort that has gone full-circle. 

When Ben started Early Childhood Special Education, we chose the center based program based on our experience with Alex, and knowing that the spectacular team in that classroom had the tools to help Ben maximize his potential with the goal of transitioning him to the local elementary at age 5 or 6.  We did indeed put him full time in the local district at age 7, a year later than originally planned to give him the comfort of familiar staff and setting while he finished his leukemia treatment. We ensured mainstream time, and embarked on inclusive education. 

It’s only been 3.5 years since then, but after dozens of baby steps back from mainstreaming for many reasons, with this final leap into a center based program, with almost zero likelihood of returning to a less restrictive environment again. 

It would be easy to be ashamed of this choice; to question if we tried every other option or tried hard enough to make other options work. Center based programming is treated like the dirty little secret of special education, like a last ditch effort or a bad choice by advocates who say that every child should be in a local district with maximum mainstreaming. 

I don’t believe that’s true. 

I believe we are making the best choice for our individual child, a choice that will engender optimal development. I believe that for a variety of reasons, the highly specialized staff and setting of the center based program Ben is in is best for him in every way. I am grateful for this option, and for the immensely capable staff that I am entrusting with his schooling. 

I didn’t make this choice lightly, I understand that there are long and short term consequences both major and minor that will play out as a result. And I’m prepared to accept them on behalf of my child, for whom I am entrusted to make this decision. 

I’m boldly sharing this because I believe that there are too many people hiding in the shadows, silenced by the inclusion movement who, like me, after years of special education experience know that inclusion is not best for their child, and I will proudly stand up for them. 

If you are advocate for the option of inclusion then I commend and appreciate your work and opinion, but please listen to us for whom it hasn’t worked, and help us keep viable alternatives open. 

writing

The Difference a Year Makes 


A few days ago WordPress (my blogging platform), notified me that it had been a year since I started my blog. Yesterday I got a nice little check from my regular writing gig that should cover Christmas gifts for all of my loved ones. 

Last year I was brainstorming, trying to figure out how to work from home after having a health crisis and with Benjamin needing more care again than he had since he finished cancer treatment. 

I looked at a few options, considered pursuing fitness training, but when all was said and done I knew that everything else had to take a back seat to my kids and my health. 

I had enjoyed blogging as a Fifth Third River Bank Run Road Warrior, and have been told time and time again that I should write a book about Ben, so that was my jumping off point.  I had previously started a book about Ben, but writing from that perspective felt wrong and I shoved my manuscript away and scrapped the book idea. 

But what if I wrote about being Ben’s mom?  From my perspective, parenting a child whose life has been a juxtaposition of devastating and miraculous, would that make a book?  

I decided to try. 

I didn’t have a working computer, so between my tablet and phone I typed almost 60,000 words. The task exhausted me, so after completing a draft of just the events, I set the book aside and pursued writing for more immediate results. 

My first yes was HuffPost, and one of my first articles there was a post that circulated the internet for months, the highlight of which was getting attention from George Takei. 

I then sent work into some other writing venues, and got a paid yes from Her View From Home. I became a Her View Writing Team member, and have enjoyed the challenge of writing for them, often from a different perspective than my own personal blog. (Go check them out and like the page, there’s some wonderful women writing there). 

Shortly after that my dear mother in law saw my plight, and decided to purchase a computer to make me a legit writer. Let’s just say that proofreading is a bit easier on a laptop screen than a tablet screen. The laptop has been a lifesaver!

Then, in September, out of the blue, a woman contacted me saying that she represented Shield Health Care and that she would like to pay me to be a regular writer for their blog about parenting kids with special needs.  The offer seemed too good to be true, but after investing the company, I found it legit and jumped in. This writing outlet has provided me with a steady stream of income from my own couch, and is the source of the previously mentioned check which will make Christmas shopping fun instead of stressful. 

This weekend I finally sat back down with the book, adding layers of story and details to the skeleton I had created. In the meantime I briefly had a publisher interested, but due to personal complications on their end (the company is new, and the founder had several personal crises in a row and wasn’t able to give the manuscript attention), we agreed to reconsider at a later date. As I write thus, I’m wondering if that date has arrived. 

What a difference a year makes. Writing was a twinkle in my eye last December, and now is a part time job with excellent potential. I’m generally skeptical about new years because it seems that every fresh start quickly becomes the next complicated and challenging chapter in our complex lives, but I truly am eager to see what 2017 holds for this pursuit. I don’t rightly know what to expect, after all, much of what has occurred has been entirely unexpected, but that’s just part of the fun if you ask me. 

At the end of the day, I give enormous credit to my upbringing. Growing up in a family that loves books and language and that sharpened my mind by reading and discussing great works is truly the origin of this story.  The written word is a beautiful creation, the appreciation of which was instilled in me from infancy. For that I can only credit my mom. Thanks mom. 

kindness

Does Kindness Really Matter?

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I was checking out at Target a couple of weeks ago, distracted, flustered and worried about getting my $10 gift card for purchasing $60 in diapers and getting home in time to get the boys off the bus. I wasn’t paying any attention to the woman checking me out until she said, “Are you Lee?”.

I paused, looked at her, and to my surprise, she was one of my many friends that I have never met.

*Brief digression* I have long participated in online communities for members of the adoption community, parents whose children have special needs, and more recently, writers. I have added many friends to my Facebook profile that I have never met in real life. People who don’t have this type of connection on the internet often fail to understand the depth and breadth of these friendships, but I’m here to tell you, they are entirely real and wonderful; especially for a socially anxious introvert.

Back to the story.

Knowing that I had been distracted by minor details, I panicked. Had I been treating this person the way I would want to treat her, now that I knew it was someone I had considered a friend for years? I mentally reviewed my demeanor, and though I fully admit that I wasn’t on my A game, I hadn’t mistakenly been a jerk to my friend.

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One of my core values is kindness. I am convinced that if everyone committed to being as kind as possible to everyone that the world would be a better place. In that brief moment that I checked myself, I resolved to re-commit myself to acting out kindness to the best of my ability to my fellow travelers.

Kindness matters.

Everyone has burdens on their back. Some have a few, light burdens, most of us have a moderate load, with times of heaviness, and some carry a constant, enormous load. With every interaction, we possess the ability to either add to the load of others by rude, unkind or blunt words; or take from the load with kindness, smiles and encouragement. Either way it costs nothing to give.

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Your own kindness benefits you as well, treating those you encounter with decency is one of life’s truly win/win scenarios. Just like smiling improves your mood, so does kindness. There is incredible power in giving tiny bits of yourself in acts of goodness.

With the holiday season afoot, it is certainly a time to spread goodwill and cheer. Yet many are struggling and stressed, making your simple act of kindness a profound contribution to their lives. Don’t take it lightly.

writing

A Sappy Post Celebrating Awesome Women (and Being Baffled at Bitches)


Idealist Lee here again.  As a sensitive person who was raised by a mother who imbued in me a respect for the feelings of others, I’m not very good at being mean.  I have my moments, to be sure, but when I’m mean, I wallow in regret for days, and it eats at me.  It can literally make me sense.

I will never forget one of my neighbors trolling me in real life.  It was over garage sale nonsense, and it happened to be mere days before Ben had his first Hirschsprung’s surgery.  I was fit to be tied in the first place, but wanted to follow through on the garage sale, and later found out that she was being bitchy because she gets a kick out of being a mean girl, and called me thin-skinned.  She happened to mention something to that effect to my husband, days later when I was up at the hospital with Ben, and let’s just say that he isn’t sensitive, thin skinned, naive, and she was the one who ended up butt hurt in the end.

So, yes, I’m naive, sensitive, and nice well past the point of fault.  All that to say, just like I fail to understand my neighbor who happens to love watching other women cower when she plays mean girl, I don’t get people being mean on the internet.

My Gilmore Girls post was pretty popular in my social media, so I threw it up on my HuffPost blog to see how it would do there.  Unsurprisingly, HuffPost put it up in their Women’s section, and on their social media.

Holy macaroly can women be mean.

I know it’s not great writing, it’s not supposed to be, it was for fun.  For grins.  From the woman who only ever makes fun of her own ridiculous self.  It was a little shout out to the others, who, like me, just don’t partake in pop culture.  I cannot for the life of me figure out why so many women would take the time to read something just to make a snotty, nasty comment.

Thankfully, I had to face some nastiness before when my Open Letter To The Guy At Target got went viral, but there’s something extra special about bitchy women.  They seriously go miles out of their way to be belittle another woman, when it would be far easier to simply go about their merry way and do nothing.

But I am choosing to turn this around.  A moment like this demonstrates the impeccable women who surround me daily.  My mother, mother-in-law, my sisters, my daughter and my friends.  Women who demonstrate the strength build each other up, standing by one another, and holding space.  Women who have full, rich, beautiful lives, and who don’t need the false high of putting someone down to feel good about themselves.  Women who compliment and support each other.

I have great women in my life.  Rather than sulking because some people feel happy finding the snippiest comment they can write, I celebrate the strong, lovely women who have an invaluable place in my life.  Thank you, each and every one.