Tag Archives: life

My Plus One Method of Coping

I’m still struggling with depression and despair, as are so many others right now. But so far, I keep rising back up. I’ll share one weird trick I use to get myself through the minutes, but there’s a story behind it, so bear with me.

When my son was in grade school, enduring many rounds of evaluations and tests to figure out exactly what was up with him and the system failing to mesh, I found it necessary to insist in writing that every report and evaluation had to include positive statements about him. If you’re a parent who has ever sat through an IEP or 504 meeting, you know what I’m talking about. It can feel as if your baby is on trial for his life with the most vicious prosecutor ever.

It’s not because the educators involved are bad people or have bad intentions (well…most of them aren’t and don’t.) The intention is good. There are problems and they have to be identified to be solved. And there are legal requirements about showing enough evidence that a student is failing to thrive in the classroom before the school can “provide accommodations.” So the teachers and staff are looking for anything they can include to help bolster the case that we should do more for this student.

But often, how it plays out is that the parent sits down and hears what sounds like a litany of crimes and deficiencies attributed to the little person they adore. The Multitiude of Ways Your Kid is Broken is not the documented list you want to take home with you. It about killed me sometimes. And I think this approach has an effect on other adults who work with the child, too. When they are only looking for problems, it limits their view and the relationship with the student can get pretty negative. Some things I saw as positive qualities ended up listed as evidence for the prosecution.

After crying in my car a couple of times, I came up with a plan. I put it in writing and I put my foot down that it had to be followed. I hope I was polite, but I was also dogged.

I made them count. Everyone who wrote a report or even said anything in a meeting about my son was required to count the number of negative observations or statements they made. Then they had to make at least the same number of positive statements about him, plus one. At least one more positive than negative. We all needed to remember this was a whole human being who was so much more than the sum of his flaws, and that he was someone worth making an effort for.


Worth the effort.

He’s graduated from high school now and I’m recalling my plus one system when it comes to dealing with today’s world. There are a lot of issues to be addressed currently, huge ones.

It’s easy to fall in to despair. One night I found myself sleepless at 3:00 thinking thoughts like “I hope the nukes fall directly on us while we’re all asleep so it’s over quickly and we don’t have to know.” Yeah. That level of despair.

What I insist on making myself do is to address whatever problems I feel I can in whatever way I feel I can. Then I make myself a list of good things about the world. At least as many good as bad, plus one. Reasons why it’s worth the effort. Things like the collected works of William Shakespeare and purple iris and a new clothes/shoe rack that has helped organize my bedroom and kittens and all of the beautiful instances where strangers help each other. Naturally, my amazing, wonderful children go into the positive column every time.

Random Thoughts on My Sandwich Generation Life

Does life ever get easier and simpler, or does it keep getting harder and more complicated? I’m so worn out I don’t feel I have the wherewithal to write a coherent post on one topic. But here are some random thoughts generated by my life recently.

If I had a dollar for every time my 15-year-old rolls his eyes, I could treat myself to a frou frou coffee at Starbucks every single day.

My kids are 15 and 18, but they still need me. Sometimes, they really need me.

On my July calendar, there are eight different medical/dental/eye appointments, none of them for me, but all of them requiring my presence.

Being elderly and poor is scarier than any horror movie.

Sometimes I can’t wait for my kids to move out. This usually lasts ten minutes until I start tearing up because they’ll probably both be moved out in a few short years.

Am I ever going to get my entire house cleaned?

My mom is wasting away, literally. They’re not sure why. Since February, she’s down from 111 pounds to 94 pounds. The doctor has ordered a calorie-dense nutrition drink to be added to her daily diet. It’s like she’s disappearing before my eyes.

If I had a crystal ball that would tell me exactly how much longer my mom will live, then many of my decisions would more clear-cut. But I don’t really want to know.

A couple of days ago a friend asked if the people at the Medicaid office could help me resolve a certain issue. I said, “You mean the people who don’t answer their phone, give me incorrect phone numbers, assign my mom a caseworker from a county 120 miles away, and supply contradictory information within the same letter? I suppose I could try them.”

The very things that make me want to drink are the same things that make me realize why I can’t. This seems unfair somehow.

My 18-year-old has the equivalent of a PhD in all things Tolkien/Lord of the Rings. My 15-year-old spends hours every day in the summer working on music – both composing and playing. His instruments are guitar and piano. It’s very cool seeing my kids grow beyond me in some areas. They broaden my horizons.

Ever since taking on responsibility for my mom’s finances, I think about my own retirement account every single day. I don’t have nearly enough saved, I’m afraid.

Since I was a midlife baby, my mom has been an “old” grandmother to my kids. They love her and she loves them, but I wish they could have known her when she was able to do a few more things.






Things Don’t Go As Planned

This happened on Saturday:

Yep, that’s my family’s van. Nobody was seriously injured, a fact for which I’m still uttering a little silent thanks every hour or so. My husband and kids were about three hours away from home, on the verge of a planned float trip, when they were hit by a bus.

The plan was for them to have a fabulous time on the river (I’m not much of a water person) while I had an entire glorious day to myself. I had my agenda in front of me – a morning of catching up on housework with my own selected music playing at my own selected volume, followed by a visit to my mom, some exercise, a block of writing time, and an evening outing with friends from work. I got some housework done before the phone call.

It was one of those Murphy’s Law days where you have to choose whether to laugh or cry as you wonder what else could possibly happen, and then something does. I choose to laugh, because the things that happened were really small compared to the fact that nobody was seriously injured.  My crew even decided to go ahead and do the river float while waiting for me to arrive.

Saturday afternoon I set out in our other vehicle – a 16-year-old Honda Civic with 178,000 miles – to find the middle-of-nowhere place where my family was stranded. The bank time and temperature signs I passed along the way displayed temps anywhere from 95 to 99 degrees Fahrenheit. To make the day extra special, my Civic decided to spring a freon leak, so I had to say goodbye to the air conditioning. The white mist pouring out from the vents made for an exciting special effect, however.

I got lost, but that’s not unusual for me. I build getting lost time into my travel plans, because it happens so often. I wasn’t overly lost, only a little bit. I probably added 15 minutes total onto the trip by missing a turn.

I arrived to discover my family had managed to lose the sunscreen, so sunburns all around.

Believe it or not, we managed to get the van back home. We decided to have my husband drive it, while I followed behind with the kids. Two windows in the van were shattered on impact, filling the interior with broken glass (which is the second time we’ve experienced this with a minivan; the first time was the result of an F1 tornado.)

By the time they were all done floating and we left the place, it was nearly 7:00. We stopped along the way for gas and food. Then we drove into…Severe Thunderstorms!  So severe, we had to stop and pull off the road twice because it was impossible to see. This was on narrow, two-lane, unlit, rural Missouri highways with no shoulders, only ditches to each side. The first time, we found a private driveway to wait it out. The second, we lucked onto a side road that led to a commuter parking lot. (Commute to where?) And did I mention, the van is missing two windows? It got pretty wet. My poor hubster. Plus, the lack of a working compressor in the other car meant it was nearly impossible to defog the Civic’s windshield without turning up the temp on the blower to hot. The kids and I were *very* warm for a while. Trapped in a hot, little car, with teens who have already been sweating all day is its own kind of special. I have to give them credit, however, for being remarkably unwhiney through the whole ordeal.

The rain finally abated enough we could drive again. And my daughter remembered she had her iPod with her, plus a device to let it play through the car radio. She and her brother decided they’d feel better with music, specifically songs she had from “My Little Pony, Friendship is Magic.” So there was that for 45 minutes.

But we all made it home safe and well. As long as a tree doesn’t fall on our house or something. HAHAHAHAHAHA!