Saturday, April 21, 2018

The Best Words Often Come Out of Something Broken

The picture you see is the actual laptop that I am writing these words on now. It might sound pretentious, I suppose, to title this "The Best" words. Obviously they are not the best, but maybe they are my best...may they are not.

I was sitting down to work on one of several articles that I have begun and left unfinished. I pulled out my laptop and the piece of pvc pipe with little clamps on the end. I pulled out the charger to plug it in, not because it was dead but because it never holds a charge for very long anymore. I clipped the strange apparatus that my husband made, onto the front of the screen, so that it applies direct pressure in the exact spot needed for the screen to work. I turn it on and carefully type in my password, my fingers deftly working around the missing keys.

This is familiar and comfortable, I suppose you could compare this laptop to a rusty old type writer used years ago to pound out thousands of words and stories. I sometimes have a hard time letting go of what brings comfort and familiarity. Truth be told, we all do.

There will come times when we have to, when we have no choice. Times when we find ourselves in unfamiliar places and situations and we are over come with thoughts of "why?" and "How?". It's not always a case of not knowing God, or even trusting in Him. It can be as simple as, "I don't know how to do this, to be this?"

I don't know what God wants me to do anymore. I may never know, at least not in the way that I would like to. I have faith, but I'm like most everyone else. I like things clearly explained and defined, tied up in neat little packages. I even enjoy a pretty little bow on top if there is time. There's not always time, and a bow is not always appropriate.

Visions of perception are not always visions of reality.

Reality has a way of grabbing hold and refusing to let go.

Reality can break you.

When you are broken everything that you have contained inside spills out...

When you are broken you feel unable...

When you are broken you don't know who you are supposed to be.

What if, what is inside us, our stories, can't come out until they are spilled out, through the broken pieces?

What if that is our purpose?


A potter continuously, tirelessly, faithfully...

working, reworking, shaping, reshaping, forming, reforming


Not gathering pieces and repairing, not "putting back together" the old.

Creating and recreating...vessel...after vessel...after vessel...after vessel...

What if that is who we are?

That is who we are.

The clay.

And who am I, to "quarrel with the potter".

Monday, April 2, 2018

Autism, Maybe You’ve Heard of It?

My son Cooper will be 19 this year, Cooper is Autistic.

Most of you have heard of, or maybe even have first hand knowledge of Autism. Maybe it's in your life somewhere, bringing a small impact or a large one.

If you are not familiar with Autism you won’t have to search very hard to find an explanation. A quick internet search will net you a wealth of facts and statistics to wade through and discern. You could even choose to scroll through Facebook and you are sure to run across someone willing to share their story and give you a little insight into their world. There are many thoughts and opinions people are willing to share, about everything from  labels and awareness to language and acceptance.

I have shared my thoughts, opinions and stories with you before. I have shared about my son Cooper and our families journey with Autism. I believe there is value in sharing our stories.

Our stories are unique,

except they're not.

I’m not going to tell you what words you should or shouldn’t use. I am not here to lecture you about acceptance. I will not list signs to watch for. I’m not here to advocate for or against any specific cause.

I’m just here.

So is my son,

his sisters,

my husband,

and we’re not going anywhere.

We are also not alone.

There are millions of us, with our own unique struggles and needs. We are brothers and sisters, sons and daughters and mothers and fathers.  We are your neighbors. We sit next to you at school. We work together. We sit beside you in church. You see us in the grocery store, at the library and on the bus.

We are together, alone.

But we are all here,

and we are just like you,

except we’re not.

We ARE you,

except we're not.

Monday, March 26, 2018

I Have These Babies, You See

I have these babies, you see...except I don't, not anymore.
They've run in and ran out, and loudly slammed the door.

Children tend to either make you want to write poetry or have a stiff drink and a cigarette.
I don't know why that is or what sort of plan God had in mind when he gave them those unique abilities...but I am sure there is a purpose, a method to His madness, if you will.

I love my children, it's written all over wrinkles, grey hair and about 50 extra pounds. (if my husband is reading this I guarantee you he is saying "uh, just 50 pounds?" but husbands are another post on another day. I have nothing against husbands, like I said, I have one...but they too come with their own unique abilities.

As do I people, as do I.

Humility, I try to have that. I read about it in the Bible, God recommends it...and if you are not careful I think he will cultivate it for you, if you neglect to do that for yourself. He's good like that. Which is why I try to make humbleness a quality I work on.

I am not sure how I ended up here, occasionally I will take the proverbial left turn in my thinking and loose my train of thought. When I am typing that generally runs right out my fingers to you guys. Good luck.

Children. I have thought a lot about mine lately, I mean really thought about them. I have a few and having a few children kind of opens you up to experiencing a lot of things. Which is not always conducive to deep lingering thought. It really lends itself to honing your survival skills, thinking quickly and speaking in short clear sentences.

It also can make you a little tired.

Somewhere along the years of surviving they grew up and I grew older. (see paragraph about wrinkles and grey hair.) Well they haven't all grown up, we still have a couple that are making their way there. however, enough of them have made those steps into adulthood that I can slow down enough to reflect on...

That's just it, the reflecting, the thinking and analyzing...
it's good to slow down and look back. It is heartwarming to browse through the past, but you can't stay there, not for very long. It's not where you are and you can't let prevent you from moving forward.

The sound of slamming doors
and little feet running across the floor.
Sounds that fill our home, our memories
and our heart...

Now if you will excuse me, 
I'm off to the liquor store. 

*This has been Monday afternoon with Beth Clay. Thank you for joining me and please tune in next week for another episode of, "I wish I knew what I was doing, and I bet you do too" Starring: Beth Clay as The Mother.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

"Do you know who the president is?"

This was the question I asked my son this morning as we waited on the bus. The first thing he did was repeat the word president. I asked again, "Who?" He does pretty good with the "wh" questions most of the time so I knew I had a fair shot of him answering appropriately.

He stared at me intently and I could see the work going into him forming his answer. Then his reply came, "George Washington".

Fair enough buddy, fair enough.

Baby Cooper

I know there are a lot of people who are sad, upset and worried today. Many of us are in fact still attempting to wrap our heads around the fact that Donald Trump, is the President of the United States of America.

I live in a small little bubble of a life. I can tell you this, it's a bubble the doesn't like change. We thrive on routine and sameness. It's comforting, it's security. We expend a great deal of energy ensuring things follow routine and stay the same.

That is simply not always possible.

What I can share with you today is something that it has taken me years to embrace.

Change is good.

However, much like doing the right thing, it is rarely easy.

Some of my son's greatest periods of progress, some of his most incredible periods of growth have accompanied his biggest disruptions in routine, and his most life changing moments.

I also have to tell you this, most of these changes we fought with everything we had to prevent.

People struggle with change, even under the best of circumstances, even when we ask for it.

I am a mother of a son with a severe disability, I am also the mother of four daughters.  I took my vote in this election very seriously, it is their future and it is important.

I voted for Trump.

I don't have to justify my choice to anyone, but I know many will wonder how a parent of a child with a disability could possibly vote for a man who made fun of someone with a disability...

So I want to tell you this...Donald Trump was not the first and he will not be the last. I see it and hear it every day, and it is everywhere. The lack of respect and disregard for the feelings and value of those with disabilities is rampant and woven into our very existence. It will take an intense and concerted effort to shift the views of so many.

You find the words and the gestures in every venue, from our schools, to our televisions, they are in our churches and our homes. We teach our children consciously and subconsciously that it is ok to dismiss the life that is different, that is disabled, that is less than perfect.

We have created this environment.

Over and over again we prove this disregard, literally thousands of times a day, when we choose to end the life of a baby because they are not what we wanted. I know it is a hard choice, and I know it is complicated, and represents great change...but it is life.

Many will argue that some are pro birth as opposed to being truly prolife because they don't see enough evidence to convince them that everyone who speaks out against abortion is doing enough to speak out and make a difference at every level of life.

We are many members of one body, each tasked, called and gifted with unique abilities and purposes. Speaking out for one level doesn't mean you don't care about all, it just means this is where your spot is and you trust there are others who will step in to their place and speak and move. We can't do this alone.  Our children, as unique as they may be were also created to be part of a bigger picture and purpose.

The have real value, they are important.

Will Donald Trump change his ways, will he stop making fun of people and saying mean things? Will he follow through with his promise of being a prolife president?

I don't know.

I pray he will.

I believe that to truly see change in the way our children are viewed and treated in the world we find ourselves, we have to stand up and speak up. Not with a "well they are here so you have to be nice and take care of them attitude" but with a voice that is loud and clear, one that says...

"From their very creation, from the moment they were conceived they have value, they have a purpose, they are important."

We can not successfully advocate for their rights and respect when we do not value and respect every single moment of their existence.

Hillary Clinton has stepped further and further away from this view, and I think we have seen Trump move closer toward this view.

I could never bring myself to vote for a woman who does not hold a view of life that respects the existence of my son.

I pray we find the common ground, in love and respect for the future of our children, and work together to truly change how they are viewed.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

"Yes Virginia, I Am Voting For Trump": Three Easy Ways To Tell People You Are Voting For Trump

I don't know about your children, but mine are very aware of the impending Presidential Election.
The youngest two are especially inquisitive as to who we are "for" in this race. 

I have, I think, rather successfully avoided coming straight out and providing the exact answer of who I will vote for. But at some point, I believe that I have to break the silence, stop evading and deflecting, plant my feet and not pivot.

At some point I have to shoot the ball.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, maybe you are struggling to tell your child that, "Yes I am voting for Trump." or maybe you just don't know how to tell friends and family what your final decision is, or just can't physically get the words, "I am voting for Trump." to come out of your mouth.  If you find yourself in any of these situations, you may want to join me in implementing one of these fun and creative ways to announce you are in fact...Voting for Trump.

1. The Tried and True "Candidate" Reveal!

Throw a party! Have cake! Invite people who are easily distracted buy small sandwiches and free drinks. Plan fun games and hire a pony for the kids to ride around on. They may not even notice you just announced who you are voting for, and it's a Trump!

2. Family Game Night!

The kids will be so excited for a night of family fun playing Trump Monopoly! When the little pewter Hillary head lands in jail, you can just laugh and laugh and casually mention that since she is in jail you are voting for Trump!

3. Draw A Name Out Of A Hat!

Only put in Trump! This one is easy, it takes any real pressure off of you to defend your decision because well...You know, you drew a name out of a hat!

Or if none of these methods work for you, maybe you can just write a blog post about ways to tell people you are voting for Trump and they will be so distracted by your suggestions that they will not actually are in fact telling them you are voting for Trump...

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Social Media at Eleven

Social media, can I henceforward just refer to it as the spawn of Satan that it is? I mean it's pretty, it seems harmless enough, but...

Do we need to take our eleven year olds there?

The answer is "yes", and the answer is wrong.

Yet, it is the answer we give everyday when we hand them phones, ipods and devices that unlock their access to the wonderful world of social media.

Even when we think we have restrictions in place; limitations and safe-guards...we are fools.

We haven't just handed them the keys, to the proverbial "gates of hell", we have flung that sucker wide open and driven them through it.

You know why we drove them through?

Because they're not old enough to drive themselves, they are ELEVEN!

Please take a moment and sit in that fact.

They are eleven years old.

I get it, children grow up faster these days, they are exposed to more.

They don't have to be. So I ask you, "Why?"

The why, my friends, is perfectly summed up in these four words of a confident young girl...

"My mom's too lazy."

This was her response to the question in a group text, "Does anyone's mom check their phone?"

Where did her confidence come from you might ask. I will tell you, it came from knowing that no one will look at her phone, no one will check her text messages or group chats. She felt perfectly secure in saying and doing whatever she wanted to.

She's eleven.

Some of you are sitting there feeling pretty smug right now, pretty confident in your own parenting and watchfulness. Let me tell you something. I pray to God that you are right in your assumptions, in your confidence.

I pray, that you are not wrong about your child.

I was wrong about mine.

Do you hear me?

I was every bit as confident as you are feeling right now.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday I picked up my childs ipod to plug it in to charge and I was intrigued by the notifications for instagram. So I clicked on the icon to find out what those eight notifications were...

Did you know that you could do group texting through Instagram? I didn't. If you are laughing right now and saying "of course I knew that!" To that I say "good for you, do you read them?" again you answer, "of course I read them?" (I know at this very moment you are trying to remember the last time you actually did read them and  also making a mental note to read them as soon as you are finished with this...I know you, I am you.) so finally I ask, "What about the ones they delete?"

Have you read those?

You're not smiling right now are you.

It's ok. I'm not either.

You know why? Because when I asked my child about what I had read yesterday, their pained response was "I deleted it".

"I deleted it!"

Are you paying attention now.

I didn't even see what they deemed bad enough to delete.

Dear God, what could it have been.

Oh guys, you have to listen to me. Seriously, we have to back the car up and get them out of there. They don't have the ability to grasp the consequences of their actions, but we do. Are you listening to me, WE DO!

"Oh my child knows better, they know if I ever catch them..."

Yeah, yeah we all know. We also know, that you are not going to, because...

"My mom's too lazy."

It's easy. It's easy to say yes and let them have and do what everyone else is doing. Here's the deal...and you already know, the right thing is rarely easy.

Our children know that.

You know how I know they know? Because my child was saying "they just...", "they said...", "He...", "She..." and finally...

"it was hard to say 'no' "

No, is a big hard word, especially when you are eleven and in way over your head.

It's hard for all of us to say sometimes.

I want you to know, what I know.

They are eleven and they are exposed to a lot of things that are confusing and a lot of things they don't understand, but they are figuring it out with lightening speed. You are right about one thing, kids grow up a lot faster than they used too...

But only if we let them.

So what do we do?

Honestly, I am still wading through that, figuring out what is the right thing for my children.
I know that I don't want to read the words of eleven year olds that say things like, "He had his hand on my thigh" and "He will probably be the first one to kill himself". I don't want to read texts from eleven year olds talking about who is "lit" and the fact that all of this is riddled with profanity, well I can assume you are at least not surprised by that one.

My guess is you don't want to read these things either.

Maybe, that is why you don't.

They are only eleven, it's not too late.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

All My Rowdy Friends Have Settled Down

There's a Hank Williams Jr. song with a line about corn bread and ice tea taking the place of pills and 90's been stuck in my head for days.

I sat down to my 9,876th IEP meeting recently, and as the teacher suggested a plan for more inclusion eyes glazed over and my mind wandered away, off in the distance I heard him say the word "worksheet".

Snapping back to the task at hand, I found myself saying..."No."

You see, we have fought, and we have raised some...well you know how the saying goes....

but, "hangovers hurt more than they used to."  I generally avoid them.

So we find ourselves in a place where we are a little older, a little more tired, I guess you could say we have "settled down." While I do enjoy the occasional delusion of wisdom, and thinking we have developed impressive skills in negotiations, I suppose the most important thing is, we have had time to come to terms with reality.

Gripping reality is an on-going, never ending process.

Because you see, our children will always do things differently. We will always have those moments when we see other children and can't help but feel that twinge of 'what if" (I don't think we are supposed to say that out loud, you may not know this but I wear socks with my Birkenstocks in the winter so caring what others think is not high on my list of priorities)  Sometimes it's hard when  we see other children getting academic awards and scholarships. There can be a little sadness at the sight of teenagers going out on their first dates, leaving for prom and falling in love. We often stand back and wistfully watch as they get married, start careers and families. What we feel is normal. It's a reflection of our humanness, our innate desire for our children to do and experience all the world has to offer.

Sometimes I struggle not to go to those places.

I constantly remind myself that God's plan for my son will far outshine anything that I could have planned for him. I also know that I may never understand what exactly that plan is, what his purpose is. I am grateful for what I do get to see and understand, and I will continue to fight and work for him to have what he needs. But ultimately, I trust God to take care of the details of His own plan for Cooper.

I will give it to you straight, I feel worn down from years of battling the same battle; school systems, administrations and yes even teachers, God bless them...seriously God bless them we could not do this with out them...But all too often they are all  desperately and doggedly entrenched in their beliefs and routines to the point that there is no better example of the "Hey lets try to hammer this square peg in a round hole" analogy.

It's easy to get stuck in wanting your kid to do it the same way as everyone else's child, especially when it comes to school. The thing about that, what I have learned over the years...Cooper shines when he is being Cooper. While he is at school being Cooper can look like whatever it needs to look like in order for him to be prepared for his future.

So when I heard inclusion time and worksheets...I simply thought "no". It's a nice idea and it may work and be appropriate for some, but at this point, at this time in Cooper's life...the answer is "no".

Actually my answer was. "I have a thought, what if we did something totally different..."

I believe in inclusion with my whole heart. I do.

What I don't believe is, inclusion will look exactly the same for every child. I don't believe inclusion is as simple as sitting in a classroom with typical peers, although that is a very important part. What you need to understand is, inclusion begins in the heart. It begins when we as parents first wrestle with a diagnosis and accept its reality in our lives. Inclusion is a seed we plant in the heart of each one of our children and it is our job to make sure it grows. It grows when we reach out to families struggling with finding a place at church to meet their needs. It grows when we step up at the play ground and talk to the mom with the child that plays differently than the others. It grows when we welcome every child into our classroom with eager anticipation and high expectations.

 Inclusion grows when we are living examples for our children.

So when I sat in that meeting and tossed out some ideas, and the teacher beside me sat up straight in his chair and leaned forward, saying, "I like that, I think that's a good idea.", when the assistant principal sitting across the table was taking notes, emailing people and tossing out their own ideas...I had to smile, because...

"none of us do things quite like we used to do...and all my rowdy friends have settled down"

If you would like to put all of the lyrics to that song together just click the link:
Hank Williams Jr. - All My Rowdy Friends (have Settled Down) Lyrics | MetroLyrics