Sunday, April 28, 2013

Herding Tendencies

Hi, I'm Limitless Lisa and I'm a herder.

I herd children. Mostly my own. Sometimes other people's. It is shameful really.

I once told my husband that since we'd brought three children into this world, it didn't really matter how many more we had because we'd run out of hands after two anyway. Whether we had three, four, didn't matter. We couldn't hang onto them anyway. For practical reasons, we had to stop at five. We couldn't fit any more in the mini-van.

As soon as the third child began to walk, I began to develop my herding tendencies. I couldn't effectively hold onto my children, but I could at least herd them into a small, mobile group. I learned to keep them close by and moving in a generally desirable direction by constantly guiding, pushing, poking, and prodding.

The problem is, sometimes other children inadvertently get drawn into my herd. And sometimes I don't notice. I just carry on absentmindedly herding them along with my own children.

So this week, we were at the elementary school for an art show and it happened. I was exhausted and I was ready to leave. We had already looked at all of the art exhibits at least once and we had visited the gym for fun art-related activities. I won't lie. I wanted out of the school. I just wanted to get home, get dinner, and get everyone to bed. 

As is always the case, my kids had a totally different agenda. They wanted to look at every single piece of art on the way out. They wanted to show me which pieces their friends had made. And which pieces their friend's friends made. And which pieces their friend's friend's first cousin made. We were moving at a snail's pace in a crowded hallway. 

That's when I started herding. I pushed them along. Occasionally I tugged on Little Bean's hood to guide her in the right direction. I poked Rough Stuff in the shoulder. I patted Fish's back. I uttered rude commands. "C'mon." "Let's move, Ladies." "Momma's tired. We need to go." "Yes, I saw that. It's lovely. You've got to MOVE IT, MOVE IT." 

The Boy was telling me something and I was trying to listen over my shoulder and the girls were all trying to show me things and the line was no longer moving in front of me as my brain tried to multi-task the herding and the listening and the art watching and the line WAS NOT MOVING so I pushed harder. I poked the girl in the shoulder and I put my hand on her back and forcefully nudged her forward. When that didn't work and I was about to actually trip over her, I grabbed her shirt at the shoulder and pulled her ahead of me. "We need to move, ladies!" I said as I compelled her forward. 

And that is when another mother reached in and rescued her child from my herd. I was so embarrassed. I looked for something to crawl under but there were no tables anywhere. No lockers. Nothing. Just these paintings on the wall. 

They were everywhere. 

Short ones. 

Long ones. 

Fat, squatty ones. 

I couldn't escape and I couldn't hide behind the camels. 

I apologized profusely to the mother. She gave me an understanding smile. I offered an apology to the herded child but she just looked at me in terror. I looked at all of the very interesting camels as we made our way to the exit. 

The Big Guy says he is just waiting for the day I actually get a stray child herded all the way to the car. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

What's In Box Number Two?


We began to unpack. If you've never unpacked your belongings from a fire restoration warehouse, have no idea how hysterical/heart wrenching/painful it can be. We laughed. We cried. We laughed some more. It was bittersweet.

I snapped some photos so you could laugh too.


I suppose unpacking the fire escape ladder after the fire restoration warehouse cleaned it might have only been hilarious to me, but I found it wildly entertaining. 

Opening a box of toys and finding Woody made me cry. Back in the day, The Boy and Woody were quite the pair. In this photo, The Boy is sniffing Woody to see if he is 'keepable.' This was the routine for hours- open box, unwrap item, smell item, toss in keep, keep but seal in plastic, or trash pile.    

Every thing was wrapped in multiple layers of paper. Every thing. In multiple layers. Seriously. Every thing. 

Toenail clippers. Wrapped in five sheets of packing paper. I bet those cost ninety-seven cents. I bet they were paid two dollars to clean them and packed them in a dollar's worth of paper. When you unpack your toenail clippers nineteen months after your house fire from five sheets of packing paper, do you laugh...or do you cry? What is the proper emotion at that point?  

These three little gems took several more layers of paper. In case you're wondering, that is a plastic icicle that fits over a Christmas light, Fish's baby spoon, and a wooden piece from an old Home Interior's Courting Candle. It's amazing the ability we have to identify our own random crap. Don't try to locate that stuff on an inventory sheet though. Eep. 

Tools. Tools should always be wrapped in plenty of paper. You wouldn't want them to get damaged in transport. 

This was returned to us. For real. This is a bag of those plastic Christmas light-icicles, melted into a big, burnt glob of stinky plastic. These were not wrapped in paper, but were packed in a box marked 'claimed.' They were claimed, but the insurance company has not paid for them, so we get them back. Yay! Because that is what I want you to bring back into my new home- fire-damaged, stinky, worthless plastic. (Have I mentioned how traumatized I am by things that smell like house fire?)

I know you can't tell what that is in that photo, so let me help. It is a boot. Yes, a boot. It is made of barbed wire and decorated with feathers, leather, and beads. Now, I know not everyone is into this whole native, rustic, Southwesty kind of decor that we're into and I know that to some folks it might seem like broken junk to begin with. But really, people. This is not 'rustic'- it's BURNT. Have you ever actually seen pony beads in that color? They used to be turquoise. The whole wire boot was kind of a coppery-pink color (that's a color, right?) that you see in the center. Now, the majority of it is BURNT. Burnt is not a color, people. It's not. We decorate in rustic, not rust. Char is not our thing.

We kept the boot. We're not sure why. We don't know if we want to repaint it and add new feathers, or just throw it away, or just keep it around so we can laugh about it. 

When we were finished unpacking for the night, we had six bags and boxes full of packing paper for recycling. We've unpacked roughly a third of our boxes. 

We were on a mission when we started opening boxes. There were particular things we hoped we would find and we did find some of them. I'll share them soon. One of the things we were hoping to unpack was our Little Water Maiden lamp. 

That lamp is one of the first nice things The Big Guy and I purchased for our home two decades ago. I fell in love with it at an art show and buying it meant we would be scraping pennies for a few weeks but I just couldn't take my eyes off of it. Our only furniture at the time was a milk crate and some floor pillows but he agreed we could buy the lamp if I let him bring home a twenty year old plaid sofa someone had offered to give us for free. I had to think long and hard about that ugly sofa, but the lamp came home with us. 

We don't know what condition the lamp is in now, but we couldn't wait to find out. We opened every tall box that looked like it might contain a lamp. Then we opened every wide box that could possibly contain a lamp. Then we opened every stinking box that was left, but no lamp. We called the fire restoration service and they assured us it was packed in box #2. 


We're thinking not. This weekend we're going to go back down to the basement and methodically open every single box again, but I'll be honest...I'm feeling some serious anxiety about that lamp.   

This whole process has been emotionally draining. As I opened boxes last weekend, I laughed out loud. I cried. I cried happy tears of "it came back!" and I cried painful tears of "it's junk!" I must have said "oooh look!" dozens of times. I said a lot of "are you kidding me's?" and "why's?" and of course, I said...


Thursday, April 11, 2013

Little Bean's Toy

Jessie: You never forget kids like Emily, or Andy, but they forget you.

Not true, Jessie. Not true. Little Bean cannot forget you. 

It's been 19 months since our house fire and to this day, Little Bean carries on daily about her Toy Story Jessie doll. That is the one thing she wants back so bad her little heart hurts for it. We had told her it might come back from the fire restoration warehouse or the laundry service but we just didn't know. Maybe. 

And she held out hope in her little heart. We hoped she might forget, that she might move on. Nope. We thought she might latch onto a new Jessie doll. Or two. Or three. Nope, nope, nope. They are not THE Jessie doll. 

Recently, her big brother picked up a broken pull-string Woody at a thrift-store hoping to ease the pain. Woody has become a frequent visitor at every family meal and he accompanies her on every trip out of the house except for school, but Jessie he is not. 

I understand her pain. There are one or two items we have all cried over and hoped against hope that maybe, they  just might turn up in the boxes that have been returned from the warehouse. 

It is just stuff. 

We've heard that a lot since the fire. It's just stuff

I say, "relevant to what?" I mean, yeah...we're alive. Life is certainly more important than stuff. But the stuff mattered, you know? It mattered. 

Molly the American Girl doll...she mattered. She was a cherished possession for Rough Stuff. Great Grandpa's wallet...that mattered. It meant the world to the Big Guy. Teddy...Teddy mattered to Tuna. Teddy shared a bed through two surgeries with Tuna. My recipe box...that mattered. I teared up every time I thought about it for days until the Big Guy was able to navigate through the wet insulation and broken glass in what was our kitchen and dig it out for me. 

Stuff matters. It is important. Our stuff is the tangible collective memory of our lives. And when we lose our really important stuff, we lose a little piece of ourselves. 

I'm angry at the stupid crock pot that burned our house up and destroyed our stuff. Yes, I'm mad at a crock pot. Because when I see my little girl crying over Jessie for 19 months straight, I need to be mad at something. I'm sad. Because it hurts to see your children suffer a loss.I know it's not all about Jessie. I know that Jessie is just a symbol for everything that little girl had to grieve after the fire.  

But...we can't stay angry and sad forever. Somewhere along the way, the laughter and fun outweigh the anger and sadness and we party on.  

Little Bean is partying Toy Story style. Yes, that is dog hair on my rug. Just keepin' it real folks.  

Thursday, April 4, 2013

We Can Clean That

Dressed in disposable clothes and respirator masks, our fire restoration crew poked through our home packing up anything they thought they could clean and save for us. Then the insurance agent entered our home and persuaded them to pack a little more. Suddenly, in her presence, things that moments before were "hazardous material," "toxic," and "trash" were pointed out with the exclamation "we can clean that!"

The fire restoration crew assured us that all things plastic or pressed wood were trash. The insurance agent begged to differ. She was positive that everything from TVs to assemble-yourself type furniture could be cleaned and restored as good as new. We were skeptical but didn't feel we had much choice. We would let them try and then we would work it out later with the insurance agent if needed.

It's later.

After 19 months, our stuff returned home. Please know that it did not take the fire restoration service 19 months to clean our things- it took 19 months for us to rebuild, move home, argue with the insurance company about what was being returned, and finally resign ourselves to getting back our crap. 

 And here it is.

We hand-picked a few sentimental items for the crew to take. The crew picked things to take. The insurance agent told them to take more. Then, the demolition crew shoveled the rest of our stuff out into several large dumpsters. The point is...we have no idea what is in those boxes. It's like Christmas. We have no idea what we're unwrapping and whatever it is, we haven't seen it in 19 months!   

The disappointing thing is, there isn't really that much of it. Each of those boxes contains on average about 5 items and 2 trees worth of packing paper. We've only opened a handful of boxes so far, but we can tell that we didn't really get much back. 

We left the furniture outside stinks. And it's junk. 

Take our media cabinet, for example. It doesn't look so bad, huh? The photo doesn't really show the whole picture. This cabinet was just a few feet away from the flames that destroyed our kitchen and part of the family room. The heat was so intense that the big screen TV above this cabinet melted. The over-stuffed chair beside the cabinet burned. 

Wood and intense heat are not friends. 

 The cabinet is no longer one solid piece of furniture. We could lose quarters in those gaps. I'm sure it's still sturdy, right?

They returned Little Bean's bed. It is made of pressed wood which the fire restoration company told us they didn't like to take because it crumbles apart, but the insurance agent insisted.

 Looks fine, yeah?

No worries though. The insurance agent paid for a new headboard. Shaking my head. We'll just put a new headboard on there and it should hold up just fine. As long as nobody breathes on it.

They also brought back her Dora The Explorer desk.  

Don't mind Dora's new complexion. She's been ozoned to remove smoke odors. She smells great! 

Remember the chair with the shrunken rungs from our visit to the warehouse ?

All fixed!

That's courtesy of our Glue-It-Back-Together policy! You should make sure you have that option written into your insurance policy in case your house ever catches on fire. I bet if we add a new coat of paint they'll be good as new. 

And the icing on the cake...

Our dining room table. Yes, it's been licked by flames. No, that's not camera glare on the table. That is actually part of the finish now. The Boy said, "well, you like rustic. It's rustic." Yes, Son. It is certainly rustic. If only we decorated in Char

Of course, it was not all bad. We've already unpacked things we never thought we'd see again. 

Yes, they cleaned a bottle of dirt for us. Not just any dirt, now! That is red dirt from Oklahoma collected on a family vacation. There are a few of these bottles of dirt and I almost cried when I unearthed them from the packing paper. 

When all of this fire recovery is in the distant past and the smell of burnt house has faded, these little tangible memories of better times will remain. 

Things we hope are in those boxes:
Great grandpa's wallet
Grandpa's wallet and sheet music
Grandpa's belt and work hat
Our wedding photos
Our Lil Water Maiden lamp

We'll keep you posted!   


Tuesday, April 2, 2013

How I Light It Up Blue

You know what some folks call The Boy?


You know what The Boy calls those folks?

“Neurotypicals.”  (With an eyeroll.)

You know what I call The Boy?


What does autism look like in our home?

Amazing aluminum flowers creatively carved from pop cans. Contagious laughter. A smile that warms your heart.  Anime collections and obsessions.  A graduating senior. A college-bound young man. Deep, thoughtful eyes. Poetry. Photography. Ceramics and sculpture. A profound love of nature. A deep sense of fairness and justice.  Mad dodgeball skills. Bug whispering. A dedicated big brother. A loving son. An equal rights activist.    

It also looks like this:

Regular home visits with intensive care case managers. Routine psychiatric appointments. Ongoing therapy for our son, for our children, for our marriage. System of care meetings. Independent Supported Living placement. Individualized Education Plans. Speech therapy. Language therapy. Writing supports. Functional behavioral therapy.  Rigid planning. Excessive toe and finger tapping.  Pureed spaghetti sauce.

It is estimated that 1 in every 88 children live with autism- 1 in every 54 are boys. Children don’t outgrow autism. They become adults who live with autism and struggle to cope in a neurotypical world. They are your neighbors, coworkers, family, and friends.

My hope for World Autism Awareness Day is that everyone who has been touched by autism will reach out to educate someone else about autism.  Tell your story. Share your experiences. Raise awareness!

Happy World Autism Awareness Day!