Archive for the ‘Friendship’ Category

WONDERFUL WORLD, BEAUTIFUL PEOPLE
October 16, 2017

“Take a look at the world,
and the state that it’s in today,
I am sure you’ll agree,
We all could make it a better way.
With our love put together,
Ev’rybody learn to love each other,
Instead of fussing and fighting.”
Jimmy Cliff

There have been so many natural and human disasters around the world recently. It seems endless and it seems impossible to know what to do to help besides throwing whatever money one can afford to throw. But that doesn’t feel like it’s enough and it precludes any direct connection with the victims, and fall out.

After seeing the devastation in Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, and the tragic aftermath of the senseless shootings in Las Vegas, or the massive loss of life in Somalia due to two car bombings, we look to one another for answers, comfort, and relief. We hold our loved ones tighter and make effort to let those we love, know we love them. We join campaigns and donate to organizations to provide assistance. We hope that our own cities won’t be the next struck by any kind of tragedy, natural or manmade. And we then we go about our lives feeling we’ve helped.

And we have. Being kind to one another is important and providing much needed funds to relief efforts is necessary. Going about our normal daily lives is also important both for our communities, our families, and us.

But there are some people who think outside the box and make effort to effect change and to impart a different kind of care, the care of action. I am blessed to know one such angel, and I want to share what she did in the wake of the Las Vegas tragedy. She made a pilgrimage of kindness to Las Vegas; where she did fifty-eight acts of kindness, encouraging each recipient to pay it forward themselves, in honor of each of the fifty-eight victims.

The deeds ranged from surprising random diners in Flaming Fajitas with gift cards to cover their meals, to presenting flowers to a senior in an assisted living home, to paying for haircuts at a local Fantastic Sam’s, to bringing pizzas to the first responding police station, to providing her cab driver with a generous tip, that he then donated to a collection his company had going to provide aid to the victims, and so much more. Each deed was accompanied by a note with the name, hometown and age of the shooting victim she was honoring. Many of the recipients had stories of their own to share with her and ideas for paying her kindness forward on their own.

She touched an entire city. She connected with people on a whole different level. The local paper caught wind of her mission and wrote about her. She shared the journey on Facebook and had lots of supporters wanting to help facilitate her passion. She took the idea of helping a step further than most of us even conceive. I know her to be one of the kindest, most caring, friendly, enthusiastic people I’ve ever met and I’ve been inspired by her since she came into my life. I aim to think outside the box like she does. I hope you will find inspiration in her actions too.

58 Acts of Kindness

LEAN ON ME
September 15, 2017

The value of a quality caregiver is unrivaled, and it can come in different forms, each fulfilling a specific need or time in our children’s lives.

Summer care is always difficult for us as a special needs family. My husband and I both work full time, and up until this year, we’ve been fortunate to have summer school and day camp at my son’s school, that cover all but a couple of weeks of the summer time off. We usually do a family week vacation or staycation depending upon what’s going on with us financially and schedule wise, and find full day child care and support for the other time off. There’s cost involved, but we’ve been fortunate thus far to have had the school programs to rely upon.

Cole finished up his freshman year in high school, and had over two months off school. Because he has an IEP, he qualifies for Extended School Year (ESY), which is sort of summer school. It’s not quite four weeks of casual education at one of five LAUSD campuses, running from 8:00 am to 12:15 pm. It’s something, but it left us needing childcare for his entire summer holiday, because he still needed someone to be at the house when he arrived home from ESY and for the six hours left in the workday.

Finding childcare is a challenge in itself. We again have been fortunate thus far to have maintained contact with a few of the great support staffers at our former school, and were able to offer competitive salary during the summer and the comfort for us is that we have people we know, like and most importantly, trust with Cole. They know him, he has trust with them and they know how to care for him and to engage with him.

The value of that trust is priceless.

The first weeks of summer were easy and comfortable for Cole. We employed a woman who worked with him at his former school and who he enjoys spending time with, mostly chilling out. He has his moments when he likes nothing better than chatting, watching cooking shows and relaxing. It worked well for the post ESY afternoons, when he felt a little taxed from ESY and was happy to relax.

We then took a few days off for family time in Carlsbad, a little beach town in San Diego County that we all enjoy. Mornings were spent doing some visits to museums and the aquarium, and afternoons in the pool. Cole’s idea of perfect vacation!

At the end of this summer I engaged a former staffer from his school, who we’ve maintained a friendship with for the years since he left the school and went on to pursue his higher education in Northern California, as well as fitness and wellness interests. I thought that it might nice for Cole to have a male caregiver, and I wanted him to get out and do some stuff. The first week they watched a little cooking on the telly and then went out and shopped for ingredients and prepared some of the recipes they watched! They met friends for lunch and went to a local art studio and did some painting and they headed over to our neighbors house for a swim one afternoon.

The second week they attended a day camp I found for Cole. Their summer program was for kids aged 14 and up. Cole was amongst the youngest but really loved being among teens. Each day they did all sorts of fun activities, ranging from gardening, to cooking, to working out, to creating art. They even filmed a movie in iMovie, and did some literacy studies and practice. Their final day was a beach outing. They both made a lot of friends and pretty much had a great time. As a parent, I couldn’t have asked for more.

The bond between these two is pretty special, and having a male caregiver is something that Cole needs. He was respected, treated as a nearly sixteen year old, and engaged in age appropriate, fun, activities. The balance between being a friend, mentor, and caregiver was just that perfectly balanced. He thrived. He soared.

We now need to find someone who can be all of those things to Cole who lives nearby so that he can enjoy some independence away from his parents, and perhaps even with friends, but with someone trusted, creative, and kind, who can also balance friendship, mentorship and caregiving.

Any recommendations???

 

 

 

MAKING PLANS FOR NIGEL
September 19, 2016

My current conundrum is navigating the teenage social life, without appearing to be doing so.

Cole’s at an age where most of his peers are managing their own social lives, with parents providing only transportation input be it, actually driving, or providing access to an Uber or Lyft account, and setting some general boundaries like curfews. Kids text each other to initiate an outing, activity, get-together, and to make arrangements.

Cole doesn’t text, or talk, and doesn’t receive many texts, and never texts inviting him to hang out. He might enjoy doing so but since he’s not part of that very prevalent social networking world, he’s not immediately thought of for social activities. Truthfully, much as it pains my heart, he’s probably not thought of for such things regardless of his social networking status.

That doesn’t mean I’m not keen to somehow help him facilitate a social life of some sort, even if it’s a bit challenging to do so whilst trying to remain behind the scenes. I’m learning that this is much more difficult to manage in high school, where parents are not connecting the same way and not being on campus makes it nearly impossible to know which kids he might actually want to see outside of school.

He didn’t see friends much during the summer, which was tough and more noticeable to him than it is during the school year when weekdays are long (he’s gone from 6:15am-5pm) and weekends have activities already scheduled like baseball league, swimming lessons, and the dreaded homework. There’s less free time to fill so the absence of friend time is not as obvious.

However, boy cannot live by hanging with the parents alone…he needs opportunities to spend time with friends and to do some socializing outside of school without hovering parents. (Not that I intend to hover but the reality of Cole is that he does need some adult support most of the time). A few old friends came over this past Saturday evening to watch a movie and very informally celebrate his birthday. It was a treat to have pals who know him well and with whom he can relax, and Dan & I can pretty much fade away while they hang out. Hearing not only his laughter, but theirs from the distance of a couple of rooms made my heart swell. If only I could figure out how to make nights like that a monthly thing…

I’d also love to figure out if there are any new school friends he might want to hang out with. I keep hearing about a boy named David, who I’m told by Cole’s teacher is one of Cole’s favorite friends at school, despite Cole telling me otherwise when I ask about him. I know he’s just goofing around when I ask but I also don’t know that he’s ready to make the leap of inviting him to go bowling or something on the weekend. Time will tell. In the meantime, I’ll be working on the next movie night…

SMILE
November 30, 2015

I’ve heard Tears of a Clown several times this past week, which is kind of random and unusual. The song always reminds me of a dear friend, who once asked me to promise that it was played at his funeral. A strange request, especially since it was made when we were in our late teens, if my memory serves me correctly (which it doesn’t always). At the time both the Smokey Robinson and The Beat versions were in play.

It used to strike me as an odd choice, especially for my friend. He and I met under funny circumstances in high school. He was a grade below me, and we had a mutual friend who had decided we looked alike so she started calling us by each other names. At some point it only made sense that we met. We became fast friends, he one of my best.

Thirty some odd years later, he is still a dear friend. I don’t see him nearly as often as I’d like but every time I hear that song, he leaps into my thoughts, and the more I contemplate the song choice, the more I’ve come to understand that even back when we were kids, there were parts of him I didn’t know.

To me, a somewhat insecure, but likeable girl, he was the full package -bright, handsome, very funny and popular.   We shared a lot of interests and sensibilities, which is why we got along famously. We still can pick up from the last point whenever we do manage to get together and fall back into a comfortable ease. I treasure him.

But I’ve also come to recognize that the smile sometimes does hide tears. Maybe not quite that dramatically but that there is a underlying current of sadness to him that I couldn’t distinguish when we were young, but that feels somewhat familiar to me now. Life has seasoned my compassion and when I look deeper into his smile, I see so much more.

I understand why the song resonated with him, and perhaps what he was trying to tell me even back then when we were young.

I now sometimes feel like it’s an appropriate song for my life as it unfolded. I don’t have just one song, I’ll probably create a playlist when it’s time because that’s what I do…but this song will likely be on it because I’ve come to understand that sometimes people just need to believe that your smile is a smile, and not a façade for what’s really going on inside, and sometimes you just need people to think it’s a smile too.

 

THANK YOU
November 27, 2015

I meant to post this on Wednesday and time got away from me…I hope everyone had a lovely holiday!

With Thanksgiving just days away, it’s only natural that one starts to contemplate the things they’re thankful for so that when the question is inevitably posed to the feasting table of friends, family and others, you have the seemingly perfect spontaneous response.

That’s not meant to be cynical at all. I just suspect that I’m not the only one who does better at public, yes, even a table of eighteen is considered public in my book, speaking when somewhat prepared. Besides, it’s good practice to be thankful and appreciative. Many wellness proponents recommend daily gratitude exercises as a means of learning to be positive, thoughtful and kind.

I’m thankful for quite a lot.

The middle of this year was stressful and trying and while it’s continued to be more difficult than anticipated in terms of the healing process for Cole, both physically and emotionally, the light is starting to peek through a bit and I feel positive about the year to come. So, I ‘m thankful for Cole truly starting to heal and to quite literally finding his footing again.

I’m thankful that my mom is near, and that she and Cole have such a loving, sweet relationship. I so look forward to seeing her each weekend, mostly because I love how much Cole adores her and enjoys getting lost and lunching with her.

Her boyfriend (yes, my mom has a boyfriend, which sounds funny for seventy somethings!) also has my gratitude. He’s never treated Cole as anything but one of the guys. Cole loves their covert conversations about girls and getting into trouble and delights in his stories. Cole’s desperate to have him teach him to play poker!

I’m beyond appreciative of all of the people who reached out with cards, letters, and treats for Cole when he was recovering. The support was amazing and the practice of reading each card, and learning about the author, and writing back was a great diversion from both recovery and TV! The love was overwhelming.

Along those lines, on a daily basis, I appreciate and would be lost without my growing and deepening network of friends who inspire, teach, support, and love me every single day. Without you I don’t think I’d have my sanity. I take example from each of you on how to be a parent, advocate, friend, and partner. You’re there when I need to laugh, cry, bitch, share a glass a wine (or two).

Finally, I’m thankful for my family. I am blessed to have a husband who is one hundred percent dedicated to our family and who does his best to see that Cole’s life is as rich and full as possible, and to have a son who makes every day brighter. Being Cole’s mom has taught me more about grace, determination, compassion, and love than I thought a single person could. I’m blessed for every day I get to be his mom.

photo[3]

ALL TOGETHER NOW
November 11, 2015

We’re homebound for the holidays. We will spend Thanksgiving with friends, and then look forward to our traditional Christmas Eve with the family, close and extended, at my brother’s house, and likely New Years Eve with friends. We’ll probably sneak in a Hanukkah latke fest or two as well!

This will be our second Thanksgiving spent with dear friends, and their extended family and friends, a warm, welcoming group of lovely people, and kids who welcome Cole into their fold of games and fun. It’s a relaxing evening, full of interesting conversation, laughter, and really great food and wine.   I’m already checking out recipes. I love any opportunity to cook for lots of people.

Traditionally I do a latke night in honor of Hanukkah one of the eight days (my husband is a non-practicing Jew). We’ve had friends and/or family over, and we’ve done it with just the three of us. I love making latkes and it’s our annual excuse to over indulge in their glory. Some years we’ve lit the candles in the Menorah each night, and others we’ve foregone this lovely tradition.

Christmas Eve is Cole’s favorite night of the year (we all love it but no one more than he). He loves the traditions that my brother and his family have cultivated over the past fourteen years. The evening rarely deviates from the routine, which is one of the reasons Cole loves it so much. It works with his sensibilities. It sort of takes on a movie like quality as we move from warm chatter, festive cocktails and nibbles, to a traditional roast beef dinner, complete with Yorkshire pudding, to all donning wacky Christmas hats to sing “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, to Santa dropping by for some fun with the kids, the holiday trivia challenge which leads to the White Elephant gift stealing game, and finally coffee and sweets. We leave happy, exhausted, and already looking forward to the next year.

IMG_7487

For the past few years we’ve done New Years Eve with friends. One family has generously supplied the house, I try to do a lot of the cooking, and we fill it out with delights from others. The evening involves lots of yummy cheese and wine and champagne, and more great conversation, laughter, and cheer. The kids do their own thing in the den, starting out with a movie, and moving to watching the ball drop on one of the network shows. It’s a perfect way to end and start years – sharing time with people we love.

This year, my in-laws will be with us at the end of the year. They’ll be here for a couple of days prior to Christmas, and then back again just after through the New Year. We’ll likely host a couple of small get-togethers for them. They have some friends here in LA, and also to give our LA based family a chance to visit with them as well. I’m looking forward to seeing them, and especially for Cole to have some time with them. They live in Hawaii and it’s not that easy, or affordable, for us to travel there often, so I feel like it’s important to make the visit special.

In the scope of all of this, I also want to try to host a couple of casual, almost open house type get-togethers. I feel like the holidays are a perfect excuse to open up your home and invite friends from different walks of your life to come share some cookies, or wine, or dinner. I’m feeling the need to connect with people I love. Maybe it’s a response to the somewhat isolated summer we had. I’ve been wanting people around and to be around people.

Perhaps also there’s a part of me that knows some of these traditions will likely change next year. Cole and his friends will likely all attend different high schools, my eldest niece will be in her first year of college, who knows where, and lives will have moved on. It’s all part of our natural evolution but it makes me want to wrap my arms around everyone and hold them close, never letting go.

Damn, I’m getting really sentimental as I age!

BOX FULL OF LETTERS
June 26, 2015

IMG_0057

We arrived home from the hospital to a pile of letters and packages addressed to Cole.  My letter writing campaign idea seems to have struck a chord.  Cole’s received postcards from Hungary, Japan, and Minnesota.   Lots of friends have sent cards, notes, and little presents.  He received a little pink rubber duck with duck jokes (He loves jokes!) from one of my coworkers and lots of other cool things.  The teenage son of a woman I went to middle school and high school with sent some special personal things, and wrote a beautiful letter.  From the looks of things Cole’s going to have lots of pen pals this summer and he couldn’t be happier.

It’s interesting to see how positively people responded to the call to letter writing in this age of electronic everything.  I love a good letter and adore receiving postcards.  Cole does too.  There was a time when he spent a lot of down time writing colorful letters to his friends so they would get mail.  I think for him the impetus was a Little Bill episode where Little Bill’s kindergarten class learned about sending mail.  While I greatly appreciate the ease and convenience of email and texting, there’s something so much more personal about actually putting words to paper, sealing them in an envelope and sending the letter off to a treasured recipient.

Among the notes and treats, Cole received some great suggestions of people’s favorite movies, music and books.  A few friends drew some wonderful pictures and he received lots of love.  We all feel it and are so grateful and appreciative of the effort and kindness.

We’re having fun contemplating responses and finding fun cards and papers to send notes back.  We, of course, would love to have some people keep writing…old fashioned pen pals!  it’s such a great way to get to know someone and to form a connection that otherwise wouldn’t exist.  It’s pretty amazing…

POSTCARDS FROM PARADISE
June 17, 2015

Cole’s surgery is tomorrow. We’re all frayed and fragile but doing our best to be positive and to keep Cole from seeing our nerves peeking out. I do know that it’s all going to be fine. He’s done it before, has a great surgeon, will be in a great hospital, and we’re more prepared for recovery this time around, having a better idea of what to expect, need, and how to care for him in the massive spica casts. And I know time goes quickly so it will soon be a distant memory.

We’ve had such an outpouring of love and support for him and us as we get closer to tomorrow. It led me to come up with a fun campaign that I hope anyone who reads my blog will join in on. I’m asking people to send postcards, letters, lists of favorite songs, movies, a favorite picture or art, poems, whatever you like, to Cole during his summer of recovery. If you include a return address he will write you back. Cole loves receiving letters and mail and is also a very avid letter writer himself. He’s a lo-fi correspondence kind of guy. He adores mail and mailing.

It’s a positive activity and will be so fun to see what kind of treasures he receives. I’ve promised to help him collect some fun papers and stickers and trinkets for his own sends. Stamps have been ordered! It’s okay if you don’t know us personally. If you’re reading my blog, you have insight to our family already and this fun project will bring us all slightly closer.

I’m planning to save all of the mailings in a scrapbook for Cole so he can share it with friends and revisit the letters, etc. when this is over. It will help create some positive, special memories of his “bummer summer”. So I implore you, grab a pen, paper (postcard, whatever) and a stamp and send Cole some joy! I promise if you include your return address, you’ll receive some back! xoxo

Cole Griffiths
14540 Hesby Street
Sherman Oaks, CA  91403

MOTHER’S TALK
May 9, 2015

It’s Mother’s Day this Sunday and I’m looking forward to a relaxing weekend with Cole. My husband has gone to Hawaii to spend the weekend with him own mum so Cole and I are on our own. It’s been that way for most Mother’s Day as my husband used to attend the Cannes Film Festival and was always in France come Mother’s Day. I’m not bothered by it since Cole is who makes me a mom.

We’re looking forward to a really relaxing weekend together. The weekend starts a little earlier than usual since I’m on pickup duty. Cole and I are planning to hang out with my mom tomorrow. He needs new eyeglasses and is keen to have her help him decide on a pair, and then we’ll probably lunch. He wants to spend the afternoon just kicking back at home. Sunday he’s taking me to a matinee of the Ultron Avengers movie…and then we’re meeting up with extended family for dinner. A weekend of fun, and nothing. Perfect.

I spent last weekend in La Quinta with four other moms. Our second moms get-a-way. A few years ago a few of us went to New York to support one of the tribe who spent the summer acting in a play, and then this desert weekend, where we intended to do this and that but actually ended up mostly finding ourselves engrossed in conversation, after conversation…oh, and some nice meals and vino. It was a perfect segue way into this Mom’s day weekend.

I’m blessed to have a tribe of women who I can get lost in conversation with and find myself standing taller afterward. I find myself in awe of so many amazing moms I know. We all share the goals of providing our children with the best tools we can. We share the hope that our kids will be kind, strong, generous, bright, respectful, interested and interesting. We foster independence, self-reliance, and self-respect in our children. We love unconditionally, challenge, and support our kids whole-heartedly. We have ready hugs when needed, and are learning when to give space. We share our trials and tribulations and successes with the hope of being inspired, supported or educated by one another. As I said earlier, I am blessed!

photo-2 1149013_10201742605916075_2092457149_n Me & My Mom (1969)

1149013_10201742605916075_2092457149_nphoto-2

Here’s to all of the amazing moms, mine included, in my life. Happy Mother’s Day to you!

SNOW (Hey Oh)
March 12, 2015

Our annual pilgrimage to Mammoth Mountain begins today with a five-hour road trip up to the Eastern Sierras. The excitement has been mounting all week and no one is more excited than Cole. He loves vacations like this where the day is filled with a defined activity – skiing all day in this case and ends with a group evening – dinner for 24 each night qualifies! Six families coming together for a weekend of snow fun!

We’re stocked up with lots of different playlists on Spotify and a pile of programming he can watch on the DVD player in the van, which will leave him pretty content during the whole drive. Cole does really well on long drives when we prepare well! The nice thing about having him enjoying a movie or favorite show is that it gives my husband and I a chance to chat uninterrupted or censored for hours – a rarity in our daily lives.

My husband is barbeque obsessed (he spent two summers perfecting his rub and baby back ribs and is now focusing on perfecting Texas style brisket) and my mom, ever supportive of his passion, forwarded a blurb about a great barbeque joint that’s on the way to Mammoth so he’s already planning our lunch. I’m hoping we can rope one or two of the other families driving up to meet us. Road trips are definitely more fun when you bump into familiar faces!

Cole is beyond excited to ski again. This will be his third year skiing with Disabled Sports Eastern Sierra (DSES), a volunteer based sports program that accommodates needs of all kinds. We’ve been inspired by there program where blind skiers are able to confidently zoom down the mountain and kids like Cole joyfully bounce over moguls in their bucket skis. It’s amazing.

The evenings are casual but festive with all of the families dining together. It’s a great end to the day and the mood is always high. It’s not hard to understand why Cole loves this kind of vacation…

 IMG_9009

(Last year’s gaggle of happy kids)