Category Archives: A Mother and Her Sons

Day 14, the Joys

Today’s #grayskychallenge is simple. It’s about joy; not just finding joy, but recognizing it. As I write this, kids are playing on this beautiful Saturday morning. Laughing and calling out to their friends. When an adult laughs, it affirms the joy I feel from across the street.

Why does the play of children bring joy? Is it their innocence or the childhood we remember? For me, it recalls the childhood of my sons most and of days gone by, days that cannot be replayed except in my memory. The joy, in that case, comes with tears, but only briefly. The tears are for a long-forgotten past that is never really forgotten.

The children continue playing, the sun continues warming, the birds still sing. And in my little home, my love replays his latest composition.

In the Midst of Her Grace, by D. Starkey

I am in my own joy.

Look for joy all around you, my friends.

Much love,

The Dragonfly’s Student

A note to my boys about my reality

Aang, the Last Airbender

Last summer, I rebelled from my reality. I went in search of my true self and claimed a Vision Quest was the way to best do it. In this reality in which I lived, though, my personal search was not “right.”

I had two sons, both in their mid-to-late teens at the time. I had a husband, although our goals had begun to change. I had a mother and father, a sister and brother, cousins and one remaining grandparent in this reality. I had a job teaching high school seniors. I had friends and coworkers.

But I was dying inside. I was trying to find happiness in the little things that could help me glue the puzzle of my reality together. But the glue was weak.

My mother and grandmother sensed something was wrong with me. I shrugged off their concern. “What? Me, depressed? Of course not. I’m the happiest person I know,” I said, insisting the unhappiness they sensed was because of the job or because of the political system or because my husband was still unable to find a full-time job after five years on the market. No problem, really. At least he published a novel and received an award for it.

No one knew the truth, though. Not even me.

What I learned during last summer’s rebellious break-out road trip was that I still loved God, despite the annoying, anti-human noise from “Religious” systems that profess love for God, but refuse to love their fellow man or even our planet itself!

I also found that I had so much to learn about myself and my connection with God.

When I was young, I would walk among the butterflies and talk to them. I would imagine walking with Jesus through a rose garden and filling my soul up from His fullness of being. I would see His love in the people around me and I knew the truth behind Namaste –

“I honor the place in you in which the entire universe dwells.

I honor the place in you which is of love, of truth, of light, and of pace.

When you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, we are one.”

But somewhere along the way, my life had changed. I’d lost that connection to Source. My Soul was screaming to get it back again.

And this is why this is a letter to my sons.

Dear boys,

I love you more than life itself. You know that. But there’s one thing that I love more, and that is my connection to my Higher Self and to my God.

I’m sorry I rarely forced you to sit down at church to listen to the word of God. Wil, you could always tell the fakers. Thomas, you seemed so trusting of others that I felt I had to protect you from the same harsh judgments that kept God out of my childhood.

But in hiding from my truth all these years, I wonder if you ever understood what really drives me.

I’m so sorry for not being honest with you. I hoped that the things we talked about helped you get a good idea of where I stood on things, but I never force-fed you my God. You see, I don’t believe in forcing God on anyone. When you need His guidance, you will find it within you.

God is love and peace and truth and authenticity. To me loving God means being grateful for the life I’ve been given and the beauty of nature. Loving God means standing up for those who can’t stand up for themselves. It means speaking out against Oil Drilling and Fracking and GMOs and Veal and, by now, for any farm-raised animal product. (I don’t eat meat at all, but you guys know that now.) It means representing for this planet, our only home, that many of us seem to take for granted thinking she is just as permanent as God.

So, my guys, I just have one more thing to tell you now that you are no longer little boys. You are men and can speak for yourselves. Now is the time for you to make your own paths. I know you are now self-proclaimed scientists. I beg you to open you hearts just a little bit more.

Remember the episodes of “The Last Avatar” we would watch on Friday nights when you were younger? Aang and Katara and I believe the same things about God and self and the world. The goal was to bring the four nations together in peace, despite each particular nation’s personal goals.

I believe very strongly in that reality and in the Source spirit they hinted at in the show.

How about the Pokémon world where Ash and his fellow trainers worked with the creatures they had captured and trained. I loved the way you learned about nature through Ash and his Pokémon. The creatures worked with Ash to help him. The Professors were all named after trees: Professor Oak, Professor Elm, Professor Juniper, and Ash, you both know, will one day be a professor, too.

In that world, the kids were safe and the goal seemed to be a balance of humanity and nature.

I believe very strongly in that reality.

How about when you wanted to play the guitar or the bass or the trumpet or the cello? (I took you to your lessons every week.) How about when you wanted to join the Boy Scouts and go camping? (We bought a tent and went to the Jamboree.) How about when your personal truth spoke louder than the lessons school tried to silence in you? (I spoke up for you being able to keep your authenticity!)

I believe very strongly that the fire in your soul is stronger than the lessons that try to quiet your truth.

So, as I continue to search for the truth in my own soul, I hope you have learned from the little lessons. I hope you never forget the goodness in Ash and in Aang, and I hope you will one day realize that what keeps you real, what keeps you true to the fire in your soul, is your connection to that God within you.

And that part of you is sacred.

I love you, guys. (And, yes, I’m crying, Thomas!)


The Dragonfly’s Student

… On nurturing the future

A beautiful young flower dedicated to all the mothers out there today.

Today is the day on which we honor our mothers. So, what is a mother? She is the one who gives birth to children who, by default, become the future of her existence. She gives life and hope to beings to whom is given the hope of a life they can make into their own truth. She gives her children the nurturing and protection they need until they can step into their own responsibility for, truthfully, her children’s happiness is the mother’s goal.

This has been my truth. I’ve never expected my children to become what I want them to be. All I want is for them to be the best them they decide they want to be. I hope I’ve set them on the path that will allow them to experience their own truth.

I was musing about this when I thought about our Creator (Source, God, Sophia, … whatever works for you!) Like a parent, God placed Man into the Garden of Eden (what I like to think of as Earth.) We were given food and shelter (a parent’s function) and rules and expectations.

You know the story. Adam and Eve decided to break the one rule their Father gave them, so He kicked them out of the house. Like a parent whose child has decided to break the most important rule of the family, God kicked them out of His house until they’re ready to truly own up to their transgression. As above so below.

It is no accident Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are on Sundays – God’s day. God, after all, is the parent of us all.

Recently, I was thinking about what it was in my upbringing that made me the person I am today, and I came upon a realization. Although my parents had high hopes for me, they let me follow my own dreams. They never judge me. Although they do try to make their thoughts clear, I am never treated poorly for making my own decisions. They understand I am on my own path through this existence.

I wonder. What if every parent on this Earth acknowledged that, by giving birth, they have become as the Eternal Parent? Would that change our parenting practices? Would the parents put themselves in the place of the child and remember how much they didn’t want to be forced to do anything? Would parents stop expecting children to conform? Ah. what a conundrum, though. A paradox, maybe? Is discipline necessary or is it only necessary because the possibility for discipline exists? Hmm. 

That’s a question for each of us to answer. Sometimes children hunger for the rod of discipline to help them discover what they don’t want, but I think there comes a time when the parent has to step back and let the adult child thrive in his or her own way.

After all, we can’t live their life for them.

So, Happy Mother’s Day to all of us who have chosen to help raise young humans and set them on a path toward their own happiness, a life that only need pay homage to the memory of the parent by giving birth to a glorious life where those children become the creators of their own happiness.

Namaste, my friends.

The Dragonfly’s Student

A Proud Mama Has to Gloat!

I have some pretty amazing kids.

Sunday morning, my youngest posted a comment on Facebook that made this abundantly clear.

“The shit I find on my newsfeed. People that actually want to see this and disrespect Robin and his family’s privacy disgust me. Robins family literally asked the media and people alike not to bother them so they can mourn his death. But yet the stupid ass media had live feeds from a helicopter after his death pointing at his family’s house. What if his children are on Facebook and happen to come across this picture? Humanity everyone!”

The picture he was referring to was a still of a security camera recording from Robin Williams’ home after his suicide. It clearly shows proof of the act.

The second example of my kids’ awesomeness was just now. My eldest was challenged to the ALS Ice Bucket challenge. He couldn’t wait to climb on board the YouTube sensation that has gone viral. He remembers ALS from the book, Tuesdays With Morrie, and wanted to add his name to the list of people who want to raise awareness of this debilitating disease.


These two examples show how unique my sons are.

The eldest, Wil, has been living with autism, but he refuses to fall victim. Unlike many autistic children, he wants to be involved. He wants to help. Although he still has moments of solitary confinement, he pulls himself out sometimes and forces himself to become part of the community. Although for many young boys, the Ice Bucket Challenge would be easy and fun, for a typical autistic child, the response is to not get involved.

Wil has never been typical.

My sixteen-year-old, Thomas, who started his Senior year this week, is unique in his own way. Unlike a lot of the students who wander in and out of my classroom most years, Thomas does not want to see what happened to this man who represented happiness to many of us and was a visible part of his childhood memories. It’s not that he’s avoiding the news. He just doesn’t think it’s right to invade a family’s privacy the way the paparazzi have done.

These kids were good souls from the moment they were born, but I know their development to this point is also thanks to a multitude of positive guidance from family, teachers and, of course, their father and me. (I’m an English teacher and writer, “me” is proper in this usage!)

This is not to say my kids are perfect. Trust me, they’re far from it. Family battles and necessary punishments have made my hair turn gray at the temples! But I am proud of my boys. I wouldn’t trade them for the world!

Thanks to all who have been involved in their development, including the members of our family, Thomas’s girlfriend, Kayla, and Wil’s former teacher, Karen Uhle – a magnificent woman who guided her autistic students to successful graduation.

I marvel every day at my good fortune. I know the odds are statistically against most children nowadays. I have known good kids who for one reason or another fell down a path that led to temporary, sometimes permanent, failure.

Raising a child is not easy. It’s not for the faint-hearted. It’s not for nannies and teachers alone. Many times, it really does take a village to raise a child! I am grateful to my “villagers.”

The Story of Thomas and His Big Toe

My baby had surgery the other day to remove a tumor on his big toe.

It sounds worse than it is. The doctor gave it some fancy name. Something like Carcinoma something or another. Suffice it to say, it’s benign!

But, still. My baby had surgery.

It was outpatient and his girlfriend was with us. She and I drank coffee and chatted about books and spirits and hauntings and how Thomas got this growth on his toe. And we shared that factoid with the nurses and doctors, who hadn’t really heard anything like Thomas’s story.

Trust my kid to be unique!

See, my sixteen-year-old, doesn’t like to complain. He’s like his dad in that he sucks up the little things that bother him until they get to be big (like the growth on his big toe!)

So, let me back up a little bit.

It all started at last year’s Van’s Warped Tour concert in West Palm Beach. Unlike the summer before, where we got sunburned and dehydrated, 2013 looked like something worthy of Noah’s ark. Stages were flooded. Lightning corralled crowds under the few concrete shelters. And sometime during the day, as they stood in the crowd enjoying Bring Me The Horizon, Thomas’s toe was stepped on. (He was not in a mosh pit, but is there that big of difference when the crowd is rocking out?)

He told me this as an afterthought because his girlfriend mentioned it. No big deal, he said. It only hurt a little bit.

Fast forward to that school year. He is studying Pre-Vet at his high school, Felix Varela high, where the kids study for their Veterinary Technicians license. They are a rescue, no-kill animal shelter and a barn with a variety of farm animals. The kids belong to the school’s FFA (Future Farmers of America) chapter and have to volunteer in the kennels or the barn as part of their grade. Last year, they had some cows.

I think one of the cows (that’s how I started telling the story!), a steer named Sparky, was being returned to his owner for … well, for what comes naturally to castrated bulls. He has probably become part of someone’s steak dinner or Happy Meal! Good-hearted Thomas approached his old friend to give him a hug. The happy steer returned the sentiment and inadvertently stepped on Thomas’s concert injury. That’s approximately a quarter of 1,200 pounds on my sixteen-year-old’s big toe.

Thomas and his girlfriend, Kayla, on our London trip this past Spring.
Thomas and his girlfriend, Kayla, on our London trip this past Spring.

It hurt, he said, but no big deal. Occasionally, he would complain and we’d offer to take him to the doctor, but he was always more interested in other teenager things. Even his girlfriend was nagging, but he didn’t make a big deal about it.

Then I left on my road trip in June, and his toe started hurting more.

Being a vet kid, he started treating his toe, and telling only his girlfriend, then he walked up to his father with a new complaint, “Dad, my toe is puss-y.” Steve took a look and rushed him to Urgent Care. That complaint was caused by in in-grown toenail. The tumor was found because of that.

As we sat and talked the day of the surgery, his father and Thomas’s girlfriend hoped Thomas has learned from this. I think they don’t know my son. He doesn’t complain unless he can’t handle it himself, but he will handle it himself.

A few weeks ago, the day before this year’s Warped Tour hit West Palm Beach, he asked me to buy him steel-toed shoes. I did. They look like sneakers, so no one could complain about the weapons on his feet, but when someone stepped on him in a mosh pit, it didn’t hurt!

And that’s the lesson my baby learned: Be prepared. That’s a pretty big lesson to master, don’t ya think?

Finding therapy through McDonald’s!

Some families have the memories of trips to the beach or pool to bring them together. Other families have college football games or camping trips.

I grew up in the era of fast food restaurants. …

I know, I know. It’s bad for us. How could I raise my kids on fast food? What was I thinking? How fat are we? … I hear your comments as I write this. We’re not fat. We’re also not wasting away. Any health problems we have can mostly be blamed on lack of exercise after a life spent in front of the TV or a PlayStation. 

 1933811_1254706291573_7454863_n(This is from my brother’s wedding a few years ago, but it’s my favorite!)

When the boys were little, I would take them to the McDonald’s PlayPlace to escape cold, snowy winters up north or hot, rainy summers down south. I remember one particular playground in Vermont where a rambunctious 36-month-old Wil climbed through the tubes and got scared. Pregnant me had to climb through and rescue him. Memories.

Wil had particulars!

Because of his childhood Apraxia, at first, I was the only one who understood what he would say. I was his interpreter in the playground, in the nursery school, at home. I was exhausted. One particular cold, dark, solitary New Year’s Eve because Hubby was working, I had a mini-breakdown no one really knows anything about.

I was a stay-at-home mom dealing with an infant and an autistic son I didn’t know was autistic until he was in middle school. Maybe I was dealing with post-partum depression, too, but I rarely voiced my complaints. I just sucked it up and lived on a schedule – Tuesdays and Thursdays were the days for playdates, and many of those would be at a fast-food play place. 

That’s how I maintained my sanity.

To those who have never had the pleasure of that life, my reality may seem foreign. No matter how much I fought it at first, our home life centered around the needs and opinions of our mildly autistic Wil. Even the baby’s development mirrored Wil’s. In fact, for the first few years of elementary school, Thomas had to attend speech therapy because he was inadvertently mimicking his brother’s speech patterns. Never mind the nightmare of potty training two boys at the same time, even though Wil is almost three years older than his brother.

No one understood my life. I’m sure there were plenty of rolled eyes and “tsk-tsk’s” thrown around behind my back as I pulled a tantruming-Wil from family functions or friend’s houses when we had overstayed our welcome!

As far as meals, at home we were able to talk him into eating foods that were homemade (or at least home-prepared.) Dinner always had three parts to it: a meat, a starch, and a vegetable – when he was little he liked ‘little trees’ (broccoli.) No matter whether I or his father cooked, we usually focused on those basic three. That was my life.

Arguments, autistic meltdowns, butting-heads and impatience ruled at home. Many times, there was rarely any peace.

That’s where McDonald’s comes into my therapy. Really, that’s what it was. My therapy. My escape. Even though he is mildly autistic, Wil always wanted to have friends, he just didn’t know how. On the playground inside a McDonald’s restaurant, children are equal, brought together by their love of nuggets and burgers and fries and running around. Happy Meal toys were things to compare and share.

Birthday parties were easy and enjoyable. Afternoons I wanted to write, they played while I typed away at my laptop.

And when McDonald’s started varying its menu, Thomas began his transition to being different than his brother. He prefers snack wraps or grilled chicken sandwiches now.

Now, again, McDonald’s marks my evolution.

On my road trip this summer, when I longed for home, I always knew I could visit the golden arches. The employees working the drive-thru loved meeting Minnah (my puppy) and sometimes even gave her a treat. I also knew that if my data plan was dangerously close to overloading, I could always count on McDonald’s to provide me needed WiFi access!

Now, again, I look to McDonald’s as I consider embarking on a new road trip with Wil soon – a tour of restaurants around the nation. After all, he’s always wanted an adventure!

Let’s see how he handles living my life, now!