Dear Typical Parent,

Hi there! I saw you this morning at the bus stop, taking pictures of your kids in their new clothes with shiny backpacks and haircuts. My son was the little guy with a hole in the back of his shirt where he ripped out the label because he couldn’t stand the feel of it against his skin. He had last year’s backpack even though the zipper is broken, because it’s familiar to him and he was also wearing last year’s shoes because he doesn’t grow much and they feel just right. Kids with autism like things that are broken in.

I noticed your son’s shiny braces, too! My son needs braces, but he can’t get them yet. He’s had two surgeries to have teeth removed (not at the dentist’s office, but at the hospital because that’s where kids with heart defects have to go), but he needs to have even more taken out before we can think about braces. That will be surgery number 14…I think. I’ve lost track.

Your daughter was the one first to ask how old my son was; probably because she’s seven and taller than he is. See above, regarding heart defects. He gets a shot of growth hormone every day, though, so I’m hoping he looks like a nine year old by Christmas break!

At first he didn’t hear the question, because his new hearing aids are still on order. After she asked three times, your son was shocked after my son said his age, so I said, “No, really. He is 13.”

Your boy replied, “He’s so little. That’s weird” and it was awesome how you nervously laughed and didn’t correct him.

When your kids come home this afternoon, they may tell you that my son sang the entire time he was on the bus. Or, that he bounced in his seat, or that he did something completely off the wall like throw something out of the window. I hope you are like the parents at his first primary school and tell your kids that he may not be able to help it, but if you’re like the parents at his second primary school, I understand that your first reaction will be to call the school and attempt to get him removed from the bus.

I know my son doesn’t look like yours, act like yours, play sports like yours, eat like yours, or talk like yours. That’s because he is not yours. He is mine. He is unique and quirky and sometimes the most frustrating human being in the world, but he is a child. And, he’s a child who needs an education just like yours. He’s smart enough to score on a 10th grade math level, but sometimes he can’t get his actions and words to match what’s in his brain.

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Tomorrow, after you’ve had a chance to talk to your kids about inclusion and how every child deserves a chance to go to school I hope they will greet him with hearty hellos. I promise, if they do, I’ll do the exact same for you.

Sincerely,

Momo

 

How to Be Happy

posted by Momo Fali on August 17, 2015

Be happy.

That sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? It’s not.

Life has a cruel way of putting roadblocks along your path to happiness, and it doesn’t have to be a major life event, either. You plan a day at the pool with your kids, it rains. You buy ingredients for a delicious dinner with friends, everyone cancels. You get excited for an out of town trip and your car breaks down.

For the first part of my divorce journey I had to force myself to find happiness. As a matter of fact, there really wasn’t any. There were other periods of time like this in my life, too. When my son was a baby and constantly in and out of the hospital or when I’ve lost people dear to me.

The point is, those were awful times when it felt like nothing would make me happy again. I spent MONTHS of last year wailing in the shower in such pain I never thought it would end, but through a series of stages I have found myself smiling again. A lot. This is not to say life is perfect, because it isn’t. I still suffer heartbreak. I still ache sometimes. Daily, even.

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I have learned, however, how to climb over the roadblocks instead of being stopped by them. Here’s how:

1. Hang out with happy people.

When you are searching for happiness, you don’t have to do it alone. Reach out to friends and family. Let them make you laugh. I have close friends who have a running joke about me sitting at their kitchen table for days on end. They would come home from work and I’d be waiting for them. That table, that family, the conversations we had; they saved me and made me happy again – even if was just for a couple of hours.

2. Read.

Read humorous books or blogs that friends recommend as laugh-out-loud funny. Join Goodreads and find the reviews that speak to you and your funny bone. This is not to say I haven’t thrown in a book or two on anxiety and co-dependency, but for the most part, I have stuck to hilarious reading material.

3. Exercise.

Hike, run, do squats in your living room. The best thing I’ve ever done for my happiness and mental health is to physically exhaust myself. Trust me. It works.

4. Take care of the little things.

Do you have a hangnail? A splinter? A nagging plantar fasciitis injury that feels like your heel is pounding itself into a rock with every step you take? Hypothetically. Get it fixed. There is nothing like a toothache or mosquito bite, or some tiny, grating, physical ailment to make you be on edge and grumpy

5. Do fun things.

This summer, I have been to concerts, amusement parks, Cirque de Soleil, and more cities than I can count. You don’t have to spend a fortune to do fun things, either. Some of the happiest times I’ve had were playing in the pool with my kids or a card game with friends. Nighttime Tackle Beach Frisbee, anyone?

6. Stop feeling guilty about your happiness.

Finding happiness can be scary. We have friends battling cancer or parents with health issues, so we feel guilty being happy. We don’t want to allow it because life isn’t fair. But, guess what? Your friends and family WANT you to smile. That will make THEM happy. Full circle bonus!

7. Allow yourself to be vulnerable.

A friend told me that her divorce has made her learn how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. I couldn’t have said it better. There is an aching emptiness that came with the loss of my marriage and it’s still there every day. I had an entire family and life that was ripped out from under me. What I lost is never far from my mind and that’s okay because it helps me put my new life in perspective and reminds me that I deserve to be happy. You don’t have to pretend the pain isn’t there.

8. But, don’t let the pain own you.

Your feelings do not define you, your actions do. If you hurt, that’s normal. If the hurt keeps you in bed all day, it’s not.

9. Find a support group.

Whether it’s in person or online, there are support groups for everyone. And I mean everyone. Are you a cheese-eating golfer who only plays on Wednesdays when the temperature is 72 degrees? There’s probably a Facebook group for you. Find a safe place to vent, even if you have to do it anonymously.

10. Smile.

The act of smiling can actually make you happier. It’s science.

Happiness doesn’t have to be something that only happens to other people. Jump over the roadblocks and YOU can find it, too.

Life List 31-40 And a Reevaluation

posted by Momo Fali on August 5, 2015

Almost five years ago, I started a Life List on this site. FIVE YEARS, people. That’s practically a lifetime in itself.

I started with 10 not-so-easy items, then added 10 more to the list a couple of months later, then 10 more in 2014. Up until a few months ago, I hadn’t accomplished any of them.

But, lately I’m on a roll! I’ve knocked five items off and I want to add a few more things until I get to the magical 100 mark. Of the original 30, two have been removed so I’ll technically have to come up with 102, but challenges are growing on me. I got this.

To review (with new notations):

1. Graduate from college.
2. Run a half marathon. (Done DID it.)

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3. Travel across the United States in an RV.
4. Stand under a Giant Sequoia.
5. Hike into the Grand Canyon.
6. Get published.
7. Become a Certified Interior Decorator.
8. Paint a picture. (It’s not gorgeous, but it’s painted!)

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9. Camp in a tent, on a warm beach.
10. Visit all 50 states.
11. Visit the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.
12. Get a tattoo.
13. Taste each chocolate in the Intense collection from Richart Chocolates. (Doesn’t count toward my goal anymore, because I think I really just wanted some chocolate that day. Apparently.)
14. Go skinny dipping. (You don’t get a picture of this. Also, when I say “dip”, I mean DIP. Because nighttime, ocean, dark, JAWS. Also, don’t tell anyone. Wait…)
15. Grow my own tomatoes.
16. Take a dance class.
17. Learn how to properly skip a stone.
18. Sample 100 types of beer. (Good golly, that was fun. Thanks to recent trips to four great breweries – Madtree, Landgrant, Lineage and Wolf’s Ridge – as well as an expanding palate, I was able to cross this off!)

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19. Renew my wedding vows with my kids present. (Um…yeah. That’s not happening.)
20. Breed a dog and keep one of the puppies.
21. Learn to play guitar.
22. Go on a winter campout.
23. Hike in Zion National Park.
24. Learn to golf. (With some accuracy.)
25. Participate in an adventure race.
26. Learn to paddleboard. (I did it! But, there’s no picture because I needed all the hands. Here’s WHERE I did it though. Then my paddleboard sank and I got stung by a jellyfish, but STILL. Done.)

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27. Visit the Vatican and attend mass at St. Peter’s Basilica.
28. Float in the Dead Sea.
29. Sit in a natural hot spring.
30. Take a photography class.

Now for some new meat!

31. See the Northern Lights. They try to tell us we can see these from Ohio sometimes. That doesn’t count.

32. Ride a snowboard. I’ve skied plenty, but I understand this is entirely different. I’m going to need a helmet.

33. Go whitewater rafting.

34. Learn to play the drums. Together with #21, I can be my own band.

35. See a concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater. I love live music. I love the outdoors. Enough said.

36. Ride a Segway. Because, Paul Blart wants me to.

37. See a Broadway show.

38. Canoe or kayak down the Colorado River.

39. Write a screenplay. I’ve told one other person this in my entire life. She wrote me a note that I carry in my wallet. It says I will. I believe her.

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40. Go snowmobiling. The only thing better than bitter cold, is bitter cold wind in your face.

Have you started your Life List? What are you waiting for?

Extremes

posted by Momo Fali on July 8, 2015

Every single day I think about writing, but there are a lot of things I can’t share right now; things that are too painful, too wonderful, too much of one extreme or another which affect not only me, but people I love. It’s been almost a year since my life was turned upside down, but there are still a lot of things left undone.

A few days ago I went out and bought an old-fashioned, spiral notebook and some pens so I can write again. That way, I can get rid of anything I don’t want to be seen. Even though it’s easy to delete my entries on the computer, there is something cathartic about tearing the papers from a book, crumpling them up and tossing them into a dirty trash can. Of course, the good stuff can stay and when the time is right I can share those nuggets here. They are worth the wait.

I will say that the good in my life most definitely outweighs the bad, but I will also say that it’s possible to love one thing and hate another with equal intensity. It’s possible to be deliriously happy and heartbroken at the same time. It’s possible to live every day with such extreme highs and lows that you feel there will never be middle ground again. Thankfully, I have good friends to help me get centered.

There has been an almost complete lack of sunshine this summer, but it made things like a recent trip to Cedar Point even more sweet. One day the sun was out and we went to the beautifully renovated Breakers Hotel and enjoyed the lakeside pool IMMENSELY. It was my favorite day of the summer thus far. It was warm, relaxing, fun, gorgeous and my favorite way to spend a day. Period.

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That evening, after frolicking in the indoor pool and hot tub (I have lost the ability to do underwater hand-stands and swim the length of a pool under water…thanks a lot 40s!) we enjoyed a nice dinner and a trip to the arcade. After the kids went to bed it was great to have some adult time, a relaxing a walk along the beach and some quiet moments watching lightning flash in the distance over the lake.

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The next day was partly sunny and cool, which is the perfect weather for an amusement park. Cedar Point keeps adding more and more great coasters (this year’s new one – The Rougarou – did not disappoint). We thought my son was too short to ride Maverick, but after getting an official measurement (and wristband) at the park office, he JUST made it. Maverick is now tied with Raptor as my favorite ride at the park, with Top Thrill Dragster a close third).

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Here’s my daughter and I, giving a thumbs-up at the end of the ride while my son apparently thanks heaven he was tall enough.

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He doesn’t seem happy at all, does he? Red lips, courtesy of Dippin’ Dots.

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I still love you, Raptor.

So, from one extreme to the other…that’s how my life has been lately and if it turns out half as good as that weekend was, then it’s just fine if it stays that way!

 

Cedar Point tickets and overnight stay at Breakers Hotel provided by Cedar Point.