Preparing for a New School Year: Calm Parent = Calm Child

Autism Society of North Carolina Blog

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This article was contributed by Nancy Nestor, an Autism Resource Specialist in the Charlotte region, an autism mom, and a former teacher.

With all the hot weather we have had this summer, it is hard to believe, but summer is fading. Before you know it, yellow school buses will fill the streets, packed with students excited to start another year. The change in schedule can be hard for families; transitioning is not usually a strength for people on the spectrum.

Recently I created a chapter presentation on preparing for the new school year, and I wanted to highlight here some of the information others have presented, as well as add a few tips that I found while researching. With a few changes to your life at home, you and your child will be ready for school this year. If you are calm, your child will have an easier time with…

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Moms need mothers, too

I’m in the midst of this weird convergence of time, age, and life experience. It’s not quite an existential or mid-life crisis . . . or maybe it is and crisis is just normal for me.

Perhaps what I’m going through is what others experience as “Empty Nest Syndrome.” My nearly 30-year-old son is happily (or at least healthier) married to his second wife and they just moved into their first house. He’s the first member of my family, at least the family I grew up with, who is a homeowner since my maternal great-grandmother. I’m so happy for them.

The pride I feel for him, in him, is solely because of how far he’s come and how hard he’s worked to overcome and rise above the life he experienced growing up with me as his mother. He’s broken away from and out of some generational cycles it seemed that he would get taken down by. I’m also grateful for God’s grace, mercy, and people who have healed him and supported him so he could reach this point.

That pride is tempered with dissatisfaction with myself. At 29, he’s a first-time homeowner and I’m in a semi-homeless limbo between a Section 8 apartment and my ex’s couch, and I’m turning 47 in two weeks. I don’t see a clear path to changing my current circumstances in the near, or not so near future. Some of that has to do with his sister . . . the middle child who made me a grandmother, twice.

She’s an amazing mother. She’s turns 23, the age I was when I became pregnant with her, in five weeks. She’s also very much the overwhelmed mom, fighting valiantly against the currents and waves which drag her under and knock her down. She juggles mothering two toddlers, being in relationship with their papa, and working. The housing market where we live has exploded into this ever-expanding bubble, thanks to gentrification, the film and tech industries, and other factors I can’t even fathom. It’s nearly impossible to afford housing if you are making under $50,000 yr. Her part-time, slightly above minimum wage job, yields between $15,000 to $19,000. With the cost of childcare and the seemingly increasing incidences of abuse and pedophilia being revealed, they won’t put the babies in childcare. So, papa is a stay at home dad, at 23. Lots of people have lots of opinions, many of them negative, about their lives and life choices.

I refuse to allow my grandchildren to experience homelessness, they way the rest of us have. So, the four of them occupy my apartment. I love her boyfriend, but, he and I have a lot of things about each other that trigger not so good things in us. Their relationship is stressed, as any would be in similar circumstances, exacerbated by similar backgrounds. It’s painful and stressful for me to witness their struggles. I’m overwhelmed by the physical environment of six people, three of whom are children under ten with two of them being toddlers, crowded into a tiny, two bedroom apartment. Their day-to-day way of life is not really compatible with what my youngest and I need. So, my “home” has turned into their home with me and my youngest as intermittent visitors and we’re spending more and more time at my ex’s. So, lots of people have lots of opinions about my choice and decision to “allow” this to happen.

I’ve been like them. I’ve been where they are. It is an unrealistic expectation that they would have more skills and capacity than I and the other caregivers/adults in their lives had at the same ages and in similar circumstances. As a matter of fact, in my eyes, they already are doing better in many ways than I ever could. Yes, there are challenges, problems, and issues that are different or in addition to the ones I experienced. However, I see how hard they’re working and trying to do better and be better. So, I have to support them the best I am able, while giving all of us the space we need to become who we need and desire to be.

My mama’s heart constricts and expands as her heartbreaks and victories ebb and flow. However, she’s an adult and a mother and a life partner. She’s her own responsibility and her children, as much as I love them and want what’s best for them, are her responsibility. My influence and voice only matter if and when they are requested. This is as it should be. I have one more child who IS my responsibility. The last, the one I’m most equipped for, but who I feel like I’m struggling the most with. The heartbreak and exhaustion of trying to understand and meet her needs are juxtaposed with the concern and drive to do better by and for her than I was able to do for her adult siblings.

Despite, or maybe because of, all of these mothering experiences, I’m realizing that I’m a child who needs a mother, a mother I’ve never had. Someone to show me how to love and how to be loved in ways that matter. Someone to run to with my hurts and my fears, my joys and victories, who will lift me up, hold me tight, and let me go until I need to return. Someone to teach me to be the mother my children need.

This is a realization that has been a long time coming. My sense of desire and need for a mother figure was buried and distorted even before my mother’s suicide when I was 12. Just like looking for a father’s love, without realizing it, in all the wrong places and with all the wrong men, I have done the same, on a smaller scale, with women throughout my life.

All of this came rushing to the surface, resulting in a suffocating cascade of tears, when I read “I’m never going to be your mama, but . . .

Moms need mothers too.

Lonely but not alone

I think we all pretty much know this, but, as a reminder, depression sucks!

It makes dealing with my life’s choices and circumstances really, freakin’ hard…especially because I’m doing it on my own.

I’m not “alone,” exactly. I have some friends I can call, some online groups I can reach out to, and two faith communities which offer spiritual support and help me reconnect to God’s presence when I’ve gotten overwhelmed and forgotten to let that divine presence in.

However, I AM doing it on my own. 

I reside in an apartment with five members of my immediate family during the week, then I sleep on my ex’s couch on the weekends, so our daughter, who experiences the special needs of high functioning autism spectrum disorder, can be around her dad despite his weekend work schedule. The expense of child care, especially overnight, isn’t affordable.

I’m the support person for the family in my home, sort of: My 22 year old daughter, her 23 year old boyfriend/partner, and their two toddlers – my 2 year old granddaughter and her 1 year old brother. My youngest child is 7. My adult daughter works outside the home and the daddy takes care of the g-babes at home. Everyone’s stressed and relations are strained and we’re all in survival mode – mutual emotional support is in very limited supply.

At my ex’s things are a different kind of stress, as might be suspected. The atmosphere when we’re both there is tense and angry. My PTSD is triggered and I basically shut down, emotionally – except that the sadness, anger, and resentment tends to result in tears and irritability.

In the midst of it all, I’m trying to work through my emotional trauma recovery and learn how to manage the triggers and symptoms of Bipolar II Disorder and PTSD. Plus there’s the fibromyalgia, hypothyroidism, and diabetes.

Parenting, learning how to parent, a child on the spectrum is painful and exhausting, despite the good parts, which can be overshadowed by almost daily meltdowns. The joy and love I get and feel from her and the grand babies is wonderful and keeps me from going too deep into the depression, but the physical  and emotional exhaustion of sibling rivalry between the three of them and tantrums wears me down.

There’s no money, no time, and no space.

I don’t want a man because I need one to make me feel whole. I want a partner to help carry all of this. I want someone I can trust to do what needs to be done when I need the space and time to take care of myself. I want someone who will take the initiative to do the things that need to get done that I. Just. Can’t. I want to be able to hug and be hugged, just because. I want someone to have meaningful conversation with, to laugh with, to just be…with.

Except, I don’t have the wherewithal to be and do those things for him. Then there’s the whole issue of what sane, secure, stable, and capable man would willingly enter this chaos? What man wants a mentally and physically challenged, middle-aged, obese woman with the responsibilities and entourage I have?

Who has the time to “get out there” and look. Not I. Who has the energy and the confidence? Not I. Who has a broken picker and doesn’t trust herself to attract the kind of man with the character, integrity, and capacity to enter this world? Yep. That would be me.

Loneliness sucks about as much as depression. At least God loves me.

An open letter from a fat woman

Dear Everyone (including fellow fat people),

I realized something yesterday. I don’t enjoy being asked if I’ve lost weight or gotten smaller. This question is usually asked by those who are slender, generally healthy-looking, and physically fit. However, others who are also overweight will ask the same question. Often this question is accompanied by facial expressions and asked in a tone of voice which indicate the person is issuing a compliment and an encouragement. For those who are aware of the mental/emotional health issues I deal with, this question is followed up with, “You look happy, like you’re doing good/better.” It occurred to me that I feel neither encouraged or complimented most of the time. In fact, part of me feels frustrated and defeated, less than.

I had two people who I know love me and care about my well-being ask me at two different times yesterday if I had lost weight. Last weekend a third person asked the same and two weekends ago, someone asked me if I had gotten smaller. Four different people over a two-week period of time, all of whom hadn’t seen me in a month or more, asked me if I had lost weight. Each time, I felt obligated to say, “Thank you.” However, because I’m almost compulsively honest, I followed that up with, “No, I think I got smaller but then got bigger again,” because I know how the mental health disorders I experience have manifested in the past three months, as stressors in my life have multiplied, almost exponentially, and that I’ve been abusing myself with food. I know how my body feels, how clothing feels on my body, and how body has changed shape again in response to the binge eating and unhealthy food choices I’ve been struggling with.

Why not just accept the compliment and keep the rest to myself? It’s dishonest. I feel like I need to be truthful with myself and with others. If I were to say, “Thank you,” and move on, then, part of me would believe the lie that I’m doing better than I am and that the issues I’m having around food aren’t “that serious” or of concern. In the world of addiction and recovery, that’s part of the slippery slope of denial and it’s dangerous on many levels: physically, mentally, and emotionally.

For me, being fat is an outward sign of my food addiction and binge eating disorder. It is a sign that the depression aspect of the Bipolar II Disorder and the anxiety part of the PTSD are in more control than my rational self and spiritual being. If I accept the compliment and move on, then, I experience a sense of shame about these things, because I’m keeping them hidden from people I care about and who I know care about me. They need to know that I’m not okay. I’m not doing better, and that I still need them to be aware that I need them to see the truth that I’m not well and need their continued awareness that I’m still at risk.

This compliment is also an unconscious form of fat-shaming. It sends the message that I’m more acceptable if my physical appearance fits into an idealized shape more like theirs. These same people wouldn’t express their concern for my mental or physical health by asking me outright, “Have you gained weight. Are you doing okay? Is there something going on?” That question doesn’t get asked because it’s considered rude to comment on someone’s obvious weight gain. Why is it rude? It’s rude because gaining weight is often accompanied by a sense of shame, a sense of failure, and we are conditioned to avoid pointing out people’s shameful things in public ways . . . unless we’re doing an intervention, we’re assholes, or we’re talking about celebrities and other public figures.

Complimenting a fat person for losing weight sends the message that you believe they are less acceptable when they look more fat and that looking less fat makes them more acceptable. It reinforces the belief that no one wants to see a fat body, therefore, as long as I’m fat, no one wants to see me, because they won’t see me, they’ll just see my fatness.

In some ways, being fat and trying to lose weight is like being poor and trying to get rich. Society sends the message that being fat isn’t acceptable. You can exercise it away, you can eat it away, you can choose whether to be fat or to be thin. To some degree, those are true statements. Society sends the message that being poor isn’t acceptable. Get a job. Get an education. Get a career. Save money. Set a budget and stick to it. These things are also true, in certain ways. Yet, none of these things acknowledge very real barriers and systemic forces which exist and make those things more than challenging for people experiencing obesity or poverty.

Root causes of obesity go beyond eating too much of the wrong food and being physically inactive. I can’t tell you how many thin people I know who eat junk food all day long and live primarily sedentary lives. As a matter of fact, I lived with one for 18 years. There are genetics, mental health issues, ingrained generational patterns of lifestyle, physical health conditions, financial capacity, and life obligations which all factor into whether a person is fat or not.

Root causes of poverty are equally complex. I know people who work multiple jobs, don’t spend their money unwisely, shop with thrift, and work to save their pennies, but who remain poor. It takes money to make money. In order for someone to get an education that, MIGHT, lead to a good paying position, on a high earning career track, there has to be enough money to pay for the right education, often at the “right” educational institution. There has to be enough money to keep the bills and basic necessities, such as housing and food, stable. There has to be enough money to pay for the supplemental educational tools. In order to save money, the student repayment debt, as well as the costs of housing, food, transportation, clothing, and health insurance cannot meet or exceed net earned income. There has to be enough time and peace to allow for homework to be focused on and done well.

The correlation between poverty and obesity is also a real thing. If you experience poverty, then your ability to afford the healthiest foods is compromised. Your access to those foods is compromised if you are reliant on public transportation because you can’t afford a vehicle. The time you have available to prepare home cooked meals is limited. If you live in poverty, you typically are either living with a lot of other people in a small space or may not have a home at all, so buying in bulk and storing food is not possible. If you are a parent of young children, living in poverty, you can’t afford to pay for childcare while you go exercise. Being able to afford a gym membership is out of the question and the money required in order to pay for supportive footwear for walking, jogging, or running is needed to pay a bill or buy school clothes for the kids.

I experience poverty, as well as mental and physical health issues which are all interconnected with the fact that I am morbidly obese. I’m working on all of those things and I have a lot of things going on in my life which demand my time and attention. I don’t enjoy being fat. It’s physically, mentally, and emotionally painful. I don’t enjoy being poor. It’s also a painful experience. I am doing what I can, as I can, to work on both of those things, but, I don’t know that I will ever be able to do enough to change either of those conditions in order to be acceptable enough.

So, please remember, complimenting someone who may look like they have lost weight, but you may not know if they’ve been working to do so, is not necessarily a compliment. Even then, compliment something other than their loss of fatness. Compliment their clothes. Acknowledge that they are exuding a sense of self-satisfaction and happiness. Or just tell them how happy you are to see them and spend time with them, without commenting on their appearance at all.

A Fat Woman

Your impatience is not my problem 

My dear fellow, I’m really curious about how you managed to survive before texting, Facebook, and cell phones. After all, you were born halfway through the ’60s, experienced your nostalgically idealized childhood in the ’70s, and rocked through your ’80’s adolescence.

You grew up with short, spiral cords attached to big, heavy phones attached to walls, in the era when answering machines were a novelty and voicemail didn’t exist.

Yet, here we are in the post-millennial era of texts, tweets, and instant messages…and your capacity for delayed gratification, what little there was, has been reduced to nanoseconds.

I receive the first text notification, then, while I’m painstakingly tapping out my reply, I hear three more whooshes and see your final text with a snarky, disgruntled, passive-aggressive comment about me ignoring you…followed by four, reddish-orange angry emojis.

The first text was time stamped three minutes (or less) before I tapped “send” on my first reply.

God forbid I be in the middle of being a mom, grandma, or friend. Heaven help me if I’m showering, sleeping, or otherwise engaged in self-care. Meetings, appointments, and attendance at public events aren’t even a consideration.

I can’t even begin to imagine what it’s like to be trapped in your psyche.

I realize that this angry impatience is rooted in a myriad of things, many which are, quite literally, out of your control.

That being said…I’m over it.

You are “tyranny of the urgent” incarnate…and you, my dear tyrant, have been displaced.

You are a child of God, as am I, which makes you my brother. Like me, you are cherished, loved, and flawless in our Father’s eyes. 

Sadly, my vision is somewhat impaired and often clouded by a haze of exasperated agitation whenever I see a text from you.

It’s taken me awhile, but, I’m finally reaching a point where I don’t stop (whatever I’m doing), drop (any other conversation), and roll (over and succumb to the insatiable hunger of your ire).

Your impatience is yours to resolve, not mine to fix.

Good luck with that.

Change, Friendship, Innovation: My words for 2016

I spend too much time on Facebook. I like to think that most of that time is pretty worthwhile, especially since making some priority adjustments. However, I can get caught up in the Nametests analyses of my FB profile.

Typically, the end result is an “epic fail.” The algorithms couldn’t be more wrong in their calculations. Maybe I’m less authentic and transparent about myself than I thought I was. It’s definitely something worth considering. However, occasionally, the outcome is on point.

Recently, one particular Nametests has been showing up: What is your word for 2016?



This word will guide you through the year of 2016! It will support you in your daily struggles and situations that may appear hopeless. This word will always show you the silver lining so that you won’t ever need to worry. It was chosen for you specifically, embrace it! Share your result on Facebook and show your friends what your word for 2016 is!


Through a series of interesting clicks, I inadvertently wound up with three words:

Now, I realize that many folks use meditation, prayer, or other esoteric methods of discovering their “word” for the coming year. But, according to the Circles of Innovation Playbuzz survey, I’m definitely a member of Gen C. I don’t YouTube as much as the video below portrays. That being said, I do tend to live my life with smartphone in hand. Most of the healing, growth, and progress I’ve made since starting this blog has been with the use of technology and social media.

Anyhoo, this is an ongoing thing for me. So, 2016, my year of Change, Friendship, and Innovation is starting with a Facebook community I joined in 2012, 28 Days To A New Me, established by Robert Kennedy III. In the past, participating in this process through an associated FB group was a tremendous boon for me, as well as many others. However, I stopped consistently engaging with awhile ago.

Yesterday, I decided to get back to the things which have worked for me and I posted in the group. I noticed that the vibrancy, energy, and participation appears to have diminished. I’m sure some of that has to do with Robert moving forward into growing his business of helping people achieve their goals of leadership in professional and personal development. It all began with the 28 Days group and book, 28 Days To A New Me: A Journey of Commitment

By now, you probably think I’m getting some kind of affiliate compensation, with all the links and “plugs” for Robert. That’s understandable, but, completely untrue. I believe in him and trust him. Ever since I “met” him, on Facebook, through connections with people I know and trust in my face-to-face life, Robert has proven himself to be a person of integrity and compassion, with a strong drive and purpose to see others succeed. He’s been a mentor and a friend.

When I posted in the group, I asked who was going to participate in January and expressed my desire to experience the sense of fun and community which initially drew me in, helped me stay motivated, and keeps me coming back. A few others commented and agreed to join me, not only in participating, but, also in working to revive the group. Robert is going to support and guide us, but, we’ll be the admins and doing the work.

Have you decided whether or not to do a New Year’s Resolution? Are you gung ho and raring to go or have too many years of getting derailed got you cynical about your own potential for success?

One of the best ways to prepare for success is planning for it and choosing one, specific action, to focus on completing every day.

Join me in 2016. Whether it’s physical health and fitness goals, changing careers, tackling the borderline hoarding clutter, or dealing with deeper things, we can support each other and get through it, together.

28 Days To A New Me – Personal Transformation (Facebook group).

If you’re not on Facebook, that’s okay. Leave a comment and let’s see how we can support each other, here.

Six Word Friday: Kind

May kind ribbons encircle each heart

bleeding from conflict, abuse, and terror.

May empathy and compassion set apart

judgment for understanding, regarding every error.

May healing from a sad start

instill Love, Hope, and Faith forever.

(c) 11/20/2015, lem

Six Word Fridays are hosted by Adrienne at My Memory Art. Please go visit to discover more Six Word Friday creativity!