Blog Challenge Day 31: Quirky

What’s a weird quirk of mine?

I have no idea. I’m not sure what’s considered quirky versus what’s unique to me. Is it quirky that I appreciate organization and order? That I arrange my books chromatically instead of by author or genre? That my closet is also arranged by color, instead of by season? That I arrange and rearrange furniture based on my mood?

quirk books

In this house, I’d say my obsession towards organization could be labeled as quirky, or even obnoxious. When I feel anxious about something – unrelated to my house or material things – I clean and organize. I set things in their places. I bounce from room to room straightening and wiping and throwing things away. I rearrange.

In fact, I rearranged my desk yesterday because I was feeling anxious about NaNoWriMo starting tomorrow. For no reason other than to calm my nerves, I cleaned and rearranged my work space, turning my desk adjacent to the window instead of opposite it. I tell myself that I’ve created a tidy environment for writing, that I’ve eliminated distractions and simplified the space, but the truth is that it was either 1) rearrange my work space or 2) eat Halloween candy by the handful.

 

 

Blog Challenge Day 30: Comfort food

What is my favorite comfort food?

If I were in the deepest need of comfort of the provisional kind, I would make a large batch of carbonara and a double chocolate cake. I mentioned carbonara in my favorite foods post, and it’s truly that good. It takes about 20 minutes to make and it’s incredibly cheap if you substitute regular bacon for pancetta.

Pasta Carbonara

Ingredients
1 lb. rigatoni
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 lb. pancetta (Italian bacon), chopped
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine (I always use a Pinot Grigio)
3 large egg yolks
Two handfuls freshly grated Romano cheese
Salt and pepper to taste (go easy on the salt, or omit it entirely)

Directions
1. Boil a large pot of water for the rigatoni. Add a liberal amount of salt. Cook the pasta to al dente.

2. At the same time, warm up a large skillet over medium heat. Add the olive oil and brown the pancetta for a few minutes. Add the red pepper flakes and garlic. Cook together for two minutes. Be watchful not to burn the garlic.

3. Deglaze the pan with the wine and stir up all the drippings. Turn down the temperature so the sauce simmers.

4. In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks and add one ladleful of starchy cooking water from the pasta pot. Temper the water – pour it slowly into the eggs as to not cook them. Drip by drip, whisk the hot water and egg yolks together.

5. Drain the rigatoni and add it to the pancetta and oil. Remove from heat entirely. Toss the pasta so the noodles are coated. Next, rapidly toss the egg mixture with the pasta. Finally, toss in the cheese and add pepper. (Taste it before you add salt. Between the cheese and wine, you may be good to go.)

homemade carbonara

Blog Challenge Day 29: Bucket list

What are the top things on my bucket list? 

If bucket list items are supposed to be far-fetched yet attainable on the tiniest level, then here goes:

I’d love to return to all the places I’ve lived. Knowing full well nothing will look as it did, there is something satisfying as putting my feet on the ground where they once were. Below is a photo of our rental house in Grafenwoehr, Germany. When we lived there the house and property was completely surrounded by pine and fir trees. They were as tall as the sky and had hedge hogs living underneath them.  On that front porch is where Heidi, our cat, would leave gifts of dead mice guts, and I’d promptly bury the remains in a paper sack beneath the rose bushes. Rhubarb grew wildly on either side of the staircase that led to the front door. Yes, I’d like to go here again, as well as places in Mississippi and Virginia.

39AmSchonbergStrasse bucket list

I’d love to spend a month in England, living in a rented house or flat, so I can visit castles and literary-related places. As expected, I would binge on writing and photography. I would go absolutely nuts on writing and photography.

I’d like to provide each boy with a gap year experience – something soulful and life-changing – before they have to be official adults and take on the burdens of adulting.

I’d love to own a slew of acres, some sort of large number, where I could take on displaced animals in need of a home. When asked if I could take one more, the answer would always be yes.

I’d love to help a couple – or several couples – with their first adoption. Financially, emotionally, whatever.

To make all of these things come true, I’d love to win the lottery, inherit a fortune, or sell a mess of books.

Blog Challenge Day 27: Better feels

What always makes me feel better? 

When I was a kid, a strong two-armed hug from my mother always did the trick. I still remember how her embrace felt on my smaller body in elementary school. It felt like home.

Today, there are a couple of things that always boost my spirits. In keeping with what worked as a kid, my husband is now my favorite go-to hugger. (Sorry Mom!) Our frames fit perfectly and his arms are hella big. Whether we’ve been apart for a while or it’s just been a terrible day, I always love a hug from him.

A hug from 1997:

February 1997

Second, I love a surprise phone call/text message/email/snail mail from someone who knows I’m down. Sometimes it’s just a quick “I’m thinking of you” and other times it’s a full-on Hallmark card with spot-on sentiments. When life cannot be made right, or the weight of it all feels too heavy, that one unexpected person-to-person contact clears the clouds almost immediately. It’s a reminder that I’m not completely alone.

Coincidentally, I try to be that sort of person for others. Since I know an unexpected note of encouragement can do wonders, I attempt to be a reminder to friends and family that none of us go through this messy life on our own. Thank goodness, right?

Blog Challenge Day 26: Favorite blogs

What are my five favorite blogs? 

There are few sites I keep up with regularly, and though a few don’t qualify as “blogs” in the same way that this site is a blog, I’m including them because they fit the “favorite” category.

The Noun Project/The Noun Project Blog. This site was created to celebrate visual language. In stunning simplicity, creators and artists from everywhere contribute to the growing collection of symbols to communicate a message with single drawings. These symbols cross cultural and language barriers through unifying, readable images. I check The Noun Project Blog regularly to see what’s new.

The Noun Project


The Millions/Books and Reviews. This is one of my go-to places for book reviews, but it also includes essays, short stories, works of non-fiction, and so on.

The millions


Wit & Delight. All things living. Beauty, simplicity, humor, inspiration. So much love. This site makes me want to live the most simple life ever.

Wit and Delight


In Jennie’s Kitchen. First, her name. Second, I started reading Jennie’s blog shortly before her husband – her love – had a massive heartache and died on New York street corner. I admit – my interest quickly shifted from, “What’s Jennie cooking today?” to “WHAT IS GOING TO HAPPEN NEXT?” They had two daughters. Life was fabulous. Then it all went dark. I continued to follow Jennie’s journey because I cared about her, this stranger who had no connection to me whatsoever. In the four years following her husband’s death, she regained new strength, trudged forward, put out a cookbook, and continues to use food as her conduit for love.

In Jennie's Kitchen


My Modern Met. I’ve mentioned this site before in my favorites. Massive amounts of creativity. It feeds my soul.

My modern met

Blog Challenge Day 25: Best physical features

What are my best physical features? 

Ah, you had to go there. Never ask someone with body dysmorphia to remark on her physical features.

I think this question is intended to be an introspective boost of one’s self esteem, or perhaps for the very vain, a means to spotlight one’s shiniest, most attractive bits.

Whatever. In an attempt to be authentic, here are what I determine to be my best physical attributes.

My eyes. This isn’t because I think my eyes are anything spectacular but rather because the are multi-generational. I got these eyes from my mother, and though I didn’t physically pass them down through my own child-bearing, my eyes are exactly my nephew Jacob’s eyes. I think this especially awesome.

comparing faces me and mom

big brown eyes

My smile. I have my mother’s smile, which is gorgeous. And since I have an off-putting resting face (making me look mean and/or snobby), wearing a smile makes a big difference in how I’m perceived.

me and mom on her graduation

My hands. I’m a tall girl with long, slender hands. These hands allowed me to play the piano as a child and eventually learn to type in the ninth grade (on TYPEWRITERS). My boys say that when it type it sounds like mice running across the keyboard. I’m quick and efficient, which is helpful for writing, so for that, I’m grateful for my hands.

Blog Challenge Day 24: A difficult time

Describe a difficult time in my life.

By far, to date, the most troubling time in my life was at 23 and 24 years old. I was newly married and freshly off all forms of birth control. We were going to start a family. With all that potential in the air – and it was palpable – we forged ahead in anticipation that I would have a positive pregnancy test by the beginning of 2002, if not by the end of 2001.

Nothing happened, so we upped our game. Still nothing happened, so we went to the doctor.

It was at this point that a dark cloud came over our two-bedroom apartment in North Chattanooga and settled there for the next year and a half. It was dark, so much that the darkness crept in my heart and pushed out all the happiness. There would be no pregnancies. Ever.

All around me, friends fell pregnant, and one-by-one, they hesitated to tell me. We weren’t planning it, they’d say. We hate to tell you this, they’d say. It was as if all they had to do was run into each other in the hallway and – voila! – pregnant!

They hated to tell me, and I hated to hear it. The darkness got worse and I hated everyone. I was a horrible friend, a horrible person. Mother’s Day in 2002 was the worst. Pastors and preachers, don’t ever ask all the mothers in the congregation to stand up and be recognized with applause. I’m still surprised lightning did not strike me dead in the pew on account of my awful thoughts.

It was around Christmastime in 2002 that my best friend, Karin, cautiously, carefully told me she was pregnant. After feigning excitement for the duration of the phone call, I hung up and wept at Chuck’s feet. Not only was this the absolute lowest possible point I could fall, it was also the turning point. I resolved that I would enjoy pregnancy through Karin. If I wasn’t going to be a mother, I would at least be the next best thing – the auntie.

Starting in January 2003, I scraped myself off the floor, wiped my face, and helped Karin decorate the nursery. We shopped together and I helped host her baby shower. I put my hand to her belly and felt the baby kick. I did all the things.

The darkness in my heart was still there, but it had waned. Occasionally it resurfaced, like when we started the adoption process and the road felt long and hopeless, but I kept focused and diligent. I would be a mother eventually.

In August 2003, we met Jeremy’s birth mother. In September 2003, we were there for his birth. From the moment I decided to lift myself out of the fog to the moment Jeremy was born, it was exactly nine months. 

adoption quote

Blog Challenge Day 23: Pet peeves

What are my pet peeves?

To start, I hate, hate, hate gum chewing. I hate it so much that I don’t allow my boys to chew gum around me. I don’t like the way it smells, sounds, and looks, particularly if someone is open-mouth chewing and smacking. When I see someone chewing the cud, I have to turn away.

Even standing next to the shelves of gum in the grocery store line is a challenge because I can smell the gum through the packaging.

Related to gum chewing, but totally its own thing, I don’t like it when people talk with food in their mouths. I don’t mean taking a small bite of food and then making a quick remark. I mean full-on eating and yammering at the same time. MY CHILDREN DO THIS and it’s been an exhaustive effort to teach them otherwise. It’s bad manners, it’s disrespectful to those at the table with you, and it’s gross.

pet peeveFinally, “I didn’t have time” is often a big fat lie. There are some occasions when this excuse is a valid one, but I think it’s rare. People make time for what they really want to do. There are a lot of things in life we don’t want to do, and yet we have to do them. Instead of saying, “I didn’t have time,” I’d rather someone just say, “I just didn’t make time for it.” And I would reply, “Yeah, I didn’t make time for that either.”

 

 

Blog Challenge Day 22: 10 songs

Name my 10 favorite songs.

These are in no specific order, and I’m forgoing an explanation of why they are a favorite. I’ll just say that some songs are favorites because they represent a soundtrack to a particular time in my life, and some are favorites because the lyrics and music are perfectly married.

(I linked every song to a YouTube video and did well to avoid links with ads.)

  1. “Across the Great Divide” by Nanci Griffith (originally a Kate Wolf song)
  2. “Sigh No More” by Mumford & Sons
  3. “Good Ole Boys Like Me” by Don Williams

    Don Williams

  4. “Good to be Home” by The Everybodyfields
  5. “When It’s All Been Said and Done” by Robin Mark
  6. “When You Were Young” by The Killers
  7. “A Sorta Fairytale” by Tori Amos
  8. “Dixieland Delight” by Alabama
  9. “Silver Stallion” by The Highwaymen
  10. “The Space Between” by Dave Matthews Band

Blog Challenge Day 21: Missing something

What’s something I miss? 

Chuck and Jeff, don’t even bother reading this. I’m sorry you both married into a family that obsesses about Christmas in Germany.

But you want to know what I miss?

Christmas in Germany.

Christmas in Germany

If you are a military brat that spent any time in Europe, it’s likely that you have fond memories of Christmastime. I’m as American as the next girl, but I gotta say – Europeans do Christmas better.

Whenever my family gathers for Christmas, the four of us reminisce (while Chuck and Jeff tune out). We talk about the Christkindlmarkt in Nuremburg because every single one of us wants to go back and do it all over again. We want the bratwursts and the ornaments, the glühwein and the wooden toys. We want to ride the train into town and peruse the white and red striped tents that fill the market square. Surrounded by churches built in the middle ages, we want to buy a new angel for our Christmas tree and watch the parade with the Christkind and Father Christmas. We want volksmarches and old hymns and the reverence that Christmas is still about the birth of Christ.

There is truly nothing like it.

Blog Challenge Day 20: In 10 years

Where do I want to be in ten years? 

I’M SO GLAD YOU ASKED. First, please refer to my dream job.

Second, let’s consider ages. In ten years it will be 2025: I’ll be 47 (gulp), Chuck will be 46, Jeremy will be 22 (double gulp), and Jackson will be 19 (where’s my flask?).

There are a few things I wish for that are obvious: Good health, stability, a family that’s not broken by tragedy. These are the things we all hope for. If these things are standard, the rest is up for grabs.

By the time I’m 47, I hope to have published works in bookstores everywhere and have a strong relationship with an agent and publisher. I hope the ideas keep coming and that writing is still my deepest love.

By the time I’m 47, I hope Chuck and I have finally traipsed around Europe. I hope we’ve gone once by ourselves and a second time with our boys.

By the time I’m 47, I hope Jeremy has graduated college and/or found a job that’s satisfying and rewarding. I hope he’s confident enough in himself to explore his options but wise enough to be self-sufficient. I hope he’s not easily swayed.

By the time I’m 47, I hope Jackson is embarking on his first or second year of college and has learned how to manage his time wisely. I hope he’s organized and efficient. I hope he’s still smiling. I hope he doesn’t move too far away. (Something tells me he won’t.)

By the time I’m 47, I hope that whatever comes our way we are able to muscle through with superhuman strength and a good sense of humor. I hope we’ve given more than we’ve taken. I hope I worry less. I hope I’m still running.

I guess we’ll see.

for better or worse copy

 

Blog Challenge Day 19: Worst habits

What are my worst habits?

In the broadest terms, worrying is my worst habit. I can worry myself into a stomach ache, an acne breakout, a binge-eating session, a long run, a massive closet clean-out, or a good cry, sometimes all in the same day.

Worrying is in my blood. My Mamaw is a worrier, so is my Aunt Gloria. My father worries, my sister worries, I worry. We all worry.

Here’s a photo of worriers, taken in February:

Mamaw Gloria and me

I think Mamaw and Aunt Gloria would agree that we’d love to stop being worriers. What’s the point anyway? Does it help anything? No. Is it the best way to spend our time? No. Is it a practical way to relieve stress? Um, no.

I once read that worrying is the same as telling God, “I don’t think you can handle this stuff so I’m gonna handle it myself.” It’s a point of view that bothers me because I’ve not once been mouthy like that with God. Instead I’m always like, “GOD PLEASE HELP ME BECAUSE I JUST CAN’T.” 

And then I sit and worry. 

I have a lot of bad habits, like nit-picking and rolling my eyes and being sarcastic with my kids. I chew the inside of my mouth when I’m thinking hard about something and I forget to update the checkbook too often. I let the recycling pile up for weeks until our garage looks like a landfill. I’m terrible about replying to text messages in my brain but not actually doing them for real.

But if I could remove one bad habit from my life, it would be worrying. What a freakin’ waste of time.

Blog Challenge Day 18: Most afraid

What am I afraid of? 

  1. Snakes
  2. Rejection
  3. Big snakes
  4. Failure
  5. Small snakes
  6. A life-altering car crash
  7. Water snakes
  8. Total loss house Fire
  9. Land snakes
  10. Being attacked

All of these fears are irrational, but it’s irrationality from which fear is born. The things that scare me daily – the ones that are the most paralyzing – are rejection and failure.

Per Eleanor’s advice, I press onward.

Do one thing every day that scares you

{I don’t think Eleanor meant playing with snakes, because I won’t do that.}

Blog Challenge Day 17: Favorite childhood book

What’s my favorite childhood book?

A few books and series stand out as being favorites at one time or another during my childhood. The first is A Light in the Attic, as well as Where the Sidewalk Ends. Never ever will I forget the drawing of the boa constrictor slowly eating a person. Horrifying!

Light in the Attic

Though I never got into the Sweet Valley High series, I was a big fan of the original Sweet Valley Twins. Enamored by the blonde beauties, I resonated most with bookish writer (Elizabeth) while secretly wishing I was popular like her snobby yet sensitive twin sister Jessica. I read every Sweet Valley Twin book the school library had. By the time I was old enough to read the high school series, the girls were on my nerves.

Sweet Valley Twins

Curiously, I had a long-running interested in the original R.L. Stine Fear Street books in middle school, and I remember being significantly scared when it was time to go to bed at night. The dark was frightening, as were all the shadows in my bedroom, and it was all because of those dang books… and yet I kept reading them.

RL Stine Fear Street

When I wasn’t reading these books, I was totally reading Teen Beat.

Teen beat 1987

Blog Challenge Day 16: Dream Job

What’s my dream job?

I’ll give you ten guesses.

A handful of you have approached me cautiously, carefully, to quietly ask, “How’s your novel going?” When asked, I answer, but I don’t go around talking about the novel because it’s so dear to me, and the whole process of writing a novel and submitting it to agents is like stripping naked and going door-to-door in a neighborhood full of really attractive people, arms out and asking, “So what do you think?”

Thank you for handling me with kid gloves because it’s been a challenging year. I’ve been rejected 38 times. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I’ve been rejected 22 times and ignored the other 16.

But let’s be Silver Lining People for a moment and look at the bright side. I’ve had three agents ask for the full manuscript after reading the first three chapters – which is a big deal – and all three of them were from well-known national and international agencies. One agent in particular wrote a lengthy rejection letter that included some inspiring words, like:

“You’re one to watch,” and –

“Many writers have to write that first novel and get it out of the way so they can write the one that will sell,” and –

“Don’t let this discourage you,” and –

“I hope you’ll consider submitting to me again.”

I jumped on the last part and told her I was already at work on a second novel, and when it’s finished, could I send it directly to her? She said absolutely. After a good cry, I resolved that her rejection letter was the best out of the bunch and I was lucky to have captured her attention.

It’s true that I’m working on a second novel and I’m loving it just as much as the first one. The difference between now and then is that I’m not finding (or making?) as much time to work on it. I could sound off a list of excuses, but instead I’ll tell you that I’m participating in NaNoWriMo for the second time and hope to use the month of November as a catalyst for finishing the story in a timely manner.

Print

So what’s my dream job? Doing exactly what I’m doing now but with a solid shelf of published books in every bookstore and a faithful group of followers who enjoy reading my stories.

Everything forward.

Blog Challenge Day 15: Daily timeline

What’s the timeline of my day?

Okay, which day? We have soccer on Saturdays and volunteer work on Tuesdays and co-op on Thursdays, and weekends are unpredictable.

Every weekday in general goes something like this:

7:00 a.m. – My alarm goes off and most of the time I hit the snooze button at least twice.
7:30 – 9 a.m. – I enjoy alone time. I write, read, whatever.
9:10 a.m. – Jackson shuffles into the living room in his PJs and asks for breakfast. Sometimes his eyes are still closed. He’s also holding his boy parts because he by-passes the bathroom on the way to ask for breakfast.
9:30 a.m. – Both boys are awake and rejecting the notion of school work.

First day of school in 2014
9:35 a.m. – School work has begun, begrudgingly.
9:35 – Noon-ish – The boys work on school while I edit photos, write, or help them with lessons. We’re all in the same room. Sometimes we listen to an audio book, sometimes I play music. Sometimes it’s completely silent.
12:30 p.m. – Lunch time, give or take.
1 – 5 p.m. – The boys finish up school work and then they scatter to different activities, like basketball, reading, educational websites on the computer, whatever. This is often when I exercise, or we may go to the library, or I’ve scheduled doctor’s appointments, or we have regularly scheduled activities like weekly volunteering, our homeschool co-op, and so on. Afternoons look different depending on the day. Our activities also depend on whether Chuck is home, whether Major is being a nutcase, and whether or not I have had enough.
5:30 – 6:30 p.m. – On days Jeremy doesn’t have soccer and I don’t have meetings, this is our dinner time. I cook most of the time, and while we eat we also play BlokusBlokusWe were introduced to Blokus at Thanksgiving in Chicago last year, loved it right away, bought our own game on Black Friday, and we have played nearly every night at dinner since then. It helps us slow down and enjoy each other’s company. It’s one of my favorite things to do as a family.
7 p.m. onward – Sometimes we watch a movie together, sometimes we retreat to our own spaces. It depends on who needs to introvert and who needs times together. Sometimes there’s an after-dinner basketball game between Chuck and ten neighborhood kids.
9:30 p.m. – Bedtime for little boys on weekdays! On the weekends, they can stay up until 10 p.m.
11 p.m. – This should be bedtime, but so often it’s not. Sometimes we’re watching Jimmy Kimmel, sometimes I’m on my own and engrossed in writing, reading, or watching trash TV. This is the time of a day that I struggle with the most. Should I go to bed? Yes. Do I need the sleep? Yes. But if I go to sleep, then I miss out on that quiet time, and as soon I go to sleep, the next day is already arriving and the routine will start all over again. And that’s not always what I want.

Weekends are a toss-up. Some are super busy, others are super lazy. Much of our daily life depends on Chuck’s travel schedule, whether or not I have photo shoots or interviews, whether or not we have company, whether or not Jeremy has soccer, and whether or not the weather is cooperative.

But that’s life, right?

Blog Challenge Day 14: What’s in my bag?

This is random, but okay.

What’s in my handbag?

Instead of pulling out the usual stuff (wallet, car keys), I pulled out five things that seem the tiniest bit interesting.

whats in my bag

  1. Baggie of candy corn and pumpkins. Only in October do I carry these treats around in my purse. I like to have them when I’m sitting at stop lights or in a meeting or at any other random point when my brain spikes.
  2. Small notepad and pen. This is must for any writer, or at least for any writer with . There have been many times when an idea surfaced and I was far away from my computer. It could be a sentence of dialogue, a plot point, or even a name I hear in public that I might want to use in a story. Occasionally the notebook comes in handy for quick grocery lists and whatnot. I realize some people use apps on their phones for this sort of list-making, but I prefer the old-fashioned way of using pen and paper.
  3. Blueberry Muffin Larabar. You never know when you’re going to be hungry. Though I must not have been hungry recently because this Larabar has been flattened from being at the bottom of my purse for months.
  4. Hand sanitizer. Two specific activities prompt me to use hand sanitizer – pumping gas and grocery shopping. All the touching, all the germs. I shudder.
  5. Security ID cards for co-op. We joined a new co-op this year and we’re all loving it. It has improved our homeschooling experience tenfold for several reasons, but one thing I like in particular is the organization’s safety measures. To enter and exit the building, we have to swipe our ID cards. There is safety and order where there could be chaos. Music to my ears.

Blog Challenge Day 13: Favorite quote

What’s my favorite quote?

Well, I have many, so this is only a small batch. As a rule, most quotes that resonate with me have to do with the process of writing, the burden of perfectionism, poignant thoughts on scripture interpretation, and body positivity.
Hemingway on writingBe yourself quotePerfectionism quote Interpretations quote Perfectionism as the oppressor

Blog Challenge Day 12: The lottery

Finish this sentence: If I won the lottery…

Let’s presume that “winning the lottery” translates to millions of dollars. We’re not talking a few scratch-offs, right? We’re talking double-digit millions.

First, my family members, dearest friends, and church would be debt free and each would have a padded savings account. A smattering of children I know would have substantial trusts set up in their names. My parents would live out the rest of their lives doing whatever they want to do. Money would be donated to specific agencies that helped children and animals. Chuck would retire, and then…

…we’d be off. Everywhere. All the places.

First, Europe. All of it. Everywhere I went as a child, every city I want to experience with my family, like Heidelberg:

Heidelberg

We would be that hipster traveling, homeschooling family who showed our kids the ruins and old stone pathways instead of just reading about them in books. We’d learn languages and culture and eat ourselves through each country. We’d conquer castles and daydream about what it must have been like to be King Ludwig II.

Neuschwanstein Castle

When I think about winning the lottery, there’s nothing I think about buying other than plane tickets. Once our circle of influence was taken care of and we’d made substantial donations to organizations that are meaningful to us, I’d hire a long-term travel agent and put him or her to work. We’d be a family of eternal wanderlusts. Our home base would be East Tennessee and we’d spend plenty of time in the States, but our passports would be well-used and our children would become citizens of the world.

Of course, to win the lottery, one has to play it.

Blog Challenge Day 11: Most proud moment

First of all, HOW BOUT THEM VOLS!

So, what’s my most proud moment? 

Let’s go with my most recent, and it happens to be connected to Tennessee Football.

If you know Jackson in real life, then you know how unique he is. Super affectionate, friendly to everyone, and a big time football fan across the board. He loves Tennessee and the Packers (because I’m a good mother), but he loves watching the game no matter who’s playing.

Jackson and Phil Fulmer

The problem occurs when he gets over-excited. One of the things the psychologist explained to us during his evaluations is that Jackson operates at a nine pretty much all the time, on a scale of one to ten. Those of us who are high strung start our day at a five or six, while others who have a calmer disposition hover at a two or three on a regular basis. As conflicts arise, we slowly inch to ten, each reaching that breaking point when we all lose our minds.

Because he struggles with impulse control, living each day at a nine can be really stressful – good or bad. When the Vols are winning, he’s jumping up and down, snapping, clapping, shifting here and there, repeating stats and obsessing over numbers. When the Vols are losing, he’s crying, tossing himself on the ground, sayings things he does not mean.

impulse control autismIt takes a daily reminding – no, hourly – that he needs to recognize his own level of frustration and make the decision to calm down or change his situation (leave the room, change the channel, walk away, etc.) Because when he Reaches 10, it gets ugly.

That brings us to the Tennessee-Arkansas game last Saturday. We found cheap seats online and went as a family. It was a risk, considering how Tennessee has played this season. I was mildly worried about Chuck’s blood pressure, but I was mostly worried about Jackson Reaching 10. And in a crowd of 102,000 fans, how would we handle Jackson Reaching 10?

Throughout each quarter, I had to gently remind Jackson, It’s not a big deal, It’s okay, Calm down, Sit down, It’s okay, It’s not a big deal. But then we reached the fourth quarter and it wasn’t looking good. I could read Jackson’s face quite clearly. If Tennessee did not pull out all the stops, Arkansas was going to win and Jackson was going to melt down. I half-watched the game and half-watched his face.

Tennessee fumbled. The game was going downhill fast. Jackson spun around to me and said boldly, “I NEED TO LEAVE.”

Calmly, I turned to Chuck, who’d driven separately, and said, “Jackson needs to leave.” Then the two stood up, grabbed hands, and left the stadium. Jackson diffused along the way.

While Jeremy and I finished watching the pitifully poor game, I sat proudly. Tennessee was losing to a team that they should have beat, but Jackson totally won that night. He recognized his temper and MADE THE DECISION on HIS OWN to walk away. It was a big move. It was ginormous. To date, it was one of my proudest moments as a mother: Jackson crested the rim of Reaching 10 and decided on his own to turn back.