autism,  cross-country,  motherhood,  teen years

Stories Between the Pictures

I look at the calendar right now and I’m in denial that we’re in the last week of September. I still feel like I don’t have a handle on the kids’ new school year. We’ve had rough start. But we’ve had a lot of great moments too. So many times we go online and we scroll through Facebook and Instagram and look at all the highlight reels of everyone else’s life and forget that there’s a lot of action that goes on behind the scenes. If you look at a lot of the pictures in this post, you’ll see a lot of great and fun things that have happened to our family over the last little bit. After the last couple of posts (and weeks) I need to post the great and fun things. But I’ll also include the behind the scenes stories of the pictures. Because good things and hard things are a messy deal to sort out, and often you really can’t.

W’s birthday celebration over Labour Day weekend

W decided she wanted to celebrate her birthday with just the family this year, and she requested to go on a horse trail ride. Steve did some research and found a really great and accommodating place just outside of Detroit Lakes, MN.

What you may not see in the picture: W had been really looking forward to the long weekend. We were all set to go for Saturday and then the afternoon before, J had an incident with two kids on the XC team (100% his fault) and J and I spent the whole night bawling over it (he was asked to take a break from the team, and we were discussing with his coaches what the rest of the season should look like). Saturday morning was a somber drive out to Detroit Lakes (although I tried to keep upbeat for W’s birthday–I didn’t want J’s issues to ruin everything for her). The horse trail experience was SO good. W was thrilled to finally get to ride a horse. J did really well too (at first he was still really concerned about his XC) but he managed to stay present and focus on his horse for a few hours. It’s been amazing to see his growth in physical coordination. I’ll admit, I was a little terrified that he was riding a horse on his own, but he kept his balance just fine and was able to direct the horse where he needed to go (his horse was perfect for him–rescued from a slaughterhouse, had survived a lot of trauma himself and was really, really, mellow).

Our trip to Edmonton

The weekend after Labour Day, we flew up to Edmonton for my cousin’s wedding. I absolutely love my cousins–we have so much history together and we are so very close. Maybe because growing up it was just me and my sister, and so we needed to recruit more pseudo-siblings? I’m not sure. The amazing thing is that growing up our closest cousins lived in Calgary (3hrs away) and then Lethbridge (6 hrs away) and the rest of them lived in Ontario (a 3 day drive). That didn’t matter one bit.

What you may not see in the picture: This trip was also the first time my kids got to see my hometown. For those of you who don’t know, I moved to the United States when I was in grade 11 (the same grade J is in right now, can you believe that!?) That was really, really rough on me. I still am sorting through my “being an immigrant” issues and all that identity and belonging baggage that goes with that. (My parents and I live in the States, my sister lives in Saudi Arabia, and the rest of my family lives all over Canada so sense of place and where you belong can get really confusing!). It was really an amazing experience to drive by my elementary, junior high, and high school with my kids (yes, I was a total dork and yelled–hey guys, that’s where I ran track! when we drove past the Scona outdoor track). Going back made me realize how much I love Edmonton–it’s a really beautiful city. It made me realize how much I miss and love my aunts and uncles and cousins. It made me miss and love my roots.

My first publication in a really long time

A few weeks ago, I posted on Instagram and Facebook that I had a personal essay published in Chaleur Magazine (in fact, I just received my contributor’s copy on Saturday!)

What you may not see in the picture: This publication has been a much needed publication–especially for my writer’s morale. Back in May I applied for a North Dakota Council for the Arts Grant to help fund a writer’s workshop and retreat at the Banff Centre for the Arts. One of the big reasons I applied for the grant, is that I desperately need time and space (and support from a writing community) to finish my novel in progress for the last 7 years. At 102,000 words it still needs some good revision cleanup and it’s really hard to get that uninterrupted time do get those revisions in. I worked for a month on that grant. I thought I NAILED that grant. The proposal, the artist statement, the writing sample (the first chapter of my novel) were SOLID. The feedback from the reviewers supported that. The biggest gaping hole in my submission? My very meager total of publications and lack of involvement in the arts community. I was devastated. There are very few grant opportunities for artists in North Dakota (the next one I’m eligible for is in two years). I was really hoping for that experience at the Banff Centre for the Arts. Of course, after that rejection I started questioning my legitimacy as a writer–I’m not published, I’m not contributing to the writing community. About a month later, Chaleur accepted my personal essay “Butterfly Endings” I had sent it out months before the grant deadline. I’d sent it out to over 30 other literary magazines before that. It’s a really old piece: so old that it was part of my MFA application portfolio! It was a friendly reminder that the right people at the right time need to see your work and that I need to keep sending out work.

So there are the stories between the pictures. There are a lot of good pictures. And a lot of messy behind them too 🙂

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