"Normal" Is A Dryer Setting

Parenting A Child On The Autism Spectrum

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Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower. ~ Albert Camus

The Boyfriend and I made plans to sneak away on a Friday afternoon for a romantic adventure. Between his two children, my teenager, him traveling for work, me simply working long hours this month, and him caught up in evening meetings organizing one of our area’s largest fall running races ever, we had gone for several days without spending time together as Just The Two Of Us. Group activities with friends are great, but we were really feeling the need for some time alone.

Beware: Our idea of romance may not appeal to everyone, especially my closest girlfriends. He suggested hiking at one of our state parks and supper afterward. While hiking through the woods makes some of my girlfriends cringe, I thought it was a wonderful idea. For supper I decided to put something in the Crock-Pot, and we built a fire in my backyard and ate outdoors by candlelight (again, the cringing by my girlfriends) since the sun sets oh so early now this far up north. Everything put together made for an intimate, lovely evening.

The site of our hike was Afton State Park, which is full of beautiful trails overlooking the St. Croix River. Afton has woods, ravines, prairies, beaches, and natural rock formations. A hike-in campground which is perfect for those who wish to practice backpacking with small children before doing the real thing. There are also four cabins located near the campsites which are available year-round.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here are some photographs of Afton. If you live in the Twin Cities area, hurry – the colors are nearly gone! Several of us have commented on how fortunate we are to have had a long, warm, sunny fall this year. Enjoy 🙂 .


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The Beautiful Surprise

She discovered with great delight that one does not love one’s children just because they are one’s children but because of the friendship formed while raising them. ~ Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera 

Parenting has no road map because it is a unique experience for everyone involved. No two relationships are the same, and what works for one child may not work for the other. As we go through life, each of us continually becomes reshaped and redefined based on our environment and our experiences. To have an end goal for raising a child often feels like a moving target to me. When all is said and done, this is what I want for my son Tim:

I want my son

To become a responsible adult

Who is capable of holding a job and living independently

And enjoys life to its fullest

Surrounding himself with people who love him.

As Tim’s mother, I by default am one of those people who love him, and I certainly hope he wants me to be around him. Tim and I have fun together, for example

Tim and me on the way to my youngest brother's wedding.

Tim and me on the way to my youngest brother’s wedding.

We were just getting started on that afternoon. What I love most about being with Tim is that he and I share a special connection. We understand each other’s jokes, moods, body language, and communicate both verbally and nonverbally. We are in sync. We get each other. One afternoon, when I walked through the front door after a long day at work, Tim took one look at me and said, “Mom, you need a hug.” Then this teenager who has a personal space bubble the width of the Grand Canyon proceeded to walk over, put his arms around me, and squeeze. I looked up at him, my son, who is now inches taller than I am, and said, “How did you know I needed that?” He just knew.

Tim and I no longer have a parent-child relationship the way we used to when he was younger. He is the most well behaved teenager I have ever met. When I was fifteen years old my parents probably thought my primary objective was giving them heads full of gray hair and worry lines across their brow. Not the case with Tim. As a result, the relationship he and I share is evolving into something quite unexpected. We are becoming friends.

Being my son’s friend is a strange concept to me. I have always approached our relationship as his parent, which means that I am his

“Friend” was never part of the relationship until recently. Many of the words that I used to define my role as Tim’s parent also overlap with synonyms for friend, such as





While I will always be Tim’s parent, the added dimension of friendship provides a depth and roundness to the love that already exists between us. Seeing the first buds of friendship in the relationship that Tim and I share is a most wonderful, delightful, delicious surprise. One of the best that life has offered so far.

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The Witness

Marriage is like a cage; one sees the birds outside desperate to get in, and those inside equally desperate to get out. ~ Michel de Montaigne

I take marriage for granted. In the United States, I, a woman, can marry the man of my choosing practically anywhere, anytime, and by anyone. I can elope in a heartbeat or plan an elaborate ceremony with a ten-tiered cake and five hundred guests. I can have one of my girlfriends perform the ceremony since she received her ordination online to officiate another girlfriend’s wedding a few years ago. Or I can be married by a priest, a minister, or a justice of the peace. I can also choose not to marry, which I have done by being extremely selective about the men I become involved with. The minute one of them brings up the prospect of a future, more children, or finding their soul mate to share their life with until death do they part, the date and any potential relationship for me is over. As my boyfriend puts it, I am a strange bird.

Even though I have no intention of remarrying, I am all in favor of other people’s weddings. In the past three years I have seen both of my younger brothers marry kind, intelligent, lovely women who are well suited for them. My sister will find her person eventually, but she has an entire lifetime ahead of her to do that. Several years ago I had a female coworker who moved from South Minneapolis to San Francisco so she and her partner stood a chance of being able to be legally wed. After marrying in 2008 when same-sex marriage finally became legalized in California, they had a son together and now live very happy, quiet lives.

Minnesota joined California on August 1, 2013, when Governor Mark Dayton declared this date as the “Freedom To Marry Day“. The Freedom To Marry bill that was signed in May at Minnesota’ State Capitol went into effect, and the exclusion of same-sex marriages came to an end.

I have remained silent and relatively unopinionated on the topic of same-sex marriage in general. I believe in marriage as an institution, and I believe that everyone deserves love and a healthy relationship. I have seen friends in unhealthy marriages choose to divorce, and I have seen them choose to remain in the marriage. I have seen friends who are looking for their one true love in life, and sometimes they find that person and sometimes they don’t. I have seen friends marry in response to their biological clocks, which tell them it’s time to start a family. The State of Minnesota also seems to endorse marriage in general, since married couples tend to have better tax breaks, better interest rates when purchasing a home, and more of a social life. I can say this because I have lived in Minnesota both married and unmarried, and it’s two completely different worlds.

Then there are the couples like my coworker who moved to California with her partner because she knew she would be able to be married there sooner than here. We always want what we can’t have, don’t we? Going into something as binding as marriage comes with risks. People’s personalities change over time. People become physically sick or mentally ill. People meet other people. Finally, some people leap before they look, and decide after that the view isn’t quite what they expected it to be. Being denied what you want can be beneficial. It gives you a goal to work toward, and you appreciate what you have when you finally have it.

The wedding venue, overlooking the St. Croix River which borders Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The wedding venue, overlooking the St. Croix River which borders Minnesota and Wisconsin.

I saw this type of long-awaited appreciation this past weekend when I stood as a witness for a marriage that two people had been waiting to legalize for fifteen years. The wedding was simple, with the judge, his wife who took pictures, my boyfriend, myself, and the couple. The judge and his wife own a home which overlooks the St. Croix River, and the morning was blissfully cool with bright blue skies. When I arrived at their home, the judge asked me if I was one of the witnesses, and I told him, “Yes, I am the best man.” The judge was originally from Boston and still had his accent after all these years, which was great when he started the ceremony in a booming voice to let the St. Croix River Valley know that two life partners were finally becoming legally united. The couple wrote their own vows, and my boyfriend teared up as they were exchanged. I cheered when they sealed the ceremony with a kiss.

The newly married couple had decided to spend the rest of the day hiking in Taylors Falls. They have no honeymoon planned, despite my gentle urging. For them it was back to life as usual, which is how it should be. They knew each other, they knew their relationship, and they knew that they wanted to be together for the rest of their lives. There were no surprises. What I saw were two human beings who had already been one in mind and spirit for quite a while. I also saw two human beings who were best friends, which is a critically important piece of romantic relationships. This wedding, as simple and speedy as it was, reinforced my belief in true love, companionship, and the beauty of being alive. It opened a small crack in my own mind that some day, marriage may be for me again. Just not this moment.

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The Other Side Of The World

A foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable. It is designed to make its own people comfortable. ~ Clifton Fadiman

This past weekend Daniel and I found ourselves parent-and-child-free. Daniel’s parents have gone back to their home after spending a month with his, and both of the boys were with their other parental units. We had the ENTIRE weekend, from Friday through Sunday, all to ourselves, which is a rare event. And quite the good weekend we did have, which we spent doing a whole lot of nothing. While Doing A Whole Lot Of Nothing may sound dull to some, hanging out is what Daniel and I do best. As he put it when we were on vacation in Jamaica, he likes being with me. And vice versa. We are both homebodies, and even when we have a free Saturday night, like we did last weekend, we spent it grilling what turned out  to be a delicious meal and watching the Food Network.

Royal Lytham and St Annes Golf Club (Image from http://www.golfweek.com)

Actually one Something we did do included watching the Open 2012 which was held at the Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club this year. This is about four miles from where Daniel grew up, and since his parents attended the Open on Sunday, we got up early to watch as much of the tournament as possible to see if we could spot them among the crowd. I was rather mesmerized by the cottage-y scenery surrounding the golf course, with its rolling green hills and brick buildings. I really enjoy learning about where Daniel came from because I have never been to his hometown. We were raised in similar environments, however, which strikes me as odd because we grew up thousands of miles away from each other in different countries.

The other Something Daniel and I did was try a different lunch spot. When we took his parents to Scusi for supper, they were surprised at how the outside of the building didn’t look like much compared to the interior and the quality of the food. They would have never guessed that the indoors contained a fabulous restaurant. The same went for our lunch selection this past weekend, which was Merlins Rest Pub in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis.

The exterior…hmmm.

I had heard about Merlins Rest when it opened in 2007. Even though it has been on my to-do list for the past, um, five years, I had yet to visit. When Daniel and I pulled up next to it, his reaction was the same as with Scusi – it didn’t look like much from the outside. Once we stepped through the front door, however, everything changed. He stopped, stood in the middle of the bar somewhat in disbelief, and said that, yes, this looks pretty similar to what he grew up with. When we sat down, he immediately noticed the malt vinegar which was waiting for us on the table, as commonplace an accompaniment as salt and pepper.

Looking good on the inside! (Image from http://www.merlinsrest.com)

I took Daniel here because Merlins Rest advertises English bacon on their menu, which you can find by clicking here. I have been searching high and low for English bacon in America since Daniel and I started dating. There is nothing locally, and ordering bacon online, even within the country, is expensive since it has to be shipped cold. Merlins Rest also has Scotch Eggs, which Daniel has told me about but we had yet to find. And Old Speckled Hen on tap, which we both adore! Merlins Rest also has the largest whiskey collection in the Twin Cities, and they do monthly tastings (Super j’adore!!!). It doesn’t get much better than this, or does it?

We picked a comfy booth to settle into. Do you see the malt vinegar peeking out from behind the placard on the table?

It does. When our server came to our table, I started firing bacon questions at him. Is their English bacon real English bacon? Is it Wiltshire-cured? Who is their supplier? How much does it cost to import? He said he would check and asked if we would like to sample  a rasher in the meantime. While our rasher was cooking, someone came out from the kitchen and said that Merlins Rest purchases their bacon from a local Minnesota farmer who cuts and cures it according to their specifications. And when the rasher came out, looking like a really thin pork chop (click here for pic), Daniel cut off a piece, chewed it slowly, and said that while it isn’t the real thing, it is very, very close. Merlins Rest offered to pick some up for Daniel the next time they put in an order, so all he has to do is pay wholesale for the bacon without the cost of shipping.

Now that we had the bacon issue squared away, we ordered lunch. We shared Fish & Chips, which we use as a benchmark when we try new places, and a Steak and Stilton Pie. When our server asked if we wanted our Fish & Chips malted and salted, we both simultaneously responded “Yes!” since he was stating the obvious. Everything we tasted was delicious. The Fish & Chips came wrapped in paper, and the pie came in a lovely puff pastry shell. We discovered that we had too much food between the two of us, so Daniel took most of the chips home to make himself a butty for supper.

All in all, Daniel and I decided that Merlins Rest is a place we should start to frequent more regularly. We both enjoyed the food immensely, the service was spectacular, and the atmosphere was relaxed, which is what we both needed last weekend. Merlins Rest has no televisions, and no radio. Where Daniel grew up the point of going to a bar is to spend time interacting with your friends, not watching a sports game or picking up women.  He noticed the dartboards in the corner and plans on bringing his darts sometime to play, and we thought that this would be a good happy hour venue to meet up with some of our friends after work. I enjoyed stepping into Daniel’s world for a weekend, starting with the Open 2012 golf tournament and ending with lunch at a location where he feels at home.

I started this blog about two years ago to write about autism and the spectrum disorders from a parent’s perspective. However, Tim has been doing quite well the past six months, and I finding that there is less and less to write about where he is the main event. With that said, I figure for now I will start simply writing about life, what we do, where we go, what we think of what we do and where we go, and if autism comes into the picture, we’ll talk about that too. Life is a winding road, with lots of interesting twists and turns, so let’s see where it goes 🙂 .

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Before you came into my life, I missed you so bad. Call Me Maybe, Carly Rae Jepsen

Last weekend Daniel and I went camping. Two years ago Daniel got the idea into his head that he needed to take Peanut camping, so he bought a three-person tent and a Peanut-sized sleeping bag. Here is what has been holding him up on making Peanut’s Grand Camping Extravaganza a reality…

Daniel (two years ago): I think it would be a good idea to take Peanut camping.

Me: Oh, that sounds like a great idea! You can make it a boys weekend, just the two of you.

Daniel (long, measured pause): Yeah.

And that was the end of that conversation for two years.

I’m not obtuse. I just act that way occasionally. Alright, maybe more often than not, but honestly Peanut had just turned four years old at the time and who wants to get up at 5 am in the middle of the woods with a preschooler who doesn’t understand the concept of waking up slowly with a morning cuppa? Daniel is also really into the Royal We and all of its glorious variations. When he mentions something casually, like “It would be nice to take Peanut camping,” what he means is, “I want you to take Peanut and me camping because you know what you’re doing and I’m sure as long as I let you run the show everything will turn out brilliantly.”

Learning to speak Danielese is a bit of an acquired trait, but once you know how to communicate with him, usually you’re golden. Now that Peanut is six, here is how the conversation went about two weeks ago.

Daniel (two weeks ago): I think it would be good idea to take Peanut camping.

Me: Oh, that sounds like a great idea! The three of us will make a fun weekend out of it.

Daniel: I don’t have a sleeping bag! We also need to buy a portable grill, a lantern, and maybe I should buy another pair of shorts.

Thanks to Amazon Prime, Daniel had a Kelty sleeping bag, a grill, and a solar-powered lantern all show up at his house the next week. They were also all red, which is his favorite color, and we were set.

Our campsite! All cozy and dry before the rain began.

Last Saturday afternoon we headed out to our designated campsite in a state park. I chose an easy place where you park, unload, and have bathrooms 100 feet away. The idea wasn’t to backpack across the Cumberland Gap, which I have done before and which is AWESOME. We camped for the night on a gigantic boulder. Anyway, camping this past weekend was to do a dry run before taking Peanut with us. We wanted to make sure we knew how to set up the tent, get a fire started, work the grill, and discover what we brought and didn’t need and what we forgot to bring but really should have.

Check out the neat-O little grill Daniel bought! I am roasting potatoes & onions on it.

Now if you live in the Twin Cities area and remember the weather from last weekend, Saturday night wasn’t a particularly good night to sleep outside. At about 8 pm we had started cooking supper, were on our second bottle of illegal wine, which was perched up on the picnic table, when a park ranger pulled up in his truck. I was by the fire and immediately whispered to Daniel “HIDE THE WINE!!!” because I figured the ranger saw our booze and was stopping by to confiscate it. However he really didn’t care about that. He was actually driving from campsite to campsite to warn each camper that there were severe weather conditions forecasted for the evening, and it was our decision whether to stay or leave.

Roasting corn and tomatoes over the fire pit.

We chose to stay. There wasn’t even a discussion. Daniel and I had decided to camp that evening, come what may.

The rain started when supper was almost done, so we ate with our foil packets and plates scattered across our sleeping bags in our tent. Then we went to sleep around 10 pm because it was raining and there was nothing else to do. We both woke up at midnight when the wind and thunderstorms really picked up. Then I slept until 6 am, woke up, and discovered that Daniel had been awake since 4 am. Then the rain lulled me back to sleep until 9 am, when I woke up and discovered that Daniel was still awake. I think/hope he had been dozing in and out.

Since the weather was still wet and anti-camping we decided to pack up and go back to Daniel’s house. There I made tea and coffee while Daniel had a shower, and after I cleaned up we went to lunch. At lunch we talked a little bit about what we did and did not like about that particular state park. Funny though how the topic of Never Ever Camping Again never came up. We decided to try other parks, other campgrounds, where ideally there would be a river or lake which has a boat rental. That way when Peanut pops up at 5 am, ready to take on the world, we can go fishing.

I learned a couple of lessons from our camping expedition. The first is to clarify what Daniel tells me. Before we went, he told me the last time he was camping was when he was in the army. I didn’t know he had been in the army, but at the time I was distracted with something and didn’t ask him to elaborate. Here is the elaborated conversation once we were at the campsite:

Daniel: I haven’t been camping for 30 years!

Me: When was the last time you went?

Daniel: When I was in the Army Cadets.

Me: What is that?

Daniel: It was with school.

Me: Oh, wait…OH…OH WAIT…you were in JROTC in high school?!?

Daniel: What’s JROTC?

Me: It’s the American version of the Army Cadets.

I really should have asked for more detail before we were physically at the campground. But, no worries.

Daniel and I are in a phase right now where we are learning how to be each other’s friend. When we started dating we both worked full-time, we both had young children, and the combination of those two factors meant that we really haven’t had the chance to get to know each other. Last fall, when Daniel’s weekend schedule started to free up, he was busy launching a product and I was busy having a tumor removed, so again all efforts to build a friendship or spend time together were foiled. Then Christmas came and Daniel’s parents were visiting and my lab partner died, and I was still recovering from surgery even though at the time I didn’t realize I was still recovering, so once again the friendship-building was put off. There was always something else going on.

Thank goodness for the past couple of months life has slowed down and evened out. Daniel has been making a point to spend time alone with me when we have the time to spend. He and I have also stopped trying so hard to hold something together that already has a firm base. When we backed off and looked at each other, the conclusions we are coming to are

I like you.

I like being with you.

I like you for who you are.

I like the way you make me feel about myself when I am with you.

Being with you makes me a better person.

You speak my language.

And that is all we need to know for now.


Shades of Gray

It doesn’t matter how many times you tell your child that the cat’s tail is not a purse strap, they aren’t going to listen until they learn it directly from the cat. ~ Jenny Lawson

Last week was more eventful than it should have been. My cluster’s new manager is riding us at warp speed, which I never doubted for a minute she would do. On top of the work, however, the new, exciting, all-encompassing, brain-breaking work, I come home Wednesday afternoon to what should be Normal. But it isn’t. But I don’t realize that at first.

First thing I always do the minute I walk in the door is yell downstairs to Tim, “Honey, I’m home!!!” As if he didn’t hear the garage door opening and my Jetta Wagon barreling in. Tim, being a teenager, doesn’t come upstairs expressly to greet me but rather to find one of our two cats, usually Amber, and pick her up and carry her around against her gently begrudging will. So Tim came up, walked past me, located our dear Amber, walked past me AGAIN, A SECOND TIME, and went back downstairs. I asked him how school went, and he replied fine, and I left it at that. I was doing some sort of mom stuff in the kitchen, such as sorting through mail, putting away groceries, anything but looking at my child.

Oh my.

After starting supper in the oven I go downstairs to our living room to see how Tim’s day went. He had Amber with him on the couch, and when I was halfway down the stairs I almost tripped over the remainder because I could not for the life of me figure out what on earth had happened to his face. Tim looked like he had been attacked by a wild animal due to the long, bloody scratch marks around his right eye.

I froze for a moment out of shock but then ran up to him for a closer look. Here is how our conversation went:


Tim: Someone scratched me.

Me: Well I can see that. Do you want to talk about it?

Tim: No.

Me: I think you need to talk to me about it because you know I will find out the real story from your teacher.

Tim: One of the other kids was saying mean things and I was telling him to stop.

Me: Were you yelling at him?

Tim: No.

Me: OK. Then what happened?

Tim: He attacked me.

Me: Did he attack anyone else?

Tim: Yes. I’m glad I’m not the other boy.

Me: What happened to the other boy?

Tim (gesturing by drawing his finger in a long arc down the side of his cheek): He was worse.

Me: Where was your teacher?

Tim: She was out on break.


Tim: Yes. She was on the phone calling for help.


Here is what actually happened for reals when I talked to Tim’s principal on the phone the next morning:

The three boys were arguing and got into a fight. The whole thing happened in less than 10 seconds. After Tim got scratched up, he retaliated by picking up a chair and holding it between himself and his attacker. Tim was also the only one who voluntarily took himself to the office when everything was over. Even though Tim should have stayed out of the fight, he exhibited maturity and made the best decisions he could under the circumstances.

That evening, after hearing the unabridged, adult version of The Fight, I reminded Tim that he needs to let the adults take care of these types of situations. As I said this, a little voice in the back of my mind reminded me that my son himself will be an adult in a little over four short years. Tim told me that when he started arguing with the other two boys, he was defending one of them. The funny part is that the boy Tim was defending is currently classified as one of his Enemies, but Tim thought he was right in this particular situation. When I told Tim he should not have become involved in the fight, he told me that his options were A) to fight or B) to feel guilty. When I asked him why he would have felt guilty, he said that he couldn’t stand by and watch the other boy (Mr. Enemy) be attacked.

Tim’s thought process is complicated and drives me up the wall. As someone with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is supposed to be rule-bound and think in black and white. However, Tim’s thinking is rarely black or white, this or that, tit for tat, whatever cute little catch phrase you may have running through your mind. He thinks in shades of gray, and while sometimes it is the same shade, day in and day out, I have an extremely difficult time figuring out what goes through that mind of his. And when I ask him questions, all I receive are the Shortest Replies The World Has Ever Seen, and it’s not due to him having an attitude, it’s just due to him stating the facts, and answering my questions as they stand.

This was Tim’s first fight, the first time another person attacked him physically. He has been teased, bullied, and gone through some rough emotional tortures by his classmates, but never a physical attack. The good part that came out of this is that Tim knows now why you do not fight. Why sometimes, especially if there are higher forces that be in the area, such as a teacher, or a bouncer, or a police officer, you need to remove yourself from the situation. Unfortunately for Tim, this is a lesson that he has learned through experience, even though I have been telling him for years to LEAVE THE OTHER KIDS ALONE and IGNORE THE OTHER KIDS WHEN THEY SAY OR DO MEAN THINGS. Just walk away. But he can’t do that, and he has to be true to himself, even if it means defending someone he considers his mortal enemy.

The big question that I have been pondering in my own heart and don’t have answer for is:

If I were in Tim’s situation, would I defend someone I considered my enemy?

Definitely food for thought.

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The Stoplights

“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” ~ Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Peanut turned six years old last week, and for his birthday I promised Daniel that I would make him a Bionicle birthday cake. Bionicles, made by molded plastic brick conglomerate Lego, have been around for nearly a decade, and Peanut inherited Tim’s collection last Thanksgiving when I needed him to entertain himself while I cooked our Thanksgiving Day meal. For those of you with younger children, you may be more familiar with Lego’s Hero Factory collection, which is the next generation of Bionicle.

Gum paste & food coloring as starting materials.

After asking Daniel what type of Bionicle is Peanut’s favorite, he mentioned that Peanut has been watching a video containing Visoraks, which look like spiders. I headed out to Michael’s Arts and Crafts, armed with a 20% off coupon for my total purchase, and bought a package of gum paste and a set of food coloring gels. I also printed off several photos of Visoraks from the internet so I could see what I needed to build from all angles.

The completed Visorak...

I was nervous…I had never crafted a Bionicle before. I figured I knew what the end product was supposed to look like, and if all else failed, I could do something different. Peanut would never know. Making the Visorak was in reality much easier than I thought it would be. It took me about three hours total using an exacto knife, and as long as the gum paste stays wet, you can use water to glue the parts together. I did one part at a time, and sculpted the Visorak piece by piece. The evening of Peanut’s birthday, I propped the final version up on Peanut’s cake, and it looked just fine. Only after the fact did I mention to Daniel that I had been afraid the Visorak wouldn’t turn out looking the way I had envisioned it.

...on the cake!

I thought more about this over the weekend, how having an end goal in sight makes the journey that much easier. Having choices and options along the way also help. Saturday afternoon Daniel was invited to an event that he was uneasy about attending. When he asked me if I wanted to go with him, I told him I would go if he felt he needed my support. His response was that my attendance was my choice. I told him if it is my choice, then the answer is no, absolutely not. I asked him to pass on my regrets and simply say I had something else to do.

Summit Avenue in St. Paul makes for a lovely little run.

I chose to go running while Daniel was at his event and thanked my lucky stars he had given me an option. I ran about a 10K down Summit Avenue in St. Paul and back to his house, which timed well with when he returned. The weather was warm and sunny that afternoon, and as I ran I thought more about short versus long-range goals. The great part about running along Summit is that you come to a stoplight about every kilometer. If the light is red, you get to rest for a minute. If the light is green, you slow down anyway to make sure the road is clear. For me, even though I knew where I was going to ultimately end up, it was nice to have indications of progress along the way. I did intervals that afternoon, where I would run hard as long as I could and then walk until my heart rate went down. When I got to the point where I started to feel tired, I began setting small goals for myself, such as running until I reached the next light.

I had just cleaned all of the post-run grime off me when Daniel returned. We had intended to do some yard work that afternoon, but from the look on his face I knew that wasn’t going to happen. Instead of saying, “Let’s take care of that dead tree,” he said, “I’m feeling thirsty. Can we go to the bar?” Since the yard work would be waiting for us, we walked over to our regular watering hole and stayed there until it was time to start up the grill for supper.

What I realized that afternoon and have only begun to recently appreciate about Daniel is that he works on getting through life one step at a time. He is not a planner, and he does not have long term goals. He focuses on what needs to be done, NOW, and he takes life as it comes. He figures out the path, one stoplight at a time, and eventually reaches where he wants to be. I am the opposite, where I see a far-off goal and figure out the steps I need to take along the way. That type of thinking, though, can be incredibly stressful if I don’t know the initial direction I need to go to get to where I want to end up.

Peanut has years ahead of him, decades, even, before he needs to begin thinking about goals. For my son, Tim, there is starting to be less time. He has an end goal for himself in mind: to be a veterinarian. There are multitudes of small steps along to the way to accomplishing that goal, some which he is aware of and some which he is not. All I can do is take him through those steps, one at a time, hoping that he will become more independent with each step until he is doing them on his own. I also have to remember that there is more than one route to the endpoint, and that Tim’s endpoint may change as he grows older and starts to fit himself into the adult world.