Tag Archives: try defying gravity

Girl On Fire

by Alysia, Try Defying Gravity

I pull into the space in the parking lot and sit for a moment.

It’s snowing lightly. I start to curse the weather for a moment (not MORE SNOW!) but the flakes look so pretty as they land on the windshield.  It is February in New England after all.

“Girl On Fire” by Alicia Keys stops abruptly as I turn the car off.

I quickly walk through the snowy hospital parking lot, shielding my face from the brusk wind.  A few people walk by but we don’t make eye contact.  Everyone is there for a reason – good and bad – but it’s none of my business or theirs what that reason is.

The automatic doors slide open and I push the number 4 on the elevator.

Woman’s Pavilion.

I called to make the mammogram appointment last week, expecting to wait a while before they had an opening.  There was a cancellation for today at 12:30 so I jumped at it.  During pre-registration, the nurse tells me that it has been three years since my last mammogram.

Well, you know how it goes.  Life gets in the way.

My family history reminds me that this is two years too long.

The elevator doors open and I walk in alone.

I take a deep breath.  I think of the incredible women in my life who have made this same elevator trip for the same test and got the scary news.  I think about my genes and about the statistics.  I think of my dad and the pancreatic cancer that took him and how I wished there was such a test for that.

The doors open and I walk into the imaging center at the Woman’s Pavilion.

The technician takes my insurance card and my license.  She notes that my license has expired back in January on my birthday. You know how it goes.  Life gets in the way.

I start to tell her how many times I picked up the phone to cancel this appointment but think better of it.

I sit for a moment and scan the outdated magazines.  I wonder how many other woman have sat in this very seat waiting for their turn.  Hundreds?  Thousands?  What were their stories?  Their fates?

She calls me back to change into a robe from the waist up.  “Tie it in the back,” she reminds me.

I change out of my top and bra and struggle with the motor skills needed to tie the strings behind me.

I think of my family and dear friends who have been right here in this exact spot.  The women I love who got the cancer diagnosis.

The women I love who made some incredibly hard decisions.

The women who came out alive on the other side.

I get the robe tied and enter the imaging room.

“It’s a new machine,” she says to me.  “People say it doesn’t hurt as much and it’s much quicker.”

We make the usual small talk as she maneuvers me into the machine.

“Hold on here.  Relax your shoulders.  How old are your boys? Wow, you have your hands full.  Now hold your breath.”

I stop breathing for a moment as 30 pounds of pressure collapse down on my chest.

The truth is it isn’t life getting in the way.

It’s the fear that something is wrong.  The fear that I won’t be around to see my children grow up. Realities that I don’t want to face.

Ten minutes later, I was done.

She tells me my pictures looked perfect but I would hear by Tuesday if there was anything they needed to tell me.  If I didn’t get a call, I would get a letter in 7-10 days.

She makes me my next appointment.  February 23, 2014 at 10:30.

“So you don’t forget this time.”

I leave the office and head back down alone in the elevator.  I start to shake.

Only ten minutes.

Ten minutes for peace of mind.

Ten minutes for these guys.


Ten minutes for me.


Because in order for life to keep getting in the way, I need to be around for that to happen.

This mammogram appointment is dedicated to the women I love who through their strength and grace have taught me that life is too precious to put off a test like this.

I want them to know that I am grateful for the push to make the call.

She’s just a girl and she’s on fire
Hotter than a fantasy, lonely like a highway
She’s living in a world and it’s on fire
Filled with catastrophe, but she knows she can fly away

Ohhhh oh oh oh oh
She got both feet on the ground
And she’s burning it down
Ohhhh oh oh oh oh
She got her head in the clouds
And she’s not backing down

This girl is on fire…
This girl is on fire…
She’s walking on fire…
This girl is on fire…” – Girl On Fire by Alicia Keys


Alysia is a stay-at-home mom living in Massachusetts with her husband and three boys, ages ten, six and four. Her middle son has sensory processing disorder and was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in December 2009 at age 3 ½. She currently writes at Try Defying Gravity, her personal blog recounting the joys and challenges of raising three boys. She is also the managing editor at the SPD Blogger Network and the co-founder of this blog, The Oxygen Mask Project.

This post was originally published HERE and used with permission.



Filed under Taking the next step


by Alysia, Try Defying Gravity

Re-entry has been hard.

Last week, I spent three days at a blogging conference in New York City. Actually it was four days and three nights.  I went down with my friend Kristin and met up with more friends.  I went for several reasons: to shameless promote this blog and the others I write for, to celebrate the work of the bloggers I love, and to get away and recharge my mind and soul.

To put my oxygen mask on.

And I did.  I slept alone in a bed with no child-size feet climbing in and kicking me at 3am.  And because I wasn’t waiting for those feet to arrive, I actually slept through the night.  I showered every day.  I didn’t have to ask anyone if I could pee.  I just did.  I had three meals – MEALS – a day.  Coffee and eggs and bacon for breakfast.  Soup and sandwiches and water for lunch.  Dinners out in the city when I was hungry, not because it was time to eat.

Oddly enough, I wasn’t tired at all the whole time.  I took some moments for quiet time in our hotel room between conference sessions and other events, but I never felt the need for a nap.  I walked around Times Square, went up to Columbus Circle, moseyed up and down the exhibition halls carrying just my purse and a small bag.

And again, oddly enough, I never felt the urge to write. Here I was at a blogging conference. But I didn’t have any words that needed to come out.

Of course, I missed my family like crazy.  I called home several times a day and texted with my husband all day and night.  Their voices sounded so far away when I heard them on the phone.  By the time the conference was over, I was ready to return to them.

But what I didn’t realize was how much I wasn’t ready to return to me.

What happens when you’ve had the oxygen mask on…and then you take it off?

You choke.

It wasn’t until I was away alone that I discovered how little I actually take care of myself when I’m at home.

Almost immediately after being in my house, I felt suffocated by all that surrounded me.  Not my kids, but by the enormity of everything else.

The clutter.  The projects that I had on my summer to-do list but never looked at.  The piles of “things” that have been left to fester because of the constant demands on my time.  The fact that school is starting for my kids in two weeks and there will be homework battles/IEP goals/lunches to pack again.

Quickly I slipped back into old patterns.  Cold coffee reheated 3 times in the microwave and forgotten there. A handful of M&Ms and a granola bar in the car on the way to Target for breakfast hours after the kids already ate theirs. A Wendy’s chicken sandwich and fries on the way home from Target. Falling asleep on the couch at 2pm and another handful of M&Ms to wake myself up again.  Two days, I didn’t bother to get dressed until noon. On Thursday – five days after coming home – I realized that I hadn’t washed my hair since I was at the hotel.

I’ve gained three pounds in the nine days since I’ve been back from New York.  Some of that is thanks to my husband’s rediscovered love of cooking for us all while I was gone.  But some of it is the increase in sugar and junk and food on the run.

And once again, I can’t breathe.

I have to figure out how to take care of myself here in my own world.

How to put on the oxygen mask in my own home.

I have to get back to the basics of what makes us feel human again.  Food, clothing, shelter.

This morning, I’m starting with a hot coffee and a real breakfast.

Anyone care to join me for some eggs and bacon?

Well, I’m going home, back to the place where I belong
And where your love has always been enough for me
I’m not running from, no, I think you got me all wrong
I don’t regret this life I chose for me
But these places and these faces are getting old
So I’m going home, well I’m going home” – Home by Daughtry


Alysia is a stay-at-home mom living in Massachusetts with her husband and three boys, ages ten, six and three. Her middle son has sensory processing disorder and was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder in December 2009 at age 3 ½ and her youngest was diagnosed with autism at age 3. She currently writes at Try Defying Gravity, her personal blog recounting the joys and challenges of raising three boys. She is the editor of The Oxygen Mask Project site and the managing editor of The SPD Blogger Network.


Filed under Remembering to Breathe

What Makes You Beautiful

by Alysia, Try Defying Gravity

“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.” – Stuart Smalley character, Saturday Night Live

Thanks to a fairly provocative Time Magazine article called “Are You Mom Enough”, the internet was abuzz with “The Mommy Wars” – the notion that mothers are in competition with each other over who has the “better” way of parenting.

But I’m involved in a different kind of “Mommy War”.  It’s not about me comparing myself to the mom down the street or across the country.

This is a war that rages inside my own head.  Not the battle of Am I Mom Enough.  But the battle of Am I A Good Enough Mother?

I know what you’re going to say.  Alysia, you are a great mom.  We leave you those messages all the time on your blog posts.

I am grateful for that, of course. I say it back to you and mean every word when I say it to you.

So why don’t I actually believe it when it’s said to me?

Last week, a friend was telling me a story about her ten year old daughter.  They were out together with another adult, and my friend was gushing about her daughter to this other woman.  She shared how smart and sensitive she was, and how she was an incredible young woman.  Her daughter’s face lit up with a huge smile.  Later, my friend asked her daughter why she had such a strong reaction to the comments. “I tell you all the time how special you are,” my friend said to her child.

“But you always say it TO me.  I’ve never heard you say it to someone else.”

It’s all well and good for people to tell you to your face that you’re great, because that’s the nice and polite thing to do.  It’s another thing to overhear someone else say it ABOUT you.

That’s when you can believe your own press.

Recently, a friend and I have embarked on a new project together.  It’s taking us way out of our comfort zone and we’ve had to reach out to friends and strangers to help us.

The response has been more than overwhelmingly positive. It has been more affirming than anything I could have imagined.  People believe in us, so they believe in our project.

And perhaps now I can start to believe in me too.


I wondered if perhaps I wasn’t the only one who needed help believing her own press.

So I’m going to tell you about some friends of mine.  I’ve told them to their faces how incredible they are.  But maybe they need to hear me say it to someone else before they will believe it too.

I have to tell you about my amazing friend T.  She worked so hard to get the appropriate educational placement for her son.  Instead of fighting and arguing with the school district, she kept a level head and made the conversation about what her son needed, not about what she demanded he should have.  She didn’t burn any bridges but kept gently pushing for the right thing.  And got it.  She is my advocate hero.  I am so proud of her and I know her son will thrive in his new school setting.

Oh, and I have to tell you about my feisty friend N.  She’s a single mom with four kids.  She had no real income of her own when she left, but she quickly learned how to stand on her own two feet and then some.  She’s made an incredibly loving home for her children and is the one I turn to for parenting advice.  She doesn’t take any crap from anyone.  She is blunt, honest, and my hero for knowing that in order for her kids to be happy, she needed to be happy too.

And you must hear about my friend A.  She was my son’s one-to-one aide in preschool, but she’s always been a friend to the whole family.  This year, she was my lifeline.  She watched my boys so my husband and I could go to the movies for the first time since we had kids.  She takes my son without any hesitation whenever I needed help controlling the chaos around me.  She loves my kids like I love my kids and sees the specialness in them in ways that others don’t.  Knowing that she is just a simple text away has made this year survivable. 

Finally, I need to tell you about my own mom.  She took on the role of both parents when my father died 13 years ago.  She worked hard to stay strong for all of us, even while she worked through her own grief.  And have you seen her with her grandsons?  They sit by the window waiting for her to arrive and snuggle up with her when she’s here.  And my kids don’t snuggle with anyone! As a special educator, she’s a strong advocate for the kids she works with.  But she’s the strongest when fighting for her own family.

Now…it’s your turn. In the comments below, tell US about one of YOUR incredible friends.  Then forward the post to them.  Let them hear you tell us how absolutely amazing they are. 

Because you’re good enough, strong enough, and doggone it…this is what makes you beautiful.

You’re insecure
Don’t know what for
You’re turning heads when you walk through the door
Don’t need make up
To cover up
Being the way that you are is enough
Everyone else in the room can see it
Everyone else but you
Baby you light up my world like nobody else
The way that you flip your hair gets me overwhelmed
But when you smile at the ground it aint hard to tell
You don’t know
Oh Oh
You don’t know you’re beautiful” – What Makes You Beautiful by One Direction


Filed under Remembering to Breathe

Let’s Go Fly A Kite

by Alysia, Try Defying Gravity

The Mary Poppins Game

I’m going to call this: “The Mary Poppins Game”.

It came to me in the shower this morning.  All my good ideas come to me in the shower.  It’s also where I cry, but I digress…

It has been a very long week here.  My kids were on spring break and although the weather was lovely, we were all just out of sorts.  My kids needed me night and day.  That’s not just an expression this time.  There was not one night this week when all three kids slept through the night in their own beds.  We didn’t do anything very vacation-y either – my husband still had to work and therapy appointments and piano lessons and baseball games went on as planned.

I. Am. Tired.

So, this morning, in the first real shower I’ve had all week, I had this idea.  The Mary Poppins Game.

Let’s pretend that Mary Poppins floated down from the sky at 6am and said “I’m here to take care of your kids for 24 hours.  Go.  Do something for you.”

What would you do?

Now, I know you.  You will say something along the lines of “well, even Mary Poppins couldn’t take care of my kids.  They have very specific needs : feeding tubes and therapy sessions and toileting problems and sleep issues.  And they have soccer games and lacrosse practice and piano lessons and if you don’t cut their sandwich into the perfect four triangles they won’t eat it and for goodness sake don’t let them eat anything with any food dyes or we’ll pay for it for days!”

Did you know that Mary Poppins is an ABA certified occupational therapist/registered nurse/nutritionist/physical education teacher/musician/chauffeur/chef?  She is.


Let’s hear it.

Your perfect day.  From sunrise to sunrise.  Let your imagination run.  You can do anything you want in those 24 hours.

As long as it’s for you.

Tell us all your perfect day here in the comments.  Let us live your day with you.

To get things going (and because it’s my idea) I’ll start:

First, I would go back to bed.  Until I woke up on my own – not by alarm or by crying over the baby monitor.  Next, a long shower when I actually wash my hair.  I’ll put on one of the many Glee episodes that I have on the DVR and watch while I got dressed.  Then, out to the diner for a cup of coffee and Eggs Florentine.  I’ll bring my iPad to catch up on my Draw Something games and order a second cup.  Next, a drive over to the bookstore, belting out a little Adele with the windows down.

I’ll buy a new book and head down to our local beach with a lawn chair.  I would sit in the sun and read.  Maybe I’ll fall asleep.  Nope, I’ll definitely fall asleep.

I know a trip to our local outlet shopping area would be next.  I would actually try clothes on in the store and pick out a new outfit.  Have a chicken salad sandwich on toast and an iced tea.

I’ll return back home and drive over to our town baseball field to watch my oldest play ball.  Yes, this is still for me.  I have yet to see him pitch or stay long enough at a game to cheer him on from the bench.  I want to sit with the other mothers and chat and gossip and jump up and down when my son gets a hit.

I’ll bring him home, tell him how proud I was of him out there, and then take my husband out for dinner.  In my new clothes.

I’ll have a glass of wine.  Or two.

And I’ll smile and laugh and hold his hand.

I’ll get home, actually change into real pajamas (not just passing out in my clothes), and fall asleep without worrying about the pile of laundry in the corner or the dirty dishes in the sink because they would be gone.  I won’t think about which kid will be up in the middle of the night because Mary will take care of it for me.

I’ll sleep peacefully for the first time in ten years.

And I’ll feel like me again.


So?  Who will play The Mary Poppins Game with me?  Tell me what you would do with a whole day just for you?


Alysia is a stay-at-home mom to three young boys, two with autism spectrum disorder.  She writes about that and other things at her personal blog Try Defying Gravity.  She’s also the managing editor of the SPD Blogger Network, a group blog for parents with children living with sensory processing disorder.  She’s so happy to have found this home here at The Oxygen Mask Project along with her friend Shannon.  (And yes, the idea for The Oxygen Mask Project was also hatched in the shower.)


Filed under Remembering to Breathe

A Change (Will Do You Good)

by Alysia, Try Defying Gravity

It’s no secret.  I fear change.

When we moved to a new town six years ago, I was a wreck.  How would I find the bank?  The cleaners? Would we be close to a Dunkin’ Donuts?

(note: I live in New England.  We’re always close to a Dunkin’ Donuts)

On the last day of school, I’m more anxious than my kids about their new teacher assignment.

And don’t even get me started on the “Timeline” function on Facebook.  Shudder.

But lately…life started getting more, um, complicated.  I knew I had to do something.  Change something.

I was drowning.  I couldn’t breathe.

Making a major life change though?  Scares the crap out of me.

I can’t make resolutions because I always fall flat.  They are always bigger than me, bigger than what I can take on.  Eat better.  Join a gym.  Get more sleep.  All lofty and important goals.

All completely unattainable at this point in my life.  If these were my goals, I would fail.

Not quite the outcome I need.

So instead of making a CHANGE, I’m making some changes.

Little “c”.  And plural.

For me, I’m talking about things that make me feel better about myself.  Bringing me back to me.

Like wearing my contacts again after 4 years.  My one vanity.

Or maybe taking a shower every day.  Ignoring the dishes while I have my coffee hot, not re-microwaved for the fourth time.

Wearing socks that match.  Getting dressed.  Taking the long way home when someone else is with the kids.

Saying “yes” when a friend asks to go out for a drink after the kids are asleep.  Saying “no” to volunteering too much.

Watching a show like “Downton Abbey” so I can feel “in the know”, even though there are 3 baskets of laundry to put away.

To the average person, these may seem really silly.  Like really, who can’t match their socks and shower every day?

Um, me.  Right now these are huge achievements for me.

Little little changes.  Baby steps.  Big emotional payoff.

I can do these things.

And once I feel better – feel accomplished – then I can take on the bigger changes.  The ones with a capital “C”.

One step at a time.

And I am no longer drowning.


Come check out our Facebook page where we are cheering people on every day with the changes and CHANGES parents are making.  Things like:

“I am going out with some neighborhood moms tomorrow night.”

“Today I took a shower so long, that I ran out of hot water! I can’t remember the last time I did that!”

“Putting my favorite pajama pants on, wrapping up like a burrito in my favorite blanket and putting my oxygen mask on.”

“My 02 moment: shopping for myself by myself, and not at the grocery store.”

“This is why I play roller derby. There is nothing more therapeutic than hitting your friends for a couple of hours.”

“finding time to work out, makes me feel better about myself, so i’m not so flustered at home!”

“Just took an intense, hilly hike for about 40 minutes. Worked up a good sweat.”

“Today I am going to take a short nap. It has been an excessively long day.”

What will you share with us today?  What will can you change that will help you feel like…you?

I’ve been thinking ’bout catching a train
Leave my phone machine by the radar range
Hello it’s me, I’m not at home
If you’d like to reach me, leave me alone

A change would do you good
A change would do you good
Hello, it’s me, I’m not at home
If you’d like to reach me, leave me alone” – A Change (Would Do You Good)


Filed under Remembering to Breathe