Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Monday, September 30, 2013

Can You Sign This In Blood?

Me posing with some driftwood at the coast last week!
 Hi everyone! I am still staying with my aunt and uncle in what appears to be Washington, not Oregon. I have no idea where I am. Anyways, I was supposed to leave several days ago, but we just keep extending my stay, as my aunt keeps thinking of more things for us to do! Thursday is my final exit date, I think... As much as I love staying here, I need to get back into reality, find a job, etc. (Booooo!)

The other day I posted that I am thinking about moving out here. It is starting to look like a better and better idea. I would not move right away... I can't make rash decisions. My plan is to find a job when I get back to Chicago. I have also just enrolled in full time classes in order to get my early childhood letter of approval (it would allow me to teach early childhood special education, which is what I've decided I'd really love the most) so right now I am probably going to be looking for a part time job. I need to have some time to do my course work, right? Anyway, I will save up as much money as I can, and keep researching the possibilities of moving out here. And, if everything goes right, I will be able to be out here by next summer! But I'm not guaranteeing it. 

Anyways. I've been staying with my aunt and uncle and having a lot of fun with them. My uncle and I go hiking with the dog, Roo, just about every day. And I spend a lot of time just hanging out and talking with my aunt. Of course I spend a lot of time with Roo! There is also a lot of down time, so I can use my computer or read. I could stay forever! But Little Dog is getting impatient!

My aunt wrote a letter to my parents telling them how great it has been having me here. Do you want to see a little of what she wrote? 

"Just wanted to let you know that we LOVE having Angel here.  It's been so great getting to know her so much better.  She  has been a real joy.  And of course Roo is going to go through major withdrawal when she leaves. 
We're so impressed with her mind and how smart she is.  She and Uncle are having mental competitions and they're learning from each other...and I am too.  

I love how personable she is.  Once she gets past her handicaps with Aspergers she's really comes out of her shell.  There's a really cool person in there. 
We think that it would be great if she moved out west.  The pace is so much slower and most importantly she fits in with the accepting lifestyle out here.  People can be themselves without judgment which would be so wonderful for her.  She could really develop into a very good life.

Thanks for sharing her with us,"

My aunt sent me a copy of this letter, which threatened to give me a swollen head! I want to print it out and keep it in my pocket and read it to myself over and over again, so I can remember.

I think this trip has been really great for me. I've learned a lot about myself, and about being myself. I've gained some confidence. I think it was a good idea for me to be on my own for a while... I mean I know I've been with family the whole time, but I've been away from my parents, and kind of able to do my own thing. 

I'm not ready to go back!!!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Who Thinks I Should Move?

 Now both Sunny and my aunt are trying to convince me to move out to the northwest. Besides the fact that I would be near them and would get to spend time with them (and Squeak of course, plus my cousin lives out here) both of them have pointed out that people are much more laid back and accepting out here. 

My aunt grew up in Chicago just like me, but moved out here when she was a young adult. Summer grew up in the northwest but has visited Chicago. So they both kind of know what the midwest is like. They've sort of explained that in the midwest there are more expectations for the image you will project. People have to choose a specific style to follow, they have to act a certain way, they have to live their lives in certain ways. People are more judgmental. (No offense to anyone who lives there... obviously I do to. I guess what I'm trying to say is that the pace of life is faster, more competitive, and more pressurized. My aunt, especially, says that people are way more laid back and friendly here, more accepting of different lifestyles. 
For instance, the picture at the top of this post was taken by my aunt today. We had just finished hiking a few different trails and sight seeing. Since I came out here with mostly shorts and T-shirts (I packed for summer weather in California, not fall weather in Oregon) my aunt has loaned me hiking boots, a windbreaker, and a hat. I had commented that I needed to keep the hat on because my hair was a hot mess, and that my mom would probably scold me for not sucking in my stomach in this picture in order to look skinnier. My aunt replied, "That's the thing about living in here. People don't care about things like that." She said that in this picture I look like a very typical northwesterner. Both Sunny and my aunt have said that I would fit in so much better here.

Lets weigh the pros and cons. And for this argument, we are going to assume that I would be able to find a job and have a place to live in either Chicago or the northwest (by northwest, I mean northern California up through the Portland area.)


Pros- Be near Bro, Sunny, Squeak and Pibble. I'd get to spend a lot more time with them and wouldn't have to miss out on giant gaps of Squeak's life! 
        - Be closer to Aunt, Uncle and cousin.
        -Would have an easier time making friends because I'd already have Sunny and Bro's friends.
       - Surrounded by nature. (Rivers, mountains, forests, the ocean, etc.)
       - I'd be able to swim regularly in the river! 
       - Laid back, friendly atmosphere
       - Not nearly as cold and snowy in the winter as Chicago! 

Cons - Would be far away from my parents, grandparents, and other aunts, uncles and cousins. I'd be homesick. 
         - I would probably bring Small Dog with me, and Big Dog, who is really my parents' dog, would stay behind, so I'd miss Big Dog a lot and the separation would be hard for Big Dog and Small Dog. (Of course that would happen even if I got my own place in Chicago, but at least there we could visit more often!) 
        - There are a lot of large animals here. Small Dog could get eaten by one of them! Like a cougar!
        - I could get eaten by a cougar!  

Okay, everyone, lets take a vote. Should I stay in Chicago, or move out to the northwest? I'd especially like to hear your opinion if you live or have lived in either area! 

By the way, I'm participating in a new Linky Party, Weekends Are Fun! Join in, if you'd like! 

Friday, September 27, 2013

A Day At The Coast

This is one of the sea lions hanging out on the dock! They love
to close their eyes and put their faces up to get the sun! 
 Hi everyone! Here I am, still hanging out in Oregon! I am probably going to start heading home on Monday, having already extended my trip a week longer than I planned it for! On one hand I want to go home because I miss my dogs and the rest of my family... but on the other hand I keep putting it off because I know, once I'm home, that's it... my trip is over and it will be back to reality, whatever that may be!

We went up to the Oregon coast on Wednesday, my aunt and uncle and their dog Roo and I. We met my cousin and his new boyfriend up there. I was really excited about seeing my cousin, because we were really close as kids and I haven't seen him since two summers ago. But he can be a little aloof sometimes and I didn't get to spend a whole lot of time with him... he and his new boyf only stayed a few hours. We had lunch at a seafood restaurant (I had shrimp and mashed potatoes and clam chowder!) and then we walked around in some of the stores (I loaded up on salt water taffy!) 

Also my aunt, and my cousin's boyfriend (lets just call him CB for the remainder of this post), and I, went to the Ripley's Believe It Or Not museum. I had never been to a Ripley's Believe It Or Not museum before, but I've always wanted to go. CB had been to similar museums when he was a kid but he wanted to see it again. My cousin and uncle didn't feel like going in though, so it was just the three of us. It was kind of cool. In the beginning it was a little lame... basically just the same stories I'd read before in Ripley's Believe It Or Not books, but with wax dummies to go with them. One of the coolest things was a screen that shows your body with all different colors... its hard to explain but its basically your silhouette with a bunch of different psychedelic colors and patterns flashing around it, and when you move or dance, so does the silhouette. The other coolest part is the room with all these stars, and when you walk in it feels like there are no walls, floors or ceiling... just you floating in all the stars!

My other favorite part was the sea lions that sunbathe on the docks. They are just wild sea lions who show up to hang out there. I think it is because the fishing boats pull in there, and the sea lions get all the fish remainders that the fishermen leave behind. 

Anyway after we were there for a while, my cousin and CB wanted to go do some other things like take a walk on the beach, and my aunt asked me if I wanted to go with them but I figured they wouldn't want me tagging along on a potentially romantic beach walk, so I had to say goodbye to my cousin.

Then the next day we took our time driving back to where my aunt and uncle live. We stopped at a bunch of beaches and walked around and let Roo run around. My uncle and I walked to a tide pool, where I got to touch a sea urchin and some other little sea creatures, and I got to hold a little snail in my hand! Actually it was big, as snails go. It was really cute! 

We also stopped at the Tillamook Cheese Factory! We got to watch cheese being made, and sample a whole bunch of different cheeses, and we also got ice cream. (Mine was Cake Batter flavor... so yummy!) 

Now I am back at my aunt and uncle's house! My uncle went out to meet a friend for coffee, and my aunt is still waking up (usually she goes to bed super early, like 7 pm, but last night me and her stayed up until about 2 am talking, so now she is really tired!) 

I think this is the most awesome trip I've ever taken. I wish it never had to end! 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

My First Award!

 Hi everyone! My blog is now an official part of the Blogosphere, as I have gotten my first official award! The Gal Herself, from One Girl's Musings, sent me the Shine On Award! 

Okay. So here is the information I have about this award. This is what I have to do... 

1. Visit and thank the blogger who nominated you. 
2. Acknowledge that blogger on your blog, and link back.
3. Share seven random, interesting things about yourself.
4. Nominate up to 15 bloggers for the Shine On Award, provide a link to their blogs in your post, and notify them on their blogs.

Sounds easy enough, right? I can totally do this! Here we go. Okay. Hmm. Let's see. Seven random, interesting things about me.  Uh... 

1. I learned to read when I was two years old. My parents taught me to read. They were poor and didn't have money to go out and do stuff, so they read to me a whole lot. I guess it paid off! By the time I was in first grade, I was reading at a fifth grade level! 

2. I do not know how to blow a bubble gum bubble. I've tried. I can't do it! I don't chew much gum anymore anyways, but as a kid I did try and try!

3. I used to be afraid of dogs when I was a small child, which is weird because I am a total, head-over-heels dog lover now!

4. Besides this recent cross-country trip I am on, I have taken Greyhound trips across the country twice. The first time, I Greyhounded it both ways from Chicago, to California, and back. The second time, I Greyhounded it one way, and then took a plane home. I actually enjoy it... it's an adventure!

5. I can't swim. Well, I can swim a little, but I get short-winded too quickly. So if I'm going out over my head in a large body of water like a lake or ocean, I like to wear a life jacket. Even though I look like a dork. (In a swimming pool, I can at least swim across the pool and back without drowning, so that is something, right?)

6. I used to love acting, when I was in elementary school. I took acting classes, made up plays to perform with the neighborhood kids, and loved being in school plays. I wanted to be an actress on TV! I had so much confidence as a kid. Being severely bullied from fifth grade up through the end of ninth grade knocked that confidence right out of me, and I never acted again.

7. I really want to be a foster parent and/or an adoptive parent someday. It is one of the goals I really hope I manage to achieve!

Okay, so those are my random facts! Do you like them? Good, good. And now for my fifteen victims, I mean, award recipients. Let's see... hmmm.... who shall I pick? Oh, I know!

Okay. Now excuse me while I go notify all these people that they've been nominated! And thanks again from me to The Gal Herself for giving me my first award! Made my day! 


Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Next Piece Of My Journey

This is the alien version of Squeak, my favorite baby ever!
 I think it is a little awkward to write "sister-in-law" every time I talk about my sister-in-law, and I couldn't think of a good abbreviation (Sil sounds kind of weird) so in this blog I am going to call her Sunny. My bro can just be Bro, and Squeak is still Squeak. Got it? Good!

Anyway, yesterday I left California. The whole family drove me to the bus station. And I was totally calm. (I kind of manipulated my chances of staying calm, by doubling up on my meds, as I learned to do over summer vacation) I was riding in the backseat, and Pibble was sprawled on my lap and the baby was peaceful in his car seat, and I was sad to be leaving but I was dealing with it okay. 

I kind of felt tears start to build up as I went into the station, bought my ticket, and checked my baggage. I walked back to the car, where everyone was waiting, to say goodbye. 

When Sunny opened the car door so I could say goodbye to Squeak, that is when my tears burst out! I could barely manage to choke out the words, "Bye, Squeak," before I was bawling! I really didn't want to leave! If I could have stayed forever, I would have.

Bro and Sunny tried to remind me that they are coming to stay at my parent's house at Christmas time, and we'll all get to spend Squeak's first Christmas together. I figured out that they'll be coming in about eleven weeks (which sounds way shorter than "almost three months.) And if I get a job, I can visit them again in California over my spring break, which will probably be about three months after Christmas. 

So I managed to get on the bus and it drove away calmly. I didn't want to read or listen to music or anything because everything reminded me of something at their house, so I just kind of sat there and after a while I fell asleep. 

Today I am feeling a little better. I rode the bus all night to get to my aunt and uncle's house. I slept on and off, squashed in the bus seat, and I had breakfast at a truck stop at four-thirty in the morning. By the time I reached my final destination, I was feeling okay... and when Roo, my aunt and uncle's awesome dog, jumped out of the car and leapt into my arms licking me with joy, I felt better. 

But then I accidentally called her "Pibble"... and it brought all  my homesickness back. (I get homesick for places that aren't my home. Weird, right?) 

Luckily, when we got to their house, Roo needed a walk. My aunt and uncle live in a wooded area with tons of trails, and they take Roo for an hour long walk each day. So I went with my uncle on a long hike with Roo, and my uncle showed me a lot of cool things, like a water fall, and a small little pine tree that he says people decorate every Christmas, and a tree growing out of a tree stump, and the place where he once saw a Nutria, and the difference between Douglas fir trees and Cedar trees (both of which I thought were Redwoods because they were so tall!) And it started raining, and we came upon another hiker that had a dog that Roo likes to play with, and then we came back. I felt much better. The hike cleared up all my spiraling. 

So now I am here, for at least a few days, hanging out with my aunt and uncle and Roo! 

Tune in later for more, if you want! 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

I'm In Cali... But Not For Long!

This is my brother's dog who snuggles with me at night!
She's such a good dog! She snores, but that doesn't
bother me. 
 Hi everyone! Sorry I haven't blogged in a while. My Internet connection up here in the mountains is reeeeeeeeeeal slow. I've been told it is because all we're getting is a 2-G connection, while most of the world wide web is now designed for 4-G. I thought I'd spend a few minutes blogging, even though it may take four hours just to get the page published!

So I've been here for almost two weeks, now, and I'm heading out on Saturday. I actually stayed here longer than I thought I would. I had thought I'd stay maybe a week or ten days. But remember how nervous I was to leave home and come here? That is how nervous (and sad) I am about leaving my brother's house! It is so beautiful here, and I've loved spending a lot of time with my nephew and my sister-in-law. The way my brother's job is, he will be at work for several days at a time and then have one day off, so I haven't actually gotten to spend much time with him... it has been mostly me and Squeak and his mama, and their dog Pibble who I love love love!

Squeak is four months old now and is a real bundle of joy! You know how babies kind of go in cycles, they're really happy until they get hungry, then after they eat they're really happy until they get tired, etc. So Squeak, during his happy times, is the sweetest baby ever! I like to sit him across from me on the couch and just sing to him and make noises and play with his stuffed animals, and he gets the biggest smile on his face and even starts laughing! The other day I was just saying, "Ah-ah-ah!" and Squeak was cracking up! Which made me crack up too! He's also really alert and loves being around people and watching what is going on. And he's starting to pay attention to toys even.

When Squeak is upset you can just pick him up hold him, and he puts his arms out and hangs on tight to you with his soft little head on your shoulder, and you can walk around or bounce until he falls asleep. Sometimes though you end up holding him for his whole nap, because as soon as you try to put him in his crib Squeak will often wake up, because he wants to be with everyone and get held. He's like a teddy bear!

Other things I've been doing out here? The first three days I was here it was really hot out and we went to the river and swam. The water is super cold but when you get used to it it feels great and is a lot of fun! One of the days, we went out for ice cream. My sister-in-law's sister came to visit for a few days and she was really cool so that was fun. 

One of the days my sister-in-law and me went to a drop-in Zumba class that was taught by her friend. That was fun, even though I felt like a fool because it is hard to follow along and do what the teacher is doing at the exact same time! I wish they had drop-in Zumba classes where I live.

A few times friends of my bro and sis-in-law came over to visit. Once we went to one of their houses for dinner. One night me and my brother went to a dive bar in the middle of no where and partied. (Well, I watched other people party, anyway!) 

My bro and sis-in-law have a huge yard with a ton of fruit trees, and my sis-in-law picked a zillion grapes, and we made lots and lots and lots of homemade grape jelly! So delicious! But did you know that jelly is mostly made out of sugar? We were making four mason jars of jelly at a time. Sp for a batch of four jars of jelly (each holding about a pint) the recipe involved 7 cups of sugar! Basically how you make jelly is, you smash up the fruit, add some water, boil it, toss in some Pectin, bring that to a boil, toss in a zillion cups of sugar, stir that up and bring it to a boil, and then pour it into jars and wait for it to gel up. It is so yummy!

I think that is about all... and I am going to end this entry so I can drink my tea.  

I am sort of upset because on one hand, I wish I could stay here forever, but on the other hand, I really miss my dogs and my parents. I have to be missing someone at all times! It is a real bummer. 

OK that is all for now. One more day in Cali and then I am headed for Oregon!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Leaving On A Jet Plane...

 Don't know when I'll be back again...
Seriously, I don't know when I'll be back again! 
Tomorrow morning I'm leaving on my long journey. I was planning on getting a lot of blogging errands done tonight, like getting some posts ready ahead of time and reading all your blogs and responding to comments and what have you. But my anxiety is starting to take over, and now I have that yucky feeling in my stomach and I'm kinda light-headed and shaky, so I'm just gonna fire off this one quick post! 

I am excited to see my brother and them, but it is always hard for me to get out of my routine. Since my brother and sister-in-law and Squeak have moved since I was last there, I can't even make a picture in my head of where I'll be. I don't know what I'll be eating or where I'll be sleeping or what my days will look like. And I really don't even know when I'm coming back... I'll be there at least a week, then go to my aunt's house for an undetermined amount of time, before coming back here! I kind of get addicted to my little routines... just the safety of knowing that my favorite cereal is in the cabinet and Dr. Pepper is in the fridge and I can use my computer whenever I want to and I know what I am going to do, basically, every single day. When I can't picture what the next day is going to be like, I get nervous! 

The other thing making me nervous is that I've never been away from my Small Dog for this long. The longest I've been away from her is a week. I guess this will be better because she'll be at home with my parents instead of at doggie daycare. But she depends on me! Whenever any of us get home, the first thing my little Small Dog does is run outside and look to see if I'm there... and if I'm not, she just keeps running around the house looking! How can I leave her behind!

My mom and I were talking about it today...

Me: "My Small Dog isn't happy unless I'm home, is she? That is a big responsibility, to have someone in the world who depends on you so much."

Mom: "Well, multiply that by about a million for having kids."

Me: "Yeah, but people can bring their kids with them places. If Lily was a human baby I wouldn't be leaving her behind for two weeks. I'd bring her with me. It's not like you'd be expected to kennel your children!"

I wish I could, like, explain to Small Dog where I am going to be, or send her a post card or something. I hope she doesn't just think I've disappeared!

I shouldn't be worried about that, though, right? I should be getting excited for this trip!

I know I'll be excited, just as soon as I get on the plane. But right now I'm just so nervous!

Bye for now... next time you see me I'll be in California, or at least on my way there! 

The Three Greatest Moments Of My Life

My nephew Squeak, at one week old. He is now 3 months
old, and WAY bigger than this. I'm pretty sure they're
feeding him steroids or something! 
 I kind of feel like I have been posting a blog entry every five minutes here lately! But I really appreciate all of the new readers who have been popping in from the September Blog Challenge. I love getting comments and making new friends! 
Today the question is, what have been the three greatest moments of my life? That is a hard question. I mean, I have had a whole lot of moments in my life and I am pretty bad at comparing them to each other. For instance when I am riding the Raging Bull at Six Flags, I may very well think "This is the greatest moment of my life!" And it very well may be. Because I love Six Flags, and the Raging Bull is my favorite ride. So when I'm on it, I'm at the peak of my happiness. But I don't think that is the kind of "greatest moment" the blogging prompt is thinking about! 

Greatest moments. Well, one would definitely be the time I got to witness, and assist with, the birth of a litter of puppies. I had been friends with this one family for a long, long time. The daughter was my best friend, and the mother was like a second mother to me, at the time. I was living at the time with the daughter, her three children, and her husband. They also had a female dog. Their oldest son had been begging for a chihuahua, so eventually my friend and her husband okayed it, and they went online and found someone who was giving away chihuahua puppies. It was kind of weird because the puppies were actually five months old already. So they brought home this puppy. The dog they already owned was not spayed, and they did not neuter this new puppy. And at first the new puppy was pretty harmless, because he was a puppy. But apparently they can deposit their seeds as young as six months old. It was pretty much inevitable. So the female dog got pregnant. When it was getting close to the dog's time to deliver her puppies, they sent the dog over to my friend's mother's house, because she had experience in delivering puppies. I went along because I love dogs and the dog loved me and I could help keep her calm. Late that night, I got to be one of the first people to hold eight puppies as they were born! I warmed them up by putting them in the pocket of my hoodie. They were as tiny as mice! All eight of them could fit in a shoe box! It was so awesome to experience. And one of those puppies would eventually become my Small Dog. 

Next would have to be my graduation from college! It took me so long to do. And even though I was way older than the typical college graduate, my parents insisted that I sign up to "walk" in the graduation ceremony. So I did it... I felt really foolish wearing a cap and gown with all those young college kids. But my parents were watching, and other family members were watching the streamed version on the college website. It was probably one of the first times that I felt everyone was actually proud of something I'd done... usually I was kind of the black sheep in the family! 

And then there was the first time I held Squeak, my baby nephew. He was all fresh and new at one week old, and he pretty much slept the whole time I was there. But it felt so crazy and exciting to hold a baby that was my brother's son. Although many of my friends' children had grown up calling me Auntie and I had helped raise quite a few of them, I had never had a real niece or nephew that was connected to my family. Of course by "real" I mean, related to my family... My future children will most likely come to me through adoption, and after Squeak was born I very frantically asked my mom if she would love my children the same way as she loves Squeak, even though they won't be biologically related. My mom said yes, she would love them no matter how they spun their way into our family, and I hope that is true... because that is what I mean by "real," I mean a real part of my whole family, someone that my aunts and uncles and grandparents and cousins will all know and love. 

It is past midnight, and I am writing this post for tomorrow (Friday, which I guess really is "today" since it is past midnight and all) and I am afraid I am no longer making sense, so it is time for me to get some shut-eye! Until later, everyone!

Thursday, September 5, 2013

My Thoughts on Kelli Stapleton

I wasn't going to write this post, because I know it will make some people angry at me, and I hate people being mad at me... but I was doing a lot of thinking about it all day long.
 (For those of you who haven't heard of her, Kelli Stapleton is a mother/blogger who tried to take the lives of herself and her 14-year-old autistic daughter the other day.)
I never met Kelli Stapleton, although I read her blog a few times. The most I ever read about Kelli was in an untitled post on the blog Mostly True Stuff. The blogger there, Lexi, was friends with Kelli. Lexi also has a child with autism, and actually just found out that her youngest daughter, who has Down syndrome, has autism as well. She wrote about her fears that Kelli would be villianized online for what she did... whereas the friend she knew and loved seemed completely different from the actions she took. 
When I visited Kelli's blog today, I saw that it was true. While a lot of people are expressing shock that the whole thing happened, others are specifically saying Kelli is an evil person who deserves to spend the rest of her life in prison. 
And I wanted to share my thoughts. 

First I want to say that killing people is always bad, and killing children is especially bad, because they are children and they can't protect themselves as well and they need us, as adults, to care for them and keep them safe. Parents are specifically expected to protect their children from harm, taking a bullet for their children if they have to. OFCOURSE it is never okay to kill your children. 

On a somewhat unrelated note, my grandmother had paranoid schizophrenia. It was very severe and difficult to treat. She heard voices telling her to do things. At one point, while my dad and his siblings were still little, she heard voices telling her that she should kill her children, that she needed to kill them. My grandmother believed the voices were real. Luckily, she complained about them to someone, worried about the fact that she might have to kill her kids for whatever reason the voices were telling her to do it. My grandfather intervened, my grandmother was hospitalized, and her children were safe. My grandmother would end up being in and out of hospitals for the rest of her life, undergoing very invasive treatments that never completely worked, but at least her children were safe. 
It could have definitely ended differently. At that time, my grandmother had been in the psychiatric hospitals before. She knew it meant being locked up for months, maybe even years, at a time, and being subjected to things like electroshock therapy. What if she had truly felt like killing herself and her children was the only way to save her family? Or what if she had tried to get help, and nobody had believed her? She could have murdered her children. She could have spent the rest of her life in prison. But was my grandmother a bad or evil person? I know she wasn't. Life handed her a shitload of lemons, though. A whole shitload of lemons. 

I think life handed Kelli Stapleton a shitload of lemons, too. Not all people with autism are violent. Kelli's daughter Issy was. She was also large, and strong. In one video taken at one of Issy's schools, it took two staff members, including a man, to pull Issy off of her mother and subdue her. Both staff members were bruised and bleeding by the time they got the child, who was then about 12, to sit down. She injured people and destroyed property every day. She had caused her mother a head injury that left her in the hospital with a Level 2 trauma. She put Kelli's other children in danger. 

Issy had been in and out of treatment programs and schools. The family had an impossible time trying to get insurance or other funding to pay for the level of intense help that Issy needed. They were pretty much told that, for Issy to get the best level of care, they would have to relinquish their parental rights. That was not an option for Issy's parents, who were determined to keep their family together

Kelli once wrote in her blog about what it was like to parent Issy, versus what her parental instincts told her to do. 
"If she is sad about something I should NOT go and try to comfort her.  She gets no comfort from it and I’ll likely get hit.
If she wants something I should not give it to her.   She has to earn everything.
If she is sitting quietly for long periods of time I should not try to talk to her.  She’ll get mad and hit me.  I remember feeling that way about my mom and I’m NOT a child with autism!  Hahaha!  Soooooo totally normal?
If I have to tell her 'no' and I feel badly about it.  It does no good to explain.  Once we wanted to go to the fair.  We got there and it was closed.  I said how sorry I was and it was a bummer.  I used my (sincere) but sad voice and got hit.  Just saying 'no' and moving on is better.
It’s generally better to avoid her.   I need to step in when I know I’m going to be successful and not get hit.  We have 14 years to re-shape.
Going up to her at any given time and hugging her and telling her I love her.   Yea, that doesn’t thrill her.  So am I doing it for me?  Or her?  I don’t want to spark an aggression so I’ll just love her from afar!  Or wait for her to initiate a big ‘ol hug for me!"

In her last post, Kelli wrote that Issy had just come home from a treatment program that had seemed successful. The program had taught the family a behavioral plan that would need to be used 24/7 by every adult who worked with or dealt with Issy. They were getting her enrolled in the local school, where she would work with a 1:1 aide on her academic subjects and then join peers for things like gym and art. Kelli wrote that she felt like things were finally coming together for her family. But later in the same post (it seemed like Kelli might have came back and edited it with new information later) things were falling apart again. The teacher who was supposed to be working with Issy at the school was not enthused about the behavior plan or the academic work that Kelli hoped for Issy to do. Kelli and the teacher exchanged harsh words. The next day, the school district let Kelli and her husband know that Issy was no longer welcome at their school. The district officials told Kelli that she should just homeschool Issy.

Kelli believed that she had "ruined everything" for her family, by pushing too hard. Now there was no school for Issy to go to. In the end, it seemed that the only option was for Kelli to move with Issy to a city two and a half hours away, near the treatment center where Issy had been at before, so that Issy could continue attending school there where she had been relatively successful. Kelli's husband and other children would stay behind. 
Essentially, despite all of the efforts of Kelli and her husband, the family was going to be broken up one way or another. 
The next day, Kelli and Issy were found unconscious in that van with the charcoal grills burning inside of it.

Is it ever okay to kill your child? No. How about when your child has autism? Definitely still no. But this wasn't a mother who was just tired of caring for her child, or was mad at her child, or felt like her child was holding her back in life. This was a mother who had dedicated every minute of her life to the wellbeing of this child, and was just running out of options, being told that her child was not welcome anywhere. 
And maybe, logically, letting Issy go into foster care would have been a better choice than trying to kill the girl. But think about this... once you sign away your parental rights, that child is no longer yours. You no longer have a say in what happens to the child. The state can send the child anywhere, make any decision for what happens to her, and you have no input. Throughout everything, Issy's parents tried to protect her, even when they were in danger themselves. Letting Issy get taken away permanently would not have felt like an option to them. 
So in the end, I believe Kelli was trying to protect Issy, even when she made that horrible decision to try to end both of their lives. She was trying to set Issy free from a world where she could no longer keep her safe. 

It was a terrible choice. But I don't think Kelli is a terrible person. I really don't. And I know a lot of people are saying, "If Kelli doesn't get punished, more parents of autistic children are going to think it is okay to kill their children." 
But I feel like we should not make Kelli an example of what should happen to parents who attempt to murder their children. We should use this story as an example of what can happen to a family when a child with severe special needs, a child who is violent and out of control, is not able to get services. All of these different agencies said they didn't want to deal with Issy, they didn't think they could meet Issy's needs, maybe Kelli should either abandon Issy or keep her at home at all times. Issy was the sole responsibility of her parents, and nobody else was obligated to help. Yet, when an overwhelmed mother is pushed to the brink of madness, all fingers are pointing right at her! 

I don't know how to end this post, except to say a prayer for Kelli's family. I pray that Kelli will get the help she needs... instead of being tossed away in prison, she is going to need a lot of help to deal with her actions and what led to them, and I pray that she's able to get that help. Her family too. And Issy... who, by the way, is still alive, although in intensive care... I hope she will finally get the resources she needs so that she can safely stay with her family, attend school, and be part of the world. 

Issy Stapleton, age 14

My All-Time Favorite Book

 This is another post for the September Blog Challenge. The question of the day is, what is my favorite book?

That is actually a pretty hard question for me! I have loved reading since I was just a baby, and I've always devoured books as if they were oxygen. So it is really hard for me to choose just one of my favorites. Would I pick one of my childhood favorites like The Happy Hollisters or Pippi Longstockings? One of the classics I started reading when I was only eleven, like Catcher In The Rye or To Kill A Mockingbird? Or one of the most recent books I've gotten on discount from Target, like Room or Memoirs Of An Imaginary Friend

If you were to ask me about one of the books that helped to guide my life, I would tell you a title you probably won't recognize. It is called Children With Emerald Eyes, by Mira Rothenberg.

I found this book when I was eleven years old. My dad's aunt had just moved into a nursing home, and my dad, who was appointed her legal guardian, had to clean out and sell her house. My great-aunt had not taken very good care of herself or her house in her later years, and it was in a state of disarray. Every weekend my parents and my brother and I would go to her house. While my parents worked on cleaning it up and packing things away, my brother and I were left to our own devices. We were told we could pretty much keep anything knick-knacks we found in the house. For me, the most interesting part of the house was my aunt's bookshelf. At eleven, I already loved the smell of antique books, and I was reading at a high school level. Children With Emerald Eyes was one of the books I rescued from that shelf. I have read it many times since. 

The book is written by a psychologist who worked with "severely disturbed" children... which, in 1977 when this book was published, meant children with autism, schizophrenia, and various mental illnesses. Each chapter was a story about a different child, or group of children, that she worked with. 

I was enchanted by the book. I guess it was a little odd because I was reading it while I was a child, and most of the kids in the book were around my age, yet I was understanding it from the point of view of the psychologist who was narrating it. I think this was the first book that put into my head the idea of working with children with special needs. It was the first book that showed me that a career like that existed, and how rewarding it could be. 

I was in fifth grade. I got teased a lot and I didn't have any friends. The only kids I played with were some younger kids from the special education class. Ironically, I had not yet learned that I had ADHD and autism myself, yet I recognized that I had more in common with my little friends than I did with my fifth grade peers. I considered myself sort of their guardian on the playground, because I would keep them out of trouble and keep other kids from picking on them. My friendship with them, and the book Children With Emerald Eyes, are probably what first started me on the path to working with children with special needs. 

If this book sounds interesting to you, check it out on Amazon! I thought this book was ancient history, but when I was looking up information about it for this post, I saw that it was actually reprinted in 2003. You have to be aware that some of the terminology, and some of the techniques used to work with the kids, are really outdated and are almost offensive now. But for the 1970's Mira Rothenberg was considered very progressive and she changed a lot about the ways that children with mental illness and autism were served. 

What is your favorite book? 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

September Blog Challenge, Day 4: My Favorite Post So Far

 Because I am going to be leaving on my never-ending journey in a few days and probably won't be able to post every single day, I thought I'd get ahead with the blog challenge by writing a few posts in advance and scheduling them. I hope that isn't cheating! I'll also be posting regular posts whenever I am able to, mostly depending on the availability of wifi and how much time I have, so sometimes this blog may even have two posts in one day! The excitement should be driving you crazy right now!

Okay. Just wanted to warn you. Anyways, today is Day 4 of the September Blog Challenge, and the question is, what is my favorite blog post that I've ever written?

I haven't written a whole ton of posts in this blog yet. But I guess I'd have to say my favorite is this extremely long one, entitled I Guess I Might As Well Tell This Story. Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while probably remember that it was about an unfortunate experience I had as a teenager and how I handled it. The reason it is my favorite is that, although it was difficult for me to write, I got a lot of positive feedback on it. People commented to me, on the post, on Facebook, or privately through email. Several people shared their own stories of similar things that had happened to them. Some even thought that it might be helpful for teenagers who had been through similar things to read this post. 

It was something that I had not talked about in a long time. I used to tell people about this experience all the time, in the first year or two after it happened... but I started feeling like it was becoming my identity, becoming a part that I was required to play. I stopped telling people about it because I just didn't want that to be me. It isn't me. It was a part of my life, but it didn't change my personality or anything else about me. 

But afterwards I felt better for having shared that part of my life with my bloggy friends. And I don't feel that they started thinking of me differently. So I don't mind sharing it again. Read away, if you'd like!

It isn't too late to join the September Blog Challenge! Just click on the button below to learn how. 

Now, Pay Attention!

Me: "Mom, want to hear a joke?"
Mom: (Distracted as always) "Uh... sure."

Me: "Okay. Knock-knock!"
Mom: "Um... who's there?"
Me: "Interrupting Cow!"
Mom: "Oh. Okay."
Me: "You're not very good at jokes, are you? You're supposed to say, 'Interrupting Cow who.'"
Mom: "Oh. Interrupting C-"
Me: "Moooooooo!"
Mom: ::stares blankly:: "What?"
Me: "It's Interrupting Cow! Get it? Interrupting Cow?"
Mom: "No."
Me: "Let's start over. Knock-knock!"

Mom: "Who's there?"
Me: "Interrupting Cow!"
Mom: "Interrupting C-"

Me: "Moooooooooo!" 
Mom: ::Blank stare::
Me: "He's Interrupting Cow! He's interrupting you! Get it?"
Mom: "I guess so..."
Me: "Ugh. Nerver mind." 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

September Blog Challenge (A Little Slow On The Draw)

I was planning on participating in the September Blog Challenge, which was created by a new blog I just started reading on The Sits Girls website. For the challenge, there is a writing prompt each day, and you have to try and post every single day in September.
But September snuck up on me and now I am a day late and a dollar short as always! Actually two days late, and two dollars short. So this is actually going to be three posts in one! Lucky you!
Let's begin.

Day 1. My Life Story, in 300 Words Or Less. I was born. My parents never knew I had special needs. They thought I was just annoying. I got in trouble a lot. I grew up. My parents fought a lot. My dad drank. My mom hated my guts.
My brother was practically perfect in every way, except he started drinking and doing drugs when he was 11. My parents didn’t notice or care. They thought I was the only messed up kid. They said I was ruining the family.
 I ran away from home. I kept getting caught. Finally I turned eighteen.
I lived on the streets for several years. I met lots of people. Some were kind. Some were jerks. Many were a little of both. I found both kindness and hatred in unexpected places.
This guy I knew, we became great friends, and I called him my big brother. I’d known him since I was a kid. We were homeless together. He had a serious drinking and drug problem. I spent most of my time jumping on my bicycle and chasing after him, trying to rescue him and cleaning up his messes form. My efforts were futile.
We lived in a crackhouse with his girlfriend. He kept smoking crack. He wanted to steal from me. When I wouldn’t give him money he puched me. One day   he tried to strangle me.
The next day, he got arrested for something unrelated to me.  Karma is a bitch!
I joined AmeriCorps to get away from it all. I worked with kids. Afterwards I got a job as a special education teacher’s aide. I decided to become a special ed teacher.  I started going to school part time, using my AmeriCorps education voucher. 55,000,000 years later, I graduated!
Too bad I can’t find a job though. I’m still working on it!

Day 2. What is my favorite season and why? I love summer because it is hot out (usually) and you can run out of the house wearing only the clothes you have on, without spending an hour putting on sweatshirts and jackets and boots and scarves and hats and gloves. (Chicago winters are super cold!) I love the smell of summer. I love swimming and hiking and camping and tubing, which are all things you can do in the summer. My second favorite is fall, followed by spring, but I sure don't like winter at all! 

Day 3. Why did I start blogging? Before blogs were ever invented, I always kept a journal. When I was living in a homeless shelter when I was 17 or 18, I was constantly writing in a notebook. Everyone would want to read what I wrote. I didn't keep my journal a secret. I would write all about my thoughts and feelings on what was going on in my life and what I saw and noticed. My friends at the shelter would take turns reading my journal, and they'd pass it around. Usually they loved what I wrote, even when it was something negative about them. They thought I was really smart and perceptive. Because I had difficulty communicating in words, a lot of people thought I was "retarded." (Their word, not mine.) So they were surprised to see that I was always paying attention and understanding what was going on. I loved being able to let people know what I was thinking and feeling, which I couldn't usually do.
The volunteers in the shelter would bring me fresh notebooks and pens so that I could keep on writing. I had all these notebooks in a backpack. Unfortunately, I lost all but the last one, when I had to leave the place I was staying at unexpectedly. I was trying to pack as lightly as I could, and so I only took my most recent notebook, and left the others hidden at the motel room I'd been staying at with some friends. I think they all got thrown away eventually. 
Later, when I started having Internet access more regularly, I used to make my own websites. This was before people really started blogging. I had a website called "Angel's Place," that was all about me. I also started a little magazine with the same name. I was living in a group home for teens at that time, and the people in the office would let me use the copy machine so I could put together enough magazines to give out to the kids and staff. It mostly had my own stories and poems and drawings, but other kids sometimes contributed as well. 
So when I discovered blogging, it just seemed natural to start my own blog! Blogging became my way of reaching out to others and communicating. It is also a way of clearing my head and categorizing the things that happen in my life. When I write about my life, in neat little posts, it seems less chaotic and makes more sense.
I've had a lot of different blogs over the years... but this one is the one that is the most "me."

Alright! How was that for a three-for-one deal? I will meet this challenge again tomorrow! Be there or be square! 

Monday, September 2, 2013

My Summer Bucket List, Reviewed!

I <3 Peanuts!
 Hi everyone! Happy Labor Day! Now that the summer is unofficially over (officially it doesn't end until September 21, right?) I guess it is time to review my Summer Bucket List and see how I did! 

1. Go to Six Flags a lot! I only got to go once, at the beginning of the summer. My little cousin ended up not being able to go because her parents couldn't afford it and they wouldn't let me pay for her! Oh well... there's always Fright Fest to look forward to!

2. Keep working on my Zombie Run. Kinda gave up on that one. It got too humid to run. Can I put that on my FALL Bucket list? 

3. Go to the beach. Sorta did that one... I got to go to the beach in Wisconsin when I was there, but I never went to the Lake Michigan beach. Although, with the number of dead bodies floating around in there, maybe it is all for the best!

4. Go camping. FAIL! I never went. 

5. Visit the Museum of Science And Industry. Even though whenever I say I want to go, my mom says, "What are you, six years old?" Another fail. Boy, I am not doing so well, am I?

6. Grow a garden. Well, almost. I did grow some plants, but they didn't do so well this year with the weird weather. Next time I will start my plant indoors over the winter, so they will be strong and ready by the time summer comes!

7. Go to Wisconsin with my family. I did it! Which, like I said, wasn't too hard... I just had to show up and get in the car for our planned vacation. 

8. Make some tie-dyes.
I did it just yesterday! My aunt and little cousins came over and we all tie-dyed. We made a bunch of onesies for Squeak, and the kids made T-shirts for themselves. The bad news is I apparently used crappy dye. My mom inexplicably ran the tie-dyes through the rinse cycle three times and then washed them with detergent twice. She wanted to be sure no excess dye would bleed on other clothes. Well, she pretty much washed all of the dye out of the clothes! I think one of our biggest mistakes was rinsing them out too soon after we dyed them. We're gonna do a redo today. I will post pics soon! 

9. Go to Pow-Wows. I went to two last year and I want to go to more this year. Shut up. They're fun. Also I really like fry bread. Fail. I didn't go to any. The two that I found are not happening until September, and they are on the specific weekends that I will be in California! :(

10. Go to California to visit my newborn nephew Freddy. I went twice! Wait a minute... scratch that. I went once, and I am getting ready to go again a week from now! So this is a success. 

11. This one wasn't on my original Bucket List but I thought I'd add it because it is cool... I got to go river tubing! Next year remind me to add that to my Bucket List!

So... in review... out of my ten goals for the summer, I managed to successfully do two, somewhat successfully do two, and failed at five. Not so great! Then again, not so bad! And at least now I have room for improvement for next summer, I suppose...

How did your summer go?