Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Monday, November 30, 2015

End Of November

Here is the good news: I made it through NaBloPoMo with flying colors! I posted at least every single day, even on the days I was traveling and on Thanksgiving! It was easy and I think I could even keep it up permanently! Or at least ealternating days. Maybe I could blog on Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, and leave Mondays and Wednesdays for reading other blogs and taking care of blogging business. The weekends are easy because I do Saturday 9 and Sunday Stealing. 

Here is the bad news. Tomorrow I am going back to Washington. I am already feeling so sad about it. Yet, strangely, as soon as I opened this up and started typing, I felt a little better! But now I started feeling worse. My brain is a tornado. I want to stay with my Mom. I wish someone would glue my feet to the ground so I could never go anywhere again except home. The ten days went too fast! And now I am crying because I don't want to go. I miss Auntie Em and Uncle J and Roo and my fish and Phyllis and the woods. But when I go there I will miss my mom and my dad and Trixie  and my home. 

I am going to see my mom and dad again in less than 3 weeks. I am going to see them for Christmas. If they come out to California, then I will only get to see them for a few days. But if they stay in Chicago and I come back here, I will get to stay with them for two weeks! Also if we go to Bro's house in California for Christmas I am not sure I want to bring Lily, because one of my brother's dogs supposedly killed a buffalo recently, and I don't want him to kill Lily. I actually love my brother's dog, and I would want to hug him and play with him and be around him without having to worry about whether he thinks Lily is potential food for him. I don't know if OP really killed a buffalo. Who even owns a buffalo? The people said they were raising the buffalo for meat. Who keeps a buffalo in their yard and raises it for meat? Who eats buffalo meat? The whole thing is a little WTF. But I still don't want to put Lily at risk. So I would only see my parents for a few days, and I would have to spend Christmas without Lily. 

My mom also wants me to come to Chicago in February so I can help her after she gets out of the hospital. I have to help her remember to take her medicine and eat food and drink water. If I have a job I can take Family Medical Leave. If I am still subbing I can just go, and come back when I am ready. Then I could also come back for spring break, and I could come back for part of the summer. It should be motivating me to work more. The more I work, the more I save up, the more I can see my mom. My goal will be to make enough to save up for a place to live AND see my mom! 

It is sort of ironic that, when I don't live here, my mom and I get along so much better when I am here. We are happy and cheerful and don't argue and my mom is calm with me. Not yelling at me for every small thing. But if I lived here then she'd probably be mad at me all the time again. It is like being stuck between a rock and a stabby knife.

It is almost like I will be starting to split my time between Washington and Chicago, So I should feel cheerful  because I really will be getting the best of both worlds, and the closest possibility to my ideal world, which would be to be able to see everyone. I won't be able to see everyone at the same time, but at least it will be somewhat equal! 

But I am still sad. I don't want to say goodbye to my mom tomorrow. I want to hide under the bed. I want Auntie Em and Uncle J and Roo and my fish to come here instead.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Sunday Stealing: Consider Yourself

Yes, I want to own five dogs!
Hi everyone! It is time for Sunday Stealing again! This is one of my favorite memes. Feel free to play along, and be sure to join the linky if you do!

1) Of the various cultures, ethnicities or nationalities you belong to, which most strongly do you consider yourself?
Italian, because my Nona is Italian. I grew up on Italian food. Unfortunately, my Nona chose not to pass on the language and culture. She grew up with parents who didn't speak any English, and she got made fun of for being Italian at a time when people were racist against Italians. So when she grew up she spoke only English, and raised her kids to be all-American. I am lucky she at least kept the Italian cooking! I wish I could learn more about the culture my family has lost.
2) Is there a culture you cannot claim heritage from but which you feel quite close to?
Mexican. I've had a lot of Mexican friends over the years, and working in schools I've worked with mostly children who were either born in Mexico or whose parents were born there.
3) What's one language you wish you knew fluently?
Spanish, or Italian. Sorry, that is two languages.
4) If you could move anywhere in the world and be guaranteed a job, etc., where would you go?
 I just moved to the Pacific Northwest, so I'd probably stay around there. I wish I could be guaranteed a job there! That would be nice!
5) If you had a time machine, and could witness any one event without altering or disturbing it, what would you want to see?
 Woodstock! The first one, not the weird 1996 one that was sponsored by Pepsi.
6) Have problems sleeping?
Sometimes I do. My natural sleep cycle does not correspond with the sleep cycle I'm required to keep!
7) Are you free with your feelings? Yep, a little TOO free sometimes! I wear my heart on my sleeve!
8) What is the one outfit/piece of clothing/accessory you own that makes you feel incredibly good whenever you wear it? Why? My overalls. I have no idea why. I just love them. 
 9) What do you do to make yourself feel better when you're in a funk? Blog, or watch a funny movie. 
10) Has anyone ever surprised you in a way that let you know you were special? How? Hmm... I don't think anyone has! Not that I can think of! Many times people try not to surprise me because surprises freak me out. Even good surprises, sometimes. For instance if someone said. "Surprise! We're taking a trip to Disney World and we're leaving tomorrow!" I love Disney World, but I'd still be sort of freaked out because I'd have to completely re-imagine what they next few days would be like, I'd have to change all the images in my head!
11) When you are having a "good day," how do you spread the happiness to others? Probably just by smiling a lot, making silly jokes, singing to myself, and generally being cheerful.
12) What is one thing that puts you in a bad mood, no matter how good you were previously feeling? Being sick. Or someone yelling at me.
13) Would you rather live in a world with or without technology such as computers, cars, airplanes, bombs? A world without bombs would be great. But I need cars and airplanes to get back and forth to see my family, and I need a computer to communicate. 
14) If you had to live without either heating in your house or air conditioning, which one would you keep? Air conditioning. I grew up without air conditioning, so I'd be fine with it. I'm usually too cold, anyways, when the air is on. 
15) If you had to own five dogs, what kind would you get?
I'd just go to the shelter and play with all the dogs, and I'd rescue the first five dogs who seemed to bond with me! Rescued dogs are the best, anyways! But if you were forcing me to choose my hypothetical dogs, I would like at least one pug, because their little faces are so cute and I've never met a mean pug. I'd also like a pitbull... but a small pitbull, like a pocket pit.

That's it! That was a cool meme!

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Saturday Nine: Black Is Black

I really liked doing Saturday Nine last week, so I decided to do it again this weekend. This week's theme is about the song "Black Is Black." Visit the website to join in, if you'd like! Ready? Here it goes!

1) Black is this week's signature color because Friday, November 27, was "Black Friday," when retailers cut their prices and consumers flock to the stores. No, because first of all it didn't look like there were any deals that would make it worth it. And second of all, my mom read that the stores were even putting tables of items in the aisles, so it would be really crowded and hard to move around. Too overwhelming!

2) WalMart, Best Buy, Toys R Us and Target have all heavily advertised their "Black Friday" sales. If you could have a $50 gift card to one of those stores, which would choose? What would you spend the $50 on? I would spend it at Target, because I don't really like Wal-Mart. What would I get? Logically I should just use it to get necessities like groceries and shampoo and stuff. But I'd rather spend it on fun things, like arts and crafts stuff, bones for my dog, books, etc.
3) Star Wars items are predicted to be big sellers this Black Friday.  I am not. My cousin BT is, I think.

4) Feasting and football are also popular Thanksgiving weekend pastimes. Do your Thursday-Sunday plans include pigging out or watching a game? NO! Well, maybe pigging out. But no football. It is boring to me!

5) At Thanksgiving dinners, Crazy Sam's homemade gravy is always a hit. (Probably because she's so generous with the cognac, which gives the gravy a nutty taste.) Do you have a signature dish? Not personally, really... but my mom and I are trying to master a good baked macaroni and cheese recipe. If I was going to bring something, it would probably be deviled eggs, which are pretty easy to make but which many people think are difficult. And EVERYONE loves deviled eggs! Although I've heard that some very religious people call them "Doubled eggs" or "Angeled eggs."

6) What did you give thanks for on Thanksgiving 2015? I gave thanks for my family, of course!

7) Monday is Cyber Monday, when shoppers can save big online. Do you shop confidently over the Internet, or do you worry about security breaches and identity theft? I don't really worry about breaches. My identity is not that great... my credit score is nothing to brag about. So a thief would not be able to get very far with my identity. They might possibly even improve it!
8) This week's featured band, Los Bravos, was international. Their members came from both Germany and Spain. If you could travel to any foreign country in the world, which would you choose? Italy because I want to go to where my grandparents came from. Or Australia so I can see koalas and kangaroos and sloths and other cool animals.

9) The band's name, Los Bravos, can be translated to mean, "The Brave." Do you consider yourself gutsy? In some ways I am. I have done a lot of things that a lot of people would consider brave, like traveling across the country by Greyhound, being homeless, staying in a crack house, and, well, moving to a new state. On the other hand, everyday things such as going to work, going into the backyard alone at night, or meeting new people, have me shaking in my boots!

Well, that is it for this week's Saturday Nine! I hope you all enjoyed it!

Friday, November 27, 2015

Good Friday Is Good

A photo I took in a free photo booth at a store in the city the other day. 
Hi everyone! I hope any of you who celebrate Thanksgiving had a good one! Mine was pretty good. Usually on Thanksgiving we celebrate with my mom's entire family... but this year they are experiencing some animosity amongst themselves. So my mom and dad and I had our own private Thanksgiving celebration. My mom and I made rhubarb pie, and macaroni and cheese, and my mom also made ratatouille (the Italian vegetable and cheese dish, not the movie about the talking rat) and mashed potatoes, and there was turkey but I didn't eat any because I try not to eat meat. Then we watched movies. 

Today, for Good Friday, my dad and I went to visit my Uncle D and had sandwiches with him, while my mom was at Physical Therapy. Then we came home and played three games of Scrabble, which none of us were very good at... the longest word on the board was only 5 letters long... until we got bored of it, and then we went downstairs and watched TV again. At this house most of our days end with TV. 

I only have three more days to be here. I am already starting to get sad... although it is not so bad, since I realize that it doesn't feel like it has been so long since the last time I was here, and it will be only a few weeks before I'm here again. I am definitely going to be with my parents for Christmas, whether I come back to Illinois to see them or meet them in California to see my brother. Also my mom has mentioned that she'd want me to come back in February when she gets out of the hospital, so I can help take care of her while my dad is at work. So it is definitely not like I'll be saying goodbye forever when I leave! And if I still lived here, we would probably not be spending all this time together, and instead I'd just be sitting around by myself. But still... this is my childhood home, and when I come back here everything just feels so familiar and comfortable. Auntie Em and Uncle J's house is comfortable and familiar too, but you know what I mean. I love Oregon, but at the same time it is hard to shake the displaced feeling I have when I am not in Illinois. 

If you are wondering about the picture in this blog entry, it is from a free photo booth I found in a store the other day when my mom and I were in the city. I have a confused look because I wasn't quite sure how to operate it... I was expecting some sort of on-screen instructions,,, or even to be able to see myself on screen... but I just pushed a button and a light started flashing. Then my mom jumped into the booth for the last photo. And now it is hanging on our fridge. 

I don't know what we will do tomorrow and Sunday. On Monday I am probably going to go with my mom to her treatment again. And then on Tuesday I leave. I hope I won't be too sad. I hate feeling sad. Don't ever go anywhere. You just end up missing everybody.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Thanksgiving Thankfulness List

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Thanksgiving, incidentally, is not one of my favorite holidays. First of all, I don't really like how people celebrate the idea of killing and eating reluctant turkeys, with cartoons of talking turkeys begging for their lives. I understand that many people like to eat meat, and that they especially like turkey on Thanksgiving, but why do people take such delight in the fact that they kill turkeys for their meal?

I was also going to share some really dark facts I learned about Thanksgiving... for instance, there were probably many "Thanksgivings" before the historical story of the Native Americans and pilgrims eating together happened. It was pretty common for groups of people to have a feast to celebrate something good that had happened, such as the fact that there was never a friendly party where pilgrims and Indians cheerfully shared food. Yes, there was a large feast, in 1621, that included pilgrims and Native Americans... but it wasn't quite a feast of friendship. They met together to discuss a land treaty. They did not refer to it as Thanksgiving, or give any sort of thanks, and they did not repeat it annually from then on. The holiday called Thanksgiving did not begin until 1637.
The first real Thanksgiving celebration, in 1637, was not really a celebration of friendship between Native Americans and Europeans. It was a celebration of a massacre by English and Dutch mercenaries, who captured and executed 700 men, women and children of wards, the governor declared it a holiday to give thanks that they had successfully eliminated 700 Pequot. 

But I decided not to bum you out with those facts today, and instead to go the more traditional route with a list of things I am thankful for. It has been a hard year, and right now I'm having a particularly hard time, so I thought it would be good for me to try to focus on some things I can be happy about. Here it is. 


- I am thankful that I have Auntie Em and Uncle J in my life and that they do so much to help me and try to understand me. 

- I am thankful that I've gotten to see my mom and dad three different times so far since moving to the Pacific Northwest... in June when we met in California where my brother lives, then in late August when I spent two weeks with them, and now I am here with them for Thanksgiving! It helps me to not be homesick when I know I can come back frequently. 

- I am thankful that my mom's cancer treatment is going so well, and that the doctors say she might actually be cured by next year... not just in remission, but with the cancer totally gone!     

- I am thankful for new friends I met in the Pacific Northwest, like Phyllis and Lisa. And Ken, for a little while, at least, before he died.  And Linda, who is an email penpal who was also a friend of Ken. 
- I am sthankful for my special little service dog Lily, and also for Trixie (who is my parents' dog but I still call her mine) and Roo and my fishies and the kitty cats. 

- I am thankful for all the free things I've gotten to review on this blog, because it makes every trip to the mailbox feel like Christmas!

- I am thankful that I started DBT, and I am thankful that my therapists have worked with me to lower my fees as much as possible because they know I can't afford much and that I really want to participate in it. 

- I am thankful that my little 1997 car continues to run well and be a dependable car. I will never sell it, because my Nona gave it to me. Even if it breaks completely and can't be fixed, I think I will just keep it. I'm sure I can think of something to do with it! 

- I am thankful for the friends I've made through blogging, who I can bare my soul to and who understand me or at least empathize with me!

- I am thankful for Dr. Pepper and Pirate's Booty. 

Well, that is an even ten, so I won't keep going... I want to leave you to your own Thanksgiving festivities! At my house we are just having a small dinner with my parents and I. My mom's family is in a feud, so we're apparently boycotting the large family dinner. That is okay with me, because I am going to see everyone separately throughout the time that I'm here, and small, intimate parties are actually better for me. I actually talk and stuff. The more people there are... especially in my loud Italian family... the quieter I am! 

So, anyways, Happy Thanksgiving! And don't go shopping until Friday.   

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

My Domestic Violence Story, Part 2

Today is White Ribbon Day, or International Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This post is continued from one I posted earlier, here

"You ruined their Christmas!" Lauren snapped. "You need to leave."

I left. Now I was sobbing too. By the time I left, there was still no sign of the police.

The next day Lauren called and asked me to come over, as previously planned, for our Christmas Eve celebration. She was still not happy with me, but she just wanted to move on. She had called her mother the night before, and her mother had arrived at the house before the police. The two of them had discussed it and decided that, in order to keep things as normal as possible for Stevie, they should just tell him that this was just a minor incident that went on in all families. When the police arrived (first they went to the wrong house, down the street!) Lauren explained that I had heard them arguing and overreacted. The police asked to see the children and make sure they were okay. Lauren allowed them to come in and look at the children, but told them not to ask Stevie about what had happened, because it would be too traumatizing for him. (Tammy was too young to talk.) Jason had come back that morning and apologized, and everything had proceeded as normal.

There would, in the future, be more incidents, of course. Sometimes someone called the police (it was never me again.) Lauren would convince the police that nothing had happened, she'd tell Stevie that these things were perfectly normal, and things would proceed as usual. The marriage finally ended after Jason chased Lauren with a chain saw and threatened to kill her and the children.

My friendship with Lauren ended a few years later (she was never quite a true friend, but someone who depended on me to keep her children safe in the midst of chaos) so I don't know how her children did in the future. What I do know is this: Jason started out as someone's adorable baby. He was once a sweet little boy. But after his own birth parents abandoned him, and he drifted through several foster homes, he developed behavior problems. He was adopted, but the adoption was disrupted and he was sent to a home for troubled teens, one that would later be in the news for the physical abuse they inflicted on kids in the name of discipline and religion. He got out at the age of eighteen but had no where to go, and spent a few years homeless, where older homeless people taught him how to do drugs. He longed for the safety and comfort of a home... but he'd never experienced one as a child, and in many ways he was emotionally still a child, a broken-hearted child who'd been abandoned twice. Not that this is an excuse for what he did. It may, however, be an explanation. He would go to rehab, he would go to counseling, he would try to get better, and he would, for a while... but then he would eventually sabotage it.

I also know this. As a small child, Lauren witnessed her own father's violence against her mother. When Lauren was in elementary school, her father disappeared from her life. Her mother dated other men, but always referred to Lauren's father as her one true love. Lauren learned that love came with physical pain, and that she should do whatever was necessary to keep a man from leaving her.

And I know this: Boys who grow up in homes with domestic violence are as much as 1,500 times as likely than other boys to grow up and become abusers themselves. And 50% of girls who grow up in such homes eventually become domestic abuse victims in their own relationships. Like Stevie, they are taught that this is okay, that this normal.  And when they grow up, that is the type of relationship they look for. Maybe not consciously. But that is what feels like home to them.

There are ways adults can help prevent children from growing up to be abusers or victims, whether or not they are from a home where they witness this frequently.

Beginning when children are small, teach them that it is not okay to use violence to solve problems, and that it is not safe to be around people who do. (At this age, you can talk about hitting, kicking, throwing things, spitting, etc.)

As they get older, reinforce this by talking about bullying. Teach them that they should not bully others, and that others should not bully them. Help them learn about taking care of their bodies and respecting themselves.

Be a model in your own relationships. It is okay to allow your children to see you argue in a healthy way, where nobody gets hurt, nobody is violent, and you work things out.

If you know someone who is in an abusive relationship... for instance, a sister, a neighbor, a friend... try hard not to put blame on them. It can be tempting, especially if the abuse is continuing and the person stays with the abuser, like Lauren did. Remember that, for the victim, there are a lot of complicated emotions and logical issues involved. The victim may have grown up witnessing domestic violence, and learned to expect it. They may have been taught that unconditional love should be unwavering, and that they need to remain loyal to the other person no matter what. They may reason that the abuser is a good parent to the children, and that they should put up with the abuse in order to not break up the family. They may think that they will never find someone else who will love them as much as this person does. They may feel sad for the person because of the person's past experiences or rough childhood. They may remember how wonderful the person was in the beginning of the relationship, and believe that the person will go back to being their "real self" soon, or that they have done something to cause the other person to change. They may just be afraid that they won't be able to support themselves and their children on their own. The abuser may convince them that they will lose their children if they try to leave the relationship. The abuser may convince the person that they are mentally ill and just imagining everything. There are so many factors, and blaming the victim will not help anyone.

Instead, be a listening ear. Reinforce to the person that you care about them, that they do not deserve abuse, and that help is out there. Tell the person good things about themselves, the things you love about them. You can offer to help them find resources, such as a domestic violence shelter. You can help them come up with a safety plan. You can ask what you can do to help... for instance, if you are a neighbor, you can offer your home as a safe place for the children to come to if they see a violent episode beginning or if they need help. If you witness violence happening, you can call 911.

If you have been in a violent relationship with someone and your children were in the household, you can still work to teach these same lessons... even if you are learning them for the first time yourself! It is also important to take advantage of any services out there that might help your children,,, counseling and mentoring, for example. Being around adults that are handling problems in safe ways will help children to learn to do the same, instead of resorting to violence.

If you are STILL IN a relationship with someone who is violent, there are still things you can do, even if you don't feel able to leave. Allow your child to have friendships and relationships with other people outside your home. Try not to prevent them from going to friends' houses, participating in after school activities, visiting grandparents, etc. Try not to tell the children to keep secrets. Being told to keep something a secret can make them feel trapped and helpless. Teach them not to intervene in violent episodes... their job is to keep themselves safe. Help them make a plan, such as going to their room and shutting the door, or going to a neighbor's house. Teach them how to call 911 if they need to. Explain to them that the violence is NEVER their fault.. they did not CAUSE it and they cannot CONTROL it.

If you really feel unable to leave an abusive relationship, and the children are in danger, you could even consider allowing them to live somewhere else... with a relative, for example... at least temporarily. Knowing your children are somewhere safe and cared for may make it easier for you to get yourself out of the situation.

Again, make use of services such as counseling and mentoring for your children. Give them as many ways as possible to express themselves and tell their story. Give them ways to learn about healthy and safe relationships. Teach them that they can grow up, and break the cycle of abuse.

I am just a blogger, so remember I am not a professional on all of this... I'm just giving you some tips. And that is all I have for now. As Jerry Springer would say, please, take care of yourselves, and each other.

My Domestic Violence Story, Part 1

Today is White Ribbon Day, or International Day of the Elimination of Violence Against Women. (We should remember that domestic violence does not have to have a man as the perpetrator and a woman as the victim. It can be a wife or girlfriend against a husband or boyfriend. It can be a woman against another woman in a same-sex relationship, or a man against a man. It can even be a teenage or adult child against a parent or sibling. This day seems to focus on violence against women, I guess because it is the most common type of domestic violence. But any violence among people in a relationship or in a family is domestic violence.)

I was never the victim in a domestic violence situation, but I was a witness several times. A (former) very close friend of mine dated a violent man, and later married a different violent man. "Lauren" and I became friends when we were both 19. We were both living on our own, more or less... I in a group home for homeless teens, and she in her own apartment with her 2-year-old son. Over the years, we became very close.  I was actually friends with both of the men she dated, before she knew them... but I had never known them while they had girlfriends, so I had never had the opportunity to see how mean they could become.

Lauren's relationship with the first man was intense but short-lived. The next man, whom I'll call "Jason," was already struggling with drug addiction and had already shown his violent side by the time they got married. Lauren arranged for Jason to adopt her son, then three years old. The judge was wary of it because Jason already had a criminal record, but Lauren and Jason managed to convince him that Jason was rehabilitated.

I stayed closely involved with their son "Stevie," and babysat him frequently. I would often spend weekends with them at their apartment. Lauren would tell me about the things Jason did. He spent all of the family's money on drugs, leaving nothing for food. When Lauren would start to argue with him about it, he would hit her. But when I was around, Jason was on his best behavior. It used to irritate me, how they acted like such a cozy family. Stevie called Jason "Daddy," and there were many family pictures of the three of them together, Stevie in the middle with his arms around his parents' necks, all smiling. They attended church together. Jason joined church groups and went on retreats and toted the Bible around.  But during the week when I wasn't around, Jason would be off doing drugs, or he'd get violent with Lauren. In their small apartment where privacy was nonexistant, a lot of this was happening right in front of Stevie.

When Stevie was 6, Lauren got pregnant. It would be Jason's first biological child, and Lauren was sure that this would help Jason to settle down. They bought a house together. Jason would pamper Lauren and rub her feet. Yet, he was still doing drugs and getting violent. He even stole all of the money from Stevie's piggy bank. Lauren taught Stevie to hide his money, but again and again Jason found it.

The baby, "Tammy," was born, and life went on as it was. I was still over at their house frequently. Sometimes I'd pick Stevie up and take him out somewhere. I wanted to give him some happy times. Lauren still told me about the violence that went on. She said she just explained to Stevie that it was normal for parents to fight, and that this happened in all households... but it was private, so he wasn't to talk about it at school.

Then came the night that I witnessed, for myself, what Jason was capable of.

I don't even know what started the fight. It was just a regular argument that escalated. This was the night before Christmas Eve. Suddenly Jason was shoving Lauren against the wall, and it looked like they were wrestling, except Jason was much stronger. Stevie begged for them to stop. "Daddy! Daddy! Stop hurting Mommy!" he screamed through his tears. Jason had a kitchen knife and was holding it to Lauren's neck. Stevie turned to me. "Angel, call the cops! Please!"

I grabbed Stevie and pulled him into the bedroom, where Tammy was howling in her crib. I dialed 911 from my cellphone. It seemed to take forever for them to answer the phone! Finally they picked up. I blurted the house address into the phone. "Please come, you have to come," I said. "My friend's husband is beating her up and he has a knife." I was trying to hold onto Stevie, but he wriggled free and ran out to try to help his mama. The 911 operator was asking me questions that seemed completely irrelevant, things like, "What is your name?" I told her, "I have to go. I have to get Stevie."

"Ma'am, you need to stay on the line," the operator said firmly.

"I can't, I have to get Stevie!" I said. "Please just send the police!" All my life, starting in elementary school, I had been taught to stay calm and speak normally when calling 911. But I couldn't seem to stay calm when everything seemed to be going crazy!

I hung up the phone and raced into the kitchen. Jason was gone. Lauren was sitting on the floor sobbing. Stevie was kneeling in front of her, his arms around her, also crying. "I called the police," I said.

"You didn't," said Lauren. Stevie cried harder.

"He had a knife to you," I said. "I was afraid he'd kill you!"

"You need to go. You need to leave," Lauren snapped. She stood up. "You think you fixed everything, but you just made it worse. Do you want Stevie and Tammy's dad to go to jail on the night before Christmas Eve? You've ruined their Christmas!"

To be continued...

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Conversation With My Mom About Autism

Mother Bird yells at Stellaluna for not being a good bird.
My parents have always been reluctant to recognize or admit that I have a disability. It wasn't until recent years that my mom even started tiptoeing close to the word "autism" and taking a peek at it. My dad, on the other hand, still doesn't like to acknowledge it. And my brother, especially not... he doesn't even think autism exists!

Right after I got my official diagnosis, I "accidentally" left a copy of the paperwork, along with an article about autism and executive functioning that came with it, out on the table.To my surprise, my mom took the bait and read it. It seemed to make a big difference, as it took away all of her doubt that I do, indeed, have autism. 

So the other day in the car, I don't exactly remember why, but I started a conversation about it. I was interested in seeing what my parents, and others, thought of me when I was a young child. (My Auntie Em mentioned that she knew something was a little off about me the first time she met me, which was when I was about a year and a half old. She had brought my cousin BT, who was a year older than me, to play. She noticed that I didn't really acknowledge him a whole lot... and that I was "in a capsule." So I wondered who else had noticed something about me!)

Here's how it went, as best as I can remember. 

Me: "Was I different from other babies? Did I cry a lot?"

Mom: "For a long time you were very sick and just wouldn't get better. You had ear infections, and then you had a horrible rash that wouldn't go away. So you cried a lot, but it was because you were always sick."

Me: "But was I different from Bro?"

Mom: "You and Bro were total opposites. You just had completely different personalities. Bro is a lot like me, and you are so much like your dad."

Me: "How was I like Dad?"

Mom: "You were so quiet and serious. Most babies smile and laugh and coo. You would not. You would just sit there. Nona called you Sobersides. Sometimes we could get you to smile a little half smile."

Me: "Bopop said that Uncle Drew and Aunt Bea would go crazy trying to make me laugh, and I'd just watch them, and once in a while I would just sort of chuckle. But nobody thought that was a little weird?"

Mom: "We just thought you were so much like your dad."

Me: "I learned to talk really early, right? And I learned to read early?"

Mom: "Yes you did."

Me: "Was there anything about me when I was a little kid that made you think I was different?"

Mom: "Not really. You made eye contact, you played with other kids, and everything like that. You did used to have really bad tantrums, you'd cover your ears and scream. That was a little weird...  But it didn't really start becoming obvious until you were eight or nine. But back then we had never heard of autism. We didn't know what autism was. And even if we did know what it was, there would have been no services, nothing to help us. There was nothing. In some ways I think you were lucky, because you were never labeled while you were growing up."

Me: "But I got in trouble a lot. I got yelled at a lot."

Mom: "Yes, there is that.And I think the reason it started becoming more obvious was because you had some really crappy teachers who picked on you right along with the kids. I remember sitting in meetings with those teachers, and thinking, 'Don't think you know more about my kid than I do. Don't talk that way about my kid.`"

Me: "Then why didn't you switch me to another school?"

Mom: "Because we didn't have the money to do that."

And then we got home, and the conversation ended there. 

It was the best conversation about autism that I've ever had with my mom. It felt good for her to actually validate that it is something real, that it isn't something I just made up for myself because I thought it would make a good story. 

I sort of feel sad for the little kid who was me, because I never did get any of the help that autistic kids can get today... I'm not talking about "act like your normal" help, but things like OT and just help processing the fact that I was different, and advocating for myself. 

A book that reminds me of growing up undiagnosed is Stellaluna. It is a children's book about a baby bat who falls out of her mother's grip while flying, and falls down into a nest full of baby birds. The mother bird starts to raise the bat as one of her own, but she scolds Stellaluna for doing what she considers to be very strange and even naughty things, such as hanging upside down. She says that if Stellaluna wants to stay in the family, she needs to act like the other birds, and stop teaching the other birds how to do bad things. It isn't until she finds her mother that she realizes she doesn't do these things because she's a bad bird... she does them because she's a bat!

If I had grown up knowing that I was not a bird at all, but a bat... if I had gotten to meet other bats, and been taught how to use my bat abilities to their best... would my life have been different? I guess I will never know!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Greetings From Chicago

My mom didn't send me the pics yet, but this is where we went!
Hi everyone! Just dropping another note today, although I am really too tired to write a real blog post! I am sort of slacking off, but tomorrow should be better! Today I had a pretty fun day. My mom had to go to the hospital in the city for her cancer treatment, so I went with her. Even though the cancer treatment was obviously not fun, we still had fun the rest of the time. We took the train down to the city, and then we had breakfast at Corner Bakery. I had Banana Honey Crunch pancakes, which I actually thought would be a lot better than they were. I thought the bananas, honey and granola would be in the pancakes, but it was just all sitting on top... so they pretty much just charged extra in order to put some stuff on top of the regular pancakes! 

After that we went over to the hospital for my mom's treatment. She had to get an IV drip which was about an hour long, so I mostly just sat around with her. She also had to get a really painful shot in her stomach. She is not getting chemo until February, but right now she is getting other cancer-fighting drugs and steroids and stuff. 

Then we walked over to State Street to look in the windows. Every year Marshall Fields (which is now Macy's) puts displays in their windows that tell a story for Christmas. The last few years, since Macy's took over, the windows were sort of lame. But this year they were pretty cool... they were about the planets. The only thing that disappointed me was that they didn't include Pluto as a planet! Poor Pluto. 

After that we walked around a little more and went to the Kris Kringle Market and looked at crafts and things. We bought some roasted nuts, which turned out to be cold. We thought they'd be served hot, but they were pre-roasted and just put in the paper cone. I thought to myself, "They still taste good, but if we wanted cold nuts we could just buy a box of them!" Half of the point of buying roasted nuts at an outdoor market is because they are supposed to be hot!

Next we started walking back to the train, but we stopped at Potbelly's because we saw the sign that said "Create Your Own Macaroni And Cheese." You were supposed to be able to add two toppings to your mac and cheese. We both like mac and cheese, so we ordered it with a topping of mushrooms. I've had it this way before with grilled mushrooms mixed in and it was delicious! But we were about to be disappointed once again... this was just regular macaroni and cheese, with some sliced cold mushrooms on top. I don't know why we were having so much trouble buying quality food today! It was like they weren't even putting any effort into it, they just wanted to sell as much as possible. Boo!
We ended up throwing the mac and cheese away because even the noodles weren't that great. 

Finally we went to the train station and took the train home, and then we got home and walked the dogs, and ate leftover pizza for dinner, and then I was very tired and passed out cold for several hours. Now I am about to go back to bed again. 

My mom took a lot of pictures with her phone today and she said she'd send them to me, but she didn't yet, so I will have to show you tomorrow!

Okay that is all for now. Goodnight, and have a pleasant tomorrow!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Sunday Stealing: Would You Rather

Hi everyone! Here is another meme again! I just arrived in Chicago this morning, and I will update you more tomorrow, but I am SO TIRED! I need to take a shower and go to sleep, because I'm going to the hospital tomorrow with my mom for her cancer treatments. So, here is Sunday Stealing!

Would You Rather Meme

Stolen from: Would Your Rather

  1. Would you rather be stuck on an island alone or with someone who talks incessantly? Depends on who the person is, but probably stuck on an island alone as long as I had a lot of books with me.
  2. Would you rather be too hot or too cold? Too hot! For sure! Because then I would jump in the river!
  3. Would you rather have a cook or a maid? A cook because they could cook me lots of great things! I don't really mind about whether or not my house is clean.
  4. Would you rather be the youngest or the oldest sibling? Youngest. I'm already the oldest, and it is highly overrated.
  5. Would you rather get rich through hard work or through winning the lottery? Well, I'd rather win the lottery so that I could use all that money to do free work to help others.
  6. Would you rather have a 10-hour dinner with a headstrong politician from an opposing party, or attend a 10-hour concert for a music group you detest? Ten hours is a long time for a dinner or a concert! I'd probably go to the concert and bring my headphones. At least they might have some churros there!
  7. Would you rather be an Olympic gold medalist or a Nobel Peace Prize winner? Nobel Peace Prize.
  8. Would you rather have a desk job or an outdoor job? Outdoor job! Like at a farm! That would be cool.
  9. Would you rather live at the top of a tall NYC apartment building or at the top of a mountain? On the mountain, as long as it isn't too hard to get down, and there are no grizzly bears up there.
  10. Would you rather have Rambo or The Terminator on your side? Hmm, I don't know. Is it Terminator 1 or Terminator 2?
  11. Would you rather be proposed to in private or in front of family and friends? In private so you don't feel so much pressure to say yes.
  12. Would you rather have to sew all your clothes or grow your own food? Grow my own food. I stab myself with the needle when I try to sew! I'd have to figure out how to grow Dr. Pepper, though!
  13.  Would you rather hear the good news or the bad news first? Bad. Get it over with.
  14. Would you rather be your own boss or work for someone else? My own boss.
  15. Would you rather have nosy neighbors or noisy neighbors? Either one would be okay. I'd just ignore them.
  16. Would you rather be on a survival reality show or dating game show? Dating game show, because that way I don't have to eat weird things.
  17. Would you rather be too busy or be bored? Bored. I'd just go to sleep!
  18.  Would you rather watch the big game at home or live at the stadium? I'm not much of a sports fan. If I was, I'd probably want to spend it at the stadium!
  19. Would you rather spend the day with your favorite athlete or you favorite movie star? I don't really have a favorite athlete, so probably movie star. Although I don't particularly have a favorite movie star either. But at least I might know who they are!
  20.  Would you rather live where it is constantly winter or where it is constantly summer? Constantly summer, of course! I got a rude reminder of that when I got off the plane in Chicago wearing just my thin sweatshirt that I put on in Washington, and had to wait outside in the freezing cold for twenty minutes!

Okay, that is it for Sunday Stealing! And now I am going to bed. 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Saturday 9 Meme

Hi everyone! I don't have a lot of time to post this weekend because I am getting ready to travel back to Chicago for the week... but in the spirit of keeping up with NaBloPoMo, I found some memes to help me do a quick, yet interesting, post. Here is Saturday 9. 

Saturday 9: Perfect Storm (2014)

Unfamiliar with this week's tune? Hear it here.

1) This song is about "the thrill of a lifetime" kind of love. Do you believe we each get one great love? Or do you think it's possible to fall in love more than once? I think it is possible to fall in love multiple times. You can definitely love more than one person in this world. If you love someone and decide to commit to them, though, you have to choose not to pursue any other options.

2) Brad Paisley endured his own "perfect storm" in 2010, when he lost his guitars in the massive flood that hit Nashville. Tell us about a time when you had to clean up after Mother Nature. About two summers ago I came home from work one day to find that a micro-tornado had whipped through my neighborhood. There were fallen trees everywhere, and the power was out for several days. We were used to the power being out at least once every summer, but this time my parents actually bought a generator. The neighborhood was on the news because there was so much wreckage everywhere!

3) He is married to actress Kimberly Williams, who played Steve Martin's daughter in the Father of the Bride movies. He has admitted he was a little in love with her before he met because he'd seen her on screen. Do you have a crush on anyone right now? No not particularly.

4) He's a passionate Cleveland Browns fan. Are you following the NFL this season? No, football bores me.

5) Brad has developed his own line of western wear for Boot Barn, including some pricey items. (A "Perfect Storm" felt hat goes for $230.) What's the most expensive item you've added to your wardrobe recently? My mom bought me a cool pair of Jambu shoes that I don't have a picture of right now but they are these ones.  They were 50% off but still the most expensive, and nicest, pair of shoes I own! They're very comfortable too!

6) "Paisley" is also a term for a popular print. Are you wearing a print or solid right now? I am wearing flower print leggings and a solid white sweater. I was also wearing my patchwork sweatshirt earlier!

7) Crazy Sam is not a big country fan, but she can sing along with this song because it played so very often at a bar she frequents. What's the last song you sang? This song that the little kids at the school where I worked last week were learning in music class. It is a Christmas song. The only part I remember is, "::clap:: Must be Santa, ::clap:: must be Santa, ::clap:: must be Santa, Santa Claus!"

8) Though Brad Paisley has recorded songs about drinking, he never touches alcohol. His favorite beverage is Yoohoo, a chocolate beverage bottled by the Dr. Pepper/Snapple Company. Actually a Dr. Pepper in a glass bottle. They sell them at the New Seasons grocery store and sometimes before DBT I stop and get one.
9) Random question from a Sat9er: What's your favorite handmade item? Phyllis gave me a handmade scarf she bought in Oregon and it fleece and has dogs on it! 
Okay, that's it for today, everyone. I will write a better post on Monday!

Friday, November 20, 2015

A Possible New Job... Maybe!

I've been rocking this NaBloPoMo thing... I've been posting at least once and sometimes twice a day! Gotta celebrate the small victories!

If you've been reading my blog you may have seen my post called Up $#+@ Creek Without A Paddle the other day. If you haven't, here's a summary... I was having a terrible, awful, no-good, very bad day, I felt like I would have a meltdown. I used my DBT skills to hold myself together. But just barely. The end. 

So now, you'll be happy to know that some things have gotten a little better! First of all, my DBT therapist signed my sheet from American Airlines, and I just emailed it to them tonight, so everything should be okay with that. We shall see. 

Second of all, I have been working all week, at the same subbing job, and actually really enjoyed it! I was working as a 1:1 assistant for a kindergarten boy named "Sandy," who is autistic and is in a regular kindergarten class. The job was for afternoons only. When I first started the job it was just going to be for the day, and they did not really give me any information at all about Sandy. Only that he was a pretty sweet kid and that I needed to stick with him at recess, gym class, etc. After meeting him and spending some time with him, I assumed that he was attending a special education kindergarten program somewhere else, and then coming to the regular education kindergarten program for the afternoon. Sometimes they do that with kindergartners, I guess to try to give them the best of both worlds. 

I was surprised that, although Sandy was obviously a sensory disaster, he didn't seem to be getting any sort of help or accommodations. No OT or speech therapy.  No sensory breaks or sensory diet. No personal visual schedule. Just, one adorable little dimpled boy tip-toeing and hopping and flapping around the kindergarten room, with a different temporary 1:1 assistant every day to basically keep him from escaping. I wondered what was up with that. Surely his preschool program would have passed along all the things they were doing last year to help Sandy. Did the teacher just not want to do these things? (That didn't seem likely... the kindergarten teacher was one of the most awesome teachers I've met in quite a while.) Were they trying to wean him off of his accommodations for some reason... maybe working at making him "look like everyone else?" I kind of wanted to ask, or suggest something, like, "Maybe some sort of bouncy cushion to sit on would help him sit still on the carpet longer," or "maybe we could give him something to fidget with in his hands and that way he might not keep reaching over and grabbing random items off the floor." But I didn't want to overstep my boundaries, since I was just a substitute assistant.

After the first day they ended up asking me to stay and work with Sandy for the rest of the week. So I did. And it was a great week! Between the kindergarten teacher's calm, positive, nurturing teaching style, and Sandy's sweet disposition, everything was great. But, knowing I was going out of town the following week (next week) I wondered if Sandy was just going to continue having another chain of random subs. I felt bad because we'd already started to be comfortable together, and I hated to disappear on him. 

Then, this morning, I was talking with the teacher and found out Sandy's story. Sandy is not actually diagnosed with autism. This was surprising to me... because he isn't one of those, "Hmm, something may be a little different about him, but we can't quite put our finger on it, and maybe it is better not to label him just yet" situations. This little kid is very clearly autistic. But apparently he never got diagnosed... or maybe it was suggested to his parents by a pediatrician but they didn't want to consider it. He did not go to preschool at all, so he didn't have contact with any teachers or specialists who could have recognized his autism and at least made some suggestions. He just appeared on the first day of kindergarten, registered with all of the other children, with no information about him at all. So there he was, this little kid who had never set foot in a classroom in his life, who can barely talk, who cannot hold a pencil or a crayon, who is really not processing much of what the teacher is saying to the group in general. He was basically just running around yelling, completely overwhelmed and scared and not really understanding what exactly was going on.

After the first few days, when it was clear to everyone that Sandy needed some support, they decided to start having him attend for half days only. They thought leaping straight into all day kindergarten was kind of a lot to expect of any child who had never been in school before. They also arranged for him to have a 1:1 adult with him... but since he didn't yet have an IEP or anything, they couldn't actually hire a permanent person. So they just called it an "open position" and got a bunch of substitutes. Meanwhile they referred him for special education, and he started going through all of the testing and everything. In the first month of school, even with a 1:1, Sandy mostly just played with toys or took walks in the halls. The teacher worked with him on things like sitting on the carpet during story time, walking in a line, etc. But that is still hard for him, because of his sensory problems. He knows how to sit pretzel-legs on the carpet, but it is very, very, very hard for him to just sit there for twenty minutes during calendar time or story time. He wants to lie down, or curl up in a ball, or get up and leave. He has to be moving. It is so hard for him to just sit still. It is hard for any 6-year-old. It is ten times harder for Sandy. 

So anyways. They finally had an IEP meeting about him, and he is actually going to be switching to a self-contained special education classroom. They do not know yet if he will have a permanent 1:1 assistant... it will depend on how well he does in the self-contained classroom, I guess, or how much inclusion he will participate in. (If he does participate in inclusion, he'll have to have a 1:1 with him to go with him to the regular-ed parts of his day, at least.) But the teacher said, if he does get a 1:1, she's going to recommend me for the job. She said that, of all the people who have worked with Sandy so far over the school year, I have done the best with him! 

Of course, it isn't a teaching job. But it would be in a school where I'm already a little bit comfortable, with a kid I've already started to work with, a kid that I really enjoy working with. It would give me an "in" for applying for a teaching job next school year. 

I don't know whether I should start looking forward to it and getting excited, or whether I should put it out of my mind for now. The receptionist took my name and email and phone number and said that she would personally keep me updated about what was going on with Sandy's 1:1 situation, and that if she didn't know anything by the time I get back in town after Thanksgiving she will be sure to get me some other subbing jobs in the building so that I can at least be around. 

On Sunday Lily and I are leaving for Chicago, and we won't be back here until December 2. I am going to try to relax and have fun and enjoy being with my parents. Maybe, by the time I get back, I will have a job!