New Year

It’s January 10. I made it a whopping 10 days. Like many, I’m still doing one step at a time. Some people can do a day at a time. Others can do a week at a time. I’m sure there are others who do more. Each person moves at their own pace. I’ve always told people that as long as you are moving forward, you’re successful.

Sometimes I’ve felt like a fraud. I’ve pasted on the smile (you know the one). I’ve talked the talk and walked the walk, even though it’s not real. Why do we teach our kids about “white lies?” Because life has taught us that we will get kicked around. We will be lied about. We will tell those “white lies.”

I lived most of my adult life trying to be what is now called authentic. I’ve also lived it trying to be “real.” Since I decided 2021 would be a year of reflection, here’s today’s reflection: I am enough.

Five Years

I abandoned my blog five years ago. I got a job working with incarcerated youth. I was able to teach again. Teaching really is my first passion. Some of the residents wanted their GED and worked their tails off to earn the degree. Some did it so they could parole. Some told me it beat sitting in school. The last group did it because they were told to by the powers in charge of their lives.

I loved that job. Sure, it was challenging. I had to figure out how to reach each student individually. These kids came from such diverse backgrounds that a lot of flexibility was required. I also had to put aside preconceived notions and my feelings about crimes. I worked with students charged with drug dealing, students on weapons charges, students on sex offense charges, and occasionally students with murder charges, I’m sure there was a myriad of other charges I was not aware of, Yet, these were young adults who were being given a chance to change.

So, I taught, It’s what I do. Slow, fast, patiently, or firmly, I taught. Because that’s what teachers do. We teach. Teaching is a calling. If you think it’s just a profession, you don’t understand. I’ve been a licensed teacher since 2007. I’ve actually been teaching since 1986. I taught afterschool enrichment. I taught Deaf community members how to get the help they needed. I shared knowledge with my Girl and Boy Scout Troops. I taught others how to do certification procedures. I taught.

Recently I received a text from a former Girl Scout. She told me that the time she spent with me showed her how to spread the seeds of knowledge, She thanked me for not giving up. She thanked me for giving of myself. I really needed to hear her words that day. I occasionally hear bits and pieces about other youth I have spent time with. Each moment is tucked away safely.

The greatest gifts I have ever received were thank yous. If you have the opportunity to say thank you to a teacher, please do. That is the fuel that keeps us going.

Peace.

Yeah, 22

Middle turns 22 today. It’s the second year he hasn’t been home for me to do the traditional birthday celebration. Sending a cake would be very messy. Convincing his roommate to string up balloons and banners would be hard. So a box of goodies went in the mail.

I want to say how proud I am of Middle. He is working in a small field of study. No easy routes to success. Hard work followed by more hard work. It’s funny when we try to talk about what he’s doing since the topic is so far outside of my understanding. He still laughs at my attempts to understand. A good thing, I guess.

Today I hope he looks back and sees how far he’s come. I hope he hears all of us cheering him on. It’s not been an easy or perfect path, but it is his path. And I’m really proud of him.

Social Cues

I think we all struggle with this. The situations are never cut and dried, so a template is useless. But we can learn from each other. We can learn through experience. It may not be fun, but it is possible.

I find that reading body language gives me mixed results. Is someone mad at me or restless when they have their arms crossed? Are they laughing with me or at me? Did it suddenly go quiet? Was it something I said or did?

Here’s what I have learned. Stop thinking YOU did something. It sets off a negative cycle that can end up in a really awkward place. Instead, move the conversation forward or excuse yourself (oh, hey, I see Frank over there!). Don’t dwell on it. There’s plenty of time while you are trying to fall asleep.

 

 

Erased

Something happened today. It wasn’t earth-shattering. But it did help me understand more of the current conversation around having disabilities “erased” by the media and society.

I was in a public location. I found the two-stall restroom…one for disabled individuals, one for non-disabled  individuals. Both were occupied and one person was in line in front of me.

I had my service dog with me. I was toting my backpack with my IV medication in it. The people in the bathroom had just come from a meeting we were all attending.

The disabled stall became available. The person in line in front of me took it, leaving me the other stall. The one that wouldn’t fit both my service dog and me. One that I had to put my backpack in my lap just to use the toilet.

I put my dog into a stay just outside the stall. The non-disabled individual started talking loudly about the dog being loose in the bathroom. All I’m trying to do is take care of business.

Later, in the meeting room, our eyes met. There was no apology. Just a sort of condemnation in her eyes.

She could have waited the 20 seconds and taken the other stall. I guess I could have waited the two minutes to use the disabled stall. But….I really feel she should have been the one waiting. Courtesy. Giving the disabled person the space to take care of business would have been the right thing to do.

For those who take the time to read this, and don’t “need” to use the disabled stall, please consider who else may be waiting. Sure, everyone would like the stalls to be larger. Some of us NEED the larger stalls. Be courteous. Thank you.

The Naughty Porcupine

Editor’s note: This is a true story. No allegory intended.

Youngest took a summer internship at our local zoo. It’s been two weeks and every day we learn more about the animals she is responsible for supervising. Today, even though giraffes and lions are her assigned area, she was helping out in the American porcupine exhibit.

One of the porcupines (there are 2) recently had surgery and is on “vet watch.” This entails a keeper having eyes on the porcupine all day long. It turns out that this particular porcupine likes to stick his paws in crevices.  And he gets stuck…alot. Her job was to get him unstuck.

The porcupine also enjoys climbing trees like a sloth instead of like a porcupine. He gets stuck about three feet off the ground. The keeper is supposed to go tap on his claws to remind him to move. Hold that thought….

As Youngest is sitting in the rain, making sure the porcupine doesn’t get stuck, a zoo patron comments to his young son about  the “intern in the wild.” Youngest wears a shirt that boldly states “INTERN” across the back. Another patron comes by and asks her if she’s worried about “being shot” by quills. Youngest, in her nicest voice, informs the patron that according to the information sign RIGHT THERE, porcupines do not actually shoot quills. Besides, she has heavy-duty work gloves just in case she has to handle the porcupine.

As youngest relates this story, she keeps referring to the porcupine as “naughty.” Hence, the naughty porcupine. Ah, the joys of the animal kingdom.

23

Stressed out, running late, racing down the interstate
Spilled hot coffee, down the front of my jeans
It’s work, work, pay the rent, money and my time’s spent
Not a minute left for me to be me~ Kenny Chesney, Live a Little

Today, Eldest turns 23. Three months ago, she left home for a job. We expected this since becoming employed is the end goal of attending college. Still, it’s a bit quiet around here.

Now she’s building her own life in a little town in the middle of nowhere USA. She works the late shift, comes home, sleeps, trains her dog, and does it over again. In between there are grocery runs and a few other errands. She’s active on social media and is working on keeping her language skills up in hopes of landing a better job. And she reads. Lots.

Today I hope she will be able to take a few minutes for herself. Just do nothing. I’m not sure the dog will cooperate, so he may need to be included. Take a small piece of time and just breathe. Think about how much you’ve done and not worry about how much is left to do. Be proud of everything you’ve accomplished. Try not to get wrapped up in things so you can’t enjoy those few moments.

Bask. Yes, bask. Ten years ago you were getting ready to start high school. Blink and here you are. Twenty-three years ago you didn’t even know your name. It sure goes fast when you look at how time moves. I love every minute of being your Mom.

Here’s to you. To new adventures. To taking a moment to be amazed by yourself. To savor all that has passed. To dream about what is to come. To take a few minutes away from rushing around and just breathe.

And then, eat chocolate. Love you!

I’m Not Blue

I’m not blue. I’m Autistic. I’m not a puzzle piece. I’m a person. You won’t find me supporting A$….ever. Why? Because I’m not a disease to be cured. I’m not a voice to be silenced. I see the world a bit differently. And that is just fine. Why are you hearing my voice now? Because too many people think they are helping Autistics by supporting a charity that despises Autistics.

Give locally to programs that support families. Do your research. Is your money really going to do what you expect? Or did you just help pay for someone to present a “speech” about an epidemic that doesn’t exist. I’ve seen parts of the organization’s budget where they spend more money on catering than they do on helping Autistics. Yep, you just paid for a sandwich. Feels good, right?

I Don’t Matter

Last night on social media, someone posted about how dogs have rights like people and should be allowed to go anyplace people go. In context, this started out as a discussion on small dogs carried in purses. Within 15 minutes, it had blown up into a hate fueled rant against service dogs. In particular, one person stated that their dog’s happiness was more important than a human life.

I’m all about pets. I think they serve a great purpose for anyone who desires companionship. Fish are very relaxing for me to watch. I’m not a fan of cats, but that has a lot to do with violent allergies. Hedgehogs….adorable! Reptiles, well, not so much. You get the idea.

This social media exchange left me feeling dismissed. I rely on a service dog to alert to potentially life threatening events. My dog is trained and has been working about 5 years now. She alerts between 5 and 10 times per day, long before I notice I’m not quite well. She does not have rights any more than another animal. The legality of her being with me in public comes from a federal law that essentially declares her to be medical equipment, no different from a wheelchair. Her “rights” come from my rights as a disabled person.

But, beyond all that I’m left with this feeling. Your dog’s happiness is more important than my life. As we just passed the Global Day of Mourning for people murdered by their carers, it really struck home. No, I don’t know any of the people who attacked on social media last night. However, the sentiment that my life is disposable came through in many comments. I was personally attacked for “claiming” to be disabled. I was told that disability means I’m just to stupid to do anything. Disability means I’m lazy. Disability means I’m “playing a card.” Disability means I don’t matter.

I asked myself if I extrapolated the numbers from the negative comments last night, do that many people share the idea that people with disabilities have no purpose? Following that….with this kind of prevalence, no wonder most people aren’t outraged at the murders of disabled people. We don’t matter.

We don’t matter. Wow. Non-disabled people put their needs, wants and desires ahead of disabled people’s basic rights. There it is in a nutshell. Several of my friends have told me their stories about how the people they identify with don’t matter. I think it has finally sunk in just how horrible not mattering feels.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.~

Martin Niemoller