8/30/2012

Those Moments...

Where you're just sitting there trying to figure out what it is you're supposed to be doing...and you realize you've pretty much emptied a full pot of coffee on your own but you're still not focused and on task, but in a distracted daze, fulfilling the stereotype of the frazzled, disorganized English professor.

Yeah...

That bodes well for today, doesn't it?

8/28/2012

Good Vibrations

Straight off the bus yesterday afternoon, two happy girls! They really like their teachers, and were happy to see familiar faces. And the no homework yesterday really kept them grinning.

Rick just walked out the door with them this morning, and it was another smooth morning, with regular breakfast choices: cereal for Rosie and yogurt for Lil. Both girls packed their lunches and made sure they had ice packs in the lunchboxes and that their book bags were ready to go.

I've spent so much time working to get them organized and relatively self-responsible that I sometimes neglect through absent-mindedness to keep my own shit together. Once again, I forgot to subtract an automatic deduction from the checking out, leaving me scrambling this morning to get the money from the other account into the one I needed (now realizing I'm short over 100 dollars I thought I had...seems to me since I routinely miss something despite all my efforts, I really need a couple hundred dollars worth of buffering in the accounts).

I'd like to say live and learn, but that would assume I actually learn from these mistakes. Well, I at least learn to have some extra money some place I can access to cover my mistakes, but for a perfectionist, it'd be easier on me if I simply were capable of that perfection.

I cut others a whole lot more slack than I cut myself. Maybe I'll work on that slack thing...well, after I make sure I quit fubaring the checking account. :)

And that's our  Tuesday morning. I could let the money scramble set the mood, bring down the day, but it's covered, and it would be stupid to let it ruin a day. Hassles happen constantly--I want my girls and my son to learn that hassles don't have to ruin everything for the day, certainly don't necessitate a Ross response (from Friends, who really let hassles run him as if they were major blows).

Besides, I get to meet brand new students today, as well as see familiar faces. How cool is that? :)

Here's to a Tuesday that may not be hassle free, but at least offers the chances to rise above them.

8/27/2012

First Day Indecisions

We're all up and the kids are dressed an hour before we have to leave for our first day of school. Their bookbags are packed, mine are in the car, their lunch is made, mine's already in my freshly stocked minifridge in my office.

The kids are getting breakfast, while I've already taken all my medications, including my diabetic med, so I've already eaten--but I've only eaten a third of my normal breakfast--my nerves allowing only the yogurt to seem appetizing (usually eaten with a serving of whole grain cereal and a half cup of blueberries), so I'm going to have to be careful this morning and get those other 30 grams of carbs in within the next hour, and make myself have my snack in the middle of teaching in order to prevent low blood sugar--ah, the fun of managing diabetes.

The girls are indecisive about breakfast so Rick and I have gone down the list of normal breakfast options before I throw in ice cream and the left over cupcake. Lil opts for the cupcake before balking because it has a ring on it she already has--I point out she can take the ring off and still eat it. Rosie opts for chocolate ice cream, and at least I'll be able to say they both ate something before going to school.

I'll feel no guilt over it, either. The goal is to get some calories in their bellies before school. If they're sub-optimal nutritionally, there's the comfort of knowing they've packed nutritional lunches with all the basics covered and that their snack this afternoon and supper will be nutritionally sound.

My goal is to start mornings off with no yelling, no impatience, no one upset and if that means cupcakes and ice cream, well, why not? I understand their jitters. I get what's going on with their tummies as it's going on with mine as well. 50 new students wait for me today, and all told over 160 new students. If that doesn't put you on high alert, I don't know what will.

So, to all of my friends who are also on their first day, apparently cupcakes and chocolate ice cream make for smiling children who are ready to leave the house almost an hour ahead of their mother. :)

8/26/2012

Reticence

noun the state of being reticent, or reserved, especially with regard to speaking freely; restraint: His natural reticence seemed to disappear under the influence of alcohol.

 One of the things that has been ingrained on my psyche the last three plus years especially is that speaking one's mind comes with definite consequences. Sometimes, those consequences are that we'll lose friends because we come down on opposite sides of an issue that's a deal breaker for the other person.

The autism community feels increasingly fractured, splintered into smaller and smaller subsets as people in the community feel strongly about their beliefs regarding autism and relating topics. It's beyond surreal to see the same topic (like the recent conference in New Hampshire) discussed by different facebook friends in completely polar opposite ways--the conference was co-sponsored by Syracuse University's woo-master Biklen and ASAN. So, my friends that work hard to combat the spread of facilitated communication posted one way, and my ASAN friends, whose emphasis is on autistics participating fully and inclusively, posted another way. Reticence, at least, on this issue, seemed the only way to avoid battle lines being drawn. I dislike facebook drama.

Another recent (as of this weekend) difference is the reaction to a New York Times op-ed on autism, immune systems and WORMS as a possible treatment (which I covered two years ago). Again, it's a bit surreal to see several facebook friends on opposite sides of this issue.

And if we leave autism and just look at general beliefs, it gets even more polarized. Politics? I have a constant stream of Obama lovers and haters coming across my feed. It's enough to make my head spin. I have friends who feel strongly enough to defriend others over these political differences. Religion? Oh my. I have atheist friends, agnostics, Christians, and some holy-rollers, as well, so it can be whiplash-inducing to read my newsfeed.

It leaves me, since again, I don't care for facebook drama, rarely commenting on those kinds of pieces, and never posting about religion or politics. I'll settle for posting links to my pieces, pictures of my kids, my cats, my garden.

I will and do practice reticence, not just on facebook, but in the real world, as well. Politics and religion aren't things I'm going to argue with a person about. I might discuss with my parents, but it's never vitriolic. I fundamentally don't get being that polarized and guided by emotion on these two topics nor in wasting my emotional energy on these topics.

There aren't any right answers when it comes to these two topics, so I don't get being invested in it. Right now, in the atheist community, there appears to be hoopla regarding something being called atheism +, so the divides are there even in the subsets. I don't understand being part of an atheism movement, nor do I equate skepticism with atheism. I just don't understand the need to tear people down over their religious beliefs, or lack of.

I can't help but feel that much of the drama online is manufactured. It's a distraction from the real world, from daily living, much like shooters, role playing games or good old-fashioned solitaire are.

I suppose I'm stepping away from my reticence on speaking about these topics to say this: I have enough real world shit to deal with without making up online drama. I'm not interested in fighting over anyone's belief system as it relates to religion or politics. I'll even keep quiet on things going on in the autism world that I think are problematic and symptomatic of a population of people who want badly to believe in miracles at the expense of reality simply because when a situation is a no-win situation, fighting it is either noble in a tilting at windmills kind of way or because, as I've said many times before, it's tantamount to pissing into the wind.

All of it, as I watch it play across my facebook feed, actually tires me out. There are things that matter: which party will best protect the rights of women to control their own bodies, which party will provide stability and direction that provides protection not just to the vulnerable populations in America but in the world as well, which party will stop the erosion of our rights, which party will demonstrate a moral high ground and look to doing the right thing over the politically expedient thing. And trying to parse those things is enough to make anybody's head to explode. And to make a person despair.

Reticence is often the expedient thing--keeping our mouths shut over things that can cause us more grief than it's worth dealing with, but expediency is not always, not often, the moral high ground. I can be reticent when it comes to directly confronting facebook friends--it's not the appropriate venue. I can be reticent when it comes to discussing individuals--after all, if what's important to me are the evidence for claims, who makes the claims is irrelevant. I can focus on big picture things that make a real difference in people's lives and let the small stuff go by without comment or judgment.

We form our beliefs, often without a full awareness of where those beliefs are coming from or how our unconscious keeps us in the dark about disconfirming evidence. I can cut people slack and not make the assumption that they're wrong and I'm right--some topics have NO right answers.

And perhaps most importantly, I can learn where it's appropriate to be reticent and where it is paramount to shout from the mountaintops, consequences be damned. Everyone has some windmills they must tilt at, after all. Learning to respect others' right to do that is an important step in learning to let go of the need to control and right-fight.


8/19/2012

The Cat Days of Summer

I don't have dogs...and Rick says I can't have them, so that explains the title variation. :) My summer is over as of today--tomorrow I go back to work (I know, I worked all summer, too) for the fall semester. I'm both ready and not...I want more chances at sleeping in and the opportunity to read some novels (I read one--ONE novel this summer, or did I read three? I don't know--it's kind of hard to keep the seasons separate...I did catch up with the Eve Duncan series, but that was months ago...damn, time flies! Ah well.

The girls have spent a lot of their time as you see them below, close to each other, working on various computer games together and occasionally looking up to watch Danny Phantom, Phineas and Ferb and My Little Pony. I've tried to avoid the My Little Pony shows, although it is fun to mess with the girls and point out that the cutie marks are indeed tramp stamps, or that the entire premise of Danny Phantom as "half ghost" is beyond absurd. Phineas and Ferb are just fun, although Candice is grating. 


The girls grew this summer (at least Lil's feet didn't, though, as she's in 8.5s and really doesn't need her feet to grow anymore). It's amazing how she towers over her sister, who is only 2 years younger.
Hard to believe Lily's 10 years old--she looks much older! And she's started to get crushes on boys...teenage boys. Oh my. She giggles and blushes and we've been having very frank discussions. Watching Glee (which we started this week) is actually a great teaching tool. Sure, I have to put up with Bobby's moral outrage at the bullying that occurs, and that leads to discussions about bullying in real life and whether high school is really like that in the real world, but it's worth the pauses and discussions.
Lily is working on getting taller than the boy, as well. They've continued to grow close, sharing interests in anime and video games.

When they're not playing the computer, the wii, their nintendos, or iphones, they've made good use of the ipad that I almost never get to lay my hands on (never mind it's mine for work and costs three times what the laptop did).

Both cats and kids vie for the couch, but have worked out ways of sharing the same territory.

And Bob and Dude continue in their close relationship. Bob is the Dude's person and the rest of us might as well not exist most of the time.

The minute the girls desert the couch, Jack takes over residence. And when Jack leaves, Dude usually takes it over...who'd have thought that couch would be the hot spot?

Summer's all but done, even if the heat shows no sign of leaving. The girls go back to school on the 27th; in the meantime, they'll hang out with Rick while I'm working this week (no more going in for a couple hours a day--working the summer is a breeze), and then we'll step back into the swing of things, hoping for smooth sailing but preparing for any possible bumps in the road (had to mix metaphors, just had to).

And, of course, we'll keep trying on new looks!

Both me and Lily, as she's realized just how much fun it can be!



8/18/2012

Boredom feels like a storm that just won't start



Maybe it's as much restlessness as it is boredom...maybe it's that I return to work Monday and classes begin on the 27th, so I'm skin jumpy--I want to work on my classes more, but I already know that there will be some changes to my schedule, so I'm putting that work off until my schedule is finalized...I don't do well with waiting. I like to move...

Maybe it's that we've had so many cloudy, ready-to-rumble days where rain looked promising but went around us. All show and no substance...

But I'm itchy, restless, and bored, unable to find something I want to do because what I want to do would be a waste of time. I like control, so having to wait, having to accept a lack of control, sucks.

It sucks seeing the clouds, knowing the potential for refreshing, desperately needed rain, and knowing there's nothing you can do to make the downpour start.

It sucks to feel a single raindrop and be denied the storm.


It sucks to see the ground so dry and barren, to see the trees dying and know you can't stop it.

Those days where you are fully and totally aware of how little control you really have...well, they leave you skin-jumpy.

8/16/2012

Choose an Identity, Choose a Community


Every time I go to a blog to leave a comment, this pops up: "choose an identity," and every time I read it, I can't help but think how often people do just that on the internet: choose an identity. The internet allows for constant reinvention. It lets people be anonymous, and to therefore say whatever they please without facing real-world consequences for their words. 

It can be liberating and exhilarating to do just that--choose an identity. Sometimes, our real lives are constraining; we are unable to express beliefs and opinions openly because we face rejection, scorn, or worse: ostracizing. Choosing a nom de plume to do one's writing under is a way of expressing opinions that family members, friends, and community members might give us a hard time about in the real world.

Going online, choosing an alternative identity, can allow us to say what we really mean, be who we really are. Sure, we face other people attacking us, but they're attacking our online personas, not who we are in real life. There's a buffer there that protects us, distances us, from the rhetoric. We can, if we're smart enough, even refuse to read our critics--it's the most expedient way of not having to deal with other people's crap (especially if they choose to be surreptitious on their own blogs). It's a whole lot easier, though, when they flat out tell us, like I had one commenter at Science 2.0, they've written a whole post criticizing us. We can just not go look. We are under no obligation to engage anyone and everyone on the internet. Sometimes, the best thing we can do is to not engage, especially if nothing productive can happen. Not much comes from pissing matches other than using up our time--after all, we can always play Angry Birds if we want to waste our time.

 I'm not suggesting, however, that we should avoid all criticism of our writings, as it can be very productive and illuminating to consider other people's takes on our thoughts and ideas because it's only when we are willing to consider other points of view that we can put our own views through the rigor required to see our own biases. Meaningful dialogue and the acceptance that people can hold very different beliefs while still working together on common interests is so important--it allows us to build a larger community and a bigger in-group. We can refuse to pay attention to those things that would place these allies as the out-group. For example, people who believe in vaccine-injury as a potential cause of autism can work arm-in-arm with those who don't believe that to be likely on common goals like eliminating abuse and restraint in schools and institutions, in creating legislative changes that support therapies being covered by insurance, or in working to create viable job training programs and independent living facilities. Just as we can and do all "choose an identity," we can choose who our community members are and how we define our priorities, and depending on the circumstances and the issues, we can always redefine our communities.

Being anonymous or pseudonymous can also let us try on different personalities, reinvent ourselves, cast those aside when we tire of them, and move on to new identities, new personalities and new experiences. I've been around long enough online to see that happen a few times, and to even enjoy reading the reinventions and trying to deduce if a new "character" was in fact someone known to me. Kathleen and I had a blast creating Stink Creek three years ago and Thelma and Louise and writing in the various voices of the Stink Creek citizens, but we always knew they were fictional constructs and made sure to provide winks and nudges to readers from the start. The most fun was had in being both ourselves and the Stink Creek characters in the same posts or exchanges. We even held chats, each of us with two computers so we could do the chats simultaneously. There's nothing like being ribald women of advanced age to make a gal forget her own troubles or at least look at them in a new light. That and the raccoon and the chickens and priapism in elderly gentlemen; I've never laughed or had so much fun as when Kathleen and I were writing the Stink Creek stories. 

So there's definitely something positive about choosing a persona and allowing a buffer between us and others as a way to express controversial or even unwelcome ideas. There is a downside, too, though, I think, in that it is so easy to discard a persona and move on when things get too hot to handle. 

I started on the internet with my real name, connected to my real world activities, and it's forced accountability over the years that a pseudonym would not have. It's caused problems at times, but, on the whole, I wouldn't have it any other way. You get the real deal--and I hope that there's a great deal of consistency between what I write and what I say in the real world--for example, I wouldn't write anything I wouldn't want a student (or one of my children) to see, or my mother and father, for that matter.

There's something to be said for authenticity--as much as there is for choosing an identity. For the most part, although sometimes I long to do just that--to choose an (other) identity-- I settle for being me, whoever that really is, and instead tinker with my identity by changing hair color and styles like some people online choose identities. 


So, some days that means you get a me with long, curly burgundy hair.


And sometimes you get mermaid hair.


Sometimes it's purple!



And some days you get me just as I am, with no fancy colors or styles.

So whatever it is you personally choose to do, whether it's to write under your own name, a pseudonym, or go anonymous (or all three), here's to finding an identity that makes you happy and whole and a community that provides you the support and kinship we all need. 

8/14/2012

Oh The Asses You'll Meet...The Enemies You'll Make (or maybe not!)

Read the comments section on any yahoo news story or in online newspapers or big sites and it's quickly revealed just how many people use the internet to let their asses hang out. I mean, really, it makes any comments on any of my blog posts look relatively tame (and any of the people who've chosen to critique me look like veritable cuddly teddy bears--you know who you are!).

People can be mean, hateful, spiteful jackasses and the more they are assured of anonymity, the more likely they are to engage in that kind of behavior. And man, when they do it to you, the temptation to sink to their level and name call can be almost irresistible. It feels releasing to name call. Cathartic, even.

It doesn't do any good-the people who engage in hateful rhetoric are not going to be swayed by reason or by name calling. It's probably beneficial to remember that people who didn't reason themselves into a position aren't going to reason themselves out of it. And even smarter to remember that some people are just being trolls and spoiling for a good fight.

One of the things that can be really frustrating is that you have no control in how people receive your words--if it's misinterpreted, misread, or flat out ignored because the people already have you pegged, then it was always out of your hands.

Consider, if you're pro-science and a fan of neurodiversity, Age of Autism and the names of any of its writers and commenters probably immediately raise your hackles--you're closed from anything they have to say. You're going to consider anything they write to be wrong.

Here's the thing, though. Even people who are wrong about some things can be right about others--and the opposite is true. Claims really do matter--not the people making them--the evidence is what is important. Good stories, positive stories, are so easy to accept on the face of them--we want miracle stories, so we don't question them, don't analyze the support to see if anything's actually being said or if it's all just hot air. Far worse, though, are those places where tragedy is made out of everything and conspiracies rule the day...we're inclined to either believe wholesale (depending on our perspective) or reject out of hand any claim. Take for instance, the idea that vaccines might be responsible for some injuries and that some of those children might receive an autism diagnosis. Or the question on whether the rise in autism diagnoses reflects a true increase in the disorder or a broadened categorization and better recognition. What you believe about autism is going to influence your willingness to consider new evidence.

In general, can we choose to discount a website and a person's perspective as a shortcut after the site or the individual has been shown to be consistently incorrect? Yes, but. Whale.to, Mercola, Mike Adams, and the like have proven to be consistently inaccurate and inflammatory (and worse), so it makes sense, when looking for good information, to just avoid known hotbeds of woo. However, that doesn't mean they'll always be wrong. And that's the conundrum when one is insistent that the evidence for claims is what's most important, not the person making the claim.

It eats up our time when we consider each claim and the evidence for the claim. And deconstructing people's responses, especially the more far-fetched or fallacy-ridden, can take up considerable effort, energy, and time--and it's not always going to be worthwhile to do so. And we're busy people, bombarded with constant information and we do not, as a natural habit, stop to question everything. In fact, those of us who do tend to analyze carefully will often annoy and frustrate the hell out of others. We might even get called overly pedantic (as if one could be overly pedantic!).

We have to decide when we can cease to engage directly with people who simply want to suck up our time and when direct engagement, even if tedious, is worth the effort--not because of the possibility of appealing to reason for the person we're rebutting, but because other people will see and read, and maybe, just maybe, reconsider their position. Our goal shouldn't necessarily be to convince people we're right and they're wrong, but perhaps to work to be open to new evidence, to be aware of cognitive biases and heuristics, and for those of us in dialogue with each other to really listen to the actual claims and the evidence provided without getting into a pissing match. Boy, I know that's Pollyanna of me, but if you believe in the tenets of science, it seems to me that it's a laudable goal.

The internet is a mixed bag at best, but it sure does allow for lots of opportunities for restraint, for empathy, for dialogue and growth, and, unfortunately, even more chances to let your ass hang out for the world to see.

8/12/2012

Taking on Water

Metaphorically stormy seas (can't believe I write that as we are in the midst of a drought) have me feeling like we're taking on water here, and I'm in the middle of dumping as much of that water and excess baggage over the side as fast as I can, but it's not fast enough.

It's been a busy, productive, frustrating, unexpected summer. It didn't turn out at all as I expected, but that's okay--much of it has been good--rewarding, even.

The girls' self-help skills have increased; Lily's become a tremendous help in keeping the house functioning--having learned how to vacuum, to do laundry, feed the cats, pour me coffee, make breakfast...what a blessing it's been for me and her both. The girls have grown even closer to each other, best friends without a lot of fighting. What an awesome thing--to always have that best friend right there, so close.

Bobby's continuing to learn how to make more meals--although his improvising can be less than successful--I stopped him in time from substituting brown and wild rice for Spanish rice and black-eyed peas for refried beans the other night. What a Mexican dinner that would have been! While I'm thrilled that the cooking duties have become his and Rick's responsibility, there are issues with Bobby's functioning that are concerning, but with no clear solution--I've often said he's unstuck in time, and that becomes increasingly apparent the older he gets--I'll catch him in the middle of a chore, stopped, just sitting there--mentally not present--none of his typical muttering indicating that he's "watching tv" in his head--just an absentness that leaves me worried and a little frustrated that I can't figure out a way to get him tethered in time.

I taught all summer and after I turn grades in tomorrow, I will have a brief week "off." I loved the students in both summer sections. They were animated, friendly, relatively prepared, lively students and I had a blast with them. If the fall goes as well, I will be truly blessed.

I was lucky to meet two wonderful people in May who are in the process of forming a local nonprofit, and over the summer, we've gotten closer and Dad and I have taken active roles in helping them out from a social media standpoint. It's kept me busy and opened more doors locally, not the least of which is the friendships being built.

I planned and carried out my second annual Beat the Back to School Jitters event, and was able to cover most of the costs with the donations from a new friend (thanks, Kari!), my parents, and Reach. We had an awesome turnout, and the pictures are up at Reach's facebook page. It was a rewarding experience--exactly what I hoped for--a pizza party where everyone seemed to have a good time.

Hospice volunteering was not as active as it's been, but I did have two patients, attended training, and made a few bereavement calls. I needed a break from dealing with loss, and this summer's busy-ness allowed me the opportunity for a little distance from direct loss. The longer I'm a hospice volunteer the more I admire those who work full-time serving individuals who are dying and their families. It's a continuing cycle of loss for those who become attached to the families--but it is some of the most important work we as a people can do for others.

So, overall, things are pretty good--I've been on medications for two months now for my diabetes, and   it's coming under control. I've got to go see the endocrinologist for fine-tuning on my meds, and I'm waiting to see a pain specialist for my fibro.

But I still feel like I'm taking on water, getting overwhelmed with responsibilities and commitments and all I want is a week of quiet to restore myself--but with the three kids still home (well, Bobby's gone three days a week till 2 pm), I can't see that this week is going to be quiet.

I have things to do to get ready for the fall, plans to implement, things to write...

Reminding myself that a pause, a break, a lull, a pulling into myself so that I can once again give of my time and effort is something I have to get better at, especially before I am certain I am going under, having taken on entirely too much water.

The kitty boys definitely have that break thing down pat.

8/10/2012

And now for your Friday awwwwww



Subliminal: You Aren't in the Driver's Seat

I recently reviewed a book, Subliminal, over at Science 2.0, which is posted below. What is always interesting to me is the reaction that my various essays will garner. Sometimes, there's no reaction--which suggests that I've pissed no one off enough that they want to directly engage me (some will go on and write their own deconstructions of my posts but do it in such a way as to apparently try to avoid triggering my attention, while others will make it easy for me to know they've disagreed with me). Other times, I'll get comments I can't really make heads or tails of. Sometimes I don't respond. Sometimes I do.


What is highly interesting is that on a review of a book that deals with our unconscious mind and how it has far more control of us than we'd like to think, is that I get comments that leave me stymied. I encourage you to go over and read the comments after you've read the piece. Is this a book I'd encourage reading of? Yes, it is. It's well written, it's easily understandable, it's interesting, and it's important. Incredibly important.


And now, to the essay itself:


In the last year, I've had the occasion to review several books that deal with the unconscious mind. Each author has had an interesting take on the same material, and it's been illuminating to see how writers with different areas of expertise handle the unconscious mind and render the research readable for a popular audience.

Leonard Mlodinow is a name many science readers will recognize as belonging with physics, not psychology and neuroscience. His handling of this topic, which has been handled by EaglemanMcRae, Shermer, and others in the last couple years, is skillful and entertaining.

Mlodinow's turn of phrase is masterful and he covers the latest research in neuroscience and how much of our actions are controlled not by our conscious mind, but by our unconscious. He notes that "our brains are made up of a collection of many modules that work in parallel, with complex interactions, most of which operate outside of our consciousness. As a consequence, the real reasons behind our judgments, feelings, and behavior can surprise us."

Subliminal is full of surprises for the average reader and offers gems that would change the world if only enough people believed the information to be true: "We believe that when we choose a laptop or a laundry detergent, plan a vacation, pic,k a stock, take a job, assess a sports star, make a friend, judge a stranger, and even fall in love, we understand the principal factors that influenced us. Very often nothing could be further from the truth. As a result, many of our basic assumptions about ourselves, and society, are false." Mlodinow takes readers through the research carefully and masterfully and leaves readers changed by the experience (well, we can hope).

Mlodinow writes that "We choose the facts that we want to believe." While we instinctively insist this is true of others, we are usually resolute that we are free from this kind of error. If we want to really revolutionize our relationships, and as a consequence, society, we're going to have to disseminate the latest in neuroscience to the masses, and then somehow find a way to accept that we are vulnerable to the same quirks and foibles as everyone else--maybe we'll learn to let the past go, accept that people do things for no conscious reason, and even better, as parents, we'll finally get how utterly pointless it is to ask our children why they did something.

8/08/2012

Ruminations on Diversity: Race, Gender, Sexual Preference and More

One of the things that's been gratifying to see in the disability community (even as we tear each other apart over differences) is that, by and large, there at least appears to be more acceptance of sexual diversity.

We've got a ways to go--racism and sexism and discrimination to reduce and eliminate. Many of my friends, though, are open in their acceptance and support of gays, lesbians, and gender-diverse individuals and equal rights.

I shouldn't have to state it, but given the tremendous amount of statuses that cross my facebook feed, maybe it's important that I do.

I support gay marriage. I support gays and lesbians. I think they should have every right and privilege that straight people do.

I support people who are transgendered or nongendered or pangendered or whatever terminology they prefer to use. People should be able to live lives true to their neurology without being considered disordered (unless what you do means you're hurting children or infringing on the rights of others).

I don't care what color you are. I think you should have equal rights and protections.

I don't care what religion you practice. As long as you aren't breaking laws and hurting people, honor your deity in the way that best suits you.

I don't care if you are a republican, a democrat, a liberal, a conservative, or a tea-bagger. As long as you accept that I have the right to believe and support the lesser of two evils when it comes to candidates, I'll let your photoshopped pictures run right across my feed with no comment. I'll ignore those who bash either side--I don't personally get the whole intense-hatred thing that so many people feel towards a candidate, but whatever...maybe it's their way of letting off steam.

I don't personally believe I have the right to interfere with other women's reproductive rights. I'm personally not a fan of abortion, and I think it's a tremendous loss to society and humanity when fetuses are aborted because a test shows an abnormality. However, I'm not walking in other women's shoes and I would never dream of telling them they are wrong for making the right decision for themselves. Who am I to claim that kind of moral superiority? Not happening.

I believe that diversity and acceptance of humanity in all its diversity is a good thing. It's a hard thing, but things worth doing are rarely easy.

I think a lot of us would benefit  from some deep breathing and better support systems. And that we could all use at least one person who is in our corner unconditionally, and hopefully that we'll get at least one, if not two, three or more who provide that support.

In other words, I'm not going to go hating on anyone. I am going to be disappointed when I see people high five anti-gay rhetoric and hate speech.

I'm going to be disappointed when I read people using pejoratives like idiot, imbecile, moron, r*t*rd, f**kt*rd, or any other variation. Dumbass, by comparison, is not nearly as bad, but I'm going to try to reduce my use of that term because it's all but impossible to say that and not think less of the other person you're calling that term, even if you insist they have feelings, too. Language that renders the other less should have no place in a compassionate society that embraces diversity.

Life, if you're lucky, is a learning curve. Hopefully, we get more humble, more open, more compassionate over the years. Hopefully, we work to make the world a softer, better place for those who follow behind us. Hopefully, we learn to apologize when we err and work to make amends.

Hopefully.

Disability Discrimination: Another Denied A Transplant

Another disabled person denied a transplant because of his disability. Another petition in hopes of changing the hospital's decision (go sign it, please).

After the last time, with Mia Rivera (click on her name to read the good news that her mother will get to give Mia a kidney), the disability community came out in full force to support the Rivera family, and it's happening again, thankfully, with blogger after blogger writing about Paul Corby's story.

Will this outpouring of outrage make the same kind of difference this time? We can hope. But one thing's certain, if we don't, as a community, come out strongly and forcefully for families going through this kind of discrimination, it will never end, never stop, and it will be someone we know and love.

Yes, resources are often deemed "scarce" and the costs of transplantation are high, but people have intrinsic value, and autism and other related disorders SHOULD NEVER BE the determining factor as to whether a person gets on the transplant list.

For other bloggers covering this, please see the feeds on the autism blogs directory.

8/05/2012

It's A Nightgown Kind of Day: But Tomorrow Won't Be

Yesterday, a friend and I left at seven in the morning to attend Parent Leadership Training so that we will be better educated regarding ARD (only in Texas--everyone else calls them IEP meetings) processes, not just so that we would be able to better advocate for our own children, but so that we could also bring that information back to local families and share.

Knowledge is, indeed, power. And let me tell you, even veterans of the process, like I am, can learn a lot. Laws change. Schools are pressured to reduce special ed spending, reduce the number of students receiving services, and not share important information with parents, like in Texas, the 11 autism supplements that by law, the school has to go over with you (if you ask).

We came home enriched and excited about what we'd learned, and, to be honest, as we read more today about these supplements we didn't know about, pissed and hurt and determined. Determined that other Texas families with autism will be armed with knowledge. Knowledge is not only power--it is empowering.

The more we know, the more we can effectively advocate for needed, necessary, and already legally obligated changes.

But...the flipside to this kind of intensive training, emotionally intense learning, is that it's the afternoon and I'm still in my nightgown. Yesterday wore me out so that I slept in till nearly 10 this morning and has me head-achy and ready to lie down and sleep.

It's important to not see the school system as the adversary, to not view teachers as opponents, to think of our community as OUR community--that the wellbeing of all of its citizens matters to the community as a whole.

Let me tell you that if we consistently gird ourselves for battle we will never win the war--we will always see the other team members (and they are team members) as the enemy to be vanquished.

If we want our children accepted into the wider community we must see that wider community as OUR community, one in which good intentions may not lead to the progress we wish for, where ignorance can damage not just our children but the entire community, and one where, with patience, determination, and education, we can make our community bend, change, and transform itself to one where people are embraced for their differences, not in spite of their differences.

Now, I think I will nap so that tomorrow I can go out and work with the community to build the change we need. After all, there's only so many days one can stay in pajamas and nightgowns.

8/03/2012

The Blog Ladies...Coming Soon


Wander on over to the directory for full details!

Through a Blur...

Worth mentioning:

I am stuffy-nosed and sneezing and foggy-eyed. Beware, world, for I come out amongst your denizens, tissues crumpled in my chubby little hands (well, they are). I'm sure it's just allergies...

Questions:

Why do people, me included, do that? Go out when we'd be much better off in bed sleeping? Are we so important, so vital to whatever it is we are doing that a day off would end the world?

Another question:

How can I answer no to the last question and still go out?


8/02/2012

Art, Cats, and Kids

Yeah, it's probably a stretch to link, and there's absolutely no reason for the cats between the kids, but there you go...

 Bobby's latest painting.
Rosie's picture for Grandma (hand drawn--no tracing). 
Lily's. 
It begged to be photographed.
 
 awww.





 pretty girlies!
my kids and husband--happy family!

8/01/2012

Facebook Feed: A Microcosm of Diversity

Any given day, I have this huge range of beliefs and opinions going across my facebook feed. I am friends with Christians and atheists, Republicans and Democrats, autistics and neurotypicals, parents and non-parents, gays and straights and gender-queers. It's a hodge-podge of beliefs and opinions streaming constantly across my page.

If it's a personal belief regarding politics and religion, I make no comment, generally feel no anger, either. People are entitled to share who they are on their facebook wall--I consider myself an invited guest and try to respond accordingly. If I wouldn't sit on their couch and say it to them, I'm not going to say it on their wall. If it's light woo, like the HCG diet or something similar, the same policy applies.

Here's a real shocker, perhaps, if they believe vaccines cause autism, I'm also not going to argue with them.

There's a time and a place for that, and facebook walls are not where I choose to engage. If a civil conversation can be had, I'm all for that, but I don't like pissing matches on facebook.

If I find language that's disturbing enough (like the use of disparaging language against minority groups), I'll quietly defriend the individual.

With it being an election year, the feed has gotten more polarized. The shooting in Aurora brought posts about gun rights and people's manifestos regarding that.

Lots of "defriend me now" went across my feed, all if you were in disagreement with the person. I never checked those threads to ever see if it got heated. I kept scrolling. I like to use facebook as news--I care about what's going on in my friends' lives, like to see what they are up to, enjoy the articles they share, their cute dog or cat pictures, the sarcastic sayings, all the various pages I like that give me updates on blog posts and news and how the various communities I feel I am a part of are doing.

Now the defriend me posts are about the guy with the chicken fast food chain and his comments about gays and gay marriage. Huffington Post informs me about what the company does with its profits, while some friends applaud supporting free speech by showing up at the restaurants today to eat fast food in solidarity, while other friends are wounded, and rightfully so, that people could be so threatened by the idea of gay marriage.

If the president of this company had made these comments about interracial marriage, would people be rallying at the restaurant to support his right to free speech? And what does spending six dollars for a combo meal have to do with supporting his free speech?

Here's an acceptance and support of free speech: each of my facebook friends has the right to express him or herself. It's a great right, freedom of speech, and one my husband and father both  spent over two decades each serving to protect.

I won't be making those "defriend me now" statuses on facebook. You don't have to agree with me to be my friend. But you do have to respect my right to believe and express myself in the same way I respect yours.

We can certainly decide, if it becomes too burdensome, to no longer be facebook friends. If your beliefs are so narrow as to be threatened because I won't either high five yours or express my own, then that loss of your facebook friendship will not be a great loss to me.