Category Archives: Society & Culture

And the Summer Turns to Fall


So I wrote a post yesterday on predominately “failing” friendships called, “Everything Has It’s Season.”  I want to expand on one thought and it’s something I feel that is another part and should be said.

Once those needs no longer exist, then there is nothing to hold you bound to that person anymore. Some people can accept this and some people can’t.     

What I want to say about this statement is that, yes, when a need is not there anymore, there is nothing to bind you to the other person; but what I did not say in my last post is that sometimes we choose to stay in the relationship because there are other things there that we like, love or admire about that person.  I’m bringing this up because I had this happen to me when I realized that what had drawn me to a person was not there anymore or maybe never was.  I still found things that were endearing and I was hanging on.

He was a man whom I had met and we shared a love for word games, puns, erotic poetry.  He was over-the-top hilarious, but super, super intelligent.  He was a base player in a raw rock band, hailing from Smithville, NJ.  We it it off immediately and I also hit it off with his friends and bandmates.  Could you ask for more?  He was a giant of a man, but very gentle, honestly, a Gentile Giant.  To hug I actually hat to stand a few steps on some stairs and he stood at the bottom.   For some reason, though, he never invited me back to see him, and I moved on in real life.  Over the internet, though, we continued to keep in touch.  He was deliciously bawdy and we had a blast.

To make a long story short, eventually I did come to my senses.  The problem was that, in his thirties, or early forties, he had no life goals and was not really working towards settling down.  I, however, wanted to settle down.  I was tired of not having a place of my own and needed some security.  He had a great personality, and could make me laugh like I never laughed before, but he was going nowhere in life other than the wild life of a musician.  When my hubby came along, I finally made the decision to move on completely.  DH was serious about settling down and I was more than ready at that point to leave my own wild days behind me, so I cut the last string with Blue on Black Man and the rest is history.

A commenter of my last post brought up the point that de-friending people on facebook does not necessarily mean that they don’t want to be friends in real life.  I agree with that, and that’s fine.  It that were the case, though, I would appreciate that person just letting me know or just keep in touch other ways.

I read a great post today over at Making the Connections Blog called “Where Does the Good Go?”  I recommend reading it for a really personal experience of struggling with making the decision to let go of a friendship.

Everything Has It’s Season


A friend of mine is de-friending me on facebook.  She says that she’s just doing it without a word to me because she doesn’t want a “confrontation.”  I’m wondering why she would think that there “would” be a confrontation.  Facebook seems to give people the courage to say things they never would.  The facelessness of it?  The free announcement that is stated to be the least invasive as possible, no mess?  I wonder why she is waiting to swing the ax.

Why does she not feel that she could simply ask me a question and get some answers to whatever is bugging her?  I see this happen all the time.  People feel slighted or get annoyed, then think the right thing to do is detach themselves.  That’s not the right thing, but it’s the easiest thing.  They can detach, then pat themselves on the back and go on with their lives thinking it was the only thing they could do and it makes them feel better, justified… and then, maybe it IS the best thing to do.

This is not meant to be a “bashing” post, so I’m not going to sling the personal issues around.  I mean, there are always issues, right?   I’d like to see if I could speak from the perspective of examining why friends won’t simply reach out to one another when they feel something just isn’t right, instead of going right to canceling the friendship.  Maybe I don’t want to examine it.  Maybe I just want to throw the question out there.  I might find it hard to talk about it without drawing in the personal issues and speculation of said issues because that would just be one-sided.

Also, people would rather stay in a strained relationship for years, getting themselves sick; and yet they will not address their issues with their friends.  What IS friendship?  Does it have conditions?  Is it supposed to?

Sometimes people are meant to just float in and out of each others’ lives.  We need them, they appear, then they’re gone. Sometimes, no matter how close we think we are, or want to be, we simply are not.  Life gets in the way.  Economics certainly gets in the way sometimes if you do not live in the same neighborhood anymore. Maybe something like not being able to afford the trip is too embarrassing to talk about.  Maybe a friendship seems one-sided when one person thinks they’re the one making all the effort with phone calls and what not.  Maybe life puts you both on the opposite ends of the spectrum.  Maybe life just makes you tired, and at the end of the day you want to isolate yourself from life and the problems it throws at your feet. Maybe you just don’t want to talk anymore.  Maybe a friendship seems unsustainable when life throws in too many crowbars to enjoy it.  Maybe because you feel that it’s all these things, that you have become contaminated friendship material.

Well, I’m not sure what I’ve done here, but what I am sure about is that I have a few certain needs like for once someone would seek me out to ask the questions they need to.  I guess I’ve never had anyone come to me and ask me to explain myself. This is kind of funny to me because a lot of people have the attitude that “they are who they are and if anyone doesn’t like it, they can F’ off.” What is funny is that I don’t have a problem explaining myself to anyone…. if ONLY they asked the question…. and maybe a friend of mine would already know that….

Oh, I’ve had plenty of people get angry at me for various reasons, but never asked me why I had the position I did.  Plenty of times I had to be considerate of other’s views if they conflicted with mine, and that was okay; but I’m a little tired lately that people will not do the same for me.  It seems like people enjoy getting angry. People enjoy pointing out to you that you’re wrong about something and provide plenty of links that say that they are right and you are wrong.

You see, I’ve also taken a stand and don’t mind when people walk out of my life because for some reason they feel that they need to.  I am not going to fight it because that is the way life works.  People come and people go.  People are with you for something you can do or give them, or for something they can do or give to you.  One has a need and one fills that need. Once those needs no longer exist, then there is nothing to hold you bound to that person anymore.  Some people can accept this and some people can’t.  This happened in my first marriage.  He was insecure and struggling through college on two levels, financially and academically.  When he finally got his degree, he wanted a divorce.  I supported him through his time in college emotionally and also contributed to our household financially.  This also happens with regular friendships.  Of course in most cases, this is not a premeditated thing.  We don’t go into relationships thinking what am I going to gain from this person.  Yeah, one person will suffer because they will feel hurt, but if you accept that this is the way of the world, eventually you will pick yourself up and shake the dust off your shoes and travel on.  That might sound cold, but it’s still the way of the world.

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Can’t We All Just Play Nice?


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Daily Prompt:  P.C.

by michelle w. on August 11,2013

Is political correctness a useful concept, or does it stifle honest discussion? 

My opinion on this is that political correctness DEFINITELY stifles honest discussion.  Way too hot topics are racism, gay rights and abortion.  NOBODY will touch these topics with a ten foot pole; but I really do wish that people would have honest discussions about them.

If we could all put aside our differences and openly admit that we do not know everything and that we each have our tendencies to say or do things that will offend others.  If we can all check our baggage at the door, that would be great, too. Nobody is perfect and hell, yes, we were all raised in different environments, leaning toward one or another belief.  We all have things, pleasant and unpleasant to others, ingrained in us from childhood and though some of us might choose to act differently, what is ingrained in us will never completely leave.  What we CAN do is choose to act different, be more accepting of other people and their right to live how they choose.  That’s not to say that we give up expressing our core beliefs, but recognize that although we are a part of this world; but we cannot control everyone in it to our own way of thinking.

Most importantly, I think, is that we all must be prepared to enter into these conversations open-minded and acknowledge that it might get unpleasant.  We must not be afraid of that but I realize that will be hard to really trust people, I mean really trust that their motives are pure. Also, we must be prepared to deal with ignorance in a less than snarky manner.  We must LISTEN. We must be prepared to face up to our wrongs… and I mean EVERYONE.  This is crucial.  There needs to be a give and take.  There needs to be respect.  I read a book this year called, “The Faith Club.”  This was such a great book about three women, one Jewish, on Muslim and one Catholic.  They each had a burning desire to learn and understand each other, the traditions and well, I think they wanted to understand what made the others tick.  They were wanted to learn so that they could teach their children.  What happened? In a nutshell, it was a rocky road, but they all persevered through their sometimes obvious and sometimes subtle differences and became friends.

Are we all so different that we don’t trust ourselves to tread these waters?  The tension, the hate, the distrust must stop. These are the choices we make.  We have the power to break the mold, but we’ve got to want to do it.  People fit so well into the victim mold and find it more comfortable than they should.  I say that because once in there, you just never want to leave. I’m sorry, but do we really want to be victims forever?  It’s hard to leave the comfort zone, but it CAN be done.

United We Stand,
Divided We Fall
🙂

Disney and the Lone Ranger


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It’s after midnight and I’m fuming.  I vowed to write a post, but I’m so tired.  I’m so upset about the Lone Ranger movie.  I’m sick.  I promised Gabe that we’d go see this movie… I was looking forward to it, myself.  It was produced by DISNEY and I automatically felt it was safe to assume it would be appropriate for my boy.  Oh how I was wrong.  I just found out about the extreme violence and the scene where the villain of the movie slices a heart out of a living person and (gulp) eats it.   What the heck?  Where’s the decency?

Yes, as a parent I really should have checked more into this movie, but shit, I’ve been into watching the trailers for weeks now.  I never saw the violence spoken about in the reviews.  Disney’s reputation lulled me into false security.  You know, the almighty Disney Image of princesses and the princes that sweep them off their feet.  I’m boycotting this movie, even though I know full well that I can see it without my son, on the sly.  I would not feel good about that and I’m not about to betray him in that way.  What the heck am I going to tell him after discussing this movie with him for weeks?  After both of us conveying our excitement to each other during those weeks?

Another reason I am pissed is that Disney marketed this violent adult movie to young kids.  Kids that play with Legos.  Lego kids. imgres-2imgres-3

Need I really say more?  Well, I’m making a hard parenting decision and will risk my child’s wrath and severe disappointment– something I try my absolute best to avoid, by somehow explaining why we’re NOT going to see this movie.  At this point, I really wish that I had a much larger readership.  I feel I want to get this out as far and as wide as possible.  Yes, I’ll even pull the “Autism” card.  It’s much harder for autistic children to adapt to changes and I’m quite sure that he’s feeling pretty set that he will see this movie and soon.  He’s smart and knows that July 1st has come and gone…. I PROMISED!  So many things going on right now, did this really need to be one of them?  Today is his dad’s birthday, so maybe he’s be preoccupied with that and some kitchen cooking things I’ve got lined up for the summer.  A reunion picnic coming up, we’ll see how that goes.  One thing I have going for me is that there are a couple of other movies coming out like “Despicable Me2″and “Turbo.” imgres-4

One commenter stated, “My mother let me see the ‘Exorcist’ when I was six and I turned out all right.”  Um, yeah, really?  BTW, how are we supposed to know that you’re “alright?”  Your word is not enough for me.  Yes, this world is changing, but where is it going?  Nowhere I want to be.  I don’t care if there is a lot, OR “just a little” violence.  Violence is nothing different than that and I’m NOT down with my kid being exposed to it at his present tender age of eight years old.  I should’ve known something was up when I realized that Johnny Depp had top billing and that his name is set over Armie Hammer’s name, meaning the main character is Tonto and not the Lone Ranger.  Whaat?  I want the legendary hero and not a caricature!   I also should’ve known something bad was up when they changed the Lone Ranger’s outfit from white (really a light blue when seen in color) to black.  We’ve been showing Gabe the old LR episodes and he’s expecting that… I should point out, however, that he DID point out the difference in the two Tonto’s.  Also, Disney there are so many Native American actors out there who would’ve been better choices than Mr. J.D.  He’s got to wear a lot of blackish makeup to cover up the fact that he’s got white skin… geesh.  I’m not reflecting what critics are saying.  Yes, I did read a few reviews, but as you can see, I have plenty of my own reasons to complain.  I have provided a few random links below and I’ve not read them, so there are no hidden personal agendas regarding reviews.

This is where my kid spends time, in anticipation of going to see the movie, the LEGO Lone Ranger site:

LEGO LONE RANGER home page games to lure them in and products galore to buy.

Oh geez, I’m going to publish this probably too soon, as I often do (AND DID).  Then I’ll spend tomorrow editing and adding stuff I forgot about…. OR maybe I’ll do the right thing and wait.  One thing is VERY sure.  I will be boycotting this movie, and the Lego sets associated with it.  I would boycott Disney, as well, but we really can’t afford to go to Disney amusement parks or purchase special novelty items, so it won’t be too difficult to just  continue to stay away.  My kid will hate me, thank you very much.

Follow up to Yesterday’s Post


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I got so caught up in my own experience with being bullied (This is a Bully Free Zone).  Usually I just have a burst of writing, then publish right away without editing and refining my thoughts.  But where this would normally lead to is my hopes for my child, new to the public school system in an urban area.  Sometimes I see my son as a fragile flower… yeah, that’s me; but it’s definitely a product of also knowing that school aged kids can be with most ferocious of tormentors and I worry about that.

We had an incident this year with bullying, where the adults of the school did not properly, nor thoroughly, assess this incident to appreciate the full story.  What they saw were two kids who accosted my child, one holding his hands behind his back and one punching him in the stomach.  What would that tell you?  These were kids from my son’s second grade class.  They also saw my son laughing, so they presumed that they all were playing.  THAT turned my stomach.  Autistic kids cannot read or present appropriate facial expressions or body cues.  The teacher in the lunchroom did not have the training to recognize this and so she thought that they all were playing.  After I got done flipping my wig, I got ahold of the principal and blasted his ear on the need for training for ALL personnel who come into contact with my kid.  I explained to him what happened and that I had extensively questioned my son and concluded that this was not playing.  As an outcast during my school years, I realized that he, who also does not have many friends, must have been happy to have attention from his peers, in ANY form, hence his laughter.  Also, he did not realize what had actually happened.  My son said that they thought he was a “robber.”  It took several separate questioning sessions to get out of him that he was not playing with them in the first place and that their actions HURT him.  I think he still was totally clueless as to what had transpired.  Thank GOD that the school acted accordingly in that they have zero tolerance for those actions whether it was play or not play.  These boys are now separated in the classroom.

Getting back to educating our teachers.  Yeah, does that sound like an oxi-moron?  It does to me.  These school districts do not want to pay for the continuing education and training for the teachers in their schools. Our principal is suggesting or urging our teachers to get training in autism.  It may not seem like it, but it’s a pretty BIG damn step!  At the very least, he is acknowledging the need, but sadly not ready to have the district pay for it.  Hopefully, they will have more of these workshops included when teachers have to go for their “inservices”.  It’s a day when the district’s kids have the day off, but teachers must go to these, I want to say, conventions and take workshops.

Plain and simple.  I do not want my kid bullied.  My rant of yesterday stems from that; but as a mother of one, I feel for all children, not just my own.  Forget about No Child Left Behind.  NO CHILD SHOULD EXPERIENCE THE PAIN OF BEING BULLIED, period.  My heart is bursting.

This is a Bully-Free Zone


Two recent things are prompting me to write this post on a subject that I’m pretty sure I’ve written about before (though I can’t find my post) and that is “bullying”, more specifically, my own. First, as I sat down to check out what was going on with my facebook friends, a familiar name jumped out at me. It was in my high school’s group page and it was the son of an old teacher of mine. It was pretty simple. He wanted her old students know that she was alive and kicking and that she was on facebook; and he invited us, her students, to come to her page and say “hi”. That one post might just have the most comments of the group and it’s only been a few days. Secondly, yesterday a read a post from Single Dad Laughing, “Memoirs of a Bullied Kid” and so many things he talked about happened to me. My story is a bit different, but all the main ingredients were there for me to resurrect my own writing. Oh yes, we try to close our eyes and get on with our lives, but it always comes back every so often to remind us from where we have come and it’s not pretty.

It “officially” started in first grade, but had its beginnings in kindergarten only because there were some kids who shared those grades with me. The torment lasted through to my eighth grade graduation. I went to the Catholic school of my own parish, so you’d think that would be a pretty safe environment. Oh how wrong you’d be. I was always a shy child and hardly ever spoke. I had a terrible stutter and it was literally painful to try to open it up to speak, let alone getting any words out, so I never spoke. Also, I could never speak up quickly enough with what I wanted to say and before I knew it, the conversation was way past, the topic forgotten and my thoughts left unsaid.

One day in June, it was my birthday. My mother bought me a wrist corsage to wear to school. I was bursting with happiness and couldn’t wait to get to school. I remember sitting at my desk and one of the girls wanted to know where the cupcakes were… and the kids around me were not happy about the missing birthday cupcakes. From then on, it was down hill. The verbal abuse was surrounding my weight. I’m sure my mom or grandmother would’ve made them but I’m not sure if they even knew that was the custom. From that day, I became the butt of every joke and prank and this was unending for eight years of the most delicate and impressionable years of my life. I got beat up, verbally taunted, pushed, laughed at, scribbled upon with pens. I got called all the fat names in the book, and it didn’t help that my name could be transformed into the decidedly non-compliment, “D-Bra.”  Yet, when I look back at photos from that time, I realize that I was NOT a fat kid. All those years I believed what I heard and thought I was fat and so, I did become fat, resigned to that imagined fact of fat.

I experienced almost everything Dan of Single Dad Laughing did. I had the vengeful, hateful fantasies about bad things happening to those kids and I had suicidal thoughts. I withdrew into my own little world of reading, drawing and music, in particular Barry Manilow. His music, and I’ve said it before, literally saved my life. I felt his songs reach my heart. Also, do not make fun of a good Catholic upbringing that says that if you kill yourself, you are condemned to hell. This was probably the only reason I didn’t actually kill myself. I laugh at the irony now because I’m not even sure that hell exists. It was a creation of man in medieval times with the intention of controlling the general and ignorant, uneducated public. My brain cannot even do a quote here, but believe me.

One time I went to the bathroom at school, forget what grade, and came back to a tack on my chair. I saw it and my decision to sit on it so that they would know it did didn’t hurt, was the worst thing I could have ever done. The outburst of laughter was so loud, yet the teacher said nothing let alone investigate what caused such a disturbance. That tack hurt me something terrible and I did manage to sit, and remain sitting fort he rest of the class, like it wasn’t there, which probably fueled the idea that I had so much fat that insulated me from feeling it…. ugh.

Okay I could go on and on with details and really don’t want to, but this particular one was a catalyst of sorts to put some of the hate and aside and let go of decades of hurtful baggage I carried. In my late thirties I met some of my classmates at a reunion I dragged myself to, and they acted like those childhood events never happened or maybe they were too ashamed? Nah. So, I thought to myself that I was walking around with all this hate, resentment and with the “victim attitude,” and the people who caused my misery were walking around, living their lives as happy as you please, with no acknowledgement, not a single thought of how they killed my life. What troubled me the most was that these people seemed like nice, good people… with a notable exception of one guy who is still has the meanest streak, though he says that he is a “good” guy now… um.. nope. I see how he treats other people and know the kind of guy he still is.

I think back to the priests, nuns and lay teachers who must have known what was going on… they KNEW, and did nothing. Oh, I know that they knew because at one point, my parents went to the school to complain and nothing was done. I was one of those kids who LOVED school and the learning, yet dreaded every single day of it. I had nobody. CATHOLIC school. I wonder if these religion=pushing people ever think of the disservice, the blatant contradiction of their faith. I was betrayed by the very people outside of my own family who were the most trusted. My family trusted them… but let’s not get into what my own family did or didn’t do to help me with this situation. At one point, they tried to teach me how to fight, but I was a very passive kid who shrunk in the face of a confrontation.  I remember a scene from the 1985 movie, “Back to the Future” when in 1955 the painfully shy, picked on George, with his arm trembling, makes a fist and delivers a whollop of a punch to Bif who was in the process of sexually molesting his future wife Lorraine.  I identify with that scene so much, but it was only a fantasy.  I Imagined myself hitting my bullies with all my anger, rage and frustrations packed into that single, well planted punch.

At least I know, eventually the school administration found out what was going on, if they didn’t know already, because I got in trouble for fighting and got detention. This was a predominantly Irish parish and we Italians were the outcasts, or so my mother described enough as such to justify herself not getting involved with the church or school. Oh, I also remember, and now have as a facebook friend, a girl from school who tried to teach me how to fight. I remembered her kindness through the years.  She didn’t seek to make friends with me then, but had enough compassion and sought to help me in the way she knew best.

But this brings me to the facebook revelation that one of my teachers, 91 or 92 now, is on facebook.  That brought back memories of a kind and compassionate teacher who, at that time, was a mother and maybe a grandmother, or soon to be one.   Mrs. Ann Strazza, my 5th grade math teacher.  I remember her telling me of her story of when she met her husband.  She did ask what was bothering me, but I told her of my fear of never having a boyfriend… HA… I could not tell her the truth, but it was part of the truth anyway.  I remember her advising my parents to give me chores at home, structure.  So, aside from making my bed, I now had to do household chores of washing/drying/putting away dishes, dusting, vacuuming, washing the bathroom… Whew, at least I shared these with my sister who, in the grade behind me, got caught up on the chore bandwagon.

All these memories coming back like a flood just serve to remind me of how hard I have buried them behind the back of my mind.  I don’t think of these things now, but I’m positive the effects haunt me in some way from time to time in just how I live my life.  Thankfully, during the summer of my graduation from that school and before high school I realized that I was going into a new school where nobody would know me.  I could be anyone and nobody there would know me from before.  That thought gave me the courage to look forward to a new era of my life.  That courage was so strong that I actually crossed a picket line to get into the school on the first day.  My mother begged me not to go, as other parents in our neighborhood stopped their kids from going; but I was resolute… I. WAS. GOING.  and I did.  Slightly discouraging, though, things did not change much for me socially.  I was still painfully shy and felt it hard to talk to anyone.  I was still the same plain jane, wore no makeup or fancy clothes.  HA.  The one time I wore a dress, my Spanish teacher awkwardly tried to render me a compliment and told me that I had “nice ankles”… WTF ?  Yeah.  I was still overweight and maybe she was trying to compliment me but could not other than noticing I had slim ankles.  Maybe she was surprised by that.  The major thing, though, was that I was not afraid to go to school.  I looked forward to it every day and when I was “periodic”… (love that word and swiped it from lovable Wendy Williams) I did not stay home like my sister and so many other girls.  It was horrible, but for me, I valued learning more than the pain and discomfort of the monthly.

Gotta give a shout out to Wendy Williams…. I love your show! I never thought I’d watch you for more than the first time because I consider myself serious and a lover of the cerebral (well, which means that I’m not drawn to girly talk) but you have grown on me something fierce. I love your personality. I love how you just speak your mind and never in a nasty way. You are really the only tv personality today who is vivacious and projects a love for life and fun that refreshes me whenever I watch the show.

The end.

Autism: The Life 2012


Last night my head was swirling around with ideas, but as always when it gets time to write them down, I’m a blank.  So, I’ll do what I always do, write.  Write down the strands of thought that surround my head like a maiden’s soft, light hair that moves with the breeze in a surreal kind of way.  Yes, I’m awake and hope you have the inclination to stay with me.

When we first leaned that our boy was autistic, I was devastated.  For him and for us.  We were new parents, well not “new” exactly, but he is our first and only one, which will probably remain that way since we are in our early and mid fifties.  We didn’t think we’d have him (if you’d like to read those details, you can look here) in the first place, so after seven years, I’m not so sure that God has another one in His plan for us.  In a way, I’m relieved as it would be a hardship, both financially and probably physically; but I do wish that our Gabe could have a brother or sister.   Not too long ago, he’d ask for one, almost constantly; and even now, he looks at my belly and asks if I’m pregnant…. oh boy.  Which reminds me of a most embarrassing couple of moments over this weekend at a hotel we were staying at for a wedding.  We walked by the hotel’s lounge and there was a man there with a huge gut.  Quite out of the blue, Gabe said, rather loudly, “Hey MOM, that guy’s PREGNANT!”  Well, I tried to ignore what he said which was a pretty bad mistake as he kept repeating himself all the louder because he didn’t think I heard him the first time, “MOOOM….”  It was all I could do to muzzle him and get him out the front door.   I tried to explain to him that saying things like that were inappropriate and tried to explain the concept of being insulted… think I failed with that, too.  This has not been the first time he’s brought the concept of men being pregnant as he has frequently expressed his belief that HE was pregnant just because he ate more than usual, gaining a pretty big belly.   He’d lift up his shirt, pointed to his belly and say, “MOM, I’m almost pregnant~!”  Now, THAT was funny.  Still, I had a hard time explaining that men and boys do not get pregnant, only women.  He’s not asked me what exactly that is “yet”, and I’m grateful.  After I thought I did a decent job explaining that men do not get pregnant, I was validated because the next day, we saw that man again and Gabe said (all too loudly), “MOM, there’s that man with the BIG belly~!”  Um… Yep.

Still, the incident, not surprisingly, had me pretty upset even though I tried not to impress that upon him, I’m sure that I did.  I’m maybe too obsessed about weight, or looks being singled out for laughs.  I’m quite positive that wasn’t the intent, but I’m still pretty sensitive to that and don’t want Gabe growing up, insulting people no matter what the intent.  He needs to learn this very differently than most kids do.  Even though we know that autistic children can learn social manners, it’s not so simple.  They do not pick up on social cues like the rest of us can, instinctually.  They need to be presented with the concept and they learn it much like an academic lesson in school and they need to practice it over and over.  They may never empathize, but they can learn to understand intellectually how important it is to learn and practice; but they may never truly “feel” that importance.  I’m not even sure that Gabe will ever learn to walk in anothers shoes, which has always been important to me, in my learning.  I always felt the need to REALLY understand things and, indeed, I’ve rarely followed through with  anything unless I truly understood to my own satisfaction the importance of whatever it was.

WHAT ARE SOCIAL SKILLS?

Social Skills are a set of behaviors that allow a child to get along better with other people.  A child with adequate social skills can adjust well to changes in his environment and can avoid verbal and physical confrontations with other people. A child who has poorly developed social skills, however, may have poor self-esteem, may display conduct problems (fighting, arguing, defying adults), and may have difficulty developing peer relationships.

WHAT IS A SOCIAL SKILLS GROUP?

Social skills groups focus on teaching children a variety of social skills to help improve their ability to make and keep friends, develop more self-confidence, and behave more appropriately.  Role-plays and group interaction will give the children opportunities to practice these skills during the group session.  The therapist will utilize behavioral reinforcement to promote rule compliance, participation, and use of appropriate social skills, while also encouraging and reinforcing the children to practice these skills outside of the session.  Objective information regarding the children’s behavior will be gathered before and after the group to measure the children’s progress and parents will be provided with written feedback at the conclusion of each group.

We are truly blessed to have gotten Gabe into a social skills group.  Please see the above for a good description.  This is where they learn behaviors which are so-called socially accepted behaviors.  The problem is that though they may try to interact with their peers, they never learned how to do that, as other children have learned and that is by picking up on the silent social cues and body language.  They don’t intuit what is the appropriate, recognizable response or non-response to what the other child/peer displays.  Also, Gabe’s group is a group of peers.  They see it as play and I’m sure Gabe thinks it’s a play date.

Gabe is seven years old now and maybe that’s too young to learn about how/why a person can be insulted.  I ended up repeating myself about the man maybe getting insulted, but then I realized that he probably has no what that would mean.  I am dedicated to keeping open communications with him.  He knows that whatever his question is, I will listen and I am frequently urging him to share his thoughts.  He knows that I will urge him to just tell me his thoughts.  Most times I’ve got to admit that I don’t really understand what comes out of his head, but I’ve learned to ask questions so that he’d have to elaborate on what he’s thinking.  I’ve also had to learn when to just let it be when that doesn’t seem possible.  Sometimes I grieve for the lack of communication and understanding.  Lots of times I feel a total disconnect.  I grieve because I’ve always dreamed of being a mom much different from my own mom.  She was totally unapproachable and I never opened up to her or she to me.  My dream was to have a totally different relationship with my children.  Open communication all the way.  If you can’t do that, what the heck kind of relationship IS that, anyway?  I am learning that Gabe conveys more to me than words ever could.  He is my teacher and has been from the first moment he took his first breath.  That is a post within itself.  So, Gabe is teaching me that not all relationships are the same.  Huh?  Didn’t I know that already?  Apparently not.

One last paragraph.  There are so many facets to Autism.  Just like the disorder, itself, there are so many areas of specialty, so many areas that really need to be improved, that really need the attention of the professionals and people just like you.  It’s totally overwhelming, so I take it in little bites.  The area I find myself focusing on lately is how badly our teachers NEED to be educated about autism.  Yet, our schools will fight to the death to stay in denial.  They refuse to acknowledge that intervention services are needed for the autistic child to get an “appropriate” education.  Forgive me, but mention the word “quality” and “education” together and you can kiss any intervention service good bye.   Does that make sense?  I have to ask because I’m not college educated, you know.  Total idiocy!  No matter how much compassion a teacher has, if he/she is not trained to recognize and deal with any problems that arise, not given the strategies they need to handle the tough situations, they will just end up feeling frustrated and might even label a child with a negative label, even… YES… even the label of BULLY.  This of course, would most likely stem from ignorance, but does anyone want this to happen?  I know I don’t.  My own son could be labeled as a bully because he tried, in his own “socially unacceptable” way, to make friends with another boy or just trying to get someone’s attention, again in his own way.  Maybe that need for attention was misinterpreted as bullying…. and I do see how that can happen.  I can see my son being confused and feeling rejected and may be even push the other kid in an attempt to gain their attention and maybe friendship.  Nobody and I mean nobody would see it that way in the mainstream world.   I’ve been through a rough patch lately with a mainstream mother verbalizing in front of me that she would not want her typical kid in the same class as my little guy.  That hurt a LOT.  It was only after a lot of hurt that I realized that she was probably severely uneducated, maybe misguided  even as she strives on a daily basis to project her highly educated personality.  The sad fact is that EVERYONE is in dire need to be educated, teachers, typical children, typical moms and dads.  So, maybe my focus should be on wholesale education for everyone… you can’t be overly educated, can you?

Coffee Talk- Adding More Stuff to Java


     

I have been marveling at the traffic my posts about putting spices in coffee has been getting.  You people are amazing!

My coffee creativity has been a little stale lately, but today I realized that something I’ve been doing all along is really a good idea for hot/cold coffee drinks.  Think about it .  Think about the ingredients that go into your favorite Starbuck’s drink, or the coffee options available down at the 7-Eleven or Quick check.  Identify your most favorite ingredients, then just add them to your own coffee, preferably made strong so the coffee taste does not disappear under the flavored stuff.  There really is something extra attractive about walking into a convenience store and adding stuff to my coffee, on my own, as little or as much of whatever I choose.  That was the best idea ever for these stores.  I love and really miss WaWa’s.  I live in 7-eleven / Quik Check country.

Yesterday the hubster brought home Snicker’s ice cream.  Do you see where this is going?  Chocolate, caramel, a little crunchiness.  Well, today I had a bit of  left over cold coffee in my cup and didn’t feel like brewing more, so I whipped out that ice cream, added a bit of instant coffee and boiling water to my cup and popped it into the microwave for 44 seconds or so.  Ding!  Topped that off with some Snicker’s ice cream, instead of milk, and voila a special drink made at home, minimum inconvenience and it only took 44 seconds (or so).  An added plus is that the cream melts and creates a frothy topping onto which you can sprinkle nutmeg or cinnamon.  Yummy!  Okay, so just let your eyes wander over all the different flavors and brands of ice cream at the grocer’s.  Go farther and consider that some make homemade ice cream.  Do that on your own time, won’t you?  Then write back here and let me know what you come up with… I’d really love to try out your experiments!

At Little Rant:


Okay, so I had to take this excerpt out a post I’m working about gratitude.  My thoughts turned into a rant touching upon the employment situation that is going on right now in the United States, and totally off my top. So, instead of deleting my thoughts, which I’m incapable of doing, I post here for your reading pleasure and/or amusement:

When I was working I missed out on everything the day had to offer, from the luxury of sleeping later than 5:00am to just going for a leisurely walk and taking in the cool crisp air that marks the joys of autumn.  I hate the rushing around getting to and from a place of business, at which my time is not my own.  I value my time and if I am going to give it away, it needs to be to something I enjoy and believe in.  This is a tall order in the current landscape we call “Land of the Free”, “Land of Opportunity”, “Land of Milk and Honey”.  For the average person these phrases either do not apply or remain unobtainable and unrealistic.  I hardly can imagine the days gone by when people really just walked off the ship from Europe and wrote the classic rags to riches story.  Really.  Wow.  Yes, there are exceptions out there, but most of us are not the exception.  For one, I was born here and I think that’s more of a disadvantage than an advantage.  I have an old fashioned work ethic.  My father drilled it into me that once I worked for a company, I should be loyal, on time, and give 150% of myself to that company.  I’ve done this and still believe in this ideal, but it seems that times have changed.  It used to be that this was a two way street and that giving this much of yourself was justified because companies appreciated loyalty and good performance in their employees.  You felt safe because if you did this, you knew that your job was safe; unless of course, if you couldn’t perform your duties sufficiently.  Now, this is not so.  The more valuable you are, the more experience you have, the more expensive you are to keep and maintain. Experience, efficiency and loyalty have turned into liabilities. My brain hurts by just thinking about the truth of that. It used to be that if you were a long time employee somewhere, it said a lot about you and it was all good. Companies were impressed by that.  Doesn’t seem so any longer because companies are getting rid of their long-time, loyal employees in order to hire new blood at a cheaper rate.  That’s not even bringing up the out sourcing of our jobs to other countries.  This kills me and tells me something very sinister about where this country is going.

That is all.

Cruising Uphill


I’m writing from my heart today and when I do that, I’m not always rational or logical. I speak from a place of great emotion, and emotions almost never make any sense. I will most likely be judged as being out of line by posting but it is what it is and I write to sort of work through this myself.

Less than a year ago I had a passing conversation with a friend and her position and words are still with me today. If I remember correctly, I had initiated the topic, and at the time, accepted her opinion as just that, her opinion and she is definitely entitled to that. But her words rubbed my personal hide so much the wrong way then, but I brushed it aside because I had asked for her opinion.

My son had recently been diagnosed with autism and I was taking every opportunity to get input from anyone I could, whenever I could. We were driving together one day and the subject of education came up. My husband and I had just attended our first IEP meeting after the diagnosis and the team suggested something called a “50-50 Program”, which allows the child to stay in an inclusive classroom along side the general educated kids. This is preferable, if possible, because the children actually, for a lack of better words, they learn better. They need to have that socialization with the mainstream kids. Social behavior has a major effect on learning. More of that at another time because I feel a tangent building and we got to nip that in the bud….

So, we were pretty happy with the solution, but made a mental note to assess whether Gabe was actually benefitting from it. This program is structured to have a classroom, consisting of no more than 10 special needs kids and 10 general ed kids, with 1 special ed teacher and 1 general ed teacher.  Among other things, I was wondering, however, who those general ed kids were going to be, how they would be selected and finally, if their parents needed to approve the set up. Which leads us up the to that friendly conversation with my friend. I was telling her about this whole set up and we both wondered the same things. I don’t remember if I asked her or if she just said, which I realize doesn’t matter; but she said point blank that she wouldn’t want her kids in the same classroom as a special needs kid. At the time, I felt the sting of that comment because she knows us and knows Gabe.  I took it personally, though I told myself that I could not because it was just a discussion we were having and she was being honest.

Her position for not wanting her kids to share the same classroom with a special needs child is that she was concerned that time would be taken away from her own kids’ education if the teachers had to take time away from teaching the whole class to deal with a potential meltdown or whatever disturbance that would originate from the special needs kids. At the time, I agreed with her; and I do find myself concerned about that, as well. People tell me that I must only be concerned about my own kids’ education, and I am; but I am also concerned with the rest of the class and the teachers and the effort that it will be required to keep the classroom running smoothly.

In this year’s time, I have learned so much. I’ve learned that it’s absolutely necessary, if at all possible, to keep all the kids integrated in the classroom. Let me take a moment to explain that I’m talking about the higher functioning children who do have communication skills. What makes arranging appropriate education, socialization, extracurricular activities, etc., is that the children should be grouped together with those of equal levels of abilities.  I sometimes think that it’s no wonder schools fail at socializing the kids.  Well, not fail, but they seem disinterested and practically ignore the argument.

I’ve seen so much, first hand, too. The fear that ignorance can spawn can be avoided. I’ve just decided to begin advocating for a Social Behavior group conducted at the school. That is going to be a tall order, I think, despite the fact that there are enough kids there to get it done.  Autistic kids can learn social skills from the regular kids. I’ve seen Gabe reach out to his classmates just to be pushed away and snickered at because they do not understand that he is different and that he is just trying to make a friend.  I saw this specifically on a class trip last year that I had helped to chaperon. I had Gabe and two other boys. One, I recognized as Gabe’s “best friend”, I’ll call him Charlie, and another boy Gabe had spoken about, and I’ll call him Brian.  It turned out that Gabe’s “best friend” was not really his friend.  Charlie beamed up and informed me that Brian was his “best friend”.   This stung a little, though I do realize that kids this young are still learning how to form relationships.  I had to keep myself objective and I do believe I did a pretty good job of it.  However, going through the day, watching the two new best friends sticking together, with Gabe on the outside of this privileged little circle broke my heart as a mother.  Even more when Brian pushed Gabe away multiple times when he tried to take his hand, as we were all required to hold hands.  On the bus, Gabe tried to get their attention by making sing-song sounds that grew quite annoying to them and they kept staring at me, like “he’s weird”.  Hence a vicious cycle (mom’s heart talking) perpetuated itself. I recognize that Gabe’s behavior was odd and seemed very strange to these other two boys. That’s not their fault.  

ALL the kids need to learn, understand and hopefully accept the autistic child. Are kids this age even old enough to comprehend?  I’m thinking they can be instructed in an age appropriate way.  What a tall order and I have not the slightest idea on how to accomplish this, especially with the school’s policy of keeping privacy intact and not wanting to draw attention, potentially negative attention onto the autistic child.  I get that, I really do; but then how to get past this issue and create a learning opportunity? What I do know is that all through history how we’ve ever managed to affect social change was done through the young, the next generation.

Sigh.  So, here I am thinking back to my struggle at the beginning of this post.  I don’t hold any ill will.  Indeed, do you think it arrogant of me to even say that. Well, these are my thoughts and I need to bring it all around to complete the circle.  To bring all this to a close and there it is.

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