And This Moment, Too, Will Pass

Teghan Running

In July 2012 I decided to start a blog. I knew nothing about how to do that, but I wanted to share our experiences with our daughter and autism. She was four years old at the time, and things weren’t easy. I hoped to not only find a supporting community, but to communicate a piece of our lives to our friends who we had recently moved away from.

On that first night, when I had finally gathered enough courage to publish what had been on my mind, I had no intention of sharing it. Not yet. I created a Facebook page and shared it with no one. I figured that courage would come later. It was enough that I was willing to have some stranger accidentally stumble across it.

But when I woke up the next morning I had over 200 likes on my Facebook page. Somehow, Autism Daddy had come across my blog and shared it overnight. My post “This Moment Will Pass” already had thousands of views. And it gave me the courage to share my page with friends and family. Continue reading

Cows, Unlikely Kings, and Other Lessons in Bullying

School

Bullies are plentiful in the sixth grade. At the age of twelve, most girls learn to exist among cruel whispers and pointing that may or may not be about them. Paranoia is at its peak, but there’s at least some comfort in humiliation that is shared among the majority.

There was one girl in particular who ruled as queen bully between the sixth and eighth grade for me; a tiny thing who wasn’t the prettiest or most popular girl. Just the meanest. She seemed to exist in constant disgust of those around her, with our inappropriate eye makeup and misguided fashion sense. Really, anything from 1988 could be interpreted as misguided. But she didn’t know that yet.

She had no idea how much we all hated her. Or maybe she did. She was a universal villain, and somehow that made her tolerable. She was the kind of classic bully we see in movies; a shared experience we can bond over. But sometimes there is bullying that singles out just one person. Have you ever been the one person? Continue reading

In the Beginning….We Had Everything

....and my parents paid the photographer.

….and my parents paid the photographer.

I don’t remember being all that worried when my car broke down for good along I-94 in the spring of 1996. We were coming back from our appointment with the wedding photographer. A nice couple had picked us up and took us to the Helmer Road exit in Battle Creek, where I called my dad for a ride.

It was a 1979 Plymouth Horizon, previously owned by my Great-Grandma Hill. From the time I was born I had gone to her house every Sunday, and sometime around the age of sixteen I had stayed with her while she recovered from surgery. During this week she must have decided I needed a vehicle, and so it was that the little red hatchback came into my possession.

We had our battles. That car taught me early on how to be nervous at every little engine sound, and how to stop at lights and stop signs without completely stopping (if I ever wanted her to go again); but that final year she gave me a lot of miles. I think it was the wedding we attended in Kansas the previous month that finally took her life.

One last road trip.

It was a half hour drive to my job as a Meijer’s shoe clerk, so the loss of my vehicle meant I would have to quit. I was a month away from my 20th birthday, and two months away from my own wedding day. I should have been panicked, but my young mind thought the time off would be convenient. Who needs money? Obviously we had no money for a car. I was engaged to a man with epilepsy who didn’t even know how to drive. This, combined with the fact that my car had broken down so much I was used to being without a vehicle made us believe we didn’t need to have transportation, either. Continue reading

So, Is Your Autism Community Bringing You Down?

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I like almost every autism parent I have encountered online. My personal statistics on this are overwhelmingly positive. I’ve been lucky. And, of course, my page is small. But I can accept that in life people can and will make fools of themselves. It does not define us as a community, it’s just how human nature works. Some people are simply meaner than others. Some are more (or less) emotionally charged. Some are at an intellectual advantage. Or disadvantage. Welcome to the wonderful world of human interaction.

I am certainly no saint. I repeatedly have to stop myself from saying things I might regret. I write ten times more blog entries than I am willing to post, but have let a few slip through the cracks. Maybe this is one of them. There are times when I have been meaner than necessary in a debate. And I pray no one is still whispering about anything I said or did during the summer of 2005- when I proved that the combination of alcohol and fertility drugs make me way more outgoing than I ever intend to be. Consider this my official overdue apology to anyone who just said to themselves, “I remember that summer.”

We all have a long list of things we wish we could take back. But I hope no amount of anger or insult would make me react in a way that compromised my integrity in this community. Some people have a very different definition of integrity, or have no idea how to maintain it when they are angry. Many people are quite mistaken about what a clever comeback is or how ineffective pointless insults are in proving one’s point. We all possess varying degrees of wit and emotional self-control. I guess it’s because we are all human. Unless you are part of the lizard people conspiracy (and I secretly hope you are).

There is temptation to delight in the mistakes of those who we don’t like, and even more temptation to pick sides when a line has been drawn in the sand between a friend and someone we deem undesirable. But if you choose to publicly attack one another with immature insults and mean-spirited conversations, we can all see you doing that. Continue reading

This Is My Life Today

Beach

You know how some mornings are.

You wake up and within minutes are alerted to the obvious fact that today is going to be one of THOSE days. Maybe you’ve stumbled out of bed to an unexpected “accident” painted across your child’s wall. Maybe you were woken up way too early- or never had the luxury of sleeping at all. Perhaps you have been rethinking the decision to not give your child medication as she runs full speed loops through the house (and jumps up and down on the bed you aren’t prepared to leave yet). She has been screaming “bye bye car” for thirty minutes straight. And she has no actual desire to go anywhere in the car. It’s just a thing she says. A lot.

You aren’t ready for what lies ahead….but it’s not because of you, your child, or autism. In fact, you feel just fine this morning. You woke up ready for whatever life had to throw at you today. Except, you weren’t ready for the look on your partner’s face. The tone of his voice. The realization that he has woken up in that familiar place that all of us parents find ourselves in now and again. And you know exactly what it means, because you might have been there yourself just yesterday.

Some days we let it get to us. We overthink the future. We even tell ourselves lies that make us feel worse, just because we need a justification for our mood. We think, “This is my life now.” Some of us will be compelled to add the word “forever” to that thought. It might not be accurate, but we aren’t exactly in a place that accepts rational thoughts; let alone hopeful ones. It’s not about right or wrong. It’s about human nature and mood. Hopefully as a partnership we take turns visiting this place so that the other one can continually offer reality checks until we snap out of it. And we will.  Continue reading

What Would That Be Like?

Please

Please….?

I used to daydream with Dave about how great it would be if Teghan jumped into our bed once in a while. What would it be like if one morning Teghan got out of bed, and instead of just running back and forth in the hallway, actually came into our room to see us? Or what if one night she wanted to sleep in our bed like other small children; or maybe just sit next to us for more than ten seconds? What would that be like?

When she hurt herself, she didn’t want our comfort. She would scream and hit, and get angry over the pain- and there was nothing we could offer her. She just pushed us away.

She didn’t seem to notice when I came and went for work. Sometimes she wouldn’t even look at me. The cats at least looked up at me for a moment before resuming their naps, but Teghan would just continue with what she was doing.

She didn’t like to give hugs or kisses at all. She would oblige if requested, but often with tears. She hated it. For years there would be no snuggling at all. Years. We were simply tools to get what she wanted.

It doesn’t matter how much you know about autism, those little things will affect you. You believe in your heart that she feels what you want her to feel but just can’t express it. We knew that was true, but we still struggled to wrap our social brains around the concept. And how do you show affection to a child so unmoved by demonstrations of affection? Did any of it matter to her? It seemed to only annoy her. Continue reading

Ghost Hunting 101

Theater

You can learn a lot by attending a slumber party with fifty strangers. Especially if that slumber party takes place in an abandoned theater, and those strangers are professional ghost hunters.

To clarify, we have never been professionals. This was over a decade ago, when we were still looking for a Halloween event that could top bags of free chocolate and youth. It doesn’t exist. Armed with sleeping bags, cameras, digital recorders, flashlights, and a couple of friends–we embarked on a journey that was entertaining for all the wrong reasons.

At first we were afraid. We had read stories about the theater, and came equipped with the knowledge of its tragedies and hauntings. There was definitely comfort in numbers. The place was as dark and creepy as promised. There was no way any of us were going anywhere alone, even if there had been electricity. It was thrilling as we aimed our cameras at random shadows and took turns making each other stand in “cold spots.” We were jealous of all the other people who had brought high-tech equipment that could actually give a reading of those temperature changes. We found ourselves coveting their EMF meters and fancy ghost-detecting kits.

Around the second hour in, I found myself alone in a basement bathroom. All alone, in a dark stall with my flashlight. Why didn’t I just use the lobby restrooms? Because by hour number two I was desperate for some ghost action, even if it was imaginary. I no longer had any fear of the building, and I felt as if every horror movie I had ever seen was a lie. I was looking for the scariest room in the place. Here I was, a girl alone in a haunted basement bathroom, separated from the group, in complete darkness, in a room with mirrors. How could it not go wrong?

Nothing.

Disappointed, I found my friends and we wandered up to the mezzanine. There we happened upon a group of professionals from Pennsylvania interviewing an actual ghost. It wasn’t clear at first, mostly because of the complete darkness and the ghost’s invisibility. We figured it out when one of them yelled at us for blocking their shot. They had a light showing up when they looked through their camera, and, assuming it was a spirit–the team got right down to the typical interview questions. So we took our seats and enjoyed the show.  Continue reading

No Soup!

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When I was Teghan’s age I was pretty obnoxious. I have the home movies to prove it. I used to make up songs while riding in the car. Actually…. I had just the one. It was called, “Going Down the Road, Yes We Are.” Every line had the same annoying melody, and I made up the words on the spot as I loudly sang a list of things we were passing- followed by “yes we are.”

“Seeing trees and houses, yes we are!” You get the idea.

I did a lot of things I no longer understand. For example, I spent a good percentage of my youngest years wearing a tutu. I liked to pretend I knew ballet, which I didn’t.  My friend Billy and I once spent an afternoon seeing how high we could count (it was pretty high). And I was constantly trying to prove I could hold my breath longer than anyone else.

I didn’t always make the best choices. I ate butter straight from the container. And sugar. I thought that if I used a stone to write on the side of our van that it would erase just like a chalkboard. I was wrong about that. I believed that with enough practice I could fly; there were summer days when I spent hours jumping off the porch.

Hours.

On the playground I used to do daily impressions of Jimmy Swaggart, the TV evangelist. I was also part of a group called The Scream Team, in which a large number of girls went around the playground screaming as a group for no particular reason. There was a bit of competition between me and a girl named Kendal, because we screamed the loudest.  Continue reading

Preparing for Battle in Everyday Situations

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Over the years, we have experienced a few landlords. Since our experience is in house rentals rather than apartment communities, I am not talking about your standard property management office personnel. No, we have dealt exclusively with individual homeowners. Lucky for us, we have known wonderful people, and our experiences have been (mostly) pleasant with a bit of strange occasionally thrown into the mix.

There was Paul, who always came over in nothing but short shorts and flip-flops and called our cat “pussy” so often it made us feel uncomfortable.

There was Matt, who sang in a popular local Irish band. He was actually our friend and neighbor. We rented from him when he wanted to move in with his girlfriend- and then he gave us thirty days to move out after they broke up.

There was sweet Rebeckah, the hoarder. We shared a duplex with her. We never would have known her secret if there hadn’t been that gas leak while she was out of town. Upon entering her kitchen, the men from the gas company were unable to locate her oven for several minutes. Think about that.

And then there was Ken; the young, responsible kid who bought a house to live in while going to college and now rents it out. He isn’t the best handyman, but he is so proud of the work he does himself you just can’t complain.

But the most memorable landlord for us was the Khatar family.

They seemed so nice. Joe and his wife were Lebanese. They had raised their four daughters in that home, and were extremely protective of it. They did not speak good English, so most of our conversations were with their daughter, Laurie. On my first visit, Mrs. Khatar held my hand while dragging me through the house to all the things she wanted me to know about. She showed me where each of her girls slept, where she had marked their heights on the wall, and how lovely her garden was.  Continue reading

Destinations

Ludington, 1982

Ludington, 1982

When I was a kid we used to camp every summer at a park in Ludington on Lake Michigan. The campsites were pretty packed together, but the beach was long and you could find plenty of isolated areas. There were also lots of trails for hiking and biking, and I liked taking my bike for long rides during the day.

One journey was particularly memorable. After exhausting all the wooded trails throughout the park, I decided to venture onto the road just outside the park. I had a little change, and figured I would find a convenience store or something.

I was maybe ten or eleven, and I had plenty of experience riding my bike along main roads. We lived in a rural area, and any destination was a pretty tiring bike ride. I often rode to a party store a few miles away, or Fort Custer had a beach that was within a (somewhat) reasonable ride. These rides pushed me to my young bike riding limits, but were totally worth it just to be at a destination. Those of you who grew up in the country know-

Any destination.  Continue reading