Category Archives: Asperger Syndrome

State of the Heart

Pittsburghers are known for being incredibly friendly people.  It’s one of my favorite things about living in this area.

The downside of that is people here are chatty.  Really chatty.  And nebby as hell too. (That’s a colloquial term meaning that they love to find out all about your personal business.)

This phenomenon happens everywhere — not just the ‘Burgh — but it’s particularly acute in doctor’s offices. Nobody needs blathering bubble-headed bleached blondes (h/t Don Henley) on morning television in waiting rooms here because there’s no shortage of people waiting to entertain you with the minutiae of their medical history.  It’s why I always, always, always bring a book to every appointment I go to.

(That and because I cannot STAND handling magazines in public places. I’m no paranoid germaphobe, but oh my God, the idea of touching a magazine that sick people have had their paws on gives me the heebie-jeebies.)

So, yeah, I’m that person reading their book, making as little eye contact and conversation as possible. I’m an outlier among Yinzers. The Husband will disagree, but I am not a chatty or nebby person. I’ll smile and engage in pleasantries to be nice and because I know idle chit-chat is a stress-reliever for some and a way to combat the boredom of what sometimes is a long wait. And for the elderly, I understand these connections are sometimes a valued piece of social interaction.

Mind you, it’s not just the patients. Medical professionals, too, tend to be incredibly chatty. Again, I get it — customer service is what they do and you want them to be friendly and interested in you as a person and all that good stuff. Nothing wrong with this.

Except, well … I’m convinced I have some magnetic pull that attracts People Who Say Stupid Shit.

Case in point: I spent part of this morning in the cardiology lab at our local hospital for a scheduled stress test, my consolation prize for having a trifecta of high cholesterol, high triglycerides, and intermittent chest pains.

While I dreadmilled for 10 minutes, going faster and faster, one of the cardiac technicians would not shut the hell up. Maybe keeping me talking was intentional to exhaust every last bit of bit I had, but that didn’t stop her from going on about a new ice cream shop in Lawrenceville, a good 40 minutes away.

I KID YOU NOT.

I mean, I’m wearing more wires than an actor in The Sopranos, hooked up to machines, and we’re talking about flavors of fucking ICE CREAM, which is one of the main reasons I’m even in the damn cardiac lab at 8 a.m. (#JobSecurityForCardiologists, I hashtagged on Facebook.)

As my heart rate was “recovering,” she started telling me about her experience at a fairly well-known Pittsburgh attraction and its proprietor.

“He’s a bit of an oddity himself. A little Asperger-y, I think.  Very scripted. You might want to keep your kids away from him.”

Um.

Say what now?

DID SHE JUST SUGGEST I KEEP MY KIDS AWAY FROM SOMEONE WHO MAY HAVE ASPERGERS?

I may have glanced at my blood pressure on the heart monitor machine thing, since I was convinced I’d be watching my vital signs explode off the literal chart if I responded to this absurdity.

Now, although I had offered that my kids were teenage twins, this conversation hadn’t yet progressed to my saying that my son has Asperger’s — which isn’t really anybody’s nebby damn business. Instead, not wanting to screw up the results of the stress test, I muttered something like “hmmm.” Later on, I realized I should have shot back with, “Oh, you mean I should keep MY SON WHO HAS ASPERGERS away from this individual?  Is that what you mean?”

While thinking about this today, I realize that this is a big reason why I dislike and take pains to avoid superficial conversations among strangers. People say Stupid Shit and I am getting too old to deal with Stupid Shit.  And as well-meaning and unintentional as people may be, Stupid Shit often results in too many sharp jabs.

It was jarring to hear — in 2016, for godsakes — a medical professional expressing the notion that people with disabilities should be avoided. Shunned.  This kind of thinking only perpetuates ancient stereotypes, misconceptions, and myths. I am embarrassed and ashamed that I did nothing to thwart that.

I left the cardiac lab with a benediction from the cardiologist that I “performed better than average within my age group” on the stress test. My heart, it seems, is likely to keep on ticking, its dings and dents notwithstanding.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #94 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging Project. 

at the moment between inclusion and erasure

Japan massacre

You know that feeling you get when you realize you’re among like-minded souls who really, really get it, who understand what should be so evident and obvious to everyone else?

It’s an amazing feeling, isn’t it?  Understanding and acceptance wrapped up in group hugs and warm fuzzies.

It almost doesn’t matter what the it happens to be — and no, for once I’m not talking politics.   (Well, not really.)

On Wednesday, I spent some time at a national conference being held here in Pittsburgh with people who are passionate about making cultural organizations more accessible to people with disabilities. At this conference, guide dogs, wheelchairs, and assistive technology were the norm as attendees navigated the hotel’s conference rooms.

I was at the conference for work-related reasons, but it didn’t really feel like work. As a parent of a teenager with autism, I couldn’t help but remember The Boy’s early years — the black hole years, as I refer to them. The days when I couldn’t even take my toddler twins to storytime at the library because while The Girl would sit quietly, rapt and enthralled, The Boy would be a constant blur of motion, running for the door, making distracting noises.  The idea of going to a museum or a movie or a musical was absurd; hell, we could barely go to a park five minutes away without half a day’s preparations — and usually the exhaustion of chasing, chasing, chasing after The Boy or dealing with the stares or the inevitable meltdown became too much.

I realize now how much we truly missed out on, and it makes me angry and sad. Opportunities and experiences that are childhood mainstays were forever lost to us because there weren’t accommodations to make such outings easier or meaningful ones for our family — and especially, our boy.

Things have changed a lot in the 12 years since those dark days — in our family and, as I realized yesterday, at cultural organizations across the United States. (And I mean from all states; one session seemed like a roll call of delegates with people representing states from Montana to Massachusetts and everywhere in between.)  There’s exciting programming happening — and Pittsburgh is certainly taking its place among them with a growing number of sensory-friendly performances and accommodations at the ballet and symphony and festivals.

This post could end right here if I didn’t happen to check my phone during a break between conference sessions.

While daring to feel that things were improving, to hope for a day in my lifetime or my children’s lifetimes when people with disabilities are fully included and (dare I dream?) accepted in our society and (dare I wish?) not shot when others misunderstand the reasons behind their behaviors — my full heart suddenly felt punctured, like a water balloon.

There, on the conference floor amidst the guide dogs and the wheelchairs and the advocates and the people championing the needs of people like my kid, there I stood reading my friend Elizabeth Aquino’s post “Erasure” which was prompted by  Emily Willingham’s Forbes article “This Is What Disability Erasure Looks Like.”

I read both posts, which are vehement responses to the July 26 massacre in Japan that killed 19 people and left an additional 26 injured at a residential care facility for people with disabilities. A deliberate slaughter, this attack was, and one that was forewarned in a letter by the perpetrator in chilling detail.

“I envision a world where a person with multiple disabilities can be euthanized, with an agreement from the guardians, when it is difficult for the person to carry out household and social activities,” the letter said.

[His] letter said he could “wipe out a total of 470 disabled individuals” by targeting two facilities for disabled people during the night shift, “when staffing is low”.

“The act will be carried out speedily, and definitely without harming the staff. After wiping out the 260 people in two facilities, I will turn myself in.”

As Emily’s article for Forbes states, this heinous act came on July 26, exactly 26 years to the day that the Americans With Disabilities Act was signed in 1990.

Which was the focus of the conference I was at, where we were talking about accessibility and inclusion.

I felt, at that very moment, stuck between two opposite forces: One that embraces and welcomes people with disabilities, including them in programs that were once inaccessible, and the other hell bent on erasing people with disabilities from the face of the earth.  

The danger is becoming complacent about stories like the massacre in Japan, of turning away or not reading because “it’s too much.”  Make no mistake: this massacre may have happened in Japan but there’s every reason to believe that this could have — and certainly has the potential — to happen here in the United States.  As Emily wrote, one only needs to look at the incidents that have already occurred.

  • An autistic man sitting on the ground, playing with a toy truck, and being the real target of the bullets that found their way to the black man trying to protect him.
  • Presidential nominees who mock disabled people and the people who defend the mockery.
  • A society that thinks any behavior that’s not “normal“ deserves to be publicly jeered.
  • Widespread abuse of and violence against disabled people, around the world.

We cannot and must not be complacent about this.  We owe it to all people with disabilities — the ones who came before and the ones who will come afterwards — to include them, to celebrate them, to elevate their stories and their lives against the evil that would silence their lives.

It is the very least we can do in remembrance of 19 people erased from this world.

Please consider taking a few moments to read in its entirety Emily Willingham’s 7/27/2016 article in Forbes (“This Is What Disability Erasure Looks Like”) and Elizabeth Aquino’s blog post “Erasure.”  Also worth the read is Ellen Seidman of Love That Max: “The massacre of people with disability and what parents can do.”

sunday salon/ currently: reading, writing, blogging … and possibly hiking (28/99)

Sunday Salon banner

After a much busier-than-usual week (two work events, two get-togethers with friends), I’m feeling the need for some downtime.  Nothing is on the agenda today, my preferred way to spend a Sunday. I’d also prefer spending it on the deck, but since it’s a few degrees shy of 90 as I type this, indoors in the a/c seems to be the better option.  There’s the usual straightening up/cleaning to do around the house (which may or may not get done) and meal planning for the week.

Summer Reading … 
LaRoseShades of BlueFelicity

Since my last visit here in the Salon, I’ve finished three books: LaRose by Louise Erdrich, Shades of Blue: Writers on Depression, Suicide, and Feeling Blue, an anthology edited by the amazing Amy Ferris, and Felicity by Mary Oliver.

Of the three, Shades of Blue had the most impact on me and has earned a spot on my Best Of list for 2016. The honesty and courage of these writers as they share their personal experiences with mental health, addiction, depression, suicide, and grief is incredibly moving.  There’s something in every story that connects with you, which is the point.

Modern LoversI need to spend some time with Modern Lovers today. I’m reviewing this one for the Post-Gazette and that deadline is approaching quickly.  This is better than I expected; I judged it by the cover and immediately thought “fluffy beach read.”  It is a bit lighter than my usual fare, but sometimes you need that. And after this week (and this month’s depressing news cycle), I do.

So far I’m up to seven books for the library’s Summer Reading program.  (Magazines count for this; three of my “books” are actually periodicals.)  My goal is 20 and I’d like that to be heavier on the books than magazines.

Writing … 
The Girl starts a week-long Teen Fiction Writing camp tomorrow.  I would have loved this when I was her age. She did a similar program last year with this organization and really liked it.

Taking a Liking to Hiking …
The Boy is participating in a fabulous day camp program this summer for teens with Asperger’s. It emphasizes social skills and a lot of outdoor time.  They’ve been doing short hikes (approximately 4 miles, which certainly doesn’t sound that short to me). Surprisingly, he’s become very interested in hiking, trails and especially streams, and has expressed interest in continuing this when camp is finished in two weeks.

Fortunately, Pittsburgh is a great area for hiking so I’ve been looking into some possibilities for him and I to do some occasional short hikes together.  (If any local readers have suggestions, I need them as this is — quite literally — new territory for us.)

Blogging
#99DaysSummerBlogging is still going strong.  By the end of this week, we’ll be 1/3 of the way finished. (And so will summer!)  I’m slightly revising my approach to this project, though. One of my main motivations for doing this was to actually write every day. Admittedly, that’s been difficult as some posts need a few days to come together and I’m not a fan of posting something just for the hell of it.

I’ve realized that writing every day doesn’t mean the same as writing a brand new blog post and publishing it every day.  I’ve decided to give myself permission to write some posts in advance. That way, those can be pulled out of Drafts and published on days when I want to spend longer on other posts — or even other writing projects.

And speaking of which, a review is due soon, so back to my book I go.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #28 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project. 

 

 

My Apology to Ron Howard, Jason Katims, and Everyone on “Parenthood”

Parenthood-Family-tree-infographic6

Dear Ron, Jason, all the writers and every member of the cast of “Parenthood”:

I’m sorry.

I owe all of you an apology.

A big one.

Back when your new show “Parenthood” premiered (how could that have been six seasons ago? seems like forever, yet not long enough) I underestimated you.

I mean, I seriously underestimated you.

I wrote in this post that I thought you were going to be yet another copycat family drama that we’d seen countless times before.

They’re all similarly formulaic. A white, upper-middle class family where everyone is more good-looking and put together than the next person. A matriarch and old-fashioned patriarch intact …a long-brewing kettle of DNA dysfunction. A family where you need a family tree cheat sheet to figure who is married to or divorced from who and who has slept with who and who wants to sleep with who. A home (usually in California) ripped from the pages of Architectural Digest where everyone eats gourmet meals together on gorgeous plates and secrets are spilled while cleaning up the mess. Tonight, the Bravermans join the mix, and they fit the bill perfectly. They are, according to the script above, right out of Central Casting.

What really irked me – and what made me skeptical, and even a little bit angry – was the inclusion of the Asperger’s storyline. It felt gratuitous. Pandering. A cheap shot. It certainly wasn’t how I felt like relaxing after work, which at that time, included a 3 hour commute every day.

Then yesterday, I heard about the Asperger’s storyline in Parenthood and thought – CUT! No freakin’ way. NO FREAKIN’ WAY I am spending an hour watching this. If I want to see a drama involving Asperger’s, I’ll watch the drama right here in my family room. Besides, I was convinced there’s no freakin’ way they will even come close to getting it. Not to mention, there’s another unmentionable aspect of this show that slams pretty close to home, so … yeah. No thank you.

I wanted no part of this show.

Of course I watched anyway. All in the name of the blog, mind you. Either way I would probably get a post out of it.

Which I did.

Max Burkholder is brilliant as Max Braverman, who in this first episode, is considered by school officials to have Asperger’s Syndrome. The frustrations over what is for others a simple fine-motor task in the classroom leading to a meltdown and biting incident (been there, done that), the brilliantly portrayed breakdown by Peter Krause and Monica Potter of the parents when the fear and uncertainty of the diagnosis sinks in while life goes on around them (that scene was particularly tough for me to watch – did that bring home the moment of diagnosis for anyone else?), the wearing the pirate costume to school each day, the missed social cues.

I thought this premiere episode had to be a fluke. How could one person’s experience get translated accurately onto the screen in such a way that could be universally felt by so many, including those who aren’t on this particular parenting journey? How were you going to keep this up, week after week after week?

That’s what I doubted. I didn’t think you could do it  – and I certainly didn’t think it could be done well. I fully expected to hate “Parenthood,” to write bitchy ranty blog posts about how you got some aspect of Asperger’s oh-so-woefully wrong. Because you didn’t know me and the Asperger’s world I knew. You didn’t live in my house.

At least not yet.

Sure, I knew that Jason had personal experience as a parent of a child with Asperger’s but as those of us in this community are fond of saying, if you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.

It’s too early, I think, to say if “Parenthood” will become a groundbreaking show in this area – much as “St. Elsewhere” (my all-time favorite show, ever) was progressive in its day by having a child with autism as a central character – but I think “Parenthood” is off to a very good start. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds.

Because make no mistake, I will most definitely be watching.

We’re a bunch of mama bears, those of us who have kids on the autism spectrum. Just look at all the crap you’ve gotten for Kristina’s frequent use of “buddy” as a term of endearment with Max, and how much their parenting philosophy is often criticized on the comment boards. We’re used to that from our own real-life families – people who think all we need to do is spank our kids a little more often or feed them a little less sugar and their issues will miraculously disappear.

So perhaps that was why, six seasons ago, I felt a little protective of Max Braverman – and of Adam and Kristina, too. I wanted you to do right by him, by them.

Maybe it sounds dramatic, but thinking back to 2010, perhaps I was at a point where I needed you to do right by all of us. As in, the entire autism community.

An unfair, unspoken burden, perhaps. But you know what?

You did.

For six seasons, you did exactly that and succeeded. You were our voice to others who needed to see the small big moments of our lives, how we feel when we’re overwhelmed for our kid’s future or when we don’t know how to tell a sibling what she needs to hear.

You transformed how people view people with autism. You shattered age-old stereotypes.

I didn’t trust that you could do that.

So, I’m sorry that I doubted all of you but so glad that I was wrong.

Which leaves just one more thing left to say.

Thank you.

UPDATED TO ADD:  And an additional thank you to BlogHer for featuring a version of this post on January 30. Click here to read “I Was Wrong About the Asperger’s Storyline in Parenthood.”

Punch Lines: On Jerry Seinfeld and Autism

Seinfeld - show

Welcome to the club.

That was my first reaction on Friday, upon reading news reports of Jerry Seinfeld’s comments that he believes “on a very drawn-out scale, [he thinks he is] on the spectrum.”

“Basic social engagement is really a struggle,” Mr. Seinfeld said, adding that he is “very literal” and has difficulty “paying attention to the right things.”

Turns out, those personal admissions might not be enough for some people to accept one of the world’s best-known and most-popular comedians into the autism club.

There have been no shortage of blog posts and commentary (some downright cruel) taking issue with Mr. Seinfeld’s revelations.  Over the weekend, I spent some time reading a lot of perspectives on this subject and (despite knowing better) too many online comments. And after seeing the backlash on social media, I wouldn’t blame Mr. Seinfeld if he never said another word about autism – his own or anyone else’s – ever again.

Which, in my view, would be a huge loss for so many people.

People like my son, who despite our best efforts to boost his self-esteem and encourage his talents, could benefit from more real-life, successful examples of living people with autism. (Sure, the likes of Einstein and Mozart are impressive, but to a kid who aspires to be a reality TV show host, Jerry Seinfeld is more relevant.)

Or, people like my friend Rich [name changed] who at 56 is giving serious consideration to those who have told him he may be on the autism spectrum. “But after reading what’s being said about Seinfeld,” Rich says, “I’m pretty sure it would just make me feel even more like I don’t belong anywhere.”

He’s referring to the backlash that has ensued since Mr. Seinfeld’s interview with Brian Williams. Because he’s a comedian, some feel as if Jerry Seinfeld was somehow minimizing the very real aspects of autism and self-diagnosing himself with a condition that is best left to the professionals.

I don’t see it that way. What I saw from Jerry Seinfeld was a candid statement from someone who felt comfortable disclosing something that he has more than likely pondered for some time.  Mr. Seinfeld is clearly familiar with and identifies with some of the traits of people on the autism spectrum. Obviously I don’t know the guy, but I’d imagine this isn’t the first such conversation he’s had. His comments were honest, reflective and thoughtful – not mean-spirited or belittling, as others have insinuated.

The comment that I’m concerned about is the one that’s not going to make headlines.

“I’m pretty sure it would just make me feel even more like I don’t belong anywhere.”

That’s what I keep coming back to.  My friend Rich and all the others like him who wonder what kind of response he’ll get if he mentions his own struggles with social interactions and tendency to take things literally.

People have said Seinfeld should get himself to a doctor and get a proper diagnosis.

I’m no expert on Seinfeld’s medical situation – or my friend’s, for that matter – but when you’re 56 years old in this healthcare day and age and you think you may be autistic, I’m pretty certain seeking medical attention is easier said than done.  Where do you go?  And what does such a diagnosis get you at this stage in life, anyway? Legitimization in the eyes of the autism community?

If that’s what we’re after, I think that’s a dangerous path. It’s sure as hell not one I’m interested in walking down.

But that’s what we’re asking of Jerry Seinfeld, isn’t it?  To prove it before we accept him as one of us, as a member of this club?

Aren’t we better than this?  Don’t we want to be better than this?

Perhaps we should consider the possibility that Jerry Seinfeld thought there truly was nothing wrong with a casual, yeah-you-know-I-think-I-might-kind-of-maybe-sort-of-have autism approach. Perhaps its how he has coped all these years.

Tears of a clown and all that.

Perhaps it is the only way he knew how to tell us what he has wanted to tell us for so many years.

And who are we to judge? If we truly believe that there isn’t one autism, then there’s no room for throwing punch lines when one of our own is vulnerable.  We need to truly reflect on what the meaning of “not one autism” means and we need to truly embrace the spectrum for what it is – as a place where we all need to co-exist together.  This isn’t a battle of who has the more difficult autism – because we are all fighting difficult battles.  And through it all, there is too much at stake for us, for our kids, for our friends and our loved ones.

All of them need the likes of Jerry Seinfeld, whether they know it or not.

And we owe it to them to accept him into this club.

 

giving up the ghost

Mom-Mom's Halloween Party (3)

“In one aspect, yes, I believe in ghosts, but we create them. We haunt ourselves.”
~ Laurie Halse Anderson

Moreso than any other, this time of year supercharges my nostalgia meter into overdrive. It’s a combination of reasons: lots of holidays jam-packed into a few weeks, the kids’ birthdays, the anniversary of The Husband’s cancer diagnosis. 

Even without the obligatory #Throwback Thursday Facebook photos, I still remember the kids’ first Halloween vividly – not for its Norman Rockwell qualities, but because it was something more befitting Norman Bates. Halloween 2002 was a nightmare of preparing and feeding 11-month old twins their dinner and cleaning up two food-encrusted high chairs (no small feat, that); a husband coming home from a demanding job; visits from doting grandparents with cameras in hand to document the occasion; neighborhood kids ringing the doorbell, and squeezing two squirmy kids into too-small costumes which, being a one-income family in those days, I had frugally borrowed from a friend.

All of this was a hoax, of course. It was just one big photo opportunity. There was no way we were going trick-or-treating.

We wouldn’t go trick-or-treating for years.

*
Like that first October 31, last night was strange because of what it wasn’t.

At 12, my boy suddenly had no interest in Halloween. No costume, no trick-or-treating, nothing.

The idea of candy, on the other hand, now that was a different issue. Despite getting a stellar checkup from the dentist last week, that he was quite interested in. Since The Girl went trick-or-treating with a friend, my little Mr. Wonderful brokered a Shark Tank worthy deal where he acquired a percentage of her candy.

“I think I’d just rather stay home,” he announced, very matter-of-fact.

He wasn’t upset. Nothing was wrong, he insisted. He just … was done with the whole thing.

That’s it? I wanted to say. After we worked so hard to get here? 

A part of me felt cheated.

*
We hung out at home last night, seemingly no different than any other ordinary Friday evening, despite The Girl being out with a friend. We ordered our regular pizza, we watched Shark Tank, we puttered online.

And my seasonal wave of nostalgia threatened to overtake me as I scrolled through Facebooked photos of costumed kids, their doppelgangers appearing at my door almost instantaneously, smiling and chanting trick-or-treat, politely saying thank you as I handed them a bag of chips.

There were a few good years when that was us.

When all the best laid plans worked.

When my boy decided he no longer needed to ask every neighbor their birthday and then record it (along with their address) on a notepad, as if he was impersonating a census-taker. When he didn’t need the social stories to ease the transitions, to explain that we weren’t going to be staying at every house for an extended visit.  When we didn’t need to only visit houses where people “would understand the situation.” When we didn’t need to have a stash of gluten-free casein-free treats when he got frustrated at not being able to have something everyone else could eat.

Halloween was a nightmare until one year it wasn’t, and it was added to the ever-growing list of Things Our Boy Could Do.

*
When one kid decides he doesn’t feel like going trick-or-treating anymore, and the other kid is out with her best friend.
And you’re left holding the damn bag of your life, wondering where the years in between disappeared to.
– my Facebook status, 10/31/2014

I’ve written before about my increasing awareness of the passage of time. Often, I’m caught off-guard, in the close encounters with reality I’m not prepared or ready to have.

Such was Halloween 2014.

Stay little for a little longer, I wanted to tell my boy. You’re not too old for trick-or-treating. 

Enjoy that childhood you worked so hard to have. 

Maybe I was the one who needed the talking-to, I thought. If autism – and life – has taught me anything, it’s that things happen when they’re supposed to, not always when we want them to.

And the sooner we give up those ghosts of what should have been, the sooner more doors tend to open.

 

 

The Sunday Salon: This Post is Brought To You By the Letter “B”

The Sunday Salon

OK, so this is kind of a cool thing.

As of yesterday afternoon, I had four books going at the same time and – this is from my Goodreads profile – they all begin with B.

Check this out:

(Yes, I hear you sounding the Literary Nerd Alert Alarm. And …y’know, I don’t really care.)

It’s simply coincidental that the bookish stars aligned this way. Be Different: Adventures of a Free-Range Aspergerian is the audio book I turned to yesterday after a few DNFs that I couldn’t get into (Atonement by Ian McEwan; Tracks by Louise Erdrich, the latter of which I think is a matter of not being the right format – audio – for that novel). I have much respect and admiration for John Elder Robison, and this memoir is one of the best books about autism and Asperger’s that I’ve ever read. I’ll be recommending this to others, I’m sure.

Blown Sideways Through LifeBlown Sideways Through Life, Claudia Shear’s memoir-turned-one-woman-show about the 64 jobs she’s had (and, mostly, been fired from) was recommended to me by my friend Keith. I can understand why he thought I would like this one – which I did, somewhat, to a degree. I think there’s a timing issue with this book, though; while it’s easy to relate to someone who has worked menial jobs in his or her life, it’s more difficult in this economy to muster up sympathy for someone who casts any job aside, much less 64 of them. Now, mind you, this was written in 1995, which was a whole different world back then.

Best of the Best American Poetry: 25th Anniversary Edition is a bedtime reading book. It’s on my night table, for those evenings when I am too tired to read more than a poem.  This collection is perfect for that purpose because, frankly, most of the poems are forgettable.

Borrowed TimeBorrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir is the book that I’ll be spending the most time with this weekend. I just started it last night, and it is so well written, so gorgeous, and so very sad. Ann Patchett recommended this to me (yes, that Ann Patchett!) and … well, when Ann Patchett gives you a book recommendation, you kind of tend to listen. I’m glad I did.

(That is a whole ‘nuther post.)

Book Expo America and the BEA Bloggers Conference

So, while everything may have aligned perfectly in my reading life, that isn’t the case for two other “B” words this week – which would be Book Expo America (BEA) and, of course, the BEA Bloggers Conference. I had been quietly crunching the numbers, trying every which way to make this possible, but it wasn’t in the cards this year … again.

ArmchairBEA 2014

Design by Amber of Shelf Notes.

I’ll miss seeing all my book blogger friends, of course, but I CANNOT WAIT to participate in Armchair BEA again.  If you haven’t signed up, this is shaping up to be the best year ever. I’m hoping to use part of this long weekend to prep my posts for this week.

To be honest, I’m trying to stay somewhat unplugged during this long weekend, with the exception of writing/scheduling some posts and catching up on blogs. I’ve been overwhelmed and overextended. I have over-promised and under-delivered, not so much on the work front (I don’t think) but in other areas.

My remedy is to spend as much time on the deck (where I am, currently, in the warm sun, writing this) with words, both my own and those of other people’s. I went to church this morning for the first time in months. I need to take a walk or two. A friend from out of town will be in the city, and tomorrow we may visit the art museum (there’s a new photography exhibit).

So, yes, there are many words beginning with “B” this weekend. Books. Blogging. Armchair BEA. (OK, close enough.)

And at least one more, that has nothing to do with any of those.

Bravery.

In memory and in honor of all who served, thank you doesn’t seem like enough.