Tag Archives: Facebook

Why I’m Unfollowing You on Facebook During This Election

Like many of us, I’ve been consumed by all things politics, as evidenced by my posts here and on Facebook. I make no apologies for this. It’s part of who I am and I don’t foresee that changing anytime soon.

Here’s another thing I’m not apologizing for: Unfollowing people on Facebook during this election season. 

My politics are no secret. Most people know where I stand on the issues and if you don’t, I’m happy to engage in a productive, informed conversation with you. I’ll listen to your story and I’ll respect and acknowledge your experience. I’d hope you’d do the same. And maybe we’ll understand where the other is coming from and find some common ground. Maybe we’ll simply agree to disagree.

Unfortunately, there are people who are incapable of doing any of this. Their posts are incendiary, based on misinformation and spewing hatred. There’s no opinion, no fact.  They are quick to hit share from quack “news” sites they’ve never read before or even heard of until “doing their own research.” Sharing  a GIF or PhotoShopped meme is a hell of a lot easier than brushing up on real history or reading informed (and well-written!) pieces by actual journalists, thought-leaders, advocates and others who bring a balanced approach to the hatriolic speech that defines much of today’s discourse.

As a longtime friend of mine said, why would I want people in my life who disrespect me or my family? Who want to take away the basic human rights of people I love?  Who, by virtue of their decision to vote for an oligarch whose actions demonstrate clear misogyny, racism, bigotry, instability and xenophobia — not to mention a complete disregard of people with special needs and people identifying as LGBTQ, two communities that I care about immensely.

Which is why I don’t understand how you can tell me you love, care, and support me and my family when you are placing my family’s future in the hands of a President who will have the power to make that future even worse or disappear altogether. 

If you can explain that to me, I’m listening.

Let me be clear: this isn’t just about Trump supporters. If you’re voting for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein or Mickey Mouse or your dog, this is about you. If you’re using your vote to send some sort of moral protest message to — where, pray tell, exactly? — this is about you. If you’re championing a candidate who you know nothing about and never heard of until two weeks ago and who has (really, let’s be realistic here) zero chance of having anything to do with your future, this is about you.

I mean, how did Ralph Nader work out for you? (h/t The Husband).  Because those of us who have been around awhile remember all too well a similar scenario 16 years ago during Bush/Gore.  Like that contest and most of them, this election is a two horse race. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, look it up.

History repeats itself, my friends. History repeats itself.

It may come as a surprise to some of you, especially those who have known me for a long time, but I dislike conflict. I prefer to avoid it. Conflict has, on occasion, cost me a lot and I’ve learned that sometimes it’s better to disengage, to stay silent.

This election is not one of those times.

For me, this election is very, very personal. I believe that this election is about all of us but I especially believe, as Michelle Obama said, this election is about my kids and your kids and their future. It’s about my son’s right to get an education and to live up to his God given potential and to not be bullied by anyone, most especially the President of the United States, for having a disability that would have had him locked away not all that long ago. It’s about my daughter’s right to control her own body. It’s about each of their choices to love and to marry whomever the hell they want.

When presented with an entity who doesn’t respect any of that and so much more, I believe that I have a moral obligation to do everything in my power to speak out in the face of injustice and hatred when I see it.  And I’m glad that the majority of people I know see it this way. Yet, there is a very vocal segment who refuses to listen to perspectives besides their own narrow views. The response then becomes to attack, to degrade, to vilify.

That’s not why I’m on Facebook.  The very reason I can’t quit it altogether is because I come to Facebook to connect with you. You, who are my family scattered across the country and you, my friend who I went to nursery school with and you, my former co-worker from 20 years ago. I love Facebook for how it allows me to celebrate and mourn and laugh with you, and I need it because it is here, in this space, that I feel less alone in my greatest challenges and when the world pummels me down, time and time and time again.

So, no.  I don’t enjoy the idea of unfollowing and blocking people from my life as their true colors are revealed.  It’s hard and it’s sad, and it’s awkward and messy. I’ve been on the receiving end of being outright unfriended (not simply unfollowed, unfriended) by people I’ve known for 26 years, more than half my goddamned life, and it is hurtful as hell.

But in many cases, whether I agree with their politics or their reasons, it’s necessary. And as I continue to reflect on what my relationship with certain people will look like after November 8, right now it seems like the only choice.

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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.

 

 

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Leaving Eden (or, It’s Not Easy Bein’ Green)

eden - enter as strangers

Welcoming sign at eden-a vegan cafe in Scranton, PA

Scranton, Pennsylvania is a rather unlikely place to find a vegan restaurant.

I didn’t realize how strange that combination was more than two years ago, when I happened to be in that northeastern corner of my state during a business trip.  All I wanted was a vegetarian-friendly restaurant where I could go for dinner after a long day of driving and presentations.

That job was goddamn hard, one of the most difficult and emotionally-draining ones I’ve ever had. The kind that would get worse before it would never get better. I needed a friendly face and comfort food in more ways than one.

Eden a vegan cafe (6)That was November 2011. I can still taste my magnificent Fun and Green Burger and Homemade Smashed Potatoes. To this day, it remains one of the best meals I’ve ever had. (See my Weekend Cooking post: “a birthday celebration of (and novel inspiration found at) eden-a vegan cafe.” An update to that post: my very brief return to meat-eating ended almost immediately afterwards. In fact, I’ve been more interested in veganism ever since. Call it the Eden Influence.) 

This week, eden’s owner Christian posted a poignant, heartfelt Facebook post:

“It is with a very heavy heart, but a clear mind, that I must inform everyone that eden-a vegan cafe will be forced to close it’s doors very soon. The state of the economy, and in particular the state of the economy as it has affected Downtown Scranton, has made it increasingly difficult to continue to run the restaurant in such a way that is sustainable. This is certainly not a matter of choice, it is a matter of circumstance and if there was anything else I could do to keep it going, I surely would do it. In fact, I have been doing everything possible for some time now to keep it going, but I simply have nothing left to give at this point. I have truly put my heart and soul, my blood, sweat and tears, into what we have been doing in this space for the past 5+ years. I would do anything I could to keep it going, and I have been doing that, but the time has come to begin to wrap it up unfortunately.

With that said, I am listing the business for sale, so it might be possible that new owners that have the time and the capital to invest in taking eden to another level will come forward and do so. If that happens, it would be a wonderful thing. As one man who is the father to a growing 10 year old girl, I am simply spread too thin personally and financially to make it happen myself. I would welcome new owners who could do it with open arms. We will see what happens. I need to step away and into a new chapter of my life, one where I can provide for myself and my daughter, and do so in a secure, sustainable way. The food business is a difficult business, and it’s just not providing for us at this point, so I must move on. I have no other choice. Trust me, I have done everything possible to hang on but I can no longer do so.

I know this will cause a great deal of sadness in the local community as well as the vast vegan community, but instead of being sad that it is coming to an end, I would invite everyone to join me in being glad that it happened at all. We served 100% vegan food in Scranton for more than 5 years, touched so many hearts, opened so many minds, and educated so many on all things vegan. That my friends will live on through all of you forever and for that, I am so grateful. I am so very thankful for the opportunity that I had to bring this to all of you. It’s been an amazing ride, truly living a dream, a dream to spread veganism and compassion and healthy living to my hometown area. I have met so many wonderful people through eden, so many that I consider lifelong friends, and it has been a pleasure to serve and to know each and every one of you. I have been invited to speak about veganism on local television programs, to colleges and universities, high schools, elementary schools, churches, health clubs, large and small businesses, and all sorts of various groups at all sorts of various events. I will continue to make myself available to do so, even after eden’s days are done. Veganism is bigger than eden and I will continue to answer questions, give advice, speak to groups, and do anything else that I can possibly do because this is my passion and my purpose. That part is not ending, it is simply changing.

Of course, as things continue to evolve and take shape, we will inform you about it here, as always, because we truly feel like you are all friends and family to us and you all have been a big part of all of this. I want to thank everyone who has ever worked at eden, or lended a hand in any way at any time, your service has been invaluable and your friendship is treasured. I know I speak for many more than just myself when I say it has been a pleasure to spend time with all of you in this special little space of ours on Adams Ave.

We will continue to serve you delicious vegan food with a smile for the rest of this month of January, and possibly a bit beyond that. We are taking it day by day right now. So come on in and get as many eden meals as you can, as our days are numbered. Spread the word that the business is for sale too, it will be listed on the market soon, because who knows, maybe someone will step in to keep it alive. Anything is possible, I know this because against all odds, I have been running a beloved vegan restaurant in Scranton for the past 5+ years. I love you all and I thank you for everything.”

The outpouring of support and heartbreak for the possible closure of this little restaurant has been overwhelming. Sure, you can say that this is just a restaurant … but it’s not. As I wrote in my original post, eden is “this magical place where you can absolutely walk in as a stranger and walk out being Facebook friends with the college student ringing up your order.” 

And the person having lunch at the next table. And the owner. All true for me. And the welcoming faces and friendly soul I needed.

I live six hours away from eden, so it’s difficult for me to just stop in. And that’s incredibly sad. For me, because of when I discovered them, this closing is about more than just the food.

If they close, I will mourn their loss as much as if I had eaten there every day.

I say if because I’m encouraged that there might be some possibilities in the works to save eden. There is talk on the Facebook page about potential angel investors and partners, about vegan food trucks, about … who knows. Miracles have been known to happen. Someone might know someone who knows someone …. I know that Christian is interested in any and all serious offers and is willing to discuss details, so if that’s of interest, get in touch with him on the eden-a vegan Facebook page.  I mean, if I had the ability to be an investor, I would absolutely do so. (Despite never having worked in a restaurant in my life, one of my fantasies during my unemployed days was opening an eden branch here in Pittsburgh.)

If you’re in the Scranton area or relatively close by, I encourage you to visit eden soon (like, by the end of this month) to enjoy their food. They’re at 344 Adams Avenue. Tell your friends, too. Even if you’re the most die-hard meat eater (before eden, Christian was a deer hunter), you’ll love this place.

Oh, and if you go?

Make sure you have a bowl of Smashed Potatoes for me.

UPDATED 1/12/2014: An indiegogo campaign has been launched to try and save eden-a vegan cafe. To contribute and learn more information, click here.

Weekend Cooking - New

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, fabulous quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend.

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chris bohjalian’s the light in the ruins (and the pendulum of the internet)

One of the benefits of last night’s insomnia:

When you’re not sure if your book review of Chris Bohjalian’s The Light in the Ruins is being published in the next day’s edition of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, you can reach for your phone at 2:30 a.m. and see if your byline is on your driveway.

(We still like to get the actual newspaper. And read it while holding it. That makes The Husband and me fossils at 44, I know.)

Bohjalian PG review

And then you can spend some time while the house is blissfully still asleep, curled up under the covers reading Colum McCann’s Songdogs which was due back to the library on Thursday but which you can’t part with just yet. Not while McCann is breaking your heart.

And then you doze off, for a little while anyway, while the Internet awaits and The Husband (bless him) makes the kids pancakes and dippy eggs. (What? You call them sunny side up? Dippy eggs, baby. You may hate the damn things, like me, but that’s their proper cringeworthy name.)

Still under the covers, you sneak a few minutes online, smiling at the likes on your review and clicking like and 🙂 at the comments back.

And then you decide to randomly check your kids’ email accounts, because that’s what vigilant parents do when they are supposedly sleeping, and you see some questionable things and you conference The Husband in the bedroom to strategize and give him a crash course in Pinterest.

And then – this is all before 11 a.m., mind you, and you’ve had very little sleep – you remind the cherubs of The Internet Rules and you make New Internet Rules On the Fly About Bad Words and Hating Justin Bieber and explain that while it is okay to dislike Justin Bieber (you can’t really argue with that much) it’s not always okay to be so vehement about this publicly because nothing is private on the Interwebs and that could cost you a much-needed scholarship someday and all your friends who are posting pictures on Facebook of their kids going off to college this week are making you sober with the thought that you have only 6 more years left of mandatory schooling before that.

And then, only then, you finally make your way to your laptop and open up your blog to write a post about The Light in the Ruins book review being published and how grateful you are to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for the opportunity, as always.

And you notice that your blog statistics for yesterday’s post about Kristin are off-the-charts crazytimes with numbers you have never, ever seen.

And you are stunned.

And you are stunned again when you realize that Chris Bohjalian has mentioned you (YOU!) to his 5,534 followers on Twitter.

And his Facebook page. 

Chris Bohjalian. You. Chris Bohjalian.

#andthenIfainted

Author · 15,842 likes
Very big thanks to Melissa Firman and the @[184142654825:274:Pittsburgh Post-Gazette] for this insightful review of THE LIGHT IN THE RUINS: "By using the backdrop of a long-ago war, Bohjalian seems to be reassuring and reminding his reader that in tragedy and unspeakable circumstances such as the destruction of homeland, family, appearance and lives, there is always the ability to see even the smallest glimpse of light." (photo by Victoria Blewer)
Very big thanks to Melissa Firman and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for this insightful review of THE LIGHT IN THE RUINS: “By using the backdrop of a long-ago war, Bohjalian seems to be reassuring and reminding his reader that in tragedy and unspeakable circumstances such as the destruction of homeland, family, appearance and lives, there is always the ability to see even the smallest glimpse of light.” (photo by Victoria Blewer)
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By George, I’ve Fallen in Love

In Persuasion Nation

This is not going to be one of my more, shall we say, typical book reviews.

Or one of my more articulate.

You know how, when you become all gaga with a person, you lose all sense of being able to speak in regular sentences? And you start talking in adjectives and superlatives?

That’s me when it comes to George Saunders’ writing.

To put it mildly, I’m in major literary love.

I now talk about George Saunders the way my 11-year old daughter talks about Harry Styles of One Direction. (She is a major fan.)

This relationship – mine and George’s – is a fairly new one, although it started before he went viral yesterday with his commencement address at Syracuse. In January, I read an advance copy (thank you, NetGalley and Random House) of Tenth of December, Saunders’ newest (and much-praised) collection of short stories. Like the majority of people who have read this, I loved it.

One of the stories sounded really familiar until I realized that I’d read “Home” in The New Yorker, which tends to publish a great deal of Mr. Saunders’ work, it seems – so we had already met. (I reluctantly gave up my New Yorker subscription on Kindle last year when I got laid off.)

Anyway, so I started a review of Tenth of December with notes that look like this:

“Victory Lap” – incredible, so not what I was expecting!
“Sticks” – extremely short but an amazing story!
“Puppy” – absolutely the most heart wrenching story of the bunch, won’t forget this anytime soon
“Escape from Spiderhead”- dystopian feel to this
“Exhortation” – anyone who has ever received a memo in corporate-speak will appreciate this story
“My Chivalric Fiasco” – loved it!

Fangirl, much?

Clearly, I have fallen down the rabbit hole because this has been sitting in my Drafts folder since January and I haven’t been able to muster up more of a proper review.

Then, about a month ago, the Pittsburgh Arts and Lectures series announced their 2013-14 lineup and guess who is coming to Pittsburgh this December 9?

My boy George.

I didn’t even know this when I went on their website to get tickets. At first all I was interested in was getting tickets to my other boyfriend’s talk (that would be Colum McCann). But then I saw that George was coming in December for $15 and I couldn’t pass that up.

And now I want to read everything by everyone I’m seeing. (I have tickets for Colum McCann, George, and Ann Patchett.)

So, on a recent trip to the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, I spotted In Persuasion Nation.

And oh my God, holy hell.

In Persuasion Nation may be even better than Tenth of December. 

How the hell does this guy DO this?! OK, granted, yes, he’s a unique style – which is what makes him so goddamn freaking good at this writing thing. He’s a master of satire and dark humor; you’ll be laughing (or, in my case, trying to stifle laughter while waiting for your Harry Styles’ loving daughter during her gymnastics lesson as other parents are chattering away about vacations and camps and other trivialities of life.) I’m not kidding: in any given 30 seconds, you could be laughing until you cry and then just as suddenly, crying because your heart is shattering.

These are emotionally-charged stories, loaded with dynamite, each one. (My favorites from In Persuasion Nation: “I Can Speak!,” “Jon,” “My Amendment” – so ironic to read this one days after the Supreme Court’s decision on DOMA! – “The Red Bow,” “Christmas,” “In Persuasion Nation,” and “Bohemians.”)

A few reviews I read of Saunders’ work recommends to read him in small doses. I can understand why that may be so. But see, here’s the thing. You can’t. They’re both excellent collections of short stories, make no mistake about that. You read one story and you immediately want another. And another. And another. 

So then you tell yourself, OK, stop this crap. Put the book down and work on your own damn novel already. Which you do, and which is a joke and a half because all you can muster up is 354 words for all of July’s Camp NaNoWriMo and they are the most pathetic words you’ve ever written because YOU ARE NOT FREAKING GEORGE SAUNDERS.

And then yesterday and today, I see my boy George all over my Facebook newsfeed because of his commencement speech to Syracuse University graduates and of course the speech is kick-ass and brilliant and so-Saunders-like, and now everyone is in love with my boyfriend.

Whatever.

Read George Saunders, even if you’re convinced you don’t like short stories.

Especially if you’re convinced you don’t like short stories.

You’ll thank me, I’m sure.

That is all.

 

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echolalia

“Free encouragement” at the counter of Paper Kite Books in Kingston, PA
Photo taken by me, October 2011

Echolalia is the repetition of words, phrases, intonation, or sounds of the speech of others. Children with [autism spectrum disorder] often display echolalia in the process of learning to talk. Immediate echolalia is the exact repetition of someone else’s speech, immediately or soon after the child hears it. Delayed echolalia may occur several minutes, hours, days, or even weeks or years after the original speech was heard. Echolalia is sometimes referred to as “movie talk” because the child can remember and repeat chunks of speech like repeating a movie script. Echolalia was once thought to be non-functional, but is now understood to often serve a communicative or regulatory purpose for the child. Also known as: “Movie talk”, Scripting Related term: Repetitive use of language  ~ from Autism Speaks

1. My migraine raged long into last night. Despite the medicine that usually helped ease such woes, sleep was elusive.

I had read too much about the Connecticut school shooting, about people proclaiming to be other people’s mothers, about what our school district is doing about the “non-credible, third-hand” rumor of a planned shooting at our local high school.

I had seen too many pictures of too many beautiful, now gone children and their heartbroken parents.

I had watched my President, and I explained to my children why I was crying while I was watching the President.

* *
2. Some poetry, then.

Dan Waber’s slim volume echolalia rested on my nightstand. I’d met Dan more than a year ago, when I stopped in Paper Kite Press (his small gem of a store) during some business trip downtime.

We talked poetry – and more – that day. Dan gave me “free encouragement” from a box on the counter. (Because we all need free encouragement, don’t we?)  I selected echolalia from the small shelf, mentioning why the title intrigued me, knowing I was going to buy it.

“My son has autism,” I explained. “He was … he had echolalia for awhile.”

Dan’s poems sat on my own bookshelves, unread until last night. I made my way with them into the guest bedroom and settled into the bed and read.

And read.

Dan’s poems, as I suspected, have little to do with autism or the echolalia that I’m familiar with. What these poems are is a love story to Dan’s wife Jennifer, a poet in her own right. They’re a love story about the ephemera that make up the everyday – chopping mushrooms for dinner, cats fussing about, a glance of the swish of hips, crazy neighbors, doing the dishes, a rejection letter in the mail, picking up a child from school.

Picking up a child from school.

Their love is palpable and you smile as you read these poems (at least, I did) and I found my heart and breath slowing down, finally, for a moment, in these troubled times, in that midnight hour, in our darkened house.

(As John Lennon says in “Mind Games,” love is the answer and you know that for sure. Wise man, that John.)

And at the end of Echolalia, Dan Waber reveals the echolalia part of his poems in the After Words section of the chapbook.

“Every poem in this collection contains an “echo” made by reading the last word of each line, in a downward fashion. With one exception, every echo was written or spoken by poet (and love of my life) Jennifer Hill-Kaucher. Some come from poems or fictions she has written (some of which have been published by FootHills Publishing) but many come from places as mundane as jotted notes and SMS text messages.” 

I fell asleep wondering how I could better capture the echoes of the important people in my life.

* *
3.  I woke up, as I do, checking my own text messages and Facebook statuses and job postings on my phone.

And there it was, an offensive-to-me post from a Facebook friend so full of misunderstanding and misconceptions, parroting the oft-heard talking points, perpetuating stigmas about people with disabilities.

Coffee in hand, I sat down to bang out a response. At 6:30 a.m.

In the living room, my boy was counting down the days until Christmas, until Santa, until our trip to Philadelphia. He has his agenda, his routines, his traditions all set, ready and rarin’ to go.

“I am just FILLED with the SPIRIT of CHRISTMAS!” he exclaimed.

I had a choice. Fight with the friend in the name of educating him about people with disabilities – because I should do that, right? My autism mom friends would certainly do that. I’d be letting them down – and the entire population of people like my son, too – if I let this abhorrent behavior continue unabated, if I gave up, if I let him go on believing that people with autism were brats at heart and just deserved a whack on the ass.

Or. I could just BLOCK FRIEND and listen to my son being filled with the spirit of Christmas.

Echolalia? Yeah, probably.

Truth be told, the echolalia from when Boo was two (and 3, and 4, and 5 …) still makes its presence known on occasion around here. It’s rare, and when it does, it’s masked, making it especially hard to tell whether it is his words or something he heard from a movie or one of the YouTube videos he spends forever watching.

Because it kind of blends into the ephemera of this thing we call life.

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25 Years Later, It Gets Better

Fancy boutique where I did a work event.
Photo taken by me ~ March 2010

My 25-year high school reunion was Friday night.

I wasn’t there.

Now, 25 years ago, if you had told my 18 year old self that I would not be at this milestone event, I would have probably rolled my eyes, flipped back my hair, and said something like, “Ohmigod. There’s a shocker. Like, tell me something I don’t know.”

And if you had told me that I would have REALLY WANTED TO BE at my 25 year high school reunion, I would have been convinced that you had me confused with somebody else.

You see, our high school was not a four year affair. Ours was a small, suburban, very affluent school district where the kids you stood with at the bus stop on your first day of kindergarten were the same kids you were crossing the graduation stage with 12 years later.

There wasn’t any room for mistakes. What you did would long be remembered, would haunt you. Escape was a long way in the future.

If you moved into the district in, say, 5th grade (as my family did), you had a particularly tough time. Friendships and cliques were formed early and bonds were tight. And if you didn’t live in one of the “right” neighborhoods, or wear a certain brand of designer clothes, or find a brand new car of your own in the driveway on your 16th birthday, it was very, very, very difficult to fit in.

To feel accepted.

Academically, you didn’t have it much easier. This was a competitive pressure-cooker and you were expected to excel. In everything. All. The. Time. It was so easy to feel less-than, that you didn’t measure up.

Some people cracked.

It’s a miracle more didn’t.

I deliberately only looked at colleges where not a soul from my class was considering. No matter that I didn’t stand a chance in hell of getting into even one Ivy League university – much less all of them, like several of my peers did. When senior class rankings came out, I went around telling people that I – right there, ranked smack dab in the middle of our grade – was “the valedictorian of the dumb half of the class.”

Because that’s how I was conditioned to see myself.

I selected a college that was the complete opposite of “Cheers,” where no one knew my name – at least, not at first.

And then I exhaled for the first time in years, allowed the healing to begin.

But despite that, the old black feeling still creeps in.

It’s here right now, in the midnight hour as I write this, as my inner teenage self wonders about the reaction of my classmates to this very post (some of them read my blog now, for gawdsakes) while my 43 year old self knows that I’m different and that I shouldn’t give a damn. About what anyone thinks.

It crept in the night of the 25th reunion, as I sat home refreshing Facebook for photos, watching the series finale of iCarly with my twins who had just turned 11 (the same 11 year old kids I was told in high school by more than one doctor that I would probably never have). I looked across the room at my husband, recovering from cancer surgery. Had I been back in Philadelphia, I wondered how I would have answered the “so, what do you do now?” question from my still-overachieving classmates. Somehow, “I’ve been unemployed for nearly six months and am working on getting a freelance writing and consulting business going,” would not cut it with this crowd.

I might have lied.

For you can build a life, conquer demons, add a bunch of accomplishments to your resume – but throw a couple months’ rough patch ‘atcha and it is enough to bring that old black feeling right back.

As the weekend rolled on and as the recaps and updates from my former classmates were posted on Facebook, something started to happen.

People who once seemed to have it all (and it all together) were admitting that…they…really…didn’t.

“I know, I know, I was such a loser….”

“…it was not always easy to see that [the good in people] in high school – when you are so self absorbed.” 

HIM?  HER?

*
Back in the 80s, some of my classmates had a math class where they created a paper computer. Believe it or not, it was supposedly cutting edge (no pun intended) for its time.

I wasn’t smart enough for that class.

Twenty five years later, I would never, ever have imagined where that paper computer would lead – that something called Facebook would make it possible to finally understand that there were others (maybe more than a few others) who felt the way I did, too. Who were insecure, who were unsure, who felt like losers, who were just trying to find their way.

I’ve been thinking and remembering a lot over the last several days, and I keep coming back to this:

What would it have been like, had we known? What damage could have been prevented? How different would we have been? How much fewer scars would we have had, then and now?

We’re on a post-reunion high, an adrenaline surge. I’m expecting us to hold hands and sing “Kumbaya” at the 30th. The other day, one of our classmates posted a video of his band to our class’s page. It’s good. Really good. He wasn’t one of the popular guys, but I always thought he was nice enough.

“Weren’t you always quiet in high school?” one friend wrote.

“Just unheard,” he answered.

And that’s it, I realized. In the end, that’s all we wanted back then. To be heard.  For myself, that was it. Like everyone else, I just wanted to be noticed not for what I lacked but to be applauded for what I had and could do well. What a difference that would have made.

That was my writing. It was, at times, the only thing I had to hold onto.

Sometimes, these days, it still seems like it is.

Back then, all I wanted was to be recognized for it – and I wasn’t. That craving eventually backfired in a prank that wound up hurting a lot of people in a middle school bullying incident that, to this day, at age 43, I still deeply, deeply regret. I don’t need to go into specifics. More than a few will know of what it is I speak. Suffice it to say that if you recognize yourself in this very long-overdue apology, know that I am truly beyond sorry and that I hope you can somehow forgive me.

We live, as we all did.

We learn, as we all did.

But now we know a few things that we didn’t know then.

There are others with us along this lonely path.

Most likely, they’re hurting too.

And no matter what – no matter what – it gets better.

It really, really can get so much better.

Thanks for sharing this post!
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