The Second in the series: Awareness Encores

This post originally aired about one year ago. Since then, the magic number of prevalence has become 1 in 67, up from 1 in 88.

It’s April, again. Autism Awareness Month. Now that autism numbers are estimated at 1 in 88, shouldn’t we already be aware? Shouldn’t we as a society be moving on?

Moving on beyond awareness means learning about each other, neurotypical or on the autism spectrum. Even under the old numbers of 1 in 166, the estimates indicated so many children and adults with autism that “normal” needed redefinition.

Awareness, people, is not enough. Awareness is a low form of knowledge, and knowledge itself sits down low at the base of the learning pyramid. Awareness means knowing that the student sitting next to your child in class might have autism. Knowledge and understanding come around when that child responds to gestures of friendship, perhaps awkwardly, yet making a step toward joining the social peer group in some way.

Awareness? Awareness means slapping a multi-colored puzzle-design ribbon magnet on the back of the family minivan. Understanding means that when the minivan next to yours at the red light is moving back and forth propelled by the rocking of the teenager in the front seat, you notice but don’t judge. You might offer an understanding smile to the driver if the opportunity comes up. By refraining from negative comments, a parent provides a role model for the rest of the minivan passengers.

The “R” word is also still active, unfortunately. The word Retarded hasn’t been in active use for educational professionals in decades, but it still turns up in verbal put-downs. Awareness means knowing the label Retarded is unacceptable. Knowledge and comprehension would show that anyone with limitations in learning faces enough challenges without getting their diagnosis tossed around as a playground insult.

I wore my “R” Word t-shirt on the appropriate day. That’s my awareness activity. To bring it to a higher level, I vow to stop and comment when I hear the word used: stop and educate those who would otherwise redefine a person in narrow boxes.

Now it’s time to take Autism Awareness to a higher level, too.

 

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The Awareness Series: let’s move on, already.

From fall of 2012 — I still feel this way. The first in a three- day series, Awareness Encores.

Breast Cancer Awareness is all over the networks – at least it’s all over ESPN, NFL Network, NBC, CBS, and Fox Sports. Guess it yet? The NFL is blowing the horn to the tune of Pink – massive pinkness in the most macho of arenas.

Pink Gatorade towels. Pink shoe covers. Pink wristbands. Pink cleats, chin straps, and ribbon decals. Pink whistles for the (real) referees, for heaven’s sake. And why?

The purpose of all this pink on the turf is supposed to make all NFL football fans think about breast cancer. Be Aware. Know it’s there.

I can’t help it. My inner cynic is screaming “Enough with the pinky dances already!” My inner cynic, for those who don’t know, is very tuned in to breast cancer in the realm of early detection through mammograms. I’m more than aware of radiation studies, chemo, reconstruction – you name it, friends and family in real life have lived it. Yes, Mom, my latest mammogram was once again normal.

Before readers denounce me as a Bah Humbug, my inner cynic must look into its own wardrobe for two (at least two) pink t-shirts designed by an art teacher who was raising money for the Avon Walk in Chicago. I also own a pink polo shirt with the Green Bay Packers logo on it and the famous pink Packers baseball cap pioneered by Deanna Favre. Both of these items sold out quickly, and not just for Deanna. We still liked Brett back then, but we who bought pink knew a significant portion of our purchase money would go toward breast cancer research.

Well, readers, you might recognize my tone already. I have contributed to breast cancer research through purchases of t-shirts, baseball caps, and just simply by donating to sponsor my amazing friends who walked the walks. So why, why would I complain about the wealthy NFL putting its pink on parade to bring attention to breast cancer for Breast Cancer Awareness?

I complain because awareness is the lowest form of knowledge. Awareness means we know it exists. Awareness means, hey, look at that guy, he’s man enough to put on pink wristbands. This pink thing must be important. What does the pink stand for again?

Awareness doesn’t mean understanding, public support, private support, or personal support. The biggest anticlimax is that all that pink doesn’t mean financial support.

I’ll pose a few questions.

The NFL plans to auction off pink gear to raise money. How much will they raise? How much do they hope to sell? What percentage of the proceeds will actually become donations? And to whom will those donations go?

How much did Gatorade spend on those towels? I’d venture a guess that it could have funded many mammograms for women who don’t have medical coverage. Those dollars might have made up for some of the bucks that Susan B. Komen foundation tried to pull from Planned Parenthood – money that funded just that.

How about those pink whistles? Cute, huh? Cute, however, doesn’t pay the bills when a woman is recuperating from reconstructive surgery. Putting the bucks directly into a fund for follow-up care would go much further than the whistle-stop campaign.

The hot pink shoes, wow, they really show up well on TV hoofin’ their way toward the end zone or during a dramatic kickoff or punt return. But again, at what cost? How much good could that money do if it were used for research toward saving lives?

Okay, NFL, you know I’m a fan. I’m a true blue green and gold cheesehead shareholder type. I’ll keep watching games, pink or no pink. The token pink, though, still irritates me.

Let’s see the teams and their officials and their coaching staff wear the regular colors and have the organization instead make a more-than-token donation to breast cancer research. Maybe when public groups like football teams move beyond the pink ribbons and towels we as a society can admit that research and treatment will gain more from a sizable infusion of cash than from muscular young men sporting hot pink shoelaces.

Until then, maybe I’ll stick to listening to my beloved Packers on the radio for the rest of October.

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Reviving Poetry

I added a few Book Spine Poems to A Mother’s Garden of Verses. I contributed a post to my corporate employer’s national blog. In that contribution, I created examples of my own and recruited a student to contribute another.

Meanwhile, I read posts and editorials and commentary about Autism Awareness month. Awareness Months bug me. The concept of raising awareness, of shouting “We are here! We are here!” just doesn’t cut it any more.

Instead of posting for Autism Awareness Month, I’ll stick to celebrating poetry.

Most of my examples were winter poems because I wrote them for a lesson I taught at the end of March. The month of March in Wisconsin managed to come in and go out like a lion this year with cold, colder, and coldest followed by snow mixed with rain and sleet. We were still wearing our fingerless gloves and pulling out our cubicle blankets on windy days. When the social media folks wondered why the sample poems were all about winter, I reminded them that we had just exited (and might still see signs) a long, long season.

The student had offered ideas in class, so I asked her to revisit that poem and complete it for me. My favorite part comes in the last two line. What do you think?

Enter a world full of everlasting snow

Freezing the water, when you try to row

Giant blizzards coming, though very rare

Hills of snow beyond compare

Ice falls in mounds at my feet

Jabbing at my body, the cold stings my cheek

Knowing how endless we may seek

Lies spring around the corner, waiting to astonish me?

May the snow melt soon, much to my glee

Nevermore, calls Mother Nature

O’er the hills and through the forest in her nurture

 

Me? I know she’s brilliant. Maybe we’ll see her work published some day.

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Decisions, decisions.

  • Should I make a single batch of banana bread or a double?
  • Double, of course. We have enough bananas. Do you even need to ask?

 

  • It’s raining outside. Can I accomplish any garden tasks in the rain?
  • No, silly. Get the laundry done and play in the kitchen, instead. Did I hear someone say banana bread?

 

  •  Big headline in the newspaper about a state level politician reaching his tipping point. What’s the book I’m currently reading?
  • The Tipping Point, of course. It’s on my table in the den.

 

  • “Mom, you have banana bread in the oven. Why are you making bread in the bread machine?”
  • Why not? That wasn’t a good enough answer, apparently. The real answer came from Chuck: “It’s raining outside, so Mom can’t work in the garden. She needs to use her energy in the kitchen instead.” ‘Tis true. Very true.

 

  • I had a message from the Clinic That Shall Not Be Named with a subject line How Are you Doing? and the name of my family doc listed as “from”. How am I doing?
  • Well, Clinic, I was misled for a moment and thought someone actually cared to follow up with me. But when a message is extremely generic and is signed “The Clinic Physicians”? Somehow, I don’t feel obligated to answer.
  • So, Daisy, what was this generic message from the Clinic That Shall Not Be Named?
  • Here’s the actual text:

Thank you for your recent visit. Because we care about you, please take a moment to tell us how you are doing. If you were prescribed any medications, please let us know how they are working or if you have any financial issues affording them.

Do you have any other questions since your last visit?

Thank you for your time.

 

  • How tacky can this clinic get?
  • Don’t answer that. I don’t want to know.

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Unusual Answers to Random Questions

Readers, family, friends – I haven’t blogged in days. I’m fine, not ill, just busy. To get a taste of what’s been keeping my laptop off my lap and my mind off the blog, I offer a list – a Q&A session with (who else?) my self.

Q: Why is my schoolbag so heavy? What did I put in it?

A: Aha! I have a bag of coffee beans that I bought from a fundraiser and received today. That’s why my bag is heavier than usual.

Q: Why do I smell coffee? Is it on my sweater?

A: See above.

Q: How did I manage to schedule so much on one week? I have commitments after school every day except Friday.

A: Don’t ask. Seriously. Do not analyze this. Just survive it.

Q: When will I learn to say no?

A: When I stop enjoying what I’m doing. I revised a post for the national blog yesterday and offered a second to help fill a void later in the week. Here’s the first one, a discussion of the Naturalist in Howard Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences. Later, I’ll have a link for poetry month.

Q (while watching the national news): Ft. Hood, a high school stabbing in Pennsylvania — What’s the world coming to?

A: At least we’re not facing lengthy stories on how much of the ocean doesn’t yield clues to the missing jet.

Meanwhile, I will keep calm and garden on – after this week is over.

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Book Spine Poetry – the sequel

When stuck inside on a day that should be spring, books keep me busy. Reading, updating my account at paperback swap dot com, and my latest, book spine poetry.

All things green

All things green

wisdom and happiness in the garden

wisdom and happiness in the garden – adding a prop to the books

Powerful Words

Powerful Words  – Powerful thoughts

Maybe these should really post on A Mother’s Garden of Verses. I think I’ll double post a few book spine poems. Readers, it’s time to “write” your own. What kind of book titles can you assemble into a poem?

 

 

 

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The Varmints Return

I stockpiled cardboard boxes for use in my garden and under the rock garden.

I’ve been composting kitchen scraps all winter.

So what happens? A varmint slips into the O.K. Chorale’s backyard and explores (read: trashes) my resources.

Growl. That's me growling, not the critter.

Growl. That’s me growling, not the critter.

This one must have tiny hands, er, paws, to fit inside the holes in the compost bin and pull out strips of parchment paper. Given time, that parchment paper will decompose. Give it time, varmint!

The pizza boxes were easy to stack. The furry creature (I don’t think it’s feathered, really) just made a mess. It didn’t destroy anything. Maybe it doesn’t like cheese.

But anyway, back at the O.K. Chorale, temperatures have gone down to the level of Snow Flurries again. No outdoor work today! Growl.

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Knowing my Limits

In the last election cycle, I mentioned that lacking money to donate, I would donate time to help elect my chosen candidates. Five days before election day, I found myself in the Emergency room of the nearest hospital, hooked up to many machines, unable to move or control my left side.  I thought to myself, “Thank goodness I voted early!” 

My episode resembling a stroke kept me from volunteering during the weekend of action, a big one. I’d already given many hours of time to prepare volunteer packets for the day. I managed to stop by the office downtown and donate chocolate to keep people happy during their full day.

I have regained control over the left side of my body, but I’ve had other problems since fall of 2012. With all of that in mind, I need to set myself some definite boundaries for this fall election cycle.

To maintain my physical and mental health, I will NOT:

  • forward candidates’ posts on Facebook: as hard as it is, I aim to keep my FB page personal in nature. Maybe. This will be the hardest point on my list.
  • sign online petitions. It’s too easy, and therefore often meaningless to those in power.
  • forward emails that call themselves Memes. It’s a chain letter, people, don’t kid yourselves.

To further maintain my physical and mental health, I WILL:

  • learn about the candidates and become an informed voter
  • vote and encourage my family members to vote, too
  • remind friends and coworkers to vote (even on FB)
  • donate small amounts of money to candidates I support
  • for good vibrations, wear my Team Obama t-shirt from fall 2012
  • blog!
  • keep calm, and garden on. It’s cheaper than therapy, and in the end I’ll have tomatoes.

 

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Signs of Spring – really?

Actual email, sent out by Chuck to his coworkers:

Hello All,

Spring is truly here.  The snow piles are melting.  A chunk of somebody’s front bumper has been found in one of these piles and it has the license plate still attached.  I think it is from a pickup or an SUV.

If your truck is WI plate XX0000, then please come back to the workshop and pick it up.

I admit it; the license plate number has been changed to protect — oh, who knows? 

And then I went to yet another appointment with a doctor and saw what looked like the turn signal from a small car sitting on the “lawn” next to the parking lot.

And I thought uncovering pizza boxes was strange!

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Intellectually Vulnerable

Intellectually Vulnerable — I saw the term on Facebook, of all places. The complete phrase read, “…trying to sell his snake oil to the intellectually vulnerable.” Intellectual snake oil — that’s another interesting term, combining the two in the sentence.

Snake oil, according to Merriam-Webster, is “any of various substances or mixtures sold as medicine usually without regard to their medical worth or properties.” A vulnerable buyer might pay for this snake oil and get stuck with a worthless product.

The snake oil on the market today doesn’t come in a bottle. Today’s snake oil is more a collection of misinformation, often talk with no action or talk that has no basis in fact.

Back to Merriam-Webster. Intellectual snake oil, ideas without merit, sound wonderful because they sound simple. The vulnerable might think, “Yeah! I like this! It’ll solve all the world’s ills in one shot!” But no. Nothing is ever that simple. And those that are vulnerable might also be those that are hurt by the simplistic faux solution.

Where is this heading? Tuesday, it’s headed to the polls – at least I am. We have a school board to elect and a new City Council member for our ward, too. I can’t quite bring myself to use the term “alderperson.” It sounds so impersonal.

I think I’ll make a bumper sticker that says, “I’m NOT intellectually vulnerable; and I vote!”

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