Music soothes.

Like the rest of the world, we had a hard time last week, listening to the news coming out of San Bernardino, California. Two circumstances brought it close to home: that the shooting was in a center that served adults with developmental disabilities, and that a school for the blind was directly across the street.

News folks talked to a leader at the center from the blind, announced that no one there was hurt, and they had in fact sheltered some who ran from the shooting site. We felt a small amount of relief.

Then we took a collective deep breath and went on with our lives. Amigo put on his costume for the Barbershop Bistro show, and we headed out of the house. Chuck and Amigo left their phones behind. I set mine on vibrate and tucked it deep in my purse. When we arrived, we set the sad world news aside for a little while.

The show had a 1940s theme. Here's Amigo.

The show had a 1940s theme. Here’s Amigo.

Just a few weeks earlier, we’d been at the local museum for the Festival of Trees. Can you find Amigo in the group? At first, neither could I. He fits in very well.

Jingle, Jingle, Jingle!

Jingle, Jingle, Jingle!

Music soothes. It can’t take away the violence, but it can take us out of the big bad world for a little while, lower our blood pressure, and celebrate being together with those we love.

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ADA is 25 years old!

I grew up with a minor hearing loss in an age where those with “special needs” were segregated from the masses. I wasn’t channeled into special education, thank goodness. I succeeded along with my friends. I even managed to earn a college degree in music, despite a certain professor who insisted that my hearing loss meant I shouldn’t be in a conservatory of music at all.

Years and years later, a principal at Amigo’s school glared at me and growled, “Don’t throw ADA at me; it makes me angry.” Angry or not, we threw IDEA at him and he had to follow the law.

What’s ADA? What’s IDEA? Why are they important to me and important to my family? I just posted on Connections Academy’s national blog. Read and enjoy!

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Another Use for a Coat Hook

I might call it repurposing. Amigo just called it “lunch”. We had to run an errand in Green Bay, so we took our Fun Day Friday lunch to a wonderful family restaurant across the street from Lambeau Field. We admired the decor (lots of Packer history) and ordered good food (and we went easy on the trainee). Amigo enjoyed exploring our little booth, including the coat hooks on the side.

It's July. We didn't have coats.

It’s July. We didn’t have coats.

A hook is a good place for a white cane, too.

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I searched my archives for measles or immunizations, and the only related topic I found was flu. I get a flu shot every year. Amigo gets one every year. La Petite, now that she has medical coverage (Thanks, Mr. President!), gets her vaccine, too.

It’s not influenza that’s on people’s minds today. It’s an illness that was thought to be eradicated in the United States: measles.

I remember getting a mumps shot when my friend Julie had mumps. The vaccine was a new one; it wasn’t routine yet. It must have worked; no mumps for me. I remember getting a rubella vaccine when I was at the hospital after giving birth to La Petite. Routine blood tests showed I wasn’t immune, and I got the shot before going home. But measles? No memory of the illness or the shot.

People born before 1957 are considered immune because they were most likely exposed when they were young. I’m a 1960 baby boomer. Where does that leave me?

I did what a lot of baby boomers do: I emailed my mother.

According to Petunia, I may have had a mild case of measles when I was very young. She followed up by saying she remembered getting me a measles vaccine, but doesn’t have a written record.

So around and ’round and ’round I go. Do I need the shot? Nobody knows. While I dilly dally about getting a lab test to find out yea or nay, the city health department is setting up a vaccine clinic early one morning next week. I might just give in, get up, and go. It can’t hurt. Well, it could hurt… never mind.


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The O.K. Chorale Runs Errands

I had a few alternate titles, and none of them really worked. The O.K. Chorale Holds Up a Pharmacy didn’t sound quite right. The O.K. Chorale goes out for Drugs didn’t really make it, either. The O.K. Chorale Stops the Pharmacist in his Tracks is a bit of an exaggeration. Not much, but a bit.

You’ve already guessed, my friends, that we had trouble once again with the Pharmacy That Shall Not Be Named. This time it wasn’t the people – not totally, anyway. For the most part, it’s the system. Or should I say systems, plural? Maybe so.

We rolled up to the hitching post, settled our horse (a Subaru) in a stall, and split up to make better time. Chuck went one direction to get a quart of milk. I followed Amigo to pick out a package of lip balms. We converged together at the pharmacy window. We’d just approach one by one, and we’d be done in a flash. Right? Wrong.

One register wasn’t working. Its card reader was out of service, so that window could only take cash. Works for me, I though, and Amigo, too. No problem. But (wait for it) — there’s more.

All in good time, one of the assistants called us up to the window. She’d already pulled out meds for all three of us. Sad, I guess, that we’re such regular customers that she knows our names, but I’ll give her points for customer service.

But as luck would have it, anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Amigo’s prescription comes in two bottles, and they’d only filled one. I’d called in the numbers for both bottles, so there was confusion. Amigo was a strong self advocate and reminded them that he doesn’t like the childproof caps and that the higher dose capsule goes in the bigger bottle and the lower dose in the short one. They know this. It’s all on his record. But somehow, half the prescription got lost in the shuffle, and the sizes and caps on the bottles was the least of their worries.

So instead of Amigo going first, I stepped up to the second window and received my one prescription. One? I thought it was two? When I called to check, the staff member on the phone told me there was another medication coming due. As the line got longer behind us, I said never mind, don’t worry about it, I’ll get it at a later date. It’s not urgent. Let’s check out now before the milk Chuck bought starts to curdle.

While all this was happening at my window, Chuck handled his order, the fastest of the three. Amigo was still waiting for the pharmacist to rush through filling what should have been done already. I thought I had sorted through my own one lamp or two dilemma when the pharmacist came over for the required Consultation. He looked at my papers and said “One? Isn’t there a second?” Apparently, the paperwork was such that it indicated a second medicine. One if by land, two if by sea, and meanwhile, the line was getting longer and longer behind us.

Finally – and I do mean finally! – Amigo and I checked out and left. Amigo got his chap sticks, and I got away without yet another stupid small single use plastic bag. I only had to say “I don’t need a bag” three times.

With a deep breath, we mounted the patient horse (Subaru) and headed home. And I thought to myself, “Self, wasn’t there a mixed up text message regarding a medication earlier this week?” I’d gotten a phone call from the doctor’s office saying that I’d requested a refill on a powerful medicine I’d just begun taking, and they were worried. Was I okay? Um, yes, I was fine, and I hadn’t requested a refill. When I called in later, pharmacy people chalked it up to a mix up in the “Get your Refills by Text Message” program.

At long last, we made it home. I put excess paper (most of it ads for the text message refill program) through the shredder, placed my meds and Amigo’s in their correct spots in the medicine cabinet, and left Chuck to his own devices.

Dear Pharmacy That Shall Not Be Named; I hope the O.K. Chorale can stay far away from your window for a long, long time. Don’t bother to text. It’s not you, it’s me. No, I have to admit, it’s you.

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When La Petite was in school, we saw her friends a lot. We made them welcome at our home, and they came over in large groups to hang out and drink our lemonade and sodas.

It’s a little tougher for Amigo. His best friends are scattered all over the state of Wisconsin. He met them at the state school for the blind, which serves the entire state. Luckily, Amigo and I enjoy road trips. As soon as we set up our trip to the Great Lake Superior area to see a Big Top Chautauqua show, he mentioned that one of his friends lives in a tiny town close to our destination. Amigo (who is showing major skill in arranging visits – future party planner, perhaps?) got in touch with his friend’s family through Facebook and made all the arrangements for us to stop by and visit.

The next day, they went fishing together.

"Chuck" helps the two young people bait their hooks

“Chuck” helps the two young people bait their hooks

Canes do not do double duty as fishing poles.

Canes do not do double duty as fishing poles.

I’m not much of a fan of fishing, but it was fun to go along and be a spare sighted guide from the car to the end of the dock.

Neither caught any fish — just algae — but it was fun. Her family sent us home with a package of their own home-made Polish sausage. Mmm – it was delicious. We left a thank-you of a few of my own homemade jams and pickles.

Readers, what do you like to bring along for getting-acquainted gifts? Since I started canning, it’s been easy. How about you?


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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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Back to School – January Edition

Going back to school, ending a break of decent length, all of that starts today. I’ve checked in on my school mail account(s) a few times because I have ongoing plans and commitments pending. I have not, however, graded any work during break. Progress reports will be at the top of my to-do list all too soon.

I looked back to posts from a year ago. I expect much of the same, mostly. Mainly. I think, probably. For example, I have a blanket and several pair of fingerless gloves at my desk.

The pair on the left is warmest. The pair in the middle goes with everything. The pair on the right goes with nothing. I’m set for any occasion.

I know I’ll be getting envelopes decorated like this:

Some envelops will look like this, so overloaded that they’ll need duct tape to seal them.

As I was browsing, I saw last January’s post titled “Notes to Teacher Self.” I pulled it up, of course, and found notes that are still relevant to my teacher self a year later. Here are the highlights.

  • Note to reading teacher self: When a student doesn’t have her book, always ask why. Why? One of my middle school struggling readers didn’t have her copy of The Cricket in Times Square because (drum roll) her 16-year-old brother had picked it up and was reading it. Ah, I love this job.
  • Note to PR-loving self: It’s okay to say no. When approached about an interview with a local rag that has been notoriously anti-teacher, No is a valid response. Feel no guilt.
  • Note to role model self: Smile, don’t laugh, when a student struggles in writing to a prompt because “he doesn’t know anyone with a disability.” If they don’t remember I’m hearing impaired and it’s a disability, I’ll take that as a compliment. It means my disability doesn’t interfere with the way I do my job.

And that, teacher self, is one to remember.

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And on we go, into 2014

Yesterday I described a few highlights and lowlights to what I’m now calling the Year of Survival, 2013. To follow up, I’ll address the other part of the challenge: What word reflects my intentions for 2014?

Many of my ongoing projects got set aside in the mess that was 2013. The manuscript for the book Educating Amigo is still in limbo, and sending out submission packages became less of a goal than learning to walk well and handle stairs without a cane. The book project is back on a front burner now, and I hope to reach out to a another potential writer/editor for guidance.

I wrote a few short grants at work, none successful. I don’t mind losing the grants; I learn a little every time I do the research involved in any project funding request. Looking ahead, my grant applications will still focus on our goals of increasing family involvement and improving reading skills. I might reach out to more grantors who have the same mission, rather than more general resources.

In a post on my employer’s national blog, I suggested setting goals in the form of a 3-2-1 summary. 3 good habits to keep in place; 2 bad habits to break or leave behind; and finally, 1 positive change. Let’s see how that looks in my own life.

3 good habits:

  1. Put my health first. Reach out to health professionals as necessary.
  2. Eat local, cook from scratch, and preserve (can and freeze) to keep the family’s menu healthy and delicious. 
  3. Rest. Make sleep a priority.  

2 bad habits to leave behind:

  1. Stop putting my health at risk by putting off routine care – this is a dangerous route to follow.
  2. Don’t sweat the small stuff; keep the big priorities on top of the to-do list. 

And in conclusion, 1 positive change to put into place:

Get my home office in shape and use it – for book work, possibly for summer school, and also for privacy, peace, and quiet.

Back to the first question: What word reflects my intentions for 2014?

Reach. Reach out to those who can help keep me healthy and keep my brain and body functioning properly; reach for resources that can help with grants for my work and help with the publishing process; reach for the sky, but keep at least one foot on the ground for balance.

Readers, how about you?

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