Excuses

Posted by on Oct 31, 2016 in Anxiety, Autism, Musings | 1 comment

Illustration of a boy shrugging his shoulders.

Last week’s post about things I’d like to take a break from has me thinking about excuses. Excuse used to mean a reason. Like an excused absence in school meant that you had a verified reason for being gone, usually that you were sick. It seems to me that it’s become something else entirely in today’s vernacular. Now I feel like it means an illegitimate reason; a way to get out of something you should do, but you just don’t want to. A justification.

It’s really always been both. I know that. I guess I’m saying it feels like the latter has overtaken the former.

Last summer, I got a summons to serve on a jury at the end of August. I had served on two juries in the previous 18-months, the first county and the second federal, so I could legally be called for county jury duty again. I could have served, as I’d done before, by arranging after-school care for the boys and canceling their therapy appointments I wouldn’t be available to drive them to. But I knew that Zookeeper would need all the support we could muster to make this a good school year from the first moment and convince him things would be completely different from the horrors of last year.

So, there was a legitimate reason I couldn’t serve at the end of August. I could defer my service, as I’d done when I was called for service in December last year, starting on the first day of winter vacation, but I didn’t want to. I wanted to be excused. While it’s true that I didn’t know how the year would go or when I could expect things to settle down enough to leave Zookeeper in after-school care and skip therapy sessions, it didn’t feel like a legitimate excuse not to serve. It still doesn’t, though that may be due to the fact that this school year has gone so much better than anticipated.

Still, I went online and asked to be excused because my autistic son was recovering from a traumatic school year and I didn’t feel it would be healthy for him to miss a single session with his psychotherapist, the only person he’s completely comfortable being honest about his feelings with, because I couldn’t take him. I felt like they would tell me to get real; that everybody has problems and I would just have to figure it out.

But they didn’t. I was excused almost immediately, without any follow-up questions. And I feel as if I’ve gotten away with something.

On the other hand…

When I first started talking about my own autism diagnosis, a friend made a comment about probably also being on the spectrum, but refusing confirmation for fear of using it as an excuse not to go to the gym. Presumably due to sensory issues and coordination. That really got to me and I became adamant that autism is not an excuse. You may need accommodations to go to the gym, but that’s not an excuse. It’s a need. And it’s okay to have needs. It’s imperative to have needs and seek to have them met. Every living thing in the universe has needs. It’s the nature of life. But I find it embarrassing. I don’t want to have needs. I’m happy meeting the needs of others, I just don’t want to have any myself. And I think that’s somehow selfish.

That paragraph went somewhere I wasn’t expecting. My intent was to point out that autism is not an illegitimate reason; that it’s okay to accept that something is outside your capabilities or that you need help to achieve it. But I went inside my own psyche instead. I went to one of my deepest fears: to have a need I cannot fill on my own.

Maybe showing that fear is appropriate for Halloween.
Illustration of a boy dressed as a superhero posing with thumbs up behind a sign that says, "The Perfect Kid."

The final example I planned to share involves a conversation with my mother-in-law. She visited us the summer before she passed away. She and I were sitting at the kitchen table together one afternoon talking about the boys. She complimented them on something and I immediately began my “yes, but…” refrain. My intent, as I discussed in the Break post, was to be open about the struggles we’ve been through to achieve whatever it was she was praising the boys for and about how far we still have to go. Well, to be honest, my intent was probably more to make sure she understood than to be open about it. I have a need for people to know that. I also have a need for people to know how wonderful our boys are. Which version of things you get depends on where I think you’re coming from. Since she hadn’t born witness to the struggles, I assumed my mother-in-law was coming from the “look how easy it is” camp.

Her reaction surprised me. She said, “Well, I think my grandchildren are perfect,” and walked away from the conversation.

I think they’re perfect, too. I resented her rejection of my need to show the struggle for a long time. Until after her death, really.

But now I think that maybe she understood that there was struggle and that there was nothing she could do about it, so she wanted to focus on the good. Maybe she feared for them because I seemed not to see their beauty.  Maybe we were saying the same thing, but approaching it from opposite directions.

I like to think we understand each other now; that we both see their beauty and love them unconditionally, no excuses necessary.

 

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Stormy

Posted by on Oct 17, 2016 in Musings | 0 comments

Natural disaster scene with hurricane illustrationThe good people on the interwebs who know about weather are telling us that the remnants of Typhoon Songda are headed our way. We may lose power if trees fall on power lines and, you know, Pacific Northwest is virtually synonymous with trees.

Plus, said trees still have many of their leaves, which means they catch more wind and are more likely to be felled.

So I’m scheduling this to post just in case our power goes out and I can’t get online.

Oh, and I want to apologize to Lora because she’s commented here the last two weeks and I didn’t get a notification, so I’m just now seeing them. Sorry!

See you next week! Or later today, depending on how things go…

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Bet Your Bottom Dollar

Posted by on Oct 3, 2016 in Musings | 0 comments

Image of a smiling red-haired girl with upward braids and a look of excitement!

Oops! wrong little red-haired girl. Told you I was tired…

♫ The post’ll be up…tomorrow.

Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow

I will post.

Just thinkin’ about tomorrow

Makes my weary bones ache with exhaustion

And dismay!

Tomorrow! Tomorrow!

I’ll type it

Tomorrow.

I’m only a day behind. ♫

Seriously, it’s written in longhand, I’m just too tired to type it right now.

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Nervous Much?

Posted by on Sep 19, 2016 in Anxiety, Autism, Awkward! | 0 comments

Image of two people falling from a tightrope, one of them grabbing the rope with one hand and the second person with the other, thus saving them both.I didn’t get much sleep this week. I had three meetings and the nerves really got to me. Two of the meetings were for school and the other was just for me.

To recap the plan from last week’s post, we needed

  • FBA/BIP and accommodations to be in place – √ (Yes, I know that’s a square root sign, but I couldn’t find a checkmark. Refer to first sentence of this post.)
  • Officially change Zookeeper’s name and submit it to school – √
  • Meet teacher and special education teacher before school starts – √ and meetings to be described in this post
  • Mom talk to class about autism – much sweating, hemming, and hawing has commenced regarding this step
  • Mom/Dad check in with Zookeeper every day/week and make changes as needed – √ and I’ll tell you about it next week

The first order of business was to find out who Zookeeper’s teachers would be. Because it’s written into his IEP, we were able to find out which teachers Zookeeper would have a week before anyone else. There was a service day, where volunteers sign up to come get the school/teachers ready for the year, on Saturday, August 27th. I signed the four of us up in the hope that we would know who the teachers were by then and meet them ahead of the swarming crowds that gather at the official Meet and Greet.

We did. So, while BamBam and I went to his teacher’s classroom to help, Sparky and Zookeeper went to his teacher’s classroom. I didn’t tell the boys that these were their teachers until after because I didn’t want them to go tell their friends, but it also turned out to be a good idea because there was no pressure on them. BamBam was hoping for the teacher every second grader in the school was hoping for, the equivalent of my friend Lora, but he didn’t get her. I was really worried about that, but meeting his teacher helped me see that this teacher might be even better for him. Which is also the equivalent of Lora because she would absolutely be the best teacher ever for my boys. Meeting her first helped to soften the blow when I told him he would be in her class instead.

I didn’t spend much time with Zookeeper’s teacher that day, but he and Sparky really liked her a lot. I didn’t make the split on purpose, but I now realize it was better for me to go to BamBam’s class because I think the room would have been emotionally charged had I been the one with Zookeeper.

So, Zookeeper meeting his teacher DONE!

Next was my meeting with Zookeeper’s teacher, special education teacher, and principal. We set that meeting for Wednesday, August 31st. The principal told me in advance that his former special ed teacher, the one we loved, will be his special ed teacher again. I told Zookeeper and his response was, “Good.” Sounds anticlimactic, but it was said with enthusiasm.

I got an assortment of pastries to bring in to show how much I appreciated them taking the time to meet with me. We had a very productive meeting, going over all the accommodations and how they will work. The principal even mentioned that Zookeeper had trouble with kids while waiting in line to go into class first thing in the morning. There’s no supervision at that time, except for the safety patrol walking around the building, and some of the kids are out there a long time before the bell rings. They get restless.

The special education teacher suggested that Zookeeper go through the office in the mornings, show them a pass she made for him, and go straight up to his classroom. There he will pick up a schedule for the day, compare it to the regular schedule to see if there’s anything different, then either help teachers with tasks or read quietly until it’s time to bring the class in.

They even suggested he start this the first day of school. Because once Zookeeper starts a routine, even if it’s one he doesn’t like, there is no getting him to change it. He is definitely a stick-with-the-devil-you-know kind of kid.

So, meeting with teacher and special ed teacher DONE!

Earlier in the week, I got an email from the choir I’m in about the start of the new season on September 3rd. The choir is in its seventh year, so the email listed the goals and accomplishments for the previous years and for the one ahead. The new goal is to establish a small, auditioned sub-choir.

That’s right in my wheelhouse! Given, that wheelhouse has 30 years of cobwebs on it, but still.

I signed up for the 7:40pm audition on September 1st, thinking that it would be soon enough that I wouldn’t chicken out, but after the school meetings so I would be relieved and able to relax.

Turns out, not so much with the relaxed. Because, once I’d finished the meetings and was satisfied we had done everything we could until school starts, I realized how totally freaked out I was about the audition. I had nightmares on Wednesday night and slept even less than I had the night before.

The email didn’t say anything about what the audition entailed. Neither did the sign-up sheet. I could have postponed my audition until after the first rehearsal, where I was sure there would be more information (there was), but I was afraid I would chicken out all together if I didn’t do it on September 1st. I had convinced myself that I could not ask anyone and, once I decide something like that, well, let’s just say Zookeeper’s rigidity apple didn’t have very far to fall.

I started trying to remember what was involved in high school and, for some reason, all I could think of was harmonic and melodic minor scales. Turns out the audition involved most of the all-state choir audition parts except for the scales.

Image of a large woman belting out a song.The director had me warm up a little, then she told me what the four parts of the audition would be: more warm up to check out my range, call and response (what I’m calling it because she plays notes on the piano and I sing them back to her),sight singing, and a PREPARED PIECE. Why couldn’t the prepared piece be what I remembered from high school?

I crapped out on the range. My voice just stopped coming out. I used to be a mezzo soprano, but now I’m close to a contralto. Very strange. She said it’s because I haven’t sung for a while and it’ll take more time for it to come back.

The call and response went well. I think she said I got all five.

The sight singing was disastrous. I started off okay, but then missed a couple of intervals and it went downhill from there. I commented on how flat I was and she said yes, but that I’d ended on the right note in reference to the piece. Meaning I was in the general vicinity of the right note, I guess.

Then there was the prepared piece and the fact that I didn’t have one. She said I could sing something from our last show or Amazing Grace or Happy Birthday or Do Re Mi…

I still have a bit of a chip on my shoulder about Do Re Me from our last concert, so I picked that one without pausing to give it thought. I should have picked Happy Birthday. She asked what general key I wanted, but I didn’t know, so she just chose one and I took off singing. By about Mi I realized it was too high for me. I kept going, but it felt like a disaster.

I was so nervous that I babbled about god knows what all the way through the audition. It was an embarrassment to the memory of the singer I used to be. The director was very kind and patient and said I did a great job. I guess we’ll see. The last of the auditions are on September 20th and the first rehearsal is the 26th, so I’ll know soon.

Either way, I’m hoping I can relax now and get some sleep.

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Choir Videos

Posted by on Aug 8, 2016 in Musings | 0 comments

And now, for your viewing pleasure, I present long lost video footage of your favorite artists:

Five Choirs – Chorale, Montage, M’Ladies, and Madrigals (“In the Bleak Midwinter” solo by Kyra B.)

*Yes, I know that’s only four choirs. I’ve been through it many times and haven’t found a fifth choir yet. Let me know if you do.

Montage at Young Americans Invitational

Carousel

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Choir Concerts Part 2

Posted by on Aug 1, 2016 in Musings | 0 comments

I only intended to do two of the choir concert posts, but I found something today that predicates one more. You guys won’t believe what I’m going to post next week!

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