Boo is continuing to astonish me. He has started tapping into not only his emotions, but mine as well. Since Max has passed and Mouse has gone off to college, he has been saying he is sad. He will tell me he is happy about a trip to Taco Bell, but then will also tell me he is sad. We FaceTimed with Mouse last night and he said that made him happy. Today he really surprised me. We were in the car, and he was chatting with Sam, not saying anything too important. Suddenly, he said, “You need a hug.” I looked at him. He looked at me. I said, “You are right. I do need a hug!” The miracle did not stop there, he leaned over and gave me a hug. For the next few blocks that I drove he kept a hand on my arm, patting me as if to say, “It will be okay”. I am floored by all of this. Boo has never offered anyone a hug. Boo does not usually like to hug! One of the things I struggle with as an autistic woman is being in touch with my feelings and really knowing how I feel. What I struggle with even more is knowing what other people might be feeling. I have a terrible time reading facial expressions or emotions. In this case, Boo is light years ahead of me. He able to tell me is he is happy, sad, uncomfortable, etc. He is also able to pick up on my emotions and know when I need a hug or some human contact.

I have known I am autistic for 5 years. Emotions still baffle me, mine or those of anyone else. I have worked long and hard on this in therapy. Boo has only really been able to speak in the last year or so, yet he is keying off of his emotions and those of others and expressing them. This reinforces the fact that if you know one autistic, you know one autistic. We all are different. We all have varying strengths and weaknesses. I am so excited as Boo moves into this new school year without the brain fog that his Topomax caused. He is alert, interactive, and a heck of a lot of fun! He is also gaining an appetite and some body mass. I want his teachers to see the miracles that I am seeing. I have had the best time this summer doing things with him. He loves to ride his bike or go for long walks. He loves rides in the car. Being curled up on the couch in a pile of dogs is his happy place. He has a keen sense of the absurd and loves to laugh. It will be bittersweet for me when he hops on the bus Tuesday morning, leaving me for other adventures. Go forth, Boo, and conquer the world. Mom loves you.

Farewell, Max

On August 18th, our family said farewell to our furry friend Max. He danced into our lives in 2011, a foster failure from the time he set foot in our house. I knew, and he knew, that he was here to stay. He was my best buddy. When Rosie passed, Max grieved. He would come and wake me up in the middle of the night, put his nose in my ear and sigh deeply. We would chat for a long time and then he would eventually go back to bed. He seemed to like these late-night chats and continued to do it for many years.

Max loved his meals and instinctively knew when it was breakfast and dinner time. He had a certain dance that he did for each meal. Dinner was at 5 pm every day. Sometimes, he would start dancing at 4pm, just out of general excitement.

For years Max was my running buddy and the neighborhood cleanup dog. He would find food and carry it home in his mouth. One time he found an entire French baguette that was bigger than his head. He ran 3 miles with it clenched between his jaws, took it home to the backyard and devoured it. Even when he got too old to comfortably run, up until his last few weeks of life, Max loved to go for walks. He would happily sniff his way along and check out all the pee mail.

Max lived his life to the fullest up until the end, when the cancer got too strong, and then we peacefully sent him on his way to join Rosie at the Rainbow Bridge. I miss him deeply every day. We got the sweetest card from his vet clinic. It was obvious he was known and loved there. Tomorrow, I will go pick up his ashes and bring him home for the last time. Hugs your dogs a little closer. They are our best friends. I could not have asked for a more loving companion. Go run free with Rosie, my pal, and I will see you on the flip side.

Seeing and Communicating

Mr. Boo is a happy fellow these days. Sam came back last Sunday, and he has been chatting up a storm. Two days after that, his new glasses arrived. Suddenly, the world is sharp and in focus. He now can see and communicate. Life is much better. He has been asking for lots of trips to Taco Bell, as well as for walks around the neighborhood. Though I keep telling him his sister is about to leave for college and he won’t see her until Thanksgiving, I don’t know if it has sunk in. I don’t know if it has really sunk in for the rest of us either. She takes off for parts south on Sunday. Right now, she is soaking up her last few days with good friends, some of whom have been friends since birth, and packing. Boo watches all of this but has not commented. He has her picture on his AAC. Maybe he will ask for her, maybe he won’t. We will try some facetime communication and see what he thinks.

In the animal realm, all is calm at the moment. Jack Jack has recovered from his dietary indiscretion and has bounced back to normal. I have no idea what it was that he ate, but I am certain he would do it again. Gloria is happy to have her brother back and is bossing him around. Max, despite his angiosarcoma, seems fairly stable. He does not know that he has cancer. He still dances for his meals, plunges his snout under my arm for pets, and dozes in his favorite rays of sunshine. We will take each day as it comes and enjoy him until the last. He does not seem ready to go join Rosie at the Bridge, so he can stay with me as long as he likes. Stevie takes all of this in stride. He heavily relies on the other dogs to tell him what to do, so he is just happy in their presence. Currently, Catherine is running on her wheel and Anastasia is under my arm, scratching in her favorite blanket. Life, after a week of almost total insanity, is calm, and I am grateful. Though it is still hot outside, there are signs that fall is coming. Target has all their back-to-school items on sale. Mercury is busy packing for college. I am getting notices about Boo’s school for upcoming events. This is truly a season of change. Boo, Mercury, the pets and I all wish you a peaceful season, and if you see us out and about, give us a wave or a thumbs up. Peace.

Mute No More!

To my incredible relief and Boo’s great joy, Sam arrived via Fed Ex yesterday morning. I had to restrain myself from hugging and kissing the delivery man. Instead, I just signed for the package and ran inside to find Boo. When he saw Sam his face lit up. He grabbed the device and began happily chatting about a number of things, a trip to Taco Bell, the weather, how he was feeling, etc. Apparently, he had a lot to get out. Last night he slept well and deeply for the first time in a while. We have almost titrated down off the Topomax and are on Fycompa for seizures. So far, so good.

This will be a brief update as I have 2 sick dogs. Max has a mass on his spleen. As I type, his vet is trying to find a surgeon who will remove it. Jack Jack ate something he shouldn’t have and is in the animal hospital. Nothing is blocking his stomach, though there was something in there earlier. He is, however, refusing to eat. The vet wanted to run some blood tests to rule out anything like pancreatitis. So, this is an expensive and tiring week for pets. At this time next week, Mercury will be moving into her new abode at Oklahoma State University. We are busily scurrying around getting her ready to go and she is having last minute visit with local friends.

Boo, Sam, and I hope you all are well. Please send out some good vibes for my dogs. Peace, and we will talk soon.


Mr. Boo has a sad. Sam, his trusty AAC, is back in the shop for repairs. A loaner AAC has yet to be sent to us. The company promised one in 5 working days. I asked them to put a rush on the order as Boo is mute and miserable. They said they would do our best. Today is day 6 without Sam, and he is doing okay, but can’t really communicate.

Thursday, we met with his wonderful neurologist, Dr. Feyma. He agreed the Topomax was not doing Boo any favors and gave us some different options for alternative anti epilepsy meds. We started one of those meds last night. So far, so good. We also discovered that Boo has a mild case of scoliosis. We are doing a sedated MRI to look for more details in September. Right now, there is no reason to get in touch with orthopedics.

Boo got off the bus yesterday without his glasses. Great, now the poor kid can’t communicate or see straight. I sent emails to his bus aid and teacher hoping to track down the glasses. He does have a backup pair, but he does not like to use them. If we are really lucky, both the glasses and the loaner AAC will show up today. He has been a terrific sport about the whole thing, but it must be hard not being able to see clearly or to communicate. So, if you see Boo, or anyone else out who is having a tough day, give them a smile and some grace. Everyone is fighting some sort of battle. Please be kind.

Land of the free?

It is 4:30 am and once again my muse has come storming into my dreams, rousing me from a restless slumber. The 4th of July has always been my least favorite holiday, but this year its ratings have sunk even lower, if such a thing is possible.

Boo and the dogs are not fans of noisy holidays where people with small minds set off big booms. None of us slept well on the night of the 4th. I could hear Boo thumping about in his room and the dogs were pressed closed to my side, panting. The hedgehogs ran nervously on their wheels. Nothing about that night was restful. The next morning I got Boo up and put him on the bus. He seemed a bit sleepy and out of it. Then, I went to meet a favorite friend for brunch where we animatedly discussed all the woes of the world and how, if given the power and the means, we would solve them.

I got home about two minutes ahead of the bus. The bus door slid open, and Boo staggered off the bus. He looked very much like someone who was trying hard not to have a seizure. The Topamax, which controls his seizures, also keeps him from sweating and regulating his body temperature. He seemed both hot and cold at the same time. A note from his teacher wondered if he felt well, as he had been very quiet all day. He asked for a freezie from Taco Bell and I got us each one. He slammed his, then slammed mine, went into his room, pulled the covers over his head and descended into a very deep sleep. He woke up only vaguely for his evening meds and the returned to his torpor. It is now nearly 12 hours later and all I hear from him are snores. I do not think we will send him to school today. His body is too over stressed, and as a mom, I am too upset and angry at the world to send him out in it.

How can we as Americans say that we live in the land of the free? I do not feel free, and I certainly do not feel brave. I don’t feel free because my reproductive system is governed by old white men who have not the foggiest idea of how female anatomy works. (No, one cannot just reimplant an ectopic pregnancy.) I do not feel brave because my son could not go to school last week because of a dangerous presence in the neighborhood. I do not feel brave because people in Chicago could not safely attend a 4th of July parade without death and mayhem. I do not feel brave because somewhere out there, there is a two-year-old, a toddler with light up squeaky shoes, who has lost his parents, who only wanted to take him to see the parade. Because of a fanatical tRump supporter, he will grow up an orphan. People say he is too young to remember what happened, but trust me, at a cellular level, he will always know. What is so brave about taking up a sniper position on a roof and mowing down innocent citizens? On July 2, I was driving home from a wonderful trail race. I pulled up behind a massive pickup truck with multiple pro police stickers all over the rear. The most disturbing sticker was the one that said, “God bless our armed troops, especially the snipers”. I don’t normally swear, but WTF? Who in their right mind would praise a sniper? And two days later, a sniper climbed to the top of a Chicago building and did his worst. Needless to say, I gave that truck a wide berth, but it was an eerie omen of worse things to come.

My muse cannot sleep when she is outraged, and trust me friends, she is outraged. Furious at people who send off big booms and scare my child and dogs. Furious at old white men who refuse to take their feet off the necks of women. Furious that people could not go to a parade and then go home in peace, rather than in a body bags. I sit in my kitchen, in my favorite chair. I have a mug of coffee. My dogs are asleep at my feet. My hedgehogs are playing under my arms and behind my back. But this is only an illusion of peace because I am thoroughly disillusioned. “Know justice, no peace. No justice, no peace.” Trite, but true. We will not have peace until we have justice. We will not have peace until we have banned guns and secured the rights of women, of POC, of our trans allies. We will not have peace, and I will not rest. I am just one mom screaming out her injustice into the void. I don’t have power or political connections. But I can love fiercely and deeply. Like Meg, in A Wrinkle in Time, who used her love to overthrow forces of evil, I call out for more love in the world. Hate only brings more hate. We have to learn how to love again. This does not mean that we are passive, but rather, active. Be an activist, write, march, speak, even when your voice trembles. We should be able to love our country and not fear our government. Like any mom, I should be able to send my children to school and welcome them safely home at the end of the day. But these privileges are not ours for the asking. So, I ask you to join me. Join my voice of outrage and betrayal and love. Speak out against injustice even when it is easier to remain silent. Do it for Boo, do it for the orphaned two-year-old in Chicago. Do it for all the parents who lost their children to gun violence when all they did was send them to school in the morning. My muse will not stand by quietly, will you?

My Children, My Choice

I have been trying to write a blog for the last 4 days, but my muse has been silent. Tonight, she stormed through my dreams and demanded that I give her voice, at 4:35 in the morning. So, I complied, and here I am.

I was blessed with two viable pregnancies, giving birth to two children with ten fingers, ten toes, and a wicked sense of humor. After the birth of Mouse, I knew I was done having children and chose to go on the Pill. I have taken that pill every day for 18 years. If that pill were to fail, I know what I would do next. There is a clinic right down the street that would help me. Since I am grateful for the existence of this clinic, I write for them, I march for them, I give them money, and I signed up to be a volunteer clinic escort to help other women in need.

The idea that life begins at conception is such a Christian idea. Both our Jewish and Moslem brethren believe that the life of the mother always comes first and that the child is viable after his first breath. The ancient Rabbis who wrote the Talmud were very clear about this, and Islam has similar tenets. I cannot believe that Jesus would not have put the well-being of the mother first, as he was well versed in Judaic law and the Talmud.

I grew up in the shadow of an ectopic pregnancy. In 1973 my mother became gravely ill, but her OB refused to believe that she was pregnant and went chasing zebras. This was well before one could trot over to CVS and buy an at home prenatal test. All my mom knew was that she was sick and in pain and things were getting worse. Just before she ruptured, the doctor did emergency surgery and found that she had an ectopic pregnancy that had reached well into the second trimester. That pregnancy nearly killed her, nearly left me a motherless 2-year-old, and would have prevented my younger siblings from having ever been born. Now politicians without the slightest knowledge of maternal medicine are claiming that ending an ectopic pregnancy is wrong and that the embryo can be reimplanted in the womb. Wrong. If this were true, my mother would have had that baby in 1973, and I would have had had another brother or sister. My mom wanted that baby, but it was not to be. Ectopic pregnancies, left to run their course end in only one way, death.

The SCOTUS ruling happened last Friday. Mouse turned 18 on Saturday and I took her and her girlfriend to an Indigo Girls concert. The hall was packed with furious lesbians, activists, and allies. One could feel the rage and power in that room. In November, we will take this rage to the polls, so that every woman has the right to choose.

I chose to have two children, and then I chose to have no more. I continue to take the Pill because mother nature has a sick sense of humor and I don’t trust my uterus not to have one more go, just for old time’s sake. I am 51, Robert is 62. I would indeed be a geriatric mother. I have two autistic children. It is without a doubt that I would have another one, and one with complications. Mouse is about to leave home and set out on her own. Boo will always live with me and be cared for by me. But what will happen if I am no longer there to care for Boo? This thought haunts me at night. It would be irresponsible of me to put another autistic child into the system. I adore my children like life itself, but I do not want any more of them. And, no, I don’t want to put a child up for adoption. The foster system is overrun with unwanted children. Why can’t SCOTUS focus on these children instead of the reproductive health of women?

I wanted this to be a happy blog, celebrating the birthdays of two of my favorite people. But I am not happy. I am upset, angry, furious at old white men who seek to control the reproductive health of a nation. We cannot go back to pre Roe. Women have had abortions since time began. We will continue to have them. The question is if we can continue to have them safely. I pray that we can. This is not the time to despair, this is the time to rally and fight. To fight for women who want to have children, to fight for women who chose not to have children. To fight for women like my mom who wanted a child, but the embryo implanted in the wrong place. To fight for my 12 year old student who was a victim of rape and incest. She got pregnant in 1998. She was able to have an abortion which saved her life and let her graduate from middle school and high school. 12 year olds have no business having babies and she did not want one in the first place. These are troubled times. Continue to fight, continue to march, continue to make your voice heard. And, be a good human being, Boo is counting on you.

Fly High Eagles!

On June 3 I had the honor of speaking at the Bridge View School graduation. It was so much fun! There were 12 very excited graduates, all decked out in caps, gowns and corsages. Parents, guardians and friends filled in the chairs. Teachers sat with their graduates or with the BVS chorus. I told the graduates how proud I was of them, how far they had come and how they would always be a part of the BVS family. No matter where their journeys take them, they will always be eagles. I told them a little about Boo Bear’s graduation. He graduated in 2020, in the beginning of the pandemic. It was a drive by graduation. We were told to meet in our front yard at a certain time on May 16. The first thing we saw was a big fire truck! Following it was a line of cars of all the faculty and staff and BVS. They had signs, streamers, and balloons. Teacher Sonia hopped out of her car, gave Boo a big hug, put him in his cap and gown, took a picture, gave him another hug and hopped back in her car. That was the 2020 graduation! It lasted all of 3 minutes. I told today’s graduates how happy I was that we got a little more time to celebrate them.

The students all began the ceremony by sitting in the front of the room. One by one they saw their family members and went to sit with them, on them, or under a handy chair. It became a game of hide and seek when it was time to hand out the diplomas. Not everyone wanted to come off a lap our out from under a chair. One by one Principal Lisa coaxed them out, gave them their well-earned diploma, and had their picture taken. Parents beamed and there was not a dry eye in the house. At the end of the ceremony the graduates recessed out to a party on the patio. I went home. It was a wonderful morning. I am so happy I was asked to speak to the grads and their parents. These students, families, and teachers have worked so hard for so many years, it is lovely to congratulate them. If you are ever having a down day, I suggest you drop by BVS. That school radiates good energy and good will. You cannnot walk inside that building without feeling one hundred times better. I am so grateful to the staff at BSV for working with and believing in these young people. Truly, this school and faculty is one in a million. Boo Bear still has his class of 2020 BVS Eagles yard sign in his room. He is very proud of it. I am very proud of our graduates. Fly high, eagles, fly high.

Leaving it all on the dojo floor

It’s been a tough week in our country. It’s been a horrible week for elementary school children and their parents. It’s been a bad week for teachers. Once again, it is 4:25 in the morning and I am pacing the floors. I cannot sleep. I stand at the door of Boo’s room, just so I can hear the funny snoring noises that he makes. I stand guard against monsters I cannot see. I do not sleep. I don’t think many parents are sleeping these days, or teachers, for that matter.

Usually, I just write about Boo, sometimes about his sister Mouse. Today I will write a bit about me. Like Boo and Mouse, I am autistic. I was diagnosed at age 46 and some of the more ragged pieces of my life began to fall into place. At age 44, I first stepped foot in a dojo. Mouse wanted to join a friend who was taking Kung Fu through Community Ed. I signed her up and went to her first class. I instantly fell in love with Kung Fu. Something about it called to me. Mouse finished her first belt requirement and I signed us both up for the fall session. Unlike Mouse, Kung Fu does not come naturally to me. I really have to work at it. Children seem to pick up the moves with ease, for ladies in their mid-forties, it took a bit longer, but I persisted. That winter, we persuaded Robert to join us at the dojo. Six years later, we are all black belts and still a happy little trio. The black belt did not come easily. It took six years of work, through two major surgeries and a pandemic. Last winter, Mouse and I tested for our first-degree black belts and passed. That spring, Robert passed as well. When one first takes up Kung Fu, one gets a new belt every time one passes a test. As one advances. the belts take longer and longer to get. 14 months and 5 tests fell between my first black belt test and the test I took last night for my second-degree black belt.

I arrived at the dojo feeling virtually numb. My psyche had held all the pain and rage it had for over 36 hours and could hold no more. Robotically, I began practicing my two separate forms and my ten forms of self-defense. This test was a bit unusual, as I was double testing. Both Mouse and I wanted to earn our second-degree black belts before she left for college, so we chose to test twice in one night. She had tested last week and passed with flying colors. The dojo was filled with jittery children and adults, punching, kicking, jumping. I tried to slow down my breathing and center into the core of my being. A few minutes later I was called to the front to test. Going into the first form I stutter stepped, suddenly unsure of myself. Someone’s cell phone went off. Other students moved around me, intent on their own forms. Suddenly, I had a moment of clarity and the form began to click. My breathing smoothed out and I leaned into the moves. I finished the first form and was encouraged to try the second one. I needed no urging. I leapt into the second form, spinning and punching. My body took on a life of its own. I finished the form and knew that I had done well. The last part of the test was showing ten different forms of self defense. This I did easily. I bowed to my instructor and he showed me my scores. They were higher than I expected and he was and I were both pleased. I moved over to a different corner of the dojo and began working on kicking various targets. I aimed all my rage, grief and pain of the last 36 hours into those targets. I jumped and kicked, jumped and kicked. I kicked out at pain, oppression and loss. I let my body express its righteous anger at so many lives lost. I could have practiced for hours, but too soon, our time was up. We were awarded our various certificates and belts and headed out into the spring night. The fresh air felt good on my face.

I had entered the dojo numb, unable to process any more emotions. My body came alive during my form, and I was able to leave my rage, grief, and pain on the dojo floor. I left feeling curiously empty. Now it is 4:46 am and I am awake. The demons of worry stalk around my head. When the sun comes up, I will take these demons for a long run. In the meantime, I have the company of my sleeping dogs and hedgehogs. Later this morning, I will write a letter to Keith Ellison. I want to suggest to him that in order to own a gun, one must have proof of insurance and be at least 26 years old. One cannot buy a car without proof of insurance. One cannot rent a car if one is under the age of 26. If one is a young adult male, one will pay much more for insurance. Why can’t the same laws apply to gun ownership? And why does anyone need a semi-automatic weapon? No one does. We do not live in a war zone. But, if such weapons are readily available, we run the risk of sending our children into a firing squad every day we put them on the bus, every day that we drop them off at school. Every day that I put Boo on the bus I throw a prayer into the void that he will be delivered safely back to me in eight hours. Millions of parents repeat this ritual every day. It is time for the need for this ritual to end. Our children and teachers should be safe in school. Full stop. No one needs to carry a gun. Full stop. This is not the time to remain silent or offer “thoughts and prayers”. The very idea is blasphemy. This is the time to take to the streets, to picket, to call, to write. 50 senators hold our country hostage. Their hands are deep in the pockets of the NRA. This is in a country where over 80 % of the population wants stricter gun control. Please join me in the fight. Do it for the countless lives that have been lost. Do it for the lives which can be saved. I left my rage and grief on the dojo floor. I gained new energy for this fight. Please, be a good human, join me.

The Other Nineteen

I am sitting on my front steps waiting for the bus which will bring Boo to me. It is lovely May afternoon. Birds are singing, my hanging baskets of flowers are in full bloom. Because we are observing No Mow May, my lawn is a tangled thicket of grass, weeds, and dandelions. It is a pollinators delight. I hear the bus chug around the corner and wheeze to a stop in front of my house. Tim, the driver, waves and gives me a hearty greeting. We wait for Boo to emerge from the cavernous inside of the bus. He pops into a view, a tall bespectacled fellow, hunched a bit due to his backpack, his beloved Sam clutched in his hands. He gives me a lopsided grin and tags after me into the house. Once inside he flops down on the sofa, Sam in one hand, his iPad in the other. He chats about his day and watches his beloved Curious George. His life is good. I do not turn on the news. I do not want to bring the harsh realities of life in America into my living room. I do not want Boo to hear the news of the day. I want to shield him. I am acutely aware that I am a very lucky mom. I was able to meet my son at the curb and welcome him home from school. Nineteen children were unable to do this today. Nineteen pairs of parents are grieving as their children were snatched from them, senselessly.

“You have to be taught to hate and fear. It has to be drummed in your dear little ear. You have to be carefully taught.” Boo does not know how to hate or fear. Neither did those 19 children in a Texas elementary school. But hate and fear made its way into that school and did its unspeakable worst. I had thought Sandy Hook would be a turning point in gun violence. I thought our country would say enough and tighten gun reform. But nothing changed. Since Sandy Hook, I have had powerful, gripping images of a masked gunman breaking into Boo’s school. His classmates are among the most vulnerable. They would not know how to react to an active shooter. They would not know to run or hide. And they would die, shielded by their teachers, who would also die. I did notice after Sandy Hook that schools, Boo’s school included, are now locked down and a visitor has to be buzzed in from the office. This gives me scant solace. A lock and a buzzer will not deter a madman with a gun.

So, it is 4:43 in the morning. I can’t sleep. My dogs and hedgehogs are scattered around me, snoozing soundly. I can hear Boo making little sleep sounds from his room, but he is deeply asleep. I am the lucky one. I can slip into his room, silently, and check on him. Nineteen mothers had this chance ripped away from them. Senselessly. I have no words to put to my grief and rage. Last night I ran with running group, so wrecked inside I could barely speak. I am so grateful to my good friends who gently pulled me along in their wake and did not ask me to talk. Though running almost always soothes me, there is no way to check this pain. Over 80 % of our country is in favor of gun reform but are held hostage by 50 senators who are deep in the pockets of the NRA. Why do these people represent us? They could care less about our hopes, dreams, needs. They are motivated strictly by greed.

I will log off here. But, let this be my rallying cry. Take to the streets. March. Call. Write. Our children deserve better. Our children deserve to attend school in safely. Our fellow parents deserve to meet their children at the curb at the end of the day. If you can’t do it for you, do it for Sandy Hook, do it for all the other schools that fell to senseless violence. Do it for Boo. Be a good human, act now.

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