Some things are worth keeping

On the inside of my front windshield is this smear:

It says “Tasha.” It has been there since fall of 2014. Yes, I have not washed the inside of my window for four years. And I may not.

This is on the driver’s side. On the passenger side are a bunch of toe prints, mostly, because Little Miss likes to ride with her feet up on the dashboard, but also a very faint “Mom.”

We were sitting in a parking lot in Meadville, across from the movie theaters, waiting to give my sons a ride home. It was steamy inside the car, and I amused myself by writing her name with my finger. The usual response to such an act was a snappy, disgusted answer–she’s pretty serious most of the time and doesn’t understand teasing.

But this time–THIS TIME–she saw what I did, and voluntarily wrote “Mom,” with a smile for me.

It was a moment that I’ll treasure always. An actual connection of intent and mind. It hasn’t happened often over these 18 years, believe me. But when it does, it’s glorious.

So no, I haven’t washed the window, and I might not.

Ever.

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Sciencing the sh#t out of things….

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Eclipse at near maximum in San Jose, CA–photo credit John Wright Canon 7d thru eclipse glasses as filter, from the Fujitsu Planetarium DeAnza College.

After so many months of hype, we all finally got to experience the two minutes more talked about than the Kentucky Derby–the solar eclipse.

Little Miss and I began on the NASA broadcast from C-SPAN, watching as totality moved through Oregon and Idaho, Nebraska and Missouri, and finally went out when it began to darken outside here in Asheville.

But it was clouds!

Definitely dismayed, we moved around the yard until we could almost see it through our glasses. As clouds tend to do, however, these moved on, and we caught the first third disappearing. It was easy to understand how the ancients, not having the benefit of years of scientific study, felt like the sun was being devoured and might never come back.

Sitting back in a lawn chair, taking in the moment, I experienced so many sensations as the event transpired. The grass was freshly mowed, and it smelled wonderful. We charged my large rose quartz crystal. The quality of the light itself changed, taking on characteristics of bright moonlight, a grayish-blue tint to the scene around us. The temperature dropped, and it definitely darkened. (We were in the 99%, not 100% so we only saw the corona on television.  😦   )

But at the same time, even as that small fingernail crescent slid from the left, to the top, to the right, knowing 99 percent of the sun was blocked– it was still fairly light. It was warm, maybe 70 degrees. Even with that tiniest fraction of the sun. How powerful it must be.

What would happen if the sun really did disappear? Jonathan O’Callaghan has the answer for you here. Let’s not rush for that one.

Overall, it was an exciting experience, and just as exciting to know we were sharing the wonder with literally millions of others across our broad country. Finally something we could all share that didn’t come with a red or blue, black or white, male or female distinction.

Better yet, science predicted it, and we all believed.labkylie5

So if science can be right about this, can’t we give scientists back their funding? Can we support some of their other theories, like global warming and conservation and preservation?  To paraphrase Mark Watney–Let’s science the sh%t out of this world!

 

A day in the LEAF

LEAFAsheville, a center for arts and culture in the Southeast, has no shortage of events that enrich the soul. Fortunately, the local arts councils are also generous with these events, providing free tickets to those who could not otherwise afford them. Little Miss and I were lucky enough to score day tickets to the Lake Eden Arts Festival, or LEAF.

The clouds had burst the night before, and some rain lingered into Saturday morning, but it certainly didn’t extinguish the spirits of those on site. When we arrived, the event was in full swing, concert music spilling into the air outside the tents, a poetry slam tearing words from writers’ hearts, the aromas of hot garlic and smoky grills on the breeze. Brave (foolish?) younguns ziplined down into the lake, now a balmy 50 degrees. One bank of the lake was lined with the tents of those staying for the weekend, the other with the festival venue.

Kids ran everywhere, enjoying being kids, many barefoot, even in the squishy mud left from the rain the night before. Arts and crafts booths lined the perimeter, and soon Little Miss sported her own magenta and lilac African mask on a necklace.

The crowd was a burst of colors, so many dressed in flowing fabrics and “hippie” style. I fell in love immediately with the atmosphere, one which pervades Asheville as a whole, but seemed concentrated at the event in one glorious serving.

The headliner for the music scene was Macy Gray; she’s playing today, so we missed her, but we didn’t miss out. Saturday afternoon, we listened to bluegrass artist Sara Watkins, and as the evening wore on we were treated to a show by Cuban R&B/hiphop artist Danay Suarez.  She’s one of LEAF’s teachers in the visiting artists program at local Erwin High School. Though her concert was in Spanish, even her commentary to the audience, it was easy to decipher her meaning once she began to sing. The reggae and jazz beats reached into the soul and lifted it up.

Such a wild and wonderful combination of folks! We, of course, hunted down our family connections with Lucia and Kevin Barnes from Ultimate Ice Cream (did you know they have a CSA for ice cream???), then moved on. I loved the folks with this sign–good advice was free, and “bad” advice, you paid for. Sounds about right.

I’d had a rough weekend physically, so I had my cane and a folding cart with a camp chair, etc. that I finally set up outside the concert tent. Little Miss announced she wasn’t done exploring, so she spent the next few hours going from booth to booth, talking to vendors, learning about sound healing, swinging on some awesome hanging chairs, smelling incense and candles and much more.  I know it may not sound like much to most folks that a 17 year old worked a crowd, but for those who know the autism spectrum, and Little Miss, this means she overcame the noise of the music and crowd, went on her own, spoke with strangers to gather information, and experienced independence–knowing I was in one place where she could find me if she needed anything. Pretty awesome.

Mid-afternoon, LEAF was treated to a parade with a host of performers like those of Imagine Circus from Raleigh, sparkling and dancing in the sun. 

 

A glorious day, in the end, though I hadn’t expected it would be.  Something I’ve been working on, my expectations. When you have debilitating conditions, it’s so easy to slip into a niche where you automatically choose not to go out and do things for fear of increased pain or repercussions or inability. I’m trying now to “expect” that yes, there will be difficulties, but the experience is worth it once all is done.

And the lovely Danay Suarez proved my point. The beats of her music got me to my feet, moved me like a hurricane wind from her island. I didn’t look around to see what people were judging this old, fluffy lady, swaying her hips with one hand on her cane and one on her chair. I was simply the music.

We went to LEAF. Little Miss got to be a real teenager. And I danced. 🙂

 

 

Summer of the game show

One thing we learn about kids on the spectrum is that they tend to think about things in a very black/white manner. What they see in front of them is what is; if it’s not there, then they don’t imagine it.

For years, Little Miss was this way, and it was a constant point of “push” on my part. Why did someone act in a certain way? What would happen if…? That intuition part was just absent. I always got an irritated “I don’t know,” or more often, just ignored.

But this year, that door has cracked open, slowly at first, and then the possibilities have expanded–thanks to American game shows.

I have mostly considered game shows kind of a waste of time. After all, I wasn’t winning anything. Other than bragging rights to answering Jeopardy questions faster than the contestants (not necessarily a grand feat safe on one’s couch), there wasn’t much point.

wheelBut then we discovered Wheel of Fortune. it was on one night and I noticed Little Miss picking out patterns. She could identify “the” from one letter. Or other combinations. So we started purposefully watching until she could use her intuition to guess the letters. Eureka! Something beyond black and white!

Simultaneously, her ability to explain other things not seen fleshed out as well. Why did that man on the commercial ask people to behave a certain way? What does that girl feel, just by reading her face? Continued progress.

So while other parents, I’m sure, are chasing their kids outside, I’m setting up game shows. We watch The Price is Right, to guesstimate LMADthe prices and how much things might be worth. We watch Let’s Make a Deal to learn how to make decisions about things that can’t be seen. Should you trade a small box for a large box? Is bigger always better? Is money in the hand better than something you can’t see? She nearly always chooses the sure thing. Can’t argue with that.

This month, she’s kept her tablet handy, and every time there’s a trip to somewhere, she looks up where it is, identifies the flag and the location, and shares some facts with me about the country or city. If it’s a place she’s been, it brings recall of fun trips together. Otherwise, it’s a painless geography lesson.

asseenOf course, she’s still focused on having all the “As Seen on TV” gadgets, or anything that’s marked “New”. We’re working on that. But watching how she’s developed this summer, thanks to these entertaining lessons, I think we’ll get there.

Now I just have to get her a passport so she can go to these islands in the Caribbean. She’s insistent….

 

A brief interlude

IMGP2184I got a chance to travel to Florida this weekend to a friend’s wedding, a long-time compatriot from my newspaper days. She was the matron of honor at my second wedding (or third, depending on how you count it), and I’m the godmother of her first son. That being said, we haven’t been closely in touch for years, though we do manage to have a face-to-face at least once every couple of years.

Florida is beautiful and sunny in May, though the temperatures were considerably higher than I was used to, after a long winter in the IMGP2180frozen Northlands. The wedding itself took place on the beach in Melbourne. Both the bride and groom wore white–before Memorial Day! *fans self*  Most of my lady friends in the South would have fainted dead away. It was short and sweet, and the view was delightful. The ceremony was followed by a small but energetic reception with some of the best food I’ve had in awhile–jerk IMGP2181chicken, reggae shrimp and this lovely cake:

I also fit in a trip to my dear friend Edde’s in Fort Pierce, where we had lovely weather except for the last night, when IMGP2190some serious dark clouds rolled in over the ocean, dragging thunder and lightning with them. But we still had a nice visit. She was feeling a good deal better than she had been in December, when last we visited, so that was something to be grateful for.

Little Miss spent the weekend with her dad, which I hope did them both some good. Certainly a little “me” time was appreciated. And of course, nothing says Florida like this:IMGP2172

Not something you see every day….

 

 

A drive in the clouds

Driving back this week from Asheville, Little Miss and I experienced a chill, ethereal world that feathered off into the mountains on all sides.

IMGP2138IMGP2141Whether it was the blue hills of the southern Smokies or the pine-lined slopes of West Virginia, the world seemed confined to a narrow band of highway, and not much more.

Granted, we were mostly just trying not to get blown off the road by semis roaring past in the rain; but it was beautiful.

We did stop at the New River Gorge to get her National Parks Passport stamped, and took some pictures of the valley and river far below the visitors’ center.

We have become fast traveling companions, she and I, since we’re on our own now. She reads maps, tells me about the birds of the regions, and on this trip, insisted on using her own money to buy snacks for both of us. It was a delightful observation of her empathy and outlook for others.

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At nearly sixteen, she has come a very long way from the time I first began this blog. Then I didn’t even know the extent of the journey that awaited us. Some years we endured forty hours a week or more of therapy. More recently, a constant push to make every moment a teachable one suffices. She’s become a conversationalist, even with her peers. Perhaps she’s not the most stimulating passenger on a long route, but I’ve learned over the years to scale back expectations and appreciate even the small things.

It’s enough.

And that’s all that matters.

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Snakes on a train

trainI’d counted on our cross-country AMTRAK trip to be an adventure, one like I’d never experienced. Certainly the delays and other foul-ups on the behalf of the train company added extra layers to the “adventure” I’d never expected, but not all of them were bad. Exactly.

Because of a ticket snafu, we ended up for one overnight in the coach section. I had as seatmate an exchange student who buried herself under a plush white winter coat and slept for nine hours. Little Miss had a Christian woman with two bags of newly-purchased religious books and an addiction to straight solitaire on her tablet. Across the way was a tall, middle-aged gentleman with a black knit cap he kept pulled down tightly, who dug out a shiny new tan gabardine vest half way through the trip and put it on, looking like he felt like a million bucks.

Then there was the mother and teenage son from Nebraska who alternately cuddled and said I love you and then split, with the boy disappearing for twenty minutes at a time claiming he hated her.
But the ones that interested me most came to my attention later in the evening, after the lights were dimmed and people started falling asleep. I never thought to look at the first one, especially after I heard what he was saying.

I know, I know. I’ll have to go to the Greyhound station in Texas to get them. I couldn’t help it…I didn’t want to fight him…Yeah. Yeah. Punk got in my face…No, I’m on the train. I just bailed as soon as I could. Figure maybe they’ll chase the bags. Yeah. Yeah I’m all right. Fixed myself up in the john…Dunno what’ll happen now. Tell Richie… yeah, you know what to tell him. I’ll call…

Made me wonder if I should even close my eyes.

Then the middle-aged black man behind me started talking in succession on his phone to a couple of different people. One was a buddy, I think the second was the woman he’d just run out on.

No, baby, I couldn’t just sit there and listen to you dump on me all day about how I can’t do this, and I can’t do that…No, I didn’t tell you I was going. You’d just discourage me. You always discourage me—I know what I need to do. Don’t tell me what I need to do!

 I could hear her voice, though not her words, screeching back at him. Then he went off on a tirade very similar to Samuel L. Jackson’s in the movie of the similar name. With kids all around. At 3 a.m.

She hung up on him. I think. He switched to his buddy.

You know I’m going to California. I’m gonna fight. I can get matches there. She all about ‘what woman you run off with?’ and ‘how can I leave her?’ like I gonna be nothing without her….ha! That’s what I’m saying…I just can’t stay there. Can’t stay there. Nuh-uh. Sure I didn’t tell her. What I tell her first for? Then she just drag me down…

He went on to more “colorful” language, and I wondered why he thought the destruction of his three-year relationship wasn’t private business.  Or maybe if it’s only strangers around you, they don’t count as real people and you don’t have to show them some respect.

That was apparently the thought of some unknown miscreant who raided the suitcases stored in the common area below in the middle of the night. Even our AMTRAK car attendant lost her suitcase to this creep. She’s a nice lady. It made me feel bad for her. What the $^$%%# is wrong with people? Don’t get me started—Samuel L. might just have to move over and take a seat.

Too many snakes on this train.