A day that should ‘live in infamy’

Many people today are celebrating May 4 as the lisping salutation of Star Wars’ “May the 4th be with you.” I’m a big fan, don’t get me wrong–I’m all for celebrating George Lucas’ creation.

ksu1But in my mind always is the “other” May 4. That would be May 4, 1970, 50 years ago today. I was in high school, and my stepmother was attending college–at Kent State University.  She came home from school that afternoon in tears. By the time the news was on that night, we all saw what she’d escaped from. National Guard members had shot and killed four students and wounded nine more in the middle of a protest against the expansion of Vietnam War into Cambodia.

From Kent State University records: Four Kent State students died as a result of the firing by the Guard. The closest student was Jeffrey Miller, who was shot in the mouth while standing in an access road leading into the Prentice Hall parking lot, a distance of approximately 270 feet from the Guard. Allison Krause was in the Prentice Hall parking lot; she was 330 feet from the Guardsmen and was shot in the left side of her body. William Schroeder was 390 feet from the Guard in the Prentice Hall parking lot when he was shot in the left side of his back. Sandra Scheuer was also about 390 feet from the Guard in the Prentice Hall parking lot when a bullet pierced the left front side of her neck.

KSU2Nine Kent State students were wounded in the 13-second fusillade. Most of the students were in the Prentice Hall parking lot, but a few were on the Blanket Hill area. Joseph Lewis was the student closest to the Guard at a distance of about 60 feet; he was standing still with his middle finger extended when bullets struck him in the right abdomen and left lower leg. Thomas Grace was also approximately 60 feet from the Guardsmen and was wounded in the left ankle. John Cleary was over 100 feet from the Guardsmen when he was hit in the upper left chest. Alan Canfora was 225 feet from the Guard and was struck in the right wrist. Dean Kahler was the most seriously wounded of the nine students. He was struck in the small of his back from approximately 300 feet and was permanently paralyzed from the waist down. Douglas Wrentmore was wounded in the right knee from a distance of 330 feet. James Russell was struck in the right thigh and right forehead at a distance of 375 feet. Robert Stamps was almost 500 feet from the line of fire when he was wounded in the right buttock. Donald Mackenzie was the student the farthest from the Guardsmen at a distance of almost 750 feet when he was hit in the neck.

I attended KSU from 1974-1978, and the presence of the Guard was still felt there. You could walk from the Victory Bell on the Commons up Blanket Hill in the footsteps of those who had rallied that day, protesting the War, protesting the government, protesting the presence of the Guard at all. You could walk around the journalism building to the parking lot at Prentice Hall (the place I lived freshman year) and see the tributes left for the dead. The bullet hole in the big black sculpture remained. Each year, students and staff  of the May 4th Task Force held a ceremony, remembering what had happened.

In 1977, the University proposed to build an expansion of Memorial Gym. The plans extended the building onto a section of the campus in front of the journalism building that was part of the area where the shooting had taken place. The Task Force and others protested this construction, saying it would change the space where the shootings had taken place. In May 1977, protesters began setting up a Tent City on the hill, and it soon was populated by many, many people sympathetic to the cause.

I met several of these folks while I was finishing my last semester there. Tent City had whole families who cooked meals together, jam sessions, political discussions. It was a glimpse back into the Sixties, for those of us who had been too young, people who’d gathered to express themselves and weren’t afraid to be arrested if they got to make their non-violent point. Because there was no violence, this go-round–Joan Baez and others came to sing of peace, and Dick Gregory and Ron Kovic urged the protesters to continuing sitting-in. Arrests occurred several times through July and August as the university attempted to clear the campers off the property, as hundreds watched, chanting “Long live the spirit of Kent and Jackson State!”

I don’t intend to get into the discussion of whether the May 4 shooting was justified–the court says it wasn’t. The ROTC building had been burnt by the protesters, true. The fact that some of the protestors were throwing rocks at the National Guard is also true. No one was blameless here (except for victim Sandra Scheuer, who was apparently just on her way to class and not involved at all).

But I believe it’s something worth revisiting in this day and age as protests ramp up over the orders meant to protect life and limb against coronavirus. Will there come a time when it’s less about politics and more about life and death? When it will be considered “justified” to shoot young people? Black people? White people? What kind of society do we want to have?


Making a place your own

Now that I’ve retired, I’m probably living in the last home I’ll ever own. It’s a mobile home, so most of the “decorating” is dictated by what’s built in and where, but we’ve added touches, etc.

But over the years, one of the things I have truly enjoyed is moving into somewhere new, whether it was a new home or a new office for my law practice. There’s something about taking an empty space and envisioning the possibilities that I just love. (not the packing up and moving OUT, btw. Just the new moving in).

So now that I drive Little Miss to her employment prep classes every day at Mission biltmore bldgHospital in downtown Asheville, I’ve noticed this small building on the corner.

It’s not for rent that I know of, and I’m certainly not looking to open a new office. But it’s just cute. I love the slanted windows and can just imagine filling them with an assortment of plants, creating a healthy and happy working environment. Even living on the left side and officing on the right? Could be very convenient, and a lock between the two would certainly make it safer than my last office, which was in my home. (Only one bullet hole in the windows, a potential bomb threat in a manila envelope,  and a dead deer in the front garden. Not too bad for 15 years.)

What about you? Do you enjoy transforming an empty space into one you’ll love to be in? Or is moving just another task of drudgery? Share the pictures and spaces you’ve loved–and hated.


The Missouri Compromise

No, not THAT one.

You’re thinking, oh this will be a boring discussion of slavery and American history. But it isn’t.

I’m drawing on the delineation of Missouri as the “Show-Me” state.

Those of us with loved ones on the spectrum often feel that we aren’t shown that affection that comes so easily to many of our NT kids and family members. For me, I sometimes think that Little Miss and I are on different planets, even though we live in 5518991291_8c8164c5cfthe same small home. We intersect at meals, sometimes. But even then, there’s often a screen in view and we’re absorbed in parallel play.

This existence is lonely-making, certainly. Not that she notices–she’s perfectly happy in her own world. If she’s sing-songing her imaginary stories in her head, she paces and exists beyond where I can see. If she’s absorbed in a screen, she’s elsewhere, too.

So I’m alone, but at the same time responsible for this woman-child, an adult by chronological age, but still much younger than her years from time to time.

She had a boyfriend for her last two years of high school, which worried me at first, as boyfriends do to all parents of girls past puberty. But I didn’t need to worry. She treated him much the same as she treats me–more as a thing to be checked off a list. As in, teenaged girls should have a boyfriend, now I have one. She didn’t worry much over the care and feeding of such a relationship, and eventually he approached me and asked why she didn’t want to be his girlfriend.

breakup-couple-vector-stock_gg64149870What followed was a messy few days when I explained how she is (he also has disabilities, but more physical than autistic), and assured him that it was likely the best he would get out of her. We were both sad, and then he broke up with her on social media. UGH.

She immediately decided she had to have a boyfriend and had logged herself onto OK Cupid before I even knew what she was doing. I panicked and at least put her onto Autistic Singles–who knew they had that?– but I shouldn’t have worried. Within a few days, she was reabsorbed in her own world, and I haven’t heard anything about it since.

So in a way, that’s great. No huge emotional scenes, no pining, no starving to death, etc. She’s happily back to ignoring me.


pic by Sandora JW Brown

But every once in awhile, a ray of light comes through. Last night we went to a STOMP! concert, and she propped her elbow on my shoulder for the show. It was definitely a “together” moment.

So we don’t push -much- and wait for those moments, those actual expressions of affection and gratitude and empathy. We live for those. Please, kid, SHOW ME. Just once in awhile. Thank you.


autism hugs


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!


Another new venture!

In preparation what what is likely coming, in terms of dealing with my diagnoses, I’m feeling out possibilities in the event I won’t be able to keep working full time. One of my decisions is to create an Etsy shop with my sister Dianna.

IMGP2258Both of us are “artsy,” me in the crafty sense and her in the art and photography sense, and this will allow us to both expand our reach a little and indulge our deep passion for working in art and hopefully, make some money from it as well.

100_3514Stop by Copper Moon Creatives some time and see what we’ve got–I can’t guarantee exactly what you might find, but I can promise it will be eclectic and wonderful!


Copper Moon Creatives!12630699_10205380953778318_951714695_o

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….


The next day

Most often tragedies come as an event, a moment, after which things are never the same.

In my work life, I deal with these events all the time. Families that were once happy, functioning organisms come to a point where they no longer work. While the buildup may have taken days, months or years, the point where someone decides “No more” begins the end.

The same is true when someone receives a terminal diagnosis, or loses a much-needed job, or suffers the effects of a natural disaster, or loses a spouse, or parent, or child to an accident. Even that diagnosis of autism. From that day, life changes.

That day may be one that you relive again and again, trying to see where you could have done something differently, wanting desperately for life to return to the moment before it became too late.

But in my opinion, that’s not the most important day. The most important is the next day.

No matter what’s happened, or how devastating that is to you, the long-term impact depends on how you greet the morning after. If you wake up with the view that your life is now over, it very well may be.  I know people who, after their spouse died, followed them very soon thereafter, unable to forge a separate existence.

It takes a certain amount of heart, courage and determination to move past these difficult life changes. There are cancer patients who get six months to live and turn it into remission. Hurricane and flood survivors build a new life. Divorce ends one phase of your life and begins another. As the mother superior says in The Sound of Music, “When God closes a door, he opens a window.”

There is a morning after, and a new way to look at your life. Take that chance and fly out that window into what awaits.

Charles Darwin says:

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

Humans have proven over thousands of years that they can survive. Depends how you handle the next day, and the day after that. You can do it. Believe.

A trip around the world

When I was growing up, I knew I’d become a world traveler, my passport stamped with all sorts of exotic ink. I’d dine in capitals around the globe and have mad adventures from jungle to mountaintop to desert.

As life developed, of course, my mad adventures took a sharp turn toward the odd, and I’ve never embarked on that long-imagined journey. At least in real life. Instead, we reach for a taste of foreign flavor each night as we have dinner in a different country.

A large, detailed world map graces the door to the kitchen at kid-height, its bright colors appealing to the eye. Tour guide duty passes from one family member to the next. Our escort for the evening displays the location of the country, its flag, a map, and shares as much as he or she wants to about important country statistics such as capital, products exported, name of the leader, neighboring countries, and so on. We gather this information from books around the house or online sites such as Factmonster.com where information is kid-friendly, which suits our group. Other sites such as Wikipedia or the CIA’s page might be appropriate for older children and adults.

The magic we’ve discovered in this picaresque expedition is that Little Miss, despite her language drawbacks, has become a whiz at locating countries. In third grade, she knows half a dozen in Africa, a dozen throughout the Americas, and can still remember after months, details about the countries that she presented, right down to the roller coaster on the ocean in China and the weird and wacky animals of Australia. At a time when most American high school graduates can’t even find cities in their own country, I think that’s something pretty special.

As for the rest of you? Get a map, whether for your neighborhood, your world or the cosmos. Set your course. How does that saying go? “Second star to the right, and straight on till morning.” Bon voyage!