Coin Toss

He has a name. Arnaldo Eliud Rios Soto is the name of the autistic young man who wandered away from the group home last week in Miami–and the world watched his African-American behavioral therapist get shot attempting to help him.

Ok, technically, the shooting is NOT on the video. What we see is the African-American therapist laying on the ground with his hands in the air, while Rios sits cross-legged next to him. They are in the middle of the street. Rios is holding a toy truck. Charles Kinsey, the therapist, can be heard yelling that he is a behavioral therapist and that Rios is his patient.

It didn’t F******* matter. The SWAT team member shot Kinsey in the leg. He had a report that Rios was suicidal and had a gun. He was actually aiming for Rios. (Because it makes sense to kill a man that might be suicidal instead of actually helping him…No, it doesn’t make any sense. It’s bullshit.)

I have been sick to my stomach for days over this.

Two of my children are African. One of my four children, my twenty year old son, is autistic. Imagine the scenario someday where my two boys are together and my autistic son becomes agitated–possibly aggressive. My African son is with him. What if a bystander calls the police?

A couple of years ago I stopped by my local police department to inquire as to their autism training and intervention plans. The officer I talked to was, well, a total jerk. He took one look at my arms, bruised from a previous bad day with my son. It happens. The officer was ready to press charges and wanted me to sign a form IMMEDIATELY.

WHAT. THE. F***.

I had come there for help. I wanted to know that if I needed assistance with my son, I could count on them showing up and not shooting him; not tasering him; not hurting him in any way. Instead, I realized that this fellow had no idea about cognitive delays, mental health, and autism.

Last week’s shooting was my worst nightmare come true. I understand that not all police officers are incompetent, racist asshats. I do. But shooting Kinsey was completely UNNECESSARY. The thought that the officer actually meant to shoot Rios sickens me.

So again, I pose the question: What if my two sons are in public. Which one are the police going to aim for? The thought sickens me. Both are innocent. Both were born with a set of genes that determined their individual destinies. One: tall, caucasian, cognitively impaired, autistic. One: shorter, strong, African, bright.

Black Lives Do Matter. Deal with it.

Autism exists. Learn about it and deal with it.

Try and show compassion and kindness towards each other.

Peace people.

 

Driving For Direction (or, Pandas Gone Bad..)

I took my two sons and a visiting friend on a short vacation down to North Carolina to visit my oldest daughter last week. I wanted to see her, I wanted to see some sunshine, and I needed to clear my head.

A ten-hour drive, each direction, will give you some time to think.

I needed to figure out where I am going with my life, my career…was it worth putting the effort into comedy or should I quit now before I get too invested… I was feeling stressed from trying to do it all, from trying to break into formed social groups, from watching the hatred being spewed out on political television… I needed a break.

I drove from Michigan, through the farm lands of Ohio, then through the gentle mountains of West Virginia. We stopped for lunch somewhere there… at some small roadside “town.” We flipped a coin over the two restaurant choices and walked into the winner.

As we pushed open the doors and entered, we found ourselves facing the largest display of the Ten Commandments I had ever seen. Ever. I mean, I have seen smaller billboards on the highway. They were displayed on a table, filled with all sorts of religious artifacts… I wasn’t sure if I had stumbled into a makeshift altar and a sacrifice was about to take place, or a spontaneous Baptism–all I knew was that it freaked me the hell out and before I could stop myself I burst out loudly “HOLY SHIT!!!”

In my defense, at least I said holy. Just saying.

My youngest son’s eyes were as big as saucers… he started to dart them back and forth…clearly out of his comfort zone as well… he whispered to me that he was concerned for his safety… I assured him that we were fine…although I wasn’t entirely convinced myself..

We ate our crappy lunches and beat it. Lesson learned.

Later I was nearly pushed off the road by a semi truck that failed to see me…I drove onto the shoulder and somehow managed to speed up and zip in front of him without rear ending the semi in front of me…this still in the mountains…all very exciting…as my Mighty Explorer is well-known as being a performance automobile (insert sarcasm here..).

The best part of the trip (besides spending time with my children) was going to the science center in Charlotte. There we innocently bought tickets to the IMAX panda movie–a documentary about preserving the pandas in China.

HOLY SHIT.

It began innocently enough. Panda preserve, female panda, needs to get pregnant to keep the panda population going. Ok, so far so good… They put her in a pen and brought out this young male panda, who is a bit rough, so she rejects him, so they brought out (and I quote) “an older, more experienced male.” At this point I’m giggling. No shit. The panda lady was like “Get that asshole young kid away from me with his cheap ass beer– I want the older guy with the stable job and the fine wine and a fully stocked liquor cabinet–with the GOOD STUFF–and a good retirement plan. AND that knows what the hell to do in bed.”

Jesus, even PANDAS know this shit.

So the female panda gets pregnant and has twins but she normally only takes care of one. This means that every two weeks some poor worker has to go in and take the panda baby from her and switch it with the other baby that they are caring for in the panda nursery. Except she can get a little testy about this and apparently pandas can kill you with one swipe. I wish you could have seen how fast this guy ran. I mean, Olympic fast. No kidding.

Fast forward–now one of the panda babies is grown up enough to make it and they want to get him ready to go out into the real world. To do this (wait-I have to laugh here…) to do this (laughing again…) a couple of guys put on these really shitty panda costumes, so the panda WON’T KNOW that they are humans coming in to hang out with him. Ummm..

At first I was like WHOA!!! Did this movie just take a wrong turn??? Is this some kind of sick furry sexual film?? WHAT THE HELL???

The costumes were so very bad. I mean, this is CHINA for godssakes. One would think they could find a better costume there for their beloved pandas!!! And, the panda dudes were walking upright! Like Yogi Bear! Or the Country Bear Jamboree! I mean, WTF people!! Even pandas aren’t that stupid!

The best part was that one of the panda guy’s had to smear panda feces and urine all over himself to help convince the real panda that he was legit. I kept thinking that the other guy probably had a double-headed coin for that coin toss…gee guy, sorry, you lost again, bummer but you have to smear that crap all over you again…wow…

The final test was getting the baby panda ready to handle predators. The two panda dudes, walking upright, carried a stuffed cat. This was to be the terrifying jaguar to teach the panda to fear for its life. They smeared the urine and feces all over it and hid behind some bushes…waiting…ummm….

The panda walked by (walking on all four legs, just to be clear…) looked at the stuffed cat (and probably thought “who the hell put a stuffed cat in the middle of this forest? Assholes…”) Just then the panda dudes hit this tape recorder circa 1979 and this loud YOWL was heard. The real panda was like, “HOLY SHIT what the HELL was THAT!!!” and promptly ran up a tree (because he thought “JUDAS PRIEST when did stuffed cats learn to make noises??!!”)

Apparently this was a big success and it was decided that the real panda could now be pushed out of the nest and into the real forest to deal with real predators.

The End.

I have to say that thru the entire movie, my asshole family was snorting and giggling and laughing. Nobody else in the theater was. Sigh. We just could not take this seriously. (Ok, my autistic son was not laughing. So one of us was well-behaved.)

Which brings me back to the beginning of this blog. I was thinking of walking away from comedy. I really was.

But after this trip all I could think about was how I could make this into a new bit. Or how I need to write a television series. Or how I need to write some new sketches for the sketch comedy group I joined.

And to clone myself so I can be a mom and do it all.  That would help too.

Peace people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Traverse, part two (or, Another person I wanted to collect…wait, that sounds creepy..)

I have to add another post about our trip to Traverse City. As many of you may know, two of my children are adopted from Sierra Leone. That’s in Africa…just in case you didn’t know.

That means they are black–just to be clear.

We went to lunch one day at a local eatery, called Don’s Drive In.  It’s painted bright pink, and inside the booth’s are sparkly red and silver–reminiscent of the 1950’s. They serve a pretty good burger and steak fries, and home-made shakes. The kids love this place. The children’s meals are served in paper pink Cadillac cars. What could be better???

The very cute young waitress, wearing a bright pink dress and white apron, approached our table and began chatting with us. She brought back our drinks and then asked where the kids were from, nodding her head towards my daughter and youngest son. It took me a half second to realize what she meant–my first answer was Detroit?? because, duh–I sometimes forget they aren’t really “from me..” I answered from Sierra Leone–Africa.

She said that she had been a foster child and was also adopted. She gave a big smile and walked back to look for our food. My youngest son, age 11 (he will be 12 in August) looked up and asked how she knew they were adopted. My daughter and I nearly fell on the floor laughing. Because, really. Two really white parents and giant 18-year-old autistic brother and then them.

When she came back to the table I told her, with a smile, that my son wondered how she knew they were adopted. She looked at him, and said that as an adopted child, you develop a sense as you get older and can just tell when another person is also adopted. And that being adopted is really cool, because you know you are really loved and that you are special.

She brought our food to our table and I asked her how old she was when she was adopted. She said she was put in foster care at age 5 and adopted at 12. I explained that we had to wait for six long years to bring the kids home, and they were 7 and 14 when we got them–and that they had been here almost five years now.

She was super nice and friendly and cute as a bug. I just wanted to squeeze her and bring her home with us. But I have a feeling her family would miss her.

She is a foster care success story.

I want to thank her for sharing her story and for telling my son that he was special. The family that raised her–the people who impacted her–BRAVO for doing such a great job. She seems to be a great girl.

I hope someday my own children can pay it forward in the same way.

You just never know who you’re going to meet.

The universe works that way. No chance meetings.

So keep yourself open to them.

Peace people. I hope you enjoy meeting me.

Traveling to Traverse (or, I wanted to be sedated…)

I have just arrived back home from a short vacation up to Traverse City, Michigan with my family. For those of you that don’t know where that is or what it looks like there…well…let me give you some visual aids here.. IMG_1457IMG_1460It is a beautiful part of the country. That’s Lake Michigan out there…

Every year when we travel up here for my husband’s conference, we stay at the same hotel, that has a water slide in the pool area. This year the conference was held at a different hotel, in the downtown district. Silly me, with all the distractions in my life…I failed to think about how this change would affect my autistic son. Ooops.

We got into the car and I began driving the first leg of the 3.5 hour trip. My son asked where we were staying…trapped in rush hour traffic and distracted, I told him the truth…he immediately began a tantrum that would last into the next day. He began hitting the seats, yelling, and asking every 30 seconds if we could go to the original hotel.

Within twenty minutes I wanted to bang my head against the window. We medicated him with his emergency sedation med, hidden in a Reese’s cup…he calmed a bit. My youngest son, bored, asked how much urine an average person pee’s in a day…

By the time we reached Traverse, my nerves were completely shot. My son’s continual asking about the original hotel had worn me down.

The next day we convinced him to go to an indoor water park. We all went and had a blast. My son is fearless..he went down every single water slide, no matter how scary it looked. He even insisted on going down this bright orange super scary tube…you step inside this chute, the kid closes a door…the bottom falls out and you plunge down, presumably to your watery death.

I was very anxious when he climbed into the chute…I kept repeating to him to hold his nose and keep his arms tight to his body and legs still. The door closed and the bottom dropped. The young (asshole) kid running the chute, said “OH! I’ve never seen anybody do THAT before.” I asked frantically, “WHAT???” He said he had never seen anybody pull their legs up when the floor dropped. My heart fell and I ran to the rail and looked over, convinced my son had bilateral femur fractures. The (asshole) kid was next to me, also looked down, shrugged and said, “Ah, he’s fine. Who’s next?”

Next up was my youngest son…who went in the tube and immediately began screaming…AH AH AH… We all started laughing…People in line, the (asshole) kid running the chute…my son’s eyes were wild…finally the (asshole) kid pushed the button and the platform dropped and my second son fell from sight…

Now it was my turn…my heart was just pounding…I went in…the young couple behind me were staring at me, mocking me…assholes….so I tried to act cocky…but then I started to get super nervous…and I started to swear…OH SHIT OH SHIT OH SH and then the bottom dropped out and down I flew, in the dark, water trying to go up my nose, which I tried vainly to squeeze….

The good news is the force of all those water slides completely cleaned out all my ladyparts. I’m just saying. And my bikini bottom’s were turned into a thong at every landing. AWESOME.

My son was finally happy. The kids had a great time.

But.

My son has said that next year we had better stay at the original hotel.

Ok then.

I got the message.

Graduation Day

Yesterday my autistic son and my adopted African daughter graduated from high school. Both of these graduations were important milestones for each, for very different reasons.

When my son was little, I mean very little…a toddler…and in I would say the worst of his “autism” days…I wasn’t at all sure what I was dealing with. He did not sleep for the first three years of his life. That is not an exaggeration. He screamed all the time, and attacked us, clawing and biting us, like a thing possessed. He banged his head so hard on the floor he caused himself to have  “goose egg” type injuries. It’s still difficult for me to talk about as I was so despondent. I did not know how to help him. The doctors and any body and everybody I tried to ask for help…just looked at me, convinced it couldn’t be that bad. It was.

When he started school, we worked on his reading and writing. We pushed the school to push our son. We said he could learn to read and to write. And we were correct. His handwriting is still primitive, but he can tap out words on the computer and Google his favorite animals or Batman villain without any difficulty. He loves to listen to Bruce Springsteen and loves the song “Because the Night” by Patti Smith.

He has accomplished so very much.

There was a time we didn’t think he would ever learn to tie his shoes. And now he can tell you the difference between Old World and New World monkeys.

I still do mourn the loss of what could have been. I can’t help it–I’m only human. I do wonder if he would have become a veterinarian, or a nurse like me, or a doctor, like his father…I wonder if he would have been a mouthy kid or if he would have been a thoughtful child…I just wonder about all the possibilities that could have been…

And now I focus on his future. I focus on transitioning him to the program he will start this fall and go to until age 26. It is part school, part job training. I wonder what kind of job he will be able to have as he needs constant supervision and prompting. I will continue to pursue my own health, to be able to care for him as long as possible. And I will continue to snuggle with him, when he crawls into bed with me, and throws his arm over me and breathes morning breath into my face on weekend mornings. My son, my cuddle bunny.

My daughter…this is her milestone, her accomplishment, for an entirely different set of reasons. She has only been in this country for four and a half years. It took us a little over six years to bring the kids home from Africa–yes, you read that correctly. That is the subject of another blog. When she finally landed on American soil, she was 14, emotionally and intellectually stunted. It wasn’t her fault–she had lived in an orphanage for the last seven years.

Trying to fast forward her into the 21st century was rough. Trying to fast forward her education and English…even rougher. Trying to break through the emotional baggage and teach love and acceptance, while helping her to mature to her chronological age…tougher still.

It was a very bumpy ride.

She graduated with high honors, on the National Honor Society, with an award for community service. She has won a scholarship to a nearby university, where she will attend classes this fall.

I am terrified of her going away to school yet I understand that she needs to do this…for her. She needs to learn to be self-sufficient. She needs to learn some important lessons on trust, on responsibility, and she needs to continue her personal growth. It’s important that I stand ready to help…when she is ready to ask for it. She has to learn to love and accept herself for the wonderful person she is, and that happiness does not come from things, but from within. These are things I can say to her…but until she is ready to learn those lessons on her own, my words whistle thru the air, past her ears, and out into the atmosphere.

She has to learn life’s lessons on her own.

Both of my children fought battles to graduate yesterday. Both have futures stretched out in front of them..far different paths lay in front of each. I hope each of them finds their way. I wish them health, peace, and happiness.

If you’ve done the math…you know that means that three of my children have now graduated..which still leaves one…the count down is on…

Health, peace, and happiness to all of you, gentle readers.

The Vomiteer (or, Gag me with a spoon/chicken piccata)

This is probably going to sound inappropriate. SORRY. For those of you with rainbow lives and children…just ignore this post. For the rest of you, well, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

My autistic son has a notorious gag reflex. It is so terrible, that we had his tonsils removed when he was around six years old (they were so enlarged they were very nearly touching each other) in an attempt to stop his near daily gag and then vomit. Spoiler alert–it didn’t work. In fact, I would consider this one of medicine’s greatest failures. BY FAR.

My son has vomited in public, well, pretty much every place imaginable. Cruise ship fancy ass dinners with the white table cloths…check. Restaurants…check. The entrance to the airport in Mexico, where I was certain we would be shot or at least arrested…check. I mean, the Mexico thing–that happened literally in the freaking doorway–where everybody had to walk thru his vomit to enter or exit…AWESOME.

One time he vomited at the local pancake restaurant at the local fancy town….and the people at the next table were so offended they actually got up and moved to another table! Snobs. Like they have never vomited. As if. Whatever.

Tonight my son started to gag at dinner, as he is coming down with the cold my youngest son has been spewing forth over all of this week (would it kill him to actually cover his mouth when he coughs instead of putting his elbow over his forehead?? would it?? asked the former nurse…) Ok, so my son began to gag…I was sitting next to him, and well things went into slow motion…NOOOOO!!!!! I yelled….NO VOMITING AT THE DINNER TABLE!!!!!  My son, all six feet one plus inch of him shoved his chair back, while I simultaneously pushed back mine, to get out of the range of his projectile spew…which I could see was coming…He wretched, onto the table, his plate, and onto the floor…my two dogs, hovering under the table for fallen scraps, fell over each other in a frenzy for the now vomited chicken piccata…I guess it was still a feast in dog terms…

I grabbed my son and dragged him into the kitchen and attempted clean up on him while my husband cleaned up the mess in the dining room…my son stood naked and I hoped the neighbors couldn’t see the naked man/boy in my kitchen and wouldn’t call the cops…my son, now hungry again, reached over me and began picking food off his plate that I had carried into the kitchen…NOOOOOO!!!! I shouted…it has some vomit on it…I will get you a new plate baby, don’t eat that…and then I remembered…

A few years ago, on Father’s Day..I was working so my husband took his father (and I’m just going to say, in my opinion here, probably on the spectrum…) out to dinner with my kids. The kids voted for Red Lobster, which as you know, is well received in the Jewish household. Nevertheless, my husband agreed and off they went. All was going well until my son began his tell-tale gagging. Right there, in the middle of the restaurant. And then, like a vomit machine gun, he fired, vomit, all over the table. It apparently was so awful, they had to clear the area and a crew wearing hazmat suits had to come out and clean it up.

My father in law, nonplussed by the whole ordeal, with a bit of my son’s vomit on his plate, continued to eat…pushing past the vomit…and eating on…

Maybe he was just really hungry. Maybe he had been in the medical profession and it took a lot to phase him.

Maybe that was just really disgusting and my children still talk about grandpa eating vomit food to this day.

I’m so glad I was working.

So, enjoy your vomit free evenings, gentle readers. May the force be with you.

Me…I’m doing laundry. And having a glass of wine.

Water works

Ok, so I’m a little choked up again. I have a feeling this is going to happen all weekend as two of my children graduate high school.

The reason I’m misty eyed right now is this–I just finished watching Ellen (yeah, I know I’m a borderline stalker–whatever) and today’s episode featured a high functioning autistic boy who was asked out to prom by a super sweet neuro-typical girl.

That alone is enough to evoke water works. But wait–there’s more! Then they received crowns–he put on his crown immediately–let me tell you how proud his face was. I was a mushball at this point. Seriously. Then they got a gift basket from the New York Jets–his favorite team. He was about to implode with happiness. I was about to implode with happiness for him.

And yet.

And yet there was a part of me…that wished my son was as high functioning as him. And hated myself for having that thought. For not being grateful for having the son I have. I admit it. I’m honest. It sucks being this brutally honest.

This young man has a future in front of him. My son does as well….but a future with care givers, constant supervision, and constant worry (from me). My son’s future contains many trips to the zoo and to the park. My son’s future probably contains some public melt downs and then three person take downs..and some physical injuries to the care givers–which means me and whomever I have with me that particular day.

My son’s future…well, I will write more on this after he graduates. Once I get thru the waterworks. Public sobbing being frowned upon, I will have to sedate myself to get thru both ceremonies–which are hours apart.

Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I better go pick up some more Kleenex…