30 October 2012

Decisions ... Decisions ...

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I excel at making decisions.

I suck at making decisions quickly.


Well, that's not entirely true ...


White or wheat? Wheat, unless I'm ordering a BLT, then white.


Plastic or paper? Plastic, unless I'm at Woodman's with my reusable green bags, or at the market in town where the paper bags have handles.


Those are the types of decisions that I can make quickly. I can make them quickly because I've made them before, I've learned through trial and error what works and what doesn't, and the wrong decision impacts only me (Have you ever eaten a BLT on wheat? YUCK! Just YUCK!!).


When it comes to bigger decisions - ones I've never made - ones that impact other people (specifically those few I hold close in my heart) - I am all about gathering information ... and gathering information ... and sorting data ... and sorting data ... and? I usually get stuck there. The information and data is so dependable - so comfortable - so warm and fuzzy (SHUDDUP! It makes me feel warm and fuzzy!) that I tend to wallow in it ... and take forever to make decisions.


How long did I live in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship with husband before I finally decided to leave? Case in point.


And if I make a big decision without my extensive information gathering and data sorting? I spend months mulling that decision in my head - questioning if it was the right one - ready to flip the switch and change the decision - until the decision proves itself worthy.


I've been gathering information and sorting data regarding Cam's educational placement. My gut tells me homeschooling (or un-schooling) supplemented with fine arts, physical education, and elective classes at the public high school, is my best option.


But what if I'm wrong? The wrong decision here has the potential to be life altering, not for me, but for Cam.


So I did what any rational person would do - I sent an email to Penelope Trunk (founder of Brazen Careerist whose career advice runs in 200 newspapers and who is now homeschooling) titled 7 Reasons You Should Help Me Decide To Homeschool, because if I didn't give the email a catchy subject and relevant content, I figured she'd never read it, let alone answer it.


Okay, let's be honest, I figured there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell she'd read it no matter what the subject was, and an even slimmer chance she would actually respond. 


Why 
Penelope Trunk? Because I've been reading her for years (since July of 2010). She has Aspergers. I identify with how she thinks. But she is far better at making BIG decisions quickly than I am. So what if the reason she easily makes big decisions is due to poor executive function, she is at least able to make them!

And it never hurts to send strangers (even popular ones) email, does it? If it gets ignored it's just a reminder of how significant you are in the world, and we could all use a bit of humble pie on occasion.

Within an hour of sending my crafty email, she responded:

take your son out and then work with him to figure out how his days are with you at work.
that's what i did. i started homeschooling with absolutely no idea how i'd do it but i knew there was no way i would be worse than our rural school.
it's okay to have no idea what you're doing for the first six months. i wish i had known that.
i can tell from your email that you'll do fine. really.
my son with aspergers is so grateful to be out of school. and i have aspergers and i wish so much that someone had let me stay home. 
i hope this helps. you can email again. i'm happy to help more if i can.
I needed that validation.

Today's meeting with the school Social Worker and the Education Service Specialist for the high school was all about what placement options are available for Cam. It was information gathering.

Most of the placement options were unacceptable.

I let them know that I consider homeschooling (or un-schooling) supplemented with fine arts, physical education, and elective classes at the public high school as a very viable option.

They were not supportive.

I didn't expect them to be.

Soon, I'll actually have to make that decision, and I feel a little more confident that if I make the decision to homeschool, it won't be the end of the world.

In fact, it just might be the beginning of a brighter world for Cam.

29 October 2012

You say Non-Compliant and Defiant Like They Are Bad Things!

I've been putting off writing about this.

Fearing judgment.

Knowing that a few years ago - before having the life experiences I now have - I'd have been critical of a parent telling this story.

Wondering if I could take the public criticism I've convinced myself I deserve.

Cam is struggling - really struggling - in and with school.

At midterm, he is failing all of his core academic classes. He is refusing to do work in class. He is challenging school authority.

Thursday, Cam was suspended for two days. This is not the first time this year he has been suspended.

He is ... non-compliant ... and defiant ...

These are hallmark behaviors of kids on the autism spectrum and with ADD, but this administration, rather than look at the MEDICALLY DIAGNOSED, underlying neurological differences that lead Cam down the non-compliant path, has decided non-compliant will be the reason they are excused from insuring Cam succeeds in school. After all, they can give their best efforts towards Cam's success, but if he is non-compliant, it's not their fault he is failing, right?

If he'd just comply, he'd be successful! His IQ is in the 98th percentile. He obviously has the ability to comply, he just chooses not to. This isn't the school failing Cam, it's Cam failing in school, right??

I mean, if he were truly disabled, we'd be able to see it! His eyes would look funny, or he'd have some sort of nervous tic, or he'd be medicated, right?? That neurological stuff is just an excuse for piss-poor parenting!

*sigh*

This fall, his entire special education support staff changed ... again. 

He has a new case manager - an itty-bitty twenty-something who is a recent graduate and new to the school. She's done little more than try to prove that Cam is a difficult, off-task student (already a given), and claim that she feels intimidated by him when he doesn't comply.

There is a new Education Service Specialist for the high school - an administrator who comes with years of experience and seems to walk the very fine line between pleasing the administrators, and ensuring the minimum federal requirements for special education are met, while placing the oneness of performance squarely on Cam's shoulders, and Cam is not complying.

There is also a new school psychologist. Another twenty-something, recent graduate hipster, with scary eyebrows, who is new to the school. This year is Cam's triennial review for eligibility, so she is fully entrenched in the let-me-prove-myself-by-administering-a-battery-of-tests mindset, even though at Cam's age, any changes in those tests are statistically insignificant. But Cam has no interest in complying with another battery of tests that do nothing for him.

We are, for the 11th year, starting Cam's education plan from scratch. The newest batch of we-can-save-the-children blowhards are convinced they know better than the last batch of we-can-save-the-children blowhards, and they can force Cam to comply, not with incentives, but with punishment; removing him from classes he is already failing, requiring he work for the janitor after school for an hour to serve detention, threatening to take his parking pass away from him.

None of these things is horrific or unreasonable for most kids, but for Cam? The alpha-male, you will do it because I tell you to whether it is logical or not stance results in further non-compliance and defiance. Not only is this another hallmark behavior of kids on the spectrum, but we have TEN YEARS of public school discipline data showing that this type of behavior modification has had a ZERO success rate with Cam.

Yet they continue to do it, all the while expecting different results.

They have had success in one area though. They've succeeded in turning Cam completely against school - pushing him to his breaking point - he is now refusing to attend school at all.

To say I am at my wits end would be an understatement.

To say I am exhausted - emotionally and physically - would be an understatement.

I have given up all hope of Cam being successful in the public school system. 

There is no fight left in this dog.

Ten years of trying to (unsuccessfully) get my son the education he is guaranteed by Federal Law, has pushed me to my breaking point.

Last week, I gave the Dean of Students at the high school a verbal lashing (that is putting it mildly) and then sent a written request to the Principal of the high school that the Dean of Students have NO CONTACT with Cam as the Dean refuses to implement the Behavior Intervention Plan currently in place, opting for what has become adversarial treatment of Cam (at best), bordering on bullying.

I have yet another meeting at the school tomorrow morning at 7:30. This time, instead of the entire IEP team attending (which has been counterproductive), it will be only the school Social Worker, the Education Service Specialist for the high school, me, and possibly the advocate I have been working with this year (if she is available).

We will discuss what options are available for Cam.

I'm considering a combination of public school (for arts, physical education, elective, and one academic class) and home-schooling (on-line curriculum provided at the district's expense) of the remaining core academic classes as possibly our (mine and Cam's) best solution.

We'll see if the meeting tomorrow generates any better ideas.

I'm not the least bit hopeful.

16 October 2012

Should I Die Before I Wake


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A recently retired (July of this year) coworker of mine lost her husband to ALS/Lou Gehrig's Disease last week.

I worked with Donna just short of 5 years. I saw her every work day. She was part of the accounting department.

I knew a little about her personal life. I remember when her husband was first diagnosed with ALS/Lou Gehrig's Disease. Occasionally she'd talk about her granddaughters, who are Cam's age, and attend school in the same district as Cam.

But I never met any of her family, and we never did anything together outside of work. In fact, we never did anything together during work hours. In my mind, we were friendly work acquaintances, not friends.

The wake for her husband was yesterday. The funeral is today. Several of my coworkers dropped by the wake last night. A handful will be attending the funeral today.

I'm not attending either event.

I was told that I am being selfish and rude. I think doing things out of obligation, rather than doing things because you truly want to, is far more selfish and rude.

And really? I don't get whole visitation/funeral/burial thing anyway - is all of this really necessary?


VISITATION - Monday October 15, 2012 from 3 p.m.- 9 p.m.
FUNERAL - Tuesday he will be Lying In State from 10 a.m. - 11 a.m. at ST. MARGARET MARY CHURCH
MASS - 11 a.m.
INTERMENT - St. Michael Cemetery
When I die? This will be the mandatory dress code ... with shorts *cough*JAY*cough*

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There will be an open bar, great food, and music from the hair bands of the 80's.

It will be the best party that I never attended.

I don't want people to remember my death, paying their respects posthumously and out of obligation, I want a damn CELEBRATION!

Who's coming?

15 October 2012

Run For Your Life!! And Take Your Stick-Figure Family With You!!

It surprises me that I can still be taken aback by things that happen on social media.

Yesterday, I posted this on tumblr (it was a random minivan we pulled up behind):




I don’t care that you have 3 kids
Or that you ran a half-marathon
And I can’t unfollow you
Fuck off and die



Was that post offensive? 

If you take it at face value, and not in the faux outrage way it was intended, I suppose you might be able to get there ... with a bucket load of creative license and significant dose of "IT'S ALL ABOUT ME!!!!!"

Should it have resulted in public name calling ("slovenly," "obese," and "dumb fat ass cunt" were the chosen words/phrases)? 

I think that might have been a bit ... well ... over the top ... maybe ...

Look, I get that my opinion may not be shared by everyone. I think the stick-figure family decals are goofy, and the 13.1 and 26.2 decals pretentious, but that's just my opinion.

You like the stick-figure family decals? By all means, display them proudly on your minivan. Tell the world ... wait ... just what are you telling the world? And again, why should I care?

Anyway, I digress ...

You want every other driver on the road to know that you might be driving now, but you could be running if you wanted to? You feel that strangers should be as in awe of your running accomplishment as you clearly are?

Yeah ... no ...

And if your only means of attempting to sway my opinion on stick-figure families and marathon declarations is to sling insults?

It probably won't work ... in fact, it will probably just reinforce my opinion that stick-figure decals are goofy, and 13.1 and 26.2 decals are pretentious.

Any time a person responds to a difference of opinion not with a well thought out retort, but with vile put-downs?

They lose me, and I feel they've done little more than proven my point.

Do tell, are you an insult slinger? Do you feel it strengthens your argument? Is it fair game when you feel attacked, whether you are actually being attacked or not?

10 October 2012

Nothing To Say And Saying It!

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My mind has been going in a million directions lately, resulting in a "full" (6 hours) night sleep about once every 4 days, and far too many great-idea-just-started-half-finished blog posts.

It appears I'm not the only one. Today, in my reader, I found THIS POST written by The Psycho Babbles… and THIS NON-WRITTEN POST spoken by Jay (I'm With Stupid).

I thought about vlogging the contents of my wallet like Jay did, but that will just have to wait. For now, I'll just share a few of the great-idea-just-started-half-finished blog posts you won't see (like The Psycho Babbles did).
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I had an idea to write a post about my irritation with "big deal" bloggers who are quick to jump on the Thou Shalt Not Plagiarize band wagon (for example the Kristin Ruiz plagiarizing Amy Storch's posts and the subsequent blogger outcry), but will use googled images in their blog posts without giving any photo credit, then claim it isn't plagiarizing.

Yes it is!

Knock it off!

Need help finding the source of an image? There is a site called TinEye that does a great job of giving source data when you upload or paste an image URL into their search field (Yes, I know google images does this too, but I'm all about the underdog).
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I started a post about Jennifer Livingston - the fat (SHUDDUP! I am fat, I can certainly call her fat) news anchor/reporter who went viral when she called out her "bully" on air after receiving the following email:

Hi Jennifer,
It's unusual that I see your morning show, but I did so for a very short time today. I was surprised indeed to witness that your physical condition hasn't improved for many years. Surely you don't consider yourself a suitable example for this community's young people, girls in particular. Obesity is one of the worst choices a person can make and one of the most dangerous habits to maintain. I leave you this note hoping that you'll reconsider your responsibility as a local public personality to present and promote a healthy lifestyle.
Everyone was all WOOHOO! She's a HERO for standing up to her bully!

Look people, quit using the word "bully" every time someone says something about you that you don't like . We all know that words are powerful, but guess what happens when you use them too often and under the wrong pretense??

Remember Chicken Little??

THE SKY IS FALLING!! THE SKY IS FALLING!!

She received a SINGLE email. Although it may have been judgmental (Personally? I don't believe it was.), it wasn't threatening, and her use of the word BULLY did little more than encourage the rest of you idiots to keep using the word when someone says something you don't like.

STOP IT!!!
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I all but finished a post about the continuing saga of My kid was diagnosed on the autism spectrum before it was the diagnosis du jour so get off my back after several BIP (Behavior Intervention Plan) meetings and a rather irritating IEP (Individualized Education Program) meeting within the first month or so of the school year.

It was a bit of a verbal rampage regarding the significant special education staff change I've seen every year since Cam has been in high school (his Case Manager, the Education Service Specialist for the high school, and the School Psychologist this year) and how it means I have to start from scratch in trying to get my son the education he is guaranteed.

Then I decided that y'all wouldn't read it, or you'd read parts of it and leave nasty comments because it wound up sounding like I was making a bunch of excuses for Cam when, in reality, I'm just a shitty parent who hasn't done a good job raising my kid (just ask most of the staff at the high school).

This isn't my first rodeo.
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I think I'll copy Jay and do a What's In Your Wallet vlog sometime in the next day or two.

That should buy me some time to quiet the voices in my head so that I can write a decent blog post.

01 October 2012

October Is Evil


It's October ... my least favorite month of the year.

Sure, I try to stay focused on the good stuff, my mom's birthday, the fall colors, Subway's ANY-tober, but the evil that is October is always loitering in the back of my mind, just waiting for the last day of the month to pounce on me.

That's right ... I'm talking about H-A-L-L-O-W-E-E-N.

I hate every bit of it - the skeletons, the ghosts, the down right freakish costumes that everyone feels compelled to wear. I can't even go to the bank without being subjected to a creepy zombie peering at me from the drive-up window. What? You thought I actually might go inside the bank??

*shudders*

I don't like people hiding behind masks. I cannot tell who they are and I cannot see their facial expressions (also the reason I am phone-phobic). Faces help me know how to respond to situations appropriately. That mask? Leaves me just staring at your face unable to hear a word you are saying and not knowing how to respond to anything you do.

And the decorations? I'm good with happy pumpkins and even a black cat or two, but those things people put up that look like real people? The dummies wearing real-ish clothes and standing out in ghoulish, front yard displays???



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No ... just no! There is something terribly wrong with this ... this ... deception

Don't even talk to me about going to a haunted house or ... or ... Terror on the Railroad. Why would anyone want to ruin a perfectly good train ride by turning it into a scary thing??? And at my favorite railway museum even??

I was traumatized with this insane October ritual early in life. Growing up, all of my friends looked forward to that one night a year where they could dress up, knock on doors, and come home with a pillowcase full of candy. 

Me? I was terrified. First, I had to put on some sort of costume that was scratchy and uncomfortable, pulling in places it shouldn't pull, poking me in places it shouldn't poke. Then I had to walk around in the dark (for you young'uns, Halloween used to only be celebrated on October 31st and you never left to go trick-or-treating until after the dinner hour), knocking on strangers' doors, while those same strangers dressed up as witches, ghouls and ghosts, would purposefully attempted to scare small children by jumping out at them from behind their front doors.

Really?

That is supposed to be fun??

About as fun as hammering a rusty nail through my left nipple!

It hasn't gotten any better as I've gotten older. I tried to take Cam trick-or-treating when he was young. Fortunately he felt the same way about this asinine holiday as I do. I hate to admit it, but I was more than a bit relieved the first time I took him out on Halloween, and he refused to go to the neighbors house, having a complete meltdown at the bottom of their driveway.

We went back to our townhouse, turned off all of the lights, and went to bed. And that's exactly how we spent every Halloween for the next 5 years.

Now? I still can't hand out Halloween candy. All of those ... those ... people, knocking on my door, peering at me through with their unknown faces.

STRANGER DANGER!! STRANGER DANGER!!

I don't care if they are only 3'-6" tall ... I DON'T KNOW THEM!

Maybe it's just the break from routine (I know what my bank teller is supposed to look like, and how she dresses on Halloween is not it) that unsettles every fiber of my being. 

Or maybe it's the fear of being startled, then subsequently laughed at and embarrassed (embarrassment is, by far, the worst feeling ever).

Or maybe it's knowing that when people wear costumes and masks, my inability to read faces and socials queues escalates, insuring that what I think they are saying/doing will be so erroneously off-the-mark my responses to them won't make any sense at all (that happens more than any of you know).

I hate October.