You Down With ASD?

I was inspired to write about this today as my two men packed up the car and headed off on a West Coast Adventure Trip. There will be thousands of miles to travel and limitless roads to encounter.  Of course, I was invited, but I am smart enough to know the invitation was a courtesy. This was a Father/Son road trip that was destined to be just that.

My #3 was born in 2005, just a stone’s throw from my 40th birthday. I remember that baby who wouldn’t sleep but tended to just cat nap his way through his first six months; couldn’t quite get the hang of breast feeding no matter what we tried and looked at me like an old man who was mildly annoyed with my inability to remedy his situation. That said, he was #3 and his birth order made him low man on the totem pole. His nap time was often a car seat, his routine was his sister’s routines and meals were definitely on the fly. Still, he managed to adjust to the knack of being along for the ride and I believed he was developing like any other baby. Boys are always a little slower to talk, walk and play with others, right? After all, his sisters were tiny geniuses and obviously not comparative to any graphs or data…

One day, around 18 months, he was rocking pretty aggressively while sitting on the couch watching Dora. A family friend turned to me and said, “Don’t worry about that. My son did that too, but with therapy he was able to learn to control it”. Huh? What? He’s dancing. Okay, there’s no music, but there’s nothing “wrong” with my son.

By his second year, I realized that he wasn’t interested in the same things as other children his age. Christmas didn’t excite him; animals were of zero interest and interaction with other children was absent. Therefore, after several months of specialists, testing and observation, he was diagnosed with Autism; but highly functional (whatever that means).

What did I do to cause this? How do I fix him so he will be normal?

Why him?

Well, why not him? Autism does not discriminate. Autism doesn’t care that my other children are not challenged or that I was super healthy during my pregnancy. And let’s be clear about diagnosis. The spectrum exists to get your child diagnosed and offer therapies. As a parent, you have to get in there and work with educators and physicians to come up with the plan that is right for your child. It’s not a chart where your kid lands and stays; it’s forever fluid and you’d better be too. Fasten your seatbelt for the rollercoaster of a lifetime.

This is where the rubber hits the road. As a parent, are you going to enter denial or are you going to do everything in your power, not necessarily to cure Autism, but to ensure your child has every opportunity to thrive and learn to the best of their ability? We chose the latter.

Sacrifice and Determination have been the defining words for this family since 2005. My career took a backseat to his needs. I learned you can’t be at the office when school calls because he has run into the parking lot or overturned a table and his school day needs to conclude. We learned that plans don’t mean shit when you have an autistic child. Travel and dining out didn’t completely stop, but sometimes the planning and preparation involved in such outings were often too exhausting or unpredictable to even bother with the attempt. We got used to disappointment but also celebrated every triumph. Priorities changed. His first haircut at age 12 by a professional was monumental. We celebrated with a ride to look at road signs because he likes that better than cake.

He has taught us to live with deeper empathy for others, patience for situations beyond our control and the talent to pivot on a moment’s notice. He has made his classmates better people who have learned to come to the aid of those who need help and to accept and embrace differences in every individual. A teacher once tried to encourage him to finish his test faster than he was working. He politely told her that if he didn’t finish it in time that it wouldn’t be the end of the world. His teacher disclosed to me that she would be taking that advice.

As Earl has grown into his 16th year; all 6’ of him, the stemming has all but subsided and coping mechanisms include lots of fidgets, deep breaths and jazz music. He understands what Autism is; how it affects him and is pretty confident speaking about it. His thought processes are fascinating and his personality is infectious. He can tell you any US Route, Highway, or Interstate; its origins and its destination. Show him a picture of the family and he can tell you the date it was taken and what we were doing. He studies Google Maps and then redesigns bridges and roadways that he believes he can improve. His goal is to attend Purdue University to study Civil Engineering. I will be here to make sure he has the tools and assistance to get him where he wants to be.

April celebrates World Autism Month. Chances are, you’ve met an autistic person and didn’t even know. If you’ve had the good fortune to meet my #3, then you know he’s magical. In honor of Earl, do me a favor. Next time you see a parent having difficulty with a child, they could use a smile and a nod of understanding rather than a smirk of disapproval. And if you’re in a restaurant, send a bottle of wine or a dessert to their table.

A huge thank you to everyone who has been on this journey with Earl thus far. And thank you for all who work with Autistic children every day.

Finally, hats off to all my Autism parents this month and every month. You got this.

And He Said Unto Me…

Today started off like any other normal day for me. I was minding my own business (hahahaha) when The Lord came unto me and said, “Sistah, I’m going to work through you today”. I was not surprised, as He Who Makes All Things New, often comes to me with the same proposal. I did have quite a bit on my proverbial plate this afternoon, so I replied, “Sorry, HG (short for Holy Ghost), I’m pretty busy with these holiday decorations. I’ve got to trim one more tree, get out the nativity scene, light the third candle on the menorah, figure out what to do for Kwanza and did I miss Ramadan? I know, pay a visit to Kim and Kanye. I hear they’re creating Saints without your blessing”. Needless to say, The Big Kahuna was having none of it. “Sit down and get comfortable”, exclaimed ELOHIM.

Please keep in mind that Savior in Chief can be pretty long-winded and tends to use some serious testament speak. In the interest of time and translation, I have paraphrased His word for the reader. That being said, without further ado, I give you a message from The Almighty:

  1. Stop using religion as an instrument to promote fear, hate and/or violence. Anyone, and I mean anyone, who calls My name or My buddies Allah, Krishna, HaShem, Queztalcoatl (Google it), Breged, Jah or Zeus while participating in above said behaviors, is NOT a part of any religious faith.
  2. For the love of ME, stop insisting your religion is better. There’s room for all of us.
  3. Stop praying to ME over all this gun violence. I blessed you humans with common sense so that you would fix this mess you’ve created. I’m getting pretty tired hearing all the why why why. Wanna know Why? Because you are no longer as connected with one another. You don’t listen. You don’t want to get involved. You don’t know your neighbor.
  4. Try talking to a friend IN PERSON. (Sistah, get me a Snapple. I’m parched)
  5. Inspirational quotes are pretty stupid unless you actually wrote them.
  6. Just because I created weed doesn’t mean it’s good for you. I also created hemlock and rattlesnakes.
  7. I LOVE the Gays! Worry about your own relationships. Some of you hetero humans need to just sit down and be quiet. Let’s just say, many of you didn’t choose My best work.
  8. My Autobiography is meant to be a story of how to be a better human. It is NOT, however, to be used for your own personal Jesus Police Task Force. If it were, you’d all be feeling some smite from Me right about now.
  9. My Son’s birthday does not require you go in to debt. Not the reason I started this.
  10. If I put Donald Trump on this earth to test your faith, some of you are failing miserably. You better recognize.
  11. And Yes, I do protect fools, babies and drunks. I have an agreement with America’s Funniest Home Videos and YouTube.

Three hours go by, I’m absolutely exhausted and my hand is cramping. Thus, Jehovah lays one more piece of knowledge on me to deliver:

  • Some people just don’t get it. Whether they weren’t hugged enough as a child or they have some sort of chemical imbalance (science is a real thing), it’s up to YOU to make a difference. Yes, I like to hear from you, but there are plenty of humans who don’t pray to ME who are making a positive difference by their actions. Religion was created to uplift humans, not frighten, objectify or chastise (although Catholicism does appear sketchy now and again). Your time on this earth is short for a reason. It is designed for you to make the most of every moment. For My Sake, quit your whining, end the blame game, put on your grownup panties and get out there to spread some good.

Make My Day

As I was considering how to write this piece, I read that there have been two more campus shootings today. Yes,today. Two dead and several injured. When did this become so commonplace and our inaction so acceptable? When did murder become so customary?

I send my children off to school each day, not only in anticipation that they will receive a great education, but also with the expectation that they will return home safely. Two sets of parents will be devastated today. Countless others driven to hospital bedsides. I am infuriated and frankly confounded by the idea that somehow arming teachers, arming everyone, is the answer. I began to ponder how difficult this must be for educators when my thoughts turned to Miss Bloom.

Miss Bloom. She is my son’s new 4th grade teacher. As you would imagine by her name, Miss Bloom is a bright young woman, fresh out of school and eager to open young minds. She is kind, friendly and well- liked by her students. My son adores her. He says Miss Bloom is as pretty as a flower. I wonder if Miss Bloom realized that one day, she may be called upon to drop this identity, pick up a weapon and turn into a character from Call of Duty.

How would our Miss Bloom, a first year teacher, respond to an intruder, if she were forced to be armed in the classroom? Let’s take a look.

Cue the dream sequence harp stroking music.

We enter the classroom to find Miss Bloom in the midst of a class project.

“And so, Children, this is how the Fiddler Crab adapts to his habitat”.



“Okay, Children. This is not a drill. There is an active shooter in the building. Everyone take your positions. Don’t panic. Remember what we’ve practiced so many times”.

Shit. What’s the safe combo? Damn it, I overshot 35. SpinSpinSpin. Start over.

“Don’t cry. I will be there in a minute. Get in your positions and stay there. Boys in front, Girls in back”.

OkayOkayOkay. Got it. Where’s the key? Around my neck. Gotta unlock the safety cord. KeyKeyKeyKeyKey. It’s so small. Get in there.

“Timmy. Get up on that chair next to the door and hold that garbage can over your head like we practiced. I know you’re scared, but you can do it”.

Bullets. I need bullets. (Hands shaking. Struggles to insert clip)

“Children! Pick up your weapon of choice. I know we teach you not to hurt one another, but today, we’ve got to get the bad guy. When the gunman comes through that door, Timmy, throw the garbage can at his head. I will start shooting. (Turning to children) If he doesn’t fall down, I need you to charge him all at once. He can’t kill all of us if we run at him together”.

Annnnd, scene.

This may be over exaggerated; where, I’m not sure, but you can imagine the chaos. Miss Bloom has morphed from teacher into tactical warfare specialist.

I like guns. I own guns. I get it. Guns are cool. I like the idea of having some form of lethal protection in case of a home invasion. The fact that I only shoot my weapons at soup cans on a farm every few years doesn’t always leave me feeling as if I’m ready to hit an aggressive moving target that is coming straight toward me while my adrenaline is pumping out of the top of my head causing some blindness from straight up fear. Other than that, I’m good.

Miss Bloom went to college to study elementary education. She loves children and wants to be a part of growing them into intelligent, healthy adults. Miss Bloom does not need the added pressure and responsibility of the keeping and control of a firearm. If Miss Bloom is like 99% of gun owners, her reaction to an active shooting would be more hindrance than assistance. Miss Bloom is not Harry Callahan. Miss Bloom has a room full of 10 year olds that need her attention and look to her for comfort. Miss Bloom is not a killer. Miss Bloom does not need to be saddled with that kind of responsibility.

Why not help Miss Bloom by enforcing gun laws already on the books and creating some stronger laws that may prevent another tragedy. As a gun owner, I wouldn’t mind having to re-register my weapons every year and complete a background check. I wouldn’t mind being required to take a gun safety course every few years. I would welcome the idea of a minimum 72 hour waiting period for a gun purchase. I shouldn’t be allowed to walk into a gun show and walk out with an AR-14. No one needs an assault rifle to kill a deer. You do, however, need one if you are planning a mass murder, preparing for the zombie apocalypse, are paranoid and/or intend to hunt down ISIS. I am assuming I don’t know anyone who meets those qualifications, but, if I did, I would be on the phone alerting the authorities.

If these actions would save even one life, isn’t it worth it? We don’t seriously believe that “Stuff Happens” and we just have to deal with it. We cannot truly expect Miss Bloom and the millions of teachers out there to turn into ice-veined assassins in a moment’s notice while children are instructed to bum rush the intruder.

There is a name for societies where everyone is armed and virtually no one is accountable. They are called WAR ZONES. We don’t combat disease by evening the playing field and giving everyone cancer. Why would we even consider that Miss Bloom should know if she fired 6 shots or only 5 because in all the excitement, she kinda lost track herself. That is the one question we need to ask ourselves.

I Knew You Were Coming, But I Won’t Bake A Cake

When my parents married in 1964, my father’s dad declared that my father had disgraced his race. My father’s sister, although unhappy with her brother’s decision, decided it was okay, as long as they didn’t have children. After all, what kind of life would a mixed race child have? It’s not God’s will to mix races. The child will be ridiculed and considered an outcast; not accepted by either race. I guess it never dawned on her that SHE and people sharing her “Christian Values” were the only cause of any ridicule and scorn I would feel.

Ironically, my grandfather turned out to play a very positive and important role in my life. I can only imagine this happened after he decided to see my mother as a human being. My aunt lived a long life, spending lots of time with my parents and even me. We were close, maybe because she had her own conscious awakening that people are just people. To further her awareness, God gave her a beautiful gay grandson.

As I stare out my front widow, I look out onto my Hoosier neighbors going about their Hoosier business. Most of them are just trying to make a living, raise a family and enjoy their lives in this  beautiful state in which we reside. Hoosiers are known for their hospitality and friendly manner, but today, I find myself watching intently and wondering which ones agree with RFRA.

I have a golden rule, if you will indulge me, I live by each day. I teach it to my children and I exhibit it to my friends, family and acquaintances. That rule is:

No Tolerance for Intolerance

It is non-negotiable.

I guess it may be true that unless one has experienced intolerance personally, one may not fully understand why it is so important to take a stand against it. In the case of my relatives, they were forced, of sorts, to face the reality that our family had a different dynamic than most. It’s difficult to support segregation when your mixed-race granddaughter is sitting on your lap. It’s hard to refuse service to a gay couple when your grandson has a husband.

We all have interpretations of what God is to us (if at all and that’s perfectly fine too). Some think of Him as a merciful God, some as a vengeful God. I like to think that if there is a God, He doesn’t make mistakes and He loves everyone. He would never ask His followers to discriminate or turn against another simply because they are different. Different can be scary. After all, different means uncommon, out of the ordinary, unusual. For too long, the ignorant and frightened have chosen the definition of different to mean dangerous and immoral. The ignorant have long hidden behind twisted interpretations of the Bible to justify bigoted beliefs.

Here are the sad facts. In a recent survey, The Public Religion Research Institute found that 10 percent of Americans believe business owners should be able to refuse to serve black people if they see that as a violation of their religious beliefs. The outward racial discrimination permissible because of a “religious belief,” seems extreme and dated; but these days, is socially acceptable racism. 19 percent of Americans believe it is okay to discriminate against the LGBT community with a slightly higher percent (21) of Americans believing it’s perfectly fine to deny services to atheists. Go figure. Jews come in around the same as blacks, so don’t get comfortable, Shlomo.

Buying and selling stuff is one of the most basic ways Americans interact with each other—if people can’t tolerate difference in the economic sphere, I will bet any amount of money they can’t tolerate it anywhere. In this poll, the best explanation for the minority view is purely straightforward racism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism. But hovering beneath that is an important claim: Economic life is an acceptable realm for segregation.

In conclusion, this RFRA does matter. It does change the climate of our state. It screams discrimination in the quiet and deceitful way it crept to the Governor’s desk and his pen silently signed it into law. It paraded itself as “religious freedom” and marched right into the history books as one of the worst decisions in Indiana history.

Eleven o’clock on Sunday morning . . . is the most segregated hour in Christian America.—Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Amen, y’all.

*Thanks to Emma Green for polling information

THE TRUTH HURTS: Race Relations as experienced by an old Mixed Chick

For the next few moments, I am going to nominate myself spokeswoman for race relations in this country. You don’t have to agree, but seeing as I am 47% African and 53% European (thanks to the Europeans who penetrated my mother’s side, welcomed or not), I may be the best example you’re going to get.

First of all, I am not a militant anything. I am, however, passionate about the fair treatment of ALL people. I call it as I see it. I have the ability to walk within both races, black and white, and witness the good and the not-so-good. For those of you who refuse to believe there are two separate and defined races in this country, I’m here to tell you that denial makes you unattractive.

Let’s get one thing out of the way fast, quick and in a hurry. I identify myself as a black female. Why? I was born in 1965, in Chicago, to loving parents, a black mother and a white father. In that day, a child was considered the race of the mother. Also, back in the day, a drop of black made you black. My mother was the predominant caretaker at home while dad worked as an Airline Captain. My mother was my rock. My father, simply put, was and is my hero. As a young lady, I wanted to be just like my mother as I began to understand her struggles, her pain and her triumphs. She was a dark-skinned woman, no confusion about her blackness. I felt a comfort with her that somehow she was stronger than most, and she was. I married a man who happened to be white, which is incidentally what my mother always told me about my dad. I married a man who most reminded me of the values and strength exhibited by my father, who taught me how a man should treat his wife. So, let’s move on..

White people are still winning. Yes, it’s true. Yes, I said it. My white friends, rich or poor, Ivy League or trade school educated, city or rural folk have it better than most. When I say better, I’m not talking about bank accounts or net worth. I’m talking about a day in the life. I have never once had a conversation with my white friends about fear of their young boys being beaten or murdered by the police. Not once have we ever discussed discrimination in the workplace based on color. Their white children are never concerned about what they can grow up to be, because they won’t have roadblocks placed in their paths (except maybe Affirmative Action). Before you start freaking out, my fair friends, think of the last time you were in a group of fellow pale citizens discussing academic opportunities for white kids and how you can help to advance their education. You haven’t, and you don’t. You don’t have an NAACP or a UNCF because you don’t need them. White people I know rely on the police for assistance and protection. They take comfort in knowing that 911 will respond. White people I know haven’t the slightest clue what it’s like to be profiled because of skin color.

There is an unspoken freedom granted to white people which blacks and other minorities, let’s face it, may never know.

I have lots of black friends. Unlike some of you, I’m telling the truth. Black people have white friends… to a degree. You will never be on the inside. Hell, I’m not even all the way accepted in the inner workings of the black community. My husband is just a confused bystander. There is much distrust in the black community of other races. Some is warranted, some isn’t. Here’s some of what makes me shake my head:

• Tanning

• Butt implants

• Hair Extensions

• Lip injections

• Elvis (ask Chuck Berry)

Listen, I understand that we all interact in diverse groups to illustrate that we can communicate with many kinds of people, but at the end of the day, we are most comfortable in the companionship of our own race of people. That’s natural. However, within that security and contentment cannot come unresponsiveness to the plight of the HUMAN RACE.

Here’s where the rubber hits the road, folks.

White people, imagine for a moment, if you will, that your dog Fluffy was walking down the middle of the street and a policeman rolled up on it and shot it. Would it be justified if your dog had stolen a bone from the butcher and growled at the butcher as it left the building?

By all means No, I am not equating a young man’s life to a dog, it’s just that using a canine in this scenario is more believable than a white kid.

Let’s say it happens time and time again. You complain about the police brutality but nothing ever changes. Sometimes, your Golden Retriever is minding its own business, sometimes its behavior is less than stellar. But your dog has no teeth and really can’t seriously hurt anyone. Still, it’s dead. You’d fight for change. I know you would. Who would stand for such behavior? When is it okay for police to round-up innocent Labradors and take them to the pound without cause? Since when did it become routine for police to murder Schnauzers for no reason. See where I’m going here?

As someone who has a teensy more European blood than African blood, it still boils when I see mistreatment of ANYONE.

Get angry. Don’t stand for it. Speak up. Inaction is a sign of apathy and indifference.

The only hope that our children and grandchildren will see no color, is if we all see RED.

Did She Just Say What I Think She Said?

“I’m looking for a man to love me, like I never been loved before. I’m looking for a man who will do it anywhere, even on a limousine floor.” You know you sang it, but did you do it? The answer is, probably not. If you did, you were skanky way before Vanity 6.

Are we really so adversely affected by song lyrics? I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest not. If you have the opportunity, sit down and take a listen (if you can stomach it) to some of the songs on your kids’ playlist. Here’s one for the ages:

After we go to the bathroom, can we go smoke a cigarette?
I really need one

How about these words of wisdom:
Turn down for what Turn down for what Turn down for what
Turn down for what Ball and Out

In the scheme of things, I don’t really pay too much attention to what my daughters are listening to. I realize that there are song lyrics that are raunchy and even downright nasty, but I’m pretty sure these do not illicit a desire for my girls to drop everything and get busy.

Yesterday, I sat down with my daughters to probe this burning question: Will you be surfboarding instead of attending class today?
After a rousing chorus of “Maaaahm! That’s disgusting”, I was determined to get to the bottom of this. As it turns out, my kids are not taking direction from Mr. & Mrs. Carter’s inebriated exploits. In fact, they don’t pay a lot of attention to the words but seem to concentrate on the beat.

This. Is. Shocking.

My oldest even went as far as to explain that she will not be wearing gold teeth, drinking grey goose or tripping in a bathroom or driving a Cadillac in her dreams. Another bonus is that I don’t have to call her Queen Bee. However, the song bumps.

Feeling fairly comfortable that my children are safe from the evil spell of Beyonce, I turn my attentions to young girls who do not have good parental role models, who may take Beyonce seriously and begin to mimic her songs through slutty behaviors. So let me get this straight. We should fear that young girls will behave like a woman who is married, waited until marriage to have a child, and waited until she had her own successful career before marriage and starting a family, who sings about having freaky sex with her husband?

I would also like to add that your daughter probably doesn’t even know what getting Monica Lewinsky-ed all over her gown by her husband in the back of a limo even means. When you explain it, like I did, her response is probably not going to be “How do I get in on that action?”

Teens aren’t complete idiots, mostly, but not completely. Let’s give them some credit. Beyonce is no more responsible for your daughters’ behavior than Sir- Mix- A-Lot is for my big butt or the Beatles were for the Manson Family crimes. They are, however, responsible for opening up an interesting dialogue with your kids.

In the meantime, since Jay- Z has stated that my breasteses are breakfast, think of the money I’ll save on Cheerios.

In Response to A&F

Last week, I read an old interview with the CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch, dated in 2006, where he basically stated that the store was only meant to cater to cool, skinny teens. You can imagine the backlash from those comments. Everything from videos showing people giving A&F clothing to the homeless, to Ellen DeGeneres giving Mike Jeffries the verbal beat down of the century.

Every retailer has a niche. Lane Bryant caters to larger gals, Gap to hipsters and bebe to the dreadfully tacky.  Mr. Jeffries made a wrong turn when he equated weight to the coolness factor. Somewhere in his misguided life, I bet there’s a little fat boy who wasn’t very well liked. Not because he was fat, but probably because he was just an asshole. Grown up Mr. Jeffries just hasn’t figured that one out yet.

Now, in defense of clothing size. I don’t know where this idea came from that we women should be able to wear whatever we want. It simply isn’t true. When a pattern is created, it is created with a form in mind. This is why there are different cuts that flatter different shapes.  A pair of short shorts in a size 6 does not translate well into a size 18. Nor should they. Pleated pants should be outlawed. Petit women should avoid full length anything. If you are over a size 20, bikinis don’t look good on you. You have every right to wear them, but face it, it’s not a good look, nor was the bikini designed for your body type. Spandex is a privilege, not a right. It’s as easy to dress like a skinny ho as a fat ho. The list is endless but keep in mind, the do’s far outweigh the don’ts.

This is not about positive self-image; it’s about the reality of knowing how clothes should properly fit your body and being conscious of correct styles that flatter your shape. You’re not proving a point to anyone by squeezing into booty shorts when the booty is hanging out all over the street.  This rule applies to all sizes. That’s not sexy, it’s embarrassing.

Listen, clothes are all about proper fit, not popularity. However, I can guarantee you will be a hit for all the wrong reasons if the top you choose pushes your boobs up around your neck.

Your clothing choice is your calling card; your first impression. Make a positive one.