Wednesday, February 24, 2010


I saw "Crazy Heart" last weekend. If you sub the whole music career storyline for a career in mechanical engineering, Jeff Bridges' character could be my dad. It was haunting to see such familiar mannerisms up on the big screen...and hard to see the fictional guy get his happy ending.

My dad would have been 63 today. I miss him every day. I suppose his birthday would be difficult under any circumstances, but it's slightly harder because his birthday (his 57th) was when we had our last coherent conversation. He died 22 days later.

I hate the fact that he won't get to see my boys grow up. He would have gotten a kick out their little mechanical minds. I don't yet know if I'll ever forgive him for cheating us out of all of these years we should have had, but I've at least learned to let myself off the hook for it.

I like to believe things happen for a reason. That something good must have come out of his far I guess I just haven't seen anything good enough.

Happy birthday, daddy.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Hindering of Progress

I read this letter by Special Olympics chairman, Timothy Shriver, today.

I've been hearing a lot lately...maybe for the last couple years...about the word "retard." Back when "Tropic Thunder" was released, there was a lot of hub-bub and, I'll be honest, I agreed that it was distasteful, but I also thought that all the protests were lost on the teenage boy demographic, at whom that movie was targeted.

I'll be even more honest and say that I didn't really care about the word until I had a son with autism. I didn't use it, but it didn't make me cringe the way it does now. I fully support Mr. Shriver's position that the word is harmful to the intellectually disabled, but, on a personal level, that's not what made me hate the word.

I hate the word because it's a lazy, hateful embodiment of ignorance that could one day be thrown at my son, who is not even mentally disabled. For that reason alone I feel compelled to eliminate it from the lexicon...because autism and intellectual disability do not go hand in hand. In Owen's case, he might actually be more brilliant because of this disorder.

The thing is, most people I know who use the word don't do so out of hatred. It's just too easy to call people and behaviors you don't understand, "retarded." But really, once you're past, say, 16 and your brain has begun to unscramble, there's just no excuse for such laziness.

So for those of you having trouble ridding your vocabulary of this word, here's my advice:

If you really have a problem with someone, first, make sure the person in question isn't actually mentally disabled. (If they are, and you still want to insult them, you may want to seek professional help.) Second, take a moment to think about what particular characteristic you really want to criticize and then choose your words accordingly. I guarantee that "retard" is not the appropriate word for the occasion, no matter how small-minded you might be feeling.

Together, we can kill the word. And start sounding smarter in the process.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Those Who Wait

I spend a lot of time envision possible scenarios...for nearly everything. To be more accurate, I envision all of the possible ways things could go wrong in nearly every scenario...because it helps me feel more "prepared," which, of course, is usually not true, but it's still what my brain tells me. It's not fatalistic necessarily, it's just a need to feel like nothing is going to catch me off guard. It's anxiety.

Anyway, lately I've been spending a portion of my time envisioning what it might be like if things went right. If things worked out. If everything came together. I'm not kidding myself into thinking I'm one good move away from utopia or anything, but I have a strong sense that we're on the cusp of good things. That maybe I've gotten to a point in my life where I can see the good things on the horizon and am willing to make difficult choices in order to clear the ready myself for the opportunities.

Btw, is something really an opportunity if you don't ultimately want it? I've been asking myself that question as I've been weighing the aforementioned difficult choices. I have historically found myself not wanting to walk away from "opportunities" on the basis that many people want what the opportunity provides...even if I'm not one of those people. I don't really want to do that anymore.

So here's to good things and letting yourself to believe they will happen. Anxiously awaiting their arrival, even.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Stuff that Dreams are Made of

Lots of excitement these days. Travel excitement. Potential job excitement (read: excitement about potential job). And now Olympics excitement!

I guess it took 32 years, but I'm totally hooked on the Olympics. I mean, I've always been mildly interested in the highlights, but now I could seriously sit and watch (almost) every event (sorry, hockey). The Visa commercials alone bring me to tears.

And as we sit on the couch eating chips with nacho cheese dip, I tell my kids that with a lot of practice and dedication, they, too, could be the best in the world at something. Although I secretly hope its not ski jumping, or luge, or...really anything involving plummeting downward at high speeds. Maybe they will be the best at chess. Yes, chess is a noble and un-dangerous pursuit.

Anyway, I believe it took all of 2 hours of watching the Olympics before we began plotting a family trip to the 2012 summer games in London. Because, really, how awesome would that be? Will it happen? Hard to say for sure, as we're still 2.5 years out, but it's a definite maybe. These are the types of experiences that can shape a young mind.

Oh, and since, in a loose sort of way, we're talking about making dreams come true, I want to mention a dream that my husband has and one which all of you can help make come true:

The man wants to open an improv theater here in Minneapolis. It's his dream. His quest. For all I know, it might even be what he was meant to do. He's got the heart, the passion, the ideas, the partners, and even the business plan. What he does NOT have is the physical space. He needs a building. And since they don't give buildings away for free, sadly, he needs money to make it happen.

So just in case you feel like supporting an artist in realizing his dream, check out the HUGE Theater website and think about giving $5, $10, or even that spare $10,000 dollars you've got lying around. It's tax deductible! And good for your soul, I'm quite sure.

(And even though this isn't about me, those of you who have a spouse with a dream they must achieve before it swallows them, can surely understand how making this happen will be good for my soul, as well.) Thanks.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Report Cards

It's report card time. Report card time with six-year-olds is decidedly less stressful than report card time with teenagers.

I put very little weight on my boys' report cards. It's not that I'm not interested in how they're doing in school, it's more that I don't feel like their ability to measure up against narrowly-defined standards is an indicator of future success in life (although I suppose that's pretty much exactly the way to succeed in corporate America). Maybe I'll feel differently when/if they are really being challenged in school, but right now we're just happy that they aren't complaining of being bored.

Anyway, the grades aren't the interesting part of the report cards, it's the teacher comments. My favorite this time around: "Aidan is currently working on being able to locate supplies in his desk and keeping his shoes tied." Doesn't that just sound like the makings of a mad professor?

Then there's Owen, whose teacher wrote: "I LOVE Owen...he has the greatest personality!" Ok, now, I know I shouldn't be cynical because his teacher has been very accommodating and yes, he does have a the greatest personality...but, well, don't you usually make the personality comment when you're trying to avoid mentioning the thing you don't like about someone?

I don't know, it's possible that given autism's natural tendency to provide a rather uphill slope for kids to traverse, she's overcompensating by saying only nice things. I mean, I know full well that he sometimes outright refuses to do his work and yet here it's phrased as "I would also like to see him finish his work." Well, me too, but rather than wishing for things, let's talk about how we can make that happen.

Enthusiasm: A+
Insight: D-