Sunday, September 25, 2011


Some of you probably saw this story, about Stephen Wiltshire, another person with autism who has an amazing gift. I like these stories because, with all the challenges that autism poses, it's heart-warming to be reminded of the way it can also produce genius.

However, I have to admit that every time I read one of these stories of an autistic genius, I worry that even though Owen is exceptionally smart, he might not be a savant. I'm not saying he couldn't be the best in the whole world at something (in fact, I have no trouble believing that he could), I'm just saying that there's almost an expectation these days that people with autism (especially high-functioning autism) are also geniuses of some least, where the media is concerned.

So I find myself hoping he does have some exceptional gift because it would be so great for him to give a big f-you to all of the stuff he has trouble with and be able to be the best at one thing.

And then there's the flipside. I'm sure most of you saw this story in the NY Times, about Justin Canha, another young adult with autism, who is also an artist, but has struggled. He's talented, but not a savant. And his talent has not allowed him to overcome the obstacles that autism presents. It's a sadder story.

And then a friend sent me this story, which was written in response to the story about Justin. The author talks about her younger brother who is on the lower-functioning end of the autism spectrum. She was happy to see the story about Justin for the very fact that it wasn't just another story about a savant.

But what did I think when I read it? Honestly, I felt defensive. Like, why would you think this would apply to me? Owen is clearly a genius bound for incredible things.

Right. So I guess what I'm saying is that I am conflicted. Like I should be holding him to the possibly-unrealistic expectation that he will be a genius in some area...even though I don't think that's a fair expectation to place on him.

None of it matters, of course. He is who he is no matter what I may or may not expect of him. So I suppose the only expectation I should have is that he keeps doing his best.

Here's what makes me a little mad: Both of my kids are probably geniuses (I say this based on test scores, not just maternal pride). But whereas Aidan has the freedom to surprise and impress people with this information, Owen has this unfair expectation placed upon him. Like, he's expected to make up for his challenges by being exceptional at something...because we're a society in love with freakshows.

I'm cool with both of my kids being freaky geniuses. I just don't think it's fair for me or anyone else to expect them to included.

Sunday, September 18, 2011


I'm watching the Emmy Awards. I know two nominees (!) and my friend's former boss was just highlighted in the memorial reel. Is the world getting smaller or do I just happen to know amazingly cool people?

I don't know, both probably and I like it.

If only everyone working hard to follow their dreams had the chance to get dressed up and be recognized...what a wonderful world this would be.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


I made the mistake of telling my mother I have credit card debt. As I get older, I keep having these moments with my mother where I think honesty is better than quiet agreement...I'm pretty sure I've been sorry every single time. 

A wise friend once told me that when it came to my mother, if I was being honest just because I didn't care, that was one thing, but that if I found myself wanting to be honest in an attempt to change her mind about something, it probably wasn't worth it. So true.

So yes, the credit card debt. I'm not happy about it. Not proud if it. But, hey, shit happens. We make choices, we live with the consequences. To my mother, however, admitting that I do not pay my credit card in full every month is the equivalent of telling her that I have an illegitimate baby in my basement. Seriously. It's like she can't even look at me lately without being reminded of the sins I have committed. 

Despite being an adult and having gone through enough therapy to know that she has unrealistic expectations, my mother's disdain threw me into such a tizzy of anxiety that I considered deleting the rest of my 40 by 40 list and replacing it with "Pay off credit card." I didn't, of course. But seeing as neither my husband or I are on the fast track to increasing our incomes dramatically, I might need to push those trips to Paris, Italy and Joel Robuchon to my 50 by 50 list...hello, living within my means. 

These are not real problems, I realize. It's just me accepting that living on a single income is not the same as living on a dual income. It's just me applying what I logically know to be true to my emotional desire to err on the side of fun rather than fiscal responsibility. It's the whole live-for-the-moment dilemma, right? Because to truly live like there is no tomorrow is only fun until you wake up and realize there are a whole lot more tomorrows and you've got bills to pay. Sigh. Responsibility is a bitch. 

On the bright side, this will force me to resurrect my efforts to invite people over more and eat out less. And not impulse buy at Target. And not plan vacations until I can afford to do so. Ok, that last one makes me cry a little. 

Poor little vacationless me against the big, bad credit card company. I will be triumphant. And it will be worth it. And all the world's creatures will rejoice in the knowledge that there is more than one way to live your life -- no matter what my mother thinks. 

Friday, September 9, 2011

Shiny Days

It's already the end of the very first week of school. Seriously, I don't think I'm being premature by suggesting that we start our Christmas lists at the rate things seem to go these days.

The boys are happy little third graders. They are in separate classes just like last year and they're handling the whole back-to-school transition like seasoned pros. I'm happy for them.

I did take one step closer to my dream of putting them in a bubble where no one can corrupt or traumatize them by pulling them off the school bus in the afternoons this year. Owen was having a hard time toward the end of last year - kids would get him riled up and he'd meltdown and yell at the bus driver, who I'm sure was well-meaning, but clearly not trained to calm or discipline children - especially children with special needs.

Actually, the even better reason to pull them off the bus was all the shit they were learning from the troublemakers. Swearing, general hoodlum-ism...I wish I could say there was rock 'n' roll, but instead there was top 40 radio, which is essentially a lesson in getting drunk and having sex. Ok, I realize all of that made me sound very old, but elementary age kid should be calling people "sexy mama." It's disturbing. 

So now we pick them up after school and they love it and hooray for doing anything to help preserve their innocence for just a little longer. (Not that we don't let them listen to top 40 radio, but at least when I'm with them I can treat them to lectures on how it's not actually cool to go get drunk at the club and leer at women every night...I'm pretty sure they have no idea what I'm talking about and probably very little interest in the lyrics on the songs, but it's good practice for all of us.)

In other good news, I think my annual need to make radical change and question every life decision in the fall is passing...although it's not even actually fall yet, so I guess I might just be having a good day. I'll take it.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Autumn Ennui

I saw "Magic Bus" this weekend, the documentary about Ken Kesey and his Merry Band of Pranksters' trip across the country in their trippy acid bus. While I'm not so sure that I wished I had been on the bus, it made me wistful for the simplicity of it all...

Pretty much every hippie-themed documentary makes me feel this way: that somehow life was so damn simple back then when everyone just wanted to love each other and expand their consciousness. No one seemed to have any sort of outside one seemed to have a mortgage to pay or a job to show up for...everyone just seemed to be hanging out.

I know it's an illusion; those people had problems and probably bills and not everyone actually loved each other all the time (they even showed as much in the film's epilogue)...but it's still a fantasy I like to harbor...this idea that with the right choices, a person actually could go live freely on a farm, surrounded by friends, with nothing more to worry about than creating art and philosophizing. (How the food and electricity gets there, I don't know.)

I think it's the freedom I'm in love with...freedom from all responsibility. I suppose that's a product of being given too much responsibility at a young age, although that's really kind of a cop-out because I doubt that there is truly a "right" amount of responsibility to give a kid. You give too much, you force your kids to grow up too soon, you give too little and they never grow up...we, as parents, are screwed and our kids are screwed, too. 

But, I I saw that movie and then I went out to the Renaissance Festival (where my husband performs) yesterday and realized why that place is such a's people chasing this same fantasy of a simpler time, a freedom from the shackles of's a bubble of zero responsibility...a tangible fantasy. (I'm sure there are artistic reasons people do it, too, but I can confidently say that not everyone out there has creative aspirations.)

This realization did not bring me any closer to wanting to embrace the Festival lifestyle, but it did make me ponder how to simplify my real life (no costumes required). Like millions of people, I suppose, I want to get off the hamster wheel...this constant cycle of things I have to do rather than things I want to's figuring out how to be happier with less stuff and less scheduling. I want to tell you that it doesn't come down to money, but I think it does. I want to spend less, so I need less, so we can eventually not have our lives dictated by a need to acquire money. 

These are the things I am pondering today as I prepare to send my tiny babies off to THIRD GRADE's just my anual back-to-school ennui, where I see the way my life is divided into neat little boxes that constantly need to be checked and I wonder how it all happened and whether it's possible to change...not depression, more of just a pondering of domesticated existence in these modern times.