Free choice

I always assumed one basic premise about myself. Happiness to me is being calm and peaceful. But calm and peace usually ends up making me feel antsy, bored, and depressed. So is it really my key to happiness?

I told you how I was feeling depressed last week. To be honest, a lot of the reason besides the end of summer was because I felt hurt that I was no longer invited to the family reunion next month. Our household, which is pretty reflective of our state and country, has a 50% vaccination rate. All unvaccinated family members are no longer welcome to be a part of the family. I confronted my mom about this. I asked her why she didn’t say something as none of her children besides Matt (who isn’t even going) will be able to participate in the family event. I suggested an alternative of getting tested and wearing masks, the response was vaccinated only. I am no longer upset with my mom as she did try.

You see, I would’ve brought 6 people to the family reunion. Now my mom doesn’t want to go either. So 7 people aren’t going that would’ve been going. That means the cost per person is going to go up significantly for the people still choosing to go. Now another aunt and uncle may not be able to afford to go because he has to pay a crap ton of money every month for insulin. He told me that he doesn’t even care if I go because he is trusting his shot will protect him which actually kind of scares me.

When I went up north with my mom last week, she was invited to her sister’s cabin nearby for cards. My mom told me that some family members were even wary around her because of our family’s vaccination status. I talked to my aunt and she said that she had her grandbabies to worry about. Seriously!! As if I was going to sneak into her kid’s house (which I have never been to) and cough on some innocent sleeping babies (one of whom I’ve only seen once) which will end up killing them (which I’ve never heard of a baby dying from COVID). As if I’m a filthy leper out to kill babies and infect grannies. But hey Alissa, no hard feelings. Yeah that makes me really want to get vaccinated. NOT! Why bother getting vaccinated anyway if you are going to push away your family and live the rest of your life in fear? That’s not living.

Now before I go any further I want to say that I am happy my mom got vaccinated. She is living in a lot less fear than before. But I strongly believe that getting vaccinated should be a CHOICE. If you don’t believe that than this post is not for you. Don’t even tell me how pro-choice you are if you feel people shouldn’t have control over their own bodies. As you probably now realize by the tone of this post, I am not the calm and peaceful person that I say I want to be. I am not going immediately to get a shot to keep the peace to belong to a group that really never helped me through any hard times in my life anyway. To put it very mildly compared to the thoughts in my head, screw them. Bub-bye!

I feel bad for my kids because they really don’t have any family. My mom is the only person I consider family now. I had to really examine my relationships with others in this process. I don’t even consider my brothers close family anymore. They are Easter and Christmas brothers. I only see or talk to them a couple of times a year. Besides his step-dad, my husband doesn’t have any family either. My kids don’t even know any family members with our same last name besides my husband and I. It’s sad.

Through this experience, I learned I am not calm and peaceful. I can’t just let it go like my kids said I should. I still have a lot of fight in me. It gives my life purpose and strangely I don’t feel all that depressed anymore. Everyone should have free choice. They should even have the freedom to make the wrong choices. If I am wrong, I am willing to live (or die) with my choice.

YOU should make choices for YOU. Not me, not your family if you are an adult, not your employer, certainly not your government, and not even your church.


Fortune cookie wisdom #17

The squeaky wheel gets the grease.

Let’s talk about wheels a bit today…shall we?

You may remember a couple of months back when I told the story of my son’s new set of wheels…The very night, less than several hours after we got him the car, some small town criminals decided to chase him down because he was squealing his tires. They smashed the front end of his car and took a tire iron to the back of it.

Shortly thereafter, he hit a deer which smashed his headlight. The car was also leaking oil everywhere in big pools. We decided to make an appointment with someone that would fix foreign cars. It took a couple of weeks to get in.

Once the mechanic opened the hood, he took one look and said he wouldn’t work on it. He said that someone spent a whole lot of money to make the car completely worthless. In essence, we bought a lemon. It was their policy that they do not work on modified cars. So here we were stuck with a 17 year old foreign modified car that no one would fix. He did say that it would probably cost thousands to fix the oil leak.

Then we got the estimate for the damages incurred. The damage from the deer cost $2500 and the damage from the hoodlums was $3500. So, technically, the first few hours after my son got the car it was already totaled.

The two offenders are middle aged men. One man was charged with disorderly conduct and criminal damage to property. The other was charged with disorderly conduct and criminal trespass to property when he chased my son and his friend into the friend’s house threatening to kill them. We are hoping to get restitution for the damage to the car.

Now apparently the nephew of one of those hoodlums goes to school with my son Alex. We have had problems with this kid before. In middle school, Alex and this kid wrestled in the same weight class. He was first, Alex was second. One year Alex decided he wanted to try harder. He went to summer wrestling camps and signed up for preseason lessons. He got to be really good at wrestling. He was so good at wrestling that he challenged this kid who was first and beat him several times.

This did not bode well with the other kid who was the son of a son of a son of a wrestler whose ancestors have been going to the school probably since the school first opened its doors. This kid got a group of other wrestlers together and started bullying Alex because he threatened his position. The coach did nothing and finally my husband took the situation into his own hands and contacted the parents directly. That was the year my son quit wrestling after doing it for 8 years, the year he wrestled his best.

Now this kid is talking bad about my son to my son’s girlfriend over what happened with the car. My son said that if this kid disrespects him to his face then he will fight him. He said that if he does that, he would probably get kicked out of school. Yeah, that will show them all! Fighting will surely fix the car and all of the other problems. NOT!

The strange thing is that I understand. When I heard about the hoodlums that damaged his car, I was so angry that I wanted to go over there and kick the crap out of those guys myself. I think I have so much pent up anger and rage that I have one good fight in me. Is that bad?? I would never act on it, but that is how I felt.

So, yeah, the squeaky wheel gets the oil.. I talk about my son a lot on this blog. I probably talk about him a lot more than my honor student daughters.

Paul’s journey, part 4

One day Martha loaded up her Pinto and headed out of Chicago. Her youngest brother found a new home in Wisconsin and urged his sister to leave the city behind. Paul and his grandmother, who had recently retired from the candy factory, joined her on the journey.

For a short period of time, they lived with Martha’s brother. Now at the time Martha’s brother had a family of 5. Things got a little cramped at his house. They wanted a house of their own. Martha got a production job at a cheese factory. She found a house and tried to get a mortgage. But the application was denied. A woman simply did not get a mortgage alone in the 1970’s. I heard that Martha cried, cajoled, and begged until finally the mortgage officer had a change of heart.

I can’t even imagine the culture shock they went through moving from one of the poorest neighborhoods of one of our country’s biggest cities to a small unincorporated northern WI town. Paul felt like an outsider. Let’s face it, he was.

The kids picked on him. He was poor and wore ill fitting clothes. His mother had a different last name than he did, but she had no husband and he had no father. His grandma shared his last name. Kids laughed and said mean things about his family situation. One teacher even spanked him in front of class and ridiculed him for not having a dad. As if it was his fault he didn’t have something he wanted that everyone around him seemed to have. His mother was working all the time so he had to attend most school family events alone. His grandmother didn’t drive.

The kids and teachers told him that he was stupid and never would amount to anything. Paul thought that the words they said were true. He didn’t bother trying and got bad grades furthering everyone’s belief in his stupidity. His mother was slow, so why wouldn’t he be?

It was during those years, however, that Paul realized he was smarter than his mother. His mother tried to get her GED but couldn’t pass in math. Paul earned a MBA and takes a special interest in finance. But I am getting ahead of the story. Paul’s mother thought if he graduated from high school that would be an enormous accomplishment.

Although everyone told Paul that he wouldn’t amount to anything, his mother always told him that he could do anything he put his mind to. For not being very bright, her encouragement and belief in him was a very smart move as a parent that didn’t have much else to offer.

Autism’s sibling, journal 2, part 3

My mom said that Matt was a smart baby. He was speaking and knew the alphabet. Until he turned 2, that is. Then he quit talking altogether. Instead he screamed. He slept fitfully and had nightmares. For many early childhood years, Matt was nonverbal. Then something strange happened, he started talking.

Previous to the home bound years, my brothers and I attended the same grade school. I remember Matt being in the special ed room that was shared with the library. He spent a lot of time in the naughty box between the two rooms. He kicked and screamed in this box while the kids laughed when we went in for library. He also went out with us at recess. Some of the older girls mocked his bizarre movements and laughed at him. It made me very angry, but they were older and there was nothing I could do about it.

One day Matt told my mom that he didn’t like school. He said that the teacher was mean. He told us that she put him face down on the floor and sat on top of him. He said it was hard to breathe. The teacher also put him under her desk, then sat down squishing and trapping him inside. My mom asked me if this could possibly be true. By the time he could tell us what had happened, the teacher had already quit. The turnover was high and I am sure my brother didn’t help with that.

Matt was very hard to handle. He was so violent in the school setting that he had to be homeschooled for several years right around the time of puberty. We stayed at home 3 years, then Matt went back to school with me. My mom sent my youngest two brothers to two different schools. Some of the teachers at school gave my family a hard time for my autistic brother. They looked down upon us. Some of the kids weren’t much better. Like we wanted this? Or caused this?

When I came back to school my junior year, I was the first person in the school district to return to high school after homeschooling. They did not know what to do with me. They would not accept my transcripts from the accredited correspondence school. Some kids teased me by asking if I took off from school to have a baby.

After awhile Luke ended up going to high school with Matt. They graduated together. Mark graduated from a different school entirely. Matt took the short bus to school everyday. There was always a boy that would terrorize Matt on the bus. Sometimes he would get off of the bus with Matt and threaten to kill him. Mom was a little worried last summer that he would make good on his threat once he made parole for his violent criminal offenses.

After I graduated from high school, I came back to be Matt’s teacher’s aide. My best friend Shelly was his aide at school until she pressed criminal charges against Matt for assault when he pulled her hair. Matt was escorted out of the school in handcuffs. That was the end of Shelly’s employment and our friendship. The charges against Matt were dropped after his competency eval.

Then I was employed as Matt’s teacher’s aide for a short period of time. In the classroom, Matt had his own separate cubicle. Every time that I would try to get him to read or write he would grind his teeth and hit his head. Or sometimes he would hit me. He never did learn to read, write, or do basic math.


A storm is brewing

I feel the edginess right before the storm hits. The peacefulness and calm from my vacation is leaving slowly like a summertime tan. I feel the wind surround the emptiness inside of me, trying to find a void to fill with cold icy snow. The warmth and sunshine are gone now. Sorrow, darkness, and anger encapsulates me. I cry out to God, but He doesn’t seem to hear my prayers. I feel the tug of emotions trying to drown me in a river of despair. I am alone. I want to be alone. I don’t want to talk. I really don’t want to do anything.

It has been a hard start of the year. I miss my neighbor and friend that passed away a couple of weeks ago. Every time I look at her house, I think that she is still there. She will pull her car out of the driveway and wave at me. We were supposed to do something together next week. But guess what? I can’t go. I looked over the old messages that she sent me. My heart tells me that she is still alive. She just can’t come outside. My brain tells me to stop being such a fool. Stop pretending that things are fine.

Last summer my best friend moved to Florida. I had the opportunity to spend time with her while we were there on vacation. I didn’t realize how much I missed talking to her and seeing her. I miss her. I don’t feel like talking to anyone else. In 4 months, my oldest daughter will be leaving the house. I am excited for her to start the adult chapter in her life, but I am at such a loss. I started crying while she performed her solo and ensemble song for me. It bothered me that she sold her junior prom dress. It just seems so final.

Then yesterday we found out that my mother-in-law has stage 4 terminal lung cancer. They are giving her around 15 months to live. Wait a minute, I am not ready to deal with the loss of our parents yet. I have been having a hard time with this since I saw her last week. I have been feeling sad and angry. With all of the people that were praying for her and my friend that passed away, why didn’t God heal them? I don’t have any control. Why should I expect miracles? I feel helpless. Who can avoid death? It has given Paul time to say goodbye to his only parent. That has been good for him to spend time with her.

This morning my son got suspended from school. He got in a fight with someone in the hallway. It has been no secret that my son has been struggling with school for the last couple of months. He has been begging us to switch schools for a couple months now. Apparently a boy called him a faggot on facebook back in December and has been bullying him with some other kids. My son got in his face today. I suppose that it shouldn’t surprise me that the day after my son finds out that his grandma is dying that he confronts this other boy. Words were exchanged between my son and this boy. They were pushing and shoving each other in the hallway. Then I received a call from the school that my son was suspended for 3 days. He was trying to provoke the other kid that was picking on him. Maybe this is a good thing. Maybe we can finally resolve this issue head on.

We are expecting a snow storm today. We should be getting somewhere around 8 inches of snow with blowing winds. It just started to snow.

Wrestling with the school

My son Alex used to be involved in almost every sport offered in the area, but not anymore. He started wrestling when he was in kindergarten. He was competitive, aggressive, and not afraid to get hurt. To be completely honest with you, I loved being a wrestling mom. I even loved getting up early on a Saturday morning to sit for hours in a loud stinky gym for those few minutes of anxious excitement. Most of the moms didn’t like the sport very much because they were afraid that their children would end up hurt. Most of the kids would leave the meets bumped and bruised and at almost every tournament someone would leave the gym on a stretcher.

The sport required a high tolerance of boredom and anxiety. I have seen almost everything over the 8 years that I was a wrestling mom. I have seen kids puking into garbage cans and heading back to the mat. Or more common, kids with bloody noses. Little kids running off crying after losing a match. Siblings would sit bored for hours playing their video games. Babies cried. Parents would coach from the sidelines losing their voices like they spent the night at a bar. I have seen kids worry over a couple of extra ounces when they were trying to make weight sucking on Jolly Ranchers and spitting into water bottles. I never liked that part. I have seen parents escorted out of the building for fighting with refs over calls. Some kids would win, others would lose. Pictures at the podium. Pins for your hat. Then we would pack it all up and head back home until the next weekend.

Alex was a B+ wrestler. When he was in 6th grade, he tried to make it to state. Only the first and second place in the weight bracket would make it to state. If I remember right, there were 8 kids in the weight bracket and Alex took third. However, another district had only one child in the weight bracket so they called Alex up to state. For the next two weeks before state, Alex wrestled twice as much and twice as hard. On the drive to state, Alex fell asleep and woke up with a kink in his neck. He pinched a nerve or pulled a muscle. We tried everything we could think of but Alex could not hold his head upright without extreme pain. We watched his teammates wrestle while Alex had to forfeit every game. We were so angry. He worked so hard. It was such a fluke thing that he made it to state and then he couldn’t even wrestle. So we resolved to do everything possible to help get Alex back to state the following year.

Alex went to summer wrestling camps and we signed him up for very intense wrestling training 2 months before the wrestling season started. This involved an extra expense and 2 hours of driving every time he went. He was very motivated and worked hard. He became an A- wrestler. In school, he was second in his weight class under an A wrestler. With all of the extra training, he could beat the A wrestler 1 out of 3 times. This is where things went incredibly wrong for him. He took on the alpha. This is a boy whose dad was a wrestler that graduated from that same school.  He was friends with a lot of other boys whose dads were wrestlers that graduated from the small town school. He got a lot of the other kids to turn against my son. A couple other kids were getting bullied as well. Some of the boys were being pushed around and had their wrestling shoes thrown in the toilet.  We talked to the coach, but he didn’t do anything.  One day my husband couldn’t take it anymore. He took Alex with him to confront the boys that were bullying him and to talk to their parents. Things got better for awhile.

Then a few weeks before trying to make state, my son came down with the flu. He missed a week of school and when he came back he didn’t wrestle as good. He still tried hard but then hurt his neck again in the same place as before. He spent a week in a lot of pain. He never made it back to state and quit wrestling altogether. Even though we tried to help him become a better wrestler, in hindsight I am not sure it was worth it. Being better jostled the system that was in place, the hierarchy. Since then my son has been ostracized from the jock group, he quit all sports, his grades dropped, and he has a negative attitude about school. He hangs out with other kids that aren’t accepted. Kids that have been known to steal things, do drugs, and run away from home.

My son begs us to take him to another school which has been tempting since he has two really good friends that stay out of trouble in the neighboring school district.  But would that teach him that he can run away from his problems? That he doesn’t need to change negative things about himself in order to get along with people better? Or would it give him a better attitude about learning and opportunities to grow socially and academically?

We have a lot to think about before the next school year.

The cure for autism, part 8

Biofeedback.  Matt was obsessed with little girls. He could hear the high pitched voices of their teasing and laughter on the grade school playground. Their mockery and teasing played like a recording over and over in his head for over a decade. He also heard voices in his head to hurt little girls. Since I was the only little girl around I was most often the target of his attacks. He pulled my hair, scratched up my arms, and swung at me with a closed fist to the upper arm sometimes on a daily basis. My mantra while enduring this was that every bruise or scar was going to make me stronger. Believe me, it has made me a stronger person mentally and physically as a marathon trainee. 

Eventually I did what most little girls do, I grew up. I became my brother’s caregiver. Parents, a strong word of advice, this is a bad idea! It is also a very bad idea to have your children’s friends be caregivers too. Another blog, another blog. I grew up but Matt didn’t. He was still fixated on hurting little girls. Mom found a new doctor who was into biofeedback. It involved hooking Matt up to a small machine to monitor when Matt was feeling anxiety. Using biological cues, he was suppose to be able to stop himself before hurting someone. So in the summer I would trudge around the local parks that were full of laughing and squealing little girls so we could hook Matt up to this equipment. I know this was supposed to be a good thing, but it felt so terribly wrong. 

Still no cure. 

Kicked out of the roller rink

After I was old enough to drive, I started hanging out at the roller rink a couple of small towns over. The roller rink was small too. It seemed like we were turning more than we were going straight. I always ended up with a blister on one side of one foot since we only skated one song in the opposite direction. 

There was a little girl that would go skating when I was there too. She was about 5 years old. Her parents would drop her off during open skating and head to the bar next door. It seems like when someone shirks off their responsibilities, other people take it on. Good thing I was like a big sister, protective instead of predatory. There was one occasion though when she protected me. I was hanging out with another friend when this older girl came up to my friend shoving her and accusing her of looking at her boyfriend. I told this older girl to leave my friend alone. She took my head and bashed it into the wall. My little friend told the owner I was in trouble and he kicked the older girl out. She promised she would find me and kick my ass in the parking lot when skating was over. I admit I was a bit worried.  I was used to getting hurt by my brother, but was not good at fighting back. I refused to leave early, but she never showed. 

The second time someone got kicked out again inadvertedly had to do with me. My mom thought it would be a good idea to take Matt roller skating with me. Mom took Matt by the hand, gently leading him around the rink like a small child. The slow skate started and the lights dimmed. Matt had to go to the bathroom. Mom took off his skates and put on his shoes. On the way out he grabbed a little girl by the hair and started kicking her over and over. It took a couple of people to get him off of her. The girl’s dad was furious. Once again, the owner came over and kicked us out. My mom was crying, apologizing profusely, saying it wasn’t his fault. The owner was understanding, but said we would have to leave just the same. 

It was storming when we left the skating rink. I drove home in the pouring rain, tears pouring from my eyes. I screamed at my mom that I was never having kids because I never wanted to have one like Matt. My mom kept repeating over and over that she was thankful that Matt did not have his roller skates on while he was kicking that girl. We were both crying hysterically, the thunder a perfect crescendo for our outpouring of grief. I remember listening to In A Gadda Da Vida the whole mournful trip home. It was just another day in the life.