Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Must be Christmas

On Christmas Eve my sister and I would get to sleep together if we wanted.  When we were little we could fit in one bed and as we got bigger, we'd put sleeping bags on the floor. 

I always woke up before she did and then I'd sit and stare at her, trying to will her awake.  Sometimes I'd even take my thumb and pull her eyelid open. 


And when she was finally awake, We'd go wake our parents up.  I loved the feeling of creeping downstairs and knowing that it would look different than the night before.  The tree would have presents underneath with wrapping paper I'd never seen before.  The cookies we'd set out on the mantle for Santa were gone, replaced only by crumbs and a thank-you note.  Long after we no longer believed in Santa Claus, that magic was still there.

My mom would put a Christmas record on and we'd open presents together sitting around the tree.

It is unbelievable to me that now my kids creek downstairs and I sit on the floor with my coffee, watching them open presents wrapped in paper they've never seen before.  That I have a husband who puts music on to listen to while we open presents.  Being a grown-up at Christmas time sure is funny. 

I still feel like that little girl on the left sometimes.  And I wonder what my kids will feel like as they grow up through these traditions.

I love this time of year.  I really do.  Maybe I'll pry Tad's eyelid open one week from tomorrow if I happen to wake before the kids....  Then again, prolly not.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Tiny Tim doesn't want your sympathy

A Christmas Carol.  It's a fun book and an entertaining movie for this time of year.

We’ve all seen it.  Ebenezer Scrooge and Bah Humbug and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future….  And Tiny Tim.
I don't generally mix my work and my blog but here it is...I just started thinking about this today.

Tiny Tim is one of the early figures of disability in film.  We see him in A Christmas Carol on his crutches and we feel so sorry for him.  We feel pity. And that’s what Scrooge feels when he finally has his epiphany in the movie.  He feels pity for Tiny Tim and wants to help him. And then Tiny Tim becomes “special” and inspirational

Well I’ll tell you what.

People with disabilities don’t want Pity!  And people with disabilities don’t want to be seen as inspirational either!
Here's my take of the ghosts of past, present, and future and what they have to tell us about Tiny Tim.

The ghost of Tiny Tim’s Christmas Past

Long ago people with disabilities were put in institutions.  They were seen as “less than” as burdensome and not at all part of our society.  There was no expectation of education or career.  Tiny Tim would shake his tiny head at this.  The ghost of Christmas Past wants you to know that Tiny Tim deserves better.  He wants neither your pity nor your reverence. He just wants to go to school and graduate. He wants to get a job and become a contributing member of society.  Tiny Tim wants to be empowered to live a life of full inclusion! 

The ghost of Tiny Tim’s Christmas Present

Today, things are getting better.  Tiny Tim can get a full and inclusive education.  If he’s having trouble finding work or with his Independent Living Skills, he can call on any variety of community organizations that are there to help people with disabilities.  Still there are attitudinal barriers and people might still look with pity or reverence...there are restaurants and shops that are still not accessible to Tim and his family. Schools still sometimes keep him separate from the other kids. He might get bullied.

The ghost of Tiny Tim’s Christmas Future

The ghost of Tiny Tim’s Christmas future is not a scary grim reaper—no.  In my mind this ghost is using a shiny golden power wheelchair.  He’s wearing a lovely robe of velvet green with a crown of poinsettia on his head. And he points his strong, long finger to Tim’s future and this is what he sees:

Tim is working a job that satisfies him.  He is no longer “tiny” because he’s a grown up.  He still has a disability; his crutches are simply assistive devices that help him get around. He has a wife and children and a nice little house in the city.  He is fully included in his community—his favorite restaurant has a ramp so that people of all mobility types can get in the doors.  His daughter put colored tape on his crutches to celebrate the holiday.  No one looks at Tim as he goes into the restaurant with his family because he’s just a man having dinner out.  He pays his bill with the money he earns at his job and no one is amazed that he was able to pay “despite” his disability.  He goes home with his family and falls asleep, satisfied to be in a world where accommodations and accessibility are second nature. And the snow (which will be shoveled first thing in the morning so that everyone can use the sidewalks) falls softly outside.
I really love my job at IndependenceFirst.  I am sure grateful for that. And I hope my imaginary ghost of Christmas Future is right.


Thursday, December 12, 2013

Social anxiety attack gone right

This year, as part of the sex ed conference, they offered a bus trip to Rockefeller Center. I signed up thinking that would be a great way to spend a night out of the hotel and utilizing the closeness to the city.

The bus trip was $50.  And I started thinking. Did I want to pay $50 just for a ride to the city? I mean, the hotel has a free shuttle to the train station and the train trip is a quick $4 ride to Penn Station.  But then I thought, well...this is an opportunity to hang out with other people from the conference and not have to worry about public transportation.  That's what people were telling was a price for togetherness and convenience. 

I went downstairs after calling my sister for council--to spend $50 for togetherness and convenience or not...  I got on the bus, thinking I'd just take a deep breath and enjoy not having to think about much and gather the energy from the other travelers.

But everyone on the bus seemed to know each other.  People returned my smile when I got on, but nobody said anything to me.  I took a seat near the back.  More people boarded and seemed to know others...  And then a woman came towards the back and said "Is this where the wine is?" Everyone laughed... and then I thought...  $50 bucks. Everyone knows each other.  The bus wouldn't return until 10:00 pm. What was I going to do in Manhattan by myself for five hours....  I got short of breath.. Grabbed the seat and decided not to panic...Then I got up. "Sorry. Sorry" I said as I got off the bus.  And asked for my money back.

I took the free shuttle to the train station and bought an $8 round trip to New York. I have lived in London, D.C. and Eastern Europe. Public transportation doesn't elude me.  I didn't need to spend $50 for convenience.  The train ride was nothing and I loved just walking around the city by myself.  I ate dinner while I walked, bought from a street vendor.  I felt comfortable navigating my own way to Rockefeller center and not one, but TWO people asked me for directions.

Yep. I had a little social anxiety freak out on the bus..but I had a lovely night in New York City.  Just me.

Oh..and Mickey and Minnie.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Do I have a pleasure/guilt override?

So, this happens every time.

I'm about to leave for a work conference.  I am extremely lucky at my job--I get to travel a lot.  And aside from my career, I also take a trip a year, by myself, to visit with my Peace Corps friends. 

Right now I'm sitting in a hotel room with a king sized bed by myself. I just finished eating dinner-delivered by room service.  The conference activities start in a 1/2 hour. I'll get to learn about all different aspects of sexuality education--my career and something about which I am passionate.  There's morning yoga each day and on Friday night I get to go on a bus trip to Rockefeller Center. 

But in the days leading up to this opportunity, I felt guiltier and guiltier.  And the guiltier I felt, the more my anxiety level rose.  What if the plane crashes and I die?  What if there's a snowstorm on Saturday on my way home and I am delayed by hours, or worse, days?

Last night I was stressed about packing, organizing and being totally patient and present with my kids.  I did none of these three things very well and of course got extremely mad at Lucy who was asking countless unanswerable questions at bedtime....

Lucy: Why did you put me on top of my blanket?
Me: I didn't
Lucy: then WHY am I on top of my blanket?
Me: You got on top of your blanket and covered up with your quilt.
Lucy: WHY?
Me: I saw you get on top. I just thought that's where you wanted to be.
Lucy:Why did you THINK I wanted to be on top of my blanket?

This went on and then I lost my patience with her.  She cried. I felt terrible for making my child cry before I left her for three days...which of course happened because she could surely feel, in my energy, that I was already feeling bad before I put her to bed....  oooooh what a conundrum!

At any rate, this happens EVERY time I'm about to go do something that is just for me, and me alone.  In the lead-up to my leaving, I just start to feel guilty.  Who am I to leave for three days?  Tad never gets to do stuff like this...HE should be leaving for three days!

Though last night when I expressed these feelings to Tad he simply said, "I do not want to go to New Jersey!  And it's not that you're LUCKY at work... you seek these opportunities out.  You have worked your way here.  You deserve it. Why can't you enjoy it?"

Why can't I enjoy it?

I mean, as a parent, I CRAVE times like this when I get to be by myself, not responsible for any one but me...and then when I HAVE the opportunity, all I can think about is getting back home to my kids.

So, I guess part of it is being a mom. And my job as ALIE KRIOFSKE MAINELLA is to be true to myself and let myself enjoy time for makes me a better mom....  And part of it is being present. I have to be present now, here in New Jersey at the Sex Ed Conference. And when I get home I have to be present there. At home. With my family.

Be present. Stop feeling guilty. 

That might be the American Mom Dream.  I'll work on it.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

I see London

So, I was taking a walk and I happened upon a pair of men's underwear, just a-lyin' in the grass!

And I says to myself, I says, I wonder how a pair of men's undies have just been discarded right here.  And then I walked a few more paces and found yet another pair of underwear, just a yard away!  Women's underwear!

And then I really wondered how such an occurrence could have come to be.  I thought it could be on of a few options:

1. Someone was moving and their box full of underwear opened and two pairs flew out and landed on the grass (like so)
(The grass seen above is on the property of an office moving company...hence the moving scenario, but then I thought that prolly offices don't move their staff underwear, most likely.)
2. Two people were having sex out in public for a cheap thrill and were forced to skedaddle so quickly that they were unable to replace above undergarments.
3. Someone thought it would be a funny deed to place two pairs of undies, men's and women's respectively out in the grass there where anyone could hap upon them and begin to dream up possible scenarios of their whereabouts and whyabouts. 

(When I was a kid I used to go out in the freshly fallen snow and run around in circles and hop on one foot and then fall down on purpose and then go back in, excitedly imagining that someone else would hap by and spend a great deal of time pondering why someone had been running around in circles, only travelling upon one foot, and then falling down... )

So those are my three ideas about whence and wherefore that underwear came to be...

Do you have any thoughts?  We, at Alie's Handbasket, would love to hear them!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Bad day turned better

Yesterday I went to pick my kids up from school and while I was standing there in the dampish cold, hoping they would get bored and want to go home soon, Coen suddenly was crying in my arms.

His classroom (1-3 grade) Guinea Pig, Spot, had died.  Spot was Coen's classroom guinea pig for the past three years. She lived with us for two winter breaks and all last summer.  Coen loved Spot. And Lucy has been telling everyone that she too wants to be in Ms. Wendy's class so she can take Spot home during summer.

I took my sad kids home and of course it was Monday which means (cue extremely foreboding music) homework night. Coen sat hard in his desk and resignedly opened his homework folder while I doled out granola bars.  The writing portion was to write about his worst day ever.

"I'm writing about today!" Coen said.  He wrote:
My friends sat away from me.
I didn't know what to do. I got bored.
I waited too long to do my research.
Then I was out side and I found out my favorite school pet died.

He fought his way through 1/2 of the math and then declared himself to be done for the night.  But then he noticed that the weekly "grace and courtesy" lesson was about animals.  Coen decided to ask our neighbor if we could walk her dog.  She agreed and we took little miniature Schnauzer Lt. Dan for a walk.  Coen walked her, picked up her excrement, had a fabulous time.

"This turned my night around!" He said enthusiastically as Lieutenant Dan ran Coen towards his house.  He went straight back to his homework folder and wrote about it before dinner.

After we ate, the kids decided to make each other Christmas presents and went separately to their rooms and worked behind closed doors.  I hid each of their homemade gifts when they were done and we had a candlelight service for spot before bed.  We sat in the hallway, lights off, candle burning with a picture of Spot on my phone and talked about what a great guinea pig she was.

It's not always easy.  Homework is no fun.  Guinea pigs die far too quickly.  Sometimes our friends don't want to sit with us.  Sometimes our kids don't want to do their homework and complain about  spaghetti for dinner that you already made. 

But sometimes something nice happens.  Sometimes you make something nice happen.  And that makes all the difference.

Both my children went to bed much happier than when they came home.  That was a lovely thing.