Sunday, May 7, 2017

Dipping my toes in.

I am not getting up from this computer until something is written.

I guess that last sentence would have qualified, but I know that I want more. It's been a long hiatus, this blog and I- the longest it has ever been. It's high time that I found my way back.

In the nearly-a-year that it's been since I sat down in this space, there have been so many changes, both for me and my little family as a whole. The first change is that back in September we bought our first home. It was heart-wrenching to leave our little apartment and our little town. It was the place we began our marriage, where we brought home our newborn son. We had grown friendships and has always assumed it would be where we planted our permanent roots. But, our issues with the school district became too great to conquer. There was just no place for PJ.

So we packed up and moved 11 miles away, to a much bigger town with a much different vibe, but with a place for my son to learn. The move was hard on PJ. He was terribly homesick and it took a few months for him to feel better. September and October were hell- poor PJ would sob every day asking us to take him back to his old neighborhood. Every time he cried, I cried, and I cursed the broken school system that made it impossible for PJ to have a productive place in the school and with his peers. But, things slowly got better. He is enjoying school and has an interest in his new building, new friends, and the perks of having a much larger living space! He has been invited to birthday partied, enjoyed school events, and staked out some favorite spots in his new town ( like the kick-ass playground!).

As PJ has learned to spread his wings, I have needed to toss aside some of my own social anxieties and meet some people as well. It's not really my thing, thanks to my general awkwardness and dull social skills. But, I managed, enough to make at least one great friend, a bunch of potential great friends, and to be a productive part of the school parent community.

Now it is May, and we are planning PJ's first summer in his new town. For the first time since he was 2, PJ will not be spending his summer inside getting autism therapies. Instead, he will go to day camp, and (hopefully) enjoy his first "typical" summer. I wanted PJ to have time with his peers and, even though he will have the one-to-one support of his therapist, have a dirty, buggy, swim-y summer. We are also hoping for some beach time, some surfing time, and some family time. Lots of ice cream, lots of sun screen. I hope it's the summer I have always dreamed of for PJ. Thanks to our tax return, we can even pay for it!

It's bedtime. There is a busy week looming ahead and things to do before I sleep. For now, I will hit "Publish" on this wretched post. Day One. Thanks for having me.

"I feel like all my life I've tried to find the answers."

Monday, July 18, 2016

My LTYM Experience or How I Accidentally Ended Up On A Stage

The final chapter of my participation in the Listen To Your Mother Show ended with our live performances. I turned 39 on May 3rd and on May 7th, I was on a stage at the beautiful South Orange Performing Arts Center with 12 other souls  (as well as our incredible producers, Sandy, Brooke and Deborah) that handily out-shined the beauty of the space. It all still feels as if it may have been a dream. A very gratifying, emotional dream.

It ended the same way it began, with my worrying about clothes. Before our first rehearsal, I was stressing out knowing that the next morning, I would be meeting a room full of strangers. Not only that, I would be taking a cast picture with these strangers and reading a story of the worst moments of my life. It seemed like too much to be vulnerable about my story and about my precarious self-esteem at the same time.

Despite all of that, I got into my car on a Saturday morning, armed with coffee and the soundtrack to "Hamilton." Clad in the pink and grey sweater I had chosen, I entered the loft space of the SOPAC to find a circle of chairs and the only faces I knew- those of our producers, who had sat before me as I auditioned in that very same space.

The rest of the faces trickled in, faces I knew vaguely from Facebook. I had no idea what stories I was about to hear, I just knew they would all be better than mine. I really had no idea what I was doing in this room. One of the women was even having a book published, for God's sake!

There were introductions and hugs and lots of "Hey, it's so nice to finally meet you!" We drifted to our chairs, and then it began. It sounds cliche and dumb, but these weren't just stories. There was so much truth and vulnerability and bravery, and it suddenly all made sense. I would have never made it to this room alone- none of us would have. We all needed each other. I could see the connections from one story to the next, like strands of sliver that tethered us all together. What an outstanding job the producers take on, to create this living being from nearly one hundred random tales.

We met again a month later. Instead of being impervious to the stories we'd heard, we were somehow even more open to absorbing them. We gathered after to eat lunch, giggling and exchanging pictures of our people and enjoying the indulgence of an afternoon cocktail. I realized that these were people I was going to know.

One more month and I found myself, again, stressing about clothes on a Friday night. But this time, it wasn't a pink and grey sweater at the ready, but a dress and heels, accessorized by jewelry chosen by a heavily pregnant sales girl at Nordstrom Rack. First thing that morning, I made one last drive to South Orange. I went in through the wrong door and, in a few steps, found myself onstage.

Many moons ago, in a life previously known as mine, I lived to be onstage. The itchy, awkward girl, plagued by acne and low self-esteem, would lose herself in Sandy or Mary or the screamy life of a Sweet Apple teen. Talent shows, Homecoming, every school choir concert, I would remember that there was something I was good at.

Fast forward about ten years (and at least forty fucking pounds) and there I was on stage again. This time, I wasn't playing anyone else. I was just myself. But despite the reservations I felt about being myself on stage, I found that the feeling of waiting in the wings to go on, the glow of the lights, and the sound of genuine, kind applause hadn't changed. It felt like a combination of a warm bath and an electric shock- two things that do not generally go together.

I sat on stage with my people and listened to their stories. Despite the fact that I was up there in front of hundreds, the stories felt as visceral and real as they always had. I had tears in my waterproof mascara-clad eyelashes when it was my turn. I walked up to the podium and totally blacked out. Seriously. I know I read my story, but it was like I was underwater. I forgot about the audience, didn't worry about looking fat. I could see the story I was telling as if it was happening right there.

My story was about the most terrifying moment of my life so far; I could not find PJ, and feared he had wandered from the house. As I read my piece, I was in my bubble until I got to the part where I found PJ, safe and okay, and the entire audience audibly groaned with relief.

That groan was the single most gratifying experience I have ever had as a writer. I suddenly remembered all of the people in the theater and realized that they were with me on this journey. It meant that I had told my story well enough for them to understand how terrified I was, and the crushing relief I felt when I found PJ safe. That was an amazing and unusual experience for a writer. I have no way of knowing if the things I create have any impact whatsoever because I am not there when people read it.

After the show, after all of the incredible stories had been told, I headed out to the lobby to find Pete before the second show began. We talked a bit and as we did, people came up to me with words of sweetness and encouragement and thanks. It meant that telling my story served the purpose I wanted it to- to let people know that sometimes, blame and finger-wagging and I would never let that happen's are just hot air on a fire.

We moved on to the second show, and I felt a new jolt of electricity go through me as I thought of my sister and my friends who had schlepped almost two hours to come see the performance. The second show had a different vibe, more intimate and serious. But it was a great show and before I knew it, we were backstage again, celebrating with champagne sipped from hijacked Dunkin Donuts cups. The performance space was transformed into a reception area, where I sipped a little more champagne and ate the most delicious meatball ever. I switched my very high heels out for a pair of socks that were more forgiving, if not fashion forward. We partied together until there were just a few stragglers left, and then we moved the party across the street to a great little bar.

In my grown-up life, there are not a lot of opportunities like this and that's okay. Seeing my son perform the first time, and to be witness to how much joy it brought him, eclipsed my biggest performance high times a million. I love my life, even when it's messy and dumb, but I also loved this glimpse back to who I was. Ironically, the bridge that took me there was who I am now. Either way, I could not be more thankful for this incredible opportunity.

I can not encourage you enough to visit the channel for our show and listen to all of my amazing, brave, talented, beautiful cast mates. Our stories, all together, made the show, not any one piece. To borrow a phrase, you will be changed for the better.

"My blurry lines, my messy life
Come into focus and in time, maybe...
I can heal and I can breathe
'Cause I can feel myself believe
That everything changes..."
-Everything Changes- Waitress Original Broadway Soundtrack

Thursday, July 14, 2016

White Girl Talking

The news lately has swirled with stories of division, hate, fear and exclusion. From the stories that made national news in my own little town, to the stories that made national news for their heartbreaking disregard for human life, it all certainly gives way to a lot of talking.

I had a conversation with someone today about a YouTube video he had seen. In the video, an African-America.n gentleman told his story of an encounter with police that remained un-contentious (is that even a word?) and peaceful. He conveyed that the reason for this was because he was respectful and cooperative. Which, of course, is more than likely true. His tale seemed to say "If it happened to me, it can happen to you. Just behave."

Of course, in 99% of the cases, this is true. I know that most people have positive interactions with law enforcement, no matter how they feel about getting a speeding ticket or being caught without car insurance. Things almost always go a little easier when every acts like human beings.

Almost always, except when they don't. I know I'm just a White Girl Talking, but it seems offensive at best to hold up the story of one person and say "See? The cops didn't beat this guy up! You just have to know how to behave." That logic is flawed. Would one woman ever say to another "Well, jeeze! I forget to make dinner all the time and my husband doesn't beat me. You just have to know how to behave!"

Sounds asinine, right? But that's exactly the attitude conveyed when we tell people of color "Well, if you didn't talk back/have a record/resist/etc..."  Any other time, when a section of human life is marginalized, we try to do better by them. Nobody would say to a group of women, marching to being awareness to domestic violence, that "Men's lives matter, too!" Nobody would say to a group marching to prevent child abuse that "Adult lives matter, too!" I have never seen anyone standing on the sidelines at a walk for Autism yelling "Cancer matters, too!"

Yes. All lives matter. That's without a doubt. Every life is important and meaningful and necessary, no matter how much to the contrary that may seem. All of the lives matter equally. That said, it is not for anyone to look at a group that has been marginalized, that feels as though they need to raise their voice to be heard, and patently set them aside by saying "All lives matter" when they mean "...but some more than others."

Last week, the world lost a powerful voice upon the death of writer and Nobel Peace Prize winner Eli Wiesel. His memoir, "Night," changed my life, as a Jew, as a writer, and as a human being. The morning that the news of his death broke, I pulled it from my bookshelf and read it cover to cover, sobbing as I took in this story that I already knew. It's a slim novel, but so powerful in its telling of what can happen when hate spills over. The way that hatred can sweep out an entire people and how the hated can change, so quickly, into people who themselves hate as a means of survival.

It seems like every time I turn the news on, there's heartbreak. The stories get worse and the casualties pile up. And in all of that rubble there are beacons of hope but, on the whole, I don't know what the answer is, or how to even begin to go about finding it. All I can do is try to keep my eyes open and my heart open, and to make sure that my son is doing the same. I hope PJ will see color and difference and celebrate it, not separate.

Nothing's what it seems, I mean
It's not all dirty, but it's not all clean 
-"Stand," Jewel

Monday, July 11, 2016

Today, I am...

Today, I am...

...happy. We had a weekend full of friends and family and celebration and playground time and Mr. Softee truck treats. I tucked my son into bed tonight, worn-out and full of the stories of all he did this weekend (a weekend that was extended by a day off today!). Even better, he fell asleep the second his head hit the pillow. Winning. 

...weird. I have been away from writing for a while now as I learn to navigate going back to work. It's been about four months, and while I love my new job and am thankful for this new opportunity, I am still learning to juggle All Of The Things. God bless the mamas who go back to work full time and have more than one child. Or any woman who works full time and has a full life outside of her work as well, for that matter. I am pretty certain that level of life management is just not in my skill set. Still, I have missed writing, missed this outlet, missed being creative. I am rusty (hence this lame post), but hoping to become shiny again soon. 

...thankful for the amazing opportunity that was Listen To Your Mother. I still can't believe that they allowed me to share the stage with the incredible story-tellers that were my cast mates. It was a very profound, educational, life-changing experience- a change for the better. I'm wanting to share so much more, but this was something to mention tonight. 

...transitional. We have some big plans and dreams for this summer and Pete and I are just hoping that they come to fruition. I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate when plans are up in the air, but I am trying to remember that patience is a virtue, good things come to those who wait, and all of that other bullshit. And no, we are not pregnant. {shudder}

...bewildered because, seriously. What in the name of hell is this Pokemon crap? I saw grown men skulking around the playground yesterday, phones out and heads down, not to mention the handful of other adults that I have seen milling about. I suppose they could be child molesters, but it seems more likely that Pokemon is the culprit. WTF? 

...more excited than I should be that tomorrow is Prime Day! 

...tired. It's time for bed, and I'll sleep a littler better for having checked in here. 

Good night. 

And it's hard to dance with a devil on your back
So shake him off...
-Shake It Off, Florence & The Machine 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

The New Face of #Xfinity

{sponsored post}

So, real talk, peeps.

Comcast has not been known for spreading happiness. If I talked to my friends about Comcast, I often heard tales of poor customer service- the kind of poor service that has reached internet meme status.

Often it can seem like those kinds of complaints reach deaf ears. But, guess what? Comcast heard you, and Comcast has made changes that will blow your mind in the best possible way!

When I first got the call to join the #XfinityMoms for a presentation at the Comcast Xfinity Store in Willow Grove, PA...well, I almost RSVPed "no." My experience with Comcast stores was kind of bleak. Long lines, bullet-proof glass, and cranky staff. Thankfully, I was highly impressed with the first change I saw Comcast had made- I arrived at a sleek, gorgeous, welcoming store where a cute guy named Maurice held the door open to welcome me!

I glanced around the store and saw all of the amazing options #XfinityHome has to offer. It was, frankly, pretty cool! Video monitoring, thermostat controls, home security systems and ways to access all of that from your home or from the road! During our demo, our #Xfinity rep Ander used his own device to show us how he could turn the lights and televisions on and off in his home! It was, I have to say, pretty cool!

All of the cool bells and whistles that #Xfinity customers can provide to keep your home connected and safe are pretty amazing, but let's face it- I just want to talk about how I can enhance my tv watching experience! Does #Xfinity have a way to make vegging out on my couch, watching "A League of Their Own" for the millionth time, even better?

Oh, yes. Yes they do.

Let's just start with the fact that I don't even have to be on my couch! I can access my favorite shows and movies thought the Xfinity TV app! Just a free download to my phone means that I can watch a "Say Yes to the Dress" marathon  while standing outside watching an actual marathon (And while I'm mentioning apps, there are a suite of #Xfinity apps to help you access your e-mail, change the channel on the TV, locate an #Xfinity hot spot, and manage your home security systems!)!

But the crux of TV watching, being on your couch, has been brought to new heights with all of the things #Xfinity X1 has to offer. Let's start with that magic wand of TV watching, the remote. The new Xfinity Voice Remote gives you the power to search for TV shows, change the channel, set your DVR, and find out what's on Xfinity On Demand!

Have kiddos? You can use the Kid Zone to make sure that anything your child dials up to watch is safe and appropriate, yet still able to be independently accessed! So, yes, it means your kid might watch Caillou, but he won't accidentally stumble on the RHONY reunion show!

Are you home alone and jonesing for some Chaning Tatum? It's Chaning O'clock somewhere! A quick query of his name into the remote and BOOM. Instant hotness on your screen.

And my favorite feature of the the Xfinity remote? You can say a line from a movie and the remote will find the movie! What kind of sorcery is this (that quote would actually lead you to a few different movies)? That means that when my sister and I start speaking our love language of movie quotes to each other, we could watch the correlating movie together afterwards!

Mic. Drop. Except don't actually drop the remote because that thing is kind of magical.

I could go on and on about all of the cool things I learned about at the Xfinity Store, but to truly see what there is to offer, you need to mosey on down to your local Xfinity Store location, grab a seat on one of those cute benches, and just take in the show. I went in a skeptic, but I've changed my tune!

And to help you change that song you've been singing, Xfinity is offering you the change to win a NEST Learning Thermostat System! This thing is amazing, and you want one. Trust me.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

-This post was sponsored by #Xfinity. I was compensated for my time, but everything written here is my own, non-coerced opinion. I mean, could I make up that stuff about the movie quotes? No. I could not. All opinions and thoughts are my own. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Thoughts On Autism {re-purposed}

Originally posted April 2014

Today is April 2nd, World Autism Awareness Day, and it is Autism Awareness Month.

The month begins on the heels of news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that Autism is on the rise. 1 in 68 children in the areas followed by the CDC are identified as having an Autism Spectrum Disorder, up from 1 in 88 just a few years ago. In New Jersey, the numbers are far higher then the national average at 1 in 45. 

You can view a summary of the latest CDC report here, but there are two points of the report that stood out to me:

  1. Less than half (44%) of children identified with ASD were evaluated for developmental concerns by the time they were 3 years old.
  2. Most children identified with ASD were not diagnosed until after age 4, even though children can be diagnosed as early as age 2.

PJ was diagnosed with Autism shortly after his second birthday. Pete and I had already utilized an evaluation with our state Early Intervention program, which allowed for PJ to have nearly six months of therapy under his belt by the time we received the official "Yup. It's Autism." I think about how lucky we were to be surrounded by supportive staff at our pediatrician office, who didn't say things like, "Well, he's a boy." or "It's not that he can't talk, he just won't." 

I don't think that the people who say things like that say them out of malice or ignorance. Not at all, and I am sure there are some amazing physicians out there who just aren't alarmist, and might not recommend action when a milestone has just been missed. PJ was hitting all of his milestones late- rolling, walking, teething- so when he still only had a few words at 15 months, we were concerned but not alarmed. It was pure instinct that led us to follow-up again when nothing had changed by 17 months, and I am very, very thankful that our physicians trusted that instinct and gave us the correct information, allowing us to follow through with our concerns. 

Autism is on the rise, and while it's certainly something to be concerned about, it shouldn't consume you. If someone was dumb enough to ask me for advice, I would say "Enjoy every minute with your baby. That baby is yours and wonderful and perfect. Don't obsess, but always trust your instincts, and try to work with people who will understand and respect those instincts, be that your spouse or pediatrician or pre-school teacher. You are, always, the people who knows your child best and the strongest and most qualified advocate for that child." 

We are thankful for every second of therapy PJ has had. Seeing PJ grow and learn and stretch and love has been all the reassure that we need. It is never too late to start therapy- not by a long shot. But it is never too early, either, and it's up to us as parents to decide which road to take.  

Every child develops at his or her own rate, and it is up to you to decide if that rate is the right one for your child. Watch carefully, listen to your heart, and in the meantime, love, love, love those babies. Emphasis on the latter. 

Through the door, what do I see? 
 Something is happening, is it for me? 
Is it for me? 
Toad The Wet Sprocket- Is It For Me

Friday, April 1, 2016

Autism Awareness Life

I was out for a walk with PJ last night, thinking about a million things while he rode on his scooter ahead of me. His blonde hair was sticking out of the top of his helmet as he scooted along. We are coming up into my favorite time of year, when there is enough light and warmth for a walk after dinner.

One thought was that is was March 31st, and that the next day would be the start of Autism Awareness Month. I watched PJ riding along and thought about how, at this time last year, he didn't have the motor skills to ride a scooter. Foot planted, using other leg to push, steering; it was all too hard for him to do. PJ's scooter skills still need some work, but he happily moved himself along as fast as his legs would go, straightening himself when he stumbled. Not only that, but this year, his new-found scooter skills were accompanied by his telling me "Mommy, I can ride my scooter! Mommy, I can DO it! I can do it by myself!"

That's new, too.

It's a little difficult to lend any attention to Autism Awareness Month because, of course, we are living Autism Awareness Life. The month simply gives a spotlight to voices who are making noise every day of the year. Parents who are advocating for their kids to be have the tools they need to learn, doctors telling scarred moms and dads that their child isn't simply "quirky" or "different" (something that is happening at an alarmingly increasing rate), and adults who have Autism wanting to make a living and live a life like their "typical" adult peers.

We walked and scooted through the neighborhood, PJ using his developing verbal skills to try and convince me we should go to the playground, and I basked in his voice. I don't always bask because OMG can you stop talking about the characters from Cars for a second? Just because the words have been hard fought doesn't mean that they aren't annoying sometimes! But with the air on our faces and the spring flowers blooming, I couldn't help but think of how much PJ had bloomed himself.

It's all hard work. I had to wait a long time to write PJ's first word ("Cake!" down in his baby work, and each word after that was a victory, earned by endless hours of Early Intervention, school, and other therapies. It was certainly time I would have spent simply playing with my child, but it pays off in dividends on an night in early spring, when he's motor skill-ing and talking and being his best self. The moments that are easy are so much sweeter, so much more valuable, so noticed and that is one thing I will be endlessly thankful for, the gifts of slowing down and taking things as they come. Would that mean as much if we were rushing through a typical life?

At any rate, we have this whole month to share and reflect and do what we can to tell our story, a story that we share with so many other families. And it's not just families directly affected by Autism who are walking this walk. Anyone can "Light It Up Blue," and make donations to amazing organizations like Autism NJ. You can also just ask me about PJ. You can learn a little bit about things like inclusion education and realize that it doesn't just apply to kids like PJ but is beneficial to all children. If PJ is losing his shit at the playground, don't look away. Awareness isn't as hard as it seems. It doesn't really need a spotlight. It just means you hold a little space in your heart for kiddos like PJ who need it.

"Shine a light, shine a light..."
    - Philadelphia Freedom, Elton John

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Me, Version 4.0

So, it's been a month.

I know, I know. Every time I have a lull from my blog, I think about how bad it is for my mental health. Writing has always been the thing that soothes my soul, and an absence from my favorite form of therapy just is not good for me.

It's been kind of a crazy month, full of distractions and changes for my little family and I. The biggest change is that I have gone back to work.

In my past life, I was a workaholic. I often worked 10-15 hour days, seven days a week. I would juggle two jobs with the rest of my life and I thrived on it. I liked being busy, I liked being productive, and I liked making my own money. It made me feel competent and womanly, somehow, to keep all of those balls in the air.

Ha, ha. I used "womanly" and "balls" in the same sentence. But I digress.

I was a workaholic (V. 1.0), then a wife (V. 2.0). Then I was a mama (V. 3.0), and the mamahood took over. It was not an easy decision for me to stay home with PJ, but it was the right one. We didn't have tons of bills, so going down to one working partner was okay. Pete was just embarking on his career as a nurse, but I was ready to slow it down for a bit and just mother. This was a luxury, for sure, and it's not the decision for everyone. But it worked for us.

Not long after PJ's first birthday, Pete and I started thinking about my going back to work. PJ was still nursing, but there was no reason to think that we couldn't make implement the plan of having two working adults in the house. But as we were starting to discuss it, we were also noticing that PJ wasn't meeting all of his developmental milestones. He wasn't talking much, if at all. He wasn't playing or socializing, either.

Of course, we all know what happened next. PJ was diagnosed with Autism shortly after he turned two. We had already put a number of therapies and treatments into play- the official need for all of that came later. But I was already in the trenches. PJ's therapies were five days a week. He had geneticist visits and developmental pediatrician checkups and auditory testing and on and on and on. Someone had to be home to facilitate all of that.

As time went on, not working was no longer a luxury. We really needed the extra income, but could not find a way to make my working fit in with our lives. But with PJ in school full time now, a door slid open a bit. An advocate who started out assigned to PJ through care that the state of NJ provides said to me one day "Hey. We need some people to do this job. Why not you?"

Well, why not me?

A frantic search for an interview outfit and one interview later, the job was mine. It's part-time, but my name will be on the paychecks. My desk is already set up and decorated and I have a small stack of files in my drawer, one for each of the families I will work with. My co-workers already know how weird I am. I am doing something productive and service-driven. It feels a tiny bit like my old self, peeking out from under the  pair of mom jeans and Uggs that had become my Standard Mom Uniform.

I won't lie. It's a little bit scary. And a little bit sad- PJ went on a play date today and I sat at my desk, looking at pictures Pete texted me of the kids hiding under the slides. The job won't interfere a ton, but there will be things I have to step back from, and after full-time mothering for over 6 years, it's a weird switch. But I am certainly not the first mother to go through his, and knowing that I have a whole battalion of sisters next to me who are walking this walk gives me a little extra jump.

So it's a new me this Spring, and I could not be more excited! Version 4.0, time to activate!

Watch me unfold...
    -Unfold, Marie Digby

Monday, February 29, 2016

Maybe I'm An A-Hole, But I'll Pass On The Pity Date

Do not hate me for this one, guys.

It would seem that "Prom-posals" are the new thing. It's when one teen asks another to prom, but makes it an event. Balloon bouquets, flash-mobs, celeb cameos, flower arrangements- some of these put my actual marriage proposal to shame, much less my awkward heywannagotoprom conversation I had with the guy I was dating my senior year.

It just occurred to me that I should dig up one of my prom pictures. {shudder}

Anyway, back to proms. These extravagant invites have become the stuff of YouTube videos everywhere and, even thought I think the way these have become over-the-top is kind of insane, I'm totally along for the ride. Roses in math class? A flock of minstrels from the glee club to serenade a prom hopeful? I will watch the shit out of that. I think the romanticism is sweet.

At some point, I start to think about PJ as a prom-goer. Right now, while he's in kindergarten, it's hard to know if that's in the cards for him. I have certainly pictured him a thousand times- he'll be taller than me and blonde, wearing a tux with a bow tie that matches his date's dress (do people still do that?). He'll offer her a corsage that he picked out and I'll take eleventy-billion pictures. For now, though, PJ is a six year old boy with Autism, and the prom seems farther away that just the ten more years he needs to age.

Lately, the prom-posal videos have expanded, and I see the headlines as they go viral: Track Standout Asks Special-Needs Boy To Prom; Teen Surprises Special-Needs Student With Promposal. They are as sweet as the others, with the asker going all out to make the moment one to remember. There are parts of this that I love. I love that these teens want to make sure that their special-needs classmates are included in this dressy right-of-passage, and I love that they go above and beyond to make sure that the asking is something they will never forget. There have been a few of these videos that have brought me to tears.

Still, as the mother of a child with special needs, I am not sure about how I feel about this. When I picture PJ going to the prom, in his tux and matching bow tie, I think about who his date will be. Maybe it will be a friend. Maybe it will be the girl (or boy, who knows!) with whom he's had his first kiss. Maybe he won't be interested in prom.

When and if he does go, and no matter what his "labels" are at the time, I want PJ to go to prom with someone who values him. I want his prom experience to be with someone who feels that he is worth their time as an equal. I don't know that I want someone to ask him just because nobody else will. I don't want PJ to be somebody's good deed. I don't want a future headline to say "Teen Standout Asks Special Needs Boy To Prom." PJ is already a standout.

I talked to my husband about this, and he thought I was being a bit unreasonable. He felt that I wasn't being fair to the teens doing the asking. I get what he was saying, and I don't think that these kids are being anything but selfless and generous. I love that they are making sure that the prom experience is one that is inclusive to all of their classmates. I love that they are reaching out to a student who may not have the change to be in the receiving end of a flashy prom-posal.

I just don't know that I want my son to be a pity date.

I know I sound like an asshole. And truthfully, I just want PJ to be happy. If the hot girl at school offering him a prom-posal makes him happy some day, than that's amazing. Perhaps PJ and this girl are truly friends, or are truly attracted to each other. And perhaps none of that will even matter to PJ. It's too far away to tell. But I read one of the many pieces about just such a scenario, a cute young cheerleader asking a boy with Autism to the prom. She talked about how she had already been to two proms, about how she wasn't just going to half-ass the experience for him, and how she was going to make him look good. I read that and it just didn't taste right.

Mind you, this is coming from someone who had zero fucks to give about prom when I was in high school. I went with a guy I was casually dating and my mother had to threaten me until I finally agreed to wear heels with my dress. If that type of attitude is hereditary, than this thinking may be for naught. But if it's not, if the prom means something to PJ someday, than I hope it means more to his date than pity.

Take me for what I am!

Who I was meant to be!

And if you give a damn,
Take me baby, Or leave me!
-Take Me Or Leave Me, Rent- Original Broadway Soundtrack

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Announcements! Announcements!

The past few weeks have been kind of complicated. It's been a busy time for my little family, and things have been emotional, exciting, busy and amazing. There have been a lot of ups and downs, but I am really, really happy to share some of the ups!

I am absolutely thrilled to share that I will be joining the North Jersey cast of the Listen To Your Mother Show. Listen To Your Mother is a live, spoken word show, showcasing readings of essays written about the amazing experience of motherhood from the perspective of parents, children, siblings and friends. This show has been a writing goal of mine for a while. The first year I heard about it, I chickened out of auditioning. The second, I didn't make the cast. So when I got a phone call from one of the directors, I was expecting another kind rejection. Instead, I found myself jumping up and down in my friend Amy's kitchen while I made squeeing noises! I could not feel more lucky, more blessed, or more in awe that I will get to share in this amazing experience. I have had so many past cast members tell me what a game changer this was and I can barely wait to begin! 

Listen To Your Mother will be live at the South Orange Performing Arts Center on Saturday, May 5th 2016. You can purchase tickets to the show from the SOPAC Box Office HERE

The second fun bit of news is that I will be joining the Shop Rite Pot Luck Blog as a regular contributor! I am a bit intimidated by this, being that I am not exactly a "foodie." Up until a few years ago, I was barely capable of cooking edible food. In fact, I am eating dry Life cereal from the box as I type this. But this project will allow me to spread my wings as a writer and as a cook, so I am very excited to get started! My first post should be available before the end of the month and I will share all of my Shop Rite adventures! In the meantime, I would encourage you to stop by and check out the Pot Luck Blog, which features tons of recipes and tips from a very talented pool of writers and foodies! 

I was lucky enough to be featured last week as one of the funniest parents of the week on Today Parent! I have been obsessed with the Today Show for my entire life and so this was, essentially, just like sitting between Hoda and Kathie Lee. Except not at all, but whatever! I was really excited to see my little post on their round up! There are some damn funny folks out there, and I love to read the roundup every Friday and laugh my head off! This comes in second only to the time my tweet was on Honey Boo-Boo because, obviously. 

And lastly, this will be the first year that I will declare my earnings from writing on our tax forms. It is for a laughably small amount, but it's enough that it's illegal not to declare it. This means that I can officially say "I am a writer and here is the teeny amount of money I made to prove it! Suck on that, Uncle Sam!" And then Uncle Sam will say "Whatever, bitch. Thanks for this pitiful contribution you made to the country." And I'll be all "BUT I'M A WRITER!"

Yup. That is pretty much how it would go. 

I'm sure I will want to write about some of the more difficult and/or maddening things that have been going on, but today it's all pure happy news and no matter what, it's the happy stuff that matters the most. It's okay to feel blessed, capable and happy every now and then, and I am just trying to drink it all in! 

"What's the buzz, tell me what's happening!"
     -Jesus Christ, Superstar- Original Broadway Soundtrack