Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Dog By Any Other Name

  Today Edgar and I ventured out to do our usual errands around the harbor, which started with me getting my nails done. I have been going to the same salon for almost 14 years now, following the owner as her shop moved and her business grew. It was a special treat that I shared with my daughters, getting mani/pedis together from the time my youngest was in elementary school, and so ticklish that they scheduled extra time just to get all of her little toes painted, to my oldest daughter's bridal party taking turns getting pale polish to match Bride's flowers. We had watched each other's lives grow and change, pull apart and come back together. So, starting my outing there seemed to be both the easiest and most relaxing part of my day, sadly it would be neither.

  I popped in as I always did these days, checking to see if one of my favorite ladies could fit me in. As usually was the case, they could. I picked out my color and Edgar and I waited. There were a handful of ladies in the salon, a quiet afternoon. Edgar sat on my lap as the ritual of soaking my feet and removing old polish to be replaced with new began. He barely lifted his head off my lap. he was so used to being here. Edgar is just over 2 1/2 years old and he has been coming with me for these visits every six weeks or so since he was 2.  Where ever he goes, people tend to notice him. He is a 3 pound Yorkshire Terrier. He is well behaved and attentive and yes, he is adorably cute, so I can easily see that people might confuse him with a pet, he is so much more. Edgar is my lifeline to the outside world.

  Edgar is a service animal. He has his documentation and I have my medical documentation with my as well, whenever we go out, just in case. I am used to once or twice a week being approached regarding this impossibly small aid, I understand that. I have come to expect it when I go somewhere new. I was finished with my pedicure and was moving into another area to have my eyebrows waxed when another customer caught my eye, I gave a nod and followed the staff member to the next room. I had just laid down and she had began the process of readying my brow, when the woman I had seen a moment before leaned over me. I was startled to say the least. She gave no preamble just started with " I just wanted you to know that (owner's name) could get her WHOLE place shut down if an inspector came in here. I know that that (motioning to Edgar, now laying across my lap) is your dog, but you cannot bring him in here" I let her finish, mostly because there really did not seem to be a way to stop her. Also, I was startled. I was in a private area of the salon, in a private moment being confronted in an aggressive way by a complete stranger, in front of someone else, not the owner. I was....shocked. I could feel that thing happen...that lack of breath thing. And Edgar, did his job. He came up to my face first nudging my cheek and then rubbing his face against mine. He was comforting me. I tried to tell this abrupt stranger that Edgar was a service animal and that he was documented. Her response was cutting"I do not care, He cannot be in here." And with that she stormed off. I could feel (employee) trying not to look directly at me. Her hands were shaking as she did her work. I closed my eyes and focused on staying in the present, on not floating (what you may know as disassociating) and on breathing, made all the harder due to the fact that not only do I tend to hold my breath when I am startled, but both my emphysema and the prone position I was laying in made it harder for me to draw in air. I just wanted to disappear. This is why I tend to stay inside, why I do not go out alone. How was I going to get home if I broke down here. I fought the urge to sit up and rock forward and back. I needed to just lay still. Edgar did his part and I reminded myself to breathe. I collected my thoughts. I felt both embarrassed and angry.

I walked out to the (owner's) station, where the apparent, de facto gatekeeper was sitting getting her own nails attended to. I spoke directly to the owner, calling her by name, I reminded her of my family's long standing patronage and Edgar's regular presence. I then presented both his certification and my own paper work. She said nothing. She barely lifted her eyes. It was the Door woman's turn again "it does not matter" she hissed. "You cannot bring him in here." I said the only thing I could think to say to this rude woman. " I told her that her behavior was inappropriate. At which point, she countered that I was inappropriate. All of this was done in front of the other clients and employees. I paid for my services and said good bye and thank you to (employee) and left.

  I take my service animal to every doctors and dentist appointment. If I travel by plane, all airlines allow Edgar to sit in my lap. He has been to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The Getty Center in Los Angeles, The Hearst Castle, and this last weekend, the Experience Music Project in Seattle, all without issue, simply by showing the proper documentation. However, here, in Gig Harbor, a client of a nail salon feels that she is sufficiently versed in the American's with Disabilities Act (ADA) that she would behave in such a manner. It is a sad day. After much thought and reflection, I can understand being concerned for a friend and wanting to "protect her" to make sure that she did not run counter to the law. However, this woman actually did exactly the opposite of that. Not only was she ignorant of the law, she refused to be educated. I must take the words of a dear friend of mine to heart and find the teaching moment.

 I must remember that Edgar still looks like a pet, even when identified as a service dog. He was not wearing his service vest, it was too hot for it today, and he keeps stepping out of it.  We have to be ambassadors. There are still business owners and people in general that do not understand the ADA and service animals. I did try to hand a copy of it to the woman who was so insistent that no animal of any kind could be in the establishment, however, she declined my offering.

I am withholding the Salon's name as well as of that of the owner and the employee. I am still, and will always be very fond of my memories made there. I have no desire to cause the owner any negativity. I know her to be a kindhearted, caring person, nor do I wish to cause her client any backlash. I merely want  her to become educated on the laws. It seems very likely that no one, besides myself for the last two plus years, has ever come in with a service animal. I will be enclosing this blog entry and a copy of the laws pertaining to service animals,  in a card of farewell to the owner. I will be getting my nails done elsewhere.

  If you have read my other blogs here on the Patch then you may know something of my past, if not you can read about the reasons for Edgar being in my life by going to Looking For My Escape on facebook  or . Please remember, not every disability is easily visible. Many of us go out of our way to keep it that way. PTSD is a very real, incredibly debilitating disability and those that struggle with it should not have to constantly explain it's cause to the satisfaction of strangers in order to have their service animal recognized. I say that here, because it is the number one question I am asked, why do I have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder? I am always stuck between giving some polite answer...something that says...mind your own business...kindly (if you know how to phrase that, please let me know) or being brutally honest, so that they can be the one to feel uncomfortable. We are all broken in our own way, when given a choice, be kind.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Why So Angry?

  Have you ever noticed that sometimes we seem happy to be angry? When in a dark mood, we refuse to be drawn out and even resent anyone trying to lure us from our den of dissatisfaction? How there is an almost gleeful lilt to our voice as we retell the putting of this person or that, stranger or loved one alike,  "in their place?" How clever we can feel. That rush of pure destructive energy as we lock in on our newest target? No? Is it just me? How happy people can just piss you off? Why do you think that is I wonder? I was thinking on this very thing this morning. Why do some people seem to take joy in being angry and if anyone dares to try and relieve them of that burden, well there is going to be hell to pay. It is as if that person so intent on making our day brighter is actually a thief. A thief bent on stealing our bad feelings and trying to replace them with good. That of course we know are counterfeit. Being miserable is a genuine emotion. While happiness appears to be that elusive dream that never comes true.

  Anger is like a long legged spider. With thin hairs on it's legs that twitch this way and that through out the day. Always looking for it's next victim. It has spun a wide web of a sticky substance and there it waits. Tense and taunt, for the slightest morsel to fall upon. Wrapping the unsuspecting in a tight woven prison. Incased in hate and poison. A snack for another day. Some spiders collect dozens of these missteps and misunderstandings, waiting...always waiting for that moment when the wrong wind blows the wrong way and then, with great intent of malice, that spider flings itself forward all jaw and venom. The stunned captive may have no idea exactly what their trespass was. Spiders do not care to explain such trivial things.

  Whatever the cause, a missed turn or a forgotten phone call, it makes no matter. It was never about the thing the spider catches you see. No, it is about the spiders ability to kill all dreams and joy. To drain happiness out of others. Why, do you ask would a spider named Anger do such a thing? Well, at first glance I would say, because it can. But, that is really not so. It is because anger needs to be sustained. It needs new victims to draw energy from. There is a sense of power involved in passing on a poisonous spirit. It is a sad badge of dishonor and yet one that can be hard to relinquish. Anger's parents are powerlessness and worthlessness. Sometimes there is a cross breed of disappointment and emotional pain. Anger is born purely to cause change. That is it's true intent. However, being a contrary creature, it tries to hold fast to spite and envy, instead of using these things to drive itself forward into a better life. No, Anger is intent on wallowing in it's on stewed juices. There comes a day though when others decide to Spring clean and in that time of renewal, the ways of the spider must change, It can either continue to gorge on fear and site. Growing so large it's appendages can no longer hold it's own weight.
Or finding the constant diet of disdain and despair unsatisfying, it will scuttle off to regions unknown. If the arachnid chooses to stay and continue it's gluttony, it will be swept out of first one person's life and then another. Never finding peace or rest as it wears out it's welcome and chaffs ones conscience.

  If however, it chooses to leave of it's own accord, then the void left in it's wake can be filled with something of more value. Be slow to take in anger and quick to send it packing. It has nothing of quality for you and in fact will steal great swatches of your blessings. Be they people or opportunity, anger will cut you off from all the things that you want in life and give you nothing but lonely regret in it's place. Anger is a great tool, if you can harness it to do something positive. If it causes you to do your own cleaning spree. Casting out those that bring no love or joy to you and only bring hardship. That is the rightful use of anger. That is it's purpose. Of course there are different species of anger. And you may not know exactly which one you have. Then it is time to break out the magnifying glass and examine it's cause. When I find myself annoyed with no clear rationale for it, I must stop and ask myself "what is this really about?" I often surprise myself. It is never what I think it is on first inspection. It always comes back to that genesis of origin. I am feeling powerless, worthless, helpless or maltreated. Once I can discover it's reason, it is easy to send it on it's way.

  Do not make anger your companion. You will both be miserable.

Anywhere Ville

                                                                  Anywhere Ville

I have watched with sadness as the events and details surrounding the rape involving Stubenville members of a high school football team. This is a mother's worst nightmare on every level. Today while getting my daily fix of news, I stumbles upon a statement put out by former President of the NAACP for Stubenville. In it Royal Mayo inferred that what happened at the series of parties this young woman was physically carried to in a kind of round robin rape, were her own fault. She had gone to a party. So check one on the list of things young ladies should never do. She brought alcohol. Check two and also, she had willing gotten into the car of one of her attackers. Strike three. I do not possess the words, I do not have the capacity to fully express my dismay, disgust and yes, I admit anger. This man has set himself as a role model for young men. That he would be so irresponsible to actually say such things out loud but to a news agency, is just beyond me. It calls into question this man's own behavior when dealing with a vulnerable, careless person. Not only is he victim blaming, he is also teaching other teens what is allowable.

  Rape is so much more than a opportunity

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Autism not only Speaks, it Teaches

This one is important. I hope I got it right.

So, lets talk about something I usually avoid. Not because it is bad or carries a stigma, but because I am an outsider looking in and I Never wish to trespass on another's feelings or life experiences. I must admit, when I first put the little blue icon on my profile for the first time two years ago...(I think it was a light bulb?) I knew next to nothing about Autism and did not really give it much thought. I did it as much to "fit in" as to raise awareness.....actually that is crap. I did not give it another thought. I could not relate. For me, that changed on a day like so many others. With me blissfully pushing a red cart around my local Target. Ever since it opened some years back my daughter and I had made a habit of checking out what was new and what was on clearance. It was our favorite exercise. Three laps around one way and three back the other direction. Then we would go aisle by aisle marveling at it all and budgeting in for whatever it was we found we did not know we needed, but now could not visualize our lives without.

  I relive those days often now that my daughter is all grown up and on her own. It was just me and Edgar making our way through the tissue section when I saw him. Or more accurately he came full force at us with his mother in his wake a stunned and almost panicked look on her face. I could tell he was different. He was over animated and made guttural noises that could not be deciphered as language. But, I understood him. It was Edgar. My little 2.5 pounds of love and joy had captured this little boys attention and he wanted a closer look. His mother closed in and tried to wrangle him back to the cart. He must have been about eight. All long limbs and loose joints. I met her eyes and I saw it there. Her fear of me. Of my reaction to this precious soul who only wanted to see the little dog with the big eyes. My heart broke a little and what was left melted. I mouthed that it was okay. I do not know what made me whisper it. I did not wish to upset either of them. I picked up Edgar and bent forward. Holding out my own special need disguised as a mini Yorkie. She stood there for a bit, this little group of emotion clogging up the aisle and watching this child be...a child. He pet Edgar and with his mother's help, held him. Edgar licked his hands, which made him give his version of a laugh and a smile.

  His mother thanked me and I shook my head to signify that it was nothing. And it was a lie. It was so much. I got to see just a small fragment of this woman's daily life. A flash of what must be an exhaustive labor of love. I cannot tell you how I would have reacted to someone who was rude to my child. Especially for something that they could not help. Something that was no one's fault. Something that was just the luck of the draw or the roll of the dice. I would be in jail before they were two. I would not be able to contain myself. What must that woman have had to deal with to reflect that fear in her eyes? How much had she had to swallowed? How much rudeness and stares. Or even worse avoidance. There would be no play dates in her future. No sports games or Homecoming and definitely not a wedding. All those dreams that we mothers indulge in while we are mark the nine months until the day finally arrived and that tiny bundle of squinty eyes and pinched face is placed in our arms.

  And still we daydream. We plot and plan so much of their lives and we try to make it all come true. I have no idea when they find out. How Autism is diagnosed exactly. When my own children were born, we really did not think about Autism. I doubt that is was even discussed in those days. Loud children that run amuck had lazy parents. Children who held their ears and rocked back and forth while making the noise of a banshie simply needed a nap or some self control. I am ashamed to say that I was on that bandwagon.

  From the bottom of my heart I am sorry. How ignorant and judgmental I was. I did not come from an understanding family. I was raised in a very black and white world and so I carried that into my own impressions of other parents and their children. Fool. What an unmitigated fool I was. When my own daughter had her son, I worried. I stood in the wings and I watched. I said nothing of course but I was vigilant in my studies. I did not know precisely WHAT I was looking for....but I looked just the same. Without any talk between us, my daughter was herself, on the same mission. Both of us hoping that we failed to discover any little thing. We Watched for eye contact, interaction, response to cues. It was emotionally exhausting. We finally named our fears over lunch one day, my child and I. So far the wheel of fate has been kind. I know that he will face challenges as will his parents and when they come, as they come we will do all that we can to reach for that never never land called "Normal."

  There is nothing like being reminded of our own vulnerabilities to empathize with others. And so it is that I have a new understanding of the wait. For tests and appointments for lab results and specialists. I am just a few months in and I already want to make it stop. I cannot imagine the strength, the sheer will that families that deal with these things on a daily basis face. All this to say, today is World Autism Day and it is important. Please make sure that you reach out to parents in this seemingly endless battle. And if you are one of those mothers or fathers whose roulette ball landed on the wrong color, know that we are with you. Hold on, hold fast, hold tight. You are a blessing. A gift to one special soul who needs you most. Also, know that we are all broken. Mine is easier to hide. We all have our own version of normal and none of us will ever be that shining dream sold to us all on the sly with no hope of a reimbursement. We are all in this together and so it is up to us to support each of these families when the  opportunity arrises. When we make their lives better, we make the world better.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Love is Love

Love is Love

  So, the next few days are important. They should not be. They should not have to be, but none the less they are. The next two days will be given over to watching news feeds and pundits talk about how other people should live and who is worth what. It amazes me that in the wonderful country we live in that it is actually something that has to be decided by the Supreme Court. Honestly, I am embarrassed. We are better than this. We are a caring, compassionate people who love our freedoms. Unfortunately, some of us have decided that it is their right to both,  judge and deny others their rights. And say it is all in the name of God, or the sanctity of marriage. It is very hard when I hear that last line to keep my composure. Let me tell you what is harming the state of marriage. Spending your time surfing porn instead of spending time with your spouse, that will harm your marriage. Treating your spouse like a servant or in some way not your equal, not good for your union. Flirting with the waitstaff while out with your family and friends, also not good. Constantly putting the person you vowed to love and cherish on the bottom of your list of priorities, will definitely lessen the life expectancy of your marriage. If you are earnest in your wish to protect your own union, then spend your time tending it.

  You know what has absolutely no affect on your marriage? Anyone else's marriage. Now let me tell you something here that really offends me, That first list of things that I gave you, the one that really will affect the out come of your union, they all have one thing in common. They all depend on YOU. You must put someone else first. You must live by your vows and actually love someone more than yourself. That is the bargain you made when you said I do. It baffles me that pundits can whine on about a "Nanny State", and then in the next breath start dictating how others should live their lives and always, always it never fails, they site both their religion and their rights. We should all be living our lives by a set of rules that they set up for us, because that is what their faith dictates. Let me call bullshit.You are the only one responsible for your relationship with the deity of your choice. The only thing in this life that you can control is yourself. Try it, it is harder than you think.

  I get a little worked up over this one, because I too believe in God and I know without reservation that God is not offended by love. He is however not happy with hate. It is ridiculous that a group of self appointed pseudo saviors would scream from the mountain tops that their rights are being infringed,  even as they are the ones trying to take away another groups. That they somehow convince themselves that they are making this world a better place by spewing hate is too much for me. I do not have the ability to suspend reality and logic to understand that mindset. I am not really sure which of us is supposed to be stupid in that premise. The person peddling it, or the one who is supposed to believe it.

  It you are worried about your marriage, nurture. Be kind. Be loving. If you want to make this a better world, follow that same set of actions with everyone you encounter. Hate never made anything better. Hate is corrosive. It takes away joy and peace and love. It robs it's host of a full and fulfilling life. It creates a constant battle between the carrier and the world they live in. It creates a bitter individual who can no longer see past their own nose at the damage they do.

  When I was a good deal younger and far more foolish, I actually believed some of these worn out excuses used as camouflage to hid their real purpose. All this talk of sin and judgment is really just a ploy to cover up our own wrongs. It is a valve that releases some of our own anger and pain. We use big words to make ourselves small. It is a sad thing to see. I had to step outside of myself. To see children, teenager sit in my living room and cry not wanting to betray their own parents by repeating the horrid things that had been said to them by the people who are supposed to love them best. I have seen them as they stuttered through asking if they could stay. Some with only the clothes on their backs. Others arrived on my door step garbage bags full of clothes. Their parent never getting out of the car and never looking back as they drove away from their child.

  I cannot tell you how they changed me. These beautiful, hurting souls. I keep up with many of them still. Some have made peace with their families and some I fear never will. It is hard to find words to comfort a child who's families have disowned them for their honesty. What I would come to learn is these wonderful beings were taught to hate themselves and that if many of them could change, it they could be what their parents wanted them to be, they most certainly would. Even as they were at their lowest they taught me lessons I will always value. They blessed me with understanding and empathy that I did not have before they came into my life.  I am honored that they allowed me to love them. To mother them. That they let down their guard when they really should not have and let me know who they were. Much love to all the rainbow children. If you cannot bring yourself to be kind, if you cannot empathize with people who are told that they are bad and wrong and worse then please, just shut it. Nobody needs one more bath of hate. Steep in it if you must, but control yourself enough to allow others to enjoy what was given you with no reserve. The world is changing. Choose love not hate.

  Make this world a better place by leaving nothing but love in your wake. You are a collection of your words, which are a reflection of your soul. How did you fair today?