Autism · Cricut · life

Why Kindness *Still* Matters

Let’s face it, it’s been a pretty rough year for a lot of people. The news alone can cause even the most optimistic person reason to lose hope. And, unfortunately, all the online back biting and label throwing has truly interfered with daily life. It’s made me pretty grumpy a few more times than I’d care to admit, which has forced me to think about the true nature of people.

However, recently I’ve had a few experiences that have reassured me that kindness–once very commonplace in workaday life–still exists and, more importantly, still matters to us all.

Yesterday I went to see my old friend and amazing chiropractor, Dr. Scott Kline, from Back on Track Chiropractic. My neck and lower back have been zapping me of energy for a while now and regular visits to his clinic really have been helping me get around much easier.

Dr. Kline’s office is fairly open and you often interact with other patients during your visit. When my son MO and I arrived, we couldn’t help but notice the extra large flatbed truck in the parking lot and said “hello” to the truck owner when we got inside. A few minutes later, Dr. K asked me–sort of out of the blue–if I had ever taught at one of the local schools and I replied that I had been a “para” at the high school a while back, but for a short time.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, the truck driving young man was a former student of mine–with a very good memory–and came over to chat with me. I was SO happy to hear my help with Algebra actually helped him in his daily life and that he had remembered me for the kindness I showed him in the special ed classroom. I was even happier to know that a once somewhat troubled kid had built a wonderful life, complete with a talented and darling fiancé, in spite of some educational setbacks.

It was a true “A HA!” moment for me, helping me to understand that even the smallest actions can have a big impact on someone else.

After the young couple left, Dr. Kline–being the terrific guy he is–took some time to interact with MO, telling him a few jokes and asking him questions. This is his usually modus operandi (M.O.!) so I just listened to the conversation. But then I was nearly floored when Dr. K surprised MO with a wonderful gift of an inversion table!

Now…Dr. K said the gift was because I had been so helpful to Debbie with her new Cricut Maker, but I knew better. Dr. Kline is just a REALLY nice guy! He has a heart of gold and he knows MO struggles a bit without having good male role models around. This unexpected gift was an investment in my son. A “kindness seed” if you will.

Needless to say, MO and I were both tickled PINK at his gift! But beyond that, I truly felt the love of another person reaching out to a young boy–who has had his share of troubles–for no other reason but to sow a seed of kindness that will hopefully grow and bear fruit in the future.

As MO and I sat in the car–inversion table carefully stowed between us–we marveled at the extraordinary gift we had just received. MO exclaimed with great enthusiasm “I am SO HAPPY!”

And the beautiful thing was, I know he was. I really know he was!

And so I see–from a chance encounter with a former student and an unexpected gift from a good doctor–how kindness can and does matter. In spite of all the chaos in the world…in spite of the anger and vitriol coming across from everywhere…kindness can make a huge difference in our lives and the lives of others.

I’ve got a renewed interest in spreading love and care to my little corner of the world, and I hope–after reading this–you might feel the same. Won’t you join me in this important and life changing crusade? Won’t you reaffirm your pledge that “Kindness Matters” in your life and the lives of others?

And, one last note, if you are local to me (North Shore area of Boston) and need a little help with some back, hip, neck or knee pain, please consider making an appointment with my friend, Dr. Scott Kline at Back on Track Chiropractic in Peabody.

While I can’t promise gifts, I can tell you you will receive the most caring treatment around!

Autism · life

Election Day with My Au-some Kid, MO

Lordy be!  This child of mine is just too precious for words!

From the moment he awakes–often by jumping out of bed–to when he falls asleep, MO is in motion.  And talking.  Moving and talking.  All day, every day.  He’s got only one setting–ON!

Yesterday–being Election Day–MO had no school. He decided to come with me to vote and do errands.

We vote at a church that is located across from my dear Auntie Anna and Uncle Sal’s old house.  The neighborhood has changed a lot and I start to reminisce with MO. “Do they live there now?” he asks, to which I reply no.  He’s not interested.  He laughs and says he “doesn’t need a history lesson”.

When we go inside, nearly everyone knows us from his days in public school, so he delights them by talking about his new school and then turns their attention to the pocket on his too-small shirt. He says he wears the small shirt because it has a pocket and he thinks pockets on shirts are “the wave of the future”!  He also states he prefers his new school, because “lunch is free there–not like in public school–and they serve breakfast, too!”

Finished voting, we set out for the electric company down the street.  Along the way he says he’d like to “visit that place where we got the RECYCLE stickers” (meaning our City Hall) and asks if we “know” the mayor.  I say, yes, we know him.  His name is “Teddy” just like our dog.  He asks me why I don’t run for mayor, because he thinks he would like it if I were mayor.  (Watch out, Ted!)   He likes the idea, because he thinks he would then “know everyone in the city” and wouldn’t that be great!  Plus it would “give me something to do during the day”…because, you know, I simply do not have enough to do!  As he is pitching the mayoral job to me, he exclaims: “Imagine all the paperwork you’d have to do!” as if that were a super big draw for me deciding to run for office.

Arriving at the light plant, he spies a rocky wall and a few trees and asks if he can climb outside instead of going in. I agree. When I am finished, I don’t see him. But he quickly responded from behind a tree when I call him. He says he needs hiking boots (he does) to climb the terrain next time.  He tries to decide when the “next time” will be.  He thinks maybe Saturday, that is if I can get his new boots by then.

Off we go to the post office, where he climbs one of trees there.  We go inside and he finds a pen, which he puts in his trusty shirt pocket, delighted in his “prize”.

He notices how many Snoopy cards they have on display.  I tell him I love the Peanuts and he replies with great animation: “I know! Believe me, I know!”   He then decides to re-enact the scene when Lucy gets kissed by Snoopy and has a good laugh as he exclaims: “Get the iodine! Get the disinfectant!”

When it’s our turn, I ask for bird stamps and he inquires if they are sticky backed. He says they must be sticky backed because “he doesn’t want them to fly away”.  He waits for the postmistress to get his little joke, but she is all business today.  Oh, well.

Leaving the post office, he climbs the tree again and points out another one he thinks he could climb.  He thinks he could break off one of the limbs if he “weighed 200 pounds or so” and then we get back in the car and head for the mall.  Along the way, he asks if we can have sushi and perhaps look for a new jacket, because it’s getting cold out.  He is, after all, wearing his beloved but too small short-sleeved shirt!

At Old Navy, he picks out a vest and tries to convince me he can wear a small.  We settle for a large one in camouflage green with fluorescent orange trim.  Seconds later he found a buffalo check hunting hat–complete with faux fur ear flaps–and refuses to take it off.  I guess we are adding it to the list.  We also find red slipper socks and women’s pajama bottoms with Christmas sweater wearing dogs all over them.  One is a corgi, so we HAD to get them.  He casually says I can hem them.  At the check out he also gets a pack of Pop Rocks–red–he prefers blue. Could I try to find him blue ones tomorrow?

At the sushi restaurant, he waits very impatiently for his order.  Apparently it isn’t a good thing that they make his food “to order”, because it is taking way too long to be prepared.  He gobbles the four pieces of ebi nigiri (🍣 sticky rice with a butterflied cooked shrimp on top) and wants more.  I ask him how much more and he asks for eight more.  Eight more pieces?  So, four orders?  “No” I say “that’s too much” so he settles for 2 more orders, which is 4 pieces.  He wonders why the sushi chef gives him the pickled ginger (Ick!) and carefully removes the ball of wasabi paste and places it on my plate.

After gobbling down EIGHT pieces of ebi nigiri 🍣  he says he is full and we are headed home.  On the ride home, he decides he wants more sushi. “Can we go again? Maybe not tonight, but soon?  Maybe tomorrow? Okay, how about Friday?”

When we get home, he wants to try out his new stuff.  He decides the buffalo-checked and faux fur-lined hunting cap goes perfectly with his camouflage and orange vest.  He adds a different short sleeve shirt, which also has a pocket because “wave of the future” and all.  For good measure, he dons the new slipper socks and pajama bottoms–“too long, so can you hem them now?”–and decides this will be his ensemble for tomorrow.

It’s only six o’clock the night before he plans on wearing them to school.  With the hat, vest, pj’s, slipper socks and snow boots, he becomes hot.  I suggest he put something else on until tomorrow, but he decides he’d rather turn on the air conditioner.  All dressed up in his new attire, he hunts for his “dog tags” and then proceeds to tell me all about the history of dog tags, in case I didn’t know.

Eventually I convince him to peel off the new clothes and get ready for bed.  Bedtime is the hour or so before he actually falls asleep when he repeatedly turns on all the lights in every room and I follow him around and turn them all off.  It doesn’t matter how many times I tell him to turn off the lights, he still leaves them on and I still follow him around and shut them off.  This happens every night at least three times before he is ready for bed.

After he wrestles with Ted E. Bear on the bed–with socks on his hands to protect them from random nips–he finally (finally!!) just <boom> closes his eyes and is asleep.  Like I said before–there is no speed adjustment switch.  There is only OFF and ON.  You get one or the other.  Believe me, I’ve checked!

Are you tired?  I know I am and I haven’t even included all the things I did around him!  I wonder what other people do with twelve year old, autistic boys on their days off.  But I also think about how boring my life would be without him. He sure is colorful!

I thank the Lord for such an energetic child and think about “all that paperwork!” I might be trying to do as the elected mayor.  I’m happy to let Ted take care of it for a few more years!


What’s the worst that could happen?

I’m a little embarrassed to admit this, but I am almost fifty and I’ve never put together furniture or used power tools for a project. 
Sure, I’ve “assisted” my Dad or a guy with things, which mostly meant holding the screws or trying to read the directions, which–let’s face it–are pretty awful and most guys don’t even use them.

As a result, I tend to avoid items that say “some assembly required” or, if I get them, I wait until I can find someone to help me put them together. This was normal to me; I understand if you might find this weird, but it was how I was brought up and I still struggle with it.

My sister said something to me recently that really stuck with me. She said: “What’s the worst that could happen?” It’s an ordinary saying, but I really thought about it and took it to it’s ultimate possibility.  

Seriously…what is the WORST possible thing that could happen if I tried to do (fill in the blank). Would I harm myself? Or kill someone? Would I be maimed for life?  

So, yesterday, I decided to test my sister’s advice and finally put together a desk I purchased for Master Owen about five months ago. Yes, for nearly half a year, this giant box sat in my den, un-assembled, because I was afraid to take a chance on putting it together! It’s pathetic, I know.

But I was determined yesterday…I was going to make it happen.  About halfway through the assembly, Master Owen came along and asked me if I needed any help.  I imagine he was pretty perplexed seeing his Mum using a screwdriver!  I invited him to help and we both worked on it together.  

At one point, I read the instructions wrong (surprise!) and had to undo a section.  I thought: “Is this the worse thing that could happen?”  A little while later, while I struggled with putting brackets up, MO suggested that we call (the former BF) and I thought: “Surely THAT would be the worst that could happen!”  Meaning, in essence, admitting that a college-educated woman needed a man to assemble a simple piece of furniture.  Well. I wasn’t going to let that happen!  So I pressed on.

Eventually Master Owen and I finished the job.  I looked at him and said: “Can you believe it?  And no one got angry. No one burst out in profanity. And it’s actually perfect!”

Master Owen, a young man of few words and even fewer compliments, then showed me what the BEST thing that could happen…he simply said: “Thanks, Mum.  You’re the best!”

And, yes, my heart nearly exploded with pride and love.


Lessons learned from binge watching Hoarders 

I’m not a big TV fan and rarely watch anything consistently, but when it’s cold out and I’m  just tired of housework I will admit to the occasional binge-a-thon.  

While I enjoy the occasional binge, I am not feeling AT ALL good about my recent decision to watch seven episodes of Hoarders in a row.  As my friend Molly might remark, it was “poor life decision number 684”.  

But, being the ever faithful student of life that I am, I tried to find some lessons in my recent bad decision and, of course, share them with you.  Please don’t make the same mistake I did…but, if you do, make up a list like this one so you can sleep better at night.

Oh! Before we get to my list, let me assure you that I am NOT a hoarder! Now, I know, most hoarders would never admit to being hoarders.  They have all kinds of other names for their behavior, such as “pack rat” or “collector”.  Some hoarders think they “just need to tidy up a little”.  Hoarders never believe they are hoarders.  That being said, you still need to trust me when I say I’m not a hoarder. 

Lessons learned from binge watching Hoarders:

  • If your refrigerator stops working, eventually the food inside will go bad.  Don’t try to convince yourself or others that it is still edible.
  • If you are walking on your things to navigate through your house, they are probably not treasured belongings but trash.
  • You cannot domesticate rodents.  Rodents have no control over their bodily functions and they breed…a lot.  Don’t feed them, pet them or use anything they have crawled on.
  • It’s probably okay to eat things that have recently expired (like in the last few days), but it is definitely not okay to consume food dated more than a decade ago.  Ew!
  • The sun will NOT disinfect your belongings no matter how long you leave them out.
  • If people have to wear masks to tour your house, you most likely shouldn’t be living there yourself.
  • If you can’t flush your toilet but you are still using it, you have problem.  However, if you are “solving” your problem in any other way than having the plumbing fixed properly, your problem is seriously serious.  Please don’t make me be more specific than that!
  • If you accept help from professional hoarding experts, but think you are going to be in charge of the situation you are wrong.  Once the guys in the blue shirts show up, you pretty much have lost control of the situation.
  • In the end, it’s a good idea to remember it’s just stuff!  Stuff should never be more important than living beings and that includes you.  
  • Finally, don’t expect any of your friends or family members to admit they knew about your hoarding problem.  Even if they did know about it, they aren’t going to admit it on national television.  Accept it for what it is.

Phew! I feel better now.  But, just in case, I’m going to go clean something.


Learning to LOVE Valentine’s Day

 It’s been a while since I’ve posted.  The beginning of the year seems to encourage me to cocoon more than usual.  

It’s not that I’m hibernating, because I tend to do a lot of inward thinking.  And then, before I know it, I’m popping up like Puxatawny Phil on Groundhog Day!  Only usually I don’t appear until after Valentine’s Day.  

My post-Valentine’s-Day appearance has usually been because, for a long time, I loved to hate the LOVE Day.  

Now…wait a minute.  Before you jump to any conclusions let me say I am not some spurned sweetheart.  

It’s a little more complicated than that.  

It’s just that Valentine’s Day can be such an enormous letdown for so many people.  

In my younger days, I saw the faces of a sea of broken hearted ladies every time a coworker received roses at the office.  I remember the twinge of sadness in people when lovers would recall their romantic dinners or weekend getaways.  And, even if I had a partner, it broke my heart.

As I got older, my perspective on V Day changed, of course, to recognizing the amazing waste of money the holiday came to represent.  Flowers, jewelry, chocolates and ginormous, sappy cards sold to make up for something we should be doing every day: expressing our love toward one another.  

Why had we allowed ourselves to fall into this routine of mindless day-to-day life, devoid of love and devotion, only to break the bank one day a year to “show your love”?  To me, this process is akin to an absent parent showering their children with things instead of spending time with them.  

It wasn’t until I lost someone I deeply loved that I realized EVERY day is an opportunity to express your love.  And that realization has forever changed my viewpoint on the dreaded Valentine’s Day.  

Days spent without expressing ourselves are lost moments that can never be retrieved.  

I suppose some would call my perspective childish or flighty.  It’s okay if they do.  I’ll love them anyway.  I’ll love those deserving my love and those who aren’t.  I’ll love a stranger and my best friend.  I’ll send only love out in the Universe, regardless of the fact I might not always get the same back.  I can express my love by offering a smile, a helping hand, a kind word, a listening ear or a forgiving heart. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture all the time.  And, sometimes, loving means saying “no” or setting a limit, too.  

Consider my suggestion yourself and tell me, please, if it changes the way you view LOVE Day.  

I know it changed my heart.  

Much love to you all and Happy Valentine’s Day!