Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My Job/Their Job

I coordinate the Autism Spectrum Disorder Support Group of Southern Maryland and have done so for the past eight years.  I am an officer for the Citizens' Advisory Committee for Special Education and have held the position for three years.  I sit on the board of the Learning Disabilities Association of St. Mary's County and have done so for over two years.  I'm an AWANA volunteer finishing up my fourth year.  I'm a Girl Scout Leader and can do more with less to astonishing levels.

Last night, I went before the SMC Board of County Commissioners for the fourth time at their annual public hearing on the the budget.  I spoke as an informed parent and member of the community.  And again, I spoke about funding the school budget.

As I told the commissioners last night, in the past, I've spoken about my having children with special needs who are square pegs in a world of round holes, and I've said that fair doesn't mean equal, fair means each person gets what s/he needs.

In the past, I've spoken about the financial sense of educating children with special needs now with the goal of independence vs. paying for care later.

In the past, I've spoken about the school system’s need to have the financial commitment of the BoCC to allow the school system to "think outside the box" and create specialized programming for children who learn differently.

In the past, I've spoken about the county’s initiatives to recruit, retain, and home grow the workforce, plans which can succeed only when the workforce can get what it needs from the community and our schools:  the infrastructure of appropriate special education and other pathways for learning.

I went there last night to repeat myself.

In the past, I asked the BoCC to fully fund, to increase the funding, not to cut the funding to the school system.  Last night, I tried one more version:  I asked them to fully fund the school budget beyond current percentages.

I hope that when I go there next year, I don’t have to repeat myself again.  I hope that when I go there next year, I can say, “Thank you.”

=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=--=-=-=-=

I was there for four hours.  Seventy-four speakers had signed up, and my turn came well after the break.  I even paid attention to just about all of the speakers.  And the speakers, for the most part, were well-behaved and on topic, with none of the (in my opinion) out-of-line comments of last year.

It seems to me that though there were many interests represented (most notably in favor of fully funding the school budget), there were really two types of speakers:  Those who asked for financial support of their particular area of interest (libraries, public schools, Boys and Girls Clubs, Leah's House, tax changes, etc.), and those who told the commissioners what to cut.  My talk fell into the former category.

One speaker who followed me pointed out that there just isn't any more money, so rather than to ask the commissioners to fund our own interests, we should instead present solutions to the commissioners, telling them what to cut.  That really struck a discordant note with me.  In fact, each time one of the speakers from that category talked, I cringed.  I don't disagree with their right to use their three minutes that way, but I've found that most people don't usually have all the facts before they start hacking away at the budget, or they have an incomplete background in economics.

But the speaker who chastised us for not presenting solutions made me go back and check on something.  The BoCC notification invited countians to attend and participate and to provide comments.  Nowhere did it say that we were to provide solutions.

I understand that these are among the most difficult budget years our county has faced in a long time.  I understand that cuts have to be made.  My job is not to tell them where to make those cuts.  My job is to make the BoCC aware of where I put my priorities and where I believe they should put the county's priorities:  funding the school system.  It's my job to explain why I believe this, and in doing so, to convince them to do so, too.

If I was unsuccessful, it wouldn't be the first time, but it's my job to try.  I'll go back next year, too, and do it all again because I believe our school system needs the money in order to provide the programming essential to reach my children.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Versus

Over the past couple of weeks, there's been an issue at the bus stop involving my 10-year-old daughter and two other 4th-grade girls.  Today it was so noticeable that another parent spoke to me about it, so that tells me it's time to involve the girls' parents.

It started pretty subtly:  Neither of the girls would talk to my daughter at the bus stop.  When I asked them if they were mad at her, they said no, and one of them moved to talk with her.  I thought that had taken care of it, but the ignoring continued the next couple of days.  The next time I intervened was because not only weren't they talking to her, but they also positioned their bodies to totally exclude her, and when she moved (at my direction) to join the group, they turned their backs on her.  I broke into their group, asked them again if they were mad at her ("no"), and told them that their body language was being mean to her.  Again, one of them moved to include her.

This morning, the two girls were already at the bus stop before my daughter and I arrived.  Another parent observed that when one of the girls saw that my daughter was coming out of our house, she whispered to the other while looking back at my daughter, and the result was that the two girls moved down the side road.  The parent saw that one girl continued to check on my daughter's whereabouts, and the two girls continued to whisper.  When the bus pulled up, they walked right past my daughter without a word.

My daughter tells me that she sits with them on the bus (and is not allowed to move), and they ignore her there, too.  She is very hurt.  That's about all I'm going to say about that.

I don't believe that either of the girls has to play with my daughter; some kids just aren't going to end up being best buds.  But I do believe that they can't be mean to her, and this is absolutely not acceptable anymore.  Even if my daughter had done something to offend them, this response isn't appropriate, and they all need to work on resolving issues appropriately.  If my daughter has done nothing, well...

Either way, the meanness, which, frankly, has reached nonverbal bullying levels, has to stop.  I need the parents to help me get to the bottom of what's going on.  I don't expect that just because the girls are neighbors, they have to be friends, but I do expect friendly relations.  And I won't tolerate bullying.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Verses

I've put off studying for this year's AWANA Truth Scripts, and they're due to be recited tonight.  One is the 23rd Psalm which, with just a little refreshment, I can do already.  The other, however, is Romans 12:9-21.  From a memorization standpoint, the language is simple, but therein lies its trickery:  It's so easy to get each bit out of order.  (That's true for the 23rd Psalm, too, but I can draw a picture story for it.)

In order to make my poor brain be able to memorize this, I've had to resort to Rainbow Order (including Indigo), and I've had to draw margin notes that include happy faces, frowny faces, evil faces, music notes, eyeballs, peace signs, spaghetti... well, you get the idea.  (Perhaps my favorite is the Evil Face that has the Universal No symbol over it and an angel sitting on its head:  "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.")

Romans 12:9-21

Love must be sincere.

Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love.

Honor one another above yourselves.


Never be lacking in zeal,

but keep your spiritual fervor,

serving the Lord.

Be joyful in hope,

patient in affliction,

faithful in prayer.



Share with God's people who are in need.

Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you;

bless and do not curse.



Rejoice with those who rejoice;

mourn with those who mourn.

Live in harmony with one another.

Do not be proud,

but be willing to associate with people of low position.

Do not be conceited.


Do not repay anyone evil for evil.

Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you,

live at peace with everyone
.


Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath,

for it is written: "It is mine to avenge;

I will repay," says the Lord.


On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head."


Do not be overcome by evil,

but overcome evil with good.



This all makes it easier to memorize, but then I get distracted by the meaning and applications of these verses to my life or to my friends' lives.  For the former, Green and Blue are especially applicable; for the latter, Orange stays with me every time I recite them.

I suppose that's the point of doing it, though isn't it?  To find the meaning of God's Word for your life?

Friday, April 23, 2010

Volunteer-itis

I'm feeling a little out of sorts.  It's pretty much to be expected, and it's a feeling shared by tons of people who try to put together a volunteer event.  Unfortunately, I'm putting together seven volunteer events at the same time, so I'm feeling flooded by the lack of response.  Maybe it's better to say that I'm feeling left high and dry.  (Well, you can pick whichever image works for you.)

To be fair, I've got to say that just because I think something is important doesn't mean that other people are going to be like-minded.  And my pet projects aren't necessarily of enough interest to overcome other people's inertia.  I've also got to say that I have an awful lot of inertia about other people's pet projects and don't help them out, either.

One problem I'm facing is that I just can't get volunteers to help.  I put out generic requests and get little/no response.  I put out specific requests and get little/no response, excluding the "sorry, I can't because..." responses, which are at least better than silence.   I understand it, but I don't like it.  But I think the most difficult to deal with in this area is to have someone who didn't volunteer come to me to complain about how the event was run.  Oh, my.  (Girl Scouts has a great response:  "You have some really great ideas about how a troop should be run.  Let's get you signed up for training so that you can become a leader and get your ideas to the girls.")

There's another area, too.  I'm not going into the specifics -- I'm venting enough with the conversations in my head, and no good could come of it anyway -- it just reinforces what I've said (and written about on this blog) before.  Do what you say you're going to do.  I take my promises seriously.  If I say I'm going to do it, then I'm compelled to do it, and that's why I don't say "yes" quickly.  And the corollary is what I want my children to understand:  What you do has an effect on others.  (I remember praying while I was carrying my son, asking God to please let him learn and understand exactly that, and that his actions have consequences.  Well, I got a kid with considerable deficits in the area of theory of mind -- who says God doesn't have a sense of humor? -- but we're working on it.  Explicitly and frequently.)

So when I'm involved in a group and someone takes on a role or a job in that group, I expect that person to take the obligation seriously and to do what s/he said s/he was going to do.  Now here's the tricky part:  Not everyone has the same value system (aided by stuck-thought-itis/OCD-like symptoms) that I do.  (Sad, but true, I know, that we don't all share in my brain workings.)  So one thing that happens is that I'm left having to scramble to take up the slack because I do take my commitments seriously.  1) It's not appropriate that I have to do that work.  2) I don't scramble well!  And 3) I'm supposed to be gracious while doing so.

I have a lot more rumbling around in my head, stuff connected to volunteering and expectations and even hidden agendas.  Maybe another post...

4/24/10 ...Or maybe not.  It's all rather boring.  And old.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Otis

I have the best dog on the face of the planet.
He's sweet and kind.

ºººººººººººººººººººººººº

 He has my energy level figured out.
He loves me all the time.

 ºººººººººººººººººººººººº

 Even in the dark of the night.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

It wonders me...

From time to time as I grew up, my mother would pop out with statements of curiosity, prefacing them with the phrase, "It wonders me..."  "It wonders me why with all the millions of people in the world, no two people look exactly the same," is an example.

While I rarely make such statements to my own children, I do find myself curious about various things. One thing that has come to my attention recently is just how difficult I find it to comprehend... well, I don't know what to call it.  The opposite is supporting each other.  I'm good with that.  I don't understand not supporting each other, the talking behind people's back with a hidden agenda.  And why would you say I said something about a person to that person when in fact I didn't say that thing?  What does it get you?

It wonders me...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Lean on me

Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on...

When my son was little and this song used to come on the radio, I would turn it up really loud and sing right along with it.  The tears would pour, but I'd be singing it.  I wanted my son to know that he could lean on me when he wasn't strong.  I'd always be there to help him carry on.  It was my joy to do so.

Each of us faces our own issues, the times the floor drops out from under us.  We live with our heartbreaks, our pains, our losses, big and small.  There have been some difficult times in my life:  The week my son stopped eating (anything); the day he was diagnosed; not being able to successfully advocate for him; learning about my daughter's issues; the crises and tragedies that have impacted the lives of my family and friends.

Now when I hear this song, I still think of my son, but I also think of how interdependent we all are. Each of us can be blessed with the support of others:  Family, friends, strangers.  We can stand around, behind, under, and in front of each other to help get through our pains and sorrows.  Some days we might do the supporting; other days, we might be in desperate need of it ourselves.  Whatever direction, the trick is being open to it.

Lean on Me
Bill Withers

Sometimes in our lives we all have pain
We all have sorrow
But if we are wise
We know that there's always tomorrow

Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on

Please swallow your pride
If I have things you need to borrow
For no one can fill those of your needs
That you don't let show

Lean on me, when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
'Til I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on

If there is a load you have to bear
That you can't carry
I'm right up the road
I'll share your load
If you just call me

So just call on me brother, when you need a hand
We all need somebody to lean on
I just might have a problem that you'd understand
We all need somebody to lean on

Lean on me when you're not strong
And I'll be your friend
I'll help you carry on
For it won't be long
Till I'm gonna need
Somebody to lean on

Lean on me...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Forever Young

Forever Young
Bob Dylan
May God bless and keep you always
May your wishes all come true
May you always do for others
And let others do for you
May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

May you grow up to be righteous
May you grow up to be true
May you always know the truth
And see the lights surrounding you
May you always be courageous
Stand upright and be strong
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

May your hands always be busy
May your feet always be swift
May you have a strong foundation
When the winds of changes shift
May your heart always be joyful
And may your song always be sung
May you stay forever young
Forever young, forever young
May you stay forever young.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Shameful?

I play a Facebook game called Bejeweled Blitz.  It's a simple game:  Match up 3 or more "jewels" of the same color in an array.  In the past, way back when I first joined Facebook, I published some of my better scores from time to time, but after being flooded with other people's mafia sorority farms, I saw that I really didn't need to alienate the few FB friends I had.

I play BB when I'm stressed.  I play it when I'm bored.  I play it when I'm procrastinating.  I play it when I've locked myself in the bathroom to get away from a screaming kid.  Apparently I'm these things a lot:  I've played it for over 4,049 minutes or 67.4833 hours or 2.8118 days straight.  While I'm not ashamed to play BB, I believe I'm embarrassed-approaching-ashamed that I've played it 4,049 minutes, and I don't intend to give it up.

I think I play it so much because it tells me I'm SPECTACULAR.  Not many people in my life do that.


Update 4/15/10:  That last sentence sounds like a pathetic plea.  I didn't mean it as such.  But feel free to interpret it that way! :-)

Insomnia by any other name...

I've had what appears to be insomnia for about three weeks.  I get it from time to time, usually only for a couple of nights, and just about always explainable, which may make it not insomnia but just general stress-related sleeplessness.  (Don't know, and probably don't yet care enough to find out the difference.)

Anyway, this sleeplessness for the past three weeks has a definite cause:  Give Camp of Southern Maryland and the subsequent creation of the the new Autism Spectrum Support Group of SoMD website.  Don't get me wrong; I'm thrilled with both the event and the result.  I've been trying to figure out how I can help at the next SoMD Give Camp, if there is one.  However, it's taking a lot of work and time to add the content, mostly because I have to learn the system.  Website management is not within my normal scope.  (See my panicked post about registering the license!)

Well, I did manage to register the license.  Of course, I had someone with me so I could talk it through.  And though I may have caused the current glitch that has caused the newsletter to backfire, that's not the point.  I registered it!  (Then I ran away and buried my head in the sand, hoping against hope that I hadn't blown up the world.)    Feeling ever more confident with the passage of time, a couple of days ago, I went to register the CACSE website.  I couldn't.  They had a change of domain.  The old domain contains the website; the new domain is blankly parked at godaddy.com.  1) I don't know how to transfer the content of the old domain to be the content of the new domain; and 2) I don't know how to point a domain name to the real host (DiscountASP.net).  (And can you believe I just wrote all that without referring to my notes?  I'm learning a new language by immersion!)

So now I've offered to be the contact person for the CACSE website and the LDA website.  (I don't even have a password for the latter!  What was I thinking?)  Even though I'm working with a really nice developer -- and so far, and I haven't met a not-nice developer -- I wasn't with those teams much during the Give Camp, and I know I tuned out during the presentations on the last day.  Now I'm playing catch-up trying to register both sites with Sitefinity, up overnight at 2 a.m. choosing to use my post-4-hour-nap burst of energy to deal with the problem.  (A problem that might just be solved as of 9 a.m. yesterday, bless Eric!)

Back to the Support Group website: A few days ago I worked to finish the first ever Autism Spectrum Support Group of SoMD Newsletter.  It's not going to win a Pulitzer, but it begs people to help me nicely, thereby making it an important document to me!  I had some problems with it.  I knew that I could save any document as html and upload it to the newsletter template, which I did.  After several failed attempts.  Mostly related to the fact that my Mac saves as html with .text, and the template wants .txt .  (Go figure.)  So I added .txt to the html document, and Bob's your uncle.  But the template lost the really pretty columns and some other bits of formatting.  I opted to work within the template and saved it, only to have error pages appear and all the corrections disappear.  Three times.  After I hit Level Gazillion:  Palpable Frustration, for whatever reason, Sitefinity decided that this time it would save it

Woohoo!  I had a Newsletter ready to send!  So I sent it.  I bragged that I had sent it.  I waited and I waited.  And bless his heart, our really awesome website developer -- to whom I had bragged that I had sent it -- said that though I had followed the directions, Sitefinity hadn’t done its job.  Detective Work, Part 1 completed, we identified some of the problem.  Then I got caught up in the LDA/CACSE business, and I still hadn’t sent it two days later.  The long and the short of that is that I sent it the old way, through Yahoo as a pdf.  I needed it to go out, but I feel like I failed this section of the test.  Can I have a do-over?

All of this brings me back to the same point:  Insomnia.  But maybe it’s not insomnia.  Maybe what it really is is Jazzedfromgivecamposis.  I'm not sure there's a cure.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Note to Self: Remember This.

Standing on the Promises

Standing on the promises of Christ my King,
Through eternal ages let His praises ring,
Glory in the highest, I will shout and sing,
Standing on the promises of God.

Refrain

Standing, standing,
Standing on the promises of God my Savior;
Standing, standing,
I’m standing on the promises of God.

Standing on the promises that cannot fail,
When the howling storms of doubt and fear assail,
By the living Word of God I shall prevail,
Standing on the promises of God.

Refrain

Standing on the promises I now can see
Perfect, present cleansing in the blood for me;
Standing in the liberty where Christ makes free,
Standing on the promises of God.

Refrain

Standing on the promises of Christ the Lord,
Bound to Him eternally by love’s strong cord,
Overcoming daily with the Spirit’s sword,
Standing on the promises of God.

Refrain

Standing on the promises I cannot fall,
Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call
Resting in my Savior as my all in all,
Standing on the promises of God.

Refrain

Monday, April 5, 2010

I have always relied on the photos of others...

I'm not the best photographer in the world.  I'm not even a good photographer.  I noticed this lack with my first camera when I was in the fifth grade.  Not only did I need to take a roll of film to get one or two good shots, but my "good shots" usually included something odd.  Once it was a beautiful photo of my friend Linda.  Beautiful pose.  Beautiful smile.  Beautiful antlers.  From the tree behind her.  She looked like Dasher.

Oh, the anticipation when picking up my envelope of photos from the drugstore.  Would my shots of the penguins at the zoo come out?  (Glass reflections.)  The screeching bird at the Baltimore Aquarium -- the one that bursts your eardrums if you stay in there too long?  (A teeny red dot amidst a sea of green leaves.)  The bee on the flower?  The spider in its web?  The dog in the snow?  (Blur.  Blur.  Blur.)

I can see so many things of beauty.  At the Cherry Blossom Festival this past Friday, I saw the most gorgeous burled tree:

(My daughter took this photo.)  I saw delicate blossoms.  I saw beautiful vignettes.  They're all a blur.

That's why I rely on the photos of others.  When we went to London, I made sure I bought a postcard of every building, statue, and beefeater that I tried to capture on film just to be sure to have the image!  When my cousin travels all over the world, I ask him to send me photos -- I know they'll be good.  Just recently, I met someone who is a photographer on the side.  (You can tell such photographers by their cameras:  They still look like cameras and are the size of my Thanksgiving turkey.)  I get the occasional link to some of his work.  Envy is a sin, isn't it?

I'm no better a photographer today than I ever was.  But today I can delete my complete failures before I download them to my desktop.  And I can Google image search.  But, oh, how I wish I had the talent...

Friday, April 2, 2010

Give Camp: A different perspective

My friend made a comment on my last post of panic:  "Funny how personal and intimate web administration can be, huh?"  Intimate.  Funny she should say that.  Intimate is the word that was floating around my head the last half of Give Camp.  Intimate is the word that has stuck with me the last week and a half.  (Not that meaning of "intimate" -- it wasn't that kind of a give camp.)  But the other meanings?  Absolutely.

Give Camp lasted only 44 hours.  For that little bit of time, a fair-sized number of strangers and nodding acquaintances were put together in one location.  After the semi-formality of the opening -- which in itself required some level of detail when stating who we are and what we needed -- the whole "feel" of the place became open and friendly, getting down to business but not businesslike, if ye ken.  This despite the very intense nature of a Give Camp.

Each team had one focus, one goal:  To meet the IT needs of the nonprofit organization.  Everything revolved around that.  What must the NPO communicate to the IT team?  What skills, talents, and tools can the IT team access?  Who will do what?  When?  How much sleep does one person really need in 44 hours?

I've thought about the kind of relationship we had as a team.  It wasn't doctor-patient, though we were certainly cured of "sucky-website-itis."  It wasn't teacher-student, though I tried to explain the framework and the lead taught me how to maintain and update the site.  And it wasn't like any service provider-client relationship I've ever had as the lead listened and far surpassed my expectations.  (I thought we'd get "less sucky"; instead, we got "un-sucky."  Big difference.)  And for free.

Maybe the best comparison is that it was like a relationship with a realtor.  You're moving to a new location.  You tell the realtor what you want in minute detail, the realtor shows you what you can have, and you rely on the realtor to get you through the process, from finding the right house to recommending schools to finding a vet.  The realtor is a lifeline for the first little bit, but the more you get to know your community, the less you need your realtor.  (Until you hit your first home repair and frantically call your realtor to recommend a plumber...  Oh, yeah, that would be my last panic post...)

Did we hit the definitions of intimate when working together on our shared goal?
  1. Closely acquainted, familiar, close; (of a place or setting) having or creating an informal, friendly atmosphere; involving very close connection (Check)
  2. Private and personal (somewhat, anyway, by nature of the topic of autism; that and the fact that I can happily cry as easily from a kind word from strangers as I can at a Hallmark commercial)
  3. (of knowledge) detailed; thorough (you betcha)
FYI:  While I didn't learn our developers' favorite colors, the number of children they have, or how they take their coffee -- only that they take it! -- I can tell you that one liked to "visit," the other had a wicked keen sense of humor, and both were committed to the project.

Give Camp:  Temporarily Intimate.