Monthly Archives: January 2013

Special-Occasion Swear Words

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One of my students who is on the autism spectrum recently asked me why some swear words are considered worse than others. Good freakin’ question! Who knows? It’s confusing! So we took all of the swear words she knows and sorted them on a scale from 1 to 5, with 1 being the lesser swear words and 5 the BIG words that get a BIG reaction from people. We put ‘dammit’ on the number 1 level. We decided that ‘shit’ was about a 3, and so on all the way up to level 5 words. We talked about how even if we don’t know why certain words have such an effect on people, in our society they do, so we have to be careful of the words we choose.

I decided to relate this idea to my own life. I started thinking of level 5 as a top shelf full of swear words that are like Grandma’s wedding china. We only lift them down and dust them off for special occasions. We don’t want to wear them out with everyday use.

It’s important to be vigilant so special occasion words don’t topple off the shelf by mistake as my mom, Nonnie to the grandkids, discovered on a recent vacation. We were all staying at a lake for two weeks in the summer and the four young cousins were all fishing on the dock. My nephew reeled in a huge, seaweed colored, scaly, sharp toothed, mean looking fish. My mom stood up from her beach chair to take a look and said, “Holy F*#k!”

It was just like the scene from A Christmas Story where Ralphie is helping his dad change the tire and the hubcap filled with lug nuts gets bumped and goes flying through the air in slow motion. In my mind, when my mom stood up and uttered that fateful word, time slowed to a crawl. The waves inched toward the shore. The kids’ heads turned slowly toward my mom, their eyes huge and mouths hanging open. My mom and I looked at each other as our hands moved like stunned starfish to cover our shocked mouths.

Then time sped up again. We started laughing hysterically. I can tell you that this story will live in infamy. The grandkids bring it up whenever possible. “Remember when Nonnie…”

So be careful with those special occasion swear words. Keep them securely on a high shelf until you need them!

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Keep it in the Bubble

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Have you ever asked asked a woman when her baby is due only to find out that she isn’t pregnant? Or told your boss to shove it?

As a special education teacher, when I work with students on social interactions, we talk about what words should go in our speech bubble and what words should stay in our thought bubble.

I think this could be a handy strategy for everyone. Seriously, next time you are about to say something, take a second to ask yourself, ‘Speech bubble or thought bubble?’ Just think of all words you could avoid eating later!

I use this strategy with my own children as well. My oldest son enjoys pushing his brother’s buttons whenever possible. When I see that certain, special, gleam in his eye I say, “Keep it in the bubble, dude!”

I truly wish I could say this to strangers sometimes. You know that one person in every meeting who has to say things just to hear himself talk? Or that attendee that’s at every workshop, training or class who has to ask obnoxious, off topic questions that are designed to show up the presenter or teacher and make them look stupid? I would just love to stand up as they start talking and say, “Keep it in the bubble!” Maybe I could have a superhero power that would zip the words right back into their mouth. That would be so awesome…

Just think where this power could lead! No more bullying! No more hurt feelings! No more Rush Limbaugh!

Oh-sorry, I’m becoming crazed with all of this newfound power.

The next time your wife asks you if she looks frumpy in her favorite old, worn, cozy fleece pajamas, or your Aunt Margo gives you sweat socks for Christmas (again!), consider my professional advice and keep it in the thought bubble! I may not be on hand to save you with my super powers!

 

I’d Miss It If You Were Dead

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“I’m off,” my husband yells up the stairs. I wait a moment, knowing what will come next.

“Off like a prom dress,” he says proudly.

‘Oh-my gosh,’ I think, putting my hand over my face. ‘That hasn’t been funny for the past 10 years!’

***

“UGH!” I hear as I lie in bed. Uh-oh; I left my dresser drawers open again and Kevin has just walked into them in the dark bedroom.

***

Early in the morning as I take my first sip of coffee, I hear the dogs start to bark in the back yard and hear Kevin bang on the back door window to try to shut them up. They bark even louder. ‘Do we really have to go through this every single morning?’

***

Once again, Kevin trips over my shoes that I left in the middle of the side door entryway. I hear him sigh as he kicks them out of the way

***

These little annoyances could drive someone crazy. But they are also the things that we would miss. After the millionth time Kevin said the “Off like a prom dress” line I thought, ‘I would miss that if he were dead.’ Seriously, I can just imagine someone saying, “I’m off.” I would be waiting for the next line and so sad when it didn’t come.

It may sound kind of morbid but it’s become our way to lighten the moment and  insert some humor. When I do something that I know annoys Kevin, I smile and say, “You would miss it…!” It really is a good reminder not to waste our time on little frustrations.

And I’m sure if I were no longer around, Kevin would walk in the door each day after work without tripping and have a moment of sadness about that empty space. I’m not so sure he would miss the bruised shins from my open drawers though. I’ll work on that honey!

Fight Like a Girl

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‘He punched me in the face! What the hell!’

My peripheral vision fades away and all I can see is the massive chest of the Terminator Sensei in front of me. I hear the squeak of bare feet on the wood floor. I smell sweat in the heavy air. Finally I hear the bell ring.

‘I did it.’ I can take a breath.

“Just 2 more rounds,” says the Terminator.

‘What?’ I had lost count. I thought I was done. My legs turn to water.

I float over to the chairs in front of the mirrored wall and sit, spitting out my mouth guard. I can’t get my gloves off to open my water bottle. Obi Won Kenobi Sensei who has been watching, comes to sit next to me, opening my water bottle and pouring some into my mouth like I’m a baby bird. I start to cry.

I know, no tears in the dojo.

But I can’t do two more rounds. I am physically and emotionally exhausted.

Obi Won wipes my face with a threadbare white towel. The Terminator walks over and seeing my tears says, “Oh,” in a kind way.

He wants me to spar with him again the next round. Getting back up on the proverbial horse. He thinks the tears are due to getting hit in the nose, which makes sense, but they’re actually because I don’t think I can finish this. I really don’t.

I slowly stand and head back out to the floor. I start a mantra. ‘Two more rounds. I can do it. I can do it. I can do it.’

I really don’t think I can do it.

The bell rings. I will myself to throw a punch, to land a kick, to keep my feet moving. Mostly I just try to keep my hands up to protect myself and not fall down.

Somehow I make it through two more rounds.

Finally I’m finished. I hear clapping as I walk in circles to cool off and then sit down to stretch. My lip is bleeding a little. The Terminator and Obi Won are smiling and proud of me. I don’t feel proud at that moment. I don’t know how I feel.

Like many women, I didn’t really grow up being physically aggressive. I didn’t wrestle with my friends or play contact sports. So this self-defense class has pushed me beyond, way beyond, my comfort level.

I yell, I punch, I kick. I practice ground fighting. I learn to defend myself from a knife. I suppose the physical exhaustion is the same for everyone but I wonder if the emotional exertion is different for women than it is for men.

I have spoken to other women who have taken this first-level fighting test and many felt the same wrung out, empty feeling that I did. One went home, took her dog for a walk and sat under a tree in the park and just cried.

Later, when I saw other people taking this test and when I saw pictures of myself I finally felt proud. I pushed myself beyond what I thought I could do. I might look quiet and unassuming but watch out! I can fight like a girl!

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The Bluest Part of the Sky

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This is the story my 8 year old wrote on our vacation to Lake Champlain this year…

“Ones there was a boy who was bored out of his wits.Then his mom  offered some coffee wit crea and sugar and he loves it.”                       By Aidan                                                                                      

THE END

I did give him coffee. So sue me. I was desperate. We have wondered if medication is a good option for him. I think I read somewhere about a family with a child with ADHD trying coffee instead of Ritalin, just to check out the effect. It is a stimulant after all. Well Aidan didn’t end up liking it after the first sip anyway, so the experiment didn’t work.

I love the kid, I do. I just wish he could be happy. He wakes up grumpy and throughout the day often yells in frustration about one thing or another, “This is my worst day ever!” I am often the cause of his “Worst day ever!” It gets tiring. We sit on this lovely front porch on our vacation, overlooking the beautiful lake. It’s early in the morning, he’s bored, bored, bored! We try to play a game. It ends in frustration and yelling. “I never get a good card! That’s why I hate this game!”

He finally curls up in a little ball wrapped in a blanket. I read him Stink and the Great Guinea Pig Express. We have few minutes of cozy happiness. Then he wants to wake up his brother. I say, “Go outside and hunt for frogs.”

“I need someone else! If I find something I have to show someone else or it’s not fun!”  Then he rips his sweatshirt off because it’s “So itchy! That’s why I hate this sweatshirt!”

We go out in a boat with family under blue sky, over clear water. Daddy points his camera at Aidan. I signal to my mom and we quick lean in and kiss Aidan’s cheeks as Kevin snaps a picture. Aidan screams, “Don’t ever do that again!” as he hides his head and starts to cry. I know that he hates to have his space invaded unexpectedly. What was I thinking? I though it would be a cute picture. Wishing for a fun memory of the boat ride. ‘I must have gotten too much sun today,’ I think as Aidan repeats, “Don’t ever do that again! That’s why I hate this boat ride!”

Swimming with his brother and cousins in Lake Champlain. They have jumping contests from the dock. Silliest jump, most creative jump, longest jump and biggest-splash jump. Everyone puts on goggles and explores the rocks and plants at the bottom. They hunt for little fish with nets. Aidan tries out his swim fins and snorkel. As he kicks along the top of the water his snorkel slips under the surface of the lake. He pops up, rips his goggles off and flings them as far as he can. “My snorkel never works! That’s why I hate this lake!”

Taking an evening walk along the lake. We see the end of a rainbow poking out from behind a large bank of clouds. Looking out over the calm water, Aidan searches for the other end. “There it is!” he says as he points it out to me way across the sky. He stands close to me and slips his hand into mine. We stand still and I slowly let my breath out. I feel a soft breeze on my face. I hear waves lapping. “Mom, look at the pink and red parts in the sky. Mom, did you ever notice how the sky looks the bluest right above the water?”

Aidan and I stand still, quietly holding hands and studying the bluest part of the sky together.

That’s why I love this kid.

The Path Through the Grass

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There’s a path through the grass,

from my house to yours.

It wasn’t there before.

Then, little ones’ feet toddled across.

My bare feet snuck over for a quiet cup of coffee on the porch.

Your sandaled feet came over to borrow a cup of milk.

Our sneakered feet met for an early morning walk.

Your heels raced to pick up your little girls after work.

Our children’s grown feet ran across, kicking a soccer ball, riding a bike.

My slippered feet padded over to a girls’ movie night.

There’s a path through the grass,

from my house to yours.

It wasn’t there before.