I woke this morning after a full nights sleep and stretched, feeling completely refreshed. I then realized I also felt completely sad. It took me a moment to remember why… Robin Williams had died, a victim of the Beast. The recollection of that awful truth, the reality of it, sucked the joy out of my morning. I no longer felt refreshed. Ironically, that is how depression can seem. And although today I am not actually depressed, just deeply sad, I know all too well what it is like to battle the Beast.
Robin Williams embraced life with creativity and manic intensity. He was the ultimate embodiment of “Not Boring”. He was able to gift the world with great beauty and uniqueness because of his incredible talent and fervency. But the ability to feel so deeply, live life so intensely, can often come at a great price. Many other great artists also struggled with depression or mental illness. Continue reading
Dear Father: I saw you and your adult son, who has Down Syndrome, at a KOS concert this past 4th of July weekend. I couldn’t stop staring at the two of you, but not for the reason you think. The relationship you have with your son was one of the most beautiful, precious things I have ever seen. It brought tears to my eyes. I wanted to talk to you and your son so badly, but out of respect for you (and my husband, who gets embarrassed when I make a scene) I simply admired from a distance. But today, as I reflect on what I witnessed, you continue to have my admiration. Continue reading
Many years ago, back in our preschool days, my family had the pleasure of visiting the Crossville Model Railroad Club in Crossville, TN. It was an incredible experience, not only because of the intricate train displays, but also because of the overwhelming kindness we encountered during our visit.
We were traveling to Nashville and had heard about this impressive train display that was en route. We knew we had to see it since there were TWO little train fanatics in our house (ages 3 and 4.5). Our home was basically all trains, all the time, so this was an opportunity we couldn’t pass up. The Model Railroad Club rents space in an outlet mall and has a whole storefront FULL of different size model train layouts. The only problem was that we would be driving through on a THURSDAY afternoon, a time when they used to not be open. I contacted a club member named Mike Braunstein via e-mail about a week ahead of time and inquired about setting up a private train viewing, as indicated on their website. He responded very kindly that they did not generally do private viewings for anyone but groups. He continued on to say that they usually had some folks working on the displays almost every day, and “if you care to stop and see if anyone is there I am sure they would be more than glad to show your family around. Depending on which display group is working they can probably run a few trains.”
*SIGH*. “Stopping by” and risking letting my kids see a train utopia through locked doors without actually being allowed to go inside was NOT an option. My youngest has an Autism Spectrum Disorder and at the time my oldest was struggling with anxiety and social phobias, and putting them in a potentially disappointing situation like that was just asking for a meltdown. I have long held the philosophy, “Ask for what you need,” and find that some people are quite often willing to make accommodations to help us if I give them a simple explanation of my family’s situation. I do not EXPECT people to accommodate us, I only do this if I think it will not be a burden, but figure it can’t hurt to ask. After a LOT of careful thinking I emailed the following reply:
Today I celebrate all women. Your love and nurture of those around you have the power of creation and healing. Whether you have given birth or not, you give life. Thank you for adding beauty to the world. I hope you had a wonderful day!
For an extra smile, here is a Mother’s Day gift that my friend Meredith received from her very perceptive child.
Sophie the sea lion. Photo credit: Smithsonian National Zoo
I am devastated to report that Sophie the sea lion was found dead this morning. She was only two years old. The cause of death is still undetermined, and she seemed fine the night before her death. This is a huge loss, and my thoughts are with the entire Smithsonian Zoo family. Sophie was a beautiful, playful animal who brought great joy to everyone who visited her. She especially enjoyed interacting with children, much to their delight. Sophie had many more happy years ahead of her, and will be greatly missed.
I have been having crying spells ever since I heard the news, and don’t know how I am going to tell my children. We all loved her, and my boys consider her a very special friend. We first met her in February when she played with my youngest son, who has an Autism Spectrum Disorder, and it truly was one of the most incredible, beautiful experiences of our lives. A video of the encounter received some media attention and provided an unexpected opportunity to spread Autism Awareness. We were finally able to go back and visit her just two weeks ago, and my children played with Sophie for over an hour. I am so glad we got to see her one last time, and can’t believe she is gone. I am absolutely dreading telling my children the sad news.
Sophie, we will miss you so much! Thank you for being our friend.
Two months ago a video of a sea lion playing with my son, who has an Autism Spectrum Disorder, unexpectedly got a lot of attention. An earlier post talks more about the story behind the video, as well as why I decided to make a personal moment public. Basically I thought it was cute and my friends and family might like to see it, other special needs parents might be able to relate, and it was an opportunity to spread Autism Awareness. What I didn’t expect was that within a week’s time it would have over 90,000 views and be spread all over the world (no, not one of those “mega-viral” 1 million views kind of videos, but still a surprising reach). Before I posted it to the internet I was convinced I had thought things through, but the results still caught me off guard. I found the whole unexpected process incredibly exciting and incredibly exhausting. I recently agreed to do a television interview about the experience, and you can watch it here on the website for ABC affiliate WRIC Channel 8. They called it, “Going Viral: What You Need to Know Before Posting Online”. I did the interview and wrote this post in the hopes that by sharing some of our crazy journey it might help other people in a similar situation. I don’t have any advice for you if you have a video that you hope to turn mega viral and use to make lots of money. But if you have a story you want to tell or content to share, and want some tips on how to protect your rights and your family in the process, then keep reading. Yes, when this all started I thought it was possible we might make a bit of money, but that was not my main goal. I just wanted to share a cute video of my cute kid and thought it might also help people.
First, and very important, ask yourself if the benefits from what you post will outweigh the risks. What do you hope to get out of the experience, and is it worth what you will give up? If you just want your 15 minutes of fame you need to be prepared for the loss of privacy and the scrutiny that comes with it. All that attention from strangers feels good for about a whole day, but then in a flash you are yesterday’s news. If you are doing it to make money, let me just say you probably won’t make very much. If you are allowing yourself or your story to enter the public eye because you have something important to share, or you want to help people, then I applaud you. I have a new-found respect for anyone willing to make a public stand for what they believe in, because it is a scary thing to make yourself vulnerable to the prying eyes, and possible criticism, of strangers. That part was what scared me the most. Before I posted the video of my son I thought it through as carefully as I could. It’s not a video that makes fun of him or something he will be embarrassed by when he gets older. I asked his permission before sharing it, as well as before I shared that he has an Autism Spectrum Disorder, because it was important to me that I have his consent. I made sure that throughout the whole process my son was treated with respect. Even though I thought that it could be an opportunity help spread awareness and acceptance, I tried to make sure it didn’t sensationalize Autism or exploit my son. I also asked myself if I was compromising the safety of my family by allowing our video to been seen publicly. Is the loss of your privacy worth it? I felt safer about releasing our video because my son’s face was obscured in shadow. At the time we had not decided if we wanted to publicly release his image. I should have been more emotionally prepared for the fact that even if I didn’t release his image, it would get out there (more on that in a bit).
After waiting for weeks we finally had a day with good weather, open schedule, and healthy family members, so the four of us were able to head back to the Zoo this past weekend. Our last trip there had surprising results when a video of my youngest son playing with a sea lion gained international media attention. It also turned into an unexpected opportunity to spread Autism Awareness (you can read about our experience here). My children had been anxious to go back and visit Sophie one more time before the heat of summer, and they still wanted to get a good look at Bao Bao before she got much bigger.
My son, Alex, has been talking about Sophie for weeks and he couldn’t wait to go back and play with her. I wanted to prepare him for the fact that she might not “recognize” him (aka: she may not want to play with visitors that day). Alex has a form of Autism, and it is very important to help him be mentally prepared as much as possible for experiences, both good and bad. We talked about the fact that even if Sophie didn’t want to play it would still be a nice day at the zoo and we would enjoy seeing the animals. Secretly I prayed that he wouldn’t be disappointed, and had an ace up my sleeve. Actually, it wasn’t an ace, it was a shiny pink ball.