“Accidental shootings”

Sculpture symbole de "Non-Violence" réalisé par Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd (Malmö - Suède) from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Non_violence_sculpture_by_carl_fredrik_reutersward_malmo_sweden.jpg
Sculpture symbole de “Non-Violence” réalisé par Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd (Malmö – Suède) from http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Non_violence_sculpture_by_carl_fredrik_reutersward_malmo_sweden.jpg

Before I say anything else, it’s important to giggle over the fact that as I write this, I checked my iGoogle page, and the following quote was at the bottom: Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of congress. But I repeat myself. (Mark Twain)

Now, it’s time for the “funny” part of the posting.  Two news stories showed up that convince me that someone is trying to push anti-gun legislation.  But all the stories really show, to me, is that it’s time for anti-stupid legislation.  Either people need to get smarter, or they need to come up with better stories.

First, a man in San Antonio accidentally brought his gun to bed, rolled over, and shot his wife in the stomach.  Uh-huh.  Cause I always grab my gun off the nightstand when I’m reaching for a pillow. 

But it’s okay because the sexes are equal.  In College Station, a woman was trying to shoot a skunk in her backyard, and she accidentally missed the skunk and shot her husband.  Yeah.  Why would she be shooting a skunk?  And isn’t the term “skunk” used in another way when it refers to people?  Hmmm.

Anyway, I’m just saying, this is Texas.  Don’t we have a saying about someone just needing killing (or shooting in this case)?  Why not just come clean and admit that they were on purpose.  It sounds a lot better than claiming it’s an accident.


[Clever Title Goes Here]

Simon at the Special Olympics Awards, 2012
Simon at the Special Olympics Awards, 2012

Pulling the plug.

Throwing in the towel.

Hearing the fat lady sing.

All signs that it’s at the end and time to give up.

And all things that you don’t want to think about when it comes to your child.

Yet there we were, after years of OT (occupational therapy) and speech therapy, and things didn’t seem to be progressing, so we asked for a meeting with his therapists.  And they appeared strangely happy to get together.

So we showed up one morning for our meeting and found out…they were done.  They both said there was nothing more they could do.  Therapy was going nowhere, and he wasn’t progressing, just going around in circles.  There he was, ten years old, and still at a three to four year old level.  And there was nothing they could do to advance him any further.

I’ll be honest, I was mad.  Why did we have to call the meeting?  Shouldn’t they have talked to us sooner instead of just taking our money week after week, even after their testing showed that they weren’t going anywhere?

But being mad had to take a back seat to the most important thing: figuring out what to do next.  Because it’s not like we’re the first people to ever have someone else give up.  Even recently, parents have been counseled to just drop their children into institutions or send them away to schools where they become someone else’s problem, and some parents, not knowing what else to do, go ahead and do it.  But it’s not like the therapists we worked with suggested putting him in a home.  They had just reached their limits and had no idea where to go.  They were giving up.

Obviously, we weren’t.  We may not be bringing him back there, but we are looking for other places to take him, other places that may help him learn and grow.  Maybe it’s not easy, trying to find a new place to work with, a new group of people, and not know if it’s going to help or not.  But who said it had to be easy?

In the meantime, there’s something to be said for having a kid who still loves Winnie the Pooh and big hugs and has memorized all the Steve episodes of Blue’s Clues.



Eugenics part two…

NASA StarChild image of Stephen Hawking By NASA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
NASA StarChild image of Stephen Hawking By NASA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
So I already got all up in arms against Oprah.com calling my son “creepy” and “weird” because of his autism.  And then I got mad at the doctors rejecting a boy who needed a heart because of his autism.  But now a politician from Alaska wants to stop some children (does he mean those with autism, perhaps?) from getting a public education.

Mark Ewing, running for a new state House seat (thanks to some redistricting) was asked about the budget at a debate.  As was reported by the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman, “Ewing answered first, pointing out that the largest piece of that budget goes to the Department of Health and Social Services.”  Ewing pointed out, “We need to look at these big pieces of pie that we’re funding and try a way to reduce spending.”  Which is a good point, right?  But then he went on…he explained where cuts should be made:

“I got to be honest with you, I am not in favor of the No Child Left Behind Act.  We are spending millions and millions of dollars educating children that have a hard time making their wheelchair move and, I’m sorry, but you’ve got to say, ‘no’ somewhere. We need to educate our children, but there are certain individuals that are just not going to benefit from an education.”

Yeah.  That’s what he said.  (He did try to deny it, but the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman was kind enough to put up an audio clip of him saying it…)

So how is this any different from anything that’s come before?  It’s not.  It’s just another attempt by someone to control someone else that they don’t feel is “worthy.”  I’d love to see Hawking respond to Ewing.  Maybe we can compare their IQs and see which one “benefited” most from their education.


Eugenics…not gone but somehow forgotten

Sheet music cover of "Have a Heart", from the musical of the same name.
Sheet music cover of “Have a Heart”, from the musical of the same name.

Eugenics is not new.  It’s been around as long as any other pseudoscience.

Yet somehow, we forget about it.  We push it to the background.  We pretend it doesn’t exist, even as people talk about aborting fetuses that show signs of having disabilities or we run into problems like the one a mother in Philadelphia is going through.

This mother has a 23 year old son with a problem.  His heart.  But that’s okay – while he has a serious heart ailment (a congenital disorder that he was diagnosed with in 2008), it isn’t necessarily fatal.  He could get a transplant.

Except that he can’t get a transplant because a doctor wrote that, “I have recommended against transplant given his psychiatric issues, autism, the complexity of the process, multiple procedures and the unknown and unpredictable effect of steroids on behavior.

The son, who is 23, has PDD (pervasive development disorder, which is on the mild side of the autism spectrum), is “upset by the decision, but optimistic that a transplant could come.”

What makes it even better is that the head of the Division of Medical Ethics at New York University’s Langone Medical Center issued a statement, saying, “The thing to keep in mind is if more of us would sign donor cards, there would be less pressure to reject anybody. It’s the huge shortage of hearts that really drives this problem.”

Now, I hate to disagree with the head of an ethics division, but, no, it’s not that not enough people donate organs.  (Although I do agree that more people need to donate, and I myself am an organ donor…)  The real problem here is that we have unequal care based on, when it all comes down to it, psychiatric issues and autism.  Everyone who has the procedure risks “multiple procedures and the unknown and unpredictable effect of steroids on behavior.”  The 23 year old man is not alone in those risks.  But autism…that’s the kicker.

Why is it okay to give a transplant to someone who is “normal” but not someone who has a disability?  If he was blind or deaf, would they drop him out of the pool?  Or do we only feel that it’s right to discriminate against those with cognitive and developmental disorders?

This really harkens right back to my other blog about Oprah.com calling children with autism “weird” and “creepy.”  If we don’t understand something, we try to get rid of it.

And that’s where the whole eugenics thing rears its ugly head again.

Now, you might not know what eugenics is.  So let’s try to get a balanced view.

PBS.org has a great article at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/aso/databank/entries/dh23eu.html  They say, among other things, that eugenics was “presented as a mathematical science that could be used to predict the traits and behaviors of humans, and in a perfect world, to control human breeding so that people with the best genes would reproduce and thus improve the species.”  It sounds…interesting.  But, of course, there’s more to it than that.  “In 1923, organizers founded the American Eugenics Society, and it quickly grew to 29 chapters around the country. At fairs and exhibitions, eugenicists spread the word and hosted “fitter family” and “better baby” competitions to award blue ribbons to the finest human stock — not unlike the awards for prize bull and biggest pumpkin. Not only did eugenicists promote better breeding, they wanted to prevent poor breeding or the risk of it. That meant keeping people with undesireable traits in their heritage (including alcoholism, pauperism, or epilepsy) separate from others or, where law allowed, preventing them from reproducing.”

And it hasn’t gone away.  Future Generations has a website up at http://www.eugenics.net/ where they talk about their goals.  “Future Generations is about humanitarian eugenics.  Humanitarian eugenics strives to leave a genuine legacy of love to future generations: good health, high intelligence, and noble character.”  They link to such articles are “IQ Will Put You In Your Place” and “The Consequences of Variable Intelligence” and “Evolution, Eugenics, and God’s Will.”  Go check them out at your leisure if you haven’t had anything to eat…

A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but eugenics by any other name still leaves a sour taste in my mouth.

But there is something you can do to help with the boy being denied his heart.  Go to Change.org and sign the petition to help Paul get his heart.


The story of the chair

So, here it comes The story of the chair.

We went to see the Iron Maiden show at Cynthia Mitchell Woods Pavilion. No lawn chairs (or full-sized blankets) were allowed. The lawn chairs because they rent them. The blankets because, apparently, people were using them to toss other people, resulting in injury…

Regardless, we got there, found our place on the lawn, and sat on our towels (which were approved).

Of course, this meant that two people with rented lawn chairs (who were thus taller than us) settled down in front of us. Nice.

Well, they weren’t huge fans, I guess, because they bailed about an hour in, leaving behind their trash (clean up your own messes, people!!) and, more importantly, their chairs.

The chairs just sat there, all lonely, surrounded by crushed up beer cans and cups.

Then it happened.

Someone came up and swiped one.

Suddenly we were down to one empty chair.

Then someone came up, looked around suspiciously (it’s a trap!), and sat down in the remaining chair. But I guess he was nervous and wasn’t there long. So once again, the chair was abandoned and lonely.

This picture is of the sad, lonely chair. All alone during the encore. Poor chair.

But really people – clean up your trash!



Oprah.com – I’m calling you out!

My “weird” and “creepy” son!

Dear Corrie Pikul,

Obviously, you must be brilliant because you write for Oprah.com.  And that brilliance is further illuminated in your word choices for your title (or perhaps I should blame your editor?):

How to deal with your kid’s weird friends

And let’s see, number three of the “weird friends” are listed as “the obsessive.”  And brilliant Pikul (who shall henceforce be called p.u. just because I have that sort of sense of humor) quotes another brilliant person, a Ph.D. named Matthew Goldfine, who is a clinical child psychologist at Columbia University Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders.  And this brilliant quote from the brilliant Goldfine is that “he often hears parents try to diagnose other people’s children with psychological or developmental disorders like obsessive-compulsive behavior, autism, or Asperger’s syndrome.”  Scary, scary.  Children with mental problems!  But, Goldfine, tells us, it’s okay!  Do you know why it’s okay?  “It’s not contagious, and there’s absolutely no harm to your child in hanging out with another kid who has one of these psychological diagnoses.”

Whew!  Thank god Goldfine and p.u. were there for us!  They’ve told us that we don’t have to revert to the turn of the 20th century (and earlier and later) where people with such obvious disabilities should have been locked up and shunned for fear of catching their madness.

So thank you, p.u., and thank you, Goldfine, for helping us know that it’s okay that we as parents don’t like these “weird” disabled children and their  “creepy” behaviors.  (Yes, that’s a quote – p.u. actually referred to those with disabilities as creepy!  Score one for being afraid of those who are different!)

Seriously, isn’t there a push right now to get rid of bullies, not give them more fuel for their fire?  Where is the editor with any common sense who would have edited the hell out of this article and made sure that Oprah.com wasn’t responsible for calling my autistic son creepy?


Galveston, you disappoint me again…

From Slut Walk Houston, 2011

I have to say that I lived in Galveston, and while I was there, I pretty much loved it.  There were enough positives that part of me still wishes I was there.  But…someone needs to talk to their police department.

Recently, two joggers were attacked on Seawall Blvd.  In one case, the woman says that about a dozen cars went past during the attack, and no one stopped or did anything.  Now, to be fair, I don’t know that I would stop and get out of my car, but I might pull over, honk, and make it clear I was calling 911.  But that’s not the point.

The point is that the police chief made a lovely statement, as per the Galveston Daily News: “Galveston police Chief Henry Porretto said joggers should be aware of their surroundings. Wearing ear buds could give an attacker an advantage, he said.” 

Damn those joggers wearing ear buds!  They’re asking for it!  I mean, hell, first off, they’re women.  Second, they’re out alone.  Third, they’re wearing ear buds! Oh the humanity! Ear buds, the scourge of the 21st century.


Let me repeat something.
Don’t blame the victim.

One more time.
Don’t blame the victim.

Just because a woman has the nerve to do something that men would do does not mean that they have asked to be attacked or that they should be told that it is their fault if they are attacked.  If it had been two guys who had been mugged, would the police chief have issued the same statement?  I’m thinking not so much.

Oh, and just to add one fun detail: that victim who had the nerve to wear ear buds?  Yeah, she also had the nerve to carry a metal pipe that she used to defend herself.



All my exes live in Texas…and by that, I mean, all 484 executions

Electric Chair at the Texas Prison Museum
Electric Chair at the Texas Prison Museum, taken by Katherine Sanger, January 9, 2012

No, I’m not taking it as lightly as the title might lead you to believe.  But Texas has completed execution number 484, Marvin Lee Wilson, on August 7 at 6:27 PM.  He is reputedly of “diminished mental capacity” with a measured IQ of 61.

A number of people are outraged, including John Steinbeck’s son, Thomas Steinbeck, who spoke out after Texas argued that Wilson should be executed and cited Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” character, Lennie Small, as an example of why those with intellectual disabilities should be executed.  Thomas Steinbeck said, “I am certain that if my father, John Steinbeck, were here, he would be deeply angry and ashamed to see his work used in this way.” He believed that it was wrong that “Texas would use a fictional character … as a benchmark to identify whether defendants with intellectual disability should live or die. I find the whole premise to be insulting, outrageous, ridiculous, and profoundly tragic.”

The ACLU, who I normally agree with, and a number of others have made statements that the problem is that those with intellectual disabilities are often easily led.  I agree.  However, this was not Wilson’s first crime.  According to the statement sheet at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website, Wilson’s first offense, aggravated robbery, was in 1981, and he was sentenced to 8 years.  He obviously got out early for some reason because he was sentenced to 20 years for robbery in 1987.  He was paroled in 1991, and in 1992, he was arrested for the abduction and shooting of a 21 year old that he got into a fight with.  He was, at the time, 34, and with an 11th grade education.  (To put that in perspective, the two previous executions were both 19 with a 10th grade education.)

So what is the point I’m making here?  Am I saying it was okay to execute him?

Yes.  And no.

Here’s the thing.  I have to worry about things like this.  My son is autistic, and he’s got a diminished mental capacity.  He’s been diagnosed as functionally MR.  Is he really?  Can’t say for sure.  But let’s take it further – could he be accused of a crime, whether falsely or not?  Yes.  Could he be sentenced to death and not understand it?  Seems that way.  Does that worry me?  Hell, yes.

But here’s the other thing.  Wilson seems to have understood the idea behind doing something bad and being punished.  He committed two previous crimes.  He made a final statement, stating that, “Ya’ll do understand that I came here a sinner and leaving a saint.”   He wasn’t an innocent.  He had the mental acuity to kidnap a man he got into a fight with and then execute him.  He didn’t accidentally kill him.  He didn’t slip up.  He committed two robberies that netted him 28 years total jail time, and when he was out, he made the decision to kidnap and murder another human being.

I do believe in the death penalty.  I don’t always believe in the criminal justice system.  I don’t have enough facts to make a decision here, but I do have enough facts to say that this is something that everyone needs to think about and consider.  What lines do we draw and where and why?


Walking on Broken Glass…

ImageSo with all the joys of packing and trying to leave for vacation, I completely forgot to mention another joy – the joy of discovering that your almost new (not quite  3 months old!) washing machine – the first one that you’ve owned that wasn’t the cheapest one in the shop – bust a gut.  Well, not really a gut.  Most like a glass top.

Yes, apparently the glass top of the washing machine decided to implode.  I say that because when I heard it happen, I was in another room.  The washing machine wasn’t running – hadn’t been running for about six or seven hours – and there was no one in the room with it.  I was just sitting there, and suddenly there was a noise like someone had gone all Dexter on a roll of bubble wrap.  How odd, I thought.  But no cats came running, no dogs barked, and nothing else seemed out of the ordinary so I dismissed it as a weird noise and kept on with what I was doing (which was probably grading papers since that seems to be the majority of what I do with my life).

A few minutes later, I got up to do some packing for the trip since we were set to leave the next morning, and I walked through the laundry room to drop off something in the car.  And that’s when I actually saw it.

The glass lid of the washing machine had seemingly shattered.  It had spider-web cracks all over it, seemingly originating from nowhere yet somehow covering the entire surface.  How it happened..why it happened…no idea.

We touched it, and it seemed weak.  If any pressure had been put on it, I think it would have rained down the glass shards into the washer, definitely something we wanted to avoid.  And, of course, we were leaving on vacation the next morning.  So just like the fact that my car battery died earlier on in the week, I was semi-grateful it had happened.  It would have been worse had the lid shattered while we were gone.  A cat sitter would have shown up and potentially discovered a cat, stuck in the bottom of the washer, covered in blood or dead.  Scary thought for all of us.  At least this way, we knew about it. And we had access to the information for the warranty.

The problem now was how to keep exactly that from happening (the whole dead and/or bloody cat scenario, that is…).  I found the “Pop-Pop board” in the garage.  (For those not in the know, my grandfather, Pop-Pop, could build anything.  Years and years and years ago, he built this awesome big wooden board with rails along the sides.  My mother used it to do puzzles on.  My sister and I used it to build with small wooden blocks on top of it or played with our marbles – you couldn’t lose them because the rails kept them on it…and it was absolutely gorgeous, too – dark wood, lovely stain…)  We duct-taped the board over the top because it covered it well enough to keep it from putting pressure on the already cracked glass, and then we piled some empty cardboard boxes all askew on top, trying to keep the cats from jumping up, just in case.

So we’ve been gone for a few days now, and so far, no dead or injured cats, so that’s a hopeful sign.  And the local service company that will come out and check the warranty “issue” have already called to make the appointment for the day we get back.  If all goes well, we’ll have a working and safe washer in under two weeks.  If not, be looking for a blog that talks about the evils of LG…


Back at the beach house

Storms roll in at the beach
Storms roll in at the beach (Dauphin Island, AL)

This year is rather different than last year.  Last year at this time, I was still searching for a full-time job, still enrolled in my doctoral program, and actually in the process of writing my comp exam.  Last year at this time, I was beyond stressed and unhappy. 

This year, not so much.

Yeah, I still have some work I’m doing.  I have two active classes right now, two more that will start on the 13th that I’m in the process of setting up, and a few little projects on the side.  And this year, I’m enrolled in an MFA program, so I’m reading and editing a zombie story.  So it’s not like I’m exactly not working, but it’s reduced working.  And this year, I’m not beyond stressed or unhappy.

In fact, this year, I’ve been napping.  I’ve been reading.  I’ve been writing.  I’ve been watching the storms roll in and listening to the thunder out over the water.  And I’ve been taking pictures and playing in the ocean and overall having a good time. 

So far, I haven’t gotten much done, but that’s okay.  This is a vacation, right?  And while I may not be able to totally get away from work, at least I’ve gotten away.