Thursday, July 26, 2007

Here Today

For John Lennon,
but also for these, who have very much been here today.

And if I said
I really knew you well what would your answer be?
If you were here today.
Here today

Well knowing you,
You'd probably laugh and say that we were worlds apart.
If you were here today
here today

But as for me,
I still remember how it was before.
And I am holding back the tears no more.
I love you

What about the time we met?
Well I suppose that you could say that we were playing hard to get
Didn't understand a thing
But we could always sing.

What about the night we cried because there wasn't any reason left to keep it all inside.
Never understood a word,
But you were always there with a smile

And if I say
I really loved you
And was glad you came along.

and you were here today.
for you were in my song.
here today.

Monday, July 23, 2007

A Real Farm, a Real Woods, and a Real Girl

After what I saw posted lastnight plus the odd inference to my directional abilities I'd already seen, I know its time to try to talk at least a very little about the farm and the woods that went with it where I lived when I was 11.

It was the year of all sorts of things going wrong for me, for all of us actually. it was the year I would start being bounced around from relatives to relatives, the year the state got involved in our lives, the year I hit puberty, had some very weird bloating red rash unable to breath thing (made worse by penicillin which I became allergic to at that point), fell flat on my back (or would have if I hadn't fallen flat back on my head) and hit the back of my head so harshly on the ice that my sister, yet to be an RN in those days even recognized there was a Problem with a capital P and I 'wasn't right' (even for me) the entire day. (We think I suffered a rather noteworthy concussion), its the year I began having extreme gran mal seizures and extreme wild-child (naked climbing the TV aerial, etc.. 'you don't even wanna know' and its for another post another day) behaviors and in some cases my personality what I liked/disliked etc did an entire about face, but its also the year my parents separated and my father and I ended about 3 miles down the road and a turn away from the other house, at the farm there he had bought.

I have been saying '75 acres' for a really long time but the more I think about it, that really can't be right, and being a stickler for accuracy and especially being fully prepared to have all of this verified.. I think I'm having to rethink that whole '75 acres' we could not have possibly owned 75 acres, that'd be more like the redwood forest or something, and I'm going to have to verify with my father just how big the wooded section actually was
it was big though, big enough that before we owned it, and the guy's name surely helped and there is no way I can say this without giving out his name, but this too is quite verifiable, and I'm sure the guy is passed on by now, he was really old then..

We bought this farm with a large wooded area, encouraged to be called a 'forest' becaue it was owned before us by one Bill Sherwood. Yes, that's right, and thusly locally his farm and woods were known as, you guessed it, Sherwood's Forest.

If I give up the name of that small town's area, and I could take somebody right to it, can *almost* find it on google (the whole area is wooded and I'm close but not right on it with Google Earth there's lots of woods there behind lots of fields, lots of farms but I know the road's name and I'm near it) and I'm sure courthouse records would confirm the ownership and then the transfer of that property from one Bill Sherwood to that of my father, and that's anyway, how I came to be able to escape, quite for real, into Sherwood's forest (which the neighbors kept right on calling it after we owned it and for all I know they just might still be calling it that to this day).

In this year that all was going wrong and I was going apeshit and we found ourselves alone just him and I in this old farmhouse, my father's drinking took an ugly turn and with no one there but me to take it out on, it got really bad. Really.

with no TV aerial in at this place, I found something better, two something's better in fact, both of which left lasting imprints on me:

A wonderful replacement for the aerial which also served as a refuge from my father's drunken rages (because no matter how drunk he got he could not lose the fear of heights he had in order to come up after me so he would stand there at the base of the windmill looking up at me, roaring for me to 'get my ass down here' etc). I loved to lodge myself in the tresses and crossbeams especially just below the plate and peer up to the enormous spinning blades and watch it sway in the wind. It was no longer hooked to a pump but this was a very functional and very well cared for American farm windmill.
I was lacking in the coordination to match my lack of fear and like with the aerial (and the second story roof I would access from the aerial antenna) this gave my father fits, legtimate non drinking fearful fits. At the other house my sister could be coaxed to go up after me (the only one not too afraid) but there was no one here at the farm to do this, so I spent quite a bit of time up there and I developed a 'fixation' from that on windmills that has never left.

The other of course, was our Sherwood's forest, accessible by a long lane going down the field back behind the house and barn area. My father has strict feelings about animals, nature and wildlife which I have in turn adopted and one of those strongholds is NO HUNTERS.
Mushroom hunters, yes, animal hunters, no, but enforcing such a thing is often difficult especially when dealing with a woods this size and distance from the house and accesses from other wooded areas which connect to it, etc. Nobody ever drove up into the driveway and lept out and walked back that lane, but I'd find them, curiously lost and pale and fat almost every time, and loud with their goofy getups on and their guns and its really a wonder I was never shot, never mistook for a deer, but I would lead them out and that's the odd thing about it,
outside of a wooded area there are two places in the world, always:
Where I Am
Where I Am Not

and I don't know people's faces all that well, I have to really know a person, see their face repeatedly over much time, some faces are too bland to me and I never do get them,
but trees have 'faces' not literal faces but they have that uniqueness that I can't miss. I know when I have walked by that tree, I know when I've gone 'window shopping' for the perfect walking-stick and I know when I saw clusters of things and moss 'just so' and I know where I've been and I know where I am going in the woods and I don't get lost. I have led my friend John out of wooded areas on the edge of town here when I coaxed him into just getting outside with me and he was all amazed.

Me, Ms Failed Mobility Coaching, yes, me. I'm the trailblazer, the guide you want in a woods.
We had them growing up and my father and I during better times used to walk them all the time and as I got older they became my private places, my journeys my home outside and Sherwood Forest there most of all.

I was the creepy eery 'quiet girl' who hunters would tell my dad 'just appeared there' as they generally humbly apologized at his indicating his feelings about hunting on his property and that was how it went.

I really have no explanation other than perhaps if I grew up in a city like I live in now and had it somehow been possible for me to take the risks and learn how in a place like this, maybe it would be here that I didn't get lost, maybe the woods would confound me, but somehow I just don't think so. I just kind of think that's build in.
Its built into my dad too somehow.

My father has nifty knacks about him like the ability to tell you within a minute the actual time. He can also tell you within a degree actual the temperature, accounting as he does for humidity, barometric pressure, etc. I'm not quite that good but I've got some of that, even here downtown my friend John and I like to play the "time and temp' game with the brightly lit dot-light signs (don't know what you call those) that display these things and I'm pretty good. I'm also pretty good at predicting the weather, more so than most I think, but not like my dad.

I really don't like trying to write about this topic in a hurry and all rushed and I am left feeling like I'm leaving something important out, I'm sure I am, but I can't tell what it is, and this will have to settle for now.

I just really needed a marker, a discussion about our woods, this special one in particular. Its where I 'lived' when I wasn't up inside and just under the plate of the windmill or getting myself into ninety million kinds of trouble when I was any other places.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Not-so-Random (Education-related)

My father used to sit and watch Sesame Street with me every day.
He was the stay at home parent for me with my grandfather doubling for him when work or college didn't allow him to be there. Newly sighted at around 18 - 24 months, I loved to wallow about on the newspaper and press my face in close to study closely the paper I was pressing my face into as I rolled around. My parents thought I simply liked the texture, which I did, but they had no idea what else I was doing there. I meanwhile had no idea what I was doing with the pattern-matching shapes recognition meaning-giving game I was playing or that meant anything. It would be 3 more decades before anyone realized I could read and I would realize it meant anything. I was 11 before I started to figure out that the big individual shapes the muppets held up and sang about had anything to do with what for years I had already been doing with the newspaper (and then any books I got my hands on). At 7 years old I read the Communist Manifesto. At 11 I realized there was an alphabet.

Because we sat and watched Sesame Street every day and it was a good fun time for me, really a time to bond with my dad,
and because I believe and to my knowledge he just may have been the first person to get the idea to use sign with an autistic person (until or unless I learn otherwise its my unconfirmed suspicion)
he got me this Sesame Street Language book.

You can see the way its all taped up. I was hell on books, tore them up something awful. I wasn't especially interested in this book (which is really why there's been enough of it left intact for it to survive to exist as it has).

Even with the Lovaas thing that happened when I was 6 (which was pretty awful and taught to communicate to an extent out of extreme distress which is very often how I am to this day, leaving people to think I'm all 'pissed off' and really angry and miserable because that's pretty much what it can take to inspire/drive me to communicate)
I didn't do so great at signing. I was able to meaningfully/usefully sign about 7 signs by the time I was 13 and in the children's home. (Once there I started to do much better but I was and am still not a really great signer).

I'm not ready to talk about the years of trying to figure out when to sign toilet or getting in trouble because I MUST move and flashcards and squirt bottles and the way I was a genius at being a bad behaving kid)
Suffice it to say that there was no '6th grade' or making bracelets or spelling things out or anything like it of any sort for me. Before PECS and electronic communication devices there were things called "WULF" and "BLIS" boards (and I am guessing at the spelling because people didn't lean over and show the retard how its written when we're the retards who can't talk or toilet or spell, so we just heard them said)

at 21 I got my special diploma from a special school while living in a group home, and here is a picture of me with it on my graduation day. I could have gone to that school until I was 26 because schools for people like me let you do that, but I was sort of 'spontaneously graduated' so I could get right into the day programs and the sheltered workshop where I would be alternately attending and working for the next decade or so (whenever I was behaving well enough to get to live in group/afc etc homes that is, and not in the certain larger institution that enough excess bad behavior/non-functioning could get me returned to)

This has nothing to do with my education, but instead of my brother's ongoing education that went on throughout his adulthood until very recently (when for his efforts and abilities he got rather forcibly shipped off to Iraq.. long story I need to figure out how to tell without saying things I shouldn't)

The ability to discern and do unusual things regarding languages runs i our family it seems.
Being an extremely multilingual environment didn't' hurt one bit to be sure (mine is a rich heritage with lots of languages 'brought to the table' for us to be exposed to when I was little)
The govt liked my brother and the things he could with languages do enough to keep sending him to a very unique and elite sort of language school for lots of languages and other training.
The language school is called the Presidio of Monterrey.
Here it is on a shirt he got for me from there.

One theory is that somehow that inherited 'knack' may be what has left my textual ability to learn to read and then eventually enabled me to communicate as well as I do.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Not-So-Random Stuff

This is my cats collection. Far more than just a salt and pepper table centerpiece set of some sort, these mean a lot to me.
The two boxes (far right and the one in the middle with the shake-up globe atop it) are urns of two of my best friends. Farli (center) and Muzzie (far right).
The leash and collar set (yes, one of my cats really could have passed for a 'service' animal, she would walk with me, being unawares she was a cat, just that determined to be my friend, more dog-like I guess in that respect, that was my truly amazing friend Muzzie), and Farli's collar is there as well. Muzzie 'had her stripes where she wanted them' (being a very distinctive and notably oddly marked visible siamese and tabby mix) and was definitely my 'social critter' and Farli (a full Siamese complete with loads of quirks and neurosis and lots of love) had been a member of our family for half of my life when she passed on the same year I was 30, she had been 15 and was still considered to be my cat.
These statues are in honor of them and other friends I have had in my life like them, and also because some of these

were owned by this woman.

This is my grandmother. the one who bears my last-name, and was my father's mother.

A very smart woman, people were often fooled by her grammar.. she would 'red the table' of dishes and put them in the 'zink' but she had something about her its said. Its said I take after her and resemble and remind people of her quite a bit in some way.
She had what you might call 'horse sense' -- just a certain kind of life's smarts that's hard for me to describe but I definitely know what it is and the feel for it. They say I look and in many ways am just like her somehow and I am pleased to be told that.

This is my grandmother holding me as a baby.
When she first held me, this grandmother said "I'm really worried about this one"
After having the doctor offer to my parents that they should just leave me at the hospital and gt on with raising their others (presumably so the doctor could dispose of me to an institution or even possibly to death, the exact intent was not made clear),

I nearly died that same year, from pneumonia and failure to thrive.
I kind of think grandma was part of willing me past all of that.

This is my grandmother how I knew her best, unfortunately.

With eye patches off and not yet walking or doing much just yet other than being able to shake my head, and sit up, I was finaly able to see as well as feel the spokes in her wheelchair, which is where I could be found whenever she was near, sitting by her side on the floor for hours, pressing my face to and feeling the patterns of the thin shinny intricate spokes. My grandmother was not pleased at all that 'well at least she's a self contained baby so able to entertain herself' -- while my brother and sister and cousins, all her other grandchildren ran around doing normal grandchildren types of things, she knew my super-well-behaved wheelchair spoke inspecting that was a sign of something serious, this wasn't just a visually impaired mentlaly retarded baby. Somehow she knew. She died not long after this picture was taken and when I was still quite little. I was always terrified of the bedroom at my grandpa's house without ever fully knowing why. She had died in that bed and I had seen her pretty close to doing it.
I miss her. I know I missed out on something important by not having her more. She would have looked out for me, some stuff would have been much better had she been here and I know it.

There are times I think Grandma has actually reached out and looked out for me in life since her passing, a few instances and remarkable places where I just feel her presence and her redirection. I happen to have religious beliefs that at very least 'don't conflict' with the notion of ancestral assistance from beyond and I just feel she's done what she can from where she is, and I thank her and I'm glad for when she's there/been there and my sense of it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


When I was little we had a complete farm which included horses.

I am fully aware from having witnessed several and too many horse-breaking events, what's involved tormenting a horse into submission to let a human being ride on its back and what I've seen, witnessing the process of breaking horses left a very strong impact and impression on me.

Anytime I have ever sat on a horse's back I have felt this overwhelming guilt just knowing I don't belong there, nobody belongs there (I don't care if people have been doing this forever its wrong and that's just the way it is).
Even when I was very little, and it wasn't fear, it was an overwhelming sense of guilt. I had seen what it took first for me to sit on their backs. I can't get past it.

I had an uncle with a particular cruel streak who actually *enjoyed* with a wicked vengeance coming over to our farm to break our horses, watched him break his own at his own place as well and its a nasty nasty wicked event. I realize humans have been doing this to horses for a really long time.

There are very few pictures of any of us from my childhood thanks to a really stupid impulsive move made by my father when my parents divorced and everyone was out of the house (I was in the children's home, my brother and sister were old enough to move out and with my parents divorced and my father looking to start a new with another woman and unbeknownst to us all, purged the house of all our family memorabilia, all pictures and brownie movies, all clutter in the basement etc, he didn't let anyone know, my mother, no one, and very little from my childhood save for what the others had taken away with them and my toys and few items that went to the children's home with me and a scant few items from my room at home survived, sticks of furniture...

but someone has pictures of my mother riding the our huge red Clydesdale horse named Tricky and other images of this first and real farm. I have been hoping and working on my family to get copies of them, trying to get my sister to make a DVD of what they have, including those baby pictures that you can pretty much tell by looking at me that I was a different, a disabled baby.

back to the farm though, and Tricky..
He was a very smart horse. He could lift eyehooks off half doors and let himself out, even untie knots with his teeth and he routinely got out and so did other horses and cows with him when he did.

Tricky was a really easy going horse and I was never afraid to stand near him even right under him. I didn't know properly that horses will go out of their way not to trample people, I just knew that Tricky wouldn't. He would try to eat my hair because it was so blond and I was about the height of a feed trough, he would attempt to munch as if I were a head-full of hay and I thought that was funny but my father didn't like that..sort 'horse injurious behavior' instead of me pulling my own hair it was Tricky.
I love the color of his hair, he was a very red horse and I loved the way he smelled. I don't mean the manure or anything like that, but horses have very nice smells that go with them, and the way they huff and make sounds is very relaxing to listen to. I loved to hold the currycomb and try to brush on his belly and the way that felt. I liked the way the items that go with horses smell, the blanket that goes under a saddle and the saddle smell, even if I didn't want to be where I didn't belong on top of him, he was a friend to me and I really liked Tricky.

Tricky was a Clydesdale and he was huge and kind of dark red colored but he had no fur on his feet. Not all Clydesdale come with fur on their feet like the 'Budweiser horses'

I'll have to come back and write about Patches the Palomino horse later. He wasn't so nice but I understood why (he was my brother's horse and that's a 'long story' in and of itself right there).

Monday, July 2, 2007

Ode to Studebaker & Stuff

Locksmiths, Tool & Dye workers, janitors, gray lunch boxes, football as a family affair, the way the houses crammed tight on Scott Street still all seem to run uphill, the pounding of fists on tables, red-faced shouting even when agreeing, the setting of jaws and chins in fiery defiance, and the intensity of survivors' scowls.

Real deep down, the sort of appreciation and gratitude and understanding in where you you've been, where you come from, what you're made of what makes you and who you really are

sometimes there are moments of reflecting in the middle of it all in spite of you, when I know without a shadow of a doubt and such clarity

There's something really good and strong, and it runs way down deep inside, and its something nobody can ever touch. Nobody can even come close. Unless its something you have, its something you'll never understand, no matter how you try.

People can take just about everything about you that there is, but if you don't have this to start, its something you will never know.

Keep your California inclination to hollow characterizations,

"no I cannot forget from where it is that I come from I cannot forget the people who love me, yeah I can be myself in this small down and people let me be just what I wanna be" -- John Couger Mellencamp -- who is very "small town like me"

Saturday, June 30, 2007

When you were young...

Recognize this original "Rosa Parks of the Disabled Set" ?

EDIT - Terrific.. (sarcasm)
a long-time friend who's known me on-line and met me long ago off-line as well who I'd never guessed to have a problem with this, amazingly has just asked me who that is a picture of, he thought it was Yoko Ono. He's given me permission to say who he is. Its CharlesR. He's becoming pretty visually impaired himself these days due to age, diabetes and his own vitreous hemorrhages (which quite frankly, are a bitch. I will have to go to U of M for mine which is non diabetic in nature and would be healing, save for my Ehler's Danlos preventing it as well as making me a huge general anesthesia/operation risk).

To me that's a huge compliment to be confused with Yoko and we are the same height, however, dimsighted or not, if even he couldn't tell who that was maybe I'd better clarify:

That's not Yoko Ono.

That's me in 1994 still at the halfway house group-home still getting ready to attend the university which I hadn't yet, and thinking I was 'Rosa Parks of The Disabled Set' (a phrase I used a short while later online in autism chats once I accessed them from the university's internet system) and yes I was dressed like John Lennon at his Madison Square Garden concert (sort've) the idea of being able on the same plane as, being the same or equal or to be like others was a real new one to me and I was working all of this out and so of course I decided naturally to be try to like John Lennon and so I was (or thought I was). I even gave a verbal speech at the DRC at right around that time that went:

"We are in your schools, we are in your jobs, we are in your universities and we are in your world because its our world too. Thank you very much"

I doubt anybody understood a word I said (looking back on it), but at the time I thought they had, and I had glared around the room as I said it, as if I was saying the most profound daring liberating equality invoking meaningful civil rights activist advocacy thing in the world. I was going to change the world too, or so I thought.

as the saying goes:
That was then, this is now.