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Ruffled feathers

19 Sep

I blogged about a public meltdown that Maura had. Shared how I felt. I was honest, and maybe a bit too raw about it.

In return, many people asked “If I was one of those people in the proximity of Maura’s meltdown, well, exactly what should I do to help? How can I help?”

So I blogged again, after sitting on these questions of “How can I help?” by saying “Just ask. It’s really that simple.”

There were three reactions to this. 

The first type of reaction I got was that I was rude or snippy or flippant with my response. “We were just asking you what we could do, and instead, we got this post.”

I re-read my blog post, and don’t feel I was being rude. Maybe blunt? But not rude. I do apologize if I seemed rude, that was never the intent.

The second type of reaction I got was “Yes. This. Spot on. It’s just that simple. Thank you.” Oddly enough – that type of response came from other parents of children with disabilities.

Apparently, I said something that made sense to those of us who deal first-hand with the public meltdown, but seemed rude to those who witness the meltdown.

I am a bit confused by this response. Because usually, I am better at bridging that gap – at least, so I’ve been told. But maybe I wasn’t. Maybe I really sucked at it this time.

Maybe this is just something that only those of us living this lifestyle get, and that it is hard for outsiders to understand.

Except there was a third response.

Just this one. From my friend – who does not have a child with a disability, or is disabled, or works with the disabled. Just a friend. And maybe because of that friendship, she was able to see through the words I wrote to find the point I was making because she’s heard the tales I don’t tell here. Or maybe because I know this friend is the type who really listens to others, even when they aren’t being clear, who works hard to know what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes. But after I posted the blog, she wrote the following to me…

Thank you!! I was actually going to ask you to address this in a post, and I’m so glad you did even if I’m kicking myself for needing it spelled out. Because duh even if I were to ask the same person on different days (or at different times of day) the response would probably be different. You do an amazing job speaking to your experience, and I can’t begin to imagine the patience it requires. I appreciate it so much, I have learned so much from you. Thank you.

So maybe I did say something that made some sense to those who don’t deal with disability every day?

Who knows.

But where does all this leave me now?

To be honest…as much as I blog and seem to share our lives, I am the type who does not open up much. I have been working in therapy to realize that my feelings should be expressed and do matter, despite what the world has told me my whole life on so many levels. But to open up the comments and read that people think I’ve reacted rudely or badly when I’m just expressing how I feel…honestly, it makes me want to close the laptop, and walk away, and never return.

This is why I tend to shy away from offering advice, from telling people what to do. Because, funny enough, I don’t feel qualified. And obviously, from reactions to my post, many people believe I’m unqualified as well.

And there is a voice in my head going “This is why you don’t ask for help. This is why you keep things to yourself. This is why you don’t reach out.”  – because I go about it the wrong way…or at least the voice in my head dubbed “Mean Phoebe” by my therapist tells me all the time.

And the honest truth is, I don’t really expect anyone to step in and offer help.

I don’t look for help. I have spent a lifetime figuring things out on my own because that’s just how I was programmed. Asking for help is interrupting someone else’s more important life.

So in retrospect, no, I am not qualified to tell you how you could help out people having public meltdowns, because I would never ask for help from strangers in a store during one. I would never expect a stranger to go out of their way for the likes of me. Which is why the few times they have, I am blown away by their kindness.

Maybe that’s what I should have said in response to the questions I got. Then no feathers would have been ruffled at least.

These are just my feelings. My thoughts. My points of view in this world, or at least, the reactions to one blog post. This is still our story I’m telling, and maybe I won’t always do a good job at it. Maybe some of you will stop reading it. That’s okay.

But I’m still allowed to tell it.

 

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Photo by Rod Sot on Unsplash

 

 

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We found the worst pet area ever

27 Aug

So last week, in hopes of chasing the eclipse but not being like every other Seattle-ite who headed to Oregon, we road tripped out to Wyoming. We have family in Wyoming, and they happened to also fall in the path of the eclipse, so it was a win-win.

We left the two oldest at home, to their delight, and left Zoey, aka “big dog”, with them. We took tiny dog Sky with us. Car trips are kind of awesome for her because she gets to lay on people the entire time.

So we road trip – just the girls and the husband and the tiny dog. We found a pet-friendly motel made up of individual cabins for a couple nights, where the owner who owned some tiny dogs of her own cooed and cuddled Sky. We stopped for ice cream, where Sky met another of her kind. We got Arby’s, and Miriam fed Sky some chicken. Sky and Miriam took old fashioned photos together in Virginia City, Montana.

Sky was having a great time.

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But Day 3 of the road trip brought us to Wyoming. A place of painted mountains and amazing vistas, and the world’s worst pet area.

We were an hour from our destination when we all had to pee from chugging caffeine for 6 hours. We pull into a rest stop with some trepidation – you don’t road trip through America as often as we have and not know that every rest stop is unique. There’s a beautiful one outside Mt. Vernon, IL. There’s one that I’m certain comes with a man in a hockey mask near Hilo, Hawaii. There’s the ones in Arkansas that are metal toilets and a step up from outhouses that I never use.

This one in Wyoming seemed nice. They made the effort to have lovely lush green grass in the picnic area, there was a nice little playground, it was clean, the bathrooms were individuals, so Maura and I could easily go in together. It was all good.

Except for the pet area.

Now Miriam had started rating pet areas, and realizing they were all kinda crappy (no pun intended). They were all sort of dusty, dry grass areas, to which Princess Sky turned her tiny nose up at. But we’re sticklers for rules, so Miriam dutifully took her tiny dog to the pet areas.

But this one.

Guys, this one looked like Pet Prison. It was two six foot chain link fence areas, with gates. There were boulders and rocks everywhere, with just a couple scrubby bits of grass. They weren’t even that flat.

And there were two birds of prey circling above the pet area.

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“This is a bad place.” Miriam stated.

“Here, just spread your arms and look bigger than them.” I suggested, making a wing flap motion of my own. Okay, not the best motherly advice, especially since I was laughing as I said it, but in my defense, I was hopped up on caffeine and needed to pee. “Just keep the leash on Sky so you can tug her back if a hawk gets her.”

“MOOOM!”

I take Maura and we go to the bathroom, admiring the rest of the rest stop along the way. As we come out, I see a look of desperation on Miriam’s face – because now there are three birds of prey circling above her and her snack-size dog.

“We need to leave this place.” Miriam stated as one bird is fighting with the other above her head, trying to be first in line in case Sky broke free. Which wasn’t happening because at this point, Miriam is holding her tiny dog and tiny dog was not about to leap free.

Though her brain be little, it functions better than most. Sky knew she was a potential meal and was going to stick to the human.

Okay, so it doesn’t help that hours before this, we were driving through Yellowstone, talking about bear encounters – as you do – because they had “Be Bear Aware” signs everywhere and I was like “I AM AWARE! Where are the freaking bears?” and Josh was talking about bear spray, and how we had none, and how I’d probably just throw Sky at the bear before running away screaming*, which led to Miriam going “DAAAAAAAAAAAAAD!” and me saying how it’d be fine, the bear would just look at the tiny dog and ask “What is wrong with those humans?” and Sky would be all “Oh, there is SO much to tell.”

Okay, and maybe the day before that, we were joking that we could “fish” for hawks by opening the moon roof of the car, throw Sky through it on her leash, and see if we could reel in a hawk.**

Okay, and maybe because her grandfather would refer to a tiny dog as “hawk bait”.***

We’re really horrible people. But we truly didn’t expect to come upon a pet prison at a rest stop that doubled as a buffet for all the birds of prey in Wyoming. I mean, what are the odds, really?

*I would never actually throw any pet at a bear. I might shove my husband at it before I took off running though. #honesty

**We would never actually throw anything through the moon roof, especially the tiny dog.

***My fil did actually refer to a former tiny dog as “hawk bait”. But he would fight a hawk to protect his granddaughter’s tiny dog from one.

Sky was never in any danger at any point of our road trip, unless you count excessive spoiling and petting “danger”. But she could definitely tell a bear lots of stories about how weird we are.

 

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Tiny dog, safe at home, back to her “curl up on a fuzzy blanket on the couch with a doll” routine 

 

I’m not a giver, so I try not to take

26 Aug

I don’t ask for help.

Okay, that’s not entirely true. I will, if desperate and can figure out no other solution, ask for help. But only if at proverbial gunpoint. Otherwise, I will figure out how to do things myself. Somehow, I was taught that asking for help was wrong, was weak, was taking. And I should never take.

A couple days ago, another blogger wrote a post – “How to Stop being a Taker” – and I didn’t even make it through the full post title before I was like “Well, I’m good. I never take.”

I never take because it was ingrained in me to do it myself. I also never take because I know the odds of me giving back are low.

This isn’t a healthy attitude. I don’t need my therapist to tell me so. I’ve known it most of my adult life.

The first time I realized it was my freshman year of college, when I was trying to go visit a friend for spring break. I was $50 short in travel money. My friend offered to loan it to me. I said no. I insisted no. I was a bit “Please don’t make me take your money, I don’t know if I can pay you back.”

“OMG Phoebe, just take the damn money.” he said. And then pointed out that if anyone needed money, I was the first to dig through my pockets. When my friend’s grandfather died, I pulled out all my cash to help her get home, trusting that she’d pay me back (which she did.) I could give what I could. But I wouldn’t take.

So my friend forced kindness on me until I relented. He had to remind me that he was doing what I would have done for him. So I took the money.

That wasn’t a light bulb moment where all my ways were changed. 26 years after that moment, I could probably have the same conversation/argument over things as I did then.

I was never the mom-friend who would ask you last minute to watch her kids while she ran an errand. I was not the classroom mom. The idea of volunteering for anything made my stomach churn. Being in someone’s debt was just not how I worked. But I also couldn’t do nothing, so I was the mom who sent in paper plates to every party. I was the mom who dragged four kids everywhere, because I had no other options.

And then I became the mom of the special needs child. The child who I felt I couldn’t leave with people because she was six and in diapers, because she could have a seizure on them.

I was the mom who never asked for help because between the child with special needs and other things, I could never return that help given.

People talk about having villages when you have a child with disabilities. I deliberately moved to the outskirts of the village.

 

 

I didn’t want to be labeled a “taker”.

I’d listen to friends, in awe, as they talked about how so-and-so took their kids so they could do something on their own, like go to the ob/gyn or get their eyes checked. It was amazing to me, that they could easily ask someone else to help them out. I did note that they also were the ones saying “Oh, don’t mind the noise, I’m watching my friend’s kids so she can go to the eye doctor alone.”

They took, but they were able to give back.

I had nothing to give.

I felt I had nothing to give, so I never took. Even when offered. “Do you need anything?” they would ask.

“No, I’m fine.”

Lies. I needed help. I just couldn’t ask for it. Wouldn’t ask for it. Refused it when offered.

Jaysus, no wonder I’m so tired.

Being this neurotic isn’t easy. On top of isolating myself, I’m also the one who when I do allow help in, I spend my time worrying over how I can pay the person back adequately. Because I have to be allowed to pay them back, even if they expected nothing in return.

The weird thing is – I like helping others out. I never expect anything back. I may not give you the shirt off my back, but I will happily throw whatever you need your way.

I’m learning. I’m getting there. Maybe by the time I’m 80, I’ll be better at allowing help. Or at least become wise enough to know that at age 80, I’ve earned that help.

If you’ve read this post and thought “Wow, this is SO me” – take my advice. Take the help offered. It won’t make you weak, or a bad person. Give back where you can – even if it’s just a gift card for coffee or a little bouquet of flowers. Then remind me to do the same.

 

 

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