Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Walking with Sam and Jeni....

Boy, the best laid intentions of mice and men really do go awry way too quickly in my life.

I had been planning to try to reactivate my brain a bit and come back to some regular blogging but every time I think I'm going to do that, something seems to come up that takes my attention elsewhere.

Like today, for example -when I saw something while walking Sam on the first of our daily walks and today, I was able to recruit my neighbor into helping to take care of what I had noticed along our walk down the road for at least the past three days.

In the run-off ditch in the front of a neighbor's house, down the street from my place, I noticed two smallish piles of leaves there -looking sort of like they had been raked there but no evidence elsewhere that any raking had been done recently in their yard. But it wasn't the leaves themselves that caught my eye, but rather what looked a bit strange from the road looking at the leaf pile. I thought I saw something else there and upon looking a bit closer -without alerting Sam to start sniffing around -I realized there was a dead cat laying half covered by the leaf pile!

It kind of looked like one of the cats that had belonged to another neighbor's daughter but not quite like that cat in that this one was a bit on the scruffy side. At first, I thought if might be a stray that has been wandering around this road for the past 2-3 years at least now -since it was abandoned by the family that had it prior to their moving away from here. That cat, which my daughter and the neighbor next door nicknamed "Scruffums" though is all gray, with a very fluffy coat -when he's sort of cleaned up. He goes to several homes along the street where neighbors there often put food out for him and I just saw him a couple days ago, reposing under a vehicle at the end of the row of houses on this road so I know he was still on the loose.

But today, as Sam and I were coming back towards the house, the neighbor across the street from where this cat is located in the leaf pile, happened to come home and pulled his pickup down his drive and I walked down the alley then to talk to him and pointed out the dead cat to him. He thinks perhaps this cat may have been hit by a car or other type vehicle, possibly back during the very snowy times we had here and then, got buried by the snow plows and ended up that way partially covered by the leaves but now visible since the snow has melted off now. (Snow, which by the way, is being predicted for us later today -in mid-April! Makes me wonder if this really is going to be the winter that has no end, EVER!)

But anyway, the end of the dead cat story is that the neighbor I showed the cat to said he would get a garbage bag and scoop up the remains and leaves and get rid of it before it really starts to decay. Not the best ending for a cat story, I know, but the best that can come out of it, I guess.

Moving on to a little other stuff in my life, last week and the week prior to that were more than a bit wacky for me. First off, on Monday, March 31st, my neighbor and good friend for all my life, phoned to ask me if I was planning to attend our monthly meeting the next night of our church women's group. To show how strangely my brain was acting then, my initial response to her question was "What? Already?"

She sort of chided me then as she reminded me that the next day, Tuesday, was April 1st and also, the first Tuesday of the month, which is when our woman's group normally meets! Hmmm. How the heck did that day, and date, roll around so quickly and why was my mind thinking that there was another week yet before our meeting as well as before my next Social Security check would arrive? I remembered I had two appointments scheduled -on for April 3rd and the other, for April 4th -both of which would require me to be sure to have a full tank of gas in my car and due to my rather confused frame of mind, I had been worrying about if I would have enough money in my checking account to be able to fill the tank to make both of those appointments. Also, my friend's little tapping into my wonderland trip, mentally, caused me to then remember that March 31st was my friend's older sister's birthday and then too, April 1st was that lady's husband's birthday too. Two events that I normally would have purchased birthday cards for each of them and hand delivered them to them by the 31st but here it was that date already and me with no cards for either of my good friends! Talk about stuff that was upsetting my mental apple cart, big time, that was doing it for me with just that one phone call that evening.

So the next day, I had to hurry and find two appropriate cards for the birthday couple and drop them off to them. I also hurried up that Tuesday to bake and ice a cake then to take to our group's meeting that night so we could all have a piece of birthday cake to celebrate her birthday a day late but, hey, what the heck. Better late than never, right?

And, as we went into the little restaurant near here where we were having our meeting that evening, there were five of us walking across the parking lot together when it dawned on me that my good friend's sister, the "birthday girl" was not with her and I commented to her that she apparently forgot someone along the way. She looked around and then said "Oh, you mean my sister? Well, she's not coming tonight because their oldest son was taking her and her husband out to a special birthday dinner that evening." Then she realized too that I was carrying a cake and she figured out I had made a cake then for her sister and her husband's birthdays. We laughed about how I had the cake but no true recipient of it being with us but we all had a slice of cake after our meeting and on my way home, I stopped and delivered cake to her sister and her husband -again, a little bit late but there, all the same!

That Friday then -the 4th of April -I had an appointment down outside of Pittsburgh with the surgeon who has been keeping tabs on me since my last surgery 4 years ago this summer. There had been some questions about a potential issue that had surfaced on the PET scan I had last August and this doctor had me have another PET scan back in November as well as one the week prior to my appointment so he could verify if there had been any changes in the spots that had shown up on the last August scan. Thankfully, the last PET scan revealed no growth, no changes so now, I don't have to go back down there until the fall for just a checkup and next spring, will have to have yet another PET scan to keep track of things. The doctor's office is in Mars, PA and because my older daughter, who normally is the one of my kids who has become my regular transporter to the Pittsburgh area, was unable to get off work that day so it ended up I was going to have to drive myself to Pittsburgh. And that, was a big deal in my life as it would mark over 11 years that had gone by since I had driven that far alone! I have a tendency if I am by myself and driving that anything over 50-60 miles often causes me to sort of zone out and want to go to sleep -not a really good thing to have happening when you are behind the wheel, ya know. So to try to be able to keep myself alert, I had an older gentleman who is a good friend of mine and my kids, ride along with me. Someone to talk to and also, who smokes too so I didn't have to worry about offending any of my non-smoking friends on a trip like that! And, having him riding shotgun with me proved to work quite well as we talked, laughed and yes, filled the car with cigarette aroma too but I had no problems that way then of felling like I was going to fall asleep and that was what I had hoped would take place. So it was successful in that aspect then, wasn't it?

This past Sunday was the first that I wasn't present to help celebrate the birthday of my younger grandson though. Kurtis had his little party down in Middletown this year with his sister, Mom, her boyfriend, his two girls and his parents too and I was here as there's no way I could have managed a run down there, never having been to their house before and try to find my way down and back in one day's time frame. But Mandy said she had baked him a cake and he wanted her to decorate it somehow with three steam stacks on it because his current obsession is talking and learning anything and everything he can about Three-Mile Island and the steam stacks that are within sight of where they live of that nuclear power plant that had the first big major emergency back in the late 70s with a nuclear meltdown. When Mandy and the kids had been up here the week before, the first thing Kurtis said upon entering the house was to ask me if I knew about Three-Mile Island and what happened there.

This child absolutely amazes me! I know I've said that before on numerous occasions but it is the absolute truth about him and also, his sister, Miss Maya. Both of them do some really awesome things for children in their respective age ranges and never ceases to amaze me where their interests are and how well they can learn many things about those things too! Both kids are advancing in school quite well these days -which is a big relief not just to their Mom but also to me as we were both very concerned how things would go for the kids when they left here and moved to the Harrisburg area.

Now, this coming weekend is Easter and I'm very happy that Mandy and the kids will be coming up here to celebrate this with me. Hopefully, all will go well and maybe the other two kids -Carrie and her son, Alex and my son, Clate and his girlfriend, will all be able to be here Sunday afternoon and we can have an Easter dinner together as a family along with a little bit of a belated celebration of daughter Carrie's birthday and Kurt's then at that time too.

 And now, time for me to get myself organized to start doing Avon deliveries this week and hopefully get enough orders to make a little profit this campaign for a change! Sadly, the last two campaigns were not the least bit profitable for me and let's face it, I can't afford to have campaigns like that, for sure! So wish me luck that the majority of my customers like the current book and order a lot of things this time from it too!



Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Let the Blue Become You!

Today is a very special day. Did you know that?

Perhaps you're thinking well, every day is a very special day and yes, that is true. But today -well today is extra special because it is "Turn the World Blue Day" as it is World Autism Recognition time today!

And, those of you who have been around my blog for a long time now, know why I find this day to be even more special. If there's anyone new to my blog here visiting, I will tell you why this day is so extra special to me.

I have three beautiful grandchildren! My oldest grandchild -now age 16 -is 6 foot 4 inches tall, built like a defensive tackle, smart, sweet, handsome and just plain wonderful! My only granddaughter will be 11 in October and a beautiful little girl she is -looks so much like her aunt, my older daughter, and acts a whole lot like her too much of the time. She's a "DIVA" through and through! A good student in school, she also love dancing and gymnastics and when she visits at my house, you can frequently find her parked at the computer, watching all kinds of videos of dances, dancers and gymnasts and she studies them, then tries to imitate their moves. Sometimes, she does a great job with her attempts to emulate them and sometimes, well -she just keeps watching and trying. Her little brother, who will be 8 this month (on the 13th) is just a total little sweetheart! He too does fairly well academically speaking in school. His reading skills are good and keep improving all the time as he does love to read. Math is not his forte most of the time and I like to think that's genetic from me as I was okay with math but never all that great. But his best and most favorite subject is science and that, he excels at -probably because he is a very curious child and a walking question box at almost all times!

Okay you're thinking, so you have three fantastic grandkids and yes, indeed I do. But two of those grandchildren have something about them that many people consider to be a hardship, a difficult road for them and also, for anyone who is responsible to help them make their way in life then too.

My granddaughter and her little brother, you see, both have autism!

When Maya was a baby, about 7-8 months old, my older daughter and I began to notice some things she did, things she also DIDN'T do too that one normally expects from a baby that age. Mainly that she rarely made good eye contact with us. There were many times from then on that it often seemed that she had a hearing problem as she often appeared to be totally ignoring people when they talked to her. That often becomes something we, as parents or grandparents experience with older children -school age and especially teenagers, that we talk and they totally ignore us! But in small children, is not usually the norm as it appeared to be with her.

Long before she had her first hearing test, I conducted a non-scientific experiment of my own with her and her ability to hear. She always loved watching virtually anything on the tv set and one day, she was sitting in her playpen, busy playing with something there and the tv was not on at the time. I picked up the remote control and turned the tv on. Doing that, the remote makes a very, very faint clicking sound and as soon as that click was heard, Miss Maya was up, standing in the playpen, looking at the tv and waiting for the picture and sound to appear. Yes, that was my way of determining that no, this child did not have a hearing problem!

By the time she began walking, other things became noticeable about her behavior. She rarely really "played" with the toys she had and instead, would often just run back and forth from the living room to the kitchen and back again, occasionally she might see something -a tiny piece of paper or maybe a bit of thread -things that children don't normally select as playthings -and she would then carry that item around all over with her.

But at about 18 months, on a visit one day with her mother and the baby to the pediatrician, I mentioned some of her behaviors and that she rarely seemed to pay attention to what we said to her. Finally, that time, the doctor ordered a hearing test and at the same time, set up an appointment to have Maya evaluated by a team of therapists. The results of that initial evaluation was very unsettling because they rated her as being very developmentally delayed.

How could this be happening was my initial take on this? The child, so perfect in every way, in appearance and yet, something just wasn't right there either. Her mother -my younger daughter -was dissolving in tears more often than not out of sheer terror in her mind about her child.

The result of that evaluation though turned our lives around in that the therapists immediately put a plan into action to have a therapist come to the house and work with Maya on behaviors and another therapist was assigned to also come to the house and do speech therapy with her too.

Thus began a long-term affiliation with a therapist named "Kerri" and another one named "Mandy" -which coincidentally, my older daughter's name is Carrie and my younger daughter's name (used by me) is "Mandy!" Neat, huh?

Those two therapists were later joined by a fantastic lady -Brenda -who we nicknamed the "Toy Lady" because every Tuesday morning she would come to the house and bring some new toy selected for Maya, show it to her, how to "play" with it and then, on Thursday morning, she would return to see how Maya had responded to each toy she received then too! Fantastic the toys that she was given and before long, we had a huge array of more toys than we really knew what to do with! Oh and not just toys, but also from time to time, she would be given books too! This is/was an awesome program developed by the agency we were working with that provided the therapists who worked with Maya too.

It was a long road but with therapy at least twice a week, plus the Toy Lady visit, by the following February, Maya said her first word -"Two." We had been working and working with her, asking her how old are you and then, telling her "Two." Initially, her attempt at the word sound like she was saying "Chew" but we knew it was her pronunciation of her age!

That's what started the ball rolling to get help for my granddaughter. As I said above, she will be 11 this October and is doing remarkably well. I'm not going to post anymore today about our journey and the changes that took place in our household due to what many people thought of as a tragic event -a diagnosis of Autism -because there is so much more of this story to tell.

But, April being Autism Awareness month, I'm going to strive to continue -through the good points and some of the rough ones too -to help others become aware of what can happen with therapy and children with Autism.

It doesn't have to be a tragedy in anyone's life if you look at things from a totally different perspective. I am so grateful today that Maya had this diagnosis and the treatment because for me, it changed me drastically.

It gave me something I had been missing in my life -PATIENCE!

Not enough of it, for sure, but a lot more than I had before and still keep on trying to add more patience into my mode of operation day by day!

Stay tuned! And have a beautiful but very BLUE day!