Traditions New

 

Three years ago we left for vacation early on Christmas morning.

Two years ago was the very first time in my life I believe, that I did not have to go anywhere on Christmas Day.

Back, many years ago when I was single and working in a convalescent home, I would always volunteer to work on Christmas Day firstly because I absolutely LOVED the clients which turned out to be a big reason why I decided going to school for nursing would not be for me – I just got FAR too attached to the patients/clients.  Secondly because I could avoid the whole Christmas dinner with relatives and just show up later, after work.

Then I became a mother and still, staying home never seemed to be an option. DC had little time to “play” (I use the word, play loosely) or use his gifts before we had to leave and go somewhere for dinner.

We go to my mother’s on Christmas Eve, a tradition she started many years ago for the same reasons – too much to do on Christmas Day. He gets his Grandma fix. We have dinner. We open presents. He gets to see his “Fam-ill-lee”, which he loves. So he is not missing out on any of the regular Christmas festivities.

I believe it may have been the vacation three years ago that finally allowed us to break the Christmas Day tradition for the following year and, this year became the second Christmas that we just stayed home. DC was happy. I was happy. Doug who is not really a “holiday guy” and is really only in it for the food, was also happy.

DC had time to look at and play with all of his loot. He had time to just “chill out” (his latest phrase) and like the year before, we went out for Chinese food at night for dinner. We are lucky that there happens to be a pretty good sit-down Chinese restaurant about 5 minutes away, in the next town.

Chinese Food Is a Newer Development in DC-land: We all know that DC is a picky eater. There are only a handful of items he will eat in a restaurant. You see, eating out is supposed to be fun, so yes, he will eat a salad at home, but don’t ask him to eat one in a restaurant. He will eat vegetables at home, but vegetables are not restaurant foods, so just forget it. He will eat pasta at home (another newer development) but he is not happy about it and will NEVER eat it anywhere else – correction: he did twice but both times he was at a party and there were no other options.

Restaurant food is:

Cheeseburger and french fries

Wings

Pizza

Garlic Bread

Chicken Tenders

BREAD

His limited menu, limits our dining out choices, especially on Christmas night when almost all one can find open are Chinese restaurants.

About a year ago, we ordered takeout and the only thing that DC would eat on a Chinese food menu was the wings, so that is what he ordered. I ordered the sweet and sour shrimp. DC saw it. It was battered and fried, so he wanted to try it. I warned him that there was shrimp inside, but it was battered and fried so he was not going to pass it up.

He liked it.

He came back for more.

We determined that this was not just a fluke when the next time we ordered takeout he ordered the wings and again took half of my ‘Sweet Sire Shimp‘.

So now our new Christmas tradition of Chinese food is something he looks forward to and not something we have to research and figure out what we can talk him into.

We went…..

There was no heat….

It was okay though….

We, along with the 3 other tables of people, ate with our coats on…

DC, in his short sleeve shirt (we just recently transitioned from his fall coat to his heavy winter coat, so the transition from short to long sleeves will have to wait a bit) did not want to wear his coat. One does not wear a coat while eating in a restaurant.

Normally I would try to avoid this argument, but IT WAS TOO COLD not to make him wear it.

He got over it when I told him he could wear it over his shoulders like a cape.

 

We ordered a Pu-Pu Platter, which he thought hilarious.

He ate the wings.

We had the rest.

He ordered his “Sweet Sire Shimp

 

Let’s just say, normally when DC is done eating – and he eats very fast – he is done. Keeping him occupied while Doug and I finish is not always easy. He has his book, but that only lasts so long.

Believe it or not, we stayed, I am guessing close to an hour after he was finished talking to the people in the booth behind us – which is what one does in an almost completely empty restaurant. He was totally included in the conversation and seemed to be enjoying it. He never once asked to leave.

They were visiting from the warmth of Arizona and staying in a hotel so unlike us who planned to be there,  I imagine that this restaurant was one of the very few options open for them.

We had a good time and there were hugs all around when it was time to leave.

It just goes to show that you do not always have to do what you have always done, just because you have always done it or are expected to. You can make your own holiday traditions and have a good time doing it.

 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from DC, Me and Doug too!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We are allowed to Vent sometimes…

I wrote this post a few months back but due to the string of crabby posts I had published around that same time, I decided to sit on it for awhile…..

Just a few days ago I was involved in a couple of discussions that were not about this topic exactly,  but sort of around the same areas of frustration, I remembered this post and have updated it to include the other topics of discussion….

I am also realizing that this is what is becoming my annual, before the holidays crabby post.

I do want to be very clear that I am in no way complaining about my child. I love him more than life itself and there is nothing I would not do for him. This has little or nothing to do with him directly, just the people around us (all of us).

(updated portions are in italic)


I was reading a face book status recently written by the mother of an autistic adult son. The post was about a certain event that her son was planning for. He was planning out everything everyone was going to do for him and give him, while never giving a thought about doing one thing for his mother (the poster).

She was venting…. just venting.

Now… parents of Neurotypical children seem to be allowed to, and quite often do vent, and I have read much worse from some of those parents. For some reason, we are not.

When we do, one or more of these things happens:

1. we get a truckload of advice

2. we are made to feel as if we should somehow be above complaining

or

3. we have people feeling the need to explain autism to us.

The comments she was receiving came mostly from group number 3 and I really started to feel bad for her.

“You know he has autism”

“That’s what autism is like”

“Being self-centered can be a trait in autistics”

News flash….. we know this. Just because we know this does not mean we do not still have our feelings hurt from time to time. We are still human.

DC is a pretty lovable guy and I do know that he loves me. Not being from a very affectionate family, except when we were forced to hug and kiss every single person who came to visit or we went to visit (children should never be forced to hug and/or kiss ANYONE if they are not comfortable doing so – my opinion only), I am sure I over-compensated for that with DC and some of his “cuddliness” is learned behavior – not all, but some. I also know that in his mind, everything is about him. I am not complaining at all, I know this. This does not mean that I don’t get my feelings hurt when his Dad shows up and it’s like the heavens have opened. Or when I know he is only excited about my birthday (that comes right before his) because HE is going to get to go out to dinner.

Sure, there are times when he goes out of his way to do something nice for me out of the blue, like bringing me coffee (sometimes out of the sink, but he tries) but the reality is that yes, he knows he is doing something nice, but he also knows he is going to be praised for it. He does it for the praise and I am his biggest enabler in that area (She says after buying and just finishing wrapping a gift to myself from DC, so he can be excited and praised for giving me a gift on Christmas. Do not worry, he is a man and practiced at the art of taking credit for anything given or sent with his name attached, whether he knows about it or not.). Being raised in negativity, I do tend to go out of my way to praise him for every little thing and I do love to see him happy. I am thankful that he does want to do nice things for me and others, no matter the motivation behind it. After all of this time and understanding everything I have learned and understand about him over these past 26 years, I still can have my feelings hurt. I know it is not his fault and I am sure that the face book status poster knows that as well, but sometimes we just need to vent – just like everyone else…

Sometimes we get our feelings hurt too – just like everyone else and there should be no shame or guilt in that…

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I was recently involved in an “All kids do that” discussion. “All kids do that” is a pet peeve of many parents of autistic children and adults. It tells us that you believe we are exaggerating their behaviors or difficulties or worse….. feeding into them or creating them.

My reply: (edited because many of my comments written on my phone are strewn with typos and could be said a bit better if in front of a computer with time to think)

I think that much of the problem comes from it being very difficult to explain our children to people (especially when they are not listening due to their own preconceived notions). Saying that he can’t stay alone or he is impulsive does not give the full/true picture. Because we cannot stand there and give 1000 examples to make them understand – they just will not get it. This is a big reason why I continued to blog. Lots of Stories to give a snapshot of how his mind works. Unfortunately the people who might benefit from understanding how his mind works probably do not read Autism blogs. Believe it or not, I get the same response “all kids do that” and I have to remind them that he is 26 and all kids or adults do not do that.

(Please listen to Val’s video that came out of the same conversation: THE BLAME GAME – WHY WE BLAME OURSELVES BUT YOU SHOULDN’T (VIDEO) )

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Coming in on the heels of  “All kids do that” for me is “All parents have to do that”

I have been doing this parenting thing a long time now and I have come to realize that some events and gatherings are just not worth it. Most times, DC really could not care less if we go or not. There are a few exceptions to this and we do always attend those gatherings. 

When I try to explain that these events are not enjoyable for me (and as I said, he does not care if we go or not) because I have to watch him every minute – not because he will do something horrible but because he is not always aware of his surroundings and I have to make sure he does not bulldoze over a smaller person or child. He gets excited and wants to hug everyone. He does know to ask permission first, but there are times when he just gets too excited to remember to ask. Some people do not like to be hugged. He is a big guy and a bear hug from him can make you feel as if you are being crushed. I have to watch that he does not stick his hands in the food and a hundred other things.

“All parents have to do that”

Really? 

Do all parents get relegated to the basement when it is announced that all of the children have to go downstairs? The other children’s parents could let their children play in the basement without them, but I could not do that. I still could not do that today.

After 2 1/2 hours (I know this due to the number of times we watched the Winnie the Pooh video) in the basement while all of the adults were either upstairs or outside playing football – I had to wonder why we felt we had to attend. I could have been watching Winnie the Pooh in the comfort of my own home. How was this enjoyable?

Do all parents have to make sure their 26 year old child is in their line of sight at all times?

Do all parents have to bring extra gifts for their child to open so while everyone else is opening “just what I wanted” gifts, he does not end up with just an Autism Awareness Bag (just a bag – a shopping bag) or a mini-sharpie on a key chain or one of those little lunch boxes that he knows come filled with candy, without the candy? 

Your child tries numerous times to say hello to a child on the other side of the room. She just stares at him as if she is terrified, and her father, instead of asking her to answer him, puts his arm around her as if he was protecting her from this horribly scary person who is saying hello from across the room. Do all parents have to lie to their child by telling him she answered but he just did not hear her, so he won’t have his feeling hurt?

Don’t get me wrong; DC is not sheltered. He does many things and goes many places, but I have learned over the years that these types of gatherings are just not fun for anyone.

While we are on the subject:

If your child is an adult…..

Do you have to look for a babysitter if or when you want to actually go out without your child? I do.

Can you just run to the store whenever you need to? I can’t. (I could be there and back by the time I round him up and get him out of the house)

Can you just relax at the pool like everyone else while your adult child swims? I can’t.

Do you have to watch your child while he eats so he does not choke? I do.

Do you have to stand outside the rest room while your child is using it because 1. you don’t know who else might be in there and 2. in case he has a seizure? I do.

Again, I am in no way complaining about my child or our life, but hearing “all parents have to do that” just sends me over the edge. All parents do have to do that…. for a time, not forever. I do not have a problem doing this forever, I just do not want to have to explain myself to anyone anymore.

So, yes by all means invite us. If we can make it, we certainly will. If we do attend, please refrain from the advice, the guilt or the lectures about everything we are doing wrong and how you can do it better.

If we decline; “all kids do that” or “all parents have to do that” is not the road to take to try to change our mind.

Wishing you all a Happy and Anxiety Free Holiday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Holiday Reruns – Lessons from Santa

train s

December, is the time for reruns. I love reruns, especially holiday reruns. The following is a post from December 2014 about the important lesson DC and BB learned while riding the Santa Train.

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Lessons learned on the “Santa Train” – 2014

train

(Code word of the day: “Supplement”)

As parents, we all come to the ‘Questioning the Existence of Santa’ crossroad sooner or later. It is a sad milestone. It begins to be difficult for them to understand and believe in something that they can not see. Sure we see Santa and his helpers quite often during the months before Christmas, but never during his Christmas Eve deliveries. This causes our children to question his existence. Why can’t they see him? Why must they be asleep? As I explained to DC, Santa has a job to do. If he took the time to stop and visit with the children in every house he delivered gifts to, even with his magic, he would never be able to finish in time to get back to the North Pole to celebrate Christmas with Mrs. Claus and the elves.

It took DC many years to understand Santa. He knew he would receive gifts, but the whole idea of Santa was not something that could be understood easily. His not understanding, did not stop Santa from leaving him gifts.

When it finally clicked and he did finally get it, he was all in! Now that he does understand, he would never and will never question his existence.

The one problem was, DC ‘s Christmas requests have always been small (in size) gifts. Santa could very well bring him 20 DVD’s, but the pile of gifts (visually) would be very small. DC doesn’t understand cost/size vs. number of gifts. He expects a very big pile of gifts. So, over the years I would always “supplement” the Santa pile with gifts of my own.

Being a single mother for more than 20 years now, I am the sole “supplement-or” (yes, I know that is not a word) of DC’s gifts. Which means I not only “add” to what Santa brings just to make the pile look more exciting for DC, but I also, of course, have to buy additional gifts from ‘Mom’. This gets to be a little bit overwhelming for me, not only in cost, but in trying to come up with other gifts ideas to make that “pile” he needs to see.

Now that DC is an adult, and the items he asks for are smaller still, it is becoming harder and harder to “supplement” Santa’s  gifts, to make that Christmas gift pile”,  I did finally have to confess to him that some parents, with adult children, have to help Santa out a little bit. Santa has so many little children to deliver packages to on Christmas Eve, that it is hard for him to get to everyone. So now that the is an adult, Santa only delivers his stocking and the rest of the gifts in his pile are from Mom. Santa always did a pretty good job with his stocking, by the way. He was fine with this. As long as Santa is coming, even just to bring a stocking, all is well.

Coincidentally, the morning I read the post from Autism-Mom, was the day that DC, his best friend, BB, BB’s Dad, Doug and I were going to take a ride on the Santa train.

Earlier this week, BB had just been told by one of his other friends that he was too old and should not still believe in Santa. He was upset by this, but BB knew better. He knew he was correct in believing.

Both DC and BB were very excited about riding the train. They always have the best time when they are together anyway.

stst2

Santa boarded the train a few minutes into our trip. He received more hugs that he expected, I imagine.

BB mentioned to Santa, what his friend had said to him that week. Santa took a little bit of time to talk about it with BB and DC.

(This video below is very poor quality – it was dark on the Santa train, but you can hear some the conversation and Santa’s advice to BB)

“Those who don’t believe, well they are the one’s that are missing out” ~ Santa Claus

So there you have it, straight from Santa’s mouth. BB felt much better. He knew it before but now he really knows that he was right all along…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That year we weren’t home for Christmas..

 

The holiday season is here and I will admit to having a bit of a Love/Hate relationship with holidays in general. I want to love them, I do, it just does not always work out that way.  I have reached the age where I should be able to place a 2 or 3 foot silver Christmas tree on a table somewhere and have that be the end of it, but I may never achieve that particular rite of passage because of course, DC loves the holidays.

I am glad he does and watching his excitement does help me get more in the spirit of things (that and watching too many Hallmark Christmas movies).

He is excited, so I am excited for him.

A few years ago we decided to move our then regularly scheduled, first week of January vacation to the week of Christmas just to avoid all of the holiday hoopla.

Did we choose a “Christmassy” destination like those found in the Hallmark movies?

No.

We chose Disney because nothing else could take the confusion out of or help soften the blow of a “different” Christmas than another trip to Disney.

I was still worried that this would not be Christmas in DC’s eyes because Florida is really not the place that comes to mind when one thinks Christmas.

And then I worried about the gifts…

From 2014:

The Christmas Vacation Dilemma

A few days before Christmas, I read a post from another favorite blogger of mine, Mother O’ Jim, titled “When Delaying is Enhancing…” . The blog was about her son’s Christmas anxiety over a gift he knew he was going to receive (give it a read if you have a minute) and the steps taken to minimize his anxiety.

While I was reading this post I was thinking about DC. Although he does get very excited and anxious around Christmas-time, reminding me many times everyday that “Christmas is coming soon” – he does not seem to get as anxious as Jim from the blog.

I was a little bit concerned about this Christmas though. Everything about this holiday season seemed to be different. Thanksgiving is normally spent at a restaurant (the same restaurant) with DC, Doug, my brother and sister-in-law and at times, my niece. This year, my niece had moved out of state a few months earlier and Doug was away on a cruise with his sister and his father. The restaurant even seemed to be different, more crowded and much less organized.

DC’s Dad decided to go to Florida for an undetermined amount of time. He left in mid-November. He would not be here around Christmas for DC and for the first time ever, we decided to take our vacation a few weeks earlier than usual and were scheduled to leave Christmas morning. We had to leave the house by 8:30 in the morning.

DC does understand that now that he is an adult, Santa only brings his stocking. The rest of the gifts are from me (Mom). But, would he understand when he woke up on Christmas morning to only a stocking, even if he received the same big pile of gifts the night before? I explained this to him over and over again and he said he understood. This NEVER means that he really understands.

After reading the blog I spoke of earlier, I got a little bit more anxious about it. Jim was happy to get his gift early as would DC, but I know in his head, this would not – even if he agreed that it would – eliminate the expectation of the Christmas morning pile of gifts. I know this from the many, many times I have given him choices to do “this” or have “this” now instead of later or instead of doing or having something different. He agrees but then still expects whatever he traded away.

I realized that I would have to do more than explain it to him over and over again. I thought about showing him pictures, but then I realized that it would make more sense to him and he would not think he’s missing out if he saw the same pile of gifts just being given at a different time.

So I took a photo of our tree and another of the bookcase where Santa usually leaves his stocking and I usually leave his surprise gifts. Then I cut out photos of presents that I could move from one place to the other so he could see that he would be getting the same amount of gifts, just earlier than usual.

(These photos are not of our tree. The originals were terrible. It seems that every time I need to print – the ink just about gone)

Normally after opening gifts at my mother’s, we come home and DC opens the gifts that are already under the tree. There is usually only a few because he knows he’ll be receiving Mom’s hidden gifts in the morning with his stocking from Santa.

normalxmaseve

Gifts from Mom on Christmas Eve

More gifts from Mom and Stocking from Santa on Christmas morning

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More Gifts From Mom and a Stocking from Santa

I had him move the gifts himself, from Christmas morning to Christmas Eve.

vacaxmaseve

Christmas Eve – ALL of Mom’s Gifts

So…..Christmas morning would be just Santa.

vacaxmasday

(Santa would surprise him with another stocking at the hotel when we arrived, but he was not aware of this yet)

We did this every day until I was as sure as I could be that he understood that he was getting the same amount of gifts… just earlier.

Still I was a little bit nervous about Christmas morning….

He was up very early as usual – this was fine since we had to leave early.
He saw the stocking filled with everything he’d asked Santa for. He was happy, maybe not as excited as he usually is, but he wasn’t disappointed – that had been my biggest concern.

There was enough time to use and play with everything in the stocking and enough time to watch the entire Peter Pan Live DVD he’d asked for.
He never made it through the 3 hour version when it was live on TV, but without commercials, it was only an hour and a half!
I am still not a fan….but this time around, DC really enjoyed it.

As DC would say, “Phew, I was very nervous about this!”

Fortunately, it worked out well and he had a Merry Christmas!

As for me, I am still in search of that Hallmark-like Christmas Town and that 3 foot silver tree remains a dream.

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This is a Finish the Sentence Friday post:

Finish the Sentence Friday is a link-up where writers and bloggers come together to share their themselves with a particular sentence. This week’s prompt – “The holiday season is coming, and…”

Visit the link at Finding Ninee to read more FTSF posts.

It’s Thanksgiving..

 

DC has been counting the days waiting for Thanksgiving to arrive and just know that he would never imagine keeping me out of the loop on this…… daily/hourly/every few minutes.

I do have to say that his ‘Thanksgiving’ pronunciation has improved over the past year but “firsday’ is still ‘firsday’

I am not really sure why he looks forward to this holiday so much. He will eat turkey (preferably with bones) but other than that, there is really nothing else “Thanksgivingy” that he will eat.

Turkey and bread. That is about the extent of it and honestly if there are no bones (legs or wings) to be had, the bread is really the main event. He will eat the turkey but he is not very excited about it.

He does look forward to seeing his aunt and uncle. He enjoys staying in a hotel.

And there’s dessert. We can’t forget the dessert.

Or the bread..

Happy a Happy Holiday!

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Happy Thanksgiving!

(November 2015)

Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving…..

Someone I know is looking very forward to a turkey leg –

or “Chicken with bones and sprinkles”

-although I’m sure the wings will do in a pinch.

It’s all about the bones.

But bones aside,  right now he would just like to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving!

 

“I Love you, Mom” (Just a little Thanksgiving Quickie)

(November 2013)

DC flashing the I Love you Sign as he does almost anytime he walks by me.

DC flashing the I Love you Sign as he does almost anytime he walks by me.

Who would not be thankful for this wonderful child who will just flash me the “I Love You” sign, just because he happens to be walking by or just randomly peek around the corner to say “I love you, Mom”.

Happy Thanksgiving…….

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Autism in the Old Days: The Spectrum, Cures and Treatments

 

(This post and it’s counterpart “Autism in the Old Days: Diagnosis via St. Elsewhere” are written strictly as a remembrance and as a comparison about how times have changed and how much in the dark we were as parents back when DC was diagnosed. It is about all of the things we did not know and how differently things are handled today. But over and above all of that it is about the slow process to the realization of not necessarily having to follow every direction laid out in front of us, just because the presenters, be it doctors, teachers or therapists,  are supposed to be the ones that knew better. Having to figure out for ourselves that the way things were presented and taught to our children and us, as parents, was not always the best way to go about things.)

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Back in the “Olden Days” (when we were all walking uphill in the snow to AND from school) when DC was diagnosed (the early 90’s) there was no internet to speak of. There was little information about autism readily available to parents. Yes, there were a few books that I’m sure every parent owned, but really not much else. We had to depend on our doctors and the school system.

One of the first books that I read was a book called “Let me hear your voice”. I remember that even though it was a book about “One family’s ‘triumph’ over autism”, it did not offer a lot of hope. Their child was diagnosed early; at one year of age. They had the resources to provide in home intensive behavior training, something that I would never be able to do.

As I mentioned in my last “Autism in the Old Days” post, DC was not officially diagnosed until he was 5, not for lack of trying, so the other theory that was in wide circulation at the time was that before the age of 3, a child’s brain could be retrained. If you missed that window, it was too late. I missed that window, again not for lack of trying.

I remember when DC was about 6 or 7, I was going on vacation – the first in years. He was going to spend the week with his Dad. I was anxious enough about that – not that I did not trust his Dad, but because I had not been away from him for longer than one of his overnight visits to his Dad’s – ever. But I also remembered that book. I remembered how the author went away on a four-day business trip and her child did not know her when she came home. I had to be talked into going by many, many people and still I really did not want to. I went and of course he knew me when I got home and all of that worry was for nothing. But this is what happens when you have to depend on little bits of information and are pretty much on your own trying to figure things out.

Back in the “Olden Days” there was the Lovaas Method. Yes, I had that book as well. Now-a-Days it is known as ABA. Again, this behavior training had not made its way into the school system and, like in “Let me hear your voice”, most folks that used this method had the resources to do this at home, 40 hours per week. I was a little bit leery about the whole thing. I thought a lot of it was harsh and really just cherry-picked a few ideas here and there from the book. (This is in no way an opinion or a judgement about ABA. I know that it has evolved over the years and is probably nothing like the original offering). It was quite a few years after DC left early intervention that the school system trained staff and designated a classroom to ABA.

Back in the “Olden Days” there was no spectrum, that we knew about anyway. Autism was Tommy Westphall, Rain Man and Bernard Rimland and his son (Autism Research Institute)  We knew about no one or nothing else.  These, our only examples of Autism, also did not offer parents much hope.

In my quest for information I remember attending a few seminars early on. One in particular given by a woman who spent many years as a Special Education teacher. A woman who I had met in a sign language class, who worked with autistic children, recommended this particular seminar and attended as well. The seminar was supposed to be about the progress that was made by many of her students over the years.  It certainly was not. I recall one man standing up and saying “You are not offering us very much hope here!” and she was not. It was all just gloom and doom, so much so that the woman who recommended it, apologized profusely to me afterwards.

That was the last seminar that I ever attended.

Now-a-days we are bombarded with “cures” and causes on a daily basis. Back then, if something hit the news, it was a big deal and please remember that we were programmed to believe that there was really no hope and that we were supposed to be looking for a cure.

In 1998 came the “Break through” in the treatment of Autism. One mother brought her son in for gastric/digestive testing. Secretin was administered as part of the test. Internet was now available but still not widely used as it is today. I don’t believe I even had email until 1998, never mind being able to figure out the rest of the internet.

“Media reports of an individual child’s dramatic improvement after a single dose of the hormone secretin administered during a gastrointestinal (GI) procedure (Beck and Beck 1998) appeared on television and the internet.” 

They were touting a cure. I did not even hear about this until I began receiving phone calls from friends, family and almost complete strangers. I have to admit that although we were still being programmed that a cure was the only thing we should be looking for, I was a little bit afraid.

I do not believe I have ever said this to anyone other than Sandy, my boss at the time, who made the mistake of asking about it and then had to listen and watch me bawl my eyes out because I felt guilty that I was afraid of this. What if it was real? How could I not have him treated? What if after he was treated and “cured”, I no longer had the same child? I felt guilty and felt selfish for even thinking those thoughts.

That being said, and I do realize that I have said it to the point where I should just make it my blog header:

My feeling of never wanting to change him has not changed, but he is older now and I worry about the future every single day.

If I haven’t said it a hundred times, then let this be the hundredth; if I were to live forever, I would not change a thing about my son. He’s happy almost all of the time. He loves his life. He is in his own little happy world, but he won’t always be able to live in his own world, he will someday have to live in the real world. Then what?”

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Even with all that DC has accomplished over the years, the bottom line is, he will never be able to live on his own without full support. He will never be able to take care of himself. He does not understand safety. He does not understand many many things. He has no siblings and will long out live all of us. He will at some point have to live in some sort of group home type environment with strangers and no one to look out for him. Dependent on strangers. At the mercy of strangers.

 

It was a confusing time for many of us. Now-a-Days, when something like that happens and we hardly blink an eye…

DC accomplished far more than I ever anticipated he would, despite the “no hope scenarios” we were offered way back then. Much of his accomplishments came when I got to the point when I stopped reading and listening to the way it is supposed to be done and did what I thought was best. We all hit that point eventually.

I had to learn on my own, to choose my battles and understand that he does not HAVE to learn to do everything that other children his age can do.

If he can not learn to ride a bike (and why the hell was that so important at one time?) then he can not learn to ride a bike. He has an adult trike and he is fine with that.

If he can not learn to tie his shoes, they sell Velcro now.

This is not to say I gave up trying to teach him things. It’s just that I let go of the things that are really not important. I let go of the mindset that he has to be like every one else a long time ago.

Because he doesn’t….

*******

The therapies and theories written about in this post should in no way be considered as recommendations or as proven theories.  Like today, new theories and treatments come along every day (we had much less of it due to the lack of internet) but this does not mean that any of them are tested of proven. This post is about DC and I and what was going on around us at the time regarding autism.

******

Next Installment: Autism in the Old Days: Spinning and Stimming 

 

 

 

 

 

Revisiting “Feeling Chastised”

The following was written a few years back. It was written more about the discourse  within the autism community and not about autism awareness or acceptance. In actuality, I suppose it could be looked at as a piece supporting  the awareness, acceptance and respecting the differences in the ways parents view autism. There is far too much hostility.

I am re-posting now, in this, the month of April. With all of the added awareness and supposed acceptance that has taken place over the last few years, really not too much has changed in this, our little corner of the world, or in my friend’s corner of the world. Not very much at all.

If anything; things have become more difficult….

Dear Abby – Feeling Chastised in New England

Let's all celebrate

Let me just begin by saying that since I began writing this blog I have had the pleasure of meeting a few Autistic Adults.  They are amazing individuals that do a great deal to raise awareness about autism. I “speak” with one in particular often enough to consider him a friend. He is a wonderful human being and it makes my day to “talk” with him or just read his posts. He is truly an inspiration to parents of children with autism, other teens and adults with autism. But above all that, he is a glowing example of the good things that can be found in today’s young adults in general. I don’t think of him as having autism, I think of him as my friend, plain and simple. I’m honored to have him as my friend.

My son’s autism or level of autism  is not like my new friends’. Autism affects each person differently.  Therefore, parents should not be made to feel inferior or chastised for their own beliefs. Everyone is different, everyone. There is no right or wrong when it comes to autism, just a lot of people arguing with each other, it seems.

Today I received this private message on my face book page from a friend of mine who is pretty much in the same boat as I am “level-wise”.

The fact that she did not feel comfortable posting it publicly, speaks volumes about the environment we find ourselves in with the hostility that she (and I) knew would have ensued had she posted it publicly.

(The following message is used with permission. The names have been changed to protect the innocent)

Dear Abby (Vickie)…I think I’m missing something. Why is it wrong to feel like I’ve lost something in having an Autistic son? Why are we supposed to not want a “cure” or something that helps them handle this world we live in a little better? I look at the video of Bob from birth to 18 months and there were signs, but he was still there. It was June of 1996 – he was 18 months old – all of a sudden he disappeared. He is lost to me. He will never have a normal life. He will constantly need care and supervision. There are many people that are on the much higher functioning side of the spectrum that can navigate the world today. Bob is not one of them. Why am I supposed to not want that to be different? People say you don’t miss what you never had – but I know what could have been. I know what life he could have had and now for sure will not. He will find happiness somehow; he will be as productive as his disability allows him to be. But the sky is not the limit for him. The opportunities for him are not the same as they are for my daughters. Why am I supposed to celebrate that? With all this  hullaballoo about celebrating autism over the last few months, I’ve been feeling like a minority. I think these kids are lost – lost to the life that could have been, lost to the possibilities that would have been. I feel they have a disability because they are “not able” to process and handle what happens in life the way others do. Why are we getting lost on the rhetoric? Am I missing something Vickie?

Feeling Chastised in New England

I have said this many times and in many different ways:

  • I celebrate my son as an individual
  • I celebrate my son because he is my son and I love him more than words could say.
  • I celebrate his accomplishments, no matter how large or small they may be.
  • I celebrate him because he is wonderful.
  • I do not celebrate his autism.

I write stories about my son because:

  • He is wonderful.
  • I’m very proud of him.
  • I’m very proud of his progress.
  • He makes me laugh every day.
  • He makes me smile every day.
  • He makes me worry every day.
  • I believe these stories shed a little bit of light on autism and the way his mind works – not all autism, but his.

I don’t believe anyone should be made to feel “less than”. I don’t consider my son “less than” but there is an issue. There is that life he could have had. Maybe it would not have been a better life, maybe it would have been, but at the very least he would have been able to understand it and navigate through it.

Celebrate Autism? I can’t do that. Maybe others can, but I cannot celebrate his level of autism.

Individuals should be celebrated, not the diagnosis.

Like “Feeling Chastised”, my son will never be able to live on his own. He will never be able to take care of himself. He will not know when/if he’s being taken advantage of. He does not understand danger or safety. He is verbal but really not able to communicate if something might be wrong.

My suspicion is that many of these parents in celebration have younger children or children that can function at a higher level than mine. They still have hope of great progress, and they should have hope, there is always hope. I still have hope for more progress, but living in the real world I know that even though he continues to make progress, none of the issues listed above will improve enough that I will not spend every day and night worrying about what will happen to him when I am gone. This is the stuff our nightmares are made of. What’s going to happen to them when we’re all done celebrating autism? Our “kids” are going to outlive us, people. Who’s going to take care of them? Will they be cared for in the same fashion that we have cared for them?  How drastically will their life change then? Think about it.

If I haven’t said it a hundred times, then let this be the hundredth; if I were to live forever, I would not change a thing about my son. He’s happy almost all of the time. He loves his life. He is in his own little happy world, but he won’t always be able to live in his own world, he will someday have to live in the real world. Then what?

When your child with Autism becomes an adult with Autism and your own mortality begins to slap you in the face, come back and talk to me then about this celebration we are supposed to be having.

Those of us with adult children that will not be able to live or navigate the world with out constant support, that have been in the trenches for many years, long before there was a “spectrum”, long before there were many of the services available today, deserve a little bit of respect and deserve to be able to voice our opinions as you are allowed to voice yours;  to want something more than a celebration.

I believe in raising awareness. I believe in trying to make people understand Autism. I believe that INDIVIDUALS and accomplishments should be celebrated. I also believe some of us need more than that.

My only wish is to be able to die in peace knowing my son will be okay…….

Happy “Twenty-Sixteen”

Here we are again. An entire year sped by in the blink of an eye. DC will be celebrating his 26th Birthday next week, or as DC likes to call it – his “Twenty-Sixteen Birthday”.
Even though he has been announcing it daily since the calendar flip to March if you were ask him how old he is (or will be) he will almost every time tell you that he is 18. That is always his first response. When asked a second time, he will tell you Twenty-Six. He does know the number, what that number means to him other than cake, friends, ‘out to eat’ and gifts, I really do not know – but he knows the number. Twenty-six!

He does know how to say the number, it’s the “th’s”, “st’s” and “nd’s” that he just can not grasp. He tries but they do not make sense to him. I remember the time that he announced to anyone who would listen, including the check-out girl at the grocery store, that it was “Mom’s Fifty-tooth birthday”. So instead of his 26th;  DC’s ‘Twenty-Sixteen” birthday it is.

I wrote the following last year on his 25th and there is really not much more I can say about this boy of mine. He makes me proud every single day. On the other side of that joy; the older he gets, the older I get and my worry about the rest of his life gets overwhelming at times. I want to know that he will be happy. I want to know that he will be well cared for. I want him to have the best life possible. I want to KNOW all of this now. That is the only thing I want or would ask for if granted a wish.

Happy Twenty-Sixteen beautiful “boy”. I love you ‘Magly’.

****

From March 2016, imaginatively titled:

Twenty-Five!

 

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This week we celebrated DC’s ‘twenty-five birthday’ (DC-speak).

TWENTY-FIVE!!!!

I just cannot wrap my head around that fact. I cannot believe so much time has passed. I cannot believe that the little boy that I once carried around… everywhere, is 25 years old. I have heard about his ‘Twenty-five’ birthday all day, everyday since the calendars changed from February to March, but it really did not hit me, emotionally until the day before, when some tears were definitely shed.

‘Happy tears’ – I told him. He loved that.

He has come so far in those 25 years….

 

From the boy whose only word until he was almost 7 years old was “”Momma” –

To the boy that eventually moved on to –

“Mommy” – and then –

“Mother” when he’s feeling a bit more formal and/or reciting Disney.

To the man who at times decides that “Vickie” is appropriate because in his mind, he is an adult and he should call me by my adult name.

 

From the boy who was always the loudest person in the room but could not tolerate noise or crowds –

To the man who is still the loudest person in the room, but can tolerate noise and crowds so much more easily, most of the time.

 

From the boy with the very limited menu who I thought would never gain any weight –

To the almost 6ft, 200lb man, still with a limited menu, but a bit more open to trying new things.

 

From the boy, who due to a delayed reaction from almost choking, completely stopped eating for almost a month –

To the man who can still have the random delayed reaction,  but now his Mom can usually recognize it and figure it out much more quickly.

 

From the boy who could not stand to be away from me at any time and had no interest in his peers and socializing –

To the man, who still must know exactly where I will be, but looks forward to spending time with his friends and attending social activities.

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From the boy who, I was told would never speak

To the man who never stops talking.

 

From the boy who was always lovable with me when he was a baby but had a very low tolerance for his head, ears, face and so many other touches that I remember saying,  “If he wasn’t so lovable, I would think he hated to be touched”

To the man, who will still hug and kiss his Mom (and is not embarrassed to do so), but will also hug his friends, his family and just about anyone he wants to, whether they want a hug or not.

I cannot be more proud of my boy…. I cannot love this child more. He amazes me everyday. He makes me laugh everyday. He fills my life with worry. He fills my life with love. I would not trade the last 25 years for anything in the world. He is the joy of my life.

If I had only one wish; my wish would be for the rest of his life to be as happy as it is right now and that he will be just as full of sunshine and light as he is right at this moment……

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There’s Still More! (Seriously, there is!)

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We are about to venture into the ridiculous….

If you read my last post you will know that I because of an account I had, I was required to pay back Social Security $12,000.00 in benefits – which I knew was dead wrong.

It took them all of 4 days after receiving the account information and the spend down documentation to send me a letter informing me that I had to pay back a year and a half of DC’s Social Security benefits in the amount of $12,000.00.

After sending two appeal forms and hearing nothing I finally got to talk with someone (On December 17) who informed me that the issue was disposed of! They were very quick to let me know I owed them a large sum of money but very lax in notifying me that the case was disposed of. Understanding the incompetence of this agency, I asked for a letter verifying that fact. I was assured that a letter was going out that day.

In the meantime, I was notified that my step-father, without my knowledge and against my expressed wishes, made DC the beneficiary on a small life insurance policy in the amount of $1500.00. He is not allowed to have more than $2,000.00 in resources at any one time. $1,500.00 is less than $2,000.00, you say? He should be all right, you say? No! That is not how it works. To determine his resources, they take the highest amount of money in his account for the month and add the extra resource to that (If he did not have an account, then they just take the amount of his monthly check and add from that). The highest balance will always be the amount of his Social Security check, so it will always come up over $2,000.00, not by much but it will be over (a friend of mine’s son had his benefits suspended for a .20 <twenty cent> overage).

And Hey! – Fun Fact!

If you would like to be called stupid, hysterical and be screamed at by everyone that you know and are related to, just have something like this happen. It is just fun, fun, fun.

Just to answer all of the “questions” asked “very loudly” of me (because everyone else without adult children with special needs knows better, you know).

No! I cannot just not accept it because the insurance company is required to report it under his name as abandoned. This means that his benefits will be suspended until I spend it down (without actually having the money because I did not accept it) and will still be on the hook to pay back whatever amount they determine I should pay.

No! I cannot take it and deposit it in an account out of state, because the act of taking it makes it a resource. It does not matter where it goes.

No! I cannot deposit into his Special Needs Trust, an Able Account or a Burial Fund, unless his trust etc., was the designated beneficiary to begin with. Yes, depositing it into one of those places MAY qualify as spending it down, but it would still be considered a resource because it was paid out to him BEFORE going into one of the accounts mentioned above.

My step-father’s executor gave the insurance company my contact information. The insurance company, because DC is an adult, needed his guardianship papers so that they could legally talk to me.

Yes! I do have to send them his guardianship papers! We, as parents of special needs children HAVE to go to probate and become the legal guardians of our children when they turn 18 because in the eyes of the state and federal government – special needs aside – they are adults, and should legally be able to make decisions for themselves. If I were not his guardian, I would not be able to talk to his doctors, meet with his day program, chose a day program, make appointments… you get the picture. Bottom line is that HE IS AN ADULT AND BECAUSE THE POLICY WAS IN HIS NAME, THEY ARE NOT ALLOWED, LEGALLY TO TALK TO ME ABOUT ANY OF THIS WITHOUT HIS GUARDIANSHIP PAPERS!

Yes! They could make me pay back $12,000.00 over $1500.00 – they tried to have me pay back $12,000.00 over $2,600.00.

Even though I knew all of this (because I DO know things), I contacted an attorney who verified everything I just wrote.

He also said that I could actually use some of his monthly expenses as part of the spend down.

I already knew the drill, but he advised me to report it as soon as possible. As soon as I received the check (on Dec. 24th) and a copy of the policy I called SS (on the 27th, the first day they were open after the holiday) and reported it. Since I was able to use his expenses as part of his spend down, I was able to fax that and all of the account information to the number I was provided, so at least his SS would not be suspended until  they determined how much I had or did not have to pay back.

Not having heard a thing by January 25th I called again. This time I was speaking with a man, who I was familiar with, not personally but via people that I know that have had to deal with him, so I was on guard. First, I explained about the appeals and that back on December 17th I was told that the first situation was waived and has been promised a letter verifying that.

He went from zero to 100 and screamed “IT WAS NOT WAIVED!” – I began to panic (this is why I wanted a letter. I wanted it in writing). I explained again that I was told that it has been waived and that I would receive a letter stating that.

“IT WAS NOT WAIVED, IT WAS DISPOSED OF! IT WAS DETERMINED THAT IT WAS NOT A RESOURCE AND YOU DON’T GET A LETTER FOR THAT!” 

At this point, all I could think of was the Soup Nazi “NO SOUP FOR YOU!” but I remained calm, trying not to laugh and explained that this did not make any sense. If I had not called that day I would still be waiting for an appeal date. Why would they not send a letter notifying me that it was waived (there’s that word again).

“IT WAS NOT WAIVED AND YOU DON’T GET A LETTER FOR THAT”.

If someone told me this story, I would definitely think it was a joke or Alternative Facts, but it is not. He was acting as if it was somehow my fault that THEY were wrong and I was now being punished with “no letter for that”.

I repeated again that this did not make any sense and would it not be common practice to notify someone that the issue was “disposed of”?

One more time, he yelled that “YOU DON’T GET A LETTER FOR THAT! YOU WERE GIVEN THE WRONG INFORMATION! Since he seemed incapable of talking to me without yelling at me, I asked for a supervisor. He put me on hold and instead of a supervisor, he came back and said I would be getting a letter for my records.

Next I had to ask him about issue #2. Had anyone received the faxed information regarding that second insurance issue? I just wanted to be sure that someone received it because it was reported and I did not want them to suspend his benefits because they had not received the information with the spend down. Surprisingly enough, there was no more screaming.

He did not see anything in the records, but he said he would transfer me to the person that would have received it. Of course, I got voice mail and to my dismay it was the same caseworker that I had to deal with during the earlier issue.

Did I get a call back? No I did not.

After a week, I called back and left another message. This time she did call me back and – Oh, how nice and sweet she was! I am sure she was hoping that I would not bring up the first incident.

She told me that she did receive the information but she had not had a chance to go through it. I would be notified if she had any questions or if there would be any benefits to pay back.

Being that it is now the beginning of March and they only took 4 days to charge me $12,000.00 the first time, I am cautiously optimistic. Because the account was something that I had no knowledge of and I reported it, spent it down and got them all of the information they required within days of receiving it (not to mention the fact that I already had to spend $2600.00 of my own money due to their “error”), I am hoping that the spend down was enough and this would be the end of it.

– Cautiously optimistic.

I have done everything I was required to do and I verified that someone had received everything, so I am done! I will not be calling anyone to check on the status and if, in fact this is the end of it, there is probably not going to be a “Letter for that” either.

Oh, and I did finally receive the promised letter about the first incident.

“This letter is to inform you that your over-payment has been” ….

Wait for it….

“WAIVED.”

Even though I was informed loudly that this had not been waived, but disposed of, they could not even be honest and put that in writing. They opted for  “WAIVED” so as not to admit any liability on their part at all.

***

FYI, Fortunately, the television I bought for him during the first spend-down, fell off his dresser (I bet that’s a sentence you’d never thought you would hear or read) so it had to be replaced. That and his monthly expenses made spending it down much faster. The new TV is mounted to the wall – the mount was also included in this spend-down.

****

The DAY after I finished writing this – yes, the very next day, I received a letter from Social Security – I will be required to payback one month (the Month of December) of his benefits to them. I wonder if they can just deduct it from that first $2600.00 that I was made to spend?? Oh, and just a little annoyance (if I opt to pay upfront) – “Please be sure to use the enclosed envelope to mail your payment back to us.”

There is no envelope, there never is ……….

But Wait, There’s More!

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If you have been around here for a while, you may remember the whole Social Security fiasco that began in September/October 2016. (If not, you can read it here)

I will not rehash all of the details again, but long story short I had an account that Social Security determined was a resource. Contrary to popular belief, I do know what I am doing; I did check into that many years ago, and I knew that they were wrong. But still I was required to close the account, spend it down, and prove I had spent it on him. Until it was spent, his benefits would be suspended.

Even though I knew they were wrong, a suspension of his benefits until I could prove them wrong could snowball into other areas and his day program. (read how it all goes together in our area here). I spent it down and sent all of the information to the caseworker.

Within 4 days, I received a letter stating that his benefits would not be suspended due to the spend down but I would be required to pay back 12,000.00 in benefits that he has received over the last year and a half (12,000.00 over a 2600.00 account)

Before contacting an attorney, I started the appeals process. I was not appealing the payback, I was appealing the account. I knew they were wrong.  I mailed the form on November 4, 2016 and waited to receive an appeal date.

I heard nothing.

On November 28, I sent another form along with the letter below. I decided to include it at the last minute.

  The enclosed appeal form was mailed on November 4, 2016. As of today, (November 28, 2016) I have not received any word or notification of an appeal date.

   Because historically things tend to get “lost”, I did not want to sit and wait for a date only to find out after the 60 day appeal window had expired, that the form was never received or seen.

  I am re-sending a copy of the form along with this information about the account in question:

  The account in question was a life insurance policy that I purchased when DC was an infant.

The premise was that I could turn it over to him when he was 18 and it would then be his policy and the premium would never increase.

  As he was an infant at the time, I did not know that he would be diagnosed with Autism and not understand money, never mind an insurance policy. Due to this diagnosis and his very limited capabilities the account was never turned over to him.

I was the owner of the account.

He was the INSURED.

I was the beneficiary.

  As I was told by the insurance company more than once, he had no rights to the account. Even if he could understand what an insurance policy was, he had no rights to it. He was the insured, only.

  He could not withdraw the cash value. He could not close the account. He had no rights to the account at all.

  I did close the account and spend the cash value of 2,600 some odd dollars on him, only because I was told that his benefits would be suspended until I did. SPENDING IT DOWN WAS IN NO WAY AN INDICATION OF MY AGREEMENT WITH THE DETERMINATION!

  The woman who processed his re-determination insisted that this account was considered a resource for him because in theory I could very well cash it out and give him the money.

  If we are going to use that line of thinking, I could cash my paycheck and give it to him (he has no right to that either). She also said that if/when I die that this account would become the property of someone else. This is true but then THAT person would be the owner of the account, HE WOULD STILL BE THE INSURED and that person would then be the beneficiary. He would still have no rights to the account.

 

I waited for an appeal date…. and waited.

On December 17 while still not having an appeal date, I received another kick in the face; my step-father, against my wishes, saw fit to make DC a beneficiary on a small life insurance policy and the insurance company had contacted me about a payout (more about that later). This I knew was going to be a problem – this was considered a resource. I knew that for a fact (because, again I do know things).

This was happening while I still had the first 12,000.00 hanging over my head.

I got home and checked the mail, and there was still no appeal date, so I got on the phone. I was not sure who I should speak to but I waited the 45 minutes on hold and finally got a person at social security.

I explained that I had filled out two appeal forms, one on November 4 and another on November 28 and I had still not received an appeal date.

She checked the records and came back and told me that the issue was disposed of. The account was not considered a resource.

Really? I have spent all of this time waiting for an appeal date and the issue was disposed of but no one bothered to inform me?

She apologized and went to speak with someone I assumed was her supervisor, who told her that she did not know why I did not receive any notification. I asked for a letter stating that this issue was resolved, for my records. I was told I would receive that letter shortly.

In the end I was correct. Unfortunately it cost me $2600.00, which no one seemed to mention or apologize for and no one saw fit to notify me while I was still waiting for a date.

I certainly would have taken this new insurance policy issue a little bit better if I had not had this other issue hanging over my head.

Let’s just look at this whole mess:

I did my due diligence and checked into that account more than once.

They were wrong, but before that was determined, I was required to spend $2600.00 so his benefits would not be suspended.

If I had not appealed, I would now be paying back $12,000.00 for absolutely no reason other than the case worker did not know what she was talking about. I explained it to her exactly the way I explained it in the appeal letter, more than once and I was also required to send a copy of the policy to her at the time, so I know that there had been no miscommunication with the caseworker. She either just did not know what she was doing or just saw an opportunity to make herself look better in the eyes of the agency by collecting a good chunk of money.

We are required to jump though so many hoops when our children reach adulthood and unfortunately we are at the mercy of these agencies who seem know next to nothing when it comes to our children, and what we are required to know and do. As a parents, we jump through every hoop laid out in front of us to ensure that everything is in place for or child’s future, because that is really what all of this is about, isn’t it?

Bottom line is, you can not trust that you are not being taken advantage of by these people and you can not trust that they know what they are doing – always appeal!

But wait, there’s still more! (And it gets really ridiculous at one point)

We will get to that next week……………..