Alison’s “Poppy” – #1000speak

family

My friend Alison and I met in elementary school. We became fast friends and remain friends to this day. I loved everything about her, including her family. I spent so much time there, I’m sure they were afraid I would never go home. Especially in the summer. In the summertime there was more time to get there and home (it was a hike) because it stayed light out longer and the rule of “getting home before the streetlights came on” was not as impossible to adhere to. (Seriously…. how does one know when the streetlights are going to go on until they are on?)

Alison had a stepfather, his name was Tom. I also have a stepfather. This was not as common back then in the late 60’s/early 70’s as it is today. Maybe it was, but in my little world, I thought I was the only one until I met Alison.

I was always so in awe of this family and a little bit envious as well. Okay….. very envious! I wanted to live there…..

Tom would pull up on his motorcycle everyday after work and my friend and her brothers would greet him – they were happy to see him. This was just alien to me. He was happy to see them too, every single day! I was just puzzled, but impressed. From the outside looking in, one could just see how much they loved each other. This was amazing to me. I will say it again – I was in awe.

This man married a woman with three children (she is pretty amazing herself). He raised them. He treated them like his own. He loved them like his own and they loved him right back, just as much.  Now, I am sure this happens  but this certainly was not my experience in having a stepfather, and my experiences were all I had. I didn’t know it was or could be different.

Even as a kid I recognized that he was one of those special people who you’d be lucky to have in your life. I just always thought he was truly amazing and I still do.

Alison and her family moved away when I was 16. We’ve kept in touch over the years and I just went to attend her mother’s birthday party a few weeks ago. Tom has since passed. Each year when I see Alison’s post on the anniversary of his death I take the opportunity to remind her just how lucky she was to have had this man in her life. I know that she knows this, I know… but I just have to tell her, every year.

Just a few days ago I noticed her anniversary post:

Seven years ago today one of the most important men in my life went on to be with the Lord. My Poppy. I miss you every day, remember you and Love you more as the days go by. I will keep your memory alive in me until I see you face to face! Until then rest in peace…all my love!”

I never got back to the post to tell her once again, how lucky she was

-and what a wonderful man he was

-and how much of an impact their whole family had on me

– how they taught me that blood does not make a family and that some families really do care about one another.

So I am now…….

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1000speak nuturing

#1000speak – 1000 Voices for Compassion

April’s #1000speak topic – #1000speak for Nurturing

Take a look at the many posts already posted at the April link

Because, Because, Because, Because….BEEEE CAUSE

Autumn In OZ

Autumn In OZ

 

Right up there on DC’s ‘fandom’ meter with all things Disney is the Wizard of Oz. I can not really put my finger on how, when or where this fixation developed as it is not a Disney production, but it certainly did. DC owns every version of every book, movie and soundtrack of The Wizard of Oz.

There is nothing that would make him happier than a visit to OZ.

As I mentioned in Part One of this post (Hello Dolly)

I discovered a festival in Kansas called, you guessed it – The OZ Fest. The OZ fest is held in late September, not October, but still close enough to count as our Halloween trip. The OZ fest was the plan for this year’s Halloween get-away. That WAS the plan….. until we calculated the cost of the flights, rental car and hotel for the weekend and realized that it was almost equivalent to booking a cruise for a week.

Plan discarded…………… (for now)

But now I had OZ on the brain and I was not going to give up the notion of getting DC to OZ. I remembered seeing photos that my sister-in-law posted from an OZ event that they had attended a few years back. It was at  Beech Mountain, North Carolina. I facebooked her to get more details. She told me that this event was very popular, but only open for ONE  weekend each year; this year on October 3, 4 and 5. Tickets had to be purchased in advance. and I was told that it sold out very quickly.

 

Dollywood the day before worked out so, so much better than expected (with the exception of the ‘Mommy-Meltdown’) – so we were excited to get to “the Mountain of Oz’ – as DC calls it. I was still a bit apprehensive about the bus ride to the top, but I realized quickly that most of the mountain drive was by car.

I didn’t realize that DC had packed his watch and was wearing it in the car. I only did realize when we started getting minute by minute updates from the back seat:

“Mom, it is Eight-‘Firty’- Seven, we have to find Uncle ‘Liar’ –

“Mom, it is Eight-‘Firty’ – eight, we have to find Uncle ‘Liar’ –

and so on……….

DC has a difficult time pronouncing most of my brothers’ names. Uncle Larry, is ‘Uncle Lally’ (he can pronounce “Harry” and “Mary” but for some reason “Larry” is impossible for him). Uncle Lyle is ‘Uncle Liar’.  He always could pronounce Ted and Skip – or so I thought. He does pronounce “Ted” correctly, but at one point  I realized that all this time, he was really calling Skip,  Uncle ‘Scamp’ – it sounded so much like ‘Skip’ all of the times that he’s said it that I didn’t realize he was actually calling him ‘Scamp’ until he wrote it down one day.

We arrived at the sky-resort where we were to catch the bus. We met “Uncle ‘Liar’, my sister-in-law and my niece in the parking lot. IT WAS COLD!!!!! My brother was disappointed that we were not in costume (they were not, but he knows me well). My title of “Queen of the Costume” was now tarnished, forever!

(Did I mention that it was COLD!!!???)

– I have to give props to the “Autumn at Oz” people for sending out more than one e-mail to let ticket holders know just how cold it was excepted to be. This would not have occurred to me and thanks to them, we were prepared – But still….. IT WAS COLD!!!

We had a little time after we checking in to have some hot chocolate and coffee. There was a couple of  buildings open for us to go and get warm while we waited.

Needless to say the Italian Ice vendor outside did not do very well on this day. Hopefully he did better on Sunday.

After our hot chocolate/coffee/heat break, we went out to board the bus. We were first in line for our bus, which means we would be seated all the way in the back. My sister in law gets a bit of motion sickness, made worse by riding in the back. She and my brother were allowed to take the front seat, while DC and I took one seat in the back and my niece and Doug took the other, a decision my niece would soon regret.

The Wizard of Oz soundtrack was playing on the bus on our way up the mountain; Doug, being Doug, decided, out of nowhere,  to just belt out “If I were the king of the Foreeeeest”

I will never be able to describe the look on my niece’s face, ever. I told Doug that he was embarrassing her, but that is what he lives for. The look on her face was priceless and although I felt sorry for her, I just could not stop laughing. She was just mortified. Not being able to stop laughing actually distracted me from the ride that I had been so apprehensive about. I will never forget that face and even now as I’m writing, I am laughing.

Exiting the bus;  we soon ran into Dorothy and Toto sitting near a fountain. I have to hand it to these characters, it was so cold but they never let on, one would never know by looking at them that they were freezing.

 (It was never my intention to turn this post into a visual tour, but I can not help myself. It was impressive.)

We followed the path and came upon Professor Marvel. He warned us all about the storm that was predicted to come through at any time!

We continued on the path to Kansas and where we would hopefully find shelter from the oncoming twister.

We found the Gale farm. While waiting to get into the house, Dorothy saw DC waving to her through the crowd. She walked into the crowd to greet DC and launched into the whole spiel – She was very nervous. Miss Gulch tried to take Toto for chasing her cat. She needed to find Auntie Em to protect her and Toto from Miss Gulch.

“If you see Auntie Em, please tell her I need help”

DC ate it up. He felt as if he was a part of the story.

Heading into Dorothy’s house, the Ruby Slippers were on display and a band played on the front porch.

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Once inside we found Auntie Em and DC relayed the message from Dorothy. Auntie Em was thankful and told DC that if he saw her again,  please tell Dorothy to come home.

But we had to hurry to the cellar……. the storm was fast approaching!

Oh NO! It's a Twister!

Oh NO! It’s a Twister!

 “The house began to pitch. The kitchen took a slitch*. … “

Half way down the stairs on the way to the storm cellar and partially through the ‘twister’ DC said, “I am getting very nervous about this” but he continued through the dark through the storm. When the storm was over, we found the house a mess and the floors topsy turvy – it was hard to stand up straight.

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We walked outside to hear the Mayor declaring the Wicked Old Witch, dead!

The Witch Is DEAD!

The Witch Is DEAD!

 “It landed on the Wicked Witch in the middle of a ditch, Which was not a healthy situation for the Wicked Witch”*

Ding Dong!

Ding Dong!

DC was happy to be out of the house and excited as he was now realizing that the journey we were on  was moving in order, right along with the story. The Yellow Brick road would be coming into view shortly.
We rounded the corner and there we met Glinda. Glinda, in DC’s eyes is equivalent to a Princess. She has “princess status” in his world. He is always happy when Glinda appears, and now he would be meeting her in person!

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Onward through Munchkin Land .

Leaving Munchkin Land, the munchkins told us that we had to “Follow The Yellow Brick Road*” – and so we did.


– Along the way we came across every character that resides in the Land of Oz – good and evil.
I can’t say enough about the actors that played these characters. I am told that they are all volunteers. These people were impressive. They were definitely “Disney-Caliber”. Not only were they out there all day, in costume, in the cold, but they never broke character. A few even burst into song.

Let me tell you, if DC decides to throw a line at you, you better be able to respond, in character and correctly. Believe me, his interaction with the Oz characters was no different that his conversations with ‘his’ Disney Princesses. They all had the proper response or song to whatever DC decided to discuss with them and we all know that DC can come up with the rather obscure reference. One HAS to know the movie inside and out to pass the DC realism test. Each and every one of them passed with flying colors.

Once we walked a little bit of the way down the Yellow Brick Road, the wind seemed to die down and we were in direct sunlight; the hats and gloves came off – jackets were still needed but it was really, really nice there.

The Scarecrow sang when DC asked him about his brain and then he pointed us in the direction of the Emerald City – although he could not seem to make up his mind.

DC could not resist knocking on the Tin Man’s chest
just checking for a heart

                                                                                             “Lions and Tigers and Bears! Oh my!”*
The Cowardly Lion……
– and yes, Doug showed great restraint in not belting out the ‘King of the Forest’ tune again.

We were now getting closer and closer to the Wicked Witch!

“I’d turn back if I were you!”*

But we didn’t turn back……. Who’s afraid of a Wicked Old Witch anyway? But, curses, we neglected to bring our buckets of water! We’d have to take our chances.

After DC and my niece both declined the Witch’s offer to join her flying monkey army, we were on our way, fully intact. PHEW!

 

We approached the poppy field and said one last goodbye to everyone we had met along the way.

DC, of course had to call an impromptu powwow to make sure that each of the characters were absolutely aware of who they were supposed to be….
– Just in case they didn’t know.

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“We’re off to see the Wizard”*

But first……. we had to ask for admittance into the Emerald City.

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I so wish I had thought to take a video of this exchange. DC went through the entire scene – he rang the bell, the door guard yelled at him and slammed the door for ringing said bell. He then followed the new directions, now that the sign was turned to the proper side, and knocked… because of course we know that the bell is “out of order” – he laughed and laughed. I think this may just have been his favorite part of the entire day in Oz.
His cousin really got a kick out of how much he was getting a kick out of all of this.

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Directions followed properly – we were granted permission to enter the Emerald City and given an audience with…..
The Man behind the curtain……. The Wizard.

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Finally DC had the opportunity to recite “There’s no place like home”*.
Wish granted, and we made our way back to the bus, but first we came upon the characters once again, this time from the original book.

I read somewhere that the Emerald City was lost to a fire. It is a shame; based on the quality of the Yellow Brick Road – I have to imagine that the Emerald City must have been magnificent. Even with the loss of the Emerald City, the story was told from beginning to end.

 

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We were right in time for the bus. I had photos to post so this kept me occupied on the bus ride back down the mountain.

My niece opted not to sit with Doug on the way back down.

I really do not know just what I was expecting at “Autumn at OZ” but I have to say, it was above and beyond anything I could have imagined. It was beautiful, very well maintained and VERY well staffed. It was such a fun day. Yes, it was cold, but we were warned and we were prepared. The trip was well worth it. We had a wonderful time (“terrific time” – ‘terrific’ being DC’s new word).
The whole adventure from the bus stop to the end was very well organized. There was not a long wait for anything.

I would recommend this event to anyone. It is a shame it is only open once a year, but if you are an OZ fan (even if you are not), it is well worth it. DC will never forget his trip to OZ.

I have to talk a little bit about my niece as well. My brother and his family have lived in Tennessee since DC was born. My niece and DC have only actually met each other maybe three times since she was born. So she has not spent much time with DC at all over the years. I have to say I was so impressed with her. She was not afraid of him – you might think that is an odd thing to say as he is her cousin, but believe me – it’s happened, more than I care to think about. She put up with him hugging the stuffing out of her all day. She made attempts at conversation with him, even if the response she got didn’t have anything to do with what she originally said to him. The day went wonderfully and HE is completely enamored with her.

I am so glad we had the opportunity to visit OZ with them – I think we all had a fabulous time.

Even this guy…………

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“This Guy”

In the event that anyone may be concerned ……..

after dinner with my brother and his family, we were able to find a bookstore…

“Please allow me to introduce…..”

 (This post probably qualifies as more of a facebook status, but it made me laugh, so a blog it is!)

Pleased to meet you

Pleased to meet you

DC loves to make introductions. I don’t believe he really understands the point of introducing people. He notices people making  introductions in the movies he watches and in the books that he reads. It doesn’t matter if the people he is introducing already know each other. It doesn’t matter if he knows they already know each other, when he gets to urge to make introductions, he does. He is usually very formal about it as well –

“I would like to introduce my mother, Vickie Lastname”

or

“It is my pleasure to introduce to you, my mother, Vickie Lastname

or (my favorite)

“Please allow me to introduce my ‘lov-er-ly’ mother, Vickie Lastname

Recently we attended a pasta dinner fundraiser to benefit the summer camp DC has attended since he was 5 years old. We purchased enough tickets for DC, Doug, my mother and myself and we sold a few more to friends and family members.

Seated with DC and I were,

– My mother (DC’s grandmother)

– Doug (who was also pulling DJ duty)

– DC’s grandparents on his Dad’s side

– DC’s Dad – Tracy

– DC’s stepmother (I generally do not use the stepmother title to describe her because DC is so very much into Disney that there is no explaining to him that all stepmothers are not evil) Karr-ee-anna – in DC-speak

-DC’s Aunt K

-Her husband R

– My friend Tonya

– and DC’s friend, Salli

Due to the crowd, Doug’s father and sister had  moved over to the next table.

DC was very excited that everyone was there at the same time. He sat at the table as if he were “holding court”. He then decided that introductions were in order.

Turning his attention to his father, Tracy:

“Tracy, this is my mother Vickie Lastname”

and

“Vickie, I would like to introduce you to my father, Tracy (same) Lastname”

~ Insert Dramatic Pause ~

.

“Um…….”

.

 

“we’ve met”……………………..

 

Photo: Credit "Tonya"

Dc and Friends Dancing the night away! Photo Credit: “Tonya”

 

Don’t Judge What You Don’t Understand

There is a convenience store in our town that my son and I stop in pretty regularly. The employees are very nice to him. One in particular seems to be very interested in him and his diagnosis and really goes out of his way to try to talk with him.

A few weeks back, there weren’t many customers so he began asking questions about him. I never mind when people ask questions; I’d rather they ask than stare or shy away from him.

One thing led to another and he began to tell me that they do not have the system that we have in his country. In his country the families take care of their disabled children. He proceeded to say (which I’m sure he thought was a compliment) that I take care of my son, but other customers who come in with disabled children and adults ask for receipts for what they are buying.

I really didn’t understand at first what one thing had to do with the other but he explained – “I ask them why they need a receipt and they tell me it is for the child/adult’s father or some company”.

In the first place, why would he ask anyone why they needed a receipt? And then why would anyone feel obligated to answer that question?

He proceeded to tell me again that, in his country, the families take care of their own children. He automatically made the assumption that if someone else is with your child, a staff person, or a person from a group home that the parents are not taking care of their own children!

Immediately the pointing finger came out (I really have to learn to control the “finger wagging”) and I said “Oh, no. Do not judge people because someone else happens to be with their child at that time!”

I tried to explain to him that, in my case, my son has been with me and I have done just about everything for him all of his life but now I too have staff people with him a couple of hours every day after he gets home from work because he needs to learn to be independent from me.  I don’t like it at all, but I know it’s the best thing for him. I’m always convinced that I am the biggest detriment to his independence.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to finish my speech as customers were coming in and I could see that he was getting uncomfortable because he thought he’d offended me, which he did. When people make those kinds of assumptions whether it be about me or not, I DO take offence. I suppose I just could have let him believe that I was not one of those “awful” people pawning their child off on someone else; he would never know any different, but I just couldn’t let it go.

Partially, I think I react that way because I DO feel guilty when I am not with him. All I was looking for when all of this began was some type of program after school so I didn’t have to continue cutting my hours at work to make it home before he arrived from school. I’ve been a single mother for nearly 20 years, and I have to work; fulltime, always have, it’s only me supporting us.  What I ended up with was staff hours for life skills, community, and activities. And yes, I know it’s the best thing for him, but after 3 years with this staff (they are wonderful, don’t get me wrong), I still feel guilty.  His staff is only here from 3pm – 5pm, and then they accompany him to some night activities as well – activities that I would normally have taken him to. But,  I feel like I’m being judged by people, my neighbors that weren’t living here all of the years that it was just me and just people in general who have no idea what this is all about, like the man in the store.

I wanted to ask the cashier just what happens to the children is his country when the families are gone or too old to take care of these children? They’ve been sheltered all of their lives, what becomes of them? How to they adjust to having no one?  I don’t know anything about his country, I don’t even know what country he is from, but I feel that here, at least in this house, we are not trying to shelter our kids by just keeping them safe and out of the way and never learning or experiencing life, the best life they can have.  I  am hoping to help him become as independent as he can be and if that means letting someone else take the reins for a couple of hours a day, then that’s what I am going to do.

I know he’s not a bad person and I was sorry I made him feel uncomfortable, but I am really hoping to finish this conversation one day and hopefully make him see that he should not judge what he does not understand and maybe even change the way he perceives  “these parents” (myself included)…… ……….