“I should be mad at you for not letting me take the car,” she says. Her brows arch in surprise. “But I’m not.” She smiles. A small, sweet smile. The one I would sew a thousand tiny doll dresses, go on a million trips to the park, and bake a hundred chocolate cupcakes for. A yesterday smile.
She is mine for a few weeks. She told me so before finals. She said, “I will be hanging around the house for five weeks.”
I know that won’t happen. She already has plans. There are friends, events to go to, and a dance workshop. There is a boy. There is always a boy.
Her schedule fills up so fast I can barely squeeze in her dental appointments, an eye exam, and a doctor visit. And she really should be evaluated for that persistent weakness in her ankle. She twisted it at school months ago, stumbling on the theater stairs.
“You were right, Momma,” she told me then. “I should have tossed those boots.”
The worn down heels made her ankles pronate. After she fell that day, I snatched the boots away and trashed them, sending her to buy new shoes with her ankle wrapped tight.
It’s summer break. Today she stays home. We clean. The guys installed an exhaust fan in my bathroom, and the white powdery dust from new cut holes and whatever else they did invaded the master bedroom. It coats everything.
We wipe with damp cloths. I wonder aloud, more than once, why they didn’t consider covering my work space with plastic sheeting. She shrugs, grown wise in the ways of women, knowing I need to grumble and fuss at the mess, knowing it will not make the least impact on our men.
First years are hard, and Baby Girl isn’t so special she dodged the common freshman bumps along the road. Stress and grief dogged her, on too many days panting hard at her heels, snapping. More than once with blood-drawing teeth.
Yesterday she came upon me, armwrapping me from the side. “I feel content,” she said. Has she ever said that before? I wanted to breathe it in, cradle her contentment like an infant-holding momma smelling her baby’s hair. She still has that peace about her, end of semester relief not yet morphing into boredom and the fidgety unsettledness. We rest in this moment, the place between.
We wipe with the damp cloths. It’s so dusty. The rags have to be rinsed, over and over, water turning milky.
I go through the neglected stacks of papers. It wouldn’t be such a chore if I had kept up with the endless flotsam of every day life, but I couldn’t. Clutter accumulated without notice until now. The curtains needed washing, as did clothes left too long in untidy, neglected mounds waiting in vain to be folded away. The washer has been going all afternoon into evening. There are a pile of rags and towels in it now, waiting for tomorrow. It’s too late to start a wash now. Rugs are clean, floors mopped, ceiling fan dusted. The room practically echoes with good, simple clean.
I found things that have been lost for months. It’s good to wipe away the dust, to rest in the inbetween, finding contentment in the stripped down rooms of home.
13 Reasons Why is the Netflix special everyone is talking about. The series is rated MA for mature audiences and explores suicide, bullying, sexual assault, and many other serious topics teens and young adults face. The series contains graphic depictions in some episodes. I have not read the book 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher yet, but it is my understanding that the book is significantly different. This post is about the Netflix series.
I searched for a discussion guide to go with the Netflix series but I am disturbed to find some had the tendency to minimize the issues. I found an excellent list of talking points to start meaningful discussion from the JED Foundation and provided that link below.
If you have any suggestions to add to my list, please put them in the comment section.
It seems a common thread among some of the people who discuss the series often include an element of denial. Instead of closing our eyes, perhaps a better way to address the issues brought up by 13 Reasons Why is to ask questions, listen, and guide our young people. If your teen or young adult has not watched, I still suggest parents look for ways to bring up the subject matter.
Thirteen Reasons Why is rated MA.
If your teen/young adult has already watched, I strongly suggest you watch each episode, stop, and discuss. Take time to process. This series deals with heavy topics and is emotionally draining.
Advice for Parents
Talking with kids can be hard. Decide what the most important topics are to bring up to your young person and ask questions, letting them do most of the talking. This is a time to offer guidance rather than lecture. Bring the topics up more than once.
I would be very honest with your young people. Perhaps not every person they go to for help will respond appropriately, but most adults are here to help. Sometimes asking once isn’t enough.
Relate a personal story to them if you have one and offer solutions.
Do not minimize your young person’s concerns and experiences.
Ask direct questions.
Talk to them. Not only once, but continually.
Know what they are watching.
I am not a mental health professional. The questions listed below are simply the type that can be used to start a dialog. Each of these suggested questions should lead to many more.
What did you take away from this story?
What do you think this series is about? Is it about more than one thing?(Some young people may miss that this story is driven by Hannah’s revenge against those she feels responsible for her suicide.)
Which of the characters seems the most balanced or healthy emotionally? Why do you think that is?
Are any of the depictions in this series believable? Which ones? Which actions are not?
What behaviors do each of the characters engage in that are questionable or plainly wrong? What should they have done? In this situation, what would you do?
What do you think you would do if you found yourself in some of the situations Hannah does?
How can you decide what secrets should be kept and which should be told? Who should you tell? Why or why not?
What are the signs of suicide? Other emotional issues?
How can you help someone who is suicidal?
How do our actions impact others? How do their actions impact us? How can we deal with that?
Who is the victim in this story? Is there more than one victim?
How does the school depicted compare to your school?
After each episode ask you young person for their takeaway, and what they thought. Examine the ideas put forth. Ask “what did you think” and “why or why not”.
If you seek help and are ignored or denied, what should you do then?
Does this story have a ‘call to action”? What is it?
What do you think of some of the reactions people have had to 13 Reasons? Can you give examples of appropriate/inappropriate reactions? Explain.
For further reading
Click here for a link to resources on 13 Reasons Why the Netflix Series from the National Association of School Psychologists
All writers know first drafts are less than perfect. In fact, they are usually awful. Crappy first drafts are par for the course.
At Walmart one day I was shopping with my son. I saw a Smiling Pile of Poo Bank. Jokingly, I said, “When I finish the rough draft for my novel I should treat myself by buying this to hold all the money I earn when I’m a famous author.”
He took it off the shelf and put it in the buggy. “I’m buying it for you.”
“No, no,” I said. “I have to finish the draft first.”
“You will,” he said.
“What if I don’t?”
It gave me the warm fuzzies to think he had faith in me. The guy must believe I could write a novel if he parted with cash to purchase such a thing.
I’m not really sure if having this bank represents earnings I will make selling books. Perhaps, being empty, it better represents all the money I have spent attempting to learn the craft of novel writing.
The Pile of Poo sat in a central place. I saw it every day. We all saw it every day. If I had been good and worked on my novel, the face smiled encouragingly at me. On the other hand, on days I could have written but didn’t, I swear that pile of poo mocked me with its big, round bugeyes and sly, silly grin. Plus, now my son was invested, having bought that pile of poo for me. He is a grown man, but he is still my kid. If he had enough faith in me to buy a ceramic bank with his own money, I had to be worthy of that pile of poo.
It was about this time last year when I heard back from an agent. My full manuscript had been requested, but in the end was turned down. I wasn’t entirely sure what the issue was, so I hired book coach Sarah Hamer to help me.
Here we are many months later with about 40,000 words added to the story. Many of these words were written 500 at a time as I kept to my daily minimum goal. Over time I did pick up speed, learning to use speech to text and making adjustments to current challenges.
New characters walked onto the stage, and the plot is better. I decided to change from Middle Grade to Young Adult, and hopefully corrected any major story flaws.
Finally, my draft is finished! You know what that means. Now I get to begin re-writing and editing.
And my Smiling Pile of Poo will be here to encourage me every step of the way.
Oh, and by the way, one of my other boys bought me this lovely first draft notebook, trusting I have another story in me waiting to be written.
It’s wonderful to have supportive kids, even if they give me lots of crap, I mean poo.
The smell of hot cotton fabric permeates the air. I used to hate ironing. I never could get every crease out. A ready iron in my hands had a tendency to create more problems than I could erase, playing hide and seek with wrinkles until it drove me to despair.
The trick is to iron only cotton fabric, cut into squares . I like the small, well-behaved pieces, the calm way they lay still for me, not like hard to manage shoulder seams that always want to squirm away when you try to hold them flat enough to iron. Simple, unsewn pieces have no curves and strange corners.
I push down on the fabric, slowly drawing the heat across a multitude of tiny blue flowers. The busier the pattern, the less the wrinkles show. Still, I pass the iron over the field of blooms again and again, until the scent of hot cotton lingers, memories of little girl dresses.
I had other plans for this fabric. I can still picture the dress in my mind, the one I imagined when I chose this fabric. But then life happened. Time got away. The white and blue dress was never sewn.
The iron creaks. I never had the money for a good iron, so I made do. There were irons I coveted after. Maybe if I had owned one of those my ironing would have been more successful. Nevermind.
I whisk my palm across the hot fabric, not resting there, always moving, moving. I am going to put this in the shadowbox as a background for the dress.
I barely finished the dress in time. Last babies. You understand. The final embroidered flower was stitched in place while I was in the hospital bed recovering from my fourth c-section, and she was brand new to this world. Silk roses on a baby dress. What nonsense.
Two of the flowers need repair. I hesitate. Was it really so long ago her hands were small enough to catch the tiny loops and undo all my meticulous work? It was a trial to keep her from unraveling them all. I thread the needle.
White thread and a twist. One, two, three stitches. The thread knots. I take my time and unravel it. When I was younger, I was always in a hurry, leaving snarls and wadded thread behind on the back sides of my stiches, not worried about what didn’t show. I tease out the tangle and leave a clean, smooth stitch behind.
On her way out she breezes by, her fingers lighting on the dress for two, maybe three, seconds as she walks by. She says, “When I have my baby girl, she will have her picture made in this dress.”
I say nothing, because even though we have said this very same thing a thousand times, I can’t say it today.
She opens the door, her hand jiggling the keys impatiently. They hit against each other and jangle.
She has one foot out the door when I say, “Text me when you get there.”
The response is automatic. “I will, Momma.” Her mind is elsewhere, on her to do list.
Before I assemble the dress and backing into the shadowbox, I pass the iron over the blue flowered fabric one more time, breathing in the smell of hot cotton meant for little girl dresses.
I have a million reasons why. I even have finished posts, somewhere, that I intended to put up, but they never made to the blogosphere.
Things around here are in what I like to call a “creative” phase. It’s a period of a thousand project beginnings and me hopping from one to another. It may seem like nothing gets finished, but I hope eventually progress will become evident. I’m banking on it.
There is a lot going on to distract me.
I have been working like crazy on the book-I-thought-was-almost-done and discovered it is a long way from the finish line.
This is our last year of homeschooling and that comes with a heap of things to finish, and quite a few to get into motion. Ready or not, this phase of our lives will soon be over. People always ask, “What will you do?” A friend of mine once answered that by saying, “Clean the house!” That is definitely not the answer I give. Usually I sigh dramatically and say, “Nothing! I’ll be retired! ” and we laugh.
I find myself distracted by the notion of endings quite often.
Baby Girl is, at this moment, practicing an en pointe competition dance. It is a variation on the same dance she has performed on stage since she was tiny. Whenever there has been a space between the last time I watched her dance to this song, Treasure of Jesus, and she practices it again, the tears come.
My very favorite memory of her dancing this particular piece was when she was about eight. It was late, and she was in her nightgown. I had come to tell her it was time for bed. She didn’t know I was there, hidden in the shadow of the door frame, watching her sway to the music, lost in it, worshiping Jesus. It was one of those catch-your-breath moments that you know are a gift.
I watch her now, a beautiful accomplished young woman, still that little girl blowing kisses to Jesus. It presses on all the tender, hope-filled places of this mama’s heart.
There are so many things to get ready. This is a year of lasts and firsts, endings and beginnings. It is a strange place to be, living in a space over filled with happy sadness.
We were driven out into the night to seek shelter at my son’s house a week or so ago as I wrote about in an earlier post.
When we got here, you could tell it was definitely a guy’s house.
But soon, his sister made her mark. I thought the man of the house finding this in the cabinet was hilarious. He was not as amused as I.
The master bedroom did not have a bed yet and was used for office space.
He used one of the smaller rooms that he had bought a mattress for, intending to rearrange things as he acquired more furnishings. The closets are spacious, but he kept his clothes here.
Perhaps this was more convenient. I resisted hanging up his clothes. I did find clean sheets and left them on his bed, simply as a suggestion.
Being a good sport, my son has adapted somewhat to being invaded by not only mom, but sister as well. Brothers have often been here and require little adjustment. Girls, on the other hand, are different. There have been purchases of things boys have no need of, like extra silverware, baking pans, first aid supplies, laundry booster, and fresh fruits and veggies.
I am happy to report the bathrooms and kitchen were fairly clean. Almost shockingly so! Warms a mother’s heart to realize the endless task of teaching does pay off.
I worried about crashing in on him, but he keeps assuring me he likes us being here . . . most of the time. He grumbles at times. It would be nice if his sibs loaded the dishwasher. You would be proud of me, Mommas. I say nothing to that, nor do I gloat. (By the way, the sibs do contribute to upkeep and mess management.)
We were talking about how nerve wracking it can be to have family around all the time and he told me he wasn’t bothered by my being here at all.
“Because,” he said, “You’re not judgmental.”
For some reason. every time I think of that it makes me tear up.
When she asks me why I am crying, I can not speak. I send her away with the words all mommas use so often it’s second nature.
“In a minute.”
She has come upon me unexpected, caught me in the grip of a journey’s end emotion.
I redirect her, unable to untangle my thoughts and feelings.
“Don’t you need to get ready for dance?”
She looks at me sideways, then nods. She knows me well and gives me the small moment of peace I need. I know her, too. She will be back in two heartbeats. I breathe.
When she returns, I am ready and not ready.
I start out OK. I tell her how proud I am of her. Half a sentence into the conversation, words have trouble squeezing past my heart. They come out wobbly but march on.
Baby Girl has had hard, hard times. Life is harsh to our young. No one grows up without a heavy dose of pain.
If I had one real come-true wish I would make the world gentle for her, but I can’t. The enemy is often invisible, but the battle scars are there, plain to see. When she lets me.
On this day she is going to rehearse a dance she choreographed to Beauty From Pain. One she will dance on stage in front of the whole world and everyone who is watching. She will dance with all the grace she can muster. She will dance with all she has, speak with movement and make the song sing a new way.
I tell her, “I know what the dance means—I know what this cost you.”
We can’t look at each other in the eye because now is not the time to puddle up.
Instead, I wrap my arms around her and she rests, enveloped. Her hair is in my face. It should be pony tailed or bunned. She needs to get ready. I don’t release her yet. I tell her to make sure she takes a water bottle. An experienced dancer, she does not need this advice at all.
I wanted to write this post because my heart is breaking. Right now, girls are keeping destructive secrets, cutting, starving themselves, engaging in risky behavior, feeling trapped in abusive relationships, bullied and bullying, all right under their parent’s noses. I don’t even know if parents want to know. This post is for the strong of heart who are willing to take stock of their relationship with their daughters.
Teens cover up. They all do it. It doesn’t matter how close a parent is to their teen, deep secrets can end up buried far away from parental eyes and ears. Teen girls always keep a bit of themselves to themselves, and rightly so, but when they are engaging in potentially harmful behavior or need guidance teens need to be able to talk with parents. It’s part of our job as a parent to be available and aware.
Why Teen and Preteen Girls Don’t Talk to Parents
Even if there is apparent evidence to the contrary, our teens want to please us. If they feel ashamed of the opinions or thoughts they are having and are afraid of being shamed for them, teens will resist letting the parent in. They really do care what parents think, even when the teen disagrees.
It seems like a teen girl is embarrassed by everything. Discussing intimate feeling or touchy subjects is brutally embarrassing. Did I say teen girls? I still get embarrassed by certain subjects with my mom and a fair amount of time has passed since I was a teen!
Fear of rejection keeps us all from sharing our feelings. Who wants to have a heart to heart with someone when there is less than a 100% chance of your feelings being recognized as valid?
How to Get Teens to Talk
No one wants to talk with a hypocrite, and teens tend to operate from a black and white perspective until they gain experience. Teen will call you out on your inconsistencies. Be as honest as possible about your failures. Admit that you don’t know it all, but you are giving them your best advice.
Be Understanding of Your Teen’s Point of View
Teens are full of drama, and it is easy to dismiss conversations that from an adult point of view seem frivolous. Try to remember what it was like to find a place to be in a confusing world.
Realize that they may be coming from a vastly different place than teens in years past have ever experienced. The first step to seeing from another person’s point of view is to realize they have a different perspective and respecting that perspective. You don’t have to agree with someone to respect their right to have an opinion. Finding a place to relate to each other is key to communication.
Listen Don’t Lecture
As parents it is our job to correct, admonish, and train but jumping in too quickly with advice or even worse, “I told you so” will bring any conversation to a screeching halt. Most of us have already done a fair job of laying down the rules and letting our kids know what we think and believe. Fostering a two way communication is an entirely different scenario. Listening is hard work. Resolve to postpone your input. A big part of communicating is found in quietness.
Schedule Time to Talk But Talk Outside the Schedule Too
Communication takes time. Building trust takes time. Setting a teen down to ‘have a talk’ is not the same as ongoing dialog that is relationship building. Be deliberate in your pursuit of communication with your children.
All of these suggestions apply to boys as well as girls. While girls tend to talk more, it seems they also keep certain things to themselves. I do not know if it holds true for all girls, but of all the girls I’ve known, we talk more but hold back more as well. We learn to do this young.
I wrote another post about Raising Conversational Men, but I am not so naive as to think my children tell me everything. The best I can do is to make it crystal clear to them that if and when they want to tell all, tell bits, or tell anything, I am here.
Do you have any tips for getting your teen to talk to you? I’d love to hear from you! Add your comment to the conversation.
When I first started asking around in the Asperger’s and Autism community about the whole church issue, the stories I heard made me mad. By the time I’d gotten a few more responses, I was sad. Overwhelmingly sad. The stories did not stop coming.
It breaks my heart when people say they regret staying at their church and wished they had left sooner.
The responses I gathered were from Christian people desiring fellowship. Many of these believers are actively seeking a church or Bible study in spite of bad experiences.
Why is church so hard for people on the autism spectrum?
Getting to the Church on Time, Late, or At All
Every mom knows this is a battle, but with Autism Spectrum Disorder it is multiplied. Most people on the spectrum have terrible issues with insomnia, getting restorative sleep, and waking. When I say trouble waking, I am not kidding. A regular topic is how to wake up. I read somewhere in an autism advocate’s writings about the need for an alarm clock that shakes and shrieks.
Trouble organizing, estimating and managing time, the other hundred hurdles every day brings with sensory, eating difficulties, motor skills issues, and so on make getting out challenging on any day. Sunday is no exception.
Sensory Overloads and Processing Problems
Sensory overload is another big issue. Loud music, flashing lights, over powering perfume add up to an sensory cocktail that can quickly overload. While these things may be a minor irritation to some, for others the input is akin to a sensory onslaught.
The format and language of today’s church can be difficult for a literal-minded person to understand. An emphasis on emotion rather than thought and logic make it hard to grasp the message.
It is a social setting. This is a minefield for someone who can’t read body language, has difficulty recognizing faces, or any of the myriad of other cognitive or social skills typically lacking in a person with ASD. Often, children and young adults are expected to be “friends” at church to the same people who bullied the child at school. People who greet with a hug then ignore the minute they step out of the church door, or even before, will probably be interpreted as hypocritical.
Rejection at Church
Rejection and bullying is something I heard about over and over when I brought up the issue of church. Family members of all ages were bullied. Adults bullied children. Being rejected by people at church is an issue I heard about over and over. You can read about an instance that happened to my kids at church here.
And, no, this one situation did not cause us to leave that church. Often we have to weigh the cruelty of ignorant people against the benefit for our children of continuing to attend.
One of my kids visited a local church a while back. An adult in the youth group began making derogatory statements about persons with disabilities. The fact that this man felt comfortable saying these things in front of leadership and the students made it clear this was not a place we cared to be. Talk about how to keep visitors from coming back!
While the majority of people are kind and caring, I’m sad to say I wasn’t particularly surprised by this encounter.
People assume that since this person is not connecting socially they are not aware of these slights, but sometimes appearances are deceiving. Some autistics are exceptionally intuitive. The inability to express oneself does not necessarily mean a person has no thoughts or feelings on a matter.
Leadership that avoids their students with more needs, or even become hostile to students who ask too many questions is a frequent problem parents cited. Aspies tend to have no qualms responding to the challenge to “prove me wrong”. A lack of social skills coupled with honest answers from a young person who may have an above average IQ can be misinterpreted by youth workers and lead to exclusion.
Do You Want to Be the Church?
I was heartened to find some excellent resources for churches and ministries interested in reaching the “one out of the ninety-nine” as Dr. Stephen Grcevich from Key Ministry put it.
This YouTube video is a good condensation explaining a complicated topic. I think it is an excellent start.
Why Church Should Be Accessible
I talked to many parents. Most have tried church after church. Many gave up on ever finding a church home. Some of the children, scarred and confused by their church experiences, have given up on God. Not all have not turned away. There are those who continue to search for a place to belong, a safe haven to worship and fellowship with other believers. People they can call “brother”.
Some church leaders think church is for the majority, and they can’t afford to spend time making church available to everyone.
God has designed every person with a purpose. There is room in the body for every believer.
God has designed every person with a purpose. There is room in the body for every believer. (Tweet This)
Dr. Grcevich stated in the video that he believes God has a reason for the influx of students and people with Asperger’s and similar conditions.
Qualities common to people with Asperger’s are the tendency to be truth and knowledge seekers, be persistent in faith, have a strong sense of morality, be deep thinking, justice minded, and analytical, to have zero tolerance for hypocrites, and pay no heed to church politics.
Is there room at your church for these kind of people?
I felt the need to add to this post for clarity after some feedback from readers.
People with Asperger’s don’t need a special program. Dr. Grcevich explains in the video above that being funneled into the typical special needs ministry would not serve well and be completely inappropriate. What do they need? Respect, understanding, and a helping hand every now and then.
If this post resonated with you, please share it. Have something to add? Join the conversation by commenting below. I want to hear from you!
It all started when I went to look for a literary analysis book. One trash bag full and three boxes into the job, I started finding things. Treasures, really.
We must keep the carousal horse and other drawings, and the book Drawing With Children. I would be happy with only the drawings, but my daughter insists. What if she needs that book for her kids?
This binder says right on the cover Mind Twisting Stories which means it is a titled work, so it cannot be discarded.
Little sister even decorated it.
Most of our materials and assignments come with decorations of some sort, be they toddler explorations with marker, coffee rings, important reminders (reschedule dentist, pay water bill, need 27 styrofoam cups and toothpicks for gumballs) or even teeth marks. My youngest literally teethed on Shakespeare for Young People: A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
I like to think that makes her sound smart.
I tossed that chewed on copy, but when my middle son came by to visit he noticed the boxes. “But mom, I was in this play! TWICE.” Since he has his own house now he was welcome to dig through the boxes to his heart’s content.
When I was in the midst of the juggling act, I never realized how precious all those spills and scribbles would be someday.
We must keep the Book of Jokes. This is slap full of things nine year old boys find hilarious. Or HE-larry-US.
Obviously, these cannot be tossed out.
I adore reading his jokes and remembering that boy laugh. You know the one. The one that makes you laugh along even when nothing is funny. For a second I hear it again. I picture that grin and tousled up hair. It’s so present I can practically smell the little boy smell.
Also making the cut we have a songbook and cassette tape of Down By The Creekbank, a few original one of a kind, hand-designed space themed board games, and a smattering of materials we may actually need sometime next year.
I offered to keep the dissection kit (It’s in perfectly good shape) and order some extra specimens to do for fun.
The girl said, “No, thanks. I’m good.”
Party pooper. Truthfully, I am not so sad to say goodbye to that stage of my homeschooling mom career. Frog guts. Ugh.
Eventually, I loaded up boxes with a bunch of materials, some brand new. I think you may be able to discern why sometimes busy moms end up with duplicate unused workbooks.
My cabinet looks better now, but some old books are still firmly entrenched in the Stone Family Collection. Yes, those are ancient Abeka and National Geographic books. My kids loved them. Old books are friends.
I did find the book I was hunting, but after I skimmed through it I discovered it was not exactly what I was looking for.
I found something better. Messy, hoarded memories and plenty of room for more.