Sunday, February 9, 2014

Why is there a doily shortage?

Doilies. They broke me.
It seemed simple enough. After the fifth email Reply All message begging classroom parents (and c'mon, we all know that means the ones who identify as "mother") to contribute something for the Valentine's party, I caved. Lest you think I am ungenerous for waiting so long, I have donated my not-inconsequential weight in goods and years of my life in services for school parties, fundraisers, auctions, and teacher appreciation days (we appreciate you! We do! Here's a gift card). But this once, just for Valentine's Day, I was holding out for some of those women at our school who, yanno, don't work outside the home, for money, 60 hours a week, at four jobs, and homeschool, and well ... anyway, I was waiting for someone else to step up. Someone else to say those five simple words: I will bring the doilies.

Because it's Valentine's, y'all, and that means doilies. Right? Think about all the freaking valentines you made in school by folding a doily and an aligned sheet of red construction paper down the midline, just so, and then awkwardly carving a half-heart shape out of it with your blunted, sad little pair of safety scissors. What joy! How fun was that, right? Who wouldn't want their children to not be able to relive that thrill of flattening those folds to find that you, little old you, had created a heart. And not just any heart but one with frills and lacy designs and scalloped edges that made that plain, dusty-red construction paper leap with beauty and grace. I mean ... this experience is obviously a must-have.

But no one stepped up. No one. The room parent stooped to begging. "OK," she wrote, "we've got a lot of snacks here, but can anyone bring some doilies?" And that little plea, so plaintive and heartfelt and full of "enough with the freaking healthy snacks already!" broke me. And I emailed back from my traitorous phone (everything that goes wrong in my life is my iPhone's fault because my phone is an asshole) those critical five words: "I will bring the doilies."

Verily, she was grateful, and I felt like a true philanthropist. It'll be simple, I told myself. This weekend, days before the actual party, I'll stop at a drugstore or a Target, I'll find that flaming red and Pepto-pink aisle full of hideous cards featuring hideous cartoon characters that have nothing to do with love or Valentine's or saints or even holidays of any kind, saying ridiculous and sometimes vaguely suggestive things that might not be appropriate for grade-school children ... I'll find that aisle, I'll grab a packet of white, lacy paper doilies, and I'll have accomplished my duties, my burning need to bring the thrill of making paper-doily-layered valentines on that precious, precious day.

You can see where this is going. The title really was a spoiler, wasn't it? Sorry about that. Six stores--CVS, Rite-Aid, Michaels (Michaels, for God's sake), another Rite-Aid, a Whole Foods, and a Target. Target. One mystified and beleaguered Target employee told me that I was the seventh wild-haired, frantic woman to ask her that question in the last two hours. Not one fucking doily anywhere. Not one. This expedition required two driving trips during a three-day monsoon and took hours. No doilies. Not paper, not knitted, not red or white. Zip. 

After having a near-breakdown in Target (my last great hope, as always) among the leering Sponge-Bobs, the heartfelt Angry Bird bombs, and the apparently popular ugliest possible shade of pink ever to assault a retina, I gave up. I took out my asshole phone and emailed the room parent six simple words. I'm no Hemingway, so there's no genuine pathos hidden here: "Six stores. No doilies. Getting stickers."

So stickers is what they're gonna get. Retailers of the USA, what, exactly, have you got against the doily?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Three reasons I am a so glad to be part of the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism team

One: Jennifer Byde Myers

Two: Shannon Des Roches Rosa

Three: Carol Greenburg

Since 2010, I have had the honor of working with these three women (and some other wonderful people who've been a part of the editorial group in the past) to help build a network around one of the most controversial sociocultural issues of our time: autism. As we approach our fourth anniversary of working together as a team, I felt I should honor that association and the resource we've built. What follows is my personal observation and not an official statement from the Thinking Person's Guide to Autism (TPGA) team.

From the beginning, our attitude has been that autism shouldn't be controversial; that autistic people deserve respect, understanding, acceptance, and love; that it is just that simple. It's not easy to run a site and moderate a community that is so divisive while driving home a message that some people struggle to grasp or even find offensive or exclusive. It takes an ability to keep focused on a goal, to brush off attacks and setbacks, and to rely always on our collective moral compass that tells us what's right about respecting the personhood of autistic people and what that looks like. It also requires recognizing that everyone brings their pain to this table and that forgiveness and understanding are the fuels that further the conversation and move us forward.

Among the four of us, we have different ways of communicating this message, some of us more gently (ahem, Jen) than others. Some of us are autistic, some of us are BAPpy, and one of us is neither (ahem, our beloved Jen). But collectively, we're honest, candid, forgiving, good, empathetic, self-reflective, and always, always focused on putting autistic people first and taking an evidence-based approach to answering questions. 

TPGA can be an uncomfortable place for some people because social change is an uncomfortable process. Some folks aren't in the right frame of mind to listen and take action in forwarding that process. That's something we understand because we all arrived where we are now from very different starting points. As far as I'm concerned, I'll be here when those still on that journey eventually arrive. I hope my three reasons for being with TPGA are still around, too, because they truly are some of the best people I know, and anyone else would be lucky to have them touch their lives.

If you don't know about TPGA, an all-volunteer, grassroots effort, please check out our active Facebook site here and our blog archive packed with useful information here