Returning to Work After Baby with Multiple Worlds on My Shoulders

There was a pause after a stream of kids got off the school bus in south Minneapolis, and then I saw Cole, who was 11 years old, moving intentionally down the bus steps, smiling and staring blankly, with his shock of blonde hair blowing in the crisp fall breeze. His empty-looking backpack was partway open, but there was nothing at risk of falling out. Without making eye contact, he made a bee-line for the front door, which was open, and barged into the kitchen. On the counter, he found string cheese and peanut butter crackers that I had made for him moments before. As if he hadn’t eaten all day, he scarfed them down and then asked, “Milk?” “Oh, sorry, Cole, I will get you a glass of milk.” “Milk!” he said, raising his voice. “One minute, Cole,” I reassured him, opening the refrigerator door and pulling out the carton of milk – then grabbed a glass from the clean dishwasher, even though it wasn’t dry. Before I finished pouring the glass of milk, he plunked himself in front of the television on his favorite chair, and found “The Simpsons.” Stomping his feet, he laughed and pointed, “Homer is silly!” We shared a chuckle. Then I asked, “Do you want your milk now?” “Yes!” he replied, taking the glass and drinking it down.

When the episode was done, I asked him if he wanted to do some stretching exercises and he agreed, picking up a toy truck he liked to play with. First we took off his leg braces, and he sat on the floor. Starting with his calf muscles, I held his left knee and pushed his foot toward him, then did his right side. In ten minutes, I stretched his calves, hamstrings, quadriceps, and hip flexors, to keep him limber because cerebral palsy causes muscle spasticity.

Cole was also autistic and intellectually disabled. He needed constant supervision and support because he was vulnerable and unsafe if left alone. Sometimes he got very anxious and overwhelmed, so he would hit and throw things. Once already, he had hit me in my pregnant belly when he wasn’t able to regulate his emotions. He didn’t want to feel like that, he couldn’t help it. I understood because I had anxiety and depression. We went to his local community center to play sports with other kids his age. They included him and treated him like a regular person. We enjoyed doing things together after school, and we had our routine.

After stretching, Cole liked to relax with video games. That was when I normally went to the bathroom to pump my breast milk for Imani, and put it into small plastic, labeled cups. It took me about ten minutes if I turned the machine on high, with both sides attached to suction cups that attached to milk bottles. Cole’s sister, Ricky, sat with him while I was gone, but I still hurried.

My breasts were tender as I turned off the suction and pulled the cups off. Every two hours, around the clock, pumping had to be done to produce enough milk and not dry up. This included getting up every two hours in the night to pump, so of course, I never slept. It took time to set up and finish, besides the actual pumping, and then it took a while to fall back to sleep – as exhausted as I was. Breast milk is recommended for babies, especially premature babies who are underweight and trying to catch up from the time they are born. Every day, I slept for about an hour at a time, worked all day, and was still recovering from child birth without a maternity leave. It was mere days until I returned to work, still stapled from a cesarean section, and trying not to tear the incision open as I did personal care assistant work for several people: Cole, Mark (a quadriplegic), Matilda (an elderly woman), and an elderly pair of sisters, Marie and Martha. This was where the benefit of youth made a difference, because for three months until my daughter came home, I slept a few hours a night – and then I continued to sleep a few hours a night. Looking back, I don’t know how I was able to function doing all that on my own as a 19-year old single mom with virtually no support system.  I worked incredibly hard.

“Ricky, you can go in a minute, I’m just about done,” I yelled down the stairs, peeking out of the dirty bathroom that looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in months. Ricky didn’t say anything. She was quiet and seemed depressed, rarely smiling. It was hard to know what she was thinking, and she didn’t share. On my way back down the stairs, I was met by Cole’s mother, Beate, who practically cornered me. “Marriage is hard enough without a disabled child,” she hissed. Stunned, I had no time to react, just looked at her with big eyes that conveyed no understanding of what she meant. My heart started to race as I slowly distanced myself from her, returning to Cole, who was shrieking in the living room.

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Reflections on my daughter going to college

I’m both ready and not for my daughter to leave for college. I know she’s going to the best place, a truly wonderful place, where she will be able to spread her wings and fly. And I will be able to work on my empty-nester bucket list, that has been in the works since I became a mom at 18, and enjoy some of my own newfound freedom. I’m excited because I know that she will be able to chase her dreams, meet so many people from around the world, and expand her world. I hope that she will find her sense of home and community. All of my motherly worries are wrapped up with joyful anticipation into a giant knot of mixed emotions in my stomach. This moment is what I have prepared her for all these years: a successful launch into adulthood. It’s a time that has always been very abstract, that never felt like it would really happen. But now that it’s here, I attempt to process it. Although I know that this won’t really begin to happen until I watch her walk away from me – with more permanence than waving goodbye on the school bus to kindergarten, the first venture to camp, or those early play dates. She will be back, but it won’t be the same. In my heart, I know that she will carry my love with her, and it will be a light to help her find her way in her life and lead her back to me. She will always be my sweet, funny, curious, precocious little girl who taught me about love and life. That is why it is both so hard and beautiful to let go in such a big way.

When to Discuss Mental Illness

My daughter’s blog

aliveandlistening

A disturbing trend within today’s society is the prevalence of high-profile shootings and our almost immediate assumption that mental illness must be involved. Some people argue that instead of discussing gun laws, we should instead be discussing mental illness. Regardless of our views on gun laws, this is a dangerous thought process. It uses the idea that mental illness is responsible for gun violence and mass shootings. While mental illness has played a part in several high-profile shootings, it has not played a consistent enough role to merit the demonic image that people often associate with mental illness. Nor is it consistent enough to merit the blame of mental illness whenever there are high-profile shootings. Only about 22 percent of mass killers – those who have caused the deaths of four or more people – have exhibited mental illness [1]. Besides this, mass shootings are not as commonplace as one…

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Females with Aspergers Syndrome Checklist by Samantha Craft

Everyday Aspie

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Females with Asperger’s Syndrome Unofficial Checklist 

This is an unofficial checklist created by an adult female with Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) who has a son with Asperger’s Syndrome. Samantha Craft has a Masters Degree in Education. Samantha Craft does not hold a doctorate in Psychiatry or Psychology. She has a life-credential as a result of being a female with Asperger’s Syndrome and being a parent of a child with Asperger’s Syndrome. She has created this list in an effort to assist health professionals in recognizing Asperger’s Syndrome in females—for in-depth information regarding females with AS refer to Craft’s upcoming book Everyday AspergersTen Traits of Aspergers can be found here.

Suggested Use: Check off all areas that strongly apply to the person. If each area has 75%-80% of the statements checked, or more, then you may want to consider that the female may have Asperger’s Syndrome.

When determining an AS…

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Myths Surrounding American Indian History, by Imani Cruz

I am so proud to share this essay, written by my daughter for an American Indian History college class:

Myths Surrounding American Indian History, by Imani Cruz
​Many myths pervade the history of American Indians as told by Euro Americans. American Indian history was incomplete if told only by the Europeans and this left room for pervasive myths. Multiple art forms perpetuate these myths, such as the poem, The Song of Hiawatha by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. However, by studying numerous sources, both American Indian and European, and by being aware of any biases that can exist, many of these myths can be broken down in order to create a more 3-dimensional history.
​The Song of Hiawatha, a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, perpetuated the myth of the disappearing Indian. Hiawatha was meant to represent the noble savage, an Indian who accepts his fate to disappear. Hiawatha sees the people from the land of dawn and knows that the savage Indians will destroy themselves and will not fit in with civilization, so they must be noble savages and accept their fate to disappear. The poem justified European-Americans’ ideas that Indians were fading away as civilization, inevitably, came to America and created the advanced United States that they knew. Many European-Americans believed that it was inevitable that the American Indians disappear, that American Indians were inherently savage and uncivilized and could not coincide with the new civilization that Europeans brought to the United States. In some ways, the poem portrayed Europeans as people who were coming to North America because they were meant to save the Indian savage from himself. His fate was savagery and destruction without the people from the land of dawn. However, the many myths that The Song of Hiawatha perpetuated were simply misconceptions. Many events that occurred during the creation of the “New World” disproved the idea that American Indians were disappearing. And many other events and ensuing relationships between American Indians and Europeans disproved many of the misconceptions that Europeans and Americans had of Indians and their supposed place in this New World.

​Many Europeans’ views of American Indians led them to treating Indians like they were children. But many Indian nations’ leaders proved that American Indians were not children but people who held great political and economic power that could even surpass the power of Europeans in North America. Some Indian nations mirrored the power and order of European empires. One leader who proved his intelligence when it came to politics and economics was Eshkibagikoonzhe, known to the Americans as Flat Mouth. Flat Mouth was able to use Anishinaabeg goods to create relationships with the Americans and British that gave the Anishinaabeg an independence that the Europeans may have disliked. Flat Mouth showed that he was not a child, but an independent leader who knew how to create advantages for his people. His tactics along with many other American Indian leaders allowed Indian nations to expand, both in territory and population, contrary to the belief that they were disappearing.

​The 1660 Feast of the Dead strengthened the alliances between several Indian nations. While American Indians were often portrayed as barbarians who were constantly at war with one another, the Feast of the Dead showed different nations coming together to create a strong connection and alliance. Two nations that came together through the Feast were the Wyandot and the Anishinaabewaki. The Wyandot “had forged a connection with the peoples of Anishinaabewaki. These connections gave them a right of residence, as well as the right to trade and travel in the country of their ‘Algonquian’ allies.” [1] American Indian nations were able to create strong alliances through Feasts of the Dead. Gift giving, food, and music were an important part of the Feasts and many people were married between the tribes. The nations came to feast and bury their dead together. While some nations did face excessive warfare, not all war was without political basis and many nations created strong alliances with each other. Many Europeans were not able to recognize the politics behind American Indian nations’ interactions and brushed their wars and alliances off as the actions of backwards communities that needed to be civilized.

​Often Europeans viewed Indians simply as a source for goods or people to convert to Christianity, not people that they were dependent on. But the relationships between different Indian nations greatly affected the Europeans and their success. Wars between nations could greatly hurt the Europeans’ trade opportunities. If one of these Indian nations became weakened by warfare or sickness that depleted their populations, the French, British or American economies could suffer. Traders’ livelihoods often depended on their relationships with American Indians and the continued success of their nations. Whether certain Indian nations were friend or foe to these traders could greatly affect any success these men would have. Both the European-Americans and American Indians had to work every opportunity to their advantage and this meant that it was important European-Americans kept good relationships with their Indian allies. These allies and foes “learned to exploit the overlapping circulation of indigenous and European goods to become power brokers.” [2] Europeans and Americans also depended on Indian agents to travel throughout the U.S. Without these agents, Europeans and Americans were left without protection and aid to help them trade and interact with Indian leaders. The French and British created alliances with different nations in order to protect themselves, compete with each other, and to build up their economies. Without the aid of American Indians, many Americans and Europeans would have been left with very little in terms of trade and protection in a land that was foreign to them but important to the global economy.

​Europeans’ views of American Indians often came solely from Europeans who had traveled to the United States. However, this often gave them a one sided view of the indigenous people of the United States. Visiting Europeans often only saw the lives of American Indians from an outside perspective that was not always aware of social, cultural, political and economic traditions. Many also met American Indians with preconceived ideas of what they would be like. An example of this is in the Europeans’ views of American Indian nomadic life that existed in some Indian nations. Some Europeans saw this as the lifestyle of a backwards-thinking community, left behind in time. They did not see the complexity of the nomadic lifestyle and the work it took nomadic American Indians to keep their people organized and proficient. Many Europeans examined the lives of American Indians without the full context of their lives, cultures, reasonings and social norms. These incomplete notions they created about the lives and personalities of American Indians were spread to Europe and were hard to drive out of the minds of generations of Americans and Europeans who continued to believe them.

​Europeans often portrayed their pursuits in the United States as more successful than they were. They often laid claim to American soil when in reality, they had no more control over it than their European empires across the Atlantic. American Indians were able to continue maintaining control over vast amounts of territory and create a “Native New World” by using the changes brought on by the presence of a new global economy to their advantage. Much of this territory could be seen as “a Native New World created by indigenous social formations in response to the emergence of a global market economy, and the expansion of the Atlantic World empires onto North American soil.” [3] American Indians were not disappearing as much as Europeans would’ve liked their people to believe. It would be more difficult to take Indian land than the Europeans wanted it to be. Many times, Indians were portrayed as nomadic so Europeans could take over their territory on the pretense that these American Indian nations did not occupy it. However, this was a myth because many American Indian nations controlled vast amounts of land that the Europeans were attempting to take.

​There are many myths that surround American Indians and their cultures, nations, politics and personalities along with the colonialism that they dealt with throughout the formation of the “New World.” Some of these misconceptions had some original truth that led to exaggeration or lies that eventually led to the myths. Many were not based in reality and were meant to work to the advantage of Europeans and Americans, as seen with the many myths exemplified in The Song of Hiawatha, which worked to justify European colonialism and structure in North America. These myths were often influenced by one-sided accounts of American Indian life that were recorded by Europeans and Americans who had had very little interaction with American Indians outside of trade or who were trying to help themselves. Eventually many myths, that spoke of the disappearing Indian, with backwards lifestyles and child-like personalities, were able to exist with little merit. These myths would go on to influence generations of people, as did the story of Hiawatha as it was told to generations of school-age children. Many of these myths can be broken up from the vantage point of many years later, though some may still remain.

[1] Michael Witgen. An Infinity of Nations: How the Native New World Shaped Early North America. (Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012), 46
[2] Witgen, An Infinity of Nations, 55
[3] Ibid., 118
Bibliography:
Witgen, Michael. An Infinity of Nations: How the Native New World Shaped Early North America. Pennsylvania: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012

Social Media as Tool to Stop Sexual Violence

A prominent (married) lobbyist that I’ve known for many years invited me for a visit, and I thought it was a friendly gesture to catch up and chat. Partway through, he imposed himself on me and tried to kiss me. And then I realized he wanted to trap me and try to have sex with me. Fortunately, he wasn’t overly aggressive and I was able to leave without having to fight him off. He ran into me yesterday, not expecting me to be where I was and was very surprised and short. He is depending on my secrecy. If I were to tell, it could ruin his marriage and career. It made me think that if we started a new wave of demonstration against sexual abuse, where we out people on social media, I think it could be a deterrent. If he knew he could be named publicly, I think he would think twice about acting as a predator.

I need to break my silence, because that is what keeps us victims. He served me a couple glasses of wine (a tactic that is often used) and mid-conversation, started complaining about his marriage, probably to create a perception that he was on his way out and soon to be single. So much manipulation. I was trapped and cornered, and he thought he had a good set up. Some women may justify what happens to them because we blame the victim. Victims are never at fault. What he did was predatory. It was a premeditated plan to try to coerce me into having sex with him. I consider this attempted rape. We need to have many more conversations about what rape looks like because we live in a rape culture, and sexual abuse in its many forms is pervasive and even socially acceptable. Secrets keep us sick, we all need to learn more and be very frank and honest about what is happening.

Here is information from the world health organization on sexual violence against women: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs239/en/.

Most are not reported and there are many reasons for that, namely the psychology of victimhood in our society. So what I would encourage, is dialogue and telling people what happened to you, and getting help if you have been abused/assaulted. Together we can change the dynamics of our culture, so that we have healthy, safe interactions with each other that will lead to safe, healthy communities.

 

Miss Frigerio

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With my third grade teacher, Miss Frigerio, who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) when I was in her class, described what it was like, and who had already passed away (in a nursing home) in her 20s when I went back to visit just a few years later. I remember the love she showed her class and all the personality she put into teaching. When we consider stem cell research and investing in other medical treatments, we need to think of people like her, who died too soon, were dearly loved, and had so much left to give the world.

Life Span Home Plans based on Universal Design

Life Span Home Plans

Welcome to Charles Schwab Architect’s new Life Span Home PLan Designs Blog.These are plans based on Universal Design: Homes that work for people of all ages and abilities. Please comment on the plan designs.

If you see something you like please tell your friends, if you see something you REALLY don’t like,please tell us first by emailing charlesschwab@universaldesignonline.com

Our intent is to include YOU in the design process. You are the invited experts and we appreciate your comments that will be used as we develop new plans. All of these plans are available for construction/building permit and documentation and print purchase. We will update you on their progress as YOU provide improvement ideas.

We want to include you in the process. Please remember the plans shown are within a square foot range. Many plans can be made better or more “Universal or Accessible” by simply adding square footage. Please keep this in mind…

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Single Mothers Redefined

I met with Imani’s high school counselor today for some business related to her college applications. She said that she would not have known about a lot of her activities if I hadn’t told her because she is so humble. I told her that she doesn’t like to talk about herself. I do that for her, a little too well maybe. Then she said that I’ve been a remarkable role model for my daughter, accomplishing so many things as an independent woman. It kind of took me by surprise because I’m used to feeling like people think I’m inferior as a single mother. But she put a whole different spin on it. We should treat all single mothers this way. She didn’t try to tell me that she knows what it’s like, and make it about her. She just focused on our story, and honored us in a very dignified way.

#nationalpreemieday

#nationalpreemieday: imageThis was Imani at 5 days old. She was 2 pounds, 6 ounces, and 14 weeks early. She had a significant brain hemorrhage and a condition that causes blindness, was fed through an IV, lived in an incubator, and was breathing with a ventilator here that I’m holding in place. Plus a list of other issues and a prognosis filled with uncertainty. She didn’t breathe on her own for months, and went home when she was apnea and bradycardia free for 24 hours – which means she didn’t stop breathing and her heart rate didn’t drop. I had just turned 19, was a victim of sexual abuse & had complications that were genetic & accelerated by socioeconomic stress & domestic violence. I was unmarried, living with a schizophrenic roommate who died from suicide. We moved from place to place to survive on home care worker wages and were regularly in imminent danger. I almost died in a car accident that happened because I was sleep deprived & malnourished. She almost died many times from a number of causes. I didn’t know if my child was safe much of the time because I had to leave her with unstable people who were all I had in order to work. It’s a long, traumatic story. I still can’t believe that we are still surviving. Nobody knows what it has been like, except for us. Our triumph is not in any vainglorious declarations, but in the next day building on the last, toward a vision of happiness that includes transforming the ugly into beauty around us and for others.