Love. Listen/Observe/Read. Act. Repeat.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

When Baby Birds Fly

Earlier this week, the boys and I drove to Plano. We checked the route to SMU in Plano.

(We did some other cool stuff, like eat a terrific lunch at Whiskey Cake Kitchen Cafe, and buy some shirting fabric to make Michael two more custom dress shirts ... his mother is his secret tailor.)

But SMU in Plano is home to the place where Sam is hoping to do his internship this spring.

Some dedicated parents and professionals have started, a computer workgroup for young adults on the autism spectrum. Sam wants to volunteer as part of a practicum he needs to complete his computer technology certificate at North Central Texas College.

We've been taking this whole thing in baby steps. It has been extraordinarily difficult to find help in searching for an internship for him. First of all, state resources meant to help ... major vacuum there.

The college isn't quite yet set up to assist students like Sam in the search -- in the past, they have had their hands full just managing and approving the opportunities students found for themselves. Hopefully, that will change as the program grows and matures at the Corinth and Flower Mound campuses.

Job fairs at nearby UNT? For UNT students only ... no sharing. I suggest renegotiating boundaries there -- just like they've done with scores of other resources college kids need to succeed.

A friend in the computer business heroically, graciously did a little bit of legwork for us, enough for us to understand that Sam couldn't just walk into the door of a company and offer himself for a computer hardware tech internship. He would have to find out who the vendor was that provided the service and take it from there.

Holy cow. That seemed like asking someone to find out who brings the bagel cart every morning and then finding out if they'll let him arrange the cream cheeses before the carts head out the door every morning.

I think. I don't know. Computer tech isn't my world. My world is "content creation."

But, as luck and Divine Intervention would have it, someone caught a presentation by the nonPareil people at an autism conference and they passed the materials on to me. I shared with NCTC, an advisor at NCTC reached out, and finding the waters warm, on Tuesday, we drove there and walked around the building to get a vibe.

No people vibes, just driving and building vibes.

As I said, baby steps.

That was enough to get Sam pretty jazzed. He called the director and left a message. And applied for a tolltag.

That just about made me weep. I was girding myself for driving him there two times a week. But Sam says, "I can make that drive. I like this area. I could even get an apartment here."

I reminded him that internships don't pay, and the rent at Chez Wolfe can't be beat. Especially at the SO NY Lofts at Tennyson and the Tollway.

Baby steps, son. Baby steps.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Overheard in the Wolfe House #54

[sound of Elvis Presley, A Little Less Conversation, blaring from the computer]
Sam: Oh, no, Mom's dancing.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Overheard in the Wolfe House #53

[As Sam douses the Christmas roast pork with winter fruits and a port wine reduction on his plate with ketchup]
Michael: Man, Mom, you could cut this roast with a butter knife.
Peggy [blinking back tears]: That's something your dad would have said.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry TubaChristmas!

I'm looking at my clock and realizing there's still time to head to Dallas for this wonderful tradition invented by tuba players -- the only musicians who really know how to have fun.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The timing makes the poison

In 1976, somebody had a good idea: let's protect people from toxic compounds. Then, the law designed to do that got pummeled by the asbestos industry. We've not had the courage, since, to revisit the issue.

Toxicologists used to say, the dose makes the poison. Now that 5 to 15 percent of children have neurodevelopmental disorders -- including autism -- they are learning that the timing makes the poison, too.

The EPA is building a roster of about 200 chemicals that pose the greatest risk to our health.

They aren't getting very far with it.

Why do so many advances we make become the very things that seem to do us in? Why aren't we smart enough to avoid that?

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Overheard in the Wolfe House #52

Sam (via phone from work at Albertsons): I'm going to be a half-hour late. I just wanted you to know.
Peggy: Oh, ok.
Sam: It just took me that long to go through my voice mail.
Peggy: It did?
Sam: Yes, for the messages you and Michael left. The things to buy.
Peggy: Yes, we kept trying to tell you to not pay attention to the previous message.
Sam: It was a real pile-up, Mom.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Overheard in the Wolfe House #51

Peggy (interrupting Sam): uh, hang on, I just burned my fingers.
Sam: Wait - how - on that handle there? (pointing to the Dutch oven sitting on the stove top).
Peggy: Yes, I'm cleaning the oven. I didn't expect it to heat the top of the stove that much.
Sam: Oh, ok, it's not my fault then.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Overheard in the Wolfe House #50

Sam: My schedule is getting so busy.
Peggy: Do we need to re-print the calendar?
Sam: Yes, I'm getting in demand.

Saturday, December 18, 2010


Mark's can-fix-it talent lives on in Sam, who just repaired the computer printer. Mark's "visualize anything" lives on in Paige, who just caught a connecting flight in Kansas City in her stocking feet. Mark's broad shoulders live on in Michael, who just split the Christmas errand frenzy with me today. Mark's heart lives in mine, forever.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Overheard in the Wolfe House #49

Peggy (walking in the front door): Christmas presents!
Sam: Uh, better get wrapping.
Peggy: Nope, unwrapping. It was the company Christmas party today ... so what did you find?
Sam: Cocoa, and peppermint bark.
Peggy: Have at it.
Sam: Can you dip the bark in the cocoa?
Peggy: I like the way you think, Sam.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Overheard in the Wolfe House #48

Sam (in a stage whisper, as he bounds up the stairs): Noooooooooo
Peggy (fearing for the worst): What's the matter?
Sam: I forgot to brush my teeth.

Monday, December 13, 2010

You always pay

An obscure piece of news -- a story about a doctor winning an award -- caught my eye today.

It wasn't the startling rate of autism, which has increased exponentially since my son, Sam, was diagnosed almost 20 years ago. (It's now 1 in 80).

It wasn't Dr. Philip Landrigan's beautiful characterization about the brain. ("The human brain is capable of doing calculus and writing symphonies and enjoying the beauty of the sunset, but the cost of that is exquisite vulnerability," he said.)

It wasn't that the writer of the article assumed the villain in this unfolding health crises is one or more environmental triggers, though that could ultimately prove to be true.

It was the estimate of how much the U.S. saves each year in health care costs since we removed lead from gasoline: $200 billion.

China thought they could develop like we did, go-go-go, and clean up later. We got away with the "clean up later" model because people didn't know.

But we're still paying for it -- in ways we cannot even measure. Millions born with brains that mean they must struggle more than their fair share, for one. Health care costs that, in a generation, went from affordable to not.

We should never put the responsibility on another generation, hoping technology will catch up. You always pay, one way or another.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Still looking

I spent the past day and a half in Austin. Every time I go, I meet the nicest, smartest, most compassionate people.

The kind of people that wouldn't string out our kids for the sake of politics, the kind of people that wouldn't balance the budget on the most fragile in our state.

But there is a crack in the universe there somewhere, you know, I know it. It's the one where all the other people in Austin apparently are, the ones that make some of the stupidest public policies ever.

I haven't found it yet.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Angel Voices

When I see my children, all grown or nearly grown, I can scarcely remember them as the babies they were. But every once in a while, I get a rocket shot back, like I did tonight.

Sam was remembering his first experiences with computers as being on video games when he was in elementary school. I reminded him that his very first experience with html was as a three-year-old playing "Cosmic Osmo" on the computer.

As the memory re-lit in him, his face was almost as if he were a toddler again. And back I went.


Christmas is nearly here.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Overheard in the Wolfe House #47

Peggy: Paige will be there in time for that grand 70th birthday party you're having.
Peggy's Mom (via Skype): Oh, that's great.
Paige: You're going to be 70? You'll be the same as Gus in dog years.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Overheard in the Wolfe House #46

Peggy: Sam, let's Google robotic floor cleaner and see what we get.
(Sam chooses Scooba)
Peggy: There it is. The washer one.
Sam: $500. What a bargain!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Overheard in the Wolfe House #45

Peggy: There's a billy next door. Looks like they're ready for little goat babies.
Sam: Physical attractiveness is important in all matter of creatures. Insects, and cats.

Merry PianoChristmas

Almost two years ago, I sent my little upright grand for an extreme makeover, Philip Williams-style. Today, I received an e-mail that my old friend is ready to come home.

Let the carols begin.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Overheard in the Wolfe House #44

Before I pull out my Merry TubaChristmas scarf ...

What is the difference between a government bond and a trumpet player? A government bond eventually matures and starts earning money.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Not an adjective

I love playing with language.

For me, reading and trying new word combinations can be as exciting the unexpected deliciousness of eating watermelons and tomatoes together, or layering old favorites from my closet in a new, flattering combination.

But I couldn't muster the stuff for a tech writer who described a tablet-only publication -- as in a newspaper subscription for your iPad with no external links -- as an "autistic app."


First and foremost, autistic is misused as an adjective. And any editor who let that slide needs a refresher course, not only in English but also in People First language. You show respect when saying "he has autism" instead of "he's autistic." Two steps way back with that.

Here are some reefers to real apps ... just in case you were wondering ...

Some of them look marvelous and it makes me wonder how we ever made it, hauling around that little crate of vocabulary cards.