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

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

That All May Read

Yesterday we mailed back the digital playback machine from the Texas State Library. Sam has been a client of the Talking Books program since elementary school. Many nights the boys put in a Harry Potter book, or Hank the Cowdog, or Lemony Snicket, and fell asleep as the story unfolded.

That doesn't really work for Sam's life anymore. He's working two jobs and, come fall, will be taking two classes online -- just 12 more credit hours, four easy classes -- and he'll have his associate's degree.

I bought him a Kindle two Christmases ago, in hopes that the Kindle -- which has the capability of converting text to speech -- would fill the gap in his life.

It helps when a textbook is available as a Kindle edition. The book can be read to him and that improves his comprehension. We can't expect the Talking Books program to keep up with that kind of need.

But book publishers don't want to cooperate with the e-reader formats. They likely consider what happened to the music industry as a cautionary tale. His most favorite books aren't available, probably because the most popular authors know that where they go, is where the e-reader goes.

We'd pay for the damn books if they play nice with Kindle, which had the decency to offer text-to-speech. We'd buy another e-reader if they would quit buckling to the audio book market and enable text-to-speech.

While everyone else waits for market dominance -- or, in the case of JK Rowling and PotterMore, apparently positions for the continued chaos -- people like Sam can't participate.

It just shows how little we really think about people when our vision is clouded by money.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Working Title

So, yes, I'm working on another book. My longtime friend, Shahla Alai Rosales, an applied behavior analysis professor at the University of North Texas, and I are putting together a parenting book on decision-making.

We recognized that parents make decisions for their young children everyday. But parents of children with disabilities often make more decisions, and sometimes for the duration of their child's entire life. We wanted to put together timeless information for parents, guiding their decisions so that they result in lifelong happiness and satisfaction for their child and their family.

I told my co-worker, Lowell Brown (with whom I'd also like to co-author a book on the Barnett Shale someday) the working title for our parenting book:

Between Now and Dreams: A Parent's Guide for Every Decision You'll Ever Make.

Lowell's deadpan response, "You think that's comprehensive enough?"

Absolutely, dude. And we're going to pack it all in a skinny little book that you can carry around in your brief case or purse.

We're going to change the world.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Overheard in the Wolfe House #109

Peggy (over dinner): So how was your first day at work?
Sam: Fantastic.
Peggy: How many circuit boards did you build?
Sam: Hundreds.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Getting By With A Little Help From Our Friends

After my public whine about DARS, a few friends reached out with unexpected and much appreciated offers. Sam seized on them both, forwarding a resume to one and securing an interview with another.

I accompanied him to the interview, in part because I wanted to see my old friend, but also because she asked that I be there.

My friend runs a company started by her late husband assembling circuit boards. I'm sure there is nothing in "What Color is Your Parachute" or any of the other how-to-get-a-job-books about bringing your mom along, but that's how we roll.

Sam and my friend communicated just fine together. They are both straight shooters. She gave him a tour and checked his ability to do some of the fine motor work. Then she told him she would work around his Albertsons schedule for now. Very classy. If it doesn't work out, there is an easy retreat for both of them.

But I have to say, at the end of the interview, when she asked about another task altogether -- helping her link up some kind of time clock hardware to her current accounting software -- I saw a huge spark in Sam's eyes.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Overheard in the Wolfe House #108

Peggy: I put a little more whole wheat flour in the kolache dough this time.
Sam: Sometimes, Mom, you can eat too much nutrition, you know.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Overheard in the Wolfe House #107

Sam: You have a real nice air freshener in here.
Peggy (motioning to the vase on the dresser): It's the tuberose your smelling.
Sam: A Tube Rose?
Peggy: Yes. I think they smell like Hawaii.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Every Day of The Year

Based on things Sam has said about the gas plant next door over the past 12 months, I can tell he wakes up each day and thinks, "Maybe today is the day that they lose and we win and we can stay."

As my friend Nancy said, it's sweet, but it's sad.

It's a universal truth, too. I wake up everyday thinking my husband is alive and my home isn't threatened.

Then I draw my first waking breath.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

They Just Don't Get It

I called DARS today -- that's Texas Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services to you non-Texans out there.

I reminded the counselor that we had talked more than six months ago, looking for help finding an internship ... but if not, soon he would be graduating and, in the eyes of the state, "underemployed."

Well that day is here, and could they help with a job search and a coach, like they did with Albertsons, only with a tech job?

She said just about every way she could that she couldn't help, and I listened and listened. Then when it was my turn to talk, I said, I'm not sure what all I just heard here, but essentially I heard that you can't help.

Oh, no, she said, that's not it. I just don't want you to have any expectations that we'll be successful this time. The providers they work with don't have contacts in the tech world. The best network will be the one I can make for him. Besides, the job market is really soft, no one is getting hired. We could be at this for a very long time.

Essentially, repeating herself, but objecting to my characterization of what she says.

Yeah, I get that at work a lot.

But, I kept my mouth shut on the characterization and went searching for common ground.

Sam needs help navigating this alien world of job-searching. He needs help searching and applying for jobs. He needs help with the interviews. And once an employer is ready to take a chance on him, he'll need help for a little while -- and so will the employer -- understand the expectations and learning how to communicate with each other.

Mercifully, at some point, before she could reply to me with another round of negativity, either my phone hung up on her or her on me.

The guys at nonPareil have seen it -- Sam understands and works hard. He loves to solve problems, and he has a lot of stamina and thinking power to do it.

I called Gary Moore, who collects stories like these because he hears from parents every day, just to add to the pile. The pile know as "DARS just doesn't get it."

He called back and did some brainstorming with me. Lots more than required, but I appreciated it. He reminded me that Sam built a bunch of computers during his internship with nonPareil, computers meant for DARS clients.

But DARS can't help him find that employment.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

Overheard in the Wolfe House #106

Sam: What was that all about?
Peggy: Susan was helping me re-arrange the furniture so that it looks a little better when the real estate people come around
Sam: When does that start?
Peggy: Maybe as soon as next weekend.
Sam: We're doomed.

Overheard in the Wolfe House #105

Sam: I miss Michael and Paige.
Peggy: Me, too. What do you miss the most about them?
Sam: Well, I miss Michael, of course. He's been gone the most.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

How Paige Sees Home

First Things First

Sam and I spent a good portion of last Saturday afternoon talking about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs. The house is going up for sale and he's very upset about it.

We are about to become another in what is sure to be a long exodus of refugees from the Barnett Shale. An operator has built a gas processing plant next door. I'm not sure we can even sell the place, but I have to try.

My brother-in-law is an attorney for a pipeline company in another state. Even his eyes popped when he saw what we're being asked to put up with.

(image borrowed from Wikipedia)

Sam has known this has been coming for a long time, but struggled to see the new order of things once we leave. I'm not surprised. People with autism can barely understand our cryptic social orders to begin with. Upend the whole thing and he doesn't know what to do.

Well, the wise Mr. Maslow said that first comes things like breathing and food and water. Breathable air is already in short supply around here, having a next door neighbor dehydrating gas, blowing off relief valves and burning raw gas to run thousands of horses every hour to keep that 16-inch line compressed adds serious insult to injury.

Not to mention, if that 16-inch line ever goes, we go with it.

Seeing it on the pyramid, along with things like food and water helped him understand.

He's fretted for more than a year about what would happen to friendships if we aren't living in the same place we've always been. Half his school chums are graduating, too, and getting jobs far from here. Somehow, Sam saw himself as the anchor in this changing storm.

But friendships are much higher on the pyramid. As a visual aid, Maslow scores for us. Sam finally understands why the exodus is necessary.

First things First.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Overheard in the Wolfe House #104

Michael (via phone, after his car broke down at the merge of I35W and 820): When you're a little kid, you cry and then you do it. After you grow up, you do it and then you cry.
Peggy: That's brilliant, Michael.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Second Biggest Mistake Ever. Or Not.

For a graduation present, I bought Sam an iPhone.

Second only to buying him an old car for Christmas, it was shaping up to be the biggest mistake I ever made.

Family members, friends, and all the AT&T retail sales reps and guys from the Genius Bar at the Apple Store down in Texas have been getting an earful about the Bad Decision Apple Made, one that makes it impossible to assign properties to your contact groups.

It was something his old Nokia phone could do, and he warned me (and has reminded me repeatedly the past four days that he warned me) that without that feature, it was a deal-breaker.

It didn't matter that he could turn on the navigator to help find an alternate route to the airport today, or to the Apple Store. It didn't matter that he could play his favorite music on it. Because he couldn't tell his phone to ring one way for a call from a family member and another way for a call from friends, the phone might as well go in the trash can.

He tried finding apps. He tried work-arounds I found on various help sites. He could create the groups in Outlook, but Outlook wouldn't cooperate with the sync. Even if he gets that to work, he'd still have to program each individual contact with his preferred ringtone.

A waste of time, Sam said. He's right, of course. But I told him that if it's really that important, he's spending an awful lot of time figuring out the work-arounds. So much time, in fact, that he probably would already have had all 60-ish of his contacts programmed.

Yes, he said, but why should he have to waste his time because of this Bad Decision Apple Made.

Then it dawned on me. He could write an app for that.

We had an animated discussion on the way home from the Apple Store about it. I told him a lot of people learn to make a good living by solving problems people want solved.

His perspective changed. Or he at least stopped saying I made a huge mistake buying him the phone. He recognized developing an app as a project, and one with some big hurdles, but he's on his way.

When we got home, he made his first "alert tone" in Garage Band, one that he used on his Nokia that he's upset wasn't on his iPhone. And we looked up resources for app developers.

This could be an interesting summer, especially as the job hunt begins.

Autism Awareness Floofie

I am surrounded by some of the most talented people. Maddy Mathis created this furry little guy in autism awareness colors.

She will attend art school in California. In about a decade, this young woman will be a creative force in the art world.