homeless schooling

On March third, the kids and I became homeless. Without going into the details, which I find more and more to be pretty universal the more time I spend in groups of other abused women, we have had to move into a battered women’s shelter. (I’m not sure why they don’t call it a battered children’s shelter. So many women in these places are dealing simultaneously with the trauma and heartbreak of the children they tried and failed to protect, which in my experience is a much more devastating betrayal than the infidelity, manipulation, lies, and yes, violence that preceded our homelessness.
I expected homeschooling in a shelter to be impossible, but with the insight and support of the children’s team, as well as the relief of having escaped, the kids have been making leaps and bounds. I was amazed by how much more quickly they started finishing their schoolwork once the three of us stopped waiting for the next blow, the next screamed obscenity. I thought that a group living situation would be impossible with my asperger’s, but without the abuse, my anxiety level decreased enough to compensate for the anxiety over change and interactions. I thought I would be misunderstood and frustrated but I have felt more normal there than anywhere I have lived in over a decade.
I write this not to voice rage or make accusations although there is certainly a lot of that to go around, but because homeschoolers and people with disabilities who live with partner abuse have so much more to fear than women whose lives may at least seem more “normal” when they consider doing the unimaginable and trying to start a better life.
If you or someone you know is in a similar situation, please know and/or let them know that the worst case scenario so many of us dread (homelessness after leaving) is not that bad. Living with constant dread numbs you to real risk and makes it hard to keep things in perspective but get out. Do whatever you have to to get out. When the nightmares start to go away and you have the amazing gift of a day without real fear, you will see how strong you have been simply to survive and you will discover better uses for that strength and the hope for a happier life, not just survival. Peace be with you.

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Matilda who told lies and was burned to death.

I am so glad that Edward Gorey illustrated a version of Hilaire Belloc’s Cautionary Tales for Children.  And I’m even more glad that my kids adore this book.  They just can’t resist a grisly death.  Right now they are reading it to me with an unnerving glee.

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cincinatti chili

Only real love could ever ever make a Texan spend over an hour making a pot of chili with Cincinatti in the name.

E is completely in love with the Kit books right now and I got her the cookbook for Christmas, which is almost a promise to let her try the recipes.

I doubled the spices and then just dumped a bunch more in and it was still bland, even for F who is the most pepper-phobic of us (I blame the fact that he was born in Europe) but we actually had a really nice dinner anyway.  So despite having reinforced my suspicions of any food that claims to be from north of Oklahoma, bland chili was a pretty good idea.

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open letter to a book thief

While I understand the irresistible urge to read the works of the Brontes, I feel it is necessary to protest your recent theft of Villette from the mail.  I too enjoyed this book, a bit less than Jane Eyre or The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, of course, but a lot more than any book I have ever bought at a grocery store in the throes of bibliomanic need.  I can’t really say even that I hope you don’t enjoy it, because for my old copy to go unenjoyed would be an even greater loss than the loss of the book itself, but as the book was on its way to another reader who did really want to read it, I am extremely saddened that it did not arrive.

Should you read and enjoy this book, I can only hope it will lead you to as great a love of the Gothic novel as that which inspired me to buy and then share Villette on bookmooch.  I think you will find that there are many good ways to find great literature for free without stealing if you look.  I highly recommend bookmooch, Project Gutenberg, librivox, and of course your local library.  Hopefully the moralistic nature of your current reading will prick your conscience against further mail theft and you will make use of these resources next time.  In the event that you try to sell the book instead of reading it,  I am pretty sure you will get less than a dollar, which is much less than its value and more than you deserve (not only because you stole a book that I would gladly have given you for free if you had asked, but because you have wasted an opportunity to read it).

However, I will try to console myself by hoping that you will instead read and be inspired by this book, in which case I highly recommend the other works of the Brontes, Bram Stoker’s Dracula – the book, but I guess the movie also, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster, Northanger Abbey and the juvenilia of Jane Austen, as well as the poetry of Coleridge

Please however try in the future to make use of the numerous resources available to book lovers on a budget, and if it’s not too much trouble, when you are done with my book, please give it away.

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The Game

Have I mentioned lately that I can’t let myself read for pleasure these days?  It’s sad but finishing college seems to demand that I not enjoy reading for a while, which is a lot like not being allowed to blink for me.  So a month into the semester I had to let myself have a break from not reading or completely lose it.  Not only was I staying up just as late getting nothing done, but I was not reading while doing it, which is doubly bad because I wasn’t enjoying myself and I also wasn’t doing my school reading.  Having finally given up and read a book, I feel much better and more motivated not to read for a little while. 

The book I just finished seemed perfect for reinforcing my resolution to live more and read less; the main characters in the game seem unable to extricate themselves from stories and books until the ascendant storyteller appropriates so much of the narrative of the more reclusive sister’s life that she has no way to regain control of it but to end it.  I am sure I am bungling this.  It is a forceful book and has some of that same uncomfortable and yet reassuring familiarity that the Potter family books had for me.  I love Byatt’s books because her characters are all such readers and/or storytellers apart from their existence as characters in her stories.  So few books seem to be about people who are too involved in books, but I have a hard time identifying with any other kind of character.  I did wish that more of the sisters’ story game was retold in The Gamebut other than that, enjoyed it thoroughly and am left feeling a bit scolded about my own reclusiveness and preference for books over most aspects of reality.  I am sure that partly that is because I spent the entire time I read it feeling guilty for reading instead of doing schoolwork or housework or playing with the kids. 

However, now that I have gotten my fix for pages, I have no excuse for procrastinating algebra or the dishes and will have to face the inevitable.  Sleep, too.

And I actually want to.  It is amazing how reading too much makes life unbearable but reading too little does too.  I guess I may learn moderation one day after all.

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If you needed any more proof that disability rights are human rights. . .

Please read here about an urgent situation in Canada.  

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Misunderestimating me.

I hate to admit how much I love that particular spoonerism, largely because I found Bush so so embarrassing. 

But being back in school, my abilities and deficits are more obvious than they used to be.

My first day of math tutoring went reasonably well and my tutor remarked that I was actually pretty good at algebra.  Three sessions later, I am working on basically the same thing and suspect he may be surprised by the lack of progress.  And it’s not that I am particularly bad at math either, at least not compared to other Texan public school graduates anyway; it’s that I do math very, very slowly and often completely miss the point of a lesson until I have repeated it several times.  That said, on assessment and aptitude tests, I appear to be better at math than average, which raises the question: am I impaired or not? 

Yes and no.   (And it doesn’t help any that when my parents and teachers first began to suspect that I learned differently, I was put on huge doses of Ritalin and had to take one of them about an hour before my math class, leaving me barely able to write and definitely unable to focus appropriately through my first year of algebra.)

I can learn.  I passed the equivalent of a college level algebra course when I was in tenth and eleventh grade.  But the key there was that I did it very slowly and took a year per semester to do it.  Granted, it was a higher level math than 99% of the students at the alternative school were taking, but it took hours of one on one tutoring for me to accomplish it so again, I was ahead and behind at the same time.

Your perception of my intelligence would vary drastically depending on the circumstances of our acquaintance.  If you had worked with me at the cafe where I last worked, you probably would have noticed that I was pretty slow at making drinks and finding things in the back room.  You may have judged from this that I was not very intelligent.  If you knew me from a job I had at my first university, as a peer tutor, you may remember that I had a set of regular students who came back every time they wrote anything because they knew that I could explain the structural problems in their papers well enough to raise their GPA and would be patient enough to do that even if it took hours.  From this and the fact that I was recommended for the peer tutor position without having taken the courses usually required for consideration, you might conclude that I was extremely intelligent.  And oddly, the assumption that I was extremely intelligent may be harder for me to cope with than the equally flawed assumption that I was not very bright at all. 

As with many aspies, I have a “spiky” neuropsych profile.  My strengths are very strong and my weaknesses are very weak.  Anyone who has ever lived with me can testify that I frequently forget why and how I arrived in a room, when and what I need to eat, what day and date it is, where my keys/shoes/backpack/coat/children (just kidding – you can hear them anywhere) are.  I load the washer and put the soap in and forget to start it.  I have burned up so many kettles and pots and pans that I will never ever under any circumstances attempt to boil water in anything lacking a whistle ever again.  For an aspie, I am on the overly hygienic side, partly because I go into the bathroom for the other reason, forget why I am there, and take a bath.  I have had pneumonia several times because I fail to notice that I am a little sick until I can hear the wheezing.  Fevers usually lead me to change the thermostat or wear fewer layers if I am even that aware of my body temperature which is not always the case.

Because of the gap between my strong and weak areas, I have had to defend my right to be in appropriately challenging or unchallenging classes, I have disappointed many people, and I have been lectured on laziness countless times. 

But I don’t really see it as a problem anymore.  With a formal diagnosis, I have been able to request and receive appropriate accomodations this school year, which hopefully will help me to actually graduate one day.  I may never finish the math courses that my coworkers at the writing center took, but I will do way way better in history and literature courses than my math tutor would ever suspect.  Similarly, my water bills may be higher than if I was a little less distracted,  but I smell a lot better than I might.  And this is a good thing for me because most people are much  more tolerant of eccentricity in others if they at least smell nice.

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