Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Happy plaid mice month!

April is plaid mice month, or as most people call it, Autism Awareness month or Poetry month, depending on which community you're part of. I happen to belong to both. What better time than April to talk about writing a collection of autism poetry! So I'm bringing my mommy and professional selves together (hopefully they play nice) and posting this on both Plaiditudes and 37 Mice.

Today is the birthday of my writing group co-founder (Happy birthday, Joanne Epp) - it's hard to believe that we only started meeting this past winter after a mutual friend invited us on an outing to the museum and we discovered we both write poetry. For the past four months, I've been meeting biweekly with Meira Cook (who's been called the greatest living Canadian poet) to hone my skills through the Manitoba Writers' Guild mentorship program. A year ago, I didn't belong even belong to the writers' guild yet!

A year ago, I also hadn't visited the Manitoba Adolescent Treatment Centre parent group, or attended any Asperger Manitoba events, joined the Autism Winnipeg Facebook page, or met any of the PACE (parents of autistic children everyone) entrepreneurs like Mike, Ljubica, and Ruby Lou, who've become good friends.

It's amazing what can happen in a year. Now I'm writing a collection of poems about the devastating and celebratory moments I've shared on Plaiditudes: the drug trials and side effects, assessments and diagnoses, judgmental stares and kick-ass Christmas performances.

A friend and fellow artist asked why I didn't write my life as a book of stories in addition my poetry. Perhaps someday I will, but for now, I'm so in love with the art of poetry, the intensity of emotion that just a few devastating or playful words can evoke, that I don't have eyes for any other genre. Through my blog, I gain perspective and find meaning in the affectionately exasperated "better laugh than cry" experiences of parenting autism, but through poetry, I don't only find beauty: I create it.

And on Thursday May 3, 7:30, at St. Margaret's Anglican Church, Winnipeg, I'll be reading from my collection at Joanne Epp's chapbook launch, along with two of my favourite poets Sarah Klassen and Sally Ito. The event is free and open to the public.

I'll be wearing turquoise, but the busy mice in my head will be decked out in plaid.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

My daughter cried herself to sleep; it made me happy

I didn't enjoy watching her heart break, but the reason she was sad absolutely thrilled me.

G has two emotional settings: angry and bored. Occasionally, she'll be mildly pleased. Joy and sadness rarely enter the mix. So I was surprised the other night when I entered her room to investigate the strange noises, to find her with tears pouring on her pillow. She was hugging a drawing of a sunset from a classmate (the only other one on the spectrum) who'd been home sick all week.

"I'm nothing without her," G sobbed. "I have nothing to do at recess except stand there. She's the only friend I have at school who doesn't hate me."

G tore the words "To my bffL" off the top. "Why?"

"Because that's the part of the picture that makes me saddest about her being sick. I want her to feel better."

She let me hold her and sweep her wet hair out of her eyes. I hated seeing her in pain...and yet. Here was my usually blunt child, assessed as lacking age appropriate social skills, range of emotions, and awareness of others, crying for a friend in pain.

"Is it weird to cry for someone else?"

No, honey, not weird. It's called empathy. It's called affection.

And it's a very good thing.