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Did you know that April's Autism Awareness Month? I wasn't aware (pun intended) of it until I read our local homeowner's monthly newsletter and it caught my eye.


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Actually, last month the founding organization, the Autism Society, changed "Awareness" to "Acceptance" to foster inclusivity, as knowing about something is very different from accepting it. But I am guessing that is not the point of this call.


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Although it isn't autism, it reminded me of years ago when we found out that Natasha has learning disabilities.


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I think you mean DIFF-abilities.


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Of course, that's another thing I remember. I was focused on the negative aspects of her diagnosis until you asked me, point-blank, "Why are they called disabilities?" And proceeded to explain that everyone has different strengths and weaknesses.


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Exactly! Imagine the world if everyone excelled at math, but flunked English. Or, a world of lawyers, but no musicians. Some people are better at social skills, while others excel at handling technical data. Why not just say that people who have different skillsets and abilities have DIFF-abilities versus making them feel like they have shortcomings?


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I know that you completely changed my way of thinking, not only about Natasha but about the concept of "disabilities" full stop. It opened my eyes – and my brain – about how just because someone has challenges or limited abilities in some areas, that doesn't mean they don't have different gifts and strengths in other areas.


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Exactly. Although autism is a "spectrum condition" meaning it affects people differently and to varying degrees, it is a complex developmental disorder that can affect a person's social skills, and ability to communicate and interact with others. However, autistic people usually possess some extremely valuable traits that are rare in non-autistic people.


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Which is why it frustrates me that so many people feel like those with disabilities, excuse me DIFF-abilities, are "lesser" people. When Natasha was diagnosed, she was in her teens and already had a very strong personality (no doubt inherited from you) and, luckily, seemed to have an innate understanding that she was just different, not better, not worse, than others. I guess one of the biggest challenges is to get others to see things with the same mindset.


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We are a story-telling society, and there are countless stories of people with DIFF-abilities, including those with autism, that are eye-opening and more powerful than anything we could ever say.


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Funny you say that, as I was curious to learn more about autism and found some inspiring quotes (including a wonderful Tom Hanks clip) that not only gave me great insight but made me smile. One of my favorites was how Paul Collins, an author and parent of an autistic child, said, "Autists are the ultimate square pegs, and the problem with pounding a square peg into a round hole is not that the hammering is hard work. It's that you're destroying the peg." That's such a great way to describe not only those with autism but any disability.


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Well, technically, it will fit, but it requires that the diameter of the circle be larger than the diagonal of the square. Basic geometry. But, I understand Paul Collin's point.


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Talk about DIFF-abilities! Couldn't you just agree with me?


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The thought never crossed my mind.
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I don't know about you, but I keep thinking about Jackie's Facebook post on Cinco de Mayo. I'm not sure why I even paid attention to the email notice that she posted something since, as you know, I don't "do" social media.


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Sometimes, inexplicably, something compels us to do things we would not normally do. Regardless, as soon as you forwarded it to me and I read her opening words, "Some may say I don't have a right to talk about this day …" I was curious. And then, infuriated.


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Based on the first words you said when you called me, it was obvious you were livid. Jackie may well be the most amazing person I know, not only for her knowledge and experience in the adult education world but for her creativity and passion. So, for someone, anyone, to say that she's less than who she is just because she doesn't speak her "so-called" native language is beyond unbelievable.


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It is ignorant. Insensitive. Naïve. Racist. Shall I continue? And, it says so much about the person making a judgment about her, based solely on her skin color and last name. As expected, Jackie was very professional as she did not say who said it, but for her to post something that personal means it hit a nerve.
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Is it possible that this summer might actually feel a bit more "normal" than last year?


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Define "normal," as I am confident we are not returning to normal, but instead are transitioning to a new normal.


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Fine. I just meant in comparison to last summer when I was hoarding toilet paper, fully stocking my pantry and freezer, and constantly wiping down seemingly every surface in my house.


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I guess you could call it "the summer of survival" since we were not prepared for the pandemic, especially not the lockdowns.


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Exactly! Which means that this summer will be more like a pre-pandemic summer in that we'll have more freedom, especially for those of us that are vaccinated. And it feels great.
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Something happened the other evening, and before I could become annoyed, I started laughing because I was "guilty" of the same offense … just not recently. Looking back at what, at the time, were my mortifying actions, I realized that anyone who drinks and types (whether email or text messages) has probably done it.

It has been proven that alcohol reduces your inhibitions – some people think they become charismatic, others become the world's greatest dancers (or lovers), while others believe they can see things with more clarity and need to share that knowledge. And, the list goes on. (I know that Red loves lists, but since she does not drink, the list would be impossible for her to understand … although many of us could see it as a checklist, "Yes, done that!")

So, have you ever been holding back your feelings (good or bad) about someone, and then one evening you have a little too much to drink and decide to let them know your inner-most thoughts? It could be a family member, a friend, someone at work, a romantic relationship (past, present, future "prospect"), or given social media, even a stranger. You let your thoughts and feelings run from your head (not sure the brain is involved, other than to help your fingers fly across the keyboard) through your electronic equipment … and then out into the world.

Sometimes you realize it almost immediately, and you futilely try to "recall" the message before they open it. More often, you do not see the error of your ways until the next day when you vaguely remember sending the message (or, possibly, multiples messages), clinging to the hope it was a bad dream … until you see it in your sent file. Or, even worse, finding a response, which you are not sure you want to read.

What made me laugh was that this time I was the recipient, not the sender (the first email was an expression of deep feelings, the second questioning if I had received the first one, both obviously alcohol-induced), and I decided not to let them off the hook. Since I had been out at a business dinner, several hours had passed, so I politely replied, questioning the reasonableness of each email and then asking if alcohol had been involved.

And, I could not help but wonder,

If there are car breathalyzer devices that require you to submit a breath sample, and if your alcohol level is at or above a preset level, it will prevent the vehicle from starting … should there not be similar devices that would inactive the "send" button on your computer or smartphone?

P.S. – I think Wikipedia's breathalyzer entry is fascinating, but doubt Red would agree.