Photo by mevans on iStock


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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.
Photo courtesy of Red


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I know that you’ve been involved with Make-A-Wish for decades, and it’s an amazing organization, but I’m not sure why you made such a big deal about the recent Texas Gulf Coast & Louisiana chapter ’s dedication of its building. I appreciate that you were part of the planning group, but with all due respect, it’s just a building.

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I don’t expect you to remember that it all started in 1980 when Tommy Austin wanted to do something special for a young boy, Chris Greicius, who was battling leukemia and wanted to be a policeman. That wish became a reality and the start of The Make-A-Wish Foundation.


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That story has always inspired me as it makes you realize the difference that just one person can make. But the building wasn’t named after Chris or Tommy, so I’m still confused.
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I may not celebrate Rosh Hashanah by going to temple, and now that the girls are no longer home for the holiday, I don’t prepare a seder with the traditional foods . But I know and appreciate that it’s one of the most important Jewish holidays, as it’s a time for reflection on the past and hope for the future. And this year, between world events, where I feel surrounded by so much negativity, and on the personal front, with Mom’s passing, it seems more important than ever before.


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Although Rosh Hashanah is filled with traditions, like apples dipped in honey because it is believed apples have healing properties (think of the rhyme, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”), and the honey signifies the hope for a new year that will be sweet … it is still incredibly relevant. In today’s hectic world, a contemplative holiday where you stop and think about the road you have traveled over the last year (including any wrong turns) and where you would like to go in the future may be exactly what we all need.

We wish everyone who celebrates Rosh Hashanah a happy and sweet New Year. And remember, you don’t have to be Jewish to look back and reflect … and then try to do better in the future.

Design by Sawyer Pennington, Underlying photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


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So, I had to smile when Sawyer came to visit us at Mom’s estate sale. And even though I had seen her only a few hours before, I gave her a hug.


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Yes, you make it rather obvious that you are warm and fuzzy. And, a hugger.


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But what made me laugh was when she greeted you by acknowledging that you weren’t a hugger. Now there’s an understatement.


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No, it is merely a fact.


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I never realized, though, just how much both Natasha and Sawyer are like you. Although they begrudgingly let me hug them, they’d both be just as happy with a handshake. If that.


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Maybe a fist bump?
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