When an international crisis has your stomach in knots, you can’t eat, sleep, or drink, because your husband is “over there.” And this even happens when you have been there, done that, drank the kool aid, and got the t-shirt. Even though I have 16 years of marriage, 5 years of active duty service under my belt, and I know how United States Armed Strategy works (though it would be different with a different President in office– not better, just different), I still get knots in my tummy when bad juju is going down in the vicinity where my husband is. I try to remain cool, calm, and collected in front of my children and family. Yesterday was difficult, with yesterday’s social slight, the terrifying reality that this might not end in 5-7 more weeks hit home. Four more years and then we can retire…
Yep, I said it, I’m socially retarded. This is my number one symptom autism. I cannot read a social situation to save my life. I never know where I stand with people. I misread social cues like nobodies business. I just wish for once in my life someone would be honest with me. It would be so much better than constantly guessing what peoples’ intentions are. Today, is a prime example.
A few months ago, I had signed my daughter up for girl scouts, informally. I go to crossfit with one of the moms and my son goes to school at the same school as another mom. My daughter gets along with both girls swimmingly. We talked about forming a girl scout troop in April-May, where it would be a small troop with 10-12 girls. Each mom would take a month and lead for the month. I said, I could take more than a month if any of the other girls’ moms couldn’t help out. Shit, I went so far as to pick out a craft and BUY it in anticipation of teaching the girls how to knit and counted cross stitch. I was so excited about bonding with my daughter, giving my daughter the opportunity to meet new people, and everything else that goes with girl scouts. I talked to one of the ladies this morning, and was informed that the troop was filled, and my daughter was not one of the people in the troop. WHAT THE FUCK!? Sorry. I’m so confused. I would think that it’s us being overlooked, but this seriously happens ALL THE FREAKING TIME. Unless I’m in charge of something, or my husband is in charge of something– my kids are overlooked and not included. If I’m doing something wrong, someone please tell me.
So now, I have to break the news to my daughter, who is for some reason going through a rough patch– it could be that every fucking thing that’s happening to us ends up being a disappointment and a huge let down. She was going to be in a wedding, she was so looking forward to being the flower girl– her flower girl duties are pushing the “real” flower girl down the aisle in a wagon (yep, I’m paying thousands of dollars, taking her out of school, so she can be some glorified slave). Her daddy missed her entire summer. Her grandma came out, and she ended up landing in a pile of dog shit (literally). And now I get to break it to her, that hey guess what, you know how I told you couldn’t do dance, gymnastics, or any other activities you wanted to do, because I said one sport, girl scouts and violin, and that’s it. Well, cancel that. Like I said I would think it was an oversight if it didn’t happen all the fucking time.
Everyone has their own list. After an argument with my husband, I would like to delineate my 10 things I want you to know.
1. I am not mentally ill. I get so tired of being treated like I’m mentally ill. You don’t need to worry about my mental health. I have a healthy ego.
2. Do not be condescending. Besides not being mentally ill, I’m also not cognitively delayed. I can understand English. Nothing makes me resentful, like someone speaking to me like a 2-year-old. If I ask for clarification, don’t repeat the same sentence over again, only more slowly.
3. I have issues with verbal communication. I understand the written word much better than anything verbal. If I don’t understand, I may ask you to write it down or send me an e-mail. I sometimes will have issues with communicating with you. If you don’t understand what I am saying, please ask me to clarify. Also if I change the subject, or start talking too much, gently tell me.
4. I can read people better than you think. Even though, I sometimes have issues with social situations. I know when I’m being bullshitted (sorry for the rough language). But I know when you are trying to keep things from me, I know when you are being mean, like I said earlier, I’m not dumb.
5. Yes, I’m sure I have Aspergers. I have been diagnosed by neuropsychologist, the diagnosis was also confirmed by another psychologist. Please don’t armchair quarterback my diagnosis. And no, I’m not on any drugs, and no I don’t need anti-depressants, ADHD medication, and yes, I am capable of taking care of my children, and NO I DON’T NEED TO PROVIDE PROOF OF MY DIAGNOSIS. I have been dealing with this for 37 years, if you know Aspergers and you know me, you know that it’s probably an accurate diagnosis.
6. Please don’t harangue me about having children. I didn’t know I had Aspergers until well after my children were born. In fact, I was diagnosed about 4 years after my son was diagnosed with autism. I did not knowingly bring a child with autism into the world. It’s not 100% certain that my son’s autism was caused by me, because my husband’s sister also has 2 children on the autism spectrum. Furthermore, one of my child is typical.
7. I cannot speak for anyone else with autism. This is particularly for those with autism, and some caregivers/organizations, who say they speak for other people with autism. You can’t. You can’t speak for me, you can’t speak for my children, only I can speak for myself and my children.
8. Please don’t apologize. I am not sorry I have Aspergers, you should not be sorry either. It’s challenging, but guess what so is life. I’m not in mourning, I’m a happy individual.
9. I am entitled to my opinions. I lost a friend last year, because she didn’t realize I had these things called opinions. When I make friends, I tend to adopt their style, the way they talk, and even some of their opinions. After we separate, because it’s bound to happen in the military, I revert back to myself. Just because you didn’t realize that my opinions were different than yours doesn’t mean I am not entitled to them.
10. I’m actually quite happy being me. Sometimes I will perseverate on negative things, but in general, I am happy. I’m happy with who I am. I am happy, and I try to look for the positive in things. Right now, I have the deployment Murphy’s law striking at our house, and even though I share what is happening on Facebook, or online, does not mean I’m unhappy. Shit happens (again sorry for the language), no amount of bellyaching and whining is going to stop it from happening.
I remember in High School a senior walked around with a sign that said “The End Is Nigh”, and one of the brighter students in my class said, “that makes no sense, how can the end be night.” But the end is near, and I can taste it. I’m already having homecoming dreams, and making plans for what we are going to do during the 2 week reintegration time. I keep looking at the calendar and trying to cut down the weeks and days in ways that will make it less time than it actually is. The next couple of weeks will be busy.
On Friday, we are going to Orlando to find my parents a retirement home. For the kids and I, it means a day in the theme parks, or a day at the hotel pool. Either way we are going away for the weekend.
We come home on Monday, then Tuesday night, my daughter and I are leaving for Minneapolis for a wedding. We have 6 days in Minnesota, and I’m trying to make plans for all 6 of those days. Besides the wedding and groom’s dinner, I was thinking we could go to the Mall of America, go see the Renaissance Festival, and maybe even hit a Twin’s game (neither of us have been to the new stadium).
After the house hunting trip and the wedding we only have three weeks and a few days left until my husband makes his appearance. In that time we have a 5K run/walk, a garage sale, and the last week will be full of me trying to get the house together.
Made some major progress on the super-not-so-secret project. I dug up around the other side of the pool surround and I think I will be finished with it tomorrow. I will post pictures when I complete it. I also managed to get a run in. I’m trying to get started with training for my seasons first half marathon on October 12th. I’m still largely undecided about running it– it’s the weekend my husband is supposed to come home, and I don’t know if I will be able to concentrate enough to finish a half marathon. I also restarted my memoir on being a military veteran and spouse with Aspergers.
Yes, it has been a few weeks, and yes there has been a lot going on, but I am here, still chugging away at life. We managed to get my parents here, managed to get the dogs in the kennel and managed to get to Disney World for a week away from the rigors of being a spouse to a deployed member. We stayed at the Art of Animation, and let me tell you, it was a wonderful resort. The coolest thing, the pool had underwater speakers– I shit you not!
Then we came home to rain, rain, and more rain. A repeat of the 4th of July. It has rained so much our roof is leaking. So added to the super squirrel secret project which is no longer super, squirrel, or secret, we have to have an entire wall ripped out. Nice, the deployment hits just keep on coming.
As a result of the Disney trip, an unexpected epilepsy diagnosis (yep, my son had to get his life changing deployment diagnosis), and the leaky roof, I have been incognito on my blog. But I have not been incognito with my writing. I have two guest blog appearances coming up on NexGen Military Spouse, I have another short story being published by Chicken Soup for the Soul, and I have started my memoir.
Yesterday, a friend of mine pointed out a blog post on Spouse Buzz about being an “Old School Spouses,” and that blog got me thinking about what it means to be a military spouse. It also got me thinking about the relationships between spouses of differing ranks and differing services. By all accounts, I should be an old school spouse. My husband is a 16-year veteran. He has deployed four times in those 16 years, we have moved more times than I can count. For a time, we had a different house and school every year for five years running. I enjoy tradition as much as the next guy, but I don’t believe in being traditional, I believe in breaking the mold.
In the 16 years, we have been active duty, and I say we, because five of those years, I wore a uniform and served my country, I have experienced the positives and the negatives of old school military spouses. The only positive thing about old school spouses, in my honest opinion, is tradition. I love tradition. The sole reason I’m a Catholic, is because I enjoy the tradition of a church that has gone strong for millennia. I enjoyed being a military officer, because it’s steep in tradition. Sometimes tradition is bad. Tradition is what keeps getting the military in trouble over and over again, specifically with sexual assaults, suicides, and service related issues.
Call the Command Staff If You Need To:
When I was active duty, I had two very jarring things happen to me, and two very different responses- one was “old school” and the other was “new school.” The first was I lived about ¼ mile from where a train crashed. The train crash caused a subsequent power surge, which caused my hot water heater to flood my basement and ruin the carpeting. I had to replace the entire flooring and part of the wall in my basement. At the time, I was suffering with asthma related to the chemical released from the toxic spill. My husband was deployed, and I surely couldn’t lift heavy furniture off the carpeting on my own. I asked my unit to help, the response was, “we have our own people deployed, ask someone else.” I requested assistance from my husband’s unit, they were there the next day, and the furniture was moved. The second time I needed the help of my unit, I had miscarried in my office. As I left to go to the hospital, I hear the Chief Master Sergeant tell the commander, “women fake this shit all the time.”
My unit was old school, through and through. They felt officers shouldn’t have problems and need help. They thought that I would be able to lift heavy furniture on my own, because I was a 2d Lieutenant capable of small feats of strength. If I had a miscarriage, I was on my own. After going through these two things, I realize this is not who, and what I want to be as a military spouse. I made a vow to myself, that no one should ever feel disregarded. That every member of a military unit is valued, including the spouses—and this even extends to the same sex spouses, the male spouses, and the families where both members are active duty.
I’m a spouse, I don’t have a dress code:
The second thing that really got to me in the article/blog post was the encouragement of an on-base dress code. I guess the writer is blessed with the ability to constantly put her Mary Kay face on every time she goes to the commissary or BX. As an avid runner and athlete, the only time I’m on base is post-run, or post-crossfit workout. I’m sweaty, I’m dressed inappropriately, according to some, and I stink (literally). I also live 30-minutes from base, I have two kids in school, and most times, the only time I have the time to go grocery shopping is after a workout. Don’t like me in my sweaty clothing, and running shoes, don’t look. I recall one time even going to the commissary in pajamas. This was after my son had a sleep deprived EEG, and we had been at the hospital for four hours after getting almost no sleep. Pardon me for not putting on appropriate attire, last time I checked I’m a military spouse, not Heidi Klum. I didn’t realize I had to dress in full regalia to go pump gas.
Eight years ago, I gained a hefty amount of weight carrying my little girl. This was right before my son was diagnosed with autism and my husband deployed. Needless to say, I had a “See Food” diet. I was the heaviest I have ever been. After joining Weight Watchers, running 9 marathons, and doing crossfit, I’m the same weight I was when I married my husband. When I go to balls, I wear shorter dress, and dresses that accentuate my body. When asked why I do this, I say, because I can. Usually in the Air Force, the balls are semi-formal, which means cocktail dresses are acceptable attire. I have self-confidence and feel wonderful. Being short, with great legs, I say if I got ‘em flaunt ‘em, and I do. When I see grown women commenting on another girls’ dress at a military ball, or event, the first thing that comes to mind is jealousy. There are a very few minority that could probably be taken aside and gently told, “Hey sweetheart, that really isn’t the image you want to portray at your husband’s work.” There are other ways to address this issue than smugly on a blog post. Last time I checked you were a military spouse, not a senior editor at Cosmo. Military spouses should feel like that they can express themselves in fashion, and who am I to judge.
There is a time and place for being old school and upholding certain traditions, but at some point, when it is to the detriment of a family or an individual, it’s time to buck tradition, and speak out. When I hear old school, and think about old school officer’s spouses, it leaves a vomit taste in my mouth. Stating that we should continue to maintain the old school standards of military spouse-hood, to me, just reads as a passive-aggressive rant against the people the writer “deems” new school. I, for one, don’t want to be considered an “old school” wife. My goal in life is to rock the boat, so that when someone else who is navigating the same lifestyle, the same issues, and the same obstacles I am, will not have to fight the old school system, and the system will do what is right, instead of relying on out-dated traditions.
A scary sad conclusion has been drawn. Please don’t be me, and if something smells fishy at your school, then go to the school board, go to the press, fight for your children…
About three years ago, we arrived at Eglin AFB. When we left Wright-Patterson AFB, my son had graduated from kindergarten and was able to read spontaneously, identify a few sight words, and even do easy math. We got here, and he had a typical regression with a PCS move that turned into an absolute nightmare. Two weeks into the school year, the teacher made a questionable accusation that my son had solicited a sexual act against another student. It is not questionable that he said what she said he said. What was questionable was that he went to another student. If you don’t know my son, then you don’t know that he would just as soon talk to a rock than another student (he is coming out of that now, he is more social with his peers, but when he first got here he would have none of that communicating thing). Anyway, this lead to a new rule that my son would have to wear pants. He was on risperadone at the time, and risperadone inhibits the body’s ability to regulate temperature. He was forced to wear pants in 90* degree heat in August and September, this is a child that was born in Germany, spent much of his childhood in Minot, Virginia, and Ohio (hardly the south). Needless to say, this caused tantrums, lots and lots and lots of tantrums. Eventually, six weeks after the new rule was in place, at gym time, my son had a tantrum where he banged his head against a desk 14 times. He complained about not being able to see. The “teacher” (I use this term very loosely, because at this juncture in time I would love to slash her tires and spray paint her car– if this does happen, it wasn’t me, I have an alibi), said that it was because he had pink eye. I took him to the ER, where he was declared OK to go home. What I didn’t know and have since learned is heartbreaking and I blame myself.
Yesterday, my son was diagnosed with epilepsy. The area of the brain where the seizures are occurring is in the left temporal lobe near a learning center. This affects behavior, cognition, and learning. 9 out of 10 people who have seizures in this location also have a learning difficulties. This is also a location that is damaged when someone has a head injury. The occurrences of seizures and the regression all happened after my son had banged his head. And we have come to the conclusion that perhaps my son’s epilepsy may have been caused by the head banging incident. Unfortunately, there is no way to prove with absolute certainty that this was the cause– 1/3 of children on the autism spectrum develop epilepsy, he had a propensity to bang his head in the past, and he was in the middle of a significant regression from a PCS move.
In retrospect, however, this is very likely the cause. When I first took him to school, something sent off alarm bells, especially the classroom placement (he was in a classroom with 8 other children with varying special needs, varying developmental levels, and one teacher). The school was very, very underhanded when dealing with us, and my gut instinct was to place him in a private school from the get go. I was talked out of it and reassured that I was over-reacting.
Sadly, I was not incorrect, and this is the result of not following your gut instinct. I wish I could sue the school district, or make them aware of what they did, and how antiquated the current placement of special education children is in the state of Florida, but I really don’t know where or how to start.