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Posts Tagged ‘Dick Proenneke’

Holy cold.  The moment I announce my intent to go all winter without light or heat, I’m ready to drag out the space heater; it occurs to me I should ask a plumber just how low I can let my temperature get before I’m in danger of my pipes freezing.  The fact that this is all self-imposed hardly occurs to me.

It’s 50 degrees in my house right now and not even freezing temperatures outside yet.  My thermostat is still at 45 but I’m not sure that’s high enough.  I researched a little on the ‘Net but mostly there’s advice for people leaving their homes for the winter.  The fact that I run hot water to hand wash my dishes and take showers should count for something, right?  (That’s not a rhetorical question.  If you know, please tell me!)

I’m reading Laura Ingalls Wilder’s The Long Winter over and over, reminding myself of what she and her family survived through conditions far worse than my own.  I re-watch Alone in the Wilderness, a documentary about Dick Proenneke living alone for 30+ years in Twin Lakes Alaska, and hear his words echoing in my mind:  “It’s a toasty 40 degrees in the cabin today.”

I think to myself I can do this, I can manage.  I can “come out” of the cold to my car, or a friend’s house, or even the dreaded mall.  But it’s really hard to get out of my toasty bed in the mornings.  Manzo-kitty even has his own comfy blanket and snuggles next to me on the bed.

Yesterday my mom and I drove down to visit Boo.  On the way we listened to her new Barry Manilow “Dream Duets” CD, in which he has inserted himself into various deceased singers’ tunes – everyone from John Denver to Marilyn Monroe.  It’s kind of cool, in a slightly creepy way.  At least it wasn’t Sing Along With Mitch.

Oh, and it turns out they did find a train conductor costume for Boo to wear on Halloween, and he loved it.

Jonah, train conductor extraordinaire

Jonah, train conductor extraordinaire

One more reason to appreciate the folk at the Anderson Center for Autism.

I also found out they think his aggressions have increased in school due to some classroom staff changes; his aggressions at Birch House (where he lives) have stayed steady, which is to say mostly mitigated.

At least there is a reason, an antecedent.  It’s a huge thing for us…to be able to know why Jonah is upset.

At Andy’s apartment Jonah was overwhelmed, I think, by the variety & choices of items to eat.  Both my mother and I brought special items from Halloween with which to spoil Boo.  Usually he enjoys taking items we bring and putting them away – in the cabinet, refrigerator, or wherever else he deems they belong.  This day, though, he began to open up mini potato chip bags and chocolate cookie boxes and the silver-foil wrapped tuna fish sandwich, all before we could interfere and take most of the excess away.

Then he started scrolling through requests for things he didn’t have before him:  pot pie? pepperoni?  strawberry milk?  apple cider?

He was getting “squirrely,” as Andy and I call it, and so when I tried to calm him or help, Andy stopped me.  “Let me handle him,” he said firmly, as he often does.  Tears always spring to my eyes; while I know Andy is trying to protect me from a possible aggression, it is frustrating to have Jonah largely uninterested in me and at the same time be prevented from interacting with him – even if it is for my own safety.

On our car ride to get apple cider, I snapped one picture of him smiling and one of him imitating a strange skill I possess (of touching my tongue to the tip of my nose):

happy boo

happy boo

he's not as skilled as his mama but he tried

He’s not as skilled as his mama, but he tried…

And then a video of Jonah’s requested song:  Live for Love, by Prince…you can see his daddy handing him some lip balm for optimal comfort during Boo’s listening, rocking joy:

He’s got a new method and skill for selecting desired music.  He’ll say to daddy Wan take a picture? which actually means May I please have the case of CDs?

Then he announces the name (actual or self-invented) CD he wants, and selects it from the sleeves within the case.  Once he hands it up to daddy, he announces the number of the track he wishes to hear.  Sometimes it’s one simple request: number seven?  and other times Andy has to start at the CD’s beginning and Jonah will say number one? number two? etc. until he’s found (and will eventually memorize) the track number he really wants.

Although this new skill is impressive, it gets old when he wants one song from each CD, after having zipped up and handed the case back to Andy, requiring Andy to take it out and hand it over again – and eventually, inevitably, Andy simply suggests radio.  Usually this is cool with Jonah but once in a while he’ll confuse us with his rapid-fire requests:  Diamonds and Pearls?  – followed by  No Diamonds and Pearls?

And so once Andy suggests radio Jonah is usually resigned to his pop tunes by whomever-the-hell is cranking them out these days.  I’m a geezer with Top 40 and know barely any of the artists.   My tastes tend toward alternative (ex. The Pixies or The Elizabeth Kill), or classic (ex. The Beatles or Pink Floyd), or classical (ex. Mozart et al).  And of course, Guster, best of them all.

Suddenly I’m in a writing zone again.  Maybe November will be blog-heavy.  Who knows?  It keeps me warm, oddly enough – or at least is a distraction from the cold!

I did not end up going to see Boo today.  I am sneezing and stuffy, and yesterday I took my very first Boniva pill to stave off my osteoporosis.  I think I’m suffering a nasty-ass side effect of it with which I won’t gross you out.  At least I only have to take it once a month!

Hopefully the side effect goes away before the Jethro Tull show tonight my cousin B is treating me to experience.

Time to drink a hot beverage, do some jumping jacks, put in a movie and run in place, hold my hands over a candle, bake some cinnamon rolls (and open that beautiful oven door all the way afterward to release the heat), take a short drive with the heat blasted.  Anything besides sit still and f-f-f-f-freeze.

Hello from the hibernating hippie!

Hello from the hibernating hippie!

 

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If I don’t write something today it will be the first blank month since I’ve started this blog.  I’ve got plenty to say but I don’t want to say it.  It’s that fantasy-land thinking – If I don’t put it down on record, it isn’t happening. 

Which is not to say that I am not incredibly grateful, somehow simultaneously with the strong compulsion to smash something and scream.  I am grateful for every day in this new life since I have decided to live on my own ~ and somehow found the truest love I’ve ever known within that solitude.

I am grateful for everything I have, all my family and friends, my dumb American material possessions, my shelter and my food…grateful for everything for which Jonah has been gifted – an incredible education, a safe place to live, teachers, caregivers, awesome staff, a safe and loving environment.  I am grateful.

In order to guard against complacency, I have made unusual life choices.  At first it was a game, just to see if I could make it to October 1st without turning my heat on.  Then I decided (in honor of Laura Ingalls Wilder and Dick Proenneke) to stop using lights as well.  I bought some soy-based candles and I bundle up, typing with fingerless gloves and pushing the idea of heat into November now.  I stopped using the dishwasher and I turned in my cable box.

Last night I turned on the TV to watch It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (on one of my three channels) ~ I’d forgotten how maddening commercials are.  And so I watch movies instead.  I still do laundry and shower in hot water, which is more than either Dick or Laura had, but I’m trying to eat by going to the store only once a month or so for fruit, vegetables, half and half, coffee, butter, and milk.  I’m eating out of my ridiculously full cabinets.

Now I’m thinking seriously of going all winter this way.  I live alone, so there is no one to hurt or annoy.  I wonder how long I can last; I’m a skinny, cold little thing so I won’t be arrogant enough to say I can do it for certain.  I’ve got my heat set at 45 so my pipes won’t freeze and neither will I.  It will be interesting to see what I’ll owe on my next National Grid bill.

I know I’m a weirdo.  One of my relative’s favorite mantras to me is Why can’t you just be normal?

Because normal is a dryer setting.

It’s the best answer I’ve got.  So why the hollow day?  Sigh…

Jonah has been aggressing more and more often.  Three incidents requiring two people take-downs just this week.  There is hope in that the incidents, which before came with no rhyme or reason, are now reactive to things like fire drills or too-crowded rooms with over-input of sensory activity (lights and sounds and noise and chaos, like last night’s Halloween party).

I don’t even know if I’ll get a photo of him in his costume (which was a aqua-man looking thing I found in WalMart; I hate going there).  I guess he wore it okay.  They told me he’d like to be a train conductor (believe you me he did not ask to be a train conductor, because he can’t make those kind of cognitive leaps).  It makes sense, though, the way my Boo loves trains.  But train conductor costumes top out at size 8-10, and Jonah is a 10-12 now.  Almost everything he’d wear, understand, or want to be comes in toddler sizes only.  I wish I had the know-how to put together a Halloween store for kids with autism and other disabilities.

And now it’s Halloween.  I have always loved Halloween and dressed up in costume (even with nowhere to go) right up until this year, when being alone seems to have taken the wind out of my sails.  I compare it to the first day of school or the school picture-sharing day, when parents show off photos and memories and happy shit about their adorable kid in his or her outfit/ Halloween costume, having more fun maybe than any other day of the year.

I hate it, and I hate that I hate it.

But I am not an angel and I am not a saint and I have these stupid, useless feelings of envy for these everyday joys denied Jonah, Andy, and me.  Andy is waaaaay better than me at not caring.

Yes, there are advantages.  I don’t have to go out in the cold with my Boo and bring him from house to house, trying to explain to people why he won’t wear his costume or say “trick or treat” — though, thanks to the Anderson School for Autism, he does now wear a costume, and they do take him trick or treating, and he does manage a discernible “trick or treat.”  Irony.

Then there are our visits.  When Grandma and Andy and I show up at Jonah’s house on his campus to pick him up, he is always waiting at the front door.

jonahinthewindow

He flies into his daddy’s arms for a long hug, then tells grandma what he knows she’s brought for lunch, and with nary a glance at me he runs off to the car.  Then he’ll say mama in the backseat? while shoving me as far away from him as possible.

I understand Jonah is daddy’s boy and I am glad of it.  And I do get hugs and kisses, sometimes, once we are at Andy’s apartment (another thing I am grateful for, that Andy and I get along well enough to share Jonah visits).  But he clearly is unattached to mama now, and there isn’t anything I can do but sell my home and move closer to him, to a small apartment, to spend more time with my Boo.  It is something I am considering – but I can’t spend time with him alone and would need to find someone to help me.

My boyfriend Tim could do it.  He is a direct care worker for individuals with autism and can do everything from restraining to administering meds when someone under his care is having a seizure, gently holding them and keeping them safe and as comfortable as possible.  Tim is a gentle, loving, caring soul ~ he has met Jonah once, got along well with Andy, and was unfazed when Jonah had an aggression…standing at the ready to help but at the same time unobtrusive and friendly.

But he lives in Bloomington, Indiana…and has his own three children.  I am here, and have Jonah.  We do our level best to see one another once a month and are so far successful, for we do yearn for the home of being together.  Next weekend we are meeting in Pittsburgh; it is a halfway point for us — and we’ve found a nice B&B and an aviary museum and science museum we’re interested in visiting, as well as nature trails near a lake and a river.   This weekend I will go see Boo both weekend days to make up for the missed visit the following week.

At any rate that’s what happening.  I am overjoyed and frustrated and ecstatic and sad in turns, but will meditate today and throw myself into work with redoubled effort, for after November 1 comes our fundraising push and media-story garnering at Modest Needs, where I work.  I have sought a second, part-time job, wuth no luck so far.

If you are interested in Modest Needs, a BBB top-rated nonprofit, please consider stopping by our website and donating even a dollar or two to help those living on the edge of poverty (but who make barely too much for public assistance) to give them a hand-UP through a hard month, or to provide their kids with holiday gifts when their families meet with unexpected expenses, or to help veterans return home and re-acclimate to society with rent help or assistance to pay a medical bill, etc. while they wait for VA benefits.

I’m so proud and happy to work for these guys.  I was a donor for 8 years or so before I started working for them in May of 2013.

I am blessed.  Writing this all out allows me to feel it strongly, palpably, fully.

Finally,  here are some recent pictures:

mama and her j

Mama and Jonah

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Introspective Boo

Jonah, chugging his "app-oo ci-dah"

Jonah, chugging his “app-oo ci-dah”

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And one of my Tim and me, sharing time during a recent visit when he flew to see me.  I am a lucky woman indeed to have found such a love.

May all of you enjoy a very Happy Halloween and blessed Samhain!

 

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I’ve been kind of sick for too long a while.  I’d rather be sicker and have it over more quickly.  There is simultaneously optimism and fear inside me – and a disheartened kind of grief.  A good, gracious man I know died on New Year’s Eve; he was only 61.  I’m not sure what’s going on inside my head but I need to watch videos like this and seek out information like you get here in order to continue to have faith in humanity

I have to remind myself there are so many amazing things. 

I forgot to bring my camera on my trip to see Jonah yesterday, so I’ll have to share older pics.  Jonah was a good boy.  He didn’t want me to sing, though, even though he was in a parroting mood.  Andy had on the radio and Jonah was humming snippets of the top 40 music and saying things to himself… then suddenly he’s quiet, moving his thumb easily and naturally into his mouth as he turns to look out the window.  It was a warm day – maybe even 40.  My mother and I were quiet on the ride home as she tolerated my music:  things like Kula Shaker, Paul Simon, Radiohead, and Death Cab for Cutie, this day.  I won’t subject her to Greenday or the Grateful Dead; I know where to draw the line.   It was a good visit tinged with the usual feeling that comes inside when you are driving farther and farther away from your innocent ten year old son. 

Today I made chicken cacciatore and M and I are watching Dick Proenneke’s Alone in the Wilderness.   It’s such an amazing documentary that tears come to my eyes as I watch it.  This man built a cabin in the middle of Twin Lakes, Alaska (where he was the only human) and lived there for thirty years, 1968-1998, until he was 81 years old.  He carved spoons and bowls out of wood in a matter of hours.  He could chop down 40 trees and shape them into useable logs to build the cabin, all before noon.  Amazing things.  He built carriers for food and moss.  Caught fish and avoided bear.  Somehow didn’t go insane even while so literally alone.

The things he accomplishes – the way he thinks, the way he moves through the world — it’s so mind-blowing sometimes I have no reaction but to laugh out loud in astonishment.

He builds tools, tables, chairs;  intricate, near-perfect hinges; neat, even boards for shelves and working surfaces.  He narrates most of the movie, sets the camera on a tripod and films himself measuring, building, climbing, chopping, carving, cooking, gardening.  Everything handmade.  A plane would come only, I think, twice a year to bring him very basic supplies.  Are there still people like him, people who know civilization but choose to leave it, with talent and skill and that true harmony with nature?  I am in such awe of it.  No wonder I love Laura Ingalls Wilder.

For me these people speak of possibility, and resilience, and determination.  

It’s good for me today.  So here are some random things while I make my exit to watch some more about Mr. Proenneke:

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Silly Me

Silly Me

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ScareMeNots recycle!

The Hudson River in March 2002Rhinebeck NY

Baby Jonah...Looking right at me.

Baby Jonah…
Looking right at me.

Gustav Klimt'sThe Kiss

Gustav Klimt’s
The Kiss

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my child of the water

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