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Posts Tagged ‘Shannon Penrod’

My mother loved to knit.  She was the only woman I knew who could knit while reading a book.  She was famous for knitting, reading and watching TV all at the same time. Yep. She was the queen of multitasking, doing 3 and 4 activities at a time and knitting or crocheting was always the central activity.  My  Mom loved sharing her passion for knitting and delighted in giving free lessons.  In the mid 1970’s with all of the other women in our neighborhood my mother started a group called, “Knitting”.  Once a month all of the ladies in the neighborhood would go to one home, each month a different home, the ladies would drink coffee, chat and knit.  Before the end of the night a dessert would be served, something homemade by the hostess.

I find myself thinking about those “Knitting” nights more and more.  As a kid I both hated and loved those nights.  When it was our month toPatty Jo Pittman Penrod host “Knitting” my mother would insist that the entire house be cleaned top to bottom.  We couldn’t think of allowing the neighborhood ladies to enter our home if there was even a speck of dust.  The cleaning was a drag, but honestly I was kind of thrilled when the ladies would come over.  There was so much to learn if you stayed quiet, and I’m not talking about knitting.  The ladies talked and it was like a live 70’s version of Pinterest.  A quiet kid could get tips on everything from how to make 7 Minute Frosting, to how to clean grout between bathroom tiles.

I’m sure I expected to hear gossip and juicy tidbits about everything going on in the neighborhood.  The truth was much more innocent and infinitely more trans-formative.  These were ladies.  They talked about their lives without drama and they supported each other.  I learned so much from those ladies while their knitting needles clanked and hot black coffee was sipped from my mother’s best china.

In truth, I learned the most from watching my mother.  There was nothing better than watching my mother in her element.  She loved to show others how to make something they could be proud of and she had an amazing way of doing it while bolstering a person’s self-esteem.  She knew just what to say to make everyone feel like they were doing a good job, as women, as mothers and as knitters.

I don’t remember what happened to “Knitting”.  Eventually I got too old to be interested in what the neighborhood ladies had to say.  I was busy looking for my answers elsewhere, which is sad, but true.  I went away to college and it never occurred to me to ask my mother if “Knitting” had become a thing of the past.

As a working 21st century mom I find that most of the connection I have with my women friends is on the cell phone.  From time to time I threaten to host a modern-day version of “Knitting”, sans the knitting, but it occurs to me that you can’t have one without the other.  “Knitting” worked because there was the excuse that the ladies were doing more than just visiting.  It was the 70’s version of a quilt circle.  I don’t know what the modern-day version is…yet.  Let me know if you have any ideas.

Today, on Mother’s Day, I think of my mother and of the ladies of “Knitting”.  They were amazing women, caring mothers, devoted wives and loyal friends.  They were the pillars of our community and although many of them are no longer with us, their legacy remains, in their children and grandchildren and in all the projects they completed in “Knitting”.

 

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By Shannon Penrod

Penrod Family

I think it’s important to celebrate the life of a person when they are gone.  People are remembered for their work, for the joy the brought their friend

s and love ones and for the memories they left behind.  My mom, Patty Penrod, left this planet a year ago today, but she left a legacy of love and laughter that will live on and on.  Today to celebrate her life, I offer one of her prize recipes.  This is one of those no fail dishes that is inexpensive, delicious and will please kids, teenagers and adults alike.  It’s great to make for potluck because it travels well, its a great staple for a Holiday

dinner and it perfection on a cold night when you want comfort food.  YUMMY!  *** The big disclaimer here is this is not a gluten free or even vegetarian dish (check the ingredients on the Jiffy mix box) so for those of you who look to me for GFCF recipes – THIS ISN’T!  For the rest of you, ENJOY! and keep my mom in your heart!

 

Patty Penrod’s Scalloped Corn

Ingredients

1 large onion – diced finely

2 boxes of JIFFY brand cornbread muffin mix

3 eggs

1 stick of butter, melted

2 cans of whole kernel corn – do not drain

2 cans of creamed corn

16 oz. of sour cream

Mix all the ingredients well.

Pour into a large buttered baking dish (a lasagna pan is perfect).

Bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees.

Eat it hot, eat it cold, reheat it…it’s all good!

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by Shannon Penrod

Maybe it’s just me.  Maybe I’m crabbier than usual.  Maybe people are ruder. Or maybe my son has just improved to the point where it doesn’t occur to people that my son has Autism, but lately random people have been saying things to and about my son that just irk me. Image

First, it was the woman in a museum gift shop who sarcastically asked my son how old he was because we was playing with a toy that is meant for a much younger child. She then turned to me, rolled her eyes and said, “Really, Mom, how about some age appropriate toys?”  I didn’t snidely inform her that ages on toys are tied to development and all children do not develop at the same rate, nor should they be made to feel bad about that.  To be honest, I kind of froze.  I was so busy watching my son to see if he was going to get the sarcasm or understand what she was saying and be offended.

He didn’t, but it was because he and the nuerotypical friend he was with were having such a good time playing with the toys, they didn’t care. By the way, the nuerotypical boy, same age, didn’t pick up on the sarcasm either.   Still, I couldn’t just let it go, so when the boys were out of earshot I quietly took the woman’s supervisor aside and explained why she shouldn’t be making blanket assumptions about children’s abilities and interests. My comments were well received and I left feeling like the woman would be more aware before commenting again.

Then I went to see a new Dr. the other day.  I picked up my son from school and scurried him into the car to get there on time.  I checked his token economy chart to see that he had done a great job in school for the day.  His focus was great, he didn’t need prompting and he stayed on task all day.  It was time for him to get a break and a reward.  In the waiting room of the Drs. office I handed him my phone and told him he could have some uninterrupted game time.  He had earned it.  Then I grabbed a magazine for myself and in doing so the entire magazine rack came off the wall and spilled 3 magazines on the floor.  My son looked up and went right back to playing.  Along comes the nurse to help me pick up the magazines and she starts in on the full sarcasm assault of my son.   

“Way to be aware.”  She says to him. 

Oh man.  Really?  Because the irony here is that she is the one who is not being very aware.  Yes.  In an ideal world, my son would have jumped up and helped me.  And believe me there are times when he does.  But he’s just spent 6 and half hours being aware at school.  His brain is on a much-needed vacation.  And instead of giving him a clear direction and saying, “Gee, I’ll bet your mom would really appreciate some help!”  She decides to be passive aggressive and throw some sarcasm his way.  Now he’s supposed to stop doing the thing he finds rewarding, listen to her, detect sarcasm, take stock of his behavior, notice what he did wrong and then change it.  That’s a lot to ask of any 10-year-old boy playing a video game after a long day at school, but for one with ASD it’s the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest.  Both my son and I ignored her. 

In my head though I started the conversation where I would say to her: 

It’s possible that everything isn’t what you think it is.  Maybe the kid you think is rude has been fighting for two years to make eye contact with you, not because he wants to be able to make eye contact with you, but because he’s been told it’s important to you.

Maybe the child who is having a tantrum isn’t spoiled but has no other means of communicating their needs. 

Maybe that parent that you think hasn’t disciplined their child is exhausted from fighting to get their child life changing services. 

Maybe, just maybe, you don’t know everything about anything. 

Maybe you should think before you decide to speak.

Maybe you should take a stroll in a pair of shoes other than your own and open your eyes to the challenges that face many individuals.  

I wanted to say it, but I didn’t.

Perhaps what I should have said to her was what she said to my son. “Way to be aware!”

Shannon Penrod is the Host of Autism Live an interactive, online video podcast that provides news, resources and support for parents, practitioners and teachers working with children with ASD as well as individuals on the Autism Spectrum.  Her son was diagnosed with Autism at the age of 2. Visit www.autism-live.com to view the show and interact with Shannon and her guests.

 

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by Shannon Penrod

When A Child Dies From Autism…

Last week, on Mother’s Day, Mikaela Lynch’s parents experienced a nightmare that didn’t end.  Mikaela, a nine-year old with Autism, went missing.  For four days volunteers, family members and friends of the family searched for her.  During that Mikaela Lynchunbelievably difficult time, Mikaela’s parents would have been told that their child did not qualify for an “Amber Alert”, which would have mobilized more help and created more media coverage.  Amber Alerts can only be used when there is evidence that the child has been abducted. Children with Autism who are known to “elope” do not fit that criterion, despite the fact that they may be facing life threatening challenges.

The Lynch family was also subject to some negative media barbs wondering why they hadn’t watched their child more closely. As if you can ever watch a child with Autism who elopes closely enough…as if these poor parents could transcend the human necessity of blinking, getting a drink of water or simply looking away for a split second.

I wish there were a happy ending to this story, that Mikaela had been found alive and that her parents could have sighed with relief and held their child in their arms, smelled her hair and felt her breathe.  That isn’t the end to this story.  Mikaela’s body was found on Wednesday, in a nearby creek.  For the Lynch family all that is left is to mourn.  For the rest of us, we have the responsibility to learn from this tragedy and hopefully prevent the next one…because if we don’t, more children with Autism will die.

I know what you’re thinking.  Autism isn’t fatal.  Children don’t die of Autism.  I hear this a lot.  When someone tries to explain to me why there are more children affected with Autism than Cancer, AIDS and Juvenile Diabetes COMBINED but it still receives only a small percentage of the funding these other medical issues garner, this is often the excuse I hear.  “Autism can be devastating to a family, but let’s face it…it’s not fatal.”

Tell that to Mikaela Lynch’s parents.

This isn’t a question of bad parenting.  A recent study estimated that over 50% of children on the Autism Spectrum will at some time engage in something called “elopement.”  No, they aren’t talking about running off to Niagara Falls to get married.  They are talking about when a child runs or walks away without regard to safety or rules.  Every parent who has ever had a toddler knows what this looks like – the child just takes off.  It’s scary for any parent, at any age.  Imagine for a moment what it would be like if your child never grew out of that behavior? Imagine feeling as though you could never let your guard down, not now, not ever.  It is unimaginable, isn’t it?  For a parent with a child on the spectrum it can feel that way sometimes.

The horrible truth none of us likes to think about is that it is impossible to watch our children 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  We can try, we can do our level best, but it is impossible.  Every year we hear about more children with Autism who go missing from their homes.  Some are found safe, many are not.  What follows is astonishing to me.  As in the case of the Lynch’s, the media and the public often point fingers at the parents.  If they knew their child was an eloper, why didn’t they keep them safe?  This is the rationale of someone who doesn’t want to face facts.  Until we make sure that all families facing these issues get help and support, we are ALL responsible.

The good news is there is support we can give families to help stop their children from eloping.  It takes time, and systems have to be put in place to keep the child safe while they are getting the proper intervention.  It takes money.  It takes trained specialists.  It isn’t something an exhausted parent can do by themselves.  We need to stop acting like they can.

If you or someone you know has a child who elopes, don’t wait and hope that it will get better.  There are organizations that can help you.    Call your local Autism Society and ask for help.  Contact a TACA parent mentor.  Apply for an emergency grant from Autism Care and Treatment Today!  Don’t wait.

If you are a grateful parent of a well child, and you are able to use your restroom, or step into the kitchen, or take a phone call without fear of losing your child forever, please, please, spread the word and support organizations such as the ones I listed above.

Lastly, send a loving thought to the Lynch family.  Their loss is immeasurable.

Shannon Penrod is the mother of a nine-year-old with Autism.  She hosts Autism Live, an interactive web show devoted to giving free information about resources and solutions in the Autism Community.  Ms. Penrod makes the choice in her writings to capitalize the “A” in Autism, despite the fact that it is not grammatically correct.  In her words, “Trust me, when someone tells you that your kid has Autism…it’s a capital A.”

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By Shannon Penrod

I got concerned this year that I had missed Thanksgiving.  I walked into stores expecting to see pumpkins and pilgrims that would signal to my Pavlovian brain that it was time to buy turkey…and oh yes, to remember to be thankful.  Instead I walked into stores and was bombarded by full on Christmas.  I almost had a panic attack when I ran into Wal-Mart for panty hose the other day and was assaulted by a sign that said, “Only 44 more day ’til Christmas!”  Only 44 more days!  Holy…oh, wait a minute…44 days is  long time.  What happened to Thanksgiving? Judging by Wal-Mart’s shelves it’s non-existent and Wal-Mart is not the only one to jump the gun a bit.  Did all of the world’s retailers sit down and have a secret meeting where they decided to just skim over Thanksgiving this year and just plow right through to Christmas?  Is the economy so bad they just assumed that none of us had anything to be grateful for?  I was mulling this over, and was actually afraid that I wouldn’t remember to be grateful without all the commercial prompting, when I had Grinchesque moment.     Stores don’t remind us to be grateful, life does.

I remember years ago hearing Reverend Beckwith speak.  He was talking about all the little things that manage to bring us down on any given day.  He asked us to stop and consider that whatever was gripping us might be the very thing we should be grateful for.  We might be frustrated that we have a sink full of dirty dishes to clean, but somewhere in the world there is a homeless person who is dreaming of being able to have dishes in a sink that need to be cleaned.  Talk about a reality check!  I remember going home and saying really nice things to my noisy and on the verge of breaking dishwasher, not to mention looking at all of the little blessings that I had taken for granted.

It’s so easy to get caught up in the minutia of our lives and to view it as unsubstantial.  Yet, when the mundane acts of life are threatened or taken away they are exactly the things we wish for.  We move through our days unaware of how lovely it is to be able to grocery shop until something prevents us from doing it.  It could be as simple and as temporary as a cold or something as serious as long-term illness or the death of a loved one.  Suddenly those simple tasks, the things done mindlessly on a Tuesday afternoon, take on new meaning.  We long for them.  What we wouldn’t give for just one day of blissful normalcy.

As I was worrying about the commercial wipe-out of Thanksgiving and what it would mean to my spiritual developement this week, I noticed that the posts of a high school friend had changed on Facebook.  Her husband and family were posting for her.  Stage four cancer had made it impossible for her to chat with us anymore.  Yes, life reminds us to be grateful.  When I might have complained about the long lines at the grocery store I remember what a privilege it was to be standing in line.  When the thought crossed my mind that gas prices are high I remembered how lovely it is to be able to pick my child up from school and talk to him about falling leaves.  I was reminded that everyday is a gift.

My high school friend departed this earthly world yesterday.  I know that she is at peace now and in a better place, but I can’t help wondering what she would have traded to have one more Tuesday filled with laundry and dishes and shopping as well as the laughter and love that tag along with them.  Yeah, I was definitely reminded to get my grateful on.

As a kid we would always decorate our Christmas tree and then stand back and admire it before we piled tinsel on it.  Occasionally someone would suggest that maybe we shouldn’t put tinsel on it at all.  That kind of thinking never won out because invariably someone would pipe up and say, “Every thing looks better with tinsel on it!”   As a child I agreed.  I’m not so sure anymore.  I suspect there are some things in life that no matter how much tinsel you put on it, there’s no improving it.  What I do know is that no matter how much commercial tinsel gets heaped on Thanksgiving I can and should remember to count my blessings.

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By Shannon Penrod

Dear Jim,

Nine years ago today we stood in front of friends and family and took vows that have more meaning to me now than they every could have meant then.  I remember part of our vow was an Irish prayer that said, “You are the last person I want to see before I sleep and the first person I want to see upon waking.”  Honey, it was true then, but it’s so much truer now.  When you asked me to marry you I said, “Yes!” without hesitation, because I knew I loved you and I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you.  I’d already tried to live without you and I didn’t like that.  What I didn’t know was how truly marvelous you are.  I didn’t know it because time had yet to reveal it.

How could I have known that you were going to be such an amazing father?  I believed it, but the reality is so much better. I couldn’t have known that you were going to love our little boy with a fierceness that takes my breath away.  I couldn’t dream that you were going to be the type of Dad who calls me up from work and says, very seriously, “Honey, I’ve been thinking about it a lot and… we just aren’t videotaping enough.  I just know that some day we’re going to look back and wish we had a camera running 24/7.”  It just takes my breath away how wonderful you are.

The things you do to make that little boy laugh!  Oh my!  Yeah, other people may have Emmys and Oscars for their comedic performances but baby they’ve got nothing on you.  The best laughs I have ever had have been of your crafting.  I can not count the number of times you have made me laugh until I have fallen off the couch, been doubled over clutching my stomach and begging for air.  You funny.  It’s kind of my little secret and I LOVE to watch people who don’t know you realize it.  For years my friends and family thought that because I’m funny you must be the straight man to my humor.  Of course nothing could be further from the truth. I love your sense of humor and I treasure all of laughs we share.  Thank God we have laughed, because we have been through some @#!$!

When I think of what we have been through in the last five years I don’t know whether to laugh, cry or wet my pants.  I’d rather just hold on to you and tell you over and over, “Thank you!”  Thank you for sticking by me, through Autism, through a nervous breakdown, a reality show, three moves, being sued by the school district twice, 2 summers in Southern California with NO AIR CONDITIONING, total financial devastation, IRS hell, a dead landlord with a crazy ex-wife and ever so much more.  Thank you, because looking back on it, it all seems like a really funny adventure now.  That’s because we were in it together.  There was never ever a moment when I thought for even a second you weren’t going to stick it out with me.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  I can go anywhere and do anything because I know at the end of the night I get to go home with you.  That’s my ace in the hole, right there.

I think back to all of the promises we made nine years ago.  We’ve been able to keep almost all of them.  Yes, a few of our dreams got differed because of a little thing called Autism.  We haven’t been able to do all of the “couple” things we would have loved to.  Even this morning, you’re off to take Jem to Harry Potter Camp, while I’m staying home to tackle the garage in preparation for yet another move next week.  It’s not the big romantic anniversary we would have planned nine years ago.  It may not be what others would choose, but I don’t care.  I want you to know that I still choose you, I still choose us.  I love our life, our love our little family and I love being on this adventure with you.  I love you and I love the way you love me.  I never, ever thought I would have that.  Thank you for making our story a love story.

Happy Anniversary Love!

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by Shannon Penrod

I’m not terribly good and beginnings and endings.  I like middles.  Beginnings are bumpy and fraught with unexpected muck.  Endings are messy and emotional.  Today is an ending and I am definitely feeling messy and emotional.  While I am writing this my son is in the next room having his last session with one of his ABA therapists.  5 1/2 years ago I remember hearing the word Autism in connection with my son and feeling like I was stepping off a cliff into a hole that had no bottom.  It was a messy beginning to say the least. But, that was then and this is now.  I’m sitting on the sofa crying because I can’t believe we actually did it. Somehow we managed to rearrange our lives to accommodate an army of trained therapists parading  through our home, coaxing our child out inch by inch, hour by hour, year by year until we  finally arrived here.  Here is unbelievably good.

I remember the first time I ever drove to California. I couldn’t help but wonder at the tenacity of the first settlers who reached the Rocky Mountains and decided to scale them to get to the other side.  For the first time I understood why places like Denver became cities.  A whole lot of people looked at those mountains and decided it just wasn’t worth it.  I always thought I would have been one of those people.  Now, on the other side of the mountain I can’t help but look back and think, “Holy CRAP!!! Did we really just scale that?”  We did.  We really did.

For the last few weeks I’ve been watching this really amazing docu-series on the web, called “The A-Word”.  It follows a family through their early days of diagnosis and getting ABA therapy.  It’s amazing.  I can’t stop talking about it.  For me it’s like getting to relieve those early days without all the fear, without all the uncertainty.  I’m watching the family adjust to the fact that their entire life has been picked up and shaken like a box of Legos, and I find myself crying – because I know how lucky they are.  I don’t know if they know it yet, but I do.  But they are at the beginning and we are at the end.  The Alpha and the Omega of ABA therapy for Autism. Everyone should be so lucky.

I don’t know what the future holds, but I know that this journey has been life defining for me and my family.  Can’t isn’t in our vocabulary anymore.  Hope is something that has legs.  Fear is just false evidence appearing real.  Courage is a small child who doesn’t give up.  Love is never giving up.  Hard is meaningless and everything is possible.

So, what do you do to mark such a moment occasion?  We already had the party, we already went to Disneyland so today we’re just going to be normal and go see the premiere of CARS 2.  That’s what 8-year-old boys want to do on a Friday night; and starting today that’s who my son is, an 8-year-old boy, just like everyone else.  It is our new Alpha.

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