It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

My inspiration for this Blog is likely pretty obvious. I FINALLY got the chance to watch the movie “A Beautiful Day in the Neighbourhood.” It filled my heart with joy, nostalgia, and a small drop of sadness. It made me think of the man that was such a special part of my childhood and my mothers as well and how amazing Fred Rodgers was.

A lot of the movie is indeed about the journalist Lloyd Vogal, who was writing an article about Mr. Rodgers during a turbulent time in Lloyd’s life. Before I got the chance to watch the movie, many of my friends saw it and gave me their review. Most liked it for a similar feeling of nostalgia but disliked it at the same time because it doesn’t focus on Mr. Rodgers, but if you think about it (and listen in the movie), Fred was never the type to want or need the spotlight. During the interviews, Mr. Rodgers often wanted to learn more about the person he was talking to then sharing his own stories.

I will admit I have watched many interviews with Fred’s wife before the premiere of the movie. Some of them were current and related to the upcoming film and others she did well before Mr. Rodger’s passing. Even if the movie itself isn’t “perfect” in many people’s eyes, from what I’ve watched and heard, I feel the film paid homage to one of the most well-known people. Tom Hank’s brought Mr. Rodgers back to life and brought me back to a time of innocents that are so easily forgotten in the madness of everyday adult life.

There were moments when I was so engrossed in the film that I found myself forgetting that the man on the screen wasn’t Mr. Rodgers. I found myself smiling any time he would sing a song or say a phrase that I remembered. I also found myself crying in the scene where he asks Lloyd to sit silently for one moment and think of everyone who “loved him into being,” Why did I cry? Well, I too sat in silence for that minute and did what he asked. I sat in silence and thought about all the people in my life that loved me into being. This wasn’t the first time Fred Rodgers has asked people to do this, and I participated and found myself in tears when the moment was over.

There is something so beautiful and straightforward about his request. For one minute, you sit in silence and think about everyone who loves you.

In the spirit of Mr. Rodger’s, I encourage you now to take a minute with me and think of all those who loved you into being. As Mr. Rodger’s always said in these moments, “I’ll watch the time…”

I’ll watch the time

For those who took the time. Thank you. I find myself taking a minute to myself more and more often these days. Reflecting on things or just taking that minute to focus on nothing. Just to let go of the stress of the day and breathe. Stop thinking about the things that are making me upset instead of thinking of the right things. The things that make me smile.

Every day can’t be perfect, but I like to think that every day can’t be horrible either… or I suppose it can if you let it, but if you try, I feel like you can find the good in every day! – That is something one of my favorite Youtuber family’s Fathering Autism, Asa Maass often comments in his vlogs that not all moments of the day are always good, but we don’t have to dwell on the tough moments. Instead, we have to focus on the good ones, no matter how big or small.

In a lot of ways, I feel like that is what I’m trying to do on my Blog. I don’t want to fill my Blog with negativity. I may mention some negativity moments, but I do my best always to end my blogs on a positive note.

For example, being home can be frustrating. After eight years living on my own and managing all my day to day life things without anyone else do anything, say anything, or change my plans. Living with three other people means I have a lot of helping hands (which I appreciate), I have to live by their rules, on their schedule, and don’t always get to do things the way I like.

It’s not always fun, but every day, I’m so thankful to have such a fantastic family who was willing to change their daily life routine to fit me back in. I know that like my life has been turned upside down, theirs is also different, and I’m also changing things for them in ways they may not like, but we are family and family takes care of one another. I hope now that I’m getting more comfortable, I can become more helpful in the household and make myself useful.

My Family both bio and otherwise, Mr. Rodgers, and the Maass family are some of the people I look to in times of stress. My family is always by my side, Mr. Rodger’s words of wisdom keep me grounded, and the Maass family give me a reason to smile.

Many different versions of families. Many people today like to say, “Family is what you make it.” I have always thought that was a beautiful thing to believe but never knew how that would apply to me when I was young, and then as I grew, I started to, for lack of a better term, “collect” family outside of the one I was born into. I want to give each highlight moment they deserve. Each holds a special place in my heart, and I always will. They are my “Helpers” and I don’t know where I would be without them.

Family, Bonus Texas Family, Bonus Wisconsin Family, All The Pets

My Family, the ones who very much loved me into being, and continue to make me feel loved and supported every day after. I often say that my parents were given a difficult hand to play in life, but they did not let that stop them from having a great experience as a family. They worked hard my whole life to make sure that I had all of the experiences I could have dreamed of growing up.

I loved to sing and joined a choir outside of my regular school program, along with private lessons with a local teacher to grow my skills. Even though singing would not be a career choice, I would make it is a hobby that will always be an essential part of my life. Music gave me the opportunities to travel around the world with my choir group, sing in the Sydney Opera house, and even a small part of my career. As a young girl, this was about as close I could get to a ‘sport’ along with forensic speaking. It’s not to say that I couldn’t have found a wheelchair friendly sport to play. I have just never been interested in sports.

My mom always made the joking comment, “Even if you weren’t in a chair, you would still never play sports. You hate sports.” I honestly don’t think she’s wrong either though we will never know.

The “unofficial sisters,” after I went to college, my parents suddenly felt a bit of empty nest syndrome, so they decided to take on an exchange student from Norway. She was the first ‘sister’ I ever had. The first time I ever had someone to fight over the bathroom with and all those other things, but she was also one of the sweetest people. She will always hold a special place in my heart, and I will always consider her my little sister (even though she’s a great deal taller then I am).

Then there is my younger cousin who has come to live with my parents in the last year. At that time, I lived across the country and could only connect with them via phone or video. At this point, it had been years since my parents had to deal with a middle schooler’s life. Though I think they are enjoying having her around. She brings a different energy to the house and gives them a reason to cook and take the time to sit on the couch and watch TV more then they have in years. Like any teenager with adults, they butt heads (if they didn’t, it would be weird.) Now that I find myself living with my Family again, I get to experience life with another little sister, and although there is an age gap between us, we enjoy each other company. Although, as the weeks go on, I know we will likely begin to annoy each other like sisters often do.

My other Wisconsin family. We’ll call them the G’s. One was my friend’s aid (and mine) during are school years from 2nd grade to high school. Then her husband was my drama teacher in high school who wasn’t shy when it came to having me in plays over the four years of school. He wouldn’t let the fact I used a walker keep me from performing a role. Its thanks to him. I was able to play some fun roles; A talking door, several old ladies, specifically one that smokes cigars and slept the whole play—some of my very best memories of my school days revolve around my time in those shows.

They were part of my life for so long that it only made sense to keep in touch when I graduated. Upon graduating from high school, they gave my friend and me one of the coolest gifts. They took us on a trip to Disney World to celebrate our graduation.

Any time I come home for a visit, I make a point of visiting them. We often text always share significant life events. They even came to visit me in Texas, and we drove all over the state exploring the different president’s museums because their son has a love of presidents and could not wait to go to college station and see George and Barbara Bush.

I could talk about all of the times the G’s have gone above and beyond for me and have always made me feel like Family. One of the funniest things about when we get together as a little family and go on adventures like Disney or Texas, people always assume that I am their daughter without question. So we usually play along because it’s more amusing that way.

That is one of the good things about having to come home for longer then ever before. I will get to spend time with all of my Wisconsin family and friends more then I have in the last five years.

It’s important to find the good even in the tough situation that 2020 has put us all in.

The most fun Texas family a girl could have, the W’s. We started as coworkers who became a friend before quickly becoming Family. Living thousands of miles away from my parents can be tough at times. Having people you can count on that are close by is always something I hope for, but never expect. You never realize how something as simple as a birthday party can feel so special. Last year on my birthday the W’s made great efforts to throw me a birthday party! Tiny cheesecakes, ice cream, and fake wine for all! A 27th birthday is nothing special, but they made it feel like the best birthday ever! Even this year (despite COVID), they sent me cookies to work!

There’s also the several thanksgivings I got to enjoy with them, and as a vegetarian, Thanksgiving is always a bit of an odd one for me.

Thanksgiving, for most, is one filled with meat. It’s a reason why I tend to avoid the holiday because I hate to be an imposition on someone to make or buy food specifically for me. That never stopped my Texas family from making me fish and a special dish of stuffing without meat to eat and enjoy just as much as everyone else.

I’m naturally shy most of the time, but with the W’s I have rarely felt shy. I have always felt right at home with the Family. I can be myself and not worry about being judged for bringing goofy, being weird about my food touching (though the can’t help but make jokes every so often), or choosing to play Lego’s with the kids (because who wouldn’t want to play with Lego’s?).

Now that I have to be in Wisconsin for the next five or so months, I won’t be able to enjoy Thanksgiving with my Texas family for the first time in several years or get to enjoy just sitting with them and hanging out. I have only been back in Wisconsin a few weeks, and I already miss my Texas family and friends more then I could have imagined. I look forward to when the time comes we can get together again!

My furry family is for last. The two kitties, who are my forever fur babies. The two that I adopted during my time in Texas. My first Sailor Moon, I adopted after only two weeks in Texas. Although I don’t hate living on my own, I did realize quickly have nobody to care if you came home at night or to greet you at the door was odd. Ever since I was little, my family has had some sort of pet. Mostly dogs and rabbits, but I’ve always had a love for cats my parents never understood. So, it wasn’t a surprise when I moved into my own place for the first time that I could get myself a cat.

Sailor Moon is one of the sweetest cats, and she loves to snuggle and give head-bumps. Though if you ask anyone else, they would say she wasn’t friendly. Instead, she is a jerk. From a young age, Sailor decided that she needed to be my protector, which tends only to be a problem when I have friends over, and she decides they need to go home.

Baby Sailor

That is one of many reasons I decided to get her a little sister, River Song. I felt like Sailor needed someone else to ‘mother’ other than me. Little River joined the family shortly after hurricane Irma a few years ago. Not only because after leaving Sailor for several days to “go to higher ground” as my parents put it (Remember we are from Wisconsin we don’t know hurricanes) and I felt guilty leaving her alone. Everything I watched on the news or read of Facebook mentioned shelters overcrowded with animals because of the storm. I felt the need to “do my duty” to open a spot for another helpless cat by bringing one home with me.

Unlike the first time, I didn’t search the website for the kitten I wanted and go collect her. I woke up the weekend after everything and just took a trip down to the shelter with no plan. I was, “Just going to look.” I didn’t have to bring one home. Unlike Sailor, I spent a long time holding different cats one at a time. They were all sweet. All kittens love cuddles and are full of happy sounds, but none felt “right” until I saw River (at the time called Viola).

Unlike all the others, she saw me, and she cried out so loud for me. Almost every other kitten had siblings keeping them busy, but she was alone. I held her, and she curled up in my arms. I remember then I put her back because there were others to see, but as I went around, I could hear River/Viola’s cries, and I felt my heartbreak. I asked to hold her again and decided I needed to bring her home.

Baby River

The other two pictured in the collage are the two family dogs that are still around. Clarabelle a mastiff, who has managed to live so much longer then her breed should. I like to think its because of all the love my family surrounds her with every day. The same goes for the little fluffy dog Benji who we took in when his owner passed away. One of the sweetest little dogs you could ever meet wants to be held and give you kisses all day. Over the years, we’ve had many dogs, and I could talk about how each was fun in their unique way and how much I miss them, but I fear this Blog is already far too long.

These are my families, my helpers, my friends. There are many others who I wasn’t able to mention in the Blog, and if any of them are reading this, please know you are not forgotten. I love you all, and I am always thankful for your love, friendship, and support.

Now a switch in gears as I want to put a little spotlight on the YouTube family I mentioned above. I found Fathering Autism, the Maass Family several years ago, and look forward to the blogs daily because they remind me so much of my own family. If you aren’t currently watching Fathering Autism, you should, and here are some reasons why…

The Maass family who strive to help their children be the best people they can be, and they are supportive in every way possible. I emulate with Abbie although Cerebal Palsy and Autism are very different disabilities, there is something that everyone with some disability experiences in one way or another. How to navigate the world that isn’t designed for you, but with the help of family and friend’s we can all become our best selves.

As I was working on this Blog, I watched Fathering Autism, and it made me realize even more why I look forward to their Blog every day. I watched all of the Vlogs about their RV camping adventure as a family. One of the first things I found myself thinking was — I wish my parents were more into RV camping and not tenting, but then I also remember all of the camping adventures we had when I was small sleeping three of us to an air mattress. I would always end up rolling off the edge and sleeping on the dirt, and these random memories made me smile even though you couldn’t pay me to sleep in the dirt today.

One of the other vlogs I watched and felt a world of memories flooding back was when the Maass family went on a hike to find a waterfall filled with rain, mud, slipping, and laughter. My parents always wanted me to experience the outdoors, and they LOVED waterfalls more than anything. Almost all of our camping trips involved a hike to a waterfall. Thankfully I was tiny growing up so into my late Elementary years; I was still able to fit in a backpack type seat carrier so my parents could take turns carrying me all over the world.

All Credit to Fathering Autism

I’m too big now, of course. Though I’m still about the same size as I was when I was ten. So most would call me small. As I have aged, so have my parents. Although my dad can still throw me on his back when he needs to. There is no more hiking in the future.

Watching Fathering Autism, I see my family again and again. The love Abbie’s parents have for her, and never want to limit her. Well also, keeping her safe is how parents of children with a different ability should be.

It’s not easy to be a parent of a special needs child, but like with everything else, it all depends on how you choose to view it; instead of focusing on the things that someone can’t do, it’s essential to realize their potential and help them grow. I was told often from a young age I would never be able to do, but with the help of my family (all of my families), I’m still learning, growing, and gaining skills every day.

Now let’s get back to the reason I started this Blog. I watched a movie about Mr. Rodgers. I feel like this happens every time I start writing. I have an idea in my head, and I start writing, and then suddenly, what I thought I wanted to write about flips on its head and becomes something different, but that’s okay. Mr. Rodger’s taught us all that it was okay to share our feelings and love one another exactly as we are. I think that’s why this Blog quickly turned into something new.

Even though Mr. Rodger’s is gone, his spirit is still finding ways to care about all the children in the world. Most of those children now adults like me who find comfort in watching movies about him, re-watching old episodes of the show, forgetting the madness of the world for a few minutes, and listening to his words of wisdom. I find that I emulate with his words even more now as an adult.

We need to strive to be more like Mr. Rodgers. Now more than ever, do we have to care about our neighbors and love one another unconditionally.

Please. Be Kind.

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