Thanksgiving 2017

Hard to believe it is that time of year again. It seems the years are going by so quickly now. This year though I have so much to be thankful for. Over this last year I have really learned that I need to take time every day to be thankful for not only the major things in my life but for the small things too.

Today I am going to write about just a few of things I am thankful for. Even though I may hate the cold weather I am very glad I am still here to throw snowballs at my children. I think about that every day. How I enjoy the smell of freshly cut grass and my skin drinking in the warm sun. To hear my childrens laughter and wipe away their tears. Thankful for all the people I have in my life who help in small or big ways to cope with my disabilities when I struggle to do it on my own. Who push me when I need to be pushed and show me I am stronger than I think I am. That have faith in me when I do not have it in myself. I am thankful for finally finding the medication that is helping my son with his asthma so he is doing better. I am thankful I have found the right medications for myself. I may not always like taking them but I have realized how much I used to struggle and it is not worth it. I can see a happier future even when things go wrong. I am thankful my grandma is finally at peace even though I will miss her so much. She is with the love of her life now. She taught me so many great things that I will carry with me and gave me many memories. I only hope I can be as great of a grandmother as she was. I am thankful my kids are healthy and happy and I am most thankful for my grandkids. Who knew you could have so much more love to give. Now that I was able to get a better car I can now see those beautiful grandkids more. I have so much to be thankful for.

Even when life gets hard there is always something to be thankful for. It is just sometimes you have to look really hard for it. It might be something very simple. Some days that is just all that got me through. I hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving!!!


My Veterans Day

I know this is a little late but as we all know life can get in the way sometimes. Every year I expect Veterans Day to be the same old thing…just another day. This year I was pleasantly surprised and it really touched my heart.

My 17 year son never seems to remember me on Veterans Day so I really did expect the same thing this year. A few days before he had given me a big hug because my grandmother is dying and I was crying. He told me it was going to be okay, he was here for me. This Veterans Day my 17 year old, who never gets up early, got up and made me coffee. He told me Happy Veterans Day but the best part of the whole day was that he told me he was proud of me. That was the best thing I heard all day.

My 8 year old gave me a big hug and told me Happy Veterans Day many times that day. He tried to find little things he could do for me just to outdo his brother. I loved those little arms around my neck.

I miss my time in the service almost every day. There are so many things I learned from being in and people I met. If I could I would do it all over again. I am also very thankful that I did join because I do not know how I would be able to do the things I am able to do now or get all the help I do now with my disabilities had I not been in. I am proud to be a Veteran and proud of all my fellow Veterans for everything they have done.




No One Brings Dinner When Your Daughter is an Addict

When my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer, we ate well. Mary Beth and I had both read the terrifying pathology report of a tumor the size of an olive.  The surgical digging for lymph nodes was followed by months of radiation.  We ate very well.

Friends drove Mary Beth to her radiation sessions and sometimes to her favorite ice cream shop on the half-hour drive back from the hospital. She always ordered a chocolate malt, extra thick.

Our family feasted for months on the lovingly prepared dishes brought by friends from work and church and the neighborhood: chicken breasts encrusted with parmesan, covered safely in tin foil; pots of thick soup with hearty bread; bubbling pans of lasagna and macaroni and cheese. There were warm home-baked rolls in tea towel-covered baskets, ham with dark baked in pineapple rings, scalloped potatoes, and warm pies overflowing with the syrups of cherries or apples.

Leftovers piled up in the refrigerator, and soon the freezer filled up too, this tsunami of food offerings, an edible symbol of our community’s abundant generosity.

Although few said the word breast unless it belonged to a chicken, many friends were familiar with the word cancer and said it often, without flinching.  They asked how we were doing, sent notes and cards, passed along things they’d read about treatments and medications, emailed links to good recovery websites and the titles of helpful books, called frequently, place gentle, if tentative hands on shoulders, spoke in low and warm tones, wondered if we had enough food.  The phrase we heard most was: “If there’s anything I can do…”

In the following months, after Mary Beth had begun speaking in full sentences again and could stay awake for an entire meal, the stored foods in the freezer ran out, and we began cooking on our own again. Our children, Nick and Maggie, sometimes complained jokingly about our daily fare.  “Someone should get cancer so we can eat better food,” they’d say.  And we actually laughed.

Almost a decade later, our daughter, Maggie, was admitted to a psychiatric hospital and diagnosed with bipolar disorder, following years of secret alcohol and drug abuse.

No warm casseroles.

At 19, she was arrested for drug possession, faced a judge, and was placed on a probation program. Before her hearings, we ate soup and grilled cheese in a restaurant near the courthouse, mere booths away from the lawyers, police officers, and court clerks she might see later.

No scalloped potatoes in tinfoil pans.

This question is rarely heard: “How’s your depression these days?”

Maggie was disciplined by her college for breaking the drug and alcohol rules. She began an outpatient recovery program.  She took a medical leave from school.   She was admitted to a psychiatric hospital, diagnosed, released.  She began years of counseling, recovery meetings, and intensive outpatient rehabilitation.  She lived in a recovery house, relapsed, then spent seven weeks in a drug and alcohol addiction treatment center.

No soup, no homemade loaves of bread.

Maggie progressed well at the treatment center. When the insurance coverage on inpatient treatment ran out for the year, she was transferred to a “partial house” where she and other women slept at night then were returned by van to the facility for full days of recovery sessions, meals, volleyball  games, counseling, and horticultural therapy.  This daughter who once stayed as far away from my garden as possible lest I catch a whiff of my stolen whiskey on her breath was no planting a garden herself, arranging painted rocks around an angel statue donated by a counselor, carrying buckets of water to nurture inpatients, petunia, delphinium, and geraniums.

Friends talk about cancer and other physical maladies more easily than about psychological afflictions. Breasts might draw blushes, but brains are unmentionable.   These questions are rarely heard: “How’s your depression these days?”   “What improvements do you notice now that you have treatment for your ADD?”  “What does depression feel like?”  “Is the counseling helpful?”  A much smaller circle of friends than those who’d fed us during cancer now asked guarded questions.  No one ever showed up at our door with a meal.

We drove nearly five hours round trip each Sunday for our one weekly visiting hour. The sustenance of food, candy, and fiction were forbidden as gifts to patients at the treatment center.  Instead, we brought Maggie cigarettes, sketchbooks, colored pencils, and phone cards.  Any beef roasts or spaghetti dinners we ate were ones we’d prepared ourselves or bought in a restaurant on the long road to the center.

Then, late one night in June, Maggie and another patient were riding in the treatments center’s van on the way back to their house after a full day of the hard work of addiction recovery. The number of patients in the partial house had diminished from six a few days before, after a scandal involving small bags of ground coffee some smuggled from the house to the center and sold as though it were cocaine to addicts craving real coffee.  (The center, like many, served only decaf)  Dozing off and comfortable in the seat behind the driver, Maggie might have been thinking of those coffee dealers who had been returned to the main facility or dismissed.  Or maybe she was thinking about the upcoming wedding of her brother, Nick.  A light pink bridesmaid’s dress waited in her closet at our house.  Her release from the center was scheduled for two days before she and Mary Beth were to fly to Wisconsin for the wedding.

That night, an oncoming speeding car hit the van head-on.

The medics radioed for helicopters, and soon the air over Chester County, PA, was full of them, four coming from Philadelphia, Coatesville, and Wilmington, one for each patient. The accident site was soon a garish roadside attraction of backboards, neck braces, IV tubes, oxygen tanks, gurneys, strobing lights, the deep thumping of helicopter blades , and the whine of turbines.

A newspaper picture later showed five firefighters, all in full hear, lifting a woman from a van-only her feet and an edge of the backboard visible.   The van’s roof, dark and torn and jagged in the picture, had been removed by hydraulic cutters while the huddled victim’s, Maggie unconscious among them, were carefully covered with blankets.  One of her front teeth lay in the puddle of blood on the ground.

When we saw her in the hospital, her face was a swollen mass of stitches, bruises, and torn flesh.   Brown dried blood was still caked in her ears.  Mary Beth carefully cleaned it with a licked paper towel, as if she were gently wiping Maggie’s face of grape jelly smudges or white donut powder just before Sunday School.  At first, Maggie only remembered headlights, but soon she would mention “a cute EMS tech waking me up,” and the muffled chattering of helicopters.

The day she was released from the hospital, Maggie insisted on returning to the rehab center to complete her program, a heroine in a wheelchair among heroin addicts and alcoholics. On the way there, we stopped at a restaurant for lunch, where Maggie ate mashed potatoes, a little soup, and sucked a mango smoothie through a straw held carefully where her tooth was missing.  Back at the center, we rolled her out to see her garden.

While Maggie was in the hospital, cards and letters filled our mailbox at home. For the two weeks that Maggie remained in rehab, and even while she flew to the Midwest, then wore her pink dress at Nick’s wedding and dance triumphantly with her cousins, offers of food crackled from our answering machine and scrolled out on email: “If there’s anything I can do…”


Written by Larry M Lake

Why This Commonly-Spoken Phrase About Autism Is Actually Offensive

As someone who has historically suffered from OCD tendencies, it irks me when people use a serious mental disorder to describe a completely normal, human experience. People say they’re “so OCD” because they like to have their desks tidy, or they’re bothered by that one slightly angled pencil in a line of otherwise perfectly parallel pencils. It makes me want to shake them and scream, “You know nothing of OCD!”

But it’s not just OCD that is subject to this phenomenon. Other disorders—including autism—are, too. Ever heard someone chuckle as they find themselves settling into a normal routine (for example) and say, “Oh that must be my autism?” Or have you ever heard someone say, “Well, aren’t we all a little autistic?”

This kind of talk can be offensive to actual autistic people for the same reason flippant OCD talk offends me. It trivializes a legitimate and difficult experience. While autism offers strengths and is often a part of a person’s complex identity, it can also present a lot of challenges neurotypicals couldn’t even begin to understand (largely because society isn’t “just a little autistic!”).

However, some people will say “Aren’t we all a little autistic?” as an expression of solidarity and a way to say, “Hey, I can relate.” It’s well meaning, but still incorrect. It is true that there are certain aspects of autism neurotypicals can relate to; after all, we are all human beings, and certain parts of the autistic experience are common among the greater population. Anxiety, for example, as well as a preference to be alone at times. Some of us tend to be socially awkward or find sensory stimulation overpowering. During times of high stress we may come unglued. Some of us may be aversive to change and prefer routine.

But unless these things directly impact our daily lives to a significant degree, we cannot claim we are all “a little autistic.”

Case in point: if we were all “a little autistic,” the world would be a radically different place. Strobe lights, if ever even invented, would have been quickly thrown away as a terrible idea. People would say what they mean and mean what they say. There wouldn’t be all these silly, unspoken social rules and expectations neurotypicals have put into place. Autistics would never be told to have “quiet hands,” and stim (help for sensory stimulation) toys would be seen everywhere. Schools, office buildings, and grocery stores would all have quiet rooms where people could seek refuge if overwhelmed.

We are not all “a little autistic.” And I think Chris Bonnello over at Autistic Not Weird said it best:

“Next time you want to show off your ‘autistic traits’…first go through the years of social isolation, the lifetime of not fitting in, the confusion of people’s comfort zones, the feeling of being the ‘wrong’ kind of person for not being like everyone else, and the years of having anxiety forced upon you by others. Then you can talk to me about ‘your autism.’”

Written by: A. Stout


Remembering the Good Things

Earlier this month I took a trip with my sister and our kids down to our hometown of Oakes. Our grandma is not doing well so we needed to see her because you just never know what can happen and you need to make sure you tell her you love her and get those hugs in. While this trip did cause some anxiety it was also a great trip not only for me but for my sister and kids as well.

I was able to finally spend some much need sister time that I do not often get. It meant a lot to me and we did not have to do much. My kids now see just how strange their aunt is too. We are too much alike. They loved it. It was great to see the kids having a good time and having fun with their cousin. Even the 17 year old had a good time and that is hard to do. To see the smile on their faces just warms your heart. We had a lot of good laughs and memories to last a long time.

Being in Oakes again after so many years really takes you back. It is one of those towns where you only have one movie theater that goes bankrupt every so often. You have a street light but really do not need it Stop signs work just fine. There is one elementary school and then the Jr/Sr high school. My kids think that is the strangest thing. The hardest thing going back to Oakes this time was seeing grandma. She is my last grandparent and she used to be so vibrant and always had a smile on her face. If she knew you were coming there was so much food ready for you even if you told her not to make any. She loved talking to everyone. Now she is almost completely blind and she can not walk by herself. She just stares off into space and can not really hold a conversation at all. It really makes you sad.

I stop though and I remember this lovely lady has lived a long life and has taught me so much. I have so many wonderful memories of her and my grandpa that I will cherish forever. I know that she is in there somewhere and can hear me. So I am glad we mad that trip and I told her just how much I love her and appreciate her and gave her all those hugs. She gave me go much more.



Walter’s Success Story

On a cool September day Walter entered into DCIL, homeless. He had been referred to us by Social Security for our Representative Payee Services.  Walter had been living at Ruth Meier’s Drop in Center and was looking for housing. He had no transportation.  This once very hardworking, intelligent man was now walking a different road in life; an unexpected road caused by some disabilities he had acquired.

One of the first services he received from DCIL was assistance with filling out a Transit application.

Walter, a pleasant, single man, stated that he was motivated to acquire housing and a job. He chose to be a consumer at DCIL and agreed to work towards the goals that he would set for himself.

In the course of the 8 years that he was a consumer at DCIL, of the 16 goals that Walter set for himself, he completed all of them very successfully. Community based living, transportation, personal resource management, self-advocacy, self-care and learning new technology were a few of the goals he had set and he was always willing to work diligently towards completing those goals. Walter has a strong work ethic and started his independence by working for Command Center. There were struggles, there were challenges, and Walter worked diligently to overcome those by self-determination.  Walters’s successes were many, but he understood that this was all a process.  As he grew to become more and more independent, he always wanted to work as much as possible according the rules set up by SSI.

He was able to move into the Lewis and Clark Building in Mandan where he lived for 8 years as he was rebuilding his life. He was always very grateful for the assistance.  He was determined.  He received assistance from West Central Human Services in Bismarck and Community Action helped him with Shelter Plus Care.

His advocate at DCIL wondered about his family. Walter stated he had a sister residing in Hollywood, CA. The advocate located her on Social Media and after 10 years, Walter was reunited with his sister, elderly mother and family.

While he was in ND, thanks to Medicaid Benefits, he was able to communicate his physical impairments and receive the medical help that he needed, including getting on a vitamin regiment. While enjoying the newfound health, being determined, he gave up smoking.

Through weekly communication with his sister, he has decided to move to Ohio and be there for his family.

Walter, always the optimist, once stated when asked what it felt like to be homeless, “How can I be homeless, when I have the sky above me, and the earth below me?” While visiting with Walter the week before he moved, we asked him, “Where do you see your life going from here?  What goals do you have before you?”  Walter stated, “I’ve done it before, I’ve done it before, I’ve done it before, I’ll do it again.”  Walter, good luck with the rest of your journey we call life.

Misconceptions and Advantages Hiring People with Disabilities

October is National Disability Employment Awareness Month. What is this? This is to make sure that companies hire people who have disabilities. People aren’t being hired as a result of companies being scared. This is because they have a lot of misconceptions.

3 Misconceptions

  1. Lazy

One of the misconceptions that companies have is that people with disabilities are lazy. This is not true at all. People with disabilities are willing to work hard. I knew several coworkers with a disability and they worked really hard.

  1. Always Late

Another misconception is that people with disabilities usually are late for work or call in late often. This is also wrong. Since people with disabilities usually take public transportation, they might be late because the bus or taxi might be late.

  1. Slow

People with disabilities seem to be slow in getting things done, which is the last misconception. This might be true for some people with disabilities, but some people who do not have disabilities might be slow too. This is a generalization that simply is not a fair statement.

3 Advantages

  1. Expand Your Talent Pool

Sometimes it seems almost impossible to find qualified candidates for a position. But if you start recruiting individuals with disabilities, it expands your talent pool so that you can find better candidates.

And according to Work without Limits, a network that aims to increase employment among individuals with disabilities, “Individuals with disabilities represent an untapped candidate pool for businesses. Recruiting and retaining people with disabilities are one approach to counter the effects of the aging and shrinking workforce.”

  1. Increase Your Loyal Workforce

People with disabilities want to work, and when they get the opportunity, they stay loyal. And according to a 2007 study from DePaul University, people with disabilities perform just the same as people without disabilities:

■Participants with disabilities from the retail and hospitality sectors stayed on the job longer than participants without disabilities.

■Across all sectors, participants with disabilities had fewer scheduled absences than those without disabilities.

■Retail participants with disabilities had fewer days of unscheduled absences than those without disabilities.

■Regardless of sector, participants with and without disabilities had nearly identical job performance ratings.

■The numbers of worker’s compensation claims of retail participants with and without disabilities were equivalent.

  1. Diversity is good for Business

As we’ve discussed before, diversity is good for business. When people who have diverse experiences work together, they can come up with creative solutions for problems because they have a better understanding of your customer base.

As an added bonus, people with disabilities have additional insight into your customers who have disabilities, which can help you tailor your products better. This is especially important in untapped markets where people with disabilities have not been focused on.

Plus, EARN reports, “Customers with disabilities and their families, friends and associates represent a trillion dollar market segment. They, like other market segments, purchase products and services from companies that best meet their needs. A large number of Americans also say they prefer to patronize businesses that hire people with disabilities.”