Friday, October 31, 2008

Our 15 Minutes

Have you heard of us yet? We're all over the media? We make appearances, we're going to be recorded for radio, we're just plain county-wide!
OK, we're about as famous as the kid who lost his shorts during gym class, but we HAVE made some minor ripples in our Monmouth County pond. We had an issue with the girl's school, where rumor was the town that owns school building was going to kick us out and make way for a preschool classroom or two (we have 9 classrooms in the building). Well, someone alerted the media the day of the town board of ed meeting and here I am picking up Liv for a therapy session. I get suckered into a News 12 interview and I get my 10 seconds on the evening news; no news organization can resist an 'autism getting the shaft' story. Besides, they got the cutest shots of Livie in the car with her Koosh Ball!

Me and Lin say our piece at the board of ed meeting, a terrifying 30 seconds apiece talking in front of the SUPREME EDUCATORS OF OUR LAND...or at least 10 people seated behind cafeteria tables dressed up like conference tables; turns out they are just trying to appease an audit request and they are just trying to get a 'written' contract from the autistic school district. No immediate foul play for seen, but the future may be ominous...bah, who cares, the girls will graduate out of that school before then!

The REAL 13:50 of fame came on Tuesday. Several months ago, we got a call from a stranger, saying she was from the Holmdel School system. They were holding an autism awareness night in their town and someone at our school dropped Linda's name as 'THE' mom with the knowledge, the scoop, the low down, the goods on all things autism. What they didn't realize that what she DIDN'T have was nerve: she is terrified of pubic speaking! She listened to the message; re-listened; called me; had ME listen to the message, ruminated that she could not POSSIBLY get in front of an audience.

"I could be humiliated in front on THOUSANDS!"
"But, honey, the auditorium only seats 500."
"YEA, but what if it's FILLED??"
"Oh, comeON, the auditorium won't even be half filled"
"But, but that's more than 200 PEOPLE!"
"Don't worry, it won't be that bad", I said

Me being the shy, introvert with the dry and the desert delivery (YEA right, maybe if the desert's in VEGAS!), just blurted out:
"Hey, I'll go on stage with you, you'll be fine!"

That bolstered her into calling back and agreeing to the presentation. We would be one of about 6 different presenters and they wanted us to talk for about 15 minutes. Linda thought that 15 minutes was nothing, we could easily fill up 15 minutes of time with what she had bulleted out. I made the mistake of reminding her that, in speaking terms, I found that 15 minutes could be a very long time. I had the corporate mentality of having sharp-eyed VP's picking apart your data and asking pointed questions. In either event, I made her more nervous. I was now going from 'we're going to speak' to 'YOU are going to speak and I'll just sit back and add little comments'. I'm good at BS'n, but she's the real brains here with advocacy and therapies etc, so now, I'M getting a little nervous.

The passing weeks were spent writing a 30 second biography for the pamphlet; an outline of what we were going to be talking about; and finally a detailed bullet of ideas of talking points from early intervention to therapy to advocacy. All the while the unveiled threat that "Bill, you know, I'm going to just stand up there and NOT SAY A WORD. You are doing ALL the talking!" Even through all this, I could tell she was into it; if for nothing else than to make sure we did not make idiots of ourselves.

Well the Tuesday finally arrived, and Linda was unusually calm, but the weather was momentous. Rain in the morning and spots of SNOW (We DO NOT get snow normally in NJ in October) in the afternoon. "I'm sorry, but we're SNOWED in, Mrs Holmdel educator" was Linda's dream that day that didn't even come close to coming true. We talked about what we had written down on the sheets, but all the while the 'I'm not going to talk' theme continued.

Turnout was a little light, due to the weather; there was only 75-100 people in the room. We were 4th on the agenda, after a doctor and a few therapists. All had polished Powerpoint presentations and I feel we are doomed since we are 'winging it' with no graphics. But as the presentations wore on, I sensed they were losing the audience. We get announced and I begin my spiel. There's only one microphone and I crack a couple of jokes on how Linda's happier that way since she won't be forced to talk unless she actually steals the mic from me.

I start into our family and our history on how we started with the autism community. And all of a sudden, the mic's being ripped from my hand and Linda goes on a tear with the subject. I have to wrench the microphone back out of her hand to complete my thoughts and guide us to the next subject. Several minutes later, I falter for a second and WHAM, she's back to talking, now with a confidence and candor I knew I was going to get out of her. We passed the mic back and forth for I don't know how long, at LEAST 15 minutes in my mind, and the whole forum wound up running a little late, so It might have been 20 minutes. We finish and get rousing applause.

Afterwards, during question and answer, people are bringing up points we made that I barely remember saying, it was truly a blur. We were told that we picked up the tenor of the forum, people were indeed getting a little bored with the technical jargon and needed a boast of real life.

Best of all, we are welcome the next time they have a conference and even better best, Linda is willing able and actually EXCITED about the prospect. I'm glad I insisted and I think she is to.

And finally, our little Gracie was picked in the school to say the Pledge of Allegiance for a radio show they are doing about the school. I don't know all the details yet, I just know that we have the makings of yet ANOTHER star in the family; at least we're not getting famous for losing our shorts!

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