Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Eye Contact. Or not. (That Perspective Thing, Again.)

After spending countless months transitioning from mom to entrepreneur, I finally decided to take a friend up on her suggestion to read a certain book series. Not for greater intellectual development, nor another, “how-to do this, that, and everything else,” read, but reading just for fun. And I’m so glad I did. What started out as picking up one book to read over winter break turned into hunting down an entire series.

The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith have been such pleasant, quick and easy reads. And as someone keenly interested in the concept of “perspective”, the cultural differences from my own, stressed throughout the book, have given me much to think about. Namely, eye contact.

As an AsperMom, I’m all too familiar with the emphasis my present culture places on that thing called “eye contact”. We’ve had school and family complain how our daughter lacks it, and how that is a…problem. It’s also part of Asperger’s and quite frankly, in my not so humble opinion, there are bigger goals for her to reach than looking someone in the eye. Like grades. Or getting along with others. When to keep her thoughts inside, and when to express them. To learn how to live on her own.

But I digress.

I’m good at that.

Alexander McCall Smith’s series is set in Botswana, and he reflects on certain cultural expectations of the main character, Mma Ramotswe. One, in particular, had me. He writes of children and how they approach adults – with their eyes downward. Eye contact from a child to an adult is considered a sign of disrespect.

I mentioned it to Kristina, and she smiled. She abhors eye contact. It bothers her to no end. The thought that another culture discourages children from using it when greeting an adult made her feel…relieved.

To be honest, I am no expert on how eye contact is seen from culture to culture. But the thought that eye contact is not a universal social rule was…eye opening. (Bad puns, I know. They happen.)

Why is it that we spend so much time and energy teaching our kids to conform to social norms that, in the grand scheme of things, vary with the wind? How confusing is it to repeatedly practice “look me in the eye!” – only to visit another culture, and tell our aspie to disregard that “rule” for a moment?

Gosh, I’d love to devote time and energy to understanding all this. To further understanding of all of this. Of cultures. Of social rules. Of Asperger’s trying to make heads or tails of it all.

What do you think? Doesn’t it often seem that we make things more complicated and complex than they need to be? How often do we (unknowingly, even) "force" our culture on another, instead of making a conscious choice to understand it, instead? At the end of the day, what is it that really, truly matters as we interact with one another? And how confusing it all must be to our kids.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

There's a Coffee Klatch Tweetchat on Monday. Interested? Join us!

On Monday, I'm honored to be the featured guest at The Coffee Klatch, doing my first Tweetchat. I would love it if you would stop by, say "hi", and join the conversation! Sure, we'll talk a little about the book, but I'd love for you to share your thoughts, as well. Let's make it a fun time!

Join me, Monday, February 21, from 9-10am EST. Click here for the link! Chat with Julie.

Not familiar with the Coffee Klatch? They are an incredible interactive source for families of special need kids, found on blog talk radio and twitter.

Hope to see you there on Monday!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Valentine’s Day Wish Lists

This past Holiday Season we tried, again, to convince our daughter that a wish list is not a checklist. Of course, she disagreed. And then followed up with a dissertation on the matter.

Our girl is an Aspergirl and quite frankly doesn’t see the point in giving anything to anyone that they do not want, nor anything not asked for (whether they’d want it or not). (She’s never been a fan of surprises.) She simply sees it as a waste of time and hard earned money. It’s hard for us to effectively convey the meaning behind much giving, but we keep trying. In the short term, though, it appears nothing more than fighting another losing battle of wit and words.

Then February hit, and my poor husband got the look that so many men get right around the middle of this month. You know the look. It’s the, “What does she want for Valentine’s Day?” look. The, “I had better get this right or else…” look. That Heart’s Day panic that women effortlessly wield over men like nothing else.

Truth be told in my earlier years, I had strong opinions on the matter. Flowers? You had to ask? Pink, please. Chocolate? I’ll take the larger box with the silk or velvet cover – and the words “economy size” better not be on the lid. And dinner? If I make it, there will be candles. If I don’t? Well, there will still be candles.

Now, I’m older, and my perspective has changed. I am much more into the meaning behind the day than the gifts and getting that overwhelm it. But don’t get me wrong, I do know what I like, but I also have zero interest in asking for – or even demanding – it.


I have to confess, though, that when the Holidays come ‘round this December, I’ll be a little more sensitive to the “wish” vs. “check” list discussion with my daughter, seeing as I’ve abided by that “unspoken law of womankind” for many years, myself.

But if he is reading, and does need a tiny suggestion, I suppose one hint wouldn’t hurt…


Lots and lots of chocolates.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

That Vegan Thing, Again (aka, Don't Let Me Cook)

There it sat, in the pantry. A lone red can of tomatoes with green chiles expiring in a mere month or so, staring at me, guilting me into using it rather than letting it collect even more dust.

I should have let it sit there.

I mean, the idea sounded good. Throw in some TVP, frozen peppers, and some seasonings, serve with a few pieces of fried corn tortillas, and dinner for one is done!

TVP? Oh, it’s textured vegetable protein (soy). It’s actually pretty decent in spaghetti sauce. Trust me.

Just don’t ask my husband, who is quite thankful he had to work through last night’s dinner. Or my daughter, who was lucky enough to snag Monday’s leftovers.

Overall, the transition to veganism has been positive. I feel better, and my family has been putting up with it. Even the dog comes running whenever I’m sautéing tofu!

No, I’m not kidding. Too many years of breeding “for show” have this little guy confused, making him more excited about tofu in the pan than bacon in the freezer.

But last night’s dinner…was a disaster. Thankfully, some kitchen god created the garbage disposal, which worked - and didn’t spew it all back out at me.

I wouldn’t have blamed it if it had.

So, I did what most sane, budget-oriented people would do. I opened up the freezer door and stared. Then I closed it, and repeated the process with the pantry. And don’t even mention the package of cheese taunting me in the refrigerator, knowing that caving now means regret later. I debated giving up on the notion called dinner but the freezer came calling again, this time remembering Boca Burgers were there along with a frozen hotdog bun, both ready to save the day…er…dinner.

Someday, I will conquer this vegan thing. Someday, I will sauté and steam with the best of them. But until then, heaven help the family. And please, oh pretty pretty please, pass the recipes. And the cooking lessons.

Even the dog knows I need them.