crazy lady from down the street

A few weeks ago I was hanging out at home one morning, with Julian playing in the backyard, when a lady rang the doorbell.

The conversation went something like this:

Her: “Hi. I live down the street and I’ve seen your son riding his bike in the street in the last few weeks.”

Me: “Yes…”

Her: “Clearly, he has some problems.”

Me: “His name is Julian and he is autistic, yes.”

Her: “Well, I have two sons and I just want you to know that I don’t want him to interact with my sons.”

Me: “OK. Did he come into your driveway?”

Her: “No.”

Me:  “Did he approach your children or speak to them?”

Her: “No.”

Me: “Ok well riding his bike around our circle is something we have just started allowing him to do and he’s been told not to go into anyone’s driveways or stop and talk to anyone he doesn’t know.”

Her: “My sons are younger and they ride bikes in the street in front of our house and I don’t want him interacting with them.”

Me: “OK”


To say I was a little caught off guard by this ambush is the understatement of the year.  Julian got a new bike a few weeks ago and yes, we have been letting him ride around our neighborhood—with some trepidation. Julian is 16 years old and has the body of a fully grown person. However, developmentally, he’s about 10. He has almost zero ability to anticipate the consequences of his actions. He has no concept of time management. As most people can probably imagine, both of these limitations make sending him out into the big neighborhood a little off-putting for his parents. Which is why we haven't done it until now.

 Mind you, we didn't just unleash him willy nilly upon the neighborhood. He was given a-l-o-t of guidance. We have instructed him to only ride on our street and one other circular connecting street. He is to never remove his helmet. He is to pull over when a car comes to pass, and of course, he’s not supposed to stop and engage with people he doesn’t know. That’s a difficult one because Julian has never met a stranger--he likes people and he’s wildly curious to talk to people.

(We live in a quiet, mostly peaceful neighborhood. Many people walk and bike the streets. There are alot of houses with kids and pets. The neighbors we know, we call friends. It's a really nice place to live.)

I was ambushed by this woman on my own porch and her “clearly he has problems” opening statement. Gees, lady. How nice of you to notice…and what a tactful way you have of putting things. How nice it is of you to let me know that you want to shield your sons from anything that doesn’t quite fit your mold of normal, for whatever reason. What are your reasons again? How very healthy for them. Gosh, I hope you never know what it means to have a child who’s not entirely “normal”.

I’m still confused as to why I needed this “warning” or whatever it was supposed to be. She said he hadn’t entered her driveway or approached her children so I’m confused. If there’s been no interaction, and he hasn’t, apparently, done anything inappropriate, why did she feel the need to preemptively strike at the mother of the boy who hadn't done anything wrong?

Later, after some non-accusatory questions, I learned that Julian had (one time) stopped his bike in the street near her house and sat there for a minute adjusting his iPod earphones and helmet. Her children were riding their bikes in the (public) street. He didn’t talk to them. He didn’t even get off his bike. (Good boy.) But apparently, this alarmed her and merited a visit.

I think about this ambush every time I ride her way down our street. I didn’t know how to react that day because, frankly, it takes me a few minutes to get over that kind of confrontational assault. When I opened the door, I had no idea what she wanted…or even who she was. I still don't, although I did google her and find out a few things. That was my mistake.

Frankly, I think she has a screw loose and is perhaps completely clueless—but whatever. In a roundabout way, she let me know that Julian had been doing appropriate things and not doing things we had told him not to do, even if her delivery left a lot to be desired. I hope she never has to deal with being ambushed by some stranger who starts their conversation with “clearly your child has problems”.  When you have a child with problems, you tend to already know this and you don’t need it announced to you by a stranger. If I had been a little quicker witted, perhaps  when she said "clearly your son has problems", I would have said "He does?"

Then again that probably wouldn't have been helpful.

If she stepped up on my porch today, she would get a very different answer to her pronouncement.

For some reason, even though I have tried to be diligent in my role as protector and shield to my not-so-little-anymore son, I have been through this more times than I care to recount.  People who don’t understand that not all of us function on the same plane and that looks can be deceptive seem to think I need their take on the situation. Sincerely, I don’t.

Just because his body functions (mostly) properly and he’s 6’1”, doesn’t mean his brain has developed the same way yours and mine has. (It's insanely difficult to *see* a damaged brain.) No, he can’t, in fact, tie his own boot strings, despite years of trying to teach him. Yes, he raises his voice to get his point across at inappropriate times. Yes, I help him wipe his mouth after lunch because he doesn’t have the spacial awareness to know or care that there is ketchup on his chin. No, he can’t tell you what grade he’s in.

It’s a special kind of brutal for a parent to endure these encounters with ignorant strangers who feel the need to inject themselves onto your life. (Just ask some of my friends who have adopted children who don't look like them.) I spend much of my life running interference between Julian and the world at large. It’s exhausting. How much more exhausted is this poor woman going to be if she tries to constantly run interference between her children and all the abnormal in the world? And these  bonus incidents, where an unknown and unknowing person heaps  another generous helping of “let’s point out how dysfunctional you are” on me is getting old. I’m sincerely tired of being nice in the face of stupidity. I wish there was a warning system.

Beep Beep. Crazy opinionated person coming at 3 o'clock.

Then I could at least be prepared.

Dear rude lady from down the street.

If you are going to let your sons ride their bikes in the public street, you need to be prepared to have them see other people, who might also be using the public street in our neighborhood for exactly what it’s intended to be used for.  There might even be interaction. (Gasp.) If you can’t handle that…here’s a newsflash…maybe they aren’t ready to ride in the street.

Part of me just wishes I could understand what motivated her...because clearly, I don't. What's she so afraid of? What did she really expect me to say or do? What was the point? Did she get what she wanted out of the short weird conversation?

Now I'm the one who might be clueless. :)



about the little pantry

It's not *all* about the food at The Little Pantry That Could, but in another way, it is. The food is what draws us all together. It's why people come to see us...because they are in need of (mainly) food, but sometimes other things too. Things such as a hug, a handshake, a smile, an honest conversation, a joke, a dance, a little understanding, a few moments of safe respite, a drink of water or coffee, a pastry or a cookie...

But back to the food.

Today if you shopped, you could have selected

Canned green beans
Canned corn
A can of beans (baked, black, pinto, navy, great northern, chili...)
A can of soup or chili
A can of chicken or tuna
A few packets of instant coffee or hot cocoa
A few bottles of water or tea
A box of spanish rice mix or a box of pasta
A can of pasta sauce or a can of fruit
A box of cereal or oatmeal
A couple of loaves of bread--bread was abundant today...lots of styles snd flavors
Snack crackers or snack chips
Peanut butter
Half a dozen eggs
A case of greek yogurt (yes, we gave away cases awesome is that!)
A bag of fresh lettuce
Yellow Squash
A bowl of fresh pico or salsa

And toilet paper...a very popular item!

It was a good day--the best day ever--with a record-breaking number of families being served--more than 100. The shelves are almost bare we start over gleaning and collecting for next Saturday.

Every week, as shopping winds down, I find myself wondering how it stretched so far. Every week I want to do more. I don't really like it when we have to make our shoppers choose just one of some items. I want there to be enough for everyone...every single week.

Every Saturday I read the story of Jesus taking the lunch that was prepared to feed just one little boy and miraculously making it feed thousands (with leftovers) and I pray for that miracle to be repeated in the walls of The Little Pantry. I'm pretty sure it has many times over.

When I first started visiting the Pantry, I would say "Stacy, we are out of canned fruit." And Stacy, in her cheerful, eternal optimism would say "We gave it all away!" It's all in how you choose to look at it.

In November, I will have been going to TLP for a year. Well, with a slight break in the middle when I had a broken knee.

In that time I've noticed that a few things have changed, so I made a list.

20 Ways to Know You've Been Spending Time at The Little Pantry

1. You measure the value of other items by Campbell's Chunky Soup Cans.

If I buy those shoes for $40, that's 20 cans of Campbell's Chunky I can not buy. Maybe I'll buy the $6 shoes...

2. You harangue your friends and neighbors for  extra coupons for Campbell's Chunky Soup and stalk the Publix sale papers to see when Campbell's Chunky Soup is included in their weekly Buy One Get One Free promotions. You have spent way too much time doing the math, comparison shopping for the best deal on chunky soups with pull-tab tops.

3. You have bought more than a dozen pairs of tennis shoes in the past year, yet you only actually own one.

4. You don't avert your eyes and adjust the radio when you pull up to a corner where there's a person selling The Contributor. Now you look straight at them, thinking "Is that Moose, or Mark or Vonnie?" and "Do I have some cash?"

5. You plan family holidays around Fridays and Saturdays.

6. You shop the coat rack at Our Thrift Store, hoping to score super warm coats in sizes you don't wear.

7. You wish you drove a bigger SUV so you could more easily carry all the bread and produce and canned goods and stuff from the church to the Pantry. You pray for the day when you have to make more than one trip. You wonder if they make refrigeration units for Jeeps.

8. You are sometimes referred to as the *Peanut Butter Princess*.

9. You haven't had a haircut in 4 months...because well, that's 25 cans of soup.

10. You've heard at least 6 jokes about feeding a pet gorilla, making the world's biggest Banana Pudding and "what in the heck?" from shoppers and clerks at Kroger, when you buy 35 to 45 pounds of bananas at one time.

11. You have missed church on Sunday because you are so exhausted from Friday and Saturday...and you don't feel bad about it.

12. You have ordered peanut butter from Amazon (they auto-ship individual servings of PB and I had a gift card) and you've quaried Jiff to see if they would consider making PB in smaller containers so it's not so much for our homeless people to carry around. (They haven't yet responded.)

13. You know the definition of "food snobery" and you only succumb to the condition occasionally.

14. Random people at church hand you bags of food and pairs of shoes and say "for the pantry"...and you cry.

15. You stop taking your reusable grocery bags to the grocery because the pantry needs the plastic ones.

16. Your nine year old lectured the manager at McDonald's about the Pantry while eating his lunch...and she listened.

17. Your husband no longer says "are you going this week?". He asks "how long are you staying?"

18. You want a set of larger pots and pans for Christmas so cooking for more people is not such a messy challenge.

19. You have collected paper shopping bags from people in two states and used egg cartons from people in three states.

20. You feel things more deeply. You are depressed far less often. You work harder. You love more. You are more appreciative and more generous and more grateful...more open to compassion. Your life is better.


because you are my sister

There's only one woman in this world who calls me her sister. She is the youngest of my three siblings and because she wasn't born until I was 16, in many ways we did not grow up together. I got married when she was 3...and at the same time, my family moved to Texas, so the bulk of her growing up years didn't include me.

I missed out.

As she became an adult, it became a little easier to make up for the time we lost and I have loved every moment. It's a little weird because we are very much alike, in so many ways. I like to think she's the younger, cuter, brassier, fun version of me.

A while back I made this list.

Because you are my sister.

I love you more than my own life.
I will hold your hair back when you puke.

I will hold your child and let you sleep.

I will drive the getaway car.
I will not tell Dad. Or Mom. Or worse, Andy and Daniel.
I will tell you that you are beautiful, because I know it’s true.

I will keep your secrets.
I will help you hide the body.

I will bring the gun to the fight.

I will tell you if the jeans make your backside look huge.
I will give you my last dollar and my last Diet Coke.

I will cry for you and with you. Both kinds of tears.

I will celebrate your happinesses and mourn your losses.
I will defend you to anyone who dares to think less of you than they ought.

I will testify to your courage and your strength when you forget who you are.

I will hold your hand when it trembles and believe in you when no one else does.
I will say the hard things if you need to hear them.

I will sit with you in the quiet and just be.

I will pray over you every day…even from many miles away.
I will dream for you when your way seems cluttered with just surviving today.
I will share the last spoonful of coconut pie and the last bite of mom’s cole slaw.

I will spend 44 cents to send you a fifty cents off coupon.
I will cry and think of you when a happy song comes on the radio.

I will forgive you for the oven and remind you of it often. No, really.
I will share my 324 chicken salad sandwich recipes, and half my chicken salad sandwich.

I will always buy our drinks at Sonic. And Starbucks. And Fresh.
I will always think of you when peeling shrimp.

I will love your child with every fiber of my being, because he is you.
I will lift you up with the darkness threatens.

I will say the words you need to hear and swallow the ones you don’t.
I will love you forever.

I will respect you even though I know you ate dirt when you were three and gave yourself a horrid haircut the day before my wedding.

I will understand when you choose to go to a baseball game on the day that I arrive in, really. I will. But I will also bring it up when I need some leverage.

I will answer your texts at 1am.
I will always be your sister.

I will believe in your dreams always.

I will see the woman you are becoming and be undenyably proud.

Because I am your sister.


the joy of microcheck ribbon

So you don't have to hang around my little scrapbooking space for very long before you realize that despite the buckets, bins and drawers of ribbons that I have collected over the years, about 9 times out of 10, I will reach for one ribbon-- the Offray black and white microcheck ribbon, 5/8".

It just goes.

It amps up just about any design.
It's a breeze to tie.
It's affordable and pretty universally available.
What's not to love?


Cards for Cans six, seven and eight

So here they number 6, 7 and 8 for *Cards for Cans*!

Card #6 uses tensil and flags...can't get more festive than that!
Card #7 has a few color scheme options: traditional red and white, spunky black and white, and (not shown) pool party and black (in case you prefer the non-traditional Christmas style.)

Card #8 uses glitter but you can't really see it here...I'll try to get a more glittery photo.

So there you have it. All 8 cards have been shared. Now is the time to let me know that you are planning to attend the first *Cards for Cans* event!
This event will benefit The Little Pantry that Could--West Nashville's locally supported food pantry.
Bring a canned item to donate to TLP, and in exchange, make a card from the card buffet. One can equals one card and envelope.
Friday, November 2, 2012
beginning at 4PM
at my studio space in Bellevue (Nashville).
New stampers or cardmakers welcome. Stamping and cardmaking is very easy...but if you are new to the craft, don't worry. We will walk you through the steps.
The Little Pantry is very special to me. I work there on a weekly basis and am committed to seeing the shelves filled with very necessary canned goods. Items needed weekly at TLP are:
canned vegetables
canned fruits (especially the low-sugar and no-sugar varieties)
canned tuna and chicken
canned Chunky soups (especially the brands with pull-tab tops)
Make your reservation *now* to attend *Cards for Cans*
by emailing
devendorf at bellsouth dot net
If you have cardmaking tools such as a trimmer, scissors, etc, please feel free to bring them to avoid having to share. An email with further instructions/details will be sent when you reserve your spot. :)
Let's share a delightful night of holiday snacks and cardmaking.


Cards for Cans (three, four and five)

*Cards for Cans*
Christmas Cardmaking Buffet
(Come and spend an evening making your Christmas cards from the 8 design options on the buffet while benefiting The Little Pantry That Could!)

Make as many cards as you like (while time and supplies last)...for the price of *one canned item per card*. The cards you make are yours to share with your friends and family this holiday season. Envelopes are provided.

For example, if you want to make 8 cards, bring 8 canned items to donate. How very simple is that?!

The Little Pantry That Could is a very special place and it's a special part of my life. Combining two things I love--cardmaking and supporting the pantry with *Cards for Cans* is something I am looking forward to. I hope you'll join me!

Card #3

Card #4

Card #5