Monthly Archives: October 2011

Courage in Them Boots

Whenever I need courage, I  think of my six-year-old son, Lucas.  Lucas has an Autism spectrum disorder, and is one of the shyest kids you could ever meet.  As a baby, he didn’t like to be touched, held, or cuddled.  He was afraid of everything, and I mean everything!  The vaccuum cleaner could set off tantrums of terror that would last for hours, and the sight of a stranger would send him into hysterics.  As he grew, the fears grew with him.  He was afraid of dogs, doctors, his grandparents, his therapists, other kids, and bugs.  Especially bugs.  The sight of one flying past the sliding board was enough to make him jump off of the side, regardless of whether anyone was there to catch him.   Fears are a large part of Autism.  Autistic people don’t see the world the way that we do, and as a result, things get blown out of proportion. 

One thing that Lucas never feared (and this is simply amazing to me) were my father-in-law’s draft horses.  Belgian horses are certainly not the largest of the draft breeds, but they are way bigger than dogs.  From the first time Lucas saw these monsters, the kid was in love.  At a year old, he was sitting on them.  At eighteen months, he was riding alone while my father-in-law voice commanded.  At six years, he’s feeding them every night, often going inside the fence and walking them through the muck into their stalls.  Of course, he’s got his feet in a pair of trusty cowboy boots.  He got his first pair for Christmas when he was two; he wanted to be like Mommy, and Uncle Donnie, who wore their boots constantly.

The only time he ever smiled...


The first time I heard Lucas say, “There’s courage in these boots,” I was dropping him off at a friend’s house so that I could attend my brother-in-law’s viewing.  She was virtually a stranger to my son. My trusted babysitters (my in-laws) were obviously unavailable.   That line struck me then, and I remember it often, always wondering, Where did that come from?  He never answered me when I asked; instead, he gave me a shy smile and walked away.

I’m a big scaredy cat myself, and I think about that day a lot.  Everytime I have to do something distasteful to me, such as giving a speech, or taking a test, or meeting a new person, I look down at my cowboy boots with the gold tips.  I think, there’s courage in them boots, and I do what has to be done.  I think of my Autistic kid, and how he overcomes his fears every single day: getting on the bus to go to preschool, then kindergarten, and now first grade, the constant struggle of keeping up with the work, and how he’ll approach a dog now, when they used to scare him so much. 

The other day, I had to give my first ten-minute speech for Professional Speech at Keystone.  I was terrified, talking a mile a minute to my husband about standing in front of the class, forgetting my speech, and just generally feeling sick.  He reminded me that I could do it; after all, I was giving a speech on the history of Harley-Davidson.  How could I go wrong?  He said that Donnie would be proud of me.  Then, he told me to go look under our bed.  There, in a box hiding under my side of the bed, were a shiny new pair of cowboy boots, black with silver tips.  I brought them out, and slid my feet in, one by one.  He told me, “Donnie always said there was courage in those boots.”

Then, it dawned on me.  Where my son had learned it, and where he had gathered so much of his strength from.  I fought back the tears that threatened to overwhelm me because I had forgotten such a vital part of my brother-in-law.  How could I have forgotten his strength, and the chuckle in his voice when he asked my son, “There courage in them boots, buddy?”  How could I forget the warm look in his eye when Lucas would excel at something, and the steady hands that guided him in fixing the broken porch step when he showed an interest in tools?  How did the everyday become today?

Life moves so fast.  The wound heals with a shiny, pink scar, but underneath it festers like an abcess, ready to burst through at the worst of times.  I gave that speech, and although I froze during my introduction, and I forgot some things I wanted to say, I gutted through with pure grit and a tapping boot.  In the coming days, as I have presentations to make, graduate school applications and possibly interviews to complete, and the GRE’s to take, I’ll take Donnie with me; I’ll draw strength from my son, and I’ll have courage in my boots.

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Posted by on October 27, 2011 in Life


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Maybe Vonnegut Has A Point!

Lately, I’ve had a lot on my mind, what with the twenty page proposal that’s due for the poetry project that I’m doing for Capstone, the case studies for COMM Theory, the speech I’m preparing on Harley Davidson, and oh, the pesky Vonnegut novels for Advanced Lit.  Such is life during my years at Keystone. I’m usually happy when I’m so busy that I don’t have time to think.  It keeps me out of trouble.  However, the thing on my mind lately is the amount of work that I seem to be doing for nothing. 

Let me explain.  I’m the sort of person that never met a book she didn’t like until… Vonnegut.  I really don’t like his novels.  Before you jump on me with the pitchforks, hear me out.  Academically, I can really appreciate his style, and even laugh at his zany, sci-fi worlds and sarcastic narrators.  I get the point of his stories,  I strongly agree with him, and I am glad that the world has these works of wisdom to look at.  Artistically, I don’t get along with his work because his characters suck.  They have no depth.  They are cardboard cutouts of individuals who really could have come to life, had he put in the effort.  I could argue all day that better characters would have made his books kick us in the head that much harder, but I really don’t have the time or inclination because the man was a genius.

Yes, Kurt Vonnegut was a genius, and no, I still don’t like his works.  I appreciate his penchant for short and to the point statements about life, religion, love, and humanity.  As I wander through the world of academia, I wonder why we have to go on and on about nothing!  Things can be said so simply, even eloquently, if we just cut out the nonsense!  Why should I have to write a twenty paged paper full of hyperbole, when I can say what I’m going to say in three pages or less?  Why should I have a certain word count if I can get the point across in two sentences? 

And here, my friends, my two worlds come into conflict again.  It’s funny because all of my life, I thought that college would make a difference.  I would finally achieve a goal, and be on top of the world.  I’d get to enter the secret society in this world, you know, the one where dads stick around, money grows on trees, and happiness floats around for the taking. I always looked down on my situation.  I was born with an unnatural intelligence in my world.  It couldn’t be any other way; it sure wasn’t fostered and encouraged in my family.  Now, I realize that the white-collar world doesn’t have a handle on happiness.  It doesn’t have anything I don’t have in my world. It just complicates the shit out of things.  We all have the same thoughts, we just voice them differently.  Maybe that’s the truth…

Or, maybe it’s me… I come from the country; a blue-collar place in the middle of the REAL farm-town, where we say what’s on our mind, and we don’t mince words. We drive our pick-ups, work on our own cars, and don’t mind a little dirt.  We can’t worry about the way we communicate, we just do it.  We don’t have time to evaluate why we’re in a relationship; we’re just too poor to get divorced!  Maybe I’m  crazy, but I like it here in the blue-collar world where we don’t get all gaspy when we hear the F-word, we don’t have a word limit on what we say, and we don’t need a Vonnegut novel to tell us that life sucks.  We know, plain and simple.

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Posted by on October 19, 2011 in Life


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