All posts by Dee Kelly

I'm a single mom who has gone through my share of struggles. As I work to improve my life I also hope to help others along the way. It hasn't been easy but it is always worth it.

Live Your Dream

You may have noticed (or not), I haven’t posted on here for a while. In April I posted Where Will This Journey Take Me? in which I explained that I had begun working with my sister on a new project.  And since then many things have changed.  I’ve gone from blogging to learning how to run a business.  I’ve continued my path of self-discovery and growth.  Because of this I am making more choices that are in line with where I want my life to go and who I want to be.

In September, my sister and I made the decision to move from blogging on Accessible ABA to creating a non profit (Accessible ABA, Inc.).  It is the mission of Accessible ABA, Inc. to help individuals with autism build skills that lead to independence in the community through access to ABA strategies and techniques. Training for parents, teachers and professionals allow children access to these strategies even when they are not in therapy.

We received our 501(c)3 status from the IRS this week which will open the door for us to begin taking donations, however we intend to run our non profit more like a for-profit business – creating products and providing services to help fund our charitable pursuits.

We have created our first online course on Udemy:  6 Steps to Reduce Problem Behavior for Children with Autism.  We have plans to improve on the course and self-host them.  For this purpose we have created the site Understanding Your Child with Autism (there’s not much on this site yet but eventually this will have online courses and a membership option)…but it’s worth checking out so you can see a picture of me with my sister).

We have partnered with a local non-profit whose mission is in line with ours.  It is the Autism Awareness Shop.  The owner, Jen, has an adult son with autism and is an amazing human being.  She runs a thrift shop in Tampa that employs individuals with autism.  Her mission is to provide vocational training to these individuals to increase employment opportunities for them.  You can support her even if you’re not local.  She sells many products online and all the orders are fulfilled by individuals with autism.  She has wonderful ideas on how to expand her offerings and enable us to contribute to her mission.

Together we’ve started a Facebook Subscription Group (and learned the hard way that Facebook still has a long way to go with this service).  We are planning a separate membership site to replace or augment the Facebook group.  We have registered the domain Including Autism (includingautism.org) for this, although this site isn’t live yet.

I continue to post on the Word of the Day Challenge three times a week and I try to read all of the posts that link to the words I post.  I have put Best Life Collaborative on hold, although my fried Jay-lyn has continued to post and support that mission.  I produce a weekly newsletter for Accessible ABA and expect that at some point we will have a monthly newsletter for Including Autism.

With all of this I’m still working full time (we aren’t really making money yet so that won’t be changing in the near future).  I still have 2 teenage girls who need my time and I continue to make my friendships a priority.  I’m still fostering and just dropped of a litter of 4 kittens.  So I’ve put my fiction writing, and this blog, on hold.  I try to keep up with reading at least a few of the blogs I’ve followed, although I had to scale back to very few.

I miss my friends here and the connections I’ve made.  I haven’t forgotten any of you and the support you’ve given me over the 18 months I’ve had this blog up.  I’m just following new goals and seeing where they take me.

 

No Place to Hide

“John’ll be here any minute.  Git this room cleaned up.”

I looked around the living room.  It seemed clean to me. Mama hit the pillows on the couch, again then set them square on each end.  When did we get pillows? I wondered.

So much was changing and I didn’t understand why.  John was spending more and more time at our place. Why was she all of a sudden worried how it looked?

The door opened and I jumped.  Mama was making me as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs.  The expression Granny used so often always made me smile, but not this time. Instead my thoughts were interrupted as John stumbled into the apartment.

I missed the days when he’d knock.

Mama rushed up to him before he’d even shut the door.  She leaned up to give im a kiss but he turned his head and it landed on his cheek.  She tried to move closer to him and he took a step back.

“What’s wrong?” Mama asked.

“Those fucking assholes,” John said as he crushed the Budweiser can he’d been holding in his fist.

Mama grabbed his arm and led him to the couch.  “What happened?”

John stood in front of the couch, his knees pressed against the cushions.  “Someone told Jim – that no good lazy bum – about my time in the joint and he fired me.”  He looked down at Mama and snapped his fingers as he added, “Just like that,” his words slurring.

“He can’t do that!” Mama said.

“Well he did.  I’m gonna kill the fucker who ratted me out.”

“Don’ go gittin in any more trouble than yer already in.”

Without warning John turned and his hand cracked against Mama’s face, sending her head reeling.  She took a step backward to keep from falling over.

Mama gasped but I silently cheered.  This is it! I thought.  We’re finally going to be done with John!

I waited for Mama to yell, for her to order him out of our apartment – and our lives – forever.  I could barely breathe.

But she didn’t yell.  She didn’t tell him to leave.

Instead she walked into the kitchen without a word.  I heard a door open and shut, then another. The refrigerator opened and ice clinked into a glass.  The rest of apartment was silent until John said, “Wha’ you lookin’ at?”

My skin prickled as he lurched toward me.  He was between the hallway and me. No way did I want to be alone with him.  I looked for a way to escape. I could duck into the kitchen with Mama, or try to get around John and run to the bedroom where Jack was playing.

As I hesitated John got closer.  The look on his face changed but I couldn’t tell what he was thinking.  He seemed less angry but I was still afraid.

Before I could decide what to do he was in front of me.  He ran his hand over my neck and across my shoulder. I shuddered.

“I bet you could make me feel better,” he said as his fingers trailed down my arm.  He grabbed my hand but I yanked it away before he could get a good grip. He reached for my other shoulder and I went in the opposite direction, slipping behind him just before he could grab me.

I took my chances with Mama, afraid he’d corner me in the bedroom.  I didn’t know what he had in mind but I didn’t want to find out.

Mama stood facing the counter.  One hand rested on the laminate while the other held a glass to her lips.  I recognized the brown liquid in the cup and the glazed look on her eyes when she turned to me.

I stopped suddenly in the doorway, deciding at the last minute to go to the bedroom.  At least Jack was in there. I reversed direction and ran smack into John’s round belly.  One of his beefy arms went around my back while the other ran over my hair. “Be a good girl,” John said.  “Come sit and have a drink with us.”

His grip was too tight for me to get away.  He pulled me further into the kitchen and pulled out a chair.  As he fell into the chair he pulled me with him. His hand was bruising on my upper arm as I stood facing him.  Without looking away he said, “Get me a drink, woman. Daddy’s had a bad day but it’s lookin’ up.”

Mama didn’t move.  His gaze shifted to her and he said, “I need a drink, dammit!”  His rumbling voice made me shake, but as his attention turned to my mother I slipped from his grip and headed out to the living room.  I didn’t know where to go. I thought about running out of the apartment, but what then? I looked down the hall. Granny’s door was open.  She was out playing Bingo or something. I scooted quietly into her room, shutting the door most of the way behind me.

I stopped to listen.  My breathing was heavy, my heart pounding in my chest.  I heard John’s chair scrape back on the linoleum floor. Then I heard a thud and shattering glass.  I turned away from the door and searched the small room for a place to hide. The mismatched furniture filled the tiny space but didn’t offer many hiding spots.  I was about to head to the closet when I heard awkward footsteps coming down the hall.

John’s voice asked, “Where’s your sister?” and I realized he must be talking to Jack.

Frantic now I realized I might not have time to make it to the closet.  I threw myself onto the floor and crawled under the twin bed, the metal frame just barely high enough off the floor for me to fit.  As I pulled my feet under the door to the bedroom creaked open. “Come on out, Katie. I ain’t gonna hurt ya.”

I could see his feet walk slowly into the room and I held my breath.  He walked around the bed and opened the closet. He slammed the closet door shut with a bang then said, “What the fuck?  You lil’ shit. When I find you…” His voice trailed away as he left the room.

Still afraid to breathe I stayed under Granny’s bed until I fell asleep.

Be Like Children

When Mama finally came to fetch us he was in the car.  I still didn’t like the look of him.  He didn’t belong here with us. Jack grabbed the seat behind Mama, for once snapping the seat belt into place without being asked.  I slid into the seat behind the strange man who made Mama act funny. Then I glared at Jack and he stuck his tongue out at me. If only Mama could see how Jack really is, I thought.

Mama pulled the car into the street and I felt a sense of relief to be going back home.

As the stranger leaned toward Mama, his mouth grazed her ear.  He said something we weren’t meant to hear and she giggled. While he was bent over I studied the snake tattoo winding its way from under the tight white t-shirt near his right shoulder.  It curved around toward his left ear. It seemed almost alive and I hoped it couldn’t see me. The man said something else and Mama swatted his arm. He grabbed her hand and held it still.  Mama looked away from the road and they stared at each other until a horn blared.

Mama swerved the car to the right and I fell toward the center of the car.  Before I straightened I saw his hand slip up Mama’s thigh under her new floral skirt.  I pushed myself upright and looked out the window.

I was never going to let a boy touch me that way.

The drive to seemed to take forever.  I watched as buildings and trees flashed by.  A boy on a bicycle reminded me of the accident the previous night.  Did the man on the bike live? Did he have family to meet him at the hospital?  A woman walked a dog smaller than a cat as a man with a great big fluffy dog that looked like a bear struggled to keep his giant dog away.  Would the big dog attack the little one?

Mama pulled the car into the lot of the church.  We were late, as always and there was only one spot left, all the way in the back, past where the pavement ended.  Before we could get out of the car Mama said, “Y’all made us late dawdling at yer dad’s so I don’t want no trouble.  Just git in there and take a seat.”

I wanted to point out that if we had known she was coming to take us to church we would have been dressed, but I knew there was no point.

I walked slowly toward the church.  Ahead of me Jack held Mama’s left hand while the stranger help her right.  In frustration I kicked a rock. I must have hit it harder than I’d meant to.  It went flying toward the man then bounced off the back of his knee. Without stopping he glanced over his shoulder at me.  I couldn’t read the expression in his narrowed eyes that seemed almost black. But a shiver ran through me.

As we entered the church, Mama wasn’t satisfied to sit in the back.  Instead she marched straight down the center aisle to a half-filled pew in the center.  She leaned forward and said in a half-whisper, “Are these seats taken?”

My cheeks burned as I saw the pastor pause in his sermon.  Mama eased into the pew, squeezing in front of the people already seated there.  The man wasn’t able to fit and three people moved into the aisle so he could slide in next to Mama.  Jack followed. Apparently they didn’t see me and the original occupants of the pew filed in after Jack.

I was left standing in the aisle. My skin tingled.  I knew if I didn’t sit with Mama she’d be mad, so I whispered to the person at the end of the pew, “Can I get in too?”  She frowned at me, then sighed as she shifted her knees to the right enough so I could scoot past. As I got to where Jack was seated I realized there wasn’t enough room for me.  “Scoot over,” I said to Jack.

Mama leaned over past the man and with a shushed me with a finger over her lips.  I pointed wordlessly to the full seat. Mama said, “Jack, come sit on my lap baby and make room for your sister.”

Jack jumped up and cuddled on Mama’s lap.  I sat down next to the man, his arm and leg pressed against me.  I could smell the stench of stale cigarette smoke along with something I couldn’t identify.  I tried to ignore him and stared straight at the pastor, but I could see him looking down at me out of the corner of my eye.  What is he staring at? I wondered.

The pastor cleared his throat and said, “Let us turn to Matthew 18:2-6.”  I reached toward the bible in front of me at the same time as the man, my hand bumping into his hairy one.  I pulled back as if I’d been bitten. I found an extra one that was to the left, in front of the people who had let me in.

I turned to the page.  I couldn’t read yet but I had learned to recognize the names of the books of the bible and I liked to follow along.

The pastor read in his rumbling voice:

“He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them.

And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.

If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.’”

The pastor paused, his gaze resting on each member of the congregation for a moment before moving onto the next.  With his eyes firmly fixed on me he said, “In this passage Jesus honors the innocence of a child. He asks all of us to hold in high regard the innocence and forgiveness of children.  Then warns that anyone who causes harm to one of his followers, one of his children, would be better off drowned.”

He continued to talk but my mind was stuck on what he’d said.  I didn’t know anyone who didn’t look down on children as anything more than an inconvenience.  For the first time, the pastor seemed to just be telling a story, a fairy tale like Goldilocks and her bears.