Two Years Ago…

Two years ago, our lives changed forever. That’s when my daughter received her autism diagnosis. We finally had the answers to many questions we had, but honestly, there are even more questions I don’t know that we’ll ever have answers to.

I am not a “winging it” type of person. I like plans; I like having backups for those plans. What I like even more is having a backup to that backup. Autism parenting kind of throws that out of the window. Sure, I can make some plans like where she’s going to school and which doctor she’s going to see, but beyond that? Nope.

People ask me questions like:
“Will she ever talk ‘normal?’”
“Will she be able to go to regular school?”
“What caused her autism?”
“Will she ever live on her own?”

The answers to all of those questions are, “I have no idea.” That’s a hard reality to face at times, not knowing why your child is that way or if she will ever lead a self-sufficient life, but what I’ve come to learn is that it’s okay to not know the answers to these questions. I absolutely hope to find out answers to some of these questions, like what causes autism, but for now, we know a new “normal.” My normal may not look similar to 99.8% of the population–heck, it may not look like the normal to other autism families, either–but this is now our lives and that’s okay. It involves a lot of unknowns. It also involves a lot of hard work, but there’s a whole lot of love. There’s love from all directions: her family, her teachers, her therapists, her support staff, all of our friends.

We don’t know what the future holds for my daughter, but we are now surrounded by a massive team that will help us figure that out as we go.

To do my part, I am selling tees where 100% of the proceeds go to the amazing school she attends. It’s an amazing place that we are fortunate to have found and I’m unbelievably happy to have it be a part of our new “normal.”

This year’s designs can be found here:

The Liberal Arts Years: Have You Met Jess?

Have you met Jess? If you haven’t, you should. Let me tell you about how I met Jess, because it’s actually an important part of why Grammatical Art is what it is today.

Jess and I met back in 2003 when we were undergraduates together at small liberal arts college in Ohio. I am pretty sure we met in band—I know, it’s hard to believe that we were also band nerds. I couldn’t tell you about our first interaction because I am notoriously bad at remembering details like that, but this is how a chemist and a librarian came to run your favorite nerdy business.

While it seems odd to have studied chemistry and physics at a liberal arts college, I was very fortunate to have done so. I was forced to read, write, and to present topics in and outside of my core disciplines. I had to do more than balance chemical equations and determine the probability of finding an electron in a p orbital; I had to step way outside of my comfort zone by taking humanities courses. Here, I got to meet people like Jess who could help me write my lab reports in ways that non-scientists could actually understand them. I not only learned about physical sciences, but I learned about other subject fields I wouldn’t have otherwise studied and interacted with people I wouldn’t have normally. I think this is where I finally discovered my love of language. This love would eventually help me to become who I am today and would lead me to running the business that I do.

I was a bench chemist who was looking for a creative outlet and found it in Grammatical Art. I started by creating a few designs out of grammar pet peeves and, unexpectedly, people started buying them. Now I am here, sitting in my home office, surrounded by silk screens and blank shirts, telling all of you how this small grammatical empire came to be.

I had no idea what I was going to be when I grew up, but I surely wouldn’t have told you I was going to be a screen printing chemist mom. This isn’t the path I would’ve necessarily chosen for myself in elementary school, or any other grade for that matter, but I am very fortunate to have my successful career and business, and I do believe it is mostly due to my liberal arts education. I was able to grow into things there I couldn’t have imagined, and formed friendships with super cool people I wouldn’t have ordinarily met.

Here Jess and I are, after 14 years of friendship and growth, working on this nerdy business, putting our liberal arts degrees to work in ways we never would have thought possible.

While some people may be confused by my BA in chemistry, I am proud of it. Had I not done it in this way, I never would have met Jess and Grammatical Art may have never been.

The Autism Spectrum

Whenever someone hears that my daughter is on the autism spectrum, he or she typically asks me, “How autistic is she?”

They seem to be asking how severe the autism is. Is she really autistic or is she just a little autistic?

Well, it’s not that simple.

I admit that I used to think of the autism spectrum as a linear being: You could be severely affected or maybe a little and maybe somewhere in between. That’s also typically how it is described, even by professionals.

When my daughter was initially diagnosed last year by a developmental pediatrician, there were symptoms and behaviors checked off a list during the evaluation; if you met so many of the criteria, you were considered to be on the spectrum. In my daughter’s evaluation, if she met 4 of these areas, she made the spectrum. My daughter met 12 out of 13. So if you were to think about the spectrum as a lineal chart, 4 would be a little autistic and 13 would be severe, right? This meant my daughter was categorized as severely autistic with severe developmental delays.

This type of diagnosis shaped how I thought about my daughter’s autism: My one and only child has autism and on a scale of 1-10, it is a 9+. I thought she was severely autistic. Then Rebecca Burgess came out with a phenomenal comic and my entire perspective changed.

The spectrum isn’t linear, it’s more like a circle. You can be on-target or advanced in one area, but struggle with another. This not only shows areas in which a person can struggle, but it also shows their strengths; it’s a really great way to look at the spectrum. Also, it shows how each person isn’t just a number on a lineal scale; they fit somewhere on a very complex chart. Since this chart is a much larger space than a 1-10 lineal chart, one can also see how people on the autism spectrum can be so different from one another. The saying goes, “When you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.” That’s because each person is so unique.

Now that we’ve completed story time, I will get to the point of this post. This is a great way to look at the spectrum and I want to get the idea of this better spectrum out there. That’s why I am going to sell shirts and totes with this exceptional visualization of the spectrum. I have been fortunate enough to be able to work with Rebecca Burgess to bring this idea to life.

As you may know, I designed and printed autism awareness shirts last year and 100% of the proceeds went to a non-profit school that specializes in the education of children with autism (and other developmental delays). Since it was a great success and we were able to raise $2,000 in a very short time, I would like to do the same thing this year. I want to sell these tees and donate all of the profits to this amazing school that continues to change my daughter’s life for the better every day.

You can get the products here:

autism spectrum new men's autism spectrum new women's v neck autism spectrum new tote

One Year Later

It’s now been a year since my daughter was diagnosed with autism. It was a diagnosis met with mixed emotions because while I finally had answers to why she wasn’t talking and why she wasn’t developing the way we expected her to be, I would be lying if I told you it wasn’t devastating to hear this news. It means that she won’t just outgrow this non-speaking phase; she may never communicate in a traditional verbal way. It was a difficult blow to take.

I am the grammar lady; it’s my thing. I love to talk; that’s also my thing. Over the past year, I’ve had to learn how to communicate with a little human in non-traditional ways. We use pictures, gestures, some sign language, and I’ve had to learn how to decipher different pitches of screams in order to communicate with her. It’s been an arduous adventure in patience and perseverance I didn’t know I needed.

Over the past year, we have been very fortunate to go through this with a team of professionals: special educators, paraprofessionals, pediatricians, developmental pediatricians, psychologists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, physical therapists, and an amazing team of behavioral therapists. I am grateful to these amazingly patient and kind people who are helping her grow every day. While her journey may appear to be a slow one to outsiders, I know she is making incredible strides to be the best person she can be. She has taught me to cherish and value these small steps and to celebrate them as the huge victories they are.

I am impressed by my daughter’s inability to speak in complete sentences, yet being able to tell me what she needs now. She uses color names to describe most things. As I’m sitting here typing this, she’s telling me she wants “juice” and wants the “red” one–the juice box in the red container is what she’s seeking. I would love for her to say, “Mommy, I want an apple juice, please.” However, that’s not our life. Maybe that will change one day and maybe it won’t. That’s what I’ve had to get used to: the unknown development future and being okay with that.

Sadly, ensuring my daughter’s progressive development hasn’t been the only battle I’ve had to encounter this year. I’ve also been battling the loss of insurance where I live. This summer, I found out my daughter’s health insurer would be leaving my state. That in and of itself didn’t alarm me too much as there were other insurers. Then I found out they were leaving, too. Now I am stuck in a county that has no health insurance options that cover my daughter’s very necessary therapies. This is the first place it’s happened in the country and no one knows what to do about it or how to fix it. You can read more about it here: http://www.politico.com/story/2016/08/the-county-obamacare-forgot-227251

I don’t want to get into a debate about the politics of health care laws and how we got here, but I will be very clear about my factual position: My daughter would not be insured and would not have the access to the care she requires to thrive without the Affordable Care Act and the insurance provided through the federal marketplace. It’s not perfect, but it’s the only option I have to gain access to the health care she needs at this time.

I have spent months writing letters to every politician I can from the mayor of my city to the President of the United States and as of today, September 1, 2016, I have zero solutions or options to fully insure my daughter in 2017. The solution I basically have at this point is to move my family and business to another county or state and hope that it doesn’t happen there next year. That sounds like an asinine non-solution if you ask me.

I still don’t know what I am going to do. I am working every day to come up with an actual solution to help cover my daughter, the other 10,000 Pinal County residents who rely on the same insurance options, and also the other people across the country who will need insurance when they face the same challenge my county is. I am writing letters, I am visiting lawmakers, I am calling US Senators, I am contacting insurance companies to try to find coverage; I am doing a lot of work to ensure my daughter’s development isn’t hindered by a political battle.

I am partially writing this as an update to last year’s post to let you know my daughter is doing great and she’s thriving at her school and in all of her therapies. I am also writing this to explain why I may not be creating as many new products as you’re used to seeing in Grammatical Art. I absolutely love creating and it pains me to not be doing it as often right now. Between my demanding day job, my daughter’s packed schedule, running the business day-to-day, and fighting a political battle for insurance, there just aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything. Creating has definitely taken a backseat. I will get back to it, I just need to get through all of this stuff first.

I truly appreciate your support over the years and I (and my daughter) would not be where I am without you. I look forward to returning to creating soon, but I need some people in Washington to cooperate first. Until then, you can still rely on all of the awesome existing products in the shop.

Resilience is a word I thought I knew. My daughter has taught me what it truly is at the young age of four. I must persevere as she does and get this done.

One Year Later

Flustrated

Flustrated is not a word. Period.

I am alarmed that my spell checker isn’t picking that up; I think I am going to have to fire my spell checker.

Flustrated truly is a weird hybridization of “flustered” and “frustrated.” I get that we can all misspeak–I am not immune to this–but it really isn’t a word and I don’t know why people continue to use it. Is it being used because you truly think it is a word? Is this a regional thing or is it more widespread? I ask this because it’s a misused word I commonly heard whilst living in Ohio and Michigan. I don’t hear it as much in Arizona, so that goes back to my regional question: Is it a midwest thing?

When I discussed this pet peeve with a friend from South Carolina, she told me that “flustrated” is used as well as “fustrated” there. Wait, what? I literally hadn’t heard anyone use this word and my friend was reporting that this is a very common word used there. Great, now we have two made-up words and people across the country seem to be using them. This makes me think that it could be more prevalent in a region, but it’s not a regional misused word.

Why should we care about these made-up words? At Phoenix Comicon earlier this month, I was able to have a lovely discussion with a customer who was questioning the whole premise of my shop. His viewpoint was that language is meant to be a fluid, ever-changing and evolving thing. These rigid rules are ridiculous and one of the more influential dictionary fathers, Samuel Johnson, believed he was writing a dictionary to capture the current state of language now and that it would continue to change. The point being that dictionaries and grammar books are meant to show us what we are using now, but it can change. Maybe I agree, to a point.

I will never, ever give up my punctuation. Jess wrote an awesome blog post last week about the period disappearing in language. Losing the period would be a devastating blow to how we clearly and concisely communicate. I could see how missing it in a quick text isn’t that big of a worry, but if it were a long paragraph sans periods, the reader would be confused by what you were trying to say and he or she would spend exponentially more time reading your message than it would have taken for you to hit that period key. So I am saying I won’t crucify you for missing a period in a quick text to me, but if you make me read and reread a long exchange because you couldn’t be bothered to hit the period key, our texting friendship will probably come to an end. I’m not budging on that. Having periods makes us better language communicators.

That’s where I am on this “flustrated” thing right now. I don’t see how adding this word to the dictionary adds to or clarifies our language. We already have words that mean what you think this made-up word means. We have flustered and we have frustrated. I am for adding words to our dictionaries where we don’t have words to describe or express what we are trying to say. Does “flustrated” do this? Does it add clarity to your sentence or express that you have an amplified frustration? I think not and that’s why I vote for people to stop using it. Now.

flustrated

Grammatical Art is at Phoenix Comicon!

After being on the waiting list for two years, I will finally be at the Phoenix Comicon!

I run an online business and the majority of my sales and interactions with customers are done online. While I have great exchanges with my customers, it’s all done behind a screen. Doing in-person shows is a way that I actually get to meet my customers in person and I love it.

I LOVE doing comic cons because I get to meet all kinds of people who have different interests and a myriad of backgrounds and careers, but they also love grammatical puns and scientific formulas. I feel like I am among my kind at the cons and I enjoy every minute of it.

In person, I have the chance to sell things that are cost-prohibitive and a challenge to ship, like framed prints. (I really love how my prints look in a snazzy frame and I wish I could ship them all over the world, but alas, they arrive shattered and destroyed. So that’s another bonus of shopping in person with me.) I will also be debuting a couple new designs this weekend at the show!

If you haven’t grabbed tickets yet, make sure you get them! Stop over at booth 122 and say hello; if you buy a t-shirt, even better.

We’ll be at the show at the Phoenix Convention Center (100 N 3rd St, Phoenix, AZ 85004) this weekend:
Thursday, June 2nd: 4:00 PM – 9:00 PM
Friday, June 3rd: 10:00AM – 7:00PM
Saturday, June 4th: 10:00AM – 7:00PM
Sunday, June 5th: 10:00AM – 5:00PM

You can see more programming and ticket info here.

WonderCon 2016

Grammar Be Damned

My first blog post is surprisingly a very personal one. My daughter was diagnosed as autistic this week. After a year of doctor, therapy, and other specialist appointments, it is a good feeling to finally have an answer as to what’s going on with her. Having the answer will help us formulate a plan moving forward to get her the educational and therapeutic assistance she needs, so this is actually great news. In all honesty though, it sucks.

No one dreams of their child growing up with any sort of disability or challenge in life. I certainly never thought I would have to worry about having a child who couldn’t talk to me. (I’m long-winded and love to talk to anyone about anything, so it only makes sense that I would have a talker.) However, that’s exactly what happened. I am the lady who loves proper grammar so much that I created a business around it and now my daughter cannot string together a noun with a verb. I would give ANYTHING for my daughter to do so, proper grammar be damned. I don’t care what tense her verb is in, just give me a verb, kid.

Having an almost four year old who has daily meltdowns because she can’t tell you what she needs or is feeling is a big challenge. We are working on using other communication methods like sign language and pictograms to overcome this, but it’s still incredibly frustrating for us, the parents, and the adorable little human.

I wish I could wave my magic grammatical wand and make it all better for her. Poof! You are now able to speak in perfectly structured sentences. Love, The Grammatical Fairy Godmother.

Alas, it isn’t that easy.

Over time, I have the utmost faith in her gaining better communication abilities. At her new preschool (that actually specializes in the education of autistic children), she makes incredible strides daily and her speech therapist works her hard every single session. It’s just going to happen on her own timeline and in her own way. She may end up learning proper grammar along the way and she may not; I honestly don’t care at this point. It’s also not important right now; getting her to communicate in any way is important right now, grammar be damned.


Fundraiser for the School

My daughter is fortunate enough to go to an all-inclusive preschool where the educators tailor their teaching style and the lesson content to each kid’s needs and where the kids can have all of their therapies at the school. Educating and treating a child with autism is very costly. This is because staff to student ratios in programs like this are much smaller than that of a conventional school; they also have very qualified staffers educating and treating the children. Thanks to the school that she attends, it is affordable and we will be forever grateful for having access to the much needed early intervention our autistic child requires.

They cover the majority of the educational costs through grants and state funding, but a large portion is donated by ordinary people and businesses. I would like to assist in raising money for the school for many reasons, but the main ones are that I’d love the school to be around through the decades to come and I want more families to have access to their programs.

I am selling autism awareness t-shirts, sweatshirts, and totes in the shop to raise money for the school. 100% of the proceeds will go to the school that has changed our lives (Grammatical Art is donating all of the materials and labor). Please consider purchasing an item here:

Grammatical Art Autism Awareness Fundraiser

puzzle GA hoodie vneck tote