Monday, October 5, 2009

Ringing my Cowbell

Tuesday is my birthday.

It seems that the more of these I have, the simpler my wish list becomes. The list that used to be filled with Fashion Plates, roller skates, neon bracelets, and a Bruce Springsteen poster has been whittled down to just a few items: peace, quiet, and for someone to ring my bell.

The October I turned six, my parents treated me to a birthday party at Happy Joe’s Pizza Shoppe (with an “e”). Surrounded by friends and a pitcher or two of Pepsi, we ate, laughed, and burped and watched table after table of giggly birthday kids receive the royal treatment from the Happy Joe’s staff, who presented each birthday boy and girl with a cake, ice cream, and a song, accompanied by (most importantly) a cowbell.

Yes, even at that tender age, I understood the importance of the cowbell.

After eating all the pizza and opening all the presents, it was little Jules’ turn for the restaurant serenade.

The wait staff paraded out with a chocolate and whipped-cream coated masterpiece, ice cream, and candles. They sang, they clapped, they cheered.

But they did not ring the bell.

Let me repeat, no cowbell.

Suddenly the cake, the presents, the pizza, the ice cream, the candles, the decorations lost all meaning, and the happy little birthday girl was morphed into the birthday diva, throwing a fit that would make Whitney Houston shake in her platform boots.

Pre-Kabala Madonna could not have made as much of a scene.

Even Kanye West would not have dared steal the moment, as I refused to breathe on, much less blow out, the candles atop my whipped-cream-and-chocolate-covered-with-a-cherry-on-top cake until that poor wait staff marched their suspender-clad selves back out to our table and did it up right.

With. A. Bell.

For the rest of my life, no matter what I do, no matter who or how I serve my fellow mankind, I will never live that down --- at least, not as long as my parents, who bore the burden of their ungrateful, demanding firstborn crying out loud about this grave injustice to the patrons in the restaurant, are still alive.

And so, in my ongoing, life-long effort to redeem myself as an “others-centered” human being, I would like to ask you all to ring – not my bell – but that of my BFF, Wheels, this week for my birthday.

Wheels is running her fifth marathon in the past three years. “Why would anyone ever do that?” you may ask. Knowing that until 2006, when she had found herself separated (from her alcoholic ex-husband) (with three children) (ages 3 weeks to 3 ½ years at the time), she had never even run to catch a bus, I often ask the same thing.

Her answer every time? Her three beautiful boys, all of whom - ALL of whom - have been diagnosed with Autism.

Wheels is getting ready to run this fifth and final marathon to raise money and awareness for the Organization for Autism Research (OAR).

But Wheels not only runs, she laughs. She laughs fully and often and easily. (And she has great legs and an enviable rack too, but that’s not the point.) As she is quick to point out:

Autism may serve me a drink that’s half-empty, but my glass is always half full. For example:

Half-empty: My son can’t talk.

Half-full: My son can’t sass me.

Half-empty: My son will only wear purple shirts.

Half-full: I don’t stress about his school clothes everyday.

Half-empty: My son arranges his toys in rows.

Half-full: The playroom is very tidy.

Half-empty: My son isn’t mindful of his successes.

Half-full: My son isn’t mindful of his failures.

Half-empty: My son watches the same movie repeatedly.

Half-full: My son is very easy to please.

Half-empty: My sons attend 14 therapy sessions a week.

Half-full: I am never bored.

Half-empty: My son can’t use scissors.

Half-full: My son can’t cut his brother’s hair.

Half-empty: My son can’t read the newspaper.

Half-full: He thinks the world is wonderful.

Half-empty: There is no known cure for Autism.

Half-full: There will be.

So this year, all I ask for my 30-something-th birthday is that anyone who has ever gotten a lift or a chuckle from my weekly bell-ringing take the time to check out her page, read her story, and maybe even kick in a few dollars if you are so inclined.

(Click Here)

In exchange, I promise with all of my heart to never go all diva again.


f8hasit said...

Great story!
And yes, I will go over and check ouit Wheels (with her enviable legs and great rack...haha)

I have a friend who has two children with Autism. I'd heard about it, but never before witnessed it firsthand. The children are blessed with such an incredible I've seen the joys and the sadness that the disease brings.

And Happy Birthday!

Mrs EyeCanSee said...

:::ring ring ring:::

What a great story! And I will be sure to check out wheels blog! I have worked with children who have autism and admire their parents everyday. They're heros in my book!

la_vie_en_shoes said...

Rock Chalk Wheels Rocks!

And HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my least diva-like friend!

Thank you for brightening my Mondays with your unique spin on life. I heart you!

JenJen said... never disappoint!
Happy Birthday!
Clicking my way over...

Anonymous said...

What a great story, and I just happen to have a cowbell, so let me know when she runs her marthon, and I'll make sure to ring that bell!!
Happy Birthday - you make Monday's better!

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Julie!

Your story was the grounding I needed this week! I had been feeling very sorry for myself juggling my day-to-day demands and getting ready to move house. My usual support team are all MIA and it's times like these you wish they were here! Reading your blog this week has given me strength and a huge reality check!

What a delightful girlfriend you have! I really admire and respect her strength and determination. I was truly humbled by her stories. Her 3 little boys are so blessed having her as their Mum.

Sassy Britches said...

What a wonderful story. Have a SUPER DUPER day tomorrow, and I'm off to click to Wheels!

Knucklehead said...

Great work, Jules, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

Kim said...

I received strict instructions from my sister to read your blog this week. I now understand why!

I hope you enjoyed your birthday Julie. Both you and "wheels" look fabulous, what a pair of hot little tamales you both are!

Jennifer, your unswerving loyalty and devotion to your boys is laudable. You truly are inspirational!

It intrigues me as to why the incidence rate of ASD seems to be on the rise in the USA?

Good luck with the marathon! :)

Jules said...

AWESOME! Thanks so much, everyone, for reading her story and your contributions! These kids are infectiously enchanting, even in their darkest times. I firmly believe they have much more going for them than against them, definitely more than we have going for us in so many ways...
Have a great week! I hope to be able to free myself from these kids in my home who keep calling me "mom" long enough at some point this week to make the rounds to you all!

Leah Rubin said...

Happy birthday, and kudos to Wheels! I've got a cousin with an autistic child, so I can well imagine what it's like for Wheels with three... My heart goes out to her.

Let's ring that cowbell for you and for Wheels, too!

LC in Hawktown said...

Happy birthday, Jules,I'm ringing a cowbell in your honor!
The story of your BFF "Wheels" is truly inspiring. When I dealt with the diagnosis and treatment of early-stage breast cancer in the summer of 2008,I would occasionally feel down and sorry for myself, but life has a way of giving you a wake-up call: One day, I saw little boy in a wheelchair being wheeled out of the medical office building near the local hospital-he obviously had progeria. Another day I saw a grandmother with her grade-school age grandson and her teenage granddaughter. The granddaughter wore a head scarf to cover her hairless head - she was undergoing chemotherapy. There were many other days like this during that summer, including several people I knew with cancer who wouldn't have the good prognosis that I did. Nothing is harder than facing the fact that your child does not have perfect health and probably will never be perfectly "normal",whatever that means. "Wheels" inspires everyone who faces those challenges of dealing with a child/children who have special needs and reminds us all to live life to the fullest. God bless her - and you for being such a good friend to her!

The Jules said...

Clonketty clonk, clonk clonk clonk!

I gotcher cowbell right here!

Happy birthday Jules.

Diane J. said...

Jules, your birthday story was too darn funny.
Now, I'm off to click over to Wheels' site.

Frank Lee MeiDere said...

Happy Birthday! And for my gift, please accept a Superior Scribbler Award. Drop by and pick it up.