I've often thought of my life, as a comedy of errors. I'll get there in the end, but it's not going to be by the path I thought. I had a habit of ending up in absurd situations and breaking shoes at inopportune times. (Has anyone tried to shoe shop in Estonia?) Yeah. As a young adventurous twenty-something I broke shoes in multiple countries. It became a trait of mine. I'd wander into a shop where I couldn't speak the language, hold up a broken shoe, and try to find my size.
I went almost a decade without breaking a shoe. Then it happened. (I'll get back to this.)
At the end of May 2019, I was trying to help my autistic 9 year old, Christian, plan his birthday party. Earlier in the year his brother had invited his whole class to his birthday. When not many people were RSVPing, I let William pass out invitations to other friends. This proved to be a poor choice. On the night of his party, we had over 30 rambunctious 10-11 year olds running in our house. It turned out to be a crazy but good party. One of his special needs peers came too, and his class was so great at including him. Once the chaos of the night ended, there were some happy tears on my part.
Christian started planning his party. He drew a picture of what he wanted his cake to look like.
He wanted to invite his whole class, his "friends." I knew there were a few things working against us. His party was the first week of summer vacation. Invitations get lost, backpacks don't get checked, but the elephant in the room was autism. His brother easily connects with his peers. It isn't easy for Christian. I had hoped that if even a few classmates responded, we could work on building bonds there.
The last day of school came around, and I had only heard from one girl who could come. Until then I'd wondered if the invitations were even passed out. There was an end of school picnic, where I was walking back into the school with Christian. What I saw was disheartening. He spoke to six classmates, trying to get them to RSVP to his party, but most of the kids ignored him completely.
That led to this Facebook post.
That Facebook post led to a series of events that can be read about here.
I poured my heart out, just to my friends. One friend took action and even though she couldn't come, she is in Texas, and I'm in Idaho, she found a way to make his party something to remember.
I don't want this to get too long. I know I'm wordy. Words are free, and therapeutic.
The Nampa High School Football Team turned up at Christian's party. You could say the rest is history, or viral. We had lemons, and they came together to make lemonade. I was hoping that by sharing their story locally we could help them get some good attention and needed funds for their program. I hope that one good deed would inspire another.
Back to the broken shoes. KTVB, the local NBC station wanted to do a story highlighting the football team that came to Christian's party. I wasn't excited to get in front of the camera, but I could do it for a higher purpose. The night before I was googling, "what to wear on camera." I had nothing. Everything I owned was a no-go. I don't dress up much. My life is messy, and my wardrobe reflects that. I ran to the only stores open after 10 PM, and found a couple options. I didn't worry about shoes.
I have nice shoes. I just don't wear nice shoes. I buy one pair of new flip flops each year, and then I buy tennis shoes when I wear out the soles. My nice shoes sit on a shelf. For the past several years, I've needed shoes that could give chase to active runners. The morning of the interview I loaded my kids into the car and started the drive to Nampa High School. (It was a lot farther away than I thought. These guys were amazing to come to the party...) After parking, we were walking on the gravel path between some old buildings, heading towards the football field. "Flap, flap" I was hearing a weird noise. I stopped to look at my kids and see which one was making it. The noise stopped. I walked again. "Flap, flap, rip." My shoe literally separated into two pieces. They were cute wedges. I was left walking in one wedge, and one very flat shoe. I looked and felt ridiculous. I hobbled across the field, wishing for some duct tape or super glue. Here is your public service announcement: Shoes will deteriorate, even if not being worn. My favorite moment was when the younger male cameraman asked me, "Did that just happen to your shoe?" (I mean really? Would I have purposely gone like that? Maybe, I am a bit "extra" if you ask my kids.) For this interview I was carefully perched on the bottom of the shoe that was no longer connected. (See interview here)
Since that first story aired, and the other networks picked it up,I have lost count at the number of beautiful messages I've received. I can't count how many people have taken time to share a few words, or express gratitude for the teams. There have been some criticisms too. People have asked why I would set my son up for failure, by inviting the class. I didn't respond there, but I'll respond here. Even if no one had responded, it wouldn't have been a failure. Would I have been sad? Yes. Would I have been frustrated? Yes. Would we have failed? No. I would have made his day special, with just his siblings and dad if we needed to. It was brave for him to invite them. And it is a growing experience to learn the ups and downs. It builds character to find the good when things don't go your way.
If only one child had come, or two or three, I would have known that those were kids to work on building relationships with. And the children who came, knew Christian. The gifts they brought (which weren't expected) suited his interests of science, or his humor perfectly. Opening yourself up, making yourself vulnerable to rejection, and embracing what comes, is not setting yourself up for failure.
I'm almost done for tonight, but I just have to throw out that the media is a whole world of crazy I didn't know existed. This little story that I thought would make a few locals smile, has gone all over the world. There may be a website in the U.K. who decided to call me Lauren half the time, but I sort of like that name. I had a teacher in the 9th grade who called me Lauren all year long. It was easier to respond to it, than convince her otherwise. (But seriously, if you're going to blatantly copy and paste someone else's article, only changing every 5th word, you might as well get the names right...) It's okay. Not everyone can win Pulitzer Prizes.
If this is going to be my family's "five minutes of fame," that's a good thing. I hope more good can come of it. I hope the school moms don't give me the stink eye when we go back! I've said so many times that I don't blame anyone. It is true. I am so grateful to many though.