Monday, November 21, 2011

Speak Up, Speak Out

I'll never do this experience justice with whatever I write here, but here goes.

On Monday, Annie, Amy, Walker, and I met up in Springfield to attend the Speak Up Speak Out Summit 2011, sponsored by the Illinois Council on Developmental Disabilities.

Last year, when we visited Galena for Mom's 60th birthday and reconnected with with Lynn Gallagher, long time friend and council member, she told us about the summit.  Two months later, Mom and Amy (and Erica, Amy's assistant) attended.  Walker and I met them there and also attended part of the conference, but it was really their experience.  We all left with a glimpse into a different life Amy might lead, but it was still hard to imagine for me, especially given that most of the folks leading these lives had minimal physical disability.  How did everything we were learning apply to Amy?

I'll admit that I was feeling exhausted and weary as we packed and loaded into the car to head to Springfield.  And then we got there.  As we walked in, I could feel the comfort of 400 people who give a damn, packed in one hotel.  In line to have the front desk call Amy, we ran into Cathy Christensen, THE Cathy Christensen of the Self Advocacy Council of Northern Illinois, whose mailing list I am on, who recognized Amy's name.  And then we headed upstairs to a beaming Amy, more on fire and excited than I've seen her in a long time.

Things that happened in these three days:
  1. SOMEONE got intoxicated for the first time.  One third of a margarita, and three sips of beer.  And SOMEONE was a riot.  
  2. We saw old friends.  So many Albees! And the Albee-in-progress!
  3. We made new friends.  Last year, I remember mom pointing out two young women to me that reminded her so much of Amy.  This year, we got to know them.  The first class we went to, on microboards, was led in part by one of these amazing ladies, Jessica Martin.  When we were given the opportunity to ask question, Annie and I were on fire.  I feel like a giddy teenager, but we totally hung out with Jessica and Paula, and Paula is from where we live!
  4. We talked our faces off about the saga that is Amy's current house.  Probably too much.  To our old friends, and to our new friends, but it felt great to express these concerns and complaints to people and have them say WTF?!  It's nice to have your own WTF feelings validated.
  5. We heard about their living situations, which were better and more in their control.  
  6. We got information.  A LOT of information, each tiny piece deserving its own post.  
  7. Ideas for a better life were born from this information.
  8. We met awesome and powerful people in the state of Illinois
  9. We danced our faces off.  
  10. Amy blew us off to go attend classes on her own, without us.  LOVE IT.
  11. We saw the future.  Amy will have her own life, the one she chooses.  She will live on her own, or with friends.  She will run a business or hold a job that actually pays her.  She will make choices about how she lives.   


Post a Comment