Friday, November 18, 2011

I'd like to thank...

Earlier this week I was thrilled to be given the honor of receiving an award from a local autism organization. I have been involved with them since almost the beginning of my family’s journey with autism, so it meant a lot to be included among the awardees.
The award luncheon was in a fancy hotel ballroom and there was a fancy meal. It was all very pretty. I was lucky enough to not only have my husband with me, but also some of my friends and fellow autism parents. I also met some great new people and we all had a nice time hanging out together at the cool table!
It was the cool table because:
a) We all pretty much knew each other (in name or reputation), or were already friends,
b) We all represented an underserved geographic region in our area,
c) We had 4 of the awardees at our table, and
d) We got to sit with the incredible mom who nominated all 4 of the winners at our table!
There were some fairly large companies represented there, including some big-name people from our local sports teams. I’m so used to doing my own thing in my own little corner of the world, that being in a big room filled with lots of important people was kind of intimidating.
I was certainly in good company! In fact, one of my friends actually brought me to tears with her acceptance speech. When she got back to the table she was surprised by my bright red nose and my mascara-stained Kleenex. I shook my head at her and gave her the how-dare-you-make-me-cry-in-public glare to which she grinned back at me like she’d been a naughty girl. At least I managed to not become a blubbering idiot on stage. I think everyone is happy for that!
The really cool thing about the experience is that it felt like an Oprah full-circle moment. When my husband and I we were first figuring out the autism thing with our boys several years ago I managed to connect with this organization. They do great work in our community for autism families. Over the years, I have taken classes from them, I’ve served as a parent mentor, and my kids have participated in some of their programs. So, for me to now be in a place where they recognize what I do to advocate for special needs families, particularly those with autism, was pretty incredible.
I’m used to getting up in front of people and don’t have a problem with public speaking, but I was pretty nervous. After I gave my acceptance speech I noticed that it took several minutes for my hands to stop shaking when I got back to my table. In fact, coming off the stage, I immediately forgot everything I just said. Every. Word. Gone. Poof. I had to ask my husband if I sounded remotely coherent. I then became worried that I’d used the word, “umm.” Titan said I was coherent and umm-free. I hope he wasn’t just paying me lip service because he’s my hubby.
Want to know the one thing I did remember from my speech? I remember that I did not thank my husband. Yup. Great job, Angela! You forgot the most important thing!!! My husband is THE reason that I am able to do what I do in the community. Without his never-ending support I wouldn’t be who I am, doing the work I do for other families. He should be getting an award, for crying out loud!
So, since I don’t remember what I said and I know there are people to thank, I’m going to set it right…in writing.
I’d like to thank:
My husband. He deserves special recognition for being devoted to our boys, available when I need him, and caring enough to recognize that it’s not just about our family but that we can use our experience to make a positive impact on others.
My friend who nominated me as the Community Advocate of the Year. She said some very wonderful things about me. Hearing those words read during my introduction was odd…almost like I was hearing my own eulogy. I received a written copy of what was said, but if I quote anything I’ll just burst into tears from the kindness of it all. So I’ll spare you…
The parents I’ve worked with over the past 3 years. You have trusted me even when I didn’t trust in my own abilities. You have been my friends and helped me grow. Your children are exceptional and inspirational.          
My boys. They are the reason I discovered so many things about myself. They led me to where I am right now. I could have never imagined being in this place doing what I do. They helped me discover a passion I would not have found otherwise.
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