Cue the “Theme from Mission: Impossible”

Over the course of this past week, I have forsaken my innate disinclination to socialize for the sake of a greater good.  Just about every neighbor I’ve avoided like the Black Plague during the Middle Ages for the past six months has now been subjected to a hasty, guerrilla-type introduction to me.

Correction: every neighbor who has been naive enough to walk a DOG in the surrounding area has been subjected to an unexpected (and I fear unwelcome) introduction to the crazy lady with the flyers.

While I lurk near the doorways -with a bit more resemblance to Quasimodo than I’d like to admit to- my mantra is “it IS for a worthy cause.”  Along with the furniture, boxes of books, and household appliances that made the transition from Southwest to Northeast, J’s skills as a dog-biscuit maker came with us, and -in the tradition of Capital High School’s Barkery in Santa Fe, NM- there is now the Dog Bites Bakery at Morgantown High School in Morgantown, WV.  This, of course, is a business endeavor, and leaping out to scare the living crap out of unsuspecting dog-walking members of this community is part of my PR plan.  It could use some more finesse, but you’re asking the wrong person for finesse.

Introducing a new student to a Special Education team is always a leap of faith on both sides.  The parents want to accentuate the positive and show that they are knowledgeable and want to be helpful.  The teachers, mentors, specialists are all hoping that said parent won’t demand the impossible while stating the improbable about their child’s skill-set and abilities.  We got a look of “we’re impressed but taking this with a grain of Mediterranean coarse sea salt” when we explained that, at Capital High School’s Barkery, J had performed a significant amount of tasks that were important to the continued success of that self-sustaining enterprise.  One energetic leap of faith later, the kids are elbow-deep in dog biscuit production and, on Monday, a local news crew is doing a human interest story about them.

The kids are enthusiastic and dedicated, and the fruits of their labor deserve to be sold.  Hence the Scarlet Pimpernel/Darkwing Duck behavior on my part.  (I haven’t decided which one I resemble more at this point.)

I often repeat that quote attributed to everyone from Albert Einstein to Edna St. Vincent Millay to Charles Schulz (through dear ol’ Linus) “I love humanity, it’s people I can’t stand” or some other version of the last part of it.  Although not entirely true, I approximate this sentiment a bit more than I’d like.  I am not lacking in social graces, mind you, but I am easily exasperated by others.  Stepping in and out of a social interaction with me is exhausting for the person who is suddenly stuck with the exchange; I talk too much (and write too much, naturally) because I want to come across as sociable and despise awkward silences.  (Yes, I’ve taken the Autism Spectrum Quotient test designed by Simon Baron-Cohen, Borat’s cousin…I’m not in the Spectrum.)

School fundraisers give me psychosomatic urticaria.  Whenever the children came home armed with order forms for chocolates, wrapping paper, stationery, microwavable popcorn, household items with puppies, geese, birds and kittens, cookie-dough or any other item intended to persuade people to help raise money, I’d buy as much as I could and not impose on my fellow man’s (or woman’s) wallet.  As a result of this, I’ve eaten too much chocolate, given away cookie dough, had a lifetime supply of wrapping paper that I gave away before moving, and -in case of a nuclear catastrophe- will be able to hold a bag of microwavable popcorn outside my window and still be fed until we run out of Boy Scout Popcorn packets.  I am NOT blessed with whatever qualities a good salesperson is imbued with…I’m a purchaser, not a seller.  This is not a fundraiser…this is “designed to enable students with impairments to develop efficient, practiced work skills which foster better work ethics and citizenship.

My greatest wish is that, once this news story airs, the biscuits will sell themselves.  Until then, I am counting on some of the element of surprise (“Our *three* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency…and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope…Our *four*…no… *Amongst* our weapons…. Amongst our weaponry…”  Any resemblance between yours truly and Terry Gilliam is rather scary, I admit) will still linger among the as-yet un-ambushed neighbors with dogs.  I am confident that, because I seldom see neighbors interacting with each other, word has not spread about “the crazy lady who comes at you with a flyer in her hand.”  I don’t know if there’s a neighborhood “phone tree” or if, given the current threat of Jack-in-the-Box behavior around our townhouse, one is being surreptitiously established as I type this.

In the past few days I’ve met a collie, a bulldog, a labrador, a one-of-my-parents-is-a-retriever, a humble I-was-rescued-from-the-pound-and-they-said-I-have-Jack-Russell-Terrier-in-me, but I know there are dachshunds, cocker spaniels and a non-descript pooch that looks like a King Charles had a roll in the hay with a corgi or, possibly, a pug.  Hanging a flyer in the mailroom will be effective, but it might also tell people who they have to worry about hawking dog biscuits at them.

J is an ace at this task.  He loves his work, he really does.  The boxing gloves and Slinky are set aside and a very formal work-ethic is involved in the performance of this task.  You should see him move around the kitchen, measuring, cleaning; there is packaging involved, and it makes J feel like a million dollars.  I have heard, and this might be in order to polish my maternal ego, that he has modeled behavior and helped show his current classmates what to do when preparing the biscuits.  How can I NOT jump out of bushes, leap into paths, SOCIALIZE to get this worthwhile project off the ground and on its way to success?

Last night, as I folded laundry, the sound of dogs barking in the distance floated through the open window.  I’m pretty sure someone has activated The Twilight Bark


**  If anyone reading this is interested in purchasing dog treats from either group of intrepid young businesspersons, please let me know and I will post the information on how to do it; if you are interested in forming an exploratory committee to look into implementing something similar in your child’s class, let me know and I’ll hook you up with some very nice, courageous and capable women who have pushed these projects forward in their Special Education classrooms. **




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