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Should We Really Pity Those on the Autism Spectrum?

In November 2015 I stood on the TEDx stage in Leamington Spa and fulfilled a longstanding dream…

… I gave a talk about Neurodivergency and why we should value people with differently wired brains for being the awesome people they are.

Neurodivergency is a name given to people whose brains function ‘outside the norm’.

People on the Autistic spectrum are classified as neurodivergent, though for different reasons. There is no “normal” for the mind, but there is average, and neurodivergent people have something about their brains that make them not defined as “average”.

TEDxLeamington Spa 2015 Event Photos

 

I feel passionately about Neurodiversity on every level. My husband was extremely ill with a myriad of different mental health issues and most of my children are Autistic and/or Dyslexic. My children have struggled so much in their lives.

 

TEDxLeamington Spa 2015 Event Photos

 

I hope that my talk will change perceptions and beliefs towards Neurodivergent people and allow them to live happier and more contended lives as understanding and attitudes change for the better.

We need people who think in different ways so we can all move forward.

I hope, in some small way, I can help to enable this to happen.

 

Please WATCH and SHARE this video from my TEDx Talk. I’d be eternally grateful x

 

Taking a different view

My children often astound me with their deep levels of understanding and insight into other peoples and their own psychology.  These little gems of wisdom they come out with are often followed by me collapsing in fits of giggles as my rather neurotypical brain interprets their neurodivergent comments in a totally different way!

 

Taking a different view

 

This is how I often feel when I’m communicating with my children.  Different brain wiring, not better, not worse, just different.

Bear in mind also that I’m very much the minority in our house, although I have speculated endlessly over the years as to whether I am indeed on the spectrum as well, it’s just that every test I take and every Psychologist I talk to reveals that I am very much not on the spectrum?  I’m quite sad about that really.

My life revolves around autistic and neurodivergent people, even Kacie is severely Dyslexic and has OCD, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  These people have enriched my life in innumerable ways over the years and have allowed me to gain a much deeper insight into the way the human brain works in general by studying how their brains work.  And they are different, not just because they’re autistic, but also because they have their own very unique personalities alongside it.

An autistic person isn’t ‘an autistic person’, their autism doesn’t define them, it merely alludes to them having a brain that is wired differently and therefore perceives certain things in, sometimes, unusual ways.  Understanding these variants helps us to understand the person better and digging beneath the behavioural struggles they may have, and understanding what is causing them, gives us the opportunity to adjust their environment accordingly and allows for better, more effective communication.

I’m constantly being reminded of all of these points with situations with my own children, I arrived home recently to be informed by Osborn that he was having an ‘Aspie’ panic attack.  This was a slightly different view for me and made me think.  We all talk about people on the spectrum going into ‘meltdown’, but what if these ‘meltdowns’ are actually sometimes panic attacks?  What if we assessed our view of challenging situations and expanded our thinking to take into account that it should, maybe, be thought of in a different way.

We have a lot to learn about autism generally, but we also still have a long way to go towards acceptance and the world genuinely valuing neurodivergence for being the valuable human variation that it actually is.

The day will come and I’ll keep doing my little bit to try and speed that process up.

They’re at it again!

We have lots of fascinating conversations in our house, you know, the kind that have visitors screwing their faces up in pure bewilderment as they desperately try to follow the narrative that constitutes the type of mental reasoning my children employ.

Firstly, Lorie and Mirie are busy organising a school reunion for their fellow students from The Croft, a wonderful school  which they attended when they were in primary school.  We were discussing the logistics of where to hold it etc… when we got to discussing the various attendees.  Now, bear in mind that I had seven children at that school, all with their own circle of friends, that’s a lot to keep up with and I’ve always struggled to remember them all, so Mirie was doing her best to jog my memory on a couple of names.

 

They're at it again!

Fortunately, my children have all ‘grown into their teeth’ beautifully!!

In an effort for me to remember, she described a couple of them and I managed to vaguely remember one of them, she said he had big teeth!  That brought to mind a couple of young boys so I encouraged her to expand my recall by asking her if it was the one she fancied?  NO!, came the rapid response, apparently Lorie had fancied the other one with ‘big teeth’.

Pippa then piped up,asking if they still had big teeth to which Mire said “No, you grow into your teeth!”.  That did it, the giggles set in well and truly, although I could see exactly what she was saying, it did sound somewhat bizarre.

Then I was busy helping Jamie put together a particularly difficult email regarding a person at work, I was helping her to make her point but in a professional and courteous way.  We stumbled at the first hurdle, what to put as the header for the email?

I told her to make it businesslike by putting Ref: (colon) ‘persons name’.  She instantly asked why she should put ‘colon’ to which I replied that it was just a way of making it clear that the email was about that particular person.  Now, we all know that my children take things literally and after five minutes of discussion about why ‘colon’ should be there, it finally transpired that she thought I was asking her to write the word ‘colon’, wondering why we had any need to mention the guys digestive system in the header!

I roared!  If there is anything to misinterpret in The Mad Shanks Household, it will surely be misinterpreted to the maximum!  These silly moments happen so frequently that I forget most of them but some stick in my memory so I share them here in the hope that it might raise a smile amongst my readers.  Apparently it works.  Having just collected my new glasses, the lady dispensing them to me told me that she had stumbled upon the blog I wrote about putting the Christmas decorations up and it had made her howl!  Always so good to know that once in a while you can make people laugh with silty anecdotes and brighten up peoples day.

I will keep doing it for as long as I can, so whether you love them or hate them (I advise not reading at all if that’s the case!), they will keep coming and, hopefully, raise the occasional smile!

Autism, memory lapses and giggles!

Those of you who are regular readers will know that anything can happen in ‘The Mad Shanks Residence’ including continuous memory lapses!  Sometimes some of these come together in a way I find irresistibly hilarious and I feel the need to share with everyone the mad world I reside in, this is one of those!

 Autism, memory lapses and giggles!

 

Lorie is determined to pursue her acting career in any way she can, which I greatly admire her for, so when she heard that there was an audition for a play at the RSC she was straight in there.  Good on her I thought, what play are you doing I asked?  ‘Godspeed’ she replied.  Me, puzzled, ‘Godspeed?’,  Lorie, ‘Yes’.

Hmmmmmm…….I hadn’t heard of that one and as I’m quite well up on my theatrical knowledge (you don’t live in a house full of drama queens without knowing your stuff!), I was slightly perplexed and asked her if she meant ‘GodSPELL?’.  ‘Oh yes!’ came her reply, ‘I knew it was something like that’.  ‘You’re going to the audition Lorie. shouldn’t you at least know the name of the production?’.  ‘OK’ she said brightly, ‘I’ve got it now!’.

She proceeded to tell a close friend the next day that she was auditioning for ‘Godspeed’ and had the same conversation all over again with Jo!  Hopefully the producer of the show won’t mind?

A couple of days later Nikita walked in from college and announced that she had just been told what show they were performing at college next.  Excited to hear her news I asked her what they were doing, ‘Farm Animals’ she replied.  Here we go again thought I, having said that, their tutor, David, is known for choosing pretty ‘off the wall’ productions, so for a split second I did consider whether she had actually got it right, but it was just a ‘split second’!

Cautiously I asked her if she meant ‘Animal Farm’?  ‘Oh yeah, that’s it!’ she cried, by this time it was far too late for me, I was already on the floor crying with laughter!  Two in two days was far too much, even for me when I know them so well, but sometimes it’s the bizarre things they come out with that make me laugh so much, and they do say that laughter keeps you young?  Maybe it’s the laughter that has kept me from going completely doolally over all these years and long may it continue, I’m just waiting for the next one to come and tell me they’re doing the ‘Ghost of the Cinema’ next…………it’s entirely possible!

Why having a Plan ‘B’ is a really bad idea!

Why having a ‘Plan B’ is a bad idea!

A lot of people think I’m wrong to have brought my children up believing that having a plan ‘B’ is a bad idea, most parents will encourage their children to take a ‘safe’ GCSE, like Business Studies, so they have something to fall back on.  I was criticised when mine were choosing their options because I allowed them to take all creative subjects.  What?  No back up plan?



The dreaded Plan ‘B’!


Errrrrrrrr……no.   Why not?  Simples, if you have a Plan B you will fall back on it as soon as the going gets tough in Plan A, thereby, giving up on your passion, your dream.  We all need something that drives us to strive for better things and for most people money just isn’t enough incentive.  Sure, we need enough of the stuff to keep a roof over our heads and feed our families, but is life really just about survival?  I know plenty of lawyers and accountants who hate their jobs, even though they’re well paid and have lovely lifestyles, but to spend a huge proportion of your life doing something you hate is surely tantamount to mere existence without meaning.

And I’m not suggesting that we should all be running around brandishing banners and fighting for World Peace (although if everyone joined in it would sort itself out anyway!) and I’m also not suggesting that we should starve in order to follow our passion.  What I have encouraged my children to do though is to find something they’re happy enough with so they can pay their bills which therefore allows them enough free time to pursue their real passion.

For Kacie it’s fashion design, for many of the others it’s the performing arts, they’re following their hearts and doing what they love with a view to it one day being their full time occupations, in the meantime, they’re not stuck in jobs they hate with nothing to look forward to or strive to achieve.

They have formed a band, they write music, they make films with film makers they know, apart from the film we’re all making as a family.  Kacie makes most of the clothes I wear when I make TV appearances, TEDx talks etc…. In a lot of ways they’re already living the dream!

And I’m also proud to say that they are all unemployable, just like me!  Why is that a good thing?  Well, I think I’ll save that controversial one for another day!










Periscope, why you need it and why you shouldn’t be afraid of it…..

Why you need Periscope!

Periscope is one of those ‘new fangled’ social media gadgets that we’ve all, kind of, heard of, but mostly don’t have a clue as to how to use it or why!  I was one such person, in the darkest recesses of my brain I had a feeling that this could be quite a useful tool but couldn’t actually put my finger on exactly what I would use it for.


My first Periscope was a bit ‘off course’!  I’ll improve!


Enter Spaghetti Agency and their Periscope course which I was lucky enough to be able to attend yesterday morning.  After arriving unfashionably late and having to confess to being awake, and then not being awake, and then being woken again by Osborn telling me it was 8am and why wasn’t I up, I settled into trying to work out how to use Periscope on a technical level, having it explained to me why I needed to use it and then being given tips on how to make the best use of it.  I’m not exactly a technophobe, far from it, but it seemed like an awful lot to take in at first glance.

I shouldn’t have been concerned, Todd and Jo run the best courses I’ve ever attended and I always come out knowing exactly what I need to know, and able to put into practice whatever it is that they’ve taught me.

Having understood why I need it and experimenting with it a little on my phone, Todd decided we should do a live Periscope there and then…..great idea!  And it was a great idea until I did what I do best and opened my mouth live on Periscope, and announced to whoever was listening, that I was going to bite the bullet and do my first live Periscope that evening at 7pm.  It was out of my mouth before I knew it so, there I was, committed and totally unprepared for a live broadcast that evening at the Purple Monster Christmas Party in Leamington.

I never learn, but then maybe that’s a good thing?  Sometimes you do have to just jump in head first and ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’?  I brought my kids up with this quote and ‘action conquers fear’, on which note I would like to offer a word of friendly advice.  Be careful what you teach your kids because it will come back to bite you on the bum at some stage in the future.  Heaven help me if I ever happen to to hint that fear is holding me back from doing something, I have 7 of the little blighters ganging up on me and telling me to ‘man up’ according to my own teachings!  I am never, ever allowed to wimp out of anything!

Anyway, promise made and Todd chasing me to make sure I did it, I managed to find a selfie stick (recommended kit) but no microphone and stand (also recommended kit!) and headed off to the party after a disastrous test before I left!

Todd and I believed that we had sorted the sound issue with a lot of technical assistance from the man himself but as 7pm arrived and I started I was being bombarded by people telling me there was no sound?  Ugh……failure number one!  After a couple of minutes we solved that one but the light was bad and the background noise very loud.

But I did it!  I had a conversation with Ryan Hildebrandt who organised the TEDx Leamington Spa conference and Alan Heap, our very own resident ‘Licensed Fool’ further to his TEDx talk on the subject.  

Just for the record, I’ve watched it back, it isn’t great and not many people tuned in, but it doesn’t matter.  It wasn’t scary, it was very easy, I Iearnt a huge amount about what not to do and had a fascinating conversation with 2 of my favourite people!

Next time will be much better and I plan to use Periscope as a brilliant resource for sharing ideas, hints and tips on various subjects with whoever wants to listen.  If you’re interested in tuning in, I’ll be posting times etc…on Facebook and Twitter, so keep yours eyes open, and if you do tune in, please send me a few hearts, it makes me feel loved!









7 Golden Rules for keeping your family intact whilst putting up the Christmas decorations!

Seven golden rules for keeping your family intact whilst putting up the Christmas decorations!

It happens every year in our house, and probably yours as well, the Christmas decorations go up, or not, as the case may be!   It was decided that yesterday was the designated day for ‘decking the halls’ but, as always, the task was never going to be as easy as putting the tree up and adding a few fairy lights.


HOW??……..JUST, HOW????????


To begin with, Kacie had very efficiently put the tree ‘et al’ in the loft at the beginning of the year, a good move as they were safe, dry and out of the way, I have to assume however that getting them up there was a whole lot easier than getting the wretched things down.  

I should have known better!


It actually didn’t start there though, I was the culprit who started the whole mess earlier in the day by deciding that we should utilise a Christmas light I had bought from Ikea a few years earlier, but had been consigned to the barn and never used.  In my infinite wisdom I decided that it would be a great idea to take a trip down the barn and seek out the light and a couple of other things that I had been wanting to look for for a while.  Osborn and I duly trekked down the muddy field and ventured into the gloom that is the disaster area we fondly call ‘The Barn’.

Said light was found relatively easily and I also located the whereabouts of a couple of other things I had been pondering the location of for a long time, and, whilst inaccessible, at least I now know where they are.  My artwork from way back in my art school days was less easy to locate, and once we did, they were buried under numerous heavy objects.  The Shanks family don’t give up easily and, as they were deteriorating further daily in the damp conditions, Osborn and I were not going to be defeated.  Sitting in a roulette wheel wasn’t ideal and Osborn precariously squished under a pile of heavy tables definitely would have constituted an ‘elf and safety’ issue for any self respecting ‘elf and safety officer, but we were not going to be deterred and no officer was available to tell us not to take our lives into our own hands…..enter the Shanks Family ‘Dunkirk Spirit’.

We finally freed the artwork without too much further damage to it and returned to the house brandishing our spoils!  The box the light was in had disintegrated but having let the light dry out so we didn’t blow the house up, it actually worked, trouble was, it was a lot bigger than I remembered!  And so it began, where to put the enormous light…..and the tree….and the lights…..and, well, everything?

….and so to the loft!

So, the next step was get everything out of the loft, huge light having been abandoned on the dining room floor for future, further perusal.  No-one was tall enough to lift the loft hatch and the steps in the house weren’t any help either, much the same as watching Pippa precariously perched on Lorie’s shoulders at the top of the stairs did nothing to aid my mental health.  Everyone reconvened in the sitting room until the relative peace was disturbed by worrying noises coming from the roof above.  Further inspection outside showed Osborn on the roof with the old swimming pool ladder that he had deemed tall enough to solve the challenge, the fact that it was soaking wet and filthy hadn’t factored into his logic one iota.

After several other failed attempts it was grudgingly decided that maybe Osborn had a point and that the ladder should be brought into use, and, after all, Osborn was halfway up the stairs with the damned thing anyway!  Eventually the decorations were freed from their murky, cobwebby confines and brought downstairs, then the fun really began!

There should be rules pertaining to Christmas decorations that have been passed in Parliament and are enforceable by the Police as far as I’m concerned, in fact, there should be an armed force dedicated to the Christmas season and rescuing family members whose lives are at risk due to the whole process.

First off, tree parts removed from box and peered at with great bemusement by the assembled throng, how did the damn thing go together?  We had a pole with a few twigs at the top and numerous twigs that appeared to have no rhyme or reason with regard to size and shape.  Pippa eventually discovered a few letters stuck to miscellaneous bits and they finally deduced that maybe these were clues to enable them to construct something that vaguely resembled a Christmas tree.

Then, the lights, the sodding lights…..you know the ones, they were carefully put away fully working only a few months previously but by the time they’re due to go up the following Christmas they no longer work and have managed to weave themselves into the type of intricate knots that no man could ever accomplish unaided.  Then colours!  White lights on the tree or multi-coloured?  How many baubles, how much tinsel….if any……and as I watch my sanity sail out of the window, the final conundrum, how to fix the lights to the wall all around the room, knowing, that whatever fixture is used will still be there the next Christmas even though the lights themselves will have required putting up again repeatedly!

Strops, stomps, arguments, hysteria, Aspie modes, tears and many more ‘elf and safety issues later and the house actually looks quite good, even though many lives were put at risk throughout the entire endeavour, murder having felt perfectly reasonable at times.

So, I have compiled my own list of Christmas decorating rules that I strongly suggest everyone adheres to in coming years so that we all have the opportunity of welcoming another New Year!

Seven Rules that may save your life whilst putting up the Christmas Decorations:-


1. DO NOT, under any circumstances, have seven children.  Eight people making decisions about Christmas decorations is seven too many and highly dangerous!

2. Have as many strings of lights as you want, but, make sure they are all the same colour and thereby avoid any risk of discussion about what colour to put where.
3. Keep the same decorations for every year and if you MUST change them, go alone to buy them in the dead of the night and dispose of the old ones immediately.  Failure to comply with this rule will endanger many lives.

4. Store your Christmas decorations out of the way but in an easily accessible location, especial if you have an ‘Osborn’.

5. If you have children over a certain age, don’t enter into any discussions and you might just come out of the other side unscathed.

6. Ensure you have copious quantities of alcohol secreted around the house for emergencies (your own!)

7. Finally, if at all possible, vacate the premises whilst said decorations are assembled and only return once you have received absolute confirmation that everything is well and truly finished.

If you’ve already put your decorations up and you’re reading this you deserve a medal!  If you still have to do it, please abide by the above list and I wish you all the best…..safe journey!!






Neurodivergence in the work environment

Neurodivergence in the Workplace

I was discussing this one with a colleague very recently and was surprised to find out that people only tend to think about ‘special needs in relation to Neurodivergency‘ when it relates to children and schools. Even more to my surprise was when someone commented ‘Haven’t they got over all that by the time they become old enough to work!’.  Errrrrrrrrr…..NO!   Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia etc…..don’t disappear along with leaving school, the same differences remain, although some people find it easier to mask their challenges as they get older.



Inevitably, I guess, a lot of people with Neurodivergent brains will self-select to either work for themselves or veer towards jobs that don’t necessarily tie them to a desk (e.g….telecoms engineers etc..) but there are still huge numbers of people working in all environments who may be struggling with something as simple as the flicker of a fluorescent bulb, noise pollution, claustrophobic office space or disturbing smells coming from the nearby canteen.

Making allowances for people with Neurodivergent brains isn’t actually any different from making adjustments for people who are partially sighted, we wouldn’t randomly move a chair in case they fell over it and just because autism etc….isn’t as obvious, doesn’t mean it isn’t an equally compelling case for making allowances and enabling that person to live and work in a more stress free environment.

Enabling people with Neurodivergent brains should be a priority for any company who values their staff, and the bonus with solving the issues these guys may have is that they work extremely efficiently when their environment is good.  

But here’s the rub, because labels like Autism, Dyslexia, Bi-Polar etc.. still carry such negative connotations, the people affected by these ‘differently wired brains’ often don’t wish to disclose to their seniors that they have any struggles.  

Obviously, this means that knowing how to help can be impossible if no-one is aware that there may be any challenges in the first place!

So the first situation to be overcome is the one of negative perceptions generally held and encourage people to focus more on the talents and and unusual skills that the atypical brain tends to carry with it.  If our attitude towards autism, ADHD etc….were more positive then more people would be happy to share that information, and therefore, be offered any adjustments to their environment that they may require in order to function more happily and therefore more efficiently.   A win, win for everyone!

We need to be more open and far less judgemental in our appraisal of how efficiently people with atypical brains can operate, just because their brain is wired in a different way doesn’t mean that it should be assumed that they will struggle in all areas of life.  And the contrary is very often true, their strengths in other areas far outweigh their difficulties in the few that do cause issues.

So, let’s use peoples ‘labels’ as purely a reference point from where to start, in order to have a better understanding of the person.  That label shouldn’t be used to define our expectations of what they may or may not be capable of, which, by the way, is often a whole lot more than some of us would like to believe or accept!


TEDx Leamington Spa….it really is Rocket Science!

Actually, it is Rocket Science!

On Sunday I was privileged to meet some of the other speakers from the TEDx Leamington Spa conference as well as the curator team, they were a wonderfully warm, welcoming crowd and we had a fun, entertaining and educational day practising our talks.

The Speaker line-up for the 21st November


One of the speakers was a guy called Henry, without giving too much away, Henry is a Rocket Scientist, yes, a real, live, Rocket Scientist!!!  I’ve never met one before so he was a bit of a novelty as far as I was concerned, and having a very scientifically minded son made him all the more interesting. Osborn would have loved him!

He is an ambassador for the Bloodhound Supersonic Car Project and his talk is all about the project, which is designing and making a car that can travel at 1000 miles an hour!  What he explains in his talk is how they are going about it and the numerous problems that they have encountered with the design.  Sound dry?  Not at all!!   I was riveted the whole way through and left wanting to know more.

The talks cover a vast range of subjects and are all fascinating listening, so if you’re one of the very lucky few who managed to get a ticket, you’re in for an amazing day!  I did meet, in person, Lara Smith, who was one of the few, ‘on the ball’ enough to succeed in getting a ticket, turns out that actually getting one was a bit like winning the lottery!  The tickets sold out in the first 73 minutes of becoming available with a maximum purchase number of only 2!

I feel extremely honoured to be part of the fantastic team that make up TEDx Leamington Spa, I really do believe that this will go down in TEDx history as being one the greats!  Thank you everyone on the curator team for all of the hard work you have put in to making this such a fantastic event and http://www.tedxleamingtonspa.comwell done to all the speakers, I can’t wait for the 21st November to come around!

Autism and Sensory Challenges

When Autistic moments clash!

If you have a child on the spectrum you’ll be well aware of the various sensory challenges our children face, if you have more than one on the spectrum you’ll be especially aware of how their differing needs can clash!  One of these divine moments happened yesterday in The Mad Shanks Residence and succeeded in reducing me to tears of laughter.


If you want to touch Nikita, ask her permission first and do it evenly on both sides!


It went something like this.  I’d been reading up about last night’s Super Moon Eclipse and knowing how much my children have always loved the moon I took Nikita outside to have a look at 9pm last night, far too early for the red bit but it was so big and bright I knew she would want to see it.  We then called Mirie outside as she is a real moon fanatic and worries every time it’s not visible, she couldn’t miss this beautiful one!  As we were ‘ooooohing’ and ‘aaaaaaahing’, Osborn made an appearance but was a little less impressed than we girls, after all, as he pointed out very scientifically, it only looked 14% bigger than normal.  Thanks Oz!

We didn’t allow his logical take on the beauty of the bright moon to dampen our spirits and continued with our wistful observations, all revelling in the peace and beauty of the moment, then, in a flash, it was shattered……..

Bear in mind that all 3 of them are on the spectrum and have their own sensory challenges, so when Osborn clicked the joints in his fingers it was no surprise to me that Mirie instantly reacted with a shriek, she can’t tolerate the noise of it.  The sudden anxiety of his fingers clicking caused her to threaten to click her tongue at Osborn, a sound that he can’t tolerate to such an extent that he runs screaming from the vicinity!  He then lashed out and accidentally hit Nikita who instantaneously screamed to Osborn as she doesn’t like being touched.

I felt as though I’d been transported into World war 3!  The serenity of the previous ten minutes was well and truly over.  Finding myself in the middle of the chaos, Nikita jumping around afraid that someone else was going to unexpectedly touch her and trying to ‘even up’ the touch she’d already suffered, Mirie still shouting at Osborn that he knows how much the finger clicking gets to her, him screaming at her that it took all of us years to get used to closing the bathroom door when we brushed our teeth (another sound he can’t tolerate) and me looking bewildered as I tried to rewind the whole scenario in my head and work out what just happened!

I pieced it all together and just burst out laughing.  The whole thing had brought back memories of so many occasions that were exactly the same where peace reigned one minute and all hell broke loose the next.  This has been my life, and whilst it can be very stressful at times, it has been a fascinating observation into what makes them all ‘tick’, their little foibles make them who they are and I love them all to bits.

And, let’s face it, seeing the funny side is sometimes the only way forward unless you want to live a life filled with anxiety and unhappiness, and I certainly don’t!  My children are very well used to me getting fits of the giggles at the most inappropriate times, and whilst they chastise me, they actually do appreciate the fact that we can all have fun and laugh at ourselves.  It’s something we do a lot of and I believe it keeps us sane!