When a Barber Fulfilled His Promise to My Son With Autism and Me

Back in May, I wrote about my son Michael’s barber, Freddy. I had jokingly but sort of seriously said that I would fly Freddy back and forth from New Jersey to Virginia after we moved just to cut Michael’s hair, if I had unlimited funds. Freddy read that post, and it touched him. He made the amazing offer to me that when we moved, he would drive to Virginia to cut Michael’s hair. I was absolutely stunned and speechless at such an generous gesture.

Sometimes people say things they will do just as a kind gesture. Even if they never follow through, the fact that they offered is a lot to be thankful for. Freddy did follow through.

Freddy and his wife, Chaquira, made the trip from New Jersey to fulfill the promise he made to us. This was after he worked in his shop all day until 8:30 p.m. They left New Jersey at 9:30 p.m. They drove all night and arrived here in Virginia at 5 a.m. They slept for a few hours, and then he texted me saying he would be here when I wanted because his day was dedicated to us.

When they got here, my husband, Jason, gave them a tour of our new home. Then Freddy got down to business. Even though the venue changed and he was cutting Michael’s hair in my backyard, nothing else changed. There were lots of laughs. Michael made sure to remind Freddy to not cut his ears off. That is a reminder Freddy gets every time from Michael, from day one. And he sat, as he has from their first meeting, and let Freddy cut his hair.

Of course, no cut with Freddy would be complete without a spray paint of color. That is Michael’s favorite part, and Freddy didn’t disappoint. My daughter, Jordan, also got into the act this time as well. Orange hair for all!

Freddy said something a few weeks back on one of my Facebook posts that really hit home with me. Freddy, I hope you don’t mind, but I’m sharing it here.

He said:

“Some clients are clients, some clients become friends, some clients become family. I thank God I had the opportunity to meet Joan Leigh Flores and her family and gratefully consider them part of mine.”

Freddy, my friend, my family: I have said it before. No words can properly express my gratitude for what you have done. You are one of kind, you are generous, you are amazing and I am forever grateful that our paths crossed.

Follow this journey on This Ausome Family.

The Mighty is asking its readers the following: Describe a moment you gave or received a gift that touched your life in a special way. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.


Should I Become a Parent If I Live With Chronic Pain?

I never thought this question would require pondering. Up until the past year or so, I was pretty confident that I wanted to be a parent, and more specifically, that I wanted to bake my own, give birth and send a bundle of my genes out into the world with my heart tied around its ankle. I thought I’d be pretty good at it and that it would make my life more full in a good way, not to mention increasing my chances of having visitors when I’m old and decrepit.

Now I’m not so sure.

I don’t need to tell most of you that chronic pain is a life changer. As demonstrated by my treatment plan, managing it well usually means adjusting every corner of daily life, from seemingly innocuous things such as going to bed at the same time every night to major things like navigating a whole new career path. This is just another decision in a billion that I will make while living with chronic pain, and one that I am incredibly fortunate to make. But it’s still a hard one because, infuriatingly, there is probably no right answer. So naturally, a pros and cons list will be required.


1. I know a few folks with chronic pain who are also top-notch parents, both single and partnered, and I firmly believe that excellent parenting and chronic pain are not incompatible. This is reinforced by the oodles of blogs out there that chronicle the lives of some pretty badass, determined and loving parents with chronic pain who find endlessly creative ways to manage family life when pain limits their abilities.

2. Not only do many parents with chronic pain do a fine job, they sometimes claim that the joy of little ones helps to get them through some of the roughest times.

3. I am of the mind that “it takes a village” and am fairly confident that I could organize friends and family who would be willing and able to help out so that not all the responsibility would fall to my partner on major pain days.

4. Life is unpredictable, and abilities change. Even if I were making this decision without chronic pain, my health would be no guarantee. Because  sh** happens, having a parent with an invisible disability would probably be a learning opportunity on many levels.

5. Despite the potential tribulations, I can’t imagine ever regretting the decision to become a parent, whereas I can imagine regretting the decision to abstain.


1. I feel as if my plate is very full already with doing my job and taking care of myself, and I can barely commit to the responsibility of feeding a friend’s cat, let alone carting kids somewhere on any given day. Having to cancel plans due to pain already feels crappy. I am guessing that having to cancel a child’s plans due to pain would feel even worse.

2. In the imagined scenario where friends and family help out more than in the traditional nuclear family, I may not be able to return the favor, at least not by giving my own physical energy, and would really be quite dependent on the generosity of others. I’m not sure how I would avoid/deal with the guilt around this.

3. Parenting would likely mess up my treatment plan pretty often. Lack of sleep and noise levels in particular are two of my biggest triggers. A kid might mean worse pain more often, which usually means a tougher fight with depression. And while I know healing is not linear, that would just be hard.

4. Migraine is thought to be passed on genetically, according to a New York Times article. If I baked my own kidlet and they ended up struggling with migraine, I suspect that would also be very hard.

Lucky for me, while this topic might feel heavier some days than others, I’m in no rush to decide and neither is my partner. My biological clock has taken a break from cats-turning-into-baby dreams, and having come into an agreement with my incredibly demanding, change-despising body, I’m open to the idea of adopting later in life. For others, despite recent debunking of the dramatized “fertility cliff” of 35, I know the ticking of the clock is still a source of constant worry.

People with chronic pain who are parents, parents-to-be, undecided and decidedly childless, what are you thoughts? What pros/cons have I missed?

Anna Eidt the mighty.3-002

Follow this journey on Migrainebrainstorm.com.

Why We Need to Talk About Postpartum Depression

It’s a rainy Monday morning and a very pregnant woman arrives with her husband at the hospital. Today is the day she will welcome their new child into the world. She can hardly contain her excitement, but she also can’t hide her obvious worries. Despite all the birthing and breastfeeding classes, as a first-time mother she still has lots of questions. No matter how many times she was reassured her motherly instincts would kick in once the baby arrived, she felt no indication of it. All she could think about was experiencing childbirth. From the time she announced her pregnancy, every mom she knew shared their birthing horror story. All these thoughts swirled in her head as she was led back to her birthing suite.

The staff began checking her vital signs, asking questions and preparing for the forthcoming arrival. She was encouraged to walk the halls to help speed up labor and decided to peek into the nursery where they would bring the baby shortly after the birth. As she approached the window she gasped at what she saw — snakes. There were snakes in the nursery slithering inches from newborn infants. “What’s going on here?” she cried.

“It’s OK,” a nursed comforted. “We’ve had a snake infestation for years and we’ve never been able to completely eliminate the pests.”

“Why wasn’t I told of this ahead of time?” asked the now crying mother.

“No one ever talks about it, so we’ve learned to ignore the problem. Besides, who wants to hear that in birthing class, right?” she chuckled.

The mother stood stunned in front of the nursery window. The air escaped from her mouth when her husband turned to her and said, “It should be fine, just go back to the room.”

“Yes,” the nurse agreed, “very rarely will one of the snakes actually bite the newborns.”

The mother, now completely dismayed, wandered back to her room. She couldn’t understand what was happening. She certainly couldn’t have been the only one to notice the invaders. The new mom now had a choice: remain quiet or speak up. If she spoke, she wondered who would believe her and worried she would sound crazy. What if this was all in her head? So she decided to take her chances with the snakes.

This story itself may sound crazy — no one would allow snakes to roam freely in a nursery— but there is a very real problem that no one is talking about: postpartum depression (PPD). And it’s just as sly as any snake, waiting to strike and squeeze the life out of what should be a beautiful moment in a woman’s life, the birth of a child. It can strike so quickly it even interrupts the bonding experience between a mother and child. Yet, many people are still tight-lipped about PPD and some women don’t feel like they can be open about it. These women often feel brushed off, just like the mother in this story, and end up deciding to take unnecessary chances with an invader rather than speak up. This is why the discussion about PPD needs to happen. Turning a blind eye to PPD can no longer be acceptable.

I struggled with depression after my first son was born and anxiety with the subsequent three. I was fortunate to have a supportive husband and a knowledgeable family physician who worked with me when the hospital and gynecologist failed. After his birth, I had experienced unexpected complications, and by the time I was released from my six-day hospital stay on a mere couple hours sleep, I felt like I was falling apart. I couldn’t fathom taking care of a child when I felt like I couldn’t even take care of myself. I felt worthless as a mother and the overwhelming feelings of guilt and shame were crushing. My husband felt very alone as I deteriorated before him. He had no idea what he could do to help. I was a shell of myself and I couldn’t make it better.

Thankfully, I had a common sense family physician who removed me from the counterproductive medication I was given at the hospital. The physician assured me my feelings were common and in time I would feel like myself again. It took me weeks before I began to feel better. Getting the proper help and listening to my body was a must. I had to realize it was OK to open up and ask for help, but it wasn’t easy. Like many mothers, I didn’t want to admit I needed help because it felt like if I wasn’t able to care for my child, it meant I didn’t love him.

Over the years, I’ve personally witnessed other women struggle with PPD in various degrees, most more severe than my personal experience. The biggest issue I saw was the judgment these women faced. Comments like, “Shake it off,” and “You just have to get on with life,” invalidated their struggle and made them afraid to reach out. PPD has nothing to do with how strong a woman is anymore than someone dealing with physical pain. If a woman broke her leg on a icy sidewalk, she would be encouraged to seek medical care. The same woman suffering deep emotional distress cannot be asked to brush off her emotional pain and steer free of a qualified professional.

Pregnancy and childbirth are wonderful and natural, but they can also come with a price. Women experience very real hormonal and physical changes — before, during and after pregnancy — and the effects are real. With so much recognition of all the amazing things a woman’s body can do, why is there still a stigma around the emotional changes that happen during any of her body’s natural processes?

Real change about PPD needs to happen long before a women ever gets pregnant. Healthy conversations about how hormones can affect mood and cause depression need to couple with discussions explaining the physical processes of womanhood. Young women need to know they are supported and loved even when they are struggling with the real emotional effects of hormone fluctuations. So if the time comes, they can be honest and talk about how they feel.

PPD and depression are real and treatable. Seek help and discuss depression with your daughters (and sons). Please be aware of some signs of PPD:

– Feelings of anger or irritability

– Lack of interest in the baby

– Appetite and sleep disturbance

-Crying and sadness

-Feelings of guilt, shame or hopelessness

There is hope, but we have to start talking about it. We have to discuss it often and we have to support each other. When we fail to acknowledge the mere existence of PPD and depression, we are all failing.

Follow this journey on CrossRoadTrippers.

6 Gifts That Come Packaged With My Autism

Hi, I’m Sue. I’m a 32-year-old Aspie. I was diagnosed last year and have learned a lot about myself, about why I am who I am. It was a really wonderful experience to learn that there was a name for some of my hurdles in life, but more importantly, the gifts as well! Here are some of my thoughts about what autism means to me.

What does autism mean to me?

1. It means appreciating life’s finest details. That bright green leaf on the porch. The intricate patterns in a cat’s eye. Something that no one else finds amusing but you find hilarious in some strange, weird way. I like being able to appreciate the little things. It makes each day so worth it.

2. An affinity for gadgets, and a gift for figuring them out. Who needs the manual when you can take matters into your own hands? Have questions about the latest Android phone? Let me at it! I’ve had this gift as long as I can remember. I learn best by doing hands-on activities.

3. Loyalty. Always being there for a friend or family member through thick and thin. Somewhat of a fear of letting others down, and making sure that doesn’t happen. Being someone they can count on. I’ve always stuck by my friends, even at my own expense at times, when they have proven to be anything but.

4. Honesty. Calling it like you see it. A natural genuineness. Knowing how to be no one but yourself. In school I was always “different.” While the other girls were concerned with makeup, boys and what others thought of them, none of this mattered to me. I was happy being the tomboy I am and playing my video games!

5. Seeing the world in black and white, but at the same time, through rose-colored glasses. Taking things literally. Not reading between the lines or seeing hidden agendas where there are none. Always looking on the positive side. Assuming there is good in every situation. Again, many times this is at my own expense. I see the good in people, and give them the benefit of a doubt. Unfortunately, this has led to my being taken advantage of by people whom I trusted and considered friends. At the same time, I’d still rather see the glass as half full.

6. Finding the fun in life. An eternal childhood. Feeling younger than your peers, and enjoying it. Never growing old. At 32 I’m still very much a kid! I live for anything fun, and I don’t feel anywhere near my age. I love having that childlike sense of wonder, and I hope never to lose sight of it. I don’t think that’ll ever happen.

I hope those reading this will see just some of the many gifts that come packaged with my autism. It’s the way I see my world, 24/7. I can’t imagine life without it. Autism is a huge part of what makes me me!

5 Things I Wish People Knew About Dwarfism

I’m just a guy who is 48 inches tall. I speak only for myself and no other short-statured or average-sized individuals. Here are a few things I’d like the world to know about living with dwarfism.

1. Dwarfism is not my identity.

I am not a halfling to be pitied, a pet to be pampered or an object to be fetishized. I am not an inspiration. I am a human being figuring out this thing called life one step at a time, just like you.

2. Dwarfism doesn’t neutralize my feelings.

My silence in the face of your looks, stares, pointing, giggles, comments and countless other feeble attempts at wit and not-so-subtle ways you attempt to demean me shouldn’t imply I am unaffected or too timid to respond. Perhaps my silence belies the strength that comes from successfully thriving under the weight of challenges that might crush your soul before you reached the first hundred yards of walking a mile in my shoes. Perhaps I choose to take the higher road by not bringing to your attention the very shortcomings within yourself that you strive to deny that all the world so clearly sees.

Clay Rivers the mighty.3-001

3. Dwarfism doesn’t limit my human potential.

While the chances are slim to nil that I will be contracted as a member of an NBA, NFL or MLB franchise, there are dozens — if not hundreds — of other options available to me to which I am better suited. A palette of only red, yellow, blue and black in the hands of a novice is a limited range of colors; that palette in more experienced hands is a means to a painting rich with a spectrum of color.

4. Dwarfism is not a license for you to express your thoughts to me regarding my physical appearance.

After my first few years on the planet, I was well aware that I was shorter than the general population. So there’s no need to tell me I look adorable, cute, fun-sized, little, short, small, tiny or how much you’d like to just pick me up and love on me (I can tell by the gleam in your eyes). I know this. This includes pats on the head and any other unsolicited public displays of affection reserved for pets. I exist for your commentary no more than you exist for mine.

5. Dwarfism is a medical condition.

While it may be one of the first things you notice about me, it’s only a small portion of who I am. Think of my dwarfism much the same way you would your hair or eye color, weight, emotional disposition or race. These things are but only a piece of the whole of anyone. Perhaps dwarfism, like so many other anomalies of human nature, is one of the ways God reflects the humanity in us all.

Now if you can identify situations in your own life that parallel my experiences with dwarfism — bravo! You, my friend, might be an honorary little person. Your membership card is in the mail.

The Mighty is asking the following: Create a list-style story of your choice in regards to disability, disease or illness. It can be lighthearted and funny or more serious — whatever inspires you. Be sure to include at least one intro paragraph for your list. If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Share Your Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

We Love This Woman’s Duet With Her Brother Who Has Down Syndrome

Leah Kirwan, from Louth, Ireland, has a beautiful voice, but that isn’t the only thing that makes the video below so special. It’s Kirwan’s duet partner, her brother Noah, who really steals the show.

Kirwan sings and plays the guitar while Noah, who has Down syndrome, sings along to the song “Titanium” by David Guetta and Sia.

Thought I’d do a duet with my favorite little man singing his favorite song,” Kirwan wrote on her Facebook page where she posted the video below on August 29. It has since been shared nearly 6,000 times.

Enjoy the adorable performance in the video below:

Thought I’d do a duet with my favourite little man singing his favourite song, Titanium

Real People. Real Stories.

150 Million

We face disability, disease and mental illness together.