Friday, August 31, 2012

Come Out! The DNC Wants to See You! Part II

The skyline of Charlotte made up of words with "Charlotte in 2012 and four stars underneath the skyline
Charlotte in 2012 logo
Well, if you made it through the last post, congratulations! This time around, I am going to post links and pics to save time and let you click where you want to go!

All Things DNC and Charlotte:

All Thing DNC and Charlotte In Spanish:

Looking for Spanish versions of everything? Ahora, La Página de Web en Español de la Convención Nacional Demócrata 2012 Está Vivo!

A line of smiling Latino women holding signs that read "Latinos for Obama."
They are ready to vote!

Watch It on YouTube

I mentioned apps in the last blog post, but what about You Tube? I am sure hundreds of delegates, visitors and family are putting up videos. Type in "dnc 2012," and you will get a plethora of digital action. Here is the main Channel for Charlotte in 2012:

The Charlotte Stories Series

I would be remiss if I didn't talk about this wonderful collection of docu-shorts; films produced by local videographers, including my dear friend, LaShawnda Becoats of Darling Media Group. Over 30 stories illustrating the strength, vision and innovative spirit of Charlotte, Carolina Stories were aired earlier in the year at local eateries, but now can be seen here:

I'm The Map!

Image of Uptown Charlotte's main DNC area with circular path for protesters
CATS Map of protest rout

Where are you going? When can you get there? Check out these great interactive locators. The second one breaks down what streets are accessible by the day! And, please use public transport!

[Description: Hand holding a cellphone with following words: "We're the bloggers, artists, filmmakers, photographers, and journalists participating in the #DNC2012
Image from PPL website

Online Media and Blogger Space

One of the most eclectic scenes to happen in Charlotte is the PPL. A innovative media space for the rest of us; bloggers, vloggers, artists and other media resources outside the mainstream. The concept is so unique, that I signed up to participate. Will post pics at a later date, but go ahead and check out the video and events planned.
There are the usual concerns on whether Charlotte is ready for this influx of people, traffic and attention. From what I have seen and researched, as well as the amount of information available to the public, I believe Charlotte has prepared the best they can. If you or someone you know as a person with a disability has any issue, please let me know, but don't stay home. Come on out. Celebrate a historic moment in Charlotte's cultural history! And, if you intend to be in town, let me know!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Come Out! The DNC Wants to See You! Part I

[Description: Words reading "The Democratic National Convention chose us. And you should too!"]
Unless you have been under a rock, you know the DNC (Democratic National Convention) will convene in Charlotte, NC. While the RNC (Republican National Convention) started with a little concern over Hurricane Isaac's approach near the Gulf region, the opening speeches went well with much respect being given to Ann Romney. The RNC runs through August 30th. I wish I could have traveled to this as I would love to be able to compare notes and observations as well as hear the many speakers.

I do not use F4A as a political platform, but as an advocacy and awareness arena. In that arena, I cover disability issues along with my love affair with food, eateries, restaurants and local culture. So, with that said, there is no way I could allow the DNC, an event of humongous magnitude for the local area, to come so close to home (Yay! I don't have to travel!) and not be a part of it! I will try to cover some of the major items here, but this is so much going on that it would take several blog posts to cover it all in depth.

First up, there were volunteer opportunities for voter registration. I attended one in my community near Home Healthy Market on Independence Boulevard, HHM is a homegrown health food store with staff who are always friendly and accommodating. There has never been a time that someone has not been willing to help me with anything I need. I will be on hand for another registration drive during CarolinaFest (more about this in the next paragraph). There were also volunteer activities centered around meeting the neighbors-going door-to-door, calling from phone banks and personal homes, and filling goodie bags for the delegates.

Logo for CarolinaFest 20102 [Description: A ray of stars at the top of a flame of a flag with the words CarolinaFest - An American Celebration 2012 underneath]
An event of large magnitude during the DNC will be CarolinaFest. Get ready to party like Charlotte loves to party with guest stars like Jeff Bridges, James Taylor and Janelle Monae! Janelle is one cool, eclectic singer who I know would fit in perfectly in Noda or Plaza Midwood, while I can't wait to hear Jeff Bridges strum that guitar. Check here for a list of entertainers and here for security, if you are traveling into town. I will be there most of the day. And, for an ever-expanding list of event near the DNC and around town, click here. But, be prepared. This list is almost overwhelming in scope, diversity and interest. There is everything from Nuns on the Bus, a discussion from Catholic Sisters about budget cuts to DNC etiquette classes, brought to you by a very dear colleague, LaShaune Tisdale, owner of The Academy of Etiquette and Charm.

Don't forget to look in at Legacy Village, a representation of Mayor Foxx's Legacy Project that hopes to leave a lasting impression in many ways after the DNC has left town. The Village involves our youth and many local organizations and agencies, so take a tour to see what people are doing here in Charlotte, always with an eye on the future of this booming town.

Convention Center [Description: Outside image of the Convention Center with fountains out front]
Determined to see how the DNC included the community of pwds (persons/people with disabilities), I signed up to be an ADA escort for the Convention Center on September 5th and 6th. An ADA escort is a person whose primary goal is to make anyone dealing with a disabling condition feel at home, respected and excited to be at the Convention. Now, that is not the official definition. It's mine, and I have every intention to make it happen! I am also touring the podium and stadium on August 31st in order to see how everyone will arrive at the Stadium and where pwds will be seated. This will be a first public viewing and is on a first-come, first-serve basis. Will post a follow up over the weekend, but with Becky Ogle on-board as Senior Advisor on Disability and Access, I look forward to more thought being given to accessibility in this convention than any convention before it in history.

DNC2012 Android app screen shot
Also, even though I have posted these links on the Foodie4Access Facebook page, here are links for the official DNC iPad and Android app. There will be various Caucuses and Councils meeting during the DNC. If you want to attend any of these, you will need to sign up and receive ticket acknowledgment. Hope to meet several of the online participants in the People with Disabilities for Obama site when I attend the September 5th Disability Caucus. I will do my best to get personal stories for you.

The New York Times paid homage to our food scene with a great article, though our local paper, the Charlotte Observer, covered the mobile food attractions coming to uptown. In addition, pay especially close attention to the restaurants listed in the Experience and See Charlotte menu tab on the apps, as they give greater detail of our diverse palette of culinary offerings beyond what the news articles could cover.

Wow! I am going to have to do a Part II of this blog post, because I still want to talk about the Charlotte Stories videos, the many bloggers and new media sources, who have their own media/press space uptown right in the zone, and of course, the before-, during-, and after-parties!

Stay tuned for some more news. And, if you are coming to Charlotte as a delegate, a visitor or just a curious Democrat, let me welcome you to our town! Please let me know if you will be here!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

You Cooked Dinner For Us - Time For You To Get Your Own Place

I know the title is a little silly, but it was the first thing that popped into my mind. Bear with me.

My son has autism, specifically, he is now considered to have Asperger's, which is on the higher functioning end of the spectrum. In the past 20 years of his life, I've seen him change and mature by leaps and bounds. He is in college and also part of a advocacy training program called Partners in Policymaking. For that, he travels (with me) to Raleigh once a month for intense training on how to advocate for change in his community. He doesn't see himself as an advocate nor does he see how  getting on a train and checking into a hotel are major milestones, even though they would have been completely unthinkable a few years ago. But, they are milestone and he is an advocate, albeit a quiet one.

A few nights ago, he walked up to my Honey and I late one afternoon, and with his usual calm aplomb, announced he was cooking dinner for the family. Both of us were shocked into silence, but I quickly recovered, and told him we would look forward to his creation, while internally, my mind filled with emotion, memories and joy.

Other mothers who are raising children with autism will understand. When our children make that milestone that looked like it would never come, it is a momentous occasion. We don't get the chance to shrug off these kinds of events. We learn to celebrate EVERYTHING that leads toward independence and self-reliance.

We waited while warm smells of grilled veggies and meats began to fill the air. He informed us that he was making a pizza from his latest favorite book, American Pie: My Search for the Perfect Pizza by Chef  Peter Rhinehart, a renowned local chef here in Charlotte. He told us he was trying a Mediterranean-style pizza dough and would improvise on toppings, using what we had in the fridge.

Again, Moms with children with autism, smile with me! Improvisation, adaptation, CHANGE! These are words that we usually do not hear associated with the behavior of our children.

So, what does this have to do with the title of this blog? EVERYTHING!

My son at 20 is as far along as I can take him. He still doesn't make friends easily, but has a few online and as well as one or two from his college classes. During dinner, he began to talk about internships with local animation/digital graphics companies, and maybe one day having his own studio. He asked  how to hire voice actors as he is now coordinating sound into his animated shorts instead of captions, a style he preferred in the beginning of his artistic journey. Again, improvisation, adaptation, change.

An example of a Mediterranean style pizza [Description: Round pizza loaded with mushrooms, artichokes, feta cheese, tomatoes on a thick sauce]
Half-way through what turned out to be a very filling culinary journey into the Mediterranean, complete with snippets discussed from the cookbook, I realized that this could have been a dinner thrown at his own place where we were invited over. The thought was chilling and exhilarating at the same time. Could my son live on his own?

I know some of you may say, Judi, one dinner doesn't prove he could pay bills, manage his money, cook, clean and go to school simultaneously without help. Well, when I moved out, my parents didn't think I could do that either! They were sure I would be back in less than six months. And, then it hit me.

I was in the same position my parents and thousands of other parents were when their child has grown up and is about to leave the nest. I felt the same rush of emotions they felt. As thousands of children young adults go off to college dorms this month, I realized my son was there; so close to doing that independent leap.

He noticed my silence and wondered if I liked the pizza. I assured him I loved it. I told him, I was sure he could have done the same thing in his own place. He paused, considered the idea, and said in his quiet, stoic style, "Yep, I could." With that, he rose from the table and began to clear the dishes away.

We are here, folks. We are at the point of apartment searches, dealing with neighborhoods and working with waiting lists. A pizza dinner started the conversation and planning for my son to have an apartment on his own.

I cannot say that every parent will reach this milestone with their child. Autism and Asperger's are not the same for everyone. It still may take us some years as we work through waiting lists and funding. But, again, my son has reached a point that no one thought to discuss even five years ago. And, with that one pizza dinner, adult life begins for him...and us.