The FIRST thought that crossed my mind when my alarm went off at 4:00am was, “ohmygosh, I’m awake before Starbucks opens.”
My morning was going to be busy and full, but incredible!! Driving down from Los Angeles to San Diego, I was excited for a breakfast date with Julie Payne-Neward, my co-founder with the California Sibling Leadership Network, and two other researchers in the field of ID/DD and Sibs: Zack Rossetti of Boston University and Sarah Hall of Ashland University. I didn’t even know how we’d come across the opportunity exactly, but the Council for Exceptional Children was taking place at the San Diego Convention Center the weekend of April 11th, Zack and Sarah had contacted Julie (and she’d contacted me!) at some point, some months ago, and they’d asked if we were interested in presenting! Oh boy, were we ever!!
Earlier than I remember ever getting ready in recent memory, I styled my hair, topped off my thermos with a (caffeinated) tea latte, dolled myself up, and hit the road at . . . 4:58am (it was all worth it!). Google Maps gave an ETA of 6:55am from LA to the SD Convention Center. I drove off into the darkness, anticipating the sunrise I’d watch over the 5 freeway in the coming hour.
Breakfast at the Broken Yolk Cafe was pleasant and fun! Zack and Sarah were warm and welcoming and funny. Julie had brought along her roommate from grad school, Anna, who was reserved but extremely sweet and genuine. We talked about our Siblings, laughed about weather patterns and our California sensitivities to them, we “oohed” and “aahed” over Zack and Julie’s pictures of their firstborns, and walked from the cafe to the Convention Center once our breakfast was done. (Shameless plug for the Broken Yolk–my Eggs Benedict were DELICIOUS!)
We found the presentation room (33C) and set up our chairs on the other side of the table for a more intimate ambiance. Once we got going, I felt like we were simply telling stories to old friends—the vignettes rolled off our tongues, and instead of simply answering questions, we seemed to be sharing understanding. The actual audience was small but intimate, and I was glad to see that the people who stayed and asked questions were REALLY interested in what we had to say. They all had personal ties to Siblings, people with ID/DD, and how to involve Siblings in the processes of Sibling care. I felt privileged to hear Sarah’s and Zack’s stories, and though Julie and I had already shared much of our histories, I was happy to hear fresh perspectives on her attempt to balance her many roles as mom, wife, daughter, and sister.
When the presentation was over, I felt like I’d gained two more friends in Zack and Sarah. Even more possibilities opened up for CASLN, as a licensed psychologist came up to invite Julie and me to an international conference in Santa Rosa next year! Zack gave us a sweet ‘thank you’ letter with his business card, asking us to stay in touch and promising to stay in contact so our respective organizations can further support and empower each other. Sarah and I seemed to have been fashioned from the same “over-achiever” cloth, having grown up with an extra motivation to overcompensate for what our Siblings couldn’t naturally do on their own. Sure, I had woken up at 4 o’clock that morning, and had spent about half the morning driving, and had about three more hours of driving ahead of me, but I would do it all over again. Maybe not this week, but definitely again!