When Does Friendly Teasing Turn into Something Else?

Teasing is a playful way for people to connect, as long as all parties involved know the intent. Teasing becomes bullying when one person becomes the aggressor either in hurtful words or physical acts.

Here, I will give a very embarrassing antidote about teasing that went wrong when I was little. One year my dad took me for a haircut, which was usually my mom’s domain. I am not 100% how the events occurred but my father told the man to cut my hair short and I ended up walking out looking like a little boy, super short hair with bangs. Later down the timeline I lost a front tooth which leads me to believe I was probably about 6 or 7. Now, I am quite certain my father was teasing originally when he nicknamed me “Butch the toothless boy” during this time however, he encourage my older brother to also use this term. Even when I cried and wanted them to stop it did not. That was the line, it was teasing until my feelings were hurt, I asked for it to stop and it continued anyhow, that is when it became bullying. Thinking about it 30 years later still makes me sad and anger, so we need to be careful with our words.

Our kids today are easy to escalate to bullying from teasing and as a mother this worries me. My son has a very good friend and they tease each other equally, they playfully smack each other and say weird things I do not understand but they both know it is in good fun. Somewhere along the road however, it escalated. It’s fine now, but there were a couple of days where my son asked him to stop punching him and his friend did not. A conversation with the mom, thankfully we are friends, and it was resolved. Or at least, there’s no more punching, though they are a bit offish to each other at the moment I imagine they will figure it out.

In our current world where people who should be respected but our leaders call each other names we are setting up our kids for the same behavior. I will not sit back and watch the people in my life be bullied, and I now am confident enough so I will not be bullied.

Multiple Sclerosis Anniversary

Exactly 5 years ago today I got my official MS diagnosis. It feels like so much longer but since it can take over a decade for a MS diagnosis I guess that’s why.

MS sucks, it sucks super hard, for me anyway. Every person’s MS shows up with different symptoms and/or severity.

From 2016 through 2017 my brain volume measured the same. From 2017 to 2018 it decreased in volume compared to other women my age with MS by 11%. From 2018 to 2019 it decreased another 16%.

My “norm” went from the 91st percentile in brain volume compared to other woman with MS in my age group to 64th percentile in 3 years.

While the scans show no new lesions it cannot measure my symptoms or disability. My EDSS score has been 4.5 since a study I did for a neurophysical therapist in 2016. The only way it increases is if I go to a wheelchair.

I see posts about people being “warriors” and envy them. I wonder how they can stay so positive and hopeful. What’s the secret? Is their MS not as sucky as mine or am I just weak?

People have asked my opinion about Selma Blair and her bringing light to this disease. At first I was super pissed about it. Good for her, she has money and unlimited resources and probably doesn’t have to worry about working to survive.

The treatment she chose to under go is not something available to those of us with the same disease because insurance only covers it for most as a last resort or not at all.

Here’s what I do know, I can’t move to Europe where stem cells are approved form of treatment. I cannot afford to do it on my own, especially since I only got a 15 month break from some of my symptoms not even all.

I know my boys need a mom, I know that my experience may help one person to feel understood and less alone. I don’t know what the future holds or what it will look like.

I hold some semblance of hope that treatments will get better before it’s too late. Someone out there hold an idea on how to fix our brains, they just may not know it yet.

The Training of MY Service Dog

People always ask me how long it took to train my service dog. Before answering that question I always be sure to let them know that I was NOT the one to train him. Freedom Service Dogs (FSD) did all the hard work to get him ready for me and I am always sure to tell people that first.

Training of a service dog is tricky, how long it takes depends on the dog (their learning ability) and the person (the tasks required). From my understanding, FSD adopted my dog from New Mexico when he was about 8 months old. He was the only dog for one trainer so she worked with him every day, 5 days a week. He then went home with his foster mom on the weekends who reinforced his tasks before going back to work the next Monday.

Training requires consistency, really exciting treats and minimal distraction when learning a new task. Once the task is understood through action and command, distractions can be brought in to ensure commands can be followed under different circumstances.

My service dog came ready with a lot of commands, easy as sit or as complicated as helping me off of the floor. People are most excited when he picks his leash up off the floor and brings it to me, every dog should come with that one it’s very handy.

He practices all of his tasks every few weeks if they are not ones I use daily or frequently to make sure he practices them. He also has to learn one new task a year. This keeps him busy, learning and not bored. The new task he learns can be a useful command or a fun one, as long as it is something new.

I am the one that teaches him the new commands each year so it helps us both, connecting and using our brains. The first year I taught him “kisses” because his foster mom, whom I am now friends with, said he never gave kisses. I started teaching him this by using his “touch” command and touching my cheek so he would touch his nose to my cheek. Sometimes he still only gives kisses with his nose instead of a lick but I respect that, I would not want to be forced to give a kiss every time someone told me to. Once he touched his nose to my cheek I would press the button on the clicker and give him a treat. Once he had that down then I used the command “kisses” while pointing to my cheek and repeating that with the clicker and treats. Eventually the command alone was all that was needed and he knew what to do.

Some tasks are a bit more complicated to teach, for me anyhow. “Scooch” was something we say when we want him to move his butt a little but not actually get up and move his whole body (this is mostly used at bedtime because he sleeps next to me in case I need him). Since I am frequently asked if he can shake that was the task he learned this year. For us it was putting his paw in my palm, saying the command and pressing the clicker, followed by a treat. Eventually we both figured it out. He likes the easy tasks because it’s a quick way to get a treat.

For more complicated things, like some PTSD tasks, we get to work with a trainer at FSD who helps walk us through what it looks like. At the start, she took Oak and was working with him so I could just see, she was less stressed out about the situation then I was so he was able to focus completely on her. Since I live locally to Freedom it makes it really easy for me to get the extra help I need when it. (I am not getting anything from FSD for writing this blog.) I love Freedom Service Dogs, what they do and their ability and desire to help the service dog/client teams to succeed in life. They are amazing and I can never say enough good things about them.