About Me

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i'm Kassandra an oregon girl at heart. recent college graduate. heading off to law school in summer of 2014. my parents are both u.s. army veterans and continue to serve in the military in other capacities. i have four brothers (two older, two younger) and three sisters (all younger). i love each of them for both their individuality and their commitment to the example set by our parents. aside from my family, i have several friends who mean a great deal to me, one as much as my best friend from high school. she's my kindred spirit and i would do anything for her. i would also do anything for Julie, my roommate for three of my four years of college and my best friend; she's amazing and it's wonderful to have shared this experience with her. i'm extremely strong in academics and tend to think of things in analytical terms. i'm open and honest. note: i'm interested in receiving feedback on this blog, but i request that the comments pertain to the actual blog itself, and i do not approve anonymous comments.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Aubrey

i am a registered student tutor with the state of oregon. this basically means that i've taken a course and completed testing to be approved as a tutor for students younger than me on a free-lance basis. this allows me to charge for my service and treat the sessions with my "tootees" (coined by one of them) as a job. i don't consider it work. through this, i've seen and been exposed to a lot of different types of kids and, in some instances, the challenges and learning disabilities with which they deal.

this is something of which i generally don't speak. these are private sessions where trust and anonymity is key to moving forward and helping these kids.

***

she has a smile of gold which shines through her long lightly browned hair. she's all of about 4'4" tall. she is kind, considerate, wondrous, curious and all the other things one would hope a nine year old would be.

what she wants most in the world is to be like every other girl her age. However, she doesn't feel as though she is.

her relatives make fun of her. her friends (if you can call them that) call her names like ‘stupid,’ ‘moron,' 'dummy’ and others.

those descriptions have absolutely nothing in common with the girl I met just a week ago, my cousin Aubrey.

ever the optimist, she volunteered to accompany my grandfather when I arrived at the airport in albuquerque for my visit there. i've since learned that she wanted to meet me, a cousin she'd only heard about and talked to a couple of times on the phone, yet never met in person.

for a week, we were like sisters. she told me all about her home state and listed intently as i spoke of mine. though we live about 1,300 miles from one another, we share a great pride in our homes.

she was there when we visited four corners, the intersection of Utah, Colorado, new mexico and Arizona (although, she insists that new mexico should be listed first!). i bought us matching necklaces there and she declared that i no longer had just three sisters; i now have four!

***

Aubrey struggles in school. she and her father swear she works her butt off but every time she thinks she has the right answer, it turns out to be wrong. backwards. she calls her homework "all inside out."

knowing that my mother had home schooled the majority of her children, Aubrey's father contacted her at the end of school with the dilemma of Aubrey's scholastic difficulties. my mom suggested a few things, and promised to get back to him with more.

my mom asked me for my opinion. i suggested Aubrey do some testing through the state, and that could hold some answers. on the phone with she and her dad on phone extensions in new mexico, and my mom and i on phone extensions on oregon, Aubrey said she liked the idea of getting answers, but going to the state to be tested was scary for her. she all but refused to do it. her father didn't pressure her (and for that moment, i agree with him).

i had yet to meet her at that point, but as we were all paused on the phone that june day, i came up with an idea.

"Aubrey, i need you to listen to me and let me finish before you respond, okay?"

"yes, cousin Kassandra," she said.

"well, you may know that i'm going to be in albuquerque in a month and a half. if i promise to go with you to testing, and be there, will you promise to go and be tested? i'll wait for you there and we can talk about any part of it you want to beforehand or afterward. all we have to do is schedule it for when i'm going to be there. would that be all right?"

"if you come with me, i promise to go," she said after a long pause.

***

i arrived in albuquerque on a thursday afternoon. that's the moment I met Aubrey. she offered to be my tour guide, which encompassed informing me about her home state. we got a chance to sit down alone together friday morning and i asked her to read part of the newspaper out loud. sound it out, i told her when she came to a pause. i then asked her to perform a few exercises based on what she had read. After about two hours, i told her to relax. her testing was scheduled for monday (august 2).

based on what i'd seen friday morning, i had a hunch. through tutoring, i had seen something very similar to this.

the weekend was recreational. we had the trip to four corners, we walked along the rio grande river, and we had lunch. other than our friendship, it was all about "doing lunch!"

the state tests came on Monday morning (they allowed her to hold the necklace that her cousin bought her, just for luck).

"it was easy," she claimed, rather triumphantly. then added "cousin Kassandra, it was just like what we did the other day." i simply smiled. my hunch had just grown into a full-blown-gut instinct!

***

the following day was my last full day on the albuquerque portion of my vacation. it was also the day we received an expedited analysis of Aubrey's testing. my gut turned out to be correct.

Aubrey is dyslexic.

i know, that's not necessarily something to be excited about. but I think it's cause for optimism. there are several programs where people can learn to re-train their brains into perceiving information more effectively. as i told Aubrey, a lot of people have learned to deal with dyslexia and beat it. an actor, a professional football coach, ceo's of companies. the important thing is to determine what was causing the difficulty.

i think she's encouraged.

as she did nearly a week before, she came to the airport to see me off this morning. we were all smiles until we got to the gate.

i tried to convey how special the visit was and how wonderful she made it. then, she blew me away.

"cousin Kassandra, i knew you'd help me. grandma told me so. i don't care how much those instructors help me, you'll always be my best tutor.

i spoke nothing, as i am very poor at talking through my tears.

the hug seemed to last forever, then i was on my plane, smiling because i knew Aubrey was not any of those things she had been called.

in fact, i am confident those names and that ridicule are soon to be a thing of the past.

and i can't wait to see Aubrey again!

~ Kassandra

12 comments:

  1. Wow Kassandra. This story absolutely blew me away. I was not expecting something of this caliber but I am truly inspired. I think you are a wonderful person for all you did. Aubrey is lucky to have a cousin like you who believes in her and can connect with her on levels no one else can. I love how she calls you cousin Kassandra lol. So cute. You make me want to meet her and just give her a big hug. Great job lil' miss tutor :) Now enjoy Nebraska!

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  2. thanks, Ryan. her dificulties had nothing to do with effort, or a lack thereof. she was working hard, but just not getting there. to me, it was obvious that it had something to do with dyslexia or another condition. i'm actually glad that it was something like that because it's easy to get help for it. the thing that really struck me is that my other cousins down there were so mean to her. she's such a sweetheart; it really made me angry. i told her i thought it was cute that she called me that. her reasoning makes perfect sense. she says that since she calls my mom 'aunt Jennifer,' that she should call me 'cousin Kassandra!' i'm here in nebraska (got in early this morning) and it's really cool so far. i might have a chance to go to des moines, iowa to see my cousin this week! more states!

    ~ Kassandra

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  3. More states and more cousins lol. That's exciting though. This trip is just what you need before heading off to college. I wish I could have taken a trip like that. Ya I bet she is just a little angel. For sure it's a blessing that it's something like this that she can get help for. As you stated before, a lot of people struggle with this but that doesn't mean they can't overcome it.

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  4. we hit four states on the first part of this trip, and it looks like we might hit four more in this area. add hawaii and my quick visit to california (at stanford) to that after this, as well as going across the border into washington and that's 11 states in one summer (12 if you include my home state of oregon, and you've got 12)! i'm quite well traveled! everyone is going to keep me up to date on Aubrey's progress. one neat thing about it is one our cousins, Trevor, is 16 and the oldest of the cousins in that area. we were talking and he doesn't like how the others treat her either, so he's going to try and put forth a little extra effort there. hopefully the younger ones learn from his example.

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  5. 12 states! dang girl lol. That's so awesome though. Well I hope he can change the other's attitudes. When someone has a learning disability like that, they need all the support they can get. Good job Kass :)

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  6. well yeah, there's oregon, washington, hawaii, california, new mexico, arizona, colorado, utah and nebraska so far, hen we're taking a major road trip over the next couple of days down into kansas, over to missouri and up to iowa. now, get his, from there we might go and hit the tips of minnesota and south dakota before coming back down to nebraska, just outside of lincoln. that would actually make 14 states for the summer. it's madness! oh, and i'm keeping little samples of dirt from each state! lol

    ~ Kassandra

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  7. you are? lol. that's hilarious and kinda random. but i'm very random and i think that's a cool little collection to start. missouri?? that's where i'm at. but you won't make it down south where i am probably. too bad. that would have been cool

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  8. i wanted to have something consistent from each state, so i'm going to buy little prescription-sized jars for them, label them and put them somewhere (not sure where yet). ironically, the only two i don't have are oregon and washington! we're probably just going through the northern part of missouri. we're taking a couple of days (starting tomorrow) and we might even go across the state to the mississippi river (maybe we can take a quick trip across it to illinois! lol). from there we're going to my cousin, Stacy's, in des moines.

    ~ Kassandra

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  9. dang you never stop do ya? but that's sweet. keeping yourself busy is good. ya you should probably get some dirt from the state you live in! lol.

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  10. i generally am busy all the time, and prefer it that way. the truth is, i don't know how long it will be before i'm able to come here again, so i want to make the most of it. we're leaving early tomorrow morning, heading south into kansas, and going from there. i think i'll write another blog entry before then!

    ~ Kassandra

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  11. Kassandra:

    I haven't been to your sight for quite some time.

    A very wonderful story about Audrey.

    You are truly a wonderful person and a neat friend.

    I will never tease you about being a little person again as I can see you have a heart as big as the world and could never be a short person. I feel that I may have hurt you by my teasing, but it was all in fun.If I hurt you in any way I do deeply apologize. Besides that I find petite women very sexy.

    I am off soon for my surgery, Take care and I will talk to you after it is over

    Hg

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  12. Harold, i've never taken offense at any of that. i know i'm short, but there is a lot more to me that most people understand. it's not a big deal to me. i hope your surgery goes well and you're back posting with us real soon.

    ~ Kassandra

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