Autism · Cricut · life

Why Kindness *Still* Matters

Let’s face it, it’s been a pretty rough year for a lot of people. The news alone can cause even the most optimistic person reason to lose hope. And, unfortunately, all the online back biting and label throwing has truly interfered with daily life. It’s made me pretty grumpy a few more times than I’d care to admit, which has forced me to think about the true nature of people.

However, recently I’ve had a few experiences that have reassured me that kindness–once very commonplace in workaday life–still exists and, more importantly, still matters to us all.

Yesterday I went to see my old friend and amazing chiropractor, Dr. Scott Kline, from Back on Track Chiropractic. My neck and lower back have been zapping me of energy for a while now and regular visits to his clinic really have been helping me get around much easier.

Dr. Kline’s office is fairly open and you often interact with other patients during your visit. When my son MO and I arrived, we couldn’t help but notice the extra large flatbed truck in the parking lot and said “hello” to the truck owner when we got inside. A few minutes later, Dr. K asked me–sort of out of the blue–if I had ever taught at one of the local schools and I replied that I had been a “para” at the high school a while back, but for a short time.

Well, wouldn’t you know it, the truck driving young man was a former student of mine–with a very good memory–and came over to chat with me. I was SO happy to hear my help with Algebra actually helped him in his daily life and that he had remembered me for the kindness I showed him in the special ed classroom. I was even happier to know that a once somewhat troubled kid had built a wonderful life, complete with a talented and darling fiancé, in spite of some educational setbacks.

It was a true “A HA!” moment for me, helping me to understand that even the smallest actions can have a big impact on someone else.

After the young couple left, Dr. Kline–being the terrific guy he is–took some time to interact with MO, telling him a few jokes and asking him questions. This is his usually modus operandi (M.O.!) so I just listened to the conversation. But then I was nearly floored when Dr. K surprised MO with a wonderful gift of an inversion table!

Now…Dr. K said the gift was because I had been so helpful to Debbie with her new Cricut Maker, but I knew better. Dr. Kline is just a REALLY nice guy! He has a heart of gold and he knows MO struggles a bit without having good male role models around. This unexpected gift was an investment in my son. A “kindness seed” if you will.

Needless to say, MO and I were both tickled PINK at his gift! But beyond that, I truly felt the love of another person reaching out to a young boy–who has had his share of troubles–for no other reason but to sow a seed of kindness that will hopefully grow and bear fruit in the future.

As MO and I sat in the car–inversion table carefully stowed between us–we marveled at the extraordinary gift we had just received. MO exclaimed with great enthusiasm “I am SO HAPPY!”

And the beautiful thing was, I know he was. I really know he was!

And so I see–from a chance encounter with a former student and an unexpected gift from a good doctor–how kindness can and does matter. In spite of all the chaos in the world…in spite of the anger and vitriol coming across from everywhere…kindness can make a huge difference in our lives and the lives of others.

I’ve got a renewed interest in spreading love and care to my little corner of the world, and I hope–after reading this–you might feel the same. Won’t you join me in this important and life changing crusade? Won’t you reaffirm your pledge that “Kindness Matters” in your life and the lives of others?

And, one last note, if you are local to me (North Shore area of Boston) and need a little help with some back, hip, neck or knee pain, please consider making an appointment with my friend, Dr. Scott Kline at Back on Track Chiropractic in Peabody.

While I can’t promise gifts, I can tell you you will receive the most caring treatment around!

Autism · life

Election Day with My Au-some Kid, MO

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Lordy be!  This child of mine is just too precious for words!

From the moment he awakes–often by jumping out of bed–to when he falls asleep, MO is in motion.  And talking.  Moving and talking.  All day, every day.  He’s got only one setting–ON!

Yesterday–being Election Day–MO had no school. He decided to come with me to vote and do errands.

We vote at a church that is located across from my dear Auntie Anna and Uncle Sal’s old house.  The neighborhood has changed a lot and I start to reminisce with MO. “Do they live there now?” he asks, to which I reply no.  He’s not interested.  He laughs and says he “doesn’t need a history lesson”.

When we go inside, nearly everyone knows us from his days in public school, so he delights them by talking about his new school and then turns their attention to the pocket on his too-small shirt. He says he wears the small shirt because it has a pocket and he thinks pockets on shirts are “the wave of the future”!  He also states he prefers his new school, because “lunch is free there–not like in public school–and they serve breakfast, too!”

Finished voting, we set out for the electric company down the street.  Along the way he says he’d like to “visit that place where we got the RECYCLE stickers” (meaning our City Hall) and asks if we “know” the mayor.  I say, yes, we know him.  His name is “Teddy” just like our dog.  He asks me why I don’t run for mayor, because he thinks he would like it if I were mayor.  (Watch out, Ted!)   He likes the idea, because he thinks he would then “know everyone in the city” and wouldn’t that be great!  Plus it would “give me something to do during the day”…because, you know, I simply do not have enough to do!  As he is pitching the mayoral job to me, he exclaims: “Imagine all the paperwork you’d have to do!” as if that were a super big draw for me deciding to run for office.

Arriving at the light plant, he spies a rocky wall and a few trees and asks if he can climb outside instead of going in. I agree. When I am finished, I don’t see him. But he quickly responded from behind a tree when I call him. He says he needs hiking boots (he does) to climb the terrain next time.  He tries to decide when the “next time” will be.  He thinks maybe Saturday, that is if I can get his new boots by then.

Off we go to the post office, where he climbs one of trees there.  We go inside and he finds a pen, which he puts in his trusty shirt pocket, delighted in his “prize”.

He notices how many Snoopy cards they have on display.  I tell him I love the Peanuts and he replies with great animation: “I know! Believe me, I know!”   He then decides to re-enact the scene when Lucy gets kissed by Snoopy and has a good laugh as he exclaims: “Get the iodine! Get the disinfectant!”

When it’s our turn, I ask for bird stamps and he inquires if they are sticky backed. He says they must be sticky backed because “he doesn’t want them to fly away”.  He waits for the postmistress to get his little joke, but she is all business today.  Oh, well.

Leaving the post office, he climbs the tree again and points out another one he thinks he could climb.  He thinks he could break off one of the limbs if he “weighed 200 pounds or so” and then we get back in the car and head for the mall.  Along the way, he asks if we can have sushi and perhaps look for a new jacket, because it’s getting cold out.  He is, after all, wearing his beloved but too small short-sleeved shirt!

At Old Navy, he picks out a vest and tries to convince me he can wear a small.  We settle for a large one in camouflage green with fluorescent orange trim.  Seconds later he found a buffalo check hunting hat–complete with faux fur ear flaps–and refuses to take it off.  I guess we are adding it to the list.  We also find red slipper socks and women’s pajama bottoms with Christmas sweater wearing dogs all over them.  One is a corgi, so we HAD to get them.  He casually says I can hem them.  At the check out he also gets a pack of Pop Rocks–red–he prefers blue. Could I try to find him blue ones tomorrow?

At the sushi restaurant, he waits very impatiently for his order.  Apparently it isn’t a good thing that they make his food “to order”, because it is taking way too long to be prepared.  He gobbles the four pieces of ebi nigiri (🍣 sticky rice with a butterflied cooked shrimp on top) and wants more.  I ask him how much more and he asks for eight more.  Eight more pieces?  So, four orders?  “No” I say “that’s too much” so he settles for 2 more orders, which is 4 pieces.  He wonders why the sushi chef gives him the pickled ginger (Ick!) and carefully removes the ball of wasabi paste and places it on my plate.

After gobbling down EIGHT pieces of ebi nigiri 🍣  he says he is full and we are headed home.  On the ride home, he decides he wants more sushi. “Can we go again? Maybe not tonight, but soon?  Maybe tomorrow? Okay, how about Friday?”

When we get home, he wants to try out his new stuff.  He decides the buffalo-checked and faux fur-lined hunting cap goes perfectly with his camouflage and orange vest.  He adds a different short sleeve shirt, which also has a pocket because “wave of the future” and all.  For good measure, he dons the new slipper socks and pajama bottoms–“too long, so can you hem them now?”–and decides this will be his ensemble for tomorrow.

It’s only six o’clock the night before he plans on wearing them to school.  With the hat, vest, pj’s, slipper socks and snow boots, he becomes hot.  I suggest he put something else on until tomorrow, but he decides he’d rather turn on the air conditioner.  All dressed up in his new attire, he hunts for his “dog tags” and then proceeds to tell me all about the history of dog tags, in case I didn’t know.

Eventually I convince him to peel off the new clothes and get ready for bed.  Bedtime is the hour or so before he actually falls asleep when he repeatedly turns on all the lights in every room and I follow him around and turn them all off.  It doesn’t matter how many times I tell him to turn off the lights, he still leaves them on and I still follow him around and shut them off.  This happens every night at least three times before he is ready for bed.

After he wrestles with Ted E. Bear on the bed–with socks on his hands to protect them from random nips–he finally (finally!!) just <boom> closes his eyes and is asleep.  Like I said before–there is no speed adjustment switch.  There is only OFF and ON.  You get one or the other.  Believe me, I’ve checked!

Are you tired?  I know I am and I haven’t even included all the things I did around him!  I wonder what other people do with twelve year old, autistic boys on their days off.  But I also think about how boring my life would be without him. He sure is colorful!

I thank the Lord for such an energetic child and think about “all that paperwork!” I might be trying to do as the elected mayor.  I’m happy to let Ted take care of it for a few more years!

Autism · Cricut

It’s a beautiful day for Cricut-ing

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Get 10% off your Cricut order using code CRAZY10 and this link

These days, I often stumble when someone asks me the standard question: “So, what do you do?”

Not that it was always easy.

Before I dropped out of the rat race to raise Master Owen, I worked in e-commerce…as in “buying stuff on the internet”.  In those days, e-commerce was scary and new and many people firmly believed it “wouldn’t catch on”.

Remember this is back in the day when the only ones making money online were XXX rated and old fashioned marketers were trying to figure out how to make it work for them.

I’m not trying to sound OLD, but this was back when Amazon only sold books.  It was when Netflix sent DVDs in the mail. My fellow colleagues and I had graduated from AOL and we thought we were all that because we understood what all the acronyms (url, http, ftp) and new terminology (streaming, buffering) meant.

Nobody “tweeted” because neither Twitter nor Instagram existed. Facebook was the catalog your college gave out to help you meet people. No one was pinning, except to their at-home cork boards and we didn’t text all that much because you had to use a phone keypad to do it.  Oh!  And blogs were called by their full name, weblogs, and they were mostly reserved for computer geeks.

I wouldn’t be lying telling you I completely enjoyed being a pioneer in the Internet Revolution and that I missed it sometimes…okay I missed it a lot!.  I thrived on the action. But, as most everyone knows, some things are worth changing direction for, and raising MO was definitely one of them.

Still….well, let me be blunt, the life of a Stay At Home Mom can be tediously, brain-numbingly boring.  Couple that with the stress of raising an autistic child alone and, well, to be truthful I could hardly believe how much my life had changed…as in “tanked”.  It’s difficult to be creative about doing dishes or laundry, and I longed for a creative outlet.

And then–as if by Divine intervention or some magical force of the universe–I happen upon a Cricut.  I am NOT exaggerating here.  I was in a craft store and looked up and saw this machine and thought to myself: “Hey! That’s kinda cool looking! I think I’ll try it!”

That was in October 2012.

Three and a half years and several machine upgrades later, I realize that a machine–in particular, a machine that can be somewhat difficult to describe to folks–gave me back that feeling of being a pioneer again!  Suddenly I could be creative again.  I was productive. I became somewhat obsessed with my Cricut.

I suppose you could call me a Cricut Fanatic, but I think it’s a little more than that.  I have been creatively “reborn” and I’m on a quest to tell everyone about it.  I am a Cricut Evangelist and I’m proud to say: “Today is a BEAUTIFUL day for Cricut-ing!”

Can I hear an “Amen”?  That’s a little attempt at humor…but, I’m curious, have I got your attention yet?  Do you want to find out what Cricut-ing is all about?  Or perhaps you’d like to renew your interest your interest in cutting edge crafting.  Well, here’s your sign!

Cricut is currently offering free Fed-Ex shipping and 10% off orders (using code CRAZY10) for a limited time.  Why not click this link and use code CRAZY10 to save 10% off your order!

I think Cricut will make a believer out of you, too!

 

Please note: As a Cricut affiliate, I may be compensated if purchases are made through links from this post.

 

Autism

The Big Reveal, Part 1

I’m sort of “new-ish” to blogging.

I say “new-ish”, because I used to have a blog when I ran my own business, but I’m finding out the Blogging World changed quite a bit when I was “on sabbatical”.  It seems everyone is about “monetizing” their blog; in other words, making money from their writing…turning it into a “cash cow”.  This has set me back some as I try to establish what I want to achieve here.

Please don’t get me wrong!  I am all about loving your work and making your passions be your career, but I didn’t re-start my blog to make money.  I started this blog to talk to everyone, or no one, or just myself about what brought me to this particular place in life.

So–in case you missed it–here is “my story” up until now in a nutshell:

Successful woman in her 30’s wakes up one day and finds out she can no longer live the life she created as an executive in a local company.  One day, when her new boss–who seems hellbent on destroying her– pushes her a little too hard, she cracks.  Into a million pieces.  She just couldn’t  “pull it together” anymore.  And, strangely enough, she doesn’t want to.  She has a weird life changing experience that affirms she can no longer continue faking everything.  And, to make things interesting, a few weeks later she finds out she is pregnant with her first child.  

She spends her pregnancy trying to figure out what went wrong and coming to the realization that her dysfunctional husband has become severely addicted to several substances and has no interest in changing himself.  After several scary episodes with her druggy husband, she realizes she must toss him out to save herself and her infant son.  Of course, the husband does not go willingly or without causing some major financial and emotional troubles.  

The woman spends nearly ten years of extreme lows (and a few highs) trying to reinvent her life, because she can’t go back to the old life.  By the age of 2, her son is diagnosed with autism.  So now she has to figure out how to take care of her autistic son, how to survive on her own, and how to figure out why this happened to her.  Along the way, she finds out she, herself, has been living with Asperger’s all her life, which only adds to the “hot mess” that her life has become.

Seriously…how do you “monetize” that?  How do I even blog about it?  I literally lived 80% of my life not knowing what autism was, and now I’m finding myself looking backwards and forwards at once; examining my past through this lens called Asperger’s so that I can figure out how to make my son’s future better than I had it.

When you spend almost 40 years not knowing you have a disorder, it can be a weird experience when you suddenly find out that you now have a reason WHY you do or say things.  Yes, I know, the horrific stuff should have been a clue…a BIG clue…a recurring clue.  But, most of the time, I just didn’t understand what I did to mess something up. To keep my sanity, I told myself I was good at some things and bad at other things, just like everyone else; I never claimed perfection.  Sure, I had some pretty remarkable gifts, but they got balanced out by my inability to relate to people.

How did I make it through college?

How did I land an awesome job, travel, develop some amazing talents and hobbies?

How did I survive all those horrific relationships and experiences?

-To Be Continued-

Autism

“Everything’s Broken”

This morning, as we were waiting for the school bus, Master Owen (MO) was looking sullen.  He does not like school, so this was not an unusual look for him at that hour, but it “felt” different to me.  Flipping through some conversation ideas, I started asking him questions about his upcoming birthday.  He is turning 10–double digits!–next week and I’ve been trying to come up with a plan for celebrating, which has been difficult due to his dislike of typical birthday celebrations (more on that another time).

Head hanging low, he barely replied to my question.  Something, indeed, was bothering him, so I tried to look busy while he figured out what he wanted to say.  I’m glad I did.  Eventually MO said: “I hate my life”.  Instead of negating his feelings, I inquired about why he felt this way.  His response: “Everything’s broken.”

Why–you might ask–would I be happy to hear him say this?  For one, because MO is autistic, he usually has difficulty putting his feelings into words, but not this morning.  In addition, because I am an Aspie, I knew exactly what he was feeling and it is something I have struggled with all my life: change.

Well before I was diagnosed with Asperger’s, I recognized how much I disliked change.  I have always desired sameness in my life and any changes that took place set me back tremendously; some changes–even things that have taken place years ago–I still cannot accept.

Yes, I know, change is life, change is growth.  But there has always been something in my brain that wants to keep everything static.  I secretly desire to live in one of those Twilight Zone episodes, where the main character goes about their life exactly the same way every day.  I want to live in a little miniature train set town.  I want to know everything is where I left it.  I don’t want anyone to die or move away or become something other than the role that they have established in my life–teacher, parent, friend, lover.

If something changes, I perceive it as broken.  I want it to be “fixed” and I simply cannot accept it.  I obsess over the change and remind people of how it “used to be”.  It’s never the same.  Sameness is important to me, which is why I completely understand MO’s thought pattern:  life is full of broken things that we cannot put back together.

The Hilltop Steak House–where I once celebrated my marriage–has been leveled and I will never again see the cement cows grazing on the front lawn.  Drugs and alcohol have forever changed MO’s dad from the father he once perceived him to be.  No matter how hard we wish for it, neither MO or I will ever be able to bring my father or our beautiful, loving dog, the Queen Bea, back to us.  These things are broken and unfixable and, yes, it is depressing.  Seriously…how do “normal” people adjust?

In a tiny way I’m happy, because I now have someone who feels the same as I do. (LOL…feels “the same”!)   Change stinks.  It’s awful.  It creates in us such extreme anxiety for what once was.  Yes, change is going to happen, but I don’t have to accept it.

I’m sure there’s some lesson in all this….I’m just not sure what it is.  Until I find out, I will continue on with my anxiety…only now I have someone who completely understands how I’ve felt my entire life.