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

Sushi
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 · Christmas

Cookies for Santa

According to Master Owen, Cookies simply MUST be left for Santa…and, not just ANY cookie.  Absolutely not!

They must be his Mum’s mini M&M cookies, which–as it happens–I am about to pop into the oven right now.

But first, I thought I would give you all the “secret” recipe as my Christmas gift to you, my new readers.

These are yummy, I must admit.  Of course, you are welcome to change the recipe any way you like, but MO seems to think there is magic in this particular recipe. Maybe there is, who knows?

By the way…whatcha doing right now?  There’s still time!  Maybe you should whip up a batch tonight! <wink>

 

Persnickety’s mini M&M Cookies for Santa, Master Owen approved

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 sticks UNSALTED butter, softened
  • 2 3/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • A whole bag of MINI M&Ms

Cream sugars with softened butter.  Add eggs and vanilla and blend.  Add flour, baking soda and salt and form dough.  Mix in the mini M&Ms and make a ball.  Don’t work the cookie dough too much!

Chill your dough for at least an hour.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.  Roll dough into meatball size and place on cookie sheet.  Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until golden brown.  Cool well.

Don’t forget to leave Santa something good to drink.  MO prefers soda, but he will tell you Santa likes coffee or a Christmas Egg Nog.

Master Owen also reminds you to leave out some carrots for both the reindeer and Santa Paws.  Remember the reindeer work hard and Santa Paws should never eat chocolate!

Merry Christmas to you all!

 

Autism

Same

Communicating with an autistic person can be challenging, but it holds some unique rewards, too.  You have to put in the effort though to reap those rewards.

At the age of four, Master Owen could barely string two words together, so I became an expert at deciphering his efforts to communicate.  Active listening builds your own communication skills as you seek to understand and be understood.  I considered myself a tourist trying to learn how to survive in Master Owenland and it worked.

Time passed and MO’s communication skills grew, of course.  Eventually I discovered MO struggled with “sharing” small life experiences.  By sharing I mean developing a connection between himself and others when seeing or experiencing the same incident.  This difficulty is common with people on the Autism Spectrum; they lack that ability to connect with others.  

Not being able to connect with others doesn’t mean people with autism don’t notice or experience the same things, as often thought.  It’s actually quite the opposite!  MO could walk in a room and immediately notice what was changed.  What he lacked was the ability to communicate those differences. 

Pointing is a classic example of the struggle to relate.  Master Owen, like so many others on the Spectrum, never pointed to objects and he is unable to visually follow someone pointing out something.  You truly don’t realize how difficult it is to communicate when someone fails to identify the skill of jesturing.  Back to Master Owenland I go, trying to find alternate ways to relate.

Now that Master Owen is ten and has developed a wide vocabulary and can communicate well with most people, I’ve noticed a little peculiarity. When we are having a conversation and MO agrees with something I say, he will say: “same” or “also” to show agreement.  It’s taken me a bit of time to adjust to this response as I am expecting “me too” or “I agree”.  When I hear “same” I don’t feel the enthusiasm of agreement, but there IS agreement.  And, once again, I find myself in Master Owenland learning the finer points of communication in his particular language.

My point in discussing these communication hurdles is to show you that people with Autism do indeed have feelings and thoughts, and they desire to communicate them to others.   They are always in the process of learning how to change themselves to meet OUR needs, and we seem to score their progress based on their ability to meet what we consider “normal”.

I often wonder if we–as a society–are so transfixed on sameness that we forget that others don’t think, live or communicate the SAME way.  To use an Autism term, I’m wondering if many of us lack “theory of the mind” instead of the other way around.

 It seems to me our society seeks more to be understood, to communicate our particular preferences and thoughts than to find ways to relate with others.  Perhaps closing our mouths and using our ears is a truer form of practicing “freedom of speech”?

Perhaps we would be better people and a better society if we sought first to understand than to be understood.  

As a wise nun once said to me: “God gave us two ears, but only one mouth”.  (Or, if you are an evolutionist, we have evolved with two ears and one mouth, not the other way around, to ensure our survival.) 

Maybe it’s time to notice something as plain as the features on our faces. Maybe then we would make some progress.  

Let us venture into the land of the unknown with a desire to understand.

Autism

The Big Reveal, Part 2: My dilemma

If you read Part 1 of “The Big Reveal”, you know that I gave you my “In a Nutshell” story of how I got to this place in my life.  If you forgot already (or didn’t read the first part, in which case “shame on you”!  Just kidding!), I’ll “bottom line” it for you:  I spent about 45 years not knowing I had Asperger’s AND I am the very proud mother of a 10 year old boy, who also has autism.  Oh, plus, I am a dyed-in-the-wool crafter (now being called “maker”) and have been since I was a kid.  Plus I am a rabid fan of corgis!  <—“rabid”…heehee…get it?

So here is the dilemma: as someone who was diagnosed late in life, I don’t just naturally think about Asperger’s and autism.  Truth be told, I don’t think about it all that much until I run into a situation I can’t figure out and then I have an “Aha!” moment.

No, mostly I think about what I can make or do…or cook…or clean…or organize.

I suppose it might be a little bit “Aspie” of me that I have a need–a compulsion, really–to analyze things that grab my curiosity and figure them out.

Yeah.  I’m that person.

I’m the lady that looks up word origins for the fun of it.  The gal who sees something odd–like: “Hey! Why have all the Hess gas stations changed names? And: “Now where am I going to get my annual Hess Truck?”–and must research it and find out “why”!  (Here’s the why: Hess decided to get out of the retail business in New England, so you have to buy the annual truck online if you live around here.)

Thing is…I always thought everyone was like I was.  I mean, how can you just look at something and not think about it?!?   It is part of my very core to find out the “back story” of everything…and EVERYTHING has a back story.  Hardly anything is happens for NO reason at all.  Believe me…it doesn’t.  I researched it.  LOL!

And that’s one of the reasons why I simply ADORE my son, Master Owen (aka MO)!  He thinks just like me; he was blessed with this insane need to find out the “whys” and “hows” of life.  Because, honestly?  Having this drive of curiosity is the BEST way to live life, especially in the digital age when you can find out anything online.  It makes life a ginormous ADVENTURE.

Only…I now realize not everyone is “so blessed”. <big grin>  Some people are content with not knowing the history of the Patriots mascot.  (You are now dying to know, aren’t you?)

Some people can actually admire someone’s work without asking: “How did you do that?”

It was a shocking revelation to me and, quite frankly, something I still struggle with.

And–take it a step further–how am I suppose to maintain a blog simply about autism?  Won’t that get boring or whiny?  Seriously…autism is part of who I am…of course it is, but it is NOT all of me.  Of course not.   I am so much more! I am the mittens I knit.  The birthday banners I design.  The tote bags I sew up.  The lobster pie I make.  The dog poop I diligently collect and dispose of <gross, I know!>   I am all those things and more.  I can’t contain myself.  And, what’s more, I won’t contain myself.

And, so, the “Big Reveal” is I NEED to blog about, well, everything.

Corgis, LEGO sets, Cricut crafting, knitting, sewing, soap making, DIY…and, like I said, everything.  You name it and I’m giving myself permission to write about it.  I can’t be a one woman show.  It’s too restricting.  And I’ve spent way too much of my life trying to fit into everyone else’s ideas of who I am.

Is that all right with you, dear reader?  Will you come along on a journey with me?  Or at least tolerate it when I just want to gush about my latest project?  I do hope you will, because I want to share it all with you!

Let me know in the comments below, won’t you?

P.S. I write like I think, so I sometimes have run on sentences.  Plus I use a lot of exclamation points and ask a lot of questions.

P.P.S. I’m a HUGE fan of the “P.S.”