South Carolina is officially closed! Another rare snowfall has appeared…

I have to laugh at the extreme reaction to snow down here in the South, but that’s only because I grew up in Northeast Pennsylvania, where I spent my winters shoveling snow, ice skating, sledding and building igloos. I spent the first part of my adult years in one of America’s snowiest cities- Rochester, NY. This kind of light snowfall was a normal, daily event in Northern life. Down South, it closes schools and government offices, and clears off complete aisles of grocery stores. I understand, to a certain extent- we don’t have the infrastructure down here to manage inclement weather. Major highways are salted, but most roads will never be treated. There’s very few plow trucks. Everything gets shut down in the interest of safety.

The snowfall is beautiful, and offers a welcome change in the landscape, as winters are brown and drab here (unless of course I am hiking in a green Appalachian forest cove). We are supposed to get more snow through today and into tomorrow, possibly even the end of the week! Usually there is one brief snowfall per winter down here. And it melts within hours, so this is definitely a shift in weather. I’m personally hoping for a slightly cooler than normal summer… :)

What if? [REBLOG]

Sonnolenta:

If you read one blog post about Autism today, make it this one.

An incredible post from ischemgeek asks the eternal question… “What if?”

Originally posted on ischemgeek:

What if you were told that the way you experience the world is wrong? What if you were told your body lies? What if everything you felt and experienced was challenged, tested, doubted, disbelieved?

What if they told you the way you move is wrong? What if your body language and movement was monitored, policed, and controlled whenever you were around people? What if other people saw you slip up and laughed and made fun of you for it? What if they told you that you were a freak and freaks should die? What if they urged you to kill yourself? What if they hurt you? What if authority figures insisted this treatment was your fault and if you tried harder at moving right it wouldn’t happen?

What if they told you the way you talk and think and write is wrong? What if they dictated and micromanaged to you…

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Why aren’t we allowed to learn from our mistakes, change our lives, improve ourselves and move on?

I’m frustrated and disheartened lately, because no matter how much I’ve owned up to past mistakes I’ve made, learned from them, changed my life to prevent myself from being in toxic/stressful situations, and moved on… there’s people out there who refuse to let me move on. And they express their derision with harsh words, fully intended to harm me and my livelihood.

Five to seven years ago, I had hit rock bottom. I was severely depressed, in an abusive marriage, reeling from my Father’s suicide, caught up in unhealthy family dynamics that resulted from it, and struggling to run a business that I had grown too big, too fast. I wasn’t eating, and my weight was down to 112 pounds and wearing a size 0 (I am 5’7″). I wasn’t sleeping, and my Doctor prescribed me strong medications to knock me out each night. I felt hopeless, and that I had nothing to live for, and nothing to lose. Every day I fought with suicidal ideation, or wanting to pack my Son and our belongings into the car, and drive as far away as we could possibly drive.

As a result of everything going on in my life, I made some mistakes while running my business. One customer/blogger, in particular, I completely lost it on after she left me a negative review even though I had personally assisted her and gone out of my way to help her. This was five years ago. I reacted impulsively, when I should have closed the laptop and done something proactive instead. I was very rude to her, and acted out of character and out of line. Afterwards, I felt deeply ashamed- because I knew in my heart that my anger was misdirected. The person I was most angry at was myself. For a long list of reasons, I was angry, and I felt trapped and unable to change the situation I was in.

I wanted to apologize to her, but I felt that it wouldn’t matter. The damage was already done. A close friend assured me that I could apologize, and that I should apologize. So I did. I sincerely apologized, with no excuses. She accepted my apology, and I felt much relieved. Five years (yes, five years!) have passed since that very dark time in my life, and I find it hard to believe that people are still rubbing my face in what happened with that customer, and using it to try to harm my reputation in my work- a reputation that I have worked extremely hard at repairing over the last five years. Over half a million people have viewed the blog post she wrote, in which I was very rude to her in the comments. The aftermath of my mistakes, and how I wrongly treated her have deeply impacted me, and I have learned from the mistakes I made that night a million times over. So why are people still using this against me?

At what point can we let people move on? It’s one thing if people are exhibiting the same behavior, making the same mistakes, and not doing anything to try to better their situation- people like this are not getting it. They aren’t learning from their mishaps. They aren’t owning up to the fact that they need to change. In contrast, I DID own up to my mistakes. I apologized, and took a long step back from social media. I filed for divorce, closed my business, and withdrew from any and all contact with the online community. I looked inward, long and hard at myself and the environment I was in, the situations that surrounded me, the feelings and emotions that triggered my anxiety, my depression, my despair, and my sensory issues. I faithfully attended therapy, worked hard at the exercises my therapist gave me each week, and read as much as I could of the books she recommended. I was voracious for knowledge, change and improvement. I lived an extremely quiet life for many years after that. And I still do live an extremely quiet life. Five years have passed since then, and I want nothing more than a quiet, peaceful life.

During that quiet time of deep introspection, I received my autism spectrum diagnosis. (“Oh, there she goes dropping the “A” word again, it must be some sort of excuse!” Please don’t go there, just don’t. It’s clearly not an excuse.) This allowed me to even more carefully look at my life and make the best possible decisions for me to not only learn from past situations, but to take preventative measures to change my life to be better suited to my neurology. I’ve never been a person to rest on her laurels- I am always pushing myself to improve whatever I can about my life, work, situation, environment- in any way I can. Autism is not an excuse, it is a reason. It is a reason for doing things a certain way- a way that is respectful and considerate of my neurological differences. It is a reason for looking back to the past so that I can learn from my mistakes and become a better person. Before my Autism diagnosis, I just thought I was a broken, hopeless person who couldn’t handle anything and who always had trouble with each and every day. I didn’t understand how or why things affected me, and I kept putting myself right back into the same disastrous situations. Out of the frying pan and into the fire I went, over and over again.

But not anymore.

In the past five years, I’ve turned my life upside down and shaken it so hard that just about everything fell out of it. I then picked up the broken pieces of my life and put them back together- carefully, methodically and with great thought- and always with an eye towards improvement and betterment. I’m not perfect, and there are times when I still buckle under the pressure due to uncontrollable outside forces, and life happening to fast, too loud and too sharply. There are times when I might write a store announcement that’s too wordy, or repetitive- but it’s just that- a wordy store announcement. It’s not a character flaw. I’m not hurting anyone, I’m not being rude, or disrespectful, or anything negative. (yet honestly- people will use my occasional wordy announcement as a reason to badmouth me, and make fun of my Autism, I kid you not!) Life constantly throws curveballs, and sometimes I have a bit of help in catching them, while other times I am completely on my own. But at least I now understand why these things affect me so deeply. At least I now understand that to a certain extent, I can control the environment I am in. I can make sure I properly care for myself, so that in the face of stress, I am well-rested, well-nourished, and well aware of the dynamics that could trigger a stress response or autistic meltdown.

Although I still deal with anxiety on a daily basis, I am no longer depressed. Depression is something I have fought with on and off since my early teens. It’s been this constant spectre, shadowing me as I moved through life. It may or may not be a coincidence, but my depression lifted within two years of my Autism diagnosis, and the subsequent chain even of monumental life changes that I began making shortly thereafter. Depression is insidious, because you don’t realize how much it is affecting you, and your thought processes. You don’t realize how much it has changed you from your core. You only realize this when you’ve been lifted out of the depressive state, and you’re left hoping that it never happens again. I am most grateful for being depression-free right now, because it has given me the clarity and the insight to truly be able to learn from my past mistakes, regardless of the circumstances under which they occurred. It has thankfully, allowed me to see the past tumultuous decade of my life through a different lens… because I am determined to not repeat my past circumstances.

There are people out there who think I use Autism as an excuse. Specifically, that I use Autism as an excuse to not do better in my life or business. That I don’t push myself to be a better person or run a better business because Autism is some sort of “get out of jail free card” and to this stance I call complete and utter bullshit. Those of you writing this gossip-laden trash about me on the internet don’t know me in person. You don’t know who I am, or what the last five years of life have been like. People can change, and they do change. Obviously you haven’t changed, as five long years have passed and you’re still writing rude and belittling things about someone you’ve never even met in person. Here’s what I’d like to tell you… People are capable of incredible feats of introspective growth, and I refuse to sit back and not speak up for myself here on my own blog space. I’ve done nothing but work towards becoming a better person, a better Mother, a better teacher, a better business owner, a better… well, a better everything. And I still have a long way to go, because that’s  just how I roll. I am constantly and persistently trying to think of ways to improve. This blog is a testament to that. This blog is about my journey. And if after reading this you still think I’m using Autism as an excuse, then you’re not looking closely enough, because it’s all right there in black, green and white.

No one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. Some people fall, some people crash and burn. It’s not about the fall, crash or burn. It’s about how people handle it when they stand back up, dust themselves off, and move on… it’s about learning, growing, and perpetually reaching for more. That’s what life is about to me. 

We’re Women with Autism – Not Mystical Imps, Sprites or Fairies….. Get it right. [REBLOG]

Sonnolenta:

I enjoyed this post from Seventhvoice a lot!

I’m not a fan of the “Autistic female as superhero” meme, as if autistic traits are some sort of glorious super powers. While I’m grateful for the alternative perspective my neurology brings, I don’t like the notion of being infantilized or treated like a little girl. This inevitably happens if I tell someone I am on the Autism spectrum.

The idea of magical wiring, fairy powers or super powers, doesn’t help…it just contributes to the overall lack of acceptance. It’s almost as bad as people who believe Autism is a mental illness, or that if you are publicly out about being Autistic, then you’re by default using it as an excuse. Unless you know me personally and work alongside me in my daily day-to-day functions, you have no right to judge the impact and level of my disability… or to compare me to a fairy, or treat me like I’m six years old.

Originally posted on seventhvoice:

Artwork by Devushka Artwork by Devushka

Sorry to disappoint all of those who wish to believe that Women with Autism are made out of some kind of unique fairy dust that endows all of us with “special talents” or “super powers”, because we are not magical beings.

We are Women Wired Differently…. not Women Wired Magically.

Please stop confusing our different skill sets, ie, our tendency to focus on the finer details of life that often make us more likely to pick up on the inconsistencies that are usually hidden within the bigger picture that people present to us, with being the equivalent of having a “super power”, “gift”, “unearned talent” or whatever else some would like to call it.

The truth is, that for us, our intense focus on fine details, whilst it may have started out as a fascination, has also become a survival mechanism.

Our intense focus is not magical…

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Our yearly winter storm arrives in South Carolina #Octavia

I grew up in the North and lived for fifteen years in one of America’s snowiest cities- Rochester, New York… but I still get excited when our yearly snowstorm arrives here in South Carolina. This time around, winter storm “Octavia” brought sleet, freezing rain and ice. We lost power for several hours last night, but it was back on by dawn.The pine trees are all crouched over in mourning, waiting for the sun to burn the ice off their strained branches. As with all winter storms in our region, this will all be gone soon.

A trip to the city, a week of recovery.

I haven’t been able to write for a while. It’s because I had to go away last weekend. Just a short trip- but for me, even a short trip is a big deal that requires a lot of advanced planning and preparation, and then the inevitable recovery period. While I do like to travel occasionally, I often question doing it at all, because I lose large chunks of time as I try to work towards a travel date, and then upon returning, find that I am rather useless and need another vacation to recover from the initial one. I always thought that travel was like this for everyone. Apparently, it’s not.

Last Saturday, we drove down to Atlanta. I’ve been trying to plan a trip to Atlanta for a few months, as my Son is studying Ancient Egypt in his homeschooling curriculum, and there’s an excellent museum there, with many artifacts- The Carlos Museum. In addition, I needed to take my boy to the airport, as he was set to fly to upstate NY to visit for a week with his Father. Knowing I couldn’t do it all in one day, we decided to leave on Saturday, stay overnight, and he would fly out on Sunday morning.

I spent a week preparing for the trip. Getting caught up for work, getting arrangements made to board the dogs overnight, taking to dogs to the vet for a nail trim and to pick up their vaccine records, packing suitcases, printing out all information, directions, addresses and confirmations, dotting every “i” and crossing every “t”. Just to go away overnight. We dropped the dogs off to be boarded on Saturday morning, and were soon on the highway. I try to avoid driving on I-85, as it’s a scary road where truckers behave abominably. I left a packet containing my will and life insurance information on my kitchen counter, as I realize every time I’m driving on this road, my life may be abruptly ended by some impatient person behind the wheel of a big rig. Accidents are plentiful, and every time I drive this road, I end up sitting in a huge traffic jam caused by one. This time was no different. We sat for about a half hour while police cleared wreckage off the road ahead of us.

As we started to edge closer to populated civilization, the familiar feelings of shortness of breath and anxiety began creeping up within me. Around the same time, my Son remarked, “It feels like the force of gravity is stronger here. I feel like there is weight pushing down on my chest. I can’t breathe the same way. I feel sick.” As the cars and trucks sped past us on either side, C became overwhelmed by the frenetic pace of it all. I was so strongly focused on the road ahead, my own learned relaxing breathing techniques, and navigating the darting vehicles, that I didn’t even realize how strongly all of it was affecting him. I searched for a way to pull over, as I thought he would be sick. There was nowhere, we had to continue onward. I reminded him to breathe deeply and slowly through his nose. I regret that these sensations didn’t go away for him until later that night, and mine still have not. But I have more practice in dealing with the constant upset of my equilibrium. He does not. And it’s not just the rush of activity all around us that brought overwhelming sensory experiences, but also the loudness of the emotions and thoughts of crowds of people. Even in a quiet museum, where no one is talking… it’s still there, like invisible auras clashing into one another.

The GPS is my friend. It tells me exactly where to go, in a palatable English accent. I honestly think that Garmin could make tons of money if they hired someone like Benedict Cumberbatch to do the GPS navigation voice. I for one would like my GPS to ask me, “Now…Shall we Begin?” every time I press the GO button. We eventually found our way into one of many small parking garages at Emory University, where the Carlos Museum is located. The museum itself is well worth the trip. They have a wonderful collection of ancient artifacts from Ancient Greece and Rome, Sumeria/Persia/Iran, various dynastic periods of Ancient Egypt, and the guest exhibit couldn’t have been more to my liking- as it combined my love of astronomy, archaeology and the ancient mysteries – African Cosmos: Stellar Arts.

I didn’t bring my DSLR on this trip, as I knew I’d be having a hard enough time managing otherwise. I snapped some quick photos with my iPhone using the Hipstamatic app (below). C didn’t feel well for the entire afternoon, and I know that to be true, because he wouldn’t eat a lunch of his favorite food: pizza. All he wanted to do was go to the hotel, so that he could “chill”. So we piled back into the car, set the GPS for the airport hotel we were staying at, and braved the traffic and populace once more.

Upon arriving at the hotel we were, as you might have guessed, exhausted. The hotel lobby was packed with people, and we couldn’t even figure out where the check-in desk was. Furthermore, people kept cutting in front of us in line, so it took a while to check in. Our room wasn’t ready, so we had to wait. I asked for a quiet room, away from the elevators, so we chose to change our reservation in order to get that. I couldn’t wait to get to the room, draw the blinds, and fall back onto the bed and just lie there.

The next 18 hours consisted of us trying to go to the hotel pool, but not being able to stay due to a group of shrieking children, trying to watch a movie and having the entire TV stop working in the middle of it, and trying to sleep but not sleeping a single wink. The reason? C might tell you it was sheets that felt like sandpaper, or the constant voices and closing doors out in the hallway. I might tell you it was the cycling of the room’s air system, which to me, sounded like a jet engine. Either way, I didn’t sleep a single wink the entire night. C finally fell asleep around 3 AM, after much tossing, turning and rocking. We awoke at 6 AM to ready ourselves to go to the airport, and at 9:17 AM I watched his plane take off and disappear into the cloud cover. With my phone set to text me notices about his flight, I made my way back to my car and drove two hours back home.

Home, what a glorious sight! The only thing missing was the dogs. Upon picking them up at the boarder, I was made well aware of the fact that my rescue girls are lacking manners and that they bark. And a few other things. And that I had to crate train the dog with severe separation anxiety if I were to bring them back. A candy dish was left out on a coffee table, and one of my girls knocked it over, breaking the edge of the dish off. Feeling badly, I put some extra money down on the table. $35 for a night, $5 additional for the hassle. Forty dollars. It was at this point I was told that the dogs had been boarded for two days, and that the cost was $70. I suddenly felt confused and embarrassed- it had been 27 hours since I dropped them off. Was I confused? Was I gone more than one night? No, I’d dropped them off at 9 AM on Saturday and it was now 12 PM on Sunday. I would have come earlier, but she told me she had to go to church. So it was only one night. How was that two days?  And that if I had picked them up at 8 AM, it would have just been $35. I frantically searched through my wallet for an additional $30 in cash, feeling my cheeks start to flush. I put the money down, not quite believing that I was paying $70 for 27 hours of dog boarding. Not able to find my voice to ask questions or to protest, I just accepted it. I’m still really upset about this, I feel like she took advantage of me. It shouldn’t be a big deal, but to me, it is. I don’t make a lot of money, and I’m very frugal with what I do make. I’m the only person who supports me and my family. I chose to board the dogs with her on recommendation from a neighbor. I thought it would be a better choice for Stella, my dog with severe separation anxiety. The other option was the vet’s office. In the future, I’m going to have to board them at the vet, and hope they can tranquilize Stella if she becomes too stressed.

I’ve been home for a week, trying to slowly recover from one short trip. I’ve been having a hard time sleeping, and maintaining focus for my work. I’ve been functioning on the brink of Autistic meltdown for days, which is truly exhausting and an all too familiar sensation that I detest. I want to rest, but I’m struggling to get through my daily duties. And guess what? Tomorrow morning I have to drive down to Atlanta. Again. The only thing that will get me through that trip is being able to pick up my Son and bring him home… where he will start the week long process of recovery.

I think the only thing that would make travel like this easier would be a) having the money to hire a car service to drive me to and from the Atlanta airport to my front door, and b) hotels having sensory-friendly rooms for Autistic people that were sheltered from outside noise, didn’t have blowing air and cycling fans, and had the softest sheets and towels. As the chances of any of this happening are quite hopeless, I need to either a) win the lottery or b) never go anywhere ever again. Wish me luck!

I don’t suffer from Asperger’s or Autism. I suffer from society’s ignorance.

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Another day, another way for those on the autism spectrum to be pathologized because of their neurology. The latest news is a hack Pentagon report which claims that Russian President Vladimir Putin “suffers from Asperger’s”. The 2008 report, which was based on a study of his body movement and expressions from video, not only irresponsibly diagnoses him from afar, but it is awash with negative language about autism spectrum conditions. The true irony of this is that February is “Autism Awareness” month in the United States. Some of the many “gems” from the report include:

“the Russian President carries a neurological abnormality”

“His primary form of compensation for his disorder is extreme control and this is reflected in his decision style and how he governs.”

“An autistic disorder which affects all of his decisions.”

his “neurological development was significantly interrupted in infancy,”

claims that the Russian president’s mother had a stroke whilst pregnant with him that left lasting damage.

(his) behavior and facial expressions reveal someone who is defensive in large social settings.

How is the world taking this news? Well, I have to tell you… I’ve seen some truly disgusting reactions. It’s clear that this report is a piece of propaganda designed to malign and shame Putin and cast him as someone who is mentally deficient, incapable of making decisions and being in his current station, and significantly “othered”. I have my personal thoughts about Putin and I’m not going to share them here, as this is not a blog about politics.

This is not the first time our government has used the autism spectrum as a slur. Late last year, the White House came under fire for using the word “Aspergery” as an insult towards Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu. This occurred during the heat of the Israel/Gaza conflict. Similarly, Russia has been involved in a conflict with the Ukraine and once again, an autism spectrum disorder is thrown out as an insult. Do you see the pattern? Why is throwing around neurological insults wrong? In short, because we shouldn’t insult people for their differences of disabilities, or use the actual or perceived possibility of disability against them.

Case in point, this article:  Yes, ‘Aspergery’ Is a Slur and It’s Time to Stop Using It. An excerpt: “Despite the fact that it is incredibly offensive to people on the autism spectrum and the disability community to use the word “Aspergery,” no one on the right or left has criticized the Obama administration for reportedly using the term. While pundits scramble to analyze international implications, no one seems especially perturbed that the highest executive office allegedly throws around a “disability diagnosis as a pejorative,” as Ari Ne’eman, president of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, puts it.”

So what’s the problem here, you ask? The problem is that people on the autism spectrum perpetually deal with having to struggle against ignorance and a lack of acceptance, on a daily basis. Every time the media or the government irresponsibly throws out an autism or aspergers armchair diagnosis, the world becomes an even more dangerous place for us. Every time there is a mass shooting, the word “Aspergers” or “Autism Spectrum” somehow comes up. We’ve seen this with Elliott Rodger. We’ve seen this with Adam Lanza. It doesn’t matter if it is later refuted and withdrawn. The damage is already done. People begin to associate Aspergers and Autism with negative and criminal traits. I’m not saying that people on the autism spectrum don’t have negative traits, as all people do. But right now, the world is associating Aspergers with negative traits they associate with Vladimir Putin. Words like “sociopath”, “dictator”, “megalomaniac”, “psychotic”, “narcissist”, “violent”, and “without conscience”.

Here’s some screen caps of just a few statements I came across on Facebook, in regards to this trending topic. You decide.

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