Monday, May 25, 2015

The Lost Art - Etiquette

Everybody tells you that manners are important. Parents stress out over their children using please and thank you. The constant reminding "say thank you" that parents often do. We all use manners in formal circumstances when we should, and we try to teach our children to do that too.

Manners can be easily taught (for most kids, I would guess) simply by example. Saying 'thank you' to a child when she hands you a toy, or something, is a great way of modelling times when thank you is appropriate. They pick up on that very quickly. Even saying 'you're welcome' when they say thank you also gets picked up quickly, and they sometimes will even say "thank you, you're welcome" in a unit after that. It is TOTALLY adorable. Nothing beats a little kid who says thank you. Or "tank you". 

However, there is an entire piece of this "manners" puzzle that is missing to create a whole well rounded person people admire and love to be around. That is etiquette. People don't really think about etiquette anymore. I don't know if we're just too lazy, or if we don't think it is important, or what. 

I recently went to a homeschool conference and I went to a couple of classes about etiquette, about helping our boys to be gentlemen and our girls to be ladies. We all think our kids are pretty special, but the difference between a boy who just opens and walks through a door, and a boy who opens the door for someone else is really HUGE. 

The things I learned were amazing and stuff that I value and know are important, but I hadn't really thought about. Where I live, it isn't like there are tons of opportunities for fancy dinners or parties or something. Weddings are even a certain form of casual, and people don't judge others by things like that. However, again, think about walking in a door behind someone who just walks in, or someone who stops and holds it FOR you. (Yes, I know, there are women these days who take offense to that, but they are in the minority. It is not insulting for someone to open a door for you. They are not thinking you aren't capable of doing it yourself, that is not what it's about.)

One other characteristic is standing at a table until the ladies are seated. This one blew me away because though I hadn't really categorized it that way, I know it upsets me when my boys are at the table eating and I'm still bouncing around the kitchen trying to get drinks or the baby's dinner ready or something. It really feels upsetting to me that they are eating without me, with no consideration to what I am doing. Hearing that little piece of etiquette used as an example of something a gentleman would do was really eye opening for me!

I don't like asking people to buy things, and I don't really like pushing products on people. Even when I was an Usborne Books consultant, I had a hard time telling people they should buy things. I know it is hard for me to buy things like that. But I really think that everyone should do something over the summer: start introducing and teaching your kids real etiquette, and maybe learn something yourself along the way.

You may think that you will never find yourself in a place where you need to know a proper formal place setting. But what about your children? What if they get to a place in their life where they have to have a fancy dinner party? What if they have a job where they have to attend business dinners? Wouldn't it benefit them to know how to deal with all the formal table settings, instead of being embarrassed because they don't know which is what and why there are so many silverware by their plate? It wouldn't reflect on them very well if they were awkward or using the wrong table manners in a business dinner.

The ones who succeed are the ones who have great manners. 

So, I want to share with you The Etiquette Factory! I loved listening to Monica Irvine! Learning about etiquette from a southern lady with a beautiful southern accent? Priceless! I know that this is something we will be working on this summer! 

So, I invite you to visit this link :
The Etiquette Factory

There is a lot of info there on the website, and you'll quickly see this is more than 'please', 'thank you', and table setting. This is about being the kind of person who is respectful and considerate. It is about teaching kids to be respectful and accountable for their actions. This is about preventing bullying because a lady or gentleman would never do things that would bully, abuse or take advantage of others. This is the kind of thing you WANT for your kids and yourself, and I believe in only supporting a product when you really believe that it is important.

After her class, I spoke to her about etiquette and autism. I explained that I have autism, and so does my son, and that some things, especially when it comes to things like eye contact, are a struggle. I can do it, as an adult, because I've trained myself to, and I literally tell myself to every time I talk to someone. But how do I teach my kid to do that? Her response was that you keep trying. 

There is a Life Skills section on the website. Those are a short video, and then some questions and discussion you can have. They show examples of etiquette situations, one that is incorrect and one that is correct. This was highly recommended for us with autism because if you can see the difference between proper and improper etiquette, then it is easier for it to click. It is obvious from the outside that someone who doesn't stand up to greet his grandmother, and instead keeps reading or using their computer or phone is not following proper etiquette. But seeing him stand up and greet her is much more appropriate. This is a great product and it is the one we will be using this summer!

Anyway, I think I may have said enough. I highly recommend this program, and it is something to think about and consider. Summer is the perfect time to take something like this on, because you may be able to travel and go to a fancy restaurant and practice, or even at a more formal wedding or something. School isn't a distraction, and you have more time to do it. So go for it! 

Friday, May 15, 2015

AlwaysAspiegirl: Acceptance. Love, and Self-care: #AutismPositivity2015

I am a huge fan of Autistic Acceptance, both by those of us who are Autistic, to those with Autistic kids, to those who don't really have that much connection to anyone with Autism (as far as they know anyway). I think that everyone should have a good dose of acceptance when they think of Autistic people, and realize that there are great struggles there, but also great beauty! Having autism is just our life. Just like you have your life, we have our life. It's not like we know what it's like to be anything else.

I love that I am not "normal"! I love that I don't fit into the mold of "normal" people around me. I love that I do my own thing and that it really doesn't bother me that I'm alone doing it. I love that I am a part of the whole of humanity that comes in all different colors, shapes, sizes and brains! I love that I have my own specific role, different from everyone else.

I love that I can't stop researching things! I am totally obsessed with learning things! Sometimes, though, I get frustrated when I run into things that either haven't been studied, or written about, because then I can't get my question answered! But I love that when I get interested in something, I look at it from every angle - contrary to what people think - and that I'm so certain when I've decided something that I can't just be tossed around by every wind.

I love that my brain has a different way of looking at things than other people! I think that it's valuable for all people to share their unique ideas in order to help other people to be able to look at things differently. I think that it's important when you accept someone with Autism, that you accept that they will and do look at things differently than you do, and that it is worth thinking about what they have to say! For me, personally, I appreciate it when people say they understand me, because often I don't feel like I am understood or heard. So it really means a lot to me to have validation. 

I love that my brain is obsessed with numbers and patterns. I may not be as affluent in those things as some people, but I notice letter and number patterns all the time and it makes me smile. It really does! I'm a hard core number geek! So, for example, when I was a kid the last 4 of our home phone number was 2382. My grandparent's house was 2358. My best friend as a little girl had 2252. When my husband and I started dating, his number was 2314, his mom was 2315. Their house number was 3569. When we got married, our home number was 3514 (there's that 14 again!). We had a few cell phone numbers in there that I don't remember, but currently we have 2314 and 2312. FUNNY! Well, it's funny to me, anyway. Numbers!

I seriously spent weeks getting circles to fit into squares, which can't be done because pi is a never ending number. But I got it to a certain point, I don't remember what that point was, but there were a lot of digits.

I loved that I worked hard and beat my 6th grade math teacher's time at multiplication - 100 to a page from 1-12. I beat his time, 100 ALL CORRECT, in 1 minute 14 seconds. Major victory, after watching an older student come down to our classroom when we were in 6th grade and try to do it, never quite managing to do it. I did get dinner for me and a friend paid for as the "prize" for winning! :)

I love that I can sense emotions in those around me. Well, I should say most of the time I love it. I feel like I just have a sense of things that other people don't seem to be aware of. Again, contrary to what people think, I have SO MUCH empathy, but sadly most of the time I don't know what to do with it. I am very bad at reading what that person may need from me when they are going through something. So though that may mean that I look like I'm not empathetic, I feel just as deeply about it as anyone else, I just don't know what is the right way to respond. But I love having this inner sense about me. At least in my own head I can sometimes justify people's behavior based on the fact that I just sensed they were out of sorts. It sure helped me in school, I just always sensed when something major was up, and I knew when my teachers perhaps needed a little pick me up.

Unfortunately, I forget to take care of myself. I don't go to bed early enough to get a good start on tomorrow. And I sleep in. And I don't exercise enough. I have some great kids, who also sleep in. So I'm lucky. Still, I wish I could actually feel content enough to go to sleep at night. It's just like I've been running on empty all day, and I need that time after bedtime to just decompress or do whatever it is that I want to do. Like, right now, I'm focused enough alone and quiet to write this post. Sometimes I just veg out and play a game or surf facebook or something. 

The best self care I can get is the kind I don't like to take. When I decided to be a mom, I decided that I was a full time mom. I barely accept anything less than 24/7 mom. My kids don't routinely go anywhere except their grandma and grandpa's house. If I go to town, the kids go to town. If I go to the doctor, the kids go to the doctor. I don't especially want to be without my kids, I enjoy being around them. We as a family have decided that I don't work, so we make the necessary adjustments to our life to make that happen. It is a sacrifice every day, but it has been so worth it. Homeschooling my son this year has been an exciting journey, because I love watching him soak things up like a sponge. I love seeing him "get it" when we learn something new.
The best kind of self care is doing things alone. I recharge by being alone, most definitely. 

On Mother's Day, my husband had to work, but we were going to go to his parents for supper that night. I hadn't been able to go to the grocery store yet that week, so I went on Sunday and I decided that I was going to leave the kids with grandma and grandpa this time. I turned up my music, I opened the windows, I did my shopping, went home windows down music up. Dropped the groceries off and only put away the cold ones. Then I went to the lake, alone. I sat in the car and read a whole magazine. I got out and took some pictures and listened to the wind (and got very cold). I talked to myself. (Yep, I talk to myself. Shush, it is the perfect way to process things, to work things out, to get out "the thing I should have said", or whatever.)

That was a GREAT day. I used to do that quite a lot. Of course, before kids I was often/always alone. Once I had my son, however, I was full time, all in, 24/7, and it was good that I was prepared for that because my little aspieboy needed that (and pretty much still does) and that's okay with me. But I still need that time alone, that time away. 

My daughter isn't nearly as needy, so much so that I've been considering possibly working a little bit this summer. I used to work for a resort. Maybe I could double that as alone time if I could get a little laundry room work. But then, at the same time, I wonder if the grandparents can handle both those crazy kiddos for that long. I'm only still thinking about this.

I know many parents who literally say if they had to spend all day every day with their kids they would go mad. So they work. That is SO not me. It isn't that my kids drive me that nuts that I wouldn't want to be with them. However, that doesn't erase my own need for that alone time! Though every minute of my alone time I'm wishing that I were with my kids anyway, even though I know that what recharges me is the alone time! 

It can be pretty complicated!

SO anyway, back to the staying up late. That is my alone time. The "perfect situation" would have me getting up early in the morning to have this alone time to start the day, and that would honestly be great too. I do feel much better if I get up before the chatters begin. However, I am not the kind of person who can collapse at the end of the day to sleep. I need that bedtime alone time too. 

So, it is what it is. Every day is a new day to try again, forgive myself, move forward, and hopefully improve on something, if only a tiny bit.

Just remember to care for yourself fellow Aspies.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Facebook Post from Celebrate Calm - How it Feels

A Facebook page that I follow called "Celebrate Calm" posted this, and I just had to share it because every word could apply to both me and my son. I have to read it to him and maybe get his feedback on it, but this is fabulous.

""Dear Mom and Dad,
I want you to know what it's like to be me.
My brain runs like a washing machine powered by a Ferrari engine. It runs all the time and it runs fast, churning and tumbling ideas like shirts and pants and socks mixed together. I can be talking to you and having another conversation running inside my head. I can be in class listening to the teacher, but be fully engaged in a daydream about Legos or playing a new song on my guitar.
You know how I sometimes repeat questions? It's not that I didn't hear your answer. It's just that in the second between the time I asked and you responded, I went somewhere interesting in my mind. Sometimes I have so many thoughts swimming inside my head that I just blurt things out because I'm afraid I will forget them.
I kind of like all this energy inside my head because I can keep myself entertained in there by myself. But other times I feel scattered and like there's not much order up in my brain. Everything's swirling. That's why I like things to be just so and I why I need to know what we're doing all the time. It's why I end up wearing or eating the same things all the time. New things freak me out a bit because I don't know what to expect, so please don't be mad at me when I'm anxious.
I want to do well in school. But sometimes the ideas in my head are so strong or interesting, and when I follow them even for a few seconds, I fall behind. And once I'm lost in class, sometimes I figure I may as well just keep thinking about these ideas. It's like they call to me to work on them and see them through.
This is hard to explain, but sometimes I feel my body screaming to me to move and like I need contact, to push up against something. It makes me feel better inside. I'll be sitting in class and if I haven't gotten any exercise, I feel like I'm about to explode. But then I know my teacher will get upset if I get up, so I sit there kind of frozen, not sure what to do. I promise I don't get in trouble on purpose.
Okay, I was lying. Sometimes I do get in trouble on purpose. I like to get the reaction from people when I'm bored. It wakes my brain up. And if I'm really bored or my body is screaming at me, I'll get in trouble just so I can get out of class to walk down the hall. It's such a relief. But then I feel bad later and I know everyone is mad at me.
I don't expect you to understand this, but little things just bother me. I'm not making it up to be difficult, I promise, so please don't be mad at me when I tell you some place smells really bad or I have to change my socks or it's too loud and I have to leave the room. I know you get tired of fixing the same thing for me to eat, but a lot of foods just don't feel right and it feels like I'm going to gag. I'll try better.
Sometimes being a kid is tough for me. I'd rather be doing grown up stuff, I'd rather hang out with adults and older kids. I get bored with kid stuff pretty easily. It's like I have an adult brain and ideas, but I'm stuck inside a kid's body. That's why I like to hang out with Uncle Jeff and work down at Mr. Brown's shop with him--he gives me grown up jobs and trusts me. And he always says I do a good job for him, and that makes me feel good.
There's something inside me that says if I can just get through childhood, I'm going to make a great adult one day. I'll be a good Dad because I know what it feels like to hurt as a kid and be misunderstood. And I know I don't always do great in school, but I have good ideas and I can work really hard when I'm passionate about something. I don't have any fear of the future, it's just the present that isn't much fun.
Okay, I know I say I'm all grown up and everything in some ways, but things hurt me more than you think. I know you guys are trying really hard and I'm difficult, but I kind of know that everyone wishes I were different. I see the way Grandma and Grandpa treat Adam and Grace differently than me. You know all those little comments you guys make, the way Dad shakes his head in disapproval, the way Mom groans and all those hushed conversations you have with the teacher, therapist and principal? I know what it means. I know people think I'm a bad kid because I don't always behave like my brother and sister or the other kids.
That's why I like hanging out with Buster a lot, because he likes me the way I am because I give him lots of attention and take him on walks. And that's why I like to play video games and be alone sometimes. It's like my heart can only take so much and then I have to withdraw a little bit.
I know I don't get invited to birthday parties like Adam and Grace. It used to really hurt me, but in some ways I like not having a lot of friends. It's partly by choice, because I'm pretty content inside actually.
I like who I am, but it's tough when no one else seems to. Why does everyone want to change who I am? I'm not unhappy with myself--I'm uneasy because since I can remember, everyone around me has been so negative and tried to fix what they think is wrong with me.
You want me to talk more, but you just psychoanalyze me. Besides, it's difficult to express my thoughts and feelings verbally-they just get jumbled up. I'd rather express them in my writing and music. I want you to know that I feel things deeply, I do. I hurt with the kids who get left out, and one day I'm going to help those kids. I know how it feels.
I know you get concerned because I stay up late at night and don't sleep much. But I like it when it's quiet. I can hear my thoughts better. And my world is peaceful then.
Thank you for all you do for me. You think I don't appreciate it, but I do. I know I'm not exactly the way you want me to be or the kid you expected, but I'm going to be good as an adult and you'll be proud of me then.
Mom and Dad, don't worry about me. I may not do great in school or be the most popular kid, but I'm content inside. I like the way my brain works, I like my energy. If everyone would stop trying to fix me, I'd be okay. Please stop trying to make me be like everyone else. I like who I am. Do you?
~ Your son/daughter"

Monday, May 11, 2015

REFER: The Spoon Theory

I just read about this today, and it really amazed me. Her situation is different, of course, but the story can easily be changed to any other one of these "invisible" disorders, from autism to depression and anxiety, or whatever. 

I felt really close to this post. I can't tell you how many times I have chosen not to do something because I was "out of spoons". And then I beat MYSELF up for not being able to just do whatever, because an adult "should" be able to handle and do it all, right? Especially when others who seem to have more to deal with than I do can do it. Why can't I? 

It's even worse to think that other people are thinking that about me.

I wonder how many people wonder and complain that I can't go to their houses, or something. I wonder how many people get upset and don't visit me because I can't seem to visit them. I wonder if there are people who get frustrated that they always have to choose between "my turf" or nothing at all. 

Maybe thankfully, I don't have many friends geographically close enough to me to bother visiting. I mean, for me, an hour isn't that far to drive for a friend, and I have done it on more than one occassion. In fact, I've driven twice to four times that distance for friends or family plenty of times, only to not have them return that respect in my direction.

However, to be honest, I just don't have enough spoons for that. It gets very exhausting very quickly. Usually I've used up tomorrow's spoons simply by cleaning the house and packing to leave on a trip somewhere. I'm only in the past few years learning enough about myself and my limitations to know that even though I have to plan to feel control over our travel, I need time/a day to do nothing and decompress and recover the lost spoons.

I still don't give myself enough of a break on this. I push myself until I'm past my abilities. I'm not very easy on myself about this! But maybe this idea will stick in my head and help me to be more aware of my limitations. 

Now, if I only had a tool to know when I'm reaching my limit. You see, though I agree with the spoons, I don't know how many spoons I have, so I find it very difficult to know when I'm reaching the end of my spoons. It's like I'm working on spoons hidden in a locked drawer that I don't have the key for.

What I hope for the most out of this post, is that people who know me start to understand that I need you're companionship, but you gotta stop making me use up all my spoons to get to you. Come my direction every now and then. make it a little easier on me by doing some of the work. I will have a much better visit with you if you meet on my turf, and it's not selfishly, but because I just have more spoons left over when I don't have to pack up the kids, drive an hour (or more) and then worry about my kids getting into your likely non childproofed home. ;) Just trust me on this.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Special VS Intimate Friends and Autism Part 3

So, I'm going to touch on another bit of comments on this video clip. Please watch the video before reading. 
Start watching this video at minute 5:40 through the end of the video, around 4 minutes of content.

"Ask Dr Tony"

To see the previous entries on this topic, go here, here and here.

"No! It's the brain I'm interested in, it's the ideas that I'm interested in, not physical."
"But, no! I'm interested in, in his ideas, I'm interested in, in what he says because it's so fascinating..."
- Tony Attwood, from "Ask Dr Tony" link above.

People are quick to tease, to joke, to judge, to assume. I have thought about things a lot since first seeing this video, and more and more memories come up. Little things, like telling my friends something he said, and they immediately "Oooooo!!"... the teasing starts. And I remember, clearly, thinking "No! That's not it at all! You don't get what I'm saying/feeling/meaning here..."

It's lonely. It's really lonely. To not have anyone who listens, or "gets it".

I was teased pretty much my entire childhood for being the teachers pet. Frankly, I didn't care much, I'd rather be that than Regina George's pet! (Because you KNOW that "Regina" exists in every high school class, right?)
(You would have think that for senior superlatives I was a shoe in, but nooooo, they gave that title to someone who hated school? Really? Like, wasn't teacher's pet my NAME for the past 14 years? WhatEVER!)

Anyhow, I felt alone, in my own head. No one really understood what my "problem" was. I'm not even sure what they all thought, from the other kids to the other teachers, to THE teacher. Was I told what they thought? Once. Senior year. But what I was told did not match up with how I was treated by him. 

Man, I'd love to talk to him again. And now that I know this about autism, these intellectual attractions, I know why I loved talking to him! Intellectually, he made me excited to learn and talk about things. I wanted him to see me as serious and passionate as I saw him to be. 

He wasn't the only one. I feel like I talk about him a lot, but he wasn't the only one, nor the last one, to make me feel this way. I keep finding these people, and losing them too, and they are usually the ones I miss the most when they're gone.

There was a guy I dated. He and I had big dreams, bigger than our hometowns.  I was completely taken in by dreaming big and planning things that were likely to never happen. Ironically, we are both still there, choosing instead to live big dreams that kept us in our hometowns. 

Then, in college, there was the guy who I thought was my "type". Passionately musical. Great hair! Creative! Not afraid to dance, but more often was playing the music instead of dancing to it. Intimidating, because he must have been "too cool" for me, so I thought. What a surprise when it turns out we had more in common than I would have imagined, but sadly I spent all my first year of college being too afraid to speak to him, and missed out on what could have been so much more fun than the drama I was "friends" with back then.

Another guy who fit into my "type". Emotional. Poetic. Damaged. Musical. Creative. I almost thought I was in love with him, too. I just loved being around him. It made me felt excited and creative too. I had written plenty of poetry in high school and this only helped me create more. He encouraged me.

Then there was the guy who was in love with me. I was so naive, and could have gotten myself into so much trouble! I barely knew him but I felt excited talking to him. He was a distant voice I got to listen to 6 hours a day (on the radio), and sometimes I would call and talk to him for hours and hours. When he had to actually do his job, I would just hold and listen to him over the phone, and the airwaves. Ha! We were both so interested in music, and both loved things that weren't so mainstream. We listened to Little Big Town before they were.. Big. HAHA! He was just so diverse and interesting! Thinking back, it probably drove him crazy to talk to me because it is clear to me now (it wasn't at all clear to me then) how strongly he really loved me, without saying, and knowing that I had a boyfriend and everything, he probably didn't understand why I was spending my time talking to him. He was so genuine and peaceful and gave me something that was at a distance from college life, during a time when things weren't so stable (I started college Aug 2001, 3 weeks later BOOM 9/11). He was a friend I needed, one that wasn't dramatic and didn't ask for more from me than I could give, despite how he felt. But it was nice to share an intellectual bond there that I hadn't had in anyone else.

Time after time I got involved with people who interested me because their brains, their stories, their thoughts, their ideas, were all addicting to me. I just wanted to be around them and talk about something more than just boys or class or superficial stuff. These were guys who would talk to me about something more than just every day stuff, and never judged me for my crazy, and let me into their world a little. Sometimes I confused the intellectual passion for feelings of love and messed things up, but when I didn't, I think I had a good thing going! 

Most of these people have passed out of my life. That doesn't mean I don't think of them - I never seem to be able to forget or let go of people who wrapped me up in so much creative and intellectual passion in the time we were friends. Some faded away slowly, some more abruptly. Some I want back, some I'd prefer to stay at a distance.

My point is this: I'd love to pick your brain. I hate small talk. I hate talking about stupid news or current events. I hate talking about hot button issues. I want to talk about something real to you. I want to hear your stories. I want to talk about the deep stuff that you don't just tell anyone. I have a good friend who wrote a book, and once I got to visit with her at great length hearing stories behind the stories. I LOVE THAT! I want to hear your hopes and dreams! I want to talk about the times that changed your life and made you into something. I love hearing about what made you who you are. I love hearing how God played a role in your life, or when you realized He did. Whatever. I want to have a conversation about things that are deep and meaningful. Then I want you to stick around in my life. 

It makes me feel good to talk about meaningful things. I'm really bad at asking questions, but I'll listen to your story. I'll give you mine too, if you ask. I don't know what to share because it's like a dump truck, I'd share it all but I'm not sure what you want to hear. Because when it comes to friends, I'm usually willing to be all in. I can't stand that awkward feeling of maybe being friends, or almost being friends, or being superficial friends. Like, should I devote my limited and precious time to this person, or will it be a confusing waste of time? I really can't risk running out of energy on someone who won't end up putting any energy into the relationship on their end. It's confusing and exhausting. Basically, if I'm going to spend some of my limited social resources on you, I consider you to be a special person, a special friend. 

And I need you to stick around. I can't maintain any social life at all if I have to keep start over every time. It hurts, wounds, exhausts, and overwhelms me. It's a lot of work to be in a relationship of any kind, it's a lot of work to be in a friendship, and even more so with autism. I want what I give to be worth it, or else I easily feel used.

I had to stop in mid post here and unfortunately no matter how long I sit here I can't think of where I was going, if anywhere, after this in this post. So anyway, I'll close. I'm not sure how much more I can get out of this video, but I haven't posted after watching every portion yet, so there may be a part 4.