Points of Light

Regardless of my mood, I always know that I have a lot of good things in my life. Chief among these good things are always my…cat and stuffed mouse.

Starfire sleeping with her paw around AlgernonI kid. The things that always make me happier than anything are my munchkins. They are sources of a lot of frustration and annoyance and anger, but oh my God, they are awesome.

They are sweet and funny and creative and they make me want to be a happy person for them. They’re pretty cool.

They make me laugh…

Jack lying on the ice at hockey practice

Sure, Jack could just skate around like all the other kids, but where would be the fun in that?

My kids are unequivocally their own unique individuals. I love that about them. And I love that they are learning to love that about themselves.

They make me proud…

Sam helping Quinn with his homework while Jack plays with his cats in the background

The other day, Quinn didn’t want to do his math and didn’t want me to help him. Without being asked, Sam came over and patiently explained the methodology to him. Quinn picked up his pencil and immediately started working.

I always said that my goal with my kids was to make them a team. I didn’t care if they stood united even against me—as long as they stood united. They’re getting there. On both counts. And I love them for it.

They make me full of love…

Quinn playing iPad while hugging Oreo.

Displays of their open willingness to love happen all the time. Sometimes that love is overwhelming. Especially if you’re a kitten. (Although that kitten is less trapped than she looks.)

No matter how old they get, how grown up they seem, they are still gentle souls who can be turned into goo by a kitten. That turns me to goo too. My kids hold a tremendous amount of love in their hearts. I adore that about them.

They’re good kids. They make me happy even when I’m not happy, if that makes sense. I’m very lucky to have them.

Reach the Beach and Why I Hate Past Stimey

About a year ago, Past Stimey’s friend asked her if she wanted to run a 200-mile, 12-person relay race in New Hampshire in September of 2013. Past Stimey thought that sounded like a blast and after all, Past Stimey didn’t really have to worry about actually racing in said relay race (Reach the Beach) because that was Future Stimey’s problem.

Past Stimey can go fuck herself. This comes straight from Present Stimey, who has to run this motherfucking race THIS COMING FRIDAY AND SATURDAY.

Here is how the race works: It is 200(ish) miles. There are a bunch of us on our team. There are 36 legs of varying lengths and intensities. Each of us runs 3 or 4 legs. I will, over the course of 30-something hours, run three legs of almost 7 miles each.

I am freaking out.

I am in an all-day, every-day, full-body panic.

I mean, I’m going for one last run Wednesday, before I fly up to New Hampshire on Thursday, so there is still time for me to sprain an ankle or get hit by a car or something.

As George Costanza said, wishing his fiancée would get in a plane crash before he had to marry her: “It’s something. It’s hope.”

At least I have a buddy.

He's wearing a reflective vest so he can help out on the night legs.

He’s wearing a reflective vest so he can help out on the night legs.

You guys. I for reals want to cry or throw up every time I think about it. I know neither of those things are all that much out of character, but it’s still kind of a bummer.

Here’s the thing: I can run the miles. I know I can do that. As far as putting one foot in front of the other, that will happen.

However, there are a number of other things that Past Stimey didn’t consider when she so flippantly agreed to take part in this race. I could list all of these things, but it mostly just comes down to my issues with socializing, with needing downtime, with worrying about letting my teammates down because I am so goddamn slooooow, about being autistic in a little van with a slew of other people and a plethora of what are sure to be interesting smells, about body image issues in a field of fit runners, about (my) control issues, about not knowing what to expect, about…

Well. I could go on, but I think you get the point.

I would probably be less stressed if I were supposed to run a marathon this weekend (something I am nowhere near ready to do), because at least if I were doing that, I wouldn’t have eleven other people counting on me. I am not, how you say—a team player. In fact, I have spent most of my life avoiding team situations. I’m really mad that Past Stimey forgot that about us.

Here’s something else though: I know this is going to be good. It is going to be so fucking good. My teammates are good people. My team doesn’t care when we finish, we just care that we finish. I have been mentally preparing myself to put my head down and push through the lack of down time and my social issues, knowing that I can come home and decompress.

I know that this race and the people I do it with are going to be one of my favorite memories. I know that I will come home on Sunday wanting to race again next year. I know all of these things, but that doesn’t stop my anticipatory anxiety.

I have to walk through this anxiety to get to the good part.

Near Future Stimey is going to be really happy. Near Future Stimey is going to have an adventure and a ton of fun this weekend. Near Future Stimey is going to have a million stories.

Present Stimey, however, is going to panic. That’s just the way it is. I know it is going to be great. I really do. Still, if I make it to the start line without puking, it will be a minor miracle.

Humor me, tell me I’m going to be awesome, share a great running song, and make me laugh with a suggestion for a race hashtag? Wish me luck, okay?

photo-2Keep track of my teammates and me on Facebook and Twitter.

Writing Love Stories

Figuring out how to write about my kids can be tough. In one sense, their story is my story. I have a lot invested in them and pretty much everything that happens to them has an effect on me. Much of it involves me. But, in another even more, you know, accurate sense, their story is their own. Walking the line between respecting their privacy and being able to write about my own life (which is usually intricately intertwined with theirs) can be tricky sometimes.

Plus, it is so fun to write stories about them and it makes me sad when I can’t write about something funny they did.

As they have gotten older, their stories have evolved from being ours to being theirs. I’m trying to respect this and make sure that I am not co-opting their beings unless I am doing it for a good reason. One of the good reasons I write about them is to keep a record for them. I hope that they will read this blog sometime and be able to see how amazing I have always found them all to be. I’ll co-opt for that.

Another reason is to educate or give support and sometimes I’ll write about my kids in order to get support or advice. Then there are times when I write just to entertain. Although there are some damn entertaining stories that haven’t passed my Older Kid Privacy Threshold Test, which irks me to no end.

I’ve always said that I write as if the person I am writing about is reading over my shoulder. That doesn’t mean that I won’t write things that will upset people, but I only write things that I am okay with the subject reading with my name attached as the author. At this point in my life, that means I don’t write things about my kids that would embarrass them or make them sad.

This is one of the reasons why you see less of my kiddos here on this blog. Well, that and because they are in school more often than they are at home, which means that it is their teachers who are probably getting the really good stories about them—although I do prefer that they don’t blog about my kids. Can you imagine? Like, http://thereisthiskidnamedQuinninmyclassOMG.blogspot.com

As it follows, there is also a lot more about me here lately. I’m hopeful that I come across as a bit of a narcissist because of this. (<—sarcasm)

But mostly I’m hoping that I can give my kids a written love story to them. Because that is the ultimate reason behind what I do here.

Raising-Cubby-by-John-Elder-Robison

This post was inspired by Raising Cubby: A Father and Son’s Adventures with Asperger’s, Trains, Tractors, and High Explosives by John Elder Robison. Robison does an excellent job walking that line of respecting his son as he manages to write funny, charming, and interesting stories about him. Even more relevant to my parenting experience, both father and son are autistic. Join From Left to Write on March 12 as we discuss Raising Cubby. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

I Have Several Things To Tell You…

1. You guys are great. Thank you.

2. Here’s something. So. You all know that I’ve been running (because I won’t shut up about it). Today I went for a run right after lunch in weather that was unexpectedly much warmer than I expected it to be while I was wearing too many clothes.

Anywho, long story short, I was less than a mile and a half into my run when I decided to give in and turn the run into a walk. That is not the problem.

You may know that I am a slow runner and that I am working on bringing my speed up. My medium-term speed goal is a 12 minute mile. So I was delighted that my speed on that 1.43 miles was an average of a 12:06 minute mile.

Then I walked the rest of the way home at a 13:53 minute mile pace. This is also not the problem. The problem is that I look at my distance log and this is what I see:

Side note: I know it's not really *that* much, but I'm going to have more than 50 miles this month! Yay!

Side note: I know it’s not really *that* much, but I’m going to have more than 50 miles this month! Yay!

If you look at the 23rd and 24th, when I ran slightly longer distances not on the treadmill (on which I do intervals, so a slower average), my pace was more than a 14 minute mile.

WHY DO I WALK FASTER THAN I RUN?

Should I just walk? I know I slow down when I get more tired after a few miles, but COME ON. How slow must I be running those later miles if my average is 14+ minute miles? What is happening?

I mean, I KNOW what is happening is that I keep trying and the longer I run, the faster I will get, but I don’t understand.

I just had to get that off of my chest.

3. I am SO excited about this next thing. I am a new contributing writer over at Autism Women’s Network and my first post went up Tuesday. How cool is that?

I wrote about my autism diagnosis and how I feel like Jack gave me a tremendous gift by helping me see myself in a clearer light. Please go check out my article over there: The Gift of Self-Knowledge.

4. My mom has been in town visiting and is actually leaving Wednesday, much to the chagrin of my children. I wrote about how her visits help me out over at White Knuckle Parenting: When Nana Comes to Town.

5. I would like to reiterate that you all are awesome.

Safe

I’ve been feeling really overwhelmed lately. I’m not sure why, but things have been pressing down on me and it’s been tough to get stuff done and operate at a hundred percent.

I don’t know that I’ve been exceptionally busy or had an exceptional number of demands on me, but things have felt exhausting.

A few weeks ago I started seeing a new therapist. My first session was at 7pm on a night that I had been busy all day. I had driven in and out of DC. I hadn’t been alone all day long. I’d rushed from one place to another. I’d been through an emotional therapy session earlier that afternoon with the family therapist that my kids see. It wasn’t a bad day, but I hadn’t had any down time.

By the time I headed out for the appointment, I was wrecked. Not five minutes into the session, the therapist said something about his office being a safe place and I burst into tears.

Even less than a year ago, I would have called myself an idiot and then felt stupid for crying the first time I met this guy. That particular night, I was able to recognize why I started bawling. First of all, I’m kind of an idiot. That’s okay. But mostly I realized that my day had just been too much and I had been pushed past my limit. And when he said I was safe? That means a lot to me.

When people ask me what my autism diagnosis does for me, this is one of them: It gives me the self-knowledge to understand why I react to things the way I do and it allows me to go easy on myself for those reactions. If I were smarter, my diagnosis would probably make me realize I should schedule my days so I don’t end up in meltdown mode at 7 pm.

It has also made me think about what I consider to be safe—and how much I value those things. When I talk here about safety, I’m not referring so much to physical safety, but mental safety. Safe means a place I can be myself. Safe means a place where I can make a mistake and it’s okay. Safe means a place where I don’t have to be ON. Safe means a place where I don’t have to hide parts of myself. Safe is where there are no unexpected, unreasonable attacks—interpersonal, sensory, what have you.

Hopefully safe places stay safe. There is nothing worse than a safe place that suddenly becomes unsafe.

Safe can be a person; safe can be a place; safe can be a situation or a moment. Unsafe can also be a person, place, or situation; unsafe can be an email account that gets unkind messages; unsafe can be a ringing telephone, or an event where I don’t know what to expect, even with friendly people in attendance.

There are people I absolutely love, but who aren’t safe. There are also people that I feel safe around that I am not particularly close to.

Unsafe places are not necessarily to be avoided. They just require a lot more effort on my part. Sometimes unsafe places are to be avoided and that is when they edge into where those unexpected, unreasonable attacks appear.

There can be safe places online as well. This blog has been such an amazing safe place for me and I want to thank all of you for that. I am constantly amazed by how supportive you are, and I appreciate that so much. Even when people have disagreed with me, this space has never become unsafe. I think that’s awesome.

I wrote a lot of this post a long time ago, after that evening with the therapist, but I didn’t publish it because it felt too…well, too unsafe. I decided to put it into the world after a space that wasn’t safe exactly, but was at least neutral, become decidedly unsafe. It’s nothing I won’t get over. I’ll build another wall and put up more defenses and I will be more cautious in trusting that type of space again.

I spend a lot of time worrying about doing and saying the right thing. Frankly, even admitting that I worry about that seems like the wrong thing to say. (I think the right thing is supposed to be, “I don’t care what anyone thinks about me.”) I rehearse things I am considering saying or writing before I utter them and I run over conversations in my head after I have them. I don’t think I’m alone in that.

It’s okay though because I am lucky to have several enduring safe spaces in my life, including some stellar friends and my home, which is almost always entirely safe. I think my safe people know who they are and how much I appreciate them. That’s why I’m publishing this post now. For those people—and for you. I want you to know that I appreciate you too—that you have given me this place that we share. Thank you.

I Hate New Year’s Eve

I feel like I should write something for New Year’s Eve because everyone is all over Facebook and stuff being all, “Grateful for family and friends! I hope 2013 is awesome for everyone!” and I’m like, “That is nice and all, but I just really need this night to be over so everyone can just chill the fuck out and stop being loud and obnoxious.”

See, I’m in New York, which is maybe the dumbest place to spend New Year’s Eve if you hate people and hate noise because you have to accept that people are going to be loud and you’re the asshole if you call the front desk over and over to complain about noise on the biggest party night of the year. Even I get that.

Alex is at a concert and I am tapping my foot impatiently waiting for the movie my kids are watching on TV to be over so I can make them go to bed and I can put on headphones and a movie and block out all the noise of younger, more fun people.

I figure that I’ll at least have a few hours of quiet when everyone is out partying, right?

New York is nice and all, but I don’t know how people live here. I would be the biggest ball of stress you ever saw. We’ve had a really fun vacation, but I am rapidly losing my ability to cope. I can’t wait to be back in my house, where I control who shares walls with me and the most obnoxious thing I have to contend with is Alex’s continued insistence on breathing when he sleeps.

Have a wonderful New Year! I am very grateful for all of my friends and family and I hope that 2013 is the best year yet for all of you.

But, fuck, let’s just get this night over with, okay?

Autism is Shining

Last week was hard, wasn’t it? There was so much ugly and sad and angry and heartbroken. It was a terrible week. Weeks will continue to be terrible for 27 families and those that loved them in Newtown. Like you, I have been trying to send my love to them and wishing them peace.

Yet during all of this, there has been a terrible undercurrent in the autism community. After Newtown, Asperger’s and autism hasn’t just been misunderstood, it has been vilified. People in the community are afraid. Parents are afraid that friends, family, classmates, teachers, and strangers will fear and hate their autistic children, just because they are autistic. Adults are afraid that neighbors, coworkers, friends, and employers will fear and hate them just because they are autistic. Allies are afraid that their efforts to share awareness and acceptance will be overshadowed by this very fear and hate.

There are examples of this already happening that have been circulating through the autism and autistic communities. When people with autism, their parents, and their allies just want to mourn Newtown with the rest of the country, we have been left having to defend ourselves instead.

This is why a few wonderful people, people I am lucky to call friends, have started Autism Shines. Hundreds of people have shared photos of themselves and their children to tell the world what autism really is. It is a page FULL of love. I have seen some of you and your kids there. Every photo I’ve seen has made me so very happy, which is a wonderful thing to be this week.

This is autism.

This is autism.

this is jack

This is autism.

Jack looked at his photo just now and asked me to put it on the internet. Then he asked me to print it out. We just went and taped the photo over his bed. He is proud of who he is. PROUD. He shines. I want him to grow up in a world where he can stay that way—and where other people see that shine too.

Thank you to the people behind Autism Shines. Thank you for putting that good into the world.