September 11, 2013

I know it’s late, but that’s how I roll…

September 11, 2001:

I sat in my therapists office as he railed on about worry and fear, telling me: “don’t worry about yesterday, its in the past and you can’t change it. Don’t worry about tomorrow, it isn’t here. Focus on today only.”

I’ve often joked about how my life could have been so different if I had actually taken his advice and focused on “today only”. My young, impressionable mind could have become royally obsessed with the Towers, the airplanes, the people.

Instead, I still fear the past, I still worry about the future and I can’t relax today. Instead, it took me years to process what I’d see and heard that day. The conflicting actions of the people in my life who were supposed to help me through it. Viewing that much hate and that much love and still so much indifference all in a span of a few hours left me with a lot of confusion.

Even further down the years, I’m married to a soldier. He’s fought in the wars that started that day, as has his older brother and so many other men and women. Not all of them come home. When you look at the death counts (a phrase that shouldn’t even exist), do you just count those in the Towers, the ones in the airplanes and the ones in the Pentagon? Or do you remember that so many more have died as a result of that day? Each soldier, contractor, or civilian who has died in the wars of Iraq and Afghanistan has died because of what happened September 11, 2001.

Let’s remember this, when we look at other war-torn nations and think we can help. Decades ago, we thought we could help. Today, we mark the anniversary of the day that help bit us in the ass.

Let’s remember those who lost their lives because our government focused too much on today and not enough about our future. Let’s remember those people who lost their lives because a small group of anti-Americans decided a plane would make a great weapon of mass destruction. Let’s remember the soldiers who have lost their lives taking the fight to another country, so our children can grow up without seeing bodies in the streets or living in fear of being murdered in their sleep as a message to the town.

Let’s remember.

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Slacker Blogging

I seem to have become depressed over the past week. I’ve been taking the death of the cat very hard…

As a result, my blog is suffering. Sorry guys.

I promise to get back with it this week. More Autism Awareness blogs and the 30 Day Drawing Challenge posts are coming this week. I will get caught up and finish on time. I promise.

I’ve sent my husband an email to help me stay on task and focus. I need things to keep me moving…

On a side note, I will be updating on my 29 Things list soon… I’m failing myself already, and it’s only April…

A really long day

I know today is April 1st. This means that I should be starting a 30 Day Drawing Challenge with some fellow bloggers. This also means, I’m supposed to start my re-release of my “30 Days with Autism” blog series, in hopes that the third year is the year I finish it.

But

My cat died this morning.

It was not uncommon for Bellatrix LeStrange to go days, or even a week or more, without eating. She did this several times a year and was always okay. Not this time.

The kids have been obsessed with weighing and measuring things lately, so they naturally moved on to “How much does Bella weigh?” when they tired of weighing themselves and each other.

She was around eight pounds two weeks ago.

She was just 4 pounds this past weekend.

My cat literally starved herself to death. For no reason I can find, Bellatrix stopped eating about ten days ago. I had just refilled her food dish and she wouldn’t touch it. After a few days, it seems she also gave up on drinking water. Again, this was not uncommon and she’d done it many times over the four and a half years we had her. She was always fine. This past weekend, when I had taken note of the weight she’d lost, I began to cry out for help.

I texted my mother, my friends with cats, I even took to a group of Army wives on Facebook. We gave her chicken (boiled and raw), salmon, cat food, cat treats, milk, water, I even scrubbed her bowl out to make sure there was nothing on it that might be effecting her appetite. She wouldn’t touch any of it. She had been using the litter box, so she must have at least been drinking some water.

With Spring Break over, the kids were off to school this morning, bright and early. We were running a few minutes behind, but I decided to check on her before we left. I could see she wasn’t breathing. I didn’t need to touch her to know her body was rigid. I barely touched her fur to feel the chill on her body. I began to cry, but not sob. That comes later, when the kids aren’t around. I ushered them into the car without a word to suggest anything was wrong. I was still crying and Little Brother asked if I was sad. I told him I was crying because I was just so very tired from Spring Break and I took them to school.

I was able to hold it together for about 45 minutes. Long enough to get through speech therapy and put in the money for our Autism Walk T-shirt order. I went home and sobbed. I cried hard and ugly sobs. I feel like I cried for hours, that’s probably because I did. My friends, my husband, nobody knew what to say. I dug the hole in our backyard by myself for a while. Got it nearly eighteen inches deep before the panic and the stress and the tunnel vision got the better of me and I almost threw up right there in the yard.

I had a brief snack and then had to get Sissy from school. Watching her bound out of the building and run to me with a huge smile on her face, I couldn’t help but think, “I’m about to destroy her perfect little world.”

She took it better than I thought she would. Getting emotional a few times, but handling it with her classic optimism. A friend and her family came over to help us. Her husband finished the hole in the backyard while we tended to the children inside. I took each of them aside and explained it. For Sissy, I explained that now Papa (my late father-in-law) would have a friend in Heaven now. For Little Brother, I told him that Bellatrix had to go fight the dragons and that she would be gone forever. He replied, “But she doesn’t have a sword?” True to form, Little Brother is my own personal comic relief.

I took the cat outside, bound in a towel and three layers of bags, wrapped in a paper bag so the kids wouldn’t have to see her like that. We, Sissy and I, went out back and said a prayer over the cat. Then together we shoveled the dirt back into the hole and went back inside.

My friend was still here, and the kids played for a bit, then I took everyone out to dinner. I needed to be with people and have something positive today. We spent quite a bit of money, but the fun, friends and good time were worth it. I don’t have a lot of friends, but the ones I do have are worth their weight in the most precious rubies.

So my beautiful kitty is gone, my husband isn’t here to comfort me and I’ve been crying literally since 8:15 this morning…

I will double post tomorrow all the good stuff that April has in store for me and you, but for tonight, I leave it here.

RIP my dear sweet kitty.
August 2008-Easter 2013

This was taken last week. I was trying to get her to drink water in the kitchen, she was more interested in watching the water circle down the drain.

This was taken last week. I was trying to get her to drink water in the kitchen, she was more interested in watching the water circle down the drain.

The Real Faces of Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome.

To be honest, I haven’t seen or read a single new story about the events in Connecticut last Friday. I’m deliberately ignorant of the news and media as much as possible, not because I don’t care, but because I care too much.

Being over-sensitive and extremely empathetic, the only thing that would be achieved from me watching the news would be me laying in bed crying for days at a time, and I can’t burden myself or my children that way. My heart is breaking in all this just the same.

I have heard through a few friends on Facebook that the shooter was possibly an Aspie, like myself. Does this make me a killer? Does this make me capable of hurting a perfect stranger? I don’t believe it does and I want to explain why I feel this way. But first, I’d like to tell you about a little girl.

Sissy in her "I look just like Junie B." outfit.

Sissy in her “I look just like Junie B.” outfit.

This is Sissy. She is almost seven years old. Her blonde hair is the envy of many; her blue eyes a stark contrast again her pale skin. She is nearly a blonde version on Snow White. She likes to draw Disney characters using tutorials on Dragoart.com. She has a list of her favorite colors that is ten colors long, in order they are: pink, purple, yellow, grey, black, white, blue, red, green, and orange (subject to change on a whim) . Sissy loves clocks and time. She was reading chapter books at the age of 4. She is halfway through the second grade a full year ahead of schedule. Her favorite subject is math and she loves to write large numbers (6- or 7-digits long) in expanded notation. She is learning to multiply. Last year, in first grade, she helped to teach her classmates to read. One of her best friends was also in her class and through encouragement and being a good friend, Sissy was able to help her friend gain better reading skills. At the end of the school year, both girls had more than 50 Accelerated Reading points, Sissy had more than 75 points. The end of year goal for first grade was 10 AR points. She collects Lalaloopsy dolls, sucks on her index finger when she sleeps and sometimes, she wets the bed. She is six years old. She is the age of the average Kindergartener, and has a joy that is impossible not to infect others with. Sissy watches Disney Junior with her little brother, often times reciting the dialogue of Jake and the Neverland Pirates, word for word along with the show. Her love of life is contagious. Her love of others innumerable. Last Christmas, she gave all of the money in her piggy bank to the Salvation Army bell ringers at our local Wal-Mart store. Each trip to Wal-Mart we make, she and her brother ask for coins to put in the Children’s Hospital Charity Bank. They like to watch the coins spin down down down until they drop into the bottle of the large clear cylinder. This year, she nearly cried when I told her we would have to wait to donate toys. She asked to give her own doll away. Her spirit was so great, that not only did we buy toys that day, but we drove across town to take them to the donation drop off point. (Heart of a Child) If her heart were any bigger, I’m convinced she would explode and burst love and happiness onto everyone around her. Sissy is also autistic.

photo by ©Lynne Hough 2012

photo by ©Lynne Hough 2012

She has an impressive memory, can recite whole songs or show episodes from memory without prompting and has renamed my Honda CR-V “Bucky” in honor of the pirate ship from Jake and the Neverland Pirates. She puts too much pressure on her pencils when she writes. Sissy is incredibly intelligent and helpful, but doesn’t understand normal social cues, often times invades into the personal space of others and needs a lot of direction to complete tasks. She has autism, but contrary to what the media would have you believe, she wouldn’t hurt anyone, ever. I say that from experience. This is a child who sobbed heavily when watching the newest Tinkerbell movie. In the movie, a leading character breaks a wing and when that happens the fairy will never fly again. I had to pause the movie to console her because she was beside herself with grief over the fairy’s predicament. She cried when Jake lost Bucky to Captain Hook in the episode “Jake Saves Bucky“. She couldn’t hurt anyone intentionally and not feel tremendous guilt and anxiety over having harmed someone.

Now with all the news outlets claiming autism makes killers, and people all over Facebook claiming we, those within the Autism community, should be “locked up for the safety of others” or “have to register their illness”, I fear for her safety and my own.

I want to explain why this event, though tragic, does not define me. Many of us with AS and ASD are questioning ourselves as a result of inaccurate and incomplete media coverage. Spreading ignorance is worse than spreading knowledge because people are quicker to believe a lie than the truth, particularly in times of fear and anger. I would never hurt anyone intentionally, unless I first feared for my safety or that of my children. I know this to be a fact because it took me NINE YEARS to learn to drive a car, and three years later, I’m still too cautious when I drive.

My sister (on the left) and me in high school.

My sister (on the left) and me in high school.

This might be hard for people to make the connection between it taking so long for me to drive and my ability to harm someone else. In my experience as a child, my step-dad worked in an auto body shop. When a car was in an accident, it would be towed into the garage he worked at where it would sit, mangled and deformed, until the insurance company, owner, and police had a chance to review the vehicle damage or make a case. Most of these cars were simple accidents. A few fender benders, maybe a hit and run, sometimes a single car accident, but one vehicle came in when I was fourteen. I was six months away from taking Driver’s Ed in school when this car came in and worse yet, the vehicle was then parked in the courtyard of my high school the week before prom as a warning against drinking and driving. The blue car, with it’s windshield shattered into the floor, the steering wheel resting flat against the front seat parallel to the floor, was a mangled mess of metal, broken glass, and what was left of the poor girl who had been driving.

Her brain matter had dried in places, sticking her hair to the windows like red puff paint. The seats were stained a shade of red I will never forget. A few of her teeth were in the floor board where they had come to idle after being forcibly evicted from her mouth as her body slammed against the dashboard, steering wheel and windshield. She had had only one drink. It had cost her her own life and nearly took that of her twelve year old sister who was seated in the front passenger seat at the time of the accident. The bio-hazard stickers gently covered the outside of the car as a reminder to others not to get too close. This car, with it’s mangled metal, broken glass and dried blood sat in the courtyard for a week. Every day I was forced to walk by this car, forced to experience the accident again and again, forced to feel the pain of her death each time I walked to the art building or science building or cafeteria. I saw this car everywhere I went.

The next semester, I took Driver’s Ed. I believe I got yelled at the most of the people who were in my driving group and I know for a fact that he hit the breaks more often when I was driving than my fellow students. I passed Driver’s Ed with a ‘B’. I was 15. In the next nine years, I had three learner’s permits (the ones where you have to drive with someone else who is old enough to teach you to drive). Three learner’s permits in two states. In those nine years, I went through a lot of bus passes. My mom tried to teach me to drive and failed. My step-dad tried to teach me to drive and failed. Two nice girls from my church tried to teach me to drive and failed. In those nine years, I got married. I had two kids. But I was terrified that driving would get me or someone else killed. In my experience, cars were dangerous and I still get anxious if I have to drive to unfamiliar places or over long distances. My husband and I drove three days to California this past summer. During those three days, I drove 100 miles on day two. My husband drove the rest of the way. My husband was finally able to teach me to drive when it became a necessity. He had signed the paperwork with the Army recruiter. He was leaving in nine months to go to Basic Training. I had to learn to drive. I am nearly 28 years old and I’ve had my driver’s license for three years this Friday.

Sissy and I at Sea World San Diego during block leave Summer 2012

Sissy and I at Sea World San Diego during block leave Summer 2012

Having Asperger’s alone, will not make you a killer. My daughter and I are the faces of autism. We are among many people with AS or ASD who would more likely harm ourselves than someone around us. This is the truth of autism. We are more likely to hurt ourselves in a fit of frustration, than we are to shoot up a classroom of children in a premeditated fit of rage. We are only two, but there are THOUSANDS of us out here, shamed and frightened, and questioning. So many questions.

If he is an “Killer Aspie”, what does that make me?

I would encourage you all, bloggers, Facebook folks, Tweeters, get out there and celebrate the people in your life who have AS and ASD. Together, we can quell this anti-autism media, but we have to get out there and say something. We don’t look at a serial killer and instantly brand him as “neurotypical”. We cannot let other define us as killers for the actions of one person. We are the “Real Faces of Autism and Asperger’s Syndrome”, not the one person who committed a horrible act.