Sunday, November 13, 2011

An Outlier in the Single World

At some point recently I stumbled across a ministry called Boundless which is a young adults' ministry run by Focus on the Family. It has articles both for people in the Symbio and Rock demographics.  A lot of the articles are about dating and preparing for marriage. Luckily there are also articles on college and career choices as well. 

When skimming the site, I realized that I'm probably an outlier when it comes to the single world. 
On this graph, I'd probably be in one of the end (light purple arrowed) categories. Boundless and even Symbio are probably geared toward the average and out to 1 standard deviation (within the orange arrows). Average being the average person in their mid 20's - mid 30's. Meaning, probably the average person has 4-5 years of post-secondary education, has had in 3-5 years of Summitview or church ministry involvement, and stands I'd say about a 70% chance of getting married before age 35. 

Going by those statistics, I'd fall within 1 standard deviation. 

But if the statistics were this: Average Symbio female has desired dating or DWAPing for 3-5 years, hopes to marry within 2 years of joining Symbio, and 30% have been in a previous relationship, than I'd be more of an outlier. If the statistics for both male and female were: 90% of the population has frequently prayed for a spouse within the past 6 months, than I'd DEFINITELY be an outlier. 

*Note, these statistics were completely made up without me doing a formal study haha.*

In the Rock I had liked guys and wanted to get married, but that's not my reality now. Over half of articles for single people are about how to deal with life when you really really really want to get married but it hasn't happened yet. I've found one article about a person consciously choosing singleness. It sort of bounced around which was a little difficult, but it was decent. 

I think I've finally settled that for now I've chosen singleness and honestly is really is because I'm on the autism spectrum. It's not because I feel less worthy than my neurotypical peers, but because I honestly don't think I could handle dealing with another person's emotions 24/7. Was seeing Dr. Grandin's path of life right after I got diagnosed a factor? Yup. But it wasn't the only factor. I've been thinking about it a lot. 

So going back to the outlier thing, what am I to do when I realize that ministries like Boundless and to a lesser extent Symbio is geared toward the average population? One thing I remember is God does not treat me as if I'm outside of the statistical norm. He works with everyone individually - those within the average and those on the far sides of the bell curve. And the statistical norm isn't inherently better. It's just what it is. I have to remember that. 

And finally, maybe I can find some other outlying friends, which I actually have. There are other people who are content with being single and aren't planning on getting married any time soon or agonizing over it. We can support each other and see how God wants us to work with and fit in to the rest of our local church family. 

Monday, November 07, 2011

Nerds of Greatness

So today Google had this drawing of Marie Curie on their homepage.
One of my aunts told me about her. I think it was in a conversation about the Nobel Prize.  I had said something about the Nobel prize of medicine. 
Anyway I read up on Marie Curie.  She didn't become a fixation,  but I still thought she was cool. Other scientists I thought were cool were Stephen Hawking,  Ben Carson ( neurosurgeon at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine), and yes Bill Nye the Science Guy. 

Throughout my childhood Helen Keller was still the main famous intellectual I looked up to.

With my current fixation still being Dr. Grandin,  I realized a trend as I looked back: most of my  childhood heroes were not celebrites or athletes. Rather they were nerds of greatness. I guess that makes sense for a girl who slept with science books under her pillow for a while.  

Having nerdy role-models made me feel better about my intense interest in science and medicine related topics. When I got teased at school my list of nerds of greatness made me feel less alone.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Passing on Musical Memories

In an earlier blog post  I wrote about my connection to music as a child. Today I had yet another cool realization. One of my clients really likes Elvis. 
Technically Elvis is one of his special interests. I'd say it's his main special interest.We as staff motivate him by talking about doing stuff like Elvis. This client named the group home van Elvis. A while back he got a DVD box set of about 10 DVDs on Elvis' life and footage of live concerts and recording sessions. We watched those all day today. 

An older co-worker told me that Elvis covered a lot of old songs because I recognized some of the songs from the radio when I was a kid and Mom would listen to oldies. He covered Simon and Garfunkel's Bridge over Troubled Water and "Sweet Caroline." He was basically a cover-artist who knew how to shake it. 

Those songs brought back memories of listening to old records on Mom's old record player and later on tapes. I remember Mom actually would sing "Sweet Caroline" to me. I guess I really liked it when I first heard it. She may have even sang "Bridge over Troubled Water" to me. Those two songs may have been really soothing. 

As I was cleaning up the breakfast dishes in the kitchen today I found myself singing those songs as they had been played on the Elvis documentary. Suddenly I realized my client was singing along as much as he could. He was on the stairs trying to dance like Elvis while singing. He had a really big grin on his face. 

Suddenly I realized that God was giving me an opportunity to re live my childhood memory of singing the oldies with my mom. It was a neat feeling - I guess what some would call touching - that here I was a grown up in a caregiver role singing these same songs that I enjoyed as a child to another person for his benefit. I think it's cool how God can use stuff like music - sometimes the exact songs I enjoyed to pass on those good memories on. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

A for Autism and awesomeness aka Temple Grandin

So this is a continuation of my previous post :)

When I first was told that I might have autism I freaked out really badly. That was understandable since getting a diagnosis of a disability is hard for anyone. But I truly felt like my future was over and that I would never be successful or achieve anything because I like most other people thought of low-functioning autism when I heard the term.

This picture was taken by the Fort Collins Coloradoan when they covered the celebration where the Temple Grandin Scholarship was unveiled. I was actually at the celebration and ACTUALY GOT TO SHAKE DR. GRANDIN'S HAND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! :) :) :) erm... I digress...

That celebration reminded me of how Dr. Grandin changed the way I thought about autism - about my diagnosis of an autism spectrum disorder. I know I've said this a million times on this blog, but it was her story that turned my thinking around from, "AAAH! I'm on the autism spectrum, this means I'll NEVER SUCCEED AT LIFE and I'm somehow lesser." to "Hm... maybe I'll become a famous researcher now that I know I'm way way way more nerdy than the average person." It made me smile a little.

\More importantly, when I think of autism now, I don't think of a child in a corner locked in his or her own world. I think of Dr. Temple Grandin lecturing, or being licked all over her face by cattle, or teaching a class. I think of the way she's honest about her continued need to adapt to sensory issues and how she's continuing to learn about the social world. I think of how far she's come with the right help from teachers, her aunt, and her mother. When I think of autism, I think of her and I think of how I can help my clients engage with the world and adapt just like she has. 

The scary A-Word!

This article here states that infants with low birth weight are at more of an increased risk for autism. The lay-press article is based off of J.A. Pinto-Martin et. al. (2011) Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Adolescents Born Weighing <2000 Grams. Pediatrics, 128(5), 882-892. 

It's interesting because I think a lot of people freak out when they read a risk-factor related to autism. It's like the dreaded developmental disorder diagnosis.  Because people often think of kids and adults with the disorder as mute and having severe behavioral issues. They might think about the bad things like uncontrollable temper tantrums that the caregiver can't contain unless he or she figures out the sensory issues or frustration issues behind them. They might think of the things like the child or client not being able to reciprocate affection.

As a caregiver in a group home, I can appreciate how hard it is to deal with the behavioral issues. I have thought many times, "Hm. I wonder what it would be like to get into Client A's head." I can imagine that it would be difficult for someone to raise a child or care for a client long term and have much of that client or child's inner workings of his or her brain be a mystery. I could also understand that the reciprocal affection is not always there. For example, when I say good bye to a certain client, he will sometimes give me a wave, but other times he is off in his own world and will give me a slight glance as I wave to him to leave. On the rare occasion, his wave is paired with a smile. That makes me feel warm inside.

Even if I wasn't on the autism spectrum, I would hope I would have a better outlook when I hear the word autism. I think of when I watched Wizard of Oz with another client for whom tornados and witches are some of his special interests. The big grin he got on his face when I said, "Look, S! It's the tornado! IT'S GETTING THE WITCH!" and he laughed is an image that comes to mind when I hear autism. And the interested look and small smile another client gave me once when I turned on a string of decorative lights in the living room is another good image. Even if I never experienced autism myself, seeing people on the spectrum  enjoying their environments as well as when they struggle in their environment might give me a more balanced picture of autism. If I become an occupational therapist, I hope I can pass that along to others as well.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Feeling Behind no matter What

So today I had a moment of feeling behind in life. I just checked Facebook and found out one of my friends I knew from my time in an internship got married. She's younger than me and she adds to the ranks of other people younger than me getting a ring on it. 
I also hung out with my cousin today who's a teacher and is married with two daughters. Her daughters were really cute. My cousin is 2 years older than me. After we hung out, I went to the CSU campus to work on my Occupationaeltl Therapy school application. 

Suddenly I felt behind. 

Suddenly I felt like I wasn't where I should be in life. I should have a good career going OR I should be married and producing grandchildren for my mom. 

Even though my job at the group home is fulfilling, most people don't see it as a long-term career goal. And I obviously am not married. 

Yet as I entered my coursework into the application, I realized: I accomplished something: A CRAP-LOAD OF SCHOOL!!!!!! But seriously, not everyone gets a chance to go to a university or go to grad school. So those things are accomplishments. And not everyone has the personality needed to work in a group home. 

I thought about it further: What if I had a career? What if I was a program manager instead of a direct support provider at my group home? I could still feel behind if our organization wasn't running our facility like another in the region. I could still feel behind if I didn't have a ring on it. 

OK. Well, what if I had a ring on it and had a kid or so? If I stayed home, I'd feel behind because I wasn't working in the 'real world' even though providing direct care for a child's physical needs and teaching them social skills and helping them accomplish developmentally appropriate tasks is hard hard work. I get a glimpse of it when I work with kids in a classroom and when I see parents out in the field. 

Let's take it 1 step further: Let's say that I had a good career and was a wife and mother. First of all, I'd go insane. Secondly, I could STILL FEEL BEHIND!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! No kidding. I could be like, "This person with the same family structure is moving faster in her career. This person with the same hours as me somehow scheduled in more activities for her kids than my kids have..."

Suddenly a lightbulb came on in my head: We all want to be ahead - to win the big prize of accomplishment.

I think it's just human nature and part of wanting to be a god of sorts.  Yet if I realize that God has a plan for our lives and if we are in Christ, God has our approval because we have Christ's righteousness that He gave to us on the Cross. So we don't have to work for some sort of tangible or intangible trophy. We fall in to the temptation ALL THE TIME. We just have to apply faith and do good in the stuff God calls us to do and tell people about Him. And the cool thing is God helps us with that. 

Then I don't have to bemoan, "Oh, I'm not married. Oh, I don't have an AMAZING career, oh, I'm going back to school while everyone else's lives are moving on.... oh woe is me. :P" I can thank God for where He has taken me, where I am now, and where He would want me in the future :) Then I don't feel behind anymore. I feel right where God wants me :)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Seeing another's path and finding my own

I'm taking a class called Handicapped Individuals in Society  (OT 355) as part of preparing to apply to CSU's Occupational Therapy  program. Sometimes it makes me remember or think about how I've dealt with my disabilities in the past and how I'm doing now. 

According to the reading I read yesterday, people who are in the bargaining mindset (from Kubler-Ross's grief process model) see a glimmer of hope and seek out how their disability can be fixed. 

I realized that was partially to account for my fixation on Dr. Temple Grandin. Soon after my diagnosis of PPD-NOS, I was searching for a future. I was wondering, "Now what?" Conveniently enough, someone had lived life with an autism spectrum disorder and she was just a bus-ride to campus away. 

I became fixated on her life because I needed a path to walk down. My whole sense of who I was and my future was rearranged, and I needed somewhere to go. 

I thought, "If my life could look like hers, I will be ok." "If I do what she does, then I think all this will be worth it." That was why it was the bargaining phase of my thinking. That clamoring to find something to not necessarily fix, but finding something good to balance out the really intense bad feelings of, "Oh my goodness, someone threw a sledgehammer at my development / identity / future plans!!!!!!!!!"

Well,  EXACTLY A YEAR AGO, I actually got to see Dr. Grandin at a lecture!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Yes, she gave that exact lecture, though this picture wasn't taken at Colorado State University. It was pulled from Google Images. Anyhoo... I saw her at the University Center for the Arts at Griffin Concert Hall with one of my best friends Kristina.... IT WAS REALLY AWESOME AND I TOTALLY EEKED AFTERWARD!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

Erm - sorry, I got distracted :) So after the lecture, I realized that I can't follow exactly in her footsteps a) because livestock is not my thing (I'd so get trampled, and cows and horses smell funny) and b) more importantly, our ASD affects us in different ways. Dr. Grandin is totally cool with giving a lecture in front of millions of people since that's apparently what she spends half her life doing. She's less comfortable just hanging out talking with people even though she does it during book signings. I don't know how much she'd like working at the group home where I work. I like it :) 

So I realized this: Our paths initially cross wherein we both are on the autism spectrum, and we are both affiliated with CSU, but we're very different. Part of moving into an acceptance frame of mind was when I realized that I could look at her path to see how God used one person's disability and then trust Him for how He would use mine. One way where Dr. Grandin and I are the same, is that I've had the opportunity to help my clients on the spectrum and empathize with them because I've felt similar frustrations as they have.  Where my path will go, I don't know. It might cross Dr. Grandin's path again, or it may go a completely different way, and that's fine :) 

Saturday, August 27, 2011

When the feeling is (neurochemically) stripped away

Something I didn't mention on the vacation summary was that I did all that on 2x my normal dose of antidepressants that I take in very low doses for anxiety that comes with having an autism spectrum disorder. I decided ahead of time to up my dose (which my doctor said it was ok to do in times of stress) because I knew I'd be a formal caregiver for my mom, and to a lesser extent, my grandma and my aunt. It was hard being "lead staff" at the airport at DIA. I felt sensory overload coming on, and if I had aggressive tendencies, I probably would've thrown something. I was grateful that I was potentially 'overcompensating' by having more calming neurotransmitters in my brain for crisis situations that did actually come up. 

I went back to my normal dose after vacation, but I still felt emotionally 'blah.' it's like someone still hadn't turned back on half of my emotional connections that were somewhat suppressed on vacation. The basic emotions like happiness, sadness, fear, and anger I could still feel, but I didn't have access to more complicated or in depth emotions. 

This affected my relationship with God, along with not really being able to completely focus on reading the Bible and/or praying over vacation. I didn't feel motivated to pray or long for a connection with God. 

Yet I knew logically that connecting with God is good. God calls us to remain connected like a branch to the rest of the vine (John 15:5), and as I am one of His creation, and one of His redeemed, it's nice for me to check in :) I knew God's Word is spiritual nutrition, and depriving myself of that is like not physically feeding myself. 

During the time when I was going back to my normal dose and letting my brain 'reset' itself, I still felt like I was in an emotional dry spell. People would tell me things and I could logically empathize with them and feel sad or happy when they told me something, but I couldn't quite completely feel the complicated emotions they were feeling. I realized this during a meeting with some other people from Symbio. It felt good to tell people that I was in an emotional dry spell and needed my Creator's help to  connect to Him even if only the intellectual channel was open and also it would be nice if He helped my brain :D 

Well, good news, I think my brain has finally reset itself!!!!!!!!!!! I feel excited about a friend's bridal shower, and a greater depth of joy as I read the Bible and listened to some worship music. One thing that I think helped me connect to God was just to listen to truth (getting a Chris Tomlin CD from the library helped :D ) and just soak my brain in it. I just pondered it and reminded myself that it was logically consistent. Chris Tomlin's And if Our God is For Us CD has a lot of great theology packed into its songs! 

When many of my more complicated and deep emotions appeared neurochemically stripped away,  my belief in God was retained. My connection with God was retained of course through His Spirit and also because I have learned too much about God to just deny Him. I know He holds all things together and is the strength of the believer. I know He rebuilds and redeems and nothing can stop the rebuilding process for a people or for an individual (look at the books of Nehemiah and Ezra). I know He is sovereign, and He works all things for the good of those who love Him. He is Savior because Christ ressurected from the dead defeating death and sin. I felt happy being reminded of these truths and being reminded that they are logical and conceptually tied together in a lot of ways. Now that more emotion circuits are turned back on, I can feel a deeper joy and my love can grow more and more in knowledge and depth of insight (Philippians 1:9). I am glad that my growth is ultimately up to God and not dependent on my own emotions and neurochemistry!!!!!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

So how was the vacation anyway?

So, yeah, I mobile blogged sort of in a bad mood haha!!!!! But really, I enjoyed my vacation. I went to a family reunion. The relatives were pretty neat to get to know. I'm not posting any pictures of them because I don't know how they would feel about their photos being in the blogsphere....

One of the first things we did was visit the Genesee Village and Museum. It was a working 1850's village. I nerded out asking about teacher training back in the day when Mom and I visited the school. This time was the first time I really felt like I was on vacation. That was nice :) I took a 'break' from walking around with Mom and walked around with some great aunts and cousins. It was fun to talk with them as we walked around.

The next place I visited was Niagara Falls. That was fun.Ok - it started out with me being more like a crisis-intervention staff for my mom because she was mad at her sister for not letting her out of the car sooner when she was trying to find a place to park. Mom had to go to the bathroom and we narrowly made it into a cafe. Mom was still pretty miffed and I dealt with that. 

But seeing the falls reminded me that God was bigger than all that. I'm pretty sure that Niagara Falls was formed after the Flood. At first I thought it was ironic that people were flocking to a place that was created out of the Flood which was an act of God's judgement. But seeing beauty in it reminded me that God was gracious too. Being reminded of who God is helped me relax and enjoy myself again :)

Yup. That's me. Mom and I went on the Maid of the Mist tour and I got a little wet. But it was so refreshing - it was like the stress of getting to the vacation and Mom's crisis just was washed away. I realized that when God says He's washing our sins away, it's not like standing under a regular garden hose, or even a nice shower. It's like standing under Niagara Falls. He washed my stress away and I enjoyed getting wet haha! Funny thing, the water was salty. After getting wet, I bought a cute stuffed duck that was wearing a little rain-jacket like the one I had on. She's cute. I named her Misty the Duck.

The next thing we did was go not the whole 15 miles, but about 3 miles down the Erie Canal on a boat tour. They had a live musician that was rocking an acoustic guitar. He was about Mom's age, so he knew a lot of the songs she liked. My favorite part of that trip was sitting next to my great-aunt Doris and singing along to some of the songs with her. That was fun because singing is just a neat way to bond with people. I also had a 'dance party' with my distant cousin Taysie. It felt sorta weird to be busting a move in front of everyone with her, but I realized I probably would've done it with one of my Summitview friends. When it was just time to relax and I didn't have any caregiving duties, I reminded myself just to be me. Sometimes it's hard being me when other people need me, but dancing around with Taysie was fun :) Also we got to go through the locks on the canal and that was pretty awesome!

Other than sight-seeing awesomeness, we just hung out as a family and talked. Sometimes it got tiring doing all that socializing, but it was nice sharing my life with everyone. They seemed to enjoy talking to my mom and I because they laughed in a good way a lot. Mom and I slept a lot on the plane back as did my aunt Flora. Flora got a kick out of watching the guys put the luggage on the plane while loading it onto a giant conveyor belt. She was laughing and saying, "Wow!" and I told her, "See, that's how they get all our bags on the plane! That is so cool!" 

Now that I'm back, I can say that the vacation both had it's rough spots but also had its fun moments. I'm glad I went and I will keep in touch with some of my new-found relatives! :) 

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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Family member clients

It's my second day on vacation.  Yesterday we went to Genesee Country Village and Museum.  That was pretty cool :)

Today I'm still trying to negotiate the balance between being a family member and being a 'staff.' Whenever my aunt or mom gets agitated,  I seem to slip into a "staff" role. This is good because I can use my training,  but bad because I tend to become more emotionally distant.  I think you have to be distant to use logic,  but perhaps when everyone is calm, I can engage emotionally and feel more.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Leaving ... on a jet plane!!!!!

Right.  Cliche title,  but yeah!  I'm going on vacation - ok to a family reunion.  Dang,  getting four people to the gate : one with osteoporosis,  one with Down Syndrome,  one with anxiety / depression,  and one spectrumite is honestly and truly an act of God. If I wasn't related to Mom I probably would have smacked her when she kept on asking if I still had all our boarding passes.
I could feel myself hitting sensory overload in the coffee shop.  So many people and me keeping track of everyone and the coffee machines grinding.  I had to stop and think, covering my face for a moment.  But we're all here now.

In these moments I can choose to get bitter that I have to deal with anxious family members as well as deal with my own sensory issues, or I can cope. I cope. Pray,  and I did sort of pretend I morphed into Super-Nerd since she frequents DIA en route to lecturing everywhere. But yeah.  I'm glad God plus a double dose of my meds is getting me through the morning!!! 

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

This is a real child

This is a picture of Caylee Anthony - as posted by Fox News. Today I read news articles on the verdict of her mother Casey Anthony's trial. She was found not-guilty for this child's murder.

The thing that hurts more than the fact that someone could have gotten away with her murder is the media frenzy and public eye frenzy regarding her murder.

This is a real child. If she came into my world, she would probably be in the 2.5 year old room at Summitview, maybe a bit clingy to her mother or grandmother as they pinned the plastic visitor nametag on her back. If she liked reading, she might calm down in my lap or a helper's lap if we offered to read her a book. She probably drank milk in that sippy cup in her picture, and maybe was to the age where she could try and drink out of 'grown-up' cups. She probably threw tantrums in Target or the grocery store, but she also probably was proud of pictures she could draw with big crayons.

In a news report I read, people flocked to the court-room to watch and people even traveled from out of state to listen to the trial live. It makes me feel sad, and sometimes it even makes me feel angry if I think too much about people forgetting that behind the evidence, behind the anticipation of wondering whether Casey Anthony was guilty, there is a child. There was a child.

Little Caylee will never learn to write her name. She may have learned the alphabet and count, but she will never learn to read or do basic math. She will never grow up to fit in a grown-up chair or drink from a grown-up cup  consistently. She may have dreamed about being a princess and dressed up as one, but she will never go to prom or a school dance. She will always be 2, but she will never grow up and develop to achieve the dreams her grandparents or even her mother may have had for her. She's gone and someone may have murdered her and now gotten away with it. I don't know how many people will remember this in all the hype and that makes me sad.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

God, I want to run away!!!!

Long time no blog.... Well, not EXACTLY true, I do have a draft, but it always seems to be pushed to the back of the to do list....

Anyhoo, recently, I've told God that I want to run away. 


Well, for starters, I'm (hopefully) starting up at a NEW GROUP HOME! Yeah... For various reasons, I've left the old one. 

For a while all I had was my call-center job. I call it my 'crap' job when I don't feel very grateful for it. Thanks Google Images for finding the perfect picture for how I feel sometimes... 

Even if I get this new job, I'll still have two part-time jobs that I am still pretty overqualified for... Because I still put so much identity in my job (working on getting my identity elsewhere... we'll get to that) and because my mom will only believe (for now) that God is good when I get a full-time job in my field and will not be in debt. 

I have also been searching for a job  - ahem - a "real" job for over a year now. Sometimes I want to give up. Sometimes I just want to "slam the door" on God and not talk to Him and just walk off and find a job all by my onesie since sometimes I feel like He's not helping anyway... It's one of those if God is the one ultimately responsible for where I go in life, and if I want to go to point A, but God is holding me back, then I must walk away from God and walk to point A on my own. In short, I want to run away and find a 'big girl' job on my own.  

I can pretend that God isn't real, however, here's the problem: If God is sovereign over every single life whether that person acknowledges His presence or not, and if God directs everyone's path whether we are aware of it or not (Acts 17), than logically, I cannot ignore God if He indeed has shown Himself to me through some form of communication. He has revealed Himself through The Bible, Creation, and His Spirit (personal connection). 

There is a reason I put a picture of a little person in this blog. Other than the fact it's sort of cute, it makes a point: Me 'running away' and pretending that God is not good and thinking I can get what I want on my own is like a child running away from his parents thinking he can get what he wants without them. 

This actually happened two weeks ago in Children's Ministry. One of my little guys wasn't having fun in the classroom, so he was about ready to make a run for it. Well, what would be bad about him roaming the halls of Summitview? Well, for practical purposes, if he fell, got hurt, got lost, etc. I would have a harder time tracking him down and getting to him. If he fell down in the classroom, he has three adults to help him versus if he fell down on a deserted stairway. And also, if he's alone, he isn't building a good relationship with his little classmates or with his teachers. Keeping him in the classroom is best so he can build beneficial relationships with people that want to influence his life in a positive way and teach him good things. Luckily our faithful Children's Ministry director was there and gave him a good talking-to as he was about to escape. He came back (sulking a bit), but brightened up with one of the helpers got him into building with blocks. 

I think God brings this image to mind because there are similar parallels. I could suddenly stop talking to God and try and find a 'real' job on my own - without praying to Him, without seeking advice from friends that believe in Him. I could move to a different city where my job would be and never find a new church group errantly thinking God let me down the last time. But I wouldn't have God warning me of spiritual danger, I wouldn't have God watching my behavior and correcting my habits as The Great Interventionist / Father / Teacher. Therefore, I'd 'fall' and I would probably wait a while before calling on God to help me. Most importantly, if I up and stopped talking to God and letting that relationship deepen, I'd miss out on what He had to teach me and remind me that He ultimately has good for me. 

Dear God,
I know sometimes I want my real job, and sometimes I feel like You don't want to give it to me. But I know it's not because I'm a bad girl because You paid for my sins on the cross. Sometimes I want to run away and not talk to You because I don't think You're giving me what I want. But I know it would be bad for me - Your child - to never talk to You again to run away from my 'spiritual home' so to speak.  So, God, I'm sorry for the times I have gotten mad at You. I'm thankful for the job You've given me and the things You're teaching me now. 

Thank You for prompting me and gently whispering: I have good for you right here. Please stay and talk to Me. 

Amen :) 

Thursday, June 09, 2011

What if it was more than a love tap?

The most random incidents get you thinking about life, I realized today...

So, I was "love-tapped" by a truck as I was walking to Rite-Aid. Yes. Big truck, little me. Luckily, a) the truck was in the driveway and was just going along and b) I was walking b/c pedestrians had the right away and the driver was looking the other way before pulling out & didn't realize I was still partially in front of her vehicle until she heard the squeak of terror from me. She bumped my left side and it hurt for like a few seconds, but I was ok :) I waved to her to let her know that I was ok. 

Anyway, I'm sure it's happened to a bunch of people before, but I did think: Wow, what would've happened if she was barreling out of the driveway and instead of giving me a love-tap, she made a Katie-pancake? 

Well, first of all, I would've beat Dr. Grandin to heaven (assuming she comes to know Christ at some point)  which is sort of weird to think about because she's old. 
Second of all, I am glad that I have an app in my phone that lets me put in my emergency contact information. 
Third of all, it would be sort of ironic for my doctors since I was just at an appointment.... 

I think what naturally happens after a true brush with death or a 'wow, that could've been a brush with death if the circumstances were different' is we don't take life for granted. Even the small things like being able to dig into a bowl of yummy cookies and cream ice-cream after coming home from a warm walk :) 

As I ate my ice-cream, I thought about it further: How would my life be summed up today? I am a 27 year old Human Development and Family Studies grad who has worked at a group home and a call-center, is a pre-k coordinator at Summitview, a part of Team Ninja in Symbio, and a resident in The Quad. I also have a nerdy-crush on a certain CSU professor and I enjoy flowers, stuffed animals, and cute things. At some point, I want to get a PhD in something and I'm about ready to start some occupational therapy (OT) prerequisites. 

This is the sum of my life so far. From a mere earthly perspective, I'm an average - ok, physically shorter than average person who's trying to get her career going and is a Christian who's involved in her church. If one digs deeper, they realize I'm a person on the spectrum who's trying to go somewhere using another exponentially more well known spectrumite's life as a guide. 

If I was turned into a Katie-pancake today, what would remain of my life? Well, my thesis got published, so I would have made it into the PsychInfo database as first author!! :D I also am third author on my advisor and her post-doc's publication. There would be this blog that would be here on the interwebs and there would be pictures of me that my friends have and that I have on this computer. At Summitview, there would be several groups of little people that would remember me as one of their Sunday school or AWANA teachers. I think that last contribution would be something I'd look down and smile about because of my HDFS interventionist side. The fact that I got to influence the next generation as a single person is nice :) 

What would be my eternal impact? To put it more accurately, what would I look back at my life and say, "God, thank You for using me here on earth." ? Probably the first thing I would thank Him for would be His using me to teach little people about Himself :) And the second thing would be Him using me to love people with significant disabilities at the group home. And the third thing would be "Thank You for using me to reaching my family, the CSU campus, and the Fort Collins community in the little ways You've used me." 

The weird thing to think about now is that even if I ended today going splat, my life would have some sort of eternal impact. 

The cool thing and convicting thing is that I didn't end my life as a Katie-pancake today. I have more days. God, I thank You that though my current professional status isn't much, and I'm a pretty average person and definitely not normal, You still use little me for eternity. God, help me live in light of what counts and help me not to take life for granted. Help me live for You because honestly, I really don't know how long You have me here. Thanks for not making a Katie pancake out of me today!!!!!!! :D 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Basement Recovery Room versus Crow's Nest

Two years ago I graduated from Colorado State University's Human Development and Family Studies Master's program. Graduation is usually a time of great celebration and pride. Here I am outside the Alumni Center. They had an old graduation robe that seniors could put on to get their pictures taken by Cam the Ram. Of course I had to go for it :) 
I enjoyed sitting by my friends during graduation. One of them was joking that he looked like one of the kids out of Harry Potter in his robes. Of course we laughed. 

Behind the smile I had, there was a lot of pain. My mom was worried about job prospects for me and she also noticed I had spent more time cranking out pages for my thesis rather than cranking out sweat on the treadmill. I remember walking up to my friend in Moby Arena with tears in my eyes saying, "You know how your thesis was on body image and self-concept? Well, My self-concept just got shot down." My friend understood and gave me a giant hug before we all lined up together. 

After graduation, my mom had a bit of a meltdown in my apartment over my job prospects. She didn't like the idea of me staying in Fort Collins post graduation and going to El Paso on a summer mission trip. 

While other kids were celebrating with their parents over dinner, I tearfully went to the first safe place I thought of: Newsom Hall my old undergrad stomping grounds. One of my friends was still in the process of moving out. His father graciously let me sit on the empty bed and cry as they moved their belongings out. They both prayed for me and were very nice and didn't probe much. 

After they were checked out, my friend invited me to watch a movie with the rest of the Reynolds Team. I came to The Quad and sat in the basement watching the movie. I just didn't want to be alone. I was trying not to cry, but I was anyway. I did enjoy the movie, but sometimes I would cry thinking about my mom's worries or just that graduation night wasn't the happy moment I thought it would be. 

In contrast, Temple Grandin (played by Claire Danes) is portrayed in her movie as going up to the Crow's Nest on her graduation day. She has a smile as she's stepping up the ladder and opens the door as a symbol of her confidence that she could successfully go on to college. Her mother is cheering her on during this moment in her life. In her book The Way I see it, Dr. Grandin says that praise from parents and teachers for tangible major accomplishments like graduations or completing large assignments or projects helps boost the self-esteem of children on the autism spectrum. 

Looking back on that day two years ago, I faced great fear of uncertainty rather than high expectations on my graduation day. Instead of climbing up to some sort of "crow's nest", I was in a basement after a good long cry. According to her movie and her books, it seems like Dr. Grandin knew she had talent to offer to the world and was ready to go on to the next step with the support of her mother and Mr. Carlock her teacher. I wonder if Dr. Grandin draws on this love and support she initially felt whenever she speaks at current graduations or remembers her own. 
    Yet though my own memories of graduation bring back a degree of sadness and fear, I can still draw on the love and support of my discipleship team. Knowing they were there for me that night in the basement of the Quad to support me gave me a glimmer of courage amidst my anxiety and sadness to trust God with the next chapter of my life. 

Monday, May 09, 2011

An Explosion of our Thoughts

I have more empathy for Dr. Grandin's co-authors and other staff than I did this morning. Today I typed up some notes from one of her lectures to give to a teacher who works with a vocational training program in a high school here in Fort Collins. 

I didn't realize how much she jumped around in her lecture - even though she had a slide show - until I started organizing her points into main categories. Oh man... It wasn't impossible, but I did have to work on it. 

Seeing her thought process through my notes made me smile. Though I am not a purely visual thinker like she is, I had problems organizing my thoughts. I would write essays that had good content, but the organization was terrible. Getting yelled at to make sense only made trying to organize my thoughts even harder. I would get scared that what I was saying or writing didn't make sense, and the impossibleness of the task was affirmed if I was yelled at. 

Over time I learned how to write an outline and I saw how others organized their thoughts through reading books. Noting how authors described things and transitioned scenes or ideas gave me a template on how to organize my thoughts. I progressed in my writing as I went through school with the help of teachers who helped me in this area as well as encouraged me to express my ideas in writing. 

Now to tie this in to Dr. Grandin's writing: I only know her through books and lectures. I see the progression in her writing as she has improved in organizing her thoughts. I am grateful that she never got yelled at (as far as I know) for not organizing something perfectly and she had tremendous support from her staff and other writers as she began her writing career. Her brain is an explosion of thoughts - of amazing images. She has others help her piece together into a coherent whole she can present to the world. 

I have had that support through my latter years of high school and throughout my years at CSU. My mind can still be an explosion of thoughts, but I am learning how to put them into a coherent whole as well. Through this process, I hope to share what God has done with my life to reveal the hope He has to offer to individuals in a broken world. 

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Truth, Logic, and my Emotional Connection to God

I have always had a physical reaction to music. Mom has stories of how I could clap in time to the music on Sesame Street and how I would move my body to music when I played the piano. Therefore, it was easy to take that reaction and be able to worship with my whole being. People always comment at how I'm always moving during the music part of church.

However, the emotional connection with God came gradually. Even during The Rock, I danced around and stuff mostly to blend in at the beginning. When people got really passionate and emotional during prayer, I didn't get it at first. It might seem odd to people who know me now, but it's a process.

Here is the process:

Much of my early Christian development was focused on learning about God. I first had to learn about God as Creator. This is the most tangible example of how my emotion process to worship worked, so I'll use this as an example. I first had to learn that He was Creator. This meant that I had to learn about why evolutionary theory didn't work and why the idea of an intelligent designer made sense. This was logic.

The next thing that happened was experience. As I went through my biology classes, I saw the complexity of the cell and organ systems in the human body, I realized that an intelligent agent was behind it. This reinforced the logic. I could see and experience it.

Once I was convinced logically and experientially that God was Creator, I felt happy. Someone made me. Therefore someone cares for me. I am not alone. Someone made this world and made it to make sense, therefore, curiosity about the world glorifies Him!!!!!! That excited me because I enjoyed learning about His world anyway :) Then the happiness and 'eeks' flowed out!!!!! When we at The Rock first sang a song that I recognized as a song to our Creator, I went up front. I was a little nervous because I knew it was going to be loud, but I just felt like I had to jump around and praise God as Creator because I finally realized He was Creator and He showed me - He graciously showed me even though I denied it to His face for so long.

I believe God had to teach me physical foundational truths of His presence and how He addresses the larger problem of evil and sin before He began teaching me more about how to have a relationship with Him. Getting concepts about Him as Creator and learning apologetic tools to explain His existence to others tapped into my intellectual side. I got excited about those things first.

However, having a relationship with a largely abstract Person was different. I would see my friends cry at a prayer meeting because they "were feeling their hearts drawn toward Jesus" or longing for Him. I could understand crying for a friend in a biology class that needed to know Jesus because I could see the inconsistency of studying God's intricate creation of the cell and not acknowledging Him for it.

I only really started to get it after my sophomore year of college when I realized that The Lord's prayer started out: Our Father. Somehow God was a parent to us. Back to logic. As I saw in the Bible of how God cares for us, guides us, has rules for us, comforts us, gives us strength and encouragement, I realized those are all things that competent parents do for their children. Trust formed out of that and I would ask Him for simple things. Seeing tangible answers to prayer like having little circumstances work out built that trust and thus reinforced my praying. After trust and that experience that was built on logic finally allowed me to feel God's love.

Why do I draw out this diagram and explain things the way I do to break down my thought processes around my emotional connection to God? Because Dr. Grandin says that she doesn't feel the same awe toward God or scenery He's made like other people due to her autism. That made me wonder for a long time if a lot of my reactions were contrived in an attempt to be neurotypical - especially before I knew I was on the autism spectrum.

Yet I know I have an attachment relationship with God. Recently I read an article about adults with high-functioning autism / Aspergers Syndrome / PPD-NOS who completed the Adult Attachment Interview. They were able to be classified in the usual way and came out with a variety of attachment patterns. Therefore people with autism can form connections to people. Dr. Grandin talks about her mother and Mr. Carlock a lot and I can see from her history that she trusted them growing up and saw them as attachment figures. Therefore logically, I know it is possible for me to have an attachment relationship of some sort with God as He is indeed a personal God. An all-knowing Creator who wants to connect with me will do it taking into consideration on how specifically my ASD affects me because He knows how it does. He knows exactly how my DNA is sequenced and how that affected my brain. That just makes logical sense. I came back to that when I was asking myself if my emotional connection was real.

I realized that I needed more of a logical / intellectual base to have that initial emotional reaction, but once I did and my intellect was convinced of the truths about who God is, the emotion I feel toward Him is indeed real.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Escape and Connection through Music

One of my Pandora stations is Journey. Yes I'm old -  27 years old - AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH! =O I'm getting old!!!!!!!!!!! Anyway... listening to these really back-in-the-day (Ok, 80's and 90's) songs reminds me of listening to the radio as a kid when Mom and I were in the car or when I got my radio in 6th grade and I would spend hours in my room listening to music. 

Music was my escape from life. Life as a visually-impaired kid who was also on the autism spectrum and not diagnosed was difficult. Not impossibly traumatic, but not easy either. I could get lost in the music pretty easily, zone out, and be in my own world. When my favorite songs came on the radio, I would try and memorize the words. Often times, I would day-dream as I listened to the music. Sometimes my day-dreams would reflect the content of the lyrics, other times the music would be a nice back-ground soundtrack to whatever I was thinking about. 

I'd say later I would use music to connect with my own feelings and to help myself shape a notion of God at around 8th grade. This is normal as teens get more into abstract thinking and meta-cognition, meaning thinking about how they think/feel. This is why some songs are clearly 'teenage-angst' songs :D Songs that would put into words what I felt helped me in 'structuring' my metacognition and processing about life. This processing was something that I had to do a lot of times on my own just because not many people understood the way I thought. 

Music became really therapeutic during the 1999 shooting at Columbine High School and later the terrorist attacks in 2001 on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. During these incidents, I was often left to process my emotions by myself, or I would process them in the process of helping another person process her emotions. I also watched the news with Mom as her source of emotional support. Unfortunately, the images from both events ended up getting cemented in my head. According to Animals in Translation by Dr. Grandin images stick more strongly with people on the autism spectrum because some of us can't verbally repress and work through the images as quickly as others.  She mentions she can't watch violent stuff or else it stays in
her brain & she can't shut it off. That was me exactly. Since I didn't have the words, I depended on the music I listened to for the words. Even now, there are some songs I associate with those events. After the September 11 attacks, the song Shimmer by Shawn Mullins and Overcome by Live really helped me put into words how I felt. I would listen to Shawn Mullin's Soul's Core on repeat, sometimes some of the same songs over and over again as I rode the bus to school. I also listened to Lifehouse's Everything and Breathing on repeat in my discman. Before the other kids boarded the bus, I had that time to cry. 

During Shimmer, Everything, and Breathing I began praying, or listening to those songs as a prayer to God to tell Him how I was feeling and that I wanted the world to be right again. Music was my escape and my way of processing, but it was beginning to be my way of connecting to God. I had a basic understanding that God was somehow in control (didn't realize He was Creator... yet), that He sent His Son Jesus to the earth, and that He had set out standards of right and wrong for us to follow. 

God knew that music was how I escaped my world when it got too hard and how I processed things when I had no one else to turn to. This is why I was able to connect to Him even in the "loud blasted-out" environment of Summitview's college group The Rock my second week at CSU. I could sense somehow that these students were singing to Someone real, and the words were really powerful. The band did a cover of the song Flood by Jars of Clay. During that song, I acknowledged that the secondary PTSD from the September 11 attacks and my feelings around my transition to college were overwhelming me. I began crying. Connecting to God would save me from the flood of my emotions. I prayed for Him to become real to me to help me. 

Instead of it being a numbing agent, I use music to connect to God. It's not my only means of connection, but it's a large part.  When I realize that a song embodies a theological concept that was trying to grasp, and I have that 'aha' moment, I get really excited! For example, I really like the song Our God because it embodies the concept of a sovereign Creator who is involved in His creation and will be victorious over all the pain and sorrow. When I connect to God through music, I am not just singing to the air, I'm singing to a real person, and I'm not listening to wishful thinking. I'm listening to Truth. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I Sort of Feel like Super-Nerd...sort of!

This seems like an odd title for a post about a career fair,  but it's true. I felt like Super-Nerd...aka Dr. Grandin.  Here's why: I shared my experiences (so far) about my career and what I did and wished I did so that these graduating seniors would be able to do what they wanted in the helping professions. Just telling them to go for it made me smile because that's more encouragement for them. There was a guy who wanted to be a gym teacher and was sort of unsure.  But when he heard that UNC had a program and he could get experience at sports camps and that kind of thing,  he got a bit more perked up.
Just being able to use my experience to encourage others makes it worth it. Even though I am not at a master's level of employment yet,  I shouldn't take what I have for granted. 
Talking about the easy typical stuff will make it easier to talk about the difficult stuff for others' benefit if that's what God wants me to do.
I also realized that I don't have to wait to be at Super-Nerd's level of fame to make a difference.  God wants all of little me and what I'm doing now.

Friday, April 22, 2011

God is Greater than what He went through

Recently due to some instances at work, I have felt a bit blamed and stepped-on for things. I can take it unfairly or I can say, "God is sovereign and I should forgive my people and obviously be upfront and honest when need be." Additionally, I've told God that I really really don't want to do what He seems to be calling me to do and just settle for something less to please people in the here and now.

Today is Good Friday, and like many of my Christian friends, I've read passages dealing with the crucifixion. Jesus was stepped on (probably literally) and the high officials - both priests & those in the Roman government used His case to appease the people and to maintain or gain political popularity. "If we let this guy go, our popularity ratings will be shot in the polls next week." would be what they would say if they were politicians today. So, He's been there as the guy-powerful-people-push-under-the-bus very very unfairly.

He also had a moment where He could've walked away. He could've chosen something different. He even said to His Father, "Lord, take this cup if You are willing, but not my will but Yours be done." He's been there when He had to do something painful but eternally worth it. He had to let his disciples down - for a little bit because they were all thinking, "What the -!!?!? Oh, this isn't good - aw, man, now what!?!"  for the rest of that day and that Saturday.

It's nice to have a God who sympathizes with us in those moments of being walked on and in doing what the Father wants even when we really really don't want to. It's nice to have a God who has felt extreme pain, defeat, loneliness, shame, etc. that was felt on the Cross.

Yet Our God is greater!!!!! I imagine He rose and looked around at the suffering / death / evil, and was like, "What up NOW!?! You want a piece of Me!?!" Ok, maybe not like that, but He is greater than all the pain and sufferering He took on which was all the pain and suffering of this world.

This is why Good Friday is sobering but is still good. Sobering because we remember what Christ went through, and good because we know He sympathizes and He has and will ultimately overcome it all!!!

Our God is greater
Our God is stronger
God You are higher than any other
Our God is healer
Awesome in power
Our God
Our God


Monday, April 18, 2011

Nerdy Geeky Brains!!!!

So both my grad school friend,  former advisor,  and I have no idea what's going on for our meeting in an hour!!!  I blame our specialized and under-connected nerdy geeky brains!!! According to different studies and images of Temple Grandin's brain,  there are less connections between parts of the brain in autism and some specialty areas get very developed. 

My former advisor and my friend are definitely NOT on the autism spectrum, but if nerdy / geeky normal people have some traits that are still within normal limits,  that means their brains might have some mix of over and under connectivity that allows the geeky nerdy traits to happen. This includes being able to code interactions, but forgetting about meetings and such ;)  There's a reason for the "absent-minded professor" jokes :) 

Dr. Grandin and I have more extreme versions and variations of that. This is why we're on the autism spectrum.  But it's nice to know even certain normal brains resemble ours!!!!  Maybe that's why nerdy geeky people keep coming back to or staying in academia!!  Similar brains think alike!!!!! :D