Thursday, November 14, 2013

Autistic Hoya: Autism FAQ

Autism FAQ

On this page, you will find brief overviews of answers to many frequently asked questions about Autism to those who are new to the Autism/Autistic community, or who are interested in learning more about who we are. Here is a list of the questions. You may use CTRL+F or scroll down to find the one you would like to read. The last question gives a list of some print and online resources that may be of use to you. Inclusion of a site on that list does not imply endorsement, agreement, or support of any kind. 
  1. What is Autism?
  2. What is the Autism Spectrum?
  3. What is Asperger's Syndrome?
  4. What are sensory issues?
  5. Do Autistic people have empathy?
  6. Who discovered Autism?
  7. What causes Autism?
  8. Is there a cure for Autism?
  9. What treatments, therapies, or interventions are available for Autistic children and adults?
  10. What services or accommodations do Autistic students often need or receive in schools?
  11. What kind of employment opportunities do Autistic people have?
  12. What kind of research is being done about Autism?
  13. What organizations represent people interested in or connected to Autism?
  14. Who comprises the "Autism" or "Autistic" communities? 
  15. Who are self-advocates?
  16. How should I refer to people affected by Autism?
  17. What about all this disagreement/arguing/vitriol/tension/hate I see online? 
  18. Why do you capitalize Autistic and sometimes capitalize Autism?
  19. What is neurodiversity?
  20. Are Autistic people more likely to be violent or commit violent crimes than non-Autistic people?
  21. Where can I learn more?

1. What is Autism?

Autism is a neurological, pervasive developmental condition. It is a disability. It is usually considered a disorder. It is not a disease. It is a lifelong condition that spans from infancy to adulthood. Autistic people usually share a variety of characteristics, including significant differences in information processing, sensory processing, communication abilities or styles, social skills, and learning styles.

Some Autistic people are non-speaking (and may be called nonverbal). These people cannot use typical speech to communicate. They often use Adaptive and Augmentative Communication (AAC) devices, keyboards/typing, picture cards, whiteboards, or American Sign Language to communicate instead. Some Autistic people begin to develop normal speech in childhood and later regress and lose some or all speech. Other Autistic people develop limited speech. Still other Autistic people never develop speech at all. Other Autistic people are highly verbal and able to communicate using speech. Some Autistic people develop precocious vocabularies in early childhood.

Many Autistic people engage in self-stimulating behaviors called "stims" or "stimming." Stimming can take many forms. Stereotyped stims are hand or arm flapping and rocking, although stimming can also include pacing, other body movements, verbal stims (repeating certain phrases, humming, singing certain songs), or tactile stimming (rubbing a piece of cloth.) Stimming is a natural response to cope with overwhelming emotions, such as joy, anxiety, anger, or sadness. It is also a coping mechanism for sensory overload--more on that with question 4.

Autistic people tend to understand language literally and explicitly. Idioms are difficult for us to understand. We tend to be very truthful or honest, sometimes even to the point of extreme bluntness. For those of us who have high levels of verbal abilities, the social or pragmatic aspect of language is extremely difficult for us to learn -- and it has to be taught. It is not intuitive, automatic, or natural for us. We find it an entire foreign culture. We can easily come across as arrogant, rude, self-centered, or mean, and will rarely be aware of this unless informed directly. Autistic people have great difficulties with nonverbal communication such as facial expressions and body language, and have trouble understanding social subtleties and subtext.

Autistic people also rely heavily on routine, sameness, or being able to expect something to be or occur a certain way. When a routine is altered or disrupted, an Autistic person may have a meltdown, experience severe anxiety, and will have extreme difficulty adapting to the change.

Some Autistic people are able to live independently, complete post-secondary education (such as university or technical training), and obtain and keep meaningful, competitive employment. Other Autistic people can only do these things with supported employment or living services, or extensive supports in the educational setting. Still other Autistic people may need to live in a group home setting or with a family member or full-time caregiver for the rest of their lives. Many Autistic adults are underemployed or unemployed because they do not have access to appropriate and necessary supported employment services.

Some Autistic people also have co-occurring conditions of mental illness (such as bipolar disorder), behavioral or mood disorder (such as clinical depression or Tourette's Syndrome), learning disability (such as dyscalcula), or intellectual disability (formerly called mental retardation.) Many Autistic people also have conditions like Executive Function Disorder, Sensory Processing Disorder (formerly called Sensory Integration Disorder), prosopagnosia (face blindness), dyspraxia, synesthesia, anxiety disorders, and learning disabilities.

Some Autistic people are misdiagnosed or given simultaneous diagnoses with various conditions like Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD), Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity (ADHD), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or intellectual disability.

The most important thing to remember about Autism is that each individual is truly an individual. No two Autistic people are alike. At best, we share many similar characters, but we have our own personalities, interests, wishes, hopes, dreams, and fears. We also have different neurological and psychological profiles.

2. What is the Autism Spectrum?

The Autism Spectrum, or Autistic Spectrum, is an informal name used both by clinicians and laypeople to describe the variation in phenotype of Autistic children and adults. It is also used to refer to a set of distinct diagnoses used by clinicians that are considered part of the larger Autism umbrella. Some people dislike this terminology and feel that Autism is not a sliding scale or gradient; other people dislike this terminology because they do not consider most highly verbal Autistics to be truly Autistic. Autism Spectrum Disorder is often abbreviated to ASD.

The American Psychological Association (APA) publishes a Diagnostical and Statistical Manual. The current DSM is the DSM-IV, published in 1994. It considers three conditions to be "Autism Spectrum Disorders." Those conditions are Autistic disorder (also called Kanner's Autism or Classic Autism), Asperger disorder (also called Asperger's Syndrome), and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not-Otherwise-Specified (PDD-NOS).

Many people consider Rett's Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, and Nonverbal Learning Disorder to be Autism Spectrum Disorders or related to Autism.

Some people use terms like "high functioning autism" and "low functioning autism" to differentiate between Autistic people who have higher speaking abilities and Autistic people who have lower speaking abilities; however, some people object to the use of these terms as demeaning and offensive. Others insist that these terms are necessary to understand the full breadth of the spectrum.


3. What is Asperger's Syndrome?

Asperger's Syndrome is one of the three Autism Spectrum Disorders identified in the DSM-IV. It is also called Asperger Disorder or Asperger's Disorder. (Often, people misspell it Aspberger, Aspburger, or Asberger.) Asperger Disorder was added to the DSM-IV in 1994. The only difference in diagnostic criteria between Asperger's and Autistic Disorder is "no clinically significant delay in development of language." This has usually been understood to mean that people who begin to use speech by a normal age would be diagnosed with Asperger's, whereas people who do not use speech by a normal age would receive an Autistic disorder diagnosis.

In practice, the terms "high functioning autism" and "Asperger's" are used interchangeably, and many people receive both labels. Some people take issue with this distinction, and claim that there is no true validity behind it. They point to the extreme delay in acquisition of social or pragmatic use of language in people with Asperger's as a clinically significant delay in language, thus invalidating the criteria of "no clinically significant delay in language."

In the DSM-5 (the APA changed from Roman numerals to Arabic ones), to be released in 2013 (if I'm not mistaken), the separate three diagnoses of Autistic disorder, Asperger disorder, and PDD-NOS will be removed and replaced with the single diagnosis "Autism spectrum disorder." This proposed change has generated a lot of controversy. Some people are afraid that non-speaking Autistics with lower levels of adaptive functioning skills will be overlooked with the more inclusive criteria, whereas others are afraid that highly verbal Autistics who often have higher levels of adaptive functioning skills will be overlooked with the more inclusive criteria. Others support the change.

4. What are sensory issues?

Sensory issues are caused by Sensory Processing Disorder, formerly called Sensory Integration Disorder. Almost all Autistic people have varying degrees of sensory sensitivity. Sensory issues fall into two primary categories: hypersensitivity andhyposensitivity. Hypersensitivity is when a person is extra-sensitive to certain stimuli; hyposensitivity is when a person seems to be much less affected by certain stimuli. SPD affects all five senses, and it affects everyone differently.

Most Autistic people have aversions to light touch, such as patting the back, stroking hair, or poking, and may reflexively lash out at someone or something making such contact. Many Autistic people have light sensitivity -- to the humming or flickering of fluorescent lights, or to too dim or too bright lighting. Other Autistic people have severe olfactory sensitivity -- and will not eat certain foods or will develop headaches or other problems around certain smells, like cleaning products, wipes, or perfumes.

Too much sensory overstimulation can lead to sensory overload -- a debilitating state in which the affected person is unable to process or respond to any sensory stimuli, including social interaction. I always compare sensory overload to having the infamous "blue screen of death" that Windows PCs get but in my brain--my neurological functions. It is a very painful, inhibiting state. Sensory overload often happens at places like concerts, crowded social events (such as parties or dances), schools, hospitals, or police stations. These sensory issues can make it hard for Autistic children and adults to experience meaningful inclusion.

Some people are better at coping with sensory issues than others. Coping skills are learned, often by trial and error, and sometimes with familial or professional assistance. Many Autistics learn coping skills from one another.

5. Do Autistic people have empathy?

Yes, we do. There was a misconception perpetuated for several decades -- and still fueled by some people today -- that Autistic people are not capable of empathy or empathizing with other people. One of the most common characteristics of Autism is a deficit in the ability to understand nonverbal forms of communication -- including tone or pitch of voice, word choice (such as idioms, colloquialisms, and metaphors), facial expressions, body language, and other subtle communications. Because of that, most Autistic people have a hard time accurately expressing their own thoughts, feelings, or opinions using nonverbal forms of communication. We also have trouble identifying the emotions of others based on subtext or body language.

Therefore, while we have empathy (and a 2009 study showed that Autistic people not only have empathy, but in certain cases, had more empathy on average than non-Autistic people), we may not recognize when to express empathy for someone else, nor will we express it in a way that is expected in the rest of society.

Many Autistic people have a very strong sense of justice -- of right and wrong, and of fairness. Many Autistic people deeply experience sadness, tragedy, and anger at events recounted on the news -- famines, war, genocide, terrorist attacks, or other violent crimes.

6. Who discovered Autism?

American psychiatrist Leo Kanner published a paper called Autistic Disturbances of Affective Contact in 1943 in the English language. In 1944, Austrian pediatrician Hans Asperger published a paper called Die "Autistischen Psychopathen" im Kindesalter (Autistic Psychopathy in Children) in 1944 in the German language. Kanner's research was widely recognized and dominated the field of autism, while Asperger's research, conducted under a Nazi-controlled government during World War II, would not be available in English until the 1980 translation by Lorna Wing.

Later researchers included Bruno Bettelheim, who supported the later disproven theory that mothers caused Autism when they did not love their children, and Bernard Rimland, who railed against Bettelheim and devoted his life to finding a cure for Autism. There was Ivar Lovaas, the clinical psychologist who advocated a behaviorist theory, that would later develop into Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA), and Eric Schopler, the psychologist who developed the TEACCH program as an alternative to ABA. (More on those later, on question 9.)

7. What causes Autism?

No one knows with certainty the exact cause of Autism. The generally accepted theory is that the cause is complex genetic factors. Multiple studies on twins and families suggest that Autism is genetic, and that multiple genes and parts of several chromosomes are involved in producing phenotypic traits of Autism in an individual.

There are many less credible theories about environmental causes, such as the vaccine-causation hypothesis, which stems from a 1998 paper by Andrew Wakefield. He was a doctor before he was stripped of his license to practice for malpractice. Of the other twelve authors of his paper, eleven recanted their names from the paper claiming a link between the Measles/Mumps/Rubella (MMR) vaccine and Autism. The Lancet, the journal that originally published the paper, published an official retraction fairly recently -- either in late 2010 or early 2011. Other theories were that thimerosal or mercury in vaccines causes Autism. There is no scientifically valid evidence to support this theory.

8. Is there a cure for Autism?

No.

Some people, mostly the parents of Autistic people, advocate very strongly for a cure for Autism, although this also includes some Autistic people. Other people, mostly (but not entirely) Autistic people, advocate very strongly against a cure for Autism. Nevertheless, despite the merits and faults of both sides of this often heated debate, there is no currently known or available "cure" for Autism. People who claim to be able to "cure" Autism are frauds and quacks. Almost all of us, whether or not we want a cure, agree on that.

Some people do, however, claim that it is possible to "recover" from Autism; these people are usually professionals who work with Autistic children and adults. Other people prefer to discuss "passing," in which an Autistic person has learned how to appear more non-Autistic, thus "passing" for normal. The concept of "recovery" generates more controversy than the concept of "passing."

9. What treatments, therapies, or interventions are available for Autistic children and adults?

Oh boy. There is a long, long list of common treatments, therapies, and interventions people often seek or use. Here is a brief and certainly not exhaustive or complete listing:
  • Speech pathology/therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Applied Behavioral Analysis
  • Floortime
  • Social skills classes
  • TEACCH
  • Gluten-free/Casein-free diet
  • Medications (usually for co-occurring conditions)
  • Mentoring
  • Daily Life therapy

10. What services or accommodations do Autistic students often need or receive in schools?

When drafting an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or 504 plan, consider the student's sensory, social, and communication needs in addition to any specific learning disabilities (or giftedness!) that the student may have. Consider both strengths and weaknesses. Encourage and give concrete tools for developing the student's strengths, and mitigate and accommodate the disability wherever possible.

Allow for sensory breaks if necessary. Allow a student to walk around a room during a test or to stim during potentially stressful situations. Give visual aids, both for schedules and for assignments and class material. Establish and keep a strict routine. Give specific, explicit instructions for assignments both in-class and outside of class. Create measures to prevent and address bullying. Implement a strategy for meaningful inclusion and integration of the student with the mainstream.

11. What kind of employment opportunities do Autistic people have?

Commensurate with an individual's actual abilities and skills, it depends on the level of education the person has as well as the types of support needed during the hiring process or during employment, and whether those supports are available. If an individual receives effective job-coaching, interview coaching, and support in navigating the complex social barriers of "office politics," then he or she will probably do far better than an Autistic person who has not received these same supports.

There are a large number of Autistic people who have advanced degrees but who are unable to obtain or keep a job due to severe deficits in social and communication abilities, or, in some cases, discrimination by the employer on the basis of Autism-related difficulties. The majority of Autistic adults are unemployed for a myriad of reasons.

Autistic people do well when working in a field related to an interest of theirs, not required to participate in a lot of inter-personal interactions, and when given specific, explicit goals or instructions. Autistic people have worked in offices, as professors, in the information technology field, as artists, as teachers, as engineers, as lawyers, as authors, as nonprofit managers, as cashiers, as accountants, as linguists... and more.

12. What kind of research is being done about Autism?

There are three primary types of research: biomedical research into the causes and potential cure for autism, psychological research into the characteristics of Autistic people, and social research into social issues facing Autistic people in the real world, such as housing, education, employment, and inclusion. The vast majority of research falls into the first category, with a significant amount of research in the second category. Very little research is done from the third category. You can learn more from the Academic Autistic Spectrum Partnership In Research and Education, which is partnered with Autistic adults (most of whom are opposed to curing Autism), and the Autism Research Institute, which seeks to find a cure for Autism.

13. What organizations represent people interested in or connected to Autism?

See question 21, the last two bullet points, for a list with links.

14. Who comprises the "Autism" or "Autistic" communities? 

The "Autism community" is usually understood to mean anyone affected by or having a professional interest in Autism. That usually means the parents of Autistic people (and other family members, like siblings, or spouses), lay advocates, special education attorneys, researchers, clinicians, policymakers, and Autistic people. Some people make a differentiation between "Autism community" to mean everyone other than Autistic people, and "Autistic community" to mean exclusively Autistic people. The default is to use "Autism community."

15. Who are self-advocates?

Self-advocates are typically Autistic youth and adults. Some self-advocates are non-speaking and use non-traditional methods to communicate; other self-advocates are highly verbal and articulate using typical speech. Some self-advocates have extensive supportive services, whereas others are nearly entirely self-sufficient. Self-advocates have received the gamut of possible diagnoses and other labels, including low-functioning, high-functioning, Autism, Asperger's, and intellectual disability/mental retardation.

16. How should I refer to people affected by Autism?

Depends on whom you ask! Some of us prefer the terminology Autistic person or Autistic, whereas other people prefer to say person with autism. Still others use the more neutral person on the autism spectrum. The philosophies and beliefs behind the arguments for these terms center around the social and attitudinal implications of the language. People who prefer Autistic tend to see Autism as an important and defining aspect of the person's identity, whereas people who prefer person with autism tend to see autism as something that should be mitigated as much as possible and that does not impact the person's identity on that fundamental level.

The most neutral way to refer to people is to say "on the autism spectrum" or "on the spectrum." This avoids a potential inflammatory response.

17. What about all this disagreement/arguing/vitriol/tension/hate I see online? 

Unfortunately, there is a lot of vitriol among the members of the Autism community. The "battle lines" usually center along the following debates or controversies:
  • Those who support a cure for Autism, and those who oppose a cure for Autism
  • Those who believe vaccines cause Autism, and those who believe vaccines do not cause Autism
  • Those who support the work of self-advocates to represent Autistics, and those who believe that parents are the only ones who can speak for their Autistic children
  • Many (but not all) parents of Autistic children (usually non-speaking), and many (but not all) self-advocates
  • Those who support the use of shock aversives, and those who do not
  • Those who believe an individual can "recover" from Autism, and those who do not
  • Those who prefer "evidenced-based" interventions or therapies, and those who prefer non-traditional treatments

These disagreements, which are always personal and deeply emotional for all involved, often result in fighting, nasty exchanges of insults, and hurt feelings on internet forums, blogs, and social networking sites, as well as occasionally in person. No one "side" is entirely culpable for all of the hatred. I have seen other Autistics spew hatred as often as I have seen the parents of Autistic children spew hatred (which is, sadly, a lot.) It is very easy for those of us in the Autism community to be upset, personally offended, and enraged enough to want to go on a personal rampage against the other person.

18. Why do you capitalize Autistic and sometimes capitalize Autism?

I capitalize the word "Autistic" as if it were a proper adjective, for the same reason the Deaf and Blind communities capitalize the respective adjectives "Deaf" and "Blind." We do it for the same reason Black people often capitalize that word. We capitalize it as a proper adjective or noun to represent our community and our identity.

I am inconsistent about capitalizing Autism, and do it on occasion, such as on this page.


19. What is neurodiversity?

Neurodiversity is the idea that certain conditions, including Autism, are natural variations of the human genome, and are not defects that need to be fixed. Neurodiversity says that the ability of an individual should be augmented and supported, and the disability should be mitigated and accommodated. It says that the value or worth of the individual is not less because of Autism, and that Autism is an important and valuable aspect of a person's identity.

Historically speaking, neurodiversity is an extension of the Disability Rights Movement of the 1970s, which advocates the civil rights model of disability -- that the primary and most significant challenges for Autistic or other disabled people are mostly societal problems such as non-inclusion, discrimination, or ableism.

20. Are Autistic people more likely to be violent or commit violent crimes than non-Autistic people?

No. In fact, a recent study showed that not only are Autistic people not more likely to commit a violent crime than non-Autistic people, but that the rate of violence among Autistics is lower than in the general population. Autistic people are also far more likely to be the victims of crime than the perpetrators.

21. Where can I learn more?
  • To learn more about the history of Autism research, read A History of Autism: Conversations with the Pioneers by Adam Feinstein.
  • To learn more about the massive increase in Autism diagnoses in recent years, read anthropologist Roy Richard Grinker's Unstrange Minds: Remapping the World of Autism.
  • To learn more about the vaccine controversy and autism research, read Autism's False Prophets: Bad Science, Risky Medicine, and the Search for a Cure by Paul A. Offit.
  • To learn more about twice-exceptionals (dually gifted and disabled people), including Autistic twice-exceptionals, read Different Minds by Deirdre V. Lovecky.
  • To learn more about Asperger's Syndrome, read The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome by Tony Attwood.
  • To learn more about concerns about Autistic people and law enforcement, read Autism, Advocates and Law Enforcement Professionals: Recognizing and Reducing Risk Situations for People with Autism Spectrum Disorders by former police officer Dennis Debbaudt.
  • To learn more about relationships and Autistic people, read Against the Odds: A Love Story and Autism, Asperger's, and Sexuality: Puberty and Beyond by Jerry and Mary Newport, two Autistics who married each other; Autism Aspergers: Solving the Relationship Puzzle--A New Developmental Program that Opens the Door to Lifelong Social and Emotional Growth by Steven E. Gutstein; and Strategies for Building Successful Relationships with People on the Autism Spectrum: Let's Relate! by Brian R. King.
  • To learn more about Autistic girls and women, read Girls Growing Up on the Autism Spectrum: What Parents and Professionals Should Know About the Pre-Teen and Teenage Years by Shana Nichols, Gina Marie Moravcik, and Samara Pulver Tetenbaum, and Aspergirls by Rudy Simone.
  • To learn more about bullying, read Perfect Targets: Asperger Syndrome and Bullying--Practical Solutions for Surviving the Social World by Rebekah Heinrichs, Asperger Syndrome and Bullying: Strategies and Solutions by Nick Dubin and Michael John Carle, and Exploring Bullying with Adults with Autism and Asperger Syndrome: A Photocopiable Workbook by Anna Tickle and Bettina Stott.
  • To learn more about Autistic people, read the memoirs of Temple Grandin, Daniel Tammet, Donna Williams, or Liane Holiday-Willey. You can also see a list of and links to blogs by Autistic people on the left-hand side of Autistic Hoya.
  • To learn more about self-advocacy, read Ask and Tell edited by Autistic special education professor Stephen Mark Shore.
  • To learn more about employment options and strategies, read Employment for Individuals with Asperger Syndrome or Non-Verbal Learning Disability: Stories and Strategies by Yvona Fast.
  • To learn more about college options and strategies, read Navigating College: A Handbook on Self Advocacy Written for Autistic Students from Autistic Adults, Students with Asperger Syndrome: A Guide for College Personnel by Lorraine E. Wolf, Ph.D., Jane Thierfeld Brown and Ed.D., Top Tips for Asperger Students: How to Get the Most Out of University and College by Rosemary Martin, Students with High-functioning Autism Going to College: A Guide for Parents by Jane Thierfeld Brown, Lorraine Wolf, Lisa King and Ruth Bork, and Realizing the College Dream With Autism or Asperger Syndrome: A Parent's Guide to Student Success by Ann Palmer.
  • To read about organizations run by Autistic people, see the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN), the Autism Women's Network(AWN), and the Autism Network International (ANI). 
  • To read about organizations run by partnership of Autistic people and families and professionals that promote civil rights, see the Autism National Committee (AutCom) and, for a cross-disability organization,TASH.
  • To read about organizations run primarily by families and professionals or sponsored by the government, see the Autism Society of America(ASA), the Inter-Agency Autism Coordinating Committee (IACC),Autism Speaks (which I do not recommend to anyone), the Autism National Information and Resource Center (Autism NOW Center), and the Asperger's Association of New England (AANE).

Autistic Hoya: Autism FAQ

Autistic Hoya: Annoying

Autistic Hoya: Annoying: Note, June 20th 2013: I have closed comments on this page due to over 55 spam comments in one 24 hour period. Wow. F** the internet. -- ...

Monday, September 09, 2013

Truth or Rumor?

I heard Skittles might be back ...

Monday, May 06, 2013

Wear the noodles

What noodles?
The Mother's day noodles you know you're getting if your kids are under the age of 10.

Mother's day. 
Sigh, when did it become a day to force a spouse to buy you a gift. That is just plain stupid. 
Selfish and stupid. It's a day to honor YOUR Mother. 

So, your kids are too young? Then involve them in doing good for their grandma, they'll grow up learning how to celebrate the day and will WANT to do something for you when they have a talent, a job and income or skills to actually do something nice that will be meaningful.
Ugh, the number of people I've spoken to that are worried about not finding the right gift for their wife, or having to make multiple purchases so a "thing" can be given from each one of kids-too-small to have to worry themselves with anything more than putting their handprint in colorful paint on a sheet of construction paper.
When else will you get to wear noodles around your neck.
Never.
Which kid ever said, oh mom. I didn't really want you to war that.
Not one. 
Ever.

Monday, November 05, 2012


NY Coat Drive

Visit: NY CARES

Thursday, November 01, 2012

The squirrel did it

Cuz if I had done it, Bob would have made me look less dorky, you know?

Emily the Grinch

Raise your hand if you remember how many days before halloween I would start wearing halloween themed t-shirts just to allow enough days to wear them all because I owned so many.
Two extra points if you remember that I would want to get up extra early October 1 to decorate the house.
This year - a 4 foot sign in the middle of the walkway that reads
WORKING!
NO CANDY
DO NOT RING THE DOORBELL
DO NOT KNOCK
GO AWAY!


Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Pumpkin Pie

I did make pumpkin pie from actual pumpkin once. It was not as delicious as the millions-and-millions I've made using canned pumpkin.
And no, I didn't make it from a used pumpkin that had been a jack-o-lantern the night before as we once tried to do when we were kids.
But the pumpkin, was, alas, a decorative pumpkin, INTENDED to be used as a jack-o-lantern and therefore tasted differently than a pie pumpkin.
Want more info on the difference? Check out "The Truth about Pumpkins".
So, I use canned. And any brand will do.
Anytime I see it on sale, year-round... I buy it. Aside from Marie callendar's sour cream lemon, pumpkin is my favorite pie.
I do also buy the necessary canned milk whenever I see it on sale. It has a fairly long shelf life and can sometimes be found in the clearance section.
What I discover once in a while as I drag out my mixing bowl and pie pans, is that I forget whether it's sweetened condensed milk or evaporated and seem to have an equal supply of both.
So I tested it this past week.
Using my exactly identical pie recipe, I made one batch with evaporated milk and the required sugar.
I made the other using the canned sweetened condensed milk and left out the sugar.
Identical.
No difference in the texture, baking time or resulting deliciousness.
Hmmm .... wonder if I can make pumpkin pie a main course?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

School District Bans Father-Daughter Dances

Perhaps a dozen years ago I was a lone voice, but I know I complained.
Not only did my daughter's elementary school hold father-daughter dances.... So did her local girl scout council.
So, every year - twice a year - I had to hope a family friend would remember to ask if my daughter wanted to go with them, of course, that still meant her dad was nowhere to be found. Which is what she would have wanted.
Yes, I could ask a family friend outright, but what if they wanted to make it a special daughter event and didn't have the heart to just say no.
it's difficult to say no to such a request when you're a decent person.
It was often the same with father-son campouts, just slightly less so... since once the boys got there it was madness and mayhem not an organized civil affair like a dance.
Aw, everything can't be fair for everyone  - I know it - and I attended my share of campouts - but my kids knew it every day. Every night. And every father's day when I asked if they would like to send a card to their dad... Why? they would wonder. He didn't even like visiting if one of them was injured or in the hospital. He didn't remember their birthdays and ignored every invite we sent for the big, the small and the ordinary-but-tried anyway events in their lives. So, eventually they gave up.
I sure wish the headline here read: Enlightened School District Realizes Negative Impact on Fatherless Girls and Does Away with Father-Daughter Dances.With kudos to the mom who opened their eyes.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

complete certainty

Some days I wake up and miss the people I used to work with so incredibly much.
Those from my most recent job. Oh, I miss the job too. I miss being there, the safety, calm and peace.
But there was a love and trust from my boss and from a few of my co-workers that I haven't felt in 20 years.
I don't think it was mutual and there is no insult intended in expressing that.
The first week or two on the job - one of the most personal and private (and painful) events - mistake - regret - thankful-for-the-atonement mess-ups from my past, walked right in to say... hello...
I'm not even sure what my reaction or behavior would have been in the years before becoming a member of the church.
Though I had a slight moment of panic, what I DID do, was walk right over to my brand new boss and start telling her about it.
With complete certainty that she would if not immediately understand, care.
She did.
In the time I worked there we had a volatile relationship, her and I. She is a caring, loving, wise and goodly woman.
I have aspergers.
I am caring, loving, sorta-wise and goodly as well.
Aspergers places a layer of virtual sandpaper between us. Between me and most people eventually.
I often wish I lived near enough to just hangout.
I had to quit.
There is a bigger picture that is more important.
Still, I miss the people that are there right now and I miss being there.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

ya google?

Really?
I have 8 people following me on google friend connect?
I used to have 45.
Let's not discuss how many I had before I had to change my name.

I know I am interesting. Consistent? Maybe not. Fun? Oh, so very yes.
You - you there in the back row ...
Click that google follow box!
do it

I'm all aloooooone

For the first time since early February - no one is here except ... me.
And little Gwen of course >^,,^<
We've been renting out bedrooms to help pay bills.
Believe me, standards to move in are incredibly high.
And yet, we seem to get burned by every renter.
Not just on the financial end, and I do not even mean to count our family friend who technically is just that, a family friend.
Though - on the financial end - I keep looking in the mirror to see if there is indeed a tattoo on my forehead that reads; naw, you don't really need to pay your rent, I'm renting out rooms in my home because I just LIKE it. Whatever.
We've had renters make an unbelievable mess in our home.
Some refuse to clean.
Ever.
Some think because there is a second living room upstairs they are within a shield of invisibility and under a dome of silence and use it as a personal make-out room.
Good gravy man.
So tonight, though I know next week I will not have groceries - I rejoice - because I can put my pajamas on, walk through my kitchen in them, and leave my bedroom door open if I want to.
And since I like little Gwen to come in if she wants to - I do!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday, August 17, 2012

day 209, checking out men

Glorious!
Just when I've been practicing eye-to-eye combat, er, I mean connection...
I have to giggle ... though, it's usually old ladies who think they saw me flirting because I struck up a conversation with someone who actually proved to be interesting.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Unconscious Mutterings 498

http://subliminal.lunanina.com
Week 498

I say ... and you think ... ?
  1. View :: from the back
  2. Yoga :: Yoda
  3. Giggle :: Grin
  4. Raider :: Lost Ark
  5. Summer :: Heat
  6. Debt :: Captivity
  7. Cleaning :: Fresh
  8. Sneakers :: Vans
  9. Thwarted :: Attempt
  10. Recipes ::  Mine of course! - Joi of Cooking with Meow

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Miracle child

For the sake of modesty, I don't want to go into a great deal of detail, however it is somewhat crucial to know that when I was pregnant with my second child, I wanted - nay - knew I was going to do everything possible to have a vbac.

I will also clarify that I say 'second child' because as with my first, I did not want to know if it was a boy or a girl, so I didn't yet know this baby would one day be my precious and loved-to-the-moon-and-back baby girl.

I knew would equally love a boy or a girl and given the fast-hectic-pace at which life was already speeding along, I wanted to keep things as simple as possible.

(Really - if my fabu sister had not been working at a posh baby store I would not have imbibed in that gorgeous red peg-perego stroller)

Just as mothers of days-gone-by hadn't known if they were to have a boy or girl I liked the idea of finding out when he or she was born.

True - both the 'moms' groups I was in had loads of fun remembering and/or concocting new, old wives tales to make their guesses.

Similarly - I think* it goes without saying I also did not want amniocentesis performed.

No, I don't have a fear of needles. I’m an-every-two-weeks plasma donor, remember. . .

I knew I would treasure and appreciate my child with or without a ‘birth defect’.

*I say I think it goes without saying, because, not everyone knows me.

I've never thought we were all 'perfect' anyway. Created in His image yes, but I've always felt like everyone has some physical limitation or another making us all somewhat if not 'defective', flawed. We will be perfect in the next life, but not here. Our physical bodies have limits and are susceptible to earthly damage, even in the womb.

Of course, it wouldn't be until years later that I'd watch what would become one of my all-time favorite movies "Iron Giant" ( watched with both my terrific children BTW), and form the deep-thinking Saturday afternoon dogma that we all have the equivalent of a dent in the head and like the giant, are better off for it.

But that is years later.

Back to 1991. Dr. Vu, who delivered my son, did not want to comply with my plans for a vbac.

Early on, I was having some difficulty with the pregnancy and though he did not say a vbac might be dangerous for the baby, he just said, a c-sec will be so much easier on you, why would you think of that?

I said I would be going for a second opinion.

I did and changed doctors.

The 'new' doctor, however, changed his mind on my second visit.

He said, no, the problems I was having put him at risk for a lawsuit if the outcome was bad.

Unsure of where to turn, as there was not another OB/GYN in the center and at the time, our city was still small and undeveloped I said I would consider upon it.

Delivery was still some time away.

It was April.

Just as with my first, I had known I was pregnant almost immediately.

I had been in the front yard with my son, who was just a tad past his first birthday. He loved for me to spin him around until we both fell to the grass. We called it airplane.

Whoa, no – I didn’t swing him by his arms.... Nervous nellie, I worried he'd separate at the arm sockets.

I'd hold him in a modified cradle hold, sometimes face up, sometimes face down so that he was straight out in front of me like an airplane.

And as we spun, I'd lift him up and down, giving him the (Disneyland) Dumbo the elephant ride effect.

Anyway, one day, the first week of March I was outside spinning with him and he was having a grand ole time.

All of a sudden I sat down and thought I was going to simultaneously pass out and throw up. The lawn would not stop moving.

I knew I was pregnant.
My spouse was not supportive. Of course, he had no clue as to the amazing girl that would come into this world.

I tried my best to take the best care of myself possible, given the fact it was not as easy a pregnancy as the first, but sure enough, when I went in to the doctor the last Friday in May, the bleeding had not stopped, had in fact worsened.

The doctor examined me and said, so sorry, not anything I can do. You need to go home and plan on a weekend visit to the hospital. He expected that before Monday I would have miscarried. Yes, the doctor did offer to keep me there that Friday – just FYI. Keep me and terminate the pregnancy to make it easier.

My spouse was jubilant. He had been encouraging me to get an abortion.

An abortion.

What the freaking heck.

Encouraging is not even the word, however, I truly dislike remembering those days.

He was an angry, abusive man.

Enjoyed fooling and manipulating people.

Even still. . . an abortion?

For any of you who happen to read my posts regularly, you do already know it's like a well-tossed salad.

It may seem as if you just bit into a tomato and now, wait - whoa, what?

Mushroom? She's skipped over to talking about something else.

I always guarantee, as much as a blog post can guarantee - that it all comes together in the end.

After all, you can't put every bit of a salad in your mouth at once.

I had to digress though so you’d grasp the sickening concept of him being pleased with the news when I came home from the doctor. I truly regretted telling my husband what the doctor had said, however, if the doctor proved to be right, I was hoping to keep my spouse home that weekend, in case I needed transportation to the hospital.

He was rarely home, and especially not on weekends.

I figured I knew, if not specifically where he was, or specifically who he was with, that he was having much too good a time to stay home for any normal old reason, like marriage, family, commitments ....

A few years prior I'd experienced what I am fairly sure was the passing of a kidney stone. He would not take me to the hospital and in fact more or less locked me in the bathroom so I wouldn't 'bother' him. It was more painful than labor.

We had a one-year-old. My son who loved airplane! I had to ensure my spouse would be there to take care of him, even if I did have to get myself to the doctor or hospital. I had no idea what could happen, or what I’d feel like.

I admit, I took advantage of the fact that he did stay home. Even though I had turned down the doctor’s offer to make things easier, my husband only heard the words he wanted to hear. And to him that meant stay home this weekend and the abortion will take care of itself.

I left for a few hours and turned to the one place I had not yet thought of.

I turned to Heavenly Father.

and fervent prayer.

…surrounded by many other people who, though not praying for me, knew, like me, that there is strength in joining in prayer.

There were no bright lights or booming voices. No one's sight, hearing or ability to walk was spontaneously restored in front of a crowd. No promise of anything beyond faith in the things we knew - know to be true - that Heavenly Father sent his only begotten son, our elder brother, to redeem mankind. That our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, died, was buried, and rose after three days to ascend into heaven.

I was born into a Catholic family,

This is a prayer I learned in elementary school:

Credo in Deum Patrem omnipotentem, Creatorem caeli et terrae, et in Iesum Christum, Filium Eius unicum, Dominum nostrum, qui conceptus est de Spiritu Sancto, natus ex Maria Virgine, passus sub Pontio Pilato, crucifixus, mortuus, et sepultus, descendit ad inferos, tertia die resurrexit a mortuis, ascendit ad caelos, sedet ad dexteram Patris omnipotentis, inde venturus est iudicare vivos et mortuos. Credo in Spiritum Sanctum…

In English:

I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to the dead. On the third day he rose again; he ascended into heaven, he is seated at the right hand of the Father, and he will come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit…

That is most of the prayer. I no longer 'believe' in the Catholic Church, (which is what would be the next line in the prayer) that is, I no longer believe it to still be the true church as descended from St. Peter.
Important to this story - because Heavenly Father - He has not changed.
Many, many of the things I grew up and learned, I still know to be correct.
But upon praying and reading and more praying, I have discovered some ... doctrine? ... to have come for convenience.
I can’t rely on a quick check convenient line to return home to Heavenly Father, so I decided to join the LDS church a few years ago. Five years ago this month.
Back in 1991 however, I was in St. Christopher's church, praying to our only Heavenly Father, and praying intensely. With the burning emotion of a woman who was already a mom and could not for one millisecond imagine life without her child.
How, possibly would I manage losing this one?
Nothing spectacular in the sense of visually dramatic occurred at all. The way one might imagine after TV movies and popular drama. What did occur is on overall feeling of incredible warmth and peace.


And if I dare use the word revival . . . when it does seem as if I am describing an old fashion sanctification meeting . . . I experienced a revival of the words to yet another prayer I'd learned even before the creed.

OUR Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

- The Lord's Prayer.

Thy will be done.

So my prayer changed.

And I asked – fervently –still that I be strong enough to take care of any child He chooses to send me. Strong enough to take care of the one I already had. Strong enough to provide a home for them and keep them safe and give them – a better life here on earth so that they could grow to be wise, strong, loving people and they themselves be one day worthy to return home to him.

What changed, or I should say, what I added on -- was that if His will was this baby return home to Him before I get the chance to know him or her that He guide me to know what to do next.

As I drove home, tears flowing, yet calm and at peace I knew we would be alright.

I was more than willing to care for him or her even with both doctors tossing vague threats at me. I would find a way, even, if – as I suspected was in my future – I raised my children alone.

Prayer became my constant, mostly silent companion.

When my husband was angry, I prayed. When I was frightened, alone, or sad, I prayed.

That weekend, something happened. My baby got stronger.

When I went in to the doctor on Monday he was baffled. The bleeding had stopped, the heartbeat was good – and I looked good. I too had gotten stronger.


I left his office and found another doctor. He was much, much further away, but offered a safe, caring place for my baby to be born as well as support of my wishes as he dispensed his expert medical care.

Fast forward to November – and Heavenly Father blessed me with the most precious, most adorable baby daughter.

When I see advocates post statements like “Your mom chose life” I desperately want to shout – ME TOO!
I could have made life easier. But without my amazing daughter – who I certainly do know was a miracle – my life would not have been better. I chose her and life has been better for it.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Baby Sweet

Googling the words, Be Sweet, I was amazed at how many handcrafted yarn products popped up.
Seems Be Sweet is a popular name for homemade knitted and crocheted items.
Most laid out like little dessert treats.
Including these adorable little goodies.
Oh yeah - those may look like little sweet treats, but they are baby hats.
I can't knit.
I can't crochet.
My mom crochets and attempted to teach me, sort of, once.
I created the most fabulous baby blue and white, er, shoelace for a giant with a size 845 foot.
That it, I could not grasp . . . connecting . . . the yarn to make anything other than an endless single chain ... but I kept that chain up until I ran out of yarn.
Quite disappointing.
The crochet lessons never resumed.
I've pondered finding a do-it-yourself DVD or online tutorial to learn kitting.
Perhaps when I'm a grandmother ....
Anyone taught themselves?
Is it feasible? Anyone want to offer knitting lessons?

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Sweet - I can catch up

NaBloPoMo - I haven't missed your sweet August ride yet
Memories of candy  - ooh!
I have oh so many, but what comes to mind right now is dad's 80th birthday.
Just a few years ago, after we'd moved to Texas, he decided to have his first birthday party.

Never having had very many birthday parties myself, I suddenly understood a little better why. Not that I'd ever felt deprived, I'm not all that much a fan of attention.
I do, however like dancing ... and birthday cake!

I'd always known that my parents grew up in difficult times and had little of what seems common and every day by today's standards. They have absolutely no sense of entitlement that we worry about our own offspring ... (the next generation) developing (and hence spoiling them rotten until they've morphed into self-centered little-or-big brats).

But his first birthday party.
Awesome.

Since I was traveling 1500 miles to get there, I wasn't in on as much of the planning and details as my sisters, but I did come up with a few ideas.

The sweet one, was finding small brown paper bags for party favors. Because  75-80 years ago no one bought plastic pre-printed spiderman party bags.... and turning 80 is so far past the age of making jokes about being over-the-hill.

At 80, you have climbed the highest peak, conquered all the hills and --- say -- at 80 if you haven't been spoiled you should allow yourself to be spoiled for the next dozen or so years - and enjoy!

Seems Target doesn't carry much of a supply of nostalgic old time candy. I'm not talking about pop rocks and fun dip - those might seee vintage to my generation . . . Pre-WWII candy is a whole different ballgame.

First, I got Sugar Daddies. You know, those impossibly hard to bite into rectangular-shaped caramel lollipops in the bright yellow wrapper.
Sugar Daddies were invented in 1925 - true vintage for a man born in that same decade. They were originally named "Papa Sucker" but changed in 1932, to the same slang term known now that suggests generosity and has the connotation of one who, uh, shares wealth. Ok, perhaps the slang meaning has more of a PG-13 rating a little since 1932 .
Next - Abba Zabba.
Created in 1922 it also sports bright yellow, but bright yellow checkerboard - it's taffy with - yum, peanut butter inside! I was tickled to learn Abba Zabba candy bars are kosher.
Last, and truly his favorite.
The Big Hunk.
Straight out of the 1930's, the company that invented them was bought in the 70's. STILL - hard to find.
Big Hunk is 2 ounces of chewy nougat -  peanuts jammed here and there as if they'd been trying to swim for freedom when the nougat solidified. For sure, it isn't really rock solid, though the wrapper suggests microwaving for 5 to 10 seconds to make it super soft. (Who has a microwave while they're out riding their bike!)
Stick it in a pocket and after a good ride, it willl have softened up.

That was it - but it was a true surprise so it may not have been grand or costly - but made the birthday boy AND party revelers all very happy!

and the other flame burned by the grace of God

. . .  4 days now, I can't get this little song out of my head . . .
Did anyone else sing this growing up?
I know we sang it in Girl Scouts, but it sure seems we sang it a lot in school also. . .   perhaps school field trips - bus rides - not that we went a lot of places, and don't get me started on the woeful tale of the awesome trip I earned selling candy, then missed out on 'cuz of the bullies . . .
haha - good times

In looking for a suitable image of Ezekiel (I'm kidding, there's generally only one) I did do a bit of reading (of course I did, my ADD forces me to either immediately decide I can't read something or pore over every word, searching and searching for MORE!)
I learned more than I'd previously known about him.
Seems . . . it's thought he had epilepsy.

Zounds!

Not just epilepsy - temporal lobe epilepsy.

I wonder if most people would even notice those little blurbs or shrug them off, just scan over them, not really reading the words, but looking for new insight into the meaning of those wheels.
Me, I have to wonder why I had Ezekiel on the brain for four days.
My temporal lobe epileptic brain.

Ezekiel saw two wheels a rolling, way in the middle of the air
A wheel within a wheel a rolling, way in the middle of the air
The first wheel ran by faith, the other one ran by the grace of God
A wheel within a wheel a rolling, way in the middle of the air

Ezekiel saw two flames a-burning, way in the middle of the air
A flame within a flame a-burning, way in the middle of the air
The first flame burned by faith, and the other flame burned by the grace of God
Ezekiel saw two flames a-burning, way in the middle of the air


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