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Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Friday, August 28, 2015

And The Bottom Drops Out

Hi everyone! I promised I'd write once I got my new computer, so I could update you on how things are going here in Chicago!

Well, the good news is, I've gotten to do a lot of fun things. With my parents and Auntie Em and Uncle J, I got to go to the Frank Loyd Wright House, downtown Chicago, and the horse race track. I also got to go out to lunch with my grandparents and Aunt Bea, and tomorrow or the next day I am going to Six Flags with Aunt Bea and my little cousins Pony Girl and Sox Boy. It has been great!

On the other hand, some thing aren't going so well.

 A few weeks ago, I found out that  member of my immediate family (I can't specify who because the family member hasn't told many people yet) has cancer. It is treatable, but it is cancer. I had already planned my trip back to Chicago before I heard the news, and luckily the trip coincides with some of the family member's doctor appointments and tests, so I am going to be able to go with for moral support. Most of the people in my family, it turned out, knew about this for longer than I did, but they didn't want to tell me because they were afraid I'd have a meltdown. Fortunately I handled it well... I figured there is no reason to panic, and that I should just think positively and try to spend time with the person doing fun things other than thinking about cancer.

Meanwhile, in Washington, I had met a friend named Ken, who was about the age of my aunt and uncle and was their friend too. He was part of the dog walking group that we all belong to. Remember in my last post I mentioned the Border Collie who was learning how to herd ducks? And the pictures of me snuggling with the ducks? Well, the Border Collie and the ducks belonged to Ken. He is one of the best dog owners I ever met. He is divorced and lives alone except for his dog and ducks, and much of his time was devoted to doing activities with the dog and keeping the dog busy. Border Collies are very smart, and very energetic, dogs, and if they get bored they will find some sort of "puzzle" to solve... such as, "I wonder if I can destroy this entire couch?" or "Let me dig up all of these bushes and find out if there are any bones buried underneath!" Ken prided himself on never letting his dog get bored. Ken is also a very smart, kind and funny guy, who grows on you in a quiet way. You start out thinking he's just some random guy, but soon you find yourself enjoying his company and considering him a friend!

Since Auntie Em and Uncle J were planning to spend one week in Chicago (they came out at the same time as me but will go back a lot earlier) they arranged for some friends to take care of the animals. One lady took care of my fish, one lady took care of my aunt and uncle's dog Roo, and Ken was appointed in charge of the cats. He also picked us up last Friday night and drove us to the air port, with his dog in the car.

A few days later, my aunt and uncle got a phone call saying that Ken and his dog were supposed to go on a walk with two other friends from the group. When he didn't show up, they got worried and went to his house. They saw his car and saw his dog running loose in the yard, so they knew he was home, but he wasn't answering the door. So they went in... and found him lying unconscious on the floor.

He was rushed to the hospital, but the damage had been done. He'd had a major brain bleed. He would never regain consciousness. They eventually took him off life support, and today... after his beloved dog was brought in to say goodbye... he died.

I have cried all week about it. It is weird because he was not a major part of my life... I saw him a few times a week for dog walks and when I went to see the ducks.. and I didn't know him for very long. But he was a friend. And last Friday he was standing outside the airport hugging us all goodbye, promising me he'd send email updates about the ducks. And talking about how big the ducks were going to be when I got back. And now he's gone. The ducks have been given away. The dog, sadly. has no place to go... that part is especially heartbreaking to me. Ken would have never, in a million years, abandoned his dog. He would be traumatized to know that his dog's future is up in the air right now.

(I want to keep the dog, but since I am staying with my aunt and uncle it is not really up to me. But I just hope someone who knows him will keep him, so his entire world isn't blown to pieces.)

How can Ken be dead? I don't understand it. He wasn't very old. He wasn't sick He didn't engage in reckless behavior like driving drunk or doing drugs. He was active. He was always doing something. He and his dog both lived life to the fullest. He was, in no way, ready to die. He just walked into his kitchen one day and his brain exploded.

When I first heard that he was in the hospital, I tried to think positive, just as I did when I found out that my family member has cancer. I prayed and prayed. I reached out to my Facebook friends and asked them to please, say a prayer or make a wish, for Ken to be okay. I begged God to let Ken live.

 But he died anyway.

I feel like the world is shattering around me. There are other things going on too that I cannot explain. Just when I thought things were going so well, the floor and walls have melted around me, leaving me twirling frantically in outerspace. Reality keeps shifting and I don't know what is right anymore. I feel like everyone around me is wearing a mask, and they sometimes peek out from behind it and scare me, and then say, "What? That wasn't me!"

And on one hand I keep on smiling and having fun... but the sadness and confusion lurks underneath it, always waiting for the next thing to happen.

I am lost.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Hard To Believe

So I am getting ready to go out to Chicago for a visit with my family. And it is the weirdest thing... I am actually a little sad to leave here! Just the way I would be, back in Chicago, when I was getting ready to come visit (and eventually move) out here.

Its weird because I really, really, really do want to go see my parents and grandparents and everyone, and I've been looking forward to it since the last time I saw my parents at the beginning of June. I've even been counting down with a paper chain in my room! And I know that, at the end of this visit, I am probably going to be a wreck when I have to say goodbye to my parents again. But as for coming back here, to Washington, I think I will be happy! I like being able to hike every day, even being able to go for a walk by myself if I want to without having to be too paranoid about getting mugged or something. I like the small town feeling and the calm, happy atmosphere that most of the people around here have. And I especially like the river!

I haven't gotten enough chances to go to the river this summer, since I was often exhausted after work. It is really less than five minutes from where I'm staying, and Lily loves it there too! She was afraid of the water when we first moved here, but now she plays happily. (Except when a boat goes by. She hates the waves. I guess I would too, if I were eight inches tall!)

When I get back here, my next goal (besides the obvious one of finding my next job, which I still haven't accomplished) will be to get out a little more and make some friends. I can go to Meetups and stuff, but even just relaxing down by the river with my dog is a good way to meet people. People with dogs! A lot of the time this summer, I just let the house swallow me up whenever I get home from work, and I don't want to leave any more than I have to. On a weekend, even a trip to the library can be stressful for me because I have to tear myself away from home! Lily coming with does help. Except when we're in the library, she's not very patient, and doesn't understand why I keep walking back and forth among the shelves.

I really don't have much to say in this post. And I probably won't be able to post again at least until Monday or Tuesday, because I am getting a new computer, which is being shipped out there, so I am leaving my old computer here and then bringing the new one back with me. But when I do get a chance to post, one thing I'll want to do is give a report on my experience flying with a psychiatric service dog. So you have that to look forward to.

In the mean time, here are a few pictures. Here is me saying goodbye to my friends who are ducks. When I get back from Chicago, they are going to be bigger than Lily.

Here;s one of Lily in her new sunshine bed. I kept seeing this bed in the Petsmart every time I went there, and I wanted it so bad, especially since Lily is always comandeering the cats' bed. I thought she would like a little bed of her own, even though she sleeps in my bed most of the time at night. It was $20 and I wasn't sure I should spend the money. But finally I did! Lily knew it was hers right away. She pawed at it and even picked it up in her mouth and pulled it around a little, and then looked at me and wagged her tail. And now she spends a lot of time just chillin' in it, like this. 

And finally, here is a picture of Lily this morning when I took her to say goodbye to the river. It has been so crowded all summer because it has been so hot, but it was cooler out today and we had it mostly to ourselves. We just walked along in the water and Lily splashed around happily. She's going to be bored in Chicago! (It is hard to tell that she is in water, but ust trust me on this one. You can kind of see the ripples in the water, and the browner section where the sand begins, can't you?

Okay, I will leave you with that. See you soon!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Animals, Animals, Look At All the Animals

Hi everyone! I'm still trying to get back into the habit of blogging, but my computer crashes so much that often by the time I've been kicked off in the middle of what I'm doing nine or ten times, I'm too exhausted and exasperated to keep working on it! I'm getting a new computer sometime this week, so that should improve my writing habits. We hope!

My summer job at the day camp ended on Friday. I immediately started getting sick. It was like my body had been working so hard to stay well in the midst of all of those little kid germs, as soon as it knew I was done working, it collapsed! I pretty much slept straight through the weekend and on through today, and now I am feeling a little better.

I've been working on getting a little more established here, since I've come to terms with the idea of staying. I took Lily to the local vet for an exam and just to establish her as a patient, and I registered her so that she can get her new local doggy tags. I am waiting to get my own doctors set up, get my local driver's license, register my car, etc, until my next paycheck. (Like any good Mama, I had to take care of my Lily first!)

I've also had some more local adventures. Last Sunday, for example, Auntie Em and I went to the County Fair! I had never been to a county fair before... at least not that I can remember. (I think I went to the Wisconsin state fair once. I remember watching pig races and drinking rootbeer flavored milk.) The County Fair was fun because there were a lot of animals! Here are some pictures of me bonding with baby cows and goats.(Note that I am wearing two different shoes. I can do that now because I'm in the Pacific Northwest! I've been trying to let my own weird style come out more!)



 I really, really, really, really, really want a pet goat!

The fair also had some rides. Auntie Em went on the Tilt-a-Whirl and the Scrambler with me. We had a lot of fun and she said she felt like a kid again! However, when I went on one of my very favorite rides, Auntie Em chose to stay on the ground and try to take a video of me. She said there was no way she was getting on this one!
video

We were getting tired and were getting ready to go catch the bus to go home, when Auntie Em saw a game she wanted to play. It was the one where you try to throw a pingpong ball into a goldfish bowl to win a goldfish. Auntie Em said she used to be really good at that game, and it was only two dollars to play. And, guess what? 
We are now the proud owners of a fish! His name is Clark. 

I've also gotten to have a few more low-key but super fun adventures involving animals. 
For instance, we went to visit Auntie Em and Uncle J's friend, who has 12 goats and a very large goat-protecting dog. Here is me bonding with the very large dog (she is huge but gentle and wanted to give me lots of hugs) while a goat observes.

Another friend of theirs has just bought 10 baby ducks to teach his border collie to herd. I never heard of a dog herding ducks before, but apparently its a thing. We go over there occasionally to help look after the ducks. The other day, we had to give them a bath in their little swimming pool! Contrary to popular belief, when ducks are little they cannot be in the water all the time, because it takes a while for their real duck feathers (the water proof ones) to grow in. They need to spend some time in the water to learn how to be ducks, but after a while they start getting soggy and cold and need to be taken out. 
Here is a picture of me and a friend trying to keep all of our ducks in a row, while the border collie observes.

And here is me trying to warm up a soggy duck!

As you can see, this area is like Paradise for me! I am just looking forward to a time when I will have my own house with a yard, so I can get some animals of my own. (But of course Lily will always be Top Dog in my eyes!)

This is getting to be a long and winding post, so I will end it here. I will keep you posted! (Haha, get it? Posted? Eh? Oh, never mind.)

Monday, July 27, 2015

Otherwise Known As Angel The Alien

I don't know why I gave it that title. Its always awkward to start blogging again after being out of the game for over a month! Its like, "HI I'M HERE, EVERYONE LOOK AT ME!"

Trying to get back into a blogging habit now that I am more or less settled here in the Pacific Northwest. (Yep, I finally came to terms with the idea of staying here long-term!) I am still staying with my Auntie Em and Uncle J. I substituted for a while but hated it, and then I got a very unexpected summer job. I got hired to LEAD a summer daycamp for children with special needs! When I applied, I thought I was just applying for a regular camp staff job, but then she said she wanted to hire me to be in charge of the whole thing! I deliberated on refusing the job. My mom thought it was a bad idea for me to try it. My Auntie Em's opinion was that the person who hired me did it for a reason, she saw something in me that made her think I was the right person for the job, and therefore I could do it.

(I think the lady who hired me was more or less desperate, I found out later that the camp was usually organized, activities planned, field trips arranged, staff hired and trained, etc, months ahead of time. And when I was hired, I had to figure out a way to do all that within about two weeks! And the way that the camp goes, we usually get the things we need about ten years after we need them. For instance, we were supposed to undergo Crisis Prevention training the weekend before camp, but it got cancelled, and now my boss is promising to reschedule it for a few weekends from now... but camp ends in 3 weeks! Pretty much the story of the summer. We;ve been flying by the seat of our pants. But I digress...)

My aunt encouraged me to be honest with the staff members about my Aspergers Syndrome, so that they could better understand where I was coming from. I did tell them on the first day, and nobody seemed shocked or dismayed. My (mostly) wonderful staff has treated me with friendliness and respect. There are a few that were not too happy about my being hired, but that was because they really liked the previous camp leader, who had left to get a full time job this year. I do some things a lot differently from the previous leader. She had a real take-charge personality, and I heard she even used to give the staff members weekly grades on their performance. She was very insistent that the children participate in every activity and that they toe the line. I'm more of a quiet leader. I like to ask people what they think, learn their ideas, explain my theories, etc. I am also more gentle with the kids and try to go about things from a nurturing point of view. For instance, if a child is having a "melt down" and is on the floor screaming, I am more likely to sit beside him and talk quietly to him, sometimes patting his back or stroking his hair, than to stand over him giving him ultimatums. It seems to work. They are able to calm down and get back into the swing of things more quickly, when they are not engaged in a power battle.

The summer started out shaky but is getting better and better. If it could only be permanent, I could do such great things with it! But there are only a few weeks left. I am putting off starting my school for at least another 6 months, due to a serious lack of funds of any sort. So that will mean I'll have to find another soul-crushing job. But this summer job has been really good for me, although it has also been exhausting! Some of my recent adventures have involved chasing a 12-year-old streaker around on the playground trying to get his clothes back on him (What IS it with kids with Down syndrome and stripping? I once taught a summer school class which consisted almost completely of kids with Down syndrome, and half of them would whip off their clothes whenever they got mad! But, again, I digress,,,) Getting whacked in the face by a 300 pound 16-year-old camper who towered over even the largest men in camp, and leading a very noisy drum circle consisting of children banging on overturned buckets.

In the mean time, Auntie Em and Uncle J and I usually do something fun on the weekends. I haven't made any actual friends here yet, but I do like spending time with my aunt and uncle! This past weekend we went to a small town street fair, which included an event where people sat in bathtubs filled with ice water and raced each other around cones. (The bathtubs had wheels on them, of course! Why wouldn't a bathtub have wheels?) The weekend before that, we went to Portland and roamed around. My aunt and uncle also take care of Lily during the day and take her hiking each day. One of my favorite things about living here is that we have two rivers very close to us, and can go to the beach at the drop of a hat. Lily loves it, and sometimes if I am not too tired after work I take her down there for a swim! The last time I wrote, she was still afraid of the water, but now she gets right in and even lays down!

I'm going to go to bed now, but I will come around and read some other blogs tomorrow. I will leave you with some new pictures of me and Lily!

Me standing in front of an iconic fountain in downtown Portland. 

Me riding the MAX, which is Portland's version of the EL. 

Me at a classic carshow, with my other uncle's head on a stick. He lives in Chicago and has Parkinsons, which limits his ability to leave the house, and he loves classic cars. So I thought ti would be fun to take a bunch of pictures with his head in them, and send them to him! He said he loved them and he looks at them all the time. 

Lily out for a little swim. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

My Trip To Cali

Wow, I really have not been great lately at keeping up this blog! I have just been so tired lately. I almost feel like I might have some sort of medical problem, like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome... Even if I sleep in late in the morning, I cannot get through a day without having to take a nap. I start feeling like I'm melting, my eyes and my bones hurt and I have to crash immediately! Weird. Its not like I've been doing anything very strenuous lately... I've been keeping up my daily hikes for the most part, but we don't go extremely fast, we just walk at an average pace. 

Anyways... I've been here about six weeks now. I got to spend a few days with my parents, my brother, sister in law, and nephew Squeak last week. My parents flew down and rented a cabin in Bro and Sunny's small hometown. I took the Greyhound bus down there to meet them.

I deliberated long and hard about whether to bring Lily. On one hand, she is my assistance dog and she helps me get through daily life, plus she is very attached to me and would be lonely without me. This place is still sort of new to her, and although I've left her with my parents for weeks at a time before, I wasn't sure if she was ready to be without me for a week in this new house. On the other hand, I was worried about things that could go wrong in California that could endanger Lily. The small town is a little Wild-Wild-West like, plus there is a dangerous highway right outside Bro's house. And although I've come to feel safe in the parks and trails around my new town in Washington, and I've even gotten to the point where I can let Lily wander through the backyard on her own without being convinced that a cougar will swoop down out of a tree and eat her, I was still not that confident about California. 

In the end, I decided to bring her. More than anything else, she helps me deal with the transitions of going from place to place. She keeps me from feeling like the world is disappearing out from under me when things go wrong. She keeps me grounded, emotionally safe, and able to deal with the world. Ironically, having her with me in California did add a certain amount of anxiety to my life, because I had to worry about something happening to her. There are so many things that could happen to take a small dog away from me! While I was there, we saw a small stray dog run out into the highway and get hit by a truck one morning. It traumatized me and proved my point about how I need to protect Lily. I would have felt like she was safer if I'd left her in Washington, but I would have been sadder and more anxious (and so would she) if we were apart. Can you see the rock and the hard place there?


Lily riding the bus. Technically she is supposed to sit on the floor or in my lap, but since there were not many people on the bus and there were plenty of spare seats, she got to sit next to me like a proper little bus passenger! 
Things went well, though. I loved spending time with my family. It felt so normal to be with my parents again. Just relaxing and watching TV in the cabin with my mom, or joking with my dad, was so great. And of course, I was so happy to see Squeak! Can you believe he is two years old now?

Squeak loves sports. He literally never goes anywhere without a ball in his hand. At Christmas time he was obsessed with football, but now it seems to be baseball. He has this little mitt, and even though it is kid-sized it is still too big for his chubby little hand, but he shoves it on there anyways and tries to catch the ball with it. He has a great throwing arm already. Its crazy to watch him! Here is a (alienized) pic I took of him getting ready to catch a ball with his mitt.


Since his birthday was last month, I brought him a little bowling set as a present. It has six pins that look like caterpillars or something, and a little yellow ball to roll. It is like this: 
I thought it would be fun to introduce Squeak to a new sport! He seemed to like it a lot. He had fun setting up the pins and rolling the ball, although it took him a while to get the hang of rolling the ball straight at the pins. (It is harder than it looks, when you don't have lanes to keep the ball somewhat in the right area! He also likes to mix his sports to create whole new sports, such as kicking a basket ball at the bowling pins to knock them down, or trying to hit a football with a bat. Here is a pic of Squeak crawling around playing with his new bowling set. 

After spending three days with my family in California, I rode with my parents in their rented car, all the way back to Washington. They wanted to come up to spend some time with the always elusive BT, who is leaving for Ecuador in one week. (Boooooo!) BT spent the morning hiking with us, but then he left to go visit his other cousins for the rest of the weekend, so my parents were stuck hanging out with Auntie Em, Uncle J and me, It was fun. We had a picnic,  and then went home and sat outside on the deck. Large amounts of alcohol were consumed by all involved, except for Lily and me. I really ought to take up drinking! 

When it was time for my parents to leave, I nearly broke down. I was crying and sobbing and felt like I would have a meltdown. But Auntie Em and Uncle J kept me busy and distracted until I was settled into the house again. They didn't shame me for being sad, but they also actively tried to cheer me up. It was a lot different from what I've encountered in the past from my parents, who were more likely to completely ignore me, or tell me to snap out of it, when I was upset. 

Then I got the idea to make a paper chain... like the kind you make as a little kid to count how many days until Christmas. Auntie Em had given me some construction paper earlier in the week. I was expecting that I'd see my parents again at the end of the summer, in a little less than 70 days. I realized that the pack of paper had 10 different colors, so I cut out seven strips of each color, decorated them with crayons, and chained them together. Each night I take off one strip. (I am keeping the strips so I can reassemble the chain again the next time I return from seeing my parents!) 

Just the act of making the chain helped me a lot. It gave me something constructive (literally!) to do, and helped me see that I was not going to be missing them forever. 


Some other pics from the weekend...
Me and my dad by the ocean...

...Me by the ocean looking happy... 

... Me and Lily on our hike with my parents, Auntie Em, Uncle J, and BT (Lily walked most of the way but she got tired so I put her in my front pack to have a break)

Lily trying to learn how to swim. She likes the water. She used to go in only up to her toes, and then she'd shake vigorously as if she were soaking wet. Now she will actually go in up to her armpits and splash around! Roo, on the other hand, loves to swim and will swim after a stick into the river, and bring it back in her mouth!

One more pic of Lily and then I will let you go. This one is too cute for me to deal with... Lily snuggling with my Chumba bear in my bed while she waits for me to get done with my computer work or whatever it was I was doing!

Okay. That is all for now. Things are really picking up, and it looks like it will be an interesting summer, so I should have lots of great blog posts in the future! And I will try to do some reading as well, tomorrow. 

Good night, everyone! 

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Things Are Going Well

I guess it has been a while since I posted! This hasn't been because I haven't been wanting to blog, but more because my computer has been slow as molasses, to the point where writing a blog entry would take me three hours and give me a huge headache. I've cleaned it out a little so it is somewhat faster now!

So! I have been here for a whole month now! It is going well. Lily has adapted wonderfully to her new life here. I was so worried that she would be unhappy and homesick... but she loves Auntie Em and Uncle J and the dog Roo (although she still barks at my cousin BT and the cats) and she really enjoys our daily hikes. She really keeps up with the big dogs, and has gotten enough confidence in herself as a dog that she can climb up and jump from small stumps and cross the little foot bridges she used to be afraid of! I'm proud of her. I even let her go off leash on her hikes now, and she stays right on the trail in front of me like a perfect little dog. I don't worry about her wandering off and getting eaten by a cougar anymore. Also my aunt and uncle swear there aren't any cougars in this particular area. So that is good.

As for me, I am mostly happy, but somewhat homesick. I miss my parents and Trixie and my other family members from Chicago. I also miss my room and my daily routines there. I feel at home here at my aunt and uncle's house, but it is sort of a weird effect... like I changed the channel on the TV show of my life. Sometimes I look around and think, "Wow, I actually did it, I made it! I moved out here and I live in the Northwest now! This is great!" But then I get a picture in my mind of my house in Chicago, the familiar areas like my bedroom and the basement and the kitchen. Or I'll be out running an errand with Auntie Em, and I'll get a flashback of myself running almost the exact same errand with my mom... like grocery shopping or going to Kohl's. And I get this panicky sort of feeling, like I have lost something that was important to me.

I want to be here. This is a better environment for me in a lot of ways. I can be more relaxed, be myself, and not always have to worry about some stupid mistake getting me in trouble, like hanging a towel up crooked in the bathroom or something. That sort of thing is fine here, and I am not the only one who isn't completely organized and streamlined! And the people I have met here so far (mostly the people from the drop-in center and my aunt and uncle's dog walking group) are nice and accepting and do not give me a weird look at all.

But I also miss home! In some ways, this still feels like a vacation that just keeps going and going. It still feels unreal that I have left Chicago behind permanently.

Last week I started subbing out here. It is okay I guess. I don't really like subbing in general. I always feel a little unsure of myself... it is like a first day of work every day, but people expect you to somehow know exactly what to do because you're a sub... as if, in every classroom at every school you've subbed at, things must be exactly the same, so therefore you should already know how to run or assist in this particular classroom.

I feel like the perfect job for me would be something that I could do completely independently, maybe while working at home, so I wouldn't have to deal with the anxiety of dealing with people's opinions of me. But that probably would be hard to find!

I found a cool drop-in center for people with mental health conditions. They have activities during the day, like support group meetings and classes. You can also go there just to hang out, if you want. So far I have only gone to the Creative Journaling group. Sometimes I am working on the other days, but luckily I haven't had to work on the Creative Journaling days.

I also got to volunteer at a sanctuary farm! It is a place where they rescue abused farm animals and let them live safely and healthily for the rest of their lives. Every two weeks they have "work parties" so volunteers can come help. I got to muck the barn (which I had learned to do in Chicago in equine therapy) and spread new hay on the ground. After working for two hours, you get to spend time with the animals. I didn't think to have anyone take a picture of me with some animals... I will do that next time!

In the mean time, here are a few more hiking pictures of me and Lily!




Wednesday, May 6, 2015

I Actually Made It!

Hi everyone! Sorry you haven't heard from me for a while!
The last time I wrote, I was freaking out about going out to Portland. Well, here is the short version of what happened.

You may remember I had decided to think of it as a short-term visit instead of a permanent move, because it was too overwhelming to think about forever. Well, the problem was, although everyone in my family agreed to think of it as an extended visit, they (my parents mainly) still continued to talk about it as if I was going to be gone forever. For instance, asking me if I had started looking for an apartment in the area yet, etc. This contributed to my widespread panic.

But I still didn't want to change my mind! Even though I was terrified, one of the main things pushing me forward was the fact that my cousin BT was scheduled to get married on the 28th of April, and I had promised I'd be there. So whenever I'd think of just cancelling, I would reply to myself, "No, I can't cancel. BT is getting married! I want to be there!" I was also thinking of the month ahead, in which BT would be staying at my Auntie Em's house along with me, before he'd eventually move to Ecuador with his new husband. I told myself, "It will be fun! I won't be lonely, because BT will be there, and the time will go really fast!"

So on April 22 my dad and I packed up my tiny car and headed west. You have to understand that my dad wanted to miss as little work as possible, and he also wanted to spend some time with my aunt and uncle and me once we got there, so he planned for us to get all the way to Portland in 2.5 days. Nobody actually thought we could do it! But we did. We pulled this off by driving 80 miles per hour most of the way, driving from dawn until bedtime, and barely stopping at all. If we stopped at a McDonalds, I literally could not even wolf down all of my french fries before my dad would be ordering me back into the car!

A lot of this time, I was still continuing to freak out. To me it seemed like early morning and up until around 2:00 would be my best time of day, and then from 2 to about 8 I would start to feel upset and panicky again. I had tears constantly coming out of my eyes and I was fighting back sobs, as I texted with my mother and Auntie Em, and even emailed with my therapist, trying to explain that my heart was shattering! My aunt was telling me, via text, "Just come out for BT's wedding, and after the wedding is over you can go home if you want to!" So the wedding still was propelling me forward!

Then after 8 I would usually calm down and start to feel better, and by the time we got to the hotel for the night I would be thinking about dinner, a warm shower, a nice bed, and the possibility of getting to go swimming in the hotel pool before we left in the morning. (Which I never did get to do all the way there, because we always left immediately upon opening our eyes... but I digress!)

This was happening all day Wednesday, and all day Thursday, and most of the day Friday. As we drove into Portland (except I am actually staying in Washington, but I just habitually call it Portland for some reason) I was sobbing! We went to check into my dad's hotel room, and I was sitting on the couch and crying as I called my mom. I told her, "I just want to go home, I just want to go home, I don't think I can do this!" And she was telling me, more or less, "Just try it for a few weeks, and then decide if you still want to come home." But all I could think of was, "I want to go home RIGHT NOW!"

Then we went over to my aunt's house. I was still bawling as I pointed out the right house to my dad. I was still bawling when I got out of the car. And I was still bawling when my aunt's dog, Roo, bounded out of the house and ran up to me with a big smile on her face! But once Roo threw herself on her back in front of me, I started to smile a little. Then my aunt came out and hugged me and said that we were going to have a good visit, and that I could go home whenever I wanted.

But as soon as I walked into the house, I felt immediately better! I've been here many times, staying over the past 2 years for a total of three weeks and three days, and so the feeling was a lot like walking into home. I very literally felt like a huge weight had been lifted off of me,

And I have not cried since! I've been fine!

We had the wedding, which was a lot of fun. My Bro and Sunny and Squeak were there, and I got to spend some time with them, Lily got to be there too! Here's a picture of me and Auntie Em and Lily at the wedding. I had a funny look on my face because when I turned around I didn't know someone was taking my picture!


Since after the wedding, it has been a little like a relaxing vacation for me. I've been doing a lot of reading (I got a local library card!) and writing and sleeping. We also go hiking for at least an hour and a half, and often two hours or more, every day, which has been great for both me and Lily. I am hoping Lily will lose some weight while we're here! 

We took a walk on the beach along the river this afternoon. Lily got to go off her leash, and it was a lot of fun!
Hiking on our first day here. We had our picture taken in a field of lilies! I told Lily they were named after her. 
         Tomorrow I have to go to my orientation to start substituting out here, so I guess next week will be a little less like a vacation. But it is still fun! This house is a much different environment, that is probably better for someone like me. There is not so much tension. For instance, the other day I was making macaroni and cheese, and the water boiled over, and all my aunt said was, "Its okay. Its really easy to clean up," and showed me how to use the special stove cleaning stuff. At home I would have gotten yelled at! 

          I still am homesick. I miss my mom and dad and Trixie a lot. If I think of never living there again, I feel the anxiety come back. So I am really still taking it day by day, and really learning to be in the moment, instead of worrying about the future or being homesick for the past. I know I will go back to Illinois for a while this summer, and I will never have to go forever without going home. It will just be going from A to B, and then B to C, and then C to D, and I can go back whenever I want. I try to think of it like a kid going off to college, where they are starting their own life, but not completely leaving their home and family in the dust. 

         The only not so good thing is that I imagined I'd get to see BT a lot since we'd be living in the same house, and I was excited for that... but mostly he just stays up in his room and I rarely see him, except for a total of about three minutes per day if he passes by me on the way to the kitchen or something. So I'm sort of sad for that. 

        But it is okay because I'm still having plenty of fun with my aunt and uncle, and I am in a way more comfortable with them anyway because they are really accepting of me, whereas with BT I am always wary of sounding stupid. Not that BT has ever acted like I was stupid. When he is around he is always friendly to me and actually talks with me like I'm a human being with a brain. If I was actually around him longer I'd probably get used to that... I guess I am just used to Bro telling me, "Shut up" or "Really, Angel?" or otherwise putting me down, when I'm around him, to the point where I generally try not to talk around him. BT is not like that. So its not that. What is the point of this paragraph? I forgot. Oh yeah... so I am having plenty of fun with Auntie M and Uncle J and I like talking with them and hiking with them and going to run errands with them... but I just also wish BT was around more. 

        Uh... how can I end this blog entry? I need a graceful exiting point. How about this...