Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Twisted Mixtape - Halloween Edition!

Hi everyone! I have peeled myself off of my sickbed (I've had the stomach flu since Saturday night) to participate in this week's Twisted Mixtape! I didn't want to miss it, because I already had some songs I wanted to post.

If you have a blog and you want to play along, here are the rules: "Five songs (give or take). Stick to the theme (as best you can). Check out the other players (everyone wants to share their tunes with you). Create a mix, not a “hey look at all the cool songs I know” we’re not snobs, if you were our best bud and you were gonna make us a tape, what would it be? And share this party so more people will play next week!"

You can go over to Jen Kehl's blog to link up! 
And now, for some scary music. 
1. Little Red Riding Hood! I used to hear this song on the Oldies station when I was a kid, and I loved it. I don't think this is the official video, since it is just pretty much a picture of a wolf. But the song is scary, right? There is a big bad wolf involved, and everything!

2. Werewolves Of London! (Official video!)"I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand..." What could be scarier than that? Kid Rock also stole the beginning rif for his song "All Summer Long." That is scary too.

3. Sunday Bloody Sunday. "Broken bottles under children's feet, bodies strewn across the dead end streets..." I've always loved this song, but I recently learned that it is about a true event that happened in Ireland in 1972. "Bloody Sunday" refers to an incident when 26 unarmed civil rights protesters were attacked by British soldiers. Thirteen people, including seven teenagers, died. Five were injured when they were run over by army vehicles. When U2 performed this song, Bono would say that it was "not a rebel song," which probably didn't mean much to Americans... but what he meant was, he did not want protesters in Ireland to use it as a battle song which could lead to more injuries and deaths.
Scary, right? Let's give it a listen!

4. White Winter Hymnal. "And Michael you would fall, and turn the white snow red as strawberries in the summertime..." The beautiful melody to this song has creepy lyrics to go with it. Nobody seems to be quite sure what the song means. Not even the artists themselves. Watching the video will leave you even more confused. What do you think?

5. Oxford Comma. (WARNING- BEWARE OF FALLING F-BOMBS! IF YOU HAVE SMALL CHILDREN IN THE ROOM, YOU MIGHT WANT TO TELL THEM TO GO AWAY!)This is a recent favorite of mine. It's not really scary, but I decided to include it on this list for two reasons. One, the name of the band is Vampire Weekend. VAMPIRES, dudes! Two, the video has some creepy moments in it. See for yourself! 

6. Long Black Veil. I know we're only supposed to have five songs, but I just remembered this one, that I had been planning to use, and I couldn't possibly delete any of the other ones. Listen to this creepy song of haunting and betrayal!

That's it for this week! I really love this meme... I love music, so there is nothing more fun for me than compiling mix tapes and listening to what other people like! Now I'm going to go post this, and read some of the other posts. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

What The Stroop Test Taught Me

 The other day, for work, I had to go to a meeting for all of the paraeducators (aka aides) in my school district. I thought the meeting would be super boring, because, for one thing, they usually are (often the meetings for paraeducators are somewhat akin to busywork... they don't want to let us just go home or something, but they don't feel like there is anything we really need to know because we're just aides, so they make us look at yet another traumatizing blood born pathogens movie or something)  and for another thing, because even the interesting meetings are a little repetitive if you have taken classes on special education and/or worked in special education schools before. How many times can you pay attention to a Power Point about RTI? The answer is, not that many. 

This meeting was actually very interesting though. It was focused more on learning about the perspective of children with different special needs. We did some activities to help us understand what it would be like to have disabilities. Even though I actually had done a lot of these activities before in school, it was still fun and interesting. 

One of the activities was supposed to show us what it would feel like to have difficulty reading. The activity was based on the Stroop Effect Experiment. You have probably done this before on a Facebook meme or a brain training game. They show you a list of color names, but the names of the colors are printed in different colors. So the color of the font would not be the same as the name of the color  Here's an example:   GREEN. You get a whole list of words like that, and you have to read the words (or name the font colors, depending on which way you do the test) as fast as you can, while a partner marks your wrong answers.

I was paired with another aide from my classroom. I was the one to mark her answers wrong as she read. She was having a difficult time with it... she kept saying the names of the colors shown, instead of reading the words. And I was kind of being silly about it, like saying "Wrong!" Because the whole idea of the activity was to have fun and be a little silly. 

When it was my turn to do the test, I read through them quickly and got them all right. The reason for this was mainly because I have done it before and I know there is kind of a trick to just tuning out the font colors and paying attention to the words. Even though it was just silly, I was sort proud of myself for getting them all right... I was like, "Sweet, I'm a genius!"

And then the aide who I was partnered with leaned over and whispered to me, "I think I did okay, considering. I don't talk about this much, but two years ago I had a serious brain injury and I was in the hospital for several months, and I had to relearn a lot of things from scratch. I still have difficulties with certain things."


Of course I felt bad for somewhat mocking her for making a few mistakes. Except, she didn't really make that many mistakes at all, just three or four. And really, you were sort of expected to make a lot of mistakes. Most of the people did. That was sort of the object of the activity. But because the lady had had a brain injury, she assumed she was having difficulty with it because of her brain injury, in as much as that she's very self-conscious about it. 

Afterwards, I realized that this is a lot like me. A lot of times in life I might assume that I am doing a terrible job at something, because I am super aware of my differences. For instance, if it is a really busy day at work and the kids are really hyper, and I am getting overwhelmed and making dumb mistakes such as forgetting to make a kid put his mittens on before sending him out to recess. I would probably assume I am having a bad time because my ADHD is making it hard for me to focus in all the chaos, or that my autism spectrum disorder is causing me to miss social cues such as realizing I was the one who was meant to make sure that student put on his mittens. But in reality, maybe everyone is overwhelmed and making dumb mistakes, even the teacher. Maybe half the kids went out with no mittens on that day. Because we're all just humans and humans make mistakes. Because I am so used to having extra challenges to cope with, I would expect that I am doing poorly and not measuring up... when in reality, I am doing just fine, and maybe even doing better than others because of the fact that I am actually trying so hard to compensate.

Like the rabbit and the turtle story. Because the turtle knows he has the extra challenge of being slow, he decides to work super hard and keep moving no matter what. The rabbit knows he is fast and has nothing to worry about, so he slacks off and even takes a nap, and meanwhile the slow but hard-working turtle passes him up. 

Deep thoughts, by Angel the Alien. 

Anyways... if you have never taken the Stroop Test before, you can try it here. You do it twice... the first time, the colors are the same as the words, but the second time they are different. You can record your times and note the difference! Let me know how it goes for you! 

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Going To The Zoo, Zoo, Zoo...

 Hi everyone! I haven't had a lot of time to blog or read other blogs lately, because my online classes are a little more time-consuming than I thought they'd be. Some part are fun, but some parts are really tedious... there is a lot of writing, not the interesting kind of writing I enjoy, but being given very specific questions and being required to answer in five paragraph or more. Ugh!

Work, on the other hand, is going pretty well. (In case you are a new reader, I posted about my newest job here.) Today all of the special education classes at the school went on a field trip to the zoo! The aides in my classroom rotate responsibilities... one person will be a classroom aide, one will be in charge of Finch, Phoebe and Noddy, and both Grebe and Wren have an aide assigned just to them since they need help with things like getting in and out of their wheelchairs and standers and bathrooming and stuff. 

Today I was in charge of Grebe. He's the kid with cerebral palsy who reminds me of Animal from the Muppets, not because I think he needs to be chained to a drumset, but because he's just wild and happy and usually banging on things, throwing things, and trying to either hug you or bite you. 

Although I have never spent much time with children with cerebral palsy, I felt really comfortable with both Grebe nd Wren as soon as I met them. Yesterday I spent the day in charge of Wren, and today was my first day being in charge of Grebe. I love Grebe because he's usually so happy and wants to just keep moving and moving and moving. If he is allowed to get out of his wheelchair and sit on the floor, he crawls and bounces around and just about tries to climb the walls!

I know that cerebral palsy can be caused by any number of things. The other day I learned what caused Grebe's cerebral palsy. He was born with exencephaly, which means that his brain was on the outside of his skull. This is an extremely rare medical condition, and most babies who have it are either stillborn or die shortly after birth. Grebe was born alive but was fully expected not to live. However, the doctors did surgery on him, and he lived. And he's awesome. He is probably, intellectually, the lowest functioning kid in the class. But he's a happy guy!

So anyway we went to the zoo, and my job was pretty easy because I just had to push Grebe around in his wheelchair. 

We didn't even get to the zoo until about an hour after we were supposed to, because one of the kids was supposed to be using a harness on the bus. For those of you who don't know or have kids with special needs, some kids wear these four point harnesses that are zipped onto them like jackets and then clipped onto the seat of the bus. They were probably invented for kids who can't sit up on their own, but they are also used a lot for kids with autism and other special needs who might get up and run around on the bus if they weren't held down by four super strength clips. The kid who needed it had the jacket part of the harness, but the bus didn't have the clips, and we couldn't leave until someone from the bus company drove to the school and brought us the apparatus that attache to the bus seat and clips to the jacket harness thingy. Finally, we were able to leave, knowing that little boy would be safe. Nevermind that he spent the entire ride there, and the entire ride back, unclipping his own harness. He un-safetyfied himself about ten times, total. Which, to me, sort of defeats the purpose of requiring him to have a harness! 
But I digress...

I did realize one important thing that I wanted to share. The zoo, by all account, is "handicap accessible." And it is true that a person using a wheelchair can get all around the zoo, including into the buildings. But a person sitting in a wheelchair cannot see many of the exhibits. I don't know how many times I rolled Grebe up to an exhibit and told him to look at an animal, only to realize, when I squatted down at his eye level, that he could not see over the fence or wall blocking the exhibit. Ambulatory children may be short, but they can walk right up to the fence and stand on the curb to peer over, or they can be lifted up, but Grebe couldn't. (Well, I suppose I could have lifted him, but by the time I had unstrapped all the buckles holding him into his wheelchair, the rest of the class would have been long gone!) Some animals are behind glass windows, and when I rolled Grebe up to these, all he could see was his own reflection. (An ambulatory kid could put their face close enough to the window to block out the reflecting light.) And in some of the underwater viewing areas, although I was able to get Grebe into the building, there were stairs leading down to the actual windows, and Grebe couldn't go down them. I could see the dolphins and seals from where we stood, but Grebe's vision isn't too great, so all he saw was a blue blur. 

Grebe probably didn't mind this as much as I did, truth be told. He knew we were there to see animals, but he was much more interested in yelling "hello" to everyone, and demanding that I wheel him over as many hills and bumpy surfaces as possible. We ate lunch at the picnic ground, which is in an area with a ground covered in wood chips. When I had to drag Grebe's wheelchair over the curb onto the wood chips, and basically go off-roading with him to get him over to the picnic tables, he was waving his arm and yelling in delight. (However, he had no interest in actually eating lunch, and while I ate my entire sandwich, chips and cookies, he ate three Cheetos.) He especially loves it when I turn his wheelchair into a rollercoaster and spin him around or run around in circles. If there was an Evel Kneivel in a wheelchair, that would be Grebe! 

So that was my work day. Even though I definitely still wish to be a teacher, it is kind of nice to have a job where I can relax and have fun with kids. If I was a classroom teacher, I would not have had the chance to spend the whole day hanging out with Grebe, because I would have also had to worry about the other nine kids in the class. 

Also, now I really want to go to the zoo, but by myself or with other adults, so I can slow down and do all the stuff I wanted to do but couldn't because there were ten little kids with us!

In other news... I have a surprise that I am going to reveal in a few days or so. Don't get too excited... it is not a huge surprise, and in fact one reader of this blog already knows. (Don't give it away, Auntie M!) 

Monday, October 21, 2013

My First Twisted Mixtape!

 Hi everyone! Thanks for your kind concern over my bashed-in head the other day. Someone mentioned that it could have been a concussion, because uncontrollable crying can be a symptom. I guess it is possible. I did have a concussion once, when I banged my head so hard getting into a car that it resulted in my getting STAPLES IN MY HEAD! (It was a weird experience if there ever was one.) And I remember being very overly emotional a few hours after returning, and also very cold and shivering like crazy. So this may have been similar but milder. (I think it was very close to the same spot, too!)
Anyways, I am fine now, as far as I can tell. And I am participating in my very first Twisted Mix Tape Tuesday! 

The object of this game is to post a "mix tape" of songs on a particular theme. This week, the theme is songs that have a personal spiritual meaning to you. They don't have to be religious songs at all... as long as they have some kind of spiritual meaning to you... and you can interpret the word "spiritual" in any way you want. Even if you are an atheist, you've most likely felt the feeling of being completely happy and at peace when listening to a certain song. 

Here are the rules, in case you want to play along on your blog. "Five songs (give or take). Stick to the theme (as best you can). Check out the other players (everyone wants to share their tunes with you). Create a mix, not a “hey look at all the cool songs I know” we’re not snobs, if you were our best bud and you were gonna make us a tape, what would it be? And share this party so more people will play next week!"

Now, here are a few songs that I chose!

Ripple, by the Grateful Dead.

I heard this song for the first time when my brother played me the Persuasions version when he was visiting once many years ago. To me this song is about everyone having an effect on everyone else, and that the mysteries that can't be explained are a sign that the whole world is connected. I love the lat few lines. Listen to it!

Be Thou My Vision, as sung by Van Morrison. 
My love of this song goes back to when I was a teenager, homeless, and staying in the extremely Christian town of Wheaton, IL. As soon as you step foot into Wheaton, people start evangelizing to you. Being young, lonely, and impressionable, I quickly was befriended by some kids from the very religions Wheaton College. They only listened to Christian music (if any at all) and so, when riding around in their cars, I was introduced to a lot of this music. I was also introduced to hymns while I attended a traditional Church of England church. "Be Thou My Vision" was one of my favorite church songs. One day, a close friend of mine from the homeless shelter I'd stayed at recently had gotten in a fight and had been badly injured. He was in the ICU at the hospital several towns away. I had no car and not much money, so I went to one of my new Wheaton College friends to ask for a ride to the hospital so I could be with my friend. While we were riding in the car, I heard this song come on the radio, and I took it to mean that everything was going to be alright. (It did turn out alright, in the end.) Later I wanted to find this song so I looked it up at the library, and the only album they owned that had it was Van Morrison's Hymns To The Silence. I borrowed it, and taped Van Mirrison's version onto my own actual mixed tape! (It was the 90's, man.) I still love this version, and I do not own it anywhere on my iPod or anything, because it doesn't seem to exist on iTunes.

Darlin' Do Not Fear, by Brett Dennen.
When I first listened to the lyrics of this song, I was going through a lot of anxiety. To me, the words to this song mean, you don't really know what is going to happen, so why be afraid? I may be really worried that I might never find a real teaching job and that I will have to be dependent on others forever and ever. But I don't know that will happen. So why be afraid of it? My favorite part of this song is the part that goes "If you have a broken heart or a battered soul, Find something to hold on to or to let go, To help you through the hard nights like a flask filled with hope." To me it means find something good, something you love or something you have to look forward to, and just use it to help you get through all of the bad times.  Small Dog is one of the "things" I hang onto like a life raft. 

Two Angels On A Cloud, by Gerald Jay Markoe
This one doesn't have a video. It doesn't even have words! I found this song on an instrumental CD about angels. It is really calming and beautiful music. I used to listen to the CD at night when I was trying to fall asleep, and this was always my favorite song. When you close your eyes and listen to it, you really do feel like you're on a cloud with two angels! (At least, I do!)

Imagine, by John Lennon

I fell in love with this song when I was in junior high and I heard it on the oldies station. It was so pretty and haunting, and I was always excited when I got the chance to hear it again! Despite being raised by a die-hard Beatles fan and being a big fan of the Beatles myself, I had no idea that this song was by John Lennon... until it came on the radio one day while I was in the car with my dad. I said I loved that song, and he told me what it was... and that he actually had the record! Needless to say, this was another one I added to one of my actual mix tapes.
This is the actual video for the song, so enjoy.

Now that you've heard some of my favorite spiritual songs, I hope you'll share some of yours! 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Pretty Sure I Broke My Brain.

Me feeling happy while on a hay ride, hours
before the basement ceiling attacked me.

It started out as a really great day. 
I had a great week at my new job, and I was stoked about that, but still excited for the weekend. It was a beautiful, sunny, fall day, and I had plans to go to a Meetup at a local pumpkin farm. Shockingly enough, my Meetup plans went smoothly for about the second time ever... I met up with three other random people, went on a hay ride, ate an apple cider donut and drank some hot chocolate, and picked out a ghost pumpkin to take home. It was a short and sweet Meetup, but better than sitting around at home! I recently uploaded some new songs on my iPod, and I drove home, enjoying the colorful fall scenery, blasting my new favorite songs and singing along. Got home, petted my neighbor dog, greeted my own dogs, and was happy about life in general. I heard through the grape vine ::cough cough my dad cough ahem cough:: that my mom was pissed off about my room being messy again, but I was just slightly irritated and it didn't really mess up my mood. 

And then something weird happened. 

I went down to the basement to put my sweatshirt in the laundry because it had dirt on it from carrying my pumpkin. As I went down I set my cell phone, which had been in my sweatshirt pocket, on the bookshelf next to the basement stairs. I'd have to draw you a diagram to explain exactly how I came to bash my head on the ceiling on my way back up,...but as I walked up the stairs, I bent down to get my phone, stood up, and bashed my head on the corner of the basement ceiling. The basement ceiling has an edge that hangs out right at the edge of the stairs, and that is what I knocked my noggin on. 

My head, I have to tell you, is pretty tough. I hit it on a regular basis, because I am clumsy and have no depth perception. I hit it a lot while getting in and out of cars. Once I hit it so hard, I needed staples in my head! So this time, I wasn't to surprised, except that it hurt beyond a quick "owch" moment. It kept on hurting. 

Suddenly and with no warning, I felt so sad, it was like my heart broke! Like I jabbed my heart on that corner instead of my skull. I went upstairs and random tears started pouring out of my eyes! I wasn't crying because of the pain (which still hurt but not in a tear-worthy way, just in a "Tthhhhhhh,,,, AAAAAAH!" kind of way) but because of the incredible, unexplained sadness. Why was I sad? No idea! I'd had a happy day, and my Small Dog was licking my face, and everything was fine, but I was crumbling!

I went and laid on my bed, where I sobbed into my pillow. 

Then my mom came up and started yelling at me about my room being messy, saying that if I don't clean it to her satisfaction she will go in there and throw out all my stuff. (Remember that threat from when you were in second grade, everyone? Yeah... in my mom's mind I'm still there. But I digress...) So I'm lying there bawling, and she's lecturing me, and she just assumed I was crying because of what she was saying, which probably brought her great levels of happiness, but really I was barely listening to her because I was still despondent about nothing. 

I was even getting into my old depression thoughts where I was like, "I just want to be dead." I had to remind myself of the people I cannot leave. My Small Dog would be lost without me. Squeak wouldn't necessarily miss me, because he's a baby, but later in life he might be sad he never got the chance to know his aunt. Sunny would miss me. Two out of my four little cousins would miss me. Auntie M and Uncle J would miss me. 

Now hours have passed, and the feeling hasn't gone away. I'm obviously not crying (all that salt water would ruin my laptop I'm sure) but I feel tired and sad and melancholy and kind of achy. It is like the blow to the head literally knocked me into a bout of depression.

I told you I broke my brain.

Too bad it didn't knock some sense into me, instead! 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

What's New?

 I haven't really blogged at all about the new job I just started the other day. I really love it! 
I mean, I would love a teaching job more. I would love to get paid more than $11.31 an hour. I would love to have access to health insurance that doesn't require me to pay $250 per month. (Seriously, for that cost I may as well just save my money, and pay cash if I actually do need to go to the doctor... which I usually don't. If you want to see how $250 a month would be a giant blow to my budget, go read about my budget!) 

But other than that... it is a lot of fun, and just about the opposite of the aide job I had last school year. The staff members are nice, and they're so much more cheerful and laid back than at the last school! While they do expect the kids to have good behavior and work hard, they also don't spend the entire day hollering at the children. They choose their battles. They smile a lot. They give the kids choices. 

While the last school was like a punch in the gut to my confidence, this school is reassuring me that there is nothing wrong with me and that I could certainly handle being a teacher (contrary to what the principal at the last school said.) In fact, although there are three other aides, plus the teacher, plus me, in the classroom, several times I have already found myself in charge of the entire group of children for a short while when everyone else was on break or called out of the room. And I've realized once again that you're not really a giant pushover if you allow the children to talk quietly while they do their morning work, if you don't immediately move a child to "yellow" on the behavioral chart if they get up and run to the window to see if it is raining, and that children will actually behave better if they are happy and comfortable. 

You want to hear about the children in my class? I am going to give them fake names of course, but since I may blog about work once in a while, it will be easier if I don't always have to refer to all of them as "kid." There are twelve of them, all first and second graders with intellectual disabilities. 

Noddy is a first grader with Down syndrome. He is super adorable, with longish blond hair and eyes that kind of bulge out behind his huge, round glasses. He can be really naughty... refusing to work, or running off down the hallway on the way to gym... but he is also so sweet, spontaneously running up and hugging you, or plopping himself down on your lap and demanding that you sing "Where Is Thumbkin" to him.

Phoebe - Another first grader with Down syndrome. She is tiny and has long hair that goes down past her waist. She loves to play with Noddy. She is really stubborn, and if you ask her to do something, or ask her any question at all, she will often yell, "No!" just for the sake of being ornery. So instead we ask her to help with things. For instance, instead of saying, "Go line up for gym," you can say, "Help me by lining up for gym." And she does it because she loves to be helpful!
Raven - A very friendly second grader who loves individual attention and seems amazed by everything you tell her! I showed her how to use the Jacob's Ladder toy that she found in the box of sensory toys today. She thought I was magic!

Myna - A cute-as-a-button second grader who has a speech delay, in addition to whatever intellectual disabilities she has. It is often hard to understand what she is saying, because sometimes she is speaking Spanish, and sometimes she is speaking English but just isn't intelligable. She has a huge smile and a tiny ponytail that seems to spout out of the top of her head. 

Martin - I don't know much about Martin yet, and I'm not sure why. He is quieter and not as quick to engage as the others are. Maybe I can tell you more about him next week. 

Finch- A cheerful little second grader who has autism and loves letters, numbers, planets, Spiderman, and apples. I don't know why apples, but he sure loves them! He is friendly and does talk a lot, although it is usually to ask you "What color is this?" or "What's that letter?" (He knows the answer, but just wants to hear you say it) or "What's that noise?" (because he hears and notices any random noise that pops up in the background) or sometimes, at random moments, "Hey! What are you doing?" He loves to be tickled and will run up to you and then start running away, laughing, hoping you'll chase him and tickle him. 

Jaeger - A friendly second grader who is probably the most talkative and social kid in the classroom, the one most lilely to blend in with "typically developing" kids. He likes to make jokes, such as suggesting that maybe the teacher was late this morning because she had drowned in the rain. He loves to show off how much he knows, and he'll call you over fifty million times during Free Reading time to show you a Word Wall word that he found in whatever book he's reading. 

Grebe - reminds me of Animal from the Muppets, In the traditional view of intellect... like, if someone gave him an IQ test... he probably operates at about the level of a seventeen or eighteen month old toddler. His speech is really limited. But he never stops moving. Never. And he has cerebral palsy, and uses a wheelchair or stander most of the time, so you have to imagine this dark haired little kid sitting in a wheelchair waving all of his arms and legs around at all times, usually banging on something as hard as he can, always with a giant grin on his face! But when he's banging on something, he has perfect rhythm! So if the teacher and all the kids are all, for instance, counting to ten in unison, Grebe will be banging with all his might on the tray of his stander to the rhythm of the counting. I really wish I could put that little boy at a drum set and let him go wild!

Wren - I just met Wren because she's been absent for a while, so I'll have to tell you more about her later.

Sora - Sora is a very talkative second grader who has a lot of anxiety, especially about times. She loves to have a timer set for every possible activity, and she will constantly let everyone know how many minutes are left, on a minute-by-minute basis. She has a lot of trouble with social skills, which is sad because she really wants to be friends with other girls, both in the special ed class and in the regular classes. She will walk up to random kids and just demand that they tell their mothers to bring them to a certain restaurant on a certain day because she's going to be there, and if their family brings them there, then they can see each other and play and become best friends. And the other girls mostly just ignore her... the girls in our class because they struggle with social skills themselves and aren't sure how to interact, and the girls in the regular classes because they just find her sort of overwhelming. 

Teal - I have not met Teal at all yet, because she's been absent all week! We'll try again next week!

So now you know all of the kids, and can look forward to amusing anecdotes about them in the near future, I'm sure! 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Lets Play The ADHD Game!

While Aspergers probably contributes to a lot of my social awkwardness and anxiety, ADHD contributes to a lot of general nonsense in my every day life. Some days I feel like I'm in a comedy of errors... or maybe some sort of board game. Wanna play?

Its the first day of your new job. Wake up on time... move two spaces forward!

Spend twenty minutes pressing the "snooze" button on your alarm and trying to convince yourself to get up... go back one space.

Manage to speed through your showering routine. Go forward one space!

Realize that your one pair of dress pants is clean and actually looks somewhat ironed. Go forward one space!

Remember to bring your shoes, purse, and cell phone when you go downstairs. Go forward one space!

Can't find the lunch cooler you used to use last time you had a job. Spend five minutes searching for an acceptable replacement. Go back two spaces.

Finally find a similar lunch cooler in the Goodwill pile in the basement! Brush it off. Good as new. Go forward one space.

Remember to check the expiration date on the yogurt before you eat it... go forward eleven spaces!

Oops, you're almost out of your meds! Its a controlled substance and you can't get your prescription renewed until you make an appointment with your doctor, but you keep forgetting to do it. Go back five spaces.

Put everything near the door so you won't forget anything as you're leaving. Go forward fifty spaces!

Wait, where are your glasses? Go back two spaces for every trip you make up or down a flight of stairs while looking for them.

Finally find your glasses under a pile of papers. Go forward one space!

Walk out the door with two minutes to spare. Good job! Go forward five spaces!

Happen to look at your shirt and wonder why it looks a little different from how you remember it. Realize your shirt is on inside out. Go back twenty spaces!

But go forward five spaces for noticing before you actually arrived at work!

Fumble with your eighty million keys and somehow be unable to unlock the door to go back inside your house and change your shirt. You're running out of time. Go back one space for every minute you spend trying to open the door!

Finally decide to just get in your car and change your shirt there. Who cares if the neighbors see you in your bra? Go forward ten spaces for being brave and resourceful. Go back ten spaces for being such a spazz!

Manage to make it to work on time in spite of everything... go forward one hundred spaces! You win!

Now lets play this all over again tomorrow.

Monday, October 14, 2013

The Story Of A Bear, Continued...

Does everyone remember back in August... a few weeks before I started my traveling... I posted about my teddybear Chumbawamba? Chumba had been through a lot with me, and had gotten really beaten up and wrecked over the years. This is a picture of Chumbawamba  that I posted then. 

I mentioned then that I was going to send Chumba to a stuffed animal hospital, where he would get fixed up. I sent him off right before I left. Coincidentally, the stuffed animal hospital was located in California. I had to start out my journey without him. It was probably only the first or second time I had left on a trip without him! So when I heard that Chumba was ready to come home, I had him mailed to my brother's house, where the two of us met up. Chumba was able to hang out with me for the rest of my travels... just like old times!

The place I sent Chumba to is called Realms Of Gold. I had done a lot of research about different stuffed animal hospitals, and I ended up choosing this one because I read about it on another blog. The blogosphere is the place I often turn to for advice! I was glad I did... Beth, who runs the hospital, kept in constant touch with me. She let me know when Chumba had arrived. She sent me choices about the types of fabric and fur available for Chumba. She sent me pictures of the results as they occurred. And she let me know when Chumba was safely on his way to my brother's house in California! 

Here is a picture of Chumba now. 

You can see that Beth found fur and fabric that very closely matches Chumba's original fur and the fabric on his ears and paw! The new fur is pretty obvious, because it is brand new of course. But as time goes on, it will wear down just like Chumba's original fur did, and it will be nearly impossible to tell that he had any work done.

The best part, to me, is that she sewed his poor head back on securely. Because my cat had ripped Chumba's neck, the rip was jagged and very difficult to sew shut. Over the years, lots of people had tried to sew him back together for me, but it always popped back open! Beth somehow managed to sew it securely, and now he really is just about as good as new. 

You may notice that he still has some dirt on his muzzle. Realms Of Gold also offers a service of cleaning stuffed animals by hand. I opted not to get that service, because I needed to try and save money, and I figured I can clean him off myself. (I still plan on it... just haven't gotten around to it of course! I haven't even managed to give my Small Dog a bath since I've been home!) 

(This is NOT a sponsored review... this is just me wanting to let the world know about a really great service I discovered! Beth, who runs Realms Of Gold, did a great job, and I wanted to share her info with everyone.)

Anyway, I just wanted everyone to see Chumba in all his glory. I know a lot of people (::cough cough my mom cough cough::) say it is really weird and immature for an adult to own and care about a stuffed animal so much. But I never tried to deny it, I am a little weird and immature, so I might as well own it, right? 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Grab Your Calculators, Everyone!

I need to save up! 
 After returning from my journey through California, Oregon, and Washington, my goals were to: 
1. Enroll in online classes to get my Early Childhood Education approval
2. Find a job
3. Start saving up money
4. Plan for my move out to the Pacific Northwest. 

I completed Number One while I was actually still staying with Auntie M and Uncle J... my classes are all online, and I was even able to order Kindle versions of my text books, so I actually started school while I was in Washington. 

I am proud to announce that I achieved Number Two just yesterday! I got hired to work as a paraeducator (aka teacher's aide) in a special education class not far from where I live. I start Tuesday. To answer your question, I have no idea what kind of class or grade level I'll be working in. I won't fidn out until I get there. All I know is, I'll be making $11.31 an hour. Which brings me to Number Three.

When I was in school studying for my teacher certification, I had financial aide as well as a loan package. The loan package for the entire 4 years left me with a lot of debt. The idea being that, once you are a certified teacher, you can certainly afford to pay off this debt in monthly increments of $200. Except, if you don't get a teaching job, it doesn't work so well.

I was counting on getting financial aide again for my ECE classes, but I found out that, because I'm taking classes towards an approval letter and not a degree program, I don't qualify for financial aide at all. So I owe my new school $3,000 for the semester. Which is not much, compared to my last school. But...

Lets do some calculations. As a teacher's aide, I'll be paid to work only during student hours, which amounts to less than 6 hours a day, including the unpaid lunch break. Because I'm no good at thinking about taxt deductions and everything, lets say I am getting paid for 5 hours a day, 5 days a week, adding up to about one hundred hours per month. Multiplied by 11, that comes to $1100 a month. I'll be starting on October 15 and working until the beginning of June, so basically that is 7.5 months, which means that, by the end of the school year, I'll have made about $8,250, not even accounting for the unpaid winter and spring school breaks. 

Now ponder this. My total tuition for this semester plus next semester will be $6,000. $8,250 - $6,000 = $2,250. And out of that remaining $2,250, I will have to pay for health insurance, car insurance, gas, text books, my phone bill, and my outstanding student loans. And somehow also save up enough to get to Oregon and support myself through the summer. 

I've never been good at math, but even I can tell you that these numbers don't add up well for me! 

It looks like I'm going to have to find a second job. 

I've applied for babysitting jobs, respite care jobs, and afterschool tutoring jobs. In the mean time, if anyone knows of a great way to make a few extra dollars online, let me know! But not, like, one of those survey taking sites, where you can make up to ten whopping dollars per year. Or one of those things where I pay someone to tell me how I can make thousands of dollars by getting other people to pay me to tell them how they can make thousands of dollars. 

Oh yeah, and not one of those sites where you get your friends to throw parties and buy stuff. I don't have any friends, remember?

But other than that... I'd love to hear your ideas! This is Operation Northwest, aka ON! 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Easy Way To Preserve A Leaf

Out in Oregon, one of the things I discovered was the Giant Maple tree. In Chicago we have Maple trees, with nice, average sized leaves. So imagine my surprise when I saw a tree in my aunt and uncle's yard spouting humongous leaves? 

On my last night there, Auntie M plucked one off of the tree for me. 
Me with giant leaf

Of course I wanted to keep it forever... but I was trying to figure out a way to safely transport a leaf all the way back to Chicago! We started looking up ways to preserve leaves. The most recommended way was to put the leaf inside or under a heavy book, but we didn't have a book big enough to cover the whole leaf. Nor did I feel like lugging a giant book with a giant leaf inside it all the way back to Chicago. 
Some people recommended painting it with Modge Podge, which would have been great, if we had had any Modge Podge! (It was about 11 pm at this point, so we couldn't exactly run out and find a Hobby Lobby! 
Another site recommended microwaving the leaf for 30 seconds at a time. We tried that, but all it did was cause the leaf to get crispy and crumbly, requiring us to go out and find another leaf! 
The last method we read about was to iron the leaf between two pieces of wax paper. So we decided to try that. 
First we had to let the leaf dry overnight. We set it on a towel and folded half of the towel over it.
Folding towel over giant leaf.

In the morning, our task was to iron the leaf! So we put the leaf on a piece of wax paper, and covered it with another sheet of wax paper. Actually, by now there were two leaves... Uncle J contributed a tiny leaf from a vine maple. 
Biggest leaf and smallest leaf, living side by side in harmony!

We covered the wax paper with a towel, and then Auntie M started ironing it. The trick is, you have to iron one side for 30 seconds, and then flip it over and iron the other side for 30 seconds, and then just keep doing this over and over and over and over and over again. We had the iron on the highest setting to try to speed up the process. We had kind of cheap wax paper, so maybe if you get, like, very high quality wax paper, it will be waxier or something, and won't take as long. 
Eventually, the wax on both sheets of wax paper melted to the leaves and to each other, leaving us with  two lovely, preserved leaves! I was able to take these back to Chicago in my suitcase, and they have held up great. 

Depending on where you live, the leaves are most likely changing colors right now, so this would be a perfect time to preserve some leaves! If you decide to use this simple method, send me a picture of your leaves, and I'll post it on this blog!

See, Diary Of An Alien is both fun and educational! 

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Yes, I'm An Introvert!

I saw this on Facebook, and I had to post it because it explains me very well! 

One thing that I learned while on my long journey through space and time was that I am not necessarily as strange as I think I am, or as strange as some people perceive me to be.

I have lived most of my life in the shadow of my extroverted, Type A mother and brother, and a lot of people on my mom's side of the family are the same way. I have lived most of my life under the assumption that I am supposed to be like them, always looking and acting a certain way, and being comfortable in the spotlight. 

One thing I remember from my long vacation was when my sister-in-law, Sunny, asked me if I wanted to go to a Zumba class that was being taught by her friend. I was a little apprehensive, because I am pretty physically uncoordinated, but I agreed to go. Later Sunny told me that she was glad I was going, because if she had to go by herself she probably wouldn't go. She told me that she often gets nervous about joining a class, when she's not going to know anyone, especially if it is a class where you have to try to do something that you have no idea how to do... like Zumba! That was pretty much exactly how I felt. And knowing that I wasn't the only one who felt that way, I was able to relax and have more fun.

I also found that, even though in a group of 5 or more people I am very likely to stay quiet and not say a word, when I am with just 1 or 2 other people who I feel comfortable with, I can actually be very chatty and even witty! I am most likely to be in this chatty mood when I am with people I already know well, such as Sunny or Auntie M or Uncle J, but I can also get into that mood when I meet someone new who I feel comfortable with right away, such as Sunny's sister, some of Sunny's friends who came over to visit, or my aunt and uncle's friend who went hiking with us one day. 

And then there are people who I know very well, who I will never feel completely comfortable with. Sadly, one of those people is my Bro. Although I love him and even look up to him (despite the fact that he is my younger brother by 2 years) I know that he is very likely to say something to put me down or criticize me, something that will hurt my feelings. It is like spending time with someone who is being reasonably nice to you, but who you know is apt to unexpectedly poke you in the stomach with a fork at any moment. You are constantly watching them, putting yourself on guard, always ready for that sharp pain in your gut, a pain that hurts twice as bad when it is delivered by someone you love.

I am like this around my mom, as well. It is difficult to be around people who you know can and will hurt you. They often don't even know they're doing it... they think of themselves as people who "say it like it is" or "don't hold back." 

Around people I don't know well, I tend to be like this most of the time, quiet and watching. If someone scolds me or embarrasses me, I will shut down even more. But when I feel safe around someone, then I am actually a pretty cool person to hang out with! 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

I've Been Working On The Railroad! Well, Riding, Actually.

Guess where I am? I am blogging from a train! 

I was pretty mad because I saw on the Amtrak website that the trains have wifi, but then it turned out that this one doesn't. And I wasn't getting any reception on the little mobile wireless stick I bought before I left Chicago. Luckily, now that we're in the midwest, I have reception again! The rest of this trip is going to fly by!

Because I'm writing about my aunt and uncle a lot, I thought I'd give them bloggy names. So my aunt is Auntie M (like Dorothy's Auntie Em!) and my uncle is Uncle J. I'm so creative, haha. Roo, the dog, is still going to be Roo. 

So. Anyways. Friday evening Auntie M, Uncle J, Roo, and Roo's doggie friend Cookie all came with to drop me off at the train station. I was trying really hard to stay calm and positive and cheerful, but I just couldn't help it... the tears kept spilling out! All I had to do was look at Roo and I'd feel like bawling my head off! (Me and Roo are totally best friends.)
By the time the train rolled in, I was a mess! I am so not good at hiding my emotions. Pretty much whatever my face is doing is exactly what my mind and heart are doing! 
Auntie M took a picture of me bawling as I got on the train. She must
have recognized it as a "bloggable moment!"
Things actually seemed to get worse as I got on the train. The town I am getting off at (a suburb of Chicago, which is easier for my mom to pick me up at) doesn't have baggage service, which meant I had to lug my gigantic suitcase onto the train. Plus my backpack, of course, and my very important bag of snacks! I hauled my stuff onto the train, and then I had to drag it up a very narrow, steep flight of stairs to the top level. These stairs in the train are no joke! Later on during my trip, I actually saw an old lady fall on them! I had to drag my suitcase up one at a time.

Then, the top level was crowded, so I was dragging my suitcase and all my stuff up and down this very narrow aisle, with tears still pouring out of my eyes, feeling like everyone was staring at me! I was getting a little freaked out here!

One of the conductors (who was actually am Amtrak Car Assistant, and don't call them conductors or they get kinda sore at you) asked me if I had found a place to sit. When I said no, he went and asked some guy to scootch over so I could sit by him. So I jammed my suitcase, backpack, snack bag, and self, into the seat, barely having room to move! I just covered my face with the sleeves of my sweatshirt and sobbed silently. I really can't stop my own tears... sometimes the only thing I can do is let it go and get it over with!

I was actually texting my mom and Auntie M and Sunny at the same time, and they all started texting me back, so I started calming down and feeling better. Then the couple across the aisle from me told me a place where I could stash my giant suitcase. And then the guy sitting next to me randomly started talking to me and asking me where I was going and stuff, and since I was engaged in conversation I was distracted from my sadness and I felt better. The guy next to me turned out to be really nice and we talked a whole lot of the time. We were on the train for about 30 hours, literally, before he got down in some little town in North Dakota. He was really good at spotting wild animals outside as we sped past so he kept pointing out deer to me, and once a coyote! So by the time I was ready to sleep I was doing much better. 

Yesterday I ate lunch in the dining car. It is super expensive, but I thought it would be a fun experience! It is kind of weird, because they just seat everyone in the first available seat at any table, so if you are by yourself or with one other person, you will definitely be sitting with at least two random people you don't know. So I got more practice talking to random people and making small talk. It is actually fun to hear everyone's different stories about where they're from, where they're going, and why. The lady across the table from me, and her little granddaughter, were on their way to North Dakota because the lady's husband had gone there a month ago, found a job and a place to live, and had sent for them. She said a lot of people were moving to North Dakota because there were jobs and houses available there. The old guy next to me, who by the way smelled nasty, was headed to Wisconsin to buy a marina! And the best part was, I had a chocolate mousse parfait for dessert!

After the guy I was sitting by on the train got down, I had the two seats to myself. I was sorry to see him go because he was funny and cheered me up, but the good news was I could stretch out on the two seats, so I slept much better last night! Like a rock, really!

Except it was really cold. I think they lower the temperature in the cars at night so that you will go buy these "passenger comfort kits" they sell for $8.00 in the lounge. They have some sort of blanket and travel pillow in them. 

I have about six more hours on this train, before I get back to Chicago. The plan for me to move to Oregon or California, by the way, is officially on... even my parents know about it and are happy. All I have to do now is find a job in Illinois, and save up as much money as I can before summer!

My last day in Oregon, Uncle J and I climbed this giant
mountain! Well actually it is a rock. And we hiked, not climbed. It was
a huge rock, called Beacon Rock I think. It took half an hour to go up.
I climbed onto the very highest point! I was kind of scared of
falling down. But I didn't. 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

This Has Been Good For Me!

Sunset picture I took at the Oregon Coast!
 Okay, I was supposed to leave Oregon on Monday, but I keep putting it off one more day. The final date is Friday. I have to go home. My online classes have started, and the vacation money I've saved has been dwindling away!
I think this trip has been so good for me in so many ways. I have really been stuck in a rut for the last few years. The dramatic "breakup" with my former best friend and her family a few years ago, followed by my not being able to get a teaching job, and my unpleasant year of working as an aide at a school where they thought I was incompetent... not one of these things alone could have crushed me. But all of them, one after another, did manage to knock me down. Especially that last job I had. It really drained my confidence. And I was just stuck in this life where I was just in a hole, not going forward, not going anywhere. 
Being on my own and coming out here forced me out of my comfort zone. I had to realize that I have the ability to do a lot of different things... things I actually used to do when I was younger, but had given up on in recent years. Simple things, like taking public transportation on my own and talking to people.
The most important thing I learned here was that I can be different, and still be awesome. In the past I have often felt like, because I can't do things in the same way that other people typically can do, I shouldn't do them at all. For instance, going to a Meetup somewhere, even if it is at a crowded place... if I don't think I can "fake like I'm normal," then I shouldn't go at all. For instance if there were people meeting to hang out at a bar, I probably wouldn't go because I would look and feel awkward. But what if I went without thinking at all about how I would look? If I decided it was okay even if I just sat in one place all night and watched everyone and listened to music and drank Dr. Pepper. Or what if I went to a job interview without being nervous that the interviewer would see through me and know that there's something wrong, and instead just acted like myself? 
I hope I can hang onto this feeling, even after I go back to Chicago. 

By the way, October is ADHD Awareness Month, among other things! I wanted to do something cool for the month, so I'm going to be posting a photo of a famous person with ADHD every day. THe first one is... 
John Lennon!
Okay, I don't think he was diagnosed with ADHD, since they didn't really have it as a diagnosis back when he was a kid. But he did have dyslexia, and he got in trouble a lot at school and had trouble focusing. Many ADHD experts who have researched more about John Lennon than I have claim that he probably had ADHD. What do you think?