Allison, autism, faith, family, Love, Morgan, Uncategorized

The Student is The Best Teacher

“Children are a heritage from the Lord, offspring a reward from Him.  Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are children born of one’s youth.” Psalm 127: 3, 4

As I write this, my older daughter, Allison, is preparing to teach her first college course in behavior.  She’s had years under her belt as a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst), and countless observation hours as a sibling.  I have no doubt she will have valuable lessons to share with her students.  I’m grateful for passionate teachers, and I’m especially proud of this one.  🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

When it comes to Allison’s sister, Morgan, I wonder who’s teaching who.  I am forever learning.  I’m learning not to compare her to anyone else, because it’s a precious waste of time and mental energy.  I’m learning not to limit her to what I know she can do now.  I’m looking at the rest as “things she can’t do yet”.  Together, we are working on our personal bests.  As I continue to challenge her, I’m learning she is very skilled at challenging me. 😉

There is a line I struggle to define all the time;  What behaviors are due to her disability, and what behaviors are within her ability to correct.  And That Line is Drawn in Shifting Sands, because Every New Person, Place, or Thing can change the equation.

Lines get blurred and meltdowns happen.  When Morgan is coming back down from a meltdown, she will often say “I was just trying to fix it”.  😦 Me too, Morgan. Me too.  When I see her stressing and I don’t see the reason, I’ve learned to ask, “What are you trying to fix?”.  Using her language helps her find her words.

For Morgan’s sake, for her independence and quality of life, we have to keep pushing that line.  We have to continue to do the hard things until they become the no big deal things.  When we come to an impasse, I remind her (and myself) to take a deep breath.  I remind her that I love her, and we can always try again.  Each time we succeed, it’s worth all the lessons we’ve both learned.

Back to Allison.  It was clear from the beginning that she was going to keep me on my toes.  I can still see her at four years old, with her hands on her hips, explaining her point of view.  We definitely bumped heads and hearts along the way.  Despite my first time parent blunders, she’s become a pretty amazing young woman.

And all this time I thought I was their teacher.  Turns out, they are mine.

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy

 

 

 

 

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autism, family, holidays, joy, leap of faith, Love, Morgan, risks and rewards, Uncategorized

Family Gatherings

“I am brave. I am bruised.  I am who I’m meant to be.  This is me.” – Lettie Lutz in The Greatest Showman

Reconnecting with family can be very joyful; going over old memories, catching up on hugs, sharing what’s new,…  but for Morgan, it can also bring a lot of anxiety.  A couple of the hallmarks of autism are the difficulties with social interaction and communication.  This is partly due to the inability to understand other people’s thoughts and feelings.

Not saying family is scary, but whenever any large group of relatives come together, there are numerous opportunities for things to go awry for the best of us.  For Morgan, “too many friends” for “too long”, with no understanding of when the shindig is going to wrap up,  can make her “all done” much earlier than the rest of us.  For this reason, in the early years, I became more and more weary of family gatherings.  Little by little, I backed off, encouraging everyone else to carry on without Morgan and Mom.

Now Morgan is 25.  Her cousins are grown and married, with kids of their own.  We’ve missed a lot of years.  Since her dad and his sisters all have summer birthdays, we decided to gather to celebrate.  This time, to relieve my anxiety, we called ahead with a game plan.  We had the conversation with family, letting them know that Morgan may have to come for a short time, and then take a break.  And It wouldn’t be because anyone did anything wrong.  It would just be the best way for everyone to have a good time.

   Peggy Jackie and Rudy.JPG Rudy and his sisters

Morgan meeting her new cousin, who lives in Canada now

We booked a hotel nearby, where Morgan and I could retreat when needed.  We really enjoyed seeing family again.  When she was “all done”, we left dad to relax and continue catching up with everyone.  We went for a swim, took walks, rides, and naps, and came back ready to visit some more.  She told me twice that weekend, “I doing a good job.  I’m trying to be brave.” 🙂 She did do well.  I’m thankful for how far she’s come.  I’m thankful for learning to drop the veil, and be brave enough to have the conversation, so we can just be ourselves.  It turned out to be a very enjoyable visit.

 

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy Vice and Family

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caregivers, faith, family, joy, Love, Uncategorized

Nothing Up Her Sleeve

“And we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and the one who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him.” 1 John 4:16

When I was young, some of my favorite memories were spending time at my grandma’s house.  There was nothing extraordinary about the visits.  Every day was pretty much the same. She was either cooking, washing, cleaning, chasing my cousins and me, tending to my aunt Laura Mae, or ironing clothes for “customers”.

Grandma Edmonds was a “One Woman Show”.  She kept one of those big old family bibles open on her kitchen table.  I’d see her sit down from time to time to sift through it quietly.  Come to think of it, that was the only time I remember seeing her pause from her labor.  Day in and day out, that was her life.  Even with all the busyness, there was a peace in her house.  I loved thumbing through the pages of that old bible, looking at all the pictures, hearing her whistle old hymns from the kitchen, while she baked.   I felt safe.  I felt loved.  The song below was written about those memories.

Grandma Edmonds’ Daily Bread

    Grandma Edmonds' BibleFamily Bible 1 John 4

Pictured above – Grandma Edmonds’ Family Bible

Before all of us grandkids came along, Grandma Edmonds had raised my mom, and four other children, on her own.  Her daughter, Laura Mae, had physical and intellectual disabilities, due to spinal meningitis.  It was clear to see that caring for Laura Mae was a labor of love for my grandma.  I remember her speaking softly and sweetly to her, while she fed her.  She’d tell her how pretty she was when she combed her hair.  She’d gently rub her arms and legs to relax her muscles.  Laura Mae was safe.  Laura Mae was loved.

“There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, … We love God because He first loved us.”    1 John 4:18,19

Laura Mae ChairLaura Mae and Mamaw

My Aunt Laura Mae

Laura Mae Bed

From my grandma, I learned the value of every life.  I learned that I can do whatever I need to do, with joy.  I understand that nothing is accomplished by wishing, but prayer and little elbow grease can bring about some amazing outcomes.  There are no fairies, but there are plenty of angels among us.  The stories in that old bible are not fairytales.  They are practical, factual, powerful words of life.  There was no magic up my grandma’s sleeve.  Although, Love IS a miracle.

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy

 

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Uncategorized

Ask Me To Dance

“Diversity is being asked to the party.  Inclusion is being asked to dance.” – Verna Myers 

When Allison and Morgan were babies, I spent a grand amount of time doing everything a mom does for her children.  I suspected the natural progression would be less in my hands, and more in theirs, as time passed.

As Allison grew, and became able to do things on her own, I’d step back and happily step in, whenever needed.  Being my first, it was much easier to hang on, than to let go.  School came.  Friendships came.  Invites and outings came.  Opinions, independence, and marriage came.  There are still times when she needs to talk to mom, to share about her day;  the good, the bad, and the ugly.  And of course, I Love that.  🙂 She’ll ask for advice, weigh what I say, and then make her own decisions.   I’ve never had to be concerned about her finding her place in the world.  She knows how to reach out, and reach back.  She knows how to ask for what she needs.

allison-jabe-wed-1159

Morgan is on the autism spectrum.  Her walk has been anything but a natural progression.  I’m still stepping back, stepping in, side stepping,… whatever it takes to help her be a part of things.  She has come a long way.  Like her sister, she has definite opinions.  😉 But in life’s dance, she still needs a partner.  She needs someone to Ask her to dance and support her steps.  As easy as it is to do things FOR her, there is so much more value in doing things WITH her.  It takes more time.  It takes more patience.  When she nails the steps, the dance is beautiful, and uniquely her own.  The girl has MOVES. 🙂

Night To Shine Dance 2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m so grateful for the things I’ve learned from doing the mom dance with both of my daughters.  “INCLUSION is Being Asked to Dance.”  The past few years, I’ve had the privilege of working WITH The Weekley Hall Singers.  They are a group of adults with disabilities who enjoy encouraging others with their music.  They were ready to be Included.  They were ready to be Involved.  All I had to do was Ask.

Weekley Hall Singers Foyer 1

Weekley Hall Singers Foyer 4

The Weekley Hall Singers are Engaged. They are Enthusiastic. They give it all they’ve got. They make My heart dance.

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy

 

 

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dance, family, joy, Uncategorized

Are We Having Fun Yet?

“When you get the chance to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.” – Mark Sanders & Tia Sellers 

Allison gets her work ethic from her dad.  She’s seen him leave home before daylight, and come home after sunset all her life.  His dad did the same.  I admire their “sticktoitiveness”.  But there are times when the job is thankless, when no one is applauding.    That’s when the Mom in Me pleads with them, in order not to burn out, we have to have a balance.  When our world feels more like an endless ride on a roller coaster, after eating a footlong chile dog, we have to stop and get our footing.

Recently, I attended the WOW festival in Cookeville, and enjoyed seeing Allison dance again.

Allison Dance

I love my daughter.  I’m proud of all she’s accomplished, but I’m happiest for her when she’s happy.  I hope she continues to dance, physically and spiritually.

Sing your song picture

I hope she’ll always take the time to locate her joy.  And I hope I can talk her dad into a waltz or two.  😉

Daddy Daughter Dance

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy

 

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autism, Morgan, risks and rewards, Uncategorized

Life Is a Stage

“Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.” –  Marianne Williamson

Recently, Morgan had the opportunity to perform at Nashville Children’s Theatre.  The evening was a series of one act plays and monologues, entitled “Conversations Over Tea”, put on by Borderless Arts Tennessee and Nashville Children’s Theatre actors.  It included friends with and without disabilities.  There were some excellent performances, and we were excited for her to be a part of it.

Morgan’s autism and anxiety can make her want to avoid “too many friends” and new situations.  It can often steal her joy, making it a struggle for her to hang for group activities, where she’s not sure what “the script” is.  I’ve heard “practice makes progress” so we are always seeking new challenges, and saying yes to new things, to help her stretch her ability to cope.  In order to help her be successful this time, we took an early trip to NCT to give her a preview of what was in store.

While I always hope Morgan will be able to give her best onstage performance, I’m much more invested in her performance off stage, Because That’s Where Life Happens.

The night of the performance, she was able to wait, listen to others, and clap for them.  She sat for over an hour before it was her turn.  I know it was hard.  I even heard her say to herself a couple of times, “I can do it.  I can do it.”,  meaning she could hang in there. And she did!  So proud of my girl. 🙂

Here’s a link to her performance at NCT – Brown Truck

Here’s a link to another performance at the Bluebird Cafe’, an autism awareness event she’s been a part of for several years – Circus Song and Brown Truck

You can see the difference in her level of ease, when she’s in a familiar setting.  I’ve seen her light up when she lets go of the anxiety, and enjoys the moment.  That’s what we’re aiming for.  On and off stage, we want Joy to be center stage.

Until Next time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy

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family, Uncategorized

A Jack of All Trades & A Master of Many

I’m not a jack of all trades; I’m a master of many. I don’t feel there is anything I can’t do if I want to. – Evel Knieval

This March, we’ll be celebrating Papaw’s 80th birthday.  I wouldn’t call him Evel Knievel, but in his lifetime, he has seen and done a little bit of everything.

Long before most household repairs and improvements required either a license or a permit, my dad had no problem getting the job done.  He was a machinist by trade, but he also served as our resident plumber, carpenter, electrician,… He may have had a unique approach to some things, but the end result was usually masterful.

When dad wasn’t working, he was busy inventing and creating things.  I remember him having projects going on in the backyard all the time.  He built a plane, a submarine,…  Not models, The Real Life-size Working Things.

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As a boy, he was flying planes before he was old enough to have a driver’s license.  He’s enjoyed deep sea diving, fishing, treasure hunting, and traveling.

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Now he volunteers full time with Meals on Wheels, and is passionate about taking care of “his people”.  He’s also a bit of a poet and a painter. I don’t think there’s much he hasn’t done, or couldn’t do. But I’m most grateful for his Papaw skills. My girls are as different as night and day, and somehow he has managed to be up to the tasks.

Love you Papaw!  Happy 80th Birthday!!

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy Vice

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