autism, caregivers, communication, family, Morgan, peace, Uncategorized

My Take, God’s Take, Outtakes

“And I set my heart to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is grasping for the wind.” Solomon  Eccl. 1:17 NKJV
You would think, by this point in my life, I would have learned everything God could possibly have to teach me. However, I am now assured He will forever be tweaking things.

I ended last year and started this one with a very strong sense that God is telling me to SLOW DOWN.  Maybe it’s because my multitasking tools are not what they used to be. 😉 Since applying this lesson, I’m enjoying meals more, realizing I ate.  I’m enjoying conversations more, taking in what others are saying.  I’m not as afraid of missing out on things.  I’m just praying God has me where He wants me. It’s giving me the peace I need to make this stretch of the race.
I do need to throw in a disclaimer to anyone who thinks I may have it more together than I do.  I DON’T.  God DOES.  And He has an excellent sense of humor.  Just when I think I am acing things there is sure to be a twinge or a goose in the ribs coming.
For example: A few weeks back, I was rhythmically going through my morning.  I was so proud (first mistake) of how well I was doing, getting things done, now that I had “mastered” this art of completing “one thing at a time”.  Not slowly, BUT SUDDENLY, I heard a loud hissing sound from the bathroom.  I opened the sink cabinet doors to reveal a fountain of water spraying in multiple directions.  I had THREE thoughts, All. At. Once. OH CRAP! SHUT OFF VALVE! CALL DAD!!! The rest is a wet blur, except to say I learned there will be times when we and our smart selves are just not enough to handle everything that needs to be handled.

Papaw under the sink

Kudos to Papaw and his skills!

A God wink, Morgan emerged from her bedroom as I was mopping up, announced that things were a mess, then landed comfortably in her recliner to wait for me to get my act together. 😉

Need is one of the best teachers of humility.  Forever learning.
Until Next Time,
Know The Hope!

Tammy

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autism, caregivers, communication, faith, family, holidays, Love, peace, Uncategorized

The Shape of Things

“We’re in pretty good shape for the shape we’re in.” –  Harlan Howard

Each month Morgan and I paint a scene on the windows to represent the season.  For December we did Christmas trees.  January will be snowmen,… Keeping things simple, breaking the scene down into shapes, helps her follow along.  For example, a few triangles make a nice little Christmas tree.  We add a small rectangle for the trunk, circles for ornaments, and a star to top it off nicely.

Mom, Dad, and Morgan, recently found out how important shapes are when we upgraded her bedroom.  She helped put together the bedframe.  It looked like a nice rectangle to the eye, but when we placed the mattress on, things were so out of skew that one rail looked about six inches longer than the other.  🙂 We scratched our heads, and even measured both rails.  It was at that point we realized we needed a square tool to get it into shape.  LOL!  We’re always learning.

In this life, as much as we try to simplify things, to better understand them, there will always be unknowns.  What I know now is I don’t need to know everything.  I just need to know the One who does.  I used to pray for understanding.  Now I pray for the peace that passes understanding.

When our world seems so upside-down and out of round, when I’m worried about the shape we’re in, I remind myself of God’s heart for us.  I know His Love is Pure and Perfect, so that means we’re in pretty good shape.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy

 

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autism, family, friends, Morgan, Uncategorized

Messy and Beautiful

“Sometimes you’ve got to embrace the unexpected.  The things we never saw coming often take us to the places we never imagined we could go.”  Kemmy Nola

Recently, we traveled to the coast for the Frank Brown Songwriters Festival. Our family and Logan Blade‘s participate in an annual autism awareness benefit there. We also enjoy getting some rare time for our families to visit with each other. While Logan is pretty laid back, always going with the flow, Morgan requires a schedule. There is a constant juggle of what’s “too much schedule” for her, and what’s not enough.  When I think of the differences between Logan and Morgan, I’m reminded of the saying, “when you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism.”  Truth!

Anxiety and OCD are kissing cousins to Morgan’s autism.  They are the enemies of spontaneity and joy.  They refuse to let go and trust that the day will land in a safe place without their orchestrating every moment, every breath.  I’ve watched them take my daughter down on countless occasions, robbing her of the ability to wait, to relax, to just enjoy being with friends.  Morgan knows friends are messy, and loud.  They often do the unexpected.  They are great at derailing her perfect plans.  I’m trying to help her understand friends are also Beautiful!  Even with all the chaos they create, they are really worth having around us.

We are always trying to find ways to help Morgan learn how to cope with the messy and the unexpected, so she can enjoy being with friends.  Our family is blessed to live in an area where there are several organizations providing social and recreational opportunities for young adults with disabilities.  They have regular gatherings, dinners and dances,…  Nothing makes me happier than to see Morgan bobbing up and down on the dance floor, weaving around her buddies.  She’s still in her bubble, but it’s the closest I’ve seen her get to popping it.  😉

Using the Arts and creativity has been another great way to stretch Morgan’s coping abilities.  Her “Messy Flag” is a pour painting, which required making a mess to create something beautiful.

We’ve made note cards from her painting to spread awareness of OCD, anxiety, and autism.  As we learn and grow, it’s always our hope to bring understanding and encouragement to others.  Follow us on Facebook Know the Hope to learn more about us, and how to get some of Morgan’s note cards.  We’d love to hear from you.

 

Until Next Time,

Know the Hope!

Tammy

 

 

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autism, caregivers, faith, peace, Uncategorized

Melting the Iceberg of Isolation

“… I will never leave you or forsake you.”  Deuteronomy 31:8, Joshua 1:5, Hebrews 13:5, Deuteronomy 31:6

When children with disabilities become young adults with disabilities, there is a service cliff.  Families have to piece and patch together everything to keep young adults active in the community.  One of my biggest fears when Morgan left high school, was her falling off of everyone’s map, being forgotten.  Thankfully we live in an area where the disability community itself is very active.  There are always opportunities to socialize in organized activities.   You might say there’s plenty of water to bring the horse to, but my horse doesn’t always want to drink. 😉

Morgan’s autism brings with it a lot of social anxiety.  While she is very comfortable at home, where she is able to communicate her needs, hang out in her jammies and play on her iPad Way Too Much, that only adds to the iceberg of isolation.  It’s up to me to get her out the door and into social activities.  She does “want to see friends”.  She just doesn’t always know how to “be with friends”.  As much as I try to nudge her into the group, if she’s not able to relax and engage, it’s not going to happen.  This not only isolates her.  It isolates me.

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All caregivers deal with isolation to some extent.  It just goes with the territory.  Add to that caring for someone who, due to their disability, is unable to give you that pat on the back for giving it your all.  It can be extremely draining at times.  It can make you question if you’re doing it good enough, if it’s possible to do anything good enough.

Recently, I was speaking to another caregiver who was feeling very unappreciated, very alone in their circumstances.  The advice I heard come out of my mouth was, “Do everything you do, as unto the Lord.” Col 3:23.  Until that moment, in my own exhaustion, I realized I had forgotten my own advice.

I have to remind myself, as I keep reaching out for Morgan’s sake and mine, I also have to Keep Reaching Up, to keep from giving up.  I don’t even know how to explain it, but there is a very solid peace I find, knowing that God has promised to never leave me or forsake me. I don’t have to fear for Morgan, or myself, being forgotten. God still sees us, even when no one else is looking.

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy

 

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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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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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