autism, faith, friends, risks and rewards, self esteem, Uncategorized

Moving Molehills

“Disability ministry is not complete until individuals with disabilities are ministering back.” – Jim Pearson (No Disabled Souls)

I recently posted this apology on Facebook to our friends, because Morgan has such a hard time breaking her stride to say an unplanned hello. It went like this:

“When we see each other at Walmart and are trying to say hello, if Morgan doesn’t acknowledge you, it’s because you’re not on her schedule. She currently doesn’t take walk-ins.
As a long term member of her staff, I am advocating for policy changes. You’re important to us and we appreciate your patience. Please hold.”

Due to her version of autism, Morgan is prone to self isolate. This year of added isolation has definitely backed us up a few steps. Morgan is very comfortable when she’s “busy relaxing” at home. The longer we’re here, the less she wants to go out. Although we need things to get back to “normal”, I admit, I’ll have to muster up my “want to” to dust off my cheerleading pompoms again.

Morgan is 27 now. Her whole life, we’ve been “working on” something. It started with speech and occupational therapy. Then it was social and emotional skills, educational and vocational skills, life skills, and as strange as it sounds, we even have to work on Joy. Don’t get me wrong. She enjoys putting seasonal events on her calendar, painting the windows, and collecting things that are the colors of the month. But it seems to me, she only tolerates people sometimes, because we can be so unpredictable. I’ve told her that friends can be messy and loud, but they are SO WORTH IT. My constant prayer is for her to just be able to relax with people and enjoy being engaged with others, without the anxiety. It breaks my heart for her that she sees every encounter as a task. We keep pushing forward, because every little successful interaction matters.

Mamaw and Morgan’s February Window Painting

One thing I’ve been thankful to be reminded of again, during this time, is Morgan’s satisfaction when she’s accomplishing something “All Myself”. Thursday is our clean up day. As she helps change the bed sheets, wash the cloths and vacuum, I see her calm delight in doing something that she knows matters. I saw the same thing when she worked at the little sandwich shop before it shut down during the pandemic. We’ve been trying to get that feeling back again. I do believe in all of us there is a need to be needed, a need to know that who we are, what we have to offer, is valued.

Because of Morgan’s social anxiety, it’s hard to get people to understand she is very capable of doing a good job. We’ve had to beg for her to be given any opportunity. I wish I could say that’s unusual, but for many young adults with disabilities, real employment opportunities are rare. Just having that hour at the sandwich shop, a couple of times a week, was very meaningful for both of us. That hour may seem so small to some people, but seeing her feel good about her “Busy Long Day” made it worth all the mountains we had to move to get there.

The sandwich shop never opened back up. But recently, we were able to get back to Meals on Wheels. Morgan helped Papaw in the past, and now she has been given her own route. ❤️ One morning a week, I drive and Morgan “trick or treats” folks with a warm meal. As she puts on her mask, and gets out of the car, I hear her say “I can do it. It’s Izzy.” When she comes back, there’s a high five and fist bump. “I did it!” 🙂

Meals on Wheels – “Trick or Treat”

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy

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Allison, autism, caregivers, dance, faith, family, joy, Love, Morgan, risks and rewards, Uncategorized

Tender Times

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,…” – Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

When you live in a chronic crisis, a serious sense of humor is a necessary tool.  Laugh or cry, do or die, we set our pace and continue to move forward, even when we’re not sure of our actual destination on any given day.

The isolation, the distance from the norm, has been our family’s normal for many years now.  I guess the one thing we have in common with other families is that our life is also a mix of sadness and joy, struggles and celebrations.  This walk with autism has given us a realization of what’s big and what’s “just silly”, as Morgan would say.

As our current world situation is beginning to come apart at the seams, we each have our own way of dealing with crises.  Some panic.  Some seem oblivious.  I find myself doing my usual tap dance.   It’s that dance I do to distract Morgan, hopefully make her laugh and get her back on track.  It’s that side step I do to get us out of uncomfortable situations in public, when we’ve said or done something that raises eyebrows or drops jaws.  Please forgive my missteps as I’m learning new steps during this time.  We all are.  I hope we’re all learning to be more forgiving, less critical, more supportive, less selfish, and seriously learning to lighten up on each other.   We’re all in this together, apart.  I look forward to gathering again soon.  Virtual hugs to you all!

 

Much Love,

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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autism, family, Morgan, risks and rewards, Uncategorized

Morgan’s Medals

“Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy.”
― Walt Disney Company

Sometimes it’s nice to visit the memories you treasure, and think about all of tomorrow’s possibilities.

At first, they were earned, for doing a good job.  Later, they became another way for Morgan to celebrate months and events.  She has assigned each month it’s own color/colors.  January – white for snow.  February – red and pink hearts,…    You get the idea.  Below is our 2017 monthly collection, including her Disney parks medals from our September vacation.

As we wrap up another year, it’s fun to look back on our rainbow of medal memories.  It’s also a reminder that seasons come back around again, each year, giving us fresh opportunities to make new memories.  Wishing you and your family all the colors of joy in 2018.

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy Vice

 

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autism, dance, faith, family, Morgan, risks and rewards, Uncategorized

Tap Dancing on Egg Shells

“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” – Robert Burns

Our family has been anticipating a trip to Disneyworld for a few years now, as a graduation gift to Morgan.  The actual planning began in February, with the help of Kingdom Concierge.  They created a time line for each stage.  There were some “must dos” on Morgan’s list, including breakfast with Cinderella, which had to be reserved six months ahead.  Fast passes to popular rides and events were chosen two months before going.  This was done to cut down on waiting times, so we could enjoy more of what the four parks have to offer.  From maps to apps, there is a lot to navigate.  Add autism to that mix, and we are talking NINJA – PLANNING.  As Morgan would say, “Too many choices!”.  But I knew the lack of stress, and extra smiles, on the vacation end would be worth it.  Mom mission accomplished. Or so I thought.

One week beforehand, Hurricane Irma entered the picture.  Flights, hotel reservations, Fast-Passes,… needed to be shifted a day, and re-booked, to be safe.  DONE.  Two days before traveling, while Disneyworld was shut down for the storm, all of our plans suddenly disappeared from the app.  I spoke to our travel agent on Monday, one day prior to departure.  We thought it was a computer glitch, but it turned out some human there had made an error, and canceled our whole vacation.   Since Disney was still closed, running on a skeleton crew, our agent would have to call, and hopefully be able to rebook our hotel package, with Morgan’s expected Nemo suite, in time for us to check in.

Meanwhile, our daughter was totally unaware of all the chaos.  All she knew was “Number 12” on her calendar said airplane to Disney.  The morning of our flight, my husband and I woke up, poured some coffee, and pulled out our morning devotional to get our breath.  We sighed, and even laughed, as we read the words pictured below.  We said our prayers, and boarded the plane, now trusting the outcome to “His hands”.  We landed, and received a text to get in touch with our agent ASAP.  She had been on the phone, holding for six hours, because they needed our approval for booking.  All that mattered to Morgan was back in place, including her requested Fantasmic Fast Pass for that evening. 🙂

Jesus Always Sept 12

We realize all of this was just a thread of inconvenience, compared to what people were going through in the storm.  Life can be an eggshell walk for all of us at times.  I plan to keep trusting and tap dancing on those egg shells, because life is about so much more than just getting by.

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Until Next time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy

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autism, dance, faith, leap of faith, Morgan, risks and rewards

“Dancing Like David”

In May, Vanderbilt Kennedy Center celebrated it’s 50th anniversary with a visit from Timothy Shriver.  Morgan and I were very honored to be present.  We entered the Wyatt Center Rotunda, planning to locate a seat in the back, near an exit.  You never know when “Elvis” will be ready to leave the building. 😉 However, as friends of VKC, we were directed to reserved seats in the first three rows.  We chose the third row and were welcomed by some familiar faces.  So far so good.  I sent up a prayer and breathed a deep breath.

I showed Morgan the schedule listed on the program, but when she saw the stage, she immediately assumed there would be a Play with music and dancing.  She replied “Let’s Put On a Show!”  I told her people would be talking, then there would be treats afterward, and maybe we could arrange a dance later.  As the crowd hushed, and the program began, something wonderfully unexpected happened.  She looked at me, folded her hands, and placed them in her lap.  At this point, I had to fight my urge to get up and do my own Happy Dance! 😉

Rose Morgan enjoying a sweet gift from VKC

We loved hearing Timothy Shriver speak.  He truly understands the gifts individuals with disAbilities have to offer.  His book, Fully Alive, is about his search for what matters most, and the role his Aunt Rosemary played in leading the Kennedy family.  Things did get a little tense for me at the beginning of his talk, when he referred to the saying “Dance like nobody’s watching”.  I was concerned, if he didn’t move on to another topic quickly, Morgan might accept his invitation. 😉

Thankfully all went well.  Later in the program, when she needed to create her own entertainment, Morgan quietly pulled out her IPad.  With the help of friends, and a couple of chocolate chip cookies, we were even able to stay for a signed copy of the book.

Morgan and Tim  

Tammy Morgan Tim

Thank you VKC for a sweet day!  Whenever we take a little leap of faith together, and Morgan shows me she can handle a new adventure, my heart Dances like David!

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy and Morgan Vice

P.S. Morgan’s book, 52 Blue Mondays, is now available on Amazon.com and other book outlets.

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