autism, caregivers, communication, faith, family, friends, Morgan, Uncategorized

I Call It Momtism

“If I find myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” – C.S. Lewis

While shopping in the grocery store, I saw a very familiar face. I could not recall their name or the place where I knew them from, knowing I should know, I ducked down an isle, hoping it would come back to me. It didn’t. The following week, I was at the bank, and Boom! There she was behind the counter, right where she belonged, and everything clicked again. I laughed at myself, then I recalled how seeing someone “out of place” can often rattle Morgan.

I am socially awkward at best sometimes, not great at small talk. There is usually a lot going on in my head, and not everything needs to be shared out loud. 😂 I have to remember, what’s normal in our world, as a parent and a young adult on the autism spectrum, can be miles away from what others consider normal. To say the least, my sense of humor can be a bit skewed. I’ve learned to face the fact that Morgan and I are never going to smoothly or discreetly blend in with the crowd. And that’s ok.

Morgan & Mom Back Porch Pickin’ for Hendersonville Tennessee’s
Front Porch Fest 2020

We are all unique, all fearfully and wonderfully made. We each have our own little quirks and traits that make us us. Genetics, environment, and experience all play their part in how we perceive and navigate things. The more I try to help Morgan understand this world, the more I realize what little sense it makes to me. But I still remain hopeful and thankful. I know it won’t always be this way.

Whenever I have those glitches, those awkward Momtism moments, when I’m totally out of sync with the world around me, I feel a synchronicity with Morgan. I get a better understanding of what it’s like to feel a little lost. Of course it’s brief and I have the tools to compensate, but it serves me a needed dose of empathy for what my girl and others on the autism spectrum go through every single day.

But one day, One. Day. We will no longer feel we are so out of the loop. We will finally be able to communicate and understand each other, and Everyone and Everything, more clearly. “…Now we know in part, but then we will know fully, as we are fully known.” – 1 Corinthians 13:12

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Morgan & Mom

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autism, communication, faith, Health, Love, Morgan

What Did You Say?

“I know you think you understand what you thought I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” Robert McCloskey

Have you ever watched a video of a crying baby receiving a hearing aid? When they hear their mother’s voice for the first time, their crying stops. Their eyes open wide. They become calm at first, then smile or even squeal with delight? Then, of course, the mother begins to cry. It’s that moment of mutual connection that those of us who hear often take for granted.

If you have ever seen one of our home videos on YouTube or Facebook Live, you will see All Things Autism. What you may not recognize is that Morgan has a hearing, or rather a listening, impairment. Even though her physical hearing is intact, her ability to process and interpret sound is interrupted by something called CAPD (Central Auditory Processing Disorder). My unscientific explanation is that there is a glitch in her central auditory nervous system wiring. This is a separate diagnosis from her autism. For signs and symptoms of CAPD, visit asha.org . American Speech-Language-Hearing Association.

It is hard for Morgan to separate and make sense of sounds, especially speech. There is actually a slight delay in what she hears. When we are at home, in a one on one, quiet environment, it’s much easier for her to navigate. We’ve learned to slow down and give her time to respond. You will see she is very talkative and engaged. She is Very Able to express herself in our home environment.

Morgan and Papaw showing off an April window painting they did together.

When Morgan is in a group setting, there are lots of competing sounds and distractions. Large gatherings can be confusing and stressful. This usually stops her from initiating engagement. When she is overwhelmed, her reaction is to grunt and vocalize her displeasure, in order to get away. Or she will completely shut down, squinting her eyes, bending over and putting her head in her hands. Unfortunately for her, this makes others see her as Less Able than she actually is. When we are able to know what to expect, and provide Morgan with a schedule ahead of time, this takes down the stress and helps her be more successful.

As things speed back up again, we find ourselves stumbling a little more, trying to regain our footing in this world. I guess that’s life, with or without disabilities. I still believe the joy of a meaningful life ride is worth the learning bumps we experience along the way.

There is a giant chasm between hearing and listening. This year of slowing down has really opened my eyes and my heart to the difference. Many of us have forgotten how to listen. It takes time to really get to know anyone. It takes time, patience, and a sincere caring effort to get those moments of mutual connection, where we can all truly communicate.

We openly share our family’s journey with autism in the hope of creating understanding and acceptance for all individuals with disabilities.

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope,

Tammy

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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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Uncategorized

Joy Is A Choice

“… I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live,”
‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭30:19‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

The other day, I asked Morgan what she wanted for lunch. Her answer was “How about food?”. 😉 This was not sarcasm. This is her autism. Where many of us are grateful to be given choices, it causes her a great deal of anxiety. Why? The answers to some questions are infinite. I believe she’s actually afraid of giving the wrong answer. Morgan still doesn’t understand that her choice is just that, Her Choice. If I can ever get her to understand that, I believe it will free her from a lot of the anxiety choices cause her.

As I’ve worked with Morgan for several years on this life skill, I’ve come to realize just how important choices are for all of us. They give us independence and freedom. At the same time, they come with responsibility and consequences. Good ones build us up and bad ones tear us down. Hopefully, as we mature, we learn to make choices that are not only good for us, but respectful of others. When others respect us, they allow us to make choices too.

Everyone deserves the right to make choices to the extent they are able. Often times, the choices of individuals with disabilities are overlooked. Whenever we assume we know what’s best for anyone without offering them a voice, we may not realize it, but we’re being dismissive of that person. On several occasions, when I thought I knew exactly what Morgan wanted, but gave her the option, I found out I was wrong. 😉

God loves us so much that Even He Allows us to CHOOSE Him. If that decision was forced, it would mean nothing. As much as I want others to believe as I do, I have to remember that every person has the right to make their own decisions. My Individual Joy and Confidence in what I believe comes from knowing I’ve been given a choice, and I choose Him.

I will continue to offer Morgan every choice I can, working with her through the anxiety and OCD, because more than anything, I want her to find her own voice, her own joy.

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy Vice

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Uncategorized

Mockingbird Mamas

“A good intention, with a bad approach, often leads to a poor result.” – Thomas Edision

My mom has a very vivid memory from when she was five or six years old. She and a mama mockingbird had a serious misunderstanding. She saw a nest up in a tree and she felt she needed to get a closer look. She meant no harm to the baby birds, but their mama wasn’t taking any chances. That mama bird squawked and swooped down on her, showing no mercy. The next thing my mom knew, she was laying on the ground, flat on her back, with the wind knocked out of her. Lesson learned. Don’t get between a mockingbird and her babies. 😉

Mockingbird Attack floridamuseum.ufl/edu

Sometimes I can be like that Mockingbird Mama.

My daughter, Morgan, is on the autism spectrum. She doesn’t always pick up on social cues. If someone doesn’t give her an extra nudge to help her join the group, she gets left behind and left alone. She can also be a little grumpy when “too many friends” make her anxious, causing others to back away. My heart has been shredded from seeing Morgan left out on numerous occasions over the years. For that reason, it’s hard for me to leave her on her own at gatherings. And, due to all my heart scars, I can misread others’ intentions sometimes.

This was the scene. We were at a gathering with a few moms and daughters. There were two tables. Most of the girls were at a larger table. I seated Morgan with two friends at a smaller table. The moms decided to go outside to eat and visit. I turned around to see the two girls jump up to go to the big table, without a word, leaving Morgan behind. One of the girls looked back at me. I stood there for a moment, not knowing what to do, because I didn’t know if they had left Morgan without thinking, or on purpose. I took a deep breath and decided to leave her there to figure it out. I admit I said something to the moms outside, hoping someone would look in on things. It turned out, when they checked, Morgan was at the table with all the girls. I realized they were probably waiting to see if I was leaving before they asked her to join them.

As much as I want to help Morgan navigate every situation from the safety of “my nest”, I know she needs her father, her sister, her grandparents, friends and community in order to fly. I can only be her mother. Once again, I’m having to remind myself to give her and others a little more space, a lot more grace. Hugs of understanding to all the other Mockingbird Mamas out there.

As for my mom, she’s still bird watching, with a better understanding of the importance of social distancing. 😉

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, 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, caregivers, Morgan, Uncategorized

Social Graces and Hidden Disabilities

“Parents don’t make mistakes because they don’t care, but because they care so deeply.” – Berry Brazelton

As a parent of a young woman on the autism spectrum, I’m realizing there’s a fine line between accommodating and crippling Morgan. I am forever tripping over that line. The Judgers only trip me more. The Getters keep me trying.

You see, there are two Morgans.  The one I see at home is confident and assured, able to express her wants and needs most of the time, able to create, and even crack a dry joke.

Then there is the Morgan out in public.  The one that tears at my heart, because she’s so anxious about “Too Many Friends”, uncomfortable places, not enough schedule, too much schedule,… She has two reactions to the stress of public gatherings.  One is to loudly announce her discontent to everyone, and the other is to completely shut down.

A while back, Morgan participated in an exhibition basketball game.  Things were just a little noisy and chaotic.  She squeezed her eyes shut, and lowered her head to disappear.  I watched from a distance as peers passed her by, moving on to others who met them with smiles.  Morgan’s self isolation continues to cost her so many opportunities.  Whenever this happens, everything in me wants to jump in and rescue her (and I have on several occasions), but I realize there’s going to be a time when I’m no longer able to be that link of understanding between her and the world.  In order to make it out there, she will have to somehow find it within herself to reach back to those who reach out to her.  Daily prayers go up for her social graces, and others’ understanding.

Thankfully, we had a successful event recently, which gave me a little renewed hope.  Morgan was asked to pass out programs for a community gathering with Borderless Arts Tennessee.  She was given an active roll, and rose to the occasion.  She also sat along side friends to do a little creative activity.  Later, when she announced she was “Tired and All Done”, friends gave a knowing smile.  Morgan was asked to help present a couple of awards, and continued to hang with a little encouragement.  She even managed a smile for the camera, in the middle of her protests. 😉

I. Just. LOVE. the Getters, those who truly understand, and I’m most thankful for the Knowers, like Dr. Temple Grandin, Emelyne Bingham, and other amazing women on the spectrum for reminding me to continue to challenge Morgan.

In my parenting experience, I’ve had many proud moments, and some very humbling ones. When our children are flying high, we can be tempted to pat ourselves on the back, thinking we’ve got it all together.  In those times of pride, shame on me if I’m ever a Judger of another parent, who’s loving their child the best way they know how.  “But for the grace…”

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy

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autism, faith, family, Morgan, Uncategorized

Ego Swatting

“Goodbye Skeeter!  No time for that!” – Morgan Vice

One of my favorite spots in the world is my own backyard.  Nothing fancy there.  It’s just a peaceful little space to breathe and unplug.  Recently, while enjoying some summer solitude, Morgan swatted a mosquito, and let it know just how she felt about it disturbing her peace.

Sandbox 2

EGO can be a real peace stealer.  Being Morgan’s mom, fulltime buddy and caregiver, is a labor of the heart that requires me to be vigilant to guard my thoughts.  If not, I can get the “Poor, Pitiful, Me’s”.  I can get all caught up in worrying about myself, and the things I think I might be missing out on, becoming jealous and envious of how easy someone else’s life appears to be.  I can become narrow minded and judgmental of others.  If I’m not careful, I can get so self centered, and hard hearted, that I can’t hear God’s voice above all my noise.

Morgan is counting on me.  Don’t tell her, but I’m only human.  I’m so thankful God is God, and I’m not.  I can tell when my ego needs swatting.  I know it’s time to take that noise to the backyard, and put it in its place.  Goodbye Ego!  No time for that! 😉

There’s nothing more peaceful than placing my heart back into God’s very capable hands.  According to Jeremiah 29:11, He has plans specifically designed for me, for Morgan, for each one of us; “Plans to prosper me, and not to harm me, plans to give me hope and a future.”

My Child Love God

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy Vice

 

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“Watering Hope”

“It’s important to think about what you’re thinking about.” – Me, talking to myself

Morgan is a great event planner.  She is always thinking about what activity she can put on her calendar, and mine.  😉  We had “March Number 27” listed as planting “Big Color Flowers”.  When that seemed too far off, we changed it to “Saturday Number 14”.  On that rainy morning, after our “Saturday Breakfast” (also on the calendar), we headed to Lowe’s to pick out some flowers and “Garden Dirt”.  That afternoon, between the dropped, we planted our “Color Flowers”.

Garden 1   Garden 4

I explained that “Big” would come with water and time.  So Morgan got out her watering can later to catch what the rain may have missed.  Always thinking, always planning,… 😉

watering 2

While having lunch recently with a good friend, they made a thoughtful observation.  They said, with everything going on in my life, it must take a lot for me to keep my emotions under control.  It DOES.  As I thought about this conversation later, I was reminded of Morgan’s garden.  I’ve learned over the years, it takes a daily watering of hope to keep things in perspective for me.  When I feel the weeds of worry popping up, I have to think about what I’m thinking about, and redirect my thoughts to The Hope I know and believe.  I have a little talk with the Master Gardener every morning.  He reminds me of past seasons and events in my life that are proof of what I believe.

A little rain, a little sunshine, and Springtime will come around again.

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy and Morgan Vice

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