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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faith, family, friends, Love, Uncategorized

Worth Helping, Hanging, and Hoping

“Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them falls to the ground without your Father’s consent. But even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So don’t be afraid therefore; you are worth more than many sparrows.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭10:29-31‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

It was one of those mornings. We really needed to get out the door on time. The list of things to do was long and time was short. As we fixed our breakfast and Morgan’s lunch, I was running down that list in my head. I was hoping we’d get out the door with everything we needed the first time. There was a text with a task to handle, an unexpected knock on the door. “Hello Mamaw. What are you doing here?” Come on in and join our morning circus. A quick hello, and I continued my dance to keep things on track.

As we were about to get in the car, we heard a loud scratching and rustling sound coming from the down spout of the gutter. A bird had slipped down the hole. Bless his heart. He chose a really inconvenient time to get himself in that situation. We tapped on the spout for a few seconds, shook the bottom, hoping we could get his attention to turn around and see a better way out. We reasoned surely he’d eventually get tired and fall to the bottom, seeing the light there and be able to make it out on his own. I did say a little prayer for him as I cranked up the car and drove away. After all, we had a busy day ahead us.

Sometimes we assume there’s an easy way out for others, when there’s not.

That’s how I am sometimes. I mean well, but I’m just so busy. When I got back home, all was quiet and I assumed he made it out. I went about my day and didn’t give it another thought.

“and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself.”
‭‭James‬ ‭2:16-17‬ ‭

Later that evening, I was telling Rudy all about our busy day. Then, as an afterthought, I told him about the little bird. He said, “I thought I heard something out there as I was coming in the door.“ This was 9:30 in the evening. I said, “You’re kidding. Surely he’s not still in there.” He WAS still in there, struggling. I held a flashlight while Rudy unscrewed the extension. It turned out, the drain was stopped up with leaves and mulch. Once that was removed, the little guy wasted no time getting out of there. He was a blur in the dark.

There’s more than a couple of lessons in this for me. With all my wisdom and reasoning, I’m not able to fully see another person’s situation. God is. He works best through me when I slow down and allow life’s interruptions. Whenever I get stuck in a situation, I feel like there’s no way out and no one sees me, God does. No matter how others view us, how they may overlook us, we are all valuable to God. We need to keep Helping others, Hanging in there and making a little Hopeful Noise. God is always working on our circumstances in ways we cannot see.

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

Simple Truths

“If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18

Our friends at Autism Tennessee asked parents how we are explaining all of the chaos in the news to our children. I told them I break it down as simply as I can for our daughter’s developmental level.

Morgan has a lot of anxiety, so I always try to present things in a positive solution mode. We approach everything from a faith perspective, because it is the center of our peace. With Covid, she knows we are waiting for friends to get well so we can get together again. We pray for them. We wear our masks because we care about our friends. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:39

As for the unspeakable events that unfolded on January 6th, I prayed to God to give me the appropriate words to say before I spoke to Morgan about it, because it left me feeling incredibly sad and empty.

The Bible tells us to love our neighbor, even if we don’t agree with them. Doing things out of anger and fear doesn’t get us anywhere. It’s not ok to harm others. If we really trust that God is in charge, then as far as possible, we need to try and get along with everyone. God will separate the good guys from the bad ones.

Morgan’s Messy Flag Painting (c) 2019

When Morgan created this piece of art above. I remember talking her through it. She’s always worried about making a mess, getting her fingers sticky, when she’s painting. I told her sometimes we have to make a mess to create something beautiful.

Democracy can be messy. Praying for our country, that we learn from our mistakes. Now that we know better, we can do better. May we become America The Beautiful again, One Nation Under God, Indivisible, With Liberty and Justice For ALL.

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy

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autism, faith, Health, Morgan, Uncategorized

A Fresh Start

“Let your eyes look forward; fix your gaze straight ahead.”
‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭4:25‬ ‭HCSB‬‬

I am a big fan of do-overs when they’re needed. They allow us to fix what we can, and move forward. 2020 has been filled with cancellations, disappointments, frustrations, insane political incorrectness, and overwhelming loss. As Morgan would say, “We’re not doing that again.” Although I don’t know anyone who wants a do-over on this year, we have to admit, it has taught us some things about ourselves.

In this blog, I usually share a lot about the joy and blessings of autism. In the interest of fair reporting, I’m realizing it’s equally important to share our struggles. We are learning we can live without some things we thought we couldn’t. We’ve had some personal bests, and unfortunately some personal worsts this year. We have definitely felt our humanity.

2020 has tested us all. The disappointments just kept stacking up. Morgan had a major meltdown recently, because she was having to wait on something once again. We had to bring out a forgotten tool, one we haven’t used in quite a while, reminding me it’s one of the best tools in our behavior box.

Social Stories, written in first person, have always been helpful for Morgan. I had to remind myself, when she’s really upset, she can’t hear anything we’re saying. She needs to SEE the story. One of the things Morgan says, when she’s been upset, is “I was just trying to fix it”. After reading this, she was able to calm down and take a breath, so we could “fix it” together.

Although I wrote this for Morgan, it’s as if God was writing it to me. I’ve been exhausted from waiting on some sanity to kick in from those who are supposed to be leading us. I’ve been sad and angry over those who seem to have no concern for the vulnerable. I may not have said unkind things out loud, but I’ve certainly screamed them inside my heart. As I look up toward heaven and take a breath, I remember God is in control. I remember to be more patient and kind with myself and everyone else. I can forgive others, as He has forgiven me. I can let go of the things I can’t fix, knowing that God can. I can move forward, knowing we should know better now, knowing we should be able to do better together now. Here’s to hearts healing in 2021.

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope,

Tammy Vice

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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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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, caregivers, communication, family, Health, holidays, peace, Uncategorized

Digesting Dinosaurs

“When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time.” – Creighton Abrams

In the 1980s, I worked as an assistant to a top notch bookkeeper named Juanita.  I was so impressed at how she approached the mountain of tasks she faced.  Each day she was greeted by endless stacks of paper on her desk that she methodically sifted through, only to have them be replaced by more of the same.  In that sea of paper, she also had the ability to put her hands on whatever was requested, without breaking out in a sweat. Just witnessing a portion of her workload was overwhelming to me.  Something in me needed a finish line.  I needed to see an empty desk to feel like I was accomplishing something.  I was letting that desk full of papers eat at me.  Thankfully she was patient with my impatience.  Whenever I would hyperventilate, she’d just look at me, smile softly and say “How do you eat an elephant?”

alebrije elephant 4

Fast Forward to 2020.  Take one young adult on the autism spectrum,  who has a great affection for routines and annual calendar events.  Add one pandemic that completely shuts down life as we know it, that reschedules, then cancels, all of those events.  AND lets make a whole new set of social safety rules that really matter a lot to some people, and not so much to others.  Oh, and in the middle of all this, just for fun, let’s paint the dining room.  Surely now would be a good time to accomplish this one thing.  This needs to be filed under “What Was I Thinking?!”  Husband called with a kidney stone, that had it’s own agenda. The memory of Juanita’s desk full of papers suddenly came back to me, and I laughed at my younger self.  I realized just how small that elephant was in comparison.  I guess that’s what Juanita knew back then.  It’s all a matter of attitude.  We can Eat or Be Eaten. 😉

I’ve Got An Attitude from the Love Can Grow project – Available on Apple Music

IMG-2154

As I write this, I am looking at a messy desk and a half finished dining room with paint paraphernalia scattered about.  Rudy and Morgan are in the living room watching Spiderman and his adventures.  At this moment, we are all safe and well.  I Am Thankful.  It turns out dinosaurs are also digestible, one bite at a time.

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, 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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