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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Allison, faith, family, Morgan, Uncategorized

I Saw You

One shoe off and one shoe on. Oh little dumplin’ where’s your mom?

While a few people say they choose to be homeless, the vast majority are homeless for a thousand other reasons. But for the grace of God, it could be any one of us. I’m so thankful for Room In The Inn , The Contributor, and other organizations in our area that provide support to our neighbors in need. As individuals, we can only do so much. Supporting organizations that know how to make an effective difference is one answer.

The first thing I noticed were your light pink tennis shoes, one shoe off and one shoe on. Then, as we passed by, I saw your dark brown hair. I guessed your age to be somewhere between the age of my own two daughters, 27 and 33.

Our family was visiting the Chattanooga Aquarium. It was a beautiful day, so our older daughter, Allison, suggested we walk to the restaurant. It was a twenty minute walk down one of the main city streets. Morgan first noticed a “clock tower” on the side of one of the buildings. She was taking it all in, “Walking in the city”. As we strolled further, we saw a number of people who were homeless. We nodded and continued walking.

That’s when I saw you. You were asleep on the concrete by the sidewalk. Even though we continued walking, acting as if all was well, my younger daughter paused, looking at you and then turning her gaze to me. Remember, I told you Morgan is 27. She is on the autism spectrum. Developmentally, she still sees a lot of things the way a child sees them. She may not have had the words to express it, but she knew you didn’t belong there. I told her you were just resting and nudged her along. But she was right. You don’t belong there and I just wanted you to know we saw you. You are someone’s daughter. As a mother, I will keep you in my prayers.

A photo memory of my daughters

I am a picture taker. I am always snapping photos of the ones I love. I have countless picture memories of my daughters. Although I don’t have a physical picture of you, I do have one in my heart. I see you. More importantly, God sees you and your two pink shoes. He even knows the number of dark brown hairs on your head. He Loves You and so do I. Mom Hugs.

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope,

Tammy Vice

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Allison, family, joy, Love, Morgan, Uncategorized

How Many More Miles?

“There are no traffic jams along the extra mile.” – Roger Staubach

It’s a question my dad, my daughters’ dad, and countless other dads have heard many times. Children can be so ready to get to the destination that they wish away the road time. I remember nodding off to sleep in the back seat, hoping to wake up just in time to be THERE. Now that I’m older, I’ve learned that the miles along the way can be just as meaningful. I don’t want to sleep through the Here and Now.

Building the Trike with Dad. “We got this!”
Morgan, taking her babies for a ride.
Dad and Allison Making Fudge
Mission Accomplished
Morgan, showing her “Three Wheels” to Mamaw and Papaw

Happy Father’s Day to my dad, my girl’s dad, and all those dads that go the extra mile for their families. Hugs and Hearts! 🤗❤️

Until Next Time,

Know The Hope!

Tammy Vice

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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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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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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, Morgan, Uncategorized

Location, Location, Location

“Home is where the heart is.” – Edward Coke

When Rudy and I first married, we lived in a 874 square foot shotgun house in south Alabama.  We spent most weekends sprucing up, and patching up, things.  We were so proud of that little place.  Only a few months after we were married, we learned we were expecting our first baby.  Thirteen weeks later, on the day the Challenger Space Shuttle exploded, I miscarried.  As I laid on the couch, watching the news, I remember thinking how quickly life can change for any one of us.  We hurt.  We cried.  And slowly we went back to rebuilding our lives.

The following year would bring news that we were expecting again.  We spent a great amount of time and love, getting the nursery just right.  I stapled a flannel sheet, with brightly colored ABC’s, over one of the paneled walls.   I thought it was genius.  Rudy wasn’t so sure, but it grew on him.  Speaking of growing… When I was eight months along,  I was getting tired of hauling our clothes, and me, to the laundromat.  I talked Rudy into investing in our first washer and dryer.  That same day, I had a craving for Popeye’s fried chicken.  He told me we really needed to think about our budget.  I cried.  We had Popeye’s chicken for dinner that night.  Poor Rudy.  Looking back now, I realize he was just feeling the weight of his responsibility for our growing family.  He was, and will always be, a keeper. ❤  Allison was born in September, one week after our second anniversary.  She filled up that little old house, and our hearts.

Pictured below; Allison with Mamaw on our front porch, and Allison trying to get back to the front porch.

Soon, we were busting at the seams.  My mom and dad deeded us a couple of acres in the country.  We started out there in a new double wide mobile home.  We were really moving up in the world. 😉  Rudy and I were both working hard.  Allison was enjoying her school, and doing well.  Just as I thought we had this parenting thing down, along came Morgan, and life got interesting.  Dad was now truly outnumbered.

Pictured below; Life inside the double wide

In 1995, we were excited to finally be building our dream house on the property.  We moved in with Mamaw and Papaw; Rudy, myself, one opinionated princess, one busy toddler, and a sweet dog named Barney, who had issues.  Thank you mom and dad!  It was a beautiful house, worth all the wait and preparation;  Four bedrooms, two baths, walk-in closets, a fire place, bricked in flower beds, and SPACE, Glorious SPACE.  Did I mention walk-in closets?  All of our boxes were checked.

The thing is, a house is just sticks, bricks, and mortar.  A home is where a family lives and loves.  Every member matters.  After a short time in the new house, Morgan was diagnosed with autism.  We learned there was a strong parent support network in another state, Autism Tennessee.  Also, Vanderbilt University was doing research there, which was promising.  We said a prayer, and put our house up for sale.  In 1999, we found ourselves back in a little old house in Tennessee.  Although I still dream about walk in closets sometimes, I know we’re right where we belong.

Pictured below; Home Sweet Home

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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