Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Riding into the New Year

If I could have guessed where I'd be at the end of this year back in January, nothing could have really prepared me for the position I'm in now. Not to say there were not hints in my career or performance life, but nothing really pointing me in one direction. It was all up to me to figure out which direction to head towards and that's sometimes the most terrifying and most magical aspect of it all.
As the new year dawns, I can finally say I am excited for it. Change can be difficult for me and normally leads to stress. Worrying about losing things important to me has been an anxiety of mine for years. People naturally grow apart and closer with time, this is normal. Even though I worry about my future and work and relationships, these are all normal things everyone worries about from time to time.
I'm very fortunate to be a person with so many interests because I truly believe I can do just about anything. This can lead to problems when my directions split so drastically, I can and do get easily distracted. Though in all fairness, I think that is part of being a 24 year old. So I wrote things down for myself in my little planner, yes I finally got a planner and try to use it. These are my resolutions;
- I will challenge myself physically and mentally to become a healthy and strong person.
- I will focus on doing very well in Graduate School.
- I will make writing a priority for me and do my best to establish a career as a writer in this coming year.
- I will resume being involved in the local film community and try some photography modeling.
- I will keep my current skills fresh by dedicating time to practice and expand to learn new skills.
- I will work to foster new relationships and take the time to grow the ones I already have.
Each of those things can be expanded on, and will be, in the coming weeks. I've already been working on some of these things, but it's time to turn it up to 11 and make things work. My goals may seem vague to others, but they are written like that so I don't reveal everything at once.
To those who have been on this journey with me, stay tuned to see what's coming up next. Big things are happening in the world around us and this is a very interesting time we live in. I don't know where I'll be sitting a year from now, but I can only hope I'm as happy as I am now. I'm sitting on a train with my Vaudeville Troupe heading to Boston to preform for New Years Eve in the Boston Commons.
Remember, the new year is a chance for a fresh start. We have the ability to begin anew and be whoever we want to be. Embrace the new moon tonight and think seriously of what you would like to do in the New Year. Take care and treat each other well.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Sink or Swim

I'm sitting on the black butterfly chair bought for my freshman year of college wearing a sweatshirt from my sophomore year of highschool. This is a much needed break as I've been moving non-stop since noon going from old apartment to new apartment.

This past year has been the longest I've been in one location in almost a decade. Since I was 16, things have not been consistent in my life in a way that requires mobility. I've mentioned it before, but I've lived out of backpacks and can pack at a moment's notice.

This move is different. In a few short trips, virtually everything was been relocated. Now keep in mind, I did not get a chance to do much of the deep cleaning and discarding of objects before this move. That process will be happening around the first or second week of January, when things begin to slow down for me.

Now, I originally had plans for multiple months to live somewhere else. Through whatever powers may be, that living arrangement did not happen. Instead, I started last Sunday the 15 to look for a place with two of my Highschool friends who also needed a place. Quickly checking Craigslist, we had some contenders. It was only last Thursday my friend Mattie mentioned a listing from a few months ago we might be interested in. I called the man and we looked at the place on Saturday morning.

It was the perfect place. It had enough space for us and we could see ourselves living here. Virtually everything we wanted in an apartment was in this one, and lets be honest; claw foot bathtubs are not a normal apartment fixture. We applied to the place minutes after viewing it and got a confirmation on Monday the place was ours.

I've been afraid of things before in my life. Too often I've been afraid how things are changing so quickly in my life. It is only now, sitting in a place I hadn't even seen a week prior do I feel like I'm adjusting to the speed of my life.

Yes, I could slow things down.

I could plan things out for months before I commit to something and do loads of research. I'd make pro and con columns to weight my options. But I've never done those things.
Swimming to be comes as easily as walking, if not easier. The water gives me the chance to move in a completely different way. It does not matter the temperature or time of year, I'll be in the water. This year I'm hoping to jump in the ocean with my mother.

There are two types of people when it comes to getting into water; the jumpers and the steppers. Steppers gradually immerse themselves in the water to become adjusted to the difference in temperature or not to mess up their hair. Jumpers jump right in, regardless of how cold it is or what will happen to their hair.

Ever since I was a child, I was a jumper. It's not due to my lack of patience, it's something else. I jump for the split second before you hit the water. In that one second, you feel so many different emotions. Fear, happiness, regret, hesitation.

"Is this water deep enough?"
"Did I take my cell phone out of my pocket?"
"What just happened to my bikini top?!"

You commit to the choice you made and just enjoy it. This is how I do most things, I jump. The water just looks so clear and there weather is perfect. When in doubt, all there is to do is trust the water is deep enough for you to swim in. I'll see you in the water.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Sumer/Winter Lovin

At the Summer Solstice, I stood with friends next to the ocean. We stood together to celebrate the longest day of the year, the changing of the seasons, the welcoming of the longer nights, and for our own personal reasons.

We had the opportunity to say our goals or what we wanted. My words still ring in my ears.

"I want to jump in and have my splash be just the right size."

Since June, I've had so many transformations in my life it is really surprising. Things are going really well for me and the future is only looking brighter. I'll be moving into a new apartment with two friends I've known for about 9 years since High school very soon.

Things are really shaping up. Life is good.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Out and Proud

Since last week, we have seen the emergence of two major advocates for Autism and Aspergers; Susan Boyle and Dan Aykroyd.

I'm not sure some of my friends who are not as involved in Autism politics understand my excitement.

The easiest thing I can do it cite what Anderson Cooper said when he "came out".

"It’s become clear to me that by remaining silent on certain aspects of my personal life for so long, I have given some the mistaken impression that I am trying to hide something - something that makes me uncomfortable, ashamed or even afraid. This is distressing because it is simply not true. I’ve also been reminded recently that while as a society we are moving toward greater inclusion and equality for all people, the tide of history only advances when people make themselves fully visible."- Anderson Cooper; July 2nd, 2012. Read the full email here.

By having individuals who are public figures speak out on who they are, it breaks down so many different walls. It stops many of the preconceived notions of "People with Autism can't          ."

We can         and we do        . Some of us          more than others and some people need more support to        .

This is a huge step forward toward breaking down stereotypes and educating people on a large scale. I'd like to believe this will change things quickly, but it won't. It just adds a new layer to the ongoing conversations about advocacy. This is big! So if people don't understand why I'm so excited, this is why.

Be loud and be proud. You are awesome just the way you are!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

One Year Later

This time last year, this was a huge week of my life.


Monday afternoon I was sitting in my car having lunch between art modeling jobs. I was thinking a lot about moving up to Portland, but had not really done any research. I was spending so much gas and time commuting, the move was inevitable. So I causally check on Craigslist, also the place where I've found almost all of my jobs, and decide to call people about the listings.

Wednesday afternoon I decided to head up to look at about 5 different places which all had leases beginning soon. Actually, I was going to look at every place online. The first place I looked at was right downtown without parking nearby. The second place I looked was an apartment building managed by a woman I was in a theater production with the year before. I fell in love at first sight and nothing else could compare.

Friday I took a lunch break at work to run over and sign the lease. With the keys in my hand, I had my first apartment.

Saturday night I sat around my unfurnished apartment when a friend came over to bring me a footstool she did not have room for and we sat around before heading to a friend's holiday party.

Now I sit in my decorated apartment, typing on the same footstool and waiting for the same friend to go to the same party, preparing to say goodbye to it in a few weeks. I look at where I've been and where I am going; I almost don't recognize myself.

This year I fell in love, got hurt, and learned relationships are not a one size fits all box.
I lost over 40 pounds and have made huge strides in taking care of my health.
I just completed my first semester of Grad school.
I stepped back from my full time job to focus on other career goals.
I became a business partner in the amazing Dark Follies.
I gave a solo presentation on my passion at the Autism Society of America conference.
I began to take writing way more seriously.
Through the support of my friends, I removed a lot of the negative influences in my life and have become way more confident in myself.
I did lot of traveling to see old friends, family, and meet new friends and family.

Things change and grow, it's the nature of the universe. I'd be lying if I said I was not afraid of what is right around the corner. I could never imagined the wonder of my life this past year and even though I have plans for the future, plans change. New things are always popping up and I'm very much one to go with the flow of things.

I've been putting the pieces of my life together, or at least trying, and I want to thank everyone for their patience with me. I also want to thank every one of you who takes the time to read these posts. You have been along for this journey and I could not be more grateful for the support. Thank you.

So even though we have a few more weeks left of the year, I'm already preparing for 2014. I blew 2013 out of the water so let's get pumped about what's to come!

Monday, December 9, 2013

By Any Other Name

The Showy Lady's-slipper (Cypripedium reginae) is a rare flower. It is a type of orchid found in Northern North America. It is a beautiful flower and has vanished from many places. I saw one earlier this summer on the Eastern Trail and was educated on it by the specialists I was walking with. He told me even though he wished he could move the flower to a safer area away from the threat of trail walkers, it was impossible. To transplant this flower from it's original location would almost surely mean death. It is very difficult to grow this plant naturally and they have become even more rare as the time goes on. So there it sat on the side of the trail. Waiting. Surviving another day.

It was a cold and icy night in Portland, Maine. There were very few cars on the road with even fewer people. Those venturing out were bundled up, shuffling along quickly from warmth to warmth.

A young man and young woman were not rushing on this night. In fact, they took their time talking about all matter of terrestrial and extraterrestrial. From suns to stars to fungi to cars, they chatted as they walked along. Both seemed oblivious to the cold snapping at their faces.

They were walking down the street when the girl felt a chill. This chill was not from an elemental force, but from a connection much more intimate. From out of the shadows came a shape lumbering down the street towards the pair. Although it looked like a man, it was in fact the monster from her childhood. This creature had the wind at its back and seemed to gain power from wicked winds snapping at the tree branches above.

But the boy did not notice.

Instead he talked about a very common plant which grew tall behind a historic house they were passing. The boy looked to the right as the creature passed on the left. The monster looked straight at her unmasked face, but did not seem to recognize her.

The monster under the bed had forgotten her.

The girl stood between the two forces and once her monster had vanished, it was as if it had never happened. She asked the boy if he had seen the man, but the sidewalk was empty by the time they turned around.

They walked back chatting about genetically engineered foods and robots while still never feeling the cold. She told the boy about the monster when they reached warmth and as he reached for his tea asked if she was alright.

A few months ago she was not alright. Back then, it was only the help of her friends and furry companion which gave the girl strength to be herself. Now though, she had grown. She had remembered who she was and the power she had.

"I'm fine," said the girl before heading for home on the icy sidewalks. Taking care with each step, she made her trek along the ghostly streets with only the sound of forthcoming snowplows to keep her company.

She entered her home, knowing her monster was only a few city blocks away and turned on the over. She began to cook dinner and then sat down at her computer. She thought of her friend and wondered if it was all just a dream, a figment on this winter night.

But men are real and monsters are real.

However, this did not trouble the girl. Instead, she went along her night as if it was all just a bad dream. It's as if she was once again a little girl running to the safety of her parent's bed only to be tucked back into her own bed. Looking up on those nights, her father would brush her hair back and say "Shhh, Brigid. Go back to bed. It was all just a dream and monsters aren't real. They can't hurt you."

But monsters are real and father knew best.

Peace Lillies are a species of Spathiphyllum. They need very little light to survive and grow many different places. They can grow in swamps or with very little water. When blossomed, they are beautiful plants. Given the drastic types of conditions this plant can grown in, it's easy to say it's a Survivor.
My first plant: Henrietta the Peace Lily


I totally failed at the one blog post a day for this month, but I'll try for a compromise. I'll be doing at least two blog posts a week for the rest of the month. Hey, if I like it and people react well to it the blog posts may become twice a week.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The people you meet

I've spent the past 3 weeks traveling around via Prius and reconnecting with people who mean a lot to me. I've spent time in Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, and I'm on my way to Massachusetts right now. I am aware of how cheesy it is to say, but the more I travel the more I see some of the same things.

What do I mean?

I see people falling in love and sharing a chaste kiss walking down the street.
I see fathers beaming with pride as they walk down the street holding their young daughter's hand.
I see the business employee who has been worn down, but tries to keep their appearance up.
I see performers who put their heart and soul into their work.

Traveling recharges me like nothing else. It restores my faith inhumanity and lets me take a step back to see the beauty all around me. I get to walk into a place where I've never been before and meet people I may never meet again.

I'll be coming back with lots of ideas and thoughts buzzing around my head.


Sunday, December 1, 2013


So today I am venturing on a new adventure as I am currently in a car venturing to Vermont (don't worry, I'm not driving). I'll be trying this National Blog Post Month and the theme for this is More/Less. I'll be having daily blog posts and when I get back to Maine, I'll be working on a bunch of new material.

Yay for writing!

Right now I'm riding shotgun in my Prius as my friend Jacob and I make our way East bound. We spent most of the day driving through the midwest and looking out at the farmlands.

It is always interesting driving across the landscape of America and seeing how it changes as the miles roll by. Soon the silos will give way to pine trees. The horizon will not be visible just across the land, but instead it will be behind a mountain. The smell of the midwest will give way to the cool ocean breeze and I will be back home.

This trip has made me realize more and more that home is where we choose to make it. It may be in a long familiar bed adorned with our favorite sheets or in an unfamiliar hotel room. Home exists wherever we take it and whoever we chose to share it with.

Here I sit in my car and doing my best to be productive as I'm listening to a new podcast called Welcome to Night Vale. I've had a few people recommend this to me and I am very into the humor of the show.

I'll be back with more tomorrow but tonight take care, be warm, and have grand adventures. Even if those adventures only exist in your head, have them.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Greetings from St Louie!

Last night I arrived in St. Louis to stay at a friend's place and leave early this morning for the trip back to New England.

It's nighttime and we are still in St. Louis at the City Museum.

Things for me don't always go as planned. That's life!

I've recently tried to let go with some of my stresses and enjoy the unplanned moments even more. Some of my favorite moments in life have been the ones I did not plan. These are the moments we share with friends and those moments which create friends. Most of my life has been a series of walking into the right door at the right time when I had no idea what was behind the door. I try my best to plan out some of the bigger things in life like my job and where I am living, but even these things are not always in my control.

So take a deep breath and try not to stress when things do not go the way you have planned. It is entirely possible the plan you thought was right for you is not the plan you are destined to have right now. We don't always get to see what the universe has planned for us, but we do need to have a little faith in things.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

OCALI in Review

So here I sit writing this while in Kentucky after heading out from the OCALI conference yesterday.

I'd never been to an OCALI conference, but it was an amazing experience. It is always refreshing to see my peers more than once a year and catch up with old friends. Some of the people I saw I had not seen in almost ten years!

One of the biggest thing this conference did was reaffirm the choices I've made regarding my career choices. It has not been an easy transition and soon I'll be leaving my apartment for another living situation which will better suite my needs. My "where has the year gone" post will be coming up soon, but this is not that one. But for right now, I'm just looking at where I'm standing at this exact second.

One of the greatest moments for me at the conference was really connecting with people I had met back in July at the Autism Society of America conference. That was the point in time where I reevaluated my life and decided to make a LOT of big changes to my life. It was very touching to hear some people follow my blog and are aware of things going on in my life. Other people recognized me walking around donned in my corset and asked how things were going.
"Amazing. Greater than I could have ever imagined" was my answer. Of course elaboration was required.


I sit back and reflect on the types of people who go to these conferences. Educators, parents, professionals, family members, and most importantly individuals on the spectrum. These people are all gathered in one place for the common goal of sharing information and sharing hopes.

As family members, we come to hope our loved ones will have all the opportunities in the world available to them with no limits placed on who they can be or what they can do.

As educators, we hope to learn how to best teach material in the classrooms that will stay with students long after they leave the walls they come to know so well.

As professionals, we hope to gather information on how to best support the clients we work with so they can reach their fullest potential.

As an Autistic person, we share the hope of what it looks like to be happy in our own skin.

So here I sit, plotting out my vacation week in Chicago. Chicago will always be home for me and luckily I'm in a position right now to travel while working from my computer. Things are great for me right now.
Yes, I'm still going to be recovering from talking to hundreds of people in such a short amount of time.
Yes, I miss my friends back in Maine and think about them often; wishing to have a way to bring them all with me cross country.
Yes, I'm feeling extremely blessed with my life right now and the amazing people I meet along my journey.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Less time and more money

6:00am- Wake up.
6:15am- Okay, Really wake up this time.
6:20am- Grab banana for breakfast. Nothing else to eat because I worked 13 hour days the past two days and the grocery store was closed after work.
6:45am- Head to work.
7am- Try to wake up a client while completely sympathizing the desire to not be awake right now.
8am- Help client clean up room and dishes while remembering the pile of unfolded clothes from several days ago at the foot of my bed.
9am- Drop of one client for the day while heading to work with a different client.
10am- Arrive at second client’s house and try to get him up.
11:30am- Stress about paper assignment that’s due in a few days and wondering when I’ll work on it.
12:30pm- Go have lunch of pb&j and apple thinking about when I’ll have the time to go grocery shopping.
2pm- Help a client clean their room realizing their “messy room” is cleaner than my room right after I clean it.
4pm- Continue working on paperwork, organizing schedules for my clients, and helping to plan their lives.
5pm- Leave second client and head to work with third client.
5:30pm- Arrive at third client and stress the importance of a well balanced dinner as I grab my Tupperware container of pesto pasta from my lunchbox.
7pm- Help a client pay their bills only then realizing my phone bill was due last week.
8pm- Leave last client and head to gym home grocery store.
9:00pm- I some how end up only with a bag of chips, box of spongebob macaroni and cheese, a load of bread, chocolate, and bananas because I can't think of what I really need to buy for the week. I've also been wandering up and down every aisle hoping to job my memory of what I need.
9:20pm- Make dinner while ignoring the dirty dish mountain in the sink. I've spent too much time helping everyone else clean today, I need a break.
10pm- Totally plan to be productive and work on things related to my life.
10:05pm- I'm going to take a nap because I can barely keep my eyes open and have no energy to even answer emails.
11:45pm- I'm just going to take care of myself tomorrow as I pass out in my bed with my shoes still on.

This was my life this past year. People wonder what happened to me when I poofed away and here's the answer outlined almost hour by hour.  My days off were spend playing catchup on my life. I can do more in just a few hours than some people get done all day and that is how I survived. It wasn't living; it was surviving.

Now I do love my job as an inhome support worker. I really do. The reason I got into the field was to make a difference in the life of someone in the disability community. I did make a difference and that was why I stayed with these crazy shifts for so many months. If I didn't do it, no one else would have. New staff can be very hard to find and my *cough* skill set is very unique as not just a person with a psychology degree, but also as a person with disabilities. Needless to say, promoting self-advocacy is my biggest strength working with my clients.

So it is with so my happiness I heard this week that minimum wage and overtime protection will be given to the over 2 million workers who work with the disability community and the elderly community in 2015. I say, it's about time! I've seen too many problems come from staff leaving for other jobs so they can afford the price of living and other staff members who are not qualified but quickly hired to fill in for the other workers.

Why does this matter?
I'll make it really easy.

As a worker, I've been brought into homes where clients have never been able to trust anyone. People leave them and see them as a burden or as something to 'fix'. This creates a warped sense of self when a person does not feel they deserve to have friends or relationships. These people deserve to have a support network of people who care about them and want them to succeed. What do we tell them when a staff member needs to get a second or third job to support themselves? We cite it as a 'scheduling conflict' and try to find someone else to fill in for the former staff member.

These staff members who leave need to leave because they cannot support themselves on some of the salaries we are paid. I have a college degree, active experience in the disability field, and was once paid less than my high school brother who got his first job as a janitor. We are responsible for the health and safety of our clients, but are not compensated for our time or energy. It's not the fault of the companies I have worked for, they are in the exact same overworked and underpaid position I am in. The problem comes from the community not recognizing the value of our work.

In America, we do not support our caretakers. We overwork them and undervalue them which directly negatively impacts the people who need the support in the first place. No one ever goes into the field to become rich, but instead people who entertain us by their athletic prowess have riches beyond our wildest imagination. We celebrate a boxer who wins all the titles, but what about if he develops a disability due to head injuries received while preforming? Wouldn't the person who takes care of them be just as much of a champion?

These workers are the people we entrust to protect and support the ones we love. Isn't it about time we help support and protect them?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Where will she be next?

We interrupt your regularly scheduled Brigid time to let you know where I'll be going next.

If you are in the Ohio area and plan to attend the OCALI conference next week, you can find me at the Autism Global Initiative/ Autism Research Institute booth located at space 408 in the exhibition hall or you can find me just wandering around. 

*Hint when looking for me: Look for the tall redhead wearing a corset. *

For more information on the conference please check out the OCALI Conference website at http://conference.ocali.org/.

For more information on AGI/ARI please check out their website at http://www.autism.com/.

To see some of the courses I'll be promoting check out the Houlton Institute programs at http://www.houltoninstitute.com/programs/.
I hear the Teaching Assistant is really wonderful for the programs.
*Hint: It's me!*

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Brotherly Love

I've finally recovered from my short trip to Canada and the recovery process was rough. I'm a very good traveler, but I'm more comfortable being a solo traveler. The reason for this is because some people like to sleep in late during vacations and when I'm on an adventure I want to use every second.

The roughest part of the recovery process was due to the nature of the trip: bringing my brother up to visit a college.

It was not long ago I did my college search. There was only one requirement for my college: it could not be located in Maine. So my college choices ranged from Australia to England to Iowa. Spoiler: I went to Iowa and it was one of the greatest decisions of my life. The friends, memories made at the school, and things learned will stay with me for a long time to come.

However, it is with great sadness my baby brother is going to be leaving the nest. As the older sister who protected him from the dangers of the world, it's been very difficult to say goodbye and watch as he goes off on his own. 4 years I spent away at college and couldn't give him all the big life lessons an older sibling is supposed to impart on their younger counterpart. He will always be the little kid leaving legos strategically placed around the house in an ankle breaking obstetrical course to the fridge.

A friend reminded me the movie 300 when the mothers had their sons taken from their homes to become men. Those women were not sad, but proud of their child was moving onto the next stage of their life. Those boys were no longer children and were going off to honor their family. My brother is now entering his next stage of adulthood and is going off to honor our family. *Cue cheesy music*

My brother will be fine and never far away.
I carry him in my heart always, even when he is being a total brat.
He's my little brother and I'm his big sister.
I'd say if anyone had a problem with him they have a problem with me, but there are some very good reasons to have problems with someone who trolls the world on a professional level.

So I can't protect him from the world anymore. I know this.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Night of Ghouls and the Dead

Halloween has always been one of my favorite time of the year. The reason for this is for a few different interconnected things.

Autumn has always been one of my favorite times of year. It's a time of boots, scarves, and changing leaves. It's a time when people begin to bundle up in preparation of cold winter nights.

Halloween also connected to my favorite Holiday of the Year: Day of the Dead.

Growing up outside Chicago meant we would always venture into the city on November 1st. The colorful sugar skulls and beautiful works of art beckoned to me. They were a celebration of death and proper representations of the festive spirit of the holiday.

Some people believe this is the day when we can most easily connect with people who have passed on. Extra place settings are set for our dearly departed and we look back on fond memories. It's a time of celebration, but not sadness.

I'll admit to not having lost too many people in my life so far, but losing my Grandfather always strikes a chord with me this time of year.

So I talk to him.

I talk to my pictures on the wall and think of his memory. I remember the good times we had and let him know how things are going for me. I talk because it feels good and if he can, he's watching over me.

When people leave our lives they are not gone forever. They still live in our memories and in our hearts. Even though we cannot hug them, we can still be comforted by knowing they left a positive impact on us.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Here is my handle

"Though I cannot flee
From the world of corruption,
I can prepare tea
With water from a mountain stream
And put my heart to rest."

~Ueda Akinara 

I have never been much of a coffee person.

A large part of the reason has to do with the taste of it. Most commercial coffee tastes like very bitter to me and I've never been a person who needs something to help wake up in the morning. It's not a lack of appreciation for the beverage, it's just a personal choice. Hey, anything involving intricate designs of foam on something I plan to eat is a very appetizing concept to me.

Tea, now that is my hot beverage of choice.

Hot chocolate is a very close second, however there are times when hot chocolate is not available. For some reason people don't normally sell hot chocolate in summer months, go figure.

Green tea has always been my goto choice. Not only do I love the antioxidants, but the taste is my favorite.

When I was in Japan we learned about the Japanese Tea Ceremony. This ceremony is an intricate series of steps reflecting on Japanese culture. The tradition has changed throughout the history of Japan and now ritual is not just a celebration of the beverage, but a living glimpse of history. The precise movements, order of events, and mental clarity makes the entire process very relaxing. There is so much information available, if you are unfamiliar with the ceremony I'd advise you to look it up.

Tea, more so than any other food, is a ritual for me.

My mother gave my a little teapot which currently sits next to me as I write this. It's blue with an intricate white flower design and fake gold trim. It's a personal preference to always make a full pot to prolong the tea experience. Even when it is no longer hot, the iced tea is very refreshing. Nothing else in the world works to recharges me as quickly or fully as tea does.

Tea is perfect on cold fall nights wrapped up in a blanket working on a graduate paper. Tea makes me feel calm and able to ignore the world outside for a few minutes. Tea is the perfect drink to share with friends during deep conversations or after a great feast. There are very few moments in time where tea is not an appropriate drink.

So embrace the warmth in a cup and relax for awhile. Forget your worries and take just a second to enjoy the ceremony of the small moments in life. It is often the simplest times we overlook and take for granted because we do them so often. So take care to appreciate the littlest things that make up life. Enjoy it before it gets cold!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Oh Doctor, my Doctor!

“He's the best physician that knows the worthlessness of the most medicines.”- Benjamin Franklin


I'm a person who has struggled with health issues for most of my life. Endometriosis, Lyme Disease, Thyroid Issues, and Seizures are some of the big ones that have affected my life but there have been others. Growing up as the daughter of a medical advertiser, my family was also well versed in medical knowledge. They sought doctors not just for their fancy initials, but for their quality of care. The best relationships I've had with medical professionals are the ones who look at the entire person when it comes to diagnosing a medical condition. They are the ones who know how much environmental factors and other life factors can affect a person's health.

Today I had the unfortunate experience of dealing with a medical professional who was so arrogant, it was dangerous for me.

I spent a lot of my life on medication for various ailments. There were times when biological functions were not quite functioning in my body and the only way to correct them was through the use of medication. I'm in no way anti-medication because I know without some I have taken, my quality of life right now would be significantly impaired and so would the lives of some people I love. One of the greatest things about the world we live in now is the amazing advancements in medicine and some of these advancements could never have been dreamed of even one hundred years ago.

BUT, I don't think the first reaction from a doctor is to push medication on a patient as a form of treatment.

In my youth, my father would give me catnip tincture to help me sleep or reduce pain. When my mother was pregnant with my brother, she worked closely with a Chinese herbalist in Chicago and her doctor to make sure she had a healthy pregnancy. Now some of my close friends are midwives, Reiki practitioners, massage therapists, music therapists, equestrian therapists, and lots of other professions focusing on the person as a whole to work on individual challenges.

As I've spent almost an entire year living on my own and "being an adult", I've been able to adopt some healthy habits. Healthy habits are things that can impact your life in the long run and it did take me some stumbling to get on track with some of these things. With my life as stressful as it was, healthy eating habits got thrown to the sideline with my unfolded laundry. Although my laundry currently sits in a nice cozy pile next to my bed, I cooked fish not from a can for myself for the first time in ever. Recipes normally forgotten on my Bookmarks menu are being cooked up because there is actually time in the week. The biggest part of my healthier life has been reducing my stress load overall. Having time to do things tomorrow if there is not enough time today is truly a blessing.

I'm a person who needs big neon signs from the universe to properly understand the direction of life. Lucky enough, this is one of those neon signs. I've spend almost a year working towards being the healthiest person I can be and this is just another push in the same direction. Eating healthy, exercise, getting enough sleep, laughter, and most importantly reducing stress are the right prescriptions for me.  Within one hour I had contacted my doctor, who shares my hesitancy with over-medication, and we are working on a new game plan. This plan will be more holistic and natural with less side effects.

Being healthy is not easy and it does take time. Some days are rougher than others and it is important to have a team who has your back, however the team my be assembled (capes optional). Today my team was my Primary Care Professional, my mother, myself, and my cats. Yes, after my morning stresses I relaxed with my feline counterparts. What better way to enjoy a beautiful fall afternoon than with a catnap in the sun? It's exactly what the doctor ordered.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Artistic Love

As is often the case, relationships don't always work for many reasons. Sometimes it is the wrong person. Other times it is is the wrong time for the people to try to make things work. More times then people want to admit, they are clinging to something because they are more afraid of being alone.

My strongest relationship is one I've only recently been able to rededicate my time to and I couldn't be happier.

I've been in a relationship with preforming for, well, a long time. I'd celebrate my anniversary, but It's been an on/off affair for a bit so time is relative.

It started out being the tall kid who had to make the waves for the pirate ships to sail on. That was actually after I memorized everyone's lines in my kindergarten Christmas pageant. My preparation was in part because if everyone suddenly got sick and could not preform, I could totally pull off the entire show! Yes, I was that child.

For the past two years I've had the amazing pleasure of being a part of an award winning Vaudeville Troupe: The Dark Follies. They help to nurture my creativity and push me to be the best performer I can be. No wacky idea is too crazy for them, as proof by my lovely Chivalrous Shark. Last night was the fifth anniversary show and tonight is the spooky Darker Follies. 

I'm madly in love with preforming and specifically seeing something creative come to life. I've seen sculptures, dances, and music pieces take shape in ways completely unexpected. 

Life is a lot like art is so many ways. We think we know what we want the finished picture to look like, but the process is not entirely in our control. We can get the right canvas, set up the paint, and then a cat comes running by knocking everything over a making blue paw prints over everything! We can choose to go with it or we can fight against the universe. Now, it is totally appropriate to take a moment to cry in a corner if you need to before moving on. That's all part of the creative process and it's unique to every person.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go dress up and play with a glow staff.

Check out The Dark Follies because they are amazing!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Green Eyed Purple People Eater

An Emotion is (usually) a reaction to a specific event. We tie our emotions to things the same way we tether balloons to the wrists of children so they do not become lost. For those on the Autism Spectrum, the amygdala in our brain processes emotions differently. From a structural point of view our brain is hardwired to deal with emotions differently.

Emotional competency involves understanding the physical effect our emotions have on our body and what we can do to understand our, as well as others, emotions. Cognitive behavioral therapies are sometimes used to help teach children about emotions using stories to help illustrate the points. It's not that we are trying to be oblivious, we honestly don't understand a lot of the emotions other people spend so much time focusing on. For many of us, it is easier to temporarily ignore the uncomfortable emotion and try to understand it at a later point when we can analyse it.

For my graduate class I chose to write a paper on Emotional Regulation and will be immersing myself in the topic for the next few months. So I get to pour over dozens of scientific articles about the study of emotions, how we react to emotions, and how we can have a healthier relationship with our emotions. I am specifically focusing on the Autism community, but again this is one of those important things EVERYONE could benefit from learning more about. Needless to say, I'm totally psyched to be able to dork out for hours on end researching and pouring over all the information.

This brings me to my biggest confusion.

Almost all emotions serve a purpose. Happiness to cherish the moments of bliss. Sadness reminds us of our loss in many different forms. Anger and the process of anger is a very undervalued emotion which causes more problems than you can shake a stick at.

Jealously is... different.

In this day and age, we combine the terms envy and jealousy. This further complicates the matter because envy is a defined emotion and jealousy is not. Seriously, Scientists cannot agree on any one definition of jealousy. Jealousy is a complex combination of emotions like anger, insecurities, and disgust amongst many other emotions. The complex and intangible nature of jealousy hurts my head.

Some scientists separate envy as wanting what another has and jealousy as a fear of losing what you have. Envy does have the power to motivate people if they channel their envy to a productive use. If you are envious of a fit person enjoying life and that motivates you to become more fit, that is a positive use of envy. Jealousy has destructive power rooted in a protection or hoarding mentality of wanting to keep your shinies all to yourself.

As a Autistic person, I download emotions in my own special way. I do my best to understand my own emotions and I have actively worked to trying to understand other people's emotions. Body language, facial expressions, word choices, and many other things are affected by our emotions. It wasn't until I started to try to figure out jealousy that I became aware of the global lack of understanding of Jealousy.

We paint pictures, write songs, and do our best to make sense of a senseless emotion. Some scientists think there may be an evolutionary root to jealousy connected with the desire to pass on our genetics. I think jealousy is a word we assign to emotions when we don't want to deal with the real issue. Abandonment, insecurities, heartache, and every other painful emotions that makes us feel worthless. Jealousy is rooted in the fear we are not worthy.

But we are worth it.

You are worth good things happening to you. You deserve the best and can work towards being your own personal best. Just because someone else has a bright light shining, it does not take away the strength of your light. Your light is still bright and brighter because you know how things were before the light. Don't worry, the light does not go away. Your light never has to go away unless you want it to.
      “Jealousy is a tiger that tears not only its prey but also its own raging heart"- Unknown

Saturday, September 28, 2013


When I was a senior in College, something happened to me. Something I did happened to me. So then I did the most difficult thing I ever did; I asked for help.
Growing up, it was considered a sign of weakness to ask for help. Specifically, it was my father who would chastise my mother and I for asking for assistance. He couldn't be bothered with our problems, he had things of his own to worry about and they were more important because they were HIS problems. So my mother and I suffered in silence for years. The silence would be deafening at times and the silence surrounded our lives. We put on smiles and tried to make everything appear alright. In the town we lived in in New Jersey appearances mattered more than anything. So if we made things look alright, they were alright.
It wasn't until years later that I was asked in front of a courtroom why I never called the police for assistance when my father was abusive. They asked why I hadn't reached out to teachers or other peers for help. With tears in my eyes, I can still remember the answer that catches people by surprise. "I did ask for help and no one helped me." Teachers and administrators in my high-school didn't want to act against the person paying for my private education. The Silence grew.
I talk about difficult issues in fun and light ways because it can be easier. The world is big and beautiful, but sometimes rough things happen. By putting things into a context either in a simple or funny way, it lessens the blow. Whenever 5 million things in my life go wrong all at once, I look for the one thing going right.
"Well, at least I'm alive."
That one fact can sometimes be the only fact we hold onto as truth. When the world spins too fast and we think we will fall off this spinning rock, remember you are alive. Not everyone who ever existed can say that. I know if I was born in a different place in a different year, I may not be alive. Actually I probably would have been burned as a witch in quite a few time periods.
Silence steals our life. It takes our voices and our breath. If a room full of people is silent, no one wants to be the first to speak. People shy away from breaking the ice in the same way no one wanted to volunteer to read their book report first in the 2nd grade. Silence kills.
I've volunteered to raise awareness and spoken out about suicide, sexual abuse, domestic violence, mental health, LGBTAQ issues, animal rights, and a LOT of other important issues. I speak for those who don't know they are silent. For those who move their lips in confusion, wondering why no one is coming to help them. I speak because I cannot be Silent.
As Irony and I are star-crossed lovers; It is only recently I have remembered to speak for myself. Since July, my voice has come back stronger than ever. Those who have seen me in person or read my blog can tell. So I've made some big calls and email this past fortnight. (AN: That's two weeks!) I've asked people and professionals for help. I can't organize myself out of an Ikea store and I don't know where to begin.
Asking for help was always a sign of weakness, so I advocated for others. What can help one person, if that's an accommodation or a little more understanding or just patience, can help so many more. I stood up for others being bullied when I was being bullied at the same time. Now it is my turn to speak out for me and what I need.
I need people in my like who have patience and humor.
I need people to understand I don't know what I'm doing 100% of the time, but I do the best I can with what information I have.
I need time to be a clueless 24 year old before I become a clueless 25 year old.
Currently, I need some chocolate.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Goldfish in Boxes

Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
"Little Boxes"- Malvina Reynolds

One of the main difficulties of having an invisible disability is it is invisible. Sometimes my coping strategies make it appear as if I'm just like everyone else so people don't always understand why I struggle with the "simple" things. These same people don't realize the need to check every time I leave the house to make sure pants were not forgotten when rushing out the door. Little things some people do without thinking confuse me and vice versa.

The biggest issue I personally struggle with is relationships. Relationships are all based on communication in some way, shape, or form. Having a disability rooted in social difficulties obviously can be a big challenge. It can cause strain on my relationships because people don't always understand me.

Letting people see my flaws and challenges takes a lot of trust on my part. I wear my heart on my sleeve and being so kind can hurt me as much as help me. It is all too common for people to use and abuse people like me since I'm such a caring person. Manipulation does not make sense to me and I am always the last to know if someone is not being straightforward with me or worse, if the person is dangerous.

The way the world looks to me helps to compound my relationship issues. Why wouldn't people be nice to each other? What harm can come from having conversations with people? If I have the power to help someone by doing something as small as listening to their problems, why wouldn't I?! Love, happiness, and compassion are traits spread by giving them to others.

That being said, I'm not sure when people care about me. This is not a "poor Brigid" moment, it's just the truth. It is very confusing to think people will be there for me the way I am there for them. As empathic as Autistic people are, unless people bluntly tell us how they feel we don't understand. Unspoken emotions and unsaid promises are never fully received. Like a living game of telephone, the message get muddled.

It was a joke for a long time about having an accidental ex-boyfriend because I never realized we were dating until we broke up. My friend Stephen Shore tells the story of accidentally dating the woman who is now his wife. How can this happen? Well as someone who has dated another friend for an undetermined period of time before we decided to take a step back, it's REALLY easy for me to not understand the nature of relationships.


I've mentioned schemas before or basically having a blueprint of how things are supposed to look like. As a person who needs those blueprints to make sense of the world, there are not always the best design plans floating around. Movies and books promote conflict in relationships to move things along or bring people closer together. I thought there were right and wrong ways to date a person or to be someone's BFF (Best Friend Forever). As someone who also has brain damage and does not actively remember the majority of the first 16 years of my life, I'm missing a LOT of the blueprints even other Autistic people have learned.

The hard/easy truth I've learned over the past year is no one has any idea what relationships are supposed to look like. Everyone is stumbling around looking for the magical blueprints that don't exist to have the perfect relationship. Millions of magazines are sold every year telling people how to be a good friend, girlfriend, boyfriend, or a good person who people want to be friends with. Most of this information is so conflicting it can be comical at times, but distressing for the same reason: there is not a "right" way.

So I'm working now, and will continue, to try to figure out what a friend looks like to me. We teach Autistic kids how to treat other people so they can have friends, but no one teaches us how friends should treat us. We stumble sometimes in the world and get hurt because we don't understand why people would want to take advantage of us or lie to us.

Growing up, I heard the story a goldfish could only grow as big as its environment. My brain translated this into a picture of different sized containers contained fish of corresponding sizes. Somewhere in the translation or transcription of my brain, I thought relationships worked the same way. As much as I'd like to put relationships into nice little boxes to organize things, they are wild things. Just like goldfish, relationships continue to grow as you grow. Some relationships are only for a short time and other cases you find friends for life. I'm still working on understanding what relationships are supposed to look like and I've tried my best to not hurt others by my lack of understanding. In many ways, I'm just a kid and doing the best I can to act like an adult. In more ways, I'm just like everyone else because we are all trying to do that.


"The most common cause of stunting is a lack of understanding of a fish’s requirements resulting in a lack of appropriate care.  A stunted fish is not a healthy fish."- It's Not Just a Fish Organization

Saturday, September 14, 2013

A world with less hate.

The inequalities of reciprocity
have confused me, endlessly.
Some take the bone from their mouth to feed the poor
while others make the bones shiver with their cold stares.
I can't be alone
seeing the masses gather without a home
hurts me so much.

By isolating ourselves
and putting our hearts on the shelves,
we forget our membership to the world.
Labels and foibles and microwave dinners keep us apart.
Forget my origin and my stats
I'm just human,
or at least I'll pass.

We strike out to others to avoid the blows,
when all anyone really wants is a comfort everyone knows.
To feel accepted and loved for who we really are
that destination should not have to be this #$%ing far.
Why must we hurt others to make our own hurt not show?
The math doesn't add up; only down below.

I think people need to throwout the precal algebra calcu-what's it
and remember what we learned back before we were told to learn.
Be happy, be loving, and that will grow.
Stand up tall and smile to someone you don't know.
Love doesn't need math because exponents are too small,
too small to fully describe the power in us all.
So let the love shine brighter than the sun
so maybe there will be less hatred for everyone. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Busy B(rigid)

"I'm busy."
No really, I'm busy.
It's not me trying to be rude, but my own health and sanity (what's left) comes first.

Being skilled at multitasking has created some problems when the tasks begin to multiply. Even though people in my life may forget, I am disabled. Executive functioning skills refer to the ability to plan and organize things. I don't have good executive functioning skills and I never have. I've shaped my life to compensate for my lack of that skill set.

As frequent readers of my blog know, big things are changing in my life. So many changes that what few coping strategies I have have fallen apart. I've gotten overwhelmed lately with all the things going on in my life and how sudden things have begun to change. There have not been enough hours in the day to do everything I want to do and sometimes not everything I need to do.

Just for giggles, I'm going to highlight everything I've been doing for the past couple of weeks. I'm currently a full-time grad student working on the first classes towards my masters. I'm also still working full-time as the lead staff for the next few weeks as we transition people to take my place. I'm also working part time (right now) as a TA for an online class geared towards Direct Support Professionals working with Autistic individuals. I also have responsibilities in my Vaudeville troupe, as well as needing to rehearse on a daily basis. I've also begun doing freelance writing and working on multiple book projects.

So yeah, I'm busy

Now I can function under extreme pressure. The college I went to was a one-course-at-a-time type. That means you are in class every weekday from about 9am to 3pm with a two hour lunch break. My free time would normally be filled with work, homework, other leadership responsibilities, and my social life. Part of the reason I have so much fun relaxing with nerf guns or dressed like a zombie is because I work so hard.

But even I have a breaking point.

Now my breaking point is different from other people's breaking point. Other people will give up some responsibilities before they reach their breaking point. For me, my body will give up before my mind admits defeat. It is only when faced with my body failing from the stress and pressure, do I finally give in.

My point came this week after almost a month solid of everything. Anxiety would wake me up from my sleep. Naps were frequent and about 2 hours in the middle of the day. I kept forgetting to eat at regular times so my tummy started to hurt randomly during the day. I wasn't happy with what I was doing.

So I changed.

I recharged this week and said good bye to my full-time job, again. My fridge is stocked with healthy food and some premade meals to prevent grabbing junk food on the fly. Laundry and chores are done (well except for the clean laundry next to my bed-nest). Sleep was my best friend this weekend and I socialized with other friends, but only in small amounts. Also the pile of unopened mail was opened after being unearthed from beneath the fruit bowl.

I'm not like other people. My average days could send most people into a meltdown. I've always liked to be busy and am a failure at pacing myself. I give 100% to everything in my life. Busy is not a temporary thing for me: Busy is a state of mind. Constantly moving, constantly thinking, and refusing to let life pass me by: that's busy.

Busy is not a negative thing, either. Being busy makes people realize what is important to their lives. I choose to be busy with things that make me happy. My busy-ness has a positive impact on dozens of lives, when things don't get too overwhelming. Being busy can be a great motivation for change. If you were able to be in control of every hour of you day, who wouldn't want that? Life is busy, so get busy with life!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Timey-Whimey, Moony-Swoony

In the history of human existence, we have looked to measure the intangible. We have measurements for temperature, stress, and pain. The most interesting of these intangible phenomenon is time. Time is such an important part of our lives and we plan our lives around time.

When people first tried to quantify time, they looked to the stars. The phases of the moon would change as the sun rose and set. People began to organize their lives around the moons, which became seasons. Each season brings a new blessing and new gifts. Time continues to move forward and the moon continues to move as well.

Sometimes, anytime, and timeless; time is so ingrained into our lives we don't always realize it. In some moments, time stands still and other moments time flies. People get hyper focused on the 'right time' to do certain things, only too late do some acknowledge there is no 'right time'. Time can be very subjective and time is different for every person.


In the past few months time has had a different meaning to me. I've enjoyed my summertime, but I've been restless. I'm a person who needs to be doing things because I can't be average. I wish I was happy to work a 9-5 job, have date night one a week, and be 'average'. Average has never been my forte so the lull of life I ended up in earlier this year did not make me be my personal best.

Change has been in the air for awhile but things really started to take off for me at the summer solstice. The summer solstice is the longest day of the year and marks the middle of the year. After the solstice the nights get longer and people begin to get ready for harvest/fall/autumn. Ever since the summer solstice, my life has grown at an exponential level.

Love, career, health, and happiness has been abundance in my life since summer began. Things have been going really wonderfully, but it has not been all on my terms. I've prided myself on living life my own way and I haven't been able to fully do that. Months ago I made the huge change to move to Portland instead of Chicago and part of the reason was to start a life here. Now, my life gets to begin the next stage.

Starting in the middle of October, I'll be leaving my current full time job. My reasons are very simple and can be boiled down to one statement; it's time. Things have been growing around me and opportunities to support myself without my current job have come to me. Through hard work and networking, things have fit into the puzzle of my life. I'm in a position now to fully go for my dreams and I'm confident in my abilities to help me on my way.

This is not the end in any way, but instead an amazing beginning. This has been THE most emotionally intense decision of my life because the people I work with, my peers, are the reason I've stayed in my job for the past year and a half. They have taught me more than I've taught them and I'll be forever in their debt for having them in my life.


Moons have names depending on when they occur and we take some of these names from the Algonquin tribes. These names embody the time of when the moon is full. The Harvest moon is closest to September and was the time when people would harvest their summer crops before winter. October's full moon is sometimes known as the Travel moon. My last day of work is on the Travel moon. My future is wide open for travel and adventure. I'm young, but I've never been one to wait forever. Time moves slowly for some and quicker for others. It's not the amount of time that we have that is a measure of our lives, it's what we do with the time we are given.

This is my time.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Dropping Shoes

Things have been going really well for me lately.

Like unusually well.

I'm one of those people who has had to work for the things they have in their life. I'm not talking about just financial things, but I've also worked for that as well. I've worked for my health, my happiness, and for my career. As you can see in my writings, I'm overall a very positive person with a shiny outlook on life. That being said, I'm not use to things being easy for me. To not have to work and struggle every day to be 'average' is a new feeling.

Please don't get me wrong and assume things are all 100% perfect in my life.

Currently I have laundry sitting on my floor that has been clean since Monday; I hate hangers for some reason and always have.
I have spent the majority of today on the phone with several people trying to figure out this whole "future" thing and I'm now even more confused.
I haven't gone food shopping because I am trying to convince myself I can exist on egg salad sandwiches and pasta until I plan my new week's grocery shopping.  If I don't have a list of what food to buy, I will walk out of the store with a bunch of random things and no meals.
Oh yeah, and I still can't balance my finances because numbers hurt my head a lot.

So with a bunch of 'basic' things still out of whack, why am I so happy right now?

Well, this moment right now will never happen again.
Yup, that's gone.

I'm not sure what is around the corner for me and I'd be lying if I said I knew. Things are changing in my life at an exponential speed and I'm just trying to make the most out of it. I'm enjoying every second of this ride because I honestly don't know what's up next!

When I was younger I heard the expression "Waiting for the other shoe to drop." As a very literal minded child, I had images of falling shoes when things went wrong.  One time my father and me went up on this cable car above a carnival. I had cute little flip flops and was terrified the entire time. I couldn't relax on the ride because I was afraid my shoes would fall off and ruin someone's day.

It's only years later I realize that by stressing over what may or may not happen, we miss out on the moment. So savor your ride and don't worry about losing your shoes!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Diagnose Scattered Members: DSM and Me.

I don't have a hearing device or glasses.

I don't have a visible support like a wheelchair or a cane.

My body type does not obviously disclose my disability. 

But If I see someone wearing a puzzle piece ribbon,
I know what it means. 


I'm part of a community connected by intangible things: behaviors, diets, shared failures, and shared strengths. It's not a secret handshake, per say, but there are some specific characteristics relating to being in the group. Sometimes it's almost imperceptible rocking or a small repetitive motor function like running a thumb around an invisible coin or listening to the same song on repeat every day while driving to the office. These are some of the coping strategies we, in the Autism community, use on a regular basis to blend into the neurotypical ocean.

Being Autistic, I can spot another person on the Autism spectrum pretty well. They bob as buoys in the ocean, easily spotted by other buoys. Sometimes we only smile to each other shyly across the ocean saying everything in a simple gesture; "You are not alone and I understand." Other times the tides are right and buoys get the chance to float together. Although the current affects every buoy differently, it can feel comforting to bounce against another in some of the storms of life. It helps to know, "There are other buoys right around me and they are still floating."

The internet is abuzz with the attention brought to Autism by the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). In the new edition Autism Spectrum Disorder will be a combination of 4 previous separate disorders. Autistic disorder, Asperger’s disorder, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, and Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified (PDDNOS) will all be merged into the new Autism Spectrum Disorder.  The diagnostic criteria will require a deficit in social interaction as well as some restricted repetitive behaviors, interests, or activities (RRBs).

There are a lot of reasons why this is upsetting people. Although many individuals may easily transition to the new diagnostic label, it may create complications for a few. People are concerned with insurances and receiving proper mental health coverage and losing the various supports depended on for years. The biggest reason it's upsetting people has not really been mentioned by the media because it's a difficult subject.

In American Sign Language, there is a distinct difference between Deaf and deaf. The first word is relating to the Deaf culture and the second is relating to the hearing condition. There is no difference between Autism and autism because there is no real Autism culture. I can easily argue that Autism culture is one of the most segregated of all disability cultures. The disconnect between the in-groups can be compared to some religions; Everyone is reading the same paragraph but interpreting different ways.

I identify as Autistic but I have also carried the labels of Asperger’s and PDDNOS. There is a large community that identify themselves as Aspies, those with Asperger's. These individuals take pride in their quirks and prefer to look optimistically at what life handed them. There are some Aspies are concerned that the DSM-5 change is going to cause them to lose part of their identity. I personally don't think we need to worry about a loss of identity, but we may need to go back and explain what Aspergers is in a few years.

I've worked in the mental health field for 8 years and I've meet hundreds of parents from all over the world. Some new parents  rejoice with the label of Asperger's and fear the word Autism. One label was considered a victory and the other a life sentence. Understandably, parents would fear the worst and worry for their children. Naturally this has led to some parents comparing their children, which is horrible in any circumstance. They compare their children's behaviors, diets, and developmental achievements.

Some people are concerned that the world will see their child as equal to other Autistic children and negatively stereotype their child. (Author's Note:Don't point out the irony.) Every parent wants to look out for their child, I understand this. But the division between groups gets to be a bit too much;
"How can you say my child with Autism will have a life, you have Aspergers?!" was once yelled at me across a coffee-cup strewn folding table.

I'm excited for the DSM-5 because I honestly believe it is one large step closer to uniting a divided community. At the Autism Society of America conference, I was reminded of how many different types of people are part of the Autism community. We have MDs, OTs, PTs, BHPs, DSPs, Parents, Family members, Teachers, and Us; The Autistics. Besides being just a really cool band name,  (Author's Note: I really want to have a band called The Autistics), It is really wonderful to see us being included in the conversations about us. When professionals first began talking about Autism, they were talking about us. Now years later, it is being more recognized that we are the best sources of information about Autism.

I'm optimistic for the future of the Autism community. By continuing conversations and educating people on what Autism looks like, basically there's not one "type", we are spreading awareness by creating more allies. My friends are some of the best educated people I know about Autism, in part because they deal with me on a regular basis. The future is bright and I believe we will have a big A in the future. 

I wear sunglasses as frequently as possible so I don't need to make eye contact.

My cellphone is a support tool and I need it to function.

If people see me in public with someone I'm supporting, they always think we are siblings because we "act alike".

I work with my peers to help them be the best they can be, without limits.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Sandy Books

When I was a child, summertime was a time separate from school time. One a year for a few month kids were everywhere. Summer was also a time for beaches. Before I lived in Maine all year round, my family would migrate to the coast for a few weeks every year. From the Windy City to the Atlantic Coast, we would be at the beach almost every day.

Summer food was never food unless there were a few stray particles of sand in it because no matter how hard you try, there will always be sand. Sand in my hair, sand in my shoes, and sand in clothing that had never even been worn near a beach. Long after the sunburns have healed and the sun streaks have faded, I'll still be shaking sand out from the bottom of my purse: It's unavoidable.One of my first jobs was working as a hotel receptionist in a wonderful place within walking distance to the beach in Ogunquit. It can be very interesting to try to plan a business causal wardrobe when sand is a factor.

Now that I'm living in a little city on the ocean, I'm glad that I do get to see the ocean more. Yesterday you could both taste and feel the ocean in the air. It was a drizzly and foggy day, the type where you want to bundle up with a good book and a cup of tea. I did a fair amount of the tea drinking, but less of the book reading. It was a day off to relax by myself and relax with friends. That's what summer has become for me.

If everything goes according to my plan (*cough* MWAHAHA *cough*), I will begin work on my Master degree in just a few weeks. For the first time in 2 years I will be rejoining the academia world and have a huge excuse, and access, to read loads of scholastic journals. With the colored notebooks and college ruled papers, I'll be partaking in the mass purchasing  of organize supplies to try to organize my life even more. Once again I'll be trading the sand for the studying.

But there's a difference this time.

Last time I worked on my degree I was stranded in the middle of a cornfield. Living on a small liberal arts campus in Iowa, I had a classic collegiate experience. Filled with nerf guns, tasteless beer, and repeated social interactions of "what class are you in", my experiences were wonderful. For four years I was able to dedicate myself to both my academic pursuits and developing as a person. Don't believe I had everything together upon my graduation and was totally prepared for the real world, but I know there were skill I developed in college that I didn't have before going.

This time I'm going for my degree, I'm doing it my very own way.  
For those of you who know me, you know this means things are going to be getting interesting. 
I've found a program I can take just one class at a time, just like my undergraduate degree. Also the University has online programs so I can be a distance learner. Online programs are almost second nature to me and work very well with my interesting sense of procrastination. I'll be able to work on a Developmental Disabilities Masters with emphasis in Advocacy, a perfect sounding program.

Instead of going out to where the academics are, the classes will get to come to me. My life is already pretty set up here in Portland, for the moment anyway, and I have no real intention of running away to any one place right now. Things are going really well for me health wise, career wise, and relationship wise. So the next few months will be working on finding the balance between work and play. Of course things were getting too stable, so I needed to make things a little more interesting. There are some big changes in the works for me and I couldn't give a hint even if I had one.

If I wanted too, I can enjoy the late summer days before going home to write a paper. In those few weeks between when the tourists leave and the summer attractions close; I still get to have fun. The sand gets to follows me home and stay with me for awhile longer. The sun is setting earlier, but it doesn't take away from the radiance. Fall is coming in a few weeks, it's already in the air. There will be beaches and textbooks this year. I can't be more excited, but I'll savor the days of summer we have left.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Act One!

There were some special nights when I was younger and my mother would give us dinner early so the babysitter wouldn't need to worry about feeding us. After I wolfed down dinner I'd rush up and sit on my parent's bed watching my mother get ready. There was this perfumed powder she'd put on only on these special nights. Studying the details for a test that would never come, I watched my mother put on her jewelry and the special black dress. My parents were off to the fancy land of the opera.

Decades later, I'm scrambling out of the shower and walking around my apartment half dressed. There's not enough time for a meal and my mascara is smudged. Most of the time when I'm getting ready to go out I look like I'm in a state of chaos, it's just how I am. So I scrambled to find two matching shoes and I ignored the tights with a rip in the leg, very grateful I quickly shaved/bloodied my legs in the shower. I was off to the Opera!

“La più divina delle poesie è quella, amico, che c'insegna amare!”
The highest purpose of poetry is to teach us to love!”
-La Boheme

 The ability for art to affect us is an amazing thing. I spend the last 20 minutes of La Boheme bawling my eyes out with the raw emotion and then I spend the next several hours plotting new creative endeavors.

 The truth is very simple; I must create.

There are days I wish I was not this way. I think the world must look a whole lot simpler if you don't want to make anything new. To be comfortable with the monotony and have no desire to grow, well that sounds like a fairytale to me. Or at least a Fantasy short story. Image that: a world filled with people happy to live their lives without art or creativity. Okay, that sounds like a horror movie even in the blueprint stages.

Most of the people I am close to in my life are creative souls. We have dayjobs to support ourselves and then in our "free time" we preform for anyone who will watch or we put our art on display for others to observe. We are the type of people who put our souls into a 3 minute dance or on a simple piece of paper. We bare it all because, well, we need to.

By seeing the world as Art and Beauty, it is our calling to spread the gift to others. It is a big responsibility; relaying the message of beauty in the everyday to perfect strangers or friends. Sometimes it is easier to preform for a room full of strangers than to preform in a room with just a few friends. Yet we do it every day and every week, we put ourselves out there for others to see.

And it's scary,
and the most rewarding thing in the world.


It's the little blonde girl in the pink sundress, too shy to say "Hello". She stands behind her siblings as they pop bubbles. She is keeping her distance for a bit until she knows what is going on and how to act. It's the Mime she talks to first and when she does talk, the conversation comes easily. She asked questions with the answers given back in pantomime. I always find it adorable when people try to talk to the mime. I let the family know our show will be starting and we need to go get ready, but they should come see the show.

From the stage, which is just an empty corner of a large antique hall, I see our friends sitting in the front row. Eyes fixed on the stage the entire show, the children look as if they are taking notes or memorizing everything for later re-watching.

Our show wraps and we begin to pack away our gear when the Aunt of the little girl comes over to talk to us. She's never seen her sit still for so long or have the attention span for anything like that. She tells us the girl is Autistic. I just smile when I hear this because I know she was taking notes. She was thinking about what she can create and what costumes she can wear.

To help to change a life for a second, even if the little girl never remembers seeing our show, that makes everything worthwhile. That is the love of Art.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Little Bags

"If an emergency evacuation is necessary, leave your carry-on items on the plane. Retrieving personal items may impede the safe evacuation of passengers."
 U.S. Department of Transportation: Federal Aviation Administration

I live my life in boxes and bags. Really, I'm quite disorganized and having specific bags for specific purposes helps quite a lot. My pink bag is for the gym and it always has my sneakers in it. My blue bag is for my swimsuit and beach related props. My lunch bag is for food except when I forget to clean it out and then it is just for the insects. Everything has a place. So when I say earlier this week I unpacked, I meant I unpacked everything.

I unpacked my bags.

After almost 9 months in my new apartment I finally unpacked all of my boxes and bags. I couldn't tell you exactly what prompted the investment, but it was time. In the same amount of time it takes for a human being to grow from simple cells to, well a human being,  I have lived in an organized state of chaos. Nothing has been wrong with my chaos because I've rather liked it. It's cozy and smells like me. It was just time for a change.

Change is a thing. It's neither good nor bad; it exists outside of morals or values. Is change wrong to create a flower from a seed? Is it bad for a bird to grow its flight feathers? Like Death or Taxes, change is unavoidable.

That's where I found myself earlier this week; in a midst of change surrounded by flowers.

As a girl with a lot of baggage (HA!), I knew my really issue was of feeling at home. I've been so afraid of what is coming next that I didn't even want to fully unpack in my first real apartment. Heck, I still don't know what a real apartment should look or feel like. With so many new things I've found solace in some dependable things. Some things that are simple and elegant. The only bag I will be focusing on in my life for awhile is my purse.

"“Above all, remember that the most important thing you can take anywhere is not a Gucci bag or French-cut jeans; it's an open mind"- Gail Rubin Bereny

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Coming Home

It was about 8 years ago when I walked into a hotel in Seattle, Washington. I had a suitcase of clothes and a carry on of anxiety, back then you didn’t have to limit your baggage. Walking into the conference center, I was surrounded by things. The things were people, noises, and smells. The people didn’t use whole words and talked in letters. ABA, CBT, ASD, LMNOP; these strings of random letters unnerved me. It was like walking into a new world, a world where people were talking about me. People knew me by name and others just knew me as a diagnosis.

I was an Autistic teenager at a national Autism conference.


I took a break from going to any Autism related conferences for the last 5 years because I had other priorities. My health was my number one concern and for good reason. So this year I went to Pittsburgh with not knowing what to expect. My memory has faded and I didn't know if I'd know anyone besides a handful of friends for almost an entire week. My presentation was also selected of all the many submitted so I would be talking about the media's influence on the Autistic stereotype; it's really fun for me to talk about that so feel free to judge away.

When I came back on Sunday with stress balls in the shape of stars for my friends, which are now being used as ninja stars chucked at people, I had even more stories to bring. It is a new thing to explain the Autism Society of America conference to people who have never been before. When I went to them in high school I never talked much about them. It was always my thing I did for a few days during the summer. Part of that I think was being so young and never understanding exactly what people were talking about. This information makes PHDs' heads spin so even a smart young woman would not 100% understand everything going around.

But as weird as it is to explain to people, the presentations and exhibit hall of cool things is not really why people go to conferences like this one.

We go to connect with people.

It is the most relaxing thing in the world to realize you are not alone: to hear others speak as if they view the world like you do. With the rise of the Internet, the world is connected like never before and people can meet others from across the globe without ever leaving their bed. So for a group of people characterized by difficulties with social interactions, it is sometimes not until we meet face to face that the connection happens. There is an "Ah Ha" clicking moment where we bond over the smallest and most perfect thing.

The friends I made at the conference and the ones I had known since I was sixteen meshed seamlessly. Strangers would ask how long we had known each other and we'd respond in either hours or years. Age and education are not factors in friendships because that's not the way it should be in the 'real world'. It's someone else who can accurately discuss obscure roman politics or knows the punchline to your favorite joke. We get a few days at a conference to meet people who will be in our lives for a while.

I also love being able to connect with people who have never met someone like me; a well spoken Autistic woman. (Yes, I was also walking around wearing a corset and heels but the corset is so relaxing I will apologize for nothing.) Some people are so accustomed to the media's image of "lost children" that they don't realize Autistic adults are alive and well. I love talking about Autism and Universal Design. I'm able to not just hold an audience, but educate them as well and that is really touching.

Having people come up to me after my presentation and just in general to thank me for being myself is very humbling. I've gone through things in my life I wouldn't wish on a enemy, but it makes every moment worth it to help someone else not feel alone or give them the tools so they never have to deal with what I faced. The advice I hand out like the free candy in the exhibition hall is about love and acceptance. The world is scary enough without thinking you need to handle things entirely by yourself; no one is ever alone.

No one is ever truly alone.

There is something called The Duck Test which everyone knows but not everyone is aware of it's official name. It's a form a reasoning to make sense of the world.

"If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck."

My presentation hadn't even started yet and I was standing in the room with a microphone in hand speaking in front of my slides. Talking to friends, friends I had met less than 48 hours before, about everything. Things started and when I spoke, well, I'd be lying if I said I wrote out my presentation. I've never used a written speech in my life unless it was for acting. My words are laced into my being so I mean every single word I say. 

My introduction, which was written months ago mere minutes before the presentation deadline, mentioned my fondness of fire and "acting like a goofball". I was not wearing a suit, but the corset of the day was pinstriped. I talked about Universal Design, Firefly, Rain Man, political theories, and myself. My soul poured out into the camera and sound system recording the presentation. The weight of the conference didn't really sink into me until I walked into my apartment at 4am on Sunday after driving home. I still feel the comforting weight of the conference with me and that's a good thing.

It wasn't until walking into my home in my little brick city that I realized, "the conference felt like my home. It is a different home, but it's home, too."

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Temporal Stories

There once was a woman who lived in a castle.
The castle was set in a field of corn, giving the woman a breath taking view of her land.
She wore her heart on her sleeve, freely giving to anyone who asked.
Some people took from her, but never gave anything back.
This made the woman very vulnerable to the Curse.

The curse had many names, but no one in any of the lands could agree on an antidote.
Her breath quickened and her emotions festered.
The walls had eyes and were judging her.
She would become suffocated and scared.
The pain was unlike any wound felt by man, one she would not wish on her worse enemy.
Darkness settled in the land, but she was the only one to see it.
No one else could see the dark clouds descending on her land, but others saw a mist with their own eyes.
The fog would become so dark, she could not see where she could escape to.
She wanted to ask for help from others in the castle, but the mist choked the words out of her.


This was her curse.

One day the fog came in and she tried to scream for help.
Almost no one knew that she used her last breath to cry out because only a few could hear her plea.
She knew of a potion, a drastic potion, that could end her pain.
So instead of the horribly ironic set of Medea, she locked herself in her chambers and took the potion.
She wanted to fly above the choking fog, because she could not see anything else around her in the thickness.
She did not think anything was left of her land.

So she drank the potion one sip at a time.
One (bottle) to forget.
One (bottle) to remember life before the curse.
She tried other potions to see if they would work.
More and more she wanted to fly.
It was getting harder to remember what life was before the curse.
One, two, three more sips for the pain.
She just wanted the pain to stop.

She did not know others had heard her cries.
She did not know there were others in the Darkness who could help her see.
Who wanted her to try to break the unbreakable cure.
So she did not fly higher than the birds.
The choice to drink the potion had not given her wings, it just made her sick.
From her sickbed and for months after, she vowed to become stronger so she could learn to fly on her own.

"The only real difference between medicine and poison is the dose... and intent." -Oscar Hernandez

There once was a woman who lived in a studio apartment.
Her place was located at the edge of a bad neighborhood, but it was her own little place by the Ocean.
She wore her heart on her sleeve, right above a scar few noticed.
Some people tried to take from her, however she did not give pieces of herself freely these days.
Many people knew her, but she did not think she had many friends.

The woman has anxiety around social situations to the point where it will cause her physical pain, something many people don't know.
She lives her life anxious about what other people think about her and if they are being honest with her.
The woman does not comprehend subtly at all and occasionally ends up in awkward situations.
Luckily she has an amazing friends and family to help her when she needs.

One day she thought her friends were talking about her behind her back.
Through the "he said, she said", she became anxious and couldn't think straight.
She wanted to fly with the birds above the human world below and to not feel the pain she was in at that moment.
At that time she saw one of her best friends walking past and waved her over to where she stood.
Her friend told her to relax and go have a drink at the bar, so off the woman went.

One (drink) to remember.
One (drink) to laugh.
Drinks 3 through 8 were also to remember and to laugh.
In her ankle boots, she soared over her friends at the bar.
Her friends.
Her social anxiety, her fear of what others thought of her, was gone for the moment.
She could breath.

The moment bought her time to remember: This fog would lift and things would be okay.
Things change and relationships change, it's okay.
It's nearly impossible for someone to have the exact same relationship with someone else from month to month; some people will grow closer and others will grow apart.
She just needed time to remember.
She needed to remember that she had learned to fly on her own.

She left the bar with some friends at 1am and stopped by another friend's apartment.
A little after 3am, she walked into her own little apartment in her own little town.
She tasted rum and cigarettes on her lips as she kicked off she shoes to lay down.
The woman plopped down amidst her blankets and pillows to fall into a deep slumber.
When she woke up, she was still anxious but she was okay.
She brushed her hair, changed clothes, grabbed her lunch, and left for work.
Things would be okay for the woman.

She knew things would be okay.

Friday, June 14, 2013

My Letter to Alex Spourdalakis

Dear Alex,

We never met but I wish I had met you.

I heard about you on the news and I heard you were in the hospital a lot. I spent a LOT of time in hospitals when I was younger and it was really scary. Hospitals smell of a really bad combination of sick and healthy and the lights are really bright. I remember being scared and unhappy that I couldn't just be at home playing with my stuffed animals.

I was really sick but my mom and dad loved me so they brought me to the hospital and I got better. I was still Autistic when I got out, but I felt better. When I was a kid I couldn't eat a lot of milk or I'd get really sick and I'd get mad at people because I felt bad so they should feel bad. Things were really rough when I was a kid and I want you to know that I understand.

I understand feeling trapped in your own body and finding comfort in your head. We were alike.
I haven't always been able to talk to people and I know that it took a lot of work and I wanted to stop. I wanted people to understand me and I'm lucky that my mother loved me a lot. She still does love me and I know I'm very lucky to have the relationship I do with my mom.

I thought about you the other week and I tried to see how you were doing.
I tried to google you and I didn't find anything.
No really, I tried and scrounged the web and looked in some dark spots of the internet but I couldn't find you.
The internet was too quiet.
and I had to stop looking because I was in a scary part of the internet.

That part of the internet was filled with people who hate people like me, people with Autism. They think we are medical errors and don't realize we are people. I have dreams and hopes and I have a cat named Zap but he lives at my mom's place so he can go outside to chase chipmunks. He never hurts them but he likes to play with them. I'm not something that went wrong and needs to be cured. I just need to learn how to behave in some situations and how to do some things on my own without help.

I don't know if you liked dinosaurs or if you wanted to be a firefighter. I wish I knew those things.

I know your mother killed you.
She killed you because she thought you were suffering and in pain all the time.
She didn't understand that you were not broken, you have Autism.
Autism means you are special and different.
I have friends with Autism and they are nice people.

I'm sorry that you mom didn't understand how special you were.
She tried to give you too many pills and then she hurt you when that didn't work.
She hurt you a lot.
I don't know how scare you must have been.
I'm sorry you were scared.

The world is a big scary place and I wish you could have seen more of it because it is also a beautiful place. There are places filled with mountains up to the clouds and beaches were all you see is the ocean all around you.
I wish I would have met you.

Alex, you were a wonderful person and I'm sorry I didn't get to meet you. You lived outside Chicago so maybe we did meet at one point. Maybe I passed you on the street and we were both having ice cream.
Did you like ice cream?

I need to go now because I am going to hang out with my friends today and see my mom. You would have liked my mom. She knows who you are and we are all sad that we didn't get to meet you. I wish I could talk more, but I can't get a letter back from you so I'm just going to hope you get this message.

I hope you are having fun in heaven. If you see my Grandfather you should tell him I say "Hi" because I miss him. You should have him tell you some of the stories he told me. He has great stories and I know he loves to tell them to people.

I hope you know you were loved by people.
I love you Alex and I wish I had met you.

Your Friend,
~Brigid Ann Sinclair Rankowski