Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Longest Night

Last night we redesigned constellations and danced with fire.
We sat on the floor talking about our hopes and dreams and brighter tomorrows.
Our thoughts and hearts were filled with the hope of the new sun in the coming year.
Dreams are becoming reality.

The universe has been kind to me and is helping put the pieces of my life together recently. It's not nearly seeming as forced as my attempts were in the fall, before surgery, so it feels more organic without being forced. This blog is going to go through some transformation pretty soon, including a new URL, but it wasn't the number 1 priority for the past few weeks which explains the silence. I do have some wonderful news to share about all the things in the works and what this means for me.

I'm already actively booking programming for 2016 focusing on various aspects of art and movement. A part of this involves my recent acceptance as part of the Maine Arts Commission's  PK-12 Teaching Artists Roster. This means I'll be available to create both after-school programming AND teach classes during the school day.

I'll also be working the Flow Arts Institute to write articles about disability, health, and wellness related to the spinning arts in the upcoming year.

Rumors of a book (or two) have some weight are also in the works with some brilliant collaborators.

For those concerned about my health, despite multiple setbacks my doctors continue to note my recovery progress with the most recent milestone reached this week of laying on my stomach while on a solid surface.

My performance life is being revitalized with a few "Sparks" of creativity helping pull me out of a lull. Even with health issues, there have been new skills being worked on in a little wooden cabin in the woods of Maine. Some wonderful collaborations are in the works with the local performance community and possibly the entire New England art community.

The winter solstice is the longest night of the year. It's a time of reflection and optimism as we look at the growth of the past few seasons.  My solstice was celebrated with friends who have really helped me thrive in the past few years personally, professionally, and creatively. Next week will be more of a personal 'year in review' post, but for now I'll leave you with the professional things to look forward to in my life.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Point and Click Social Life

When I was growing up, I played a series of computer games by a company called Purple Moon. These games were interactive social stories where the main character, Rocket, would have to navigate difficult social situations. If you made a mistake, there were options to go back and try to correct your actions. One thing I did learn, it was actually impossible in the game to make friends with everyone.

Honestly, there is no downplaying how important those games were to my development.
Now, I'm enjoying playing puzzle games and ones that are visually stunning (like Bioshock:Infinite).

I do however wish there were speech bubbles in my real life to select what to say at certain times. It's continuing to be a combination of balancing act and detective work to figure out how to be my personal version of healthy. As some people know from personal experience, you may want to be social but not have the energy to put into the social activity. Last night I pushed myself a bit to hard after a week of physical exertion, sinus infection, and deadlines. I will say, even though I'm spending most the day in recovery mode, it was an amazing evening for a good cause.

Social skills are not my area of expertise because they are not formulaic. A friend of mine is working as a political canvasser and has a "hook" they say to try to people walking by to attract interest in signing the petitions. They see first hand the same line doesn't work on everyone. Some people won't respond to you, no matter how hard you try. To me, being authentic is more important than being well liked.  In life there is no "back" button, only the ability to make a different choice every second of our day.

Monday, November 16, 2015

To the Plane!

After a very rough recovery from surgery last month, I'm finally medically cleared and back on my feet (in a way). When you are stuck in bed with only your thoughts, a lot of random pieces can suddenly make sense. Things have a way of working out and it looks like things will be working out for me on a couple levels. Specific blog posts about that to come.

This week, I will be presenting at OCALI in Columbus Ohio. Thursday I will be presenting in two sessions.

Personal Perspective on Bullying: Awareness and Advocacy.
Thursday 8am-9:15am

We Are The Autistic Global Initiative Young Leaders
Thursday 2:45-4pm

I'll be around the entire conference and would love to meet up with people. I am horrible at facial recognition, so please feel free to come up to me and introduce yourself.

I've also recently been on a bit of a hiatus since the Autism Society of America Conference due to health reasons, but I look forward to moving forward with projects. There are a few emails I still need to respond to about writing and presenting, but if you are interested in working with me in the future feel free to send me a message. I'm currently already planning workshops, presentations, and teaching sessions into the next year.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

There are risks involved

I've been noticeably absent from this blog for a bit. A few months ago I started to be in pain and the pain only got worse. It's prevented me from working, socializing, and at times just walking across my apartment to get myself water. This isn't a "new" pain and the only course of action to remedy the situation is surgery.

I go in tomorrow morning for surgery.

For the past 2+ months, I've not been able to lead my life the way I want. Specifically, it's prevented me from physical activities and requires me to spend enormous amounts of time hibernating in my bed under a hot water bottle. When your body fails you, it leaves you plenty of time to think. Thinking can be both a good thing and a negative thing. In general, it's easy for me to get lost in my thoughts. When all I'm surrounded by is my thoughts, it's really important to be kind to myself.

There are, of course, risks with surgery. Speaking honestly, there are a lot of risks with my life. Fire spinning comes with multiple risks. Fire breathing comes with even more. Even choosing to drive cross country in the winter by myself comes with risks. I'm fine with risks.

It's been a tough few months with managing to keep my spirits up and trying my best to function. Some things, specifically career wise, have fallen to the sidelines. Prioritizing my health has not been easy, but it's been necessary. If I want be be active and do the things I love for another 50+ years, I do need to make my health my #1 priority. I owe it to myself and to the people who care about me.

So tomorrow, if you have any spare thoughts I'd appreciate one being sent my way.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Transitions are rough

Historically speaking, Septembers have been rough for me. Moving from Summer to Fall has always signaled large transitions and I'm not the best at transitioning.

Yes, I literally teach a course in the subject.
No, I don't like the actual act of transitioning.

There's a blog post in the queue, but it was brought to my attention today is Suicide Awareness and Prevention day. That deserves a blog all on its own.

It was almost a year to the day where I was very very hopeless. Beaten down, no vision of the future, and feeling very depressed I wrote a note. At this point, I really thought no one would miss me. My so-called "friends" were treating me horribly based on my disability and this compounded my depression. There are times I wish not for my wiring to be different, but I wish for less difficulty with social interactions. I wish people would understand ME.

It was pretty much a perfect storm of trouble.

Luckily, there were people in my life who threw me a life preserver.

Last September, I chose homelessness over suicide and I've never regretted the choice.
The biggest thing I'd like to tell younger Brigid is "people want to help you." In those moments of darkness, it's often difficult to see other people through our own fog. My concerns were of being a burden so it took people literally telling me, "you are worth being treated well" for me to understand they were being kind. Kindness was a foreign concept and one able to heal many wounds.

For those who struggle with depression and suicidal idealization, please know people want to help you. There are hot-lines staffed 24/7 so there are anonymous people to talk to and your friends, your true friends, will always be there for you.
Know you are worth the many conversations and reassurances.
Know you make the world a better place by your existance.
Understand the leaves will change and our situations will as well, hopefully for the better.
Know, you matter.

Saturday, August 8, 2015


I have to deal with a Lamp on a regular basis. Now, this is not really a lamp. Instead it is a person who I have the same amount of emotional connection to as I would to a lamp.

It's a survival trait long since carried on since childhood.
I've getting very skilled at it.

Now Lamps generally exist in one place and sometimes they get in our way. Certain Lamps may emit a high pitch buzzing which you have to deal with, even though you wish the Lamp was silent like all other lamps. There is always going to be a Lamp around somewhere so it's not worth upsetting yourself over their existence. Lamps do have a place in the world and are useful to some.

I point out Lamps to make it clear I am capable of emotional detachment. It's just something I've always done and I know of others on the spectrum who are equally skilled at turning people into Lamps. Lamps are people who have had a direct negative impact on my mental and physical health. This is the golden rule for me to turn people into Lamps.

That being said, people don't tend to understand it. I honestly don't understand if other people just walk around the world the world with invisible bags of emotions weighing them down. Do people really continue to hold grudges from years ago based on perceived slights? Doesn't that cause you to be more emotionally drained while never really affecting the other person in the slightest? How, and most importantly why, would you regulate your emotions to the point where you don't even listen to your own emotional compass when interacting with someone who clearly disregards your well-being?

I don't have the interest or energy to try to navigate those social/emotional obstacle courses.

“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”- Nelson Mandela

It genuinely confuses me when people invalidate my experiences by attributing my behaviors to some past emotional context. The ironic thing is this only ever happens when I provide solid facts which cannot be manipulated with emotions. Some facts, like rules, exist independently of an emotional context. Yes, the speed limit is still 35 MPH even when you are in a bad mood.

 Translation of very recent conversation;

Me, "Hey, it's starting to rain." (Calmly standing by as the skies open and buckets of water begin to drench everything not covered)
Them, "Why are you making this about your past emotional trauma?!" (As they stand out sopping wet in the rain.)

Back from my adventures, it's become glaringly obvious some people just don't understand me. I have the emotional fortitude and skill, after months of hard work, to not live in the emotional past. The injustices and trauma from the past year have lost their fresh "sting" over the course of time. Part of it may be giving a presentation on Bullying at a national conference in front of a room full of both friends and strangers. Part of it is also just acknowledging life has its fair share of Lamps and we must do our best to navigate gracefully around all the power-cords.

Friday, July 24, 2015

I'm not (completely) coming back

Before this trip I'm on now, I've spent the past few months working 60+ hour weeks to keep my head above water and afford this month away from home.

I'm not going back to that.

There are literally not enough hours in the day to get all the work done as well as take care of myself and plan for my future. Certain things, like my health and projects I've wanted to do, were put on hold as I simply put one foot in front of the other. This trip was the light at the end of the tunnel and there is no way I plan to go back into the darkness.

I've been offered a few jobs that will allow me to work smarter, not harder. These opportunities are based on my skill set, experience in the autism field, and my passion of helping others. I'll be able to continue living the life I have, but with "free time" and even *gasp* weekends off. Yes, the concept of a 'day off' is something that has eluded me for the past 2 years. I'm so happy that I'll also be able to put time and energy into creating the movement based programing. Hey, I'll actually have energy!

I realized the life I had been leading was nothing I could maintain after sleeping an average of 14 hours a day all last week. It also wasn't making me fully happy. In many ways, I was going through the motions because it was easier than trying to change things in the midst of chaos. Colorado gave me the must needed distance to look at my priorities and how to achieve those.

The other thing that needs to change, which I was told about by my friends on multiple occasions, is I need to start valuing myself. I work really hard, I help others, and I do a bunch of really awesome things with my life. It takes energy to to these things and in some ways my humility of thinking "well, anyone would do what I do" has gotten me into trouble. It's lead to people taking advantage of me and has put an unhealthy reliance on external validation.

It's not about comparing my own personal achievements to those of anyone else, it's that standing alone my life speaks volumes. For too many years people told me I can't do things or things would never be possible for me. I've ingrained some of those thoughts and it's time I realize I've proven them, and more importantly myself, wrong. I'm strong, powerful, and talented.

It's time I remember who I am as I work towards the bright future.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Me and my people

Currently, I'm relaxing in Boulder and doing my best to figure out the next steps of this wacky thing called 'life'. The greatest part of all this is I'm surrounded by one of my mentors and still feeling the effects of the Autism Society of America conference.

The joke came up several times last week about how several of us go to the Autism Society of America conference to be social. It's a once a year trip most of us make to unite us from across the country. Navigating the whirlwind of meetings and presentations, either giving or attending, we still manage to reconnect in the hallways or in the evening.

On the last night of the conference, what was only going to be a brief dinner with an old friend and my mother turned into something so much better. It started by inviting new friends to join us. That quickly turned to other friends showing up and soon we were taking over a large section of comfy couches. The evening was spent talking about everything as we watched lightning dance across the Denver skyline.


That last night before the end of the conference, I was stressed and very nervous about my early morning presentation looming the next morning. My topic for the Sisterhood of the Spectrum panel was "Authenticity". At 8:30 in the morning, still adjusting to Mountain Standard Time compared to Eastern Standard Time, I would speak about the importance of embracing who you are and knowing others have walked the similar path.

One of the greatest things I have come to understand and accept is that I have people in my life who truly care about me. There are people in the world who genuinely want to support others and wish the best for them. I am one of those people and am very thankful for being surrounded by the same type of people. My people are kind and care about each other. This is something very special I was able to be reminded of at the conference.

Sometimes the best parts of the conference are not covered in the program guide.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Anatomy of a meltdown

A child's resting heartbeat can be as low as 60 beats per minute.

One of my earliest medical memories is standing in a cold white room learning how to attach electrodes to my skin with words like ”heart defect ” hanging in the air. Doctors had no idea how a young child could go from a very low resting heart rate to over 240 beats per minute while simply sitting in a chair. Walking across the room at home, I'd simply drop to the ground with pain shooting up my left arm. This happened seemingly randomly and later on these carried the simple label of "panic attack" so it was just a part of my life. This was years before my Autism diagnosis when I was simply referred to then as a "hypersensitive child".

As I grew up, these panic attacks began to take a shape and a clear pattern emerged.

The word meltdown sometimes gets thrown around with people thinking it is equivalent to a temper tantrum. That could not be more wrong. Children (and adults) throw tantrums to get something. Meltdowns are your body's way of saying it is overloaded. The human body is capable of taking in millions of pieces of sensory information a day, however there is a limit. This limit changes based on a myriad of variables and can be different from day to day.

Even years later, I'm still trying to figure out my warning signs of a meltdown before I'm in one. The biggest warning sign I've been trying to push past is exhaustion. It doesn't matter if I eat well, hydrate, am in limited physical pain, or anything else as there is a clear tipping point for me. The tipping point is related to my Achilles's heel.

Social skills.

I've spent my entire life trying to study social skills through movies, TV shows, books, observation, and imitation. Inside my head lives hundreds of social scripts for thousands of life situations other people simply experience. It's only very recently I've felt comfortable enough to build my own scripts in public or with people I don't know too well. People who do know me well have a better idea of how my mind works and know I sometimes "cycle" or repeat conversations without intending to. They also know my conversations can jump around from topic to topic seemingly randomly.

My meltdowns look like that scene in the remake of Stepford Wives when Faith Hill starts misfiring and sparking on the dancefloor. My emotions bring me to an anxiety loop where I go from calm to crying repeatedly. My left arm  stops behaving like an arm and my heart races. My hearing sharpens and so does my sense of smell. My eyes become very sensitive to light. The worst part is feeling trapped unable to speak.

My words tend to fail me and often I can only mutter "help, please help." My mind races, but perseverates on either real or imaginary flaws. It's my own personal torture and one I strive to keep behind closed doors. It's a combination of fear that has me try to hide these struggles. I am afraid of others seeing my weakness in moments where I am my most vulnerable. In these moments of being completely overwhelmed in the world, there is a thought floating in my mind that this is The End.

My meltdowns pass and I always survive, even though I never think I will at the time. When I was a kid, the heart monitor I wore would upload the recordings over the phone line once a week when it was plugged in. I would sit next to the machine for almost an hour as meltdowns were a frequent part of my life. Now they are further apart, but are still a part of who I am.

Life has struggles and everyone goes through them differently. The kindness shown to me by friends when I'm struggling with meltdowns is overwhelming to me. Even something as simple as a smile or asking if I am okay helps me. I am so thankful for having kind people in my life who understand I do get overwhelmed. I do try to hide my weaknesses, but I'm lucky enough to have people not who don't run away when they see me looking like a hot mess.

I remind myself tomorrow is always a new day and a day to try again. A meltdown one day simply means I need to change something the next day. I will survive and be stronger, personally and in my relationships with others, the next day.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Our Own Personal Fears

For those of you following the lunar cycle, you know yesterday was a full moon. I've mentioned it before but it can be repeated; I measure my life in moons. This last one was a very VERY wild ride.

Although I can freely share my business, I'm not one to disclose the crisis of those close to me in such a public venue. That's a clear boundary I have as I have had others respect my privacy for so many years. I can say, this past month has brought me closer to some people because of the fiery path they have found themselves walking. Sometimes, it really takes someone who has been burned by the flames to remind you the burn will fade into a just a scar and a story with time.

Related News: I learned how to breath fire about two weeks ago.

I've actually spent the better part of the past few weeks at Fire events in New England learning skills and hanging out with wonderful people. I've been looking forward to these intense weeks for months and with them firmly in the past (except the pile of laundry), I'm still collecting my thoughts as well as planning my next moves. These events gave me both ample time to think and not enough time to collect my thoughts. Things are still buzzing around my head as I try to coerce them to settle into an order.

This past month I confronted my own greatest fears. For the majority of the time, my fears were directly in front of my face. Mere inches separated me from both destruction and triumph. Looking at the people around me I have been faced with how far I have come and how far I have yet to go. It has taken a great amount of personal strength to muzzle my own insecurities knowing some people choose to attack others behind the safety of a keyboard and mob mentality can run rampant with a simple keystroke.

A piece of bathroom graffiti I see semi-frequently says something along the lines of "give me the strength to know the difference between my fears and your reality."

My reality has dragons, princess who ride into battle, good stories shared with friends, a place where dreams come true, people who are lift each other up to their best, and celebrations for the little things in life. My reality is beautiful.

There was a photo taken of me the first night of my adventures. Tired and emotionally drained from the lack of sleep/chaos of the week; I knew I needed to burn my fans. Fire was my therapy. The sound, the movement, the smell, the feel; It was needed. The photo below is the best photo I've ever seen of me at peace. In this moment there were no worries or fears. It was just me completely in the flow of things with not a care in the world.
This is the state I hope to continue living in.
Photo by Brett Walker

Friday, May 15, 2015

A Road To Me: Acceptance. Love, and Self-care: #AutismPositivity2015

Fridays are normally a "social" night. However, the upcoming weeks will be breaking my brain a little bit with all the social. Starting right now, the next and last free day I'll have until June 4th is this upcoming Thursday. I'll be traveling to 4 different states for multiple events.

Yes, I'm very glad I recently purchased new tires.

I'm willing to drive hundreds of miles in the upcoming weeks with loads of social interactions and new experiences for one simple reason.

I found communities where I can be myself 100%.

My trips will take me to two major flow events. For these weekends, I can spin my props until I can't feel my hands anymore. Then I'll spin using other body parts just to keep spinning. Reconnecting with amazing people who don't flinch at my obscure pop culture references allows me to be social in my own special way. I literally get to talk about or indulge my special interests almost non-stop and it's so liberating.

I'm free to be me.

Self Love is a work in progress for me. There have been deep dark holes in my past where I didn't like myself. I fell into the spiral of negativity; which has ALWAYS been around my social interactions with people. Saying the wrong thing, doing something awkward, laughing at the wrong time, getting lost in the conversation: those little things other people never paid attention to or noticed ate me up from the inside.

Then one day I woke up and realized who I am.
I'm Brigid.
There is no one else exactly like me in the entire world.

Every day is a new change to play and explore the world around me. The first steps to fully embracing myself involve not being so judgmental or holding myself to lofty expectations. My apartment will never be spotless and my laundry will only be fully put away when it decides to communicate with me. "Perfect" is an illusion we create of some imaginary life we think we are supposed to have.

Instead of being social tonight, I'm taking it easy at home. I've defrosted a pizza and have a bottle of wine. It's an Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind type of night as I get things prepared for an active weekend in front of me. Tonight needs to be restful so I'm on top of my game for this weekend. Take it easy on yourselves and treat each other well.

And maybe it's funniest of all
To think I'll die before I actually see
That I am exactly the person that I want to be
Amanda Palmer- In My Mind

Monday, May 11, 2015

Food Stamps and Ableism

I live in Maine.

Recently, our state has gotten more nationwide attention because our Governor has made statements and policy changes about the use of Food Stamps. In the past year, our state has required photo identifications on EBT (electronic benefit transfer) cards to reduce fraud. Maine has also implemented a policy requiring "able-bodied adults without dependents" to work, volunteer, or be part of a vocational training program for at least 20 hours per week in order to continue receiving food stamps. In a state with marijuana legalized for medicinal purposes, he also is trying to push for universal drug testing.  Even Fox News has described our Governor's plan as one of the "boldest welfare reforms". Governor Paul LePage has also recently issued statements about wanting to prevent EBT users from purchasing items like soda or chips.

If you have never gone through the process of applying for food stamps, I'm not sure you understand what it is like. It's not as if you walk into a building and they hand you a preloaded card with thousands of dollars and tell you to run wild. It's a process taking a minimum of months if all the bureaucratic wheels are running smoothly. You need to demonstrate your continued need for assistance by paystubs, bills, leases, ect. Even then, you may be lucky to get 17 dollars a month for a  household.

Recently, there has been a surge of "outrage" by fellow nosy shoppers who are judging what EBT users are purchasing. I have a few HUGE issues with this.

1. Why do you care what other people purchase?! (I literally NEVER notice what other people are buying in line because I always have a momentary panic thinking I forgot my wallet once I've arrived at the register.)

2. How does what anyone else chooses to put into their body affect you or your life?

3. What makes you think you know what someone's life is like based on the few moments of their life you observe reflected in the items on a conveyer belt?

Invisible disabilities exist all around us including those affecting us mentally and/or physically. I've been told I don't "look" disabled, however those wonderful employees who work at the grocery store near me may have a different opinion. Sometimes there is not the energy to cook a meal from scratch. Other times we need to get nutrients ASAP or else something not good may happen to us. Other times my sensory system will prevent me from eating anything other than a restricted number of foods.

Don't judge what people buy.
Earlier this year I was very sick. I lost 9 pounds in just 5 days because I could not eat anything and my survival was solely based on 100% fruit juice popsicles. When I could finally stomach food, my body was craving red meat. This is a family trait and one we identify as "turning the corner" to recovery. I used my debit card for my purchase and I'm not sure if anyone noticed my payment method.

Did they see the graduate student who presents internationally on Autism and part of an award winning performance troupe?
Did they only saw the girl with the messy hair in sweatpants buying a steak and make the assumption she was a "welfare queen"?

I know they didn't see the face I made while eating my first meal in almost a week or my face as I fell asleep with a nutritious meal in my stomach, instead of with the hunger pains I know all too well.

Friday, May 8, 2015

All the Doors

After 8 months, today I walked out of therapy with no appointment for next week. We talked about my progress and acknowledged the door was always open.

 With the warmer weather, my cats have been enjoying the sunshine. They go out in the morning and come in for food. As humans, our responsibilities are to make sure the bowls are full and open the door as needed. My cats hate closed doors. If we open it before they are ready, our furry overloads just look at us in bewilderment.

"Silly human, I don't want to go inside yet. I want to drop in this spot and have you to rub my belly"

Feline in many ways, I have trouble with some doors. When relationship doors close, for the myriad of reasons relationships end, I'm sometimes left standing there in confusion. What did I do? What didn't I do? Should I have done something differently? Is it me?! These questions and more ring through my head.

Or they use to ring through my head.

These insecurities are not unknown to other people. However, being autistic does cause me to view communication or lack of communication through a different lens. It is not just through words do we communicate so silences hanging the the air have a weight to them.

But that is not my concern anymore.

People, the people who matter to me, know I'm disabled. I've trusted them to be straightforward and honest in their interactions with me. The people who have been two-faced are people I no longer wish to associate with. It is much less painful for me to hear my actions are disruptive to someone from their own mouth than catch it on the gossip vine. I'm choosing not to live second guessing my communications and relationships any more.

That is an achievement.
My calender is filled with color coded dates of events for May. Flipping the page reveals June is equally covered with markings. Sitting next to the front door of my apartment is gear for tomorrow's gig. I'll load things into the car later today so I'll be able to hit the road bright and early in the morning. In the next few weeks I'll be interacting with hundreds of people and showcasing my talents. It's a busy month, but plans to be very rewarding.

When one door closes, another one is always open. We just have to be brave enough to walk through it.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Hit Submit

In August of 2013, I had a lot of things happen in 72 hours. I had a very messy split from someone I once considered my best friend, I was broken up with, and I didn't get the greatest news from work. On a whim, I picked up a brochure for Nova Southeastern University from a pile of things in my living room.

I needed a change.

I applied for the Master's Program on Wednesday, accepted into the program on Friday, and classes began on Monday.

Since August 2013, I've had many things happen in my life.

I restructured my work life so I work part-time out of my home and the other part time I work from home.
I moved into a living situation that 'seemed' ideal after my previous plans abruptly fell through.
I was verbally and emotionally abused by one of my roommates for several months, forcing me to leave my living situation.
I chose to remove two long time best friends and support people from my life who witnessed the abuse and who chose the side of the abuser.
Luckily, I found the most amazing apartment meeting all my needs so I am now both safe and happy.
I discovered "flow" communities and my perspective of the world has never been the same.
I began promoting my solo performance career and taking my firespinning/flow to the next level.
I took on more administrative responsibilities in the Vaudeville Troupe I am a member of.
I taught a 2 week film camp for exceptional kinestetic learners.
I spoke at several national conferences.
I was able to visit my Chicago home 3 times (yay Prius)!
I started doing some photography modeling while continuing to be an art model.
I continued to be involved in the local film community in supporting roles and as an extra.
I've had significant health setbacks that took months away from me and caused me to refocus my priorities.
Also, there's so much more I'm probably glossing over.

All while being a full time student year round!!!!

I'll be doing another post soon about my Master's Project and what my next few life steps are, but I'm working on readjusting to life out of school in the immediate future. Also celebrating, there will be much rejoicing in the next few days.

I can't thank everyone enough for being so supportive. I've been in hermit mode the past few weeks to stay on track, but just like the Spring it's time for me to come back in fully force. It's still hard for me to process I'm all done.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Battery is 65%

 If you have ever seen me give a presentation or at a social event, you may think I am naturally a social person. You may think I'm an extrovert who thrives off of talking to people and being a social creature.
It's only one small part of me.

Over the past several weeks, I've had the pleasure of really going back to my silent mode. When I lived alone, I would go days without speaking to another human being. Alone in my home, I don't really have a need to talk. This month, I've sometimes gotten out of work Wednesday evening and not spoken a word until Sunday mid-morning.

I still communicate with people, but it's like this. It's all through technology and not spoken.

I enjoy being able to communicate through written language at times because my reaction time can be slowed down if I'm tired or not feeling well. This reaction time delay can cause a big of a 'lag' on my end of a verbal conversation. For those who have seen it in person,  I'm told it is not always noticeable but I may appear as 'spacey' at times. It's hard to explain it in person when it's happening, especially since I'm not particularly eloquent at the time.

My social batteries need to be recharged for about twice the amount of time they are used, if not more. So a solid weekend of being social at an event will take me at least 4 days to fully recover. Now when I recover, I don't need to be alone. I am perfectly fine being around other people as long as there is not a social expectation. Some people consider it 'rude' to not engage in conversation if you are in the same space. For me, communication is not just verbal.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Dear You, Happy Birthday.

Dear Me,

Please know, it will get worse. That feeling in your gut will not lessen; please learn to listen to it.
That nagging feeling when you wake up in a cold sweat and can't get back to sleep will not go away. When you hear a door abruptly shut and flinch because it will not "just get better with time".
When  you want to make a plan with a friend and it makes you afraid they will leave you standing on a street corner, that is just considered 'normal' in your mind.
Things will be horrible for half this year (2014).
But when you turn the corner, things will get amazing.
You'll finally start to appriciate yourself.
You will finally understand ability and disability in a global view.
There is an amazing home you can grow a wonderful garden in and remember what the ground feels like between your fingers.
School ends and it will not be as scary as you think.
The home you will make will be unlike anything you had imagined.
You remember what strong feels like.
You will never be truly alone as love will be in your heart.
I wish I could hug you
and say we will all still be friends next year,
but that would not be true.
Know the price we pay will be worth in it in the end.
Dear Me,
We did it!!!!!!!
At times we wanted to give up knowing it felt like the weight of the world was on our shoulders. It seemed an impossible feet but it was accomplished in just the nick of time. There is nothing stopping us from this final journey.
Just take the one last step we need.
Just a leap, as we know our ways along the rocky coast.
This project is going to help so many people.
Blessed are you for remembering love.
You opened your heart and let such wonder and light fill you to the brink, overflowing into the ocean.
Wearing your heart on your sleeve paid off.
Be very happy you know what love feels like and know things will only get even better.
Finally we understand how others should treat us.
Dear Me,
It's okay to be as happy as we are and not think the other shoe is going to drop.
We've turned the corner of success and our dedication will carry us through.
Resiliency is the greatest gift our family has passed on.
Please remember to laugh.

 Happy Birthday to Me~

How do we get the control that we might need to feel safe? I say that the first thing that we need control of is ourselves.-Reference from Aeprils Astrology

Wednesday, March 4, 2015


Leonard Nimoy passed away last week and it affected so many people. He was a great man who left a positive mark on the world. Many people have reflected on what his passing means to them and how he touched their lives. I am not a "Trekie" by any stretch of the imagination, but I admired everything the man stood for.

People who knew him spoke of him as a great man who cared about others. He was kind to his fans and I do feel that is something special considering how large his fan base is. From psychology to the arts, Nimoy was a multifaceted individual who exemplified what I consider "professional". He truely was an inspiration to me and many others.

I look at the legacy he has left behind and I'm filled with a sense of comfort. I firmly believe it is possible for one person to make a positive impact on the world. The world can be dark at times, but there are opportunities to act as a force of light to touch the lives of people. This is something I'm actively working towards and Leonard Nimoy was able to accomplish this. Even in my personal moments of confusion and hesitation, I know one person can make a difference.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

System Maintenance Required

At the end of last week, I was asking the Powers That Be to please let my body make it until I finish my grant writing course. The final due date was Sunday. So Sunday I got up early, finished my grant proposal, and went to rehearsal. Things were pretty fine until a few hours later.

I've spoken about being hyposensitive before and how it means I'm not always aware of my body is experiencing in that exact moment. Sunday evening, I just knew I needed to lay down and rest.

Cue to me having very weird dreams with a temperature of over 102. By the time I woke up on Monday, I could not see straight, my head felt like it was exploding, I could not swallow or breath without excruciating pain, and had to drive myself to urgent care because I had no idea what was going on with my body.

When I get sick, I get REALLY sick. Part of this because when I start to experience symptoms, it is very normal for my to just shrug them off and continue like nothing is wrong. I have a very high pain threshold so it take me being in a significant amount of pain (above normal) for it to begin to impact my daily life. Once my arm was broken for 3 days before I had it set because it "was only swollen and I can still pick things up with only a little pain." So to say this pain was a 9 on my scale may give you an idea of how bad it was.

I'm confined to my bed eating copious amount of Popsicles to stay hydrated and watching The Office as I'm trying to recover. I'm so thankful my 20 lb full size weighted blanket arrived yesterday because it feels so relaxing. This is one of those very few times I wish I had a robot servant to bring me Popsicles and the occasional piece of toast. 

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Ke$ha butterflies

Today is Valentines day, also known as the day before chocolate goes on sale. I've been resisting getting a candy bar all day because 1) I am trying to be healthy and 2) tomorrow chocolate was be as plentiful as snow in New England.

Today is also one of those days where people analyze their relationships or their lack of one. This is one of those days where people get swept away by romance or are upset at the happiness of others. It gets really confusing.

Personally, I love to see my friends happy and in love. It gives me a ray of hope I'll find someone to be happy with some day. It's not easy for a person with social anxiety to go out and meet new people, but it is something that does need to happen in order to find a special person. Ah, the double edge sword. Most of the time, my desire to stay in my own social bubble wins out.

I will never be one of those girls who 'needs' a romantic relationship. I'm a little lot too independent to get swept up with needing someone to save me. Heck, I'm more likely to do the saving in a relationship or ideally we can make each other better along the journey. I feel people get an idea in their head about what a great relationship looks like without remembering it takes work to make it function properly.

One thing I've had to learn the hard way over the past few years is I'd much rather be by myself than in an unhealthy relationship. Being alone with my thoughts is still more comforting than being wrapped in the arms of someone who treats me poorly. I'm worth waiting for someone special who makes me feel like my stomach is filled with a million butterflies dancing to Ke$ha. I've been privileged enough to know what it feels like to be loved deeply by another person.

It feels like a million Ke$ha butterflies moving in-synch to "Your Love is My Drug".

Image from http://neurowonderful.tumblr.com

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Accessible Cooking: Immersion Blender

Sometimes, things need to be liquified!

Blenders are wonderful tools for lots of things. However, there are sometimes when adding things to a blender just adds another whole step. Things can get messy and it results in just something else to clean. Cleaning blenders also can be complicated with unscrewing parts and getting really close to the blades.

Immersion Blenders are really fun and can be very inexpensive. The least expensive one I've found through an online search is only 10 dollars.

Things I have used my immersion blender for:
Fresh Whipped Cream

One of the really good things about this tool is it can help with making some recipes that normally require repetitive movements, like whipped cream or mayonnaise, a lot easier to do. This tool also helps me make some soups quickly. Sticking this little thing in a huge pot of soup to make it go from chunky to smooth is very simple. I am also in control of how pureed I want things to be, which you can't always get from a blender.

There is sometimes a risk of splashing depending on the contain you are using or how close to the surface you use this tool. It takes a little trial and error, but I think it is worth it. Clean up is also very simple and doesn't require you to disassemble the whole thing.

Rating: 4 Spoons!
It takes a little bit of time to get use to it, but it does really help to make things easier.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

What would you do?

There is a question I ask friends who come to me with existential questions about their life.

"If money was no object, what would you wake up every day and do?"

Today I got a rejection letter for a job I applied for. It actually was my first job rejection and for that I am grateful. A part of me knew I may not get it, but there was a sting at a different level in the e-mail. It hurt me because I almost threw away everything I've been building.

My job as an in-home support worker can be tough at times, but it is one of the most rewarding things I have ever been a part of. During the summer, I also have the privilege to teach a film camp with members of the autism community. Things are going very well for me with performing and, weather permitting, I have a few gigs already booked for this year.

I applied to the job on a whim. The pay wasn't the best and it would have meant I would have needed to give up some of the travel and conferences already planned for this year. It's also not a job I would have stayed in for the rest of my life.

After getting the rejection email, I had a conference call about the online classes, arranged another conference call for an upcoming writing project, and finished a posting for a class. Soon, I'll work on playing with my levi-wand and filming myself for a short fan video.

It takes some perspective to remember I'm not interested in the 9-5 life. A life of adventure is more my speed. Next month is my birthday and I am gifting myself a tattoo which is a very fitting reminder. It's the phrase Hannibal said while crossing the Alps and it's also a quote on my business cards.

Aut inveniam viam aut faciam
I will find a way or make one.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Priorities bite

So this is my last semester of Graduate school. I'm taking 2 classes now and working on the incomplete class from the previous semester. All this is going on as I'm working to support myself, getting ready for a stage show, acting in a film, and doing a bunch of freelance work.

For the next couple of months, I'm going into hibernate mode to get things done.

My classes are my top priority right now, very quickly followed by the commitments I have already made.

This is easier said than done for me because I am ALWAYS looking for new things to do. I think life is too short to not enjoy yourself and I enjoy a wide variety of activities. I still plan to keep myself busy with my extra curricular, but I am making an oath (here with you all as witnesses) to not take on any more commitments.

With the way classes are going, and my extension for the incomplete class coming to an end in the next month, I need to buckle down. I'm not overly concerned about not getting everything done, it's really just the knowledge that for the next 10 weeks I'll be living and breathing from my laptop with breaks at work or getting food. Luckily, my Master's thesis is on creating a Circus and Flow Arts program for Autistic individuals. This is something I'm REALLY interested in and it will be fun throwing myself into things.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Give me my bag of skittles!

Sometimes a single skittle is awarded for for accomplishing a small task.

Last night I earned a bag of skittles.

I knew from my dreams last night would be coming and in a big way that knowledge helped prepared me. I went through, in my dreams, the scenarios where I was stabbed. Bleeding out on the floor, my final words were inspirational and poetic. The situations where I resorted to violence were met with acceptance and understanding of the consequences of my actions. I would be hauled away by the police, but met with compassionate looks by the officers who booked me. Earlier this week there was an elaborate fight sequence choreographed to a song from a mix tape my friend gave me which happened to be playing in the cd player in my car.

All of these random scenarios of chaos and violence and hurt prepared me for this night.
(Mainly, it was the months of therapy to properly deal with my abuse and the resulting trauma which prepared me for tonight. However, there was a significant amount of foreshadowing within my perseveration and nightmares.)

My abuser for the past several months stood mere feet away as I talked about my hopes and dreams with friends. My friends and I chatted about my dreams for the future over a drink, something I didn't have months ago. (A view of the future is something people don't always have when they are bullied down into submission. For months I was in a place where I didn't want to think about what was going to happen once I got home, let alone in several months.) Things were doing exceptionally well for the circumstance, but I knew what was coming.

My fear was not so much contact from my abuser, as contact from One of the other parties. The One who watched me being abused. The One who researched Autism and held me as I cried on my couch as I wondered, "why won't she understand me. What am I doing wrong?!" The One I felt a sisterly bond for the first time since College and The One I had supported when she felt the world was against her.

The One who's last words to me all those months ago were, "You could have handled (her {The Abuser's} treatment of you) better."

The only contact I have had with The One in months (Since September really) was tonight. At the end of the night, after Waltzing around the room the evening, she came up to me. She was the one I was afraid of talking to for fear she would not understand the trauma I endured from her. Maybe, despite all her research and knowledge and degrees, she did not understand her neutrality will be remembered in the annals of my memory with the people who directly hurt me. For all the complicated issues, maybe she can not understand what she did.

Maybe that is why she chose the end of the night to hurriedly come up to me  to say anything to me.

In the many scenarios in my head I could have;
  • Resorted to violence.
  • Wept.
  • Run away. 
  • Screamed.
  • Cried. (A common theme)
  • Cursed her out using foul language.
  • Cursed her out using an ancient curse.
  • Teared up. (See a pattern?)
  • Screamed.
  • Asked her simply "Why?"
  • Asked her if she felt bad about her role in the chaos of my life.
  • Begin talking in French and walk away.
  • Run away. (Another popular motif)
  • Not say anything/ignore her.
  • Left and went into the bathroom and engaged in self-injurious behavior. (Far down on the list but considering how damaged, wrong, insignificant I was made to feel for months this was #1 most likely to occur.)
  • Hugh Jackman carries me away and I forget the life I lived as if it were a bad dream.
None of these things happened, however much I wish the last one to have happened.

Instead, I looked her in the eyes and simply said, "Goodbye."

She was leaving for the night as the club was closing and I don't know if she fully registered the significance of what I said. If she happens to be reading this, it means closure. It means Goodbye in the sincerest form. It hurts to let go of a 10+ year friendship, but not as much as I expected it to. No longer will I look out in a crowd while performing searching for your face, wondering if you decided to catch the show tonight even though you RSVPed no on Facebook. I won't be afraid to attend events I want to go to because they matter to me, even though I know you will be there.

The opposite of love is not hate; it is apathy.
No tears were shed as I realized the pain I experience in 2014 is finally over. I have ended the relationships that needed to end and I have closure.
I can finally bury my dead bodies.

I earned all the *$&%ing Skittles last night.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Bring on 2015 conferences!

So I've been getting into the 'zone' of being back in school, or at least trying to find the zone, so I seem to have missed something really awesome.

March 14th I will be presenting at the Southern Maine Autism Conference located at The DoubleTree Hotel in South Portland, Maine.

This is the third year in a row I have presented at this conference and I love doing it. This is a free conference to attend and that helps to spread important information to people who need it. My session is entitled "It's Not Easy Being Me: Highlighting the Strengths". I'll be discussing strength-based perspectives instead of deficit based models and talking about self-advocacy.

For more information and to register for this event, please visit the site below.

In a related note; if you have a conference in your area you'd like to see me at please let me know! I also accept invitations to speak at small groups and do training sessions.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Accessible Cooking: Crockpots

Welcome to this new little feature of my blog: Accessible Cooking!

The idea came to me as I was trying to grate cheese. When I took a break from almost skinning my knuckles (does this happen to anyone else?), I logged onto Facebook. 2 separate friends commented on injuring themselves using a specific cooking utensil. Very ouch.

Like most of my friends, I have limited energy but still need to make myself food on a daily basis. This series is going to be dedicated to time and energy saving ways to cook food or things relating to food. There may be an occasional entry about cute ice cube trays because (almost) everyone loves ice.

The first thing I have to mention is Crockpots, also known as slow cookers. This is one of the greatest things ever because you put in ingredients and hours later food is ready! The simplest recipe I know so far involves only 3 steps so it is ALMOST* impossible to mess up.
*Yet, it has been messed. Badly.

You can purchase a crockpot at various locations, including places that sell used cookware. I got mine used from a friend when they moved away, but they can be fairly inexpensive. In a quick search I found some as inexpensive as $15 all the way up to $175.

Another huge plus of this appliance is, depending on the size, you can make food for a few days. I will totally spend a little extra prep time in order to not think about making food for a few days.

Rating: 5 spoons!
Look, I can make food and still have the energy to clean up after it!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

My kingdom for a shovel.

I bought a shovel last week.

Now, for most people that may not be anything remarkable. However, I live in Maine and have lived in Maine for almost 4 years. Before this, I went to college in Iowa. Although Maine has significantly more snow than Iowa, I've never lived in a place unfamiliar with the wrath of winter.

So for the past 3 winters, I have been shovel-less.

If you are familiar with the winter weather in Maine, also known as the tundra, there is a lot of snow as early as October some years. This year it was an actual thought process to get a shovel because I've...ahem...improvised solutions for the past 3 winters.

Unique ways to dig a Prius out of snow (besides using a shovel).
  • A cardboard box
    • Pro: Easily flatened for transportation.
    • Con: Soggy.
  •  The top of a tupperware container.
    • Pro: large surface area to get snow off.
    • Con: When it breaks it gets very sharp.
  • A Case.
    • Pro: Useful when  there is absolutely nothing else avalible.
    • Con: Not sturdy
  • Crouching down and digging yourself out in a city.
    • Pro: Can be a lot of fun if you have time and think of it like uncovering a huge prize.
    • Con: People think you need help and look at you like you are crazy when you tell them you are having fun.