White Coat Syndrome

I was told that I had White Coat Syndrome when I always had strange blood pressure issues. One of many diagnoses I assure you.

After I had my son, where my blood pressure nearly killed us both, it became about my weight. I know that weight does have an awful lot to do with blood pressure. Of course, it does. But my overworked primary care physician, who actually told me he’s too busy for me… It was his only answer. For every problem. Every time. I made a joke with my husband that I was going to develop a drinking game when I went to his appointments, and take a shot for every time he blamed something on my “morbid obesity.”

I am actually not that heavy. I’m not the skinny girl I was in high school, or even the chubby girl in middle school. But I have had food problems since I can remember eating. Mostly bingeing on high carb items brought on by mental stress and impuslivity issues. Not to mention low dopamine, and eating during sleep issues. This isn’t about my weight, though. Enough people are interested in that that I don’t need to talk about it.

It’s just that… I’ve never gotten help for a problem I’ve had for a very long time… because I knew what they would say…

Like a lot of neurodiverse people I deal with a lot of chronic physical pain, mostly in my muscles and joints, especially my hips, wrists, neck, hands…. Ok, pretty much every joint, every where. Muscles too.

After I had my son, it got even worse. I was told that I had carpal tunnel related to my pregnancy. Neuropathy from gestational diabetes. I was told that it was my weight and my posture. I was told to go to a chiropractor. I’ve been tested for diabetes so many times, celiac, hepatitis, heart disease, and even cysts on my ovaries. Which had one of the most painful tests I’ve ever experienced, because I also can’t actually fill my bladder. Never been able to. The pain was excruciating. And all for nothing. No cysts, no answer.

I was looking up my own information on autism comorbidites, when I came across Ehlers- Danlos Syndrome. I knew that it was something that effected the autistic community, but I mainly understood it as a mobility issue. I simplisticly thought, “I can walk, that can’t be me.” And that ever constant voice, “Don’t borrow trouble. Don’t take what’s not yours.”

But then I came across the diagnostic critera for EDS and POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) and I saw all my troubles laid out before me. It was an “aha” moment for sure, but it was also an “oh… fuck.”

You see, the symbol for the Ehlers Danlos Society is a zebra. Becuase of the phrase, “When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.” Well people with EDS are the zebras. They are the people that don’t get believed, who get called hypochondriacs, alcoholics, liars, Munchausens, basically an irritating nuisance. The people who get told by their doctors they are too busy for them…

Just to be clear, when he told me that, I hadn’t seen him in like over a year. I was just worried about my blood pressure issues. So, when I finally got the courage up to make an appointment, and he told me that I should get a different doctor about two sentences in… Yeah… I’m sure he was overworked, legitimately. It just was pretty… fucked up.

When I called him during the beginning of the pandemic with my sickness, he pretty much dismissed me then too. But because I have agoraphobia, I was ok with his “call back when you need a ventilator” attitude that was so common then. Everytime someone lectured me on not going to the hopsital I could say, my doctor says to stay home and call back when it gets too hard to breath.

He’s not a bad man. He’s just pretty clear in his biases as he has always treated my husband very differently. He just believes him. Immediately. Doesn’t second guess him. Doesn’t tell him to go away.

But… that’s a tidal wave of bullshit that I am not ready to battle. That’s just being a woman. I can only imagine what it’s like for women of color. Or an immigrant woman. That gets you a hysterectomy in a detention center, apparently. Or if you go back far enough, sometimes, a labatomy. But that’s a whole other thing.

Anyway.

So I have this very probable diagnosis staring me in the face and I just don’t want to deal with it. Even if it is an answer for all the pain. It’s not a curable thing. It will still always be a problem. I will still be disbelieved. It was both a relief and a heartache. I can’t have another diagnosis. I can’t go through the gauntlet of opinions and second guessing and disbelief. Not again.

So I wrote an email to my doctor asking for a refferal to get genetic testing. No diagnosis. I don’t care about a diagnosis anymore. I just want to know if I carry the mutation or not. I want to know for my son. That’s it.

Still…

Zebras sound like guinea pigs… the noises they make. Did you know that?

So when you hear a guinea pig…Make sure it’s not a girl guinea pig. They’re probably pretending to be a zebra for attention.

The Feeling of Falling

When my chronic pain hits its zenith, its absolute worst, and my mental and emotional facilties start to slip because of it, I remember him.

My student, who will remain nameless only because I will never get his consent to say his name- but my former student, who I directed in his middle school plays, that’s not him in the photo but that is me around the same time I met him.

He was the first person to say to me, “I’m autistic.”

It was because I had touched his shoulder to move him to another position, and as a very touch aversive boy he nearly jumped out of his skin. And he said, “Please don’t touch me, I’m autistic.” And having never known anything about autism, because I wasn’t even close to my scope of self awareness yet, at first, I was annoyed. I felt rebuked. But the sincerity of his distress, his voice, stayed with me for so long that I knew it was real. I can see it still, movement for movement, his curly blonde hair bouncing in shock, his blue eyes going wide, the rigid posture, and the stressed blinking. And I think the truth was, in that moment, I had a blue streak of recognition. I am not touch aversive, but I knew that fear and pain in his eyes. I had seen it in my own.

My diagnosis was more than a dozen years away but I saw the truth. And that truth probably made me too hard on him sometimes, just as I was to myself. Just as I was to the other nuerodivergent children that I adored but also wanted to “help” by repeating the same advice to me. Bad advice.

It also made my mother one of his most fierce supporters, even if she didn’t always understand why. I think she saw it too. My mother and I worked together to create these productions if you did not know this already. We were colloquially known as THE Burkhalters, and we occasionally dragged my sister and father into the family business from time to time.

A few years ago, very close to my diagnosis, but not yet. When my son, with his own bouncing curly blonde hair and wide blue eyes, was given his diagnosis. And I kept telling his doctors, “I am not afraid of autism. I have had autistic students. I know how great they can be.”

My student killed himself by stepping off the roof of his New York city apartment. I got this news the way anyone gets news these days, through facebook and rumor. It nearly destroyed me. I’m still hoping the way he did it was just some misinformation, but I don’t believe it was.

No one will convince me that he was beyond saving. And because I know that feeling. The desperateness to make the pain stop. Often LITERAL physical pain, not just emotional pain. I often feel myself falling. Falling with him.

I’m not posting this as a request for sympathy or even as a confession that I did not do enough. I didn’t. I’m not even telling you as a cautionary tale. That if you take that step you will haunt your loved ones forever.

I guess, what I am saying, is what I want to do is go back in time and tell that little boy something else.

“I got you,” I’d say. “You want to take a break? That pain will stop if we just give you a break. I got you.”

I got you. I got you. I got you.

That’s what I want to say. Not “Okay, honey. Then scooch to the left for me. Good job.”

He was a very gifted young actor. He couldn’t cover his stimming blinks until much later, but I think he eventually did. And though, at the time, I thought he had grown out of his touch aversiveness somehow, I think he just learned to grin and take it. That shouldn’t have been the success story we all treated it as. Good job, we said. (Me too, remember, we knew even less then.) When he lost his scholarship for pot use (which was probably how he was dealing with his pain) he somehow fell from grace in the conventional midwestern town he was from. The town that had also bullied him. For being gay, for being autistic, for being weird.

One of the only fights I got into with the administration of the school was when they said that I didn’t have the power to demand the children who broke his crochet loom pay to get him another and apologize. The same children who called him a fag. I backed down because I didn’t have power. I didn’t have power over myself let alone the people who blamed him for bringing it upon himself. So I hid, literally, in the orchestra pit.

I can still remember the look of anger and betrayal on his father’s face.

I didn’t go to the funeral. I couldn’t. I sent letters with my mother who went as our representative, so that THE Burkhalters were in attendance.

I should have known that I would never get to say goodbye, even if I did go to the funeral. Because he’s there. In the wind that I feel in a still room when the pain is at its worst. Wind rushing by, a roar in my ears, as I fall with him. Again and again and again.

I got you, kid.

Is training abuse?

CONTENT WARNING: I am going to be talking candidly about Applied Behavior Anaylsis therapy. Especially in regards to whether or not you should put your autistic child through Behavior therapy of any kind. This is my opinion. This is not black and white, but all the gray. OK? If you can’t handle it, I strongly suggest you move on, with no judgement.

Speaking of black and white, I have a fear of killer whales- because their markings look like eye contact run amock, and because they have the potential to be vicious oceanic killers. So yeah, you don’t judge me and I won’t judge you. Mutual assured destruction right here. You can send me a picture of an orca and I’ll go to pieces.

Ok.

Is ABA abuse?

If you are unfamiliar with Applied Behavior Anyalsis you may be wondering what I have against Swedish singers, but that is ABBA. Whom I love. Pay attention.

I’ve written two posts about ABA, one more postive, and the other explaining the darker side of ABA in more detail. Why do I have so many opinions on ABA? Because my son goes to an ABA clinic monday through friday, practically banker’s hours. More than that, I use the principles of ABA for myself, literally all the time.

So, with that ringing endorsement you would think I am on the pro-ABA side of this argument… I am not.

When people ask or claim that ABA is abuse, I always answer, Yes! And then immidiately, also- no.

I think much of this debate could be answered by changing one word. ABA is not therapy. ABA is training.

Is training abuse? That depends on two factors: the child, and the trainor. I say child instead of trainee because much of ABA is done without the consent of the ” minor patient,” and that right there would most likely bring a lot of people to the abuse conclusion. It does for me sometimes. But then it doesn’t.

Let me explain in a different context. Remember that this is an imperfect analogy. So try to not google search “terrifying orca pictures” until you get to the end.

My older sister is a ballerina. She has studied, performed, choreographed or taught, for nearly my entire life, so, ballet for over thirty years. She is very good. I am intensely proud of her. My heart went in my throat everytime she was lifted by her partner in a performance. My eyes watered everytime she she showed such emotional presense on the stage.

She is a truly gifted performer, with some obvious natural talent. But like I said, she’s been in training for the majority of her life. Did she choose this path? Or was it chosen for her? And was it abuse? (Sorry Mom.)

Is ballet abuse? It certainly can be. Have you seen a ballet dancers feet? (Have you seen Black Swan? That shit was unreal at times, but also very familiar.) Do you know how much my sister sacrificed? Large swathes of her childhood were given up just for dance. Does she enjoy it? I think so. But did she choose it?

Well, ABA isn’t ballet, you might say.

No, but it is a form of physical and mental training based on performance. That is what ABA is- it is performance training. It is training to deal with non-autistic people and situations. It can be extremely uncomfortable. It can mess with you physically and emotionally. But in the end, you have the presense and skill to deal with an unforgiving society.

Oh, so it’s not abuse. It’s just an artform?

Uh, no. It can absolutely still be abuse. Like I said, it comes down to the trainor and the child. Many of these therapists (aka trainors) don’t see it as performance but rather as “recovery” or worst of all, “a cure.” These people should not be allowed to interact with your children. The skills learned in ABA are not the skills of a “normal human being.” They are camoflouge to fit in and understand a world that makes virtually no sense. They are manners.

Manners are not bad, but they are not “normal behavior.”

Manners are performance. They always have been. The difference with an autistic person, is the lack of those nuerotypical manners can cause them lasting trauma. Mostly because the world will punish them for any breach of that performance. Sometimes, with their life. Honestly, if they’re lucky, it will just be their emotional health, and not their physical body. Not like the little boy recently shot eleven times by police during a meltdown. And that’s just within the last few weeks.

I’m not saying this is ok. I would like the world to be so much better. We might get there. We’re in a bit of a culture war at the moment, and the backlash to an inclusive society without ableism is very intese. I just don’t see them changing fast enough to keep my son safe without a little performance on his part.

Here is the key. I have said it before and I will say it again. It is your job, as either a parent, or a therapist, to let the child know that this is a performance. There is nothing wrong with being autistic. There is nothing wrong with our sensitivity. Accomodation should be a welcome and innocuous thing.

If you do not do this, ABA results in a permanent kind of camoflouge. Which ultimately ends up in burnout and pychoisis. Sometimes suicide. And if you are the parent that let them go down that road, treating them as a “recovered autistic.” Well then, that is totally on you. You were unknowing in your abuse, but that kid was traumatized nonetheless.

And if you’re a therapist that thinks they are “curing” autistics. Get out. Just go find another job. Or better yet, rethink your ideas from the perspective of the children you are “treating.”

And some kids just do not have success with ABA. It’s not in their natural temperment. They have demand avoidance and don’t find that the inducement or “reinforcer” to comply with demands is strong enough to balance out the emotional toll. And therefore, that consistent forced compliance is damaging. It will result in trauma no matter how many m&m’s you give the kid.

I have a demand avoidance form of autism and so this would probably not work great on me without constant neuroaffirming support. So I watch my son CONSTANTLY for signs of trauma. I drive his therapists a little crazy, I’ll admit. And I’m constantly working on a back up if I feel that his ABA therapy has crossed the line into that traumatic territory.

But look, trauma is not death. You can come back from it. Start talking about manners and camoflouge and mirroring. Say Autistic with pride. Let them know that no one is “normal”. That we are all acting to a certain degree. Reinforce this with love and acceptance of things like stimming behavior at home. Give them a chance and a place to be themselves. Let them dance.

Yes, let them dance– or to bring my analogy back in a semi-clumsy way–

When you fall in dance, it hurts. And the large mirror they practice in front of? It sometimes shows you something you would rather not see. But it’s there for you to change. To make the small changes that turns something awakward into something with grace.

And if you haven’t noticed yet. I am not talking about the child. I’m taking about us– the movers, the shakers, the deciders, the parents and the trainers.

Is training abuse? You tell me.

Are you pursuing perfection or grace?

.

Facebook Offical

On the advice of my husband, yes, the John of HollylovesJohn, I’m reposting my recent facebook rant here for perpetuity.

It came about because a very cool person that I follow put up a petition to stop Target from selling blue pumpkin bins for Halloween.

It’s a recent thing that originally derived from the Allergy Free Teal pumpkins, someone wanted to use Blue pumpkins to signify Autistic children. (Who also have dietary restrictions, but that’s a whole other thing.) They thought it might help when someone insists that it’s good manners to say, “Trick or Treat.” When in fact, the trick-or-treater may be non-verbal. It’s a non-verbal cue to Non-autistics to be cool, essentially.

SLP’s and behaviorists will often give out Picture Exchange Commincation cards (PEC) at this time to help with this issue as well. They are about the size of a business card and will have “Trick or Treat” with a pictograph representing the action of trick or treating. In case you get any of those in future Halloweens.

It’s just another thing to help, PEC or blue pumpkin. But for some in the community the blue reminds them too much of “light it up Blue” which speaks to the gender issues in diagnosis, and Autism Speaks itself. A corporate charity which has a lot of problems… That’s a whole other article. I swear, one day I will get to Austism Speaks. Hopefully, when they have done something spectacularly good for the community. So, it might be a while.

Anyway, here’s the rant in all its glory:

“I have a “no flame wars” policy when it comes to the internet. So I deleted a comment that I thought could be inflammatory on someone else’s petition to stop Target from selling Blue pumpkins because of the gendered implications and the connection to Autism Speaks.

I do not like Autism Speaks. And as a late diagnosed adult autistic woman, you can bet it annoys me that being a woman is one of the main reasons I deal with skepticism all the time. That being said. I am super sick of the devisive litmus test that we keep putting on each other.

“Are you wearing blue, do you like the puzzle piece symbol? You must also like eugenics, then. It’s such an OBVIOUS correlation, right?” No.

Seriously.

I can respect that people have trauma with many of these things. Whether that comes from being emotionally [or physically] wounded by well meaning parents [and therapies,] or being inhibited and ostrasicized by the world. This is such a common experience for our community that I have not met one austistic adult that didn’t have some form of trauma. But this litmust test prejudice has gone so far out of just our community and is tearing the world apart.

I don’t think it is a new concept. I think tribalism has always been apart of us. But with the application of politics and capitalism, it is literally leading to deaths in the street. Deaths.

Like I said, this is not new. It’s a pattern that appears over and over again. In Germany, they had Romanticism that led to free love and harmony for generations, acceptance of transgendered people, sexual revolution, abolition and every liberal idea that you have ever thought of as progessive and modern. The backlash of divisive facism and corruption led to both World Wars. I don’t need to cite anything on this because the information is readily available. Go look it up.

(And I am not saying that the Romanticism didn’t have it’s biases and flaws. It did. It just didn’t kill millions of people because they felt inferior. Again, look it up.)

I love my communities: the gay community, the autistic community, the midwest, and even the United States of America, despite its problems. Not to mention, the nerd community– I wish we were a utopia but we aren’t. We are the home of the in-cels… digression.

Look, I’m just “facebook official” disgusted by man’s inability to deal with its own fears and biases. And that comes from someone with a lot of fears, biases, and sensory issues. The light literally causes me to recoil due to my visual hyperacuity. I can hear electricty ALL THE TIME. [I technically also have a really big problem with smells. They will ruin my life if I don’t do something about it asap.] These things have caused me to be angry and afraid, literally my whole life. Because of this I have had to become incredibly self aware. To know why I feel what I feel at all times.

What is the rest of the world’s excuse? Why must you cling to an idea of what’s right because it “feels good” to you? “Knowing what is right becuase you feel it.” That is literally bias. That is literally tribalism. You are choosing acceptance, and the coddling of your own fears and doubts over your fellow man. Literally, everone is doing this. Republican, Democrat, Gay, straight, religious, secular. We’re all doing it.

We’re so concerned with finding our own people that we are literally dismissing and killing our brother to do it. We are stepping on the necks of other people just to feel comfortable in our righteousness. It’s disgusting.

If you made it this far. It’s probably becuase you too feel like you are shouting in the wind. This is not an “agree to disagree and let’s all be friends” request posting. That’s ridiculous. This is “we’re all wrong, and none of us are right. Not until we accept facts over feelings and identity.”

It’s hard to do what I am suggesting. We are biologically hardwired to find our own, for protection and love. Our communities and our tribes are our empathetic herds that understand us. And all of that is fine until you decide to preemptivetly destroy the rights and lives of another tribe because they make you uncomfortable.

I know. All of this over a blue plastic pumpkin. I just can’t stand back and watch us all be manipulated by our own pyschology, not anymore. Be better. Be more self aware. And finally, Nazis are always bad. We should all be able to agree on this.

Has Indiana Jones taught you nothing, people?”


Then in the comments, an old friend bravely admitted that she had no idea what I was talking about when it came to the blue pumpkin controversy. I say “brave” in all sincerety, because people will jump on you for not knowing something they consider to be important. Despite the fact that you live completely different lives, with different prioroties. To me, asking a genuine question is always preffered to a dismisal. So seriously, good on her. And everyone else should follow suit.

Here’s how I explained it to her:

“Teal pumpkins are for the allergy friendly candy. Someone saw that and decided to use blue pumpkins so their adult autistic son could go trick or treating without people treating him like a deviant or a threat of some kind. I’m totally cool with it. I bought three for anyone else in the autistic community that needs one and can’t find it. My son and I use one year round. Because it doesn’t matter to us. It’s just a blue pumpkin. If it helps anyone to be less of a douche to my son, I’m happy about it. There should be less douchebags in general.

The problem that part of the community has is actually with the catch phrase, “Light it up Blue.” Autism speaks has been using this for a long time. It is in reference to the fact that it was thought only boys could get autism. [Boys, not men. Still insinuating that this is a childhood disease that you can grow out of.]

Then there is the issue that Autism Speaks has supported seriously questionable statements and ironically refuses to listen to Autistic people. [The one Autistic board member that they hired to appease the community had to quit because no one would listen to him.] The best example I can give, is when Trump supporters say “MAGA” at liberals. It’s just a dog whistle for some folks.

[Sidenote: I don’t know what bothers me more about this. The fact that the president’s catchphrase has been reduced to an acronym, or the implication that America was better when everyone “abormal” or “brown” was oppressed. It’s a toss up but I’m probably still gonna have to stick with the latter.]

There is a long and sordid history of abuse in the autistic and mental health community, this [also] isn’t new. But as the perameters for diagnosis are becoming more sophisticated, communication should be better between activists and parents but it just isn’t. Because of greed, prejudice, and righteous indignation. Again, nothing new.

I’m just super sick of it […] sick of cancel culture and the bloodthirsty want for conflict where there shouldn’t be conflict. It’s annoying the crap out of me.

Legit. As an autistic person, I cannot handle it. So, the irony is palpable on this one.”


She was very cool about my answer, if you are curious. And many others were super supportive. And I by no means want to rag on anyone that is offended by the blue pumpkins.

I once went on a rage bender about the song “Jesus Take the Wheel”. I found it irresponsible and offensive as a midwesterner. Everyone knows that you turn into the skid. You don’t let Jesus take care of your baby in the back seat. You take the hit yourself if you have to. Sheesh, Carrie Underwood. The buck stops with you. Not Jesus. Especially when you’re highway driving.

… That was weird… I know…

Ok. Maybe I am not not over that one yet, either. And I would like to publicly apologize to my Border’s bookstore co-workers who had to listen to me bitch about that song everytime it got played over the PA. Turn into the skid, Carrie. Turn into the skid.

Oh, and John was right. This did make a good post. Also, I’m pretty sure I get wife points by publicly declaring it. He’s not always right though. Just so I don’t loose my brat “you’re not the boss of me” card in the same paragraph.

I’m getting silly. I need to sign off and go clean my house. Put up some drywall. All that good stuff.

Be kind to each other. Be self aware. Know yourself and your biases. And turn into the skid.

Adaptations

(If you are wondering how my home renovation is going, I will admit it’s stalled. For just a moment. Not because I lack the energy, even thought that is true. It’s because every time I fix something, it reveals another problem. We’re pausing so that our budget can rebuild before I rebuild our walls. But I know this house like a colonoscopy now. So there’s that, anyway, that’s not why I am here.)

No, I wanted to talk about adaptation.

Because I love adaptation.

This is actually a revolutionary thing for me to say. Because every time I wrote an adaptation for the stage, which I have done a lot in the last dozen years or so… I have loved it. Every minute of it. Taking something and transforming it for the stage, or for children, for a completely different audience than it was originally intended for– whatever. It creates a layered kind of art, a collage that is built upon other references and interpretations. I freaking love it.

But I haven’t been out about that love. Because every time that I write an adaptation, some well meaning person says, “Why don’t you write something original?”

And I get crushed. Just a little bit. Because what I heard is, “Why aren’t you original?” Which if you know what it’s like to be autistic, what it is to mirror, you are sensitive to the ideas of honesty and originality. Wanting to both fit in and pathologically trying to not “copy” anyone else.

I had a dear friend who would go through phases of her favorite colors. And so I would make sure NOT to wear those colors when she was going through those phases. I went to buy a plum colored couch with another one of our friends and I paused, horrified that this was the only color available.

My other friend asked, “I thought you liked this color. What’s the problem?”

And I whispered, “That’s her color. I can’t have it.”

My other friend looked at me and rightly called it. She said, “That’s fucked up.”

It wasn’t that my dear friend would have denied me a plum colored IKEA couch, I just had retained such a fear of revealing my mirroring habits that I had developed a kind of shorthand. Don’t take what isn’t yours, my mind said.

It was fucked up. Because plum is beautiful. And purple belongs to everyone. It was both ridiculous and harrowing for me.

But the truth is… I love to share. I love fangirling and finding others to fan out with. I love the collective conscious of a culture that can make connections through references and shared history.

My husband and I are so deep into reference humor that we use cadence as a form of reference. We change the words, but by the cadence we know exactly what the other is referring to. It might be a little more complicated than the usual kind of communication, but we understand each other. (Yes, we are that one Star Trek episode that is basically about echolalia and the evolution of language.)

What is bringing this up? I am writing a steamy erotic romance adaptation of Little Women. Yes, the most precious of all female coming of age stories. I’m making sure they get laid, and laid well. With wild themes like mental illness, queer sensibilities, and lots of kinky sex. People are gonna want to burn me. But I am loving it. Because as Julie Andrews said, “Does Mary Poppins have orgasms? You bet she does.”

Neurodivergent peoples are forced to adapt to a typical society everyday. I might as well enjoy the adaptations that make me happy.

Oh, and Beth lives.

Take that.

Racing While Stuck

How is it possible to have both a racing mind and be completely shutdown at the same time?

I have so much going on that I am starting to trip over my own thoughts and it’s taking over my ability to function.

I am physically tired from all the work that will never cease. So much water damage. So much muscle pain. So much perfectionism and failure to execute to my own standards and knowledge. Great design, poor execution.

Not enough time or attention.

I am losing another person. Right now. I can’t go see him. He’s in organ failure in a hospital on the other side of the country. Quarantined with Covid-19. I stopped visiting him years ago because he was mad at me for never finishing the painting that I promised him. And because he was just so far away. There was no need to run because the distance was already so great. How wide was my comfort zone? The size of Texas, apparently. But he’s alone.

When I think about it I hear the alzheimer’s patient down the hall from my hospital room, constantly calling out, Hello? Hello? Is anyone there? Hello?

I remember when he told me what it was like to be chloroformed. It was when he was a child for a medical procedure. He said it was terrifying. He said he felt everything. He is a redhead turned blonde by the sun. From years of working outdoors. Redheads do have trouble with anesthesia. Maybe it was just a lie. A joke. A prank.

He made lots of jokes.

He had this husky laugh that always made me want to be near him. He was so funny. Funny to a child at least. Adventurous and wild. I don’t know if he laughs anymore. I don’t even know if he was even funny. I just remember wanting him to like me. Because of that hissing, husky laugh.

Of course the truth is I lost him long ago. When I stopped visiting. When I couldn’t talk. Now I can’t go. I can’t go say goodbye. No one can.

The world is racing and frozen all at the same time. Like a deer blinded by the headlights of a car. It’s just its nature, the deer. It’s not stupid or frightened. It just can’t see. There is too much light. It feels too much. And so it does not save itself. Because it is drowning in that light.

I am not drowning. I’m not even at risk of drowning. I have too much to live for, too many projects to finish. I’m just stuck. Struck by how much I feel, how loud it is. There’s too much. Too much. Too much.

I can hear it. The conflict. It’s the buzz of anger and cicadas mixed together in the confusion of so much fear and hate. What can you do in the face of so much hate?

A man in the hardware store called me a bitch for “butting in” after he cursed at a cashier. He tried to use the ADA against her. Not very well. And honestly, it was just my own disability giving me the compulsion to correct him, to protect her.

He looked at me with so much anger, there were tears in his eyes. He was watery-eyed with hate and just brimming with violence. I thought he was going to hurt me. I could see the want to hurt me. He wanted to hurt me for speaking, for knowing something that he didn’t. For daring to speak against such virulent behavior. It made me so sad that I cried as I bagged my supplies.

I didn’t need a handkerchief. I was wearing a mask. I told him he should be ashamed of himself. But there is no shame anymore. For good, and for bad. There is no truth, so there is no shame. Just so much shouting, hissing, and spitting. And it travels so much farther than 6 feet’s worth of distance.

Sometimes I put perfume in my masks so I can completely block my senses. Like they did in the first plague, a pocket full of posies. I wear my dark glasses, I put on headphones, smell the citrus scent, and pretend that I can’t feel it.

But I do.

Medication helps.

But this latest. This loss that is happening, that already happened, that will keep happening. The fear I have for his fear.

I just don’t want him to be alone.

How can so many people die alone and yet we still continue to be so petty and vicious?

The man in the store reminded me of him.

The List

If you haven’t noticed from the tone of the last few posts the To Do List has gotten out of control. Which is ironic because I started all these DIY projects to regain some control in this out of control world. Mostly, I’ve just got sore bones and aching joints. (And some pretty good plumbing and electrical experience, on the positive side.)

So, as my witnesses, I am gonna post the rest of my To Do List, here, and now. Every step, well almost every step. Some things can be assumed. And with my ADHD in check, I’m gonna try and stick to this list. Just, this, list.

As always, no particular order, other than my wild, wild brain.

  • Organize books and art on living room/office book shelves.
  • Figure out lighting situation on bookshelves, either a task light that I mount on the wall and find a way to do something interesting with the cord, either fish it through the wall or artfully attach it to the shelving bracing… Or battery operated puck lights that I originally bought for this purpose but could also be useful for light-tweaking in photography? I have the materials for both, so it’s technically just a matter of playing with it and deciding which I like better, which is usually the case with lighting.
  • Hang hidden rod for light diffusing curtain, for filming my face. (I’m 35, but I think my health issues have prematurely aged me, just a bit, so I need soft lights.) The curtain itself is on separate rod that I will keep somewhere else, but the rod attached to the wall swings outward when I need it. Normally, it will be hidden in my regular living room curtains.
  • Mount LED flood lights for filming on wall above monitor. Same thing as above with the cords. I saw some cool things with cord wrapping once, maybe I’ll look that up again?
I know how to do this, but the time? So much time.
  • Hang bulletin board, and possibly, new letter board? I was romanced by a pretty green colored letter board at Target. I technically already have a little letter board. I shouldn’t have bought it. So, I will probably take it back… Maybe this should be return letter board. They’re a little passe’ now, anyway, right? Right.
Like this only sap green. The sentiment is also true. I have a smaller one that is black velvet that still says “Merry X-Mas” It’s ironic now, until November when it’s seasonal.
  • Look into how to properly press green screen and storage solutions, will probably store in the same place I store the diffuser curtain, which means I need to reorganize the front closet? Also, need to dig out the large plastic wrap for keeping it clean that I used in the move two years ago? Not sure… but you can see how one thing leads to another.
  • Finish organizing and securing tools and DIY materials. My son keeps stealing my nails and screws. Tools too. He permanently has taken over a pair of rusty channel lock pliers, rusty because he hid them in his paddling pool for days.

Time out. He is literally destroying a set of plastic drawers with painters tape over his mouth. Right now, as I type this. He put the painter’s tape there. Not me. He likes the feel of the adhesive pulling off his lips. Also, he wanted to make sure the drawers were the same size and shape and then dumped them separate from the frame. So, that’s something else I need to clean up. Child. Is. Killing me. But, oh, so, cute. It really protects him from my OCD wrath. That, and his interesting little mind that has the make sure the drawers are the same size. I love that about him. I don’t want to stifle it just so I have one less thing to do.

  • Organize cords for computer, lighting, and charging, batteries, Ipad, phone, and AAC device for my bubba.
  • Organize canvas and art supplies again, for filming and for protections from cutie pie. He’s been stealing my art markers, over, and over again.
  • Find new spot for NSA listening device, I mean, Alexa. Maybe up with task light on the book shelf, so I can cover all the cords together? Then cover the cord cover with the same wallpaper I have on the wall. That sounded like a tongue twister but I think that’s the answer. So, that means, remove cord cover from television where it is less needed- eventually I will replace that cord cover with screen track I am using on the porch, because it is relatively the same thing. Or use the screen track for the shelves instead? Remove a step? Or maybe do something cool and design like? Talk about time.
Something like this? But that’s in the “eventual” to-do list.
  • Remove empty shelf bracing system in the garage and office and move them to the laundry room to replace old falling apart shelving system. (Yes, I could buy a new shelving system, but that wouldn’t be very thoughtful to my husbands money anxiety. More work, less money. I might need to buy new shelves though?) Maybe this goes in the “eventual” to do list too. Oh, and replace it with pegboard.
  • Finish superficial renovation of the full bathroom, meaning put up ikea shelves and some other wood details. I was actually inspired by this brand of organic bath soaps, Raw Sugar. Nothing too fancy, another Target buy, it’s a little bougie actually, but I like the design.
  • Finish light in the kitchen, including cutting out drywall piece to fix old and new junction boxes, paint 2’x2′ piece of plywood that I’m using as a base to new light fixture, cut moulding to go around ply, which is actually harder than it looks if you are used to cutting frames for art and theatre projects. Cut out hole in plywood for electrical. Fix plywood to the ceiling, and then finally mount light fixture. Oh and yeah, fix drywall. That could have been its own list.
  • Re-organize kitchen for kid-proofing and more efficiency.
  • Put away wedding china that I found in garage. As well as vases and other breakables.
  • Put broken Christmas tree that was technically a hand me down but sentimental and so I don’t want to get rid of it, into attic. This may require hoisting and grunting of some kind.
  • Replace internal workings in half bath toilet. It’s not flushing with any kind of certitude at the moment.
  • Finish electrical.
  • Finish chandelier planter project.
  • Finish insulated garden hose mount.
  • Find, aluminum cutters to finish kitchen lighting project. Suspect the boy.
  • Finish the screens.
  • Finish canvas curtains for porch.
  • Finish corrugated metal and plastic wall on porch.
  • Finish bedroom light project with diffuser fabric and wood trim.
  • Find a way to temporarily mount table top easel on desk that can come off easily. I might just make a mini sandbag like I would use in the theatre?
  • Redesign Bubba’s bedroom to make it more swing and sensory friendly. More rugs on walls for texture and protection.
He loves his swing. The swing is not such a big fan of the walls. Or his curtains.
  • On my eventual list, is replacing the kitchen floor, finishing the screen painting projects, and re-doing my own bedroom to fit a king size bed to deal with our growing boy and his love of sleeping horizontally in his parents bed. Oh, and this cool trick I saw for tufting with washers and screws, that my kid will LOVE. Sensory dream.

You may have noticed that a lot of these start with the word “finish.” That’s the problem with ADHD and bipolar. There is a lot of starting, and then jumping to the next thing before the last one is over. BUT I have still accomplished a lot. In trying to remain positive, here is the list of the things I have FINISHED:

  • Assembled boom arms on my desk for filming VLOG, including shock mount and camera stand modification.
  • replaced pipes and drain on bathroom sink
  • replaced and modified cool new handles on cabinets under sink.
  • spray painted frame on old mirror.
  • As you know from the last post, I finished switching over the dining room light.
  • Put away clean laundry. There was a lot of it.
  • Cleaned some more laundry, there is still a lot of it.
  • Fixed kitchen plumbing, garbage disposal, and internal frost proof garden silcock. (That sounds dirty.)

And then of course, the one thing that never ends. Basic clean up.

So, uh, now that I’ve rest my weary bones to write this. I got to get to work. Wish me luck.

Attic Ladders, Distraction, and Obsession

Today has been a trying day. I had some kind of health episode in Target this morning. I think it might have been low blood sugar or dehydration. I got a bottle of water, some popcorn chips and then acted like the choosiest person in the patio department ever. Earnestly, it made me want to get this awesome chair for my porch. But I think it might make John lose his mind if I brought home a piece of furniture.

(My son is back at school, in this strange new isolation-half-day coronavirus-protocol way. It involves his teachers in full PPE and avoiding all his classmates. The point is I spend a lot of time in Target and other stores while waiting for his half day to be done because I don’t have enough time to go home. We live about three towns away from his school.)

And then when we got home. I decided that I was going to go up into the attic to fix the electrical work. Only… I’ve never been up in our attic. It scares the bejeebus out of me. It didn’t help that when I peaked in, there was enough rat poison to take out the entire cast of Ratatouille.

It was also about six thousand degrees.

And then there was blown insulation everywhere so I couldn’t even figure out where to step if I wanted to…

So I went back down the original 1960’s ladder, when a size 10 was like a modern day size 4, which creaked very rudely. Like an accusation of some kind. Like it knows about the M&M’s I’ve been getting at Target. Whatever ladder. Stop judging me.

And now, I am thinking I am gonna have to enlarge the escape hatch in my kitchen to fix the electric from underneath so that I don’t kill myself falling through the ceiling. Which means an even larger project.

UHHHHgggggg…..

These projects with all their experience and obstacles, can be a form of madness from time to time. And it really points out the difference, at least for me, in ADHD distraction vs. Autism obsession.

Autism obsession is more about passion, and engrossing yourself.

Distraction is a heightened kind madness that causes you to jump from project to project.

Both can be really wonderful and exhausting at the same time. Both can cause you problems as well as accomplishments.

Today, after weeks of heightened distraction due to stress, I feel like that creaky attic ladder…

barely hanging on.

One down, 93 to go

Ok, I don’t know if it’s actually 93 projects left to go, but that’s what it feels like in my ADHD brain. Granted, it always feels like I have that many ideas or plans at the same time. It’s more or less, give or take… I don’t know, it’s a lot.

BUT one project is done.

I replaced my dining room light fixture and even though the replacement looks maybe too simple, it’s actually perfect. It’s energy efficient, with daylight tone, and cost effective. I’m pretty thrilled. I’ve always wanted to have solar tube lighting, which is basically a porthole from your roof. This is the closest I can get.

Here’s a Before and After- Cool and geometric but too dim to bright and simple. I think it makes for sense for a dining room that is also an art studio and a toy room.

Now like I said there are about 93 to go. I’m setting up my living room/office for my studio, mounting new lighting, organizing toys and clean laundry. I’ve done little bits of every project, including some outside projects because my buddy wanted to go outside… despite the heat and pollen.

How badass are those adorable hot pink shoes?

I’m working on my kitchen light as well. Which after I managed to wrestle first the ugliest fluorescent light, then the most enormous 1970’s recessed light box, I now have an escape hatch into my attic from my kitchen.

Yep, that’s the attic.

Why didn’t I finish the light project right away, you ask? Because our AC broke! So that derailed THAT project. But tomorrow, I will be going up into the attic to replace the junction box and repair the ceiling, then I will be FINALLY replacing the light.

Until then, the escape hatch is pretty cool, right?

List of Projects

Last post I told you that I had too many projects that it was making my head buzz…

But today, it’s giving me more joy than pain. Which is good! But it’s STILL a ton of projects!

Here’s what I got going on this weekend:

-Organizing office and studio equipment

BEFORE- Living Room/ My “office”

-Mount bookcase lighting

-Set up for screen painting project. This is an exciting porch project that I decided to do inspired by the Baltimore window screens. This great folk art tradition in Maryland. But I think I will actually paint something a little more Georgia O’Keefe and a little less Bob Ross. (No matter how much I love him. I love her too.)

Baltimore Window screens

-put away the clean laundry that has been piling up

-organize electronics and DVD’s so that they are out of my bubba’s reach- he has destroyed so, so many blue rays

-organize toys again, still working on the right system where he can find what he wants independently but also can communicate his needs with us at the same time. It’s a trial and error kind of thing.

-set up at-home therapy/school cabinet. My buddy will be going back to school more regularly soon. But, if anything, this pandemic has taught me that I can’t rely on school alone for my son’s education.

-Change lighting fixtures in both dining room and kitchen, including finding a replacement for kitchen light for under ten dollars. My husband’s challenge.

BEFORE Dining Room Light

The Dining Room light flickers in a way that makes me nervous given our recent wiring mishaps on the porch. Also I want a something with daylight equivalent for night painting. There is no before picture of the kitchen light because it was an ugly industrial fluorescent light that I have hated for years. Not picture worthy.

-Finish the porch project- but uhg! It’s so hot and itchy!

Then, really, just basic clean up. There are crumbs everywhere. And Amazon boxes. Not as many boxes as there are crumbs. But that’s still a lot of boxes.

Most of these projects are just me trying to regain some control in an out of control world. But either way. I’m feeling good about it.

I can’t… But I will

I’m having an “I can’t” mental health day which is inconvenient because I have a lot to do. Is it strange to be embarrassed by how much bad luck we’ve been experiencing personally, when there is so much worse going on globally?

Like every tele-therapy session I have for my son, when they ask how things have been going I have to explain-

“I had an allergic reaction that made my hands virtually melt.” Or “There was a small fire in my DIY renovation.” Or “A pipe burst when I was trying to change the garden tap.”

Little did I know when I took this before picture that this tap would blow up my life. And would lead to several other issues.

Or “two of the four appliances in my kitchen are broken and I have to fix them with grit and youtube alone.”


“I’ve been electrocuted twice despite turning off the appropriate breakers. Can’t find my voltage detector, obvs”

That looks safe, right?
I didn’t think so either. Fire in 3…2…1

“Carpenter bees keep attacking my porch, despite the fact that I bought them their own little bee home. I punted one out of the air with my boot and I swear I heard it curse at me in bee language.”

“I keep telling my son that he has to have shoes on in the construction zone, but he keeps ‘losing’ them. Which means he hides them. But I am legit scared that he could get blood poisoning from the dirty sharp nails and jagged discarded siding.”

“I just confiscated a bunch of magnets he was trying to eat. Bubba is inconsolable.”

This was taken before the magnet-gate but I’m pretty sure he was annoyed at me for something else.

“My husband has pronounced a fatwa on the renovation, and has forbidden me from talking about it to protect his own sanity. Understandable, it really is. But also embarrassing. It makes me feel like our This Old House issues are somehow my issues because I want to fix them, not ignore them.”

“I can’t feel my feet. And my joints are so angry at me. And my allergies keep making my lips swell up and sting.”

It’s embarrassing. And embarrassing means something else entirely for me. It means, I get overwhelmed and raw and vulnerable, when all I want to do is a have a safe place for my son to play on our screened in porch- because we don’t have a fence, and he’s been starting to elope into busy streets on our walks. So suddenly, a safe entertaining play area becomes a matter of life and death because I can’t sprint as fast as my four year old.

Serious moment. This could have been the last picture of my son and I. I took it by accident when he was ripping his hand out of mine to run into the street.

I know that it’s gonna be ok. I can already feel my meds kicking in, and taking the edge off that vulnerability. And my small porch fire that I was able to stamp out with my gloves is nothing compared to the fact that Minneapolis is blazing.

It’s gonna be ok. Just for right now… I can’t.

But I will.

This Old House is Killing ME

So, during one of my son’s telehealth speech therapy sessions, we found that he was a lot happier outside in our screened in porch. Of course, I decided to turn it into an outdoor classroom IMMEDIATELY. Because my biggest special interest is my son, like you might imagine.

But our sweet little screened in porch was being held together by vines, hole ridden netting, and rust. So honestly, I’ve been working non-stop for the last four days, and the following things have happened.

In no particular order, because my brain won’t function in any particular order.

-I bought a bee house to pull the carpenter bees away from my porch

-The carpenter bees decided that my paltry little house was insufficient and continued to eat my big one.

-I punted one bee coming at me with my boot. It felt like an angry little shuttlecock.

-While changing the old exposed outlet covers to proper outdoor outlets covers, discovered a wiring problem that resulted in a small fire. Immediately shut off the power.

-No, first screamed obscenities while stamping out said fire with my glove. Then shut off the power. First, then.

-Murdered a garden hose trying to remove it from my old tap.

-Murdered a second garden hose when I neglected to clean off the sediment from the old tap.

-Cleaned off the sediment, and attached my favorite, most fancy hose yet. Turned on the tap to have water gush out of the aluminum siding in several places.

-Removed aluminum siding to fix trillion year old tap and discovered that my house used to be pink (YAY!)

-Decided to remove all the siding in just the screened in porch. Found what was holding it together was spiders, mold, and a wretched smell.

-Cut my hand on a sharp aluminum edge. Used my son’s mickey bandaids, which has caused him to try and steal them from my hand every time he sees my wound.

-Made watercolor style drop cloth curtains to save some money and return some of the lattice I planned to use for privacy. (The new tap and tools for dealing with the siding were busting my budget. It’s apparently a very fancy tap. Also, I’ve bought like three cans of liquid wrench to deal with all the rusted bolts and screws.)

-Fixed storm door that kept crashing open at the slightest breeze and causing my sensory issues to flare.

-Re-listened to the Raven Boys series read by Will Patton. His voice is delicious.

-Digged a drainage ditch in the hardest clay I’ve seen since I lived in Georgia, all to stop wood rot. So not even pretty.

-Hauled rocks from the garage to the porch, for said drainage ditch, thinking of greek mythology characters.

-Bent my machete on a bunch of vines, but felt like a total badass for like two seconds. Used my much less badass pruning knife to take out the rest.

-Dug up old rocks and bricks in my backyard to use in the drainage ditch, hoping I wouldn’t unearth a dead pet or anything. There were some really pretty rocks, I would have considered them tombstone worthy. There was no pet cemetery though.

-Spray painted an old chandelier for a planter.

-Had a waterballoon fight with my son to make him happy.

And now I am currently waiting for the liquid wrench to dissolve the corrosion around a pipe that is stuck, with my water off, trying not to loose my mind.