Wednesday, June 29, 2011

To be Needed - is the Sweetest of all

This may be stream of conscious writing until I may or may not eventually get to something more solid to say... =) (ed note, skip to middle part)

Took the bus into Portland to grocery shop today, which I hadn't done in a month.

The 20 minutes waiting for the bus was iffy, but not too bad. It wasnt too humid fortunately. And I sat on the curb so I didnt have to stand. At 15 min late I starte worrying, but he came at his usual exactly 20 min late on the nose mark. I hadnt seen him in a month, we talked about festivals an I found out he loves the Beatles too. It's too bad he works Saturdays, when most of them are. When I got to Portland, I was so surprised, the farmers market was on! I had completely forgotten it was Wed. In fact I'm gonna have to start going in every Wed to go. Even tho it's only produce an nothing else, its still fun. I was so surprise and happy. R and I walked around for a while.

We saw the woman who usually sells her photos on Exchange St. R decided to buy a picture of elephants he liked, an she gave him a dollar off since she knows us! Her granddaughter gave me a shell necklace she made for free, it was cute. I wished I had somethig for her. We sat on the bench in Mon. Sq for a while and talked . It was such a beautiful, sunny, good air day, to be sitting in Mon Sq an chatting on such a beautiful day felt very good. Then we went to Tommy's Park and R cut my hair. Which feels much better now! Oh, and we saw a cute 18 mo kid there playing with his dad. He gave
R a high 5! We also saw someone in a yamaca (sp), very rare for Portland, and a transgender guy in a wheelchair stopped to talk to us, rather, R. There were kids playing hackey sack, men selling hot dogs, and everyone just enjoying the beautiful city.

After my haircut, we met up with another friend and walked down to Whole Foods. A long and involved discussion followed, and I got my groceries, which I ha to rush on cus of the long convo, but it was ok. I got what I needed and stayed under my price limit. I was able to help my friends with something, which made me feel good. Overall, the sunshine and non humidity, the feeling of independence of getting there myself, and the being with friends (and getting groceries myself) made it for a very good day overall. I am glad to have those once in a while!


(more solid part)

Why am I feeling happy now? I think it was because I was able to help someone. I know it is, in fact. I am so tired of always being the one who needs help. It feels SO GOOD TO BE ABLE TO HELP someone. It makes me feel more complete, like more of a human being. It makes me feel worthy. I love it!

I walked to WF with my friends, let's call them R and B. I am sure I will forget who B is if I use the initial B, but oh well. B started crying when we got there. I was very concerned and wanted to help her, but she couldn't tell me what was wrong. I asked R in private if he knew what was wrong, but he said he couldn't tell me unless B wanted to tell me herself. I accepted that and we walked back to the table. B said to me very shakily "Can I ask your advice on something?" I was honored, floored to be honest, and said Of course. I don't think anyone has ever asked me that before. She then said "Could we go outside?" and I said Sure, just tell me where. I had memories of me asking my stepmom the same exact things, more or less, years ago in just as shaky and uncertain terms, and I was honored and privileged to be the one on the other side for once.

We stepped outside, and, well I should make this vague since it's a blog and all, but she was having relationship problems with her boyfriend, R, who was also with us (although not outside). She was having trouble getting him to tell her some things she needed to know, for lack of better phrasing. I sympathized and reassured and then said (well, first asked for permission to) talk to him. So then I went inside and asked him the questions I wanted to ask him. It took some time to make sure I fully understood his answers, but I did. At this point R wanted B to come back inside, so I went outside, relayed to her what I knew so far, and she came back in.

To make a long story short, by the end of it, after I had helped translate what R wanted to say but couldnt figure out how to say to B, B understood that what had happened was not her fault, which is what she had feared all along. Although she was of course understandably still not pleased at the thing that happened, she was much relieved that she hadn't caused it, and the two had a much better understanding of each other. I also learned some things about B that will help me be a better friend to her, which she needs, so I am glad about that, too. They both thanked me sincerely as they left. It felt SO GOOD to have helped someone in a truly meaningful way. Also, I feel much more comfortable swimming around in people's emotional lives than I do just about any other place, probably because it makes me feel emotionally connected to others, which I struggle with, so that part was good, too. That is of course why I read so many autism blogs and books and so on.

It would be beyond rewarding to be a counselor of some sort, but I'd only have enough in me to do it in a very limited way, and there are too many other factors in the way. But if anyone has a problem they want me to listen to, well, I'm your person, because for some reason I've always found it much easier to listen to others talking about their problems or significant things in their lives than all the other paling by comparison things people talk about.

Man, it felt so good to be needed. It touches that emotional spot in me that is so often barrenly empty and aching, that I try so hard to fill or else not think about. All I want is a good friendship where I can contribute and give as much as my partner, but all too often it seems the balance is shifted way too much in favor of what the other person does for me, due to my many limitations. I try not to think of myself as limited and give what I can - caring, good cheer, smiles, support, companionship, and the occasional chocolate or two. And I think those areall good things and enough for now, but wouldn't I love to make it more equal, like I did today.

He gave me a haircut, and I helped him with his relationship issues. Perfect equals.

May there be many more days like today =)


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Anti-Romantic Child

Today, I'm going to do something a little different. I want to tell you about a great book I just read, called "The Anti-Romantic Child," by Priscilla Gilman.

"The Anti-Romantic Child," by Priscilla Gilman, is a joy to read. There are an awful lot of autism memoirs in the field these days, and I have read dozens of them. Gilman's book stands out in that her language and choice of words, as well as her choice of ancedotes to share with us, really bring her son Benj to life. When I read most autism memoirs, I can relate (despite not being a parent myself, but having heard the story many times) to the parent's struggle to understand what autism is and to cope with the autism diagnosis. I enjoy reading about each unique child, and their specific strengths and weaknesses, often comparing them to my own.

But very rarely does a child jump off the pages of a book and have me laughing and smiling and pulling for him as much as I did for Benj in Gilman's book. I was proud of him when he did something right, cheering for him when he was struggling, and awed by his disposition and personality. By the end of the book, I wanted to meet him and witness his joy, passion and exuberance for life personally.

Priscilla Gilman had always envisioned a perfect life with her husband and child, a romantic life of the sort she read about in her childhood fairy tales. And at first, it seemed as if she was going to get it. But when the traits that Gilman and her husband thought were so cute and charming turn out to actually be symptoms of a disorder, a lot of things have to change. Benj is diagnosed with hyperlexia, which carries many of the same symptoms and challenges as an autism spectrum diagnosis (hence the comparison in this review).

Gilman and her family jump into finding ways to help him, and ultimately succeed. But the book is not so much a how to book about "saving" a child from the pathos of a disorder as it is a love song to her child. And a beautiful one at that. Could it be that the story of the anti-romantic child is a romantic one after all?

I enjoyed reading about how the family came together to help Benj, and thought that Gilman did a great job focusing on the positive traits that made Benj unique, while still us giving us a good portrait of how challenging his difficulties are. "The Anti-Romantic Child" shows us how wonderful, quirky and delightful our special needs kids really can be, and shows to the non special needs acquainted world that different doesn't always mean bad. Well worth a read.

Get your copy today on Amazon

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Vermont Part 3, Meeting Rachel

It is more than a little hot in here, but I am continuing on my quest to fully document my journey this weekend.

On Sunday, we left around 11 to go to the farmer's market in Brattleboro, and then meet Rachel, a friend I have known a long time online. She also has Asperger's and writes the blog Journeys with Autism. The farmer's market was lovely. Not much there as it was a special Sunday market and a lot of the vendors couldn't make it. But the ones that could were interesting indeed, and the area they had it in was so very lovely. I got some rugelach for Grandma that she really liked, and some maple candies, for Marion and Nate.

A stand selling maple products.

A beautiful, hand painted sign

We then went to meet Rachel. Her house was easy to find. She has the most amazing and beautiful gardens outside. Lots of wonderful purple flowers. We sat on her front porch and talked a while, and then she let us try the Thumper massager she had.

My friend Rachel

Her beautiful purple and white flowers! I love them!

We were going to do a walk in the Retreat area of the town, but when she mentioned that
it was only a 10 minute walk to New Hampshire from her house, we just had to do it. I love the idea of walking to another state. Rob had just biked to Connecticut that morning (2 miles from my Grandma's house), why not walk to NH?

I just loved being able to see the green mountains everywhere we walked in Brattleboro!

It was a lovely walk through town and over the Conneticut River. After, we sat on the benches by the co-op for a bit, and I also got to see a street musician in tie dye playing the Beatles right outside the co op! That was awesome.

Tie dye guy outside the co-op!

There was a small waterfall right outside the Co op also, and a pavillion with benches to sit on. What a lovely area! All of Brattleboro is beautiful - it's what I thought Burlington would be like, but wasn't. And 10x better than Burlington.

Rachel and I sitting in the pavillion by the co-op

After a very pleasant and enjoyable couple hours with Rachel, Rob and I sat on her porch for a bit to regain energy, and then decided to stop in Amherst on the way back. Well, also at Whole Foods cus I had a hankering for that banana peach mango sorbet, and needed some bottled water. We got crepes in to photograph, him to eat, lol.

My grandparents and I, who were gracious enough to let us stay there for the weekend!

On the way back to Maine on Monday, we stopped in Portsmouth and walked around a little there, too. Pretty city, much nicer in the daylight and spring.

Downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire

So now we are home, and it is good to be home! But it was a great trip and worth doing. All the factors came together to make it work out. Next, my brothers are coming to visit, and in July, my mom. So this summer shall be an interesting one, it seems.

Also, PS to the weather gods - this heat wave can go away anytime it likes!

Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Vermont Part 2 - The Strolling of the Heifers

7am dawned bright and way too early when my alarm clock went off Saturday. I was excited, though, so I didn't mind much and got up without much problem. We set off for the The Strolling of the Heifers parade and festival in Brattleboro, Vermont, an hour north. We got there a little late, and then had a snafu with my new camera (it ran out of batteries the very MINUTE we got to the parade after a 15 minute walk from the car), so we did end up missing most of the parade. But it was fine, because everything in the parade just migrated to the festival anyway. We got my old camera from the car which I had brought just in case so that I could take pictures the rest of the day.

The whole parade and all the parade viewers came together as one and walked together to the festival site. It was a mass of people. There were many, many cows, donkeys, sheep and even a pig to view when we got to the festival.

The tail end of some cows

There were also a potpourri of stands with businesses selling things or promoting themselves. It was kind of laid out in a disorganized manner, and you felt you were going to be literally crushed with people in some parts. So the first part of the festival was not that that great. Fortunately, though, we discovered the majority of the festival, the best part, was at the bottom of the hill, in a much more spacious and organized area.

Once we got to the bottom of the hill - courtesy of golf carts that ran up and down in a loop, a wonderful feature - I felt much more relaxed. The Brattleboro Retreat was a beautiful area. Booths were set up in a big field with a lot more breathing room, in a circular fashion. Lots of eye candy and interesting things.

The trees surrounding the area made for a lovely environment

I thought this building was stunningly beautiful, and kept taking pictures of it.

We walked around the circle, Rob stopping to try various food items and me taking pictures of everything along the way. The booths were much more interesting than the ones at the top of the hill. There was a tent for performers, a big play area for kids, and a giant inflatable ten foot tall cow walking around. There were crafts and cow related things for sale. Of particular interest was the circus arts demonstration. That was pretty amazing to watch!

Circus arts demonstration

There was a rock wall and a giant trampoline, and best of all, free water! I have never been to a festival that had free water before, usually they gorge you on it. Free bottles of Vermont Natural spring water.

The color of this colorful inflatable made for a great contrast with the green trees behind it.

After we had spent 3 or 4 hours at the festival, we were spent, and retired to a bench to figure out what to do next. As it was still relatively early in the day, I asked someone at the information desk if there was a scenic drive of some sort that we could do to continue our stay in Vermont. He suggested we go up Route 9 about 15 miles, where we would get to the top of a mountain and look-out called Mount Hogback. So we did, and it was beautiful! Trees for miles around.

Now I know why they call it the Green Mountain state!

We saw a sign that said "Molly Stark Trail," which was apparently a scenic byway that went all the way from Brattleboro to Bennington! So Rob said "Why don't we go to Bennington?" and we did. The ride was beautiful, and we passed through lots of interesting small towns, and saw lots of trees.

The sign that prompted our adventure to Bennington!

We walked around downtown Bennington a bit. It was pretty small, but had a downtown that you could walk around. Lots of beautiful buildings. We didn't actually know where we were,
in relation to anything else, so we were surprised to find, upon consulting some maps in the car, that we were actually very close to the New York border.

Downtown Bennington

We did end up accidentally crossing the NY border, which was kind of fun as we totally weren't expecting it. All of a sudden we see a "Welcome to NY" sign, ok, wrong direction, ha.

I got the Albany country station, WGNA I think, so I was happy about that.

We then went through the Berkshires to get back to Springfield. What an unexpectedly BEAUTIFUL trail! We went on something called the Mohawk Trail, from Williamsburg to Greenfield. It was very steep and twisty but beautiful. We even got stuck behind a tractor at one point, lol.

I think this was somewhere in the Berkshires, although I don't exactly remember. It very well could have been Bennington, but I don't think it was. Wherever it was, it sure is pretty!

It took 2 hrs to get home but was all worth it. We were gone 9am-8pm , a long but very satisfying day!

Next... Brattleboro Day 2

Vermont/MA, Part 1...Northampton/Hadley

Northampton, Massachusetts

Well, if I am to write anything at all about this trip, it will have to be in pieces, as there is so much to write. Let's see if I can start somewhere.

Rob and I left for our trip to MA and Vermont at noon on Friday. Stopped at WF to pick up a few things in Portland first. Beautiful day, 60s, sunny, non humid. Made great time , 3 hrs, to the WF in Hadley, MA. Listened to my Hermans Hermits radio CD from WMPG on the way there, which really helped. Weather was just as nice when we got to MA.

The WF (whole foods) in Hadley was much smaller and different than I remembered it. I was very dissapointed by it and very nervous in it at first. I did not want to spend much time in it at all. Their selection of everything was like 1/4 of what our WF has. I am so glad and lucky we have such an amazing WF. I got some banana peach mango sorbet from their gelato place which was quite good, so that part was good. We met my friend Pat sitting on the tables they had outside, which turned out well. We spent an hour with her and it was quite pleasant. An intellectually stimulating, engaging conversation. She also gave me a copy of the book she had written.

Pat and I

From there we went to an ice cream shop called Flayvors, which was on a farm only 2 miles away. They make their own ice cream there, and have cows outside you can pet and take pictures of. You can literally eat the ice cream while petting the cows it came from, and we did.
Rob had the grass (asparagus) flavored one, which he said was actually quite good. I got my picture taken with the cows, which were even better than the ones at the parade.

Ice cream place Me, getting up close and personal with a cow!


From there, it was only about 10 minutes to nearby Northhampton, a bustling, hip and happening college town. Finding parking was quite difficult, but we enjoyed strolling around the downtown.

They've got a quirky sense of humor here.

So much to see. Rob had a goat cheese sandwhich from the Haymarket Cafe that he really liked.

A quirky little cafe where I used to get excellent smoothies.

I took a lot of pictures.

Totally awesome tie dye shop!

We walked around for an hour and then drove the 25 minutes to Longmeadow, where my grandparents live. After chatting with them for a bit, we went to bed at what was for me quite an early hour, as we had to be up at 730 for the cow festival in Vermont the next day.

Not a bad first day at all! More to come.