Sunday, October 04, 2015

Sunday Serenity -- Having a Ball

Blue Muse Having at It
she seems a bit bemused but she's game
My Blue Muse and I were having a ball today playing with ideas for this ball of lace weight yarn. There's 420 yards so I believe that's enough for a scarf and hat set and maybe a vest or prayer shawl as well.  I think we settled on an infinity scarf to begin with.

One of the gems I got on my birthday binge last November, it's a blend of superwash wool, silk, and nylon with a metalic silver strand.  I first got it out to make a scarf in February but when I undid the hank and began winding it I ended up with a snarl:

click to see post from February

The night it happened I managed to untangle enough to create a ball from each end the size of golf balls and over the next several months with occasional fussing with it I increased the balls to tennis ball size.  Since Wednesday I took them both to softball size and then wound one onto the other.  It is shotput size or the size of a large grapefruit.

That's how it looked last November when I brought it home


Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Upside-Down Nachos

Upside-Down Nachos
Ready For Chips
 One of my duties here at Mom's is to make her lunch but since I'm usually reading aloud to her while she eats I wait until after she's eaten to fix my lunch.  Nachos are one of the few lunches where we eat the same thing but since I"m not eatinc until as much as an hour and a half later it is still like fixing two separate meals.  So I devised a variation on a theme that makes putting together a nacho plate for a single person quick and easy.

First I paint the plate with refried beans straight out of the can or the fridge.  Then add any other ingredients that are already pre-prepped which also need heating up, including the shredded cheese and heat that in the microwave.

Next I add any uncooked or cold ingredients--salsa, sour cream, olives, green onion, tomato, avocado.  Only the first four are on on this version as the others were unavailable that day.

Upside-Down Nachos
Chips Ahoy!
Last step is to add the chips.  I usually just pile them on but I stopped to take this picture while the bean goop was still visible.  Sometimes for Mom I'll take the time to slide the chips in along the outer edge until the cirle the plate then add a second an third row behind that, pushing the bean goop towards the center.  It looks a bit like a sunflower.  But that takes at least another ten minutes and I seldom have that kind of time to spare.

Because this is a quick and easy way to make single-serving nachos this way of making them is handy on the weekends when Mom is with my brother's family and I'm responsible for all my own meals.


Monday, September 21, 2015

Fiber Art WIP: Jewelry Travel Organizer

Jewelry Travel Organizer
The craft project I've targeted for dedicated focus until it is done is this jewelry travel organizer kit that I am making for my sister.  It was meant for her birthday in July and I did giver her one part of it the week of her birthday--the earring wallet with a postcard picture of a baby polar bear for a cover.  It had three sections of plastic needlepoint canvas joined on the short sides and it folded accordion style.

The jewelry box, also made with plastic needlepoint canvas, has a top cover with a picture of a mama and baby polar bear.  The picture has a vinal pocket on the back and is attached on its bottom edge to the front edge of the lid so that jewelry can be mounted on the inside of the lid.    I have a tiny mirror mounted with decorative electricians tape but it is coming loose so I'm going to have to rethink that.

I actually gave Carri the box two weeks ago thinking that the project was finished and I was free to move on to the next target (the nearly three years past due Secret Santa project for my Sister-In-Law--the Quilter's Tote) but Carri handed back the earring wallet telling me it wasn't working.  I took back the box too because I'd forgotten to attach the clasp.  Then I spent that weekend rethinking the whole project.

I decided to turn the postcard sized wallet into something that can hold loose items and to crochet the earring wallet.  I spent the whole weekend crocheting the fifteen inch piece seen above.  Then Carri brought me her earring collection so I could mount them for her.  And Lo it did not work!!  The two-chain mesh I worked with size 5 thread was too big.  So after some more thought I decided to put an Aida cloth lining.  That did seem to work.  Especially with the crocheted back putting pressure on the hook keeping them from sliding out.  The lime green ribbon will serve a double purpose--to protect the earrings from scratching each other when the wallet is folded and as part of the clasp holing it closed.

The lime green border on the purple crochet is done in lace weight yarn that I created by pulling apart the four fibers in several yards of Carron Simply Soft yarn.  i put that border on last weekend and during last week spent two days trying to find a way to mount a 15x2.5 inch piece of Aida cloth on a jerry rigged stretcher frame so I could put a backstitch border around the edge to stop fraying while being decorative.  I spent hours and hours untangling the sewing thread I was using to attach it to a loom I'd made from my Martha Stewart loom set.  I finally realized in the wee hours of a morning after extricating myself from the upteenth game of evil cat's cradel I realized that in the time I'd spent on that I could have backstitched around the border four times.  Plenty of time that I could have worked slow enough to stay mindful of my tension and thus prevent the puckering of the cloth that stretching it on a frame is intended to do.

So I spent part of this past weekend doing that.  The remaining steps are:

  • attach the crochet, aida and ribbon pieces together
  • make the buckle for the clasp out of a 1 in sq piece of plastic canvas
  • mount the earrings
  • take the mirror off the lid and attach it to the back of the baby polar bear
  • create an enclosed wallet with that postcard and the three plastic canvas pieces
  • add clasp to jewelry box 
I'll post pic when it is finished.  I'm hoping by Sunday night if not sooner.  Idealiy I'd like to have it done by Friday afternoon so I can get back to work on the Quilter's tote


Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sunday Serenity -- Movie Review: OC87

OC87:The Obsessive Compulsive, Major Depression, Bipolar, Asperger's Movie

Bud Clayman, having had his dreams of a film making career interrupted by mental illness some thirty years ago, reaches again for his dreams by making this film portraying his struggles with mental illness.  We watch as he and those who witnessed it reminisce about the darkest moments of the major depressive episodes.  We are given glimpses into what a typical day looks and feels like for him with his Asperger's social awkwardness in full view and his OCD circular thoughts provided via voice over.  And as the story progress we watch his coping skills increase as he implements a makeover of his life with the advice and help of friends, family and therapists.  Along the way we witness the healing of relationships, including that with himself, a significant triumph in light of the challenges imposed by Asperger's aka high-functioning autism in which social engagement is severely impaired.

In one scene he acts in a script he wrote based on an episode of Lost in Space that moved him as a child.  The one where John Robinson encounters his evil anti-self in another dimension.  In Buddy's version he gets to verbally chastise and overcome the bully side of himself that has tormented him for decades with harsh judgement and belittlement.

As I watched that I flashed on the Star Trek episode in which a transporter accident split Kirk into two extreme opposite personalities--docile and aggressive.  Kirk learns that neither one of them can survive without the other but only the docile Kirk comprehends this.  The aggressive Kirk will accept nothing less than docile Kirk's annihilation so he must be rendered unconscious and held in docile Kirk's arms as they make the trip through the (hopfuly) repaired transporter to me melded back into one complete person. That is the scene I'd want to reenact with my inner bully.

I need to thank Buddy for this monumental achievment and congratulate him for the follow-thru (so difficult for him) in bringing this project from concept to reality.  But especially for his courage in giving us this intimate view into his heart, mind and life when one of the major issues he struggles with--high-functioning autism--makes intimacy nearly impossible.

A few year's older than Buddy (HS class of 76) and female, I've struggled with major depressive episodes, chronic anxiety, panic attacks, OCD and ADHD, since before kindergarten.  Bipolar was considered several times because of hyperfocus, insomnia, agitation and rapid speech but ruled out because I never had a manic episode not induced by medication and anxiety or sleep deprivation explained the rest.  But less than a week ago I was diagnosed with high-functioning autism and my search for more info led me to this film which could not have reached me at a more momentous time.

If for no other reason than the profound effect his story is having on me, OC87 was worth every penny, every minute, every ounce of effort and every emotional angst and personal risk invested in it by everyone who participated.  Thank You all from the bottom of my heart.

Based on other reviews on Netflix, I'm sure I'm not the only one so affected.  This was important and successful work even if no other metric seems to confirm that.   So you tell that to those OCDemons Buddy.  And keep telling them until you believe it.

OC87 is for anyone either curious or with a personal need for insight into living with mental illness--yours or someone in your life--including therapists. Buddy and his team have given a spot-on portrayal of what it looks and feels like from inside and out. It humanizes him, revealing him to be much more than the sum of his symptoms and elicits compassion rather than pity and admiration rather than condemnation even when he isn't coming across as very likable.

In the end it is profoundly uplifting because Buddy is obviously on the right path forward, having made visibly significant improvement by his efforts and dedication to 'make over' his life and already had a huge win over his inner demons just by conceiving and following through to the finish with this gift of a film for the community at large--however large you want to define that.

The fact that he was in his mid forties when he made this childhood dream come true shows that it is never too late.  Especially if you start believing in the possibility of what seemed impossible and then take the necessary steps toward it in defiance of the demons of doubt--both inner and outer.  Right now, in this moment, while still under the influence of Buddy's film I'm again feeling the possibility of reaching for my childhood dream, ending the currently six-month hiatus from writing and finishing one of the dozens of fiction WIP in my files-or a brand new one.

More importantly I understand now that finishing isn't the most important thing--the effort itself is worthy and potentially transforming as I just witnessed.

If I start to doubt again, I will return to watch OC87.  (So please, please, please leave it up on Netflix.)

Tho some of his experiences differ from mine, for those that are similar I can testify to their accuracy.   I will be referring some of my friends and family to this film for insight into my struggles.  Especially the Asperger's aspect.

The only significant difference is in the way my OCD circular thoughts manifest.  Instead of fear of acting out on thoughts of violent acts against others, I have an inner tyrannical taskmaster continuously berating me for failing, never allowing me to enjoy a sense of accomplishment by interpreting successes as failure because they never meet the impossibly high standards (like having completed only ten percent of a day's to-do list that contained six weeks worth of tasks) and using these failures as proof that I am a failure--and an excuse to give up.

There are ways other than thoughts that my OCDemons manifest for which I saw no reflection In Bud's experience so I'lll save them for future posts.  But I can say that like Bud's mine have nothing to do with hand washing, germs, counting, or checking locks and appliances so well  portrayed in culture media to seem synonymous with OCD.  There are a myriad of ways obsession and compulsion can manifest alone  and together and more than a few have plagued my life.

Keep making films Buddy.  I will be watching for more of your work.  You are so talented, insightful and honest.  The industry and film community needs you and your unique way of seeing the world.


Saturday, September 19, 2015

I Can Relate: An Asperger's Girl on TED Talks

Thanks to my sister Jamie for bringing this one to my attention.

Alix Generous's description of her visual thinking and vivid lucid dreams are very like my own as is the shyness and social awkwardness.  But I can only wish that I'd founded a biotec company dedicated to autism assistive technology by age 22 or developed the ability tounderstand humor well enough by then to perform what amounts to informative stand-up comedy.

She is amazing.  As is her vision for a future for those on the autism spectrum in which they are welcomed and integrated in society, their talents and contributions to culture and technology valued and the road blocks to their success removed.  I love her vision and if what she has already accomplished is indicative of her future success I've no doubt she'll have made it real by the time she is my age.  If not a decade sooner.

I hope I don't wear out my visitors on the subject but my OCD and hyperfocus has kicked into overdrive since my diagnoses on Wednesday with high-functioning autism and I started collecting online resources.  Storing some of the most meaningful to me on my blog makes more sense than hiding them among the bushels of bookmarks on my browser.

Expect more but I promise I will diversify at least a bit.  There were quite a few nearly as significant developments during my six month hiatus which I can share--books finished, craft projects done or begun, thinned waist, thinned wardrobe, yardsale, a dire diagnoses rescinded, an ER visit, other health issues tended to, videos watched, room makeovers, items purchased, sorting and organizing projects progress, mood improvements, lots of reading and research, aspirations and insights.....

About the only one of my usual activities neglected since April was writing of all kinds and I think that is back now.


Friday, September 18, 2015

With Respect to the Spectrum

The Big Give for Autism

How ironic is it that this week seems to be the annual fundraiser for Autism and I received an official diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder on Wednesday.

I'm 57 and 10/12ths.

Essentially I self-diagnosed a couple months ago while reading aloud to my Mom The Best Kind of Different: Our Family's Journey With Asperger's Syndrome by Shonda Schilling wife of Boston Red Socks Pitcher Curt Schilling about their experience with their son Grant.  As I was reading I kept finding myself identifying with the behaviors she was describing.  After the first few evening's readings I went back in the ebook and highlighted all the incidents for which I had memories of similar incidents.  There were already over half a dozen and as the days progressed I continued to highlight something nearly every day.

So after stewing on it for a week or so after finishing the book I got up the nerve to ask my counselor if we could look into having me assessed for Asperger's.  It turned out she was already considering the possibility.

And now it's official. Well autism spectrum anyway.  She was unclear whether the psychologist who evaluated the questionnaires my sister and I filled out was specifying Asperger's or not.  And I'm not sure if high-fuctioning autism is synonymous with Asperger's.  Since I never had a language deficit and tended to excel in most academic skills that seems to fit the high-funtioning criteria if not specifically Asperger's.  Most of my issues are in the social, sensory, emotional, and perseverating behaviors.  I guess we'll be fine-tuning all that going forward.

Meanwhile I find myself feeling enormously relieved in so many ways by this diagnosis.  It explains so much--like:

  • Why as a child I had few close friends and got along with adults better than my own age group and as an adult I continue to have few close friends and gravitate towards children and teens as my confidants.
  • Why at nearly 20 months I spent the entire night following the July 4rth fireworks until past dawn screaming "BOOM! BOOM! Mama. BOOM! BOOM!"
  • Why my first and only attempt to attend a high-school pep rally ended with me hiding in the girls restroom in the school library with the lights out (until I heard Mr H. lock the front door) in the grip of a full blown feels-like-a-heart-attack panic attack that overcame me just seconds after entering the gym where the band and cheerleaders were warming up and the bleachers were full of nearly 900 students all talking at once.  I'd always avoided crowds and had previously spent the pep rallies in the library but they made attending them mandatory so after that first time I made sure to be in one of the library typing booths with the light out-sometimes hiding under the desk-until I heard Mr. H. locking the front door.  Or I'd be conveniently home sick that day.  (I usually wasn't faking it as severe anxiety created symptoms that mimicked illness like sore skin, low-grade fever, sore throat, nausea.)
  • Why I tend to get intensely focused on one topic or activity to the exclusion of others like watching all five Star Trek series inside of four months or all ten seasons of Criminal Minds inside of five weeks or crocheting for twenty hours straight or spending most of forty some hours writing a short story or listening to the same album twenty times in a row or until my brother threatened to break it if I didn't give it a nauseum.
  • Why I research every subject that catches my fancy like I'm going to be writing a master's theses on it.  Wanna lay bets on which subject will be getting that treatment next?
  • Why I dislike being touched
  • Why I like handling things with different textures and shapes and feel a compulsion to touch everything in sight
  • Why I get lost in a zone while staring at something--or nothing.  "Earth to Joy!"  (which may have resulted in the loss of my first close friend in sixth grade after I refused to respond to her calling my name during a rainy-day-recess hide-and-go-seek game in the classroom.  I suspect just like the pep rally I was in sensory overload and had gone into my version of a virtual closet )
  • Why I resist meeting peoples eyes.
  • Why I'm such an extreme perfectionist I prefer to not do it at all than to do it wrong.  In grade school I'd start the assignment over each time I made a mistake because even the erasure smudges offended my sensibilities.
  • Why I have OCD tendencies
  • Why I'm ritualistic about tasks, liking to do them in a certain way or having difficulty doing them at all if some element of that ritual or the ability to establish a ritual is denied me.  But sometimes the ritual for just setting up to do the task consumes the allotted time for working on the task.
  • Why I have difficulty following oral directions without needing them repeated--several times.
  • Why speaking on the phone is nearly as difficult as attending pep rallies
  • Why I'm clumsy
  • Why I jiggle my leg, tap my fingers or pencil on the desk, swivel my desk chair side to side, tap my tongue on the roof my mouth or teeth (one of the ways I learned to disguise the compulsion into socially acceptable behaviors along with rocking babies, bouncing on the mini-tramp or exercise ball, sitting in swings or rocking chairs, drumsticks...)
  • Why I like to collect things and hate to give them up--even things most would toss in the garbage without a qualm--like the old asbestos bathroom floor tiles I hid under my mattress when they put in new linoleum when I was six.  I was heartbroken when Mom discovered them and took them away.  I'm still saving weird stuff but nothing quite as disgusting as that. :)
  • Why I dislike change.  Even transitioning from indoor to outdoor, from dry to wet, from awake to asleep...and visa versa. Switching tasks, changing clothes, changing routines....
  • Why Mom's favorite refrain was 'Why can't you be consistent?'
  • Why it took me nearly ten years to earn my bike via the star chart devised by my mom in which completion of each day's chores without reminding and with good attitude earned a gold star and for each gold star Daddy would put a dollar in the bank for our bike.  My baby sister whom I had a seven year head start on earned her bike several years before I did.
  • Why I dislike any social gathering but especially of more than three or four people.  One on one is my preference.  Well...not counting one on none which I suppose doesn't count as a social gathering anyway.  :)
  • Why I cover my ears and feel tempted to tantrum when sirens or trains go by within a block.  Alarm clocks are barely more tolerable.
  • Why I have such massive startle reactions anyone standing too close can get hurt.  More than once someone coming up behind me or touching me unexpectedly got an elbow in the gut or ribs.
  • Why even listening to conversation takes so much effort and wears me out. And participating is a whole other level of angst.
  • Why I think in images and struggle to translate them into words before whoever is listening loses patience.
  • Why my thoughts go into a free association at lightspeed in which I see patterns and relationships I can seldom convince anyone else are relevant
  • Why conversations with me can wear out the other person trying to follow my train of thought all over the map of ideas.  And that's even if we started out discussing the menu for the next meal.

Nearly all of those examples can be explained by the existence of a neurological condition that makes processing multiple streams of information in real time impossible.  Each of the five senses is at least one separate stream.  Verbal content another--one stream per person speaking.  Non-verbal content yet another--one stream per person present.  Spatial relationships yet another. Time yet another.  Emotions yet another, if not separate streams for each emotion present in the environment--mine and theirs.  This creates the anxiety which leads to the 'unacceptable' behaviors like social isolation, rituals and rhythmic movements, OCD, inconsistency, getting stuck in a groove, the appearance of self-involvement or selfishness.  All of which are manifestations of information overload and/or attempts to soothe the anxiety or control what seems a chaotic environment.

Some of the relief this diagnosis is generating in me relates to the pervasive sense of failure as a human being I've carried for decades because of what seemed to be character flaws preventing me from conforming to expectations--mine or other's.  This sense of failure feeds the depression I've struggled with since at least age 7 and possibly age 4.

Forty odd years after earning my bike I'm still expecting gold star days of myself and never achieving them.  But the chart I've created for myself contains dozens more requirements than Mom's did for me back then.  It's probably impossible for a neuro-typical.  But for someone with the issues I just described above its just cruel.

Now I'm getting a glimpse of a future in which I've forgiven myself for the failure to accomplish the impossible.  For isn't it as unrealistic to expect someone with sensory processing issues to be at ease in a crowd or capable of accomplishing each days tasks to perfection without reminding and with good attitude as it would be to expect a blind person to drive a car or a person with only two limbs to jump rope? 


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Winding Up [ROW80 Check-In]

The writing challenge that
 knows you have a life
I'm still having issues stemming from the weeks of infections.  The worst one is the dizziness verging on vertigo related to the ear infection.  Along with irritating tinnitus and, I hope, temporary hearing loss beyond what was normal before.  Energy levels are getting better but still iffy.

Like an old fashioned tick-tock watch my energy winds down frequently making everything feel slow-mo.

So for now, patience with myself is still the watchword.

same as for Round 1 except for the last one and as always they are time investment rather than word count.
  • Storydreaming with note-taking tools at hand. 15min Daily (I never lost this one since instating it in my first round in 2012.  A ROW80 win!)  --this has become an integral part of every day for me.  But it's not enough if it never leads to more than jotting notes as I live inside my story.
  • Read/Study Craft 15min Daily  -- easily triple that this past week. Before factoring in Saturday's read-a-thon.
  • Move/Breathe/Meditate 15min Daily  --getting back into it after two months of illness has been a challenge. baby steps for now but should step it up soon.  
  • Personal Journaling 15min Daily  --has not become a daily habit yet.  in fact i've not even reached for it since late February.  I feel serious resistance to it which probably means I need to be doing it.
  • Read Fiction 30min Daily --this is one thing I kept up even while sick except for a few of the worst days.  I've even finished several novels since the first of the year
  • Social network activities 30min Daily (writing Joystory posts doesn't count only social reaching out like reading/commenting on other blogs, guest posts and posting to fb, twitter, pinterest etc) --another thing I've not yet got into the swing of since recovering.  but it's been a challenge just to keep the daily posts going since I started them up again a week ago.
  • Engage with the Blow Me a Candy Kiss structural rewrite file 30 min Daily  --hanging head in shame.  can't remember when I last opened either Scrivener's or WhizFolder the two aps the story's material resides in.
All of this in service to the overarching goal for 2015: Regain the joy in writing that I lost sometime last year.  The Joy/joy meter hovers around 5 out of 10 this week.  Except maybe Thursday thru Sunday it spiked a bit for the read-a-thon from the wind-up to the wind-down. I spent a lot of time during the thon with writing-craft books hoping to wind my enthusiasm for writing back up to stand even with that for reading which I do seem to have back.  Maybe JuNoWriMo will serve the same purpose for writing as the read-a-thon did for reading.  It's time to start winding up for it already!


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