Wednesday, December 30, 2015

2016, How to start the New Year, Beating January Blues, New Years expectations and Goals- Why I don't have them.

The new year often goes unmarked for our family. Sometimes I am still awake at midnight and I hear the fireworks of the neighbours and their cheers. I smile slightly but have no inclination to get out of my comphy bed. I love that they want to celebrate. I also appreciate those who make resolutions or words they want to live by. There have been certain years where we set the clocks back and and at 8:00 pretended to count down with our kids. It was fun when our attempt at some sort of festivity happened, but in general most of our New Years Eves are pretty ordinary. Our family does have a tradition of the godmother of our children sometimes staying over, but its laid back and relaxing, and fits into our way of normal. She has been party to setting our clocks back earlier to ring in the year at a reasonable time. We are lucky to have her.

Some people choose words for their new year as a theme or a goal. Even in the tough years where I needed a word for the new year to inspire me to live the next, it felt false. It simply did not match my journey. The word would change within a month or two and I often felt that it was like giving a post title to a blog post that was not written yet. Some people write their titles first to get their story going. I have never been one of those people. It's not wrong. It just is not me. I need to write my story first and then give it a title as an afterthought. Or at times, if I do mark a new year it is usually my Birth Day...the start of an official new year for me. Even at those times, I am careful about my goals and write them loosely. Goals are important to a psyche but only if the goals are flexible and if they do not set the tone for our entire existence or give us our meaning.

I really used to struggle with expectations and do still at times, but in general, I have found that any expectation for a year can not possibly be met in the way I hope it will. Sometimes it is better, sometimes it is worse. I want to live in the NOW. I like to go to sleep on New Years like every other night and wake up to a fresh day of opportunity, heart ache and delight like every other day. Perhaps part of it is that I am an Aspie and prefer gradual transitions? Perhaps my idealism hopes that if I treat each day as a possibility- no more and no less- I can simply BE? Whatever the case, I feel I am healthier if I do not mark New Years.

There are other holidays I mark that others do not feel significance for. It really comes down to personality. I do not resent the go getters who party on New Years and make lists of ambitions. It simply is not me. I hope they do not resent that I like the night and new day to be as ordinary and extraordinary as it is every other day. I feel this way of mine prepares me more for the onslaught of messages that try to tell me that getting healthier, achieving status, getting money, being free or whatever will FINALLY make me feel better or have a good year. I have had health, status, money and freedom- immense privileges but with them I have also had sickness, insignificance, poverty and restriction and I have found that BEING through all of these has brought enrichment. In some of the privileges I learned and in some of the hardships I learned, but in ALL I WAS. I guess that is what I celebrate on New Years, but what I also try to celebrate each day when I wake up...that I am alive, that I am grateful for the breath I am breathing and will continue to choose at this moment, to make it what it IS.

Goals and expectations and words for the year are all fine in theory. In fact, I love reading some of my friend's posts on these mindful pursuits, but for my personal story they don't fit. I have struggled too much in the past with living up to an ideal I put in my mind. I have found the years I thought would be the best, turned out to be ordinary or the worst. I have found that the years set up to start horridly  have ended in beauty, and some years have just been really hard. But, if I really think upon it not EVERY moment was hard. I smiled at points. I became. I had some beauty. The years that have been beautiful in sum- have had tears and pain. We often forget about the multitude of moments that make up our years. Profound is in the day to day ordinary with no marked words of description to describe, yet the fact of Being brings out contentment. The things I want to hold close to my heart are already in it. What I want for who I am, is already inside.

This MOMENT, what I am now, clicking on my keyboard in my pjs, sore from physiotherapy, listening to my children chat while getting together their breakfast and hearing the morning traffic pass by my cold window...this moment is what I have. I chose to share it briefly with you, because I know I also have something to contribute to the conversation. Those who write goals and ambitions also have something to contribute ...and those who do nothing at all.

I suppose my point is that a party or an ordinary day on New Years is the perfect way to ring in the New Year...but it's only perfect if it suits you. If it makes you a better person, a more compassionate person, an ordinary person who sees ordinary as extraordinary or a person who thrives on existence- go for it!  If you are an introvert who likes to avoid all New Year's festivities and likes to lay low through the January Blues - embrace that. If you are an extrovert who prefers to party hard through the January Blues- embrace that. January is hard because of the weather, the post christmas bills or because of the way we agonize over the old and new year...What if beauty and life is just in the daily?

We are all hiding and exploring in our varied ways. Regardless we each have to face ourselves. It is better if we face ourselves with honesty and perception into who we really are instead of living an expectation or a word or a list of what we should be. Yet, if those lists and words truly show our soul- they are part of our experience too. BE what you need to BE because that is what is brave.

Happy Right NOW. Yes, we all need a will to try. But it can be moment to moment. May your right NOW be filled with all you need for the next minute. May you find contentment and beauty already. You are already standing on what you need. You ARE.
This is our family's theme song. Love it.

 I still love this song regardless...I also apply it to every day...Happy New Day:)

*This is a re post from last year that rings true to me still at this moment*

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Hygge/ Cozy/ Intentionally Convalescing "Christmas" Or Holiday Season

*The above blue picture was the backyard this year in Canada- We enjoyed a winter wonderland for about three weeks of heavily covered trees. It was stunning!*
Many people are stressed out, sick, sugar overloaded, and busy over holiday seasons. I used to be one of those people. While our holiday season has a few extra activities, it is also intentionally spread out. We step back and revamp our holidays from year to year based what we currently need, and what worked or did not the year before. Perhaps this seems untraditional, but we keep a few key aspects alive for us and within that we have a "flexible tradition." The two key concepts we like to focus on are Hygge and Convalescing.
Convalescing is a term often used after an illness. It is about recovering the health of the body, mind and soul with intentional nourishment and rest. To find out more click on the two links with the highlighted paragraphs below:

"How to convalesce: You need • A supportive GP, consultant and appropriate medication. • Loving family and friends. • An understanding and encouraging employer and colleagues. • To be led by your body’s needs — sleep when tired, eat when hungry. • Gentle exercise when able, gradually building up or down as necessary. • To learn to say no — doing less than you think you can, not more. • To trust your intuition about how you are and what you need. • To accept that resting isn’t just “doing nothing”. It is replenishing energy and health — and it’s vital. • To eat well and enjoy food. Don’t worry about weight loss or gain for a while. • To plan to cut back even when you’ve regained full health. • To have a holiday in the sun.(see more in link above.)   
"NOURISH- Give your body the best quality nourishment in order to facilitate the healing and repair it does at night. This means a diet of wholefoods, preferably organic, and of simple fare. No stimulants such as coffee, sugar, nicotine or alcohol. Avoid dairy and fast foods. Prepare lots of nourishing broths and soups, made from root vegetables that bury deep into the earth, sharing their energy of grounding and connectedness with you. Quality plant-based proteins to help repair, and fresh juicy fruits." (click on link above)

Hygge is a Danish concept but there are many other versions of it in other cultures. Unfortunately north america has lost the art of this type of connection in general. My husband and I don't even celebrate certain north american holidays anymore. Instead we find ways to cherish the life we have and mark different seasons with beauty and inspiration.  "From the end of October through the New Year and onto Valentine's Day, it's easy to forget that the holidays we celebrate  are simply cultural constructs that we can choose to engage in — or not. The concepts and ideas we celebrate — like our spiritual beliefs and daily habits — are a choice, though sometimes it feels like we "have" to celebrate them, even if we don't feel like it. Culture is ours to do with as we choose, and that means that we can add, subtract, or edit celebrations or holidays as we see fit — because you and me and everyone reading this makes up our culture, and it is defined by us, for us, after all. If you want to add a new and different perspective to your life, there are plenty of other ways to recognize joy and beauty outside American traditions..." ( ) 
The previous link shows seven other concepts from varied cultures similar to Hygge. I found a few additional ideas in the article to add to our full life- I highly recommend learning and googling the seven concepts mentioned. 
Still wondering what Hygge is? "Usually it is translated as "cosy" but hygge means much more than that. Hygge refers to a sense of friendly, warm companionship of a kind fostered when Danes gather together in groups of two or more, although you can actually hygge yourself if there is no one else around. The participants don't even have to be friends (indeed, you might only just have met), but if the conversation flows — avoiding potentially divisive topics like politics and the best method to pickle herring — the bonhomie blossoms, toasts are raised before an open fire (or at the very least, some candles), you are probably coming close."

(Click on more.) The links and highlights below are also full of beautiful descriptions and ideas:

My friend Hillary first introduced me to this concept. She wrote; "There are few pleasures in life that compare to snuggling with loved ones by the fireside, fingers wrapped around a mug of rich Masala chai, toes tucked into something soft and warm. This is hygge, but hygge itself is virtually impossible to define. It includes a sense of togetherness, of sacred, of finding beauty, of creating home, of connection—or, to me, a nourishing of the soul during a season of immense cold and dark. Before knowing hygge was a “thing” I found great solace in creating it my own way—softening the lights, layering my home with soft blankets, thoughtfully placing candles, sliding a squash into the oven to roast and surround us with mouthwatering, sweet warmth. Or through journaling, writing love letters or snuggling with coffee and conversation with a dear friend. It's such a warm, full-bodied embrace of what is; being the one to slip comfort in uncomfortable.;It is living beauty which fills the senses and sustains the heart. It is a deep sigh saying, “It is well with my soul.” (Click above link for more.) 
 "Hygge means different things to different people, but for me it is all about slow living, togetherness, simplicity, and the feeling of belonging and feeling safe. It can be things that you can do together, food you can cook, and places that are hyggeligeto visit." (Click on link above for more.) 
"Embrace who you are. This is hard to do when you are constantly running back and forth and even at home, constantly tidying up or running after the kids and never really pausing. Embrace that you are only human and deserve to take time out each day just to have some tea, do yoga, read a chapter or two of a book, whatever works. This is very Hygge, and very Danish, to pause and sit inside of yourself for a moment, to let your soul catch up to your body as I’ve heard some say." (Click on link above for more.) 
Hygge is as Danish as pork roast and it goes far in illuminating the Danish soul. In essence, hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. The warm glow of candlelight is hygge. Friends and family – that’s hygge too. There's nothing more hygge than sitting round a table, discussing the big and small things in life. Perhaps hygge explains why the Danes are the happiest people in the world?" (Click on link above for more.)
Our home is named Anam Cara because our home is our Soul Friend. Anam Cara is also a favourite book of ours written by Irish Philosopher and poet John O Donohue (CLICK). We have intentionally created a home similar to the Danish concept of Hygge. Our home is not perfect but it is infused with our inspiration and cozy considerations.

"CHOOSE CONTENTMENT OVER PERFECTION - I’m fairly sure that not all Danish homes look like those we see on Pinterest or in magazines, but it’s well known that the Danes are very aware of design & put alot of care and attention into their spaces. It’s not all about being too perfectly arranged or having the latest thing: it’s about being mindful of what you have & what you choose, editing, and being intentional in your decor to create your own style, whatever your budget. Take care of what you have, be content in it’s imperfection, and foster a sense of pride in your home – your home is a reflection of you, and a home that feels cared for, open-hearted & unselfconscious feels cosy and welcoming to others, as well as being a happy place for you to be." (see more in link above.)
 For other simple decor ideas on how to do this click below:

What does convalescing and Hygge mean for our family specifically this year?

First off, we are trying to keep our home tidy enough to enjoy but not perfect enough to stress out. We are prepared to share a few spread out times with friends over the next few weeks but we make sure to have a few down days in between to give them a version of ourselves that involves peace. Life happens. Illness could be a part of our holidays or even tragedy or sadness or moments that we MUST do, but even in that, we try to keep Hygge a mentality...not just an aspect of living. We CAN take a moment at the hospital waiting for bloodwork to smile at each other, meditate or breathe with intention.

 Our Holiday season does involve a few traditions. On Christmas morning we still exchange gifts, Santa still fills the stockings, and we have my immediate side of my family over to share in on gift opening. Our christmas Eve this year is solely focusing on Hygge at home with just our family of five. We are not going out and we are not having anyone in. We are preparing nutritious, easy meals ahead of time to consume on that day. Christmas Eve will be arranged around naps by the fireplace ambiance, reading under blankets, playing games together in our library, a holiday movie with wholesome snacks (perhaps dark chocolate and organic popcorn?) music and candlelit bubble baths for each member of the family at varied times. Our focus is basic togetherness with intentional cozy atmosphere. We will have a normal bedtime so that we can be the best version of ourselves for our gatherings. As a sensitive family staying up late for "special times" does not necessarily make a special time for us. Changes in routine for something "special" can end in tears, fears and nightmares. The same goes for "treats." The best treats we can have involve honey, natural products and perhaps a few indulgences like grape juice, wine, dark chocolate covered fruit, and maybe a few gluten free chips. It's not because we are complete health nuts or think it is bad to indulge, but this rule is because we get sick otherwise. We want our children to respect their bodies on holidays just like they do every other day of the year. We want them to also indulge in beautiful treats or have an occasional coffee or "treat" but the treat has to be something their body specifically can handle.

On Christmas Day we do not have a Christmas Dinner (see my thanksgiving post HERE) but instead make something we enjoy for a light meal in the evening with just our family of five again. If it is nice we take a winter walk and savour the snowy beauty. In the morning christmas day my extended family brings a breakfast item or they eat before, we open some gifts and they depart around lunch. On Boxing day this year, we partake in another day of relaxing and prepping for some of my husband's siblings and parents. We have decided on taco salad because it's easy enough to prepare, tasty to enjoy with a large group yet not too stressful or expensive. We hope to share our hearth with them. Ideally we are preparing for conversations that do not involve politics, religion or anything explosive but instead concentrate on the beauty we share, small events in our lives, and approaching topics that induce warmth and cheer...simply enjoying the presence of the children and their innocence and joy. On New Years we have our children's godmother over to spend the night, we count down earlier than midnight, and we focus again on relaxation and beauty. This year we are dressing up at home to see if that adds a bit of festiveness even though it is just the six of us. 

Not only are Hygge and Convalescing necessary for people with sensory issues or chronic illness, but the concepts are also a joyous part of living. We no longer say yes to invites that may be draining or obligatory. Our yes is a sacred yes and our no is a love infused no. In order to love, we must first give love and respect to ourselves. We can not give when our vessels are empty. If we say yes, it is because we know we can sustain, give what we are, and believe there is enough healing and respect to begin to converse with love. We choose to connect with people who we at least have a slight foundation of respect as a spring board to festive feasting or connective conversations. If our relationships one on one are not solid or at the very least involve some previous respectful dialogue in the past year, it is not a good idea to involve those connections for the holiday season. Yes, forgiveness and cheer can abound more at holidays but that does not mean diving in to gatherings that require more in depth healing. We do not expect ourselves to juggle high emotion events for what should be saved for tougher one on one connections in the daily during the year- if at all in the ebb and flow of life. Forgiveness does not always beget presence. The presence that matters during any season should also be based on concepts built through out the year.

What aspects of Hygge do you incorporate into your life already? What appeals to you to integrate more of? If you are a sufferer of chronic illness or just healed your body from any sort of bug do you take the time to convalesce? How would this change, not only your holidays, but your every day existence?

May your holidays be merry and bright, and if not may you find ways to light candles and make your own light.
My favourite song that gives me this feeling of Hygge:
Winter's night by Sarah Mclachlan:

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Hard Post about Money- You can Learn to Live Beyond Pay Check to Pay Check.

It might be a strong habit of humans, to surrender oneself to the conduct of Western society, but no one is forcing you. You do have a choice in most aspects of living. It simply requires thinking outside the box, stretching your mind and heart, and making counter cultural decisions that may tick a lot of people off...Ok so it is not so simple, but living free of the conduct of typical society is an option and it can be rewarding in certain cases. For instance; Finances.

This time of year most people feel the time crunch of money. Not only is it the Christmas season when expectations on self and others are high, but it's also the end of the year for many businesses that collect their money. It doesn't seem like the season to talk about money and maybe I should wait until after christmas but my husband and I decided to get out of debt AT christmas a few years ago. The "season of Joy" required us to re assess what we are living for.  It may actually be the perfect season, because of desperation, to get a jump start on taking back your life.

Currently, we have gone into slight debt to finish renos on our house. It is not something that will get us into huge trouble but it has us living pay check to pay check once again. A concept that is eerily familiar to us because we spent over a decade of our marriage pay check to pay check or barely getting by. This had it's benefits but the downsides cost dearly. Money can get in between souls. It can blight lovely moments. YET, as human souls, we also have the power to take a bit of our autonomy back. Money does not have a soul but we do! This fact can keep us on the winning side.

Today, I was re- reading some articles that helped us in our money journey years ago. I needed a refresher because it is time to slowly take back our time, resources and autonomy. When I say "slowly" it is because I do not want to give the illusion that getting out of debt is easy or quick. However, I have been on both sides and can honestly say that suddenly what feels like forever is 5 years later of plugging along on the scrimping plan and one day, you wake up free! Five years may seem long but on the flip side, it is really worth it! ( See our full journey HERE.)

Paying bills is part of life in our current society, but there are ways to lessen the load and to live freely within those payments. Sometimes, if it's done right, paying those bills can be a privilege in exchange for a service that is wanted (if used appropriately and you are not being ripped off.) We have options. We can choose to enjoy christmas without so much giving or receiving...and focus on what we have. We can choose to opt out of many service conditions or  job requirements or being part of organizations that take our time and money and that our culture conditions us to believe adds worth to us. There are many ways we can cut back to take back what is ours- a LIFE of beauty, peace and grace. When we get to that point we are free to give money, that is not debt money, to others in gifts we choose because we WANT to and not because we believe it is required. 

*On a side note, it is important to enjoy your life and sometimes give of time or beauty in other ways while you are in debt- life is only lived once, but try to apply that theory in other ways if possible!*

Here are some articles and a few highlights from each to start you on your journey:

"  People are emotional, but money is unemotional. If your mini van payment is more than you can afford or your grocery budget is unrealistic, numbers won’t lie. There’s no need to point fingers; the facts speak for themselves. We were making mistakes like budgeting backwards, deciding what we wanted to spend money on and then plugging in the numbers, which, of course didn’t add up. Look for things you’re doing well.  We saw that we earned enough and we could live on what we made if we lived frugally (though we wanted to earn more to help pay down our debt)."
"Drop the idea that you need to save for retirement because you know you aren’t going to have enough saved up even if you keep doing exactly what you are doing … and instead shift into a vision of financial liberation, in which you know how to make what you need, when you need it, doing work you love that you can do until you die.

Stop focusing on paying off your debt and instead consider how you can use your good credit score to acquire more of the resources you need to build yourself that income stream and stop doing work you hate -OR-...""Walking a new financial path isn’t easy. It’s like a diet–it’s a new set of routines and it can be difficult to get used to a new walk. The best way to make it easier is to ask for help, and the best place to ask is your spouse. Work cooperatively with your spouse to cut spending and get in a better financial routine."

And this is a surprisingly comprehensive how to guide to get started:
"Cut unnecessary expenses. You will need to adjust to living off the smaller budget that you have set and, whenever possible, even less than that. This means cutting out unnecessary daily spending: fewer lattés at the café, more homemade coffee; fewer lunches out, more bagged lunches from home.
  • Do not forget to look into your fixed expenses category to reduce costs as well. For example, can you consider moving into more affordable housing? Is taking a bus instead of driving an option?"
I don't have all the answers because each household has unique needs and challenges, but some of these concepts are universal. Some ideas you will have to tweak for your own household. When we originally cut our debt we made huge drastic changes. We put all money that was not on groceries or bills to debt for two full years and used christmas and birthdays as the only time to spend on something we want. We did not do anything or buy anything and we gifted out of our own household stalk. We also cut our gas bill and power by consuming way less than was comfortable at times.  Currently, our house is filled with stuff and this fact would be hard to believe, but it was not always like this. A lot of our stuff has come from saving from birthdays and holidays, exchanging with others, gifts and also from the year of financial freedom when we allowed ourselves to fill in a few things we didn't get to enjoy before. We didn't go crazy but since we don't own vehicles that have payments, or expensive jewellery or go on vacations we DID add that money up and buy fun things for our home. It was our celebratory achievement pay day:) However, it is not a habit we enjoy and currently we are cutting back again because we started to believe we could afford that lifestyle regularly (we can't.)

This time in our financial goals we are starting a bit more slow because we are not in as much trouble as last time. We will be dividing our money between trying to build a savings account and the debt we do have on a year long plan. It's what we can afford to do. Last time we were not so lucky and had to make drastic, life changing cuts and huge sacrifices to sustain our home and our life. It CAN get better but it takes willpower, support, guts, thinking outside the box, and grace. Grace is the biggest factor. Life is more than money. Money IS important but it's like health. 

Speaking from a place of chronic illness I now know that health isn't everything either. I can still live a wonderful life in pain or ill health. I can feel my value and cherish my life even with hair falling out or my skin breakouts of hives or the pain that sends me into spirals. It's not all bad and in fact some of it teaches me my value in a different way. It's possible. Would I prefer to have health? Yes! But wasting time on envy of others who have that health, wishing my moments away with "if only's" or idealizing health as the only possible way to have a valuable existence, is a precious waste of ME. The same applies to money. Like health, it is important. As in health, it is crucial to make some necessary adjustments, do the research on your current condition, accept or grieve the changes of life ahead, but then apply grace to the fact that life may always be a tad different for you and those changes can bring some freedom and joy in a different way.

If you are in pain this holiday season, I am sorry. I know what that is like. We almost felt suicidal one christmas due to finances and having NOTHING. I understand. If you are in that place DO NOT give up. It CAN get better. We saw a financial advisor at christmas and he told us to go bankrupt. We didn't. (We would have if we had to.) Despite him saying that we could never sustain what we had, we proved him wrong. We took a few of his suggestions and made some of our own adjustments. We did what was necessary and we still have our home. This was a financial advisor who told us we could not have what we now have. Defy the odds. It CAN be done. It can look dire but there are ways to make life worth living. Remind yourself of what you do have and make steps towards what you want: freedom. There is hope. Latch on to it and while you are at it, find someone who can help you through this time. Life is still worth living, even in crushing debt. In fact, I had some of my most beautiful moments during this time too. Yours WILL happen. You can help yourself too.

I wish you a season of freedom. I wish you bravery to make the changes that some will condemn you for, others will view as selfish and some may shake their heads in wonder. Don't explain because they can not possibly know all of your life...just make the changes that are needed one small step at a time. Most of all I wish you grace. First for yourself and then for others as you transition onward.

Walking this journey with you. "Until then we'll have to muddle through somehow, So have yourself a merry little Christmas now..." (from the lovely melancholy christmas song below).

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Link: Ten myths about Aspies By Sam

Sam has been a long time blog friend. She has been a sort of accomplice to me in discovering all things Aspie on my journey. She was one of the first Aspergirls on the net that I connected to. I am often slack jawed at her accuracy of relating an experience very similar to mine. This is rare in my world. She also is great at making lists that are to the point but full of descriptors that help friends and family to side step ableism.

This post had me nodding with every word. My two favourite highlights are below:

"Myth #6: Aspies Need to be Taught by Non-Autistics How to Be in the World -There is nothing more insulting to most Aspies than another’s assumption that we need to be taught how to be in this world. Adult Aspies have taught themselves how to survive from a young age. We had to. We had to learn, imitate, and get by with our building skill set. We don’t generally welcome or appreciate unsolicited advice, nor do we have fondness for others who think because they hear a label that they know more about us than our own selves. We learn the best through self-study and through the companionship of other autistics. We learn the best when we aren’t preached to, told what to do, how to act, or set up for failure by mainstream’s expectations that we should somehow mold ourselves into being someone else."  
This is the bane of my existence and has followed me through out life. If someone will try to do this to me it is guaranteed that I will walk away or become a tad hostile. I am not easily influenced. I find that I have survived and mimicked and become more appropriate than most "normal" people in most situations. I know more about myself than most do and find the fact that it's assumed otherwise to hold the greatest point of contention for me.
Myth #10: Aspies Long For Attention - We sometimes share a lot about our struggles, about our autism, about our Aspergers. We might write blogs or share posters on social networks. We might advocate or speak publicly. We don’t have a choice anymore, because others who aren’t autistic have been largely speaking for us. And the information that often rotates through the masses is inaccurate, misrepresented, and/or stereotypical regurgitation that is outdated and false. We get tired of being told who we are and what we are and how to treat us and fix us. We don’t think we need fixing. We think others who lie, deceive, manipulate, and purposely hurt or ostracize others are the ones that may perhaps need counseling. We find our ability to maintain laser-sharp focus, to accomplish large endeavors, to create in a new way, and to find answers no one else knew were there, amazing! We appreciate are often off-the-charts admiration and adoration of nature, music, and animals. We appreciate those of us that our poets, those of us that our philosophers, those of us that are comedians, those of us that are scholars, and the like. " 
I used to get this a lot...the assumption I wanted attention simply because I shared my interests or spoke up for my rights or others. Now, because I have stepped out of so many forums I am probably accused more of selfishness, which I also know to be untrue, but I find it interesting that sharing equalled needing attention from others.  I also find that this happens as an accusation because we make interesting or counter cultural decisions that most view as attention seeking or reactionary...however, because our brains are different (mine with aspergers and my husband's with ADD) our reasons are often different then what the majority assumes.

 Self advocacy specially falls into this category. It's fine for parents of disabled children to have blogs and speak about their "tough" times or the issues but it is not ok for a person who actually has these things to tell it like it is. This is less accepted because it comes from the cultural context of disbelief that a person with these conditions can think, tell the truth, write, express or be reliable. This fact shows how far reaching ableism is in cultural mentalities. Self advocacy is frowned upon yet it is the most needed form of advocacy in any brain difference to combat ableism. I don't always write a post on Aspergers because I simply want to, sometimes I HAVE to because I want the world to be less ableist for my children and future generations. I am also sick of the condescending way brain differences are viewed. I despise attention unless it is from my husband or children or in a needed situation. I like to be in the background observing so I am glad Sam addressed this accusation. 

The other ten myths are point on as well. I hope you check out the link. Thanks Sam for putting time and effort into combating myths.

This is by Samantha and SO good for Aspergirls. I would highly recommend for any who wish to understand women and autism to listen while doing chores or watch during downtime:

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Happy Hermit, Freedom In Choices, and the Three Reactions I usually Induce in People.

“I only go out to get me a fresh appetite for being alone.” -Lord Byron

 (For context HERE. is a post on my Hermit existence.)

Back in my twenties I would join any group, lead mom's time outs at my home, and reach out to anyone in need. Part of it was my healing factor. I wanted to help as many people as possible. Another part of it was that I was desperate for acceptance. I did not know completely what was up with me. Especially before age 24. I thought I was somewhat normal and did not get why everyone else did not...until I delightfully discovered being an INFJ, having Aspergers/ Autism and being Highly Sensitive.

I spent years hashing out these changes on my original blog, finding people to listen, and trying to heal more people. This was a needed stage and I do not begrudge anyone who is currently in it. This happened until one day it didn't. Shortly before thirty, I realized I am really not a people person at all. I like the concept of people and I DO still enjoy the interactions I have or helping others with books or writing, but actually engaging with a lot of friends or worse, partying, is not my forte. It took another year to allow myself to drop many engagements I was still holding on to and weak friendships that I was giving more than getting.

I also found a marked difference in how I met new people. Before I would try to connect them with others, have them over even if I didn't care too much for them, or try to become their friends. Now, however, I will politely listen, but after a usually deep conversation is done I will not initiate more. If they bump into me again I do not mind another deep conversation but again, I will not try to incorporate them into my life.  If they ask me for information, I will give it my best because I generally like passing on research or self help, but even if a person suits me a lot, I feel my life is already full of what I can handle with people unless it is another casual relationship. Another friend could give them more time and attention that they need. I no longer hold myself to the obligation or personal expectation that I may be that person. I am likely not.

Unless life changes incredibly, it is enough for me to have the people that I do in my life.  Online interactions are an exception in most cases because that is less likely to infringe on my personal space or time commitments. If I meet people now, we may have them over, but I am mostly content with seeing my friends a few times a year. To me that is sufficient. I don't need more. I have my husband, children, best friend and therapist. I have differing family members I enjoy or need to give to, and I have many people in and out of our lives due to a group forum (click) we have. I enjoy a few online friendships and have found my people through the Internet. This is more than enough for me.

I find if I have a few appointments in a month I get exhausted. I do not understand how people can run from one activity to the next, bump into other moms at school pick up, and interact on a DAILY basis with a multitude of people.** My life isn't set up that way due to many intentional and tough choices, and now I LOVE it. I can go a month without seeing any additional people besides those in my immediate life. I am taken back when people mention the grindstone or that they need to slow down or that time is getting away from them. I used to be one of those people.

Somewhere in my distant memory I can taste that desperation for rest, but it is no longer in my journey. Busyness is a badge that people wear to validate their existence that they are doing something "right" or "useful." Tiredness is another one. I don't wear either unless the tiredness is due to sickness. My existence and those that I love, are beautiful ways of being. We have all of our evenings, weekends and days free to do as we please. Yes we have some obligations like reading, schooling, baking, cooking, chore time and getting outside but all these activities are privileges and most of them can be done at our leisure. I am rarely, if ever, pressured with time. Even with appointments I have now realized I can cancel all the ones that are unnecessary and schedule others spread out and in the afternoons when I do better. I take no appointments, even borderline emergency ones, in the mornings. I find no explanations are best and I simply say no and ask for another time. Most people assume it's because I am as busy as them and I am fine with that assumption.

Financially this has also helped us. Swimming lessons? Our kids can learn how to swim by us or a friend in the pool at their growth needs. Yes it is essential to learn but no, it does not need to be done by a certified teen. Piano or music? This is ultimately for enjoyment. Not only can they teach themselves through Youtube but by teaching themselves they are creating their own incentive and enjoying the process. They are choosing. We are not putting them in anything for the sake of achievement goals or because we believe it adds more value to them. They are already valuable and anything they enjoy will enhance this.

Yes, skills are needed but there are multiple ways to get a skill set without joining organized places that take both time, money and family freedom. I probably just insulted a lot of people but most of our cultural activities are unnecessary and come down to a misunderstanding of needs, power and place. IF it is taking more than it is giving you or your family- it needs to go. Tommy doesn't need to stay in that organization because he loves it even though it is making everyone else cranky and un unified and putting the family into more debt...he can find something else to enjoy. UNLESS you all love it too and it unifies your family. My best friend has a son in hockey but generally, even though this comes with it's pain, she approaches it WAY differently than most hockey moms. She has boundaries and uses it as a way to unify her family. She also will not allow him to commit to anything else. Most kids spend the majority of their time out of the home in organizations that take their youth, family money that could go towards enhanced nutrition and less family stress, leisure time and generally the down time or boredom that enhances their growth and helps them get to know their inner landscapes. How many of us in adulthood actually took with us all the "skills" or "talents" we trained for in our youth? How many happy, well adjusted adults do you know? Yea, I thought so...that begins in school and childhood... (see number two below if you are feeling angsty right now. I am probably inducing some dislike:)

I find that people usually have three reactions to me:

1.) They want to be my best friend or think they are my best friend. This happened A LOT in my teenage and early twenty years (probably due to my INFJ personality.) Looking back I realized it was because I could easily psychoanalyze and immediately recognize unique needs, intuit what they wanted to a degree, and be that person. I validated them, challenged them and explained themselves TO them. Basically I acted like a best friend would after knowing someone a long time but I barely had time with them. They were confused. However, this stage could never last. Eventually it becomes frightening when someone knows you so well and suddenly you realize you don't know much about them. OR they would continually believe we were best friends when really I was more like a therapist role and viewed them with fond regard but not mutual equality. It was often easy for me to let go compared to them letting go because of this helping role. In my mind, when they moved on to the new friends I set them up with or resources that supported them- I viewed it as a success when they were probably feeling abandoned or confused. My goal for them was often to support them in as many ways as possible and then give them full independence. (And this is probably why Aspies are sometimes accused of being Robots...people hear the lack of relational aspect and think we don't care when really in these moments I was infused with care that these people have the best lives they possibly can- even if that means without me in their lives. I don't think that is robotic. I think it's a mixture of emotion and logic.)

2.) They strongly dislike me. They have an aversion to me that often they can not even explain. They view me as fake because how can someone that honest be real? Honesty can come across as harsh- it really is such a lonely word. Or they think I am too much or over think...often they pick up on Autistic traits but since I can "normalize" they instead attribute said traits to selfishness or something worse. There is little understanding for my brain in these circumstances. I mirror what is chosen to see. I have found I can induce fear of life, of life with a lack of conventions and rules, of the way I genuinely live, of who I am deep beliefs, my reasons for choices...most of it scares people. I know simply because I used to make the error of trying to explain or expose and it was always misunderstood because of fear or a boxed mind. Sometimes I make people really want to destroy me. For instance this post. Some people will read it and say, "Is she for real? What a condescending little twerp. I want to show her pain." Because they see how happy and content I am or that I am simply saying what works for me and this makes them feel bad about themselves. They don't realize they are internalizing their own struggle and putting it on me. They don't realize that I am just as real with my pain as my freedom and joy. Or they just don't like me period. I had a friend tell me that her pal who had just moved away told her often how much she disliked me. This shocked me because I went over to her pals house a couple times because our hubbies were friends and she was friends with all my friends. She was always nice to me so to hear that she strongly disliked me threw me for a loop. If I strongly dislike someone they will know. I should not have been shocked because this has happened a lot in my life. I used to take it so personally but now with cognitive therapy and self healing books and my diagnosis it makes me feel like I am doing something right. Not everyone can like the best of people, and if I create that feeling in someone, it means I am not people pleasing my way through life.

3.) They pity me. This is the one reaction I have really struggled with. I don't want any one's pity. I have come so far and know myself so well that I feel this one is undeserved. HOWEVER, I am good enough at perspective taking to see why it happens. Often these are the type A personalities, the extreme Extroverts or the nice people who just want to see everyone do things properly. I do not do things conventionally or "properly." I say these people are nice because most people would simply revert to number 2 and move on, but these people instead can not be mean so instead they pick pity. They are not meaning to be demeaning or condescending but this is probably the most ableist stance against me to take. They are ignorant of ableism in most cases and just see my disabilities as things to either fix, pity or cluck their tongues at. They view their role as helping me normalize or see the light or fit more into a box. This of course does not go over well with me. Ableist behaviour has been my life companion and I do not need more of it, even if it is well intended. I already help myself and am my own worst critic if I need to be. I change if I feel I need changing, which is more than most can say, so to pick up on what I can not do and try to fix it, is a deal breaker for me.

Not only am I an Aspie but I am an INFJ and have my paternal Grandmother's penchant for being on my own. I would be happy with almost no person in my life besides my inner circle. I read this article and it is so completely me that I thought this person crawled into my brain and wrote down my thoughts:

Here is a delightful morsel of this beautiful piece:
"At first it was frightening and sad, then she came to accept it — the letting go, the rightness of it. It was always amazing. To look at the smallest flower, to see the sun rise each day, became more precious, more thrilling, more awe-inspiring than… well, it was awe, it was radical living.
At last the day came when she never had to go out again and no one ever came in, aside from the few trusted friends as good as the garden itself. These she saw when the need to fill the well came upon her, when the ghosts rose up, when solitude was too much. She would gorge herself on conversation and human touch and spark of souls and feel all was made right again, she was made right again.
When they were gone, she was tired, satisfied, smiling, inspired, drained. That was enough, solitude was good again. Anything she needed, it was very little. Any work she couldn’t do herself, she could arrange. It was not so difficult in the end.
Meanwhile the outside world thought she’d imprisoned herself, hid herself from a life, from the world. She could hear them whispering: ‘Poor thing, a recluse’, ‘Keeps to herself’, ‘Dances to her own tune’, ‘Odd’, ‘A loner’, ‘Wicked’, ‘Not well’. To her they were the prisoners."
This is how I feel. I am viewed as the imprisoned but I am free. I love the richness of my life and how I do not need validation from people to exist. I love that I have wholeheartedly accepted myself and feel this was well earned. It took me almost a decade to get to this point and stepping out of many conformed boxes. Most people do not begin to get to this point until their sixties ( if that.) I feel not only lucky, but honoured at the immense beauty I witness in my daily life. I love being alone but also having the freedom of the net to put things out into the void. I don't need validation for my writing either. It's just me being me. If it helps that is wonderful. If it makes others feel less alone or helps them discover truths about themselves even better. Ultimately though, it is here for me, and if it helps me be a whole version of myself, that is enough. When I hear statements like the above "Poor thing", "recluse" "A witch" (gotta love that one!:) or "not well" I smile. It means I am doing something right. That knowledge is enough for me. There is immense joy in BEING and "living freely in a wild place."
Do you feel this way too? Was this a tough post to swallow? How do you step out of boxes or find your freedom?

** There are exceptions to anything and for some Extroverts this way of life is the most enhanced for them as long as they are not taking some introverted family members along for the ride, going into debt for the sake of some illusion, or believing that these things define them, it is fine to have many people or activities in the life of someone who thrives on it. I respect that.

Post Script: There is a 4th reaction but it is only with those who get me...who are my tribe, my support and my loves...and for them - I KNOW deep down they would do anything for me. For these few I inspire HUGE loyalty, devotion, admiration ( that goes both ways) and extreme self sacrificial love. The few that really know me would kill spiders for me, walk through my darkest hours, and be there when I meltdown without batting an eye. They are my tribe...but this is unusual and not my usual reactions which is why I did not include it. I am beyond happy that I have these people and I also owe them the life that I breathe in many ways...

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Home Decor Update

We have been working on Renos for about 15 months transforming our standard "Starter Home" into a place we love to be. We started this process because we asked ourselves, "Why would we search for the perfect home if we have the skill set to make an affordable starter into something we love...especially if we know we are going to be staying for awhile?"

Our theory is that too many people live in conformed boxes and they wonder what is wrong with their lives. There are people who just go home to sleep and live at work and perhaps for them home is not priority but for a family that does not love vacations, we wanted our home to be our haven. We were willing to put in our savings, time and labour to commit to a plan to transform our home into something that inspires us. We started originally with making transitions in our living room and kitchen ( arches ect) see this post for more.

Our first big project was changing our master room into our daughter's room. We ripped out the cheap  carpet and re floored and re painted...

This is just a pretty view of the sunlight on a living room wall and our entry mirror  and living room below.

Next we worked on our basement which only had concrete to begin with. We decided to move our master and two boys rooms downstairs. The picture below is our son's celestial Garden room:

 Its not shown in this photo but he has another side of the room with another window and a long lego table that he sets up under the three built in windows.
 Our youngest loves animals and habitats so his room is the evergreen is the smallest room in the house so we built in under the stairs cubbies for him to enjoy. See black and white photos.

*Pic taken before the basement was complete*


Our master room in the basement is the size of our kitchen and living room and laundry room combined. We moved one window from the side to the front and put our bed at the back. I made a headboard out of a wall quote and old door with cheap fabric hanging for visual affects.
 Our fireplace mantel is not done but we felt it was worth our savings to put a gas fireplace in our room. The basement is cold so we use it almost every night in our Canadian winters. It was worth the scrimping and saving. We do not take vacations or buy expensive cars or jewlery...we are careful with our budget and put anything that is not bills or groceries into our home. I had been carefully saving things from christmas and such for years towards these projects.

 Our kitchen window. I love the summer sun.

 Our master bathroom is attached to our room.

 This is our other bathroom...We repainted and switched out the standard mirrors and lighting for better ones which makes all the on my goal list is a new sink and hardware...
 This used to be two small bedrooms. We ripped them out, installed a window from habitat from humanity and my husband re drywalled the ceiling and installed faux beams and lighting. Before:

 This is our future library
Cleaning up and preparing to decorate;

We thought for fun we would make a little fort in the corner and reading nook since we had room. My husband is a Journeyman Carpenter and I like to design. I gave him the plans for spaces ( I think most homes do not use space well) and incorporated a lot of my reading from Susanka's Not So Big House series.
 This is the library after:

and here it is repainted:

 I wish the pictures could capture the scope of the room and layout of the home. Once all our projects are complete I may have to do a time lapse video of the house to capture the essence. It's cozy to us and we don't care about resale. Too many people live in their home concentrating on resale value when they spend at least a decade of time in them. Why not make it what they want? Someone will eventually appreciate it or it can be changed later. Home should be a haven of beauty and inspiration. Perhaps the urge to go on vacations or grand adventures would be lessened with roots and adventures incorporated into the home?

I have heard a few comments about how others wish they could do this...perhaps if you are not handy it would be tougher, but there are multiple ways to make small changes that make big differences. This has mostly happened because of hard work and sacrifice. We saved, and lived in the empty starter for five years before we could even start on our dreams. We did tiny projects once a year to inspire us but otherwise did not start until we could. We made a goal to pay off debt first, did all the work by ourselves or exchanged with friends and had a few sweet souls help us out, we sacrificed husband cut his work hours and came home for three day weekends for the last 15 months to put in longer days at home. I took over everything in the house with the help of the kids and we all were on constant clean up. But it was worth it! The rewards have outweighed the hardships. We used our imaginations and collective creativity to come up with cheaper ways to make our dreams work. We also cut out all unnecessary outside commitments and time with others for 15 months...which also taught us a bit about boundaries and what is actually important...and what can get done when time is not given away! The fact is, we made this work. We are still considered under the poverty line surprisingly but we put away money whenever we could. We don't live like we are under the poverty line because we got our starter home at a steal of a deal and put our extra money into renovating it.

We have also done this with our front yard and added a large retaining wall with faux brick and many trees...

We have named our home Anam Cara which means Soul Friend.  Our home is a friend of our souls…and hopefully soothes, inspires and creates magic for those in our lives who need a place of respite or imagination. It is infused with our love and work.  We want to inspire our children and have them be part of the house that builds them...