Thursday, December 30, 2010

Gift: 2010 Was Too Generous

This blog is part of a series of posts that chronicle my participation in Reverb 10. Reverb 10 is an online event that encourages its participants to reflect on the past year and gear up for what's to come in the next. A prompt is given each day to fuel some personal reflection. Although I'm a little late on starting the challenge, I'm still looking forward to 18 days of honesty, acceptance, and growth.

December 30 – Gift

Prompt: Gift. This month, gifts and gift-giving can seem inescapable. What’s the most memorable gift, tangible or emotional, you received this year?

(Author: Holly Root)

This reflection requires me to rewind not just to the whole of 2010, but to 2009 as well.

2009 was not the greatest year for me. In my school life, I was highly unfocused. In my personal life, I was not succeeding at maintaining or developing friendships. In my romantic life, I spent six months in a relationship that had been declining for far too long and another six months in trysts that only left me feeling used, hurt, and in case, verbally abused. I walked alone in 2009.

Thankfully, I cannot say the same for 2010. I received the gifts of people, love, support, and encouragement.

Academically, I found purpose. Joining the Forensics team provided me with an incentive to stay in community college for just a little bit. It led to two changes in focus-- Communications and then leaving school behind to grow up and write. My participation in this event gave me stronger sense of self-esteem, self-worth, and just plain old self.

Personally, I made connections with my Forensics teammates that are unparalleled. My New Orleans roommates became like sisters to me. Heidi and I communicate with facial expressions alone. It is a strange feeling for me to know that I always have 10-12 people that I can turn to in a jam. My Forensics Family get to see glimpses of the "real me" every now and then which is saying a lot. They have been so supportive of me in all my decisions and they give me praise and encouragement every single day. I cannot thank them enough.

Romantically, 2010 was an eye-opener. I found a wonderful partner who loves, supports, and encourages me unconditionally. Justin allows me to be myself (silly, moody, brainy, talkative, opinionated, whatever version of me shows up that day) without ever judging me. He sticks by me with every decision I make and with every turn my life takes. I finally learned that it is possible to be in a relationship where one doesn't have to suppress certain aspects about themselves. The term "partner" makes sense to me because in 2010, I got one.

Looking back, I think I'm going to miss 2010. It was a big year for growth and empowerment. Of course, 2010 also showed me my capacity for growth and change, so just imagine what 2011 can give me if I let it.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Ordinary Joy: Puppies and BFF's

This blog is part of a series of posts that chronicle my participation in Reverb 10. Reverb 10 is an online event that encourages its participants to reflect on the past year and gear up for what's to come in the next. A prompt is given each day to fuel some personal reflection. Although I'm a little late on starting the challenge, I'm still looking forward to 18 days of honesty, acceptance, and growth.

December 27 – Ordinary Joy

Our most profound joy is often experienced during ordinary moments. What was one of your most joyful ordinary moments this year?  (Author: BrenĂ© Brown)

I experience profound joy in ordinary moments every day with my Weetzie Dog. I feel a maternal love when I find her curled up in her doggie bed outside my door. I take joy in looking at her sweet, sleeping face and her tractor-esque snores. I love kneeling in front of her, knowing that she will immediately wiggle over and crawl into my lap, burying her head in my chest. Her existence makes me indescribably happy. She's getting a little old for her breed, so in 2011 I plan to cherish every moment I have with my baby.

She doesn't like pictures very much. Or Christmas.
I also experience profound joy yesterday when I received a surprised visit from my best friend, Alyssa. We've been friends for 10 years, since we were locker partners in the 8th grade. Now that Alyssa is a graduate student at NYU (my best friend is sooooo impressive), we only see each other a couple times a year. I cherish every visit with her and I have been known to drop EVERYTHING when this girl calls and want to swing by really quickly.

Yesterday's visit was so special. My family was getting ready to go to my dad's house for dinner and a gift exchange when our house phone rang. The caller ID listed her number and the three women in my house screamed with joy, "ANSWER THE PHONE, GET IT GET IT OMAGAAAAAH." (We are not subtle women.) Long story short, Alyssa was on her way over and we managed to convince her to come with us to my dad's for a quick visit which turned into a three-hour visit.

Something about having Alyssa at a family Christmas gathering was so incredibly powerful. Talking with her and watching her integrate herself into the situation with such grace reminded me how lucky I am that not only that she is in my life, but that she chooses to let me be a part of her life. She is the strongest, coolest, friendliest woman I know. It is rare that I feel truly comfortable with people, but something about Alyssa's presence melts all of my anxiety away and allows me to be myself. She is one of the few people who have seen the real me without all the barriers I put up and she loves it. Her visit yesterday reminded me that I do have the ability to communicate as myself, not as a character that I create for a situation.

Profound joy and acceptance from an ordinary visit from a friend. I couldn't ask for a better Christmas gift.
From left: My sister Sam, Alyssa, moi

Sunday, December 26, 2010

My week in bullet points: December 20-26, 2010

Merry Belated Christmas, y'all! Holiday activities have affected my blogabilities, but I still lived this week, so here's a recap of my week, just in case you missed it.
  • Being busy with last-minute shopping and Christmas activities interrupted my participation in Reverb 10, but here are the posts I did complete: Beyond Avoidance, Future Self
  • Justin and I drove back home from So-Ill/Kentucky. The drive got kind of terrible around Champaign thanks to awful snow and awful drivers, but we made it better by stopping at one of the adult superstores advertised on the side of I-57. The place looked like it would be a dump and totally creepy but IT WAS NOT, I SWEAR. This place had some high-quality products and the employees were tremendously helpful and professional. I was thisclose to venturing into a video booth, but I lost my nerve. I would recommend this place to travellers if I knew where the hell it was.
  • I missed this week's lunar eclipse because of two factors: 1. the intense fog that hung over the Chicago area that night and 2. my tendency to fall into a coma-like slumber after popping a few sleeping pills. (Don't worry, guys, I have a legit prescription for legit insomnia. My pill popping is doctor recommended.)
  • Went to the mall three days before Christmas. I don't understand the point of bringing a child under the age of TWO to see Santa at the mall. The babies are crying and overtired, the moms are frustrated and crabby, and the mall Santas have to hold some stranger's creaming baby. NO ONE WINS IN THIS SITUATION. Except for me, as it makes an awesome people-watching opportunity.
  • I baked chocolate oatmeal candies AND I DID NOT SCREW THEM UP. They are now all gone.
  • Christmas Christmas Christmas. Spent Christmas Eve with Justin's Greek family and I ate until I thought I was going to die. Christmas day with my family and today an extra gathering to spend time with my dad. I also got a surprise visit from my best friend (more on that tomorrow!)
  • Finally, I learned that blogging is apparently a great way to tell your family members what you want for Christmas. My dad saw the post where I mentioned that a friend sent me a link to a Boba Fett tank top/underwear set and he totally got it for me. The internet rules.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Future Self: The big picture doesn't need to be scary

This blog is part of a series of posts that chronicle my participation in Reverb 10. Reverb 10 is an online event that encourages its participants to reflect on the past year and gear up for what's to come in the next. A prompt is given each day to fuel some personal reflection. Although I'm a little late on starting the challenge, I'm still looking forward to 18 days of honesty, acceptance, and growth.

December 21 – Future Self.

Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead? (Bonus: Write a note to yourself 10 years ago. What would you tell your younger self?)  (Author: Jenny Blake)

Who do I want to be? What do I want from life? Where do I see myself in 5-10 years? I try to avoid these "big picture" type of questions. I'm all about thinking and planning in baby steps as I find thinking further down the road stresses me out. I tend to focus on insignificant details, so when planning something big for the future, the amount of details that will haunt me is incalculable. On top of that, the expectations that come with making these long-term plans are overwhelming. My thinking seems to be that if I don't meet these long-term goals, I will be a failure.

Wow. Failure. I want to shake myself right now. "Really, Kait? You think that if you don't follow through with long-term plans in the exact manner you initially set down, you will have failed?" This black-and-white thinking is doing nothing but preventing me from ever making big plans for my future. I can't live my life afraid of what could go wrong or how I could disappoint someone. It's almost as if I see making long-term plans as something I do for others and not for myself. Instead of setting goals for myself, I'm mapping out my life to my parents, loved ones, and mentors so they know what they can expect from me. Often, I think maybe I feel pressure to make plans that appease these people, plans that will make them stop asking questions.

Maybe it's time that I change my perception of a long-term goal. A long-term goal needs to be something that I set for myself, something that will benefit ME. Instead of saying that in five years, I hope to be married or a mother or have this job and live in this house, I want to set a goal that has more to do with healing and developing a better sense of myself. In five years, I hope to be a woman who can see the big picture without crumbling or falling apart.

In order to do this, it is imperative that I stop being overly concerned with others' perceptions of my choices. I must remember that when I'm making plans for myself rather than others, the only person who can produce stress is me. I am the one in control and I think that my Future Self would be proud of this attitude, regardless of what tangible accomplishments she may have.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Beyond Avoidance: The dangers of "should"

This blog is part of a series of posts that chronicle my participation in Reverb 10. Reverb 10 is an online event that encourages its participants to reflect on the past year and gear up for what's to come in the next. A prompt is given each day to fuel some personal reflection. Although I'm a little late on starting the challenge, I'm still looking forward to 18 days of honesty, acceptance, and growth.

December 20 – Beyond Avoidance

What should you have done this year but didn’t because you were too scared, worried, unsure, busy or otherwise deterred from doing? (Bonus: Will you do it?)  (Author: Jake Nickell)

My initial response to this post is, "...ugh." Right off the bat, I'm struck by the word "should." I remember being told in a group therapy session that one step to healing our lives was to erase the word "should" from our vocabulary. At first, I remember being a bit confused and not understanding what this would help. I should be polite to be people. I should clean up after myself. I should send people thank-you cards. These were all positive things attached to that mysterious S-word, so what was the problem?

Now I understand. The problem was that I had only applied "should" scenarios to the future tense. I had neglected to think about the PAST tense. "I shouldn't have kissed that guy." "I should have been more honest with myself and others." "I should have worked harder." When I apply the S-word to the past, all I come up with is regret. And now I understand what the therapists were telling us.

The S-word can be a dangerous thing to play with. In the past, it reminds us mistakes made or roads not taken. We regret our actions and become obsessed with the great "What If's" of life. I try not to think about regret. I know myself and when I start on a regret train of thought, my mind goes to negative places. Instead, I'd rather find the positive in any situation that I may regret. I firmly believe that I can learn something from every experience, even if what I learn is along the lines of, "Well THAT was a mistake, I'm never doing that again!"

As far as future should's, I'm thinking I might want to avoid those as well. They imply doing something that I don't want to do or that other people expect me to do. I want to enter 2011 knowing that I am making my own decisions. Even if my decisions end in a less-than satisfying situation, I can say that I made the decision for myself AND that I learned from it. I want to stop doing things just to please others. I want to continue to push those negative thoughts of regret out of my mind. I want to shed the emotional burden of "should."

Sunday, December 19, 2010

My week in bullet points: December 13-19, 2010

Here's a summary of what happened in my life this week, just in case you missed it.
  • Started my participation in the Reverb 10 challenge. I was almost two weeks late getting started, but I've a lot of fun so far! Check out this week's posts: Action, Appreciate, 5 Minutes, Friendship, Lesson Learned, Try
  • FINISHED THE SEMESTER. Now four weeks of winter break!
  • Attempted to do all of my Christmas shopping in one day. HA! I did most of it, actually. People are horrible and I avoided THREE possible car accidents.
  • Got a a lovely badge of praise from Scandal In The Choir Loft for my post about a particularly bad piece of advertising.
  • Justin and I traveled to Harrisburg, IL and Lousville, KY to visit family. I'm tired, so I'm going to summarize in bracketed sentences. Highway ice pellets. Penis in a stocking. Daquiris at noon. Majestic Southern Indiana landscape. Vomiting in a hotel room. CHEESECAKE. Awkward comments about getting married. Swindled by a buffet. Excellent getaway.
It's 10:00 and I'm exhausted. I'm not going to get to today's Reverb 10 prompt. I did think about the prompt in the car, though. I just don't have anything concrete to write/I JUST WANT TO GO TO SLEEP. I'll get back in the game tomorrow.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Try: Revisiting that bucket list

This blog is part of a series of posts that chronicle my participation in Reverb 10. Reverb 10 is an online event that encourages its participants to reflect on the past year and gear up for what's to come in the next. A prompt is given each day to fuel some personal reflection. Although I'm a little late on starting the challenge, I'm still looking forward to 18 days of honesty, acceptance, and growth.

December 18 – Try

What do you want to try next year? Is there something you wanted to try in 2010? What happened when you did / didn’t go for it? (Author: Kaileen Elise)

I don't really feel that my reflection on this prompt can be limited to just this past year or the coming year, but on my life as whole. I have always been timid and very anxious (almost fearful) about trying new things. I assume that I won't enjoy something new or that it won't be a worthwhile experience. One of my goals, not just in the new year, but in the future as a whole, is to keep my mind open about new experiences. This was my intent when I created my bucket list of 30 Things To Do Before I Turn 30. It is a list of things that I have either been too afraid to try or didn't think I was able to try. I've already completed two items on the list, and I will be keeping the rest of the list in my mind as I enter 2011.

Check out my bucket list posts:

Friday, December 17, 2010

Lesson Learned: Kait IS Strong!

This blog is part of a series of posts that chronicle my participation in Reverb 10. Reverb 10 is an online event that encourages its participants to reflect on the past year and gear up for what's to come in the next. A prompt is given each day to fuel some personal reflection. Although I'm a little late on starting the challenge, I'm still looking forward to 18 days of honesty, acceptance, and growth.

December 17 – Lesson Learned

What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward?  (Author: Tara Weaver)

This is going to be a quickie since I'm on a family trip and I'm pretty tired.

I think the best thing that I have learned about myself this year is that I have a lot more strength and resilience than I give myself credit for. I always tend to think of myself as "soft" or "delicate" or "kind of wussy." Two events from 2010 prove that I may not be any of these things:

1. The great First Date/Speech Tournament All-Nighter of 2010. One weekend in January, I over scheduled myself a bit. On a Friday, I was judging a high school Speech tournament from 4:00 to 7:00 and then going on my first date with Justin immediately afterwards. The next day, I needed to be at school to run the ballot table for our own Speech tournament at 7 AM. Long story short, I stayed out on my date until 5:00 in the morning and never got any sleep between Friday and Saturday, so I was up and doing a stressful job for 35 hours straight. Before that weekend, I would never have thought that I could stay alert and complete all my required tasks with no sleep like that. But I did it. I was able to push myself through those bouts of exhaustion and I made it through that 13-hour tournament in one piece. I was exhausted at the end of the weekend, but the fact that I was able to push myself proves that really can do incredible things under pressure.

2. My first tattoo. I put off getting my first tattoo for about five years partially because I was convinced that I wouldn't be able to stand the pain, that I was too much of a wussy-girl to take it. Well, I definitely proved myself wrong. My experience getting a tattoo was more uncomfortable than it was painful. I winced, but I didn't cry. I didn't need the tattoo artist to take a break. It seemed so silly that I had assumed it would all be terribly unbearable. It was so easy that I know I'll be getting another one.

In 2011, I need to remember these two events every time I assume that a task is out of my reach. I have amazing capabilities when it comes to handling stress, discomfort, or any kind of unpleasant situation. I need to stop assuming that I can't take it, thereby avoiding strong challenges. These feats of inner strength shouldn't be as rare in my life as they currently are. I can only grow if I push myself, and I fully intend to do that in this next year.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Friendship: These people changed my life

This blog is part of a series of posts that chronicle my participation in Reverb 10. Reverb 10 is an online event that encourages its participants to reflect on the past year and gear up for what's to come in the next. A prompt is given each day to fuel some personal reflection. Although I'm a little late on starting the challenge, I'm still looking forward to 18 days of honesty, acceptance, and growth.

December 16 – Friendship

How has a friend changed you or your perspective on the world this year? Was this change gradual, or a sudden burst?  (Author: Martha Mihalick)

As an adolescent, I had a tendency to bond with teachers and mentors. I was incredibly mature for my age and had difficulties connecting with other people my age and felt that I connected better with those who had 15 extra years of life experience. These individuals not only provided natural and fulfilling conversation, but they also gave me support, encouragement, and advice that my age-appropriate friends simply couldn’t. Despite being so connected to these people, I was never quite comfortable with the label “friend.”

This year, I can honestly say that I have developed friendships with my speech coaches, Lauren and Chris. Being a 23/24 year old on a team comprised of (mostly) 18-20 year olds, I sometimes feel like an odd duck. After joining the team, I quickly remembered that awkward disparity of maturity; I was a 35-year-old trapped in a twentysomething’s body, too out of tune with my own age group AND the age group represented by my team. Thankfully, my coaches recognized this and we quickly clicked.

Over the course of a year, my relationship with Lauren and Chris has followed a gradual trajectory of roles and scenarios. My friendships with them have developed into ones that provide me with unconditional support, flowing conversation, true understanding, and a sense of openness and honesty. As teachers, they are willing to help their students one-on-one during office hours, but as friends, they will go above and beyond the call of duty. They will respond to your dinner time (and later) texts to help you deal with a personal issue and offer you a place to stay if you ever need to get away. I can never thank them enough.

The student-coach aspect of our friendship has given me something special. The support and encouragement they give me has changed my perception of myself. Chris and Lauren believe that I am a capable, talented and caring woman...and they have convinced me to believe it as well. Knowing them has given me confidence and strength I didn't know I had.

It is my friendship with them that has made the woman I am at the end of 2010, ready to take on 2011 fearlessly. Every good thing from this year I earned because these amazing people helped me and became my friends. I hope they know how fulfilling our friendship has been for me. Words cannot express how thankful I am.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

5 Minutes: Every moment counts

This blog is part of a series of posts that chronicle my participation in Reverb 10. Reverb 10 is an online event that encourages its participants to reflect on the past year and gear up for what's to come in the next. A prompt is given each day to fuel some personal reflection. Although I'm a little late on starting the challenge, I'm still looking forward to 18 days of honesty, acceptance, and growth.

December 15 – 5 Minutes

Imagine you will completely lose your memory of 2010 in five minutes. Set an alarm for five minutes and capture the things you most want to remember about 2010.  (Author: Patti Digh)

I want to start by saying that I thought I would be typing furiously, trying to get all the important memories out in five minutes. When I actually set my timer, I found myself drawing blanks or remembering events that I thought weren't important enough to be captured (a couple weddings, summer trips, things like that.) I'll get to that in a minute, but here's what I did deem important to be captured:
  • My first date with Justin. I want to remember that despite how nervous we were and how adorably awkward everything was, the night still felt comfortable. So comfortable that I stayed out until 5:00 in the morning (with no funny business!)
  • Big moments on the Forensics circuit. Specifically breaking 2 events into Open Finals at State as a first-year competitor and winning Novice CA at the Norton this fall. These things prove to me that I am talented in this activity.
  • Watching Justin interact with my cousins' kids for the first time. It tickled me that the babies love him and that my 9-year-old cousin notices how nice and friendly he is.
  • Being in Company this summer. It was such a professional and talented cast. I want to remember the unconditional camaraderie of the cast and the fact that I eventually believed that I deserved to be a member of that cast just as much as everyone else.
The things I listed were sort of light bulb-y/self-actualization moments. I listed things about 2010 that made me feel good about myself or my life. As great as these things are, I think I need to realize that events that didn't have those big realization moments are just as important to capture. Things like dancing in a bar, singing Lady Gaga on road trips, slow dancing, or getting duped by a carnival worker are still memories that deserve being held into for a very long time.

In 2011, every moment will count.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Appreciate: People who HAVE people are the luckiest people

This blog is part of a series of posts that chronicle my participation in Reverb 10. Reverb 10 is an online event that encourages its participants to reflect on the past year and gear up for what's to come in the next. A prompt is given each day to fuel some personal reflection. Although I'm a little late on starting the challenge, I'm still looking forward to 18 days of honesty, acceptance, and growth.
December 14 – Appreciate

What’s the one thing you have come to appreciate most in the past year? How do you express gratitude for it?  (Author: Victoria Klein)

I find that I have come to appreciate people this past year. Living with Asperger's, it is sometimes difficult for me to understand the purpose of having people constantly in your life. I have a tendency to shut people out and keep to myself. I find it difficult to ask for help or assistance, partly because I want to prove myself but also because there is a part of me that doesn't understand that the people in my life would not view helping me as a burden.

I have immense appreciation for the people in my life (family, friends, peers, coaches, directors) who support me without question and allow me to burst into their lives from time to time, ranting and raving about who-knows-what. I appreciate anyone that has supported me and given me praise and encouragement this year, whether it was in regards to theatre performances, speech competitions, or blogging endeavors. The people who say, "YES YOU CAN!" are a huge part of what pushes me forward in what I do.

Despite truly appreciating what I have been given, I have difficulty showing my appreciation. It's that whole "give-and-take" thing that Aspy's lack, not just in conversational eloquence, but also in those mysterious unspoken social interactions. Things like love, support, concern, empathy. As an adult, I can now accept these things in my life and process them, but showing my appreciation and gratitude is still difficult. Reciprocity has been a great place for me to start. I support those who support me, I assist those who assist me, etc. However, I still find myself wondering, "Are there other ways I can show my appreciation other than mirroring what is given to me?" This is probably common sense for neuro-typical adults, but it is a concept that does not come as easily to me.

I have a tugging need to thank the amazing people in my life who support me. A simple "thank you" won't cut it. There's got to be something more, right?

So in the next year, I'm going to continue in my growth. I will continue to let people in and appreciate the fact that they honestly want to be a part of my life. Hopefully, I can find a way to communicate my appreciation to them. Perhaps the best way to start is to make them proud. I want to keep doing the things that make people believe in me. While I have to remember to grow for myself, I think it's more than okay to have those other people in the back of my mind when I'm working towards my goal. The people who say, "Keep going, you can do it," because I appreciate their love, friendship, and support more than anything.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Action: Time to grow up and chase that dream!

This blog is part of a series of posts that chronicle my participation in Reverb 10. Reverb 10 is an online event that encourages its participants to reflect on the past year and gear up for what's to come in the next. A prompt is given each day to fuel some personal reflection. Although I'm a little late on starting the challenge, I'm still looking forward to 18 days of honesty, acceptance, and growth.

December 13 – Action

When it comes to aspirations, it’s not about ideas. It’s about making ideas happen. What’s your next step?
(Author: Scott Belsky)

This is a very timely prompt for me, as it allows me to briefly reflect on a very recent decision concerning my plans for the coming year.

I've been fumbling towards some semblance of a future for five years now. I've attended two colleges with two different majors: English Education and Communications. Despite being put on the conveyor belt of institutionalized learning, I never felt comfortable. Nothing in my academic endeavors has inspired a passion to keep going. I've have felt as though I've been living a purposeless life with no end in sight.

Thankfully, I have recently discovered a passion for something, something that fuels my fire. Writing. I feel strong and at ease when I'm writing. The sense of accomplishment I feel either when completing a written piece or receiving praise on something I have written is indescribable. Writing is my sole creative outlet and opens the doors of honesty in a way that even years of talk therapy never could.

Writing is my aspiration. I want to spend the rest of my life writing with a purpose. I have dreams of writing online columns, reaching thousands of people with my words and my thoughts. I dream of being paid to do the thing that makes me happy, the thing that lifts the heavy weight from my chest.

So I've got ideas, but how do I make them happen? First, I have decided that my state of stunted adulthood is hindering my ability to grow into the future self I desire to be. It is because of this that I will not be returning to school in Fall 2011. I want the opportunity to work and write as an adult, to hold a steady job, to have adult responsibilities. I feel that living as an adult, rather than being perpetually 20 years old, will better assist me in achieving my goals. I also need to commit to taking the time to write every day. Even if the only writing I do is in a personal journal, it is an important habit that I need to develop. Finally, I need to put myself out there. I plan to do this by maintaining a steady posting habit here, submitting pieces to other sites, not being afraid to contact other bloggers, and finally, scraping together the cash to attend the BlogHer 2011 conference in San Diego this August.

Realizing what I want in life is freeing, but I cannot forget how important is going to be to follow through on these plans and to never doubt myself. Being bold and fearless in the early weeks of 2010 allowed me to gain confidence in my abilities as a performer and public speaker by putting myself out there. I'm going to use that same brazen attitude in 2011 to prove myself as a writer, a blogger, and an amazing adult woman.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

My week in bullet points: December 6-12, 2010

Here's a summary of what happened in my life this week, just in case you missed it.
  • I studied. A LOT. I think my brain has liquefied and startd dribbling out of my ear.
  • I blogged about my first tattoo.
  • I emailed blogger and Boobquake creator Jennifer McCreight to tell her that my speech about the Boobquake had taken first place at three consective Speech tournaments. Not only did I get a nice email back, but she gave me a little shoutout on her blog. Wheeeee!
  • Justin and I went to a karaoke place and pretty much sang to an empty bar. Awesome because we got to do whatever we wanted, lame because we sang a lot and our throats hurt.
  • Sent a message to a first-grader who had been bullied for her love of Star Wars.
  • A friend sent me a link to an item that I tooooootally think someone should get me for Christmas because, let's face it, I just may have a Boba Fett-ish. ;-)
  • Went to two family functions with Justin. I learned something about myself. When playing Outburst, I am a coveted team member when the category is "Famous Jackson's" and I say things like, "Jackson Pollock!" When playing Outburst, I am not a coveted team member when the category is "Things You Find In A Garage" and I say things like, "Fugitive criminals?"
  • Found a photo of me on the internet that I forgot I had posed for. This was my costume in Company. Yeah. This is exactly why straight guys needs to do theatre. They are missing out on some very excellent and sexy things.

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Force is with all of us.

Back in November, blogger and adoptive mother Carrie Goldman found herself consoling a bullied child. With the rash of teen LGBT suicides, one might not be surprised. However, Carrie's daughter, Katie, was not a teenager being bullied for her sexuality. Katie, an adorable first-grader, was being bullied for having a Star Wars water bottle. Hoping to give her daughter some words of encouragement that weren't strictly parental, Carrie invited her readers to leave comments on her blog reminding Katie that being different is okay and that Star Wars is in no way "just for boys." The response to Katie's story was so overwhelming that Carrie had to shut down comment posting on that post and redirect her readers elsewhere to hare their stories.

As with most blog-related causes these days, this one was granted a day of observance on Facebook. So welcome, friends, to Support Star Wars And Geek Pride For Katie Day. Today, anyone who wants to support Katie is encouraged to show geek pride in any way they can and, at the request of Katie's parents, donate toys to a charity. Today, I am proudly participating by wearing one of my two Star Wars t-shirts (I may change halfway through the day, JUST FOR FUNSIES!).

I also want to participate by sharing a letter to Katie, as I feel Katie and I endured similar experiences as children.

So hello, Katie. My name is Kait and I love Star Wars. I've loved everything about the Star Wars universe since I was a very little girl. The characters, the creatures, the grand adventures, it's all so much fun! When most girls my age were memorizing the lyrics to popular songs on the radio, I was memorizing the number of the trash compactor that Luke, Han, Leia, and Chewbacca jumped into to escape Imperial Stromtroopers (if memory serves me correctly, it is 32638something7). Because of this, I had a hard time making friends and connecting with the other girls in my class.

I don't remember the kind of direct teasing that you have experienced, but I do remember feeling very out of place. No one wanted to talk about how brave Luke Skywalker was. No one appreciated the Yoda puppet that my parents topped our Christmas tree with. It was very lonely to be a Star Wars fan and a 10-year-old girl. What I want you to know is that even though I felt lonely as a kid, that loneliness did go away. By junior high, I had made friends with boys who liked Star Wars almost as much as I did. This must seem like a long time to wait, so my advice is this: don't wait. Don't put off happiness. Don't try to change who you are to please your classmates. I guarantee that if other kids can't appreciate you the way you are, they are going to make really lame friends. If you want to carry around a Star Wars water bottle, do it with pride! You are so blessed to have a unique personality and wonderful, supportive parents who allow that personality to thrive.

Katie, I wish that I could meet you and give you the biggest hug and show you all the of the Star Wars stuff that I have collected in my life. I want to tell you that to me, you're like a real-life Yoda: an amazing inspiration in an unexpectedly small package. I want you to know that as girls, we can be girly and geeky. But most importantly, I want you to know that being true to yourself is the most important skill you can ever have. It's a skill that no bully can ever take away and I hope that someday you realize how impressive a human being you are to say you had that skill as a first-grader.

So stay strong, stay true to yourself, and remember that The Force will be with you. Always.

Monday, December 6, 2010

30 Things To Do Before I Turn 30-- #2

This post is weeks overdue. I apologize, being a full-time student doesn't leave a whole lot of time for blogging.

It does, however, occasionally provide me with free weekends to cross something off my bucket list. A few weeks ago, my dad got me my birthday gift: a tattoo.

I've been toying with the idea of getting a tattoo for about five years. I can remember exactly when the idea popped into my head. I was visiting my cousin on a spontaneous post-breakup trip to Chicago when I thought that a Star Wars tattoo on my lower back would be really cool. If I had money on me, it's entirely possible that I would have gotten it that weekend. Being broke and afraid of pointy needles, the dream was put on hold until the necessary funds (and cajones) came into my life.

Fast forward to September 2010. After reading my bucket list post, my dad informed me that he would get me tattoo for me birthday so I could cross something off my list. With the financial backingand backing and the guarantee of a hand to hold, I was ready!

So what design would I brand into my flesh? After careful deliberation, I chose this:

This is an insignia on the shoulder armor of the biggest BAMF in the Star Wars universe: Boba Fett.

Why this? The reasoning behind getting a Star Wars tattoo was two-fold. Firstly, I love the films. Being an awkward, nerdy kid, the original trilogy was a huge part of my childhood (and included a hard-core crush on Luke Skywalker in the fourth grade). I feel that by putting a Star Wars image on my body, I am saying, "No matter how much makeup I have on or how chic and sophisticated I may look, I am still just a nerdy girl at heart. Nothing can change that." Of all the images I could have chosen, I chose Boba Fett's because I hope that the bad ass attitude that The Fett possesses will help me be a strong, ballsy woman.

Secondly, a Star Wars tattoo is my way of thanking my parents. My parents raised me on Star Wars, Monty Python, and the entire 1980s Eddie Murphy film canon. I like to think that because of the awesome stuff my parents exposed me to an early age, I turned into a totally unique and awesome adult. Sure, I was a weird kid whose interests were far different than her peers, but that pales in comparison to the life I have now. I proudly wear this tattoo as a thank you and an inspiration.

So that's my tattoo story. The experience was far less painful than I had imagined it would be and I can definitely see myself getting another one in the future.

This is easily the most unattractive photo of me EVER.

A work in progress...
Is it wrong that I thought my bloody "bandage" was so cool?
The finished product.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

This is not even close to "sexy."


Okay. This weekend, plans were set in motion to help me achieve one of my bucket list items. I was going to go to a shooting range with my boyfriend, his mother, his step-father, and his uncle and shoot a handgun. Woohoo, I could cross a second item off my bucket list!

Cut to Sunday morning, when my alarm goes off at 8:30 and I realize that I am immensely anxious, nervous, and near a panic at the though of holding a loaded weapon in my shaking hands. Fail. However, it was suggested that I accompany the group and watch the boys shoot their guns, take it all in, etc. I jumped at this suggestion.  While a great deal of my anxiety had to do with the fact that guns kind of scare me, some of it had to do with the fact that I could not really visualize a shooting range and prepare myself for the experience. I needed to see what happens there, how it was set up, and just observe the culture of this particular culture. It was an excellent immersion opportunity and I was looking forward to that aspect.

Now, while I didn't actually fire a weapon and complete something on my bucket list, I still found something to blog about on my visit to the indoor shooting range.

After the hour in the range was complete, our group wandered around the second floor of the establishment, where an individual could purchase hunting accoutrement, magazines, DVDs...and, ya know, GUNS. Lots of them. Endless glass cases of guns pointing at me. It was a little weird, mostly because I'm a nice girl from the suburbs who is not used to seeing A gun, let alone MANY guns that would necessitate an entire rack. (What am I gonna do...with a gun rack?) But I expect to see guns and gun brochures. I'm not stupid, I'm in a SHOOTING RANGE. However, what I did not expect to see was this:

This is a brochure for a weapons manufacturer that is promoting their line of sleek, slim, and small handguns. The brochure immediately caught my attention and prompted me to do a double-take and have a "What the WHAT?" moment in my head. What was it, exactly, about this photo that skeeved me out? It wasn't the sexuality of the ad. Sex sells, so why not use sex to sell anything and everything? I don't particularly find guns particularly scary, but some people do and that's fine. No, the thing that had me a little riled up was the text: "Thin is sexy." Really? REALLY?

When I got home, my natural instinct was to google this. I discovered that "Thin Is Sexy" is the company's entire campaign.  In the context of the ad, the text tells us that the thin design of the handgun is sleek and can be concealed easily (especially if you're a hot chick in a little black dress). Basically, this gun is so sexy that you can conceal is just about anywhere (wink wink, nudge nudge).

I can only assume that the girl on the right keeps her gun in her vag.

But what happens when we take the text out of the context of the ad? We find yet another source telling us that thinness is sexually appealing. This is what pisses me off. Women already have a hard enough time dealing with the pressure from the media, pop culture, and the fashion indsutry. Now a woman can't even shop for a handgun without being bombarded with the message that she's not thin enough?

Hell, in the above photo, I don't even SEE the gun. I am actually more interested in her hair, her makeup, and the purse that her gun happens to be pointing towards. If I mentally remove the gun from the ad, all I see a fashion ad that assumes I can't read subtext and LITERALLY TELLS ME that "thin is sexy."  Maybe I'm being overly sensitive to this because someone very close to me is currently suffering from an eating disorder, but I think we can all agree that this is an unnecessary sales tactic, right?

Look, I have no problem with advertisements that sexualize their product, even when it is something as simple as having a sexy model holding said product. The ads in question, however, are just a mess. I still can't even figure out who the target demographic is here. You would assume it's men, because men will notice and respond to the attractive woman holding the gun. But then why tell a man that thin is sexy? Furthermore, the discussion I've had with men who like guns leads me to believe that men want their guns to be like their ideal penis: bigger and better than everyone else's. The same testosterone-fueled man that is checking out that model's tits is not going to be interesting in the vagina of the handgun world.

Which means that this ad has to be made for women. The gun is small and won't bulge in awkward places, so a woman can carry a concealed weapon while still wearing a chic ensemble. This handgun will totally make you look like a Bond girl! Unfortunately, it took me an hour of looking at the ads to understand the intended message of the ad (BUY OUR GUNS). These advertisements do not effectively sell a handgun. Rather, they effectively sell a high expectation of beauty and desirability. I personally want that model's body more than I want her handgun.

So that's my beef for the day. I will have a full report on what it's like to go to a shooting range (plus my musings on this phallo-centric "sport") when I actually have the balls to fire the damn thing.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Random Things That Tickle Me-- "My Cats Are Famous"

Every now and then, I come across a blog that leaves me in stitches.  The Bloggess, Hyperbole And A Half, The Oatmeal, are blogs that tickle me and make me think, "Gosh, I wish I knew people this funny in real life."

Turns out, I do know people that funny.

My friend/sister's girlfriend/"sister" Kendall has taken up a new hobby and turned it into a blog.  Now, when I say "hobby," I don't mean something active like parasailing or building popsicle stick cabins.  Kendall's hobby is photoshopping pictures of her cats onto the bodies of humans (mainly celebrities).  Thus, My Cats Are Famous was born.  It's a Tumbler format with just photos of humans with cat heads, but her pets are all very photogenic and natural models.  These photos are extremely silly and they make me giggle incessantly.  So check it out, won't you?

This is an example of the kind of brilliance you will find at

(Yeah, this was purely a plug post.  The assignment of term papers/projects means Kait has very little time to produce actual "content.")

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

30 Things To Do Before I Turn 30-- #16

First, I need to apologize for my utter blogging lameness.  No new content in over a week?  Tsk tsk, Kait.  Tsk tsk.

Secondly, I'm so excited to cross something off my bucket list so soon!

Today, I can say that I have accomplished Item #16: Start doing yoga.

In my 24 years of life, I have never really been a fan of physical activity.  Specifically?  Exercise.  There was that summer when I was 17 and rode my bike around my subdivision every day, eventually venturing to the runners' path at the Park District across the street from my neighborhood.  This summer was a strange anomaly.  I've never gotten much out of exercise.  It just made me tired and sweaty.  Frankly, as an underweight teenager, there was a part of me that felt I didn't need exercise as I was terrified of losing weight.  A purely sedentary life was the key to gaining weight and, in my mind, looking like a normal person.

This laziness extended into adulthood.  I matured into a full-on couch potato.  I became the person who laughed when her friends asked her if she wanted to go running with them.  "Yeah, sorry, i don't exercise.  I'm just not that person."  My lack of physical activity didn't seem to have a negative effect on my health.  Or so I thought.

Let's bring yoga into this mix.  I've been curious about yoga for about two years.  I have heard countless testimonies about the wonders of yoga.  "It's so calming."  "It really does wonders for your flexibility."  Plus, I knew of 40+ year old who did yoga and had some much energy and, to be honest, fabulous bodies.  The idea of calming myself by turning my thoughts inward and working on my strength and flexibility was all intriguing to me.  Despite my curiosity, I was under the impression that yoga was out of my reach.  I didn't have the time or the funds for a yoga class, so it remained in that "maybe some day" category of things I wanted to do.

Cut to the beginning of October, less than a week after I posted my bucket list.  My mother and sister came home from a trip to Wal-Mart with...a Wii and Wii Fit Plus.  I.was.SO.EXCITED.  Free yoga.  In my house!  I could start right away!  My sister sang the praises of the Wii Fit, especially the yoga.  I did pause for a moment as I looked at the box.  If I didn't give a shit about my abs, what benefits could be gained from this exercise?  That's when sissy chimed in: "It's really great for your posture."

Oooooh my posture.  I have TERRIBLE posture.  My shoulders slouch forward and my lower back has a slight curvature.  Because of all this, I am plagued by lower back pain and the most stubborn knots you'll ever encounter.  Clearly, I had much to gain from beginning a yoga regimen.

It's been over three weeks since I started doing yoga daily.  I cannot even believe what an effect it has had.  Yoga has helped me become aware of my poor posture and pelvic alignment and I can now correct my posture when I feel that it is off.  I have less back pain and less new knots.  Already a tall woman, I now stand just a little bit taller as I imagine that string pulling the top of my head to the ceiling.

The benefits of yoga go beyond better posture.  I find that I have more energy after a quick half hour Wii Fit session.  The most amazing benefit has been yoga's magical restorative powers.  This past weekend, I competed at a two-day Speech Tournament and had forgotten that the morning after these tournaments, I wake up feeling like I'd been hit by a bus.  Being awake from 5 AM to 10 PM and giving speeches in heels takes a surprising toll on your body.  Typically, I floated through those post-tournament Sundays like I was hungover.  This past Sunday, I got on the Wii Fit.  I was dreading it a bit, considering how much pain my body was in, but I've been committed to doing my yoga every day.  A half hour later, I got off that balance board and my body had been rejuvenated.  It was unbelievable.  Two days of damage reversed in a half hour?  Instead of wasting my Sunday, I felt surprisingly awake and productive enough to get shit done. 

My daily yoga regimen has made me an exercise convert.  Yoga makes me feel alive and powerful, as well as aids in the healing of my body.  Above all, yoga has proved me wrong.  Six months ago, I thought I didn't need exercise because my health was fine.  Now I am aware that my health was in no way "fine."  I had horrible back pain, my immune system was poor, and my energy was consistently low.  My back now feels better, I've managed to avoid colds this entire month, and I feel more motivated.  All in all, this was an excellent item to put on my bucket list.  I only wish I would have come around to yoga years ago.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Getting In Touch With My Inner Child...Sort Of

This week has been pretty stressful and hectic for both myself and my boyfriend.  Between midterms, homework, financial struggles, and family problems, we needed to unwind.  We indulged in a typical Thursday Night karaoke ritual at a suburban T.G.I. Friday's and unwound in a a very adult fashion-- with alcohol and nicotine.  (Life lesson: if you've already ingested an entire margarita shaker, you should not order an Ultimate Mudslide after midnight just because the KJ has one and it looks really delicious.  Tequila + Mudslide = Friday morning headache)

I can't speak for Justin, but my Friday, I wasn't feeling any less stressed.  I was thinking about homework and speeches and all the materials I needed to read.  I was suffering a serious case of adult-itis.  Rather than focusing on the work I would be facing in the coming school week, I should have been thinking about the weekend activities Justin and I had planned.

One of the things I love about Justin is that he is kind of a dork.  By that I mean he enjoys activities that are goofy, silly, and a bit cliched.  In other words, he likes to do things that allow us to stop taking life so seriously and just enjoy the moment.  Naturally, visiting a pumpkin patch sounded like an excellently goofy way to forget my troubles (come on get happyyyyyy) and enjoy a beautiful, autumnal day with my boyfriend.

This Saturday was by far one of the best days I have had in a long time.  Why?  Because I got in touch with my inner child.  Sort of.  You see, Actual Little Kaitlin would not have enjoyed a trip to Goebbert's.  She was a thoroughly nervous creature.  Her parents took her to Goebbert's once; she wanted nothing to with the corn mazes.  Based on a home video of ALK in the parking lot of the Brookfield Zoo (chanting "We has to go home, mommy!"), I can only imagine the terror she would have been seized with when encountering the three animal tents.  Actual Little Kaitlin would have spent too much time worrying about every little detail to enjoy herself, too afraid to engage in the activities around her.

I feel like my experience at the farm made up for my anxiety-ridden childhood.  There were moments I felt pure joy and simple pleasure in little things.  I can only imagine this is what I imagine the children around me must have felt.  I ran around the farm, announcing to Justin all the things I wanted to do.  Everything around me was exciting and new.  I was not overcome by my typical crowd-anxiety.  (There were other people there?  YOU'RE KIDDING ME.)  I felt like I was getting a second chance at my childhood and it was wonderful.

Reflecting on the day, I have identified three behaviors that allowed me to embrace my true inner child and live without worry.

1. Remembering that happiness and fun are my right just as much as anyone else's.  Shying away from life and hugging the walls are not an option.

I tried to come up with some connection between Point #1 and this photo of pigs, but I give up

As a child, I didn't assert myself and probably missed out on a lot of opportunities for fun because of it.  I abandoned this attitude the moment I heard that there was going to be a PIG RACE.  If you've read my post about my love for baby pigs, you can imagine the excitement that was coursing through my veins.  With twenty minutes before the next pig race, I dragged Justin to the track, where a large crowd had already gathered.  It seemed that I wouldn't be getting a close view of the pigs, but I was not about to accept this.  I circled the track and eventually elbowed my way to a track-side position.  (Yeah, I stood nice and wide so small children couldn't crowd me.)  My mildly aggressive attitude allowed me to get close enough to touch the piggies.  In true child-like form, I crouched down to the pigs' level and squealed and clapped with excitement as the sweet, pink babies ran past me in competition for a delicious Oreo cookie.  My happiness was immeasurable.

I also applied this "go for it" attitude in the petting zoo area.

And I said, "Hey, Llama, how about a little somethin', ya know, fer de effort?"
Very Little Kaitlin would never have gone into these tents.  Animals were scary and unpredictable to me.  By the time I was about 10 years old,  realized that animals weren't scary; they were actually pretty cool.  I would have absolutely loved to feed them and connect with them.  Unfortunately, I would have been too shy or confused by the social rules of a petting zoo to just walk up and feed the animals; I would have patiently waited for my turn while other children walked in front of me with no regard for order (savages!).  On this trip, I was hesitant at first.  Then I remembered that I was three feet taller than the ill-behaved children and very adept at slithering my way into tight spaces.  I marched up to every animal, dangling carrot sticks in the air.  I seized each moment and had some tender times with some tender animals.

2. Don't think.  Just do.

When a flat wooden cutout of Winnie The Pooh makes a move, you just go with it.
I spend far too much time thinking about things, over analyzing them and imagining every possible outcome of my decisions.  Naturally, this leads to neurosis and a lack of risk-taking and reckless abandon.  Granted, there aren't too many opportunities for risky behavior at a family-oriented farm, but there are MORE than enough opportunities to look ridiculous.  The trick is to think like a kid (not Actual Little Kaitlin) and stop caring.  Don't think about the germs and grime on the animals, just pet them.  Don't question your volume levels at the pig race, just cheer.  Don't look around to see if anyone is watching, go ahead and pose for a photo with inanimate objects.  Most importantly, if you're standing behind a wooden cutout with a facehole, don't ask what's on the front.  Just put your face in the hole and make a ridiculous face.

See, it totally works out!
3. Laugh like no one is watching.

This is the most important thing that I took from my day at the farm.  I get so caught up in worrying about how I am perceived.  I want to be liked, respected, viewed as someone with intelligence and class.  Living up to these adult expectations becomes exhausting.  But on Saturday afternoon, I didn't care.  I didn't care if a parent looked at me funny for getting right up to the fences.  I didn't care who heard me literally squeal at the baby pigs.  I didn't care if anyone judged me for waiting in a line to participate in a child's activity.  I just didn't care about anything other than being present in my surroundings.  It was so freeing to live in the moment and not once retreat into my own head.  Thinking with the simplicity of a child brought out the life in me.  I mean, look at these happy faces:

That is pure laughter.  Laughter that would not have happened if we thought like adults.  By embracing our inner child, we shed the worries of our normal lives and were able to laugh like children.  In the future, I'm definitely going to embrace opportunities to apply these types of thinking and discover the child I never got to be.



Monday, October 11, 2010

National Coming Out Day-- My Own "Coming Out" Story

For those of you not in the know, today is National Coming Out Day, or as I'll be abbreviating it for the purposes of brevity (REDUNDANT), NCOD.  The purpose of NCOD is to provide nation-wide love and support for anyone who has spent far too long living in fear of publicly identifying as LGBTQ.  There's a spirit of, "We're all in this together," whether you're just now coming out, have already come out, or identify as a straight ally.

Now, I don't want to underscore the LGBT community in any way, but I know I'm not alone in what I'd like to do today.  The Beautiful Kind used today as an opportunity to come out--as herself.  After four years of anonymous sex blogging, Kendra has revealed her real name as well as her beautiful face.  Kudos, Kendra!  You are inspiration to me and you make me feel comfortable doing what I am about to do.

Today, I am coming out.  My coming out has nothing to do with sexuality.  What I want to talk about is something a few people in my life know about, but I feel that today is the day that I can embrace it and let everyone know who I am.

Today, I am coming an autistic adult.

I have an autism-spectrum disorder called Asperger Syndrome.  Asperger Syndrome is characterized by:
  • Difficulties in social interactions
  • Repetitive patterns of behavior
  • Intensely obsessive interests/hobbies
  • Limited empathy
  • Body tics, such as hand flapping, or twisting
  • Sensitivity to excess stimuli (especially auditory)
I was always a "weird kid."  I was frighteningly smart, I didn't know how to relate to other kids my age, and, when excited or lost in thought, I was overcome by intense hand flapping.  (My hand flapping was actually so convulsive that my first grade teacher wondered if I had a form of epilepsy.)  I was never tested for an autism-spectrum disorder, so I spent twenty years of my life sitting on my hands, feeling confused and uncomfortable in group conversations, developing interests that none of my peers shared, and never telling my parents/family members that I loved them.

It wasn't until I was 21 and my mother read an article about Jenny McCarthy's son.  The part of the article that got to the both of us was that her son would play with his toys by lining them up and just looking at them excitedly.  I was catapulted back to my childhood.  I could see myself lining up small toys in a perfect line on my kitchen table.  After setting them up, I would sit back and imagine scenarios for them in my head, occasionally moving them slightly.  This is how I played.  What my parents saw was different.  They saw their daughter lining up toys perfectly and then staring at them, wildly flapping her hands.  The moving of the toys that I mentioned?  Each toy would make a quarter-turn before I would stop and continue the flapping.  Reading that article, my entire childhood made sense.  I never understood why I was the way I was; I just assumed I was weird.  But now there was a concrete cause for my awkwardness and weirdness.  There wasn't something wrong with me.  My peculiarities could be explained.  I cannot even describe the comfort and relief I have felt by being able to know that I am an Aspy.

Since my autism went unnoticed until adulthood, adolescence forced a lot of my quirks to be hidden.  I became aware of my hand flapping and made a conscious effort to hide it and control it when around others.  I got better at pretending I had social schools, mimicking what other girls my age did (to an extent).  I was still an abnormal kid, but I found a way to make it work for me.  A person who meets me now and learns of my condition is usually in disbelief.  I'm fairly high-functioning, so I understand that it can be a little hard to believe.

As high-functioning as I may be (going to school, living on my own for a time), I still have difficulties.  I have hid behind these difficulties, never telling people about them unless it was absolutely necessary.  Today, I'm gonna lay everything out here.

I still have intense difficulties with social interactions.  I second-guess everything I say.  I don't know how to engage in small talk or chit-chat.  Even though I can dole out sarcasm and teasing, I have difficulties seeing these things in others (I tend to take them seriously unless I am told that someone is joking).  Maintaining eye contact is incredibly uncomfortable for me.  My gaze can drift up or down or to the side while talking, all outside my control.  If I am overwhelmed or tired, I may not look someone in the eye at all.  I become extremely embarrassed if someone points out that my eye contact is wonky.

I have auditory sensitivity.  Squeaky or shrill noises make me physically uncomfortable.  Public places a variety of loud noises cause me to shut down socially and retreat into my own head.  Overstimulation can cause me to either become distant or have an actual panic attack.  Alone time is a necessity in my life.

My empathy has improved since I was a child.  I now give hugs to family members.  I cry when mourning a death.  I can attempt to understood other people's feelings if I can imagine myself in their situation.  However, sometimes I find it difficult to empathize with feelings I do not understand or rationalize.  The only family member I can say "I love you" to is my sister.

Change is really scary.  Like, "throw-my-entire-day-off" scary.  Before anything, a social outing, for example.  I plan and envision everything.  What time I will begin to get ready, where we will go, what we will do, how I will interact with people, etc.  If something small, like the location, changes,  I panic, cry, and have to start my planning all over again.  Because of this, I am rarely spontaneous. 

Despite my difficulties, I like to think that my Asperger Syndrome has some benefits.  Not having natural social skills, I spent most of my adolescence and college years studying others and how they communicate.  Because of this, I have been able to identify poor communication skills and can now avoid these behaviors.  My people-watching has actually provided me with mature communication skills that help me have healthier relationships than most of my peers.  I approach everything analytically, which I feel can help me in giving advice.  Instead of responding with emotions, I am able to give advice that is rooted in calm, rational logic.

Living with Asperger Syndrome is a daily struggle and at the end of a long, busy day, I am exhausted.  However, I am am grateful to be living like this.  Being an Aspy makes me a unique and interesting individual.  Despite my struggles, I enjoy looking at the world through a different kind of lens.

So today, I am done hiding behind autism.  I will no longer assume that a stigma will be attached to me or that people will treat me differently.  Autism is nothing to be ashamed of or afraid of.  By opening up about this, I hope to increase awareness, understanding, and education about autism-spectrum disorders and to remind people that autism doesn't look as "different" as one might think. 

If you want more information about autism, I would actually recommend visiting a bookstore rather than searching the internet.  Want to ask me a question about my experiences?  Feel free.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

I Like It Out In The Open

For the past week or two, my Facebook news feed has been cluttered with statuses describing where girls "like it": on a chair, on a table, on a desk, by the door, even anywhere.  I was so confused as to what this was.  At first, when I saw the same two locations popping up, I assumed this was a song that I was missing out on by not listening to Top 40 radio.  But then I more and more options began appearing and I was so lost that I chose to ignore it.

Until last night.  Last night I just could not take it anymore.  At the risk of sounding like a cultural leper, I asked one of the participants in this THING what was going on.  This is the response I got.

One of my friends has suggested that we women should do something special on facebook in order to increase awareness of October Breast Cancer Awareness month. It's so easy to do, that I'd love you to join in to make this a memorable online event. Last year, the idea was to post the color of the bra you were wearing on facebook...and it left men wondering for days, why women were posting colors, seemingly at random. This year's game has to do with your handbag/purse, where we put our handbag the moment we get home; for example "I like it on the couch", "I like it on the kitchen counter", "I like it on the dresser". Well u get the idea. Just put your answer as your status (i.e. don't respond to this message, but put it on your status) -and cut n paste this message and forward to all your FB female friends to their inbox. The bra game made it to the news. Let's get the purse in as well and see how powerful we women really are!!!
It's a meme.  For breast cancer awareness.

Let that sink in for a minute and then come back.

Welcome back.  If you're like me, you took that minute to think to yourself, "Wait, seriously?  Are you kidding me?  Who came up with this?  Was thought put into it?  WHAT THE HELL DOES TURNING THE LOCATION OF YOUR PURSE INTO A SEXUAL INNUENDO HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH BREAST CANCER?"

These are questions I can't answer. 

I am sure that this meme has the best of intentions.  October, after all, is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so why not raise awareness with a fun facebook game?  It's cute, I guess, but it doesn't do anything.  It would be a lovely thing if the women who participate in this meme then choose to make a donation to a charity, sign up for a cancer walk, take an active role in early detection, do something active.  Unfortunately, I don't think this is the case.

What bothers me more than the passive intent and the lack of reference to cancer is the fact it is this secretive game and that we should make people who aren't "in the know" wonder about what's going on.  I'm sorry, but if you want to raise awareness for breast cancer, why would you do so by creating a game that requires an invitation to get in on?  It's a highly immature concept.  Instead of leaving men clueless, we should be giving them the tools to talk to their mothers, sister, partners, etc. about early detection and scheduling regular mammograms.  The only way we can educate and raise awareness for ANY topic is to get everything out in the open.  Wouldn't a better meme be posting statistics, and information?  If a read a post about the number of women in their 20s who were diagnosed with breast cancer each year, the cause would sure as hell has my full attention.

Again, I respect the intention of this Facebook fad, but the execution is just sloppy.  The Internet, and social media in particular, has provided so many new and exciting avenues for activism.  We can absolutely do better than this.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Why I No Longer Give A Shit About My Abs

Over the summer, I gained a bit of weight.  I've always been a very thin girl with a high-speed metabolism hovering just below what doctors consider a "healthy" weight, so gaining weight has always been a struggle for me.  Imagine my surprise when I realized, after stepping on a scale, that a summer of living in my car (shuttling myself between school, rehearsal, and my boyfriend's house) and existing solely on Chicken McNuggets and Iced Mochas is the secret to packing on 12 pounds in eight weeks. 

At first, I was elated.  In high school, I had envied the girls who filled out their clothes with feminine curves.  I knew that supple breasts and a voluptuous booty were physically appealing.  I was flat-chested and still had a boyish frame, so I assumed that I would not be attractive until I looked more like a woman and less like a little girl.  This weight gain was a huge "FINALLY" moment for me.  My breasts and ass had filled out a little bit when I went to college, but now I had curvy thighs that created a beautiful arc down my leg.  AND MY HIPS!  They jutted out from my body in a way I was not used to!

Excited to flaunt my new body, I grabbed a pair of Old Navy Diva skinny jeans...and encountered a problem.  My jeans.  Would not.  BUTTON.  I struggles, sucked, and had to lay down on my bed to button those pants.  My time had come.  I had managed to avoid this common feminine dilemma until now.  I had been inititated into The Sisterhood of Cathy (AACK!).  I was a bit confused.  I knew my ass had gotten a little bigger (read: JUICIER), but not that big!  It wasn't until I looked down at the button and saw the problem staring straight in my face: my tummy.  In all my dreaming about weight gain and obtaining curves, I had never once thought about the idea that my tummy could prevent me from fitting into my clothes.

Not cute

I tried not to think about it.  I was happy to have gained this weight.  My tummy flab was nothing to think too much about...but I could always feels it there.  Squeezing out the top of my skinny jeans, folding when I relaxed my posture, taunting me all the time.  The final straw came one weekend in August.  While dressing for both a rehearsal dinner and a wedding, I found myself struggling to get into both of my dresses (AACK!).  While this zipper fiasco was clearly a result of my whole body being a bit fleshier, my skewed mind blamed the Tummy Monster.  I was not having this crap anymore.

After a quick chat with my mother, the answer to my dilemma was clear.  This weight gain was a good thing for me, there was not doubt about that.  All I needed to do was tone some of the new weight and adopt a daily abdominal crunch regimen.  Okay, sure, why not?  This is normal for women to work on their abs.  Hell, it is probably societally weird for me to have never taken part in a regular exercise routine.  And exercise is good for you!  It releases endorphins and all that jazz!  The extra time and work would be worth it when I could show off both a juicy booty and a flat-stomach.  I felt like such an asshole and it.felt.GOOD.


Or so I thought.  I kept up with my abdominal regimen for about three weeks until I got slammed by a brutal end-of-summer cold and felt too crappy to work out.  I never got back into my routine because I'm a lazy creature of habit.  I can say that I forgot, but really, I just didn't feel like.  It didn't feel necessary anymore and I just wasn't as concerned about my tummy flab as I had been before.

So WHY did I say to my boyfriend this weekend, "I need to start doing my crunches again"?  I was shocked when those words came tumbling out of my mouth.  I hadn't felt bad about my body, so why was I acting that way?  AACK!!!

I feel like perhaps there was been a strange normalization of poor body image in girl-culture.  Girls crowding around bathroom mirrors lamenting about their pores, women chatting about love handles over yogurt--these are common stereotypes of how American women relate to each other.  There's a sense that women are expected to feel bad about themselves and to announce this very fact.  If you're not bitching about your thighs, there's something wrong with you.  As someone who has spent her life trying desperately trying to be a "normal" girl, I think there is a part of me that adopted this negative attitude about my tummy because I felt it was just what women do.  Yes, my new flesh took some getting used to, but that comes with all change, but it was now a part of my body and was nothing that needed fixing.  No one is going to look at me differently or judge me for a tummy that they can't even see.  Hell, my boyfriend has told me over and over that he thinks my tummy is SEXY!  So if my boyfriend doesn't have a problem with it and I don't have a problem with it, WHAT IS THE PROBLEM?

So that's why I stopped giving a shit.  I don't need defined abs to be happy and I sure as hell don't need to bring myself down just to fit in.  It's okay to love yourself and as you are and it is more than okay to embrace laziness.  :-)

I actually quite like it...

I should mention, as an aside, that this post was written while watching To Wong Foo,  Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar.  In honor of this, I'll end the post with the words of drag superstar RuPaul.  "If you can't love yourself, how in the HELL are you gonna love somebody else?"