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One more quick post…

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Dec 17, 2008 in Cards, Family Stuff

Just one more quick thing that I’ve been meaning to post…I don’t like the Christmas cards I sent out this year.

I meant to make handmade cards like I do every year.  I purchased copies of our beach pictures with “Merry Christmas” written in the sand and planned to use faux sand that I purchased at the Creating Keepsakes convention last summer on the card fronts.  I created the photos with a fuzzy glow effect from Photoshop so that no one would notice that my kids were wearing beach clothes instead of their Christmas best.

But now that I’m working, I ran out of time and energy.  As I was ordering other photo gifts online, Mike convinced me to just order photo cards instead of making them.  So I did, but I used the same fuzzy glow photos I had ordered for my handmade cards.

So now it just looks like I chose an out of focus, weird picture on our card.

I was disappointed in myself, but had already purchased them and had no time (or money) to make (or order) replacements.

So for those who got our Christmas cards, I apologize…

 
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Married…with Asperger’s

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Dec 17, 2008 in Books I'm Reading, Family Stuff

So I haven’t posted all week then I post four (or is it five?) times in one day.  That’s the way things work when you’re flying by the seat of your pants.  I’ve been saving up all this stuff to say until I’ve actually had time to blog it.  And today’s the day I actually have time to blog it (of course, I am ignoring my list of other, less fun things to do like wrapping all the presents stacking up under my Christmas tree…).

As I’ve posted before, both my son Matthew and my husband Mike have Asperger’s syndrome.  I’ve been hesitant to post too much about Mike in this area because I wasn’t sure how he felt about going so public with it.  But Mike has just started his very own blog where he has started to talk openly about his diagnosis, so I guess it’s safe for me to do so as well.

I think Mike was inspired by John Elder Robison’s blog about living with Asperger’s.  John speaks very openly about his autism and how it affects relationships in the real world.  He was the author of the book, “Look Me in the Eye” that I wrote about last summer.

It’s only in the last year that we’ve realized that Mike has Asperger’s.  Once Matt got his diagnosis and we started doing some research, it was obvious that Mike has it as well.  This is apparently very common – once a child is diagnosed, the percentage of their parents who are also diagnosed is very high (I think I saw a number like 57% or so in some research).

As I posted back in July, once Mike received his diagnosis, he was very concerned about how marriages where one spouse is an aspie (nickname for a person with Asperger’s – don’t worry…it’s politically correct) are affected.  He found all sorts of very discouraging online ‘support’ groups where spouses were discussing how unhappy they were in these marriages.  Discouraged by the availability of online support, he recently went online and purchased some books that he thought might help us find ways of dealing with the unique marital issues we may face.

So I took the time to read the two books he purchased – Alone Together:  Making an Asperger Marriage Work by Katrin Bentley and The Other Half of Asperger Syndrome by Maxine C. Aston.

First of all, the title of Katrin Bentley’s book and the front cover are so discouraging – who wants to think of being “alone together” (how sad does that sound?).  And the image on the cover of the two hands not quite meeting each other…again – very sad.

But I read through the book anyway – and what I found was what sounded to me like a somewhat angry, bitter woman who was trying hard to make the best of things (but at the same time, she lets you know how hopeless and impossible things really are).  She can certainly assign the disorder blame for some actions, but when her husband starts to have an affair (mainly of the heart) and says that he “loves you [the wife and mistress] both the same”…well…it’s time to cut your losses and leave.  That’s a deal-breaker in my book – Asperger’s or no Asperger’s.

The other book by Maxine Aston was not as angry, but at the same time sounded hopeless.  Page after page said that basically, the non-aspie spouse will have to make all the sacrifices, changes and effort in order to make the marriage work.  As I read through the pages, my heart dropped and I began to grow sadder.

About 3/4 of the way through the second book, I closed the pages and told Mike that while I appreciated his efforts to help, I had decided to stop reading.  I told him that I really didn’t think things were that bad with us to start with but that these books were trying to convince me that they were.

I’m certainly not being naive – I realize that there are unique challenges we face and that there are some things that will never change and will always remain a challenge.  But by continuing to read these types of books, it cast a spotlight on the negative aspects of an Asperger’s spouse without focusing on the positive aspects that a diagnosis can bring.

At that point, Mike said that maybe I should write my own book.  I’m not a neurologist, marriage counselor or psychologist, so I doubt that a book that I write on the subject would hold any merit.  But I do have this blog and I thought maybe if I write a little bit now and then about my own aspie marriage, it might help someone else whose spouse has been newly diagnosed.

So…if you’re reading mainly to get some new craft ideas or for information about owning a goldendoodle, these posts may not be of interest to you.  But if you’re wondering what it’s like to be married to someone on the autism spectrum, maybe I can provide a little insight into what a happily married (although sometimes frustrated) non-aspie spouse is like.

So…here are a few examples of some communication breakdowns that are classic aspie moments…

While away on business travel, I called Mike and asked if he missed me.  His answer was that no, he didn’t miss me – he and the kids were fine.  As a non-aspie, this hurt my feelings – how could my husband not miss me when I’m gone?  But…from his perspective, he was busy with the kids, taking care of things around the house…he didn’t have time to miss me.  Sure, he was happier when I was home, but if he told me he missed me, that might make me feel bad for not being at home.  He wanted me to know that things were going well – that he was handling things just fine.  Here’s the problem – as a result of his disorder, Mike truly didn’t realize that saying that you don’t ‘miss’ someone can hurt their feelings.   Since we now have a diagnosis, I can explain the miscommunication to him, he and I can understand why he acted the way he did and he can make a note not to answer that again – the socially correct answer to the question, “Do you miss me?” is, “Yes” – even if you don’t. :)

Another similar example – again, I was away on travel and joked that things were going so well at home, he didn’t really need me.  Looking for reassurance, I jokingly asked, “You don’t need me, do you?” to which he replied, “No, I don’t need you.”  Again, as a non-aspie, you can see how this would hurt my feelings.  But similar to the other miscommunication, he actually meant that he was with me because he loved me and wanted to be with me, not because he needed me.  Since I now realize that he has a social disorder, instead of getting angry, I told him that I was hurt by that statement and that people actually like to feel needed.  I was still hurt…but with an Asperger’s diagnosis, even though those feelings are still there, we can at least better understand the reason for the miscommunication and learn from it.

Another frequent source of miscommunication is illness.  People with Asperger’s often have a lack of empathy – this is especially apparent when the non-aspie spouse is sick.  When we say that we don’t feel good, we expect a certain level of sympathy in a statement like, “I’m sorry you don’t feel well – why don’t you go lay down and I’ll bring you some chicken soup” (or aspirin or whatever the illness requires).  Then the person will check in on you every so often and see what you need, how you feel…maybe feel your forehead for a fever…but what Mike usually says is something like, “Go upstairs and lay down then” and I don’t hear from him or see him again until I’m well.  As a person with Asperger’s, Mike treats me exactly how he’d like to be treated when he’s sick – when he doesn’t feel well, he likes to go upstairs and be alone until he’s better.  He has no need for being ‘babied’ and doesn’t understand why anyone would need that.  We’re still working on this issue, but at least with his diagnosis, I have learned not to take it personally.  And if I need chicken soup, I now know to ask for it instead of assuming that he knows that he should offer it to me.

So it’s getting late and I think I’m done for now – I hope that I can continue to give examples that give some insight and hope to spouses of people on the autism spectrum.  It’s not all hopeless…there’s no reason to be bitter…and if you’re not having major issues, don’t read self-help books…they’ll only point out all the things that could be wrong.

 
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Like the new blog theme?

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Dec 17, 2008 in Uncategorized

After our Internet hosting issues this week, I lost my old blog theme and had to find a new one.  I found this one called “Messy Desk” – how appropriate!  In fact, it looks remarkably similar to my desk here at home…

 
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A “Green” Crafty Gift Idea

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Dec 16, 2008 in Crafts, Knitting, Other items, Today's Photo, Yardsale Finds

I finally finished the felted purse that I’ve been knitting since SEPTEMBER!  I had this great (but totally unrealistic) idea that I would whip up all these knitted/felted purses and give them as Christmas presents this year.  Well…four months later and only one purse is finished – not exactly productive.  Maybe I don’t have the patience for completing knitted projects – I seem to lose interest – especially when knitting something like the handle that takes FOREVER and is the same stitch and the same color yarn over and over again…

Anyway, here are the side panels after they were knitted (I added some brown fuzzy yarn at the top that will not felt for a little texture):

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And here is the purse assembled, but before felting:

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And after felting (I added a vintage brown button to help keep the top of the purse closed):

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The thing is, I LOVE the felting process…but have little patience for the knitting part…

Then I came across a great idea in the January issue of Country Living magazine called “Sweater Recycling 101”. 

The article described how to take old, wool sweaters and felt them (no knitting required!!!!), then cut and sew them into cute little tote bags – perfect! 

I visited my local Goodwill store yesterday and picked up a variety of inexpensive 100% wool sweaters, all of which were $4.99 or less (yardsales would be great for this too, but there aren’t too many yardsales in Pitman in December – way too cold).

I took the sweaters home and ran them through my washer on hot with the greatest agitation level, then threw them in the dryer until dry.  Just a hint – don’t wash more than one sweater together or with other clothing.  The sweaters will lose an enormous amount of fibers that stick to everything when wet.  And make sure they are 100% wool – I think chunky wool works better for this project. 

After washing in hot and drying in the dryer, the sweater will be felted – the fibers shrink and blend together forming a nice, thick piece of fabric that is easily cut and won’t unravel.  The thing is – felting is a very unpredictable process.  There’s no telling how a sweater will shrink.  Some of those I tried shrank evenly all around – others ended up with a very short body and very long arms.  And in general, the larger the sweater size, the larger the bag.

Cutting the sweater is a matter of experimentation depending on the size of the sweater and the amount of shrinkage.  Country Living gives a pattern that is almost like cutting the sweater into a tank-top – the shoulder straps of the ‘tank-top’ become the handles.  This makes for a very simple project – just stitch a seam across the bottom and you have a sweet little tote:

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The bag above started out as a purple ladies V-neck sweater from the Gap with a fair-isle pattern across the chest.

My favorite bag was a men’s extra-large striped sweater in blues and greens with a nice cable pattern and a rolled-neck.  This sweater had some holes in it, so I wasn’t able to use the ‘tank-top’ pattern.  Instead, I had to cut out the front and back panels of the sweater and stitch down the sides.  I then used the arms as the handles, cutting them apart and folding them over in half.  I stitched them in place and this is the result:

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I wish I would have taken a photo of the sweater before I felted it – I was just so curious as to how this would work, I forgot to stop and take a picture of the ‘before’!   This is a very large, sturdy bag – but my little basic sewing machine did have some trouble stitching through the thick, felted wool – I just kept pushing and pulling it until it made it though.

I also experimented with adding some pockets.  Here is a women’s wool sweater from Eddie Bauer after I felted it:

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Not sure if you can tell, but the body shrunk up really short but very wide.  I cut it into the ‘tank top’ pattern and stitched up the sides as well as the bottom:

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The back of the bag was just plain red so I decided to cut the bottoms of the sleeves and add them to the back side as little pockets:

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I’m telling you…this became addictive after a while!  You never know how the bag is going to turn out…

Here’s another one – this is an Old Navy sweater before felting:

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I used the ‘tank-top’ pattern, but cut it into more a square, then added the unfolded end of one of the sleeves as a long pocket on the front:

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I love this project because…1) there’s instant gratification – you throw the sweater into the washer and in no time, you have a brand new piece of felt that’s a surprise every time,  2) one entire project (once the sweater is felted) takes less than 30 minutes, 3) it’s inexpensive, 4) it’s a practical but still a really cute gift and 5) it’s good for the environment to re-use something in a whole new way – it can be fun being green!

And now even though I didn’t actually knit them as I intended, I have all these cute felted purses to give as gifts – plus I may make a few more after a visit to another local thrift store this weekend…

 
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Paying the price for life in the sun

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Dec 16, 2008 in Family Stuff

I don’t know about you, but when I was young, I spent a LOT of time in the sun.  Images come to mind of sunbathing on the roof of my parents’ house (the black asphalt tiles soaked up the rays); slathering on not sunscreen, but baby oil; having sunburns so bad that the skin on my shoulders would peel continually all summer long…

And I am a very fair skinned person – my summers always start off with skin so white, you can practically see through it directly to my internal organs.

But now I’m beginning to pay the price…

I was compelled to go and have my skin checked a few weeks ago after a woman at church was recently diagnosed with melanoma.

Yesterday I visited my new dermatologist to have a ‘suspicious’ spot about the size of a nickel removed from my back for biopsy.  In speaking to others, I am assuming this will not be my last procedure – this seems to be a very common one for people of a ‘certain age’ who spent their childhoods basking in the sun’s glow for hours on end.

Truth be told, the procedure itself was not bad at all – easier than the dentist – and I was in and out of the office in less than 30 minutes.  And by the end of the day, I still had not felt any pain at all (the only part that even slightly hurt was when they used a needle to numb around the area they cut out).  In fact, I had even nearly forgotten about it altogether a few hours later – Mike came home and asked how my back was feeling and I had to take a minute to even realize what he was talking about (of course, I was fully engrossed in a craft project at the time).

Oh – and I was chatting and making small talk with my potential new BFF, Dr. Carbonaro, talking about vacations.  He asked where I would most like to go and I said, “Somewhere warm and tropical like Tahiti.”  He looked at me and said, “Isn’t that why you’re in here in the first place – too much time on the beach?”  Hmmm…can’t argue with that…but this time, I’ll use lots and lots of sunscreen (even if my skin does remain so white that it blinds all the other tourists)…

 
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Experiencing technical difficulties…

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Dec 16, 2008 in Uncategorized

Please stand by.

I remember that from watching TV as a kid.

We’re having some issues with our hosting provider and blogs…it should be cleared up soon.

 
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Welcome to the 21st century…

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Dec 15, 2008 in Family Stuff

We got new cell phones for Christmas – Mike picked them out for us.  The cell phone was supposed to be one of my Christmas presents, but he got one too, of course.  Oh, and by the way, I was told that the monthly fee has to come out of my allowance – it would seem like that’s not really a true gift, is it?  Not to mention that I never really asked for a new cell phone for Christmas…

Anyway, we went from our old cell phones that did nothing but make phone calls (and not very well, at that – we found that we rarely had a strong signal and messages would not be delivered until up to one week after they were sent) to these fancy new things that can’t really even be called ‘phones’ – they do make phone calls (at least I think they do – I’m still trying to figure out how to work the darned thing), but they also access the Internet, check our email, send photos and videos…they even give your current location and step-by-step directions to where you want to go.

Okay – I have to admit, I like my new phone…now if I can just figure out how to get my new phone number…

 
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Did I say our shopping was done?!?!

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Dec 14, 2008 in Family Stuff, Today's Photo

I just re-read my last post where I mistakenly said that our Christmas shopping was complete.  Just when you think it’s over, you remember those last couple of gifts that are missing…Sunday school teachers, school aides, pet-sitter…

But I’m almost done.

Good thing, because the holidays remain in full swing.  Yesterday was Emily’s Christmas dance recital…

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(Photo was taken while waiting backstage – for some reason, photos taken while on stage always turn out with weird streaks – not sure if it’s the venue, the camera or the photographer). 

As for the dancing, what a HUGE improvement from last year!  The routine went from last year’s mostly standing around with lots of arm swinging to this year’s actual dancing (with moving feet and everything).  Emily did a great job – she knew her routine very well and was quite animated while dancing.

Last night we made our annual visit to the Hagerty light display…

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Have I ever mentioned how much I despise cold weather?  It was SO cold last night…my nose and chin were frozen by the time we finished at the display. 

Here’s wishing for a warm, green tropical Christmas…

 
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General Holiday Craziness

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Dec 8, 2008 in Family Stuff, Today's Photo

Well…it seems that the holiday craziness has begun.  Last week, we had one event every night and this week, some nights we have as many as 3 events!  I feel like I’m already running on empty (and it’s only the 8th of December!).  At least our decorations are up and our shopping is complete!

I have a quick minute and thought I’d share a few quick photos…

Emily and Matthew had their annual Holiday Concert at school – Andrew was SO excited to go (as only a 14 year old can be):

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I figured out that by the time Emily is done with elementary school, I will have sat through 14 of these holiday concerts! This one was nice though – each class sang only one song and the accompanying music was kept to a minimum which meant we could actually hear the kids’ voices.  And Matt had his debut in the 4th grade band playing the clarinet – quite a lovely rendition of “Hot Cross Buns” (now stuck in my head).

I also went on the Pitman Christmas House Tour this weekend – I just LOVE the house tour!  It’s so much fun to see inside other people’s houses and view their Christmas decorations.  Cameras were not allowed, so I have no photos, but there was one house that I loved so much, I told the owners that if they ever put it on the market to please let me know.

Yesterday, the Girl Scouts sang for some of the older residents at Pitman Manor:

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That’s Emily in the back.  Later that afternoon, Emily (who is just 6 years old) said that she had to hold back her tears because she found herself getting ‘emotional’ in the retirement home.  Emily, I was getting emotional too.

After a morning at church, and an afternoon with the Girl Scouts, I ‘helped’ Andrew with his 9th grade biome science project for several hours.  I’m just glad to be home alone this morning focusing on nothing but laundry and the batch of yummy chocolate chip cookies baking in the oven…

 
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On a Lighter Note…

Posted by Kathy Torrence on Dec 8, 2008 in Family Stuff, Our Goldendoodle Puppies, Today's Photo

I received an email last week from children’s author and fellow Daisy-Doodle goldendoodle owner James Preller.  James is the author of the “Jigsaw Jones” mystery book series as well as other titles.

James happened to stumble upon my blog and found that we have goldendoodle ownership in common.

A quick side note here – we found a fabulous new place to have our doodles groomed – Pet Styles in Pine Hill, NJ.  We had the dogs groomed for the holidays – how cute are they?

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They even painted Daisy’s nails red and green:

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Anyway…back to Mr. Preller…

As many of you know, I’m a HUGE fan of Barack Obama.  And as many of you may also know, the Obamas are in the process of selecting a new puppy for their daughters to bring to the White House.  They want a family friendly dog that is low shedding to help with allergies but still want a substantial dog (as mentioned the other night on the Barbara Walters interview – when Barbara suggested that the Obamas choose a Havanese dog, Barack asked if that was one of those little ‘yappy’ dogs).  Emily and I talked about writing a letter to the president-elect suggesting they try a goldendoodle – but it appears that Mr. Preller’s dog Daisy has beat us to it.  Read for yourself and see what I mean…

An Open Letter to President-Elect Obama

I couldn’t have said it better myself (nor could my own doodle Daisy – seems she’s a little behind in the abilities of learning to type or form complete sentences – maybe some further training is in order).

I would also like to thank James for his most recent email where he said, “And by the way, you have a really nice, natural voice on your blog, very warm and welcoming.”  Thanks, James – you are welcome to stop by anytime. :)

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