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Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Celebrating One Year of Blogging!

Today is the day! It's been one whole year!
I Thank You All for the support, the tears and laughs through this past year. I look at the thoughtful comments and statistics page, and see people from all over the world are reading. I had no idea that would happen, and I often wonder what I have to offer you. I'm a painter from a little town in Kentucky, U.S. I have Autism, I'm 14 years clean and sober, and I'm a cancer survivor. There have been more failures than successes in this life, and I would not change a single thing...... Don't you see? My life wasn't supposed to be this good. smiles. Thank you!
 I hope that you've found reason to smile, seen the value in simply being you, and have had opportunity to be still now and then. I hope you've had cause to see beauty in life, moments of gratitude and a few laughs. I hope you've seen the acceptance and love we all look for in your own eyes, and I hope you've had the chance to love others just because it feels good to be the love that you are.
  I don't know where we're going in the comming year, but as long as people like you are beside me, I'm ready. smiles. So, here's to more paintings, more decadance, more insights into a world of my often misunderstanding, more passion, more gratitude, and another precious day at a time to simply be.
   Toward friendships, old and new, I can only give you what I have. Here are some photo steps of my latest portrait. A video featuring these photos, and much more can be seen at my youtube channel here:

Canvas in grey (black an white gesso) Grid in White Charcoal. Laying in features in Black Acrylic.

Using Black with much medium, laying in shadows.

Shadows on the whites of the eyes and contour.

White brings out facial topography, indicates moisture in the eyes and on the lips.

portrait of a friend
Acrylic on Canvas

 Many blessings, and in this moment..... live! smiles.
tina jones

Friday, August 26, 2011

People are Funny! Ongoing Study of Neurotypicals (and their cars)

I love people! They are so funny!
I made a public appearance, meaning ofcourse I went to the store. It's my favorite place to study the species to which I, often in humor, belong. Ok, sort of, but only if I stretch it. hehe. People were very pleasant today, so all I'd have to report was that. Gratefully, the day was saved by a fellow driver.
 It's not new to me. I've been doing this for ages, and I've noted that no matter where I stop at a stop light, a driver in the next lane will pull an average distance of 2-6 feet infront of me, even it means going far over the line. Even if it means a Semi might be comming directly at them, and even it means a police car is nearby. I don't think they can help it, so I try not to get too close to the line to give them room to get ahead without endangering themselves. I think it has something to do with a curious competitive streak, I've heard about. I'll have to study that more.
   I had the advantage of being on the far left of two left turn lanes, and in the only one that continued. In other words, his lane merged into mine just after the turn. Seeing he wanted to go first, I looked over trying to get his attention to let him know it was ok. I didn't know that something might not be very pressing to him afterall, but he wouldn't look or didn't see me. With the hand that went up over his face from my side, I'm guessing he was hiding. Fun stuff!
  Ofcourse, I'd let him go first anyway, but he ran the red turn light just as adjacent lights turned yellow so he could get ahead. That might not have been necessary, had he not hidden, but it was his call.
   I sure hope he made it to the bathroom, his late appointment for a labotomy or whatever he had going on. I realize I gave up the right of way, but it's never worth fighting over, and it's far more entertaining to enjoy the show.
  What's curious to me, is from my experience, had we both approached a door, he'd have held it open for me. I always wonder which is real, but I'm sticking with the driver side of people being more authentic. It's certainly more entertaining.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Being the Help We Seek: for Caregivers and Autistic People

"Perhaps they never will" Don McLean
  Those words resonate through my being ever time I talk to a parent of an Autistic child. They are trying as hard as possible to get people to listen, and in their trying...sometimes they can't hear the children with Autism. For the children who may not be as eloquent as others and for those who can't speak, it is left to us as ASD adults to share what we hear and feel, how we experience the care of those around us. In this way we can build bridges of understanding, and hopefully unite those with Autism and those who loves us. Then, perhaps progress can begin.
    Following is how I've experienced the pain of caregivers in different areas of my life, be they parents, spouses, friends, coworkers...etc.
  To the Caregivers: Though your love knows no bounds, and though you sacrifice, please know that even an ASD child may be totally mute, they hear every word you say. They see every time you hurt yourself by not getting the help you need in favor of desperately trying to help them.
  Somewhere along the line it's gotten backwards. Families are becoming depressed, sometimes neurotic and if you've seen the news lately, some have been suicidal and a few have committed homicide. Please, do not think you're exempt. I do not believe than any one can be a 24hr a day caregiver and not experience at least times of being emotionally unstable. Even therapists who work 8 hr days are required to get therapy. Though you love so deeply, please know that there is no more effective way to harm a child than to harm his mother or father or other caregiver. To love us, you must, must, must take care of you first.
  All too often the focus gets put so much on our Autism that sometimes very ill caregivers have gone past the emergency stage in needing help for themselves. You cannot give what you haven't got. You cannot help us without helping yourselves first.
   I realize there is little time. I realize this sounds like the utmost in selfishness, but if you don't take care of you, I will be reading your story in the obituaries. It may be suicide or any number of physical illnesses born of your stress, worry and sacrifice that will take you, and that would be sad for me and the many you may not realize that love and need you to take care of you.
   I know how many have turned to Autism organizations, and I know they are asking for extra dollars, when you haven't seen the site of an extra dollar in years. I know you've given your time to them, and I know they've used you to raise extra money for themselves and for research that is doing nothing to help you in this emergency moment.
    If you so much as think in terms of ending your life or someone else's, please contact a mental health professional! If you have a plan to end your life or someone else's, get someone to bring you directly to the hospital. If you are convinced you want to do it, and it is the only choice, why not wait a day and give the people a chance to come up with a better solution? Admit it may be possible that you might not know everything, you may not have seen all of the options. Let someone else try.

  To us Autistics: Society has so far not done a lot to help us. I'm with you there. Monstrous amounts of money are being raised in the name of Autism, and you're not seeing any of it effect your life. Families are trying and either getting more on your nerves daily or breaking your heart as you watch them hurting themselves. We aren't doing it to them, and we can't save them, but we can help!
   Let me recap. Society isn't helping, families can't do any more than they are doing. Looks pretty bleak, doesn't it? No.
  What we, all of society including those who love an Autistic person, and Autistic people themselves have been doing is NOT working.  I am going to flip everything and shine the light in another direction. Ready?
  You, the person with Autism may be the light at the end of the tunnel. Help is desperately needed. As an autistic person, I have things to offer. I can't do everything, but I can do some things, and some very well.  I may be the one that calls the authorities on my own family if they get nuts and start talking suicide. I may have to be the one to say, "Mom/Dad, Sister, Brother, if you don't get help, you cannot help me." I may be the one to have to walk away to save myself if they refuse to get help too.
   It may well be the Autistic people who are going to save the lives of our families and loved ones and even ourselves. Help is needed and someone has got to step up. Yes, us. Others can try to make us scapegoats for their problems, but we can refuse to take that responsibility, and see that we are not responsible for every emotion other human beings have. We can call them on the fallacy every time someone says, "You MAKE me feel.." We're not gods who'd have that kind of control. We can't make anyone do anything. We can let others have their own feelings. We can never act perfectly enough to force another person to be content. We're just not that powerful.
   This is just bare beginnings of thought, but we are going to need tools and resources to help our NT families. I suggest emergency numbers. They've got them for us, and we need them for them. This is life and death. If we know an NT person has someone that they confide in, we need that number too. We need all contact information of anyone and anything that supports them, and we need to be able to make those calls. This could be family, churches, any group or individual they (not we) find comfort in. Write a short list of information to give including the care giver's name, the address and phone number where you can be reached. Have a script! Even something like, "Jane is in trouble and needs you!" will help.
   NT's often need some kind of therapy, and they often don't get it. As we've progressed, we've watched them deteriorate. It's not our us or our Autism, but they don't know that yet. Here are a few things that may help. I went searching the net for programs specifically for them to help them get to the root of their problem and get through it to some measure of hope and happiness. (WE need them to be happy and whole!) Therapy is great and it costs money. They will have to be desperate, I mean totally desperate to even consider what I'm going to write, but if they are fortunate enough to be at the bottom there may be some hope. If they're not done fighting, I am sorry. We will have to hope they'll learn to let go soon. (They will see "fighting as a good thing" as in fighting for your care, but I am talking about a destructive fighting drive to "help" right up to and through suicide. Of course, that is never "help."
  I'm a long term member of a 12 step group, and there are many different kinds out there. I saw yesterday that these steps have been rewritten for caregivers. It may help, if they are willing.
   Neither I nor anyone else is going to make money off of this. It is a matter of my very life to pass on what has been so freely given to me.
  Again, hope begins after they let go. Other, longer standing 12 step programs are Emotions Anonymous and Alanon Family Groups. The three I've mentioned would be the most helpful.
     Certainly, if a caregiver drinks or takes too many pills to cope, there is Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. All of these help people find a way to be content regardless of their circumstances. All use the same 12 steps, and every last one is free.
  None of these care what religion (if any) people are, how much money they have, what color they are, or if they are male or female. First names only are used, and no one even needs to know that they talked to anyone there or even went to their meetings. It's "anonymous." Frankly, I think these steps should be taught as problem solving strategies in early school, and that anyone could benefit, but they just won't work for a person, until that person has collapsed of all ideas of their own on how they are going to fix, control and manage people, places and things.

    I have to tell you, you can't force them to get help. You may have to watch them go through more pain. There is no greater force on the planet against health and sanity than the determined martyr. Let these resources be there should they reach out for help. You've seen them.
      These are just options. I don't care where people get help be they Autistic or Neurotypical.     It does not matter where a person gets help. If it works, it works! If you know of people or groups that have been supportive, share them with those you care about. Share them with other families who need help, and if you get any help, just keep paying it forward. Your very life may depend on it. Mine does, and it's working out beautifully. My aim is to build bridges of understanding, and help us see through each other's eyes. We all love, we just don't always know how.
  You're saying, "But I can't help my family! I'm the one with Autism who needs help!" I hear you..
   I heard a story a very long time ago, and I don't know the author, but it helped me.
   There were a bunch of people at a very long table. A feast as they'd never seen was laid out and they were starving. You see, they had no elbows. They picked up the food, and try as they might they could not get it to their mouths to feed themselves.
   The same table was laid out in another room, and all of the people there had no elbows either. In this room, however everyone was eating, and they were happy. Each person picked up the food and instead of trying to feed themselves, they fed another.
   Everyone needs help sometimes, and sometimes we get to be the one who gives it.
tina jones

Friday, August 19, 2011

Public Appearance: Hair 101

 These are the times I enter the world of the not always typical, neurotypicals or those who are not Autistic. These recounts of my encounters are for amusement purposes. For those who can, enjoy the links in blue. You may need to click the "back" button on your browser to return here.

  I love venturing to thrift shops, and finding odd items. At times, however I'm the odd item someone's looking for. I was inspecting a most interesting bow curve on an assembly of wood and string with no purpose other than to study the beauty of the curve. In my own world and pleasantly so, I heard a man's cheerful voice say, "That just may be a keeper." I said I didn't know what it was, and I turned it over trying to decipher the French on the back. He said, "Ah, it's a fire starter," and at that point I saw the pictorial instructions on the back, and laughed slightly for not realizing the pictures were there.
   Slight laughs do strange things to some men. His voice changed, "Mmm...I just love strawberry blonde hair," into something reminiscent of Barry White's "Can't Get Enough of Your Love Baby."
  I turned toward the sound only to find him reaching (no really) reaching for my hair! I leaned a step back gently (like any cobra would), and gave him by best, "What are you thinking?!!" stare with attendant, "Do you realize you are attempting to TOUCH me?!!!"  He pulled back his hand such as one might if fingers had been bitten off.
   I liked that part, until I noticed the plastic temporary hospital band on his wrist. His face, though not green was a lack of pink closer to chalk yellow than blue. He was walking around, apparently not in pain, trying to feel my hair, and perhaps still medicated. I try to be gentle in these situations, not that keeping or stealing a hospital bracelet is going to have much of an effect on me.
  I'm not one to have any fear of dead silences and often enjoy them, but seeing his trance, I figured I must have been inadvertently backlit. I don't know how that can happen in fluorescent lighting, but it occurs more often that one might expect..or so it seems.  I thought to speak, "My mother gave it to me." I feined a smile. At that time, his voice turned to a soprano giggle. and he said, "Oh yeah! Your mother must have given it to you," oddly, since I'd just said that. He turned quickly, and screwed up his face as he was turning away in a harrumph that sounded like, Bon Jovi's, "You Give Love a Bad Name."
   I hope he was no further wounded, and that he made it safely home. What I learned: On the right drugs, hair can make people really friendly. Yikes!
tina jones

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Decision to Be Who I Am

If at first you don't succeed, it's likely the Universe had a better plan for you.  At least that's my experience. I'm grateful for the ideas that didn't turn out, the dreams that didn't come true. These made way for other things that my imagination is simply not big enough to have thought up.
  Very early in school, the class was asked, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" It must have been around 1970 or 71. My family was, perhaps a little further (or a lot) behind, because it had not occured ot me, given what I saw, that I would "be" anything other than a wife and a mom one day. That was my basic training. Though school taught me there were other options, home life contiued to raise a bride, a mom and a servant/leader/protector/entertainer of family. I still consider it a dignified and difficult job, one that I didn't always fare well at, infact.
   The question shook my foundation. I was born or raised somewhere in the cultural flip between "Lib" of The Waltons and Mary Tyler Moore's office antics. I thought Lib was tougher, so I liked her better, but Mary was funny.  Scanning my personal knowledge of what women "did," outside of my family, there were things like the electrician's wife, and the preacher's wife, both positions of which seemed to require the wearing of light blue. I never could take to baby blue, so those were out. There were teachers, but they always wore seasonal vests it seemed with leaves on them for autumn and snowmen later or bunnies. It seemed too fluffy and bulky. Red! I liked red! I liked alot of colors, but red was the end-all in color. I mean if you want to be a color, you can try, but until you make it to red, you're just practicing. That was the thinking anyway. I came up with the answer!
  "I want to be a fireman!"
    The entire class burst into a roar of laughter, and while I was trying to figure out what I did that was funny (I wasn't smart enough to be embarassed.) the teacher looked at me with an, "Isn't that adorable?" pitiful sort of look. In short order, I was informed that my choices were, "Teacher, Nurse or Stay at home Mom."  I'm not sure if anyone told me, or if that was the limit of my imagination.That narrowed things down some.
   I became a bar tender. I became many things. I tried the nurse part, the somebody's wife part, and none of those panned out, despite my early training as boo boo kisser and egg salad enchantress. The only vocation I ever stuck to was the Mom part, and I'm still enjoying that. Retirement doesn't happen, but the dividends keep rolling in. grins.
   After a very long time, and all of this *being* different things, I found out that I was something. Decades of playing with crayons, pencils and paint, doing portraits, scenes and animals, while trying to figure out what I wanted to "be," sorted itself out. I didn't have to "become" an artist when I grew up. I already was one. Again, "Retirement doesn't happen, but the dividends keep rolling in."
   My two best jobs in life are Mom and Artist, and with a life like that, who'd want to retire, anyway? I've got it pretty good.
   I never did make it to "fireman," but I still like red.
tina jones
Photo by me, of me, being me.
I may paint this some day.
I may make more egg salad with paprika, but either way....
Red will be involved.

Friday, August 12, 2011

L'Etoile De La Matin

    Like all of us, I have layers. What is at first seen is me, and what is seen after time and upclose is me too. Glances at people reveal instant impressions, yet when savored.....looked at through eyes who have experienced the person, what is revealed can often be the beauty of time. Scars, wrinkles, marks of life show life lived, sometimes hard and sometimes peacefully.
   I hope today I can see beyond first impressions, beyond the stories of life's lines, through the glisten of an eye and into the universe of the soul. Therein, lives beauty all else merely tries to reflect.
   For today, I wish you a timeless moment, where you may catch your glance or get caught in the eternity of another's being, and see the most beautiful of things. You.

"L'Etoile De La Matin"
(Morning Star)
Self Portait
Acrylic on canvas

For a step by step photo montage of this painting, please visit my youtube channel.

tina jones

p.s. Title given by an anonymous soul who has loved me beyond comprehension.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

Autism: My story as a parent, My gift

The bully in my childhood was a parent. Jump ahead to when I was a parent. I thought myself dammaged goods. I'd look at my son and think, "How in the world could the universe give a child who needed so much to someone who was so incapable?"
 I had an attitude of martyrdom. I stayed awake for days and nights on end and was out of whatever mind I had. I am on the spectrum myself. I cried then stopped crying for years. I shut down and became whatever my children needed. My son was starting fires before age five. He'd excape the house middle of the night. I make the mistake of falling asleep, and he got the locked, and chained door open enough at the bottom that he got out. A neighbor found him sitting in the highway playing. Images of my baby as roadkill horrified me. I knew another autiistic kid who'd gone to an institution where he was abused. My son was at his father's two days on the weekends when I worked the only time I could doing two 16 shour shifts, and those weekends where when I had the most sleep. Otherwise I had only respit care for 2 hours twice a week, so I could go to the grocery store. My life was protecting him. I took pills to keep me awake, pills to make me sleep when I  had to. I was a nutcase.
   My job downsized, the money ran out in a few months that I'd saved and I fell asleep one night. My son started a fire that took our home, and nearly took our lives. I woke to hear my daughter screaming from where she stood in front of a wall of black and red fire, and I could hear my son, emotionally innappropriatly expressing as always, laughing in fear on the other side of the blackness. I know to get low to the floor, I know to run from fire, but that was my child. I ran blind into the flames, and physically ran into him. I grabbed him, and ran toward my daughter's voice, where I grabbed her arm, carried him and pulled her opening the back door and shoving her out, no steps to the ground. I ran with my 80 pound five year old son and my daughter in tow. When we got past the end of the trailor the ac exploded.
   We should, by all laws of nature have died, all of us. I gave up, and I agreed to send him to the institution to save his life and my daughter's as I no longer cared about mine. It was then his father stepped in, and gave my children a home. I had no insurance, so I stayed with a friend then lived in my car a few weeks until I went to stay with my mother. I missed my children so badly, but at their father's there was family who helped taked care of them. Services were available in their state from Easter Seals, Social Services and MHMR that were not available for Autism in my state at the time. My son was also able to start school early there. In short time I realized that my absolute pride at insisting I take care of my children, and unwavering rule that a mother must do this no matter what, they must live with her, nearly killed the children I wanted so much to take care of, and cruelty of all cruelties those children had been watching me die slowy for a very long time.
   As my son began to grow and flourish in his new environment of support, and as my daughter grew to know more peace, and as the time I spent with them was time when we all were better rested and safe, I began to see that the Universe was right. My son was the perfect child for me, and I wasn't given him because he needed me. It was because I needed him. I had been abused for many autistic traits. One of them was when I'd go off in my own world at over stimulation and stare at nothingness.
    My son and I were sitting outside one day, and I saw him staring at a tree. Long past trying to get him into my world and having developed the compassion, curiosity and wonder of getting into his world, I decided to join him and stare too. It was a nice mental break. I found he was watching a trail of ants. It was so, so ,so peaceful. Nothing to do, just being. My son taught me how to meditate in this way. He taught this frantic, desperate mom that stillness is an absolute need for me and all of us. He taught me that play is not negotiable. We die without it. He taught me that social rules like how to act in public or when to sleep are of no importance. He taught me that happiness is what we're here for!
    I started stopping the pats on the back when people would call me a hero, because pedestals are hard for me. They set up expectations that no human can live up to. The hero was my son. In starting that fire, he saved my life. I got off all of the pills. I stopped trying to be superhuman, and I was forced to let him go to grow. He saved all of our lives.
    Since then, he teaches me that we are adequate and the perfect family for eachother all of us. We're still learning, but I am so grateful for the children I have, adults now. smiles. We have all grown up together through this. Now, when I remember those times when I thought of taking my own life, so someone, anyone would help my children, I am still humbled that help came from the last person I'd have expected it from....the five year old son of mine who loved us all enough to end the illusion that I had to try to do it on my own. He says he owes me his life, but no...That's not it. I owe him mine. 17 years have passed since then. Every heartbeat, joy and tear, everything I know about being a mom, all comes from my children.  I have been gifted beyond measure!
   If you think I had courage, step into my children's shoes. Their courage and strength and insistance on joy and peace in life gave me courage enough to go for an evaluation early this year. My children teach me to take care of their Mom.  They give me the courage to live and live life fully every day of it.
   There is hope for all. It's not hope that our children will one day be like us. I'd have been sadistic to hope my children would have been like me,  the nonsleeping, sorrowful, self absorbed, self pitying, martyr of a woman I was back then, not to mention self medicated. What kind of monster would want that for their children?
    No, there is hope that Autism will be seen as a way of being that while challenging can have it's own beauty and peace, that no parent is perfect, that we are not alone, and that we might see that sometimes the answers we look for everywhere else are right in front of us. Take time to be still, ask for help everywhere and accept it no matter where it comes from.
   What sometimes looks like the source of the problem, just may be the light at the end of the tunnel.
tina jones.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Human Behavior Study: The Mating Ritual Gone Wrong

I went to the store, somewhere between 93 and 98 degrees, and I'm not speaking of latitude. If a soul was not exhausted, I couldn't detect it save for one hearty beast of a man and his (figuratively) jumping with her hand in the air saying, "Me, me, meee!" prey.
I watched them from my position behind his cart in the checkout lane. He was mid fifties and she was late forties or so. He had a sort of Barney Fife, sniff with a tug of the britches up to his Yogi Bear belly, from where they'd, in fatique, inevitably fall again. He was shooting "come hither" louder than the musak, shopping crowd and Fruit Loop display combined. Wreaking of studliness and trying to impress the lady object of his odiferous affections, he set about story telling. Mostly it was complaining about work, and mostly about children. "Grumble, grumble, sniff, Bubble Gum under the seats, grumble, homework, trash, middle schoolers, hate, high school kids are the worst. grumble, whine, I clean my bus every night!!!" She responded with nods and "uh huh's," and I felt mildly bad for the guy as our lady of desire's interest was fading. Swing and miss it seems, but there was more.
Looking past the obvious Turandot rewrite was a gentleman. Follow me here. They do exist. If you've ever experienced the desire to apologize for the behavior of your own sex, then you'll know the look of on this man's face. Our check out boy was in his seventies, clean, hair combed and ready to smile I hoped. He seemed horrified watching the goings on, and I thought to give him a break.
I waited for Romeo de Compassion et Gum Putty Knife to depart, checked out while Julliet had her sights and conversation elsewhere, and I walked ahead leaning to whisper in the's ear. "If I knew it wouldn't get some kid in trouble, I'd go find that man's bus, and put bubble gum under the seats myself! Wouldn't you?" He smiled, giggled and his face glowed all pink.
I had a good day shopping. What did I learn? I learned that 5-6pm is a great time to study overworked, tired people at the market looking for someone else to cook them dinner. I suppose there's nothing wrong with that. smiles. I learned that making someone smile makes most experiences more pleasant, and that 98 degree extra sharp cheddar is right tastey!
tina jones