E = mc2

I have no idea what E equals mc squared means... I know that it is a science formula to calculate something... I know that it is the equation that is often associated with science and scientists... but... that's about all I know. But this guy did...

Albert Einstein. I like this picture of him as it relates to my topic today...because he is looking away from the camera... I also like it because there is something in his eyes, in this picture, that reminds me of my grandmother... which is totally unrelated. Albert Einstein has been identified as one of the most brilliant scientists... and also identified as having Asperger Syndrome. (Along with Jane Austen, Bill Gates, and Alfred Hitchcock) Aspergers is a condition. I can't say that it is a disability, because I don't see it that way. I can't say it's a condition from which people 'suffer', because I don't see it that way either. But it is a condition. A condition that makes people see things through a different lens, sometimes react to stimuli with hyper sensitivity, misunderstand social situations or not care to understand social cues/norms, and in most cases offers a level of intelligence and/or abilities to perceive specific things... While the students with whom I have worked over the years have faced various struggles that perhaps individuals withough Aspergers do not face... some of my strongest/favorite teaching memories involve these individuals.

I think back to one of the first students I worked with... I will call him Russ... his very petite stature accompanied this maturity well beyond his years. AS a sixth grader he was annoyed with other kids' desires to engage in conversations about their time with friends, tendancies to get off topic during classes, and inabilities to offer succinct intelligent answers to what he considered were simple questions. He came off as pretty abrasive to most people... and I found him fascinating. I think I have a picture of him somewhere... takenn on a field trip, where he, along with his peers, were exploring a tree house designed to show kids various habitats. In the corner of this large tree house was a spider web made of rope. Russ, in perhaps the first age appropriate action I had seen, (typically he was too grown up to engage in such behaviors), without thinking saw the web and began climbing on it and inviting other kids to join him. The picture I have is of him reclining on the web, hanging if you will, between the ropes, and he is smiling... a relaxed smile that made the absence of his normally furrowed brow quite noticeable. Don't get me wrong, he was a kid who I found very engaging. He preferred to be with adults than with kids his own age. When I would use a word he had not heard before, I felt smart and accomplished! As the year progressed I found things that amused Russ, and would figure out ways to puzzle him, which he both hated and revelled in...

Since Russ I have had the pleasure of working with several students with Aspergers and have found that with each of them, I had to work had to build a rapport with them that involved trust... they needed to trust that I was not ever going to treat them or speak to them in a way that insulted their intelligence... watering down language was unacceptable.

Five years ago, I met "Jay." He was a man with much determination...which is a polite way to say he was a stubborn kid! And I loved that about him. Like Russ, his brow was often furrowed and it took a lot of effort to make him smile and to get him out of his shell. He was a stereotypical bookworm, right down to the glasses! The beginning of the year was a bit tough. Teachers asked me if he could DO anything... he was a kid who needed a lot of wait time. When he was asked a question it took him time to digest the question and more time to formulate a thoughtful response. He did not want to offer unintelligent or irrelevant answers. Teachers began learning and appreciating this about him. He was the kind of kid who wanted to come to school, do the work he was told to do, and go home. From his perspective, had he been the only student in the classrooms with the purpose of not having to deal with kids who were not serious students, he would have been satisfied. He was confident that he knew as much as his teachers, if not more, about the given topic, and at times he did. He was scheduled to come into my room one period a day. He hated writing.. not getting his ideas down, he could type and express himself well, but the physical act of writing was, to find a comparison, painful for him. When he would come into my room, not so happy to be there at first... I began ignoring him... which seemed to pique his interest in me more than me trying to engage him. I watched him and realized that his vocabulary was extensive and knew that I would have to bring out the big vocabulary guns to even have a chance with him. I would strategically engage in conversations with my assistants and would purposefully say words that I knew would get his attention. Jay had the ability to complete his work while being acutely aware of every conversation occurring in the room. I began to notice that he would smirk at some of my comments and I began to feel out his sense of humor. After school was in session for a few weeks, his math grade slipped. This was a kid whose math grades had never been below 90s. He had entered a part of the curriculum that involved unfamiliar concepts and required multiple steps to follow... and he was being asked to write out every step, to show his work. This was frustrating for him. So I began attending his math class and would scribe for him... what I found was that Jay didn't need a scribe.. he just needed to be able to write his answers down without having to show his work. He would look at a problem, stand up, pace a little, move his fingers as he had his hands held together... he would walk back to me and say the answer to the problem, the CORRECT answer... I didn't need to be in that class for him, but to help the teacher help him, and as it turned out, a few other students as well. It was in math class where Jay and I really began building our rapport. I would walk into class, passing him, brow furrowed, sitting at his desk. I began greeting him, in spite of his interest being piqued when I ignored him in my classroom. But I changed my greetings to him. One day I would say to him, Good Morning Ralph. The next perhaps I would say, What's up Polo? And then maybe I would say Hey Billabong! He would look at me skeptically and then after about a week he said to me, "My name is Jay. I know you are aware of my name. Why do you reference me as other names?" I told him that his clothing was the reason. His clothing, on most days, had brand names or logos on them. I told him I assumed that his mother had sewn his name into his clothing, like mothers do when kids go to camp, and since I assumed he wasn't going to wear other kids' clothing, that he had many names. He grinned at me, not quite knowing what to think. That's when I knew I had him... The way MY mind worked amused him and we started various subtle competitions. He began trusting me and the two other women who worked in my classroom as my assistants. By the end of the year he would laugh with us every day, would seek us out to share something about his day/life, and trusted us enough to try new things, like playing toss with one of us using lacross sticks. (I admit that I was terrified that he would not catch the ball and it would hit him between the eyes and break his glasses... but he caught it!) At the end of that year, as we parted ways, as he moved on... I hoped that he would be okay, that he would not get eaten alive at the high school. And as a teacher, hoped that I had made a difference. That next fall, probably October, my two assistants and I were out to dinner together at a local sports bar. As we were leaving we saw Jay and his parents and Jay's reactions to us, was priceless. He was so excited to see us all, he rushed over, noticing us before his parents did, and hugged each of us. It's one of those moments that still chokes me up!

This year I have a young man, who I have now known for three years. (Although this year I have actually gotten to work with him, know him, versus knowing of him.) He is brilliant. Truly. He is a person whose brain is so scientifically wired, very black and white. (Not unlike other kids with this diagnosis.) He is struggling with the social aspects, in a way that his different than my other students with Aspergers have. He seems more invested in the social realm yet can articulate that he does not like that he is expected, by his peers, to engage in social activities. He wants to not have to conform to the expectations he is acutely aware of, yet has a strong desire to be one of the popular kids. He is obsessed with his laptop. In Maine every student in grades 6-12 are issued a state laptop. He often uses his laptop for things like games, that he knows he is not supposed to do. And if discovered he loses access to his laptop, which sends him into rages at times. His brain is consantly busy, thinking about more things at one time than I probably think about in a day. He is aware that these thoughts make it difficult for him to focus and accomplish tasks and it frustrates him. He gets very angry when people call him names or reference him in derogatory ways... and he lashes out, sometimes physically, then is overwhelmed by his regret for his actions. In a recent conversation he shared with me that nobody understands him because he has Aspergers and nobody ever will. That broke my heart.

So... I decided, with permission from my current student, his parents, Jay, and his parents, that the two should meet with the purpose of getting to know each other and to be able to help each other discover what Aspergers is all about for them... Today was our meeting. I invited both boys and one of my current assistants, to have lunch with me. It was so interesting. Part of me wanted there to be this AMAZING instant connection between these two guys, who really do have a lot in common, although they present very differently. I bought pizza, figuring pizza would be a way for them to start talking without the conversation feeling like the main focus. I tried to facilitate the discussion... Not sure if you can picture this or not.. but... we were in a conference room, about 10 feet by 8 feet I would guess.. seated around a conference table complete with open pizza box, cups, paper plates, and a bottle of root beer. My assitant, Leslie, and I were diagonal from one another as were Jay and my current student. Leslie and I were facing towards the center of the table, both boys were angled so that they were facing away from the table. They were both quite awkward in the Aspergery way I adore... as they stumbled through the conversation, trying to not interrupt and be on their best behaviors...

I had to facilitate a lot... so that instant connection was not present... which didn't surprise me... knowing their profiles... When I first had this idea, about having these two meet, I thought it would benefit the younger student, to have the wisdom of the older boy. (He is 19 now, so not really a boy, but to me, he is still my little 8th grader!) I do think that Jay's wisdom and experiences will impact my current student. But... What is even better than that.. is that I think both young men will get to learn about themselves as they learn about each other... and see in each other qualities that they appreciate and begin to internalize that those characteristics that they, themselves, possess, are worth appreciation.

I think that both want to meet again and I am hoping maybe every couple of weeks we can do this! I do love the work I do with kids... sometimes it's not all about the bookwork... but the relationships!

What a good day!



This picture cracked me up when I saw it.. so I had to share!

Tomorrow will be an interesting day... One that will test this whole idea of having faith...In June I will return to Boston to see my PVNS superhero, my doctor... it has been almost two years since I last danced out of his office after hearing good news, that my knee was still pvns free and that he didn't need to see me for a couple of years... so, in preparation for this June visit I need to have an MRI. Tomorrow is that day. Yes it seems early to have an MRI for an appt. that is not until June, but loyal blog readers know that in the past the insurance hoops have been many and jumping through them has proven difficult. So... this time I started really early and, thankfully, my primary care doctor's office (new since my last round with testing), has been awesome!

My knee has been doing well... I have had a few instances this winter where it felt stiff, but I am hoping that it's nothing more than cold weather and a bit of arthritis... which has been present since surgery. But, knowing that I am going to have an MRI to see if PVNS has begun to revisit my knee... causes some anxiety. I have recently begun communicating with a couple people who came across my blog... who are at different points within their own pvns journeys... it has brought up memories of how much pain I was in... and feelings of gratitude for how far I have come.

I have no reason to believe that my knee is anything but healthy... so...I am pretty sure that the results of the MRI tomorrow... will be... positive... and maybe, just maybe the results will be sent to my Boston superhero and he will call and tell me there is no need to come see him because the knee looks healthy! Or maybe I will go to see him in June and he will say... 'Things look great, go on, get out of here. I don't need to see you again, unless you begin to have issues.' Knowing my doctor... who is pretty protective of his pvns patients... chances are, I will need to return in a couple more years... but time will tell... so.. fingers crossed for tomorrow... I know that the MRI itself is not all that fun... 45 minutes to an hour without movement can be tough... but I can do it... But that doesn't stop the butterflies in my stomach...



Yesterday I had an AMAZING day! So Amazing that I forgot it was St. Patty's day! The new man in my life, Matt, had the day off and we spent it together. We visited Woodsprite Orchids in New Glouser, Maine. (Click here for website) Then we had lunch, and walked Back Bay! (My first time around it this year!) We then made dinner at my house and holy moly, can the man make guacamole! yummy! What a GREAT day! He is a great person and I feel very lucky. Oh happy days!

By the way, ALL of the flowers pictured here are orchids. I did not realize there were so many varieties. Even the Lady Slipper is an orchid! I took many more pictures, but figured I would share these ones.



Despite the difficulties I have written about in this blog over the last few years.. I have always known how lucky I am... to have people in my life that are incredible. In addition to having been born to parents who let me know how much they love me on a daily basis... I have a sister who will always be there for me... I have had the opportunity to know all of my grandparents with many fond memories of each of them and continue to build memories with my one grandparent who continues to live her life... As I have become an adult my relationships with my aunts have become more cherished... and there are my friends... friends who I consider to be my family.. whose joy brings me joy and whose sorrow brings me to tears... These amazing people in my life have been there for me, even when I made it hard for them... and for that I love them all.

I have always wanted to have a relationship, to fall in love with a man whose character is up to par with the other people who I value so much in my life. I have wanted to find someone who makes me smile, who has my trust and respect.. someone who takes pride in who he is and what he does... Someone who does the right thing... who can be playful and serious, sensitive and strong... and someone who makes my heart happy. I have entered into a relationship with someone who possesses these qualities... and many more. It's very early in our relationship, but I believe that we are building a relationship based on our friendship... I feel very fortunate that he has come into my life and while the future is unknown... I am looking forward to what lies ahead and am taking time to enjoy it and cherish the moments..... As it blossoms more and more... I appreciate its beauty.

I am happy.


PVNS on my mind...

I am waiting for my doctor's office to call me... my local doctor. I have an upcoming appointment in Boston, in June, to check my knee for PVNS. I have no reasons to believe that it is back, but some knee pain a few weeks ago made me raise my eyebrow a little... the pain has since subsided and think that it was because of having a couple week stretch without much activity and also the weather...

But it has been almost two years since my last pvns-free MRI, and it is time to go through the process of getting the MRI pre-approved through insurance, getting the referral to my Boston doctor from my primary care doctor approved by the insurance company. I called them last week, my insurance company... because since last going to Boston I have switched primary care doctors... so I wanted to make sure that I jump through all the necessary hoops before my June appointment.

It should go off without a hitch. SHOULD being the key word. In the past, this process has not been without obstacles. When I called my doctor's office I spoke with my doctor's assistant and explained to her what needs to happen before June. She had my file in front of her, but like most people, even medically trained folks, was unfamiliar with PVNS. I told her that this appointment and process causes me some anxiety and explained that my old doctor's office did not handle things well. She assured me that she will be on top of it and will keep me in the loop, saying she will call me this week.

This summer will be four years since surgery...very hard to believe. I have been lucky so far... and am going to think that when I see my doctor in June, he will say, you are good to go... you don't need to come back unless you have problems again...

Fingers crossed!


Leap of Faith...


I like this quote...

'Happiness is like a butterfly; the more you chase it, the more it will elude you, but if you turn your attention to other things, it will come and sit softly on your shoulder...'
- Thoreau

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