All That Glitters

It was the autumn of 2019, and Theresa and I were building a fire in my backyard while we waited for Angela to bring Antonio and Fatima, and supplies for cooking hot dogs and s’mores. It was already dark, so it must have been fairly late, perhaps 9pm. I had been working second shift during that summer, so it was normal for me to be awake and active at that time of the evening. We hadn’t prepared for a bonfire, and I was scrambling to find branches out in the yard to keep the fire going long enough for everyone to enjoy it. Theresa handed me a LED headlamp that she had recently bought, in anticipation of her future travels. I strapped it on and flung my gaze out over the dark backyard, looking for any hint of fallen sticks that I could retrieve to burn. The light was piercingly bright, and I barely registered the beautiful way that the grasses sparkled, seemingly with dew.

I moved about the dry yard, and from somewhere deep in my mind floated up this relization that it was 9pm after a warm late-summer day—there shouldn’t be any dew on the ground.

The grass was not damp.

There was no dew on the ground.

I crouched then, peering close into one of those apparent dew-drops, and discovered a myriad of tiny gleaming eyes peeking back at me. I know I uttered an exclamation as I realized that the yard was inhabited by thousands of tiny jumping spiders, apparently all watching me with their prism eyes as I bumbled about picking up sticks. I couldn’t stop sweeping that light over the grass, watching it come alive in the spotlight, then immediately recede back into complete obscurity once the beam had passed.

I glanced back over toward the fire, where Theresa was absorbed in whatever task she had at hand, and I debated whether or not to call out to her in the excitement of my realization. I knew she wasn’t fond of spiders, and I didn’t want to risk her enjoyment of what I knew would be a memorable evening with family. Eventually I moved toward the wooded back part of the yard to find some heartier fare, then carefully picked my way back through the sparkling grass to the firepit, where no sparkles were to be found. Then, I couldn’t help myself any longer: I told her what I had discovered, and let her see it for herself.

It ended up being a very enjoyable evening indeed.

I Did A Thing

This is my small business. My flea market booth. I call it Bee’s Miscellany.

Bee’s Miscellany has been a bug in my mind for more than a decade now. I’ve always had a fascination with old things, cast-off objects, forgotten treasures that rust half away before they are seen and appreciated once again. These things have stories that may or may not ever be known, or may be reinvented in our imaginations, if we so choose. The thrill of finding something with an unknown history and helping to give it new life is what drives collectors to the hunt on a regular basis, spending hours perusing dusty basements, elbowing through estate sales, stopping for broken curbside freebies, and maybe even delicately sorting through the trash (just a little bit.) These “pickers,” as they are known, have no shame when it comes to the potential for an interesting score. At least, the succesful ones have no shame. I’m still working on overcoming my self-consciousness in order to assert myself in favor of finding new weird and wonderful treasures. It’s a learning process, certainly.

Less than two years ago I got caught up in a new-to-me pasttime: visiting flea markets. This is something I had done in the past and had enjoyed, but I had always thought of it as something too eccentric to do on a regular basis. At last, I realized that the weirdness of the pursuit is half the fun, and that there is an entire community of people out there who devote major portions of their lives to collecting, researching, repurposing, and re-selling the objects they find. There is a very specialized kind of expertise that comes with training your eye to pick out what is valuable (to you or to others) and what is not, and I very humbly admit that I have only begun to scratch the surface of what there is to learn about it all.

So, over the course of about a year, I visited and revisited every antique mall and flea market and salvage store I could find within easy driving distance. Thrifting has always been a thing for me, but I began to head back to those Goodwills and Salvation Army outlets with new eyes, and a piqued curiosity. I began to realize how much joy I felt when overwhelming my senses with booth after booth at the flea markets. I began to think to myself, “Who are these people creating these booths? Are they very successful, or is it just a hobby? How does one go about getting involved in this? Is this really something I could think about doing myself, some day???”

Being somewhat timid by nature, it took me many months to muster the courage to simply start asking these questions. Fortunately, I overheard a coworker mention something about pricing items for her booth, and I proceeded to ask her a bunch of hungry questions about her experiences. She was pretty tight-lipped about her sources for items to resell, but I gained enough information to inspire me to (eventually) move forward with my inquiries. When I finally did speak up one day at my favorite flea market, asking if they had any information about renting a booth space, I was disappointed to learn that they were going to be closing that location within a month and weren’t taking any new vendors. But lo and behold, they ended up moving into a bright and shiny new facility, and suddenly had ample space for newbies like me. I was in!

Even so, the thought of undertaking any new endeavor will always make me nervous, and so it was with a great deal of anxiety that I almost didn’t follow through with showing up and signing the rental contract on my tiny little space. The woman who helped get me signed up didn’t have very helpful answers to the many questions I had about the process of operating a flea market booth, and the internet and library had virtually no information to give out either, so I decided to just learn it all as I went along. Which is what I have been doing for the past six months. And I have a lot more learning to do!

The one thing that surprised me most about my new adventure was how eagerly people came to my support. Many people seemed excited for me, and thankfully, many people generously supplied me with the initial items with which to set up my booth for opening day! Some people that I hadn’t talked to in years came out of the woodwork to offer items to me, or simply to inquire about when and where the booth would be opening, so they could check it out. I hadn’t expected that my new endeavor would spark so much interest among my network of acquaintances, and I was touched to see how many of them rallied behind the idea. It gave me the courage to follow through with something that may not seem terribly difficult, objectively speaking, but was a new and scary thing for me.

In the past six months, I have reaped a wealth of benefit from Bee’s Miscellany. My monetary profits aren’t anything to shout about, but I have kept my expectations low in that regard. The experience of starting my own little business had the power to pull me out of a dark place in the early months of this year, and that has been the most valuable part of all. The support and interest shown by my friends and loved ones has been an enormous bonus that I had never anticipated when I started out! I have a hobby that makes a little cash. I get to dig through other peoples’ cast-off items and figure out what they are and clean them up, give them new life, and find them new homes. I get to be creative. I get to make discoveries of quirky items and share their stories with my friends. Sometimes I find items that find a permanent home with me, and that’s great too. I can operate this entire process behind the scenes and at my own pace, which is a perfect situation for me. There really isn’t anything about this endeavor that is not totally awesome, and I am so glad that I decided to give it a try.

Feel free to follow along with my journey on social media, or stop by Emporium 40E if you are ever in the area! No purchase necessary, and I will be forever grateful.

Bee’s Miscellany on Facebook

Bee’s Miscellany on Instagram

A Song for the Abused

Do you wake
on that cold concrete floor
in the dark
for a respite from the sound
of your lungs
and your stubborn heart
that got you here in the first place.

Do your digits ache
with that tired exertion
Trying to find freedom
Your neck bruised
from pulling at those chains.

(Why couldn’t they see those wounds
you half-heartedly hid?)

Do you wince
in the black
and see those dark eyes, again,
and plead with them

–or rage and thrash–

and hope that either
–or neither–
will do the trick?

I wonder if you think
You deserved it.

And still do.

I’m not exactly sure when or why I started suspecting that I might have autism. Perhaps it started way back, several years ago, when my sisters first teased me about my eccentricities as a child, telling me that if I had grown up a decade or so later, I surely would have been diagnosed with autism. We laughed about it then (though I have never been entirely comfortable with the way my childhood struggles seemed to amuse my siblings), and that thought stuck in the back of my mind somewhere.

Some time later, I rewatched one of my all-time favorite movies, Benny and Joon. That movie has meant much to me since the first time I saw it, soon after it first came out (I believe I was 10 when I watched it first). I always just explained to people that this movie came along at just the part of my life when I was beginning to feel different from my peers, and that this movie made me feel more comfortable about being “different.” Fast forward twenty years or so, and I read this article which speaks about the movie in terms of autism, which the main characters likely have. I found the article to be unsettling but incredibly interesting, and I saved it as a bookmark on my computer to revisit from time to time. Still, at this point I would jokingly think of myself as “having been an autistic child,” and I seriously wondered how it was that I had somehow managed to grow out of it.

It wasn’t until about a year ago that I started thinking that perhaps I hadn’t grown out of it after all. I had a conversation with a sibling in which we discussed our mutual inability to develop friendships in a normal manner. We revisited, in a more serious way, the symptoms that I displayed as a child, including my speech difficulties, selective mutism, avoidance of eye contact, and troubles with communication in general.

At the same time, I was experiencing great difficulties at work with trying to communicate with the people I was working with. I was having meltdowns after every social event that I went to. I was, unknowingly at the time, alienating both my boyfriend and my best friend through my lack of “proper” communication. I was beginning to see that I was the common denominator in all of these situations, and that I really didn’t have the ability to connect with others in what is seen as an appropriate way. My peculiarities in speech and mannerisms were becoming more glaringly obvious to me, and it started to feel like everyone all along must have realized that I was autistic, and I was the last to know.

I have spent a great deal of time reviewing my life in view of what I am coming to realize about myself. I mourned for the struggles along the way, the lost opportunities, the crushing lack of self-esteem that I have always harboured, even in these days of greatly enhanced confidence and self-love. I cried for the child who got bitched at for not looking other people in the eye, or not responding to her name, or not wanting to play with other children. I cried for the young adult who was constantly told that she was too quiet, needed to talk more, needed to get outside her comfort zone, needed to conform to societies expectations, needed to do this and that and try to make other people happy even though she couldn’t. I cried for the woman I am now, approaching middle age, who is told by those closest to her that she does damage by being uncommunicative. That she has no personality. That she is like a zombie. That she brings nothing to the relationship. Told again and again, implicitly or explicitly, that she is “boring.”
I am just beginning to realize the power and benefit of my self-identification as an “autie”. Most importantly, it has given me the opportunity to express empathy toward myself, and to understand why my life is what it is, and why I have struggled so much (and so secretly) for so long now. I know now that, if and when I begin a new relationship (romantic or not) with somebody, then I will have the courage to tell them early on that I struggle with typical communication, and I become overwhelmed and overstimulated in many situations, and that I am doing my best and will need some straightforward guidance along the way.
This is all very much under development as an idea, and I continue to process my new-found self-identification on a constant basis.

I am beginning to have greater patience with and appreciation for people in my life who do not act in ways that I expect them to act. I think less, these days, in terms of “What the hell is wrong with her?”, and more along the lines of compassion and understanding. It is an interesting and a heart-warming development, to be sure. I hope it continues in this vein, because I would very much like to continue to appreciate other humans in a much greater capacity than I have been able to thus far. Especially the odd ones.

Another aspect of my discovery has been rethinking all my former diagnoses in light of current realizations. People with autism are known for their emotional outbursts, their self-harm, their inability to cope with stimuli, their difficulties with relationships, their mood swings, and their repetitive behaviors. What if all along I have thought that my twenties were plagued by borderline personality disorder, but I really only was an undiagnosed autistic, trying desperately to cope? Does that distinction even matter in the long run? Perhaps it does, in that I am still struggling greatly with certain aspects of my personality that I have previously seen as shortcomings. Maybe I don’t have any kind of a “disorder” at all. Maybe my brain is just wired differently than many others, and I haven’t fully found ways to cope. Maybe there is untapped potential out there for me, in which I can learn how to be healthy in a job, or healthy in a relationship, or find and maintain a friendship that doesn’t fizzle out because I can’t keep in touch in the expected ways. Maybe I will learn how to do new things and travel new places and attend events without having complete meltdowns during or afterward? Or maybe I can find ways to inspire compassion and understanding among those who expect me to do things that I find impossible, or traumatic.

One thing is certain: my entire perception of who I am and who I want to be is shifting beneath my feet on a daily basis. How can I heal the trauma that is most of my past life, in light of the realization that all along I may have been neurodivergent? How much of everything suddenly makes far more sense than I ever dreamed possible? Will this knowledge make things any easier for me, going forward? Will I be able to be myself and like it, finally? Will I be able to find ways to accomodate my own needs while still maintaining the level of independence I have somehow managed to gain for myself?

I don’t know. I have the desire to find out more. I feel the need to connect with others who are like me. I certainly need to do more soul-searching. It is a great deal to consider, and I intend to give myself plenty of consideration going forward. I think this will be a promising development for me, in many ways.

My parents were prejudiced against cats. I never thought to ask why, and now it is too late to know. I can only speculate that such a fundamentally Catholic pair must have clung to some vague 13th Century notion that any cat was a manifestation of the Devil. As such, we were instructed to throw debris at any feline who unknowingly strayed into our territory; because who wouldn’t teach their children to drive away demons from the yard? I don’t remember seeing many cats back then, anyway.

Until the day one landed in my lap.

I must have been eight years old the summer that we visited the Pickett family out in the boondocks of Indiana. It was a sweltering night when I found myself perched on the steps of their front porch, undoubtedly with siblings close by, and simply observing what was happening around me as a stealthy, skinny little creature slithered into my lap and curled up, falling fast asleep (or so I thought at the time). I don’t remember petting the thing, though there is no way I could have resisted at least touching it, the way you might reach out to touch a strange bird or a colorful fish underwater. The heft and the warmth of the body that hung in the hammock of skirt between my knees still lights up a neuron in my brain. The thing fell asleep in my lap, and I didn’t disturb it. I had been chosen, for whatever reason inexplicable to me at the time, and the sanctity of that trust froze me there on the sweltering stoop, forgetting to breathe.

At some point it must have arbitrarily decided, as cats do, that it was satisfied with my company, and disappeared into the night without a backward glance.

It would be another ten years before I touched another cat. The rest, as they say, is history.

In these past few years of my reading life, it has begun to occur to me that there are far too many words in the world. Paradoxically, I insist on adding more as I contemplate this idea. But there it is—the superfluity of words within nearly every book I open. So many pieces of writing must struggle to conform in length and quality of content, that they end up all sounding similar, repeating ideas, or fleshing out arguments that are already corpulent. Over-indulged. Excessive. Unnecessary, much like a convenience store on every other corner. I find myself skimming through books to find the meatiest tidbits. Why can’t we say much more with very much less? It seems to me that would be the most elegant way of getting a point across. I do want to throw my ideas out into the world, along with all the others; I don’t want to add to the glut of mediocrity that is contemporary literature. Not that I think that my ideas or expressions are in any way superior: I simply would like to find a short and poignant way of bringing them to the minds of others.

Poetry is a fantastic means of saying much with very little. But I am not confident that my poetry is, how do I say this—very good. And “poetry” is a word of such raging connotations, much like “vegan,” which can cause the average person to turn up their nose before they even give it a taste.

So how to reach an audience (it doesn’t have to be a large one) without blending in to the background before I even get a chance to speak? How can I get my words into other people’s heads?

Let’s try this: brevity; physicality; imagery.

I can combine short writing/poetry with craft and photography to create a visual conduit for my thoughts. The possibilities are staggering. In how many different ways can I leave a verbal mark on the physical world, document it, and then share it with anyone who might be interested to see? The physical nature might add gravity to the words I want to say. Elements of photography and imagery can add an element of mystery, by blurring out words, or adding context, etc. I really am excited to start this project. I feel as though it has so much potential. I can be serious or light-hearted. I can stretch my creativity within my chosen media. I can find clever ways to use new media to make an impression. I believe it was Jenny Holzer who created the truisms? I can emulate her style, using non-traditional ways to get people to look at my words, to remember them, to contemplate what they might mean.

A striking piece by Jenny Holzer

Consider how many times someone has said, “I wish I had that embroidered on a pillow.” It can be ironic. It can be controversial, even. It can be so many things, and I can’t wait to explore what all it can be.


Cool Thoughts

As we gear up for another sultry day tomorrow, I find myself reminiscing about those quaint winter days when it feels much more appropriate to be holed up indoors and hiding from the elements.

I’m remembering a particular winter day, it must have been January or February of 2019. A fiercely cold front was passing through the midwest, taking its time with us. A “polar vortex,” I think they called it. At any event, it was the coldest weather I have experienced yet, and I was enjoying a day at home and no plans to venture beyond the warmth of my front door. I stood in the steaming shower, which I always run as hot as I can stand it, and simply paused in front of the window, gazing out over the crystal-hard white landscape of the backyard, willing myself to soak every bit of thermal energy into my skin and keep it there. A sparkle, or something, led my eye up, just beyond the tree branches, to the open space between trees and space beyond. The air itself had frozen, and was shimmering. I couldn’t take my eyes from it, it was that mesmerizingly beautiful. I can’t ever forget it. It wasn’t the heavier gush of snow blowing off the tree tops, and it wasn’t snowflakes drifting from the clouds—the actual air particles were crystallized. The meteorological term for this rare phenoenon is “diamond dust.” It is an actual thing, and I actually witnessed it happening, and it was unforgettably beautiful.

Don’t believe me? Check out this legit video from the Smithsonian Institute. And if you keep your eyes peeled, you might get to see it someday for yourself!


And so it has been nearly three years since I last shared anything here. It hasn’t been an empty three years, by any means, nor one devoid of writing. I simply lost touch with my desire to be heard. Or to hope to be heard. To want anyone to want to hear.

And as the end of the year draws near, I find myself, like many others, looking back over the past several hundred days and measuring the growths and contemplating the achievements. And my greatest achievement, perhaps, within this past year is my self-identification as an autistic person. It is a realization that has rocked my foundations, and one I still grapple with on a daily basis. I am still in awe of the magnitude of my discovery, and I am grateful that it finally found me.

But while I see my experience of life through much different lenses now, it will not be a topic that I post about any more than others. This isn’t a blog about autism; this is a blog about me. All of the posts from the past twelve years are about my autism. All of my future posts will be, indirectly, about my autism. It is everything I am and everything I ever will be. And that is totally fine by me.

I remember a project I did while studying art in college. I was a senior year photography student, so we were basically allowed to do whatever we wanted and call it art. For this particular project I selected a blank sketchbook and began writing: all of my memories, starting from the first, and proceeding all the way up through my childhood years, trying to be as thorough and meticulous as possible. I believe I got somewhere through my seventh year of life in memories before the project was due and I had to move on to other things. But when it came time for the class critique, I simply sat on a chair in front of my classmates, with the book on my lap. I told them what I had written, and I told them that they were free to read it. But they had to ask me, specifically, to see it, and they had to hand it right back and not pass it off to anyone else. Only those who asked could see it. Surprisingly, there were a few who did ask, and it meant a lot to me. As for the others, they didn’t understand why I would go through so much trouble to create something and not share it more openly. I explained to them that it is because this is how I am. I am a closed book. Inside of me is a world of memories and thoughts and ideas and fascinations and fears, but I never offer any of that to anyone. You have to ask.

I didn’t say this or know it back then, but I would say it now: I don’t know how to share myself if you don’t ask me to.

Back then I would have thought of myself as a very open person: I would answer any question you asked me, no matter how personal. But again, back then, nobody was asking me any questions. I can only remember a few people from my art school years who I would have considered myself to be on friendly terms with. I didn’t know why, back then. Even now, twenty years later, I still struggle with my disconnection from my peers. I can’t tell you why, on a molecular level, I find it hard to put anything of myself out there. Even though I know that I have gotten better – a lot better – at doing it.

And I now know this better than I ever have before: my insides don’t match my outside. I am like a snow globe made with mirrored glass. From my vantage point inside it is all glitter and chaos and beauty and me, self-contained, doing my own thing and thinking this is all so neat and complicated and difficult, and aren’t all these other snow globes around me cool too? But those snow globes are clear, many of them. They are marveled at and appreciated and treasured because their beauty is so apparent. Whereas I, and others like me, are attractive only to those who are curious and willing to press their faces up close to the mirror to see what is going on behind it. And there is a lot going on behind it. And it is a glorious mess, let me tell you. And I am grateful for those who have been able to look past the mirror, because they have made it just a bit easier to want to be seen on the other side.

If you have been around long you may remember that my very first blog post in 2009 mentions my desire to start opening up more: becoming more vulnerable and letting my words be heard. I still lose touch with that sentiment from time to time, but it always comes back to me in one way or another. Writing is the one thing I can do that can give others a tiny glimpse into my inside– why not encourage that to happen more? Who knows: someone might actually see something they can appreciate.

You don’t have to ask, any more. But you are still more than welcome to.

Signs of Spring

The other day I heard someone say, “It doesn’t look very much like spring.” All I could think was, “You must not be looking very closely!”

What has caught your eye these past few weeks?