illustrated blog

Halloween and How to Upset the Elderly

My favorite holiday is just around the corner: Halloween.

Witches, ghosts, candy, and people making bad decisions in horror movies; what’s not to love about the season of spooks?

Back when I was a spirited ten year-old, I spent my school days experiencing crippling anxiety brainstorming ideas for my Halloween costume using precise, statistical formulas:

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After careful meditation and self-reflection, I chose what my ten year-old self believed to be the most creative, hilarious costume yet: A CEREAL KILLER.

Yes, you read that correctly. CEREAL. It was like being a serial killer with less serial and more CEREAL.

This was set to be the best Halloween ever.

The Big Day

October 31st finally arrived after what seemed like several lifetimes. Preparing my cereal killer costume took a lot of preparation. I had to collect – and eat – numerous mini boxes of cereal. Then, I had to stab each of the boxes with a plastic knife and paint fake blood gushing from the wound. Finally, I taped each box to my clothes, and added some blood splatter on my face for mood enhancement, and then I was ready to go.

cereal-killer

Momsy liked the costume because it was cheap and easy. She simply had to buy the cereal, which I ate anyway. It was a win-win. Dad was also a fan because he liked simple yet humorous costumes. In fact, for several years in a row, my Dad was a leaf blower:

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As dusk emerged, I sprinted with my friends to the first house for some sugary gems.

However, after visiting a few houses, a pattern began to materialize. Whenever someone old answered the door, they appeared heavily distressed by my costume.

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Yet house after house of elderly folks, the reaction upon seeing my costume was the same. I became a bit dismayed. Young people, even those delightful middle-aged homeowners, seemed to enjoy my costume. But those elders….not so much. Was it the thought of their beloved Fiber One cereal being gruesomely murdered too much to bear?

New Beginnings

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Dad was right. I didn’t need the approval of wrinkly people to enjoy my Halloween festivities! Nay. My costume was funny and creative and definitely unique. If I was going to continue my trick-or-treating as a cereal killer, than darn it all, I was going to be the most terrifying cereal killer around. And I was going to do it with style.

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Moral of the story: always be true to yourself… especially if you’re a ten year-old cereal killer.

And to my senior friends: You better take good care of your fiber-filled breakfasts. I may be stopping by your house….for MURDERRRRRRRRRRRR.

bran-flakes

 

xo kelly

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True Tales: Owl Encounter

It was just an ordinary Thursday evening, or so I thought.

I was up to one of my usual activities: sewing. (Note: I may or may not be a wrinkly old lady trapped inside the body of a super attractive young woman.)

In the middle of stitching away my emotional pain, I heard a ruckus from the other side of my house. (Well, my parent’s house. I don’t own a house. I have no money.)

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When you live in the wilderness as I do, you know that bird behavior is very indicative of the state of the environment. Meaning, if the birds are freaking out, something’s going on. And that something is usually a predator.

To my absolute and total delight, that predator happened to be an owl. A barred owl, in fact. If it wasn’t obvious from my owl hat that I’m really into flying creatures (especially owls) let it be known: I’m really into owls.

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The barred owl – the elusive animal that it is – is rarely seen, but often heard. They are known as the “who-cooks-for-you” owl, as their hoot sounds bizarre and more like a monkey on steroids than a majestic bird. Believe me though, this is a creature of pure elegance.

It was clear that the owl had arrived to reunite with me and connect spirits.

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Through years of practice and experience, I have essentially mastered the barred owl call. However, it is still a mystery as to why no owls flock to me when I perform the tune with perfection and grace.

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From what I could tell, the owl was really paying attention. His face said “focus and concentration.” He was into it.

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Suddenly, a bird flew from another dimension and BOOPED my owl friend right in the face!

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Though annoyed, the owl did not move from his branch. Instead, his expression changed from “mildly irritated” to “apathetic slow burn.”

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Meanwhile, I sprinted inside to grab my cheap pair of binoculars. If this was going to be an evening of  intense owl observation and possible spirit connection, I needed to be prepared.

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Just as I focused my lenses on the owl, it took off into the dense woods. My world, once warm and illuminated, was now dark and lifeless as Voldemort himself.

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Eternity passed – although admittedly it was only a few minutes –  before my owl friend reappeared. This time, he was on the opposite side of our backyard. I maneuvered my way closer in what could only be described as a “slow dash.” As in, I was trying to go as fast as possible while simultaneously moving at a snail’s pace, as to not frighten the owl. (In some cultures, I’m certain these same bodily movements are used to summon spirits and curses.)

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Momsy and Sister came outside to catch the action.

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In my mind, I pictured the moment to be intense, in a spiritual-enlightenment kind of way. It wasn’t like that though.

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A Few Days Later

A miracle was about to occur in my life and I was not emotionally prepared for it. Just a few days after my first owl encounter, I heard the familiar screech from the woods. I went outside with my binoculars, hoping to catch another glimpse.

I was not expecting what would happen next.

I spotted the owl on a low hanging branch. Suddenly, I heard an identical screech but from another tree! To my utter delight, two owls appeared on the branch together. My excitement was overwhelming.

Could this moment possibly get any better?!

As if the universe was hearing my informal plea, a THIRD owl made itself comfortable on the branch next to the others, who weren’t exactly happy to share the space. Nevertheless, it was a magical and remarkable moment for me. I have low standards for happiness.

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And that, quirksters, is the end of this story. Darkness overtook the sky, and I stood below a tree watching my winged friends until I could no longer see my own hand in front of my face.

It was a moment I will remember for a long time to come (but honestly will forget most of the details in a week).

xo kelly

 

 

The Things I Need

The following blog blerg post is short writing piece I sent to The Mighty, a website that publishes short stories that empower the human spirit, specifically, human spirits with various disabilities or special needs. Anyone can send a story to this website, so I spent quite a while writing this little number below, as well as created two illustrations to go along with it. After all, who would I be if I didn’t include an awkward illustration in my blerg posts?
To my dismay, I received an email stating that this was not going to be published on their website, but they would be happy to receive other/different stories from me in the future.
Still, I wrote from the recesses of my shoul (yes, my shoul); I spent a lot of time working on this, and it would be wrong to keep it to myself knowing that someone out there might benefit from my words.
So I’m sharing it with you, dear reader:

 

The Things I Need

I am someone who has lived with a neurological condition my entire life. At the ripe old age of twenty-four, it has become clear to me what I need from those around me, and more importantly, what I don’t need.

I have learned that people are generally very uncomfortable and rather ignorant when it comes to interaction with those of us who are dealing with any sort of brain dysfunction. Whether it be mental health problems, or autism, or epilepsy – the gray mushy blob in our skulls causes us to experience numerous struggles to which people often don’t know how to react.

This lack of awareness in the world has caused me to place a high value on the few people in my life who have shown a great depth of understanding for my unique challenges. These people are my gold. It wasn’t until recently that I wondered as to why I prized these people the way I did. My thoughts traveled to the idea that, as a person with a disability, I need certain things from people around me. But these things weren’t really things, they were intangible; they were tiny, unforgettable moments of compassion and empathy.

They were things I needed to feel.

 

A question arose in my mind. How I don’t want people to make me feel?

The answers appeared slowly, accompanied by a sinking feeling somewhere deep within my chest: burdening, weak, dramatic, pathetic, incapable, overwhelming.

I don’t need a doctor to make me feel like I’ve wasted his time. I don’t need someone to tell me to “snap out of” my depression or anxiety. I don’t need people to assume what I’m able and not able to do. I don’t need people to separate me from my condition, as if it’s an insult to be considered disabled or ill.

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Those are the things I don’t need.

 

So the question then became, how do I want people to make me feel?

The answers entered my mind quickly and randomly, in bursts, suddenly like bright fireworks against a dark sky: loved, supported, strong, independent, accepted, wanted.

I know now that the people in my life who I value like gold not only make me feel the things I do need to feel, but they erase the possibility that I could ever feel the things I don’t need to feel. Burdening, weak, dramatic, pathetic, incapable, or overwhelming; these are not options, ever.

 

I need someone to say to me, “Damn, this sucks. Let’s lay on the couch today and just talk and eat cupcakes.” I need medical professionals to treat me like a person, and not a number. I need honesty, laughter, and equal amounts optimism and pessimism (for when I don’t want to pretend to be happy and positive for five minutes, please). I need someone to hug me for no reason – and I mean, a real hug, not one of those crummy-half-pat-on-the-back-for-two-seconds hugs.

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As one of my most beloved writers, Maya Angelou, stated, “At the end of the day, people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.”

 

xo Kelly

Horse Therapy Adventure

Back in high school, when my dear mother was desperate to help me with the never-ending stream of problems that I faced, she opted to try healing with horses. Specifically horse back riding, or hippotherapy, which by the way, has nothing to do with hippos.

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This is the part where I should explain my feelings regarding hippotherapy. However, you should know that I have great talent at blocking out huge chunks of time that may or may not have been traumatic. What you are about to read is my fuzzy recollection of my first day of horseback riding therapy. What is clear, however, is the fact that that day will never be forgotten.

I remember my mom and I walking into the place. The first thing that hit us was the smell. It was hard for me to get past. Everyone else seemed immune, or at least, mostly unaffected by the stench.

We were greeted by a cheery lady (her real name I can’t remember, so I will call her Susan) who gave me a helmet to wear. I think it was blue. But who cares what color it was.  Bottom line: I was HOT. See for yourself:

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We went and sat with her in a tiny room with appalling lighting. My mom explained why I was here and how sensitive I was to, well, everything. She explained my severe sensory issues and my recent diagnosis of ASD. Susan said she understood my situation. That was too easy, I thought.

Susan walked my mom and I through a short hallway that led to a door. “This is the barn,” she said. The door opened up to a massive open space covered with hay.

Then she walked us to another door that opened up to stables. We opened the door and I nearly lost bladder control because this was the first thing I saw:

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“She’s the largest breed of horse in the world,” said Susan. Also, the most insane-looking.

The next thing I knew, the horses all started smashing their hooves into their stable doors. BANG BANG BANG BANG!

Well, that was all I needed. Now that I was reduced to a pathetic crying blob in a helmet, Susan began to understand the seriousness of my situation.Picture 42

I was ushered quickly into the large barn where I waited for my horse.

My horse, I thought. I imagined something regal, majestic, and strong. Something along the lines of this:

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Heck, I’d even settle for this:

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However, when my horse came into the barn, it looked more like this:

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Ok. So it wasn’t what I had pictured in my mind….at all. Still, I would not give up hope. His name was Neil, I was told. “He’s very relaxed and he just loves everyone!” said Susan with delight.

Neil was a nearly as round as he was high. A blue blanket with yellow stars covered his back. I am unable to comment about Neil’s intelligence level at this time, but I’m certain it wasn’t too high. Still, there was an strong air of calm about him that I definitely appreciated.

I walked up a set of stairs and was placed onto Neil’s back. Although he could’ve passed for a miniature pony, I still felt disoriented and high-up off the ground. My grip tightened on his reins as we slowly started to walk out the barn and to the trails. The cheery lady guided Neil and another older woman walked next to me as I rode.

We barely walked three feet though when Neil stopped abruptly and I heard plopping sounds somewhere behind me. “Oh, he’s very relaxed,” Susan said, “he must like you!”

I was all like:

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To my horror, I quickly realized that Neil was a popping-machine. It was practically his favorite activity. Outside the barn, the two women guided Neil down a short dirt path. “We’re going to try this hill now, ok?”

She made that sound like a question, but I knew she wasn’t really asking me. It was more of a command: WE ARE GOING OVER THE HILL KID.

With my already over-stimulated state from the stable trauma, and my terrible body-spatial awareness, going over the hill wasn’t going to be pretty.

I basically thought I was going to die. Neil probably thought so too, although he never said anything. He just kept pooping.

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When I thought it couldn’t possibly get any worse, Susan said “Let’s walk Neil through this stream up here. Maybe he could stop and have a drink too.” Susan’s joyous spirit was making me nauseous. Maybe Neil could poop on her.

After several upsetting, sensory-crushing experiences, all sense of perspective was lost. Everything seemed bigger, more horrible and dangerous. This was no stream we were crossing…

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Nobody cared though, so I buried my face into Neil’s mane and placed a death grip on his face. He probably disliked that, but again, he didn’t say anything to me. He pooped though.

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Finally sensing my distress, Susan told me that we were going to walk around the ring. The ring was a dirt oval surrounded by a wooden fence. When we got there, another teen girl was riding a muscular black horse. I entered the ring, and the difference between the two of us and our horses was striking, if not, hilariously noticeable.

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I sensed a air of superiority from her. Neil stopped pooping, so something was definitely going on. She was a professional rider on a champion horse. I knew she thought of me as one of “those kids” on “that horse.” And actually, I was. YEA. I WAS ONE OF THOSE KIDS ON THAT HORSE. So as she left the ring, I said out loud:

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I’m not sure she heard me, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is that Neil and I survived steep mountains and the raging river. We braved the dirt paths and Susan’s annoyingly sunny demeanor.We were a united force. We were one.

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And so my day of therapeutic horseback riding came to an end. I rode around the ring endlessly, somewhat enjoying the consistency of the circle. No hills, or waterways. Just dirt. It was all so…. unsurprising. Just how I like it.

And I learned that Neil may not have been the most impressive-looking creature, but he certainly had the confidence to carry me – having meltdown while clawing at his eyeballs – without flinching. I guess that’s why he’s a top-notch therapy horse. I’d bet ya that that other horse couldn’t do HALF of what Neil does.

-xoxo Kelly

By the way, here is a picture of the type of horse that Neil is. This isn’t him, but it looks just like him.

Good boy, Neil. Poop your way to victory.

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