Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Weekend Festivities

HAPPY HALLOWEEN, Aspierations Friends & Blog Visitors!




I missed you this week.  I thought many times about writing.  Thanks so much to all of you who came to check out the Aspierations blog while I was away.  I'm back!  This was certainly a week of family "stuff" and included a tidal wave of emotions.  I seem to have a few moments here of calm waters so I'm going to see if I can sneak in a blog before evening.

In just a few hours, we will be taking the boys trick or treating around the neighborhood.  The forecast is rain but we're going to still give it a go.  Having grown up in the Silicon Valley / South Bay of CA, rain on Halloween evening is never anything I had to worry about, at least not that I recall.  Here in Vancouver, Washington we've been lucky so far and aside from a few sprinkles, we've taken the boys out successfully each year.  I'll let you know how the evening goes!




Ryan is going to be a lion this year, which is rather appropriate considering his wild body and that his Mom is a huge tiger, lion and any sort of wildcat fan.  Justin will be dressed as a skeleton.  This is the first year in awhile that John and I may not be dressing up.  I'm kinda bummed about that but I'll get over it.  Next year will be a better year as far as that goes!

We did want to make sure that the kids had a memorable Halloween weekend, so we took them to Family Friday Game night at a local Lutheran church on Friday.  This was a social event geared toward kids and teens with Asperger's or Autism / ASD.  The kids get a chance to play video games, board games and bingo and fill up on pizza, snacks and dessert.



It happens in Vancouver on the last Friday of each month except August and December.  In November, the event will be on the third Friday because of Thanksgiving weekend.  If you are in the Vancouver, WA area and want information, please let me know in the comments section or at lettingmylightshine@gmail.com and I'll be happy to pass the details along.  It only costs $5 per family plus bringing some sort of snack.  It's a great deal and an opportunity for both kids and parents to socialize.


Continuing the Krejcha family's streak of lucky BINGO wins, both Justin and Ryan were the first two winners of the night.  Ryan chose a car as his prize (SURPRISE! :-D) and Justin chose a pumpkin that lights up.

They even got to take turns being callers and did an awesome job.


On Saturday, the First Church of God in Vancouver, WA hosted an amazing sensory themed "The Great Pumpkin Party" for kiddos with special needs and their families.

This was so much fun for the boys!  It was only two hours long but Justin and Ryan were able to get through lots of activities during that time including bouncing on the inflatables, playing with shaving cream, play dough and rice, trick-or-treating, playing games for prizes and munching on popcorn.  

Here are a few pictures from the event!  I have about 90 on Facebook so if you're interested in seeing those, just drop me a line or send me a friend request on Facebook and I'll hook you up. 


Look at our new white gloves!


WHEEEEEEEE!


I want to go down the bouncy slide THIS many more times, Mom!


It's a race to the finish!







The party we went to on Saturday was free for families who had children with special needs.  It was a wonderful outreach by this particular church and we are so thankful for the opportunity to have gone.  Right now things are very lean so to give Justin and Ryan a chance at a weekend of fun games, laughter and snacks for only $5.00 was such a blessing.

I will follow up again soon to let you know how Halloween night went!  How did your Halloween weekend go?  Did you or your kids dress up?  Let me know in the comment section!

Wishing you lots of treats!!
Hugs and happiness,
Karen




Monday, October 25, 2010

I Smell Berry Bonkers ... and you? Another Manic Monday

If you're curious what that fruity smell is, don't worry, it's me.  Right now I smell like Hawaiian Punch Berry Bonkers and you know what?  It's really not that bad.



There was so much Hawaiian Punch Berry Bonkers just spilled in our office by Ryan that I indeed went Berry Bonkers myself trying to clean it up before Justin's homework got destroyed (homework somewhat safe but fruity smelling, math book ruined), before John's computer got fried (safe) and before our carpet added yet another interesting juice spill color to its original beige (hopeless cause).  

If you are ever a guest in our home... you know, for one of those fancy dinner parties you've been aching to come to... please overlook the unique look of the Count Your Beans World Headquarters office carpeting.  In fact if you know of any new carpeting sweepstakes out there that won't put me on a telemarketing phone call list until I am in my 90s, please let me know.  Thanks!



I have the feeling I'm going to be smelling berry good for the rest of the evening.  I'll just pretend it's a new bubble bath or shower gel flavor.  I usually go for strawberry, grape, Watercourse Way Rosemary Mint and peppermint with my shower gels but I'm thinking I may contact Hawaiian Punch and see if they'd be interested in an Aspierations / Hawaiian Punch "Bath & Body" joint venture.  What do you think?  Surefire moneymaker?

So it was me and the boys home alone again this evening.  John had a scouting committee meeting that he went to by himself and I had a ton of work that I had to get done for CYB.  The former I guess went successfully, the latter, not so much.  The boys to their credit did a great job behaving but there were still a lot of interruptions, a couple meltdowns, three spills and one attempt to use John's iPad to purchase over $100 (real cash) worth of gaming coins (worth essentially nothing) for one of those Zynga type farming applications that everyone in the world in my family and extended family except me seems to be fascinated with.  I won't say obsessed... well, I just did... but I'm the Aspie around here and everyone else seems to be the ones that can't avoid checking their gameplay multiple times a day.  

I briefly tried one of those games last year with John.  It was a pirate game through Zynga and Facebook and in the beginning it was kind of fun.  I quickly saw how people could get dependent and addicted to playing the game each day. Before long, I was getting tons of application gaming and "friend" requests from strangers at Facebook who I had no other acquaintance with other than "the game" and it just didn't feel socially right for me.  Some people would get really serious about their game and if you "attacked / fought" them as part of a game, would send nasty notes.  Seriously?  Because of an online game?  

Ever heard of Mafia Wars, Pirates of the Caribbean, Farmville, Farm Town, Farm Story, Vampire something or other (BITE ME!), Fashion Wars, Frontierville, Petville, Fishville, Takemymoneyville, etc, etc... 



Check out this link: The Real Reason You Are Addicted to Farmville (And Zynga is a 5 Billion dollar company -- not bad for putting out all those "free" apps...)

Some of the games are "nicer" than others.  They're fuzzy and friendly. Millions of people play.  They have a good hook.  They are entertainment for many.  

If you play these games, please don't take offense at what I am about to say.  Everyone needs to have some form of leisure activity and relaxation. If you have the time to play and desire to play and your priorities are aligned, go for it. It's not my place to tell you what to do. 

Some friendly advice? Just please don't let it take over your life and don't spend a lot (or any) of real money on the stuff.  If you're feeling you HAVE to check your game multiple times a day but you're checking out in other areas of your life, please reassess.  Please watch out for viruses and fake emails related to your game.  Please be careful about "friending" people who are going to have access to your personal information. If you do play, your kids are going to want to... and what do you say?  Mommy or Daddy can play an animated cartoon like game but the kids can't?

Hey, I like video games, I love challenging word games, strategy games, number games and even online poker before it was banned in Washington.  Don't get me wrong.  I'm truly not anti-game.  But I don't have to play them every day or multiple times each day...  Given that I'm a person who tends to have compulsive tendencies, I often recognize the signs in others.

A lot of these "social" online games encourage and reward daily players and as such, many people playing start to develop a dependency or feel a social obligation to not let down their game friends or neighbors.  They may not think it adversely impacts other areas of their lives and probably for most casual players, it doesn't.  But for those who have a tendency toward dependency... it really can have negative ramifications.  You may not see it but others will.  Just do a google search across the web and see how many people have become addicted to these things!  Zynga and similar companies make money hand over fist on these "free" app games and they do it by reeling people in and encouraging and rewarding people's loyalty. For the ones who have given money and/or lots of time to these games, it can be very costly. People lose money they don't have to spend, their grades may suffer, they may lose their jobs and they may lose relationships too... 

Sorry... lecture over... getting down from my soapbox now!  I don't even know why I went down that road.  Well, actually I do.  But I won't go there because I want to bring positive energy back into my life right now and this blog could use some good vibes too.  I apologize if I ticked anyone off but I needed to get it out.  Feel free to rant and rave at me in the comments section if you'd like. 



I went to bed last night wanting to have a really good day.  Today is October 25th. Happy Birthday to those celebrating today... especially one of you out there!  You know who you are! 

It is also a month before Thanksgiving (and my own birthday, gobble, gobble) and two months before Christmas.  Yikes!  I need more days in this month!

Last night didn't end the way I had hoped but I had positive expectations for today.  I was awakened by John coming into the room and sitting down on the bed with a very serious look on his face.  An incident had happened at school.  At first I was scared.  Was someone hurt?  Sick?  Then John explained to me the content of a phone call he just had with a teacher and I knew it was going to be a day of challenge.  



Calls and emails from the teachers.  I'm beginning to know them more intimately than most family members and friends...  The incident itself was one of those things that parents of school-age children with autism and Asperger's would probably understand and relate to, especially if you have children sensitive, passionate and determined.  While these can be very good qualities, they can also lead to challenges, especially if a child is embarrassed or feeling blocked or backed into a corner.  You know what can happen, right?  It's hard enough when it happens at home... in a restaurant (how many of us really go out)... at someone else's home (that's assuming one is invited to other people's homes), at church (yep... well at least God understands), at the grocery store (that one really sucks...) but at school with one's peers around, well... that is another entity entirely.

I'm not going to go into the specifics of the incident itself because right now that's not important and I want to protect the feelings of my son should he ever happen onto this blog.  I love him so much now, yesterday, tomorrow, forever!  I get it!  I understand!  I love you!  I get you!  I wish I could take what happened back but we have to look at these things as learning experiences and opportunities to turn adversity into growth. Easier said than done but I have faith!

I may talk about it later in a dedicated blog about school and school challenges because I think it's an important topic that many Aspierations readers can relate to or at least sympathize with.  I will just say that for now, what happened was heartbreaking both to me and to John.  Sometimes you think you're making so much progress... and then out comes a big WHAMMY who takes away your progress and leaves you wondering what in the hell just happened?



I will also say that I think things are rectified with the teachers to the level that all will be okay for our son to return to school tomorrow.  I am hoping and praying that tomorrow will be a better day for him.  The last few days have been an avalanche of rough challenges.  He's had lots of hugs, lots of pep talks and I told him the tough streak was over and starting this minute (the time we were having the conversation), it was going to be a better day. 

The thing about days starting out kind of badly for me is that it seems to have a raining, pouring, torrential rainstorm, hailing, showing, gigantic snowball type effect.  Mondays are usually our busiest shipping days and so I always have busy Mondays but today there were a crazy number of questions, issues concerning things beyond our control ("thank you, dear vendor..."), odd requests and a higher than quota number of daily life around the house issues.

Right now the kids are in bed, perhaps even sleeping.  I really should be using this time to go back to work but you know what?  I just don't feel like it right now.  Since Donald Trump isn't around to say, "You're Fired", I'm going to cut myself some slack, do this blog and then take a long luxurious shower where I will replace the ever so delicious Berry Bonkers smell with that of strawberry, raspberry or fresh vibrant mint.  I may even put on some music in the background, dance off my derriere and sing my standard playlist a few times.  Then it's a glass of wine, some chocolate, some late night romance... 

Hmm... I think at this point, I'll be happy just to get to the shower part and maybe catch Hawaii Five-O on TivO.  Of course there is always "The Event" which is taking a monumentally long time to get going... soon to be a non-event in our viewing playlist if something more exciting doesn't happen.  With all the hype it got in promos, I really expected more.  Now Hawaii Five-O... it's not the same as the original of course but I like the banter and chemistry among McGarrett and Danno so far.  It's a break from Criminal Minds...

Now why I am digressing here?  I guess I really don't want to get back to those email.  Speaking of which, I did recently assert myself and put myself out there again. (See my blog, "From The Heart of Someone Who Has Loved and Lost") I'm glad I did and the door is always open.  

You know, I think it is kind of fitting that Hawaii Five-O is on the same night that I got drenched with Hawaiian Punch Berry Bonkers.  What would be even cooler is if I won an all-expense paid trip for the family to Hawaii!  Snorkeling in Maui, luaus (watch out for my belly dance!!), the smell of the flowers... 
I've always wanted to stay at The Four Seasons Resort in Lanai, the Lodge at Koele or the Manele Bay and do some of those amazing outdoor adventures and play on some beautiful golf courses.  I may not be into "camping" so much but I do have a frisky risk-taking spirit and would love to try zip-lining, parasailing, scuba-diving and a whole host of other "Amazing Race" kind of outdoor adventure activities.  Then send me back to my nice hotel and give me a great massage!  



Okay, it's been quiet for 20 minutes now.  Work or shower and relaxation?  Which will it be?

Leave me a comment if you want to know which way I decided!!

Best wishes for a terrific rest of the week.  Meltdown-free!
Karen

Sunday, October 24, 2010

It's Raining, It's Pouring... but the GIANTS are Roaring!

When we moved to Washington a few years ago, we knew there would be rain.  Our family actually likes the rain but we made sure to move to a part of the state that gets some of the very least rainfall.  I do enjoy watching the rain and even walking in it but I sure hate driving in it.  That I try and avoid!

Happy Sunday, Aspierations Friends!

For my California baseball buddies, GO San Francisco GIANTS!!!!



What better time of year for the Orange and Black Attack?

If you don't know what I'm talking about, the San Francisco Giants are the 2010 National League Champions and will be playing against the Texas Rangers in the World Series next week.  I'll admit that since moving from CA to WA, I haven't watched a lot of baseball.  Even though the Mariners are up in Seattle, I still have loyalty to the SF Giants and still have my baseball cards from when I was a kid.  Of course there are some of the current team out there who could use a good shave and a haircut (I'm not a fan of beards) but hey, if it works for them and it took them this far, then who I am to complain?

For me, there will probably be no more exciting time in major league baseball than when the SF Giants and the Oakland A's matched up in the 1989 World Series.  It was the first and only time that I had tickets to play-off games and world series games.  (Fortunately I did not use my tickets during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake although I very well had the opportunity to be there!)  Due to some savvy entrepreneurial skills, fast speed dialing and borrowing a couple credit cards from various friends and family, a very special friend (whose birthday is tomorrow, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!!) and I were able to obtain quite a few sets of tickets to both the playoffs and the World Series.  

As a result, by selling our extra tickets, we attended all the games we wanted to for free, made some extra money and I also got to take my dad to a World Series game as well, something which was very big for him and an experience I'll always remember.  Additionally, we got to trade some baseball tickets for a San Francisco 49er game and that was a birthday time of the year treat too because I had never seen a professional football game before at a stadium.

Baseball is probably one of the only sports I don't mind watching rather than playing.  I highly prefer getting out in the action but there is something about a guy in a baseball or even a softball uniform... well, you know what I mean and if you don't, I'm not going to embarrass myself by explaining!  

I used to play a little softball myself and hit pretty well although no-one would ever call me wheels.  That's why it was a good thing I hit pretty well.  Didn't need to run so fast...  :-)   

When I was elementary school age, tomboy that I was, I wanted to play in little league.  My parents weren't as enthused but they humored me for one season and signed me up.  Well, I was the only girl on the team and the boys didn't want me to hit.  Granted I was bigger than most of them and could have kicked their derrieres out in kickball on the playground but when boys are together at that age, they can be a little exclusive sometimes.  After sitting out an entire game and not getting to bat, I went home crying.  I don't remember the actual tears but I assume I cried because my dear mom who rarely makes waves went and talked to the coach / person in charge and the next game they let me bat.  I remember when I got up to the plate I was SO EXCITED.  Then something very annoying happened and I remember it like it was yesterday.  The boys in the outfield moved in.  The boys in the infield moved in.  Even the pitcher took a step forward.  I was very irritated.  How DARE they think I couldn't hit?  Bad mistake on their part! The pitch came over the plate and I whacked the heck out of it.  HOME RUN, no questions asked.

That was one of those winning moments that I'd love for every child to experience.  The looks on their faces were priceless but the feeling inside of knowing what I had done was A-W-E-S-O-M-E.  I remember once I crossed home plate and went back to the dug-out being hugged by a couple of my teammates.  Incidentally, my mom never had to ask anyone to let me hit again after that.  I played the rest of the season and I batted in a very good position!

I look forward to Ryan giving baseball an opportunity.  Justin tried tee ball for a little bit of time but it wasn't for him.  At the time we didn't know he was on the autism spectrum but had we been aware, we might have been able to help him better with some of his sensory issues and physical challenges.

I think Ryan might have a bit more interest.   There is an inclusive baseball league called the Columbia River Miracle League that invites children with autism to participate and we might end up starting out Ryan in something like that.  One of Justin's friends that came to his birthday party plays in the league and his mom said that it has been a very positive experience. Who knows, we may try a regular league instead / too.  I don't want our sons' autism diagnosis to hold either boy back. I want to give them both the opportunity to find a sport or athletic activity that they can participate in and enjoy.  

Speaking of which, my little personal trainer Ryan was VERY upset when we could not go walking outside tonight.  Granted it is dark and pouring down rain but Ryan was raring to go.  Truth be told, if it were just him and me, I might have snuck a little walk around the block just to get some fresh air and keep our exercise streak going but there has been a little pandemonium around here today and with John getting a bit sick after his camping adventure over the weekend, it's probably best that everyone stay inside.  Maybe I'll walk on the treadmill a bit later.  

What kind of sports or exercise activities do you enjoy?  If you've been here for awhile, you know that I used to bowl professionally with the Ladies Pro Bowlers Tour and prior to that in college and in a variety of amateur and youth tournaments.  I also enjoyed tennis, racquetball, softball and golf.  Unfortunately I haven't really had anyone to do that stuff with for a number of years and of course other life stuff has happened but one of the goals I'm working on now is to become more active and give myself the chance to participate in healthy and fun activities again.  I'm trying to get the family involved so they can feel fit and active too.  One step at at time!!!

I'm trying to make it a point now to walk when the weather is good as I would like to get myself in better shape both for my own health and for the sake of my kiddos.  It takes a lot of energy to keep up with this crew!  Fortunately I have a little workout buddy who wants to walk every day and every evening so I have a good start!  

Time for me to get back to work.  I blogged early tonight as I didn't think I'd get a chance later and I didn't want to miss two days in a row.  As you know, this Aspierations blog is quite important to me.  It's interesting because the message in church today was all about each of us having a calling from God and each of our callings being equally important.  It was a great reminder for me to keep my focus and continue moving forward with my goals, dreams and Aspierations.

Thank you to all out there for your support.  Whether it's an anonymous post of encouragement, a silent reading of my words behind your computer, a prayer or well wish sent my way on occasion, I truly appreciate it all.  Please know that I am here for you as well.  Feel free to drop me a line at lettingmylightshine@gmail.com, leave a comment or just stop by every once in awhile to hang out.

Best wishes for a wonderful evening and great week ahead!
Let us let our lights shine!
Karen

Friday, October 22, 2010

Friday Night Alone With the Kiddos

There is LOTS of external noise going on around here so I'm not sure how successful I'll be at trying to blog but I'll give it a shot!

Happy Friday, Aspierations Friends!





For those of you who work Monday - Friday jobs or go to school during the week, I would imagine TGIF would apply to you today.  I remember those days...  It has been awhile!

Tonight I am here at home alone with Justin and Ryan.  Justin is on the computer creating videos and Ryan is on the floor actively engaged with his cars.  It has been 5 minutes since anyone has urgently needed "nice Mommy" or "sweetie-heart" so I'm going to try and type quickly!  I can't guarantee the quality of the content right now as I'm feeling a bit downcast.

John is off doing Scoutmaster Leadership Training at a place called "Optimist Camp" and won't be back until tomorrow evening.  It is supposed to rain tonight and tomorrow so I'm not sure how optimistic everyone there will be feeling after their campout but hopefully they'll all get what they need out there and will leave feeling positive.

It seems like John has been gone a lot lately for scouting training, events and overnights. This is a way he feels he wants to serve and so I try my best to support him by taking care of the kids and business while he is away.  I'll admit that sometimes it seems like it takes up an awful lot of time in comparison to the other things we as a family are trying to get accomplished but marriage and family is about a lot of compromise and being a scout leader is something that John has stated many times is very important to him.  He has often expressed disappointment in not having scouting opportunities available to him as a kid past 2nd or 3rd grade and he wants to give this chance to both Justin who is now in Boy Scouts and Ryan who will qualify for Tiger Cub status in two years.  I want John to be happy and live out his goals and dreams and so I try to encourage and support those ambitions, especially when they have healthy and positive intentions.  It also gives him a chance to socialize and get outside of these walls and I'm sure having adult conversation with someone other than me is something he looks forward to.  Of course, I'd like to say that I'm entertaining but I realize he needs more and I want him to have that socialization chance.  There are certainly a lot of worse things he could be into although if I'm not careful, I feel I'll lose him to Farmville and/or Farm Story soon. (It's an online game that he and his mother and now Justin like to play.)

I am optimistic that someday when Aspierations takes off like I'd like it to and I have the opportunity to travel for speaking and workshops, he will be willing to occasionally stay with the kids by himself as well.  We have talked in the past about Aspierations being something we could work together on as a team and a family.  I look forward to that one day coming to fruition.

I'll admit, I'd love to be able to apply many hours to developing Aspierations right now but between the kiddos and work and everyday marriage and family stuff, I feel lucky to be able to get in an evening blog every couple of nights.  This is the time of year for our online etail business Count Your Beans Dolls & Gifts that is totally make or break so a lot of hours need to be naturally be put in since Christmas shopping season is right around the corner.

(Hang on - meltdown time!!!!  Not me... yet...)

I'm back...  situation resolved.  One kiddo back at the computer, one kiddo in the purple chair eating Chex Mix.  Life is good again and the meltdown was a relatively short one.  Hooray!  :-)

Developing Aspierations into something larger than just this blog has been a goal of mine since the beginning of the year but the kiddos, family and paying bills are obviously large priorities.  As I've mentioned in this blog before, I have felt called by God to work on Aspierations so it disappoints me that I have not been savvy enough to figure out a better way to balance everything.   I really don't want to let anyone down.  I don't want to disappoint my family, my parents, God, myself or my Aspierations friends.

I guess I'll pray on it and hopefully tomorrow will be a better day.

Right now I guess I'm just feeling a bit lonely and overwhelmed.  Lots of work to do, so I guess I'll try and get back to that.  If I can get the boys to bed at a reasonable hour tonight, I may come back to blogging but if not, I'll try and catch up with you guys and gals this weekend.  I really don't need to drag anyone down with me.  I do want you to come back again, after all!

Anyone out there have any fun and exciting weekend plans?  Please feel free to share them!  I'd enjoy hearing something cheery!

Best wishes to all of you!
Karen

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

4th Annual Corn MAIZE Trip to Sauvie Island - Amazing Time

Hi Amazing Aspierations Friends!

Check out the A-MAIZE-ing time we had today going through the corn maze at The Pumpkin Patch at Sauvie Island in Portland, OR.

After you're done with my version of today's events, please feel free to check out my husband John's blog at the Life and Times of John Krejcha - Maize the Corn Be With You!


A picture of The Maize 2010 with a ghostly photographer in the background!

I'm sorry for not having the opportunity to blog yesterday. Between family stuff and work stuff, it unfortunately wasn't in the cards.  For those who stopped by yesterday, thanks!  I appreciate you coming back again.  Hopefully you'll enjoy tonight's entry.

Well, for the fourth year in a row, the Krejcha family has taken a trip from Vancouver, WA to Sauvie Island in Portland, OR for an adventure at The Pumpkin Patch.  They have pumpkin picking, hay bale climbing, a cow train, a gift shop, hay rides, a barn where you view farm animals and very DELICIOUS corn.  If you are ever in the area in the fall, it's a great place to take the kids of all ages.

The highlight of each year for our family is a trip through their infamous corn "maize".  Each year they do something different creating a new maize that has never been done before.  One year it was a tribute to the Portland Trailblazers and this year as you can see in the picture above, this year's corn maize featured a big heart in the middle. Ya gotta have heart... (Quick! Name the musical!)

They also do a separate haunted maize which is only open in the evening time.  We haven't ventured through that one yet, although in our first year's attempt at the regular maze, we started late and it was dark by the time we got done.  It was also muddy and there was ominous music playing nearby from the haunted area.  Although in retrospect we all had a good enough time to turn it into a family tradition, I think we were all happy and relieved to make our way out of the dark that first year.


The Field of Screams - this year's Haunted Maize

Nancy Drew got a clue and the next year our family went earlier in the day, earlier in the week since weekdays are not as crowded and we participated during good weather without mud.  I still remember Ryan in his first year after about a half hour plopping down in the mud in the middle of the maze and refusing to budge.  This was in October of 2007 so he was a little under 1 1/2 at the time.  Carrying a little guy in the slippery mud in the dark is more of a trick than a treat!

This year Ryan was very excited about the entire adventure and he had his best time yet.  Justin had a blast too and brought his handheld Garmin E-Trex GPS with him that he got for his birthday.  We even attempted a geocaching adventure afterwards.  There was a little challenge keeping everyone on track in the maize with whose turn it was to choose directions.  After getting lost a little bit at the beginning, we actually made pretty good time. Of course it did help that John had a postcard map of the maize with an aerial view. I think it took about 40 minutes.  We did stop in the middle a little bit to play in the heart of the maze.  The adventure was definitely worth our time and worth every penny as well.

I'm including a few pictures here but I also have an album up at Facebook that you should be able to view from this link:

http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=252887&id=589538814&l=b3ef3fcda5

(The picture link above should work even if you don't have a Facebook account.  If you're not a friend on Facebook and want to be, feel free to send me a friend request.  Please say that you're from the Aspierations blog so I'll know the reference, thanks!)

It was sunny while we were out there and there is a little glare in some of the photos but overall, I think they turned out pretty well and captured the fun and energy of our pre-Halloween venture!


Excited, enthusiastic and ready to go!


Ryan kept his arms up like that until we got into the maize.  He was VERY excited!


Cute rules. When I'm 99, I'm bringing in a strawberry daiquiri!

Children of the Corn?  (Okay, who out there watched that movie?)


Mom will save me from the Children of the Corn!!!!!


View from the first bridge!  Long way to go!


There are 10 checkpoints on the maize.  The mid-way point was after the 2nd checkpoint. HUH????


Justin in the "heart" of the maze.  How sweet!

More pictures on our Facebook link above!  I'll just jump now to....


where John wanted me to show you "The End"


We'll show you our face but no "about face" here!


Sweet moment with Ryan and Mr. Ducky


The Perfect Pumpkins indeed!

In addition to "The Pumpkin Patch" in Sauvie Island, there is also a place called Bi-zi Farms in Vancouver, WA that we've been to the past couple of years.  I'm not sure if we'll make it there this year since they're only open on the weekends and John will be gone on Friday and Saturday of this week.  I'm hoping we can still make it the following Friday because they also have fun activities like pumpkin launching, pony rides, playing in the corn bin, a mini corn maze and a medium size maze.  

If you've never done pumpkin launching, imagine putting a pumpkin in a big slingshot, pulling back and letting it go.  In fact, if you've seen "The Amazing Race" this season, it is similar to the watermelon launching that happened during one of the activities.  However unlike the home shopping network lady and her watermelon face smash, none of us has gotten whacked yet with a pumpkin.  Yet...


Last year's 1st attempt!


Justin got some really good air on his launch!

Going to "The Pumpkin Patch" and "Bi-Zi Farms" is a lot of fun for our family.  When we lived in California, there was a small pumpkin patch with a train ride, small maze and farm animals just a few blocks away from where I grew up in Mountain View.  The area was almost all housing but there was this one patch of land that was about 15 acres or so at the corner of Grant Road and Levin and for a number of years when I was an adult, there would be a cool little pumpkin patch there.  We'd pick out pumpkins, Justin would ride the mini train and we'd each get an orange pumpkin shaped sugar cookie at the end.  Ryan got to go there for his first Halloween.  I don't have pictures on this computer but I'll try to find a few to post by the end of the month.

I never really remembered visiting many pumpkin patches as I grew up.  I remember one year we went to Half Moon Bay and that was kind of cool.  Nowadays, I think there are a few other places in the South Bay that are a little closer to go to.  

I did occasionally go to a haunted house or two.  It was a SCREAM of a time, I tell ya.

If you have a favorite pumpkin patch or Halloween type place that you and your family like to attend, please include a link to it here.  I'd love to check it out and see what kind of places there are throughout the country and the world!

Did you know it is just 11 days until Halloween and we STILL don't have our costumes yet?  SHEESH!
Maybe I'll let my Aspierations viewers decide what I should dress up as.  Of course I'm setting myself up there... 


This was last year!  Bewitching, AYE!


Luigi got the treats and Scooby Doo got plenty of Scooby snacks!

How about you?  What are your Halloween plans?
Falling for my Aspierations buddies,
Karen

Monday, October 18, 2010

Amazing Days of Autumn from an Aspie Perspective

Some people dig the summer, other people are cool with winter, a bunch of people like the spring and although each season has its own merits, I really enjoy autumn!

For most of my formative years, I lived in Mountain View, California and what I remember liking the most about October was that about two weeks before the end of the month, the outside air would smell really great and I'd spend as much time outside as I could.  I used to tell my parents it smelled like Halloween and as the years would pass and I would get older, that certain smell would make its way into our neighborhood and would trigger all sorts of positive memories.

We used to have two walnut trees in front of my yard that I loved.  Now we have two big trees in front of our own home and it's great having them there.  It's funny because names of "trees" have followed me to many of the places I have lived.  From Fair Oaks West to The Woods to Pinefield Road... I had some sort of forest theme going on!



photo from my last Fall in California...

Did Halloween time have a certain smell in YOUR neighborhood?  Please let me know and if so, where did you grow up?





I really loved Halloween as a child.  I had a blast dressing up and going from door to door.  I lived in a neighborhood that was very friendly.  As the children would go around the neighborhood trick-or-treating, I noticed a number of the parents bringing wine glasses with them and filling them from house to house.  I didn't think much of it then but I wonder who was happier at the end of the evening!?  The kids got their treats and the parents got theirs!  I couldn't imagine that really happening nowadays.  I suppose it would depend on the area you lived in and how friendly the neighbors were with each other.

My dad has always been one of those guys who has been friendly and expressive with everyone in the neighborhood.  He's the kind of neighbor I'd love to have a bunch of.  They're honest, reliable, helpful, handy, kind and if you have an emergency, you have somewhere you can go.  The funny thing is that when I was a kid, I was sort of that way too with the neighborhood adults.  If someone new would move into the neighborhood, I'd be the first one at their door welcoming them and asking if they had any kids my age I could play with.

In fact, a lot of the close adult friends my parents made through the years were initially introduced to them through my little "welcome wagon" excursions.  There were about 3 or 4 neighbors homes that we would occasionally visit back and forth for BBQs, pool parties, that sort of thing.


One of our last pool parties in California

I think my openness to greeting new neighbors changed around the time I started middle school.  I can think of a wide variety of contributing factors, none of which I'm really going to go into now, but I will probably delve into in a future blog.  I will make note that one of those factors was that six separate girls from different families that I had befriended in my elementary school years all ended up moving away to another state sometime while I was in elementary school.  The moves didn't all happen at the same time but in each case it was a girl that I had spent a considerable amount of one-on-one time with both at her house and mine.  Besides being a tomboy and enjoying sports, it doesn't surprise me much that as I got older, almost all of my friends were guys.  This is still true to this day.

ANYWAY, I had started this blog wanting to talk about fall and Halloween and off I went again down memory and psychoanalyzing lane!  Sheesh!  The tangent queen keeps her crown!

When our family moved to Washington in summer of 2007, I was totally looking forward to seeing what the fall would bring.  Autumn leaves were abundant, there was amazing beauty in the nature areas around our home, frogs were ribbeting and the skies in the nighttime after sunset were gorgeous.  In California, I hadn't really experienced the changing of the seasons like you do in other states.  My first experience with this was when I was bowling on tour in the mid to late 90s but my first REAL experience where I feel I really took in all that autumn had to offer was that first fall in 2007.  Fall in Washington is amazing but the weird thing is that it is missing the Halloween smell that I experienced growing up in California.  I can't put my finger on what the difference is but the smell is definitely different.  Although the beauty up here in the fall beats California, I still miss the California Halloween smell.  Anyone out there have any speculations as to what the difference might be?

*************************

For the last few weeks, my little exercise partner and I have been out for a walk almost every night.  One of us has primarily been using the tricycle while the other has been alternating between walking and sprinting. The sprinting idea is my 4 year old personal trainer's idea of helping me improve my personal fitness.  One of these days we'll get it on live streaming feed for you.  (Start holding your breath in 5...4...3...2...1.)

Ryan and I encourage John and Justin to join us on our excursions.  John is usually very good about it if I ask. It's so cool when the whole family is out together and we can share some quality time just enjoying nature and each other's company.  We weren't as diligent in the summer and I take a bunch of responsibility there because my body is a feeding frenzy for mosquitoes and when I'm bitten I swell up. When I swell up, I'm grouchy.  It sucks because then I have to bow out of my Victoria's Secret modeling contract and well, you know how it is!

Fortunately it seems those annoying buggers are gone so on the days it's not too wet, we're out there getting our fresh air!  Ryan must feel invigorated as well because he's always pushing me to get outside with him for a walk and a trike ride.  When I see him riding that tricycle in his little red hooded jacket and me in my cozy hooded jacket, I am reminded of when I was a little girl doing the same thing. I used to have a red hooded jacket I'd wear on my tricycle rides throughout the neighborhood and one of the neighboring kids nicknamed me "Karen the Red Baron".  (This was MUCH better than my middle-school monikers!)

Justin doesn't take as much initiative in getting outside but once we can get him out there, he really enjoys walking with us too.  It frees him and I can tell oftentimes when we're walking, he's off in his own world and wherever it is, it is a happy place.  What has helped get Justin outside lately is an interest in geocaching.  He received one of those little nifty hand-held GPS geocaching / tracking type devices for his 11th birthday and so far, we've been out on a few different hunts.  Although our neighborhood is pretty much suburban, we're still near a lot of trails, ponds and wooded areas.  It's SO gorgeous this time of year and when the weather is cool, it's an awesome time to walk, refresh and recharge.

On Monday nights it is me and Ry since John and Justin are doing boy scouting stuff.  I learned that if I wanted even a remote chance to get any work done while the older guys were gone that I needed a plan of action.  Lately it has been me taking Ryan on a walk to the neighborhood school, letting him play on the playground equipment and then taking about another 20 minutes or so to walk home afterwards.  When we're home, it's time for milk and a snack.  I let him borrow John's iPad and I sneak onto the computer while we put on Dancing With The Stars in the background.  So far, it has worked out well.

In my last blog, I mentioned that today would be Justin's Student / Teacher / Parent conference at middle school.  Although we had met most of his teachers before, this was the first time we had all his core teachers together for one meeting.  We thought positively and the good news is that everything worked out great! Isn't it wonderful when you can celebrate a victorious day?

After a rough first day of school where all his classes and teachers were switched on him without Justin or us being notified in advance, (see blog from Saturday, September 4th: Middle School Mania - When Things Don't Go As Planned),  Justin has acclimated to school and is truly enjoying it.  We've worked proactively with him and his teachers on strategies to remove obstacles and give him plenty of opportunities for success.  I'll go into that in more detail in a blog soon since I think parents of middle schoolers, especially those with kids on the spectrum would be interested in some of the methods we used.  We're so proud of Justin and were thrilled to see that he is currently getting all As.  Of course even if he weren't, we'd be proud of him too but it's nice to watch him actively take pride in his schoolwork and his success.

It's getting late so I'm going to end this blog now.  I'm going to talk more about fall and Halloween tomorrow.  I'll have some fun pictures so please be sure to come back.  Since we've moved here, we've been "THE" house to go to on the block to see cool Halloween decorations.  Our whole family enjoys getting into the fun.  I can't believe we still don't have our costumes yet and it is less than two weeks to go!



Are any of you out there dressing up?  Are your children?  I'll include a couple links tomorrow to some good sensory-friendly Halloween blogs with tips for helping the kiddos have the best HALLOWEEN ever!

Amazing Autumn Wishes to Awesome Aspierations Friends,
Karen

Sunday, October 17, 2010

An early Monday start and a late Sunday night blog

I'm starting this blog a little early tonight as our family has an early morning Parent / Teacher / Student conference at Justin's middle school.  Since Ryan doesn't normally get picked up on the bus until after 11:30 a.m., he will be joining us.  That's not an ideal situation but finding a babysitter for a 15 minute conference at 7:50 a.m. just isn't going to happen so we'll make do.

What's the worst that could happen?  Nix that.  No negative thinking!  Granted, the thought process might lead to some future amusing anecdotes but I'd much rather come back and say that everything worked out just great and we're all moving forward positively.  

We're also going to bring the iPad for Ryan to use during the conference.  Thank goodness for that!

Do any of you out there have an iPad?  I bought John one for his birthday in late August and not only has it been a great tool for him to use (admittedly, I have a little iPad envy) but it has been AWESOME for our boys.  There are a lot of great educational apps out there that are free or under $1.00.  I'll be doing a blog in the future with some of our family's favorites thus far.  Some of them might not be what one would expect.  For example, Ryan LOVES Google Maps and it is through this application that we became more keenly aware of what an incredible visual memory he has when it comes to remembering directions to and from a location.

If you never saw my Wednesday, October 6th blog, Ryan's Amazing Visual Memory - Eidetic, Gifted, Autism?, I invite you to check it out.  There is a video there which shows a little glimpse into his ability.

I'm going to keep this one short tonight.  I know I've said that before and then 45 minutes later, I'm still writing but John has given me a deadline of 11:00 p.m., computers off.  No 3:46 a.m. blogs for me tonight!

I also want to give a quick shout-out to my 25th Google Friend and Aspierations blog follower!  25 is my favorite number, so HOORAY!  Hello and thanks for following my blog!  For the rest of you out there who are already Aspierations friends, if you aren't yet a Google Friend, please consider following me.  If you have a blog, just post the link in the comments section and I'll follow you back!  Of course if you want to stay a part of the Anonymous crew, that's cool too!  It's quite the posse!  :-)

I hope as you're reading this you're having a nice start to your week and that your weekend went well.  Ours was an incredibly emotional one with lots of highs and lots of lows, lots of passionate opinions and an equal number of passionate disagreements.  I would like to say that we all kept ourselves composed with calm voices, no interrupting, lots of respect and no meltdowns but the reality is that more than one of us had a bad day at the same time and speaking for myself, I was happy when Saturday ended and Sunday began.

In our family, we always try extremely hard to make it a point to not go to bed angry with each other.  In practicality, sometimes that is easier said than done.  Now granted, situations may not get resolved before we go to bed but if we can hug and kiss goodnight, pray for each other, pray for our family and sing a special tune, it helps take away a lot of the tension.  Meltdowns are put behind us.  The kids know Mom and Dad love them and no matter what happens, that will never change.

In our family, we are also very open about saying we are sorry.  I think it's very important to ask forgiveness from those we love when we do something wrong.  It is something we work hard to instill in our boys.  It's not just about the asking forgiveness though, it's about accepting the forgiveness and being able to also forgive ourselves.

Isn't it so much easier most of the time to forgive someone else than it is ourselves?  Yet if we're to move truly forward and not get caught in beating ourselves up, we have to do this.  We have to forgive ourselves.

It's something I ask God daily to help me with.  I know He forgives me but I pray that he helps me learn how to forgive myself better as well.   Forgiving my family is easy because I love them so much.

How do you do with forgiving?  How do you handle family conflict?  Any tips you want to share that work successfully for your family?

It's 10:59 p.m. so I need to hurry up and finish! 
Please let me know what you think!

Hugs and happiness,
Karen

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Karen's 3:46 a.m. Potluck Blog - Come see what you'll get!

Hi Aspierations Blog Friends!

Hope you're having a nice start to your weekend!  It's about 2:54 a.m. here PST at the time I'm working on my blog.  We'll see what time it will be when I end!  It's one of those nights when I just can't sleep and when I close my eyes, my mind just races.  So lucky you, you get to see what my potluck blog of ramblings might bring you.  Could be tasty!!  Could be yucky.  Let me know at the end!  :-)

Unfortunately I'm alone all day tomorrow with the kids so I think I'll be running on fumes by the end of the weekend since I have lots of work to do as well.  Next weekend I get two days with the kiddos by myself. John is doing Assistant Scoutmaster training.  I love the boys but perhaps I can teach them how to list auctions and do website updates...

If you read my last blog post, From The Heart of Someone who has Loved and Lost and you read it from beginning to end, I'm sure you realized that it was an emotional and vulnerable blog for me to write.  I appreciate those of you who made supportive comments and/or made it through the blog in one piece.

Any men out there read it from beginning to end or was it just women? (Yes, I'm calling you out, MEN! Raise your hand and go to my comments section and say "me... I'm a guy" if you read it.  If you're so inclined, I'd even be interested to know what you think.  You see, I worry that particular blog might scare guys away and so if you are a guy, I'd love to know if you read through it, what made you stay? I know I have guy readers but am curious to know if any men made it through that last blog... or perhaps if the title scared them away.  Do it anonymously if you'd like but please, humor me.  I'm truly interested to know the demographics of who reads which posts from beginning to end.  Especially this one...  THANKS!)

Here is the link to that last blog again:
http://aspierations.blogspot.com/2010/10/from-heart-of-someone-who-loves-you.html

Ready to try reading with me again?  :-)  This blog won't be that emotional, I promise.  I can't guarantee it won't be full of tangents.  I'm going to try again to write without editing so if you catch a typo or grammar mistake and it bugs you, I apologize.

When I put myself all out there for the world to see, I realize that there is risk involved on many levels.  I believe in the good in people and assume that the kind of visitors that come across the Aspierations blog and stick around to read will be the kind of people that are also looking for positive in this world.  I figure a bright bunch of really amazing people visit here.  Where do you fit?

If you look at the title of my blogspot.com blog, it says,

 "Aspierations - Come As You Are... Let Your Light Shine!"

Incidentally, for any newbies out there, welcome!  I do know how to spell "aspirations" and it is not a mistake that I spelled it ASPIErations instead.  I have Asperger's and an affectionate term for someone on the spectrum with Asperger's is often dubbed "Aspie".  I know that most of you have caught the play on words but for those that didn't, I hope this helps!!  :-)

Look up again.  Then it says,

"Written by an Aspie mom with two kiddos on the spectrum, this blog promotes acceptance and empowerment for those on the autism spectrum, those with Asperger's Syndrome and the family and friends who support them."

When someone happens into my blog for the first time, it can be through a variety of channels.  It may be a direct link to a specific blog I have written.  Google picks up labels / keywords in blogs and often people will find me that way.  They may also find me through links on a variety of other autism themed blogs. It could be through Twitter.  It might be through Facebook.  It could be a positive reference from another individual.  Lots of options...

It could also be from someone searching for the name "Karen Krejcha" and seeing what pops up.  (You don't need to do that.  I can tell you that my Facebook page pops up, this blog, some various social networking sites I'm not very active with, a couple reunion sites that I am not active with, maybe some pages to do with bowling, maybe something to do with eBay or Count Your Beans and some bizarre "Karen Krejcha will move your corpuscles" among other things pages put up by some mystery fan over 13 years ago when I was bowling on tour.  He/she, although it's GOT to be a he... although maybe not since a lot of women on tour had alternate preferences... may have even visited my blog recently.  Shout out... I'm still curious to know who you are!)

However someone finds me and whatever blog topic I might be into for the day, if someone is interested in getting to know a little bit about me and my journey so far with autism / Asperger's, etc., it's not too difficult to do.

For those new here, I blog about a lot of different topics.  One day it could be about my two sons, one day it could be about something that happened 25 years ago, one day it could be a funny anecdote, one day it could be something romantic, one day it could be about something deep and painful, one day it could be a list of resources to provide autism awareness and support, one day it could be somewhat random and nonsensical.  I've done a poem, a blog with music videos... and more are to come!

Whatever it is, what I write comes from my heart.  You get the good, the bad and the ugly... and one of my Aspierations friends out there once told me in his/her anonymous comment (feel free to verify gender... I know I have at least a dozen of you Anonymous friends & foes out there) that the good, the bad and the ugly was okay.  Thank you for that, Anonymous (male or female?)  Hey, it was good enough for Clint Eastwood...

Where am I going with this?

I just want to say that sometimes I put posts out there that are very special to me.  They are topics that are of a sensitive nature and may include people in my present or past.  I always do my best to show respect to the people I am talking about and I know that my Aspierations friends understand that and show respect as well when they make their comments.  Occasionally someone will try to sneak something across the border into my comments that doesn't belong but it gets deported very quickly.   If you run across one of these miscreants, rest assured, Charles Bronson, Clint Eastwood, Jackie Chan, Steven Segal and Arnold Schwarzenegger are on 'em.  (See my September 14th blog, Aspierations Friends are Awesome + Clint vs. Arnold, Who Wins if you're scratching your head quizzically at my seemingly random references.)

It has been tough for me in the past 12 years to make in real life friends.  I can talk to people and certainly carry on a conversation but I don't have the social opportunities like I used to for a variety of reasons, one of which is that I'm running a business from home with my husband and we're also taking care of our two sons who have a lot of stuff in their lives as well which requires our attention.  John has some social outlets for him (scouting, blogging, genealogy, Facebook, politics, online games) but for me, except for the occasional autism support group meeting, blogging is pretty much my social contact with adults outside of business and notes back and forth with the boys' teachers.

As such, my blogging at Aspierations is very special to me.  Although I roll out the red carpet and welcome you humbly into my domain (or tiger's lair as I prefer to visualize), I admittedly get nervous at times as to who is going to visit.  Likely it isn't anyone I'm related to for varying odd reasons.  Likely it isn't anyone that was a former friend or more.  (If it is, these people aren't commenting.)  Likely, it's people I would have never met or had contact with outside this blog.

Imagine your apartment or home being under constant "open house" mode. You never know who will visit and what he or she will think or say.  I realize that every time I post a new blog, for some people out there, I am only as good as my most recent blog.  I get that one chance to make a first impression.  What if my birthfather or birthmother or someone else important to me visited for the first time and I was talking about something gross like when one kiddo has potty issues?  Maybe I was being goofy or extra quirky?  Would I get a second chance?

Some people will visit just that one and if it is not for them, they will go, never to come back again.  I get that.  I'm sure my writing is an acquired taste and does not resonate with everyone.  (Of course the awesome people like YOU, you know what's up, right?  :-D)

As I am trying to attract people who will come back again and again, I sometimes put pressure on myself to make each blog a really good one.

I think it comes from my sales / entrepreneur mentality.  What I was thinking about this evening was that sometimes I don't have to make that sale.  If this blog is to also be therapeutic, if it is to be about one coming as they are and letting their light shine, then I don't need to be always be adding lots of bells and whistles, right?  I mean, sure, pictures help and graphics help spice things up and I'll continue to do that.  Blogging in a style that appeals to an audience is different than writing a shopping list, a factual article or a technical manual.


Random picture... Just for fun.  Ryan loved his 1st Birthday Cake!


Sometimes when you're here you'll see that sales side come out.  In my experience, in order to move ahead in life towards dreams and goals you want to pursue, you have to be a salesperson.  Just think about when you're starting a relationship what those first few dates are like.  If you like the person, not only do you to have to sell yourself in a positive, attractive, non-smothering way but you have to show him/her that your features are of benefit to them and along the way, you need to figure out if their features are of benefit to you.  And of course... if you talk to someone you have romantic interest in, you better not use "feature" or "benefit" out loud in the date unless you're WAY down the road and are talking about making some sort of purchase together.

When I used to bowl professionally, it was easier for me to talk with people.  I'd participate in these Pro-Ams on the Ladies Pro Bowlers Tour (LPBT / WPBT or WPBA depending on the year) where people would pay to bowl with the pros for 3 games. These mini tournaments would happen a day or two before the main tournament in each tour stop and it was a way for amateurs to get to know the pros and for the pros to be positive ambassadors for the game.  Amateurs could also win prizes when they added their scores up with the pros so naturally, the pro would want to do well for each person.

Each game, we'd be assigned to either one lane or one pair and although we hoped to bowl well for our amateur teammates, it was also our job to get to know them, give them a positive experience and encourage them to stick around and support women's professional bowling.  You'd think for an Aspie or someone who admits to having trouble making friends and keeping committed relationships that this type of social experience would be really nerve-wracking. For me, it was actually one of the easiest parts of being on tour, except of course if I didn't bowl well for them.  Then it was a bit embarrassing but I would try and laugh it off with them.

Bowling was something I had been doing since I was about 4 and it was something I knew and was comfortable with.  With pro-ams, you already had an audience or group of people coming to see you so it was instant acceptance.  It was always so bizarre giving autographs and posing for pictures but it didn't freak me out.  With kids it was wonderful! They were my favorites, by far!  One of the funniest things to me was when gals or guys that I KNEW 100% would have NEVER had anything to do with me in high school or probably even college would attend these Pro-Ams and be all excited and enthusiastic and sometimes a bit "star-struck" (even though I certainly wasn't a star). Sometimes for fun, I'd go out to eat or socialize with various pro-am participants.  I enjoy watching people and learn how to adapt and mimic very quickly so I never had a problem "fitting in" during these types of events.  Occasionally I'd have trouble reading intentions and remembering that if I smile at a guy even though I think I'm doing it to be nice or friendly, he may be reading it very differently.  I have had problems with that for decades!

Now get me off the lanes after competing in the actual tournament (the one for money and not the pro-am) and it would be different.  I was much more into my shell again.  Mask off...

Often the whole tour experience reminded me of acting and being up on stage.  I had a little stage fright but not too much.  Acting and competing had a lot of similarities.  Generally I'd have more stage fright when years later after the musical or tournament was over, I would dream it was time to go out on stage or out to compete again and I had forgotten my lines, my equipment or occasionally even my clothes!  Don't you just love those naked in public dreams? Oops, I just happened to be going out to perform in this big tournament or act in this performance on stage and golly gee, I forgot to get dressed!  Silly me! (I know other people have had these type of dreams so if you're shaking your head no like I'm the only one and I'm crazy, well PFFFFFFFTTTT to you.  Just watch, it will happen to you tonight.  Kidding!)

As I said above, it has been tough for me in the past 12 years to make in real life friends.  If you read my last blog, you'll see that it has even been difficult for me to keep relationships with relatives and past significant people in my life despite best intentions.

You know, that's embarrassing for me to say but it's true.  As such, oftentimes, I feel lonely.  Don't get me wrong, I have lots of love for my family but every once in awhile I crave deeper connections.  So many of you Aspierations readers have told me you have a strong network of family and friends and when you say that, I'm truly happy for you.  I don't know what that feels like but it sounds magnificent.

When I call you gals and guys, "Aspierations friends", it is with affection and appreciation for the time that you have taken from your day to spend here reading the writings of someone you have never met and likely never will given the geographic locations people are visiting from.

If you happened to read that last blog of mine, the one that any of you men who read will soon be admitting to because you're real sweethearts and want to humor me, you might have noticed a bunch of comments in the comments section.

Someone posted recently a barrage of very mean and personally hurtful comments that crossed WAY over the line and attacked not only me, but my husband, my first boyfriend and his family, my children, my parents and my birthparents.  As with all the rude and mean comments lately, I've tried to pursue the high road and just delete.  I've tried to ignore.  I've tried to forget.  These comments... well, they were beyond bullying and I didn't notice them until they had been posted for many hours.  I just wanted to say that if you happened to read any of these comments, they were very embarrassing to me and shameful and I hope you will not judge me by the things that some people may choose to say.

I try really hard in this life not to create enemies and although I think most people who have met me would say that I'm nice, I also have this tendency to attract a dark element and it started when I was younger than one might guess.  If you knew all my stories, you would say it is a very statistically improbable dark element...  I have spent much of my adult life and about 5 seasons of watching "Criminal Minds" among other things trying to figure it out and to see if there is something about my personality or the way I talk or write or carry myself that is a magnet to people who would want to hurt me.  I do know I've got a magnet for quirky, analytical or slightly eccentric people but I find these peeps super cool, wonderful, amazing, beautiful, strong and sexy human beings with their own flair for life and their own way of doing stuff.

If I were to play a character on TV, it would likely be some sort of cross between Abby Sciuto in NCIS and Penelope Garcia in Criminal Minds.  These smart and charismatic ladies are both stand-outs for their uniqueness and quirky traits and despite them not fitting into Hollywood's size 0 - 2 cookie cutter model for what they think is beautiful, they are actually some of the most popular and well-loved characters on TV.  Of course I wouldn't mind a role like beautiful and smart ladies Stefanie Powers or Stephanie Zimbalist had either.  (If you can figure out which characters I'm talking about, post in the comments section and you get 25 bonus points.)

My mind is starting to drift and so maybe it's time to try closing my eyes again and counting tigers.  (I find sheep baaaaaaaad to try falling asleep to, how about you?)

Tonight you have reached the end of Karen's Potluck blog.  I had hoped to be done sooner.  Perhaps you would have hoped for that as well!

Feel free to say hi, say something nonsensical, share something insightful or let me know if you're a guy who made it all the way through this blog and my last blog.  I want to see which gender sticks with me more.  Over the years, I would say it's the men but there have been some uber cool and bright women here at Aspierations who are followers so, let us see which gender feels like giving a shout out.

By the way, what's your definition of a super cool woman?  Men and women, I want to know!

Until next time, my awesome Aspierations amigos!
Karen