MJ is a cat lover. She relates to them in a lot of ways. Sometimes she says “Cats are people.” When I asked what she meant by that she explained that they are independent, they live along side us and not just follow us the way dogs do. Nothing against dogs, but I can see what she means.
She can be very cat-like herself… the way she takes frequent naps, stretches out on the floor, shows her affection, and of course, displays insatiable curiosity. There’s a cute book called All Cats Have Asperger’s Syndrome, by Kathy Hoopmann, which combines photos of cats with information about Asperger’s syndrome and why people with it are different. It’s a fun way of helping people understand why kids with Asperger’s have such unique qualities.
MJ likes to talk about living in an Airstream. While I can see the appeal and I like the idea of living small, I don’t think she’d actually enjoy living in an Airstream. Her reasoning is that she can’t imagine having to deal with a mortgage. She definitely has a goal of living independently so she’ll need to learn to manage the ingoing and outgoing streams of money. Here’s an update on a couple of steps we’ve taken towards that goal.
You might notice the gap in dates from my first posts to this one. I guess I got cold feet. Even though I’m writing anonymously, this is scary to put myself out there. But the other gap I wanted to address in this post is the one that currently cradles my thoughts and feelings on gender dysphoria. Oh yeah, I’m afraid to go there, to that chasm that lies between my intellect and my heart. And the gap between me and my child.
One main reasons for starting this blog is to document and share our experiences with the Pathways to Careers program. I believe this program is the answer to a lot of my prayers. Here is the story of how we came to participate in it.
Back in March 2015, MJ and I decided that attempting to complete the courses she needed to get her associates degree in communications was not worth the stress it was causing. She certainly did some outstanding work and had several projects chosen for the juried student art show. But completing all of the components required of large projects and getting all of the assignments turned in on time proved to be serious challenges. Time management and organization skills are typically difficult for people with Asperger’s Syndrome. Her grades were suffering and the stress in our household was too much for us to endure any longer. It was clear we needed to try a different path forward.
When MJ was in preschool she would spend time in Nana’s kitchen mixing ingredients to make unusual, undrinkable concoctions. She’d put on a sport jacket and use the cardboard puppet theater to pretend she was in a commercial selling “MJ’s Juice”. All of her life, until the demands and pressures of high school and the stress of conforming and trying to keep up with her peers, and to learn how to “do life” the way we expected of her got in her way, MJ had fun creating. She would mix things up without a care in the world.
She’s managed to create some cool stuff since high school…projects that made it into the juried student art show at college, 3-d models of experimental spacecraft, and plenty of personal digital projects. But we haven’t seen the type of childlike abandon we saw before high school.
MJ is a brilliant young adult who has been struggling since graduating high school to find her way in the world. The combination of Asperger’s Syndrome and Gender Dysphoria have made it difficult for her to follow a typical path to a happy, fulfilling life. Follow our adventures as we guide her to a place where her creative juices flow freely and we can watch her flourish and grow into the person God has created her to be.
Read more about our story and how I arrived at the name MJ’s Juice.