hope now.

My friend Mike started a thing called “Mirror Mantras”, where he posts a positive or motivating phrase on his bathroom mirror to keep him inspired throughout the week. Here’s mine for the week . . . while I try to conjure up coherent thoughts on today’s senseless tragedy that arose from such a large celebration of sport in Boston.

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modify the process, not the outcome: assessment results . . . and hope.

i’ve got scars i’m willing to show you / you had heart that i’ll never see / she had answers to all the wrong questions /  it’s funny, these answers are all that i need.

[…] we end up regretting the things we don’t try.

caldecott tunnel, something corporate

Multiple times, including Wednesday, this song came on my iPod via shuffle on the bus when I was returning from evaluation-related appointments. Unplanned, but appreciated–for some reason, in that frame of mind, the level of resonation was so much higher than it had been in previous situations listening to Caldecott Tunnel.

When somebody climbs into your head with a variety of questions and tests, it is certainly a strange experience–the questions they then ask after acquiring a basic knowledge of what is going on in there then start to lead you to believe that they understand what is going on.  It’s been crazy, and it’s sure as hell been emotional–but answers? I’ve got some of them.  I’ve also got more questions, but those will sort themselves out . . . because I’ve got solutions, too.

It’s been a flurry of activity in my brain . . . about my brain. Which is totally weird.

Now, if you are internally saying “Kerri. Cut with the preamble here!”, then you know how I felt when I got a bunch of pre-results preamble from my student therapist.

The testing for ADHD was inconclusive. I have a very significant inattention component, but very little hyperactivity [I am sure some of you will be surprised by that!]. Thus, they could not confidently give a diagnosis FOR or AGAINST ADHD.  So, I have considerate inattention symptoms, but also a low processing speed. Jay shed some light on this in an e-mail the other night [for which I am very appreciative, because holy acronyms batman.]

It’s the processing speed and the working memory that are of the greatest challenge for you which slips into the attentional difficulties category, yet makes sense that a full Dx of ADHD was not there and not ruled out.

The primary findings are that I also struggle more significantly with visual memory than I do with auditory, and to work with that. It is also recommended that though I could not receive OR discount a diagnosis of ADHD, that I consider discussing medication with my doctor to alleviate the symptoms of ADHD I do experience, which I am going to do in a couple of weeks.  I am still not sure of my thoughts on meds, and I do not want to be on something all the time, but as my friend Sara pointed out yesterday, and Jay agreed with, it could potentially be helpful for certain things. For example, attending lectures [longer days especially], studying, staff meetings, etc. These are kind of things I peg as having more structure, and thus not so conducive to having my brain wandering a significant amount and thus missing important things. Other things though, like downtime, and the nature of my job, are things that I don’t feel I require medication for, and I would rather not be on it all the time if that is an option.

Very cool, though, is I have a very concrete map of what things look like within my own learning style, and suggestions on how to maximize on that.  The testing revealed I struggle significantly with visual memory [which has been a surprise to many of my friends!], so it is recommended that I audio record my lectures, and use audiobooks for textbooks. Interestingly, my vocabulary and writing scores were very high [not to brag, but totally to brag–90th percentile, over here!], but my reading comprehension scores were significantly lower than expected [which could very much explain my dislike of English, but my love of writing]. When I read for fun, obviously reading comprehension is not such a big deal, but academically, it makes things harder. They also assume that because my language abilities are high is why I am achieving significantly more than the tests predicted–which, of course, is a really good thing!  (Because my processing speed is considered to be “Extremely Low to Borderline”, this would have negatively impacted my “full scale IQ” score, so they were unable to give me a nifty IQ number, which was disappointing! :]).

Currently, academically is where things require balancing out. And we’re working at that.

I had an appointment with Accessibility Services at my university yesterday morning, the [my?] Accessibility Advisor was absolutely fantastic!  They are truly going above and beyond the recommendations to hopefully make this school thing more successful for me now that we know what is going on.  Because I am getting my results really close to the end of the term, I figured we likely would not be able to get my accommodations in place for my upcoming April exams, but they are going to do their best! I have an exam on April 2nd during my class period that is obviously coming up soon and does not give us a lot of time to work with.  Accommodations for upcoming terms will include audio recording my lectures and having a volunteer note-taker in class so that there is less of a chance that I miss something in lecture. Finally, I’ll be getting audio versions of textbooks so that I can listen to readings and hopefully gain more information from them that way.  I found one of my textbooks this term has an online component, so I tried using that tonight paired with the screen reader. It will take a bit of getting used to, but I finished a chapter–with notes–in about two hours–this is a big deal! Prior to this discovery, it would take me significantly longer to get through readings without taking notes!

Everybody’s been asking me how I’m feeling about this. As I told the student therapist when she gave me my results (and she once again used her sixth sense like Dr. B did with the klneenex on intake day), because no i am fine this is totally a good thing, and oh my God you are explaining my life. Because lets face it, it’s been twenty-one years. It’s been more years than I ever let on to anybody that I felt something wasn’t right–how I felt that how I was working wasn’t working for me–especially this last year feeling like I should be doing better, but not knowing how I could possibly be working any harder than I was and still not doing well at all academically.  In reality, I think the culmination of things did not click fully until the accessibility advisor kept referring to this collection of whatever as your disability. That was an interesting concept to wrap my head around.

As I questioned in the aforementioned post: “What gives?” This. Now . . . we have pinpointed things. We are working at this.  And . . . I am finally feeling good about what is to come.  Whatever it is, it’s just me. This is how it’s always been. That is the interesting thing about this–there is nothing different about me pre- and post-asessment/diagnosis. The only difference is, we know where I’m at. And hopefully this helps to get me where I’m going more effectively.

It’s modifying the process, not the outcome. Hopefully though, through modifying the process, the outcome comes sooner and perhaps looks brighter.  I have no idea how the classroom accommodations are going to play out, how they are going to work for me, but I very much hope I start feeling some more success, as well as seeing it.  To that effect, I bought an iPad. I am hoping that between the audio textbooks and continuing to use Evernote and the text-to-speech feature on my Mac, that I can also incorporate some other technology, like textbooks via iBooks and Penultimate for the diagrams that are necessary, to intersect with my learning style, and what I need to learn effectively, better.

Finally . . . I am hopeful. I am hopeful that school will no longer make me feel completely defeated. I am hopeful that this opens up more options to me for whatever may lay ahead. I am hopeful that though I have learned a lot through this process . . . that I will learn even more as a result of it.

I am hopeful. And that . . . is a good thing.

the stone

Tonight at youth, we all chose a stone that we felt represented us.

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My stone from a distance looked like it is smooth. At a closer look, you’re able to see the small indented imperfections that don’t take away from the big picture, but are still a part of the current reality.  These are the things in my past that have made me who I am, the things that have left scars within me — inside and out.  These are the stories, good and bad, who make me who I am.  Running my fingers over the rock, I felt the small imperfections on what is mostly a smooth rock — though mostly unnoticeable, it is possible to feel my physical scars, and it is possible to notice them if you take a close enough look — a physical reminder of what I have been through.

The stone is dark.  A darkness, a reminder of the stories behind me, still follow behind me — a shadow. These stories are a big part of WHY I am who I am today, and as much as I hate some of the things I have done, some of the places I have been inside, they are why I am here as I am right now. And I cannot change that, and I cannot forget that.  There is not beauty in light until there is that time of fear, aloneness and solidarity in the dark.

On the right side, there is a patch of lighter brown. This represents the light shining through the darkness.  This light changes dependent on the situation — sometimes, this light is the physical sunshine. Sometimes it is simply what is coming out of me from my own perspective.  Most importantly, this light spot is Jesus . . . changing the darkness into light.  This light spot is the question being created . . . why? . . . This light spot is proof that joy has come, that joy WILL come, and that I am HERE . . . and I cannot let this light get away.  The light spot is the here and now.  The light spot is why I do everything I do.  The light is HOPE.

The dark is the story behind me, the story the sun has set on.  The light spot is why I am who I am . . . and the story that is still to come.

celebrating what is coming

The past is important in telling our stories, to understand where we’re at and why we’re there.

But tonight, I am not celebrating what’s ending . . . i am celebrating what is coming.  I don’t “do” new year’s resolutions, because a resolution is simply a goal–and goals need to be set and re-set frequently to make progress.

Today I closed off 2011 with my friend and former coworker, Sara, just one of many amazing people I experienced the joy of meeting in 2011.  We ate too many crepes and had an amazing time, and were ironically wearing the same Hollister hoodie in different colours, pink t-shirts underneath and brown jackets!  [I took mine off for the picture].

sara and i!

After making a final pharmacy trip for the year (gotta love breathing, yeah?), I came home to do a final workout to hit 800 kilometers for 2011.  To give some perspective on how much I’ve grown in regard to exercise and fitness in 2011, my total on December 31st, 2010 was a tiny 100 kilometers [which was upped to a legitimate 106 as I found later on that I had forgotten to count an April race in there].

That. Is. Huge.  The big change in 2011 came in September through the amazingness that was Physical Activity: Promotion and Adherence, definitely my favourite university class thus far, and really gaining the understanding that the SMALL things make a BIG difference!  Though an unintentional success attributed to making small changes and regulating physical activity, since mid-September [at my highest ever weight which may have been some sort of weird fluke] I have lost a total of 17 pounds.  I can’t say I felt “bad” before or anything, but comparatively, I feel totally awesome both physically and emotionally with the GOOD changes that have happened!

I’ve walked 213 km, stationary biked 143, and racked up hundreds of kilometers in commutes. I walked one race, went on a few short hikes, went on an adventure rock climbing this past week.  I played hockey both in my skates and in my Sauconies and skated down rivers.  I’ve played in concrete jungles and playgrounds.  This has been the most active year of my life, and I plan to strip that title away from 2011 and give it to 2012.

This year, I have reached farther than I thought I could, pushed my lungs and my body in bigger ways.  I started thinking about things differently, relationships changed and growing happened.  I did things I couldn’t believe I would or could succeed at.  
I got a new job at an amazing daycare.  I worked one-on-one at camp for a week, which was one of the biggest challenges and biggest joys simultaneously.  I have met so many amazing people in “real life” and online.  One of my best guy friends for a time became my first boyfriend and even though it mutually didn’t work out, it definitely did not damage our friendship, which was the most important thing to us.  I returned to Chicago.  I watched one of the girls I do inclusion with grow so much in where she’s at, while simultaneously realizing the growth in myself through her.  I have fallen more and more in love with the subject that is applied health.  I have changed my perspectives on health advocacy, become more involved, and continued to learn how to OWN my asthma and encourage others to do the same.  I have learned to better live with what I’ve been handed.  I have learned more deeply that health and wellness is a choice.  I have learned to see things differently, engage differently, and not just make goals, but meet goals and ENGAGE in these goals to use them as learning experiences.

I want to continue that next year.  Continue moving forward, continue proving myself wrong, continuing to grow and learn and thrive, not simply survive.

There is more goodness coming.  There is a year of hope, joy, change, growth, learning, and love ahead.

Bring it on 2012. GOOD THINGS!

unspeakable joy

Happy birthday, Lord Jesus.  Today, I celebrate the birth of my King and my Saviour, I celebrate His continued life and healing.  I celebrate HOPE in a broken world, and I celebrate LOVE.

And no matter what your faith is, and no matter whether you celebrate Christmas or not, I hope you join in celebrating hope and love, and that celebration is refreshed–today and every day.

There is JOY in the air.