Having A Walmart Brain

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Above: This is an example of a 25 hundred dollar mirror with superb “psyche” tilt. That’s an actual term. Below: a French Budoir mirror (Etsy).

FrenchBudoirMirrorFromEtsyAnd Below: WalMart mirror. Functional simplicity. 

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There are some grand sounding words associated with mirrors. For instance: 

gadrooning (leaves, flowers, birds, etc. carved on the frame), 

psyche (the mechanism that tilts a floor mirror), 

Rococo (a distinct style known for carving and “gilt to the hil”),

and trumeau… (pier styles that hang between windows for extra light) to name a few. Psyche is by far my favorite mirror term. I wonder about the word origin here. Because of course people have psyches. 

Brains have a “relating to people” something called mirror neurons. Simplistically speaking, it’s a pretty basic brain system involved in how we relate to others. 

Such a conundrum. There are times I sort issues by using analogies. It’s how my own brain seems to function. It’s a cryptic one, my brain and it’s wondering at the lovely Neurodiversity around us. 

I’ve owned floor mirrors and never knew they were possessed of a ‘psyche’ tilt. I never had an antique one though. My mirror’s psyche (like some actual brains?) was squeaky and rigid, barely able to tilt at all- 

Imagine an intricate one: elaborate, gadrooned. 

Even a WalMart mirror with a plastic unadorned frame, will reflect an image, right?

Here is a mirror, BELOW surrounded by cherrywood carving I did when I apprenticed under Zsolt Megai – a fine artist. (RIP) 

The design is one crow handing the other one a pearl which is my mother’s old hat pin. The slice of blue tinted mirror we used, is antique. Zsolt cut it and taught me to cut the glass for the soldered design you see surrounding the little mirror. Even the frame I distressed and stained. 

   

 Needs dusting I see!

Said Zsolt- “you will not find this mass produced from a store. Like WalMart. You’ve designed this. And bled on this. It has your DNA in it.”

Maybe my brain is a hodgepodge of all things combined like this strange mirror I designed. All brains are mass produced really, for functionality, not unlike WalMart- it’s our own unique DNA in each one though that makes our individual brains different. 

 in Cambridge Massachusetts on Saturday, I met many Neurodiverse comrades.  

Incidentally the Boston area is one of my favorite places. In fact, my first connection was in 1999 when the woman who diagnosed myself and my son with Aspergers and selective mutism-relocated her practice to the Boston area. A little over a decade later I participated in AANE’s Boston art show. I vacationed there a few years ago and enjoyed a concert by the water. 

Back there on Saturday I participated in a show with two other artists. Our work is there (about 20 pieces each) until April if anyone wishes to purchase any.

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An intriguing aside: I am always reading about MRI studies and I wonder; what part of my brain lights up  when I use oral language, in comparison to my peers who do not have selective mutism (SM)?

 I watched (and listened to) my peers (who are not afflicted with dreaded SM) on the autism spectrum (Stephen Shore, Stefanie Sacks to name two-I missed Vito speak because I went downstairs to eat after my reading) who gave talks at the show/symposium March 5th… 

But first I checked out the 3+ artists, including my own stuff, so nicely arranged on the walls. I’d seen Stefanie’s art-her art so full of joy, color and symbolism, (a woman without expression holding her mask which she uses for the world) and it speaks volumes. 

Always a fan of graffiti I’d wondered if Vito’s art was inspired by my graffiti idols B.I.P. (Believe In People) and Banksy? 

So—–Elizabeth Stringer-Keefe (E.) texted me before the show and said this: 

“I keep trying to make everything perfect for the show and it’s like trying to keep the walls of a sandcastle intact as the tide rushes in…”

When Al and I first arrived, I saw my paintings lined up there and I happily answered questions from viewers of them. I found this easy- one on one. By the way- I have ART-ized a lot of these photos-just because.

   
 

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That’s me above. 

I listened to Dr. Stephen Shore, Scott and then Maya, present at the podium. My turn was approaching. 

E., who puts these events together annually with other helpers and student volunteers, (out of the goodness of their hearts, no pay) had the brilliant idea to call an intermission ten minutes before I was due to present. 

Good thing for the intermission because as 2:30 drew near, I felt frozen in my seat (my peers in the book below describe this very common affliction:) yeah that’s me. The poster child on the cover!

  
I sat in the front row of the amphitheater; with the physical sense that color was draining from me. 

As everyone (save for one person or two) left the room for the intermission, Elizabeth and I had time to talk and prepare. I sat in the comfortable chair she’d brought in for me (next to the piano Dr. Stephen Shore had just played) and took deep cleansing breaths.

  
That’s Al’s shoulder to the right. I said to her, smiling, “Let’s turn the chair more…a little more. More.” Until I was not facing the audience at all! It would stay in that position for the entirety. 

The funniest thing happened then and you may call it a placebo effect but I don’t believe that-

 I had a surge of positive energies which rolled like a warm tide for the remainder of my presentation. If you recall, in my last blog, I’d asked friends to send positive energies. Jane, Clay, of course Al and Joyce too, came through with their well wishes. I know for sure my kids were thinking of me too. There’s power in that. 

cambridge4

This is the moment (above) captured in a photograph when we had the following discussion:  E. said to me, “Just give me a sign if we begin and you can’t go on.”

“I can vomit,” I said, grinning. “That’s a pretty good sign.”

Said E., laughing, “Oh. Did you bring a change of clothes?” I replied that I did not and we agreed on a different signal.

I should say here that once people filed in and starting taking their seats, I hardly noticed them at all. Cutting back on this visual stimuli by sitting sideways was a solution I came up with “on the spot” and E. allowed me that…and we went further than that. We had discussed via text messaging, weeks before the event that we’d be a team. It was her idea that she’d read if it came to that. 

I told her , in a voice barely a whisper, that indeed my voice was done in, as sometimes happens in cases of SM (as Carl, Colin and other dear friends of mine can attest; including my son).  This is what we did:

Elizabeth read 10 passages from my book Under The Banana Moon. I had her MacBook in my lap and I typed impressions of what she was reading during and after each passage. Everyone behind me was so quiet as my written words were communicated on the screen to elaborate personal views on what E. was reading. I’d hear a shuffle, a pleasant laugh, small gasp…….

My thoughts appeared on the screen (there were three screens) like this:

presentationscreen

That boy was my grandson Jaden. 

But I’ve gotten ahead of my self. This screen came later in the presentation. 

Before E. began reading, I typed an introduction on the screen which went something like this… (NOTE: I tried to include a little joke and it kind of worked, I heard some laughter, a few chinks of it in the room like a healing.) This was my typed introduction:

Hello. I am not being rude by not facing you. Ideally I would be facing you and standing at the podium. Sitting like this cuts back on visual stimuli. I will be typing my impressions during and after Elizabeth reading passages from my memoir Under The Banana Moon. Then there will be questions and I can type answers for you. It’s very kind of her to make special accommodations for me. My worst fear is that autocorrect will take over as I type and put vile words on the screen. Sh*t!      NO…..I’m kidding. That was not autocorrect. Just me kidding around. Please start reading, Elizabeth.

Elizabeth introduced me with an unforgettable intro. She said that…

“getting an email from Kim prior to the show was like that old excited feeling of getting a snailmail letter in the mailbox. Kim was so engaging in her emails and I thought,” said Elizabeth, “who am I but a mortal compared to someone with this sort of command over words?”

Wow! I did not expect her to say something like this. The hour and a half flew by. I thought of things to say about the passages that were read by E., I (typed)-gave insight about living in a hoarder house, details about having stolen food back then- generally my inner thoughts about the passages she chose to read. 

 Al, my significant other who was seated in the front row, tells me he “had trouble keeping tears from streaming down” his face. Elizabeth told me later that she had trouble with composure and many times teared up while she was reading. 

This whole experience encourages me, in earnest, to begin work on Book 2. (Book 3 if you count the book I ghostwrote called Reborn Through Fire.) 

Anyway. The artist reception, complete with the stereotypical wine and cheese spread, was something I had to miss. 

It was almost a three hour trip back to Connecticut. We had to go. I was able to sign some books, chat amicably with people, and ‘make the rounds’ a little before leaving, although I regret not having spoken with fellow artists Stefanie and Vito and I’d wanted to see Scott before I had to go. 

Here I am (44 pound weight loss, can you tell? I can’t yet.) signing books and going over the passages before my bit started.

  
  
About my weight gain which I am not accustomed to: an ultrasound has shown a nodule growing on my thyroid. It’ll be monitored for size and eventually I think I’m in store for a biopsy. Perhaps this accounts for the last year of rapid weight gain? And then just as suddenly, I have developed autoimmune disease and now weight is 

m

       e

           l

              t

                  i

                    n

                          g

                                off. 

I’d feared I’d have migraine for the show. Thankfully that did not happen. Although I did have a dream that I began to speak but my chin 

fell off.

 I digress. Where was I?

I was telling you about schmoozing around the gallery before I left. I sold every book I brought. This was surprising to me. 

One young man, Liam, who was my ‘ambassador’ said to me that he had been reading my book and that I was a “wordsmith!” All I could say was thank you. I had left my presentation with a buzz of it having been successful. I had started the presentation thinking I was inferior in some way because I had to have special arrangements. 

Here’s Liam:

  
He was very nice. 

Imagine my surprise when a lot of people approached me of all ages (I was surprised at how many men in particular were reading or had read or were purchasing my book). 

People said my book/presentation was 

“moving,” 

I had a 

“way with words,” 

I wrote with 

“stunning imagery,” etc.

I stammered thank you many times leaving my brain to sort that out later. I HAD to write. Still need it to sort life out. It’s ingrained in my brain to do so. 

As I said on the screen during my “talk,” I’d never intended to publish. It was Donna Williams, who inspired me to sort all the diaries and put them in book form. It was about three years of on and off writing (I had to MAKE time because remember I was caring full time for three kids and a dying husband) and then a good 9 months of “nose to the grindstone” WORK because that’s what writing is. A process of working with kids asleep till three in the morning then getting them all out for school beginning at six.

To have accolades for the world? To hear what felt like heartfelt congratulations? To have someone like Elizabeth work so hard to pull off this event that she felt it was like “trying to keep a sandcastle intact while waves rushed in?” Who has a command of words, E.? You!!!

 I have needed DAYS to process such flattering –and as Al stated heartfelt-remarks, and truly,

 I still am processing.

A “decorative” WalMart mirror:  (just because)decorativewalmartmirror

Let me carry on with the analogy I started. Humor me. This post is labelled “Having a WalMart Brain” and I mean that in jest. 

I’m poking fun at what I see as my own weaknesses. But like I said about my hodgepodge mirror which I bled on again and again, and it now possesses my DNA in it (said the ever eloquent Zsolt- I miss him), gadrooning and gilt aside, when it comes to “spoken aloud” speech my own DNA forces me to be creative when it comes to communication. That’s alright!

We all may just have mirror neurons, that work differently from person to person. But no matter. 

Apparently, even though “special accommodations” were made for me, I STILL managed to communicate in the end. 

The words E. read from my book WERE mine.  

And I left an impression. 

I have to say all was successful. 

And I’ve been invited back. 

  

When Elizabeth and I parted, she asked to hug me and I said yes. It didn’t feel for hours afterward like a dent that can’t be popped out, like it sometimes can feel… 

I could see she was tired. She joked that she was going to sleep for a few weeks now! I said to her,

“The flag is on top of the sandcastle now.”

“Wha-huh?” she said, at first confused. 

“Remember?” I said. “What you said about the sandcastle? The flag’s on top now.”

I was acknowledging her and thanking her, saying that.

Before I go- thanks are in order. To people who pulled off such a successful day! Firstly to E. And also: Nathan Hughes, Liam Rutter Stokes, Liza Gosselin, Tim Mellon, Rachel Gregory, Eric Linville, Krista Sumski, Jackie Murphy, Travis Mann and Jay Kraft!

A warm thanks to Scott Lentine who moved me. When he read his poetry. The last one he read especially resonated with me. I need to seek him out on FB (you should too!) and tell him that. I only wish I’d found him before I left and told him in person. 

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To purchase my memoir:   http://www.amazon.com/Under-The-Banana-Moon-Aspergers/dp/150572886X

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The book ABOVE LEFT, is the one I ghostwrote for burn survivor Tony Yarijanian, Guiness Record holder for most burns survived. My name appears at the bottom of the back cover, and the book ABOVE RIGHT is my current memoir version. This one has pictures. You may see the old version pictured below for sale online, but it has no pictures. When my mother passed, I redesigned the cover you see above to honor her. Otherwise, both books are the same story.

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About the show:

http://www.lesley.edu/exhibit/artists-with-autism/    http://www.thebostoncalendar.com/events/3-artists-celebrating-autism

Mirror Neurons, from the APA, the biology of connecting to each other :http://psychcentral.com/lib/mirror-mirror-in-the-brain-the-biology-of-how-we-connect-to-others/

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2 thoughts on “Having A Walmart Brain

  1. Y’know, I have two copies of that book, but the first one has yet another cover photo and even a different name, “Communication Breakdown (Living, Loving, Loss, etc.)” Now I can say, “I knew you when…” which is a solid 16 years now. Very glad it went well for you.

    Like

    • You’re right of course. I have it on my shelf as well. My son Jeremy did a great job designing that cover. It’s the one that’s at a local library here. The first (communication breakdown) is self published before the agent. ❗️

      Liked by 1 person

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