Struggling to Understand an Over-Politicized Nation

Struggling to Understand an Over-Politicized Nation

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My grandfather holding the flag at the very first Flag Day. An Italian immigrant, he loved being an American.

I do not usually talk about politics, but I find myself in a precarious position today. Many issues we face as humans have somehow become political, when they are ethical, personal, or simply in regard to human survival. I believe these issues are; the arts, the environment, education, and health. We as a society seem to have lost the ability to discuss these particular topics, without a party slogan, and without thinking that there are only two sides to every issue – Conservative or Liberal, Republican or Democrat. My feelings on human issues that have been politicized deepened today when an article dropped in my news box about the new open carry law in Georgia.  Though I am a pacifist, I have remained respectful that others do not see the world the same way I do, understanding that guns to some are essential to their way of life. I do not understand why the freedom to own was not enough and that we must have the freedom to be battle-ready at all times, in any place.  I feel this new law leaves the political arena, and imposes itself on the health and well-being of others (health being one of the issues I feel is a human issue).  My fear of co-existing in a state I have called home for 37 years has increased exponentially with this law, filling me with anxiety.  After a 10 year hiatus, I even experienced a night terror this week.

This feeling about the new gun law poked at my thoughts and feelings on the other issues that have been politicized.  Issues that have been tortured in the political arena, to the point that the issue itself is obscured by a party stance. It made me think about how politicization has perhaps suffocated the arts (especially in education), turned schools into testing labs, allowed us to blatantly pollute our world, and further restricted healthcare to poor Americans just to express ones opposition of the Affordable Healthcare Act. While many people are stepping onto the shores of anarchy, I ask: What is it you wish to accomplish? Are we really fighting to defend a way of life that allows all citizens to be created equal? Are we making history of which future generations will be proud?  Are we loving our neighbor?

It is in this moment that my autism stands like a stark, cold edifice in the center of my mind.  I get overrun with feelings that conflict with my logic – How is it I can love humanity so deeply while simultaneously being highly annoyed by people?  I cannot understand why society spends millions upon millions of dollars searching for a way to cure me, labeling me as lacking empathy, while they who cast this upon the ASD population are drowning in their own opposition to anything that does not benefit only them.  Is that not the very definition of apathy?

The world whispers to me in beautiful waves of sound.  The music of the human soul, and the music of the earth’s soul in harmonious counterpoint, express an amazing love for one another.  But people are growing increasingly deaf to this musical dance in exchange for the cacophony of human discord.  And to what end?  What we create here on earth we cannot take with us beyond the grave, so why only serve ourselves?  Besides, the only thing we can really do for ourselves is create memories of us in the minds of others.  We cannot control our death.  All else we do is for others – for humans, for animals, for trees, all life in and beyond our immediate scope – doing for them by way of generosity, love, and the types of innovation that leave a better world than was left by our ancestors. Perhaps I am being over analytical, and I do realize that my honesty here has made me a target for a lashing by those who oppose what I value.  I suppose I will have to just accept that.

I will keep my autism and carry it with me forever, as I would rather live this life misunderstood and tyrannized, than to waste my life pursuing an illusory need to be justified.  I will sing.  I will dance.  I will love others.  I just won’t be so quiet about it anymore.

Repair, Realign, Restructure – The Three R’s of Special Needs Education

Repair, Realign, Restructure – The Three R’s of Special Needs Education

IMG_1434I just finished reading a remarkable post by the author John Elder Robison, Early Intervention or Not.  How Do We Decide? .  I had an opportunity to perform at The International Meeting for Autism Research (IMFAR), the same conference Mr. Robison attended, and converse with a few professionals during the opening banquet.

His insightful post brought me back to an idea I had talked about on Facebook on March 28th when arguing why I do not call my services “therapy.”  I mentioned the concept of the three R’s of special needs – Repair, Realign, Restructure.

Most parents want for their children to grow up to be healthy, educated, and independent members of society.  When a parent is faced with a diagnosis such as autism, no matter what age, the news brings about fear and trepidation.  This fear occurs mostly because the trajectory the parent had imagined for their child’s life is now viewed as uncertain.  It is natural to fear the unknown.

Naturally, the parents look for resources on what to think, how to cope, and what do do next.  As society focuses on the headlines generated from the autism industry, we begin to develop literature that presents success as only being possible after a host of interventions, and therapies – and the earlier the better.  But as Mr. Robison pointed out, this barrage of constant services on autistic children may be masking talents. (Mr. Robison makes an exception for children with self-injurious behavior, which I think is important.  I am not at all suggesting that children who injury themselves should be left to continue the behavior.)

Therapy, save private one-to-one therapy provided by a Psychologist or other qualified professional, is focused on what I call the three R’s of special education – Repair, Realign, Restructure.  This is because therapy addresses autism, or other diagnosed disorder, as a whole as if the therapy were some kind of antibiotic.  Rather, therapy should focus on specific complications that hinder that individuals ability to lead the life he or she so chooses to have.

In my own life, I have found my heightened sense of hearing an asset in my quest as a musician.  This quality comes to me as part of the autism package, along with less desirable problems like sensitive vision and overstimulation problems.  However, to pursue therapy for my entire sensory system would remove the hearing I rely on as a musician.  Instead, I have focused on learning how to build an internal gate for my sensory system when I need to shut it down.  How?  By tapping into the other side of my sensory system oddities that come with the autism package – numbness.

Many autistics talk about going from overstimulation to numbness with their sensory system.  Parents may recognize this when they observe their autistic child covering their ears at one moment, and then observe them “acting deaf” as they stare at a blaring loud television.  I saw this problem as an internal resource.  It occurred to me that if I have the ability to go numb, then there might be a way for me to decide when I will go numb.  Using breathing techniques, sitting with my hands on my thighs, and then focusing my mind on the feeling of numbness, I am able to avoid a meltdown in a loud, crowded room.  This may not work for every person with autism, as we are all individuals, but it worked for me.

The buffet of therapies available to the autism world are not useless, but perhaps they are misapplied.  If the therapy is for autism as a whole, and focuses on repairing, realigning, and/or restructuring the person, then we are building a population of socially engineered people.  If we use therapies available today to focus on issues of autism that hinder the individual from growing, then maybe we build a therapeutic atmosphere that allows the growth of a population of unique individuals who just happen to have autism.

 

The Perfect Life

The Perfect Life

Often I have been asked, by conference attendees who come to hear me speak, what I want out of life.  People are curious if my future includes people, independence, and decadence, or a scary isolated existence.  Not that there is anything wrong with living alone, but I do believe most people are shocked when I say “I prefer to live with someone.”

Money continues to be a large reason why I still am not where I want to be, only because we live in a society where access to money is necessary to live.  I’ve tried not to dwell on that too much, and instead try to enjoy each dollar to its furthest reach.  I don’t need millions, I just need enough.  Still, I think there is no harm in dreaming.  It helps us set goals, and is generated from that inner desire to see the word for all its good rather than the bad.  As I have said before, dreaming is the conceptual art of the inner self.

Assuming money is no object, and my life work blossomed just as I had hoped, then what is the perfect life for me?

I love the ocean.  I would want to be as close to the ocean as I could get, ideally in California, though any warm climate ocean town would be acceptable.  The beach at my back door, or at least in walking distance so I could view the waves anytime I needed to be calm.  My plot of land would be the smallest I could possibly have that would allow for my home to fit snugly.  My home would be a Frank Lloyd Wright Usonian style home, possibly like the Jacob’s house or the Goetsch-Winckler Usonian house.  It would have to have three bedrooms, even after my kids move on, because I would want my children to always have a room to stay in anytime they wish to come home.  Being environmentally conscious, I would love to fit the home with solar panels, and use led lighting. The wonderful thing about FLW homes is all the natural light.  My studio would be in home, where I could record, write, and create on my own.

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I’d love to own a Jeep, though I’d love to convert it to a no emission vehicle.  Hopefully, my home would be located in a place where bicycle, walking, or public transit would be sufficient.  I would spend time in town people watching, meeting locals, and learning about the world in which we live.  I would be the owner of an arts school that uses a teaching approach comprised of unconditional love, open to people of all learning types, and offered the most open scholarship program in the US, making sure that even the poorest of students can learn to play an instrument.

Given that my dream means that my financial needs are covered, I would donate most of my free time to helping public and private schools create disability friendly schools with integrated classrooms.  I want the next generation to grow up believing they fit into this world just as much as anyone else.

My perfect life would also include a not-so-perfect someone to live and to share the beauty of life with.  He wouldn’t need to share my interests or be anything like me, just simply be my counterpoint.  You see, to me, love is not like harmony, but really is more like counterpoint.  In music, a harmony supports the melody but is usually secondary to it.  Counterpoint is when two equal melodies are played together to create a complex and intricate sound.  They sound good together, oscillating between supporting the other melody and leading it.  Sometimes the two melodies even argue, but they always resolve in the end.  To me, counterpoint is love.

My perfect life has no specific goals or ambitions for my children.  I would simply just support what ever goals and ambitions they have for themselves, even if I struggled to see it clearly.  Just because we are forever tied together by DNA and by unconditional love, doesn’t mean I have any right or entitlement to insert myself into my children’s picture of their own future.  I must be invited by my children, and continue to love them even if I am not invited.

Finally, my perfect life would leave behind a story that could inspire others, even if it is just one other.  Pain sometimes needs to be shared, so others do not feel alone in theirs.  Yet, beyond that we should freely give away parts of our triumph, not to our own detriment, but in healthy amounts so as to show others that it does in fact get better.  If a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down, then be the spoonful of sugar.

There is not much more to a perfect life for me.  Seeing new places in the world is always welcome, and I do hope to travel as a speaker to places outside my home country.  It really is just that calm stability that comes with accomplishment that I seek.

All Alone – Musical Thoughts from the mind of a 14 year old

When I was a young teen, I spent a huge portion of my time alone in my room.  Music was my only voice to the outside world.  It carried on a frequency that seemed to transcend class, race, social status, and age.  The loneliness inside was buried deep, and cast a purple, obstructive hue on everything I I dared to dream about.

I loved music, but complications like dyslexia and my unusual way of comprehending lessons made it near impossible for me to understand musical theory, or even read music well.  All the music I heard around me was trapped inside my head, and played in endless loop.  I feared being driven to the edge of insanity.

One year, my parents purchased a piece of music writing software called Cakewalk.  The software had a special feature that allowed me to click on the musical staff and in real time hear the note through an external midi instrument generator.  For the first time,  I didn’t need to know how to read the music.  I could just click on the staff until I heard the pitch on the midi meet the pitch in my head.  Despite this process being painfully slow, I composed a dozen pieces including a  3 movement Requiem, and a Musical scored for a full scale symphony orchestra.  I even won the Ga State title in composition for a piece called Tarantella Russo.

How Sweet the Moonlight Sleeps – a musical no one has ever heard

My musical came to me during first outpouring of musical compositions at age 14.  A scribbled a basic dialogue, designed a few scenes, and wrote all of the major performance pieces.  It was one of the few times I wrote words along with my songs.

The story is about a girl named Catarina, a lost and lonely girl who is so in love with music she fears she will never have the capacity to fall in love with another, until one day when she meets a guy who hears the same song in the moonlight as she.  Originally, I only shared this piece with family and close friends performed without lyrics or layers on the piano.

After performing this piece in public for the first time at Northern Arizona University, the response was overwhelming.  For the first time, I got to feel the reaction of a crowd to music that poured from the deep inner workings of my my lonely, 14 year old self.  It made me wish I could somehow traverse time into the past and whisper to that girl that one day, her music would connect to others.

I plan on finishing the work I started 22 years ago.  For now, I want to present to you the lyrics to the song All Alone.  You can read along while listening to me perform the piece on my violin.

https://soundcloud.com/thelauranadine/all-alone-performance-version

The Lyrics

The night has just begun, and the moonlight fills the sky,

This eve feels never ending, I should be glad to say it’s mine.

All my dreams away they run, never turn to say good bye,

To them I send my blessing, ‘cause with me they’ll never be.

Here I stand, all alone, underneath the whisp’ring moonlight,

Like a bird, sing a song, soft and sweet.

Can I feel the deep green ocean, and with my dreams set sail?

Can I let my mind come open and my thoughts prevail?

Here I stand, all alone, right beside this star struck river,

Like a tree, stroke the blue and velvet sky.

Will I only see a lifetime, where I walk it’s paths alone?

Will I ever cry a tear of joy?

(Instrumental interlude)

Here I stand, all alone, held within a vast horizon,

Like a rock, stern and cold, but always seen.

I won’t fade into shadows; I’ll stand among the bold.

Mark my words, I’ll march on.

The night has just begun, and the moonlight fills the sky,

This eve feels never ending, why aren’t I glad to say it’s mine?

Farewell Catarina, Farewell to Love

As I am a creature of patterns, though there is a vast difference between patterns and repetitious outcomes that slap me in the face. Despite my prodigious optimism, to see past persistant repetitious outcomes, I am mourning the reality that one particular area of my life may be settled into a pattern opposite of what I desire. The area of romantic love.

Despite my best efforts, it occurs to me that the universe has somehow thrust into me a desire to fall in love, but had been too busy to put me in love’s reach. The passion in me feels effervescent, pushing through to the surface, and translated into tender movements that none desire of me, at least not for any reason past their own selfish sensations. It’s as if I am a flower that some desire to watch bloom, but do not wish to wallow in the scent.

I am doused with confusion. Why is the world from which I hear such sweet melodies, filled with such paltry moments? When it comes to love, are people purposefully disguised as mirages?

I fear that my writings of my youth are all too insightful. Perhaps it was insight, not naivety, that led my pen to create Catarina, a girl who thought that her love for music was so great, she would never feel the arms of romantic love.

As I write this, I realize I have no clever quotes to give, or stories to tell. The pain is just to great. So, tonight I play the sounds of love’s departure from me. I suppose I was not built to share romantic love, I was built only to bottle it in song. Should you ever see a melody from me called Farewell Catarina, you will know it is my farewell to love.

A Song A City – Opening Thoughts

A Song A City – Opening Thoughts

For as long as I can remember, everything around me has a song.  My mind is linked with the universe through music, as if we all are laying on the same sound fabric.  I call these songs Shadow Songs, and the art of listening to them, Shadow Listening. Over the years, I have kept the songs to myself, fearing the reaction.  What if people didn’t like their song?  When I would visit a place, I would hear my song, and then search my ipod for other songs in the same key and mood.  This was all I was brave enough to share.Then, an opportunity came to me.  I was invited to play at an event in Macon, Ga.  The crowd seemed to enjoy my performance of classical pieces.  It struck me, afterwards, that the pieces I had selected were not pieces that the general public would consider ovation worthy.  These just weren’t hugely popular pieces.  So what was it that made the crowd so happy?Following the program, my daughter and I approached the guest speaker, Nancy Grace.  She really loved the music and invited us to play on her show in recognition of autism awareness month.  We were honored and excited.  Now, I just had to figure out what we were going to play.  I reflected deeply on the crowds reactions to my playing.  It occurred to me that my unusual view on music, led to unusual expression in my playing.  Maybe the world was interested in hearing my shadow songs.With a little over a week to prepare, I opened up garage band and recorded the violin part.  One by one, I layered in the other instruments, using a midi keyboard.  In two days, I had a complete song to present.  Once I was in touch with Ms. Grace’s show, I learned I had 2 minutes of air time.  I went back to the computer and cut down the song to 1 minute and 55 seconds.

Our time on the show went by quickly, but I was still very grateful for the exposure.  Fueled by the momentum, I uploaded the song, Stone Shadow, to iTunes.

The reception of Stone Shadow has been amazingly positive.  It seems listeners, fans and friends alike, enjoy my work.  It just seemed foolish to stop there.

A song a city is born

To write more shadow songs, I need to experience the shadows of more places.  I can only hear places I visit first hand.  To make that happen, I need the help of all my fans and friends.

Visit Indiegogo to learn all about the trip, and to be a part of making A Song A City a reality!

A Song A City

Thanks to everyone who has supported me over the years!

Laura Nadine

Stone Shadow

Join me as I debut my new shadow song, Stone Shadow.  In honor of Autism Awareness Month, I will perform on my violin along with Allana Rain on:


Nancy Grace
Monday, April 22, 2013
8:00 pm EDT
 
 
If you enjoy the song, you can help me make more.  Using Indiegogo, a fundraising website, I am raising funds to travel with a crew to 4 major US cities in order to experience new shadow songs.  I am calling this adventure, A Song A City.
 
Beginning in Atlanta, we will visit Boston, New York City, Denver, and Los Angeles.  As we visit each city for a minimum of 3 days, I will compose songs for each city, and along the way, my crew of two will broadcast a web series of my trip so you can follow along.  Ending in Los Angeles  I would release the A Song A City album of all the songs I compose on the trip.  Donors at the Platinum level would also get to enjoy exclusive behind the scenes material, and even a chat session via Skype!
 
So many wonderful new things can be born in the next few months.  Please tune in to Nancy Grace and hear us play.  Then, follow up with a visit to Indiegogo and make a contribution.
 
 
Thank you for your support!  I have amazing fans!!
 
Laura

Autism Awareness is in My Blood

Despite all that has gone wrong these past few weeks, I still feel it is important to do my part for autism.  Awareness is a huge effort and must be given our best efforts.  Since the 1970’s, the Autism Society has set aside the month of April to celebrate autism awareness month.  Many American’s join in with ribbion wearing, blue lights on the porch, and a host of community events.  Other organizations, such as Autism Speaks, has taken this idea a step further with World Autism Awareness Month in an effort to make autism awareness a global collaboration.  The movement is growing.April is certainly a big month for autism, but what about the year round efforts of smaller groups?  One such group that grabbed my attention was The Six Degree Project.  Spearheaded by autistic student Carly Fleischmann, and students Emily Albert and Mia Kibel, these students didn’t wait for April.  This group of students from Northern Secondary School in Toronto, picked the often frigid month of February to raise awareness for autism.  The project sent long, warm, blue scarfs to celebrities and patrons, asking them to wear the scarf during their public appearances, and then post the photo to the Six Degree Project’s Facebook page.  Acting as a wonderful metaphor, the scarf seems to illustrate the warmth that grows in the heart of the communities who embrace autism by spreading a positive image.

I was so moved by this concept, I immediately contacted the group.  They promptly responded to my inquiry and seemed excited that I wanted to participate, despite my non-celebrity status.  Delighted, I sent in the form an awaited the release of the scarf.

The package arrived on a cold, wet afternoon.  Ecstatic, I ripped open the padded envelope right there at the mailbox.  It was like I was a child receiving a special delivery from Santa!  I was pleasantly surprised to see quality and detail in the design, and that the scarf was long enough to be utilized as more than a decorative item.  I was pleased.

It didn’t seem enough to just wear the scarf.  I had been planning for months to make an autism awareness music video that would shed a positive light on autism, and the abilities of autistic people.  With the scarf as inspiration, I picked the song You Raise Me Up, laid out the storyboards, and began the search for participants.

Since autism is such a sensitive topic for many parents, I struggled to find families willing to brag about their autism.  At first, I was deeply disappointed by the lack of involvement, but then I realized how much we needed to make this video.

Frustration during a creative project is unavoidable, it seems.  Creativity also seems to be accompanied by a truck load of self-doubt.  Perhaps this is how we stay humble, or how we keep therapists in business.  Whatever the reason, I was 2 days from the deadline, and practically paralyzed by my erratic executive functioning skill set.

Not knowing where to turn, I texted my good friend Anna, “Why aren’t I happy with anything I am producing today?”  Using the exact number of words she knows I need to not be overwhelmed, she eloquently replied, “Because your ambition is being held back by your means.”  She was right.  Budgetary limitations and lack of access to programs has been a huge burden on my process.  Why were my means limited?  I am a hard working, productive member of society, but I just can’t seem to get that leg up I need to be truly independent and financially secure.  I didn’t need to make this project only for the Six Degree Project, I didn’t need to make this project only for the parents who feared being public about autism.  It was apparent that I also needed to do this project for me.  With a renewed sense of energy, and the positive reaffirmation of my good friend, I dove head first into the video.

Working until the early morning hours on the eve of my 36th birthday, I completed the autism awareness video.  The video below is on my YouTube channel http://www.youtube.com/user/liquidc2

Visit my website for more information on what I do, and to watch the official countdown timer on the homepage!  http://www.lauranadine.net

Don’t forget to visit The Six Degree Project and show your support by purchasing a scarf.  http://thesixdegreeproject.com/

I am proud to support autism and the creative movement started by The Six Degree Project.  I hope the world will one day be warmed by the love that comes with awareness, and acceptance.

Laura

I Heard This in the Shadows

It has been a tough couple of weeks.  Love seems outside my grasp, no matter how brave I am or how deep into the darkness I reach.  So, the shadows grew louder, and louder, and louder, to the point that the melody made my nerve endings pulse – like when you have spent 4 hours at a heavy metal concert and you can still feel each beat in your lips and finger tips.On a rare occasion, the shadows carry a few words with the tune.  Haunting in nature, the words come in small, angry mobs, directing themselves toward the one I feel is responsible for my pain.  This time, the words were abstract and vague.  I am angry at no one.  I blame no one.  It just the pain of keeping to myself, and the throbbing of a void.I heard this in the shadows:

Lies can’t protect you, all they do is kick you out
There are no words, gifts were already exchanged
Six inches from you is where I stood,
But the forest has no trees
Passion burned them down
Cause you didn’t put out the rage

I can’t fight or I’ll die
I can’t drown or I’ll live
I can’t be everything you don’t want me to be
But when I’m left to just be, 
I’m visible to only me.


The tune is whispered by voice, and carried by guitar.  Its simple, its sad and stranded on a isle in my mind.  Maybe some day I will be brave enough to share it.  Right now, though, I will keep it close for it is my only companion.  The only painful reality that I must sling over my shoulders like a dead albatross is that I am a walking song; I’m only loved until the tune is faded by the sounds of a different one.

Am I Capable of Love?

Am I capable of love? The biblical definition of love says love in not selfish and does not seek itself.  Yet the people who ask me that question claim to have it – love, a great love, a deeper understanding of love and the open-mind necessary to comprehend love.
Am I capable of love?  What if I were to give you a gift right now? No matter who you are or what you have done, a gift with no expectations from you. Listen to my music, listen to me play my violin.  Do you hear it? I am giving you the gift of music.  My gift is not wrapped in a pretty wrapper or something you can display on a shelf – but it is a gift born of a labor of love.  It is the most I can give because it is the sum of all my parts.  Most say they cannot deny that I love music because they see it in me when I play.  They see love, that is.  So what makes one think I cannot see that in myself?  Is it a mistake? Do I know know what I do?  There are many things born of innocence, but intent is not one of them.  It is by my intent that I share love through music, not my innocence.
Am I capable of love?  When love has left me I have cried.  I cried with my violin, I cried with my soul and sometimes, I even cry with my eyes.  When love left, the pieces of me were so sopping wet with sadness that everything inside me was drained into shapeless, colorless, odorless pools from which the savages of depression did drink.  Yet no one questions if I am capable of pain or sadness or hurt.
Am I capable of love?  I hear a song in everything I see.  The songs of shadows sing to me in ways that people have sometimes forgotten,  Shadows do not wear social masks and are visible in even the lowest light.  And though the edges may sometime be blurry, the hope with which love is coupled still whispers its tune.  I hear love everywhere I hear music.
Am I capable of love?  Are you?
Laura Nadine