🌈Yes, I am Autistic; I Discovered This At 33.

adventure, Africa, Antarctica, Anxiety, Art, autism, beauty, Big Chop, courage, Depression, Education, explore, faith, family, Foreign Language, Hair, Health, Health, wellness,, Lesson Planning, love, Mental Health, music, Music Class, Mystery, natural hair, Podcast, special needs, stroke, Teaching, travel, Uncategorized, Wellness, worldview

🌈E X P R E S S I V E #autism

“You’re doing too much.”

“You be doing the most.”

“You’re a lot.”

“Why are you so extra?”

“You shouldn’t have asked that.”

“Did you just say that?!”

“Sit down, Kris.”

“Tone it down.”

“Your posts are too long.”

“You’re too old to be using rainbows.”

“That’s just Karissa.”

“Relax your face.”

Conformity.

Conformity was never my cup of tea. I’ve sipped several times, but it never tasted quite right. Typically, that lukewarm bitterness always found itself spat out.

I couldn’t deal with the box. It never fit.

However, because of my “packaging” I got away with a lot. Yes, because of how I look and my language, I never got evaluated, never showed severe enough signs to even be suspected. Why? Mimicking. Modeling. Copying. Con. Form. Ing.

Never found out I was on the autism spectrum until the age of 33. I’m talking months ago, y’all. Never had a clue.

Throughout my life, I watched and studied everyone and tried to appear #normal—whatever that is; I tried to blend in.

But…

•from my tantrums in front of the tv (Dad shut that down before he went on leave to Alaska #DoItOneMoTime)

•naked streaks in the home (got to pick that up when he left and it was just all girls)

•cussing volcano (ask my brother KaDar or my sisters about that one day.)

•disdain for eggs, pancakes, macaroni and cheese, grits

•shyness mixed with stuttering

•bouncing a little extra while my sisters and I sang

•sensitivity to certain materials, textures, jewelry, scents, and ingredients

all proved that I couldn’t just blend in. Apparently it didn’t phase me too much.

However, my stimming emerged in different ways. Sophisticated stimming is what I now call it.

I learned how to manage it. Learned how to cope.

Part of my coping with my #extraness happened through various activities and from childhood until now.

Odyssey of the Mind

Forensics

Cheerleading

Free Spirit Show Choir

Marching Band

Concert Band

Basketball

Volleyball Camp

Tennis

Track

Clubs, offices, councils and societies galore

Souls A Fire Gospel Choir

Frontline at ORU

Songwriting in seconds

Speedy Math Skills

Modeling

Acting

Drummer

Author

Speaker

Substitute Teacher

Learning “foreign” languages

State Praise Dance Choreographer

Toastmasters

Exploring all seven continents

and those are just a few that helped me #LetItOut.

So if you came into my life mid-song, I must share: the treble and bass that God put in my soul ain’t going nowhere.

I’ve learned that my sophisticated stimming allowed me to “blend in” in this world. However, I’m interested in raising awareness about the autism SPECTRUM. Not just one side. All. Of. It. It is deep and diverse. After counsel and evaluations galore, I’ve been congratulated and celebrated for this discovery.

Let me be clear: I am not an expert. I am not a licensed medical professional. I chose Special Education as my major for three years. I changed it and graduated with a BA in International Community Development with two concentrations in Special Education and Teaching English as a Second Language. I’m challenged to search and study more now. Back in the day, girls easily got overlooked because of their social skills. Just look up “Autism in Females: How is It Different?” on YouTube. I cried through it because it was all me. Thanks to Special Education teacher Kelsey at G. Stanley Elementary for introducing me to that video. Thanks to Darius for telling me about Temple Grandin. What an inspiration!

Will I be the voice for non-verbal autistic peeps? Absolutely not. They, in fact, have their own voices. WE simply have to listen to HOW they speak.

I look forward to sharing my voice and journey about how I functioned WITHOUT the label for 32 years.

Slap the autistic label on a child; no problem. Just make sure that when you explain autism to a child—if you dare—you explain that they carry superpowers, are genius in their own way, and that YOU are willing to WORK to draw out the genius, to fan their flame, to exercise extreme patience, and to respect them enough to study and learn them.

Faces were scratched out if the students left mid-year. I was at a school full of other military brats like me. I’m clearly the one leaning in the pink.

One of the key elements of blackness is resilience. So on this seventh day of Black History Month, I can’t help but applaud this little resilient girl who used a combo of faith, fire, and imagination to get to this point. I applaud my mother for helping me figure out some things and make modifications for me knowing my challenges, but not my diagnosis. She got me the right creams, gave me instruments, non-nickel jewelry, and didn’t force things in my diet like dairy. I applaud my father for influencing me to suppress the tantrums. I applaud him for being the only living parent to say these words: “Yep, I could see that. It makes sense. I’ve always told you that you were a genius.” I applaud those who fanned my flame. I applaud the teachers who told me I was gifted and special.

I applaud those who laughed at me; I also admonish them to stop the madness; I challenge them to look at the gifts in a person with curiosity instead of judgment; I nudge them closer to research instead of ridicule; I push them nearer to advocacy instead of teasing.

#LetsGoDoBe

P. S. If you’re looking for a diagnosis as an adult, it may be difficult, but the best place to start is in the school district in your area. They can direct you accordingly. You can also look up autism groups in your state or region. They’re rising up now more than ever.

#Rom12v2 “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” 

Bat Caves & the Root of Offense

adventure, Art, beauty, courage, Education, explore, travel, Wellness, worldview

#BatCaves

The ROOT of the offense doesn’t come from an organization, institution, or individual. The ROOT is the enemy. Consider “Satan, the Lord rebuke you.” instead of toiling over an organization, institution, or individual. Whose power is greater? As believers, WE are operating from a place of victory. Additionally, “Faith without works is dead.” Thusly, in order to sufficiently align ourselves with the Word, we must be strategic and diligent with our prayers AND actions!

Scripture and tactics to consider:

1. Put on the whole armor of God. (Eph 6:11-18)

2. Know Satan’s devices. (2 Cor 2:11)

3. Give him no place (Eph 4:27).

4. Resist him. (James 4:7; 1 Pet 5:8-9)

5. Be sober and vigilant lest he devour them. (1 Pet 5:8-9)

6. Overcome him by the Word. (Matt 4:1-11 1 John 2:14)

7. Overcome him by the blood of Christ and testimony. (Rev 12:11)

8. Overcome him by Christ and His name. (Eph 1:19-22; 2:6; 2 Cor 2:15)

9. Overcome him by birth of the Spirit and faith. (1 John 2:29; 3:9; 5:1-4, 18)

10. Overcome him by the Holy Spirit. (Rom 8:1-13 **especially verse 6** Gal 5:15-26)

P. S. I used this bat cave from here in Turks and Caicos Islands for two reasons and one reason that I’ll share:

The bats were offended by the bright light, just like humans are when it’s being shone brightly in our faces and when the Word corrects us. It’s often difficult to process with a carnal lens, but much more palatable with a spiritual one.

A Single Thought

adventure, Africa, Antarctica, Anxiety, Art, beauty, Big Chop, courage, Depression, Education, explore, faith, family, Foreign Language, Hair, Health, Health, wellness,, Uncategorized

“I’m so lonely. You just don’t understand.”

I read this quite often online. And of course I hear it in person.

I hear ya.

I also understand now, even more, why scripture encourages singles to be concerned about the needs of the church. There are countless needs in the church that need the support of those who don’t have the obligations of a spouse or even children.

If I were not single, what I’m currently doing would potentially be drastically limited. Being single allows you the opportunity to focus on all of the gifts that God gave you and maximize your time.

Are all of your dreams fulfilled that God placed in you? Surely busyness isn’t the cure for loneliness, but meditating on lack doesn’t bring glory to God.

Don’t get me wrong, I certainly appreciate the company and physical presence of a man. Lord knows! But even since Ma’s passing, I’ve gotten to go back to my normal pace/cadence/rhythm. It’s been a joy to activate so many of the visions and dreams I’ve been building up during the last two years of caring for her.

Take one SINGLE minute and celebrate this time and ask God to breathe on it like never before and to teach you how to responsibly steward your time as a single individual.

Questions to ask:

How can I serve a married couple today?

How can I serve a single person today?

What elderly person needs help?

Is there a child I should be mentoring?

Who can I train with my skills?

Is there anyone who could benefit from my strength or wisdom today?

Does someone need help moving?

Can I help someone with their end of the year tasks?

Does someone need help with holiday shopping?

Who can I be poured into today?

Am I legalistic?

Am I judgmental?

Am I full of grace and seasoned with salt?

Do I know how to talk to people?

Am I a good listener?

Are there any widows who need company?

Have I visited cancer waiting rooms lately and passed out hats for those losing their hair?

Do I know anyone in the hospital who needs to be visited?

Is anyone hungry?

Can I host a cooking class?

Is there another single person who needs company this holiday?

How can I host events to bring more singles together?

Should I consider hosting a Bible study or movie night in my home?

Do I frequent coffee shops or universities with lots of traffic and new people?

Do I visit the same places and keep the same routines?

Have I finished writing my first book or blog?

What keeps me humble?

What makes me feel haughty?

Do I think that I’ve arrived?

Who am I helping?

Am I getting counseling regularly?

Am I physically fit?

Am I emotionally fit?

Am I spiritually fit?

Is my soul well?

Is my home clean?

Am I a hoarder?

Am I being mentored and coached?

Do I work out regularly?

Who do I meet at the gym?

How is my appetite?

Am I overweight or underweight?

Do I regularly talk to people online and in person?

Am I am extrovert? How can I use my gifts as an extrovert?

Am I an introvert? How can I use my gifts as an introvert?

Is there anyone grieving who just needs to talk?

How many languages do I know?

Am I fluent in at least three languages?

Do I have a passport?

When will I use my passport again?

Do I use all modes of transportation at least once annually?

Does a girl need help taking out her braids?

Does a guy need his hair cut?

Am I good with my hands?

Can I fix cars?

And I good with computers?

Can I do makeup?

Can I make jewelry?

What I can do with my hands that will bring me more income?

When you’ve addressed a few of these questions, you’ll find plenty of things to take your mind off of the absence of a mate. Again, these elements are not to DISTRACT you from that fact that you are single, but to ATTRACT you to fulfilling your purpose and responsibly stewarding your time.

P. S. Visit sevenby30.com/books to snag my eBook on how I planned for Antarctica called, “7 Steps to the 7th Continent.” It’s available in English and Arabic. 💋

#LetsGoDoBe

P. S. S. God’s design for us doesn’t always include a significant other, but God’s design always includes a significant purpose. 💫

Feeding a Giraffe—with My Mouth

adventure, Africa, explore, love, Mental Health, Mystery, Teaching, Wellness, worldview

✨BRE🦒KFAST, anyone?✨

🦒Is there anything that freaks you out? Anything that just the thought of it makes your stomach turn? Anything that you said you’d never do? Anything that makes YOU look crazy?

😛I never thought I’d feed a giraffe with my own mouth, but I never knew I’d be given the opportunity to either. There’s a host of things we say we’ll NEVER do, but when opportunity knocks, our tune may quite possibly change.

🦒Today, DISCARD some of those NEVERS and FEED into some new MYSTERY, some new ADVENTURE—some #WILDLIFE.

#LetsGoDoBe

😛Tag someone who needs to be shaken up this morning.

P. S. Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

P. S. S. Much love to my #InstaMom @travelingblackwidow. Before I went to bed last night, I screenshot my pic my giraffe feeding for this morning’s post. I logged on this morning and I saw her post and was like 😍. Go check her out! 🦒

P. S. S. The tongue of the giraffe felt like SANDPAPER!

Anxiety, Depression, faith, family, Health, Health, wellness,, love, Mental Health, Teaching, worldview

L🌍VE

Good Morning, Good Afternoon, Good Evening!

Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, remember this:

Worry is a NEGATIVE form of meditation. It’s like praying for the wrong thing to happen.

STOP. Redirect your thoughts toward the beauty that CAN and WILL happen. Reflect on PLEASANT memories. Refuse to RECYCLE pain.

PRESS forward and be RENEWED in your mind, daily by His Word.

You’re NOT forsaken. You’re NOT forgotten. You’re NEVER alone.

I heard The Nevels Sisters sing “I got COMPANY following me!”

Be comforted in knowing that you’re not walking this out alone. You’ve got COMPANY following you.

“Many things

about tomorrow,

I don’t seem

to understand,

but I know

Who holds my future,

and I know

Who holds my hand.”

#HeWasThereAllTheTime #HeIsWithYOU #YouAreNeverAlone

📸: @iamtryon

👘: @ladykroach

Students: What do you think of when you hear Africa?

Africa, Education, explore, faith, Teaching, travel, Uncategorized, worldview

L🌍VE.

I’m a substitute teacher. I bounce around from school to school around my district and have yet to see more than three TEACHERS who look like me. I absolutely LOVE opportunities to ask my students this question:

What do you think of when you hear Africa?

Sure, I could substitute for both Omaha Public Schools, however I was raised in Papillion-La Vista School District. When I graduated with a class of 569 students, there were approximately 15 African-Americans. I never sat in a class with a Black teacher during my entire time in the district.

Let’s get back to the question.

What do you think of when you hear Africa?

🍍I think of sick kids.

🥑Dirt roads.

🥥Poor people.

🍦Helpless.

Above are actual answers from elementary school kids about a month ago.

When the little girl said, “Helpless.” I stopped and said, “I’m so glad that you said that, because there are so many lies that are being told about Africa and I want you to hear from someone who’s not on a screen and who actually visited.”

I didn’t go to Africa on a missions trip. I went on vacation. First to Egypt and then to Kenya. Pictured here I’m in Malindi, Kenya.

It’s in Kenya where my newly adopted Baba Baha told me, “Tell them we have ice cream over here.” He said that as we stood there eating some. We laughed so hard!

It was in Nairobi where I (confession) smuggled avocados back to Saudi Arabia because they were massive and I simply couldn’t go back without them. I took two.

It was in Kenya where I went to the Del Monte pineapple farm and stared at the unending rows and rows of pineapples.

It was in Kenya where I sat at the beach in Mombasa and drank fresh coconut water from a man who picked and pierced the coconut just for me.

So when I ask, “What do you think of when you hear Africa?” and then I hear statements like the ones aforementioned, my eyes light up! I realize: This is a teaching moment.

I do a test. I show them a picture and ask them where is this? It’s usually a picture of a dirt road or slum.

They almost always say, “Africa.”

I reply, “It’s Nebraska.”

I do it with a vibrant picture or setting and they reply, “Europe or Australia!”

I tell them, “Actually, it’s in Africa!”

😱

I pull out the photos of me in Kenya and the children’s jaws are ALWAYS on the ground.

It’s true, there are desolate places everywhere. I just have this holy conviction of telling new stories. The dirt road, shoeless kid narrative rings in our ears constantly.

Who will tell them of the golf courses in between Malinda and Mombasa?

Who will talk about the multi-millionaires and billionaires in African countries?

Who will tell them about the rich resources that can ONLY be found in heaps and bounds in African countries?

Who will tell them about M-Pesa and other brilliant mobile-tech ideas from African geniuses?

Who will show them Kenyan shillings with leaders on the currency who are even darker than me?

Who will show them the scarf that I bought and wore on the beach in Malindi that I later wore at the National Museum of African American History and Culture?

If you want to leave it to a substitute teacher to disseminate the information, I don’t mind. But I’m so glad to know that others are convicted about telling NEW stories too.

I’m not alone. Neither are you. If you went to an African country on vacation, please drop your memories in the comments.

I love hearing NEW stories.

Ciao for now!

Karissa Denae

P. S. I met a man in Kenya named Karisa. Apparently it’s a name for a boy. Guess what it means?! SHEPHERD!

P. S. S. Most of these photos were captured by Evans Maina. We attended the same church in Hangzhou, China. I was in China teaching English. He came to China for college. I think he was getting his Masters in Art there. For my birthday, he gave me one of his paintings that I saw in a gallery.

Urban League of Nebraska Young Professional of the Year & Educator of the Year Nominations

Antarctica, Education, explore, faith, family, Foreign Language, Lesson Planning, love, music, Music Class, Teaching, worldview

Take the survey here!

🎼Can you 👏🏿 on the 2 and 4 or the 1 and 3?

🍎A teacher may not feel the fire or sparkle every day in the classroom. Yesterday, unfortunately, was one of those days for me. Music class didn’t go as perfectly as I imagined it, but there were little gems along the way.

A “challenging” student taught the class the Jason (spooky) sound and a little brown girl with glasses sat with her Mom as I prepared to leave for the day. She happened to be talking about me as I approached them to compliment her on her behavior and her funky glasses. I think it made both of our days. Sparkle!

🌟More sparkle was added when I came home and found out that I was nominated for the Urban League of Nebraska Young Professional of the Year and ULNYP Educator of the Year.

I’m wildly honored to be recognized amongst a host of movers and shakers in the Omaha Metropolitan community. Being considered for these awards ignited even more fire to #GoDoBe!

#LetsGoDoBe, party people!

To vote,

Click here!

Boss Babe

love, Uncategorized, worldview

👋🏿Hey, girl!

💃🏿Let’s chat. This whole Proverbs 31 woman is not some weak chick. She’s far from basic. She’s a badd girl.

🤸🏿‍♀️Check her out:

She’s up before the birds even get to singing.

She’s a BOSS.

She owns land.

She’s a stylist.

Her negotiating skills are 🔥.

She grinds cuz she knows her capacity and is willing to tap into it.

Winter won’t catch her by surprise.

She ain’t just running her mouth.

She’s not talking just to be talkinnn.

The woman can delegate.

The green thumb of hers brings fruit to her house.

She’s rocking her own clothing line.

She’s global.

Sweat doesn’t scare her.

She’s not afraid of werkkkk.

There are touches of her crafts throughout the home.

Her husband can trust her with his name and his coins—but she definitely has her own #coins and her own name. #NoShade

She’s a stellar steward.

Finally, she’s a flipping philanthropist!

Oh, yeah! Aesthetically, the world sees her as wildly pleasing.

Did you see her shoes tho?

This morning as we prepare for our day, let’s be reminded that WE are far from #BASIC.

WE are called to make BOSS moves.

WE are CLOTHED with STRENGTH and DIGNITY.

WE were SENT to help CHANGE this WORLD.

Wake up, pretty girl. Let’s go SHAKE the NATIONS!

#WakeUpWednesday #HereWeGo #GoDoBe ✌🏿❤️

No Credit Cards for 7 Continents

Antarctica, explore, faith, family, travel, Uncategorized, worldview

🍃While living and working abroad, both companies in #China and #SaudiArabia provided lodging for me free of charge. I simply had to steward what I received.🌿


🌿Five years ago, while teaching in China, I paid off the commercial debt that I had which was less than $1,000. My trip to #Antarctica cost $5,000+. I used savings to pay for it. Responsible stewardship is critical.🍃

🍃After my first year of teaching English in China, I returned home for a vacation and sold my luxury car (Volkswagen Eos, hardtop convertible) in order to achieve my seven by 30 goal. I simply broke even with that sell.🌿

The Top Five Things I’ve Learned While Traveling the Globe

explore, travel, Uncategorized, worldview

The Top Five Things I’ve Learned While Traveling the Globe

Traveling is wonderful fun, yet it can also be a great learning experience. Here are the top five things I’ve learned while traveling the globe!

1) Ask

Although I have over a dozen countries under my belt, I still consider myself a new traveler. I’ve only been at this thing for three years, and in every country I’ve visited, I’ve learned the importance of asking questions.

It doesn’t matter if you feel ashamed for asking a simple question, ask it. It can save you time, energy, and money.

Put your pride to the side and ask for help. You might have to mime it—like I did my first week in China, when I was asking for toilet paper—but just ask!

Karissa Johnson

2) Give

Some of my most vivid memories are from my trip to Laos. My friend Esther from college invited me on a “trip of a lifetime” to go zip-lining in the rainforest for three days. We had incredible guides who spoke some English, but they couldn’t write.

One evening, I gave an English lesson to one of the guides inside of my mosquito net for a couple of hours. I created a little book for him to practice English and also share the wealth with others. He mentioned that people had given him oral English lessons, but no one had ever made anything for him. I was glad to give him something that he could treasure and give to someone else.

Top 5 Pic 4

3) Learn the Lingo

I get it, we’re not all linguists. We don’t all have the discipline or tenacity to dig into another language and make it our own. However, I find that even attempting the local language is appreciated.

Even if you get the tones wrong or mix up the words, the effort is respected. In my opinion, English speakers and readers have it so easy when traveling. I find that the locals are very accommodating and helpful when it comes to English speakers.

The least that you can do is learn how to say, “Thank you!” in the local language.

Google Translate has become one of my fondest friends on the road.

Top 5 Pic 3

4) Too Much Bling is Not a Good Thing

I’ll be the first to say that I love my big faux pearl earrings, and my giant faux pearl necklace. However, I’ve learned that sometimes you just need to tone it down.

Of course, it’s nice to be stylish while traveling, but you have to use wisdom too.

Since I frequently travel solo, I often do a self-check, to see if I’m drawing too much attention to myself with my attire.

Be aware of the customs and culture where you’re traveling.

Some temples and churches require a certain dress code, which can serve as a hint to what’s expected within the culture. It’s also good to remember that sometimes travelers are overcharged, robbed, and hassled because of their appearance. Remember, you’re there to see the city. The city isn’t there to see you.

Remember, you’re there to see the city. The city isn’t there to see you.

Karissa Johnson

5) Haggle, Hustle, and Handle Your Business

One thing that I loved about my time in China was the ability to haggle. My parents came over during Thanksgiving in 2012, and I was excited to show them my haggling skills—in Chinese. Somehow, I was able to bring my mom’s new jacket down by about 80 percent of the initial asking price. I’m still not quite sure how I got it down so low, but I’m sure that knowing my numbers in Mandarin didn’t hurt!

One more thing: bring U.S. dollars. If you need to exchange money in a country, I wouldn’t recommend bringing several hundred dollars worth of Chinese Renminbi (RNB).

I went on a trip to Cairo two years ago, and I was absolutely clueless about the importance of exchanging your RNB before leaving mainland China. When I got to Cairo and tried to exchange it to the Egyptian Pound at the airport and banks, I was unsuccessful. However, my driver was extremely helpful. He had a connection who exchanged it for me, but I had to pay one hefty fee!

Okay, it’s your turn to share the wealth. What have you learned on the road, as you’ve traveled?

– See more at: http://www.gospeltoday.com/blog/2014/08/30/the-top-five-things-ive-learned-while-traveling-the-globe/#sthash.jal8lINp.dpuf