7 Awesome Things About the Pupper Being 1

Nothing can prepare you for a puppy. I’m an obsessive researcher, I thought I knew everything there was to know and that I was totally prepared to be a dog parent.

Let me admit right now how arrogantly wrong I was.

Winnie was 12 pounds of crazy. Potty training, teething, exercise, all of this was frustrating and exhausting, and on top of it all, the pupper didn’t even seem to like me that much. And she finally finally finally seemed to chill out, and then the dreaded adolescence hit. Nothing can prepare you for adolescent either. Teenage attitude is the same in every species, it turns out.

So Winnie is 1 now, and while I obviously loved her before, she is 100% more lovable now that she’s more grown-up. She’s smart and funny and has more personality than should fit in her 60-pound body.

And so, I present to you here 7 awesome things about Winnie turning 1, with pictures included.

1. learning tasks- Winnie is in training to be an Autism Service Dog for me, and the one thing that defines a service dog is that they do specific tasks to help with symptoms of their handler’s disability. This is a picture of Winnie doing Deep Pressure Therapy (DPT) to help me when I’m overstimulated. She acts like a living super warm breathing weighted blanket. Some other tasks we’re working on are medication reminders, sound alerts, and general obedience like public access!

2. a great snuggler- Some puppies are snuggly right out of the gate, but Winnie was definitely not one of them. She had a tendency to overheat when she was little and was she wasn’t hot and sleepy, she didn’t stop moving long enough give so much as a kiss. It was hard back then because she (like all puppies) was so much work, and she didn’t really show any interest in me at all. Luckily, she’s grown out of that so much that that, everything I do must be checked out and Winnie approved.

3. poses for pictures- Let me tell you that up until the pupper was about 6 months old, 98% of pictures I took of her were just a big black blur. Getting her to sit still was a miracle in and of itself, and her staying where I’d put her long enough to get a picture took a second person and a whole lot of treats. Now the percentage is more like 50%, which is a massive improvement, and her outtakes get funnier and funnier as she gets older. I’m immensely proud of both of us that we get this picture for her 1st birthday!

4. plays independently- Puppies take so much attention folks. They can’t pee by themselves, they can’t sleep without assistance, they can’t be trusted alone with anything, ever. One thing I didn’t know about puppies was that they don’t really know how to play with toys right off the bat. And it seems like Winnie was a bit of a slow learner because she really needed help figuring out how to play with toys until recently. It has been so amazing that we get to give her toys, and she’ll play independently (the toy in the picture is Erik the Viking, from Barkbox). I think she’d still rather play with us, but we’ve all got a nice balance.

5. takes long naps- Puppies are supposed to sleep around 20 hours a day, which sounds really awesome. It really isn’t. 20 hours in 2 or 3 hours chunks is NOT the same as 20 hours where they’re waking up every half hour or so. She’s also gone through stages of being both very good and very bad at sleeping through the night. At the moment she’s sleeping great, which means we’re sleeping great, which means everyone is happy!

6.  can be left alone- For the first month or so after Winnie came home, we literally could not leave the house. We either had to bring her with us or go out one at a time. You don’t realize it, but being stuck at home, not getting to see friends or go to activities really takes a toll on your mental health. It took longer than average for Winnie to be okay with crate training,  but thank goodness she has. These days she happily goes into her crate (or her ‘fort’ as we call it) when we leave, eats her peanut butter treats, and then sleeps the whole time we’re out. We can hang out with friends, go to the movies, even go pumpkin picking! We still bring her along to dog-friendly places, but having a choice is nice, right?

7. her farts don’t kill- There’s no nice way of putting this- when Winnie was a baby, her gas could clear a room. It smelled like she had pooped every. single. time. she. farted. And she farted a lot. We tried a lot of things, some of them working better than others. Turns out that Winnie doesn’t tolerate wheat-based kibble very well, which is ok because Jess’s Celiac wasn’t a fan of the wheat either. Sadly, we also found out that the pupper is SO DAMN lactose intolerant. No pup cups for Winnie, but it’s been worth it. She still farts, but they’re normal dog farts, and we can all live with that I think.

It should not come as a surprise to you that I welcome any pet photos from dogs to rabbits to fish, I am not picky about the cuteness.

5 Things That Determine Your Professionalism (apparently)

It seems to be a torturous right of passage to make college students go to a job fair. It is my worst nightmare to have to talk to people who could affect my education while they judge me as a person and as an employee from a 3-minute discussion.

I’ve found that for the most part, my classmates don’t really agree with me. The anxious kids are generally on my side, and sometimes other non-traditional students like me, but in general, your neurotypical mentally stable average college student find the idea of dressing up and talking to people in their field and the possibility of internships or employment to be exciting.

I took a management course last semester, and I learned a lot about what employers expect, and a lot of them were brand new information to me, so since I have to go through this, you have to learn about it too.

1. How You Dress- What’s the difference between a golf shirt and a polo shirt? I’m still not sure, but I know that it’s important, because one of them is more business casual than the other. And in this situation, business casual is important, mostly because on one end, it’s a breath away from being casual, on the other end, it’s almost formal. Formal is what you need for a job interview; for me, that means a suit and tie. For this job fair though, business casual is fine, but not the lower end. I plan to wear purple dress pants and a button-down shirt. Apparently having something interesting about your dress can let employers remember you, so I aim to be the purple-pants-person. For some reason, people are really judgey about what you wear, don’t ask me why. But doing some research about dress can make a huge difference.

2. Your Body Language- People who are in the position to hire you want to know a lot about you very quickly, and that means that they rely on body language a lot. Like way more than normal people. From what I’ve heard, body language can tell how confident you are, if you’re outgoing or not, even if you’re trustworthy. Gut reactions rule when it comes to professionalism. I do know for a fact that my standard body language doesn’t show any of this, but luckily, it can be faked. Standing up straight is important, as is (at least the image of) eye contact. You want to shake with a firm-but-not-finger-breaking grip, and staying as calm as possible can make you seem more confident. Basically, the rule of body language is if you act like you know what you’re doing, then people will believe it.

3. Your Expectations in Life- Interviewers love asking questions, usually about what you want for your future. Being prepared to say why you’re majoring in your major, and what kind of job you see yourself in can go a long way. My Management Professor drilled into us that no one’s going to hire someone who doesn’t have at least some idea of what their future looks like when it comes to education or employment. So having some talking point memorized will definitely help, and while I’m not usually a fan of dishonesty, I think that in this situation, making up some details to talk about won’t hurt anybody; you can always change your mind later.

4. How Much Prep You Did- Apparently not extensively researching the companies you’re talking to is a massive faux pas these days. I have my doubts that an interviewer is really going to care if I know what their mission statement is verbatim, but then again, I find a lot of these professionalism requirements kind of ridiculous. What I can say, is that if you’re really interested in a company (or in my case, a nonprofit), knowing a few things about them can’t hurt. Especially if what they do is something you’re passionate about too. I always like knowing projects that some of my favorite nonprofits have been working on because it gives us something to talk about, plus you know if they’re the sort of people you’d want to be working for. So, research something you’re interested in, not just something that proves you can memorize stuff.

5. Things You Can’t Control- Thanks to autism/auditory processing/hearing loss/learning disabilities, there are things that advice from some random blog (thing one) can help with. I have a serious case of raptor hands that no amount of paying attention can stop me from doing. When I get stressed (for example at a job fair) my ability to communicate verbally drops drastically, plus my echolalia increases, which is always fun to explain. What I’m saying is that no one’s ever going to be perfect, regardless of if they’re neurotypical or neurodiverse, and being prepared is the best thing you can do. Whether it’s a job fair, an interview, or just a meeting, know where you’re going, know what you want to look like, and know what you want to say. The best you can do is your best.

I know I’m in for years of this process, I’m hoping by the end I’ll have a decent handle on it. And, as always, if you’ve got tips, I’d love to hear them!

6 ASL Signs For Autistic Folks

Because Jess and I really need one more thing to do *sarcasm* we’re learning American Sign Language (ASL) together. When you think about it, it’s very practical. When I’m having a nonverbal moment, or hour, or day, we can communicate like usual. We also won’t know for a few years if my hearing loss will progress, so learning ASL now is ideal.

I will say right up front, that signing is definitely limited in its helpfulness, especially if you don’t know anyone else who signs. It can be helpful when it comes to emergency situations. Many paramedics, firefighters, and ER employees know some health-related signs like ‘what hurts?’ and ’emergency contact’. The most signing situation is getting friends and family involved. If the people around you know can communicate with you on a verbally challenged day (that’s what we call it anyway), it can keep everyone from getting frustrated, which means needs are met more quickly, and everyone involved feels better faster.

I’ll be linking the signs I talk about to Lifeprint.com, which is considered to be the best sign language resource on the internet.

1, ABCs– This is cheating but ABCs are the biggest bang for your ASL buck because it lets you communicate any word you want, as long as you can spell it. Fingerspelling is great in a pinch, but it gets annoying for the signer and the signee really fast. Still being able to fingerspell is always a skill worth knowing.

2. Help– This is primarily one of those ‘in case emergency’ signs. Hopefully, if you are ever in a place where you need help, a police officer, EMT, or ER nurse will recognize the sign and provide assistance. Conversely, this sign works great in letting trusted friends or family know that you need help now.

3. Autism/Autistic– Because being able to sign who you are is pretty important. That being said, the sign for autism/autistic is often problematic. There are lots of versions, and a lot of them are considered out of date or offensive. There are also a lot of regional signs for autism, so someone in Florida might no use the same sign as someone in Minnesota. In St. Louis, we sign autism/autistic using the sign for ‘spectrum’ which I love!

4. Hearing– When it comes to ASL, there are generally 3 groups of people- Deaf, hearing, and hard-of-hearing. Autistic folks who are nonverbal, people with aphasia, and people who are mute are a minority. If you’re using ASL the Deaf/hearing/hoh question will be the first one you’re asked. This is more about social rules than anything else.

5. I need– ‘Need’ shares its sign with a lot of other signs like ‘must’ and ‘should’ which makes it extra useful. Pair this sign with fingerspelling of whatever you could possibly need is a powerful communication tool to have.

6. Home signs- The same way hearing people give things nicknames, Deaf people give home signs. While it’s very bad etiquette to make up signs, giving objects that don’t have signs ‘nicknames’ to be used amongst family members is very common. For example, we use the letter ‘W’ twisting back and forth to refer to Winnie. So having home signs figured out for important things like ear defenders, stim toys, or other necessities is a smart thing to do.

There we go, the most useful signs that I’ve learned so far! I know that I meant to start learning to sign for so many years and that it took having actual hearing loss to get my butt in gear and just start learning. So hopefully if you’re anything like me, these essential signs might be the push you need to check out the resources that are out there!

 

5 Summer Reading Books

One of the great things about living in the future is that you don’t ever have to leave the house if you don’t want to. I can log my summer reading books online, and I can even report my participation in the library’s reading challenges!

(the library systems here make summer reading more interesting by giving extra prizes by doing things like reading books by authors whose race, gender, or sexual orientation is different than yours. You can also get prizes for writing book reviews and posting pictures of yourself reading on the go!)

All of this is very well-timed, because I’m currently out of school for the summer and am laid up with a foot injury, so I’ve got endless hours for reading.

People often think that Summer Reading means easy beach reads, and I don’t disagree that those are fun, but as with all of my reads, they’re kind of all other the place. So, these are my favs from summer so far, they’re all different, and all awesome in their own way.

1. Good Omens – A novel written by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett could not possibly go wrong. And Amazon Prime agreed, because the miniseries of Good Omens just came out, and was a great interpretation in my opinion. It’s the end of the world. After a plan to bring the Anit-Christ to end the world goes a bit awry, the angel Aziraphale and the demon Crowly team up to stop Armageddon (mostly because they realize that they like living on earth, and Aziraphale doesn’t want to back to heaven, and Crowly definitely doesn’t want to go back to hell).  It’s easy to say that fans of the humor in Pratchett’s Discworld series will love Good Omens, and Gaiman lovers will appreciate the character design and world-building. The humor lasts through re-reads too!

2. Daisy Jones and the Six– This book is nothing but drama and I enjoyed every minute of it. It’s set in the late ’70s and follows a rock band from its rise to its crash. The story is told through interviews, done by someone who’s authoring a book, and it reads like a 300 page Rolling Stone interview. Some books told from multiple points of view can be hard to read because the characters’ voices are too similar, but Daisy Jones definitely didn’t have this problem, in fact. This is not the kind of book that I would usually pick up, but I took a gamble on it because it was getting such glowing reviews (which can bite me in the ass sometimes). This was a solid 4.5 for me, so I’m very comfortable recommending it.

3. Binti Trilogy- So some might say that this choice is cheating. “Meesh,” you say, “a trilogy is 3 books, you can’t count them as a unit!” But hear me out. Binti is a trilogy, yes, but it is a trilogy of novellas, which makes all 3 books together shorter than a lot of stand-alone books. I can always tell I’m going to enjoy a book when the opening sequence gives me goosebumps, and Binti and its sequels did. It follows a classic trope. Naive adolescent runs away from home and encounters new planets and alien species and learns about herself in the end. She eventually has to question who she is and where her place in the world is. This book is solidly written modern sci-fi, and with each book being under 200 pages, it’s a quick and satisfying read.

4. Naturally Tan– I love the new Queer Eye. I’m old enough that I remember the first Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, which was revolutionary in its time but didn’t necessarily age well. The new Fab 5 focus on self-love and become who you want to be, and it’s awesome! Tan is really open in his book about how Pakistani and Muslim culture influence who he is as a gay man and a fashion expert (he’s owned multiple clothing companies). He is also incredibly funny and very honest and has managed to curate such a positive worldview.

5. Train Go Sorry– One of my goal this year has been to read more about Deaf culture. I figure that’s only fair now that I’m hard of hearing, right? Train Go Sorry was written in the ’90s but is still one of the go-to deaf culture books. It is written by a hearing woman who grew up in a school for the deaf and follows several deaf students during their time there. There are also sections that deal with deaf culture, and with the author’s journey to become an ASL interpreter. It was a really interesting historical look at the culture at that time, and it makes me want to read some more current accounts. An interesting note- the more I learn about Deaf culture, the more similarities I see between it and Autistic culture, interesting, right?

So that’s my Summer Reading so far, is anyone else participating in their library’s program? I’d love to hear about your library’s program, especially if you’ve got good prizes!

If you’re just reading for fun, I always love to hear what you guys are reading, so let me know if you’ve read anything good lately! My Goodreads account will thank you, and I will too!

 

 

10 Quotes From My Notebook

I like to think of myself as a child of the digital age. I was born alongside the home computer and came of age with the internet. Damnit, I could type before I could write!

There’s no arguing though, I am old fashioned about some stuff, most of them involving reading and writing. I have a Kindle, and I love it, mostly because it means I can get library books from the couch in my PJs. Yet, if I really love a book, I will be picking up a physical copy, no question. I also use the Kindle’s function to highlight text and store it digitally, in fact, I use it all the time. But yet again, if I really like a quote or know I’ll want access to regularly, it becomes important to handwrite it. I don’t know what kind of brain function is responsible for this, but they just feel more important and real if I handwrite them.

Hence my notebook. What started out as an impulse stationary purchase (these happen more often then I’d like to admit) quickly became my go-to landing pad for quotes. And not just quotes from books either. Any media is fair game, plus quotes from history, and things I hear people say (these get credited as ‘anonymous’).

For this week’s list, I’ve picked some of my favorites and used Adobe Spark to make those pretty quote pictures that you see on Instagram.

1. The Year of Pleasures

2. All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

3. The Obelisk Gate

4. Astrophysics for People in a Hurry

5. Coraline

6. Star Trek: TNG

7. Norse Mythology

8. Pachinko

9. Becoming

10. A Man Called Ove

That’s it! The best of my quote-game. As usual, I always like hearing for you, so if you’ve got favorite quotes, leave them in the comments! As a bribe, I’ll even make you super cool images just like mine!

6 Essential Self Care Things

It seems as though I never think about doing self-care until it’s too late. Let me explain, at this point in my life I find the act of self-care pretty instinctual, and when I’m doing alright, I rarely have to think about it. It’s when my mood starts creeping downwards and my anxiety heckles raise, aka the exact time when I need self-care, I forget to do it.

Luckily, over the years I’ve developed tools, I track my moods and my self-care, I have lists of options, and I follow the buddy system and have people who can remind me to check in with myself.

I think these self-care categories are largely universal. Neurodivergent or neurotypical, people with mental health stuff and people without. Everyone will have their favorites and areas that work better for them, but all in all, I think this list offers full coverage.

1. Sensory Things– This one’s easy. I don’t know about you, but my body uses sensory devices to unconsciously soothe me. That’s a really nice way of saying that when I’m stressed out I rock. Rocking isn’t the only sensory means I use to care for myself. I like swings, I like hot hot hot showers (as long as my face doesn’t get wet). I also use stim toys like tangles and squishes and slime. My hard of hearing side as well as my autistic side both enjoy as-loud-as-it-can-go-speaker-vibrating-would-probably-cause-hearing-loss-if-I-wasn’t-half-deaf music.

These aren’t the only options though, some people like ice packs and essential oils and fish tanks and a million other things. If you use your senses to experience it, then it counts as sensory!

2. Comforting Things- This one is highly personal, but I think it’s one of the more important categories. I know when I’ve had a godawful day I want nothing more than stuff that makes me feel safe. Disney movies (Moana, Big Hero 6, and The Emperor’s New Grove to name a few), my weighted blanket, and preferably a pet (or 2!)  are my ideal combination.

Some people really like tea. Some people like rewatching all 9 seasons of The Office (or Buffy, or Scrubs). Some people like big fuzzy sweaters. Some people like going for a run. If it makes you feel good right down to your soul, then it’s likely a great candidate as a comforting thing.

3. Connection Things- Autism can make this more complicated than for your average person, but it’s still useful. Most of us aren’t overly social, even if we enjoy people. I have a great time in small groups where I know everyone well. My ultimate nightmare either a roomful of people, or talking 1 on 1 to someone don’t know. *shudder*.

There are lots of ways to feel connected if you’re willing to think out of the box. Connection can totally happen with people you meet on Tumblr or Discord or WordPress (hint hint). I love going to coffee shops to read or write because just being around other people gives me a connected feeling. So find your connection to the world and don’t let anyone tell you that it’s wrong!

4. Creative Things- Sometimes when I’m in a brain space where I need self-care, the only thing that will work is the act of creating something. I think it’s the feeling you get when you can hold something tangible in your hands that you made.

Luckily, there as many was to create as you can think of. I’m partial to things like knitting that have repetitive motions, and Sticker by Number books that have a huge creative bang for its minimal effort buck. Other mediums include Perler beads, crochet, painting, sewing, and polymer clay. You can also incorporate a Special Interest and double your self-care!

5. Movement Things- I hate admitting that movement is good for me. I’ve always hated doctors telling me I’ll feel better if I  just ‘go for a run’. Well, it’s true. Not the running part, I hate running, but finding ways to move my body that I enjoy can really help. I love riding my bike and playing with Winnie (who is still full of puppy energy). I also, despite being 31, still love to climb and jump off things.

“Good” movement is different for everyone. So walk through your neighborhood and stretch like a downward facing dog and become a ninja warrior and play a team sport. It all builds up. So jump and twirl and spin your cares away!

6. Organize Things– There is nothing more satisfying than having everything in order, and I can always tell that I’m stressed when I start making lists of things. This year during finals week I reorganized my whole to-read list on Goodreads- all 1300 books of it!

There are lots of things to organize though. Alphabetizing your books or sorting t-shirts by genre or color. You can sort Tupperwarewear or photos, plus you can make lists! Favorite movies, places you’d like to travel to, and go-to meals are just a few of them. If you need inspiration, Marie Kondo has a Netflix show called Tidying Up that’s both soothing educational.

There we go, my top 6 essential self-care categories. Think I missed something? Let me know! The more self-care options the better in my opinion!

5 Summer Hacks For Autistic Folks

Summer is here! The exclamation point is less about excitement and more about alarm. Don’t get me wrong, there are good things about summer, like smores and fresh berries and corn on the cob (how have I never noticed that my favorite parts of summer are food?) But at least to me, the downsides of summer outweigh the good stuff.

I’ve spent 30 summers on this earth so far, and I like to think that I’ve learned some things, especially when it comes to sensory stuff. So here it comes, the worst parts about summer and how to deal with it.

1. Sun Safety- There is a video of me dating back to about 1988 that I will never live down. I’m about 18 months old, I’m at the beach, and I’m refusing to let my mom put sunscreen on me. This is slightly funny at best until you picture a tiny Meesh rolling back and forth across the room attempting to escape the sunblock.  Luckily it is no longer 1988, and there are many more sun safety options.

As an adult, I still find sunblock on my skin to be sensory hell. I have found, however, that the spray on versions are way more tolerable. These work for me because I’m biracial and don’t burn, however, this may not be the best option for people with lighter skin. This year though I found Solar Buddies. You can fill it with your favorite sunblock, and it has a foam applicator and a roller ball for a thin but protective layer. And if sunblock is a total no-go, a good hat and a light coverup can do a lot.

2. Staying cool-  I live in Missouri, and that might not mean anything to you yet, but I have 2 words for you: 80% humidity. It is hard to keep cool for your average person, but autistic people like me need to work even harder at it. I can overheat in about 10 minutes, which is unacceptable to me when there’s so much cool stuff to do. I refuse to miss out on festivals and concerts and roller coasters just because I can’t figure out how to stay cool. My two staple things to beat the heat are fans with water misters and chill bandanas. They both involve small amounts of water, but it’s never been enough to bother me (and I’m the ruler of hates getting wet). Bringing a large umbrella for the worst of the sun work well too. Plus they come in cool prints!

3. The Pool- Ask any kid what the best part of summer is and they’ll tell you that it’s the pool! Even as a child I was confused by this. It’s not that I hated swimming, I was on the swim team for years, but what I did hate was chlorine stinging my eyes, water getting stuck in my ear, and the way the pool felt all rough on my feet. I still hate those things, but I feel like I’m better able to tolerate them now with the tools I have. Here they are- goggles (I think these seal the best), pool socks, and swimmer’s earplugs. If you really want minimal getting wet, more and more pools are putting in splash pads too. I still don’t like getting wet, but sometimes it’s necessary.

4. Clothing- I am bad at going from season to season when it comes to clothes. So bad in fact, that it was cited in the documents about my autism diagnosis. It’s just so stressful! It’s hard to tell when it’s time to switch from pants to shorts, or from tank tops to hoodies. It also doesn’t help that sometimes wearing a t-shirt is okay, except that it gets soaked at the first drop of sweat.

So here are my rules for dressing during the summer. Rule 1, try to stick to light colored clothes if you’re going to be outside a lot. It’s a little thing that really helps. I also have super lightweight vests if I need layers. Rule 2 is all about athletic wear. The moisture wicking is amazing, so it helps keep you cool, plus it keeps the gross sweatiness at bay. Lastly, rule 3 is natural fibers whenever possible. Polyester doesn’t breath the way that cotton, linen, or hemp does.

5. Hygiene- Do you know what comes along with the summer heat? Sweat. And sweat makes everything feel…honestly? gross is the best way I (a Writing Major) can describe it. The balance is so hard because there are two opposite forces pulling at you. One says that the sweat is making your skin prickle and you clothes clammy, and the other says that the last thing I want to do when I’m already hot and uncomfortable is to get in a hot shower and get my hair and my body wet, and risk getting water and soap in my eyes. Did I mention that I hate being wet? So here’s what I’ve got for you. Deodorant wipes are about the best thing ever. I like these Pacifica ones. But they make scentless ones and individual wrapped ones. Anything you could possibly want from a wipe. I also like Lush’s anti-chafing powder, mostly because you can put it anywhere you get sweaty and it will absorb the sweat and make things smooth.

So there are my summer tips in a nutshell. Summer officially starts after the 21st of June, so we’re just in time! If any of you have summer tips I will gladly take them! I’m already counting down until the coolness of Fall rolls in.

7 Recent Pictures and 1 Video

In the era of smartphones that have better lenses from my old Nikon, I, like many other millennials have a phone jam packed full of pictures. And for me at least, there are usually like 5 shots that are almost the same but not quite.

Since I have approximately 1200 pictures on my person at any given time, I made an effort to go in periodically and clean the copies out. In doing this I get to enjoy pictures that I’d loved but totally forgot I had.

I did this recently (and got rid of almost 300 pictures!) but I wanted to share some of my favorites, here they are, and I promise it’s not just 7 pictures of my face.

1. This was my first time wearing a suit, and I kept wavering between feeling confident and feeling like I was playing dress up. I thought this image was a great representation of how I was feeling.

2. Once a year, on the first Saturday in May, is Free Comic Book  Day. This year it coincided with Star wars Day too! It’s a tradition for Jess and I to research which comics we hope to fine, and then visit all the comic book stores near up to find them. It’s one of our favorite things to do together, and we brought home a good haul this year!

3. This is Winnie’s Puppy Kindergarten graduation picture, she almost looks proud of herself right? It’s hard to believe that she was this little, she’s 9 months old now and working toward her Canine Good Citizenship award, but she’s still got that dopey grin!

4. Can you see how soft and squish Hammy is from this picture? No matter how soft he looks, I promise he’s softer in real life. He may be the stimmiest thing I’ve ever owned, and I got him from Walgreens of all places. He’s a Squishmallow, which is a perfect name plus, look at his little face.

5. I’m the sort of person that needs to eat snacks, but I’m also the kind of person that hates snack food. Enter this blend of almonds, cashews, m&ms, and tiny pretzel balls. It’s my go-to snack for class, and also mighty photogenic if I do say so myself.

6. This probably the best Kickstarter game I ever backed, partially because it’s so pretty that they offered prints of the tiles, partially between it’s just challenging enough, partially the components are satisfying to hold, and because I can actually beat Jess sometimes (and that’s a rarity).

7. This is me and Jess, aren’t we cute? My sister-in-law got married this spring and we got to get our fancy on. This is actually the 2nd time I wore a suit, and I felt a lot more confident about it than the first time. I think it was probably the bow-tie.

8. I promised a video and here it is! It’s hard to resist a Winnie video, especially when she looks so darn happy about the whole thing. The toy is from Chuckit, she looks all of their ball toys, but this one especially! It’s getting too hot here for her to do a lot of running, so toys that keep her playing are worth their weight in gold!

5 things I learned from ACT therapy

Once upon a time, there was a human named Meesh, who didn’t know that ignoring their mental health could end in disaster. They hid their worsening issues from everyone, including themselves.

The details aren’t important, but needless to say, they ended up in a place that was so unstable, they couldn’t fix it themselves, and ended up in something called Higher Level Care, which involved spending 10 hours a day in therapy.

But the therapy wasn’t as effective as everyone hoped, and they were stumped. It was only after Meesh was diagnosed with autism that a different type of therapy was tried. That therapy was called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT), and it made a difference like no therapy before had.

I’m sure you figured out that that story was about me (given that I used my name and all). ACT was the only therapy I’ve ever really connected with, but because I’m me, I like a lot of it and hate a bit of it.

But I like enough about it to share some of what I know with you, so here we go!

1. That I have values- Acceptance and Commitment Therapy teaches that everyone has values. Whether it’s family or education, humor or empathy, we all have things that important enough to keep fighting for. This seems a little bit obvious at first. Of course, I care about things, I’m not a robot. But at least for me, learning to lean on my values when I was having a hard time with something became comforting. It gave me a clear, on paper reason to keep going. Here is an example of a values list

2. That sucky stuff is going to happen and that’s ok- Many ABC Therapies, especially Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) drive me nuts. They are all about changing the way your brain thinks. I don’t know about you, but I’ve spent my whole life trying to do that, and it’s never worked. ACT teaches the opposite, in that you can’t always control what your brain does, but you can be prepared for it, so it’s less scary and overwhelming. I’ve always felt like this is a more realistic point of view.

3. How to make a good plan- Another tool that ACT gives you is the ability to make a plan for when things go bad. It figures, if you have a plan full of positive coping skills sitting in front of you, you’ll be less likely to use the negative coping skills. This had a surprising effect on the rest of my life as well. Executive Dysfunction shows its head for me in the inability to plan efficiently or make lists. Having someone who was trained to teach these things and go over it step by step with me (multiple times) made me significantly better at it.

4. That I hate visualization– “Imagine you are on a beach”, “Picture your thoughts floating down a river”, “Visualize your life in 5 years”. Instructions like this are my nemesis because I can’t actually make pictures in my brain. If I close my eyes and tell myself that I’m on a beach, I can imagine the smell of salt, I can imagine the sounds of the waves, but I can’t picture anything but a blank wall. It’s frustrating, especially when you’re being asked to do it multiple times a day. I’m telling you this because in any therapy there will be stuff that doesn’t work for you, and this doesn’t mean that the therapy isn’t a good fit. It’s perfectly valid to use the parts that work, and leave the ones that don’t work behind.

5. Grounding is stim-friendly- Grounding is awesome. It is using your senses to help keep you in the present, and to help you calm yourself. It is made for us autistic folks. To ground, I use weighted blankets, essential oil rollers, sour candies, sensory toys like putty and beads, and I play counting games with myself. Grounding works differently for everyone. I’ve met people who like to color, people who like to talk to friends, people who like to put smelly lotion on their hands. It doesn’t really matter what you do, as long as keeps anxiety or meltdowns or dissociative episodes from escalating. Grounding isn’t necessarily unique to ACT. CBT and especially DBT use it too. Here’s a list of grounding suggestions 

When I talk about stuff like this, I’m never trying to sell you on anything, I just figure if I which I’d known about something sooner, someone else might too.

As always, friend, I wish upon all of you good mental health and lots of self-care!

6 Ways I’m Getting Through The Semester

I have been in college for 5 weeks now, and as usual, it has been a serious adjustment. My longest previous experience of being on a campus, I was a tiny baby autistic me, only 18 years old! At the time I knew nothing about autism, and I especially didn’t know that I was, in fact, autistic, so I moved through the college world overwhelmed and confused.

I failed a class, not because I was lazy, but because I couldn’t find it. No matter how hard I tried, I got lost, and eventually, I just stopped trying. Little me also didn’t know that you could drop a class, which could have been really useful.

I was also so sensory overwhelmed that I spent most of my time hiding under my bed. Some days I wish I could still do that now, but my bed isn’t tall enough. #adultproblems

Because I knew how hard college was last time, I made sure to have a plan going in, and that really helped. Did all of it work? No, of course not, but it gave me a great foundation for tweaking it so it can be better for the coming semesters.

So, without further ado, here’s what’s worked for me so far.

  1. Visual Directions

This one requires a buddy, but if you can visit your campus before the semester starts and have someone with an excellent sense of direction to help you make visual directions, it can significantly cut down on the amount of time you spend lost.

2. Hybrid Classes

I’m not sure hybrid is the word that all schools use, but a hybrid class is partially in person, partially online, and all autism-friendly. Spending 1 day a week in class instead of 3 has left me with less stressful social issues, and less sensory overload. Even just one hybrid class has made my traditional on-campus classes more doable. Now, online classes aren’t for everyone- it usually requires you to be more independent, but I love the flexibility, and to be honest, the fact that I can communicate on emails and message boards instead of face to face. Also, as a bit of a hangover from all that homeschooling, I prefer to teach myself things. If this is sounding good to you, I highly suggest seeing if your college or university offers hybrid courses as an option.

3. Color Coding

There are several ways that people learn, some people learn visually, some are better with Auditory, and others are kinesthetic learners-they learn using their bodies. Now me? I’m a hands-on learner for sure, but most of the time it’s not very convenient for me to touch everything I’m trying to learn. Luckily I’ve got visual learning as a back-up. Even though I can’t make pictures in my head like most people, visual information is fairly accessible to me. Hence, color coding. Each class of mine has a color, and I use colored pens and markers on my planner, my calendar, my to-do lists- all that organizational stuff. For me, it makes tasks and appointments pop out, so I’m more likely to process and complete them.

 

4. Built-in Self Care

I’m pretty sure that one of these days, I’m going to bring up self-care, and you’ll all revolt, and leave me here talking to myself. But until that day, we can talk about self-care! I find it extra important during the semester, because all of my brainpower is going towards learning and being social and trying to be flexible, so I’ve got no brain power to take care of myself. And I’m not talking overly complicated. You don’t have to book a spa day or get a massage. I go to my favorite used bookstore and browse for a while and buy a book (or two). On my long days, I treat myself to coffee. I bake cookies with Jess. I take time to snuggle with the cats. I think the best self-care is little, focused things. You know what you like best, so let yourself have it sometimes.

5. Quizlet

Hands up if you were that kid in school who always had a stack of note cards to study with. My hand isn’t up, because although I admired to organizational abilities of people who could study, I could never figure out how to make it work for me. Enter technology. I found the Quizlet app when I was looking for a way to put digital post-it’s on my phone. I still haven’t figured that out. Hm. Anyway, it’s a free app, where you can make your own decks, but you can also use other peoples. I can guarantee you that most low-level courses already have decks of information made. This, and the fact that Quizlet offers not only quizzes but games to help you learn information, made me a studying convert. Having all my decks on my phone means them when I can run through while I’m waiting in line, or in the car. Convenience, people, I’m all about convenience.

6. Habitica

The apps that I find most successful are the ones that give you a streak if you use it every day, and if you miss, you lose your streak. I’m talking about apps like Duolingo, or Memrise, or in this case, Habitica. Habitica used to be called Habit RPG, which I think gives you a better idea of what the point of it it is, but whatever. The concept is pretty simple, you put in things you’d like to make a habit, like brushing your teeth twice a day, or playing with the dog, or remembering to pack your lunch. If you do these things, you get points. You can level up, buy cool gear for your character, and hatch pet eggs. If you don’t, you break the streak and get noting. I find it a nice push to do things that are important, but not that important. (And if you’re worried that keeping your streak is TOO stressful, there’s a tavern where your character can rest without consequence.)

So here we are, everything that’s keeping me going this semester. I’m sure I’ll figure out new stuff, so look out for a part 2 of this post in Fall 2019!