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.

5 Signs You May Be Experiencing Burnout

When I was 19, I was trying my best to be a grown-up. I was living with Jess in a new city with no friends or family around. She was in medical school, and I was working full time and going to school part-time.

I thought that this was what adults do, and so I missed a lot of warning signs that something was starting to go very wrong.

It was burnout.

Autistic burnout is usually caused by an autistic person attempting to suppress their autistic traits over a period of time. It causes regression, and sometimes, some of the regressions are permanent. For example, I’ve never regained the sensory tolerance I had before.

Looking back now, I can easily identify the red flags. I hope knowing what early burnout looks like will keep it from ever happening again.

These are my symptoms. Yours may be different. But I hope that you read this and think about what your symptoms might be, so you can prevent burnout too.

1. Everything is TOO MUCH- Everything is too much all the time, you might say to me. And I get that, I really do, but this TOO MUCH will be different. It’s the difference between a gust of wind and a tornado, so I promise that you’ll know the difference. The main thing to watch for is that the overload will keep increasing and it will feel neverending. If one day you realize that you’re hiding in your closet because the world seems like too much, it might be time for an intervention.

2. You’re tired all the time- And not just sleepy. I mean falling asleep sitting up tired. Can’t get out of bed in the morning tired. Things that are usually easy hurt to even think about. And there’s a reason for this exhaustion, the parts of your brain that handle sensory issues and social skills are working overtime- and you’re paying the price. Self-care, taking time for yourself, giving your body what it needs, and asking for help if you need it are the best way to deal with this.

3. Communication is a struggle- Let’s face it, most of us are not great communicators at the best of times, I think that we can admit to that. But we know our strengths and weaknesses, right? I know that I communicate most effectively in writing and that if I get too stressed, I lose all of my verbal communication skills. That’s just my normal. It’s when things start happening outside of the norm that I know there’s a problem. If I’m having a lot of trouble communicating with my wife (who is my person), I need to consider that something might be up. I think that you probably know where your point is, when your gut tells you that something’s up. If you don’t, that’s fine, beginning to notice what’s normal for you and what isn’t is an easy, but an incredibly useful skill to have.

4. Can’t stop stimming- Do you unconsciously stim sometimes? I definitely do, and it has been reported back to me that I have ‘good’ stims (that I do when I’m happy! or excited!) and ‘bad’ stims (that I do when I’m stressed or tired). For example, if I’m rocking side to side, I’m in a super chill mood, but if I’m rocking front to back, people should be concerned. And that’s what I’m talking about. When stimming turns into a frantic or upsetting activity, whether there’s self-harm or you just can’t stop, that’s when this sign becomes a big deal. As with all of the other signs so far, you know what your norm is, and it’s the deviation from that that needs to be questioned.

5. Your special interests seem extra special- 5 books a week. 2 hats, 2 mittens, and a scarf. Top scores on everything. Special interests are one of the defining behavior of us autistic folks, but there’s special, and there’s Special. Sometimes all I want to talk about is Star Wars, or Phineas and Ferb, or Stephen Sondheim. I can, for the most part, be persuaded to talk about other things, if in a slightly less enthusiastic manner. But during that burnout? I literally couldn’t think about anything except my special interests (which at the time were Super Mario Brothers and Guinea Pigs). This might be the hardest one to notice in yourself. At least for me, I didn’t feel like I was thinking or acting any differently, but in hindsight I definitely was. In this sort of situation, having a buddy is definitely helpful.

A Note– If you know anything about mental health, you might have noticed that a lot of these symptoms could also be caused by anxiety or depression. For me, autism and mental health go hand in hand, to the point of them influencing each other, and it might be the same for you. All I’m trying to say is if you’ve read this whole post (thanks for that!) and you see yourself in some of these signs, checking in with a professional you trust is totally reasonable.

Take care of yourselves, friends!

 

 

 

 

Top 10 Books I’ve Read This Year

So I know that the year isn’t over yet, but something else is- I hit my reading goal for the year! I started out this year doing the 52 in 52 challenge, which is where you set a goal to read 52 books (one a week) in 52 weeks. Now, I hit 52 books in June, and I upped my goal to 78 books, which comes out to about 1.5 books a week, and this week I finished book #78! Now of course this doesn’t mean I’m going to stop reading, but it’s a nice feeling to have hit a concrete goal.

My favorite books from this year have been all over the place, genre-wise. I am usually drawn to science fiction and fantasy, but to make this challenge more interesting, I pushed myself to read books that I might not have necessarily picked otherwise. Genres like Biography, and Classics, and Literary Fiction. And it worked great! I’ve already started thinking about what new categories I can add to next years challenge.

So, here are my faves from this year. I reviewed and gave most of them 5 stars on Goodreads, which is a good indication of how much I liked them, given that I tend to get stressed out when writing reviews. In general, I only review books I really loved or really hated.

So I’m going to try and do something that’s really hard for me- I’m not going to be long-winded. So, if any of these descriptions go over 4 sentences, feel free to publicly shame me in the comments.

1. A Man Called Ove: A theme that ran through this year’s book choices for me was grief, and A Man Called Ove managed to treat the subject with tenderness or with humor. Ove is a grumpy old man who’s recently lost his job and his wife, and all the wants is for everyone to leave him alone so he can kill himself in peace. Did I laugh- yeah, did I cry- oh yeah, have I now read almost everything that Fredrik Backman has ever written- absolutely, and that’s one of the highest praises I know of.

2. The Song of Achilles: Did you have read Greek Mythology in school? And if you did, did it come off as being super gay? If so, then The Song of Achilles is the right LGBT+ coming of age novel for you! This is yet another grief themed book that treats love gently and beautifully and tells an interesting side of the Helen of Troy story.

3. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet: I loved this book, mostly because it talked about non-sci-fi in a sci-fi setting. I mean c’mon, what science fiction story discusses pronouns, and AI romance, and space autism? I’ve found in my life that sci-fi page-turners are rare, but this was a fast and fun read, while will having excitement and emotion. It’s always a good sign when I don’t want a book to end, but I’m also impatient to get to the sequel.

4. East of Eden: So here’s the deal- I read Steinbeck in school (Of Mice and Men, and The Pearl, if I remember correctly) and I was never a fan. But I made myself a goal to read more “classics” this year, and I swear the internet has a hard-on for East of Eden, so I figured why not. It took more than a hundred pages to get into the story, and even when though I liked the story, I only rated it 4 stars on Goodreads. And then I thought about it constantly, for a whole week, so I finally gave in, went back, and rated it 5 stars, so my advice for you is to stick it out, love Lee, and just accept that it’ll take a while to sink in.

5. A Monster Calls: Once upon a time, there a boy whose mother was dying, and one day a monster came out of the woods and told the boy that he knew the boy’s greatest wish, and if the boy could figure out what his desire was, then the monster would grant it. A Monster Calls is a beautiful story about love and grief, something I’ve been struggling with for the last few years, and when I finished this book, I felt a weight lifted. This book is short and may look like a kids book, but it definitely is not. If you can, read the illustrated version, it’s worth it.

6. The Rosie Project: This book was a huge surprise for me, all I knew that it was a “funny love story”, and I think that I know why- it’s because neurotypical people were the ones writing the reviews. Nowhere in the synopsis or the reviews was autism mentioned, but within the first few chapters, I knew that the protagonist and I had a lot in common. I never get to read about people like me, and never in the tender way that the author writes about Don. When I finished, I made my wife read the book, so I could ask her if she sees me in the loving way that the book shows, and she said yes!

7. The Hate U Give: I think that I’ve mention that I’m from St. Louis, which after Michael Brown’s death in Ferguson, MO (which is in North St. Louis) became an important location for the Black Lives Matter movement. I wasn’t a teenager at the time, but I was (am?) a Biracial person living in a city with an embarrassing amount of police corruption and violence. When I finished this book, I declared that it should be required for protesters coming into cities, because it makes you think about what can happen if you’re not responsible, if you jump to conclusions, or don’t respect the home communities. It made me think, in a good way- and I’m always happy about that

8. The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August: Imagine if, as a child, you learned that you have been reincarnated, but instead of coming back as something awesome like a narwhal or a corgi, instead, you came back as you- over and over and over. I enjoyed The First Fifteen Lives- it read with the ease of a thriller, the page-turner quality of a thriller, but I didn’t feel kind of empty at the end of it. In the beginning, I thought that Harry living his life over and over again might get old, but the author skillfully manages to avoid that. Lastly, the antagonist is Moriarty-like in the best possible way, which is hard.

9. I Contain Multitudes: This is my only non-fiction book that made it onto my Top 10 this year, which is kind of unusual, but luckily, I Contain Multitudes totally holds its own. Even if I wasn’t someone with a crappy digestive system (and I totally am, you might even say that it’s shitty) the author is able to take a subject like gut bacteria and manages to produce a book that’s fun and interesting and easy to read. I promise you’ll never take your biome for granted again!

10. The Fifth Season: This book is difficult to talk about because almost anything I can say might be a spoiler. What I can say is this- The trilogy that this book is part of made history for being the first trilogy to have each book in it to win a Hugo Award, which is s a big deal in the fantasy world. The Fifth Season, sort of like …Long Angry Planet finds a way to talk about important real life things in a fantasy setting. Towards the end of the book, I was literally getting goosebumps, that’s how awesome this book is.

So here they are, my favorites from this year! My to-read list is out of control (911 books and counting), but I’d still love to hear any favorites that you have! Also, if you’re a Goodreads user, you can find me here, if you want to connect!

7 Things They Don’t tell You About Eating Disorders

Ok friends, listen up- it’s NEDA week, and as a person in recovery, I’m legally obligated to discuss eating disorders on social media. So stay and learn some stuff, or if you feel like staying isn’t a healthy choice for you, go do some self-care- your mind and body will thank you for it.

Now that I got that part out of the way.

This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week, and it’s sponsored by the National Eating Disorder Association aka NEDA. We all spend this week spreading education and awareness, trying to reduce stigma, and sharing our stories. It’s a really positive thing.

I’ve shared parts of my story on here a couple of times before, and since it is List Wednesday, I thought instead I’d leave with you a list of 7 things they don’t tell you about eating disorders.

*I’d like to put out a disclaimer that all of these things are based on my personal experience, and everyone has their own unique combination of awful eating disorder stuff*

1. Your hair falls out: And it’s not just that. Your skin will dry and crack and bleed, your nails will split and crack, and your body feels like it will crumble at any moment. This was particularly difficult for me because any sort of moisturizer is sensory hell for me, so I had to make the hard decision of dealing with the sensory input or letting my lips and knuckles bleed. I’m a little ashamed to say that I usually chose the latter. On a positive note, in treatment, I learned that lotion bars are bearable to use. I wouldn’t say it’s a good experience, but it’s something that I can get through. Burt’s Bee’s chapstick is also ok, plus, it keeps me from one of my favorite stims: chewing on my lips.

2. Eating Disorders correlate with Autism: No one is exactly sure why, but the correlations between Autism and Eating Disorders is really high. There are a couple of theories. The first being genetics, which to me, makes sense. Both Autism and Eating disorders are genetically caused by a slew of different genes, and it seems likely that some of them could overlap. Secondly, social factors are cited. One of the biggest risk factors for an Eating Disorder is social isolation, and I think a lot of us on the spectrum have experienced that. Whatever the cause, the relation is there, and it becomes a big deal when it comes to treatment. The treatment center that finally got me into recovery was able to do so because they took the autism into account, and helped me individualize my treatment. This is not a common experience. More work needs to be done on Autism and Eating Disorders, and more professionals need to be educated to handle them. Because it turned out that I wasn’t stubborn, I was Autistic, and that made all the difference.

3. You’re never warm: When your body is malnourished, it diverts energy away from what it considers to be ‘nonessential life functions’, and one of the first things to go is keeping itself warm. Before I entered treatment, I took multiple showers a day- as hot as I could get them, just to try and stop my teeth from chattering. Three pairs of socks and four blankets could not keep my toes warm. I’ve never known cold like that (and I lived in Upstate New York, famed for its chilly temperatures), and I will do everything in my power to never feel that way again. I still love hot showers though.

4. Re-feeding is incredibly dangerous: It seems so simple, the solution to malnourishment is simply to start eating again- but it’s not as easy as that. Introducing too much food is more than a malnourished body can handle, and if it isn’t done carefully, the patient can get Re-feeding Syndrome. The symptoms range from seizures to dangerous drops in insulin, to cardiac arrest, and to death. When I got Re-Feeding Syndrome, my phosphorous levels dropped to a dangerously low level, and no amount of supplementing could bring it back up. It did level out eventually, although the daily blood draws scarred many of my veins, which I suppose is a small thing in exchange.

5. It will make you a liar: I hate lying- mostly because my autistic brain took the ‘lying is bad’ thing that gets drilled into us all as kids waaaaay too seriously, but also because I’m terrible at it. And yet, I can always tell when I’m doing badly because lies start coming out of my mouth. Lies about mood, about food, lies that I didn’t plan on telling, but somehow managed to pop out of me. This messes with your relationships in a big way. Not only do you feel bad about lying, but people in your life stop trusting you. Even now that I’ve been in recovery for a few years, I occasionally get the urge to lie. This is one of those things that takes a lot of therapy to work through. And goodness knows I’ve had a lot of therapy.

6. You can lose height: That’s right, I said not height, not weight. Eating Disorders are hell on your bones. The lack of calcium makes them soft and brittle, which does more damage than you’d think. While I’m lucky that I never broke any bones, like a lot of people I knew, I still did manage to lose 3/4 of an inch somehow in recovery. In my case, they think it was less of a bone issue, and more of a problem with the soft pads that cushion your spine. If those get dehydrated (and I was definitely dehydrated), they deflate, just like a balloon, and your spine shrinks down. Lucky for me, after many months of drinking water like a fiend, they plumped back up, and I can proudly say that I’m back to my previous 5’7″. Which is good, because it turns out that I’m very attached to my height.

7. It messes with your poop: We’re all adults here, so I’m not embarrassed to talk about how an Eating Disorder can affect your poop. So it turns out that your bowels are a use-it-or-lose-it organ, which I feel is something that should be common knowledge. But the fact of the matter is, that if your large and small intestines aren’t regularly used to push food through your system, they stop being good at it. Which can only mean one thing: constipation. Now constipation is pretty normal when a person is re-feeding- your body’s getting more food than it’s used to, and it can’t handle it. Usually, this goes away. It may take a couple of months, but most people become regular again. Not me. I don’t really poop on my own. Multiple times I’ve gone to the doctors in intense pain, only to have them tell me that I am literally full of shit. And I think I’ll leave you at that.

So I tried to keep most of this as light fun facts, but as we all know, Eating Disorders are not fun. They’re incredibly serious, and sometimes life-threatening, and anyone experiencing one deserves help. I’m going to leave the NEDA helpline at the bottom, and a link to their screening tool. If anyone has questions about Eating Disorders, treatment, or anything else, my email address is in my About page.

NEDA Helpline: 1-800-931-2237

NEDA’s Eating Disorder Screening Tool

Also, a dear friend of mine is heading up a great project that’s trying to change the way that we talk about mental health. Check it out over here!

 

6 of My Favorite Board Games

So we all have special interests, right? Those things that capture us and enchant us, they draw us in and they even make us seem obsessed to other people. Right, exactly, those special interests. I know that when I have a special interest, I want to talk about it. Which is usually fine, but is sometimes problematic, like when you’re eight and all you want to talk about it the Holocaust. That freaks people out a bit. But even if our special interests aren’t a weird, topic, people eventually get kind of tired of us talking about it. Which, thank goodness, is what the internet is for!

I’m here to talk to you about one of my current special interest- board gaming. As a kid I loved games like Sorry, Clue, and Risk (not Monopoly. Never Monopoly), but, like most adults, I stopped playing. But thanks to the internet, I learned that board games had moved on from the Classic games that I knew to more Modern Board games. Games like these are become more popular, in fact, you may have heard of games like Settlers of Catan, Ticket to Ride, or Pandemic. These are the types of games that pulled me in.

I love that these games are like competitive puzzles and that you can play them over and over without them feeling old. They also involve a social component, and while this is something that I struggle with, Game Nights aren’t socially stressful at all!

So I’d like to share with you a few of my favorites, partially because I like exposing everyone that I meet to board games, partially because I think you might enjoy them, and partially because if you get tired of listening to me talk, I won’t know.

1. Patchwork– This is a fairly new acquisition, but I’m smitten. Patchwork is a two player game, in which both players are racing to build a quilt out of Tetris shaped pieces. I will make it known right now that I am terrible at this game. More often or not, I actually end up with a negative end score, but as bad at it as I am, I keep coming back to it. There’s so much strategy, do you make money, or do you cover more squares? should you shoot for bonus points or try to complete your quilt?, that I feel the need to play it over and over again. Let’s just say, the day we got it, we played 3 times in a row, and leave it at that.

2. Codenames– This is a great party game, which is generally defined as a cheap easy game that plays a lot of people, and Codenames fits all of these. It’s easy to find cheaply at places like Target, it can be learned in under  5 minutes, and it allows up to 10 players. And as a bonus, it comes in themed versions like Marvel and Disney! This game is played in themes, like Pictionary or Charades, and involves guessing words from limited clues, also like Pictionary and Charades. I enjoy playing it in groups because as the games go on, people go from being a little stressed, to being incredibly enthusiastic. This is a great game to play with anyone, gamer or not.

3. Betrayal at House on the Hill– Betrayal is a really interesting game because it has two parts. In the beginning, it is a cooperative game, meaning all of the players are on the same side and are working together. But in the second half of the game, one play betrays the other, and it becomes the betrayer against everyone else. I’ve been informed that when I’m the betrayer, I’m ruthless, down to having an evil laugh, but who are you going to believe them or me? This game is highly replayable because it doesn’t have a static board, the players build the board out of tiles as the game goes on. It also has dozens of scenarios for the betrayer, so it never gets old. For any fans of Baldur’s Gate, there is a themed Betrayal at Baldur’s Gate too!

4. 7 Wonders Duel– You may eventually start to notice that I talk a lot about two play games, and this is mostly because my gaming group only gets together once or so a month, so I spend most of my gaming time playing with my wife. It used to be hard to find good two player games, but things are changing! This game is a spin-off of a very popular game called 7 Wonders, which involves you building up your civilizations by building wonders like The Pyramids and The Hanging Gardens of Babylon, advancing your scientific knowledge, and building your military. It’s a lot of fun, but I have to say that the two-person version is actually better. It’s more streamlined, it is a lot easier to understand, and it’s not nearly as sprawling (7 Wonders can take up a whole table). This is another game that I lost a lot in the beginning, but I’m finally starting to understand the strategy. It’s a pretty solid game, even for people who don’t game much, is pretty rare!

5. Jaipur– This is another two player game (see, I told you!), that is definitely simpler than 7 Wonders Duel. The theme is that you’re a merchant on the Silk Road, trying to sell spices and jewels and silk to make money. It’s a set collecting game, like Uno, so say you’re collecting silk, you want to get as many as you can because you’ll get more money and more bonuses selling 5 silk than 2. It’s a very straightforward game, it doesn’t take a lot of attention or thought, yet, the more you play, the more you realize there are little bits of strategy here and there. Our scores having slow increased from the 40’s to the 80’s as we’ve gotten more plays in, which is really satisfying. Also, there are camels.

6. Niya– I got this in my Christmas stocking, and we’ve already played it 4 times! It’s another two-player, very simple game, think of it like two steps up from Connect Four. The reason I’m including this is because it’s portable enough to keep in your bag, it has a super small play area, so you can play it at restaurants while you wait for you food, it plays in under 10 minutes, and is so easy to teach that you could find a random stranger and play with them. Also, this game is gorgeous, based on traditional Japanese art, so it’s fun to look at, and fun to play!

So here we are! Did you get tired of listening to me? I certainly hope you made it this far, and also that your interests may have been piqued in regards to board games! I’ve linked all the games that I talked about, and if you have any questions, I’m more than willing to talk about it. In fact, I’d welcome it!

Do you like playing board games? How about when you were a kid? Talk to me about your experiences and your favorites, I love talking about this stuff!

8 Favorite Quotes About Autism

If you interact at all with social media, you’ll know that quotes are everywhere. They’re usually posted on top of images on mountains or sunsets, and are more often than not credited to ‘anonymous’. Not to say there aren’t some good quotes out there, especially ones that describe experiences, instead of forcing vague positivity on the reader. It can be hard to sort through Autism quotes because a large percentage of them are made about Autistic children by Neurotypical adults. These often border on inspiration porn- and they infuriate me.

So, in order to combat these, I’d like to share some quotes about Autism that I enjoy.

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So here they are! If I had to pick one, I think that the square peg one is my favorite, but there are so many quotes out there, that I’ve probably missed some great ones! So, dear readers, if you’ve got a quote you love, let me know (especially if they’re funny, what can I say, I’ve got a weakness)!

Now I Know 30 Things

I turn 30 today, and for the past few months, I’ve been feeling really anxious about it. I get caught in this spiral of feeling like because of mental health reasons, chronic illness, and autism, I’ve wasted my twenties. Lately though, I’m more in the mindset that I’m just a late bloomer. I’ve got a lot of life left in me, and I plan to do great things with it! But the most important part of this whole thing is, because I’m 30, I now know 30 things. And if you don’t mind, I’d like to share them with you.

  1. Trapping bugs under a cup instead of killing them is good. But if you’re not going to take them outside right away, for the love of God, tape the cup down. They can escape.
  2. Doing the right thing sometimes doesn’t feel like the right thing. That doesn’t mean that you should stop.
  3. Hydrogen Peroxide can get dried blood out of almost anything. Do with that what you may. Not murder.
  4. Whatever amount of garlic a recipe calls for, double it.
  5. Just because an emotion you’re feeling is negative, doesn’t mean that it’s bad.
  6. Always keep a snow shovel in the trunk of your car, in case there’s a freak storm and you need to dig yourself out.
  7. The key to never having to talk to telemarketers is googling any number that you don’t recognize, and if it’s not important, ignoring it.
  8. Don’t meow back at cats, it just encourages them.
  9. If you like something about someone, be it their hair or their shoes or their sense of humor, tell them. It’s good for both of your souls.
  10. Self-care is whatever makes you feel calm and safe, so don’t let anyone tell you how to care for yourself.
  11. The key to not being embarrassed is realizing that 97% of the time, people are too busy thinking about themselves to notice you.
  12. Most DIY projects are expensive. If your goal is to have fun and get messy, awesome, go for it! But if you’re trying to save money, do the math first.
  13. You can write on mirrors with dry erase markers, which is way more convenient than writing notes on your hand. Also, there’s less risk of accidentally washing away important information.
  14. If you have weird medical symptoms, Google with care. The internet is almost definitely lying to you. You do not have cancer.
  15. Superglue is a necessary evil, and it is inevitable that at some point, you will glue your fingers together. Luckily acetone, which is found in most nail polish removers, will un-stick them quickly.
  16. Finding used books that are written in is like finding treasure. Seeing other peoples’ notes, the parts they loved, the parts that confused them, the parts they disagreed with- it’s like reading through someone else’s eyes.
  17. If someone criticizes you in a non-constructive way, meaning they aren’t giving you realistic advice on how to improve, that’s not criticism, it’s an attack. Feel free to fart in their general direction. Or just ignore them, I guess, that works too.
  18. If someone is tailgating you, as long as you’re going the speed limit, there’s no point in speeding up. It won’t help, and you’ll be the one pulled over for speeding, not them.
  19. Don’t talk down to kids, they’re smart little cookies, and they understand more than you think. Also, they’ll rule over us all in about 40 years.
  20. If you’re looking for a masculine haircut, go to a barber instead of a hairdresser. They’ll get the lines right, plus it’s way cheaper.
  21. The snooze button is not your friend. It’s too easy to forget how many times you’ve hit it, plus, you’re not getting any quality sleep between alarms.
  22. Chopping chile peppers is a threat to your mucous membranes. Wash your hands immediately and always remember that, in an emergency, milk works better than water.
  23. You can get heatstroke without a sunburn, especially if you are 8 and at Disney World. Signs and symptoms include dizziness, headache, and vomiting, and if you suddenly stop sweating, it’s time to find some help.
  24. Because humanity is largely social, people generally want to help each other. This means you’ll have much better luck getting someone to do something if you phrase it as needing help, instead of as a demand.
  25. Most Dollar Stores sell the same candy you’d get at the movie theatre for a dollar. You’re welcome.
  26. There are other pronouns besides He and She. Gender non-conforming people also use pronouns like They, Ey, Zir. You’d think with all these options I’d have less trouble picking one…
  27. When you start a new medication, always check if it interacts with anything else you’re taking or eating or drinking because doctors are notoriously bad about catching uncommon interactions.
  28. We all over-salt recipes sometimes, whether our hands slipped, or we got distracted by the dog outside our window and forgot that we’d already added it. Luckily, anything liquidy can be saved by sticking a raw potato in there for about 10 minutes.
  29. Turning your computer off and on again isn’t always the right answer. Sometimes getting another person close enough so your computer knows you’ll look incompetent if starts working again is just as good.
  30. You’re not wasting your life. You’re not wasting your life. You’re not wasting your life.

7 Favorite Childhood Books

I have been an intense reader my whole life, starting when I surprised the pants off my parents by reading my favorite book to myself when I was three. Now, they weren’t as surprised as they could have been, because I’d started memorizing books a few months before that, and it took them a while to realize that I was actually reading. And since toddlerhood, my love for books has only gotten stronger. When I was in elementary school, the library put a book limit on my card because I was determined to read the entire children’s section, and would take out dozens of books at a time. The past few years I haven’t had the brain power to do much reading, but this year, to my immense pleasure, I’m back on track! I’ve had a great book year, I even hit my book goal on Goodreads last week. So in sort of a celebration of that, here are some of my favorite books from childhood, I can highly recommend all of them!

1. Matilda: I feel like Roald Dahl’s books are universally loved among children. Even if they haven’t read any of his books, name me a kid who hasn’t seen Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory? Matilda was my favorite because I hardcore identified with her. I wasn’t the sort of genius that Matilda was, but I had a 3rd-grade superiority complex and was constantly frustrated by everyone who was “stupider” than me. Thank goodness I’ve outgrown that. I also saw myself in Matilda when it came to families. In most books aimed at kids, parents are either Perfect or Abusive and Evil. Most authors grossly underestimate a child’s ability to move beyond black and white thinking. But Matilda’s parents were 100% grey, it’s not that they were intentionally terribly; it was more that they were completely self-involved, and they simply didn’t care. I secretly wished for a happy ending like Matilda’s- to find an adult who cared, one who would take care of me. Unfortunately, fiction is fiction, and life is life. It’s still a great book, I promise.

2. The Way Things Work: My Aunt and Uncle on my dad’s side always bought us educational gifts. It bugged my sister sometimes, but I never had a problem with it. I’ll read anything, cereal boxes, the backs of shampoo bottles, so for me, any book is great! When I was in 3rd grade I received a giant tome called How Things Work. It took a very engineering approach and had what seemed like infinite pages of anything and everything you could possibly image, taken apart. I tried reading the whole thing through multiple times, but every time, I’d skip a page because I saw something cool, and I’d never get back on track. If I had been better at math, this book could have slid me into an engineering job, for sure.

3. Jacob’s Rescue: In my quest to read through the children’s section, I read some pretty boring books, but I also picked up some that would change me. I’ve written before about how my Holocaust Special Interest really affected my personality, and this book right here is what started it all. I didn’t know how important it would be at the time, it was just the next book on my list. Let me tell you, I must have read this thing a dozen times the first time I took it out. And I kept taking it out. I’d never read anything like it before, and it started my need to know everything that happened during that time. 3rd grade me figured knowing everything was the closest I could get to helping, 55 years later.

4. The Monster at the End of this Book: This is mostly important because was one of the first books that I read regularly to myself. My sense of humor has always been a few degrees off everyone around me, but it wasn’t with this book. I don’t care how young or old you are, this book is funny. Grover is neurotic and silly at the same time, and he breaks the fourth wall, which when I was a tiny little thing, was hilarious!

5. The Phantom Tollbooth: Have you ever read a book after seeing the movie? Especially a movie that you love? For me, it really goes well. Movies give me a very visual interpretation of a story, and reading the book is a very different experience. This is one of the few exceptions to that. I got this movie out of the library week after week. Watching it is a really bizarre experience, it was made in the seventies and is part live action, part animation, filled with slightly trippy musical numbers and Dali-esque scenery. The book has equally weird illustrations. I think I was ok with both interpretations because the idea of a land with words and numbers were considered important, and where the goal was Rhyme and Reason was so appealing to me that I was willing to accept any interpretation of it. This story is so important to me, that the Princesses of Rhyme and Reason are going to be my next tattoo!

6. A Little Princess: This is a classic, one that didn’t bore me at the time. If you’ve heard this story, you probably know why it was one of my favorites, just like Matilda. Adults who have no right to be taking care of children are eventually ousted by loving adults. On top of this, it’s a great riches to rags to riches story, with a strong female protagonist, and lots of adventure along the way! The book was made into a movie back in the 30s, and I loved it. And I was so excited when I found out that the movie was being remade! Unfortunately for little autistic me, there were several very loud and overwhelming battle scenes, and I eventually ended up running out of the theatre. I still haven’t seen the end of it.

7. Good Families Don’t: Let’s face it, farts are funny, and the author who wrote this book very skillfully makes sure everyone knows it. I loved it and wanted to hear the story over and over, but for whatever reason, this wasn’t a book I ever really read to myself. I loved reading to myself, because I could go fast, and skip the boring parts and read my favorite parts over and over, but there’s something really nice about being read to. I don’t know if other early readers have had this experience, sometimes every though I could read to myself, I still liked being read to. So this book is special, mostly because it was something that I read with my parents. We’d spend time together doing something I liked and we’d laugh together. This book is good memories all around.