10 of my Favorite Things

So here’s the deal, my friends, I can’t lift more than a coffee cup, I haven’t showered in a week, and I’m still kind of high on painkillers.

So. I’m going to cheat just a bit and make this List Wednesday about some of my recent favorite things. I hope you’ll understand, and possibly even find a new favorite things

1. Chocolate Bundt Cake: It can be hard sometimes to find a recipe that converts well to gluten free, but you’d never guess that this cake wasn’t written that way. We use Cup4Cup gluten free flour blend, and it comes out moist and fluffy and everything you’d ever want in a Bundt cake!

2. Shel the Unicorn: I’ve had a few surgeries over the years, and they all have two things in common: afterwards I get pancakes and a stuffed animal. Shel the Unicorn (and her relative Dax the Sloth) come from the Manhattan Toy Company, and are about the softest stuffies I’ve ever had. There is nothing better than having a new friend to snuggle after you have an operation.

3. 3DS Kingdom Hearts: The original Kingdom Hearts for ps2 was my first RPG, and it holds a very special place in my heard. About 15 years after Kingdoms Hearts came out, we’re finally going to get Kingdom Hearts 3. It’s been one hell of a wait. But while we’re waiting, Nintendo put out a new 3DS version that I’m having so much fun with. New worlds and old favorite characters are making the wait much more bearable.

4. Overdrive App: I have been a library addict since I could read, and the only thing that makes free books and other media better is not having to go to the library at all! The Overdrive App lets you check out eBooks and audiobooks out from your local library without ever leaving the house. Plus they sync with kindles, tablets and smart phones so you can read and listen wherever you want!

5. The Golden Compass Audiobook: The His Dark Materials trilogy has been one of my favorites since childhood, and oftentimes the problems with loving a book so much is that the audiobook is never as good as it is in your head. This one is an exception. The author, Phillip Pullman is the narrator, and it has a full cast that sound very close to what I expected. We listened to this on the way to and from Kansas City and it was perfect road trip material!

6. Simple Gel Cream: I thought when I made it to adulthood without acne, I was in the clear. That was a lie. Here I am at 30, with my face bleeding every time I touch it. Washing my face is sensory hell, as is lotion, but I’ve been trying to find things that I can tolerate, and this moisturizer is it. It isn’t a weird texture, it sinks in quickly, and there’s minimal smell. If only all skin care was this easy.

7. Queer Eye on Netflix: Whenever I watch an episode of Queer Eye, by the end I’ll inevitably end up with dust in my eye, because I’m definitely not crying. I’m old enough that I watched the original Queer Eye in high school, but this reboot is miles ahead of it. Yes, there’s still a wardrobe changes and new recipes and a big reveal, but the reboot takes more of a holistic approach, helping the Guy live as his best self. The original focused on Straight Guys, but the new seasons so far have has a woman, a gay guy, and even a trans guy!

8. Hardback Game App: I think I may have mentioned my love of board games here before, and the only thing better than board games is board games on the go. A lot of board game producers are starting to make app versions, which is great, because they’re way cheaper and much more portable, and let you play online or against someone sitting next to you. Hardback is like Scrabble on steroids, and for less than 5 bucks, it’s my favorite new game.

9. Speed cube: I learned how to solve a Rubik’s Cube almost 10 years ago, and since then have been using it as me “fun facts about me” fact. It also makes a great stim toy. I used to buy Rubik’s brand cubes and take them apart and sand them down, and then lube them up with silicone, in order to make them faster and smoother. But no more! Paying the extra couple of bucks for a speed cube makes so much difference, I can’t stop playing with it, and it glides like butter.

10. Angel: My cats have had to live in the office while I’ve been recovering, but Angel is gentle enough that he’s een allowed supervised visits. It’s lifted my spirits to have him snuggle up against me and purr like a motor.

So. These are a few of my favorite things. As always, I’d love to hear about yours- it’ll give me something to check out while I’m couch-bound!

5 Reasons I Love Musical Theatre

It’s summer in St. Louis, or at least the 95 degree temperatures make it feel that way, and summer here means lots of cool outdoor events. One of my favorites is seeing shows at The St. Louis Municipal Opera Theatre, otherwise known as The MUNY. They put on shows all summer, a new show every week, and if you’re willing to sit in the nosebleed seats, it’s even free!

This year the lineup is Jerome Robbinns’ Broadway, The Wiz, Singin’ in the Rain, Jersey Boys, Annie, Gypsy, and Meet Me in St. Louis- not a bad lineup!

We saw our first show of the season yesterday, and it reminded me how much I love live shows. So here are all the things that my autistic heart loves about musical theatre

  1. It’s Sensory Friendly: At least when it comes to performances. I don’t know about you, but I need earplugs to make it through movie theatre previews most days. (in fact, the movie Dunkirk was so painfully loud, I swore off movies until it was out of theatres). Concerts are also loud, although they can be loud in a good way, and often have lighting effects that make me kind of nauseous. Live theatre is great because it’s not prohibitively loud, unnecessarily bright, and more and more often sensory friendly shows are being offered! The only negative sensory thing I experience is having to sit still for a couple of hours- and I can’t really complain about that.
  2. Orchestral Music Gives Me Goosebumps: For most of my life, I was unaware that not everyone gets intense goosebumps and tingles when they listen to classical music. And I was astounded. I couldn’t imagine an existence where Vivaldi didn’t send chills up and down my spine, or where the score from Jurassic Park didn’t give me full body tingles. I always thought when people said that a piece “moved them to tears”, they were describing how. damn. good. music makes their body feel. For me, this sensation is the best type of body stim, and musicals are basically just 2 hours of stimmy bliss.
  3. The Themes are Universal: Relating to people can be tough. Sometimes when I’m in social situations, I find myself just smiling and nodding along- mostly because I’m either confused about other people’s experiences, or I just can’t relate. Real life is hard, but musicals are easy. They are about human things that everyone has felt before. Feeling oppressed? Les Mis. Feeling Misunderstood? Wicked. Family Troubles? Lion King. Mental Health Issues? Dear Evan Hanson. Cats? Cats! Sometimes it’s really just to just sit back and relax- without having to interpret the world.
  4. The Characters Literally Sing Their Feelings at You: That’s right, I said it. No figuring out facial expression or body language, no sorting out metaphors, and absolutely no dealing with the consequences of guessing wrong. I love knowing exactly what the characters are thinking and feeling because it lets me immerse myself into the story- something that doesn’t happen too often in real life. Can you imagine: you’re in a complicated situation, and you’re trying to figure out if you’ve said or done something wrong, and all of a sudden, the other person breaks into song? YOU DIDN’T VALIDATE MY FEELINGS EARLIER AND I FEEL LIKE YOU DON’T CAAAAAAAARE! It would certain make life more interesting!
  5. All the Feels: Sometimes I have trouble identifying my emotions. Am I upset? Am I overwhelmed? Am I sad? And I know for me, not knowing how I’m feeling can lead to a build up of emotions, and I will eventually explain. Figuratively, of course. So, at regular intervals, I find that I just need a good cry. I don’t even have to by crying about my life and my problems- musicals let me cry about other people’s problems. Key examples include: Do You Hear the People Sing (Les Mis), Wait for It (Hamilton), For Good (Wicked), and Goodbye Love (Rent). There are many more. Seussical, which is a funny show based on the works of Dr. Seuss has a song that makes me cry. Maybe I’m too emotional, but at least I’ve got an outlet, right?

So there you go! Now that you know how I’ll be spending my summer nights, I think it’s only fair that I know about your plans. Tell me what you’re looking forward to doing this summer, even if it’s just saying at home and enjoying your air conditioner!

Self Love Playlist

List Wednesday is going to be a little different this week, as the list is technically very long. I love music, and the right song (or songs), can make me feel empowered. There’s nothing like blasting a song and singing along at the top of your lungs to make you feel the love- the self love.

I made a Spotify playlist of some of my favorites. It’s collaborative , so if you have a favorite, feel free to add it and let me know in the comments!

If you don’t have access to Spotify, here’s the contents of the playlist!

  1. I’m Good- The Mowgli’s
  2. King of Anything- Sara Bareillesd
  3. Everybody- Ingrid Michaelson
  4. Born This Way- Lady Gaga
  5. I Like Giants- Kimya Dawson
  6. Transgender Dysphoria Blues- Against Me!
  7. You Learn- Alanis Morissette
  8. Confident- Demi Lovato
  9. Unpretty- TLC
  10. Superwoman- Alicia Keys
  11. Beautiful- Christina Aguilera
  12. F*ckin’ Perfect- P!nk
  13. Freckles- Natasha Bedingfield
  14. How Far I’ll Go- Auli’i Cravalho
  15. Love Myself- Hailee Steinfeld
  16. Try- Colbie Caillat
  17. Stronger- Britney Spears
  18. Let It Go- Idena Menzel
  19. Reflection- Lea Salonga
  20. Roar- Katie Perry
  21. Brave- Sara Bareilles
  22. Girl On Fire- Alicia Keys
  23. I Am Not My Hair- India Arie
  24. Be OK- Ingrid Michaelson
  25. Happy- Pharrell Williams
  26. True Colors- Cyndi Lauper
  27. Don’t Be Shy- Cat Stevens
  28. Greatest Love of All- Whitney Houston
  29. I Got This- Jennifer Hudson
  30. Fly- Avril Lavigne

Hope you enjoy some of these, crank up the tunes and have a virtual dance party for me!

And a Meltdown in a Pear Tree

Merry Christmas Everyone! Or for anyone that doesn’t celebrate Christmas, Happy Belated Hanukah,  late Solstice, early Kwanza, and a Very Happy December 25th!

I think no matter what you celebrate, The 12 Days of Christmas carol is probably something that you’ve heard. The math has been done, and to purchase all 12 days of gifts would cost you almost $35,000!

I’ve replace the drummers, pipers, lords and ladies, the maids, the swans, and the geese, the gold rings, the calling birds, French hens, turtle doves, and the partridge with things that are a little more relatable!

So I present to you-

The Twelve Days of Autism 

On the First day of Christmas, Autism gave to me, A meltdown in a pear tree

On the Second day of Christmas, Autism gave to me, two info-dumps, and a meltdown in a pear tree

On the Third day of Christmas, Autism gave to me, three routines, two info-dumps, and a meltdown in a pear tree

On the Fourth day of Christmas, Autism gave to me, four social rules, three routines, two info-dumps, and a meltdown in a pear tree

On the Fifth day of Christmas, Autism gave to me, five same-foods. four social rules, three routines, two info-dumps, and a meltdown in a pear tree

On the Sixth day of Christmas, Autism gave to me, six different stim toys, five same-foods, four social rules, three routines, two info-dumps, and a meltdown in a pear tree

On the Seventh day of Christmas, Autism gave to me, seven special interests, six different stim toys, five same-foods, four social rules, three routines, two info-dumps, and a meltdown in a pear tree

On the Eighth day of Christmas, Autism gave to me, eight kinds of chewelry, seven special interests, six different stim toys, five same-foods, four social rules, three routines, two info-dumps, and a meltdown in a pear tree

On the Ninth day of Christmas, Autism gave to me, nine ear defenders, eight kinds of chewelry, seven special interests, six different stim toys, five same-foods, four social rules, three routines, two info-dumps, and a meltdown in a pear tree

On the Tenth day of Christmas, Autism gave to me, ten tag-less t-shirts, nine ear defenders, eight kinds of chewelry, seven special interests, six different stim toys, five same-foods, four social rules three routines, two info-dumps, and a meltdown in a pear tree

On the Eleventh day of Christmas, Autism gave to me, eleven hands a flapping, Ten tag-less t-shirts, nine ear defenders, eight kinds of chewelry, seven special interests, six different stim toys, five same-foods, four social rules, three routines, two info-dumps, and a meltdown in a pear tree

On the Twelfth day of Christmas, Autism gave to me,  Twelve weighted blankets, Eleven hands a flapping, Ten tag-less t-shirts, Nine ear defenders, Eight kinds of chewelry, Seven special interests, Six different stim toys, Five same-foods, Four social rules, Three routines, Two info-dumps, And a meltdown in a pear tree.

Happy Winter Holidays everyone, I hope you’re relaxing, eating good food, and enjoying time with people that make you happy.

6 Songs I Love to Stim To

I am one of those people who always need noise. Silence is painful for me, so I always have the TV, or music, or a podcast on. I like noise than is in my control. What I don’t like is being in crowded areas with lots of people. I don’t like engines revving or thunder or alarms. I use music to drown these things out and hopefully avoid a meltdown. I also use stimmy music to gain energy, focus, and calmness. I usually gravitate toward songs with high BPMs, fast lyrics, and strong percussion. The lyrics are like my brain, black and white, they either don’t matter at all, or they matter greatly. I carry headphones with me everywhere, so I always have my music when I need it.

What’s My Age Again: This is my main stim song. 158 bpm of pop punk perfection, this is my go to for almost any occasion. The words are kind of weird if listen to them, so for the most part, I don’t, except for the line ‘Why would you wish that on me, I’ll never want to act my age’, which I appreciate because no matter what my age is, I never manage to act it.

We Didn’t Start the Fire: This one is a classic, and appeals to the history buff in me. I was also fascinated by the fast that someone could manage to write a song with so many events in it, in historical order. The lyrics are fast, they’re fun to research later, and the chorus is fun to sing and bounce around to.

It’s the End of the World as We Know It: R.E.M. is great. I think most people can agree on that one. I heard this song before it was easy to look lyrics up on the internet and it took me years to get it all down. It’s one of my greatest accomplishments. This is another song with fast lyrics, so fast that I can’t hear my brain think, which is really nice sometimes.

True Trans Rebel Soul: This song is by a band called Against Me!, and it’s hard to describe how I feel about it. The album it comes from, Transgender Dysphoria Blues, is amazing, and to hear it done live squeezes my heart. This band was a favorite of mine from high school, and they while they already had tons of punk rock fans, they got tons of new ones when their front man (now woman!) came out as Trans, and released this album. This is a song I blast, that I can feel through my whole body, that I scream along to. It’s a good feeling, trust me.

I Bet My Life: I’m not sure why I like this song so much. To be entirely frank, I’m not really an Imagine Dragons fan, but for whatever reason, when this song comes up on a playlist, I end up turning the volume all the way up and listening to it a dozen times in a row. This is one where lyrics are important. Sometimes I find it easier to communicate through music than through words. I include this on an ‘I’m Sorry’ CD to my wife when I was in treatment. I still feel guilty about the way I acted when I was in my eating disorder, and when that guilt gets unbearable, this song lets me say sorry over and over again. It’s also in my tiny vocal range, which I don’t have to tell you is really satisfying.

Hallelujah: Everyone knows this song. It’s been covered dozens of times, so there’s a version for every mood. My favorites are the versions by KD Lang, Rufus Wainwright, and Jeff Buckley. This song makes me feel warm, and connected, and it’s really good when played loud. It’s one of my goals in life to master the finger-style version on my guitar. The song is mournful, but for some reason, it doesn’t feel that way to me. I like that if I choose to focus on the lyrics, they’re open to interpretation, and if I don’t, the 4th the 5th still sound good, feel good, are good.

As always, I’d love to hear your stim songs so I can expand my list! So if you’ve got one that means a lot to you, or you think is just perfect, leave it in the comments! If we get enough, we could make a Spotify playlist that everyone can enjoy!

The Buddy Song

So about a month ago, I had a very bad day. All of the things that I usually manage pretty well were just off the charts. Every little sensory thing was bothering me, I was rigid about anything and everything, and I was semi-verbal at best. Not that any of that is inherently bad, but it made me really stressed out. And my wife, well, over the years, she’s learned a lot about the best ways to help me on days like this. And even as overwhelmed as I was, I also held a strong feeling of appreciation towards her. Because she’s awesome. The next day, when I got my words back, I made a declaration to myself. I’m going to write a poem! It’ll be a deep and meaningful spoken word piece, and it’ll say everything that I’m thinking and feeling.

Yeah. So that didn’t happen. It turns out that I’m less of a deep spoken word poet and more of a bouncy rhyming couplets sort of poet. I fought the rhymes for a while, but eventually I gave in. It still basically said what I wanted, and after my wife read it, she immediately declared that it would make a great song. So we broke out the ukulele, she figured out some vocals, and pretty soon, we had a bouncy, rhyming, 4 chord song. Which I never planned to let anyone hear. I bet you can guess how long that lasted.

I ended up playing it at church this morning, during a service about how to be welcoming. I read a poem for a member of my young adult’s group. He is a much better poet than I, but is also nonverbal, so he usually asks someone to read for him. His poem lead into my song well, and I think the two of us did a really good job representing the Neurodivergant Community. I also got to talk to a few parents of autistic kids, which was really cool! Anyway, here’s a video of the song (I’m the one with the ukulele hiding behind the music stand. My wife Jess is the one with the awesome voice.), and lyrics below.

Introduction

Our people don’t realize what they do for us sometimes

They know how to communicate with us

They can tell our happy flaps from our anxious flaps

They know that the blue bowls are only for cereal

They can interact with the world- then filter it for us

They are there when we need them

(And hopefully they feel the same way)

 

The Buddy Song

Do you have your buddy

It doesn’t matter who

What’s nice about a buddy

Is they really care for you

 

Do you have your buddy

Interpreter and spy

Without their information

   You’d be left just asking why

 

Chorus:

Buddies walk through life with you

But you will share things with them too

The ups and downs, the tears and fights

You stick together, wrong or right

 

Do you have your buddy

And do they understand

That being someone’s buddy

Is exploring a new land

 

Do you have your buddy

The one with magic powers

Their wand sends meltdowns far away

They never think to cower

 

Chorus:

Buddies walk through life with you

But you will share things with them too

The ups and downs, the tears and fights

You stick together, wrong or right

 

Do you have your buddy

And do you think they know

That you’re as lost as they are

And you both just want to go

 

Do you have your buddy

A mom or spouse or friend

Yes they love you even if

Your struggles never end

 

Chorus:

Buddies walk through life with you

But you will share things with them too

The ups and downs, the tears and fights

You stick together, wrong or right

 

I can be your buddy

I hope that means that I

Can show you things through my eyes

Things you’d otherwise pass by

 

Chorus:

Buddies walk through life with you

But you will share things with them too

The ups and downs, the tears and fights

You stick together, wrong or right