Three Dogs, Three Donkeys, and an Old Mule

Retirement has helped make living with my Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) more manageable. I have more control over my daily routine. I don’t have to socialize as much. I spend my days mostly at home in my own space. Since I am my Mom’s sidekick, there are times she interrupts my schedule but hey, that’s fair since she has to put up with me and my ASD.

A welcome break in my routine is when I dog sit for my brother and sister-in-law’s three dogs in the remote hills of Oklahoma. Some people ask me how can I stand being all by my lonesome out in the country. They don’t understand that being by myself with some dogs, along with my scooter toys, is pretty close to paradise.

The three dogs I sit for are Bleu, Bailey, and Luna. Bleu is like the old mule. He is 14 years old, dog years that is. He is an Australian Blue Heeler and I’ve heard some say this breed is the “methusaleh” of dogs. Bailey is somewhere between a mule and a bull. She is the one who will cuddle with me at night. Luna is the bronco bull! She is the young pup who doesn’t know she is a pup. She is the leader of the pack on our walks. She’ll at least stop and look behind to see if we are still coming up the rear or have made a u-turn.

On one of my dogsitting tours, I went for a ride in one of my brother’s herd of four-wheelers.  My brother calls this one his “old mule”. I drove pretty far into the pasture. Bleu had been ailing and on antibiotics. This did not deter him from joining us. Bleu refused to get up in the four-wheeler with me.  Okay, I figured if he wanted to walk it, that was his business.  Bailey rode with me until she couldn’t take it anymore watching Luna doing “sniffs”.  


I was thinking as I was driving back that I didn’t close the gate.  Ought oh!  I had given my brother’s three donkeys an open-door invitation into the yard around the house.  


Sure enough!  The trio asses were loitering in the yard.  I was still sitting in the old mule.  I yelled at Bailey, the only one of the three around at the time, to go after the donkeys but she was too busy sniffing.  Luna had taken her sweet time in coming back.  When she did show up, I stood up in the four-wheeler and pointed at the donkeys telling Luna to go “sic ’em”. I might as well had been talking to the fence post. 

I look behind from the old mule and seen Bleu on the trail heading back up to the house.  It is in Bleu’s DNA to corral donkeys, cows, and sheep going after their hoofs. Although Bleu was ailing, he still took his role as ringleader in putting the donkeys back in their place.  After Bleu arrived and started off for the donkeys, his sisters followed his lead. I drove up behind helping to corral with old mule.  My goodness! I hadn’t seen the donkeys go that fast before!  They galloped beyond the fence to where the cows were grazing from afar. 

It dawned on me later that I and the old mule could have taken care of putting the donkeys back to their grazing headquarters. That’s probably how my brother would have handled it. I’m not as quick on my feet as he is. My first response to a situation where I don’t have the luxury of time to analyze is one which usually prompts laughter from my neurotypical acquaintances.

I’m glad that it turned out the way it did though. I didn’t like to think about it, but I knew Bleu probably wouldn’t be around much longer. He still had it in him, though, that day to come to the rescue one more time.

Image may contain: dog and outdoor

A few weeks after the dogsitting trip, Bleu passed away from cancer. He lived a full and happy dog’s life thanks to his Dad, Mom, and dogsitter.

The “WHY” Question

A post on Facebook by “the girl with the curly hair” (Alias Rowe):

‘There is always that feeling of “Why can’t I be normal?” It’s so extremely difficult for me to make and have friends and to act like and do the things everyone else does.’

I’ve asked this question too. I’ll probably ask it again. Most days I have a serenity about it. But I do have my moments when I am alone in the midst of others who are having a really good time socializing with one another. It’s like I’m an alien being watching earthlings and wondering what is is like to be like them. One reason I prefer to be alone doing my own thing is so that I seldom have such moments.

Thus, I’m isolated in a group. However, it isn’t all bad. It is a real treat when I have a cup of conversation with a person on a mutual-interesting topic. I enjoy contentment when I’m alone. I enjoy laughter because I can laugh at my own quirky behavior. It beats crying about it.

I have never walked down the aisle in a wedding dress, heard someone call me “Mom”, or receive a valentine card from a grandchild.  There’s no doubt in my own mind that my Asperger’s Syndrome (AS) had a lot to do with that. Marriage and parenthood require social interaction and well, it probably worked out for the best. I know those with AS who did marry and those who had a family, too, but it just wasn’t meant for me.

I try to dwell more on the compensation of having AS.  My skills of attention to detail, organization, analysis, and writing.   These are things I don’t have to struggle with doing just as those who don’t struggle with interacting with their family, friends, colleagues, etc.

If there was some magic bottle that could take AS away, I don’t think I’d take it.  Not if I had to give up my compensation.

The Third Wheel

Alias Rowe, who has written about Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), posted the following on social media:

“I don’t think most people ever see the amazing, most interesting aspects of my personality. Most of my personality is held in things that others don’t really care much about or even notice. I shine most when I talk about my interests, when I showcase my skills, highlight my attention to detail, and in more unusual discussions. Most conversations I have never reach this level.” facebook.com/thegirl with the curly hair

This posting, like so many of Rowe’s, is one I totally relate to. One reason I avoid a gathering if I can is to avoid playing the role of a third wheel. I don’t aspire to fill that role. I will reluctantly play that role or if I can, walk off gracefully. I’d like to be engaged in family or group conversation but my topics of interest are not on the menu.

I used to have a next-door neighbor I would visit once a week or every other week. I would have visited more but I didn’t want to wear out my welcome. She and I shared mutual views on one of my favorite topics – politics. I would dish out some history stories too with history having been my favorite subject back in my school days. I could even talk about religion with her too. In her company, my mask came off and she got a bigger glimpse than most others in my social circle have of my personality. My neighbor visits came to a halt when she moved half-way across the U.S. Now she gets an earful on the phone but once a month or every other month. I would call more but I don’t like talking on the phone even with an friendly pair of ears.

It’s so pleasant to talk to someone like my former neighbor who I count as a dear friend. Distance doesn’t matter since an added bonus of “virtual online” conversation with someone at long-distance is there is no fear of them inviting me to a social outing.

It does nothing for my anxiety level to be in the midst of a gathering where folks are chatting away with no lack of laughter. I’ll speak if I can think of something to add to the conversation but that’s a BIG if. I’ll speak if someone asks me something like “What do you think” but I can’t think of the last time that happened. In such entrapments, I feel more or less the “third wheel”.

In such situations, I ask myself that unanswerable question: Why can’t I be like them? Why can’t I enjoy a party? Why can’t I stay engaged instead of tune-out? Why do I always ache to go be by my lonesome?

I haven’t gotten an answer other than I am what I am. If I could be separated from my Autism, I would still be somebody but it wouldn’t be me. On my good days, and I do have them, I see the bright side to living on the Spectrum. I do have moments where someone gives me the welcome mat and we have a full cup of conversation. I have my online pals I communicate with who think I’m have some talent for writing. Then, there is my lone time. I can enjoying going off by myself, do some stimming, and recharge my batteries, especially after a bout of playing the “third wheel”.

The Old Goes on Top

A bright side to my living with an Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is my obsessive need to organize. I can’t think of any negative consequences to being hip on organization unless I go overboard and organize a family member’s clothes closet or dresser drawers behind their backs.

It is a personal asset as far as I’m concerned. With this trait, I don’t have to comb through my closet to find a shirt to wear. I would not knowingly leave a single shirt hanging in the pants section. I do run into interference with my “senior moments” though. Senior citizens know what I am talking about. Such as accidently laying my glasses, purse, keys, etc. down where I don’t normally put them. I hate playing hide and seek!

One of my strongly held organizing rituals is the “old goes on top”.

For instance, I have been doing all the grocery shopping since COVID-19 turned my elderly Mom’s house into her cellblock. One day I brought in the groceries that included a ten pound bag of potatoes. Before unloading the ten pounds into the potato bin, there were two older potatoes I took out. Then, I put the two on top of the ten pounds worth. I shouted to my Mom that her bin could not take any more taters.

She came into the kitchen and asked, “Were there just two left before you filled it?” I verified that and she said, “Did you put them on top?” I verified that and she was happily surprised that I did it without her telling me to. Since I’m not a homemaker like her, I do understand why she would be surprised that I thought of it.

I told her that I put the “old on top” with most anything, perishable or not. I cited toilet paper as an example. I could have picked a better example but it was the first to come to mind. She buys such in bulk and when I put the toilet paper away, I put whatever toilet paper is already there on top so it gets utilized first. In my brain, I’m thinking the oldest purchased toilet paper would never get used if it is always sitting at the bottom of the pack.

My Mom’s reaction? She muttered, “Well, I don’t worry with the toilet paper.”

I took no offense and laughed to myself. ASD affects me in countless ways in the business of everyday living. I understand, believe me, that toilet paper isn’t the same as potatoes, bananas, apples, etc. But still I will put the old on top, perishable or not. If I don’t do it, it will bug me until I go back and do it. Why? Because that’s just part of living on the Spectrum. ASD is what it is and I delight in its sweet traits and “stim” with the sour.

How I Beat the Boredom Blues

The combo, “Rest and Relaxation”, more commonly known as R & R, has a nice ring to it.  It is a prime motivator for folks to flock to the beach, embark on a cruise, visit an amusement park, etc.  R & R can be done without leaving home on a daily basis if one has the desire for R & R or has the time.  Me?  Retirement has given me more time for it, but I don’t go about it the way anyone I know does.

During my waking hours, I need to be doing something.  Boredom is not good for my anxiety.  Even when doing something relaxing, such as watching a movie, my hands are not idle.  They are instead on a computer keyboard, or operating my hand-held video game gadget, or even dusting furniture.  In fact, I can get a lot done while watching a movie.  Sure I miss some of the flick but most flicks don’t hardly require catching every word to follow along.

I don’t know anyone offhand beside myself who fights boredom in the autumn by picking up pecans.  I can retreat to my lovely backyard that comes complete with a pecan tree with far reaching limbs that almost take up the entire yard.  A bonus is getting walking and bending exercise while roaming the yard with a bucket in hand.

In the summertime, I pull weeds as an option of having something to do to keep boredom away.  Once I get started pulling, it is hard to stop.  I tend to go overboard though.  How overboard?  Well, the evidence of my weed-pulling obsession are patches of dirt in my yard where nothing is growing and it isn’t from a lack of rain.

Scooter Hostage

What happens if you keep someone living on the Autism Spectrum (AS) from following their special interests?
I don’t dare speak for all my fellow AS travelers, but I can for me:  WWIII
If someone or something is standing in the way of my special interest, for instance, my electric scooters, it would be, more or less, the equivalent of taking a pacifier from an infant, a favorite toy from a child, a cell phone from an outgoing teenager, and the remote control from a couch potato.
I was separated from one of my e-bikes, a charger for another e-bike, and two chargers to my Segway scooters.  They were hostages in the backyard shed.  How did that happen?  My fault.  I lost the shed keys.
My last memory of the keys was putting them in my t-shirt pocket some time before I took my bike for a ride in a neighborhood park.  Panic immediately set in after my ride and there was no key in my pocket.  A possibility was they were back on the park trail.  I had taken a tumble at the park on the grass when I took a detour off the sidewalk trail.  I didn’t land on the ground but I was bent over the bike for a few seconds.
After running out of places to look at home, I went back to the park with a flashlight.  By then it was pitch dark.  I was so desperate that I went out by my lonesome!  It wasn’t a smart thing to do but my “special interest” – scooters and bikes – were grounded without their chargers!  The park wasn’t a ghost town with there being a fair amount of folks still hanging out after dark.  Unfortunately, no sighting of the keys.
I messaged a friend to please ask her husband if he had any advice.  I figured he being a retired engineer would know how to break a lock.  His advice was that the least expensive option to break into the shed was to use bolt cutters.
Since I didn’t have a pair, it meant a trip to the hardware store.  Home improvement is NOT one of my special interests.  I seldom ever enter such a place.  But desperation called for desperate measures!  With fear and hope riding in my soul, I took the bull by the horn and dropped in on the neighborhood mega-hardware store.
After desperately roaming around with no sighting of cutters, I approached a middle-aged guy who was busy stocking a shelf.  I had to ask him twice before I got his attention.  He said I could find cutters in the tool department just passed check-out number 4.  I wouldn’t have minded him escorting me, but he didn’t offer and it isn’t in me to ask.
Although the tool department wasn’t as large as other departments, it was big enough for me to feel lost in.  So many tools in various sizes and shapes.  I browsed the many package labels in search of the phrase “bolt cutter”.  I would have been there no telling how long if it hadn’t been for a senior citizen who noticed me and figured I was out of my element.
He asked, “Can I help you?”  Music to my ears at the time.  He not only escorted me to the cutters but asked what I needed them for.  If he hadn’t asked, I would have bought the cheapest of the lot and it would have been for naught.  The size of the padlock one wants to break must have a pair of cutters big enough to do the job.
When I got home, I was so tired!  Emotionally exhausted!  It was no small thing for me to go to a place where I was totally out of my element.  And, above all, to ask for help.  But I did it because I had to do whatever I could to rescue what the equipment I needed to pursue my special interest!
I felt such relief when one of my brothers broke into the shed with our new cutters.  My bike and the chargers to the other bikes were a sight for sore eyes!
I also felt tremendous gratitude for the senior citizen who saw me, didn’t look the other way, and asked questions I would have been afraid to ask if I had been in his shoes.

Keep It Short, Will Ya?

A posting by one known as “the girl with the curly hair”, a well-known and distinguished writer from the U.K., reads as follows:

I try to listen to people, but listening is very hard. I’m usually being very patient waiting for them to get to the point they want to make. It is very difficult for me to stay engaged.

Most any posting of “the girl with the curly hair” on my social media feed catches my eye because she, like me, is on the Autism Spectrum. This one, like so many of hers, hits close to home. It probably does with a lot of people to stay engaged when someone else is doing the talking.

I secretly wish when someone is beginning their story: PLEASE cut directly to the chase. If the person doesn’t cut, my patience is tested and so is my ability to keep my “interested” face mask on.

I admit, though, when I’m the one telling the story about something I am passionate about, I take the monologue route with at least one detour if not a slew of them. I’ve gotten hints that I am guilty of doing that such as the person changing the subject or escapes leaving me in mid-sentence.

My tendency to be longwinded is one big reason why I prefer to communicate with my fellow man on-line instead of in-person. Such as I have four e-mail fans that I write every Sunday. It has become my routine to do so. I write an original draft sometime during the week. I edit my original throughout the week up until Sunday. The size of my original and my final draft is like going from a Double Meat Whopper to a mini-burger.

Battle of the Bulge

I sometimes wish my brain worked a problem or a process going from A to B.  A direct line with no waiting and no detours.  But one of the things I do living on the Spectrum us zigzag.  It doesn’t come to me natural-like to solve an everyday problem as it does folks around me who are baffled at times at me.  I baffle myself sometimes at how long it took for the lightbulb moment.  My first attempt to solve a problem is more often not the last.  It may even take me years to figure out an easier way to do something that others figured out right off the bat.
easyway
The picture of the bike at the top?  You might notice the bulge on the back of my electronic bike (e-bike).  It’s hard to miss.
Before the bulge, there was a flat tire.  I put air in the tire using my handy-dandy digital air compressor.  As I was walking it back to the shed, its nesting place, I heard the wheel make a repeated sound.  You can almost always count on an unusual sound in a bike, vehicle, or any mobile transporter as being a bad sign.
The source, the bulge, was at least easy to locate.  I tried to use one of the tools in the shed to put the tire tread back in place.  It was not an effective solution and neither was my second.  After tooling with it, I tried it out and it wasn’t making the sound.  It still had a “mini” bulge but against my better judgment (my brain must have took a leave of absence) I took it for a spin to a nearby school park.  It’s a good thing I didn’t go further because the bulge grew to MAXI size.  It only takes a minute or two to get to this school on a healthy e-bike.  One with a back tire bulge near the middle of August in the heart of Texas?  I’ll just say after I put the bike to bed, I took a shower and an Advil.
I was so exhausted and fed up that I didn’t bother putting the e-bike back in the shed.  I figured the odds were low of someone taking it with a bulge in its back shoe.   A bike thief would have noticed right away something was wrong, even in the middle of the night, because the bulge was as much a brake to the bike as the bike’s own brake.
At 3:41 a.m., a lightbulb in my brain went off.  This wasn’t unusual for me to be awake that hour since sleep is something that does not come easy on most nights.  It wasn’t unusual for a lightbulb to a problem go off at odd hours either.  Before I am in sleepytown, my mind is wide-awake trying to solve world problems.
One of a number of reasons why social interaction is such a challenge is my zigzagging.  When someone asks me a question, they expect an answer on the spot.  I don’t blame one for that since if I’m the one asking, I want an answer sooner rather than later.  If I am pressured to give an answer on the spot, the odds of it being the correct or best answer is mighty low.  It may take hours, days, or months for an answer to pop in my brain.  In this case of the bulge, it just took less than 24 hours.
The “fix” reminded me of one sitting down to their favorite entree with all the trimmings.  One eats so much that their tummy is bulging and has to unbutton their pants to release the pressure.  I basically did that with my back tire when I overfed it with air so to speak.  The solution was to let the air out; thus, getting rid of the bulge.  Then, carefully air it back up giving it not too little and absolutely not too much.  I wish I had figured that out immediately but a direct A to B thinker I am not.
Now as for me and my e-bike, I took a victory lap in my backyard after the bulge was gone.  I pedaled like a proud Peacock.  It wasn’t only that my tire was out of the sickbay, but that I had won the battle of the bulge on my own.

Living on the Spectrum with COVID-19

Dear Extroverts,

Never fear!  You will survive COVID!  I know you are not used to keeping your distance from your fellow man.  One day, no estimate on when that day will be, you will be able to gather in groves and chat to your hearts’ content.  Why you would want to do that is beyond me but to each his own.

 

Dear Introverts,

Extroverts are new to this social distancing thing.  Don’t laugh too hard.  If and when the day comes when social distancing is no longer encouraged, it’ll be their turn up at bat again.

 

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IT’S OLD HAT TO ME

With “IT” (my nickname for COVID) came the phrase “social-distancing”.  If I heard it once, I heard it a zillion times on national and local news stations.  It wasn’t a phrase I said a lot myself before “IT” came along.  But it is a phrase I know all too well because I live it every day.  It’s not that I don’t like people; I just don’t like being around them much.

MASK ADVANTAGE

Masking my Autism comes naturally. I’ve had more than a half-century practice at it. Wearing a physical mask that’s required these days due to “IT” doesn’t come naturally, but there is an advantage to my Autism. I don’t have to be so careful about talking to myself in public with a mask covering my mouth.

FORGETTING WHEN I’M OUT OF ZONE

I had a good track record of wearing my mask in public.  But I did forget it more than once at places where masks were required.  On one occasion, I had been in the grocery store for a minute or two before I realized I was bare-faced.  My walk out of the store and to my car felt much longer than it was.  Although it probably wasn’t the case, I felt all eyes were on me since my bare face stuck out like a sore thumb.  I was thankful, though, that the store “masked” guard did not shoo me away at the door.  If that had happened, it would have haunted me for no telling how many years.  I could say I forgot the mask or wasn’t paying attention.  But that wouldn’t be the truth.  My Autism doesn’t stay at home when I go shopping.  I try not to zone out in my imaginary world when I’m out and about, but I sure did that time.

NO CHANCE

One of the “IT” safety rules is not to put your hands in your mouth and not to touch one’s face.  Fat chance of either happening!  It’s hard to stop touching my face when most of the time I don’t even know I’m doing it.  Plus, I’m a nail-biter from childhood.  Nailbiting is one of many ways I stim.  I am also a neck-back-and-shoulder scratcher even when I don’t have the itch to itch.  My way of compensating for this while “IT” is a threat is to double down on another “IT” rule:  handwashing.  And, making more use of my wooden back-scratcher.

GOT SOME WALKING IN

One of the things that came into existence thanks to “IT” was floor up-and-down arrows located at the end of the store aisles.  Since one of my autism traits is that rules are more of a need than a pain to me, I bowed to the arrows.  Now my record was not 100% adherence to all store visits, but my record of obedience wasn’t shabby as compared to a good portion of my fellow shoppers.  I got more walking in because at least half the time I would have to go down a neighboring aisle to go in the right direction in the aisle that had something shelved on my grocery list.  This was a good thing since I’ve heard say that walking is better for my legs than sitting.

CONTACT TRACING – NO PROBLEM

So far, as of this writing, I have not been positive for “IT” or the two family members I live with.  If that should change, contact tracing would be as easy as pie for me.  My contact list would be fewer than the number of fingers on one hand.  Even before IT, it wouldn’t have taxed my memory to list my contacts.  For one thing, I’m retired.  For another, I live on the Spectrum where time alone is golden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hobby Chatting

There aren’t many things I want to do with someone else.  More than one person, forget it since three is all that’s required for me to tune out, go mute, and come up with an escape plan.

My most favorite thing to do with another is to chat about my hobbies.  If my pal shares the same hobby or at least asks me questions, I’m on cloud nine.  I receive a burst of energy after a hobby chat with someone who did not roll their eyes, yawn, or intercept the ball and change the topic.

Unfortunately, my peers who are in the 60’s or above age group, do not share my interest in my hobbies such as electric scooters/bikes, video games, and the latest in technological gadgets.

For example, I have family/friends who have waded into the pool of voice-activated gadgets.  Some have one or two of Amazon’s or Google’s line of products.  Me?  I’m the proud owner of five of Amazon and two of Google.  I only need at the very least one but that hasn’t stopped me.  If I like something, including food products, I will go overboard!

I enjoy talking about all of my gadgets and it is hard to find someone who is as keen on hearing about them as I am to talk about them.

I have better luck with my electric scooters/bikes.  I have six of them.  My nephew will engage me in a chat but I only see him in person three or so times a year.  The only other ones amidst my family/friends who have taken an interest are the youngest of the clan – my grandniece and nephew.  I admit, though, they prefer to ride them than chat about them.