Hangwire

It isn’t a chore for me to organize my stuff; it’s a TREAT! It’s not so much re-organizing the BIG stuff such as beds, recliners, etc. I’ll do that but on rare occasion. It’s more the small stuff such as the clothes in my closet or drawers. I want my space to be as predictable as my routine.  I intensely dislike playing hide and seek where I am the one seeking and seldom the finder.

I went overboard this last summer. With the kids out of school, I was on break since substitute teacher aides are on hiatus. Solo activities help to keep me in a good mood. On one afternoon, I took to organizing my bedroom closet for the upteenth time.  I like doing it so much that I stopped counting how many times I’ve given a closet a re-org.

After I finished tossin’, I needed to go garage shopping. Why? I had tossed more than half my clothes. The criteria for what to toss out was what I hadn’t worn in a year or so. It became abundantly clear to me that a limited amount of my clothes see the light of day. I tend to wear the same old things; a creature of habit.

I had worked so hard that I got sweaty and thus, cranky as a bear. Ought oh! As my energy level goes down, my tendency to have a meltdown goes UP!  I  felt a volcano rumbling within in.  I should have slowed down but once I start something, it is truly hard for me to put the brakes on it. How did I know I was hitting the boiling point? My clue was engaging in combat with the hangers.

I had a lot of hangers left over after discarding so much of what they had hung up. I was trying to put them away in a box but they didn’t want to go away quietly. One entangled with another one and separating them apart got on my nerves. Some flew on the floor. Well, okay, I gave them a little boost.

Fighting hangers was a sign I was heading for meltdown country.  I did what sometimes chases a meltdown away.  I walked away and went out to the backyard for a hanger break. Maybe I could walk off my crankiness. Since I like being productive, I picked up dead leaves and twigs. It may sound strange but it is an activity that sometimes will soothe down the rumbling.

After the lawn looked sufficiently leafless, I had calmed down by then and I returned to the hanger mess on my bedroom floor.  I put the hangers in the storage box without any more combat. After storing the left-over hangers and the clothing that didn’t make the final cut, I took a good look at my closet — my masterpiece. It had more empty space and was organized to the hilt. Just “perfect”.

It can be so exhausting living on the spectrum aiming for perfection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My To-Do

I am a stickler for routine as many are on the Spectrum. But I can make adjustments without shutdowns or meltdowns BUT … there is a but. An essential “but”. I have to be the person making the adjustment.

I have not been one to rely on to-do lists. My memory was reliable; just the rest of me was in doubt. Not one hundred percent, but sufficient enough that I didn’t have yellow stick-em notes decorating my desk. Well, my memory is aging with the rest of me. Its reliability isn’t as reliable as my memory was when it was 20-, 30- or 40-something.

I came across something to help me avoid the sticky reminder route.  It is a computer application version of a to-do list.  It’s the “computerized” part that had me hooked since I am a computer addict.  Instead of writing down my to-do’s in my hard to read chicken scratch, I key them in on my keyboard. A mouse click takes care of deleting a to-do after completed. When my to-do’s for the day is done, I get a note on my computer screen of “well done and good night”.

This application has done wonders! I have put items on this list that I never got in the habit of doing until now. One example is putting on makeup. Those who know me can appreciate the wonder of this. I’m the type who doesn’t want to give much time in the morning to grooming.  The reason behind my short hairstyle is the less hair there is, the less there is to brush or wash. So for me to add putting on makeup to my morning routine is headline news.

If I put an item on the to-do list for a particular day or for every day, I will do it unless I have a sufficient reason that I won’t feel guilty about not doing it.  I read somewhere in my Autism research that a guilt complex is not uncommon for those on the Spectrum.  I tend to agree since I sure got one that gives me a hard time if I don’t finish my to-do’s.

A Yard Toy to Me

Trimming the hedge has been added to my growing list of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) stimming methods to hopefully thwart meltdowns.  There is also the added benefit of exercise and being outdoors.  My backyard has become my ground to persevere by repeatedly picking up dead leaves, dead pecans, or giving the hedge a haircut.
Recently one of my brothers showed me how to operate the edger or weed eater.  It was a brand new one thanks to another brother who ordered it online.  He took the old one we had that was NOT user-friendly.  My brother sure knows how to pick ’em because the edger is easy to turn on, turn off, and operate.  There is a drawback.  I doubt there is an edge trimmer invented that doesn’t have this drawback.  It is not user-friendly to one’s ARMS.  Mine paid me back big time after I “played around” the sides of the yard with it.
My brother doesn’t care for edge trimming.  Me?  I took to it like a duck to water.  I used to think my attraction to gadgets, “gadgetitis”, was just quirky behavior.  After I learned I was on the Spectrum, I had a better understanding of what was behind my gadgetitis.
I don’t view the edger as a yard tool, but as a toy.  Give me a battery-operated or power-corded piece of work and just watch me go to work, no, rather, go play with it!

The Can Opener Challenge

It isn’t always the big battles on the Spectrum; it’s the little ones too.  The little ones are bigger at the time than they are in hindsight.  It is in hindsight I can write about them and have a chuckle or two.  If I can laugh about any battle, it hasn’t defeated me.

A little one started when my Mom interrupted my blog-writing asking me to open a can for her.  I’m not complaining about that.  It just throws me for a bit to pause when I’m creating a masterpiece.  Arthur (arthritis) makes opening a can with a manual can opener a painful proposition.  I figure I better have empathy since Arthur probably already has his eyes set on me in the near future.  I come from a long family tree of Arthur’s victims.

This made me think of a battery-operated can opener I had seen at a store having a 20% off sale the very same day.  Since I was planning on going anyway, barring a large crowd, I made note of it to look for one.  With a small showing of customers at the time I entered the store,  I went ahead and bought a red Handy-Dandy battery-operated can opener, one of those As See on TV products.  Besides my Mom needing one, I am attracted to a battery or electric gadget like a coin is to a magnet.

I took it out of the package in my bedroom to get the gadget up and running without my Mom knowing a thing.  I wanted to surprise her by doing a “show and tell”.  That was a good plan but that’s not how it went down.  After installing two “AA” batteries, I pushed the button and not a sound was heard.  I tried placing it on a can in case the opener wouldn’t work without having something to spin on.  That’ didn’t work.  I was so frustrated!  I don’t give in to defeat easily when it comes to gadgets.  I am the “gadget queen” in my clan.  After numerous efforts, this “queen” eventually came to the conclusion it was a “lemon” can opener.

I didn’t ask for this battle, but it fell in my lap and I saw it as having two choices.  I could toss it and try to forget it; or, I could take it back to the store for an exchange/refund.  My Mom would have taken it back to the store without any hesitation whatsoever.  Me?  Just the opposite.  I have a phobia of customer service desks.  My first inclination was to do to the malfunctioned opener what I do with party invitations:  toss out!

The price receipt, though, kept staring at me.   Guilt is another biggie of mine.  I came up with an idea to ease my guilty conscience.  I’d put it back in the store bag, go back to the store, and if there was a store clerk who seemed friendly enough, I would ask to exchange it.  I didn’t want a refund because I wasn’t ready to give up on presenting my Mom with a can opener that would defy her nemesis, Arthur.

I’m proud to say I got up the nerve to approach the customer service desk and asked for an exchange.  She took the lemon and dropped the exchange item in a bag with a “have a good day”.  I could breathe easy now as I walked out the store after my victory of facing the exchange challenge.  I know such transactions come easy for a lot of folks, but not for me.

It was back to the drawing board.  The only difference was it was black instead of red.  I wish I could say that after the battery installation, the handy-dandy opener came to life.  But that’s not how it went down.  It wasn’t making a sound either.  After repeating what I did hours earlier with the red “lemon” one, I re-dressed it back into its package.  I wasn’t sure if I was going to return to the store or not.  Two customer service interactions in one day — there’s only so much I can take!

It was aggravating I couldn’t get a gadget to work.  I can’t thread a needle, but I know my way around setting up a smart phone, smart watch, etc.  I had to try one more time to save my reputation for gadget-fixing.  I used a can of chili as my guinea pig.  Just as I was about to take my finger off the start button and give in to defeat, the opener came to life.  It started its journey around the can lid while I watched in amazement.

This was supposed to be the end of the story.  Nope!  A few weeks later, the black handy-dandy opener met its fate of a trash can after opening a can of green beans.  It did a spin around the lid of the can.  The problem was it wouldn’t let go of the lid.  They were inseparable!  I did manage to free the green beans but I had to toss the can opener with the can still in its mouth.

Now, most people would have given up by now.  But I don’t give up easily.  I wasn’t about to be outdone by any kind of gadget.  I received a 20% off e-mail from a store and I saw this as a sign to go ahead and purchase No. 3.  I’m thrilled to say the third one was the charm.  As for what my Mom does when she needs a can opener, she still hollers for me and I do the honors.

 

 

 

 

Wired to the Hilt

If you are on the Spectrum, you probably met a skeptical look when you brought up the “Spectrum” talk.  I’ve long learned from just observing people that rolling eyes can be a sign of skepticism just as a yawn a sign of boredom. I’ve gotten both during my mere mention of the word “Autism”.

I admit I am guilty of being on the other end.  I have a friend who can talk a heap about her constant companion, Arthur (arthritis).  I can empathize more of the person’s need to talk about Arthur now that I know I’m on the Spectrum.  In comparison, Arthur is more noticeable than my Autism.  I sometimes smell the person’s “Arthur” cream and I don’t   mention it because that would be a social no-no.

We were talking the other day about my blogs and she thought she could identify with some of my Autism traits.  I told her neurotypicals (those not on the Spectrum) share some of the qualities, but it isn’t only the traits themselves, but the frequency and intensity too.

She got a good taste of what I meant when I gave her a show-and-tell of my bedroom.  I’m not sure what occupied my bedroom that convinced her the most.  My half-dozen small desk organizers and my basket of another half-dozen spare organizers that I have run out of a place to put them.  She said, “No wonder you volunteered to organize my pantry!”

Then, there was my herd of electronic gadgets.  It’s one thing to hear me talk about my gadgets and it’s another thing to meet the herd in person. The collection includes two TVs, one for cable TV and the other for streaming.  There are two computers but one of them belongs to my Mom.  There’s my home assistants:  Google Home, Alexa Echo Dot, and my newest addition to the family – Alexa Echo Show.  A smartphone, tablet, printer, and a TV receiver for each TV and a router.  My recliner is power operated with two power cords.  Then, other devices attached to a power cord: digital clock, aromatherapy diffuser, two lamps, and a fan.  I’m probably leaving something out but oh, well.

Actually, the convincing sight may have been the sight of five power strips that are all home to my power cords.   Since my Mom’s house is over 60 years old, I don’t have many options when it comes to where I can plug something in.  Power strips are necessary to power my collection.  My friend just shook her head and said, “You have more power cords than I have dresses.”

I don’t talk as much about my Autism with my friend.  Arthur is still a frequent topic and I empathize since he’s hard to ignore.  Since Arthur was a constant companion to those in my family tree, I suspect there’s a day coming when he will get attached to me too.  My friend does occasionally ask though, “How’s Google and Alexa doing?”

 

 

 

 

 

The Late Night Griller

I don’t like asking questions and I don’t like answering them. I have plenty of them running through my mind though, more than I want.  It’s one of my challenges of living on the Autism Spectrum.  When asked a question, even one that I should know the answer, my brain doesn’t pop up the answer in lightning speed.  My anxiety can get the best of me and give a dumb answer that I will kick myself later for.  As far as asking questions, I really have to work up my nerve to ask because of my fear of a negative or puzzled response.  Those times when I have gotten up the nerve to ask, then it was a question I probably asked out of sheer desperation.

When Jesus walked upon this Earth, He sometimes asked questions such as asking His disciples who people say He was and then who did they think He was.  He was asked questions, too, from His disciples and followers.  He also got questions from His enemies but they were seeking to discredit Him in front of the crowds.  On one occasion, he was grilled into the night by a Pharisee named Nicodemus.  An unlikely person to interview Jesus because he was a member of a group of Jews, the Pharisees, who did not care for Jesus’s teaching.  He was also a high-level official being a member of the ruling body of the Jews known as the Sanhedrin.

Nicodemus’s grilling of Jesus is told in the third chapter of John.  John reports that Nicodemus came to speak with Jesus at night.  Many speculate Nicodemus chose to meet Jesus at night because he didn’t want to be seen with Jesus in the light of day.  Perhaps he didn’t want his peers on the Sanhedrin to know he was conversing with their perceived enemy.  This may indeed be true but the Scripture only tells us it was a night visit.  It doesn’t say why.

At the start of their conversation, Jesus confronts Nicodemus with the truth that he “must be born again”.  (John 3:3). When Nicodemus seems skeptical, Jesus remarks that since he is a leader of the Jews, he should already know this (John 3:10).

It is in Nicodemus’s grilling that Jesus stated one of the most well-known and beloved verses in the Bible.  It was the verse recited to me by my pastor before I asked Jesus to save my soul decades ago.  The words in John 3:16 mean more to me than words can say:  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son.  That whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.”   It sums up in a nutshell what the Gospel is all about.  I understand what a church leader of long ago, Martin Luther, meant when he referred to this verse as the “heart of the Bible, the Gospel in miniature.”

It doesn’t say in the scripture if Nicodemus went home that night a believer of Jesus or not.  My thought is Nicodemus either came around that night to believe in Jesus or he eventually did because of other times Nicodemus is mentioned by John which put Nicodemus in a good light.

The next time he is mentioned was when he was on the job on the Sanhedrin as they were considering what to do about the “Jesus” problem.  Nicodemus comes to the defense of Jesus by stating Jesus should not be dismissed or condemned until they have heard from Him personally.  (John 7:51). However, the rest of the Council didn’t take kindly to Nicodemus’s statement and rudely dismissed it.

The final mention of Nicodemus in the Bible is after Jesus’ crucifixion. Nicodemus assisted Joseph of Arimathea in Jesus’s burial.  This is another sign that Nicodemus did take to heart Jesus’s words that night.  Nicodemus brought expensive spices for use in preparing the body for burial and then assisted Joseph in wrapping the body and placing it in the tomb.

John’s Gospel leaves many questions about the one who grilled Jesus late into the night.  Was he born again? What did he do after the resurrection? The Bible is silent on these questions. Perhaps Nicodemus’s final recorded act was his declaration of faith.

Since I have trouble asking questions even from those people I know, I give Nicodemus credit for asking questions from someone his peers was opposed to.  He’s a good example to follow for all believers can and should ask Jesus questions that are in their hearts.

After all, Jesus is still open to questions, even late into the night.

Zig-Zagging on the Spectrum

The picture was shared on Facebook by Autism All States Foundation United Kingdom.  It gave me a good laugh at myself.  The easy way of a direct line from start to finish is the road I seldom take.  My way has one detour after another.

I started my day with a jog on the patio deck.  I added this to my routine after purchasing a smart watch that counts my steps.  While upping the daily step count, a thought pops up in my brain of something to blog about. This was after a day or two of writer’s block and so I was eager to get on the computer and start blogging.  The blog was my ultimate destination and I sure went the long way about it.

I got on the computer with the intention of starting to blow.  But there’s a slew of emails that captured my attention.  I take a detour from starting a blog to tending to my e-mail.  Another detour buzzes when the washer goes off that my Mom had loaded earlier.  While loading the dryer in the garage, I am caught again with another detour.  The stick vacuum reminds me vacuuming is on my to-do list and instead of ignoring it for later, I vacuum right then and there to delete the unliked chore off my list.  I empty the vacuum container and notice the trash can is nearly full.  The voice inside my brain says you can’t leave it like that and so I take the trash can outside to empty.

I then return to my computer desk and finish up with email duty.  Before opening the site where I blog, I notice the desk crumbs staring at me like a neon sign.  I go for my hand vacuum to feed it the crumbs and discover there’s more on the bedroom floor and rug.  By the time I am finished, the hand vac has ingested a full meal’s worth.

I commence to going back to starting that blog. It is amazing that despite the detours the subject hadn’t left my train of thought.  Before the second paragraph, there’s a Facebook (FB) pop-up screen notification of a family member posting a new video.   I pause to watch the video thinking I’ll get back to my blog immediately afterward.  Wrong!  I see more FB postings and it’s another ten minutes before I leave FB land and get back to that blog.

My blog is again interrupted with the thought of the laundry in the dryer.  I stop to check and it was waiting for me to put away.  By this time, my smart watch app is telling me I need to do some more stepping and so I jog and fold laundry at the same time.  Take it from me, both can be done at the same time.

I could go on with more detours I took before finishing my blog but I’ve gone on long enough.  I’ll just say I did finish the blog just before the evening hour.

More often than not, I finally arrive at whatever the destination is.  I just seldom reach it with a straight shot.  On the bright side, I get a lot of chores done by zig-zagging on the Spectrum.

 

 

 

 

Good Answer

My almost 4-year-old grand-nephew was enjoying playing in my room while the adults were finishing up with Sunday lunch. I don’t dine with the other adults because it is my routine to eat later and by my lonesome. The “lone diner” is one of my autism spectrum disorder traits along with my obsession with electronic gadgets that my grandnephew was playing with. I’d like to say it is ME that attracts him to my room but I suspect it is a combination of his great aunt’s company and her gadgets.
He was sitting on my recliner and asked me, “Is this your bed?” I told him it was. “You sleep in a chair?” I nodded I did. I then asked, “Can I have your bed?” He said, “No, it’s at my house.” HA!
It was days later that we were taking care of him and his eight-year-old sister for my niece. Their grandmother picked them up and she came into my room. She immediately noticed that my room was bedless and asked if I slept on THAT (pointing to my recliner). Since I was caught off guard with the question, it took me a good minute to answer. I was even surprised by my answer which was:  “It’s an aspie thing.”  Instead of coming up with some other excuse, I decided to forgo passing and call it what it was.
The reason I called it an aspie thing goes back to years ago when I lived in a two-story condo by myself.  I bought a queen-sized bed when I moved in.  The problem was by the third night, I couldn’t get comfortable even though I had a half-dozen pillows situated under my head and at my sides.  Honestly, I haven’t found a comfortable bed to sleep in yet.  I sleep with more pillows than anybody I know.  A comfort thing, I guess.
The final straw that put me downstairs wasn’t the bed.  It was the pitter-patter of the feet of whoever resided above me.  Such patter will bring on a meltdown just as fast as loud music.  By the way, the upstairs neighbor ignored my broom.
After a few nights of sleep-overs on the recliner, I became attached to the recliner and sleep on it instead.  So that’s why I told my grand-nepher’s “Mimi” it was an “aspie thing” that my recliner served the dual purpose of sitting and sleeping.
Bless Mimi’s heart for her response of saying simply in a cheerful voice, “Oh, okay.” Good answer! Simple and short.  Better than others I have received such as “you don’t look it” or “oh, well, everybody’s got something.”

A Calming Scent

I was substituting for a 1st-grade teacher’s aide when I first saw something that reminded me of a lamp shooting out smoke before a genie popped out. I asked the teacher what it was and she told me it was a diffuser. She explained that it contained water and a few drops of peppermint oil. That explained why I had a craving for a peppermint candy. She went on to tell me about aromatherapy.  Her claim was it helped calm the children and she had even noticed a drop in absences since she started this therapy.

Could a scent from a bottle calm down 1st graders? I told my Mom about this and she said she wished she had known that back when I and my brothers were growing up. My Mom’s humor fails me sometimes. The teacher’s endorsement of aromatherapy did arouse my curiosity but it would be a year or so later, a diagnosis of autism, and a Best Buy gift card before I would go beyond mere curiosity.

Since electronic gadgets are my obsessive interest, an electronics store gift card was exciting as a Christmas present in July. As all gift cards have, it had a price limit on it. I had to shop within the gift card range which is what brought me to the diffuser and oil aisle. I debated about it and left without purchasing one preferring to sleep on it. I did some comparison shopping on-line and more sleeping on it. Buying spontaneous, even with a gift card, goes against my “tend to overthink” autistic trait. Eventually, I selected the cheapest of the dispensers and bought the oils at the Wal-Mart.

After testing a few oils, I found lavender to be my favorite scent. It claims to help calm stress and anxiety and to help promote sleep. “Sleep” is the operative word for me. I was impressed with it the first time I used it and still do. I turn my diffuser on with a few drops of lavender before I fall into bed. It does carry the warning of just a few drops to do the trick. Too much can undo the trick and turn lavender into a stimulant instead.

I did my research on aromatherapy.  I learned it was based on the principle that essential oils from certain plants or flowers can affect our moods, and consequently how we think or feel at any given time.  The oils are each unique.  While my favorite, Lavender, is a calmer, peppermint is a mood lifter.  Well, I recall the first-grade kids that day appeared to be in a good mood and so did the teacher.

I can’t say how much the aromatherapy helps me. It may be just having my “genie-like” oil lamp is of comfort just as having my favorite pillow to hold, my eye mask to protect my light sensitive eyes, and playing white noise to protect my sensitive ears. It’s kind of like having comfort food at bedtime.

 

The Right Answer

When I learned I was on the Spectrum, I had my explanation for why I’m not quick on my feet. It also explained why I am physically awkward on my feet.  If there’s something to stumble over, bump into, or trip over, one of my limbs will find it.  Anyway, my brain doesn’t operate at the speed of a dime. But in its defense, with sufficient processing time, it can come up with a good answer that sometimes even surprises me.

Quickness on one’s feet is a nice attribute to possess. It’s a good quality to have for those whose jobs constantly put them in emergency situations where they do what needs to be done with little or no time to think.  I can only wonder what it is like to be able to give a quick and accurate response to a question at the drop of a hat. Or be able to mouth off a “gotcha” answer silencing the asker.

Most folks can identify with being asked directions by a passer-by. I was recently put on the spot when a family driving by asked for directions. The location they were seeking was a place I knew like the back of my head. But they wouldn’t have known it by my hem-hawing. They patiently waited until my brain came up with the right answer. If I had given them an answer off the top of my head, odds would have been good they’d have to ask another stranger.

One of the many things I admire about my Lord and Savior is how He interacted with people when He walked upon this earth. Since social interaction is difficult at best living on the Spectrum, I appreciate how Jesus was a master of it.  He interacted with His disciples who sought His teaching, the multitudes who sought Him for miracles, the outcasts who sought His attention, and His enemies who sought to silence Him.

Jesus got lots of questions.  Some genuinely wanted His answer such as Nicodemus who grilled him into the night.  Then, there were those who were deceptive.  They were aiming to use the Lord’s own words against Him.

Such as in Luke 20:1-8 where we find Jesus teaching in the temple when a gang of chief priests, scribes, and elders came to Him posing a question: “Tell us, by what authority doest thou these things? or who is he that gave thee this authority?”

Jesus could have responded with a long answer.  He could have gotten into a debate with the group.  But instead, he answered with a question: “I will also ask you one thing, and answer me: The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men?”

The scribes, priests, and elders weren’t expecting to be put on a spot by a question themselves.  They got together and reasoned it among themselves before answering. I picture them in a huddle like they do on a football field. They thought if they said John’s authority to baptize come from heaven, Jesus’s comeback answer might be, “Why then believed ye him not?” If they said John’s authority came from men, the people would stone them for the crowd believed that John was truly a prophet of God.

So they came up with an answer that is still popular to this day.  I often use this answer myself.  It is a good one to use when it is a truthful answer.  It was basically:  “I don’t know”.  That answer fell right into Jesus’s hands.  In other words, the group walked right into that one.  The Lord, quick on his feet, just stated:  “Neither tell I you by what authority I do these things.”

I never cease to be amazed by Jesus’s answer in this story. In this round, Jesus had the last word. He gave them an answer they couldn’t use against Him. This was just one of a number of times when Jesus put his enemies to shame by His words alone.

It is tempting when confronted about one’s religious beliefs to respond in anger. But doing so may just give the confronter exactly what they want. It is better to give no response than to get in the mud with someone. One doesn’t walk away from a mud fight without getting muddied up him or herself.

Jesus’s answer was short and to the point. Sometimes a few words are best. How does one know what to say on any given day? Pray daily for the words from the Master of right answers.