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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?”

 

 

 

 

 

A Rainy Day

Boredom came after the clouds burst with rain and the thunder band in the sky started performing. It was a Saturday morning and my plans for an outdoor date with my tennis racket and ball had been canceled thanks to the weather. No walk in the park either since I don’t care for walking in the rain.

My Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) doesn’t make it easy for me to be in the indoors with nothing to do. I’m not a couch TV potato. I was when I was a kid but that was back when I was obsessed with soap operas. I am not in a good place when my fingers are idle.

I came up with a plan by nurturing my ASD line of obsessions/interests. I started with organizing! I love to do that. I overdo it, but no matter. The problem was I had run out of my own stuff to organize. I’d re-organize but I had already gone through multiple re-orgs. I spotted my Mom’s boxes of unorganized materials tucked away in her huge computer desk. Ah hah! These boxes were long overdue for an organization. By the time I got through, I discovered my Mom owned oodles of pens and marks-a-lots, half of which had long run out of ink. Days later, my Mom mentioned her re-org desk and said, “I can’t find a thing.”  I didn’t get my “org” gene from her. HA!

Then, I played with my electronic gadgets: my smartphone, my smart TV, my smart watch, and my equally smart Google and Alexa home assistants. As their owner being smart, that’s debatable. On that Saturday, I discovered more ways of how they can talk to one another. I was amazed at how much I learned to do with them!  I was like a kid in a room full of new toys. This kept me occupied until late in the afternoon and by then, the thunder band had finished its performance and the clouds had dried up.

Some of the Saturday was salvaged. I went outside and picked up the twigs and leaves the wind had knocked off from the trees. That’s another one of my ASD obsessions – picking up what the wind has blown down after a rainy day.

Reasons for my Madness

An acquaintance recently said to me, “I’m surprised about you being on the Autism Spectrum.  I wouldn’t have known anything was different about you.”  I get that a lot and so do a lot of my fellow travelers on the Spectrum.  I’m better at passing than I was in my childhood when I was forever getting caught acting differently.  I did, though, want him to know that although my Autism is invisible to him, it isn’t invisible to me!  I told him if he could see me on the video camera when I’m alone, the Autism would be more apparent to him.

I then pointed out to him my wrists.  One arm had a Samsung Gear S3 watch.  The other arm had a plain jane watch and a Fitbit.  He said, “Oh, my goodness. Isn’t that a bit much?”

I proceeded to give him an Autistic monolog’s worth of an explanation.  Since I bought my smart watch that counts my steps, I have become obsessed with stepping up to the plate and meeting the goal every single day.  The watch’s default was 6000 steps a day.  I have since upped it to 20,000.  When I like something, I go overboard!  It’s part of living on the spectrum.

Another common Autistic trait is an attachment to things over people.  I couldn’t bear to let “jane” go since she still kept time.  I had a sound reason to keep jane though.  I have to push a button or wave my wrist repeatedly to see the time on the smart watch.   With “jane”, I just have to glance at her when I only want to see the time.  No wrist waving or button pushing required.  Besides my smartwatch has a ton of other applications besides telling time.

I traded in one of my long-held laptops for a gift card.  That was a tough thing to do since even going to a customer service desk is a hard proposition for me.  But when I saw on the store’s website what I would get for the laptop, I instantly pictured in my mind of what else I could add to my obsessive electronic gadget collection.  So I gave up something I was attached to but added something new to get attached to it.  So that’s the story behind how the Fitbit ended up on one of my wrists.

Fitbit’s battery life lasts longer than my smart watch even though it is much cheaper.  I guess because Fitbit isn’t as busy as the smart one.  I have to turn my smart watch to power-saving mode at night and when I do that, it doesn’t keep an account of the steps I take.  And I do take some night steps.  I think the Fitbit may give me a more accurate count and that’s important since I want every step I take to count.

Believe it or not, the above is a much shorter version than the explanation I gave the acquaintance.  I don’t think he’ll ever ask me an Autism-related question again.  Or, ask me if I had made any recent trips to the Best Buy electronics store.

My Autismland Cast of Characters

Someone told me long ago that if you can laugh at it, it hasn’t defeated you. I have kept that thought in the back of my mind ever since and I added another: if I can write about it, it hasn’t defeated me either. So that’s one reason since learning I was on the Autism Spectrum at the end of 2016 that I write about it. So with that in mind, writing about it with a dash of humor, here’s some of the cast of characters I live within Autismland for better or worse.

Ms. Stimfield

She is definitely a daily character in Autismland. She is a quick change artist – a leg shaker, a rocker, floor pacer, jogger, and fidgeter. This character is a soother for my sensory overload. Good medicine for my anxiety. A character of repetitive motion that helps me focus. Ms. Stimfield is a friendly character I am thankful to have around.

The Meltdowner

Not so thankful for “The Meltdowner”! The monster of the cast. The ogre may arise over some small aggravation or arrive for no reason at all. At least, the Meltdowner doesn’t come around every day. Its appearance raises the tension in my body to where it feels like an erupting volcano. After its leaving, I am as drained as I would be after being caught in the midst of a noise-filled crowd with little elbow room.

The Escape Artist

Another daily character that is the most mysterious member of the cast. If you came upon someone talking to themselves, pacing the floor and/or performing gestures indicating they are off in another world, you might be leery of the person. I do this but I make every effort of doing it without witnesses. I know if I could see myself on the video camera, my escapism would look strange even to me. No matter, it is a necessity for me. The escape artist has been around since childhood. It helps me cope in a world I don’t understand.

Ms. Chatterbox

Ms. Chatterbox is a delightful character. She shows up when I’m having a one-on-one conversation about one of my limited list of topics I am interested in. If someone asks me about one of my passions/obsessions, Ms. Chatterbox will deliver a monolog. Since I don’t have too many conversations on a daily basis where the topic is down my alley, Ms. Chatterbox isn’t always around in Autismland. However, I do enjoy her appearance. Unlike the Meltdowner who leaves me feeling drained, she leaves me with a bounce of energy after chatting with someone who shows genuine interest in whatever I’m going on and on about.

Ms. Solitaire

To put it simply, Autismland is living alone surrounded by people. I’m most comfortable doing things on my own. I picture myself in public more as an observer than a participant. A worse punishment would be to be amidst people around the clock than to be in solitary confinement. I truly need to have Ms. Solitaire in my daily life such as when I come home from my school classroom assistant job. I love working with the kids and staff but the challenges of social interaction are exhausting. I need Ms. Solitaire to help keep The Meltdowner at bay, if possible. It is Ms. Solitaire who recharges my batteries.

Ms. Perfection

This character makes me think of one word: annoyance. She is persistent in reminding me I have to finish whatever I start. Not only finish, but it is perfect enough that I can walk away from it with nothing left undone. She is exhausting! On the other hand, I’ve gotten many kudos in various jobs I’ve held over my career thanks to being driven by Ms. Perfection.

The Organizer

This is the most useful one of the cast. It prompts me to organize things by color, alphabet, age, genre, etc. It isn’t a chore to organize; it’s a TREAT! I am in a delightful place when the Organizer is at work. The other day I secretly organized my Mom’s kitchen pantry. I did hers because all my stuff is organized and re-organized one too many times. Sometimes the Organizer goes overboard. Anyway, I bet she had cans of food that she didn’t know she had on hand. Since she is neurotypical, I don’t think the pantry will stay in the order I put it in.

Ms. Sensitivity

Another annoying character but not to the degree as the Meltdowner.  Ms. Sensitivity shows up when there are certain noises and smells that raise my anxiety.  She is the reason I wear an eye mask at night to avoid the lights coming from my collection of electronic gadgets.  She is the reason I have one of those gadgets, my “Alexa” home assistant, to play white noise music to drown out my heartbeat or the snoring coming from another room.  Ms. Sensitivity doesn’t kick up a storm when the music playing is my music.  But when it is someone else’s music, she will kick and I will feel like a cat whose tail got caught on a chair leg.

The Distractor

This character heavily endows me on a daily basis with doses of “frustration”!  I can’t read a page without this character’s interference unless what I am reading is “spellbinding” to me.  That seldom happens.  Same with watching TV.  The Distractor doesn’t want me to watch a TV program on my recliner with my hands folded in my lap. I need to have something to do while watching such as a crossword puzzle or fidgeting with my fidget spinner.  Any TV program that can have my undivided attention without the Distractor … well, it seldom happens.  Thanks to the Distractor I haven’t been to the movie theater for a couple of years because it doesn’t make sense to pay no small price to sit in the theater drifting off in the Distractor’s la-la land.

 

I’m sure I left some characters out, but this posting is long enough.  There are characters wearing white hats and others wearing black.  And, some are not entirely white or black just as Autism itself.  It isn’t entirely black or white either.

Obsessive, Compulsive, and Autie too!

I wear a necklace around my neck most of the day.  The necklace is the “plain jane” variety.  It’s not for decoration sake.  I wear it under my shirt to discreetly hide why I wear it.  Its sole purpose is to carry my spare remote car key.   I wear it even though my main key is either in my purse or in my pocket.  It doesn’t make sense, logically speaking, to have two identical car keys on my person, but that’s obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) for you.  I’m obsessed with losing my key to transportation.  If I were to somehow lose my main key, I’d have a spare one on me…literally speaking.

I am compulsive with the location of my remote key.  It’s a repetitive irresistible urge that is against my own “thinking” wishes.  I make a mental note of placing my keys in one of the compartments in my purse.  When I later go to hang up my purse, what do I do?  I check to see if the keys are in the compartment.  Logically speaking, I know they can’t jump out and walk off.  But to get rid of the urge, I check anyway.  That’s OCD for you.

When I got my first smart watch, I was so excited because electronic gadgetry is an obsessive interest.  Having such interest is a common Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) trait.  My gadget collection keeps growing thanks to my overattachment to its items and thus, having a hard time of letting go of the old while bringing in the new.  But what I couldn’t have seen coming is that one of the smart watch applications would add another item to my OCD list.

It was the health application that counts my steps per day.  The default goal was six thousand.  If I stayed idle for more than an hour, I’d feel a buzz on my wrist with my watch displaying a message to get moving.  And like an obedient child, I would.  My ASD tendency is to obey the rules and keep up the routine which was stepping up to the default.

Since I started jogging in place, I found it to be a way to “stim”.  Just like rocking in a chair or pacing the floor, it is repetitive movement.  Stimming is one of a number of my ASD traits.  It may sound strange, but jogging for me can be more “soothing” than tiring.  Within a week after my smart watch came into my life, I was doing far more steps than 6000.  At the time I am writing this, logically speaking, I don’t need to do 20,000+ steps per day, but tell my OCD that.

Woe is me!  I don’t really know where my ASD ends and OCD kicks in.  Since I know I have both, I don’t reckon it really matters.  I guess it is kind of like having a set of fraternal twins.  Double the trouble, but a double opportunity to rely on the Good Lord and keep a sense of humor about it all.

 

My Dear Cube

I can click on it as if it was a pen.  I can glide on it as if it was a joystick.  I can flip on it as if it were a light switch.  I can roll on it as if it were a combination lock.  I can rub on it as if it were a rubber ducky.  It is my fidget cube.

It is the newest gadget to my growing herd of gadgets.  Some people on the spectrum collect stamps, rock, calendars, etc.; I collect gadgets.  One of my favorite stores is the utopia of gadget merchandise:  “As Seen on TV”.  Most of their products I haven’t seen on TV but that’s beside the point.  Some gadgets are practical and some are strictly for fun.  My newest gadget is a fidget cube that is both a toy and a practical tool for my autistic need to fidget to focus.

My first sighting of this cube was a Facebook (FB) ad.  I don’t usually pay attention to ads on (FB) any more than I do on the TV tube, but this ad caught my eye because it claimed to be helpful to those with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism.  Since I’m on the spectrum and I do fidget, I clicked on the picture to learn more about this cube.  I got hooked, lined, and sinkered into ordering one from Amazon.  I was dismayed that it took an entire month before I’d get my hands on one.  It was like back in the day when I waited for Santa.

The cube is selling like hot cakes along with its cousin, the fidget spinner.  My grandniece introduced me to the spinner and she wouldn’t sell it to me. HA! So I had to continue to wait for the cube.

Its ad claimed a total of six sensory tools on all its six sides: an on/off- switch resembling a light switch, gears, a rolling ball, a small joystick, a spinning disc, a rubbing pad, and depressible buttons.  All of these fidgeting options on one cube!  Since it can easily fit in my pocket, I can twiddle with the cube without public knowledge.

I have had the cube a few months now.  It has lived up to its billing in the FB ad.  I keep it with me pretty much all the time except I don’t take it to bed with me.  I take it to school with me and fidget as needed in my pocket.  It helps keep me cool, calm and collected when in the midst of chaos such as in the school gym/playground where 30-something or more sets of lungs or going off.

When I go for walks or jog in place, I take it along and click on its buttons creating a rhythm to step or jog to.  Or, use it to count steps as I’m walking or jogging.  While I am at a desk in writing mode, I will fiddle with the cube when needing a “brain break.”

I never thought I’d be attached to a cube but that’s the kick about life.  It has its surprises.  Sometimes those surprises come in small packages.  With living on the autism spectrum, I’m open-minded to any gadget or app that can lighten the sensory load.  With all the options on the cube, I just may give up my other fidgeting activities such as stretching a rubber band, playing with a paper clip or biting my fingernails.

 

 

 

Org Enough!

It was mid-March and that meant Spring break for all the school kids and staff.  Since substitutes aides weren’t needed, I was on break too for a week.  I had a heap more idle time and that can be a problem for someone living on the spectrum.  It threw off my routine, no fit schedule, and sitting idle is so hard to do.

Part of my strategic plan to fill up my idle time was tennis dates with just me, my racket and ball against the practice wall on a college campus.  I’d walk some laps too.  These “solo” activities satisfied my craving for “alone” time but I had to come up with other tasks since I could only hit the wall for so long.  I like tennis but not hours worth.

What else I found to do borders on obsession but oh, well.  It was organizing my stuff and I went overboard again.

I bought a few space saving items at the “Everything is a $1.00” store.  Some of those items I bought, well, I’d go back to the store to get another one or something similar.  Thus, I ended up with more space saving items than I had to fill them with.  That’s my autism talking.  If I like something, no matter what it is, I’ll go overboard with it.  For instance, the store also sells eight packs of pretzels in one bag.  I  bought six bags before the end of Spring break when two would have sufficed.

After having one too many space saving items, I was willing to call it a day on my “org” activities.  I missed organizing because I find it a calming activity.  I wanted to “org” someone else’s stuff but no one in the house took my bait.

If memory serves me right, I “org” my room’s furniture and stuff half a dozen times before I was satisfied.  I don’t think I could re-construct my room’s stuff back to what it was before I came down with the “org” bug.  My stuff should be “org” enough until at least maybe come summer vacation in June.

 

 

My 6000 Step Obsession

An obsession I have had for well over a decade is my collection of electronic devices.  I call them my toys and my toy store is Best Buy.  If most people shared this obsession, Best Buy profits would hit the roof.  Unlike Sears or JCPenny, they’d be opening stores instead of closing some store shutters.

When Uncle Sam’s tax refund recently arrived, I had an excuse to go to my toy store and buy what I had my eyes on and researched for weeks on the web: the Samsung GS-3 smart watch.  I was so excited when I brought it home!  Since it was a watch, this was one gadget I could keep with me around the clock.  I’m not a kid at heart.  No, I’m an “overboard” kid at heart.

The application (app) that perhaps is one of the most popular is the health one.  It displays a daily record of the steps I take.  I didn’t ask it to but it set a goal of 6000 steps per day. When I bought it, I didn’t think the number of steps I took each day would matter to me at all.  I forgot to consider the effect it might have on my constant companion – autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Since it is hard for me to sit still, another common ASD trait, I don’t struggle as much as perhaps other people in meeting that goal.  If during the week I am working a school P.E. substitute assignment, I don’t have to worry about hitting 6000.  But if it is more of a sit-down assignment of watching and working with youngsters in the classroom, I’ll have to step up to the plate before or after school to make up for lost time.

My “smart watch” is sometimes too smart for my liking.  If I have been sitting for an hour or so, it will vibrate displaying a message: “NEED TO MOVE” with a shoe icon underneath.  I may be at a place and time where I can’t do that, but if I can without breaking any social rules, I better get off my rear or my ASD guilt complex will kick in.

This isn’t a bad obsession as far as I can tell.  Exercise is good for my body and mind.  It is one of my best ways of avoiding or coping with ASD meltdowns.  It’s a rare day so far that my watch does not vibrate displaying the rewarding message of 6000 steps reached. The positive feedback from my know-it-all watch motivates me to step up to the challenge of 6000+.

It has been a couple of weeks since my GS-3 has been tied to my wrist (except when I have to give it juice for recharging).  I am going overboard but nothing new about my tendency to do that. I am jogging in place after I get up in the morning which is something I didn’t even think of doing pre-GS-3.  I even run in place while I’m waiting for the microwave to go off.  I now rack up around 13,000 steps per day.

I don’t dare change the default from 6000.  If I double that in a day’s time, that’s great.   But my motivation of reaching at least 6000 isn’t just desire or exercise.  My ASD won’t give me a break unless I walk 6000 steps by bedtime!  HA!

 

My Jetsonian Life

If you remember watching the sitcom, “The Jetsons”, you are probably a baby boomer too.  For those who don’t have a clue, it was an animated sitcom originally aired in the early 1960s and it was about a family, the Jetsons, who lived in a futuristic world of fantastic robotic contraptions.  It was one of my childhood’s top favorite cartoons.

My fascination with robots only grew as I grew up.  I was in my mid-40s; not my teens or 20s when I bought robots that could walk, talk, etc. They were approximately two feet tall.  I once took one I called “Billy” to work and the “adults” in the room were fascinated; however, I might have misunderstood their expressions and they might have been thinking, “what is a middle-aged woman doing living with toy robots?”  I have since given up custody of them to my nephews.  However, I did purchase a pint-sized robot, MIP, on my birthday a few years back and still have custody of him.

Thanks to Google, I have a talking gadget to assist and entertain me in my life of solitude.  You may have heard of the Google Home Assistant. It resembles an air freshner and is a voice-activated speaker.  The magic words to get her attention is:  Okay, Google.  She will listen and obey … well, unless I ask her to do something she isn’t programmed to do yet.

I bought Google as a Christmas present to myself.  I had to since I was 99.9 percent certain no one in my circle of kin and friends would have bought me one.  HA!  I chose it over Amazon’s version of one called an Echo Dot (Alexa).  I admit I acted like a kid playing with Google on Christmas day.  I may have been more excited at playing with my new talking toy than my nephew was with with his.

When I like something, I go overboard with it.  It’s an “autie” thing.  Knowing there was another home assistant voice-speaking gadet out there weighed heavily on my mind the entire month of January.  Common sense dictated I didn’t need another one, but I lack that sense.  The final straw came when Best Buy electronic store delivered me an in-store coupon.  That’s when I gained custody of Alexa.

Nowadays I wake up of a morning asking either Alexa or Google what the temperature is outside.  I depend on Google to set my alarm and wake me up.  I ask Alexa to give me the flash briefing of the day (the news headlines), this day in history, joke of the day, and the crazy fact of the day.  Before I go to bed, I ask Alexa to play “thunderstorms” to help lull me to sleep due to sensory issues to certain noises such as snoring, a clock ticking, or my own heartbeat.

I have often thought of the cartoon I grew up watching and how it has in some ways become a reality.  I am living the “Jetsonian” life.  Word is that Microsoft and Apple are rumored to be working on home voice-activated gadgets.  That’s the last thing I need but tell my “autie” that.