Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Autism and Loneliness

While there are dozens of articles on how to help socialize your child with autism, there are only a handful speaking to parents looking to help socialize their autistic adults the same way. As a parent of an adult with autism, I grapple daily with letting go, letting him function without me, and as my husband says, “cut the umbilical” little by little. But while my son is able to coordinate his own transportation to and from work every day, do his own laundry and even check his bank account as he learns to manage his money, he’s not able to retain and maintain friendships that can blossom into love relationships.

It’s not for lack of trying. My son is that friend that texts you out of nowhere to “check in.” He’s the friend that knows your interests so well, he’s got them memorized and will show up with the perfect birthday present when he’s invited. There’s the crux of the problem. He’s not always invited. Some of his friends’ parents are as involved in their kids’ lives as we are so they remember to call him up (or me) and invite him to events where they can socialize but it’s usually a once-per-year event like a birthday, or a Christmas party (rare). The parents will say things like, “we gotta get them together more often” but a year passes by before anything really happens again.

There’s no real chance of dating. If there is, it’s not frequent and the chance to build a friendship that can blossom into more is rare among adults with autism. Especially those who live with their parents and have little social interaction opportunities outside of work, therapy, and doctor’s appointments. (Yes, you can meet and create friendships at doctor’s appointments, especially if you’re there all of the time.) So how do you socialize your autistic adult? It’s not just about the tips for socialization, most parents of autistic adults have that down pat. Many of us have even created a few tips of our own, thank you very much. How do we help them find peers if they’re not able to socialize at a bar (many can’t even drink with the medications they’re on) or connect at a library (some are non-verbal, cognitively or developmentally delayed) or meet at the playground (you may call it a park but let’s face it, it’s the playground that you really want to go to). I’m honestly asking this question because I really don’t have that answer.

A recent study by the National Autistic Society in the UK, suggests autistic people are among most lonely and isolated in UK and it's not any different for people with autism in the US. But where are the resources online to help find the information about dating opportunities for autistics? While there are many links to help people understand what it means to date someone on the spectrum or whether autistics can marry or even be in a relationship (yes, yes they can), there's no info on how to help your developmentally delayed son score a date. 

In one of my online support groups, where a member asked the very same question, every response was the same, “with you, monitoring thread for suggestions.” None of us who have parented these kids through a lifetime of challenges have no idea how or where to go to help our kids create romantic relationships.

Anyone have ideas?

Monday, January 28, 2019

Laughter is the Best Medicine

“Laughter and orgasm are great bedfellows.” ~John Callahan

Laugh every day — They say laughter is the best medicine and I couldn't agree more. Laughter releases endorphins, the same ones we release when we exercise and the same ones we release when we orgasm. That euphoric feeling that makes your body thrum, your head clear and your spirits lift, comes from the same place your laughter comes from. So when was the last time you laughed? You may rob yourself of an orgasm (which I don't recommend) but you should never rob yourself of your sense of humor. Without it, life is not just dull, it can be downright unbearable. 

“A day without laughter is a day wasted.” ~Charlie Chaplin

Be the master of your own happiness — I was talking to my daughter about how difficult it is to be a friend at times, especially when we see our friends unhappy and can't do anything to change it. Sure we can crack a joke, tell a funny anecdote, redirect their thoughts to something else for a little while but at the end of the day, we can't be the happiness that our friends need. 

I see so many people put their faith, their heart and their entire happiness on another human being then be completely heartbroken when that person walks out of their life. Human beings are fallible. There are none righteous, the Bible says and there are none that are perfect. It is our ability to be fallible that makes us so interesting, intricate and amazing. 

Never trust your heart, your wallet or your happiness to another human being. They'll break it, rob it or run off with it. Your entire reason for living cannot be another human being -- not even your children. People die every second of every day and if tomorrow everything and everyone you held dear is taken from you, you would still need to get on with life. Giving it up, to me at least, is not an option.

“The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be." ~Marcel Pagnol

Life and laughter are precious gifts, don't waste them — Laughter, to me, is as important to life as oxygen is to your lungs. Yes, there will be times when even cracking a smile will be difficult or damn near impossible. If your past was unbearable and unhappy, guess what? You still have today... and tomorrow's on the horizon. You have the power to make tomorrow a happier day than yesterday was. Dwelling on your failures, those who hurt you in the past, things you no longer have control over are as futile as riding a bicycle on flat wheels.

Why do you think books like James M. Barrie's Peter Pan were written? To help us remember that even in the middle of a war, we can escape to our own Neverland with the help of a little pixie dust and a happy thought. Yes, it can be considered escapism but isn't that what Calgon's trying to sell you anyway? Make every second a Calgon moment and find a happy thought to help you fly.

“If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.” ~Albert Einstein
What are your goals for this year? For this month? For this week? Have you written them down? How do you plan to accomplish these things?

Set a daily goal to be happy — Make this goal your top priority. Do something for yourself that will bring you happiness today and enjoy that moment so that you can recall that happy memory when you're in the depths of despair. Don't count on someone else to make you happy or wait for that special someone to bring a smile to your face. Be the happiness you want from others and you'll see how contagious it is. 

“This life is yours. Take the power to choose what you want to do and do it well. Take the power to love what you want in life and love it honestly. Take the power to walk in the forest and be a part of nature. Take the power to control your own life. No one else can do it for you. Take the power to make your life happy.” ~Susan Polls Schutz

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

I Failed the Goodreads Challenge in 2018

I'm an avid reader but clearly, I need to read more. I need to read faster and I need to be able to count the manuscripts I read for work in my Goodreads challenge so I can complete my goal every year. According to my Year in Books on Goodreads I've read over 13,000 pages across 47 booksin 2018. You'd think I would be happy with those numbers but knowing that I'd set my Goodreads challenge to 50 books and failing it by 3 titles (which are currently sitting in my “currently reading” list) stings.

I’m a habit tracker, a list maker, 🎶a task list taker...🎶 and find it completely satisfying to check off or fill in a tracker with a completed task. Days where that doesn’t happen are usually marked as “frustrating or stressed” in my mood tracker. I need to complete tasks! It’s almost an obsession really. But even while failing to complete the Goodreads challenge for 2018, I was able to achieve my goal of diversifying my reading list. I devoted 2018 to reading more POC authors, more LGBTQIA fiction, more audiobooks, more nonfiction, and more new-to-me authors who have been killing it in the indie market. I read more books via audio than in 2017 switching between the Kindle and Audible apps throughout the day to finish a book while folding laundry, walking the dog, or driving my son to and from work each day.

I discovered the immersive fantastical worlds of Zoraida Cordova, Tomi Adeyemi, Nnedi Okorafor, and Sabaa Tahir. I lost myself in historical romances by Lydia San Andres, Alyssa Cole and the #SlayerofWords Beverly Jenkins. I laughed out loud with Sonali Dev and Alyssa Cole’s contemporary romances and fell in love with Edwidge Danticat’s brutally beautiful prose. I got to know Trevor Noah, Tiffany Haddish, and Jenifer Lewis through their memoirs and fell in love with the beauty of a Cuban sunset with Chanel Cleeton. I helped to rebuild Puerto Rico with La Borinquena then ran with thieves and murderers uncovering secrets along the way with Natalie Anderson and Karin Slaughter. Some books were purchased in multiple formats, some were borrowed from the library, others were gifted but all were treasured.

Failing to complete the goal of 50 books read in 2018 may keep me from checking off that list but it sure helped me discover so much more.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

What's In Your Playlist?

If you had to create a playlist that defines your expectation of the year, what would that be?

I have several playlists on my phone for different things: Christmas playlists both Spanish and English, Movie Soundtracks both instrumental and not, a writing playlist and two “mindset” playlists. These are the ones I turn to, to start my day or motivate me one way or another. 

In 2018, I created the "Abundant Life" playlist; a mostly gospel music list that reminds me to stay centered and live my best life, abundantly. 

For 2019, I've decided to stick with my “You Got This” playlist; a playlist I created on my 39th birthday and have been adding to every year through my 45th. It’s a playlist of empowerment and reflection all at once with lyrics that remind me to kick ass and remember who I am with songs like Undefeated by Jason Derulo, Rise Up by Andra Day, and He Lives In You by Lebo M from the Lion King Soundtrack. It’s a playlist I put on shuffle while driving, walking, doing laundry, working around the house. But it’s more than that. It’s a real snapshot of who I am and what I think of myself at this very moment.

Here’s the playlist:
1. Undefeated - Jason Derulo
2. Live It Up (feat. Pitbull) - Jennifer Lopez
3. Best Day of My Life - American Authors
4. I Really Want It - A Great Big World
5. Am I Wrong - Nico & Vinz
6. Story of My Life - One Direction
7. Can’t Hold Us - Pentatonix
8. It’s Time - Imagine Dragons
9. Live Your Life - MIKA
10. Relax, Take It Easy - MIKA
11. Cheerleader - Pentatonix
12. Try Everything - Shakira 
13. Rise Up - Andra Day
14. Sing - Pentatonix
15. Raise You Up / Just Be - Kinky Boots Full Company
16. He Lives In You - Lebo M
17. Almost There - Anika Noni Rose from The Princess and the Frog
18. Dig a Little Deeper - Jenifer Lewis from The Princess and the Frog
19. Misbehavin’ - Pentatonix
20. Great Spirits - Tina Turner from Brother Bear soundtrack
21. Welcome - Phil Collins from Brother Bear soundtrack 
22. On My Way - Phil Collins from Brother Bear soundtrack
23. Rise - Katy Perry
24. If I Ever Fall In Love (feat. Jason Derulo)
25. I Knew You Were Waiting For Me - George Michael & Aretha Franklin
26. Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me feat. Elton John - George Michael
27. This Is Me - Keala Settle & The Greatest Showman Ensemble
28. Fight Song - Rachel Platten
29. Confident - Demi Lovato
30. God Bless This Mess - Bon Jovi
31. We Weren’t Born to Follow - Bon Jovi
32. Blaze of Glory - Bon Jovi
33. What About Us - Pink
34. I Am Here - Pink
35. Praying - Pentatonix
36. Walls - Bon Jovi
37. Vivir Mi Vida - Marc Anthony
38. Girls Like You (feat. Cardi B) - Maroon 5
39. Granted - Josh Groban
40. You - A Great Big World

What are the songs or playlists that define you? 

Thursday, November 8, 2018

What My Dog Has Taught Me About Life

Dobby is a 15-year-old mouthy miniature pinscher with cataracts in his eyes, a limp from being run over by a car a decade ago and the heart of a lion... in the body of a puppy.

While he barks bloody murder to get anyone to help him down off the couch, he can still jump up to the couch when he thinks no one’s watching. He sleeps a lot now but his ears still perk up at the sound of any crumb hitting the ground and while he can’t really run like he used to, he still canters like a mini stallion on his infrequent walls.
He avoids the outdoors if it’s raining, refuses to eat soft foods despite not having most of his teeth and gets in your face to sniff you when he can’t see you, which is most of the time now as his eyes cloud with cataracts. But he still gets playful, crouching down, his butt and tail wagging when he’s offered a snack and prancing around my husband’s buddies while they play cards in hopes of a few table scraps.
As I get older and the body aches and pains start, I look at my dog and think, “if he can still jump up on the couch, I can keep scrubbing this tub.” Okay, probably not the best analogy, but he’s an inspiration in many ways. Here are some ways he's taught me to live life a bit better.
  1. Don't let life get you down. Dobby couldn't care less about your political leanings, who you sleep with, what church you attend, or how you identify, he just wants you to sit down on the couch beside him, so he can get some of your warmth. It's not that he's ambivalent about the world his masters live in, he'd rather focus on the more important things in life, like how much time his Momma is going to spend on her Netflix binge of the British Baking Show, so he can stay curled up, catching some much-needed sleep beside her.
  2. He works hard at not working hard. He spends his days looking for ways and areas around the house where he can sleep comfortably. He knows sleep is a very important part of his health regimen, and he commits himself to it with laser focus.
  3. He doesn't let obstacles get in his way. Dobby will walk all over the laptop, remote control, books and papers strewn on the sofa to get to his sleeping corner. He refuses to eat soft food preferring to crunch on hard kibble with the remaining teeth he has left even if it takes him twice as long to eat.
He’s crotchety, ornery, ridiculously divaesque in his ways, but he’s still playful, loving, and at times, even helpful. I mean, he can still hear, so he’s sure to let you know every time the neighbor has company, steps outside or the breeze blows any leaves across our lawn. This is still his castle, after all and his instincts are to defend it any way he can. If that means barking at 3 a.m. to let everyone know he heard a sound somewhere, then so be it.