Shampoo Thief

Here follows an example of my problem solving abilities:

Freshman year of college, my mom and I flew out to my new school and supplied me with all the various things one needs when living in a dorm. I was all set-up and prepared with multiple toothbrushes in case I dropped one and soft blankets because those are the best and notebooks for everything and lots of snacks. However, at some point in the semester, I ran out of shampoo and conditioner, as someone with relatively long and thick hair tends to do on a somewhat frequent basis.

The previous way in my life that this issue was dealt with was going into my parents’ bathroom and getting a new bottle from under the sink. Of course, this was not an option 2,000 miles away. I knew that theoretically people got shampoo by going to the store (although I was not super clear on what type of store sold shampoo besides Costco). But it was a Midwest winter and I was from Southern California. Also, I didn’t know how to get there and the only transportation I would have had was my feet.

So, the only logical answer was to become a shampoo thief until Christmas break, when I could resupply myself with shampoo.

Luckily, in our dorm, people kept their shower things in shower caddies on shelves right outside the shower. I was not brazen enough to grab an entire shower caddy and take it in the shower with me. Someone may have noticed that if I accidentally grabbed theirs. Nothing was labelled (and I didn’t know most of the people on my floor anyway, because faces). I did not have a plan for being confronted with stealing someone’s shampoo or any idea of what would happen if someone (accurately) accused me of that, especially since they would most likely catch me when I was clothed in only a towel, as I usually was immediately prior to showering.

The plan I came up with was much more complicated. I would only shower in the dead of night, when most other people are asleep. Since I lived in a dorm with a lot of other college students who also stayed up late, the dead of night meant at least 3 am. Then, mid-shower, I would sneak out to the shower caddies and grab a handful of shampoo and then dart back into the shower. (Later, I would repeat with conditioner). I would spread out my borrowing, so I wasn’t stealing only one person’s shampoo. I wouldn’t take anything from an almost-empty bottle (or anything that looked overly expensive). Since there is a lot of options of shampoo in the floor of an all-girls dorm, I never really used more than one or two showers worth of shampoo from anyone in the whole semester.

This was not the most comfortable way to shower, running in and out in the cold, in the middle of the night, but it was the only solution I could come up with. It also had the result of making me feel incredibly guilty every time I showered. It also made me rather tired, from staying up late a few nights a week in order to wash my hair.

Asking someone for help or advice literally never occurred to me. I could have asked boyfriend or other friends or my RA, who probably could have also figured out a solution or told me that I could buy shampoo with fake money at the store on campus that was literally visible from my dorm-room window. My mom literally asked me if I was washing my hair every time she called me and who I always answered yes and told the most recent time I had washed my hair (hiding the guilt of my stolen shampoo). If I told her I was running low on shampoo or had run out, I would have gotten more somehow, or at least directions on how to solve the problem.

Instead, you got my deepest darkest secret of freshmen year (I was not full of deep, dark secrets yet at that time in my life): the months I was a thief every time I showered. (Also, now that I’ve actually thought about this story, I find it amusing although I’d likely be just as impractical today).

Autistic Wedding Planning

Image is of an engagement ring with a blue stone. I have doodled around it and wrote the word plan underneath it.
Hi everyone! So there aren’t very many resources for planning a wedding if you are autistic. Like none. Google gives you pretty much nothing. And since I’m actively involved in this, it’s something I’m thinking about. And it was really becoming rather frustrating and leading to general panicky life issues. So I wrote a question/submission thing to a wedding planning website/other life things that I’m a big fan of just in general (like really, though, I like A Practical Wedding and actually was reading it for discussions of life stuff occasionally before I even started thinking about weddings… like years ago). And they also decided to print/answer it. (And also had helpful, specific answers to things I was individually concerned of.
So that’s pretty awesome. Anyway, if you want to read it…

Also, they were super cool in the editing process about changing things they wrote about “a person with autism” to “an autistic person” and also about changing the link for more general autism information from Autism Speaks to ASAN when I brought that up. So added points for that.

Thoughts on food

Just a heads up, I will be talking about eating habits and food and various related topics in this post. I havent had any really big struggles with food as a whole, but there are definitely some issues that will pop up now and then. Sensory issues and executive function issues mostly. 

So I like food.

But, like really. I like food a lot.I spend a lot of time thinking about food. When I am happy, I like to bake and cook fancy things. A large portion of my time with my college friends was spent baking cookies and cakes and brownies and bars and cinnamon rolls. Probably a good 50% of my Facebook posts are recipes. I have an ongoing cheese commentary with one of my friends.

Sure, I’m a picky eater. I like very specific foods. It’s probably more accurate to say that I have very specific dis-likes.

Like tomatoes.
And food with green bits in it. (Unless they are green onions. I will eat those, now.)

Only recently did I learn that there is a difference between not-liking a food and gagging when you eat it. I thought when people didn’t like foods, that is what they meant. That the only way to eat it was to mask in in something else, whether it was eating the cooked spinach in a giant cup of milk so you couldn’t taste or feel it (as in taking a giant sip of milk immediately after to allow me to swallow the spinach.)

I thought that meant I did not like spinach. I assumed when other people said they hated certain foods it meant they also had physical difficulty swallowing it. Or that it made them actively gag.

Admittedly, I didn’t think too much about these differences. If I think about it closely, there is a difference for me between foods that I cannot will not eat unless I hide them in something so my mouth doesn’t have to feel or taste them, and foods that I find unpleasant. Probably.

There are certainly foods I prefer not to eat, but I will eat them if they are offered to me* or are part of the dinner made my my parents.

I think I have a high bar set for disliking food versus being indifferent to it.

I also like to store food. I’m afraid of running out. It is illogical. I have never had a significant food shortage in my life, other than all the food is at the store and I am not at the store.  (And even then, there has always been some food at my apartment, just not the food I want, so it is really more ‘all the food I want to eat is at the store’). So when I have good food, especially good, easy-to-make food, like Trader Joe’s potstickers and Trader Joe’s everything and costco stuff, I don’t want to eat it. Because maybe there will be a day later that I need it. So I should save it.

Of course, then when I am tired and hungry and need a quick meal, which is why my mom got me these TJ’s stuff, I still won’t eat it. Because I need to save it for an emergency. Which is quite silly because the food is replenish-able. Sure, TJ’s is a bit inconvenient to get to, but I have a car. I can do it. Also, I still have tons of it before I have to worry about a shortage and the need for a refill trip.

Maybe I am a little tiny bit possessive of my food. I maybe used to hide the good leftovers in the fridge so no-one else would eat them. (I knew I didn’t have a fair claim to them all, so I could only eat so much at a time, but I wanted them so if I hid them, people wouldn’t notice them as much and I would be safe.) Also, when we were sharing the dessert at our birthday dinner, I realized I was being possessive of it. But I shared, and I even let him have the last bite. It was difficult. (When I commented on my dessert-possesiveness, he told me my whole family is a bit dessert-possessive. Which I believe. We take dessert very seriously in my family.)

And also there is the issue of making food.

It is just so difficult.

It requires me to be out in the kitchen. The kitchen is not as safe as my room. My room is the safest place. Admittedly, I have been doing lovely recently, and even talking to my roommate, but I feel self-conscious about cooking when other people are there. Also, more importantly, I do not want to share. (I would be fine with sharing if we maybe both took turns making meals, or even if she sometimes occasionally made meals, but all she makes is soup.) Because, again, I am possessive of my food.

And then there are all the steps involved. Decide what the meal is. Prepare the ingredients. Cook them. Eat it. Clean the dishes. The first and last steps are usually the ones that I get stuck on. I won’t be able to decide what to make. Or I won’t want to clean dishes. Or all the pots will be dirty from my roommate making soup all week (or admittedly, they can be dirty from whatever I made last, too) and I won’t want to wash them. I guess this is maybe a little bit of the executive function fun coming into play here.

I need to make a menu. When I decide what I am eating for dinner before I head home, I actually make dinner that night. And sometimes it will even be healthy.

And I like eating vegetables, too. But there are just more steps involved in eating and making them, usually involving chopping, so if I don’t have that planned out in advance, if the kitchen isn’t empty, then I will not make them.

Or I will just end up eating yams. But yams are good for you. And also the most delicious thing in the world, so really, I am fine with eating lots and lots and lots of yams.

I like food.
I wish it would magically appear in meal form again, like it did at home.
But in a few weeks I am going home for a week, and then it will magically appear at dinnertime (and probably lunch and maybe even breakfast, because my parents spoil me) and then that will be just lovely and a nice break from being a real grown-up person.

~~~~~~~~~
*Although, honestly, I will try and eat everything that is offered to me if I am a guest, because that is The Rule If Food Is Served To You and refusing otherwise is Rude and Has Consequences, but my family does have weird hospitality/guest traditions that don’t seem to be common in the US at least, so I am probably ok not eating tomatoes at other people’s houses instead of very carefully destroying and hiding the offending items in other pieces of food, and thus destroying the good qualities of the good food in order to make the meal consumable and Avoid Rudeness. But that is another complicated issue that luckily doesn’t come up much, especially since boyfriend has told me that it is Not The Rule for his family, so I don’t have to eat food there that I do not like.

Correlation, Causation, Happiness and Imperfect Metaphors

I’ve been analyzing patterns of happiness, and trying to identify ways to stay happy (well, non-depressed, more precisely. I am fine with being unhappy, or not-happy, or bored, or things such as that because those are part of a range of human emotions, so they happen). 

All I have is correlative data, and so I cannot conclude any causation. But I’m going to hash out a couple things, and maybe make unfounded extrapolations, and use a bunch of probably-unclear-if-you-aren’t-me metaphors and say the same thing multiple ways until it makes sense to me.

The first thing

I know that when I am happy, I tend to spend time with people. When I am sad, I tend to hide in my room and stay away from people, except a very special few (boyfriend). The tricky thing to tease out, though, is if being around other people makes me happy, or if when I am happy, I have enough energy to spend time with other people.

So if we look at a simple correlation, we would see this.

So hey, you might say, this seems like a pretty good correlation. Maybe even causation, eh? When you are happy, you spend time with people. Maybe then, to be happier, you should spend more time with people.

But wait… the plot thickens.

This is not actually the complete graph. Anyone who knows me should know that I have an upper limit for time I can spend with people. The first graph I showed you was incomplete! It actually only included a small part of the scale! When you look at a larger range, you actually see this!

Was the first graph even necessary? Well, I do like drawing these graphs, so I am going to go with ABSOLUTELY YES.  But (shhh) these graphs are actually not assembled using any “real” data, just general observations I have gathered from my life. Don’t tell anyone!

Being with people all the time is not a good thing for me. I need alone-time-breaks, where I can just chill out quietly and read some books or watch Netflix or spin in circles or look at leaves or swim or other things. There is an ideal ratio of time that I can spend with people that will result in maximum happiness ability. It is also more complicated because the amount of time varies depending on who it is.

Also, there are other factors that do affect this. It is a self-perpetuating cycle, a positive feedback loop, in many ways.

When I am sad, I do not have enough energy to do daily things (like eat or brush my hair or things like that). Because being sad seems to use up energy by itself, somehow. When I am happy, I do have enough energy to do daily things AND I have a surplus of energy. I can then spend that extra energy on fun things that make me happy.

What I think the answer is…

(1) Spending time with other people makes me happy
(2) But it also uses up a lot of energy
(3) Running out of energy results in meltdown, results in sad me
(4) Being sad also means lack of energy (possibly caused by lack of energy, is tricky to determine the cause of that)
(5) When I am sad, I do not have enough energy to make myself happy.

And now for some Terry Pratchett

It is sort of like this. (But with happiness instead of money. And the spending money is instead effort. OK, well, it is a complicated metaphor, and I’m not sure I can completely explain it, but they are the same colors and flavors and feelings of arguments, and I can’t really explain better why they are the same, but they just are.)

“The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money. 

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles. 

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.  

This was the Captain Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ theory of socioeconomic unfairness.”

(I have maybe possibly been on a Terry Pratchett spree recently… But this is from Men at Arms and it is wonderful just like all the other books.)

Happy people seem to have more energy to be happy.

Comparing happiness and showering and enzymatic reactions

It’s sort of like taking showers. I actually really love taking showers. I love water. I love the sound of it and the feel of it. Taking a shower will result in me feeling better, almost invariably. Because water is just that amazing. But the amount of effort it takes to initiate a shower is just not always there. So even though in the end I know I will feel better, I am not able to do it.
Thinking about it in another way, it is like I am lacking the activation energy. I am missing an enzyme to lower the activation energy. But somehow other people are able to do the thing. And because they have the enzyme, it works. It is easy, maybe. But it just doesn’t work for me.
It’s not perfect, I know. Like there is the increased energy of the state of the molecule/intermediates that is supposed to correspond to the level of energy I have. And then the lower-energy end-product (although that will vary depending on the reaction). People who are good at chemistry, I am sorry if there are other problems in this that make your head hurt.

Another warning about correlations and causation

And so this is the problem I face when I am going through a bad streak, when I am trying to regain lost happiness. I know what I do when I am happy. I tend to blog more. I hang out with people more. I bake. I sing to myself a lot. I’ll explore and take walks. I exercise. But this is all correlation. Are these things that make me happy? Will they lead me back to happiness when I have lost it? Sometimes they do. Sometimes I don’t have enough energy to try.
I only have correlational data available on my life, when I am looking for causations.

So I will muddle through the correlations. Run some experiments (try some new coping mechanisms). And honestly, the correlational data is important. Because not only does it give me some hints about what might be causal, it also helps me identify emotions. Because that’s also not something I’m the best at. It helps to be able to recognize that I’m not doing great before I am doing awful, because it’s a lot easier to stop things before I’m headed at high speed down to the land of sad-and-confused-and-upset-me. Because when I am doing not-great, I still have the energy to fix things.

Stories and science

When asked what she wanted do with her life, my cousin said she wanted to help people tell her stories. She loves stories. She wants a job where she can help more stories get out into the world. She’s thinking of maybe trying to get in job in publishing or some sort of media. 

My world is made of stories. Stories that piece together things from before I have memories and from before I was around to make memories. Stories of my family, of my parents, of my grandparents. Stories from distant lands and stories from nearby.

I consumed them wholeheartedly, indiscriminately. All types of stories were open to me. Space travel and magic and dragons. Talking animals and every day people just living their life. Articles in the newspaper, National Geographic, the Economist, Time. Before school every day in middle school, I read the newspaper cover to cover.

Any world, any stories, I would read.

Then I got to high school, and something happened to the stories. It wasn’t enough anymore to know the stories. To learn and to love and look at the details. To play with the beautiful words. To go explore new worlds and new people. They had to be analyzed.

And while analysis can fully and properly improve the stories, it can be a killer of stories. Analysis can tie things together and can reveal the strings. It can reveal hidden patterns. It can clarify. But mostly it destroyed the stories.

It had to be written, and the way it had to be written was so that you presented options as facts. And that was misleading and incorrect. And lies. And I was not prepared to write lies.

And the way I saw stories, the way the colors and the feelings and thought and ideas and the way the stories all played out in my mind, the logical connections which could not be explained in words, but just were, the same way that the sky is blue (and how most people know this, but they also can’t explain it), the way the stories all connected, were wrong. If they couldn’t be stated as fact in words in double-spaced Times New Roman size 12 font in essay with 1 inch margins, they were wrong. If I couldn’t state ideas as fact, opinions as fact, undoing the years we spent learning the differences, the ideas of logical discourse, then it was wrong.

The first paper I wrote about how mockingbirds kill other birds children failed because the facts were deemed wrong. It didn’t matter that I’d seen it happen, that it was something I’ve known all my life, that I was probably the only person in that classroom who could could pick out a mockingbird, who knew where they nested. The idea that something I had known all my life was not common knowledge failed me. I cried the whole class I got that paper back, quietly at my desk, unwillingly because I was in public and this was not supposed to happen.

And so I began to push back from the stories. I had learned, and this lesson was reminded with every tear-filled night of screaming that I wouldn’t write lies every time a paper was due, with my mother trying to explain that it wasn’t lies. But I knew the difference. I would not state opinion as fact. There is a difference and I would respect it.

English class, which was full of stories, stories that I adored, which made my life worthwhile, began to be my least favorite, my most disliked. Because it was illogical, and I was expected to know this illogical approach, and accept it and learn it. Stories were no longer safe. The girl who still read at least a book everyday no longer looked forward to a class dedicated to stories.

And so I began to specialize.

And there were science classes. Real honest science classes. And they were precise. It never asked you to lie. You suggested things and supported hypotheses. Data indicated that something happened. Nothing could be proved. It was exact and honest.

I was finally in a math class where I learned something new. It still moved rather slowly, with lots of reviewing, but there were proofs and beautiful fun patterns and numbers. And the beauty of math was that it could be proved. It could fit perfectly in the boxes. Everything was clearly stated and it was honest.

And so I pulled away from the lies that were expected of me in English, but never from the stories.  would still read and reread complete books daily. The stories were honest, the analysis was not.

Science gave me a new family of stories to study. It gave me a process for finding stories about the universe. Those strange, beautiful, unimagineable stories of how we were formed and how we work. The world is built on stories. I always knew the world was built on stories.

The stories in books are still there. I still consume them lovingly and copiously, and now that I have left all formal education that requires me to analyze literature, they are free. They are beautiful. But the world also has stories, beautiful strange amazing stories. Connecting and ideas.  They let you see the strings and the connections. But the stories in people are hidden, and people are often not amenable to processes designed to reveal them. There is a secret code, a way to analyze there, written in a way I do not understand.

Science tells us so many amazing stories.

There is a sea anemone that lives upside down in the bottom of ice sheets. The genetic code is so incredibly conserved and you can swap genes between species and they are still functional. We know how many cells C. elegans has (959), and the lineage of each cell. Planarians can pretty much regenerate from anything. There’s that new paper floating around which I haven’t had time to look at in detail that claims you can create stem cells by bathing cells in acid. In the first twentyfour hours, a zebrafish goes from a single cell to a mini-fishy. Watch it. It’s incredible.

And there are so many more amazing stories out there.

And science comes with a process for uncovering more.

And that is why I am a scientist.

Why does it matter?

TW: ableism stuff, probably?
Why does it matter if I need a checklist to remind me if I have showered yet today? Or if I have eaten or exercised or brushed my teeth?

How does it matter to you, an almost-stranger, a casual-acquaintance?

Or even those family members?

Why does it matter?

I still shower fairly regularly. I presume frequently enough so I don’t smell.
I brush my teeth before I leave because it is on my morning list. And I complete my morning list before I leave.

Having a list (Todoist!) means my morning routine CAN be interrupted and I can still get places at a reasonable time. Having a checklist means that I will still brush my teeth and take my meds even if my roommate is taking a shower when I wake up. I can make lunch instead, because it is on my morning list. And then when she is done, I can remember I haven’t brushed my teeth yet. And then go do it.

I didn’t need a check list before I went to college. I had a morning routine at home and there were enough bathrooms for the people awake in the morning (and I woke up and showered first anyway) that I got everything done in the same order.)

Wake up 30 seconds before the alarm goes off. My alarm is set to static on the lowest possible volume I can hear it from my bed. The alarm goes off at 6 am, turn off my alarm. Wake up my sister and then shower. Wash my hair one day and shave the next. Get dressed into uniform. I wake up sister again and make sure she is out of bed. It is now 6:07. Brush my teeth and feed the animals. Make lunch for school. Eat breakfast and read the whole newspaper cover to cover. Leave at 6:30am.

It was the same for 4 years, with only a few exceptions. The first 2 years, my sister was in elementary school so I didn’t wake her up. One year, we had 6 sheep and 2 pigs and 2 goats and chickens and bunnies and a horse, so feeding took a lot longer and I woke up at 5:30 instead.

But I had a routine and it worked.

And now I have a list.

Today I lost my car in a mall parking lot. Parking lots can be really big. And there were multiple parking lots by Sears. Boyfriend and I probably spent a good half hour driving around looking for my car.

I don’t have a list for parking my car.

I have NEVER remembered where I park. My friends know to remember for me.

(But that doesn’t help when I drive places alone.)

There’s also no reason to care about the fact that I have a giant PANIC flowchart taped to my closet door. It is not complete yet.

(This is largely because I can’t think of a solution if I am not tired or hungry. I am sure there is a solution. And also I am sure sometimes I panic for other reasons. I just can’t remember.)
People who live in the world, this flowchart makes your life better. Especially since you probably know me fairly well if you are looking at the inside of my closet door. But trust me. Having something that tells me what to do in a panic is a GOOD THING. You will like it. If you think it is silly, you probably have never had to find me sobbing in Walmart when I got lost there and my phone died and I couldn’t come up with a solution to find my friends. Or really dealt with any situation where I DID NOT KNOW HOW TO CALM DOWN. Because I need directions. And now I have (some) directions.
So going back to why does it matter?
Really, people?
It doesn’t matter.
And it really isn’t an concern of yours how I manage to get my teeth brushed and eat. And if I mention something about them being on a checklist, which sometimes happens from time to time, since I tend to check things off right away, well, that is perfectly all right, too.
And you better be ok with it.
Or if you aren’t, show it with subtle body language that I don’t understand at least, and then I won’t be offended or upset. But also, you are probably a jerk.

Thought you ought to know.

Adventures in Apartment Living: Paying Bills and Talking to Banks

I don’t like dealing with money, especially in large amounts. Or paying bills. (Who does, though…)I cannot remember to pay bills on time. I can remember to have enough money in the appropriate amounts, which right now I am handling by the “avoiding spending money method”. So automatic bill payment is amazing.*

And grad school pays me quarterly, too, which means it is a very large sum of money, all at once. That I have to use over a period of 3 months. So I need to have an idea of how much to spend and when. Which I really have no concept of, whatsoever.

(Boyfriend is going to help me make a budget soon. And Mint.com is nice, too**, but I also don’t know really what to set as reasonable limits for my various financial goals, so I need an actual person. Who know my income. Which is why I am dating an accountant. Well, not really, but it is a perk.) But I like that it gives overviews of EVERYTHING including my student loans and various accounts at different banks (I manage to pick up credit union accounts at several different places that I’ve lived and I haven’t quite managed to close any of them yet, so I’ve got small amounts of money currently scattered through several banks across the country, which aren’t all really accessible, but at least I know how much is in them. And I suppose it is online banking so I can probably move money around and such.)

(And don’t worry, I know this is a privileged problem to have.)

Sometimes I need to talk to banks to figure out how to work things out. Like how to set up automatic bank payments. Because bank websites confuse me.*** And that is ridiculously stressful. Because phone conversations and me do not get along best.

But…

Now sometimes banks have this new wonderful feature.

At least Bank of America does.

It has this wonderful button. That says “Chat with a specialist”

Which means I can message a person. Nonverbally. Typing. And get an immediate response. Without really dealing with a person directly.

It is so amazing.

I can ask them when I forget how to find my routing number (I don’t have checks… so I can’t look at them to figure it out.) I just talked to them to set up automatic bill payment. It took 15 minutes, maybe less. It would have taken me hours to figure it out on the confusing website. And calling things wouldn’t have worked and would have ended in me having to hide for a while afterwards and be useless.

But this way, I can get questions answered immediately. Without talking. And it is amazing.

~~~
*Although there seems to be no way to automatically pay my rent, which is unfortunate.
**And also that’s why I don’t use cash because there isn’t a record of my spending so I have NO IDEA how much money I’ve spent. And then I just get confused and panicky and that’s no good.
***So much. It is a good thing I have so many accountant friends because I just cannot understand the numbers on the credit statement. Or how much I have to pay or how it works. But I can check that all the transactions are real, and then you can set up “pay balance in full” and then all is good.

Rules, Rules, Rules

The best post I’ve read on rules was by Musings of an Aspie. It is far more eloquent than what I am going to say here. (But it isn’t completely how my rules work, since, after all, I didn’t write it.) But you should definitely read hers first if you haven’t, because it is absolutely brilliant.

Rules.

I like rules.

I stick to rules.

I have them for a lot of situations.

For things I do everyday, all the time, not as much.

When I talk to my family, I don’t worry as much about the rules. (Only a few rules then apply.) The rules for talking to my family are so everyday normal ones (when I am home regularly) that I don’t have to think about them.

Mostly they are manners.
Eat with your mouth closed.
Don’t put your elbows on the table.

And posture.
(My mother is very into that.)
Shoulders back, head up.
Walk with purpose.

(Learning to walk with purpose is useful. People seldom ask you where you are going when you walk with purpose.)

I assume most people are taught a lot of these rules.

When I talk to a stranger, there are a lot of rules.

Eye contact. Maintain eye contact. But not consistently. About 80% of the time. (I have a lot of practice in this so I usually only have to remind myself a couple of times. Although, I generally just stare at their face in general.)
Be polite (what a lovely, vague rule).
Shake hands when you first meet.
Stand still.
Don’t talk about controversial topics.
Say hello and stand up when someone new walks into a room.
Direct the conversation back to them.
Ask questions.
(People like talking about themselves. Conversations are a game.)

Remember names
(This rule is impossible. Well, not quite, but I can never remember the faces that go along with the names.)

….

I was asked if I ran my life by rules, principles, or understanding. And to me this seemed an incomplete question.

My understanding of you is built up of … well, not quite rules. But of things very similar to rules.

More like observations.

It would be more accurate, maybe, to say that for me, life is more like science.

I observe.
I look at all my observations.
I make them into hypotheses and observe some more to test them.

Starting specifically.
I gather up observations.
After staying up until 4 am, your voice is lower than normal.
When you tell me you worked all night and only got two hours of sleep, your voice is lower than normal.
When you are talking to me before you fall asleep in the middle of a sentence, your voice is lower.

Eventually, I gather a hypothesis. When you are tired, your voice is lower than normal.

I test it out over time.
It seems to hold consistent.

Sometimes they are things I can generalize to people in general.

Raised voice means angry.
Laughter is good.

Maybe this is why I took to science so well. I’ve been using the scientific method my whole life.

In orientation for my Ph.D program, we discussed the scientific method.

It seems simple.
It is simple.
It’s just not easy.

And that’s very true.

My parents seemed to know that this is how my mind works (generally). They gave me rules for things to do, but most importantly, they explained the WHY of the rule. Knowing the WHY of the rule helped apply it to the situations it was relevant.  And most importantly, the situations where the rule WAS NOT relevant.

When the why WASN’T explained, things happened that weren’t supposed to. Or were just utterly useless.

Look behind you before you change lanes. (So I looked directly behind to the back of the car. Not to the blind spot. Because they said look behind you. And I thought it was silly, but it was a RULE of driving, and I certainly didn’t know everything.)

But once the WHY was explained, then I actually checked for oncoming cars. It didn’t just give me situations to apply the rules, it made them work better.

Knowing the whys of rules makes the world a less confusing place. Knowing the whys makes rules easier to remember. But knowing the whys is usually something I can’t figure out myself (especially social-wise). And this is where parents come in, where friends come in, where cousins come in, where boyfriend comes in. Because sometimes they can explain the whys.

Autisticook’s Awesome Stimming List!!!!

Hi everyone!

Look at this awesome project that autisticook started. It’s a giant monster list of stimming. If you’ve ever thought you couldn’t be autistic because you didn’t stim (because I definitely did), look at this! Or if you’ve ever thought your stimming was weird and you were embarrassed. Or if you ever thought you were the only one ever who did something, and it made you feel lonely.

Then…

LOOK AT THIS!
(link goes to results of survey)

So many things are stims! It is awesome and incredible!

(And it’s also a list. And lists are amazing.)

And we want it to become even more amazing and larger and larger and larger. 
So friends, enter your stims here!

Join our stimming checklist!

Make it even better!

P.S. Sorry about the ugly formatting/the survey going outside of the text-box area. It’s rather ugly, but I don’t know how to fix it/it isn’t high on my list of priorities since it is only a one-post issue and not a recurring thing, and soon will be hidden as I post more and more things.

Cooking is delightful… (A routine)

I have always been a picky eater.

I do not like tomatoes. They are slimy and tough at the same time.

I do not like avocados. They are mushy.

I do not like red and green bits in my food, especially if I do not know what they are.

I do not like celery. (If celery has been anywhere near my food, if it has touched my food (at school in the dorms, the carrots and celery were next to each other in the salad bar and sometimes were together!), I can tell, and it makes the food disgusting.)

I do not like my foods to mix if they have different flavors (I’m more ok with it now, such as if it is a stir-fry where they all have the same sauces). (Or you can build walls of rice between them, and then the flavors get on the rice instead of on each other, and that is ok).

And there are more strange food issues, too.

Because I am a picky eater, I like making my own food.

When I cook, I am in charge of what I am eating (and I do love eating, just only certain things). Even if the recipe says to add bell peppers, if I don’t like bell peppers, I AM NOT PUTTING THEM IN. (Or not cook with a recipe that includes bell peppers.) If I want to have all the tomatoes pureed so that you can get the flavor without the texture, I can. Over time, I’ve learned what things can and what things really shouldn’t be substituted for (mostly due to my father’s adventures in recipe-free cooking, but also due to reading A LOT, especially about the various reactions in baking). I like the freedom to make things just the way I want them.

Now the way I cook is very methodical. I love cooking (and eating), so I (the summers I lived in an apartment, and the way I assume I will work this out once I move to my new apartment) would make lists of all the delicious recipes I encountered that week during my procrastination time (foodgawker.com is one of my favorite websites ever). Food/cooking/baking/eating the results is probably one of my special interests.

Then Saturdays were for planning out menus and meals. We liked to plan them so we didn’t have any awkward amounts of ingredients left (sometimes you have to use less of a perishable ingredient that you can buy, so we would plan 2 recipes that week with it). We would go through the lists of delicious things we had found and figure out which foods to put on each days. We would usually plan on 3 meals, a fancy weekend breakfast, and several baking sprees, with plans to eat leftovers* or grilled cheese sandwiches (the absolute best meal in the world ever) the other days.

Once we had made a menu, then we would make our grocery list. We would go through the cabinets and look up all the ingredients we needed and make lists of the ones we didn’t have. The lists were sorted the same way grocery stores are: fruits, canned goods, pastas, baking supplies, dairy products, etc.

Sunday was grocery store shopping day. It was very efficient. Went down each aisle no more than once, got everything we needed for the week.

And then we had our meals planned out for the weeks and directions for them.

And there was no need to go back to the store.**

And then all that needed to be done each night was cook the meal planned for that day. We had all the ingredients and all the directions. And because dinner is in my schedule and routine, I remember to eat. It was a lovely, extremely functional routine.

~~~
*It takes a while to get used to cooking small amounts of food. My father still labors under the impression that he is cooking for 10 people instead of 5 (the number of people actually in our family AKA really the only number he has had to cook for larger than himself). As in, we can usually invite an entire (additional) family of 5 over to dinner without telling my father, because there will be enough food. And probably leftovers. So with recipes like that, it is clear that I had issues getting portion size down to 2.
**Except we usually had to, since we rode bikes to the store, and therefore could only carry limited amounts of milk. And I consume large amounts of milk. But that was easy to pick up on the ride back. Also, that was why this ritual was weekly, since the backpacks+handlebars carrying ability limited us to a little more than 3 bags/person (backpacks can usually fit more than one grocery bag-full).