Adventures with Anna

Well, what an adventure Saturday was…

My mom and I were at the airport, waiting to board the plane for our much-awaited and well-deserved trip to Hilton Head SC. Just moments before they called the “B” group, I got a text from our dogsitter saying that Anna had somehow gotten out of the yard!

Needless to say, my mom and I didn’t end up boarding the plane. Instead, we ended up calling my uncle, who offered us a ride back home. He couldn’t believe what had happened, either. While we waited for my uncle, our dogsitter was extremely apologetic and did everything in her power to locate Anna, including calling the dog warden. None of us could figure out how Anna could have possibly gotten out of the fenced-in yard! She is certainly a Houdini!

Once home, my mom and I drove around the nearby neighborhood where Anna was staying. I made posts on Facebook, Nextdoor, and the local Lost and Found Pets pages. We drove around for about an hour and a half, and meanwhile, a couple people commented on my posts stating they had seen a dog who fit the description of Anna, however she had been too fast for them to catch up to her! We asked a few people walking in the neighborhood if they had seen a dog, and a really nice couple said they would keep an eye out.

Shortly after, I got a text from the sitter asking me to call her right away. When she answered, she told me that Anna came back to the house! Her son, who had also driven around to aid in the search, had been home, and heard their dog barking. When he looked outside, he saw Anna standing in the yard! He had opened the door, and she had come right inside.

“Relief” can’t even begin to define the emotions that swept over my mom and me! We thanked the sitter, who sounded just as relieved as we were, profusely. She said that she would ensure that Anna is on a leash any time she goes outside from now on, and we agreed that it was the best idea for our little escape artist!

My mom and I headed over to the sitter’s house, where her son was waiting. We thanked him and he explained how he had thought their dog had maybe seen a squirrel or something when he heard her start barking. When he saw that it was Anna, he was as relieved as we were when we found out the news! He also said that Anna seemed to take to him, and that he thought she would enjoy the rest of her stay. We gave Anna a few more pets before we left, and told her that she better be a good girl! 😊

While that evening ended up quite differently than we expected, as I always say, everything happens for a reason! We may have eaten takeout from Burger King when we hoped to be eating a nice steak dinner at the Bonefish grill near the airport in Charleston, SC, but our vacation still commenced, just a day later than scheduled. I’m SO thankful Anna is back, and that she is safe. I can’t wait to see her upon our return home! ❀️

A Very Happy 38th Birthday!

On Tuesday, I had a very enjoyable time as I celebrated my 38th trip around the sun! And, by that, I mean that I spent part of it basking in it! A late March day in the 70s in BUFFALO? I’ll take it! 😎

Once I decided it was time to grab a bite to eat, I came back inside and then munched on some cheese and crackers. Once my mom and I were ready, we hopped into the car and took a cruise to the Rochester area. We browsed the Enchanted Rose Garden Boutique, where I found some jewelry, lotion, a stimmy fidget ball, and a ceramic cat nightlight that made me think of my grandma, as I just know she would have loved it! We then traveled to Whiskey River Pub and Grill. I enjoyed a steak with a side of macaroni and cheese, a salad, and fries. It was delish! For dessert, we stopped at Jackson’s Bakery where I picked out two slices of cake: one white with strawberry frosting, and the other chocolate with chocolate frosting.

Finally, after we arrived home, we took Anna for a walk in the park! It was still in the high 60s at sunset! I also couldn’t resist capturing it from my backyard…just look at the beautiful colors!

I savored every bite of my pieces of cake, and relaxed while playing some Sonic on my phone. It was an amazing day, and tons of fun! 😊

You Know What Today Is!

…that’s right! It’s Christmas Eve Eve! It wouldn’t be complete without my annual post! πŸ™‚

Though not in sunny Florida like I was supposed to be right now, I’m enjoying a gorgeous, somewhat sunny day in Buffalo! It’s in the 40s, which feels quite balmy compared to earlier in the week. My mom and I are going to take Anna for a walk in the park. Tomorrow is supposed to be 50! Then, there’s a winter storm warning and it’s only supposed to be 30 on Christmas. Fingers crossed the snow blows elsewhere!

Anna Banana!

I can’t wait for the festivities to begin. Tomorrow evening my mom and I are going to my brother and sister-in-law’s for Christmas Eve dinner. My SIL’s family will be visiting from out of town as well, but don’t worry, we’re not having too large of a gathering because, social distancing! On Christmas, my mom and I are going to see News of the World at AMC, and then will come home to feat on dinner we’re ordering from Elma Towne Grille. It’s going to be a fun couple of days!

Elma Towne Grille

I’m also off for 5 days straight, which is a treat I haven’t enjoyed in probably a year, as I think the last time I had that many days off in a row was probably my Christmas vacay last year! Being the workaholic I am, it’ll be nice to kick back πŸ˜‰ I’ve been enjoying having free time to play PokΓ©mon Sword on Switch.

Hoping everyone has a happy holiday weekend, and wishing you all good health! πŸ™‚

I Did It! 😊

The past year and a half has been quite a journey! I went from being the heaviest and least in shape I’ve ever been in my life, to doing a complete 180. I now weigh less than I did when I started working at the supervised apartments where I have one of my relief gigs, 15 YEARS AGO! 😁 See for yourself!

June 2019. 366 pounds.
November, 2020. 225 pounds.

I still remember the moment I decided to take control of my life. I was sitting in the recliner in my living room one day last spring, munching away on NestlΓ© Crunch Nest Eggs. My mom looked over at me and said, “you’ve GOT to do something about your weight. You’re slowly killing yourself.” I knew she was absolutely right. I had become a blob of a human being. Simply getting up from the chair and walking to the next room left me huffing and puffing. I was too young for this. The thing was, I WANTED to lose weight. I just didn’t think it would ever be possible, so I settled for existing in a body that didn’t allow me to be my best self. I had figured, “it’s never going to happen anyway, so why try?”

I had struggled with my weight since I was around 20. The pounds steadily packed on, year after year until I found myself where I was at. That same day, my mom suggested I look into a program called Ideal You that we had seen advertised on TV as well as billboards. She told me that they were having open houses, and offered to go with me to one for moral support. I said, “well, it’s worth a shot.”

My decision ended up being possibly the best one I’ve ever made in my life. I was finally on the road to shedding this extra layer, once and for all! During my first week of the keto-based program, I lost a whopping 7.2 pounds! Each week thereafter, I steadily lost an average of 5 pounds. Before I knew it, 6 months had passed, and I hit my 100lb milestone! I earned a certificate declaring me a member of the “Century Club.”

Hard work reaps rewards!

The following 6 months would see a little bit of a slowdown with weight loss, however I was still steadily dropping. After all, I had less to lose, so it was to be expected! By March, I had gotten down to around 250. While most people have gained weight during the COVID epidemic, I continued to lose! Two or three more months passed, and I hit 225. I kept pushing for my original goal of 200.

After having plateaued for the next few months, I made a couple decisions. First, I had concluded that since I was already down to an extra large, which was the size I wanted to be, I didn’t really need to lose another whole 25 pounds. I decided on 210. When I plateaued for yet another month, I realized it was time to listen to my body: if 225 was where it felt content, I was okay with that! I am now barely larger than I was when I graduated high school at 185, and I feel FANTASTIC. No more back pain or sore knees, and best of all, no running out of breath from the slightest bit of exertion.

Granted, after completing the keto phase of the program, I did go on a little (ok, big) snacking spree, as don’t forget, I haven’t gotten to enjoy a lot of foods for a whole year and a half! I definitely indulged more than I should, at the price of 10 pounds. Now that I know what I need to do to drop those pounds back off, and then maintain, I’ll be good to go!

A Happy Halloween Weekend

This was busy and fun-filled weekend, entailing working both of the overnight shifts, and being a double header: dinner and a movie two nights in a row!

On Friday, I picked up one of my good friends and we were off to dinner at Tully’s Good Times. It was a bit of an adventure, and a literal rush. On the way to the restaurant, nature called. We hit seemingly EVERY red light, and traffic slowly chugged along. Once I finally caught a break and was able to turn onto Hertel from Elmwood, I made it to Dunkin Donuts. I ran to the door, and to my demise, the dining room was closed! NOOOO!!! I dashed back to the car and then drove a block up the street to Burger King, where I was able to make my close call. Whew, what a relief!

The rest of the drive to the restaurant wasn’t any faster, and we finally pulled into the parking lot at about 6pm, despite having to be at AMC Maple Ridge for our movie by 6:45. After reassuring my friend that Tully’s “always takes only 10 minutes or so to serve,” I found myself eating my words. We waited for what felt like an eternity. Our server eventually brought us our dinners, and we barely had enough time to shovel them down before we had to jet to the theater. At least the food was tasty!

Luckily, we made it to AMC just a few minutes past showtime, and thanks to previews, we didn’t miss the beginning of the show! We saw Come Play, which is the story of a nonverbal autistic boy who uses his phone and tablet to communicate, as well as to enjoy Spongebob videos. A monster on the other side of the screen is looking to “befriend” the boy. The movie was very well-written, and I really appreciated how rather than depicting the boy as having a fault that needed to be fixed, as movies often do, it normalized the use of alternate forms of communication, and promoted acceptance of the boy for who he is. It was refreshing to see.

After the first overnight shift on Friday was a done deal, Saturday brought dinner and a movie: round two! My best friend and I ate dinner at Texas Roadhouse. Now, the last time we attempted to eat there, we were told it would be an hour and a half wait…how absurd! I made sure to call ahead this time. We arrived and were seated within ten minutes, which was MUCH better. Our food came quickly this time around, and she was able to enjoy her country fried chicken, and I, my barbecue chicken and sirloin, with time to spare before our 7:00 show.

Back to AMC it was, and the movie of the evening was The War With Grandpa. It was entertaining, and just as funny as I’d hoped. In this story, a boy who is just starting sixth grade finds out his grandpa is coming to live with his family. The hitch? He will be moving into his grandson’s bedroom, leaving him with the attic. The boy declares “war” on his grandpa, and the viewer follows the antics of both sides, as the boy tries to “win” his room back. It was a pleasant watch!

Now off to work the second and final overnight of the weekend. This one will be a whopper, because as we say farewell to Daylight Savings Time, I get a bonus hour. Eleven hours total…whew! This sure made for an eventful weekend: Halloween, falling back an hour, and a full moon, to boot!

My amateur attempt to capture the full moon.

How I’ve Been Doing

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything! The reason for that is that nothing has really been new. I’ve been continuing to work from home for my position as a Behavior Management Coordinator, and at the houses for my relief positions. Other than that, things have been same old, same old.

While I have been getting out to take walks and such, life has pretty much been the same every day: wake up, check emails, do my work for the day, sign off, and then either take a walk which is typically followed by dinner, or work another shift. Then I’ll relax for a while, maybe watch a show on Netflix, and go to bed, only to start over the next day.

One thing that has been nice is the weather. We broke a record at 94 degrees on Tuesday! I’ve been getting plenty of sun, and sitting outside on the swing on my deck. I love the fact that summer is almost here. It’s my favorite season!

I’m really looking forward to everything opening back up. My best friend and I can’t wait to get back to the mall and restaurants! It’ll be nice to go to the movies again, too. The trend has been that the curve is flattening, so it looks like we’ll see that happen someday in the near future.

Aside from all the humdrum, I do have exciting news: my brother is getting married on June 14th! The wedding is going to take place at a farmhouse in the Finger Lakes, where things will be opening by that time! We’re all going to stay there from Saturday through Thursday, and the my brother and his fiancee will be married at a gazebo. It’s going to be a blast! I’m excited to be able to be there for them, as well as to make a getaway.

I haven’t heard anything about when I’ll be heading back to the office yet, but I’m thinking that since it’s now been proven it can be done, working from home at least part of the week may be an option. In the meantime, I’m taking life as I always do: one day at a time!

Being Autistic During Social Distancing

Many people associate being autistic with being an introvert. There is a lot of truth to this notion, as I know many autistics for whom the concept of social distancing is relatively easy. They have no difficulty with keeping to themselves and staying in. However, I’m living proof that social autistics DO exist.

I, personally, am going stircrazy. I’m working from home for my full-time job right now, which, in itself, is going well. I’m still able to email, call, and text my coworkers, as well as the staff at the houses I’m in charge of the behavioral side of things for. That said, it’s just not the same getting out and having somewhere to GO every day. I miss just being able to chat with others in the room, and being out and about, going to Life Plan meetings and such.

My mom is also working from home, so we are glad to have each other around. One thing we’ve been doing is going for a walk in the park each day we can after our work is done (while keeping our distance from others, of course!). This is helping me to at least get some exercise, fresh air, and just some time out of the house. We go for drives as well. It definitely breaks up the day somewhat.

Mentally and emotionally, I’d say I’m hanging in there. It’s worth mentioning I do live with mental health diagnoses (anxiety and OCD) in addition to being autistic. My medications help me VERY much. At the same time, with my days having changed so much, and the fact I can see my friends, go to the mall or out to eat, or to the movies, which are some of my favorite activities, it is taking a toll on my mental health. I find my moods shifting between anxious for no apparent reason, to feeling down, where I’m dwelling on sad thoughts. Today, I’m at an equilibrium, and am feeling pretty good since the sun is shining 🌞 Let’s hope this lasts!

Another thing that has helped is that I’m still working relief for my two other jobs during all of this, as residential staff are essential employees. I got a call from one of the agencies about one of their houses which has an abundance of open shifts. I picked up 13 for April! This will help me to get out of the house, and I’ll have people to interact with. It gives my life meaning to help others, as always. I worked my first shift there last night, and the residents are really cool! πŸ™‚

It’s important during these times to know what your “style” is, and what works for you. While many of my friends find this time not to be much of a challenge, remember that some autistics thrive on socialization. While I can’t go out and hang out with my friends and family as I’d like to, there are ways I can still break up my day and take care of my mental health. Wishing everyone healthy days ahead! Stay safe!

It’s My Birthday! 😊

Well, I’ve completed another orbit around the sun. Happy 37th birthday to me, even if I don’t feel a day older than 20 πŸ˜‰

So far, my quarantine birthday has been going well, all things considered. While my mom and I won’t be going to Erie, PA as we had planned, we are going to make the most of this day! While I’ve been working at home, I still took PTO for today, so I can spend it doing whatever it is I would like to do…I have keto brownie mix and keto ice cream ready, and my mom and I are going to take a drive later, followed by takeout from LongHorn Steakhouse. I’m also going to play some Switch, of course, because what birthday would be complete without some video game time?

I ordered myself a couple presents from Amazon. They were supposed to arrive today, but…surprise! They arrived at my doorstep yesterday. I gifted myself a Pusheen Dragonsheen plush that flaps her wings when you squeeze her tail, and a set of 4 tins of Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty, which I’m an avid collector of.

While different from what I had expected, I’m still going to seize the day, and make it MY day! πŸ™‚ I hope you all have a great day as well!

Reframing My Thinking

I know the coronavirus has turned the world on its head. You’ve heard stories of toilet paper flying off the shelves. Businesses going into shutdown mode. More importantly, communities coming together to help each other stay safe.

Over the weekend, I was really caught up in my feelings. I was already experiencing a sleep deficit due to the fact I had a lot going on with work and my brother’s fiancee’s wedding shower, which was fantastic! Aside from the good of those couple of days, a lot of minor annoyances had been occurring, and yesterday it all came to a head. I needed to vent.

As the day went on, I couldn’t help but to feel disappointed about what the crisis meant for me. My birthday is coming up in two weeks. Now, it may not seem like much of a big deal, but I live for traditions. I view my birthday as my day to call the shots, and I celebrate it by doing the things I enjoy most. Missing this tradition is hard for me, especially as an autistic, because it’s a change from what I’m used to. Birthdays only come once a year, and I look forward to them very much and count on the events I have planned. My mom and I had been set to go to Erie, PA, as we have on many past birthdays, to shop and go out for dinner.

At the same time, I also felt selfish for feeling this way. In the greater scope of things, my birthday plans mean NOTHING compared to what the rest of the world is dealing with. I had refrained from posting about it on Facebook up until yesterday because of the fact I DIDN’T want to come off as self-absorbed. I did break and needed a quick vent session, but once I let my feelings out, I was able to process them.

After a good night’s sleep, I found myself in a much better frame of mind this morning. I now realize that I had made a mountain out of a molehill. I can always put my plans on hold until after the things that take precedence blow over. More pressing is the safety of others around us. I’d much rather see people getting help who need it, than worry about my own agenda. We need to stick together. Stay safe, everyone!

My Ten Seconds of Fame!

I made the news on Wednesday! I helped organize and run Sensory Night at Lumagination, with Autism Services.

For those of you who’ve never heard of Lumagination, it’s a really cool exhibit that travels to various locations, this one being the Erie County Botanical Gardens. The gardens are lit up with lasers, color-changing bulbs, and sculptures. Some of the sculptures this year were made by UB students. This year’s theme was “Earth.”

A statue of Mother Earth

For Sensory Night, some of my fellow staff from Autism Services and I set up a table of sensory items, an iPad playing the Autism Acceptance video put on by the students last year, and pamphlets illustrating the services we offer. We also provided sensory toys which were up for grabs for anyone interested!

Our table!

We had a great turnout! There was a little girl, about preschool-age, who really loved the sensory rice bin and came back to it about five times! She was so cute πŸ™‚ I saw some of the kiddos I used to work with in after school, too! It was so nice to see them and their parents. There was a boy who noticed the scented putty that we had on the table, and I showed him the glob I had been manipulating throughout the event. He said, “this reminds me of Sticky Tack. Did you know that I have Sticky Tack?” He was a very friendly, animated kid.

Towards the end of the night, I was interviewed by WIVB and Spectrum News! I talked about the event, and answered questions regarding the benefits of sensory environments, and what people can do both be sensitive to the sensory needs of others, and to help them cope. After that was all said and done, they only decided to air a short clip where I had talked about how I’m a sensory seeker, and how I’m not sensitive to lights and sounds, but rather smells, tastes, and textures, but it was still nice to be in the spotlight πŸ™‚ All in all, it was a lot of fun, and I think everyone who came to check it out would say the same!

A giant geode sculpture
A crystal sculpture