“Tell us more about this racquetball…what are the clothes like?” “Can we wear cute outfits?” “I do.” “I think racquetball sounds great.” 


At the beginning of this week, I didn’t know where the week would lead me…little did I know that I would get a lesson in self-love. 

It’s no mistake that I’ve had issues with my autism spectrum diagnosis. Accepting it has been a pattern of grief, relief, understanding, and confusion. I had been focusing on all of the struggles that have been in my life due to autism. I didn’t know how to embrace autism and let it define me in a positive light. 

For the past 2 weeks I had been looking into forms of exercise that would appeal to me. I found some methods that worked for me and some that didn’t. 

This week was very successful in finding what I love. 


I had seen an event in my area being advertised as “farm yoga.” I was incredibly excited for this! I’ve tried yoga in the past and fell in love. One of my special interests is animals. Put both interests together and you get success!!! 

Farm Yoga was hosted by Garden of Edens Massage Therapy in south Oklahoma City (Moore). The instructor was Kyleen and she was extremely friendly! Upon arrival, I pulled up to a big red barn in the countryside. I was welcomed by a small group who welcomed me in! I paid $5 (I love cheap deals!) and received a free chair massage, some feed for the animals, and I put my name into a drawing to win some free stuff! As I was enjoying my massage, Chewy the goat came up to me and asked me for kibbles! It was so much fun. 


After my massage I decided to feed the goats and donkeys that were in the same pin we were doing our farm yoga in! The donkeys were a little skittish and Chewy was a food hog. 

During the yoga class, there were a few moves I couldn’t do whether it was due to coordination or working around the extra fluff I have going on. The best part about yoga is listening to your body and asking it with what it wants, what it’s comfortable with, and what it would like to try or hold back on. When my body asked to hold back on certain poses, we stopped and pet a goat or donkey. Sometimes it was hard to keep my concentration. Every once in a while a goat would come up to me and lick my toes!!! 

The most memorable moment of farm yoga, for me, was at the end of our cool down. At “namaste” I looked over my shoulder and one of the donkeys was kissing my shoulder! It was like he could feel my happy spirit and was encouraging me to keep going. Animals are so magical. 


At the end of the class we enjoyed new friendships, conversations, and refreshments! I, of course, decided to feed some of my furry friends some more kibbles!!! 

As if my day couldn’t get any better, I also won a gift basket containing a charcoal face mask, Epsom salts (which are always a need in my life after yoga), a bath bomb (I LOVE bath bombs! Especially Lush), an eye mask, candies……and…..a gift certificate to a free one-hour hot stone massage!!!!

Farm yoga=no regrets. 


One of the most exciting things about learning that I am a member of the autism community is making new connections. I met my friend Ariel on a Facebook group for the Aspie Adults of Oklahoma City. She is also part of my Facebook group named Oklahoma Women on the Autism Spectrum. I hadn’t had the pleasure of meeting her in-person yet and when she announced her fitness class on her personal Facebook page, I KNEW I had to meet her and befriend her! 

Ariel Cullison is a Pound Fit instructor and leads classes at The Wherehouse OKC located in Del City, Oklahoma. She is so much fun, she’s friendly, and has an amazing energy. The class is extremely welcoming to all ages, races and sexes. She provides modifications in her fitness routine to those who would enjoy more of a challenge or those in need of a more gentle method of movement. 

Sounds great! But what exactly is Pound Fit?! Glad you asked! I was introduced to Pound Fit when I watched the show This Is Us. Kate participated in a cardio fitness class that involved drum sticks, music, rhythm, and I KNEW I had to find a class for myself! 

While Kate’s class takes on more of a therapeutic feel, don’t let that scare you. Ariel’s class was definitely more cardio-based and fun-filled and had some fun jams that went along with it! I struggle with coordination and there were a few times I got lost on the rhythm, but Ariel was encouraging and didn’t let me get too far off the beaten (haha, get it?) path! 

Even through the sweat and sore muscles, I had a smile on the entire time and really felt free, energized, and empowered. I’m incredibly grateful toward Ariel for helping me embrace that side of myself and her class members for helping me feel encouraged. If you’re in the OKC area, I HIGHLY recommend you check out one of her classes! 
This week is only half-way through and I’m loving the opportunities it has had in store for me and the lessons it has taught me. I have found confidence in myself, I’m learning to take better care of myself, and I’ve found a few new hobbies and friendly faces to become more familiar with. I am grateful and my heart is full. 

Aspie Meeting update and Autistic Burnout topic 


Autistic burnout. It’s rough. It’s tough. But it doesn’t have to beat you down. 

I’ve been trying to blog on this subject for a couple of weeks. The truth is, I’m learning that burnout takes a longer amount of recovering than I realized. I’m still experiencing burnout even as I type this. It’s also a never-ending cycle. 

Let me start from the beginning.

I had a dream a few days ago. I was walking and running with all the energy in the world, my body wasn’t holding me back and I wasn’t huffing or puffing. I love those dreams. When I woke up, I decided I wanted to try training for a 5k. I usually hate exercise. I associate it with people yelling at me and it being a scary, overwhelming experience (we’ll touch on that another time). I really enjoy yoga but I haven’t done it in months so I haven’t felt comfortable going to a class. So, I decided to download the Couch to 5k app, go to the lake’s walking trail, and do a little training there. I decided on this because I would be in control of the pace of the workout and the intensity. As I began my walk I was encouraged by Britney Spears’s “Stronger” telling me that I was “stronger than yesterday.” I started reflecting on “yesterday”. “Yesterday” I was stuffing my face in an ice cream sundae from Braum’s and today I was on the running track. I was both mad at myself for the choices I made but happy that I decided to change the name of the game.

As I started my routine, the sundae (and the extra bowls of cereal, the poptarts, and ice cream all from the past 2 weeks) started catching up with me. Let me put my body image into perspective for you- as I was doing the two-minute running portion of my exercise, my body fat was clapping against itself. I didn’t know if I should feel encouraged because it sounded like my body was encouragingly applauding me along, or if I should feel humiliated because all of this excess fat was swishing around in the air, banging against itself, and creating a siren that rang “LOOK AT ME! I’M ATTEMPTING THE THINGS!” 

I didn’t last very long. I only did half of the routine. I became discouraged, found a park bench, sat, and sulked. I’m the master of sulking. I looked over the horizon of the lake and thought to myself, “here’s another thing I’m attempting at that I’m quitting. Again.” Then I thought, “Why do I have to quit? Why am I quitting? Is it just because it’s hard?” I decided to get up from the park bench and make the long (to me) trek back to the car. As I was walking, one of my favorite songs from middle school came on Pandora, “Fly” by Hilary Duff. In her encouraging fashion, Hilary sang to me, “When you’re down and feel alone, just want to run away. Trust yourself and don’t give up. You know you better than anyone else.” So, I decided I wouldn’t give up, I would just adjust my workout to fit in a way that better suited me. I decided I would do water walking and water jogging instead. My knees still hurt but not as much.

Moving on….

I recently reached out to a local group in my area, Aspie Adults of Oklahoma City. The group usually meets in Norman once a month. I asked the leaders if they could have a group closer to where I live in OKC and they said that was great- if I wanted to pull it together. I struggled with the decision for a couple of months but decided I would give it a go. A wise individual (Okay, Hilary Duff) once told me ““Fly, open up the part of you that wants to hide away. You can shine. Forget about the reasons why you can’t in life and start to try. ‘Cause it’s your time, time to fly.” 

So, I decided to take the plunge and go for it. I would start a North OKC chapter for the Aspie Adults of OKC.

 At first I decided I would have the meeting at a local library in the middle of town. I found out that the public library in Norman lets the Aspie Adults of OKC reserve a room for free. The public libraries in OKC have rooms that cost anywhere from $30-$100 an HOUR. It may not seem much to you, but that’s much to me. So, I reached out to a local LDS (Latter-day Saints) Facebook page for my area and asked if anyone had any ideas on where I could go that was fairly cheap or free. I was hesitant about using an actual church building in my congregation because I know some people feel triggered by religious environments and wanted to keep the group neutral. I would stay awake at night and worry about where I was going to have the meeting. Finally, someone in my stake (Mormon term, look it up) reached out to me and said they would let us use their conference room, free of charge! So, if you’re in OKC and ever need a place to get your electronics fixed, go to Digital Doc off of May and 59th!!!!!! They are great people. They said it was alright with them if I held a meeting every 4th Saturday of each month. Thank you, Digital Doc!!!

The next plan was to come up with the discussion topic. I wanted to do a get-to-know-you activity, while celebrating our diversity, but also acknowledging that we can all come together as one. The first thing that popped into my head was puzzle pieces. I was really hesitant with this thought because puzzle pieces is usually associated with Autism Speaks and that particular organization is very triggering to a lot of auties. Basically AS doesn’t have any auties on their board of directors and also things autism is a thing that needs to be cured. They have used the puzzle piece to represent autism as something that is puzzling and a cure (the missing piece) needs to be found. That’s a very butchered version, but that’s the gist. To me, the puzzle piece represents something I have been trying to find all of my life. I’ll speak on that another time. For this exercise I was preparing for my Aspie meeting, I was wanting to use the puzzle as a way to show how each other in the group were different but could come together and find their place in our meeting-it wasn’t even related to autism at all. So, I reached out to an autism women’s group on facebook and asked their opinion. They suggested I make the pieces in a shape that didn’t look like traditional puzzle pieces. It was a very helpful comment and I took the fellow-aspie’s advice. I decided to buy some new coloring crayons and some markers at my local Target. I already owned coloring pencils. I wanted to make sure there were different “artistic” methods of creating a personal “all about you” puzzle piece that would speak to each person. 

I arrived about 30 minutes to the meeting. I had brought name tags. I’m really bad at names. I either remember your name or your face, it takes me a long time to connect both. I learned that some aspies at my meeting had a disorder of some sort that caused them to not ever remember names so the name tags were a great idea. Good job, me. Digital Doc did a great job setting up the tables and chairs the way I requested, and I arranged all the art supplies and puzzle pieces the way I wanted to.

I ended up having 6 people (excluding myself) show up to the meeting! Some of them were leaders and members of the group in Norman and I believe a couple were new. One of the members told me “one fact about aspies, they’re either really late or really early.” So, in true aspie fashion we started 30 minutes late! It was fine, though.

 I prepared a few questions that we could discuss. My first question was “What was life like for you growing up with autism? Did you feel like you fit in or did you feel like you were an outcast?” I heard stories that were like mine- a few members were diagnosed later in life and a few were diagnosed in childhood. They all had feelings of isolation. 

The next question I had was “What advantages do you feel come with being on the spectrum?” Aspies are known for having special interests. Some suggested that their special interests helped them be self-reliant. For example, one of my member’s special interest is religion and he has been able to be a pastor. Therefore, his special interest of religion has helped him make a living. My favorite, and I feel like the best comment was made by one individual who said, “Once you harness it, you become a great anthropologist.” So true, the one thing that has gotten me through the NT (neurotypical) world is copying behaviors I’ve seen by others. 

The last question I had for them was, “Do you feel like you have a place or have found your place in the neurotypical world?” This is the question that I was most anxious to get answers from. I wanted to know the secret of fitting into the world around me. However, everyone answered a big ole “NO.” It was both discouraging but comforting to hear that I wasn’t alone in my feelings of isolation. 

After our discussion, I asked those who felt comfortable to tell us what they put on their puzzle piece. I received a round of applause when I mentioned I had written “Weight Watchers” on my piece because I had lost 50 lbs on the program. One person had shared with us a drawing on their bearded dragon, I think it was, because they collect amphibians. Another person was a truck driver and shared a drawing of a truck. My favorite one was an individual who said “I like Star Trek.” and held up their drawing of a Star Trek space ship thingy thing, for lack of knowledge of technical term. 


I ended the meeting by having us put the puzzle together. My parting statement was, “Although we may feel different, we fit in somewhere. Just like any puzzle, it may take time to find the spot where you fit in perfectly, but I promise you fit in. Especially here, at Aspie Adults of OKC.”


All in all, it was a very successful meeting and I had a great time. I was told by the members that they enjoyed the meeting as well. That was very encouraging. 

However, it took a lot of energy. I was high on energy after my meeting and wanted to do a lot of things, I didn’t want to go home. I think I was running on adrenaline. My husband had been called into work that morning unexpectedly and didn’t have the energy to go on a date with me so I went by myself. I ended my evening at a coffee shop, listening to a live performance. I was the only member in the audience, which was fine by me. It was a man singing and playing his guitar. He asked me what I liked to listen to and I told him “pop.” Poor dude. He tried, unsuccessfully, to play Britney Spears for me. I later told him a song by the Black Crowes would suffice. So, he played “She Talks to Angels.” I think my dad would have been proud of me. (Don’t tell him I had to do a quick Google search first.)

Saturday (meeting day) was great. The day after was a whole other story. When I woke up Sunday morning, I already off. I felt incredibly guilty because I didn’t have the energy to get up, go to church, and teach my primary class that day. I woke up with a sore throat (battling a sinus infection, which is NOT sensory friendly) and I was just overwhelmed from the start. I was mad because I was in a bad mood and didn’t know why (Oddly enough, I still have a hard time recognizing burnout at times) and ended the day in a meltdown. The meeting went great but the weekend didn’t go as planned. I didn’t get to spend time with my husband in the way I had planned all week. We were supposed to go fishing that weekend but so many other things came up that we didn’t make it. So, disappointment and exhaustion ended with a mild meltdown Sunday evening. 

I think the most frustrating thing is that I need so much downtime to recover mentally from all the activities I put myself through. I don’t give myself the time I need, mainly because, sometimes, there’s not time to give yourself. 

Needless to say, I think this week is going to be low-key and activity-free. Although, I’m planning to go to Farm Yoga. Stay tuned for a blog post on that. I already have an idea planned for my next meeting on the subject I want to talk about. I’m very much looking forward to that!

Thank you for making it to the end of my blog post. I apologize if any of it was confusing to follow. Writing while experiencing burnout is pretty interesting and exhausting but I wanted to give you guys something!

Take care!

“If you’re feeling frightened about what comes next, don’t be. Embrace the uncertainty. Allow it to lead you places.”

daddy2

 

In true aspie fashion I’ve been anxious about the 4th of July because of the festivities. I am very afraid of fire and the 4th usually consists of drunk people handling fire. I’m also not a fan of loud and sudden noises and that also seems to be a big part of celebrating. During all of this worrying, I have been forgetting the true meaning of the holiday.

My dad was active in the United States Army while I was growing up and I experienced a LOT of change. Change included saying goodbye, moving to new places, learning a new culture, making new friends, and the dreaded deployments. My parents handled everything with grace which I think was the only thing that helped me through it. I also had my forever friend, my sister Ariel (who I lovingly refer to as Poozle), by my side.

My parents always made a new move sound like an exciting adventure. My parents always “bribed” us with a new comforter set for our new bedrooms and it always made moving sound a little more exciting. We got to redecorate our bedrooms! (By the time Daddy retired in 2010, we had a crap-load of blankets and comforters in our closet.) It didn’t make the change easier, it made it more bearable.

I remember when my Momma and Daddy sat Poozle and me down to inform us we were moving to New York. I was 11-years-old at the time and obsessed with Hilary Duff. When I heard “New York” I immediately thought the whole state was a giant NYC, full of celebrities, and I was determined to bring an autograph book with me everywhere I went in the big chance that I would run into Hilary Duff on the sidewalk. Tip: Fort Drum is nothing like NYC. Bring snow boots, not an autograph book.

The last time I had moved I was 8 or 9, so I was still a kid and could make friends by just liking the same toy as another kid. When we moved to New York, I was 11 and I learned the hard way that making friends as a pre-teen was not so easy. I also believe being undiagnosed autistic made everything so much harder. I remember lying in bed one night, sobbing my eyes out. My mom came into my room and asked me what was wrong and I told her “I don’t have any friends here!” My mom tried her hardest to help me make friends. She tried to involve me in youth group at church, she signed up for the local homeschool group, and she enrolled my sister and me into dance classes. I remember going to church and hiding in the bathroom stall, crying. The new environment was a lot to take in, and I was so mad at myself because I didn’t know how to make friends or control my emotions! I felt like an idiot. I think dancing was my saving grace at the time. I wasn’t good at it but it helped me to express myself and make friends. I ended up taking several dance classes!

The hardest part about living in New York was having my dad deployed in Baghdad, Iraq most the time. Whenever Daddy left for Iraq, he always took a piece of our hearts with him. I can remember this time of my life being the worst for my anxiety. I spent a lot of nights imagining what he was going through, being shot at. I imagined how he would be killed, dying all alone, without us there to be with him as he passed away. The biggest thing I worried about was my Daddy being alone. I also imagined how we would be informed of his death. A lot of nights consisted of tears and panic attacks.

I remember being mad. I was so mad that he loved his job more than he loved his family. He let his job take him away from us. We needed him.

It wasn’t until later that I realized because he loved us, he allowed his job to take him to these terrible, scary places. He loved my mom, my sister, me, and all of America, and wanted to ensure our freedom. Even if it meant his life.

This past Sunday my parents invited me to their church to a Freedom Celebration (I don’t remember the actual name) where we praised God for America and recognized all the men and women who served. There was a moment they had all the men and women who had served come up to the front of the church, presented them with medals, and had them stand on stage so that everyone could recognize them. It was a very powerful moment. In that moment, I realized the sacrifice that was given on my behalf. I felt so grateful and undeserving. I felt so proud to have my dad on that stage. He would deny it if I said it, but it feels like I’m related to a super hero.

As you celebrate 4th of July, don’t forget it’s true meaning. It is about celebrating our independence, our freedom, and the ultimate sacrifices given on our behalf. Don’t get so caught up in the fireworks and the cookouts that you forget to shake the hands of those who ensured you could celebrate in this way.

Don’t forget this is Independence Day.

 

 

 

***Side note: please be considerate shooting off fireworks. There are many veterans with PTSD that have flashbacks caused by these loud noises. Keep your pets locked up and help them feel safe. Also, those who struggle with autism or any form of anxiety have a particularly hard time with loud sounds as well.***