A Little Primer on Cinco de Mayo

Maybe I should keep quiet about Cinco de Mayo, but I really want to help bring about the truth in the celebration. So that’s what motivates me.

Most people in the United States use May 5th to down Margaritas or Mexican beers and get sloppy drunk – and throw those drinks back up – but as I’ve recently learned, that’s not the real reason to celebrate. As a person who chooses sobriety on the daily, I decided to learn the real reason behind this holiday that is NOT Mexico’s Independence Day. (You’re thinking of September 16 for that one.) What makes Cinco de Mayo so important is that it is a day in which Mexico contributes to the outcome of the USA’s Civil War.  

 In 1862, when this all happened, the Union Navy had the Confederates in a naval blockade. The cotton (and other things) of the South was not getting to places like France, who decided to try and set up a place to bypass the blockade and get their all-important cotton. They chose Puebla, which turned out to be a bad idea. The residents of Puebla were not to be pushed around, defeating the French there, and contributing to the eventual Union victory of the US Civil War. If you want to celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Mexico, you’ll have to travel to Puebla, because that’s probably the only place they celebrate Cinco de Mayo anyway.

 So, in brief, Cinco de Mayo is really a US holiday to celebrate the major contributions of Mexico to the USA. I have no problem celebrating that – sober. I don’t like being drunk anyway.

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My Fuzzy Valentine

OK, let’s get silly for a minute. It has come to my attention that I don’t have a someone to love and love me this Valentine’s Day. Or tdo I? Let’s see the requirements for me:

1. A male (This is MY requirements list.)

2. A heart full of love

3. A handsome look

4. Good character

5. Good Natured

Let’s see….

Bear

Close enough. He IS cute.

 

How Christmas Went This Year

After a day of rest, I have enough energy to talk about how I dealt with Christmas.

I don’t really have any more tips, other than know your autistic relative.

Christmas Eve was basically spending an evening at my cousin’s place for food, family and fun. The funny thing is, it was almost entirely about vegetable casseroles, almost all of which I like very much. Off topic, it’s funny how I have come to like vegetables as an adult, even after thinking I would never like them as a child. Somehow, trying new things and culinary adventure came to include veggies in adulthood. Sometimes, one just needs to bite the bullet and try it. There’s no shortcuts to that one. We also got games, good family talking and even some quiet times, too. It was great. I was disappointed in one factor, though; I wanted to talk to the parents of an autistic relative of mine. He’s a young boy, but I would like to have a talk with his parents, you know, to provide some perspective. But they were not there. I was not exactly going to grill them or provide lectures, but it helps when you’re not alone in a family, as I have so often felt.

Christmas Day was a little different. We invited a couple who had just gotten together, but the man in the two was a friend, so it was alright. Much of the food was on my shoulders, but it was very easy. We had Prime Rib, steamed vegetables, rice pilaf, rolls and a salad, plus cheesecake for dessert. It’s not easy to screw up Prime Rib. Twenty minutes at a high temperature and then 25 minutes per pound. It was done within three hours, resting included. That was the hardest part of the meal. I mean, rice pilaf is very easy from the boxes, and I’ve done rolls many times for Thanksgiving. So, easy meal, good food, good friends, and an overall nice time. It started to get very cold when the day was done, so we had to get them home early. We had a nice time, with blocks of quiet book ending the day. Could not have asked for more.  

More Holiday Tips

 

What else can I say about Holiday décor and bustle? Here are a few tips I have picked up along the way: 

  1. Keep It Simple. You may have to avoid things like putting up a tree until they can handle it better, or ever, but keep the decorations simple. I know that by looking at my house, you may not see this tip in place, but it is there. We have picked a simple color scheme and stuck to it.
  2. Tradition, Please. Now, I’m pretty sure that whatever level you have the decorations and bustle at, be sure that all the traditional elements will be noticed. This one is better kept in my arena. All the decorations I have up are tradition – a fancy word for Christmas Routine. We put up the tree, put out the Nativity (we’re Christian), decorate the main areas of the house, and it’s all now routine to me.
  3. Keep. The. Routine. The Christmas Tradition is all a routine you keep, stretched out over a time span of about a month, depending on your holidays. Now, I’m going to talk about routine a little more, because it’s a comfort for us autistic people. The upset routine is upsetting. To us autistic people, it’s like saying sheep have wool, but it somehow seems to get lost on non-autistic people. It’s like a child who has naps about midday not having his midday nap. We get cranky and upset.
  4. Have a Refuge Ready. A refuge from all the hustle and bustle is necessary, and has been advocated as a must by autistic advocates since the early days of Temple Grandin. I’m sure my mother finds it weird that I barely talk while we’re in the car going somewhere, even without music. The thing is, it’s a refuge that is portable. Perhaps we autistic people, or our caretakers, need to seek out a refuge for the person, just in case they need to, say, relax the senses for a while.
  5. Try to Empathize. Yeah, yeah, I know the stereotype. Autistic people aren’t supposed to be able to empathize – that is dead wrong. It’s been my experience that non-autistic people lack the empathy unless they actively practice it. Think about it – imagine you are at a loud concert, in front of a throbbing speaker, and imagine that all the time – you may begin to be able to empathize as to what we go through. I beg of you, try to think of what we go through. We’re trying to communicate it. Listen.  

Main Things About Holidays/Christmas – Get Ready for More Real Talk!

  1. Stresses of AnticipationNow, the stress of anticipating gifts is one of the main stresses of the Holidays, if you get presents. This often led to what my mother would say, “fighting like this one always fights, crying like this one always cries, and being Cami (me) like I was always being Cami.” In other words, you have to let off steam somehow, or you’ll get some poor behaviors out of your kids.
  2. Sensory Issues Regarding DecorationsHere’s an example of a sensory issue: there was a string of bell-ringing soldiers which would ring Christmas Carols from outside. Now, I never told my mother this, but I hated those bell-ringing soldiers. Not her fault, though. I am pretty sure that I heard those bells three times louder than my neurotypical family members.  There is also a flip side example I can recall: I loved Douglas Fir Trees. They made the perfect Christmas tree, as far as I was concerned. I would run my hands through the branches to stim. One year I did this, I ended up breaking out in hives. From that year on, I had limited access to the Christmas tree. Sometimes, I would have to wear gloves to help put on the ornaments. As an adult with her own views and choices, my mother and I decided to give reusable Christmas Trees a try. So far, the two trees we kept were wonderful, but don’t believe them when they say that fake trees don’t shed. I can point out a place I need to vacuum right now.
  3. Routines Messed Up – Many autistic people find comfort in their routines. It is often quite scary when they are disrupted or upset. Much of this is not an issue in my life, but the issue pops up in very many people’s lives during the Holidays. It seems that if we work around these routines, we may get to be able to attend that party or accept people coming to our house after all. Another tip: we need periods of rest between our social endeavors.
  4. Christmas Shopping AKA “AAAAAAUGH!!!”I myself went to two Walmart stores and a Kroger (local grocery chain store) on a recent Sunday (December 3). I literally needed a two-day break to sleep it off. It used up my energy, used up my social resources and was a true exercise in patience. Maybe avoid Christmas Shopping during busy hours, perhaps? I’m sure there are less busy hours.  

Thanksgiving Tips: How it All Went

Now, all in all, it was a good day. Unfortunately, it was only my mother and me around the table, but we had all our favorite things for Thanksgiving. It is usually a large spread, and this year is no different.  

We had a few setbacks, of course. My mother had the bright idea to put the bird in the oven at six a.m., and though the turkey turned out perfect, it was a bit cold when we ate. (Not too cold, though.) I got a very minor cut on my wrist from a can of water chestnuts, which we put in our dressing, but all in all there was no major setback. We had stupid fluffy rolls, which we like, perfect stuffing, great foods, and a good Thanksgiving altogether. I cooked, we ate, and then we napped. I got a designation of being a great cook. So, it was a great Thanksgiving. How did your Thanksgiving go? 

More Thanksgiving Tips; Plus, How it Really Works

Here comes Thanksgiving. Strangely enough, it’s going to be an easier time than in years past. Funny thing, I actually do the cooking. That alone puts me on a stress level that may be higher than many autistic people – and I said maybe, mind you. The thing is, a person who has done the main Thanksgiving cooking for, say, eight times in their life might be able to recall how it is done. It’s not that bad, considering we’re having a quiet Thanksgiving Day. However, I’ve been through bustling, huge Thanksgiving Days, too. I’ve got a few last-minute tips to give for the day. 

  1. Setup, setup, setup. This kind of runs into the next tip, but involving some sort of planning and maybe practice is necessary. I am currently sitting next to an empty dish arrangement I made for the dinner setup. I’m in charge of Thanksgiving, but setup and practice may be necessary.
  2. Have the person get involved, when appropriate. I may have been delayed in some things when it came to social interaction and executive function, but I was fine in other things, like getting the finger veggies out (we always have pickles and olives at our table). Can they handle setting a table for the occasion? Go ahead and let them help out. Someday, you may have someone who can take over more major duties, or even the whole thing altogether. Give it time and patience.
  3. Have an Chill Out Space. This is not a traditional Safe Space, as marginalized groups prescribe. A Chill Out Space is actually a space away from the festivities the person can escape to, when, say, things get too loud, or, someone decides to discuss politics. It can be as simple as the child’s room. It is simply a place where the person can rest their senses and their interactions.
  4. The Girl Scouts Are Right. I learned early on that it was customary to give hugs to greet people in my family. I adjusted sooner than many like me. However, I don’t recommend a suffocating hug for someone who is, say, a little more delicate in the touch arena. Don’t push it if the person is not up for it.
  5. Have a Quiet Moment Immediately Before the Meal. In praying families, this seems to be built into the meal through prayer. A quiet moment helps center not just the autistic person, but most everybody.
  6. You Know Your Autistic Person….If You Listen and Accept Them. You know how much your child can take of Thanksgiving. If they need to eat in their Chill Out Space, go ahead and let them. It does not matter what your fickle relatives say; have they actually gotten to know the person?  

Helping out an autistic person during Thanksgiving requires actually getting to know them, beyond perceived stereotypes, beyond disappointments, and all the way in acceptance. Unfortunately, many autistic persons’ caretakers are often unwilling to get there. This may or may not be the case with you, but acceptance of current reality is required for all these tips to actually work.