Christmas Prep Part 3: Take Care of Yourself

Some people say I preach to the choir. I say even the choir needs some guidance every once in a while. But truthfully, I am often preaching to myself. The issue at hand? The hectic schedules of Christmas many of us come across. Think about it. In Christian tradition, December is one of the busiest months of the year, if not the very busiest.  

You have parties, caroling, lights, sounds from nowhere, smells, cooking, church services, church potlucks, card send outs, family get-togethers…think about it. It is quite easy to get swept up in the hubbub – and forget to take care of yourself. The meds are a small thing, yet they help keep you stable and able to somewhat enjoy the season. Anyway, self-care is even more essential than ever in this time. I hate to bring it up, but there’s a reason airplane people tell you to put on your own oxygen mask before helping anyone else. How can you help someone if you can’t breathe? Take care of yourself. If you need a break, take a break.  

If you don’t celebrate Christmas in this hectic manner, feel free to apply this advice to the month(s) you are busiest. It’s all good advice, applicable to busy times.

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Christmas Prep, Part 2: Regular Shopping, Plus Christmas Shopping


With the Annual Thanksgiving Throw Out done, my mother declared that we would get smaller stuff next year. Honestly, those “tiny turkeys” the Millennials are so fond of looked very good. I’m going to try getting one of those next year. I think I might look at those “crazy Millennials” again, not that I’m that critical of them in the first place, and see what I can learn.  

But anyway, live and learn…. 

I’m writing this the day before we pay bills and go December shopping. It’s not like we have any more special funds than any other month of the year, so we kind of skimp and see if we can get gifts early. (It’s also hard to hide gifts from a person who usually shops with you, so we just get them early. No wrapping.) Honestly, I don’t like to waste a lot of wrapping paper. If I could wrap my gifts in reusable, giftable bags we could use over and over, I would be happy. I’ve recycled and kept gift bags from Christmas before.  

We just shop for the month, and maybe some Christmas Dinner if we can. Our Christmas Dinner is a little different from the norm. We tend to like having Prime Rib and Yorkshire Pudding, plus other dishes we like. (It’s still up in the air at this point what we’re having with it. Steamed vegetables? Salad? Potatoes? Rice Pilaf? We iron out the kinks as the month goes by.) Even Bear gets in on the Holidays.  

I know it seems I’m being flippant about autistic people’s challenges, but I’m not. I’m in charge of most holiday cheer at my house, so I can ease into the season, since we’ve got almost an entire month left. There are challenges through the month. For example, did I mention there is a giant Christmas tree blocking the patio door and only window in our living room? We had no other place to put it. Also, I deal with some sensory issues as I come up. Fortunately, there is some progress on the cinnamon broom front. (Those burn my nose, by the way.) It seems the brooms now come wrapped in plastic. Some people might see this as excessive, but I do not.  

Christmas disruption is at a minimum this year, and I think that helps when dealing with it.

(A little note: I don’t want to be in a echo chamber. I would like to hear from other holiday traditions. I know that Hanukkah starts tonight at sunset, for example. Anybody out there Jewish and autistic? I’d like to hear from you, too.) 

Christmas Holiday Prep Part 1: The Decorations


Strangely, there is a lot of stress at the beginning of our family Christmas holidays, and at the end. My first stress is simply this: putting up decorations. The decorations, I’m sorry, are very disruptive in my house.  

Here is what I do:

  1. I put a tree in every room. I move our television to another table to make room for the main nativity.
  2. I decorate the table and chandelier above it, as well as the walls.
  3. I take down the fall towels in the bathroom and put up the Christmas towels.
  4. I clear off my dresser and put a bunch of stuff in different places for its little nativity set.
  5. And for the cherry on top, I put a giant Christmas tree right in front of the patio door, blocking my only view of the outside I consider safe to see out of. (There is a giant bush blocking the view outside my bedroom window, by the way.) Besides, the tree has nowhere else to go.  

Anyway, Christmas usually has the most decorations in my house. I am still decorating the main tree at this point, tweaking and filling bare spots and such.  

Strangely enough, the decorating gives me a sense of stability – that it’s time to prepare for Christmas. I can understand, though, how the décor is majorly disruptive for so many of us autistic people out there. They get in your way if you let them (and many don’t have a choice in the matter!). It’s like those majorly strong cinnamon brooms that used to get in the way of my nose about this time every year. This year, though, the cinnamon brooms were encased in plastic, and I barely smelled them. That’s progress.  

If it needs to be, do small Christmas decorations. Not everybody needs to have a Christmas tree which blocks the patio door. A little tree in the apartment on top of the table can be good enough. Don’t worry, dear autistic adult: do your holidays your way.  

I’ve also got a few tips for the parent or caretaker of the autistic person who needs more support than I do, along with personal experience. 

  1. Involve the autistic person in the decorating decisions. Again, since I’m coming from Christmas, it behooves them to involve how all the distracting stuff falls into place and helps get them ready for the holidays you celebrate. Believe me – getting the decorations out early helps them ease into the holiday.
  2. Rehearse/teach them how to receive various presents. Toys they can handle. What you might want to rehearse is how to receive socks, clothes and the stuff you’re not sure they know what it is. Teach them to simply say, “Thank you for the gift. It is lovely.” On a personal note, I received a wooden oven rack pull, and somebody had to explain and actually show to me what it was. Awkward! But I use that rack pull all the time.
  3. We NEED escape options. I end up going to the restroom frequently for this – but I think I need to explain to my hosts how this works. I don’t want to hog the bathroom all the time. It’s usually boring in there! I’m going to see if this year I can make a quiet space for myself and a fellow autistic relative of mine, if we go this year.
  4. Favorite foods and meals are good – remember, stability is key. In a potluck situation, this is easy to do. Sure, some autistic people can try a lot of foods, but bring the person’s favorites to maintain stability. Go ahead and bring the chicken nuggets, or whatever they need.
  5. LET THEM STIM. Stimming is a comforting motion which expends excess energy from emotion or stress. Leave them to it. 

I’ll give a few more tips as I think of them for a lower-stress holiday. They sometimes come slowly for me.

Report: A Successful Autistic Thanksgiving


Well, the Thanksgiving was a success. I almost had a meltdown over the anxiety while walking the dog, but that was over once I got the turkey in the oven. 

Of course, there was a period of relaxation while the turkey was roasting. The rest of the dishes were easy to prepare. Anyway, the dinner was a success. We ate, relaxed, ate again, and I broke down the turkey with ease. I hope to be more confident next year.

The schedule was easy. It was just my mother and me, but I would have liked the challenge of adhering to a set time. We just ate when we were done. It was cool. We got calls from people who truly cared about us. It was a lovely day. 

Well, I’m off to eat a third helping of turkey. See you later. 

Autism Thanksgiving Prep Helps, Part 2: Early Prep

Please forgive me…I’ve been trying to process all the happenings in California, which is now Fire Country. I’ve been numb from all the climate change denial, the fake compassion, and inability to learn. (We all know who this is about.) Please, support legitimate causes surrounding California.  

Now that the California Public Servant Announcement is done, let’s get to…. 

Autism Thanksgiving Prep Helps, Part 2: Early Prep 

If you have not been reading lately, just know that this year, as in years before, I am in charge of Thanksgiving cooking – with help in the timing department from Mom, of course. Fortunately, most of the dishes are baked in the last hour, so that makes things a little easier. I only have to cook mashed potatoes, bowtie noodles and gravy on the stove. Everything else is baked/roasted.  

I already have the turkey in the refrigerator, and have had it there for a few days, because we got a large one. Strangely enough, I have encountered a small mass of ice in the cavity every time I have cooked turkey before, no matter how long I have set it out – not up to a week before, though. Anyway, the turkey has always been a success, so there’s really little to worry about there. Just so you know, we do NOT stuff the turkey with stuffing prior to baking; we need room for our aromatics. Besides, we have a bunch of turkey stock and broth formulas on hand for our stuffing and other dishes. Of course, we roll out enough food to feed an army, or feed us for a weekend.  

Much of this stage of prep involves deciding how and in what to serve our dinner. A quick hack for this: Use sticky notes to label the dishes, so you’ll be ready when the food is ready to be served up. And don’t move the notes around! You could lose them.  

Why am I prattling on and on about Thanksgiving food prep? It helps me deal with the holiday, of course. It helps center my mind and body for the upcoming task. Besides, most people think that because of my autism, I would not be able to do Thanksgiving cooking. Well, boo on them. I’ve done Thanksgiving cooking for years. I’m thankful for the ability to do it.  

Anyway, involving the autistic person in the process, and explaining it clearly to them every step of the way, is key to helping them deal with the holiday. Remember, think of things from their point of view: many of these Thanksgiving dinners involve strange foods, strange practices, and even people who are not normally there for a lot of the year. To an autistic person, this amount of upset can be overwhelming. Have empathy. (Funny I need to say “Have empathy” to people who think I can’t have empathy. Ironic? Maybe.) Explain this clearly and physically age-appropriately. They can understand more than you think.  

Also, a pro tip: Pull the turkey into the fridge TODAY, if you haven’t already. Even those small turkeys that weigh maybe four to six pounds some people are fond of need at least two days to thaw.

Autism Thanksgiving Prep Helps Part 1: Early Shopping

I’m no Thanksgiving expert, but I’d like to give an insight into how dealing with Thanksgiving works with our family.  

In our house, Thanksgiving prep begins early, at the beginning of November, or the end of October.  We clear out a space in the freezer for our turkey. We decide what we want on our menu, and get the non-perishable and freezable ingredients, like the turkey, corn and cranberry sauce. Much of our Thanksgiving is bought in this early time, and I myself set it aside. (I’m basically in charge of cooking now, which I can do well. No, the ability to cook a major meal does NOT negate my autism, thank you. Neural conditions do not work like that.)  

We then, over the coming weeks, buy fresh ingredients as the holiday gets closer. We have just today bought our rich half and half for the potatoes, and cream cheese for the celery. Hey, it’s my Thanksgiving. We’ll have it ready by the time Thanksgiving rolls around.  

Having a major hand in preparing the dinner helps me to anticipate the Thanksgiving holiday coming up. It consists of traditional dishes (like the celery for us), traditional eating all weekend, and traditional putting up of the Christmas décor.  

I think giving the autistic person responsibilities concerning the Thanksgiving holiday gets them into a mindset that everything will be okay. You may have to serve chicken nuggets just for them, along with having to wait until they’re older for them to eat like you, but usually the eating Thanksgiving meal comes. It may take a while. 

Of course, I learned to eat Thanksgiving food watching others eating. This might help some of us.

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.