Wednesday, December 24, 2014

I love our uneventful holidays!

Early on in our marriage, I told hubby that I did not want to celebrate any "special days," not birthdays, not anniversaries, not holidays, nothing.  I want everyday to be a regular day, yesterday was like today which will be like tomorrow.  Hubby thought it was kind of strange for a girl not to want to celebrate these type of things, but he happily complied, admitting that it would make life a lot easier for him (or most husbands, haha). 

Glad that I got it over with at the beginning of our marriage.  We've been married for 14+ years and we never have to worry about birthday/anniversary/holiday gifts.  In fact, we usually don't remember these dates until a week or two afterwards.

It also happens that most of our family members are states away.  None of them wants to travel for holidays (and we don't want to leave our dogs at a boarding facility), so we don't spend holidays with families.   At one point, hubby and I participated in holiday gatherings with our friends, not anymore.  They were too stressful for me.  Hubby used to think it was weird how I often became very irritable after gatherings.  I was happy and bubbly during the events, but it was a totally different story afterward.  Once I got my diagnosis, we realized it was due to sensory overload.   I was irritable because I was mentally tired from constantly trying to make sure I was saying and doing the right things.  Not that I did not enjoy these gatherings, they just took a lot out of me. 

So no more, after I got diagnosed, I decided I was not going to force myself to do stuff like that anymore.  Hubby is okay with it.  Hubby says taking care of an aspie and four dogs is no small task, he needs all the time off he can get anyway.  He is not going to complain about getting more time to rest, LOL.  Nowadays, holidays to us are just days for us to stay home, relax, and spend time with our dogs.

I do, however, make attempts to respect other people's desire to celebrate whatever they want to celebrate.  My mom enjoys birthday, Mother's day, and Christmas gifts, so I send them to her.  Internet shopping makes it easy enough to do so.  My assistants at work want to exchange Christmas gifts, I am totally fine with it as well.

Hubby and I don't buy gifts for each other though.  I always feel that if I want something, and it is within our budget, well, I will just buy it myself.  Why do I have to wait for someone else to buy it for me?  It takes too much work for me to try to drop hints and then wonder if I will get the correct gift or not.  Plus why do I have to wait for a "special day?"  Any day can be a special day, if I want it to be.  Same goes for hubby, if he wants something, he can get it himself.  It makes life simpler for both of us. 

San San and I

Monday, December 22, 2014

My special interest?

I asked hubby today, "Do you think dog training is my special interest?  I mean, for it to be considered as a special interest, I have to be obsessed with it, I don't think I am."  I've always thought of dog training as a hobby.  Some people have many hobbies, I happen to have just one. 

Hubby, "Let me see, you wake up every morning, what do you do?  Do your moderator duties at dog forums, which includes exchanging dog training ideas with forum members.  What do you do before you leave for work?  Train Fay Fay.  We come home for lunch everyday so we can do what?  Oh right, so you can train Fay Fay.  If we get out of work and there is still daylight, what do we do?  Take the dogs to a park to train. What do we do after dinner?  Train the dogs.  Oh, AND, what do you do before we go to bed?  Train Fay Fay one more time. you think you are obsessed?“

Well, if you must put it that way.....

I've asked myself before, why do I like dog training so much?  I know one of the reasons is that it can be accomplished with minimal speech.  I can relax and be myself.  After a full day of talking to people at work, it is nice to be able to interact with my dogs without words.  I can convey a lot of ideas and teach a lot of behaviors by using a clicker.  The clicking sound cues a dog on what behavior is desirable. True, dogs are like people, they all have different personalities, no single training method is going to work for all dogs.  But dogs are nowhere nearly as complicated as people are.  I am much more comfortable at reading a dog's body language than that of a person, there is no stress involved, which often is not the case when it comes to a person.  

Dog training makes me a lot more active.  I am a couch potato by nature.  But I can't do that when we have several active dogs.  I don't like to be outdoor, however, we are out walking our dogs or playing with them at parks almost everyday.  I don't like to be around people, but we train with a dog club once a week, and I've attended seminars and classes on dog training in other cities.  My desire to learn about dog training helps me overcome my hesitation to be around strangers.  It doesn't necessarily make me more outgoing, it just nudges me to do stuff outside of my comfort zone, which in turn helps me become more comfortable in unfamiliar situations.

Our dog training experience has also allowed us to help other dogs in need.  We've fostered 11 dogs over the last few years.  Several with behavior problems that required experienced handlers.   We put a lot of training on our foster dogs to maximize their chances of finding forever homes.   It gives me the opportunity to do volunteer work with very little people interaction. 

One other bonus of dog training is that my husband is interested in it as well.  After I dragged him into all these classes/seminars/training clubs, he developed an interest in dog training over time.  It is now a hobby we can enjoy together, a topic for us to talk about, it brings us closer.  

Considering all the practical values, I guess I will take dog training as my special interest =)

Training with Fay Fay at our dog club tonight.  We are working on retrieve and heel.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Sensory issues

Before hubby and I realized I was on the spectrum, we both thought I was just full of quirks. 

My quirks start from the second I wake up every morning.  No light and no sound please.  My mornings need to be calm, dark, quiet, and uneventful.  Unless if it were a life-threatening emergency, do not disturb me.  Any disruption during this period can easily put me in a bad mood for the rest of my day.  I need my time alone, so I can get myself mentally ready to face the world. 

It's not like I go through any special ritual in the mornings.  It takes me anywhere from 1.5 to 2 hours to fully wake up and be mentally alert.  I usually spend 30-60 minutes checking emails(but I don't respond to them, I just read them), doing a little bit of "moderator duties" on dog forums, and surfing the internet.  Then shower and get ready for work (or whatever else that is ahead for the day).  Hubby is very thoughtful of my need for "lone time."  He walks our dogs, get himself ready, and leaves for work without saying a word to me.  If he needs to tell me something, he will usually leave me a sticky note. 

Hubby and I work together.  He is my office manager.  My office does not start seeing patients until 10 am.  That's as early as I can make myself mentally wake up, be alert, and be pleasant.  My sensitivity to light and sound gets better as a day goes on.  I do, however, like to keep my examination rooms relatively dim.  Lucky for me, as an optometrist, I have equipment that shine bright lights into people's eyes, so I can afford to minimize fluorescent lighting in my examination rooms. 

I function quite well at work, even when it is very busy.  There are, however, a couple of things that my staff and I try to avoid at work, they trigger my AS.  With few exceptions, I will not see more than two family members at a time.  Especially if they want to be examined in the same room.   One on one interaction, I have gotten accustomed to, no problem.  Throw in another person that I have to interact with while I am examining a patient, I can do without my AS traits showing.  Throw in two people plus a patient whom I am examining, sensory overload!  I can still do without my AS traits showing, but only for so long.  It really drains me, especially if they were talkative, even if the conversations were enjoyable, it takes a lot of concentration and energy for me to focus on an examination, interact with others, and looking "normal." 

I don't want anything in my examination room moved, period.  My staff can clean the rooms, but do not move anything.  Not my handheld equipment, nor my diagnostic lenses, nor the alcohol wipes, nor the hand sanitizer, nor the Kleenex box, leave everything alone!  It took a bit for my husband and my two assistants to fully understand what I meant.   It really bothers me when I enter one of my examination rooms (we have two) and things are not in their usual spots.  Working in healthcare, it is simply not possible to stick with the same routines everyday.  Patients have different needs, some are more urgent than others, I have to handle them as they happen.  I try to keep what I have control over as routine and boring as possible, it makes unexpected occurrences at work a lot less stressful.  

Fay Fay at 2.5 months....

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


I got my driver's license when I was 17.  That did not mean I started driving at 17.  Unlike most of my friends and classmates, who could not wait to experience the new-gained freedom, I put off driving for as long as I could.

I was not scared of driving.  I just did not see a need for it.  My mom was more than willing to drive me to school, our local library, and my job whenever I needed to.  She thought I was clumsy and was worried that I might run myself into an accident.  Insurance rates were high for teenagers anyway, if I did not want to drive, well, more money to pocket for my parents.

I was content.  I had no need to venture out of my comfort zone.  It was not until my second semester in college, when I had different schedules daily, that it became too confusing for my mom to keep track.  My mom told me I had to put my driver's license to use. 

My father got me a green Corolla in my second year of college.  It was his way of telling me that I had no excuse not to drive myself.  I had a driver license, a car, and a car insurance policy.  My father wanted me to be independent.  He told me that he had to learn to navigate L.A. traffic within a couple of weeks of arriving in the States.  He said the only way to get comfortable with driving was to do it. 

My Corolla and I ended up going to many places together... my junior college that was 8 miles away, my 4-year university that was 40 miles away,  my optometry school that was 5 states away, the different cities I did my internships at, and eventually Texas.  

I had the habit of taking the same routes to places.  If my parents told me there was road construction and I should take another way, I would quietly leave early, just so I could take my usual route.  I was not afraid of getting lost.  By the time I got to college, I had gotten over my shyness and was not afraid to ask for directions. I just did not like to change my routines. 

I remember one time, I stayed up late at home to finish my homework.  I had an early class in my 4-year college the next morning so at 1 am, I made the 40 miles drive back.  Unfortunately, there was construction going on, forcing me take a detour a few exits away from my apartment.  The roadside detour instructions were vague and I got confused.  I ended up in downtown L.A. at 2 am, driving around to find my way to my apartment.  After 30 or 40 minutes of fruitless driving in circles, I spotted two police cars in front of a convenience store. 

I was very excited to see them.  I was tired from studying and the extra driving.  I knew it was safe for me to get out of my car and approach them for help.  I ran up to them with such enthusiasm that could only be found in a cheesy chick flick.  Flashing a big smile, I said, "Excuse me....," in a high pitched happy tone, the officers probably thought I was going to hug them.  Then I noticed one of the officers froze his motion of sipping a cup of coffee, eyebrows raised, with a quizzical look.

Because of his bewildered look, I realized I had to compose myself.  I stopped, leaned my body away from them a bit, then politely asked, in a much more serious voice, "Can you tell me where UCLA is?"  The officer, still hadn't sipped his coffee, looked at my beige sweatshirt with the big bright golden UCLA logo written across it.  The two officers then looked at each other, trying to hold in their laughter, politely gave me instructions on how to get back to Wilshire Boulevard.  I was back in my apartment in 10 minutes.  

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My little place in the world

The new house we moved to during my junior year in high school had two stories.  The upstairs had a kitchen, a living area, a master bedroom, and two small bedrooms.  Downstairs, next to our garage, was basically a little in-law apartment.  It had its own entry, bathroom, and living area.  It was closed off from our house upstairs by a staircase and a door.  My parents initially wanted my brother and I to take the two bedrooms upstairs, leaving the downstairs suite as a guest room. 

I asked my parents for permission to live downstairs.  I rarely asked my parents for things.  The thought of having my own little space, away from everyone else, was just too appealing for me to resist.  My parents thought it was a little odd that I wanted to be alone downstairs.  They didn't see any harm in it, so they obliged.  They bought a bedroom set for me and gave me a lot of freedom. 

My parents were very lenient about the activities downstairs.  My friends were able to sleep over without an issue.  It didn't happen very often, even though my mom encouraged it.  She wanted me to have friends.  I wanted to have friends but I did not want to share my room with them.  I liked the feeling of living alone, I didn't have to say "hi" to anyone when I woke up.  I did not have to put on a face.  I could reserve my time and energy for studying. 

There were times when I grabbed a dinner plate and then came downstairs to my little world to study and eat.  My parents were so focused on academia, they were totally supportive of it.  In fact, they often reminded me of a distant relative, who came to the States as an adult.  He made a habit of memorizing words in a dictionary while eating dinner so he could learn English.  He did nothing but shoved food into his mouth and flipped through his dictionary during supper time.  He eventually graduated with a doctorate degree.  My parents told me that he should be my role model, his persistence should be my inspiration.  

By late high school, especially after I started working at the bakery, my abilities to read people and interact with them improved a lot.  But there was a price for it.  The act of interaction took a lot of concentration from me.  Anytime I interacted a person, a lot of background analysis had to go on simultaneously in my brain to tell me what I had to do to look "natural."  From my choice of words, body movements, facial expressions, observing the other person's body language, to understanding their words, it was a lot of work! 

I was known to be cheery and bubbly at work, I had to be, my mom said no one wanted an employee with a "long face."  I enjoyed work because it made me feel useful.  I wasn't making much but I was contributing.  After a long day though, it was great to come back home into my little world.  In my little area downstairs, I did not have to interact with anyone.  I could be myself again, I did not have to act.  I did not have to constantly process information anymore.  My brain could finally take a break.    

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Tidbits at work

Having a part-time job in high school meant taking closing shifts on weeknights.  I often spoke to my mom about events at work.

One day, I told her about my closing duties, which included taking inventory, getting boxes ready for the next day, washing trays, wiping down displays, sweeping and mopping.  Thomas did not assign these duties.  They were to be evenly shared by the closing team. 

I had noticed that my closing duties varied vastly, depending on whom I was partnered up with.  One girl in particular, whenever I closed with her, I somehow always ended up doing all the cleaning while she "busily" took inventory or folded boxes.  She did it so tactfully that most of the time I did not even know how it happened.  She must have planned her way out of cleaning many steps ahead.  I eventually figured out what she was doing.  I was not upset at her.  She was always sweet and friendly with me.  I was just baffled at how she could do it so smoothly. 

My mom laughed and told me, "Well, that's life.  Life is never fair.  If you know how to manipulate to get your way, then you don't have to do as much.  She is just one of the many many examples you will encounter later on in life."  My mom ended it at that.  She felt that it was not a big deal.  If someone could manipulate me to do things without me being upset about it, the person had done me a favor by giving me a free lesson .  She saw it as part of life.  My parents wanted me to work so I could experience life the way it was.  I had to learn to handle it myself.  My co-worker's behavior did not bother me, so I just shrugged it off.

Another thing I learned was that little white lies were not always bad.  During one of our busy afternoons, I was on the phone with a customer, one girl was stocking bread shelves, while another one took up cashier duties.  All of a sudden I heard a little scream, I turned around and faced our cashier girl.  She was looking at a bun she apparently dropped on the floor.  She looked up at our customer and apologized for her "clumsiness."  She quickly asked the girl who was stocking shelves to bring a replacement.  I did not think much of it and continued on with my phone call. 

It was not until an hour or two later, when we slowed down, our cashier girl took the fallen bun out of a waste basket to show us.  The bun was wrapped in a cellophane bag, there was a dead fly inside.  The cashier girl said that she saw the fly as she was ringing up our customer, but she did not want to make a scene.  She pretended to have dropped it so she could ask for a replacement without alerting all the customers in our store.  Thomas was very impressed with how she handled it.  He said our cashier girl not only handled the situation correctly, she did it intelligently.  It was a lesson I remembered 'til this day. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

My Manager

My bakery manager, Thomas, was one of the few people who made a long-lasting impression on me.  Diligent, witty, and with a good sense of self-discipline, he was my role model at the bakery.  Thomas was in his thirties.  He was not a quiet person but he did not say much about his personal life.  All we knew was that he lived with his girlfriend.  They had an Old English Sheepdog which they doted on.

Our bakery opened seven days a week.  Thomas was there everyday, or at least it seemed like he was.  He made sure that our bakery was running at top efficiency.  He knew every facet of the business.  From baking buns, decorating cakes, handling the customers, leading our team, to managing everything that happened in between.  Thomas did everything well. 

He was a direct person.  If he liked something I did, he would praise me verbally.  If I did something he thought was dumb, he would point it out right the way and told me to "be smarter."  He never sugar-coated any of his comments or beat around the bushes when he wanted me to change my ways.  It was easy for me to communicate with him.  He was blunt, so was I.  The difference between us was, he knew when not to be blunt, and I didn't. 

He taught me all my job duties pretty much by hands-on experience.  I was able to learn from his demonstrations, which was perfect for a visual thinker.  He never rushed me in terms of learning.  He allowed me to go at my own pace.  He could tell I was driven to do things correctly.  Fearing that I was the one who would hold back the team, I urged him to teach me more, but he told me to take it one step at a time.   I could tell Thomas was not a particularly patient person but he knew how to read people.  He knew our personalities and how to get the most out of each of us.  

Of course he also knew how to push people's buttons.  One time there was an arrogant customer who yelled at a cashier to a point of tears for giving her the wrong change.  Regardless of how the poor cashier apologized, she did not relent.  Thomas tactfully told her that in order to resolve this situation correctly, he would have to count the till.  He did it CAREFULLY, SLOWLY, and DELIBERATELY.  30 long minutes later, Thomas finally came to the conclusion that she was right. The customer stormed out with her proper change, and a half-hearted apology from Thomas. 

Thomas later told me that if she had been more courteous, and accepted the cashier's initial apology, he would have resolved it immediately.  Instead, she bullied the cashier.  It got on Thomas's wrong side so he did not reward her behavior. 

This event taught me that sometimes it was not about being right or wrong.  It was about knowing how to resolve a situation.  I realized that one could get a lot more done by working with people, instead of against people.  Thomas continued to explain similar situations to me in the 2 years I worked there.