Autism Awareness Month

April is the month of Autism Awareness, a month which is used to spread the word about what autism is, what life is like for people with autism, learn about what the neurotypical, also referred to as NT’s, (people not on the spectrum) can do to help and support people who are neurodivergent.

While I am behind the whole premise of Autism Awareness Month, there are still things that have made me angry this month. One of these things is the amount of NT’s who still believe it is ok to flaunt the symbol of the puzzle piece to show autism acceptance and support, whether this be on t’shirts, jewellery, key chains or even nail art. I have seen so many posts on social media using this symbol as a show of support, and while the support is lovely, I can’t help wondering if some of this “support” is just lip service rather than true support in its fullest form.

The problem with the puzzle piece, for me, is the meaning behind the symbol itself first off. When we think of a puzzle piece we think of something that needs to be solved, a problem, something that can be fixed when put together in the correct way, a missing piece, something used for amusement, something confusing or perplexing. The connotations of the puzzle piece are degrading to people with autism. We are not missing a piece, we do not need to be studied, or solved and we, sure as heck, are not a problem that needs to be fixed. Many of these connotations lead us down the route that autism is something that can be fixed or cured which is really damaging to people with autism.

Add to the mix, a whole host of charities that use this symbol and have a belief system that we can be cured (you can find so many different articles on Google, just search autism puzzle piece offensive) which many NT’s think are helpful groups and it becomes even worse for us to get our authentic voices heard.

Seeing people on social media wearing clothing with the puzzle piece on, or even (in my case especially, going by groups I follow) people asking for nail art ideas incorporating this symbol for Autism Awareness month, and having it explained to them why this symbol does more harm than good to autistics, and after that, STILL going ahead and using the puzzle piece is even worse and has really made me wonder why we even have this month when people can still be so ignorant even when faced with the facts.

While we are on the subject of symbolism and meanings, I feel like I should speak about the “light it up blue for Autism” that is doing its rounds on social media. Light it up blue is a really outdated practice that enhances the stereotype that mainly males can present as autistic, and that just isn’t true. While it is true that males tend to be diagnosed with autism at a higher rate than females, though the female/male gap is steadily closing, the light it up blue campaign makes it harder as a female autistic to be heard and taken as seriously. Blue is typically used to represent the male gender and autism (back in the 1970’s) was seen as something typically male. Lighting it up blue only goes to reenforce this stereotypical view of autism being centred around males when just as many females have autism. The biggest problem with autism being viewed for so many years is that females were not being diagnosed as easily, many struggling with different aspects of life because of this and not being able to access the support, care and understanding that they should have had. This has led to many women, myself included, being plied with the wrong mediations, being treated for mental health and going about our day to day lives wondering why we are different. It’s only recently that it has been identified that women are better at masking and copying peers behaviour to fit in, which in itself can be damaging to the individual and is so exhausting, leading to burnout and a plethora of other symptoms.

Another thing that has riled me up agin and again, especially when NT’s find out that I am autistic is the comment that has been made to me so many times, “Everyone is a little bit autistic.”. And, honestly, it hurts to hear that, and so many times I have just shrugged it off and not bothered to correct people. In fact, I have stopped speaking about what difficulties I face day to day, and how I differ from others because I feel that, if someone wants to believe that then they will not really listen to me and just brush off my experiences, thoughts and feelings as something everyone deals with. I did read an analogy relating autism to pregnancy, when you do a pregnancy test the result is either pregnant or not pregnant, there is no “a bit pregnant” line, it is a definite you are or you aren’t. And while non pregnant people may have similar symptoms (like back pain, heartburn or tender breasts for example) these are not symptoms of being pregnant. Yes, everyone can have symptoms and sympathise with those things being experienced, but there is more going on in the background that are being dealt with, which as a whole make up the “being pregnant” symptoms, and it is the same with autism. Yes, you may get anxiety when needing to make a phone call, or do something but us autistics have other things we are dealing with that make us autistic. People are either autistic, or they are not.

Another comment I deal with is one that I think a lot of autistics have dealt with at one time or another, “But you don’t look autistic”. This one leaves me wanting to eyeroll so hard… what should autistics look like? Should we have a special dress code or hair colour, or should we have a special kind of body language, facial expression or greeting to use? I never know how to respond to this one, but recently I have started to think that maybe I should respond along the lines of “Yeah, well, you don’t look ignorant”… (if anyone has a way of addressing either of these – “Everyone is a bit autistic”, or “You don’t look autistic”, please let me know in the comments section.)

Another harmful thing that NT’s seem to believe is that being autistic means that the person is not clever, I have been spoken down to in voices that are used for children, over explained things to, and treated as if I am stupid. And I’ve even had comments along the lines of “but you have so many qualifications and even a degree!” or “but you have a full time job”, as if I shouldn’t be capable of, or clever enough to learn things or hold down a job. My brain is wired differently, I may approach things in a different way, or understand things differently, but this doesn’t mean I am incapable of these things.

So, what can you do to really get on board with Autism Awareness? Firstly, if you are one of those people who have used such phrases as “everyone is a bit autistic” or “you don’t look autistic”, please stop now, dig deep and try to work out why you use these phrases, and realise they are not compliments or helpful in any way, and could be doing more harm than good. I know, from my own experiences with such comments, that I shut down talking about autism, and it leaves me feeling like my feelings and thoughts are invalid.

Secondly, learn about the meaning behind the puzzle piece, seriously, do your research before jumping onboard with something that has so many negative connotations. If you do still choose to use the puzzle piece to represent autism then have your arguments ready, if you have sound reasons for using it then that is fine by me.

Start listening to the autistic community rather than those that are of the neurotypical community who cannot really speak for the autistic community. Start talking to those who are autistic and really listening to them.

Think about your behaviour towards those with autism, instead of treating them differently, learn what makes hem different and learn about what strengths they have rather than just seeing weaknesses.

Learn that we are not something to be cured, and that we don’t want to be cured. My autism is part of me, and like everyone else, I have my own strengths and weaknesses whether they are caused by my autism or not.

Learn to make reasonable adjustments, some things that cause me issues are too much noise, flashing lights and interruptions to what I am doing. I find it hard to think or get distracted by loud noises and lights, and interruptions can make it hard for me to return to what I was doing before that.

Learn about the different autism charities/communities. Autism Speaks (one of the main charities behind the #lightitblue campaign) goal is to end autism. They spends a chunk of its money in investigative work to cure autism and offers women who are pregnant a test to see if their unborn baby has autism and much of the publications released by this charity have a negative effect on autism.

Treat us like human beings, with respect and kindness, and realise we are all individuals with a different set of needs. While we are on the spectrum, stay away form labels such as “high/low functioning”. We all present with a different set of unique traits, as different as one finger print to another. I don’t class myself as high functioning or low functioning. I am on a sliding scale, some days I can be confident, make eye contact, go out and spend time with people, meet new people and be social. Other days I can barely make eye contact, and choose not to say too much to anyone. Some days I can make phone calls and make small talk and there are other days where I will avoid all social contact. There are days when I am able to go to the shops and days where it seems like too big a task. And when I do these things for too long, or have days that are busy and full on, or days where I experience too much, I need my own time, withdrawing from the world, just to recover and get my energy back. It doesn’t mean I am incapable and shouldn’t do these things if they make me feel like that, I prefer to see it as an athlete that works out and needs their rest days so on the days they are training they are running at their optimum and giving the best they have.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, I love being asked about autism and what it means to me, but take your time to really listen and to learn from my answers and other autistic voices. I think that is what anyone ever truly wants in life.

Our Wedding (In Pictures)

Wedding Fun Facts

  • Our bridesmaid is also my step-daughter
  • Best Man is married to our (f) witness
  • Many of our photos were taken by the daughter of our Best Man and Witness
  • I wanted a black Cadillac as one of my all time favourite songs is Time Bomb by Rancid
  • Both of my brothers are younger than me!
  • I’ve known my Maid of Honour for around 17 years
  • I’ve known my husband since starting secondary school, his sister and I were best friends
  • There are ducks on our cake because I love and collect toy ducks

Relation Status Level Up – from Miss to Mrs

The biggest thing that happened in 2021 was that I got married! You may remember me mentioning that I had a new boyfriend back in 2020 (see the post here). Since 2020 Rob has moved in with me, we got engaged in February 2021 and then got married on 3rd August 2021!

We got married during lock down, in some ways it was stressful planning the day when all the rules kept changing, especially regarding how many people we could invite, whether we had to wear face masks or not and whether we could have a wedding reception.

We decided on a small wedding, partly due to the ever changing COVID rules but also as we wanted something small and intimate. We had already decided that we didn’t want a wedding that we would be paying off way into the future and, to help us stay within budget, we kept the guest list small.

Here’s some photos and details of our wedding

Where – Our Local Registry Office

When – 03/08/2021 at 11:30am

Guests/Roles

  • Mother of the Bride – Linda
  • Father of the Bride – Brian
  • Maid of Honour – Jesamine (my best friend)
  • Bridesmaid – Charlotte (Rob’s daughter)
  • Flower Girl – Ellie (my niece)
  • Page Boy – James (my nephew)
  • Best Man – Terry (Rob’s best friend)
  • Witnesses – Vicky (Terry’s wife), Ben (my brother)
  • Reader – Richard (my brother)
  • Photos – Tiffany – Terry and Vickys daughter
  • Guests – Egle (my sister in law, wife of Ben, mum to James and Ellie), Jordan (Charlotte’s boyfriend)

I walked down the aisle to Lonestar – Amazed and we had Neil Diamond – Hello My Friend playing while we signed the register. Our song that we chose to walk out to was Kiss – I Was Made For Loving You.

After the ceremony we all headed to a local pub for food and drinks.

2021…The Highlights

As I sit here with both feet now firmly planted in 2022, and the first month of the year nearly coming to an end I’m feeling the way I normally do at this time of the new year, where I think and reflect upon the year that has been before I start looking toward what this new year will bring (and so far 2022 is shaping up to be a fairly interesting one so far, but I’ll save that for another post!).

2021 was an eventful year for me, more in a personal capacity than any other way. Here are the biggest highlights of my 2021

2021…the year I turned 40. When I was a kid I thought that 40 was such an old age, but in all honesty its really not that bad. I turned 40 in October and had a small get together with a few close friends and my partner. I had an 80’s themed evening where we all dressed in 80s themed outfits, danced to 80’s music and had a few drinks. It was a brilliant way to leave my 30’s behind and welcome in the next decade of my life!

2021…the year we got engaged! Rob and I had been together 10 months when we got engaged in February 2021. Living with my best friend and knowing him since I was 12 had been amazing but to be asked to become his wife was the most amazing thing in the whole world. We spent much of 2021 planning our wedding.

2021…the year I had a hen do (or 2!)! I had 2 hen do’s in 2021, one with my parents, brothers, sister in law, niece and nephew and one that my maid of honour organised for me. I got taken out for afternoon tea at the Celtic Manor by my family where we had sandwiches and cakes served on tiered trays which was served with a choice of several fruit teas (I chose strawberries and cream – very tasty!). It was lovely to spend time with my family, especially my brother, his wife and my niece and nephew who we don’t get to see very often. My maid of honour arranged a festival themed hen do at my house which was so good! We had so much fun, dancing, singing, party games and different cocktails! There will be a post about these coming up soon!!!!

2021…the year I turned a hobby into a business. I’m a qualified nail technician and have been doing my own nails for years, though the bit I really enjoy is the designs! I have been designing my own press on nails and after so many compliments and people asking me where they were from or who did them for me I took a bit of a leap into starting up my own press on nail business late into 2021. I’ve had a few customers so far and am pretty pleased with how things are developing and I have so many ideas for new designs! If you are interested, you can check out my nails on my nail Instagram.

2021…the year I went from Miss to Mrs! We set the date for our wedding and decided on 3rd August 2021. The date is special in my family, its my Mum and Dads Wedding date, my Aunt and Uncle’s wedding date and my Aunt’s Birthday too so there is a bit of a tradition there! The day went far too fast for us but we have tons of photos and some amazing memories of the day that will be shared soon!!!

What are some of your highlights of 2021? I’d love to hear all about them so let me know in the comments!

A Return to Blogging?

Firstly… Happy New Year to you all! I know I’m a *bit* late with it, so apologies for that! How was everyone’s 2021? Mine was crazy and I have so much to share with you all in the next few weeks! And, yes, I said in the next few weeks which means I am planning blog content and returning to blogging after being gone for nearly a year!

what has bought about this change? Well, when the pandemic hit and we were going in and out of lockdowns, the rules changing all the time along with flexible working from home, as well as some personal stuff, blogging started to get a bit too much for me. In all honesty, I felt mentally drained a lot of the time. Everything is still changing and we don’t know what is happening from one day to the next regarding restrictions and rules but I’m getting used to it now and things seem to be easier to handle, my routine is more settled and I’m feeling less exhausted and seem to have a bit more time available to me. I’ve missed writing blogs and all the other bits that come along with it, especially interacting with you guys! I have been sneak reading your blogs too…keeping up with what you have been writing but I really miss the social side to blogging!

While I stepped away from the blog, I didn’t stop writing completely…. I have been writing articles for an online magazine called The Everyday Magazine (click the link and it should take you to the articles I have written!). I have also been writing a mental health blog for work (on our intranet site).

With all of this writing I have been doing away from the blog, it has made me realise just how much I love writing and blogging so this year I’m going to try and write more posts. I am not sure whether to return to the blogging format I have been so used to in the past or whether this blog will change and become something else in the future, for now though I am going to be sharing things that have happened in 2021, some posts about lifestyle, the house and some general ramblings about my life!

I hope you have all had a fab Christmas and New Year! Let me know how you spent the holidays and if you have any resolutions for this year in the comments! I’ve not made any (yet) but Id love to hear yours!

A New Year and a New Laptop

It’s hard to believe that I last blogged over 3 months ago, I honestly thought it was way longer ago than that. Half the reason I have been M.I.A is down to my laptop dying a death, I thought that I could fix it…I ran updates and cleared a few things, then left it for a bit as nothing seemed to have helped it, it was still running slow and lagging really badly… I think that is the worst thing with any technology, leaving it alone, and when I say I left it for a bit, we are not talking a few days, no, I’m talking MONTHS. Anyway, I went to turn it on the other day, it fired up did a few things then shut down, I turned it back on, the lights came on but the screen stayed black. It seems that there is no power going to the screen at all. Luckily enough I have had a laptop supplied by my office for working from home though this is for work purposes only, and that has been sufficient for my needs as I’ve not really been in the right frame of mind to do any blogging or anything else until the past week or so. So, I did something I’ve not done for nearly 12 years, and I have splashed my cash on a new laptop. My last laptop was a Dell that I bought when I was in uni and I loved it, I never had any real problems with it and I’m surprised it lasted as long as it has, but I’ve totally upgraded now. And why have I decided to get, you may be asking… well, I decided on an Apple MacBook Air in Gold. And that is what I am using now to update you all! Anyway, enough rambling about laptops…

Since my last post in October, I can’t really say I have been doing much, I’ve been working from home 3 days a week which I really like, I wish I could work from home full time, I find it much easier to get my work done at home where it is quiet compared to in the office, though I am missing seeing people and knowing what is going on with my colleagues.

Christmas seems like forever ago now, but that was really nice. I worked up to and including Christmas Eve but had 10 days off between Christmas Day and the New Year. I spent Christmas day with my boyfriend and was thoroughly spoiled, I had some lovely gifts and even got the Nintendo Switch I have been wanting for ages! The day was lovely, I didn’t have to do anything, Rob cooked dinner for us, I had salmon with roast veg, hollandaise sauce and gravy, Rob cooked himself chicken to go with the veg. For dessert we had tiramisu. Between Christmas and the New Year I would usually go and have a look around the shops seeing if there were any bargains to be had, but this year, because of COVID and the lockdown that our area was in we spent the time at home watching films, playing games, chatting, listening to music and (maybe) drinking a bit too much. The time off was well deserved for us both and it was really nice to have that time together doing nothing much!

Aside from working from home since Christmas I have been spending far too much time glued to my Nintendo Switch playing Animal Crossing, if anyone is looking for friends on there let me know!!!! I have gotten back into bullet journalling and will be sharing my set up with you in another post. I’m doing things a bit differently this year, past years I have spent a lot of time focusing on layout and making my journal pretty, and I blame Pinterest for this one – adding ALL the pages/trackers that I saw regardless of whether they were useful to me or not. This year I am focusing more on the content and recording the little details of my day or week, accomplishments and non-accomplishments and making it more interesting for me to look back on. Last year was a huge write off for me and most of my journal remained untouched once lockdown hit. I realised that even though we couldn’t go anywhere there were still a lot of things that I did which made a difference to my life, my home and I feel a bit sad that I hadn’t written them down, it would have made interesting reading in years to come.

Anyway, that’s enough from me for the moment, I am back though I am not sure what direction the blog will be taking or how frequently I will be writing. I an ideal world I’d love to be back writing every day and maybe that will happen, but for the moment I think once a week is a good aim.

I’d love to hear how you are all doing and what you have been up to, so please, leave me a comment and let me know!

The perfect Hot Chocolate

The perfect hot chocolate isn’t one that is bought in an expensive upmarket cafe,

It’s not one that is made with the best ingredients either

The effect hot chocolate is one that is made with love and care,

Designed to share, all snuggled up

With the one you love.

I have just made hot chocolate for the boy and I in the same way my Grandma used to make for me. I used proper old fashioned hot chocolate powder, boiled milk and sugar all stirred together and poured, carefully, over a handful of teeny tiny marshmallows in our favourite mugs. It’s getting chilly here in the evenings now, and it’s getting darker sooner in the evenings and I thought it would be a lovely way to chill out before bed.

How is your perfect hot chocolate made? I’d love to hear in the comments!!!

Update 03/10 – 11/10 2020

I am still struggling with motivation regarding my blog and where I am going with it. I am signed up to get e-mails from Pete McPherson who runs the “Do You Even Blog” podcast and had one at the beginning of October talking about how his motivation was down because of all the changes that have taken place during this pandemic and, reading it, I realised that most of my lack of motivation is down to the Coronavirus. At this moment in time, where I live is back on a local lockdown and it seems that one day we are able to do thigs then the next we can’t and no one really knows what we are supposed to, or not supposed to be doing. Its really tiring and is all leaving me a bit lacklustre and drained.

Last Saturday was the boys Birthday, he turned 40. We had planned to have a big party, a room was booked for the party, a band was booked, food was planned and the guests invited but because of all the different restrictions across Wales and the rest of the UK it couldn’t go ahead. The boy went for a walk with a couple of friends and went target practicing, had a fire and came home a bit cold and wet as the weather wasn’t that good. We had a few drinks but nothing special, he liked his day but it wasn’t as special as it could have been.

I’ve been in work all week, we are running on a skeleton staff as most people are now working from home. It has been quiet in work but really busy as we are finalising payments. Work have slowly been rolling out laptops to all staff so we can work from home , its a slow process as all the software used varies from office to office depending on what our job role requires us to have access to, we need vpn access and network access along with a ton of other things. I received my laptop on Tuesday and had it up and working fully by Wednesday so was able to work from home on Friday. I was a bit apprehensive about how working from home would be, especially as my motivation has been so low lately but I really liked it. I had my wax melt burner going and was able to listen to podcasts without my headphones on, there were no interruptions and I could concentrate on what I had to do. It was a really nice day!

Over the weekend we have been sorting the house out, since the boy moved in we have had loads of stuff to sort out, tidy up and things that we needed to get rid of. We have a tip not far from our house and I finally was able to book a visit slot to get rid of some stuff. Our tip, as part of the COVID restrictions has put measures in place that mean each visit needs to be prebooked, your car registration given and a time slot chosen, only one person can go, any others need to remain in the car and if you miss your time slot then you need to re-book. The system is pretty good though I was doubtful about getting a weekend slot so I was surprised to get one this weekend. The boy filled his car up and took the stuff down and got rid of it then we spent time sorting out the downstairs of our house. It feels loads better now and it’s starting to look much better than before! I wish I had taken some before photos, I’ll share an after photo soon!

I’m not sure how this week is going to pa out and what the plans are, I’m not sure if I will be working from home at all this week yet. I am off on Friday though, I have a day’s annual leave booked as it is my Birthday. I plan to spend the day doing nothing, Lol! I might have a lie in and a lazy day with Roxy and potter about. I have a few art things to work on, I started Inktober though I am a bit behind, I may spend the day doodling for that. I have also been writing for The Everyday, an online magazine which is really worth checking out, there are so many good articles on there (especially ones by someone called Suzi Tench 😉 . I have an idea for another article that I want to write and may pitch the idea this week and make a start on writing the article on Friday if not before then.

Are any of you struggling with your motivation? How are you dealing with it? I’d love to hear your opinions on motivation and the Coronavirus in the comments!

Guess Who’s Back? An Update

It’s been months since I last wrote a blog post and so much has happened in that time,  I have had a few weeks away from work with an unidentified sickness which was thought to be Coronavirus (this was pre-testing) which then developed into a 4 week, 2 lots of antibiotics, battle with a chest infection.  On top of that, I have had to take further time off from work as I had been in contact with someone who started to show Covid symptoms to shield my co-workers and make sure I was not unwell.  All of this and the uncertainty of the past few months in general have really knocked me off kilter with my routines and writing which has meant that blogging has been pretty hard to keep up with.

Though I have not been blogging I have still been writing, Iwrote an article for an on-line magazine called The Everyday that you can find here https://theeverydaymagazine.co.uk/opinion/working-from-home-before-and-after-covid?rq=suzi%20tench and I have written another article for them that should be published at some point in September.

I started the 100 Day Project(https://www.the100dayproject.org/), a free art project lasting 100 days, which started on 7th April 2020, where you aim to do something creative each day for 100 days.  I started with the good intensions of being able to complete the 100 days but gave up around 20 days because I just felt so unmotivated to do any art.  I had started with an idea to work on an 8×8 inch square each day that would link together with other squares to form a bigger picture.  In all honesty, though I really enjoyed what I was doing, I think I was overly ambitious in the sizing of my squares that took more than a day to complete.  I think I will do the project again next year with the same concept but use much smaller squares of either 4×4 inch or 2×2 inch as they will be quicker to complete.

I found a fab group on Facebook called Frock Up Friday thatwas set up by Susan Sims and Bevali Francis during lockdown and gave members an excuse to get dressed up on Fridays when much of the world was working from home in comfortable clothes.  I joined and have taken part in frocking up on several Fridays during lockdown, which has helped me with my mental health during these uncertain times and has given me something to look forward to each week.  The Frock Up Friday group are lovely and the outfit’s people post, not just on a Friday, are amazing!

The biggest thing that happened just prior and during lockdown was that I gained a new boyfriend who has moved in with me!  I say new, though we grew up together, his sister and I were best friends through secondary school and her family became like my second family when growing up.  We have been in contact much of our adult live, mostly via social media, and decided to meet for a drink one evening and didn’tstop talking all night.  It has been lovely to have someone in my life who has known me through the years and has shared memories of things we did as kids.  A few months ago, we made the decision to move in together, he gave notice on the place he had been living in and moved in with me.

Since Rob and I got together and lockdown has eased, we have been away several times for the weekend, once we went to St David’s for the weekend to visit his mum and other weekends we have stayed in Brean walking along the beach, going out for dinner, having a mosey around the market or playing games in the arcades.  We have spent nights in during the week, watching tv, cooking food, having takeaways, listening to music and enjoying the odd glass of cider or wine.  When it was really hot, back in July, we bought a large paddling pool that we put in the garden, filled with water and sat out in the evenings watching the sun go down and the stars come out.  All this stuff, things that people take for granted in relationships, I didn’t realise I missed until I had it back in my life.

Anyway, that’s enough of the soppy stuff…  What have you all been up to while I have been away?  I hope you are all well and safe!  Hopefully, this post will be the start of more regular blog posts coming from me as I have really missed my blog, blog friends ad my blogging routine!