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Autism: Horrible Stinky Food

My husband made hamburgers for himself in the toaster for supper. I did notice he was going to do that, but he doesn’t like me to comment on these things, and… what was I supposed to do?

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On the nights that he cooks, I frequently have to wait until supper is finished for him and my son before I can start to make my own – and that in itself is very hard on my system. That isn’t his fault – I just can’t function well with anyone around, including my husband. I do okay with my son there, but my son has been there since he was a baby, and that is not true of anyone else in my life – which is maybe why my son is the only one who doesn’t have such an effect on me.

Oh – I guess I should mention that I am the only one in my house who doesn’t eat meat. I also have a lot… a LOT!!! of sensory issues around food, so what people typically eat (in Canada – but I imagine many foreign foods would be bad for me, too) is not only something I can’t eat, but something that causes me a lot of struggle when other people eat these foods around me.

Hamburgers are one of those foods.

If they are cooked on the barbeque, and the doors are closed, it isn’t so bad. The smell goes away pretty fast, and I can cover my nose while I wait.

Inside, however, is very different.

It stunk up the house so bad I couldn’t block it out with three layers of blankets. My husband, seeing my distress, sprayed room freshener (which made it worse) burned candles, and opened the windows. It still took more than 1.5 hours before I could take the blankets away from my nose.

Molly, (one of my Chihuahuas) stressed out by my struggle, barked at my husband (which she doesn’t do) until I brought her to me and calmed her down.

My functioning, reduced to nothing since I was unable to eat my supper due to my husband’s choice of his (and I begin crashing when my meals or snacks even are even a few minutes late – and this was getting close to 2 hours) left me unable to find food even when the smell had cleared, and my husband had cleaned the kitchen.

Knowing it was nearly time to get my girls ready for bed, and I had to do something, I walked into the kitchen – but I ended up rocking on the floor unable to think. Clara (one of my dogs) and Ditch (one of my cats) came to help comfort me.

I couldn’t deal with my needs, but they needed me, so I got up and got them through their bedtime routine.

I ended up eating a granola bar (which hurt my tongue) two pieces of dried mango, and the tea that my husband brought to me. It wasn’t nearly enough. Not nearly. But it was close to 10pm, and was too late for me to eat – besides, I still couldn’t think of food.

For me, it isn’t true that I “will eat when (I’m) hungry enough.” The truth is, the hungrier I am, the harder it is for me to eat. Even foods that usually work for me are rejected (in my thoughts as well as my mouth, throat, and stomach) when I am too hungry. Foods that are often okay for me frequently cause a very bad reaction if I eat them in those moments.

So I went to bed feeling hungry and weak. I woke up the next morning (having only made it through the night by medicating myself) feeling hungry, nauseous, and weak. In fact, though I did eat that day, it still took me until after I had eaten supper and dessert – a full 24 hours after the issue began – before my body was regulated and felt okay again.

It is really hard on both me and those who live with me when normal things that they do has such a bad effect on me – and what am I supposed to do with that?

 

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Autism: Learning to Can Part 2

I have heard (and this is the reason I decided to go with the pressure canner to begin with) that once you start canning, it becomes addictive. I now know how true that was.

I canned the plums, and it took a long time. My back was sore, and I was very tired. There was the added bonus of, having this huge pot of boiling water that needed to be dumped, being able to take a bath (we have an extra wide bathtub and not enough water in our hot water tank to ever use it.) I needed that bath then with my back hurting so much. I really enjoyed that.

After that, my husband brought home a huge zucchini and some cucumbers. Of course, they needed to be pickled (especially since I am the only one in my house that eats them and the zucchini alone was over 4lbs.) Then, too, I also had a fresh head of cauliflower, some carrots, lots of onions, some garlic from the garden… They could be pickled, too! I made 12 pints of Italian flavoured zucchini pickles, and 12 pints of mixed pickles.

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And that is when my pressure canner came in. Of course, I had to try that out, too.

I must admit that I have been afraid of pressure canning. I mean, it seems everywhere you turn on the subject people are saying how dangerous it could be – but then… mostly it seemed the danger in the canning itself was involved in the older style of equipment (the new ones have safety features built in) and the rest is about not following directions.

I can follow directions… if they are written down, that is.

So I made white bean soup. White bean soup (very much like the chicken stew with rosemary I used to make in my pre-vegan days) is one of my favourite meals – but it makes way too much considering I am again the only one here who eats it; same with most of the food I eat. I made 10 pints. One didn’t fit in the canner – I guess my pint jars are the same width as wide-mouth would be or something; I could only fit 9. One jar didn’t seal – there was a new lid which was slightly bent. I meant to save that for something I would just refrigerate, but I unbent it, washed it, and couldn’t tell it apart from the others. The others all looked great!

So much fun!

Then a couple of days ago, having bought some dried black beans, I decided to can some more. I made black bean soup and vegetarian chili – 8 pints each (I forgot I could fit 9 in, but 8 was a good number and the jars were all just filled with the amount I had made in the slow cooker.)

I learned that day that pressure canning two batches in one day was too much for me. My head hurt from the amount of concentration I had to keep. My back hurt, and my girls were stressed out since I wasn’t able to sit with them until after 7pm that night. Yet looking at those 16 jars, and hearing the pings (I have learned to love that sound!) of jars sealing was incredibly satisfying.

Course, here I am two days later, aching to do more canning. I suppose it isn’t really worth the time. 16 jars worth maybe about $11 after factoring the cost of the food for a whole days work – when an eight hour shift would have paid quite a bit over $100 if I could have kept working, yet… this calms me and brings value to my life, where working caused me panic, stress, burn out, and an overwhelming feeling that whatever I did didn’t matter.

There is more to life than money, and I think… I think I really like canning.

Oh – and in response to my mother’s question when I spoke to her the other day, “how does it taste?” Better than I could have imagined! Really, there is no comparison to store bought canned vegetarian soups.

 

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Autism: Learning to Can Part 1

It started out with plums. Lots of plums. Our tree was full this year and… I had to start somewhere, so – plums!

The pressure canner I ordered back in August never came in. I waited and waited, and then went camping – but my son was still home and he watched for it. It was in Edmonton, and was supposed to arrive here the next day, but never came.

Did someone steal it? Ugh people!

It isn’t like we live in a poor neighbourhood. We likely live in one of (if not the) oldest and least expensive homes in our area. We are surrounded by doctors, teachers, nurses, business owners… We may not have much, but the people around us do – so if it got here and they stole it??? I don’t understand that.

Perhaps it never made it this far – but then… it was fed ex that had it (I think; might have been Purolator.) Did one of their workers take it?

So I got back from vacation and was stressed out to find it had not come in. I emailed Amazon about it, and they said they would send another. Then I learned of ‘my baby,’ and everything else dimmed in comparison. I struggled for many days and then one day woke up deciding this was the day I would harvest plums and try canning for the first time.

I guess when most other people learn such things they turn to people who know what they are doing and learn from them. That isn’t me. Working with other people presses on my heart and mind that I am not good enough. I don’t belong. They may not be thinking the same thing; I will allow for that. When I am with other people, however, I get attacked – in my head, in my heart, all around me – and I just can’t.

Though I am sure most other people don’t understand this level of anxiety or isolation, I am sure that if they experienced anything similar – like perhaps they received an electric shock every time they got something right, they would be afraid to keep going, too. Not that I get shocked – but it is like that. I get attacked through thoughts and feelings. It makes it so hard to function that when other people are around, I really can’t function. Not won’t. Can’t. I drop things, I spill things, I make mistakes. I can’t think for the shouting in my head (that I am working so hard to silence) telling me how stupid I am to think I belong there, or could do… anything.

So I don’t. Other people work, and serve, and do things with other people – and when I am there, I sit, or I try to hide in a corner and become invisible.

It has to be this way, it seems, for I am not strong enough to silence the attacks – and the attacks always come.

This means that if I want to learn anything, really, I have to learn alone. I seek out ideas, research, study, spend an inordinate amount of time fixated on the subject, and then one day I will just try.

Well, knowing I was interested in canning, my husband brought a huge water bath canner home from the thrift store where he works. I mean, it was huge! It took up two burners on the stove. I had all these plums, so that is where I started. Over a couple of days I made 24 jars of canned plums (and got at least that amount again in fresh plums, some of which we brought to my husband’s work and gave away.

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Autism: Successful Trip

In spite of a real scare at the beginning of our trip, I am glad that I decided to go camping with my husband – even if I had little notice, and my plans were changed last minute when a large dog crate came into the thrift store where my husband works, and a neighbour offered to lend us their portable dog pen.

This year, I even did pretty well with food. In fact, I don’t think I have ever had a better prepared trip (and often I spend weeks trying to figure out what to eat.) Unlike other years, where ‘in order to not be difficult’ I would agree to eat what I could with other people, there was no way I was going back to eating meat this trip. That meant separation right at the foundation of the meal.

Instead I opened up three cans – black beans, chickpeas, and refried beans. I mashed up the black beans and added oatmeal, onion flakes, hot peppers, capers, garlic, ground flax seed, broth, salt and pepper. That made 6 ‘bean burgers.’ I mashed up the chickpeas and added onion flakes, garlic, Kala Namak (black salt with an ‘egg’ like flavour,) hot peppers, ginger, and parsley. That made 6 ‘chickpea salad’ meals. The refried beans, mixed with taco seasoning, made five ‘taco salad’ meals. I froze the beans and chickpeas in aluminum foil (I might just freeze them next time in my silicon baking cups to take out and heat.) Then I brought up a couple of cans of lentil soup.

It worked!

I must admit, I did get tired of bean burgers on bread after a few days – especially as the buns started to get stale. But then I wasn’t really hungry, or needing vegetables (I brought up home made kale chips and had a vegan breakfast shake mix with ’27 different fruits and vegetables’ which helped a lot with that – plus, they did have salad, and I ate that.)

When I didn’t want the beans, I could easily make myself granola mixed with yogourt, or coleslaw salad mixed with assorted nuts and corn chips.

So aside from one moment asking someone not to add his eggs to the grill until my pancakes were done cooking – and another moment where I had an allergic reaction when the frying pan used for my food hadn’t been cleaned well enough after other people had eggs on it (not as bad as it could have been, since I am loaded up on allergy medications this time of year – my throat, mouth, and tongue started to swell, itch, and go numb; I took more allergy pills, and had Pepsi (which somewhat neutralizes it,) and the reaction went down) I did okay with food.

As I have said, that has never happened before, and was a huge breakthrough.

So I was able to get my time in nature, swimming every day, watching sunsets with ‘my girls’ from my tent as I wrote my journal. And I really enjoyed it.

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Transitioning to go home was another story – and one best saved for a different post.

 

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Autism: Live and Learn and Grow

I must say, this has been a particularly good year for gardening for me. It isn’t that a lot is growing – I have realized some mistakes along the way (that I will hopefully not make again in the future.) I am growing organic without any especial help, meaning that some of my food is being eaten by bugs. I haven’t added a lot in terms of food or fertilizer; though I have done some.

Having planted wildflowers in the past, several of my garden beds are being overrun with flowers where I had intended to have vegetables. Things kind of look overrun and unkempt I guess; especially when compared to other gardens in the area.

I think the best part is that when I have needed the energy – to turn the soil, or pull the weeds, or especially to harvest the food – it has been there. That certainly hasn’t been true in other years, and even between harvests this year my energy has been so low that I have often wondered how I would get it done. But then the food was ready to harvest – and suddenly I had the energy to gather the food.

It has been wonderful!

Having food growing in my yard also means having access to foods I wouldn’t normally purchase, and being able to experiment with recipes that I hadn’t tried before.

One day I went out, and my ‘onions’ looked ready. Well, I thought all along they were onions, as that is where I planted some green onions last summer – only I had so many volunteer tomatoes come up in that garden last year that the onions got buried. Luckily they came back again this year, and there were a lot of them.

So I went to harvest my ‘onions’ only to find that what was growing there was garlic! Bonus! I certainly wasn’t disappointed in this find – only surprised. I have tried growing garlic before with no luck (apparently close to where I had planted the green onions!) and was surprised to find that up on the stem of the garlic, there were smaller, milder garlic cloves (at least I think that is what they were) growing in a bunch.

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I pulled out all of those baby cloves (since they didn’t look like they would store well) and harvested some chard to go with them, and sauteed them up for lunch. I can’t express how good they tasted! That was a meal I hadn’t tried before – but then, I do like most vegetables (so long as they don’t have too many seasonings or such added to them.) These I just sauteed up in olive oil with a bit of salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast (makes it taste cheesy!)

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Well, I harvested much more kale and cherries; made kale chips; dehydrated the cherries; felt like I was making good use of the life I was given. Kale chips just might be my favourite food in the world. Of course, I make them myself. I am not sure I would like them so much from a bag in the store – especially with the huge price on them (though I even understand that as four big batches made in the oven only fills a couple of medium sized bowls when finished.)

I brought those kale chips camping with me, and they saved me many days of food meltdowns filling multiple dietary and sensory needs, and allowing me to move on to other foods without struggle. (Though I did have to use a LOT of self control not to eat them all in one sitting.)

I have been home for a few days. A neighbour dropped off some garlic by my gate – again with the baby cloves. Remembering how good the chard was, and adding that to the memory of my sister in law telling me beet greens tasted like chard, I sauteed them up with beets from my garden, and beet greens. Again, so good!

Just this morning I spent several hours harvesting raspberries from my backyard. I got a large bucket full (or 9.5 US dry pints to be exact – I measured) and I have another large batch of kale ready to go. I think I will save that for tomorrow.

All in all, I will say that this hobby has met with success. I am so happy, and so content – even though not everything grew as I wished it would. Well, live and learn, and… grow!

 

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