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Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Neurodiversity Awareness/Appreciation

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Blogging For Mental Health

HAVE YOU TAKEN MY EASY, QUICK READER SURVEY YET? ONLY FOUR DAYS LEFT! 

I don't know why I never found this before, but I recently came across the Blog For Mental Health project. The idea behind it is to get bloggers to write about mental health in order to help teach others about it and promote acceptance instead of stigma. I already kind of try to do that, so I decided to join the project! 

The site suggests that we talk about our own experiences with mental health. If you read this blog on a somewhat regular basis, you know that I have ADHD and Aspergers, and also depression and anxiety. But what you may not know is that my family's history with mental illness began long before I was born. 

My paternal grandmother had severe paranoid schizophrenia. When she began going through this it was back in the forties, when mental illness was way more of a mysterious, frightening, shameful thing. My grandma was in and out of institutions. A person could be expected to be committed for a year or more, even a lifetime. Common treatments for schizophrenia at the time were insulin coma therapy, electroshock therapy, and even lobotomy. My grandma, fortunately, did not have to undergo a lobotomy, but she went through at least fifty or more electroshock treatments before they stopped being popular. In the early 1950's, Thorazine was introduced as the first medication to treat mental illness, and caused my grandma to develop permanent tardive dyskinesia (involuntary movements... she would constantly hop around, bounce her knees and feet while sitting, and thrust her tongue in and out.) 


A patient getting electroshock treatment in 1942.
My grandma missed years of her children's lives when she was in institutions. Even when she was out, she was often not able to be particularly motherly. Her schizophrenia symptoms were too strong and disruptive, and the trauma of witnessing it was too difficult for her kids to forget.

Growing up, my brother and I only saw our grandma a few times a year, despite the fact that she lived only about twenty minutes away from us. We were at our maternal grandparents' house just about every weekend, often spending the night there, and we even temporarily lived there a few times. Their house was a second home to us. But Grandma's house was an odd place... only because we did not know her. When we went to see her, we did not bounce into her house and run off to play freely like we did at our other grandparents' house. We sat stiffly on the couch, closely supervised by our parents, and watched the adults have uncomfortable conversation. The conversation always turned to whether my Grandma had heard my mom or someone else talking on the phone about her, whether someone was plotting against her, etc. My dad would groan and yell at her and ask her if she had taken her medication. She smelled strongly of perfume and gave us really wet, lipstickey kisses, and her loud, screechy voice hurt my ears. As kids, we didn't realize that everyone didn't have a grandma like this... we assumed everyone had one set of warm, loving grandparents, and one somewhat frightening grandmother. But either way, going to visit her was never very pleasant. We could sense that my dad had a lot of negative feelings towards his mother, and that everything she said or did seemed to irritate him. 

The summer that I was nine or ten, Grandma was living in an apartment complex for senior citizens. It wasn't independent living, but mostly just an over-55-only complex. My grandma did not like to take her medication and would often skip it. At some point she had been put on a monthly injection instead, but she had even been skipping that.  One day the people who worked in the office there called my mom to tell her that Grandma was suddenly moving out... she'd arranged moving vans and everything. She was moving away to hide from whoever she believed was out to get her. My mom asked the office to stop her from moving and send the moving vans away, but they said they couldn't do that, since it was just an apartment complex and they couldn't force people to stay. So my mom told my brother and I to get into the car and we drove to the apartment complex. My mom warned us that the police might have to come, and that they might even put our grandma in a straight jacket. We were not particularly alarmed. We took it all in stride, deciding it might be an interesting thing to watch. I think if we had known Grandma better we would have been more scared of what would happen to her. But nothing really surprised us at that point. In the end, the police didn't have to come. My mom and my uncle talked my grandma into letting them take her to the hospital, where she got a shot that calmed her down.

It was not until a few years later that I first learned that Grandma had a mental illness. My cousin was visiting us. He was a year older than me. Since he lived in another state, he saw our grandma even less than my brother and I did. He definitely noticed the things about her that we had always taken for granted, like the way she was constantly moving. One day the three of us (my cousin, my brother and me) were in the car with my mom, and we were making fun of our grandma. I mean, she wasn't there with us, but we were mocking the way she moved around. I know it sounds horrible. But we were little kids, and we didn't understand. Finally my mom told us that there was a reason for how Grandma acted. She told us what paranoid schizophrenia was, and that our grandma had it. 

We still didn't really, fully understand. We got the feeling that we were not supposed to talk about it or ask about it in front of the adults... my mom had said it when my dad and aunt and uncle weren't around, and that was going to be the end of it. Knowing a little bit may have been worse than knowing nothing. Remember, I was a little odd myself, and since I wasn't diagnosed with anything at this point, I was just thought of as a weird kid, a nerd, a dork, etc. But now my brother and cousin also claimed that I was going to be schizophrenic like Grandma. They decided that they were immune to it because they were boys, but since Grandma was a lady and I was a girl, the only girl cousin in our family, I would be the one to inherit it. 

Flash forward a few years. I had been having a lot of behavioral problems, which stemmed from a combination of many things, including having undiagnosed ADHD and Aspergers, having difficulty with school work, being an outcast at school, and problems that were going on with my parents. My parents were very good at painting a picture that made it look, from the outside, like they were the perfect family. I was not very good at sticking with this plan. I was the wild, angry, sad kid who refused to pretend things were okay. My parents decided we were going to go to family counseling... all of us. After only two family sessions, in which my parents smiled and laughed and hugged us, the counselor announced that she only needed to see me. I was appointed as the Problem in our family. I was in and out of counseling all through high school, except for the times when my mom would refuse to bring me there because she was upset that the counselor wasn't "fixing" me quickly enough. I eventually ran away from home for three months, only coming home after multiple coincidences led the police right to my doorstep in a far away state. I was sent to a mental hospital. I don't know if this is still popular, but at that time, at least in the suburbs, sending kids to a psychiatric hospital was pretty standard for behaviors such as running away from home, underage drinking, joining a psuedo-gang, etc. I was in there with a bunch of kids who had been "committed" for things smoking weed or cigarettes, breaking curfew, and being disrespectul to their parents. Most of the other kids were quickly diagnosed with depression, and put on medication. 

I was another story. I wasn't very good at taking all of their psychological tests. I told them I didn't want to go home, admitted I believed in aliens and ghosts, and I tried to do a maze they gave me by starting in the middle and working my way out in both directions. The doctors knew my Grandma had schizophrenia. They also knew I had never claimed, or appeared to, have hallucinations or think anyone was after me. (I did say that I thought people were following me sometimes... because before I had run away, my mom had claimed that all of the police in the town were going to be watching me and that they'd call her if they saw me being anywhere where I wasn't permitted to be.) So they came up with a diagnosis of Psychotic Disorder Not Otherwise Specified. They put me on an antipsychotic medication, which left me lethargic and barely able to do the third-grade level workbooks they gave me in the hospital's "school" program. My parents agreed to the diagnosis... it would explain my behavioral problems over the last few years. 

The main point of this story is, in some way what happened to me was like a reflection of what had happened to my grandmother decades earlier. The mental health system had improved a lot by the time I found myself inside it. I only had to stay three weeks instead of multiple years, and electroshock therapy was never suggested as far as I know. The medicine I took had side effects, but once I stopped taking the meds the side effects disappeared. But one thing that was similar was the way people thought of me. I remember my mom warning me that my friends from the neighborhood, whom I'd hung out with before I ran away, might be scared of me now. I remember how, whenever I said or did something my parents thought odd or illogical, they would look at me hard and ask, "Have you been taking your medication?" After spending my childhood hearing my parents ask my Grandma that same question, it made me sick when they said it to me, and I would shout at them to never say those words to me again. I often sensed that people in my family were watching me, waiting for me to do something insane. I perceptively noticed two things... one, that my family members did not like to speak of my running away, the hospital, or my subsequent diagnosis with a mental illness, especially in public; and two, that they believed, by never speaking of these things, they were somehow protecting me or doing me a favor. 

I had been penpals, off and on, with my sixth grade teacher, for years. He had been someone who had recognized there was something different about me when I was in elementary school, but instead of shaming me, he had encouraged me to be myself and had appreciated my creativity and different way of thinking. While I was still in the hospital, I wrote him a letter telling him all about what had been happening. I wasn't allowed to send mail from the hospital without first having it approved by my parents and the hospital staff. So my mom took the letter home and mailed it for me. A decade letter, this teacher sent me an envelope full of copies of the letters I'd written him, as well as some of his replies. He thought it would be interesting to me to see how troubled I'd been in those days. One troubling thing I found in this envelope was a letter to the teacher, from my mom. When she'd mailed the letter I'd written in the hospital, she'd added her own note, swearing the teacher to secrecy. My mom asked him never to tell anyone about my being hospitalized, or about anything else I wrote in my letters to him. It went beyond basic confidentiality. She wrote that she didn't want this to "come back to haunt" me later in life.

In the years after that, I was eventually diagnosed with Aspergers, ADHD, depression, and anxiety... in different combinations, depending on which doctor you asked. I never met another doctor who believed I had a psychotic disorder. Sometimes I still wonder if it could be true. Why did I hate and fear that diagnosis so much? Because I hated the way my family and others looked at me. I didn't want people to look at me the way I had grown up looking at my grandma. 

Even without the pesky psychotic diagnosis, I still feel the effects of stigma. My parents and brother hate it when I mention any of my current diagnoses. My parents find it embarrassing, and my brother thinks I could be perfectly fine if I just tried harder or meditated or something. Several times when I pulled out my medication to take it during a breakfast out with my family, if someone like my (maternal) grandmother asked why I had medicine, my mom would interject, "For her allergies." Which is partly true... one of my morning pills is for allergies. But why is it perfectly okay to tell someone I take medication for allergies, while taking medication for depression should be kept private? 

On that note, why is it acceptable for someone to tell their employer they need to leave early to see their doctor for a blood pressure check, or to take off work for a few weeks to have and recover from surgery on a bone, but most people wouldn't dare casually mention needing to visit their psychiatrist, or needing to check into a hospital because of a mental health issue? 

I once blogged about how, when joining a particular Meetup, I wrote in my introduction that I had ADHD and Aspergers. My reason for writing it was to explain that I might seem very quiet or act a little differently. It was my way of saying, "This is me... this is what you get." The meetup organizer emailed me and said he would not approve my membership until I removed that sentence from my introduction. He reasoned that, since the Meetup was for socializing but not particularly for dating, it was "inappropriate" for me to include my "private medical information" in an introduction. That irritated me to no end. First of all, shouldn't it be up to me to decide what I was comfortable putting in my introduction, what I felt was most important for others to know about me? And second of all, if this was "private medical information," would someone who mentioned that they had diabetes or that they used a wheelchair, be told to omit that information?

I have so much more to write about this topic. But this post is getting lengthy. So for now, I will end with the original words of the pledge, created by Lulu, the founder of the Blog For Mental Health project. 

“I pledge my commitment to the Blog for Mental Health 2014 Project. I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others. By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health. I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.”  

To read other Blog For Mental Health entries, check out the Official Blog Roll

DON'T FORGET TO TAKE MY SURVEY! ONLY FOUR DAYS LEFT! HURRY! RUN! GO TAKE IT! 





Saturday, March 29, 2014

It's A New Saturday Dog!


I've had a few weeks off from volunteering at my pet rescue place. They've actually had too many volunteers lately, which I guess is a good thing. Some weeks, high school or college students come in groups to volunteer in order to get school credit, and they have to be given their hours as a priority since they're doing it for a grade. I actually may do some volunteer work with a different organization. although I can't say for sure yet. 

Anyway, I did get to go today. Way back  at the beginning of March, I posted about a local pet shop that was running a secret puppy mill in the back of the store. I posted that forty dogs were rescued, but it turns out it was closer to 100... 40 was only the number of dogs my organization took responsibility for. The other dogs went to other rescues. That week, I wrote about working with a sweet little chihuahua called Seahawk.

Well, now you get to meet an equally sweet little chihuahua named Darra! Darra looks a lot like Seahawk and his brother Rudy, and she's the same age, so we think she might be their half-sister... not from the same litter, but with the same father. Like Seahawk and Rudy, two-year-old Darra is really cuddly, and spent almost the entire show snuggled in my arms. She was shy and a little overwhelmed... remember, these dogs barely got any human interaction until they were rescued a little over a month ago! 

But at home, Darra is a little diva. She loves attention and snuggles. She loves to play with all of her toys. And she gets along splendidly with other dogs (both large and small), with adults, with children of all ages, and more or less with everyone. 

I don't like to recommend chihuahuas as a dog for anyone with small children, just because they are so small and can easily be injured or at least frightened... and any dog has the potential to bite if he feels like he's in danger. Larger dogs... as long as they can trained not to jump up on children... actually tend to do better with younger kids because they are just sturdier and don't feel as overwhelmed by rambunctious children. But with that said, Darra is fine with children who are petting her or trying to play with her. Even when she is afraid, she will most likely run away or just hide her head, instead of snapping at them. 

Darra's ideal home would probably be with people who want to spoil her with lots of love, attention, cuddles, toys, and treats! 
This isn't the best picture of Darra... but this is the one from the website, which
was probably taken on her first day with us. 
I also have some pretty good news. I found out I have been hired to work as a teacher in a special education summer school program! I actually taught there last summer, and the year before that I was an assistant. I didn't hear from them for so long this year, I thought I had been rejected... maybe I didn't do a good enough job last year... but yesterday the director emailed me and told me that my contract is in the mail! 

The only annoying part is that I won't know for a long time about what grade or level I'll be working with, or the classroom's theme. Last year I didn't find out until a few days before the program started, and I then had just a few days to lesson plan for five weeks! I think what I will do this year is start planning some basic activities for the general level that I worked with last year, and I can just adapt them for whatever students I ended up getting. 

So excited! And it has to look good on my resume that they keep hiring me for the program, every single summer! 

OK. Time to go take a nap work really hard at something. TTTL! And don't forget to take my survey! 


Friday, March 28, 2014

My Delicious Mug Of Comfort!

Hi, readers! Did you TAKE MY SURVEY yet? It will take you less than five minutes, it is easy, free and anonymous! 

Remember that I signed up for the Mug Of Comfort Swap? It was another one of those swaps organized by Chaotic Goddess. This one involved sending a mug, and things to drink from it.

My partner this time around was Kim from Too Slow For Oranges.

I was so excited yesterday when my package came yesterday! I opened it up, and look what I found inside!

A really cool lucky mug, and two different kinds of hot cocoa!

Of course I had to try the hot cocoa right away. It looked so fancy... not like the Swiss Miss packets I'm used to!

First I tried out the DAGOBA Organic Xocolatl Drinking Chocolate with Chilies & Cinnamon. This is super fancy hot cocoa. The directions say to make it on the stove, by heating milk up until it begins to steam, and then adding the power. I was actually a little nervous to try it, because of the fact that it has cayenne pepper in it. Although I know this is actually a traditional Mexican way to drink hot cocoa, it was hard for me to imagine what pepper would taste like in chocolate! But it was actually pretty good. It had a very relaxing, upscale taste. 

Next, I tried out the Godiva hot chocolate! It was so rich and chocolatey, I felt like I was drinking a melted candy bar! 



Enjoying some hot cocoa early on a rainy morning!
Thanks, Kim! I'll be enjoying the hot chocolate for quite a while, and the mug forever!

I can't wait for the next swap. How much longer? If you want to see some of the other participants' posts, check out the Show-Off Link Up!



Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Cooking For Aliens 102

IF YOU HAVEN'T ALREADY, PLEASE TAKE MY SURVEY! IT IS QUICK, EASY AND FUN!

Remember how I mentioned that last week my dogs and I were on our own, while my parents were in Arizona? Usually I don't like cooking in this house, because my mom is always hovering around trying to give me instructions and ordering me to clean up things. So with my parents gone, I decided to try some cooking on my own! I was focusing on vegetarian recipes, because I am working on being a vegetarian. 
My trick was to find recipes that looked pretty easy, and then simplify them even more. I wanted to do cooking that didn't require me to have to do a whole lot of preparation or try to balance too many pots and pans at once. A lot of my recipes involved pasta or rice. Why? Because I love pasta and rice! (You can read about another one of my cooking adventures, from back in July, here.)
Here is my report on what worked, and what didn't. 

SUCCESS 1: Tomato Mozzarella Risotto
On the first day, I found a recipe for risotto, which is an Italian rice dish. Making real risotto is pretty complicated and takes a long time, but I found a recipe that seemed simple enough. I then modified it until it was super simple! Here's what I did! 

First, I prepared 5 ounces of aborio rice, which is a short-grained Italian rice that gets really creamy when you cook it. 

While the rice was cooking, I used a vegetable bouillon cube, mixed with two cups of water, to make vegetable stock. I heated it up in the microwave until the bouillon was dissolved, then put it in another pot. I added one can of chopped tomatoes. The recipe asked for two tablespoons of tomato puree, but the only tomato puree I could find in the store came in a huge can, so I bought a small can of tomato paste instead. The ingredients were exactly the same, with the only difference being the amount of water used and how ground up the tomatoes were.

I heated up the pot of stock and tomatoes and let it simmer until the rice was ready. Then I took a ladle and scooped one ladle full of the tomato/stock mixture into the rice, and stirred it in. I repeated this, adding one ladle at a time to the rice, and stirring it in, until it looked like it was nice and creamy but not soupy. 

My next step was to shake some basil leaves in, and stir that in. I also stirred in some olive oil. 

Finally, I put one serving into a bowl, and topped it with mozzarella cheese.

Mmm-mmm, it was so yummy! I ate two servings! 

Super easy risotto!

SUCCESS 2: Veggie and Tofu Stir Fry
For my next trick, I decided to go with something inspired by one of my favorite restaurants, Flat Top Grill. It is a restaurant where you get to create your own stir fry. It is like a buffet of veggies and toppings, and you go around and put everything you want into a dish. Then they fry it up for you. I decided to try my own. I gathered up all of the veggies I could find... broccoli, celery, green peppers, red peppers, and mushrooms... and chopped them all up. I also chopped up some tofu. Meanwhile, I prepared some angel hair spaghetti noodles. Finally, with some olive oil in a pan, I fried all of it up together! 
The results were okay, but kind of bland. I don't know much about seasonings. 
While texting with my mom, she suggested I add ginger, and apricot jelly. 
I was like, "Apricot jelly? What?"
But the next day, I brought the leftover stir fry for my lunch at work. I added some apricot jelly and ginger. And it actually tasted really good! 
Better with apricot jelly and ginger!

SUCCESS 3: Avocado Mac
I really love avocados. So when I saw a recipe for Avocado Mac on Pinterest, I decided to try it! Of course I simplified it to the bare essentials. Here's what I did. 
First, I prepared some rotini, which is spiral pasta. 
While the rotini was cooking, I sliced open an avocado, scooped out the delicious insides, and mashed them up in a bowl. I added one 5 ounce container of plain Greek yogurt, and stirred it all together. 
When the rotini was ready, I stirred in the avocado and yogurt mixture until the rotini was all green. 
Finally, I topped it with shredded cheddar cheese. 
OMG it was so delicious!
If I was going to do anything differently, I would use about half the amount of Greek yogurt, and maybe more avocado instead, for a stronger avocado and less sour taste. 
But still, this recipe is a keeper for me!
For avocado lovers only

Failure 1: Green Pepper Stuffed With Couscous
I love stuffed green peppers. I've actually only had them twice, though. The first time was when I was about 17 and stayed in a foster home for a few nights, where the foster mother made them. They were so delicious, I ate mine, and when one of the other foster kids didn't want hers, I asked if I could have hers too! The second time, I think my mom made them a few years later per my request. Now that I am trying to be vegetarian, I wanted to find a stuffed green pepper recipe that didn't involve meat. I found one that used couscous (a sort of cross between pasta and rice), which seemed simple enough... and I love couscous! 
So I prepared the couscous, I hollowed out the green pepper, and I filled the green pepper with couscous. But here was where the problem started. I was supposed to broil the green pepper. When I set the green pepper on the pan, it tipped over, and the couscous rolled everywhere! This happened like nine times. Finally I managed to get the pepper to stand up. I put it in the oven and turned it on, and left it in there for ten minutes.
The results? A hot green pepper filled with couscous that still fell out and rolled everywhere! 
The only way to eat it was to put it in a bowl and mash it all together, defeating the purpose of a stuffed green pepper. Also it tasted kind of... oveny. It's hard to describe... but I just didn't like it very much. The next day, I ate all of the leftover couscous with butter and pepper. 

Failure (sort of) 2: Broccoli Spaghetti
Broccoli spaghetti is a delicious tradition in my household, somewhat invented by my mother when I was little. It involves spaghetti noodles mixed with broccoli, shrimp, and cheese. So yummy! The night my parents were coming home from Arizona, I decided to make some broccoli spaghetti for dinner to surprise them. Good idea, right? Except I realized I had no idea how to make it. I had never actually watched very closely when my mom made it. I looked up some recipes online, and decided I could figure it out on my own. 
I didn't have any more spaghetti noodles, so I cooked the rest of the rotini. I chopped up some broccoli and steamed it until it was bright green. I couldn't use shrimp because of the whole vegetarian theme I had going on, so I just mixed the steamed broccoli into the rotini, and stirred in some olive oil and mozzarella cheese. 
The results? I forgot to take a picture, but it didn't look (or taste) anything like my mom's broccoli spaghetti. It was still good. But a little dry. When my mom came home and tried my version of broccoli spaghetti, she said it was just different. The main difference in her version turned out to be that she uses butter instead of olive oil, and cheddar cheese instead of mozzarella. Not quite a failure, but just something to work on! 

Laziest Day
I saw something on TV that said Domino's Pizza had a deal where, if you ordered online, you got half off. My family orders pizza occasionally, but it is very rare that I get any say in what we order. While I love Domino's and Pizza Hut, they prefer a local order-out pizza place. My mom loves veggie pizza and my dad loves sausage, so those are generally my two choices. This was my big chance to get what I loved! I ordered a double cheese pan pizza, topped with even more cheese (cheddar) and green peppers. YUMMY YUMMY YUMMY... and all mine!
My favorite!

I am glad I got to do some cooking! The best part about cooking for myself is that I don't have to worry about impressing anyone else. If something doesn't work out, I just tell myself I can try again! And I definitely will be trying these recipes, and more, again soon. 

By the way, thank you to all of the people who have taken my survey so far! If you haven't already, please go take it! It will take you less than five minutes, and doesn't require your name or email or anything. Totally easy, anonymous, free, etc. Thanks!



Sunday, March 23, 2014

Week On My Own

If you haven't already, PLEASE TAKE MY SURVEY! Thanks to the readers who have taken it already. :) 

Hi everyone! I wasn't supposed to blog about this earlier, in case burglars and murderers read this blog, but my parents have been on vacation in Arizona all week, so I've been running the house. This is not a big deal for most people who already have their own houses.  But for me, it was a good experience to go back to living like a "grown-up" for a while and being in charge of everything around the house. It was also a good experience for me to see that I don't freak out anymore when I am alone, the way I used to. When I was younger I couldn't even be on a floor of the house by myself without feeling panicky! There was one time a few years ago when my parents went on this exact same week-long trip, and I freaked out and cried just about every day because I hated being alone so much. But that was when I was off my medicine. It just proves that medicine really can be necessary for some people!

(Yes, I have lived outside of my parents' house most of the time since I was 18, but I was never completely alone... I had roommates a lot or random people who crashed at my house. Plus being alone in an apartment doesn't feel as freaky as being alone in a house, because you can still feel people around you, even if they aren't in your specific place.) 

One thing that I am proud of is that, instead of living on TV dinners or sandwiches like I usually tend to do when I am on my own, I actually cooked myself dinner every day. I am going to post some of the recipes I found, later on in the week. I am trying to go back to being a vegetarian, so I made vegetarian food every day. 

Last night I went with my women's Meetup group to Panera Bread for a game night. There was just five of us, and we played Cards Against Humanity. I had never played it before, although I'd heard of it a lot! It is a lot like Apples To Apples... except R-rated! I had a lot of fun. I am getting good at working past my anxiety and actually making myself go out and do things... I just tell myself, if I am not having fun, I can just fake like I got a text, and make an excuse to leave. 

I often do still feel uncomfortable with the group. I don't know the people very well yet, especially since it tends to be different people coming every time. And I still feel really awkward and like I am making some sort of social blunders... like sometimes I will say something and everyone will exchange confused glances, or I'll say something and nobody will seem to hear me, or sometimes I'll be in the middle of saying something and somebody will just interrupt me to change the subject. So then I'm like, "I need to make sure I don't get too comfortable, because the more comfortable I get, the more stupid things I say and do. If I am anxious, I will watch myself more and blend in more." But that kind of sucks. So, I don't know. 

In other news, today I went and saw my friend who is a horse, Brownie! Julie (my equine therapist) was out of town or something this weekend, but she had said I could go there myself and hang out with Brownie. So I did! This was another thing that was a good experience for me, to go to the barn place on my own without feeling really nervous and awkward. But I actually didn't feel too nervous when I got there... I just walked in, petted the dogs for a while, put my stuff in the club room, and went to Brownie's stall. I brought her an apple and a carrot. I fed her the apple and the carrot, and then hung out and petted her for a while. Then I had to hurry home and start cleaning the house, because my parents were coming home tonight!

Here is a selfie I took with Brownie. The reason I am sort of frowning was because I had tried to take, like, eleven other pictures, but because my hand shakes a little sometimes, they turned out blurry. So I was focusing on being as still as I could. 

Here is another, un-alienized picture of Brownie, that Julie sent to me a while ago.

If you wonder why she is in the same posture in both pictures, it is because she is eating in both pictures. She eats a lot. I learned that horses would eat 24/7 if they could! She pretty much ate the whole time I was there. She ate the apple and carrots I gave her, and then she tried to stick her nose in my pocket to see if I was hiding any more food! Horses have these two things at the end of their muzzle, which I guess is sort of their lip, but it is kind of like two big lumps that are always moving when the horse is trying to feel something. 

That is really all the news I have today. I am now on my spring break from work. Also, my long-term subbing job has probably ended, although it may go on a little longer if the lady I'm subbing for is not up to returning to work after this week. If she does go back, I'll have to go back to getting random subbing jobs here and there. I will really miss the kids I was with... they were awesome! I can't wait until I have my own classroom of kids and don't have to leave them, except at the end of the school year. 

OK. This post is done I guess. Um... what's new with you?

Oh yeah... and don't forget to TAKE MY SURVEY! I promise it will take you less than five minutes! 


Thursday, March 20, 2014

Special Needs And Sensitive Ears

If you have sensitive ears, loud or shrill noises can cause
physical pain. 
When I was a little kid, I had very sensitive ears. That may have been one of the signs that there was something different about me. I remember being terrified of noises, such as drums at a parade, sirens on police cars and fire trucks, fireworks, dogs barking, low-flying airplanes, backfiring cars, loud music, etc. Even the vacuum cleaner was sometimes too much for me... especially vacuum cleaners at other people's houses. I guess I got used to my mom's vacuum because she vacuumed so much, but I was afraid of the one at my grandmother's house or the one at the cottage where we sometimes stayed in the summer. Oh my gosh... the fire alarm at school? Talk about painful! 

I remember covering my ears and crying... sometimes not even because I had heard a loud noise, but because I was afraid that I might hear one. For instance, I didn't really like playing with balloons or even having them in the house, because they might pop. 

This went on until I was well into grade school. My ears got a little less sensitive over time, so I could handle vacuum cleaners, airplanes, fireworks, etc. But particularly loud or shrill noises still cause me pain! I have never been to a rock concert, even though I love music, because I would not be able to handle the noise. I used to have a friend who loved to go see live bands playing in bars, and she insisted on us standing right in front of the stage. I couldn't enjoy the music because it was too painful, and I definitely couldn't converse with anyone over the loudness! 

And you know how sometimes at loud places people put their mouths right up to your ear and yell to you? If you do that to me, I may punch you in the face. I won't mean too... but it hurts so badly, I just need to get you away from my ear! 

When I hear very loud or shrill noises, it is almost a physical sensation, like wind blowing right into my eardrums. It also hurts inside my head. It is kind of hard to explain. All I can tell you is, it is a very unpleasant feeling that makes me want to get as far away from the noise as possible! Also, in instances where I did have to stay around a loud noise for a long time (such as when I went to the bar with my friend and listened to live music right by the stage) for hours or even a day afterwards I would feel dizzy and kind of sick. 

The reason I was thinking about this today is because I used to think this problem was something kids with autism spectrum disorders dealt with, but I have learned that kids with other special needs often have sensitive ears as well. I've been substituting in a special education class for a few weeks now. The kids there, fourth and fifth graders, have either autism, learning disorders, or intellectual disabilities. Many of them also have very sensitive ears.

Today there was a special event in the gym, for all of the fourth and fifth graders in the school, including the kids in my class. It was basically a relay race where kids rode on those square-shaped scooter boards around a circle. It was boys against girls. 

The other assistant in the classroom was absent and had no substitute, so I was in charge of taking four of the kids from my class down to the gym. (The fourth graders were participating at a different time.) One of the kids was a girl I'll call Myra, She has a mild intellectual disability, and is also mostly nonverbal due to a physical difference in her mouth. The other three kids with me were boys, one of whom had autism. 

Since three of the kids I was with were boys, I was standing on the boys' side of the gym. The three boys were cheering, having fun, and participating. All of the kids were screaming and jumping up and down. The noise was deafening, and a few times I put my hands over my ears to get some relief! But none of the three boys, including the one with autism, seemed bothered by it at all. 

I looked over at the girl's side of the gym to check on whether it would be Myra's turn soon. But Myra was not standing in line with the other girls. She was huddled on the floor in a corner, with her hands over her ears! 

I rushed back to the classroom to grab a few pairs of the sound muffling headphones we keep around... some of the kids use them to help them concentrate while they do classwork. They look just like the bulky headphones you can use to listen to music or play on the computer... except, at further inspection, you'd notice that they don't have a cord to plug them into anything. I ran back to the gym to offer a pair to Myra, who happily put them on. They did help with the noise... but Myra still didn't want to participate in the games. It was just too overwhelming. 

I offered the other pairs to the three boys, but none of them wanted any. So I tried on a pair myself. What a relief they brought to my very strained, ringing ears! I wish they had had those when I was a kid! 

The fourth graders did the same event right after us. One boy named Artie came back to class afterwards, with his hands on his head, actually crying, because the noise had been so bad. Artie has a learning disability but is more socially aware than some of the other kids. The noise had been torturing him, but he hadn't wanted to leave or wear headphones, because he so badly wanted to be like all of the other kids. He forced himself to stay for the entire event, but as soon as he returned to the classroom he was crying silently, holding his hands over his ears and head. 

So many activities in our society involve being as noisy as possible. We listen to music at top volume. We scream when we're excited. At sporting events, we hoot and holler. (And by we, I mean you, because I don't do any of those things! LOL!) Children and adults with sensitive ears sometimes have to miss out on things that they probably would have enjoyed, because of the noise. Myra missed out on participating in the relay race with her peers. Artie participated, but it caused him a lot of pain and distress. 

I wish it was socially acceptable to walk around wearing those sound muffling headphones! I can even think of a time a few years ago when my dad and I used to go bowling every Saturday night. It was at a time where they turned the music up loud and turned the lights down. People around us would be screaming and shouting. It wasn't quite painful for me at that point, but it bothered my ears a lot. I wished I could wear headphones, and I even suggested it, but my dad said I would look weird and he'd be embarrassed. I tried foam ear plugs, and they did help a little bit. 

Do you have sensitive ears? How do you cope with it? 

By the way, if you haven't already, please take my survey! It is anonymous and easy. I am going to publish the results on my blogaversary in April! 




Monday, March 17, 2014

Weekend Report, and a special request

Hi everyone! I told you I'd write again when I had some interesting things to tell you. Well, now I do have a few things! Here they are!

My so-called social life... I've been really putting effort into getting out and doing things at least once a week, instead of hibernating at home. Each time I go do something, I have to conquer my anxiety. No matter how excited I am to do a particular activity, at the last minute I start thinking, "Maybe I just want to stay home." My brain starts thinking of excuses like, "I'm really tired. I shouldn't spend the money. I don't want to hang out with people I don't know. My dogs will miss me." 
This past Saturday there was an event I had signed up to go to, with a new Meetup group just for women. The event was to go to this place where they have a whole lot of trampolines. I have always wanted to go there, because I really like trampolines! But of course at the last minute, I kind of decided I didn't want to go. I really had to force myself. I reminded myself of the times in the recent past where I did something new and ended up having at least a little bit of fun, like sledding at a family party, tubing with another Meetup group (even though I ended up tubing by myself), the salt cave, etc. 
So I went! Only two other people ended up going, which was kind of nice because I do much better in a small group. If there is a bunch of people, I kind of get shy and get lost in the shuffle, but with a small group I feel more comfortable. We bounced on the trampolines for a while (not nearly as long as we thought we would... after half an hour of jumping, I felt like I would collapse!) and then went out for dinner at TGI Friday's. I had a lot of fun, and now I am signed up to go to a game night with them next Saturday! So far I haven't made any actual friends, because it is usually different people each time. But at least I am practicing talking to people, and having some fun experiences! 


Who is in your herd?
Equine therapy.... I went again yesterday. From now on I will call the therapist "Julie" and the horse "Brownie", so I don't have to keep typing "the" all the time, and because I just like assigning code names to people and animals. (Except for Lily and Trixie, who have somehow retained their real names in this blog!) 
ANYWAYS... it went really well again. With Julie's help I figured out a whole new aspect to my difficulty with making friends and connecting with others. See, when I was a kid growing up, my parents, probably unintentionally, discouraged me from having close relationships with other people, including aunts, uncles, cousins, neighbors, etc. Even with the people we were permitted to be close to, such as my maternal grandparents and two of my maternal aunts and uncles, we were expected to keep things on a polite, light-hearted level, and not allowed to talk about anything very serious. For instance, once when I was about 11 I mentioned to someone from my mom's family about my dad being an alcoholic (he had recently joined AA and admitted his alcoholism problem to me and my brother, which was why it was weighing on my mind that day) the family member literally walked away from me. When my brother and I started getting close to an adult neighbor lady  (she was the guardian of one of our friends) my mom would always say negative things about the lady, and sort of subtly discouraged us from spending time with her. So, in addition from having Asperger's Syndrome, I also got very little practice in making connections with people, and was actually kind of conditioned to avoid connections. 
The weird thing is, when I was a teenager and into my early twenties, for a while I had the opposite problem, and would latch on immediately to anyone who was even a little bit kind to me. This got me into a lot of trouble in life because I latched onto people with some serious problems (like drugs) but it also did allow me to have some interesting experiences, and taught me to see past any stereotypes and into a person's real self. But I was pretty indiscriminate about who I would try to befriend. If someone smiled at me, I would probably follow them off a cliff back then. Much later on, I was working with children with Reactive Attachment Disorder, and I learned about the different types of attachment issues kids with RAD have. One of them, Indiscriminate Attachment or Disinhibited Attachment, means that kids quickly get attached to people who are more or less strangers, and will interact with those people as if they are best friends, because they don't really recognize a difference between family members and strangers. It happens sometimes with kids who were badly neglected from an early age, or kids in foster care who have been moved from caregiver to caregiver since they were very young. When I learned about it back then, it sort of reminded me of myself. 
But I digress.
ANYWAYS AGAIN... when we were talking about it, I was feeling a little sad about it, and guilty about talking about my parents. And every time I started feeling kind of bad, Brownie would move over and put her head right by my face or my shoulder, like she was trying to give me a little support. It was pretty cool! 
Julie said people and horses are alike because we are both herd animals, and when we can't find a herd of our own (not that humans literally travel in herds like horses, but you know what I mean, a group of people that you can depend on) we get anxious and depressed. 

This blog entry is getting a little long. I should stop. I need to go walk my dogs. But one more thing. 
My blogaversary is coming up on April 5. I was trying to think of something to do for it. I already did the "I'll answer any question you have" thing for my 100th post, so I wanted something different. I saw a great idea on Simple Moments Stick. She made a survey for her blog readers, and published the results. I thought I'd steal the idea. But I am doing it a little backwards. She put out her survey on her blogaversary, and published the results a month later. I am going to post the survey ahead of time, and publish the results on my blogaversary. 

So, even if you have only read my blog once in your life, will you please take my survey? It is anonymous, multiple choice, and won't take your email or anything... just fill it out and click "Done," and you really will be done. It should take five minutes or less. And if you do it, I'll be your best friend!

The survey is here. Thanks so much!

Okay. End of post. I gotta go. Goodbye. 



Guest Post: Dealing With the Top Four Behavior Problems in Dogs

Hi everyone! I recently read an alarming statistic. 70% of people who acquire pets eventually "get rid" of them, either by giving them away, selling them, leaving them at a shelter, or abandoning them. Often this is because of behaviors in the pets, caused by a lack of proper training. 
I have quick guest post for you today about dog training! I hope you like it! 

Dogs bark, chew, dig, and jump as part of their natural behavior. Trying to make your dog stop these behaviors all together is not only impossible, but it is unfair to your dog. Instead, as a dog owner you can teach your dog when these activities are not appropriate so that they do not become a major problem. Using bark collars to train your dog, as well as other pet proofing products can definitely help with the overall training process. Here are top four behavior problems in dogs listed below and how to deal with them.
1 – Barking
The primary complaint of most dog owners is that their dogs bark too much. All dogs bark, whine, and howl to some degree but excessive barking can become problematic because it can keep you as well as your neighbors up at night. Before trying to correct your dog’s incessant barking, try to figure out the root cause of his barking. The main reasons that dogs bark include out of playfulness or excitement, as a warning, to get attention, out of boredom, out of anxiety, or simply to respond to other dogs. You may want to consider teaching your dog bark and quiet commands.
2 – Chewing
Chewing is a natural behavior for dogs, but it can easily get out of hand if you do not stop it early enough. If your dog has a habit of chewing anything and everything in sight, you can expect a lot of destruction throughout your home. Some of the most common reasons for chewing in dogs include puppy teething, anxiety, boredom, excess energy, and curiosity. You can help your dog overcome this problem by keeping him in a confined area when you are not home so that he is less likely to damage your valuables. Quickly correct your dog when he is chewing on something that he shouldn’t be and replace the item with an appropriate chew toy. Also make sure that your dog is getting plenty of exercise so that he does not have to resort to releasing his energy through inappropriate chewing.
3 – Digging
Most dogs come wired with a digging instinct and they will dig if they are given the chance. They may dig when they feel bored or have excess energy, they are frightened, they want to hide their possessions, or they are trying to gain access to something or escape. Try spending more time with your dog and exercise with him to release excess energy. If your dog refuses to give up the habit of digging because of his hunting instincts, make a designated spot for him, such as a sandbox, where he cannot cause any destruction.
4 – Jumping Up
Some dogs jump up when they greet people while other dogs jump up to show dominance. There are many different methods that may work to help curb your dog’s jumping habit, most experts agree that the best way to put an end to inappropriate jumping is by simply ignoring your dog when he jumps. Do not look at him, touch him, or give him any kind of reaction. He will soon get the message that jumping is not appropriate.
With each of these problem behaviors, be consistent and patient as you teach your dog correct behaviors. You may want to consider taking your dog to obedience school, hiring a private dog trainer, or using a bark collar. For more information, contact a dog professional today.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

I've Watched This Vine A Million Times Today!

HI everyone! This isn't a real post... I will write more later when I actually have something interesting to write about. But I couldn't help posting this very short video. Someone posted it on Facebook last night, and I have been watching it over and over again. It makes me crack up every time!

Now I want a baby goat so bad!

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Product Review: Tone Petal Soft Body Wash


I am really enjoying being a BzzAgent! The latest free product I got to test out was Tone® Petal Soft Body Wash. The scent is called Pink Peony And Rose Oil. 
I am kind of funny about smells. I have a really sensitive nose, and a strong memory for certain scents. If someone in the room is wearing a strong perfume, it can irritate me to no end and I can't think of anything else. If I have an unpleasant experience at a place that has a particular scent inside, whenever I smell that scent again I will get a nervous stomach. So whenever I get a new product, the first thing I do is smell it.

I was worried that Pink Peony And Rose Oil would be a strong, flowery scent. Instead, it was a mild, pleasant scent that made the shower smell lovely while I was in it, but didn't linger on my skin for too long afterwards. This body wash would be great for anyone who is sensitive to strong scents, but who still wants to enjoy a pleasant scent in the shower.

One thing I liked about this body wash is that it lathered up really well. In the winter, using a loofah can leave my skin dry and irritated... but I've found that if I use a regular wash cloth, many body washes do not lather up well. But this one had plenty of lather! I think it will make this body wash last a lot longer, giving people a good value for the money.

Finally, I found that it did not dry my skin out at all. I have recently had really dry skin, that bothers me all day long. But since I started using Tone® Petal Soft Body Wash, my dry skin seems to have gone away. I was surprised to notice that, because I really didn't expect this body wash to be more moisturizing than my usual body wash... but it was!

I've really enjoyed using this new body wash. It probably would have never occurred to me to buy it before, but now that I've tried it, I think I will buy it in the future.  I sure love getting to try new things! 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Now I'm A Horse Lover

Hi everyone! Remember how I mentioned that I was going to begin equine therapy? Today was my first day! 

I was actually a little nervous when I first got there, because things didn't seem to be going well. I found the address where I was supposed to go, but it was just a private building and no signs on the doors or anything. So I didn't even know how I was supposed to get in. I mean, there were doors, but none of them were clearly a door for customers or clients or whatever. I ended up knocking on one of the doors. A Hispanic man opened it. The reason I've specified that he was Hispanic is because he didn't really speak English so it was hard to tell him why I was there and who I was looking for, but he did let me in. Then the barn manager, who was a lady with two dogs, told me that the therapist I was supposed to be meeting had gone off to run errands. She let me go into the "club room" to wait. At this point I was really confused because, although everyone was nice, nobody seemed to know why I was there. But the barn manager had two dogs, a black lab and a German shepherd. The German shepherd was only a puppy. 

I was waiting for a long time. I had left my phone in the car and there were no clocks in the room, but I just started to suspect that the time my appointment was supposed to be at had come and gone quite a while ago. I wondered if the therapist had forgotten about me. I thought about just getting up and leaving. I started feeling pretty disappointed that it hadn't worked out. 

But I'm glad I didn't leave, because eventually the therapist showed up! It turned out, she had written the time wrong in her calendar. She was really nice though. 

We walked through the barn to where her horse was. Then I was starting to understand why nobody seemed to know why I was there. The farm was basically a stable where people could board their horses. The therapist boards her horse there, and is allowed to use the rooms there, but the other people I'd seen there were just workers at the stable, and had nothing to do with equine therapy. 
ANYWAYS... The therapist introduced me to her horse, and she asked me a bunch of questions about whether I was comfortable around horses and whether I had any experience with them. Although I really haven't had any experience with horses, I felt pretty comfortable to go inside the stable. The therapist gave me carrots to feed to the horse, and the horse ate them out of my hand! I think the horse liked me because she kept nuzzling me with her nose and she even licked me a few times, just like a dog!

Most of the time for the session, it was just like a regular counseling session, talking about my experiences and problems and stuff. Except, the whole time, I was brushing, petting, and interacting with the horse! 
I didn't have my phone to take a picture of the horse, but this is very similar to
what she looked like. 
The hour went by so quickly, it was crazy. After it was over, the therapist told me that she noticed, when I was just talking to her, I'd be sort of awkward and answered a lot of her questions with "I don't know," but once I was petting the horse I was able to tell her a whole lot of stuff about myself and answer questions. 

Beforehand, the therapist had mentioned that being around a horse can help someone learn to ease their anxiety, because in order to be around a horse you have to take deep breaths and feel calm, since they can sense your emotions. But I didn't even have to try to be calm around the horse... it just happened naturally! 

So. Originally I was thinking I'd do this maybe once a month. But I was able to get so much out of it, I think I want to do it more often. Of course I will have to pay every time I go. So I am thinking of quitting the social skills group I joined, and using the money to pay for equine therapy instead. I feel bad for dropping out when I just joined, but I just can't afford to pay hundreds of dollars a month on therapy, and I really think I will benefit a lot more when there is a horse involved. 
When I first mentioned horse therapy, the blogger from C-ing Spots left a great comment about how awesome horses were and how much I would love being around them. I think she was definitely right! I can't wait to go back! 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Feeling Salty

Today I did something kinda fun and cool. There is this place in Chicago called Galos Caves. It is a man-made salt cave. The salt comes from the Black Sea, and it covers the floor and walls, and hangs in crystals from the ceiling. Salt caves are supposed to be very good for people's health... the salt is therapeutic. Spending regular time in a salt cave is supposed to be able to cure all sorts of illnesses, and prevent people from getting colds and respiratory illnesses. Salt caves are really popular in Eastern Europe, especially Poland. And since Chicago has a big Polish population, it makes sense that we would have our very own salt cave!

I have always wanted to go to Galos Caves, ever since I first heard about it several years ago. But I never went because I felt a little nervous to go alone. So I was really excited when one of my Meetup groups had an event there! I even skipped my usual Saturday volunteer job, in order to go!

When I first got there, all I saw was a small room filled with salt. People were sitting around on chairs and nobody was talking. I thought, "Hmm, this might be kind of boring." But then, the lights were turned out, and pretty colored lights were turned on. Peaceful music started playing in the background. And I found out that the chairs could be tilted back. It was really cool!

I don't know if there really are health benefits. The recording we listened to when we got in said that one forty-five minute session is like staying by the ocean for three days, but that in order to really see health benefits you'd have to go ten times. I don't know if that means twice a week, or if you could go once a month for ten months, or what. But I'd definitely be willing to go once a month just to be super-relaxed!
We couldn't bring things in so I couldn't take a picture, but this is a picture I
found online of the inside of Galos Caves. I was sitting where the lady in the
purple shirt is. 
Anyways tomorrow I have something else exciting happening... I am going to my very first equine therapy session! I am a little nervous. I will let you know how it goes! 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Another New Obsession

As my life has been getting a little busier with subbing jobs, therapy appointments, and attempts at a social life, I decided I needed a planner. I've tried using planners online, but I find they don't work that well for me because I don't constantly have my computer with me, and I forget to use my phone. I've been using a composition notebook to write things down, but I wanted something more organized. 

I saw some blog posts about Filofax planners, which are very customizable planners with rings. People get very creative and crafty with their Filofaxes, and they become almost like scrapbooks as well as planners. In fact, you can find a lot of free printable inserts to add to a Filofax planner, such as inspirational quotes, menu planners, to do lists, etc. People decorate their pages with stickers and drawings and stuff. This sounds just up my alley, doesn't it?

But here is the problem. Filofax planners range in price from $29.99 (for a "mini" style that is about 4" by 2") to over $100. Not quite in my budget! 

Then I came across a blog post on making your own "Filofax." This very crafty blogger got very elaborate in making her own planner, but the basic idea is simple enough for even the least craftiest person ever to understand. You can use a small three-ring binder, which is about the same size as a personal sized Filofax. It won't be leatherbound or anything (unless you figure out a way to bind it in leather yourself) but you can personalize it, and use printable Filofax inserts or purchase the right size of pages. 

I picked up a mini binder (about 5 1/2 by 8 1/2 inches) at Staples for $6.00. I also got some duct tape so I could decorate it. I love colorful things, and duct tape is always fun!
My very colorful decorated binder.
I wanted to figure out a way to make my own pages. I wanted to be able to open up the binder and see one week at a time, with each week divided into categories... Home, Work, Fun, Blog, and Appointments. I was trying to figure out a way to do it, and I was actually going to draw all of the pages by hand. But then my mom came along and quickly showed me a way to make the binder pages using Microsoft Excel! If I print on both sides of the paper, the pages are exactly like they'd look in a regular planner. She even put a space on the bottom for notes! And there is plenty of room for me to decorate the pages, once I get started on that part. 
Wicked cool printed pages. 
Doesn't it look cool? And the best part is, unlike some inexpensive planners, I will be able to reuse this one year after year for as long as I want to. 

I just wanted to show you that because I was so proud of my creation! And now I am obsessed with looking up other people's decorated Filofaxes and Filofax pages. 

What kind of planner do you use? 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

First Post In March

I couldn't think of an interesting title today. But today is the first day of March! How can that be possible? Does it seem like this year is moving a little quickly? 

The good news is, I've been told (when I was in preschool) that March goes in like a lion and out like a lamb. Right now in Chicago it is definitely a lion. I went out to dinner with my parents today. On our way there and back, we saw several car accidents, caused by cars sliding on the snow! It has not really gotten cold enough all winter for any snow to melt, so instead, the snow has frozen, and we can walk on top of it. It is somewhat amusing to watch my dogs walking on top of the snow... but every few minutes they sink! 
In like a lion, and out like a lamb. Or they might just hang out together. 
Aside from the stupid Chicago weather, things are going pretty well for me. I started my long-term subbing job as an assistant in the classroom where I student taught back in 2012. The kids are fourth and fifth graders with intellectual disabilities; some of them also have autism, and one has apraxia. All great kids! I love being in that classroom. The teacher is very laid back and has a sense of humor, so you don't feel nervous about screwing up. But she also has a very clear behavior plan for the kids, so they usually don't misbehave. She was the best teacher to student teach with, and I am so happy to be working with her again for the next several weeks. 

Today I worked at my volunteer job at the pet rescue organization. I took care of a sweet little chocolate chihuahua named Seahawk! He is the sweetest little guy. He spent most of the time cuddling in my arms. Seahawk's story is kind of disturbing. A pet store in a Chicago suburb was forced to close down. People had been protesting the store for years, because of the fact that it gets puppies from puppy mills. But it turns out that they were also running a secret puppy mill in the back rooms of the stores. Investigators found more than forty adult dogs living in cages that were stacked up four cages high. The dogs rarely got human interaction and never got to go outside or play or do regular dog things. They were used specifically for breeding. When the store closed, my organization rescued many of the dogs. Seahawk was one of them.

He is a little shy when you first meet him, because he's still getting used to interacting with people. And sometimes he is a little grouchy with other dogs, since he's still getting used to interacting with them too. (He lived in the store with tons of other dogs, but since he was in his cage all the time he never really got to know them.) He has to learn how to be a dog, and he's just starting to do things like play with toys. You have to look at his sweet face, though! OMG! 

Seahawk is two years old, but still working on potty training because, like I said, he spent the first two years of his life never going outside for any reason, let alone to go potty. He is a lovely dog, and would be great dog for someone out there. His ideal home will not include young children, because he is very small and shy, and little kids can be unpredictable. It would be cool for him to have another dog to help him continue learning dog things... but he'd probably be happy as an only-dog as well! If you live in the Chicago area and want to meet Seahawk, you can email dogs@almosthomefoundation.org or call 630-582-3738.

Okay. Now that my public service announcement is over, I'm going to go watch some TV with my little dog Lily. Peace!