out of whack

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Fluffy

After three full-on gruelling days, APAC19 (Asia Pacific Autism Conference 2019) is over. It was an amazing and even sometimes exhilarating event – a first of its kind in Singapore where actual autistic people permeated all but the very top mesosphere at an autism event. 1,800 people gathered in the massive Resorts World Convention Centre all with the common goal of learning more about Autism and how autistic persons and those around us can best thrive.

I wrote a mini summary here, and uploaded some of my own photos, so go check it out.

Now to face the aftermath of all that dizzy positivity: my sensory system has been thrown completely off kilter, of course. Which autistic person doesn’t understand what I mean? Not one, I’d wager, though the specifics may be different for each individual.

For me, I’ve developed an insatiable appetite – it’s my mouth, my tastebuds and olfactory nerves all going chomp-chomp-chomp without care for or connection with the rest of my body. The brain is craving sensory comfort so much that it doesn’t want to acknowledge the other sensations like, well, a too-full stomach. I’m having trouble with my own physical signalling, as if I shall float away if I didn’t firmly anchor myself somewhere and somehow.

Oh, and the insomnia is deafening. I can hear everything whirring in randomly orchestrated high-pitched pretentious screech-fest in my headspace. Tones and microtones meandering, crossing, greeting, clashing, intertwining and looping.

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And those bizarre lights at the convention centre, they’re gyrating and creating a bit of drama. My eyes have not stopped hurting since – I can feeling the muscles tensely squeezing around the eye socket – and my vision is blurry.

I need Clement Space. In bed now, listening to Lucy’s breath, softly undulating, her warmth emanating so reassuringly.

I must attempt to sleep now. Good night, Every Bunny!

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pancakes & jelly beans

 

I don’t know why my brain produced that title. There are no pancakes or jelly beans in any of my photographic offerings here today. The words were just echoing inside, wriggling and jiggling among the other bits and bobs, and so I decided I’d let them out to dance around. Perhaps something to do with switching modes from the ‘seriousness’ of advocacy etc to the now ‘lighthearted’ topic of food and friendships?

Food is an integral part of fellowship for humans, methinks. I miss our weekend noshment adventures with friend Rick, mostly in Paddo, though he did travel to Kensington for the dire period when Lucy and I were trapped in that not so suitable environment. And of course, when we were forced to move to awful Rose Bay, Rick valiantly came to our mental rescue. Thanking the cosmos for really great friendships, without them I’d not have preserved even this little semblance of my ability to function! Continue reading

clement Saturday

Too hot for walks, mumma!

Today, I woke up somewhat off-kilter. Lucy was unfortunately in sync with me and didn’t even want to go out walking in the early morning. The heat this month has been really depressing. Too much to-ing and fro-ing in the last few days, methinks. Sensory overload happens even when I am enjoying myself. I have a headache, sore throat, and there’s something not quite right along my nasal passages. I just want to be with my Lucy. The family have gone out for lunch and grocery shopping: the two little fluffies in their bright green buggy and mum in her super Wheelie (we call mum’s wheelchair the Wheelie), my sister, brother-in-law and their helper.

I’m now waiting for my FoodPanda lunch delivery – Hainanese Chicken Rice set from a restaurant nearby. Lucy and I could’ve walked there, of course, but this is Singapore and if you’ve never been here, you have no idea how assaultive the weather can be at this time of the day. Well, at any time of the day, actually.

While waiting, I played the “waiting game” with Lucy – I place a treat near her nose, and tell her to “wait”. She must not touch the treat until I say, “Okay!” She is a good girl, even when it’s her favourite cheesy biscuit! Now, Lucy has moved to the day bed and she is chewing on her Venison ear. I am listening to the rhythmic crunching, munching and gnawing sounds she is making. It’s all music to my ears, even the squeaky juicy sounds emanating from the air-conditioning sounds pleasant. All is good and clement. Just Lucy and me here. Clement Space for Two.

Oh, is that the FoodPanda guy now? I hear his motorbike downstairs in the carpark.

Hainanese Chicken Rice set with KaiLan and soy sauce egg.

This one is for you, Rick. In memory of our Saturday noshments! Have a dogly weekend down under and say hello to Paddo from us.

five-four

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Today was yet another brain melt day, I have been having a great deal of these lately – triggered no doubt by the combined crush of lack of intellectual and creative stimulation, too much stress from trying too hard at everything apart from engaging in real creative work (which includes research, not just art, which I love), overload of weariness from advocacy (often this means preaching to the un-convertible), and the ironic lack of empathic understanding from even the most well-meaning non-autistic ‘autism experts’, who, despite their book knowledge and claims of having worked with autistic people for x number of years, still have little to no idea how to actually communicate with Autistic people according to our intrinsic styles. It is always us Autistics who have to bend, bow, wriggle, wrangle and perform grand calisthenics in order to reach out to the normative. It’s no walk in the park, trying to make ourselves understood – ironically, the ‘autism experts’ seem sometimes the least capable of comprehending us (not always, I am glad for the wonderful allies I have met and with whom I work). Blame it on the rigid (oops, aren’t we Auties the ones who are supposed to be inflexible?) stubborn adherence to the Medical Model, perhaps?

Anyway… Mental exhaustion, emotional depletion, and sensory-physical devastation can have crushing effects on a hyper sensory Autistic Bunny. Too debilitated to even cook for myself and too out of linguistic spoons to instruct our helper to cook for me, I decided to order in my lunch via FoodPanda delivery. As with almost all Asian (especially Chinese) food, it tasted better than it looked. (With the exception of Japanese cuisine, which looks every bit as delicious as it tastes!)

Then, while going through some work-related emails (as the food gurgled it mushy way down my digestive tract), I was reminded to look again at Damian Milton’s video on “Double Empathy”.

I love Damian’s work, he has done a great deal of work in the area of empathy, and I also like his dry, deadpan humour. I won’t add further to this excellent talk, but just to insert in here that somehow, my brain zipped and zapped a connection with this other thing, seemingly unrelated but yet it is, because Damian did mention music as a communication… Here we are…

Why “Take Five” by Dave Brubeck? I seriously do not have a ready explanation, although I am sure there is one if I dug deep enough. For now, my brain isn’t working in the conventional way, so I’ll just say that’s just the way my brain works. Seemingly bizarre connectivities. But sometimes exquisite!

No prizes for guessing what rhythmic time signature my brain worm is gyrating to now.

snapshots of grace

 

(Above: Rhapsody in Orange – photos of Salmon roe, Salmon, and common wholemeal bread squares.)

Unabashedly photographing food – almost everything I imbibe – as if on a mission. Unlike most, though, my food is seldom fanciful or posh, my captures are not from expensive restaurants or showy, but merely simple snapshots of quite ordinary and mundane fare. For me, each one carries an association – sometimes sensory memories of textures, smells and colourful tastes, other times brief mini narratives of sorts. Sometimes I am captivated by its arrangement, its visual composition framed within the plate or bowl, and the larger assemblage on the table of many miniature narratives.

 

(Above: Visual captures of Lunar New Year fare, snippets of tastes, smells and accompanying sounds – mostly very loud sounds – of festivity and celebration. Individual photos have descriptions.)

When I began this blog, I started out with a simple mission: to document the great food challenge of ‘How to eat on a scholar’s miserable budget”. Musings were deliberately kept light, sometimes whimsical and other times pondering the deeper things via the cogent agency of ‘food-ing’.

 

(Above: Photos of BunnyHopscotch style food-ing.)

My photographs of food are always intimate and personal – to me – and they speak of suspended moments in time and space, taking deep breaths of appreciation, gratitude at each savouring, and wonderment that I possess such intricate senses – all reflections of and conversations taking place in a kind of Clement Space that I inhabit together with the life-giving morsels du jour.

 

(Above: Eating out with family has a different kind of melodic & harmonic structure.)

 

I like the act of documentation, and my senses are natural archives being fed on a constant basis. And most important to me, on a deeper level, food-ing has been and continues to be an agency for gratitude, and the learning to embrace grace.

lo-hei !

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(Online Exclusive – click here.)

lo-hei” – A toss for Happiness, Blessing, Abundance, and, well, all things good! This is the Cantonese term that describes a tradition begun in Singapore of sharing a large salad and raw fish / seafood dish called yusheng“, usually during the Lunar New Year. Everyone joins in with gusto, quite a bit of vim and vigour, to stir and toss the salad into a blended mix. The dish is delicious, a delightfully composed orchestration of lightly piquant, sweet, savoury and ‘umami’, the dish often includes ‘auspicious’ sounding fresh vegetables, pickles, raw fish, highly prized seafood, such as abalone, crab, shrimp/prawn, bound together with a sweet-sour sauce.

This Autistic Bunny is a foodie, and how absolutely, fabulously fortuitous to have a brother-in-law who was a top professional chef and now a food scientist. Never a dull meal when we’re with this chap. Always happy tummies too! Well, folks, the Lunar New Year is almost upon us, so it’s time for food-tasting, reviewing and just enjoying the goodies galore. Some of the dishes are new concoctions and others are variations on a traditional theme. This year, my brother-in-law has developed a new and superbly tasty variation of the traditional “yusheng” salad dish, and we’ve had the good fortune of several previews, in the quest to make it just perfect. Continue reading

a clement Christmas

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Clemency is hard to find. Clement Space is an ongoing quest. As is the Endeavour of Empathy.

Looking back, contemplating crashing fortissimo and lifting appoggiatura, soul crushing depletion and spiritual strengthening… Artaud and Wagner, humour, beauty, gritty determined ‘dogliness’… Lucy has once again carried me through yet another year with her gentle, wordless steadfastness of spirit and embodied grace.

It’s Christmas Eve. I recall with gratitude and fondness, the most precious Christmas gift from our sojourn in Paddington, Sydney. It was 2013, a quiet Christmas Eve, early morning when the summer air was still cool and crisp. Those roses, tossed out by someone, still fresh and beaming with a brilliance I’ve never yet seen nor witnessed again in a bunch of flowers. Put into my hands with a gruff greeting, from our friend Michael, an eccentric old man who lives in a rickety van. We met when Lucy and I were out walking, Lucy chose to say hello to this elegantly dressed solitary figure, smoking and reading the newspapers on the park bench just by our grass patch we call “dog patch”. I miss Paddo. I miss our neighbourhood, our friends, and I think of them often. Especially Michael. I hope he is well. One can never be sure. Michael comes and goes. Nobody knows where and when. I don’t know if I’ll ever see him again. He was choking back tears when we last said goodbye, too proud for a hug, we did not even make eye contact. But I hope he knew how much we would miss him.

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This Christmas Eve, Lucy and I are ‘home’ with mum, my baby sister and brother-in-law, their two little furry children, and our helper Nula. Lucy has over-eaten again, too many treats and a giant lamb bone from her aunt who thinks she is too thin. (Though I keep reiterating that Lucy is a Greyhound, they are naturally lean.) We are waiting for Christmas Eve dinner – yet another private gastronomic feast by my amazing brother-in-law. The over-fed Canine Angel is asleep in bed, next to me. I can hear her rhythmic breathing, and she opens her sleepy eyes occasionally to check on me.

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I reflect on Christmases long past, and I realise how peaceful it is now. Without any more pomp and ceremony, no more need to dodge snide remarks and undercurrents of bitchery or witchery, no competition for whose gift is the most expensive or who has achieved the most success in the year. Those are now distant memories, and juxtaposed with our recent ones, they stand as reminders of how much goodness has come along since I walked away from all that mire.

We had our pre-Christmas dinner with extended family and friends last week. It was a very merry one, noisy and overloading but not at all emotionally or mentally exhausting. A pleasant, happy, kind of overload. And, of course, the food is always delicious – how could it not be, with a top professional chef and two F&B professionals in the party?

This year, I slogged away all week to finish my handmade gifts to mum, baby sis, Mini-B and Tiny-T. A welcome restfulness of spirit and blessedness of mind – taking time away from a surfeit of advocacy work, campaigning and proposals – just to touch, feel, and flow with the patterns and variations so clement to the senses. ‘Making’ is a beautiful activity for me, calming and restoring. I’ve named my jewellery line “LaLaLouBelle” – after Lucy and my childhood nickname for baby sis. Every piece is made up of vintage and antique components, collected through my early years of avid travelling or handed down to me from mum and granny. Each one a narrative of love and filled with meaningful history.

Oh, yes, and Little Mini wee-wee-ed on Lucy’s bed yesterday, so I’ll have to buy Lucy a new bed. Mini is a spunky little (fat) button, with a penchant for Lucy’s bedding.

We’re all set! I’ve put up a miniature tree, with tiny lights and trimmings. Our presents are all ready for the ritual tonight. – we open ours on Christmas Eve.

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A peaceful and clement Christmas Eve wish to all from Lucy and me!

love me

 

An old friend. Probably the only one left from that era of innocence. A little petite dinner. A small humble celebration. Love. No need for big glamorous party. I don’t want many many flittering fluttering bits flying around my sphere, making me nauseous and giddy. Happy with just one old friend, a takeaway meal, and two mini little cakes for dessert – to celebrate my very obscure arrival on earth.

 

Love me, or leave me. Simple as that. Many have left, others have entered the clement spaces. New and old, a blended grace. And there is now Lucy Like-a-Charm. I am content.

vivification

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Colour, smell and clever arrangement make food more inviting, often enhancing the actual taste itself. Texture also plays a big part. Crunchiness can add a delightfully cheery  dash to even the most ordinary of foods. Of course, the chemical transformations that occur when foods are cooked in certain ways and combined never cease to fascinate.

Food has become more an everyday indulgence than a lively challenge since returning to home ground. In many ways, I miss the latter days, though I have not ceased being grateful and appreciative for each morsel I imbibe. Perhaps the weather here – the humidity – makes everything taste less defined, and having such abundance has dampened the enthusiasm of discovery or provocation. I also cook a lot less than before, as cooked food is cheap and readily available here in Singapore, and my dear foodie-chef brother-in-law either takes us to new places on investigation missions, or he brings his expert professional culinary skills to our table at home.

I do still like to notice the little tiny interplay of colour, tonality, texture, smell and the way each component communicates with the other, like small musical pieces or miniature dances unfolding inside my bowls, plates and dishes. Cutlery interacting with these morsels form a personal and even intense connectivity and communication, sometimes intimate in isolation, and other times part of a larger conversation with the human sensory realm.

It’s Friday yet again. I do miss our weekend noshments in Paddington. There was an aura of preciousness and bonhomie that remains unique to that particular juxtaposition of company, time, place, space and situation – an what conversation! There can be no replication.

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What do a black Greyhound, multi-art expression, and food have in common?

They are all close to this Autistic Bunny’s heart.

Autism advocacy. Disability advocacy. Trying to throw open the windows of tightly closed minds. Mistaken as threat. Tokenised and patronised. Writhing and spinning round and round, ploughing the miry fields of repetitive human social-political gyrations. Trudging through the cesspools of normativity. Wiping away the spit of jealous competition, meandering through lies and subterfuge. The burden of participation in humanity’s Theatre of Absurdity can wear the trembling soul down, and the spirit is too easily crushed and fragmented under pounding cacophony of noisome people-ing.

Continue reading