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Friday, April 17, 2015

Part 2...

My post for Easter Seals National that I shared earlier in the week was actually a two-parter. To read part 2 go to

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Fever Effect 2.0

Last week at this time I was rather ill. I had awoken at 4AM feeling slightly sick and it was downhill from there. I will gladly spare you the details of the symptoms outside the fact my fever was as high as 102.5 which I haven't experienced in a long time.

Why bring this up? For one this bit of sickness made me have to cancel my first presentation of my career was had spanned 624 presentations without missing one over 5.5 years. I was proud of that stat but now it is just a thing of the past. Secondly, I want to reference a previous blog post which has been one of my more read posts and that is "The Fever Effect". In that post I stated that, "when I have a fever I am calmer and things seem to make more sense because my brain slows down." However, last week this was not the case.

Last week I was not in a good place. I was sick to the point that I couldn't even sit up in bed and I haven't been that sick in over nine years, but despite three hours of sleep my brain was able to go full bore into panic mode about everything. The negative self talk that was experienced in my fourteen hours of misery was brutal.

As previously mentioned, a fever was typically a time of clarity and I've had many, many parents share this same observation with me about their children on the autism spectrum. Instead of clarity, though, I was experienced unfiltered fear, panic, and self-loathing. Maybe this was just a culmination of having such intense thoughts over two months of the writing I've done, or maybe it was just exhaustion, or maybe it was neither of those; whatever the root cause was and is irrelevant because what is relevant was the agony my mind was creating. If anything, I can compare the way I felt back to the time I felt hopeless in my life after my diagnosis. My mind convinced me I'd never achieve anything again, I'd always be in isolation, and happiness was a word that wasn't included in my dictionary. Rational thoughts? No, but in the fever induced frenzy my brain had created that didn't matter.

As evening kicked in I started feeling a little better, not much, but enough that the painful thoughts ebbed. By midday the next day I was recovering nicely and then it hit me again; they were almost like aftershocks from an earthquake as I once again had to cope with the dire thoughts I had the previous day. It didn't help that I knew I would be missing my first scheduled presentation, but the thought process began to repeat itself over the weekend and it wasn't until Monday that these thoughts went away as I presented once more.

I have new material to talk about now when asked about the fever effect. It had been something, while not celebrated, had something that was never seen as a major negative, but this past time was as opposite as possible. Perhaps I now know that if I've had one fever I've only had one fever and while most of the time I feel at ease I now know I can become equally as active and overthink everything.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Another Blog Series Upcoming

I've been in a writing funk on my blog. I so enjoyed the tasks of Finding Kansas Revisited as well as The Aspie Traveler that it's been hard to write in my typical manner. Also, I've written more on my blog in just over four months than any other time in my life. That being said I need another project and thankfully for all I've come up with one. 

Next week I'll be working on Finding Kansas: The Lost Chapters Revisited. When my book got rereleased there were many chapters that got cut so here's what I'm going to do; I'm going to run the cut chapters AND do a revisited response to it. This is going to be a daunting challenge, but I look forward to it and hopefully by midweek next week the posts will begin. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Celebrating 20 Years in Motorsport

In the midst of Finding Kansas Revisited and my Aspie Traveler Series it was lost that just over a week ago I started my 20th season involved in being a motorsports official.

When I first started assisting Frankie, the Saint Louis Karting Association flagman in 1995 I never would've imagined that I would have flagger at a quarter of the tracks I've been to. I've been coast to coast several times, I've flagged races that had Indy 500 winners, F1 World Champions in it, and countless future champions who I'm sure you'll hear about someday.

But 20 years?! I don't know if that says I'm highly dedicated or if I just don't know when to quit, but it's odd to think that the time I've spent flagging is four years older than a driver can race in the USAC .25 series!

I often get asked, though, "Why do you do it?" I do spend quite a bit a time on the road, but as I picked up the national USAC .25 series and the SKUSA Pro Tour I've grown so much as a person and this has made me a better writer and a better presenter. Also, I love the challenge! Most people, I'm sure, would shy away from the SKUSA Supernationals which can be 14 hour days with constantly 40 karts on track and my radio traffic in your ear than most people hear ambient chatter in a day, and I'm sure most people would shy away from a USAC .25 race where at some tracks there will be 10 cars on a track that has sub five second lap times! It's a lot to take it and the challenge is great and perfection isn't something to strive for, it isn't something to be desired, it is required because as being chief starter, head flag, or whatever title a person calls it I've ultimately have the flags to do something when a call has been made, or if there's situation ahead. My reflexes are always put to the test and it's something I await all week to get to do.

In the past year I've been able to merge my real job with this flagging thing I do with The Blue Wave. I hope someday this is a flag that is used at all levels across the country, but as with everything we've got to start small, but the support I've had at tracks, the donations from this flag, have made the journey all the more worth it.

After 20 years I do have to wonder, "What's next?" What's the dream? What am I aspiring for? And the obvious answer is that someday I want to flag the Indy 500. That's been the goal every since the picture at the beginning when I was 12, or the day that Duane Sweeney gave me his checkered flag when I was seven, but if that never happens I am still enjoying the journey of today. I don't do this for the pay, or the fame (haha!) but because it's something I'm for one reason or another exceptional at (other people's words, not mine) and I want to create as safe of an environment as possible for those on the track. Sure, I've got style when it comes to the way I display the flags but what makes the USAC and SKUSA series so fulfilling is the challenge and the closeness of the action. Next Wednesday night on the CBS Sports Network the SKUSA Supernats from last year are going to be broadcasted and if you watch take a look at how close I am; I'm on the racing surface. This creates a high level of communication between myself and the drivers and in a way is a throwback to the way it used to be WAY BACK in the day, and it's this purity of the sport I enjoy so much.

Someday I'm sure I'm going to celebrate 30, then 40, and maybe even 50 years and thinking about this I go back to when I began with Frankie. He had been flagging since he was in his teens and he told me stories of midget races at tracks that have long since been forgotten, and motorcycle races where you'd be hard pressed to find any information on the internet about them, and he even flagged boat races! Being involved in motorsports was something he had always done, it was a part of him the way it is a part of me and I sort of feel bad now writing this because I was the reason he lost his position. Sure, he was in his 80's, going color blind, and standing in the 100 degree heat all day wasn't ideal, but the club never had another person until I showed up. I say this because if I reach 60 years in the sport (if they still use flags in the future... yeah, I'm looking at you F1 with all your fancy lights!) I'm sure I'll be off at some track on a weekend when it will be suggested that I have an "assistant" and I'll talk about the time Michael Schumacher crossed my finish line, or the time I got to be an honorary starter for practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the Indy 500, or the time I was displaying the white flag and all the karts on the lead lap pulled in so I actually had to retract the white for two laps! Oh, I'll share the stories but I'll know what's going on, and I'll know that it's about to be my time to display my final checkered (hopefully can still do the double then) but I know whoever is assisting me will be listening to my every word the way I listened and learned from Frankie.


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Special Pages

For those that are interested I made navigating and reading my two series so far this year into easy to get to pages. This is for my Aspie Traveler Series

And this is for Finding Kansas Revisited

Monday, April 6, 2015

Post Script: Amsterdam

It's now been a full two weeks since I returned from Amsterdam and the thoughts and experiences I had are still being processed. I feel the writing I had during that week was my best material in years and I've actually dreaded writing again because how can I top that? How can I write anything that has anything close to the relevancy of the difference in eye contact, or have a blog about bacon, or an adventure the likes of being lost after midnight?

Those are fears I've had in terms of writing, but another thing is that I learned one cannot run away from emotions. My trip was born out of a breakup but emotions loom and linger. It was one thing to be halfway around the world in a self-imposed bit of isolation but it's an entirely different beast to feel that way at home. It could be that I know there's an adventure out there, somewhere, but the words I first read when I got diagnosed keep running through my head. I know they're false, I know there's hope, but at this moment in time I'm chasing normal harder than I ever have before.

If you don't know what chasing normal means it's this; first, there's no such thing as normal. It's a myth, a fallacy, however it is something every person aspires for. Now, if you start chasing normal the first thing that happens is that you will forget every bit of person you are because you're only going to see what you're not and then, no matter what, you will never be good enough. That's sort of where I am right now.

Should you go through my blog archive you'll see this is pattern and about every 3-5 months I've blogged about this very thing. This has been coming and I think my trip eased it, but it's here and it's  rather ferocious in its ability to bring me down.

Back to the trip though. I have had time to think about it and beyond a doubt the experience was a resounding success. I knew I'd write a little, but in just a week I had over 15,000 words! And those words weren't filler either. It's got me thinking on how can I make the next event like that bigger and better. To be honest I actually have already came up with an idea that may be my biggest writing challenge and greatest life adventure to date but I'll share that all in due time, and it may be a while, but I know I'm capable of great things no matter what this negative self talk born out if chasing normal says.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Day 8: Headed home

I woke up in Amsterdam and now I'm somewhere over the Atlantic on my way home. I started this journey by asking, "What am I'm doing?" but now I'm wondering "How did I do it?" The past week has been nothing but a blur and as I return home I am reminded of why I left.

I've mentioned several times the purpose was to write my fifth book. That didn't happen, although this journey has been about 1/5th of a book so it was not in vain. Furthermore, and more importantly, his trip was to avoid the trap. The trap? I booked this trip three days after breaking with my girlfriend and I couldn't allow the routine of misery to set in. That's what happened last time. Yes, the experience I tell of in my presentations and wrote about in the chapter, "Emily," had more circumstances than just that, but change is difficult and 19 months is a long time. I learned a lot in those 19 months but the initial sense of loss, even though I initiated it, was difficult.

Had I not done this journey, I may have become stuck in second guessing myself. That's what happened with Emily and a long time has passed since then, but I am an over analyzer and without getting away and pushing myself to exceed my boundaries I may have become trapped and gone back to the depths that I live in years ago.

That's what's on my mind now as I stare out the window into the seemingly infinite horizon with the seemingly infinite Atlantic below. What I learned this past week is that I am stronger than I've ever given myself credit for. The few people I talked to on this trip were astonished that I would dare travel abroad alone, much less to a place I had never been. But that's the thing; I needed that challenge. Now I'm not suggesting everyone do this. I had confidence in my abilities to cope, and if I hadn't had the previous experiences traveling with my dad abroad this trip would have been foolish and would have been way over my head. Was it still a challenge? You bet it was.

I stare out into the world outside again and know that there are an infinite number of possibilities in the future. The last time a breakup happened I isolated myself and accepted the fate of hopelessness. Since I believed that, I could not experience hope because what's the point if failure is the guaranteed outcome?

There's new passion within me now. I don't know how many times I've used that sentence in my near 1,200 blog posts, but it remains true. Also, my passion for storytelling through writing has returned. Writing had become, well, I wouldn't say dull or boring but it became a chore because I just haven't had anything to write about or to share that excited me. That, and I'm sure the relationship issues, were wearing away at my ability and desire to express emotions. And this leads me to what I've learned.

What did I learn on this adventure? First, as mentioned, I realized I'm stronger than I ever imagined. I've also learned more things about the fourth wall and myself than I ever could have hoped for on this journey. I knew I'd learn a little, but my observations of the culture and my willingness to try eye contact to illicit a response of any kind was far outside my norm. I haven't pushed my boundaries this far since my sunglasses experiment. I'm also more confident in the decision I made with my relationship.

It's weird to think I'm going back home today. I woke up on the other side of the ocean and now I'm going back home. The week ahead for me is filled with an assortment of presentations from at college, to training police officers, to a department of the state government, and a week from today (remember, this blog is being written in the current but will be aired shared later) I'm working my first race of the year in Tucson.

As I told the men at dinner at the soccer game, "I couldn't have imagined living just 5% of my life if you'd have told me six years ago I’d be doing what I'm doing. Six years ago I was unemployed and never could have dreamed of being able to afford any sort of trip anywhere much less Europe." And considering that statement, I will be landing almost an exact week from when I left and I can assure you I wouldn't have believed I'd have done the things, seen the things, handled getting lost after midnight in the streets of Amsterdam as well as I did, and learn more about people and myself in just these 167 hours if you'd have told me I would have.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Aspie Traveler: Day 7

It figures that my final day is the first day that I actually slept past 8:00 a.m. However, even though I did sleep longer than I had been, and it was an uninterrupted sleep, it felt as if I hadn't slept at all. My body feels worn down, tired, and this is frustrating because I wanted to go see the play "Anne" at Theater Amsterdam but my body is telling me otherwise.

I started the day by walking to a grocery store to bring home so candy because the selection here is much greater than what I see back home. The walk to and back was about fifty minutes and the final fifth of the walk was just brutal. I've walked more in the past week than I have most of this year. I don't think that's and exaggeration. I did a quick skim of all the places I've walked and I came up with about fifty miles. That might be a tad high, but even still it's no doubt the reason why my body has thrown in the white flag.

Again, this frustrates me because how often am I here? There's still so much to see. I didn't make it to the main waterfront. I didn't take the van tour to see the countryside and the windmills. And yet I have done so much. While those things I mentioned were touristy things, I feel what I have done has been more important than that. This wasn't a vacation, this wasn't a "let's leave the country just because." This was a trip to challenge myself, to see how strong I really am and to push my boundaries. After my breakup, I was down on myself and I needed something new; also, I needed something to rejuvenate my writing. While my writings were still relevant they had grown stagnant and what better way to kick start the creative juices than to throw myself into a new environment?

I'm starting to cherish every moment now. This morning was the last time I'd have this hotel breakfast and every breakfast from henceforth will be a disappointment. When I got back from the grocery store and walked into the lobby and the friendly staff of the Bilderberg Garden greeted me, I walked a few paces towards the elevator and I just inhaled to try and remember this smell.

In life, one is only granted so many opportunities that are new, and are "firsts" on a huge level and this experience of traveling abroad by myself will be something that I can do again, but it won't be the same as I've done it before. That being said, I'm cherishing every thing from the smell of the lobby, to the sound of the traffic outside my window, to even the lighting in the hotel room.

I may find the energy to leave the hotel later, but it appears doubtful which means the bulk of this experience is over and while I'm still here I'm mourning the loss. I'm glad I've dedicated so much time to writing because I don't remember half the stuff I've done. It's odd to think that just two days ago I was in England, which it seems like years and years. Also, writing in real time has kept the true emotion and soul of the events intact. Had I written this a week later, or rather when you're reading this now, my observations wouldn't have been as precise or as deep.

Was this a success? I'll have to think on that and I'm sure I'll have my final insights as I write my final post on the plane headed home tomorrow. Thinking about writing that post alone has brought me to tears so I've constantly wondered if this trip was worth the price. I know I've learned more about the fourth wall and I think this will make me a better presenter, but before I go on writing about that I'll save those thoughts until tomorrow. Until then, today is a day of rest, or trying to relax, and most of all reflection of who I am, what I've done, and how on earth did I manage to break out and do all this stuff?