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Monday, October 31, 2011

The People We Knew and the 1st Step

Yesterday I began a new journey; I started my 5th book. I didn't get all that far, about 1,500 words which in my story of the Great American Road Trip I got to the point in time I did my video blog at the end of I-70. Starting it was difficult though as I did everything I could to distract myself.

Writing is something that has come naturally to me since the day I first embarked on this journey. However, it was a month of thinking about it before I actually sat down to write the first time. I kept wanting to deny that part of my mind as, "if I don't write it I won't feel it." I was in a similar place as I sat down to write yesterday and kept thinking, without a doubt, that the first step of any journey is the hardest.

When something is bothering me it quickly escalates to a point that everything is bothering me. Also, things that used to bother me come back. I've used several terms to describe this, but I think the word, "avalanche" is the best. On top of all that I also become very reflective and that's how the afternoon of distraction began.

I started by looking up random historical racing videos on YouTube. One video led to another then I found this gem of a video that has A.J. Foyt and Ray Harroun on I've Got a Secret back in 1961. This amazed me as I have known the name of Ray Harroun for most of my life (in case you don't know, and you probably don't, he was the 1st winner of the Indianapolis 500 back in 1911) but there he was, in person. It was truly an amazing video to watch for me.

From watching that video I began to think back on all the people that I've known in my life. Not only was I able to think about them, but I could easily look them up on Facebook and see who they are and what they are doing. Being reflective, I looked up people I went to school with and even those that I worked with in my early jobs I had.

Thinking on so many memories was eerie for me and I thought back to those days and I wondered just how different I appeared to them. Did they think something was "amiss" with me? Also, would they believe it if they saw the me today?

The train of thought continued on like this for about an hour. I often get like this when something is bothering me, and it is easy to become trapped in it. While the people that we knew in our lives may not posses any true visible power in the present day the memory of them can reek havoc. Oh, how often I thought, "whatever happened to..." and within that question, very often, no answer can be given.

Thankfully the NASCAR race came on and gave me a good distraction from the other distraction that I was doing to avoid starting the journey of my 5th book. Even though it was on I was not receptive to it. I knew what I had to do and stalling was just prolonging the inevitable.

I'm sure my writings on my blog have been a bit aimless the past week, but that's how I've felt. I have felt bad because this is supposed to be about life on the other side of the wall but the past week it has just been about life. But then, as I was thinking this on yet another yellow flag on the NASCAR race, I realized that any part of life is effected by being on the other side of the wall. My writings aren't just about sensory issues, or the hardships of eye contact, or even the challenges of walking into a supermarket. Every bit of life be it good or bad is part of it. The turmoil I've felt the past two weeks may be amplified to being on the spectrum, and then again perhaps not, but still it is my life. For one reason or another I can explain how I feel via the medium of written words and spectrum related or not I have to use my gift to open eyes.

With that thought I opened up my laptop, opened a Word document, saved it as, "Book 5" and embarked on a journey. Granted, I didn't get as far as I would like, but since the first step is the hardest I am at least on my way.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Writer's Block

I'm somewhat thankful that this week has been so busy because, even if I had the time, I don't know if I would have been able to write something worth wile. Right now, I am still working through the events of last week as well as everything else that has happened this year.

I can't believe the non-stop action that this year has provided and I haven't really had a chance to catch my breath. If I think about it, I still get angry over my stint as a juror back in January. So it's been non-stop and the events of last week, well, I won't even use the words to actually say what it was.

Writing is one of the ways I cope with life and the world, and right now I am doing all that I can to avoid writing. I've wanted to start writing my fifth book with the events of the trip to Veagas being the first chapter, but I've been unable to even look at the computer screen.

This has happened before and each time it has passed. Heck, just trying to write this I am trying to find things to distract me. A part of me wanted to write about the fantastic game six last night in the World Series, or perhaps discuss this weekend's weather in New England.

There are times when I quite simply don't want to think about something and this is one of those times. Anytime I try to write about something else I slowly gravitate towards thinking/writing about it. Here's the thing though; my job is to write.

I believe my subconscious is thinking about this and analyzing it and, as history has shown me, I will get through it. Eventually the blocks will fall into place and I will write the long chapter that will start my fifth book. Right now isn't the time though. Could it be this afternoon? Maybe. This weekend? I hope so. One thing I am glad of, and this shows personal growth for me, is that when there was an instance like this 12 or so years ago, I quit functioning. I was much more depressed, sad, and angry; things didn't make sense. Right now the only issues I’m facing are that deep thought and writing are harder. My presentations this week were some of my best and I feel like I am making my way through this.

What I will say is that I'm glad I can state that I'm troubled and having some minor issues. Thinking back on who I used to be, I would not describe these things and I would suffer through it in silence. When I did try to speak up, and those around me tried to understand, my only response was, "you don't understand!" I didn't help the issue because, well, I didn't understand either, so there was no way any one involved could understand.

That's my goal in life, to raise understanding. When the time is right, hopefully this weekend, I will write about my "Great American Road Trip." It wasn't all bad and there were many amazing moments. The story is going to weave through the highs and lows, but of course the lows will take center stage. I want to describe the emotions and feelings because, as I said, 12 years ago when I went through something like this I was unable to talk about it. When I attempted to it just made matters worse. So, this is my goal; this year so much has happened but with each hurdle I have tried to put it in a perspective that raises a thought, or will let someone else know what not to do in a certain situation. Also, I write to show that we on the spectrum do have emotions. I heard someone say earlier this week, "Isn't it true if you're on the spectrum you have limited to no emotions?" That couldn't be farther from the truth because when we have emotions they are strong and very difficult to deal with.

I may not like it, but Sunday's the day. I am going to start my fifth book and start my own “moving on” process. It will be rough, but I can't have two more months of me blogging about nothing because I don't want to think. The longer I wait, the worse it will be.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Taking on the Unknown

Wow! Yesterday was busy (2 presentations, 280 miles, and a banquet in the evening) and today is almost as busy. I have just enough time to discuss something that I didn't realize before I moved in to my own place.

First, now that I'm on my own there are bills to pay. That's fine, but I've struggled with the concept of where to buy envelopes. I know stamps are at the post office, but what about envelopes? I'm used to going into the area where my dad's computer was and simply taking an envelope from there; now it's not so easy. I've wondered this for some time and finally yesterday I asked my dad where I can buy them.

Speaking of buying them, I need to cut this short to do just that as my busy day is about to kick into overdrive.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Short post

Sorry for the lack of a blog today. I had a 8 AM presentation in Washington and am now in Columbia for another presentation. On top of that I'm going on 2 hours of sleep because my mind would not slow down.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Adjusting

I've talked about moving into my own place, but last night was the first true night that there were no house guests or moving planned. If anything, last night was my first true night on my own.

How did it feel? It was weird, to be honest. I experienced my odd sense of time yesterday as well as I took Rob to the airport in the morning and by evening it was like the whole trip he had was like it was years ago. He came onto Xbox last night and it was impossible, truly impossible for me to comprehend that it was just 11 hours since we left my place to go to the airport.

Besides the odd feeling of time there was huge sense of pride. This is something I never thought would occur and here it is. One huge thing I noticed is that my hyper-sensitivity to noise isn't flaring up. What I mean by this is that I can't turn off my ears and my processing of noise. That being so I monitor every footstep, every door closure, every faucet turned on and every other possible noise. Seeing that I'm the only one in my new place the amount of noises is far less. I never realized just how tiring all those noises were for me until now but it just adds to my firm belief that my concept in my 4th book, "Life Unfiltered" is 100% accurate (that book won't be out for quite some time, sorry.)

One of the other things I found interesting was that I was always highly resistant to allowing myself to think of me living on my own. "It's going to be too difficult" or, "What's the benefits?" were questions I would always think of. The bottom line is that I am resistant to any change. I will usually complain and put up a logical argument as to why the change will be bad. However, if I get over that peak and accept the change very often I will embrace it. I spoke about Rob leaving for a reason and that oddity with time is similar to this as once the change is accepted it is much like the past didn't exist. I have another saying, "whatever is will always be" so whatever is in the now will be like it always was and always will be. Okay, I don't know if that made sense for you, but living with that concept allows me to understand it. In any case I'm sure the things I learn during this adjustment phase will help me understand more about life and myself and I can't wait to learn these things and share them on here.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The End of the Trip

On Saturday the drive home took place. However, the drive wasn't on my mind nor was the fact that, due to road closures, I would be going through Gordon, Nebraska, which is where my grandma lived. What was on my mind though was my health.

Over the course of Friday I had some sort of infection on my forehead. The rate it grew and the type of pain it gave me I knew all too well as this was mimicking the MRSA I had in 2005. Usually I am the last person that wants to go see a doctor, but I was more than willing, as I did not want another stint in the hospital like the five days I had in 2005.

As we pulled into the medical complex the words of the trauma surgeon that did the minor surgery to remove the MRSA in 2005 was ringing through my mind, "You will always be at risk; if you think you have it again don't delay as it is better to get it looked at and be nothing than it is to end up in the hospital again."

The doctor that saw me erred on the side of caution and he performed a minor surgery and took out the infection. Was it MRSA? I still don't know and will know today, tomorrow, or perhaps the day after that. Having that prospect looming made the drive home seem more relevant in a way.

It was weird driving through the towns I remember driving through as a child when we would go on vacation to my grandma's house. It was even weirder doing this with Rob. I mean, never in 1,000 years would I ever envision one of my friend's seeing the town I spent many weeks each summer in.

I felt compelled, as the sun was just making it's full presence known in the morning sky, to drive past where my grandma lived. It's been over a decade since she died, and I've only been in Gordon once since then, but everything was as I remembered it. With the events of that week, and now the potential health issues, I soaked every moment in.

Today, Rob is headed back to Vancouver and the real task of living in a place by myself begins. Today is a return to reality and my passion. It's a busy week for me. I have four presentations in three days. Each presentation is going to mean more to me. From the sad events in Vegas to the potential skirmish with MRSA, every day is a gift. I thought of this on the drive home and I want to do more than I am doing. I don't know how, but my dedication to raising awareness has increased. I thought it was at its highest possible level, but I was wrong.

This trip I had will always be remembered for the tragedy that I saw, but also for realizing that each day is a gift. I saw much of the land of America and saw many amazing sights, but also I once again found myself. If it sounds like I am going back and forth it is because I am. My emotions still are swinging and maybe the anticipation of finding out if it is MRSA or not is heavily on my mind. In any event I am back in my office and it's back to presentation mode tomorrow.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Final Day

This is it; the final day. Tomorrow I will be headed back to Saint Louis and I don't know how I fully feel about this. Well, I don't know how I feel about anything at the moment to be honest.

I am never good at these transitions. Once I am on the road it is much easier, but the time leading up to leaving is always rough for me.

Originally today I was going to do a video blog from my favorite hiking trail, but it was closed for the season. I also wanted to take a drive on the Needles Highway, but it too was closed. With that being so I don't really know what to say today as the impending change and return to Saint Louis is on my mind. Don't get me wrong, I'm anxious for next week as I have many presentations, but still there is a sense of impending loss as the countdown to returning to Saint Louis has begun.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Spot of the Horse

Please note: I mention that the snake was dead; it was not. When I was getting back into the car it was slithering towards us which resulted in me rushing into the car and getting out of there as fast as possible. I wasn't going to tempt fate.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Returning to a Home

Last night under a starry sky I got returned to my mom's house in Rapid City. It had been over three years since I was last here and yet it was like I never had left. I was extremely tired after the two days of travel, but once I got inside it honestly was just like how I remembered.

The events of three years ago plays a major part in my 2nd book, and I personally, right now, don't want to describe those or relive it at this point in time as the events of the past three days are a strange parallel. What I will say though about visiting three years ago, was that it was my first time to my mom's house. She moved here in 2004 and I had not been out to see her. Just because it is her place doesn't mean that the place is void of memories. Much of the stuff in my environment in my life up to 2003 is in this house and when I saw it in 2008 when I was out here for the first time, well, it was rough. Really rough!

Last time I was here I saw all my toys, and all the photo albums, such as the album that as this photo to the right, and I broke down. I saw all these things as tokens from years and events that can never be duplicated and from that I could not see that there was a future.

From the events I wrote about in yesterday's blog I am seeing things a little bit differently now. Does this have to do with anything on the autism spectrum? I'm not sure, but I think I am growing on this trip. I wish the whole trip would have had a different tone though as Sunday simply ruined any chance of this being remembered for good reasons, but nonetheless I have started to look at life just a little bit differently. I used to have a sense of horror about tomorrow and the day after tomorrow because that represented time lost. If there's one thing I'm learning it's that life has to be lived. I'm lucky because I can live my passion by expressing my thoughts, hopes, and emotions through my writings and presentations. Whereas before I hated aging and time I now see each day as a new event and a new chance at learning and growing.

Each time I feel as if I've covered everything, and that there's nothing more to write on I always have what I call a, "writing explosion." Currently I am in one and I think I am going to start writing my 5th book sometime soon with the first chapter being this trip I'm on. I though when I finished my 4th one 12 days ago that my book writing days were done, but I was wrong.

Well, this was supposed to be about returning to a place that isn't my home, but feels like it, but I got sidetracked. I'll be honest and say that I am actually writing this on Tuesday night with it going live in the morning as I think I may sleep 22 hours (number may be slightly inflated). My mom isn't here, Rob's in another room, and my mom's dog, Truman, is laying beside me, but he keeps wanting to get a hold of my hand to get some attention, or rather a scratch behind the ear. Yes, this isn't my home, but as the saying goes, "home is where the heart is" and seeing my stuff, and having a Yorkie beside, tonight home is here.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Life and People in Another Light

Monday morning it was time to leave Vegas. The weekend still seemed like a horrible dream. Obviously, though, it was not a dream. Rob wanted to eat at the hotel buffet, but I wanted to do something I used to do every day when I was an instructor at the Derek Daly Academy and that was to get breakfast at the Petro truckstop right by the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

It was odd going into this place because it was unchanged from that which I remember from eight years ago. Thankfully, the table I always sat in was open so I took it, and the breakfast I remembered tasting so great still was. As great as this was, a flood of emotions, well, flooded me.

It had been eight years since I was at this speedway and yet it seemed as if no time had passed at all. I thought who I was then, and who I am now, and while there was so much hard work to go from that to this, the sense of time wasn't there.

I believe it is in a time like now, after witnessing what I did on Sunday, that time has more meaning as we are reminded that time is finite, there is an end. With this thought I savored each bite more and soaked up the dining room I was in.

From the truck stop we drove about an hour when we got to a town that had a golf course that I have always wanted to play since I first I learned of it. When I got there I was introduced to the husband and wife I would be playing with.

Typically, I despise playing golf with others. To me, golf is most fun when I am alone and the course is empty. Last month, in Marshall, Missouri, I played 54 holes of golf prior to a presentation. Fifty-four holes only took five hours of so. When I play golf near Saint Louis it sometimes takes that long to play one round, much less three.

So, here I was and usually I would get mad, but the husband and wife here were both 70 years old. Seventy and living life to its fullest. If there was ever a reminder about time and life, yesterday was the day.

The course I played was Wolf Creek and it was the most beautiful course I have ever seen. Granted, I've never played at a course that was considered "premiere" and this round of golf would be my last splurge of anything until 2012, the beauty of the landscape can not be sold short. The picture to the right was the amazing, breath taking view that greeted us.

As awesome as the view was, my golf game was not. This normally would make me mad and I told Rob, who came along as the photographer, that, "usually I would expect someone to pay me for this type of abuse." However, my skill was irrelevant. Playing at this course was a dream come true, and not only that, but everything seemed a little bit more cherished.

I know what is going on within me right now. I experienced the same emotions and feelings in 2008 after the hitting a horse and the other events I have not shared. These events will be in my 2nd book, but for the most part the relevant event was the horse. Well, after hitting and killing the horse, I started to think of each passing hour and that each hour is an hour you can never get back. This isn't the best of mindsets as it creates a lot of mental tension, but what it does do is allow everything to be taken in and also seems to make life, "slow down."

In the mid section of the round I found some skill and had four straight pars. Then my game fell apart again, but I was fine with this. Also, it was nice being around an older couple who simply wanted to do anything and everything in life.

On the 15th tee I finally was able to explain who I was and what I do. Usually I will not open up, or state anything that isn't fully needed, but I felt more open yesterday. Maybe it was the on-going numbness from Sunday's events, but I felt a strong desire to make a connection in any way possible. They were unaware of the specifics of autism, but when I said 1 in about 100 births will be on the autism spectrum and the number is up from 1 in 1,500 in 1980 their looks of not really understanding to wondering what it is and why it is happening were obvious.

When the round was over I was worried because I knew there would be a goodbye. I hate goodbyes, and have hated the usage of that word for well over five years now. Also, since no true personal information was exchanged, I have no idea who they were or where they are going. In other words, my four hours of interaction with them will most likely be the only time I ever see them in my entire life.

The good bye occurred and it was time to head out. The destination was simply as far as my body would take me before I became a hazard on the road. The next destination will be my mom's house in South Dakota. Before I wore out, we stopped at a place to eat and while there was a birthday being celebrated and all the waiters and staff did a small song while clapping. I will never forget that moment as I looked around the pole, and saw, from afar, the staff all gathered around. What, for me, is the worst day of the year was being celebrated. I have hated my birthday for over a decade as I don't see it as a day of celebration, but rather a day of mourning as another year towards the inevitable has passed. During that moment though, as I watched the small celebration occur, I had an odd change of heart. Birthdays aren't something to dread, but should be a motivator. I used to see everything I was not, and will not be, instead of seeing what I have done and what I want to do. It's odd, but a simple round of golf with complete strangers and then a random birthday clap and song for a person I couldn't even see could have such an effect.

I don't know how long this will last, and maybe I've had spurts like this before, but I feel different. Instead of totally trying to avoid strangers perhaps I will not be so elusive. Instead of dreading the birthday, maybe I will be able to see it as a milestone passing, but instead of dwelling on the fact that I will never be whatever age I was, perhaps I can see it as another year that I can make a difference in this world.

Perhaps though, maybe everything that I feel is the ongoing shock from Sunday. The images and sounds won't leave my mind. I've felt this before and know it will eventually pass. When it does, maybe I will go back to my old ways and simply see the days past instead of the times ahead. I hope I can hang onto this feeling though as it is such a different feeling to want to interact with others and also to see the beauty in small things. Maybe I will find a balance. All I know is that right now everything means more to me. As for now it's time to hit the road. The destination today is my mom's house some 750 miles away. I have no idea if this post made any sense as I'm afraid I rambled, but so be it if I did.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tragedy in Vegas

I'm in a haze, a fog, hoping to wake up and find out yesterday was simply a dream. I've tried to find the words to describe what I saw, but no words fit.

Yesterday I was at the Indycar race in Las Vegas, and if you've seen any news or sports, you would know there was a crash. It was unlike anything I have ever seen and as a result this year's Indianapolis 500 champion, Dan Wheldon, was killed.

In the midst of this haze I was in yesterday I wondered if it would be appropriate for me to write on such a topic. As numb as I felt I'm sure this is nothing for those closer to the sport, and to Dan, but still I had this horrible feeling of pure numbness.

As the race started I had a feeling something was going to happen, but when it did it was the longest few seconds I can recall. It didn't look real from the stands. Car after car shot into the sky, a few caught fire, and then eeriest thing happened. Silence. The cars left in the race came by slowly as the red flag was displayed, but from the grandstands there was nothing. No ooing, no cheering, no crying, nothing. No noise. As the cars came down pit road and the motors were shut off it was like being 10 miles north in the middle of the desert as the noise was of pure isolation.

Slowly, people started to talk, but I didn't feel like moving. For the next two or so hours I stayed in my seat, roasting in the sun, but not feeling anything. "What happened?" I kept asking myself. Over and over I replayed what I saw in my mind. Every time this happened I still thought that something like this only happens in movies, or nightmares.

As the time progressed every time the IMS radio network came back from break there was a deep hush as all in attendance waited, hoping, praying that there would be good news. As the time progressed, however, the hope was fading and the others around me were expecting the worse.

Rumors swirled around, and as I figured the worst was going to come true, Rob said the heat was getting to him. I heard those words, but it took a while to process. Eventually I came too and I too was starting to feel ill, not due to heat, but just from remembering the crash in my mind and seeing the scene of the crash. And with that we left.

As we got to my car Rob got a text, as I'm sure I would have too but my phone was out of battery, and the worst had come to light. The text also said the race was going to be abandoned, but the drivers who were still in the race would do a five lap salute to salute Dan Wheldon.

The rest of the day I was empty, numb, and tired. Again, I'm not trying to put the spotlight on how awful I felt because, as I said, I'm sure what I was and am feeling is minuscule compared to others. I tried to concentrate, but it wasn't happening. I tried to think of other things, but the crash kept replaying through my mind.

I did say I wasn't close to Dan, and this is true, however I have flagged three races he was in as he competed in all the SKUSA SuperNats I have flagged. I shook his hand one year, and helped him lift his kart over the wall another. Last year he began to give me a slight wave of his hand as he crossed the line to take the checkered flag. In my first year at Supernats, Dan was getting pushed around and he had had enough so he started to show the others drivers his displeasure with his hands so I was told to give him a rolled black flag, that is our way to warn a driver, and he gave me a hand motion as he drove by that was of one of, "oops, sorry." Watching Dan at the SKUSA Supernats was always a treat.

As night came last night I wondered why I love this sport of racing. I questioned my love and thought that I should just turn away from it. Each time I came to the conclusion that I could live without it I felt emptier. My thoughts then went as far as thinking that doing anything out of the home would be too dangerous. I mean, what's the point of stepping into a car of any sort, or a plane, or even crossing the street? Then I thought that everyone on that track did so because they love what they do. No one forced those drivers to strap into the race car and vie for the race win.

There's danger in everything. Some people do things a bit more dangerous than others, but I eventually came to respect the sport of racing even more. I raced for many years, and now have flagged for over 15 years, and I wouldn't trade it for anything. As I laid down for bed I thought back to my first race; I was so nervous that I was sure I was going to throw up. I thought of all the bad things that could happen to me, but as soon as the signal was given to enter the track all was right with the world. Nerves didn't exist and life was being experienced to its finest degree. With that thought I thought back to the day's race, and the tragedy that took place. When racing, all that matters is that race. It's a unique feeling that unless you've been behind the wheel I don't know if you can understand this, but it is the most wonderful feeling in the world.

My love of the sport is not going to fade; I simply love it too much. Racing is dangerous, there is no denying that. As I have said, I did not know Dan Wheldon except looking at him as he passed me at speed in a go kart and it will feel a bit empty next month at the Supernats, but having the memory of having him wave to me in respect is something special. Thanks Dan for that, you were an awesome champion of the sport and I'm not the first, or last to say this, but you will be missed greatly.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The End of I-70

Okay, I must say I screwed up a bit on this video. First, I was in Utah as I shot this and not Nevada. Secondly, I wanted to mention that there is no fanfare, no plaques, no nothing really to mark this site. I did rush this, but if you read, "A Sit in the Grass" you'll know just how much I was pushing myself by doing this video blog.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Aaron vs. 5th Graders

The title of this post is how I saw it when the presentation began; it was me versus them. To say the beginning was awkward would be selling this situation well short.

What was this presentation? I was at an elementary school for a 50-minute presentation about what Asperger’s and autism is and my experiences with it. This came about from a request by a parent whose child in the class who also has Asperger’s Syndrome like myself.

The day before I gave a presentation to 57 police officers. As I began my speaking career, I thought this to be the most daunting of crowds, but that presentation the other day was awesome. This one, on the other hand, was like looking at Mount Everest and expecting to climb it without ever having climbed any other mountian. This is the essence of fear in terms of public speaking.

So there I was, Aaron vs. 5th graders, and words were not coming. I'm used to a PowerPoint, but I had none. Also, I don't think I'm great around kids. Maybe it's not that I'm not good, but I don't change my words, or ways, and I stay my stiff self. Anyway, it took a couple words from the other TouchPoint staff member that was with me to get me going and I explained who I was, what I do, and then the teacher of the class suggested that I explain what, exactly, autism is. This is when the magic began.

I know how to explain it to a parent, a doctor, or even a teacher, but what do I say to a 5th grader? I began explaining it and then a student raised a hand and said, "I believe it is that your brain processes information differently, right?" I was taken aback, what I was trying to explain in simple terms was explained back to me flawlessly. The magic continued.

Slowly the ice melted and a conversational tone began. I kept trying to do what I usually do, give a presentation, but I was having trouble and thankfully the class began asking questions. The first question asked was, "What was your favorite subject in school?" and I stated that it was math and social studies. I explained how I loved math and taught myself to multiply in the first grade, and my love on states and capitols. The next question was, "What's the capitol of Florida?" and before the words had time to echo through the classroom I fired back, "Tallahassee."

Questions continued on about my memory, and comments abounded on things the kids have seen on various news programs. As the ice totally thawed, this question was asked, "Do you think people did, or do, underestimate you because of your diagnosis?" What?! Was this question asked by a 5th grader or a PhD student? It took me a moment to gather my composure because the depth of that question was astounding. The very next question, after I gave my answer, was, "If you could simply be cured of Asperger's, would you?"


As it went on I explained that I had just moved to my own place and one kid asked me if I am a good cook. I laughed and said, "not so much" and another kid then stated, "Well, when you start to be sure to have a fire extinguisher." How true that is!

I went into this presentation fearing for my pride and reputation because I was sure I would make a mockery of myself, and not get through to the students at all. What I realized was that I had really sold the students short. The complexity of their questions was amazing and I believe my information came across.

What started out as an event I greatly feared turned out to be an amazing 50 minutes. I've always wondered what it would have been like had I been diagnosed earlier and the reaction of my classmates; I mean, would they have understood? I've thought that for a long time and now I have my answer. Not only can they understand, but they can also empathize and they seemed to want to learn about it. It started as an I vs. them situation but in the end this presentation has shown me hope. If I can walk into a room of 5th graders and get them to talk about the autism spectrum, the bounds of, "understanding is the foundation for hope" knows no bounds

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Video Plea to Vote

Today we're in 4th, but we need to move up one more spot to finish in the money. Please take the time today and vote. You can vote 100 times a day from each email account you have. Make sure you validate the e-mail account or your votes won't count. Thanks!




VOTE HERE!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Moving Day

What a weekend! On Friday I told the story of moving into my new place. Well, it isn't so much to move in to the new place, but it's a whole different story actually moving the stuff over.

Friday night my friend from Vancouver, Rob, landed and I picked him up. The next day we went to my old place and started an activity that I estimated would take a couple hours. This activity was packing up ALL of my stuff and moving it to the new place. A UHaul was was rented and then the game of boxing began. A television, bed, cabinets, and boxes I did not know I had were all things that had to be packed. Truly, these boxes had not been opened since my most recent move of June of 2003.

This task would have been impossible without Rob as truly the amount of stuff was mind boggling and the extra man power helped out immensely.

So, I thought it would have taken a couple hours... turns out we unloaded the UHaul at the new place almost 8 hours from the point that we began.

Well, it isn't so much to get stuff unloaded, but then it has to be unpacked. This lasted for another four hours and I went through the stuff that was packed from my room eight years ago. I found a lot of stuff that I had been looking for years for, but I also found a lot of stuff that evoked memories that were long dealt with. Right now I can't think of an individual item, and there were too many to mention, but it was like being taken back eight years.

I opened box after box and I made a choice. A new place, as my dad said on Thursday, was a step for a new stage of my life. I had to move on, and with that choice made I began the "chucking" process. I went into express mode and relived the memories, but unless something had significant value I simply "chucked" the item, whether it was a book or small toy from 1986, into a trash box.

Rob was watching this, and I think he somehow was enjoying watching this process, and told me that he was, "amazed" that I was doing this. He's read my book, or at least a part of it, and my blog, or at least some of it, and he knows how good my memory is and what small things represent as I talk about it often. That being so, he stated that he was impressed.

On Sunday my dad came to pick up the items I were purging from my life and I could tell he was impressed to. Also, I showed him the way I laid out my television and other rooms and it was odd saying that this new place, "is home".

I'm sure this isn't the last blog post on this as there are so many elements of living on one's own that I haven't dealt with yet. I am going to have to learn how to cook things (any advice on easy stuff?), clean, and just overall keeping the place without making it look like a hurricane blew through.

Also, today, please help me out on the Monsanto Grow Saint Louis contest that is going on. All you've got to do is vote, click here to do so and you can vote 100 times a day per e-mail address. There's no reason why we can't get into the top 3 and those founds will help further autism understanding and awareness. Thanks for voting in advance!

Friday, October 7, 2011

The First Night

It's now official! Last night I spent the first night at my new place. During the afternoon I brought a good portion of my non-furniture items and then went back to the old home.

Going back after being in the midst of the move was weird. My back room, the room that I have spent the majority of my 8 years there as well as the room I started to write in, was starting to look barren, or at least not what I was used to. This saddened me.

I've wanted this move to be as fast as possible just for that very reason. I don't like change, but if I don't see the change and am just thrust into the new place, well, last time I moved it was easier that way. I don't think this would work for everyone, but this is what I like because I get caught up in the small things and the places where items are and to see it moved is like destroying that memory.

I ate dinner there last night and afterwards I planned on going up to the new place. My dad was unaware of this, although I thought he knew because I knew (I think therefore you should know) and then I was ready. I wanted to make sure I didn't forget anything so I went to the basement, where my room is, to make sure.

I slowly descended the stairs and saw my room, which was pretty much still intact minus the sheets from my bed and clothes, and thought of all the nights I went to bed and wondered what was going to ever become of me. So many times I went to bed angry at the world, and now I was there about to move on to a place of my own which was something I never imagined would happen.

My eyes went around my room and suddenly there was a flood of memories. I saw Missy the Maltese's (1988-2003) water bowl she drank out of and Siam the Cat's (1992-2009) chair his food was on. Memories were everywhere and I was about to leave them behind.

What might have only been 30 seconds seemed like a lifetime, well, at least 8 years of a lifetime as I thought back to all the things and items that were in my environment. Had I stayed any longer I might have just stayed as self-doubt was creeping in.

Thankfully, I got out with my self-confidence in check and then with a speech of encouragement from my dad I was out the door headed to the new place.

This morning I woke up, confused, wondering where I was. I thought back to New York City and realized this wasn't a hotel. There was light which at my old place no light reached my room (I liked it that way). Then I pieced the puzzle together and remembered I was home, or at least in the place I now call home. With that realized I let out a big smile, and then fell back to sleep and overslept by 30 minutes and did the whole thing over again and smiled once more.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Day at LaGuardia

If I were to that my yesterday was exciting, well, I'd be telling a lie the size of the Atlantic Ocean. Although, my morning had some drama as I woke up and thought, "Where am I?" After some memory checking I realized where I was and my day got duller from there.

At 10:50 I checked out of the hotel I was in and waited for the shuttle to take me to LaGuardia airport. My flight was at 6:26PM, but I didn't have transportation so my options were limited; I could either hurry up and wait in the hotel lobby, or do the same thing at the airport. I chose the airport because airports are one of my favorite places in the world and I love a good layover.

I also wanted to be really early because I have heard horror stories of the density of people at a New York airport. I was prepared for hours upon hours of feeling like a cattle being herded somewhere, but as I stepped out of the shuttle and through the automatic doors the security line was the first thing I saw. This may have been amazing if not for the fact that what was amazing was what wasn't there; people. There was no one for the most part and getting through security yesterday was the easiest I have ever experienced. Granted, I didn't have those mysterious items that are my flags (TSA agents always give them a good look)but still, I was through security within three minutes of entering the airport.

My arrival at the airport was so early that my gate number wasn't even on the displays. Because of this I wandered around a bit hoping to find some interesting shops, or find something to eat, but the shops were dull and the food, well, all the food and drinks were beyond the term of, "price gouging." How much do you suppose an 8.4oz Coke cost? $.99? Ha! $1.99? Nope. The actual price was $2.99! I thought I could hold out and wait until Saint Louis to eat, but at 1 I cracked and went to some grill where the burger I got was overpriced by at least a dozen dollars.

After lunch I had buyer's remorse, but there were no other options. Then, I went back to the only section that had power outlets and got on my computer and phone and waited for hours.

So as I said, the day wasn't thrilling, but my mind did have plenty of time to try and make sense of it all. I was still depressed about my lack of awareness of my surroundings the day prior and then I realized, over 24 hours from the event happening, that the person that led me back to the editor-in-chief was the person that I guess you could say, "discovered me." I was so oblivious to this fact that even when writing the post for yesterday I didn't realize it. What did I say to this discoverer? Did I thank her? Nope, not at all. In fact, after she started with, "How are you?" I don't think I said anything. At the time though I don't think I had processed that this person was who she was.

My mind then went off thinking about the whirlwind of a time the upcoming month is. So many major events are happening in y life and tonight may be the first night I stay in my new place. I never would have thought this.

With one hour to go in my boredom exercise I went to my gate and I noticed two people that look strangely familiar. "I know them" I thought, "but from where?" Then it occurred to me that these two were on the same flight I was the day before. I thought to myself, "Wow, I'm not the only one who spends less than a day in New York City." After that came doubt, "Surely these can't be the same people! The odds are so against it, besides, I don't remember people so how could these actually be the same?

I have mentioned multiple times that, in my conscious memory, I don't recall what people look like. However, the 2nd half to that sentence that I often forget to say is that I have a strong memory, most of the time, when I see someone that I've seen before. This was one of those times, but I had to be sure. To find out I decided I would ask, so ask I did. Without saying, "excuse me" or any other form of opening I came right out and stated, "You were on the flight from Saint Louis yesterday morning, were you not?" The two, whom I think were mother/daughter, looked at each other as if I were some misguided fortune teller, or a stalker, and after several awkward seconds the mother stated, "Why, yes we were, very good." and then went on as if I didn't exist. I was fine with that.

After that the flight left, I got home, or at least what is home for now, and that was that. I'm still angry at myself for the way the meeting went in my eyes, or rather I'm angry I didn't get to soak any of it in. I love New York City, but it was like I wasn't even there. Perhaps it won't be my last trip though. Here's to hoping!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Let the Counting Down Begin

My alarm, yesterday, rang way too soon. I was more than willing to wake up though as I knew that in just over two hours I would be on a plane to New York City.

I had several private messages on Facebook asking me if I was nervous and I was, but only for the meeting with the publisher. I was so focused on that meeting that everything in the middle was given little to no relevance. I try to use my everyday life to point out the quirks of being on the spectrum and I realized I am so lucky to have traveled so many times because if not I surely would have left something behind or just messed up somehow because I was running on autopilot (truly the word autopilot was used without realizing I am also talking about flying) with the majority of my mind focused on the meeting.

My running on autopilot was quickly derailed (how many more vehicular references can I make? This could be fun) when I landed because my dad made me a cheat sheet with where I would be and when and the phone numbers I needed. The first number that needed to be called was for the shuttle from the hotel. Sounds easy, right? Ha! I stood outside waiting, hoping it would magically appear, but it did not. I then thought of walking to the hotel as I could see it, but there was an interstate between us so that idea blew out like a flat tire (another one!). Eventually, after fearing every possibility of being yelled at by the hotel, I called and they said, in a very polite manner, "It will be right over, sir." So much for my fears.

Once at the hotel I had to wait a while before the car that was scheduled to pick me up was, well, scheduled to pick me up. The minutes ticked by and a painfully slow pace. There were no clocks around, but I could hear a clock somewhere, "tick...........tock............"

Finally, 1:30 rolled around and thankfully the driver called me as I was fearing having to call another number, and I was on my way to Manhattan. All the years of writing led to this moment. I had been to Manhattan three previous times, and each time I barely had enough time to realize where I was because the trip was so fast (on two different occasions I was there for less than four hours!). Again, this would prove to be one of those trips, but this trip meant so much more.

Traffic was dense, as I assume it always is here, but I still made it on time. I got out of the car and walked into the building that the driver said was the building. I walked in and was puzzled as there were no signs for any companies. Surely this couldn't be the right place? I mean, sailors on ships way back when had stars to guide them and here I am, 21st century, with no direction (chalk up another transportation analogy!) I walked towards the guard station, but then turned away. Fear was mounting and I was sure I was in the wrong place. I walked back to the station, but then turned away at a brisk pace. I knew what I had to ask, but how would I react, and how mad would the guy be, if I was asking for a person that wasn't in that building. Then, I had a stroke of genius; out came the phone and I simply searched for my publisher, and address. I walked outside, and the numbers matched so I knew I was in the right place and approached the guard station without fear.

A pass was given to me and I headed to the elevators. I began to shake a little, I must admit. My stomach tightened and I began to feel just a little light headed.

When the elevator doors opened on my floor I was there! this was it, the place that the journey has taken me. I opened the door to the offices and walked to the reception desk and was doing everything in my power not to shake, or have a quivering voice, but I think I failed on that front.

I was a bit early so I sat down and tried to immerse myself in the chess games I had going on my phone, but all my moves were horrible (I lost three games in those eight minutes with just downright awful moves) so any hope of distracting myself was gone.

How high was the anxiety? I would compare this to the moments right before my first race when I was 12. Every breath was labored and the level of nausea was unprecedented. A part of me wished I could just vanish and go back to Saint Louis and crawl back into bed because I was not enjoying this one bit. However, it is exactly those emotions that got me to this point in my life so despite the anxiety, stress, and multitude of other emotions I was feeling I had to stay.

What was I nervous about? I mean, it was just a meeting with the publisher, right? What made it a meeting larger than life was the unknowns. I never had a meeting like this. I didn't know what was going to be said, or what could come from it. I'm also not used to having meetings where I am the topic. I can talk about myself in presentations for three hours no problem, but a meeting with conversation is a different thing all together.

With each person I saw out of the corner of my eyes I went back to my phone as I was in a state of a no-fly zone in terms of eye contact. With eye contact comes the chance I might have to make that first social move so by paying attention to my phone I put myself in the reaction position. A couple more minutes passed and then I heard my name.

I had many questions of, "How did the meeting go?" yesterday and I responded with, "I don't know" which is an honest answer. I don't know how to measure it and on top of that I had such a level of pre-event anxiety that when I finally got to the meeting I was exhausted. I now notice that I did not notice anything about New York or Manhattan. The previous times I have been here I have loved every second, but since I was hyper-focused on this meeting I became oblivious to my surroundings.

So again, how did it go? I was told it was a productive meeting, but I can't accurately trace the conversation arc or what said. In a way I feel robbed as this was supposed to be that shining moment, that once in a lifetime moment where it all comes together and all makes sense. Instead of that I have no idea how it went. Perhaps it's because I have no criteria to measure it up against. I mean, if you move to a new town and it rains one inch the first day does that mean it rains that much every day? Without something to go by an accurate measurement is impossible.

Last night I laid in my hotel room contemplating the future. The release date is April 3rd. That's just over six months away, or half a year. The countdown has begun, but the pressure I felt last night, and again this morning, is immense. I still don't know what the world will look like after April 3rd. I mean, will people buy my book? Will they like it? Maybe if I intended on writing a book when I started writing it would feel different, but I'm here by accident in a way as I never intended on being an author, blogger, or speaker for that matter and yet here I am.

I'm sure over the next few days I will remember snippets from the meeting. However, perhaps all this I have described in this post is just a explanation of who I am. It is hard for me to ever take credit in anything I do because I simply do it. At presentations, if you ever see one in person, watch my expression if people clap; I look uncomfortable and unsure of what to do. It's hard, well, impossible for me to understand the impact that I have with my writings and spoken words. My mom called that a, "tragedy" a year or so ago, and I believed her, but now I disagree as I feel it is this quirk that keeps me who I am. Yeah, I may feel robbed at times because I expected myself to feel a certain way at an event, but then again what I do isn't for myself. I do realize I state my mission is to raise autism awareness and understanding and I to realize that I am having an impact; don't take these last few paragraphs as me believing that my works are worthless. This is quite the contrary, but I only understand this from a factual level and it doesn't make that leap into the emotional side.

Wow, okay, I have rambled on. I don't know if I kept with the title of this blog (in case you are curious I always start with the title and work from there) but nevertheless the count down has begun. I'm just going to have to take the editor-in-chief's words that the meeting was great and productive. As much as I'd like to know what the next six months are going to look like I guess this would be like a ocean-liner leaving port in the late 1800's as how would they know what type of weather they would run into? I just had to use one more usage of transportation before I ended this, but it works as the journey I have mentioned at the start of this didn't end today, but rather it was just one more stop along the way to, hopefully, the destination of bringing about a new understanding of the autism spectrum to the world.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Big Day!

OH MY OH MY OH MY! Remember yesterday how I said I wasn't all that excited about today? Well, now I am!

It's amazing to think where I was three years ago and where I am today. In fact, it is impossible for me to imagine what would have happened if you would have told me then that I would be here today.

I guess I need to tell you where I am today. Right now I am heading to the airport to head to New York City to meet my publisher. I'm going into this trip without fear even though when I land I need to call a number to get a shuttle and then once at the hotel call another number to get the cab to the publisher. If you didn't know, I will do almost anything to avoid a phone conversation, but today it can't be helped.

In the realm of major events of my life I am wondering, say in 10 years, where today will rank. I've been to New York City before, but there's something beyond special about today. I could probably write 10,000 more words on this as I'm trying to make sense of it all.

Truly, I don't know what to say about today. Is today another milestone? Is it just another stop on the route of wherever the destination is? I'm not sure. What I do know, however, is that today will further back up my line of, "there's always hope."

I've said this several times this year, but I constantly told my dad that, "There's no hope! What am I ever going to be able to do?" Those were my words after I got diagnosed. I was blinded by the diagnosis and in a way I guess you could say I lost my identity.

It took a while to find myself; 14 months after my diagnosis my journey began. Slowly, one chapter at a time, I discovered a part of myself. Now, I speak on the matters of the spectrum, but on that evening, 14 months after being diagnosed, the journey began. Today that journey reaches a level I could have never imagine, but here it is and I'm on my way.

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Moving Begins and The Month That Will Be

So today, after my presentation in TouchPoint's parent training, I will be taking my first set of stuff to my new place. This still doesn't seem real even though I started the packing process yesterday. It's known that people on the spectrum don't like change and I think this is one of the biggest changes since, well, the last time I moved eight years ago. That being so, it is hard for me to even mentally acknowledge that this change is looming. Right now there is no fear, no hesitation, and no emotions either positive or negative.

What's going on with this lack of emotion? Perhaps it's this month that is upcoming that is higher on my emotional priority list as this very well could be one of the busiest months, and important, ever. It begins tomorrow morning as I will be on a plane to New York City to meet my publisher that will be rereleasing Finding Kansas in April of next year. I would have to think this would be every writer's dream, would it not? And yet, perhaps due to the move, I'm feeling minimal emotions about it. Perhaps this is me staying level headed, or not to get my hopes up as I've always been the type of person to not get excited about something until after the fact. And then again, maybe I'm just worried about getting through security as the past couple times have given me way too much to write about. The bottom line is that I know somewhere within me I am jumping up and down in jubilation about this trip and what it represents, but I probably won't acknowledge that until sometime next week.

When I get back from New York the pace increases as the moving process will hit full stride and then on Friday I go back to the airport. This time not to leave, but to pick up Rob, whom visited back in August/September of 2010 and has been mentioned numerous times on this blog.

Then, the pace goes faster as the next week I have two police presentations, and then a presentation on Thursday the 13th that has me more nervous than last year's USAAA conference that saw me on a panel with Temple Grandin. What is this one? I don't feel comfortable talking about that as of now, but it is to a closed audience of very important people.

Later that same day I will rush back to Saint Louis for a presentation at SSD and then the hecticness hits maximum velocity as at around 9PM Rob and I head to Las Vegas on what could be labeled, "The Great American Road Trip". It will be somewhat of a rush as USAC is having a special .25 race in conjunction with the IZOD IndyCar Series World Championship race being held at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. I'm going to miss Friday's on track action as we'll be somewhere in Colorado or Utah, but I should get there in time to flag Saturday's races and then attend the IndyCar race on Sunday. I've been asked, "You're driving over 1,600 miles just to flag one day of races?" I respond with simply, "Yes, you wouldn't?"

After Vegas we will be driving up to Rapid City, South Dakota to visit my mom and stay there until the weekend and then make the trek back to Saint Louis. Rob will then leave and then I have back to back presentations with the month being capped off with TouchPoint's Piece by Piece conference in Columbia.

It's going to be a long month, and exciting too, and it all begins tomorrow with a trip to New York City.