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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Jan 30, 2005

Last night I had trouble getting to sleep due to my sore throat. To pass the time I got out my calendars for previous years to see just how far I've come. I keep a calendar journal, have since 2004, and what I do is I simply, in the small confines of a box, write what I did that day. I scrolled through 2004 in amazement as that was a bad year for me, but then I got to January 30th, 2005.

I find it odd as yesterday I my topic was "silenced" when it was seven years ago to the day that I wrote my first thing that was uninfluenced or required. The chapter has been lost to time, at least I don't know where it is, and it was called, "Questions." It would be another week or so before I would start writing the chapters that were put into "Finding Kansas."

I often think back to those days and never could I have imagined that the chain of events would happen the way they have. This whole journey didn't start with any intentions of a job, to be published, or even to create a passion. I was trapped within myself and had no way to express what was going on. As I said yesterday, speaking was something that I tried to avoid. Because of this I simply couldn't say, "Hey, you know, it makes me sad that..."

Day after day went by after I was diagnosed like that and the cycle kept going in a downward spiral. It was feeding upon itself and I was going to a darker and darker place. I don't think it had to be that way, but being unable to express how I felt about it, as well as having the first thing I read about it state, "People on the autism spectrum will never have a job, never have friends, and will never be happy." all made for a perfect storm.

That storm lasted over a year and never once could I put into words how I felt. Then, on that January 30th seven years ago, I had had enough so I did the only thing I could; if I couldn't speak it I could write it and I started with "Questions."

I don't fully remember the contents of "Questions." What comes to mind is asking various questions regarding, "Why can't I..." Those were such dark days that I'm not confident what is in it. However, a week or two later when I wrote "Emily" I do remember that night much more clearly. Anyway, the memory might be foggy, but who I am and where I am started on a dark January night seven years ago yesterday. I don't know this segment of my life could've started more innocently as there was no dreams of fame, or dreams of people reading my work for all over the world, all I wanted, the ONLY thing I wanted, was for at least one person to know who I was and why I was and perhaps, through that, the general world wouldn't look down upon me as much as I feared they did.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Silenced

If this were to have happened three years ago, or when I was in school, it would have been a cause for celebration. However, times have changed and this is not cause for a celebration and it had me worried all day yesterday and today. What is it? A sore throat. Yes, right now I have one of the sorest throats I have ever had. Speaking hurts greatly and as this started to hurt on Saturday I barely made it through my presentation.

I find it weird how things change. Years ago this would have been a dream because I either got to miss school and/or I didn't have to talk. Speaking was something I never really enjoyed doing unless it was talk about auto racing. Conversations were never easy because I was like an engine whose timing was off. I always did try, but I never could get in at the right time, or when I did I was off topic. So, when I was ill, no one expected me to join in the conversation and there was such a sense of safety in this.

Times have changed though and there is nothing I look forward to more than a presentation. I am thankful this didn't occur last week as I had seven presentations in six days, but still I do have one presentation scheduled tomorrow and I don't know if my voice will allow it. It's amazing how things can change over time and what I hated to do the most growing up is now my job, career, and passion and right now I am all but silenced.

I spent the greater part of yesterday in bed and I thought on how much life can change. Never would I have thought that I, of all people, would be a speaker and that people would want to hear what I have to say. This is a big week for me as I deal with my upcoming birthday (I hate birthdays!) and this is a week of reflection. While resting yesterday I was simply amazed as I thought of just how much I feared being silenced. Even if I were to miss one presentation that is one too many. I know I much have said this many times in this short post, but times change; I guess you could say I have found my voice and now that my voice is all but gone I am not liking it one bit. Well, I should probably finish this and get home to rest up so wish me luck that I feel better by tomorrow.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Going Home

I don't have too much to say today or much time, but after my presentation today I am returning to Saint Louis after another week in southwest Missouri. As excited as I am to be able to sleep in my own bed I am also sad that this tour of southwest is coming to an end. Sure, I will be back down here in just two weeks, but I've spent the last two weeks here and I've found a rhythm and have enjoyed the constant "go go go."

Of course, I don't like change and today represents a change. I do know I'll be back down here in a couple weeks, but for me, today, it is like I'm never coming back despite the fact that I'm looking at my calendar right this second.

As I said, not too much time today, I must now head to Aurora for a presentation, then it's onward to home, and then I've got a 9AM presentation tomorrow making it 7 presentations in days.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Trip to the Eye Doctor

I've been putting it off for quite some time. I've needed to go, but I always found an excuse to get out of it, but today, as I was driving by Wal-Mart, I finally caved in so I went in to get my eyes checked.

My last eye exam was in June of 2010 when I got my reflective sunglasses, but I've needed a new pair of normal glasses for about a year. "Why delay?" you ask. While I may always dislike social situations I actually have a phobia of the eye doctor.

This phobia started in 4th grade when I got my eyes checked for the first time. It was test after test and then the final test was this contraption that I put my eyes up to and then, without warning, a puff of air was dispensed towards my eye. I believe this made me spring back and I fell out of the chair. If that wasn't bad enough I was told, "now the next eye." I can remember crying at hearing that because the pain was so great and I wanted to do anything, well, I wanted to leave rather than experience that again.

Since then I have realized I have very sensitive eyes. Is it cause by being on the spectrum? I'm not sure, but I do know, about three years ago, when I tried to have contact lenses, if someone would have video taped me trying to put the contacts in it would be one of the most watched videos on YouTube. Honestly, the amount of squirming I did defies what you think is humanly possible.

So today, I did go and get my eyes checked and at all the previous doctors I've been too I have not had that puff of air machine. That is until today. The lady said, "no we'll just put a puff of air in each eye..." and I instantly backed away from the machine and stated that this would not be a good idea. She mentioned that it is needed to, "check for glaucoma" and I still said no and that if we went through with it I'd probably end up on the floor. She insisted on doing it, but I was even more firm in not doing it, which is unusual because I hate to not follow directions, but I didn't want to relive the agony I had from 4th grade.

So that was my trip to the eye doctor. I can't wait to get my new glasses because my vision is slightly different and the slight haziness of small letters has been annoying me. As for me, today, I've got to get ready for my presentation tonight so I must end this here.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A "Checkered" Past?

I often get asked in presentations if I, "have ever had issues taking things literally?" I will usually mention that typically I do not unless I have not heard a line before. Little did I know I've been hearing a line over and over and had no idea it's true meaning.

I discovered my error over Christmas while at my sister's during our annual Who Wants to Be a Millionaire games on the Wii. It was the 2nd year for this and on my turn the second question I came across was, "Usually, what does it mean if someone has had a checkered past?" The first thing that popped into my mind was this photo of me:


To me, this is checkered. The options for the question were, "A. A troubled past B. A past filled with victories C. A past filled with dental issues or D. Lots of days playing checkers." With the image of me flying the checkered flag for the winner I instantly, without a second thought, went with B. My sister blurted out in a sad tone, "Aaron..." and I was confused as I was expecting the music of a right answer to play, but my joy experienced a false start as the crashing tones of the wrong answer played. I was in shock.

My sister looked at me in a confused manner as if to say, "How did you miss that?" and I stared at the screen perplexed. I've heard that phrase used so many times and I thought it meant someone of a hero status who always was on top. As my mom took her turn to play I got on my phone to look it up and was flabbergasted when it read, "A morally dubious past."

Thankfully, my misunderstanding only hurt me on the score sheet (although I must brag I came out ahead in the end, although it was a hard fought fight on the last night) but I experienced a thing that many people on the spectrum face. Non-literal sayings like this can wreak havoc on us. If it weren't for WWTBAM I probably still would think checkered past meant something much like the photo above.

There are so many figures of speech, and I use them too, that I think we forget about them and simply take them for granted. As you go through your day today just take a step back and listen to all the conversations. Keep a mental note of how many phrases are said that aren't literal. Also, keep track of how many times you hear, "That was like a..." Each time you hear one just think how confusing it would be if you took it as literal as possible. Maybe you'll hear a lot, maybe you'll hear a few, or perhaps none, but even if you hear one, or use one without thinking, just think how difficult or confusing it would be if you took it in the literal fashion. I'm thankful that, for the most part,  I understand non-literal sayings... Although perhaps I just think I do. How many more sayings are out there that are like "A checkered past" that I have misunderstood? Hopefully there aren't many...

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Not Your Typical Day


It all started with a push of an elevator button. Seems typical enough as I was about to leave the hotel and wait for Christine, TouchPoint's Southwest director, to pick me up for a presentation in Clinton, MO. Yes, it all started with a push of the ground floor button, the doors closed, and the hilarity began.

As soon as the doors closed alarms sounded. 101 times out of 100, alarms sounding are bad. The elevator car lurched downward and stopped. This wasn't good. It was only 15 seconds or so, but when the alarms are sounding, the firefighter light is lit, and the car isn't going anywhere there is only one thing to think of; this isn't good.

The car didn't go to the first floor but rather stopped on the second floor. A part of me wanted to push floor 1 again, but common sense won out and I got out of that elevator as fast as I could. I then used the stairs and told the front desk the issue. They then told me, "Oh yeah, we know. They're doing tests on it right now."

I then inquired, "Then why was I let on?"

"Oh yeah, that is a good point. We should have a 'temporarily out of order sign'" and with that she directed the other worker to make it happen.

It was 3:09 and I was told that we were leaving at 3:14. Why the time? I'm not sure but I was ready and watching the clock to make sure it was 3:14. 3:10 came, then 3:11, 12, 13, 14, and 3:15. As 3:16 showed up on my phone I then remembered the conversation we had on Thursday, "Okay, Aaron, on Monday we'll meet at the office." With that remembered I hopped in my car and made it to the TouchPoint office slightly late.

As we were getting loaded up I asked Christine, "You've got a projector, right?" She responded with a, "yes I do, in the back." I actually always have a projector with me now because there's no telling sometimes whether or not a place will have one, but with Christine's confirmation she had one I left mine behind.

Ninety minutes later we were at the library in Clinton. Once we figured out how to get into the room we started putting the chairs out. I then went to my computer bag and said, "Where's the projector?"
Christine replied, "No, we'll just use the wall."
"The wall? No, not the screen, the projector."
"You didn't bring yours?"
"Uh oh!"

We certainly had a lapse in understanding as she assumed I was bringing mine and I assumed she had one. "I think therefore you should know" was certainly in play here, but what was done was done. She checked the library to see if they had one, but they did not. Then I told her I was prepared to go PowerPoint free as I am feeling more and more comfortable doing so. I then made a joke that, "We could always go next door to the sheriff’s office/detention center and see if they have a spare projector lying around." I said this with 20 minutes to go before my presentation, but joke or not that was the only place to go, so off she went.

Five minutes later she was back, and with good news. They did, in fact, have one but it was "old" (as they put it) and unsure if it would work with my computer. She also said that the request started off rocky because she saw an officer leaving the front office with the lights off so she asked, "Are you guys closed?" and the officer responded with, "Ma'am, crime never sleeps so neither do we." She then asked him if they, "had a spare projector" and she later told me that the officer looked at her, "as if she had 10 heads". Once the officer realized it was a serious question he then proceeded to look for the old projector.

Christine came back with the news but she was unsure if the old projector would work. It was now 5:50 and time was running out as I began at 6:00. I decided to take a stab at the projector so we took the short walk to the station. This felt odd as I'm used to, well, I'm not used to walking out of the building I'm about to present it.

As we got to the office the officer was already walking our way with the projector. We then realized we needed an extension cord. We asked the officer if he had one and sure enough he knew exactly where to get it and at 5:56 we walked back into the room and at 5:58 my PowerPoint was on the wall.

The presentation went well and then I returned the projector to the station and thanked the officer. I've had some memorable presentations is Southwest Missouri, but last night will be remembered for quite some time to come. I mean, of all places, who would have thought the sheriff’s office would have a projector and then, after a license check and file, would let us use it. By the end of the night I almost forgot that through all the communication errors, and visits to police stations, that my odd day started with a simple push of an elevator button. I remember thinking; right after the alarm went off that this would be, "one of those days."

Monday, January 23, 2012

Frozen in the Soup Aisle

Today I am back in Springfield and have presentations for the next six days, but today's story goes back to Saturday when I took a trip to Target to buy food. First, I learned a lesson about going grocery shopping. Whatever you do, do not go shop for groceries first thing in the morning when you're hungry. I seemed to buy a lot more of everything.

As much as I'd like to talk about purchasing habits this blog, or rather this post, is not about that. Today's actual story occurred when I was in the soup area. Usually I spent as little time as possible in each area when shopping. I don't look at labels, prices, and I most certainly try and ignore everyone else in the store. Okay, shopping isn't my favorite thing in the world. Anyway, I was entering the soup aisle and there was one man in also shopping for soup. The way he had his cart parked made it difficult to look at the soups. On top of that he was directly in front of the soup I wanted.

No big problem, right? This man proceeded to stand in that spot for many minutes reading the labels and checking prices. I also think he had a calculator going on his phone along with looking at coupons that he had in his pocket. That was fine and saving money is always good, but he sort of had a barricade to the soups. What did I do? Did I say, "excuse me?" and grab my soups and run? Nope. I did the only thing my body would let me do; I stood.

This was a most awkward situation because all I wanted was what I couldn't reach. I'm one to never say, "excuse me" because I see that as the rudest thing possible. In my mind it is less rude to reach around a person that it is to speak to a stranger. Perhaps I am reflecting my beliefs onto everyone else, but there is nothing more intrusive than a stranger saying hello or excuse me.

So yes, the only thing I did was stand with my eyes looking at an opposite direction with just the outer extent of my peripheral vision being able to see the other soup shopper. As soon as I stood in this position I was frozen in it. I couldn't move and I felt paralyzed. I know this was such a simple task and now it was turning into a nightmare.

A minute or two went by and I was still in this pickle. With each passing second I thought I could muster the courage to get that soup, but each time I was close I realized that between the cart, and the man, the journey there was far too great for me to get through.

As another 30 seconds went by I realized just how difficult this situation was for me. I mean, 24 hours prior I was giving a presentation on a stage for over 50 people without any issues at all. And yet, the process of getting a couple cans of soup was proving to be too much.

Finally, after another 15 seconds or so, the man found the best mathematical formula to make the most economic purchase and he proceeded to buy something like 30 cans of soup. As soon as he made his last grab at the cans he left the area and he seemed, like everyone else, oblivious to my presence and the plight I was going through. With the man gone I got my soup and left, but for those about three minutes I was scared and all but paralyzed in place. I always find it amazing on just how fast a situation like that can arise and when they do I wish I could be anywhere but there.

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Funny Photo and I Made the News... Twice!

Okay, I am driving home today for the weekend, back down in Springfield on Sunday, but I wanted to share a couple things.

First, here's a photo that I wanted to have taken, but it isn't every day that I come across the border. Anyway, per the title of my book, I just want to say, "Mission accomplished!"





Also, I made the news two times while in Joplin and if you are interested in seeng those stories the first one can be found HERE, and the second one can be found HERE.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tired of Tires

In terms of tires 2011 was not a good year for me. The flat fun began almost one year ago today with an ill-fated trip to the office and then later in the year I had another flat tire. With so much "fun" with flats in 2011 who shouldn't 2012 start the same way?

I had a presentation at a middle school and spoke to the student council, which was a much different audience than I'm used too but I think I survived, but as I left the building and saw my car the all too familiar sight was there. My right rear tire was as flat as flat could be and a slight panic set it.

Now, I said just a slight panic. This is a gigantic leap ahead of the previous year's flats because in both of last year's flats I was alone, and in one instance I wasn't even in my car. This time though, thankfully, I was not on the road yet and in a parking lot and I had two other coworkers from TouchPoint.

What made last years experience so awful was the fact that I was alone in both instances. My mind got to racing on so many "what if's" that I didn't know which way up was as I was so blinded by my own mind. Yesterday though I had just a little bit of direction with those around me.

We went to go get an air pump and then we came back, filled up the tire, and then I made my way to a garage. Thankfully the tire maintained its air to the garage and then I waited to see if I needed new tires of it is was simply an easy repair. I was told by many people that since the tornado the amount of flats in Joplin have skyrocketed and sure enough I had a bolt or nail in my tire, but it was an easy fix and while I may have been oer two hours delayed I was then on my way to Springfield.

So, this wasn't much of a story, was it? For that I am thankful and it is in the lack of drama that makes this story relevant. If you go back and read the other two blogs, and then read this one, the difference is as far away as possible. In times when things go slightly askew just having a bit of support, and an air pump, goes a long way.

I hope history doesn't repeat itself. I am tired of dealing with tires and three in one year is enough. Someone told me to "check my alignment" but it has been three tires on a total of three different vehicles. Another person told me though that if I didn't have flats, "What would you write about?" Trust me when I say I could find something to talk about, but the last thing, moving forward, that I want to talk about are flat tires. I mean, if I have to write about tires one more time it surely would... would... take the air right out of me. ( ha ha... sorry, couldn't help that one.)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Return to Joplin

In 2010 and 2011 I had presentations in and around Joplin. I spent almost a week here in April of 2011 and really grew to like this town. Then, while driving back to Saint Louis from a race in Ohio on May 22nd of last year, my dad called me up to say that a massive tornado had hit Joplin. My thoughts instantly went to everyone effected although I didn't know just how big of a scale the damage was.

As morning came the light shined upon the carnage that the EF-5 tornado had left behind. I had covered three hurricanes, including Katrina and while in the damaged areas there was a real disconnect because I had not seen those places when they were intact, but seeing the pictures saddened me because I knew the places and had shopped at many of the places that had been leveled. Don't get me wrong, every disaster like this is a tragedy, but when one has been there and has an emotional connection with a place there is most certainly a stronger response.

How bad was the damage? I know a lot of my readers are international and I don't know if this story made world headlines, but this map that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers might give you an idea:

It's been almost 8 months since that day and a couple days ago I came back to Joplin for a string of presentations. I didn't know how bad the area would be in terms of damage or remaining debris nor did I know what the attitude of people would be.

Yesterday, I took a drive through that red area of the map. What we saw on television looked like a bomb had gone off, but television doesn't give justice to the vast emptiness that now remains. Imagine it this way, see that red area on that map? Imagine if someone had taken a scalpel and cut out that section of the city leaving nothing behind. On one small hill, looking out, there's just barren land now where there used to be life.

.

Again, I'm sure that photo doesn't give justice to the sheer scope of the destruction. From where I took that photo it goes like that a considerable distance to the North and South and stretches for miles East to West. However, at the fringe of the damaged areas North and South are structures that got through it with minimal to no damage. At some points it is a fine line of simply one side of the road is gone, the other side remains.




Coming back I was worried about the atmosphere of the people, I mean I have no idea how a town can go through something like that and remain, well, remain positive. However, everyone here has a story and while there is still a hint of pain when talking about the places that are no more, or the injured, or how the once majestic park is now a barren plot of land, that pain quickly lifts once the story gets to the aftermath and the days after the storm. While down here I have heard story after story of how everyone banded together to help all those in need. From my presentations last year I always knew Joplin was a close knit town, but hearing these stories sent chills through my soul.

The rebuilding process is well underway and while some places are gone and will be lost to time, others have already been rebuilt and reopened. Some homes have already been rebuilt and someday, I'm sure, those pictures I've posted will be nothing more than a memory. As of now though, the high school remains in shambles and the hospital sits much like it did on May 23rd.

I'm just a passerby and can't say I am a regular in this town. However, everything I was expecting has been different. The size of the devastation is far beyond what any picture can show you unless you physically go into the heart of the area that is quite simply no longer there and take a moment, do a 360 degree turn, and realize that one year ago there was a city there. Despite this, yes, despite a tornado of historic significance and despite the devastation beyond imagination, life is moving forward. Construction crews are building and there is a major sense of unity that even I can pickup on. Originally I was going to call this post, "The Return of Joplin" but that would be wrong because with a community like this, Joplin never went anywhere.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Sounds of Life, or rather The Sounds of a Washer/Dryer

Typically, when I remember to say it during presentations, I will mention all the noises that are within the room I am presenting in. I also say, and the audience usually agrees, that they had not heard all the noises until I mentioned them. A lot of us have on the spectrum have heightened senses and with sounds I am very keen on hearing things others don't. This played a major part in my day yesterday.

It all started at 2:45AM Monday morning at the hotel I was staying in. There could be multiple things in play here as I am getting a bit sick and when I don't I get even more sensitive, or the hotel had the worse sound insulation of all time. Anyway, someone was doing laundry in the guest washer/dryer and the noise of that was like a roaring car out of my front door. I tried to go back to sleep after it woke me up but then I started hearing snoring, then some more, and eventually it became a chorus of five different people snoring.

I tried to go back to sleep but each time I was on the edge of it there would be some noise that caught my attention and I would be back awake. Eventually, at 3:45, I turned on the television and at 4:45 I was eating breakfast at Waffle House.

About an hour after the started to come up I went up to Carl Junction for my presentations. I was highly tired, but being tired often adds an unique twist to my presentations so I had a fun time presenting through wanting to go to sleep.

Over the course of the day I wondered what I could do about my hotel issues. All my choices I came up with required me to say something to someone and this isn't easy for me. Also, I was truly very tired and by 7:15PM I was asleep, but I wouldn't be for long.

At 9:00PM the washer/dryer was being used again. I was tired enough before to sleep through the constant footsteps and water faucets which were louder than other hotels, but as soon as I was awake all the noises became loud and had the dissonance of hearing 10 different symphonies at once. I looked at the clock and knew that another night of no sleep would be very bad. At this same time my dad called and I didn't answer because I was trying hard to go back to sleep,   20 minutes later I did call back and we discussed my options as to what I could do. Of all the options I didn't want to do anything because every option required me making a decision that would create a change.

For several minutes I was firm that I would just have to tough it out. Then, the symphony of snores starter up and I had had enough. I quickly began packing and I didn't care where I was going so long as it wasn't at this place with the thinnest walls in the world.

Last night's sleep was great in the hotel I am at now. I now have a much greater appreciation of the importance of a stable, silent environment to sleep in. I did say the walls were thin, but maybe my hearing is just too sensitive for those walls. Perhaps others sleep just fine there, but I couldn't the same way I can't sleep in a car or a plane. For now though I am rested and ready to take on the day and the presentation I have later today.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Drive Thru Drama

I'm in Joplin today, drove down yesterday, but I want to go back to an event that happened on Saturday. It was lunch time and I am getting souped out (by the way, I am leaning towards a special cooking post when I have the time with the format either being a minute by minute live updates, or maybe even a string of video blogs... I haven't decided but from all the comments I got this cooking thing seems popular.) so I went to a drive thru to pick up some Italian food.




While leaving my house I realized I needed my wallet and phone so I went to the basement to get them and I picked my phone up and saw that I still had a candle lit. It's an odd thing, but right now I'm on a kick of liking the smell of candles, but I remember my mom always telling me, "Aaron, never leave the house with a candle lit." I blew the candle out, went up the stairs, and I was off to get lunch.



There was one car in front of me when I got in line so I waited, and then it was my turn to order so I did so and drove up. I checked my phone as I was parked to see if I had any pressing chess moves pending, I did not, and then I went to get my wallet because paying for food is usually the norm. There was just one slight problem... I didn't have my wallet!



This was the 2nd time in a month-and-a-half that I left my place without my wallet. Before these two experiences this had never happened in my life! I can only blame the overwhelming anxiety I am starting to get over what this year may look like for me and all the places I may go, all the places I will speak, and all the posts I will write, and most of all will anyone notice those three things? While that may be what is going on, at that drive-thru it didn't matter as I had ordered food and had no way to pay for it.



"What do I do?" was pounding throughout my brain. I was in crisis mode because I was sure what I had done was up to and on the border of stealing. I started to inch my car out of line, but then that would be really bad, right? I still had time to think and I came up with the great answer of, "I know! I'll go to an ATM! Yes that will work... Oh..."



Time was running out and as the car in front of me pulled away I decided there was only one answer to do. Tell the truth. I pulled up to the window and as I told the manager (I know he was the manager because his name tag said so) that I had forgotten my wallet I was sure there would be some sort of glare, or look of hatred as if I were the scum of the universe or some plague that surely would cause great harm. What was the response? I'm not sure because I talked so fast, but I did say that, "I'd be back in seven minutes."



I rushed home, found my wallet, and drove back. When I ordered again, and it was my same order, the manager replied, "Oh, found your wallet I see." I pulled forward to pay and again, I was expecting some sort of lecture on how what I did was wrong on 27 levels, but I was shocked at the response; he thanked me for being honest and he threw in several extra breadsticks. This was the complete opposite response from what I was expecting as I was sure something truly bad would happen. It didn't though and maybe this is an example that the old adage of, "honesty is the best policy." In any event I hope never to go through this again and I really need to start triple checking to make sure I have my wallet because my lifelong belief that double checking is good enough might be wrong.

Friday, January 13, 2012

100,003

I had a hard time thinking about what to write today and, in fact, I didn't have a clear cut answer until I sat down in my office and stared at my blank screen for several minutes. I mean, I could've written about my thoughts and reactions to watching the documentary "Senna" on Netflix last night (wow!) or I could've written about my excitement in getting to travel to Southwest Missouri next week to speak at some schools (I'm VERY excited) or I even thought about having a dedicated post once again to get one and all to vote in Monsanto's Grow Saint Louis contest (have you voted today?) While all those are worthy posts the one that jumped out at me was an event six years in the making.

One thing I love trying to do with my blog is reference back to previous posts as much as possible. Sometimes this is easy, sometimes this is difficult (because I often don't remember what I write) but this time it was rather easy because yesterday was a special day. Yes, almost two years ago I wrote about my love of Microsoft's Gamerscore system for the Xbox 360. I didn't read it, but I did browse through what I wrote and when I wrote that post I was closing in on the milestone score of 75,000. Well, yesterday I got the next major milestone of 100,000. From the point I passed 75,000 I was focused in on 100,000; 80,000 and 90,000 didn't matter as those are hollow milestones compared to adding a whole new digit to the number.

Of course, as with everything I try to write, this isn't an empty post and I don't have a point in this. First off, I always imagined the moment of getting over 100,000. In the depths of my imagination I dreamt of lights, bells, whistles, and maybe ever a shower of ticker-tape occurring. I mean, 100,000!

Yesterday evening as I finished the game, "Child of Eden" I received an achievement of 100 points and that thrust me to the total of 100,003. It was done, milestone reached and there was... and there was... nothing. No bells, no whistles, nothing. What was six years in the making just happened without fanfare.

Of course, in all reality, there is no reason for any sort of fanfare, but there wasn't internal fanfare either. Those that know me know I have been looking at 100,000 for quite a while and back then I theorized that once I hit 100,000 I wouldn't care about Gamerscore as much as what else is there to get? 105,000? That's an awkward number and in terms of logical milestones the next one is at 250,000. It took me 6 years of a lot of playing, and might I add a lot of playing games that weren't any good just to get Gamerscore, to hit 100,000. To think of the journey ahead to even 150,000 makes me cringe.

This is the point in my blog that I make this story relevant to life; I think of where I'm at now with looking ahead to the next milestone and I feel overwhelmed. Overwhelmed? Aren't games supposed to be fun? Yes, but I'm seeing all the time of getting that many points at once. When the milestones were close together it was easy to stay motivated, but now that I'm at a point that the next milestone is, well, miles away it seems to far of a challenge. I think back to when I was in school and the same feeling I feel now is the exact sensation I had when I had too many papers or sheets due at once. If I took home more than three papers for homework I became overwhelmed because of this same concept. Three papers was short, but add that one extra and I would think that the entire evening would be wasted away. When I would miss a lot of school and get seven or more sheets it was torture. There was no sense of passing milestones because the completion milestone seemed like it was beyond the horizon.

That is where I'm at now and maybe, unlike when I was in school, it is a good thing. I will no longer make my purchases solely on the ability to get Gamerscore. No more will I take time out of my life to play a game that isn't worth playing. Maybe I can return to life before Gamerscore. Maybe I can play those PS3 games now as I have had a hard time getting motivated to play anything on it because time on that meant time wasted because there was no Gamerscore (don't get me started on trophies.) Maybe once again I can sit down and enjoy my time instead of trying to go for big point achievements (I once spent a month on one achievement. It was FIFA World Cup 2006, or maybe Road to the World Cup, but it was worth 500 and was the hardest thing to achieve ever). In any event the milestone has come and gone and I feel better as if a weight as been lifted. Today is a new day and I feel a sense of freedom now. Don't get me wrong, I loved being engrossed with the Gamerscore system, but I did what I wanted and I want no more.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Handling a Bad Day

First, let me say that, in the grand scheme of things, yesterday wasn't that bad. What I mean by that was there was no great tragedies and there will be no impacts that have the word "forever" in it. That being said yesterday was still a crummy day.

It started in the morning as I overslept by 10 minutes and I had a training I had to get across town. I rushed out of the house and forgot a bank slip I need to turn in and when I got on the interstate that was an accident ahead so that further delayed me.

Thankfully, I made it to the place in time and as I walked in I had a sinking feeling. I mean, so far nothing went smoothly so it felt like one of those days. Once inside I saw no one and about 10 minutes later I saw someone I knew and they informed me there was no such training.

After the the highlight of my day came when I went to the DMV. Yes, you know it's a bad day when the only thing that goes smoothly is a trip to the DMV. I had to renew my license and I was in and out in five minutes. Something like that never happens.

From there I headed to the office and wrote my blog. One of the highlights of my day is clicking the "share" button to post the link to my Facebook wall. Even this went awry yesterday as I can no longer share my blog because it is "unsafe and/or spammy" in the eyes of Facebook. The rest of the day I tried to figure out how to fix this problem but nothing worked. In doing web searches I did find out that I'm not the only one who is having this problem. Nonetheless the fear that this is a terminal problem is scary because word of mouth is huge in getting people to read my blog and Facebook is the #1 people find my blog so, yeah, this put me in a sour mood.

Once I got home I was ready to put the hijinks of the day behind me. Remember yesterday's blog post about iRacing mishaps? The trend continued with three different races ending early due to no fault of my own.

Then, right before I went to sleep, Travis and I went onto NHL to continue our month of dominance, but in both games we did his internet failed in the 1st period of each game giving us a loss each game. Travis made a joke at my Facebook post earlier in the day in that I said, "Everything I touch today seems to somehow go bad" so he blamed me for his internet. He was probably right.

So that was my day. I've never been the best at dealing with situations when things don't go according to plan let alone the whole day going awry.  At about 7:00 last night I did lose my cool for a while after being taken out a second time on iRacing. Yes, I know it is just a "game" but knowing it and having it happen are two different things. Whatever my mind is focused on becomes the only thing that matters. This is one reason as to why people on the spectrum can get so frustrated when things don't go exactly right.

I kept my bitter mood up until about 9 last night when something broke my mental focus on iRacing. I checked the "Grow Saint Louis" contest that I have been asking you to vote in (to vote follow the instructions on the upper right)  and TouchPoint is up to 3rd! There's still a long ways to go, but seeing that and knowing the support that will come from finishing in the top three put the day in perspective. In the grand scheme of things what does that virtual race that I got wrecked in, okay, the three races I got wrecked in mean? What did the trip across town mean? Six months from now the only remembrance of those events will be on here and I doubt I will ever read this post. However, we're in the top 3 now! The impact that will come from spreading autism awareness and understanding will last a lifetime from each and every person we can reach and it is that which matters most. So, if you haven't voted today please do so and I'm hoping today goes better but it's already off to an odd start. A few days ago there was no snow forecasted and it snowed today, my front drive is a solid sheet of ice, and a doctor's office we were supposed to visit called and said there staff isn't quite at the office yet due to the very hazardous conditions. Okay, today might just be like yesterday and I should just go to sleep. See you tomorrow world!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Loss of Safety Rating

iRacing has a unique system to make sure drivers are qualified (somewhat) to drive the cars that they are driving. The system is called safety rating and it measures how frequently a driver has an incident. Go off the track and it is a 1x, spin out and it is a 2x, and have moderate to heavy contact with another driver and it is a 4x. When a driver starts out they have a rookie license and if the driver drives safe enough they will progress up the system and that system goes with a D license,, then C, B  and then finally A.

The rating system works with numbers and the highest a driver can get is a A license with a SR of 4.99. However, once a driver hits A there really isn't anything else to work for. Granted, should a driver go below 1.00 the will be demoted to B. Myself, I've been at A 4.99 for a good while, that is up until the string of races I've had in the past four days.

My past six or so races have been a disaster. If there's been an incident I was either in it or a part of it. Two races I haven't even seen turn two of lap one! Because of this string of crashes my safety rating is down to the 4.50 range and that has been troubling me as much as the 500 iRating that I've lost.

Here's the thing though, safety rating, once a driver is at the A level, doesn't mean that much and yet each time on the race results screen I see my name with a -.17 safety rating and I cringe. In the back of my mind I know that number doesn't mean anything and yet I don't want to lose it. I don't know, perhaps this is simply human nature in not wanting to lose anything that is in our possession and if so the SR system is designed perfectly.

I am better than I used to be in handling losing rating points. In my first couple months of really being into iRacing a bad race would haunt me for several days as I thought about how hard I would have to work to get it back. Because of this iRacing was more like a job that had a workload that I couldn't complete and that blinded me to the reason why I enjoy iRacing so much and that is the side-by-side racing that it offers. Granted, those two races I've done that I didn't get to see turn two angered me, but thankfully it didn't shake me into a sabbatical this time.

I've used iRacing quite a few times in my blogs and each time I try to translate it into something that sheds more light on the autism spectrum and in this instance I really want to stress the point that we on the spectrum can have a hard time with imperfection or the loss of points on whatever is being scored. I can remember in 7th grade I had a streak for most of the 1st semester of 100% every paper and test in social studies. Grades were never important for me as school was a terrifying experience, but having that 100% streak became important. Then, there was a test that had a couple of trick questions and I missed two items on it and the perfection streak was over. I went from over caring to giving up instantly. I couldn't see that a couple tests each semester had huge amounts of extra credit that would off-set those missed questions because I was so blinded by the here and now.

Moving forward I always have to try and shake off the here and now. In life, if we measure everything based on each singular event then life can get rather overwhelming. I'm guilty of falling into this trap as I always have said, "you're only as good as your most recent..." and with that mentality when the going gets tough there's nothing to fall back on. In the mind of those on the spectrum there is no gray area so truly and also there can be a sense of a "everything is now" mentality so that means, when there's a bad outing, or a race lasts one turn, that is the sum of everything and nothing will be good again.

I hope this has brought a little bit more understanding to the potential reasons why some of us on the spectrum are perfectionists and why a bad outing can cause so much stress. I'm moving forward and I can't wait to get back on the track tonight and hopefully I can at least see lap two in the races I do this evening.

By the way, if you haven't voted in the Monsanto "Grow Saint Louis" contest could I ask you to do so? You can get there by clicking on the icon on the upper right of this page and then search by "TouchPoint." It only takes a few seconds, but the rewards to where I work are huge. If we win it's worth $15,000 and that money will help us continue to spread autism awareness and understanding. Thank you!!!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Time to do One Better

Last October I ran this blog to drum up support to get everyone to vote in Monsanto's Grow Saint Louis contest. I don't think I ever shared the results of that, but we finished 4th... one spot out of the money. Well, it is our lucky day because the contest is back!

The rules are much more user friendly as there is a strict 1 vote per person per day rule. So that 100 votes per day thing is gone. With this change it makes EVERY VOTE MORE IMPORTANT! It doesn't take long to vote and you can get to the contest by clicking HERE or by clicking on the box on the upper right of the side bar. Then, once there, search "touchpoint".

Remember, you can vote daily and please share this with your friends. We finished 4th last time and while that was a great showing we can do better. This is more than just a contest as placing in the top three would show the community just how strong of a voice the autism community has. I'm sure we can do it, but it's going to take your help so please, take the little bit of time it takes each day and vote. And please share this with your friends because we can do this and we can grow autism awareness in Saint Louis.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The Continuing Saga of Life on My Own

Due to all the other events that happened in the final three months of 2011 I think I really neglected talking about living on my own. Sure, I had a post or two, but I don't think I have really talked about it. Then again I don't remember what I write so I might. Regardless, today's post is about living on my own and food.

When I lived at my dad's I ate about two meals a day. I've never had a need to eat all day or snack as I would eat one small meal and then a lot of dinner. That was then.

Currently food is something that is becoming difficult for me. I do have food, but it is all in soup and other canned ready to be made foods like Chef Boyardee. The problem with this is that I can eat, but then 30-60 minutes later I feel worse than when I ate and then I get even hungrier.

So I'm in a pickle right now; I need to make better meals but I have no cooking skills. Rob sent me two books for Christmas, Where's Mom Now That I Need Her? and Food Network's How To Boil Water: life beyond takeout. I need to get reading on the cookbook, but the problem is that, just as I have no idea how to use tools of any sort, I too have no idea how to read a recipe. On top of that I have a slight phobia of cooking, well, not the cooking itself but the gray area decision making that goes into cooking. I panic when a soup can reads, "Cook 2-3 minutes or until warm." What is it? Is it 2? 3? Or before 2? Also, what constitutes warm?

The weekends are the hardest days for me to handle meals. Yesterday I think I ate five different small meals. I started with a bowl of cereal, then I had a frozen meal of five cheese rigatoni, after that a bowl of soup, then Chef Boyardee ravioli and after all that I had to have a cup of chili and then before bed another bowl of cereal and then a cheese tortilla. I don't think I ever had that many meals in a day, but I never felt as if I had had enough to eat.

So the saga will continue on. Since I started writing this I've started to feel rather ill and have sneezed four times so maybe I am getting sick and if that's the case maybe that explains yesterday's food issues. Regardless of that I know I want different meals that I can turn to. I have yet to turn on the stove or buy any meal that isn't in a can or frozen. It's something I want to do though even though I have no knowledge of how to do so. As it stands though, right now, all cooking is French to me (ha!) and I don't know my tsp. from my sliced, diced, and chunked.

Friday, January 6, 2012

The Concept of Team

A couple of years ago in the first two months of my blog I talked about my horrible skills of being on a team. How bad were they? This short video from a goal I scored on NHL 11 is evidence enough:



Okay, so the video is a bit of an extreme and fluke event, but still, when I started playing team games, this was my concept. I mean, who needs a team when I can pass the puck to myself off the boards and score a goal? I was actually a little peeved that I only got credit for the goal and not the assist as well.

Also, the "I think therefore you should know" issue was major. On NHL 10 I believe Rob and I played over 1,000 games (I was unemployed when this game came out) and even after 1,000 games I was still having issues. What type of issues? Time after time when a play would develop I would get mad at Rob for not being where I expected him to be. This was because I knew where he should've been therefore any deviance from that obviously meant that he was asleep on the ice.

Time after time after time I became frustrated because Rob wasn't where I thought he should be. Not everyone on the spectrum shares this because, of course, if you've met one person with autism you've only met one person with autism, but I have heard from many parents that team play is something that their children struggle with.

When NHL 11 rolled around and 1,000 games on NHL under my belt I began to see the plays a little bit better. Don't get me wrong, my hockey play IQ is still well below what it should be, but from watching plays develop I am better able to see where Rob, or Travis, will be on the ice. Another thing that helped me realize that it wasn't them but rather me was when I thought back to a P.E. game of gym hockey in 5th grade.

I was from Indianapolis and knew nothing about hockey except that the puck needs to go into the net to score and for some reason or another the sport is always interrupted by a fight. Thankfully there was no fighting in this 5th grade gym class, but I was still as lost as could be. When the positions were handed out I got to be on defense. Now, in my mind, defense is not offense. Having no hockey sense, and not being able to understand that I should mimic the other defender, I had this positioning on another one of Aaron's MS Paint diagrams:



Okay, the black X's would be my team and I was the light blue X. I was playing right by my goalie because, after all, I was on defense. The other defender was playing up near the blue line and I find it interesting now that, even though I knew nothing about hockey and everyone else on the gym floor did, I did not emulate my teammates. I even think they tried to get me to play the right area, but I knew they were wrong because I was on "defense".

What I've learned from now over 2,000 games of NHL on the Xbox 360 spread across NHL 10, 11, and 12 is teamwork is something that can be learned. Thankfully Rob and Travis have been very patient with me and have coached me to the point that I now can figure what I think should happen and what really should happen. Yes, it is something that can be learned, but it isn't something that just happened over night for me. It still is a struggle at times because there still is the "I think therefore you should know" but I'm at least open to this being the cause now.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Seating Manners

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I have never be appointed or accused of being part of the manners police. When it comes to social manners I usually am at a loss for what is right or wrong. However, the manners I do understand and follow I expect everyone else to follow with the same vigor I do.

In my everyday life the manners I follow use this logic, "What do I need to do to stay invisible?" I don't think I've ever done something outright rude, but in certain situations, like dinner with a group, I can be a bit aloof.

So, as I said, all that I do is to stay invisible. I have a critical rule that I will explain, but first let me set the scene. As with yesterday's post this story is in Fort Wayne, Indiana and the Rumble race. The race itself is an indoor event and is great bang for the buck with racing starting at 11AM and running all the way to about 11PM. To my mom's dismay, I want to get there as early as possible to get the seats on the top row. This photo was taken early on the first day with a skeleton audience.

Over the course of the day the audience does file in, but an aggravating thing happened to me that I could not understand. To describe this I go back to using MS Paint:



The black X's represent empty seats and my mom and I are the light blue X's. I love my space and this diagram is amazing. However, shortly after my photo was taken, the seating chart looked like this:



Four people came up and ended up sitting directly in front of my mom and I. There was an empty section to the left and an empty section to the right of my diagram as well as empty rows in front as well as many seats in the same row to the right that did not involve sitting directly in front of us. I like my space but don't get me wrong as eventually the only seats left will be the one's right around me, but when all the real estate is open isn't rude to sit right in front of people?

This is one of my rules and I am passionate about it; when seating, if it can be avoided, one should NEVER sit directly in front of a person when it is general admission.

The genesis of this rule in my life is that should I be the one sitting in front of a person I deeply fear that the people behind will yell at me or maybe put bubblegum in my hair. The bottomline is that I can't handle that type of social situation so I try to stay invisible and avoid it all costs.

As I said starting this, when I believe in a rule I expect all others to adhere to it just the way I do. I think my anger was evident on my face as my mom told me to, "calm down" but I was just at a loss as to how others can have a complete disregard to manner... and with that point right there this is one of the finer point of being on the spectrum. What I mean by that is that there is no gray area. If I don't understand the logic of a social rule or am fully ignorant of it, I may not follow it. However, if I understand it and live by it then I will be deeply angry when some yahoos sit right in front of me. Of course, I've never been a candidate for being on the manners police and I'll probably go another 500 or so blog posts until I'm on the right side of manner law, but for that one moment in Fort Wayne I wanted to get on my manners high horse and give those four people a piece of my mind, but had I done that I would have become visible and above all else staying invisible is the name of the game.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Eye Freeze

Last Saturday my mom and I went to the Rumble in Fort Wayne. The Rumble is a two day indoor racing event and one of the traditions we have is eating lunch at the Olive Garden on the 2nd day. I went in protest once again this year as they still haven't brought back the manicotti, but this tradition supersedes my desire to avoid The Olive Garden. I will still say I haven't been back as this tradition doesn't count. Anyway, I experienced an odd event while there. Well, I've experienced many times, but never realized it until after the fact.

It was time to order and ordering, for me, is usually done in a robotic manner as whatever I am ordering I've usually ordered 1,000 times. However, my mom was also with me and she started a conversation with the waitress about the manicotti, if it had been brought back, and if anyone else has tried to order it. This line of conversation was highly unexpected and I had no idea how to react to it and whether or not I would have to say anything. The end result was this picture (I am always trying to find ways to show of my art "talent":


This is the perfect point of view photos, but after 20 minutes of searching it was the best one I could find, and for the record this isn't an Olive Garden. In the picture my mom would be he person in the center of the photo and the waitress would be the one to the right. During the conversation that the two of them had my eyes followed the trail of the red line and became fixated on the corner of the room. Try as I did there was no breaking away my eyes from the corner.

Why was I doing this? I quickly went into analyzing the situation and my first thought was that this conversation wasn't the normal progression of ordering. "That was the simple answer" I thought to myself and then I did some more mental digging and realized that I was looking at the least active point in space. If I were to have looked anywhere else I would've noticed cars driving by outside, other people eating, and the waiters/waitresses walking back and forth. In my environment I was looking at the most consistent, bland, and safe place in space.

But still, why was I doing this? With the unpredictability of the conversation going on I had a whirlwind of emotions and fear. Yes, I said fear because what is not known is feared and I had no ability to predict what was next. I needed to control my emotions as well as a way to drown out the environment. On top of that, from where I was looking, I had just enough peripheral vision to keep a bead on my mom and the waitress. And even still, by minimizing my input, I was better able to process what was going on. It's moments like this that I feel trapped the most. Most of the time it can happen and I won't realize it until after the fact like when it occurred before a presentation I had last night. 

The fixed gaze I have is one of my few defense mechanisms I have when my environment turns unpredictable. The odd thing I thought of on that last sentence is that we do live in an unpredictable world, but most of the time this is used to describe dangerous events like weather and other disasters. For me, I see unpredictable as those times when a conversation doesn't go the way I thought it would, or ordering lunch at the Olive Garden. Because of all that, by looking at that fixed point, is my way to bring order to myself and to minimize the input coming in because I am at my limit.

All in all I'd say I was looking up at the corner for about 30 seconds, but it seemed much longer. Talking to my mom that night on the way back to Indianapolis she said that she noticed that I didn't handle the situation well and noticed the eye paralysis, as she stated it, that I had.

Truly, in those situations, I can't deviate my eyes to any other point in space. Moving forward I hope to incorporate this story into my presentations because, if my mom didn't know me, she may of thought I was trying to be rude or perhaps I was trying to scoff at her conversation. Also, how did the waitress perceive my behavior? I wasn't trying to be rude, I wasn't trying to make a scene, I was simply trying to maintain control of the storm going on within me. This is where awareness and understanding is key. We should encourage eye contact, but if the timing is wrong you quite simply aren't going to get it. I think to situations in schools this might take place. In any event I'm glad I had the self-awareness at the time to look as to why I was doing this and the ability to translate all the meanings.


Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A Series of Living Alone Moments

I haven't talked about it as much as I wish I would have, but I am still in my own place and two days ago I had a series of events that were well worth writing about.

It started when I got back from Indianapolis. When I had left I set the thermostat to 62 degrees, but when I walked in when I arrived it felt much colder than that. I checked the thermostat and it had a blank screen minus a "Replace Battery" message at the top. I have never been good at knowing the difference between an A, AA, AAA, (to me, those are divisions of baseball) and the 8 volt. I also didn't know how to even get to the battery.

After a couple seconds of sleuthing around the device I noticed that it was rather obvious as there was a big "PUSH" tab on the top. I opened it, saw the batteries that were AAA's and took note. I then unpacked and wondered whether or not I wanted to go back out to get batteries.

For a while I was firm in that my time out was over. I had just driven 260 miles and wanted to do maintain my state of doing nothing the rest of the day. Then, a chocolate craving hit and I wanted a Crunchie bar (seriously, why don't they sell these in America? I had one when I was in Vancouver in 2010 and it was amazing. You can buy them by the box on Amazon.com, but still, why can't I buy those anywhere else; hands down the best candy bar on the market) but I had no milk to go along with the candy bar. And with that I went to 7-11.

7-11 is not that far away, maybe two minutes, and when I walked in I had in my mind exactly what I needed; AAA's and milk. Not that hard of a shopping list so I walked down the aisle and picked up some batteries while looking towards the milk and I was out of there almost as fast as I was in.

When I got home I got the batteries out of the package, got the thermostat open, and was then confused as to why the AAA batteries I bought were bigger than the ones in the thermostat. The reason? I didn't pick up AAA's, but rather I got AA's that had on the package "AA4" and when in a hurry that 4 on the end looked just like an A.

So I was now in a pickle. Do I go back out into the wind and cold or do I just bear with it until the next day? I'm not lazy, but after driving for so long and getting home I get to a point of utter exhaustion and because of this I chose to stay home. Besides, it wasn't that cold.

I didn't eat the candy bar due to being mad at the battery debacle and continued the unpacking process. At some point in this time I wanted to go back to 7-11, but if I went back and the lady that had checked me out was still there, would she comment on the fact that I bought two sets of batteries that day? If so, what would I say? It was this line of thought that kept me home.

Six hours after I got back from 7-11 I finally got around to eating the candy bar. I took my first bite and then drank the milk, but something was wrong. There was a sour taste and I was sure the milk was bad. Also at this same point in time I was beginning to shiver due to it being so cold. What to do? I wanted to tough it out and that was in regards to the milk and the cold. The last thing I wanted was to have any social interaction at 7-11 about batteries or milk. After driving for so long my ability to handle anything out of the norm was not there. However, after a couple minutes of staring out into the dark, windy night I decided to go.

The entire drive back to 7-11 was filled with fear. I've never returned a gallon of milk before and I didn't have a receipt. Would I be yelled at, frowned upon and cast out? It may only be a two minute drive but it felt as if this drive would be my last. I was sure whatever was about to happen would be terminal and catastrophic.

I walked in, put the gallon of milk on the checkout area and the store manager rang it and gave me a total. I tried to find the words to say I had already bought it, but they weren't coming fast enough. I heard the total again and I wanted to pay for it an leave, but then I decided that would be the biggest defeat of my life so I found the courage and spoke up for myself. I was fearing harsh words, but what I hard was, "Oh, okay. The milk guy probably left the door open again. Want to try another one?"

The next gallon I opened was much better and I picked up the correct batteries and headed home. My place felt colder than before and I quickly exchanged the batteries and when the screen came up it was a icy 49 degrees in my place. I quickly turned the heat on and settled in for an evening of nothingness.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Resetting the Stage

Welcome to 2012! This time of year used to depress me to a staggeringly unimaginable low. The reason for this was that I saw each new year as another reminder that my life was going nowhere. Now I see it as a challenge to do more than I did last year.

Today is special day for me as I reset my map of Missouri which represents the counties I have spoken in. The map on the left is my 2010 map and the one of the right is 2011. While I should be proud of these today they mean nothing.This is a new year and what I did last year doesn't matter. If I were to rest on what I have done then the passion would disappear.

Autism awareness and understanding is a ongoing battle and with the numbers of those on the spectrum increasing so to does the amount of people that will come across those on the spectrum. I think back to when I was diagnosed 8 years ago and the fact that no one I knew could describe what autism was. For me, the only thing I knew about it was that it was talked about on 20/20 or Dateline NBC once a year.

Times have changed and the need for knowledge is supremely vital. The past month I have heard from several people, and seen in the news, autism horror stories of a store doing something wrong, or a teacher doing everything wrong in dealing with a person on the spectrum. While our voice on the spectrum is increasing it still hasn't reached everywhere. This is why I can't rest on previous years results.

Last year at this time I received an energy boost from the fact that I was starting over in a way. I feel this way again this year. I'm overly excited for the multiple presentations I have this week and also excited for the upcoming blog posts that I have the ideas for.

So once again welcome to the new year! I look forward to bringing you as much information as I can supply and I hope to reach more parents, teachers, and doctors than last year. Right now though the stage has been reset and the map is empty.



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