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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

A Drive to NC

Continuing on the Asperger Everyday string of posts I wanted to share a story from yesterday.

So yesterday I rode to North Carolina with two other people from USAC and an usual thing happened; I came alive. This is something that has always been the case with me as since I was little I always have conversed more in the car.

This was the first time in a while that I had a situation like this and it felt so freeing. The drive might have been long and we might have got in at a very late hour, but I was cherishing every minute as easy conversation doesn't come easy for me.

If I could I would stay in those moments on car rides. Imagine having a situation where things come easier and over processing is minimized. How great of a place would that be? I don't know if I could put words to it but I would do almost anything to stay in state of being.

What is it about being in a car that opens the floodgates of conversation? For me, I think, it the length of time confined with the same people. It takes me a while in a social setting to feel comfortable and
I won't really converse until I am comfortable. Because of this, and just the way socializing works, most people don't give me the time I need. Perhaps that's an unfair statement as it isn't that they are purposely not giving me time but maybe it's more they think I'm not interested in speaking because of the signs I am showing. In a long car ride though there is plenty of time to get comfortable. Also, no new people are going to jump into the conversation. This is an important fact because changing the conversation situation by adding a person resets my level of comfortableness down to 0 and the whole process has to begin again.

So that was my yesterday. Today starts a string of what I think will be five race days in a row. I'm anxious to get home though and next week I've got several presentations across the state of Missouri so I can't wait for that!

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Disappearing Level of Difficulty

This fits perfectly into my Asperger's Everyday string of posts because it proves that when I get my mind on something I can become stuck and go on a rant. That rant has lasted a long time because here I am writing about it.

Last night I had a debate with my nephew over video game difficulty. Okay, I've had this debate many times over the past few weeks with various people and each time I have argued the same point; video games aren't as difficult as they used to be.

Sure, games today have sharper graphics and more bells and whistles than anyone could have imagined 20 years ago but something is missing and that's the harsh consequences that happens when one loses. Let's go back to Super Mario Brothers. When your lives were up that was it. There were no save points, no continues, and once the final life was over one would have to start at the beginning. So you want to talk about pressure? Try getting to the final castle with one life left! That's pressure and I did that at least a dozen times before I finally beat the game. And when I finally did, and I can still remember it perfectly, the sense of accomplishment was greater than anything that my six-year-old-self had ever done. And that's something that's missing now; when a game is completed there is no thrill and no sense of "wow, I can't believe I just did that!"

Games are much more advanced now and the AI in games are getting more human like each year. However, in many games now one can save their game every step they take. What this allows is a no risk atmosphere. If one makes a mistake the problem can be tried and retried until the year 2050 comes around. I will say this did fix one of the problems I hated; having to do and redo something over and over and yet, when the hurdle that was there was leaped over, the sense of achievement was greater than any achievement I ever got on the Xbox 360.

I'm thankful I grew up when I did because I think my tenacity at looking at a problem and not giving up was somewhat aided by the fact that I lived in that era of games. Gamers are now easily frustrated and if save points are too far between and if the difficulty is "too hard" a game is bashed over and over. I realize each era has its pros and cons but games today just don't have that same sense of achievement like they used to.

This was just a sample of the argument I made last night. The way this fits into Asperger Syndrome is that when I feel strongly about something I will let my voice be heard again and again (and again and again...) until I know I've said everything five times and I've convinced you that I am right. When an argument like this pops up the only thing I care about is getting you to vacate your former thoughts and agree that I am right. Remember, I operate on a "I think therefore you should know" so if you think otherwise I have no way to understand this. Well, since that is the case I better end this blog post here or I might just start giving more arguments as to why video games of today just don't have that spark like they used to.

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Parent's Guide to Autism

I've said this many times and that is, when I was first diagnosed, I looked to the internet to see what I had and I found horrible information. What I read was that, "people with Asperger Syndrome will never have a job, never have friends, and will never be happy."

That was a crushing blow to me that took many years to overcome but it didn't need to be like that! Getting the right information is vital when being introduced to the autism spectrum and last year I was able to help out at my employer, TouchPoint Autism Services.

It's been a while since I've shared this, but it has always been on my blog on the right hand column, but I wanted to give this project the spotlight again. The project was to create a guide that gives the right information to parents who are being introduced to the autism spectrum. As I said, I got bad information and to this date there is still awful misinformation out there. Because of this TouchPoint produced the Parent's Guide to Autism. (Click here to view the Parent's Guide to Autism)

Bad information doesn't need to happen and I do realize that if you've found this blog you probably are already aware of the autism spectrum. However, I hope you will bookmark the guide so if you do come across a family that is new to the autism spectrum you can show them this resource and perhaps they won't go down the road I did when I was first diagnosed.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

An Advocate Advocating

Continuing my string of posts regarding how Asperger Syndrome can show itself in everyday life has been a great thing. I feel as if I've gone back to basics for my blog and I don't know if paying more attention to everyday life has made me more aware of these events, or maybe these events have just been seeking me out; whatever the case may be yesterday had a big event that is another great example.

Yesterday was practice day for the USAC .25 Battle at the Brickyard in Indianapolis and the #1 memory I will have from it was the heat. To say it was hot would be selling the weather short as it wasn't just hot, this was the weather that horror films are made of. This was the type of heat that I'm sure in 50 years I'll be explaining to children by saying, "back in the day it was so hot that..." Yeah, it was hot and in the sun the air temp was hovering around 110!

I had an umbrella over me in the flagstand but with that type of heat it was still utterly oppressive. All-in-all I was in the heat for about seven hours and when the final practice session was complete I felt fully drained. However, the end of practice wasn't the end of the day as opening ceremonies were to begin a couple hours after practice.

Normally there isn't too much fanfare at our Generation Next events. For this event though USAC was pulling out all the stops with parachuters, driver introductions, and even the Gordon Pipers were going to be there. At the same time though my body was giving me every sign that the heat was getting to me and that I needed to take care of myself. This isn't to say that I was on the verge of collapse, but at the same time there are still three days of racing left and if I wanted to be on my game then I had to take care of myself in the now.

I knew this, but I didn't know how to go about it. I didn't know if my presence was required for the evening ceremonies. How would it look if I left? Would anyone notice? How do I go about saying that I was leaving? These questions were creating a near implosion within me.

Minutes ticked by as I thought and planned my exit. I found it so odd that I am an advocate for my career and yet, when it came to me advocating for myself, I couldn't speak up for myself. I wanted to leave shortly after practice but then an hour went by, then two.

The problem at hand was I could not calculate what would happen if I said I had to go and the marathon of questions would begin each time. My frustration level was almost maxing out because I knew what I needed and wanted but I couldn't simply do it.

After 2.5 hours after the end of practice I was all out of energy and I got in my car. The only thing I could do was to send a text to the director saying that the heat had got to me and that if I were to be worthwhile I had to go. I wrote it, sent it, and then fretted that there would be some high level of disappointment or a scolding response. Did I get a message like that? Nope. I got a straight forward, "okay" message and that was it.

All my worry was for not. I worried for over two hours. TWO HOURS! I worried for so long on something so small for the simple fact that I couldn't speak up for myself. I couldn't state what I needed and what I wanted.

Whenever I ask for something it usually isn't a spur of the moment question but rather something I have thought long and hard and I probably have even fine-tuned the presentation of the question in my head a hundred times. Speaking up for myself remains one of the trickiest things, and most difficult things because, as a chapter in my book states, "If I Were Dying of Thirst Would I Ask For a Glass of Water?" It can be such a simple question but the level of difficulty is staggering.

Well, that was my event for yesterday. I'm off to the track now and tomorrow I will probably take a one-day break from this style of post as signs are pointing me to share something that TouchPoint made, but if something worthy comes up I will most certainly share it instead.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Details Matter Except When They Don't

My one day to breathe was yesterday and I didn't take the day to rest as in the late afternoon I went to a golf course that is near my sister's house. It was my first time playing golf since I tried playing in 105 degree heat (BIG mistake!) over a month ago.

Since it had been a while I was 100% focused on making it to the first tee once I had paid. Because of this I had done no planning on how to get there. What I mean by this is I walked into the pro shop and then to the golf cart and I simply started driving in a straight line to my car.

The shortest distance between two distances is a straight line. However, as I was going that way I didn't notice that there was a gigantic curb at the end of the area the golf carts were parked. Thankfully I saw this before it was too late and I slammed the brakes and avoided the drop that certainly wouldn't have felt pleasant.

This event was a big wake up call because I had done no thinking on how I was actually going to get to my car. I was so excited on actually being able to play that my mind was already across the street on the course. I was already in a state of hyper-focus but the details in advance were not part of this.

To continue on with this story I eventually made it up to a twosome on hole 12 and they told me to play with them to the end. I agreed but it wasn't until driving home that I noticed something; even though they asked me my name and told me theirs I can't tell you one thing about them. It was two years ago this month I did my sunglasses experiment and back then I forced myself to do eye contact but yesterday, even though I was wearing sunglasses, I made no eye contact and, well, I didn't even look at them at all.

I think I was so focused on the game of golf that it didn't even occur to me look at them or speak to them. Usually this doesn't bother me but this morning I feel a true void as if I truly missed something. Missed what? I'm not sure, but that feeling started at the end of the round when I was in my car headed back to my sister's and I realized that I spent almost an hour with two people and it was as if I never was around anyone. When I am focused on something, as I mentioned on yesterday's blog, my attention to details decreases greatly. This can also occur with people as I found out yesterday.

So now I am off to the Indiana State Fairgrounds for the USAC .25 Battle at the Brickyard. Four days of racing are at hand and I'm already focused on that so I better me sure to grab my flags, sunscreen, sunglasses, and hopefully I don't forget any of these things by the time I head out the door.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

I'm Always Prepared Unless I'm Not

Yesterday I got back to Indianapolis from the SKUSA SummerNats in Utah.It was a smooth flight and I boarded the shuttle, yes, the shuttle I mentioned last week (thankfully there were no more "ahem" moments.)and as it took off to the lot I had a sinking feeling... I had no idea where I parked!

Normally I am the most prepared person you will meet and I am very precise on knowing where I am, where I parked, and well, most anything. However, when I parked on Thursday the sun was just coming up and I wasn't quite awake. Now, as I was in the shuttle going back to my car, it was pitch black night.

What happened? Did I purposely set this situation up? Nope. I was so focused on the race at hand last week that I had no concept whatsoever that I would be returning. It wasn't that I forgot where I parked as to do that I would have had to known at some point in time. It was actually I never made note of where I parked.

I got off on a random stop and stood in the massive lot with a sense of being in the middle of a desert trying to find a penny that had been dropped. I kept trying to think back to Thursday and the day I got there but the only thing I could remember was the "ahem" story and writing my blog at gate A6. The car ride to the airport was lost and was like it never happened.

What to do? I walked up one aisle, then the next, and then it struck me; I was going to use my panic button on my remote car locker as I was in a state of panic because I knew I would be there until the sun came up.

I walked several paces and hit the button and nothing. Did it again and nothing. 10 minutes later and still nothing. By this point in time I was frustrated, sweaty, and running out of steam. It was way too hot to be lost in the airport parking lot but the state of being lost continued. 20 minutes and nothing and then finally, going on half an hour, I hit the button once more and an alarm went off. Finally! I had found my car.

This story fits perfectly in my ongoing series of how Asperger's can have an effect on everyday life. Normally I am fully prepared and know exactly where I am going; however, if I am focused on getting somewhere as I was last week with getting to the airport to get to the race I may lose track of what I am doing in the middle. I will say this though, this is the last time this is going to happen because next time I am going to send a text to myself with the section I'm in because I am not going to wander the parking lot like I did ever again!

Monday, July 23, 2012

After Race

What a weekend! I spent the past three days working at the SKUSA SummerNats and it was a great event. To continue my Asperger Everyday string of blog posts I will talk about the event, or rather what happens at the end of the event.

The photo to the right is from the event with me giving the double checkereds and I wish you could see my face as I am in a state of pure enjoyment; there isn't anything else I enjoy than manning the flags at the finish line. It is pure euphoria and every second is cherished.

However, as with everything, time passes and events end. It's in this transition from supreme Kansas to not that is the most difficult.

Imagine living in an usual state of high anxiety, stress, and worry and then getting a recess from it. Now imagine that in that recess you are doing something that defies what you normally are. What I mean by this is I am normally soft spoken and walk with a hesitancy (this, of course, doesn't apply to when I am presenting). The photo is the opposite of that; I am confident and have no problem making my voice heard.

As soon as the final checkered falls on an event I am working it is like having every ounce of energy drained from my being. I put everything into flagging and as soon as the event is over all the energy that I have used catches up to me. Also, the confidence I had vanishes. I guess one could say I experience a metaphorical crash of sorts because I have nothing left and all the fears, worries, and over-thinking my mind does comes back with a vengeance.

This, right here, is a prime example of why we will do everything we can to get to our Kansas. The differences are as great as can be and when we enter that linking time from Kansas to not can be a crushing experience.

Here's the other thing that if you are a parent or teacher you NEED to know; I am feeling rather junky today mourning the passing of Kansas and the event that was the SKUSA SummerNats and yet in just two days I will be in the flagstand for the USAC .25 Battle at the Brickyard in Indianapolis. It's that series' largest event of the year and yet, right now, I can't see that Kansas will be renewed in less than 48 hours. The future is a hard thing to see and even if I know that Kansas will happen again it will be hard for me to know that it will happen again.

So that's where I am today. In just a few hours I will be on my way to the airport to head back to Indy and then I have one day to recover until the Battle at the Brickyard.

Friday, July 20, 2012

"Ahem!"

I have to admit a strange thing; as I wrote yesterday's blog at the Indianapolis airport I already had an occurrence that morning in my ongoing series of Asperger's Everyday and knew what I would be writing about today. It was hard to write knowing that, but anyway here goes.

I left my sister's house at 5:15AM and made it to the airport just as the sun was starting to break the horizon. I found my way to the economy parking section and found a shuttle stop and waited. Soon a shuttle came and I got onto the empty shuttle.

Soon the empty shuttle was getting a bit crowded and this prompted me to get my phone out and engross myself within the chess.com app. Focusing on a chess match is a great way to isolate myself from the world and lower the amount of anxiety I have in a situation. There is a downside to this because I can become so focused on the game that I lose track of what's going on around me.

The shuttle now had just two open seats; one to my left and one to my right. Already people were just using the standing area instead of opting for the two open seats. I was beginning to wonder if the shuttle service had a point that they would no longer let people on because it was getting way too crowded for my liking.

We had another stop and more people got on and then we made yet another stop. I was now intent on looking at my phone and I was about as stiff as a person can be as my body was on high defense mode. I don't know how to explain this feeling as when the environment gets tricky like this I just tense all the way up. It's partly fear, but what of I don't know; partly a sense of uneasiness as so many people around creates a multitude of issues, and partly a sense of being alone in a crowd. At this stop, however, a person got on and hovered over me for several seconds before slowly taking a seat. I was as focused as I had ever been in my life and the object of my focus was how to trap this person's rook. I had no idea who was besides me, what they looked like, and I didn't care because if I looked up and saw the mass of people around me I was sure I would spontaneously explode.

The chess games continued, literally and figuratively, and I heard the person beside me say in a very meek voice, "ahem." I thought nothing of this because why would she be speaking to me? Now this is different from when things are normal because I process everything and am always concerned that, when I hear a person speaking a thing like ahem or hello, I am the one being spoken to. Yet, in a situation like this, I will do everything I can to ignore the situation, but what was the situation?

Once again she said, "ahem" and I continued playing out the possibilities on the chess game I was playing on the phone and ignoring the figurative chess game going on all around me. Several seconds passed and the person across from me made a noise much like "ahem" yet it wasn't but it was loud enough to break me out of my safe world had created so I looked up at that person and he had a nasty scowl on his face as he tilted his head to my left and I looked that way and standing beside the woman who had said, "ahem" was a man. Now I must say for you, the reader, that you're finding this out in the same time frame that I did because as I saw them I saw that they were up there in years. I'm horrible with age, but 80 or so would be my estimate.

I stared through the older man for several seconds as I pieced everything together. At this point in time I could feel the eye gaze of most everyone in this part of the shuttle now descending upon me and I didn't know what was going on. To say I was lost and clueless would be a highly accurate statement. Then it hit me, she wanted her husband to not have to step over me for that seat so she was trying to send me the cues that she would like me to scoot over one seat and when I was off in the world of pawns and bishops I fell oblivious to this. Although I will admit I don't know if I would have naturally thought of moving over one seat without prompting.

Quickly, once I realized all this, I made the switch and did notice that those around that saw this were looking at me as if I were a gigantic jerk. If asked, I would have instantly given up my seat but I wish I could have frozen time right then and there and explained to those people what had happened and that I meant no disrespect; it's just that I have this thing called Asperger Syndrome and I don't pick up on those social cues that come so naturally to others.

The terminal couldn't have come fast enough after this shuttle incident and once we made it, I made sure to vacate myself from all those people as fast as possible.

After that incident, the trip to Utah was the smoothest trip I've had all year with nothing strange happening. As for me, now I am off to the track for the SKUSA SummerNats. It's going to be a great weekend!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

"Hello, How You Doin'?"

This is almost too easy! Okay, right now I'm sitting at the gate at the Indianapolis airport awaiting my flight to Utah to work the SKUSA race, but two days ago I said I was going to use this three week flagging/travel stint to describe to you how Asperger Syndrome can show itself in everyday situations and, as I began this post, it's been almost too easy to come up with what to write.

It was yesterday afternoon and my nephew Caden and I were on our way to this pizza store to pick up an order and bring it back to my sister's house. We arrived at the store and went inside which is always an awkward situation for me to begin with because I never know what exactly I should say. This right here would be enough to write about because look at a very important word I used in that last sentence. I said, "exactly" but is there an exactly right thing to say each time? Probably not but I still am trying to figure this out.

So we walk in and we approach the counter and wait. An employee came to the counter and said, "Hello, How you doin'?" I stood there frozen as another hilarious episode of being asked, "How are you" was about to unfold.

The tenths of a second felt like a crushing eternity. What do I say? How am I doin'? Eventually I made some sort of noise and then sputtered out, "I'm doin'." I thought nothing more of my answer once I gave it as it seemed the most logical answer to give. After that he asked who the order was for and I somehow made things confusing as I was trying to comprehend what was going on and finally all made sense and we had a few minutes to wait.

Caden and I found a bench and sat down. Once seated he told me, "What was with your answer? I'm doin'? That's not what you're supposed to say! Didn't you see the way he looked at you?" I told Caden that I did not. Thinking back the reason behind this was that eye contact was not made at all. In fact I didn't even look at the employee at all the entire time as I was looking down and to the left.

According to my nephew the employee gave a look of befuddlement as he didn't really know what to make of my answer. To me, my answer makes perfect sense and is the only thing I can say as, if I were to really answer this question of how I was doin', the actual answer would take too long for me to think of and then too long for me say. Still though, I felt my answer was perfectly appropriate.

I do know the script of the conversation and both my sister and nephew spent the rest of the day asking me "how are you doing," trying to get me to respond naturally. I never did, but I know how I'm supposed to respond with, "Fine, how are you doing?" Yes, I know this, but I can't turn that part of my brain off that hears the question and needs to answer it 100% accurately. I can't simply say "fine" because what if I am not fine? Also, how long of a time frame is in plat when asked this question? Is it the past 24 hours? 12? Or is it just right then and there because if this is the case saying "I'm doing" is the most logical answer.

Well, I could debate this with myself all day, but thankfully I do have a flight that is getting ready to leave so I mist leave this at that. I do find it amazing at how, when one is aware and is looking for it, just how big of an impact in such small events Asperger Syndrome can have.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Being Wrapped Within Kansas

YesterdayI mentioned that I wanted to, for these upcoming three weeks, really focus on how Asperger Syndrome has an impact on everyday events and right after I had that thought I got fully wrapped within a Kansas.

First, if you don't know what Kansas is, you can learn about it in my book Finding Kansas or read about it in my glossary.

Okay, so right before I started packing yesterday I had about 30 minutes to spare so I hopped on the Xbox and started up Bejewled Blitz. It's been a while since I had played but I still am in the #1 spot from when I played competitively.

So yeah, I started playing but instantly I was enthralled with the game once again. I thought I would play one game and move on, but one turned into five turned into ten and before I knew the whole 30 minutes had gone by. "One more game..." turned into ten more games and I was enjoying every second of it.

Kansas' can pop up out of nowhere, but when a random Kansas develops the feeling of sheer bliss is hard to top. Truly, and I probably should have said this a couple days ago on the fact that I wouldn't want to simply be cured of Asperger Syndrome, the feeling of being in Kansas is like being wrapped within a warm blanket on a snowy winter evening. Being in Kansas is one of most secure feelings I know.

There can be a downside to Kansas and that is that it is so hard to leave. I had an interview to get to yesterday but at the same time each one minute game of Bejewled Blitz was the best minute ever. I was watching the clock trying to figure out the last possible moment I had to leave because the feeling was just too great. Eventually I had to tear myself away and that took a monumental effort.

This is the funny thing about Kansas; it can pop up suddenly, without warning, and without any conscious effort and when this happens that Kansas becomes the only thing that matters. Unless you've experienced this it might be hard to comprehend just how safe, secure, and awesome a feeling Kansas is. It's been a while since I've stated this, but Kansas is a great example of, "if you've met one person with autism you've only met one person with autism" because one person's Kansas can be the next person's worst non-Kansas state.

This morning I got in some more Bejewled Blitz but slowly the Kansas faded. This too is the odd thing about Kansas because just as fast as it can appear it can disappear without any effort on my part. Although, come to think of it, I think one more game is in order. Right? Just one game?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Comments and The Next Three Weeks

I was amazed at the comments yesterday! It's funny sometimes that there are posts that I write that I think will have a major impact and don't and posts, like yesterday's, that I'm not expecting to and then they do. I mean, the comments yesterday were just awesome and it is such an inspiration to have such great readers that contribute!

As for the next three weeks racing season hits top gear as this afternoon after a newspaper interview I head to my sister's in Indianapolis and then on Thursday it's off to Utah for the 2nd event of the SKUSA Pro Tour. I'll get back to Indy on Monday just in time for the USAC Battle at the Brickyard and then after that event it's off to North Carolina for another USAC event.

I'm hoping that these events will give me plenty to write about and I'm going to try and use something that happens each day to explain just how Asperger Syndrome can pop up in everyday life and. We'll see if I do this because often times I'll want to write about one thing and then I get distracted and forget, but in any case the next three weeks should be very interesting.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Answering the Question

Over the weekend KPLR here in Saint Louis aired the interview and in it I mentioned that when I spoke to a classroom of 5th graders one of the students asked, "If you could be cured of Asperger Syndrome would you do it?" In the interview and on that blog from last year I never did answer the question so here goes...

Would I take the cure if it were offered? As of today I would say 100% no, not a chance, and I wouldn't think twice. I don't think it's always been that way though. I realize now that what makes me a little different makes me, well, a little bit different and that's okay!

Of course, it wasn't always that way. When I was first diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome my doctor was clueless and told me, "good luck" after giving the diagnosis and then I looked it up on the internet and got awful information (literally it read, "people with Asperger Syndrome will never have a job, never have friends, and will never be happy) and believed every word of it and accepted my fate of a lifetime of misery. I mean, if that website said that it must be true and with that being the case why should I even try?

It was in those days that I'm sure, if offered a cure, I would have jumped at it. The problem was I wasn't living my own life but rather I was defined not by the diagnosis but what some non-medical web site said about it. Yes, at that point in time I would have given anything to be anyone but me.

Even as I started writing my book, Finding Kansas, I was still in that boat, but through writing I began to understand myself. I've said for quite some time that, "understanding is the foundation for hope" and it truly is. If one doesn't understand what they have then a person can fall into the trap of letting words define who you are (and that trap applies to anything really, not just Asperger Syndrome!) 

As I began to write, and come up with concepts to describe the way the mind of the autism spectrum thinks, I began to see that the differences can be strengths. My ability to think outside the box and to then describe it through a metaphor was showing itself in my writings.

Slowly I began to accept who I am. I won't lie and say it happened overnight because it was a long road. I do think, however, if I would have had a better introduction to Asperger Syndrome I do think the road wouldn't have been as long, but then again, perhaps, my road did have to be long so everything would happen just so I would be in this position today. Yeah, I said I wouldn't take the cure because I know my ability to write comes from having it. If I didn't have Asperger Syndrome would I still be able to write as much as I do? Would I still be fiercely loyal to my beliefs? Would society be able to change me more easily? And the most important question of all; Would I still be me? I don't think I would still be myself and, as I said, it took a while but I'm very happy being me despite some of the challenges but overall all the quirks, traits, highs and lows make me who I am and that's all that I want to be.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Dealing With The Next Chapter

Today could be a big day as the manuscript for the sequel of "Finding Kansas" might be submitted. Originally the title was going to be, "The Absence of Blue" but now the leading contender is, "I Think Therefore You Should Know."

To say I am nervous about this would be a gigantic understatement as there's no guarantee that it will be picked up. This has consumed me as I wonder if those words I wrote will ever see a shelf and will ever be read.

I know I've made reference to this in the past month, about being down or stressed, and this process has been the leading cause. I've never done well when something is bothering me as when something is, regardless of how big of a thing it actually is, when something is bothering me it becomes the only thing that matters and the only thing my mind can think of. All others events become as if they never were and the only thing that has any relevance at all is whatever it is that is bothering me.

Right now it feels as if I've never been published, have never spoke in public, and have never written a blog despite the fact that I'm writing it this very second. I've always been this way and when a topic or subject was giving me grief in school all others subjects suffered because my mind wasn't on that, it was on whatever it was that was bothering me.

I would say this is a strength as well as a weakness because I am able to find a solution, often times, to a problem because my mind is working on overdrive. However, when there is a problem with no solution and a problem that I can't do anything more to help the cause, well, that's when it is a weakness because my mind will work, ahem, worry away with no let up until I'm tired from worrying for too long.

So that's where I am today. With that being so I think I have to do what I talked about in yesterday's blog and hit the bike trail and try to work this sensation out of my system.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Hitting the Trail

As I've finally had some time to myself this past week or so all the emotions from the past 7 months have come forward. Also, the question on if my 2nd book will be picked up or not has been on my mind. I've been trying to keep myself busy, but the old ways haven't helped all that much, but thankfully I found something new.

Last year I got a bike and I rode it for a bit, but then I got two flat tires at the same time (just my luck, right?) and it took a long time before I got around to getting them fixed. Last month they did get fixed and I was so excited when I got home to ride, but then I quickly found out that my neighborhood isn't the easiest place to ride as the elevations knocked me out of breath within five minutes.

Thankfully I discovered Creve Coeur lake and the trails there. Three times this week I have gone there to ride and each time it becomes a bit easier to go bit faster and a bit further. Normally any bit of exercise quickly bores me and I lose interest, but riding has been a great way for me to process all that has happened this year and is a great stress reliever. I'm not sure how long I'm going to stay interested but right now I'm having a great time.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Ever Changing Landscape of Home

This isn't the first one of these posts as it seems each time I revisit home, with home being the home I moved out of when I moved out onto my own last October, (wow, it's been that long?!) it seems something major has changed.

Yesterday I made a run by the house to drop something off for my dad and from there I headed to Fortel's in Affton as it had been four months since I had been there. However, on the way, I noticed that places I knew were no more.

It started as I passed Hampton and I noticed that the IHOP on Chippewa was vacant and lifeless. My dad and I went there quite frequently when we had just moved to Saint Louis in 1993. Those moments there were some of the only tranquil moments I had during those school years. Also, by pure chance, each time we went on an international trip we would stop there for breakfast. Okay, I should probably stop giving a total history of the place, but seeing it empty, vacant, and lifeless hurt me to the core.

This all has to do with the associative memory system in that each time I drove by there it was as if those moments were right now and a sense of warmness always followed. To now know that the place is no longer what it was hurts, truly hurts, as there's a chance that, perhaps, the building might be knocked down. What then? What will happen to those memories? I do have a great memory, sometimes too good if you ask me, but it is often reliant on things associated with the memory, such as a place or building, to keep them fresh and current.

I was truly down as I reached the next stop light. I mean, it was like I could feel the memories slowly being erased. Yes, I know the memories are still there, but it was as if there flawed now. One of my ways to describe my memory is that, "everything is now" which means if something in the current then it is hard to fathom that it ever was. With all that being so I thought to myself that what else could be gone from what I knew? Then I saw another empty storefront.

I was speechless as another place tied with so many memories was gone. This place isn't as obvious and wasn't as frequented as much as IHOP, in fact I think I only went there three times, but there to my left was an empty place that used to be my optometrist.

The first time I went there was right before my first SKUSA SuperNats as the flagman. I knew I needed new glasses but I kept putting it off until I needed a reason to be able to see perfectly. The 2nd time I went there was two years later as once again I needed new glasses so that place was associated with my first experience as the flagman at one of, if not the largest go-kart race in the world. Sure, I have plenty of other things tied to that event, but that place was tied to the utter excitement I had for my first one and now, there it was, empty, lifeless, and hollow.

I'm sure this is something everyone that moved away from home, be it 10 miles or 1,000 miles, experiences when they return home. I mean, doesn't everyone have a place from their childhood that is associated with a happy time? Maybe a restaurant, maybe a park, maybe a shopping center that is no longer there? However, for me, anything and everything becomes just as important as anything and everything else.

Moving forward I am almost afraid to go back to that part of town because what else is different? What else has changed? I have my memories, they're intact, and I don't want them to be tarnished. I want to remember the IHOP of old, the one where my dad and I spent many evenings there talking about racing, school, and life. As hard as I try though, right now, the only thing I can see is an empty building with an empty parking lot and no hint of the life, and memories, that once was there.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Interview

I mentioned it last week. that being the interview that was going to be aired Saturday night. Well, as luck would have it, here in Saint Louis so highly powerful storms popped up and the weather took precedence and the interview was not aired. However, KPLR did put the entire show on their website and you can watch the five segments by CLICKING HERE.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Ongoing Quest: The Battle Against The Denial of Hope

I'll admit that I might just live in a bubble of sorts. What I mean by that is that since I do believe there is always hope, and that every presentation I give I say it, I may just be oblivious to what other information may be out there. I mean, I thought we have moved on from the day when I got diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome in 2003 when I did a search on the internet that day and found a website that stated, "People with Asperger Syndrome will never have a job, never have friends, and will never be happy." That's what I read back then so surely we have moved on, right? Surely the information is better, right? Surely this information isn't still out there because those words and those words alone are about the biggest hope killer possible so surely we've moved on, right? I thought so; I really did. It's odd in a way that in one week I would hear so many stories proving my belief wrong.

I believe, without a doubt, that starting off with the right information after the diagnosis and confidence are two of the most important things for a person with Asperger Syndrome. The two sort of go hand-in-hand because if a person gets the wrong information, say, a prognosis with about as much positivity as learning that no matter how hard you try, no matter how hard you fight, no matter how much you want it all efforts will be futile. If a person were to learn that starting off why would one even want to try?

This is the battle. This is why the need is ever ongoing to raise the awareness and understanding. If you've read my blog a long time I'm sure I write a post like this at least once a month, but I know all too well what starting off with the wrong information is like. The internet is a great thing, but for every site like mine there is another out there lurking with words that deny hope; words that will paint a box that a person may believe and because of that they may never be able to get out of.

Okay, three paragraphs into this post and I'm shaking my head as to why this is still a problem. As I said, confidence is very important and if a person believes that it is hopeless and all efforts will be futile then why would that person have any confidence at all? I know that thought process as I lived with it for years. Back then I would have given anything to be anyone, anywhere else. I would say I let my diagnosis define me but that isn't 100% accurate; I let the website that painted that grave world of hopelessness define me.

I'm not going to deny that Asperger Syndrome is a challenge. At the same time it is a disservice for those just learning about it to read those words that deny hope. So, with that being so, this is the battle. We still have a long way to go to raise the level of understanding and awareness to a point that this battle is won.

This isn't something, at least for me, to take lightly. There is no reason, none whatsoever, that a person should read or be told that all is lost. With every story I hear, and I heard way too many last week, of a person hearing hopeless information and the bottomless depression that follows I must say I get angry. I was there once and know the story all too well. So, when I hear a story like that, I wish my voice was louder. I wish I could just shout to the world and all would listen. I wish all parents could hear me so that they know the potential pitfalls of misinformation. I wish all teachers could hear me so that they would know that there is hope and that, perhaps, the information that they have read about hopelessness is false and above all else I wish every doctor could hear me so that they know that they have so much power after diagnosis. I was essentially told, "good luck" by my doctor with no other information so of course I was going to look it up by myself. So yes, I wish doctors would hear me so that they could understand the impact of the misinformation.  There are so many fronts to this battle, but to end this post all I can say is, quite simply, we can't afford to lose this battle.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Questions are a One-Way Street

Last week on this blog post there was a comment, or rather a question, regarding the fact that we on the spectrum seem to be able to ask a question, sometimes many questions and yet when asked a question we can lock up. I responded by saying that I'd respond on Monday so now I'll just say better late than never.

So why is this? Why are questions a one-way street? I think I covered the reasoning behind why questions are difficult for us in that post.  In my response to a comment I said, "The difference is that when asking a question I am not processing the answer. If anything I am asking so I know what will happen if..." These thoughts are happening at light speed. If I'm asked a question, however, the thought process gets kicked into light speed and my defenses get triggered. Thoughts such as, "Okay, I was thinking about X but they are asking about Y so why are they asking this? If I answer, how will they respond? Do I know the answer? Is the answer wrong? What do they want from me?"

The line of questions in my brain that get triggered by a question is near infinite and I can very easily lose track of time as I process what is going on. Often times I will give a non-answer (such as "I don't know") or other times I will simply say "no" because when one answers with no the odds of a follow up question decrease greatly. And that's what is going through my mind; how can I end the line of questioning as soon as possible.

Now why is being asked a question difficult but we often will have no qualms about asking a question? First, I want to say that if you are a parent or teacher it is critical to realize that sometimes the amount of time that has gone into thinking about the right question to ask can be long. Often times, when I was in school, it might take me a few hours, or maybe a full day to finally ask the question I wanted to ask. Sometimes a question just happens, and other times I have to process the ramifications that will come from asking a question.

Also, when one asks a question, there is a bit more control of the situation. In my life I asked two type of questions; one type was questions of fact such as, "who was?," "when was?," "how did?," "who won?," or "why did?" All these questions are like a narrow one-way street because not much can deviation can occur, and an unexpected response is highly unlikely. I also asked a second type of question and this is something so many parents at my presentation have asked me why this is. The question in question (ha! I had that line planned for three paragraphs... I crack myself up sometimes) is any question that starts with, "What happens if..."

I'm sure many parents have had to endure the barrage of "what if" questions and I know my parents got a daily assault of those questions. I ask these questions because I really want, no, need to know. If my mind is wondering about something I am trying to work it out and if I don't feel secure, safe, or if I just really need to know the answer, I will bring up this question. To the person being asked, it may get annoying after a while, but when I asked that type of question my brain was working 110% at understanding whatever it was that I needed to know.

Sometimes these questions are highly relevant and critical to know, other times they may seem irrelevant to everyone except the person asking it. I will never forget the 2004 Olympics when I asked a "what if" question regarding the marathon event. I asked my dad, "Dad, looking at the course there is no barrier between spectators and the runners so what happens if a person were to tackle the leader?" My dad laughed it off and said, "That's never going to happen." During dinner, an hour later, I heard the announcer on the television in the other room with a voice that expressed great shock. Of all the events for an announcer to raise his voice, I wouldn't expect a marathon to be one that this would happen so I rushed into the room to see what had happened and sure enough, the leader had been taken out by a person not in the event. Never before had I let out such a "Ha ha ha! See..." than at that point in time.

The bottomline with questions is this; when asked a question my brain has to process information that currently isn't being thought about. Deviating from the now isn't easy. When I am the one asking the questions I am usually asking about something that my mind is thinking of right then and there, or perhaps it is something that I've been thinking about for some time so in the end it comes down to processing.

I hope this answered the question that was asked on last week's blog. For those of you in the Saint Louis area you can see me on KPLR Channel 11 Saturday night in the 7PM hour. It is either a 30 or 45 minute segment so be sure to tune in. If you aren't in the area I do think that eventually the entire program is available to view online.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Righting a Wrong

I've had many blog posts regarding my adventures on iRacing but I don't think I've had any such adventure as the story from a race last night.

I was in a NASCAR race at Daytona and actually was doing quite well. Now I won't bore you with a full race recap, but I wasn't being aggressive and was staying clean and somehow I took the lead on lap 50 of 70 and maintained it until lap 67. Through turns three and four I lost the lead and fell back to 3rd, but I went back to 2nd and down the back straight I got a run on the leader. I have no idea what the burst of speed came from but I decided it was then or never so I went to the left of the leader, he moved his car down a little bit, and I was now on the yellow line.

For most of my readers I'm sure the phrase "yellow line" means nothing. At this track NASCAR has a rule that passing below it isn't allowed as once the corner is reached there is no banking below the line and a crash can happen. I knew this, but I was just on the line, what was the worst that could happen? Besides, I had the speed to clear the leader, right? Wrong.

The corner was approaching and my calculations were wrong; I didn't have the speed to make the pass. For some reason I turned further down which put me way below the yellow line and I was now on a one-way ticket to crashville. When I did make it to the corner I stabbed the brakes to try and avoid a certain crash but it was too late; my car didn't turn and up the track I went taking the former leader out along with several cars behind.

I was now the leader but wanted no part of it. Other drivers were talking up a storm but I wanted no part of it and I took my headset off. What was I going to do? I mean, this is the top tier level of cars on iRacing and here I was leading the event. A win is a win, or so they say, but does one win at any cost? When is a win not a win even though they won? I was debating this.

The race was going to finish under the yellow flag so the win was a guarantee. Yet there was no celebrating for me; I made a mistake, a move I normally would never go for as I pride myself on being one of the cleaner racers. Lap 68 came and went, then lap 69, and finally the final lap.

Yellow flag laps at Daytona are long, well over two minutes, so I had plenty of time to reflect and debate what this win would mean and as we were in turn three I made my mind up; I was not going to win this race.

This was one of the hardest decisions I think I've ever made, at least when it comes to a game, as I fight for each and every win I get on iRacing as wins don't come easy much less a win at Daytona on iRacing. I very much wanted the win, but not like this. So, as we came down towards the finish line I turned hard left onto pit road which allowed the other cars to pass me. Indeed they did and I came across the line in 5th place.

I decided to put my headset back on at this point in time as I was curious as to what the response would be to this move as I don't know if it's been done before. Some drivers thought that I might have not known the race was going on, but then other drivers mentioned that it was the "classy" thing to do. The mood changed and the words of anger vanished. I didn't dare speak but I did type in the chat box, "I didn't deserve the win."

I'm not sure if giving up the win did anything, but I know I felt better. Yes, you may think that this is a blog post about nothing because, after all, I'm talking about a game, but for those that do race in iRacing it isn't simply a game and the cars that each person race against aren't simply an AI as every car is a real person from every part of the world. For those that were caught up in the crash that was nearly two hours of work destroyed. Obviously I didn't set out to ruin their fun, but I put myself in a bad spot, caused a crash, and they were angry. Because of this I did the only logical choice my mind could come up with. Was it enough? I'm not sure but as I said, I felt better because I don't think many people, regardless of the situation, would relinquish a sure win. After all, a win is a win, right? I now know that the cost of winning at all costs is too great and I wasn't willing to live with the cost.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Another "The Best Day"

For those that have read my book I have a chapter entitled, "The Best Day." In it I recount my first go-kart race which was an event I had waited for my entire life. It isn't very often in life that someone gets to relive the best day in their life, but in a way I did.

Recently I got a phone call from James, the USAC developmental director, asking if I could flag the USAC Mopar National Midget series at the Grundy County Raceway. I had flagged some of the lower divisions of midgets and had yet to flag the national series so when I got asked I didn't have to think twice.

I decided to ask my dad if he'd like to go with me as he hasn't seen me at a race since 2008 and, well, this was going ot be the first time I would be the chief starter of the national series. Also, it was fitting because this was up there with the anticipation I felt before my first kart race and since it was my dad who got me into racing I figured it was indeed right for him to be there.

On the drive up I thought about all the times we had gone to Indianapolis Race Park to watch the thunder series in the early 90's. I don't think either of us ever imagined that I would someday be the person in the flagstand for a USAC national race like this.

How did it go? My dad being who he is couldn't just go to the race and watch. He brought his camera and made a video so I will let that do the rest of the talking on this post.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Halfway Already?

I don't know about you but I can't believe that 2012 is already halfway over. For me, this has been the fastest half year of my life. I have seen so much and have been to so many places that this truly has been a dream year.

And speaking of dreams, as I'm going through my previous posts from this year I had a very difficult time remembering the events from January. Wow, as I write this February is also a blur. Last year I did a half year in review post but I don't know if I'd be able to do that because it feels as if this started the weekend of the crash is Nashville. It was from that point forward that I remember in full detail.

Of course, one week after that crash my Autism Awareness and Understanding Tour of America happened and that will probably be the story of the year for me. I know I still haven't had time to decompress from it as I've still been going non-stop since those amazing 45 days so I still haven't processed all the memories, emotions, and stories from that time frame.

So I will admit I was looking forward to a post recapping the first 6 months of 2012 but it would just prove to be too difficult; I vaugely remember the first three months and the previous three months from now are still too fresh and unprocessed.