Friday, December 30, 2011

A Year of Challenges, A Year of Growth: 2011 In Review

What a year! Of all years 2011 has been by the busiest year of my life. So much happened this year that I have actually been planning this post in my mind for almost three months.

The year started in January (okay, call me captain obvious) and the first two weeks started out dull. On the 21st everything changed as I got a flat tire on the way to the office. Thinking back now I am still at a loss for how mean people were. There's rude, and then there were people on that day.

The day after the flat tire I had an MRI done in an ongoing research study on brains of those that are on the spectrum, and then that Monday I started an event that I had waited for my entire life; jury duty. This was my third go round and finally, FINALLY, instead of spending three days watching the already dried pain dry more I was selected to be on a jury. I was going to be part of the American justice system and do my duty as a citizen. As grand as my thoughts were it wasn't what I was expecting it to be. To this day I will talk about this to whoever will listen. I am still angry, and I'm still angry at myself for not being able to better orate my opinions and beliefs that everyone else on the jury was... was... I've got nothing good to say so I won't.

A sad event occurred in February as I said goodbye to my car. It was a good car and saying goodbye was much like saying goodbye to the childhood pets I had. I thought I would be sad forever, but my used Infiniti I got quickly filled the void and I have moved on.

The week that a rookie driver, Trevor Bayne, won the Daytona 500 Bejeweled Blitz came out for the Xbox 360. For the next month if I wasn't at work or giving a presentation I was living life one minute at a time on this game competing against one person at a time. The goal was #1 in the world and it took a few months of bouncing for the top 10 to about 75th, but finally I reached the pinnacle of, well, the Bejeweled world and to this day no one has topped my TruSkill rating and I remain #1.

Also in February the final papers were signed and Finding Kansas: Living and Decoding Asperger's was finalized.

The beginning of March saw my employment at TouchPoint full time for one year. Before this job I had never had a full time job and only my first part-time job at the bowling alley lasted over one year.

The 2nd weekend of March saw a dream of sorts become reality has I hopped on a plane to Phoenix. All off season I worried and worried that I would have nothing to flag. I always worry about this, but it wasn't until I was on the plane that I believed that I was, in fact, the official chief starter of the USAC Mopar .25 Generation Next series. The track in Phoenix was on South Mountain and the view from the top was amazing.

Racing, obviously, is dangerous. However, I experienced a high drama while at the race track when in Phoenix that had nothing to do with speed or cars. While moving a box I had a close encounter with a honeybee. I had never been stung and didn't know that I am actually allergic to the sting. The event stayed with me, and is still with me actually, as we just don't know when time will be up for us. Often times we think we're strong and invincible, but something as small as a bee can have catastrophic powers. Also, get stung by a bee and have issues and then one, like myself, will hear the nickname of "bumblebee" for a long time. Thankfully now my nickname within the USAC ranks has shifted to "primetime".

On March 18th my long time spent reading "Les Miserable" ended as I completed the book and the next day I got lost in Park Hills as my GPS system lived up to its reputation in getting me lost. The following week I had my first true road trip in my car as round 2 of the USAC .25 series was held in Nashville. Thankfully, there were no bees out and about, but the reason why was it was absurdly cold. I was bundled in multiple layers including a very large, tan, brown coat. Bad part about this was our race was featured on a local news station and in the video there I was like a bundled up yeti or other odd creature. "Bumblebee didn't represent today" was one of the lines I heard, jokingly I think.

March 31st saw the start of best series of events I have ever been a part of as I did the "Autism Awareness Tour of Missouri." It started in Lebanon, Missouri and as I look through my calendar journal I remember each place vividly. I will be forever grateful that TouchPoint gave me the stage and the resources to give over 20 presentations and drive over 2,500 miles across the state to spread awareness and understanding.

It was during this tour that I got my first experience of being recognized in public. It was at a small truck stop outside Mountain Grove, but that moment will live with me forever.

Good Friday, April 22nd, saw severe storms rip across Saint Louis and even hitting Lambert International Airport.

The next day I lived out a dream that I never knew I had as I threw out the 1st pitch at the Saint Louis Cardinals game against the Reds. I got this once in a lifetime chance by raising the most money in a contest for TouchPoint and the events depicted in this video will live with me forever:

The beginning of May saw me give a presentation at Concordia University Irvine and was my first presentation out of the state of Missouri or Illinois. A few days later I was working a race in San Bernadino where the dinner I now often to refer to in my presentations happened. I love debating odd manner rules and I love telling the story of this in my presentations when I remember to use this story.

I was back in the courts later in May, but this time I was not a juror but rather a presenter to the family courts. I spoke for three hours and the amount of head nods and tears I got that day told me I made a difference. That evening I was on a panel to discuss the movie Adam.

The day after that I was headed to Indianapolis for the Indianapolis 500. When I got there I was asked if I would like to help out at a USAC race at the Speedrome so I said yes and when I got there I was in shock when I was told I would be in the flagstand. The stay in the stand didn't last long as severe weather moved through and I might have drove a little fast to get away from the storm.

It took a little bit of work on my part to relive 2010's "Best Experience Ever" at the USAC Silver Crown Hoosier 100 and the Indiana State Fairgrounds, but with a little stealth action I was back assisting Tom Hansing and had a blast once again.

Two days later the Indianapolis 500 was ran and what a race it was. The ending of the race will be one of those sporting moments that live forever as rookie J.R. Hildebrand was leading on the final lap, one more turn to go, when he misjudged the line due to a slow car, got in the marbles, and conked the wall. His car still was rolling forward and it looked as if he might win with a trashed car when Dan Wheldon passed him and got his 2nd Indianapolis 500 victory.

The events just kept happening to me a few days later I was out playing golf when a series of events made two sets of old men angry at me on the golfcourse. As with the flat tire I can't believe people can get so angry so fast over the most nominal of stuff.

Thankfully, the day after angering old men, I was back in the flagstand at the Speedrome and after that night's race it was a Midnight drive to Maryland. The reason why was a .25 race in Hagerstown and at this event I got dirty. I never have been and I hope to never be this dirty again, although there is a race scheduled there in 2012, but the picture to the right says it all.

A race in Grand Junction in July tested my resolve, well, getting there tested it as I competed in the sickening game of the100 gate dash. In my flights after this event I still fear having this happen.

Once I got there the SKUSA staff had some fun as there was an overpass by the hotel that had some murals of horses so with the right angles it looked as if the horses were getting their revenge on me for an incident in 2008.

The last week in July I found out a person who proved to be important in letting me become who I am today had died. This event started a downward spiral of my emotions and the hits just came on coming.

I know I am focusing a lot on my travels but this isn't to say that the daily activities were boring. I visited many doctors and gave over 100 presentations, but those events didn't push me. In my travels I am pushed because I am out of my comfort zone and in August I was brought to a very sensory unfriendly place known as the Mongolian BBQ. I still fear that place and I have let James, the USAC .25 series director, know that if we ever eat there again I will not eat and just sit in the car.

The Monday after the BBQ debacle bowling starting. That within itself is an annual event, but this year it was filled with terror. I still don't know why what happened happened and to this day I have not said one word to the staff at the bowling alley. There is still fear and I have not spent $1 in any of the vending machines. I am still afraid. However, this gave me a look into what it is like to be bullied. My passion for my job increased that night and the next day I was speaking at a Missouri DMH conference. Due to the midnight drive and lingering shakes and fear I had from the previous night I thought my presentation was awful, but this presentation proved vital in opening a door later in the year.

The following week I was in New England area for a race and for one night I stayed at Ryan's house, whom I have mentioned several times on my blog. He even came to the race, but Hurricane Irene was obviously not a race fan and ruined the fun. Fearing the shutdown of airports I rode back in a crowded van to Indy, but that was 16 hours I would not have traded for anything.

As I look at my work on my blog, and calendar journal, I can tell I was not in my usual place. Having the multitude of events happen in such a short amount of time never let me recover from the previous one. It was a rough stretch and the only thing I remember writing in September was The Power of One which Autism Speaks ran on their Facebook page.

If having one catastrophic flat tire experience in a year wasn't enough I had a 2nd one on the last Sunday of September. The event could have been a bad one as the vehicle tried to wreck when the tire went down, but thankfully the only harm done was done by my inability to deal with the situation. At this same time I was debating on whether or not to move as I had an offer to move to a different place. I thought I was beaten and the world had won, but eventually I got my confidence back and the next week after a trip to New York City I moved into my own place.

On October 7th Rob from Vancouver came back to Saint Louis and on the 11th I had my scariest presentation to date... 5th graders! I feared and feared this and the start was rocky, but after the public speaking disaster was cleaned up the wisdom and compassion expressed by the 5th graders was astounding. Now, when I give presentations to teachers, I reference back to the knowledge and empathy that the class showed and I say, "I used to think that the game show, Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader, was a joke, but now I know that no one is as smart as a 5th grader as we peak in 5th grade and it's downhill from there."

The next day I was off to Jefferson City. I didn't blog about this at the time as I didn't want to brag or boasts about it, but from my presentation at the conference after the bowling alley disaster, I was invited to give my presentation to the DMH Commissioners. I had been fearing this presentation for the longest of times, but after the 5th graders this presentation wasn't as scary. I still realized the importance and honor of being able to speak to those that can make a huge difference and I don't like to boast or brag, but I was on that day. My voice was stronger and my confidence was higher. I don't know if anything came out of it, but I felt like all the people that helped me and all the stressful events of the year helped me in getting me to that place to give a presentation to the people that can make a gigantic difference. I don't know if I ever thanked them, but certainly I want to extend my thanks to them for letting my voice be heard.

The evening of the DMH presentation Rob and I headed to Las Vegas for a USAC .25 race as well as the Indycar season finale. On the way out I talked about the end of I-70 but the joy quickly disappeared. Headed out to Vegas I knew something was going to happen as I had the worst of worst feeling that something was going to happen. I didn't know what, exactly, but I let everyone who would listen to me know that turn one was going to be a hazard. It happened early in the race and I saw it happening before it did, but the end result was one of the biggest crashes seen in a long time. Three cars took flight and the 2011 Indianapolis 500 winner, Dan Wheldon, was killed.

The two photos that are on here I took with my camera from the stands. I've been debating for a month whether or not to run these or not, but I have decided to do so because this is what happened. I write this year in review as much for you as for me as each year I buy a book version of my book so 30 years from now I am going to have each year of my blog in paper form. As much as being there hurt I don't want to forget. Dan was a tremendous racer and, well, I don't know what else to say.

From Vegas Rob and I went to my mom's in South Dakota and to be honest I don't remember much about this trip. I was reeling from witnessing that crash and I was a compass to a magnet and had no direction. Looking at my calendar I can see that I played golf at Wolf Creek, and I have the pictures to prove it, but I don't fully remember it. Because of this I'm not going to reference back because to me, those weeks after Vegas are lost.

My memories kick back in, ironically enough, back in Vegas as I went there to flag the SKUSA SuperNats. It was a five-day event and I flagged for a total of 64.5 hours, but of all the close racing I will remember the two lap salute to Dan Wheldon the most:

After Vegas it was off to Washington D.C. for Thanksgiving and my state started to turn back to the good. Good enough that my humor was coming back and one of my most popular video blogs, or posts ever, happened which was this video:

December came and I had a large amount of presentations pop up. It has been a wonderful month with talking to schools, doctors, and parents. I am thankful for all the chances to travel and to see the world because this helps me when I present. Also, with each event, I love being able to translate the difficulties I experience.

I started out by saying that 2011 was the busiest year of my life, but if my speaking schedule next month is any indication 2012 is going to be twice as intense. Will there be flat tires? I hope not. Bees? Oh, golly! I hope not.

Next year I hope to continue expressing my feelings and thoughts and I hope to reach many more people. I have big plans for April and my book launch, I don't want to share them as of now just in case the plans fall through, but 2012 is going to be huge! Thanks for being a part of my day, and the year starts anew on Sunday. Last year I ended by saying that it would be scary writing this post in 2011 just because I had no idea how many places I would see and how many people I would have touched. I can't believe the year I had and truly, I am scared to think what this post is going to look like in 2012. The journey should be exciting though and I hope you come along for the ride. See you in 2012!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Numbers of 2011

As with last year, my next to last post of 2011 will involve random numbers from my year. Some numbers are highly relevant, others not so much...

# of miles driven for races and presentations: 16,500

# of miles flown: 18,000

# of presentations given: 107

Highest # of presentations given in one month: 21 (April. I also drive 2,500 miles that month)

# of people at presentations for year: 3888

# of people at my presentations for career: 8,107

# of blog views this year, as of 12/29/11: 62,110! (Thanks everyone!!!)

Largest presentation: 300 (at a school district)

Most viewed blog post: “The Power of One” (3,000+ views)

Most viewed month: April with 10,117 views

# of hate mail received: 0! That compares to 2 last year.

# of time disappointed in weather forecasts: 2. Seriously, don’t give a blizzard warning and say that the snowpocalypse is coming when in the end we get a dusting!

# of horses hit: 0

# of times recognized in general public: 1 and it still ranks as one of my favorite moments of 2011

# of juries sat on: 1 and it ranks as one of my least favorite memories of 2011. I still will talk about this case to anyone who will listen to me.

# of times lost due to GPS: Way too many. I’m never listening to my GPS again if it says to, “take a left onto Pig’s Hollar.”

# of times moved: 1, and I hope to never move again. What a nightmare!

# of innings pitched in the majors: 0.00, and it was just one pitch (an opening pitch) but Fredbird called it a strike so I would like to think that I retired with a perfect record. I’d also like to think that my pitch in April was such an inspiration that the Saint Louis Cardinals fed upon that all year to win the World Series… okay, so maybe they didn’t, but let me have my 10 seconds of glory!

# of airports I visited that I didn’t like: 2; LAX and LA Guardia, at least the parts I was in, felt more like a prison. Maybe it was just my terminal, but I was not impressed. The Grand Junction airport put all others to shame!

# of counties that I gave a presentation to: 28

Longest presentation: 3.5 hours

# of NHL players I played golf with: 1

# of race events flagged: 20

#of Canadians annoyed by my music/singing while I drive: 1 (sorry Rob!)

# of hurricanes encountered: 1 (Irene)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A New Christmas Tradition

Growing up, for the most part, games were a crime in my family. This was a shame because I loved/love games more than should be allowed by law. I can remember always suggesting we play a game and the responses were always something along the lines of shrugs and "ugh!"

This year with my sister, nephew, and mom times have changed. Thanks to the Xbox 360 and the Wii we have had a game show marathon of sorts. The new hit game has been The Price is Right Decades this year. One game that is never going to be played again is Wheel of Fortune with the Wii as I always win (my sister blames the wheel). Also Press Your Luck has provided some fun, but the staple of the fun, as with last year, is Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

Last year I purchased the game because I don't have a Wii and I really wanted to listen to the music of the game. Odd reason, I know, but quickly the fun turned competitive and my sister broke out her art skills to make an elaborate score sheet and before we knew it four hours had passed.

This year the fun has been just as good with Millionaire. I thought about getting the newest edition of it, but the new format of WWTBAM is AWFUL! The music is gone, the intensity is gone, and it just isn't what it was. Sorry, I could have gone on for 1000 words on my disliking of the new format.

Anyway, it is nice that it took a while in my life, but it is finally nice, when I suggest a game, I don't get scoffed at or yelled at. And... it's actually a fun sight watching my mom attempt to use the Wii remote. Good time! (Sorry mom!)

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Moving Forward: The Next 500

I never would have thought it; 500 posts! I reran the Autism Is... project yesterday and this may be a tradition now on each 100th post as if you ever want or need inspiration just read the comments on that page.

Over the Christmas weekend I began to get my usual seasonal blues. Through the darkness I kept thinking about the 500th post and I wondered what I was going to do for it. I mean, 500. That is a large number. How on Earth did I get to that number? On top of that you, my dear readers, have kept with me through the highs, lows, and hijinks between.

Speaking of lows, Christmas Day was really low for me but still post 500 was looming. I had several ideas, but in the end rerunning the Autism Is project was the only answer because it gives everyone a voice. As I said, read the comments and get inspired and know you are not alone.

My blog is usually about the events in my life and how the spectrum can make things easier or harder for me, but in the end it is typically about me. This isn't a bad thing because I am able to describe the emotions of the ordeals I go through. Thinking about this I see this as a puzzle piece. I like that the spectrum is described by the puzzle piece because each person is unique. Each person on the spectrum is their own puzzle and I am doing my best to describe my little section of life on the other side of the wall. When working on a puzzle though it is best to know what the whole section looks like and I hope that, by reading the responses on the project it gives just that small look into other thoughts and lives.

So, moving forward, the next 100 posts for me might be most important. The April 3rd release date of Finding Kansas is nearing, I've got my year in review posts coming up, and January is looking to be a VERY busy month for me with lots of presentations across Saint Louis and Southwest Missouri.

To end this, as I start the march to 1,000 blog posts, I want to thank you! In my darkest time on Christmas Day I was aggravated at myself for my weaknesses. I looked at everyone else on the "normal" side of the wall and I yearned to know what that is like. Of course, I can want that all day long and that won't change the fact of who I am, and then I remembered I AM happy with who I am. Right then and there I thanked God for the diagnosis because if I didn't know I probably would be much worse off. In fact, I don't really want to think about the course my life would have taken. But yes, as I came out of that thought process I was elated to remember that you are still with me. Some of you are family, others are fellow workers at TouchPoint, but most of you I probably have never met. Some of you have left comments, and my sister says I do a poor job on responding to comments (in my defense I did say, "How do I respond to a comment if there isn't a question?), but nonetheless you still come back and take precious time out of your day to read my thoughts. What an honor that is and I know that a lot of you get a better understanding of the spectrum from my words even though I am oblivious as to how I do this, but still I understand that taking time out of the day is something that is hard to do in this day in age so again thank you. As I began the 2nd 500 posts I want to close this with the words that I ended post #1 with:

Over the course of the next few weeks, months, and hopefully years I hope to open your eyes as to what's new in the world of autism, and to also let you in on some of the daily issues I face being behind this wall.

So welcome to my blog and I hope you will have as much enjoyment reading this as I will have providing it to you. Enjoy!

Thanks for being there for the first 500 and trust me when I say that the enjoyment that I get in bringing you this blog is greater now than it ever was.

Friday, December 23, 2011

A Christmas Tradition

Today is one of the days I look forward most to as a tradition that started about four years ago continues on.

Yes, today is the day my mom arrives in Indianapolis from Rapid City. As exciting as that may sound, it is not the highlight of the day as it is the process of picking her up that is fun (sorry mom!).

It wil begin with a trip with my sister and nephew to Noble Roman's on 10th St. After that we'll drive by the house we lived in up until 1991, then we'll drive by the elementary school and probably discuss the tyrant we had as an art teacher. After that we'll slowly make our way to the airport and wait for mom to get in while drinking some Starbucks hot chocolate, or at least that's what I will be drinking.

To you this may not seem like a fun day, but I do look forward to this all year long. The routine of it is simply awesome. This may not be the most over the top Christmas traditions, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

An Alarming Experience at the Grocery Store

I #1 thing I love about this blog is that every second of the day I am thinking about what to write. Over the course of the day, as I am out in this wild world, I am thinking, "okay, is this blog worthy?" Of the experiences I had yesterday it was crystal clear as to what I should write about.

Perhaps it is the stress of having my book launch just four months away, but I have been having severe heart burn. The usual chewable tablets have done nothing, and let me say that if I eat or drink anything I get heart burn; even water! I know this is stress related because after the Emily disaster 8 years ago I had the same response. Anyway, I decided to go to the grocery store to buy something a little bit stronger and once again, as I walked about the store, I was in supreme positional warfare and my eyes never looked even on the horizon as I was always looking down at the ground.

Despite the ill-comfort I was rather efficient at finding what I was looking for, paying for it, and leaving. Of course, my life on the other side of the wall is never dull and as I was exiting the sliding doors an alarming thing happened, well, the alarms went off. I instantly froze as if my life depended on it because, in my mind, it did.

Even since I was 11 and and an event at a Walgreens happened I have had a fear of security exits. At that Walgreens I had walked into the store, got nothing, and while walking out of the store I somehow tripped the alarms. At that point in time I thought about every second I was in the store and if something accidentally fell into my pockets, Nothing did, but each and every time I exit a store I get the same fears. Those fears were once again realized yesterday.

A couple long, agonizing seconds passed and nothing happened. I was waiting for grocery police to pop out of a hidden door and take me down for theft. I feared that I picked up my item and didn't pay even though I looked down at my hand and saw the bag. Even though there was a bag I kept thinking the worst. Nothing made sense and I was over-processing everything.

There I remained, a deer in headlights, motionless fearing the end of the world as I knew it. Suddenly, a voice either from above or in front (I don't know where it came from as I was so startled) said, "Sir, you are okay." That was it. I remained there processing those words. I was waiting for direction, such as, "sir, put your hands up and come with us" but I just heard I was okay. "Okay at what?" was my first thought, but then after another few seconds I put the pieces together and realized that my life was not over and I quickly turned about and went to my car.

As I made the couple minute drive back to my sister's I was thinking that an event like this could and probably would startle anyone, but I think most people would not get into the over processing game as I do. Actually, I have seen it before but the times I've seen it people don't even stop because of the alarm. Of course, for the majority of others, an event like this is a one and done. For me, moving forward, the fear has been rekindled. Every exit now has become a possible awkward social scene and if I didn't look suspicious before I most certainly will now as I fear the alarms.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Closing in on 500

Of all the times of the year I am most reflective during the holidays. Having my videographic memory doesn't hurt this, but it is at times difficult. I have been a bit down because of all the memories, but coincidentally enough this Monday will be my 500th post!

On the drive up to Indy the weather was almost identical to the drive up I had on the 30th of December back in 2004 when I arrived at my brother's house at 5:15AM. It was on that car ride that I spoke to Emily for the last time up until a call back in 2008. I think back to that night and all the struggles I had, and fears, and to think here I am now is amazing.

In addition to my 500th post coming up I've also started the planning for my annual "Numbers of..." and my year in review post. This too has aided the intensity of the memories, but my goodness what a year it has been! In 2004 the only thing I was hoping was that, well, that any thing would change for the positive. I didn't have much of anything going for me and the only thing I looked forward to each day was continuing my domination on the Xbox game of Toca Race Driver 2. That was it, that was all that I had. Granted, I did enjoy every minute on that game, but in terms of achieving anything in life I had written myself off.

I know I've been somewhat repetitive in this message, but I still can't believe the progress that's been made and if you could have seen me all those years ago I doubt you'd see any similarity to today. I was bitter, angry, and quiet. Yeah, today I can still be a bit snippy when things go awry, and I'm still quiet in an open-ended environment (you should have seen me at the grocery store yesterday! I was actually going to blog about that and totally forgot up until writing this line.) but I've accepted all these things about me. Through acceptance and understanding I have grown.

So today is another day. I'm sure throughout today I will think back to Christmases past when I was unaware of what I had, and then the ones that I practically refused to partake in any function whatsoever due to the bitterness I had inside. While I still regret the whole "breaking up on Christmas via text message" I did to Emily I feel I am finally turning the corner. I may say I have grown a great deal since 2004, but I still have a ways to go.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Saying Hello to Teddy

It had been a while since I saw Teddy the Yorkie. One of the disadvantages of living on my own is the absence of pets. I've thought about getting one, but as several people have pointed out, "Aaron, as much as you travel whatever pet you got would grow to hate you." With that being so I have had no serious thoughts about getting a pet, but the emptiness felt from not having a pet is still there.

It had been almost two months since I had any interaction with a dog. For most of my life from the age of 5 onward I had pets in the house. I interact differently with pets and feel at ease around them. Gone are the social subtleties. Gone are the multiple meanings behind saying and actions. What you see is what you get and animals often are drawn to me.

So yesterday I couldn't wait any longer and I returned to my dad's house to say hello to the Yorkie. I was worried he would have forgotten me, but my fears were misplaced and he seemed elated to see me. The time passed quickly though and when it was time to leave I felt sad. I didn't realize how much I missed the daily interactions with animals. Eventually I'm going to have to figure out a way to make having a pet work, but for now my home will have to be petless as I simply am gone too much.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Seasonal Blues

My weekend wasn't the best of ones. It started out okay, but sometime after the sun set on Saturday I just felt down and slowly the way I've felt every on or about every Christmas since 2004 happened.

As bad as Saturday was Sunday was even worse. I woke up angry. At what? At everything really. I looked outside and felt trapped in a way. I'm really loving being in my own place, but I'm withdrawing even more than I used to from the world. It's like my professional life is going up just as fast as whatever social life I had is going down.

Sunday was a unique blend of my usual seasonal sadness coupled with the rare times where I wonder what it would be like to be "normal." 99 out of 100 days I am more than happy with who I am and then comes that one day when I look out the window and just wonder what it is like to be a part of the normal world. Yes, there probably is no such thing as "normal" but for me I'm farther from it.

For dinner yesterday I decided to try some place new so I made the short drive, walked in, and saw a long line. I really wanted to try this place, but I was quickly overwhelmed by two things. The first was seeing so many people conversing naturally. It might be something you take for granted, but when I am on that 1 day of 100 that I truly yearn for that hint of normality and I see people conversing freely without any effort I get sad. The world so often makes it look so easy and here I am chained and scared and overwhelmed by the second thing which was needing to talk to the hostess and ask how long of a wait there was. It didn't take me long to decide and I was out the door and back in my car.

I did have some relief from my own thoughts as every other hour I was in hyper-Kansas playing iRacing. During the heat of competition my mind wasn't as hard on myself, but after each race I found myself right back to square one and wondering what it is like out in the normal world.

Eventually, as always happens, I will go back to being perfectly happy with who I am. I've talked about this trap many times, and I fall into it, but it is a hard thing to look at one's self not from the standpoint of who you are but what you are not. If everyone looked at themselves in terms of what they aren't I'm sure everyone would be in a depression pit as deep as the Marianas Trench. However, for me, it is so easy to see what I am not as we do live in a social world with social cues and conversational etiquette that I often don't understand. Yes, I normally let all this slide off and not bother me, but on that 1 out of 100 days it hurts.

So today I go forward. I still fell down, but I've got a doctor to visit today, I've got bowling to, well, bowl, and then the drive to Indianapolis for Christmas and New Year's. Car rides usually allow me to calm down and see the world in the right light so I hope that trend continues today.

Friday, December 16, 2011

What TouchPoint Does

Every year TouchPoint makes a video for the Festival of Trees. I've shared the 2009 and 2010 videos and here now is the 2011 video and gives a small look in on the impact TouchPoint Autism Services has:

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Yesterday I blogged about my thoughts of being diagnosed eight years ago and those thoughts stayed with me throughout the day. However, there was another reminder yesterday that I never could have predicted.

On Facebook, on the right hand side, it shows when it is people's birthdays. It just so happened, no more than 15 minutes after I finished writing "Diagnosis: 8 Years Later" that I noticed this birthday. Now typically I am the worst at wishing others happy birthday because I hate my own birthday and if I wished one person happy birthday I'd have to wish everyone a happy birthday and if I get to 5,000 friends I would have to devote a whole work day each day keeping up with birthdays. However, I saw the name of this birthday and was taken aback.

The birthday in question was the man that I wrote about back in July who had died. Yesterday would have been his birthday and that saddened me and I was thinking about writing a philosophical post that, with a thing like Facebook, a person never really is "gone" but the more I thought about it I wanted to do more than that and as I thought about that I realized that every bit of growth I've had came from someone giving me a chance.

The chance he gave was letting me give a presentation about auto racing at the organization I work at now. That was almost eight years ago and I had no presentation experience, but I was given the chance and because it was in my Kansas I was able to pull it off. I think back to before I was diagnosed and my job at the video game store and the fact that the store manager let me have the position. Granted, it might not have been for all the right reasons as he had said, "Aaron, you got the job because it was the worst job interview I have ever seen. To be honest, you were my science experiment and I didn't think you'd last two hours on the job." I lasted more than that and became of the district's #1 seller and that came from just a simple chance.

I look back on the past eight years and the progression I've had and I'm amazed. I'm still amazed at my job and the chance I was given here at TouchPoint. I don't fully remember the initial vision of my position, but I never would have thought I'd reach as many people as I've had and the response people have given me. All this came about because of one simple chance to do it.

Looking back, if I were someone else, I don't know if I'd have given me the chance. I look at the video game store, which was important in my social development and self-awareness, and there would be no way I'd hire myself. None! Would I have let me given a presentation on racing? Perhaps, but I didn't think I could do such a thing. And my first presentation, which was at the 2009 Missouri National Educators Association conference, well, I'm not sure. I forgot about that presentation which was opened up by a person giving me the chance to do it.

As I sat in thought yesterday evening I smiled at the thought of all these chances I've had. Sure, you could say I've worked hard honing my craft, but none of this would have come about if it weren't for each and every chance I've had. Each event in my life helped me prepare for the next and usually, outside the manager of the video game store, it was with the best of intentions.

I'm thankful for all these chances but I do want to give one warning. While I firmly believe us people with Asperger Syndrome have a huge amount of potential this doesn't mean to give a person a chance that you know they won't be able to do. Failure isn't taken all that well and I think back to the video game store and I wonder what would have happened if I would have only lasted two hours like the manager thought I would. It would have been devastating and it probably would have taken a long time to get over.

Today I am thankful for every chance I've got. Every chance set me up for the next and if it weren't for the chance at TouchPoint I may never have been discovered by my new publisher who found me through my blog (here's a shout out to the person who first contacted me. I've been told it's her last day at Penguin tomorrow so to her I say "thank you for the chance").

So what a ride it's been! I may not say it often, even though I do very much appreciate it, but to anyone ad everyone that has given me that chance, whether it is big or small, I say thank you. Without each and every chance you've given me in life I would not be who I am today. Every time I've traveled, or had a job, I've grown and without all the chances, well, chances are you would not be reading this today.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Diagnosis: 8 Years Later

It was eight years ago this week. Yes, eight years ago I walked into the building I now work at, but I wasn't walking in as the Community Education Specialist, but rather as a deeply confused 20 year old. What was this place? Why was my dad bringing me here? What is this thing called autism?

While I may have been confused my dad was looking for answers. After reading an article in Parade magazine about Asperger Syndrome he connected the dots and was now looking for confirmation. Myself? I was confused and a bit annoyed that I was awake before 10AM.

The assessment took place, the report was written, and my doctor confirmed it. It was Asperger's. Essentially, the doctor gave me the diagnosis and said, "good luck." If I was confused before getting the assessment I was now fully confused. I didn't know what I had or what it meant. As I say in my presentations, and have said on here several times, I went onto the internet to see what it meant. Remember, this was 2003 and autism awareness wasn't. Back then unless you were a part of the spectrum there was no knowledge of autism except the once a year thing about someone on 20/20 and the movie Rain Man. That was it, so I looked it up and read the line of, "People on the autism spectrum can expect to not have a job, won't have friends, and will not be happy."

I was devastated. In my confusion I believed every word of that web page. My life, as I knew it, came to a crashing halt. Over the next year I didn't care about anyone or anything. It wasn't until I accidentally discovered I had the gift of expressing myself through writing that I began to question those words on that website. While I'm eternally grateful I did discover it, I also feel as if I lost 15 months of my life.

Now, why is this relevant now? I've said this story many times, but there have been many stories I've heard in the past two weeks of other people getting diagnosed as well as many parents asking me, "When is the right time to let my kid know they have Asperger Syndrome?"

First, and most obviously, we want to try and avoid the introduction I got to it. Secondly, I don't know the "right" time but I want to describe what it was like for me growing up. As far back as kindergarten I knew something was up, but I didn't think anything was different with me as surely it was everyone else. My "Kansas" (see my glossary if you are new to my blog located on the upper portion of the side bar on right) was weather and I could talk for hours on end about it. Anytime bad weather moved into the area I became hyper-sensitive and was sure a tornado was going to drop down on us and kill us all. My classmates? A lot of them didn't know what a tornado was, and they didn't care. On top of that they didn't know what the jet stream was, the gulf moisture, or anything else weather related. Also, I was a very frightened child as I was constantly fretting about the threat of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. My classmates? They couldn't place the Soviets on the map. Because of my classmates lack of knowledge on this topic I instantly discredited their intelligence. Granted, I now know that in the end I was no smarter than they were, but it was just that our interests varied. Back then though I looked at my classmates and sort of looked down on them because obviously I was the smartest kid in the world and there wasn't anything wrong with me, but everything was wrong with them.

I kept that mentality most of the way through school. I let my classmates know every rule they broke and I was the little class sheriff. I was oblivious to the fact that no one likes a tattle because, in my mind, rules were meant to be followed and since I follow the rules everyone else should. Bullying wasn't as big of an issue back then and I wasn't bullied in any way, but on the same hand no one went out of their way to talk to me; perhaps in fear of saying something that would cause me to report it to the teacher.

Those were my younger years and I know the question of, "When do I tell my child" hasn't been answered yet. One answer I can give on that is that, "If you've met one person with autism you've only met one person with autism." Each person is going to react differently. I've heard some parents say that their child takes it as a badge of honor and that they are unique and they love it. Others may not know what it means at all, and some others may use it to their advantage. Regardless of how they take it I feel it is important, at the right time, to let them know because I knew something was different, but I thought it was with everyone else which also lessened my desire to talk to everyone else.

This is something that will have to be discussed at some point in time and I feel it is better to do it in a parent controlled environment than the way I found out. On top of that, once I began to forget that awful web page with those hideous words, I felt relieved about my diagnosis. I now knew that my social problems weren't the fault of others, but it was because I have this thing called Asberger Syndrome. Slowly the self-hatred lifted from me because the reason why I couldn't make friends, or make eye contact, wasn't because I was weak as I thought it was for some time.

So when is the right time? The right time is when the parents decide it is. Each person is different, each person is going to react differently, and each set of parents are going to handle it differently. I feel the Asperger diagnosis needs to be looked at differently though as take a look at how many revolutionary minds were or were suspected of being on the spectrum. Within the minds of those on the spectrum there is so much potential and that's why knowing earlier is better. The more the child and the parents understand who they are and what they have, hopefully, the smoother the growing up process will be.

It's been eight years and my passion in life is now autism awareness and understanding. I want today's message to be this, "It's okay to be on the spectrum. It's not the end of the world." I thought it was the end of my world when I was diagnosed because my introduction to it was all wrong. Parents, if you have the discussion you can control the information. True hope comes through understanding and we on the spectrum are very sharp people. We will notice that there is a difference with us whether you tell us or not. If we know the real reason then we can start learning the ways of the world. And when the news is told the right way we can avoid what I went through. That's my passion. No one should go through the same 15 months I did. It doesn't have to be that way.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Feeling Accomplished

This morning I had a presentation at the break of dawn at a school Normally, if I do a presentation before 8AM it is awful, but something special happened today.

I was unprepared for this presentation. I thought it was just going to be to about 2-4 teachers but it turned out the entire school's teacher roster was there (65 teachers). The time slot was one-hour and I was going in without my PowerPoint.

A year ago this presentation would have been impossible for me; or in the least it would not have been any good. However, I am still growing as a presenter and I look forward to presentations without the PowerPoint because, since I have done it so much, I feel as if the audience will feel as if I am scripted because I know I've done it so much (that's the, "I think therefore you should know" thing getting in the way).

In yesterday's blog I mentioned how bad I felt at the banquet, but this morning I was able to harness those emotions I had for the good because I was able to instantly recall other instances I had in school that made me feel the same way.

I feel this morning's presentation was my best to date. The questions after my 45 minute freestyle presentation were awesome as well. I don't usually boast about comments as typically I find it hard to see the value in what I do as I see it this way, "What's special about it? It's just me talking." but after the severe awkwardness I experienced last weekend I wanted to once again express myself. This morning, in a way, felt like the first time I sat down to write in a way as I took a disorganized symphony of thoughts and feelings and made it into something that could be heard and understood.

When the hour was up I could tell that it was sort of a let down because I think they wanted more. There were many "thank you's" and, "I wish I would have heard you earlier." Of all the comments though the one that will stick with me, and this will stick forever, is one of the last ones as this man came up, shook my hand, and said, "Thank you. You have rekindled my passion in teaching." It was eight years ago this week that I got my diagnosis and I thought my life was over because of it. I was blind to the potential and often times I'm asked that, if I could would I choose not to be on the spectrum, and to that I always say "no." Today that no is louder than ever. I don't know how I do what I do on here and in presentations, but even I can't mistake the profoundness in that teacher's line. It was a long road to get to where I am now, but right this second I feel on top of the world and I wouldn't change one thing about my journey because it was all worth it.

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Banquet Blues

Over the weekend I drove up to Indianapolis for the USAC Night of Champions banquet and the .25 awards ceremony. Friday night was the Night of Champions at the Indiana Roof Ballroom and was one of the hardest functions I've been to in quite some time.

I'm not good at social function as I don't know what to say or even the posture to have. Everything about me in those situations feels wrong and regardless of what I say or how I move it still feels wrong.

I got there early and instantly felt overwhelmed. Over the course of the first hour while I was in the supreme "positional warfare" person after person came up and said "hello" to me and I could not place who they were. I'm used to seeing the kids in driving suits and the parents in, well, whatever it is that they were at the track. Seeing suits and ties gave me no indication as to who they are. You see, I don't look at faces all that often so I have to remember the person through other means and the color of their suits or other things worn at the track are my way, but since those we not being worn I was at a loss. I think I hid it well as people came up to shake my hand, but in my mind I was in a panic trying to remember who, exactly, they were.

Slowly, I started to get angry with myself. "Just be normal... or act normal" is what I kept telling myself but it just wasn't happening. I longed for the days of simply being at the track with flags in hand. There I feel natural and confident. This? This was a nightmare.

The anger continued as I sat down at my table and soon the .25 head scorekeeper and chief steward sat down so this was good as I could finally talk without over thinking as I have talked to them many times throughout the year. Then, three other people that I did not know sat down and I retreated back into my shell of awkwardness.

For another hour I longed for a place that wasn't there. The person beside me to my left tried to joke with me, but I was being rather literal and spent a good portion of the time utterly confused. It may have not shown on the outside, but my internal voice was just yelling at me, "Fool! Fool! Fool!" as I felt like a fool for the awkwardness I was exhibiting.

Over time I retreated into the safe world of my phone. I read irrelevant facebook updates with a profound eagerness as I started 20 different games of chess on the app. I then got a text from my dad that was a picture. The picture was of the first uncorrected proof of the new version of my book coming out April 3rd. As I was posting it to Facebook one of the persons asked me, "Who are you texting away too?" and I mentioned that I was uploading a picture of my book to Facebook.

"A book? Did you write it? What's it about?" were the barrage of questions I got. I don't think it is a big deal, but it seems those questions are always asked when it is ever mentioned that I wrote a book. And, as those questions were asked, the awkwardness vanished and I went into a small presentation Gone was the over-processing and gone was the positional warfare. As if a light switch was flipped I came alive.

For maybe five minutes I was on top of the world. What amazed me was how fast my concepts made sense to them. As the awards presentations began the person to my left said, "Let me guess, as you were talking about your job with TouchPoint and your book you were in Kansas, weren't you?" Oh yes, yes I was and it was those five minutes that saved the night for me. I felt accomplished and forgot about how awful I felt and how awkward I was.

The power of Kansas was felt once again and I can't believe how fast I went from a wreck to beaming with confidence. All it took was one question. I think back to my presentation to 5th graders a couple months ago and the question that was asked of, "Do you think people have, or will, under estimate you because you are on the spectrum?" After that experience Friday night I have to think people will because for the longest time those people at my table saw a confused, silent individual. Outside my comfort zone I am light years away from the image people see when I am in Kansas. See me outside Kansas though and 'm sure person X on the street will under estimate me as first impressions are important and the first impression they will see is a nervous, shaky person that is genuinely uncomfortable. However, get us in our Kansas and you'll see something else.

After those five minutes I had a smile on my face the rest of the night because those five minutes are what I live for. It's one thing to give my presentation to people that are already accustomed to the spectrum, but three strangers at a table at a banquet is special. I don't know if even a year ago I'd have felt comfortable explaining myself and the book as I did, but I do now and even after experiencing the banquet blues I was able to.

So, what started out as a major negative turned positive once again. Also, I love how eager people are to learn about the spectrum that don't really know it. Awareness is on the rise and if I had to endure a banquet each day to reach people I would because for those five minutes I was king of the world... or king of the ballroom... ahem, king of the table? Okay, maybe not any of those things, but whatever it was it was amazing.

Friday, December 9, 2011

I've Had Enough

Dear fellow Saint Louisans,

I've had enough! I can't take it anymore! I've tried to fight it, I've tried to hold my tongue, but I must be heard. What's got me riled up? Is it Albert Pujols heading to the Angels? Is it the proposed toll on I-70? Nope, it's none of those. What it is, well, it is I-64 constantly being called highway 40.

For those of my readers outside the metro area of Saint Louis let me explain. Here is a map of the route of I-64. The interstate goes through the middle of Saint Louis and runs out to Wentzville and I-70. The final portion of I-64 towards I-70 wasn't always called I-64. The portion that runs through the city has been I-64 as long as I have lived there.

Now that you've got a minor history of a highway you may never drive on or much less see, let me tell you why it has me so riled up. I have a rule, and this rule seems to be shared by all road signage in America, and that is that an interstate always takes precedence. That means, say, if the interstate is also a highway, and a road, it should always be referred to by its interstate number. In Saint Louis, when referring to I-64, it is very rarely called I-64 but rather highway 40, or simply, "40" as seen on the left.

Okay, I will give you 40 callers a break as 40 is an older highway and a longer road, but still the interstate number should take priority. Sure, us locals may know what we're talking about, but if someone from out of town is trying to find "40" and all they see on the signs are I-64's they could easily get lost. On top of all this I think MODOT is trying to convert us as the signs that tell us how far the next exit is says "I-64."

So isn't it time to change? I know that's funny coming from me who often says, "change is bad" but this change is okay. It may have been “40” back in the day, but it's bigger and better now. Think of it as it's all grown up now and it's been promoted so it's okay to turn your back on the past.

Okay, I must admit now I feel a little bit better. For years I've heard it and I haven't said anything. And trust me when I say that I truly wanted to say something. When I hear something that I know is wrong, or it should be called something else, it is a reflex for me to say it the right way. I don't try to be rude in correcting, but things need to be right regardless of the importance of whatever fact may be said. 

So, moving forward, I still will bite my tongue when I hear I-64 called "40". I've done my part in the crusade to get interstates the proper treatment. It's a slow movement, and I hope you join it as we can move on with the right names. So yes, I do feel better now.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Memorial Gone

I find it odd that I was going to write about one thing and then someone asked me a question yesterday that sort of tied everything together. To begin, I want to answer a question on here that an officer asked me yesterday. He asked, "Are you aware in social situations when you can't find the words to speak?" I answered something along the lines of mentioning my experience at the police academy last week (last Friday's blog post) and that yes, I am fully aware of when these events happen and they are very uncomfortable and yet, regardless of how much I try, I am unable to break through the wall and just be.

Many times in life I know I may seem cold or uninterested in those around me but most of the time this is just my way with coping with the world. Most people see this persona I have and give up trying to talk to me. There was one person I knew, years ago, and that never gave up. For a couple years he always talked to me, but eight years ago he was killed in a car accident.

I always tried not to think about it. I kept that cold exterior when told about it and very rarely, if ever, spoke about it. Several times I drove by the memorial that was there at the spot of the crash, and I always wondered if I should stop, but I never did. That is until I took a bike ride four months ago.

It was a long bike ride and for one reason or another I felt compelled to finally stop at the memorial and just visit. That ride was filled with a deep sorrow but I felt as if I had no other option.

I'm glad I visited it because yesterday, on my way to the TouchPoint city location, I once again drove down this road and the memorial was gone. No cross, no flowers, nothing. To the rest of the world that now drives by there the memorial is just a memory. I didn't, and still don't, understand this as it is simply gone.

Often times I get asked, "do you have emotions?" and I think that could be the #1 misconception. Beneath my attempt at appearing icy all the time is a depth of emotions. For these there is no filter but at the same time I try to deny that they are there. I think one of the reasons this is is because of the fact that if I express emotions I can't gauge how someone else will react. That's why I found writing because this one-way medium allows me to feel without the fear of an instant conversation about the emotions. With that being so, under my usual unemotional self, seeing the lack of the memorial really bothered me.

This has so many elements in play here that I'm at a loss of what to say. When flooded with emotions this is usually the response and right now I can't make sense of how I feel so I can't give an ending that is worthy for this post because I quite simply don't know what to say.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Passage of Time and Those Whom We See

I was going to write something along this line last week but had too many other things to write and then last night I had such realistic dreams that spurred so much thought that I thought I could combine the two.

First, 10 days ago riding back from my aunt's place in Virginia, we made the annual stop at this 7-11. The morning stop here has been a tradition now for at least six years. Typically we're there before the sun comes up and something like this, something that you may think is simply a trivial stop, for me, is one of the highlights of the trip. Why is it? I have no idea, but it is. Well, perhaps it's simply the tradition of itself that makes it such a sacred time. Whatever the case it is important and I would not feel right at all if we skipped it.

There's more to that stop though and each year I've gone in the same older man is working it. I've said many times I don't remember people in my memories, and I can't recall one bit of info about him right now, but when I see someone again I do recall them. Seeing this man each year is just part of the tradition and while I'm sure, for most people, a nameless person behind the counter is just that, for me the sameness is so important.

Last night, as I mentioned, my dreams were very realistic and as I woke up I was expecting to get ready to go to work. That's not of the norm but I was ready to head to Pioneer Bank and Trust in Maplewood to be a teller. It was the fourth job I had in my life and my dream took me right back to the winter of 2002. In my dream I was right back in my sensory deprivement chamber (aka the drive-thru in the parking lot) ready to take on the business of deposits.

The dream was more than just about the job, but oddly enough it was about the people. There was a routine with the various businesses that made deposits and those people grew to know me. It was an odd dream as it felt real and it felt as if today was December 7, 2002. Again, as with the 7-11 clerk, the people were more than just a bank account number, but it provided a consistent stream in the chaotic stream that is time.

This morning I did go to my real job and had a 8AM presentation to police officers from the City of Saint Louis going through CIT training. As I drove there though I was lost in the confusing thought of time. I used to get lost in this daily before I had direction in my life with my job, but I thought back to the days at the bank and how that was 9 years ago. Nine! Where did the time go? With my concept of time, when I experience something or am somewhere, such as the 7-11 in the pre-dawn hours in Virginia, it's like the passage of time ceases. Each time in 7-11 it's like I never left. Even though a year has passed it is like all those times are back-to-back. With my dream this morning it was like 2002 was now.

I have a busy rest of my day and I hope it will distract me from the crushing though of time. When one becomes time aware things seem harder and more difficult to understand. Also, I am thinking, "Wow, that was nine years ago, but where will I be in nine more years?" And also I think back to those I knew at the bank and I wonder where they are now. And also I think to that clerk at the 7-11; will he still be there next year? I'm sure he has no idea that I exist, but for me I'm fully aware of that he does. We on the spectrum may often appear aloof and uninterested in those around us but trust me when I say we do notice and we do care. Those whom we see in life may never know it, but we do care that you're there even if you don't know we do. Perhaps it is simply that we don't like change, for me, I think, it's more than that. Of course with the passage of time everything changes and that brings me back to square one of wondering what all those people I knew back at Pioneer Bank and Trust are doing now, and I wonder what the people of today in my life will be doing nine years from now as I wonder back to nine years ago.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Hyper Kansas in the Poconos of iRacing

From time to time in my life I can experience something so amazing that it goes from Kansas to a Hyper-Kansas. If you are new to my blog please visit this glossary to get the definition of what Kansas is. Anyway, this past week my experience on iRacing went to the amazing heights of a hyper-Kansas.

Last week iRacing introduced a new series in the Indycar Fixed series. I committed to the full purchase of iRacing when they announced that they were putting the Indycar in the game, but once I started racing it I quickly learned just how mechanically challenged I am as I tried to figure out how to make a setup for the car. Honestly, for me, looking at the setup screen is like trying to read a paragraph that is comprised of 30 different languages.

Because of all that I never had a setup that could go out and simply win. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoyed the racing and I felt like the massive underdog using what used to be referred as, "the welfare setup" (that's a setup that someone made that can compete but most likely won't win) but I always wanted to be able to prove to everyone that I can drive. With the fixed series I got my chance as all drivers are running the same setup so the only difference in speed is the talent of the driver.

From the first race I was in heaven. The track last week was at Pocono, which isn't the best track in terms of side-by-side racing, but nonetheless I had many close battles. Each race was a treat and if I was not giving a presentation or at the office I was counting down the minutes to the next race as there was a race every two hours.

Everything else ceased to matter and this weekend saw me drive and drive and drive. I tried to tear myself away but I couldn't. The only thing that mattered was that next race.

I hear this story a lot from parents at my presentations in that once something gets to that hyper-Kansas state it is so hard to break the attention towards whatever it is that is providing the hyper-Kansas state. Here's the thing, when something is gets to that level it is like my mind is on rails that I can't get off of. On Sunday I kept getting hungrier and hungrier and I kept delaying ordering food because I didn't want it to interrupt the next race. Eventually I got to the point of being too hungry to race so that's when I ordered. I was fully aware that I was getting to that point, but during a hyper-Kansas situation that ability to not only know what is coming, but to act upon it seems to diminish.

Over the course of the week I entered 27 races, finished in the top five 24 times, got wrecked twice, and won 9 races. Two other drivers had 20 starts so by a good margin I raced the most. Each of those races was a time of euphoric bliss. Even when the races were under the yellow flag, and trust me there were a lot of yellow flags, (iRacing is a simulation in the truest of forms with pace cars, yellow flags, and we the drivers can even file protests to those who break the rules of the road) but even under yellow I was enjoying every second of it because my mind was just fully engrossed in all that was going on.

The state of a hyper-Kansas is rare. Thinking back on the year I believe there's only been one other occurrence and that was when Bejeweled Blitz came out and I was making my run to #1 on the leader boards. After a month of hard fought battles I made it and am still there to this day.

This year the hyper-Kansases have been things that have been competitive, but it doesn't have to be a competition to get to hyper-Kansas level. In 2009 there was a spurt where I became enthralled with learning about North Korea, and then as fast as that came a month later I could care less on the subject. A couple months after that the game of chess became the subject of my hyper-focus and I spent all my time on the Xbox playing Chessmaster Live. Truly, all my time.

I want to add that there is no effort on my part to choose what does and does not become a hyper-Kansas. Obviously, an activity in an already defined interest doesn't hurt, but sometimes things outside that normal field of interest can occur. However, why one thing becomes a hyper and another doesn't is still a mystery to me. Also, the mystery remains as to why they eventually end as it isn't like I stand up and state, "Well, this was a good run, but I've had enough." Truly, it can end just as suddenly as it can on-set.

As for this week, hyper-Kansas is taking a week off as the fixed Indycar series returns next Monday evening and the track is Kentucky Speedway. I've looked at all the other series I could run this week but nothing sparks my interest. This is another downside to hyper-Kansas; once supreme bliss is felt it is hard to accept doing something that isn't as rewarding or exciting in my mind. I mean, if you could have seen some of the battles I had with some of the other driver... one race Travis Powell and myself swapped the lead five time in two laps. It was amazing, especially the way... Sorry, it's going to be a long week without all this and for this week all I've got are the memories of last week, but in six days I could very well be right back in the amazing confines of hyper-Kansas.

Monday, December 5, 2011


As if I hadn't had enough to write about this year this had to happen. Saturday night I returned to my car in a parking lot to find this:

That "X" is right above my door handle on the driver's door. When I saw it I was on the phone and it was like a fuse being lit within. "This is my car! Who would do something like that?"

It took a short time, maybe three minutes, before the anger explosion hit. In my mind I could not see the fact that it may be able to be repaired. The only thing that was, was the fact that my car was now a pile of junk because some yahoo wanted to be a punk.

Had someone keyed my previous car I don't think I'd have been as upset. You see, the car I got is more than a car to me. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I'm materialistic, but I had never been in a position in my life to buy anything major and this car was my first major purchase of my life, and now someone had the audacity to put an "X" on it.

The rest of the weekend I was in a bitter mood; so much so that I didn't even have any urge to leave my place yesterday. There's a fear now that this has happened. Since it has happened once it will happen again. But here's the thing I am caught up on, why would someone do this in the first place?

I used to be afraid of everyone. It's true, somewhere early on in my writing I had a sentence something along the lines of this, "People are scary because most people are evil and because of that people are not worth knowing." That was my old belief and in my presentations and travels I have learned that my old belief is wrong. However, it only takes one. Yes, it only takes one person's childish actions to bring upon a avalanche of fear and second guessing.

Had this happened five or so years ago, and let's say I had this car, I  very well might have tossed in the towel as I would have convinced myself that this proved my belief beyond a reasonable doubt.

I've come to believe that the foundation for my former fears regarding people was the unpredictability of them. Since I could never gauge how people would act or react this made the world an "evil" place. I've grown though and while I am still upset about this "X", and one person jokingly told me that, "X must mark the spot" I don't think it is going to skew my world view.

Who did this? I'm not sure; I could go to the security desk and file a complaint, which is lengthy, and then they may review the tapes in the future and that is a whole lot of work to accomplish nothing. Besides, if I would eventually see the video it would make this person real. Right now there is no association with them, just a disembodied being that put an "X" on my car. If I were to see the person walk up and willfully mar my vehicle, well, perhaps then my world view would change and I would slowly go back to the abyss where the world is a dark and scary place. Because I don't want to go back, and filing a report like that, in all honesty, would be about as bad as the "X" itself, I just want to say to the person who keyed my car, "Shame on you! It's actions like yours that used to keep a person like me at home scared. It might just be a minor case of vandalism, but it's more than that to me. However, you aren't going to win this time. Today, you probably feel cool, complete, and accomplished for your action on the other side of the law, and if so congratulations on the lack of a conscience. Myself, I'm not going to slow down, my time for being bitter is over and all I've got to say, once again, is shame on you."

Friday, December 2, 2011

Life in the Corner

It's been a phenomenal run! The past two months I've been doing presentation after presentation and also flagged the largest kart race in the world. My confidence in doing those things is rising each time and I now have no level of "butterflies" or anxiety before presentations now. In fact, for someone new to my blog, the past two months may be confusing and they may have even asked, "Is this person really on the spectrum?"

Today the run ended. I've said many times that when I'm in my element I can forget that I'm on the spectrum, in a way. It isn't something that is forgotten, exactly, but the daily reminders aren't there. Today I was the reminder was obvious.

This morning, the Saint Louis Police Academy had an appreciation breakfast for those who have volunteered this past year. I've been to the academy no less than 50 times to do my police presentation so I know the building. Today, however, there was no presentation and no "alias" (see my glossary page on the upper right side of the bar if you don't know what that means... At least I hope I included it on that page!) so I was just myself.

The starting point was classroom one, which is the room I've given the vast majority of my presentations. If anything, you could say I became the speaker I am today in that room because my first 20 or so presentations were in that room. Typically, it is easy to give a presentation in that room as I walk in, with confidence, and take control of the room without any hesitation. Today was not a typical day.

I walked into the room and there were maybe 50 or so people there and the seats were going fast. Usually I walk into that room with firm direction and no hesitation. Today I looked about as lost as a person can look indoors. I haven't mentioned it in quite some time on here, but the "positional warfare" was wreaking havoc on my movements. On the outside I may have looked unemotional, but on the inside a storm of anxiety and fear was raging.

After some tense seconds, I finally found a seat that had no one sitting either one seat left or right of it and then a few moments after that it was time to go to the room that had breakfast.

To better explain the breakfast room I did a little diagram on MS Paint. Before you see it I do want to mention that I did spend a "little" time on it and that I also flunked 1st grade art. If I had spent a lot of time on this minor art project the result would have been the same. Also, it's been a while since I did a diagram (I thought just two days ago I need another MS Paint picture) so I wanted an excuse to make one so here goes:
The entry to the room was above the blue box (see, I did say a "little" time) on the left and the blue  boxes represent where the breakfast buffet was. I was about the 10th person into the room so after I got my food the majority of tables (the black O's) were open.

I noticed several people that I recognized, but I did not say a word to them. I got my food and made a bee line to the red O and sat in the chair where the X is. I was as far away from everyone as possible and I had the tactical advantage of the corner.

During positional warfares I often try to isolate myself and corners of rooms are safe havens. Also, I did everything I could do to put on a front of, "don't interrupt me" as I looked with aimless intent at my cell phone. Occasionally I would look at the line of those waiting to get food and I would look around at the tables filling up as people talked with each other in a natural and casual form. I said quietly to myself, "How do they do that?" as I looked in befuddlement.

At that point in time I wanted to be a part of that world. Here I was, stuck in the corner, almost shaking due to the anxiety of such an open ended situation. Usually, I am completely content and happy with my isolation in my private life, but this morning I had one of those times that I could just break through and be a part of the typical social word.

I felt lonely in that corner and I ate fast and got back to the classroom as fast as I could where once again I put myself into a box of isolation. I made no eye contact to save myself from a conversation and in the space I was in I tried to make myself as small as possible as not to be seen. I don't think I had an expression of pain or discomfort, but the emotions on the inside were of such that I could barely contain them.

As the time came from the appreciation certificates to be handed out I wanted to anywhere but there. Where I wanted to be was, perhaps, to be giving a presentation or commanding the flags at a race track; somewhere where the spectrum is something I am talking about and not experiencing in such a gigantic way.

From the academy I drove to my office at TouchPoint which is where I'm writing this now. I've had a little over an hour since the breakfast and have been thinking hard about the last line of the last paragraph. I was starting to fall into the trap of forgetting who I am and just seeing who I am not. While I would love to be a part of that world and at times, maybe, not be so alone, it just isn't who I am at this point in time. I... I am on the spectrum and there's no changing that. That being so I am the community education specialist for TouchPoint and my job is to get as many people as possible to A. be aware of the signs of the spectrum and B. understand the why's and how it feels to be on the spectrum.

I've gone a long time since a socially difficult event happened to me and when I go a long time without it I can, as I said, somewhat forget that I'm on the spectrum. Yes, I talk about it each and every time I give a presentation, but in those it's sometimes like recalling a historic event that isn't felt. Now, however, once again I felt just how strong of emotions can be felt and just how difficult a simple spurt of eye contact in a hall or sitting down in a soon to be crowded lunch room can be.

Today, I experienced life in the corner and during that time I wanted to be anyone else but myself. I was alone and because of the, "everything is now" concept we on the spectrum can have I forgot who I was and what I have done. It is in these times that understanding is key and from once again experiencing it I feel better equipped to talk about it on here and in my presentations and for that I am completely happy being me.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Effects of Now (and a tree that bears no relevance to the 1st topic)

This year has been a non-stop roller coaster of events and the past month-and-a-half have been rather difficult. Add on top of that the fact that the rerelease of Finding Kansas (you can preorder today by clicking the new book cover on the right side!) is just four months four days away and the amount of pressure I'm feeling is up there.

With that being said, you may think this is bad for me. While I have be somewhat depressed and sometimes in a snappy mood, the effects are entirely awful. Take for instance the past two days on this blog. The last two post may have been my best two-day post combo ever. The structure of those two posts came during a real dark time on Monday.

To be honest, my book was written from the depths of sadness. When I feel bad the good happens. Heck, all this year it's been bad event after bad event (two flat tires come to mind as well as jury duty and the fan favorite of the 100 gate dash) but each time I write a work of art.

However, the pressure the pressure I'm feeling now is new and different. It's always on my mind. Will my book make it's way into people's homes? Will people know my story and understand the spectrum just a bit more? This question is asked in my mind 10,000 times a day and because of that my processing ability for other things is much lower than it used to be.

Because of that, I am becoming somewhat forgetful. I usually won't forget anything, but in just the past two weeks or so I've had a string of things forgotten. On Sunday, leaving my aunt's place in Virginia, I forgot my cell phone charger. I told myself not to forget it and a few minutes later I forgot it. Then, on the next day, I was leaving my house to go to the bank and then bowling and I got halfway to the bank, about 13 minutes from home, only to realize I had to ask a very scary question, "Um, where's my wallet?" It was the first time in my life that I forgot my wallet. I don't forget things and am obsessive at all times making sure I have my phone, keys, and wallet.

I also am forgetting that I am in possession of something that isn't mine" Rob's HDMI cable that he left at my new home. I have a DVD of photos he took while in America and I need to send those two items to him and I have forgotten each and every day. By the time I get home after work I am at a point of having no energy to go back out. Each time I arrive home I get angry because I said I'd send it a month ago and yet there it still sits at my place and with each day prior to today I forgot it yet again. Sorry Rob, it will get sent before 2013, I promise.

So yeah, those are the effects of now. I 'm glad I can turn frustration and sadness into these works of writing art, but I do know the pressure I feel right now is higher than ever because I am not one to forget things. One person told me, "Well, that's just called getting old" but I refuse to believe that this begins at the age of 28... right? RIGHT?!?!

So, onto a totally unrelated topic, last night was the annual Festival of Trees gala which benefits TouchPoint. I'm not sure the final total raised, but it was a fantastic total. Anyway, halfway through the evening I was alerted to the fact that there was a tree there that might as well have had my name on it. One of the things of the evening is that there are items which can be bid on in a silent auction, and this tree did truly appear to have been custom made for me. I placed a bid, and won, and this following picture needs no more words: