A Friendly User’s Guide, Can You Read a Map? and Life Lesson# 384

 

 

doing it wrong

You’re doing it wrong…

I can’t really portray myself as the “typical poster child” for people with autism.  Even after 10 years of knowing that my strange wiring has a name (whether you call it Asperger’s Syndrome or High Functioning Autism or just plain Being Screwy,) I have a hard time wrapping my head around those descriptives.  I don’t want to be labeled, and I don’t want to use a label as an excuse.  I hate to admit weakness or vulnerability.  My standards are higher than that- but reality is what it is all the same.  I have to find ways to cope with the anxiety, the emotional disconnects, and the physical ineptitude that comes with the package.  Some days are better than others, but it does get a bit easier with age and time- and by being around those who tolerate my eccentricities.

Most people who know me aren’t really aware that I’m HFA, or have Asperger’s Syndrome, or whatever you want to call it.  I’m fine with that, because I have spent decades of my life trying to navigate and function in the “normal” world.  Most of the time I can play the “normal” role pretty well, and I’ve learned to either avoid the things that make me look awkward or find ways to deal with them.  I also blend into the scenery very well, and if I don’t want to be noticed, I’m not going to be.

albert-einstein-2

Many people associate autism spectrum disorders with the cognitively challenged or with “idiot savants.”  While one may be both cognitively challenged and autistic, one can be autistic and not cognitively challenged at all.  (Think Albert Einstein or Thomas Edison here, both brilliant innovators and thinkers who were most likely somewhere on the spectrum.)  People with high functioning autism can (and often) do things that the “normals” do-get educated, hold gainful employment, have and raise children, and integrate into the rest of society.   We might appear to be eccentric or odd or awkward, (and we might even fall down a lot,) but we can and do function.  My road map for getting around in this world looks a lot different than yours, but I can make it to the same destinations.  Sometimes I can get there faster, but other times I have to take the scenic route.  I have to navigate with the map I’ve been given, because it’s the only map I have.

Common knowledge paints a  bleak picture of autism- the non-verbal child rocking back and forth, unaware of the world around him or her, rather than the tech geek who might not be a huge fan of socializing but who can design and program and get lost in virtual worlds.  Sometimes society sees autism as the image of the “Rainman” character, or as the guy who can play Mozart from memory but can’t control his bowels.  The key here is that autism is a spectrum. Some people with autism have incredibly high IQs and extreme cognitive ability.  Others are more in the “normal” intelligence range, and some are profoundly mentally challenged.  No two people on the spectrum are alike.

All I can say to parents of an autistic child is that there is good life to be had past that diagnosis, and a lot of that good life is what you create it to be.  It’s not the end of the world, especially when you refuse to accept excuses and when you think outside the label.  In some ways I think my parents’ ignorance of autism worked in my favor, because I was not indulged, mollycoddled or otherwise given a pass on acquiring necessary life skills.  I was actually held to a higher standard in most things when compared with my “normal” sisters because I was a voracious reader, had a broad vocabulary, and was capable of academic achievement in many areas.

read all day

My parents didn’t know anything about autism, but they knew there were things wrong with me: I could read- anything and everything- before my second birthday, without any coaching or lessons.  They didn’t know about hyperlexia- and why should they, when hyperlexia affects 1 in about 50,000 children, and 75% of those are male. They were dealing with one in 200,000.  Hyperlexia is a condition exclusive to HFA children, which is another fact they had no way of knowing back in the early 1970s.

I was born in fragile health and had a litany of respiratory and other health problems in early childhood.  I was also born as the third child in as many years.  Too-close birth spacing, and poor health in infancy and early childhood are associated with an increased likelihood of autism spectrum disorders.  It probably didn’t help matters much that my oldest sister (who wasn’t quite three years old at the time) tried to suffocate me with a pillow the day I came home from the hospital.  (There are more than one reasons that my son is an only child.)

My parents knew my gross motor skills were abysmal, and even sent me to physical therapy for quite some time.  I have very poor balance, as well as severe myopia, and even with vision correction I still have a difficult time with visual-spatial tasks that involve gross motor skills.  I was eight years old before I could balance well enough to ride a bicycle.

kids_on_diamondback_bicycles

My parents knew I was deathly afraid of almost everything- a change in routine, strange people, flying insects, you name it, except for dogs.  Why I was so comfortable with dogs I’ll never know, but I’m still more comfortable with dogs than with people.

I was prone to panic attacks, and I was taunted and beaten daily by other children (especially my oldest sister) and pretty much was a basket case spaz most of the time- when I wasn’t buried in a book.  I had my obsessions with different and often unusual subjects- dogs, murder mysteries, rock and heavy metal music, classical music, all things automotive, and 20th century history.

Though there were bright spots, for the most part, between the anxiety and (later) depression, my childhood was scary as hell.

Deer-in-the-Headlights

 

Even though the tendency to live as a perpetual deer in the headlights becomes less and less marked as I age, anxiety and fear still dominate and define my emotional life.  That may sound bleak, but I am not a person who is dominated by emotions.   I am governed much more by what I think than by what I feel, which is probably the only reason why I can get out of bed in the morning and step out the door and function without completely freaking out.  I do have emotions, but they have to be filtered through and processed through my mind before I can deal with them.  Out of necessity this makes me a delayed reactor.  I can get through a loved one’s death and funeral and all that and not appear to be fazed by it- but a week or a month or even 20 years later the emotions pour out- some trigger or event or visual sets off the process and I find myself mourning a long ago passing or reliving a long ago trauma.  That sucks, but I don’t wear my emotions out for the world to see.  I have a hard enough time figuring them out for myself.

I don’t like being physically touched, especially without warning or by strangers.   I am not in any way a “hugger.”  I will hug when it is socially necessary, but I’m not going to be the one starting it, and the person I’m hugging better be an immediate family member or a very close friend.  My discomfort with physical contact might go back to my sisters and their friends’ constantly tormenting me because they knew if they did poke, prod, grab or otherwise contact my person that they would elicit a response.  I had a most overpowering and piercing scream that was loud, but not quite loud enough to overpower Mom turning the TV up all the way.

old lady tv

 

Having live, stinging insects thrown in my hair didn’t help alleviate my disdain of human contact either.  I’m not sure if my distaste for physical touch came first or if that distaste was created by the indignities of getting punched, slapped, stepped on and/or the challenge of removing live wasps from my hair without getting stung.   I had very long, very thick hair as a child, which made removing foreign objects from it challenging at best.  That’s part of the reason why my hair is cut short today.  It’s easier to color and it survives my early morning swimming much better too.  It’s worth the temporary distress every month or so to keep my hair short.  Even now, a routine hair cut or Dr. exam is not my idea of a good time, although I know both are harmless, temporary and necessary.

I have a difficult time with eye contact also.  In a way it’s good that I stopped wearing contacts a few years ago and I had to go back to glasses.  I never liked the coke bottle thick glasses I had to wear as a kid, but the glasses available today with the plastics aren’t nearly as funky looking.  Glasses give me a little something to hide behind.  I am awkward at best with eye contact because it does not come naturally for me.  Neither does body language.  I have to consciously think about those things and what  non-verbal messages I’m sending when I’m carrying on a conversation out in public.  I don’t always get it right.  I don’t get it right a lot of the time, even at my age.  “Normal” people get non-verbal communication instinctively, but it’s a mystery to me.  Non-verbals are one reason why I prefer to communicate in writing.  I am much more comfortable staying in the dimension of verbal language.

The Written Word

 

I love Cliff’s Notes.  Yes, I read the books too, but sometimes highlights are great as a refresher.  If I were to write a sort of user’s guide to dealing with me and not being too perplexed while doing so, the Cliff’s Notes version would go sort of like this:

If I’m not looking you in the eye, it’s probably because I forgot I needed to.

I trip and fall easily, so if you notice me hanging onto the rail, or avoiding activities that require balance and coordination, remember, my gross motor skills are rather poor.

Don’t touch me without fair warning- including lint picking and tag stuffing.  I would like to be enlightened that I have a tag sticking out, or dog hair on my sleeve, but please let me fix it or remove it.

Don’t be alarmed when I fall off the planet from time to time.  I don’t need to be connected to the rest of the world 24/7, and I do disengage from time to time to help preserve my sanity.

Don’t take offense when I take things literally.  I appreciate sarcasm as an art form, and I have a wicked twisted sense of humor, but please don’t intentionally make yourself hard to read. 

Remember that I’m very poor with non-verbal language, both sending and translating.  Say what you mean and mean what you say.

Don’t be surprised when I go down a different tangent.  My wiring is different, and sometimes I can associate completely bizarre and different things (that make perfect sense to me) but that don’t make sense to other people.

Please give me some respite from screaming kids, demanding people, and from constantly being “on stage.” I can cope with the “normals,” and I navigate better than I probably should in the “normal” world, but I am still a traveler, not a native.

My primary emotion is “fear.”  Thirty years ago it used to be “terror,” so this is improving, but still…thank God for Prozac.

pills

There’s a pill for that…maybe?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Minimalist Approach, Sweat Tsunami, and What Really Matters

fail

And people wonder why I don’t trust the media.

The more I read in the news, or worse, the more TV news I’m subjected to, the more I discover that most of it is not only insanely trite and boring, but also not very applicable to me.

Kilauea-Volcano

Unless that volcano is erupting in my back yard, or my bed is above that 500 foot-across sink hole, I’m inclined not to give a rat’s ass.  I really don’t need to know about it, either.

I will be so glad when the Y pool is opened back up again (this is week 2 of 2 weeks of scheduled maintenance) for two very good reasons.

scandal-abc

I hate TV news.  I’m starting to get Don Henley’s point.  Even if I am listening to my headphones, the various news networks are plastered on the TV screens in the machine room, and they’re captioned. That wouldn’t be so bad, except I am compelled to read anything in print.  (This is one of the things about hyperlexia that can really suck- that compulsion to read everything that’s in print.)  For me, visual always trumps auditory.   What I hear never drowns out what I see.

I am coming very close to hitting my personal vapidity overload threshold.  I could care less whose school is on delay, what cologne my dogs should be wearing this season, and the less I know about Obama’s vacations and Obama’s flagrant violations of the Constitution,  the more sane I can try to remain.

fundraiser

Obama is thoroughly corrupt and loathsome.  I don’t need to keep on observing the media’s attempts to make him look good.

There really isn’t much in the morning news that has any sort of relevance in my life.  Now I know why I don’t watch it voluntarily.  I know most of the normals watch TV news- which is why it’s on during the morning workout hours- but the way I’m wired there are certain things I can only take in tiny doses, such as the Kardashians, gay men who try to tell me how I should dress, and natural disasters in divers parts of the world.  I get what news I really have to have on a need to know basis, usually online.  That minimalist strategy helps me turn down the mental noise.  Why should I get my undies in a bunch over things I have no control over?

gay fashion

No self respecting straight man would be seen dressed like these two- not even on Halloween.

Even though I have my coping strategies, being on the spectrum makes it easy for me to overload and get overwhelmed and depressed, so I have to make a conscious effort to try to be somewhat careful what I load up in my head.  It either has to be practical, or at least funny.

sweaty

The other thing I sort of dislike about working out on the elliptical machine vs. swimming laps in the pool is I hate sweating and I hate being hot.  After 40 minutes on that machine,  my clothes are completely soaked and one can actually wring the sweat out of them which is absolutely disgusting.  Even though my morning workouts are always followed by a thorough, insanely soapy, and ultimately freezing cold shower, that icky sticky sweaty feeling is nasty while it lasts.  Not to mention my clothes- they go directly in the wash when I get home.

I see people wearing workout clothes for more than one day at a time and I sincerely hope that either a.) they don’t sweat like I do, or b.) they’re washing that stuff out every night.  I’m not OCD or a germophobe- at least not to extremes- but my workout clothes are absolutely unwearable after one workout until they’re washed again.

Body-Solid-Elliptical

40 minutes of exercise is 40 minutes of exercise, but it’s a lot more pleasant in the pool.  At least then all I have to wash off is the chlorine.

I am thankful to be able to have a Y membership, don’t get me wrong, but it can be frustrating when I have to shift to a different plan.  I don’t mind doing the elliptical now and then as a change of pace, but every day, and in the summer- not so much.  In the middle of winter it might not be so bloody hot.

At least I’m working out. I don’t look like the buff chick on the machine up there but at least I don’t look like this:

very-fat-woman-eating_130682670469

Ignorant and Blithely Oblivious, Part Two

uselessbox

I gotta love this Plastic Jesus guy for this particular prank.

I have to wonder how many people tried to buy the Useless Plastic Box.  I can just imagine the look on the Best Buy Team Member‘s face when he/she got questions on that one.  Then again, where I live, I’d be happy to find any retail store with a Team Member who a.) speaks English as a first language, and b.) actually gives a rat’s ass about the poor suckers who buy their crap.

can't touch

The greater question would be, “Who would want to?”

I also have to wonder about the WalMart creatures.  I know it’s not polite to make fun of other people’s poor clothing choices especially when those choices appear to be motivated by extreme drug abuse and/or profound brain damage, but it is funny.  I freely admit that I don’t score high in “ability to empathize with others” at times.  Appearing in public looking like a stoned and deranged circus clown (no offense intended to actual circus clowns) should invite derision as far as I’m concerned, not only from me, but from society at large.

back fat

These two could use a rear view mirror.

Speaking of society at large, we seem to have grown a substantial “Emperor’s New Clothes” mentality.  When you know what you’re seeing all around you is completely ridiculous, uncalled for, trite, and without substance, but you’re afraid to speak out about it and call it for what it is, you end up with wannabe vapid figureheads in lieu of leaders.

My question is, how deep do you have to be mired in denial to fail to see that the gutless wonders in government and in the public sphere at large are devoid of substance and incapable of leadership?

Weiner4Mayor

Need I say more?

How long does it take to understand that there are moral absolutes just as there are physical and material absolutes?

I’d also like to know, while I’m at it, why it’s OK for black thugs to victimize and kill other black people, which happens hundreds of times a day, and that gets a pass from the media, law enforcement and the “leaders” of the black community, but it’s positively offensive for a white (or Hispanic) guy to defend himself against a black thug when he fears for his life?  Where’s Al Sharpton and/or Jesse Jackson speaking out against black on black violence?

Don’t get me wrong, violence and thuggery are equally wrong and I don’t give a rat’s ass what race the perpetrator happens to be.  How about looking at the crime and not the color of the perpetrator’s skin?  Why is there some kind of crazy “affirmative action” that gives black perpetrators a pass?

affirmative-action-should-abolished-obama-politics-1343963503

You want true equality, then stop giving anyone of any race preferential treatment because of race!

It amazes me still as well that the most adamant critics of capital punishment are the staunchest supporters of abortion on demand.  I don’t get this “logic:” Kill and brutally dismember the innocent for being inconvenient, but let’s all shed some crocodile tears for some unrepentant jackwagon axe murderer who slaughtered eighteen shoppers in a convenience store in a fit of drug-fueled rage.   Let’s give the axe murderer three hots and a cot, cable TV, and a free education for his trouble. Give me a break.  Public execution was a deterrent against violent crime and swift public execution for those convicted of egregious capital crimes needs to make a comeback.

capitalpunishment11

And murderers and child molesters too! In public!

When I was growing up there were Things You Just Don’t Do. Those things were forbidden not because they were dangerous things, but because they were disrespectful.  Walking on people’s graves, for instance. It wasn’t cool to be trampling all over someone’s Aunt Sadie’s final resting place.   Eating or drinking stuff in the store before you pay for it, (still a pet peeve of mine when someone is letting their rug rat eat out of a box of not-yet-paid-for-snacks,) or failing to clean your plate at dinner if you had been invited to someone’s house to eat as a guest.  Even if what was being served was positively vile and/or would make you violently ill.

nasty dinner

Yep.  The metal ring too.

Many of the Things You Just Don’t Do had to do with behavior in church.  As Mom is and was a very strict old-school Catholic, if you missed any part of the Catholic calisthenics during Mass you were wide open for swift retribution ranging from a relatively subtle Vulcan Death Grip to being yanked out of church by the hair and getting a good whacking on the stairs.  You did not forget to bless yourself with the holy water.  You did not forget to genuflect in front of the altar before sitting down.  You said all the responses at the proper times.  You sang all the hymns.  You sat quietly during the homily and did not occupy oneself by doodling on the missal.  You did not get a pass on any of these things even at age two or three.  The Catholics (ironically enough) don’t believe in having an nursery where you can take infants and toddlers during worship.  A good Catholic mother takes those rug rats to Mass from day one and makes them mind in church during Mass no matter what.  Up to and including flogging their offspring to get the point across.

Mother of God

I don’t condone praying to saints- but I would have to have added: “That Mom doesn’t go over the deep end when she beats us!”

I can sort of understand Mom’s obsessive detail to our behavior in church because it taught me that God is watching- but He’s not just watching to make sure a scared little kid is doing the Catholic calisthenics the right way.  I learned about the wrath of God long before I discovered His mercy.  There’s something to be said for that in a way, but it makes it a bit more difficult later in life to be merciful, to be forgiving, and to try to see the other side.  I’m not very good at it.

Voice

voice1

I understand the mechanics – to a degree.

God has a sense of humor.  Many people on the autistic spectrum struggle with language, especially with making one’s use of language audience appropriate. As a hyperlexic I deal with verbal language much more easily than many people on the spectrum, but I still have my limitations.  I understand what I mean to say and I understand the vocabulary I use, but not everyone else does.  I prefer to communicate in writing for this reason.  Writing allows me to organize my thoughts more effectively and to communicate more clearly.  Writing also takes away that awkward non-verbal factor that can distract and vex me as well.   I talk with people all day on the phone (again, don’t have to deal much in the non-verbal there) but when the day is done I really don’t have much left to say.  I’m usually all talked out by noon, especially here lately that I’m stuck doing two people’s jobs again, so I’m craving my solitary time away from the idiots and inquiring minds.

chatty_kathy

Call me back when you know what the hell you want, dipshit…

The humor in this is that somehow I ended up with a loud, resonant speaking voice that carries, and a broad (almost four octave) vocal range.  I studied classical voice for a number of years, and was even the lead singer in a heavy metal band for awhile.  The two are not nearly as far apart as most might think, and classical technique will keep you from destroying your vocal cords.   When I was in high school I performed a capella in a hall that seats 1,000 without amplification.  The people in the back could hear just fine.  Oh, yes, you bet your sweet bippy. In spite of my bad sinuses and history of bronchitis and pneumonia, I can project.  Just ask my son.

Even though I can communicate relatively articulately (especially when non-verbals are out of the equation) every morning I have to fight the temptation to simply choose not to communicate.  With anyone (except maybe the dogs and cats, because they can’t fend for themselves, because they don’t have thumbs.) Definitely not with humans.

I don’t know if it’s an Asperger’s thing or just my own personal frustration with dealing with people in general.  I’m not specifically incensed with stupid people or angry people or people who want stuff, although I very seldom speak with anyone that isn’t in at least one of those categories.  I pretty much don’t want to talk to anyone.  I especially don’t want to have to fulfill anyone’s request, placate anyone’s anger, or explain the obvious to the stupid for awhile, but I will have to start right in again in the morning, just like Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the hill every morning only for it to roll back down to the foot of the hill to start all over again.

homerchokebart

There are too many times when I’m afraid to use my voice.  Too often I stay silent either out of self preservation, fear or expediency.  My own cynicism and sense of “why does it matter anyway,” keeps me from saying what I should when I should speak out.

When my emotions kick in – especially when I am angry, insulted or outraged, I lose what eloquence I thought I may have had.  At that point my silence is a result of not finding the words, of not being able to express my loathing, fear or outrage in a coherent and logical way.  The voice loses its connection with my rational mind, and a breathless, mindless silence is the result.

I guess if I were to continue on the cynical rant, I might as well be resigned to the fact that since nobody gives a rat’s ass about my opinion except me, then why bother sharing it?

It might be funny.  It might be twisted.  Somebody might get some entertainment value out of the things I say.  Maybe.

Today I got to see yet another medical specialist- an endocrinologist- to try to figure out why my blood sugar is so damned hard to control even though I’m trying to do all the “right” things.  Of course he took more blood and pee and he’s going to do more tests the other doctors didn’t do, etc.  This Dr. thinks I could have a thyroid and/or adrenal issue that’s playing into my sugar control as well as the lingering fatigue and the depressive funk that just won’t go away.  I’m not holding my breath.

I’m thankful I can communicate.  Sometimes it’s everything I can do to communicate- but God had a sense of humor when he gave me a voice.

Belling the Cat, Parents and Children, and the Virtual Graveyard

bell the cat

Jezebel is not happy with me this morning.  Not at all.  But I did level the playing field between her and Fanny.

Cats generally despise collars, and it takes awhile for them to get used to them.  Isabel never would wear a collar.  She was too good at removing them, and at some point several years ago I gave up.  Isabel’s almost 15 years old.  She has no interest in actually going outside anyway, so collaring and belling her is sort of pointless.  Miz Izz is quite content to lounge in the window sill, enjoying the climate control as she watches the birds and other little critters of nature.  She didn’t get to be an old fossil by being stupid.  F.B. is the same way- I’ve never tried collaring F.B., and it probably wouldn’t make much sense because she is even less interested in the great outdoors than Miz Izz.  F.B. has got to be the most sanguine cat on earth.

I put a collar, tag and bell on Fanny after her brief, unauthorized forays out in the great wide open.  Both times I found her large, frightened carcass under the dump truck on the body shop lot.  At least with the bell on, I have a chance of hearing Fanny if she tries to sneak out the door.

bff

Jezebel spent a good portion of the evening trying to run away from the bell.  Hopefully by tonight she will realize the bell’s attached, and hopefully she will begin to understand the more you move the more noise it makes.   I’m hoping she will chill some, and at least partially forgive me.  I’d put a collar on her much earlier to get her used to wearing one, but she is so tiny that I have the collar adjusted almost as small as it will go as it is.   I thought about those teeny collars for ferrets or the collars for ankle biter dogs, but cat collars are specifically made so if a cat gets tangled and is dangling from something the collar will release before the cat is asphyxiated.

bad kitty

Jezebel doesn’t really try to get outside, but she does torment Fanny every chance she gets.  Fanny- all 17# of her- is a wide target.  Fanny’s not only slow, she has a bell on to boot.  So Jezebel, being young, lithe, fast and silent, can stalk and ambush poor fat Fanny with impunity.  Even though Fanny is about 3-4 times as large as Jezebel, Fanny is a poor fighter and has a hard time defending herself, especially when Jezebel wraps herself around Fanny’s neck and starts in with the rabbit kicks.

So I have to try to make it fair.  Even though I know, life is not fair, and some things really suck no matter what you do.

Sheena is not much longer for this world, and in some ways it breaks my heart.  I scheduled the mobile vet to come to our house tomorrow (if she’s still with us then) to put her down.  I hate it, I hate it, I hate it, but she’s gotten to the point where she doesn’t want to eat, and isn’t enjoying being a dog anymore.  She’s actively dying at this point, and it’s not right to let her suffer.

In some ways I wish we could have done more for her, but she was so ill-treated and in such poor health when we found her, that there’s only so much you can do.   She has had numerous issues with mobility from the beginning with the severe HD, but now the mammary growths have come back with a vengeance, and they are everywhere.  She is barely able to stand and walk and it’s getting hard for her to breathe.   I’m glad I got through to the mobile vet.  I wish he could have made it out today but tomorrow’s the soonest I could get.  Although Sheena has never had problems with going the vet, let’s face it, she’s not going to have an easy time getting in the car to begin with, and even worse, it’s not easy to load 75# of dead dog back in the car.  I took Heidi to our regular vet when we had to let her go, which I preferred in a way, because we love our vet, but it’s not a pleasant 40 mile road trip back home knowing you have a dead dog in the trunk that you’re going to have to both unload and help bury.  It was awful enough with Heidi, and she only weighed about 60#.

goodfellas trunk scene

I can’t help it, and I know it’s macabre, but there’s something about transporting a dead body (even a dog’s) in the trunk that reminds me of the movie Goodfellas.

I really don’t want to do that again.

We had a mobile vet come out when Kayla was dying.  I think it’s the same guy who came out with Kayla.  I hope so, because he was very understanding.  Kayla was a good 90# when she died.  I could not lift her by myself.  It might sound cruel, but we laid her out on a large blanket before the vet started in with the chemicals, so we could sort of roll her up as if she were in a hammock- so we could carry her outside and lower her into her grave.  I know it sucks, but even in the mechanics of death, someone still has to think about the logistics.  We will have to do the same thing with Sheena.  I can go on and on about how it sucks that we outlive dogs (and Sheena’s probably only about 7 or 8, which really sucks) but you can’t change reality.

nuns

I think most people have a sort of love/hate relationship with their parents to some degree, but the older I get the more I appreciate my parents and their work ethic and old-school values.  They did the best they could, especially considering Mom is bi-polar, and no matter how much Dad worked, it never seemed like there was enough money to get by.    I could barely afford one child, let alone three, and Steve-o (thank God) had very few illnesses or medical issues.  I do think it a bit creepy last Sunday, out of the clear blue sky, Mom starts apologizing to me for my trainwreck of a childhood.

trainwreck

What Mom doesn’t get, is that even had I been born into a family with every possible material advantage, it wouldn’t have changed my overall reality much.   I might not have been cursed with an uncontrolled, sadistic older sibling.  I might have worn better clothes, and might have had new glasses when I needed them.   Maybe I wouldn’t have gotten rheumatic fever, or maybe I would have gotten a more extensive formal education, but the fact is that in the 1970s, nobody knew how to deal with people who are wired like me.  Hyperlexia only occurs in about 1 in 50,000 children, and 75% of those are male.   Nobody knew what to do with my precocious reading, and nobody knew that it went along with constant anxiety, poor motor skills, abysmal social aptitude, and weak health.

geek_girl_2

High fashion, no.  High IQ, well, intellect does have its advantages.

Mom did the best she could with what she was given, and no apology was ever necessary.  After all, I’m not a correctional institute inmate, I’ve managed to be gainfully employed, and I’m not a serial killer.  I went to school with people who fared much worse in the long run than I did, and they were given many advantages I could only have dreamed of.

Perhaps had I been given every “advantage” I might not have had the fortitude to work for anything or appreciate anything.  Perhaps scarcity and adversity are good for the soul, even though neither of these are fun to endure.

mick-jagger

The older I get, the more I believe the great theologian/philosopher Mick Jagger has it right:

“You can’t always get what you want

You can’t always get what you want

You can try sometimes, you just might find

You get what you need-“

My “Best” Self, Time Keeping in the Post-Apocalyptic World, and Other Questions No One Asks But Me

watch

I forgot my watch today.  That is rather vexing, even though I can make the argument that the habit of wearing a timekeeper on one’s person is rather archaic and quaint. I very seldom forget to wear a watch.  It became habit when I was in elementary school (way before the days of smart phones or computers) because it was necessary for me to know the time, 1.) when I went home for lunch and had to be back at school, so I didn’t screw around too long on the way back (I don’t know of any elementary schools today that let kids leave for lunch, but that was a different time) and 2.) if Grandma was going to pick me up after school, I would know she would be there at exactly 3:00, and that I had better be right out front next to the oak tree and not messing about on the playground.

vintage timex

The watch I wore from the time I was 9 years old until I was in college was a wind-up Timex (good luck finding one of those, but I still have it, and it still works.)  Today I generally wear a Timex digital watch (I have a few) or the really nice Fossil analog watch (talk about archaic, though this one does have a battery) I reserve for non-casual occasions.  I don’t know why I hang on to that rather dated custom- there’s a freaking clock in the car for heaven’s sake, not to mention on the cell phone and on the computer screen.  If I really need to know what time it is that bad, the current time is everywhere.

The impulse to always have a watch on reminds me of “Rainman’s” obsession to always buy underwear at K-Mart.  Not everyone on the autistic spectrum is OCD, (and I’m not) but I do remember as a kid I did NOT like having my schedule or routine changed at all, unless I was the one changing things.    I still don’t like other people screwing up my itinerary, but the older I get, I tend to be a lot more flexible.

It really doesn’t matter in the broad scheme of things, but people like me tend to get hung up on some really weird shit sometimes.   Perhaps it is a lame attempt for me to maintain some sort of continuity in an increasingly unpredictable world.

This country may be going to hell in a handbasket as the new Louis and Marie strut about as if they are royalty, as they stomp on the Constitution, squander taxpayers’ money, take their Hawaiian vacations and pontificate from their ivory tower, but at least I’ll know what time it is.   I can even set the chronometer, should I need to call 911 and want to know how long the cops take to get there.

Louis and MarieI couldn’t help it.  This reference to B.O. and Moochelle as the new Louis and Marie was too much NOT to share.  Sad thing is, this is NOT France.

Since I am painfully aware of not having a watch on my wrist, the thought came to mind, when would it really be imperative to have a watch on to know what time it is?  After the apocalypse- when there are no more computers or cell phones or cars?

At that point, when my immediate surrounding area resembles something out of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, who would give a rat’s ass about the time?  It would always be half-past ass whupping time, right?

There is a politically correct phrase I’ve heard that teachers use to “encourage” the children they teach, and for the most part I loathe it: “Be your best self today.”

WTF?

Can I be my shitty self tomorrow?

best selfThis is about as far as the “best self” train is going to go today.

I’m sorry, but the way I grew up was that it was either tow the line or get a boot up your ass.  I think that’s part of the problem with kids today, that parents and teachers are afraid to challenge them.  I can think positive all day and blow sunshine out my poop chute, but unless I actually do something positive it really doesn’t matter, does it?

r lee ermeyKids today need less mollycoddling and more boot camp.

Now I do like some of the suggestions here, even though the author of the post uses that phrase.  I think I will strike up a conversation with a complete stranger for shits and grins, or do something completely spontaneous just because I can.  Some of her suggestions are a tad bit more challenging, such as telling someone you love how much you love them.  I have emotions- I think- but I’m not very good at sharing them.

loathing

Is it just me, or am I the only one who thinks it to be bad manners to make a take home plate at a funeral wake?  I went to a calling hours and wake last week for a friend of mine whose father had died.   The departed was Irish, and there was plenty of liquor, so it really was a proper Irish wake.  Since we belong to a group of Lutheran church ladies, we had all brought enough chow for three armies too.

Jerry actually had the cojones to ask me if I’d fixed him a plate when I got home.

Granted, there was more than enough food and nobody would have missed it if I would have made Jerry a plate, but if you don’t at least go to the wake and pay your respects to the departed, then what gives you the right to go munching on their chow?

This is the message that action sends: “Gee, sorry about your Dad, too bad I was too busy drinking beer and watching the Big 10 channel to show up for his wake, but can my wife set me up with a doggie bag?”

I know Jerry was raised by wolves, but methinks requesting a doggie bag from a wake is a bit much.

Asperger’s Is Not an Excuse, Actions Still Have Consequences, and Humanity is Still Totally Depraved

signers-drawing

I am glad that some thinking people are starting to understand that keeping people from protecting themselves and their families does nothing to change the fact that killers will kill. Even in the light of the past couple weeks’ worth of senseless shootings- and I freely admit that the existence of evil is something I don’t comprehend- I still believe that the Framers of the Constitution had the right idea when they included:

“A well-regulated Militia, being necessary for the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed. “

The Second Amendment has been expounded upon by far greater minds than mine, however, there are two points being made here.  Some more left-leaning interpretations of the Second Amendment take the first part about a well regulated militia and assume that meant that the Framers were talking about the armed forces, National Guard and law enforcement but not about private individuals.  What they are leaving out is a knowledge of 18th century history.  In the 18th century there was really no full-time armed forces, but individuals who would volunteer in time of war (a concept similar to a very rudimentary National Guard) and individuals had to keep their own weaponry in order to be able to be available when the need arose.

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Fast forward to the 21st century.  Most Americans have no concept of what it would be like to have to defend one’s life and property if a scenario such as the one proposed in the film “Red Dawn” would arise, where there would be war in streets and neighborhoods rather than an abstract concept of soldiers and armies fighting over obscure hills and fields in far-distant lands.  However, many Americans have experienced armed robbery, assault and other crimes of violence that could have been prevented if the victim had been able to defend him/herself.  The Framers had a solution to that: “the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.”  The Framers not only believed so heartily in a strong national defense that it is one of only two responsibilities of the Federal government spelled out in the Constitution, but they also added it to the Bill of Rights- along with the proviso that individuals also have the right to defend their person and property.  In this statement the right to self defense is underscored as a natural right rather than a privilege granted (or withheld) by the whim of the state.

SelfDefense1

I don’t have any problem at all with responsible gun ownership.  The law-abiding person who owns a gun and has had appropriate background checks and safety training is not generally the person you have to worry about- unless you are trying to perpetrate crime.  On the other hand, the unarmed are all potential victims.  All one has to do to be a victim is to be in the wrong place at the right time.

This being said, I can go back to the fundamental argument that guns don’t kill people any more than spoons make people fat.  The conscious decision to aim a firearm and pull the trigger is what kills.  It’s easy to go around screaming “gun control,” until one realizes that the decision of a killer is the root of the lethal mechanism.  It is possible to kill with bare hands, with knives, with poison, with motor vehicles, with a baseball bat.  The possibilities of potential lethal weapons are only limited by a potential killer’s imagination and desperation.  Banning firearms just means killers will find weapons other than guns to kill people with.  There are still murders in the UK and in every other country where strict gun control has been enacted.  The murderous impulse does not lie in an armament of steel, but in the convoluted and dark malice dwelling in a killer’s heart.

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Dark malice that can lead to murder can surface in any human being alive today if circumstances and opportunity press that individual hard enough.  Evil is that pervasive in this world.  I don’t subscribe to all of Calvinism (my soteriological leanings are more congruent with Molinism) but I agree with 100% of one of the petals of Calvin’s TULIP- the Total Depravity of man.

Human beings, if left to their own devices, are 100% self serving.  I’ve heard every excuse out there for why people kill- video games, bad childhoods, being deprived, being over-indulged, crappy schools, being bullied, being introverted, being mocked, et cetera and so on.  I think a better question, given the total depravity of man, is what keeps everyone from becoming a killer?   Or are we all killers, and the severity of our behavior is simply a matter of degree?  If so, then what is the mechanism of our restraint?  Does it have to do with the wiring of the frontal lobe of the brain, or is it a matter of the will, or a combination of both?  I believe it is entirely possible that the only thing that restrains most from indulging their darker urges is simply the grace and mercy of God.

Even though I believe that there is a God and that He is highly involved in the lives of humanity, I also believe that He expects people to respond to Him. I believe He has expectations for his creation (and maybe this is my repressed Catholic guilt coming out.)  After all, when one reads Scripture we learn that most of humanity’s problems arise from thinking our ways are better than God’s ways.

We don’t have the liberty to simply say, “the Devil made me do it,” if for any other reason than at the end of the day, God holds us accountable for what we do or don’t do.  Psychology would say that humans do what they do to pursue pleasure and avoid pain, but there is a deeper aspect- the aspect of “you own who you are and what you have become.”

Things in life can and do suck, but it’s every person’s responsibility to choose how to react to things that suck.  The question is, do we turn to God and His will or do we let evil win?

evilvsgood

I find it disturbing that society is all too willing to absolve people from individual accountability and blame their abherrent behavior on everything from being bullied as children to being on the autistic spectrum.  As someone who experienced both gratuitous and fierce childhood bullying and is a high-functioning autistic,* (apparently that’s what the medical community is calling Asperger’s Syndrome these days) I am here to tell you that both of those theories may have some credence, but at the end of the day, the decision to move beyond a painful past and to learn to work the wiring is not only possible, but it is also a moral obligation.  Maybe I say this out of a sense of noblesse oblige that I was taught- that those who are given more are held to a higher standard.  I can say that the convoluted and sometimes vexing wiring of Asperger’s or “high functioning autism” or whatever is the current terminology used to categorize the introverted, weird and/or eccentric is not a license to allow the depravity within to overcome.  Video games are no excuse. Technology in general is no excuse.  The laxity of discipline and the pervasive faux feel good PC philosophy being taught in the schools (while dreadful, false, and a contributor to the delinquency factor) is not an excuse either. There is a God, and He has standards and rules, even when it seems like society does not.

I don’t discount the influence of mental illness, and how society so conveniently “mainstreams” the mentally ill, denying that some people do have an inability to control their rage and that some people should be isolated from the greater community for a time to receive mental health treatment.  I do understand what it is to be depressed and near suicidal, but I also understand that there is help available for individuals and families when mental illness becomes overwhelming.  I’m no poster child for mental health, and insanity is downright pervasive in my family tree.  If there is anything that society (as opposed to the individual) can do to help prevent violence it is to identify mental illness and provide ways for those at risk to get help.

insaneI wish this were a joke, but it’s not.  I have ancestors who were crazier than shithouse rats.

I may never know for what purpose God decided to plop my sorry carcass on this earth, but I’m pretty sure that no matter how beat up on I was or how bizarre my wiring, He didn’t intend for me to load up an assault rifle and shoot up a classroom of unarmed, defenseless kids.

Sexy pole dancerI’m pretty sure God never intended me to be a pole dancer, either.  I’m doing good to walk a straight line without tripping over my own feet.

There I go again with that whole morality thing again, and no, I am not talking about the mundane concepts of morality- refraining from fornication,  eschewing the use of swear words, and those sorts of trite formalities, but a deeper morality.

One that says, “There is a God, and He has rules.”