Wednesday, August 29, 2012

But It’s Mine!

We have a variety of interesting views about possessions in our home. For years and years now, if a toaster or electric skillet wears out, I am gifted a new one for Mother’s Day, my birthday, or Christmas. Not Steve, not the kids. Me.
If one of the kids were to have gotten their school supplies for their birthday (all three of them have birthdays around the first day of school), they would have been in tears. Their gift lists never include toothpaste, Kleenex for their room, or wax for their braces. They always wanted toys, games and the like.
My hubby doesn’t wear sweaters. Ever. Never the less, he seems to get one every year. I urge him to return it and get something he wants. He won’t. He insists that it’s rude to return a gift. I try to explain that the reason that there is a ‘return receipt’ taped to the bottom of the gift box is for that exact reason. It’s like talking into to the wind. Pointless. There are piles of gorgeous, brand new sweaters on the top shelf of someone’s closet that date back twenty years.
Steve’s largest possessions rust in peace amid the tall grasses and overgrown brush around his shop. I had an area behind his shop bulldozed and cleared so he could put his ‘treasures’ out of sight and away from the house. Looking out, I see four tarp-covered hulks from my office window.
I look over the list of Possible Aspie Traits.
Hmmm. ‘Inappropriate attachments to objects’. Sounds about right.
The other day I asked Steve about his mound of notes on the vanity countertop near his sink.
“Do you need all of these notes?” I ask. “And if you do, do they all need to be here? May I move your ‘reserve’ of 27 new toothbrushes into the cupboard so you could keep your notes in this drawer? I’d certainly hate for them to get water splashed on them,” I continue, tongue-in-cheek.
Sweetie thought about it for a few minutes as I folded towels. His face was screwed up into a grimace of fierce concentration. He then began to meticulously pick up each and every scrap of paper, every folded sticky note (he folds them in half so they ‘don’t get stuck on anything’), and each little notebook page filled top to bottom and front to back with names, numbers, and random bits of info.
After pondering them individually for several minutes, he begins making various piles on the counter. I’ve finished the towels and put them away. I run back downstairs and start another load of wash. Grabbing a couple of handfuls of hanging clothes, I come back up and put them away in our closets.
Steve is still stooped over reading and sorting. I sit on the edge of my tub to watch.
After a while, he straightens up. “What do I do now,” he quizzes.
“Well, you have seven piles. Which pile is the discard pile?”
“Ummm, some of each,” responds the Hubster.
“Didn’t you sort them into ‘keep’ and ‘toss’ piles?” I ask.
“No, I sorted them by year,” growls Steve. He is extremely sensitive to any perceived criticism.
I look at the seven piles. I look at the clock. He’s been sorting for over an hour. I didn’t have the heart to ask him to do more.
I tell him that I think we can put them into the drawer now. We do, and the piles fit just fine as they are. Steve emits a huge sigh of relief. The thought of having to throw something away is horribly unsettling to him. Task done, he wanders off.
Slowly closing the drawer, I can’t help but laugh.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

What’s Your Point?

It’s amazing how wonderful life can be with good communication.
It’s equally amazing how terrible it can be without.
For a person who lacks the ability to successfully convey their thoughts and feelings to those around them in their family lives, work place and relationships it must be the thrill of victory one minute, and the agony of defeat the next.
I find that I have to pay very close attention to Steve’s moods, body language, and facial expressions, as well as his hand signals, in order to adequately communicate with him on a regular basis.
My husband is a finger thrower.
Years ago, not long after I had first met him, my sweet Hubby-to-be was trying to describe something to me. I had gotten distracted for some reason and suddenly realized that he had stopped talking and was wilding throwing his right hand out and away from himself with his index finger pointing forward and the rest of his digits curled up into a fist.
“What?” I asked in puzzlement.
More finger throwing accompanied by a fierce look of frustration.
“Steve, what’s wrong?” I continued to quiz.
He threw his arm down to his side and stomped off. I was bewildered.
I have since figured out that Steve’s mind is such a whirlwind of activity that sometimes his words get lost. He becomes extremely agitated when this happens and he can only point towards something as he searches the recesses of his mind for what it is he is trying to say.
Sometimes I can guess, sometimes I can’t. If I don’t deduce his intend in an expedient fashion, my Sweetie becomes frantic. That in turn frustrates me. Communication breakdown. It’s a tough one to circumvent.
Verbal communication serves many purposes, such as requesting things, getting attention, giving or receiving information, expressing feelings and opinions. Those with Aspergers Syndrome are often severely hampered by their inability to communicate efficiently or express their own emotional state.
Granted, Steve’s nonverbal finger throwing will get my attention, as well as serve as an occasional irritant in my life. But I am learning to be more patient and help him use his words. Of course his method of delivery can be interesting or startling, depending upon the situation. (see "The Bark is Worse") 
It must be time to laugh.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Leave Me Alone!

If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard this over the last twenty years, I’d be retired in a beach front home on Maui with all my kids in their own beach homes nearby.
Not honestly sure where I’d picture my hubby, lol.
Steve insists that he wants to be married and have a family. But he lets his parents scold him regularly for allowing me to ‘control him’. They don't want him to share with any of us. They say, "Hurry and get it all before anyone else comes."
He doesn’t like to break for meals with us if he’s working on a project. If he’s walking into the house and I call “dinner”, he wanders off and doesn’t appear at the table until we are nearly finished eating. And acts surprised that we didn't wait for him.
He resents any sort of input when he is working on chores around the house or yard. He is animate about doing things ‘his way’. Including using cold water and his fingers to wash dishes, setting bowls into the dishwasher up against the back of a plate, refusing to use the weedeater along the side of our property that is on a private road until the neighbors complain (to me of course) about the drooping grasses and overgrown brush.
He wants his piles of books and magazines right next to his recliner where they are easy for him to reach. Regardless of how high the piles get, or how hard it is to dust or vacuum around them. And heaven forbid that someone move them!
He wants to watch his adult comedy shows late into the night at full volume because he is the head of the house.
He wants to come and go as he pleases with no notices or explanations whatsoever as he is a ‘grownup’ and not subjected to ‘rules’.
He wants to be left alone to pursue his interests and hobbies without the ‘interruptions’ of having to answer his cell phone, attend family functions, interact with visitors or our kids, take the dogs out regularly, or have to do regular household chores.
Looking passed his exterior physical features, I think I see a nine year old.
Perhaps Aspergers Syndrome is simply stunted emotional growth. The self-absorption, the lack of empathy towards others, the inability to ‘get’ social cues, the resistance to rules and authority.
If you think about it, these are all things that are common in infants, toddlers and young children. As kids grow and mature, they begin develop social skills. Their single focus-ness on themselves broadens as they become more and more aware of the world, and its inhabitants, around them.
At times my sweet husband acts exactly like a big baby.
Perhaps he’s right!

Monday, August 20, 2012

I Contact

I am pretty sure that Steve isn’t listening to me explain Kidlet’s new high school schedule. He seems to be trying to focus on my left shoulder and act interested in my dialog, but his expression is one of total distraction.
“And there’s a purple camel behind you about to slobber on your head,” I conclude. I stop talking and sit back to wait.
The Hubster continues to stare at my shoulder, and tries to smile. He nods his head.
We sit quietly for a while. It’s hard for me to sit still, but I do. Suddenly Steve frowns. He looks directly at my face with furrowed brows and then looks around us. I am getting myself ready to repeat my previous conversation when I realize that Steve is thinking about something else all together.
“Do you think we should just try to use the mufflers that Manlet gave you from that BMW?” asks my spouse. “We can always try to find FlowMasters later.”
I laugh. I knew it!
“What’s so funny?” demands the Hubster.
“Nothing Dear,” I respond, still chuckling. Steve looks confused.
I’ve run across a new blog Life with Aspergers that has a piece on Apergers and Eye Contact:
An Aspie Point of View
Eye contact hurts. no, not in the painful sense but it's quite uncomfortable. I always feel that I'm revealing more than I want to with eye contact and that I'm receiving more information than I want to know. Of course, I know that eye contact is critical to spoken communication, so often I'll compromise by either of two methods
The blog goes on to suggest a couple of methods and give some personal examples of how the blogger deals with the situations. I was fascinated to read through the comment section. I suppose I hadn’t truly understood how uncomfortable, overwhelming, and even painful for Aspies to have to make eye contact with others. One person even commented:
“Why do we have to try to change anything about ourselves it's who we are.”
Once again it’s an “OH!” moment for me. That is so true.
I remember teasing Kidlet once when he was three. He looked at me solemnly and said, “That’s ridiculous, you silly woman!” He then turned and went off about his business. I stood in shock for a moment or two, then began laughing so hard I nearly fell over.
Thinking about it still cracks me up. I’m beginning to have the same reaction to my expectations about my hubby’s communication techniques. I am silly!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Let’s Play

I’m pulling into our driveway when I see Steve heading out the front door with Kidlet and a couple of his school buddies, all armed to the teeth with pistols, rifles, bayonets, knives, swords and lots of ammo belts. Each had a cowboy hat perched jauntily upon their heads and were grinning from ear to ear. Hubby included.
“Hey guys!” I greeted them after I had parked, and started pulling groceries out of the back seat. “Whatcha playing?”
“RED DEAD REDEMPTION!” they all shouted in unison.
Say what? I walked quickly over to Steve and pulled him aside.
“Isn’t that a Mature rated video game?” I ask.
“Yah, but I’m mature,” retorts Hubby.
Uh huh, right.

“But did you check with these kids’ parents to make sure it’s okay that their kids play with guns and knives and such?” I persisted.
“Why should I do that?” questions Steve. “This is my home and I can play what I want!”
Since my husband doesn’t “do” computers or video games, I knew that we didn’t actually have the video game with its graphic, violent images. But if asked about their afternoon activities, I had no doubt what-so-ever that each kid would correctly quote their ‘play’ session by name, and probably give their parents all a heart attack.
I already knew that ‘gun play’ was okay for one of the two visiting boys, so I just had one parent to call. After I explained what the ‘kids’ were doing, she laughingly gave her permission for her little darling to take part in the horse, I mean gun, play. I decided to call the other kid’s mom, just to make sure it was still alright with her, which it was.
Whew. Had I not come home early the consequences could have been disastrous.
I finished unloading the groceries amid shrieks and shouts of intense gun battles raging outside the house. Looking out the window, it was hard to tell who was having more fun, Steve or the boys. They were out until well after dark. It was only natural to start a fire in the side yard to roast hot dogs and have baked beans for dinner! Cowboys have it easy in the meal planning department.
When it comes to playtime, Kidlet’s friends love to come to our house. After all, the kids agree, Steve knows how to play better than anyone else.
As well he should after all of these many, many decades of ‘playing’, lol!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

No Fear

“Have no fear, Underdog is here!”
Many of us of a ‘certain age' vividly remember this line from a popular Saturday morning cartoon show. Many Aspies or their loved ones can also relate.
Early one morning a few years ago, Manlet & Daughterlet were picking Kidlet and myself up to head off to the hospital to check me in for some surgery. The Hubster had taken two weeks off from work to be home during my recuperation.
Since I would be staying overnight, Steve was able to work on his own car projects the entire day. The older kids would watch their younger bro, and be with me at the hospital. It all seemed to be the perfect plan, ensuring happiness for all.
LOL. “Seemed to be” being the operative phrase.
Manlet had just loaded my overnight bag into Daughterlet’s trunk (she was chosen to drive as her car had heated seats and it was winter), and the rest of us were climbing in and buckling up when we heard a tremendous crash and a yelp from the shop area across the yard.
Manlet slammed the trunk closed and ran. Daughterlet jumped out, as did Kidlet and followed. I had just started to climb out myself when the kids came running with their dad. He was mumbling that he just needed a bandaid while blood poured from his forehead and down his shirt. One of the kids ran for paper towels, another stuffed Steve into the car, and Daughterlet took off like Mario Andretti from a start line.
The entire way to the hospital Steve kept insisting he just needed to wash off his face and get ‘a bandaid or two’. Turns out he was working on the exhaust system under his full sized Blazer, and instead of blocking the system up while he loosened the bolts, he thought he could just hold it up himself.
Wrong! It all came crashing down on him, splitting open his forehead. Manlet figures the whole system weighed over a hundred pounds. Oh my dear husband and his ideas!
At the hospital we dropped the Hubster off with Manlet at the Emergency Room entrance, and then we went around to the main entrance and checked me in. After my surgery the kids told me that their dad required seventeen stitches to close up his gash.
Ouch! Manlet said that Steve never once complainted of pain, and refused any pain medication. When they ran him home after his stitching, he went straight out to the shop to make sure he hadn’t bled on any of the exhaust system that walloped him. It certainly wouldn’t do to have blood baked onto the pipes!
Steve often hurts himself because of poor planning, rigid thinking, denial of realities, or just plain clumsiness. One time he stuck a pocket knife into his kneecap while cutting some wires because he didn’t want to stand up to go get a pair of wire cutters. He could have used some simple Boy Scout training in knife use!
I know we are in for a trip to the emergency room whenever my Hubby comes running to the house asking for a big bandaid. What amazes me is that he seems impervious to pain. I am honestly not sure if it’s that he doesn’t feel it, or he won’t express it.
But he definitely has no fear….

Sunday, August 12, 2012


It’s been a busy, hectic week. Tuesday I broke my finger (don’t ask) and Thursday we started painting the house (again, don’t ask.) Kidlet & Manlet took off for Montana for a bros road trip, and Daughterlet is also out of town so we went from having two dogs to four. Since the Hubster is on vacay for the duration of the painting project, I’ve not had a chance to blog this week. I am surprised to realize how therapeutic it is and how much I’ve missed it.
And how many times I have to type the letters ‘s’, ‘w’, ‘x’, and the number ‘2’ or the ‘@’ sign. They all take my broken ring finger to be typed on the keyboard. I shall earnestly try to go without typing them in excess until such time as I get the splint off.
Also ‘whoops’ is the Hubster’s inability to not snicker at inappropriate times. He giggles like a madman at toilet humor, other people’s calamities or misfortunes, or at extremely sad human situations. He usually watches TV alone.
Flatulate at the dinner table and Steve breaks out in an outrageous cackle, especially if he did was the offender.
He will ‘whoop whoop whoop’ it up to the nth degree while watching Sponge Bob or Deadliest Catch. If I am upset about anything, he will be grinning like the Cheshire Cat as I try to explain my feelings.

The other day my Sweetie and I were at the grocery store. We ran into some neighbors who seemed sad and quiet.  A
s we chatted they told us of the recent passing of their parent. Steve began grinning and chuckling.
Holy cannoli.
And he wouldn’t take ‘a hint’.
I scowled. He doesn’t recognize facial expressions.
I shook my head at him. He thinks I’m trying to communicate a dog, even if there isn't one in our vicinity, as that is what he does with dogs (as well as wave, wink or make faces at them).
I try to shush him. He only gets louder.
“What’s wrong?” erupts He forcefully. “Do you have to go to the bathroom?”
Say what? Our neighbors are starting to look very alarmed.
“The rule is you have to ask to go to the bathroom!” he thunders.
By now I am trying to hide from everyone within ear shot as I ponder Steve’s verbiage. The people we were talking to just lost their mother. What in the world would that have to do with needing the facilities?
Grabbing the Hubster by the hand, I make my condolences to the perplexed neighbors and we escape the store without my needed grocery items, and with Steve continuing to ask why I’m not heading to the restroom.
“Because you are an Assss…” I check myself as we climb into the car  and my voice trails off.
“Aspie, I meant to say.”

Monday, August 6, 2012

See Horse

Horse sense.
Horse play.
Trojan horse.
Horse of a different color.
He’s the dark horse in the race.
Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.
Euphemisms, clichés and metaphors are all oddities in communication that leave many of our Aspies feeling confused, frustrated, and sometimes even angry. It can be difficult for us NT’s to grasp this.
Angelfire has a great post on Aspie/NT differences.
“Indeed, it may seem absurd and ridiculous to some people that someone could tell you about in minute detail about the Solar System or provide you with the details of the inner workings of a PC or car engine or explicit information about the American Civil War but not understand the basic rules that govern social interaction or be able to hold a structured conversation, or understand something that seems so simple - social interaction, proverbs, metaphors, sayings and clichés, but that is how the brains of people with Asperger's Syndrome are wired, for good or for ill. AS is a social learning disability, not a General Learning Disability.”

Every once in a while my husband will come up with his own speech inventions. He seems dead serious when he spouts something like, “Corn nuts are corny.”

“Huh? What did you say, Dear?”
Steve’s voice increases in volume. “I said ‘Corn nuts are corny!’ Didn’t you hear me?”
I assure him that I did indeed hear. I just didn’t understand.
“Well, you say illogical things all the time and call them correct. I just made up my own thing!”
Oh. Okay, Sweetie. Care to explain?
Sweetie then goes into a twenty minute tirade about stupid things people say that make no sense whatsoever. He decided that he will make up his own sayings because they at least make sense to him. And no one is going to change his mind.
Absolutely no ONE!
“No ONE but NO one.  Hey, that’s good!” says He.
He then repeats this to himself several more times, and marches off to some predetermined activity, leaving me there with my mouth hanging open.
I try repeating it to myself. I try again. Hmmm. I don’t get it.
Then I laugh out loud and go off to find some ‘thing’ to do, corny or not!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Have You Seen My Hammer?

It’s August and our Seattle area summer is finally beginning in earnest. Steve is off work today to begin preparation for several weeks of vacation to repaint our house. It’s a huge job, and we will probably be enlisting Kidlet and some of his friends to help. They are thrilled at the prospect of earning money. My stomach is a mess at the prospect of the project.
Organization is not my husband’s middle name. Nor first, or last. I am starting to put together a list of tools and equipment we will need for this venture.

I know where our pressure washer is, but not our ladders. I know I’ve been collecting paint brushes and buckets for a while now, but I don’t have a clue where the canvas tarps are.

I have a list of website videos on standard painting techniques, but don’t know how to get my Sweetie to watch them as he thinks he already knows all there is to know about painting.
Disorganization. Rigid thinking. Idiosyncratic behavioral patterns. Unique voice velocity and tones.  Rebellion to directions given by others. Literal interpretations. Varied focus. Dyslexia and poor coordination.
Oh boy, isn’t this going to be fun!
There is a great vid on YouTube intended for college professors who may have Aspie students in their classes. I found it enlightening in my preparation for our project.

Understanding Asperger Syndrome: A college Professor’s Guide

Raising children has already given me good experience resources for working with my hubby. I know that children have very age specific capabilities. I know that I would never expect a two year old to help with a household chore that a ten year old could do. I realize that a five year old can intellectually communicate with me on skills that they are unable to actually complete. Their hand-eye coordination simply are on level with their thought processes yet.
With all these things in mind, I am going to do my best to be realistic in my expectations of Steve’s abilities. I may use my teenage work force to ‘teach’ various painting techniques to my husband simply by asking him if I’ve left anything out of my instructions. I will work hard to be patient and not expect too much accomplished each day. I will try to be diligent in watching for any rising frustration levels that may dictate breaks. I need to be well prepared to furnish snacks and refreshments when needed. I have to be willing to stop our work for spontaneity, such as a quick trip to the river to cool off if the weather gets too hot.
I look at my growing list.
Perhaps I should have Steve take another couple of weeks off work.  

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


This is the time of year that flies by in a whirlwind of activity. Its baseball team tryout season. Starting last week, and culminating next week, Kidlet is basically trying out for a different team every other day in the afternoons or evenings. This is on top of Monday through Friday football training and conditioning in the mornings. It’s hectic.
Whew! Online registration forms or emails to send. General or specific team forms to print out, fill out, turn in. Spreadsheets on each teams prior season performances so we can prioritize Kidlet’s preferences in choosing which team’s invitation to accept. Notes to take. Coaches and their styles to evaluate. Busy, busy, busy.
Yesterday afternoon Steve texted me his leave time from work. I texted back “Tryout tonight”. He wanted to know what field. I told him. He asked for directions. I gave them.
As I sat on the bleachers at the try out, I notice my Sweetie walking up. He was hesitant, but smiling. He clumsily made his way up to the top row where I sat. Kidlet did not get his athletic prowess from his father.
 I asked Steve about his commute and where he had parked, which turned out to be some distance away from the field. Since a different age group was just finishing up a try out, the parking lot next to the field we were at was full. He decided to move his truck once the other group had moved out.
As we watched the two dozen boys go through various drills we ‘chatted’ about his day at work and his commute over. Well, I ‘chatted’ – Steve gave clipped responses. The day had turned out moderately warm - very pleasant to be outside. As darkness fell and the field lights came on, a huge bright white moon came up to the south of us. Many of the boys noticed it and commented to each other, making me smile. It must have been a gorgeous sight indeed to distract these teenagers from their baseball!
“That kid is sure fat and slow!”
My head whipped around towards my hubby.
“SHHHHHHHHHHHH!” I hissed at him. I turned to stare out at right field where Kidlet was currently waiting for something to be hit to him. I prayed that the parent of said kid was not within earshot of us.
“What?” quizzed my Sweetie. “But it’s true!” he ascertained.
“Perhaps,” whispered I, “but you can’t say it out loud! It’s rude.”
“Do you want me to lie?” inquired Hubster.
“NO!” I retorted forcefully, then lowered my voice. “I don’t want you to comment at all.”
Steve proceeded to sit there silently. When I tried to say something about Kidlet’s performance, Steve hissed, “SHHHHHHHHUSH!” at me. So I did. The night was too beautiful and the kids were having such a great time, I just couldn’t go into an in depth discussion about appropriate ‘out loud’ comments in public.
As I resettled myself against Sweetie’s side, he put his arm around me and I soaked up the gentle gesture. I am glad that Steve wanted to be with us. It makes Kidlet very happy when his dad shows interest in his activities knowing that Steve doesn’t like sports. It was a near perfect evening.
But wait. If someone’s car alarm had gone off in the parking lot last night, it would have drawn my attention momentarily, but it wouldn’t have ruined my evening. My focus was on the baseball field, and the beautiful night around it. A brief annoyance wouldn’t have changed that.
So, I sit corrected. It was a perfect evening!