Friday, April 26, 2013


Blue Monday. Singing the blues. Feeling blue. True blue. Blue blood. Black and blue. Blue collar. Blue blazes. Out of the blue.
Talking a blue streak until blue in the face can make one blue.
Do you fellow Aspie-lovers ever grow weary of trying to explain such phrases and idioms? Do you find yourself suddenly sidetracked in the midst of a conversation with your mate/friend/relative that is of the A.S. persuasion who demands of an exact explanation of your ‘colorful’ language and intent?
Uh huh.
“What do you mean?” says my Hubster dearest while I am in mid sentence.
“What? What do you mean ‘What do you mean?’” I ask quizzically, my specific verbal goal flashing quickly away as I struggle to recall my immediate past comment.
“What does that mean?” continues Hubby, staring at a point just past my left shoulder.
I turn around to look. There is a potted shrub, a nicely painted wall accented with a chair rail and wainscoting. No clue as to what he is referring to.
“What are you asking about?” I respond, realizing that we are basically mimicking each other. I hold up a hand.
“Yes?” says Steve, as if calling on a student. Granted, he was teaching a class last night, so his professorship was probably coloring his demeanor at the moment.
“Okay, can we stop for a minute? I was just asking that when you are being tired and grumpy with Kidlet, who was equally tired and grumpy at that moment, I would prefer you to talk with me first about your expectations for his completion of chores. Now you want to know what that means?” I was struggling as how to explain it differently.
“No! What did you mean?” snaps The Hubster, now growing agitated.
“Sweetie, I can’t tell you what I meant unless you repeat whatever I said so I know what it is you didn’t understand!”
“Well, that’s stupid! Don’t you remember your own words?” grouses Hubby.
“Please humor me and tell me what I said that has you stumped. Please?” I am now at a total loss as to what it could be.
“Once in a blue moon! You said that Kidlet is only grumpy once in a blue moon! Don’t you recall?” Color is mounting in Steve’s face and neck, an immediate indication that his blood pressure is rising.
“Oh, that?” I laugh, which doesn’t seem to make my spouse any happier. “It’s when there is a second full moon in a month, which very seldom happens. It just means ‘seldom’.”
Steve snorts as he throws down his napkin and prepares to depart the dining table.
“Why didn’t you just say that to begin with? Why do you waste so many words?” Abruptly he turns and stomps off.
I gaze at his hasty retreat off into the wild blue yonder.
Whoops! I did it again. Oh, well, never mind – lol…

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Not Bored

Bored. “Tired of and possibly annoyed by a person or situation that is not interesting, exciting, or entertaining.”
Kids nowadays spout this word as if it were a mandatory teenage emotion. In our household, using the “b” word constitutes an instant ticket to the cleaning closet to grab a bucket, cleaner, brush & rag in order to scrub the kitchen floor or a bathroom. Their choice. (Yes, it’s been a long while since anyone other than moi has scrubbed either one. Effective deterrent. After all, if you are always nice to your kidlets, they will never grown up and go away!)
I think that my hubby is often bored, but doesn’t admit to it or possibly even recognize it much of the time.
When I am ready to watch a show, I am more than ready to ‘quiet’ my life and escape into a program. I hate commercials and rarely watch live TV. I typically will sit and eat my lunch in front of the DVR to watch my favorite show from the night before so I can fast forward through the ads. I am oblivious to my surroundings. Once finished, I am off to finish the rest of my ‘marathon’ style day.
Steve, however, will plop down in his recliner for hours on end, reaching for books, magazines & the TV remote. As he flips through channels and shows, both live and recorded, he is also “reading” a half dozen different things, even leaving the room for different reading material. He also listens to our conversations on the phone or another room , or asks about our activities around the house if we are home.
If I ask him about his show, he can’t really tell me much because he is not paying close enough attention to know what is happening. If I ask him about his reading, the same vague answer is offered. If I ask him if he is bored or wants companionship, he shrugs.
Which isn’t really an answer in my estimation.
This quote from an Apsie Gentleman really hit home for me:
"But at the same time we’re rejecting normal social relationships we also crave them. It’s like you’re locked outside, with your nose pressed against the window, watching the normal happy people inside the party, like a dog who’s been banished for peeing on the carpet. When I’m home for a weekend there’s no friends for me to call and go have a beer. There’s no circle that gets together for cookouts in the summer. No holiday parties to attend. Frankly, it’s damn lonely and it puts just that much more strain on the one real relationship that I maintain, my marriage."
I’m thinking that when Steve wants alone-time, he heads to his three-car shop where he can putter to his heart’s content. It’s over one hundred yards away from our house in the middle of our acreage. Surrounded by trees and underbrush, it serves as a much needed sanctuary for my Aspie hubby. He can spend entire days out there, appearing in the house for food occasionally. Yes, his single focus is cars; more specifically automotive engines.
I do know that our ‘to do’ list of household maintenance and repairs can be quite overwhelming for him. He has great difficulty in correcting assessing the required amount of time for various chores, prioritizing needs, and even recognizing the appropriate timing and weather to accomplish the needed tasks. (Starting to mow the lawn at dusk, or painting in a torrential downpour escape his understanding or reasoning capabilities.) If the Hubster was at a loss for an activity to fill his time, I can come up with dozens of suggestions for him.
He never asks me.
So, with all of this in mind, I think that I will try to be more sensitive to Steve’s apparent (to me) boredom, and his possible need for socializing or companionship. I too can sit in the same room as he and page through a magazine, do some mending or fold some laundry without direct conversation (which he can find tedious). I try to offer various activities for him to join without placing any sort of obligation on him to participate. Some days he wants to be with us, some days not.
I really try hard not to take his ‘alone time’ personally. After all, I also enjoy me-time, as do most of us. I just express it better.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Fruit Loop

How is it that one Fruit Loop in your bowl of Cheerios stands out so distinctly, but drop one Cheerio into a bowl of Fruit Loops and it might take you half the morning to find it?
What would it be like to be that single Fruit Loop, especially if you are ‘color blind’ and don’t even recognize the fact that you aren’t plain brown?
Often when we are out and about, Steve will be so quiet and withdrawn that later on people won’t have even noticed that he was there. 

He might nod and smile at various conversations, without grasping the gist of the topic being discussed. Sometimes he misunderstands the subject and leaves everyone else wondering, ‘Where did that Fruit Loop come from?’
The mental images play a large part of my hubby’s thought process. In Temple Grandin’s Thinking in Pictures she points out:
“One of the most profound mysteries of autism has been the remarkable ability of most autistic people to excel at visual spatial skills while performing so poorly at verbal skills. When I was a child and a teenager, I thought everybody thought in pictures. I had no idea that my thought processes were different. In fact, I did not realize the full extent of the differences until very recently. 
Growing up, I learned to convert abstract ideas into pictures as a way to understand them. I visualized concepts such as peace or honesty with symbolic images. I thought of peace as a dove, an Indian peace pipe, or TV or newsreel footage of the signing of a peace agreement. Honesty was represented by an image of placing one's hand on the Bible in court. A news report describing a person returning a wallet with all the money in it provided a picture of honest behavior.
I have read a common explanation of this visual thinking in other Aspergers Syndrome material. It goes something like this.
If I were to ask Steve to go across the room to retrieve a book for me, he may hear the word “across” and visualize a large cross on a hill. This visualization step causes him to stop hearing my verbal request for a few words. By the time he tunes back in he only hears the word ‘book’. That singular word might trigger a totally different image for him of a cartoon character stepping out in an exaggerated stride (as in ‘keep on trucking’).
As my hubby’s Aspie mind struggles to figure out why I asked about hurrying to a cross on the hill, he will look at me with a totally blank expression on his face, causing me to repeat my request, albeit a bit louder than the first time.
Now Steve realizes that I am agitated and is struggling to figure out what he did ‘wrong’ as he thinks that I am yelling at him. Typically he recognizes only three emotions; happy, sad, and mad. I tend to live in a land of hundreds of emotions.
“I don’t see your ‘cross’ and why do I have to hurry?” he blurts in frustration.
“My book!” I say, pointing towards the end table near his recliner. “I thought that you could just pick it up for me!” I continue from my cozy nest on the couch.
“I’m not going to the library!” he retorts. “I was just going to watch some TV!”
At this point, reading his body language, I figure it would be much easier to just get the book myself, which I do. Steve glares at me in utter bewilderment.
“Oh,” says he. “Why didn’t you say that you wanted your murder mystery by Dick Francis?”
I stare at the title of the book in my hand - ‘Comeback’.
Uh huh. Wouldn’t that be fun to explain! “Would you please go get ‘Comeback’?”

Saturday, April 6, 2013


Between comments from readers and recent life experiences, I am again reminded that  not all of the situations that Steve and I share are fueled by Aspergers Syndrome. Rather, they are simply matters of differing  opinions or life views.
Still, rude is as rude does.
Many people are blunt, to the point, ‘rude’. Aspie or not.
Aspies may have a tendency towards rudeness due to emotional blindness, as discussed in John Elder Robison’s article 'Are Aspergians Really Rude...' 
One common characteristic of people with Asperger's is that we are more or less blind to the non verbal communications of others. As a result, we find ourselves forever saying and doing the wrong thing, with the best of intentions. We're described as arrogant, aloof, uncaring and inconsiderate.
I contend that we are none of those things. I believe we are simply blind, emotionally.
We do not respond to other people's observable cues because we don't see them. Neurotypical people read the signals and respond; we don't. But just as a visually blind person can understand a world he can't see, I can understand and feel empathy and emotion even though I can't automatically see the triggers.

When it plays out in the real world, though, it's easy for people to get a wrong impression. Imagine my wife and me, walking on the recreational trail. She trips on a stick and falls. I turn and look at her. There's no sign of injury. None of her limbs seem twisted or broken. She did not yell loudly, and she's not making any loud noises now.

"Are you damaged?" I ask because I know it's possible to sustain damage that's not visible from the outside. I'm not too worried, though, because I know most falls do not result in injury. I've seen this before.

"No, I don't think so." Her answer reassures me that there is no cause for alarm. I'm relieved.

"OK, then, get up and let's go." I give the only practical answer I can see. The day is passing, and we are standing still. Time to get moving again!

I have had third parties observe exchanges like that with a very critical eye. "I can't believe you're so callous," they say. But if you read my thoughts, I wasn't callous at all. I made a reasoned evaluation of the situation and acted appropriately.

The relief I felt when she said she wasn't hurt was a genuine empathy reaction. And in that case, it's all that was needed. There was no real injury or pain to share or mitigate.

Robison goes on to explain that his wife knows and understands him. She is okay with his response because he just shows his feelings differently.

A friend recently had an epiphany about the impact of family dynamics in her life and was trying to explain it to her Aspie hubby.

I tried to explain…only to be met with blank stares. I finally asked "You have no idea what I'm talking about do you?" He looked at me with that deer in the headlights look and said "I'm trying". I just laughed and said "I'll talk to [so and so] about it". He smiled and said “Thanks”.

When I try to get Steve’s perspective on interactions, I don’t always agree to his way of thinking, but I am able to understand a bit better what fuels his reactions, or lack thereof.

Occasionally I try to get him to consider my viewpoint. It may or may not get across to him. When it doesn’t, I am more than glad to leave him alone, lol.