Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Living Small


I just finished reading an interesting article about a family living in a very small house on wheels.  It is encouraging to see that someone has actually attempted such a thing :-)  They have 3 children several cats and a hamster.  One thing that is mentioned towards the end is the idea of having more than one tiny house, especially if you have teens (or a grandpa!)

Here is a link to the story, enjoy!

Could you live with three kids, three cats and one hamster in 440 square feet? This family is trying

Monday, September 14, 2015

Sunrise in Tracy

This morning's sunrise, through the smoke of the many fires in California...


Sunday, September 13, 2015

Morning

I had to work this morning, my counterpart needed today off so my normal Sunday routine is gone.  Worse than just that though I was interrupted 3 times as I was attempting to do my routine of shower, get dressed, pray and go to work.  As a result of this I'm sitting here at work with no socks.  :-)  This wouldn't happen if I was willing to wear regular shoes on my way to work but I prefer sandals and put my socks and undershirt in my bag... which I neglected to do today.  Ah well, it's not the end of the world.

When I went out to get in the car I found that it was coated with ash from the fires up in the Sierras, I had to wash the windshield to see out of it, the smoke and ash is everywhere in the valley today :-(


Pray for rain...

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Yuba River Trip

Once again we have gone to the Yuba River to camp.  I already linked to this on FB but in keeping with my intention to stay away from that place as much as possible I'm putting this album slide show here as well.  Enjoy.

Yuba River 2015

Hugs and stuff

I wonder if I can make more regular posts here, and reduce by about 99% my posting frequency on that great time sucking, click baiting and profit making abomination, Facebook?  May Zuckerberg be cursed for his evil invention!  


But this is not just a rant against the evil empire of Facebook.

Nope, it's actually a continuation of my thoughts about rituals and routines and coping with life.  I'm sorry if this is boring, well not actually, I don't care if anyone thinks it's boring, it's my life we're talking about here.

Sure it's boring!  
But it's MINE!

Until I began writing about being Aspie and the routines that I follow I hadn't realized how ritualized my whole life really is.  When I get up I must take a shower first thing.  If I do not do that the entire day is "wrong" and I never get back on track until the next day when I can start over and do it right.  If I try taking a shower later in the morning or in the evening, it doesn't work at all, I'm still out of sorts all day long.  So that is the first step in my morning ritual, get up and go to the bathroom and take a shower.  That is ritualized as well, of course.  I set everything up carefully, soap and shampoo in the same spot, a towel on the floor, one over the edge of the enclosure, wash my hair first, then soap up and rinse off.  I "soak" for about 1 or 2 minutes under the water and then I'm out.  The whole thing from entering the shower to exiting takes far less than ten minutes.

After my shower I must make my bed, if I don't then the next steps cannot work properly for me, the whole day is out of sync if I don't make my bed.  I used to just have blankets on the floor but these days I have a folding foam pad that I lay out and cover with a couple of blankets.  In in the morning I fold up the pad, place both of my blankets folded, in the same order every time, on top of the pad, then my two pillows on top of that, with a seldom used but still essential "reading pillow" in front of the whole thing.  On top of that are my stuffed animals, who vary in number depending on how many Max has stolen, or that I have stolen back :-)


Today there are a couple of extra here because I had some soft ones in for Tiernan when I was playing with him the other day.  No matter how many are in house they must be arranged on the bed before anything else can take place, if they are not I feel uncomfortable all day long, really!  It's crazy but true.

The next step in my morning ritual is to get dressed in whatever I'm going to be wearing for the morning.  Nothing else can work right unless I get dressed at this point.  If it was cold and I slept with sweat pants and sweat shirt, my version of PJ's, then I cannot fully enter my day until I've changed into pants and T-shirt.  It I try to skip this, because in my head I tell myself that this is being dressed, my day feels wrong and out of sync.  Yes, I do try to argue with myself over my rituals, but if I don't follow them then things just feel wrong.

At this point my ritual moves on to praying the Morning Office.  I've been doing this for over twenty years with a couple of interludes taken while I was "being an atheist" :-)  Actually, for a couple of the atheist periods in the last twenty years I went right on with the Morning Office because I like the ritual.  I went to Grace Cathedral in San Francisco for years while not believing a bit of it just because I loved the ritual there.


From time to time I've varied the details of the morning office.  I've used several variations, but almost every day for twenty years I have prayed some form of liturgical morning prayer.  The first form I used was from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.  Later I used the forms included in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod's "Treasury of Daily Prayer" which is very similar to that found in the Book of Common Prayer, since both are based on the Catholic Morning Office that I followed during the several times I've tried to be Roman Catholic.

I'll go over the details of praying the Office another time, but this has brought me to the end of my morning rituals.  :-)  One thing I have noticed in thinking about this is that even when I deliberately strive to change things up, to be spontaneous, it's always within specific constraints.  Change has to be done slowly and carefully and I have to really work hard to shift things at all.  Even walking from BART to work is done in only two different ways, any other route, even if it's the same distance, feels wrong to me.

Recently I've tried staying in San Francisco during work weeks with a good friend who is kind enough to allow me to use her spare bedroom.  This always leaves me feeling discombobulated, out of sorts and confused.  I tried to figure out what was "wrong" with being there, maybe it was the neighborhood, it is in the Castro District after all, with it's giant rainbow flag and very strange denizens...


Or maybe it was that I didn't like being away from my family and seeing them every day...


And you know what?  Both of those are factors but I'm pretty sure that the problem is that I've had a ritual of getting a hug from Lora and Serenity, and now Max and Tiernan as well, for nearly a decade, and it's a vital part of my day.  I can't really bring myself to do without that daily ritual, it makes my day feel complete and missing it leaves a huge gaping hole in the day.  So, probably I'm not going to be staying away during my work weeks, even though it makes all sorts of sense in other ways, more sleep and saving time on commutes, but it's not worth it!  A hug is a ritual, but it's probably the most important one I've got and "I can't want to" change it as Max would say :-)

My final thought is this, I seem to have more rituals these days than ever before, am I getting more Autistic by thinking about it?  Or is it just that I notice all of these little rituals now?  To be honest I LIKE it when I do the same thing every day!  I would be just fine eating almost the same things every day, wearing the same clothes etc.  It is easier on the brain, fewer choices to make, fewer chances to screw things up... rituals rock.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Overload

Once upon a time I took a couple of online tests for Asperger's Syndrome and I scored very high on them all.  Does that mean I win?

Most of the time I manage to cope fairly well with life.

Most of the time I suppose that I pass as "normal," whatever that means.

Most of the time.

But sometimes my facade slips and I'm unable to maintain my cool and calm exterior  and then the seething mass of confusion and struggle that is beneath surges up to the surface, like lava bursting from a subterranean magma chamber it scorches whatever is near by when it erupts.  Sorry about that world.

What is this "struggle" I am speaking of here?  It is the daily struggle to make sense of the chaotic world I inhabit.

                                         SOUNDS!  Listen to how it sounds...




                                                  SIGHTS!
                                                          SMELLS!
                                             PEOPLE!!

The world is overwhelming sometimes.

                     SOUNDS - right now.

I hear the world unfiltered.  All of the sounds have equal power to seize my attention.  A bird is chirping across the street in a tree, the sprinklers are running on the landscaping at the apartments on that same side of the street, a dog is barking, cars driving on the roads around Tracy with a constant yet irregular roar as trucks and cars make different sounds, engines and tires on pavement.  The ticking of my watch sitting on the desk.  The scratch of my pen.  The creak of my chair when I shift as I write, the rustle of the page as I move it to keep my pen in the optimum writing position.  People downstairs moving around, a teapot whistles with a sound so piercing and painful I cover my ears to blot it out and I hear my own blood pounding in my ears.  A baby cries, a child talks but I can't make out what he is saying... all of this is pounding at me as I sit in my room writing this.  A door opens, electronic tones are coming from somewhere... a garbage truck rumbles by... and this is a pretty quiet morning really, rather peaceful.

                     SMELLS - right now.

Right now I am in my own room where I, mostly, control the scents.  I burned Frankincense this morning, and now some patchouli so that dominates the room here and now.

                      - other places though...

Stores are the worst.  There are aisles of "cleaning products" with painfully overwhelming chemical perfumes in them that I suppose are intended to make things "smell good" but make me gag and give me a near instantaneous headache and send me fleeing from the aisle seeking breathable air - I feel like I'm suffocating then...

On a train - perfumes!  Dozens, no, HUNDREDS of people wearing what seems to be gallons of synthetic chemical scents that they imagine makes them more... what?   Attractive to potential mates?  I do not get it at all and most all of them smell disgusting and make me feel nauseous.  This is a daily thing.  Of course there are other smells on a train, even less pleasant.  Drug addled bums who refuse all aid to get off the street and who refuse to bathe who bring onto the train their revolting stench so they can be warm and safe.. yeah, it's great.  It's why I sometimes give up on public transportation and drive alone and pay the price.

                            NO FILTERS!

I seem to lack any ability to filter out sounds or other sensory input and I end up overwhelmed unless I can escape somehow, by going for a walk alone or maybe by drowning it all out with Trance music, the more repetitive the better.  Trance if it's a noisy day, maybe Gregorian Chant if it's pretty quiet.

                                                        Incense
                                                                       Music
                                                                                     Solitude

I also don't have a filter on my speech.  This is where real troubles can start up.  Often things come out completely uncensored and unfiltered.  Thought and speech happen simultaneously.  Ack.  Even when I "think before I speak" I wind up saying things that I'm told are inappropriate and offensive, all the time.  I'm warned and told daily that I've said something "wrong" but even when it has been explained I often don't really "get" why it was wrong, which makes it impossible to avoid the next time I open my mouth.

So yesterday I was tired after driving the RV for 3+ hours, and I had a bunch of joint pain (which I am pretty sure is caused by my decision to stupidly eat gluten, again.) and there was WAY too much chaos around me and I got angry and grouchy and swore and huffed and just generally made an ass out of myself... then I thought about it and said, "Larry, you need to work on this."  And the way I'm working on it is to write about it.

Being only "self-diagnosed" Aspie I don't have that handy "Official Label" to wave about at people to say "Hey Help!"  I guess it is up to me to "fix" it when I'm getting lost in the chaos.  The thing is, by the time I realize I'm in trouble I've lost the ability to express my need to get away and regroup and I find myself unable to just say, "I need some time right now to get myself together."  Partly because I don't want to admit that I can't handle the situation like that.  I try to bluff my way through, until it all comes apart of course, then it's too late.

I thrive best with routines and rituals.  Doing the same things in the same ways at the same times day after day.  I imagine this is one of the reasons that I am so attracted to the Roman Catholic Church, daily mass, the various offices to recite every morning and night lend a comforting structure to every day, no matter that the theology is whack.  I get up around the same time every day, take a shower, make up my bed, read the office and write in my journal.  Then, the day begins.  I like my surroundings to be orderly and neat, but I'm also lazy, so things tend to pile up until I decide the hell with it all and I try to "minimize" some more so I don't need to deal with so much crap.

Such is life on the "Un-Official Autism Spectrum."  Yeah, I know it's just the same for everyone, but if that is so then "everyone" is faking it way better than I am.

Finally, it's pretty much like this...

Sensory Overload (Interacting with Autism Project) from Miguel Jiron on Vimeo.

I win when I don't explode all day.  I win a lot :-)

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Tongue is a Fire

This morning the New Testament reading for the Morning Office was from James chapter 3.

 "...if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.  If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well.  Look at the ships also: though they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are guided by a very small rudder wherever the will of the pilot directs.  So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!  And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.  For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.  From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.  Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?  Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water."


Of course this is a passage that always convicts me, after all I have a big mouth that spouts off things that ought not to be said constantly.  I lack that filter that should exist between thought and speech.  Even when I pause and carefully consider my words, still the wrong things come out, because that filter just doesn't exist.  I am honestly at a loss as to what I've done wrong most of the time, only in retrospect, days later sometimes, can I figure out why people are shocked, appalled and offended by what I say.  I have prayed for the ability to speak only kind words, only uplifting and encouraging words... that prayer has yet to be answered.

The most encouraging thing in this passage is the fact that James says "no human being can tame the tongue" which means it's not totally up to me.  I've tried over the years to control my tongue, to no avail.  I've tried "giving God control" over my speech... that lasts only until I'm actually in a conversation of course.

The only thing that works for me is total silence.  



Of course that is not practical, I'm not a Trappist monk so I need to speak during the day, and as soon as I do... poof, things begin to burn!  I can say to myself in the morning, "Today, with the Lord's help, I am going obey the injunction of Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." But as soon as someone mentions politics or religion, or pretty much anything other than puppies... oh hell, even puppies can set me off... I'm spouting flames.  I suspect that I'm hopeless on this.  Lord forgive me because I'm not able to shut my mouth. 

I suppose that some (most?) of this is due to the fact that I am most certainly on "The Spectrum" (I score 40 on the online test) :-)  Even though I can usually cope just fine with life there are places and times when I just can't fit in with society.  My unintentional rudeness is a constant battle, as I try and cover it up by pretending I'm being sarcastic or deliberately tweaking those in authority, when really it's that I'm oblivious to the fact that I'm saying anything wrong at all.  Ah well, being an "Angry Gnome" what does anyone expect of me anyway?