Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Together alone with myself

November 12, 1987

Oh, I'm sure
write to music
never could.

November 16, 1987
Oscar Wilde 1880, unknown photographer

Oscar Wilde
I saw his picture in a book
I stopped and stared.
I checked the name
Oscar Wilde
My God, what a handsome face.

I might go insane.
I don't know if I can just go ahead and leave. My head starts to ache. The pressure is really intense. I'm really too afraid to act.

November 18, 1987

This is the way the video should go...
Women talking in the house - Jan to Halle.
Record this whole conversation on tape altering it by editing superfluous information and repeating things.
The other action should be in the driving with silence. The conversation stopping suddenly and Halle driving the back - repeating?
Images in slides could possibly be "couples" generic couples in love or bodies intertwined - fleshy, sensual would work very well.

(Evening)November 18, 1987
There would be no one to live for during those coming years; she would live for herself. There would be no powerful will bending hers in that blind persistence with which men and women believe they have a right to impose a private will upon a fellow-creature. A kind intention or a cruel intention made the act seem no less a crime as she looked upon it in that brief moment of illumination.
- "The Story of an Hour" - Kate Chopin
November 19, 1987

It has been so hard for me to write. It seems a time to reread what I have been thinking. I want to talk no longer. I cannot.
Cris wears Lisanne's black shirt. The cuffs of which cover his hands to his knuckles. Upon the last button hole, hangs a silver heart.
She came for dinner and [later] we [Cris and I] talked about us. We are going to be friends, that's what I need.
"We called a cab in fear of your reaction to her staying the night even though we probably would not have slept together."
The insensitivity to my feelings smacks me in the face. Cris wears Lisanne's shirt like a trophy. His bodily scents oozing into the black cotton fibers, weft and warp holding his essence.
When he returns the shirt (which may never happen, he is such a thief), Lisanne can take it to bed with her, wrapping her arms and legs about the shirt and deeply smelling it.

I need to just stop. Cris is such an asshole really. I am not finding him at all attractive, at all.
Cold, cold wind blow
See what's left of me.
God! Jesus Christ! I really make myself totally sick at times. Here's something else to think about...
Coffin-board, heavy stone,
Lie on her breast,
I vex my heart alone.
She is at rest.

Peace, Peace, she cannot hear
Lyre or sonnet,
All my life's buried here,
Heap earth upon it.
- Avignon - Oscar Wilde

I wrote a lot. I left a lot out. It is strange how after 23 years, I skip the horror, write of video editing and quoting short stories. I mention a conversation finally after three days of hell.

The end of my marriage started on the 16th. I had forgotten my notebook for my afternoon class, so a friend offered to drive me home. I burst happily in the door, my children turned, smiling at me. As I stepped in I saw her. A young woman was sitting on the couch. "Oh, hai", I said, grabbing my notebook off the bookcase. Back in the car, as I buckled in I said, "My husband is having another affair." 

That was what my three sentence observation was about. I was thinking of leaving. I had threatened Cris before - that he had left the last time - leaving me with 3 young children - alone - distraught - empty. I had threatened to leave him the next time.
On the morning of the 17th. I was going to register for my second semester at MCAD. Cris and I had a routine. I had morning school, he had afternoon school. I worked some evenings. He went out and romanced women the evenings that I didn't work. This morning, he had not yet arrived. He had stayed out all night. He had not done this before - at least not since he had moved back home to me. I guess since I had caught him "red handed" the day before, Cris decided to drop the pretense of a "study group" and indulged himself in a romantic evening.

I watched out the window. Waiting. Growing more and more enraged. Where Was He? Where Is He? I Have To Go! The children played nervously in the next room, leaving me alone. A half-hour after my time to register, the city bus stopped and off came Cris. I grabbed the window curtain, tearing down the curtain rod. I screamed. I beat the window with the rod. I turned and beat one of Cris's paintings, ripping it, screaming enraged.

As Cris entered the duplex,  I opened the door, continuing to scream. I grabbed handfuls of books off the shelf next to the door. I pelted him with my Dostoevsky books, "War and Peace", "The Idiot", "The Brothers Karamazov", down they flew, hitting their mark as he climbed the steps. 

He reached the top, grabbing me violently and pushing me backwards into the bedroom. He threw me down on the bed, choking me. I kicked him, struggled to get away. The children stood silently at the foot of the bed watching - or were they crying? I did manage to get him off of me. I called my sister to get the children. I called my friend Halle to come get me, take me away. I had a video camera checked out to film my final project for class. 

I was bruised and swollen. Halle drove me to Stillwater to her friend Jan's house. She had not not planned to rescue me that day. She had planned to rescue Jan. Jan had woke up that morning to find that her husband had taken the children in the night, leaving a note on the table. She was distraught. 

Needing to tape anything. Anything. I pulled out the camera, setting the microphone into the bowl of fruit on the table. I held the camera low and listened to Halle talk to Jan. Jan began to open up and as most people do, she started to forget the camera. I turned it on and began to tape her stories. 

I did actually get a great story. She was the cheater in her relationship. I hated her. I was able to piece together a story and outtakes into a video that meant something to me. I made her stand for my husband, I made her seem petty and insensitive. The entry on November 18th was "faked" to make it seem as if I had preplanned the whole video. If I checked my visual journals, I am sure I could find the actual story I had wanted to film. I don't have the energy to look - and that is beside the point.

 After missing my appointment to register, my life took a drastic turn. I decided to leave MCAD, to apply to the University of Minnesota to peruse a degree in Art Education. After working on my video until midnight, I went home and gathered my things, then left.

I did it. I left Cris for 3 days, well actually, two nights and three days. I slept at a friends house the first night, on the wooden floor, waking early, sore and going to school in the same clothes I had worn the day before. I slept the next night in my car, in the MCAD parking lot. It was late November. It was cold. My windows iced up. I was frozen. I changed my clothes before going to the restroom to brush my teeth before class. After class, I defiantly went home. I hugged my babies and ordered Cris and Lisanne OUT! 

I  am still pretty sly, hiding all my turmoil in quotes from books, and quick conversations. I am still like that now. I am quiet in my discomfort. I speak to no one about my pain. I do have a secret blog where I confess my dissatisfaction, my despair, my sorrow. You could look at me, and only see either boredom or disgust. Those are my expressions. I am a secret that nobody knows. 

My husband, Anthony, never reads my blogs. It feels empty to me that he doesn't. He sits next to me, coding. I am alone.

When I think you are in love with another

November 9, 1987

When I think you are in love with another,
I must continually go to the bathroom, my bowels turning to rid myself of this disgrace.
I clean the little things in my life.
Scrubbing with Mr. Clean the motif "Crown" on the stove until the years of grease embedded in its intricacies are removed, along with the paint.
The bed moves too much, threatening to collapse on my little ones.
I tie it up with hooks sunk deep into the window frame.
Using clothesline, I think "This was once used to hang your diapers to dry when you were much younger."

You come home, still smelling of incense.
I only have harsh words for you.


I have stared at this page for weeks. Every day glancing at my journal sitting to the left of my computer. I pick it up. I open it to the marked page and remember. I close the cover with a shudder. The pain I feel at reading my words is deep and invisible, my heart pounds as adrenalin is secreted into my body. So here it is November 9th, twenty-three years later. I will face the pain.

Cris was a cruel man. How could a man with three children and a wife at home continue to seek out and pursue new, younger women - bring them home while I was at school to play with my preschool aged children? How heartless. The man is an emotional vampire, a sociopath. 

This prose may not seem all that dramatic to you, after all the other much more obviously painful posts. Yet, the pain is for me is as fresh as the day I wrote the words. This is the raw scab that Cris kept ripping open. That I allowed him to salt and watch fester. It is a description of the way I experience emotions. Body feelings. I never knew I had such a limited emotional vocabulary. Alexithemia is what it is called - to not be able to identify feelings with words. So I describe the sensations.

I express my years of nausea as "needing to go to the bathroom". Two years of constant stress were taking their toll on me. I felt fear all the time.

After reading a self-help book about relationships, I told him that I was setting him free - that I could not force him to love me. He took it as freedom to continue his romances more vigorously. I had thought that it would give him pause - make him think about his children, about me - just what he was giving up. I think a lot about it now. How my underdeveloped Theory of Mind could trick me into believing that people would react to my words the way that I would react. I had no way of predicting the behavior of others. People were such a mystery to me.

My children, now adults, attended Cris' birthday party last January. He threw the party for himself. He invited only young women - most younger than his children. My children described his behavior surrounded by the young, squealing girls. They played a suggestive word game - the girls giggling and carrying on. Cris' girlfriend sat in another room, drinking herself into a stupor. The children choose to leave when one of the girls suggested they play dress up downstairs in Cris' makeshift studio. It makes me physically ill to imagine it. 

I feel sympathy for his current girlfriend - whom he refers to as his "wife". She is just like me. All his girlfriends end up like me. Empty inside. He is an emotional vampire. I was his first victim. I wonder when she will find the power to escape him. I wish her well.

Friday, October 8, 2010

My story starts and ends with me

November 2, 1987

School conference with Aja's teacher today. She does well in school, but needs some work with letter sounds and math concepts. She is fine though and tries hard. I think she gets frustrated too easily.

I am sick. It is really terrible to be sick. Ianthe fell asleep counting pennies today at 11:30. She must have been pretty wiped out.

We had lots of fun on Halloween, in Bayport. Aja and Harrison went out ahead of us and arrived home about five minutes before Cris, Ianthe and me. Cris took them back out again. They were too afraid of some of the spookier houses.
Scary Pirate Harrison and Spooky Ghost Aja!
I am interested in the occult lately. Want to know more. Maybe if I close my eyes and just let myself write some thing might happen...

/rolls eyes
I once was a river
trees standing tall
never enough time to grow
the wind seems so
restless the snow so cold
Once I could speak
but now there are no words
My lab is small
the wall are white
one of my assistants is
a little girl with curls
and a puffy yellow dress.
The other is a man
in a lab coat. his hair
is thin and dark -
balding at the top.
They each stand in wait
with chalk by the board
man to the left girl
to the right.

November 5, 1987

Before I was born, I went with my other and father to Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. There is a black and white picture, with crinkly edges (the old fashioned kind, you know) of my mother with her big fat pregnant belly. This is me. I know it and feel it, more surely than any other early memory. I am reminded of my own children - Aja in utero attending the Alice Cooper concert - she did not like it. Ianthe went to REM a month before she was born. I danced - she didn't even twitch - she never did - nothing then or now ever phases her.

Magic, Cris is taking a very intellectual approach. I doubt it will ever work for him. Me, I've gone through believing in it. I have feared it and realized that truly fearing something is the same as knowing it is real - so I just shifted focus. Fear is not a good approach.

I want to help Cris, but I think although he thinks it is his own doing, he is helpless. He wants proof - I've already had it. I will make him an "altar" - he is so into ceremony. I'll stock it with glass vials and wool cloth and many colored candles. I'll get him another mortar and pestle (maybe his mom still has ours) and a beautiful glass tray in which to burn things. I'll get him a glass pan to make an infusion. Maybe even stock the vials with a few remote herbs. Oh, how exciting.


I live in a very black and white world. I am the star of my existence. I have and always will be. It comforts me to know my story starts and ends with me.

When I was a young mother, I wished I could disappear. I found a book on magic that talked about how you could become invisible. He wasn't talking about becoming invisible in the "poof" gone sort of way - it was more along the lines of "blending" in. That thought really appealed to me. I practiced.

I dressed up sometimes. Wore clothes that were not mine - that I had bought at a garage sale or been given by a friend. I would do up my hair in a different style. I would paint my face with makeup - I never wear make up - I did in high school, but haven't since. I like my face just fine thank you. 

I would look totally NOT ME. I went to places that I knew Cris would be at: Uptown, the Walker Art Center, an Art Crawl downtown. I would casually walk around using the "blending" techniques. Breathe in slowly, hold, breathe out slowly, breathe. Stay to the edges, move slowly. Stay out of sight lines.

I would watch Cris with Char. I was insane with jealousy. At this point in my life, I do not understand why I could spend so much time "stalking" my own husband, confused about why he had chosen another, believing it HAD to be me. I knew about Char in July - Ianthe was born in September. I finally left him for good in June, before Ianthe turned three. That is a long time to torture one's self. Why did I do that to myself. I know now. The patterns of existence. I have routines. I hate my routines to be disrupted. But back then, I didn't know that Asperger's ruled my thoughts, ruled my behavior. Ruled my doubt.

You know that feeling in your stomach? The one that makes you slightly sick - the adrenaline being released - the slow burn? Think of that. Three years. And I thought I was the one at fault. I wasn't a good enough wife. I didn't cook well enough. I didn't keep the house clean enough, I didn't read the labels right: bough creamed corn instead of whole kernel. But it wasn't me at all. I was good enough. It was not me. It was him. 

I enjoyed my invisible self. I was no one. I could walk freely around unafraid. I asked the neighbor downstairs to listen for my babies, if they cried. Then donning my stranger's clothing, I would take the bus to Uptown and walk around, following Cris and Char. They never once saw me. I enjoyed it as much as I was pained by it. I think I enjoyed the secret me - it was the free me - the normal human with no children me. I was not ME. I was what others were to me. A Stranger.

Sometimes now, I wish I could disappear. To become invisible. I wish I were invisible now. To disappear from the world. To work in the dark. Alone. All Alone, very quiet, only the sound of the bubbles in my can of coke and the bouncing of the keyboard as I type, and the quiet pat, pat, pat as another cat comes to see what I have written tonight.

A secret. The story starts and ends with me. I am not afraid of that.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Survivor's guilt

Sharon Olds, last year I wanted to remember her. I never have found a book of hers. Well, I've never looked either. Tears come into my eyes when I read it. If I read it again, the tears will come again. The tears will flow. Oh, it hurts. When you just "have" to do something. Nobody knows, or cares, but there is a sense in you that makes you perform. An urgency in your voice/eyes that lets people know it is necessary for you to do these things.

In Poetry class, I sit between two others. Sharna is at my left. She is panicky. She says she has a brain tumor. She says she is going to write a book series of her dream realities: Fantasy Adventure. She thinks she is dying. She hurries to finish up her undone ends in this life - which is too short for even an old man/woman to finish all.

She is panicked. I feel sorry for her. I do not want her to panic. This is not the time to panic at all. I was thinking and really believing that we shouldn't ever ask why. It takes up too much time. Even in a long prolonged life, there is never time. Sharna, get on with your stages of excepting the inevitability of death. You might think that you have done just so, but you haven't. I'm not saying I could, but I do know what should be done. I also know that many people do not die of brain tumors. You just may be one of those who can survive. You are so worried, an adolescent wanting to experience it all before you die. Sex, the mystery of sec and love - oh, just a fantasy. But yes, it is real, poor Sharna. Don't panic.


I remember this so well, poor panicky Sharna. Awkward Sharna. I took pity on her, someone more awkward than myself. I always did that - I still do. The awkward make me seem graceful and confident. I feel powerful at these times. Their obvious lack of social skills, minimizes my own. I actually use their tension to mask mine.

Brain tumors and cancer - hot button topics for me.

It was a brain tumor that actually led to my Asperger's diagnosis. My friend, my colleague, my next-door-teacher, my children's Art teacher, my mentor, my peer, Mark Wald, had a brain tumor. He was a strong man - a will as great to live as my own. He was given only a few months to live, he lived 18 months past his diagnosis. I loved that man. Before he died, he said he had something to do, something planned for him - in the afterlife. He knew that I do not believe in such things, but I agreed and smiled through the tears. My friend Denny had accompanied me to this final visit with my friend. Mark, a man that always was dapper and fit and beautiful, lay helpless, swollen from steroids, and (I assume) spinal fluid build up. He had laid out a bevy of snacks for us, veggies and dip, plates and napkins, drinks. It must have taken him more than an hour to prepare. We talked. This last time. Denny and I both grateful for the presence of the other. We ate our snacks. We talked of the beauty of art - of Mark's legacy to the community - of his pain - of his preparedness to let go - just not yet - soon. This was two weeks before he died.

We had heard that he had later, in the night, awakened, he had climbed into the attic to retrieve his favorite Christmas items. He set them up. What a feat of will. The man was a true Christian - a Catholic - rejected by the church for his very being. He loved Christmas. A week before Christmas, Mark lost the ability to speak. He was a chatter bug. He loved to talk. He was trapped into silence. His family and friends gathered to take turns at his side. Talking to him - he could make expressions, but for once, he couldn't add anything to the conversation. I can only imagine how painful that must have been for him.

My friend, Jeanne called a day or so before Christmas eve, to chat and talk about her "shift" with Mark on Christmas Day. I think, I remember at least - memories are weird like that - I told her that I thought Mark might let go before then. That he loved Christmas. Making it to Christmas eve would be close enough. I thought of my children's great-grandfather Norm. He made it to Christmas eve too. My own father made it through a weekend of surprise visits by his children, even found the energy to attend mass - one more time. He died on my daughter, Ianthe's birthday.

Jeanne called Christmas eve evening. Yes, Mark had gone peacefully the day. His mother had held him and told him it was okay to go. I cannot begin to measure the loss that Mark's family felt, his partner felt or the loss that we three friends - Denny, Jeanne and me - felt and his other friends felt. I can tell you that Mark Wald lived a glorious life. He taught students to make beautiful Art. He taught students about tolerance and acceptance. He was one of the first Minneapolis School teachers to "come out". He made beautiful Art too.

My Friend, "Sparky" Mark Wald - he would have been amused that I had initially misspelled "sparky" as "spanky".
I have survivor's guilt. I survived a second bout of cancer that left me with a 30% chance to live. A bone marrow transplant (my own marrow) gave me a 50% chance. When I tried to cheer Mark up, that I had survived a 30% chance - he said that sounded cheery to his chances. But he was willing to put in the hard work to go through the surgeries, the radiation, the chemo to keep his chances as open as possible. He managed to return to his classroom for 2nd semester. Jeanne found the strength to help him everyday - I do not now how. She didn't take to me right away - I am not easy to approach - but as the year went on, we grew closer and closer. I could not imagine life without Jeanne now. 

Near the end of the school year, a viscous student accused Mark of racism. Unbelievable. False. The school district removed him from the classroom 2 weeks before the end of the school year. The Loudermill hearing (the witch hunt in Minneapolis Public Schools) removed all of Mark's chances to return to the only thing he wanted to do - to teach. They took away his reason for existence.

Next school year was even worse. Mark had not been replaced - because he had not been fired so much as "crushed. A long term sub had to be found. Anyone but "that woman" who subbed for him in the winter - not her - anyone but her (I refuse to name her, I feel only kindness towards her now) - but it was "that woman". She was inexperienced in 2-D Art. She was inexperienced as a teacher. She had social issues that confused me. Later Denny told me that she had grown up in a closed sect of missionaries. We clashed. She did not understand me. I tried to be nice, she thought I had other motivations. She was mean. I tried the silent treatment. I reversed again and tried to be nice, she told me I was after her job. It was hell.

After Mark died, Denny and I, who were left at school together, alone, without him, we pulled together in our sorrow. At lunch, we would sometimes just look at each other with great sadness. Sometimes - well - mostly me - I would burst into tears at the slightest provocation - the sight of the duct tape that Mark had used to hang student work in the stair well, being awarded the plaque congratulating me - in Mark's stead - for his Gate's Scholar. He should have been there to receive that. He should have been. Not me. Oh, such sorrow. My engineer, a caring soul often the butt of jokes by his fellow coworkers, presented me with Mark's sign - the one that directed parents for teacher conferences, when I returned to school after the holiday recess.  That year was hell. I wanted to die. I cried everyday. I missed Mark so much.

The following school year was not much better. We had hired a new, talented Artist - a gem in the district, so we started out optimistic. In October, during a doctor's visit, I confessed my suicidal ideations - well, I had gone because of the thoughts - no "confession" needed. He was frank with me. "You know, if you were anyone else, I would hospitalize you. I strongly suggest that you start on some anti-depressants." I hesitated. Wasn't I supposed to be sad? He said there was sad and then there was SAD. I probably needed help to climb out of the hole I was in. 

The pills helped a bit. I suffered from anxiety for years, my old doctor had given me clonazapam when I felt the stomach grinding anxiety was more than I could bear - I couldn't function. My new doctor was a little less willing to provide me with the same pill. He gave me 1/2 a month dosage, to last a month or longer. I tried. He told me it was good to take a break now and then. 

In March, I swore at a lady in the school office. I went upstairs, crying, called the doctor's office to talk to my nurse. I asked for a referral to a therapist - and to someone who could prescribe psychotropic meds - to evaluate the dosages and meds I was taking. It took me 6 weeks to get an appointment to see someone. I was late. I was lost. I found her 10 minutes late. She tried to calm me. I was afraid, I was in a state where I usually flee - fly away home little birdie - fly away home! She saw something in me, in my behavior. I am ever so grateful. She stopped. She asked, "Has anyone ever suggested you might have Asperger's?" I stopped to consider. "Well, back when Ianthe was having trouble in school - must have been in the mid 90's - a psychiatrist told me he thought I had "social autism". Like the doctors during my transplant calling me "hyper-manic", I thought he was making up a syndrome to fit me." Social Autism - come on - what the hell was that?! 

Oh. In 1994, Asperger's was added to the DSM-VI. It was new to the psychiatric community. They didn't know much about it. I was SO Close to a diagnosis that could have saved my children. 

Survivor's guilt. It is a killer. It eats away at your soul. Why me. Why not her? Why him? Why not me?

A day before my Transplant - my 30th Birthday
A few weeks after I started producing WBC - with my "kids"

A side note. I recently spoke with my old doctor. Before I let him go, I mentioned that I had been diagnosed with Asperger's last year. He laughed, "I could have told you that - had we known about it back then! Wait till I tell the Hammer tomorrow!" /smile

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

I am on a Catherine Wheel

October 15, 1987

"Can you see to write?" Phebe asked, "maybe I am taking this atmosphere thing too far." We sit in the darkened room, lit by one window, uncurtained and a small flame from the purple candle that Phebe has brought.

Today is Martyr's Day. I remember being in class with Phebe last Martyr's day. What in the heck is Martyr's day anyways? I imagine it must be some quasi-religious day invented by those vicious Roman's in order to convert all their domain to Catholicism.

But maybe I am wrong. Maybe it is just for the simple people in the world who have made a supreme sacrifice to mankind.

Martin Luther King to further equal rights.

Gandhi to bring peace in his religiously split, Monarch ruled country.

Joan of Arc, burned at the stake, dressed as a man in armor to fight as the voice had commanded her so.

Catherine Wheel. What the heck is a Catherine wheel? Could it be as the TV show depicted? Wooden wheels, mounted high in the air with people strapped upon them, spinning in the breeze, being eaten by the birds?

Where there ever dragons? I wonder. I really would want to believe that there were. If there are wizards, there must be dragons. Might be a bit like Black & White magic, if there is good, there must be evil. If a wizard is good, his dragon counterpart is evil, if a wizard is evil then the dragon will be good.

Why do all the good dragons live in China?


I am seriously on a Catherine wheel. Right Now. Not Cool. Plus not making people around me happy either. Either I am not clear, or they aren't - I don't know. I felt like I did when I was buying my house. Drive here! Drive there! Turn this statement in! Turn in this form! Are you disabled as per ADA guidelines?

I want my job back. I want my kids back. They need me. I want my room back. I want my server back. I want. I want. I want. I want. I do not want to be paid to not go to school. I want to be paid to go to work - like the rest of the world. work. I may not be totally suited to my job, but I am really good at it.

Catherine wheel, spinning. Spinning my wheels. Waiting. Waiting. Wanting to return to my comfortable routine. Please. I want to get off this thing. Stop this spinning. Please. Someone help me down.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

treacherous skin circles

October 12, 1987

My hands are very dry. It has to do with the season. in junior high school, the palms of my hands would peel and looked like some sort of disease, The spiral curvatures of the peels would flake and I would attempt to chew the dead skin off, pressing flat the palm of my hand against my chin and nose trying to reach my teeth towards the treacherous skin circles, snake-like, weaving of skin, peeling every fall so that the new pink skin underneath had a chance to breathe.

Ianthe wore her purple feetsie pajamas for most of the morning. She played legos, putting babies to bed, we read the Gingerbread man and the Bird Identification book though she grew bored after looking at fifty pages of birds.

When she dressed, we played airplane, acrobatics on the couch, Woa, Waooo!

We made macaroni and cheese for lunch. Ianthe ate a few chocolate chips, taking each one for a run through the house before popping it in her mouth. She watched me strain and restrain again the newly made orange juice to fill her bottle with. She sat on the counter watching, anticipating, but when I finished, I put it into the refrigerator. "Later Ianthe, later, for your nap," to no avail, she flung herself to the floor crying.

While she was still eating her lunch I started putting on my shoes. "Shoes, Sock," Ianthe said. "No, not now Ianthe, eat." I saw Harrison's bus. Ianthe grabbed the curtain of the window possessively, "My, No, Mine!"

She gave me a big snotty, macaroni and cheese kiss and hug before I left. Cris kissed me and I touched his chest hairs lightly, stroking with my right hand. "Make spinach lasagna with cheddar cheese for supper tonight, okay?"

Once I told my grandmother she made the best lasagna in the world. Weeks later, I told my mother the same thing but she called me on it.


I understand the dry skin now. I wash my hands. A lot. Like, all the time. I seriously use three hand towels in the kitchen when making a meal. I touch the counter. I wash. I pour the oil. I wash. I cut the food. I wash.

I can bet that my hands peeled in the fall in junior high school because I spent the majority of my days either perched in a tree or playing on the red concrete floor in the basement, constructing vast Lego villages for the bus babies. Always the same: hospitals, hotels, homes. Roads drawn with chalk.

The trees were the best. I loved the fruit trees the most. In my neighborhood there were several great climbing trees with fruit to eat. Sour cherries and wonderful apples at the Kleppers. The Sexton's had a plum tree - delicious. In the backyard we had 2 apple trees - not great for climbing but the unripened fruit was good if you threw it at the ground to bruise it well - and a rhubarb bush.

I was disappointed to have to "grow up" and stop climbing trees. How very disappointing. Once I stopped climbing trees, my palms stopped shedding, but I still have dried hands in the fall through spring.

I won't say I wish I were dead this time. I will say that being a kid was pretty awesome when I was alone in a tree watching the other kids play.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Allen Ginsberg

October 1, 1987

I believe this entry is in response to poetry being read to us in class by Phoebe Hanson.

Kansas disco gay girls
"Chances are" farm boys
fat asses festivities and
mechanical things irrevocably connected.

"I'm a victim of telephones"
telephone victimization
always rings at the most inopportune times but we always answer.

"Flying over Detroit"
injustice in feelings of murder, discrimination
red petaled flower of my body anger.
They have fucked up the planet.
Purely military consideration
Schizophrenics running the planet
Military is waiting for orgasms,
but there are not enough orgasms to go around.
Environmental crisis
bloody press cards
have bullets in their heads
Buffalo Gay 90's bring them back.


I love books. I love poems. I love words, and speech and language. My thoughts ramble. I have been settling into my new home life. The children are home, the grandchildren too. My husband has adopted our adult children. We are a big extended family - and for the most part, all of us are very happy.

Tony and I had just made a budget, days before the first child returned home to us. Now that budget is out the window. A dream deferred. No travel trailer for Lady Door. That's okay. I am resigned to it. Trading the trailer for a chance to see my grandchildren grow - hands down - not even a glance back at the trailer.

The children are wonderful - and distracting. I can get so wound up in talking with them, making things and acting as their servant that I can forget things that matter outside. Like going to school or creating curriculum or grading.

I worry about the new principal at my school. I am paranoid that she is watching me, waiting to make a misstep. I am afraid. My stomach grinds. On the plus side - I have lost 13 pounds as a result of stress.

I feel that I don't get any time for myself. I fear that I speak too much and do not listen enough. I wish I wasn't me. I wish death upon myself almost daily. I hate myself. I want to die.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Things I might look for (so as to tear down the walls) Part 2

Watch out when you start really wanting something. Having coffee with Cindy today, I asked her to order the children's book "Everybody knows what a dragon looks like" I told her I would write her a check. Thinking about it now I wonder "why?" I have read this book maybe ten times already. Do I really need to have it?

Watch out when things start making too much sense. I remember studying the book "You can live forever in paradise on Earth", with Chris Berger, the Jehovah's Witness. It all made perfect sense. The bible suddenly alive with interconnections. The trouble was not that the logic didn't make sense, but rather that I didn't believe in the existence of God.

I would snigger to myself as all these women and God fearing children would pray to this "Jehovah" to bless them. It kind of put a damper on things, not believing in God. So now I fear the end of the world awaiting the signs...knowing I will be one of those poor souls who will die and not live forever with all of them over in Stillwater. I wonder why it is that I believe in the end even though I can't believe in the guy who is supposed to bring all this about - I gotta watch that and not let it happen again.

3. Gotta watch those conspiracy theories that keep hatching in my brain. I sincerely doubt that the world knows something collectively that I just don't get. Who cares if Eric and Colleen are successful and going to church every god damned Sunday; that my parents on Wednesdays go for spontaneous drives down to Redwing for a bite to eat and to catch a view; or that Cindy and John are in league with hundreds of other adoptive parents of Korean children; and that Seven Eleven employees insist that I wear shoes or they won't serve me next time. I wonder why Powderhorn Park attracts the greatest number of single white women with black children and why I even wonder about such a trivial thing. And wonder why my daughter sits alone on the bus on the way home "with only Jim" (her backpack) to keep her company "sometimes he dances for me," she says. Why does Cris refuse to get out of bed if the TV is on on Saturday morning, and for that matter, My God, is He Invisible? The children, tip toeing into bed, touching me lightly on the shoulder "mom, mom" ten zillion times, it is hardly worth it to sleep pat eight o'clock.

4. Watch out when you think you're different than anyone else. I still watch my shadow when I walk, glance at my reflection while opening shiny doors, pick my nose when I am alone, masturbate while my husband is sleeping next to me late at night, Space out and not pay any attention to my surroundings when I am driving. When I read, I cannot hear the pleas for help from my children, I would rather sleep than fix dinner for my family, sometimes fantasize about extramarital affairs but doubt I could ever go through with it, read other people's mail, eavesdrop on others conversations, think I am really any fucking different than anyone else? Ha, what a laugh! Can I change and be on the outside looking in: probably not.

5. Watch out when you want to give up out of hopelessness.


I feel overwhelming hopelessness now. The sadness is oppressive. It presses on me - I push it away, robotic-ly. I have things to do. Do them. I can't. Too much to do. This list is a list of awareness. Of how I differed from those around me, yet, I wasn't all that different. I am human after all. All of us Aspergians are. I will try to take up the blog again now that school started again. Hold me to it.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Things I might look for (so as to tear down the walls)

Watch out when you start really wanting something. Having coffee with Cindy today, I asked her to order the children's book "Everybody knows what a dragon looks like" I told her I would write her a check. Thinking about it now I wonder "why?" I have read this book maybe ten times already. Do I really need to have it?

Watch out when things start making too much sense. I remember studying the book "You can live forever in paradise on Earth", with Chris Berger, the Jehovah's Witness. It all made perfect sense. The bible suddenly alive with interconnections. The trouble was not that the logic didn't make sense, but rather that I didn't believe in the existence of God.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


September 29, 1987
Indecision about my mind. Just that wondering if I see things my own way, and what that is, and where it will lead. Sifting through things that I like, that he likes, that she likes, that they like and trying to find the balance. Striking up a balance in myself.

Daring to say, do, be things I might otherwise become. This is all pretty vague. What is the difference between things chosen and things given? Like my family (given), my in-laws (chosen?)

What is it exactly that we choose anyway?

Power struggle
Cris won't get out of bed in the morning. If I want to sleep in, Cris comes back to bed when things have quieted down. I don't think this is fair.

When I get up, I'm up to stay at least until ianthe takes her nap at say, 1:00, then I might take a nap, say one time out of ten. Oppose me dear. Inflict guilt upon me because we have fallen through fate into this endless and constricting love relationship. But Guilt! Is it necessary? Do I create these feelings in you? You lie in bed.

Why I have no patience
1. There are other more important things in life to be done.

2. Nothing we do now is very important. Harris said when he came home from school today, "I wonder what will come after people." I asked him to explain. "First there were dinosaurs, then animals, then people. I wish I could not die so that I could see what's next." I told him that's the way it goes.

3. I wonder if there is a drug to clear your mind. I should call Pat (my therapist) and ask him if he could refer me to a good psychiatrist.

4. I am seeing through people. It bothers me.

5. My tongue gets all thick and twisted when I try to read books to the children.

6. When I read, I'm having trouble gleaning the message. Words just seem too concrete to be taken seriously.

7. I cannot comprehend who is making all those television commercials.

8. How am I going to keep myself on the ground? I have too many things to do.

9. I have not the art of conversation. I cannot understand what people are talking about.

10. I am having severe anxiety attacks when I see someone I know and I know they want to say things to me and I don't know what to say back and I get all embarrassed and just say yes yes to them but I don't know or understand what the significance of what they are saying is.

11. My mind feels like I have stuck in the incoming/outgoing syntaxes.

12. Maybe I'll call Pat tomorrow. I am all sweaty just thinking about it. Just too nervous and tense.

13.. I wish I could get away for awhile.

14. Cris says it is just enlightenment. It seemed to help for a few hours - passing it off as such. I really don't think there is much virtue in experiencing what this life is to me.

15. People are always so rigid and expect such rigidity in return.

16. People expect me to be/act/do as they have expected/explained/cajoled me into feeling/acting/doing. I cannot comprehend what is expected. Well maybe comprehend the wants/wishes/desires, but I cannot put it into action. I cannot act.

17. I cannot see beyond my glass cage.

18. Other people do not understand and are not aware of their blinds. I am all alone in myself and by myself all alone amongst all these others who seem to expect reality as it is.

19. I have lost the ability to explain in detail what it is I see.

20. Cris always shows everything to people when they come to our house. I ridicule his show and tell.

21. I find myself acting in these roles also. I find myself a hypocrite.


I have not written in a very long time. I have thought about writing, but I am so busy trying to not do anything and trying to relax and trying to do everything. So busy. I do this every summer. I am so happy to be alone. I sometimes stay up too late, then sleep until noon, and then when Anthony comes home, I regret the lost hours alone I could have spent being alone and quiet.

I hate the heat. I hate the dark greens of summer. I don't want to go outside. I sit in the basement with the curtains half open. I watch the neighbors play, talk, work, mow. Our grass grows tall. Our weeds grow freely. Our mulch floats away in the summer downpours. I read books long into the night, watching the frogs on my windows.

I have read this journal entry several times this summer. Thinking, maybe I should write it, maybe I should skip it. Skip it? no. It is like a list of me. No really - exactly me and how I feel still today - except for the trapped angry part. I have a wonderful husband, and nine months of the year, I actually interact with other people.

This one fact --> I had spent six years isolated with Cris since being tossed out of my parent's home on December 28, 1979 (the date is burned in my memory). Cris strictly controlled my friendships and my outside-of-the-house-activities. During those years, I held several part-time jobs, had three children, maintained a friendship with 2 people - Scott and Hallie. I was allowed to visit the library once a week. I checked out vegetarian cookbooks, books about building your own home, and every book about religion and philosophy.

In 1985, near the end of my horrible isolation, I invited Jehovah Witnesses into my home. They came every week to see me, I made them cookies and tea. I spent hours completing the "homework" they assigned me, and preparing "questions" to ask them. Eventually, they said I was required to join them outside the home. I attended one strange women and "scary well-behaved children" study group. I also took my children, properly attired in the "scary perfect child" way, to a Sunday "service". Faced with the prospect of actually joining this "Stepford Wife Community", I realized I couldn't keep pretending. Shamefully, I admitted that although their logic seemed sound, but I just didn't believe in the whole "god"thing. Details, details. They told me they couldn't hang out with me anymore.

I have been thinking a lot about these "lists" in my journal. How interesting to see how aware I was of my difference. I see how attending MCAD, with other people. Other people that had no interest in controlling me - other than assigning projects, papers and readings. This sudden interaction between me and others created a crisis in my mind. Cris had been controlling me. He used the "insanity" card on me. He used the "enlightenment" card. None of the labels he threw at me struck me as quite right. 

I realize that I keep repeating it, but I actually raised my children to recognize others as "different" than us. We were special, better than others. 

I see in these lists my deep depression: "I really don't think there is much virtue in experiencing what this life is to me." I see my understanding that I was outside of others: "..wondering if I see things my own way..." I was trying so hard to escape the disaster of my hellish marriage or wishing that Cris would stop having affairs. I saw the outside world of others that had no children. The students were younger than I was and living a life I never had. I watched with amazement and envy. I had crushes on attractive younger students. I enjoyed my studies - so much more interesting to learn with others than while alone with no one to clarify or discuss new ideas.

I thank Phoebe for gifting me these journals. I can look back and remember. I look back and remember and realize what struggles I have had to become the woman I am today. The wife that enjoys being a traditional housewife. The mother that loves and helps her adult children unconditionally. The teacher that teaches best one-on-one. The grandma that reels in happiness when her grandchildren are around. I love being alive. I love me.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My grandmother knows something I do not know

Blanche by Kate Green

My grandmother has lived a long time also. The woman - I feel she that if she had not lived (it's true) that I would not be here. This poem, written by Kate Green for her grandmother touches me deeply inside - deep down where I feel I must touch my grandmother but I cannot reach her. I sit in her apartment. She sits. We watch the children. Oh, I know she loves them and (I imagine she) thinks my grandfather who died even before I was born. I think of my aunt Joan who died as a baby of a brain tumor. She was blind. My mother knew her (she was the oldest child, my mother was.) She cared for her, diapers, bottles, crying, playing but she died a long time ago. I didn't even know about her until I was sixteen or so. I asked, "Who is this infant in this picture? Is it you or Roseann, mom?" My mother told me it was her sister Joan and left it at that. Only later did I pry the painful details from her. I know my grandmother was hurt - who could not be hurt by the loss of a child - a toddler? My grandmother knows her whole life - has seen her parents die, her husband, her brothers and sisters - her youngest sister just weeks ago. She knows something that I do not know and will never know until I too have seen them all die.


As a cancer survivor, I have faced death since writing this poem reaction. My grandmother - we did reach. We touched. She was so very kind. I was home from the hospital for a weekend. I had tubes hanging out of all sorts of places on my chest and belly. I was so thin - less than 100 pounds - I was just trying to make it through August to make it through to my birthday so I could have my transplant. After what seemed an eternity, everyone left the room. Most went outside, I think they were preparing a BBQ meal - hamburgers maybe - my dad's hamburgers were small round balls. My grandma sat in the rocking chair, her back to the bank of windows. I sat on a chair directly in front of her. We held hands. I told her I didn't want to die, but I was ready. I wasn't afraid. I told her I wasn't supposed to die before her. We looked into each others eyes. We cried.

I was with my grandmother when she died a decade later. I had a chance to be alone with her, tell her I loved her and held her hand. She couldn't speak. She was afraid. I saw it in her eyes. Later the nurse said it was time. Grandma's vital signs were waning. Her limbs were becoming cold. We entered her room: my mom and dad, my aunt Roseann, my aunt Maryann and Uncle Tom. I stayed near the end of grandma's bed. I reached out and took hold of her left foot and gave it a squeeze. "We love you." "You can let go now, it's okay." Grandma's breath became irregular and shallow. My dad said, "she is coming in for a soft landing." The heart monitor showed a slowing of action. Grandma took a sudden breath and exhaled. I thought she was gone - we all did - then she gasped again - pulling in air. We were startled. My dad, having seen many people die, was not phased. She did indeed come in for a soft landing. Her slowing heart, her slowing breath and finally, peace.


I have selfishly neglected my blog recently. I have been struggling for 5 weeks with bronchitis. Of course, every time I get sick, I immediately go to the "cancer" place in my mind. It nags at me. I have no energy to do anything but exist. My dear husband asked me to finally get groceries delivered. I couldn't shop. I couldn't walk more than 1/2 a block without being winded. I missed 6 days - unpaid - of work. I have seen the doctor 5 times, taken 100 - 600mg tablets of Mucinex in the month, taken a course of antibiotics that causes tendinitis - because I am allergic to most drug classes. Taken a burst of prednisone, and resorted to using an inhaler to manage breathing. I have nearly stopped drinking diet coke and switched to water - something that surprises me and amuses those who  know me best. I am only now starting to fell a little better. I hope I will continue to improve. There is too much life I want to live to give it up just yet.

I will attempt to continue my regular posting as soon as I am able!

Friday, May 14, 2010

She curses as she gardens...loudly

September 3, 1987

The woman at the bus stop in a lavender dress has a peculiar lump in her middle. I know not whether this lump is stomach or breasts. She rubs the front of the lump meditatively as she looks up the street for the bus. She is anticipating it...it comes. The bus from the other direction comes. Off comes Mary, the hunch backed old woman from three houses down. She curses as she gardens...loudly...but otherwise is a pleasant sort. ianthe follows her down the block and must be called back.

September 6, 1987

Today was ianthe's birthday. She is two years old now. Last night we stayed in Bayport and came home today in time for her nap. While she slept Aja and I baked her a birthday cake - a steel blue cat with orange eyes and a striped tail. ianthe loved the cat cake.

We had pizza for supper and then she opened her presents. Harris picked out a doll (a cabbage patch preemie) and Aja had picked out some My Pretty Pony newborn twins. ianthe loved them both. The doll was named Trista - so this is once again a sign of Harris as being psychic. I just can't believe it.

In Response to Writing Prompt in Class...

When I was a child my mother and father always read to me (and the rest of the kids). The Bumper Book was such a favorite, my grandmother (dad? mom?) taped it on reel to reel with the numbers appropriate to the story listed. My mother read A.A. Milne books to me - all Pooh stories and "When We Were Very Young" and "Now We Are Six". My father read us "I Met a Man" and other scarier books by John Ciardi. Those scary books - the worst was "The Monsters Den" - it haunted me. It wasn't the verses, now that I am old enough to understand them, but the illustrations which were done by Edward Gorey. I sometimes wonder if I also am scaring my children with Gorey's Alphabet book...A is for Amy who fell down the stairs, B is for Basil molested by bears...Probably, but that is what poetry is all about - something parents instill a love for while we are very young and wean us and gently guide us into greater heights.

I am amused by a couple of things in this short entry. I have a short description of Ianthe's birthday - the parts that were "ceremony", e.g. food, cake, presents. Ianthe was only 2 years old. I write that she "liked" the food, cake and presents. I describe the presents. I described the order of the day, the schedule. I left out a horrifying incident. I always leave out the horrors. Maybe I think if I don't write them down, they won't be true - they will fade in my mind. They don't. They never leave me.

When I was making the cake for Ianthe, I got out the hand mixer. When I plugged it in and started mixing the batter - roaches, lots of roaches, fled the inside of the mixer. They ran on my hands, up my arms and fell to the table and floor. I was horrified. They kept coming. I put the mixer in a plastic bag and ran it out to the trash outside. I tried to kill the escaping roaches. I can't get the memory out of my head. The roaches - how they felt on my wrist, my arm. So disgusting. Happy Birthday - Yuck! 

There were no roaches in the cake. I would have thrown it out. I say I made the cake with Aja, I wonder if she helped me frost it after I baked it. I hope she has no memory of it. /shiver

Next amusing thing is my need in my diary to brag about how literate I was. How we had books, books of poetry. I was cool. My parents read me poetry - bet yours didn't. I read poetry to my children - I am so cool. I am much more sensitive to my bragging now than I was a decade ago. I am very uncomfortable about bragging these days - even though I am sure I brag plenty. 

I have to stop. I am embarrassed about admitting about the roaches. That is enough confession for a day. Sorry to have put the visual into your mind...

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

That was a mistake I made when I was very young - I didn't...

 September 1, 1987

That was a mistake I made when I was very young - I didn't

September 2, 1987

My God I wish I could have at least finished my sentence. What a cryptic. Now my whole life I can imagine what it was that was my mistake. Writing a definition for poetry earlier was so very difficult. How can one define poetry? I've read over some poetry. Poetry makes me feel wonderful. See, even my letters become pretty just thinking of it. I was putting off writing - thinking - about poetry because of my undecided fate as to whether I would get into Poetry at all. Then wondering if I might not enjoy it. Why with all the priggish, pigheaded people pretending to be great poets - OH the Pretention! The girl with the big hat! Oh My God!

Walt Whitman makes my heart sing! Phebe Hanson also and who was that other woman poet writing of her father drunk and abusive?

Poetry looks into my eyes, through my retinas and into my very soul - my being - leaves me bare and naked and in the light. As Camus has said we must look as steadfastly into the dark as we do the light. What is all this insanity shit? I am not more insane than I ever was maybe as Cris has said it is just enlightenment. Why is it then that I know people? Know them through and through? I want to reach people to come to an understanding to learn as much as I can about the human condition before I must follow others to the grave. Is knowledge selfish or wasteful? That is what I want to know the answer to. Look at the way the words flow from my pen onto the page. Where are they coming from anyways? And why is it that my brain waits in anticipation for the words instead of racing away and leaving me in the dust. Ah, this must be a true sign that all is well in my head. Insanity is truly a societal stigma. Label me if you must but I know where I stand.


At this time in my life, I had been receiving therapy from a man in Stillwater. He had agreed to see me for free as long as I stayed away from self-medicating. I think at this time, I must have started smoking pot again. The passage above seems a bit...um...drug induced. When I told Pat (the therapist) that I had started smoking pot again, he was disappointed, well at least that's what he said, and that I couldn't continue seeing him, but if I ever wanted to continue, he would be happy to talk. 

I had met Pat in Stillwater when I was so very frightened of the Cold War. I believed that Reagan was going to send us into mutual nuclear destruction. My babies! I cried for my babies! I wrote nasty letters to the Minnesota State Senators and the Reagan's (Merry Christmas --> and a Happy Nuclear!) and I wrote long letters to the President and board members of Honeywell, which held a contract with the defense department, asking, "How can you sleep at night?" and enclosing ink prints of my children's feet or hands. My fear overwhelmed me. I decided to take out an add in the Stillwater Gazette. A couple of lines - Those interested in creating an Anti-Nuclear group in Stillwater meet at the Library, blah, blah, blah. 

I went to the library at the ascribed time thinking no one would show up. I was surprised when 12 people were there to support me. Pat was among those first members. We met at Pat's house until we overgrew it. The group was a great outlet for my fear. I was able to participate in anti-cold war/anti-nuclear protests. We joined the alliance of anti-nuclear groups based out Minneapolis. We trained ourselves in peaceful demonstration tactics. We staged a "Die In" downtown Stillwater and participated in a larger on at Northrup Hall when the Secretary of Defense had a speaking engagement. Someone stepped on my hand during that protest - I pretended I felt nothing and remained still. 

I know I talked about this group before in an earlier blog. We got some things done. Made some changes. I left after three years or so, when the organization took on a life of its own. The original 12 members were disenfranchised - lol - the group forgot we started it. That happened to the Anime Club at school that I am the advisor for...I know how it feels to have felt "in power" and then to fade into the background. 

I found a post-it note in the front of this journal when I picked it up. It is written in Pat's handwriting. It says, "incidents in which I was not sure how to act as a 25 year old woman". That sounds like an Asperger thing to be confused about. I like how it meshes with this entry, where I brag that I know people. I know them to their core. I just didn't know how I fit in. I was so confused. I received mixed messages from therapists. There were many in my life. I remember that Pat was very interested in the fact that I don't like to get wet. He found that very intriguing - like something he could analyze the crap out of and do me no good. Heck - I just don't like how it feels. 

My husband talks a lot about "air". I never know what he is talking about. He wants the air to circulate in the home. He bought a new fanged computer operated switch-thing that randomly turns the fan on the furnace and pumps the air around the house. Anthony is forever asking me if I notice how nice it is. I don't notice. I don't like air blowing on me. I don't get that air is "stuffy". I do get odors. I am overly sensitive to that. Any small smell will get me up and moving. Where...is...that...smell...?

But air? water? I just don't like them on me. Simple as that. That isn't "crazy" is it? /smile

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Lady Rye's Incomplete and Totally Subjective Guide to Aspergians

May 8, 2010

If you met one Aspergian, you have met one Aspergian. We are as different from one another as neurotypical people are from one another. We have been around, always, without a name or label. We are a genetic variant of the human brain. We have some similarities in behavior, but so do Neurotypicals.

We are "on the spectrum". The spectrum includes similar brain structure "disorders": Autism, HFA (High Functioning Autism), PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified - as autism) and Asperger's. There is debate about whether or not Asperger's actually should be included on the spectrum. There is also debate about whether HFA and Asperger's are the same disorder.

Traits seen in Aspergians

Social Understanding
Tony Attwood jokes that he has discovered a simple procedure that will remove almost all the symptoms of a person with Asperger's: put them in a room by themselves. This is funny because, Asperger's is a social impairment.

Social interactions are often exhausting for those of us with Asperger's Disorder. We usually are pretty good conversing one-on-one with another person, but add a third person (or more) and we are quickly overwhelmed. We react in either appearing bored by the conversation or by overwhelming the conversation with our own, refusing to allow others to interrupt our diatribe.

Teasing and Bullying
A person with Asperger's has a higher than expected chance of being the target of a bully, or group of peers. We are more prone to low self-esteem, anxiety and depression. We have a hard time understanding why we were the target of bullying and wonder what we could have done to prevent it. Adults with undiagnosed Asperger's tend to repeatedly replay traumatizing events in our minds in an attempt to understand why they were singled out. It is hard to move on - or have closure - when you don't understand why.

Theory of Mind
The term Theory of Mind (ToM) means the ability to recognize and understand the thoughts, beliefs, desires and intentions of other people in order to make sense of their behavior and predict what they are going to do next. ToM is a synonym of Empathy. People with Asperger's Disorder have immature or impaired ToM abilities, but they do not have an impaired sense of EMPATHY. Aspergians care deeply about other people but have difficulty recognizing subtle signals of the emotional states of others.

The Effects of Impaired ToM on Daily life
How do you know what someone is thinking or feeling? One way is to read a face, especially around a person's eyes. People with Asperger's Disorder often have trouble with or avoid eye contact. As adults we know we are supposed to "look people in the eye" when we talk to them - but we get this wrong. Neurotypical people spend more time looking away when speaking and focus in on people's eyes when that person is talking. Aspergians tend to do the opposite - or stare at the eyeballs - instead of the area around the eyes. I have lots of trouble with eye contact. I appear quite normal to my listener I am sure, I look them in the eye when I speak, but then I stare at their mouths when they speak back to me, or I stare off into space when speaking and listening. Both of these behaviors are seemingly normal, but I am missing a lot of social cues. I have made two co-workers cry at two different meetings at school because I wasn't looking at them during a discussion. I also have made countless students cry while critiquing their work. Insensitive? You could say that, but I actually was mystified by each occurrence.

Some people with Asperger's have difficulty with literal interpretation of other people's words. Even though I didn't think I shared this stereotypical Asperger's trait, I have a great example. At the beginning of the school year, during staff development, a new teacher was brought in to our school to start the PBIS (Positive Behavioral Instructional Strategies - the new pet anagram).  Over the summer, she and a group of teachers had come up with a short list of positive statements for the students. We teachers were supposed to post these posters all over our rooms and hallways. They took our school mascot - a Tiger - and made up the catchphrase "Tiger Pride" There was one positive statement that went with each letter of Pride. One of my special interests is cats. I perked up out of my boredom and announced to my table of teachers, "Tigers don't run in groups - they are solitary animals. Lions live in Prides." I kept going on and on about it. Teachers were shushing me, but the teachers closest to me were bemused, but did not attempt to quiet my ranting. I never let it go. I made signs for the first day of school, replacing "Tiger Pride" with "Tiger Streak" and "Tiger Ambush", making similar positive statements with each letter. I made handouts for my class. When the principal stopped by to say hello, I proudly handed her one of my handouts. The next day I was called into her office. She was very upset that I misunderstood the message behind PBIS. I told her she was wrong about that - I understood, but I wasn't going to misinform my students about great cats and their social groupings. Tigers are solitary creatures. The teacher group should have not tried to make a "cute" play on words using the wrong animal grouping...She ordered me to apologize to the PBIS coordinator. In my apology, I told her she was wrong about Tiger Pride...
The Tiger Streak Poster on my classroom door...

People with Asperger's Disorder sometimes miss subtle clues that other people are becoming annoyed with them. Neurotypical people often misinterpret this behavior as a deliberate attempt to be disrespectful or rude.

Due to differences in acquisition nature of ToM abilities in people with Asperger's Disorder, sometimes they can develop a different form of self-consciousness. As we reflect upon our own mental state and the states of others by relying on our intellectual rather than our undeveloped intuitive abilities we become quite reflective. This explicit self-consciousness is similar to that of philosophers. (Frith and Happe 1999)

Being unsure of what others are thinking or feeling can contribute to a general feeling of free floating anxiety. Relying on intellect to process social interactions (such as intellectualizing what is going on if someone is steps away from you while talking to you. Is it because you are standing too close, or maybe they are worried about something else? Then testing and retesting your theories while trying to maintain a normal conversation, etc...) contributes to social exhaustion. People with Asperger's Disorder require a significant amount of cognitive processing to make up for their limited ToM skills. This leads to feeling "peopled out" - over socialized - and the need to pull back and do something solitary in order to regroup one's energy.

Understanding and Expression of Emotions
There is a psychological term to describe another characteristic associated with Asperger's Disorder - Alexithymia - that is the impairment of the ability to identify and describe feeling states. Children and adults with Asperger's Disorder often have a limited vocabulary of words to describe feeling states, especially subtle or complex emotions. We can swing from one emotion to another quite rapidly, without transition periods. I can move quickly from being "calm" to being "irate" to being "manic" in a matter of minutes.

Routines and Special Interests
Routines are characteristics of adults with Asperger's Disorder. Routines can be seen as a coping mechanism that develops in us as we use our intellect to replace what we miss intuitively in our interactions. Routines impose an order and predictability to our life. Surprises are not easily tolerated by those of us with Asperger's Disorder.

Our special interests are ways that we can enjoy ourselves intellectually and the interest itself can make it easier to maintain relationships that revolve around our special area of interest. Special interests fall under a couple categories: Collecting, and acquisition of knowledge or expertise. Collecting is a tendency of children on the autistic spectrum. Adults with Asperger's can accumulate a huge assortment of objects related to an area of interest. Comfort is found in cataloging the collection. If the collection is displayed, an Aspie can create a specific ordering system, and if someone accidentally moves something out of place, they can become quite agitated until order is restored.

Collecting facts about a specific topic or concept  until the person with Asperger's becomes an expert in the area is another way to enjoy a special interest. Often, special interests start when the Aspie is a child, and mature and grow as the intellectual capacity of the child increases. Over time, there can be a progression to multiple interests spanning many different subject areas.

The function of special interests is to overcome anxiety - by being interested in things that cause fear,  a source of pleasure - when the special interest is related to a happy memory, a means to relax - repetitive behaviors can help reduce the feeling of stress and relax, and to occupy time - how else does one spend their time if it is not spent socializing?

Hans Asperger described an unusual profile of language abilities that included problems with conversation skills, the melody - or flow of speech. There are a couple language peculiarities surrounding speech in the diagnostic criteria for Asperger's Disorder.

Gilberg and Gilberg (1989) requires three of the following for a diagnosis:
  • delayed speech development
  • Superficially perfect expressive language
  • formal pedantic language
  • odd prosody, peculiar voice characteristics
  • impairment of comprehension including misinterpretations and implied meanings.
Szatmari (1989) recognized these odd speech characteristics and require at least two of the following for diagnosis:
  • abnormalities in inflection
  • talking too much
  • talking too little
  • lack of cohesion to conversation
  • idiosyncratic use of words
  • repetitive patterns of speech.
The DSM-IV briefly refers to language development in their diagnostic criteria, but only to establish that there should be no major delay in language acquisition in Asperger's Disorder.

Aspergians show some subtle abnormalities in speech that include verbosity and abrupt transitions in subjects and oddities in loudness, pitch, intonation, prosody, and rhythm - do you remember my voice before my vocal chord was paralyzed?  I had an unusual Minnesotan accent that bordered upon an Irish brogue...

Even in the clip above, I don't talk as quickly as I did when I was in high school, where I was frequently on the receiving end of some lame joke. Now-a-days, I do not have the exaggerated Minnesota accent - it is much too difficult for me to speak using all those elongated vowel sounds. I still overpower people by volume in conversation if I can - like at a dinner table - but if I am at a loud place, like a restaurant, so I generally tune out of the conversation. This occasionally causes people to think I am annoyed or bored. That isn't the case, usually I am listening and and you should beware, because I am laying in wait for my chance to dominate the conversation the first chance I get!

Cognitive Abilities
Some young children with Asperger's start school with academic abilities above their grade level. They appear at times to easily "crack the code" of reading, spelling or numeracy. In an earlier post I made mention of how I taught myself to read under the Christmas Tree - I "cracked the code" with no help (other than knowing letter sounds). I spell and read well but I am confused by numbers. Standardized testing of IQ shows that individuals with Asperger's Disorder are at or above the normal range.

Recent studies of teens and Adults with Asperger's Disorder show an impaired executive function. This term psychological term "Executive Function" includes:
  • organizational and planning abilities
  • working memory
  • inhibition and impulse control
  • self-reflection and self-monitoring
  • time management and prioritizing
  • understanding complex or abstract concepts
  • using new strategies
This impairment in executive function is apparent in social situations that are stressful. By the age of eight, a neurotypical child is able to use their frontal lobe to inhibit a response and think before deciding what to do or say. In a non-stressful situation, even an Aspie can do that, but throw a little stress into the situation, we can become overwhelmed or confused - then we can react impulsively.

Another thing that is observed in people with Asperger's Disorder is that some can be very good at noticing detail, but appear to have difficulty seeing the whole picture. I talked about this in an earlier blog - how I see the details, and the whole, but not the parts that make the whole. This isn't all bad though. This ability to notice details and notice new connections that are not seen by people who perceive the world through a more conventional viewpoint can be a valued skill set, depending upon your chosen career.

Movement and Coordination
As much as people with Asperger's Disorder have different ways of thinking, they can also have a different way of moving. We often have an idiosyncratic gait that seems to lack grace. We sometimes have trouble knowing where our bodies are in space, which causes us to trip, bump into things or spill things or knock things over.

While some people with Asperger's Disorder are quite clumsy (like me), there are others that have amazing movement skills. These athletes can be quite astonishing - winning national and international championships. Most of these athletes are skilled at sports that can be practiced in solitude, such as swimming, skate and snowboarding, and endurance sports such as marathon running.

Sensory Sensitivity
The previous categories that I have summarized for you involve tendencies that effect an Aspergian's social reasoning, empathy, language, cognitive abilities, but one of the attributes of Asperger's Disorder is clearly identified in autobiographies, or by self-reporting: hyper- or hypo-sensitivity to specific sensory experiences.

The most common sensitivity is to very specific sounds but there can also be sensitivity to tactile experiences, light intensity, the taste and texture of food and specific smells. There can be under- and over-reaction to pain and discomfort. I can't stand when my dog barks - it physically hurts my ears. I can't stand to have grit on my hands - drives me crazy!

Neurotypical people can be as baffled by why some sensations are intolerable to Aspies in the same way that people with Asperger's Disorder are confused why others are not effected in the same way.


I need to attribute most of this "guide" to Tony Attwood's The Complete Guide to Asperger's Syndrome. I used his chapter titles and scanned the chapters to get a good summary going. I tried to put examples from my life in here to give it some perspective, but since not all Aspergians are the same, I wouldn't want anyone to get the idea that I was the example of what Asperger's looks like in all adults. Although, I must admit, it is what Asperger's looks like in me.

I hope that by spending nine hours writing this "guide" helps my family to see that Asperger's isn't a big scary boogeyman. I hope that they will forgive me the next time I suggest that our wonderful, dear father might have also shared this variant of brain structure.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Odd Idea Lecture

The Odd Idea Lecture by Alexander Duncan Lowe

To have all the answers doesn't give you direction. For not knowing answers you will only suffer the consequences. So what is there to do? Consequences can be bad and good. Why choose bad consequences for yourself or act when you cannot see the consequences of actions? This is a sideways sort of way of talking about being responsible or not. It is always hard for me to proceed in any happy way from ignorance.

How can one be responsible? Responsible to whom? We do not innately know how to be responsible. We have to learn how. Being responsible takes practice. Usually small responsibilities are the building blocks to greater responsibilities. I think initially, examine yourself and concentrate on being responsible to yourself for learning what is important to do as a human. All of us are dumped into this world without a compass giving direction or a way to chart a course. So start from ground zero - yourself and the predicament you find yourself in. We must do something. Ultimately one can become responsible to self and community.

First we start to examine and change our behavior then later our behavior with others. How do we do this responsibly? It would be great to feel responsible and to be competent in directing self and for functioning properly in this world. If you want help in this then pick the brains of others in how to do this. Do not ignore the wisdom that has been passed down to us from the past. Remember that terrible things have happened time and again in the past. So this takes time and effort to get it right - the way you think the right way should be. But of course, how can you judge whether any of your own ideas are right or not? One has to be flexible in mind to see things from other viewpoints. There is a lot of "yes, you should do this" or "no, you should not do this". It's a cause for rebellion in many a child growing up. It's not the number of times yes or no is said. It's what helps us grow that counts. It helps when parents interpret to their child what mankind has passed down. But parents are busy people also with many needs to fulfill some of them conflicting. There is lots of advice in how people should behave to each other which really work. There are a lot of people to help with this evaluation. There are a lot of conclaves of people of narrow minds who have power over whether we can do this or that and can guarantee we will not succeed.

So one resolves to see things from other viewpoints and chart some course to take. Promises are necessary at the start because one cannot predict the future results. Likewise with failure forgiveness is essential. Since one cannot change any past failure it is sensible to forgive yourself and others for mistakes made. If not forgiven or reconciled, growing and improving is stopped. This is quite certain to happen and is very disabling given the short time we have to get on tract. Strive to grow and learn from all failures and make new promises again and strive again. You have to challenge to your level of growth and look for more growth opportunities. The consequences directing yourself in this way brings the beneficial consequence of life having some meaning. It makes sense to not waste any time. It's a worthy engagement of effort required for a successful responsible life and it brings its rewards. Sounds easy, doesn't it? Abstract? So what is there to strive for?

Why not strive for that which is attainable? What do you want to strive for? I wanted to be happy and happily married. I really wanted this. I mentioned this to Dr. Kamman and he made note of it - Hey it is worth working for I thought! More on Dr. Kamman to come into this to explain myself better. So in high school I wasn't so happy nor did I feel that I would ever be happily married and have those satisfactions of having a good family and community life. I really needed to know about this stuff and enough of myself to know how I could bring it off. Only by knowing this stuff could I strive effectively for such a thing, and in the process learn a lot about life, and enjoy life.

How can you learn about yourself? For me it helped that one of my father's medical school classmates was a psychiatrist and close friend. I had a great faith in the field of psychiatry and Doctor Kamman was that person I could respect and learn from. So in 1947, I requested to go and talk to him. I told my father that I wanted to bring peace and harmony to my family. My step-mother had been having trouble dealing with my sister Mary and my father was busy with doctoring. When I went to Kamman, I had some specific questions about myself that I needed to have answered. Was I crazy? How can you know what the ingredients of a healthy love relationship is? For evaluation, I was given an ink blot test. I really wanted such a test, which I thought I could not be manipulated easily thus trick him. The results were quite revealing to me. We had many candid conversations about what was revealed. I took a new interest in my future. Eventually, I could in my imagination divide up - chart the rest of the time from 1953 to the end of the century. I could imagine myself in medical school (the ink blot test said I wasn't too dumb) and I had married Marlys (as my relationship with her was I believed healthy enough to endure) and then I could see myself in Medical school, graduating, and working as s doctor and also I could see the times that my kids would be born, grow up, and get married. Also the times for my grandchildren to be born and if I continued to live long enough to see some of these fateful decisions being discussed here. I imagined that in the 2000's would be the time for my dying.

From Kamman, I learned how to recognize an idea as odd - not helpful - of those ideas I had. He waylaid me at the appropriate time with an example of such an idea quite odd. He said simply, "Isn't this quite odd that you are going to have your kids read the Wall Street Journal and you don't have any children yet." It was silly to bother to obsess with such a thought. I hope that I can continue with skill enough to keep from being considered a rigid or silly person. I am eternally grateful that others (Marlys, my children, my parents, my patients, Dr. Kamman for 6 years, my teachers, etc.) have challenged my ideas so that I must reflect on how sound they are or not. So good questions to be asked are whether that is an odd way to look at things, is it supported by sound reasoning or not, etc. What is sound reasoning? Do I have odd ideas that I am not aware of? How much have I injured others by my way of looking at the world or by the way I have behaved in this world? I find now the world is such an interesting place to have been dumped into and with people I have been privileged to know.

Can you evaluate your own ideas and choose the odd one from that which is not odd? Have you ever thought you had an odd idea? If you never see any of your own ideas as odd would be quite sad. You would be inflexible if ideas are not examined and if you needed not to be able to change how to view the world. To be thus limited also affects the way responsibilities to self and others are taken on. At issue is your challenge and your response to being alive today.

Of course you live in different times than I did. Technology has changed a lot, jobs are different, opportunities are different because knowledge has exponentially expanded since 1946, making it necessary to manage information on a new level of awareness. Marshall McLuhan wrote many books on changes bought on by changing technologies - past and more recent changes. I lived through this great revolution in growth of knowledge. Since one is obsolete on graduation from school, then life long self education is required to prevent obsolesce which keeps you from all the good jobs. Take note, all the interdisciplinary knowledge being produced today. There is intense activity and many discoveries being made from expansion of knowledge. So expand your horizons to enjoy this new way of looking at our world. But with this comes acting in a responsible way for you and the world to survive.

These revolutionary technological changes are still being studied today. What will happen interconnecting on a global scale more universities and research laboratories. How about what is to happen interconnecting in all the other ways now being considered. We have not even a hint of the scale of changes to come in our lives. These changes affect everyone's future, every creature on earth's future, and deserves your attention. It's time to get cracking. I assume you want to be happy some day. It may take a move to a more enriching environment to learn what you need.


My dad gave me this lecture to proofread before passing it on to another family member. It contains all of his talking points of his "Odd Idea" lecture that was another mainstay lecture - along with the "Nine things for a successful relationship". Yesterday, was my dad's birthday. When people die, they don't really have birthday's anymore, but the ones left behind remember the lost more clearly. My siblings and I, and I believe my mother even more, mourn our father and husband on the day of his birth. We miss the wonderful man that he was. The kind, eccentric man that we called dad.  I thought it would be appropriate to dig out one of his "lectures" from my storage box to honor him. And to bring tears to my family when they read it. Tears of joy, love and loss.

After my diagnosis, I saw Asperger's in my father because of his lack of friends, his inability to know when it was time to leave and I saw it in his special interest in Geology, woodworking and photography. But this lecture. I see Asperger's all over this too, even more evident. I see it in the language. I see it in the questions my father asked as a child. I see evidence of his theoretical mind - similar to mine - where knowledge trumps feelings. I see it in my father's in my insistence on thinking about how others might feel. This was the way he was able to adapt in an NT world. It was the way many Asperger people adapted before there was an official diagnosis for the cluster of behaviors that is called Asperger's. 

Aspergians my age - in our 40s or older, have navigated life well enough without the diagnosis. The diagnosis helps calm the fear inside. I understand and am more aware of my physical responses (feelings) and more aware that my behavior sometimes sets people on edge. My father was always gentle. He grew up during the war (WWII), I have ration books that were his in my storage space. In these times, children respected adults. Did what they were told. Their happiness was not a concern. In an environment like that Aspergians can function pretty good. There are clear cut societal rules that can be followed and you will find success. You don't have to understand the rules - just follow them.

Now-a-days, somehow Americans have taught their children that they are "special". Rules apply to everyone but their children. Their children are spoiled and have no common community held "rules" of behavior. Aspergian children must be much more confused than I was when I grew up. I knew that my "right from wrong" and the punishment I would receive at home was similar to my friend and enemies "right from wrong" and their punishments were the same too. We were much more civil than the world is today. So maybe kids need the Asperger's diagnosis. It will help them to understand the rules of society.

My dad was born May 2, 1930. He spent his entire life in South St. Paul, MN. He was a family Practice doctor and delivered many of mine and my siblings friends. He was a well respected member of the community. He was a true democrat, but he kept his political affiliations quiet and donated money to the republicans when they came calling at the door too. My father married the girl of his dreams, my mother Marlys Calhoun. She was born March 2, 1931 in Minneapolis, MN, where she spent her whole life until she married my father. They had 6 children, and 32 grandchildren. My mother is still living, she is cherished and has 4 great-grandchildren. 

My father died on my daughter's birthday, September 6, 2004. We celebrate her birth and we acknowledge that Grandpa didn't mean to die on her birthday. It was just his time. We loved him. 
Mom and Dad in high school had met at their family lake homes.

Dad and Mom in their golden years.