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Rambling On…

Working While Autistic — 04/13/2017

Working While Autistic

Working is hard. I think it is hard for most people because it is something you have to do for so many hours of your life. Some jobs are harder than others, but having to put so much time and energy into something can become onerous under the best of circumstances.

In many ways, my job is easy. I like what I do. I enjoy learning the latest technologies and solving problems with logic. I work from home. If all was “right” with my brain, I think that I would probably be making a lot of money working for someone else right now.

All is not right with my brain. I am autistic. I don’t want to get into an argument here about how my brain is just “different” or how the world should be accommodating to my needs. I believe that those things are true, but they are not factors in my continuing quest to live a happy life without being a burden on anyone.

Somewhere, there exists a perfect balance between doing enough responsible things that I feel like I am contributing something to the world and to the people I love, and having enough downtime to stay sane and recover enough energy to do more of those things. That balance is hard for everyone, but I think it can be especially hard for autistic people.

I am easily overwhelmed. Too many sounds, lights, colors, thoughts, people, feelings, or whatevers can drastically shift the balance and render me completely useless so that thinking and speaking sometimes become insurmountable tasks.

There was a brief period of time where I had everything pretty well aligned. I was living in California, taking meds that worked pretty well, was on SSI and working as a part of their PASS plan. My monthly SSI check was less, the more money I made that month, and if I made over a certain amount of money, I would not receive a check at all, but still got to keep my Medi-Cal benefits (health insurance). I could work as much as I could handle and I could ‘not work’ as much as I needed to.

When Karen and I moved to Baltimore, I lost my SSI because we no longer lived in our house, so it was considered an asset. Now, we no longer have a house, but we are married and I no longer qualify for SSI for that reason due to income.

I wish I could get SSI again. We are having a hard time financially and I am having a hard time working as much as I need to. I am having a hard time working at all lately because I can not do what I need to do in order to be okay enough to work, partially because of the stress that comes from needing to work. It is a vicious cycle.

I try to work, but I can’t think. I know that if I went to the water or did something else that makes me calm, I would be able to think clearer, but I feel like I should not be taking time off work to do that. Eventually, it occurs to me that since I am not working anyway, I may as well do something that will make me feel better, but I am so confused and stressed by the whole process that I can’t get my brain organized enough to leave the house. If you are a person who can think without problems, you may never notice the amount of steps required for a simple act like leaving the house. You have to stop what you are doing. You have to remember what you want to do. You may have to put on your shoes or your coat. You have to go to the door and open it and lock it back up, all while remembering where you are going and how to get there. You may have to drive. Forget about it. You can’t.

When I was on SSI none of that was an issue. I didn’t need to worry about not working enough because I was covered if I didn’t. Now, the less I work, the less money I make, and it has a direct impact on my and Karen’s quality of life. I have marketable skills and I work way more hours than I should need to in order to make a living wage, but since it takes me so long to get things done, and since I can not work a “normal” job, I barely make enough to supplement Karen’s income enough for us to pay our basic living expenses. I am lucky that we both have family who help us sometimes so that we can have a pretty good life, but constantly trying and failing to make my business work in a way that would allow us to stop worrying about money is wearing on me. I am exhausted and sad and ashamed and unable to do anything right now other than whine about it to the internet. You’re welcome 😉

50 Random Thoughts On or About Turning Fifty — 02/17/2017

50 Random Thoughts On or About Turning Fifty

I turned 50 on January 28th. It was a pretty exciting birthday for me. For a person who didn’t think they would make it to eighteen, 50 years old feels like an achievement. 18 seemed like one too, but more like one that was achieved by luck. 50 took a lot more work.

In honor and remembrance of my 50th year on this planet, I would like to list 50 random thoughts that have been jumbling around in my head…

  1. 50 is the age that I consider to be “officially old™”. I am okay with that. Being 50 is a privilege and rite of passage.
  2. When I was younger, I was very unhappy, but also very lucky. I have a family who loves me and has always  taken care of me the best that they could. It is thanks to them and other kind souls that have befriended me over the years that I am still here to write this post.
  3. As I have got older, I’ve managed to make a few very close friends and to become closer to my family.
  4. Being with Karen has been an adventure in love and life that provides joy and hope even at the hardest times.
  5. Life has been extra challenging since we moved to Baltimore 6 years ago and I do not see an end to that any time soon.
  6. My day to day life is kind of lonely and I have not made many close friends here.
  7. I am not good at having friends, and not completely sure how I have managed to make such good ones over the years.
  8. It is hard for me to be with people and in crowds, and hard to concentrate well enough to keep up with conversations. It drains me until my brain completely shuts down.
  9. Running my business is a challenge and I work way too many hours for way too little pay.
  10. I am good at my job and I am bad at running a business. Still, I keep trying year after year and make enough money that it would be badly missed if I didn’t have it, but is barely above the poverty level and much less than it would be if I was working with or for somebody who knew how to manage a business.
  11. I am still hoping to find my “magic business partner”  or employer someday.
  12. Even with all the challenges, life has been good to me in so many ways and I am very thankful for that.
  13. I am glad we are here to help K’s parents.
  14. I love Baltimore and many of the people I have met here.
  15. I love being with Karen and Nikkyo and Buster (cats) and living in our awesome apartment (Thanks Lisa!).
  16. I love my karate school, and sometimes wish I could just do karate all the time.
  17. I wish Karen and I had enough time and money to get out of town once in a while.
  18. I wish we had enough money to not stress about it so much. Maybe money can’t buy happiness, but it can relieve stress and less stress can cause happiness.
  19. I miss Lake Merritt in Oakland and the San Francisco Bay.
  20. I wish I could work for AWN (Autism Women’s Network) full time.
  21. I wish I had more time to code for fun and not just for work. I have some ideas for projects that would teach me new skills, possibly lead to income, and/or would provide a helpful service to some people, but no time to work on them.
  22. I miss my family terribly. It is easier to see them now that we live on the same coast again, but still hard for me to travel, especially on airplanes. I wish we lived in driving distance of each other.
  23. I miss the Russian River and Armstrong Woods.
  24. I wish the world made sense and that people didn’t lie.
  25. I wish that people really cared about each other and helped each other.
  26. The only thing about turning fifty that has made it seem very old is writing this list and realizing how many items 50 actually is.
  27. I am pretty sure I spend more time than the average person thinking about dinosaurs.
  28. I like to spar.
  29. I wish my brain worked “right”, but am not completely sure I would want to be a RegularPerson™.
  30. I have been a vegetarian for 30 years and think that if I started eating meat again I would have more energy. Was going to try it when I was 50, but as of yet, have not.
  31. I think I would excel at being a cat.
  32. “Cutting the Cord” is much cheaper than cable TV, but I miss the ease of use and channel availability of Comcast.
  33. I wish the haters would always lose. I am not sure what that means for me if I hate the haters.
  34. I used to build and fix “WinTel” computers, and was amazed at the awesome quality, reliability, and ease of use when I switched to macs 13 years ago.
  35. I first learned to program on an Apple IIe that my dad had, and a Commodore 64 and VIC-20 that were at my high school.
  36. I rarely took part in extra-curricular activities when I was in school, but over the years spent some time as a member of the computer club, Mathletes, and the Spanish club.
  37. When I was younger, I understood Hebrew pretty well. I can still read it, but have a very limited vocabulary now.
  38. I love WordPress.
  39. I love Laravel more than I love WordPress, but see many advantages to using WordPress for the types of websites I most often build for my clients.
  40. I love Drupal, but have no reason to use it. Sometimes I go out of my way to look for a reason.
  41. If I had time, I would learn Python.
  42. Lisa baked me the best cake in the whole world for my 50th birthday. Thanks Lisa!
  43. I like cold weather when I have the appropriate outerwear.
  44. Hexagons make me feel peaceful.
  45. I am a cat person and a dog person, but prefer cats because they are easier to take care of.
  46. I occasionally contemplate what life would be like if I was a panda.
  47. I am a lot like my dad.
  48. I wish I was also a lot like my mom. She is a social and organizational genius.
  49. I like to play video games and currently play WoW. The Fallout series is probably my favorite of all time.
  50. I would like to learn how to play D&D or something similar with real people.
2nd Degree Black Belt — 01/24/2017
Wakeup Call To Action — 11/09/2016

Wakeup Call To Action

The results of yesterday’s election truly saddened me. I am horrified that Donald Trump will be our next president. The amount of people that voted for him both frightens and angers me. He is the personification of so many things that are wrong with this country, this society, and humanity in general. I do not understand how any person who is decent and good could vote for him. He is a racist, misogynist, homophobic, petty, evil man, and I can see no good that will come from having voted for him.

I am afraid that my marriage will no longer be legal. I am afraid for the future of my health insurance. When I think about what today must be like for Muslim Americans, Mexican Americans, immigrants, all non-white Americans, non-Christian Americans, Disabled Americans, non-heterosexuals, non-gender-conforming individuals, and all women and girls, my heart breaks and I want to set the world on fire.

A Wakeup Call to Action

I understand why people want change. I think Hillary Clinton is an amazing woman in many ways, and I wish she was going to be our next president, but she really does represent the status quo. The status quo does not benefit everyone, and fighting to keep it intact is harmful to large groups of people. Progressive ideas and talk do not mean anything if there is no action to back them up. They make no improvements to the lives of people who are suffering.

The need for change is no excuse to elect a man like Donald Trump. It is also not an excuse to ignore glaring problems that exist within our own platforms and beliefs. We need to to examine the fact that much of what we accept as liberal and progressive ideas and values are not enough, and are sometimes built on the same racist, classist system that we are supposedly trying to change. If we ignore these things, we are lying to ourselves when we say that we want true equality and opportunity in this country.

I don’t know how to fix this. I don’t know what is needed. My faith in people has dropped considerably since yesterday. The only good that I can see coming from this is that it could be the wakeup call we have long needed. A call to action to the people who want to make this country a better place. An event that will force us to take a step back and think about what “a better place” means for everyone, and not just ourselves,  and organize around that. I don’t know if that is possible, but I have to hope that it is.

Font Rendering in Safari — 10/09/2016

Font Rendering in Safari

There’s definitely a difference between Chrome and Safari due to Safari’s font rendering. In Safari text tends to be a bit bolder due to the anti-aliasing algorithm and can sometimes take up a few extra pixels on the screen.

I was getting very frustrated earlier because of a menu bar that was wrapping in Safari and not in Chrome. The Safari window had to be 200px wider than the Chrome window for the menu not to wrap before switching to the mobile menu.

Making the menu font size .1em smaller fixed the problem. It doesn’t even really make sense mathematically, but it worked so I am not inclined to figure it out right now.

Thanks Stack Overflow!

chaos — 07/22/2016

chaos

chaos is in me
one step closer to the edge
trying not to fall

chaos confuses
wraps word order wrong and fails
to stop the echo

chaos surrounds me
closing in fog and laughing
when i disappear

lonely — 03/09/2016
I am an autistic person with autism — 11/01/2015

I am an autistic person with autism

I call myself autistic but if you call me a person with autism, I don’t mind. If you compare me to a puzzle it is ok. I think you are like a puzzle too.

I don’t speak for all autistic people. I don’t think anyone can.

I understand the reasons why person-first language can be damaging, and the importance of letting people know why that is. If you don’t know, Google it. You will understand too. Better yet, read the article Identity-First Language by Lydia Brown. It contains a well written analysis of why it is harmful to use person-first language, as well as links to other articles about the pros and cons of its usage.

It is important to educate people about these things, but I have been noticing a trend lately of articles that claim to speak for all autistic people, saying that we prefer to be called autistic. Nobody can speak for all autistic people. Not even other autistic people.

I have been an outcast for much of my life. It feels horrible. Even worse is feeling like an outcast in the autistic community.

In the 10 years since I have accepted the fact that I am autistic, I have met so many amazing people both online and in person. I have worked with many of them over the years to help us connect and find each other online. Now, I feel like I don’t fit in to a community that I helped to build.

It is possible that I am missing a big piece of the puzzle. I am not trying to be an asshole and piss people off by writing these things, but as I try to express what I am thinking, I realize that I am scared of even posting this due to backlash from a lot of people who I like to think of as my friends. I actually questioned using the word “puzzle”. WTF?

Today is Autistics Speaking Day and today I am taking the time to speak to other autistic people. I am asking us to keep our minds open to other people’s thought processes and realities, just as we ask them to do the same thing for us.

Disclaimer: This post is partly about educating people with good intentions who are trying to do the right thing, and respecting their processes if they come to a different conclusion. It does not apply to those who believe that autistic people are “less than” neurotypical people, or organizations like Autism Speaks who are actively spreading lies and harming people.

monday at five — 10/19/2015
kicked — 10/03/2015