Having ASD and living in the Deep South

I am a female in my 30’s who has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). I also currently live in what is known as the “Deep South” region here in the Florida Panhandle. I am a transplant here, and before this lived in the northern part of the U.S. Basically, if you are not familiar with the Florida Panhandle region, allow me to elaborate a bit. It is the northern part of Florida, and borders just below to Alabama. The culture is extremely southern here. In fact there really is no other type of culture here, except for beach culture (since the Gulf of Mexico is nearby). How does this relate to having Autism Spectrum Disorder, you might ask? Because North Floridians have this concept called “southern manners”, and it is in no way sympathetic to the awkwardness of someone with ASD. First of all, people here will say in passing “hello, how are you” to you and expect a greeting back. I know they expect a greeting back because if you don’t reply, they look at you as if you are either rude or weird. I am not trying to be rude, but I just don’t and have NEVER understood the concept of this social norm. It is completely fake, and noone really cares how you are really doing when they say this lol. It is also too long of a greeting. I honestly don’t really like to say anything as a greeting. I just don’t see the point. Just get on with your business and day I say! However, many locals here accept these types of odd social norms, insisting that “they are just part of what it means to be a respectful Southerner”-even though the 1800’s are over. This transfers into having any sort of conversation with them. They love to small-talk, and they will chatter away about absolutely nothing in particular. If you are unfortunate enough to have to work at a job with them, their odd mannerisms simply intensify. For instance, I had a job about a year ago in which I dealt with the public, and completed/filed paperwork. Most of the people who worked there were relatively easy to get on with, expect for one female. She was what I would call an extreme Southern belle. Every time her or I were on the schedule to relieve each other of our workday, she would voluntarily talk endlessly about how hectic life was, things that aggravated her, and even her insecurities. The mind-boggling thing was that this all happened within a period of only 15 minutes, and sometimes longer (depending on how long it took whichever of us to wrap up their shift for the day). If she was relieving me of my shift, she would take forever to complete her sign on duties, which were necessary in order for me to leave. If I was relieving her, she would take forever to DO her sign on duties, and the whole time be chattering away. It did not matter to her that I still had end of day work to complete, (as this was customary for every employee at my job when signing off for the day, as was dealing with customers simultaneously). Ironically enough, she also made TONS of mistakes that others would often have to later correct, because she jabbered on so much at work with not only employees, but also customers. When she would talk to me, she did not even care that I was not really paying attention to anything that she said, ignoring me when I would insert reply. But anyway, I digress…the point is that this is an example of one of the many social encounters that people here always seem to be craving from others. It is almost as if they truly believe that everyone else is supposed to be their personal counselor-which is just exhausting for someone with ASD because we have difficulty relating to others, and so we are unsure as to how to react. However, we DO have empathy towards others. What is really bizarre to me is that these locals will do this to ANYONE-even if they don’t know you. This kind of behavior can be overwhelming to a person with ASD, because it is sensory overload for us. We tend to be focused on one task at a time, and when you throw in small-talk, it really makes us freeze up. It also makes me uncomfortable when people do this here because they talk to you like they have known you their entire lives, when in fact, THEY HAVE NOT. I know that some would argue that they are simply trying to be friendly, but I have never adjusted to this. And I also don’t believe that this is true. I think they do it because they are simply intrusive and prying. It is just strange to me to pretend to be close to someone you either hardly know, or do not know at all. Another thing that I have observed about the locals is that they seem to have no regard for personal space, when they are conversing with people. For instance, I have seen people standing directly in the middle of the aisle of the supermarket-talking, blocking others who are trying to get by, with seemingly no awareness to the fact that they are attempting to get by! Another concept here that is really frustrating to someone with ASD is: conversation. This does not apply to all people in this area of course but it does apply to a great deal of them. People with ASD tend to talk about topics that interest them. In my experience down here, when I start talking about a subject, most of the locals cannot intelligently keep up. And the ones that are intelligent still find a way to bring their Southern views/norms into the conversation. It is almost as if they feel guilty about having an intelligent conversation with another human being, as conversation down here is generally dull and kitschy. For example, I had a conversation recently with a local here about coffee. Since they expressed to me that they loved coffee, and that they loved all kinds of coffee, I thought that they may have some interesting things to contribute to the conversation. Haha! I was wrong. When I asked them what kinds of coffee that they liked, they proceeded to tell me that they “just drank ordinary cheap coffee”. However, they added that they liked Starbucks every now and then. When I asked them how they brewed their coffee at home, they replied “in a coffee pot” (with a laugh), and further added that they “are not very fancy with their coffee”. And that was really all that they had to say on the matter. Needless to say, I was disappointed. Not in the fact that they drank mostly cheap coffee and stuck to the traditional method of coffee pot brewing, but because they had nothing more to add to the discussion- and yet they had pretended that they did! This is the way many conversations go here with people. Florida Panhandle people are notorious for pretending like they understand or know something, reveal that they don’t, and probably the most frustrating part-always have some “matter of fact reply” to sum up their ideals and beliefs, with nothing of substance to contribute. It’s as if they enjoy NOT learning anything new. And as a person with ASD and intellectual depth, this just does not vibe with me. And I am sure that it is not ONLY people in this area that are like this, but that you will find some people like this everywhere you go. Anyway, these are the thoughts drifting through my mind today. Can anyone else with OR without ASD relate? Do you live in a place that sounds similar? Do you have ASD, and if so, what social norms do you struggle with? Thanks for stopping by my blog, and much love to you all!

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Cranberry Winter Smoothie

Today’s post is about something I just could not keep to myself, and wanted to share here. If you are like me, you enjoy a good smoothie-sometimes even in wintertime! It may seem strange to drink a cold fruity beverage this time of year (especially if you live in an area that gets cold in December). However, with the right ingredients you can jumpstart your day with a powerhouse of nutrition and a taste of the holiday season too. The cranberries in it are great for the prevention of infections and they also aid in digestive health. This smoothie also has bananas in it- which are packed with fiber, and are also a choice source of potassium. In addition, bananas can lower blood pressure. The orange juice is a good source of vitamin C, which can be helpful combating winter colds and thus, fatigue. The ginger has many health benefits, including anti-inflammatory and nausea reducing properties.

This is a very simple recipe to make, and it doesn’t take long. To make this you will need 2 large handfuls of fresh whole cranberries, 1 cup orange juice, 1/2 banana, 1/8 tsp ginger, 1/8 cup water and 1 handful or 4 cubes of ice. Blend together until smooth. You can also half the orange juice measurement, and instead add 1/2 cup of unsweetened soy milk. I have tried the recipe both ways and both are wonderful. The soy milk can make it a little less sweeter if that’s your preference, and it also adds a bit of protein. This drink is so refreshing! It has the perfect balance of sweet and tart. Plus I think the bit of ginger gives it a little extra zing that has me daydreaming about snowy scenery and scrumptious holiday treats. I hope you are all having a wonderful holiday season. Please let me know how this delicious smoothie turns out for you, and feel free to add your own variations of course!

I Belong to the Pacific Northwest

There was a time when I lived in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States-Washington State to be exact. I moved there because I knew it was my fate. Yes, I am one who believes in fate. I knew I was destined to re-locate there because after reading my Tarot cards many times, I decided that a higher power was drawing me to this place. I didn’t really understand why, but I knew I was supposed to go. I am originally from the more rural Northeast Texas region, but spent many years in Denton, TX, and some in Dallas as well. Denton, TX is where many alternative human types eventually venture to, as they don’t quite fit in other areas of Texas. If you don’t know, Denton is one of the more laid-back, artsy, and intellectual cities in Texas. It doesn’t really matter if you are pursuing a degree in Art or Biology. It’s a place for oddballs and/or people looking for a deeper meaning in life. The search for the higher self is not frowned down upon here. And even though Denton had so much awesomeness to offer me back then in my late 20’s, it didn’t last forever. By the age of 30, I did not know what I was doing anymore. I had been in college for awhile, but had changed majors three times. First it was Psychology, then Anthropology, and then Hospitality. For some reason, I couldn’t really see the finish line for me in any of these fields. When most people go to university college, that is generally whenever they discover their career-but it didn’t happen like that for me. Did I mention I was financially struggling too? But that is a whole other story for perhaps another time. Basically, this led me to take a break from college, and start trying to get back to the root of me again. I needed to get grounded and find my place in the world. Many things happened when I took a break from college. One of them was absolutely positive and happened about 3 years after the break. I had reconnected with one of my cousins in Washington State. After a series of unsuccessful roommates/housing situations-not to mention jobs, my cousin offered and afforded me a humble trip up to where he lived in Central Washington State. He suggested that I use the trip to not only visit with him, (and my second cousin in Seattle) but to also take a break from the stress I had been under and explore Washington State. His idea was that I might consider making the move there, if I took enough liking to the Pacific Northwest. I was awestruck. I mean why would I say no??? I had been itching to get out of Texas for many years, and here was my opportunity. So I went. I didn’t have a lot of money to spend while I was there, but I had THE TIME OF MY LIFE. It was the most relaxing vacation that I had ever been on.  I felt nurtured by the entire ambiance of the place. The scenery was like nothing I had ever seen before. One is constantly surrounded by nature, and there are stunning mountainous views. After a year of deep introspection and my soul crushing tech support job, I decided to make the big move there. I saved up enough for a one-way ticket to Seattle, and the first two month’s rent + deposit on a room to rent. My contract at my job had previously come to an end, so I was receiving unemployment until I found a job as an overnight baker. At the time, I did not have a car. However, I was not too worried, as I knew that Seattle was very public transportation friendly. As it happened, the overnight baking position that I accepted was only about 1 1/2 miles from my house. It was perfect for me at the time, so I took it. As soon as I got settled into my new place, I set out for the grocery store to do my shopping. It was to be my first walk through the new town I would be living in-Renton, WA. Renton is a close suburb of Seattle. It’s located inside of a valley, and the Cedar River runs right through it. I remember stopping for a good long while at this river, and just staring blissfully at it. I had never seen anything like it. It’s a beautiful earthy green, with dark pink spawning salmon swimming continuously upstream during the month of October. Evergreen trees are incredibly plentiful up here, as well as other coniferous trees. Every house I passed by on my walk had some form of garden growing in it. Bright beautiful flower gardens are very common here. The walk also included many ravens walking and flying about. Here, they are as big as chickens, and are so fun to watch as they poke about.   Overall, the walk was amazing.  One of the best things about the Pacific Northwest is the weather. All four seasons are present here, and it also rains quite a bit…well drizzles is a more accurate description. I have always loved the cool and cold weather, and fall and winter here do not disappoint. It was a refreshing change from Northeast Texas winters-which are full of sleet mixed with rain, and only last about 2 months of the year. Then it’s back to icky hot weather. But not here in the Northwest. However, I did meet some people in the Northwest that did not care for the winters, because there are many overcast days there. It’s true that some suffer from a lack of Vitamin D there, but honestly, the rainy overcast days never bothered me. Not once. I absolutely loath the sun beating down on me. I like the sun, but I like it to be in moderation. Something I had always hated about Texas was the heat…like triple digit weather. Seriously. In addition to a love of the PNW weather, I also love the area for its numerous amount of coffee shops. You can usually find one within a mile of wherever you are there. And they don’t just have Starbucks (although Starbucks is very good). They have many drive-through coffee shops-these cute little wooden boxes that look like small sheds. I miss that. I am a huge coffee fan, and there are many different types to choose from in the Northwest.  In fact, there is a particular brand that I still order on a regular basis today.  What can I say?  The Northwest spoiled me. LOL.  In addition, I noticed that there were nearly entire grocery aisles dedicated to coffee and tea. They are not just small sections either-they are long, sometimes almost stretching to the end of the aisle! Another great perk about the Northwest is something that some may find off-putting.  It is the social atmosphere.   I am an INTJ personality type and this does not bother me AT ALL. No one says hello to you in passing, unless they know you. It’s perfectly relaxing, because you don’t feel obligated to strangers.  But that does not mean that they are not friendly. In fact, I have met some of the warmest and most compassionate people there.  People in the Northwest just don’t do small talk.  I don’t mind that because I have NEVER understood small talk-and this is coming from a native Texan, where small talk is a somewhat normal social behavior.  There were times I engaged in it in Texas (because it was expected of me).  However, as I’ve grown older, I find that I care less and less for it.    I just don’t understand the point of it. It’s a total time waster to me. I would rather get to the point. Getting to the point quickly is honest and respectful, not rude. Also, people in the Northwest are overall a very literate bunch, and so being politically correct is just something that is deemed as normal up there.  This is because people like to know what you are talking about; otherwise they tend to get confused-and that is okay.  In truth, there really are not many social expectations in the Northwest (at least from what I observed during the two years I spent there).  People do seem to respect one another’s space, as well as their beliefs.  It’s not really a place for extroverts though.  In the beginning, making friends in the Northwest is tough, as these are an introverted group of people.  That is because they want to get to know you first. I believe that many of the social norms stem from the Scandinavian people who settled there long ago. As a result, there is a lot of Nordic cultural influence there as well. It’s modern of course too. I have found that I prefer a mix of the two.  I love my Lefse bread and my post-modern decor. Did I mention that I also met my wonderful husband only two months after I moved there? Yes, it’s a pretty happy place for me. Do I still love my Texas family and friends? Of course I do, and I always will.  And I will of course conform to their social norms when I visit.  But the truth is that I know I will never return to live there. My life never really took off until I moved to the Pacific Northwest.  And that brings me to the present. I now reside in the Florida Panhandle because my husband’s job moves us around.   We have been here in Florida almost three years now, and are finally getting ready to move once more-thank goodness!  Let me tell you:   I never knew how Northwest I had become until I came to a place that was the complete opposite of it.  Try as I may, I have never fully adapted here.   I can hardly wait to move!  Luckily, our time here has just about come to an end, with no more than just a couple of months left. Sadly, we won’t be going back to the Northwest just yet, but we will make it back there in the future.  I’ve seen it throughout my divination spread.  And we will call it home again one day. And what a joyous day it will be.