Wednesday, September 25, 2013


I got my driver's license when I was 17.  That did not mean I started driving at 17.  Unlike most of my friends and classmates, who could not wait to experience the new-gained freedom, I put off driving for as long as I could.

I was not scared of driving.  I just did not see a need for it.  My mom was more than willing to drive me to school, our local library, and my job whenever I needed to.  She thought I was clumsy and was worried that I might run myself into an accident.  Insurance rates were high for teenagers anyway, if I did not want to drive, well, more money to pocket for my parents.

I was content.  I had no need to venture out of my comfort zone.  It was not until my second semester in college, when I had different schedules daily, that it became too confusing for my mom to keep track.  My mom told me I had to put my driver's license to use. 

My father got me a green Corolla in my second year of college.  It was his way of telling me that I had no excuse not to drive myself.  I had a driver license, a car, and a car insurance policy.  My father wanted me to be independent.  He told me that he had to learn to navigate L.A. traffic within a couple of weeks of arriving in the States.  He said the only way to get comfortable with driving was to do it. 

My Corolla and I ended up going to many places together... my junior college that was 8 miles away, my 4-year university that was 40 miles away,  my optometry school that was 5 states away, the different cities I did my internships at, and eventually Texas.  

I had the habit of taking the same routes to places.  If my parents told me there was road construction and I should take another way, I would quietly leave early, just so I could take my usual route.  I was not afraid of getting lost.  By the time I got to college, I had gotten over my shyness and was not afraid to ask for directions. I just did not like to change my routines. 

I remember one time, I stayed up late at home to finish my homework.  I had an early class in my 4-year college the next morning so at 1 am, I made the 40 miles drive back.  Unfortunately, there was construction going on, forcing me take a detour a few exits away from my apartment.  The roadside detour instructions were vague and I got confused.  I ended up in downtown L.A. at 2 am, driving around to find my way to my apartment.  After 30 or 40 minutes of fruitless driving in circles, I spotted two police cars in front of a convenience store. 

I was very excited to see them.  I was tired from studying and the extra driving.  I knew it was safe for me to get out of my car and approach them for help.  I ran up to them with such enthusiasm that could only be found in a cheesy chick flick.  Flashing a big smile, I said, "Excuse me....," in a high pitched happy tone, the officers probably thought I was going to hug them.  Then I noticed one of the officers froze his motion of sipping a cup of coffee, eyebrows raised, with a quizzical look.

Because of his bewildered look, I realized I had to compose myself.  I stopped, leaned my body away from them a bit, then politely asked, in a much more serious voice, "Can you tell me where UCLA is?"  The officer, still hadn't sipped his coffee, looked at my beige sweatshirt with the big bright golden UCLA logo written across it.  The two officers then looked at each other, trying to hold in their laughter, politely gave me instructions on how to get back to Wilshire Boulevard.  I was back in my apartment in 10 minutes.  

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My little place in the world

The new house we moved to during my junior year in high school had two stories.  The upstairs had a kitchen, a living area, a master bedroom, and two small bedrooms.  Downstairs, next to our garage, was basically a little in-law apartment.  It had its own entry, bathroom, and living area.  It was closed off from our house upstairs by a staircase and a door.  My parents initially wanted my brother and I to take the two bedrooms upstairs, leaving the downstairs suite as a guest room. 

I asked my parents for permission to live downstairs.  I rarely asked my parents for things.  The thought of having my own little space, away from everyone else, was just too appealing for me to resist.  My parents thought it was a little odd that I wanted to be alone downstairs.  They didn't see any harm in it, so they obliged.  They bought a bedroom set for me and gave me a lot of freedom. 

My parents were very lenient about the activities downstairs.  My friends were able to sleep over without an issue.  It didn't happen very often, even though my mom encouraged it.  She wanted me to have friends.  I wanted to have friends but I did not want to share my room with them.  I liked the feeling of living alone, I didn't have to say "hi" to anyone when I woke up.  I did not have to put on a face.  I could reserve my time and energy for studying. 

There were times when I grabbed a dinner plate and then came downstairs to my little world to study and eat.  My parents were so focused on academia, they were totally supportive of it.  In fact, they often reminded me of a distant relative, who came to the States as an adult.  He made a habit of memorizing words in a dictionary while eating dinner so he could learn English.  He did nothing but shoved food into his mouth and flipped through his dictionary during supper time.  He eventually graduated with a doctorate degree.  My parents told me that he should be my role model, his persistence should be my inspiration.  

By late high school, especially after I started working at the bakery, my abilities to read people and interact with them improved a lot.  But there was a price for it.  The act of interaction took a lot of concentration from me.  Anytime I interacted a person, a lot of background analysis had to go on simultaneously in my brain to tell me what I had to do to look "natural."  From my choice of words, body movements, facial expressions, observing the other person's body language, to understanding their words, it was a lot of work! 

I was known to be cheery and bubbly at work, I had to be, my mom said no one wanted an employee with a "long face."  I enjoyed work because it made me feel useful.  I wasn't making much but I was contributing.  After a long day though, it was great to come back home into my little world.  In my little area downstairs, I did not have to interact with anyone.  I could be myself again, I did not have to act.  I did not have to constantly process information anymore.  My brain could finally take a break.    

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Tidbits at work

Having a part-time job in high school meant taking closing shifts on weeknights.  I often spoke to my mom about events at work.

One day, I told her about my closing duties, which included taking inventory, getting boxes ready for the next day, washing trays, wiping down displays, sweeping and mopping.  Thomas did not assign these duties.  They were to be evenly shared by the closing team. 

I had noticed that my closing duties varied vastly, depending on whom I was partnered up with.  One girl in particular, whenever I closed with her, I somehow always ended up doing all the cleaning while she "busily" took inventory or folded boxes.  She did it so tactfully that most of the time I did not even know how it happened.  She must have planned her way out of cleaning many steps ahead.  I eventually figured out what she was doing.  I was not upset at her.  She was always sweet and friendly with me.  I was just baffled at how she could do it so smoothly. 

My mom laughed and told me, "Well, that's life.  Life is never fair.  If you know how to manipulate to get your way, then you don't have to do as much.  She is just one of the many many examples you will encounter later on in life."  My mom ended it at that.  She felt that it was not a big deal.  If someone could manipulate me to do things without me being upset about it, the person had done me a favor by giving me a free lesson .  She saw it as part of life.  My parents wanted me to work so I could experience life the way it was.  I had to learn to handle it myself.  My co-worker's behavior did not bother me, so I just shrugged it off.

Another thing I learned was that little white lies were not always bad.  During one of our busy afternoons, I was on the phone with a customer, one girl was stocking bread shelves, while another one took up cashier duties.  All of a sudden I heard a little scream, I turned around and faced our cashier girl.  She was looking at a bun she apparently dropped on the floor.  She looked up at our customer and apologized for her "clumsiness."  She quickly asked the girl who was stocking shelves to bring a replacement.  I did not think much of it and continued on with my phone call. 

It was not until an hour or two later, when we slowed down, our cashier girl took the fallen bun out of a waste basket to show us.  The bun was wrapped in a cellophane bag, there was a dead fly inside.  The cashier girl said that she saw the fly as she was ringing up our customer, but she did not want to make a scene.  She pretended to have dropped it so she could ask for a replacement without alerting all the customers in our store.  Thomas was very impressed with how she handled it.  He said our cashier girl not only handled the situation correctly, she did it intelligently.  It was a lesson I remembered 'til this day. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

My Manager

My bakery manager, Thomas, was one of the few people who made a long-lasting impression on me.  Diligent, witty, and with a good sense of self-discipline, he was my role model at the bakery.  Thomas was in his thirties.  He was not a quiet person but he did not say much about his personal life.  All we knew was that he lived with his girlfriend.  They had an Old English Sheepdog which they doted on.

Our bakery opened seven days a week.  Thomas was there everyday, or at least it seemed like he was.  He made sure that our bakery was running at top efficiency.  He knew every facet of the business.  From baking buns, decorating cakes, handling the customers, leading our team, to managing everything that happened in between.  Thomas did everything well. 

He was a direct person.  If he liked something I did, he would praise me verbally.  If I did something he thought was dumb, he would point it out right the way and told me to "be smarter."  He never sugar-coated any of his comments or beat around the bushes when he wanted me to change my ways.  It was easy for me to communicate with him.  He was blunt, so was I.  The difference between us was, he knew when not to be blunt, and I didn't. 

He taught me all my job duties pretty much by hands-on experience.  I was able to learn from his demonstrations, which was perfect for a visual thinker.  He never rushed me in terms of learning.  He allowed me to go at my own pace.  He could tell I was driven to do things correctly.  Fearing that I was the one who would hold back the team, I urged him to teach me more, but he told me to take it one step at a time.   I could tell Thomas was not a particularly patient person but he knew how to read people.  He knew our personalities and how to get the most out of each of us.  

Of course he also knew how to push people's buttons.  One time there was an arrogant customer who yelled at a cashier to a point of tears for giving her the wrong change.  Regardless of how the poor cashier apologized, she did not relent.  Thomas tactfully told her that in order to resolve this situation correctly, he would have to count the till.  He did it CAREFULLY, SLOWLY, and DELIBERATELY.  30 long minutes later, Thomas finally came to the conclusion that she was right. The customer stormed out with her proper change, and a half-hearted apology from Thomas. 

Thomas later told me that if she had been more courteous, and accepted the cashier's initial apology, he would have resolved it immediately.  Instead, she bullied the cashier.  It got on Thomas's wrong side so he did not reward her behavior. 

This event taught me that sometimes it was not about being right or wrong.  It was about knowing how to resolve a situation.  I realized that one could get a lot more done by working with people, instead of against people.  Thomas continued to explain similar situations to me in the 2 years I worked there. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013


I love food, but I only love food that I love.  I was a very finicky child but I loved my grandmother's cooking.  When my class went on field trips, my grandmother had to pack my lunch because I did not want to eat anything that was unfamiliar to me.  I was never curious of what my classmates' were eating.   My 15 individually wrapped marinated chicken drummettes kept me satisfied.  In fact, I was the one whom the other kids wanted to trade their lunches with.

My grandmother had to get up early to prepare, cook, wait for the drummettes to cool, and wrap them.  She did not mind though.  She was more than willing to go out of her way to accommodate the only grandchild.

Tomato is my mom's favorite food.  She eats them like apples.  I remember when I was 4 or 5, I saw my mom sitting in our courtyard in China, munching away on a tomato, commenting on how delicious it was.  When I saw her eating the red tomato like it was an apple, I imagined in my mind how it would be sweet and crispy, like an apple.  Of course I asked for a bite, but my senses went into shock because it was the complete opposite of what I had imagined.  The texture, the taste, and the smell were so unexpected, I spat it right out.  To this day, tomatoes and I still have not become friends.

My father introduced me to Filet-O-Fish, French Fries, milkshake, and apple pie from McDonald's when I was 6.  For the next 20 years, those items were pretty much the only things I ordered from McDonald's.  I've tried other items as well, I just tend to come back to the ones I am familiar with.  I find it especially true when I am tired, in a hurry, or stressed.  I don't like to try anything new when my mind is preoccupied.  Under those circumstances, knowing what my food will taste like before I consume them brings me comfort. 

On a side note, McDonald's does a great job of keeping the taste of their menu items consistent.  I know because I've ordered them from McDonald's in Los Angeles, Dallas, Saint Louis, Houston, Austin, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Beijing.  If T hadn't stopped me, I would've confirmed my faith in McDonald's Filet-O-Fish in Taiwan and Shanghai as well.  

My father played a pivotal role in my path-to-be-less-finicky.  After I came to the States, he introduced to steaks, sushi, and many other food I was not forced to try in Hong Kong.  He wanted me to be more open-minded about food (on top of many other things).  He felt to be finicky was to be unappreciative of how privileged I was, considering so many people in other parts of the world were starving.  He did not force me to continuously eat food I did not enjoy.  He did force me to try an item before rejecting it.

I've learned to take a middle-of-the-path attitude with food.  Nowadays, I still tend to gravitate towards food I am familiar with.  New stuff, however, reminds me of my father's teaching, and I am no longer resistant to trying it.  I see trying new food not as a challenge or fulfillment of curiosity, but more as a form of respect to our good fortune of being in a country with an abundance of food. 

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Fitting in at work

I went into this job without a lot of expectations.  This was my first job, let alone working around a kitchen.  I wasn't allowed in our kitchen in Hong Kong.  I helped my mom with dishes at home, but I didn't know how to cook.  I wasn't interested in it.  I was, however, serious about doing well at my first job.  It had nothing to do with pride, it was about practicing the work ethnics I learned from my dad.  Regardless of how much I was paid, I wanted to do my job to the best of my ability.

What gave me some ease was that the help-wanted sign said "no experience necessary." I figured everything would have to be taught to me.  I wanted to be a good pupil.  My mom said no one was obligated to help me.  If I wanted help, then I better make it easy for others to offer it.  I tried my best to be a sponge, absorbing as much and as quickly as I could.   If I made a mistake, I immediately apologized and took the lesson home to analyze in my mind.  I would replay a scenario again and again, not only to avoid making the same mistake twice, but also to see how I could handle similar situations more efficiently. 

At the time, I didn't see anything wrong with myself.  My parents told me I was dumb.  My job proved it.  Within a few days of working, I realized that everyone there was more worldly than me, even the part-timers who were around my age.  They knew more about life, about how to deal with unhappy customers, about what to say to the store owners when they called so they knew we were working hard.  I thought to myself, geez, my parents were right.  I was still getting my orientation on the slow lane,  and my co-workers were already zooming by at full speed. 

I felt like I became an undercover detective, secretly observing others' actions and learning from them.  I was very impressed with how my co-workers took care of business. Even on busy days, their actions were seamless.  The job was not complicated, but it could get very hectic.  We were in a popular shopping center, hundreds and hundreds of customers go through our store in a matter of hours.  Seeing how my experienced  co-workers covered each other as a team, and still kept their cool, was inspiring.  It was something I wished I could do myself. 

I shamelessly copied people. The action was not new to me though.  I had to do the same thing when I moved from mainland China to Hong Kong, then again when I immigrated to the States.  This job opened up a new world for me.  In the past, adaptation was to make life easier for myself, but this job required more than that, I had to learn to make life easier for everyone around me. 

One thing I really wanted to know was when to offer help without being asked.  My parents said it was an intuition I lacked.  They tried to teach me, but they said one could not learn how to fight a war on paper.  I needed real experience.  Initially, I did not know what they meant.  I understood the concept because they taught me if A, then B.  But my parents said there was something deeper that I was not catching.  They introduced me to a skill, but it could only be polished through work experience.

It wasn't until I started working that the light bulb went off in my head.  The girls at our bakery were able to work together very well.  "Betty" knew exactly when to stop what she was doing and lend "Sara" a helping hand without a word exchanged.   "Jill" knew to grab our price book and order form as soon as she saw our store manager on the phone, trying to scribble down a wedding order on a piece of napkin.  "Sara" knew to distract a wailing little boy so his mom could concentrate on telling "Betty" what she wanted on her custom cake. 

After analyzing MANY of these little examples, I finally understood what my parents meant.  I got better.  Even my parents said so.  I was no longer a bead on an abacus.  I knew how to take initiatives.  I was able to help out, like the other girls.  I fitted in. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Job duties

This job proved to be a very good learning experience.  The bakery was one of 8 or so stores owned by a Chinese family.  Each store had its own manager, full-time and part-time employees.  My store manager was in his early 30s.  The two full-timers were also in their 30s.  I was one of their 3 to 4 part-timers, who were all students. 

My job included an array of duties:  Ringing up customers, boxing cakes, answering phone calls, keeping surfaces clean, washing trays (where customers put their selections), sweeping, mopping, daily inventory, and taking orders of custom-made cakes. 

The bakery had around 20 types of buns (breads with sweet or savory fillings) and 30 types of cakes, pastries, and tarts.  Back in the 1990s, all prices had to to be rung up by hand, there was no computer to help.  The quick turnover of items also made putting price tags on them impractical.  It was a cashier's job to be familiar with all the prices and basic ingredients. 

I started my job in the evening of a school night.  My manager wanted me to start on a slower night so I would not get flustered.  I was, however, still a little bit overwhelmed.  Operating the register was pretty straightforward, I was able to pick that up quickly.  The difficult part was differentiating all those buns/cakes and recalling their prices, especially under pressure.  I soon realized that without knowing the products and prices by heart, I would be constantly dependent on my co-workers to back me up. 

I didn't want to be the one who was slowing down the team, I wanted to be able to multitask, just like my coworkers. 

Remembering what my parents told me, I decided diligence was what would get me through.  At the end of my first week, I asked my manager for permission to bring a price sheet home.  My manager said that I didn't have to do that, I wasn't going to get paid for it.  I insisted and he finally gave in.  I went home and made flash cards.  I studied them, like I was studying for a test. 

Within a few weeks, I was ready.  I was no longer nervous behind the cash register.  This freed up my mind.  I no longer needed to physically wave a bun in the air in mid-transaction to ask for prices.  I could ring up orders, package items, while answering a phone call, and still managed to smile at my customer all at the same time.

All my co-workers were more sociable than I was.  I did what my mom told me, I did a lot, but I spoke very little.  I was always polite to my customers, but I did not know how to hold a conversation.  It didn't take me long to realize that our service was just important was our products. 

I thought it was neat how my coworkers handled customers, especially the frequent visitors, who often liked to chit chat.  Whenever it was slower, I would secretly observe them.  While wiping down displays, I would eavesdrop on their conversations with these customers.  I wanted to know how they made customers laugh and felt so happy about patronizing our store.  I was intrigued. 

I wanted to be more like them, just so that I could be a better employee.  Surely the store owner would want his customers happy.  I copied my co-workers, without letting them know.  I practiced what they said, their tones, and their gestures in my mind, just so I could use them when an opportunity came.  It was no small task.  If I were to copy something "Jill" said, I would have to make sure "Jill" wasn't there when I repeated it.  Having studied from 5 or 6 co-workers, it was a lot of work to keep track, but I enjoyed it.  I was part of a team. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Pearls of Wisdom -- Work Edition

As a congratulations gift for landing my first job, my mom gave me more pearls of wisdom.  In the few days before I started working, she drilled what she considered to be essential work etiquette into me.

1)  "If your co-worker or your boss is explaining something to you, you nod, you smile, and you show appreciation.  Even if you already know what he/she is teaching you, you still show gratitude towards him/her.  You never say "I already knew that."  No one likes a know-it-all.  You want people to help you in the future, you make them feel good about helping you."

2)  "You have to think ahead, don't be like a bead on an abacus.  Use your common sense.  If your boss tells you to wipe down the display, look around when you are done.  What other surfaces need to be wiped down?  You don't have to wait for your boss to tell you.  If you see the glass door has hand prints on it, or the refrigerator doors have smudges, then wipe them down as well."

3)  "Keep yourself busy at work.  Your boss is not paying you to sit around.  You can always find something to do.  Don't do personal stuff when you are at work, not even school stuff.  Work is work.  Your job in school is to study, your job at the bakery is to work.  If you are constantly working and moving, your boss will be more forgiving towards your mistakes.  If you sit around a lot, well, your mistakes will be magnified because you haven't done a whole lot."

4)  "Always smile.  Smile at your co-workers, smile at your boss, smile at your customers.  No one owes you a dime, they are not obligated to deal with your personal problems.  Keep your problems to yourself.  Your co-workers want a pleasant work environment, you boss wants a cohesive team, and your customers want good service.  So bottom line is, who cares about how you feel, you smile at others."

5)  "Show your work through your actions, not through your words.  Don't boast about your abilities.  A good employee is one who does a lot but says very little.  You may be dumb, but you can make it up by being diligent, pleasant, and humble.  These are priceless qualities as well.  No one wants to help out a braggart."

6)  "No matter what your co-workers say, do not complain about your boss or your work.  You don't like your job?  You can find a new job, but don't complain about it.  If you don't have the ability to find a new job, then learn to deal with your job, but still don't complain about it.  You don't like your boss?  Well, too bad, he/she is your boss and gets the final say on everything.  Work hard, study hard, then one day, you don't have to have a boss."

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Landing my first job

I started my first job a couple of weeks after my first interview.  It was a cashier position at a Chinese bakery.  The bakery was situated inside a small Chinese shopping center my family frequented.  

A few days after my interview at the chiropractor, my parents said that I should take initiates and call to follow-up.  I took their advice and was told that the office would contact me once a decision had been reached.  I didn't think they were going to hire me.  My parents simply told me that a job was not going to just land in my lap.  If I wanted a job, I would have to actively look for one.  My father said that I had to learn to be braver and more thick-skinned.  He said a "no" should not be a discouragement, it should be a driving force for me to try even harder until I get a "yes."  

A couple of days later, while we were shopping at the Chinese supermarket, I saw a "hiring" sign.  It belonged to the bakery.  I pretended to walk by its window very nonchalantly several times.  Each time taking a quick glimpse of the sign, trying to see what its requirements were.  "No experience required" and "weekend hours," yay, I qualified!

I ran up to my mom, who was picking out Chinese movies from a video store nearby.  I told my mom about the hiring sign and its requirements.  My mom told me, "What are you waiting for?  Go ask for an application!  I will wait for you here."  That was all I needed from her.  I didn't need any encouragement nor reassurance.  I already knew I should get a job, I just needed a firm nudge from her. 

I walked up to a man who was wiping down a glass display case in the bakery.  Remembering my mom telling me that no one would want to hire someone who was shy and unsure, I tried to sound pleasant and enthusiastic.  Stuttering a little, I asked him if he knew how I could get an application.  He told me he was the manager and asked me about my job experience and availability.  My heart was racing, but I forced myself to stay calm, answer clearly, and avoid any unnecessary body gestures.  He then gave me an application and told me to bring it back.  I took the application and tried my best to walk out casually, in reality, I just wanted to make a bee line for our car. 

I returned the next day to drop off my application.  The manager happened to be free.  He looked over my application and asked me when I was able to start.  I told him anytime.  I landed my first job!

Life is full of surprises.  Right after I got hired by the bakery, I received a phone call from the chiropractor.  She wanted to hire me.  I told her I already accepted another job.  She asked me where it was.  I told her I was going to be a cashier at a bakery.  She said her office was better suited for me and offered to pay me more.  I told her I couldn't go back on my words.  She insisted a couple more times.  I thanked her for her offer, but I couldn't do it.  In my mind, it was easier to turn her down, than to go back on my words with the bakery.  Doing so would not rest well with my conscience. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

My first job interview

When I was 17, my parents (especially my dad, who always felt I was not independent or outgoing enough) decided it was time for me to get a job.  They wanted me to have more interactions with the general public. What better way to accomplish this than to find a job?

Upon hearing my parents' "suggestion," before even stepping foot outside the door, my freight train filled with cargoes of anxiety and self-doubt were already rushing through my mind.  I knew I had to do it though.  There was no way I could hide under my parents' wings forever.  No way.  They wouldn't allow it, I wouldn't want to. 

I didn't even know where to begin to look for a job.  Getting a job was such a generalized term, bubbles of possibilities quickly filled my thoughts.  How would I make it through the interview?  In fact, I didn't know how I would apply for a job.  Then there was the question of, what if I was hired?  Would I learn fast enough to fit in?

I found an ad in our local newspaper.  It was a chiropractor's office looking for a front desk receptionist.  I was hesitant to pick up the phone to call, I was scared.  I did not like speaking to strangers on the phone.  After 4 years of constant training from my parents, however, my logical side overrode my fear.  It was not a choice.  I would have to be on my own one day.  This was barely the beginning.

I ran through the potential phone conversation in my mind many times with its many possible outcomes. It turned out much easier than I thought.  The office asked me when I would be able to start, if I had any experience, and if I knew how to type.  The lady then promptly asked me to come in for an interview. 

We agreed to meet that same day.  I was very excited of the opportunity, the ease of how smoothly our phone conversation went gave me a lot of hope.  Of course I was anxious as well, worried that I might mess up during the interview.  My mom helped me pick out an appropriate outfit.  She told me that look was not everything, but a good first impression could be my first step towards success. 

As she drove me to my interview, she simply told me that no matter the outcome, everything would be okay.  It wasn't like this job was going to make or break our family.  She said the experience would help me grow.  As I was getting out of the car, she reminded me to smile, look people in the eyes when I spoke, and to try my best to appear confident.  She said no one would want an employee at the front desk who was shy and unsure. 

My interview with the chiropractor went just as smoothly.  All questions asked were ones I had already prepared for.  At the end of our interview, I was asked to demonstrate my typing skill.  I was one of the fastest typist in my typing class in high school.  It was something I knew I could do well.  I did not boast about it, but I was not worried. 

Well, life is full of surprises.  The keyboard I was tested on was a lot softer than the one I used in school.  I tried to remain calm and give myself a chance to adjust.  Unfortunately,  spur of the moment adaptation was never my strength.  I ended up typing much much slower than I liked.  I was not happy with the result.  The chiropractor did not make any comment.  She told me she would get back to me in a few days. 

My mom knew from my silence that things did not go as I had hoped for.  She helped me by not making a big deal out of it.  She did not comfort me, nor did she feel bad for me.  She did not let it ruin our day.  Her attitude was, so what's your next plan?  

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Thinking in Pictures 2

Being a visual thinker, I associate words with images.  Some images, however, are not blue skies and pretty flowers.  Unlike a computer, whatever my brain chooses to retain, I cannot delete.  I also have no control over which image to use as the default.

When I was 12 yo, my grandmother made me eat a rotten banana by accident.  I did not like fruits as a child.  My grandmother, for health reasons, would force me to consume them on a regular basis.

I could still remember myself sitting in the brown sofa in our flat.  My grandmother handed me a banana.  I told my grandmother I didn't want it.  My grandmother insisted for me to eat it.  Knowing I wasn't going to be able to get away with it, I took it from her.

I unpeeled the banana and bite into it.  Ew....there was something wrong with it.  The texture was awful and the color in the center had a funny orange hue.  I told my grandmother it was rotten.  My grandmother thought I was trying to make excuses and refused to listen to me.  She sternly told me to finish it and walked into the kitchen.  Being an obedient child, I painstakingly ate the banana, using my front teeth to take off a thin layer at a time. 

Twenty minutes later, when grandma came out of the kitchen, I only ate a third of the banana.  She rolled her eyes at me, shook her head, took my banana and said she was going to eat it for me.  The second she bite into it, she frowned and spat it out.  "Why didn't you tell me it was rotten?  Why were you eating it?"

It was too late.  Image of that rotten banana was burnt into my memory.  From then on, I never enjoyed bananas again.  Every time I think of bananas, memory of that awful texture and funny color would take over.  I have no choice but to re-live the experience.  I have tried to replace the default picture associated with bananas to no avail.  My brain has decided that bananas will always be rotten.  

There are so many of these banana type stories.  Like the time when my aunt ran out of our kitchen in Hong Kong screaming.  I ran over to see a bag of skinless headless frogs, one of them hopping around on the kitchen counter like it was looking for its head.  Fortunately, that image was more amusing than traumatizing, so I could still eat frog legs with gusto.

Then there was my encounter with a sick fish in the common courtyard of our flat in Hong Kong.  I was maybe 11 or 12, taking a stroll around the courtyard.  I was on top of a little bridge, looking into the fish pond.  There I saw it, a sick fish, with all of its scales sticking straight out from its body.  It gave me the chills.  Goose bumps formed all over me, darn, it was too late.  I could never see a fish the same way again. 

As I got older, I gained a better understanding of how my brain worked.  I realize that if I want to fill my mind with positivity, I have to be diligent in preventing my brain from burning unwanted images into my hard drive.  I may not be able to control the images my brain wants to retain, but if I catch it in time, I can blur out the association so the bond is not formed.

With time, I've found that under proper guidance, not only can I prevent my mind from being burdened with bad images, I can even turn what can be a curse into a blessing.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

My second high school

My family moved from a condominium to a house in the middle of my junior year. My parents considered it a major milestone in their lives.  My father felt proud, he was finally able to give his family a “real” house.  

I did not share in that joy.  It was the third time I moved.  My feelings toward the upgrade were neutral.  I was not sad about it, but I was not excited either. 
Having to say goodbye to my friends was not an issue.  After all, people grow up and move away.  It is just part of life.  What bothered me was the difference in curriculums.  

My new counselor changed my classes around so I could integrate into their program.  It was already the second week of class.  Some classes were full, I did not have many options.  Mathematics posed the biggest problem.  I was in an accelerated math class in my first high school.  I took Algebra 2 in the first semester.  I was supposed to go on to Trignometry and Pre-Calculas in the second semester.  My new high school had no such program.  My counselor decided, for the ease of making my classes fit together, to put me in Pre-Calculas, skipping Trignometry.   I was, however, given a Trignometry textbook to home-study. 

When I complained to my parents about it, all they said was, "What was done was done.  There is nothing you can do about it.  Change is part of life, you have to learn to adapt.  How can you make it in life if you cannot learn to adjust to changes?  A person must be flexible to survive in the real world."  Essentially, deal with it.

Oh well, such is life.  I dealt with it the best I could.  Mathematics was not my strong subject to begin with, as much as I tried, I still landed my first "C" in high school (okay, not counting P.E.).

I met a few Chinese girls in my new school.  They immigrated to the States during their teenage years, just like me.  Peer pressure was not something I had to deal with, not in my first high school, nor this school. Our conversations circled around school, classes, college, and the occasional flashback to our lives in Asia.  I started to wonder about my future.  

My mom always told me if I did not want to pursue higher education, I was free to go into whatever field I wanted to.  I would then, however, be responsible for my own livelihood.  It was my life, my decision, my consequences.  Deep down inside though, my Chinese upbringing told me that being responsible for oneself was not good enough.  Filial piety meant I had to have means of taking care of my parents in their golden years.  

I knew I did not have any special skills or talent.  I was not particularly good in art, sports, or crafts.  Education was the only way for me to live up to my obligations.  So I started looking into my options for college. 

No one in my family had graduated college, much less high school.   My parents said there was nothing they could do for me other than supporting me financially.  They told me to ask my classmates/friends/teachers if I had any questions on "college stuff."  Bottom line was, my future, my responsibility. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pearls of wisdom

My parents attitude towards life had a large impact on my adult life.  They taught me to be independent.  They taught me the value of diligence.  Their teaching was very matter-of-fact.  They didn't sugar-coat.

To them, being good parents meant providing me with a shelter, giving me an opportunity for education, and a chance to have a better life than theirs.  Along the way, they pointed out all my mistakes, hoping that I would not repeat them in the "real world."  After all, they said, it was better for them to get annoyed at me, than for a co-worker or a boss to do so. 

Did I enjoy the process?  Definitely not.  I felt like I was constantly nitpicked on. But the experience helped smooth out some of my rough edges so I could fit in the NT world better.  I would never be a NT.  I don't want to be one anyway.  I can, however, pretend to be one, at least long enough to do my job in the NT world, without major stress on my part.  

My parents didn't know about Asperger's syndrome or autism spectrum disorder.  Knowing them, even if they had knowledge of my condition at a young age, they probably would not have changed much of the ways they raised me.  To them, it was about survival.  It wasn't about who should accommodate who, or why one should accommodate another.  It wasn't about rights or pride.  It was about what was the most efficient way to fit in.

Pearls of wisdom #1
"You have to pay for life one way or the other. You either pay for it early on in life, or later on in life"

My parents said that since they did not have a mountain of gold to back me up, I had to learn a skill that would allow me to make a living.  My parents told me there was no shortcut in life.  I could either work really hard in school and get an education while I was under their wings, or I could play now and pay for it later.  The decision was up to me.

Pearls of wisdom #2
"You are kind of dumb, but you can make it up with diligence."

Throughout my teenage years, my parents thought I was dumb.  I didn't understand social cues, couldn't understand jokes, didn't know how to read between the lines.  They said I was like a bead on an abacus.  I had to be told what to do in many situations, without direct instructions, I had no initiative.

As harsh as it sounded, I was not hurt by this remark.   I interpreted it literally.  It was just a factual statement.   No more hurtful than someone describing the color of my hair.  Besides, they did not leave me stranded.   They gave me a solution.  I just had to work harder, if twice as hard was not enough, then I would try three times as hard.  I ended up spending many nights studying when I was in high school.  I was pulling all-nighters when my classmates were busy dating and socializing.  I whole-heartedly believed that if I worked hard enough, I could make up for any abilities I lacked.  Oddly, it actually became an encouragement and gave me hope. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Thinking in pictures

I think in pictures.  By this I mean everything that goes through my head, whether it is an imagination, the past, the present, or the future, they all go through my mind as pictures or vivid movie clips.  I can fast forward, rewind, pause at any point, or hop from one scene to another.  I can do it quickly, efficiently, and naturally. 

I thought thinking in pictures was the norm.  No one ever told me otherwise until I met my husband, T.

As a visual thinker, I often have difficulty with verbal expression.  To verbalize what I see is a daunting task.  The overwhelming amount of details that I have to describe....just the thought of it tires me.  So most of the time, I would either give a very generic answer, or simply keep quiet, thus end up looking either uninterested or confused.  

A question as common as "How was work today?" can trigger clips of events at work to literally shoot through my mind like freight trains.  The amount of energy and emotion from the day, getting dumped on me at light speed is often enough to mute me.  Once the pandemonium takes over, I am no longer able to determine which frame to catch as a starting point to describe my day. 

Proper social etiquette tells me if someone asks me a question, an answer is expected.  The conflict of my inner desire to stay silent versus the social pressure to respond, along with the massive amount of visuals rushing through my head, stuttering in frustration is often the best I can do.

Emotions, to me, are felt as colors and temperatures.  Anger feels like a hot red pressure cooker with fume leaking out, happiness is a field of colorful flowers swaying in a cool spring breeze on a bright sunny day, and sadness is like being trapped in a cool bare dark cave.

I can see in layers as well.  When I am put in a spot to make important decisions.  The array of options radiates out of me like spokes of a tire.  Each leads to a destination with consequences.  I can see the paths and feel the consequences all within a matter of seconds.  Sometimes it happens so fast that I have to do a rewind just to make sure, kind of like when my email account asks me, "Are you sure you want to delete this message?" 

I did not realize that most people, including T, who is a very creative person, don't do what I do until he pointed it out to me.  From T's past experience as a kitchen designer, he assured me that most people could barely see in 2-D, much less think in pictures.  He told me the way I visualized information, and the speed I could do it at, was very rare and unique.

Well, rare or not, I don't really care, the practical question is it a blessing or a curse? 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Post-it notes and I

I used a lot of post-it notes in high school.  They were found in every one of my textbooks.  Some textbooks had them on EVERY single page.  At end of school years, when I had to return my textbooks, my classmates had to help me peel all the post-it notes off.  They were amazed at the amount of details that went into them!

My first year in high school was my second year in the States.  I was too shy to speak, but I was able to understand majority of conversations.  My post-it notes went from just translations of words in textbooks to summarizing paragraphs, key events, and significant definitions.  I only used yellow post-in notes because my pen colors showed up better on them.  The 3"x3" ones were great for all purposes, while the larger pads were useful for my history books.  

There was a system to it.   I had a stash of keroppi pens from Sanrio, they wrote in blue, black, green, red, pink, and purple.  For every subject, each color represented one concept.  For example, in my history class, black ink represented name, red ink represented year, blue ink represented the name of an major event, and purple ink was what happened during the event.  In my math class, blue ink represented a formula, purple ink represented a definition, green ink represented an example that was worth re-studying.  In my English class, pink was for new vocabularies, blue was for grammar-related ideas, and black was for names. 

I summarized all the pertinent concepts from textbooks onto my sticky notes.  I got so efficient with my sticky notes that I studied off of them.  I rarely had to peel a sticky note off to read the text behind it.  If I needed to review a concept that was taught a few weeks ago,  I could remember what page the sticky note was on, the color of my information, and the location of my sticky note.  I could flip through pages of a thick textbook to locate what I need on a sticky note very easily. 

I took a lot of notes in class as well.  Unlike some of my classmates who could learn from listening, I had to write the information down, then learn from reading or looking at it.  The writing in my notebooks were color coded as well, I tried to keep the colors/concepts between my notebooks and sticky notes consistent.  So class time took a lot of concentration.  Not only was I busy listening/jotting down notes, I was also busy switching between my keroppi pens to make sure I didn't mess up. I wanted the consistency, it was important to me.  On occasions when my classmates missed class, I was usually the one they borrowed notes from. 

I started pulling all-nighters when I was in high school.  Procrastination was something I could not afford.    Organized information was how I learned.  I spent a lot of time organizing and writing my sticky notes, so much so that I sometimes ended up with only a day or two left to study them.  But my system overall worked very well for me.  Some of my classmates commented on the amount of effort I put into studying.  I just thought I was dumb, and I had to make it up with diligence. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

High school years

My first two high school years were spent in ESL (English as a Second Language) classes.  The first high school I attended was filled with Asian (mostly Vietnamese) students.  I became pretty good friends with a couple of Taiwanese girls.

Life was simple back then.  After every school day, I took a snack break when I got home. Then it was study time until my mom called us for dinner.  I helped clean up after dinner and it was study time again.  If I watched TV during school days, it was because I wanted to mimic their conversations.

My world was focused on studying.  Nothing else mattered, not fashion, not New Kids On The Block, not boy-crush.  I didn't have any idols, I wasn't into movie stars.  Just because I could read about people's lives didn't mean I knew them.  I never understood the reason for hanging up posters of strangers in one's room.  My bedroom had posters of unicorns. 

My weekends were spent either studying, watching Chinese movies with my mom at home, or hanging out with my girl friends.  The friends I had were in the same boat as I was, they were recent immigrants and studying was a big priority.  They were school-focused.  Dating was not on their mind, nor was it on their parents' agenda.  I felt comfortable with them. 

I wasn't particularly sociable, I was content spending my spare time at home.  But my mom wanted me to have a social life.  She said no one could live without friends.  She pushed me to go out to movies or shopping malls with friends whenever I was not studying.   I developed a hobby of collecting stickers during my high school years.  Trips to shopping malls gave me opportunities to build my sticker collection so I wasn't too resistant.  

My friends in high school thought I was bossy and opinionated.  I didn't see it that way, but I didn't care enough to explain nor explore.  I didn't care how others felt about me.  If they didn't like me, they could just hang around someone else instead. 

I used to tell my mom about all my interactions with friends.  Instead of just listening to the words that were exchanged, she often interjected with more questions.   She would ask me how a conversation came about, what facial expressions I saw, the tones of voice, and what body movements were involved.  She often said to me, "Daughter-ah, just remember, the same sentence, said in different tones, mean different things.  You have to be smart about it!" 

My sense of fashion was not developed in high school.  I wore whatever that was comfortable.  My grandmother sent my mom and I clothing from Hong Kong on a regular basis.  My closet was filled with stuff my mom and my grandmother bought.  I had no need to add to it.   On a few occasions, my mom told me to go clothes shopping with friends.  She was never pleased with my selections so I continued on wearing clothing my mom and my grandmother bought. 

Just as I was getting comfortable with the routines of my high school life.  We moved. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Teachings from my mom

My mom taught me many things during my teenage years.  I will share some of them.  Some of her comments may appear very harsh, please take it with a grain of salt.  Part of it may be due to cultural differences, the other part is, I think she felt that straightforward comments were easier to get through to me. 

The goal for my blog is to share how I found my niche in life.  I am not saying this is the best way to help someone on the spectrum.  Bear in mind, my Chinese upbringing made me a lot more tolerant to negative remarks.  I wasn't raised with praises.  My teachers in Asia were kind but critical at the same time.

I don't know how it is in Asia nowadays, but I was there in the 1970s and 1980s.  There were a lot of things I was not allowed to do in school.  Being respectful to parents, teachers, or any authoritative figures was expected.  Talking back to teachers or someone who was older than me was a big "no no."   If one got a bad grade on a test, his teacher had all the rights to reprimand (verbally and physically) him in front of the whole class. Corporal punishment was well accepted back then for bad grades or misbehavior. 

School policies were expected to be followed strictly.  We had to wear uniforms.  Any deviation from the dress code resulted in a student being sent home.  He/she was not allowed to come back until dress code was met.  If the student was late because of it, he/she was penalized for it. 

Growing up, I was taught to follow rules and be respectful to elders.  As much as I disliked my mom nitpicking and pushing me all the time, I absorbed the information, like what I was trained to do.  Little did I know how much they were going to help me later. 

My mom took every opportunity she had to teach me.  If she saw something she liked or didn't like, she would point it out to me.  These scenarios filled my daily life.

Scenario 1
Mom and I in a shopping mall, a woman pushing a large stroller was trying to open a door.  A man behind her rushed forward to hold the door for her.
Mom:  You see you see?  You have to do that, too.  You see someone carrying a lot of stuff or pushing a stroller or a wheelchair, you open the door for her.  You have to be a step ahead.  Understand?  That's being thoughtful.

Scenario 2
Mom driving home after we had dim-sum at a restaurant with a group of her friends.....
Mom:  You have to be observant ma.  You saw Auntie Yan's teacup was almost empty?  You should've filled it.  The teapot was right next to you, it was too far for her to reach.  You saw Uncle Zhang was trying to pick up a spring roll that was in front of him?  You shouldn't rotate the table then ma.  You have to pay attention to these things, otherwise people will say you mom never taught you manners!

Life with parents

Coming to the States at the age of 13, I had a lot to learn.  English was #1 on my list.  Social skill, according to my parents, was not far behind.

I lived with my parents sporadically before I moved in with them.  When we finally started living together, my parents were baffled by how my grandmother raised me.  I had never done dishes, in fact, I wasn't allowed to even set foot into our kitchen in Hong Kong. I was very direct and blunt, always saying what was on my mind, regardless of situation.  I could not "read" situations.  I couldn't tell just from someone's tone of voice, facial expression, or body gesture to know that he/she wanted help, he/she was annoyed or he/she wanted me to STOP talking.  They chalked it up to my grandmother sheltering me too much.

They felt a major makeover was in order.

Helping out with simple household chores was just a beginning.  My parents were sociable people.  They liked to have friends over and enjoyed gatherings.  I was the opposite, I liked to be alone.

My parents thought I was strange and anti-social.  When they had friends over, all I wanted to do was to stay in my room.  "That's a very unlikable behavior."  My parents said.  I wanted to be liked, but in order for my parents to like me, their friends had to like me.  My parents wanted their daughter to be outgoing and sociable.  A girl with a happy, bubbly personality who could get along with everyone.  That was not me, but I wanted to make them happy, so I tried and tried, I wanted to be the daughter they wished they had.

It was not easy.

A year after I came to the States, my father returned to Asia for work.  He passed away when I was 28 years old.  I think I spent a total of 5 to 6 years with him in my entire life.  My interactions with him were limited.  My mom was the one who ended up with the responsibility of "helping" me.  All the conversations I will be listing later are between my mom and I.

My mother was born in the early 1950's.  She was taken out of school, against her will, during the Cultural Revolution.  She is outgoing, optimistic, sociable, and witty (the total opposite of me, LOL).  Given the right opportunities, I have no doubt in my mind that she would've had a very successful career. 

In hindsight, I am very grateful for all her "nitpicking" during my teenage years.  Growing up, I just thought she was very pretentious.  She wouldn't let me say what was on my mind.  I was forced to say what was appropriate for any given particular situation.  Not only my words, but my facial expressions and my body gestures had to match my words.

My mother has no background in psychology, she didn't even get to go to high school.  But her motherly instinct told her that her daughter was going to struggle in the normal/NT world.  She taught me skills to walk through the maze of NTs.  She did not do it by gently holding my hand, she did it by repeatedly nudging and pushing me in the right direction.

Was I always cooperative?  Of course not.  At times I resented how bossy and insistent she was.  But my deep-rooted Chinese upbringing always got the better of me:  A good child is an obedient child. Besides, she was very well-liked amongst her friends, I couldn't argue with that. 

Life with grandma and uncle

My childhood.....

I was born in mainland China.  My parents left me with my grandmother and my uncle when I was a few months old so they could work in Hong Kong. My grandmother and I moved to Hong Kong when I was 5 years old.  A year or two after our arrival, my parents moved to Singapore, then the States, for my father's work.  

I came to the States to join my parents and my younger brother when I was in 8th grade.  My father traveled often for work.  My mother was a housewife.  

I had a good life in Asia.  Being the only grandchild at the time, my grandmother (and my uncle) took very good care of me.

As a toddler, grandma carried me everywhere.  She did not want me to get my hands/feet dirty so I was never allowed to crawl.  When I started to learn to walk, my grandmother was always by my side.  The first time I fell, I was 3.5 years old.  I didn't know to hold my face up when it happened, so I fell face first.  I stayed in that position crying, waiting for my grandmother, because I didn't know what I was supposed to do.    

 I was enrolled in an elementary school that was 20 min away from our flat in Hong Kong.  Up until 5th grade, my grandmother walked me to school and picked me up everyday.  She thought I was very naive and gullible for my age.  I had a tendency to believe everything people said.  She was particular about who I befriended.  I was only allowed to interact with the "good students" in my grade.  I was well sheltered. 

I don't know what aspie traits I showed as a child.  My father had an aversion for crying.  He said crying was only acceptable when there was a death in the family.  His method of getting me out of a crying spell as a child was to keep spanking me until I stopped.  He was strict about it, too.  I remember when I was around 7 or 8, I fell and scratched my knees.  My father had to put alcohol on it.  He warned me about crying before he did so.  I knew what crying would bring about so I toughed it out.  Obviously, I am not condoning this method, it was just what my father did. 

My family always said that I had a bad temper.  I was an obedient child, but I was also known to throw temper tantrums if things didn't go my way.  I don't recall any specifics though.  I know because of my father, any dissatisfaction that I had during my younger years were mostly expressed as bouts of silence.  

Elementary school years were relatively uneventful.  I didn't have any close friends.  I got a lot of attention from my grandmother and my uncle (my uncle and aunt moved in with us after my parents left for the States). It did not bother me. My grandmother did not care if I hung out with kids of my own age or not.  She was too worried about me hanging out with the wrong group of friends and making bad decisions. 

I was a pretty good student.  My grandmother and my uncle were always on top of my academia.  They felt it was their duty to make sure I was doing well in school.  They spent a lot of one-on-one study sessions with me.  When I was in 6th grade, my grandmother hired a private tutor to help me stay ahead.  I was not a particularly bright student but I was studious.  All my teachers thought I was quiet.  I never caused any problem in classrooms. I was not Miss Popularity but because I maintained good grades, I was respected among my peers. 

Aside from studying, I became interested in books, mostly comic books and fairy tales.  I spent many weekends walking to our local library half an hour away just to borrow three books (the library's limit). 

Did I hang out with friends?  Sure, I remember spending time with them at playgrounds and playing games with them at parks.  I was not an outgoing child though.  I preferred quiet time with my books more.  

My parents visited me occasionally, but much of our interaction was via long distance phone calls.  They were expensive back in the 1980s.  Throughout my years in Hong Kong, my grandmother repeatedly told me that my father worked hard to provide for me.  I had to be appreciative of my parents' efforts, and I was.  

My parents called me at least once a week.  A typical phone call included asking me how I was doing, if I had been obedient to my grandmother, and how school was.  When I was 10 or so, I told my father since our phone conversations were pretty much the same very time, he didn't have to call me so often.  I didn't want to waste his money.  My good intention was not received well by him.  I think I ended up extending our phone call by an extra 15 minutes. 

Asperger and I

I came upon Asperger's syndrome (AS) by accident.  

I met a young aspie at work a few months ago.  She was not my first encounter with someone who was on the autistic spectrum.  What intrigued me was how normal she seemed.  Had she not told me, I would've thought she was just like everyone else I met at work.  

I knew nothing about AS at the time, well, other than it was a high-functioning form of autism.  I looked up AS briefly after her visit but the curiosity was quickly overshadowed by other things in life.  

AS kept lingering somewhere in the back of my mind, somehow I just had a feeling that I should learn more about it.   A couple of months ago, when I had a little downtime, I started researching information online on AS.   As I looked more and more into its symptoms and traits, I couldn't help but think to myself, "Gosh, this is how I've felt most of my life!  This is me!"

Does it mean I have Asperger's syndrome???

I've felt like an outsider most of my life.  Communication has never been easy for me.  I don't like going to gatherings and parties because I dread talking to people.  I have a hard time understanding jokes and I don't enjoy chit chats. On multiple occasions, people told me that I seemed very standoffish when they first met me.  Truth of the matter is, I am very quiet when I don't know what to say.  Well, in the NT (neurotypical or non-autistic) world, my action (or non-action) is often interpreted as arrogance.  

So am I on the spectrum?  Reading through traits of AS, my husband and I both felt that I was very much on the spectrum.   But I wouldn't know unless I sought a formal diagnosis. 

I wanted to find out.  Why?  My husband asked me, even if you were diagnosed with AS, it wouldn't change anything.  You have a stable job, a good marriage, an overall very happy life, what difference does it make?  But it matters to me, I told him.  I want to know if I am just plain weird or if there is an explanation for all my quirks.  Besides, I've often felt that the world around me is weird, people in general are strange, they often like to say one thing but mean another.  They talk about things that are really not of importance and call it socializing.  There were many occasions that I even thought my husband was weird.  

The more I read about AS, the more I realized that if I wanted to seek a formal diagnosis, I would have to find a psychologist who was experienced in working with AS adults, especially females.  As an Aspie grows up, he/she learns coping mechanisms to fit into the NT world, diagnosing an adult takes more skill and experience than diagnosing a child.