Welcome to our web site!

This is the web site for the Pugh family of Culpeper, Virginia. Your host is Richard J. Pugh: historian, computer nerd, musician, experimental gardener, aspiring writer, former librarian, and regular guy just trying to make sense of this increasingly nonsensical world.

Hoboken bound

Time files, weather you’re having fun or not!

I feel very old, but also very proud.

Xander has graduated from Eastern View High School in Culpeper, Virginia, and is preparing to go to college. I have to think about that for a moment. There are dozens of cliché sayings about how time passes at one speed for adults, another for children, and dilates and compresses at will when attempts are made to synchronize them. But no matter how you look at it, the baby I carried home from Adventist hospital in Takoma Park, Maryland, back in 2006, is now eighteen, out of high school, and preparing to go to college.

They’ve had to deal with all of the usual growth issues, and some unusual ones. Such as managing friendships, dealing with difficult classmates, and even more difficult teachers! They’ve dealt with cyberbullies, duplicitous fair-weather classmates, emotional abuse from specific adults, the loneliness and isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic, dysphoria issues, the difficult decision to undergo hormone adjustment, and even the decision to legally change their name. Worst of all was the tragic death of their younger brother. Having a front row seat to my gradual mental breakdown probably wasn’t fun either. But even so, Xander managed to slog through all of that.

High school, and the teen years in general, are usually a rough ride for everyone. I remember dealing with a variety of issues back in that toxic swamp I called high school. I drew on my experience as best as I could to help guide Xander through that mass of brambles. I can honestly say that Xander handled things better than I would have. Xander is far more mature, and seems better adjusted than I was at that age. And they clearly have more raw intelligence than I ever had.

Later this year, Xander will begin college at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey. They plan to focus on software engineering, with perhaps minor in technical theater. They already have some high level certifications in cybersecurity and computer network administration (thank you, CTEC), and with near perfect grades, they have a very solid start.

Life can be crazy, and often times things don’t turn out right. But Xander is one thing that did turn out right. To say that I am proud of Xander would be a tremendous understatement.


Footnote: Washington Adventist Hospital of Takoma Park re-located to larger facility in nearby White Oak, back in 2019.

Photo credits: photos one and two were taken by Lisa Pugh on May 15 and May 18, 2024, respectively. The third photo was taken by me on May 26, 2024. Most colleges send a letter of congratulations when accepting a student, but Stevens sent a placard! Go figure.

Thoughts of my father

Today would have been my father’s birthday. Were he still alive today he would be 86 years old. Most of the men in my family never make it that far. I’m hoping to be the first; my personal goal is 87. I don’t remember why I settled on that number, but whatever.

I have outlived him. Actually I passed that point back in July of last summer. He died at the age of 56. I’ll be turning 57 is just under a month. And for some reason I asked myself what he would think about the world of today.

My father probably wouldn’t like the world of today. I suspect he wouldn’t have made it through the G.W. Bush administration. The frustration and general stupidity of that era would have killed him. He had very little use for people who could see reality in front of their face and still miss it. He had even less use for people who could see reality and deliberately ignore it.

The Trump administration would have probably killed him within the first month. People who ignore obvious facts because some charismatic blowhard tells them to were, in his mind, the worst type of people the human race can produce. He had a rather humorous name for them: it took their genetic lineage and compared it to the excrement of a boar.

Dad, you’re probably fortunate that you haven’t seen what the world has become. Perhaps if things improve over the next year or two, your spirit may find some more peace.


System Overload

Sometimes you just gotta stop and… well, just stop.

Have you ever been in a mindset where you just can’t take any more input? A point where every sound, smell, sight, and any other sensation is enough to make you want to run and hide? Becoming overstimulated is something that almost everyone has experienced. And the most common remedy is simple “down time.”

Everybody needs “down time.” That’s when we process the information we’ve acquired in the recent time, usually since our last period of sleep. It’s when our brain files things under experience, updates our collected knowledge, and puts things in perspective. For most people, down time is straightforward, and doesn’t require much thought. Most folks have a quiet meal with their family, enjoy a beer at their favorite hang out, read, listen to music, or whatever. Everyone has their preferred method for unwinding.

But for neurodivergent people, this can be a little more difficult. For starters, a lot of them need more down time than most others, and more frequently. The most common explanation is that for many neurodivergent people, particularly the ones on the higher end of the autistic spectrum, their brains have no filters. The world around them is feeding them a dizzying array of information through all of their senses, at a relentless rate. The stereotype image of an overstimulated neurodivergent has them crouched low, with their arms around themselves, rocking back and forth, and softly muttering. It’s difficult to watch (unless you’re a cruel person enjoys putting them into this state), and even harder to experience.

Overestimation can have a variety of causes, because there are many varieties of people. On the whole, however, if my own experience is anything to go by, most of society doesn’t know how to react when a neurodivergent person becomes overstimulated. Or, as is often said colloquially, “starts having a meltdown.” However, it will be some time before society changes on this front. The process has started, but it’s likely to be slow. So for now, us neurodivergents need to self-manage as best we can.

Before I continue, I want to point out that I am not a therapist or psychiatrist. I’m only describing my own experiences and observations, and what I did to handle them.

One of the first things we can do is recognize what causes us to become overstimulated. These events and experiences are often called “triggers,” for obvious reasons. Loud noises, and sudden light changes are two of the most common categories. Other people can be triggered by more subtle things, like common sound patterns, seeing certain objects or activities, and even smells or colors. If you know certain things are likely to “set you off,” then the smart move is to prepare yourself to roll through it, or even try to avoid it (if possible). I know that’s a real no-brainer, but I thought it worth mentioning.

For example, I occasionally have problems with vertigo and agoraphobia. So, if I know I’m going to be in a situation with a lot of crowds, or being way up high (like on a plane), I try to fortify myself for the sensory assault that I know is coming. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s hard to know beforehand.

Lisa, Xander and I recently went to Louisiana to spend the holidays with Lisa’s extended family. On the whole the trip went very well, but not without some issues. At one point we drove across the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, which is a very long bridge over that large, shallow, inland sea of a lake. The causeway is generally low to the surface, so I wasn’t expecting a vertigo-related response. However, over the course of the thirty minutes it took to cross the thing, I gradually became rattled. I was driving 60 miles per hour, on a very narrow bridge, with absolute nothingness in all directions! The sensation was akin to falling. I watched those mile markers count down as the distant northern shore came more and more into focus, all the while wishing it would end. That experience left me a wreck for several hours afterward.

Recognizing triggers can be tricky, and sometimes we will have to update our list. I certainly did after that experience. I don’t know of any secret for dealing with triggers, only to know what they are and when they are likely to be flipped. Recognizing triggers may mitigate states of stimulation, but what about those times when it doesn’t?

Earlier, I mentioned how everyone has their own ways of unwinding during their down time. If you can get into one of those, great. After a little time in your comfort zone, you may level out. For a neurodivergent, though, this may take longer than for others.

Another popular trick is the mindfulness method of breathing at a regular pace, and try to take note of your surroundings. Try to identity five things you can see, five you can hear, five you can touch, and sometimes five you can smell or taste. It’s a good way to clear away the noise in your head, if only temporarily.

Another common approach, especially if you don’t have a lot of time, is the Four-Seven-Eight breathing exercise. Quite simply, you deeply inhale for a count to four (or use seconds if you have a time piece), hold your breath for a count to seven, then slowly exhale for a count to eight. This one is especially useful if you’re on the verge of exploding after a sensory onslaught. I’ve been trying to use this one more frequently of late.

Other things I’ve done are to look a window for a few seconds, to remind me of the larger picture. Some people like to take a quick walk to “touch grass.” Different methods work for different people, so if you have a unique decompression exercise that works for you, excellent! The real goal is to not go berserk in public and scare, or hurt, other people. I can understand the desire to sometimes want to, but it usually doesn’t end well. Try not to lash out at the neuro-typicals. They probably don’t understand what’s going on in your head. A lot of them want to understand, and a lot of them are trying. But this is a new social trend. Or more accurately, the decision to take it seriously is new. So it may take a while for them to catch up.

Just keep your cool, in whatever way works best for you, and the over-stimulation will soon ebb.

And now, I’m going to go lay down. I think I got overstimulated writing about over-stimulation.


New year, new blog focus

As a famous frog once said, “It looks like we’ve come to the end of another one…”

It’s a new year, and we’re still here. What the upcoming year will bring is anyone’s guess. Personally, I’m nervous about the elections late in the year. As a citizen of the United States I’m unhappy with some of the trends I see, and I’m downright terrified that so many people are very happy with these same trends. With luck I’ll go into that later.

Right now I want to talk about this blog site. Sometimes it drives me crazy. For the past few years I have tried to follow a pattern of one article a week, but can never maintain it. I have considered shutting this thing down, on several occasions. But I keep holding on to it, even though my apparent inability to regularly update it is causing me anxiety. So this year I’m not going to attempt a regular schedule. I will put up an article when I feel compelled to write about something. If that turns out to be once a week, great. But I’m skeptical. I tend to write when I have something to say, and that doesn’t always follow a timetable. That’s been the schedule I’ve effectively been following, so that won’t change. I now think that part of my problem is a lack of a consistent theme. Most content creators, even tiny ones like me, tend to focus on one topic, or a small group of closely related topics. Until now I haven’t been doing that.

One issue I have had, especially during 2023, was that I wanted to address topics that would have caused some real-world problems. Topics that, had they been breached through this online forum, would have been completely inappropriate. Sometimes they dealt with personal issues that simply shouldn’t be talked about online, other times they involved other people in my life that wanted to handle things their own way, and sometimes I was not in a state of mind that was conducive to writing. In the long run it probably doesn’t matter what my reasons were. However, some of those issues have since fallen away. One thing that has changed is that during the past year I have learned several things about myself and the world around me. My last major set of articles followed my stormy career path, and how it came to a pitiful end. That period of introspection turned over a lot of rocks.

I am considered neurodivergent. Which is to say, I see the world, and everything in it, through a lens that is very different from what most people see. For starters, I suffer from a variation of post-traumatic-stress-disorder, usually called just PTSD. It’s unlike most cases of PTSD, in that I didn’t go through a highly traumatic, dangerous, or threatening experience that through my entire world for a loop. (Though some of my experiences from my high school years might qualify.) Instead, I endured a long, sustained barrage of low-level stress issues, that over time created in me a response pattern that is in line with PTSD. Instead of facing a big and terrible experience, I faced a constant flow of small ones. Instead of my psyche being messed up by a few blows with a sledgehammer, it was worn down by a sandblaster. My time with the Library of Congress certainly provided that. I think there is a special name for this variant of PTSD, but I don’t remember it, and I don’t want to trust an internet search engine. I’ll ask my therapist when I see them later this week.

It is also very likely that I am on the autistic spectrum. I seem to be on what is considered the functional end of it (whatever that means…), but I have several of the key issues. The most apparent being that I can get over-stimulated and need to isolate myself. If I can’t, I become increasingly agitated and hard to deal with, and eventually I can’t really function at all. I suspect I’ve put Lisa through some pretty terrible phases over the past few years, especially near the end of Michael’s life. The true nature of my neurodivergency is still being determined. But whatever it is, I am a member of that demographic.

Which finally brings me to my point. At this point my late father would be absolutely seething, and thundering “Get to the point!!” Sorry, dad. But sometimes the point makes no sense unless you use beating around the bush to provide context. As a neurodivergent man in his mid-fifties, I may have some insights into this chaotic world that some people may find helpful, or at least comforting. The world can be crazy, and it doesn’t have a lot of patience for people who think differently, or view the world through a different lens. Perhaps I can help a few people with this. I’ll at least try.

That being said, this blog is likely to take on a different tone. I plan to examine some of the less comfortable aspects of neurodivergency, and how it can effect the everyday person. It can worm it’s way into life in ways that one could never imagine, and create a lot of discord. Other times it can provide a different way of looking at things that may not be obvious or apparent. I hope to look into some of these instances. Where possible I’ll use personal experience, and avoid indulging in self-pity. At any rate, it may get pretty dark in here.

So, it’s a new year, and I’m going try doing something different. Let’s turn over some of these rocks.

Update, January 3

Apparently the variation of PTSD that I appear to have is simply called C-PTSD, for “complex post-traumatic stress disorder.” I have two observations on this. First, George Carlin would have had an absolute field day with that collection of buzzwords. Second, I thought it had a fancier name, perhaps with a Latin word in it. I’m actually a tad disappointed. I guess I was overthinking things.