CHRISTMAS THOUGHTS FROM LITTLE OLD ME

 

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A nice display of what Christmas should be all about. Photo courtesy of voiceable.org

 

JUST A FEW RANDOM COMMENTS ABOUT THE UPCOMING DAY WHERE OUR LORD AND SAVIOR’S BIRTH IS COMMEMORATED AND CELEBRATED

 

To state the obvious, it is three days before Christmas as I sit here at the PC writing this.

One overwhelming thought dominates my head at the moment…

Considering all of the bad stuff that’s been going on of late – and this year for that matter:

*  The killings by those Muslim extremists in San Bernardino, which being that it was only an hour or so from where I live was too close to home,

*  The attack that killed all those folks in Paris in what is essentially France’s 9-11,

*   ISIS, or Islamic State, taking over from Al Qaeda in the desire to wipe all who don’t subscribe to their fanatical views off the map,

 

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A light display in Los Angeles, CA, showing that great displays like this can be done in places where it hasn’t snowed since 1954. Photo courtesy of aroundme.com

 

*  The blatant anti-African American racism at the University of Missouri and other colleges and various places across this country; even Steve Harvey, when he announced the wrong contestant as the winner of the recent Miss Universe pageant, had people calling him the “N” word in Twitter posts when it all went down

*  The shooting and killing of unarmed black and Latinos by police seemingly increasing,

*  The increase in homeless just in the Los Angeles area alone, as I have seen an increase in tents and people in sleeping bags not only in downtown L.A. and skid row, but also in the Westside where I live – which is saying something because the homeless have always been a common sight in that (for the most part) affluent section of town,

and…

*  The 1% getting richer while the 99% is getting poorer in general,

This is the one Christmas desire and wish that is needed more than ever:

PEACE.

 

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Now this is a light display that truly shows what this holiday, more than ever, needs to be all about. Photo courtesy of finehomesandliving.com

 

As I go about my business in my neighborhood, noticing and admiring the holiday lights – something that’s always given me feelings of comfort – and prepare to wrap my gifts and observe my few Christmas traditions of putting in my copy of A Charlie Brown Christmas to watch on the night of December 24th –  I think I’ll watch it at midnight, or close to it – listening to my Charlie Brown Christmas Soundtrack CD and another CD called A Winter’s Solstice that features some excellent instrumentals beyond the standard “Jingle Bells” and “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” fare,

The quote from the Gospel of St. Luke about “Peace on Earth, good will toward men (and women, and children, and animals as far as I’m concerned)” is so crucially and desperately needed to be followed.

As well as remembering what this holiday is all about – the birth of a certain baby among cows, goats, and sheep in what is now the West Bank of Palestine who 33 years later would make the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.

And, at the risk of sounding a bit corny and sappy, taking particular care to love one another.

As much as I’d like to, I really can’t think of anything else to say regarding this subject/issue at the moment except for this (again, sorry if it’s a little corny)…

I wish everyone nothing but the Merriest of Christmases, the Happiest of Holidays, and peace.

 

 

If I had to pick a favorite Christmas tune, this one would be it: “Greensleeves” a piano instrumental version courtesy of YouTube. Consider it a little holiday gift…

 

 

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I like this Christmas tree, all the reds and golds mixed in with the green. Photo courtesy of tripwiremagazine.com

 

 

 

 

 

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How An Online Article Regarding Asperger’s Syndrome Pertains To Me

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The official symbol/ribbon of Asperger’s Syndrome. Image courtesy of diyhealth.com

 

Just recently, while doing my online work, I came across an article from a website called Healing Chronic Pains.com that really hit home in that what the piece covered mirrored my experiences as someone with Asperger’s so well.

Unfortunately the article, called “Ten Things NOT To Say To Someone With Asperger’s”didn’t list a specific author, but the bulk of these ten things listed on that post were things that were said to me many times throughout my life, and contributed to my being by some as (at least a little) strange and not worth being around or being friends with due to that.

I’ve also lost many a job due to many of these sentiments.

Let me list those ten things, many of them I have heard from many people for as long as I can remember…

***  =  denotes what was said to me

 

1.  WOW, YOU MUST BE REALLY GOOD WITH NUMBERS/SMART/TALENTED/ETC. ***

Though I know the person saying this to me and other Aspies intends this as a compliment and means well, assuming that folks on the Autism Spectrum Disorder are automatically good at math, or genius-level smart ala Albert Einstein, or insanely talented at something, is a stereotype, particularly with the “good with numbers”.

I, for one, was never good at math beyond long division as it took four years, from tenth grade to my first year of college, to pass geometry.

Not only that, the only time I ever got a math grade above a “C” during my entire high school and college careers combined was when I took a statistics class at UCLA and surprisingly – no doubt because I attended all the weekly review sessions and because the teacher, John Zaller ( I even remember his name!), was so effective – got a “B-” for my final grade.

 

2.  EVERYTHING IS NOT BLACK AND WHITE. WHY DON’T YOU BREAK THE RULES A LITTLE/CHANGE YOUR WAY OF DOING THIS/ETC? YOU ARE WAY TOO RIGID AND INFLEXIBLE. ***

The way aspie brains are wired, to ask them to not be so inflexible and to work on seeing things as shades of gray is akin to asking someone paralyzed from the waist down to simply get out of their wheelchair and walk, which is something no one would ever do.

So why is it okay for an aspie to be told this?

People who say this to an AS person are not only the inflexible ones who not only don’t understand Asperger’s but have no interest to, but also insensitive to the point of being just plain old mean.

 

3.  STOP TAKING EVERYTHING SO LITERALLY. ***

Again, difficult on a pronounced scale to do if not impossible due to the wiring in an Asperger’s brain.

Aspies can be trained in schools and programs for this, but there will always be times when things are taken literally. And the person saying this is nothing but insensitive and mean.

 

4.  WHY CAN’T YOU JUST FOLLOW DIRECTIONS/UNDERSTAND THIS LIKE EVERYONE ELSE? ***

See my response to #3.

 

5. JUST JOIN THE GROUP AND STOP BEING SO SHY. IT ISN’T THAT HARD TO TALK TO OTHERS. ***

Luckily, I have had a little more success in this area than others with Asperger’s as I was involved in sports, particularly baseball, and music (playing the saxophone in school bands) as a kid and continue to be involved in similar activities as an adult.

But that doesn’t make it any easier for me to join anything.

And to the vast majority of aspies, three words provide the perfect answer to it not being so hard to talk to others:

“Yes, it is!”

 

6.  YOU SEEM SO NORMAL. HOW COME YOU HAVE ASPERGER’S? ***

Just plain ignorant to say. Asperger’s is not Down’s Syndrome.

Nor is it full-blown autism; we can speak and don’t usually have meltdowns at the drop of a hat.

Putting it another way, as a well-known saying goes,

“Don’t judge a book by its cover”

 

7. HE/SHE GOT HELP AS A CHILD. NOW THEY CAN GROW OUT OF ASPERGER’S AND BE NORMAL.

Again, real ignorant,  judgmental, and jerky to say as Asperger’s is our normal; that’s like saying one can grow out of cerebral palsy or cystic fibrosis.

 

8.  ALL CHILDREN HAVE TO LEARN SOCIAL SKILLS. ASPERGER’S IS NOT A DISORDER; PARENTS JUST DON’T KNOW HOW TO TEACH THOSE SKILLS TO THEIR CHILDREN.

Yes, it’s true social skills have to be taught to all kids; I’ll allow that.

But to say that parents are no good at teaching social skills to youngsters with AS, or that AS is not a disorder is a vicious insult as once again, people who feel this way don’t understand that Asperger’s is a disorder just like other disorders, and (evidently) don’t want to.

 

9.  YOU JUST NEED TO TRY HARDER. IT’S ALL IN YOUR HEAD, AND YOU CAN CHANGE IT IF YOU REALLY WANT TO. ***

The perfect response to that statement:

“No we can’t!”

Like I mentioned in #2, that’s like asking someone paralyzed in a wheelchair to get up and walk.

About a decade and a half ago, I was working at a school where a special education coordinator put it perfectly when I – most mistakenly and regretfully and before I fully understood AS – said that a couple of kids in the spectrum needed to work a little harder to behave and follow directions and the rules:

“Working harder doesn’t work.”

Again, it’s the aspie wiring in the brain.

I should know, because I too was told this on different occasions and in different ways.

 

10.   OH YES, MY NEIGHBOR’S SON HAS ASPERGER’S. HE IS A NIGHTMARE TO DEAL WITH, AND HIS PARENTS DO NOTHING TO DEAL WITH IT. TALK ABOUT BAD PARENTING.

See the response in #8, as to say that is not only a vicious insult to that aspie’s parents who have most likely done absolutely everything possible to help their loved one, from intense therapy to medications to enrolling them in schools and programs geared to those with Asperger’s,

It is also very judgmental and mean-hearted.

 

What it all comes down to is not merely to tolerate or even accept those who are on this spectrum, but to embrace them.

Which those who have said things like this have not done due to a lack of understanding at best and a sense of ablest (same as racist only against the disabled) bigotry at worst.

These sentiments have made my life harder than if I were a Neurotypical (with no disorders); make no mistake about that.

But the fact that I’m still trying to get along and thrive, well…

I suppose that counts for something.

 

 

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Image courtesy of iloveaba.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHARLIE BROWN, SNOOPY & ME: My Lifetime As A “Peanuts” Fan

 

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In my view and many others, these are the characters from the greatest comic strip of all time. Image courtesy of redthanet.blogspot.com

 

A REMEMBERANCE OF MY OBSESSION WITH – AND DEEP APPRECIATION OF – CHARLES SCHULZ’ COMIC STRIP AND ITS ICONIC CHARACTERS

 

I reckon it would be difficult to find someone who was a bigger fan of the “Peanuts” comic strip and its subsequent TV specials, shows, and movies than I was as a young child.

And even today, as the last comic that Charles M. Schulz drew right before his passing in 2000 hangs on my bedroom wall.

My history with that round-headed kid who could never seem to do anything right, his doghouse-flying, Red Baron-hunting beagle, the loudmouthed psychiatrist who couldn’t seem to keep the football still, her security blanket and Great Pumpkin-obsessed brother, the blonde-haired Beethoven piano maestro, and all those other children goes back a long ways and took many forms…

I remember as a less-than ten-year old youngster begging my grandma to buy me Peanuts coloring books at the supermarket, then having her get upset when I cut them out and played with them a-la paper dolls.

I remember pretending to be a teacher in my bedroom, with that Peanuts gang as my students, calling out their names while taking the roll.

I remember my fellow students getting miffed whenever I played catcher in baseball or kickball at school, because instead of throwing the ball back to the pitcher I carried the ball back and tossed it to him like that blonde piano player.

And I remember getting told off by a certain teacher who just plain didn’t like me for what in my mind at that time was no reason whenever I pretended to be hunting the Red Baron like that white beagle with the black spot on his back on top of the slide during recess.

In fact, my first exposures to psychiatry, Beethoven, and baseball were completely due to those “Lil’ Folks”, which was the original name of Schulz’s strip and which he was upset when United Features Syndicate changed the name to “Peanuts”, which I heard somewhere that he hated.

Being an African-American boy, Schulz integrating his strip – the first cartoonist to do so, I believe – by bringing Franklin to the roster in 1968 certainly didn’t hurt my love for the comic.

And of course It’s absolutely impossible to write something like this without mentioning the greatest animated feature ever made, A Charlie Brown Christmas.

 

 

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Nice job those kids did on that little tree at the end of “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. Image courtesy of fondoshd.mx

 

Debuting two years before I was born, I have watched that first holiday special of Schulz’s at least once every year since I can remember, and often more times than that as the only real tradition I have regarding the celebration of Jesus’s birth is putting in my VHS copy of that classic on Christmas Eve night.

Putting it another way,

Some families gather together and read The Night Before Christmas.

Some watch such movies like It’s A Wonderful Life or one of the many versions of A Christmas Carol; I particularly remember watching an animated version featuring Mr. Magoo as Ebenezer Scrooge as a kid.

Some tune in to other Yuletide fare geared toward children like Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas (another good one, a solid number two on my list of favorites from this genre behind Charlie Brown Christmas) or the Rankin-Bass specials such as Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty The Snowman, or what I consider the best of those, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, which covers the origins of the most famous delivery guy of all time.

Others give in to their kids’ whinings and allow them to open one of their presents on Christmas Eve, which I have never done as Kevin Costner, playing Crash Davis in the baseball classic Bull Durham, stated, “Open your presents Christmas morning, not Christmas Eve!”

Still, others go caroling and sing songs that you’ve heard a billion-zillion times.

I watch my tape of A Charlie Brown Christmas.

 

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Hanging out at the spot where Charlie Brown lost over 900 consecutive baseball games. Image courtesy of slashfilm.com

 

Recently I reminded myself of how my fandom of “Peanuts” was and is a lifetime thing when I was finally able to see The Peanuts Movie.

As a film, it did what it set out to do, bringing Charlie Brown and his (sometimes) friends into the 21st century and exposing today’s kids to them and the antics which I’ve seen them do for over forty years.

As well as show that despite everything, Charlie is a sweet, kind young person with a good heart, who never gives up no matter what.

Which is something you wish that all kids were like.

The biggest thing going through my head by the end of the movie was the same question I always have when checking out anything geared toward the preteen set, “Would I let my children – if I had any – see this?”

The answer? An unadulterated “Yes!”

 

“Linus And Lucy” – from A Charlie Brown Christmas

 

Oh, I almost forgot: How could I spout odes to A Charlie Brown Christmas without giving a big shout-out to its soundtrack, made by jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi and a two-person backup combo.

“Linus And Lucy”, from that soundtrack, is perhaps the greatest song attached to a cartoon ever, but apart from that…

It’s the only set of Christmas tunes that I bother listening to, it’s that excellent.

As you can see, Peanuts and everything about it, including its animated Yuletide classic, holds a big spot in my life.

So much so that I was sad to the point of shedding a couple of tears when Schulz died, a major part of my childhood dying along with him that day.

That last strip entry of his, which he thanks  the fans for fifty great years of drawing Charlie Brown and company, is laminated and has been hanging on my wall for fifteen years.

If that doesn’t signify my appreciation and the role those young kids played in my life, I don’t know what can.

One thing I can absolutely guarantee:

On the evening of December 24th, right before I go to bed, I will put in my copy of A Charlie Brown Christmas as I have done every year for a long time.

It’s not Christmas to me if I don’t.

And never will be.

 

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very familiar image from “The Peanuts Movie”; I’ve always felt that Schulz was wrong to have never let Charlie Brown kick that football. Image courtesy of tribute.ca