CELEBRATING THE 51st: My Annual Birthday Post

While my birthday plans do not include going here, being that I’m about to become this age I thought this would be a cool pic to put on this post. Photo courtesy of komando.com

 

THOUGH MY ACTUAL BIRTHDAY IS NOT FOR FIVE MORE DAYS (as of this writing), I’M GOING AHEAD AND  POSTING MY THOUGHTS ABOUT IT NOW

 

Fifty-one is not fifty.

I’m fully aware of that and the fact that I’m not celebrating a milestone birthday like I did last year.

But that’s OK, because I reckon when one reaches their forties and fifties – and as the years advance, actually – one feels more and more grateful that another year has passed and they are still on this planet.

I certainly feel that way as my 51st birthday approaches this coming Monday; as always, I’m making it an extra special point to give thanks to God for allowing me to see 51 years on this Earth as an African-American male on the Autism Spectrum Disorder as soon as I wake up that morning.

Especially considering the times we are living in right now, with the leader of the free world who-must-not-be-named – remember, I vowed to never write the name of this country’s president on this blog when he was elected – and his “Make America Great Again” cap-wearing worshipers, I mean followers, intentionally trying to induce misery upon anyone who’s not exactly like them (Read: white, male, straight, wealthy, conservative, Christian, or any combination of those six attributes).

All right, enough about you-know-who!

The biggest thought about this upcoming birthday of mine is that on that day in 1978,

Exactly forty years ago to the day,

I undertook something significant that was a big event of my childhood and served as an influence on my life…

I went to Dodger Stadium for the very first time.

Yep, I spent the day I turned eleven watching my very first Major League Baseball game in the form of the Los Angeles Dodgers playing the Montreal Expos (now the Washington Nationals).

However, if you want details about that noteworthy day, sorry. I won’t share those details right here and now.

 

 

A poster detailing all the stuff that happened fifty-one years ago. Image courtesy of flickback.com

 

 

A complete description about spending my 11th birthday at that flagship baseball park will appear on this blog on Monday, my actual birthday, which I think is only appropriate to do.

In other words, I promise to tell all in five days.

For the time being, as far as birthday plans…

I’m definitely NOT planning any kind of big party; last year’s soiree, while enjoyable, was a one-time milestone thing that I have no plans of doing again until I turn 70 or 75 (God Willing).

To be honest, outside of writing about my first Dodger Stadium experience in the morning on this blog and SoCal Sports Annals, my sports fan blog (Here’s the link to that: http://www.socalsportsannals.wordpress.com ),

And eating Mexican food from a place where I have eaten since the mid-1970s along with birthday cake, I am not 100% sure what I’m going to do as of this moment.

But I do plan to enjoy the day, as anyone in that age group and beyond needs to do.

Ii will feel good to be above to celebrate another year living as a black man in America with Asperger’s, as it gives me a feeling of gratitude and survival.

While I’m definitely not trying to tell anyone what to do, anyone in their forties and up who’s on the autism spectrum in particular should feel glad  and thankful every time their birthday approaches.

Why? Because despite any struggles, social or otherwise, that someone on the spectrum may have suffered through, the fact that they’re still here is something to be quite thankful for.

I know I’ll be sure to mention that to God in my prayers.

I also guess that the only thing left to say here is…

Happy Birthday To Me (five days early).

I hope it’s a good one.

And it goes without saying that I hope and pray to have many more birthdays before I’m through.

 

 

I don’t think I’m a limited edition, but I do like this picture. Image courtesy of teepublic.com

 

 

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Another Particular Thought Regarding My Being Of Middle Age

The prefect quote concerning this issue. Image courtesy of plusquoter.com

 

 

There’s a song from 2003 by a guy named Joe Jackson, a true musician – unlike so many people in pop music today who wouldn’t dream of playing their own instruments and can’t perform without twenty backup dancers and a state of the art system that lets them lip sync to their voice on stage – I’ve been a fan of for decades, called “Awkward Age”.

He’s talking to a teenager in the song, trying to cheer him up for the typical awkwardness that’s common to adolescents, but it’s the second part of the tune that describes me very well now that I’m in my fifties.

Here are those lyrics…

 

You look at me like I know what’s going on

I’m looking back and I wonder what went wrong

I really thought by now a few things might just clarify

I got a mind that goes out to lunch for days

And a body that sometimes disobeys

I get into the parties but I hate them because I’m shy

Oh my,

I’m still at an awkward age

 

Although I make it a pronounced point to exercise every week, doing cardio and weightlifting as well as play pick-up softball on the weekends, and eat healthier than I did in the past (I officially gave up red meat last December), I’m not sure if any other verse of lyrics better describes me and my growing state more.

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p51Fgm1m6V0

Joe Jackson’s song, “Awkward Age”, from the 2003 album Volume 4. Courtesy of YouTube (click on the link).

 

 

As for the parties, last year’s 50th birthday shindig notwithstanding as that was a once-in-a-lifetime necessary exception (until perhaps and God Willing my 70th or 75th birthday – we’ll see), I completely concur with Joe in that while I don’t exactly hate them, I have a certain level of discomfort with them due to the feeling of having to walk on eggshells, stemming from my being on the high-functioning end of the autism spectrum – Asperger’s Syndrome to be precise.

If there’s any fifty-something that’s still at an awkward age, it’s definitely me.

I reckon that I’m not alone in this sentiment, as it would be quite selfish of me to see things that way.

I’d like to hear from others who feel like they’re still at an “awkward age” so many years after their adolescent days.

If you fit into that description, don’t keep it a secret!

Feel free to comment below…

 

REGARDING THE ABOVE QUOTE: This happens to me all the time. Image courtesy of theodysseyonline.com

 

 

 

 

A Few New Thoughts of Having Asperger’s In Middle Age

Photo courtesy of sidebysidecoaching.co.uk

 

VARIOUS MUSINGS REGARDING BEING AN ASPIE IN MY FIFTIES

These days, regarding people who are on the autism spectrum, particularly of the high-functioning kind and namely those with Asperger’s Syndrome,

There are an embarrassment of riches as far as services, programs and support for Aspies who are children and young adults in the form of:

  • Non-public schools geared toward that population – I know, I used to work at one
  • Various services such as counseling and support groups, and…
  • Programs that aim toward those aspies and others on the spectrum after the age of 22 (when Special Education and services & programs for those ages 3-22 end) gain independence in the form of jobs and “leaving the nest”, as in moving away from parents and getting an apartment

The other day a thought came to me…

What about those on the spectrum who are middle-aged and happen to be high functioning, like me?

Last year saw my fiftieth birthday, and as I am officially, by American standards, considered to be of middle age,

With me having high functioning Asperger’s, outside of meet-up groups I haven’t seen any support stuff geared toward aspies in my age group.

Besides those meet-up groups, the only thing I’ve seen among the developmentally disabled where the people are anywhere near my age is programs for lower-functioning groups; I’ve seen them from time to time when I take trips to the library, going online and reading books and magazines.

As for those meet-up groups – I know what quite a few of you are probably saying right now…

“Why don’t you check those groups out? Give them a chance?”

As much as I regret saying this, when I did sign up online for one of those groups in the Los Angeles, CA area, where I live,

Not only did their meet-up days and times not mesh with my schedule, I (to be brutally honest) simply didn’t feel comfortable enough to make any kind of commitments.

The reason for that discomfort?

One word: MAINSTREAMING.

 

This reminds me of myself when I’m out and about, only no backwards cap and the fact that I’m much bigger. Photo courtesy of wypr.org

 

 

After spending kindergarten in a special ed program – called a “Special Day Class”  in those days – due to my sometimes animal-like behavior stemming from my aspieness at that young age – the powers that be determined that I had progressed enough to the point where I could be mainstreamed into a regular class for first grade.

Especially when they found that I could do the academic work fairly easily, as though my behavior needed modifying my reading (I began to read at age two-and-a half), writing, and math skills were considered to be very good, par for the course for many aspies.

To make a long story short, from age six all the way to high school graduation, I never set foot in a special education class, even finding myself in gifted classes a few of those years.

Which unfortunately left myself feeling uncomfortable with those who were in the special ed classes, and – as much as I hate to say it – even when I taught physical education at a non-public, special ed school roughly fifteen years ago as in one particular instance, a co-worker who was clearly on the syndrome, while nice enough, tried too hard to be my friend, unexpectedly calling me during the evening on one occasion.

Which, though it wasn’t his fault as he didn’t know this, was not a good thing as evenings are my time to decompress, my attitude being “I don’t bother anyone, so I don’t want anybody to bother me”.

I reckon folks are wondering what my point is to all of this – here it is:

As good as mainstreaming was for me; I’m sure I would have never achieved what I achieved – a college degree, a work ethic of (at least) some kind, social skills, having my own sports blog which is growing, called SoCal Sports Annals.com ( Here’s the link: http://www.socalsportsannals.wordpress.com ) – if it were not for that,

I’m convinced that I would be more comfortable among aspies today if I were among them more during my formative years, rather than be completely separated from them.

One thing that I would check out would be a singles group consisting of those on the spectrum who are high functioning, where the opposite sexes can meet, form friendships and have an opportunity to date.

In other words, I would be interested in going to a mixer featuring high functioning women and seeing if anything clicks.

I know that the reason why I haven’t found anything like that is the fact that male autistics out number their female counterparts by an average of five to one.

But meeting a woman who’s a high functioning aspie, minimum age 35 but preferably in her early forties and up,  who shares the same interests as me, where we could provide companionship with each other,

Wouldn’t be something that I would be completely against.

Especially since I’m a fifty-something and don’t exactly have forever.

If there’s anyone out there who knows of any groups or programs like that in the Los Angeles area, please feel free to let me know!

There’s a chance I’ll check them out, but whether or not I choose to do so, I’ll feel glad knowing groups like that are out there.

 

 

Thank goodness I don’t feel as isolated as I used to, but that feeling is still there ever so often. Photo courtesy of bestpracticeautism.blogspot.com

 

 

 

 

 

TIME IS GOING TOO FAST: It’s Overwhelming Sometimes (Does Anyone Else Feel This Way?)!

Image courtesy of jadaratint.com

 

HAS ANYONE ELSE EXPERIENCED THIS?

I found this to be the case as I’ve grown older, and now – in my fifties – more than ever:

I would wake up and start my day at around 9:00 am or so,

And two minutes later, it’s 2:00 pm!

When I would get ready to go out somewhere, whether it’s for errands or whatever,

I would start getting ready – shaving, getting dressed – at around a half-hour before its time to depart.

And a minute later, it’s past my time! I’m late!

When I’m winding down in bed at night, I’d be either reading or looking at various things on my Kindle Fire at around 10 o’clock or so.

And a couple of minutes later, it’s one in the morning!

Here is the kicker to all of that…

THIS IS THE CASE WHEN I MANAGE MY TIME WELL, AS I’M USUALLY GOOD AT DOING SO!

 

 

If you notice the time on this clock – it sometimes feels like I have to get a millions things done by 12:00, and that’s how much time I have. Photo courtesy of se.123rf.com

 

 

All right, here’s my point to all of this; I’m sure that’s what you’re asking right about now…

Much of the time, particularly in the past, I would feel overwhelmed whenever I found myself running late or in a real hurry to do something or get something done before a certain time.

I was especially difficult to deal with during my 20s, due to (I believe) my having Asperger’s Syndrome, being on the Autism Spectrum, as there were a couple of times where I completely shut down due to that overwhelming feeling.

I KNOW, I KNOW – this type of stress in common in neurotypicals, too. I’m fully aware that folks who don’t have any mental/emotional/social disabilities get pressed for time and stressed out on a regular basis due to that.

But I strongly feel that people on the spectrum are affected by this time stress in a more pronounced way; the wiring in their brains makes dealing with such stress more difficult to deal with effectively than someone who’s not on the spectrum.

At least, that’s my opinion.

Does anyone else feel like that?

 

What we all aspire to permanently get into, most of all me. Photo courtesy of chioficcialwebsite.com

 

 

One more area where I feel that time is going WAY too fast…

Yes, I know that this is the case for neurotypicals too, but I can only speak for myself;

I vividly recall turning twenty-five and thirty years old; 30 in particular as some friends of mine threw a party for me on the beach in Santa Monica – the last time I ever set foot in that sand (or any beach sand, for that matter), incidentally, as that beach has gotten far too crowded and touristy.

(Seemingly) two days later, I’ve had my fiftieth birthday and am on the cusp of turning fifty-one in a few weeks.

And I reckon in another couple of minutes, my sixtieth birthday will be approaching.

Then – God willing – my 70th and 80th.

That’s not an easy thing to ponder for someone who remembers with fondness his early, single-digit childhood with his grandparents in Riverside.

As I’ve already asked, does anyone else feel like this?

I know that there’s nothing I can do about time seemingly going faster than the Road Runner; it’s not like I can ask God to slow time down or push a button to slow the speed of time in half.

I basically wrote this to ask my fellow Aspies out there if they have experienced these feelings of stress and overwhelming due to it being 9:00 a.m. one minute and 9:00 p.m. the next.

That’s pretty much all I wanted to do here – thanks for reading…

 

Change the gender (of course), and this is how I’ve felt much of the time throughout my adulthood, and now more than ever. Image courtesy of metro.co.uk

 

 

ME AND MY GREEN RADIO: A Memory From My Childhood

No, my radio didn’t look like this, but since this IS green, I think you should get the gist. Photo courtesy of ambientweather.com

 

REMINISCING WHAT WAS A SIGNIFICANT FACTOR FOR MY GETTING INTO MUSIC

Lately my memory banks have drifted to when I was a single-digit age kid living with my grandparents in Woodcrest, CA, just outside of Riverside.

On the night stand next to my bed there was this medium-sized, dark-green colored radio that at night, after I officially went to bed with the lights out and the covers over me, I would turn on – with the sound down, of course – and listen to songs that even as young as five, I thought they were brilliant.

It was the early to mid-1970s, and that green radio just happened to be tuned into, well…

I can’t recall specifically which station, but I do recall it was of the AM pop music kind that played the hits of the day.

Which meant that the sounds coming from that box ranged from R&B classics like the Spinners’ “I’ll Be Around” (one of the songs that I especially remember hearing),

To particularly the many Beatles-influenced singer-songwriters whose hits dominated the airwaves at that time, all-time classics such as Carole King’s “It’s Too Late” from her iconic Tapestry album, Todd Rundgren’s “Hello It’s Me”, Joni Mitchell’s “Help Me”, and one song that I liked so much, I called it my favorite tune at five years old: Seals & Crofts’ Diamond Girl.

Music wasn’t the only thing I remember listening to from my radio with the volume adjusters on the lower right hand side, though.

I recall listening to a late night talk show guy on KABC named Michael Jackson (no, obviously not THAT Michael Jackson – I know, right?!), and while I didn’t understand his topics in the slightest, being the six/seven-eight-year old that I was, I did like the sound of his voice and the people who called in.

 

 

 

My favorite song at five years old, and one of my favorite songs as a single-digit age kid: “Diamond Girl” by Seals and Crofts. Courtesy of YouTube.

 

 

It gave me a feeling of comfort, much like the jet planes from nearby March Air Force Base (where I was born) that flew by from time to time, which looking back was an aspect of my Asperger’s Syndrome, responding to certain sounds.

The same went for a guy who followed Jackson named Ray Briem, who I was told when I became an adult was an extreme right-wing conservative, the Rush Limbaugh of his time, the kind of guy that our dear President-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and his supporters would be in love with, whom my grandfather would get so mad at when he listened to him.

I thought that was kind of funny in retrospect, the fact that I wouldn’t dare give a guy like Briem the time of day today.

And with KABC being the broadcast station of the Dodgers, I did listen to Vin Scully broadcasting games from Dodger Stadium, San Francisco’s Candlestick Park, and other places where the Dodgers played ball.

But it was the music that I remembered coming from that forest green box, which not only influenced me to like music to this day and beyond,

It also influenced my contempt for much of today’s musical styles, some of the various producer’s compilations – I won’t ever call them bands – who I won’t name, that I would bet couldn’t read a note, let alone write a song or play a musical instrument; folks that completely emphasizes style over the substance that the artists and real musicians of my early childhood exuded.

The kind of acts today that, without mentioning any by name, depend on backup dancers and lip synching to their voices onstage so much that they’d have to cancel their concerts if there was a power outage.

And it all came from a medium-sized dark green radio that I used to listen to at night as a young, impressionable child, which today provides good memories whenever I recall those nights in my twin bed listening to those thoughtful, artist-written songs.

It’s interesting how things like that influence your life.

 

A part of the Woodcrest, CA area where I lived during my first nine years, and every school vacation afterward until age 14. Photo courtesy of estately.com

 

 

 

TEN YEARS AGO TODAY: Commemorating The Day I Changed My Life And Decided To Pursue Writing

Photo courtesy of droidtvnews.com

 

RELIVING THE DAY I DECIDED TO CHANGE MY LIFE ONCE AND FOR ALL

I remember it well;

On this day in 2008, I was in pretty bad shape emotionally.

In fact, I was in pretty bad shape for the past few years, as I was pathetically trying to hold onto my life working with young people in education and sports.

For the previous five years, I was miserably failing at being gainfully employed, either quitting or being fired from every one of the six jobs that I had, ranging from being a tutor in East Los Angeles to being on the coaching staff for a high school softball team, to being a playground aide – a job where I lasted only a few weeks – to my last gig as an after school teacher.

Looking back, it was evident that I was depressed on a fairly pronounced scale, even threatening suicide at one of those jobs when my supervisor was, at least in my warped mind,  picking on me for something.

It all came to a head during that last after school job when my supervisor – a young lady who was half my age – lectured me due to something I did.

Which I deserved in retrospect, but my mind was so messed up over having to kowtow to someone who could have been one of my students or athletes that I felt humiliated, among other negative things.

I fell into SUCH a depression that I stayed home for the next three days, rarely getting out of bed.

Which brings me to that fateful day – this day – exactly a decade ago.

I had finally realized once and for all that the effects of my being on the Autism Spectrum Disorder – having Asperger’s Syndrome to be precise – was never going to be conducive to me working with other people on a daily basis.

Not only that, I had realized that I absolutely was sick and tired of working for and answering to someone else.

I hated having to impress and please people who I honestly felt saw me as an inferior, not an equal human being in my mind.

I realized that I desperately needed my freedom, my independence from being at the mercy of someone else; for that someone else to determine whether you were going to be able to eat, buy clothes, and pay the rent through their employment of you.

 

 

Considering all the work I’ve done these past ten years, I suppose it’s safe for me to say this. Photo courtesy of dreamstop.com

 

Which was causing a stress that was quite unhealthy.

And most of all, after remembering how people had told me over the years that they liked my writing and my essays in schools and such, I realized that my talents were in that field and that I needed to pursue that wholeheartedly.

Or forever wish I had.

In short, being an employee was virtually – and perhaps literally, being that I had threatened suicide more than once during my time in the workforce  –  killing me.

I began that February 6th by meeting the softball coach I was under the previous spring at a Carl’s Jr., telling him of my plans.

Then I journeyed to the school where I was working at to take my stand against those oppressors, I mean employers.

To formally quit not only my job, but the “Kid Business” in general, ending my life in working for young people.

To in layman’s terms, tell the overseers, I mean supervisors, at that after-school job to “Kiss my ass” (not literally of course; I had a little more class than that).

And to begin my life as a writer, which I did a few days later when I found a site called HubPages.com and began writing different articles about my experiences with having Asperger’s and other things, which I got paid in royalties for.

Which led me to joining another writing site that paid royalties, Triond.com

Which, being a sports person who liked to give opinions about such, led me to writing for Bleacher Report and Fansided, helping to start GoJoeBruin.com, a sports blog covering my alma mater UCLA, on that network.

Which eventually led me to starting two blogs of my own:

SoCalSportsAnnals.com, on this same WordPress network,

And this blog.

Which I will have had for three (for SoCal Sports Annals) and four years this July (for this blog) respectively.

Along with working on my book describing  my struggles with being on the autism spectrum in a non-autistic world, “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS”, which I am on the verge of finishing as I have done a fourth draft and am going to do some final editing on one chapter in particular.

 

 

 

I thought it would be nice to include a picture of Charlie Brown’s dog doing his writing here, as I grew up on “Peanuts” and consider it the greatest comic strip of all time. Image courtesy of  jdspero.wordpress.com

 

 

In Case You Were Wondering:

No, I have NOT gotten rich from this now decade-long career – FAR from it.

But that’s perfectly OK as my mental well-being has improved in the past ten years since that day I walked away from the “Kid Business”

I don’t pretend that I have arrived as a writer; I’m definitely haven’t had any success on any best seller lists whatsoever.

But one thing is for sure…

By having these two blogs and this soon-to-be published book (by no later than the end of this year), I feel that I’m being more a contributor to society.

For lack of a better term, I feel that I’m more in my niche.

And that I will have left something worthwhile to be remembered by when my time in this world is over – if people care to remember me at all.

Which I think is a big part of living your life.

 

All Right, Here’s My Main Point:

It all began ten years ago today.

And it wouldn’t be right to not mark the occasion in these Hartland Chronicles of  mine.

Of course it’s my hope and prayer that my life in writing will continue to be fulfilling.

And if it becomes lucrative, great!

But to be honest, making a lot of money was not on my mind when I decided to do this.

It was to become happy in my life’s work – or at least happier.

Which I of course thank God for as I’m convinced He was leading me to this.

It’s been a pretty good ten years doing this writing thing.

I only pray that the next ten years are as good if not better.

Perhaps I’ll work on a young adult novel when “WALKING ON EGGSHELLS” is done and published; I have a few ideas swimming in my head.

I know I’m going to grow and evolve SoCal Sports Annals, as that’s my business for all intents and purposes.

I also know that I’m not where I want and need to be as a writer, and probably won’t be for a while.

But at least I’m not where I used to be those past few years working for someone else, especially mentally.

And that’s something that I certainly thank the Good Lord for.

 

Photo courtesy of writehacked.com

 

IT COULD HAVE BEEN ME: What I, On The Autism Spectrum Disorder, May Have Faced 70 and 80 Years Ago

Photo courtesy of ourkids.net

 

A few years ago I was spending Thanksgiving at a relative’s house, doing the praying and the eating of the turkey and the watching of the football and the typical loving family things that are done  on that holiday.

I don’t remember what it was that sparked it, but as my various relatives – including a cousin with Down’s Syndrome – and I were sitting in the living room, my aunt began to talk about when she was a girl in the 1930s, when children with developmental disabilities like my cousin turned five they were sent to (in the case of the Los Angeles area) the state mental hospital in Camarillo.

And were never seen again, the mindset evidently being that it would be a waste of time for kids on the Autism Spectrum, or with Down’s, or any other kind of mental or emotional disability to be in a world where they obviously (in society’s mind) wouldn’t be able to support themselves or make a living or anything like that.

There were no special education programs in the 1930s, or the 1940s or 50s or even the 60s for that matter, as that branch of education didn’t really come about until the 1970s; it didn’t become mandatory in American public schools until 1975.

As I was listening to my aunt that Thanksgiving night, one thought came to mind…

“That could have been me.”

The way I sometimes behaved as a kid due to my having Asperger’s – in ways that is difficult for me to talk about to this day (which is one reason for my book WALKING ON EGGSHELLS, as it describes some of those incidents at length so I won’t have to talk about them in conversation) they were so extreme, animalistic, and shame-inducing – I’m convinced that I would have been one of those kids taken away to Camarillo for the rest of my life if I were born in 1927 or ’37 instead of 1967.

I’m only grateful that the school I went to in Riverside, CA during kindergarten had a “Special Day Class” where I even though the teachers (one of them, anyway) were rough on me as far as behavioral modification, I was able to improve on my animal-like behavior to be mainstreamed into a regular first grade class the next year – and every year clear on through high school and beyond.

In fact, I used to like to say that I was the only kid I knew who was in both special ed and gifted classes during my K-12 school years; both ends of the spectrum, so to speak.

All right, I know some of you are probably saying right now, “What are you getting at?”

THE BOTTOM LINE:

I’m glad that there are so many programs and schools geared toward kids and adults with Down’s and on the spectrum now.

I’m glad that I was mainstreamed, even though I sometimes wonder how my life would have been if I wasn’t, if I spent my formative years in special ed programs.

And even though I sometimes get a little weary of my difficulties in the neurotypical world due to being an aspie, even though things could very much be better I’m ultimately glad that my life has turned out the way it has.

Especially considering the way things are going with too much of our population right now; I’m SO grateful and thankful to God that I’m not homeless or in jail or anything of that nature.

I suppose that’s all I have to say right now.

 

A nice illustration of how ANYONE and EVERYONE is capable of learning and ultimately contributing to society through education. Photo courtesy of bdmtech.blogspot.com