Throwback Thursday: Perservance Equals Success!!

This afternoon felt like a dream come true.. As my friend gave me a proof (a fresh but not final copy) of my first chapbook, Through Autistic Eyes, so many emotions, so many words were going on inside my head, but one word stood out from the pack.

Vindication.

10 long years of waiting, wondering and yes worrying, but it’s all paid off in my first chapbook, Through Autistic Eyes. My eyes and I have been through so much, grown so much I’m so many different ways, but one thing still remained unfinished. I had been published before, inside Chronogram (multiple times) in newsletters, papers and even an Anthology (Riverine: An Anthology of Hudson Valley Writers for the curious.) Even with all that success, something still felt out of place, like there was something missing from my writing resume.

Well, now it’s finally come true in seeing my first chapbook, one that’s been 10 years in the making finally become a reality!! This is a clear cut lesson that patience and determination can pay off, that dreams can be realized if you work hard enough. Just think, if I could do it, if Jim Henson, Mark Goodson and Albert Einstein can make their respective dreams come true, ask yourself what’s stopping you for being able to…

Shine On!!

Poetry Packed Out: A Poem of comfort for his Library Family!

I know that I’ve mentioned on the Super-blog, my readers, how much I appreciate the arts as well as the local libraries and librarians in general and those who are regular readers know why I expound on why I support them so much.

Well, for a Spectrumite like myself, permit me to set the scene, one that’s very familiar I feel to most Spectrumites in my shoes, so to speak. I was fresh out of high school, coming from structure to chaos, socially speaking.  I was always sitting by myself in the large cafeteria and I was struggling with the social climate that college can bring, so many social cues; social events missed out on, so many friendships not maintained due to a difference I had.

I felt so alone, so unworthy, so out of place in this vast community, it was a depressing time, to tell the truth. Sure, the teachers knew me and my challenges, accommodating for me especially on exams and all that and I knew people that were there, but for all that, I never really found a family.

That all changed when Larry came along.

He made it a point to make sure that I was welcome, moreso when you consider that he has two sons on the Spectrum like me, it was like I had found an oasis, a family at SUNY Ulster. My friendship with him, his friends and his family was exactly what I needed to grow, not only as a person, but also as an artist as well. I met so many artists like Mikhail Horowitz, Carol Zaloom, Yusef Komunyakka, Da Chen, Billy Collins all thanks to his efforts to bring so many other artists to the Hudson Valley area.

He did it because he felt like community colleges were just as good, if not better than Ivy League schools. He believed in that idea so much that he brought other ideas into the mix, like Information Literacy (the link is posted here: https://www.sunyulster.edu/library/information_literacy.php) as well as other artistic programs into SUNY Ulster.

I like to think (although maybe I’m wrong) that he believed in my efforts as well, due to our obvious connections with poetry and autism. I heard one time a story that he ran back to his house to tell his wonderful wife about me, I can only imagine the hope that brought to them.

I only hope that I’ve lived up to their expectations, since at times I’m not too sure, myself. I guess that’s why his passing hit me so hard, since he meant so much to me.

It was a consolation that his Library family was mourning along with me. After Larry’s passing, his Library family adopted me into their family, so much so that they wrote supportive messages to me when I graduated SUNY Ulster. I felt like Worf from Star Trek, finally being accepted into the House of Martok on Deep Space Nine, it was that kind of feeling for me.

It’s the reason I volunteer in a Literacy Program inside the ARC Mid Hudson as an autistic person to show hope and teach literacy to people that I consider my friends. I hear people call me an inspiration so I feel compelled to volunteer in that capacity.

But I digress..

I wrote this poem in the person of my late mentor’s character named Charley, who was an ex-pat in his adopted country of France, specifically the city of Paris and I feel like this poem shows that Larry’s light is something that his friends and his family share to those whose lives they touch. Without further ado, I present this poem:

10.28.15

-in memory of the late Larry Berk, near the 9th Anniversary of his passing-

 

Charley’s walks
lead him
into vast
museum-
eyes fall
on statue
of phoenix;
so brave,
majestic-
its eyes
seem to
call
to him-
even in
stone slumber.

“The light
of this
city,
a torch
to all
that life
exists
still burns
for all,
to all
who need;
crave it.
What matters
is not
what we do
but rather
where we
take
our light,
in this
people
see
our
inner
calling,
our
shared
character.”

Tears form
in Charley’s
eyes-
truly
touched
by Phoenix’s
message,
steels his
resolve
to give
back
as much
as he
daily takes.

If you wish to hear more of the Charley Poems my late mentor made, his wonderful son, Jonah did a project last year, recording Charley Poems from the book he made. I’ve copied the link if you’re so inclined to listen (and it’s worth a listen, believe me!!)

May his light shine to help us on our way so that we can help our world be better and, as always….

Shine On!!

A Repost of a Raw Day in my life!!

Writer’s note: As of now, it’s been thirteen years since my dear friend and late mentor passed away, but the feelings in this previous post rung just as true today as when they were written, so I share this again with all of you. Enjoy this repost and as always..
Shine On!!)
Eleven years have gone since you left us and life has never been the same without you…

To say that I miss you, my friend, would be a huge understatement.

But there is hope, even in sorrow and grief, but maybe I’m getting ahead of myself…
Today marks the 11th anniversary of the passing of my dear friend, the Late Larry Berk and in his life, he was called impresario, dynamic and someone who had great foresight, many times doing what was right for the Library, not what was popular.
For me, he was all that and more, but for someone on the Spectrum, he was kind, caring, compassionate and he was a dear friend, one who always believed that community college grads had as much of a shot of making it as the Ivy Leaguers.

Perhaps, though, I should start at the beginning…

Years ago, when I was just starting my college life, the social scene was a mystery to me, new people and places made it hard for me to make friends and find where I belonged. All that changed, however, when I saw something on the bulletin board letting people know that there was going to be a poetry club starting up and to go to the Library for more details. I thought that if I was going to make friends, that was as good a place as any to start.

That’s where I met Larry…

He was sitting inside his office, at first glance he was kind and welcoming; yet here I was, shy, modest and almost walking on eggshells, worried I’d make a bad impression on him. I introduced myself and sheepishly showed him my work and as time went on, I disclosed my autism to him, and to my surprise, he was happy for me, since he had two sons who, like me, are on the Spectrum, he saw them in me and saw what they could become. In time, he introduced me to his family and friends (both those who worked with him and some personal), reintroduced me to Dr. Temple Grandin and instilled in me hope and optimism about my poetry, which were crucial in a time where people thought my publishing my work was considered a pipe dream.

Most importantly, he helped me develop an appreciation for the arts, from paintings to dance, to both the written and spoken word, whatever appreciation I have to this day about the arts are all thanks to him. It makes what happened next so sad for me to write. Sometime later, he was involved in an accident with a driver and shortly thereafter, was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. I remember the day I met him in the hospital for the last time, how I’d written a poem for him and how I couldn’t help but cry as I recited it, though he couldn’t hear me.

Eleven years ago, at the Library he had worked at, his secretary told me the sad and tragic end for my friend. More than anything else, I remember how numb emotionally I was, how I cried because of it for several weeks after that. In time, I wanted to give back to my community, to pay it forward, as a friend who knew Larry phrased it, for all he had done for me, helping others like me learn to read. I figured that doing at least that would be a way to show others that you can do anything you put your mind to. I can only hope that I’m making him proud of me in a small way.

This is just a post to say thank you so much, Larry, for what you did for me, believing in me and by doing that, helping me help others to always…
Shine on!!!

Changing Up My Game.

Suffice it to say, the recent month has been a heavy one, considering the recent revelation that I share with you all, my readers. It’s made me realize how wasteful I’ve been and how many mistakes I’ve made in my past. It’s honestly made me re-examine what I can do to change my ways and be a better person.

It’s at that point where you can feel lost because you’re not sure what to do, made worse by the angst and anxiety you feel when you know that the changes will be things you really don’t want to change, like replacing a car, getting a root canal or in my case, working with a tighter budget.

I’ll be honest with you all, my readers, that this humbling experience has made me think more about what I should try to do, but it’s been a challenge for me, moreso than I ever want to admit. Then, I did what any great writer does, I wrote what I know, or in my case, went back into my well of game show knowledge to see what would work.

It took me a while to think about it, but I think I’ve got an idea, crazy as it may be, but I feel like it can work. I feel like it can work for me as it can for you, but it’s not without its problems.

Here’s my game plan for my wasteful spending:

The key to this plan is save, save, save. It may sound stupid to say three times, but I do so like my game show hero Bob Barker because it’s true in this case.

As long as I keep money in my pocket (no matter how small) I can build up a small patch of money to draw on later on, but doing so means making sacrifices on my end, using my willpower to my best.

Sometimes, I might succeed, others I might fail, but as long as I make the attempt to make those sacrifices, it should make all the difference. Growth and change are a part of life, it’s a given, but we shouldn’t let our circumstances define our future, and it took a fantastic brother to make me know and see that, even as I’m very stubborn. It took some time for me to think of things in my own way, but as it was before, things got lost in translation (to my fellow Spectrumites: don’t you hate that, when things seem good in your head but are dismissed by Neurotypicals?) It was only when I distanced myself from the problem that I came up with my plan.

This is my summary for this blog post: Don’t give up on your dreams, but be ready for change; don’t shrink from it but grow because of it. Only then can we all grow, change and as always…

Shine On!!

Throwback Thursday: You’re Au-Some (again)

I know I haven’t written much about autism lately (and for that, I’m sorry) but I’ve been saving the best of autism empowerment for the last day in April.

So I just want my fellow Spectrumites know that you matter, whom you are, what you want to be, your hopes, your dreams, your aspirations, your flaws and your strengths matter.

I know that our life isn’t easy, what with social rules, misunderstandings and just bad cards that are given to us, but know that you’re not alone, no matter how isolated you might feel at times. Being autistic is a hard life to live, as is true with all of life, really, but know that you are important, to yourself if nothing else, but also to your friends and family (biological and those who look at you as family.)

Hold true to who you are, the beautiful, unique, talented person you are deep inside. Never give up on yourself and know that things can (and will) get better, all with support, understanding and time. Only then can you find peace and with that, the confidence and strength that can help you and all of us….

Shine On!!

Throwback Thursday: A gift I give (again)

Ok, here goes, time for me to make a confession..

I’ve recently discovered more about myself, most notably is the fact that I tend to wear my heart on my sleeve, that is to say, that I’m very emotional and have a hard time showing a poker face when my feelings are hurt. I’m trying to work on that, but changing who I am is a lot easier said than done, moreso for Spectrumites who are learning about themselves and the world in which we all share. My local parish priest punctuated that during his homily two weeks ago: “God always forgives, humans sometimes forgive, but nature never forgives.” I felt them to be very wise words; they struck a chord with me, as I often do things wrong sometimes without me knowing about it.

Believe me, I’ve been there many times before, all depending on the event, the crowd as well as my mood at the time. One of these happened at the ARC of Ulster Greene’s Humanitarian Dinner last year where I was one of the people honored. It was very humbling  and heartwarming for me to have people congratulate me on my hard work and look at me as a role model for them and others.

On the other hand, there are times where it feels like I’m the center of attention, even when I don’t really mean to be. There was a social event where it seemed where I was a celebrity and when I arrived, all the people swarmed in around me. Even though I was a regular person at the social event, the fact that I could drive myself, that I had a college degree and an outside job made me a hero in their eyes, which at times can get to be too   overwhelming, over stimulating and pressuring for me to handle. Even with staff present, it felt that it wasn’t enough for me, like I was the leader and I felt like being asked to multitask when you’re used to talking to people one-on-one.

Recently, I’ve felt a need to attempt to forgive those who have wronged me not because I need to, but rather because I want to; in order to be the better person if I’ve been wrong. I’ve been told by a friend and co-worker that I’m the strongest person he knows; it’s only now that I’m beginning to see how right he is, how strong I can be, even in times when I wish to be stronger still. The only thing I can do is to breathe and ask people I’ve wronged to forgive me, I was naïve, stupid and confident to the point of arrogance in my youth, but I’ve grown a lot since then, especially in the last 5 years.

So, if I’ve ever hurt you, intentionally or not, I hope you see that I was wrong, that maybe we were both arrogant and stupid as much as the other was. So I give you all a gift, one that you can both give and receive all in your own way, the gift to be able to forgive yourselves and each other, because without kindness, understanding and yes forgiveness, we might not see the better world we want for ourselves and society as a whole. I can only hope that you accept it, so we can all find a way to….

Shine On!!!

Q: This “Classic” Host is strong, smart hero in the game show world, “Truth” fully

A: Whom is Alex Trebek?

Several months ago, Alex Trebek disclosed some horrible news on his health and, to great effect, his time with the Classic game show, Jeopardy! I’ve been keeping him and his family in my thoughts and prayers ever since and I applaud his courage to disclose his health to us, his many fans.

For as long as I’ve been a game show fan, I’ve seen the best of the genre has had, and even watching such great channels like Buzzr and Game Show Network, I’ve seen the best game shows ever, like The Price is Right, Wheel of Fortune, Blockbusters, Tic Tac Dough, Classic Concetration, To Tell the Truth, Scrabble and countless others.

Fun fact, the person in question hosted 3 of these game shows in 1991.

I’ve seen countless hosts, both good and bad, like such Legends like Bob Barker, Wink Martindale, Chuck Woolery,  Pat Sajack, Jack Narz, Monty Hall, Allen Ludden, Bill Cullen, Tom Kennedy, Bert Convy, Jim Perry and Todd Newton among so many more.

I’ve also seen Patrick Wayne and Pat Finn and, while I respect Finn’s contributions, neither can be included in the the formers company.

Speaking of the formers company, the list of game show legends, though, there was one name I left out on purpose: the one and only Alex Trebek. I’m sure you, my readers, have read the news of Alex’s battle with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer.

Throughout his game show career, Alex has been a consummate professional, prepared, poised and in control. He looked the part of a cultured librarian or someone who knew what he was talking about, pronunciations and everything. Even looking at him now, he also has those qualities, but as times have changed, so has he. He’s shown to have quite a sense of humor, relaxed demeanor and, as is obvious to his current situation, courage and his openness about it. Honestly, it’s been an inspiration to me, especially his policy about being open and transparent about my life and my life as an Autistic person. For that, for his courage, for his poise, for his openness to his fans (myself very much included.)

If this has to be the end of his time on Jeopardy!, then allow me to say thank you so much, Alex, for all you’ve done for us, enriching our lives, your zeal for education and excellence and also for your dedication to those causes to which you hold so dear. I, for one, will never, ever forget you and you truly were a class act, in more ways than one.

Let his courage be one we share with him as to make him proud and to help us all truly…

 

Shine On!!

You Matter! A Post for #NationalMentalHealthDay

I realize that this is a belated post, but I also know what it’s like to struggle, to fight for every day, to feel like you’re not enough, that what you do doesn’t matter.

Trust me, I’ve been there many times in my life and it’s a horrible feeling. Sometimes, encouragement from the outside is the only thing that keeps me going, be it from social media or people coming up and telling me that I’m a good person.

Life is also hard, it’s a mess sometimes, and things can be complex most of the time. It can be confusing, frustrating and it can be overwhelming at times. But life can also be fulfilling, rewarding, remarkable, educational and gratifying thing we can have.

It’s in the latter that I wish to write about life, you were put here, in this moment, for a reason, for a purpose, to be the person you are, with both your flaws and strengths.No matter what circumstances, what challenges, what struggles life has brought your way, you can push through them all and become a better person. Trust your inner voice, believe it when it say that you are enough!!

So, I want to let you, my readers, know that You matter, if not to you then to others, family members, communities, those whose lives you reach, no matter how small. You’re good enough, you’re wonderful as you are and that you are here for a reason!! So go and find your place, your purpose, your reason for living and let that, not your flaws, define you, only then can you make the world a better place and help yourself and others, find themselves and truly..

 

Shine On!!

 

Throwback Thursday: Who Listens to the Listeners (again)?

Recently, I’ve been watching classic TV, particularly Star Trek simply because I wanted to change my TV habits up a bit. I must admit that I’m a Trekkie, perhaps deep down, I’ve always been a fan and never realized that until recently. The fact that Dr. Temple Grandin is a fan of the classic Star Trek, my hero in the autistic community, helps me so much and, looking into it, it’s not hard to see why, how so, read on….

Inside the Trek universe, there are so many people who I can relate to, that I can say that there’s a part of me in all of them. In Capt. Sisko, I feel the tension that he felt every day, having to keep the peace of so many different species, making those choices that we might flinch at and how he had to keep up appearances as a religious icon and a Commander (later Captain) inside Starfleet.  Thus far, I see myself in Sisko, though I have a passion for the arts so much that I can see Picard in me as well.

In Chief O Brien, there’s the obvious connection with our shared heritage and how he had to fix Deep Space 9, a Cardassian space station with Federation technology, not an easy task, which required him to be creative and flexible in his role as Head of Operations, something I’ve had to do countless times in my own work, similar to him and Voyager’s Neelix.

In Voyager’s EMH, known simply as the Doctor, he was a person, an entity which I felt for, simply for the fact that he wanted to belong and his struggles mirror my own, both the triumphs and pitfalls. I also see Data in myself as well for the same reasons, both the Doctor and Data fought for the person (entities, perhaps?) that they are, fought for the respect that they deserved, much like I do to this day.

There was one character that really stood out to me, with Quark being a close second, Guinan, from the Next Generation, it maybe because of the fact that she simply listens. I saw her and felt a connection because, as a former bartender’s son, I’ve always been known for being a good listener. It’s a family trait, I’m feeling, as all of my wonderful brothers are known for being good listeners.

It’s gotten so much so that, when friends have their problems, we are the first people that they can talk to, because like Guinan, we seem to be good at listening. I admit that I’m working on giving advice, but I feel like if listening helps the person vent out possibly pent-up frustrations, then I’m happy to be a help, no matter how small.

It just goes to show that, whatever you find yourself a fan of, you can always find someone to look up to in a postive light, especially when the news is full of bad characters nowadays. That said, in life, there’ll always be the people you can look to for advice, a shoulder to cry on and a character that you can’t help but root for, but with them by your side, you won’t be able to do anything but be like a star and…..

Shine On!!

The X Factor

Exhausted, tired, beat, happy and proud.

Those are just a few of the words that I could use after my day today, helping my Dad try to clean up my family’s old business.

To set the scene, let me explain what my Dad and I were facing: we were facing a business that was in disrepair, a property where weeds were the only inhabitants living in the local area, save for a few neighbors. A 39 year old and his father were going to do a major hit to the weed population by taking them out, one way or another.

Considering that the weeds were around the property, it might have felt like a herculean task to say the very least. But that didn’t stop us from giving it a good Irish try. After several hours of hard labor, using ice picks to take care of the larger ones, I felt it necessary to use my bare hands and take out the ones that I could, exhausted as I was at that time. What carried me through the ordeal can only be adequately described as my “X Factor.” The famed Irish dancer (Got to show love for my fellow Irishman), Michael Flatley puts it best in this quote:

I feel like a tiger right now. There’s nothing impossible if you get up and work for it.

(Link: https://www.azquotes.com/quote/991917)

There’s a lesson in this quote as well as this post, no matter what you think is impossible or difficult, don’t give up! Keep going on, even if it feels like it’s a tough road to traverse, even when you feel like your burden is tough to carry. No matter how bad things might seem now, don’t let the stress get to you, but rather use it to bring your “X” Factor out, because you never know what will happen; what you accomplish when you bring it forth. Then will you be able to show the world what you’re made of and, with your talents and efforts, you can help yourself and your community…

 

Shine On!!