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Monday, October 5, 2015

True Hate

After the tragedy of last week in Oregon, the initial reports stated that Asperger Syndrome was in play. This led me to, on my Facebook author page, reshare my "Open Letter To the Media" post from 2012 and I've got to say, in my limited listening and reading of this tragedy, the media hasn't sensationalized or even mentioned Asperger's the way they did three years ago. However, a much more dangerous entity has popped up and that is a true hate page on social media.

I will not name the page as I do not want to give them attention directly. I filed a complaint and was chided saying, "it's not hate speech" but any page that clumps every single person with any given condition, disease, syndrome, or what have you and warns the world about them is, in my opinion, not just hateful but dangerous. I go back to the pseudo-psychology web page that I landed on when I first got diagnosed that said, "people with Aspergers will never have a job, will never have friends, and will never be happy." That was nothing compared to the things this page is sharing, and people are resharing in droves.

What is going on? I can't comprehend this. This page, perhaps, is being manned by someone who just wants some minor infamy and attention, but with each share and each like the damage effect this can cause ripples onward and that can be beyond damaging for a person on the autism spectrum and furthers the ignorance of the general population that doesn't know a thing about autism. Because of all this, I don't know if I have ever been angrier than I am now and I've pondered what I would say if I met this anonymous person running this page. Would I scream? Shout? Curse so loudly the heavens could hear me? No, because that's what this person would want. This person trying to create a hysteria wants nothing more than confrontation, and he/she would get none of it. Instead I'd be calm and I'd say something like this:

You must be one sad person to try and prop yourself up at the destruction of an entire segment of the population. You want attention, you want likes, you want shares all while driving the ignorance and proving your own. You are the opposite of me and in a way my archenemy. Maybe you fear what you don't understand but no, I don't believe this because you just want attention. You prod on people's fears and want to rile people up but lost in your game is the souls it will impact. The powers that be say you aren't spreading hate but when you push for the isolation and almost destruction of a segment of the population, one that I'm a part of, you are and your words may not physically harm a person but it has the power to destroy a life. Is that what you're after? Is this your goal? Do you want to destroy the hopes and dreams of a teenager who just found out they have Asperger's? Or what about an adult with ASD that has been working and working and just got their first job and are on cloud nine only to have your message of hateful filth intervene? Is this what you're after? If so, how, and furthermore why?

That's what I would say and I'd leave it at that. I wouldn't say a word more because I doubt any words  would change a single thing this person is doing. I urge all of you, though, if you see anything of this nature on any form of social media to report it. I call it hateful, they don't, but the dangers this pose to families, and those on the spectrum, have the potential to be catastrophic. It seems many people will believe anything that has a picture and text and if this ignorance spreads then all the work that has been done the past 30 years will almost be for naught. We are faced, with what I believe to be, our greatest challenge yet and if this message of ignorance and hate spreads, well, this just isn't a battle against ignorance but rather it is for our future and to have the chance to live our lives the way any person wants to; to better ourselves, to contribute to society, to make the world a better place and most of all find our way in life and be happy.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Wisdom From Then...

First, I must thank the outpouring of support via the various forms of media I'm on in regards to yesterday's blog. Some asked me, "why so dark?" and the thing is I don't sugar coat emotions or my experiences. If I were to just paint this perfect picture that everything is going to be okay 100% of the time I wouldn't be telling the truth. Secondly, this is, for myself and what other parents have told me, the cycle I go through. A main concept of my 2nd book is that, "whatever is now is forever" which can create blinders as to what one has done because what has been done doesn't matter regardless of the size or scope. Thirdly, the event mentioned in yesterday's blog wasn't catastrophic to what I am doing or who I am. Some thought something of life changing proportions happened and it did not. Was it disappointing? Well, the blog from yesterday speaks for itself. Did it create a pit of despair? Yes. Will I get over it? Yes, and all of this got me thinking about what all the comments meant in that I've done so much and reached so many. The problem is that, the phone call mentioned yesterday, was a tangible meter that was clear cut. When it comes to being told I'm making a difference, or that I've changed a life, I can't fully understand or comprehend it. Perhaps this is for the better because it keeps me humble and honestly, I am truly oblivious to what I do which means I have to measure what I'm doing by other means. Oddly, I had a chapter in my original book that I'd like to share because it's fitting that my words from 2006 are as true now as forever so here it is, the chapter entitled, "How do I Win?"

How Do I Win?


            Early in one’s life, the foundation is set on values, ethics, and overall perception of life. This is quite dangerous for someone who has Asperger’s. How so? With everything I’ve written, I have constantly said that the firsts are important, and in recent thinking, I have learned that it is even more so.

            Parents with children affected have a fine line to tread. With my game theory, I stated that I operate best in a game because the rules outline actions taken. Life can become a game, though, and while the rules are unwritten, there’s one underlying question that I still haven’t answered, “How do I win?”

            From the point one can realize their surroundings, they are subjected to ways to win. Television bombards us with winning situations. These situations come in all sizes, whether it is the Road Runner outwitting the Coyote, or a contestant winning a huge wad of cash on a game show. Sitcoms even have winners, as someone always wins some social situation.

            If you aren’t watching television, video games are chock full of winning situations, as I am not sure if there’s any game that has an ending that is merely a tie. In movies, too, the good guy always wins.

            So with everyone being surrounded by winners, how does one win the game of life? How does one know if they are succeeding? Beyond that, what are the criteria for even playing the game?

            This is why parents have a thin sheet of ice to skate on and why they have to be completely unselfish. Should, in the early years of a child’s life, the parent teach that anyone unlike them is bad, part of the game will be to hate others. Should the parent only care about them and no one else, the game of life becomes a solitary game. Should the parent physically beat those around them to maintain their dominance, the child will learn that the game of life is to have complete power.

            So if the parent teaches what the criteria is, then when the child grows up, how will they know if they’ve won? The problem is they won’t. Physical abuse will become worse because there will be no bells, whistles, or confetti that says, “Congratulations, you have complete control and everyone hates you!”

            We are constantly shown graphics of how any event is going. Tune into CNBC and they’ll show you a thousand different charts of how any given financial thing is going. Tune into ESPN and they’ll show you a graph of how any given football team has done the past five years. With either of those two things, though, what is there beyond the graph? What happens after a team wins the Super Bowl? What is there left to do? And with the financial markets, how does one know when something has gone up enough? In other words, once you’ve won, why play on? What is there left to do?

            Is enjoyment of life the way to win? If so, when does one fully win? We are taught that everything has a beginning and an end, as games have rules with ends, and your favorite TV show probably ends at the top of the hour, but how does one win this game? Is death the final way to win? Is life like a timed game of “Monopoly,” and when the clock reaches zero, one is judged on the accumulated wealth?

            All of these questions are truly relevant, but imagine what my questions would be had my parents been full of hate and rage. The hate and rage would have been passed on, and perhaps the questions asked wouldn’t be so innocent. Life’s goals may truly be unclear, and a winner may never be announced, but in the end, perhaps, it’s not who wins the game, but how you play the game—even if you don’t know what game you’re playing or how to play.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

September 30 Then and Now, Light and Dark

September 30, 2013: There I was! What a journey it had been from the SKUSA Streets of Lancaster and red-eye flights, and flight cancellations that saw me sleeping on the floor of the airport but it was a sleep of great slumber because what was to come was nothing short of the world.

September 30, 2015: The phone rang and it was a phone call I had been awaiting a long time for. I've been up many a sleepless night awaiting this call for it was the result of this call, whenever it came, that has been my measurement of accomplishment.

The journey home had been not what I expected but my co-pilot Rob and I were ready to travel across the country presenting to teachers, parents, and students. I didn't know what was to be expected as we embarked on this journey but this was going to be it... This was going to lead to the phone call...

The words came out of the phone slowly, methodically, and I awaited to hear the news. Maybe it was wrong to put so much stick in what was about to be said, but in my life I've always had a hard time having a barometer to measure just what it is that I do, but if the result of this call was positive then I would know I've achieved something.

The journey that started on September 30th was one which I could never have imagined. I'd end up speaking to over 7,500 in just one month! My confidence had never been higher and when I got home I yearned to be back on the road traveling here and there, enduring 1,000 mile drives, and speaking in front of thousands at a time.

I heard the words but they weren't what I was expecting. What was the news? I'm not going to say as I don't want the specifics known, but the news was devastating. I had been led on for years and all signs pointed to that I was good enough, I had done enough, and I had given more than enough to warrant the news I wasn't hearing. Instead, what I heard, was that I hadn't done any of that.

There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of the journey that started on September 30, 2013. It is the month which all other months are measured up to which might be unfair because no month will ever top that month. That's part of the challenge, though, to better the unbeatable.

There, I'm sure, won't be a day that the news from yesterday won't be relived. Over and over, and over again. To have such high hopes for so long and to have them quelled, squashed, and ran over with a freight train is, to say it in the least, deflating, but how will I use this news? I'm afraid of this answer because it can go one of two ways; it may fester in the forefront of my mind telling me I'm not good enough and never have been. Can I be so foolish though to let one bit of news like that have so much dominion over me? Can I let just one simple rejection counterfeit every other thing I've done? The problem with the all or nothing mindset is that I'm only as good as the most recent event. The way I should take this news is to use it as fuel; motivation towards proving them wrong. To show them I am worth it, always have been, and to become the biggest and brightest and someday be able to say, "see what you could've had? And you let it get away. Oh, don't you feel foolish now?" That's what I should see.

I didn't know it when the journey started but I was living the dream, truly a dream and maybe it was too good of a month because my outlook on life and myself had never been brighter.

I don't know what the future is going to hold but right now it feels like a nightmare and the night is long. Isn't there a saying though that it must get darker before it gets light. Is that where I am now? 

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

After the Race

For about a as long as I've been flagging racing events I have always wanted to catch the first ride away from the track. This may seem odd because I anxiously await the moment I'm back at the track, but this is due to the fact that once the final checkered flag has flown my job is over and the only thing left is socializing which is something I try to avoid which makes what happened two days ago at the SKUSA Streets of Lancaster odd.

First, I love that event because it is a street race in the BLVD district of Lancaster, California and there are thousands of spectators for the event. There are many more elements but to put simply it's unlike any other event I do in a season. It was a long weekend, though, with back to back 13 hour days on track. Then, on Sunday, it was only eight hours and when finished I could've taken an earlier ride back to the LAX area, but I wanted none of it because I wanted to hang around.

Hang around? Myself? Is this the same blog from five years ago? What was going on? Maybe it has to do with the blog I did a couple weeks ago about the throwback announcers on NBC during the NASCAR race, or realizing the personnel I work with today won't always be around, but I know time is the enemy that creates change and I wanted every second just being in the atmosphere of the track with the people I've worked with for many years.

On the flight home yesterday I have to admit I was brought to tears thinking about the inevitable change that comes with life. On both series I do, USAC .25 and SKUSA, the people I've worked with have become an intricate part of my life. Now here's the thing; there are some out there that believe ALL people with Asperger's are incapable of caring about those around them but that's not the case. Would I be able to admit it on the spot? Probably not, but I'd give about anything to freeze time and go back and work with everyone I've worked with before.

Because of these emotions I felt more than comfortable in this random socializing event after the race with several of the staff, the owner, and one of the city managers. It's not something I would've even been capable of five years ago but two things here; the first shows obvious growth, but within that growth shows that I have a deep caring for those around me. Sure, part of that is that if people I know around me change then there is change and change is bad so there is a hint of self within this but I believe it to be much deeper than that. I've always wondered "whatever happened to that person which..." and at a race when they're there I don't have to wonder that. There's more to this than what I am able to describe, but nonetheless I can't believe I willingly went into a social situation after an event.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Seeing Understanding In Action

Recently there have been many, many viral stories about flight attendants and airlines having misunderstandings with either special needs or individuals on the autism spectrum. For a while it seemed like it was one case of misunderstanding after another with humiliating results for all involved so the the flight attendant I saw today I must say thank you and this blog post is dedicated to you. 

I fly a lot and if you go back in my archives of posts there's some really big highs, and some stories I'd most certainly like to forget, but today's experience takes the cake for most important and memorable and it's fitting that I ended a radio interview last night by saying, "10 years ago we needed awareness but I think we are beyond that now as now we must focus on understanding."

I was en route to LAX to work a race Lancaster and the taxi process began at an airport and there was girl, perhaps four years of age, that would not leave her mom's grasp and anytime the mom tried to put her in her seat it was met with adamant protest. When the flight attendant did he final pass through she said, "you daughter must be in her seat with her seat belt on." The attendant said this in a firm tone and the mom tried to comply but the attendant could see that this wasn't going to just simply happen. Instead of reiterating the command to the mom the flight attendant went from a firm tone to a gentle tone and talked directly to the daughter saying, "I don't know if the pilot will take off if you aren't in your seat with your seat belt on as he wants everyone to be safe so I think it would be really great if you were in your seat." 

The tone was amazing as was the compassion but there was still no willingness to comply and then the attendant leaned in and whispered something to the mother. I can only speculate on what was said and the mother whispered someone back and using logic I can only come to the conclusion that something along the lines of autism, or another developmental disability was said, and immediately there was a change of tactic and the flight attendant made it where both the daughter and mom had a seat belt on but the mom still had the daughter in her arms. 

This story won't go viral, and maybe autism wasn't in play at all (I suspect it, however although I could be way off base) but witnessing this, oh my, witnessing this is exactly what is the foundation for hope for the future. Some people think we need to reinvent everything to make the world a better place but in that flight attendant's compassion and empathy to the situation the chance of a humiliating and dehumanizing experience didn't happen and all went throughout their day as if nothing had happened, but here's the thing; something spectacular did happen and it will be a story few will read, there won't be a controversy and there won't be calls for reform, instead there was a mom caring for her daughter and a flight attendant simply doing her job to ensure the safety of the crew and making the needed accommodations without demanding obedience of her first request. There will be no fanfare but as a witness to this event my hope for the future has grown so to the flight attendant that did this I say thank you. 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The season finale and what is, in my opinion, the most important statement about the autism spectrum. One note about this: in all the other episodes the statements used were created by me, but I wasn't the first one to say this; but I'm thankful this knowledge is out there.

Monday, September 7, 2015

A Throwback that Transcended the Event

Sunday night was a special night and one I won't soon forget. The NASCAR event at Darlington, the Southern 500, became a throwback night. Throwbacks in sports have become popular among stick and ball sports where the teams will wear uniforms of years gone by. I can remember a Cardinals broadcast from about a decade ago in which the Orioles played the Cardinals for the first time since the O's were the Saint Louis Browns and the broadcast for the game started out in black and white and each inning progressed to what a modern day broadcast looks like. That was neat, but what NBC did Sunday night, for myself, transcended the sports world.

I am really enjoying the new NBC announcing crew and it's neat to hear Jeff Burton after seeing him at several USAC .25 events. However, for this throwback race in which many of the teams ran paint schemes from years ago NBC brought in Ken Squier, Ned Jarrett, and Dale Jarrett to call part of the race. When I first heard of this I didn't think much of it, but when Rick Allen handed the call off to Ken Squier I froze.

Many classic races can be viewed on YouTube in their entirety; races I grew up watching with Ken Squier doing the play-by-play and Ned Jarrett either in the pits or in the booth during the CBS years and Ned was a mainstay in the booth on ABC/ESPN with Bob Jenkins and Benny Parsons. Those were announcers I heard on the weekends which, when I was growing up, it was the weekend races on television that motivated me. It was all that I cared about, really, and I dreamt of the day that one of those announcers would make the call as I took the checkered. Obviously that dream of mine didn't play out (and thankfully so or I wouldn't be what I am doing) but the memories of those men in the booth are a strong part of my childhood.

So again, one can watch many classic races but it just isn't the same as watching an event live and as Ken, Ned, and Dale took the reigns from Rick, Jeff, and Steve I got goose bumps and it was a feeling as if I truly had gone back to a time when all things were possible and I was naïve to the world. Does that sound like I'm over selling it? If it does I can assure you I'm not. To add to the emotions of the race my dad was over at my house to watch the race so it felt like 1992 which sort of gave me a sinking feeling I had to get up to go to school the next morning.

It's rare in life that one can feel as if they've gone back twenty years. While a team wearing retro uniforms may give the appearance of years gone by the ability to suspend belief is simply not there. Sunday night, though, I closed my eyes and it felt like so many of the Daytona 500's, or a race from Talladega, or many of the other weekends I spent listening to these great announcers call a race.

There was a touching moment when Ken and Ned talked about Benny Parsons who passed away about a decade ago and that's when the scope of what we were watching truly hit me; for myself this wasn't simply about revisiting the past but it was also a reminder about savoring what is in the current because it isn't going to last forever.

Times change, announcers change, but the memories we have of events are there. 25 years from now I'm sure kids of today will have memories of races Mike Joy and Rick Allen called, and 50 years from now Sunday night's throwback event will maybe just be a footnote somewhere. However, that's a long ways off and I know I won't forget the 30+ minutes NBC gave to two legends of the sport. As Ken Squier started to hand it back off to Rick I noticed a bit of cracking in his voice that gave a strong hint that he was doing everything he could to hold back the emotions. He gave a most heartfelt thanks to NBC and that was it and the normality of what is now came back. I don't know if there were actual emotions in his voice, but the magnitude of that sign off was not lost on me. Will we ever hear Ned and Ken on a broadcast like that again? This isn't to take away from the current crew, but when one hears two people sign off that they grew up listening to it, for myself, evoked a strong emotional response.

Sure, in ten years we can go back to YouTube and re-watch that segment but there was something about watching it live, to hear two legends talk about the sport they love, to hear their voices after not being in the booth for 15 years, and I'm sure across the country others were doing what could, much like I think Ken was on his sign off, attempting to hold back emotions because, just like everything in life, we just don't know if we'll ever get to experience it again.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Where's My Blog

It's been a while since I posted anything and you might be wondering as to why that is. The reason why is that my video series is going so great that I don't want to do anything to distract away from that. That means that, each time I write a blog I share it on Facebook and if I do that the blog post will be the top post and this could make the video series not as shareable as it has been. That being so I'm going to wait until after the series is over to resume normal blog operations. Also, in this time, I'm working on season two of my series so this is time well spent.