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My 30th Birthday Celebrations

29 Aug

During the past few weeks, I entered my fourth decade in my life as I turned 30 on the 18th. As soon as I turned 29 last year, I felt like I had a good sense of what would life could be like in my 30s. I celebrated this milestone year first with a surprise party organized by family and friends on the 12th, then on the 18th with a night out at the upscale Mexican restaurant, and finally on the 19th, a family run party for me in Marshfield. The days were filled with many excitable moments and was a great introduction for life in this new decade.

On the afternoon of Saturday, August 12th, I attended my second cousin Tim Murphy’s annual summer cookout with my family at his house in Cohasset. Not only did my immediate family attend, but also my Aunt Lorraine and many relatives from Dad’s mother’s side. It was also joyful to see Tim and wife Courtney’s two young daughters, Vivianna and Francesca, at the party. After the cookout ended, I headed into Boston to stay at my older brother Brian and his wife Amanda’s apartment in the North End. I initially thought Amanda was going to go out to dinner with her friends at a work a nice restaurant, but I would be in for a surprise later on that night.

The night began with discussion that Brian and I would meet his friend Rich Kei at the local restaurant/bar The Living Room for drinks. When Brian and I walked into into The Living Room, we were approached by friends and family members who carefully hid in the main room at the restaurant. It was at this moment that the guests yelled “Surprise!” to me. The guests consisted of Mom, Dad, my younger brother Keith, Amanda’s father Jim Smith, Brian and Rich’s friend Anthony Leone and his wife Sarah, and Amanda’s friends Liv Fahey and Marisha Gadowski with her fiance Spencer.

Me with the gang on my surprise party

At the surprise party, I received many great gifts from friends and family. They included a framed picture of me with Amanda’s golden retriever Summer, a dog themed calendar, and several cases of beer. There were also delicious foods, such as buffalo chicken apps and birthday cinnamon French toast sticks, and a mostly 80s music playlist supplied by the DJ. The guests and I were dancing to the music that blared from the background and we talked about what 30 years of life has meant to me. The surprise party was a truly great event and easily one of my favorite birthday parties of all time.

On my actual birthday, Friday the 18th, I went to out to eat at Besito, an upscale Mexican restaurant located inside the Burlington Mall. I went with Mom, Dad, Keith, and Keith’s girlfriend Malorie. Brian and Amanda were unable to attend since they were at a friend of Amanda’s wedding in the Cape for that weekend. I chose this restaurant since it fell on the annual Restaurant Week of August in Massachusetts. For the meals, I got quesadillas and several small tacos. I enjoy Mexican cuisine and choosing this place was ideal for my big 30th birthday.

Me with Dublin and Eddie on my 30th birthday Last but not least, yet another birthday party took place, the following day, Saturday the 19th. Mom and I set up my grandmother’s beach house in Marshfield to include special 30th birthday materials. Many of my relatives showed up including my cousins Siobhan, Ryan, Henry, Luke, Connor and Dylan, as well as Keith and Malorie, Aunt Lorraine, Aunt Sheila and her husband Bob, Uncle Sean and his wife Lynne, Aunt Kathy, and Uncles Larry and Kevin. There were even canine visitors in the form of Dublin, Siobhan’s chocolate lab mix and Eddie, a Brittany Spaniel mix. The party was held at Nana’s house since my beach house is still in the process of being revitalized. The beach that day was warm and foggy, but pleasant weather for the day.

This year, my birthday cake was a chocolate mint chip cake from Sweetcakes in Marshfield. I am a huge fan of chocolate mint cakes and this cake was no exception. The earlier dinner had consisted of chicken parm and other Italian dishes catered from Mamma Mia’s in Marshfield. I received even more gifts that day, including an Alexa speaker from my parents, several checks, a golden retriever logo themed koozie and golden retriever themed pillow from Siobhan and several Amazon gift cards. It was a fabulous birthday celebration filled with many great people and a few dogs as well and a true day to remember.

 

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My 4th of July Festivities and the Bob Dylan concert

19 Jul

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In the past few weeks, I had at least a few momentous events going on in my life. Summer is my favorite season and there is no shortage of activities to celebrate during this warm time of the year. I celebrated the 3rd and 4th of July in Marshfield at my beach house as a part of my annual tradition. I like to watch the fireworks go off near the beach on the night of the 3rd with many family and friends. I also got my chance to see the legendary singer-songwriter Bob Dylan in concert at the Bank of Pavilion in Boston on July 14th. It was my first time witnessing Dylan in a concert venue and I felt very honored to go the show.

During the weekend of July 1st-4th, I headed down to my summer house in Marshfield to get ready for the big 4th of July festivities. On the morning of the 3rd, my older brother Brian and his fiance Amanda came down to Marshfield for the weekend, as well as my cousin Chris and several other relatives and friends. During that warm afternoon, we went down to the beach to socialize and go in the ocean and take long walks. On our walk, I encountered three beautiful mini labradoodles and their owner. The dogs are named Cocoa, Zoey, and Sailor. I learned from the owner that he has a son with autism and that the dogs are good for people for allergies. The owner has his breeding organization based in Plymouth. I have always wanted a dog, but have not able to get dogs of various breeds due to allergies to thick fur, saliva, and dander. I may look into getting a mini-labradoodle.

The evening of the 3rd began with catered Italian food from Mamma Mia’s in Marshfield. The cuisine featured such delicacies such as chicken parmesan, lasagna, and a broccoli-pasta combination. The desserts consisted of treats like a patriotic themed chocolate chip pie and cake. Then came the celebration of the fireworks. I watched the fireworks from the porch of my grandmother’s cottage just two blocks up from my house. I observed the fireworks with Brian, Amanda, Chris, Keith, my cousin Tim and his girlfriend Emily, and several other family members. The fireworks were very exciting and came in an assortment of various beautiful colors. I managed to some great photos of the fireworks in the distance. I concluded the evening by heading to a friend’s house to watch a house concert that was being performed by the Red Evans Band. They played many different covers of popular songs of the past few decades.

The next day, the 4th, started with really great and warm weather. At the beach, I got to see additional family members such as Aunt Karen and Uncle Dan, along with Cousin Sean and his wife Debbie, his brother Matt, and his sister Kaylene with her boyfriend Kent. It was fun to dive into the water on this warm summer day, as talking with friends and family about things going on in our lives. I stayed at the beach until a little bit after 6 and enjoyed some drinks with Brian, Amanda, Chris, Karen, and Dan. The food for the 4th consisted of traditional summer dishes, including clam chowder, burgers, and lobster rolls. After the supper ended in Marshfield, I then headed back to Billerica, and on my way home, I saw some even more great fireworks bursting driving through Boston.

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On the evening of July 14th, I headed into Boston to go see Bob Dylan at the Bank of Pavilion near Boston Harbor. I first went out to eat at Babbo Pizzeria with Brian, Amanda, Amanda’s parents Lisa and Jim, Amanda’s aunt Laura, and Laura’s son Willie. It was Willie’s 24th birthday and we had pizza and pasta for his birthday. I tried a delicious meatball pizza for supper, along with the pasta. After dinner, I headed over to the Bob Dylan concert with Lisa, while Laura, Willie, Jim, Amanda, and Brian went back to Brian and Amanda’s apartment for the time being.

The Bob Dylan concert opened with Mavis Staples. Mavis performed some of her hit songs for the warm-up. She got the crowd dancing and singing along to The Staples Singers’ signature song “I’ll Take You There.” After Mavis left the stage, the legend himself, Bob Dylan, showed up to the stage to perform his music. He wore a cowboy hat and played guitar, piano, and harmonica that night. Dylan played a mix of old and new songs, including “Things Have Changed”, which won him an Oscar for Best Song for the movie “Wonder Boys”, as well as “Tangled Up In Blue”, “Beyond Here Lies Nothing”, and towards the end, one of his best songs, “Blowin’ In The Wind.” For a life-long Dylan like me, it was great to hear him sing a wide variety of songs that he wrote during his long and industrious career. I hope to see more Dylan shows in the future, as well as checking out concerts from other music greats.

 

 

 

 

 

My speeches for Autism Awareness Day

4 Apr

Another State House photo

On Thursday, I did speeches to commemorate Autism Awareness Day. The first speech was at the State House on Thursday morning. I was there to comment on housing and transportation for people with autism, as well as read two of my poems. Later on in the day, I performed a speech at UMass Lowell for their annual “Disable the Label” event. For that event, I recited the same two poems that I shared earlier in the day.

I began the day of April 2 at the State House in Boston. I was there as one of the primary speakers for Autism Awareness and Acceptance Day, which focused on the theme of “Housing Options for Individuals with Autism.” The other speakers that day were Governor Charlie Baker, Deborah Flaschen (founder and president of 3LPlace, a residential home for people with developmental disabilities), Nat Batchelder, a young man with fairly severe autism and son of Brookline autism activist Susan Senator, and Senator Harriette Chandler, who accepted an award on behalf of Senate Majority Leader Stan Rosenberg, who was unable to attend the ceremony. The emcee of the event was Randy Price, an anchorman with WCVB 5 and veteran of the Boston journalism business.

I gave my speech at around 10:45 AM. I came on after Nat Batchelder, who is 25 years old and has fairly severe autism and gave his speech about housing with the help of his caregiver, John Excellent. I was introduced by Randy Price, who mentioned that I had graduated from college and have interests in dogs, music, reading, poetry, and several other areas. During my speech, I talked about how there is a lack of accessible transportation near my home in Billerica and that it makes difficult to see friends of mine. I also mentioned about the unsuccessful processes of submitting applications for the MBTA Ride program, the Lowell Transit Authority system, and the reduced fare program for the MBTA Charlie Card. Having the right transportation methods can be extremely beneficial for future employment opportunities and to gain more social connections.

I then began to comment on my current housing situation as a young adult with high-functioning autism. I reflected on how living with my parents during my lifetime has helped master many of the household chores that I do at home and how these skills could be very useful for when I do live independently someday with a friend. I admitted that I do not have as many social connections as I would like to have, but am continuing to work with my AANE LifeMap Coach Orlando Torres to help get more social connections and continue to look for more job opportunities in the area. I have tried to find the appropriate social group for me, but while many of the social groups that I have joined have been useful to me, I have been unable to determine which social group will be most beneficial in the long run. I concluded the event by reciting two of my poems, which were “Acceptance of Autism” and “Spring Awakening.” I told the audience that my poems have received positive reception from local Boston media personalities and several musicians.

I ended the day by giving another talk about Autism Acceptance Day at UMass Lowell called “Disable the Label”. I had been invited to be a speaker for this event by Professor Ashleigh Hillier, who teaches courses on autism and has been a friend of mine for 8 years. When I gave my speech, I was introduced by Dr. Hillier’s colleague, Professor Jody Goldstein, who I had communicated via email before the event and had met before the speeches of the event had started. My speech consisted of the two poems that I discussed at the State House event, “Acceptance of Autism” and “Spring Awakening.” The event ended with the UMass Lowell Choir singing the theme song for Autism Awareness Day named “Light It Up Blue,” as the building across us had lit up their facility with the color blue to symbolize Autism Awareness and Acceptance. It was a wonderful close for the day that celebrates the achievements of autistic people.

My 26th Birthday and NYC Trip this past weekend

24 Sep

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On August 18, I turned the ripe old age of 26.  For my birthday, I went out with my family to Jimmy’s in Arlington, a favorite restaurant of mine. I had a nice chicken parm dinner with linguini and bread with a side order of salad with blue cheese.  The following weekend, I hung out with my brother, Brian and his friends Phil Gustin, Rich Kei, and Amanda Smith at Tia’s in Boston. The next day was even more exciting, I saw many of my relatives at my cottage in Marshfield and received wonderful gifts from them.  My aunt Noreen gave me a delicious Reese’s cake for a treat and Sheila and her family made Rice Krispie treats with vanilla ice cream and caramel in it.  Both on the beach and later in the evening, I hung out with my friend Caitlyn DiSanto and her friends from Burlington and college. I gave Caitlyn and her friends copies of the Arc’s newsletter that featured my poem about All Aboard The Arc! back in May. Through Caitlyn, I made some new friends throughout the course of the day in Marshfield and hope to see them again this fall.

This past weekend, I went with my parents to NYC for a weekend trip as part of celebrating my parents’ upcoming 30th wedding anniversary. It also did feel like an extended birthday present for me.  We stayed at the Dream Hotel in Midtown Manhattan on the 10th floor. During the weekend, we visited many sites throughout this great city and I felt a strong desire to visit as many places as I could in NYC.  I would also check out various interesting restaurants and culinary flavors the city has to offer.

On Friday evening, I would catch up with my cousin Catie and her friend Jackie at a bistro called Papillon. There, I told Catie about how my birthday went, how my family members (immediate and extended) and friends have been doing lately, and we even had a lengthy conversation about our personal celebrity encounters in life. I had seen Harry Smith of NBC News, formerly of CBS News, on his way to a bank machine in the NBC Studios building, since earlier I was on a tour to see the skyline of the city from the top of Rockefeller Plaza.  Saturday was perhaps the most eventful day of the trip. That morning, my parents and I did a boat taxi ride tour to see the Statue of Liberty. Seeing Statue of Liberty was truly exhilarating since I got a great view of the Statue from the boat and this experience was made memorable with Frank Sinatra’s “Theme from New York, New York” playing in the background.  I made sure to get a memorable photo of the Statue with me and my parents.  Later on that day, I would go to such places as the 9/11 Memorial, Tribeca (where Robert De Niro has his film festival), Greenwich Village (near where Catie lives and the folk and bohemian capital of the city), Little Italy (where I ate pizza and tried a new sweet treat called a cronut, a mix of croissant and donut), Carnegie Deli (where I had a great pastrami reuben that was extremely filling), and finally to conclude the evening, my parents and I enjoyed a nice rooftop view of the city, including Times Square, from the top of the hotel.

Sunday morning and afternoon was the final day for us in the city. The main highlight of the day was going to a tour of NBC Studios in Rockefeller Plaza. The pages showed us the sets of Nightly News with Brian Williams, the news operation room, SNL, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, and Football Night in America. I had noticed that one of the pages had an Autism Speaks puzzle piece pin and told her about my experiences on the autism spectrum and my poems about autism. The page encouraged me to send my poems about autism to the crew at Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to help gain more exposure about the message of autism through poetry. Finally, at the end of the day in NYC, I enjoyed nice two slices of pizza from Famous Original Ray’s Pizza, located near the Dream Hotel. NYC has so many pizza places named Ray’s that it was difficult to keep track of all the locations. I hope to come back to this city in the next few years and also hope to visit cities and places like London, Chicago, LA, San Diego, Montreal, Vancouver, Ireland, Toronto, Italy, Seattle, Paris, and Texas.