Saturday, August 10, 2019

Not a Disability

Not a Disability
This is less of a blog and more of an acknowledgment of a change that has happened within my blog. A total shift that you may or may not have noticed. This may be an obvious point that I'm making, but I do not feel comfortable continuing to write this blog until I know for a fact that everyone understands this change. 

My autism diagnosis was at the end of sixth grade. Being diagnosed was awesome because I finally had an explanation as to what was making me so different. On the flip side, I wasn't completely able to understand what was going on because I was diagnosed so fast, and was just thrown into this new world. It was all very surreal, and though initially, I was able to accept myself, it still took me a good couple of months to completely adjust to this new way of life. No one was able to tell me, what autism really was when I was a kid… it was just sort of the way life was, and I didn't think it really needed an explanation.

As I've stated before, my brother Ryan eventually caught up to my grade level, and this combined with a few other circumstances caused me to try to cut autism out of my life. I went my entire high school career pretending I wasn't autistic.

I had an internship at my old school, Our Lady of Peace (Olp), for about three years. During my second year, I worked with the English teacher for 6-8th grades. My internship started after Christmas break. I went to the school and asked the teacher what book I should read so I could help teach a lesson on it. He handed me a book called Mockingbird

The book is about a girl who has to deal with the traumatic loss of her brother. Her brother was her eyes to the world because she has (just by pure coincidence) Asperger’s Syndrome. For those of you who don't know Asperger's is a “milder” form of autism, and it is technically the kind of autism I have. I say technically because it is an outdated term, now covered under the term Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). I will go into more detail on that in a later blog.

When school started up, I told the teacher about my diagnosis and ASD. He suggested that before they start the book, I give a lesson explaining why Asperger's is outdated. The day finally came and I stood in front of the class and gave my lesson. Doing that lesson, and explaining what autism is helped me to re-accept autism as part of who I am.

When I started this blog, the main idea was to help people and their families navigate the new world that they have found themselves in. The problem was I was still out of touch with the autism community at the time. I've come to realize that autism is a lot more… I don't want to say mainstream, but I can't think of any other word… Autism is a lot more mainstream then it was when I was diagnosed. There is a lot more information on it. As a result, this blog has evolved into something else. It's more just the story of what I'm going through day-to-day, in spite of being autistic, in spite of feeling like I'm not good enough. I've realized that Autism or any learning disability, you name it, is only a disability if you let it be a disability. I mean if I can even think about going to Japan, I’m 100% sure nearly any kid who Is “disabled” can do whatever they want to do in life. I do plan on writing articles about autism every once in a while, but the main moral of Rules for a Greattastic Life is “if I can do it… so can they/you.”
Have a greattastic day
J. Mitchie Ulibarri 

Monday, August 5, 2019

Japan part 2: Chance of a Lifetime

Japan part 2: Chance of a Lifetime

I have had a rough summer. It all started about a month and a half before finals week. I met this girl, and we started doing a lot of studying together. No matter how hard I tried, and no matter how much help both this girl and my family/friends tried to give me, I just couldn't get it. I started doubting everything about myself. 

At last, I took my final test, and passed…if only by a little bit. As summer started I was really thinking that maybe college wasn’t for me. I didn't tell anyone what was going on because I was afraid that admitting these fears would make me a failure. But then a month ago, the summer picked up.

As you may recall, Cousin Simple played in Nashville. The show was awesome and they got a lot of recognition (more on that later). Directly after Nashville, my family went on a vacation with my cousins. I was home for 4 days and I went to Florida to see my friend. As a result I was on a travel high, and I was feeling better then I had felt all summer. Unfortunately, that was going to come to an end. 

As soon as I got home all these fears came back stronger than they had been before. I was in tears every single day last week, because I had no idea what I was going to do. I talked to my family and one of my “sisters”, Aspen. I was also writing and praying a lot, but I was still freaking out.

Last Monday I went out to my “sisters” house because Aspen had been locked out, and Arlo (the youngest of my “sisters”) was not home. We walked into the kitchen, and on the counter was a note from their mom. It said “Out to lunch with Renee!” We had totally forgotten that her family was back from Japan for the week!

About an hour later, they came back to the house, and happy tears were shed by everyone. We told her how the older girls with doing in Colorado, and how they were coming back at the end of the week (more on that later), so she would be able to see them on Friday with the kids. Eventually the conversation switched to how I was doing. 

Aspen looked at me, curious to see what I would say. I decided I might as well say something, so I told them everything. When I was done talking, Renee said, “You know I think you would be a good teacher at the schools in my area of Japan.” I kind of laughed her off at first… I mean, think about it, it is a really funny concept: Me, a person who barely knows what he's doing in America, cut loose in Japan. But she started talking about it and I think it would be really cool.

So this next semester I'm going to be learning Japanese on my own, and bettering myself! I know that there is a lot of risk in doing this. I understand all the things that could go wrong, but if I don’t try, I know I will regret it for the rest of my life! However, in the event that it just doesn't work out, I do have a few other things ready just in case. I will keep you guys informed when I get more information.
Have A Greattastic Day!
J. Mitchie Ulibarri

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Japan Part 1: Piano

Japan Part 1: Piano

Music is a huge part of my life. My brother is in a band. I'm always singing, and of course I do a lot of work with Sam's Fans. My exposure to music started when I was in kindergarten.

My “sisters” had a piano in their house. When they got old enough,  they started taking lessons. Because our families were so close at the time, and because I wanted to do everything they were doing, I asked my mom if I could take lessons from the same person. My parents agreed, and Ryan and I started taking lessons. 

The teacher and I did not necessarily see eye to eye. I didn't really have long attention span. It definitely wasn't long enough to actually take time to practice. Every single week, I wouldn't practice enough, and she would become livid. She would roll up my music theory book, hit me on the head with it and yell, “Shame on you!” This woman did something amazing, she almost single-handedly killed music for me. 

Fortunately, I didn't have to wait for Cousin Simple or Sam's Fans for music to come back into my life. My “sisters” had gotten a new piano teacher. Her name was Renee. Renee is from Japan and she's one of the most talented pianist I've ever met. The best part was that she had baby girls, and my “sisters” would watch them for discounted lessons. When my “sisters” and I started hanging out again, they convinced me to take lessons from Renee. 

I would help my “sisters” watch the kids, mostly by being their constant entertainment. Over the years my “sisters” and I started to consider those two kids like part of our family. That's not even to mention Renee. Let me just explain how awesome of a person she is. 

One of the first things I loved about her is when it came to lessons with Renee she would ask me what songs I wanted to learn, as opposed to just going through some book. Secondly once I learned a song, she let me arrange a new version of the song. The icing on the cake though was her last Christmas recital.

When I was a kid…who am I kidding, I'm still a big fan of Doctor Seuss!!! My favorite character that he created is the Grinch. Around the same time we were trying to plan what songs I would play for the Christmas recital, we found out that Renee and her family would be moving back to Japan in 2 months. I wanted to do something big…you know, send her off with a bang. So I asked her if I can play “You're Mean One.” Of course she said yes, but then I took it a step further. I asked her if it would be okay, if I dressed in costume as the Grinch… She said yes! 

I was scheduled to perform last and I was giddy with excitement. About three people before I was supposed to perform, I went to the bathroom and changed into my costume… When my name was called, I walked in and I've never been more confident in my entire life. The audience loved it! The recital was amazing to me! Renee was an incredible piano teacher, and friend, and I would not be where I am today, both creatively or confidence-wise, if it wasn't for her.
To be Continued...

Saturday, July 27, 2019

First-time flyer

First-time flyer
I have been on three really big trips in the last two weeks. Cousin Simple played in Nashville (which was awesome by the way), then after that I went to Hatteras, North Carolina with my family. I then decided last week, to take a flight down to Orlando, Florida, where (some of) dad’s family lives.
I have flown before, but there was something special about this time… This was the first time that I've ever flown on my own. I wasn't nervous, I was actually a little too confident. I got to the airport at about 6:30 in the morning on Thursday. My flight left around 8:00, and I got to Orlando around 10:00. I texted my family group chat, and told them that landed, thinking that would be the end of it. 

I hadn't even gotten off the plane when dad called me. He asked me how the flight was and we talked for a few minutes. He told me to to call him if I got lost. Now everyone was telling me the Orlando airport was big and confusing. Mom had told me just to follow the crowd out of the airplane directly to the baggage claim, and my aunt would pick me up right outside.I told Dad that was the plan, and then I got off the plane. 

The crowd entered the airport with me following close behind. I don’t really know how it happened, but I lost "my crowd". I asked one of the ticket agents where I needed to go. She told me to walk down a big hallway, get on the tram, and then go downstairs. I immediately called Dad. “Wait, where is the tram?” I asked, He laughed and then helped me get to it. I made it to the baggage claim, where my aunt picked me up. 

I was really confident getting on that airplane. I thought I could do it all by myself, but I couldn't.  Not without a little help. Always remember to ask for help when you need it! 

Have A Greattastic Day! 
J. Mitchie Ulibarri

Saturday, July 20, 2019



Random blog today! I'm actually in Florida right now to honor a friend of mine. She passed away about 6 years ago and I've been talking to her sister for a while. We will be meeting tomorrow and will go to a fountain that was erected in her name, then we will be going to her grave. Her sister asked me if I would be willing to write in a little “memory book” at her grave. I said I would and I typed it out just so I knew what I would say. Mom thought it was too long (to be fair she was right), and I would just have to take a small passage from it. I still have the document written and I didn't have a blog to write for this week… so here you go: 

When I was a kid, I was in love with this girl named Sam. Unfortunately she had a rare blood disorder called fanconi anemia. On October 15th 2009, Sam passed away. Over the next 6 months, two more children in my community passed away. These events shook me to my core.

My dad grew up in Florida, and his best friend growing up was Mr. (Martin) Buckley. The summer after Sam died, we went to Florida and saw the Buckley family. I was immediately drawn towards Elizabeth. As the night went on I started to realize there were some similarities between Elizabeth and Sam. These similarities caused me to act strangely around Elizabeth. She eventually caught on and asked me what was wrong.

I told her everything, and in typical Elizabeth fashion she told me everything would be okay (though she said it a little more eloquently). She was amazingly insightful for her age. As a result of the hope she gave me, my life indeed started to get better. Then she got sick.

All I wanted to do was talk through my feelings with Elizabeth, but her passing made me lose all hope. During these difficult times, I missed a Sam's Fans event. Sam's Fans, started by Sam's mom, is a nonprofit organization that raises money to support music and art therapy in Ohio hospitals. After missing this event, I started feeling guilty because Sam was my best friend. All I wanted was to “talk” to Elizabeth so I looked up her obituary. After a little more digging, I discovered a glimmer of hope during these trying times- John Michael’s Peacock Project (the fountain being erected in her name).

The project itself resurrected the hope Elizabeth gave me and I officially joined Sam’s Fans. Elizabeth Buckley was an amazing human being, a good friend, and the person who I credit for getting my life back on track!
Have a Greattastic Day 
J. Mitchie Ulibarri

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Finding Strength Within

Finding Strength Within

Hello guys! My name is Aspen Anderson and I am one of Mitchell’s “sisters”. This week I decided to give Mitchie a much needed break and takeover the blog. He is currently in North Carolina right now on vacation and I am here in boring old Columbus, Ohio. Just kidding, it’s not too bad *insert nervous laughter*. Anyway, I think this blog is an awesome platform Mitchell has created and I am honored to be able to partake in this component of his Greattastic adventure. In this blog, I thought I would share a bit of my experience when it comes to relationships with others, but most importantly yourself.

I am relatively young, and hopefully still have a long and eventful life ahead of me, but so far one would think my mistakes and obstacles have been/are at a minimum. I suppose this is true, but recently I have been analyzing my past decisions and choices, not to define myself by these, but to observe, learn, and grow from them. One that stands out to me in particular, would be when I made the decision of entering into an unhealthy and toxic relationship, which I would later learn taught me one of the most important lessons of my life so far.

Relationships are a necessary and essential aspect in one’s life. People are able to connect on an emotional, spiritual, and physical level, allowing growth both as individuals and as a society. However, on the other hand relationships can also turn into harmful situations, similar to that of the self centered relationships we see today. First relationships always have that negative connotation of being awkward, short, or experimental but my first relationship was unfortunately, not like this at all.

The guy I was “dating” was involved in the wrong crowd, the wrong substances, basically the wrong everything. Needless to say it took a toll on my health in all aspects; it ruined friendships, it broke bonds with family members, loss of work, and the list goes on. Despite all the chaos my life had now become, I found peace and strength not only through God’s blessing of an amazing support system, but also accepting that this awful situation taught me more about myself and that it needed to happen in order for me to get to where I should be; mentally, physically, and spiritually. I am still working on getting to that point but this relationship and its after effects allowed me to grow in ways I never thought possible. For example, the relationship was based on both parties, but mainly myself, being extremely insecure and feeling like I needed the toxic relationship as a result of him making me feel wanted, beautiful, and worthy. These attributes are something that another person cannot give you. They might be able to give you a false sense of security, but if you are not happy with yourself, then how can you expect to be happy with someone else?

To some degree, we all struggle to love ourselves. In our society, it is hard not to be insecure especially with the unreachable standards we feel compelled to follow. This relationship allowed me to see that the relationship with self is so important, if not the most important relationship. I was able to realize my worth, my value, and learn to respect myself.
 It was through that difficult and unfortunate situation that I was able to grow and try to help others see their value as well. In conclusion, know that you are an amazing individual that deserves love and respect from others, but most importantly yourself.

Saturday, July 6, 2019

Cousin Simple

Cousin Simple
My brother Ryan and I have always been really close. In fact, if you exclude S.M, I consider him to be my best friend. Growing up we would always play with my now “sisters” and we all had many adventures. But as of late Ryan has started a new adventure with new friends, and while I'm along for the ride, this is their story:

As I mentioned a few blogs ago, my Aunt Cyndi is an awesome dancer. The summer of my fourth grade year (Ryan’s second), Cyndi had a start of summer dance party at our house. (Cyndi- we need to do this again… Next summer… I'll call you). We invited a ton of people including one of Ryan's best friends Will and his family. The playlist created by Cyndi started blasting at about 5 pm, and did not end until after midnight. It was here that I saw it for the first time… Will had this energy that made him the natural life of the party. Now I don't really believe in destiny, but I think Will was always going to end up being a performer. 

When Will and Ryan were in seventh grade they met a boy named Mitch. He joined their little group, and the three became ever closer. On their last day of school in 8th grade, they performed a few songs at the end of school mass and they had a private “concert” for their class. The three started writing music together and eventually put some songs out on Soundcloud.

Groove U is a two year music college. Every year they host a battle of the bands. It's called the “instaband” competition, the idea being if you win it… you're a band. The boys entered the competition with Will as the lead singer, Mitch on keyboard & ukulele, Ryan on lead guitar, and their friend from school, Luke on drums.

Cousin Simple’s first performance was amazing for many reasons. Because of Soundcloud, everybody in the crowd knew the songs word for word.  What was even more amazing was the band itself. The stage presence was incredible, because of the energy that they brought. Watching them play for the first time I felt like I was watching strangers;  they were like completely different people. 

After they on the Instaband competition, they took off. They played show after show, and to date they have released 13 songs. Eventually Luke moved to rhythm guitar and they got a new drummer, Joel. I'm writing this now because on Monday (7/8/19) Cousin Simple is playing a show in NASHVILLE TENNESSEE!!! I believe this is proof that with a little hard work and dedication anything you want is possible. Good luck boys and… Ryan break a leg not a lung. 

Have a Greattastic Day 
J. Mitchie Ulibarri   

Not a Disability

Not a Disability This is less of a blog and more of an acknowledgment of a change that has happened within my blog. A total shift that yo...