Memorial Day Musings

Let’s give thought to the often over-looked wars that had American casualties, like the Spanish-American War.

Even before they officially left, numerous soldiers—mostly volunteers—died in Florida at the campgrounds they gathered in before shipping off to Cuba. Inadequate space (in recently drained swamps), food, and medical supplies, as well as racial riots among the troops themselves, pushed the numbered deaths of U.S. soldiers higher on our own soil than those sustained during the ground and naval battles in Cuba/Puerto Rico.

During my pleasure reading nearly eight years ago, I happened across a few pages in a biography (Lady from Savannah: The Life of Juliette Low) about the deplorable conditions our troops suffered in during their few months in Florida. I immediately knew I had to write about it. After gathering information for nearly five years, I then spent three years getting the story down properly. Come January 12, 2016 you’ll be able to read the collective soul of my journey into 1898, appropriately titled Fortitude.
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As for today, let’s give pause to those who gave all to protect liberty—whether in this century or in decades past—while we continue to pray for peace. Peace for those left behind, and for the world at large.

Knowledge is Kindness

Over the past few months, I’ve come to an understanding. It’s nothing earth shattering, and I’m sure these things have been said before, but I needed the time to mull things over for myself.

Now I can share: I’m less likely to take offense to things people say if I know the individual.

Why is this? I’m empathetic to where they come from and realize that they have a valid reason for thinking the way they do, even if I don’t agree with it. The better I know the person, the more leeway I give their opinions.

Take the same words, said by someone I don’t know, and my first reaction is to be offended. For example, a friend says something that I disagree with. I’ll usually stay out of the conversation, and maybe even think “bless your heart” (a slight assimilation to southern living). But if one of their other friends steps in to agree or expand on the topic toward their angle, I get defensive about my ideals and think “how can she listen to people like that?” Or “I can’t believe there are people in the world that buy in to that propaganda!” And, well, you know… I’m sure you’ve thought similar things.

But don’t worry, I get over it.

And now, more than ever, it doesn’t bother me beyond that initial gut reaction.

It rolls off—the natural man is conquered, at least on this front.

After all, I don’t want to give other people’s words power to corrode my mood for the day.
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With all the contention in the world right now—even in our own communities—I think the best way to peace is to get to know each other. That’s the easiest way to combat judgmental behavior. After all, the majority of people want the same thing (peace, helping those less fortunate, etc.), we just have different ideas on what we think is the best route to get there.

Knowledge can equal kindness. Who do you need to understand more?

Inspired by Setting

While visiting with family a few weeks ago, I was blessed to experience several days of spring in the Midwest. I’ve been to central Illinois in the summer and winter, but this was our first trip this time of year. Many of the trees that were in full-bloom in the deep-south over a month ago were in their glory up north.
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Farmers and gardeners down south have their crops in the ground, but the Amish farmers were beginning to plow their fields—with horse power, of course.
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Trees that are fully green at home are just coming into their foliage there.
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Beauty can be found wherever you look.
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And so can corrosion.
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When possible, take time to visit new places. If that’s not an option, try viewing your regular piece of the world through new eyes. What details have you never noticed before?

Bucket List, Check!

My number one bucket list item is officially checked off: I attended my first Europe concert this past weekend. It only took twenty-five years and nearly a thousand miles of driving, but people have always told me I’m patient.

Photo by my husband.

Photo by my husband.

Yes, Europe is in America, at least for a few more days. My family and I made a road trip to the in-laws in Illinois (post about that soon) and after a few days of visiting, my husband and I left the kids with the grandparents and drove two and a half hours over to Indianapolis to catch Europe’s show at The Vogue. The venue’s neighborhood is an awesome mix of restaurants, local shops, and good vibes along the river—a great place to walk around and people watch.
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We got there early and I had fun talking (well, mostly listening) to the other diehard fans that were lined up. Listening to the stories of the blue collar Mid-west rock fans was great, and there was even a guy from down under in the group. The experience reminded me that I need to get out of my usual circle of book nerds, homeschooling moms, and church friends and expose myself to a wider variety of people more often. It’s good for the soul.
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And so was the music!
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Being third in line landed me a center stage spot when the doors opened. Before hand, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to be stage right, near John Norum and his guitar skills, or stage left, next to the bass (John Levén) and keys (Mic Michaeli), but since the stage was small, I opted for center. That put me first row, in front of Ian Haugland’s drum kit and Joey Tempest’s microphone, when he wasn’t moving around with it.
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Plus, I was in the middle of the vertically challenged. But when you wait twenty-five years to see your favorite band in concert, you don’t feel bad about blocking people’s view. The show was fabulous! I’ve never gotten front row before, so that was a bonus, but I also got my first guitar pick—the leader singer/guitarist pressed into right into my hand. Thanks, Joey!
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Great sound.
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Seventeen song set list.
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Awesome band!

People need to put down their phones and watch concerts live, not through a screen. (I took less than two dozen pictures during the whole show--too busy enjoying the moment.)

People need to put down their phones and watch concerts live, not through a screen. (I took less than two dozen pictures during the whole show–too busy enjoying the moment.)

Expand Your Horizons

Autism Awareness/Acceptance Month is past the halfway mark. Have you seen an increase of understanding around you? My blue hair has provided more opportunities to discuss autism with others, so I’m glad I was brave enough to try it this time.

Me, on World Autism Day.

Me, on World Autism Day.

I scrolled through some old posts and came across this one from two years ago—the then nameless Fernando has been making an appearance on the blog for that long. This is a timely find, because it talks about my two manuscripts that are now under contract for publishing in 2016, and it explains where I got my line, “Don’t let your fortitude get corroded.” It doesn’t seem like Fernando has grown much, but it’s more than doubled in size.

Fernando, before it was Fernando, April 2013.

Fernando, before it was Fernando, April 2013.

Fernando today, April 2015.

Fernando today, April 2015.


Seeing these photos today reminded me of my teen on the spectrum. Just like my son, Fernando is always responding to his environment. Outside stresses, like weather, can cause disturbances to growth and adaptability, while appropriate nutrients and habitat can promote expansion. Sometimes, the rate of my son’s maturing seems laboriously slow, but if I think back to how he was two (or more) years ago, I can see how far he’s come.

Fernando can be used as a personification of my writing, as well as a symbol of human needs and growth. What can your fern do?

If you don’t have a Fernando of your own, go find one and nurture your creativity.

Corroded

Last week, on April Fool’s Day (no joke), I signed my second book contract with Anaiah Press. Fortunately, there is no video footage of my happy dance. That would be awkward, almost as uncomfortable as admitting it happened in the first place.

The “new book” is Corroded, a young adult, contemporary novel. Corroded has been a labor of love for nearly a decade (and will continue to be worked upon this year, as I go through professional edits with the publishing company). The story has seen numerous critiques, several dozen drafts, and much support from friends and family through the years. It’s fitting that it will be released during Autism Awareness Month because the dual point-of-view is shared between main characters Mary and Ben, who has high functioning autism.
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For those paying attention, that’s Fortitude on January 12 and Corroded on April 12, 2016. Both novels will be available in e-book and paper formats on their respected days.
In other words, “Don’t let your fortitude get corroded.” Everything happens in the proper time, in the right season (sometimes after years of labor).

P.S. Ever in tune with my literary life, Fernando is flourishing.
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Global Autism

Today is one of those controversial days, this month sometimes less than joyful.

April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day and April is dubbed Autism Awareness Month. (Yes, April is also National Poetry and Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but allow me to focus on one for a bit, please.)

There are some in the autism community that despise this month, this day especially, because they don’t agree with some of the organizations that have over-run things with their own agendas and publicity. No matter what some groups have done, this month is still be a great opportunity to share your stories—whether your own or your family’s—and bring to light the joys and frustrations of life on the autism spectrum.

Today, I’m wearing blue, and all month I’m sporting a bit of blue hair and an Autism Awareness ribbon. These visual tokens give me conversation starters to share with others about my own family’s journey, as well as direct people to great advocates on the spectrum like John Elder Robison, Dani Bowman, Erin Clemens, and A.S.P.I.E.

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Over the coming weeks, I’ll share a few more autism-related posts (including literary news you’ll want to stick around to hear.)

As for the other worthy cause, National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I highly suggest reading Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Several different times she and her publisher helped raise money for RAINN in April. One year I donated to RAINN and Laurie, in return, donated to Autism Society of America. A win-win situation of awesomeness.

Now I’ll branch over to the National Poetry Month. Here’s a haiku I just wrote about some of the feelings one might deal with on the spectrum:

All thoughts are spinning
Mind, body, crowded senses
Breathe, wrap me in weight.

What are you passionate about this month?