Life as I Know It

Sixteen years ago today my oldest was born and things haven’t been the same since. I can’t imagine life without him (or the other two that followed.) We have a special bond, in part because of my husband’s job but also because our personalities are similar. We were solo a lot of the time during his first several years of life, but when he was diagnosed on the autism spectrum at three years old, my world opened up. Without my son, I wouldn’t understand myself as well as I do, my other kids would probably have health issues, and I wouldn’t have found a good percentage of the books I read. His autism has enabled new understanding, peace, and preventative strategies for health and well-being. It’s allowed me to make connections with people I wouldn’t have otherwise met and inspired several of my articles and manuscripts. My son has motivated my life, from writing to relationships, from reading to travel. It’s been a journey of love, with plenty of ups and downs to share along the way. Here’s to more years of sharing.

On the beach at Dauphin Island, May 2014

On the beach at Dauphin Island, May 2014

Surreal Reading Moment

My autistic teen goes to bed when the younger kids do, but he has permission to read a pre-determined number of chapters before turning his clip-on light out. Since chapter length varies by book, he’s learned the art of bartering. If I say “Two chapters” he’ll tell me, “Chapters too little. Five chapters.” I’m likely to say three, and he’ll say “five, five, five!” To which I’ll respond, with an offer of three or possibly accepted his request. It all depends on the time the bedtime routine is finished.

Last week he borrowed my library book—before I got a chance to read it. The Game of My Life: A True Story of Challenge, Triumph, and Growing Up Autistic by Jason (J-Mac) McElwain with Daniel Paisner is something I wanted to read, but I did hope he’d show an interest, too. (Yes, the J-Mac of the high school basketball video that went viral a few years ago—and still makes the rounds. He also finished the Boston Marathon this year.)
J-Mac

When my son’s done with his chapters, he comes in to tell me (proud that he read so much) and I try to ask about what’s happened in the book, or who it’s about. Usually, I’ve read the book but he’s branching out more—he read a Captain Underpants book the week before which isn’t a series I’ve tried out for myself. I asked him what happened in the J-Mac book and he got all excited and said “Big Bird! Sesame Street!” and repeated that a few times. Since he spent way too many years obsessed with the show, I thought he might have been flashing back to scripting or something, but I asked, “Does J-Mac like Sesame Street?” (I’ve heard it referenced in at least one other autobiography of a young adult on the spectrum.) My son said “yes” and smiled really big.

Did we just have a conversation?

Yes, this seemingly small exchange does count, especially when it takes years to get that far, but I wasn’t completely convinced because of his Sesame Street response.

Well, this weekend I got my chance with the book. Sure enough, J-Mac’s first words were “Big Bird”, said while he was watching the show with his brother.

Note to self: Don’t underestimate the power of books when it comes to opening communication with my child.

Has a book helped with discussions between you and someone you love?

P.S. Here’s the Fernando update:

Fernando of the Water Oak, 23 June, 2014

Fernando of the Water Oak, 23 June, 2014

He’s taking to the summer well, as long as water is provided on the non-thunderstorm days.
And is it just me, or does the moss/fungus on the right look a little corroded?

I Banned a Book

Ever since my oldest began his love of reading, I’ve opened my book collection to him. He’ll finish a book, draw the cover in his reading journal, and head to the bookcase to trade in for a new one. Oh, and let’s not forget adding a leaf to the reading tree. 100_4650

My teen with autism has read everything from (most recently) Kirby Larson’s Hattie Ever After to The Old Man and the Sea. After he chooses a book, he brings it to me to share. If he’s gone for something like Caddie Woodlawn’s Family, I’ll first steer him to Caddie Woodlawn, explaining that this books is about the same family, but it’s best to read this one first and he’s fine with that. But the other night I had to say no to a book.

Not just any book—a special bookcase book. (That means one of my favorite authors. No, they don’t all fit in this little area, but many do.) 100_2048

He wanted Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson and I said no.

He’s not ready for it.

Is he old enough? Physically, yes. Emotionally/mentally, no.

I adore tough books. They’re awesome springboards for conversations and I have oodles of books I can’t wait to discuss with my kids—when they’re ready.

So, yes, I banned a book. Temporarily.

I pointed to the other Laurie Halse Anderson novels he could read and he went to bed that night with the first Vet Volunteer book instead, but I think Laurie will understand.

Movies and Me

This past month has been theater going, as promised. I’ve been to four movies in as many weeks, which is twice as many as I usually attend in a full year.

First up was Ender’s Game. Since I’d recently read the novel—as well as Ender’s Shadow—the storyline was a bit disappointing. Chop and hack galore. But the actors were great and it was visually impressive, as well as moving. My eyes were moist once, maybe twice. I think I hid it well.

Thor: The Dark World was epic! I’d waited almost two decades for Thor on the big screen, and all the movies featuring him have been awesome, but this one was fabulous. I cried once, and my husband didn’t tease me about it until afterwards.thor dark world

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was amazing. I went to this one alone and used my hoodie sleeve to wipe the tears running down my face more times than I can count.

Frozen was our Tuesday bargain today. I took two out of the three kidlets and we had the theater to ourselves, which is always good. My teen with autism isn’t the most quiet movie watcher and the little princess switched seats often. I was moved to tears during the “Let it Go” musical scene, even while the youngest was climbing around my lap.

Notice the pattern?

I’m sure I’ll shed more tears when I make it to The Book Thief, and probably for The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. That should hold me over through New Year’s.

Have you enjoyed any of the new releases? Do you cry during movies? Please tell me I’m not alone.

Liebster Blog Award

I was tagged/nominated by R.K. Grow, a fellow writer on Twitter @tolkien418, for a Liebster Award. Thank you!
Liebster Blog
The Liebster is awarded to up-and-coming bloggers with less than 200 followers. The conditions that go with being nominated are:
1. Thank your Liebster Blog Award presenter on your blog and link back to the blogger who presented this award to you;
2. Answer the 11 questions from the nominator and create 11 questions for your nominees;
3. Present the Liebster Blog Award to 11 blogs of 200 followers or less who you feel deserves to be noticed and leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been chosen;
4. Copy and Paste the blog award on your blog.

My questions from R.K. Grow are:
1. Twizzlers or Red Vines?

Neither. Licorice isn’t my favorite and black licorice is even worse.
2. Do you have a current WIP? If so, tell us about it.
FORTITUDE: Dauphin Island, Alabama teen Claire O’Farrell and her best friend, Loretta Davis, get caught in the middle of the racial tensions of the Spanish-American War camps in Tampa, Florida during the summer of 1898.
3. What is your favorite punctuation mark?
The—em—dash.
4. If you could pick the songs for the soundtrack of your novel what would they be?
The soundtrack—complete with YouTube links—for CORRODED, the novel I’m currently querying, can be found here.
I’m only about one third of the way through the first draft of FORTITUDE so it doesn’t have a soundtrack, just a “Fortitude Groove” playlist on my iPod. It has 121 songs with the majority of flavors being Irish-Celtic, country/blue grass, and soundtrack instrumentals that evoke the emotions I hope to create in the reader. For now, I listen to it on shuffle when writing, researching, or just getting in the proper mood.
5. What are three words that describe how you feel about writing?
Vocation
Joy
Anxiety
6. What is your favorite genre to read and why?
Middle Grade, especially those books geared for readers ten years and older. It can be contemporary, historical, fantasy, whatever—I’m just in love with the coming-of-age theme that is prevalent in literature for late childhood and the teen years. Part of that is because I’m still searching for where I fit in. I haven’t found my social niche, but at least now I’m comfortable with myself—usually.
7. What music do you listen to when you write, if any?
Music plays a HUGE part in my writing, but which music I listen to when writing depends on the story. I have over eight days worth of music up/down loaded into my iTunes account from a wide variety of genres. I gather music to fit the mood I wish to create when writing, then I painstakingly chose a soundtrack to mesh with the scenes of the novel as it progresses. This is something I’ve done since I began writing over twenty years ago. See question #4 for a sample.
8. What is your writing goal this year?
My immediate goal is to finish the first draft of FORTITUDE by my birthday (May 3.)
I also hope to hear at least one positive response from my queries about CORRODED in the meantime.
9. Laptop or desktop?
Laptop, but I use it on a desk/table/counter top with a full size keyboard and mouse whenever possible.
10. How do you stay motivated?
MUSIC—I’ve noticed if I don’t take time to listen to my music (as opposed to my kids’ stuff or whatever is playing around me) I lose inspiration.
BOOKS—Reading books by people whom I admire and hearing about them getting recognition for their efforts is inspiring, too.
GENEROSITY—The humility and generosity of some of the authors and musicians I respect the most is incredibly motivating. (See my posts on Fantabutitus.) I want the chance to pay-it-forward so I need to be writing successfully to do that on a higher level.
11. What is the primary focus for your blog?
Literature: both my own and other peoples.
I usually blog about reading and writing, though I often take themes from my novels as blog topics.
Seldom, I’ll post about my family or homeschooling—without it dealing with books—and even rarer do I mention current events.

So, now for awarding the next generation of Liebster Bloggers, and please don’t take offense if you have more than 200 followers—not all the blog have those stats public. If you don’t know these bloggers, take a minute and check them out.

http://www.ihaveaspergers.webs.com/
http://onconservatism.blogspot.com/
http://leeannward.com/blog/
http://www.tamratorero.blogspot.com/
http://www.meleesaswann.com/
http://joycescarbrough.blogspot.com/
http://www.prestonnorton.com/
http://stephanielawton.com/
http://www.teacakesandwhiskey.com/blog/
http://israelparker.com/
http://wyzreads.wordpress.com/

And here are your questions—looking forward to reading the answers!

1. What gets you going in the morning?
2. Morning person or night owl?
3. If you could pick one, what book would you want the world to read?
4. Do you prefer TV shows or movies for entertainment?
5. Is your blog your main writing project? If not, tell us what else is in the works.
6. What is your favorite place to catch up on news—print, online, web, etc?
7. Peter Rabbit or the White Rabbit?
8. What’s on your desktop wallpaper right now?
9. Radio or your own personal music selection?
10. Best or worst concert experience.
11. Fiction or non-fiction?