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?

Mayday!

The month is almost over and I’ve not made much progress on my writing goal (one thousand out of five thousand words so far) and I’m three books behind schedule for my reading goal for the year. Plus, I just remembered the yearly goals I’ve made every year on my birthday for the past several years, and that milestone came and went a few weeks ago without me reviewing them.

It’s time to hold myself accountable and get back on track!

One thing I did finish up with was my work on the Third Annual Tracy Hurley Memorial Writing Contest hosted by Mobile Writers’ Guild. The winning stories from both middle and high school students in Mobile and Baldwin Counties are up on the MWG website (see posts from May 23 and 27, 2014.)

May 14

As for me, I’ll keep reading, writing, and watering Fernando.

What are you working toward?

Cycles of Life

It’s been an interesting two weeks. Highs and lows, appointments and responsibilities. Nature and modern life colliding in a symphony of emotions.

I was able to help with the Mobile Writers’ Guild Third Annual Tracy Hurley Memorial Writing Competition for middle and high school students in the area. It was labor intensive, but rewarding and when friends are involved it makes it fun. Thanks to Joyce Scarbrough for her keen editorial eye and snazzy remarks.

My birthday was celebrated this weekend. While it wasn’t a milestone, I’m getting closer to it and the world must smell the opportunity. Offers of increasing my life insurance policy and testimonial sales pitches for health products arrived. But along with those came a birthday wish from my writing mentor, as well as a dozen others thanks to social media. I received hopeful gifts like this, too:
100_5541

All in all, it was a fun few days of celebration and surprises.

Then, I spent a day at Dauphin Island beach with my kids and another friend and her family. It was gorgeous, and the sun was kind enough to leave a reminders of the day well spent. There’s also a half-bucket of shells under my desk, waiting for the kidlet to decide she wants them back after gifting them to me.

After the festivities, I received yet another “pass” (that’s the P.C. term for rejection), but not a few hours later, I got this literary road sign from a dynamic, crafty duo to brighten my day and inspire me to keep those literary dreams alive.
100_5538
100_5540

Amazing, isn’t it?

So, while Fernando might currently look like this (and, yes, I did just water him)…
100_5544

… I’m still plugging away with my writing. Plus, there’s this beauty of sight and scent waiting for me for the next several days.
100_5543

What have you been inspired by—even in the face of discouragement—lately?

Signs

I’m not superstitious, but… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5gU5Vg2JokU
Had to add that song because I can’t say “superstitious” without it playing in my head. And, yes, Europe is still around and sounding better than ever.

This morning I approached my desk to write the beginning of my new story. Yes, pre-writing is complete and it’s time to get to work! I pulled the blinds open and saw not one, but FIVE pairs of indigo buntings around the bird feeder area (which is just a few feet away from Fernando, if you were wondering.) Indigo buntings are beautiful—my simple camera, especially pictures taken through a window screen—can’t do them justice. Since they are BLUE, and the younger a gorgeous turquoise, you can easily spot them.

100_5392

100_5397

100_5399

I’ve only seen indigos once or twice in my yard, and it’s been several years since my last sighting. I thought it was amazingly cool, but didn’t put the birds together with writing until I noticed something on the floor. Right next to my anti-fatigue mat (you got it—I use a standing desk because it worked for Hawthorne and I like to pace) a picture was lying face-down. One of my favorite pictures, that just so happens to be me with local writing friend, Joyce Scarbrough, and my writing hero, Laurie Halse Anderson. At some point during the night it jumped off the top of my bulletin board and landed in my path.

100_5405

Then it all made sense to this creative brain of mine: my story is about to take flight and I’ve got good company on the journey. Or something like that.

While I’m not superstitious, I do believe in signs.

What do you believe in?

Fernando, for the Win!

Nature has a quiet way of speaking to us. A lot of the time, the noise of people and modern life drowns out the sounds of Earth, but we can all seek what we need to hear, no matter where we are.

From top to bottom, the water oak outside my window is a home and refuge to living things. Though the oak is just beginning to bud—and pollenate its surrounding with yellow dust—the uppermost branches support parasitic mistletoe growth. Though wind storms tear the plants from their host, more are there as a patch of green through the winter in an otherwise bare tree.

All the leaves are mistletoe.

All the leaves are mistletoe.

Slightly above mid-level, about three stories off the ground, there’s a red-bellied woodpeckers’ home. Happily, the lovely—and talkative—couple rebuilt a new hole after their original dwelling broke off from the same branch over a year ago.

The hole is in the center of the picture.

The hole is in the center of the picture.


If you look close, you can see the head of the woodpecker looking out. I don't have a fancy long-range lens.

If you look close, you can see the head of the woodpecker looking out. I don’t have a fancy long-range lens.

And, of course, near the base of this impressive ecosystem there grows Fernando.

Fernando in all his glory.

Fernando in all his glory.

Still fresh from a winter’s slumber, the ever industrious fern not only regrows but sets out new runners. There it is: nature telling me to spread—move on to the next branch of creativity.

It’s time to set roots for the next story.

It lives--and grows!

It lives–and grows!

Dormant to Thriving

Last spring I started my fern watching journey. Fascinated by the way a little fern—and assorted mosses—clung to the rough bark of the water oaks in my backyard, I snapped a few pictures every now and then and compared the different stages of the fern to my creative life.

This time around, I think the fern is trying to tell me something.

Winter has been beautifully colder than average. A month ago, after ice/sleet and multiple days of freezing temperatures, my resident fern looked like this:
100_4712

The weather has been steadily warming, but inside I’ve still been stuck. Dormant. Outside, the fern has a message for me: Wake up!
100_4892

The storm has passed!

Literally, because a mean display of thunder and lightning blew through about two o’clock in the morning and now it’s blue skies and a refreshing breeze. I need to get back to work—I feel it in the air.

But first, I think we need to name my enduring fern. Please leave suggestions below.

Excitehension

Excitement and apprehension are in the air. Ever notice how similar those two can feel? Yet, taken alone, each word is distinct and seemingly opposite. I’ve been juggling both and they’re equally exhausting.

I’m known among my Facebook friends as the Brightside lady. Rather than only doing thankful posts in November, I do a “BRIGHTSIDE” status. I began these Pollyanna moments more than three years ago during a stressful week, and I continue to post them when life rears its crazy claws. I’ve posted 350 brightsides, which is not too shabby, stressfully speaking.

Today, the apprehension is trying to take over my excitement so I’m going to throw more fuel on the positive side, in hopes of over-powering the negative.

My boys’ literary tree is filling up nicely.
100_4145

The fern on the oak tree is surviving autumn.
100_4146

And my sister sent me a pep talk in stones. (I don’t think I can kill or break these like I did the fern terrarium.)
100_4120

What do you do to battle the “woe is me” moments in life?