Waiting Game and Writing

Hello, friends,

Since my last check-in, I had the blood work I mentioned.  I expected my iron to be low and possibly my B-12.  But I never expected what happened instead…  My “sed rate” (short for erythrocyte sedimentation rate, also known as ESR) came back high.  It’s supposed to be between 0 and 20, and mine was 125.  (Zoinks!)

bariumSoooo… needless to say, my doctor ordered a bunch of extra tests, more blood work, a CAT scan (hence the nasty barium you see here!), an x-ray, and other stuff.  The x-ray already came back fine.  The second sed rate test came back elevated again.  And I don’t yet know the ANA and Rheumatoid Factor test results, nor the CAT scan results.  As far as I know, I have to go back again next week for yet another sed rate test.  I don’t know what he’ll order next depending on the other results.  But until I know something, I’m still plugging away trying to make it through the day without puking or needing a nap!  I’ll keep you posted as I learn anything.

In other news… Since I’ve been too exhausted to spend much time at the computer writing anything new, I’ve been taking some of my printed manuscripts to bed and trying to commit to editing at least a few pages each night.  I believe I’ve made it through all the obvious typos, misspellings, bad or missing punctuation, etc.  (Printing it out really makes quite a difference in catching these little blunders as far as not seeing the same thing as my eyes have passed over on the computer screen so many times before.)

I’ve let a few people (including a few of you) read some of these manuscripts before, and many of you had some remarkable suggestions.  But there was one manuscript – The Prison – which I’ve only let a couple of people even see.  It was the first one I wrote, and I wrote it before I learned and became obsessed with “The Rules.”  You may remember my frustrations when my exact-word orientation from my Autism got in the way of “just writing” once I learned there were so many dos and don’ts.  I got so hung up on The Rules, that I wasn’t able to “just write” anymore, and as I’ve been re-reading, I wince as I see how much I held back.

Don’t get me wrong, I (now) think The Rules are a good thing (for the most part), though my Autistic brain still wishes they were called “The Suggestions” instead.  What I realized was that my first manuscript had so much more “feeling” behind it and felt less “mechanical” than the others.  When I asked myself why, I came to a conclusion:  I used a lot more similes and strong descriptions in The Prison than I used in my other works.   The sad thing is, I know exactly why I did this as well…  I got so stuck on “Show Don’t Tell” (of The Rules), that I was afraid I was “telling” too much, so I deleted almost all instances of these types of phrases and sentences in my subsequent work.

Unfortunately, I think a lot of my problem was due to an article I read that instructed me:  “In order to show and not tell, you have to write as if you’re describing what’s happening to a blind person.”  So, I did just that.  And in doing so, I added a lot of stage direction (a LOT of stage direction!) as well as clumsy description that sounded as if I were telling the story of cyborgs rather than people!

For example:  After learning The Rules and allowing myself to become obsessed with adhering to them — or else!–, I wrote:

Neil’s face turned scarlet as he jumped to his feet.  His chair fell to the floor, and he narrowed his eyes.  “What did you do?” 

Rivers grabbed her arm as hot soup splattered on her.  Tears formed in her eyes.  “I’m sorry.”

He grabbed her shoulders tightly and put his face close to hers, then without saying a word, he released her and spun on his heel.


Ugh!  Isn’t that just awful?  It feels so cold and mechanical.  I’m embarrassed to think I actually allowed people to read my work like that!

Now, I’ve changed a lot of sterile scenes like that to be something more like this:

Neil jumped to his feet.  His face was flaming, and he appeared to be six inches taller than he already was. His eyes penetrated Rivers’ as he glared at her with repugnance.  “What did you do?” 

Rivers’ voice caught in her throat, and she began to tremble. “I’m sorry,” she said under her breath.  Tears streamed like twin rivulets down her cheeks as she tried to ignore the hot soup that splattered on her arm.

He huffed and grabbed her shoulders, digging his fingers into her flesh.  He pulled her so close, she could feel his hot breath on her face. 

She attempted to explain, but her voice caught in her throat like a lump of clay suffocating her.  Before she could speak, he grimaced and released her as if she had the plague.


Isn’t that much better?  The sad thing is, that’s roughly how I wrote in the first place, (though I admit I had a bad habit of changing points of view as well as making the scenes too short and choppy…  Those are some of The Rules that are actually a good idea to follow.)  So, as I’ve been able, I’ve been slowly making the changes to a lot of these old works and trying to get them in their best possible shape once and for all.

 Anyway, that’s what I’ve up to lately, friends.  What about YOU?

My Selection…

A lot of people are sure who they’re voting for, but I’m finding that not as many people are sure why they’re casting their vote for their chosen candidate.   I know a lot of Trump fans who are just that —  fans.  When I ask why they support him, they say, “He’s so funny.”  (Not a reason to elect a President, folks.)  A lot of people I know do not like Trump, but they support him anyway, simply because he’s Republican, and Republicans generally believe in pro-life or no gun control.  I’ve met people who are voting for Hillary Clinton simply because she’s a woman, or people who are pro-Bernie because they’re Democratic but they don’t want a woman.  I met a woman the other day who told me she is very conservative and always votes Republican no matter what, but she just wasn’t sure if Trump was the man for the job.  She asked who I was voting for, and after I explained that the reason for my vote had a story behind it, she told me she was so impressed, she was moved to change her vote because of it…

In 1999, I relocated from Central Florida to Central New York.  I had visions of New York being more upscale that Florida, more progressive, more expensive, and more lucrative.  I was wrong on all counts except the expense.

In Florida, on just about every street corner, you can find a daycare center, an after school kid care, or another such facility such as dance studio, karate center, or gymnastics gym that picks up kids after school and cares for them until 6:00 when their parents get out of work.  The cost at the time for one child was approximately $30 a week.

That was one of the first things I found to be quite different when I moved to New York.  I had six-year old Jeremy who was in kindergarten, and ten-year old Stefani who was in the fourth grade, and other than them and my sister Michelle, we didn’t know another soul in the Empire State, so we had no one to ask how these things were handled.

What I found was that there were essentially NO kid care facilities whatsoever in my county.  What they had instead were county licensed “babysitters” who were allowed to run “home daycare centers.”  Since I moved there mid-school year, there were only two available women on the list.  The first woman was the wife of a military man, and she said they’d be moving before the end of the school year.  So, I moved on to my last hope… A woman named Rachael R.

Since Rachael and I shared the same first name (though hers was spelled wrong), I took that as a good sign.  Boy was I wrong!  She charged $140 a week (yes, really!) to watch my kids after school for a couple of hours, five days a week.  (I got off work at 4:00 back then.)  She smoked like a chimney, and my son had chronic asthma.  So every day, when I picked up my kids, I had to have them strip in the car and change into clean clothes, then bathe them when we got home before they could play.

jeremy six

Can you see picking on this little cutie?

After a few months, I learned she was being abusive to my son as well as one other child she watched.  She made these boys sit on the couch — on their hands – from the time the bus dropped them off until the time their parents picked them up.  She refused to give them a snack, and she refused to allow them to get up and play with the other kids or even watch TV.  In fact, she apparently sat in her chair and chain smoked and watched rated R movies the whole time the kids were there!

Now, I knew my son could be a handful… He’s autistic, and as such, he was very active and curious.  However, he was always a sweet kid and generally well behaved.

I was kept late at work twice one week (so I had to work until 5:00 PM those two days), and she got so fed up that the second time, she fired us!  (Keep in mind, the $140 price was the same for parents who always had to work until 5:00.)  When I picked up my kids, she told me to never bring them back.  No notice.  No warning.  So I was stuck on the spot with no caregiver.   It wasn’t until that night that my kids told me what had been going on.  They said she threatened to beat them if they told me how she treated everyone.

That was the Friday before a long weekend (Martin Luther King Day), so it was more difficult to find anyone at home to secure a new babysitter.  But that’s a story for another time.

Tuesday, I had to call into work and take the day to find someone.  When I went to the County office to get a new list of sitters, I filed a complaint against Rachael R.  They told me it didn’t sound like much of a problem, and I should be glad my kids were out.  (Yes, really!)  I then drove straight to the police department, and they told me there was nothing they could do.  I went to the Sheriff’s office, and they blew me off as well.

A couple of weeks prior, Hillary Clinton had just taken office as Senator in New York.  I was at my wit’s end, and I really hated the thought of Rachael R. making one more dime off any other unsuspecting parent and abusing another child.  So I wrote a long letter detailing my frustration to Mrs. Clinton.  I started off welcoming her to the Empire State and telling her that like herself, I was a newcomer a short time before.  I then quoted her from her book “It Takes a Village” (to raise a child), and told her how disappointed I was that the “village” I lived in was not helpful in the least.  I never expected to hear back from her, but it felt good just to get my frustrations out on paper.

Well, imagine my surprise when just short of two weeks later, I received a lengthy, personalized letter from Mrs. Clinton’s office telling me that Hillary had read my correspondence and was going to look into the matter further.   It wasn’t long after that that my county started buzzing.  County officials called to ask me questions about Rachael R. and what specifically she did to my kids and others.   And about a month later, the word on the street was that Rachael R. lost her license!  I thought that would be the end of it, but then a couple of months after that, I received a follow-up telephone call then another letter from Mrs. Clinton’s office telling me what they’d done on my children’s behalf, and asking me to contact them again if I was not satisfied with the result.  WOW!

In 2004, I was back in Florida, and my son was having an extremely difficult time with his teacher.  Without getting into another lengthy story, I’ll just say that it was BAD.   (You’ve all heard stories of how some teachers pick on autistic children.  This was one of those stories.)

I went to the principal and the superintendent of schools with no satisfaction.  When they did nothing, I wrote to the governor at the time, Jeb Bush.   I figured since Hillary had been so responsive and helpful, that ALL government elected offices had a duty to be as diligent.  Not so.  His response didn’t arrive until several months later after school was out and it didn’t matter anymore.

Jeremy had another horrendous school experience in 2006.  This time, after going through the local school channels (principal, superintendent, etc.), I wrote to my Senator.  He wrote back and told me to try talking to the school principal!  (Yes, really!)  It wasn’t long after that that I quit my job and homeschooled my son for the remainder of his school career.

So, in closing, while I encounter a lot of people who can’t stand Hillary for one reason or another, their reasons are usually based on media hype and not because Hillary did anything personal to negatively affect them.  I, on the other hand, agree that I would probably be voting for her anyway just because she is a woman, and a Democrat, and so intelligent, and has prior experience in office and in the actual White House.   But the reason I am so exceptionally passionate about casting my vote for Hillary is because she personally assisted my Autistic child in getting the justice he deserved.

Let’s talk!  How do you select a candidate?  Has your child ever been bullied?  If your child had been bullied by another adult, what would you have done?

Happy Birthday, Michelle!

Today is my sister Michelle’s birthday.  Won’t you join me in wishing her a happy day?

Yes, that’s Michelle half a lifetime more than a decade several years….. a while ago.  Since then, she’s become a seasoned traveler, having made numerous copious plentiful a few more trips around the sun. (Come on!  What kind of little bitch sister would I be if I didn’t tease her?)  Happy Birthday, Sis!

Orange You Glad It’s Throwback Thursday?

Last year, I shared my very first poem with you that I wrote when I was four years old.  And at that time, I told you how my granddaddy who raised me was a citrus inspector after he retired from the Air Force.  Needless to say, because of his job, not to mention the numerous various types of citrus trees in our yard and the spacious orange grove next door, I grew up drinking lots of orange juice, eating lots of oranges, and even wearing lots of orange blossom perfume.

So, by the time I was in the fourth grade, it only stood to reason that I would write my report on — what else?  Oranges!  (Actually, we were each assigned a state, then we had to write about its most popular export.  How lucky that I happened to get chosen to write about the state where I lived.)

The thing I remember most about writing this report was also the thing I loved best.  (No, it wasn’t oranges.)  Using my creativity to make that cover was so much fun!  (The actual report, not so much.)

Back then, we didn’t have computers.  Heck, we didn’t even have colored ink jet paper!  So, I had to first cut a sheet of green construction paper down to the size of a sheet of notebook paper.  (As you can see, I also didn’t own a paper cutter other than scissors and my little hands!)

How funny that I made the F in Florida be the state flag, and I made the O be a sun (because it’s The Sunshine State).  Looking back, it’s too bad that no one made me use a ruler as a guide to get my letters even!

I have no idea why I thought it was acceptable to make the E in “flower” extend into an arrow to point to the orange blossom.  I’d shoot myself in the foot before I’d ever do that now!

The map was the tricky part.  As I said, we didn’t have computers back then, and we also didn’t just have a disposable atlas that I could have cut up.  So, I used a sheet of carbon paper (What’s that?!), and put the brown construction paper and carbon paper behind a page in a book, then I put a sheet of tracing paper (What’s that, too?!) over the page in the book, and I traced my state (including a couple of key waterways and Lake Okeechobee).  Then I cut it out, added the state capital, and voila!  How fun!  Not to break my arm patting myself on the back, but as you can see, my teacher thought I did a great job, too, as I got a 100 A+ for the cover.

The report (which I cited as having done my research in The World Book, volume N-O) reads as follows:

“The orange is the most important of all citrus fruit.  We have two kinds of oranges.  One is the sweet orange which is thought to be grown in Southern China.  The other is the Seville orange, grown in America.  The orange tree has dark green leaves which do not fall off with the seasons.  Its flowers are white and wax like.  For hundreds of years, the orange blossom has been a symbol or marriage.  The orange tree can grow to be thirty feet tall, and can resist moderate cold and extreme hot temperatures.  The average size orange is 3½ inches in diameter.  There are almost one million acres of oranges grown in Florida, the largest orange producing state.  Each tree produces between 3,000 and 4,000 oranges per season.  They are a source of vitamin C and are used in foods and drinks, and in perfumes.  The peel can be candied and also used as food for cattle.”

Isn’t that hilarious that this report was fewer than 160 words, yet it took me three pages to write (and it felt like it took an eternity!).  I only got a 97 A on the report because I didn’t use paragraphs.

At any rate, no, Grandma didn’t save all of my reports and school work, but I think she saved this because it was about Granddaddy’s beloved oranges.  (Oddly, with all the bags of citrus he used to bring home, I don’t think I can recall a time that I ever saw him actually eat an orange!)

So let’s talk:  Do you ever look back on any of your old work and wonder what you were thinking?  Do you know your state’s biggest export or source of income?  Did you ever use tracing paper or carbon paper, or a combination thereof? 

Second Verse, Same as the First

The following is a repeat of a post I made shortly after I started blogging.  I thought that since I’ve been getting comments regarding the intensity of my microfiction these past few months, this would be fitting .  Remember, I write Psychological Thrillers.  By the very definition, a psychological thriller is a thriller story which emphasizes the psychology of its characters and their unstable emotional states.


It’s Throwback Thursday again, and this week I want to talk about intense writing. Sometimes people think my writing is a little too powerful.  But in my stories, I draw a lot from my own personal experiences, which I admit have not all been upbeat and cheery. As such, too often, I may be numb to what others find disturbing.  Unfortunately, we didn’t all have the luxury of a Disney-version whitewashed life.  We all cried when Walt Disney showed us Bambi’s mother being killed by hunters, but have you ever read an unabridged edition of a Grimm’s Fairy Tale?  Those were a couple of sick and twisted individuals (not to mention the audience that bought their stories to read to their children)!

One of my favorite books when I was little was The Little Gingerbread Man.  The story was first published in the May, 1875 issue of St. Nicholas Magazine by an unknown author who claimed that a servant girl had told it to his or her children, and he or she felt it was worth preserving.  Apparently the servant girl claimed that an old lady told it to her in her own childhood.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, quite basically, it goes like this:  An old couple is hungry, and they have few ingredients on hand.  The wife uses the paltry amount of food in her kitchen and bakes a single gingerbread man for the two of them to share, but upon opening the oven, the gingerbread man jumps out and runs away.  He encounters several barnyard animals who all want to eat him, and as a pursuit ensues, the old couple and the animals chase the gingerbread man, but they aren’t as fast as he.  He inevitably tells them all, “Run, run as fast as you can. You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man.” Finally, having outrun all the hungry followers, he encounters a river, but he unfortunately can’t swim.  (That’s right.  Gingerbread cookies can, in fact, outrun even the fastest gazelles, but by golly, they don’t float!)  So a seemingly kind-natured fox offered to swim across the river, carrying the gingerbread man on his back.  The gingerbread man figured he’d be safe on the fox’s tail, but as the water got deeper, the fox persuaded him to climb higher, first to his back, then his head, then his nose, and of course you can guess the rest.  As the gingerbread man climbed onto the fox’s nose, the sly fox flipped him into the air, then snapped his mouth shut and ate the poor little guy.

(Yep, that’s me and my grandparents above.)

People who know me, know that my grandparents raised me from the time I was born, so I consider them both my actual parents.  And because my birth mother was their last child, they were older than a lot of my friends’ grandparents when they got me.  Now, the cool thing about living with my grandparents (which I didn’t appreciate until I was grown and had kids of my own) was that I got exposed to older culture than my peers.  And I’ve learned to truly appreciate the old-fashioned way of doing things.

My grandparents had already raised their kids and didn’t expect to have to take care of another one in their golden years.  So they weren’t necessarily equipped to look after an active child.  But, that turned out to be a good thing in the end.  You see, while other young children were hearing ’Twas the Night Before Christmas every December, I could count on Grandma reading me Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.  And while other little kids were hearing Jack and the Beanstalk as a bedtime tale, Granddaddy was reading me Edgar Allan Poe’s The Tell-Tale Heart.  

If anyone ever questioned my grandma as to why she might find it appropriate to tell a young child such graphic stories, she wouldn’t hesitate to sing them a song that her mother used to sing to her and her siblings in the 1930s called “Babes in the Woods.”  This little ditty was apparently a true story of a couple of children whose parents died and left them in the care of their aunt and uncle.  But the uncle wanted their inheritance, so he told his wife that he sent them to live at a school in London, when in fact, he actually paid someone to take them into the woods and kill them!  It’s not unlike the original version of Hansel and Gretel where the children are actually eaten by the witch rather than them killing the witch and escaping as they do in the sanitized version.  And if The Tell-Tale Heart isn’t enough to give you nightmares, just take a look at the lyrics to Grandma’s song:

Oh, don’t you remember, a long time ago / Those two little babies, their names I don’t know / They were stolen away one bright, summer’s day / And left in a wood, so I’ve heard folks say

Chorus: Sweet babes in the wood / Sweet babes in the wood / Oh, don’t you remember / Those babes in the wood

Now the day being gone and the night coming on / Those two little babies sat under a stone / They sobbed and they sighed, they bitterly cried / Those two little babies they laid down and died Chorus

Now the robins so red, how swiftly they sped / They put out their wide wings and over them spread / And all the day long on the branches among / They sweetly did whistle and this was their song / Chorus

So, in conclusion, I don’t think I was depraved because I heard all these stories as a kid.  I actually think it enhanced my creativity.  Am I going to tone back my writing because someone might think it’s too intense?  Nevermore!

More on Autism

A lot of people don’t realize just how limited the range of interests can be in an Autistic person.  Some adults with Autism can teach themselves to “fake it” just so they can get along socially, but autistic children are pure honesty.  You can love ‘em or leave ‘em, but they aren’t going to change who they are to please anyone.

When my son was small, long before he was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome, I knew there was something “not right” about him.  Before he could even talk, he was obsessed with doorknobs.  He loved everything about them.  At only two years old, he loved to open doors, close doors, lock doors, unlock doors, and play with doors.

As Jeremy got a little older, his interest expanded to include weather.  By four years old, he was fascinated by anything weather-related.  He collected the weather page out of the newspaper every day, and The Weather Channel and weather reports on other local TV stations were two of the only three programs he would ever watch.  (The third was Bob Villa on the Spanish channel, which was odd because no one in our family speaks Spanish, but I digress.)

By the time Jeremy was six, he still loved the weather, and he left his love of doorknobs behind.  But he fell in love with Volkswagen Beetles, both old and new.  He not only loved yelling “punch buggy” every time he saw one on the road, but he could name every part of them inside and out.  I went to a Volkswagen dealership and was able to score a poster book for him, and we used the posters to decorate his room.  My sister found some Beetle fabric and made him a comforter and curtains, and I made a Beetle stencil and painted a colorful “punch buggy” border around his walls.

When he was eight, we moved and left his Volkswagen bedroom behind, and though he still loved them as well as the weather, he was also becoming interested in wrestling.  (Finally, something “normal.”)  I made him the coolest bedroom by painting two of his walls red and two walls black, then I painted a glow in the dark WWE logo and a John Cena “You Can’t See Me” logo, and I bought a black light to help them glow.

After that, though he still loved the weather and Volkswagen Beetles, he was obsessed with wrestling.  He would still say “punch buggy” every time he saw a Beetle, and even to this day, he’s still fascinated by weather-themed disaster movies.  But he became a wrestling fanatic in every sense of the word.  By the time he was in the sixth grade, he even had his entire class, his teachers included, believing that John Cena was his uncle!  (Boy was THAT an embarrassing parent-teacher conference!)

At first, it was easy to shop for him because all I had to buy was wrestling dolls (okay, action figures!) and the amenities such as the ring, the announcer table, etc.  But as he got older, he wanted real folding metal chairs and tables so he could crack his friends over the skull with them just like the wrestlers do on TV!  (The sucky thing for me and the rest of the household was that none of the rest of us cared a thing about wrestling, yet we got to hear about little else, morning, noon and night.)

At about fourteen years old, he became interested obsessed with mixing audio.  He also YouTubed and Googled everything about music engineering, and then he found a local studio that was willing to allow him to intern there.  He learned so much that he was soon mixing music better than men twice his age who had been mixing for years.  I believe it is because of his Autism that his ear for mixing is so keen.

And now, Jeremy is twenty-one years old, and he still loves wrestling.  His dolls (okay, action figures!) are in a box in the garage, and though he doesn’t play with them any longer, he won’t let me throw them away.  The scary thing for me is that as he got older, his research skills got better.  He has YouTubed and Googled how to do just about every wrestling hold there is, and he can execute them perfectly.  (Usually, whether I want to participate or not, I end up being his test dummy.)  And because of his Autism, he has an exceptionally high pain tolerance, and as such, I believe he could literally fight to the death.  He is also very strong and doesn’t know his own strength (kind of like Lenny in Of Mice and Men).  He still loves the weather and Beetles.  (Though, thankfully, he no longer watches the Spanish Bob Villa channel.)  And he also still mixes audio.  In fact, he has quite an impressive soundproof studio in his bedroom, and he’s not only mixed and arranged some impressive artists’ albums, but he’s also mixed audio for several radio and television commercials.

The point is, over the years, a lot of people have seen my sweet son and raised an eyebrow at his interests and obsessions.  But I don’t think it’s ever bothered him.  In fact, I don’t believe he ever even noticed.  People with Autism can’t help that they’re attracted to certain items or activities or that they become obsessed with such things.  So, rather than just assume someone is “weird,” the next time you meet someone who prefers talking about how tires are made, or the history of the coffee bean, or the various types of dinosaurs, maybe you should wonder if they could be Autistic.

That’s all for today, folks.  I’ll be back the first Sunday of next month with more about Autism, and I’ll be here tomorrow with my regularly scheduled post.

More on Autism – The Object Lesson

First of all, Happy Easter!  Secondly, please remember that April is National Autism Awareness Month.  I hope you’re doing your part to help educate people about autism.

Many if not most autistic people are exact-word oriented.  This not only means that they oftentimes cannot decipher seriousness from jest when a voice inflection makes similar words or phrases sound different, but it also means that they have trouble comprehending colloquialisms.

As an example of the voice inflection thing, I have a good friend named Maryann who calls everyone “bitch.”  She is the nicest lady, and she’d rip her teeth out with pliers and give them to you if you really wanted them.  She’s got a heart of gold, and she’s the kind of friend everyone should have.  But when she sees me, she always greets me with a smile, a hug, and “Hey, how’s my favorite bitch today?”

One time, Maryann called my house, and my autistic daughter answered the phone.  She announced to me that Maryann was on the phone, and with a smile on my face, I replied, “Tell that bitch to hang up the phone and get her butt over here so I can see her in person.”  Obviously, I was excited and happy to talk to Maryann and anxious to see her in person.

But even though I had a lilt in my voice and a smile on my face, my daughter scowled and told Maryann, “My mom says you’re a bitch for calling instead of coming to see her in person!”  Then she hung up the phone before I could get to it.

My poor daughter has been the victim of these mishaps all the time.  She must be so confused when people get angry because of something she’s repeated the wrong way.  She’s also had her own feelings hurt for times she misunderstood what someone else was saying to her because she got too hung up on their exact words.

As far as colloquialisms, an example might be that if an autistic person hears that someone “has skeletons in their closet,” they think that their wardrobes are literally filled with old bones.

One of the things I get most frustrated with both my autistic children, is that because of their exact-word oriented mindsets, they are both completely unable to grasp an object lesson.  I believe the reason for this is two-fold, and it not only encompasses their inability to understand hidden meanings in words but also their lack of empathy which is another trait of autism.

For example, once when my son Jeremy was six, he kept going into his sister’s room and stealing pieces of her Halloween candy.  I lectured him about dental hygiene, about too much sugar, and about stealing, but to no avail.  Finally, I took some of his Hot Wheels cars and gave them to my daughter Stefani so Jeremy could see how it felt to have someone take something of his.  He didn’t understand the correlation because he didn’t have any of his own candy left to take, so it wasn’t the same.  Furthermore, he didn’t get it because “Mommy was stealing his cars” which was nothing like him stealing Stefani’s candy.

To make matters worse, when I finally got completely fed up with his “sticky fingers” (which would only mean to him that he should wash his hands), I took him down to the local police department and asked them to lecture him about what happens to people who steal.

The police officers in Kingston, New York were happy to oblige, and they went as far as giving Jeremy a tour of the jail and letting him walk inside an empty cell and seeing where he could end up if he continued to take things that didn’t belong to him.

Unfortunately, the trip to the police station didn’t work, and I finally locked Stefani’s candy away for safekeeping.  Fast forward fifteen years…  It was only last month that Jeremy, who is now twenty-one, was sitting next to me while we watched a police show on television.  When a commercial came on, he turned to me and said, “Remember that fun field trip you took me on to the police station when we lived in New York?”

My jaw dropped open.  Was he serious?  I told him that the reason for that visit was not a field trip but because he kept taking his sister’s candy.  I had no idea that for the past fifteen years, he never had a clue!

So that’s the end of my autism lesson today.  I’ll be back tomorrow with my regularly scheduled post, and I’ll be back the first Sunday of next month with more on autism.

This is an actual school paper done by an autistic child. You may have seen this floating around on the internet before. This is exactly the kind of thing that my children, and even me at times, would do when given such vague instructions.

More on Autism – The Unfamiliar

First of all, I apologize for being late in the day with my Autism post this month, but in the immortal words of John Lennon, “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”

A couple of months ago, Ali Isaac commented, “I’d be interested to know how Autism affects children’s reactions to the unfamiliar, with regard to places, people, objects etc.” 

Any parent of an Autistic child can tell you that this type of scenario almost never turns out good.  It’s been my experience that bringing my Autistic son into a new setting almost always induced a meltdown.  It was worse when it was a public place, such as a store or restaurant.  It was for that reason that I almost always left him at home when I had to run errands or dined out.  I did this for his sanity, my sanity, and to be courteous to other shoppers, patrons, and diners of whatever establishment I might find myself in.

Even with my own Autism as an adult, I prefer staying home to going to wide open spaces for reasons that other people just don’t seem to get.  I believe the wide open spaces of a store or restaurant do not feel as secure as the safety of home or a familiar surrounding.

Keep in mind that an Autistic person has heightened sensitivity to things such as smell, sight, and sound.  As such, there are many noises in a public place that someone without Autism might not even notice.  For example, the fluorescent lights may emit a high-pitched buzz.  There are generally an inordinate amount of voices talking at the same time.  Even if there is a small group of people across the room, their voices sound as if they are standing right next to me.  A couple of years ago, I was at a book signing in a small bookstore, and though I was near the end of the line, it eventually felt as if everyone was standing next to me screaming.  It was way too loud for that small shop, and the noise bothered me greatly.

The fluorescent lighting in public places often produces different colors than what we naturally know.  A great example is that just yesterday, I was in Target and found a lovely berry-colored eye shadow.  But when I got it home and looked at it again in my bathroom light, it was not berry at all, but was actually brown!  Just think how different an Autistic child’s own mother must look under those type of lights.

Even the temperature in a store or restaurant is often different than what’s at home.  You might not even notice it, but to a child with Autism, it makes all the difference in the world in their comfort zone.

If you’ve ever seen a dog’s nose start twitching after a new scent is introduced, then you can imagine what taking an Autistic person to a new place smells like to them.  Even with a cold, I can smell certain smells long before I’m even in the same room with them.  Recently, I went to a friend’s house, and before I got out of the car, I wrinkled my nose and said, “I smell celery.”  My sister Michelle and I got out and went to the door, and the smell only got stronger.  I’m sure I was making a face by then.  By the time our friend came to the door and Michelle told her why I was covering my nose, the friend noted that only the day before she had planted celery in her garden off to the side.

That said, just imagine the various smells that you might take for granted that an Autistic person might notice in a public place.  There are not only the numerous smells of soap, deodorant, perfume, and shampoo on the people walking around, but also some not nice smells such as bodily functions, sweat, etc.  Yuck!  On top of that, there is usually the smell of food, beverages, machinery, and other things going on in certain public places.  For example, whenever I go to Denny’s, I can’t use their paper place mat because the smell of the ink on it overwhelms me.

If the strange place involves a restaurant, add to that the taste of the food is different than what’s served at home, there may be certain foods touching on the plate that will be a problem, or there may be garnishment such as parsley that could evoke a bad response.

When an Autistic person, particularly a child, experiences too much sensory overload, they become overwhelmed, and this usually results in a meltdown.  When Jeremy was little and we’d go to a restaurant, he’d inevitably end up crawling under the table and hiding, standing on his head in the chair, and eventually crying and yelling before the end of the meal.  Please note that an Autistic meltdown is much worse than a regular, run of the mill temper tantrum.  It’s louder and more emotionally draining on the child, and it lasts much longer than a tantrum.  Additionally, a child having a tantrum will usually stop if you don’t give them an audience, because they simply want to get their own way.  A child having an Autistic meltdown will continue even if they’re alone in the room, because they cannot process their sensory overload, and they’re overwhelmed.

So, Ali, I hope I’ve answered your question to your satisfaction.  For those of you who don’t know, Ali has the most adorable daughter, Carys, who has special needs, and Ali blogs about her from time to time.  I think Ali is the most amazing mom and spokesperson for her beautiful little angel.  Be sure to hop on over to her blog, and tell her I sent you.

I’ll be back the first Sunday next month with more on Autism, and I’ll (hopefully) be back tomorrow with more regularly scheduled posts.


People who know me know how horribly my son’s dad treated us. (People who don’t know me have a difficult time believing how much of it’s really true.)  For years I actively hated him and his wife, and wished only bad things on them.  But in the past year or two, I’ve been working on learning how to forgive him… not for him, but for me. (I’m still not there with her yet.)  It’s still a work in progress.  Some days are easier than others. There aren’t actually very many people in this world who I just really can’t stand, but those two have to be among the top five of about five. Anyway, for today’s Throwback Thursday, I offer a poem I wrote about a year ago in an attempt to let some of my anger go.

By: Rachel Carrera

Occupied with anger
And filled with rage,
The madness holds me hostage
Like a beast in a cage.

For all that you’ve done,
I hold onto my fury,
Hoping you’ll soon be punished;
I’ll be your judge and jury.

You are wicked and spiteful;
You are cold and callous;
You are filled with aggression;
I’m boiling over with malice.

But as I sit here hating you,
Your life seems to go on;
You’re not even affected
By all the evil you’ve done.

You got me pregnant,
Then you took me to court,
And you laughed when the judge
Said you should pay child support.

I raised your son for you,
I did it all alone;
You couldn’t even be bothered
To call him on the phone.

And without you he grew up;
He took the good and the bad;
The only thing he learned from you
Was how not to be a dad.

But when I look at our son
I see he’s not filled with ire;
He accepts that you weren’t there,
And to great heights he does aspire.

You wanted a look-alike son;
Your twin you wanted him to be;
But though he may look like you,
He’s a reflection of me.

You were so concerned with yourself,
You were so narcissistic,
You weren’t even there when your son
Was diagnosed as autistic.

But there’s one thing I noticed
In our son as he grew;
He didn’t waste his time
Thinking of or hating you.

So that got me to thinking
I needed to let my anger go;
My reward was our child
Who you don’t even know.

I think back on the years
I wished you’d end up dead,
And I hear my rage screaming
Inside of my head.

As much as I don’t want to,
I have to agree,
If I don’t release my hatred,
I’ll never be free.

The resentment inside me
Through my pores does bleed
As I think about all
Your selfishness and greed.

So, though you’re a liar,
A deadbeat and a faker,
You don’t answer to me, but
Soon enough, you’ll meet your Maker.

Someday you’ll look back
And you might hear voices
In your head as they remind you
Of all your poor choices.

You’ll be punished abundantly
When in this life you relive
Each moment in your solitude;
But as for me, I’ll forgive.

I always thought that forgiving you
Meant I’m fine with all you’ve done,
That I accepted your cruelty
Toward me and my son.

But now I realize that I was wrong;
The act of forgiving
It isn’t to help you one bit,
But it’s to help me keep living.

Because one thing I’ve learned,
Though it took me too long,
Was hating you didn’t hurt you
But it instead made you strong.

So I take back that power
That my hate helped you accrue,
‘Cause you’re not even worth it
Despite what you put us through.

When I think back to all
The tears that you made me cry,
They’re nothing compared to what
Will haunt you ‘til the day that you die.

One day you will realize
That you’re left all alone,
And you’ll look back and wonder
Where the time has gone.

Your son won’t be with you
As you grasp all the drama
You caused in his life;
But he will be with his Mama.

So I’m now letting go
Of all this anger and hostility;
I’ll feel sorry for you when
You’re all alone with your senility.

Let’s talk:  If someone tried to take your child away from you, how long would you feel anger toward that person?  Have you ever let your anger consume you, or do you easily let things go?

More on Autism

Another Autistic child died over Christmas.  The four-year old boy and his family had traveled from New York to visit his grandmother’s house in South Carolina.  The mom left him in the care of his grandmother on Christmas Eve evening, and he disappeared into the unfamiliar surroundings when the grandma turned around for a moment.  His body was found in a pond down the road the day after Christmas.

The African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” is even truer if the child in question is Autistic.  One of the symptoms known to parents of children with Autism or Asperger’s Syndrome is known as “elopement.”  I’m not talking about running off and getting married in the dead of the night.  Elopement is common among children with Asperger’s, and it is where they may start off playing in their own house or yard, then with no notice to an adult, they decide to go explore some other place.  Meanwhile, the adult, who only turned their back for literally a moment, is frantically searching for the lost child.  Elopement is estimated to affect just under fifty percent of all Autistic children.  Furthermore, it’s speculated that the more severe the autism, the more likely (and more frequently)  the child will elope.

When my son was little, he eloped at least once a week.  My grandmother babysat him while I worked, and generally once a week, she called me frantic with worry because she couldn’t find Jeremy.  One minute, he was right beside her in the backyard while she was hanging out laundry or gardening, and the next minute, she turned around, and he was gone.  Inevitably, I had to leave the office and go drive through the neighborhood searching for him.  Sometimes, he’d be close to home playing in a neighbor’s yard.  Other times, he’d be over a mile away wandering the streets.

Daytime wasn’t the only time I had to worry about Jeremy escaping.  Once, my daughter went with my grandma on vacation, and Jeremy and I were home alone.  He was just under two at the time.  I put him in his crib (which was in my bedroom), and I fell asleep shortly thereafter.  Around three in the morning, I woke to the sound of banging on my front door.  Frankly, it scared the bejeebers out of me!  I went to the front door, and that’s when I noticed it was unlocked.  I looked outside, and there was a woman holding Jeremy!  She told me she lived up the road, and she was just getting home when she saw him in the middle of the road!  She knew where he lived because she’d seen him several times with my grandma when they walked to the store.  I never felt so guilty in my entire life as I did knowing I slept through my child escaping my home!  I still thank God to this day for that woman who brought him home safely.  And I still shudder at the thought of what could have happened to Jeremy, not to mention that I may have been arrested for neglect had someone else found him.

After that, I installed chain locks on all the doors.  Those did not deter my son from escaping.  He was very tall and strong for his age, and it didn’t take much for him to figure out how to pull a chair over to the door, stack a toy or spaghetti pot on the chair, and unlock the chain.  I seriously couldn’t even go to the restroom without fear of him “breaking out.”  Needless to say, showers, cooking dinner, washing dishes, or other things that took my attention away from him for more than a second were nearly impossible.

Now keep in mind that Jeremy wasn’t diagnosed with his Asperger’s Syndrome until he was in the third grade.  So while all this went on, I had no idea what was wrong with him, what was wrong with me, and why I was such a failure as a mother!  If you’ve ever had one of those moments where for a split-second, you’re in a store and you look around, and your child’s gone, you’ve experienced a fraction of how this felt.  When he was diagnosed and the developmental pediatrician told me this “condition” was actually a common symptom called “elopement,” I nearly cried as I realized that it was nothing I had done that caused my little boy want to constantly run away from home, but it was just the way he was wired.

Every time I hear the news about another Autistic child that’s gone missing, it gives me chills because I know firsthand just how frantic those parents are with worry, and how much they blame themselves for turning away for literally a second or two before their child disappeared.  I know the guilt they feel and the stress and worry they endure while they search for their babies.  Worse yet, I know the shame they feel when they suffer the scrutiny of people who don’t understand that these Autistic kids are much different than their “regular-brained” counterparts.

With a “regular-brained” child, you can run to the bathroom when the need hits you and not have to drag them in there with you and disrupt their playtime or television show.  You can leave them in the living room to play or watch TV while you prepare dinner in the kitchen.  You can lock your doors and go to sleep at night and know your children will be in your house in the morning.  You don’t have to put a leash on them just to take them to the store for two items.  You can walk in your backyard and stop and say hello to your neighbor without fear your child will climb the fence in those three seconds.  You can run to the other room to pick up the phone before you run back to the room where your child is to talk.  You can literally let go of their hand while you walk outside to pick up your newspaper.  You can put them down for a nap and relax in another room and be confident that they’ll alert you when they wake up.  You can’t do any of those things with an Autistic child who’s prone to elopement.

I’ll be back the first Sunday of next month with More on Autism, and I’ll be here tomorrow with my regular blogpost.  Thanks for stopping by!