Outside the Box

Greetings, friends! Most of you who’ve known me very long know that I often discuss my Asperger’s diagnosis and how it affects me. You may also remember that both of my children are also Aspies, and I’ve discussed their particulars at times also. One of the things that Autistic people experience is the need for routine. For example, most people generally like to change up their menu and don’t really mind when the TV stations change their daily line-ups. We don’t like that.

This quirk is also present when you’d think that it shouldn’t be, such as when there’s a holiday or special fun occasion. Nope. It’s still there. I’ve learned to take deep breaths and get through holiday seasons when we decorate the house differently (though after the holiday, I can’t wait to get things “back to normal”). But what people find particularly odd about me is that, knowing how much I love computers and technology, whenever I get a new computer, I usually bring it home from the store, then I literally set the box in the room and leave the computer boxed up for a few days to a couple of weeks, just so I can get used to the idea that a big change is coming. Yes, I know others chomp at the bit and can’t wait to unpack their new toy. Weird, I know, but that’s what works for me.

For Christmas 2020, Sister Michelle and Son Jeremy got me a Cricut. YAY! I’d been eyeing them for years, and when enough people I know got one and were able to use theirs successfully, I decided I was ready to take the plunge. Once again, adversity to change or fear of the unknown prohibited me from opening the box until mid-January 2021, but it wasn’t long before I started creating my own designs in Photoshop and thinking “outside the box” for different projects I could make. (See how I tied that in?)

And because I have the world’s best niece and nephew, they allowed me the honor of creating them some custom art to decorate their rooms. My niece, Jocelyn, loves mermaids, so I make her mermaid-themed goodies. My nephew, Julian, loves fishing, so I focus on angling for him.

My first fun custom Cricut project was a “portrait” of Julian catching a sailfish. (Or a marlin.) I used his school photo to create a vector of him, and I drew the waves, sky, fish, etc. in Photoshop then used Illustrator to convert the layers to SVG format and cut them with the Cricut. Now, if you don’t use these programs or machines, what you might have heard was, “Blah blah blah Cricut blah.” Don’t worry; there’s not a quiz at the end.

Bottom line, I made a picture of Julian in a boat. And he liked it.

With Jocelyn, I stuck to the familiar and just made a digital art of her as a mermaid.

In fact, the Photoshop welcome photo at the time was a beautiful image of a girl-turned-mermaid, and that’s what inspired me to do that for Jocelyn.

{This was the gorgeous Photoshop opening image in 2020.}

And she liked it.

By the next Christmas, I ventured a little further into my creative vein, and I made them each a box. I designed their names in the theme (Julian’s “J” was a fish on a hook, and the “L” was a fishing pole; and Jocelyn’s name was part of mermaid scales.), and I cut their names out with the Cricut. Then on Julian’s box, I mounted a net and several antique fishing lures.

On Jocelyn’s, I used polymer clay along with tulle, glitter, and gems to make an underwater scene of fish, seaweed, and a little mermaid that looks just like her.

They liked them.

(If I’m going to be transparent here, I should confess that whenever I make them gifts, I also include cash. Just in case. They’ve never complained. That’s what aunts do, so I’m happy to comply with the Auntie Guild Bylaws.)

In conclusion, last year for Christmas, Sister Michelle, Son Jeremy, and Daughter Stefani bought me a laser cutter. I’d been dying to have one, and I researched for weeks to find just the one I wanted. I even started a list of the different projects I planned to make. To date, it’s still in the box.

Let’s talk: Have you even looked forward to owning something then left it in the box for more than a couple of days? Do you include cash when you give gifts to your nieces and nephews? Did I make a marlin or a sailfish?

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?

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!

Sleuths, I Need Your Help!

When my kids were small, I was a paralegal, and I only did freelance photography on the side.  I shot the occasional wedding and portraits, and a bunch of concerts.  I didn’t own a studio yet, and as such, I didn’t have access to my very own Santa.  So I had to rely on the Polaroids they sold at the mall.

However, one year, a friend told me about a new mall where you were allowed to bring your own camera and shoot from the side as long as you purchased the overpriced Polaroid.  (Obviously, this was way back in the dark ages before the days of cellphone cameras.)

So the year I moved from Florida to New York, I was quite surprised early one morning when my kids had a friend over and we heard a fire truck in our little neighborhood.  We looked outside, and lo and behold, Santa was stepping off the truck to visit the kids in the neighborhood!  I’d never seen anything like this!

I hurried to get the kids’ jackets over their pajamas, then Jeremy ran upstairs to grab his wish list while I got my camera.  I was only able to get about a half-dozen shots, but the memory was captured, and it was priceless!  The only thing that made me a little sad was that Santa kept Jeremy’s letter.

kingston christmas (01)

kingston christmas (02)

Jeremy, Stefani, their friend, Santa

kingston christmas (04)

At any rate, I do have two different letters my son wrote to Santa on different years when he was six and seven.  (My daughter was never so inclined to write the Big Guy for what she wanted.)  The unfortunate part, though, is that I didn’t write down the translation at the time when I knew what they said, and now neither he nor I have a clue what his little heart desired on some of the items listed.  (The even funnier part is that I can decipher much more on either list than Jeremy can now.)

(The reason this means so much to me is that because of my son’s Autism, this is literally probably the most he ever wrote at one time, and honestly it’s probably more than he wrote all year long for most of his childhood.  Besides being Autistic, he’s a lefty, and handwriting has never been easy for him, even now.)

So I’m appealing to all you detectives, sleuths, and problem solvers to help me on my mission to determine what is on these lists.  Below the photos of each list, I’ve typed what it says as well as the translation for everything I can decipher.  The parts I cannot decipher are in red.  If you think you can help, I would greatly appreciate your guess.  Thank you.

The envelope says “North Pole Santa Claus.”


I wont for Crismis (I Want for Christmas)

  1. soos thet tel you haw (Shoes That Tell You How) {Contd. on #2}
  2. fast you run and haw you jup (Fast You Run and How You Jump)
  3. *BLANK*
  4. A new bic with handbracs (A New Bike with Handbrakes)
  5. *BLANK*
  6. Sile Pute (Silly Putty)
  7. A motersicul Nintendo 64 (A Motorcycle Nintendo 64)
  8. a aer pup (An Air Pump)
  9. Lens with a hui on the back (All I know is it is NOT a lens of any kind.)
  10. Laptop (A Laptop)
  11. Monster truk lunchbox (A Monster Truck Lunchbox)
  12. New morcers (No clue.)
  13. New belt (New Belt)
  14. Hot wels (Hot Wheels)

Fofm Jeremy (From Jeremy)

{{Page 1}}

I want for Christmas
to walk eegkece (No clue)
a go cart (A Go-Kart)
a dert bic (A Dirt Bike)
a micro scooter with red wels (A Micro Scooter With Red Wheels)
a pokemon gameboy coler (A Pokemon Gameboy Color)
a kittens (A Kitten)
bowpins (Blo-Pens)
red pochl (No clue)
a toy drep thet you can driv (a toy ___ that you can drive)
a rel fon (A Real Phone)
aaon carder CD (An Aaron Carter CD)
a aaon carder vidio (An Aaron Carter Video)
a playhouse (A Playhouse)
a wakumoke (A Whack-A-Mole Game)
slle sixpines (Silly Six Pins)
pats with a smoc (Paints with a Smock)
a CD player (A CD player)
a hoce stics with a hoce gol (A Hockey Stick with a Hockey Goal)
a playstashin with a rugrats gam (A Playstation with a Rugrats Game)
a Holwen fireman costoom (A Halloween Fireman Costume)
buloonmajic (Balloon Magic)
majicstri (Magic String)
insectorix (No clue)
a moc inchrel car (a remote control car)
ater helcopter piecman (The only word I can decipher is helicopter)
cotin cand ma (Cotton Candy Machine)
plado mickdonlelans (Play-Doh McDonalds)
{{Page 2}}

puppyraser (Puppy Racer)
a resuling math (A wrestling match)
brit lit (Light Brite)
legodinoilid (Lego Dino Island)

Time to talk:  Did you used to write Santa letters to let him know what you wanted?  If so, did you mail them or deliver them in person?  Did you ever live where Santa visited your neighborhood?  Do you have any clue what my son wanted above?

More on Autism

For this month’s blogpost on Autism, I had something prepared that gave you a glimpse into my own family’s autistic life and how it affects the holiday season.  However, after I wrote it, I searched for a picture to include that combined Autism with Christmas.  What I found was this wonderful (and very realistic) poem by Cindy Waeltermann.  So I’ll save my submission for another time, and for today, I’ll share her insightful poem with you…

(Click the images to make them larger and easier to read.)

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