Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Autism Answer: Not A Traditional Family

Me and my son at UTA in Arlington

"My family is not a traditional family because it is extremely open, diverse, and strange. Everyone that I know in my family doesn’t judge others, rather we accept their differences and try to help them. My grandmother, on my mom’s side, helps those with autism, myself being included in those she’s treated. I had a mild case of autism at a young age, which affected my social skills, but my grandmother provided Neurofeedback and helped my brain function normally. My brain hadn’t fully recovered until I was in 5th grade. This made me strong enough to overcome social, personal, and educational challenges. I have become a more accepting person and freely able to express myself because my family is so diverse." ~Declyn Shelton, my youngest son.

That's a snippet from my son's essay to a University in response to the prompt: "What was the environment in which you were raised? Describe your family, home, neighborhood, or community, and explain how it has shaped you as a person." 

Today he and I visited one of the Universities he's thinking of attending. We had a blast! The campus tour was informative, the guide was delightfully fun, and it was a beautiful day. 

As we drove home afterward, he teared up a little; surprising himself with a flood of emotion. He pulled the car off of the Interstate about halfway between Dallas and our small town (two hours south) so I could drive the rest of the way home. He started texting friends he hadn't seen in a while and making plans to hang out this week, which is their spring break. He looked at me and laughed while wiping away tears, "I can't believe how emotional I am! All the memories I've made are already made. Now I'm about to start making new ones. It feels weird and exciting and sad. Wow! Who'd have thought, right mom? University. Wow!" 

I just nodded. I felt my feelings waiting their turn. For now, I really want to experience life on the edges of his. 

After making plans to hang out with one of his best friends from much younger years, and talking a bit about how their friendship had taken an uncomfortable turn for a while, my son said to me, "You know, mom, I was always a different kind of kid. Wise, in a way. I blame you for that. You were always so non-judgemental of everyone but you also let us see the world for what it was, so I wasn't naive. Just free and wise." He got quiet then. We enjoyed the rest of the drive in emotional but lovely silence. 

I don't know if Declyn will go to The University of Texas at Arlington (though it's possible he will) but I do know that before the year is over he'll be doing something I have no frame of reference for. I've never been to University. 

Well, except for today. 

And with my youngest son at my side, it was easy to like it.
(Also, it helps that I don't have any assignments due. tee hee!)

I hope you and your family are finding ways to celebrate and harness the diversity and challenges in your world with a portion of the passion and pride my son is able to! 

As parents, we can worry that perhaps having "difference" in the home puts unfair pressure on our children, and in some ways it does. But pressure is not bad inherently. It can be molded and shaped and over time, reveal a strong, beautiful diamond. 

My son is constantly reminding me of that. 

Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)
P.S. I don't know if I should tell him the truth about who I was in his childhood. Sure, I was non-judgemental-ish but that was partly because I still had a bit of low self-esteem and I assumed everyone else was more successful than me in some way. If he knew that would he still blame me for his wise? Nah. Why risk it? Giggle!
For Info on the Neurofeedback my son talked about in his essay, visit my mom's autism and neurofeedback website: / or her personal website:
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Thursday, March 8, 2018

Autism Answer: Highlighting My Favorite International Woman This International Women's Day!

This International Women's Day I'm highlighting my favorite international woman!

Dr. Lynette Louise (aka The Brain Broad) (aka my mom!) is the single mom of eight (six adopted, four with cognitive dysfunctions) an inspirational comedian and singer/songwriter, a brain & behavior expert, an award-winning author, an international autism show host (FIX IT IN FIVE with LYNETTE LOUISE aka THE BRAIN BROAD, on The Autism Channel
Me and my sister and a couple of her kids.
and Vimeo On Demand) a grandma, great-grandma, and family addict. (Seriously, my mom, my sister, and I have a family addiction issue. It just feels soooooooo goooooood to be together!)

The bravest, strongest, biggest hearted women I know are my mom and my sister. 

My mom: Against all odds (abuse, her own autism, single parenting, children adopted from abuse and with their own disabilities, prejudice, and more) my mom raised us all with a firm belief in, and expectation of, our potential. And - despite what our society kept saying via film, magazine covers, classroom rules, expected etiquette and "normal" behavior,  and well meaning but dangerously cruel professionals -  we all couldn't help but believe mom's belief in us. It was just so darn real and insistent! 

My sister: She grew and worked in ways unlike my mom but always with that same brave, ferocious love for her children. A love that she uses as a compass in all her decision making, regardless of how uncommon the path or how strong she'll have to be to travel it. If she believes it's best for her babes she heads straight for it. Period. 

My mom again: My sister knows it's possible to do the impossible for your children because that was exampled consistently and creatively for us all our lives. My mom never let the world or the status quo define who we were or who we could be. Sure, that most often meant making difficult choices and working against the grain. It meant constantly and tirelessly teaching teachers and neighbors how to love and respect her brood. Something that just seemed so darn obvious to her yet was one of the more common problems. But mom knew we were worth it. She believed in us so hard that we couldn't help but believe in
From my mom's international docu-series FIX IT IN FIVE

CONFESSION: Sometimes I wished she'd stop believing in me so much because choosing my own destiny seemed like a lot of responsiblitiy. tee hee! 

So I'm highlighting a wonderful international woman this International Women's Day. She's only one of the many worth celebrating, but she's the one I have been most influenced and supported by. This is the reason we need to celebrate and encourage women. Because of the influence and inspiration and support they offer to others. Not just other women, but the world.

You gotta admit. The world can always benefit from a woman's touch! 

Happy International Woman's Day!!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook) 

Family photo from our younger years. :D

I encourage you to visit my mom's websites to learn more about her awesome-ness and how she is helping families around the globe! / 

Monday, March 5, 2018

Autism Answer: Inclusion Rider (and Other Oscar Night Insights)

I am not now, and never have I been, a visionary. My habit is to observe, consider, delight in, learn from, and seek answers in life on the edge. My family and my style have always kept me not quite fitting into the norm, but always close enough to live in a state of wanting to fit in while wanting to be comfortable standing out.

From this place, I have explored diversity: in my ideas, in the people of my life, in the cultures I live in and visit, and in the stories I choose to watch, read, tell, and believe.

But I am not one who sees clearly outside of the common narrative. Though I am poised to understand because of my positioning, I almost always need a nudge. 

Thus, I am one of those people who appreciates with great passion the people (like my mom) who step out and speak up thoughtfully and with passion about what they see, what they don't see, and how they understand it to be affecting us. These people bring me news from the places I see on the horizon, point out connections that are often missing in regular discourse.

When I was young I confess to a fear of believing in these people. These speakers of truth that rattle the status quo. I don't like confrontation and would worry about being challenged, not confident in my own ability to explain an insight I was unsure of, even while knowing that my uncertainty had more to do with my fear of being confronted than the insight itself. 

Happily, though, as I've matured I've grown better at listening, doing my darndest to understand, and then diving into my own personal thinking on the subject.

So, I admit it. I didn't always agree or see that there was a lack of diverse storytelling and inclusion in our Hollywood films. I also didn't always see how it was affecting me. How it was teaching me what to expect, who to include, and how to do so.

But I have, over the years, been shifted into an important understanding. I've listened, observed, and considered the lack of true diversity in our mainstream films and am surprised by how clueless I've been!

It's not only the lack of representation in important roles (the stars, the writers, the directors, the producers) who are rarely women, disabled, black or brown, openly gay or transgender. It's also in the stories themselves, what we tell and how we tell them (which, I'm certain, is a by-product of the lack of diversity in the folks being paid to tell the stories). 

Inclusion in film is, finally, slowly, growing, which has mostly revealed to me how dangerous it was that we were missing out on it all along.

Our movies aren't just what we watch when we want a respite from life or a night out. They inform our thinking, introduce us to concepts, bring people into our hearts and homes. They help us know a bigger world that we can ever discover on our own, breaking down barriers and building bridges. 

Those of us who see ourselves in these stories rarely notice who we aren't seeing. I'm not beautiful*, but I'm an able-bodied pretty enough white girl. I've seen myself represented in the "friend" role of films many times. Heck, I even fashioned my life that way for a long while. Wanting to say the wise things to my beautiful family member or friend when they were struggling with a problem. Wanting to be the one there in the exact right moment to say the thing that would bring the beautiful person's conflict to a close. Because of me but not about me.

*Please note that in this context I'm referring to a type of Hollywood beautiful. I know that I am beautiful. We all are. But this is a story about representation in a visual medium. Okay? Okay. Thanks! 

But what happens when the person you are is rarely seen in the stories? Sure, we are all in the main the same - desiring love, acceptance, support, and a bit of stability - but we are vastly different, too. 

And so if I was disabled or gay or obese or black or brown (and so on) I wouldn't often see myself in a mainstream starring role or even an important role. I wouldn't see my worries or needs or unique issues discussed and brought to light. And when I was represented on screen it would most often be as a plot device, a person to pity, or a social activist type hero. Not often, almost never, as a good ol' fashion regular person in the starring role of a mainstream film about: FADE IN having a problem, finding love, learning something about myself, and finally fixing my problem, FADE OUT.

At the Oscars last night, which I saw the last half of, there was a bit of diversity. That was nice. But it wasn't until Frances McDormand gave her Oscar-winning acceptance speech that I learned the term "Inclusion Rider" and knew how very many people agree and believe in the need for this shift in filmmaking!

If, like me, you thought she was saying "inclusion writer" and thought, "Well, that's a strange way to put it. I mean, we need writers who are inclusive and stuff, but an inclusion writer makes it sound, I dunno, weird. Plus, it's not that we need writers who include diverse characters and storylines, although we do and that helps, but what we need are writers who are different and diverse themselves. Inclusion writer sounds almost like a way to keep diversity out by writing them in, giving them a pat on the back and saying, 'There ya go, friend.' That's not cool."

Well, no. That's not what she was saying at all! It turns out that actors can insist on an Inclusion Rider clause in their contracts which insists on a certain level of diversity in the cast and crew for that project. That's fantastic!!! I love that!! 

Inclusion already makes life better. Imagine how much better our movies will be when we open them up to everyone!!

In a film that stars a character with a disability it would be wonderful to see actors with the disability play the role.

I've been on the set of a film that did just that. I played the role of Sherry (and I did production assistant work) for the pilot film Living with Lynette.

The show's intention is to hire actors, writers, and crew with challenges and disabilities.

The episode I'm in stars actors with autism, bipolar disorder, even a man (my dad) who was dying from cancer. The director/writer is Dr. Lynette Louise ("The Brain Broad"), world-renowned Brain & Behaviour expert. We had a camera operator who had a learning disability, and her brother was on the autism spectrum. He also played, along with his mom, a small role in the film.

Working with autistic actors in Living with Lynette presented challenges. But filmmaking is ALWAYS filled with challenges and filmmakers get beautifully creative when put in a position to problem solve! So, I don't see the problem! ;D

It's important to include everyone in our storytelling and a great way to do that is to encourage, invite, and embrace all types. The idea of an Inclusion Rider is clever. That's something A-List actors can do.

And something audiences can do is demand it. We are ultimately the people filmmakers need to please. It is our money, reviews, money, attention, and money that they are craving. We are their lifeblood. Their nourishment. Let's see the films with the most different than us cast. Seek the stories that represent and hire a more diverse world.

And, when appropriate, we should bring our children! Show them, tell them, believe in them! Make sure they know that they can be our important storytellers, too. Not some of our children, all of our children!

I love film. Heck, I've written a screenplay myself and hope one day to see it on the big screen. (Yes, my screenplay has a diverse group of characters, thanks for asking!) I think that even if we don't want to make movies it is necessary that we remember the role we play in choosing what movies are made.

And in my role as important movie decider I'm signing my own personal moviegoing Inclusion Rider right now. I may not be a visionary or a great leader but I will certainly choose what visions and leaders I want to support.

Feel free to join me!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook) 


Living with Lynette

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Autism Answer: Everyday People: The Color Of Life (Book Review)

Many of you already know that one of my wishes for this world is more diversity in our storytellers. Writers, actors, directors, painters, comedians, producers, etcetera etcetera, need to be of every type. All genders and identities, colors and cultures, abilities and handicaps, styles and beliefs, economic distresses and blessings. In my idea of a perfect world, our storytellers and performers are like The Muppets! Unusual and mismatched and entirely encouraged and embraced. 

Art imitates life and life imitates art and our stories and world should be so diverse and interesting that we are comfortable with being uncomfortably surprised by unexpected people. Until we are rarely uncomfortable because it's just so darn common for folks to be unexpected and different. 

So, knowing how important I feel it is to expect and invite diversity in storytelling you can imagine how excited I was to be offered an advance copy of Everyday People: The Color Of Life - A Short Story Anthology, edited by Jennifer Baker with story contributions by established and emerging writers of color. 

HINT: If you imagined me nearly dropping my computer, jumping up off a couch, squealing and dancing with excitement while my friend looks over at me from her kitchen with a curious expression and asks without a hint of sarcasm, "Did you just win Publisher's Clearing House?" you'd be pretty close to correct. The only thing missing in your imagining are her dogs. But close! Good job, friend! tee hee!

When Everyday People arrived last week I dove in immediately!
The book took my breath away in brilliant and unexpected ways, over and over. Reading so many powerfully crafted stories written directly from (not about) cultures unfamiliar to me felt like experiencing a series of reincarnations. It was dizzying and delightful and eye-opening and awesome!

This book was so well curated - the writers have voices that are confident and vulnerable and authentic and compelling, and every story seemed to understand the necessity of the theme completely, ignoring any temptation to exploit it -  that it reinforced and gave new passion to my belief in diverse storytellers. It was a strange feeling, being dropped over and over again into foreign values and cultures and ways of life. But it also made clear the world of difference between writing ABOUT something and writing FROM it. How enlightening! 

When the world pretends it is being diverse, by adding characters that are colorful (disabled, gay, strong women, sensitive men, people of color, poverty, differing cultures, and the like) but the tellers and actors are not diverse, well, it isn't true. It isn't diverse. It isn't okay. 
Preorder your copy of Everyday People on Amazon!

I always try to be inclusive in my storytelling but I can't tell a story well that comes from a place I've never really been. "Write what you know," is all we can do, although the more gifted storytellers are able to discover untold imaginative treasures in that reality. And I am inclined to believe that if more people were telling their stories and writing what they know, we would all know more.

Everyday People: The Color of Life - A Short Story Anthology is made up of stories that dive deep into expectations, reasons, justifications, self-exploration, insights, hopes, fears, and identity. No two stories feel the same and yet they are all equally moving and engaging. 

I felt myself both missing and found in each story. 
As it is with all the greatest stories.

I am going to keep this book on my desk so I can revisit these feelings often.

I encourage you to get a copy so you can do the same. 

Hugs, smiles, and love!! 
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)


 Thank you, Books for the Soul, for giving me this great gift. I owe you one! 
Hopefully coffee and dancing one night. 
I would freaking love that!

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Autism Answer: Confessions And Corrections

Me and my youngest brother.

Sometimes I feel annoyed when my youngest brother calls asking if he can come over to my house. He's bored and lonely and is feeling cabin feverish. He's feeling a bit desperate and needy and wants to bring that to my house.

But then I feel annoyed with myself for being annoyed with him. I remind myself to be honored that my youngest brother calls me asking if he can come over. That he is comfortable being vulnerable with me.

Sometimes I feel the heavy weight of responsibility being his one friend in town. He has asked over and over for help making friends and I give and I give, exhaustively searching for a way to help him get it. A way for him to get friends other than just me.

But then I feel the heavy realization that I am being cruel. That my brother isn't my responsibility, he feels and worries and wants and is being responsible for himself by asking me for help. I remind myself to feel the love and joy and miracle of being his friend and living separately in the same town. And it is a miracle. He has his own apartment, that was not expected of him from anyone (except, of course, my mom who believes in making miracles and therefore has made a beautiful career of it). And I live nearby, that was never my plan. Sure, living near family always has been. But not small-town Texas, not living near only one brother. Yet, here we are and we have grown close in ways I never would have imagined because of it.

Sometimes I feel bad that my knee-jerk reactions to my youngest brother are often unkind and self-centered. I wonder if my own meanness knows no bounds, is never-ending. Just when I have discovered a prejudice or mean bit of myself and cleaned it up, I find another. But then I remind myself of the millions of other knee-jerk reactions I've faced head-on, choosing to practice a new way with purpose, and how they then turned into true authentic thoughtful automatic reactions. I think of the fun I've had tweaking, editing, discovering, and changing my beliefs, my reactions, myself.

Together my brother and I talk about the value of forever learning and creating and moving forward. The only mistake really would be to not notice what we react to and how, and to not find thoughtful ways to change with purpose.

My brother and I make an awesome team and help each other out in the most wonderful and important of ways!

I'm a grateful sister!!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook) 

INVITATION: I have included a great many stories of growing up with my brothers in my book, Spinning in Circles and Learning from Myself: A Collection of Stories that Slowly Grow Up. There are also stories of me as a mom, me as a daughter, and me as a younge woman trying to figure it all out; life, myself, the world, what exactly it means to be a good person. One thing all my stories have in common is a confession and correction style. I love to be almost dangerously candid about my mistakes while offering an excited idea for how I solved them. I hope you will consider reading my book and sharing your thoughts with me. You don't have to be dangerously candid, but you can be! Hugs, hugs, hugs! ~Tsara 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Autism Answer: I'm Home And I Brought A Few Thoughts With Me

"Be passionate and non-violent. Be these things without being silent. Take time in the quiet to discover your own changing beliefs and insist on living them with volume. Your power is your existence. Use it with intention!" ~Tsara Shelton (me!)

I've been away, some of you have noticed. (Thank you for noticing!) I've been in California working with and for my sister.

It was fantastical!!!

It was filled with feelings, moments, concerns, challenges, reminiscing, reinventing, and at the end of the twelve days, I left for home with a few hard questions I'll be untangling and exploring.

It was exactly what I like interruptions in my regular routine to be. I felt my value, I worked my role with passion, and though I was reminded of ways I am not able to "fix" all the things that hurt us I was also able to see all the ways I can affect our situations and work toward answers that help.

All of our lives are a story. A great many stories, actually. And we are like writers. We dive in with intention and a vision for how we imagine the story will go but we are never not surprised. We are never not taken in new directions. The story unfolds as we both create and react to it. It is invigorating, frightening, and powerfully revealing!

Our power is our existence and our story has an effect on many other stories. Let's remind each other to be intentional and kind even in the face of the hard stuff.

I think, friends, it helps when we notice that we are mostly surrounded by stunning creativity, kindness, and cooperation. The hard stuff is inevitable and revealing, but it isn't the majority of our moments. (Even when it feels like it because the hard stuff has a habit of making the loveliness harder to focus on or accept as lovely. Focus and accept anyway!)

Whether we want to have power or not, we do. Embrace it! Explore it! Enjoy it!

Oh, boy, it's nice to be back! It's fun to embrace and explore with you.
I do so enjoy it!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook) 

Some photos from my recent trip to California: 

My sister and her two youngest daughters.

A production crew family (my son & his wife in the background, me & my niece in the foreground)

Mornings at my sister's house
My son and his wife picking up their daughter (I had six wonderful days with her!)

My granddaughter adores smiling and playing with her cousins!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Autism Answer: Being Broke Isn't Why I'm Happy, But It Also Doesn't Stop Me

Me and my hubby driving through town just for fun.

"Money is not good or bad. We are." ~Dr. Lynette Louise (The Brain Broad)

My husband is a retired mechanic and I am a stay-at-home mom/wife/friend with a very part time job as a personal assistant to Dr. Lynette Louise, aka The Brain Broad, aka my mom. 

Needless to say, we are broke. 

Also, needless to say for those who follow my writings and videos, we are happy!

More often than our culture should be proud of people ask me how? How am I so often happy when I am so often broke? 

I've answered this question in a post before, Living Within Our Means, And Loving It, but that was years ago. Things have changed. Back then my hubby was still working, kids were still young and living with us, and we were still living in two separate homes close together (one was my mom's cabin in the woods and the other was my husband's trailer house in our small Texas town). 

So when a reporter was asking the question again, I chose to answer. Interested as always in sharing my life but also curious to see how my answers have changed. 

Below are the reporter's generic questions (in bold) followed by my personalized answers. 

If you, or someone you know, is thinking about how to enjoy life with a tiny budget I encourage you to have a peek. Maybe even answer the questions yourself! It is a wonderful way to tweak and explore all the ways we are harnessing happiness. 

Does your household income go far where you live, or is it tight?

It's tight, but it goes comparatively far where we live. 

What makes your life fulfilling, despite your income? OR What makes your life fulfilling because of your income?

Poverty, admittedly, restricts freedom in our society. 

But aside from the lack of financial freedom, my husband and I have valuable freedom with our time. Because of this, we are able to be available for our loved ones. We are able to move freely amongst the overflowing needs and questions our young adult (and some not so young!) children have, now that they are navigating the world of adulthood. 

This is not only fulfilling as a parent, but also as a human being who craves the feeling of being available and helpful. 

What is one thing you spend—or stopped spending—on that is important to your health and wellness, or the health and wellness of your family?

This is a fun one! 

The health and wellness of my family and our environment is deeply important to me. For too many years I bought into the myth that eating healthy and caring for the environment would either mean spending tons of money by purchasing special foods and fancy household items, or it would mean learning an overwhelming amount of skills that I just don't have, like gardening and creating toothpaste and soaps and cooking good food. But once I made the decision that it was too important not to take at least some steps in the healthy direction, I was happily surprised! 

Nutritious food is only sometimes more expensive (particularly healthy convenience foods) but it always goes further. Because we are getting more nutrition out of smaller amounts of food, it lasts longer. 

Also, household cleaners, along with most of the soaps and toothpaste and other personal items we have in our home, are easily replaced with cheaper natural foods and oils I can get easily at any store. And it's easier to find these items not in plastic containers. I haven't even had to learn how to make stuff because I can generally just use one ingredient (add vinegar to the wash for clothes softening; wash my hair with baking soda and rinse with apple cider vinegar; baking soda to wash stains off my all-important coffee mug; etc) and when I have decided to make my own items that require more than one ingredient, it's been easy! Mix coconut oil and baking soda and a touch of cinnamon oil for toothpaste and, voila! Whiter, healthier teeth! 

And because I am saving so much money in these areas I can also splurge on items in the health and wellness area without guilt. For example, it matters to me that my coffee is organic, whole bean, and fair trade. So, I buy an expensive coffee. But I've noticed, also, that I drink less than I did in my youth because I am healthier and happier and not overindulging in my coffee habit as a way to escape a feeling of "poverty" that, admittedly, I used to live with. So, again, I think I might even be saving money while splurging.

What's the last thing (from coffee to a car!) that you splurged on? How much was it?

Yesterday I bought plane tickets for my daughter-in-law and my granddaughter to come visit me!!!! It cost $98 and I don't regret a penny! *This question was answered in October of last year. That trip has come and gone and was worth far more than any amount of money could compete with! I wrote a bit about it HERE.

Three things (big or small) you do to live happily within your means:

1. Read books, watch movies, write stories, and listen to music. These are wonderful ways to live out many lives and many feelings without spending much, if any, money. Libraries are full of free stories. 

But I have also budgeted for two streaming media services as a way to watch movies and shows with my family regardless of where they live. Because our family is growing older and finding their own places in the world it keeps us connected. We suggest shows to each other, talk about movies together, and explore the value of storytelling, often talking about the same story from our separate places (in the world and in our development). It's been deeply valuable and enriching!

2. Shopping at thrift stores! Every item has a story--having lived in other homes or kept other bodies warm--and we get a kick out of imagining what that story could be. Also, we focus on the recycling aspect of thrift stores rather than the cost saving. There's nothing wrong with being happy about saving money, but if we put too much emphasis on being broke then we are more likely to feel broke--which can be desperate and scary. Instead, we get a kick out of our earth-friendly thrift store purchases and the unlimited story imagining potential!

3. Exploring nature and the neighborhood. I don't have the money to travel to famous places but that doesn't stop me from discovering beauty and culture wherever I am. I live in a small town with very little in the way of entertainment venues, but in my eighteen years here I have yet to discover all the treasures this town holds! 

Small hidden patches of nature, people walking alone or with family, stray animals and forgotten homes. All of these things offer ideas, stories, perspectives, and wonder. I don't have to spend a penny to feel overwhelmed with interest and appreciation for the ever-changing landscapes and generations of thought that simply going for an adventurous walk offers.  (CONFESSION: I don't do it nearly as often as I'd like because it's so darn hot here in Texas!)

BONUS: Prioritize experiences! Perhaps this should be number one because it truly might be the biggest reason I feel rich in my financially limited life. 

When I am offered an opportunity, and when I can create that opportunity for myself, I take necessary steps to make experiences happen. Travel, concerts, conferences, and even ending up on stage are memories and moments I have prioritized for me and my children. I am often nervous doing so – having little money can create a fear of things not going as planned, knowing that I may have to rely on my own unimpressive ingenuity and often the kindness of others to improvise and problem solve – but it is always worth it. 

Prioritizing experiences has given my family a plethora of stories, has connected us in moments and memories, and has reminded us to not accept the supposed limits of poverty. Also, during those times when we have had to problem solve and ask for help, it has given us opportunities to actively appreciate the kindness of others!  

Would you describe where you live as a city, suburb, or rural area?


Did you choose your location because of the cost of living, or for another reason? If something else, what is that reason?

When my mom was looking for a place to live she chose our town due to cost of living,a mong other things. At the time I was a young single mom and I was living with her. She helped me out with my children while I helped her out with hers. 

My mom is the single mom of eight kids; six adopted and four with cognitive disabilities. We lived together and taught our children together. However, it was in this town that I met a man and fell in love. So I chose this location because he was here. We have been happily married now for seventeen years. 


Do you live in a house or apartment? Own or rent?

We live in a trailer house that we own. My husband bought it in the late 80s and owned it a few years before I met him. So our monthly "housing" bills are merely gas, electric, phone, etc.

How much “extra” money do you have every month? What do you typically spend it on? 

I suppose we have about $200.00 extra a month. My husband spends his half on scratch lotto tickets and I spend mine on movie rentals and fun "treat" foods for the family. 

Have you made any trade-offs in order to live where you live, or to have the salary/job you have, or be in your relationship?

There have been trade-offs. 

For my relationship, I have turned down opportunities to live in California, where most of my family now lives. My husband sometimes voices a concern that I feel "trapped" here because of him, but no, no, no! I flourish in my relationship with him. Also, choosing to stay is something I was never good at until I met him. He's taught me the value and joy of it. That trade-off has been so worth it I'm not even sure it's a trade-off. 

However, there has been a troublesome trade-off to live where we live and not seek work that would pay me better. As I guided and joined my family in growth we have had to let go of our passion for live events. Stage shows, musicals, concerts, conferences that teach, these are things we all love but have just had to (mostly) let go of. Every now and then we'll do what it takes, find a way, to go to a concert or attend an event, but in general, we've had to just shrug it off and hope we'll have opportunities later in life. If we lived in a city we could volunteer our time at events in order to be part of them, but because we live in a tiny rural town, and we don't have the funds to fill up a gas tank or even a reliable car, that's not an option. Was that trade-off worth it? I think so, but I'm less sure.

If so, are those tradeoffs worth it?

Sorry, I sort of answered this question in my previous answer. However, I like the excuse to add a bit more. 

The trade-offs have been worth it because we make them worth it. If I had chosen to leave my husband living in Texas while I lived in California (which I did do for a temporary time of two years) and try to make the long-distance relationship work I believe we could have found a way to discover and highlight benefits. Maybe I would have followed a path of work that was opening up for me there, and maybe I would have made more money, and maybe my husband could have lived with less of the stress he endures being the one who hustles to make ends meet. I don't know. 

Also, maybe if I had worked a job that kept me busy but also made me money I would have found ways to attend events with my children and they would now have the contacts, understanding, and an example of how to make those things happen for themselves. That's what I'm not sure of. 

However, because I didn't make that choice and because we didn't get to attend the events or meet the people who make that stuff happen, we are finding our own way with what we have done and who we do know. So although I do, admittedly, wonder if staying broke in a small town with limited opportunities but easy access to each other and cheaper living was the right choice, I also work hard to make it one. 

What is the most important decision you’ve made for wellness—yours or the people you live with—in the last five years? Why was it key?

Oh, this is another fun one! 

Quite a few years ago I asked my husband if there was any way he could build a "dance room" for me and our boys. I had noticed that we (okay, mostly me) were becoming quite sedentary and I wanted to solve the problem. We went on family walks and bike rides, but too often they felt forced. 

However, my sons and I love to dance. 

The problem: In our small house there isn't much room for dancing and it's not kind to turn the music up too loud, in case other people aren't in the mood to rock out. 

The solution: My husband built a little room in the back of his garage for us! It wasn't an expensive addition to his already existing shop and he discovered that he enjoys having access to music while he works. Admittedly, my sons don't use it much but, boy, I do! Especially when the weather is cool. So a few nights a week (in the winter, less in the summer) I head outside, step over car parts and mechanic tools, enter my own little room and go dancing! I get cardio for physical health and the freedom of dancing for mental health. I'm one lucky lady!

Is there anything else that you’d like to be share about your philosophy or choices with regard to being happy with your current household income?

I only want to add that I have spent my entire life living in or near poverty, and I grew up with a single mom who taught the value of connecting, loving, laughing, and working hard for the sake of service and experiencing your worth. 

Because of this, it hasn't been hard for me to live mostly within my means, even when those means are extremely small. 

Right now my husband is retired and we live on his social security and the bit that I make as a part-time personal assistant, supplemented with my husband's ability to hustle and take advantage of his mechanic skills. It's not much, but I have almost always lived this way. I have tips, thoughts, and ways to help others find the joy of living within their means but I never want to discount the challenge it is for people who have to learn it later in life. 

Also, I don't want to romanticize poverty (obviously) or even the desire to stop wanting more. Wanting more is a valuable motivator. 

I think the challenge is keeping an eye on our reasons. Do you want more because you think it will make you happy and successful? Because you want to impress people? Or because you want the freedom to follow desires and passions? And are you so focused on wanting more that you don't adore what you have? 

There is always a balance to seek and hold onto. I think living happily within our means is an organic and alive skill. I feed it, listen to it, challenge it, teach it, and ultimately love it. 


I'm actually getting ready to head out of town for "work" tomorrow. I'll be babysitting my nieces in California for the next twelve days and getting paid good money for it. This is something I do about once a year and I'm lucky! So that's another thing I should add: Say yes to opportunities that make you money even if it seems weird to make money doing it. Of course I would babysit my nieces for free! I love them wildly! But I also know that my sister can afford to pay me in this instance and that she wants to, for many reasons. So, I say yes. It was terrifically uncomfortable to accept the money for a long time but I kept saying yes.
My hubby and a couple of our boys working together.
Now, we all feel comfortable and good about it. 

Find that balance, friends. Remember to allow it the freedom to shift and grow and change with your life. 

Hugs, smiles, and love!!