Saturday, June 25, 2016

Autism Answer: A Pack of Cigarettes

The evening was warm and the parking lot was busy with visitors grabbing random items before the store closed for the night. I sat in my car people watching and waiting for Shay,
Shay and Soda
my eighteen year old son, to come out of the local dollar store where he, too, was grabbing random items. 


A typical summer night in small town Texas, I was enjoying the appearance of so many perfectly cast characters - the accents, the unhealthy and unkempt appearances, the comfortable hollering, the stereotypical segregation, the stereotypical integration - and musing at the ways I fit right in. 

I smiled as my son exited the store and headed in my direction. Now here was someone who rarely, regardless of location, fit in! 

Over six feet tall and three hundred pounds he's made for standing out. But more than that, his constant awareness of his own social awkwardness creates habits and energy that are universally distracting. 

I love him so much!

As Shay folded all of himself into our small SUV, I looked apprehensively toward his grocery bag. 

"Don't worry," he said, "I also got Skittles. That's not soda!"

I laughed. He knew exactly what my fear was. He's addicted to soda and I can't stand the stuff. We make jokes that if I could build a time machine I'd use it to hinder the invention of soda while he would use it to stop wars in imaginative (and impossible!) ways. I think we're both onto something!

However, it wasn't the purchase of soda (which was also in his bag) that created interesting conversation. It was the pack of cigarettes. 

"Wait, what?! You bought cigarettes? Why?" I was surprised, but also had a feeling I knew the answer. 

"Well," Shay explained, adjusting his glasses, "I think I can use them to make friends. I know people might want to hang out with me if I say 'Hey, want a smoke?' because smokers are motivated by the addiction."

I had guessed right. "That's what I thought you were thinking. You know, that's not the healthiest way to make friends. Plus, you can't smoke them in or around our house, you know that." 

"Well, duh! I wasn't going to sit outside with a cigarette and hope people would just show up. I'll message them on Facebook or something."

"Oh, brother!" I didn't say anything more about the cigarettes on the drive home. We had the windows open and were enjoying the night air; our silence was comfortable.

This is an ongoing conversation I have with Shay. Making friends is hard for him so he has often devised some strange plan to buy them. Or as he says: "I'm not buying friends, mom. This isn't slavery. I'm buying friendship." So, although I do rack my brain for different ways I can help him make different friends, I didn't feel overly freaked out by this new episode. 

As we arrived home Shay opened the door for me and said, "You know, you should be glad about this. I'm eighteen and this is the first time I've ever bought cigarettes. Most teenagers mess with this stuff a lot sooner than me!"

I laughed and admitted, "Your dad and I do talk often about how amazing you and your brother are. We've hardly had any worries with drugs and alcohol when it comes to you and Declyn. Plus," I added, "you're not even planning on smoking them yourself."

We carried our stuff into the kitchen and he started to pull the pack of cigarettes out of his pocket. "What do you think of this kind...." 

I pushed his hand away and said, "I don't want to see them. Put them back." 

Shay smiled. "I love our family. You know? I mean, I just bought cigarettes and instead of yelling or getting all angry you said you don't want to see them. And you told me reasons you don't like it. But we talked, you know? We didn't yell."

"Ya, I like that about us too. But if you buy soda one more time I'm going to lose it!" playfully half yelled. 

Shay booped my nose and squished my cheek (two of his favorite stims) and then headed to his bedroom. 

I thought about the pack of cigarettes. I thought about the "friends" I knew he was messaging. I thought about the new job he has and his struggle with coworkers and customers. 

And I thought about how awesome it is that he's doing so well! He comes home from a nine hour day at work and tells me the things he and his coworkers are figuring out about each other. He seems comfortable talking about, what he calls, "his issues" with folks at work and breaking it down. He doesn't seem too eager to offer excuses but rather more interested in telling his tale. Explaining, not excusing. And, yes, as all my adult sons are wonderfully willing to do, he expects to be accepted. 

My son is still trying to buy friendship, but I have a confidence that it won't be long before that changes. You see, there are places where he will fit in. Places that are more metropolitan, diverse, and artistic.

For a young gay man with social awkwardness and a refusal to keep himself under wraps, small town Texas isn't that place. But he's saving up to get his bartending license (like my dad!) and he's planning to work and live in a city with a more theatrical flair. 

Sure, he'll always be unique. But I'm absolutely confident that he can find an environment where his uniqueness is a compliment to the uniqueness he surrounds himself with. 

I crawled into bed beside my husband and snuggled his strong sexy arm. I didn't tell him about the pack of cigarettes. I know he won't have as easy a time understanding as I do. 

I tell my hubby most things, but there are a few things I keep to myself. 

You see, I have my own way of buying friendship. 

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

Me and Shay at the movies
 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Autism Answer: Telling Your Story

Image by Books for the Soul

"Storytellers are powerful and we are all storytellers." ~Me 

Telling your story takes a million* different forms. The things you say to yourself in your head, the actions you take in private and public, the way you describe your day to a friend, the songs you love, the posts you write, the people you choose to accept and invite into your life and the lives of your loved ones. 

For me, telling my story has included literally telling it as a story. Writing it in a book, answering interview questions, and telling it on video. 

As I've shared with you often, I started telling it before I knew exactly how. But as I continued, my story became clearer to me and easier to share. My beliefs and dreams gained clarity and came true. My writing took shape and I learned when to be pithy and when to take long strides with words.

I learned with absolute certainty that I will always be learning, and I learned to love that!

And as my sons have grown older and begun to truly do the same, to start living and telling their story - the story of who they are and what they want - before they're good at it, I'm even more certain that it was a good idea! Because, like me, I'm watching them grow gifted while they compose. I see the shifts they make in who they choose to be and I applaud as they surprise me with plot twists and character motivations I never saw coming. 

You know what? They're better at telling their own story than I was at their age!! They are entirely aware of the influences our culture and our relationships have on us, and they are confident in their own abilities to make personal choices regarding what influences to accept and enhance, and which ones they want to abandon and reveal for what they are. 

 "I AM -- the two most powerful words in the world, for whatever we put after them becomes our reality." ~Susan Howson

My sons amaze me! And I truly believe that part of their confidence comes from watching me do it, too. Seeing me tell my story and explore my own direction and beliefs, fumbling and tentative at first; growing eventually stronger and more confident, trying always to remain open minded and aware of the effect my story is having on our environment.  

I believe that my willingness to make mistakes while telling the story of me, my openness while tweaking and revising who I am and how my story goes, gave my sons something to work with. An example of how it's done. 

I also believe that my absolute happiness in being the teller of my story has given my sons an example of why they want to do it!


"I love stories and I love growing up. I love learning the same lessons over and over with more intention and a wider vision." ~Me 

Tell your story, friends! 
Be the composer of you.

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

 *In case you were doing the math, I do realize that my examples didn't quite add up to a million; I was merely supplying a small sample. tee hee!

Friday, June 10, 2016

Autism Answer: A Girl Desperate For A Boy

Often I feel like a girl desperate for a boy. 

Well, for four boys. 

They are busy, they have lives, they are growing up. They don't have the time or the inclination to talk to their mom every moment or to tell her what they're feeling twice a day. 

And though I'm happy that they don't need me, and I'm glad that they're handling their lives, and I love that they like me enough to chat with me often, suggesting new songs, movies, and various other things - I want them to let me know their ideas and feelings almost all the time. 

And so, I approach them with questions. I push them to hang out with me and dig deep into their thoughts, despite their hints that they'd rather talk to their peers. Or they'd rather keep it to themselves, talk it out with themselves. The ones who live far away, I call them. I leave messages with weakly invented "reasons" that I needed to call them. I pretend I'm fine and it's no big deal if they don't call me back. Then I call them back and say, wait, actually there's this other thing too, so can you call me back. I get embarrassed of being annoying and call again to apologize. Then I worry that I'm pushing them away, so I call them to ask. 

In those moments I feel like a girl desperate for a boy. 

And like that girl I'm aware that I need to let go. I'm surrounded by a thick fog of that awareness. But the fog makes it hard to breathe; and I think if only they would tell me one more thing they're thinking or feeling I could find my way out. I could see and breathe just enough, and then I'd put on my big girl pants and do the rest myself. 

But they are busy and aren't always available. And I worry that I've bothered them. And I worry that they are hurt and need me. And I worry that they've misunderstood a social interaction and need me to explain, before they get themselves beat up by an angry person who misunderstood the misunderstanding. And then I worry that I'm a girl desperate for a boy and I need to stop or I'll push them ever farther and farther away. 

Indeed, I am a girl desperate for her boys. I am also a girl in transition, just as they are boys in transition. They need to let me go and navigate this phase of figuring out who they want to be and how they want to live their adult lives. And I need to let them do that without me. 

I should call them and tell them that! tee hee!

Parents: We were always meant to let go. Some of our children may live with us forever but we still have to learn to let go. It's not as simple as it sounds, and for the children that live with us it's almost harder. Letting go when they are right in front of you makes that girl desperate for a boy syndrome harder to beat! But wait, when they're far away it's harder too. Not ever being able to see or touch them can drive you're imagination to insane levels of mischief. So, it's always harder I guess.

Children: We parents are trying. We are, we are, we are. You want us to save you when we can't and you want us to leave you alone when we can't. Not yet, anyway. Go ahead and push us away a little bit. Some of us need you to. Don't be too rough, but be firm. We're learning from you, too. Now more than ever. 

Families: Every time we get through a phase we enter a new one. Let's approach them together, even when that means it's time to be separate. Let's feel and know and understand each other at those precipices. It's intoxicating, exciting, frightening, and important. 

Like a girl desperate for a boy, some of us will get through this transition faster and others will take a little longer. But I promise, we can have fun getting through this, having gathered valuable and delightful and brand new learnings to show off on the other end. 

We'll need them - the brand new learnings and the memories of doing it together even when separate - for whatever the next phase is.

I'm ready to be past this girl desperate for a boy phase. 

I hope the next one is the abundant cups of coffee and books, phase! Oooohhh!! I'm going to call my boys and see if they want to have an abundant cups of coffee and books phase with me! <---- Yup. Still in the girl desperate for a boy phase! giggle!

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

A rare moment surrounded by my boys!

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Autism Answer: Gone Are The Days

Generations of joy!
 
I think it's a huge and dangerous mistake we're making as a society. Shoving our children into lesson after lesson. Telling them what life lesson to learn and then celebrating for too short a time before telling them what next lesson to learn. 

I think, though, that it's beautiful, right, and sustainable to encourage, entice, and suggest life lessons. To fan the flames of their natural interest and curiosity while feeding the fire with our kindling of understanding and life learnings. To be part of the circle of life rather than force the straight path to often unhealthy destinations. 

Gone are the days of sharing among generations with equal interest and value given to each. I think that's a huge and dangerous mistake. Gone are the days of living among each other with value placed on our connections and abilities to help each other. I think that's a sad and lonely misstep. 

Gone are the days. But why? Who says? For whose benefit and pleasure? Our children sit in school while we toil away for money while our grandparents are shoved aside or forgotten; and then there's more toiling for money so we can pay for others to teach and care for our family. 

The days are not entirely gone, maybe, but forgotten. Tucked inside our memories while we work hard to make today happen. Buried under schedules and rules and manners and expectations and fear and bank statements. 

We don't have to live this way. We could celebrate and embrace the knowledge and tools of today while we shift and change the way we use them. We can appreciate the purpose of our inventions while we leave harmful ones to history books; alive in our memories as proof of the awesome things we can create, and our human nature to hold on too long, and (I hope) our willingness to purposely let go and recreate when proof of pain and harm are consistently present. 

I refuse to shove my children through learning after learning and instead choose to encourage, entice, and embrace what we learn together. It's far more fun and pretty easy. 

But you know what? It would be even more fun and far easier if you would join me! 

Gone are the days, we'll say, when we forced our curious and excited children to sit still and stop following their own interests on a whim. Thank goodness! Gone, we'll exclaim, are the days when we ran around making money for the sake of feeding and housing a family that could easily feed and shelter themselves if the gifts of the earth and our labor hadn't been "owned" by unseen others. Can you believe we did that? Gone, we'll sing with funky beats in hit songs, are the days when we put our loved ones aside because it was just too overwhelming to do the work ourselves. So silly we were, we'll admit, to search for answers mostly in articles and online memes when they were right there, answers and more, in the form of the experiences in our community! 

Society will never have it all figured out, we'll never get it all right, because we can't know exactly what effects our actions are having until we've spent some time involved in those actions. And by then we've become easily reliant on those actions. 

But that's what we can get right! The willingness and insistence of being honest with ourselves when we see what needs shifting, tweaking, or downright deleted. 

So, join me! 

Gone are the days when I want to be the weird mom who does it different. Gone are the days when I want to be the weird lady dancing and singing to herself, finding joy in the little things, only so that I can explain myself and my strange ways to well meaning strangers. 

Today I want to live in a world that engages in community, connection, and universal considerations. 

We can live in that world, if we want to. I promise you, even if it isn't perfect, it's got a lot of fabulous & fantastic to offer!

Also, there's coffee! <----- Powerful Selling Feature. 

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

My youngest son and my sister's youngest daughter; learning together.
 

Friday, May 27, 2016

Autism Answer: From The Beginning (Diversity and Difference)

My two oldest sons, long ago!

From the beginning my oldest son chose to share everything and borrow everything and believe that everything belonged to everyone. 

From the beginning my second oldest son chose to keep his things safe, rarely use things belonging to others unless given clear permission and believe that everything belonged to someone. 

In the beginning they believed these things with passion, but also like children. Today, they still believe these things with passion, but more like men. 

My oldest son has a socialist style and my second oldest son has more of a libertarian style.
They balance me, my boys. They balance this world. 

We need everyone and every style. When we are open and willing, they balance us. 

They can also enrage and blind us, if we choose to let them. 

But my sons have reminded me, from the beginning, that we can always choose to be balanced. 

When they believed these things, even as children, they demanded to be heard and insisted on having their say, but they also found ways to allow balance. There was anger, but there was an innate belief that we all had a right to be who we were. 

From the beginning, my sons were who they are. It has been my privilege to guide, encourage, learn, and shift with them. 

Let's always allow people to be who they are. Let's always choose to discover and grow rather than force and change. 

I believe in integration without the expectation of assimilation. 

It is challenging and mind-expanding and exciting and bewildering. 

It is wonderful and balanced. 

It is how our nature thrives.

Today is a beginning. 

From this beginning, who are we going to be?


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

 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Autism Answer: On My Brother's Birthday He Is Your Gift


Dar
Today my brother, Dar, turns thirty-five!! 

For over a million reasons my life is better because of Dar. For over a million reasons your life can be better because of Dar! 

My mom was drawn to him and adopted him when he was only three. "He's blind and deaf, he's a feral child, he'll go to the institution when there's room for him," they said. 

I stood quietly watching the small skinny boy run around our house and make strange noises. Then I turned my ten year old gaze on my mom and watched her watch him with love, curiosity, and something different - understanding. She seemed to know what he was saying and doing when it seemed clear to me that he wasn't saying or doing anything. 

I was wrong. Dar was saying too much at once and no one but mom could help him communicate it. 

Mom was right. Mom fought to keep him and to prove his value to himself and to the world. 

The Universe brought them together at first, for them. 
Me and Dar


And then it was for me and my siblings, siblings who grew in numbers and who learned to listen and help
each other.

And then it was for you. Because now my mom and brother know how to tell you important things. Tell you, show you, sing it for you, make it deep and emotive, funny and entertaining. 

Together they are telling us all the things we want and need to know. 

Happy birthday, Dar!!!
I love you more!!! 

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook) 

Visit my mom's websites for much more on how their story helps folks like you and me! 
www.lynettelouise.com / www.brainbody.net 

VIDEO: This music video for my mom's song "Unfinished" stars Dar in the role of himself. This might be the greatest way to celebrate Dar's birthday. Music and my mom are his favorite things! Bonus points if we watch it while eating a stick of butter! tee hee! (Dar really loves butter!!)


Friday, May 13, 2016

Autism Answer: The Audition

Declyn, my youngest son.
 
My youngest son is no longer autistic. Sure, he still has some of the symptoms that he struggled with when he was young, just no longer to an overwhelming or disabling degree. 

The intense empathy and sensory issues that once ruled his moments and made the work of "passing" a consistent struggle are now simply almost comfortable quirks. Where he once avoided any situation with too many people and their emotions, he now chooses wisely. Where he once vomited all the time and without warning, he now listens to his gut (tee hee!) and rarely looses his lunch. At first he needed our help to find ways that he could "handle" these things, now they are just part of his human condition. Not disabling; alive and aware. He's wonderfully lucky to have an international autism expert, autism mom, and once upon a time autistic individual for a Dramma (aka Grandma)! 

Today my son has an audition. He'll be doing a monologue and singing a song on stage in front of peers and teachers in order to be judged. Sure, he's nervous. Heck, I'm overwhelmingly nervous! Mostly, though, he's excited and prepared. 

Boy, am I happy for him!!! Whether he gets accepted into the theater group or not, this is a beautiful big deal! Only a few years ago I watched him want to audition but spend all of his energy and ideas on instead coming up with reasons why he couldn't. I saw him backslide a bit into his sensory issues. I saw him struggle with regular teenager fears sprinkled with autistic flavoring. 

This year, though, he used the energy and ideas to prepare for the audition. I must admit, he's doing better than I was at his age. When I was sixteen I still used my story mind to avoid such situations. But then, it was easy for me. 

One of the things I've noticed with my autistic loved ones - brothers, sons, mom - is that they have had to figure out social cues and sensory tricks in more specific ways than me, and so they seem to be much smarter in these areas. They question what I don't question, and they take time to understand what I shrug and go along with. And so, when it comes time to go after what they want, they have a skill I avoided having for a long time. They ask the right questions of the world and themselves and decide to understand how to solve them.

I truly hope my son is accepted into the theater group today. But regardless, he's certainly won the role of AMAZING YOUNG MAN in the movie of LIFE!! 

Good luck and congratulations, Declyn!!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook) 


UPDATE: He got into the theater group!! He sang Beth by Kiss, and here's a peek at him working on his monologue. A scene from FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH. Enjoy!