Monday, December 22, 2014

Autism Answer: What You Like About You~Giving My Holiday Gift!

 

"I don't get it, Tsara," my baby brother was saying as he sat on my couch, pulling absentmindedly on his beard, "I have my dream job but I still feel this depression wanting to take over, even when I'm at work."

I sat down on my bed, across from my brother, and placed my cold coffee on the table between us. It took a moment because I had to shove stuff around--papers scribbled with ideas on them, books I've read but haven't felt ready to hide away in my bookshelf yet, and books I want to read but am not ready for the roller coaster ride--searching for a clean spot to place my mug. I needed that moment though, because I wanted to think of a new tactic to help my brother with this old problem.

"You know," I finally said,"you need to fill your mind with different thoughts so that there's no room for that depression." Both my brother and I knew I was stalling, plenty of us have said this to him gazillions of times before. On a whim I added, "Maybe focus on things you like about yourself, and do things in those moments that highlight them?"

This, at first, seemed silly to me. I know it's what I do, but I'm weird.

Of course, so is my brother. So I went on.

"What is something you like about yourself, Rye?"

"I like that I have a nice car." He responded without hesitation.

I giggled, "Very funny! That's not something about you!"

He looked confused. "Yes it is," he insisted.

Aha! Maybe we had hit on something!!

"No, Rye, that's something you have that you like. Now, if you had said 'you like that you focus on a goal and work hard to get it' then I would absolutely agree with you. Getting your car, that was hard work but you knew what you wanted and worked hard to get it. Right?"

"Ya, and it took a long time. But I did it and I'm proud of that." Rye was looking a little fuller, a little more confident. This was getting fun!

"See! So when you're at work and notice the depression trying to come, start thinking about how good you are at working hard for your dreams. Then do something to prove it to yourself! Grab a broom and sweep the back room, offer to help a co-worker with something he's doing. It'll remind you that something about you is valuable and awesome! What's another thing you like about yourself?"

"I like that I don't blame people or the world for my own problems." He smiled.

That's the thing, my mind cried. Impressed and pleased and in love with my baby brother. 


The words came out moments later, for him to hear. And together we explored the immense and important value of that.

One of the things I like about me is my passion for helping myself and the people I love discover things they like about themselves.

So this holiday I encourage you wonderful people I love, to discover and acknowledge with clarity at least three things you like about yourselves. That's my holiday gift to you!

Hugs, smiles, and love my friends!!!!!

And Happy Holidays to Everyone!!!!!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook) 

My brother, Rye, and Me!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Autism Answer: Find And Use and Appreciate Your Strengths!

When I think about my mom I imagine the words tough and smart and creative and kind insistence

When I think about my sister I imagine words like smart and cool and organized

I also used to think in both cases that those words made my mom and sister better than me. Oops! 

Words that come to mind when thinking of myself are silly and satisfied and following. And I often used to wonder about the validity of those strenghts. Even though my mom--who is a global mental health therapist--has told me over and over that when Dar (my still autistic brother) stays with me, he has an opportunity to assimilate his learnings and take a small break from her constant bar raising--an important step for him in his quest for independence-- I still wonder about the validity of my own strengths. 

But, as my mom constantly and kindly points out, with my own children I have taken the lead by following. I have used my skills as a satisfied and silly mom to be happy with who they are and find fun and silly ways to make sure they are happy too! 


When I was busy trying to be tough and smart, I wasn't helping anyone. In truth, I was drowning my own strengths in self-doubt. And, in turn, teaching my kids to do the same. Not cool!

Now I can see that my strengths are equally as useful as anyone else's, even my mom's and my sister's! 

And guess what that must mean?! 

So are the strengths in our kids and friends and neighbors!! Regardless of labels, colors, cultures etc.!! Let's use our strengths to help each other find all of the strengths!! 

My guess is that it will be fun for all of us! 

Hugs, Smiles, and Love!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

Coffee Sipping: A Strength that runs everywhere in my family!
 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Autism Answer: Thank-You Dear Lady at the 99 Cent Store!

My brother, Dar, is a handsome and huge thirty-three year old autistic man. 

A couple of years ago he and I were in the 99 Cent Store, shopping for groceries, and happily hurrying so we could go pick my boys up from school. Suddenly, my brother made a dash toward the dairy section. 

Standing next to the milk and butter he clapped his hands loudly, jumped up and down and screamed for joy! I giggled and asked him to please celebrate a little bit quieter. 


Then I noticed the old woman standing just behind me. She had her hand on her heart and her face was pale and ashen looking. "Are you okay?" I asked her, feeling concerned. 

"Yes," she answered with a crooked half-smile, "your friend almost gave me a heart attack." I apologized for my brother's surprising behavior while my brother smiled at her and showed her the butter in his hand. She was already looking healthier as she smiled at Dar. "It's fine. But I really did almost have a heart attack. I've just gotten out of the hospital for heart problems!" She gave a little giggle and continued with her shopping, as we continued with ours.

That is a very strong memory of mine. The woman had been kind, and she could have died! Yet she seemed to believe that neither her quality of life, nor my brothers, was more important than the other. We should all do our best to be considerate of the world around us. All of us. It's not only up to the world to be considerate of my autistic brother, and it's not only up to my brother to be considerate of the world. My brother is learning, and he is challenging others to do the same. 

Thank-you so much to the lady at the 99 Cent Store!! 


We remember you often, and I'm so glad you did not have a heart attack that day! 

Hugs, smiles, and love!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

 
My Mom: The Brain Broad with my beautiful brother, Dar!

Better Than Me ~Short Story

Well... it happened to me again. Chuck Wendig posted a Flash Fiction Challenge, and suddenly I wanted to play! The challenge was to eyeball a random song title, and make it the title of our story. The song itself doesn't have to have anything to do with our woven tale, though it can. Well, I picked up my Hinder CD, and my eyes landed on "Better Than Me". I was gonna just listen to the song, but then a story popped in my brain.  
WARNING: It is unlike anything I've written for you here before, and it's got sex. It pretty much takes place during sex. And there are swear words. The *F* word is in the first sentence. Plus, it's sort of uncomfortable. And please remember, it's fiction!!!

Okay, so here we go, for those of you willing to take the plunge:

Better Than Me~ Short Story


“If you don’t fucking move your body, I’m walking out of here!”

He deserves better than me, and it hurts to know that. I was moving my body before but he told me he didn’t’ like the way my boobs looked when I did it that way, so I stopped. But now he’s pissed off because I’m supposed to be moving—and I know that—but I don’t know exactly how. 


I start to move my hands up his back and moan a bit. This feels subtle, so it can't be too bad, and also it is movement. I hope this is is good. I’m trying not to be afraid of disappointing him and so I look down at my breasts. I’m on my back and they just fall to the sides, almost disappearing into my armpits. It looks ugly! So I lift my arms in a position that kind of pushes them up, makes them look a little fuller. I think he’ll like that. 


He pushes roughly and I make a few more sounds, but when he looks at my boobs I see he looks angry. God, I wish my nipples would perk up! How could he like them when they look so deflated and uninterested?

“Turn over,” he tells me.


I know this means we’re almost finished, and I’m glad. I hate not being able to please him, but I know he’ll get pleasure if I turn over and he can picture something better, someone better. 


He deserves that. 


He’s so sexy. He always smells good and dresses in classy clothes. Every time we go out I see the girls stare, I watch them hate me. He stares back of course, and even takes some of them home, but he stays with me. He’s my boyfriend. 


And I know that in some ways, I do deserve him.


I’m not a good cook, but I always make sure he’s fed and his apartment is clean. When we go to the bars I dance for him and show his friends my moves when he tells me to. He likes seeing them lust for me while I give only to him. 


I never drink because I know he wants to. And goodness knows he deserves nights of fun on weekends. His bosses treat him like crap at his job, which he hates anyway. Working as a waiter in a high class sushi place isn't exactly his dream, and yet he’s forced to serve people living his high class dreams while he just sucks it up. 


He works every day though, because he wants to take care of me. He wants to one day take me to these places and treat me like a queen!


And he doesn’t just work at that job either. He works also at his dream. But his band—which is bloody awesome-isn’t going anywhere. Lord knows it’s not his fault. I’ve never seen anyone work so hard for a dream, and with so little help! He’s got both vision and talent.

When he sings, our bodies drool!


His energy and voice dance their way into everyone’s libido, men and women, and we just feel him!


But the guys in his band are lazy. Sure, they like to play, but they don’t want to take risks. And like my boyfriend says, you can’t make it if you don’t take risks. 


Now I feel his hands on my hips as I reach to pinch my nipples. I think when he’s done I’ll sit up and hold my arms close at my sides which pushes my boobs together in a way that makes them look fuller. And my nipples will be perky because I pinched them, so I’ll look sexy for him. 


I feel him finish on me and carefully turn around, cautious not to get any mess on his bedspread. Once I had to take it to the cleaners because of letting it get stained when I went on my period in the middle of sex. How stupid I am! He spent over a hundred dollars on the spread and it’s classy!


“Start the shower, babe.” He says. 


I could hardly afford the cleaners because I only work as a dog walker. I love the job—there are so many kinds of dogs and they’re all wonderful!—but it’s not a career. It’s not classy and I don’t make much money. 


But, he loves me for who I am not my job, which is why I love him so much.


It’s hard for me to show it because I don’t have much to give. But I do show it in ways he sometimes notices. Like when I took his cover to the cleaners, even though I couldn’t really afford it, he kissed me and told me he loved me.


Or like the other night when we went to the bar. I didn’t drink because he wanted to get drunk so I had to drive, but I didn’t mind. Well… I have a really crappy car that he’s embarrassed to be in, but since he doesn’t have a car at all we had to take mine and I felt bad about that. But he was proud of me anyway, because I didn’t even have one drink. He started telling all his friends how lucky he was to have me. He’s lucky?! He even told me to show them my dance moves (which they’d already seen) and then to show them my boobs (which they hadn’t). That made me feel sexy, but I was afraid too because what if they didn’t like them? What if they told him he should get a new girl? Better than me?


Luckily , his friends liked them and even wanted to touch them. Some of the girls at the bar were calling me a slut and stuff, but I knew they were just jealous. I knew because I’ve been the one watching when my boyfriend touched other girls, and I hated them because I was jealous. 


That’s okay, it’s how relationships work.


My friend, Janice, that night she told me I deserved someone better. Me!! Oh, God, I laughed and laughed at that one! She called him abusive which made me laugh harder and even call her stupid. He’s never once, the two years we’ve been together, hit me or even threatened to hit me! He’s so sexy and classy, he could have any girl he ever wanted, but he loves me.


I’m just a small girl from nowhere with nothing. And he loves me.


Besides, Janice is gay and always had a crush on me so I think she said that because she wanted me to be single again. 


Although, I know I shouldn’t have laughed at her or called her stupid, because she did look hurt. Which is why I kissed her and did those things with her after. I felt like she really deserved someone better than me, too. 


As I’m getting in the shower with him now I smile to know how lucky I am. So many people are kind and caring to me, even though they deserve better. 


I’ve just gotta keep doing what I can to make me worth their time. 


They deserve it. 


Monday, December 15, 2014

Autism Answer: Chatting for Change


I was filling up my water bottle outside of the Local Store in town, while chit chatting with someone who works inside and had come out for a smoke break.

Almost immediately she asked how on earth it was that I had shown up alone, without at least one of my children.

"They're growing up," I lamented, "and following mom around isn't exactly 'cool' I guess!"

We had a little laugh.

"Also, my shadow--my son who almost always goes with me everywhere--recently moved to California." I admitted. "Parenting is the craziest thing! Your job is to let them leave you!"

The lady looked at her scuffed shoes and then back up at me, "My son will move on one day I know, but I'm pretty sure my daughter will be with me a loooonnnnggg time, maybe forever. Her mental age is really young and probably always will be."

"They used to say that about my brother!" I contributed, looking over at my half-full water bottle and then back at the lady. "But look at him now. He's got his own place and the job he's working at has lasted quite a while."

"You're right. I have noticed that your brother is getting more and more comfortable when he comes in the store. He doesn't forget to hold the door open for people like he used to!" We giggled as we both thought for a moment about how my brother had once always been so self involved he just wouldn't see others in line or following him into buildings. And because he didn't see them, he didn't hold the door for them and even sometimes stepped in front of them in line. "But I don't think my daughter will ever really be able to keep a good job and get out on her own," the lady added.

"They said that about my brother too! But he gets better because he keeps on trying." I explained. "He's had to have quite a few jobs in order to be able to learn how to handle them, you know? Each job teaches him stuff that he takes with him to the next one. Like any of us, really, it just takes him longer to learn some of this stuff."

The lady took a final drag of her cigarette as I hoisted my now full five gallon water bottle out of the machine and lugged it to my car.

"My daughter's real good at stocking the shelves in the store, and polite to people. She doesn't work with money well, but she's got a lot of skills....." The wheels in her head were turning, and it was familiar.

As I watched her think about possibilities and remembered the feeling, I heard myself add,"You know, my brother has had a bunch of jobs over the years, and he's almost been kicked out of his apartment more than a few times, but always he's been able to get back on track. And some of that has to do with the support he has from family, but most of it has to do with him chasing a dream. He wants to be a man who drives for a living and is successful. So, he mostly is!"

The lady and I smiled at each other and said our goodbyes. I don't know if she started thinking a little bit differently about her daughter or not. In truth, she almost certainly already saw many possible and beautiful futures for her daughter, our chit chatting was just one tiny moment in time. But it was a moment where she chose to voice likely limitations, and I chose to remind her that limitations are imagined.

So the moment was also not tiny, and I enjoyed a good old fashioned brag-about-my-brother dialogue that left me feeling nourished and filled up!

We have no real power over how others choose to see their lives or their children, but we have plenty of power in sharing possibilities!

So this season, while folks are feeling simultaneously giving and overwhelmed, feel free to chat for change!

You might be offering the gift of possibilities!!!
 

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

My baby brother, hanging out after work!
 

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Autism Answer: What I Read & Who I Am

I realized something about myself yesterday. 

As I came to the end of a pretty good book I was reading, and started looking forward to rummaging through the bag of books I picked up at our local library's annual book sale, I couldn't help but notice how clear and always the same my taste is. 

Every year I devour a few "who done it" type novels. Fast paced, private investigators, crimes of passion or politics with uncomfortable back-stories.... these are, admittedly, fun! But mostly you'll find me reading books exploring human relationships and reasons... relationships to ourselves, our environments, our parents, our children, our society, our culture, our lovers, our friends. Amy Tan, Wally Lamb, Margaret Atwood, John Steinbeck, Steve Martin, Ruth Ozeki, J. D. Salinger, Lynette Louise... these are a few of the folks that live on my bookshelves.

And though I love exploring relationships, the idea of reading a romance novel has never appealed to me. At all. I've tried.

Why on earth am I so uninterested in romance novels? As I was considering this question (my hubby and I were on a long drive, I think about silly things on long drives!) it occurred to me that the answer is simple.

I like exploring relationships, I don't like worrying about them. 


Does that make sense? I like the assumptions that come with established relationships: we'll figure this out, how did this get off track and what do we do to fix it, when this is over what will the take aways be? You know... when you're teasing out the tangles in yourself because of things you've assumed, felt, considered, judged, imagined with people, weather, society, your soul.

But falling in love, wondering if you're loved in return, thinking about whether or not you should stick it out or whether or not you're wasting time and preoccupying yourself, risking the possibility of missing out on your soul mate or whatever. This stuff isn't fun for me to read about.

Not that I have anything against romance!! I love talking and writing about my marriage and the support and love we give each other! I love snuggling my hubby and listing all the ways he helps me shine, holding him tight and kissing his arms.

But, again, ours is an established relationship. We've been marvelously married for fourteen years. This is the kind of relationship I'm addicted to exploring.

So, to sum up: I was on a long drive and realized something about myself that I pretty much already knew, I finished reading a pretty good book and am about to reach into my bag and grab one of the five that are left, but first wanted to ramble on to my friends about why I love reading what I love reading, most likely in an attempt to justify spending a few days reading instead of vacuuming, dusting, and folding laundry. Also, I love rambling with you guys because ours is an established relationship and I'm not sitting here worrying about whether or not you think I'm pretty. tee hee!

I love reading. I love people who read. And I would never judge a person as good or bad, smart or dumb, less or more valuable than, by what they read. Romance is fabulous, it tickles the tummy and makes us blush. It gives us a magical opportunity to find how we fit with someone while encouraging us to look at ourselves through the eyes of another... it's lovely! I just don't enjoy reading about it. For those who do, by all means.... let the tummies tickle!!!

Enjoy a life being you and letting others be them--while temporarily wearing the hats of many. Whether you love romance, classics, hard rock, true crime, fantasy or sci-fi.... find yourself!

And if you're having trouble, go for a long drive. I bet you're out there somewhere. 

tee hee!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

Some of my books; recently read and forever remembered!  



Friday, December 5, 2014

Autism Answer: Talk About Big Issues With Your Children (not at them) #BlackLivesMatter


Author's Note: Now, and always, there are big things happening in our communities and in our world. Sometimes, those big things hit close to home, or are brought home, and we wonder how to discuss them with our kids. I like discussing things with my kids, I also like discussing things with you. So, feel free to share your own thoughts with me on my Facebook Page. Hugs!! ~Tsara


My son called me last night after getting off of work early. There seemed to be only a trickle of customers due to the large number of "police with big guns and protesters stopping traffic." And so we had a passionate and illuminating discussion about the race issue, police policy and accountability, and #BlackLivesMatter

It was fantastic! We shared, considered, reflected, suggested.... and more. As you know, my family is almost unbelievably colorful (seeing us walk down the street kinda looks like a transparent ad for diversity, except not all of us dress well enough!) so the race issue hits home. It's something we talk about, think about, and evolve on in our home and with our friends.

Yet we didn't truly discuss the recent uproar and protests in depth until my son asked by way of bringing it up in an obviously interested way. 

It's important to talk about sex, equality, freedom and other "big" issues with our kids. And it's also important to respect their interest and ability to understand. My youngest son (who is mixed race) has been asking and learning about racism and privilege since a young age. Because he's experienced and wanted to understand it all. My oldest son didn't learn much about it until he was in eighth grade and people were calling him a terrorist.

However, importantly, I've always been open to discussing anything with my boys. 
Mostly it's Family Guy, movies, dance moves, and favorite foods. But sometimes it's rape, bullying, prejudice, climate change, sexuality, mental health--theses are just a few of the topics I comfortably discussed. And because a discussion is not me telling them what to think or believe, but rather an exploration of what we've experienced and a sharing of ideas, it's pretty easy to keep it appropriate to each child.

Although I do also believe in stretching the edges just a bit, so that we can continue to grow and feel comfortable doing so. 

So, if you're wondering how to talk about Michael Brown and Ferguson, Bill Cosby and allegations, Robin Williams and suicide, New York and Eric Garner, Uganda's Anti Homosexuality Bill and the reality of prejudice around the world,  or any other topical and important "big" issue with your kiddos, autistic or not, I suggest letting them lead you regarding their ability to understand, while you play a bit on the edges.

And always be open to more questions and discussions. 


And always be willing to listen as well as tell. 

We can (and I believe should) talk about these issues (and more) will all of our children. It's a beautiful way to connect while practicing the important skill of thoughtful introspection. 


It's not just practice for our kids, but practice for ourselves.

Talking about big issues with my children, rather than at them, has been one of the greatest gifts they've given me. 

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


A Portion of my colorful family.
Hello!
Let's chat!!
Warning: If you choose to encourage candid conversation and a brave interest in the world with your children, it's likely that you'll be stared at and verbally abused by strangers. But, you know what? It's worth it!! Hugs!!!!