Thursday, April 30, 2015

Autism Answer: He Told Me I'm His Mentor

After school yesterday my youngest son told me, "I think of you as my mentor."

I was touched! I smiled and said calmly, "Thanks, Declyn."

Now, I didn't want to say it calmly. I'm a bit of an over-reactor when it comes to celebrating stuff. It's always been a funny thing about me. Funny, and kind of annoying. 

So for Declyn's sake (and, honestly, for my sake so I won't scare him away from giving me things to celebrate!) I kept calm. 

He approved of my even tempered gratitude and, as we sat down to the dinner table for an after school snack, he continued. "I think of a mother and son on a busy city street. I imagine the mom giving a homeless man all the money she has with her and when the son asks why she did it her response is 'the only thing I want in return is his gratitude.' I imagine that because I know that's what you'd say. That's why you're my mentor."

Well, that was lovely! Also... it wasn't true. Sure, when I was his age I might have said that. I totally get why he thinks I'd say that. But, I wouldn't. 

So as we sat snacking on guacamole and tortillas I wondered what to say next. I didn't want him to shy away from telling me these things, and I didn't want him to break-up with me as a mentor. 

But that's just it. He told me I'm his mentor, and so I was encouraged to take on the role with purpose and tell him the truth. 

"I love that story!" I admitted honestly as I brushed crumbs off my fingertips. "But you know what I actually would have said? If I had given all of my money to a homeless man, and my son wanted to know why, I'd tell him it was because at that moment I'd be happier and more comfortable with myself if I did. I would point out that I don't often give all of my money to homeless people, and that when I did I didn't require their gratitude. Only my own."

He looked disappointed in me, as I'd feared. "You always want to make everything deep and insightful. It was just a story about gratitude."

"I know! I loved it! There wasn't a hint of judging homeless people or a touch of cruel intentions. It was beautiful! I'm just saying, if we do things for the gratitude we get from others, we're missing out on the more important gift. The gratitude we give ourselves. Sometimes a homeless person will resent you for helping them. Sometimes they'll be so embarrassed that they don't feel comfortable showing their gratitude. Sometimes they'll shower you with thank-yous and kind words only because they think they might get more out of you. It's dangerous to motivate yourself to do kind things just because of the impressed attention you might get from others. That's all I was saying."

My darling boy grabbed a tortilla and tore off a tiny piece. Dipping it in the guacamole he looked at me with raised eyebrows and a cocky grin on his face. "Like I said, you always wanna make things deep and insightful. Maybe I shouldn't have told you you were my mentor."

I shrugged. I know how this works. So even though I wanted to rewind and try again, or keep talking until he agreed with me, or play it off by reminding him that I'm not always deep, that I listen to cool music and take them to rock concerts, I just sat silent. I let the mixed up mood dance a bit, and then settle. 

As I started to put away our snack my son stood up from the table and headed toward his room. Usually at this point I'd just tell him I love him and remind myself that parenting is like this. Our rewards come later. And the ones that come now are generally from work we've done long ago. It's a never ending ride.

But this time there wasn't long to wait. As he headed out the door he turned his head and said over his shoulder, "Ah, don't worry about it. I guess that deep and insightful stuff is why you're my mentor in the first place. Love you, mom."

And then he was gone. 

It's a balancing act, this parenting thing.

I don't always get it right.

But my children give me reason to believe that I don't always get it wrong either. 

He told me I'm his mentor.

Hugs, smiles, and love!!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

He told me I'm his mentor.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Autism Answer: The Baltimore Riots and The Incredible Hulk #NationalSuperHeroDay

The downtrodden need to remain passionate so as not to become complacent, without ever exploding in anger. It's not fair but it's necessary. 

Like Bruce Banner, they/we need to keep an eye on our rights and walk the edge of justified insistence when it comes to being treated fairly--without tripping over into blind anger. 

Again I admit, it's not fair but it's necessary.

It's hard to walk that line. 

When you're constantly treated as though your life is "less than" or as though being treated fairly is a gift you should be grateful for, then you  have to choose between giving up and pretending it's okay, or insisting on change and engaging in civil disobedience. It's an exhausting way to live.

And change is slow moving. So, sometimes people explode. Which is so sad and brings the movement farther away from where it needs to be. 

In Baltimore there were protests and pleas to look deeper into the possibility of police brutality and prejudice, following the death of Freddie Gray--a twenty-five year old black man who was arrested pretty peaceably but then died of an as yet unexplained spinal cord injury while in police custody. It's all pretty shady and not-so transparent. But also, it's all too familiar and easy for folks to make assumptions. Assumptions that grow out of the world they live in. 

In Baltimore there were protests. 

But there were also violent riots and heavy looting.  

And that's why I thought of Bruce Banner. 

He turns into The Hulk when he's angry, and he destroys everything in the process. His life, his city, his possibilities for a future. But if he doesn't stay at least a little bit angry then he also loses control of his life. He has to hide away from society, become useless, and be afraid of accidentally becoming angry. 

A line in The Avengers film offered by Bruce Banner (played by the ever sexy--oops! I mean talented--Mark Ruffalo) really resonates for me today. Throughout the movie the superheros wonder what his secret is, how it is that he mostly stays in control and doesn't turn into The Hulk. In the end, during the epic and obligatory end-of-a-Hollywood-action-movie battle, when they need The Hulk to appear and so tell Bruce to go ahead and get angry, he lets us in on his trick. "That's my secret," he says as he begins to turn green. "I'm always angry."

Now, I don't know that the downtrodden need to stay always angry. But they/we do need to stay always aware and brave. Willing to step up and insist on fairness or change, without tripping over into blind anger. It's emotionally and physically exhausting.

It's not fair.
And hopefully one day it won't be necessary. 

My heart goes out to those in Baltimore and elsewhere. Scrambling to get a foothold on how to express a passion and truth that needs to be acknowledged. 

Already many superheros have emerged. Volunteers and leaders changing the tone and insisting that the reason for the outburst not get lost in the rubble of the rioting. 

I stand with them and I hear their message.  

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

Yes, I did just compare the Baltimore Riots and a Civil Rights movement to Bruce Banner and The Incredible Hulk. Yes, my mind works in mysterious ways. But in my defense I have four sons! And an itty bitty crush on Mark Ruffalo!!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Autism Answer: Sometimes the Answer is to Send Her Home

I have a step-daughter who's a handful. Especially when she's been drinking alcohol. And she likes to drink alcohol.

So my husband and I have told her, often, that she's not welcome to come over to our home when she's been drinking alcohol.

Today she stopped by and she'd been quite obviously drinking. As she screamed and yelled and paced and swore at us we reminded her she was not welcome inside until she'd sobered up. Our seventeen year old son heard the commotion and came out of his room to see what strange new thing could possibly be going on in our silly, happy, swear-only-when-it-makes-a-kind-joke-funnier home. 

My step-daughter apologized to him saying, "This isn't about you. This is grown-up stuff." 

To which I replied strongly, "This is not grown-up stuff. Not at all. This is the opposite of grown-up stuff."

My step-daughter looked confused (in her defense she grew up in an extremely different environment than the one I insist on calling home, and learned the look of "grown up" from extremely different grown ups) and seemed almost sober for a moment. 

After hearing my comment my son looked no longer confused. He seemed certain of my authority. 

I have a step-daughter who's a handful. And I love her enough to tell her to go home while I strongly insist on exampling what I believe that a home can be.

Sometimes your step-daughter needs to hear no, and sometimes your son needs to hear you tell her no and explain why. 

I insist on a kind, happy, open minded home. And I believe in teaching our children how to insist on it too. 

All of our children. 

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

You don't have to be treated with kindness to insist on being kind. And sometimes being kind means saying no.

I insist on living in a kind, happy, open minded home. Also, I like trees!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Autism Answer: From Tree to Tyran

"What's in a name?" wrote Shakespeare, who died on this day in 1616. Well, my son was born on this day in 1996. So, let's have a peek at names, shall we?

I was pregnant again and I'd already used the name "Jory". A name I'd fallen in love with while reading the Flowers in the Attic series by V.C. Andrews. Now that I was going to have another little one, I'd need to fall in love with a new name. 

My sister suggested making one up. Inventing a name. Well, that would be a new name but I had no ideas. I'm not gifted at creating, although I do enjoy recreating. I do love seeing things that already exist and playing with what they mean to me. So, my sister said, "You like trees. Why not play with the word tree?"

I did. Treedan. Treeman. Raytree. Raiyntree. Treean. 

I didn't have a clue. But I kinda liked Treean. I played with that. 

Treean. Teeran. Oooohhhhh! I liked the way Teeran felt! 

But, I needed it to have a "y" in it. Don't ask me "why" but I really wanted a "y". So, I tried "Tyran". I really liked it!

But then I realized it looked too much like "tyrant". Well, who wants to start life off almost a tyrant?

I felt lost. I tucked the name away, saving it for a character in a story, and kept looking, though nothing seemed right.

And then on this day nineteen years ago, he was born. I held his wrinkly naked crying body in my arms and asked him. 

"What's your name little love?" I comfortably wondered. He told me. He told me his name was Tyran. 

The past nineteen years with Tyran have been enlightening, lovely, scary, intense, and gorgeous. 

Tyran isn't a tyrant, but his innate need to make us think outside the box and shake up expectations is almost like a tyrant. And like a tyrant, he has been a bully. When he was small anger and rudeness sometimes overflowed and cascaded onto those who annoyed him most. He would also be the one to step up, fists at the ready, if ever anyone threatened those he loved most. He was often angry and conflicted. 

Yet, deep at his root, where his name and soul gather nutrition and meaning, he's like a tree. He's strong. He's organic. He insists on being himself--a home for some, a moment of shade for others, and when he's in your way he knows it's your job to find a way around him. He'll not move just because you think his ideas are inconvenient. Or because you don't want to take the time to see their value.

Like a tree, he helps me breathe. 

He's beautiful.

But he is not a tree, and he is not a tyrant. He is Tyran. 

And the world is lucky to have him. 

My son went from Tree to Tyran, and he's done it (is still doing it) in the most magnificent ways!!!

Happy birthday, Tyran!!!!
I love you, I'm proud of you, and I miss you!!!

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

Tyran is a safe and favorite place for his little cousins to rest.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Autism Answer: FIX IT IN FIVE with THE BRAIN BROAD: DVD Review

Exciting Update: FIX IT IN FIVE with LYNETTE LOUISE aka THE BRAIN BROAD, Season One-Uganda, is now available on demand! Rent/purchase episodes or the entire season and watch on any device. Do it! I did!!!!
A short time ago I purchased FIX IT IN FIVE with LYNETTE LOUISE aka THE BRAIN BROAD: DVD set for Season One.

Although Lynette Louise aka The Brain Broad is my mom, and I could have gotten the dvds for free, I opted to pay $187.00, because more than anything I want to support this show.

With over six hours of beautiful footage, brain facts, behavior tips, and insightful ideas, purchasing this dvd set is possibly the best money I've ever spent.

FIX IT IN FIVE with LYNETTE LOUISE aka THE BRAIN BROAD is an international docu-series that airs on The Autism Channel, and I'd already seen snippets of the show. Every episode, indeed every snippet, offers surprising and almost simple ideas for making big change. Ways to play with our children that will encourage healthy brain growth and (possibly my favorite part) a real connection with and understanding of our kids. There are many moments when watching this show that I have to pause and truly reflect. Not only on how important making these small changes is (and it really has been!) but on how unhealthy our society has become for our children. Luckily, though, this show offers so many solutions that rather than shrink away or become afraid of the world, I grow excited to be an active part of it. I want to teach what I'm learning!!

FIX IT IN FIVE with THE BRAIN BROAD on The Autism Channel

Also, I've fallen in love with Trisca and Milly, the mom and autistic daughter in Uganda. Trisca is adorable! And her mom faces familiar problems that are highlighted for me in this unfamiliar place. Financial troubles, confusing expectations, judgmental neighbors, and much more.

FIX IT IN FIVE with THE BRAIN BROAD on The Autism Channel

I've watched the season in it's entirety twice now. I've laughed, cried, considered, reflected, "aha-ed", clapped my hands, and learned a lot. And I've become a better mom. 

Also, when I need an energy boost I just pop in the dvd and am instantly made happier. 

I'm really looking forward to season two!!!

And season three!!!!!

And yes, I will purchase those dvd sets as well!!!

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

FIX IT IN FIVE with THE BRAIN BROAD dvds. Sign up for The Loop so you'll know about the next sale!!
Exciting Update: FIX IT IN FIVE with LYNETTE LOUISE aka THE BRAIN BROAD, Season One-Uganda, is now available on demand! Rent/purchase episodes or the entire season and watch on any device. Do it! I did!!!!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Autism Answer: Welcome Home!

Me and my sister, and my two oldest nieces!!
Before leaving for my five day fabulous babysitting trip, where I got to see my nieces and my oldest sons and my brother and my sister and my mom, I made sure to leave the boys staying behind (hubby included) with plenty of food.

And though I got home to a mostly empty fridge, I couldn't help but notice that the vegetable crisper and the various healthy snacks I'd lovingly purchased for them remained untouched in my absence. 

Also, there were various fast food napkins and wrappers and pizza boxes tucked away--almost where I might not see them. They weren't quite scared enough of my reaction to take them out to the curb. 

A few moments ago my youngest son (a perfectly capable fourteen year old boy) gave me the biggest hugest happiest hug, then asked me to please get him a drink and a snack. "Welcome home!" he laughed a little bit cheekily and a lot comfortably. 

I rolled my eyes and headed to the kitchen, returning with organic iced tea and a plate of broccoli and dip. "I am welcome home!" I offered, a little bit cheekily and a lot comfortably. 

We snuggled again and watched a bit of Attack on Titan

I am welcomed home.
I am!!

And what's even luckier...
I'm welcomed in many homes!!

I am!!!

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


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Autism Answer: Parenting In The World

When I see a child (regardless of age) having a tantrum or melt-down in public, and I see a mom or dad or sibling struggle to help, or ignore, or teach, or insist, I rarely judge. The parent or the child.

I don't think "Well, maybe the child is autistic" or "Perhaps it's just because they've had a rough day" or "I hope that kid learns to behave soon" or "That family has their hands full" or... well, you get it. 

My own sons had tantrums and melt-downs. Sometimes because they were overwhelmed, sometimes because they thought it would get them what they wanted, sometimes because they liked the feeling of everybody staring at us. 

I didn't like it, and I always did my best to parent the way I thought I should in the moment, and that was that. 

So, when I see it happening with another family I generally smile and understand and think, "Parenting sure is a lot of work. And we all have to learn it in front of an audience. That makes it a little bit harder for most of us. But boy, it's totally worth it!"

I don't think it's kind to give parents a smile and a nice word just because their loved one might be autistic or have a sensory problem or painful gut issues. I think it's kind to give parents a smile and a nice word because they are people doing the best they can with what they know. 

And so are we. 

I'll admit, it was autism that gave me this thought. Autism answered again! It was because of loving people who struggle with sensory issues and gut pain and face blindness that I began to realize the importance of never judging others. I started off thinking "Well, they could be autistic." or "It could be an invisible problem that I should be accepting of." 

But then I realized..... well, heck! I should just plain and simply never judge others! It's not my place to make excuses for them, or to sit in judgement.

Having thoughtful opinions and ideas about the people in my world is nourishing and valuable. But choosing to judge them, as though I have some important role, is unhealthy for all of us. 

The world is already getting overly hidden away and unconnected. Being able to avoid grocery store meltdowns and playground social lessons has grown easier in a world that brings food and entertainment easily to your door or pocket with the click of a button. 

I suggest we make parenting in the world as kind and forgiving as possible. We don't have to remind ourselves "Maybe she's on the autism spectrum" but can instead remember "We're all doing the best we can with what we know."

And then we can connect and reach out to know more! 

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

Friday, April 3, 2015

Autism Answer: They're So Big, These Small Silly Things

*Trigger Warning-
I've written this in honor of sexual assault awareness and prevention month.* 

"Let's Face It, Your Prince....
Turned Into A Toad."
I'm sorry. Love you Mucho,

That's what the card my step-dad gave me when I was twelve said. That's one of the ways he apologized for molesting me. 

I had told my mom about the midnight touching and she kicked him out of the house. But first she insisted he apologize to me. 

At the time this card, with a cartoon drawing of a prince on its cover and an adorable little toad on the inside, seemed almost ridiculous.

It wasn't. 

I still have it today. 

My mom is brilliant. 

My step-dad not only admitted his guilt, he gave me something physical that blamed him. Not me, him. 

You have no idea how big that is. How comparatively easy it made my healing, and possibly his. 

Well, maybe you do know. 

A scary number of boys and girls, men and women, are raped or molested. 

A scary number are never believed and are alone in their healing. That's after they've gotten the courage (and boy, does it take courage!) to tell someone what happened to begin with. 

A scary number never tell in the first place. 

My mom is brilliant. 

Not only was she aware of how important it would be for me to know entirely that I was believed and not at fault (because she is one of the scary numbers who was not believed and even blamed) but she insisted he apologize and make it obvious. 

Not only did I heal in ways my fellow molested brothers and sisters often never do, I learned the value of small seemingly silly offerings. 

If I can do something to help someone, or can do something to make up for my own mistake or failure, but the something seems inadequate, I'm tempted then not to do it at all. It's almost embarrassing sometimes to do such small silly things. 

But then I remember that card. Bought by my step-dad at our corner drug store when my mom insisted he apologize for molesting me. 

"Let's Face it, Your Prince...
Turned into a Toad."

He did. 

But by clearly acknowledging it we were both free to find new princes and far away lily pads.

How big they are, these small silly things. Don't ever be afraid or embarrassed to do what little you can. 

Because quite likely it's not silly or little at all. 

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

Jeff: A Sexually Realized Spiritual Odyssey of Stepping Into Love-- by Lynette Louise

*I never saw my step-dad again and he passed away about ten years ago. He had a new life and I hope it was worthy of him. Of course, because I never saw him again, I don't know what that would be.

**If you are struggling with abuse the effects of abuse, past or recent, I encourage you to reach out to RAINN (Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network) and also to read the book my mom wrote. Jeff: A Sexually Realized Spiritual Odyssey of Stepping Into Love. With poetry, candor, and masterful storytelling she'll find you wherever you are in the dark and hold your hand as you step together into the light. My mom (Lynette Louise, The Brain Broad) is kind and strong that way. Hugs!!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Autism Answer: Happy Birthday Brain Broad! (an Autism Awareness Day Party!)

I invite you, I encourage you, to have a peek at my mom's websites. Inspiration, information, videos, blog posts, ideas, honest struggles and honest answers await you there! Go on over and have some fun. That's the greatest birthday party we can throw for my mom, Lynette Louise, The Brain Broad!!!!
Happy birthday to Lynette Louise aka The Brain Broad!!!!

My mom's birthday is April 2nd, World Autism Awareness Day. 
My mom, The Brain Broad, and us kids!

That's, quite simply, the universe telling us to have a listen to what my mom has to say. My mom, who travels the world playing with and guiding families of autism toward happiness, health, and skill building. My mom, who legally adopted plenty of autistic folks and in her heart adopted hundreds more. My mom, who kindly encouraged me (and everyone she's ever met) to stop feeling sorry for or afraid of or bothered by autism and to instead learn with it and love helping and believe in the value of knowing people who see and feel and communicate differently, and who have to work hard to do so. 

To know and believe deep down that we are all equal and able and beautiful and fun.

My mom, who insists on always being authentic and kind while traveling the globe with cameras and love and a big colorful brain, so she can SHOW us how she does it and she can teach us how to do it ourselves. My mom, who loves us too much to stop working and teaching, but who really would like to just hang around with family learning trapeze and sipping coffee. 

Happy birthday Brain Broad!!!!!

We love you so much!

Go ahead and take the day off. Sip coffee and hang out with family. I'll wear my ‪#‎fixitinfive‬ shirt, and run around the world pointing them in your direction. Take a moment to breathe and live. 

Enjoy your day with Rye.

The kind of day all of the other professionals warned you'd never get to have--he works, saved up money, bought his own plane ticket, drove himself to the airport, parked his own car he pays for, and flew to visit his mom on her birthday--and know that you helped make that happen. YOU, my mom, The Brain Broad!

And then when Rye goes home--we'll be here still. Ready to learn from you again. 

Happy Birthday mom!!!!!
I love you so much!!!!

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

My mom, The Brain Broad, with my niece. This is what mom teaches!

Me, proudly wearing my FIX IT IN FIVE with THE BRAIN BROAD shirt!
"Fix it in five, because life is a series of choices." ~Lynette Louise aka THE BRAIN BROAD!