Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Autism Answer: Learnings vs Lessons - A New Year of Playful Semantics!

"Spinning…is well-written overall, but there are several cases of misuse or overuse of punctuation, misuse of words--she seems to make up a language that includes saying “learnings” for “lessons” and uses “example” as a verb." ~Reviewer of my book

I don't generally do the "New Year's Resolution" thing. Sure, my family loves to chat about what we'll do and what we plan for our futures, but it's just never turned into something we do in earnest on the cusp of a new year. 

However, as I mentioned in my Self-Reflection Sunday sharing, this year we will! For those who haven't read my random sharing, here it is: 

"I'm thinking of making concrete resolutions with my sons this year. We almost never do that, it just doesn't match our style. However, this year we're all on the cusp of things, standing on the edge of getting new things done and creating our dreams. We're surrounded by the entire list of items and ingredients needed to stitch it all together, all that's left is for us to do it. So, I'm going to encourage us to actually make the resolution to do the work in 2016! We'll write it down, we'll tell each other our plans so that we've made it real, and so we'll be more likely to share and save any extra fabric one of us may have that might look dashing with another. You know what? Making New Year's Resolutions every year doesn't really match our style, but making New Year's Resolutions when our moment is right to do so, and being aware of that, does match us! Neat!"

My resolution is simple: I resolve to finish writing my novel (at least, the first draft) in 2016.

What, you may wonder, does any of this have to do with Learnings vs Lessons or the quote I shared in the beginning of the post? Well, I'm here to ease your wondering! Even if I am the one who pushed it on you in the first place. Hey, sometimes you gotta make a mess so you can clean it up! tee hee! 

Anyway, a few months ago I got the first critical review for my book, Spinning in Circles and Learning from Myself: A Collection of Stories that Slowly Grow Up, and that first quote, that observation, that I like to make up words and I use "learnings" in place of "lessons" often, is something I'd like to share some learnings about! 

What the reviewer says is entirely true. In fact, if the review is ever published somewhere share-able I will certainly share it with you, because everything the reviewer said was true. I can't say, exactly, that it was a "bad" review, because there are lovely things within and the criticisms are valid and honest. But I get the feeling that the reader didn't entirely enjoy reading my book. And that's okay!

And that's, my friends, what I'm proud and thrilled and excited to learn that I'm comfortable with!! 

I have no interest in arguing with the reviewer, but I am excited to explain why I made the choices I made. For example, "Learnings vs Lessons" well, I think of my life learnings as something I'm continuously involved in and a part of. With the word "lessons" I get an image or feeling of a piece of advice or homework with an expected answer. Lessons sounds, to me, like a thing we are given or a thing we give. Not a thing we play in and explore and evolve and share and keep and then share again. So, I use the word "learnings". 

Of course, it's the wrong word. And that's okay. For me, that's okay. 

But it's true that often readers have no interest in reading a book with creatively invented words, poetic stylings that play indirectly with emotions, or incorrectly used punctuation. They want their entertainment to entertain them, and they want it to be done without asking them to allow for mistakes or follow a creative flow of observations. Good for them! I do that too!! 

For example, I love movies that stir my thoughts and encourage me to consider a life vastly different from mine. But films that play around with creative symbolism and strange edits in order to tell a deeper or more sophisticated tale, well, I often turn them off. Not because I don't value the tactics or learnings they offer, but because that's not what I want in my movies. 

Every single point that the reviewer made about my book regarding suggested tweaks and changes in order to make it more "professional" (that was a word often used) were things I had thought about before publishing. Points I had considered and made intentional decisions about. 

It's true. I use example as a verb, I love the learnings life offers and the lessons they create.
Semantics are fun! Lessons might mean something delightfully engaging and action filled for you. Sweet! Awesome!! I like that! For me, the word brings up something completed; finished. And I think that's fine too! 

One of the biggest, greatest, most delicious learnings I got after reading that review is to know that, like my favorite writers, I do make writing decisions purposefully, and I do know when I'm choosing to be creative or strange, and I don't mind criticism. 

In short: I'm a writer! 

So, now, I can dance into 2016 with strength! I can make that concrete New Year's resolution, to finish my novel, with confidence! Because I am a writer who knows what she's writing and knows when she's making unpopular choices and is completely okay with the criticism!!! 

Well, you know, after a few cups of coffee and a snuggle and a re-reading of the good reviews. Then I'm completely okay with criticism. tee hee! 

I hope you'll join me, friends. I hope you'll hang around and read my stories and share your own here on Autism Answers. I truly enjoy all of the lessons and learnings we've explored together throughout the years. I don't want this date to end! 

But regardless, whether we're here together or far apart, I certainly hope you have many delightful plans and thoughts, and that you anticipate many exciting lessons and learnings, for the New Year!

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

Pg. 9 of my book, Spinning in Circles and Learning from Myself.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Autism Answer: A Christmas in Time

Our stockings were hung on the couch with care;
Knowing that Santa soon would be there~

Santa threw on a sweater and grabbed treats from the car;
Then danced softly through the house noticing how few of us there are~

It's not because of clashing or disappearing or anger;
But for the beautiful reasons of growing bigger and wider~

Like Santa's jolly belly our family has grown;
To all kinds of new places, with their dreams they have flown~

Santa thought of this truth while stuffing snacks down to the toes;
And smiled and laughed at what those stockings truly showed~

They were different, not all matching, yet happily hanging;
Together, on one couch, while awaiting their fillings~

Filled differently, too, with a few sameness' inside;
Santa encouraged that diversity with silliness and style~

Two stockings were filled with the purpose of later;
When they would be mailed to the boys who are older~

Traditions shift and grow and become new things too;
But having a Merry Christmas is always possible to do~

Our stockings were hung on the couch with care;
Knowing that Santa would always be there!

Merry Christmas!!!!
Hugs, smiles, and love!!!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Autism Answer: Screenshots and Stories - My Book's High Rating On Goodreads

My book is the Highest Rated on Goodreads!!

Well, it's highest rated of the books I've rated. This year. On Goodreads. Because it's been rated four times by friends of mine who loved my stories, rather than hundreds of times like the other books I've read and rated. With four ratings of five stars, well, my book keeps a full five star rating.

But when you see this screenshot you see that my book is...
A Highest Rated on Goodreads!!!

I'm sharing with you for two reasons. 

1) I love the excuse to remind you about my book and I hope you'll get a copy for yourself and a friend. Maybe you'll add it to a few Christmas stockings this year!

2) I love reminding myself, and my friends, that the screenshots we're offered in the lives of others are almost always misleading. Sometimes a little and sometimes a lot. It's important to remember that. Not so we can roll our eyes and think, "Ya, right, I'm sure that's not really ‪#‎nofilter‬ and I know her marriage isn't as good as she's saying it is." But so we can slow down the self judging based on purposely chosen and shared screenshots from others. (Look closely and you'll see I had a tab open specifically teaching me how to take a screenshot so I could show this off!) And also so we can smile and applaud our fellow life moment sharers for choosing to celebrate the beautiful moments. Sure, sometimes the shared moments are complete lies, but mostly they aren't. Mostly they're a true screenshot within a bigger story. A favorite scene from a colorful life. 

So, yes! My book is a Highest Rated on Goodreads!!!

That's true!!

It's also true that it's highest rated in 2015, by four people. Including me, the person who wrote the book.  

So, remember to celebrate the screenshots shared by others, don't judge them harshly. And don't waste too much time comparing them to your story. 

Please, also, enjoy the screenshots shared by you! I encourage you to be honest with yourself about why you choose to share the ones you do, and to be honest with others as well. You can never tell the full story behind a screenshot, but you can always choose to tell a favorite story. 

I'm proud to share this screenshot of my book's high rating with you! I'm proud that I like it, that my friends like it, and that in 2015 people have chosen to give it five stars. And I'd remain proud if I chose only to show you that screenshot without the story behind it, because it is true. But I'm also happy to share some of the story behind that, because there are fun answers there. Either way, it's a screenshot and my chosen story.  

If you'd like some ideas on how to tell honest stories with intention and truth, well, grab yourself a copy of my book! I know you'll love it. After all...

It's a Highest Rated Book on Goodreads!! tee hee!

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

Spinning in Circles and Learning from Myself: A Collection of Stories that Slowly Grow Up by Tsara Shelton
From Amazon: Spinning in Circles and Learning from Myself
From Barnes & Noble: Spinning in Circles and Learning from Myself
From Powells:  Spinning In Circles and Learning from Myself
From Archway:  Spinning in Circles and Learning from Myself


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Autism Answer: Happy Birthday, Jory Rand!

My oldest son, Jory Rand.

Twenty-two years ago today, Jory was born.

I was nineteen, and he was perfect. Everywhere we went I beamed with pride, and when we'd pass other moms and dads I'd nod apologetically, knowing that though their children were fine, mine was the best!

(BTW: That's not a joke, I really felt apologetic. Hey, now, I was only nineteen! And look at him!! giggle!)

Together we made millions of perfect mistakes, and learned millions of perfect lessons. 

In fact, I learned one of my most important parenting lessons the very day Jory was born.

After weeks and months of going out of my mind with excitement about being a mom and meeting the child I knew would always be my best friend, he was finally born and immediately introduced me to what I would come to learn was an absolute truth: 

He wasn't part of me, he was himself. And I didn't know him yet. 

He taught me, immediately, that it would be our privilege to spend a lifetime getting to know ourselves and each other. 

It has been a most fun, movie filled, cheese and crackers munching, friend making, positive thinking, elaborate fort making twenty-two years!

I love you Jory Rand!!! 

Happy Birthday!!!! 

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

New Website:

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Autism Answer: The Man on The Wall

I was left nearly speechless last night, friends! Shay, my seventeen year old son, shared with me in detail a dream he had, the story he wants to write, and the meaning he believed it had. 

Now, I know Shay is brilliant and insightful in strange and sometimes scary ways. His confidence when connecting the problems inherent in the school system, for example, when coupled with his confidence in telling school officials all about it, has put us in challenging positions. His willingness to bravely walk into a room filled with bigoted and racist people specifically so he can tell them why they're dangerous, wrong, and cruel, knowing even the attitude that his opinions and ideas are equal to those of any adult in the room will anger and inflame them, has frightened me on more than one occasion. 

I taught my sons this, that they are equal and brilliant and free to think for themselves, but I didn't always know the dangers. I'm glad I didn't because, had I known, I don't think I would have been brave enough to teach what's right. My son, though, is brave. 

But he's also seventeen. He's brilliant and brave, with seventeen years of experience and seventeen year old angst. So his brilliant and brave connections are still less deep and more angry than I imagine they one day will be. 

Last night, friends, they were deep and the anger was absorbed into the narrative brilliantly. 

The dream, connections, and insights are his to tell, and he is planning on telling them. He spent the night writing it down and will probably turn it into a short film. But for now, he's given me permission to share some points.

The Dream/ The Story

*A school exists where the students are surrounded by a wall, a wall that they're told is to keep them safe from the outside world. 

*A drug exists that makes people hallucinate and see their surroundings as ugly and dead. They're told never to take this dangerous drug. 

*A group of students take the drug and adventure to the wall, which they feel curious and compelled to climb over. A man who lives on the wall greets them and invites them to come in. 

*Once on the other side they see diversity, nature, and beauty. "It looks like a forest in British Columbia." my son describes. They have been told that it's dangerous and cruel here, so they are sure that what they see now isn't true. 

*The students expect the drug to wear off and know that then they'll see the true ugliness on the other side of the wall. But when it wears off there's still only beauty. Until they look back. From this side there is no wall, and they see their school is decrepit and dead. They disappear into the beauty. 

*Two teachers (they are male, all the teachers are male) from the school go looking for the students and decide, also, to take the drug. Assuming it will give them insight into where the students would have gone. The hallucinations are intense and everyone looks dead. 

*At the wall they meet the man who greets them kindly. In return they are cruel, knowing what they've always been told: That things from the other side of the wall are dangerous and cruel. 

*The man then gives them what they expect, sending them cruelly away (with an imaginative and symbolic action sequence). 

*The teachers head back to their school, which looks decrepit and dead because of the drug, to warn others about the man from the wall. But their own fear and rush to conclusions sends them to their own demise. 

*I don't want to give away the ending. But it's insightful, and lovely, and intelligent. And kind of creepy. 

His Interpretation: My son then tells me that the dream is probably a direct result of Donald Trump talking about keeping others away, the drug represents truth, seeing everything within the wall as "dead" is symbolic of how we might as well be dead when we don't think for ourselves and welcome diversity, and my son says that in the dream HE was the man on the wall. He was the man who could see it all at once. 

The story, the dream, the connections are not unique to my son. We've all seen movies and read books and had dreams that tell this story. But it's always impressive and far more deeply known and understood when we create and share the story ourselves. For my seventeen year old son to have this dream and understand it, and then to feel obligated and excited to share it, that is somewhat unique. 

And very much him. Very much "a Shay thing" as we say around here. 

I get afraid sometimes of what can happen when my sons speak out and tell truths that threaten people with power. But because my son is only happy when following his true thought train, I'm more afraid of what can happen, what does happen, when we don't speak our truth. 

When we accept the wall and the stories we're told. When we don't experiment and see for ourselves.
When we choose to be anybody but the man on the wall. 

For me, that means allowing my sons, and myself, to tell our truths and live with the consequences. 

Until our truths change the consequences.
I hope you'll join us on the wall. 

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

He was up all night writing, and snacking on cereal.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Autism Answer: Crazy Driver

That woman driving crazy and all wrong on the road? That was me. Sorry about that!

I've never had a "road rage" issue. I find it simple to understand and forgive
Me driving.
mistakes of other driver's and different-than-me style driving on the road. Really simple! After all, my mom drove with eight of us crazy kids all the time, having to make strange choices born out of listening to screams of fear from my youngest brother if we ever had to turn around, or God Forbid, drive on the "poo highway." Choices born out of mom's overwhelming belief that employing a few strange maneuvers and cutting a few corners (or driving on a few shoulders in traffic) if carefully and masterfully employed was understandable for a single mom of eight sensory challenged kids desperate to get home. 

Anyway, I'm easily comfortable understanding people who make mistakes. Because, well, I like to be understood when I make mistakes!

However, the Universe (once again!) proved that it knows me a little better than I know myself. It seems I've fallen into the habit of feeling a little bit "better than" when comfortably forgiving drivers who make mistakes. Not because I don't make mistakes, but because I feel like I'm nicer than the drivers who yell and swear and complain. Oops!

The Universe was having none of that! So, she decided to put me in the position to make so many mistakes that I would remember my kindness was not better than, but instead plain and simply human and correct. 

THE SET UP: I've got a check on the seat beside me and I'm heading to downtown Los Angeles to make an important and time sensitive payment. In my sister's car, with no knowledge of the city and no understanding of how to use the navigation on my phone, I'm following the directions I've written down, making my way slowly through traffic. I just might make it! 

THE PROBLEM: Driving in desperate circles I see that the address on the check does not exist! The roads and interstates and crowds are wild and unpredictable, I'm constantly rolling down my window to beg my way five or six lanes over only to beg my way back again. I back up when backing up isn't an option, I feel unsure of my own adult-ness. I mean, I'm a grown up. I know how to find an address! Finally I park at a meter and run wild and weird down the street, falling on my face and breaking my phone. Frightfully I make sure the check is okay, and it is, but I still can't find the place where I will trade it for a permit. A permit that we need before the office closes (in twenty minutes) so we can legally take our pictures in the morning. A permit that my producer sister must have (and has been trying to get from them for over a week!) by tonight. Finally, with plenty of thoughtful folks shrugging and apologizing and pointing me in possible directions, I find a guard for the building that should be at the address. She informs me that I'm right, this address isn't possible to drive to. But, also, I'm wrong, the permit office isn't here. Apparently, I need to get to Hollywood in fifteen minutes during traffic. Okie, dokie! Here I go..... 

THE RESOLUTION: With help from my sister I figure out how to use the navigation in her car, with help from the folks at the permit office I get them to kindly wait for me a few minutes after closing, which means they have to keep an elevator operator informed of my impending disheveled arrival so that he can let me get to the twelfth floor. I make it, I trade check for permit, and I race down to the car which I'm pretty sure I parked legally but at this point I just don't know things anymore. The car is fine, my phone is cracked and quirky but I can make calls, and my driving has been a mess. Just for good measure, I turn the wrong way down a one way street on my way back to my sister with permit in hand. Why not? I've never done that one before.

BONUS SCENE: The next morning, when several officials stop by to ask the producer to produce her permits, I feel proud and useful. Those permits are on set partly because I had been willing to drive like a nutter and ask for help and let the Universe remind me that I'm not being "better than" other drivers by being nice, I'm being correct. 

You just never know what's going on behind the scenes in the seemingly strange, weird, or wrong twists and turns another person chooses to take. Sometimes they don't even know! But always, always, always, we can be kind and helpful. Often times it's nice to give a quick honk of your horn, say "Hey there! Don't smash me, I'm here too!" and a frazzled mom or production assistant may want to kiss you for it. But honk your horn to yell? Ummmm.... who does that help? 

So, if you saw me making crazy turns and silly stops in Los Angeles the other day (and many people did!) I thank you for laughing with me, and not yelling or angrily honking at me. I did end up where I wanted to end up, and we had a grand adventure along the way!

And I remembered that I'm not "better than" when I'm friendly and forgiving, I'm just right. 

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

Monday, December 7, 2015

Autism Answer: My Boys at Burger Lounge

My two oldest sons, Tyran and Jory.

My two oldest sons often do production assistant work for my producer sister. She produces big advertising photo shoots and they do their best to help her out on set. They love it! 

Last week my sister worked a big job and needed all of her crew. However, my oldest son was working his regular job and was unavailable, so I replaced him. I've been on sets before, and I love being an assistant, so though I knew it would be hard work, I also figured I'd be naturally good at it. 

Oops! Silly me!! 

I did work hard, and I did love it (working with my family tends to always include a fantastic atmosphere) but I was not a natural! 

However, my son trained me and my sister assisted me (yes, the producer assisted her assistant!) and while I was continuously learning I was also continuously impressed and amazed at how talented my sister and my son are. Patient, focused, lovely, creative, and strong are a few words that immediately come to mind.

I had many favorite moments. And I expect over the next few days you'll be invited to share a few with me. We all know I love to tell you about my favorite moments!

For now, let me share this simple, beautiful, mom-tastic one. 

One evening after we wrapped, my oldest son met us in Santa Monica for a late night meal. He knew we only had a couple of hours to spend with him, but he also knew that it was likely the only chance he and I would have to see each other until who-knows-when, so he and his girlfriend endured the California traffic for a meal with me. 

We met at Burger Lounge, he bought us food, and we hugged so tight!!! Then, my two oldest sons talked about the production, how it was going and how my oldest son was missing the energy and people on my sister's crew, and what it was like to work with me. 

I listened to my boys talk about me and love me and laugh at me and adore me and be embarrassed of me while they ate their burgers. I saw them keep an eye on me to make sure I was enjoying it. I saw them love each other and miss working together and share work memories and care about including me, while being honest and comfortable. 

I saw my two grown sons and listened to their banter; comfortable and careful and caring and gorgeous. 

We're always learning and forever growing up. We're all confident and practiced at some things and uncertain or new at other things. I know I'll have to work at least one more time to get a good groove and intuitive nature as a production assistant. 

But one thing I know for sure after seeing my boys at Burger Lounge, one thing I know completely and with absolute certainty, is that they are grown up. All the growing up and learning they do now, for the rest of their lovely lives, will be much like the extra patties on their over-sized burgers: more.

Just, more.
Simply, more.

Who they are now is enough. They are grown, they have the tools, they know what matters to them. The rest of their lives will be mostly about adding more. 

I'll continue to be amazed.
I'll continue to tell the stories.
And together, we'll keep adding more. 

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

Tyran and my sister, Brandessa. As you can see Tyran loves when his mom takes pics of him on set!