Thursday, April 27, 2017

Autism Answer: Finally! We're Boring!

Me and my brother: The oldest of eight and the youngest of eight. Bookends!

When I first started my Facebook Page (which became this blog) about four years ago, I got tons and tons and tons of comments from followers about how my youngest brother was such an inspiration.

In those days, he was doing well but still truly struggling. So many of my stories were about giving him those extra pushes and being there when he needed a moment to breathe. I shared with readers the things my mom was doing, the things I was doing, and the work my brother was putting into his own life and independence, rather consistently. Almost once a week.

But lately, the last year or so, he's just a guy living his life and we hang out sometimes. Sure, I'm his big sister so I also give him those extra pushes and create an environment where he can comfortably breathe when he needs a break, but I rarely tell you about it anymore.

It just seems less like a "story" you need to know about. 

It seems less like our moments are fragile and hugely important, and more like they're necessary for the function of loving life, just like in every other family or team or group of friends.

It's not as though my brother doesn't amaze and teach and learn with me anymore. It just seems like less of a big deal. Like less of a thing I need to tell you.

And we're okay with that.

Happy birthday to my baby brother, Rye!!! I hope we continue to grow and learn and love and laugh and impress each other in these boring, simple ways!

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

Our birthday plans for tonight! Hanging out in the backyard!


If reading some of those stories from our days of learning together might interest or (dare I hope?) help you, I invite you to check out my book Spinning in Circles and Learning from Myself: A Collection of Stories that Slowly Grow Up. It truly is as it sounds. A collection of mostly true stories I've written over the years about growing up in my unique family and then raising one of my own. Happy reading, friends!! 

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Autism Answer: The Brain Broad Wants To Meet Your Family! (Five Days Left)

Not trying to rush you but -

Lynette Louise (aka The Brain Broad) is accepting new clients only up until the end of April! 

You don't have to have your outreach this month, it can be anytime and anywhere, but you MUST contact her before the month ends! 

Lynette works with families around the world, balancing brains and bringing play to your life in new ways. Autism, Parkinson's, Tourette's, anxiety, addiction, anorexia, phobias, and (recently) short term memory loss are just a few of the challenges she successfully treats. Anywhere in the world, any culture, any age, any belief system: she honors them all and is always effective. 

 "All members of a group lean on and reinforce each other so change requires a global approach … it is only when change is applied to the entire group that everyone grows happier, clearer and more capable." ~ Lynette Louise aka The Brain Broad

"So, if's she's so great, why is she only taking on new clients till the end of the month?" 

Good question! Although you didn't have to ask it so cheekily. tee hee! 
Anyway, she explains it best herself in this short Facebook Post

FYI: Just a reminder that I will stop booking new clients April 30th.
My commitment to families often spans a decade and to promise good work now that I am sixty the math says ... time to stop bringing people into the fold.
However I will still speak, write, teach and perform soooo not exactly retiring just closing one door to open others.
Connect ASAP though if you want my outreach services.
See? So don't be such a snot next time. Giggle!

I encourage you to call or email her. As I mentioned, you don't have to schedule the outreach right away. So call her and have a chat. Ask questions, explain your goals and hopes, get a price check. 

Contact Lynette Louise: email - / 
Phone - 713-213-7682

Check out her HOW I WORK page for a fun rundown of how an Outreach with Lynette works. 

Then run to your phone to contact her!

Also happening until the end of the month is the 50% off promo code for all things FIX IT IN FIVE with THE BRAIN BROAD: Seasons, episodes, owning, rental. 

Promo Code:

Season One (Uganda):

Season Two (USA):

Take advantage of this, too!!

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

Friday, April 21, 2017

Autism Answer: My Sons Are Awesome! (aka Our Children Are Awesome!)

"My sons are awesome!" ~Me

"My sons are awesome!" <---- This is an absolute truth, in my mind. From the moment I knew they would one day be born, this was an unarguable fact. No need for proof; no need for double-blind studies; no need for anyone else to agree. My sons are awesome much like gravity happens.

The challenge then hasn't been helping them become awesome, because that's an absolute unarguable foundation I take for granted. The challenge, the job, has been helping us discover the many ways they are awesome. The work is guiding us to recognize and value the healthiest awesome parts and tweak the other stuff. Parenting has meant actively seeking ways to fit their awesomeness into the world in an environment that allows it to blossom, without forcing environments to change overly much for them or asking them to change overly much for environments, but instead seeking people and places that benefit from each other's awesomeness while always being willing to move on - without animosity - when things changed. Because things always change.

"Our children are awesome." ~The World

When we remember that all of our children are inherently awesome it becomes natural to seek and highlight and put into action the proof of that. Less often will we teach from a place of what not to do or be, and far more frequently will we uniformly seek and add to the things we're pleased with and happily surprised by. And our children will respond by revealing ever more of that naturally occurring awesome for our attention! 

Honestly, I believe that when we remember this truth, that all of our children are awesome, we will still make mistakes and screw up as moms and dads and aunts and uncles
and teachers and doctors, but we will be screwing up from a place with an unobstructed view. The lie of "what's wrong with these kids, what needs fixing" won't command our attention and hide the vista of truth. The truth that our children are awesome and we get to help them harness and hone that. They will make mistakes while trying, as will we, but it's all just the mistakes of people who are awesome.

TIP: It's important to remember that all of our children are awesome, so we don't make the mistake of playing the "better than" or "compared to" game. That's an unwinnable game. A cruel, painful, lying, unwinnable game. 

Our children are all born equally awesome. That's just how it is, friends. No biggie.

"My sons are awesome!" ~Me 

You're darn right they are!! 

Hugs, smiles, and love!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Autism Answer: Five Things I Learned (Or Re-Learned) Watching Fix It In Five

Five things I learned (or re-learned) while watching Season Two, Episode Three of FIX IT IN FIVE with THE BRAIN BROAD:

*Disclaimer: These are things I learned, not necessary things the show was intending to teach. As a writer and creator of content myself I know well that often the lessons learned are different - even contradictory - to the message I might have been meaning. I also know that it's surprising and wonderful when people learn things from my writing that is completely reflective of the audience themselves and not me. That, actually, is largely the point. 
1) Process Out Loud: When playing with our kids/students/friends we can process the whys and whats of our actions out loud in order to easily explain - aka teach - our choices. It's become a habit for plenty of us to ask for our kids to do things, or to stop doing things, without breaking down our reasons for what we're asking. So all they know is we want this or don't want that, but they don't know why. And honestly? We, ourselves, often don't even know why! Processing out loud helps us figure it all out while teaching.

2) Be Comfortable Talking About The Uncomfortable: We gotta get over any yucky feelings we have when saying things like "don't touch your penis in public" because our discomfort teaches discomfort. Conversely, our comfort can teach comfort. If we are completely comfortable, then the statement plays its intended role; it becomes a simple, consistent, social skill lesson. For the person we are teaching and for all the folks nearby.

3) Value Giving Control: Most schools and programs value getting compliance from students and then offering small bits of control over their schedules and lives. Rewarding compliance with control. However, when we give more control of schedules and life choices to students in the first place, when we value giving them more control, we can ask for the compliance we hope for while giving them an important role in their own lives. We can teach the social skills we want badly to teach - and most people want to learn - while doing the things they are wanting to do. The lessons are in the moments, not the schedule.

4) Always Assume You Are Understood: There is an unfortunate trend among us to assume we can talk over our children's heads, or over the heads of folks who are socially challenged. Not cool, man. Always "Act as if, and then simplify." Act as if everything is understood, and then simplify the pieces and parts for clarity. Perhaps, by processing out loud! (#1) 

"Act as if, and then simplify." ~Lynette Louise, "The Brain Broad"

5) You Are Never Done Learning: This isn't something specifically taught in the episode, this is something I learned by noticing my own reactions to things. Most of the situations and lessons offered in this show are familiar to me, yet I found myself surprised during moments of my own, well, surprise! With my brothers and my sons, I am comfortable with, and aware of, their unusual habits. I have practiced explaining and teaching to them (and have been honored to play a role in our growing healthy together!) and I am tuned into their energy. I can feel when their moods will shift. I can ride the waves of our moods without too much worry about where we'll end up. However, watching a new family always brings new habits and moods. And even though the new family is so very similar to ours, it always feels nervous and new to me. And I always have to learn what I already know all over again! Generalizing, it seems, takes practice. At least for me!

6) I adore Jody, Xavier, and Gina.
I adore families. I adore how willing so many of us are to figure out a new way to teach and to love when we find ourselves in a story that asks for it. I adore watching The Brain Broad shine such love out of her eyes day after day after day.

*These five things I learned are from only one episode. And I could have written more. Seriously, friends, this show is a sparker of infinite thoughts, ideas, and actions. It can be seen (all episodes, and both seasons) for FREE on The Autism Channel. Visit my mom's site for more links and info:

Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook) 
The show (both seasons) is also available for rent/purchase via Vimeo on Demand. This promo code will get you any/all of the episodes at 50% off: Awareness2017

Purchasing the show is a wonderful way to have infinite access to all that it has to offer. Also, you can (and I think you should!) offer it to events and schools. You can put on an event yourself! Not only that but your purchase helps fund the editing and filming of the next three seasons (Israel is in the editing phase). 

Please consider purchasing both seasons!  

Promo Code:

Season One (Uganda):

Season Two (USA):



Monday, April 10, 2017

Autism Answer: Exploring Memories

A MEMORY: I’m sitting in my hot car outside of the high school. The music is on and I’m singing my heart out to Heaven On Their Minds from Jesus Christ Superstar, my windows open and my eyes closed to better get lost in the lyrics. Also, closing my eyes is easier than apologizing to my unfortunate audience of other parents in cars, waiting for the kids to be dismissed. Of course, unlike me, they have left their cars and air conditioning running so their windows are closed. I feel a little bit good for the environment simultaneously as I’m bad for the ears.

I’m pulled suddenly out of my headspace by a tap on the shoulder. It’s a dad to one of the girls my gay son (not yet out of the closet) is dating. We laugh for a minute about my singing when he asks curiously, “So, what do you think of this relationship our kids are in?” It’s a legitimate question. His daughter, my son, and one other girl have decided to all date each other. They hold hands and sneak off into the woods to smooch. “Hey, it’s working for them. They seem happy.”

My answer is careful, I don’t know this man well. He shrugs. “As long as my daughter isn’t dating one of those black boys, you know?”

I’m uncomfortable, of course. “You know that my husband is black, right?” I’m trying to keep the mix of anger, fear, hurt, and confusion from my voice.

“Oh, that’s different. I’m talking about these black boys, not your husband.”

I don’t know what to say and I don’t want to be put in the position of having to know what to say. I just want to live somewhere else where people don’t call them black boys and they turn off their cars because they care about the environment. His judgment breeds my own.

A MEMORY: My friend and I are sitting beneath the stars sipping coffee. The breeze is delicious and the coffee refreshing and our conversation nourishing. I’m on a roll, talking about how lately I’m beginning to see the value of impatient reactions. How sometimes an issue needs to be obnoxiously shoved to get it out of the deep rut it’s been stuck in. I barely mention the Black Lives Matter movement when my friend interrupts angrily. “That movement makes me so angry… all lives matter…why do they think violence is the way….so don’t act like that if you want to be treated fairly…not all of them but when they get together…sure, it used to be bad for them but now it’s not…they are erasing all the good work…”

I love, love, love my friend, but I don’t agree with almost anything she has said. Yet, I listen. I remember, even, thinking similar things myself once upon a time. Then I assert my view. I take my time sharing how I see it, not shying away or shoving my ideas at her. We never agree on this issue, but we have things to think about that night.

I have an endless list of memories that have reminded me to speak out, to be forgiving, to listen and learn.'

The more I open myself up to these learnings the more I want things to change while I also feel comfortable with the truth that change is a constant; there is no finish line.

A MEMORY: I am reminded of a conversation I had with my niece. She is pansexual and my son is gay. Labels that, themselves, prove a problem: the problem of wanting labels to explain people.

We were talking about the lack of representation in film. She complained that when they do include LGBTQ storylines, the sexuality is used as a plot device.

“I hear you,” I agreed. “But I admit to doing it myself, in my screenplay CARHOPPING. The thing is, we’re still at a place in society where the issues that come up when using it as a device need to be acknowledged and respected. The struggles and situations that we experience in a society that chooses to marginalize and abuse the LGBTQ community are worth exposing. But I do agree with you. If TV and film represented all communities as though they are already accepted and expected, if we tell stories with the assumption of acceptance, the world will follow faster. The characters will just be who they are and the stories won't be about fighting for that right or struggling with the lack of it.”

Most of our important shifts - as individuals and as communities - are a result of listening to and learning from diversity and perspectives different from our own. For too long we didn't seek these perspectives purposely. We fought them.

Now, though, we have access to films, books, articles, videos, from all over the spectrum of humanity! I encourage us to take advantage of that!!

Let's purposely experience foreign films and books written by people drastically different from ourselves!

AND WE CAN REVISIT OUR MEMORIES: Those times when we were offered a foreign idea or opinion, or when we ourselves were foreign.

We have so much already within us and offered to us. If we aren't in the mood to reach out we can reach in.

BONUS: Memories don't rely on technology or money. Plus, they don't have commercials and they rarely spam you! tee hee!

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

Have a peek inside my book of moments and memories!

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Autism Answer: Diverse Brains Getting Differently Happy

I write often and widely about the power of what I call intentional storytelling as an effective way to live happily. 
In a nutshell, intentional storytelling is simply telling the story of our days, moments, and lives with the intention of highlighting positivity. For example, when my husband asks, "How was your day?" I respond with the intention of telling him all the ways my day was enlightening, surprising, fun, and/or awesome. I write about the power of doing this when we tell the story of our moments to ourselves, our friends, and our social media connections. Of course, some days are more challenging than others. In this case I still tell the story of my day intentionally, but I don't try to pretend it wasn't hurtful or hard; instead I tell the story (to myself and my loved ones) with the intention of discovering and revealing truths about myself and my world rather than merely to complain, blame, or shame.

Now, what I've learned in my life as a sister and friend of cognitively challenged adults and children, is that for a huge percent of our population this is far harder to do than I had once imagined. (CONFESSION: I used to assume that many folks just wanted to be sad or angry or unhappy for either attention or to avoid seeming naive.) My mom, however, is an international mental health expert - and single mom of eight now grown kids, six adopted four with autism and more diagnosis - who uses neurofeedback along with behavior shifts to help balance brains that are firing in ways that make happiness and comfort nearly impossible. 

My mom travels the world helping families who are seemingly impossibly challenged find health and happiness. Her work is based in brain science and relies heavily on uncovering personal beliefs, shifting behavior, and using neurofeedback to make it all easier. 

She is phenomenal! She is effective, thoughtful, and non-stop brilliant! I continue to learn from her and she helps me reset my understanding of what it is to think positive and to be happy. 

So, I still talk and write about the power and simplicity of intentional storytelling but with a deeper understanding of the complexity and diversity of people and our brains. Learning that my way isn't always the right way or the best way hasn't made it less in my eyes; it's made it an addition I can confidently offer. Suddenly, I don't seek the reasons people aren't "doing it right" or "not really trying" when my tips don't work, instead I think about the so many different ways we all see "right" and we all truly try. 

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

I encourage you to peek at my mom's international autism docu-series to learn more about making the brain happy!

Monday, April 3, 2017

Autism Answer: A Boy And His Prom

As promised in my last post, I'm playing my role this Autism Awareness Month as the introducer of people I know and love that are actively making a difference. 

I also promised to spam update you with pictures of my son on prom night. 

I love making promises that allow me to show off my family with legitimate reason! 

So, here's an introduction to my youngest son: 

When he was little we would go to playlands and parks, he would spend at least an hour holding me tight wanting to play but far too socially uncomfortable. If there was even one child other than his brothers, it would take at least an hour for him to play. I would sip
coffee, encourage him, and wait.

He would be invited to birthday parties, sometimes we would even drive to the address on the invitation and start to walk in, but as a child he never quite found himself able to attend. He'd cry and talk for hours at himself about why, how, maybe next time. 

Now, he loves working in marching band, theater, leadership. He has found a social way for himself: knowing his role and having a job to do. Also, he enjoys playing video games with one-friend-at-a-time. Another way to be social without feeling overwhelmed and uncomfortable.

However, he still wants to be able to play at the park, hang out with friends, go to prom. So - though he never seeks it - he puts himself in that uncomfortable place when an opportunity presents itself. He shows up at the party or buys a ticket to the prom. He makes sure I'm available to pick him up. He talks to himself for days leading up to an event about why he can change his mind, why he shouldn't, what he might talk about if he goes.

I'm so impressed by him. He expands his own edges and asks me only to understand, to drop him off, to pick him up, to let him transition. He's amazing, handsome, and brave.

I adore this boy.
I hope he has fun at the prom!

BEFORE: He's sitting silently on his couch, head down and tux on. "I'm trying to think about what to say to people. I'm starting to feel that feeling that I don't want to go. Can you drop me off and not walk to the door with me? I don't want to hurt your feelings I just need that time to get in the right mood."

MOMENTS AFTER I DROP HIM OFF: My phone rings and he says, "There's so many people here. I'm just sitting outside waiting for the crowd at the door to thin out. Want me to send you a picture of me sitting here?"

HOURS LATER: I pull into the parking lot and text him so he knows I'm there. "I won best dancer, do you see all this sweat? I did a back flip. Don't look at me like that, I was careful. Man, the sweat is soaking through my shirt! That was fun!"

CONCLUSION: He had a great time!

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

"I think it's because of my autism that I teach myself which worries to ignore and which ones are worth overcoming." ~Declyn

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Autism Answer: Playing My Role This Autism Awareness Month

Happy April, friends!!

Tonight is my youngest son's junior prom, tomorrow is my mom's 60th birthday and world autism awareness day, and this entire month is all about bringing answers, ideas, insights, and experiences from the world of autism to the larger public. 

My youngest son didn't make eye contact for years, struggled seriously with sensory issues, and still works hard to handle his social strangenesses and misunderstandings. 

My mom spent her childhood seeing sound as color, perseverating over fairness and prejudice, and then adopted several youngsters with similar issues as her own, knowing they could help each other heal. (And they did!)

Both my youngest son and my mom now reach out consistently and creatively to people who are misunderstood, alone, or otherwise hurting from an unbalanced brain.

My mom writes and performs songs that are addictive and lyrically inspiring, she writes articles and books that bring science and personal narrative together in poetic and clever ways, she speaks on stages for audiences that can't help but stand on their feet with emotion, she puts all of her resources and love and knowledge into her international docu-series FIX IT IN FIVE with THE BRAIN BROAD (on The Autism Channel) and she works intimately with families in homes around the world. This, my friends, is only a partial list of the actions she takes to reach out with guidance and understanding.

My son looks up to my mom in beautiful ways and plans one day to join her as a leader, speaker, and performer with a message. 

I don't have any of the skills, history, or insights that those two have but I value, learn from, and honor theirs. 

My work then, every April, is to introduce you to the wonderful life-changing work they do.

So now, I have the pleasure of introducing you to my mom: international autism and mental health expert, gorgeous grandma, and mom extraordinaire! 

Lynette Louise site: / Brain & Autism site:

*Truly, an action-oriented way you, your friends, educators, news organizations, and neighbors can take advantage of Autism Awareness Month and my mom would be to rent or purchase one or two seasons (Uganda, USA, respectively) of FIX IT IN FIVE with THE BRAIN BROAD via Vimeo On Demand. Also, it would be the greatest 60th birthday gift you could possibly give my mom!*

SNEAK PEEK OF THIS EVENING: A photo of my son dressed in his prom tux!  

Happy April, friends!! 
I hope you find a similarly fulfilling and fun role to play this Autism Awareness Month!! 

Hugs, smiles, and love!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

Monday, March 27, 2017

Autism Answer: Activists And Advocates At Home

Me with my boys

Fellow advocates, 

How cool is this? 

We explore our authentic selves and true beliefs, we do the work of simply living those discoveries (although, because we are the type to live differently, it's not always simple) and in this way we are taking action and advocating for what we want! 

And because we're filling our minds with discovery and execution, we aren't overly focusing on anger or dispute. It is our habit to seek revelation and perspective in clashing ideas or opinions. When we speak out it's generally to inform, share, understand, question, consider, and give voice to the unique experiences we share. Though, the more we speak out and connect with fellow advocates, the more we see our experiences aren't entirely unique.

We are on the front lines when we proclaim: "I insist on the freedom to live life my way and to allow my loved ones to do the same," and by working to do that. Turning off the sounds and soundbites of society so we can truly know what it means to live free and organically is a bold move that creates change. The courageous, clever, bold move of activists and world-changers. Us.

Let's remind each other now and then, when we are feeling as though we don't do enough or as if we are avoiding the hard work of making things happen, that the important role of living congruent with our beliefs and expectations, teaching our loved ones to do the same, is the advocacy (and even civil disobedience) that our world needs; equal to any other.
Thank you, fellow advocates and activists, for supporting me by being you.

Let's keep up the good work!!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!


Writer & Coffee Sipper
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

*If you'd like to read more thoughts and stories grab yourself (and a friend!) a copy of my book, Spinning in Circles and Learning from Myself: A Collection of Stories that Slowly Grow Up. It's the kind of book that you can pick up and read at random and - as the author, I really hope this part is true - feel a connection, support, or new idea begin to blossom. But even if it doesn't do that it will for sure give you a peek into the life of a girl growing up surrounded by diversity, challenge, and a stubborn habit of finding something wonderful in every seemingly small moment. A stubborn habit that often annoys my family but always gives us a gift, too. Even if that gift is annoying my family. tee hee!
Love begins by taking care of the closest ones - the ones at home.
Read more at:

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Autism Answer: Gratitude Without Words - A New Adventure!

Backyard fun with family.

"Thanks, Tsara. That was really fun. I guess you were right. You don't need to get out of town to have a good time."

"Nope," I smiled, parking my car in front of my brother's apartment building. "You just need to spend time with people you like. Oh, and who like you."

Rye - my youngest brother - agreed. Climbing out of my car into the dark spring evening he came around to my side, an extra bounce in his already bouncy step. "What a great night," he announced to no one in particular. He gave me a fun, awkward hug through my window and headed up the walkway to his apartment door.

Driving away I reached over to my son and gave his hand a squeeze. A fun night with family has a way of making me feel emotional and almost annoyingly loving.

My son knows me well and gave my hand a kiss before placing it softly, but with finality, on my own lap.

What a wonderful way to complete our spring break!

Driving back to our house, barely more than a mile away from my brother's apartment, I thought about how nicely the day had unfolded itself.

I woke up, brewed and sipped coffee, and called my brother. "Hey, Rye. I don't know if we're going to be able to go to the movies in Corsicana today."

"Bummer," he offered, somewhat unconvincingly. I easily picked up on his true want. Life in a small town can get a little bit boring, but going to the bigger towns generally means spending money on doing something. Not because you want to do the thing so much as because you want to feel fresh and new.

Rye spends a lot of his time trying to feel like he's doing something interesting. He's not very good (yet!) at seeing adventure when it isn't wearing bells and whistles.

So I invited him to come over for a backyard fire, hot dog and smores provided by me. That tickled our adventure bone a little.

We spent the evening laughing and reminiscing. "Remember driving all over Canada and the US? Performing in prisons? Remember Disney World? Or the time we took the train from Toronto to Winnipeg?" Planning and imagining. "I like to picture myself traveling for work. I'm going to take myself on a vacation to another country. I don't know how yet, but I know one day Shay will own some kind of dragon."  

"Man, we do a lot of really cool thigs," we could both be heard saying often into the night. Sometimes we said it under our breath with wonder, and sometimes we declared it to the world like a promise.

We gave the adventure of being alive bells and whistles last night!

I tell my brother often how lucky I am to have him. How much value I get from spending time with him, particularly when he's willing to let conversation get a little bit farther than only about him.

Last night I felt that gratitude and connection strongly again. But instead of bringing it up, instead of thanking him like it was a great favor, I allowed it to just be. I chose, with purpose, to honor it by taking it for granted.

I think that was the right choice.

Giving gratitude is a great gift; for the giver and the receiver.

But holding back an attempt at giving it the right words in order to allow the gratitude to stand for itself can be a gift, too.

My brother and I enjoyed the gift of gratitude in a new way last night. Without me trampling all over it with words and explanations.

It was a wonderful adventure! 

Hugs, smiles, and love!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook) 


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Short Story: Lonely Spirit (Flash Fiction)

*Author's Note: I wrote this spooky short story in response to Chuck Wendig's most recent Flash Fiction Challenge - Create Your Own Monster.  I had fun trying to invent a monster, but I had even more fun watching my son edit this piece for me. He's got some serious skill! His ability to point out where the story was saying more than necessary and where there was not enough honestly surprised me. Also, I wonder if he tells all the other authors that their stories are cheesy? tee hee! 

I hope you enjoy Lonely Spirit. Be sure to check out some of the other invented monsters in the comment section over on Chuck's blog and maybe even write one of your own! Hugs! ~Tsara

Lonely Spirit

“What’s that man, mommy?”

She sits at the edge of the woods, her bum soaked from the damp ground. Over and over she hears his tiny tinny voice: “What’s that man, mommy?”

Her arms float up involuntarily, reaching for her son, desperately willing him to appear and join his sweet sweet voice which she replays in her heart, trying to believe that if she never lets it go he’ll come back. That man will give him back.

But she doesn’t know which one in this forest of possibilities is him.

“What’s that man, mommy?” Dylan asks, eyes looking curiously out the front picture window of their home, toward the forest.

“What man?” Ramona questions, looking up from the nature magazine she’s been flipping through, comparing last year’s winning photos to her own recent submission.

Both of her boys have vivid imaginations. Particularly Dylan. At four years old he seems capable of building worlds with his imagination that Ramona herself would love to photograph.

But he’s never imagined seeing a man out the window before. Ramona feels the hairs on her neck stand up – existing perhaps only for moments of mommy fear – and her heart beats quickly. “Where?” she asks Dylan while walking toward the window carrying a confidence constructed out of pretend.

“Like a tree. In the woods. Oh, it’s the tree-man!” Dylan exclaims, suddenly uninterested in the window and finished with the topic.

Ramona purposely breathes a sigh of relief meant to tell her not to be afraid. Obviously, a tree looks to her big-haired boy like a man and he let his mind bring it to life.

But Ramona still feels a fringe of fear and walks the perimeter of her small house, looking carefully out every window into the woods that surround them. Living in nature is delightful (not to mention convenient) for a nature photographer and single mom of two wildly wonderful boys. Hidden out here, away from most of the dangers of man, was not only affordable but also a purposeful choice. Allowing her sons to explore freely was one of the most important things to her as a mom. But she hadn’t fooled herself into believing that no dangerous people would ever find them out here. Or that nature herself was without danger.

“You know what kiddo? We should get your brother to join us and check out the tree you’re talking about.”

Ramona’s suggestion is more for a change of mood than an interest in the tree, but Dylan is thrilled to introduce her to the tree. “Darrin!” he hollers, “Let’s show mommy the man!”

As Dylan runs toward the bedroom that he shares with his brother Ramona feels the fear stir again. Darrin saw a man, too? Why hadn’t she followed up on those self-defense classes last year? Refusing to own any real weapons rarely felt like the wrong decision, but this evening felt differently.

Darrin came out of his room with an almost guilty expression. “You know about the man?” asked her ten year old almost shyly. 

Ramona’s mouth went immediately dry. “Get your hair out of your eyes,” she croaked instinctively. These words were uttered out of habit and yet she also felt an almost frightful need to see his eyes. “What are you talking about?”

Picking Dylan up she moved toward Darrin and glanced out the uncovered windows as she did. Damn that brilliant idea to shun blinds or curtains or anything else that blocked nature from their view. When she had made that point to her boys she’d felt clever. Rather than complain about being broke, she’d turned it into a statement. It was beginning to feel like a dangerous statement.

“Not a man, a tree,” Darrin explained. “But, like a tree-man, sort of. It’s hard to explain. He’s just lonely. He just wants people to talk to.”

Ramona stared at Darrin feeling overwhelmed with gratitude. It was a game! Oh, thank God!

“Oh, a tree-man? That makes sense. I’ve always known trees had spirits and personalities. But how can he be lonely? Look at that forest!”

Dylan giggled and wriggled out of Ramona’s arms, then ran to the front door. “Come on,” he called. “See tree-man!”

“Don’t…” Dylan whispered. “Wait for me.”

Ramona shook her head in appreciation, still willing the heebee-jeebees to settle down and stop prickling her skin. “Darrin, go out with your brother. I’ll be right there. The sun’s going down and I think I can get some gorgeously lit pictures of your tree-man.”

Darrin didn’t need to be asked, though, and had already donned his old sneakers. Letting his hair fall back over his eyes he followed the excited energy of his little brother carrying a nervous energy of his own. As she watched her oldest son close the door behind him Ramona felt his unusual nervousness fill the room. Had the two of them turned this game into something scary?

Or, and it surprised Ramona to hear herself wonder this, maybe the nervousness had nothing to do with this “tree-man” and everything to do with what Darrin had been up to before they’d called to him. She hadn’t ever caught her ten-year-old chatting inappropriately online or anything of that sort. But there was a first time for everything. She’d always felt pretty safe in that regard because he didn’t really have a lot of outside influences. But, of course, he had some.

Ramona grabbed the camera from her bedroom and then decided to take a quick peek in the boy's room before meeting them outside. Not snoop exactly, just peek.

The beds weren’t made, that was certainly not unusual. Heck, Ramona didn’t ever make her own bed and would have been far more uncomfortable if the beds were made. A video game was paused on the small television screen, the image of a black werewolf stood almost still, bouncing slightly and looking around; menacing without movement. Maybe this rented game was what had caused the nervousness.

On the floor, Ramona recognized some pictures she’d seen Darrin drawing the other day, but now they had more meaning.

They were drawings of a tree-man. He was truly frightening, not a Mother Nature spirit type like what she imagined when walking in the woods surrounding the house. This was menacing. Mean.

And he looked lonely.

Ramona felt the fear well up again. Was this something for a child psychiatrist? No. She didn’t believe that. But she was feeling a strange fear of the picture that she couldn’t explain even to herself.

Leaving the drawings where they lay she headed quickly for the door.

“Boys,” she called out, heading in the direction of the fire pit. Even without a fire burning she knew that’s where they would be.

Indeed, that’s where they had been spending most of their evenings these past few weeks. Why was she just now realizing this? The fire pit, right near the edge of the woods, right out the window where Dylan had asked about the man.

They stood there now, looking out into the woods, surrounded by a light breeze, the sound of crickets, and the smell of old campfire.

“He’s mad at me,” Darrin explained as Ramona got closer.

The sun was receding to the left of them, tinting the sky a light pink that rarely failed to move them into a thoughtful quiet. But tonight it colored Ramona’s mood, mocking her with a feeling of weakness. Suddenly she felt alone out here in the woods, only her to protect them.

“Why would he be mad, honey?” Ramona asked, bringing the camera to her eye so she could look into the woods with an ability to focus.

Darrin was digging his sneakered toe into the grass at his feet, an entirely uncommon habit for him. 

Dylan had picked up a stick and was using it as a sword, fighting the mosquitos and smiling winningly at his victories.  

“I was supposed to bring Dylan yesterday, but I changed my mind.” Darrin looked up from his feet and into the woods. Ramona could feel her son’s fear now, but there was nothing she could see in the woods. Sure, lots of trees and weeds. But no men.

“Where’s that man now, Darrin?” Dylan asked absentmindedly. “He’s lonely, remember? He needs my imagination and my stories.”

Ramona began to see this for what it was. A child’s game, enhanced by scary rented video games. Time to put on her big girl pants and stop it before it grew into something permanently damaging. As children’s games sometimes do.

“Okay, boys, cute game. But now we’re going inside to watch a family movie. How ‘bout a Pirate Movie?”

“Ya!” Dylan poked Darrin with his stick and laughed.

Darrin shrugged, trying to feign indifference, but he was already headed toward the house stealing furtive fearful glances into the dark woods.

“And first thing tomorrow I’m returning that rented game, buddy.”

“No!” Darrin whined, suddenly unconcerned with the forest and purely worried about the game. “I haven’t beaten the game yet! One more day, please!”

Ramona didn’t feel like arguing so she said nothing. Instead, she scooped Dylan’s snuggly four-year-old body into her arms and said, “Anyway, I don’t want to share your imagination and stories with the tree-man. I want them all for me!” She then kissed and kissed his soft, soft cheeks.

Darrin stood quietly at the window, watching his mom call out silently to the trees. He wanted to hold her and tell her he was sorry. He wanted her to hold him and tell him it was okay.

But he wasn’t all the way sorry. The tree-man had been lonely. And for a while, it was enough that the boys would sit and talk with him while he stayed hidden in the shadows. But Dylan’s stories had captivated and obsessed the tree-man, making him bigger. He started to frighten Darrin with questions and requests. Could he keep Dylan? He didn’t need mom or Darrin, but he needed Dylan with his unlimited imagination and energy. He became dangerous and threatening but promised to disappear if he could have Dylan. Only Dylan.

He wasn’t all the way sorry because he knew that he had helped the tree-man and saved himself and his mom. And anyway, Dylan liked the tree-man.

He wasn’t all the way sorry, but he was all the way sad. And he knew it wasn’t going to be okay.

He closed his eyes and whispered with his mom, “What’s that man, mommy? What’s that man?”

The End 

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)