Monday, September 28, 2015

Autism Answer: You're Pretty When You Percolate!

Author's Note: I was asked by some of my son's young friends to write the post you're about to read. "We love how we feel after we talk to you," they claimed, "but then we forget what you said when we're hanging with our friends. Could you write us one of your articles?" So, after spending a few hours feeling honored and speechless, I wrote this for them! And, as always happens when I write stuff down, I remembered it for me. I hope you enjoy some of the insights too! Hugs, smiles, and love!! ~Tsara


You hear the clich├ęs all the time. “Be yourself!” “Don’t worry about the judgments of others!” “Stand up for yourself and step in when you see others being bullied!” “Just be yourself!”

Sure, but what does that mean, really? 

Rather than try to answer those questions specifically, I would love to give you a suggestion that will help you be and do all of those things, even if it’s accidentally. 

When you aren’t around your peers, take some time to really discover who you like being. Are you giggly and positive, introspective and quiet, sarcastic and witty? Whichever it is, know that who you are and who you’re comfortable being, is exactly right for what you want from life. Because liking who you are is the greatest way to go after what you want, knowing that you deserve it. The next step is simple, and yet makes all of the difference. Step two is letting your personality percolate!!

Looking at the world from a place of percolating with your own personality—while cultivating an interest in the percolating personalities of others—means being so busy as yourself that there is much less room for worrying about the judgments of others, or for sitting in judgment of your family and friends. While your personality percolates it grows more and more bold and flavorful. It fills the room with its fantastic scent and draws others to you, filling them full of a desire to be around you. 

And as your personality percolates, you become prettier! Models and actresses will tell you this trick (though they may use different words) over and over. It’s not the most beautiful who get the work, but the ones who put personality in their face and body. The ones who look so full of confidence, mystery, sincerity--something--that it spills onto us as an audience and pulls us into their emotions.

My son and some of his friends at a photo shoot: Percolating with Personality!

A surprising—but wonderful!—effect this personality percolation has is a smaller chance of bullying incidents. According to international mental health expert, Lynette Louise aka The Brain Broad, a large number of the people you are surrounded by suffer from too many delta waves in their brain during the day, or too few theta waves when they try to fall asleep, and a myriad of other unbalanced brain issues that result in your peers (and possibly you?) battling anorexia, insomnia, anxiety and more. Also, a surprising number of teen girls have undiagnosed autism and are struggling with sensory troubles (feeling physical pain from certain types of touch, for example) communication issues (sometimes taking things too literally, or being blunt to the point of seeming rude) and other similar concerns. 

So, knowing that many of your peers are struggling with challenges that you can’t see, or even imagine, percolating with kindness and your own personality puts you in a place of comfort and caring that doesn’t leave much room for accidentally treating others cruelly. 

When you choose to talk with your friends, there will be less chance of cruel comparisons because you will feel no need to put others down in order to feel superior. And when you know well who you are, and are comfortable with it, an honest interest in others grows naturally. Instead of talking about how weird someone is behind their back, you will more likely want to talk with and learn about them. It’s much easier to make connections when you aren’t busy worrying about how to act or what to say. As your personality percolates, you will almost always know!

What is it that makes a person pretty? What she looks like plays a part of course, but what draws a person in is personality. What makes people want to be with you is personality. So discover who you are, and percolate. Unlike makeup and fashionable outfits, it never goes out of style. And it’s forever free!

“Knowing who you are is confidence, not cockiness. Cockiness is pushing it down everyone’s throat. Looks go; they fade. I don’t think looks matter.” ~Mila Kunis 


I invite you to check out my book, Spinning in Circles and Learning from Myself: A Collection of Stories that Slowly Grow Up, where I share memories from my teen years alongside stories of my sons' teen years. My personality percolated over time and eventually found a flavor I am proud of! 

Me and my sons!

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Autism Answer: The Power Of Sharing What We Know

Author's Note: Pope Francis is visiting America (where I live) this week. My mom is not Pope Francis. Yet the thrill of him reminds me of the thrill of her. They speak to love, they are drawn to the disabled, they want to touch the hearts and souls and bodies of all people so that those people will recognize the power of their own bodies, hearts, and souls. The Power Of Sharing What We Know is indeed real; but we must do our part to honor what is shared by doing the work of learning it. 

Because my mom is Lynette Louise aka The Brain Broad I sometimes get to go to events that I otherwise would never be invited to, or even be aware of. And often I'm introduced to whole industries that are beautiful with their meaning but filled with brilliant well intentioned people who are making the mistake of being stuck in a system and unaware of the harm they are causing when they throw people who don't fit in that system aside. 

Always I'm reminded why people like my mom are not only beautifully kind but also infinitely important!

BRPT Symposium gathered professionals in the sleep field from around the country.

The symposium on sleep in Dallas, TX was eye opening and inspiring for me. Mom understood the conundrum these professionals faced when trying to help people who have sleep problems but who aren't helped (and are often hurt) by the traditional methods. Rather than get creative or think outside the box, they toss them aside, justifying to themselves that the person is either too broken or noncompliant. Meanwhile, my mom offers simple seemingly counter-intuitive fixes, based in brain and behavior science, that can literally save lives and sanity. 

The audience was revived, excited, and a little bit intimidated. They would have to think different now. Most of them will think different now. It was beautiful to be a part of! Kudos to the event organizers who discover and invite speakers like The Brain Broad!

One of the things my mom stressed when she spoke at the sleep conference was the need to listen to the patient. The importance of trusting them to know themselves. When someone says they need to drink coffee, or turn on the TV, in order to sleep, then believe them. Trust them.

Apparently, this is a big concept. Apparently, professionals have a habit of assuming that the patient is wrong and that they can't possibly sleep better after drinking coffee, or when they turn on the TV. The entire room of sleep experts hung on her every word while she talked about the arousal model and different brains reacting differently to different things. As she implored these experts to believe that their patients have been self medicating with these habits, and to follow the clues rather than judge them, they nodded and breathed in sharply with understanding.

A beautiful and important reminder behind The Power of Sharing What We Know.

As I took my youngest son to school this morning he was chatting about a speech that he's going to make today in his public speaking class. He admitted to being nervous, hoped he'd do well, prided himself of choosing to be the first speaker today so he could get it done and let go of the anxiety sooner, shared candidly his desire to be excellent so that he can become a thought leader, all the while fidgeting with his tie. 

Again: I was reminded why people like my mom, and people like my son, are not only beautifully kind but also infinitely important!

Declyn and Dramma (aka The Brain Broad)
I mentioned the talk I'd seen my mom give at the sleep symposium, and told him how amazing and eye opening and thought provoking and fun it was. "Me and Dramma will probably travel doing speeches one day," he considered out-loud. "We know a lot of things that can help people." Then after he'd climbed out of the car and closed the door he looked directly at me through the open window adding, "But don't call it a 'talk'. It's much more than that. It's a "speech". Remember that!" Then he walked off, a little nervous and a little confident.

I drove away with a smile, sipping my coffee and thinking about talks vs speeches, the fun of labels, and the power of sharing what we know. 

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

Lynette Louise aka The Brain Broad speaking and sharing FIX IT IN FIVE with an audience of autism parents and professionals.

*Please visit my mom's websites to see if she'll be doing a "speech" near you or to invite her to "talk" at your event. tee hee!
Direct Upcoming Performances link:

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Autism Answer: Dancing in Dallas

These feet were made for dancing!!!

I just danced my butt of to the jazzy sounds of a band playing fabulously on the streets of downtown Dallas, TX. There was a medium sized crowd gather to watch but I was the only one dancing at the time. At first some people stared uncomfortably at me but once they felt certain I was just a harmless weird dancing lady, they got back to the business of tuning into the band.

I closed my eyes then, imagined I was alone, and rocked out a little harder. I was there by myself--no kids to embarrass--and so I really disappeared, felt the music, and let my body do its thing. I gave it complete freedom.

This is one of the gifts living with a wacky, weird, socially strange, and uniquely wonderful family has given me. I can comfortably be myself regardless (mostly) of strangers staring and people likely judging. And this, my fabulous friends, is a great gift indeed!!

Just as I was about to tip toe away, coming out of my trance, a kind gentleman with a recording device in his hand walked up to me and said, "That was great! By the way, we're live streaming this. I hope you don't mind."

I laughed! "If you're live streaming it's too late to mind! No problem. Thanks for letting me know."

I walked away thinking that the Universe just stepped it up a notch. Now I have to be comfortable being myself in the place I am, but also possibly live streamed around the world and recorded for folks on the internet to find, forever!

Okay world. Bring it on!! I'm me, I'm weird, I'm dancing, and I'm happy! Live stream that!

But, boy-oh-boy, I'll have to rethink the "no kids around to embarrass thing" won't I? tee hee!

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


*For more fun (and more important!) thoughts on this new reality of live streaming and YouTube videos please tune into this episode of the popular podcast A NEW SPIN ON AUTISM: ANSWERS! with host Lynette Louise aka The Brain Broad titled Living Out Loud aka Cameras: Are they Good for You?

Or, for a giggle, watch my son and I make a silly music video!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Autism Answer: My Son Votes For Soda (plus, Some Talk About Trump)

I was walking swiftly through the parking lot, heading to our car after returning a movie to the Redbox, expecting my son to ask me to slow down. I thought Shay, who doesn't see the joy that I do in walking swiftly, was right behind me. But when I turned to ask him a question I saw that he'd gone the other direction and was standing instead in-front of a Shasta Cola machine. 

"What are you doing?" I hollered unnecessarily. I knew what he was doing. I just didn't like it. 

However, my son loves me and found a way to tell the truth with words that wanted to make me proud. "I'm voting for Shasta Cola with my money! When I buy their cola I'm encouraging them with my money-vote to keep making delicious and cheap soda." 

That shut me up for a minute! I had to give him kudos; if I want to practice what I preach I have to applaud him for voting with his money while simultaneously accepting his opposite-from-me votes. I'm always telling the boys to vote with their words, actions, and money. And that it's not my right, or anyone else's right, to tell them what to vote for.

"Fine!" I threw my hands up in defeat. "I'm proud of you for using your actions to vote for what you want. But I don't have to agree with you!" 

We laughed the whole way home. He kept sipping the soda and calling it Donald Trump. 

"It's waking me up and making me feel good in all the wrong ways. Dangerous ways," he'd take a noisy slurp and say. Then he'd add, "It's giving me the stuff that I crave but it's doing terrible harm." He'd offer me a sip from the can of Shasta Cola and ask, "Don't you want to enjoy this delicious Donald Trump? It's got some good thirst quenching qualities! Don't worry about how they'll affect you later. Don't take time to think about why it's quenching your thirst or what else you could have that would quench your thirst but also be healthy. Don't worry, don't think about it, just drink it." He'd take a big gulp, let out a burp, and then look over at me again. "It's not even lying to me. I know all the hurtful things it's doing and I'm just swallowing it up!"


This boy is hilarious, brilliant, weird, and creative; he's delightfully different from me in so many ways and also very much the same.

He keeps me flexible and open minded. 

I owe him so much!
But I refuse to pay him in soda. 
I don't vote for soda.
tee hee!

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

Shay at the park on our morning walk. We both vote for nature!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Autism Answer: My Book At The World's Biggest Book Fair? Yes!!

So many of my dreams have come true that now the Universe is just inventing stuff!

I like the way the Universe thinks!!

My book, Spinning in Circles and Learning from Myself: A Collection of Stories that Slowly Grow Up, was published through Archway Publishing, and invited by LitFire Publishing to be on display at the Frankfurt Book Fair, 2015--the world's largest book fair. 

After thinking about it for a few days (there would be some expense, and it would have to go alone because there is no way we could afford to have me come along) my book said yes!!!

This is the full page ad they made to announce the book's upcoming arrival at this festival of ideas and words: 

"Even though life throws it's biggest challenges when you least expect them, dive in."

They've even written a press release and made some really cute bookmarks. So although the book will be going alone, thanks to LitFire Publishing, and thanks to those who've read and reviewed and shared the book, it won't be going without support.

Oh, the joys and fears of letting our babies go off on their own! tee hee!

A few things people have said about the book:

"This author is my daughter's age but she seems to be wise beyond her years. Her life experiences are so different than anything I could imagine. However, Tsara explains it beautifully when she wrote, 'Remember, it takes all kinds of personalities to make up a functional and exciting world! Just because we don't understand one doesn't make it wrong or bad, just different.'" ~Special Needs Book Review

"Spinning in Circles and Learning from Myself: A Collection of Stories that Slowly Grow Up, by Tsara Shelton, one of eight children, mother of four, and wife, is a gripping and powerful read." - BookOrBust (Linda Della Donna is the Author of A Gift of Love)

 "What a book! The writer's passion shines through in this book. Her love is intense, and as per the cover of the book, she embraces all." ~Burl and Merry Hall, Authors of Sophia's Web: A Passionate Call to Heal our Wounded Nature

"This is a wonderful book that takes the reader into the lives of a unique family and a mother’s personal insight into her own adventurous journey of life while nourishing the growth of her children. These short stories will touch your soul, stir the emotions and offers the reader a deeper exploration of life lessons." ~Relena Preble, On Location Nurse from the docu-series FIX IT IN FIVE with THE BRAIN BROAD

"I've been carrying this wonderful book around with me for the past several months, enjoying it in each perfect story-reading moment life has gifted to me! I've found the stories inside to be inspiring, thought-provoking, heart-warming, laughter-inducing, deepest-parts-of-my-soul-touching, and more! Indeed, it's been quite nourishing, and I've absolutely loved reading it." ~Rachel Clark, Valuable friend and Fix it in Fiver 

"The enthusiasm is infectious. You will find yourself spinning in circles of joy as you read of her adventures! I know I did!" ~Rev. Pamela Anne Bro PhD, Author of SoulQuest: A Trail Guide to Life

"I read this book in one day because I couldn't put it down! As soon as I was done I passed it on to my best friend and said, "Read this!" Tsara's collection of stories are so varied yet all unveil perseverance for joy, family and self. Her family tree is fascinating! Autism is a major through line in the book, and having so many friends with children on the spectrum gave me perspective, knowledge and tools that will help me be a better friend and empathetic person all around." ~Jessica Sitomer, Author of Dirty Virgin and And...Action! Powerful, Proven, and Proactive Strategies to Achieve Success in the Entertainment Industry

I'm super proud and super happy and super excited for this adventure I'll be sending my book on. To be entirely honest I don't even know enough about book fairs to know what kind of experiences I hope my book will have, or what kind of stories I hope to share with you about the adventure. 

Sometimes, though, not having any idea what to expect is the most fun way try something new!! Our eyes (and pages!) will be open to anything!!! 

I promise to share with you when the next stories are ready to slowly grow up. 
Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

My book will be heading out in October. Grab your copy soon!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Autism Answer: Friday Night Lights

Author's Note: I wrote this Saturday morning as a status update on my Facebook page. As I mention on my comments page, my blog posts mostly begin there, where I encourage questions or comments that help me tweak it, and then I bring the post here. So, ya, it's a Friday night story, written on a Saturday, posted here on a Sunday. But, who's keeping score? tee hee!
# # #
I stood alone leaning on the fence, watching last night's football game. It was a home game and our team was winning. 

Behind me several tweens ran around flirting and playfully threatening to post videos of each other online. It was cute, but I also recognized the very real on edge feeling of that age. They were all doing a dance, wanting to stand out but knowing the danger of missing a step or tripping over themselves entirely, and so the underlying tension was visceral to me. 

My seventeen year old son, who no longer attends this high school because the social aspect was too visceral for him, stood on the bleachers, chatting with old friends and buying them snacks. "You shouldn't be buying friends." I mentioned good naturedly at one point. "I'm not buying friends," he explained. "I'm buying friendship." Aaahhhh, I see! We had a laugh and he headed back to his happily munching on nachos group of friendships

Then it was time for the performance I had come for. The whole reason I had happily forked out money to get into a game I don't particularly enjoy or understand. The Marching Band Halftime Show!!

I could rarely pick my youngest son out, there were a few other trumpet players and they do move around, but I could dance to the sounds in celebration of him where I stood alone by the fence. 

And, I did!

As the band filed off the field and walked right past me (because I had purposely picked the spot by the fence where they would file past) my son saw me and lit up with joy! He was as happy to see me as I was to see him!! He leaned over the fence, wrapped his arms around my neck and gave me a huge smooch on the cheek! 

Then he ran to my side of the fence and offered to snap this picture with me. I didn't ask, he offered!! 
My youngest son and me at the game Friday night.

Soon he was back with the band and I stood smiling to myself by the fence. Alone and beaming with joy. As our team continued to play a good game, I peeked over at my boys as they lit up the night, scoring points in my heart. Figuring out friendships and playing music with their own personal flair.

Soon a young girl, about eleven years old, with her face painted colorfully and her energy bouncing off the stars, asked me kindly if I would watch her phone for her. She had some cartwheels and other showing off to do. Her friends talked conspiratorially about people who weren't there, the boys said swear words and talked rudely about each other, but they all smiled at me and thanked me for watching the stuff. They seemed uninterested or unaware that I could hear them while simultaneously grateful that I was willing to help them out. This is growing up. So full of our own issues and worries and hopes that it's hard to see outside of it, until we are motivated by a need. And then most of us can take a moment to feel and offer gratitude. A short, important, moment. 

We won the game and I gathered my boys. We laughed and sang as we walked to the car. While climbing into the front seat my seventeen year old son said, "That was really great, mom. I got to see my friends. It was good I could buy them a snack because it gave me something to say and do. It helped me get comfortable quicker. That was much better than just doing my weird habits for attention and then when they ask me to stop being weird I don't know how." 

And then as we started to merge our way out of the busy parking lot, surrounded by so many other late night game goers, my youngest son asked me, "Did you have fun? What was your favorite part of the night?"

I looked at him in the rear-view and considered my answer. He interrupted. "I know, I know. Your favorite part was when I was so happy to see you and gave you a hug."

He sort of rolled his eyes, but he was also smiling. 

My Friday Night Lights are those moments. 
These kids. These memories. 

We all won our game last night!

Hugs, smiles, and love!!

Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Autism Answer: How We Answer The Questions About Autism (A Story)

My oldest son in the pool with one of his brothers and one of mine!
Just over ten years ago we were visiting a family resort. My mom and I had gathered and corralled all four of my sons, along with my brother, to the resort swimming pool. With an ease that we've mastered over time, mom and I chatted while consistently counting heads, tossing playful banter at the boys, and redirecting moods that could easily become meltdowns.

My brother, Dar, who was about twenty-one at the time, loves water. He screams, he splashes, he sucks water in and spits it out, he jumps around and screams again.

My oldest son, who was about ten years old at the time, loves making new friends. He invents creative games and gives random kids a role, he invites them to sleep over and builds blanket forts with two stories and a dance room, then makes more friends to play more roles.

On this particular visit my twenty-one year old brother was wildly happy. The acoustics at the indoor pool were his play thing and he made strange sounds with wild abandon! While my oldest son swam nearby with new-found friends, Dar happily cleared out the hot tub.

Eventually, one of the kids my son was playing with asked with intense curiosity, pointing at my brother, "What's wrong with him?"

My darling son look over at his uncle and shrugged. "Dunno," was his bored response, "maybe he's hungry." And off they swam, question answered!

 It's not the questions we are asked about our autistic loved ones that matter most, but the way we answer them.

My son's disinterest in--and misunderstanding of-- the "what's wrong with him question" was a subtle message to the new friends. Subtle, but clear. Nothing was wrong with him. And nothing was so different about him that couldn't be understood by the rest of us. Perhaps he's hungry, perhaps he's hurting, perhaps he has to use the restroom, perhaps he's obnoxiously noisy and comfortable with his joy--all of these things are possibilities. People possibilities that we can all relate to on some level.

Some of my son's friends have tried to get to know his uncle more deeply, to help him with his possible pain and to join him in his joy. It's been beautiful to watch.

And on that day his new friends were comfortable with the "hungry" answer, swam away and didn't look back. They were busy playing and my brother was busy playing, too. It was beautiful to watch. 

Hugs, smiles, and love!!
Autism Answers with Tsara Shelton (Facebook)
My brother, Dar. Having fun in the hot tub!

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Autism Answer: Honored and Afraid - The Author Interview Series

Honored. Validated. Afraid. Excited. Vulnerable. Curious. 

These are a few of the feelings that cascaded over me when I was invited to take part in an Author Interview Series with author Mandy Eve Barnett. 

I'm an author; I'm sure of it. And yet, as with so many dreams that come true, it feels and looks different than when I imagined it as a little girl. I don't have Margaret Atwood's number in my Rolodex and I haven't been asked to sign books at bookstores or conferences. 

Some things are exactly as I imagined them. I'm broke. I've gotten wonderfully high off of kind book reviews and "fan" letters. I've also hidden away from the world in the almost physical pain of fear and self-doubt. I've lost hours of real time in a world of seemingly infinite time while writing. 

And I've answered questions, in podcasts and now in writing, about my book and myself as a writer. I've shared heavy and illusive writing hopes along with what snacks I prefer and some marketing tips. 

I'm honored. I feel validated. There's fear that I will waste your time. I'm excited to tell you more. I've stripped my reasons naked, left them vulnerable. I'm curious - what this means, what you'll think, what I'll do next. I'm curious about so many things. 

Mostly, though, I'm grateful. 
To you, to Mandy, and to myself.

I invite you to peek at the interview, my friends! Scroll down for an excerpt and a link to the full interview. 

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

An Author Interview? Me!? Why, yes please!!
Article Excerpt:
What inspired you to write your first book? 
As a little girl I wanted to be a writer and a mom when I grew up. I have four sons who have given me all the reason in the world to learn important things. Including, following up on my passions. I’ve always been writing, but I had never actually finished anything until about ten years ago. My boys were sleeping and I sat up all night writing a screenplay. It was intoxicating! I’d never wanted to write a screenplay, a novelist is how I’ve always imagined myself, so perhaps that’s why it got written so easily. I wasn’t in my own way with fears and intense desires. Anyway, writing and finishing that screenplay encouraged me to write and complete articles and short stories. One day someone commented on an article I’d written, “Collect articles into a book.” His comment was kind, but more than that, it planted the seed of an idea. Over time that seed grew into a true idea for what is now my first book, Spinning in Circles and Learning from Myself: A Collection of Stories that Slowly Grow Up.

How did you come up with the title? 
I borrowed the title from a song on my mom’s Crazy to Sane CD. In her song, Crazy to Sane, she has the lyric “spinning in circles and laughing to myself” which I’ve always liked. When I asked myself why I liked it the reason was largely visual. It’s fun to imagine! But also it’s because I find myself always learning the same lessons over and over in life, but with more experiences and bigger understanding. So I wrote an article “Spinning in Circles and Learning from Myself” which sort of examples one of the big ideas I try to present in my book. As we grow up we are consistently learning from ourselves; the world offers us ideas and perspectives and we then take them inside ourselves to evaluate them. Too many of us don’t do this with enough purpose or clarity, leaving us open to eagerly—but uncomfortably—adopt the beliefs and assumptions given to us by others. However, with the vision of spinning in circles I imagine collecting images and colors from the world, but using myself as a center to discover my own interpretations. My own passions and beliefs. The subtitle is equally important to me. A Collection of Stories that Slowly Grow Up reminds me that our lives are a collection of stories and that we have the pleasure of slowly growing them. Of telling our stories with more and more understanding and knowledge, but also of accepting that everyone is different and that their stories are equally valuable even when they are drastically different, or even opposed, to our own. Because when we look at the stories we believed about ourselves when we were young, they often are not how we would tell the story now. We often don’t agree with our old selves, and this is beautiful to remember. Because we weren’t evil or stupid or wrong when we were younger, we were just different. This can serve as a beautiful reminder not to judge others as evil or stupid or wrong. Just different.
Read More Here: Interview with Tsara Shelton on Mandy Eve Barnett's Blog